Thursday, February 27, 2014

An Early Look at the 2014 Midterm Elections

At a recent agricultural forum in Mankato, Minnesota a question about Obamacare was posed to three Democratic congresspeople.  Here's the question, and their subsequent reaction:

KEYC - Mankato News, Weather, Sports -

That's the answer?  Really?  Are these people so out of touch on the failure of Obamacare that they have no prepared talk-off?  Or do they think they're just not going to be asked tough questions, because since Obama joined office, that just doesn't happen anymore?  Or maybe they just flat don't give a rip?

Two out of these three people need a new job.  Right bleeping now.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Google Glass Invitation

When Google Glasses first came out, I put in my application to be among the first to access them.  As one that is fascinated by technology, and one whose industry has been constantly rocked by technological changes (social media, mobile phones, tablets, all within the past five years, for example) I was intrigued enough to throw my hat in the ring.

Well, I was recently selected for Google Glasses:

There are only two problems:

  1. Cost.  These bad-boys tip the scales at a whopping $1,500.  Yeah, I love new technology, but not that much, buddy.  There really is a reason why they call that the "bleeding edge," isn't there?
  2. Creep Factor.  Google Glasses, or better said, the people wearing them, are getting a pretty tough rap.  It has gone so far that there's a name for creepy people that wear Google Glasses: "glassholes."  To combat this, Google itself has gone as far as publishing a list of dos and don'ts for Google Glass users.
Despite the problems, I really want the Glasses.  I truly believe that wearable technology to be the next big thing.  My success in changing my weight/body/health via my use of a Fitbit Flex is just one example.   And that is fairly simple technology.  One can only imagine what is going to be coming at us in just a few years' time.

Unfortunately, the problems outweigh the benefits for me, at least for now.  But I will definitely be watching this space very closely.

Pun intended.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Laughing At Pain

Last week I had a post that discussed a National Guard funeral detail that puts the "FUN in funeral."  Today I present you to the latest viral video craze.  In it, a father that is waiting to pick up his middle-school aged daughter is videotaping and laughing at kids slipping and falling on ice:

I know there is something that is hard wired in humans for us to find pain inflicted on others as funny.  If it weren't that way, the Three Stooges would never have had a career.  However, there's fake pain, and there's real pain.  There is a difference.

The guy video taping is an adult, getting off on watching kids fall.  It would seem to me that a real man would get his fat butt out of his warm car and perhaps try kicking some dirt or snow on the ice to prevent further falls.  Maybe warn kids walking by.  Possibly step up, be a man, and do something to prevent people from getting hurt.

Instead, this tool tapes and laughs.  

In less than a week, we've had two very public examples where one's need for social media publication leads to the pain of others.  Pain that could have easily been prevented from happening in the first place, if somebody just would have stepped up and done the right thing.

Just do the right thing.  That's all it takes.  Holy cow...

Maybe I'm getting old, but I found no humor in either episode.  All I'm left with is a lot less hope for all of us.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Battle of the Bulge, Part 5: Results

Last November, I chronicled my attempt at weight loss, and at the time, I reported some success.  You can see the recaps here.

Likewise, I recently wrote on using an app named 10k Runner to get me into shape for an upcoming 10k run this summer.  

It's time for an update, as some milestones have been reached.

First, my diet has been maintained.  I'm eating much differently now, and it appears to have paid dividends.  Gone is any kind of junk, and not much goes into the pie hole without a good understanding of the calories and nutritional value associated with it.  A recent trip to the grocery store reflected the change that has been made:

Second, my running has progressed, but not without a lot of hard work.  Two weeks ago I completed a 5k - basically running for 35 minutes at a good pace.  At 3.1 miles, it was the longest I had ever run.  Upon completion of that run, my 10k Runner app had me running the following twenty minute run, three minute walk, and twenty minute run:

I felt this would be easy.  My 35 minute run was doable, and this new challenge was basically just tacking on another 5 minutes to the run - and even had a break in the middle!  However, for some reason, I could not finish this run.  In the second stage something would always start hurting me - quad, ankle, knee, hip - and I'd need to back off and walk.  It was frustrating and depressing.  

However, I had a discussion with a buddy that is a self-proclaimed running superhero (you can read about that here) and he advised a change in my gait and foot falls.  While it took proactive thought and dedication, the first time I applied them I knocked this run out.  I even put in an extra minute at the end to ensure that it was truly dead.  I've since progressed on, and have not run into any other walls, although I know they're out there.  I'm knocking on wood right now...

The third milestone reached is on the scale:  

For the first time since my senior year in high school, my weight starts with a "1."  I seriously thought the only way I'd see this again would be if I lost a limb or two.  When I first met my wife, I weighed 225.  On the day that we married, I weighed 230.  She's never known me like this.  And for once in a long, long time, the guy that I see when I look at a picture of me or when I look in the mirror looks like me, and not some fat version of me.  

It has been a long road:

But the road has been a successful one.  

I'm pretty much where I want to be from a weight standpoint.  Given my physical frame, it will be tough to drop a lot more.  I know, from a BMI perspective, I'm still considered "overweight," but when I weighed in for football my senior year, in the best shape of my life, I was 187 - still "overweight" from BMI standards.  To get to "normal" I'd need to get to 178.  That's not going to happen, at least not in the short term.  I can't afford to change over my wardrobe again.

It's been a nice problem to have.

Now I'm at maintenance.  But while the battle may not be a full fledged war, it is still a fight, and it still is being waged.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Swanson's Bait Featured on Twin Cities TV

I'm late getting this one posted, but recently my buddy and his business were featured on a Twin Cities news story:
If you happen to be in the Hackensack, Minnesota area anytime in the future, you owe it to yourself to check out Swanson's Bait.  Even if you don't fish, I guarantee you'll  find something there that will strike your fancy.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Aaron Neville Green Bay Concert Review

Last night Green Bay was treated to one of the finest voices in all of music history, as the incomparable Aaron Neville played an intimate two-man show.  Accompanied by a brilliant keyboardist (I caught the name but was unable to write it down), it was an intimate, beautiful performance.

Unfortunately, it started out rough for this concert-goer.  First, as is common for the area, the cavernous Weidner Center was about 25% full.  Yes, I know it was raining out and the prospect for the weather getting bad was there, but come on.  And I've seen it in too many shows.  This area just does not support concerts, and how we get any acts to stop in the first place is astonishing.  

Second, as I pulled out my phone to start documenting the set list, the old bitty sitting next to my wife smacks my wife on the knee and tells her to tell me that my phone is "distracting."  In the event you happen to be reading this ma'am, despite his multiple genres, Neville's was a ROCK AND ROLL SHOW.  Couldn't you be satisfied that you got the usher to speak to the folks in front of you about their cell phone use?  And last, how the hell old are you, anyway?

There.  That feels better.   

Thus, I don't have a set list for you.  But Neville's concert was a two-hour ramble through multiple genres, from rock to doo wop to country to old R&B and even with his trademark Ave Maria thrown in for good measure.  Many of the songs were shortened versions of early rock standards, and the set list had to be over forty songs long.  It was a wonderful tour de force by a voice that is just not matched by anyone.

And that voice was in fine form for a 73 year old man (who looked 20 years younger than that, by the way).  The pitch was perfect, styling original, and trademark falsetto as high and as strong as ever. 

Highlights of the evening for me were the following:

  • "Don't Know Much," made famous by his duet with Linda Rondstadt, it lacked nothing as a solo effort.  In fact, it made it all the more clear how great his voice is when it was not shared with another incomparable voice
  • "Under the Boardwalk" was a range display, as Neville handled the low and super-high parts interchangeably with seeming ease.
  • "Georgia on My Mind" was arguably better than the Ray Charles' original vocal.  It was truly that good.
  • "The Grand Tour," the George Jones classic, was an absolute home run.  
  • Randy Newman's "Louisiana 1927" was an emotional hat tip to Aaron's home state.
  • "Ave Maria," I imagine, sounded exactly like it does when the angels sing it.  Gorgeous. 
It was a great night by a true American treasure.  Unfortunately, so many people in the area missed it.

Except for one lady.  She could have missed it and we all would have been just fine.       

Thursday, February 20, 2014

'Fun in Funeral' Photo National Disgrace

Old news, I know, but I was on the road and couldn't weigh in, so am doing so now.

The attached is part of a social media post, where a member of the team brags that they "put the FUN in funeral."

It's beyond disgusting.

Thus far, two soldiers (can I even call them that?) have been suspended - that's right, not fired, not court martial-ed, but suspended - and the fate of the rest seems up in the air.  In the meantime we still have soldiers returning home in those coffin draped caskets, only those caskets don't serve as props for a social media post.

They contain the remains of a dead hero.  A hero that died for his country.  Not one that was yucking it up with their buddies from the comfort of home.

I have never served, so I know I need to temper my anger.  But if I was on the front lines and saw this, I couldn't wait to get back to Wisconsin, visit my brothers and sisters in the National Guard funeral team, and kick the living crud out of them.

This act is beyond stupid.  It's beyond ignorant.  And, it might be me, but it just feels like that's how we roll in our society today.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Worst Thing that Can Happen

In times of great stress, my wife always seems to come through with some timely and sage advice to help me through.  And one of her standards, and arguably her best tidbit, is for me to ask myself, "What is the worst thing that can happen?"  

And usually, the answer to that question is not nearly as bad as what I got myself so whipped up into a froth about in the first place.  Indeed, usually the worst thing that can happen just isn't that horrible.  

But what is horrible is what happens when that question gets asked, and the answer comes back as mighty unclear.  At this point the fear of the unknown combined with the feeling of losing control combine to form a quite formidable foe inside my little brain.

Then what?

The only place left at that time is my faith in God.  My faith that there is a plan, there is a path, and I just need to stop worrying and follow it.  Unfortunately, God's timeline and mine are two very different things, and as much as I'd like to accelerate the process, it is important for me to just keep the faith, roll with what is happening, and know that in the end it will all be alright.

Easy to say, but very hard to do.

Will everything be alright?  Yeah, it will be.  Will I ever be able to let go and just walk the path, confident that there is something bigger determining where it goes?  

That, gentle reader, is the Grand Prize question...

Monday, February 17, 2014

Sunday, February 16, 2014

President George W. Bush at NRF

During my trip to New York last month, I got a lot done, with a mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral and a trip to the World Trade Center as two highlights.  But among those experiences was one more that really struck me, and that was seeing President George W. Bush provide the keynote speech for the National Retail Federation conference.

I know Bush is a lightening rod personality for many, and in certain camps he's downright hated.  However, I have always been a fan of his, and while I have disagreed with some of his decision making, I greatly admire him as a leader, war-time President, and a man.  

Since I am a fan, I made sure that I was a much up front for entering the speech hall as possible, so I got there 45 minutes before opening.  Much to my chagrin, I was late, as there were already 300-400 people ahead of me.  But, upon entering the hall when they finally released us, I was able to quicken my pace, navigate the crowd, and made my way up front; three rows away from center stage.  

I was surprised to see very little overt security.  I saw only two clear Secret Service agents, both posted on the stage.  Beyond that, there were no uniformed security, no metal detectors, no bag searches, no anything.  There was just a wide area around the stage that was blocked off.  That was it that I could see.  That was really shocking to me, especially considering that a good part of the Middle East would want nothing more than to see George W. Bush dead.  While I know there had to be more security behind the scenes that I just didn't see, it was still very unsettling to be so close to a man so hated by so many.  

Given the vitriol around him, I wondered how he'd be received, and that was quickly answered with a sizable standing ovation at his introduction and entry onto the stage.

The speech was less of a speech and more of a moderated conversation.  In it, the President conveyed a lot of the stories that made up his book (well worth the read), but expressed them in a less formal, less Presidential manner.  He came across as a man that was very comfortable in his own skin, one that understood the magnitude of what the Presidency means, and one that very deeply and very personally cares for our armed forces.  

The highlight of the speech was a conversation about his Presidency, and how it will be viewed by history.  And in talking about it, Bush showed a lot of candor.  I'm paraphrasing, but it went something like this,"People tell me all the time 'You need to do this or that to protect your legacy.'  My legacy?  There is NOTHING I can do right now to modify how history will judge me.  That will occur many years after I'm gone.  And I hope that at that time they will fell I did a good job.  But I know that what I did do is the best job that I knew to do."

Overall, he came across as a man at peace with what he's done, and one that needs no affirmations from anything or anyone.  Just thoughtful, quiet, and confident.  Funny, too.

I was curious how the crowd would react at the end, and the ovation was larger than the one that greeted him.  

There's a internet meme out there that kind of sums it up:

Judging by the ovation, I wasn't alone in that sentiment

Saturday, February 15, 2014

No Rest

The weekend is upon me, and my ever-present list of things to do is gnawing at the back of my mind.  I admit I like it that way - I always have way more that I want to do than I have time to do it.  In some ways it is a great personality feature of mine, and yet in other ways it is perhaps my greatest failing.  But it's me.

However, sometimes it all catches up, and I just feel tired.  Just damn, damn tired.

So with the new weekend staring at me, I thought about taking a day off - no work, no travel, no anything I "gotta do."  And that got me thinking about the last time I did that.

And I can't remember it.

Oh, don't get me wrong, I've enjoyed recent leisure time with family and friends over the past couple of months.  Time that was not interrupted too much by work issues.  But that was time on the road where there are still things that come up that you "gotta do."  What I can't remember is a weekend day at home where I had nothing I felt I had to do.  Where I could lounge, nap, and do absolutely nothing.

Judging by the to-do list and the nagging going on in my head, it's not going to happen this weekend.  But I'm hopeful that it will happen before too long.

In the meantime, I gotta get to work...

Friday, February 14, 2014

Shanghai Tower Climb

Human beings are hard-wired to be afraid of heights, and that only makes sense from the most natural of standpoints.  Hence, when you find people that break that mold either via how they're built or their learned ability to tamp the fear down, it is a thing of marvel.

With that as the background, I present you these two.  Get ready to cringe:

No safety straps, no parachutes, no fear, and seemingly no damn sense either.

These two have a series of videos, and quite a following.  Unfortunately, this kind of activity cannot remain mishap free forever, and that's the truly scary part.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Insomnia Rocks!

I'm suffering from stress-induced insomnia, and while it interferes with my sleep, it does lend itself quite well to productivity.   Consider this morning where I accomplished the following:

  • Two-hour session in the gym
  • Grocery shopping
  • Valentine's Day cards purchased
  • Vehicle gassed up
  • Lots of work and personal emails processed
All before 5:00AM!  Sure, I'd rather be sleeping, but as long as I can't, it's nice to be so productive.

The only thing I fear is my level of productivity at about 3:00PM today...

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Felix Baumgartner's Full Free Fall Video

It's long, but it is fascinating.  The out-of-control spin just about made me sick watching it - I have no idea how he could have endured it.

A human being falling faster than the speed of sound - a barrier once thought impenetrable just a few decades ago/  What a remarkable event.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

President Says Law Doesn't Matter, For Now

In another astonishing move, President Obama has mandated that employers with under 100 employees (actually, a very large amount of businesses) won't have to provide health insurance until 2016, even though the law says otherwise.  Hence the fines, cancelled policies, and political blow back are saved for another day.

It just so happens that the day happens to be after the midterm elections.  Just a coincidence, certainly...

A couple of thoughts on this:

  • We're now in dangerous territory, where the executive branch can mandate law, based solely on how they and they alone choose to enforce it.  The precedent that this sets is downright frightening
  • Republicans could sue the administration to actually honor the law that they'd passed in attempt to hold the President in check.  Unfortunately, the cost of doing so would be to have the magnitude of Obamacare hitting the economy in all of its girth, and the risks to our fragile economic existence are just too high to do so.
One thing we know is that political winds change.  And when they do start blowing to the backs of conservatives, the pathway Obama has set for ignoring the law and making things up as he goes along will be something that will eventually make liberals howl.

But right now, nobody cares.  All that matters is keeping as much Democratic power through the next election as possible.  So the liberal media machine turns its head, looking so forward to consuming their political sausage, but content as hell of ignoring how it is made.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Delta Airlines 80's In-Flight Safety Video

As one that travels frequently on Delta (35,000+ miles per year), I've seen a lot of their pre-fight safety videos.  In fact, it sometimes gets to the point where I feel I could perform the video myself from memory.

So imagine my surprise to recently see this 80's version of their safety video.

While there are some inside jokes that will only resonate with those that have seen their standard video countless times before, there is still ample entertainment for all that lived through the 80's are are still here to tell the tale:

Friday, February 7, 2014

Favorite Meal

I was recently asked what was my favorite meal.

How does one answer that?  As one that loves food, there are just too many choices.  Too many tastes, combinations, and experiences from which to choose.  It's kind of like being asked what your favorite song is - there is far too much choice.  It's imminently easier to answer something like "What's your favorite Beatles song?"  (It's A Day in the Life, for those of you scoring at home).

But, in thinking about it, I think I came up with the answer of what is my favorite meal:  It is any meal, lovingly prepared and accompanied with ample time, fine drink, and people that I love.  Give me that situation, serve me hot dog soup, and color me the happiest man alive.  

That's easily my favorite meal.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

If Conference Calls Were In Person

I do about a half dozen of these every week, and this video nails perfectly what happens.  I'm not sure they presented an example that I haven't encountered.

And the barking dog happens WAY too frequently...

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Coke's Super Bowl Ad - Awesome or Awful?

When I first saw the controversial Coke ad during the Super Bowl, my first thought was "This is really PC for Coke," as Coke is a brand that I consider more "conservative," especially when compared to its rival Pepsi (remember how Pepsi leveraged Obama's election in this campaign?)  So as the commercial progressed, I became interested in how they'd treat the "God shed His grace on thee," part.  Would they actually say, "God?"  If they did, would it be sung in a language that was recognizable?

See what happens:

"OK," I thought, "Coke put themselves out there with that one.  Good for them."

As the video continued, I got into the message.  Our strength as a nation has always been the melting pot, and indeed, given demographics, our continued strength will be to continue to grow our population while others implode.  

So when Coke got to the punchline at the end, they had me a little choked up.  Indeed, we are a mosaic.  But it is a beautiful mosaic.  One that shares a common theme: a love of freedom, family, religion.  Even a love of Coke.  We are far more similar as Americans than we are different.  

Thus, when my cousin went on a rant on Facebook on all this, I felt he represented the defense of Coke's position well.  Here's his guest editorial:

I finally saw this controversial coca cola commercial. I understand both viewpoints but I totally get the message. America is a culturally diverse land. I thought the commercial wasnt anti patriotic in any way. fairly tasteful. I have friends that are Asian decent, middle eastern, European, Latin, african, gentile and jew and that doesn't make them any less American. I try to hold on to my Irish catholic roots. If I knew Gaelic I'd sing it. Does that make me any less American. I guess the only way to know is if the poop hits the fan. I can tell u Muslims, Asians, africans, Jews, latino's and European aryans have all died for this country. Cokes commercial didn't tarnish their legacy and contribution to America. In fact it embraced our cultural diversity. Btw if you think banning coke will make a difference you are wrong. They have much more of a market share over seas and they only strengthened their intl brand. Plus in business any publicity good or bad is better then no publicity. Now what is funny is in 20 years people will be mad when the song is sung in English instead of Spanish (the American language) lol.

America the beautiful, indeed.

Progressivism is Hard...

Monday, February 3, 2014

Bruno Mars - The Best Superbowl Halftime Show Ever?

Yeah, it was a bad football game, and the commercials this year were less than notable.  However, Burno Mars turned in a supremely entertaining halftime show.

From his drumming skills (that caught me off guard), to the dancing (moves that would make James Brown proud), to the ease of how he shared the stage with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, to his singing live (what a concept!), it was a home run performance.

The guy is massively talented.  Multiple genres covered, monster charisma, and confidence to actually sing his songs live.  He's a hell of an entertainer.

And he put up arguably the best Super Bowl Halftime show since U2 turned in this gem: 

Bad game?  Yeah.  But it was a great halftime show, and well worth the watch.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

10k Runner

My entire life, I've found it damned difficult to run distances.  Since my days in grade school where we performed the 600 yard walk/run for the President's Council on Physical Fitness test, to distance running we needed to perform for football, I hated it.  I was bad at it, and I've continued to be bad at it my whole life.  Perhaps it is because I'm far more of a fast twitch person, or perhaps I was just weak and/or lazy, but my distance running experience and performance has been scant.

But as I've moved to get myself in better shape, one thing seemed universal - those in truly great shape ran.  Certainly there are exceptions to this, but to me it certainly seemed the rule.  Hence, I needed to get off of my life long aversion to running and figure out a way to do it.

The first place I needed to start was with a goal, and it seemed that a good goal would be to participate in a run.  Since my company is a major sponsor of the Bellin Run (a famous 10k in the Green Bay area) and since the run was a 10k (a distance that felt achievable), it seemed to be a good goal to have.  Pus, since it would be conducted in June, it would give me the time I'd need to be able to get into shape to run the 6+ miles.

But where to start?  And that's where the 10k Runner app comes in.  Downloaded for my iPhone, the app is a 14 week process that takes a runner from the couch to a 10k by combining running and walking to build strength and stamina.  

Thus far, I'm in week 7 - about half way through the process.  And I've found the following:

  • The slow, stair step process has been a wonder.  When I started, the app had me walking a minute then running a minute over and over again.  And, slowly, the amount of time spent running has increased, and the amount of time walking has decreased.
  • I'm now running 25 minutes straight.  I'm not fast, mind you, but this was something I could not have done just a couple of months ago.
  • I'm running over 2 miles a session right now.  Prior to 10k Runner, the most I ever ran in my life was a mile.  And that was in High School.
  • My body has totally changed, and it is most noticeable in my legs, which are substantially thinner and much more toned that when I started this process.
I have a long way to go to get to a 10k.  But I feel like I'm on a good path, and my confidence as it applies to running has never been this high.   

I strongly endorse this app for someone wanting to train for a 10k, especially if they are a non-runner to begin with.