Friday, December 19, 2008

KC BBQ Tour Stop: Snead's

In consultation with fellow barbecue enthusiast and aficionado Martin, it was settled that our destination for this particular Kansas City trip would actually be in Belton, MO, just south of the metroplex, to a family-owned establishment since the early 60's, Snead's BBQ. We wanted to try a place that neither of us have been, knowing that our favorites will still always be there for us.

Snead's uses nothing but hickory for their fire & smoke, and what immediately got our attention was the fact that they use absolutely no seasoning or rub or any kind on their meat. It's completely naked when served, with two kinds of homemade recipe sauces on the side to try. The brisket was excellent, as was the pork shoulder (shaved, not pulled, an interesting touch). The ribs were gigantic and meaty, but were lacking in flavor due in part to no seasoning, but still tasty & smoky. Deciding that a 3-meat platter would not suffice, Martin & I decided to also split a "smoked meat log" on a long bun. Essentially it's smoked pork, brisket, ham, and turkey, finely chopped & placed on a hoagie bun. Gorgeous.

When it came down to Martin & myself in an unofficial eating contest, he had pretty much starved himself all day, which clearly gave him the edge. He walked through the heaping piles of smoked flesh like he was a starving soccer player stranded in the Andes Mountains. It was both beautiful and appalling to watch. My wife and our friend Brooke, along with a couple of wait staff, looked on in horror as we slopped away. Dining with us at a BBQ establishment is not for the squeamish, as clearly depicted in the photos. The scene will likely repeat itself within the next few months, after a thorough colon cleansing and several bowls of oatmeal for artery flushing. Fresh as a daisy! Thanks to Snead's & their pitmaster for turning out good product that is done the family way. Just the way it should be.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Life Without a Plug-In

While the blog has been neglected lately, time spent either used wisely or thoroughly wasted sitting in front of a computer has not gone unchecked in the past few weeks. First off, I went and did something I swore to myself that I'd never do. I got entangled in the sticky web that is Facebook, and the harder I've tried to wriggle out of its clutches, the tighter its grip has become. So now, like millions of others, I'm a pseudo-Facebook degenerate. I mean, hell yes I need to know when Karen is done delivering cookies, or that Lyndsi doesn't do mornings, or that Steve thinks it's too cold outside. I need to know these things. Now. Refreshing every 5 minutes as to not miss something. Hey, it's been great to reconnect with so many people. But still.....as many have acknowledged with me, it really is the equivalent to online crack addiction.

It's made me finally get to the point of contemplating if we (or maybe just I) could go a weekend day, maybe a full weekend....hell, maybe even a work day, without a computer, a cell phone, even television or the radio. It's ridiculous to think that we can't. Of course we can. I think about when I was a kid and all I needed was a few Hot Wheels cars and a flat surface, a couple of plastic WWF wrestlers to stage a brawl with, or the marble game at Granny Ocle's house. If I was outside, it was a baseball bat hitting rocks over the road (Home Run!), or endlessly riding the alleys around town on my bike. Later in my teens it was playing "Shaq Ball" at Chantry Elementary on the 9 ft. hoop, playing golf around the farm, or playing the drums for hours on end. I didn't need electronic stimuli 24 hours a day, like I seem to need now. Just the other night, I stayed up and read the latest on the ISU Football coaching situation (because THAT'S important shit, right?), online of course. Then for bedtime, how about watching Intervention until I finally decide enough is enough at 1:15 AM. Stupid. No wonder I'm a terrible morning person.

As I begin to reflect on 2008, it's human nature to say that I will "start fresh" in the new year, kicking serious ass on getting up in the morning, working out religiously, eating right, reading (and finishing) no less than 3 books a month, and on and on..... But what's keeping us all from starting fresh with something right now? And why do we feel so compelled to cramming umpteen new "habits" into our lives all starting at the same time? We're doomed for failure from the start with that strategy, which is why a lot of us are no better off with the resolutions we made at the beginning of the year than we are today. And the cycle repeats itself every January 1st. Awesome.

I say a good place to start is by recognizing the things in life that need some tweaking. it's not so much that we need to quit technology cold turkey, but man....wouldn't it be nice to just sit in some peace & quiet every now & then, knowing that the only thing you have to be doing in that moment is just be with yourself for a while? I'm wanting to embark on a pretty ambitious project that's been in various stages of "Pending" for a few years now, and one of the requirements of the project would be just that....a lot of time with myself, reflecting and writing. Pen and paper. Early morning. And some coffee, of course. But what it will really take is not necesarilly new habits, but some times IN habit. A conversation I had with Jason Womack when he was passing through town a while back brought that revelation to light. You don't form habits forcing yourself to do something. You form habits by spending quality time performing those actions you wish to become habits. A subtle but powerful thought right there.

So what does that mean in regards to technology and it's stranglehold on our collective brains? It simply means to recognize the issues arrising from a lack of quality time spent using those tools, and subtley shifting our focus to spending times IN habit on the the things that matter to us....Not just the superficial stuff, but the the stuff deep down. Here's another idea that maybe worth doing a few times between now & then on our own: Shutdown Day. Going offline for 24 hours. Why save it for a vacation day? Why not once a week? Just a thought.

So I'll be spending some time in habit pulling away from the screens from time to time, and shut it down, go offline, reboot, and (insert another lame techie adjective here) to reconnect with the things that are truly important. Join me. Just don't update your progress on Facebook to tell everyone how it's going.

So now, as Merlin would say, get out of here and go make something good.

Note: Yes, the UUK Staff acknowledges that the views & opinions expressed in this post do not reflect, and in fact fly completely in the face of, any and all previous content on this site. We're okay with that. Hope you are, too. Carry on then...

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Unchained



Van Halen, Unchained, Largo, MD 1983. Any seasoned fan knows which era of VH was best.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Monday, November 24, 2008

Wedding Day: Scattered, Smothered & Covered

Pour yourself a cup of coffee, light up a smoke, grab a box of Kleenex, and let the waterworks flow......

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Coming Soon to a Coastline Near You

You would think that a weather geek such as myself would've seen this coming. Nope. It was my brother who had the keen senses to pick up on this one, and he eagerly passed it on to me. I'm not sure what to make of this revelation, frankly. Should I be excited? Terrified? I don't know. All is know is that Hurricanes "Bill" and "Ida" are coming in 2009.

Let me repeat that. Hurricanes "Bill" and "Ida" are coming in 2009. Folks, this is not a drill. Buy your plywood. Fill your bath tubs. Make sure the generator runs. Get ready.

I can likely predict how this will go. Since they pick names in the order of the alphabet, "Bill" will be an early season tropical storm, likely in the far southern Gulf Coast. Characteristically, he will be a relatively normal, tired early season storm, maybe not even reaching hurricane strength. He'll be early to form, and early to fizzle out (as depicted here).

Hurricane 'Ida", on the other hand, will be a completely different story. Ida will form early, and become a persistent, ever-present force. You will know when she hass arrived, and she will definitely leave a memorable mark in her wake. She will be very windy; sustained winds will be of high magnitude. One thing is for sure, it will not be easy to forget Hurricane Ida once she is gone. Likely a Gulf Coast hurricane, Ida likes a good party, so it is only fitting that New Orleans is where she makes her landfall.

There you have it folks. Hurricanes "Bill" and "Ida", coming in 2009. Prepare yourself. Now.




Friday, November 14, 2008

10 Years Ago.....

I sat in Zachary's Sports Bar in West Des Moines, which was the official watch site for both the KSU Cat-Backers, and the Nebraska Alumni Association. The 9-0 K-State Wildcats finally had the team, the talent, and thepotential to get a win against Nebraska, a team for 30 straight years which had embarassed them on an annual basis, home or away.

Nebraska was down 34-30 with about 2:30 left to play in the game. In their own territory, NU faced 4th & 8. The redshirt freshman Eric Crouch dropped back to pass, and his facemask was introduced to the ring finger of KSU middle linebacker Travis Ochs. Feeling aa bit of a buzz, and fueled on by the energy of the game itself, I, along with every other person in the place jumped out of their seats, both horrified from the fact that Crouch had just had his head on backwards, and enraged that for as obvious to everyone either at the game or watching around the country, there was no flag to be found on the cold turf in Manhattan. K-State took over on downs, and proceeded to score again before the final whistle. They had finally beaten Goliath. K-State 40, Nebraska 30.

Historians will argue that the famous Colorado 5th Down against Missouri, or the Penn State out of bounds no-call against NU in 1982 would be in the running.....but the pictures do not lie. Travis Ochs' facemask sack of Eric Crouch is hands-down the biggest, most flagrant no-call in college football history.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

I voted for Bruce Dickinson.


Yes, the Bruce Dickinson. I'm not entirely sure which the Bruce Dickinson, though.... Either the Bruce Dickinson who puts his pants on just like the rest of us-- one leg at a time. Except, once his pants are on, he makes gold records.

Or the Bruce Dickinson with the shredding pipes of one of the 80's greatest metal bands. Regardless, he got my vote for Member of Educational Service Unit, Sub-District 6 last night, and it's a better Educational Service Unit Sub-District 6, either way. I think.

History

No matter what your politics, I hope that we all can acknowledge today that what took place last night was one of the most significant moments in U.S. History. Remarkable.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Friday, October 24, 2008

The New-Look Malvernia.com


Well, it looks like the updates are complete on the malvernia.com website. It's got a great new look and feel to it. It also appears that some conspicuous blog post links are appearing on the side of the front page, which bear a striking resemblance to blog post titles found on the site you're enjoying right now. Well, this should be interesting.

I'll remind the folks coming over to this site that while I can't promise All-Malvern content, your experience will be richly rewarded with thought-provoking content that you can use and re-use in your daily interactions with family, friends, co-workers, and the like. Yes, feel free to enlighten someone that, indeed, Steve Buschemi's teeth actually DO have independent contracts. (factcheck.com that one!). As I stated before, think of this as the online, tech-savvy version of "Grannies Have More Fun" (Bridge Club updates and sweet roll recipes forthcoming).

Okay, well then at the very least, don't take thigs too seriously over here. I certainly don't. While I may strive for better content, it's still usually the shiniest, loudest things in front of me that will get my attention & end up here, unfortunately. I gotta be me. And please....please do not have my dear mother be guilty by association for any offenses caused on this site. The poor woman can't operate a remote control, let alone turn on and navigate a computer. She knows not what goes on here. And that's probably a good thing.

Well, welcome back, Malvernia.com friends. Enjoy.....and endure.

UPDATE: Well, seems as if the link I had bookmarked was actually linked to the still "work in progress" website. So it's not done yet. I'll leave the links up since I don't think it's hurting anything. Still some functionality stuff to work out on it, I hear. Anyway, I think it looks good. So there's no true Malvernites linking here through that site yet. We can still talk about dick jokes & get away with it. Score.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Random Thoughts

A new feature I thought I'd add. If I'm quick enough to jott down these little nuggets as they pass through and out of the gray matter, I'll post them weekly. Some might be a bit off-color. Some might be gold. You be the judge. Add to the list, if you'd like.

-- Steve Buschemi's teeth each operate under their own independent contract.

-- Democrats and Republicans need to settle on one lone definition of the term "Elitist".

-- Eavesrop on an old ladies' conversation long enough, and you'll hear about rhubarb.

-- I'm 32 years old, and I still get goosebumps when I see Hulk Hogan step into the squared circle.

-- There's teamwork, and then there's Steve Buschemi's teeth.

Friday, October 17, 2008

In Warren We Trust


This isn't rocket science, but it seems as if it has to come from this guy before the vast majority of investors really get it. Such a bad ass.


"Let me be clear on one point: I can’t predict the short-term movements of the stock market. I haven’t the faintest idea as to whether stocks will be higher or lower a month — or a year — from now. What is likely, however, is that the market will move higher, perhaps substantially so, well before either sentiment or the economy turns up. So if you wait for the robins, spring will be over."


--Warren Buffett

Sunday, October 12, 2008

My Home Office: Behind the Drums

To back away from the recent serious tone of some of the posts, I thought I'd take the easy road with some YouTube clips. Recently I've been reaquainting myself with my drums, and in the process, no doubt, reaffirmed my elderly neighbors' disdain for them. Screw 'em. I bought the set the Spring after we moved into our house. It was torture for almost 8 years being without a true set of drums for my own, bouncing from apartment to apartment. Like most cool hobbies or toys in life, we can get bored with them. That's been the case for the past year with the drums. but I'm back at it. No goals or anything, just the therapeutic feeling of tuning everything else out and playing as sharp and as clean as I can. For those hours, only the music matters.

Something that made me rekindle this passion was an evening spent perusing old classic clips of a drummer for whom there is no equal. I had heard of Buddy Rich from a few adults when I was young. But I was a metalhead, swooned by the power chops of Alex Van Halen, Charlie Benante, Nicko McBrain, and the Rock Drum God himself, the reason I even picked up a drumstick, Rush's Neil Peart. I decided to buy a CD of Buddy's, Mercy Mercy, when I was in high school, and I was blown away. Problem was, I really needed to see it to believe it. I never really got the chance to see much at all of Buddy actually play the drums, until I started looking around on YouTube. I was hooked, and I was speechless. Buddy passed away in 1987, but I think any honest drummer will tell you that there has never been, still to this day, a better drummer than Buddy Rich. He's Beethoven, He's Michael Jordan, He's Tiger Woods, he's.....whatever. You don't have to be a fann of Jazz, swing, or big band to appreciate the gifts of Buddy. All you have to do is see it to believe it.

Apparently I missed the fact that he was a regular on the Tonight Show back in the 70's and 80's, as Johnny Carson was fascinated by Buddy, and they had developed a good friendship. These are a lot of the clips that you can find now, and it's all great stuff. I've picked out two clips that I think show Buddy at his ridiculous best. The first one is a solo of his from 1970, and from about the 3:10 mark to the end, his single-stroke roll is beyond human.




This is one of at least dozens of his appearances on the Tonight Show. Best I can figure this is from 1984 or 85. That puts him at 66 or 67 years old in this appearance. Unreal. You can also get an idea of his uber-confident & cool personality in the interview afterwards. There was absolutely nobody like him. Ever.




And I thought I could end this post without adding this one, but I can't. Here's Neil Peart, playing his stripped down jazz kit with the Buddy Rich Big Band. He even throws in his trademark cowbells, so there's no mistaking who he is. Well, If you've stayed with this blog post this long, you've pretty much learned 80% of Drum History getting schooled by these two.


Thursday, October 9, 2008

Pass the Better

I read a ton of stuff online to serve two needs that I have. One, the need for focus and motivation in the form of inspiration, innovation, creativity, and overall general interest. And two, the need for filling the void left by me not actually taking said advice to heart, but simply reading about it in hopes that some sort of Benny Hinn-type of pseudo-healing takes place, and I'm instantly the focused, productivity/work-life, legendary husband, scratch golf-playing, shredding rock drum God, all-around Damn Good Guy I long to be. I get a few things done, yes. I could be better.

What also needs to be considered is the fact that it's not enough that you simply get things done. Efficient widget-cranking can be done by anyone, and it feels good for a time. But there has to be more substance to it. To all of it.

That's why this essay by online blog legend Merlin Mann is resonating so strongly after reading it for the first time over 3 weeks ago. It's probably a good reason why I'm not striving for daily, sometimes even weekly quanitiy on this site. Quality is still debatable, I'll grant you. And it's not just in our work, per se. Think of 3 or 4 worthless, zero return-on-investment, brainsuck activities you've particpated in. In the last hour......
Yeah. You're getting it.

Merlin talks about how this epiphany doesn't mean that he'll stop making dick jokes. It's just that he wants them to be world-class dick jokes. And isn't that a metaphor that you, the readers of this fine online publication, can relate to? Methinks yes.

Look, it's a constant battle, we know this. You simply can't get away from attention-thieving succubi, in whatever shape or form "they" may be, even if you're holed up in your fallout shelter in the fetal position. It's not like you went down there with out your 8G iPod to keep you entertained. But at some point reality has to set in for all of us, where we not necessarily find healing overnight, but we simply acknowledge all of the things trying to have a piece of our undivided, and we make the smart, and often times painful decision of what stays, and what goes. In a nutshell, we simply demand better. At all life levels.

Anyway, give it a read and draw your own conclusions. Share a couple if you feel like it. Something tells me you'll end up thinking about some psychic RAM-fat to trim somewhere.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Home

I talk a lot about what I consider to be home. I suppose that definition is different for everyone. I remember going to college and making friends, most of which never really bothered to go back to their hometowns to visit friends & family very often. They got out, and for the most part, they stayed out. Home may bring up scars, pain, memories to be forgotten. They seek to find their own place. Many have, and many are making memories in that place they now call home. It's not the same for everyone. I consider myself fortunate, to be sure.

I get ribbed at work for how often I go back home. It's not even 2 hours away, and recently I needed to be there often to help with my parents' move. But it doesn't take much for me to find an excuse to come home, even when nothing is going on. I've thought a lot about why it still means so much to me. Part of it comes from my family, and the deep sense of community and love there was in how the town treated my Uncle Burt all of his life. I grew up watching those interactions between normal townspeople and a man with a handicap and an immeasurably large heart. Nothing could've resonated stronger with a little kid, learning life lessons, one post office trip at a time shadowing my uncle. Maybe it's an overwhelming sense of gratitude I have to the town for all of those moments of kindness and love shown to him while he was alive. A life that could've been so hopeless and lost, instead was one of the most meaningful and special, to the hundreds who were willing and eager to let him into theirs.

Another important reason that home is still home stems from the loss of two close friends when I was 16, and the healing that only came with time spent with other close friends who were feeling the same gaping sense of loss that I was. I never missed a chance to get together back home with the boys when I knew there was going to be a group back in town. There was no better time spent in my life than those times among friends, living moments we knew wouldn't be possible for two lives cut entirely too short.

I know I'm not alone. People transplanted much farther away than me still feel a connection they can never shake to the same home I have. Like many, you have to be away from it for a while to appreciate it. Zack is one of those people. We express our love, gratitude, and admiration of home in different ways. SOmw write about it, some make music inspiried by it. In Zack's case, he expresses it on a canvas. Now he shares his admiration of home with anyone who can appreciate the subtlties that can only be pulled out of regular, everyday scenes with an artist's eye. I'm fortunate enough to have 3 of his prints, each of which is a scene I consider to be part of my home. So many of his paintings resonate deeply with many from there. Consider me one of them.

I've attached a few pieces of his work. Below is an interview done a while back from an Omaha news station. It's good to know that I'm not alone, I guess.



Long Live The Rue!

I was finally able to catch Ardency Rue back in Malvern over Homecoming weekend. Darren Schnoor & Adam Giaffoglione played a long set down at Bowley's Bistro after the game on Friday night. They've been playing together for over 5 years, and their experience is really showing. Now if I could only get them to play me some Tenacious D.... They've got some of their stuff up on their page, so check em out. Adam likes Corona. Darren pees a lot. Just some observations.

Random Trivia: Darren & Dixon, back in the day, formed a band the likes of which have never been seen....what did they call themselves, and what was the first song they played together?

It was a good crowd, but for once in my lifetime, there were actually 3 options for revelers to choose from for their Friday night downtown carousing. Charlie & Cindy have their place going well, and with a town the size of Malvern, that's no small feat. Bradley's opened up recently, and has been doing a very good dinner business, drawing crowds from out of town every weekend. City Councilman (God, that is strange to say) Shane Sayers brought his brand of country & parrothead singing to the place, which was a good time. And then....you can always count on Shaker's. It's funny how you can't smoke in Shaker's anymore, yet you still come out of there smelling like the ass end of a Marlboro Red. Awesome.

Good times with good friends all night, regardless of where you were. The old town seems to be doing just fine these days.



Pics courtesy of Gary Giaffoglione

Sunday, September 14, 2008

College Football & the Brunswick Stew Experiment

There's usually 1 or 2 college football Saturday's where I'll decide to veg out all day and watch non-stop college football. Easily one of my most enjoyable days to spend a fall weekend. Yesterday was a classic day where the coffee is poured about 8 AM (not too early for a bloody or a beer, but coffee seemed more justifiable that early in my house), the t.v. is turned on to some pre-game stuff (in this case it was finishing watching the unreal ending of the Kansas-South Florida game from Friday night), and I settle in for the all-day marathon.

Games watched/suffered through included:
  • Iowa-Iowa St. (absolutely brutal to watch. Why Tim accepted a bet with Thad getting only 7 points instead of 14, I have no idea. It's your own fault, dude.)
  • Missouri-Nevada (Mizzou is like watching a video game with the opponent skill level set to "novice")
  • Cal-Maryland
  • Oregon-Purdue
  • Meeechigan-Notre Dame
  • Georgia-South Carolina
  • Georgia Tech-Virginia Tech
  • New Mexico St.-Nebraska
  • Ohio St.-USC (a woodshed game, as predicted)
  • Oklahoma-Washington (that wasn't even fair)
  • Wisconsin-Fresno St.
Some really good games, and some total dogs. That's what you get on a Saturday in September. I loved every minute of it. By the way, the Big Ten is really bad this year.

Whenever one of these days materializes, I also try to come up with something good to make. This weekend it was a dish that I had wanted to try, and I finally got the opportunity to test it out. Brunswick Stew originated in Brunswick, GA, fittingly enough. Some claim it originated in Virginia. Who knows. Once it's made, it is a cross between chili, BBQ, and some buffalo wing flavors. The main ingredient for this experiment: A whole smoked chicken, chopped up, even a little bit of the crispy skin that's rendered down. So if you're in the mood for something different from your regular 'ol chili recipe this Fall, you might want to give something like this a try. I think this will be my soup tailgate contribution this year.


I started with this as my base recipe. I figured if anyone knows Georgia cookin' it's this lady. Then I added a few things to make it mine, I guess (can't divulge any secrets, though). I was quite happy with the results, and the leftovers are back on the stove simmering away as we speak.

Time to watch the Chiefs drop a deuce against an inferior opponent at Arrowhead. You can sense my optimism.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Hurricane Ike


Right off the top: I'm setting the Over/Under on national media outlets using the phrase "Houston, we have a problem." for their Hurricane Ike coverage at 73. Anyone want that action?

There's a bunch of chasers who are readying themselves today for landfall just south of the Galveston area. While it doesn't look like this one will be a huge wind maker (oh, it will be windy, I'm sure), the bigger concern is the storm surge that will be pushing right into the bay at Galveston. It's going to be a wet one down there. I'd go ahead and fill up that tank of gas today before the price jumps $.50 overnight.

Latest satellite image is showing that it's picking up some steam, trying to form a real eyewall. THe core of it has been floundering in its trek across the Gulf of Mexico, but the overal size of the storm is freakishly large. I'll get some cool GRLevel3 Radar images up when it gets in closer. I'll make weather geeks out of you knobs yet!



Here's Ike on Saturday morning around 7:25 CST. I missed out on the good images of it making landfall about 1 AM last night. Still, Houston is in for a long day after a loooooong night. Galveston, Houston, and points directly east of town took a serious pounding.


Monday, September 8, 2008

Meaningless Birthdays(?)

Since I know many of you fine readers don't have this all-important date on your recurring calendars, let this be your one reminder. Yep, today is my special day. And like most of them at this stage in life, it's really all about looking back saying, "Jesus....it seems like I just had my Hot Wheel's-themed 7th birthday party....what the #%&@!!??" Memories was the theme of my present from Mom & Dad, as she made a scrapbook of my less-than-stellar high school sports career. It was the best gift I could've gotten. Lisa and I made good on our promise, and we got each other a Wii for our collective birthdays. Yeah, we needed an excuse to pull the trigger. Finally in the cool club.

What is extra special about my birthday is that I get to share it with my dad. When I turned 4, he turned 40. So to a 4 year-old, my math equation deduced that when I turned 5, he would turn 50, 6 and 60, and so forth... Needless to say, Dad's old today. Love ya, Pop.

Well, this particular birthday is definitely one that falls in the "No Need To Celebrate" category. Here's one of my favorite comedians, Patton Oswalt, to explain which birthdays you're allowed to celebrate.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Getting Clear & Current

It happens to us all at some point. Somewhere along the line, one little meaningless task got put off. And then another. And another. Pretty soon your mind is begging you to stop whatever you're doing (or not doing), because it's too busy trying to figure out all of the things that you're not doing, unable to settle on just one little task. So we freeze up, forced to do the hard mental reboot, which could come in many forms, like for instance a trip to the gym to blow off steam, some time with the kids in the backyeard to decompress, or a fistful of Advil, ideally washed down with a pint of Early Times.

That moment no doubt has happened in our work or home lives hundreds of times, I'm sure. If it hasn't, then you're either one of the most successful people in the world, or you really have nothing to do. We all handle work overload in different ways. Some good, others not so good. I can tell you from personal experience that a chronic procrastinator tends to fall in the latter category. Most of the time those simple, less than 2-minute tasks get put off, thrown in the in-basket, or forgotten about in a sea of emails.

So how do you do the hard mental reboot? Well, that's obviously somewhat subjective, depending or your personality type. What is universal with humans is that your brain is a lousy place to keep a list of projects or to-do's. So a natural place to start is to figure out exactly what all of the "stuff" is that's not only cluttering your physical work or living space, but deciding concretely what the next step is to get something closer to completion. No doubt most of us have some time bombs lurking in our in-baskets, an unfinished project that landed in our email inbox that hasn't been opened in 2 weeks, or a garage that was slated to be cleaned out months ago which keeps mysteriously accumulating random crap that doesn't belong there. Whatever it is, you've got to be able to capture it all, somehow, some way, and someplace. The all-knowing wizard of Getting Things Done, David Allen, says that "You'll only be comfortable with what you're not doing, when you know what you're not doing."

Think about that for a second. It seems like the times when an unfinished task or project comes up from the deep recesses of what little brain matter I have is at a time or location when I have zero ability to do anything about it. Rarely do we even have a piece of paper and a pen to jott it down. Of course, by the time you need to remember it, your brain has already sent it back to the bottom of the stack, only to bring it back to the top when you can't do a thing about it. Again. Setting aside some time to dump as many of these loose strands out of my head as I can onto a piece of paper at least gets it out of my head. The next step is getting that information into a system I will use and trust, so when I need it, I've already done all of the thinking that I needed to. It's one thing to write it down, but quite another to get it onto a place you know you will see it and utilize it.

So if you're like me, the daily grind can turn your workspace, kitchen, house, computer, and brain into EF4 tornado damage (had to sneak in some weather geekdom). Setting aside a little time each week to get clear & current on everything you've got on your plate can mean the difference between an enjoyable, relaxing weekend at home, or one packed with nothing but fear and dread for the coming week ahead. Here's a little something I do. I'll take all of the random stuff that's accumulated on my desk, and throw it all in/around the in-basket (Yes, this is my crap. Frightening.). Then, one-by-one, I pick up each item, determine what it is, what if anything is actionable about it, and figure out where it goes. If it's a task, it'll end up going into my particular list system that I can review pretty much anywhere at anytime. Project materials get placed in the proper files, and stuff I don't need heads to the recycle bin. Same goes for email.

Do I always practice what I preach? Anyone who knows me pretty much knows the answer to that. I'm an 18-carat procrastinator, mixed in with what I'm sure has to be some adult ADHD. But I'm better today because the tricks I've learned trying to stay on top of all the different stuff that goes on in this "game of work, and the business of life." There's thousands of things you can check out about this GTD stuff, which in true geek circles is referred to as "productivity p0rn". For many it's not as guilty, but equally procrastinative to cruise a bunch of GTD-themed websites and still not do anything that is considered actual work. But I'm sure none of you will have that problem.

So bottom line: It's never going to all get done. Just (literally) get your sh*t together, and get to the point where you know all of the things that you're doing, or more imporatntly, all the things you're NOT doing!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Heavy Metal Office Drumming

Okay, after this post, I swear I'll try harder. Posting random YouTube clips is lazy, I know. I just haven't run across a genre of funny metal music spoofs like this before, and it's quite amusing to me. I've grown up as a fan of metal, but at some point it just becomes ridiculous. Probably why I find this so funny (as does this guy, obviously). My kind of humor.

For you Malvern/Emmetsburg folks, tell me who this guy looks like. I don't want to be the one to name him by name (HINT: His name starts with a Mike). Am I wrong??




A couple more to tide you over through the weekend, then I promise some substance. Who knew Bert & Ernie were into Grindcore? I'll never look at kids television again. And I'm okay with that.



This is so stupid. lol



Okay, I'm done with this. I promise.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Kelly Clarkson Goes Death Metal

I really couldn't wait any longer to post this. I was inspired after watching the documentary Metal: A Headbanger's Journey this past weekend, so I decided to go YouTubing for a while afterwards to see if I could find any hidden gems. Then I stumbled on this, and I simply was not prepared for what I saw & heard. I'm sure a couple of you will appreciate.

WARNING: This. Is. Awesome.


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Welcome to Fall in Lincoln


It's officially Silly Season in Lincoln, as the college football season is finally here. This is our 7th fall of being fully intrenched in what has to be easily one of, if not THE most obsessed fanbases in the game. Their recent struggles have been pretty well-documented: the debacle of the last 4 years, the hiring, the firing, the end of the bowl streak, worst defense ever, the Return of the Messiah, back to tradition, restoring the order, yadda, yadda, yadda.....

But this off-season really has been unlike anything Nebraskans have ever experienced. Bo Pelini, the man that can seemingly walk on the waters of Lake McConaughey, was brought back as head coach. He's short-tempered, bullheaded, and has the entire state hanging (and agreeing) with his every single word. As soon as a new coach arrives in Lincoln (which has happened 5 times in the last 50 years) he is instantly the most recognizable man in the state. Every old lady and every old crusty farmer at every kitchen table, every coffee shop, grain elevator.....everyone in every place can gladly orate at great length their thoughts on Bo Pelini's defensive philosophy, his coaching resume, his staff, his recruiting class, his returning starters, his wife & kids, church affiliation, favorite restaurants, etc.... You get the idea.

And in case you trip over a plow and get a case of amnesia, most everyone here does something to their property to remind you of exactly where you are. It may be a simple flag or stone, but often times it's never that understated. Case in point: If this was a picture of an acreage on the outskirts of Ames, then I'd be impressed. Sadly, it's on the outskirts of Lincoln. I guess it loses the dramatic effect.

The in-state media has been relentless/comical in trying to get every angle on the new regime. Today in a press conference leading up to their first game, Pelini was asked repeatedly when he would be handing out the famous Blackshirts to his defensive starters. Would it be this week before the first game, or would he (gasp) wait until sometime AFTER the first game? Is that fair to his players? These are the questions he gets. Yes, a seemingly arbitrary, vague piece of practice apparel strangely happens to be one of the most significant and observed traditions, not only by the players, but fandom statewide. Who cares? In Nebraska, everyone does.

As many would assume, expectations for success over the next few years is as high as it was back in the glory days of the 90's. Crazy, you say? Maybe. Don't tell that to First National Bank, which takes up the most prime billboard real estate in town, just outside Memorial Stadium with this not-so-subtle statement. No pressure or anything, Bo.

As much as some Nebraska fans absolutely drive me nuts this time of year, I'd be lying if I don't get just as ridiculous and stupid with my anticpation for every game, every Saturday. As Johnny Mathis once sang, "it's the most wonderful time of the year".


Although I don't think Johnny Mathis was much of a football fan. Just a hunch.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Things to Teach Your Dog # 228

Early on when our dog Alex was still young, she had an obsession with ice cubes. So, I figured the only proper thing to do was to train her in proper ice cube acquisition techniques & manners. See how she did.

video

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Black Crowes: Council Bluffs 8.15.08

So it took be the better of 15 years to come around to the fact that, besides their early mainstream Top 40 hits, I really, REALLY like the Black Crowes. It was our first time seeing them live at Stir Concert Cove in Council-Tuckey, IA on Friday night, but it certainly won't be the last. Their sound is this perfect mixture of southern rock, memphis blues, and a rock solid 'Stones-like groove. There were some tasty jams from start to finish on a perfect night on the river. Plenty of songs from their new album Warpaint, which is very good. And, it got Hacksaw's Seal of Approval, so you know it was a good show.

The crowd at the Cove is interesting, as at least 2/3 of the crowd brings lawn & camping chairs to sit in. To each his own, I guess. You can get away with that for some shows they get there, but whatever. We found our way up front to a relatively small crowd of fans up on the rail. Hell.....5th row for the Crowes? I'll take it. Some seasoned (okay, stoned) fans who had made the trip from out of town couldn't figure it out, either. But the place filled in nicely once the show started.

FWIW....I have all the adoration in the world for Kate Hudson, but how did Chris Robinson position himself in life to be the father of her child?? Great front man, yes, but Jesus Quincy Adams, that is a strange looking dude. He looks like a hillbilly Tom Green. Sorry....just a rude, random thought....

Since my camera has yet to be replaced from going swimming, the first image is a shitty picture from my cell phone. Hey, it's the best I can do. The Crowes play at the Val-Air Ballroom in Des Moines in December, so check them out if you get the chance.

The set list

Movin' On Down The Line ->
Goodbye Daughters Of The Revolution
Good Friday
Peace Anyway
Nonfiction
Locust Street
Polly
Rockin' Chair
Whoa Mule
Lay It All On Me
Downtown Money Waster ->
Thorn In My Pride
Oh Josephine
Twice As Hard
Wounded Bird
- encore -
Boomer's Story
Don't Do It

Friday, August 15, 2008

Only the Royals...

Question: What's worse than hearing famous/annoying White Sox announcer "Hawk" Harrelson's famous home run call, "You can putitontheboaaaard...YES!" ???

Answer: Hearing it 4 at-bats in a row. Against your favorite team who you think is finally turning some sort of futility corner.

That's right, folks. Back...to back....to back.....to back home runs.

Roll the ugliness.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Honey, where's the car seat??

A classic image that I took in front of my hometown bar one Sunday morning. What I would've paid to be in on that discovery & subsequent conversation.
Awesome.

Feel free to suggest a caption for this photo in the Comments section.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Presentation Zen

Out of the small readership that's either been tipped off to this page, or forced to consume it at gunpoint by me, I'm not sure who this subject will appeal to. Consider it an attempt at a useful post. I suppose it depends on your job role. What has become one of my favorite job roles over the past 5+ years has been teaching, or specifically presentations for groups of people. My ambition to become a Secondary Ed. teacher was pretty quickly dashed during my sophomore year of college, when a particularly unsavory education professor in so many words told me I wasn't educator material. Fair enough. When I took my current job, the teaching aspect wasn't in the job description, but it's been as important than any role I've had. Presenting to a crowd is easily most people's worst nightmare, but it has become one of the most rewarding aspects of my job. It can also be the most challenging aspect, simply because of the subject matter.

You see, what I do isn't glamorous (you really thought you were the only one?) and it's not easily explained in a nice, tidy sentence or two. That's one huge reason why teaching can be so difficult for me. I explain to people when asked that I am a "Dirt Cop". My title is Stormwater Specialist, and I work primarily with new construction and development in the metro area. Regulations from the Clean Water Act require that developers and municipalities do their part to limit the amount of mud (sediment) and other pollutants that may leave these construction sites, as much as possible. While part of the job requires me to be a "regulator", the more important role in my time on the job has been that of "educator". I do my best to try to convey to a usually unattentive and disconnected audience who would rather be anywhere else at the time what the regulations are, and then how to stay in compliance on their sites.

So how does anyone tackle presenting on a subject that, to the disintereted layperson, is the excitement equivalent to being forced to sit through Disney on Ice? It isn't easy. It's being able to take something very complicated and make it seem effortless to the person learnign from you. But so often people who put together presentations have no idea how to do that. They just type out everything they want to say, put it on some slides in PowerPoint, add a couple nonsensical cartoonish ClipArt items, and proceed to put you to sleep faster than a bottle of Ambien.

I was just as guilty when I did my first few presentations. After pleading with people before my talks would start to "please not fall asleep just yet", it never failed to do the trick. It was always Yawnsville. But then again, I told myself, so was everyone else's presentations discussing erosion control. "Don't feel bad, Dixon....it's just the material. I mean, who's gonna stay awake to hear about the intricacies of proper staple patterns when installing erosion control blankets?" These self-talks made me feel better for a while.

Then I stumbled on a blog that changed my tune. It was simple enough, and the content made all the sense in the world. Finally. Garr Reynolds has been adding to his uber-popular blog site, Presentation Zen, for almost 4 years now. Reynolds has spent most of his professional career living in Japan, and it comes through in his techniques to presenations. Simplicity is at the core of his teaching on great presentations. Using great examples from some the best presenters in the world, including the great Steve Jobs of Apple, Reynolds teaches that the presentation is YOU, with the supporting material contributing to you. We've all had it backwards for far too long.

Garr's book is outstanding for anyone who does any sort of teaching or presenting, and I highly recommend it. It's definitely made a difference in how I approach an audience, and present on a subject that on the surface seems completely lifeless. I've attached a recent presentation he gave on the subject at Google. There's also a ton of good recommendations within the presentation, as well. It's a bit long, so if you've got some weekend time and you're at all interested, give it a look.


Thursday, August 7, 2008

My Attempts at Photography

I thought I'd try my hand at creating a slideshow of some of my favorite pictures that I've shot in recent years. ((Photo Geeks: the majority of these were taken with a Canon Powershot G6. That's the best I can do until Santa brings me something better, but I'm not worried about it)) While I've got a LOT of work to do to get better at all of the steps, in getting a good shot, there's been some hidden gems that at least I like to think are "okay" shots. It's a bunch of different stuff, with some random pictures of things & friends thrown in.

UPDATE: I think this slideshow will have to do in this location for now. Blogger is being difficult with putting it over on the right side, and I'm not a programmer. I've updated the slideshow with the pictures I think I wanted in it for a first time out. I'll update the show from time to time, and maybe move it up to the front page when it slips. I'm sure I should've watermarked these, but part of me says they're not good enough to get ripped. I'm sure there's some little girl somewhere who needs to win her 4-H photo contest, though. Good thing she'll find Ryan McGinnis or Mike Hollingshead's sites before she finds mine.