Friday, December 2, 2011

Just a parents happy moment

Sure, he will be poor and live with us until he's 30, but at least he can make some music


video

Thursday, October 20, 2011

You wanted the best? You got the best! First Ever Kiss Kruise by Sixthman and Carnival




So if you or a loved one is a fanatic for the rock band KISS, can there be anything better than the first ever KISS KRUISE presented by Sixthman and Carnival?  Heck no!

Shout It Out Loud!!!  KISS KISS KISS KISS!!!

I'll try to give an unbiased review so that others can consider these music cruises by Sixthman.

The Cruise left the Port of Miami on October 13th and returned on October 17th on the Carnival Destiny.

Approximately 2000+ KISS fans were on the boat, we heard that the cruise sold out in the last few weeks (our family signed up Day 1, we are sick, sick people). 

The cruise was put on by Sixthman out of Atlanta.  They put on a series of these fantasy musical cruises.  The personnel from Sixthman are young and energetic. 

Sail Away Day

At 5pm on the 13th, KISS held a unplugged, unmasked concert on the Lido deck for everyone.  The band was supposed to play for 45 minutes, ended up playing for 75 minutes.  Completely relaxed, they played a number of tunes that they hadn't played in years. 

Then the band held a Q&A with randomly selected audience members who had submitted questions prior to the cruise.  Very good event, the band took far more questions than I thought, almost an hour's worth. 

Concerts

Probably the highlight for us were the concerts in the Palladium Lounge.  Every cruiser was given at least one ticket with assigned seating.  It was a great venue.  Paul Stanley made the remark it was like taking them back to playing in a club.  Not many KISS fans have seen the band in this type of venue, and it paid off.  KISS played mainly songs from the 70s, and with 1000+ screaming fans who knew every word, it was quite the atmosphere. 

We were fortunate enough to be selected to get tickets for the second show as well, and the band mixed up the set list, again going to some songs they had never played live before.  The sound on the second show was improved from show one, but both were equally good.  Great venue to see your favorite performers.

Other Bands

Sixthman does a good job of rounding up other bands to come along on cruises and you really couldn't walk through the halls without some old favorites (Skid Row) and new and upcoming bands playing throughout the night.  Just depends what your taste in music is like, but you had multiple opportunities to see the 4-5 other bands on the ship.

Comedian

Craig Gass

Craig Gass from the Howard Stern show performed two shows, we attended both.  Impressed with both shows, we had never seen him before.  Definitely worth seeing if you get the chance.  The second show had an opening comic that was horrific in our opinion, I think the name was Skippy Greene, just not up to snuff.

Other KISS Events

I won't do this section justice, but Sixthman arranged a number of events for KISS Fans such as:

KISS Pajama Party
KISS Halloween Party
KISS Movie Night (Detroit Rock City)
KISS Trivia
KISS Karaoke (multiple nights)
KISS Kasino Night with the Drummer Eric Singer
KISS Miniature Golf with the Guitarist Tommy Thayer
KISS Tatoo contest

All well attended from what I could tell, some challenges with the Pajama party being a bit chaotic and the fans acting like children.  But you had your share of events to attend.

KISS Photo Opportunity

Every person was granted a chance as part of a group of 6-8 to get their picture with KISS.  They spread this over two nights for the entire ship.  In every fan's mind it could have been more personal, but with 2000 plus fans, the logistics make it difficult.  We were one of the last groups on the second night and it was like being shoved into the picture then yanked out with a shephard's crook.  We could have had Abba stand behind us and not known.  But the picture came out ok, just wish my 12 year old had a better chance to meet the band (so did 1997 others).

Days on Shore

We stopped at Half Moon Cay and Nassau, standard cruise excursions, although I loved Blue Lagoon Sea Lion Adventure in Nassau. 

Overall

You pay a premium to be near the folks you idolize which we did for our 12 year old.  He loved it, was actually worn out by the last full day.  Again, wish it would have been more personal, but that's a wish. 

We were actually impressed by Carnival Destiny.  Maybe we expected the worst having never been on a Carnival cruise, but they exceeded our expectations.  Everything was very smooth.

The Sixthman group has something good going.  They are young and energetic, and with that comes some immaturity amongst their staff.  I've shared that feedback with them after the cruise, but they keep it lively, not only on the ship, but with communications prior to the cruise. 

Rumor has it that the KISS Kruise will continue on next year.  We might go back depending on what's new and different about it. 

YOU WANTED THE BEST, YOU GOT THE BEST, THE HOTTEST ROCK BAND IN THE WORLD.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Customer Service for this airline? One Traveler Begs to Differ


Airline travel, no surprise it crowded, uncomfortable, expensive, and you're lucky if you get to where you are going on time.  Everything from a pillow to a ply of toilet paper is charge for today.

So as I was traveling this week, I wondered which Customer Service Braniac came up with the idea below?  What is the actual message that they are trying to convey and to whom? (apologize for the poor quality photo)



So for example, the 30-40% of the customers flying first class or having frequent flier status get to use the lane with the red sign, while the other 60-70% of the customers must settle for using the blue lane, which are a whopping 10 inches from each other. 

I have actually seen gate agents move up and pull the little rope across the "red lane" when they were done with the first customers who boarded the plane.

Imagine how the rest of the rest of the passengers felt, made to walk under the lowly blue sign.  If only they had flown American for 30 segments or 25,000 miles that year, they could walk in the red lane.

My point in this besides showing the absurdity of this perk for frequent fliers is that if anything it alienates those who don't fly as often AND don't necessarily have brand loyalty.  They have a choice. 

When I used to fly United religiously, they could have beat me with a cattle prod as i boarded, because I was still going to fly them and wanted to maintain my status and miles with them. 

Seems to me, the airlines should be catering to those who do make a choice.

I'd love to hear some of your examples of things you've seen that are customer service in reverse.  Please use the comment section below. 



Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Two very powerful words not used enough today



We all do it I think to some extent.  We push our kids to use this expression, and hope it stays with them for the rest of their lives.  Its a phrase that we probably don't tell our spouse or significant others enough...



Danke
Gracias
நன்றி
salamat
Thank You



Its a very powerful phrase, and as adults, we don't use it enough.  Think about its uses

Appreciation - Letting someone know what they did meant something to you

Recognition - Used in a large group, can single out someone for their work or efforts

Difuser - Think about heated arguments you've been in, and how even though you might be angry at the other person on the phone, interjecting thank you can diffuse the situation at times.

Courtesy - Shows that you are a courteous person, may make the other person think more highly of you.

I've been traveling a lot the past 4 weeks, and I always say Thank You to the flight attendant and to the pilot at the end of the flight, no matter how long, how uncomfortable the flight was.  Because when dealing with a jet fuel filled machine that goes 500 mph, the alternative to them not doing their job well, is the end of this blog (think about that)....

So make it a goal next week to say Thank You to 3 people (just 3) that you wouldn't normally say that to and see how it works.   See how it makes you feel.  Then tell someone else to do the same.




Saturday, October 1, 2011

Life as a Not-So-Extreme Couponer



So Season 2 of Extreme Couponing is on again.  People buying hundreds if not thousands of dollars of merchandise for less than 10% of the retail value.

Hundreds of packages of soda, Ramen Noodles, etc. etc. etc.

So despite the over the top production, it has had an impact on our family.  In what started out as a way for the kids to make a few bucks a week has turned into a hobby/quest for us.

We've gone from clipping a few Sunday paper coupons and hitting up Walmart the same day, to buying coupons from clipping services, using CVS and Kroger cards to the max, to making multiple purchases during the same visit at the store. 

The impact for the Saathoff family has been about 35-45% savings at the checkout, if not more.  We now no longer shop at Walmart, instead choosing to shop at a collection of Meiers, Kroger, CVS (yes CVS), Walgreens, and occasionally Jewel. 

Many on the show have a "stockpile" of items, some in the hundred thousand dollar range.  We too have a stockpile, in the $100 range, but its there. 

When we have had great deals, we've shared the bounty with a local food pantry called the Clare House here in Bloomington, taking multiple bags of food and health and beauty products for delivery.

Probably the biggest change as mentioned before was the use of drugstores such as CVS.  CVS is heads and shoulders above Walgreens with its reward system, keeping track of your purchases, and overall customer friendliness. 

Our favorite websites are http://www.couponmom.com/ where you can see next weeks sales at stores and sort by the % of savings on an item.  We usually start with the FREE items to see if its something we need or can give to charity.

  I also use http://www.thecouponclippers.com/ to buy clipped coupons for pennies on the dollar.  It allows you to focus on items you want, and buy bulk coupons.  It's key to watch for coupons with long expiration dates.

The other change for us is holding coupons to match with the best sale.  We've developed a pretty good level of patience on waiting to maximize the value of the coupon, looking to double coupons where we can or match with the best sale.

We've also got a keen idea on grocery prices.  We would have never blinked before to pay $3 or $4 for name brand cereal.  Now I get tremors when I spend $1.99 a box, its too much.

If you want to know more, feel free to drop me a line or make a comment on the blog.  We have a few people at work that share ideas and coupons, and if you want to make a dent on the bottom line, its a good way to start.

So get clipping!!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Sweetness now just Bittersweet - When Idols Get Tarnished





#34

Sweetness

The Greatest Bear There Ever Was

I am a Walter Payton fan.   He is my favorite pro athlete of all time.

The stairways to my basement and the basement itself are a mini-shrine to Walter.

What appealed to me about Walter was the effort, the work, and the humanity he showed towards others.  How many countless thousands of people he helped in the Chicago area.  The prankster and the consumate teammate.

I idolize Walter Payton, or is that now idolized? 

This week a new biography came out about Walter from respected writer Jeff Pearlman.  Pearlman interviewed 678 different people, trying to put together the ultimate biography of one of the greatest athletes Chicago has ever known and maybe the rest of the United States.  And boy did Pearlman ever deliver...

Painkillers, Adultrey, Children out of Wedlock, Suicidal thoughts have splashed all of the Chicago papers and Sports Illustrated this week.  There is some debate by boneheads as to the motive of this book (which is to make money) and the timing (Walter has been dead for almost 12 years) but that doesn't bother me.  The book is a historic image of #34.  Just like if someone wrote about Thomas Jefferson getting a case of jungle fever, that's what was true.

No what disappoints me or is hard to reconcile is that this great person in my mind, did things so opposite of that it makes me wonder who he is.  I realize that professional athletes cheat on their wives, or at least a number of them do.  That's disappointing but not shocking. 

What's shocking to me is this man who did so much for kids, would father a kid from an affair and never have the balls to go meet the child or have any relationship with the child prior to his death in 1999.  The Walter Payton that I idolize, would not do that, but alas it appears that public image outweighed common decency.

Takes a little shine off the statue for this writer

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Top 10 Things That I want to pass to My Kids


Image Detail

Ten Things I Want to Pass Down To My Kids


Not sure why I'm writing this, but a couple of these are things that I think my kids would be better off knowing in life. Some are important, some are not, curious what your lists look like. Not ranked in any order, these could change daily, weekly, yearly

1. Always be nice to the TSA Agents and Airline personnel working the counters. They can only make your life hell.

2. If you're doing something, give it your best effort. Half assed is no way to go through life.

3. Be Honest to a Fault. "Nuff said

4. Pick your team, root for them, don't be a windsock.

5. You will face many times in your life when someone needs to speak up against a serious or petty injustice. I hope the one who speaks up is you.

6. Be charitable - You never know when the shoe is going to be on the other foot.

7. A good job doesn't love you back. If you enjoy what you do, stick with it.

8. There is nothing wrong with embarrasing your kids by being goofy. Always be a kid in some form.

9. Happiness is a warm boxer dog, or two warm boxer dogs.

10. It is best to have tried and failed, than to never tried at all.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Choose to influence a student. Not tomorrow, now



So in the past two postings I've talked about the challenges our next generation faces from skyrocketing college costs and the lack of basic learning supplies in elementary schools.

Its something our generation has foisted upon the up and coming generation.

We can wait till the populus wakes up and realizes the downward spiral that awaits us 10 or 20 years down the road.

We can wait till our politicians wake up and realize that we need to spend our dollars more wisely or ask for tax increases to fund education.

I would rather not wait, and hope you don't want to either.

There is a way you can influence a student now, maybe for life.

There is an organization that can help

Donors Choose (http://www.donorschoose.org/)

Donors Choose was formed by a teacher, to help other teachers fund projects for their classrooms.  From basic supplies to science and math kits, to anything a teacher can come up with.

Basically the teachers write up a description of the project, they need to be creative.  As a user, you can search on a project by location, poverty level of the area, subject you're interested in helping, age of kids, special needs, etc.

You then can donate as much or as little as you want.  You don't have to fund the whole project, maybe just a part of it. 

Its a great feeling to get feedback from the teachers and students whom YOU impact. 

DOES IT WORK?

To date, donors like you have given $88 million and impacted over 5 million students
have been helped to date.

All I ask is that you go out and look around, make a difference, tell your friends and family. 

You can make a difference, maybe influence the direction of someone's life.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Country Bumpkins Didn't Want for the Tools To Succeed in Life

I went to my 7th grader's open house last night at his junior high.  I continued to be amazed at the energy and enthusiasm of the staff that educates them.  They bring new energy and ideas to the classroom each day.  During the session, they talked about volunteers and what they really needed most.


Tape.

Yes, they had run out of tape and part of their new teaching methods required students to tape materials into a journal, and while the teachers had spent some of their own money on increased quantities of tape, they had already run out. 

Several years ago, our local elementary school ran out of paper for the office.

They ran out of paper.

Now realize that I live in a pretty well funded area.  Fueled by agriculture, our land values haven't caved in, our area is supported by universities and major companies. 

I can't imagine if we lived in a poverty stricken area...

So while we need and worry about whether we will have tape and paper, how are we igniting the minds of tomorrow's physicists, mathematicians, chemists, and engineers of the future?  Are our educators of today properly funded to do this?

I was lucky.  While having a bevy of great elementary and high school teachers, we had one that still resonates with me.  Jim Acklin was our biology and Advanced Biology teacher in our small high school.  He not only challenged us to think critically, he gave us opportunities to learn which today would be treated as luxuries.  From collecting and pinning insects (I still want to know where he got that cyanide, but I'm afraid the CIA might be reading this), to worm, frog, shark, and the infamous cat dissections (infamous not because of how they were procured, but for their various uses during the process.  Let's just say Acklin was a forerunner to shows like Bodyworks).  We were also allowed to go on goose banding and deer checks in the fall.

Did any of us grow up to be Marine Biologists or biologists of any type?  Maybe not, but he layed the foundation to have an interest in critical and analytical thinking that may have led to careers in medicine, math, and other areas that the next generation needs.

Of course today, I see schools screaming out for supplies that we took for granted, such as microscope slides and samples, items they DON'T have.


Its not the educators fault, they still have the passion (maybe even more than a generation ago) but instead of being able to push the envelope such as our instructors did, they have to be worried about tape.

My last piece of this 3 part series (hell, maybe it will be 8 parts) is how you can help in a small way, while we as a civilization will wait for years to figure out how to fix the bigger macro problems facing us.

I'm off to Walmart to get some tape that some Chinese educated engineer probably created....

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

What is the next generation's Tang? Will they even have a chance to know?


So its probably been awhile since you've seen or heard Tang.  It really is an awful drink, not sure if they still make it.  But to me, it is an example of what I fear may be ending.

Tang came about as part of space exploration.  A time in the late 50s, 60s, and 70s where our country encouraged exploration and innovation.  At the time, we had the best colleges in the world, the pinnacle of education for all countries to follow.  The space race and associated technologies drove decades of innovation for numerous areas including faster cheaper technology.

But now, as many of us are parents, or eve becoming grandparents, its becoming evident that the costs for education in the United States are a runaway express train. 

There will be generations of students who must choose whether they want to be faced with crippling debt for their first years or decades in the workforce, all for the supposed dream of getting an education. 

There are others that must contemplate whether the cost benefit of the education that they desire is worth even to going to college for?  Is my art history major ever going to be worth the 200k that I might spend in 2020-2024 to go to school?  Some may argue it isn't and that isn't a loss.

But what it starts to bring up is the decline of our civilization by not educating our people.  When you begin to restrict access to education, the civilization begins to crumble from within.  Discouraging or limiting research, innovation and critical thinking begins to effect the economy as the job creators become more and more limited.

So we can sit here and admire the problem, push it forward to our kids and their kids.  But the reality is that the greed that my generation has shown and the laissez-faire attitude towards keeping educational costs in check will affect more generations than we can begin to think about.  For those of you who are Christians, or even fervent Tea Party Admirerers, you may relate to the quote from Jesus "Forgive them, for they know not what they do". 

In a perfect world, our generation would suck it up, give back the 60 inch plasma to pay 2% more for education each year, find solutions to the ancient methods (In Illinois at least ) of funding education through means other than property tax. 

If you can find a politician who has the testosterone to push that agenda, hug them.  Because the next person running for office will use that platform against them. 

Well I better quit writing, Hillybilly Hand Fishing in on the 60 inch and it looks so good in HD.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

On 9/11 I want my kids to understand Heroism, not Patriotism




So I've been thinking a lot about the press coverage of the 10th anniversary of 9/11 and my feelings about it.   I'm not an overly patriotic guy for better for worse, and to be quite honest, there's enough for America to be ashamed of POST 9/11 to make me cringe (Iraq War, the grotesque failure to insure First Responders to the Twin Towers, etc)

But let there be no doubt for myself, my kids, and their future kids what 9/11 should remind people of:


HEROISM

The FDNY, NYPD, the passengers on Flight 93, the rescuers at the Pentagon, all of those who worked tirelessly for days in the rubble of twin towers....

I still watch with awe and sheer respect at those firefighters and policemen who rushed into those buildings, no concern for their own well being, another day at the office.  Even if the towers had not collapsed, the scene those men and women would have found up in the towers would have been life altering, but not a hesitation, in fact from the films an even greater sense of urgency.

The passengers on Flight 93, charging the front of the plane, knowing they had to control their own fates, and they did, in the meantime saving hundreds if not thousands of others.

The magnitude of their collective actions I'm still not sure we can all truly grasp.

There is a tremendous video I've seen on National Geographic the day after the towers fell.  All of the rescuers on the rubble, with all of the beacons chirping from all of the rescuers trapped below.  It sounds like a chorus, you can't really put words to it.

That's what I want my kids to remember


Friday, September 9, 2011

No Respect, No Respect at all I tell ya


So I'm out in Vegas, wandering through the dimly lit corners of the prostitute filled (more on that in a future post) Monte Carlo Casino and I come across the Sports Book.  Given the pending NFL kickoff I decided to look at the lines and see how many points I would have to give up this weekend for beloved Bears versus the Indoor Football Falcons. 

The tendency early in the season is for linesmakers to be conservative, not knowing how teams really will fare, but we're talking about the team that hosted the NFC Championship Game last year against eventual Super Bowl Champion Packers. 

Would it be 4 or 5 point favorites, something that I still felt comfortable giving? 

In the late hours of the evening, I rubbed my tired eyes, all of the betting lines must be jumbled into one.  What's that, can't be

BEARS +3

How can this be?  Aren't the Bears playing Matty "Ice - As in I freeze in Big Games" Ryan?  Is Julio Jones any better than Dez Bryant was this time last year when the Bears squished the Cowboys? 

Stunned, I wandered back to my hotel room (where no prostitues were present) and scanned the newswires?  Was Todd Collins replacing Cutler?  Were my lockdown corners of Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings injured in a freak accident?  Nope.

Going back the next day, I thought the computer glitch must have been corrected, but amazingly the glaring red line had not changed.

I decided to go big and pulled a Hamilton from the wallet and bet my beloved Bears. 

Bears 27 Falcons 21.





Saturday, September 3, 2011

Confessions of a former hard core Obama follower





Dear Mr. President:

I want to come back under the tent.  I'm one of those who when you were polling at 7% in the Democratic Primary race for Illinois back in 2004 who posted Obama signs in my yard.  Most of my neighbors in my 80% Republican district figured I was campaigning for the mastermind of 9/11 at that time.  You/We prevailed, the sense of pride overwhelming.  Then the historic rise in 2008 to the Presidency. You really didn't need my help, but we contributed money, we preached the gospel of change. 

Now as we enter the race for 2012, I must admit I'm teetering.  Unfulfilled promises, lack of leadership, negotiating like you are the GM of the Cubs, its not a winning combination.  We still have two wars going on, Guantanamo is still open, you've waffled on several positions. 

Come get me back Mr. President.  I'm looking for a guy with some cajones, who is willing to take a hard stand in these next 14 months.  Someone who is more interested in doing the right thing, versus trying to get re-elected. 


My yard is ready for another lawn sign, but you've got to earn it back