Friday, June 18, 2010

Father's Day Traditions

Breakfast in bed or a backyard barbecue are great ways to celebrate Father's Day. I think most fathers would like to spend the day with their children.

My most memorable Fathers Days as a father have been celebrated with my family doing something fun. "Something fun" means different things to different fathers.

I can remember going to a Sioux Falls Canaries (now Pheasants) game with my family, my sister's family, my parents and my brother-in-laws parents. The kids couldn't care less about baseball. But they loved the mascot and the junk food at the ballpark.

I remember in the late nineties we went to Nebraska to float the Niobrara River with some other families several times on Fathers Day. If you've never floated the Niobrara River in north central Nebraska, you've missed a great trip. There is nothing more relaxing than tying several inner tubes together (one with the obligatory cooler!) and sitting back and watching the Nebraska countryside float by.

We would start our trip in the Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge, just east of Valentine, Nebraska. We passed into the Fort Niobrara National Wilderness Area surrounded by limestone, sandstone, and chalk cliffs and countless seeps. I remember floating by Berry Falls which drops right into the Niobrara creating a spectacular site. At Smith Falls State Park (that's Rachel and Alex at Smith Falls above), about three miles past Berry Falls, we would always pull the tubes out of the water and trek up to the falls for photos.

I think we made three tubing trips and one canoeing trip down the Niobrara on Fathers Day. I have photos and memories of each of those trips to remind me of afternoons well spent with my family.

In 1999 we bought the Krawdaddy, a large former excursion boat which we converted into a family party barge. We spent the next several Fathers Days lounging on the Krawdaddy with some of our friends and their families.

If I only had the Fathers Days and the July 4ths on the Krawdaddy, it would have been worth the purchase price. There is probably no single thing that our family enjoyed together as much as that boat. While the kids swan and rode the PWC, the adults sat in the wind cooled cabin, enjoying an adult beverage and listening to Jimmy Buffett (one of only 3-4 artist to ever get the privilege of serenading the Krawdaddy passengers).

More recently, we have spent Father's Days at the College World Series in Omaha. With Creighton University (daughter Rachel and I are alums, son Alex will be a senior) acting as the annual host, we have always had a affinity for that event. I have been to many a CWS since my days as a student at CU. If you're a baseball fan and have not attended the CWS, you're missing out.

Each year in Omaha is a reunion of Creighton friends, Chamberlain baseball friends and Omaha family (Dad grew up in the Omaha area). We are headed for Omaha tomorrow where I will be celebrating this Fathers Day with two of my three children and numerous friends.

Let me take this opportunity to wish all fathers a great day. I hope you get to spend it with your kids!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

What is a "10"?

Fellow blogger, Steve Miller shares his experience at a motel which was intended to entice him to give them a "10" on their customer satisfaction survey.

This is an issue that really gives me heartburn. The automobile industry places a high priority on the scores their dealers get from customers on their satisfaction surveys. I believe these surveys are fundamentally flawed.

I don't believe you can trust a survey that takes more than a few seconds to complete. People are busy and they don't want to spend a lot of time completing a survey for which they receive nothing. (Guess what dealers do - that's right - we reward our customers for completing their survey with our help!)

Secondly, I don't think it is realistic to ask people to give the best score, whether that is a "5" or a "10" or whatever it might be. It seems to me that nobody provides such exceptional service that it couldn't be improved in some way (we'll take your "10" though!). If a "10" is offered, the industry then expects one to attain that score and its system is constructed around attaining a perfect score.

It seems like a more realistic question is "Would you recommend this vendor to your friends?". That doesn't require perfection but it does require a good faith effort.

What do you think?

Monday, June 7, 2010

John Adams - A Double Masterpiece!

The first David McCullough book that I read (listened to) was John Adams. I would guess that I read it sometime in or around 2004 after seeing it on the best seller list for what seemed like forever. I listened to it, like so many other audiobooks, on my daily hour-long bicycle ride.

But this book was different than others I listened to because I would look for ways to extend my bike ride and thus my opportunity to listen to the book. I remember on two occasions going for an evening ride in addition to my daily morning ride to get more of the book. I plowed through the 30+ hour audiobook in about two weeks.

I remember telling anyone who would listen what a great book it was. It seemed that not many people were too interested in it.

But I wanted more history; or at least David McCullough's history. So I went back to the audiobook catalog and found more. Over the next couple of years, I listened to 1776 (which is coming to HBO later this year), The Path Between the Seas, Truman, and the Johnstown Flood. I enjoyed all of them immensely, but John Adams was still my favorite.

Last September, my daughter, Rachel, gave me the DVD set of HBO's miniseries, John Adams, based on McCullough's book. I was excited and remembered how much I enjoyed the book. So often, though, I have been disappointed by the movie so I put it away to watch during the long, cold South Dakota winter.

Well, it got slipped into a drawer in a chest in the family room. I really kinda forgot about it. I thought of it the other day and started looking for it. After enlisting Judy's help (she knows where everything is), we found it and began watching. I thought we might watch one or two of the seven episodes each week until it was done.

WRONG! We sat captivated for three nights and devoured the seven segments and the features. The movie is spectacularly done throughout. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson seem to have come back from the history books. Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney are marvelous as John and Abigail Adams. I really don't have enough superlatives for this miniseries.

If you have an interest in our Founding Fathers, rent or buy this series.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Where to Live Like a King

File this under "things we knew and suspected others didn't". Outdoor Life is out with their third annual ranking of the best towns in America for hunters and fishermen. Chamberlain (and, by extension, Oacoma) is ranked 42nd overall.

While this is not a surprise to those of us who call this area home, it's is always nice to have the recognition of a sportsman's bible like Outdoor Life acknowledge such.

The rankings are based on the performance of hundreds of towns in various socio-economic and outdoors-related categories. Socio-economic subcategories make up 40 percent of the overall score and outdoors-related subcategories combine to account for 60 percent of the overall score.

One of the socio-economic categories communities are ranked in is called "Where to Live Like a King". The towns on this list feature high median household incomes and a low cost of living. Essentially, your hard-earned money will go furthest in these locations.

Group Ranking City Overall Ranking
1 Rochester, MN 12
2 Chamberlain, SD 42
3 Pierre, SD 10
4 Dodge City, KS 187
5 Wichita Falls, TX 150
6 Bartlesville, OK 71
7 Sioux Falls, SD 19
8 Houma, LA 185
9 Bismarck, ND 11
10 Green River, WY 166
11 Nebraska City, NE 96
12 Craig, CO 68
13 Red Wing, MN 98
14 Quincy, IL 135
15 Rawlins, WY 9
16 Green Bay, WI 112
17 Grand Island, NE 145
18 Gillette, WY 94
19 Devils Lake, ND 22
20 Phillips, WI 31

As you can see, Chamberlain shined in that category. It's second overall ranking in "Where to Live Like a King" confirmed my long-held belief that our being ranked 50th of all states in income has a correlated low cost of living to more than offset it!

I invite you to come "Live Like a King" in Chamberlain.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Crashing Letterman

In 1996, when the Final Four was at the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, NJ, we scored tickets to the Letterman show. This is what happened:

A Nation of Deadbeats?

Check out this article from the New York Times detailing the story of several deadbeat homeowners' stories. I find it sickening yet important to read because these people represent much of what's wrong with the United States. They have no sense of responsibility to honor the commitments they've made. They don't understand a loan is a privilege. If you don't understand the terms of the loan, don't borrow the money. If you can't afford the interest payments, don't borrow the money.

"It really been a blessing," Alex Pemberton told the New York Times about his venture into foreclosure. Pemberton stopped paying the mortgage on his Florida house last summer. But he's still living in his house. He's using the extra cash to invest in his business, take the family out for steaks, and even gamble at the Hard Rock Casino.

Who's fault is this? Pemberton blames the lenders for his inability to afford his mortgage... "They're all crooks."

His mother, Wendy Pemberton, has been in default since spring 2008. She refinanced several times to pay for things like a new roof. "The longer I'm in foreclosure, the better," she said.

Another deadbeat, Jim Tsiogas, who lives on the coast south of St. Petersburg, blames his lenders for being unwilling to help when the crash began and his properties needed shoring up.

Their attitude seems to have changed since he went into foreclosure. Now their letters say things like “we’re willing to work with you.” But Mr. Tsiogas feels little urge to respond.

“I need another year,” he said, “and I’m going to be pretty comfortable.”

The whole thing is both repulsive and enlightening.