Thursday, December 4, 2008

My Super Awesome Business Plan

I came up with an idea for a super awesome business plan the other day. Before I shop it around to various venture capitalists in my Rolodex, please help me by taking a look at it to see if you think I've got everything in order.

First, I am going to start by producing a substandard product that gets more irrelevant every year as my foreign competition uses technological advancements to make superior, competing products.

Speaking of competition, I will open no less than three stores in every market to sell my product. Not only will each store have to compete with each other for the customers of our products, but I will also overproduce units, thus relegating them to commodity prices.

Speaking of price, for every unit of product I sell, I will take a $2,000 loss. While this will cut into my profits a bit, it won't compare to the red mark left in my ledger after paying my staff.

I plan on using unionized workers to produce my product. I will pay them full medical benefits and a salary that is, not only commensurate with work experience, but also top dollar across the local economy. Gotta stay competitive to get the most skilled workers, right?

In addition, when my workers retire after 30-40 years in my factory, I will keep paying them full medical benefits and a healthy pension for another 20-30 years. And this pension? Well, it'll have to keep increasing every year, of course.

Now, you're probably wondering what my contingency plan would be if my company ever found itself in financial trouble. This plan is ideal in a strong economy, of course, but if the economy ever slows down, in order to stay solvent, my plan is to keep moving at the same pace and not close any stores or factories. Closing factories would be sad. My company is about being prosperous - not about being sad.

Heaven forbid my company ever end up in financial trouble, and I don't know how that could possibly happen, but if it did happen, I would, of course, have to let some of my workers go. But these workers shouldn't fret, because I promise that if I ever have to lay anyone off, I will pay them at least 95% of their previous salary for up to 4 years after I let them go. After all, I have to give them adequate time to find a new job, right?

So, what do you think? Do you think I'll be able to convince a venture capitalist to give me 50 million dollars to start a business with this plan? Do you think I'd be able to convince Congress to give me 25 billion dollars to keep a company running that had used this business model for the past 30 years?

Sunday, November 30, 2008

You're in good hands...if you've been convicted of vehicular manslaughter

Have you seen the latest Allstate commercial?

It opens in a courtroom with two white, presumably middle class, parents with their arms around their teenage son while the judge states his decision that the young man is at fault for an auto collision and damages are $100,000. The defendant lawyer tells the plaintiff lawyer that the boy only has $50,000, to which the plaintiff lawyer turns to his clients and tells them not to worry; they will get the money from stocks, college funds, etc. The parents, looking aghast and slightly terrified, look to their lawyer and exclaim, "Can they do that?"

Apparently, yes, they can. And apparently these "poor" folks are not of the lower middle class as we were formerly led to believe. Stocks? Bonds? College fund? This is your typical upper middle class family if they have over $50,000 in assets (not including retirement as that would not be accessible to pay off a judgment on their son, correct me if I am wrong, lawyers).

The point of this marketing campaign is to show viewers that, unless you have coverage from Allstate, you could be taken to the cleaners if you get in an auto accident.

What the commercial doesn't point out is that the boy is at fault, otherwise there would be no case against him for damages. Twelve reasonable people heard the case, and deemed the price of said damages to be this astronomical amount. Ergo, we, the viewers, can assume the crash was pretty horrific.

This brings us to the real heart of the problem, and why, as an insurance customer, I hate this commercial. Allstate is making us, the viewers, sympathize with the defendant, a young man who made some stupid decision (texting while driving? running a red light?) and caused a horrific car accident. We're supposed to feel sorry that his well-off family will be a little less wealthy because he made this mistake.

Notice how Allstate doesn't show the victim of the crash at all? We only see the plaintiff lawyer and, who I assume is, a representative for said plaintiff. This commercial says to me, "Hey, we all get in these binds, right? Just be sure that your ass is covered by Allstate so the greedy victim can't take you to the cleaners."

Nice try, Allstate, but instead of trying to get us to sympathize with an upperclass white kid who commits vehicular manslaughter, perhaps it would be better to remind us to be mindful drivers who avoid causing horrific car accidents.

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Hometown Cult

Here is a story about your average, ordinary, home-grown cult. Enjoy, ladies and gentlemen.

You know, this is a relevant topic, seeing as how I am studying persuasion with my students. Persuasion, as in, how were the cult followers "persuaded" to join the group and follow Rama Bahera/Samantha Roy in the first place? Why do they give him all of their hard-earned money? Why do they stay?

Only time, and a FBI investigation will tell. For now, here are some links and video for your perusal.

Story in the GB Press Gazette

WSAW story and video

Witness account of life in the cult

Witness account of cult abuse

It's unclear who authors this website, but it's arguments discredit the Secrets in Shawano series

Sunday, September 28, 2008


For the first time in 26 years (that's right, first time in my lifetime) the Brew Crew is going to the playoffs!

Love it, love it, love it, love it, love it.

But, I hate that I had to watch the FSN camera focus on Miller Park's jumbotron in order to watch end of the Mets game. Intellectual property? Broadcast ownership? Though television stations may argue over who has the right to broadcast a professional sports game, why must the fans suffer for these disagreements? The leagues would not exist without fans spending money on tickets, merchandise, and concessions. Without the cash flow, there would be no games, without the games there would be no broadcast, without the broadcast the stations would not receive advertising dollars.

This is a logical cause and effect argument, correct? Or am I just biased in favor of the fans?

Editor's Note 10/3/08: Currently there is a scuffle taking place in Green Bay, WI between Time Warner Cable and Channel 11, the local Fox affiliate. Fox's contract with Time Warner Cable is up, and renegotiations have resulted in a stalemate, which has left Green Bay Packer's fans unable to watch the football game on basic cable. Time Warner is handing out antenna's to disgruntled fans (in an effort to not lose cable customers over this, I am sure), until the dispute is resolved. If you have basic cable and tune into to Fox, you will see that Time Warner is providing a premium cable channel for your viewing pleasure. At the bottom of the screen they are scrolling a message that says, until Fox ends the argument, in which Time Warner has been nothing but courteous, Time Warner will be gracious enough to provide this premium channel to its customers. Now, that's a clever strategy to gain public approval!

Intellectual property or fit for public consumption?

Can I just say how stupid it is that MLB has proprietary rights over their televised games? I say this because I am currently celebrating the latest Brewers win (RYAN BRAUN!!! CC SABATHIA!!!), however, we (the fans watching at home) cannot watch how this will turn out because the Mets and Marlins game is not televised by FSN. Instead, FSN is staying on the air and focusing their cameras, in Miller Park, on the Mets game on the Jumbotron. This being the only way we are able to watch the game, unless of course, we purchase the MLB package from Time Warner Cable.

Sidenote: Time Warner cable was required to blackout the Brewers game.

How is that MLB is able to claim these proprietary rights? Who ultimately pays for thse games? Who buys the tickets and the merchandise, and accepts higher tax rates to pay for new stadiums for pro teams? I'm sorry, I couldn't hear you. Can you repeat that?

The fans? Is that was you said? Because you are correct. The collective dollar of the fans is what holds up this league, and yet the fans are the ones kept from watching the games from the comfort of their own homes.

I'm annoyed. This fight over televising sporting events is crap. Televise the games. All of them. On basic cable. And shut up about it.

Friday, September 5, 2008

I didn't have to use the Hershey bar afterall

Attention everyone, Hershey has left the building!

That's right folks, Nice Guy and Douche Bag have moved out of the downstairs apartment. To escape Harley City last weekend, I fled Milwaukee for nicer (read: quieter) climes in the Northwoods. When I came home, the guys had moved out and left all of their garbage overflowing in the trash can.

Honestly, would it be too much to ask for you guys to bag it up? *Sigh

Nasty garbage aside, this week has been quiet, and I can only hope that my new neighbor, B, does not have a high-strung dog.

I interrupt this regularly scheduled blog post to note that the Brewers just pissed me off. Gagne is not the closer we all hoped he'd be. Realize this, Mr. Yost, and stop pretending otherwise.

Back to the story at hand.

In anticipation of B moving in this weekend (fast turnaround, I wonder where the landlord found this guy, and hope he isn't friends with the former neighbors), I suspect I should get out of dodge if I want some peace and quiet. Alas, this is not to be as I have boat loads of grading and reading to do for class. My first foray into officially grading essays. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


In light of the fact that I will be asking my students to write an essay and give a speech on the very topic of Comparison/Contrast, I will now proceed with a short piece comparing and contrasting undergrad and graduate experiences. It will not be in proper essay format. Sue me, I'm not being graded.

The first thing I noticed after my first graduate course was the color of the sky as I walked out to my car. Black. The first difference in my graduate coursework is that it all takes place in the evening. Great for the Executive MBA, bad for the full time student used to an 8-5pm schedule.

The second thing that is different about graduate school is the focus of your coursework. On the first day you hit the ground running studying your chosen major, in depth. No longer need you attend two years of core classes before reaching a class of interest, no. If Communications is your thing (and it is), then Communications you will study from day one.

The third thing I find different, though I wonder how long it will last, is the amount of free time I have to complete my assigned reading and homework. Every day is a full day of nothingness, if I choose it to be so. However, there is one flaw in this masterplan of free time and that is the age-old conundrum of time management. Manage that free time wisely, kids, because three graduate courses worth of reading assignments usually amount to a week's worth of twelve-hour days.

This brings me to my last point. I began this Master's degree as a full-time student because I wanted to live and breathe my coursework. Be careful what you wish for. Not only am I teaching four classes per week, but I am finding myself putting in 10 and 12-hour days. I thought I went to school to avoid the 60-hour work week!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Explanation of Short Hiatus

Sorry for the lack of posting this past week. I was on vacation and didn't feel like cracking my laptop.

Today I started training as a Graduate Assistant with two dozen of my new nearest and dearest. I have an official college ID which, with my handy Grad Assistant denotation, gets me a 10% discount at the bookstore. Tomorrow I must pick up my parking permit and hand in the rest of my paperwork. After that it shall be official in the sense that I will actually be able to get paid.

During break today I walked down to the lobby of the College of Communication's building. I saw a board listing all of the faculty and staff with their office numbers, and my name was also listed. M. Lindner 507. Sweet. I need a picture for posterity, so when I am an old professerly curmudgeon I can harken back to my first day as a TA. Nostalgia.

Next week classes begin and I can hardly wait. Today in training I had one glorious moment where I was in love with the world and the fact that I am once again in academia. God's blessings are abundant indeed, and I felt a definite sense of belonging - as if this is exactly where I am supposed to be for whatever is next in my life.

Friday, August 8, 2008

It's Official

Well, dear readers, it's official. I seem to attract the angry crazies.

It's not enough that Hershey barks whenever the guys downstairs are not home. Which is always. Really why do you have a dog when you're only home long enough to let it out to go to the bathroom? That's just cruel. But I've come to suspect the dog (actual name, Tobin) suffers from high anxiety due to watching his two humans scream so much.

Which is why I am currently shunned out of my bed, watching a bad Lifetime movie and typing this insomniatic blog post when insomniatic isn't even a word. Tonight the boys came home at midnight thirty. All seemed like clockwork. They're gone all evening, the dog wakes up at 11:00 p.m. and starts barking incessantly for no reason, finally runs out of steam at 11:30 p.m., leaving me enough time to fall asleep until the boys roll in at 12:30 a.m. Indeed, the schedule happened exactly thus, with the exception that I was rudely awakened at 1:30 p.m. by the High Strung Douche yelling at the Actual Nice One about his unresolved daddy issues.

This is not the first time that Douche was yelling about his daddy issues to anyone who would listen. This is, however, the first time that the Nice One refused to listen. About 20 minutes into tonight's tirade (long enough to fully wake me up and chase my dream away) the Nice One packed up his dog and drove out of dodge. He has family in the area he can stay with, you see.

Douche seems to have family problems. The last I heard him scream, he was mad because the Nice One treated him poorly, or, what is "poorly" in his mind. The other weekend they both arrived back from what was a family affair at Douchebag's house. He proceeded to spend the next 2 hours screaming at his father on the phone. Something about what a Senor Douchebag his father is, how he treats everyone like crap, and these two things being the reason why Senor Douche lives alone and no one likes him. Douche Junior would then follow up such a tirade by, "I love you too Dad, but you have to understand yada, yada, yada..."

I found it amusing that he always followed up the daddy issues accusations with an I love you. I found it even more amusing that, as I took myself in and out of the house during this particular rant, I found the Nice One relegated to clipping weeds in the yard to keep himself occupied and out of the fray.

All of this leads me to the following conclusions:
1. Douchebag Junior has some serious Daddy issues he needs to work through in therapy
2. I love my apartment, but hate the angry screaming and dog barking which takes place at inappropriate times
3. The dog in question suffers from serious anxiety and thus barks non-stop
4. I'd rather have DB Jr leave than the Nice One
5. I'm incredibly tired, and now my stomach is growling
6. I seem to attract the Angry Screamers when it comes to renting apartments. How can I break this trend?

Monday, August 4, 2008

For Hope and a Future

Jeremiah 29:11 “I know the plans that I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”

My entire life, no matter where I have been, I have never felt as if I truly fit in. In middle school and high school I had a great time, had lots of friends, and was involved in many things, but most of the time I was always waiting for the next thing. Sometimes I also felt I was trying to be something I wasn’t.

In college I had many friends and was involved in many things, but I never felt that I 100% fit in with any one group or activity. I didn’t quite fit in at Carlson. There was something just a smidge off with Campus Crusade for Christ. I definitely did not feel like I fit in with City Celebration. The closest I ever got was freshman year in Middlebrook. I was blessed to have an amazing first year of college, but I think it was an impossibly high yardstick for the rest of my university days.

Cut to a year out of university, and I am in Hungary. I certainly had some struggles, but I ended my time in Sopron feeling all the more blessed for the experience.

When I returned from Hungary, I had no clue what I wanted to do. I spent the next six months deciding that I wanted to move back to Minneapolis. I prayed many a prayer asking God to direct my life and help me get back to the Twin Cities I loved so much.

Does anyone else see the conditional in that statement? I wanted God to take control and let His will be done in my life, but only if that will matched with mine.

Instead I moved to Milwaukee. Not particularly excited to move to this minitropolis, I became pleasantly surprised at what I found.

I found a job I loved. I found a professional community that not only embraced me, but also gave me the opportunity to be a leader. This same community, and the connections I found within it, encouraged me to take the next step toward graduate school.

Basically, I am starting to feel that I’ve found my place and direction in life. That’s not to say I won’t someday move on, or my life won’t dramatically change again, but I feel at home here. I love where I live. I love what I do. I love where my career path is going. I love the close group of friends and colleagues I have here. Most of all, I love the life I’ve been blessed with here, and it amazes me.

What I’ve come to realize is that, what I want may be great, but what God has planned for me is more amazing than I can ever imagine. I did not want to come to Milwaukee, but it’s better here than it would have been for me in Minneapolis. The opportunities and blessings I’ve been given in the past two years have seemed endless.

Now, instead of praying for God to direct any specific area of my life, I ask him to bless me abundantly. And He has.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Chinese Take-Out

Today's Fortune: "you will be happy with your spouse."

I guess the use of future continuous tense should be comforting, in that I will someday have a spouse. Though the unspecified time limit concerns me.

Future continuous could mean tomorrow, it could mean next year, it could mean 60 years from now. Though in the latter instance, I suppose I can then be thankful for having a long life.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Dr. new Joss Whedon fix.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Joss Whedon is a genius.

Check out this video: Dr. Horribles Sing-Along Blog - Dr. Horribles Sing-Along Blog

This is what Joss Whedon does when he's bored. I'm so glad that They (those who decide such things), gave him another TV show.

Things I've decided upon watching this gem:
1. I want a Captain Hammer t-shirt (you can buy them here)
2. I wish I would have known about this when the writer's strike was actually happening and there was nothing on TV to watch.
3. Nathan Fillion is one of my favorite actors in the Joss Whedon posse
4. Conflict Diamond is an excellent name for a villain
5. Doogie Howser is quite the singer

Monday, July 28, 2008

New Rules

In lieu of that which transpired Saturday last, I feel I must introduce New Rules for my online dating experiment. That, and I saw Bill Maher last week at The Riverside and am, shall we say, inspired.

1. Though shalt not cancel 30 minutes before our first date without a good excuse or without showing proper remorse. Otherwise thou shalt be Internet dating dead to me.
On what was to have been my very first eHarmony-enduced date, the guy cancels on me as I'm walking out the door to go meet him. This is a faux pas in the first degree, and I will not stand for it. Second chances will be grudgingly given, but you have much to come back from, One with cold feet.

2. Geography is a deal breaker.
I want to be able to hang out with you on a regular basis.

3. Red flags and intuition are God-given identifiers of Crazy.
Pay special attention and act accordingly, and above all, proceed with caution.

4. If I, Female in question, show interest in you first, Male in question, then I will give you approximately 7 days to respond before closing the match.
One week is more than enough time to log onto your computer and click a button. I don't have time to waste wondering why 23 matches haven't yet responded after a week. Clicking a button, also, can hardly be considered a difficult response to make. Are you interested or not? It's that simple.

5. If you, Male in question, show interest in me first, Female in question, then I will respond positively to you in a timely manner.
Though making the first move in Internet dating requires little commitment, the effort is duly noted and shall be a point in your favor. Every male who does so shall be treated positively, unless Rule 3 comes into play.

6. Nine times out of ten, I will not be the first to suggest a face-to-face meeting.
Call me old-fashioned (because I know I am), but unless I am really into a match I refuse to initiate the first meeting. It's not much to ask - we're already communicating through email afterall. How less intimidating can my possible refusal be? Be a man, and be the first to suggest a meeting (complete with possible day/time/location/activity); this gal doesn't want a man who would be afraid to do so.

Following these rules will, hopefully, help me streamline my online dating experiment. So far I do not have many positive things to say about my experience, and I am beginning to find the entire process rather tedious and boring.

Saturday, July 26, 2008


Today I spent the morning watching Grey's Anatomy Season 2. 

I then went for an invigorating 4 mile run, followed by some gardening. 

Once finished, it was time to get ready for my first eHarmony-enduced date. The man, G, seemed like a good match. We have many of the same interests, even similar careers. Surely we would have much to talk about.

To take any pressure off, we planned to meet at the Lakefront and have a casual first date.

I showered.

I primped.

I straightened my hair and put on makeup (those of you who know me, know that this is a big deal, what with my hair in humidity and all). 

Thirty minutes before we were to meet G, the male in question, calls and makes chit chat. This confuses me as we are shortly to meet, and in fact I am just about to head out the door.  I live approximately half an hour from the lake, you see.

G then proceeds to tell me he "hates to do this" to me, but he must cancel. 

Some lame excuse about being at his uncle's house all day and now in no condition to be meeting me for a first date.

To which I inwardly reply, "you, G, are eHarmony dead to me."

In reality, I said it was okay, but admitted that I was judging him a little for canceling on what was to have been our first date. I mean that is just bad form.

I've since decided that if he tries hard, I may give him a second chance. But if he doesn't show proper remorse then I am done with him.

Playing games, you say? Being a demanding girl, you accuse?

Perhaps. But I also happen to know that I am worth better treatment, and I'm not afraid to wait for a man who agrees.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Bridge

I recently rented a documentary called The Bridge. It's a film by Eric Steele (no pun intended, I assume) for which he rigged cameras to film the Golden Gate Bridge for one year.

He recorded over two dozen suicides.

He chose three or four of those jumpers and interviewed family and friends to learn more about their lives and what made them want to jump. What surprised, and infuriated me, was the recurring theme of the loved ones admitting that the jumper had been threatening to end his or her life for months, if not years, before actually doing so.

One of the first things you learn in crisis training is to always take a threat seriously. This seems to be the one thing family and friends of the deceased did not do. One father even admitted that when he and his wife came home to find their son gone, they knew this was the day his son had finally done it. No need for a painful goodbye letter, oh no, because the family already knew why and how this boy was going to kill himself.

Yet they did nothing to get him help.

None of the family or friends of the deceased ever mentioned anything like, "well, I tried to encourage Suzy to get help, but she didn't want to," or "Tommy went to a counselor for awhile, but it didn't work." Probably they didn't mention it because they never encouraged Suzy or Tommy to get help.

One woman was even interviewing that her friend told them every day that he was going to kill himself over the course of several years. She gave a sort of incredulous laugh when she admitted this. I gave a sort of incredulous and horrified snort when I watched this.

In addition to interviewing family and friends of the deceased, the filmaker also spoke with passersby who saw the suicides, and one jumper who survived.

The one thing that really astounded me about the film was that in every scene that a person jumped to their death, you can see dozens of people biking, running, and strolling by on the bridge.

The jumper climbs over the railing. No one says anything.

The jumper hangs on to the railing while summoning the courage to let go. None of the passersby seem to think anything is out of order.

The jumper leaps off the bridge to his or her death. Tourists look shocked, run to the railing, and call the police.

The most galling interview of all came from a photographer who had been taking pictures from the bridge when he saw a girl climb over the railing. The filmakers obtained his prints from that day, and we see a series of shots as he is approaching the jumper. We see her swing her leg over the rail. We see her standing on the ledge. Here's another one from a different angle of her standing on the ledge.

Through all of this he is interviewing that he knew she was going to jump (yet did nothing about it). The photog finally admits that he came to his senses, put down his camera (got enough shots first scumbag?), then grabbed her jacket and pulled her to safety.

It turns out she had done this before and police believe she did it as a cry for help.

The one jumper who survived talks about being on the rail with people passing. A tourist asks him to take a photo of her and the bay. As he's interviewing he sighs and says, "she didn't even care or realize that I was going to jump." His only desire was for someone to notice him and talk him back to the other side.

What do we know about suicide? That the majority of people who commit suicide, or try to, are combating strong feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and uselessness. They feel worthless; like the world won't notice if they're gone.

It was horrifying to watch this documentary and see that feeling all but proven as the tourists and bystanders walk past a jumper and not do or say anything. These jumpers merely wanted someone to notice them, someone to talk them down, to care.

We learn at the end of the film that the Golden Gate Bridge is the number one place in the world where people go to commit suicide.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

A Stirring Independent

The other night I stopped by Hollywood Video to see if I could find any gems for my viewing pleasure. I find that, as I get older (not old, mind you), I am becoming more particular about what constitutes a good movie.

In my teens and early twenties I enjoyed the fluffy romantic comedy and, as always, the delightfully bloody and scary horror movie. Now my interests gear more toward the stirring independent film, the undiscovered foreign film, and the psychotically scary horror movie.

Good films of this type are getting woefully hard to find, yet I found one lovely independent film called That Beautiful Somewhere.

Overall Impressions: I wish Roy Dupuis would make more American films. Catherine's (McGregor) illness should have been something less abstract, which then would have helped the audience feel the urgency and mortality.

The movie, by Robert Budreau, is based on a book called Loon, and is billed as a murder mystery which I think does the film an injustice. When Hollywood says mystery the public thinks of Rear Window. This movie is more melancholy, slow-paced, and poignant.

In fact, if I had to choose one word to describe the film, it would be poignant. The cinematography is gorgeous, the movie having been filmed in North Bay, Canada in the winter. 

The story is of a detective (Roy Dupuis) and archaeologist (Jane McGregor) coming together to solve the mystery of a dead body found in a bog. This bog happens to be sacred ground for a local native tribe, with traditions, ceremonies, and mysterious powers of healing rumored to be within. The lead characters are both searching for peace and healing, and the underlying theme is that of a love story. The end is simply stirring.

This critic gives it two thumbs up.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Let's continue the comparison: Chemistry
I haven’t had much success in being matched with the right men at Chemistry. This could either mean the matching process is ineffective or there are not a lot of the type of men I am looking for at this site.

For example, it’s important to me that my partner share my religious beliefs, therefore, any match should align rather closely to me in this area. However, when I chose that my matches could either be, “Christian: Catholic, Christian Protestant, Christian: Other,” I get a lot of odd responses because the matches may mean many things when they check those boxes. I could have a non-practicing Catholic; a man who was raised Lutheran, no longer is religious, but still distinguishes himself as such; or a match who is Christian and actually practices the religion.

Also, there seem to be more folks on Chemistry who are not actually registered users. They merely created a profile to see what was out there, but haven’t paid their dues and so cannot communicate with anyone. This annoys me, because if I am interested in someone I will send him a communiqué. I am then left waiting weeks for a reply that won’t come, because he is an unregistered user and unable to send a message back.

So I haven’t really had any luck with Chemistry, but I’m sticking with it a bit longer because I have to, my membership is good for another two months.

In other news: I once had a crush on this guy in college. Just when it seemed to be reciprocated and going somewhere, I got a job in another city and moved away.

I found out today that he’s getting married and was a bit taken aback. Because I am female, I have a tendency to remember crushes fondly and wonder what it would be like if we saw each other again. Fortunately, as reality tends to happen, the hours wore on and I thought about it more and more. I now find myself unmoved yet happy for the guy.

It still is a bit weird, though, when you hear of past friends who are now engaged, married, and/or having kids. It reminds you just how long ago it was when you last saw them. This, in turn, makes me feel old.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Let’s Begin the Comparison: eHarmony

I’ve been at this online dating for approximately two weeks now, and feel that I can now start making fair and accurate comparisons. Let’s begin by exploring the pros and cons of eHarmony, because, if you know me, then you know how much I like a pros and cons list.

This site’s tagline should be, “extremely freakin’ long personality surveys breed the most promising matches,” because compared to Chemistry, my matches at eHarmony seem better. There is a cost to all of this compatibility; however, and S made a good example when she admitted that she gave up halfway through because the intro surveys were too long.

eHarmony does, indeed, require you to fill out questionnaire after endless questionnaire before you complete your profile and are eligible for matching. However, it’s a good exercise in self-reflection and causes you to think about what it is you are looking for in a potential match. Plus, everyone likes to talk about themselves, right?

The only gripe I have about eHarmony is with its guided communication process. For one, the process is slow, with each step taking two or three days as both sides of the match go back and forth. Though I say that now, but the first match I reached open communication with immediately asked me to meet him in person and I feel like he’s pushy. Let’s exchange a few emails and phone calls first, Sparky.

Second, as I go through the process I do not feel as if I am really getting to know the other person. It’s hard to know if, when he selected his Must Have of, “…must be financially responsible,” he meant “must have zero debt and thousands in savings, “ or “must own no more than three credit cards with neither maxed out to their limit.” The choices are so subjective, and I don’t feel like I am getting to know a match by his answers just because he happened to check a certain box in one moment of decisiveness.

The best part about eHarmony is that you can rate the importance of every matching factor. For example, you can rate how important physical qualities, religion, education, and age are to you, and eHarmony will take those into consideration when matching you to potential candidates.

Overall, it has been a pleasant experience with no frustrations or disappointments I was not anticipating. So far I have only reached open communication with two matches, and so have no fun stories to share.

The one thing I can say is that it’s extremely nerve wracking to be the first to have to send an email. What should I say? What’s a witty headline I can write that won’t make him think I am crazy or weird?

Friday, July 11, 2008

The French Connection

Last night I became a vainqueur de la Bastille, completing the 5K Fun Run in 31 minutes and 17 seconds. Not my best time, but I made the mistake of getting caught in the fast pace of the front-runners, which messed up my game for the rest of the race. I also had to stop in the Third Ward for a glass of beer, as the bartenders promised it would take two minutes off my time. They were wrong.

I also want it duly noted that it took us a few minutes to actually start running once the race started, and the running abruptly stopped a few blocks before the end as the thousands of racers had to again be bottlenecked through the gate. Thus, I could fairly subtract five minutes, if not more, from my time for all of this waiting. That’s just me nitpicking.

MJ, her two friends, and I then proceeded to spend the next hour milling through the crowd of thousands in Cathedral Square Park trying to find each other. I, at the end of my proverbial rope, made a last ditch effort and finally found her at the Alliance beignet stand, and much rejoicing commenced.

Being French speakers with connections at the Alliance, we met up with a trio of “Frenchies” and took them out on the town for an authentic Milwaukee experience. After all, Bastille Days closes at 11:00 p.m. and nowhere does it say the fun has to stop when the police street barricades come down.

Margaritas at Bar Louie ensued, along with a game of beanbag toss, French conversation, and flirting with good-looking men around the campfire. Yes, Bar Louie has a campfire.

All in all, it was a super first 5K experience.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Car Salesman Jesus

Car Salesman Jesus said it best when he said, “I’ve got some good news, and I’ve got some bad news.”

Let’s start with the bad.

I’m going to jail.

Immediately moving on to the good…it’s for the Muscular Dystrophy Association’s Lock Up event in August.

Someone who wishes to remain under witness protection referred me to lock up, and on August 7th a limo will arrive at my place of work to whisk me away for my mug shot and bail raising.

In the meantime, I am in contact with my parole officer who is sending me information on how to create a website and raise my money before the event. So be warned, everyone, that I will be hitting you up for donations in an attempt to spend my jail time networking rather than shackled to a phone.

Also, One who referred me, you are on notice!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

I just can't seem to care.

Relient K said it best when they sang, “Apathetic is a pathetic way to be.”

Currently I am in one weird funk. I had the day off yesterday (must burn those personal days before I lose them), and planned to get a ton of things done around the apartment. Race training, vacuuming, season three of Weeds – all are not so lofty in the Goals category, yet as the day wore on a funk took hold.

I ended up going to J & E’s house for our weekly Monday Angel viewing. The MarioKart and fajita’s managed to lift my spirits a bit, but the gloom returned this morning and is still prevalent.

During the morning commute I found myself surprised at the level of apathy I was feeling, if one can feel apathy – isn’t that kind of an oxymoron? Regardless of semantics, as I was driving I was surprised because, at that moment, I don’t think I have ever felt such a lack of concern or interest before.

The thought of getting to work made me feel neither excitement nor dread. The thought of returning home and having time for myself left me feeling nothing, listless at best. Even looking forward to weekend plans did not help. In regards to these I think my exact thought was, “take ‘em or leave ‘em, I don’t care.”

Even in writing this blog post I can’t dredge up enough interest to fully explain this lack of feeling, much less make the explanation interesting or entertaining in any way. What, exactly is going on?

It’s very strange.

I think it’s weather-related.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

The Rules

On D's advice, I've added eHarmony to my online dating repertoire, and dropped Match, according to D, is more of a buffet of dating options rather than a compatible menu. 

So now I am focusing on eHarmony and Chemistry to meet some new men. I wouldn't say I'm looking for a long-term relationship, I am merely hoping to meet new people and expand my dating experience. Come out of my dating shell, so to speak. 

So far, having low expectations has been a good thing. One cannot get one's hopes up with every potential match. Also, one mustn't take anything too personally when it comes to the guided communication processes. Thus, I feel I must set down some ground rules for myself regarding this online dating experience, especially if I want to get the most out of this experiment.

Rule #1: Barring any serious reservations, every potential match who initiates contact deserves to be given a chance. 
I'd do the same for any man who shows enough courage to ask me out face to face, and I feel this rule, especially in the spirit of the experiment, has the possibility of interesting results.

Rule #2: Don't take anything too seriously or too personally.
I want to begin communication but my potential match turns me down? Pas de probleme, my friends. His loss. After all, it's not like I'm hoping to find a husband here, which brings me to...

Rule #3: Don't expect too much from online dating.
Expanding my horizons and having something interesting to blog about, these are the two main objectives of my foray into the world of Internets dating. 

Tune in next time when I discuss initial observations regarding eHarmony and Chemistry, as well as first experiences in the matching and guided communication processes. It's starting to get interesting.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Storm the Bastille!

Next Thursday is what I hope will be my first full-run 5k at Bastille Days. The largest Bastille Days celebration in the country, the East Town Association hits another gold with this gem of a fest at Cathedral Square Park.

On the opening night they host a 5K run-walk through downtown Milwaukee at 9:00 p.m. and I have successfully suckered three of my friends into joining me. While I did the Habitrot in Minneapolis twice (a 5K run-walk sponsored by Habitat for Humanity), I never ran those races, content only to enjoy a slow meander through campus.

I've been training for next week's run, and just today finished the full distance without walking once. Twenty-seven minutes, baby, twenty-seven minutes.

You know that time when you've been running for about fifteen minutes and the lower half of your body kind of goes numb and you no longer hear that voice in your head telling you you should walk for just one minute? That's called your groove, and I hit mine today and breezed right through to the end.

As much as one can breeze on a treadmill anyway.

I also love, love, love that feeling you get after your done and you feel like you could start right up and run another 5 miles. Today I felt jelly legs and dizziness as I hadn't eaten anything in 4 hours, but when I do get that feeling it's super.
Like the photo I got from Google search? I usually don't run without shoes. Or naked for that matter. Did I mention my hair is getting really long?

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

A Confession

I have a confession to make.

After months of extolling the virtues of online dating, my coworker, D, has finally convinced me to join the ranks. And so I have taken the first step in what I will call Operation: Let’s Date.

So far, it’s been all about me as I fill out endless questionnaires and personality tests. The essay and headline portion of the online dating profile, most often the place where people shoot themselves in the foot, was pretty easy for me, what with being a self-proclaimed writer and all.

I’ve gotten quite a few hits already at, and after 2 days of waiting, the snails have finally approved my photos and profile over at

So far the men seem pretty normal. I’m hoping that the online dating universe is past its growing pains and now has a good system in place for weeding out the axe murderers and crazy people. Though, if D’s experiences are any indication, there are still a few normal-esque men out there with weird proclivities.

I’m not expecting much from this foray into Operation: Let’s Date. In fact, to make myself feel better about it all, I am going to call it an “experiment” and blog about it. This way I can take a more professional approach to the fact that I feel I am selling out by jumping on the Internets dating bandwagon.

I've always viewed online dating as sort of a last resort. As in, I am not good enough to attract a dateable man in "real life," and so have to resort to the Internets to help me. This is crazy, I know, but that one iota of low self esteem really wreaks havoc when it comes to my dating history.

If anything I am simply hoping to expand my circle of friends in this dear city. My two best friends are married, and hanging out with marrieds all of the time, while delightful and not usually the least bit uncomfortable, still manages to shine the spotlight on the fact that I am not dating nor have any decent prospects in the pipeline.

So here’s to finding some prospects and/or some friends. And check back for updates on Operation: Let’s Date.

Monday, June 23, 2008

"Check your excuses at the door..."

"...cuz I don't want to hear 'em."

This coming from our Fitness Center's director at the staff meeting in June. It said in reference to the center's latest lunch time offering of a class called Boot Camp.

For those of you unfamiliar with the army (and thus living under a rock for the past 7 years of the Iraq war), boot camp is a favorite past time of drill sergeants who highly enjoy making life hell for hundreds of out-of-shape recruits.

In this example our Fitness Center is the army base; Amanda, the director, is our drill sergeant; and we masochistic schmucks are the out-of-shape recruits.

That last bit is more true than we'd all like to believe.

The class is only offered Mondays and Wednesdays, but the inevitable soreness and muscle paralyzation one experiences the day after a class adequately explains why we need 48 hours in between to recover.

Boot Camp, unlike its army predecessor, does not include razor wire or wall climbing. It does, however, include Pilates, cardio, weight training, and altogether too many squats and lunges.

Yours truly has taken part for the past two weeks and is already feeling the results in her quads, and seeing the results in her waistline, biceps, triceps, and glutes. On Tuesdays and Thursdays she also has a hard time climbing stairs and standing up from a seated position.

An old drill sergeant adage: No pain, no gain.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

WASPs, Winos, and White Trash

Or, what some people call, Jazz in the Park.

This Milwaukeean gem hosted by the East Town Association is a rare snapshot of the socioeconomic makeup of our fair city.

College students wandering down from campus to enjoy a free activity. Bored housewives from Whitefish Bay dining on the grass with fine china and crystal stemware. Homeless winos meandering through the crowd and acting crazy.

What more reason do you need to attend this most eclectic evening of auditory delight?

When: Every Thursday evening June - September
Where: Cathedral Square Park
What: All the jazz and people watching your ears and eyes (respectively) can take

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Slow Pitch by Professional Athletes

In honor of Father’s Day, my immediate family made plans to attend a sporting event to which all fathers (dad, stepdad, brother-in-law) would be invited. Sidenote: Turns out my brother-in-law had to work, but my sister brought his son, my adorable nephew, along instead.

The event? The Donald Driver Celebrity Softball game (benefitting The Donald Driver Foundation)

Started by Michael Bolton (note: this author does not think this is really true. She merely remembers a softball game with celebrities at the same stadium hosted by one no-talent, a$$-clown, Michael Bolton), and reinvented by Brett Favre, the softball game features Packers players having a good time on a diamond rather than a field. The future of this fundraiser looked uncertain, what with Brett Favre retiring, but all anxiety was for naught as DD took up the mantle and hosted the game for all fans to enjoy.

The weathermen predicted rain, but the one black cloud to make an appearance was more for show than any precipitating action.

My mom, sister, and I spent most of the time shuttling the little nephew back and forth to the playground. The fathers (dad and stepdad) didn’t seem to mind.

This year, in an incredible effort almost lost in overtime, the defense beat the offense, effectively ending a five-year losing streak. Good job, defense, good job.

In between innings, radio personalities and Packer wives took turns embarrassing themselves with mock sumo wrestling and human hamburger making (each lady wore half a bun costume, and a relay race to top the fake meat patty with condiments ensued).

Brat gun and t-shirt slingshot aside, it was an enjoyable day (because who really wants a brat shot out of an automatic launcher).

Photos at

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Egads, it’s Armageddon! (Part II)

On Sunday I awoke not so bright and incredibly early. Arriving at the festival grounds before any sane person deigns to roll out of bed on a Sunday, I saw that our maintenance and grounds crews had been working throughout the night to get us in tip top festival shape. I scanned the park whilst taking a mental inventory.

One tent met its end, many a woodchip from our landscaping beds was now never to be seen again, and several tons of mud was now cleverly disguised as our park.

We began the clean up process in what can only be called a worthless effort, as not three hours later it began to downpour. Our sound engineer royally fed up, quickly packed up the equipment on stage he had only just finished setting up.

The Man In Charge decided to play the rest of the day like a baseball game, and we were told to stay on call until early afternoon where we would assess the situation and decide if we would open or stay permanently closed. After an all-too-brief nap, the call came that we were commencing with the Fiesta, and we sadly trooped back to once again assess the damage, take stock, and plunge headlong into festiveness.

This time parking my car on higher ground (fool me once, and all that), I proceeded to spend the next five hours enjoying a delightful outdoor party. Needless to say, keeping the show going was a good idea and everyone was enjoying himself or herself immensely.

Then the rain came, and once again I was on stage packing electrical equipment in a lightning storm. The night ended much the same as the previous, only without the flash flood (thank goodness). I suppose it was a blessing in disguise as, all told, I ended up only working 24 hours in two days as opposed to the 32+ originally planned.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Egads, its Armageddon! (Part I)

Number of hours I worked at an outdoor fundraiser this past weekend? 23
Number of times I was on stage frantically packing sound equipment in a lightning storm and torrential downpour? 3
First time seeing a flash flood as my new car is submerged under four feet of water? Priceless

This weekend we held our annual outdoor fundraiser, which also happened to coincide with the worst storm to hit Southeastern Wisconsin in fifteen years (not including the 28 hours of blizzard we experienced in February).

Saturday started bright and breathtakingly hot. The festival was going great, event goers were enthusiastic, the atmosphere electric, when at 5:00 p.m. a black cloud came on the horizon and a tornado siren screamed in the distance.

The festival was temporarily closed and all volunteers and staff were ushered inside. Those of us running the show rushed to the stage and frantically covered the sound equipment with tarps and garbage bags as lightning flashed in the torrential downpour. Our work hastily completed, we braved the elements and ran to join the others inside.

Enjoying an open bar in the restaurant (cleverly located in the basement), not thirty minutes passed when security ran down to alert us of water gushing down the stairwell. Yes, as fate would have it, a flash flood the likes of which I have never seen, was barreling down the street and destroying our hopes of dry, working vehicles.

This photo is us enjoying ourselves in the basement Cafe whilst waiting out the storm - gloriously unaware of the flash flood about to hit.

The waters crested at approximately five feet, and then almost immediately began to recede. Assessing the damage, we waded to our cars and most of us were happy to note that they started when we attempted to move them to higher ground.

The festival grounds, meanwhile, still resembled a whitewater-rafting course, and our sound technician was unhappy to see the stage submerged in four feet of water. With rain still falling, we no longer kidded ourselves about getting soaked as we slowly traipsed over to help pack up the cables, monitors, speakers, and such.

The evening a total loss, we left together (1 route closed due to a collapsed building, several others closed due to flooding), we made plans to arrive early the next morning and assess the damage.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Great Ms. Quarter Church Search

“When men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear" (2 Tim 4:3)

Since my move to Milwaukee, I have been looking for a new church. I value the Lutheran doctrine and tradition I grew up with, however I have also been looking at local non-denominational churches as well.

In my experience, non-denominational churches have great support for members, and many ways to be grow beyond weekly worship, whereas the LCMS churches (in my humble experience) do not. At my church in college, Hope CC, there were many ways to get involved beyond 1 hour a week, and many of the classes and small groups were designed to get to the meat of God’s Word. I get excited at the thought of finding such a place in Milwaukee.

Since my search began I’ve visited a few LCMS congregations that are mirror images of the one I grew up in: church on Sunday, Ladies’ Aid, and Sunday School.

That’s it.

Sermons being preached off of a synod-wide printout, and little to no way of being more involved or delving deeper into scripture. Needless to say, I’m a little disappointed.

Not that there aren’t great LCMS churches for mature Christians where we can grow in our faith, just that I haven’t gotten to them yet. But that isn’t the purpose of this post.

What I’ve come across lately are Mega Churches, also known as Seeker Sensitive churches. You know the ones I’m talking about: they purchase billboard ads to promote their latest “relevant to your life” message, they have videographers and worship teams that make you think you’ve walked into Hollywood, and they focus on creating an “experience” that will drive in traffic and reach more "unchurched" people.

So what’s wrong with reaching the "unchurched?" What’s wrong with using your talents at videoediting, singing, or playing guitar to help fellow Christians worship God?

The problem is when the noise of the experience drowns out the Holy Spirit.

I feel that my knowledge is not adequate to fully explore this issue and argue my point, nor do I want to plagiarize another man’s work, so I will direct you, faithful reader, to a site that discusses this problem using Perry Noble as an example of a pastor committed to the Church Growth Movement (where the success of a church is defined by number of congregants, not quality of faith and teaching).

Read Perry’s thoughts here, his rebuttal to the negative feedback from those thoughts here, then a series by Scott Oliver that exposes Perry Noble’s statements and compares them to biblical teachings here.

Now, I am not saying that all Mega Churches are bad, or that all pastors are like Perry Noble (or even that God cannot work through somewhat misguided men like Perry Noble). What I am saying is that in searching for a church (or exploring Christianity for that matter), one must be cautious and realize that no one church (or pastor) speaks for all.

Biblical foundations and theology should be the same (beware of those that are not), but each church community (or denomination) is individual in teaching styles, small group organization, even hierarchy of leadership. Find one that works for you, and helps you to grow in your faith.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Worst. Movie. Ever.

My friends and I have a weekly tradition of getting together on Monday nights to watch Dexter and cook dinner. We often enjoy trying new recipes while we warm up with the latest Bill Maher on DVR.

With no new Dexter episodes since December, we resorted to TV on DVD – oldies but goodies. Being that we are big Joss Whedon fans, we started with Buffy Seasons 1-3. Alas, unable to bring ourselves to purchase or rent the awful Season 4, we wondered what next to watch and finally decided upon Angel.

Weekly viewings not giving us the opportunity to finish the first season fast enough, I spent Memorial Day weekend at their house in order to have a marathon of cooking and Angel episodes (which go together like peas & carrots, no?).

The day was lovely, we made spring rolls and cheese cups with guacamole, and managed to bang out most of Season One. We saw Doyle die, met Dennis the friendly ghost, and even saw Wesley try to be a man (which he does not achieve until Season 5).

My friends also happen to love horror movies, as do I, and so after the gorge of supernatural Whedonesque, with a few short breaks for Wii, we decided to cap off the evening with a scary thriller that would (hopefully) leave us too scared to go to bed.

30 Days of Night was billed as a “bone-chilling adaptation of the cult-hit graphic novel.”

We disagree.

The movie, indeed, is thirty days of night, which we interpreted as thirty days of hell, or at least that’s how long the 113-minute run-time feels.

The story is about an Alaskan town that is attacked by vampires during the winter. Correct me if I am wrong, but doesn’t the 24-hour darkness in Alaska last longer than thirty days? And isn’t it a gradual change, in that, you ease into the complete darkness with ever lessening hours of daylight over the course of several weeks? In other words, it’s not as if a switch flips and you suddenly go from one day of bright sunlight to the next day of pitch black night.

And don’t even get me started on the zombies from 30 Days of Night, I mean, “vampires.” After spending the day watching Angel, we know what a vampire is like, and it is not a dumb, senseless, throat ripper. No, a vampire is much more efficient in the blood drinking process, and usually wipes his mouth clean afterward.


Not Vampire (aka: zombie from 30 Days of Night)

Holes in the plotline notwithstanding, this was the dumbest, un-scariest movie I have ever seen. Twenty minutes into the epic blood fest, we fast-forwarded through the scenes until we were fifteen minutes from the end.

Sad thing is, we didn’t miss anything.

The only other movie I have had to fast forward through due to a high lameness factor is The House on Haunted Hill. In that case, I was disappointed to learn that the “evil” in the house was really a black smoky blob. Ooooh, scary.

Luckily for the townspeople in this movie, the fight culminates the last day of darkness. If they make it through, they will live to see the sun. We learn that the only way to save the town is if Josh Hartnett becomes a vampire and fights his vampire enemies – apparently he would still get the vampire strength and wiliness, but would remain human in emotion long enough to die by sunlight (on Day 31) in the arms of his somewhat girlfriend.

Explain to me why everyone else who was turned into a vampire immediately became a nasty killing machine but Josh Hartnett was okay for the last fifteen minutes of the film.

I find the scariest movies are the ones that are the most plausible. Here’s to hoping horror movie screen writers will stop being so lazy and start plugging the holes in their plot lines. Cheers.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

When I hear "Milwaukee" I think beer and pretzels

I just came across this great, great, great (think Alec Baldwin playing Tony Bennett on SNL) photo on a Google web search for "Milwaukee." This little gem, apparently, used to be a postcard, which begs the question, "why don't we get such campy postcard choices now?" The last time I was in a touristy-type store in town, all I saw were cows, farms, and skylines - hardly the retrocentric images we all know and love.

Ultimately, this image brings me back to the Twin Cities Food & Wine experience 2 years past, when my Wisconsinite friends and I spent the day visiting the Pabst booth and asking the server to, "PBR me ASAP."

Speaking of retrocentric, my new favorite e-card site is Someecards, a treasure trove of sassy, snarky e-cards perfect for when Hallmark is just too sentimental.

Monday, May 19, 2008

I Got a Brand New Pair of Roller Skates

Do you got a brand new key?

I have no idea what this song by Melanie Safka is supposed to be saying, but I think it may be about stalking. This makes sense as many crazy ladies enjoy roller-skating, I mean, have you ever been to a roller derby?

Moving on.

An avid skater in my youth, I decided to take up the activity in my adulthood. After weeks of telling friends I was planning to make the purchase, I finally did so after a minimal search (thank you Dunham’s discount sports equipment).

I arrived at the Menomonee River Parkway with skates in hand and gumption galore. Lacing them up transported me back to my tween years of skating at the local county park skate rink, the limbo and Mexican hat dance my favorite parts of those not-so-long ago Saturday nights.

The pathway was clear, and as I pushed off I got the feeling that I was not merely taking one small glide for myself, but one giant sashay for nostalgic 20-somethings everywhere.

Turns out that skating is a lot harder than I remember it to be. Every small twig equated to a subsequent jarring and balancing act. Inclines of any degree were harder workouts than the Stairmaster.

I managed to stay upright the entire time, but every time I came close to losing my balance I also experienced a decrease in my confidence. By the end of my jot I was ready to have my feet firmly planted on the ground, and my coordination back on track.

It has now been a month since my first time back in the skating saddle, and my confidence has increased tenfold. I still imagine one horrible moment where I get tripped up and plunge headlong into the pavement, but whenever this picture enters my head I no longer let it ruin my momentum.

On the docket for my next sportz adventure is getting out the clubs and heading to the nearest golf course. In the meantime, what are your favorite summer sports?

Monday, May 12, 2008

Thoughts on Investigative Journalism

Wikipedia, holder of all knowledge, states that investigative journalism is, “a type of reporting in which reporters (go figure) deeply investigate a topic of interest, often involving crime, political corruption, or some other scandal.”

I assume that such investigation requires weeks, if not months, of work, and journalists act in a professional, unbiased manner. However, in watching TMJ4 - a local news channel - the other evening, I found investigative journalism to be something much different.

Usually I abhor local news for their sensationalist reporting and rampant fear-mongering. News is exciting enough without all of the contrived drama. This instance was no different, yet I managed to catch a trailer for an upcoming segment (the need for 10 o’clock news segments to have a trailer is a discussion for another day).

The trailer advertised a piece on a local contractor who is reportedly charging too much money for his low quality work, and then befriending his hapless clients in order to extort money from them.

This man’s current client happens to be an older woman, whose family gift wrapped and delivered the story to TMJ4 in an effort to draw attention to themselves, I mean to the injustice.

The trailer for the story showcases a reporter chasing after the handyman with a microphone, and asking, “Is it your practice to steal money from the elderly?” as the man walks to his car with as much dignity as he can muster.

Perhaps this guy is a sleaze and a cheat. No doubt he is draining clients’ bank accounts in exchange for substandard home repair, but the only thing this advertisement managed to do was to make sure I was on his side before I tuned in to the presentation (a tough feat considering the guy is a con man).

Reporters chasing “interviewees” with a microphone and camera crew? Investigative journalists asking leading questions, “helping” the viewer connect the dots without giving fair chance for the interviewees to defend themselves?

Objection, Your Honor!

This is not to say that the handyman in question is not a con man who deserves to be publicly flogged, but it is to say that local news stations will stop at nothing in the name of “investigative reporting” to create drama and sensationalize a story once strong enough to stand on its own.

Which is really quite sad because it turns off educated viewers who demand unbiased news reporting based on a strong truthiness quotient (see below). Viewers like me. Which is why I now get my news from The Daily Show and Colbert Report. Because if I have to choose between sensational newsertainment or comedic newsertainment, I choose the laughs.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

America's Port - not like the wine

Last night whilst channel surfing the uninspiring 9pm CST time slot, I came across an episode of America’s Port on NatGeo. As I said in my last post, I saw the trailers for this new blue-collar reality show and was intrigued enough to take it for a test drive.

This episode began aboard the cruise ship Monarch of the Seas, as we meet the first-ever female captain. The ship is docked in Catalina, 20 miles southwest of the Port of Los Angeles. A port police dive team must go underwater and check the hull for IEDs, which I heard are all the rage in any terrorist organization.

Sixteen divers in two teams submerge, and start checking the barnacles for telltale red blinking lights and MacGyver-like digital countdown clocks.

This author must admit that barnacles have always grossed her out for reasons unknown. She becomes skittish when swimming too close to boats and/or piers, and tries to stay away from the slimy, algae-covered surfaces. Sorry, we digress.

Twenty minutes into the dive one team is fighting a wicked current and cannot continue. The other team spends the next two hours picking up the slack and no bombs are to be found. We cut to a bigwig in port authority who interviews that today is the busiest day of the year because not two, not three, but four cruise ships are scheduled to make port in L.A.

This means more passengers embarking and disembarking with much luggage to be checked for explosives and narcotics. And let us not even mention the cleaning and restocking of each cruise ship in preparation of its next voyage.

After our commercial break (so Extra gum is now billing itself as a “5 calorie snack”? What’s up with that?), it is now pre-dawn at the Port of Los Angeles. Our Monarch cruise ship is entering the channel and maneuvering in 23mph winds to find its berth.

Port authority must escort each ship through the channel, apparently to play interference between the ships and any unregistered small craft that may mean harm (see: USS Cole in Yemen). A port authority pilot takes over at the helm to guide each vessel to its pier.

As we see this pilot maneuver the Monarch, Thom Beers describes what highs winds can mean for this particular vessel, and explains that the wind could push the Monarch into an already parked ship causing billions of dollars in lost profits for the entire country. No pressure or anything, Thom.

It turns out Thom’s fears are realized as the Monarch’s lady captain takes over the wheel because a container ship, Evergreen, has just announced the dreaded Breach (Breech?). This author formerly thought breach was only in reference to births and Hollywood blockbuster films about secure computer systems, but now is told that it also refers to one of the worst situations possible in naval/maritime relations. Because of the aforementioned high winds, the Monarch is now on a collision course with the Evergreen (collision = breach).

Voice on Loudspeaker keeps announcing things like, “Breach to Evergreen three-zero,” in reference to the fact that our cruise ship is only thirty meters from impact, yet this author feels that merely announcing the obvious without suggesting any solution is hardly helpful. Not to mention the cold, inflectionless way he says it. The ships are about to crash; you think he could drum up a bit of emotion.

Alas, the crash is averted through ship-driving mechanisms unknown to me.

We immediately cut to two hours later. It is seven o’clock in the morning, and our port workers must load 90 pallets of supplies onto the Crystal Symphony, one of the four cruise ships in port today. Crystal Symphony needs to get loaded and then get the hell out of dodge as the Port has only three docks for cruise ships, yet one more ship is on its way. In other words: there’s no room at the inn, and Crystal Symphony drew the short straw.

The next twenty minutes are footage of bomb and narcotics sniffing dogs checking luggage interspersed with a stressed looking dock manager in charge of loading supplies on Crystal Symphony.

The stressed dock manager is blowing a gasket because, instead of the previously arranged 90 pallets of crap, more semi trucks keep driving in and running the tally up to over 250 pallets of crap. Explained to the uninformed viewer, this is a lot of crap to load in five hours. After a few tense minutes and one commercial interruption, all is well as the ship gets loaded and vacates the premises.

But is everything all well?

We head back to our favorite K9’s, whereupon the bomb sniffing dog sniffs a bomb, and the narcotics sniffing dog sniffs narcotics. The police handlers assure us this rarely happens, yet I am obliged to disagree as what are the odds that two things that never happen, happen on the same day?

After all living persons are cleared from the building and the bomb squad X-rays the bag, we learn that what looks like a grenade is actually a chunk of coral. We also learn that the aforementioned explosives are actually residue from when the bag’s douche bag owner transported guns and ammo to a gun range. Seriously, Dumbass, thanks for wasting everyone’s time.

The narcotics, however, turn out to be residue of previously transported marijuana. This douche bag is detained by the police and questioned. The nineteen year old answers that he does not remember what drug was in the bottle (the narcotic-smelling article in question is a prescription drug bottle), and the police officer cordially offers to test the residue in his handy on-the-spot testing kit (whereupon we learn it’s marijuana).

Cut to nineteen-year-old Douche trying not to look worried.

Commercial break (Seriously, Extra. Snack? Gum as a snack???)

At the end of the show we learn that Narcotics Douche is sent home with a slap on the wrist. What could have been a $5,000 fine, has now been turned into a lesson learned for all of America’s Port viewership.

Overall, the show has merit, though I do not enjoy the narration of Thom Beers. His voice does not convey the proper emotion and drama that Mike Rowe so easily does in Deadliest Catch.

I give it 3.5 stars out of 5.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Blue Collar Reality TV

I have a confession to make.

I am addicted to a television show.

The show? Deadliest Catch.

I don’t know what it is about this particular Discovery Channel gem that has me hooked. The drama? The intrigue? The death-defying antics? The Bon Jovi theme song?

All I know is that I cannot get enough of Phil’s sailor talk on the Cornelia Marie, or Sig’s temper tantrums on the Northwestern. Even Jonathan’s antics aboard the Time Bandit crack me up.

Perhaps it is because I highly appreciate the “suck it up” mentality the men have for their work.

Dismal fishing and 80 pots to pull and stack? Well, suck it up and get the job done, Wussy.

Toothache bothering you and you can’t eat anything? Get out the pliers and play dentist.

Do something stupid and fall into the ocean without your survival suit? Well okay, that’s cause for some concern.

Who thought that watching a bunch of crab fisherman fish for crab would be a veritable gold mine for Nielsen ratings?

Hoping to cash in on this trend of blue-collar worker turned television documentary subject, the History Channel premiered a new show called “Ax Men” which depicts life in the logging industry.

I highly enjoy History Channel’s Ice Road Truckers (again, who knew watching men drive semis on ice would be entertaining) and figured Ax Men would be the next big thing. In hopes of finding a new addiction, I tuned in last night.

Turns out I was wrong.

After watching ten minutes of the uninterrupted clear clutting of majestic pines in the Pacific Northwest, I was visibly traumatized, and had to change the channel to ABC’s Brothers & Sisters (whereupon seeing Justin fight feelings for his sister Rebecca, traumatized me a little bit more…turns out their not biologically related. *whew).

With all the talk of Sustainability, Environmental Efficiency, Global Warming, Recycling, etc, it surprises me that The History Channel would take such a gamble with Ax Men.

Green is the new black, and I find it hard to believe that other viewers are not similarly put off by the rampant destruction of a pristine forest.

One of the advertisements for the show has a man interviewing that this show is real, and it portrays an industry that has been around for centuries. This, of course, is true, but the logging industry hasn’t always been operating in a society that is riding the wave toward Environmental Consciousness.

And while I’m sure there are over 1,000 ways to get killed on any given day working as a lumberjack, I somehow wish they still transported logs by floating them downriver. Now that would make for creative film techniques.

So I am not a fan of Ax Men, and will probably never tune in again as I do not wish to fight a wave of depression. I will stick with Deadliest Catch and Ice Road Truckers as my blue-collar reality shows du jour.

My next foray will be National Geographic’s America’s Port. Stay tuned for a thorough review.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Things I Learned on the Other Side: Easy Living Segment

Busy-ness-itis is a disease that is plaguing the American workforce. I have recently succumbed to it and am in the middle of a four-week bout. Painkillers are of the Happy Hour variety, which, combined with sleeping through my alarm clock every morning, have conspired to plunge me ever deeper into the disease’s evil clutches.

As such, I have not had much time to dedicate to this little blog, and for that I apologize. During my healthy moments I have a never-ending supply of ideas for great, witty posts, but then an episode of Busynessitis will set in and all thoughts begin to tumble in my head like underpants in a dryer without Cling Free. This creates a sort of writer’s block that leaves me frustrated and annoyed.

Thus I bring to you my first post in a new series called “International Flava.” For those of you who do not know, I spent a bit of time in Eastern Europe teaching English. While there I took note of the many cultural and lifestyle distinctions that make the peoples Across the Pond so different from us Americans. This series is my commentary on these distinctions, and will serve us well until I can return to present-day social commentary once Busynessitis recedes.

We commence with “Things I Learned on the Other Side: Easy Living Segment,” a relevant topic, don’t you think?

And no, I don’t mean “Other Side” in that I died for five minutes and “crossed over.” When I say Other Side, I mean “across the pond,” and by across the pond I mean the other side of the Atlantic.

Yes, I spent some time living overseas. Yes, it was a life-changing experience and blah, blah, blah. But what’s really important to share are all of the insider tips. These range from cheap travel deals, to beauty tips, to easy living guidelines, and to, in general, different ways of doing things.

So let us commence with this first list of Tips for Easy Living from Across the Pond, Eastern Europe Style.

1. No Business May Be Done on Sundays Except Restaurant Business
Plan your grocery shopping well, visitors from the Land of 24/7 Supermarkets, because you will be in for a shock if you run out of food on Saturday night and think you will just head over to the market for some reinforcements. While you may find a few brave restaurants open for limited hours on Sunday, in many countries this day is truly a day of rest. So shut up and rest already.

2. All Shops Must Close at 5pm Every Night
In the vein of #1, most shopkeepers close their doors at 5pm. They have families, after all, and dinner is not going to make itself. We could all learn a thing or two from a successful business owner with a healthy work-life balance.

3. I Wish I Could Add ‘Take a Siesta’ but I Can’t Because This is Eastern Europe We’re Discussing
Indeed, Eastern European countries, while practicing a laid-back and easy lifestyle, do not utilize the Siesta. However, if you are a teacher, school ends at 2:00pm whereupon you are served lunch (no break for lunch during school hours, suck it up wussy). After school you are free to conduct private lessons or head home at your discretion.

That's all for this episode. Tune in another time when we will either continue with this list or begin another from the series "Things I Learned on the Other Side."

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A Revelation Whilst Antiquing

Last weekend I went antiquing. I know, after the revelations of my Senior Moments, it almost seems a natural progression to antiquing as a weekend activity, but this particular episode was entirely coincidental and unplanned.

LB and I plan a Saturday afternoon of fun in Shorewood. Saturday arrives, and we lunch at City Market, and head down to Lake Drive for a walk filled with snide comments and inventive back-story of the mansion inhabitants.

On our way to Lake Drive we see a shop called Chattel Changers, but which will now be referred to as The Store That Changed Our Lives. Allow me to elucidate.

Chattel Changers is your garden-variety antique store with a delightful array of green Depression glass and two lovely embroidered chairs in the window display that work together to grab your attention and reel you in for further exploration.

In the case of LB and I, it worked beautifully.

We enter the store expecting high-class antiques at high-class prices (this is Shorewood, after all). However, we are pleasantly surprised to see delightful old crap (one man’s trash…) at reasonable prices.

As we explore the store (rhyme unintentional), we begin with our usual commentary, discussing the antiques, the former owners of said antiques and the like, sprinkling in a heavy dose of sarcastic and witty remarks. One piece, in particular, grabs LB’s attention.

“Ms. Quarter, I’ve found the perfect set of dinnerware for you!” LB excitedly exclaims (because really, is there any other way to exclaim), holding up a fabulous 70’s Swank teacup in a shade of butter cream, decorated with orange and green flowers.

“I’m sorry,” I sarcastically reply, “but I unfortunately do not have wood paneling in my house and so the set does not match my décor. Shame.”

After this exchange we hear a set of low snickers, and as we look around for the culprits we notice a middle-aged couple hiding their giggles behind their hands. It seems they overheard our exchange and appreciate our brand of humor.

Awash in this newfound information and what it means to our future, LB and I pay for our purchases (LB with a set of madrigal-worthy goblets, me with a set of sherbet cups) and head back to the car.

The moment we are outside, LB turns to me and says, “We’re totally as funny as we think we are!”

I reply that I was just going to say the same.

We chuckle and enjoy this new revelation.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Senior Moments

Lately I have been experiencing what I will call “senior moments.” When one happens I try to write it off as a byproduct of exhaustion or distraction, but the frequency of these moments belies a more serious cause. The question is what could that cause be?

Perhaps I should explain.

Last week I was driving home from work when I came upon a major intersection. Not your typical four-way crossing, this intersection boasted five separate streets converging through one set of traffic lights.

As I made my typical left-hand turn I thought naught was amiss, that is, until roughly five blocks later when I realized that my blinker was still blinking. It’s flashing green arrow on my dashboard cruelly reminding me of all the times I accusingly labeled a fellow driver “Senior Citizen” simply because they had done the same.

Forgetful moment? Temporary deafness (in all fairness, how can anyone hear that pitiful clicking noise over Green Day)?

In shame I clicked off my signal light, and slouched down in my seat, silently apologizing to the driver behind me for committing my faux pas. For if there is nothing else that annoys me about today’s drivers (and there is plenty), it is the glaring lack of turn signal usage that plagues our streets.

In another, seemingly unrelated incident, I went to the store to buy a battery for my malfunctioning garage door opener. On my way back I was singing along to my iPod (Hawk Nelson this time), when a sign on the right caught my eye.

“Sheepshead Tournament,” it proclaimed, and I got excited at the prospect of playing an old family favorite card game.

No doubt, when members of my extended family get together Sheepshead is known to take us into the late hours of the night. Many a hospital waiting room has seen us counting trump, and airport lounges are excellent places for our own rule-breaking versions of the game.

I do not know many folks my age who even know of the game, and so I was intrigued at the prospect of trying a hand or two. Wanting to know more, I quickly scanned the sign for dates and times, only to find that the sign was outside the local VFW.

My interest waned as I pictured myself in a room full of grandfather-types who smoke Marlboro’s and drink High Life whilst calling me “Girlie” and teasing me about not having a “fella.”

Some of my interests, dare I admit it, are more of the “senior set” than others. I need not mention the golf league I am joining, nor the quilt I am stitching, but I will anyway for argument’s sake.

My latest senior moment happened just this morning. Yesterday, in a show of productivity, I cleaned my humble, dust-ridden apartment, and ithe process of cleaning my coffee maker, I left the filter basket to dry next to the kitchen sink. This morning, bleary eyed and zombie-like, I readied the coffee maker for my usual four cups of brew.

In went the water. In went the cone filter. In went one large scoop of Starbuck’s Breakfast Blend and one large scoop of decaf.

The minute I pressed the on switch, I heard the sizzle of water under the carafe. I realize that I put the filter in the coffee maker, but forgot the filter basket underneath. The coffee was subsequently dripping everywhere, and coffee grounds were escaping into the carafe at an alarming rate.

Turkish coffee, anyone?

All of these senior moments have one thing in common: they have happened within the last month. The month that just happens to lead into my upcoming birthday, whereupon I will officially leave the first Quarter Century of my life.

Perhaps, in preparation for what is to come later in life, my brain is giving me a taste of what my senior citizen days (daze?) will be like. In this way I will get used to the forgetfulness, being hard of hearing, and also learn to enjoy pursuits previously labeled Geriatric.

Perhaps I'm merely losing my mind. Only time will tell.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

A First-Timer’s March Madness – The Results Show

For those of you who watch Dancing with the Stars (I’m talking to you Drew Lachey) you know that they devote a full hour of prime time to what they call The Results Show.

For those of you who read this blog (you know who you are), you know that I recently joined the Hoops Hysteria that is March Madness for the first time ever.

“How did it go?” you anxiously ask.

Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Well, I am glad you asked, because let me tell you it was a feat to make my momma proud.

No, I did not win my bracket, but I beat out eighteen (18) other folks to take 5th place. Furthermore, I was one of only two people to pick Kansas to go all the way, the other person winning first place.

I also took 3rd place in my Facebook bracket group, the winner being my cousin who happens to be a professional ball player, thus cancelling him out and making me the 2nd place finisher. This group, however, did not have any money on the line.

After this experience, I have decided that they (whomever “they” may be) should have bracket groups categorized by skill and interest level with novices (me) competing against novices, whilst veterans compete against veterans.

My other cousin’s bowling league is organized like this, and I don’t see why a CBS Sports Bracket cannot be also.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

On the Subject of Branding

No, I am not talking about your garden-variety cattle prodding. I’m talking marketing. Specifically, organizational identity as affirmed through a strong brand awareness (garnered by use of logo, color scheme, mission statement, etc).

Mayhap I should explain.

In addition to my full time job, I volunteer my services to some local nonprofits. I sit on the Board of Directors for one in particular, and this local nonprofit is part of a larger national organization.

This weekend in Chicago was a conference for board members of all local chapters for this national organization. We met. We conferenced. We work-shopped. In all it was a productive sharing of best practices across chapter leadership.

I co-led one of these workshops, our topic being the development of a successful marketing strategy. What steps do you need to take before jumping in the deep end that is graphic design, logo standards, and shades of Pantone color processing? Well, our chapter had been through just that and we thought to help others strategically think through their plan.

In outlining these steps, a disturbing line of questioning rose to the surface. Is there a national brand all chapters must follow? How do we keep our local individuality while also adhering to the national standard? How do we balance creating a strong local brand and awareness while also contributing to the national organization?

At these questions we waited patiently for the national cohorts to pipe up and explain their stance. Cut to blank stares all around.

Apparently, the national branding of our entire organization has never before been addressed in the four years that National has been in existence.

The latest success for National is the roll out of a new technology for our online presence integrating Web 2.0. In the planning stages for this new website, I can imagine all were excited to roll out a new website for our organization, yet they never questioned if that website should have the same look across all chapters. This would have been a convenient time to have the branding discussion.

Four years ago, while establishing an entire organization (National), they never even took the time to develop a clear mission. This also would have been a prime time to discuss branding and logo standards for the entire organization.

Need I say that the lack of vision and strategic planning concerns me? I come from a marketing background and, as such, I realize I am biased toward the marketing issues, but how can you build a strong, cohesive organization without having a clear mission?

Much of the conference time was spent discussing how this national nonprofit and all of its chapters can take on the mantle of advocacy for the nonprofit sector. Nevermind that, even with all chapter membership combined, we only represent 10,000 clients. Regardless of our small numbers, how can we be an advocate and approach policy makers without having a clear, unified voice (aka: brand)?

It boggles this marketer’s mind.