Friday, April 28, 2006

No party for Barry

So Bud Selig has announced that Major League Baseball will not feature any formal celebration when Barry Bonds passes Babe Ruth in the record books, perhaps soon. The rationale is that MLB celebrated when Henry Aaron passed Ruth, but that it's not necessary to do anything for the second or third person to pass a record. MLB would do something official if Bonds breaks Henry Aaron's record.

Makes sense to me. The matter of Barry Bonds and his place in baseball history is a subject of much debate right now. There are a lot of people who question whether Bonds should be consigned to the nether region occupied by Pete Rose, Shoeless Joe Jackson and others whose conduct shamed the game. I still don't think so, but I sure hope that Bonds retires before he gets to Hammerin' Hank's mark of 755. It would be problematic to have someone as tainted as Bonds reign as the home run king. The good news is that if Bonds makes it, he may not hold the record for long. Alex Rodriguez and Albert Pujols, among others, are gaining on him. And, so far, no one has accused either of them of being participants in the steroid circus.

Pimp my Purple Pride

So did you get a load of the new Vikings jerseys, revealed with much fanfare at MoA yesterday? The asymetrical stripes look was pretty cool when the Broncos introduced it back in 1997. If the Queens had really wanted to make a statement, they should have gone back to the Zubaz look, especially since it's never completely went away in their prospective new home, Anoka County.

My lovely, sensible bride took one look at the video of the "fashion show" and said to me, "you know, how often have the New York Yankees changed their uniform style? How about the Colts? And how often have the Houston Astros changed theirs? What does that tell you?" My only answer - my wife is a hell of a lot smarter than anyone at Winter Park.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

So Bad They're Great - a Mr. Dilettante seminar

Yesterday I talked about 1974, the worst year in rock history, and listed a number of the atrocities committed to vinyl that year. There's plenty more bad songs and it's a fun game to think of others - I didn't even get to things like "Afternoon Delight," "We Built This City" or "Rock Me Amadeus" yesterday, deserving of scorn as they are.

Here's a challenge to my high-single digit readership - let's take this a step further. I'd like to compile a list of songs that are "So Bad They're Great." The operative principle here is that we pick songs that are, at first glance, not so good, or even actively annoying, but that are fun in their own way. There are a lot of songs that fit this bill; nearly the entire body of work of the Sweet would fall into this category. Herewith, a few nominees to prime the pump:

"Walk Like an Egyptian," by the Bangles. A true irritant back in 1987, but a song that's dumb and fun, which pretty much sums up the Bangles.

"You Sexy Thing," by Hot Chocolate. In its original discofied mid-70s context, this song was somewhat hard to take. 30 years on, it sounds surprisingly fresh and singer Errol Brown's vaguely Caribbean voice is a lot more interesting than his successor, the bland Billy Ocean. Related song by same band - "Everyone's a Winner."

"Thunder Island," by Jay Ferguson. A one shot from the former lead singer for Spirit, a good but largely forgotten hippie era band, this straight ahead rocker offers a fairly randy tale of sex on the beach. Very 70s.

"I'm Not in Love," by 10cc. A real oddity, this 55-gallon drum of creamy orchestration and fey denials of amore holds up surprisingly well. 10cc was, like the Raspberries, a very 70s band that always brought out mixed reactions. I'd also suggest their faux-reggae "Dreadlock Holiday."

"Go All the Way," by the Raspberries. Speaking of those guys, this was a very straightforward lust-riven pop shot that had some bite. Unfortunately, Eric Carmen went on to do some really dire stuff later on.

"You Shook Me All Night Long," by AC/DC. Speaking of straightforward, this surprisingly poppy blast of metallic lust overcomes its headbanger pedigree.

"Der Komissar," by ATF. Somewhat incoherent but hooky as hell in a weirdly European way. You can hear the synth the minute you think of the title.

Okay, there's a start. The floor is open. Let's nominate!

Snow Job

Word comes this morning that Tony Snow, long time Fox News correspondent, sometime columnist and former Reagan hand, will become the new White House press secretary. Snow is an excellent pick - he's telegenic, quick on his feet and knows his antagonists well. He's also been known to take a few shots at the president as a commentator. In short, he's a far more formidable figure than the good natured but sputtering Scott McClellan, who resigned last week.

If Bush is going to have any success in the rest of his presidency, he has to take the offensive on his myriad critics, who have largely had the field to themselves since the 2004 election. Hiring someone who can make a coherent case for administration policies is a good start. The next challenge - having coherent policies. But that's a topic for another day....

One more for Number 4

So the siege of Hattiesburg is apparently over, and Brett Favre has decided to return for one more year as the signal-caller and public face of the Green Bay Packers. So what should we think about this?

I’m guessing a lot of Packers fans are feeling ambivalent about Favre’s return. I cannot overstate my gratitude for his 14 mostly spectacular years at the helm. No one has been more fun to watch. Favre is, I think, the greatest Packer of them all. But still you wonder….

The glories of the consecutive Super Bowl runs are now a decade past and while the Packers have challenged as recently as 2004, it’s difficult to see how Favre can lead one last charge for the championship without more help than the Packers can currently provide. We are at draft time and it’s highly likely that the Packers will be looking for a defender, perhaps A. J. Hawk, to be the first round pick. Favre will operate behind a patchwork offensive line that has strong tackles and little else. Javon Walker wants out. Ahman Green is likely gassed and while the Samkon Gado saga had its entertainment value, it’s hard to see Gado as a full-time runner.

The Packers weren’t necessarily as terrible as their 4-12 record indicated; other than a horrific thrashing in Baltimore, many of the losses were close. But it would take an especially cock-eyed optimist to think that 4-12 can turn into 9-7, or even 11-5, which is the record the Pack will likely need to make the playoffs. My best guess is Favre can get the Packers to maybe 7-9, and that’s not good enough. I fear Favre will regret returning and he may even tarnish his legacy by having another interception-filled year as he tries to compensate for his team’s myriad shortcomings. And that would be too bad, because I prefer to remember 1996. But it hasn’t been 1996 for a long time.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Jim Thome is the anti-Christ

Actually, he's not. In fact, he's a pleasant man from central Illinois who can hit a baseball about nine miles. Especially when he's facing Twins pitching. Then again, pretty much everyone who has been facing Twins pitching lately has been hitting the ball nine miles. That may be the most surprising part of the Bataan Death March that the Twins have recently completed against some of the top echelon of the American League. When the season began, there were significant concerns whether or not the Twins would be able to hit well enough to compete against the Whities, the Indians, et al. But one thing everyone knew - rather, thought they knew - was that the Twins would pitch well. Had potentially the best starting rotation in the American League, at least that's what we were told.

Hasn't turned out that way, so far. Up to this point, the most consistent starting pitcher has been Scott Baker, who has at least pitched well in most cases. Brad Radke looks cooked, Carlos Silva looks lost and Kyle Lohse looks like Kyle Lohse. Meanwhile, the one guy we assumed we could count on, mighty Johan Santana, is off to a very slow start, although he has shown flashes of brilliance. The call has been going out to put promising youngster Francisco Liriano into the rotation, even though he is exceptionally raw and probably not ready. It's understandable, given the way the White Sox beat up the Twins in Chicago this past weekend. The gap between the teams now appears to be a chasm, as the Whities simply dispensed with the Twins all weekend long. And with long-time Twin Killer Thome on their side, it's difficult to see how the Twins are going to get past the Beasts of Bridgeport any time soon.

The job search blues

I am now in week four of my job search. I’ve had an interview or two, a number of “we’re still reviewing candidates” conversations and, other than a few positive conversations with people on my side, not a whole heck of a lot of traction. There is a certain sense of déjà vu to all this; back in 2003, when I “left” Target, I felt the same sorts of feelings that I’m having now. You can expend a lot of effort and energy in a job search and still not make a lot of progress. That’s what this first month has seemed like. While I suspect that things will start to break favorably soon, it gets frustrating. But you have no choice but to stay with it. I have portable, transferable skills and someone needs me. They may not know it yet. But they will, soon enough.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Name Five

I’d like to share an anecdote from many years back. When I was young, probably 7 or 8, I was enjoying (rather, not enjoying) a family meal. I was a very fussy eater as a child, and my mother, bless her soul, was a truly abysmal cook. As a result, meals were often confrontational at my house. One evening I refused to eat something that was on my plate (probably a mishandled canned vegetable) and my father, bless his soul, pulled out one of the hoariest clichés around: “Eat your food. Don’t you know there are starving children in India right now?”

Budding smart-aleck that I was, I turned to my father and responded, “Name five.” I did get a spanking for that comment, and given my impertinence it’s hard to fault Dad for doing so. However, the challenge was one he could not answer.

All these years later, that riposte still seems apt. As you’ve likely noticed, we can now name as many as six or seven retired military generals who have publicly criticized the performance of Donald Rumsfeld. That’s even more than five. Are you aware of how many retired generals, admirals, etc., there are? I’ve seen various totals, but generally the number is something like 7,000. Do these six or seven generals accurately reflect the views of the military? Or are they merely a small group of malcontents? Who knows? There’s no way to know, short of tracking down all of the old military men and women out there. Think that’s going to happen? Not likely.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Reality Check/Project Energy

A long running feature on WCCO-TV is the "Reality Check" segment, in which WCCO political reporter Pat Kessler turns a gimlet eye on statements made by certain politicians, political ads, etc. Over the years he has been much more skeptical of Republican claims than DFL claims; this is hardly surprising, given the proclivities of the WCCO newsroom and the Twin Cities in general. Kessler is especially fond of skewering political ads. He will run portions of an ad, highlighting a particular claim, then superimposing his high-pitched yet stentorian voice and a transgressive red graphic over the ad's image, saying "THIS IS FALSE."

Oddly, however, he has not turned his attention to a politically charged ad campaign that regularly makes false claims - the anti-smoking MPAAT campaign. Lately it has been running ads claiming that 38,000 people die from second hand smoke every year. Yet, as we've discussed in this space before, they are seemingly unable to find anyone from the state of Minnesota to feature in their ads. If 38,000 people were dying every year, it would be reasonable to surmise that you could find at least a dozen people in the Twin Cities metro alone who are meeting this fate. But it never happens. I wonder why Kessler doesn't ask this question....

Meanwhile, there's been an amazing disconnect between the sponsors of the WCCO newscast and the material contained in the newscasts, especially recently. For the past 7-10 days WCCO has pounding its audience with the "Project Energy" series, a jeremiad designed to shame its viewers for their profligate energy use. This coverage has been tendentious, one-sided and economically illiterate. Oddly enough, the series is evidently sponsored by Hummer. In fact, gas guzzling automobiles account for well over half of the ads that run during the WCCO newscast. It's an amazing disconnect, especially since Hummers, as the most visible icon of horrible yuppie excess, are advertised nearly every night. You would think that a crusading news organization that is attempting to educate us about our profligate ways would refuse, as a matter of principle, the filthy monies of Hummer marketers. But you would be wrong.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

High Sierra

Ruben Sierra should make his Twins debut sometime this week, following his activation from the disabled list. Sierra first came on the scene way back in 1987, looking like a switch-hitting Roberto Clemente. While he never quite reached the levels of greatness that some predicted, he’s been a steady, productive major leaguer for nearly two decades. Although he is 40, he can still swing the bat. Twins fans well remember the blow he struck against Juan Rincon during his stint with the New York Yankees.

If I were Rondell White, I’d be looking over my shoulder. Although it’s early, White has been a massive disappointment thus far, hitting around .100 and showing no power at all. Sierra may be getting some DH at-bats, and soon.

A necessary website

Those of us in the B of A expatriate community have long been waiting for this one. And it’s finally here. I commend to your attention:

Yonder lies the land of the Red Scourge. If you know the Scourge, you’ll find this a real treat. And if you don’t, well, it’s really about time that you did. And if you aren’t visiting Umlaut Free at, you must consider yourself well behind the curve.

Monday, April 17, 2006

A terrible beauty is born

Easter arrived uneventfully enough yesterday. It was business as usual at St. John the Baptist, the smug suburban megaparish that we attend. The parking lot was filled to capacity with regular parishioners and the various "E/C Catholics" (i.e., those who attend Mass on Easter and Christmas only), with boys festooned with clip-on ties and girls adorned with Easter bonnets and bright, frilly dresses. The service was filled pomp, circumstance, pieities and enough incense to rival what Janet Reno had pumped into the Branch Davidian compound.

The pastor at St. John the Baptist is an affable fellow named Fr. Bill Murtaugh. Fr. Bill fancies himself a wit and likes to skewer really safe targets, like the Religious Right. He will be leaving SJB shortly to take an associate pastor role at Pax Christi, an even larger smug suburban megaparish in far Eden Prairie. Fr. Bill has had a number of struggles in recent months, including time in a rehab center for an unstated problem that most everyone surmises to be related to drinking. I wish him well at his new assignment.

Catholics are at an interesting place right now, and Easter seems like a good time to think about it. Easter celebrates the Resurrection of Jesus, so it is often seen as a time of great joy and renewal. And a parish like SJB is certainly a place in need of renewal. SJB has a reputation for making showy displays of its moral goodness, such as housing homeless families in the church complex several times a year. But it's never been clear that these exhibitions have improved the lives of the people involved more than temporarily. There's a quiet but intense battle going on right now for what renewal in the Catholic context should look like. John Paul II had a very strong read on where the Church should go and in his view, Catholics need to look more toward understanding the role God plays in our lives, irrespective of politics. Benedict XVI appears to have the same view; not suprising, given his long-time role at the Vatican under JPII. The clergy who came of age with Fr. Bill generally were products of Vatican II, which greatly liberalized many Church teachings. While there's little dispute that some of the changes wrought by Vatican II, especially conducting mass in the vernacular, rather than Latin, have made faith more accessible to Catholics, many Catholic priests saw the call for greater involvement in the world as an invitation to participate in the political process. We saw an example of this only last week, as the local Archibishop, Harry Flynn, was a major contributor to the immigrant rights marches that took place in St. Paul.

I'm not convinced that this foray into politics has helped the Church, however. While there is no doubt that my faith requires me to be part of the world and to help ameliorate social ills, it's not clear to me that the way to do it is to subcontract the work out to governmental entities. This is especially problematic given the Church's clear teaching on matters such as abortion. The party of government in the U.S. is clearly the Democratic Party; paradoxically for Catholics, the Democratic Party is also the party of abortion. I think the better path is to be involved in our communities, but in ways that reflect our values. If providing a bed for a homeless person is the way to help, do it. If standing on the soup line at the Dorothy Day Center is the way, that works, too. But charity by check removes the personal touch from the action and often corrupts the purpose of what happens. And when governments use coercion to provide amelioration, they often make things worse. Nothing strips dignity from an individual more than being in the clutches of the State.

Can we renew our promises at Easter? Will SJB find a new pastor who is less concerned with ostentatious demonstrations of piety and more concerned with connecting her parishioners with the teachings of Christ? I sure hope so.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Dr. StrangeLetterman

One of the easiest ways to understand what the smart set is thinking is to turn on the late night talk shows. Jay Leno, David Letterman and Jon Stewart are the current kings and I think they have much more influence on public opinion than whoever is using the TelePrompTer on the national newscasts.

Letterman has long been my comedian of choice. He came to television over 20 years ago providing a pretty strong dose of Midwestern skepticism and his sensibility, especially on his NBC show, was congenial to my own views. As he approaches his dotage, Letterman’s political stance has evolved into that of a quintessential East Coast liberal, although he’s still more amusing than Charles Schumer. It’s a shame, because there’s hardly a lack of East Coast liberal views on television. But as a member of that tribe, how Letterman speaks of a topic is a pretty good indicator of current wisdom. No one bashes Bush harder. That’s fair game, of course. I’ve always had major problems with his near-weekly references to Cheney’s “lesbian daughter,” which is quite unfair as she has never been a public figure. But I chalk that up to a desire to emulate Howard Stern, who has earned millions of dollars talking about lesbians.

Letterman’s monologue deals with current events, so he’s essentially required to talk about the implications of Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weaponry. And it’s pretty obvious that he has no idea what to say about it. His only foray into humor was a fake commercial discussing the benefits of being in the “Nuclear Club,” which was portrayed like Club Med. As humor, it was the sort of joke that makes you smile, but not laugh out loud. Of course, there’s nothing funny about Iran potentially having nuclear weaponry, especially given the lunacy of its leadership. Humor is humankind’s best and most enduring coping mechanism for dealing with the unthinkable. I will be curious to see how the jesters deal with this.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Here come the Arden Hills Phillies

They assembled for the first time yesterday at Vermont Park in New Brighton. All told, 9 of the 12 lads assigned the bright red of the Phillies were in attendance on a windy, warm mid-April afternoon. It appears that the team is experienced; not one of the kids was lacking awareness of baseball fundamentals. The team is tall; at least three of the boys are already 5 feet tall at the age of 10. And the team will hit – a number of mighty blasts were flying through the air at the park yesterday. And the coach has the right approach; supportive, ever teaching, stressing the fundamentals but also the need to enjoy the experience.

Baseball at the Little League level can be a thing of great joy, but also a miserable experience if the team lacks talent, or coaching, or both. My son went through an excruciating 0-18 season last year; his team would have struggled to beat Charlie Brown’s team. Because my son loves baseball and is a natural optimist, he’s back for another season this year. But many of his teammates from last year decided to do something else.

It’s the rare kid these days who loves baseball most of all – there are soccer matches, and Gameboys, and hundreds of other gadgets and distractions that will turn a child away from the game. We can’t change that, but we can make the experience of baseball better for those who do love it. We can teach the kids how to play the game correctly; we can teach them the history of the game. We can explain the role baseball has played in our society. But love of the game primarily comes from playing the game, and tasting success. After the first practice, it appears that this year will be better, at least for my son.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Why Tony came to town

The Twins limped back from Cleveland on Monday and got ready for a visit from the Oakland Athletics, a brand name team whose success in recent years has largely mirrored that of the Twins themselves – the A’s are a scrappy, intelligent, limited budget team well loved by the baseball intelligentsia that somehow manages to contend. The A’s typically have a star or two on offense, outstanding pitching and play fundamentally sound baseball. The A’s also play in a stadium better suited for football and considered obsolete for baseball.

So the green-clad doppelgangers took the field against the Twins and fell 7-6, largely because Tony Batista did what he does best – hit a poor pitch about eight miles. Batista and Rondell White came into the Dome after accomplishing essentially nothing during the Twins’ desultory opening road trip. Both were hitting well under their weight and seemed to provide neither intimidation nor consistency against the Blue Jays and the Tribe. The guess here – Batista does not have much left, but he could still hit 30 or more home runs this season. It is evident that, if a pitcher hangs a slider, Batista does not miss it. And at least 10 of those times, it will have a major, positive impact in the game. And that may be enough to narrow the gap between the Twins and their rivals.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006


While it’s difficult to know whether there was an actual focus group involved, there has been a lot of market research in the immigration protests. The first orchestrated protests from last month were chock-full of Mexican flags, with a smattering of banners from other nations. All those red and green banners may have given some people the wrong idea, this was not about “imigracion,” but rather about “reconquista.” Visuals do matter.

So this time, it was clear that the pictures on the front page of the newspaper, or leading the evening news, needed less red and green and more red, white and blue. So we saw American flags, hundreds of them. Was this cynical? For the leftist organizers, probably it was, but for the marchers, probably not. My sense is that there is a fairly large wellspring of gratitude among those who have come to America to work. They may not like living in the shadows and having to avoid the high-handed INS, but they are grateful to have an opportunity beyond the squalor from which they’ve escaped. Many would wave an American flag proudly, and pledge allegiance to it without hesitation, if they could.

What’s odd is that many of the organizers of these protest marches do not agree with those who are marching. The leftist component that has played such a major role is these marches, especially ANSWER, essentially reject traditional American values. They typically view America as imperialist, racist, essentially irredeemable. If they could, they would fundamentally alter the world and impose something quite different on all of us.

So do you pay attention to the marchers, or the organizers? That’s the question.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Baseball after the first weekend

Just a few quick thoughts about our favorite nines:

  • The Brewers are off to a fine start, but reality is about to hit, in the form of a visit to St. Louis. It's evident that the Brew Crew has some talent this year and they may hang around for a while, but the continued development of Rickie Weeks and especially Prince Fielder are going to be absolutely crucial. The Brewer brain trust made three smart acquisitions in the off season, bringing back set up man Dan Kolb, utility man par excellence Jeff Cirillo, and fragile but professional 3rd baseman Corey Koskie. Koskie adds balance to the lineup and when he breaks down in July, Cirillo will be ready to take charge. If there's enough pitching, the Brew Crew could be making a run in September. But the Cards and Cubs are lurking....
  • As for the Twins, oy. We haven't seen much in the first six games that would indicate they are ready to contend. Tony Batista and Rondell White are okay, and Luis Castillo is a vast improvement over potted plant Luis Rivas at 2nd base, but it sure doesn't look like they have enough clutch hitting or pitching, especially with the strength of the competition. A lot of the wise guys picked the Twins for 3rd this year, behind the Whities and the Indians. 4th may be a better guess, especially if the Tigers continue to get good pitching.
  • Meanwhile, in the season that really matters, Shoreview Area Youth Baseball is about to start. My son is a Phillie this year. We'll chronicle his exploits in this space as well.

If you go carrying pictures of Comrade Che

So there were 30,000 people demonstrating at the State Capitol yesterday, talking about the immigration issue. The Archbishop weighed in. The constellation of left-wing activists, rent-a-Marxists and professional grievance mongers were all present and accounted for. Flags from just about every country in the Western Hemisphere fluttered in the breeze.

Like a moth to a flame, the ongoing debate over immigration is almost impossible to resist. This debate goes to the very essence of what makes this country what it is. It is also a vast buffet of competing agendas and a 55 gallon drum of cynicism. In short, it’s a uniquely American discussion. But what drives the players?

I think we have to look at it with two words – opportunity, and opportunism. Those who come to the U.S. from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, the D.R., etc., are here because life back home is unacceptable. If you’ve ever been to Central America, it’s obvious why someone would risk their life to come to America. In my youth I spent a summer as an exchange student in Guatemala. I lived with a wealthy family who lived in a comfortable home on the outskirts of Guatemala City, who also owned a coffee plantation near Antigua (well known to anyone who has spent time at a Starbucks) and had a vacation home near the volcanic and amazingly gorgeous Lake Atitlan. While I was there, I was able to see how “las indigenas,” mostly the descendants of Mayan cultures, lived. And it was terrible. I saw women washing their clothes in a polluted stream. I saw beggars and sad faced children, the entire panoply of poverty and privation, skulking down the roads, occasionally staring at the tall, nervous young man in their midst. What I learned is that many of these people were unable to speak Spanish, instead conversing in Mayan dialects. So they had no chance to get ahead, especially with a corrupt, military-dominated government that viewed summary execution as an acceptable application of state power.

If that is how you live, picking sugar beets outside Fergus Falls for $6/hour or washing dishes for the Udupi Café in Columbia Heights would be a decided improvement. And chances are good you would come to El Norte. Not surprisingly, some people have made it here. And I don’t blame them for that. It is my great fortune, and an accident of my birth, that I entered the planet in Chicago, scion of middle class parents, rather than in a remote Mayan village.

But there’s a rub, of course. Those who are unable to communicate for themselves often are the mercy of those who would communicate for them. This is where the opportunism of the professional grievance mongers come in. Left-wing movements always trumpet their credentials as advocates for the downtrodden. They regularly issue polemics, make signs, organize marches and the like. Where the nexus between these groups and the immigrant community becomes even more problematic is when you start getting the “reconquista” and “Aztlan” rhetoric. In this telling, evil America has stolen the land from the downtrodden through its 19th century imperialist wars against Mexico. California, and everything in it, rightly belongs to the People, not to those gringos who control and exploit the land now. And the leftist firebrands who swear allegiance to Castro, Chavez and Che will right this historic wrong. And provide banners and logistical support, too!

But it’s rot, of course. The variety and number of Venezuelans who are coming north is increasing now, specifically because Chavez is imposing his own dictatorship. Cubans have long been willing to risk death by climbing onto makeshift rafts, hoping to avoid the sharks long enough to wash up in America. But Cuban refugees are not typically popular, because they are known to do things like support Republicans.

So what do we do? Keep revisiting the matter. More tomorrow.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Valhalla, I am coming (yet again)

The subject du jour is still immigration. We’re still hearing that illegals are stealing American jobs and the shrieking is getting out of control. Meanwhile, the Associated Press reports that unemployment is down to 4.7% and that employers added 211,000 jobs to payrolls in the last month. Maybe I can get me one of those jobs; that is, unless one of those dastardly illegals is going to do my managerial-style work for $6/hour. I’m picturing some guy in a potato field simultaneously working a BlackBerry. I don’t know how this astonishingly acrimonious debate will end, but one thing is clear enough – anyone who wants a job in America will eventually find one. And I’ll be one of them.


Another day, another set of applications and resumes into the ether. I have managed to contact two financial organizations, an engineering firm and a home shopping network. Strangely enough, all have available positions that well match my skills and qualifications. There’s a reason this blog is called Mr. Dilettante – I have always been a fellow with wide-ranging interests. The counter argument is that wide ranging interests betray a lack of focus. Guess I’ll find out soon enough.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Mayberry RFP

Another day, another set of potential issues/interviews. The most intriguing of the day is a position for an RFP/Grant Writer for a financial concern here in the Twin Cities. Working on RFPs all day requires similar skills to those one must exhibit in the job search. You must provide cogent, thorough answers as economically as possible, buttressed with factual statements. You have to differentiate yourself. You also have to accept defeat, often rather a lot. Competition is tough and clients have become increasingly savvy to the strengths and weaknesses of service providers. There are very few places to hide in today’s marketplace. Companies that do not perform are littering the roadway. And they are often dressed in failed RFPs.

It sounds like a challenge worth trying.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006


While being out of work is no fun at all, thinking about your next job can be useful. Thinking about the challenges that drive prospective employers does make a difference in your search, even if the employer does not give you a chance.

Today’s employer du jour is Carlson Leisure Group, one of the many tentacles of the Minnetonka-based Carlson family empire, whose holdings range from Radisson hotels, to Friday’s restaurants, to a chain of travel agencies that is increasingly endangered by the diffusion of expertise made possible through the Internet and the DIY ethos it inspires. The challenge, increasingly, for specialized business like travel agencies is showing how they add value. Why would you need a travel agent if you have access to hotel information, airline reservations systems and effective on-line providers like Travelocity and Orbitz? Explaining why you are better, and getting the customers to pay for the premium, is increasingly daunting. Can you demonstrate that a vacation planned through an agency is better? Or better yet, cheaper? Would you even be willing to guarantee it?

Applied expertise is the crucial competitive advantage for businesses. It is easier than ever to find out how things work, but having the know-how to ensure that they do work is where things get sticky.

Monday, April 03, 2006


The advantage of blogging is that you can use your blog for a variety of purposes. I will be chronicling my job search efforts on Mr. Dilettante, as a way to keep my faithful readership (perhaps up to double digits by now) apprised of my efforts and also to help me stay on track. Unemployment is a dreadful thing – you feel like a hobo in a rail yard as you watch the trains go by, trying to hop a train that keeps moving.

It’s now two days of gainful unemployment. I am working at the Minnesota Workforce Center in lovely Blaine, Minnesota. The State of Minnesota provides a variety of resources to those seeking employment, but at the same time it’s somewhat dehumanizing. In order to take advantage of what is available at the MWC, you need to sign in and essentially make yourself available to the whims of the bureaucracy. Everyone wants to be helpful, of course, but there’s a whiff of the warden in this facility, especially given the number of counselors who patrol the cubes, watching you to ensure you are not doing something bad. I have sent about seven more resumes out to various prospective employers today, the most promising of which is the Memorial Blood Centers of Minneapolis. MBC has had some tough times lately; while they run a tight ship and have always been a praiseworthy organization, it is has been difficult to get people to donate blood in recent years. It’s difficult to understand why – with the ongoing threat of terrorism and the continuing war in Iraq, you would think that people would be willing to roll up their sleeves and offer a pint here and there, but it has not been happening enough. Perhaps I’ll have a chance to do something about that….