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My 18-year-old daughter, a senior at Maple Grove Senior High School, graduates on June 7. In a few weeks, wings will spread and she’ll transition from a child student to an adult preparing for the start of her college experience. Wow. Where did THAT time go?

Several years ago, in her Freshman year, she spoke to a few hundred parents and students at the ninth grade honors banquet. Without a note card, without a stutter, she shared words of friendship and responsibility – words beyond her young years. Words that pushed my heart into my throat and caused my eyes to glaze over in prideful tears.

On June 7 at the Target Center in Minneapolis, she’ll once again speak to the masses. This time several thousand will listen, including the entire graduating class of 600-plus students. Her peers and friends. Her face will be on the jumbo-tron and her words will be transmitted via loudspeakers once used to announce Kevin Garnett as he took the court in a Timberwolves uniform. (Interestingly, “KG” has been one of several nicknames for my daughter through the years.)

I’ve read a draft of her planned remarks – the speech she wrote to be selected as one of two students to share thoughts and parting “best wishes” to her fellow graduates at the commencement exercise.  Without giving it all away, she’ll impart advice that an average 18-year-old isn’t likely to have thought about when setting out on a new path in life.

The phrase “e tan e epi tas” means return with it or on it. It’s a reference to Spartans leaving for battle and the sentiment the warriors’ wives shared with them when they donned their shields in preparation for a march into battle. In a nutshell, “Give it your all and make us proud.”

Before she even steps foot on the stage and utters one syllable, I’ll be proud and my heart will once again be in my throat. Seems some of what we’ve shared with her these past 18 years landed and stuck.

Stay tuned. I plan to post her short speech here next month – maybe I’ll even post the video recording.

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I Love Birthday Cake

Actually, I love the frosting on cake. But since it’s my 44th birthday today, I especially love birthday cake.

cake

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The Reps dove in the grave not with one toe, but head first.  Christopher Buckley says the party is dead in this blog post (click here).

Buckley also shares this fantastic joke:

Question: How many Republicans does it take to change a light bulb?

Answer: Three. One to mix the martinis, one to change the light bulb, and one to reminisce about how good the old one was.

Let it be known I like martinis and I don’t care if a Republican mixes them for me – as long as they’re dirty and come complete with three olives.

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Billy Bob Thornton, Kim Basinger, Mickey Rourke, Winona Ryder star in this set-in-LA movie about greed, sex, rock and roll and “the industry.” The screenplay, by Brett Ellis, highlights the continuum of those on the pinnacle of success with those in the far corners of darkness and anonymity.

I want to see this movie!

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Holiday Weekend

It’s a Friday before the big holiday weekend. You know, the weekend-before-taxes-are-due holiday. The one in which most Christian-thinking types celebrate by sitting in a church pew then racing home to roast a huge-ass ham and stuff spit-shined kids’ faces with scalloped potatoes before they run back to their video games. And we wonder why obesity has become an epidemic in our country (one in five kids are obese…I just read the study earlier this week).

So this weekend I am not celebrating Easter. I’m, instead, spending part of my good Friday evening at a place in Saint Paul called The Chatterbox with the new girl and some of her compadres. Then Saturday we’ll bike and check out my friend Chris Hawkey’s live show in Otsego. On Sunday, we’ll bike some more and try the Sunday brunch at Kafe421.  And before you  know it, Monday arrives.

But it’ll be a great weekend. Spring has arrived in Minneapolis and my tax return is already in savings.

There’s also a new movie I’m interested in called, “Sunshine Cleaning” with Amy Adams (“Doubt”) and Alan Arkin. We may try to squeeze in this flick if time. Looking ahead a few months, The Jayhawks reunite in Minneapolis this summer for the band’s only North America concert at the annual Basilica Block Party. Tickets go on sale April 24.

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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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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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In Shakespeare’s “Loves Labours Lost,” Don Adriano De Armado found himself wondering about the colors of love. Moth schools him on the nuances between women who display the obvious sea green of envy and those who hide between the white and red of fear and humility.

If she be made of white and red,

Her faults will ne’er be known,

For blushing cheeks by faults are bred

And fears by pale white shown:

Then if she fear, or be to blame,

By this you shall not know,

For still her cheeks possess the same

Which native she doth owe.

A dangerous rhyme, master, against the reason of white and red.

Whatever your color, show it. Be real.

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