September 2009 Archives

2009 Minneapolis Urban Assault Ride

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On Sunday, my friend Paul and I teamed up and took part in the Urban Assault Ride. This is a fun bike race, sponsored by New Belgium Brewing (think Fat Tire Beer) and is a 30 mile race through the City with 7 different check points. The check points have different tasks that need to be completed before you move on to the next check point. You can do the check points in any order and besides being fast on a bike, knowing the City is key to doing well. Five hundred bikers competed in total and we survived, finished in the middle of the pack (see below), but more importantly had a blast.

As you can expect, the race was dominated by tattooed, beer loving 20-somethings and the whole thing has a groovy, eco-friendly, peace and sustainability vibe. Sponsors include the requisite bike shops, Cliff Bar, Peace Coffee, and bike apparel companies. All of whom are very funky, and tout sustainability and bike/earth-friendly policies on their web sites.

Besides the known check points, there were two "mystery check points" one of which was given as a clue in the form of an anagram a couple of days before the race. The second mystery clue would be given out at the first mystery check point. I was able to figure out the anagram and we felt pretty good going into the race. We had a route figured out that gave us ample flexibility for the second mystery spot -- hopefully without any backtracking.

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Paul and I before the race

We completed a quiz that actually gave us (and about 100 other bikers) a 150 second head start and we were off. The first checkpoint was close and entailed throwing wet sponges at our partners who had a bucket on their head. Three sponges in the bucket and you were done. The second checkpoint was the first mystery spot and when we got there this is what we found:

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Find This

Of course we were stumped. Now knowing that something like this was going to happen we had an I-phone with us. We tried to google the pic to no avail. (most everyone else was stumped too) We decided to head to the next check point which was at REI in Bloomington, a good 7 mile trek away. Now the trip to REI is where the speed demons separate themselves from the pack. From the second check point at 34th and Lyndale to REI at 84th and Lyndale then back downtown, we are talking 130 blocks or nearly 18 miles. Even someone who on average is even 2 miles an hour faster is going to leave everyone else in their wake.

The REI task was the toughest. Both team members got on a skateboard, using no hands or feet and just a toilet plunger, had to navigate a course. We did ok and we spent more time on the I-phone and found the second mystery spot. Even better, it was very close to our known third checkpoint in the Warehouse District so we were on course with no backtracking.

From the Warehouse District to Dinkytown to the Seward Neighborhood back to Peace Coffee we were going as fast as we could. The final checkpoint was where we started and you had to do a big wheel race and then go through an inflated obstacle course and then turn in the seven beads you received at all the check points before you could be officially counted as finished. Even though we finished in the middle of the pack, if there had been an over-45 category, we would have definitely been near the winner's circle as I said above, the race was dominated by people much younger than us.

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Paul and I immediately after the race

Afterwards is the big party, we got two free beer tickets and I scored a 3rd ticket for being in a mustache contest. There was some other contests and we tried to score some swag to no avail. After some fun people watching we gathered our bikes and slowly aching bodies back to the car and we were done. I am definitely making this an annual event with the goal of bettering our time and showing those younger dudes that we 40 year olds can still throw down on a bike.

Check back I may update with more photos if we show up on the UAR photo page.

Results Update: We finished 32nd out of 78 in the Male Category and 58th total out of about 240 teams. That's in the top 25%!!!

Big Sports Weekend (and Next Week is Bigger!)

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Well wasn't that fun. Twins in the playoff hunt and win 2 of 3 from the Royals. Gophers win their Big Ten opener on the road and the Vikings pull out a last second win, with a no-timeout drive that we have only seen in these parts when the defense is on the field. Let's take them one at a time.

Twins. Although the Royals are wretched again, they tend to be spoilers in late September so it was nice to see the Twins win 2 out of 3 games over the weekend. The Twins have been surging of late and have been beating the teams they needed to beat in order to stay in the race. In fact before Sunday's loss, the Twins had scored 7, 8, 8, 9, and 11 runs. It would have been nice to win yesterday but going into the four game series against Detroit only two out is something I will take (especially considering where they were about a month ago). Winning 3 of 4 against the Tigers is key. Even splitting the series does the Twins no favors.

Gophers. It was nice to play Northwestern where the last play of the game didn't break your heart so the weekend was great right there. Gophers beat a team on the road they needed to beat in order to considered a legitimate team. It wasn't pretty, but you had the feeling that the Gophers were in control the whole time, even when they went behind early in the 4th quarter. Plus it was nice to see the Gophers run game get into gear. This team isn't going to a major bowl, but it's heading in the right direction.

Vikings. What can you say? When the Vikings got the ball back with a minute remaining, I said well, this is exactly why they got Brett Favre. Like I said above, it was nice to see a last second drive for a win when our offense was on the field, not the defense. Although it was a win, and the 49ers are a pretty good team, this game also shows that the Vikings still have some work to do on both their offensive and defensive lines. Also Brett Favre can't throw 47 times regularly and expect the Vikings to win or have him last the entire season. A good win, but definitely room for improvement if the Vikings think they have a shot in late January.

The thing is, even though it was a great weekend, next weekend should be even greater. Hopefully the Twins do well in Detroit and the last three games at the Metrodome have meaning other than being the last indoor baseball games in Minnesota. The Gophers take on the Wisconsin BADgers at home with the first Big Ten game at TCF and the Vikings take on the Packers at the Metrodome on Monday. Brett Favre v. the Packers. All three games/series are winnable and will tell a lot about the future of all three teams. I can't wait.


Friday Random Top 10

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This past Wednesday I crossed over the 1000 mile mark on my bike for the year. I think my first ride was in mid-April so that is about 200 miles a month. Definitely room for improvement next year. On Sunday I am doing the Urban Assault Ride which looks like a blast. Let's celebrate with a random top 10:

1. The Good Life - Weezer
2. Van Lear Rose - Loretta Lynn
3. Up the Junction - Squeeze
4. Punk and the Grandfather - The Who
5. Before I Break - Uncle Tupelo
6. Joke about Jamaica - The Hold Steady
7. Hey You - Luther Wright and the Wrongs
8. My Impression Now - Guided By Voices
9. Papa was a Rodeo - Kelly Hogan and the Pine Valley Cosmonauts
10. Come una Peitra Scalciatal (Like a Rolling Stone) - Articolo 31

Bonus - Trial of Mary Maguire - Bobby Patterson

If you haven't heard it, you must seek out Luther Wright and the Wrongs countrified version of The Wall called Rebuild the Wall. It is a hoot! What's your top 10?

So You're Sayin' There's A Chance

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Ten days left in the baseball season and the Twins are still in it which at various times in the season most people would have never hoped for. Now don't get me wrong, this isn't a great Twins team and their semi-lofty status is all related to the fact that the AL Central is wretched. However, in baseball, more than any other sport, a team can do some damage in the playoffs, even if they have no business being there. So bring on the Yankees!

Now nothing gives me greater pleasure than a Twins victory that also pushes the Whine Sox to the brink of elimination, especially in their own park. Even a Twins win today won't mathematically eliminate the Whities, but they will be on the brink. I will definitely pay attention even for that.

So I will continue to enjoy the baseball season, at least for a few more days. Heck, a team that uses Brandon (Dirty Harry) Harris as the DH and scores 8 runs has some higher power looking out for it. Also Joe Mauer is having a season for the ages and if you don't like watching Joe Mauer play baseball, while then there is no hope for you.

Favorite Things -- Loretta Lynn's Women's Prison

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Death has long been a topic of Country Music. Death predominates Country music so much (or at least it did before Country started marketing itself to teenage girls) that a sub-genre known as the Country Death Song has established itself as an anchor of Country Music history. Although most death songs deal with murdering a cheating lover and/or his/her cheater, other Country Death Songs have dealt with suicide, executions, and even sickness -- especially dying of a broken heart. Heck Columbia Records released a whole album of Johnny Cash death songs called Murder.

One of the greatest Country Death Songs is Women's Prison by Loretta Lynn with Jack White from the 2004 album Van Lear Rose. It's got it all: a woman/narrator finding her lover with a former friend and killing him, the execution of the woman/narrator, an angry prison mob, a crying mother. The opening lines really tell the story and bring you right to the present:


I'm in a women's prison with bars all around
I caught my darlin cheatin thats when I shot him down
I caught him in a honky-tonk with a girl I used to know
The door to my cell is open wide and a voice cries out oh no

On the album what really sucks you into this song is right before it is the treacly God Makes No Mistakes, which tells us that Gods ways are mysterious and we shouldn't question them. The end of that song moves right into Women's Prison and its quite difficult to tell where one song ends the other begins. But the themes are jarring: From accepting God's lot to sitting on Death Row within a few notes.

Obviously killing someone in a Honky-Tonk is quite public and the murder and her execution have obviously stirred public passions as we learn in the chorus:

The crowd outside is screamin' let the murderer die! But above all their voices I can hear my mama cry.

The music is quite jarring too. During the verses, Loretta Lynn is accompanied by some basic country guitar licks -- slow and somber. However during the chorus, Jack White really revs up the guitars to a fever pitch, matching the emotion of the crowd.

Finally after dragged from her knees from death row by an unsympathetic warden and a cold priest, the Woman is strapped into the electric chair and is electrocuted:

Now they've strapped me in the chair And covered up my eyes And the last voice I hear on Earth Is my mama's cry

What's really amazing is that an organ starts playing in the background as Lynn sings these last words and is it grows louder, Jack White mumbles Amazing Grace How Sweet the Sound.... Then the guitars rev up again to their fever pitch and brings the song to an end after about a minute of some pretty frenzied guitar work.

An amazing song and amazing performance and one of the greatest examples of a Country Death Song out there. Below is a video someone, not associated with Loretta Lynn, did of the song.


Friday Random Top 10

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Sorry not much blog activity this week. Guess I wasn't too inspired. Maybe a Random Top 10 will get me out my funk

1. How Are You - Cheap Trick
2. Sugarlight - X
3. Oh Lucinda - The Only Ones
4. This Has Gotta Be a Joke - Hypstrz
5. Said the People - Dinosaur Jr.
6. ELT - Wilco
7. Bright Lights, Big City - High Spirits
8. Man of the World - Fleetwood Mac
9. Brothers on a Hotel Bed - Death Cab for Cutie
10. Stop Your Sobbing - The Pretenders

Bonus -- Lead Me, Guide Me - Elvis Presley

Stop your Sobbing still gets me 30 years after its release. All in all an o.k. list. What's your Top 10?

TCF Bank Stadium Opening Night

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So it finally happened Gopher Football back on campus. It was a great day with the entire campus decked out in Maroon in Gold. The stadium is fantastic and a Gopher win made for a great day.

There has been a ton written about Saturday's game so it's hard to add anything else. The stadium is very nice and there is hardly a bad seat in the house. The student section was rockin' and if one of the goals of the stadium was to bring a collegiate atmosphere back to the University, I would say Mission Accomplished!

It was amazing to see the campus awash with Maroon and Gold and there were people everywhere! It was a party, which I know is nothing to write about at most BCS football schools but something here in Minnesota. As a football stadium, TCF works great and the traffic problems that were anticipated were minor for what I could tell. However there were a few concerns:

Getting people into the stadium needs to be improved and quickened. Do we really need to be patted down before entering. There were still long lines minutes before the game started, and lots of people entered early.

Food service was atrocious. They ran out of food, the cash registers couldn't ring up orders, there were too few individuals serving food outside of the main food stands. It hurts that both the lower and upper bowls empty into one concourse, leaving little room for food service. It's probably fixable but the not enough food issue was just plain stupid.

But that's nit-picking. Overall it was a great experience and I can't wait to see how TCF Bank Stadium settles in to being the home of the Golden Gophers. Below are some pictures I took. Also I have some video on youtube. You can see those here.

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Elaine Spending $$$ on Gopher Gear

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Cheerleaders Proposing to Me

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Goldy

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Fans Coming to Stadium

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Kick-off!

Friday Random Top 10

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There are few greater ways to begin your day than riding a bike over the Mississippi River on a glorious September morning with the Ramones blaring in your ears. Let's have a Random top 10 to celebrate:

1. Look What You've Done for Me - Al Green
2. The Passion - Billy Bragg
3. I'm Bound for the Promised Land - Johnny Cash
4. Standing in the Doorway - Bob Dylan
5. Dog Treat - Tom Waits
6. Good Night - The Beatles
7. Ever Fallen in Love? - The Buzzcocks
8. Dog Door - Tom Waits
9. Sunday Sun - Beck
10. Sleep! - Big Black

Bonus: Hell is Chrome - Wilco

Wow, seven solo artists and a Tom Waits double dog shot. You just knew a Beatles tune would be in there didn't you? What's your top 10?

Fleece(d by) the Beatles

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ZOMG! It's 09-09-09, Beatles Day. Forty years after they recorded their last album, baby boomers are still trying to wrest control of popular culture by reminding us yet again that the Beatles were the. Greatest. Band. Ever! The Beatles were so great in fact they are giving us the opportunity to buy their albums yet again for only $200 (in stereo or mono). Oh and you younger kids who like to play video games instead of sitting on a bean bag chair, headphones on, listening to Abbey Road, here's a $249.00 video game where you can play Beatles songs too!!!! I'm surprised all the Beatles songs weren't released in Muzak form for Grandma, A Kidz Bop set for those too small for video games, and their catalog re-interpreted by Garth Brooks and Carrie Underwood for Country Music fans. Come on, where's the cross marketing people!

Now don't get me wrong, I like the Beatles just as much as the next guy. I've got most of their songs on the I-pod, I watched a bunch of stuff on VH-1 this past week, heck I even like that movie Across the Universe. They were a great band that basically created youth culture and the standard 2 guitars, bass, and drum set-up that most band still adhere too. Yes, they were great, baby boomers are Gods because they existed while they were growing up, and everyone else will never be as cool because they weren't there.

I guess for me, 40 years later, I'm done with it all. I don't need to buy their albums yet again. I don't need to read yet again, why the Beatles broke up in the pages of Rolling Stone, how creative George Martin was, and the importance of the Number 9 in Beatles lore. We've gone over all that we get it, lets move on already. Besides save something for the 50 year anniversaries that are coming up in the next decade. Also has an album aged any worse than Sgt Preston's Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band? Beside's the goofy costumes, there are only about 4 songs that really hold up 42 years later.

I guess marketers are trying to re-create that time when everybody (and when I say everybody I mean popular youth culture) all liked the same thing. The story is that when Sgt. Prestons Peppers came out, you could walk down the street and hear it from every window. Now days musical tastes are so stratified and divided into a specific niche or genre, that we've lost that community aspect that popular music used to bring. Does anyone even know what's in the top 10 these days? I just wish instead of bringing up some re-treads, as great as they were, that the music industry would embrace a new act or two that could move us much like the Beatles did 5 decades ago.

Crazy

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So President Obama has a message to school children today and surprise surprise, the right wing kooks are worried that Obama is trying to corrupt their children.

Besides the fact that the President's message is fairly benign: Stay in school, work hard, you all have value -- this is just another example of how conservatives have become so shrill and functionally disconnected from issues facing real people in this country.

Unfortunately our media just eats this stuff up and brings a spotlight to folks who don't even deserve a candle. Just think if they gave as much attention to how health care costs are destroying family and workplace budgets throughout the country, how environmental degradation is causing instability throughout the entire planet... But those are complicated issues with nuance. Why try to educate the American population when all you have to do is spend time with some crazed wing nut railing about Obama turning their kids into socialists.

Friday Random Top 10

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A friend's nephew was killed in Afghanistan this week. Tell me again why are we there? A Random Top 10 is needed:

1. Blue Canadian Rockies - The Byrds
2. It was a Very Good Year - The Sounds Like Us
3. Get Off Your Porch - Charlie Pickett
4. People Have the Power - Patti Smith
5. Respect - Aretha Franklin
6. Talk Me with You (When You Go) - The Jayhawks
7. Golden Slumbers - The Beatles
8. High Road - The Feelies
9. I Aint' Ever Givin' In - Fred Eaglesmith
10. So Fine - Chancellors

Bonus: What You Do to Me - Teenage Fanclub

A very appropriate list considering. Have a good weekend. I'll be sealcoating my driveway!!

Gopher Football 2009

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The big story this year for Gopher Football is the return to TCF Stadium. As I have blogged before, the stadium is beautiful and having a real collegiate atmosphere is something I've been railing about for years.

But how good will the Gophers be? In my opinion, the book is still out on Coach Brewster. His recruiting efforts have been Tremendous! but can he coach? I'm still not convinced, but have an open mind. Having Duane Bennett back as RB should be a big help, but the RB depth is pretty thin if he gets hurt again. Adam Weber is a JR, three-year starter at QB and Grey will be an exciting addition in some situations. Decker could be an All-American WR. I am still concerned that Weber looks to Decker for his 1st, 2nd, and 3rd option. If a team shuts down Decker, Weber can look lost. Finally the defense is improving but has a long way to go.

As opposed to past years, the Gophers actually have a tough schedule this year (and in future years, yea!). In fact I think their schedule is one of the 10 toughest in the country, throw in the obvious emotional lift the new stadium will bring and one could make a legitimate case for 4-8 or 8-4. I will be mildly optimistic and predict 7-5.

Gophers will beat Syracuse, Air Force, Wisconsin, Purdue, Illinois, South Dakota State, and Iowa.

They will lose to California, Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State, and Michigan State.

I think Syracuse, Air Force, Wisconsin, and South Dakota State are locks for wins, California, Ohio State, and Penn State are locks for loses, the rest are up in the air.

While I hate moral victories, I won't be looking for a bunch of wins this year, but for competitiveness. No more 55-0 loses at home. Playing Ohio State tough on the road would be nice. Taking a bad team like Purdue and making it a no-contest by the 3rd quarter is a must. If that's the season we get, Gopher future looks good. If the team is sloppy and losing by big margins in its new stadium, Brewster will have to go.

How do you think the Gophers will do?

The Raft

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When I was growing up we lived a short distance from Dutch Lake and one of our friends had a raft on the lake that was basically open for anyone to use. This was in simpler times obviously: no worries about insurance or someone getting sued. No need for permission slips or parental waivers. Just a raft out in the lake for kids to enjoy.

We used to spend hours on that raft, which was probably in water 12-15 feet deep. We'd play king of the raft, throw footballs off the raft and try to catch them before you hit the water, etc. There was a little welcome and unwelcome groping of the opposite sex under the raft from time to time too. All-in-all good old fashioned teenage summertime fun.

I remember a particularly fun afternoon on the raft one late summer afternoon only a couple of days before I was off to college for the first time. We'd been on the lake for a few hours and a couple of us were just hanging on the raft soaking up the sun. I was thinking that that moment was probably the last time I would be able to be so carefree with little to worry about, no responsibilities. Soon I would be at college, school, jobs all beckoned. Who knows what happens after that: a career, family, bills. It wasn't like I wanted to cling to that moment forever and delay my foray into the future, and it wasn't like "bring it on, let's see what's next!" It was more just an acknowledgement that a threshold loomed and that I was soon crossing over into someplace new, without the ability to really come back.

I was right, a threshold soon had been crossed. If I ever went back to that raft the following summers I don't remember it and I am sure it was only 1 or 2 other times if I had. Summer jobs, school, new friends, punk rock, a general disdain for "childish" activities kept me away from the raft. But I still remember that day even 28 years later and I tell myself that if you think about it, we aren't really headed for any particular destination, that we get some ultimate place and then it's all over. Actually we are on a journey. With many thresholds to cross and how and when you cross them depends on a hundred little things. I think back to that day and sometime wish everything was so carefree as it was soaking up the sun on that raft but realize that it can't be. I also look back and am glad I was able to move on, have thousands of new experiences - even the sad and painful ones - and await what's next.

Ricky Rubio

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The latest word out of Spain, (and who knows it might be old by the time this posts) is that Ricky Rubio, the basketball boy wonder, is signing with Barcelona and won't be available to the Timberwolves for 2 years.

For the national media, which doesn't necessarily have the T-wolves interests at heart, this is a disaster for the Timberwolves. Trades with the Knicks are being proffered that would include David Lee and draft choices. Such a trade (Lee is another Forward who is too similar to BAJ and KLove) would be the disaster facing the Wolves, not missing Rubio for 2 years.

Ricky Rubio is 18 years old and really no one really knows if he is ready for the NBA. Doesn't it make sense for him to play in Barcelona, get bigger and stronger, and let the Wolves develop their team? The Wolves will still retain his rights. If Rubio is a bust against better competition, we will learn that without having to pay him. If he is the second coming of Pete Maravich, we'll learn that too and Rubio could be the final piece that the Wolves will need when they start to compete in 2 years. It's almost as though the Wolves have drafted a young phenom and then put him in the minors for seasoning. Did anyone complain when the Twins drafted the 18 year old Joe Mauer and then sent him to Fort Myers to play single A ball?

From his public statements, David Kahn seems to realize this, but I am guessing the pressure is strong to deal Rubio to a team like the Knicks. Let's hope that Kahn keeps the Wolves long term interests at heart, is able to stave off the criticism that will come his way if Rubio does sign with Barcelona and builds a team that is able to plug in Ricky Rubio in 2 years and actually compete with the elite teams of the NBA.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from September 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

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