4th Weekend Update

Fourth of July weekend. In previous years this was my favorite week of the year, between July 1 and July 6. This year won’t be quite as a fun as previous, I have no time off per se. New job and all. I miss having vacation time. Not that I don’t, I just don’t have much and the little I do I’m hoarding for a two week trip to Israel in two weeks to see the kid.
Frist vacation that hasn’t been a visit with the inlaws in 20 years.
20 years goes pretty fast when you’re paying attention. 25 years ago, after repeatedly being woken up by Mrs S for my snoring I went down to the guest room to sleep, just until my cold went away.
Yea.. time does fly when you’re not looking.
We’re up at the lake this weekend, Mrs S, the daughter and I. Our annual 4th Weekend visitors are coming up today, it will be good time, but somethings are missing. The boys won’t be here, the one in Israel is still in Israel, the one in Minnesota is working over the 4th. The other families son figured that since our boys aren’t going to be here, he won’t come.
Which means no water fight on the pontoon and no fireworks from our house.
Which is fine by me, the fireworks part, not as much the pontoon part.
I kinda liked the pontoon water fight.
We used to put up 4th of July decorations around here. Now we just never take them down. So for a few weekends a year we look more patriotic than we really are. If they come up a holiday for being lazy, I’d fit right in. Maybe that holiday already exists, I believe it’s called Wednesday.
We missed the fireworks this year. For some reason the lake vibe was pretty low key, odd given that the 4th was on a Friday. Should have been a hugish deal, just wasn’t, don’t know exactly why.
The weekend is still excellent, don’t get me wrong, there’s just not quite enough of it.

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My Big Fat World Cup Lie

I’m a filthy liar.

Well, not filthy given my nearly OC like affliction when to comes to showering and flossing.

But I am a liar. I’ve been telling lies my whole life, and especially the last couple weeks.

For example-

“I like soccer!”

I want to like soccer, really do. This isn’t a malevolent lie like “checks in the mail”,  but reality is… I’ll watch soccer as long as I have a laptop open on my lap because frankly, I find it just a tish boring. Which explains another little fib of mine-

“I was awake”.

I think I have yet to get through an entire game, or match as the aficionados say, without dozing off for at least a few minutes. And during a couple games over the weekend,  I missed about an hour, from 10 minutes in, through the halftime show and all the way to 75 minutes.

Speaking of minutes in it finally dawned on me why these European games do clocks backwards, counting up instead of down, because it never ends. Counting up or down, which one makes more sense is a matter of debate. Just like the debate over the metric system vs our random like system of measurement. BTW, personally I have to side with the metric system, makes more sense to do things in base 10 instead base long dead kings thumb joint and forearm measurements.

But this business of counting up instead of down… I’m not there. I believe they do it that way because I’ve learned that really, only the referee knows for sure when a game is going to end, and that feels kinda random to me. I think the way they end these games is a little bit anti-climatic to be honest. Feels like they go all out, bust’n ass for 90ish minutes and then, whistle and… all done. Referee picks up the ball, everyone swaps shirts and we all go home. Just plain odd.

And somewhat unfulfilling to be honest.

I’m not fan of the penalty kicks thing either. My kid was a goalie, hockey goalie. On those rare occasions when a game would end with penalty shots that was my clue to go start the car. No one likes to see their kid lined up in front of a firing squad, even if he’s wearing a helmet and pads. But at least the hockey goalie has a chance at stopping the puck. Soccer goalie.. mostly luck, he guesses what side the shooter is going toward and if he’s right, there’s a 30% chance he’ll get it. If he’s wrong, well not his fault. In hockey on the other hand,  when the goalie misses a shot you can legitimately blame him, which is sort of cathartic, brings closure. It’s nice to be able say that something was “all his fault”. Relieves me of having to expend too much emotional capital on explaining why the team lost. Same goes for baseball, I can always say “the pitcher sucked.”

After 120 plus minutes of USA Soccer yesterday I didn’t really feel the closure that I require in my sporting experiences. We lost to the better team? Granted. My kid was sitting next to me, he’s a big soccer fan. Just last week he made the comment that a Uruguayan player who if he were in preschool would be tagged a “biter” was a “brilliant footballer”. WTF? I had to send him outside clearly the FIFA World Government subliminal mind control campaign was working on him. “Footballer” really? And don’t say brilliant.

And as long as I’m talking about him, I’m filing papers against the kid for being an unpatriotic subversive douche waffle. He was cheering for the Belgians. Why? Because he’s a big fan of the beautiful but boring game and wants Belgium win the tournament. Which is odd given that we have no known connection to Belgium, which sort of like Europe’s version of Maryland if you ask me, a little insignificant state that you read about occasionally and enjoy the chocolate, but since it’s so small you never really meet anyone from there.

I was presenting on a conference call yesterday with about 30 European colleagues and I was asked about how America was thinking about Belgium. “With all do respect, most Americans think Belgium is a brand of waffle and they don’t realize that it’s an actual country.” Fewer still could pick it out on a map. And I would point out that if I stopped 100 people on the street here in the US and asked them to point out Maryland on a map, I’m pretty sure the results would be just about the same.

I’d even be willing to bet that there are more than a few American’s who think Delaware is an island because on a lot of maps, the label is floating of the east coast, where that intersection of glorified counties that they call states on the eastern seaboard being so small on most maps that the “Label” called Delaware is actually bigger than the “State” called Delaware if you were to strictly compare from a cartographic perspective.

And before you start thinking about reporting me to the Patriot Police, prove me wrong. Jay Leno devoted 1/3 of life to showcasing the intelligence of the average American on the street. Granted he was in LA which is a whole different level of stupid.

We Yanks are just not that complicated. And maybe that’s the problem with soccer, it’s really complicated. It has to be! It simply has to be far more complicated and sublime that anything that I, and the rest of my co-countrians are used too (or interested in). There is no other explanation as to why the rest of the planet gets so caught up in a game where 11 seconds of action are squeezed into 90ish minutes.

They’re seeing something we’re not.

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The Death of Content

Another week goes by and I didn’t write a thing for this space. There was a time when I was writing almost daily, did that for years. Looking at the back log here that’s how I was able to accumulate as many posts as I have.

Funny thing this blogging nonsense- it’s clearly a dying art, now left to Mom’s and the occasional last surviving wanna be writer like myself. With only two notable exceptions, the 20 or so thoughtfully written blogs I followed back in the heady days of the early 2000’s are all gone. And these were great bloggers, not some bullshit 10 posts and then I gave up sorts of blogs, these were blogs that regularly published, had lots and lots of content and I thought would last forever.

Well at least longer than three or four years.

Enough wallowing.

Part of the reason I don’t write much anymore, or at least I don’t finish shit I started anymore, has to do with a Facebook.

Facebook, talk about the ultimate love hate relationship. Love that I can keep in touch with friends and family. For you young people out there who grew up in the pre-interwebs days, there was a time when the only way you could communicate with family in faraway places was via the phone, and we’re not talking the cell phone, I’m speaking about something called land lines. We didn’t call them land lines back then because that was before we had any alternatives, we just called them phones.

Man that was a colossal waste of time. Chatting away incessantly about nothing. Much better to read a couple posts about what folks are doing in their lives, hit “like” once in a while to let them you know you care, and move on.

And if you really need intimate one on one communication, send a text.

Or even better a tweet so you can keep it down to a few succinct lines. Nothing worse than three page email about what time you want me pick you up from the airport.

Problem is I hate Facebook. Last week I learned that Facebook users had are being subjected to ad hoc psychological experiments designed to manipulate our very emotions. Makes me wonder exactly what Mark Zuckerbergs role at Facebook really is, he doesn’t strike me as being so insidious as that. Doesn’t strike me as being that smart either but who am I to cast stones…

 And who are these “data scientists” who are trying to deliver us packaged and sanitized to their advertisers? BTW as a Sankary policy any ad that shows up in my news feed automatically gets a negative comment about how the product sucks or some gripe I have about it or advertising. (and you know me, I have a lot of gripes) Interestingly enough since I started doing this the ads in my profile have dropped significantly. I’m not the only one, literally every ad I see on Facebook where comments are allowed, the comments sections are overwhelmingly negative with people dropping notes almost exactly like mine. You’d have to be a fool to do the newsfeed ads on that medium. Of course since I run adblocking software I don’t see any other ads or feeds so I don’t know what else is being pushed my way, my Facebook page is pretty empty other than content.

Blogging has been distilled down to its very basic components thanks to Facebook. No need to wax profoundly on topics, share stories or opinions or really think much anymore. Just post an update or two and your good to go.

And as a result America is now the ADHD nation. We have the attention spans of shrews.

Myself included. I can’t even get through a half hour TV show anymore without reaching for a tablet or the phone. So how am I supposed to focus for an hour on writing a thoughtful well written blog?

First world problems.

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Ark building anyone?

It appears that for the time being, the rain has stopped. Here in Great White North, which is currently the more the great Green North, we’ve enjoyed something to the tune of 25” of rain since June 1.

There’s literally now where for the water to go now except Iowa and points south. My back yard remains a swamp two days after the last raindrop hit it, and my sump is hissing from overheating thanks to running constantly over the last month. When I say constantly, I’m talking about every 20 seconds by my watch.

The ground is saturated to say the least.

Drove by the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers yesterday, they’re high, all up and out of their banks. But they’re not as high as I’ve ever seen them, the water is still several feet below the deck of the old Cedar Ave bridge on the Minnesota. In the 20 years I’ve lived here I’ve seen water up over the top of that deck three times. We’ll see, a lot of Thursday’s rain is still making it’s way through the watershed and will probably be in the Twin Cities in a few days.

I tried to go to a Saints Game on Thursday with my new friends at First Command, they’re interested in my interest in my 401K from Target. My problem is I’m not smart enough about money to know what to do, but I do like the Saints so we went. Rained out. Third game of the week that was rained out.

Earlier this week there were even a few mudslides around town. Now call me crazy but I always assumed that in order to have a mudslide, and I’m from California where mudslides are pretty standard, you have to some sort of grade, or dramatic elevation change. There isn’t much of a change for 500 miles around here, except by the river. So there you go, I stand corrected.

I have a bike ride planned today, was going to go along the Minnehaha Parkway, I hear it’s under water. Kayakers were paddling the bike trail on Wednesday. 

Good news is we’re supposed to dry out this week. And as I post this thunderstorms are moving in from the west. 

 

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Angry Football and Angry Futbol

World Cup. Big fun at the Casa, the boys are huge into futbol, at the expense of every other sport practically. Eric still likes NCAA sports of course, he does go to an SEC school so it’s more than understandable.

This year the World Cup has been a little tarnished in the press. Leading up to the game the news was flooded with stories about how protests were going to disrupt the games, how Brazilians weren’t going to support the national team, how soccer’s most passionate country was spurning FIFA, the governing body of the sport.

Why?

-       Massive spending on stadiums and infrastructure, all to support FIFA and nothing to support local needs, which in Brazil are extensive.

-       Billions of dollars for FIFA, nothing from FIFA back to Brazil. Major “investments” in football are not translating to public benefits.

-       Most Brazilians can’t afford a ticket to a game.

Basically there upset about a mega-sport entity usurping billions of dollars from their country for the privilege of hosting these games, with out benefiting the community.

I totally get their anger. I live in Minnesota, we have the exact same thing going here only instead of FIFA we have the NFL. Different kind of football, same kind of thieves.

Here in Minnesota we get to spend $500M on a new Vikings stadium. Taxpayer money mind you. For a private enterprise.

Then to make matters worse, the NFL getting a Superbowl means we get to pay the NFL at least $10M in tax rebates. Remember the NFL is a “non-profit” according to the law.

Among the other freebies on the NFL wish list-

1. Free police escorts for team owners.
They might just need an escort to get through the protests.

2. Free presidential suites in luxury hotels.
Lame. Who pays for this crap and don’t the owners have some their own coin to comp their game tickets?

3. Free billboards promoting the game throughout Minneapolis and St. Paul.
Lame II- No one in Minnesota can afford to go to the game (Like Brazil)

4. A requirement for “NFL-preferred ATMs” throughout the venue.
They don’t miss a beat when it comes to fleecing fans.

5. Free portable cell phone towers if the signal strength isn’t strong enough at hotels.
Again, who pays for this?

6. 35,000 free parking spaces.
Holy shit these guys have a lot of friends. Figure that there are 32 teams.. that’s more than 1000 per team. Entourage Plus.

7. Reservations for as many as two “top quality bowling venues” for the Super Bowl Celebrity Bowling Classic, for free. Also, free access to three “top quality” golf courses.
Here’s one I actually agree with- the should have a chance to hang out on golf course in Minnesota in February. I’d like to see that.

8. A stipulation that hotels housing the teams “should be obligated to televise the NFL Network for a year before the Super Bowl — at no cost to the league.”
Obligated? Like forced? Just because it’s on doesn’t mean anyone is going to watch it… but really obligated to carry our shitty network…

My point is that prosports has gotten completely out of hand. Maybe a few more of these junkets will get folks to change their ideas on supporting these usurping dipsticks.

Might have to start watching NCAA sports, because the amateur student athletes are all about pure sport.

The have that going for them.

 

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Update Overdue

It’s been a long time since I wrote up a little update here, and there’s been a few things worth talking about so here goes.
Sharing physical space for the first time.
I always love the chance to meet people in person who read the blog. Over there years there’s been a few times when I’ve been fortunate to do so. A couple years ago I had a chance to meeting with my good virtual friend Mark from the Idiot Speaketh. He was in town for a baseball game and we had a chance to meet up for dinner and an evening with the Saints.

Two weeks ago I had the opportunity to meet up with another great friend whom with whom I’ve never had the opportunity to share physical space- Rev Alastair McCullum. He used to write a Christian oriented blog about his life as a minister in rural England. Someway somehow we took a shine to each other’ writing and he became one of my best online friends. He happened to find himself in the Twin Cities a few weeks ago to attend an ecumenical conference of some kind and was kind enough to give me an evening. I had a really terrific time with him, catching up and getting reacquainted if you will. I do love engaging conversation and a self-described hairy biker priest certainly is pretty good at doing that. I have to go to Canada to visit him next year. Very interesting dude and if we lived nearby I’m sure there would be no end of trouble we could find ourselves in.
Job Update
I’m still happy to report that things on the job front are going really well, enjoying the job immensely. Lots of challenges as I expected. Maybe a few more than I expected, but that’s what make it fun. What I really like, I’m thinking and inventing, which is what I’m good at. I don’t mind the travel, something I worried about. All good in t
Cluster in the Clay
Mrs S has been hard at work on new project, this time with the scouts. She’s an Eagle Scout mentor, she works with the kids who are in the home stretch to get their Eagle rank by helping them find and execute their Eagle Scout project. The purpose of the project is two-fold. Give back to the community with a significant project that leaves behind some improvement or service. Examples can anything from landscaping a local school or park to building and distributing boxes for the community to donate old cell phones. The other point of the Eagle project is to give the boys a chance to plan and execute a significant project. They’re supposed to create the proposal, create a work plan, work with the community to acquire any needed raw materials and provide for the needs of the team during the project. These projects have to be approved by the Scout Leaders who look for complexity and impact.

The project that Mrs S has been working on is building a 20X20 brick patio and fire pit at a local church. Now while I get the point that it’s supposed to be a big project, this particular deal really needed a contractor, or at least someone who had done this kind of work before. Really, it might have been a little aggressive for an Eagle project- digging a 21X21 foot hole four inches deep, lining the bottom with gravel then sand, putting down the bricks and insuring that at the end of the day, the corners are square and the thing is even. It’s a big deal, made bigger by the fact that she’s trying to pull this off around the last week of school when kids and parents have other things on their minds than spending a weekend chipping away at the hard Apple Valley clay.

But Mrs S is a driver, I have the experience to prove it, and drive she did. The project is about done, despite Mother Nature getting involved and dropping 3″ of rain on the site last Saturday night after the hole was dug. “Not too late to change it to a pool” I happily quipped. Searing eye rays that burned a hole in my soul was how she responded back. Wives, what little jesters they are.
New Car Fun
Middle kid bought a car last week. Being the last to know anything around here I didn’t realize that A) we were in the market for a car and B) that he had any money to his name to purchase a car with. All details in the scheme of things that I shouldn’t worry about, but I do and the more chastised for it. Some way somehow (Mrs S) the resources were found, and the deed was done. Literally the way I found out about it was when Mrs S came into my home office while where I was working on one thing or another an announced that she needed my car keys because she and the kid were going to talk to a guy… blah blah blah.

On a positive note I let the kid do the negotiations on the vehicle and he was able to talk the owner down from his original asking price of $10,900 to $8,700 or $1,500 under blue book. I’ve always said that’s one kid that we don’t have to worry about. He knows how the world works and he’ll successfully make his way through it. Well, maybe. Saturday morning about 4:00am we had a thunderstorm roll though here, I was up anyway because I can be… When the hail started hitting the skylights I thought I’d make a play for Dad of the year and move his car into the garage. Not as simple a feat as you’d expect given that we have four cars in the driveway at the moment. Looking out into the pouring rain I noticed that the new to him car was in the driveway, windows and sunroof open to the deluge. I made the swap in the pouring rain and then proceeded to go wake him up, he gets off work at 1:00am BTW so there was a chance that he wasn’t quite asleep yet. I was wrong about that but so be it. I woke him up and told him to grab some towels and meet me in the garage.

Two steps forward one step back.
Fun with Spouses or No Good Deed Goes on Punished
In case you didn’t know driving on the sidewalk in Minnesota is against the law. But how you define a sidewalk and understand that that particular law applies 24/7 were a couple details I hadn’t quite sorted through last night when I drove up to the front door of the high school to deliver 10 gallons of piping hot coffee at midnight for the Senior Party. Curious situation to find myself in given that I don’t have a Senior this year, I only have a sophomore, nor have I had a senior at the school in two years.. but what I have is a beautiful and giving wife who not willingly volunteers her time and resources to friends and organizations she supports, but also can make me do anything she wants.

Which is how I found myself at 11:53pm parked on the student plaza of Apple Valley High School with a police cruiser behind me, all lights spinning in full bloom discussing the finer points of right and wrong as it pertains to sidewalk driving with a fine representative of the Apple Valley police department. Here’s what I learned in summary;

  • Driving on the sidewalk is against law. Given.
  • Precedent is not an excuse for breaking the law.
  • When a hunter is shooting a flock of ducks he hits them one at a time.

Fact is I really didn’t want to carry 10 gallons of coffee across the parking lot, call me lazy, it’s not the first time. So I figured I’d drive up the sidewalk and into the little plaza in front of the cafeteria to unload the product. I will point out, not as an excuse mind you, that this action has been done before every basketball game and play that I’ve ever been to at the high school. A fact I mentioned to the officer. He wasn’t interested. I wasn’t interested in citation so I proceeded to be contrite and apologetic and was making progress when Mrs S got out of the car and started to explain her perspective on the situation and the precedent of driving to the kitchen door to deliver stuff. Input that in my most humble opinion was neither solicited nor really welcome at that point and really made me feel like the filling in an Oreo cookie. She wasn’t being as contrite as I was frankly, and she wasn’t as interested in hearing the nice police man give me the “you’re an idiot” lecture that they seem to feel inclined to do at nearly every opportunity.

The way I saw it playing out was Mrs S would be happy, she could tell off a cop, really give him a piece of her mind, which is never good. The cop would get a chance to make an example and I would wind up with ticket. “Dear.. Please” was the wrong thing to say, she heard it as “Edith STIFLE” which is how I meant it frankly.

She dialed down a bit and I got off with a lecture about how no matter how many people have done this before the law is the law and he’s written hundreds of citations to people who simply were doing what everyone else was doing and he couldn’t cite everyone because he’s just like a hunter in a duck blind when a flock of lawbreakers goes by, he can only shoot them one at time…

And with that he turned off the lights and walked away. Mrs S was taking a inhale at the moment to unleash more commentary to the fine Constable, so had push her back in the car and lovely tell her to STIFE unless she really felt her comment was worth $200.00.

Problem was we still had 10 gallons of coffee.. asked after the cop “Officer, can I unload the coffee or should I move the car..” he looked at me like I was an idiot “You’re already here why wouldn’t you.”

Which reinforces ONCE AGAIN that no good deed goes unpunished and serves as a reminder that the next time I find myself caught between a wife and constable please the constable at the risk of making your spouse angry. Angry wife is a well-known commodity, angry constable could lead to being sold for a pack of smokes in the big house.

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Summer Jobs and Empty Nests

At the lake this weekend, solo trip. One the new realities of empty nesting are learning to enjoy the lake estate sans family. Middle kid found a summer job at the Home Depot; he’ll be doing stock work of some kind. Last year the oldest was working at the Gap, same thing, stock and inventory.

It was always amusing to hear young Master Sank-a-Ray come home and tell me how great the Gap was at this and that. Shared a few things about how they would flow inventory from the back room to the sales floor. How they managed their seasonal transitions and product changes. He was learning a lot about retail and wanted to share it with me, and specifically me because I might be able to learn a thing or two as well, since he was working at a world-class retailer.

It was a nice look in the mirror for me, a little self realization as he’d wax on about how great the Gap was about how stupid I must have sounds back in the day when I was telling my Dad the same things about Mervyn’s. He talked about how the Gap was creating documents that showed the stores where they should put certain items and how he could walk the floor with his book and it would direct him to exactly where stuff should go. “You should see it Dad, it’s a really cool process.”

I smiled. I actually hold a patent for technology that automates the very processes he’s talking about. The Gap’s process was about 20 years out of date to be honest. But I kept my mouth shut and responded with feigned interest. I’m thinking my Dad was doing the same thing back in the day.

You see, I know a bit about retail, my retail career started in 1978 at my Dad’s shoe store in Stockton California. Actually before that, I remember being about 12 years old and getting to accompany my parents to San Francisco twice a year for their buying trips. That was vacation back in the day, we were workaholics even then. I think I was the youngest accredited attendee at those trade shows. Last January I left Target (on my own) after a 26 year career in Merchandising. In the last few years at Target I was actually an internal consultant developing merchandising processes and finding technology, There aren’t many processes at Target or in retail in general that I wasn’t exposed too in one way or another.

In other words, I have some level of expertise but apparently not enough because the lad was adamant that I didn’t know much. Now that the Middle Kid is working at another retailer I can’t wait to hear much more I don’t know.

Kids. I remember when I used to know it all, some folks might say I still think I know it all but I think I can make a decent argument that I’m much better know, and after all these years I actually do know it all, try me.

Here’s what I do know, and I know it well, it’s something that comes from wisdom of age. Well let me correct myself, it’s something that should come with wisdom of age and that is the the ability to say what authors of Freakonomics have called the three hardest words in the English language, “I don’t know”.

Those are good words, used in the proper context. That being any time you really don’t know what you’re talking about.

There’s another context of I Don’t Know that comes in handy, when family is attempting to engage you conversation you don’t want to participate in. Like a discussion about what color to paint a room for example. Couldn’t care less, and if did care Mrs. S would have a different opinion about it anyway and on the list of things to pick my fights about, that would come right after leaving the toilet seat up. Not worth the trouble.

Want to fight about cars or retirement, let’s talk.

Or lets not because that’s also a wasted conversation in our marriage, one that probably needs to be mediated rather than discussed, because we’re not only not on the same page, we’re kinda not on the same planet.

But I digress.

Here’s my words of advice for my kids as they start they get their first jobs in retail. I hope your experience at the Home Depot or the Gap or any other retailer you’d care to mention is the worst experience you’ve ever had in your life. I hope the hours are horrible and the managers mean and stupid. I hope the pay is poor and business sucks. And, I hope this motivates you to continue to do well in school, continue to excel and pursue careers that matter, carrers where you can do great things and change the world.

One of the few words of advice I remember from my old man, who was a retailer for more than 60 years, owning and operating several different stores and chains over the years, he obviously knew what he was doing because he was able to succeed at retail formats from Sankary’s Department stores to a Kosher butcher shop to women’s apparel, and two different bands of shoe stores, he told me over and over again as I was growing up:

What ever you do don’t go into retail, it’s a shitty way to make a living.

Of course I never listened, why would they?

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