Magazine Free-For-All

Whenever someone asks me what my hobbies are or if I have to write a quick paragraph on myself that lists my interests, there is always something that will pop up right next to sports, working out, social media, and travel.  Reading of course. Just as parents will usually pass on their habits to their kids, I grew up in a house that treasured reading. My parents always (and still to this day) had a book in their hand and they made sure I followed suit. Their effort did not go in vain.
I am not some book worm who spends all of my free time engulfed in some 1,000 page fantasy as I walk from place to place but I do read as much as possible. Books, newspapers and blogs receive a lot of attention from me. I am always in the middle of at least one book, I subscribe to two newspapers, and I have certain blogs that I have to read every day. However, there is one type of reading that I might do a little more than others.
Now I do hate to admit this because I know this is not the type of reading that intellectuals give much respect to but I love magazines. I love them so much that I currently subscribe to ten different ones. Making sure that I don’t get too sucked into one certain area, I try to diversify my magazine reading repertoire. I subscribe to the following journals: Sports Illustrated, ESPN the Magazine, GQ, Details, Time, Entertainment Weekly, Fortune, Money, Men’s Health, and Men’s Fitness.
While it is nice getting something in the mail pretty much every single day*, the numerous magazine subscriptions can get overwhelming at times. How so you ask? Let me lay out the three reasons for you:
1.  Content overload: I would be lying if I said I read every single magazine issue I get from front to back. In fact, sometimes I don’t get the chance to skim through certain issues at all. I usually read my magazines at dinner time. I will get home after a long day at work and eat and read. I will then move onto other stuff (blog, journal, watch sports…sometimes a social life). So on days where I have four magazines waiting for me when I get home**  certain ones will get overlooked. I just can’t keep up and I feel bad.
2.  Renewal/Junk annoyances:  When you subscribe to a certain publication they are going to do whatever they can to keep you as a subscriber. To them that means sending you renewal notices and offers pretty much the day after give them the money for your initial subscription. Not exaggerating, after I signed on for a year with Time, the next week they were sending me notices trying to get me to sign on for an additional year. Magazines send out 1st renewal notices, 2nd renewal notices, 3rd renewal notices, 4th renewal  notices, 5th renewal notices…etc. etc. It gets really annoying. Not only that, but mostly every magazine you subscribe to is under the umbrella of a company that publishes numerous other magazines. The company of the magazine(s) that you subscribe to believes you will be interested in all of their other fantastic magazines as well so they send you junk mail offer after junk mail offer on all the other mags you are missing out on. Multiply all of these renewal notices and new magazine offers by ten and you got what I (and my poor roommates) deal with.
3.  Hoarders’ Paradise: When you get the volume of magazines that I get on a weekly basis, they start to add up. I usually take my mail down to my room. I have two magazine piles. First pile is for the ones I have not looked at/not read and the second pile is for the ones I have read/looked at/have no interest in. It takes very little time for that second pile to grow taller and taller. As someone who tries to be tidy when it comes to my room/car/bathroom (notice I did not say my office), having a big stack of magazines should not appeal to me. But for some reason I have a tough time throwing them out. About six months ago I finally put my foot down and got rid of the huge mountain of magazines I had accumulated over the course of about a year. I threw them all into big plastic garbage bags and disposed of them in a dumpster in a parking lot at a softball complex by our house because I was too embarrassed to fill our garbage can with a million different magazines. Well, it is time for me to get rid of a significant amount of magazines once again but this time I want to go at it in a different manner.
A pile of magazines in my room (I have more than this) 
Rather than dispose of my various magazines into a random dumpster, I want to call on my readers to see if any of you have any use for an assortment of great magazines. You will have to come to my house to get them but it should be worth it if you are in the need for collage making pictures or just good reading material. Reach out to me by text, phone, e-mail, Twitter, or Facebook.  Happy reading everyone! Don’t Blink.
* – As I wrote in a previous post, I love getting mail.
**- These multiple magainze issue days usually occur on Mondays.

Best Supermarket Invention Ever

Probably the best invention/concept introduced in grocery stores in recent memory is the self-checkout. Unless I have an extraordinary large amount of items, which I usually don’t, I exclusively utilize self-checkout for the purchasing of my groceries. For anyone who values convenience, privacy, and independence, the supermarket is a much friendlier place these days.
There is nothing more convenient when it comes to shopping than having the option to checkout yourself.  Self-checkout lines allow me to bypass lines, avoid the frustrating cashier shift change, eliminate unnecessary chatter, and to remove myself from the risk of having my day delayed by the thousands of other things that can/do happen in traditional checkout lines.
The privacy is great too. Sometimes I just don’t like the cashier, the bagger, and the person behind me making note of every single item I purchase. People make judgments and assumptions from the stuff other people buy and I don’t need that. At the self-checkout line you have your own little space that is away from the immediate sight of employees and customers.
The feeling of independence is satisfying. I like the fact that I can scan my own items and buy them. I challenge myself to do a better job than the actual employees of the store. I will always try to pay/bag before the people at the other three self-checkout kiosks can finish their transactions.  Even if they arrived at their self-checkout way before me and they have less groceries than me, I am still going to do everything I can to beat them.
So even though I really appreciate self-checkouts, I think they can get better. Here are my top five suggestions for improving S-COs.
5.  Traffic control– Around 5pm, the grocery store is busy.  Aisles are packed and lines are long, both at the regular checkout and the self-checkouts. The problem with the self-checkouts is that there are usually four of them. There is never any signage advising people to form a single line or to form two separate lines so it is usually just a goatrope. People will congregate in a pack in front of the kiosks. Once one of the four people at the kiosks finishes, everyone waiting will look around at each other wondering who gets to now use the available self-checkout. Is it the person who got their first? Is it the person who is closest to the one that just came open? Is it the person with the fewest items? Is it the elderly person? Put up a sign and make a policy explaining exactly how and where shoppers should line up.
4. Eliminate coupons- Many of these self-checkout stations allow you to enter coupons. Hogwash. Self-checkout is about convenience and speed. If someone wants to make sure they get 33 cents off their bag of Fritos, send them to a traditional line. A lot of times the shopper does not even know how to enter the coupon correctly.
3. Better bill receptors– This one can get really frustrating. Many of the stations I have used in the past have flat out refused to take my money. Despite the nice, crisp condition of many of these bills I was forced to go up to the lone person overseeing the stations and trade out bills. I have had better luck getting Monopoly money accepted in the change dispensers at Chuck E. Cheese’s than I have with newly minted fresh $20 bills at a few of the grocery stores I have utilized self-checkout at.
2. Work to lessen glitches– There are still a few problems that always seem to come up with self-checkouts. About 50% of my visits to the S-CO I get the message “Unexpected item in bagging area” even when there is no unexpected item in the bagging area. It is frustrating and slows down the process. Sometimes items won’t scan either. More often than not, at least one of the self-checkout stations is out of order.
1. Automatic I.D. verifiers- Okay, anyone who has ever bought alcohol at the self-checkout line knows how this one goes. You scan your six-pack and then a loud computerized woman’s voice along with a message on the screen declares “APPROVAL NEEDED.” You then look over embarrassingly at the employee overseeing the stations and he/she has to walk over to where you are at, check your I.D., and then type in the necessary info to validate the purchase. Until that happens you can’t purchase anything or scan any of your remaining groceries (why I always scan my beer last). Sometimes if the employee is tied up with another customer it might be awhile and you just have to stand at the station while the “APPROVAL NEEDED” voice continues to go off and people waiting in line give you annoyed looks for holding everything up while at the same time thinking you are an alcoholic. If there were slots at each station where you could insert your I.D. the moment you start to scan your items it would cut down on time and humiliation.
The future for self-checkouts is bright. I imagine these changes will be done sooner than later. Maybe one of these days supermarkets will only offer self-checkouts. If that is the case, you better start using them. Don’t Blink.

T-Pain/Gym Class Heroes Concert Review

Last night I attended T-Pain’s “Snowstorm Music” Tour. While T-Pain was the headliner, most people were just as excited, if not more, to hear his opening act, Gym Class Heroes. Held in the Adams Center in Missoula, the tour consisted of stops in secondary markets that are kind of a little off the beaten path. Last night’s show was the last one on the tour. Can’t really say it went out with a bang.
Besides Gym Class Heroes, there were three other opening acts. Actually, I am not even going to call them opening acts, how about just “warm up” acts? The first two bands/performers (I don’t even know what they consisted of) were just there to waste time and make noise. The third warm up act was Outasight which actually does have a song out right now that is getting some radio time. However, my group decided to bypass these “special opportunities” and we got down to the floor just as the Gym Class Heroes took the stage.
Now it seems that the consensus I got from most people today when I talked to them about the concert was that the Gym Class Heroes were great and that T-Pain sucked. I disagree. I don’t think GCH were as good as a lot of people said and I don’t think T-Pain was as bad. I just think they were both rather average.
For me, it was kind of tough to get into the Gym Class Heroes set. First off, I just really don’t like their music. I don’t like their sound, their lyrics don’t hit home for me, and their music simply fails to draw any emotion out of my body. So I guess they were already kind of off on the wrong foot with yours truly. But with an open mind and a nice buzz going, I was ready to give them a chance to win me over with their lesser known music, stage presence, and charm. They failed. Out of all the songs they sang, I just really did not connect with any of them. I didn’t really even think they sounded that good. As the tour was relatively low budget and they were not even the headliner, the overall production for their stage/set was pretty poor too.
But I think what turned me off the most to really enjoying their time on stage was Travie McCoy. He never built that rapport with me that I want when I go to concerts. I want to feel that special bond between the entertainer and the fan. I want to feel that line of respect that many great  performers can convey to their audiences (even if deep inside they don’t mean it). I thought McCoy was just disrespectful and immature. He led the crowd through a song where the whole time he switched his hand back and forth from a peace sign to an extended middle finger. When the song ended, the middle finger prevailed over the peace sign and he was flipping off the crowd. Throughout the whole set, he continually referred to the audience as “Mother F#$%^&*.” Now I understand he is using it as a term of endearment but I don’t like to be called that, no matter how good the intentions are. It is insulting to me. This is to not even mention that the majority of the audience was easily high school age and younger. Sorry, but a fourteen year old girl does not need to be referred to as a “Mother F!@#$%.” He also did stupid interactive exercises with the crowd that I think should be reserved for youth group ice breakers. Case in point, at one time in the concert he randomly requested that everyone give a hug to the person on their right. Maybe I was just jealous of the guy because ever since the concert was announced here in Missoula every  girl I know had been drooling over how hot he is. Don’t know how much that factored into it but I was not overly impressed with Gym Class Heroes.
                                        Travie McCoy last night. Don’t care for his personality
T-Pain burst on the stage by opening up with “Good Life.” It actually immediately drew me into the show and got me excited for what was to come. Now as I usually say in my concert reviews, the best concert entertainers are the ones who master their set list and sprinkle out their greatest hits throughout the entire show, thus keeping the concert goer entertained the whole time while also making sure that they have something to look forward to because they know that even greater songs are yet to come. Well, T-Pain followed this formula for about ¾ of the show. For that period of time, I thought the set was very entertaining and fun. He was performing all of the best party/dance hits from the past several years. I actually forgot how many good songs T-Pain had been a part of. If the songs that he performed didn’t serve as sufficient evidence of this fact, T-Pain made sure to routinely throw out the stat that he has had forty-something songs on the radio. At the peak of the show T-Pain was jamming, dancing, and sweating like a pig…it was fun! He performed “Low,” “Buy You A Drank,” “In Love With a Stripper,” “Blame It,” “I’m on a Boat,” and “Bartender.”  That alone is a pretty decent playlist to jam out to with a bunch of people. Then he performed a couple of songs that really got the place jumping. When he performed “All I Do Is Win” I admit that I got a little more excited than someone my age should.  Then he performed one of my all-time favorite songs, “All the Above.” Without naming the song, he said he was going to play his anthem and went right into it…definitely my favorite part of the concert.
T-Pain in Missoula last night.
So besides him actually performing some good songs that got the crowd going, there were a couple of other good things about his performance. One of these things happened to be his dancers. Now remember how I said this was a low budget tour? T-Pain had TWO dancers…that’s it. But those dancers WORKED it. Yes they were hot and yes they had moves. They were entertaining to watch and I enjoyed them thoroughly. I thought his DJ was also pretty funny and added a comedic aspect to the show. Pain also had a gorgeous backup singer who did well. The stage and lighting was basic. For the majority of the show I thought T-Pain was funny and sincere when talking to the crowd. He was likeable and even relatable. Yes, things were going pretty well.
T-pain and his dance crew
As I said above, T-Pain put on a great show until about the last quarter of the set. Unfortunately for him, if you ask anyone about his performance in Missoula, most people are going to pinpoint how he went from entertaining and fun to weird. For whatever reason, T-Pain decided to get on a soapbox for the last part of his show and rant. He had the DJ put on some slow beat and he went off just talking about random stuff…again, talking, not singing or raping. He talked about how you should live every day to its fullest, be thankful for each day you wake up, treat people right, etc. etc. etc. Definitely a good message but really out of place and random. Besides the positive stuff he also rambled about using an autotune, basically saying something to the effect of “this is just me being me…you got to be yourself. Didn’t really make much sense and was not necessary. Also he built himself up quite a bit during this period too, making plenty of references to his collaborations, radio play, accomplishments, awards, etc. People literally lost interest in the concert. He capped it off by doing a strange freestyle rap that sounded very “Eminemish” and that totally contradicted his “I Respect Women” shirt that he wore for the whole show. Songs that people in my group were anticipating him to perform such as “Kiss, Kiss” and “The Best Love Song” never happened. It was just a bizarre ending.
All in all, I thought the show was going to be a little crazier than what it was considering it was the last stop on the tour. I was kind of expecting to see Gym Class Heroes and T-Pain kind of go a little nuts because they had reached the end of the road of their small market/small town odyssey. But no, it really just seemed like any other show. Lack of a big finale aside, even though it was not the best concert, the value was great. For $23.50 I got to see two big name acts perform on what otherwise would have been an ordinary Tuesday night.  Just another concert experience to put into my registry. Don’t Blink.

Dan and I after the concert

Strange Sounds in Missoula

This weekend while I was checking my Twitter feed I saw something that caught my attention. The tweet was from one of the major local radio personalities in Missoula and it read “strange sounds heard over skies of Missoula, Montana.” There was then a link after it. Because of the type of person I am, I immediately clicked on it (will explain in a little bit).
The link took me to a video that this radio personality took himself. Okay, so I don’t refer to him as a “radio personality” for the rest of this post, let me introduce you to Aaron Traylor. Also known as “The Tallest DJ In America” (Aaron stands 6’10), Traylor is a local celebrity. He has shaped not only the current music and party scene in Missoula, he has also pretty much created and pioneered the social media realm here in the Zoo as well. There is no one who is followed more on Facebook and Twitter than Traylor himself and his station, 107.5 Zoo FM.  He has gotten to this prominent spot in the Missoula landscape through hard work, savviness, great marketing, and risk taking. He is also controversial.
I clicked on Aaron’s link and watched the video. For those of you who are unable to view/hear it, you are missing out on the discussion. Aaron is on a playground and there is this eerie noise filling the sky. Definitely hard to describe but think of a high pitched, vibrating, alarm grabbing type sound. Think of any sound that you would associate with a UFO science-fiction type movie and you have an idea of the sound that is dominating the audio of the video.  The setting of the video just intensifies the spookiness as well. It is recorded on a pretty much deserted playground, a dog runs to Aaron as the strange sounds hit a peak, and there is a single little child stalking across the snowy surface (the child is really just Aaron’s little girl but it definitely adds impact to it).
When I first watched it I didn’t really know what to think. I am a sucker for anything supernatural, unexplainable, or apocalyptical. This type of stuff has interested me since I was a little kid and it still fascinates me to this day. I grew up watching Unsolved Mysteries and checking out ghost books at the library. I was a huge fan of the X-Files and I always loved watching shows and reading literature that dealt with alien abductions. I would love to make visits to Roswell and Area  51. The fact that this video was occurring right in Missoula made it even more exciting for me. However, the other side of me told me that this was an account told by a highly successful radio DJ. As I said, Aaron has made a name for himself by being edgy and controversial. It is the name of the business…it is how you are successful. Because I had heard nothing about this incident from the local newspaper  or the local media outlets, I did not know really what to think.
I became more skeptical when I watched a link that was attached to Aaron’s video. The link took you to another place in the country where the exact same thing was happening. This place was Amarillo, Texas, and when you first hear the location it seems convincing. But then you watch the video and doubts start to swirl. It just so happens that the group that recorded the sounds in Amarillo is a sister station of 107.5 Zoo FM. Not only that, but I found the whole video a little on the cheesy side. A local DJ is spooked over the noises conveniently heard right outside the radio station. He walks down the hallway and reaches the room where his other DJ friend is broadcasting, just in the nick of time to hear the whole station identification proclaimed by the on-duty DJ. The two DJs then enter into a discussion where the word “dude” is used about fifty times and the dialogue seems just a little…how shall I put it…rehearsed. It made me almost give up on the whole thing.
But then I read on in Aaron’s account where he said these noises have been happening all across the world. I immediately began a totally unofficial Google research session. Sure enough, these strange sounds in the sky are pretty much a phenomenon that is happening all over the place that has started since the beginning of 2012. I read articles and watched video of similar occurrences, ones that did not have verbally challenged DJs from Texas. I felt a little dumb for not hearing about this earlier.
As more and more of these “strange sounds” incidents pop up, about the same amount of scientific explanations are offered. When it comes to these scientific solutions, the one I came across the most is that the sounds are a reflection of something weird that is going on underneath the earth as plates move and such. Not my area of expertise.  When it comes to the Missoula incident, many people are attributing either the railroad or the airport as the culprit. While science does take some of the fun and mystery away from the sounds, we really can’t just take these academic solutions simply as fact. I mean obviously some of them are wrong if there are so many.
Since Saturday, I have watched as a mini uproar has come to surface in Missoula. In the middle of this all is Aaron. People have called him a liar and discounted his story. I have watched as he has steadfastly stated that this is not a publicity stunt. He has said his sleep has been impacted by the sounds and his mind is constantly on it. As I have heard him respond to the criticism I have definitely decided that I believe that the sounds Aaron recorded are legitimate. Whether they are the product of a simple scientific explanation or an alien invasion I don’t know. But I don’t believe it is a hoax.
I will continue to follow this story. I want to hear the sounds. I want to record them with my flip camera and post on my Facebook page. I want to be spooked a little bit and have my heart jump….I love that feeling. If anyone else has heard these noises please let me know, I would like nothing more than to pick your brain about them. Keep an ear open, Missoula! Don’t Blink.


It has pretty much turned into an everyday question for me these days. Someone will come up to me and with a confused look on their face say, “So I really don’t get what that number sign means that goes directly in front of a word/words that everyone seems to use EVERYWHERE. What does it even mean?” Well my friend, that is one loaded question.
Tonight we are talking hashtags. People who don’t know what hashtags are will refer to them as a “number sign,” “pound sign,” or  “tic-tac-toe” sign. However, in the context of social media and pretty much in the context of pop culture today, they are called hashtags. A hashtag is expressed as the following: #WordOrPhrase. Once you utilize the “#” sign and add a word or any combination of words after it, you have created a hashtag!
So you know how to create a hashtag but how do you really use a hashtag? What do they mean?  This is where I always have to stop myself for a second and find the best way to respond. Hashtags are one of those things where you know what they mean if you know what they mean. Okay, I always hate receiving answers like that so I am going to do a better job of explaining it. But it is true though, all of my nerdy social media friends just get it. We understand the variety of ways hashtags can be used…it is pretty much like speaking a language. I am going to do my best at explaining “this language” by breaking it down by the main ways they are used.
Let me start by relating how hash tags were originally supposed to be used and really how they are still used today. First off, keep in mind that HT’s originated on Twitter. If you are so far behind on the social media curve that you do not have a good grasp on Twitter I suggest you read some of my past blogs on the subject.  Anyway, say there was a certain event going on that a lot of people who were Twitter users were experiencing…let’s just say the Super Bowl. In order to connect with everyone at the game or just everyone watching the game, a HT could be implemented that was expressed as #SuperBowl. When a Twitter user wrote a tweet that had to do with the Super Bowl, he/she would add the #SuperBowl HT somewhere in the tweet. This would make it so that tweet would be grouped with all the other tweets that referenced the hashtag as well. This makes it possible for people to see what others are saying and to connect with them if they feel like it. If enough people are talking about a certain event and sharing a common hashtag, they can get it trending. I know most everyone has heard that word. Trending is a term that Twitter reserves for the most popular hashtags at a given time. Trending topics are given a special spot on the Twitter homepage.
However, as Twitter has exploded and other social media channels have emerged, hashtags have evolved. They are no longer just a code word or a rallying point ….they are much more casual. You will see hashtags used simply to summarize a tweet or a statement. You know how you give a subject line to an e-mail? Well, hashtags act as a subject line for tweets. These hashtags can be as obvious and boring as someone going to take their drivers’ test. They could tweet the following: The big day is finally here. I am going to the DMV to take my driver’s test #DriversLicense. You see how that worked? The fictitious person who tweeted that explained what they were doing and then gave it a hash tag that summarized what the main point or goal was. Here is another example: So fun in Bozeman today watching the Griz once again destroy Montana State #winning. I used this example for two reasons. For one, it again showed how hashtags are used to summarize. The person who wrote this saw their team win, that was the focal point of the tweet. Secondly, I used it because #winning is probably the most popular hash tag in the world. Because of the popularity that Charlie Sheen brought the term and because of its diverse nature, it is used a lot. As a matter of fact, probably 50% of my tweets contain the hashtag of #winning.
Let’s end with the most ambiguous usage of the hashtag. Let’s say you look at a tweet and you notice that the hash tag is not really referencing an event/date and it seems to have nothing to do with the subject of the tweet. Is the person who sent out the tweet on crack? Hardly. In this present day, hashtags are abused…in a good way of course! People will add the most random, most bizarre, and most stupid hash tags onto their tweets. People will use hash tags to express sarcasm, tell an inside joke, flirt, insult, drop a hint, secretly communicate, detail irony, relate a story, add additional information, reference something, advertise a product, throw someone off, or one of a thousand (and I really many a thousand) different other usages. Like I said earlier, you really just have to be continually exposed to this type of communication to really understand it. I will give some examples of hash tags fitting into a few of the above categories. Sarcasm: If I lose twenty pounds by the weigh-in tomorrow, I will achieve my New Year’s Resolution #NoShotInHell.   Flirt: So good to see @DreamGirl at the store today #SoPretty #SmellsGood. Irony (actual tweet from me): Just locked my keys in my car in the CVS parking lot. Raining outside #winning. Additional Information: Very depressed right now, did not pass my driver’s test today #CouldNotParallelPark #RanOverSomeDog.
Can you kind of see the myriad of ways that hash tags can be used? While it can be a little confusing, it is also a lot of fun.  Just in the same way that instant messaging shorthand/language has spread from AIM to the classroom (i.e. George Wash. waz a good prez of the us lol) so have hash tags. I personally use HT’s in all of the social media/chat platforms I use…Facebook, Instagram, Words with Friends, Voxer, etc. I have used them in e-mails. I have even used them in hand written notes. And sadly, I have actually used hash tags will speaking out loud (i.e. “Glen, we are going to play in this Vegas poker tournament and we are going to do some damage…Hashtag WINNING”). Hashtags aren’t going anywhere.
#SoIHopeIClearedUpSomeOfTheConfusionOnHashTags #PleaseDontHesitateToAskMeAnyQuestions #HashTagsAreAVeryUniqueAndFunWayToCommunicate #BestToBeAsCompetentAsPossible #ThanksForTakingTheTimeToReadMyBlogIAmHumbledByMyGrowingReadership #Winning #DontBlink.

Valentine’s Day Haters

When it comes to holidays, I am an Easter guy. I love what it represents first and foremost. But I also enjoy that it symbolizes the start of Spring. I like that it ends a fast, I like the candy associated with the holiday, and I like that it is less laid back than some holidays but more involved than others. It is just perfect. I also love Christmas. Thanksgiving is another holiday I enjoy.
Not all holidays are circled in red pen on my calendar, however.  I have never gotten really into Columbus Day, he treated the Natives pretty bad. I don’t really look that forward to Hanukkah, mainly because I am not Jewish. Besides all of the football, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are a little depressing to me. And oh yes, then there is Valentine’s Day…
If you asked me about Valentine’s Day, I would say I could take it or leave it…but if you really pushed me  hard I would probably say that I would not mind if they totally axed it off the calendar. Sayonora. No more. Bye bye Valentine’s Day.
But this is really just because I think the holiday is way too commercialized and a little too corny for my liking. I am just going to leave it at that. I am not going to pull out any stupid clichés that people use to say how a special day is not needed to show someone you love them or say something overly sentimental like “every day is Valentine’s Day for me.” For me, V-Day is just a little over the top. End of story.
However, even though I freely admit that Valentine’s Day is not my favorite, I can’t help but shake my head at those people who publically announce their undying hatred for February 14 to anyone and everyone. From as long as I can remember, even all the way back in grade school, I have always been around people with this attitude. But as the years have gone on and social media has grown and grown, I feel the hatred, anger, and bitterness towards Valentine’s Day has just gotten a tad out of control. I checked my newsfeed from my iPhone during a meeting today and it said that thirty-two people had posted about Valentine’s Day. With an “Oh man, here we go” running through my head I clicked through and read what people were saying. Easily, seventy percent of the people were smashing the holiday. Bold statements, cheesy quotes, copied statuses, “I hate Valentine’s Day” get-togethers, comics, and one-liners that denounced V-Day took over my feed. So much time, thought, and energy wasted on something so stupid. The saddest thing about all of this though is that I have heard and seen this anti-Valentine’s Day stuff for well over a week now, another sign that it is getting out of hand. It seems that once February comes around, the haters come out and let loose, enabling a stupid holiday to get inside their heads and bother them.
My advice to people who hate Valentine’s Day is to just let the people who actually like the holiday to have their fun. There are much worse things to celebrate than love, even if it is commercialized love. To me, all the people who openly whine and snivel about V-Day just come across as jealous and unhappy. I mean come on, let’s be real here, most people who hate the holiday on a given year are probably single. Yes, it is tough, but take the day with dignity and class. Be happy for the people with sweethearts and loved ones.  Fill your void by doing something special for your Mom or a friend. It will actually make you feel better. Just resist the urge to rain on someone else’s parade. While I am at it though, if you are fortunate enough to have someone on Valentine’s Day and you are around people who are single and who you know are having a tough time, curb your enthusiasm just a little bit. No need to rub their misery in their faces.
To everyone who hates Valentine’s Day I hope tomorrow goes by fast for you and the pain is minimal. Things will go back to normal by Wednesday. To everyone with a special someone and big plans, have fun. Happy Valentines 2012! Don’t Blink.

Writing Letters and Getting Free Stuff

It is a pretty standard assignment that everyone has to complete around the elementary school age. For me, it happened in the fifth grade. My teacher, Ms. Heimbigner, took a couple days to teach us how to write business letters. At the culmination of the lesson, she gave each of us in the class the task of taking what we taught and actually writing a letter to the business of our choice. Because I had a friend in the class who was obsessed with Coca-Cola and that was the company he was writing to, I decided to write to Pepsi. I wrote my letter and dropped it in the mailbox, not knowing at the time that it was the start of a little obsession.
Roughly two weeks later I got home from school and on our kitchen table in front of where I always sat was a large, bulging manila envelope. The envelope was adorned with the Pepsi logo and it was addressed to “Mr. Brent R” (pretty cool to be called “Mr.” when you are only eleven years old). I opened the envelope and discovered a Pepsi t-shirt, a couple Pepsi pens, and a neatly typed out letter on Pepsi stationary that thanked me for writing and that answered the lame questions I had asked in the letter that I sent. It felt cool that one of the world’s largest and most successful companies had taken time to write me back and send me free stuff.
The quick response and the freebies from Pepsi appealed to me. To understand this, you really just have to know my personality and how I can be a sucker for the stupidest things. Before that time of receiving the letter from Pepsi and still to this day, I have always participated in gimmicky type promotions/sweepstakes. Before I reached out to Pepsi I searched garbage cans for soda caps, collected popsicle sticks for a summer, spent my change on baseball card packs in hopes of getting a special card that would send me to the All-Star game, begged everyone I knew for their McDonalds’ Monopoly pieces, saved Hershey candy wrappers, and participated in many more contests that never really paid off for me. Although I did not get anything massive from Pepsi like I would have if I won one of these major sweepstakes, I did get something. And something is better than nothing, especially when the time and effort is minimal. A new little hobby for me was born.
Taking the tools that Ms. Heimbigner taught me, I started writing to more companies. My format was always the same. I would introduce myself/explain who I was, kiss ass on how much I loved the company, ask a couple questions to seem like I was interested, and then make a shameless request for a t-shirt or other type of memento. The formula pretty much never failed. Most companies have policies requiring them to write back to customers, so as you can guess I started to receive a lot of mail. I would go from one industry to the next. One week it might be pizza delivery places, the next it would be ice cream places, the next it would be bottled water companies. I am not kidding. T-shirts, water bottles, key chains, pens, stickers, stationary, coupons, and more rolled in on a constant basis. My parents shook their heads and told me I was being dishonest but I don’t think they really cared.
As I said, this was a hobby for me…not a fad. By the time I got to college, I was still writing to companies. However, my taste had changed a little bit. Instead of pizza and ice cream, I was writing to Las Vegas hotels, professional sports teams, and TV networks.  I actually think by this time I started to receive mail even quicker and at a better rate than back in the earlier days. With e-mail and other technology, the good old-fashioned letter delivered by the U.S. Postal Service became less common. Thus, when a company received a letter in the mail that actually looked like someone took time and effort to craft, they felt a need to respond to that person. Being the nerdy stats guy that I am, I kept a spreadsheet on my computer that listed every company I wrote to with the date I sent the letter and the date that I heard back from them. Not only did the spreadsheet keep me from sending a letter to the same company twice, it gave me feedback on who was really into customer service.
Looking back at the spreadsheet that I still have (started it my freshman year of college) combined with all the letters I wrote before, I have probably received close to 300 pieces of mail from various companies across the United States. If I wanted, I could dress myself in a wardrobe provided solely by corporate America.
I have since retired this silly practice. Call it karma, but once I got hired at my current job, I began to be on the other side of the equation. I constantly receive in my mailbox numerous requests for t-shirts, posters, schedule cards, balls, signed memorabilia, etc. Many times, the people who send these requests don’t even try to hide the fact that it is a form letter that they have sent to every other athletic department in the NCAA.  Just like many of the companies I wrote to, we always respond. Good thing I have a lot of interns.
So although I no longer write to companies, I still participate in every promotion/contest that I can (will blog about this one of these days). Just this past Friday I won a local radio station promo that rewarded me with a $20 gift certificate to a restaurant in town. I don’t know what it is about me, I just crave the interaction and the potential for free stuff from established entities. 
If you ever have some extra time on your hands or if you can’t sleep at night, try reaching out to your favorite restaurant or NFL team. If you put some effort into it, they will more than likely recognize you for it. Nothing is better than getting something in the mail. Give it a shot. Don’t Blink.

Deleting Social Media Accounts

I make it no secret that I love social media. Numerous times I have expressed my admiration for it through this blog. Social media is dominant in our society right now and it is only going to keep getting bigger. If you have a good grasp on SM, you know all of the great things it can do such as reconnect old friendships, start new ones, keep you in touch with what is going on in the world, entertain you, share your thoughts, etc. However, as I have also expressed through my writings in this blog, social media does not always produce positive results.
Social media is a very powerful drama generator. Very easily, people can take their drama that started in the real world and take it into the social media realm. Things can then get pretty nasty. Likewise, drama can start entirely inside the social media world as well. A picture here, a comment taken out of context there, or an accepted friend request can all help to stir the pot. From what I have observed, people will usually deal with social media drama by going to one of two extremes.
The first extreme entails waging a full out war on social media, whether it be by chastising someone on his/her Facebook wall or just via your own Facebook status or by dropping Twitter bombs at the person’s expense. The people who resort to social media attacks are very immature people who probably have very low self-esteem. Of course there are many different ways to participate in this extreme besides the general ones I just mentioned. In fact, for the true snakes out there, there are many ways to stick it to someone through social media. In case you just started reading my blog, I actually wrote a whole post on these different methods. So since I have already explained this unfortunate extreme, I want to focus on the other one.
The other end of the spectrum when it comes to the dealing of social media drama attracts the much more mature and less manipulative people.  Instead of battling it out to see who can be the wittiest, meanest, and cruelest, they decide to just fall on the sword.  They delete all of their social media accounts.
Usually this is a kneejerk decision that was the result of a broken relationship, a friendship gone bad,  a rumor that manifested itself socially, or just plain paranoia. From my experiences, the elimination of social media accounts by a person happens quickly and a lot of times out of the blue. One day your friend is tweeting every two seconds and the next day there is no longer a trace of their username or of the 10,000+ tweets they had sent over the past two years. Or one day your co-worker puts up an album of a fun road trip on Facebook and you happened to be tagged in quite a few of the pictures. Then, the next day you log on and see that your picture count has decreased by twenty and the reason for that is that all the pictures that your friend recently posted have disappeared, along with his/her Facebook account.
Although going to the extreme of eliminating one’s social media accounts is a much more noble move than going to the other extreme of slinging mud, I still strongly advise against it. Extremes are never good, even if one is better than the other.
By pulling the plug on your social media outlets, you are single handedly destroying your personal brand. After you press the delete button, all the time and effort you poured into these accounts to reflect your own unique persona will now mean absolutely nothing. There was a time not too long ago where people cringed about employers seeing their Facebook and Twitter pages. The thought out there was that these types of accounts were unprofessional and incriminating. Not so anymore. Everyone has Facebook and Twitter these days, starting with someone who works in a position like myself all the way up to the President of the United States. If you are active in social media it does not mean that you are slacking, it means you are active and engaged. It means you are relevant.
When I Google my name, it returns a lot of results that I have absolutely no control over. I am not saying that these results are negative, I am just saying I don’t have control over them. However, I have complete control over my Facebook account and my Twitter account. And guess what? They both appear in the top five in my returned search results. If I eliminated my social media accounts and a prospective employer or another important person Googled my name, they would get a string of results that had absolutely nothing personal, engaging, or fun. The person who Goggled me would probably think I was out of touch with the current world.
It is also just bad practice to delete your social media accounts because then you are pretty much just giving into the person (or people) you deleted your accounts because of.  Don’t concede to them and don’t give them that satisfaction that they really got under your skin. Please also think of the other people you might impact by getting rid your accounts. What if you have an aunt who lives a thousand miles away who has her day brightened every time she logs onto Facebook and sees a new picture of you pop up in her newsfeed. Or how crushed would your mom be if she could no longer keep tabs on you by checking your page and getting her assurance that you are doing okay.
By putting the kibosh on your social networks you are not only isolating yourself from the rest of your friends and family you are also isolating yourself from the world. Sure, you can still get your news from the TV, newspaper, and non-social internet sites but you are missing the one thing that Facebook and Twitter provide that distinguishes themselves from these other mediums…interaction. The world is unfolding right in front of our eyes and  the conversation is taking place over social media. Don’t miss out.
Think long and hard before deleting your social media accounts. Don’t make it a spur of the moment decision. If you do delete them, make sure you do it in a way that will allow you to recover them in the future if you decide that you want to reconnect. Remember, don’t go to an extreme. If you find yourself in the middle of social media drama just don’t participate in it. If you feel like you are being violated or “stalked” by someone on one of your accounts, block their ass. Just make sure to stay somewhere in the middle and hold your ground. It is important to have a respected, solid social media presence. Don’t let anyone ruin that for you. Don’t Blink.

Reminiscing About the Past

One interesting piece of human nature that I notice a lot is the tendency for people to be nostalgic about everything and feel that the way things were done back in the past were so much better than the way they are done today. While it’s nice to look back and reminisce we need to keep in mind the context of those earlier times and not just let our imaginations take over.
Elderly people are stereotyped all the time as folks who long for the past and who start pretty much every other sentence with the phrase “Back in the good ol’ days….” They will talk about how great life was when there was no cable television, no internet, fewer vehicles than today, stricter parents, harder schools, drive in movies, Coca-Colas for five cents, etc. Of course all of us younger people know that these “archaic” times were not better than the world we live in today. However, we humor the older generation because they believe so passionately that their times and experiences “back in the day” were superior to what is going on currently.
But you know what? It is not just old people who assume everything in the past was so much better than the present. It seems to me like a good portion of society, all ages included, fall victim to this thinking. Nothing is as good as it once was, nothing will ever be able to measure up to something that happened five years ago.
 The Super Bowl this past Sunday really seemed to drive this point home to me. It seemed to me like the same old people had the same old critiques and criticisms, mainly “The commercials sucked this year and the halftime show sucked this year.” I hear this every single Super Bowl. Just because you watch a commercial and don’t laugh your ass off does not mean it was a bad commercial, or that it failed compared to commercials of the past. Chances are that the party you were at was too loud for you to pick up on everything in the commercial and you missed something that actually did make the ad funny. Or perhaps you were distracted with everything that was going on around you and turned to the commercial half way in…I know this happened to me a lot. Or maybe you were just too drunk to comprehend what was going on. Even if you paid your undivided, sober attention to each commercial and were still unhappy with them, then fine, you are entitled to your opinion. But don’t say that they sucked compared to previous years.
When I talk to people my age and they tell me that the halftime show just blew this year, I want to pick their brain a little. If you seriously think that Madonna this year and the Black Eyed Peas last year paled in comparison to shows of the past, you suffer from the “back in the ol’ days” syndrome that I discussed earlier. Do you realize what some of the past shows have been? In order of the most recent, here are the past six shows after the Black Eyed Peas performed in Super Bowl XLV: The Who, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, Prince, The Rolling Stones, and Paul McCartney. Now I realize these acts were awesome at one time but by today’s standards they belong in retirement homes. The Black Eyed Peas killed it last year with a show that was full of pyrotechnics, cool effects, and #1 songs but people still critiqued it to no end. Madonna this Super Bowl was good. She sang good songs that everyone knew and the surprise guests (Minaj, LMFAO, Cee-Lo, M.I.A.) added a lot to it. Don’t begin to tell me that Bruce Springsteen standing on stage singing his old songs topped the last two shows. Compared to shows of the past, the halftime show on Sunday was good.
Of course it is just not the Super Bowl where people say that things just aren’t the way they used to be. One of my good friends has such a skewed sense of the Missoula social scene. He will regularly complain to me that the bars in downtown Missoula are just not the way they used to be. He will complain that they are not as packed, the girls are not as hot, and there are fewer people that he knows. But come on, what do you expect? You are pushing twenty-six. Bodega and Stocks seem much different when you are a fresh twenty year old student newbie on the scene as opposed to a dude in the latter half of his twenties who has not sat in a classroom for over two years. Don’t  complain about Maggotfest either, it did not downgrade this past year, a new generation is just moving in. Halloween at the bars doesn’t seem as fun either? Maybe it is time to hang up the costume. Not happy with Testy Fest anymore, either? Consider that a good thing. You had your fun, the fact that you believe that everything I outlined above has taken a step down might just be your cue to move on.
People will complain about food not being as good as it once was too! They will be convinced that the pizza at a certain place that has not changed its recipe in fifty years is on the decline. They just don’t make it like they used to. Whatever. As you grow older your taste buds change and expectations alter. Most likely, the times when you scarfed down that plate of pancakes at the diner when it was “the best” was when you were probably living out your younger days that were more than likely a lot of fun. Truthfully, when you are young and in your prime, things just taste better, standards are lower. No, the food did not change…the person did.
It is funny, you can take a certain thing away from someone and give them a vastly superior thing of similar nature, and people will complain that the new thing is not as good as the old. Growing up I lived across the street from  a park. In this park we had a playground jungle gym type area that was made out of wood. It was shitty but we still played on it every day. The time came when the park management had to demolish the decaying wood structure. In its place they installed a state of the art, colorful, modern playground complex. It came with twisty slides, crazy monkey bars, a glider, and multiple bridges. All of us neighbor kids after about six months started reminiscing about the old playground and how it was so much better than the new one we had. It was asinine.
Adults act this way too. This past year at the athletic department I work at we premiered a brand new, awesome pump up video that we play before our football team comes out. It is probably the most exciting moment in the game day experience that we offer. Despite the fact that we introduced a video that was no doubt as good as any other of its kind in intercollegiate athletics, there were still people who wanted to see a version of the pump up video that came out ten years ago. For whatever misguided reasons they had in their head, they believed that back ten years ago everything was bigger and better. Truth is, if they were to sit down and watch the low quality, static video from ten years ago and then watch the product we put out this past season, they would laugh out loud at the dramatic differences between the two videos and then their laughter would subside into embarrassment for their faulty memory.
This post is getting long so let me just point out a few more examples of people thinking that the past was so much better than the present. 1. My high school football team from twenty years ago would beat the team that my alma matter has this year (No way of telling that, but most likely because of strength programs and the year-round nature of high school athletics today, your team from twenty years ago would most likely get killed by the present day team).  2. When I was a high school/college student, we had so much more spirit, attitude, and fun compared to the present day class (Things change over time and you like to think that no one can quite live up to what your class did/accomplished but chances are that they are exceeding it). 3. Holidays aren’t like they used to be (As the years go by, the magic lessens and lessens, making the holidays less enjoyable. I suggest you celebrate holidays for the right reasons). 4. Facebook gets worse and worse with each update. Can’t we just turn back the clock six years and get the old Facebook back? (No, we can’t. Actually, Facebook gets better and better with each update. See a post I have done on this subject).   5. The world as a whole is a worse place now than it used to be (How about you change that?).
Our minds are tempted to embrace nostalgia at the expense of the present moment. Unless you have quantitative figures and stats to compare a present event/product/experience with a past event/product/experience, don’t do it. Human memory is just too unreliable. Don’t Blink.

The New Elbow Room

At the end of this past year, a couple of pretty monumental events occurred in the Missoula bar scene and they both revolved around the same business. First, the old Elbow Room closed. Second, the new Elbow Room opened. While the old Elbow Room was great, my objective for this blog post is to talk about and review the new Elbow Room.

First thing you will hear from anyone who frequented the old Elbow Room on a pretty regular basis when you ask them what they think about the new Elbow Room: “It is just not the same.” Well, duh, of course it is not the same. I can’t speak for the owners but I really don’t think the point was to make the new Elbow Room a replica of the old Elbow Room. The new Elbow Room is at least triple the size of the old one, the facility is clean, it Is trendy, there is a full food menu, and the bathrooms are sanitary…and these are just a few of the differences. Basically, what happened was the owners demolished the old Elbow Room and made an entirely new bar from scratch, basically just saving the name and a couple of nostalgic features from the previous bar.

The Elbow Room (from here on out, whenever I refer to the “Elbow Room” I am talking about the current incarnation of it) is a restaurant sports bar that has caught up technology wise to what a lot of the similar type establishments across the country are operating at. This of course makes it cutting edge in Missoula. This becomes evident immediately as you walk in the door. If you go in during the night hours, the bouncer will take your ID and put it in a machine that electronically checks and verifies it. If you sit at one of the tables for dinner, the waitresses will take your order while punching everything into a little keypad that they carry around, thus simultaneously running your tab without ever having to go back behind the bar or to the wait staff area to enter  your order into a computer. Bathrooms are immaculate and of course have televisions in them with crystal clear sound. Instead of feeling like you are in a 1980’s time warp as you did in the previous bar, you feel like you are in a modern, sophisticated environment.  Nothing against the 80’s, but I prefer a more updated and sleek experience when I go out.

I have heard some people complain about how the bar is set up but I personally like it. The bar is composed in a rectangular shape. A smooth, nice looking wood counter area surrounds the bar tender/wait staff area and serves as the place for patrons to sit at. This wood area makes up three sides of the rectangle shape with the fourth side being the area where all the booze resides. Sitting at the bar if you raise your head there will be various televisions for your viewing pleasure. Surrounding the three areas of seating at the bar is a generous amount of open space and then numerous tables. There is much more than just elbow room. On one side of the bar, seating extends way back down a hallway type area. To the right of this hallway is a separate space divided by a mini wall reserved for shuffle board (there are two of them). The hallway area will then turn to the left and there is even more seating. When you take this left you will notice that to the right of the seating is the dance floor. The dance floor is pretty much separated from everything else and is pretty much a personal preference on If you like the set up or not. On the other side of the bar that does not have the long hallway there is a poker room on the other end of the wall. Throughout the whole place plasma televisions  decorate the whole joint. I believe their electronic reader board said they have 54 of them.


Ashley and I enjoying the Elbow Room on NFL Championship Sunday

A distinguishing part of the new Elbow Room is their full food menu. I would characterize their menu as “fun.” For a guy, the menu is a thing of beauty. Of course they have all of the tasty, greasy type selections such as pizza, hot dogs, burgers, wings, chicken strips, nachos, etc. But then they also have unique menu items such as Vikings, cheese curds, fried pickles, a ½ hot dog ½ hamburger type entrée, a hamburger filled with cheese, sliders, and much more. I have ate at Elbow Room a few times. I have had their pasties (it is actually just one giant pastie), their pizza, and their BBQ pulled pork sandwich. Side wise, I have also had their french fries and their chips and queso. Honestly, I have to say that the food was a little bit bland. I would say that the pastie I had was probably my favorite. The chips and queso were good also but how do you mess that up? I split the pizza with my friend Ashley and it came out burnt and the pulled pork sandwich was just basic at best. However, I definitely understand that sometimes you just have to order the right item and I realize that I need to give them a chance because taking on a pretty large food operation is a tough task…especially in the first couple months of business.

My pastie that I had


A good sports bar needs good drinks, right? I love the Elbow Room’s drink options. First off, let’s start with the beer. The Elbow Room has three sizes for their tap beer: a pint, a 21 ouncer, and a large 32 ounce big daddy! (I believe they have a special name for their big sized beer but it escapes me). The 32 ouncer comes out in a big glass that resembles a large chalice. I will say they look awkward when carried around the bar and I don’t think the design/shape of the glass really fits the Elbow Room but the price is great. You can get a 32 ouncer of Cold Smoke for around $5, not too shabby. The selection of tap beer is good and if they don’t have what you like on tap, they will have it in a bottle. Their mixed drink selection is varied and creative. Again, they have most anything that you can think of and the prices are cheap. They have a whole page devoted to just alcoholic energy drinks. Talk about capitalizing on a popular niche! Many of the mixed drinks are around the $5 range as well. Remember , the glasses are big and they give you a generous amount of liquor. Gone are the days of the Thursday Night 25 cent progressive beers though. They now run at a $1 each and the deal stops at 10pm (only on Thursdays). All considering though, drinking at the Elbow is a great value.

Dan going to work on one of the 32 ouncers.

The service at the Elbow Room is exemplary. The staff pretty much consists of half of old Elbow Room employees and half new hires. Most of the new hires come from serving backgrounds though. Two of my favorite Hooters girls now work at the Elbow. The bartenders are down to earth, nice people. About half female and half male, they respect the customers and serve to the best of their ability. I have been comped a couple times on drinks and they are committed to getting things right. The table servers are amazing too. Once again, respectfulness and the desire to perform the best at their job are traits that they share with the bartenders. One time I was there, the manager came over to my friend and I and sincerely asked how everything was and wanted to know if he could do anything additional for us. The last time I was there, the owner came over to the bar where myself and one of my interns were in the middle of lunch. My intern had a Boston Red Sox hat and Boston Red Sox shirt on, and since the Elbow Room is a Red Sox themed bar, the owner came over and chatted him up for a couple minutes. They talked baseball and the owner told him to stop by once the season starts because the bar will be showing all 162 Red Sox games. I value bars/restaurants that are ran by personable and professional staffs.

Finally, it is time to talk about the clientele at the Elbow Room. It is key to point out that it is much more diverse than the old Elbow Room. You really have many different crowds represented and I like that. You got the middle aged men, you got the young professionals, you got the college students. You still have the missing teeth older women and you got the blue collar folk as well. Thankfully there are not a lot of hippies that go there. A lot of people use it to pregame at before going downtown, some use it as the place to head after they are finished with downtown, and some people just stay at the place all night long. Bottom line, if you walk into the Elbow Room you are going to most likely see multiple people you know and those multiple people could be complete opposites of each other. Elbow serves as a great place to both see people you know and to see people you don’t know (people watching!).

The Elbow Room is an improvement over the old one. It was in need of an upgrade and not only did it get one, but it got one and it was done right. I will be frequenting the Elbow Room much more in the future. Don’t Blink.