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Archive for March, 2009

The venue change from downtown to Uptown Minneapolis for Stage 4 of the 2009 Nature Valley Grand Prix should result in a very popular race becoming even more appreciated.

Here’s the map of the race course. The race will tee off after work on Friday, June 12 and will include separate men’s and women’s races – 280 pro cyclists in all – on a course just over a mile in length. Average speeds should run at about 32 miles per hour.

Get ready Uptown!

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Trail Ride

As March comes to a quick close, there’s very little to complain about.

Today we ventured out on a Dakota Country regional bike path and the masses of people we shared the trail with made the obvious quite clear – spring is here at last.

The Lucky 13 Pub in Mendota, just adjacent to the bike path itself, served as our rest and recovery spot. The bar/restaurant must have some history behind it and it’s a place I definitely want to return to. Great service and a lot of happy customers inside. There’s also a patio overlooking the bike trail to sit on when the days warm up just a little more. And even though it was only 45 degrees outside, the Fat Tire beer and grilled artichokes capped the end of the bike ride perfectly.

The weekends, the rides, the conversations – never long enough.

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I sat through a lunch and learn meeting on social media yesterday. A co-worker launching a new social networking site – one of the first this company has ever considered – partnered up with a social media expert from another Fortune 500 company across town that leads the market in a number of food categories. This expert gets a six-month sabbatical from his organization to go uncover how other companies are approaching this new world of marketing/social networking (and I want that job!).

At first glance, the average outsider looking in might wonder what food has to do with medical technology. Answer: In the world of social media, it’s all frighteningly similar.

Our discussion during lunch wandered around from individual backgrounds and experience (e-marketing, corporate PR, engineering) to the rapid pace of change happening to the Internet, which has since its inception been traveling at the speed of carreraour CEO’s Porsche. Roughly six months in our everyday life equates to two full years on the Internet. And there is no speed limit on the information superhighway.

Just how do large, staid companies differentiate from those organizations in the world nimble to the ways of the ‘Net?  We cower in fear…at least at the onset.  The corporate board rooms filled with 50-something, graying men and women look quizzically at their marketing VPs talking about Twitter feeds and branded YouTube channels. They scoff at CEO blogs that actually INVITE customer feedback and potential criticism to the newly launched widget.

That is until their very own board members – other corporate leaders who are vying to stay relevant in the land of social media/networking start asking questions at the conference table.  This level of CEO-to-CXO peer pressure starts to drive the inevitable change big, fat, slow-moving companies must make. It’s not up for discussion and it’s not an if/then choice. It’s a “when” choice and the “when” was yesterday. Mr. or Ms. CEO, if you missed the boat, you’re going to do more than get your feet wet if you hope to catch up. There is no room for another mistake.

Given the macro-economic state of the world, a fever pitch now resides with all things social media/networking. Nothing is more “mission critical.” To message to customers – to actually sell product and generate revenue, compete and be legitimate – companies simply must open the door on this next phase of marketing.

And really, it’s just the sands of business paradigms shifting yet again – like they  always do. The landscape might feel new, but the level of risk and reward is the same as past transitions.

The ride, however, is vastly more interesting than anything I’ve ridden to date.

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Blue Heaven, Key West

There’s a popular little outdoor restaurant in Key West that all tourists must find – at least that’s what we were told by nearly everyone who offered advice on “definitely do.”

So on Day Two out on the island, we walked to Blue Heaven. While neither of us ordered the famed lobster eggs benedict, we did have an awesome avocado omelette and a blueberry pancake.  No Bloody Mary’s before Noon, unfortunately. Still, Blue Heaven served as a great reminder to those of us in the upper Midwest: There’s something about breakfast outdoors that amplifies the flavor of all foods.

key-west-cheri_chuckHere we are waiting patiently for our table at Blue Heaven’s bar (no drinking before Noon on Sundays). Who looks hungover?

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Bail Out

I’m not a fan of government bailouts. Unless the government is writing a check directly to me, that is.

But the billions our government is opting to spend in order to keep companies like AIG afloat seem like a monsterous waste of money. I’ve written about why these companies should be allowed to go bankrupt before. Seems as though billions could be used to do a lot of good in the world versus spent on risky bets – bets the masses of humanity will never benefit from at all.

For as long as mankind has walked the earth, those who help themselves tend to rise above the fray. It’s just as true today as it’s always been. It’s also all a matter of perspective. My mom grew up as a child during the depression. She rose above the fray by taking on odd jobs when she was only 10 years old. She cleaned houses, did laundry and cooked meals for the families who could afford it, then she went home and helped her mother do the same for their family of 11. What did she gain from that experience? An unflappable work ethic and the knowledge of the value of a dollar.

Mom was never wealthy. She never had the money to travel lavishly, buy the best clothes, own the nicest furnishings, or even remodel her kitchen in the exact way she wanted. But she was happy, just the same. When she earned her own money and bought her own things (with cash) there was a sense of accomplishment on her face.

Few people today grow up in the same way Mom did. The ethic among us today is watered down and soft. The satisfaction that once came with a day’s wage for a day’s work and paying cash for new shoes or a good used car no longer delivers a sense of self-satisfaction. Cash? What’s that? We buy with credit. Buy now. Pay later.

So our country’s economy stumbles because the rich have gotten greedier while the middle class and the poor have stopped worrying about their ethics. We’ve forgotten how our parents and grandparents did things. We’re the “me too” culture chasing after something we’ll never catch, but willing to risk our retirements on the chase just the same. At all costs.

And now, we have yet another target to point our fingers at and cast off all blame. It’s the AIG’s of the world who did this to our economy. Blame them. Protest them. Picket their office complexes and send death threats to their millionaire employees who got rich off the backs of the rest of us.

My Mom would have clucked her tongue at them, too. But she would have said, “Glad I don’t have to walk in their shoes.” And she would have slept well each night in her own satisfied way.

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Key West Sun Sets

In Key West, the tourists travel to see the sunset. Apparently the sun setting on the Gulf of Mexico is unlike any other. I’ll attest to the fact that it dropped swiftly into the sea to the applause of several hundred onlookers on Mallory Square. And once dusk arrived, we returned promptly to our drinking.

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The South Beach of Miami and Key West held a varitable cornocopia of sites to see. We arrived on the front end of Spring Break, which meant plenty of youth, energy, martinis, mango margueritas, and Cuban pork (with black beans and yellow rice).

Best takeaways of 96 hours out of Minneapolis…

  • Exit and bulkhead row seating
  • No winter coat, no jeans and no socks
  • Manual elevators at Merv Griffin’s Blue Moon
  • The Seven-Mile bridge
  • Wandering roosters
  • Sand
  • Grey Goose martinis with triple olives (make mine dirty)
  • SPF 15
  • Self-guided tour of Key West on motor scooter
  • Hemingway’s Key West home complete with plenty of writing inspiration
  • Late night key lime pie and coffee at the Grand Cafe
  • Local artists
  • Walking Eastwardly for the best Cuban restaurant on the planet
  • 801 Duval
  • Peel and eat shrimp with horseradish
  • Tiki Bars
  • Helping the directionally challenged
  • The Southernmost Point
  • Blue Heaven’s avocado omelette
  • It’s a small island
  • No wristwatch

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America’s storied auto behemoth, General Motors, stands on the edge of a financial cliff. Should it jump? Or should the government throw it yet another rope in an attempt to shore it up and save the giant from bankruptcy?

Truth is GM can’t pull itself out of the tailspin it’s in. GM should file for bankruptcy and remake itself as a much smaller and focused car company if it hopes for a legacy to be part of the future.

Here are five good reasons why GM should file for bankruptcy:

1) GM must realize filing for bankruptcy won’t hurt the company’s already beleaguered image and brand. The cloud of bankruptcy won’t keep people from buying GM cars. Hell, no one is buying them now.

2) In an effort to save itself, GM is reducing research and development spend, which means little or no new, green-friendly hybrids (i.e., the kinds of cars people want to buy). Bankruptcy gives them a chance to refocus on marketable cars of the future.

3) GM can’t compete. Mercedes has a plan to transition its entire lineup of cars to alternative fuels by 2015. GM is cutting R&D by $1.5 billion by 2012, which allows them to stay operative for…one month.

4) The brain cluster at GM continues to lobby California lawmakers to prevent a law requiring car makers to reach an average fuel efficiency standard of 36 mpg. Kinda says it all, doesn’t it? Bankruptcy might help GM understand the landscape has changed since the 1960s.

5) Even with the government’s tens of billions in bail-out money, people at GM will lose their jobs. Bankruptcy will likely save more jobs than the bailout will provide.

Why should we care? Isn’t it more wise to see billions of dollars diverted to things that have a chance of survival vs. burning that cash on the GM fire.

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Through unknown circumstances and perhaps some odd twist of six degrees of separation, I’m on a hate-e-mail list of people opposed to the Iditarod sled dog race held annually in Alaska – and of sled dog racing in general.

Members of this hate group have sent me, and more than 100 other people on “the list,” approximately 300 e-mails in the past two weeks asking me to stop sponsoring and/or supporting the Iditarod.

For the record, I assure everyone publicly I’ve never made a financial contribution to the Iditarod or any of its participants. Although the event sounds like a fun one – and, if pushed, I may have to go to Alaska just to watch. Perhaps this hate-group could send me cash for airfare and hotel accommodations so I can travel 2,000 miles to witness first hand the sled dog racing atrocities and the bottomless pit of suffering the dogs are put through, which I allegedly support.

It’s also important to note that I’ve never even made a positive comment to a sled dog race team owner. Not so much as a pat on the back or a hearty, “Well done” have slipped from my lips to anyone who harnesses dogs to a sled and commences mushing. That’s not because I have anything against the Iditarod. Afterall all, I’ve never even watched the race on TV, let alone EVEN MET a musher or his/her mushees.

Notably, there’s a storied history of sled dogs and how the phenomena started as well as its popularity today. I’m not going to provide the link here, however, because in doing so someone in the hate group might view it as supporting the activity, which I don’t – although I’m leaning more toward that side of the fence after reading up on the hobby.

I will, however, post the form letter I’ve received via e-mail some 300-plus times (see below).  It’s ironic, isn’t it, that those professing my sponsorship and abuse of sled dogs are abusing my e-mail address to convey a point in which I’ve now sided with their very opposition (almost)…to a point (because I have not, nor plan to make a financial contribution or send a shout out to any sled dog owner).

I might pet a dog though, once they’re done with their work day.

What’s more ironic to me is that within the United States, 1 in 50 children are homeless every day. Let’s not even think about how many of these children didn’t eat a meal last night or didn’t get a goodnight kiss from their mom or dad, because mom and/or dad work two jobs and still must decide whether to pay rent or buy groceries. And let’s not factor in the clear and present danger that exists when these children go to school each day, unable to learn at their full capacity because they are running on empty, wearing clothes found in the garbage and getting short-shrifted by teachers who view them as lost causes.

Yeah, instead, let’s put our money and interests on the abused sled dogs of America because, as we all know, dogs should receive far better treatment than do our own children. Dogs deserve to be placed on the doggie pedestal and revered from afar. Kids are resilient. They’ll bounce back from adversity. Dogs, though, they deserve much, much more.

Note from hate-group e-mailer (N. Pennington in Seattle, WA). Pennington has no idea who I am or why she is e-mailing me. Moreover, she has no proof that I’ve supported sled dog racing or the Iditarod.

Dear Iditarod Supporter:
Please end your organization’s support of the Iditarod dog sled race. For the dogs, this event is a bottomless pit of suffering. What happens to the dogs during the Iditarod includes death, paralysis, frostbite (where it hurts the most!), bleeding ulcers, bloody diarrhea, lung damage, pneumonia, ruptured discs, viral diseases, broken bones, torn muscles and tendons and sprains. At least 136 dogs have died in the race. No one knows how many dogs die after this tortuous ordeal or during training. For more facts about the Iditarod, visit the Sled Dog Action Coalition website, http://www.helpsleddogs.org.

Sincerely,
N. Pennington
Seattle, WA 98136

Thanks N. Pennington from Seattle, WA.  Your points are so heartfelt and human that I almost wish I cared. I’m sure that right in your own backyard of Seattle some homeless, starving child with no dad and a mother strung out on meth is wishing he or she could join your cause and make a difference in the life of just one sled dog. Why not start recruiting now? My guess is the line of petitioners would grow if you just offered a hot meal and a cot in a warm, dry garage.

Those of you interested can catch coverage of the Iditarod on Versus.

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R&R in Key West

I’m going here. To Key West, Fla. An extended weekend is coming up and I am stoked about getting out of Minneapolis at a time when snow and colder temps are in the forecast.

mainkeysIt’s been nearly two years since I’ve taken a real vacation. There are many places I haven’t traveled, but a warm weather, on-the-beach-vacation sounds like a perfect way to regenerate energy for the balance of winter in Minnesota.

More details to come on the trip and sites seen.

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