Happy Birthday, Parker

This Blog turns five today.

While I have not been posting very much recently that doesn’t mean I have abandoned this blog. On the contrary, I actually think about it quite often – wishing I had the time to write quality posts. My life has changed considerably in the last five years and many of the events that have taken place will make for fantastic stories.

The fetching Mrs. Monroe and I used to gauge everything by our first four years together: Engaged at 19, married at 20, first baby at 21, moved away from our hometown at 22.

That was nothing compared to the last two years.

We bought and sold a home in early 2014 (which meant new schools for the girls). The wife began a new job in late 2014. We pulled the middle child from public school and transferred her to a new Charter School literally moments before the school year began (close enough that we ended up paying for two separate sets of school pictures). Then I changed jobs in March 2015. Our oldest enrolled in Post-Secondary Online College for her Senior year, graduated, and moved away to college. Our youngest is beginning kindergarten. I’ve finished off 70% of our new home’s basement and completed a major landscaping project. Oh… and we took a European vacation.

Why, yes. We have been busy.

Apologies for allowing my blog to sit for so long unattended. Many excellent stories to come.

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The Farce Awakens

Star Wars: The Force Awakens was released on Blu-Ray and DVD today. Naturally, I stopped by my local Target to pick up a copy for myself.

Immediately upon entering Target you are assured that THIS is the place to scratch your Star Wars itch. If a product even bears passing resemblance to something (anything!) in the Star Wars Universe it has received a Force Awakens treatment. For example, Target will happily sell you C3PO coffee creamer and BB8 oranges.

Nevermind that, after this particular orange has been removed from its clever packaging (BB8 is cute, round, and orange… just like an orange!) it’s just an ordinary piece of citrus fruit. Unless you plan to drag that netted bag around with you – proudly displaying your on-trend styles – what you’ve got is an everyday, run of the mill, coated with food-grade lac-resin based wax, naval orange. Just like all those poor schlubs who bought the unhip non-licensed fruit.

On that note I will segue into the real topic of today’s blog entry.

Target is currently offering two versions of the Force Awakens Blu-Ray.

The model on the left will set you back twenty dollars; while the option on the right sells for $25. The difference? The packaging.

In truth, in addition to this “exclusive collectible package” Target’s version of the Blu-Ray claims to have “Over twenty minutes of bonus content”… which was already available on the [free] Star Wars mobile phone app. If these interviews and making-of featurettes aren’t already all over YouTube – be patient – they will be (likely before you can rush home and watch/re-watch this summer’s biggest blockbuster with your ultra-chic BB8 orange at your side).

By all means, feel free to spend an extra $5 on 20 minutes of video you weren’t going to watch anyway. When comparing the price-per-minute seeing the entire movie opening day in IMAX 3D cost less but don’t let that stop you.

And I’m totally sure you had HUGE plans for that exclusive collectible package – like, you were going to have it framed (behind archival UV-resistant glass) so you could properly show it off. There’s no way you were going to shove that box to the back of your entertainment center or let it gather dust on a media tower. Who even has those anymore, anyway?! Um, 1992 called and it wants its nestable disc organizer back. No, you’re hip and forward thinking. You plan on downloading the movie to your networked media server and safely storing (ie: shoving in a box under the stairs) the physical disc as a back-up in the unlikely event your entertainment drive would fail.

Either way – let’s face it – you’re never looking at that Blu-Ray clamshell ever again.

And I take particular offense with Target’s desperate use of the word collectible. These Blu-Rays are just about as collectible as the glut of comic books released during mid-90s. When everyone owns something the perceived value falls – because you can obtain another one literally anywhere. If these discs were numbered and limited to a very small print run (like Disney’s Treasures DVD sets) that would be one thing, but they’re not; making Target’s “exclusive” package the equivalent of DC’s Death of Superman. Worthless.

Target’s not the only retailer offering “exclusive” versions of this highly anticipated Blu-Ray. Best Buy, Walmart, and Disney all have their own over-priced versions… but Target is the only retailer offering extra content on the disc (the aforementioned 20 minutes).

Please, don’t let the hype fool you into paying extra for worthless extras.

An Open Letter to Target

Regarding Target’s insistence on pressuring me to open a Target Red Card account.

Dear Target,

Each and every time I find myself in the check-out lane of any Target store I am asked if I want to open a Target Red Card. If your goal is to break the record for overwhelming and exasperating your customer base then you are, by all measures, doing a remarkable job.

First off, the very last thing Americans need is another line of credit – or another way to make paying for impulse items quicker and easier. It’s all too evident that Target management disagrees with this first point; opting instead to believe this is exactly what the American consumer needs.

It’s also very obvious that Target cashiers, already famous for their subtle body language that indicates “I wish I was anywhere else and I blame you for the fact that I’m here in the first place”, are growing weary of soullessly droning on about a product they clearly don’t believe in.

Their insistence on unceasingly asking me to sign up for your card puts them on par with that annoying Facebook notification that repeatedly tells me something ridiculous like “your friend Nick has a kangaroo in his pumpkin patch” – thinking that, by some small miracle, this will entice me to play their silly game.

I’m not playing.

Remind me: which retail chain had a major debacle over a credit card security breach just last year? It was right after Black Friday; but the retailer didn’t reveal the details of this damning issue until December 19. Somewhere north of 40 million credit card numbers were stolen; resulting in banks and credit unions reissuing more than 22 million cards (at an estimated cost of $200 million).

Oh, that’s right. It was Target.

Forgive me, but I’m sure you understand why I refuse to hand over my actual banking information and routing numbers to you just so you can avoid paying credit card service charges and fees. I guess I’m not feeling overly charitable.

Why don’t you accept ApplePay? The NFC technology already exists in your stores – all you need to do is accept Apple’s terms.

ApplePay ensures customer security by never actually handing over any sensitive information to the retailer. Apple’s payment app simply provides a randomized number that is later linked up to the customer’s account information at the bank. Not even the customer’s name is transferred to the retailer during the transaction. Everything is kept confidential between the customer and their bank of choice.

But Target doesn’t actually care about customer security – which is why Target has refused to accept ApplePay. Target is far more interested in obtaining all of the customer’s data (account information, name, address, spending habits, etc) which it can then sell for profit and/or use for pinpoint marketing strategies. How will Target send the customer circulars and coupons for items Target knows the customer will buy if Target can’t gain access to the customer’s personal information with each swipe of the credit/debit card?

No thank you, Target. I will not today, tomorrow, nor ever sign up for your Red Card. Stop asking.

From a former employee and frustrated shopper,

-Parker Monroe

P.S. While I’ve got your attention: who’s the person in charge of buying shoes for Target stores? The shoe purchasing agent. That guy. Fire him! Apparently he thinks “if if goes on the end of your leg it’s considered a shoe“. With that logic, the toilet paper stuck to the bottom of my shoe after emerging from your disgusting bathrooms could be marketed as a stylish summer flip-flop.

Target’s shoes are epically deplorable. They are wretched quality and dreadful to look at. They even smell cheap. Truly, there are people in third-world countries repurposing old tires as sandals that are better quality than the crap you’re selling.

Would it kill you to sell something that won’t fall apart after two months? You must be making one heckuva profit on these things because, at $29.99, I can’t imagine you paid more than about 12 cents for each pair.

Do all of your competitors have some sort of exclusive rights to middling quality foot wear? If not, get with the program!

Americans Have Ruined the Coffee Culture

grings_my_gears

You know what bothers me?

Ignorant people who think they’re smart.

If you lack understanding, legitimately lack it. Embrace your ill proficiency. Realize your limitations and do something to correct it (Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish).

It’s the people that are either too vacuous or too lazy to realize they’re misguided that bother me. This is the variety that will defend their lack of intelligence.

My favorite example of this occured a few years ago. I happened upon a gentleman mixing a packet of hot cocoa with coffee instead of water. Upon noticing me noticing him he looked at me and said (and I quote), “Makin’ a poor man’s cappuccino“.

Naturally, being the coffee snob that I am, I was quick to tell him that what he was making was actually a closer approximation to a mocha.

This person then stopped – he actually stopped what he was doing – looked at me with pity (how could I be so dumb) and replied, “No, it’s got coffee in it so that makes it a cappuccino“.

He was wrong… and willing to defend his wrongness rather than accept his error and possibly learn something in the process.

I smiled back and explained that a cappuccino doesn’t contain any chocolate. Ever. In fact, the only two ingredients in a cappuccino are espresso and milk (steamed and foamed). No chocolate, just equal parts espresso, milk, and foam. A mocha on the other hand contains chocolate, milk, and espresso.

I don’t know what kind of response I was expecting. Maybe I wanted his face to light up with the glow that can only be achieved when someone learns something new. Maybe I figured he’d find the facts mildly entertaining. Quite possibly I hoped for a firm handshake and a hearty thank-you for saving him from his personal combination of arrogance and complacency.

What I got was an apathetic shrug and a “whatever“…. which I figure roughly translated to “the facts have no bearing on what I will continue to call this drink. I’m wrong and I don’t care“.

‘murica.

As a side note, few people know that, despite the very Italian name, the cappuccino actually has German roots. Strange, but true. The Italian word ‘Cappuccino’ is not known in Italian writings until the 20th century… but the German-language ‘Kapuziner’ is mentioned as a coffee beverage in 18th century Germany and Austria. The beverage actually derives its name from the hooded robes worn by monks and nuns of the capuchin order. The drink’s very distinctive color was very similar to the red-brown robes worn in 17th-century Europe. While Francis of Assisi used white wool for his robes the capuchin brothers dyed theirs to differ from Franciscans and many of the other orders.

But I digress.

Truly, there are few things in life quite as glorious as that first sip of fresh coffee first thing in the morning. If you’re a stereotypical American that phrase may be slightly altered to “Few things in life are as glorious as that first 32 ounces of warm chocolate soy milk, caramel, whipped cream, chocolate sprinkles and barely a hint of coffee in the morning”… and this isn’t a new development. Unfortunately American’s have been ruining coffee for many years.

A little more history for you – the Americano literally did not exist until World War II. American troops stationed in Italy would order a cup of coffee and, after being served espresso, ask for it to be watered down. The baristas became used to this specific request and began mockingly referring to watered down espresso as Caffè Americano (coffee American-style).

If the Italians thought that was funny the newest iteration of this drink would leave them reeling. Instead of enjoying a simple two demitasse Americano we have people ordering 16oz triple-shot Americanos with 2 tablespoons of white chocolate and enough cream to choke a small calf. It’s no secret that Americans like to come up with overly intense and equally ridiculous names for the most banal and sophomoric of objects and so this beverage was dubbed the “White Lightning”.

I suggest a more appropriate name: the ‘muricano.

It should come as no surprise that most American coffee drinkers simply love dumping milk and every variety of sugar (Double Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Caramel Hazelnut Delight Frappuccino, anyone?) into their espresso-based coffee drinks. What does come as a bit of a shock is that those who drink the ‘muricano boldly claim it contains less than 90 calories!

Allow me to debunk that bit of fuzzy math for you.

1 ounce of espresso has a little less than 1 calorie.

A single shot of espresso is 1-1/2 ounces while, oddly enough, a double shot is 2-1/2 ounces.

A triple-shot of espresso is a double shot plus a single… so, that totals 4 ounces; equaling about 3 calories.

1 oz (2 pumps) of Ghirardelli White Chocolate Flavored Sauce is 110 calories.

2 tablespoons of half and half is another 40 calories.

Graciously (and to the surprise of many Americans) hot water contains no calories.

This bad boy now tips the scales at 153 calories… for a cup of coffee. Outrageous when compared to a more traditional 10 ounce Americano with one sugar and a spot of cream at 30 calories. You could drink five of those (50 ounces for those not quick enough on the calculator) and still not total the calories in one 16 ounce ‘muricano.

If it’s the sweetness and sheer volume you desire, try a 16oz cold press with a pump of caramel syrup and some cream (only 75 calories). Even a 12oz skim Café Cubano (cappuccino with raw sugar and cinnamon) comes in at less with only 94 calories.

It’s not about being accurate. It’s not about basing your claims on facts. It’s about getting what you want.

In the words of Miike Snow’s excellent 2009 song, Cult Logic, “I’ll believe it even if it’s not true“.

However, based on the financial stability of Starbucks, Caribou, Dunn Bros and nearly every other variety of American coffee shop with hordes of consumers eagerly lining up to consume their next Venti Soy Pumpkin Spice Latte… I might be prepared to accept the possibility that this maybe bothers me more than it should.

Is Anything Free at Disney?

If the internet has taught us anything it’s that total ignorance of a subject is no obstacle to having an immediate opinion.

Two articles regarding so-called Freebies at Disney Parks were recently posted to a very popular Disney-Fan website. As an over-analytical person I took issue with the use of the word “free”, posted a comment, and suffered an instant backlash for my dissenting opinion.

I take no offense to these retaliations because I know that the counter blasts were less in defense of Disney than they were the offended trying to justify the price of their recent vacation in the Costliest Happiest Place on Earth.

I would like to take this opportunity, on my very own website, to flesh out my point of view a bit further. If you disagree with the assessments expressed in this blog entry, please, feel free to flame on in the comment section below!

Let me begin with the only two items from the aforementioned article that I would mostly count as free: the Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom (the Magic Kingdom’s trading card game) and Celebration Buttons. The buttons truly are free to anyone celebrating a birthday, anniversary, bar mitzvah, first visit, or simply being at the parks for any reason other than just enjoying your Disney vacation. Buttons are given away on the honor system (Disney’s not checking anyone’s ID).

To play the trading card game all anyone has to do is locate the appropriate cast member where you’ll receive game instructions and a free packet of playing cards. If you enjoy the game you can purchase more cards (or trade the ones you have for potentially better cards). Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom targets multiple fan bases (the collector, the completist, the gamer, the Disneyana, etc), it’s well made and it’s fun. Obviously a lot of time, energy, and capital went into its creation and implementation. The game is very popular – and probably would be even if that first set of cards did cost something.

I say those two “mostly count as free” because admission for a single day is $100. Believe me, at that price, you ARE paying for those paper cards and little metal buttons.

Others will argue, “Nobody pays $100 a day! Everyone I know gets a multi-day pass and that lowers the price to $50 or $60 per day”.

First of all, there are a significant number of people that purchase single-day tickets at $100 per person.

Second, if you’re buying a multi-day pass… please don’t assume that you’re catching a break by purchasing more guaranteed time on Disney’s property. In this case Disney is the party who’s truly benefiting from this deal. By adjusting their ticket price on a sliding scale they’ve just enticed you (and your wallet) to spend more time within the 47 square miles they control.

If you happen to belong in the group of 89% of guests who visit Walt Disney World from out-of-state I bet you booked your trip in advance. Well in advance, too… because you know if you wait Disney will just raise the price. You definitely gave Disney your final payment 3 months before stepping foot on their hallowed ground; because that’s what they demand. It’s also required that you make a down payment of at least $200 at the time of booking. Now Disney has placed your money in a bank where they’re earning interest off of your “discounted” tickets.

When you book your vacation a year in advance (and don’t tell me no one does that – just try to book a Disney cruise) your $200 down payment – compounded monthly at 0.95% interest – suddenly becomes a paltry $201.90. Big deal! Except, Disney isn’t getting only your money.

In 2012 Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom saw 17,536,000 visitors. If only a tenth of them booked their vacations 12 months in advance that’s still 1.7 million people. If each person comes from a family of five people that’s 340,000 down payments each year or about 28,300 each month (if that number broke out evenly across each subsiquent month).

28,300 families multiplied by $200… with another 28,300 families depositing their own down payments for each of the following eleven months… compounded at 0.95% monthly interest… is about $403,000 worth of interest on down payments alone ($1.5 Billion NextGen initiatives don’t pay for themselves, you know).

Now tell us all about what a great deal you got by booking your multi-day vacation in advance.

Typically, when faced with this sort of information, people resort to the argument, “Well, do you know how much I paid to go see Lion King on Broadway? And that’s only two hours of entertainment. Compared to that paying $100 for ten hours in a Disney theme park is a bargain!”

Trust me, I understand the “perceived value” sales strategy.

Make no mistake, comparing the price of a Disney Theme Park ticket [specifically] to a Broadway or Sporting Event ticket price was a carefully crafted Eisner-era dynamic marketing tactic that has been extremely successful. You don’t have to look very far to hear others joyfully repeating this comparison as proof (to themselves just as much as others) that they received value for their hard earned dollars.

Let me be clear: paying $150 to sit in a molded plastic seat at a 3-hour sporting event is absurd. Paying up to $300 for two hours of Broadway entertainment (in a slightly more comfortable seat) is equally ridiculous.

Comparing those over-inflated prices to something else and then calling the comparison a “value” is preposterous.

That’s like having $10,000 to spend on a car. You go to the car lot and the salesman shows you $20,000 vehicles. After a bit of time and negotiation you finally settle on a $14,000 car. You then proceed to tell everyone how you got a real bargain and saved yourself $6,000.

No… you overpaid by $4,000.

I also understand the basics of market demand. If companies raise the price higher than the public is willing to pay… people just stop paying. From all apparent evidence people are happily willing to part with their hard-earned cash and receive less and less each time. The Theme Park’s soaring attendance records is all the proof anyone needs.

Now let’s move on to some of the more ridiculous claims of “freebies” on Disney Property.

The Art Class at Hollywood Studios: an in-park attraction. Claiming that’s free is like saying, “Boy isn’t it wonderful how Disney doesn’t make you purchase a train ticket to ride the locomotive around the park?”

Of course, people will argue that it’s not the actual attraction that’s free (duh!). The value is in Disney allowing you to keep your drawing of their character when you leave. Well. Bless. Their. Hearts! Disney’s actually allowing my child to keep her own pencil drawing! It was Disney’s paper and pencil lead after all… and I suppose they could find a way to monetize that…

It might be worth mentioning at this point that you’re unable to obtain this “free” drawing your child has made without first paying admission to their park.

Tell you what… your little Mouseketeer can come to my house and draw three circles and a smile on a sheet of paper all day and I won’t charge you either.

How about the All You Can Drink 4 ounce cups of soda at Club Cool? It’s FREE (again, after you pay to get past the front gate). Yeah, that’s great! You know who else doesn’t have to pay for it?! Disney. I hope you’re not surprised to learn that Disney doesn’t even pay for the paper cups. In fact, they charge Coke a substantial lease on that little spot of prime real estate. In short, Coke pays for everything from the product to the electric bill. Why? For the same reason bread companies pay to have their product at eye level in the grocery store: product placement. Disney is one of the world’s most easily recognized brands. Epcot’s average yearly attendance alone is around 11 million. What would you be willing to pay to place your product in such a prominent location?

There’s also the free Chocolate Samples at the Ghirardelli shop in Downtown Disney – which happens to be something that every Ghirardelli in every mall in every city does. Please do not confuse this as an act of Disney’s benevolence. This is a sales tactic that eateries have employed since man began paying for food – and it works. Most analysts agree that handing out free samples is the best way to introduce your product, collect feedback, entice customers to buy, and get repeat business. At the very least, companies handing out free samples hope the recipient will now feel rewarded (appreciated even), think warm-fuzzy thoughts about this company, and then go out and tell other people about the product. Word of mouth is always the best form of advertising and handing out bite-sized morsels is a pretty inexpensive way to jump start this campaign.

What about Resort Tours? Yes, I can’t begin to describe how grateful I am Disney doesn’t charge me extra to follow them on an hour-long sales pitch sprinkled with “facts” surrounding the “historic” hotel/lodge/watering hole we happen to be “touring”. As a Disney geek I will admit that there are some interesting stories about the real-life locations that inspired the resort’s design and how Imagineers work in an authentic look and feel. But don’t be fooled – these tours are designed to do two things: 1). entice those not already staying to book a hotel room in the near future and 2). reassure those who’ve already paid 3 times more than they would have at the Marriott down the street that they made a wise purchase. That sounds an awful lot like a commercial to me.

There’s no cover-charge at Atlantic Dance Hall… and it would be a joke if Disney started demanding a cover charge at this deserted hole. When was the last time you stepped foot in there?

Resort Campfires, Movies and Sing-a-Longs. Really?! What about the elevator in your Resort; is that not an A-Ticket ride? How about the pool? They’re already gating them. Should we be relieved Disney’s not charging resort guests extra for use of the themed pool area?

Regarding ANY of the Resort specific offerings: at an average of $400 per night… trust me… you’re paying for these bonuses. In fact, I’d go so far to say if you’re not using these resort benefits you’re getting ripped off.

We’ll finish with my personal favorite… ice water. Have we really reached the point where we’re thankful that Disney is giving away free water? Hardees does this! Why are there no money-saving tips posted in various vacation forums advising travelers to stop into Sunoco to load up on all the water you can drink from their free water fountains? Because it’s ridiculous!

In fact, name me one major (or minor) company that charges people for a glass of tap water! Target, Chipotle, Costco, the place my wife gets her nails done, H&R Block. I can go to my BANK and get a drink of water with nothing being debited from my account. Disney offering free water is nothing new or special.

What’s really happening here is, due to the overwhelming number of up-charges expected during a typical Disney vacation we’ve reached the point where if Disney hands us something and doesn’t expect payment we stare back in disbelief. The customer then returns from whence they came in a daze, mouth agape, breathlessly telling their friends and family and internet chat room buddies all about it.

“I asked for directions and it was FREE! I was willing to pay – had my trusty MagicBand ready – and the Cast Member said there was NO CHARGE!”

Disney is in a very unique place and they’re taking full advantage of it. They raise their prices and attendance goes up. So they double-down and raise their prices again. Even more people show up. Who’s to stop them? If I were in their place I’d keep raising prices until the market slowed (people stopped showing up). That’s just smart business. Why work harder when you can work smarter?

Let’s say you sell widgets. You work hard, probably 60 or more hours a week, and you charge a fair price.

Your competitor also sells widgets. He makes just as much money as you do (sometimes more) and works only half as hard. HOW? Because he charges more.

“I can’t charge more!”, you claim, “I’ll lose business!”

Yeah, you might. But on the business that you keep you’ll be making more money and you won’t have to work as hard. Isn’t maximizing your profit the main idea? Why did you get into business in the first place; out of the goodness of your heart? No. You got into business to make money.

All I’m saying is… don’t fool yourself into believing free ice water is some sort of magical bonus or that Disney is benevolent for “giving away” tiny little cups of soda or samples of chocolate. Disney is a business. They’ve been around for a long time now and they’re VERY good at math.

Minnesota Seasons

It’s not uncommon to hear a Minnesota Weatherman claim how fortunate Minnesotans are because in this state we get to “truly experience all four seasons“.

This statement has always bothered me so, on this snowy April evening, I did a bit of research.

While today’s Winter Storm Warning seems irritating please keep in mind – it’s not uncommon. On average (1891 – 2013) snow in Minnesota lasts from mid-November through mid–April. That’s six months of winter. Remind me… how exactly does Minnesota “get to experience all four seasons” when half of the year we’re covered in snow?

WINTER: November – April
SPRING: May – June
SUMMER: July – August
AUTUMN: September – October

The breakdown that I’ve outlined above indicates six months of Winter; then each of the other three seasons get about 8 weeks each. That’s not Minnesota “experiencing each of the four seasons”… that’s being beat-up so bad for six months that even a 45 degree day seems pleasant and spring-like. Minnesota is largely a winter climate that allows us to merely get a taste of the other four seasons.

That monthly breakdown I had outlined above could also look like this:

WINTER = 50%
SPRING = 16.6%
SUMMER = 16.6%
AUTUMN = 16.6%

Does that seem fair?

As depressing as that looks even those percentages aren’t entirely accurate; because the numbers above assume that Minnesota is kind and divides the remaining three seasons equally throughout the rest of the year.

Don’t kid yourselves.

The summer heat really starts to wear off quickly and the temperature regulates into something more brisk right around mid-September. This is something us Minnesotan’s colloquially refer to as “The Fall Snap”.

To illustrate this point, my daughter and I ran a 5K last year on September 7 and it was ridiculously hot – topping out at 92 degrees that day. However, by September 15 (a mere week later) the recorded high was only 63. Autumn arrived seemingly overnight. September 2012 was no different. On September 11 that year it was 96 degrees but by the 17th it was regularly in the 60s. That 30 degree swing is the Minnesota “Fall Snap” and it happens just like that nearly every year. It literally feels like someone flips a switch.

Now, don’t think for a second that delightful 60 – 70 degree weather lasts for very long. It hangs around from mid-September until about mid-October; then it quickly drops down into the 40 – 50 degree range. Trick or Treating in Minnesota can be a real challenge because parents must either purchase or create a costume that’s still identifiable under layers of winter wear. Most children just end up looking like Biff the Michelin Man if he were going to a costume party. One year I went as the StayPuft Marshmallow Man who also happened to dress up like a cowboy.

Looking at the high temperatures for Halloween is misleading, because most of the festivities take place at night when it’s colder… but here are the high temps for the last five years:

2009 = 41 degrees
2010 = 48 degrees
2011 = 50 degrees
2012 = 53 degrees
2013 = 43 degrees

Boy, that 2012 was a real cooker huh?! We nearly went outside with only 3 layers of thermal underwear.

Now let’s talk snow.

If you’re counting only actual measurable snowfall – not just trace amounts like the snow we received on May 2 last year – the first snow of 2011 was four inches of powder on November 19. The high that days was 31.

The first measurable snowfall of 2012 was November 12 (one half inch). Ten days later we got 2-1/2 inches more.

November 5 marks the first snowfall of 2013 and we received nearly three inches.

With that new information it looks like Autumn in Minnesota really only lasts for about six weeks (mid-September through late-October), not eight.

Accumulating snow in Minnesota usually lasts until mid-to-late April and the spring showers begin, in earnest, around the first week of May. Warmer temperatures typically arrive sometime in mid-May. Temperatures are regularly back in the 70 – 80 degree range by mid-June and quickly escalate, along with the humidity, as July approaches.

Once again, I will quickly illustrate with a 5K that my daughter and I ran on June 15 last year… it was 82 degrees and we were nearly devoured whole by swarms of mosquitos.

That new information leads me to this final conclusion.

WINTER = 50%
SPRING = 13%
SUMMER = 25%
AUTUMN = 12%

I’ll readily admit, Summer in Minnesota is nice… but it hardly lasts long enough. Remember back to when you were still in school. Remember how long summer vacation never seemed to last long enough? Remember how fast those 104 days between Memorial Day and Labor Day flew by? Remember how you tried to cram as much fun and enjoyment as possible into that short amount of time before having to return to school in the Fall?

It’s kind of like that except, as a working adult, you only get the weekends.

I’ll let you do the math on that one.

Shake Like You Changed: Remix

I’m not all up in your face about it but I also don’t hide the fact that I’m a Christian. It’s also no secret that I really can’t stand that new hit song by MercyMe.

I’m pretty open about it.

In fact, I regularly voice my musical opinions. Anyone who spent any amount of time around me last year knows how much I gushed over the new Daft Punk album, Random Access Memories. The day after you could stream it on iTunes (May 15, 2013) I was telling anyone who would listen to me that Daft Punk’s newest record would win album of the year.

I don’t mean to say I told you so, but…

Anyway, I digress. Back to the original reason for this post.

If you’ve never heard of the Christian band MercyMe it’s probably because you’re under the age of 40. For those unfamiliar, MercyMe is a small group of balding, overweight, middle-aged, men who have recently decided they’d like to go Pop.

Some say that sounds ridiculous. I say, why stop there?

My personal suggestion is this: if MercyMe really wants to take their art to the next level they should go ahead and do a club remix coloboration with Daft Punk. They may even want to add a hashtag to the song title. #thatSHAKE

Bart Millard, if you’re reading this, I encourage you to really branch out, explore the studio space, and market toward that young NextGen audience who wouldn’t listen to you anyway. And if you still can’t reach the youth at least try to light a [holy] fire under the grey-haired DJ’s working at those easy listening stations you’re currently overplayed on.

I think it would go a little something like this (performed to the tune of Daft Punks “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” from their most excellent sophomore album, Discovery).

Twerk it. Shake it. Move it. Change us.

Broken / Better / Shamed, no longer.

More than ever, shake it brother.

Even after church is over.

Twerk it. Shake it. Move it. Change us.

Broken / Better / Shamed, no longer.

Shake it harder. I am better.

Move it faster. Faith is stronger.

Naturally, the key is going to be dropping a supa’ phat beat while maintaining MercyMe’s profound and prolific lyrics (like those abundantly on display in “Shake”). Now, they do have to be careful not to give people the wrong impression. The goal should always be to encourage the Christian-folk to “get out’cha seat an’ shake what the Father gave ya!”… and, of course, to let the worldly-folk know that Bible bangers can bust a serious groove for Jesus.

Can I get an Amen?

Please, don’t misunderstand! I’m not some sort of prude and I don’t mean to suggest that every single Christian song must reach a level of reverence and artistry equal to Bringing in the Sheaves, Amazing Grace, and/or How Great Thou Art. There’s nothing wrong with most Christian Rock, R&B, or Pop music – in fact, I own and enjoy a great deal of it. Hillsong: Young & Free comes to mind; as do TobyMac, Shawn McDonald, and Lecrae.

There’s just something about this particular song that bothers me… and it’s probably the lyrics that require each listener to ask the simple question: How does one shake like they’re changed?!

Are we supposed do the Jerk, the Twist, the Funky Chicken, or some combination of all three? Maybe we just stand there and vibrate. It’s just not clear.

There’s always the chance it’s a new and improved sort of gyration we’re not yet familiar with (you know how these things move up and out through the circles of popular influence).

Is this song some kind of a viral campaign to encourage a super-spiritual version of the Harlem Shake?

We. Just. Don’t. Know.

A friend recently offered the suggestion, “It’s open ended. Whatever you were shaking like before – just change it.”

The song’s only clear instruction is that I must move my feet (‘cause I’m free). Well, in that case, the lyricist might be instructing all of us to clear out immediately after the service ends. “Finally! That sermon lasted forever. Move yo’ feet, we free!! I’m out! #PEACE”

The change is in your posture – that much is self-evident (you were slumping in your seat and now you’re standing) but what exactly does that have to do with shaking…?

Of course! They meant I’m supposed to shake the pastor’s hand after the service. “Good message, Reverend. I’m a changed man!”.

Vacate you’re seat immediately after prayer. Nice firm handshake. A genuine smile. Compliment. MercyMe is cryptically telling us to invite our Pastors out to Perkins after church.

Well, that’s not so bad! I guess it’s a pretty good song after all.

#SmileEmoticon #BreadbowlSalad #HopeAndChange