Boston Bound

Sitting here in the Missoula airport I know I have a long day of traveling ahead of me. Transporting from one side of the country to the other is never quick and always exhausting. However, the destination and the experiences that await me on the east coast make the travel hassle oh so worth it.

I am off to the city that is currently the center of the nation, if not the world. By the end of the day I will be in Boston, Massachusetts. Even before the tragic events of ten days ago I knew this trip would bring a lot of significance and memories to my life but after what those two troubled young men did I know now that my time in Beantown over the next four days will be a very special time.

I am off to Boston on what will be a memorable trip.

I am off to Boston on what will be a memorable trip.

This trip started off as a dream sports weekend. While it is still definitely that, there is an added element thrown in. I will not just be observing some of the most prominent professional teams competing in some of the most famous sporting venues but I will be observing the strength and resolve of a great city during a tumultuous and (with the elimination/capture of the murderers) triumphant time.

I am traveling to Boston with my friend “Money” Mike. It is his birthday weekend and he invited me to go along with him to celebrate his special day in the city he loves watching his favorite team. We got quite the itinerary lined up…

On Friday night we will enter the most historic ballpark in the country and watch the Boston Red Sox host the Houston Astros. The next night we will return to Fenway Park and watch another Red Sox game. Sunday we will catch some NBA playoff action as the Boston Celtics host the New York Knicks in Game 4 inside the TD Garden. Between all the sporting events, Mike will be showing me all Boston has to offer. We will be visiting the historic sites, checking out a Presidential library, viewing a famous cathedral, walking through old neighborhoods, exploring museums, eating local delicacies, and getting the most out of an amazing city. I can’t wait.

As I will be busy enjoying my time in Boston, I will be on hiatus from Don’t Blink through Monday. However, I will be back better than ever on Tuesday with plenty of experiences to write about. Thanks again to all my readers for your continued support. I will be thinking about you while on the east coast. Don’t Blink.

Something that Happens all the Time

I always roll my eyes a little bit when people make a big deal out of an event that they feel is rare but actually isn’t that rare at all. Sometimes it makes me question if certain people have their memory banks working properly.

This week in Missoula we had a couple rather chilly days. In fact, we even got snow. No doubt about it, I hate it when it snows in April but it is not like it hasn’t ever happened before. But the late season snow was not what dominated everyone’s Facebook statuses and tweets regarding the weather over the last couple days. Instead, people focused on the low temperatures.

On Monday (April 22) we saw a record low of 15 degrees in the early morning. The next day we saw another record low as the mercury got as far down on the thermometer as 20 degrees. My reaction to these record days? Big deal. But my reaction was not shared by others as people went off the deep end proclaiming how crazy, bizarre, and non-typical these weather numbers were. Reactions like “OMG another record low for Missoula, summer must be canceled this year!”……”WTF Mother Nature? Are you serious?”…… “Another record low for Missoula, this is extraordinary”……..”Just don’t know how to explain these crazy temperatures we are experiencing, something must be up.” Oh, please.

I kind of think you have to be totally oblivious to weather patterns if you liken record temperature days to actual rare occurrences such as a full lunar eclipse or the appearance of a comet. Record low and record high temperature days happen somewhere in the country every single day. Every city will experience several record days in a year. Again, every single city will experience several record temperature days in a year!! With 365 days in a calendar year, unpredictable weather and climate patterns, and strong recorded weather data , daily weather records are bound to happen.

But I don’t want to pass all blame on to average citizens who hear the weather information and immediately feel that something unique is going on. I definitely feel the media fuels the hysteria by making a bigger deal about a pretty common occurrence. Headers and headlines that exclaim RECORD LOWS, extended weather reports, and utilizing breaking news to include such stories as weather records helps to blow something such as an unusually cool April day out of proportion.

I find myself using the word perspective a lot. I think if we use just a little bit of it when it comes to weather events we will be able to differentiate between occurrences that really are worth our attention versus occurrences that happen multiple times on a consistent yearly basis. Today the weather turned more seasonal and we had a sunny and beautiful spring day in the Garden City. Finally, Missoulians can relax…..until of course the next record low day comes next week. Don’t Blink.

Premium vs. Generic: Make the Right Decision

Just like any American adult, I like to save money when I go grocery shopping. I try to accomplish this by using coupons, shopping during sales, and buying only the stuff I need. Another cost savings measure I sometimes use is buying generic store products as opposed to the premium brand. But the key word in my last savings tip, conveniently denoted in italics, is sometimes. While I have no problem buying a store brand shower cleaner, I would never consider buying an imitator’s version of Oreos.

For this blog post I want to share my top lists of generic items that I will purchase to save me a buck or two and the items that I will steadfastly only buy in their premium, un-altered form. Enjoy my top five for both lists, starting first with the items that I am willing to downgrade on.


Bottled Water – I don’t need Talking Rain or Aquafina, a bottle of Albertson’s premium drinking water will do just fine for me. Although I love water and drink a lot of it, I can’t for the life of me tell the difference between the millions of bottled water companies out there. Even if there was a small difference, I would still go with the generic version namely because I don’t buy bottled water solely for the original agua in the bottle. Rather, I buy it so I can refill it with good ol’ Montana tap water and place in my refrigerator over and over again.

I have no problem drinking Sam's Choice bottled water!

I have no problem drinking Sam’s Choice bottled water!

Pain Reliever – While the pain reliever market is highly competitive and saturated with many brands, I usually just go with the cheapest bottle. Because of how highly regulated the industry is, all versions of ibuprofen contain the same working mechanisms. Same goes with cold medicine. I can get the knockoff Walgreens stuff for almost $3 less than Nyquil and it does the exact same for me. When you are in pain or sick it is easy to trick yourself in to thinking that the premium brands will get you better faster but it really is not true although a good way to spend extra money.

Cleaning Supplies – When it comes to stocking my bathroom and kitchen with cleaning supplies, I go cheap. I hit up Wal-Mart and purchase the non-big name products. I just don’t see the need to pay extra. All of these products are simply a variation of soap and chemicals anyways. Most importantly, they do the job. When it comes to cleaning it doesn’t matter as much about the product as it does about the person who is willing to spray and scrub.

Milk – I drink 1% milk every day and I find very little difference between Viva and the Albertsons brand I usually buy. In fact, if I was to really scrutinize the taste, I would say I prefer the generic brand more. To me, store brand milk tastes fresher than the national brand who ships their product from across the country.

I drink generic milk over brand name all the time.

I drink generic milk over brand name all the time.

Peanut Butter – People give me quite a hard time about my love for peanut butter. Yes, the rumors are true…during the weekdays I eat half of a peanut butter sandwich for breakfast and then I eat a full peanut butter sandwich for lunch. Just the bread and the peanut butter…no jelly. Because I have kept with this eating pattern for the past four years, you might think I am particular about my peanut butter. I am not. When I go to the store I just buy whatever is on sale. Sometimes I do buy a JIFF jar or a Skippy jar but more often than not I buy Great Value, Safeway, or Albertson’s brand. I can tell a little bit of a difference between the various peanut butters but it is not enough to make me not go for the best deal. As my readers out there who like peanut butter know, it is expensive!


Soda – (cue lame Dos Equis reference) I don’t usually drink soda, but when I do, it has to be brand name. When it comes to taste, there is no bigger difference between a glass of Coca-Cola and a glass of whatever generic cola you can find. All generic colas taste like sewage to me. I have never found a knockoff of Mountain Dew that I have found remotely tasty either. No thank you on the Mountain Breezes and the Alpine Mists…they all suck. Dr. Pepper and root beer generic versions always taste flat to me. I have a hard enough time drinking a name brand soda in the first place, reminiscing about slurping down generic soda that tasted like poison when I was younger makes me wonder how I am still alive today.

Batteries – Sure you can purchase store brand batteries but don’t expect them to power whatever device you have for more than a day. In my opinion, it is either Duracell or Energizer. All the others need not apply. Generic batteries just in your hand fill flimsy and light. Bad things happen when batteries die so it is definitely worth the investment to spend a little more on the reliable, premium brands.

Ice Cream – I think there is nothing wrong with indulging in a treat every now and then. My treat of choice is ice cream! However, if I am going to splurge I am going to make sure it is worth it. There are ice cream brands like Dreyer’s and Ben & Jerry’s and then there are ice cream brands like Western Family and Fred Meyer. If you don’t care about caloric intake (which I don’t when I eat ice cream) you must go with the former brands mentioned. Creamier, tastier, and filled with toppings, I always go premium over generic. It really is night and day between a carton of Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey ice cream vs. a carton of Safeway’s vanilla ice cream. Just looking at the picture of the product on the generic brand’s carton depresses me. The actual taste makes me cry. When it comes to ice cream, go big or go home.

I love my ice cream rich and premium!

I love my ice cream rich and premium!

Junk Food (Cookies, chips) – Another guilty pleasure that does not taste the same in the generic form is junk food. Have you ever tried a knockoff version of Oreo cookies? In every single aspect, the fake cookie is absolutely shameful compared to an actual Oreo. Everything from the fluffiness of the white filling to the crunchy/crumbly texture of the original is left out. The most obvious missing trait though is the flavor! All chocolate sandwich cookies with white filling that are not Oreos lack that distinctive taste. That is how it is for all generic snack foods that try to imitate a classic…lack of flavor! Try a cheese puff that is not a Cheeto. Or a flavored tortilla chip that is not a Dorito. Or a cheese flavored cracker that is not a Cheez-It. Or a marshmallow crispy bar that is not a Kellogg’s Rice Krispy Treat. None of the rip offs taste close to the original thing. Believe me, if you come to watch a game at my place, you are going to be enjoying brand-named snacks.

Toilet Paper – Buying premium toilet paper is as much for my guests as it is for me. I would feel embarrassed if I stocked my bathroom with the cheap and sketchy generic TP that couldn’t even pass for receipt paper. What kind of a host does that? When it comes to toilet paper, I just want myself and my guests to fill comfortable. Soft, thick rolls from recognized toilet paper distributors are the way to go. Plus, if you invest in high quality toilet paper you can usually use it to double as Kleenex or to clean up spills around the house.


There you have it! My list of items that I can use a generic version of and my list of items where I don’t fool around with anything but the best. The rule of thumb for deciding on whether to go generic or go premium is easy: Does quality go down dramatically from a premium product to a generic one AND are you in the position to pay a little extra for the superior product? If you can answer “yes” to both of these questions when evaluating which way to go, buy the premium product. If you must answer “no” to either one of the two questions, then go generic. Happy shopping! Don’t Blink.

Disgracing Freedom of Speech

Ever since I stepped foot at The University of Montana, I have seen my fair share of the “doom and gloom” type preachers who crawl onto campus with their message of hate. A few times each year they randomly show up on a sunny day, pick a spot on a heavily trafficked area of campus, plug in their cheap P.A. system, and condemn everyone to Hell.

Just the way these crazy people like it, they always attract a large crowd of college students who are appalled at the anti-diversity/anti-gay/anti-anything-different-from-them message that they spew. I have watched as these preachers engage the enraged crowd in debate, citing out of context bible verses and dismissing any type of message that has to do with love and compassion. These guys are losers and I cringe every time I see them set up shop on campus but I do support their first amendment right of freedom of speech.

Fact is, I get irritated by a lot of garbage that people say. This includes the guy who unmercifully rips a student-athlete on a message board. Or the person who calls in to a radio show and brings up wild conspiracy theories. Or the extreme talking heads on cable news that don’t care about the actual facts and just want to be loud. Or the racist who pushes his propaganda to no end. Or the person who uses fear (before the point of a threat) to scare and control others. I despise this all but in the back of my head I know it is their first amendment right and a guiding principle that this nation was founded on.

So while I can get past most of the crap that is the byproduct of a gift so important and valuable as freedom of speech, there is something covered by it that is so ugly that I will never be able to accept it. Most of you have heard of the Westboro Church. Headquartered in Topeka, Kansas, you will not find a more hateful group of people in the country. They call themselves Baptist but let’s be honest here, they are about as closely aligned with the Baptist way of life as Babe Ruth was aligned with a healthy way of life. They hate Catholics, they hate Jews, they hate Muslims, they hate homosexuals, they hate blacks, and they hate everyone else who does not belong to their 50 person “strong” congregation.

Okay fine, why should I be so concerned with a small group of demented people down in Kansas? Why not just let them cast out their pathetic message amongst themselves and forget about them? Well, they let their presence be known in a way that makes that impossible. For around 20 years now, the “church” (I use the term very loosely) has picketed funerals. Wait, what do you mean by that? I mean they travel across the country to funerals of people they have no association with and stand outside the church services and graveside ceremonies and condemn the deceased and their families. They hold up derogatory signs, start hateful chants, and disrespect the dead in a way that will overwhelm anyone with sadness and anger. But it gets worse. Westboro Church does not picket the funeral of murderers and child molesters. Rather, they go to the funerals of U.S. soldiers killed in action, kids who suffered death in tragedies, and gay men and women who were victims of violent hate crimes.

The point that I finally said enough is enough and just threw my hands up in the air in frustration and helplessness was last week when Westboro announced that they would attend and picket the funeral service of Krystle Campbell, one of the three people who was killed in the Boston Marathon bombings. At a point when our country was hurting from an act so random and so disgusting I could not bring myself to care one bit about the shallow first amendment rights of this hate group. To try to disrupt the memorial service of a woman who by all accounts touched so many people and then had her life savagely robbed from her in a split second made me throw up a little in my mouth. First amendment be damned, this was wrong.

Westboro claims to picket at these funerals to let everyone know that these deaths are the wrath of God. They say that God is exacting revenge on the United States. Never mind that the U.S. is giving them the right to protest in such a distasteful way in the first place, these people are too stupid and ignorant to realize that. They instead say that the country is too morally corrupt, too accommodating to gay rights. Holding up signs that say “God hates faggots”, “Thank God for IED’s”, “Rot in Hell”, “Thank God for 9/11”, “God is angry every day”, and other despicable slogans and images these people terrorize both the living and the dead during very sad and emotional times.

I couldn’t imagine losing a family member suddenly because of a senseless violent act or a natural disaster and then going through the gut wrenching process of grieving and planning a funeral. That in itself is something that I wouldn’t wish upon anyone. But after all that, how completely unfair and sickening is it that they then have to worry about some insane people showing up to their loved one’s service to glorify God for their death and announcing that their soul is now in Hell? How could a grieving person continue? How could anyone possibly accept that?

Like I said, I cherish the first amendment for the most part but I can’t get past what the Westboro Church is able to do under the disguise of it. Yes, the amendment is there so everyone can express themselves, even if they want to express themselves with hate. But there has to be a point where we disallow the freedom of speech to dishonor, condemn, and torture the innocent…especially during their most sad and vulnerable hour.

Today was Krystle Campbell’s funeral. Boston was hell-bent on not letting Westboro disgrace Krystle’s final hour. Hundreds of union members from Teamsters Local 25 showed up to form a human shield between the church and the bigots from Westboro Church. But guess what? After all the talk, all the Tweets, and all the threats, Westboro did not have any representation at the funeral. The cowards never showed…not a single one. Try to tell me that wasn’t a sign from God. Don’t Blink.

My Mid-April Weekend

Another weekend is now in the books for your Don’t Blink blogger. Want to hear about the wild and crazy weekend I had? Yes? Yes, you do? Well too bad, such a weekend did not happen. However, I did have a good past couple days even if I have no crazy shenanigans to report. As I do from time to time I will take a blog post to make mention of a few highlights that defined this past weekend…boring as it may be.

Friday – Conclusion of Spring Ball: On Friday night our football team finished spring ball with a final scrimmage inside Washington-Grizzly Stadium. Played under the lights and with an emphasis on giving back to the community, it was a very enjoyable and fun evening.

In fact, the scrimmage was just not a conclusion for the football team, it was a conclusion for me as well. The scrimmage marked my fourth and final Griz event in the past seven days. The Saturday prior to the final scrimmage we held our spring game in Ronan, Montana. It was nice to take a day trip up north to Ronan and watch our football team fill the town with Griz cheer. Although it was a cold and windy day the rain held off and everyone seemed to have fun. On Tuesday we held our student-athlete talent show, “Griz Got Talent.” I was tasked with running all the sound and video for the show. Wednesday night we staged our basketball celebration for both our Griz and Lady Griz basketball teams for completing amazing seasons. Held in Dahlberg Arena I performed the same duties I did the night before.

Of course this brings us back to Friday night and our spring ball finale. A rainy and cold day had us a little nervous for how ugly conditions might get for the event that night but as most people know, God is a Griz fan. When 5:30 p.m. rolled around and we opened the field to the kids to participate in low key drills with the players and coaches, it couldn’t have been a nicer night. After the kids went back in the stands with their parents we honored two Griz legends, Dave Dickenson and John Edwards, at midfield. After showing a highlight video chronicling the achievements of both men, Dave and John both addressed the crowd. As for the scrimmage, the fans who showed up were treated to an exciting, high scoring battle. After the scrimmage concluded the whole team stayed out on the field and signed autographs for the fans, many using the 2013 Griz football poster they just received as signing material.


The football team signs autographs under the lights.

The football team signs autographs under the lights.

The scrimmage was a lot of fun to work. Running music and Griz Vision, I enjoyed working with everyone else up in the control room of the press box. With representatives from sports information, internal ops, the GSA, and the football team all working together up above, we had a great time.


A view from the Washington-Grizzly Stadium press box of the scrimmage.

A view from the Washington-Grizzly Stadium press box of the scrimmage.

Saturday – High School Reunion: Although Missoula is only 200 miles from where I went to high school at, I surprisingly didn’t have anyone here in town who I went to Mead Senior High with. Well, that all changed last week when one of my high school friends moved here from Butte. Now throw in the fact that this friend who just moved here has a best friend who also went to school with us living in Whitefish and you got the potential for the three of us to reconnect and have some fun.

That is just what happened on Saturday night. My friend John, who works as a personal trainer, is now living in Missoula. His best buddy, Chase, who works in an important position at a credit card company in Whitefish, decided to come down and check in on John’s new place. This of course led to the three of us hanging out yesterday evening. After the three of us met at my place we enjoyed some fine dining at Hooter’s and then went downtown and played shuffle board (Chase and I won!). We then did some other exploring around town before calling it a night. Earlier today we reconvened and ate breakfast at Stone of Accord before Chase made the trip back to Whitefish.

John, Chase, and I on Saturday night.

John, Chase, and I on Saturday night.

Chase and John were both a class under me in high school. However, despite the year gap we all played football together. The bond that develops from playing sports together is extremely strong and will always carry on as the years go by. Because the three of us shared so many hours together on the athletic field we will always feel connected. Just as we had each other’s backs several years ago, we still have them today. It was so nice hanging out with them.

Sunday – Snow Storm: Even though it is late April, Mother Nature could care less. What looked to be a decent day with the sun shining brightly in the morning quickly turned into deception and deceit as snow started falling at a fast rate from the spring sky. A blizzard in April? Really? Roads were covered and visibility was next to nothing as Missoula received a late season whiteout.

I hate the snow. I hate it even in December so you can get the picture that I especially despise it in April. Of course with my luck the one time that I decided to park my car in general parking as opposed to under my assigned covered area at my apartment complex the sky decides to dump snow on us. Sorry, but scraping/brushing inches of snow off my car does not sit well with me when the month of May is just around the corner. Oh well, I guess I should not be surprised. I just thought that after an Easter weekend filled with temperatures almost reaching seventy degrees that we might not see snow until October rolled around…wrong.


The weekend has come and gone. Time now to get back to work and start another week. Luckily for me, the next weekend will be here sooner than usual. I have a short work week that will conclude at the end of Wednesday. Come Thursday I will be on the road again as I embark on a fun adventure…but more on that later. I don’t say this enough but thank you so much to all of my readers! I appreciate all of your support and comments regarding my blog. You are my motivation to continue writing. Have a great week everyone! Don’t Blink.

A Taste From My Youth

If you read my blog often or know me personally, you know I am a smell guy. I love good smelling smells! I can’t get enough of the aroma of ice cream, fresh doughnuts, cotton candy, and cinnamon rolls. For me, a smell always makes me associate it with something. For example, going in order with the smells I just mentioned, I think of Baskin-Robbins, Krispy Kreme, Dahlberg Arena before basketball games, and Cinnabon. There is one smell that joins the above four in my top five. This smell will make your nose curl and tingle with pleasure. Not only is the smell superb, but the taste is too (can’t say that about cotton candy…smell is always way better than the taste). But what makes me really happy about this smell is that I associate it with fun, gatherings, summer, and festivals! I don’t think about in in terms of just one place, I think about it in terms of several places. I am talking about KETTLE CORN!

So why am I on kettle corn tonight? Well, last night we honored our basketball teams for fantastic seasons. We treated the fans that came to the event with complimentary kettle corn and soda. I couldn’t help getting up from my sound spot in the arena and walking over to where the kettle corn was and helping myself. After I ate a few kernels I became immediately aware again of how much I actually love the stuff. At the same time, memories rushed through my head and my nose was filled with that sweet smell. Today at work I brought yesterday’s very nice experience back by eating some of the leftover corn from the event. With the peaceful feeling returning to my body, I knew I just had to pay homage to the king of all popcorns…kettle corn!

Me enjoying some leftover kettle corn in the office today.

Me enjoying some leftover kettle corn in the office today.

Probably around the time I was in fourth or fifth grade I started noticing the tents with the giant black kettles popping up at major outdoor events and festivals. Before I noticed them with my eyes, I would always become aware of them first by my nose. The sweet smell would cut through the thin warm air and hit my senses from 40 feet away, just before I looked ahead and saw the inviting scene. Upon scoping the activity at the tent out, a large group of people would always be gathered in front of the stand. Some would be purchasing giant bags of kettle corn, some would just be marveling at the scene of the person behind the kettle stirring the popcorn mix with a giant spoon, while others would be taking advantage of the free samples.

Ah yes, nothing tasted better than the free kettle corn samples. Piping hot and overly loaded with the signature sweet and salty taste, nothing could stop anyone from buying a bag after enjoying a free sample. Except for someone like me, who during those initial years never had the $4 to buy even the small bag. However, when I did have my mom or dad with me and they did in fact buy a bag, I was in heaven. In the same way that a purchased box of a dozen Krispy Kreme doughnuts never tastes as good as that initial warm glazed sample you get when you enter the store, the same kind of holds true for kettle corn. The bag that they give you doesn’t taste as good as the five kernel sample they drop in your hands at the tent, but it is still good. I remember walking around with my family at whatever event we were at and all five of us chaotically taking turns plunging our hands into the bag, getting as much kettle corn to drop on the ground as we actually got in our mouths.

Kettle corn definitely started off as a novelty. At first it seemed like kettle corn stands were few and far between and you could only get the yummy confection at select events but once the taste started to spread, so did the amount of stands selling it. By the time I reached high school, kettle corn was a serious business. No longer could I go to Hoopfest, a food event, or the fair and see a single kettle corn stand holding court with a line a mile long. Instead there would always be multiple stands selling the stuff, all proclaiming to have the superior product. One stand would boast putting more sugar in their mix, another stand would claim that their product was fresher, another would try to win business by selling their bags for a dollar less. I would walk down Occidental Avenue on my way into Safeco Field and there would be 10 different places just on that street where I could buy kettle corn. So just like how any new creative product starts off elusive and in high demand and then explodes and kind of oversaturates itself, kettle corn was no different. But I never tired of the taste.

What was once a product you could only get at special festivals, KC transformed in to an item that you can now pull off the shelves at a grocery store. Contrary to the ideals that made kettle corn so popular, you can go to Wal-Mart and buy a big bag of the stuff that was popped months ago in a factory on the other side of the country. Who cares if it not hot or fresh, you can still enjoy that sweet and salty taste, right? Ugh. A better option for getting that special taste when you can’t get it fresh from a stand is the microwave version. Just like any microwavable popcorn, you simply heat it up and enjoy. Although loaded with sweet goodness, the microwave version definitely tastes different from the original kettle corn. For those adventurous types, there are about a million different recipes online that you can utilize to make homemade kettle corn and you don’t even need a kettle! Unfortunately kettle corn that is shipped across country, popped in the microwave, or created at home takes away from what made it so special in the first place…the experience and excitement of buying a unique product straight from the kettle.

I will always have a special place in my heart for kettle corn and I will still even eat the imposter versions that come from the store or in microwavable bags. The nostalgia that I have engrained in my memory bank of some new and tangy popcorn coated in a salty-sugary mix and only served at special outdoor occasions will always stick with me. When I trigger this memory, I crave kettle corn like no other. Good thing we still have a couple bags still leftover in the office. Don’t Blink.

What Tragedies Like Today Make Me Think About…

When tragedies hit like the one that did today in Boston, I usually sit back and sadly look on at the developments. In somewhat of a shocker since I am such a nerd about it usually, I do stay away from commentary and reaction on social media. Everyone with a heart is sad over something like this…I don’t find the need to write a Facebook status, send out a Tweet, or share a picture to express to my audience that I am thinking about Boston. Come on, all of us are grieving, most of us are praying.

So in the hypocritical way that I probably too often take on, I do want to share what came to my mind today and what always comes to my mind when something as senseless and sad as this strikes our nation. I apologize in advance for taking a terrible event such as this and editorializing about it on a social platform such as this.

What I find most sad and most depressing about these acts is that they will never end. Never. No matter the precautions, no matter the security, no matter the surveillance, these sickening acts of mass violence will always happen. Guns, bombs, planes, fire, and chemicals are just several of the infinite ways that freaks will utilize to end human life. In the same way that people are creative with art, creative with poetry, and creative with cooking, some sick individuals are creative with killing. There is no stopping it.

Nothing will stop someone who is possessed to kill. While you can only do so much to prevent against tragedy and defend against whatever someone did the last time to take away innocent lives, it is almost impossible to foil the next and new deadly scheme that some sicko thinks up in his basement or what a twisted group of hate-filled people devises overseas. It will never be a matter of “if” but always a matter of “when”.

This grim reality is that we will soon have another Boston. We will soon have another Newtown. We will soon have another Colorado. The terrible news will hit Twitter and we will all be notified. The media will converge on the scene and give us minute-by-minute coverage. Talking heads will show up on our television screens and try to make sense of it all. Hotlines will pop up that will ask for tips and solicit for donations. We will again ask aloud why the world is so full of hate and why things like this happen.

We can’t stop it. We just can’t. There is no end. However, we can do something. We can show love and kindness where there is darkness and hate. And I genuinely mean show it. No, not say it or type it through social media. No, not publicly decry such acts to our friends and social circles. No, not blast it through a stupid blog such as this one. I mean show it. Each day and each moment we live we need to reach out to everyone we come across and treat them with love and compassion. What does this really mean? It means listening to someone who needs an ear to talk to. It means giving an encouraging word to someone who is down. It means helping out at a soup kitchen. It means donating our resources to others. It means giving hugs.

We will never stop the violence and killing in this world but we can do our part to make it a better place to live in. By doing this we will make everything just a little easier to bare when tragedy hits and who knows, maybe the love and hope we emulate might touch someone who is considering something destructive. Of course we will never get through to the truly evil who lurk in the dark corners of society but we do have the power to prevent some damage. Dark days like today remind us that we need to love and we need to reach out. We can all make a difference. Don’t Blink.

Losing My Text Messages

I save everything. While not to the degree as someone on “Hoarders”, I am a little bit of a pack rat. Notes, cards, matchbooks, key chains, napkins, church bulletins, invitations, funeral programs, boutonnières, pens, and many more trinkets and documents are all things I have kept around much longer than I probably should. Both at my parents’ house in Spokane and in storage here in Missoula I have boxes and boxes of items that I don’t need but that I just can’t seem to get rid of. Besides physical items, I also hold on to something else that I have a hard time getting rid of….text messages.

Last week a message popped up on my iPhone 5 after I sent out a text. It read: Your SMS mailbox is full. New messages cannot be received until you delete some messages. A little bit irked, I went through my phone and erased some text messages I could live without. This was actually pretty easy. You see, since I had gotten my first iPhone a little under two years ago, I had never erased one single text message. All you who have iPhones know how it is, with the way text messaging is handled on our devices you never really have the need to delete messages. Everything is so organized and messages never seem to build up because all conversations are neatly grouped under the name of the person you are texting with. However, the time had come to start doing some housekeeping.

As I said, I went through and deleted probably around 20 message threads, mostly from numbers that I did not even have a name assigned to. I thought that would more than do the trick…but it didn’t. I quickly realized that I was not getting SMS messages. While I was still able to get iMessages, I was completely shut out from getting texts from people who did not have iPhones. This meant that I couldn’t communicate via text with several of my friends, a person who I was doing some work for, and my parents. Maybe the biggest gut shot of all, I could no longer receive my Twitter SMS updates that I depended on to keep me up to date with the world. Thinking that it was maybe something that would fix itself overnight, I told myself not to worry. Unfortunately, the next day I was not receiving SMS updates either. I turned off my phone and turned it back on about a dozen times. Each time I powered up my phone again and went to the messaging feature the same “Your SMS mailbox is full…” message popped up. Panicked, I decided to delete more messages.

Throughout the day I went through my phone and conducted “rounds of cuts” on my text messages. At this point I was still erasing threads from people that I had no real connection to. I realized I probably should have erased many of them long ago because they were all so insignificant and they really were just taking up space. But after round and round of cuts, by late evening I didn’t have too much “dead wood” left in my inbox anymore yet I was still getting the dreaded message.

The next morning I awoke and turned my phone off and turned it back on again…same message. At this point I started to get frustrated. I had gone over 36 hours without receiving a single SMS text. I had people I needed to communicate with. I called my carrier and explained the whole problem to a support employee. She kind of laughed and told me, “Dear, you need to continue to delete more text messages.” I didn’t really understand. When I first got the “mailbox is full message” I probably had 400 different message threads in my text messaging inbox. I had since decreased that down to under 100 different threads. I mean if my phone was working just fine when I had 399 threads going and the tipping point was 400 threads, shouldn’t I have been just fine after deleting 50 threads? I thought I had already gone extreme by deleting 75% of my inbox. Now she wanted me to delete even more?

Dejected I went through and deleted more messages through a very rigorous process. It was sad, the messages I had remaining in my inbox all meant something to me. Clever texts, meaningful texts, emotional texts, some life changing texts. I didn’t want to delete any of them, but again, I had to communicate with the outside world. With a heavy thumb, I went through and deleted about 95% of my inbox. Could you imagine what was going through my head when after I had decreased my inbox by 95% I was still getting that stupid message?

It was now Friday morning. I had lost SMS capabilities on Tuesday evening and I had also lost many of the text conversations I held dear to my heart. I once again called my carrier to get something figured out. That initial call was the first of many that day. In an agonizing process I was shuffled between reps from my carrier and reps from Apple in trying to solve my problem and get my text messaging capabilities restored. Call after call, different person after different person, possible trouble shooting solution after possible trouble shooting solution. The ultimate low of the whole ordeal came when one guy told me to turn my iMessage command off and then turn it back on to see if it would somehow revive all SMS messaging. I did just that, well the first part anyway. While I was able to turn off the command, I was unable to turn it back on. And just like that, my phone was unable to receive a text message of any form whatsoever.

I went and worked out hard, taking my frustration out on the weights. As workouts always do for me, I felt better at the conclusion of it. I was once again ready to try to restore functionality to my phone.

With my head cleared, I was ironically transferred to someone working for Apple who also seemed to have his head cleared as well. He immediately realized the problem and hit me with the truth: There was a software malfunction on my phone. Although I was deleting messages from my phone, the brains inside it kept throwing up the “mailbox is full” message not realizing that messages were in fact getting deleted. My software on my iPhone was corrupt. The only solution was to completely wipe out my phone and restore it. Bye bye two years worth of apps, data, and memories.

The guy who diagnosed my problem was a complete pro. Although I lost a lot, including my text messages, he was able to salvage my contacts and my 4,000 pictures once we restored my phone. The second I powered up my phone in the new restored version, text messages started to come through…it was a beautiful thing. Much to my chagrin, however, all the messages sent from Tuesday evening through the restoration time on Friday were cut off. I never received one of them to my phone. Who knows what important texts I never received.

It still stings a little thinking about all the text messages I lost. Encouraging ones from my parents, supportive ones from my brother, funny ones from my friends, special ones from my girlfriend, unique ones that only meant something to me from all different kinds of people. Also lost were all the drafts of my holiday messages from the past two years. But what can you do? Sometimes you do need to let go and start fresh. I will never get those texts back but I know that better ones are on the way. Don’t Blink.

Instagram Spam

I still choose Instagram as my favorite social media service. With over 2,000 pictures taken and counting on my account, I will not be slowing down anytime soon (Follow me…@BrentReser). Even though I am loyal to Instagram and routinely sing its praises, there is something about the service that takes some of the fun out of it: SPAM.

I try to keep the selfies to a minimum.

I try to keep the selfies to a minimum.

I know, I know, I know, all social media outlets are prone to spam. What service has not fallen victim to annoying garbage? Facebook has all the silly app requests and wall posts, Twitter has fake accounts, and MySpace became a deserted wasteland overran by spam. But you know what? Besides MySpace, the other two social media services successfully combated spam as the networks evolved. With Facebook I can simply turn on a switch that will prevent users from posting mafia, angry birds, and entourage gibberish on my wall. I can block certain applications from even bothering me with a notification. With Twitter, no longer do I get e-mail notifications telling me that some bot has followed me. No longer do I get automated replies to my tweets. Twitter cleaned up and has policed its service effectively. Bravo.

Too bad for Instagram…instead of starting out with problems and fixing them over time like FB and Twitter, the service started out pretty clean but is now getting taken advantage of by spammers. My frustration stems from the fact that there are just so many ways to get spammed on Instagram. Many of these ways ruin pictures, distort “like” counts, pollute the picture database, and trick gullible people. Let me run down the different ways that spam manifests itself on Instagram.

Spam Followers/Spam Likes: Nothing sucks more than opening up Instagram and getting notified that you have eight new likes and three new followers only to see that the notifications are only popping up because accounts such as @Shoutouts_123321_ and @_get_new_ipad_3_6 are following you and liking your pictures. How are these accounts allowed to exist? Everyone knows that these profiles are not going to get anyone shout outs or anyone an iPad just like the @get5550likes_vvf account is not going to get anyone 5,550 likes. Besides being completely useless and impersonal, these accounts also contribute to an inflated “like” count. Call me weird but I do take pride in pictures that I post that produce lots of “likes”. However, all sense of accomplishment is gone when spam accounts make up half the of them. These garbage accounts don’t just waste space, they provide skewed data to users.


It is depressing to have so many great followers only to have it ruined by a spam account.

It is depressing to have so many great followers only to have it ruined by a spam account.


Curse of the Hash Tag: Whereas all users are prone to the above general spam accounts that follow and “like” everyone, those of us who enjoy hash tags must put up with a different wave of spammers…those accounts that automatically “like” specific pictures marked with a hash tag. Now I love cats and I love Instagraming pictures of my own cat but I HATE getting “likes” from @mjthecat, @instaabycat,@raph_the_cat, and @tuxedokitty01 the SECOND that I post a picture of her. Besides once again inflating numbers, these accounts make me look like I have some type of sick cat fetish. I find it unnerving that Instagram has not implemented a policy or software that disallows spam accounts from automatically liking pictures based on keywords. Just because I like football does not mean that each time I hash tag #football in an Instagram picture that it has to get “liked” by counterfeit football accounts.

I love cats, but this spam account is much too corny for me.

I love cats, but this spam account is much too corny for me.

Automated Comments: Out of the four spam tactics on Instagram that I am speaking out against tonight, this one irritates me the most. In fact, it doesn’t just irritate me, it makes me mad. It is one thing if a fake account is going to “like” my picture and get its name denoted under the image but it is a whole different thing when a trash account comments for everyone to see. I detest messages that go like this…”Hey want 2 make some $$? Respond with your name and address to be eligible”…..or….”Follow us right now to gain 1,500 followers guaranteed.” I want nothing more than my photos to spark conversation between my friendly followers. It makes Instagram fun and engaging. But when a spam account puts some baloney credit card or money related automated message under the picture, it kills discussion. Worse though, it just violates my account and I hate it. I never remember Facebook having problems with spam appearing under photos. Why Instagram? What will always get me to lash out, however, is when a legitimate account leaves an automated spam message under one of my pictures. Right away I will call the user out. A few times the user has responded to me with curse words but more often than not the user will apologize and admit that he/she had their account hacked. If the user responds to me with obscenities I will report that account, if the user is sympathetic and admits to getting hacked I take it as a self-awareness lesson. Regardless, Instagram needs to do something to control this.

Eyesore Pictures: Finally, Instagram needs to clean up the pictures in its database that really aren’t pictures at all. The service has a problem with spam photos that perpetrate the same types of schemes that spam accounts plague on our own legitimate photos. For example, I love to search hash tags on Instagram. Every now and then I will enter #Vegas. Mixed in with all the beautiful pictures of the Vegas strip and the gorgeous pools, you will find several images that consist of terrible graphics and mangled words. Many times the photos will nudge the users to do something to **surprise surprise**gain more followers or to apply for cash. These spam pictures will use many of the most popular searched hash tags to aid people in finding them. It is a joke. It is also an eyesore and a complete scam.

I hate seeing this garbage when I search hash tags.

I hate seeing this garbage when I search hash tags.

Instagram is an awesome service with still a lot of potential. However, measures need to be taken to address this growing spam problem. With its multi-billion dollar deal with Facebook, I am hoping that the great minds at Mark Zuckerberg’s company can create something to lessen the impact of the junk train that is making the constant rounds at Instagram. With any business or service the goal is to improve, not digress. While still on the upside, I hope Instagram cleans up this problem before it gets really out of control. What a shame it would be to become the next MySpace. Don’t Blink.

Do Your Research

These days I really don’t think there is an excuse to check into a hotel, go out to eat at a restaurant, or have a drink at a bar without having a general idea on what you are getting yourself in to. With the proliferation of the internet, blogging, and social media, you can now get a comprehensive review on any place before you invest in it. In my opinion, this is a great thing.

When planning a trip, I feel you are a fool if you don’t thoroughly research all your options before booking. While ten years ago you would have to rely on travel books and word of mouth, in today’s modern age you have access to thousands of reviews on single places right at your fingertips. Making matters even better, most of the reviews are written not by the snobby professional reviewer who probably has standards that differ dramatically from yours but rather from someone who you can relate to much better…the average traveler/diner like yourself.

On the internet you can find numerous review sites that cover every hotel, restaurant, bar, venue, resort, ice cream shop, theme park, transportation system, bowling alley, miniature golf course, etc. For me, I find these reviews very useful. When I do travel out of town, I like to have a somewhat decent idea of where to go and what to do. Although I admit that sometimes I like to walk totally blind into a place with no preconceived notions, most of the time I like to know what I can expect. As I said, the internet is filled to the brim with reviewing sites and blogs dedicated to informing people on the finer points of every business out there so it is kind of easy to get overwhelmed. Because of this, I typically narrow my research to a couple of sites.

I rely on TripAdvisor and Yelp to give me a good idea on what places to go to and what places to avoid. Both sites are well-known and very well-funded and have millions of users. I utilize TripAdvisor mainly for hotel reviews while I use Yelp for all dining and entertainment options.

These sites are so great because of the honest reviews and the specific detail that is available. I can type in the name of a hotel in to TripAdvisor and instantly I will have 10,934 reviews discussing the place. After reading about ten of them, I have a comprehensive summary on the hotel. I immediately know everything about the front desk service, the location, the restaurant/lounge, the pool, the elevators, the rooms, the bathrooms, the noise level, the parking, the lobby environment, the amenities, and so much more. Additionally, you also get access to tons of pictures taken by the people writing the reviews. This goes a long way for me. I will take a quick iPhone snap shot of someone’s dirty room over a professional, hotel choreographed photograph any day to get an idea of what a place is really like.

Yelp is very similar in the format/wealth of information available as TripAdvisor but it just covers a wider area. I use Yelp especially for restaurants and anything that I may be visiting or using while traveling. Just as with TripAdvisor, the quantity of reviews is significant and very detailed.

A positive about TripAdvisor and Yelp is that both sites are extremely accepted amongst travelers. Not only do customers/clients of hotels and restaurants use these sites before deciding where to spend their money, but the hotels and restaurants use them themselves to see what people are saying about their businesses AND to respond to the reviews. Many businesses watch these sites like hawks and make sure to provide instant response the second a review pops up. If the review is good, the business will thank the person for writing. If the review is bad, the business will respond with an apology and then an explanation for the negative experience or a promise to get the problem fixed. This is another measuring tool I use when making my travel decisions. If I look up a hotel on TripAdvisor and I see that the management is responding and interacting with past customers, I am more likely to stay at their hotel because I know they care about the people who are staying with them and also care about what is said about them.

As with any website, there are a couple drawbacks to these review-centered forums. Yes, some reviews are completely fabricated and not written by an actual customer. It is well documented that some businesses have employees write sparkling reviews for their own properties while also having them write scathing, ugly reviews for competitors. Sadly, some businesses also bribe actual guests to write favorable reviews in exchange for discounts/goods/comps. Also, as is typical on the internet, there are just a lot of dumb people in general who “contribute” to the discussion. These dumb people include those who can’t spell past a third grade level, those who can’t express criticism in a half way professional manner, those who can’t articulate thoughts in a logical flow, and those who you can tell complain about every single detail regardless of it is warranted or not.

But the positives definitely outweigh the negatives. For the most part, the sketchy reviews are vastly outnumbered by the honest, thoughtful reviews. Confession time for me: I used to write reviews for TripAdvisor. However, after I started my own blog I decided to devote all of my writing and reviews to Don’t Blink. With that said though, I can attest to the valuable tool that TripAdvisor is and I can vouch for the fact that there are lots of decent, helpful people who contribute to TA and the other review sites.

We live in the information age and it applies to all aspects of life, including lodging, dining, and entertainment. Most of us work hard for our money and there is no reason why we shouldn’t spend it in a way that will return to us the best experience possible. Review focused sites enable us to do just that. Make sure to do your research! Don’t Blink.