Blake Lake Report- First Weekend of the year

Sad to say this was the first weekend at the lake. In a typical year we would have been up there several times by now, couple times in the winter, once in March and once or twice in April. This year however, between minus 20 degree weeks in January and the mountains of snow in February, we just ever made it up there.

Shame on us.

To make up for it I made up there twice this weekend. Once with the family on Saturday afternoon through Sunday morning. We went up to bring the truck home, we expand to three drivers in two weeks when the kid is home from Alabama. And just for fun I made one more trip up on Sunday to pick up my CPAP machine which for the first time three years I forgot up there.

Yeah me. My intention is to drive to the office tomorrow morning directly from Wisconsin, partially to test the theory that I can pull it off, something I’m thinking about doing this summer, and partially because I’m an idiot. And idiots have to pay the consequences of their ineptitude. And so will I.

Drama aside, it was nice to be up at the lake for change. I’ve done just about everything that there is to do around the house that I can without actually doing any work, if you know what I mean.

The house took a beating this winter. We lost a bunch of shingles somehow. Actually they were in the same general place where they had come off last year. Theory is when the roof was replaced a few years ago the shingles didn’t “set” correctly. We also lost two storm windows, somehow they blew off the house in some tempest I didn’t know about. Funny that’s never happened in the last 15 years we owned the place. In the scheme of things I suppose it could have been a lot worse, but still, pain in the ass factor.

We did not get out on the lake at all this weekend. Friday night we had a sushi feast with some friends of our, and my pal was pretty confident we’d find open water on the lake. As a matter of fact we did not. As a matter of fact the ice hadn’t even pulled away from the shore one bit. What we found was a frozen gawdamned lake. I’m reminded that last year, for the Wisconsin fishing opener, the first Saturday in May, the lake was in fact not open. As a matter of fact it was snowing on May 3rd or there about, and there was a decent amount of fresh fallen snow on the shore.

Balsam Lake and environs had been treated to 12″ of snow last Wednesday. Most it had melted by the time we got up there this weekend. Most.

Sunday morning was pretty warm when I woke up. And, thanks to cold ice on the water, there was a great mist on the lake. Very nice way to get up.

All in all it was a nice relaxing time at the lake, not much to do. Took a walk past the wood lot where my neighbor taps maple trees. It certainly looked like this year was going to be a much better year for sugar bushes than last year was. I did see a barred owl in our tree. I hear them all the time, but I rarely see them. Nice little treat. The woodpeckers were busy hammering away on hollow trees trying attract mates with their avian Morse code. Pretty amazing how loud those things are.

Sunday I managed to do some work work, tested the wireless hotspot connection to see if working from the lake is actually feasible. Verdict is- “not sure”. It was slow but I’m thinking there are better places to put the hotspot. The idea of doing work while looking out over water really appeals to me. I have to figure out how to make that happen.

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Kosher Kunundrum

It’s that time of year, Pesach week, aka the feast of matzo.

“Feast” is a misnomer in this case. I’m not a fan of matzo. It’s one of those things that I eat once year for week. The first couple days aren’t too bad, the memories that the stuff evokes sort of make up for its crappy tastelessness. And then one morning breakfast rolls around and find myself wanting something easy, like a bowl of cereal or bagel and the suckage commences. Sure there’s some Parve (kosher for Passover) alternatives out there, cereals made from matzo meal for example. I’m sure they go for about $8.00 a box. We like to do that to ourselves this time of year, overcharge for Passover food. $8.00 a box for some of the worst cereal ever made. Matzo meal btw, for the uninitiated, is matzo ground into flour. So basically it’s as if you baked a loaf of plain white bread, let it dry out a bit, ground it to the consistency of flower and then, added some water and eggs and rebaked it into something else.

Makes me wonder how many times you can actually re-bake baked items? At some point don’t you sort of lose the essence of what it was you started with? It’s like some sort of homemaker homeopathy. Only in the case of Passover items, you remove the taste and the consistency and get blah. And in case you think I’m a homeopath, in homeopathy you bake and rebake and cut and cut and you get NOTHING. See Medical Fraud.

Oddly enough, for some reason the mandel cuts, a Passover standard aren’t too bad. Matter of fact there pretty good, and not in the way the least ugly dog looks good in a pack of hounds. I’d describe them as biscotti made with matzo meal. Taste almost exactly like real biscotti, which in my experience are basically dried out biscuits. But when you dip them into some coffee.. magic happens. Same with madel cuts. Dipped in coffee they’re actually pretty decent, stale but decent. And I’ve been eating them for breakfast during Passover week since I was about 10 years old.


More memories.

During the week of Passover I make it a habit to keep strictly kosher. I don’t eat shellfish or pork, actually don’t each much of either during the rest of the year but I’m especially vigilant during this week. Don’t eat cheeseburgers. I would imagine that potato buns might be Ok but I’ve never actually researched, or for that matter come across them in the wild. Dairy and meat together aren’t allowed either and I do make it a point to avoid those during the year.

And then there’s the ham.

Like a lot of Reform American Jews I struggle with finding meaning from keeping kosher, it’s like what’s the point. Call me assimilated if you must. During Passover however I do so because it reminds of being a kid and growing up in a home that was strictly kosher during the holiday. Not to mention we were more or less kosher the rest of the year. Fact is keeping kosher in a small town in California, 100 miles from the nearest kosher meat market, was a lot of trouble. So much so that my parents at some point decided it wasn’t worth it and started buying meat at the local super market. For my Dad, who was, shall we say, black and white about most things, there were no shades of kosher you either were or you weren’t and when we started eating beef from the local supermarket he figured we might as well go all the way and enjoy bacon with it. Which we did, periodically anyway. And then my mom’s mom would visit, she was strictly kosher her entire life, and we were back on the observant jag again. Or partially anyway, we’d still buy our beef at the local store, but we would cut out the pork and shellfish. Observance was helped along by mother’s shellfish allergy. An allergy she didn’t know she had until she moved to the US from Egypt and had her first clams.


Mrs S loves ham. Came up years ago when were visiting some friends on Easter. When they asked her about our families ham consumption her response, “no problem” When we got there, and for the record Easter ALWAYS falls during Passover, they’re the only two Christian and Jewish holidays that are actually linked, the meal was ham, mac and cheese (macaroni being off the Passover menu) and salad. The Hostess served us. Trying not to offend I channeled my inner 3 year old and pretended to eat when I wasn’t eating. Instantly busted our friend remarked “Your wife said you eat ham?”
“not really, and not during Passover.” Everyone glanced over at my wife.. “Oh sorry, I love ham” was her response.

Classic line that continues to come up years later.

So why keep it? Part of it for me because I have to stop and think every time I do or do not eat something. And crazy or not, this little act of thinking about what I’m doing, it serves to remind that I’m observing something important, the Exodus in this case. But more than that, it kind of makes a connection for me, at least in my mind, to some part of my personal past and traditions. And in that connection, I’m separating myself just a bit and remembering that I’m part of something bigger, a community. This happens for me because I’m choosing, every time, to do something or to not do something. It’s like saying grace before meals. Actually in the Jewish tradition, there’s a short blessing before the meal and a really long one after the meal. The idea being that really, the time to really give thanks for meal is after you’ve eaten it, which makes a ton of sense to me.

We used to say grace before dinner all the time. Take a minute and pause before eating. I always felt that regardless of if you believe in G-d or not, by taking that little pause we were separating ourselves from the dog who sits under the table and literally grabs everything he can get his mouth on. Feels like in that little moment we’ve taken a benign activity like eating and somehow elevated just a bit by adding a tish of separation between mundane and sacred and in doing introducing just a bit of something special which helps define us and remind us that we are not animals. In the spiritual sense anyway.

I was pretty good about it until I got yelled at by family members who really didn’t share my appreciation for that sense of space and felt that when I asked them to wait a minute, like when they were sitting down ready to eat and I was still serving, that I was being “holier than they were” and was trying to make them feel bad.

So I caved. And now folks start eating when they get the plate instead of waiting for everyone or pausing for a little spiritual minute.

But during Passover, I hold to my guns and while we may not say grace in this house anymore, we’re keeping kosher. And, at least for a while, everyone around here is reminded of who we are and where we came from. The kids were keeping Passover when they went to school, at least for awhile. I should point out that the oldest is spending the week in Sweden on the advice of his kibbutznick family who have advised him to leave the country if he was able in order to escape the fast of the Matzo when bread products of any kind are completely absent from Israel. Because even Israeli’s, at the least the secular ones know.. Passover food sucks.

I hope he’s enjoying his herring.


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The Importance of Remembering People Can Make Your LIfe Suck

Some words of advice to you younger dudes out there, brought to you as a service from one who’s down the road a bit-

Lots of planning around the casa these days. Moving the Sankary road trip to Israel for a couple weeks this summer and getting all the P’s and Q’s in place to get this done is causing this old fat guy to get a few more grey hairs. Part of the problem, I’ve sort of lost my travel chops over the last few years. Not because I haven’t travelled, especially on the new job we’re I’m traveling almost weekly, more because I’ve become soft and happy in my old age as other people have come into my life who help me with things involving something called “details”.

I realized that there is no one at home to send that email I had composed in my head that says “Can you book four of us to Israel around the middle of July? I need three nights in Haifa, two in Jerusalem, see if you can find a guide for a couple days up north and a couple recommended places to eat, oh and I don’t need car” and then have my itinerary appear a few hours later with all my personal preferences like window seats, restaurant reservations, hotels  and favorite flight times all ready for my approval. 

Which reminds me, Administrative Professionals day is next Wednesday and I’m going to be in Seattle. I’ll have to make sure flowers arrive on the right day. 

I’ve learned a couple lessons in my 30 years in business, there are two groups of people you’ll work with in business whom you should make every effort to befriend and support, nay kiss butt; admins and  office IT folks. Have them on your side and life is sooo much easier. Be an asshole and you too can enjoy stopovers in Anchorage or 6 week waiting for a laptop with a functioning wifi card. Just say’n, it’s always worked for me. 

I’ve also tried this approach in my personal life, Mrs S being the one who in many ways has the ultimate power to enable me to have a “good day”. Not to mention having a bad day, which she can also do. Well.  I have not found the technique of humility and graciousness to be particularly effective in home interactions, kisisng ass there seems to be a better aproach. After 30 years in my husband role I would have to report that even that method, not a guarantee. You still have to stick your big toe in the hot tub every time to see how things are going. On the other hand the older you get men, the less you care so, There’s an epiphany of sorts that happens when we dudes hit about 45, for example the “silent treatment” for a month or so does afford some really nice quiet time. 

And if you want to end it just spend a weekend watching TV on the sofa. Wives in particular, can’t stand to see husbands enjoying life by doing nothing in front of compelling television. That’s why the History Channel and Discovery were created. 

I would also point out that this same approach used with offspring, where the mantra seems to be “get what you can before he changes his mind” gets you tire tracks across your face. 

Just some thoughts for you younger guys out there. Ask your wives if you can make it a good one. 



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It’s Time for a Revolution…

We need a revolution in this country. We need to folks to stand up and fight back against the tyranny of unneeded progress.

I hate my kitchen. Hate most everything about it, but I’m stuck with it, it came with house, and I do not hate the house. Besides I happen to believe that changing houses before you’ve used up the one you’re in, or are evicted which ever comes first, is decadent. We bought it, we’ll live with it. (Same applies to marriage which in my case kinda works in my favor given how far I’ve let myself go)

But I do hate my damned kitchen. And one of the reason I hate the kitchen is because I hate the range we have. But the good news is ranges can be replaced.

Last time I bought a range I bought the glass top version.

I hate the glass top range. It’s impossible to clean, it looks like shit after 10ish years and controlling the heat on that sucker is a pain in the ass. Ideally I’d like a gas range but because I have a kitchen that’s not attached to the ceiling it can’t vent correctly and so I can’t have a gas range.

I hate my kitchen because and every time I turn around it reminds that it sucks.

Because I can’t have a gas range I’m stuck with either another glass top range or the good old fashioned electric element range. Frankly after a decade on glass I’d be happy to go back to electric elements. They’re not very sexy, but they work flawlessly and when they break, you can fix them quite inexpensively.

So I’m off the to appliance store. Used to go to Sears for all appliances, I’m over Sears now that in my 50’s. Dad used to go to the Sears dentist back in the day. Our first kid was delivered in at Sears. Kidding, about the birth thing, not the dentist. Dad did go to the dentist at Sears, it was down in the basement next to the optometrist and photo studio, the H&R Block and Dean Whitter offices. You could by toughskins and OJ Futures at Sears back in the day.


“What do you want in a range Sir?” sales dude asked me. Not that I’m sales he was in the “identify” phase of the conversation. Trying to get me past “qualify” and right to “propose” so he could “close” before he took his lunch. Problem is.. he wasn’t listening.

Easy I want 4 elements. I would like as few settings as possible, ideally I’d like Burn-High-Med-Low-Simmer-Off. I’d like not to have the option to change big burners into little ones and visa versa, my kids mess with that and it messes with me. I’d like a timer, a clock and maybe if we’re talking fancy a fingerprint reader so my wife and kids can’t use it when I’m not home. They burn shit and don’t clean up after themselves.

So I get shown a $1500 stainless steel glass top range sporting an oven with temperature settings down the 10th of a degree, a timer that syncs with the national atomic clock in Boulder Colorado and a damned wifi connection to allow me to set my time and temperature via my iPhone from anywhere in the world.

I am dumfounded. I don’t even have an iPhone any more. “Does it work with a Windows Phone” I asked? “what’s a Windows phone?” Had me there.

“Sir, I think you’d appreciate these innovations.”

“You mean more stuff to break? Or more crap to figure out?”

My current stove has about 8 ways to start and stop baking stuff, ask me how many I’ve used? One, the one where you set the temperature , in 15 degree increments BTW and turn it on. Never figured out, or cared much about the others worked .

“Sir all of these things are really very helpful.”

This is the car key problem. I have a Durango and I have a Scion. The Durango has chipped key with the FOB built in the to the key. Why do I need a chip in my key? It’s to keep people from stealing my car. If I don’t leave my keys in the ignition and the door unlocked, I’m thinking no one will steal it. In the 12 year old Durango’s case, even with the keys in it and the door unlocked I still don’t think anyone will steal it.

But Sir.. you are living quite dangerously, these days so many cars get stolen..

Lets be honest, in my 50 years of life I have never had a car stolen, as a matter of fact I don’t think I even know anyone who has had a car stolen. But I do know a bunch of people, myself included who have lost keys. My 10 year old POS Scion does not have chip in the key. When I lost the key last summer I went to hardware store and had another one made, cost me about $3.00. When Mrs S lost the key to the Durango, they wanted $200.00 American for a new one. TWO YARDS.

To protect me from something that’s never happened. BTW as long as I’m ranting on the car, the Scion also has had an iPod connector that was pretty cool. 10 years later that thing doesn’t work. Hasn’t in three years. More shit to break…

Same thing with the range. The purpose of the range to heat things up. It needs an on and off switch and a way to control temperature. I don’t need a probe in the oven that goes up my Thanksgiving Turkey’s ass to let me know when it’s ready to serve, I especially don’t need to pay $150 extra for that feature.

I’m sick of being upsold and oversold.

This is the same problem I have with my asthma medication. I was using the generic, cost me $4.00 a month. Doctor thought I’d do better on the “new” medicine, same one I see advertised on TV all the time. Cost? $350 a month. When I complained she told me that as a physician she doesn’t know what medications cost she’s concerned with the higher calling of helping her customers be well.

She gets a few free sample for the Pharma Rep, she upsells patients to the new drugs and I wind up wheezing my way through spring because I won’t pay for the new and I no longer have a script for the old.

Rise up people, rise up.



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Earth Hour

Last night was turn your lights down for the poor or save a kilowatt night or do something for earth hour, some damn thing. Whom ever organized this boondoggle didn’t bother to take note that we’re in NCAA Men’s basketball tournament season around and at my house, I ain’t turning the lights off for squat.
Check that, if nothing else was on and the only option for TV View was the Womens NCAA baseball tournament I would certainly turn off the power. Know what I’m say’n? ‘cause sitting in the dark talking to my family is far better than watching..
Hmmm as I write these very words I sorta realize that maybe there are things worse than woman’s basketball. Women’s hockey for one. Chatting with family can be another.
Truth be told I can’t think of anything more arbitrary than turning off my lights for an hour for some weirdo earth day event. I feel like I spend more than an hour a day in the dark already supporting green living. I’m talking about those minutes I spend in the dark between the time I flip a switch and when my earth friendly lightbulbs warm enough to put actual usable light. Feels like it’s about 20 minutes but I could be wrong about that.
I like think that these new bulbs take us back to a time when people lived by natural rhythms and dawn was a progressive process that began with a pink glow on the horizon and culminated with a bright sun illuminating everything in it’s realm. Sure is easier to wake up to that sort of dawn than to suddenly turn on the lights on the room as we call know from experience. Easier but not as efficient when you need to shave in the morning, know what I mean?

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Sporting Smorgy Weekend Update

This is one of my favorite weekends of year. College sports smorgasbord between basketball and hockey. In past years this was the big WCHA (Western Colligate Hockey Association) championship weekend. Figure 14,000 college (mostly Minnesota Gopher) fans packed into the arena for four games over three days. Now that the Big 10 has broken up the WCHA they’ll be no more of that. Instead I headed over to see the remnants of the league in the new NCHC at the Target center. 

Sad state of affairs. We went to two games on Friday, the first game University of Denver vs. Western Michigan was pretty sad. About 1000 people in the Target Center. Second game North Dakota vs. Miami was much better from an attendance and energy standpoint. But by no means a sell out. 


Somehow among all the hockey I found time to watch about 10 hours of basketball this weekend as well. I’m kinda thinking that this years version of the NCAA tournament is about as good as any I’ve ever experienced, and that goes back to the Hank Gathers/Bo Kimble/ Loyola Marymount year. 

I know this tournament is all about the upsets but man this is redonkulous. Makes me wish I had gone to Vegas this weekend with the rest of the dudes my age who like to hang out in sports book and take a deeper ownership in games if you know what I mean. 

Apparently a friend of mine had Mercer and the points in that game and there were a lot of them, Duke were -14 favorites. I’m curious what the money line was on that deal, that would have probably been an interesting payout. 

If you know what I’m saying. 


Because I couldn’t get enough sports with basketball and hockey I also conducted my annual Fantasy Baseball Draft, 2014 edition. 

Lets be perfectly honest here people. When it comes to fantasy baseball my efforts could largely be described as “futiule”. Think of the Cubs, I try not because I hate that team. I’ve been the league comish for the last 12 years or so, and in that time I’ve ended the season no better than 4th from the bottom. This year, I’m committed to changing my teams fortune. I had a meeting with the staff earlier this month and we made the following changes that I believe position us for unprecedented success. 

And success I believe requires some luck. Just ask any of the star players in their contract years, meaning at the end of the season of they were going to renegotiate their contracts/become free agents. Typically players tend to have great years when money is on the line. Shocking I know. 

Here’s the changes

Name change. After 12 years as the Apple Valley Bombers, which is also the name of the organizations football team, we’ve change mojo by becoming Los Duchez. Nice ring to it and is kinda snarky. Feel the luck changing already. 

Since they tell me that luck is 995 hard work we tried something new this year and “prepared”. Meaning we did some research and come up with a system that ranked what I thought were the top 250 MLB players. Inluded some flyer types like Jose Abreu the Cuban defector who will be watching 1B for the Whities this season. If he’s anything like the last two Cubans who came over, Yasil Puig and Yoenis Cespedes he’s worth looking at even with his zero point zero stats. 

Committed to the following strategy- STICK TO THE PLAN. Typically I get into the draft and about round 4 start overthinking. I hit some panic button and start grabbing guys with big numbers because I want stolen bases or saves or some lame stat and it all goes to hell. I committed this year that I wouldn’t do that. 

And finally bring the guy I wanted to the draft. This year that guy would be Angels extraordinary outfielder, the Millville Meteor Michael “Mike” Nelson Trout. Aside from being named after one of my favorite fish he’s also a statistical monster and quite possible the best player the game today. Even better than Andrew McCutchen who might be my favorite player in the game today. Kinda have a man crush on Cutch. Anyway 


I happen to own a Trout rookie card and brought it to the draft. Note that Trout is a unanimous #1 pick in almost every tout sheet I’ve read. So to get him I’d have to have the number one pick. Something that’s happened never in my experience. I figured a little luck charm couldn’t hurt. 

Well guess what, it worked. The draft oder is randomly picked by the computer and for the first time I came out on top. Mike and I are going to get along fine. 

I mostly stuck to the plan. About round 8 I started panicking about my starting pitching and left the cheat sheet, grabbing Matt Harvey. He wasn’t on my list, but he was available and those 919K’s looked good. 

The silence after the pick, followed by a snicker and a “do you ever prep for these?” belayed a problem. Turns out Matt Harvey had Tommy John surgery over the offseason and at the moment is toss the ball 60 feet in sets of 10 pitches. He’s due back, if rehab goes well, in late September, more realistically he’ll be around for the 2015 season. 

Serves me right for not following the plan. 

Lucky one other guy drafted Kris Meldon, he’s scheduled for Tommy John surgery Tuesday.


So all in all a good weekend from my perspective.


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Going Bold in Crimea

I’m finding a weird fascination with the events in the Crimea. Have to give Putin some credit for going bold. He made a move reestablished the Russian Empire and for his trouble really go nothing. Nada. Not a thing. The Crimean Peninsula was Russian anyway so in my mind this isn’t an earth shattering event. This isn’t the Russian version of the Anschluss, the Crimea has been a part of Russia for a lot longer than it was a part of the Ukraine.

It’s also the site of Russia’s most important military base, their only all year warm water port on the Russia’s eastern border. Imagine of the US had a base in a country that had a coup and replaced their government with a not as friendly to the US. We’d do what we could to protect it wouldn’t we? Didn’t we? Not like the sailors at Guantanamo Bay take shore leave in Cuba, catch my drift.

The Crimean Peninsula hasn’t been a part of the Ukraine since time immemorial, matter of fact it’s only been Ukrainian since the 1950′s and only then because in the old Soviet Union borders didn’t really matter, they didn’t really exist. Except in Sevastopol, where the Naval Base is. In Soviet times, visitors had to have permits to visit town.

The West has declared the vote in Crimea illegal. Technically speaking the vote is illegal, but it was more or less legit. The vast majority of people on the Crimean are Russians, they’re glad not to be Ukrainian. So be it. If you want to get technical, the government in Ukraine came to power in a coup. They overturned a legally elected president, maybe not a great guy but he was elected, and they overthrew him. Not sure that same logic doesn’t apply to the Ukraine.

Focus now should be on propping up the government in Kiev and accepting the facts on the ground. And while we’re at it calling out Putin as a liar, sanction them.. but not so much that Russia turns of the gas to Europe next winter, that would suck. Bottom line, not much we can do.

Bold move on Vladdy’s part.


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