I was inspired to update a childhood pic of my brothers and me waiting to unwrap our Christmas presents. Since I would never be able to get them to sign off on a recreation, I got a little creative with Photoshop and landed about 50 likes on Facebook. Time to make this a regular feature.
Friday I saw something awesome in my social media stream. A friend from my TechKaraoke Minneapolis crowd had been invited to a closed track driving experience (the Ford Ecoboost Challenge) and wanted to know if I wanted to tag along. It had been a long week, starting at 7am on Sunday and featuring treks to Wisconsin Dells, New Prague, and Marshall, so I was completely in the mood for some recreational driving. My boss approved my long lunch and I was off.
“So you’re with The Media?”
I affirmed with a bit of a twinge in my gut. I find it interesting that blogging, tweeting, and keeping in touch with my nearly 1k Facebook buddies gets me the same credentials as when I worked at The Reporter (yes, I tried to be mild-mannered while I was there, but that’s quite difficult for me). As someone who aspired to be a member of the fourth estate, I am very aware of the distinction in journalistic standards between the two media, but I accept that I get more feedback from readers now than I ever did reviewing movies or throwing hardballs at administration VPs. Nevertheless, I instructed my gut to settle down – I wanted to drive and they were the ones setting the standard which I fit into.
After a light repast, they got us right behind the wheeel. First up was the Hypermile Challenge. We got to choose between two hybrids and as the C-Max came in a hatchback, I took that one out. We toured the track at up to 25 miles per hour and then checked our overall miles per gallon for that lap. Then we were coached through the second lap where we saw our MPG vastly improve (I got mine up to 70 MPG for the course – a far cry from the 280 I saw when I got in). The C-Max was comfortable and by no means as acceleration-averse as the Ford Tempo (“Adagio”) I drove briefly in my 20s. The last time I bought a car, I wasn’t seeing this level of attention to experience in the domestic offerings, so I was excited to see that I might not be importing my next car.
The next challenge was a comparison between Ford vehicles and their top competitors in the sedan, SUV, and truck categories. I’m not really a sedan guy, but I preferred the Ford interior and handling to the Toyota. Then I rode around in the light SUVs with my friend Jen Jamar. This gave me an opportunity to experience the cars from another vantage point, test out the stereos’ Bluetooth connectivity, and rickroll her.
This just left the one I had been waiting for – ST Performance Academy. We received a 10 minute instruction on what we were going to do and how they would kick us out if we knocked over 3 or more cones, then they unleashed us on the vehicles. I haven’t driven a stick since my Geo Metro was the victim of a 4 am drunken hit and run, so I was a bit hesitant about my clutching abilities. They made this easy by making the track turn-intensive so you never had to shift out of 2nd. The time to beat was 29.5 seconds by the instructor, so on the first time through I posted a 48.5. The second time through I juiced it a lot more and I’m pretty sure that I got around a 38 or 39, but unfortunately as I had not pre-registered I was one of a number of mislabeled people. As I pulled in, I forgot about the clutch a half-second too late and it killed/lurched right in front of everyone else. Classy!
I helped convince Jen to get behind the wheel (she had been my passenger through my two laps), partially so I could get out on the track again. She had gone about 5 more years of not driving a stick and was a bit anxious, but we got through the first lap and she found her confidence, putting up a 39.6 in the process, so she may have beaten me.
Unfortunately, they only gave you the one go so I had to head back to the office, being very mindful not to treat 169 like my own time track.
In spring of 1997 I was invited to be on a Battle of the Sexes radio program which I lost because faced with answering either “a Big Mac” or “an average woman’s breast” for which weighed more, I was too embarrassed to say the word “breast” on the air.
I cite this personal struggle, because I’m a firm believer that we must evolve as people, which I evidently have done in the intervening years. Last night I said “breast” in public about a hundred times, often to complete strangers who gave me money in return. What was the evolution from meek grad student to top salesman? Lots of rejection and a little success.
From fall 1997 to around 2001, I was a website generalist which meant I sold websites, acted as account manager, designed, and even developed those websites. I got rejected a lot on the sales side of things, but I learned from my mistakes. Eventually, we moved to a specialist model and so I was put in charge of design which is where I excelled.
I also started helping out with recruiting drives for the Minnesota Junior Chamber (Jaycees) around 2000. Going door to door and asking people if they are interested in volunteering their time in the community and then having the audacity to suggest they pay you for it (membership dues covered insurance for events, communications, and marketing materials) can be a tough sell if you don’t develop a thick skin and a sales tactic. I started focusing on selling the idea to the community leaders and getting them to help me identify potential members and publicizing it for me (I had always envied Tom Sawyer’s ability to get others to pay him to paint the fence, and thought there had to be more applications for that strategy in life). When I wasn’t getting others to sell for me, I found that humor and getting people to admit that they cared about something seemed to be my strong suits.
Fast forward to last night – I was at a pub crawl with Jaycees to help fund a charity bike ride (Disclaimer: I work in a marketing/technical support role for the regional RE/MAX franchisor and the event is being sponsored by one of the brokerages I support – RE/MAX Results). The crawl organizer was having little luck at getting those in attendance to sell the ribbons she had made to increase visibility/funding. The unwritten rule for Jaycee alumni is that if a current member will do the job, you step back and mentor them, but if no one is stepping up, you can show them how it’s done.
So I put the pink ribbon necklace around my neck and marched over to a table of three men and a woman and got their attention so that I could make my pitch.
“Pardon me, but I was wondering how you feel about breasts?”
I kept this as my opener throughout the night as it caught people off guard and they would smile as they pieced together their response which was usually “They’re awesome!” or “I am in favor of them.”
“So from what I’m hearing you say, you are in favor of them continuing or improving in quantity and quality?”
This would be met with a number of cheers and affirmations. The goal being to get them to vocalize that they cared about the cause.
“So this young lady that I’m with is going to be biking for breast cancer research, to help find a cure, and she’s looking for assistance in fundraising. For a buck, I’ll give you one of these lovely pins which you can wear proudly to express your support of breasts.”
At the first table, I actually pulled nothing as they claimed to be out of paper money (this was my one-off for the night as I averaged $3-4 at every other table). A guy one table over from them heard the pitch and came over to our table afterwards to buy three for his table, thereby starting my streak which lasted until I quit selling, so a 100%+ conversion rate.
I am sharing this story because it’s a personal evolution victory and would love to hear about yours. Also, it’s because I had a lot of fun making people laugh in exchange for money.
On YouTube over the past week I’ve been bombarded with ads by Gillette regarding how Superman shaves. Canon from the books, Lois and Clark, and the animated series purports he uses a mirror to reflect his heat vision. I’ve never been a huge fan of that as he would have to trim his hair that way. How many times would he get super-sneezes trying to clean up his nose hair before he got it down right?
So I checked out the ad and thought for sure someone would agree with the way I had envisioned. Bill Nye’s theory was that he shaved by grinding his hair down like a power sander, which is laborious and doesn’t address his coiffure. Mayim Bialik suggests that he has an enzymatic lotion, which again, would give him Lex Luthor’s hair instead of that perfect spit curl. The final entry, from the Mythbusters, is that he uses the large hadron collider.
None of the experts got it – all of their theories are crap as they were paid by Gillette to think within the box of his facial hair.
Superman’s Hair Care Secret
The closest was Kevin Smith who looked at Superman’s vulnerabilities and ruled out kryptonite (based on the reference he meant green kryptonite – which is an important qualification) and magic (his logic of Superman having to study magic being sound, but he could acquire an enchanted razor from one of Earth’s practitioners). Granted, he could keep around a lead lined charm with blue kryptonite (renders him human during exposure) for days when he wanted to stop by the barber and get a shave or a trim, but why would he choose to subject himself to the possibility of a nemesis dispatching him in such a condition.
The first part of the equation is that Jor El provided for technology for his son in his transport. Canon stipulates that he has a Fortress of Solitude holding the scientific wisdom of Krypton. If you read Reign of the Supermen which came after the Death of Superman, you would have seen that that fortress included a number of robots that maintain his sanctum and service him.
The second part of the equation is an understanding of his superpowers. They are derived from his ability to metabolize and infuse his body with yellow sun radiation. During “Eclipso: The Darkness Within” Superman was cut off from the Earth’s yellow sun and had to rely on fruits and vegetables to regain a portion of his power. Like Daxamites, Superman is vulnerable to red sun radiation as it suppresses his yellow sun powers.
So the solution – a barber bot in the Fortress of Solitude with the ability to generate red sun radiation in a targeted manner. Need a shave, the red sun laser targets the follicles, rendering them mundane enough for a standard razor to cut them. The same goes for his nose hair and coif. Who is going to believe that Clark Kent and Superman are different people if they both show up with poorly shorn hair? In addition, his Fortress sensors should pick up any incoming threat with sufficient time for the cantaloupe pomade to be applied, so as to avoid duplicating Lex Luthor’s iconic look in the event of a super-villain assault.
Cover photo courtesy: Ben Northern
Have you created your summer bucket list? The goal is to be able to look back and say “this is what I pushed myself to accomplish.” So many years bleed into one another, and it’s easy to wonder what has become of your life, but having a list every year, helps remind you of what progress you have made – what positive change you have wrought in your life.
Last year I announced to the world my bucket list items – I stood up to my fears of Lasik and dropped about 10 pounds over the summer (which the long winter unfortunately repaid in full, partly in muscle so I’m not despondent).
My big goal for this year was going to be to learn to ride and acquire a motorcycle, but early in the year I came to the realization that there was another goal to supplant that one – to improve my photography/videography skills. It is a skill set that has personal and professional significance beyond just the confrontation of fear that the motorcycle choice would have represented (two of my brothers had significant motorcycle accidents in high school, poisoning my interest in that transportation mode).
Toward that end I purchased a Canon T4i and have been working to learn the art of photographic composition, currently focusing on creating depth of field photos (example from my recent vacation) where only the item of interest is in focus. I’ve posted some of my shots thus far online if you want to peek at my progress.
- Overnight Website Challenge
- South St. Paul, MN
- Niagara Cave (Harmony, MN – exterior shots only, it was really wet and humid in the cave)
I’ve also been improving my video production skills. I’ve been doing video production for work and here are 2 examples – the January monthly with a Flip camera and the May version with the Canon T4i and a lav mic. I’m also working on a video project for the family, a documentary.
Beyond that goal, I’m also working on my distinct lack of horticultural skills. My mother planted a garden every year when she was in Mabel, and my grandmother did her own gardening up until the time of her stroke. I’ve never had a green thumb because I forget to water and care for the plants, but I’ve kept a plant alive for 6 months (one out of three I bought at the same time) so I’ve gone ahead and planted some pepper plants, rosemary, basil, and partial shade plants (begonias and nasturtiums) in the area under my deck which has been unused for the past 4 years. I will post pictures as that project progresses.
I’ve also got some other optional items. I’m going to try and post to this blog once per week. I still want to set aside a weekend to learn to ride a motorcycle through one of those on the road training programs, but that will depend upon where I can fit it in and the weather. I went white water rafting up by Duluth once with my Upward Bound group and I’d like to return this year if I can find a weekend that works.
One that I’ve partially realized is the thorough cleaning of my downstairs which I let go back in 2011 when I was temporarily unemployed and never bothered to fully revisit after. I finally got through the emotional baggage of that time so with no personal demons lurking in the crawl space, I’ve made significant progress and hope to complete the project this weekend.
What are your all-time top 5 movies? I’m not talking about the ones that took your breath away or opened your mind to a new idea, were the best crafted, or that you mention at parties when you want to seem erudite. I’m talking about the movies that speak to you or remind you of who you want to be, which you drag out of their cases once or more a year to reassure or inspire you.
To put this another way – what films are your emotional tuning forks? I grew up with musical parents and a grandfather with perfect pitch so I often process ambiguity through that filter. For me, there are certain songs that resonate perfectly during certain moods and help me find a calmer center like a singer listening to a pitch pipe or tuning fork to prepare for a song. Example: At those time in my life when I’ve felt sorrow, I have turned to U2’s “With or Without You” as there’s a howl at about the three minute mark that resonates perfectly with that emotion in me, pulling me out of my sense of solitude and connecting me to the human experience like an invisible tether. So when people perform that song poorly at karaoke, failing to properly build to that release, I get infuriated.
I’m starting my list at number 2 as I watched it this evening. I’ll also probably throw in a top 5 honorable mentions for those films I love but just didn’t make the cut.
This Memorial Day I had planned a trip back to my home town to visit my grandparents’ graves, tour Niagara Cave where I once worked as a guide, and take some pictures of the tree farm I own with my brothers. As the weather called for rain and I didn’t want to get my camera wet, I put it off and took a different walk down memory lane.
Clearing out one’s storage area can be unsettling to the psyche. Sure, purging zip drives, land line phones, and 3.5” disks from my collection of stuff was liberating, but then there were the letters from women over the years, pictures of me from when I was a total dork, and other heretofore forgotten relics of the past succeeded in fragmenting my previously optimized cerebral hard drive. Yeah, we’re going to mash-up music and tech for today’s analogies/metaphors.
After three full garbage bags and a box of archaic electronics, I had all the mental fragmentation I could take. That’s when I reached for #2 – High Fidelity. John Cusack is the actor who brought to live the archetypal cinematic heroes of my 20s. This one was a departure from those characters – a morally flawed anti-hero, and yet he made the character relatable and I could see pieces of my own persona in there.
I was living in Mankato when the movie came out in spring of 2000, transitioning from sales/account management for web sites to lead designer as the firm was shifting from an ISP to a web design/development company. I spent many of my evenings at bars playing pool and darts or watching my former co-worker’s band, The Delaineys (now defunct), whose CD I got to be in the liner notes for (since I co-designed their CD liner).
The day High Fidelity opened, it wasn’t in Mankato so I had gotten in and out of work early and had driven all the way up to Lakeville to watch it. The next day I went to Barnes and Noble and bought the book and consumed it in between Everquest sessions and Jaycee road runs. I went on to read most of Hornby’s other works [checked and I’ve evidently missed his 2009 release of Juliet, Naked].
So why is it in my Top 5 and how did it get to number 2? For one it helps me delve into my inner cad, considering where he’s seeping out unintentionally besides the highway. It also helps me to frame the mental chaos through an examination the relationships that got me from point A to point B and why that means I’m dwelling on concept C. Beyond that, it’s partially about redemption and the opportunity to overcome your own stupidity and shortsightedness.
Like all of the other Top 5, every viewing is different – the bright tints and hues of the present mix in with the sepia tones of the past. For example, after chatting online for a couple months with a director, finally meeting her in person and failing to create a connection, the portion at the end with the writer and the juxtaposition between the roles of creators vs. critics had significance as we had discussed my transition from actor to reporter/critic in college and how it’s usually a line you can’t uncross. But I want to uncross it – I miss community theater and I need to find an outlet for that. I also paused at the part where he talks about his believe that what you like is more important than what you are like and how I’ve judged people that way.
There were some other epiphanies, but I need to process them which usually involves unburdening my mind and collaboratively re-examining them to get a fuller understanding, usually over food or alcohol with someone I can trust.
Where did this whole “belly to belly” business terminology start and how do I stop it …or more appropriately, eviscerate it?
Why can’t we just go back to face to face- is it too passé for our newness-obsessed marketing culture? Did FaceTime and Facebook add a virtual overtone to the “face to face” option, or is there some crazy person out there who is hell-bent on putting images of sumo wrestlers in my head while they are talking about business practices?
Belly is used in business already: to go belly up is a sign of failure. Was the original coiner of the term hoping to draw some tincture of that terminology into live meetings that wasn’t present in “face to face” marketing? Or was he/she thinking of “bellying up to the bar” and making it a less formal version that included an exchange of ideas over fermented refreshment?
When I hear the term in person, I often correct the person with “face to face.” Business is supposed to be a place with at least a patina of professionalism and that term doesn’t really cut it. When I see it online, I’m tempted to post the Warrant album cover of the same name, with a simple “Rock on!” allowing the other person to ascertain that the origin of “belly to belly” was perhaps horizontal rather than vertical. It’s not like “moist” where someone somewhere got upset with the sound of the word and then convinced a whole swath of humanity that it’s a bad word without coming up with a usable term to go on cake mix boxes.
My other option would of course be to show them the video below. It’s a disturbing fact but according to 2009-2010 statistics on US health: “68.8% of adults are overweight or obese; 35.7% are obese.” Drawing further attention to our expanded national midsection doesn’t seem like a solid business tactic.
The signs read “Are you Man enough?” as a band of regular men walk around Red Wing, MN sporting donated high heels. Their goal is to raise awareness for sexual assault and violence against women in general. In addition, they are raising money for the Sexual Assault Resource Agency (formerly, Goodhue Wabasha Sexual Assault Services). I’ve walked with them in 2011 and 2012 – I plan to do so again on April 20th.
I got involved with this event as part of an Overnight Website Challenge team. While my teammates were busy writing code and content, I was alternating between assisting our designer and soliciting artistic direction from the client. We finished most of the site on time, but we had some engineering hurdles to surmount so we pushed off the launch until just before their big event. I drove down to attend and made my donation via my cell phone to demonstrate the awesome work that our developers had put into it. I then walked around Red Wing (not a full mile – I was late due to Google Map coverage issues which sent me down a country road).
SARA provides “support to sexual assault survivors with educational materials, forensic examinations, and more. Donations also support outreach, prevention, and volunteer training materials.” It’s a noble cause worth backing, and they need support now more than ever. This year they are unable to provide classroom training due to the price of gas and a reduction in state funding. I’m not a female, so I can’t know the fear they have to face in our society.
I’m not normally one to ask people to spend their money on something they may not believe in, but I hope there are some of you out there who can agree with me on this being worthwhile. I’m even willing to raise the ante – pictures. If you donate via their donation form and either comment below or comment on the Facebook thread I post this under, I will put your name on a poster which I will carry through the streets of Red Wing and post on Facebook afterward. Give what you feel comfortable with (the minimum amount they will take is $10) and post before noon next Friday (April, 19, 2013) – that simple.
Oh, and if you want to walk with me or watch grown men hobble down the street trying to balance on high heels, then I’ve got 2 available car seats (Cerbie takes the seat directly behind me as she gets to walk with us). My car leaves South St. Paul at 9am.
It’s been 15 years today since a tornado cut a huge swath through St. Peter, MN. I’ve written previously about where I was the night it happened – I was on my way back from my grandfather’s funeral in Texas. There was an outpouring of aid from the surrounding communities and a glut of volunteers. I did little aside from drive past, gawking at the destruction; the once majestic trees that lined the lined 169 through downtown were gone. I had other things to do and manual labor had never been my cup of tea. I was working long hours and was active in the Community Education program teaching MS Office, Windows, and HTML.
That summer I was working 100+ hour weeks doing two jobs – Web Designer/Account Manager from 7-3 (eating at my desk) and Tutor/Counselor/Instructor at Upward bound from 3:15-10:30 with full days on the weekends driving kids around or helping them confront their fears on the ropes course. It was intensely rewarding, but I knew that I needed to find another outlet – another way to make a difference in the community.
A few weeks later I had a meeting with my financial adviser who was the president of the local Junior Chamber (Jaycee) chapter. They were having a membership initiative and she gave me the hard sell. I took the membership slip back with me to my office and it sat there staring at me. At the time I was an agnostic and so the first sentence of the creed stuck in my craw – “We believe that faith in God gives meaning and purpose to human life.” It wasn’t faith in something greater than yourself, it was specifically faith in “God.” Like our national motto and pledge of allegiance which were changed in the 1950s to reference “God” as a bulwark against the spread of communism, I learned that the creed had added that line in roughly the same timeline.
After some internal back and forth, I signed the application, wrote out my check, and headed upstairs to drop it off. I told her that I was submitting my membership but I wasn’t promising to recite the creed exactly as it was written (in truth on multiple occasions I mouthed the first line just like I would fake singing when I would go to church with my parents). I told her how in my estimation, if there was an all-powerful deity, lying to him/her to make other people feel comfortable was a no-no. I also probably went on about my favorite philosophical rant about how only an atheist could truly do good because a theist believes that the good they do will be rewarded in the afterlife, so they’re just being selfish like putting money in the bank for a later day.
As a new member, the expectation was that I should run a project. She had just the one picked out – Rake the Town. I was to promote the event to the membership and convince a number of them to join me in raking 4 yards in St. Peter (evidently all of Mankato was covered by the time I called in). It was a chilly day and I arrived in advance of the team. I was nervous – while I was comfortable leading students from Upward Bound and gamers (first two-term president of the college gaming club), regular people were sometimes intimidating.
By the time we were finishing up the last yard, I was exhausted and questioning why I was out here and why I had joined. It was about that time that the owner of the house came out to thank us. There were tears in her eyes and I wasn’t sure why – it wasn’t a big yard and it took us about 10 minutes to do. Then she told us about how the day after the tornado she hadn’t known what she would do until people showed up and started picking up her yard for her. She was reliving that moment and so excited to see that people would exhibit this level of kindness for someone they didn’t even know. I could tell she was having a hard time coping with the emotion and we were also experiencing it with her so several of us exchanged hugs with her before leaving for the day.
That moment made me feel a bit like a superhero, getting me in touch with my dream job from childhood. If I hadn’t been such a slacker and gotten yards in Mankato, I don’t know if I would have stuck with the organization. I’ve faded in and out of the organization a number of times when I felt like I was sacrificing too much of my time and career, but I’m back again, helping out the state organization as a trustee for the foundation. It’s a rush to hang out with people who are inspired to change their communities.
Delta announced that the plane would be delayed even further so I was in a pissy mood, which was just where I needed to be emotionally for what was to come.
I’m often the rosy colored glasses type, but I could see my half day of vacation planned for Friday slipping away. The airport lacked the omnipresent power stations I was used to from MSP and so I couldn’t plug my computer in to get work done, which meant I would have to push it forward to the following day. I found some solace in the airline’s offer of a $6 meal voucher (which does not go far in an airport food court) and $50 in credit for a future flight.
I passed the time reading through old forum entries on the political Facebook group I co-moderate. The conversation reflected the broader stage of partisan politics with little to no effort to reach across the aisle or restrain each faction’s most vitriolic proponents and we were heading down a path to bannings or dissolution. I had formed it because I was tired of reading posts on Facebook from friends and family on the other side of the aisle and feeling the need to bite my tongue rather than correct or contradict them, but I’ve accepted that my Facebook profile is not the place for acerbic repartee.
So that was the miserable mood I was in when I got on the plane 4 hours behind schedule, mirroring for the most part by the rest of the travelers. As I approached my seat, I could see that it was occupied. An older couple had misunderstood the difference between D and F and I didn’t want to hold the rest of the plane up so I climbed over them and took the window seat. In the time that it took to seat the remainder of the plane, I fired off one last salvo to the group via my iPhone and then shut it off.
I usually fall asleep seconds before takeoff, but with the center light shining down on me, I couldn’t de-focus and with the glare I couldn’t watch the scenery below. The lady asked me if it was bothering me and I paused when responding, trying to put myself in her position and if I wanted to read, I would want the light on so I said something to the effect of “If you need it to read, then it’s alright.” I wound up catching about a 20 minute nap, but for the most part I spent the flight pondering the direction of politics and wondering what was being posted while I was untethered from the web.
As soon as the seat belt light went off, the people on the aisle were up and ready to move. The agitation was still palpable. I looked over at my neighbor and she didn’t seem to be part of the mob mood. There was a different posture and expression. My phone was back on and I saw that there were 2 replies to my post and I had just enough battery life to read them and respond, but I decided to wait.
“We were supposed to meet my son and his family at the airport, but they’re in bed now so we’re going to rent a car, and I’m worried about finding their place in Lakeville.”
I smiled as reassuringly as I could. “Don’t worry, there’s an app for that.” clicked on my navigation icon and asked her for the road her son lived on, then input that in as a destination. The route came up and I walked her through it step by step twice, discussing visual cues and where the on ramp would be. Her face brightened and I found myself mirroring that. I noticed a few people on the aisle taking notice as well.
“Thank you, very much.”
“No problem, ma’am. That’s what we do in Minnesota.” I beamed and watched the people in the aisle out of the corner of my eye to see if there were any knowing smiles. There were a few.
As the forward rows cleared, the gentleman stood up to get their bags, but instead one of the audience in the aisle stepped in and helped him out, eliciting sincere appreciation for the effort. Another couple was waiting in the row ahead of us to get back to their bags, so I asked them which ones they were looking for and another passenger voluntarily passed them up. I was still beaming as I de-boarded and all the way back to the car. It was still there when I woke up after four hours of sleep to go into work.