Archive for November, 2007

Fun Friday

Here at the office, there are many meetings and many conference rooms. These meetings frequently start as early as 7 a.m. and may last all day. Meeting coordinators will pre-order breakfast and lunch to be delivered to the conference room. This way, the only reason attendees need to leave the meeting is to use the restroom. Restrooms are not built into each conference room at this facility.

EatThe in-house food service vendor does a bang-up job delivering the pre-ordered meal. A skirted table, chaffing dishes, an assortment of beverages, napkins, silverware, dinner plates. It’s all quite nice for a corporate in-house breakfast or lunch.

And the best part about it? When the meeting ends and food still remains outside the conference room door.

This morning, for example, our CIO conducted a breakfast meeting with six of his key staff members. They used a conference room right next to my office and a traditional American breakfast was served – it was enough to feed a small department of hungry men. Which means there were ample “leftovers.”

As soon as the meeting broke and the group departed to their offices, someone in my department noticed and announced, “there are leftovers – get them while you can!” Eggs, quiche, coffee cake, fruit, muffins – you name it. It was like a Mother’s Day breakfast buffet and everyone got something.

Now that, my friends, is a great way to start a Friday.


Photo Credit: Paramount’s Great America, Santa Clara, CA from CBCastro’s Flickr Page


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A Day Like That

Most weekday mornings begin the same way. Alarm chimes from my mobile phone – followed by 10 to 20 minutes of snoozing. It’s harder to get out of bed this time of year – pulling the blanket and comforter back always results in goosebumps.

There’s not many better sounds than that of coffee percolating. I make just two large cup fulls. Freshly showered, shaved, dressed, and (partially) caffeinated and awake, I commute to work. Garage to parking ramp is 20 minutes.

My job is the type of job my dad would have hated – and not understood. I spend most of the day at a desk in front of a computer. Part of my role in PR is monitoring news for the company about the health care industry, including competitors and general local business and economic news. The other aspect of my role is talking to news journalists about various aspects of the medical device business and the role my company plays in the trillion dollar health care industry.

Today included two unusual events. First, a quarterly briefing from the CEO. With 38,000 employees worldwide, keeping everyone up to speed on the company’s successes and challenges is a challenge in itself. A live webcast reaches everyone’s desktop and is available for replay for those sleeping in Japan, China and Australia.  The main message today: It’s been a difficult quarter, but the company managed the adversity better than anyone expected. There’s still reason to feel optimistic for the rest of the fiscal year and several good initiatives in place that will enable the company to achieve its financial goals.

After a few phone calls, lunch, and a couple hours tweaking on a report I’ve been putting together for the past two weeks, I meet with my vice president – another irregular event, but welcomed. The VP who runs the comms department is a driven, 30-something, sharp-as-a-tack professional who knows how to get things done. She also values good people on her team and I’m fortunate to be one of those good people (there are many – in fact the halls of this company are filled with Rhodes Scholars, medical specialists and Ph.D-ed people, making me often wonder what I’m doing among these people with maximum brain power full on all the time).  Twenty minutes later I’m back at my desk. It’s now too late in the day to start anything new, so I fire off answers to a few e-mails and do one last check on breaking news sites to see if a certain Wall Street Journal opinion piece is posted online just yet. It’s not.

My role includes not just tracking news but helping journalists frame their stories and tell them – at the very least objectively. When lucky, we obtain a few quotes that convey the right messages we want to leave with the general public. It’s all about the message. The form of delivery and the way it’s received. On a good day, all questions are answered (there’s no such thing as “no comment” anymore), the positive stories outweigh the negative and there are no bad surprises.  Good surprises are always welcomed.

Time to go home.


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A few days ago fellow blogger, Kitty, tagged me with an assignment of sorts. I’m not prone to taking on blog assignments, but this seemed like a good way to express how various individuals place themselves in a creative mind set to write. So I’m tagging wordsmith extraordinaire, communicatrix, dame wiggy, Fat Cyclist, and misty mockingbird to get their inputs as well.

The assignment: Think of THE song that most inspires you to write, whether it gives you an idea for a story, script or just puts you into a better frame of mind AND/OR peek into the lyrics and find a verse that sums up the theme of whatever project it is you’re working on. If possible, post a video of the song to convey to readers the full context of the song and the mood it puts you into. Finally, send the assignment to five other writers to do as well.

Here’s mine:

Sheryl Crow, “The Difficult Kind”

Tell it to me slow, tell me with your eyes
If anyone should know, how to let it slide
I swear I can see you, comin up the drive
There ain’t nothing like regret to remind you you’re alive

If you could only see, what love has made of me
Then I’d no longer be, in your mind, the difficult kind
Cause ‘babe, I’ve changed


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Wordplay – Lugubrious

Contrary to popular rumors and beliefs, the word lugubrious has nothing to do with loogies, gooey substances or brie cheese that’s gone bad in the fridge.

Lu-gu-bri-ous is just another way to say you’re super sad or mournful – to a very exaggerated or even ludicrous extent.

Jason Mraz writes in his song, “I’ll Do Anything,”

I can be lugubrious with you.

Placed in the lyric’s context, Mraz is simply stating he’s willing to sit with his sweetheart and be mournful in the moment if that’s what it takes.

Lugubrious. In my teenager daughter’s world, it’s an “emo” word with a lot of weight.


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Guys, whether you’re handy or not, there are certain power tools you should definitely have on hand.

While asking for that bottle of 20-year-old scotch or case of cigars may seem like a prudent “guy” gift request, when the significant other asks you this year, “Honey, what do you want for Christmas?” be prepared with a list of ideas that includes a decent tool or two. You’ll raise her eyebrows and simplify her shopping experience.

Cordless Drill: A cordless drill is especially useful if you need to drill holes in an ongoing project. It can also help with those hard-to-manage pivot holes you need when screwing, and you won’t need to change out the screws between using the screwdriver and cordless drill. Home use drills are usually three-eighth inch, while anything larger is usually considered commercial size.

Cordless Screwdriver: A cordless screwdriver will help you finish small tasks that need a bit of power. Like screwing furniture from IKEA together or drilling small holes for picture frame hanging. Look for a cordless screwdrivers with reverse action, which allows you to back out a screw if needed.

Power Circular Saw: Power circular saws do come in cordless models, but be sure to get one with plenty of power if you go that direction. Electric models offer the juice you need to slice through all kinds of materials and are much easier and faster than regular hand saws. If you need to cut large 2x4s or other lumber, such as particle board, the circular saw is your tool. Usually, a power circular saw can cut up to three inches in depth and have multiple blade options.

Jig Saw: The jig saw will help you complete more intricate work, such as cutting around edges, for example. Jig saws give you the ability to make those tough, tight cuts with simplicity.

Cordless Finish Nail Gun: Cordless finish nail guns provide the speed, durability, and power that you’ll come to expect and appreciate. The key benefit of a finish nailer is how it provides you with the readiness to fire and deliver consistency with each nail penetration that traditional nailing can’t provide.

Two other tools for good measure:

  • Four foot level: A man with a four foot level will be able to make just about anything…well…level. Plus you’ll look like you know what you’re doing standing outside facing that “project.”
  • Belt sander: At some point you simply must be able to make rough objects smooth. A good belt sander will deliver.


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Random and Useless Meme

Egads! A friend tagged me with a meme. I could refuse. I could hold fast and pretend I was never tagged. But, I’m a friend and I value the few real friendships I have. So…

Seven Random and Useless Things About Me Meme (in video and pictures):

1) I like South Park (the TV show). I’ll admit, when the show first aired, I rolled my eyes. But for the past couple years, I’ve laughed my ass off at Cartman, Kyle, Mr. Mackey and all the f*ckin’ idiots on “South Park.” There’s no contribution to society here, just pure gutter humor. And I love it!

2) I’m moved by certain songs I hear live. Growing up a musician, I have an uber appreciation for solid lyrics and well-written arrangements. Hearing some songs live will leave me with a lump in my throat and watery eyes. Call me a pussy – music has the ability to kick my ass.

Kids3) I continue to be a great dad in spite of being divorced. Like many people, I’m not good with conflict. Disagreements on parenting left me frustrated. Now the kid’s mother and I talk more about the kids, rationally, than we ever could living under the same roof. And I sleep better at night for not feeling cornered into parenting in a certain way.

4) Tanqueray, pinot grigio, and Stella Artois. These are the various alcoholic drinks I prefer…rank ordered from first to last. However, I don’t turn down a drink when someone else is buying; and keg beer in the summer still tastes damn good.

Greys5) Grey’s Anatomy bugs the shit out of me. Does anyone else not like this show? Am I the only one who would rather watch the History Channel’s series on the invention of the Colt 45 revolver vs. watching Grey’s? The best thing about this show is the lead actress’s name: Meredith. Love that name! The rest is crap.

6) I like shoes. I’m not even going to include how many pairs of shoes I own, but let’s just say that I feel a little embarrassed by the number of shoes in my closet – so much so that I’ll donate a pair or two to Goodwill every year.

Caribou7) Coffee makes my day 10 times better. No matter what time of day or night, a good black coffee is tough to beat. There’s not much that compares to wrapping my hands around a warm mug filled with dark java – no cream, no sugar – just black. If I was a millionaire, I’d work as a barrista.


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Giving Thanks

Today at the dinner table, I’ll sit with my two kids for a brief dinner that I worked all morning to prepare. And that’s OK, because that’s how life is and while I’m separated by 700 miles from the rest of my immediate family, I’ll give quiet thanks for:

My two kids. They mean the world to me and I’d do anything for them…anything. They’re in their teens already and soon one will be in college. In a matter of just a few years they’ll both be “just visiting” on Thanksgiving, engaged in life full-on.

A good job. After 15 years in journalism and PR, I’ve spent the last two years with the company I feel I’m destined to be serving. This company does more good for people than I can possibly explain. In fact, every five seconds, someone’s life is saved or improved through the technologies my company provides. It’s a pleasure to have a career with Medtronic.

Health. I’m 42, and my doc tells me I’m in good shape. I completed a sprint triathlon earlier this year and plan to do it again in 2008.

Friends. You know who you are. From co-workers to those “in the city,” to friends I’ve met through this blog, I’m grateful to all of you and hope I’ve brought a few smiles to your faces.

Seasons. Living in the ‘burbs of Minneapolis means all four seasons strike at the appropriate times of the year. While summer and fall are my faves, the first snowfall (which is happening as I write this) makes me all warm and tingly inside.

Words. Writing is my life. Thanks to all the words that flood my noggin and exit my fingertips.

Freedom. Many will argue that our rights in the U.S. are slipping away. Well folks, we still live in a country founded on freedom and while the definition of the term may shift and change because of world events, how we embrace freedom is up to us…not the government. Have faith in our history and our foundation.

Music. Egads! Imagine life without your favorite musician. Artists like David Gray, Bonnie Raitt, the Dave Matthews Band, and a plethora of emerging indie artists make life so very much better.

Cycling. I think because of the Minnesota winters that last and last, I’ve come to appreciate my cycling habit all the more. Each March/April when the bike comes of the trainer and hits hard pavement again, is just like riding for the first time all over again – except I have the balance thing figured out already.

Coffee. A guilty pleasure, try as I have in the past to decaffeinate myself. But I’m through with those silly notions.  My occasional skim vanilla latte and low-fat scone is not gonna kill me. On other days a nice dark roast (Xs two or three) does much more than get me through a busy morning.

Movies.  Last night “Van Helsing,” at the request of my son, and today I’m watching “Bullitt” with Steve McQueen. In fact the famous car chase through San Francisco is just getting started. What better way to entertain ourselves on a holiday weekend?

There are many other things I’m thankful for in life. I’ve had conversations with a very wise woman about the simple pleasures that make life better. Quiet weekend mornings, a nap, a good book, security in the fact that you’re in charge of the day. These are things I’m grateful for – and not just today, but every day.


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A Cat And A Bobbin

When I was first married – during that very first year of wedded bliss, actually – my then-wife’s cat swallowed a sewing bobbin. This story is about that event.

Gucci was a handsome gray Siamese cat — a purebred blue tip or silver tip Siamese — something of that nature. He was part of the marriage package and we got along quite well (the cat and me). And as cats go, he was curious and temperamental.

In that first year of marriage, we lived in a small two bedroom apartment above a furniture store on main street in smallville Iowa. My former wife enjoyed crafty things as many women do. In fact she was an interior designer at the time and our little flat was appropriately decorated with fineries that managed to find their way home from the design studio in her super-sized carrying bag. The spare bedroom was the crafts room and in it was all her sewing gear. It’s here where she made linen shower curtains and tie backs, draperies, costumes, pillows and other crafts too. It’s also here that Gucci found the sewing kit that included tiny bobbins loaded with various colored thread.

One evening, when my children’s mother returned home from work she found Gucci racing about the apartment at high speed – slamming his hind end into a wall and spinning about to race the other direction. She finally caught up with him and noticed a Bobbinlength of thread coming from his ass. Purple thread. She naturally pulled the thread thinking it would come out. It did not. Gucci, the magic cat, had a piece of magic thread and somewhere in his bowels sat a bobbin spinning inside him whenever he licked at the thread, or whenever someone pulled on it.

It was time to pay a visit to the local vet.

After a few x-rays, the vet confirmed that the cat had, indeed, swallowed a bobbin. The vet explained that because of the bobbin’s size, the cat would not likely pass it naturally. This left two options: a) surgery and b) “assisting” in the passage of said bobbin.

We were newly married. We had no disposable income to afford on a cat surgery…in fact we were so poor we bought the large package of Wonder Bread, divided the loaf evenly and froze half to make sure it would sustain us for a full two weeks. With the vet’s agreement, we opted for Option B in hopes the bobbin could be pushed from Gucci’s intestines.

Holding the cat firmly on the vet’s exam table, Mr. Vet began massaging Gucci’s abdomen. He worked the bobbin slowly and within a minute or two, “clink, clink…” the metal bobbin met the metal exam table and the cat gave a huge sigh.

I’d like to say Gucci returned to his normal state after that episode. However, upon returning home he promptly chewed all the fur from the base of his tail and wouldn’t let anyone near him for a week. He was inconsolable. He did, eventually, become a shadow of his old, pre-bobbin, self…but it took a few months. Perhaps cats have short memories.

He lived to be 17 years old and provided many humorous stories – many of which involve hairballs in the middle of the night.


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Happy Thanksgiving Day

To my readers:

Happy Thanksgiving Day, everyone (a wee bit early)!

I know most of you don’t leave comments and I’m cool with that. I’m just happy to have the regs stopping by and enjoying the posts that bring life to “Views from Minnesota.” The past couple days have been some of the “most visited” days recorded on this little blog, and for that I’m very grateful. Seems the interest in the Cities 97 Sampler and the “Hallelujah” tune from Ms. Carlile are quite popular.  In just a few months of blogging this Interweb site is well into the five figures for visitors.

Many more posts to come.

Thanks again for the support and occasional comments.

Enjoy the extra doses of tryptophan on Thursday (they say you’ll eat 5,000 calories when you sit down for Thanksgiving dinner – that’s a whole pound-and-a-half of food!). Kinda makes you want to go for a brisk walk, doesn’t it.



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Brandi Carlile has made this song, by legendary songwriter, singer and poet, Leonard Cohen, her anthem of sorts – closing her shows with one of the best covers of all time. Stick with this ’til the end, when she clearly shows her range and talent.


Now, I’ve heard there is a secret chord
That David played, and it pleased the Lord
But you don’t really care for music, do ya?
It goes like this: the fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift
The baffled king composing hallelujah

Hallelujah, hallelujah
Hallelujah, hallelujah

Your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew ya
She tied you to her kitchen chair
She broke your throne, and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the hallelujah


Well darling, I’ve been here before
I’ve seen this room and I’ve walked these floors
You know, I used to live alone before I knew ya
I’ve seen your flag on the marble arch
And love is not a victory march
It’s a cold and it’s a broken hallelujah


Well, there was a time when you let me know
What’s really going on below
And now you never show that to me, do ya?
Remember when I moved in you
And the holy dove was moving too
And every breath we drew was hallelujah


Maybe there’s a God above
But all I’ve ever learned from love
Is how to shoot somebody who outdrew ya
And it’s not a cry that you hear at night
It’s not somebody who’s seen the light
It’s a cold and it’s a broken hallelujah


Hallelujah … hallelujah


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