Thursday, August 30, 2007
Monday, August 27, 2007
The tremendous Minnesota State Fair kicked off this past Thursday, and it's an event that still confuses me. I can't say I've ever been particularly fond of anything "fair" but the people in Minnesota are absolutely fanatical about it. Every newscast and radio show will originate from the fairgrounds featuring fluff pieces on new born baby animals and the latest exhibit on display. The greatest fascination though is with the food there as people go Maurice Jones-Drew touchdown crazy for items on a stick. Even my wife, who won't go anywhere near these deep fried and speared concoctions, takes tremendous pride in the latest invention. From deep fried twinikies on a stick to teriaki ostrich to spam, all possible food go into the fryer and out on a stick for your heart stopping enjoyment. It's good fun, but this year's trip into the fairgrounds was not food related.
While I did enjoy a few food items, I enjoyed the entertainment even more. For the first time, I took in a show at the Grandstand. A massive set of bleachers erected in the heart of the fair, I was surprised at how many people it held as from the outside I did not expect such a seating capacity. It was no 100,000 people crammed for Metallica at Rockfest 2000, but still a surprisingly strong turn out for the headlining and apparently Elmo-loving Goo Goo Dolls.
But first there were the opening acts who deserve a few lines. I wasn't sure who the opening artist was and despite having since been told who it was a few times can't remember. It was a young woman named Cay Calililly or something who sings that one pop song that has a whole bunch of rhyming words. Vague, I know but so is pop music in general. Once she played her one semi-famous song I kinda remembered hearing it and how it went, and therein lies the definition of an opening act.
The second performance brought back VRC memories. For the first time in five years, the JR professed mega hit Sick Cycle Carousel singing Athletics Recreation Center rocking act Lifehouse took the stage. They were much much improved from that debacle in Indiana, and I attribute it to five more years to enhance their performance skills, new song development, and reflection on the scathing criticism they no doubt once read in the Torch.
With that said, they were most enjoyable. While a fine recorded song, I still just don't think "Hanging by a Moment" translates into a good live song. Fortunately, they disposed of this hugely played hit early in their set allowing their current hits "First Time" and "You and Me and All of the People" to anchor their performance. My favorite song of theirs from the evening was the unreleased single "The Joke," which was an incredibly catchy, well performed live track. I rarely remember songs that I had not heard previous to a concert, but this one was worthwhile. They also get points for a cover song, choosing the Rolling Stones' "Beast of Burden" for a little reworking. It was a fine choice as was the fashion for the evening. Bassist Bryce Soderberg wore a CBS Sports t-shirt that was questionably a nod to the fine work of one Verne Lundquist and his sweaters.
The main event used their much earlier single "Long Way Down" to kick off the performance. I appreciated the step back in time as most know and understandably enjoy the more recent efforts like "Slide," "Broadway," "Iris," and "Stay With You" all of which were great Friday night. Having enjoyed the Goo Goo Dolls "Live in Buffalo" album from a couple years ago, I was hoping to hear "Black Balloon" as it was a standout on the aforementioned disc. I was pleased when in fact it was in the track listing and was accompanied with humongous black balloons that rained down upon concert goers. It was a neat visual spectacle to compliment the fantastic song, and by golly in a nod to my five-year-old inner self, I got to hit a black balloon high into the sky. Whee!
The show was delightful to be sure, but it was not without it's downfalls. The most glaring of which is an over indulgence of Robby Takac's singing. I understand the obligatory one or two Robby Takac songs per album, and I can happily press fast forward through them. However, that option is unavailable at a live show and when the bassist sings (and I recently learned that he was the original lead singer of the band), it's not good. When he sings four songs, it creates a big black hole in the middle of the set. Upon his image being placed on the big screen, Becky turned to me and commented that this man was uglier than the lead singer of Nickelback, which I found to be immensely funny and very true. Upon his vocals leaving the Grandstand speakers, Becky again turned to me and asked, "What was that crap?" which I also found to be immensely funny and very true.
Lead singer and Catholic raised (boo-yah!) Johnny Rzeznik while light years better than Takac ran into a problem that no doubt haunts all big bands with a great many singles. Some are going to be left out, which will disappoint fans of that one particular song. The Goo opted to pass on "Better Days," which was a little surprising considering they played three non-singles from their most recent album. Becky later mentioned that it would have made for a nice emotionally laced encore had they tied the song into the recent bridge disaster, and I would agree. Instead, they wrapped up the show with a song that I did not recognize, which is tough since I know most every song from their last four albums. It was a fine song, but c'mon let's end with a bang.
At the conclusion of the performance, I was prepared to make my way out of the Grandstand when shots were fired. Ok, so they were really fireworks, but I wasn't expecting them and thought we all might be dead. Fortunately my quick thinking reverted back to firework safety tips, and I sat down and enjoyed the colorful conclusion to the evening's festivities.
Photo from MuppetCentral
Thursday, August 23, 2007
I powered off and turned it back on to reboot. Before Windows came up, a very loud clicking noise, reminiscent of that noise Korn has in all of its songs began coming from the laptop. Becky wanted to know what I was tapping. I wasn't tapping, but my computer was tapping out. It died. Again.
The keyboard has been replaced twice, a battery once, my second USB port hasn't worked in 6 months, and a hard drive wipe was necessary when one of those automatic Microsoft Windows downloads paralyzed my beloved laptop. So, my computer was again down for the count.
With two hours before the VUFSA draft, time was of the essence. I raced to my local Best Buy and that Geek Squad thing they've got going on over there. I described my plight, and the tech said that it sounded like the hard drive was the problem. He turned it on, heard the clicking, and uttered the words, "Oh, that's not good."
Indeed it was not. Close to $300 later, they removed the old hard drive, and installed a new one, and sent me on my way. The money sucks, but frankly any amount is worth it. I have no possession more valuable to me than my computer. I can do without TV and radio but probably would shrivel up and die without my laptop. Although, if you combine the amount of money I spend repairing my computer and my car (speaking of which I have an oil change coming up next week - whoo wee!), I could probably afford a small island in the Caribbean.
I now have my computer back, but it's only kinda back. I lost everything on the hard drive and had to reinstall every program. The losing everything wasn't that big of a deal since I backed up my computer, conveniently, in May of 2005. Let this be a reminder to be a bit more studious about maintenance issues than yours truly who waiting a tad too long - as in 27 months too long - to do so.
The programs aren't that big of a deal since I have all of those - except I can't seem to find my anti-virus software so please no attachments for awhile. Windows defaulted to a green pasture for a background, and I haven't used Internet Explorer in years. The Internet connection now flips off every 10 minutes or so and I have to get up and manually unplug the modem and replug it in to get my computer and the Internet to chat. Additionally, I lost all my Internet bookmarks. If it wasn’t a simple address or one I had linked to here from Wolfden V, I won’t be visiting it again any time soon (should you have an address that would be meaningful or not linked directly on this page, please resend it over). Lastly, my computer no longer can tolerate a wireless mouse so I'm down to the touch pad - whose left click button doesn't work. If this were a human being, we'd be talking about being on life support with a feeding tube and a guardian angel propping up the head.
Basically I'm running on a paper clip and some thread over here. It's not like I just signed up for an on-line university or anything.
Photo from Techtickerblog
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Photo from Wikimedia
For the area in which I tread is that of demographics which is open game. Advertising does it regularly. Kids' shows are littered with cereal commercials and play-doh. Football games feature beer commercials and trucks. My beloved Price Is Right runs non-stop Scooter Store and life insurance ads. While advertisers realize not everyone who is watching football drives trucks or that I as a healthy, two-legged, twenty-five year old needs a motorized vehicle (though it would be fun), they know that the groups of people who watch these particular shows are the ones most likely to need/want/be interested in these products. It's a stereotype, and I think it's safe to say no one has any issue with this.
But the topic of conversation concerned shoplifting at my store. My Walgreens is located directly adjacent to a seven story retirement home/assisted living complex. Without question, everyone wins. They keep us in business, and we provide them their daily reason to get out an exercise. That said, the primary demographic for my store is 150 years old and using some contraption (walker, cane, wheelchair) to get around.
Our area is also predominantly caucasian. This is not to say that all our customers are white, simply the majority of them are. However, the majority of shoplifters have been black. It doesn't mean that all black people steal from my store, or that white people do not, but rather the majority of the incidents have been with young, black males.
And so, the question that was posed, and that I now pose to the viewers of this board, is it wrong to keep an extra eye out if a suspicious, young, black male is walking the aisles?
I realize that trouble here is the word "suspicious" as if it implies all young, black males are suspicious. Indeed, this is not the case but I can tell you from experience that shoplifters tend to stand out like sore thumbs - shifty eyes, no contact with anyone, move quickly, talk too much when talked to, and show signs of being nervous. I can also speak from experience when I say the majority of people who shoplift and show these signs happen to be black. Would it then make me prejudiced and create racial disharmony for extra observation of a black man?
I was mixed on the issue myself. On the one hand, having heard the police pull over someone for "driving while black," I naturally repulse this negative connotation. On the other hand, if a black man punches me in the face nine times, is it wrong to duck on the tenth? I don't know. I simply found it an interesting topic, which hopefully creates some conversation here.
Saturday, August 18, 2007
This MBA program has reaffirmed my hatred of animated emoticons and caused further distress by altering my decade old typing habits. That and I can tell you exactly why Global Communication makes wise business decisions despite communicating them poorly - they used two spaces after their sentences instead of one and then laid off employees using :(
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
I find these conversations incredibly entertaining. I'm a dork, but I love a good class conversation, especially one in which I play devil's advocate (did somebody say being a Catholic in a Lutheran dominated Christ College class?). So, as has been my trademark, I take the unpopular side and poke holes in feeble arguments.
However, the majority have a weapon that not even I can combat. Everyone, it seems, is busting out this secret weapon in scarily high numbers, especially for a graduate level class. It is unnecessary, and it is terrifying.
It is the emoticon.
I hate the damn things. I don't even like ":)" But the animated little faces irritate me to no end. As if making a point that a company shouldn't lay off a group of people because it's corporate greed hits all the more home with a little yellow face wagging a finger at me. Needless to say, it's awful.
So, I was quite proud of myself for this little jab at the end of my most recent "Drew's being a pain in the ass by continuing to be the only one to argue this side" post.
"Granted we don't have enough information in the scenario but I feel compelled to defend Global Communication here as the class really seems to have written them off as the bad guy and the greedy corporate entity. Surely we all have enough real world experience to know that issues such as these are ever really black and white as far as good guys and bad guys go. I don't pretend to say that with the information we have Global Communication should get a smiley face emoticon, but I don't know that we should condemn them either.
Friday, August 10, 2007
Thursday, August 9, 2007
"The team fought and scratched to get back in it and get the lead. Then I didn't get the job done, plain and simple." - Joe Borowski
Photo from Joe Borowski's professional career scrapbook or Flickr
Tuesday, August 7, 2007
Thursday, August 2, 2007
I don't pretend to be a journalist, nor do I have any type of hard to get information. However, being a resident I have a unique position from which I'll attempt to offer some perspective on this disastrous Minneapolis bridge collapse.
For starters, I do appreciate the well wishes and concerns that have come in since the news broke. To answer the two most common questions, yes everyone I know is just fine and, yes I have been across the bridge many times. Interstate 35-W is the north/south means through Minneapolis. So if Becky and I go downtown for a dinner, need to get to the airport, want to make a trip to the Mall of America, or if I need to get to Walgreens district office, that bridge was the way to go. It was not part of my everyday commute, and the last time I was across the bridge was a week from last Saturday when Becky and I returned from our Las Vegas trip, driving home from the airport.
Numbers being thrown around have the average number of commuters around 140,000 that cross the bridge each day. For those of us here in the city, it's just a common, run-of-the-mill bridge that every one has crossed multiple times. That "it could have been me" feeling is hitting the whole city just because of how many people use it and how important of a road it is to the function of the city. While obviously secondary, the traffic flow interruptions will be significant. While neither Becky and I use that road on a daily basis, we do use those secondary roads that will most likely be more filled as people attempt to find alternate routes. The rebuilding difference between this bridge collapse and the one I more comically covered in the Bay Area is that the cause and magnitude are far more severe. Whereas a car fire cause a small section of the Bay Bridge to go down, experts have to figure out what caused the I-35W collapse, clean up a wider range of mess, and then build, not just one little section, but a whole new span.
The timing for the bridge disaster, as has been well stated, could not have been worse, happening right after 6pm during the tail end of rush hour. Less stated, though, was the traffic going into the city was substantial, too. A Minnesota Twins game was under an hour from beginning and the Metrodome is not more than a mile or two from this bridge. Earlier this year, I went to three games in three days, crossing the bridge approximately an hour before first pitch each time. So while northbound lanes were jammed with people going home from work, southbound lanes had a significant flow as well.
The game between the Twins and Royals is a story in and of itself. About thirty minutes before first pitch, officials became alerted to the catastrophe just outside the building. Conversations ensued, and it was decided to play the game simply to keep 25,000 people from adding to the confusion first responders already had to overcome. Reports have many of those in attendance unaware of the incident until the jumbotron began posting limited information and mandatory detours. Some were notified by families and friends via cell phones, but even that was hit or miss. The flood of cell calls overloaded the infrastructure and coverage was spotty at best. I personally had three or four calls dropped in the minutes after the bridge announcement. News coverage quickly asked residents to stay off their cell phones to keep open the lines for emergency use only.
Seeing the images both last night and into this morning, I'm shocked that death tolls are remaining in the single digits. Submerged cars, bent concrete, twisted steel beams, and bloodied individuals being carried out on stretchers are pictures a plenty. As terrible as the scene is, it could have been so much worse. The school bus on the bridge has been a popular story in the early goings as 60 or so children were teetering on the edge of the bridge (they were returning from a water park approximately 4 miles from Becky's childhood home). A few seconds either way or a different crack in the bridge could have made this so much worse of a disaster. Right next to the bus was a bread truck that caught on fire, causing huge clouds of black smoke into the sky. Other than that semi, I did not see too many more vehicles ablaze. Additionally, the highway seems to have split in chunks allowing people to have a chance as they fell straight down as opposed to some kind of angle that would have cause flipping. And, in my opinion, what could have made the tragedy unspeakable was the train the bridge fell on. A chunk of concrete crushed a tanker car, and thank God it was not some sort of poisonous chemical in its load.
Early helpers have received tremendous praise. I have seen several stories on how University of Minnesota students raced to victims' aid. The U of M is located on the river banks right where the bridge fell and as such, the students had the best access to those affected before emergency personnel made their way to the scene. But as for those rescue workers, thus far only positive has been uttered. While it's hard to reflect back on 9/11 and say there was a positive, it was a valuable lesson learned that catastrophes do happen and will happen. Cities need to be ready for the unthinkable and as such plans were in place for Minneapolis' police, fire, and EMT personnel to make things go as smoothly as possible under the circumstances. The city called in help from all corners of the Twin Cities, and I heard several sirens whisk down the road near my house, no doubt on their way to the bridge. The nearest hospital to the action is Hennepein County Medical Center (HCMC), a place where Becky did her rotations several months ago. Accounts have HCMC holding their own and doing what they can, and I would imagine Becky's former co-workers have some additional eye patients this morning.
The largest point of contention concerns bridge inspections. Governor Tim Pawlenty is stating that the bridge was inspected in 2005 and said to be ok. Twin City newspapers have found reports stating that inspections found the bridge to be "structurally deficient." These differing accounts will be the developing news story in Minneapolis for months to come.
In all, it's just so surreal to have something like this happen in my backyard. This wasn't some city across the nation or some movie scene. These are places and people that I see and interact with. It's a bridge I've used before and would have used again. The images are awful and efforts are tremendous. An unbelieveable sight.
Photos from wcco and kare11
Wednesday, August 1, 2007
(Edit 1: A school bus carrying young children was among the vehicles tossed about.)
(Edit 2: Minneapolis is in the midst of a huge drought. And it just so happens that a thunderstorm is moving in at this critical time.)
(Edit 3: Every emergency responder in the Twin Cities has been called in to help. Estimates, now at about 80 minutes after the incident, have 50-100 cars involved. Newscasts are asking residents to stay off cell phones as Minneapolis' cell phone structure is maxed and emergency personnel need the lines.)
(Edit 4: Not quite two hours into the crisis, CNN is reporting 3 people are dead. Based on the pictures, that number is going to increase significantly.)
(Edit 5: That thunderstorm that hit Blaine back in "edit 2" is now making its way into the disaster zone. Reporters are commenting on thunder and some flashes of lightning.)
(Edit 6: The Minnesota Twins are playing the Kansas City Royals in the Metrodome right now. The game for tomorrow has already been cancelled, but 20 some odd thousand people are going to exit the game with limited information of what's happening. The jumbotron has been passing along updates. Imagine sitting in the Metrodome watching a game, getting updates of this horrific disaster, and trying to figure out what in the world is going on. )