Saturday, April 30, 2016

Saturday Song Share: U2 - Bullet the Blue Sky

From 2001, perhaps at the height of their powers.  To me, this is the finest song in their catalog, and it's not close.  

The Edge is a monster on this one.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Interesting Motivational Speech to Black Students

There's a lot to think about in what he's saying here:

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Bernie and Hillary Bad Lip Reading

I have no idea how they come up with this stuff, but it is pretty darn funny:

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Why Are Transgender Bathrooms Defining Us?

It is mind boggling to me what is taking place in our society.  "More tolerant than thou" appears to be the coin of the realm, and companies like Target that encourage folks to use the bathroom of the gender by which they identify are driving popular culture conversation.  

Color me stupefied.   In most lands on this globe, there are concerns about hunger, literacy, human trafficking, clean water, mosquitoes killing people and maiming babies, and basic human rights.  Here are home, we concern ourselves on which bathrooms 0.1% to 0.3% of our population are comfortable in using.

Talk about first world problems.  Most of the world would simply be happy with the running water, let alone a special space with which to engage with it with the gender with which one identifies.

I'm curious as to where we go once we get transgender bathrooms figured out...

Monday, April 25, 2016

Leadership and the Dancing Guy

The premise on this video is a bit of a stretch, but it is still a very interesting view in human behavior that's been captured in this short snippet.

It's kind of amazing when you really think of it.

Now consider what would happen if the behavior being modeled was one that helped others, or made life better.  How do we light a fire to those activities?

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Prayers for Us (Even When We Won't/Can't Pray for Ourselves)

There may be times when life, sin, and hopelessness conspire against us, and leave us incapable of prayer.  In those times, remember there are many out there (including me) that are praying for you.

Don't believe me?  Consider just two simple prayers that are consistently in heavy rotation:

  • The Chaplet of Divine Mercy - "For the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world"
  • The Fatima Prayer - "O my Jesus, forgive us our sins.  Save us from the fires of hell.  Lead all souls to heaven, especially those in most need of Thy mercy"
These are but two very small examples.  And they're being prayed constantly.  Hence, make no mistake - at our lowest points, there is always someone with your spiritual back.  

And when you rebound from your circumstances, take up these prayers, and return the favor.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Saturday Song Share: Heart - Heartless

A live performance from 1976.  A couple of things:
  • Ann Wilson shows off her incredible range, and that she's arguably the best female singer in the pure "rock" category
  • You can't unsee the bass player.  I'm sorry about that 

Friday, April 22, 2016

Random Remembrances of Prince

Pretty much everyone and their brother has weighed in on Prince and his passing, and we're at just the tip of the iceberg.  We'll be talking about this genius for a long, long time to come.  Being a kid in Minnesota in the 80's I had to have a relationship with Prince, and I did so at way more levels than I'd like to admit.  There are a number of episodes in my interactions with him that are really seared into my memory.  In no particular order, here are some.  

  • I remember the first time I saw him.  It was 1980 or so on one of those Saturday night, late-night music shows, and he and the band were cutting into "Partyup."  It freaked me out - I had never heard anything like it before.  A year or two later he released 1999, and the whole world got exposed.  
  • The first time I heard "When Doves Cry," I loved it, but it bugged me at the same time.  It took me years to figure out what it was.  Finally, one day I was listening to a radio show that was talking about the song and noted that it lacked a bass or any kind of bassline.  Bingo.  
  • I distinctly remember being on the dance floor at Lord Fletchers when the DJ moved between "Drinking with an Angel" by the Suburbs and "Erotic City" by Prince.  It remains to this day one of the finest DJ song transitions that I ever heard.  
  • One of my biggest record store scores of all time was finding a bootleg copy of the Black Album while in Munich with my brother.  It was horribly pirated from a scratched up LP, but I loved that CD.  Even now, despite having the wherewithal to replace it and download a pristine version of once-banned album, I keep my version - nicks, pops, hisses, and all.  
  • I loved in Spike Lee's "Do the Right Thing" that Spike's character of Mookie calls out one of the white antagonists and displays the hypocrisy of being so racist, but loving Prince.  While the character espouses his love for Bruce Springsteen, his reaction belies where his true allegiances are.  
  • Prince's guitar solo performance of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame a number of years back showed just how virtuoso he was at guitar.  What a totally dominant performance of a seminal guitar piece.  Clapton (and every other axe man, for that matter), had to tip their cap.  
  • While I love her more than I can say here, I don't have as much common ground with my sister as I do with many others in my family.  Among the things we have, though, is "Housequake."  Funny, isn't it, what brings us together?  
  • For me, the best part about the original Batman movie was the Prince soundtrack, and, in particular, "Batdance.". 
  • For those that have never seen it, Charley Murphy's Hollywood Stories of playing basketball and eating pancakes with Prince is the second funniest thing ever on the Chappel show (the first being, of course, the Rick James segment).  

Prince was a prodigiously productive, and it has long been rumored that there is a massive amount of material in his vault that has never seen the light of day.  With his passing, we'll likely get access to that, and that will help to ease the pain of his premature passing.  Despite this, the world is noticeably not as interesting as it used to be just a day ago.  

We're all slightly poorer because of it.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Four Phases of Cultural Health

A benefit of a long career tenure is the breadth of experiences that is commensurate with it.  Despite spending nearly my entire working life in retail, I've found that one thing that varies the most in all of these experiences is how "culture" is addressed within organizations.  Indeed, in my experience, I've found a continuum of how individual business organizations approach culture, and with a few exceptions, this approach manifestly impacts business performance and employee engagement.

Here is a review of this continuum, moving from least healthy to most:

  • No Stated Policy or Discussion - These organizations spend little time worrying about culture at all.  Culture happens organically, and while it can be functional in total, certainly there are always portions that are downright sick.  And just like in human health, those that refuse to talk about health, get routine checks, and proactively manage themselves will one day be presented with a horrible surprise.  It is only a matter of time.
  • Stated Policy, No Discussion- These organizations feel that because a cultural policy exists in written format, it doesn't need discussion or nurturing.   Often these organizations have two different cultures - the one that is on paper, and the unwritten one that actually reflect day-to-day cultural interactions within the organization.  As one might expect, sometimes these two cultures can actually come into direct conflict.
  • Stated Policy, Discussion, No Practice - These organizations have all the hallmarks of a healthy group - they say and do all the right things, at least on the surface.  However, when it comes time to actually do the hard work of holding the organization accountable to the culture that is being espoused, there is no follow through.  It's the organizational equivalence of bragging about living a healthy lifestyle,  but continually raiding the fridge every night.
  • The Whole Mary Ann - This organization does it all.  They walk the talk.  They also know that such a culture is a tenuous thing, hence it is pruned and nurtured.  Such organizations lack ego, course correct, mean what they say, ask questions, and are proactive.  

Culture is a direct result of leadership, and as leaders, it is incumbent on us to influence our cultures where we can to move toward a more healthy engagement.  Just like anything to do with good health, it's hard work, but ultimately, it's worth it.

Where is your organization on this continuum, and what are you doing about it?

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

What Drives Rush Limbaugh on Donald Trump?

Love him or hate him, nobody has dominated radio the past thirty years like Rush Limbaugh.  His numbers speak for themselves, and absolutely dwarf any competitor.  He's not only outperformed his competition, in many instances he's outlasted them.

He's been a very consistent voice of conservative thought for his tenure.  Consistent, that is, until this election cycle.

Trump has been handled with kid gloves by Limbaugh, especially now that we're down to two candidates.  It is astonishing to see, especially when one of the candidates in the form of Ted Cruz has the conservative bone fides that Limbaugh has been asking in a candidate for decades.  They don't get more conservative than Cruz, and likely will never again.

If anything, Limbaugh owes Cruz his full-throated support.  Instead, we get "balance" and "explanations" of what Trump is doing.

Trump is a clown.  He can't cobble together cogent thoughts.  He's a Chatty Cathy doll who espouses the same shallow rhetoric when asked a question - "we're gonna build a wall," "we're gonna do deals," "we're gonna bring jobs back," "we're gonna make America great again."  

He's a TV show host.  He's a buffoon.

And yet Limbaugh teats him with deference.  Bill O'Reilly does as well.  What's going on?

There is no question that Limbaugh and Trump are friendly, and have been for years.  Limbaugh has thoroughly enjoyed not only Trump's friendship, but also the spoils that go with it.  For someone that loves golf as much as Rush does, turning one's back on all that access is simply too much to give up.  

It turns out Limbaugh is as much a part of the mainstream as all of those he criticizes.  He's just another fat cat that doesn't want to see his personal gravy train come to an end.

The true colors are out and the shark has been jumped.  And while it is happening, our best Republican conservative candidate since Reagan is forced to fight a massive headwind.

It's a massive shame.     

Monday, April 18, 2016

Nazi Amphitheater in Heidelberg

About 20 years ago, my brother and I traveled to Germany for a guy's vacation.  It was a truly awesome time together, and memories of that trip will last with me forever.  It's rare that my brother and I get to do heavy-duty one-on-one time, and to have a full week together traveling through such a gorgeous country was a flat-out blessing.

During our time in Heidelberg, we heard about a trail on the University side of the Neckar, and thought we'd stretch our legs with a hike.  It was a fairly good hump up a fairly sizable hill, and eventually got us to the famed Philosopher's Walk (Philosophenweg) with some incredible views of vineyards, the Neckar valley, and the famed Heidelberg castle.

We could tell we were near the top, and chose to push on to see what else we could find.  As we approached the pinnacle, and without any kind of fanfare, we ran into this:

We were dumbstruck.  First, here was this massive amphitheater on top of a hill, yet there was basically no signage to direct folks to it.  Second, it appeared to built by the Third Reich for political/military rallies.

We snapped photos, and headed on our way.

When Mrs. YDP and I returned to Heidelberg this past week, I really wanted to find that crazy amphitheater again.  I knew generally where it was (up the mountain!), but was unsure as to how to get there.  Regardless, my bride was up for an adventure, so after a fantastic tour at Heidelberg castle in the morning, we crossed the river and headed on up the hill.

The path we chose was unfamiliar to me, but we were still rewarded with a number of things that my brother and I didn't see in our previous trip.  There was a gorgeous garden area, a cool old monument in honor of Bismarck, and a number of great vistas for taking photos.  However, we couldn't find that damned Amphitheater.  

We were near the top of the hill, and also near the end of our endurance, but were being encouraged to press on by a series of signs that promised a castle just up the hill.  Hence, we continued on, and indeed were ultimately rewarded by an ancient castle at the top of the hill that afforded the best view we had of the area:

Thinking we'd done it all and had just missed the amphitheater somehow, we made our plans to head back down the mountain.  Before we did, we noticed a park just around the corner from us, and with that, a cute little beer hall for a much-needed refresher.  My wife and I stepped inside, and while our barkeep was drawing two cold ones, my bride noted a postcard on the bar which showed that elusive amphitheater.  She immediately asked in English if the bartender knew where this was.  "Sure," he said, "about two minutes walk up the road!"  He looked amazed that we had missed it.

We cooled off with a beer (OK, it was two), then found the amphitheater.  

With the benefit of the internet, there is now some decent background on what the place really was, and indeed, it does have Nazi roots.  

Here's what we know from Wikipedia:

The Heiligenberg theatre is one of the official Thingstätten or Thingplätze built in the first part of the Nazi era as part of the Thingspiel movement. It is in the form of an egg-shaped amphitheatre and has a capacity of approximately 8,000 seats or 15,000 standees. The architect was Hermann Alker. The original design was to seat 10,300 people with room for an additional 20,000 standees and include a dance ring behind the stage; work began in late April 1934 and was to have been completed in July, but paused and resumed on the reduced plan, and the facility was completed in June 1935 and dedicated on the 22nd of that month. Approximately 20,000 people attended, and in his address to them Joseph Goebbels spoke of the 'holy mountain' that was the site and characterised the Thingstätten as "the Lagtagen [State diets or parliaments] of our time"; he described the theatre as "National Socialism in stone" and compared the construction of Thingstätten to that of the autobahns 

It represents one of the only examples we saw in our travels of WWII in Germany, and given the carnage that war wrought, that's OK.  

My wife and I took a different route down, and as we descended, I became more convinced that this was the route that my brother and I had likely taken those years before.  Overall, it was a gorgeous walk, and one with a great many payoffs.  However, none were perhaps better than the one offered at that beer hall at the top of the mountain (BTW, you could have hit that "elusive" amphitheater with a soft nine iron shot over my left shoulder in the photo below) :


Sunday, April 17, 2016

Already Missing Germany

We traveled for most of the day yesterday, departing our hotel at 7:00AM Heidelberg time, and arrived home about 9:00PM CDT, technically on the same day.  In total, we were up almost 24 hours.  While it was a long day, it was uneventful, and when one travels, that's all one can ask to receive.

As we wake up and resume our usual lives, it is clear there are a couple of things we already miss or know we're going to miss from our trip. In no particular order, here they are:

  • A True Continental Breakfast - A simple breakfast of some of the best bread you've ever eaten, with some incredible cheese, butter, or sausage on the side was a fantastic way to start the day.  American breakfasts really are crap, especially in hotels.  
  • Stellar Coffee - There is nothing better to wash that great breakfast down with than some really strong, tasty coffee.  While we've come a long way in our coffee selection here in the States, any random cup of joe over there rivals the best that Carbou can put up.
  • Sleep - A ton of walking, fresh air, good food, and time away from work conspired to provide a couple of days with over ten hours of sleep.  It was simply awesome.  On those rare days where I woke up at some Godless hour, I found nobody else was awake.  Unlike in the US where it seems we're rapidly moving to a 24 hour society, that's not the case over there.  I was walking around Munich one morning at just before 7:00 AM and damn near had the entire city to myself.
  • Waking Everywhere - Want to max out your Fitbit?  Go to Europe and just walk around.  It's pedestrian-friendly, and hidden treasures are consistently just around the corner.  My biggest day was in Munich, where I logged 25,000 steps, which equated to just over 12 miles, and 5,000 calories.  That's a lot of earned beer.  Speaking of which:
  • Really Tasty Beer - Regardless of where one goes, a simple order of "ein bier, bitte," will get you the best-tasting brew you've had since the last German beer you ordered.  No need to find something funky on the beer menu - just order "beer," stand back, and prepare to be amazed.  Incredible. 
While it is always good to be back home, there is a lot we'll miss.  I just didn't think it'd hit so hard on the first morning.

To better times:

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

German Changes

Displaying IMG_3469.JPGIt has been over twenty years now since I've last been to Germany, and while it is wonderful to be back, I am surprised to see the changes that Mrs. YDP and I are encountering on our travels.  Some things of note:

  • English is everywhere.  Many of the signs and advertising are done in English and not even in German, and this isn't for travelers.  This is plainly for domestic consumption.
  • Speaking of English, folks were always fluent here, but now it is off the charts.  Many don't even have accents.  As American citizens, we should be ashamed at our lack of secondary language ability.
  • Russians were everywhere in Munich.  It's remarkable to me that when I first came to Germany back in the early 80's, we were worried about the Soviets invading western Europe.  As it turns out, they kind of did.
  • Germany is now culturally different.  Let's just leave it at that.
There is plenty that is the same - the Alps, bier, autobahn, weinerschnitzel, bread, coffee, and gemütlichkeit.  What a wonderful, wonderful place.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Is Technology Really Helping?

Here is a photo from a recent Saturday morning where I was working from home.  In it is my home PC, my iPad, my iPad Mini, my work tablet, and my work iPhone.  I took the picture from my personal iPhone.

I was using all of them, except for the iPad.

This is progress?

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Sunday Song Share: Lyle Lovett - I'm Going to Wait

I know we usually share music on Saturdays around here, but this one is just so appropriate for a Sunday that it had to get posted up.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Friday, April 8, 2016

Laughing and Having a Coke on a Subway in Brussels

The folks behind Coke's branding and marketing usually do a really fine job.  They stay true to their brand, yet find new and innovative ways to convey it.

In a recent installment, they get folks laughing in a subway in Brussels:

If there was a city the needed this more, I'm not sure what it would be.

Well done, Coke.  Again.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Idiots with Tannerite

Loyal readers of this blog are well aware of where we stand when it comes to the Second Amendment and our constitutionally granted right to keep and bear arms.

However, just because we have that right, doesn't mean stupidity can't reign - as it does with those that take our other rights too far.

The latest is abuse of Tannerite.  What is Tannerite?  Wikipedia explains it very well: Tannerite is the brand name of a binary explosive marketed primarily for making exploding targets for firearms practice. It is a patented combination of ammonium nitrate (an oxidizer) and aluminum powder (a fuel) that is supplied as two separate powders that are mixed and shaken to produce an explosive. The combination is relatively stable when subjected to forces less severe than a high-velocity bullet impact, such as a hammer blow, being dropped, or impact from a low-velocity bullet or shotgun blast. It is also not flammable – an explosion cannot be created by a burning fuse or electricity. Because it is sold as two separate powders, it can be transported and sold in many places without the legal restrictions that would otherwise apply to explosives. 

Tannerite explosions are serious business.  Unfortunately, some shooters choose not to take them seriously, like this guy:

There is nothing more serious than owning and using a gun.  Those that don't take those responsibilities seriously often lead to suffering - to others, or in the case of our friend in the video, to themselves.

Closing question: Tannerite is legal.  How come we have yet to see it employed by terrorists?

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Drop In Job Participation Not Just Demographic

 Perhaps the most notable and consistent touchstone of the 7 years of the Obama administration has been the steady and steep decline in the job participation rate.  We have millions in wage-earning years that are not just unemployed, they've stopped looking for work altogether.

A paltry 63.0% of our labor force, aged 16 and over, has a job.  Any kind of job.

Armchair demographers and Obama political excuse makers have been claiming that the reduction is a simple trend in demographics - there are a glut of folks that are going to college and a similar glut of folks that are hitting retirement age.  Nothing to see here folks, move along...

Luckily, someone crunched the numbers, and as usual, the data tells a different story:

lfpr demographics stretched

Basically what was performed was a look at labor participation for those college kids and retirees if their rates of participation hadn't changed since 2007.  While the graph clearly tends down after this correcting (contributing to some of the Obama apologists' points), it hardly explains everything.  To the contrary, even by holding the demographic factors constant, the massive downturn in participation is shocking.

We're hemorrhaging jobs, and have been ever since Obama took office.  Period.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Cookie Monster Uses iPhone

Great marriage of popular culture and product features.  Really effective ad:

And, as someone that has the 6S (yeah, it's a plus - I'm old), I can vouch for how handy the hands-free Siri feature is.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Play Ball

There is nothing better than opening day of baseball.  Despite what the team looks like on paper, statistically, you've got a chance to be there.  And despite their execution, your favorite team will only be a couple of games out of first even if they get swept in their first couple of series.

Beyond what's happening on the field, there are the other components that come with the arrival of the regular season.  It's the promise of spring, regardless that there is still fresh snow on the ground.  It's listening to the game while fishing on the lake, or while sitting by a campfire.  It's falling asleep on the couch after catching only a couple of the first innings of a west-coast swing game.  It's the one inescapable sign that summer really, truly is coming.  

It's also memories of games, friends, family members, baseball cards, batting averages, and shaking your head at your grandma because she loved Clint Hurdle (.259 lifetime batting average) because "he's goooood lookin'."

Welcome back, baseball.  We missed you.

Play ball.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

What I Want to Be When I Grow Up

I have spent a lot of time lately trying to figure out my role in this life.  My perspective ebbs and flows, and I reach multiple conclusions.  One conclusion that I'm reaching is my lack of fulfillment with my work.

Don't get me wrong - I do very much enjoy my job.  I recognize that I'm very fortunate to be doing what I do, and I likewise recognize that I'm having direct impact on my company, team, and our futures.  My work matters, and it is meaningful.

However, it also feels hollow.  While it matters, does it really matter?  Am I making a significant difference in this world, or am I just punching the time clock and getting by?

I'd suggest I do more of the latter.

I was ushering at Easter mass last Sunday when I got hit by a lightning bolt.  I've always admired our Eucharistic ministers, and have felt a huge sense of responsibility when serving the Host to others in those rare instances when my usher duties called me to do so.  Likewise, I've had the misfortune to be hospitalized on a couple of occasions, and found it so comforting to have someone visit me and provide me with Communion.

Thus, I think really want to be an Eucharistic minister at a hospital.  That's how I'd like to play out my retirement years.  It'd be hard from an emotional standpoint, but there's no question that it would be making a difference.  

Oh, sure, there are a million other things I could do that would make a bigger difference, I get it.  But this one just feels like me.

I can't wait to grow up.   

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Saturday Song Share: Meatloaf - Hot Patootie

From The Rocky Horror Picture Show (which is now 41 year old - holy crap!) comes the best song of the movie.  Meatloaf was at his pinnacle, both in voice and girth.  It was a fabulous, indulgent rock romp.

Hot patootie, bless my soul
I really love that rock n roll

Friday, April 1, 2016

Working Too Much?

We acquired a new CEO a number of weeks ago, and the ripple effects through our company have been substantive.  There are a lot of good reasons for that, and I'm not going to go into detail, but suffice it to say that things are crazy.  As such, I'm putting in more hours that I pretty much ever have in my career.

Part of that is self inflicted.  I'm planning on going on vacation in two weeks, and I want to get as much handled before I leave as I possibly can.  I don't want to try and be working while in Germany.

Regardless, with the pace I've been keeping I've been working the past three weekends, and while I was not planning on going into the office on Easter weekend, I am working from home (at least on Saturday).

As I was working (and likely scowling), my wife came into my office and said "If you need to go into work today, that's OK."

There is a whole bleeping lot that is wrong with that...