8.16.2016

That One Time When We Met Steven Tyler

One of the cool things at WE Fest were the meet and greets. Everyone I talked to said the artists were wonderful and patient. Jim tried to get us in on a couple but it appeared we were going to get shut out until he got a text from a friend "First 50 people in line get to meet Steven Tyler."

That was all we needed to know to abandon the Apple Pies shots we were slugging at a campsite bar. As we hustled over, a friend of Jim's said hi and, since it was her birthday, Jim told her to come with us, right now, for a great birthday present.

We got there in plenty of time and dutifully lined up. Anyone pulling a cell phone was threatened with getting booted from the line. Do you know how hard it is not to pull out your phone to check the time or messages when you're standing in a line? Hard.

We sent Sandy the birthday girl ahead of us. She told Steven it was her 61st birthday and he told her it couldn't be because she looked so amazing. He then sang in her ear and kissed her a bunch of times all over her face. He also fluffed her hair for her. After their picture was taken, she turned to walk away but then went back over and kissed him on the lips. She was walking on air!

I think Sandy was shell shocked.

Then, it was our turn. Jim and I have a thing where we hold our drinks out in front to make them look bigger. So, of course we had to do that somehow and chose our event badges (there were no drinks allowed).


Steven said to us, "Oh, the old fisherman trick." We told him we always do that and he said, "Next time, let's do this naked!" I replied with, "Let me know when that will be so I can start a diet ahead of time."

So, Steven Tyler wants to get naked with me. It's cool. Of course, he wants to get naked with me AND Jim which makes it a little weird.

For the record, Steven's makeup and hair were perfection. He looked great for a 68 year old. And, he couldn't have been nicer.

Also, for the record, I did not approve Jim's hat.

What a great moment to treasure!

8.12.2016

WE Fest

I spent last week in Detroit Lakes, MN for a Country Music festival called WE Fest. It's been going on since 1983 and my friends, Big Jim and Mary Ann, have gone every year and my Bestie, Jim, has been to all but one. At some point last year, I said "I'm in!"

What a fun event! Very well organized. Lots of music with a mixture of up and coming artists, established ones and a few rockers.

We had VIP seats which included "free" beer. All those Minnesotans were complaining about which beer it was but I was quite pleased. What do those ice fishers know?

You could also get Summer Shandy and Mike's Hard Lemonades.

Following are my impressions on each act. Jim and I saw all of them, missing a few opening songs for some (long beer lines) and about 20 minutes for one act because we were at a Meet and Greet. We were in the 38th row so my pics were all crap because I only had my phone. Lesson learned - take the camera.

THURSDAY

Amanda Watkins

The only female led act of the event. That face makes me sad. She had a wonderful voice and a nice stage presence. And the biggest earrings I saw all weekend.

LoCash

These guys have a top 40 Country song (I Know Somebody) and I had downloaded their album LoCash Cowboys so I knew what to expect. I would call them Southern Rock. Very fun, very energetic. I quite enjoyed their show.

Joe Nichols

I mean, it's Joe Freakin' Nichols, what would you expect? A solid show of very popular songs. Well, popular a few years ago. But, we knew them all and sang along and he was very personable. And, handsome. Did not in any way disappoint.

Lee Brice

Holy heck, that is one big dude! Of everyone we saw, his 6'3" frame was the easiest to see from our seats. Another guy with a deep library of top hits, Brice did a great job on his show. Entertaining and personable. The personable thing is a recurring thing. I don't think there was anyone who looked like they weren't grateful and happy to be there. That was pretty cool.

Eric Church

Wowzers! What a high energy show! This was the best of the first night and it was worthy of being the headliner. Lots of great songs with everyone singing along. It was just super fun.

FRIDAY

William Michael Morgan

One of our favorite shows. He has a top 40 in I Met A Girl and he has a "real" country vibe complete with a George Straight like hat. I really like his song, Cheap Cologne, which I heard from downloading his EP. Wonderful voice, great on stage presence. If you get a chance to go see him, do it.

Granger Smith

Once we got past thinking he looked like Tom Cruise (those teeth!), we really enjoyed this show. He also has a current hit, If The Boot Fits, which I'm hearing a lot on my local station. Very enthusiastic though his skinny jeans riding up above his boots was not a good look. ;)

If you're wearing boots, you should wear boot cut jeans. Just sayin'.

Montgomery Gentry

The only act where I could sing along, correctly, to every song. These guys have a solid history of hits and they were fun and high energy as well. Their jeans weren't distracting but Eddie Montgomery's whiter than anything in nature teeth where. They literally glowed from the stage.

This picture doesn't do it justice. Grr. Those are some white choppers!

Billy Currington

I spent most of this show building a dream world where Billy and I are together. We're both fantastically happy in case you were wondering. So, yeah, good show, I think. He sure looked good.

Kid Rock

Yeah, he's kind of country. He was also hugely popular at the event and many peoples's favorite act. I thought he was a great entertainer and very talented. And, he had women in his band! But, I couldn't get past the incessant F bombs. Which, if you know me, seems quite hypocritical as I swear all the time. But, it just was too much for me for a public event. We tried to buy some of his shirts but chose not to because they all had the F word on them. I would never wear one in public because I think it's inappropriate.

SATURDAY

High Valley

Holy harmonies! I was immediately blown away and not too surprised when the two leads introduced themselves as brothers because their voices were so fantastic together. Definitely one of my favorites and one of the acts that seemed especially grateful to be at the event. Keep an eye on this band, they're going to go places. Or, they should, at least.

Halfway To Hazard

I had downloaded one of their CDs ahead of time so I was familiar with some of the tunes. Southern Rock sounding and quite enjoyable. Tim McGraw has worked with them (yes, they name dropped and then so did he about them). Their set was good.

Gary Allan

Another act that I could sing along to. He did a rocking show with many of his best known hits. He also looked pretty fine. I heard some girls (like 20 somethings) talking about their Meet and Greet with him and they said "He looked really good for an older guy." They also said he was very nice which is what I expect about Country musicians and, when they're not, I'm horribly disappointed.

Steven Tyler

Yeah, that Steven Tyler. What a brilliant show! My favorite of them all. He started out with Aerosmith songs then dropped a few off his new country album in between. Very smart. And, hey women in the band! Women featured in the band! Everyone on stage looked like they were having a blast. He did drop one F bomb but then said "Oh, there's a swear rule" (or something like that) then didn't use that word again. I just loved everything about him and his set.

Tim McGraw

Well, what can you say about one of the most popular Country artists of the past 20+ years? His show was polished, fun and he was hotter than hell up there. Maybe literally but visually for sure. He may have gotten a little too thin for my taste but, damn, he still looked good and moved around like a youngster. And, those arms. Oh. My. Gawd.

From Steven Tyler's Instagram.
Those. Arms. 

My only disappointment was the lack of female representation at the event. I know they've had lots of women headliners in the past but not even seeing many female musicians this year made me wonder if it was just a coincidence or indicative of the general music industry or maybe Country music. I'll have to research that.

Oh, and the one thing that absolutely didn't disappoint was meeting Steven Tyler. Stay tuned.

7.27.2016

Things That Make Me Go Hmmmmmm

Behavioral Economics is my jam! If it had been a real thing back when I was in college, I would have ditched my Business Major in a heartbeat.

For those who don't know what it is, the short description is that it's the study of how and what effects your economic decision making. What makes you buy one car over another? How will your current experience influence your investing decision a few minutes from now, a day from now, a week from now? That kind of stuff.

What does one do with the results? Well, you can use them for good or evil. As a business type, I always think about how it can increase profits. As a human, I also think about how it could help make people make better decisions for themselves or society.

An example of the latter, say you want to increase the percentage of employees investing in a 401K (assuming that's a good decision for their financial wellbeing). How you do it is automatically sign them up for it as people don't want to do the work of either opting in or opting out. You put them in, they're going to stay in. You could apply the same to organ donation. Countries or states that default people into a Yes on organ donation have significantly higher participation than when someone is forced to check Yes.

But, as much as I care about peeps, I do have an MBA so I usually go to the money. One thing that has me wondering relates to pumping gas. Because when I'm standing at the pump, I've got nothing better to do than wonder about it.

What, exactly, prompts the thought? The instructions on the pump.


I'm assuming most people are familiar with the grade selection. You press the button of the gas mixture you want then pump. But, I always look at the right of the actual buttons where they give you a picture representation of how to operate the pump. Notice above that the finger is selecting Unleaded.



Notice on other pumps pictured above, the finger is pointing at Unleaded Plus or Unleaded Super.

Here's what I want to know...

Does the finger image influence the fuel grade selection? Assuming the gas prices are the same for each pump (let's say $1.899, $2.099 and $2.199 for Unleaded, Unleaded Plus and Unleaded Super respectively). If the finger is pointed at Unleaded Plus do a higher percentage of people select that than they do if it's pointing at Unleaded or Unleaded Super? (Y'all know about the influence of the extra 9 in those prices, right? Behavioral Economics!)

Let's say studies show the finger image does influence the grade selection. My next thing to wonder is if stations/fuel companies are putting the finger image on the grade where their margin is highest?

Take that even further, are they putting the finger image on the grade where the influence of the grade selection increases overall margin for all three grades combined?

Oh, and does the location (demographics of the neighborhood or proximity to freeways, for example) also affect the decision?

Math! Science! People! I want to know!

So, I've tried to google this with no success. And, by google, I don't mean I spent 5 minutes putting various things in the search engine. I've probably invested hours. But, I haven't been able to find anything that answers my questions.

Why not? Well, because the gasoline manufactures and distributors are keeping it a secret, of course. I know I would.

So, if anyone wants to give me some answers, without getting sued or killed, I would love to know. In the meantime, I'm still going to ponder each time I fill my tank. Fortunately, that's only once every two weeks so I'm not wasting too much time on it.



7.18.2016

My New Idol

"A stranger is a friend I haven't met yet." - Will Rogers

Truer words were never spoken when it comes to me. I love talking to strangers even if I'll never see them again. Airports are great for striking up a conversation. Nothing like a captive audience who is probably bored as well!

I was waiting to board a flight to Seattle a while ago when I noticed the family in front of me. Two kids about eight or so and two parents.

There was no way I couldn't talk to the daughter. She was dressed in a pink t-shirt with a grey cat on it, matching leggings, pink Hello Kitty shoes and, the pièce de résistance, a headband with cat ears. Man, she was styling!

I broke the ice with  a "I really like your outfit." The reaction I got was the shy kid face against the parent's leg move. The Mom said, "What do you say when someone compliments you?" That got a mumble from the pants' leg.

Not deterred from the conversational attempt at all, I followed up with pictures of the #terrors on my phone with descriptions of why they're such terrible children. The son became intrigued and started to tell me about their two cats. (Two boys, not brothers, one always poops outside of the litter box and did I have any ideas how to fix that?)

Ultimately, we were all talking and I learned that they lived in Japan and had been in the Southwest for two months visiting family. I can give you more details if you wish because it was a pretty in depth conversation thanks to United who had us in line for-freaking-ever.

I commented that I would totally wear that cat ear headband and found out that she brought 7 or 8 of them on the trip so she could swap them out each day. What?!?!?! That was some serious dedication to style.

Man, I so wanted to be this little girl, it was not funny. Well, sorta funny.

But, wait, there's more! They started talking about her tail. Yes, a tail. The little girl started rummaging around in her bag while her parents told me about her cat tail that she usually wears (and one time lost on the beach, briefly) when, voila! I looked down to see she was wearing an 8 inch long, curved black and bushy tail.

It was awesome!

I didn't see her put it on so I don't know if it just clipped on to her pants or was on a belt but it jiggled around as she moved and it was so fantastic that I wanted it more than the headbands. The headbands were nothing, the apparel of imposters. The tail was the thing!

I know longer wanted to be this little girl, I wanted to worship her.

I really, really wanted to take a picture but I figured that would move my Creep factor to 11. That was probably a good call on my part.

But, seriously, you should have seen the tail!

6.08.2016

Best Buffett Shows

In case you aren't wired into the world of Jimmy Buffett as I am, he announced this week that he's going to slow down next year. Of course, for Jimmy, that might just mean fewer concerts but more books, CDs (I believe they just announced a new Christmas one coming), plane trips and surfing. I don't think the guy will ever "rest".

A few people waxed nostalgic about their love for Jimmy and I was reminded of three Buffett shows I've been to that were awesome in different ways.

Wasted Away Again In Margaritaville

The earliest show was when Jimmy and Mac came to open the Glendale Margaritaville (RIP) in April of 2008. It was an all day event. Mville gave the Arizona Parrot Head Club 500 free passes and invited a group of us for morning cocktails and some TV time on the local news. A parking lot tailgate followed and then they roped off the courtyard area across from the restaurant and put Jimmy and Mac on a stage in front of the Arena.

Can you tell I was a happy camper?

My favorite Muppet and Jimmy
It was a fantastic show. Just the two of them playing and talking and the crowd was so cool. You could mosey up to get close shots of the stage then mosey back. We hung out towards the back but the back was less than 100 feet away.

What was also fantastic is that we had friends from all over join us. Peeps came from Washington, Utah and California and from other cities outside of the Valley. We got to have a fun family reunion plus a show! And, we picked up some great new club members.

The highlight was when the sound system failed and the crowd just picked it up and sang all of the words. Jimmy just looked at Mac and shrugged like, "They don't even need us".

After the show, Jimmy hightailed it out but Mac stuck around. They whisked him through Margaritaville and it was all I could do not to follow. Somehow, I refrained. Who knew I had it in me?

On The Street

It's a perpetual question, "Is Jimmy going to play at Meeting of The Minds this year?" For those that don't know, that's our annual convention in Key West. Jimmy has been there on and off and, in 2011, he surprised us by playing at the Street Festival on Friday. It is what it sounds like. They close off the intersection Duval near Margaritaville, build a huge stage and play music all afternoon. 

It was a poorly held secret that Jimmy was going to play with the Coral Reefers (his band) so the street was PACKED! We had decent spot staked out early and had a good view of the stage.

Mr. Utley was in fine form.

Jimmy and Utley joking around, Mac having a great time.

The Man in the middle
What made this show so special, though, was that Jimmy came on stage and said, "We're not going to play anything recorded after 1975!" The crowd went nuts! What a great payoff for the "real" fans who know more than the tunes on Songs You Know By Heart. He stuck to it, too, for the whole set. For their encore, they did It's Five O'Clock Somewhere and I don't think anyone could complain about that deviation.

Holy cow, that was quite the crowd!
As the show wound down, the beers hit me and I knew I was going to be in need of the washroom. I worked my way back through the very tight crowd. So tight that the buttons off my lanyard were pulled off of me. Yikes. I used the facilities at Jack Flats and watched the end of the show from the back. There was no way I was going back in. It was still awesome.

Beach House Concert

Not at all a secret but a last minute reveal was the Jimmy was going to play at Meeting of The Minds again in 2015 but this time at our host hotel. That meant people had to be registered for convention to see him. Man, did we get a lot of last minute folks!

My friend Susan is a long time territory stakerouter (yeah, I made a new word) and she was lined up in front of the stage early Saturday morning even though the show wasn't scheduled until that night. My bestie, Jim, and I were not so dedicated. We still managed to get a good spot to see the stage by only heading out an hour or so before the show.

Well, somewhat good spot. It was actually awesome until two giants got in front of us. I felt worse for the two short ladies right next to us, though. At least I had a great view of Mac and that's what mattered.

Once again, Jimmy said the right thing to start the show. He talked about how difficult it was to do something worthy of his serious fans and announced that they came up with the idea of playing every song from an early album. When he said it was White Sport Coat and Pink Crustacean, I could not have been more thrilled. It's one of my all time favorites

I had it on cassette tape and I think I bought it from a gas station.
What made it extra special was that Jimmy talked about each song before they played it. He went in to the inspiration, who worked on the recording with him and usually threw in an anecdote or two. It was literally like being at a house concert.

At one point, most of the band went off the stage while Jimmy played. A song or two later, he was clearly expecting them to be back and called them out after looking around. It was hilarious watching Doyle Grisham scamper across the stage. 

Just Mac and Jimmy again. It was perfection.
(uncredited photo that I found online somewhere because I took no pictures - blame the giants)
It was a wonderful experience and I really appreciated that Jimmy did an exclusive show for the convention attendees. And, afterwards, I got to fist bump Doyle so that made it a perfect evening.

Well, there you have it. My top three. If I had to pick a top one, it would be the last one thanks to the storytelling. 

For the record, I still didn't follow Mac around after the show.

5.13.2016

I Miss Walter Cronkite

I confess, I haven't watched local or national TV news in years.

I bugged out once all of the stations were doing "death" teasers for their broadcasts. "This surprising item in your kitchen will kill you!" "There are unknown predators in your neighborhood!" "Find about the commonplace product under the third step of your stairs that can give you cancer!" "You MUST watch our broadcast or you're doomed!!!!"

You get the gist. It was all about sucking you in to watch and the teaser segment was always buried somewhere in the broadcast so you had to wait through it all.

Here's another thing that turned me off from TV news; reporters standing in front of a building hours after whatever action happened before. Seriously, you could put that reporter in front of a blank green screen and gotten the same amount of relevance. "What you can't see now because it's all cleaned up is that the bus jumped this curb and ran into another vehicle right here behind me." Being on location didn't help those stories.

I also don't watch the cable news stations. The last time I recall doing so in any consistent manner was when CNN reported on the Gulf War. Man, that was a long time ago.

I was on a cruise ship last month and the TV viewing was very limited. Besides watching the live stream from the camera at the front of the boat, the cruise chip channel where they broadcast commercials to get us to buy things we don't need from the onboard stores, there was one sports channel showing mostly Soccer games, MSNBC, Fox News and BBC News World News.

Since my traveling companion always wants the TV on (and I am indifferent), we alternated between the cruise ship channel and Fox News. Oh, yeah, my traveling companion is also a Republican. However, if they'd had CNN we would have met in the middle.

All of this long intro leads into my main point (you had to know I'd get there eventually) which is that our broadcast journalists have been replaced with pundits. Instead of reciting the facts of a news story then leaving you with "And that's the way it is" a la Cronkite, the pundits read off a couple of details then give their opinion on the story.

I can only imagine what he would think about today's "News".
But, that's not the only opinion you get. They then throw it to Pundits A, B and C who all also give their opinions. Not facts, mind you. Just opinions. To preserve the notion of fair and balanced, Pundit B might actually believe something different than the others. Or, at least say that he/she does.

The story that set me on the path to writing this lament was Trump's rally in Costa Mesa, CA. In case you somehow missed it, protestors pushed through barriers, got in some scuffles with police and Trump and crew slipped out a back way of a hotel and had to hoof down the side of the road to get in to their vehicles.

Fox News had an in studio pundit lead with the story then they threw it to a reporter on site. He described the barricade rupture and then gave out several speculations as to who the protesters were and the reason they were there. The next segment on Fox News was a regular show led by some dude I don't know who talked about the event, gave his opinion, then asked Pundits A, B and C their opinions.

To this day, I don't know exactly who the protestors were, what they were specifically protesting and what their end goal was. They could have been hired by some Dem group to stir things up, they could have been hired by some Trump group to make other protestors look bad, they could have been an organic collection of people who got caught up in the heat of the moment.

Why don't I know?

Because NONE of the alleged journalists asked them. Not even the dude right there on the scene.

Instead, we got a lot of "Well, I don't know for sure what their motivations are but I suspect..." From all of the talking heads.

It drove me crazy. To be fair, my traveling companion thought it was just as ridiculous. And, I'm not just bashing Fox News here. I've no doubt they all do the same.

Not once in the week that we watched did I hear any pundit say, "Hey, that's a great point you bring up there. I need to rethink my opinion." It was just repeated, "Here's what I believe and you're right, Pundit A and C and you're wrong, Pundit B."

Why have we gotten to this? I believe it's ratings and the need for people to hear someone else validate their opinions. If you think everyone who shows up to protest Trump is an illegal hooligan living off welfare, you can find someone to agree with you on Fox News. If you think that all Republicans are waging a war on women, you can find validation on MSNBC.

Of course, that's what I believe but I don't know for sure. Holy crap, I'm a talking head, too! I'm clearly qualified for my own segment on MSNBC.

I referenced Walter Cronkite's tag line earlier. He usually ended his broadcasts with "And that's the way it is" followed by the date.

You know when he didn't end that way? When the last story was an editorial or a commentary.

Because editorials aren't news. Editorials are what Pundit A, B and C tell you.

I miss Walter Cronkite and I miss the News.

5.12.2016

Artwork Complete!

Our wall of tiles is complete! I wrote about the creative process a while back where we all had an opportunity to make the tiles. A lot of work by Kim, our resident artist (and VP), later and the wall is done.

Careful placement with spacers for the grout.
We hired some people to affix the tiles to the wall and do the grout work. They were at it for quite a while.
Supply of tiles to be affixed to the wall. 
So, yeah, we thought we had made enough tiles... Kim had to make some more as the space was bigger than what we already had for our supply. She did all the stain and kiln work and most of the final design determinations.
Kim overseeing the placement work.
There was careful consideration to placement to make sure the pattern of colors and tile designs flowed well.
Grout work.
After a few of the rows had grout put around them we found that the grout stain was also staining the tiles. So, they had to tape off each tile before putting in the grout. And, we had to clean the already stained tiles. (By we, I mean someone else. I just observed.)
Close up of a few tiles.
I have no idea which ones I made. They're all a far cry from the gray clay that they used to be but they're all gorgeous.
Close up of a few tiles.

The final product!
It's huge! And, it's impressive. I find myself stopping and staring at it as I go in and out the front door. Between the designs and the colors, there's always something to catch the eye.

Kudos to Kim and everyone involved for their efforts. I love that our team project will be a permanent fixture of our office.