Sunday, September 30, 2012

Journalism Near Death

It used to be that when politicians lied to the American public, especially about weighty matters, they were held accountable by a capable media.

No more.

The Obama administration knew that the Lybian embassy attack, and the subsequent sodomy and murder of our Ambassador, was a coordinated terrorist attack.  They knew it from the jump.  But for weeks and weeks, the administration has blamed a YouTube video.

Why?  Probably to protect the president's foreign policy record weeks before the election. 

And protect the president is just what the lapdog mainstream media has done.  The only exceptions have been the journalists of Fox News (especially Chris Wallace), and ABC's Jake Trapper:

What happened to our journalists?  Why did they propagate a lie for the administration?  Who has the back of the American people anymore?

Scary questions.  And the answers are even scarier.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Friday, September 28, 2012

Milwaukee Airport's Recombobulation Area

I did some travel for work this week, which had me departing out of Milwaukee airport.  Immediately after passing through security, I was greeted with this sign.  It captured the purpose of the area perfectly. 

The next time you pass through MKE, enjoy your recombobulation.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Green Bay Doesn't Get It

With the brutal call to end Monday night's game, the town of Green Bay is in flames.  There are literally signs hanging around town complaining about how the team got robbed.

Lousy, horrible call.  Obvious.

But what is also obvious is that the Packers are not a good football team. 

Some signs:
  • The reigning NFL MVP was sacked 8 times in the first half alone, and was hit at least another 6. 
  • The offensive line was called out on national television and should be embarrassed.  They looked like boys playing against men. 
  • The receivers continue to drop pass after pass.  This has gone beyond Finley and has infected everyone.  Yeah, there were some tough catches, but that the difference between good and bad teams - making plays 
  • The vaunted offense put up 223 yards passing.  Yawn.

The bottom line is that the Packers are 1-2 because they have played like a 1-2 team, not because they were victims of a horrible call.

And until this town admits it, they're facing a heck of a lot more heartbreak in the coming weeks.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A Dog Named Blitz - Epilogue

I had just kicked out my team from my office.  We had completed with our weekly Thursday status meeting, and I was in the process of deciding what task I'd begin next.  In the meantime, my mind wandered toward the weekend.  I was planning on taking Deuce, my four year old yellow lab, up to see my Dad at the memory care facility on Saturday.  It was going to be a nice weekend, and Dad and I could sit in the courtyard, and he could throw the ball for Deuce, as he really seemed to enjoy it.  Just like he enjoyed throwing the ball for Blitz years before. 
I got my mind focused and started in on a task, but my vibrating iPhone snapped me out of my productivity, and I could see from the name and picture on the face of the phone that my wife was calling.  "Hi, honey," I answered "How are you doing?" 
"Mikey," she replied, "your dad died." 
"NO!" I screamed and dropped the phone like it was on fire.  I got up, walked over to my office door and slammed it.  "NO!  THAT'S NOT FAIR! THAT'S NOT FAIR!" I shouted.  I headed back to the phone lying on my desk.  I didn't want to pick it up.  I turned and headed back to the door, not sure of where I was going.  Anywhere, I guess, than back to the phone.  As my hand touched the handle of the door, I reversed course again and headed back to the phone.  I picked it up.  "That's not fair!" I said to my wife.  "Deuce and I were going to see him this weekend.  That's not fair..."
As I broke down, my wife gently explained that my Dad was eating his lunch, and that he ended up accidentally choking to death.  It was not an uncommon method of dying for patients with advanced cases of dementia, and while the staff did everything they could to save his life, Dad died there on the floor of the dining area of the memory care facility. 
Of course, it ultimately was for the best.  Dementia is a horrible, horrible illness, and Dad had suffered for so many years.  At long last, the suffering had been brought to an end, and he was at peace.  And, ultimately, so too were all of us who loved him. 
As were his wishes, Dad was cremated.  Our family held a mass and Irish wake in celebration of his life, and it went down as the best party my family had ever thrown.  My Dad, a man who loved life so much, would have adored it all.  After the celebration, our family held a private ceremony for Dad's ashes, which were to be interned at a nice cemetery near where Mom lived.  However, in working with the funeral director and unbeknownst to the priest conducting the internment, a very small urn of some of Dad's ashes were kept separate from the main urn to be interned.  That small urn was given to me. 
The fist Saturday after the ceremony, I loaded Deuce in the truck and drove up to duck camp with the small urn that was entrusted to me.  Upon arriving, I put the urn in my pocket, donned my waders, opened up the back of the truck to let air in, but did not let Deuce out, much to her vocal displeasure.  I then proceed to make my way down Gucci Point. 
Upon arriving to the end, a place that Dad had loved so much, I pulled out the urn and opened it up.  "Dad," I said aloud as I looked down into his ashes, "I'd like to think that some of your heart is here in these ashes, but I know some of it is here in this place.  Blitz is here too.  She's a heck of a dog, Dad.  She'll keep you company.  We'll all be back here soon - it will be duck opener in a couple of weeks." 
I paused, as tears started to stream down my face. "I love you Dad.  I miss you."  And with that I tipped the small urn and waived my arm, scattering Dad's ashes around the point. 
I stood there among the ashes, closed my eyes, and just wept.  After a while I sealed up the empty urn, and hurled it as far as I could into the middle of the lake.  I then wiped the tears from my face, turned, and headed back to Deuce and the truck, leaving behind me the place that now bore the ashes of my two best hunting partners. 
Both of whom I love and miss so dearly.  

Monday, September 24, 2012

Hunting With Ben

My little nephew has been bugging me to talk him hunting for what feels like for years now, and we got around to making it happen this past weekend.  Thanks to the generosity of my sister and brother-in-law, my nephew Ben flew up from South Carolina on Friday, and my mom was kind enough to pick him up at the airport.  I scooped him up from there, and we headed to the duck camp last Friday afternoon.

Our first stop was at St. John's where we got outfitted in new sweatshirts and got this pictured snapped via the help of a cute co-ed.

The camp is pretty much all about dude stuff - it's a dirty, smelly, testosterone-laden nirvana, and for a little dude in training, it's pretty much like heaven.   Here's Ben in a fort that he built.  It was just one of many dude activities of the weekend.

Dogs on the couch?  Not only allowed, but encouraged.  Here's Ben with one of the five dogs that were up with us this weekend.

The most important part was the hunting, and Ben proved to be handy with both a BB gun and a duck call. 

Hunting was fabulous.  Here's the Yellow Dog with our daily limit on Saturday.
Overall, it was a dude fiesta.  We had fires, ate meat, rode boats and ATVs, watched football, belched, scratched ourselves, and didn't wash.  We came back to civilization smelly but smiling.
I'm not sure who had more fun (or who is more tired), but I'd consider Hunting Opener 2012 a success.  Hope we can do it again next year.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

What Happened to "I'm Sorry?"

I'm in the very hot industry of Ecommerce; one that is growing substantively and changing constantly.  And those two things drive a lot of innovation, not only for consumers, but also for businesses.  As such, there is always someone trying to sell me a new service or technology that will drastically change our business.

And I do mean always.  On average, I take 5 direct solicitations from sales people every day, and another 10 that come in via email.  Every work day.  That's a lot of sales pressure.

Most sales people are extremely hard working and ethical.  They are respectful of my time.  They're not trying to be interrupting or rude, they're just trying to make a buck in a really tough economy.  And in recognizing this, I try to be polite and fair in dealing with them.  Given a change in circumstances, our roles could easily be reversed, and I try and treat them like I would like to be treated.

However, there are some sales techniques that I don't appreciate.  These include:
  • Telling me they are a "friend" of an executive in our company
  • Cold calling by booking a blind meeting in Outlook (this happens at least once a month)
  • Lots of Asian tech firms use call centers that employ folks that have very little grasp of English, and have a lot of trouble of accepting "no" as an answer
  • Telling me I'm "blowing it" because my competitor uses them, they're going to save me a ton of money, or their product is God's gift to Ecommerce.  I love this one - buy from me or you're stupid
Of all the techniques, the one that sets me off the most is the one in which the sales person carpet bombs our "C" suite executives with the same bulk email.  The hope is that the CEO, or someone else, will be so intrigued with the solicitation that the edict will come down to make me research it.  It is always done under the auspices of "I don't know who at your company is in charge of Ecommerce..." and that always kills me.  A simple Google search or LinkedIn search of my company's name and Ecommerce always points to me.  Clear as day.

Anyway, here is an example of the carpet bombing method - the names have been changed to protect the innocent:
Hi CSuite Executive,

I wanted to drop you a quick note to introduce myself and my firm, Scumbag Corp, as the end of the year is rapidly approaching and I’m sure you’ve been discussing planning for 2013.

To give you some context, Scumbag Corp is a brand eCommerce and digital solutions firm that helps organizations including Grainger, Wal-Mart, and Discover visualize future state strategies, implement/integrate web-technologies, and create engaging user experiences.

I wanted to coordinate a conversation with you to further share our story and learn more about the business objectives driving your digital programs.

Do you have time next week for a brief conversation?

Lazy Sales Person
That prompted an email from CSuite executive to me to follow up with Lazy Sales Person and turn them down.  Here's what I sent:
Dear Lazy Salesperson,
I'm your contact.
We're locked down - please contact me after the first of the year.
Please cease contacting any other of my company's executives
YDP, VP Ecommerce
Three days later, Lazy Sales Person reaches out to CSuite Executive, letting her know she'd still like to set up a time to talk.  CSuite Executive sends something back to Lazy Sales Person that the project has been handed off to me, and that she's sure that I'd reach out to them shortly. 
By now, I'm furious.  I don't like to look bad, and I certainly don't have time to work on crap like this.  Hence, I decided to play the "executive carpet bomb" card against Lazy Sales Person - I went to LinkedIn, looked up Scumbag Corp, found the most senior executive I could, and CC'd them on this note:
Lazy Sales Person,
Per my email last Friday I politely asked you to cease contacting my company's executives. See below for the email I sent you.
You ignored that and emailed our Chief Merchandising Officer again. See the attached. That makes me look like I'm not doing my job, which is not appreciated.
Mr. X Senior Executive Scumbag Corp,
I don't appreciate cold contacts that are directed at the "C' level without any kind of homework being done as to who owns the digital channel. I also don't appreciate having my polite requests being ignored. If you could find a way to remove my company from all Scumbag Corp solicitations, I would appreciate it.
YDP, VP Ecommerce
My hope was that Mr. X would have a stern conversation with Lazy Sales Person.  And maybe I'd get an apology. 
Here's what I got instead:
I agree that my inside sales team did not play this well. We have built a great business focusing on this channel exclusively. We train our sales people to understand a clients key metrics and areas for growth in advance of detailed conversations.
I'll make sure that Lazy Sales Person stops contacting you and your organization. If you'd like to have a strategic discussion about where e commerce is going and what we are seeing, feel free to reach out to me directly.
Mr. X, EVP Scumbag Corp
What is it that people can't say a simple, "Wow - what a lousy experience you had.  I'm sorry?" 
Not only did I not get any kind of apology, but I got a veiled "You're blowing it..." shot as well.
Guess who will never, ever buy from Scumbag Corp, regardless of how good they are?

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Making Riding the Bus Cool - Midttrafik Commercial

I never wanted to ride a bus before.  Now, I can't wait...

While there is a version with subtitles, I think it is way more cool without them.  Enjoy.

Friday, September 21, 2012

A Dog Named Blitz, Chapter 8 "4th Year, Part 11"

Winter came in with a vengeance that year, and while we were saved from huge amounts of snow, we were struck with cold temperatures.   I was thankful for the lack of snow - that meant Blitz could get around fairly well outside.  However, the cold really appeared to impact her, and despite the meds, she'd often limp outside on frigid days. 
While her use of her leg as declining, she was still a very happy, gregarious dog.  I spent every night with her on the couch watching TV, where she was content to sit next to me, chew on a bone, and thump her tail.  We were now into February; months beyond the short side of the amount of time the doctors had estimated for her, and while I'd like to say I really wrung out the most of each day, that would be a lie.  I got into a routine with her and I hanging out, and began to take for granted our time together.  She was doing OK, extremely happy, and getting along without any distinct deterioration. 
Occasionally, as we sat on the couch, Blitz would paw at me with her front paws, and that usually initiated a kind of wrestling match where I'd put her on her back and rub her belly while she nipped, pawed, and wriggled.  Given the lack of exercise she was getting due to the cold weather and her condition, I guess this activity was to be expected.  She was a young athlete, and needed some kind of movement.  So just like we had done ever since she was a pup, we'd wrestle every once and while when she'd initiate it.  It was just something we did. 
As I awoke one Saturday morning in February and headed into the bathroom, I immediately knew something was wrong.  Every morning of her life, when Blitz heard me get up, she'd start barking her head off as if to say, "Hey, Boss!  I'm down here!  Let me out!  I'M STARVING!"  But this morning there was no barking. 
I hurried things along best I could and made my way down the steps.  About halfway down the flight I could hear Blitz crying.  This dog with the incredible threshold for pain was crying.  Something was very, very wrong. 
I burst into her room to find her standing in her crate, with her cancerous leg lifted high underneath her.  Not only was she not putting any weight on the leg, she wanted to keep the leg as far from the ground as possible.  "What's wrong, girl?" I said aloud.  The night before she had been fine.  Just like she always was.  We even had a wrestle match.  And when I put her in her crate a the end of the night, she wasn't even limping.  And now this. 
I opened the door to her crate, and Blitz hobbled out on three legs.  While her tail was wagging slightly, I saw for the first time something in her eyes that I had never, ever seen before.  I can only describe it as a look of despair.  She was whining softly, and I got her to reluctantly sit so I could get a better look at her.  I petted her, and she was shedding profusely.  As it was in the dead of winter, she should have not been losing a hair, but stoke after stroke of my hand came away with a shocking amount of fur.  She was clearly in a state of anguish, and she soon laid down on her side to take pressure off of her hind leg. 
In looking at her leg, it clearly didn't look right.  The vet had told us the cancer would continue to eat into the bone and ultimately break the leg, and that was apparently what happened based on what I was seeing.  All of her life, and through some painful situations, I never saw hurting Blitz so much.  This was bad.  Very, very bad. 
I brought Blitz upstairs, even as she needed to hobble on three legs, and took her into the living room.  Ordinarily, she would have made a bee line for the kitchen to see what she could quickly steal, but this morning she stayed right at my heel.  I got her to sit in the middle of the room, and immediately she laid down on her side.  Once she was settled, I got up and went to our bedroom where my wife was still sleeping.  By now I had developed a lump in my throat, and with my hands shaking, I touched my wife's shoulder and said loudly so she could hear me, "Honey, wake up.  It's Blitz..."  
My wife immediately got up and headed into the living room with me, where Blitz thumped her tail lightly at my wife's approach but did not make an effort to get up.  Something was obviously very wrong.  Very, very wrong.  Vera and I discussed the situation briefly, but there was not much to discuss.  It was clear that Blitz's leg was broken.  The poor dog was in horrible pain.  We needed to do what we needed to do.  Cancer had finally won. 
I headed toward the phone an dialed up the vet.  "This is Mike ," I said.  Due to the amount we had visited, especially recently, they recognized me right away.  "Blitz appears to have developed a broken leg.  I need to bring her in to have her put down." 
"Have her put down."  It hung there like a filthy joke in mixed company.  Repugnant.  Vile.  Horrible.  But, it needed to happen.  Just one look at Blitz laying on the floor, with my wife quietly talking and petting her was all I needed to know.  I made that promise to a seven week old puppy to take care of her.  She now needed me more than she ever had.  It was time to pay up. 
The vet was very busy that morning, and the earliest they could see us was in two hours.  While I was agitated that they couldn't do something immediately for my suffering dog, I was also happy for the additional time. My wife, Blitz, and I spent those hours in the living room talking softy, petting, and crying.  It was a way for us all to get a chance to say good-bye. 
At our appointed time, I loaded up Blitz's crate into my truck and came in to get her.  Vera had dressed and was helping get Blitz into the garage to head to the vet.  At the tailgate, I lifted Blitz into her crate and closed the door.  It was a stark reminder that all those times where she bounded into her crate with such gusto were now just memories.  
Our short drive to the vet was a blur, and upon arrival, I opened the tailgate and opened Blitz's crate door in preparation for lifting her down.  Before I could do so, Blitz burst from her crate to the parking lot below, just like she always had.  While she did so on only three legs, she did it nonetheless. 
I put a lead around her and headed for the door.  While Blitz had always loved the vet - there were always so many people and animals to meet - on this morning she ignored everything.  We were ushered into an exam room, and told the doctor would be in to see us shortly.  In due course, the doctor did join us, and I was upset that it was not Dr. Jeff, our normal vet, who was off that Saturday.  However, the vet who was now seeing us had seen Blitz before, and had good familiarity of Blitz's story and condition. 
The vet examined Blitz and reached the same conclusions we had.  The bone was likely broken.  The dog was suffering immensely.  It was time.  To me, a simple look into Blitz's anguished eyes told me the same thing, as did her quiet whimpering.  The doctor noticed this as well, and administered pain meds to help calm and quiet the dog.  Almost immediately Blitz relaxed, and laid her head on my lap as I was sitting on the floor with her.  "I'll give you a couple of minutes and will be back," the vet told us. 
This was it. 
I was softly petting Blitz's head, with tears pouring down my face.  "I'm sorry, Blitz.  I'm so sorry..." was all I could choke out.  Seemingly as soon as she left, the vet returned.  "Are you ready?" she asked.  
What a question.  How does one answer that?
"Yes," I answered with as much bravery as I could muster.  As the vet made her preparations, I leaned down to Blitz's ear and whispered, "Blitz, find my grandpa Bud.  He'll take you hunting until I get there."  My grandpa, who had passed away about a decade prior due to Parkinson's disease, had been integral part of my hunting training.  I shot my first ever pheasant with him on his family's farm when I was about 10 years old.  He was kind and gentle man, and I miss him greatly to this day.  I figured if dogs went to heaven, she could meet up with one of the men that taught me to hunt when I was a little kid.  They would have loved each other had they known each other and if the universe worked that way, they'd make great companions. 
Blitz kept her head on my lap as the vet administered the drugs that would bring the life of my best hunting partner and friend to an end.  The vet quietly said, almost in a whisper, "No more pain," as she made the injection into Blitz's leg.  The lethal dose coursed through Blitz's blood.
Almost immediately, I felt Blitz body go limp.  The head on my lap now felt like it had gained twenty pounds.  The little sixty-five pound lab which had never before felt anything like heavy to me now lie there limp, and thick, and heavy. 
And with that I knew she was fully gone. 
Blitz's spirit kept her in constant motion, and with that spirit now gone, all that was left was a well-conditioned, but broken, heavy body.  Because of that, I didn't feel the need to stay with Blitz's body.  To me, it was just a receptacle of her spirit.  A simple container for a rambunctious, loving, funny, playful, mischievous, spirit.  A spirit that I loved so much.  And a spirit that was obviously no longer here. 
And with her spirit gone came the end of a whirlwind life of a dog that stole my heart. 
Vera and I wiped away our tears as best we could, and left Blitz's body behind for cremation.     
In the days after Blitz's death, I ran a gamut of emotions.  While bitter at Blitz’s short life, I also felt blessed that we were able to spend some time with an incredible dog. She was a master hunter, a faithful companion, a true friend, a food-stealing nightmare, and the source of millions of broad smiles and hearty laughs.

And I missed her terribly.  Sometimes the grief felt overwhelming, and I wondered why it hit me so hard.  In a listen to a Lou Reed song, it was made apparent to me.  It was a song that he penned for a friend of his that died of cancer, and in it he says that there is a little bit of magic in everything, and then some loss to even things out.

Given the massive amount of magic that was contained in that little dog of mine, the loss had to be an equally heavy burden for me.

Everything had to even out.

Thursday, September 20, 2012


Throughout my entire life anyone that's truly loves/loved me calls/called me "Mikey." 
It still is very much the case - friends, family, adults and children. 

While it sounds stupid when said aloud, when I hear it coming from the person that is saying it, it is absolutely the most beautiful thing to my ears. It's kind of like they're telling me that they love me when they say it.

Mikey is the only thing my wife calls me, and it is interesting to others' reactions when she uses it in front of them. Some are downright mortified, and I wonder what they must be thinking, although in the end I could not care less.  I just stand there and grin like an idiot because they haven't a clue of what it really means to me.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

View from Highest Point in Brown County Wisconsin

I'm still playing around with my Hero 2 camera, and took it on a recent bike ride last weekend.  My ride takes me up to the highest point in Brown County, and offers a great view of Green Bay - from the main bridge on the north side of town to Lambeau Field.

While the video didn't do a good job of capturing the things in the distance, it does provide a good indication of the amount of speed I get on the down side of the hill.  The road has a speed limit of 35 MPH, and the truck that passes me is doing between that and 40 MPH. 

Note that I didn't include any video of me slogging up the hill.  That would not have been nearly as interesting.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A Dog Named Blitz, "4th Year, Part 10"

While that was the last hunt that we'd have, it was not the last time that Blitz and I were up at the duck camp.  She attended with me every weekend, and the Rimadyl appeared to be keeping her pain free.  The precious time that was ticking away was good, quality time.  We were having fun just being with each other.  But as November hit, we were now four months from her cancer diagnosis.  That was how much time the vet estimated she'd live; maybe two more months at best.  Additional days were blessings, and not taken for granted. 
Blitz continued to get around great, and as long as the meds were given in the appropriate intervals, she'd use her cancerous leg.  Our routine was a simple one - breakfast and a small walk in the morning, kenneling during the work day to keep her quiet, then dinner and another small walk at night, finished off by hanging out on the couch to end the day.  Along the way there were lots of bones, petting, belly rubs, and even some roughhousing. 
That Thanksgiving we were hosting Vera's family for the holiday, and it was nice to have the house full.  Given all of the food that was around, Blitz needed to be kenneled as she still could not be trusted not to hop up and snatch a snack for herself.  As sick as she was, that dog loved food, with forbidden food apparently tasting the best.  As everyone there was just getting ready to set down to a meal, my sister-in-law happened to be looking out the window into the back yard.  "Mike!" she exclaimed, "A big pheasant just landed in your back yard!"  Our yard butted up to a wetland area, and in the adjoining land was native prairie.  We'd often see pheasants in that area, and it was a real treat for the dog to be able to flush birds back in the days when she was healthy as we'd walk.  I walked over to the window and asked "Where did the bird come down?" "Right there - literally twenty yards from the back door," came the reply.  While I couldn't see the bird in the cover, it gave me an idea.  "You guys interested in seeing what Blitz can do?"  I asked, kind of not caring about the answer, as I knew what I was going to do.  But a resounding "Yes!" was the answer, and I went downstairs to get Blitz out of her confinement and to pay a visit to Mr. Rooster in the back yard. 
Between the smells and the sounds coming from the upstairs, Blitz was wide awake and ready to get out when I arrived in the basement.  "What do you think, girl?  You want to go outside?" I asked, and given the movement of her rear end, the answer was obvious, even before I posed the question. 
We made our way out the lower level walk out, while the entire family gathered at the window a floor directly above us.  Blitz and I moved forward, heading toward where my sister-in-law marked the bird, and almost immediately Blitz's tail was moving in that rapid motion which always meant "Hey Boss!  I got a bird I'm smelling here!"  We waded about 10 yards into the thigh-high grass, and immediately Blitz locked up tight.  Her ears were perked up, tail straight back and frozen solid, and her eyes focused dead ahead of her.  "What you got, girl?" I asked, knowing full well the answer.  I moved in behind her, quietly telling her "Easy...easy..." to try and keep her in point.  It was unnecessary, as Blitz was still as a statue, and not going anywhere.  When I felt that I was sufficiently out of the way of the spectators above me, I tapped Blitz on her hind end, and said "Get him!"  Immediately she moved forward, and just as immediately a beautiful rooster pheasant burst from the cover. 
Blitz followed the bird's flight path for about ten yards before returning to my command of "HERE!"  The look on her face was one of confusion, as if to say "What happened there, boss?  The shot doesn't get any easier than that!"  I praised her and petted her, and turned to head back to house.  That's when I looked up and saw my family huddled around the window, cheering wildly. 
Most folks think of Thanksgiving entertainment as football on TV, or games with the family.  For us, that year, our best entertainment was provided by a sick, but very capable yellow lab. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Led Zeppelin Celebration Day Trailer

Second only to the Beatles, no band's fan base has wanted a runion more than Led Zeppelin's.  That would be impossible as drummer John Bohnam died in 1980.  However, Bohnam's son Jason, an extremely accomplished drummer in his own right, has often been raised by fans as a potential replacement.

For years, various reasons have prevented the band from "reuniting."  Sure, there was that whole appearance at Live Aid in 1985, but with Phil Collins on drums, it just didn't seem like the real thing.

Then in 2007, the band did get together for a concert in support of a charity of Ahmet Ertegun, the recently deceased founder of Atlantic Records.  The London concert probably holds the record of having the toughest ticket to get, and remains the only reunion the band has done before or since.

Thankfully, the concert was filmed, and coming this October, rock fans will finally get a chance to partake with those other lucky concertgoers:

As a huge Zeppelin fan, I can't wait for this event.  It will be even more fun to see who will be in the theater with me, as Zep has seemed to have translated very well to the younger generations.

It's been a long time since I rock and rolled...

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Humane Society Needs Money - For Lawyers

By now everyone has seen the ad that the Humane Society of the United States has run showing poor little doggies shaking in cages with words like "why won't they stop beating me?" underneath.  For those of us that love dogs and cats, it is real stirring stuff.

There's only one problem, and it's a big one.  The Humane Society of the United States isn't a shelter, and has no shelter facilities.  It has absolutely no affiliation with your local Humane Society.  And it contributes basically nothing it raises to help animals in shelters.

So where does their over $100 million in annual revenue go?  This answers the question:

If you contribute to the HSUS, you're not helping animals.  You're being played.

For more information, please check out

Saturday, September 15, 2012

A Dog Named Blitz, Chapter 8 "4th Year, Part 9"

Fresh off of the best duck hunt of my life, I broke out my cell phone and called my mom, and she cheerfully answered.  "Hi, honey, happy birthday!" she said, "How's your hunt going?"  "It went great, mom.  I actaully took Blitz out with me, and we're done.  We limited out," I proudly replied.  I told her all about the hunt, and she seemed as thrilled as I was. 
"Mom, what do you think about getting out for a quick round of golf?  It's a gorgeous day.  Nobody should be on the course.  What do you say, you want to play?"  She answered in the affirmative, and would call of an 11:00 tee time.  That would leave me time to drive home, put Blitz up, get a quick shower, and get to the course.  Perfect. 
On the ride home, my cell phone was a constant buzz of people calling to wish me a happy birthday, and I was giddy to tell the story of my morning hunt with Blitz over and over again.  Upon arriving home, I performed my necessary chores and quickly got back on the road, headed to the golf course, and met my mom for our appointed tee time.  The formal tee time was completely unnecessary, as a Monday in October turns out to not be a very popular day to golf.  Mom and I had the course nearly to ourselves. 
We started out, both playing some good golf.  Both of us were keeping our shots our of trouble, and our round was clipping along at a good pace.  Our round of 18 flew by, and by the time I tallied up our very good scores, dropped mom back at her car, and packed my clubs away, it was 1:30.  A full round of golf, normally a four hour endeavor, in two and a half!  Now what was I going to do?! 
I hugged good bye with mom, and headed back into town, answering the birthday voicemails that were on my phone waiting for me.  One of them was from my buddy Joe, who was a Minnesota State Representative.  I told him the story of the my day thus far, and how my designated day of self pity was turning out to be pretty damn good.  Arriving back into town, I realized that I could probably use a hair cut, and pulled into a local shop for a quick trim.  The shop was very quiet for a Monday afternoon, and my cut was completed in short order.  Upon completion, I noticed it was now 2:05.  Now what was I going to do?! 
I also noted a voicemail from a 612 interchange number - downtown Twin Cities- and that it lasted two minutes and forty two seconds.  Who the heck called me, and what in the world did they say for such a long time?  I dialed into the voice mailbox, and immediately got my answer.  The voice was quite recognizable, even without the introduction, "Happy birthday, Mike!  Hey, this is Governor Tim Pawlenty.  Say, I'm riding around with Representative Joe Hoppe today, doing some campaigning work, and he told me today was your 40th birthday, and that you had been taking things kind of hard.  He also told me you've already shot a limit of ducks and a round of golf!  How's that for a great start to a birthday?" 
On and on the message went.  "Mike, don't worry about being in your 40's.  These are your prime earning years.  Your best years. You're a the peak of your game..."  Wow, a personal pep talk from the Governor.  He continued, "Joe also tells me you played a vital role in the dove hunting legislation.  What great work you guys performed.  I was very proud to sign that bill, and what it means for generations of Minnesota sportsmen and women for years to come..." And on and on. For a full two minutes and forty two seconds.  Politicians do have a fantastic gift of gab, and the Governor, in particular, was no slouch.  Could my day get any better? 
I headed home, made a light lunch as I wanted to save myself for the big birthday dinner that evening, and settled in on the couch for a quick nap.  Vera arrived home before I knew it, and we immediately got cleaned up and ready to head downtown to dinner. 
We were headed to Manny's, Minneapolis' finest steakhouse, and I was bringing with me a bottle of 1966 Bordeaux that I had been saving for years for a special occasion.  My brother is a huge wine expert, and when he got married years before, he gave all of his groomsmen a bottle of wine with a vintage of a date that represented something meaningful for the groomsman.  It may have a been a year in which they met, worked on a specific deal, or graduated from college.  For me, it represented the year in which my brother was born, and it remains one of the most thoughtful gifts I've ever received.  The only problem was that the bottle was 38 years old, and a lot can go wrong with a bottle of wine over that period if it had not been cared for properly.  Would it be any good?  We were finally going to find out. 
We arrived at Manny's, and were welcomed by the staff.  As we settled into our booth, reviewing our menus, our waiter brought over a bottle of champagne.  "What's this?" I asked.  "A mister Kevin Sidders requested that we serve you this bottle in honor of your birthday," the waiter replied.  My brother had called ahead, and had a wonderful bottle of champagne ready for us to kick off the evening.  Could this day get any better? 
After pouring the champagne, the waiter looked at the bottle we had brought, sitting on the table, and asked, "Sir, would you like us to decant the '66?"  Ah, the moment of truth.  "Yes," I replied, "Let's see what we got."  The bottle was opened, and decanted carefully.  The cork was in questionable condition, as wine had seeped well into it.  If the wine had found its way to the top, it would likely be ruined. 
My wife and I had a leisurely dinner, with me telling story after story about my incredible day.  We finished our salads, and the champagne, and as our steaks were being served, the Bordeaux was poured.  What will it be?  I swirled and smelled.  Things looked promising.  I then took a taste.  It was perfect.  Perfect.  While my palate is not a sophisticated one, that wine was the finest I have ever tasted.  My wife raised a toast to my birthday, and we dove into Minneapolis' finest steak. 
By the end of our meal, my head was spinning.  While the champagne and wine played a role in that, it was really the day, my whole day, that had me high.  It was originally a day for me to wallow in my sorrows, to feel sorry for myself, and to be depressed.  It was to be an ugly, black day.  At least that's how I had planned it.  And by the time it had reached its completion, next to the day I got married, it turned out to be the best day that I had in my life.  Ever.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Pointing Lab Video

Last weekend, I had the Yellow Dog out for some game farm work to get ready for the season.  I took along the new Hero 2 camera, and got some decent shots. 

Here's one on a pheasant:

Here's another with the dog on a great point:

While this is great training work for the dog, I can't wait for the season to start, where we can get after the birds for real.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Reason 17,458 Why I Love My Wife

This coming May, my beautiful wife will turn 50 years old.  There are a lot of ways that one could celebrate such a great milestone.  Hawaii.  Skydiving.  Australia.  The list goes on. 

You know what my bride wants to do?  Hit the Big Easy, and take in some music.

Here's what she'd like to do:

There's lots to plan between here and there.  But we've always loved New Orleans, and I can't wait to head back there and celebrate her half century in style.

Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

A Dog Named Blitz, Chapter 8 "4th Year, Part 8"

The wind blew hard all night long, and I got out of bed well ahead of the alarm.  I made coffee, fed Blitz, and got ready for us to leave.  The stars in the cloudless sky were vibrant, the wind steady out of the west, and the east showing, ever so slightly, the brightening of the impending dawn.  It was a gorgeous morning by all accounts. 

After getting my gear together, my waders on, and making final preparations for the hunt, I kenneled Blitz in the back of my truck and drove us down to the landing.  Once there I donned a headlamp and headed out to the boat to set the decoys.  Blitz whined her disappointment about being left in the kennel.  "Don't worry, girl.  I'll be right back to get you," I told her over my shoulder as I pushed the boat into the water.  As I motored to the point I decided not to set a huge decoy spread.  There just were not enough birds in the area to warrant the work, hence I set two pods of about eight mallards each, then set a small string of a dozen bluebills from the end of the point toward the east.  As I finished in the dark, I shone my headlight across my handiwork.  "Not a bad little spread, especially for this wind," I thought to myself.  "Now all we need are some birds." 

I drove back to the landing and was met by the familiar thump-thump-thump of Blitz's tail against the wall of her crate.  I said "OK, girl, let's see what we can do," and opened her door.  Immediately she let out like she was shot from a cannon.  It turns out that I was not the only one that missed being able to hunt as a team again. 

We walked slowly in the darkness down the long point, and ultimately arrived at Dean's new blind.  We both stepped up and into the slightly elevated contraption, and I was able to get a good view of the decoy spread and the impending sunrise.  With the stars, decoys, rustling cattails, and pink sky in the east, it was gorgeous.  I thumbed the light on my watch, which read 6:45 - about 10 minutes away from the legal shooting time of a half hour before sunrise.  I uncased my gun and got ready to load, when I was interrupted by a flock of teal that flew over me so low that I thought they'd knock my hat off of my head.  They were just the start of dozens of birds buzzing through the air, and I was giddy that it appeared that the cloudless sky and big overnight winds appeared to usher in new birds to the area. 

The ten minute wait until legal shooting took forever, and when the clock hit exactly 6:55, I had a hen mallard circling my decoys and quacking hard.  Under normal circumstances, I don't like to knowingly take hen ducks.  As a conservationist, it is just kind of a principle that I try to live up to.  However, on my 40th birthday on the last duck hunt with my sick dog, it was a principle I was happy to bend.  After a few quacks on the duck call the hen sailed into the decoys and was setting up to land when I covered her up with the bead on my barrel and squeezed the trigger.  She crumpled and splashed dead into the water about 15 yards away, and Blitz was right on it and made the quick swim to pick up the bird.  The wet dog retuned with the large duck in her mouth, and it seemed like Blitz and I were both grinning.  We were back!  This might just be a good day after all. 

The birds continued to buzz the small decoy spread I had set, providing me with ample shooting.  Unfortunately, I was not connecting on any of my shots.  I was pressing hard for Blitz, not concentrating or taking my time, and the toll it was taking on my shooting with obvious.  Blitz whined her displeasure at the amount of ammunition that was being spent that did not result in a chance for a retrieve.   

A fat drake mallard presented a challenging shot to the south, and in three shots I merely broke his wing, dropping him into the decoys.  Blitz was in the water immediately chasing the injured duck, who was swimming at a good pace.  As I waded into the water after the dog I shot at the bird on the water to dispatch him and bring the chase to an end, but shot after shot would not connect. 

The chase was now lasting too long, and I was getting very worried about Blitz.  I decided to call her in and to get the boat to chase down the bird.  Unfortunately, Blitz had closed ground on the bird and was now so close that she ignored my commands.  "Blitz, here!  BLITZ, HERE!" I screamed louder and louder, getting more and more worried.  What if her leg failed her out there?  What an idiot I was!  "BLITZ HERE!  BLITZ HERE!"  Still nothing.  The bird was now diving under the water to avoid the dog, and the chase seemed to last forever.  As the duck popped up, if I had a clean shot at it I took it to try and bring things to an end, but after minutes of this, I was down to my very last shell of ammunition left in my vest. 

That's when we caught our big break of the morning. 

After getting close again, the greenhead mallard dove under the water, and ended up popping up behind the dog, and closer to the point.  Blitz noticed, and started the chase again, actually driving the bird toward me.  "One last shot," I told myself as I lowered my gun on the injured bird swimming toward the cover of the point.  "Make it count."  With that I squeezed off the last round I had out in the water with me, and our drake finally rolled over.  Blitz picked him up in short order, and we reconvened at the blind. 

Blitz was panting due to the long swim, and I was kicking myself at the whole situation.  I took a borderline shot at a bird because I wanted a nice experience for my dog, and instead I put her in danger.  Idiot!  I told myself that I'd not take any more borderline shots, and that I needed to settle down, concentrate on my shooting, and execute. 

Birds continued to buzz, by us, and I passed all of them up as they didn't present a shot in which I was confident of a clean, close kill.  Fortunately, my patience was going to be rewarded.  A massive flock of ring necked ducks buzzed up the eastern shore line, banked hard to their left, and were lined up to come right down the bluebill decoy string that I had set.  They closed the gap between us, swung down the the sting of decoys, lowered their feet, and were committing to land seemingly at the end of the point when I stood and picked out a bird.  I squeezed the trigger and crumpled a fat drake, and swung my gun on a second bird.  I squeezed off another round and dropped that duck as well.  A double! 

Dropping two birds out of one flock is a feat, as once the shooting starts, ducks move very quickly to leave the area.  But the birds were so close and my shooting so true that the double was actually easy to achieve.  With one more shell left in my gun, I picked out a third bird from the still very close flock.  I touched off the shot, crumpling the bird at which I was aiming, and also dropping a drake that happened to by flying behind it.  A quad! 

In all of my decades of hunting, I've only had a triple one time.  It was years before, and it elicited a "Great shot!" shout not only from my dad at the back of the boat, but also from a boat about 100 yards from us.  But I'd never had a quad.  I couldn't even imagine it.  But sure enough, when the flock had departed and gun gone empty, there were four birds down.  Two were right in the decoys; the easy retrieves I was looking to provide the dog and Blitz picked them up in very short order.  The other two birds had sailed a bit, and given the length of the swim ahead of the dog, I decided she had enough, and walked her over to the boat for us to pick them up via that method. 

Throwing my cased gun and blind bag into the boat, we shoved off to pick up the birds.  As I motored to them, I was doing the math in my head - two mallards plus four ring necks was our six bird limit.  Blitz and I were done.  I grinned as I remembered Ron's admonishment about wasting my time, and looked up at Blitz at the front of the boat, ears flapping in the wind, obviously having a ball.  What a morning! 

We gathered the birds, and since we were already in the water and had our limit, Blitz and I puttered around and quickly picked up the small decoy spread.  Once complete with our decoy chore I motored back to the landing, still unable to believe the good fortune we had.  I wanted just one last hunt with Blitz.  I did not expect it to be the best hunt of my life.  Upon hitting the dock, I tied up the boat, went down on my knees in my waders and with Blitz licking my face, said a long and heartfelt prayer of thanks.  I felt that a morning like this had to be a gift from God, and I was thankful.  I'd like to think that He saw my suffering about Blitz and decided to reward me with the best birthday gift I could have ever wanted. 

I quickly put the boat on the trailer, hauled everything back to the farmhouse, and got the birds out for some pictures with Blitz.  In doing so, I happened to look at my watch.  It was 8:20.  Accounting for the picking up decoys, hooking up the boat, and jacking around with pictures, Blitz and I had to have finished our hunt by about 7:30.  A limit in a little over a half hour!  Incredible.  I quickly cleaned the birds, got things packed and looked again at my watch.  8:45. 

Now what was I going to do?