What Drives Us

Some of you may know that a group of friends and co-workers started a podcast last year, the Sports Take Lunch Break, sponsored by Office Essentials. In talking with Andrew yesterday and again this morning, we discussed the nature of sports culture in America and its proclivity towards a few main focal points: Winning, often at any cost. Making money, as much as possible, again, often at any expense. And finally, violence. Yes, sports are often centered on physical contact and I’m not here to say “American football should be touch-only, or use flags!” I’m just thinking about how prevalent the violence is and how we as fans have been conditioned to expect and desire it.

mirrorTalking about these points got me wondering, where does this come from? What is it about us as humans (probably more specifically here in the United States, as that’s my only perspective) that makes us crave winning so much that we’ll overlook a bit of cheating to see it? Or that makes us accept the ludicrous amounts of money exchanging hands and being made by sports franchises and their owners and, to a lesser degree, their players? OR that makes us see a violent hit and probably a fight in a hockey game and think, Yeah! That’s part of the game! while in any other situation we’d be looking for the police or suing someone for the result?

I’m not looking to make sweeping generalizations about anyone or anything. I simply find it fascinating to know about root causes and motivations, especially when something seems to be so prevalent across an entire society. Where does it come from? What started it?

Of all the posts I’ve made this is one I probably hope the most for some interaction from you readers. What do you think, am I way off base? I have more thoughts but will wait to see if any of them come out on the podcast before sharing more here. What do YOU think the underlying motivators are of our society?

Finally Friday, Jan. 10th Edition

I’m trying something new, a weekly post. Let’s see how long I can keep up with it!

I am part of a group here at work we call the Marketing Content Team. We focus on making a connection between Work & Life in the spirit of broadening the reach of our brand through various media: blog posts, videos, and audio from our podcast that we share across multiple social media platforms. We were talking yesterday about how the average length of blog posts (in general, based on actual statistics) has grown over the last few years, and about how most successful blogs have a focus. It won’t work if you try to cover everything.

Not sure what it means to be successful at blogging, but I’m guessing it means you have a lot of readers or subscribers, and possibly it helps you make money? I don’t have a lot of either happening here, and perhaps it’s because I don’t have a specific topic I focus on. I think that’s because I’m interested in a lot of different things and have many opinions on them to share. I respect my readers/subscribers and I’m grateful for your input and interaction, but at the end of the day I believe I’m still writing these posts for me. I do wish I’d get more questions, responses, or arguments from readers, but I don’t think it will determine whether I continue doing this or not.

On to continuing to blog about pretty much anything & everything!

In the off chance you’re not following me on Goodreads, here’s what I’m currently reading/trying to finish:

 

Half a War (Shattered Sea, #3)

 

The Massacre of Mankind

 

The Blues won last night

as they should have against a far inferior Buffalo Sabers team. They’ve got a young Captain, center Jack Eichel, who is the kind of player I’d probably root for when he’s not playing the Blues. He scored a goal and really looked like he was getting frustrated his team was getting spanked, probably knowing he was one of only a few good players and couldn’t do everything himself. The Blues won 5-1

The Cardinals made a trade

Yes, I’m still a baseball fan, and while the Cardinals get mentioned in conversations about blockbuster deals and potential trades, their ownership/management seldom seems willing to buck up for the marquee players. Yes, they made a deal last winter for Paul Goldschmidt, a bonafide star, but they’ve been few and far between since Albert Pujols left all those years ago. The club seems content to make money hand over fist, be near the top of the attendance numbers every season, but not, from the fans’ perspectives, do whatever it takes to be a championship team again.

 

 

Image result for JOSE MARTINEZ

Image Credits: Creator: Dilip Vishwanat Credit: MLB Photos via Getty Images Copyright:2019 Major League Baseball Photos

 

That said, they traded Jose Martinez, a fan & clubhouse favorite, and rookie Randy Arozarena, to Tampa Bay for lefthanded pitching prospect Matt Liberatore. He’s a very highly touted/rated prospect, but it’s the offense that failed them in the playoffs last season, so every is still scratching their heads about what the organization might (hopefully) do to improve in that regard. Yes, there’s a blockbuster out there waiting to happen- Colorado 3B Nolan Arenado is likely to be traded this winter, one of the best at the position- and some think this deal could be a precursor to the Cards making a big move, but I doubt it happens.

That’s it for today. I could rant for hours about the dumbest president in our nation’s history, the lies, his sycophantic cabinet (I’m looking at your stupid face, Mike Pompeo) and the most evil person in Washington D.C. (Mitch McConnell for those not keeping score) but I won’t. Have a great weekend!

Missed it by a MILE

Weird saying for referring to a timely deadline that has nothing to do with actual distance. Anyway, what was I saying about posting something every day? Yeah, let’s just ignore that and move forward. I guess I really don’t have that much to say.

Nothing good anyway, at least not every day. Especially when the morons supposedly leading this country are apparently trying to send us into a war with Iran. Brutal wake up call for all Americans that something must be done to remove this idiotic despot from the White House or we’re not simply talking about the end of Democracy, we’re potentially staring down the barrel of World War 3. Think I’m being dramatic? Then it’s already too late for you. I’m not ready to lay down and allow the greedy, manipulative, misogynistic, white supremacist assholes win yet.

Well that was a lighthearted way to start the day, huh? How about hockey? Games? Birthdays? Celebrated mine recently, and I must say, 47 doesn’t feel anything like what I expected, though to be fair, I’ve no idea what I figured it would be. I’m just me, and I sorta still feel like an immature kid, albeit one with kids of his own, a 9-5 job, stress, physical ailments, bills, debt, and all the other bullshit adulthood carries. It’s fun right? Just try, as I have, to find an incredible person to share it with, mind body and soul, and we’ll be okay. I think.

Here’s 3 things that I’m thinking of right this minute:

The Blues hung on to beat the Sharks last night

by a score of 3-2, despite going 0-for-3 on the Power Play and looking awful with the man advantage in the process. Defenseman Niko Mikkola made his NHL debut and was very solid, I thought, for his first major league action. Jordan Binnington looked every bit the star who backstopped the Blues to their first Stanley Cup last season (they went through the Sharks to do so) on the anniversary of the night that started that amazing run:

View image on Twitter

Our boys have too many LEGO bricks!

and we want our living room back! We don’t have a lot of space at home, and while it would be great if they had a playroom to spread out in, it’s just not happening right now. Despite my best (futile) efforts to sort and store bricks by color, everything ends up jumbled after a couple of hours play, and while we do have storage bins to the bricks, there seems to either be a new bin filled up every time we turn around, or bricks end up in shoe boxes, backpacks, and everywhere else a 4yo can stuff them. I’m seriously thinking of getting into this new program LEGO introduced in the US this past year, LEGO Replay:

Old guys play D&D too

and not just famous ones. Actor Joe Manganiello has been very vocal and public about his love for Dungeons & Dragons, even taking inspiration from the tabletop gaming aesthetic to launch his own clothing line, Death Saves. I could include a bunch of links to Joe’s stuff but I’ll just include this one, from Inverse.com.

I mention this because while 42 (Joe) and 47 (me) aren’t exactly over the hill, I think there’s still a negative stigma when older folk play games. Maybe it’s in my head, but I’m as excited today as I was 35 years ago to play D&D and will finally get the chance later this month. I very good friend of mine who has moved back to St. Louis wants to run a game and I’m so looking forward to playing again. For those of a like mind, you can see the new character I’m starting over at D&D Beyond

 

Missed it by *that* much

It’s a new year, and you know what THAT means, right? Another year where I tell myself I’ll write more, starting by posting to my blog (at least) once every day…

laughs

Now that we’re all done laughing at the idea, I bring your attention to the date, January 2, 2020, so we can chuckle again because I’ve already failed in my quest. So… onward we go, and maybe if I finish the year with 363 days of posting I can look back in anguish at my inability to even log in to WordPress yesterday, but that’s unlikely to happen. I’ll just move ahead. Join me, won’t you?

I always have a lot to say but I usually say it on Twitter, or I say it on the podcast we started at work last year, or simply at home with the (mostly) like minded love of my life, but I’d enjoy more involvement from you readers; more dialogue, more arguments, so I’m going to try and put more of those things here this year. STLB_Logo_twitter

In 2020 I’ll be discussing St. Louis Blues hockey, my kids, food, books I’ve read, music I’ve listened to, blogs, Tweets, politics, the ongoing demise of humanity, all the ways the place I live (St. Louis, Missouri, United States of America) is great and/or cool AND the ways in which it’s decidedly NOT. If I offend, it’s probably not my intention, but I will not apologize. You can choose to not read it. OR, maybe comment and let’s talk about it. I can be reasonable in the face of reasonable objection.

The Blues are in 1st place as 2020 begins, coming off their 1st ever Stanley Cup win. I’m still riding the high of that so not much that happens this season will bother me, though I did pick them to repeat, which almost never happens in the NHL. While I’ll remain a loyal Blues fan forever, I struggle with the NHL becoming more and more of a burning pile of garbage in the way the league is run, the rules they make/enforce, and how they handle themselves from an executive standpoint. Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, indeed.

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We subscribe to Disney+ and for me, The Mandalorian alone is worth the cost. Very excited for Season 2. I grew up on Star Wars, and I’ve passed my love along to my kids, though at times I almost regret it. Our 4yo is in character (and costume!) nearly 24/7 and it’s exhausting. This Christmas was wall to wall Star Wars LEGO and they’re a source of contention between our boys on a daily basis. Neither (4 & 11) have seen all the movies, but we’re slowly getting there. Empire Strikes Back is still my favorite, The Last Jedi was near the bottom of my list, and as of today I’ve not yet seen Rise of Skywalker, so no spoilers, thanks.

I missed my “number of books I plan to read this year” goal for 2019 by a only a few, and currently I’m close to finishing The Massacre of Mankind, by Stephen Baxter, and Half a War, by Joe Abercrombie. The former is a sequel to “The War of the Worlds,” and though it was published in 2017 it’s got the same dry, British voice of the original 19th Century tale. The latter is the finale of a trilogy from one of my favorite all-time authors so you can probably guess which I’m enjoying more. I recommend both. Question: will you finish a book even if you don’t like it? I tend to be unable to leave a book unfinished. Maybe it’s an OCD thing. Follow me on Goodreads!

I’ll leave today on this: I will vote for the Democratic nominee, regardless of who he or she turns out to be. You should too. Whether the election is fair/legal/upheld/etc remains to be seen and is largely out of our hands, but it’s the only recourse we have to have even a remote chance of ending the nightmare that is our current state of government in this country. Have a great 2020!

 

Reblog: Office Essentials St. Louis Technology Spotlight: Kaldi’s Coffee

I do some writing for my company’s (Office Essentials) blog on occasion and this is my most recent piece. You can find the original HERE and feel free to browse, share or comment on past articles, by me or any of the other excellent folk there. 

As part of my ongoing look at how St. Louis companies use technology, I recently had the opportunity to talk with Frank McGinty, Director of Sales and Marketing for Kaldi’s Coffee in St. Louis, Missouri. Kaldi’s is just one well-known, local partner for Office Essentials and I thought it would be interesting to know a bit about how they utilize technology in their business to bring about the product that is known so well.

Kaldi’s is known for their hand-roasted coffees, but make no mistake, they’re a modern company who understands how to integrate their time-tested, manual procedures with the benefits of today’s technological advances.

I asked Frank to describe the different ways Kaldi’s brings tech into their world of hand-crafted products.

“The first one that comes to mind is with roasting specifically. Everything is still- I call it hand-roasted because the guys are still altering dials that control the open flame, right? But they have a piece of technology that kind of tracks, due to two temperature probes and timers, it’ll essentially track the trajectory of the roast.”

You can picture the massive, old bean roasters, with their rotating blades and huge hoppers, adapted and attached by a few wires to these probes which are then attached to a computer screen or a laptop computer that is tracking the rise and fall of the temperature of the beans in this particular roast over time.

“They’ll pre-warm the barrel, add coffee, then the temperature drops, plateaus and then recovers, then starts increasing as the roast progresses, being able to throw that data on a chart they’re able to save for every roast. Then afterward, as they go back and taste the coffee they can say, “Hey, the recipe you did last Tuesday for this house blend is the best I’ve ever tasted, let’s save that as a new trajectory.” We use that equipment quite a bit.”

Kaldi’s uses these recipes as roadmaps to replicate certain roasts, but it’s nothing that you can simply plug into the computer then set on the roaster and walk away.

“We will kind of copy and paste these trajectories making sure we’re all on the same page with how heat and time are applied to the same product across our brands- We’ve got two other brands. One is Honolulu Coffee Company in Hawaii and the other one is called Frothy Monkey Roasting Company- but the roasters are always there manually manipulating the temperature on the beans, following along with the tracking data we’ve been able to log.”

As you might imagine, they didn’t always have these probes and monitors attached to computers that can log everything and store it for quick retrieval. Technology plays a much larger role in Kaldi’s products today than ever before.

“Yeah, literally only maybe five, six years ago, the guys had a clipboard and pencil and they had waypoints when they would check the time and make notes. As I mentioned, the temperature dips then recovers, and they’d have to log it, things like, “after 1:26 recovery happened- four minutes until the first crack,” throughout the entire roast. The first crack is like the audible sound of popcorn, it’s actually the cell structure of the coffee bean rupturing. They would manually write this down for every single roast we did, and we would just have charts and charts and charts”

So, from the days of their roasters carrying a stopwatch, a pad of paper and a pencil, to today when computers log temperature changes and times for their roasts, Kaldi’s compiles their data and stores it in the Cloud making it easier than ever to share data with their entire company and their partners. This includes all the information they use to run their business.

“We have a guy on our team who built a data analytics program through Power BI (a Microsoft application) and he’s essentially able to pull all of our inventory, sales, and customer information. It’s kind of a combination between a CRM and a data analytics tool. That’s helped us a lot from a customer support, customer service standpoint: What does their product mix look like? How often do they order? And everything in between. And again, before, it was just a bunch of Excel spreadsheets with information.”

The last aspect of technology that Kaldi’s utilizes, and very well I might add, is social media. It’s almost a necessity in today’s business world, to stay in front of customers and investors and I asked Frank if Kaldi’s had someone dedicated to that mission.

“Yeah, for sure. She oversees all of that and all of our community events, charities, donations, event activations, that kind of stuff. She’s managing and she and I work together quite a bit. We’re always trying to figure out through like, Instagram Insights, for example, and all the data we get from that is like, what’s working? What’s not to like? Like lately we’ve been doing giveaways. So, you know, Mother’s Day, give away a free coffee class, or a Cardinals ticket giveaway, and it’s been interesting to see the engagement and how the use of hashtags and all other things that are somewhat algorithm driven, affect what we do. Sometimes it’s just luck of the draw if it works or not.”

I appreciate the fact Kaldi’s relies on someone in-house to accomplish this. Frank mentioned it’s easier now to find someone you can hire from outside, but they prefer to handle it themselves.

“You can pay people to come in, a consultant, to tell us what might work or what all the data means, but you know, we’re trying to figure it out internally, it’s kind of almost beta testing, like, hey, if we do this, then this happens. Then if we do it next week, and it didn’t have the same effect- it’s a learning curve all the time.”

I’d say they’re learning a lot and putting their knowledge to good use. Their list of accolades is available on their website https://kaldiscoffee.com and while there you can also see other ways they’ve integrated technology into their business. You can also sign up for coffee classes, get tips for home brewing and a lot more on their site, including what’s next to come from this innovatively traditional St. Louis roaster.

Will A Blog By Any Other Name Still Be Thorny?

Who gave it that title, gangsta rap? It’s reality rap. It’s about what’s really going on.” ~Eazy-E

For Day 2 of Blogging 101, we were to address the first thing readers see when visiting the blog, the Title. The Tagline is also important as it’s intended to give a general idea what the blog is about. That’s tough when the blog is really about everything, or nothing, at least not in particular. I’ve struggled with the title for as long as I’ve been writing my blog.

Cautious Realism stems from considering myself to be a Realist where others might call me a Pessimist. I’m not a doom and gloom kind of guy, but I’m not going to pull punches. I’ll tell it like it is as I see it. Maybe I should change the title to be more of a warning to potential readers? “Caution, Snark Imminent!” or something like that?

SNARK

Leave me a comment with any suggestions on a new name and thanks for reading.

Why I’m Here

Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason so few engage in it.

~Henry Ford

Years ago I decided that I would start a blog and it served primarily as a way to engage in self-therapy. I figured that if I could just start talking, even to myself, I might be able to work through some issues I was having.

I’ve always been a writer at heart and I still feel that way though I seldom make the time to be one in practice. This blog became a means to that end when I told myself I’d make a post every day, or when I started publishing bits and pieces of my writing (fiction) here via various prompts and/or activities, like the Blogging 101 class, for instance.

When I started blogging I never cared much who might read it or if anyone would read it, it was mostly for me. As time has gone on I’ve found I really enjoy engaging with readers and other bloggers with regards to the opinions or thoughts I share on my blog. Getting a huge audience has never been a priority, but I definitely enjoy the fact other people read my words and I’m probably a bit more careful with the presentation as a result. I’m not going to censor myself because others are reading, but I’ll probably proofread a second time or be more mindful of my composition. I’m vain and I wouldn’t want people reading my blog thinking, “This guy sounds like an uneducated imbecile.”

Readers may think that because they don’t agree with my opinions, but that’s fine. I’m not asking anyone to agree with everything I say.

Onward & Upward

Having my own blog led me to start writing about the St. Louis Blues on other websites. You can currently find my hockey posts at The Hockey Writers. I’m definitely still looking for opportunities to write more and I would love to be writing for a living. That chance hasn’t presented itself yet, but I’ll continue looking for it.

Whether you follow my blog or just come every once in a while to check out what’s new, you’ll find me occasionally voicing my opinion on current events, sharing recipes, restaurant experiences, baseball insights, or samples of my favorite music and books. Since I’ve taken my specialty writing (about hockey) off-site, my blog remains a sort jack-of-all-trades kind of entity. That’s not to say it couldn’t become something more focused in the future, but I enjoy a lot of different things in life and for now I’m content with them all being a part of my blog

Thanks again for taking time to read, I hope you’ll leave comments during your stay.

Commenting with Confidence

Thanks again to Blogging 101 via The Daily Post & WordPress U. This course has been fun and I look forward to more each day.

Today’s assignment: read six posts written in response to yesterday’s prompt, and leave comments on at least two of them.

Going to list the six blogs I read for yesterday’s prompt response, just to give a little linky love:

Brainwashed Beautiful Mind

Rock, Paper, Scissors (Lizard, Spock)

Serena.

Wasted Days and Wasted Nights

The Sunny Narrative.

Reflections

I chose to comment on more than 2, because the posts jarred some bit of memory loose from the clutter in my brain. Interacting with readers and other bloggers is part of what I enjoy about the entire experience, especially when you come across those of like mind or interests.

 

 

Building a Better Blogroll with Blogging 101

Readers and (especially!) commenters help to enrich my blogging experience. I’d write without them, though perhaps in a different voice, but over time I’ve come to derive more enjoyment because of the opportunity to interact with other writers and bloggers. Blogging 101 continues to be a fun exercise in tightening up my blog, dotting all the I’s and crossing all the T’s.

Today’s assignment: share a few links you love.

Below are three links to blogs you should be reading if you’re reading mine. Which you are. In the past you’d be able to see my entire blogroll in my sidebar, but I don’t want to beleaguered the point I’ve changed things up. I’m happy with the new look despite my penchant for reminiscing about my now hidden widgets.

I wanted to highlight a few that don’t usually get linked but that I enjoy and appreciate. Start clicking!

Only Here, Only Now. Thomas Ross provides much-needed affirmation, relaxation, and stress relieving posts here. I hope they have the same calming, introspective effect on you that I get from reading there.

My Blog Can Beat Up Your Blog. This is one you’ll find me linked to from time to time because of Lance Burson’s feature there: The 100 Word Song. I thought I’d share a portal to his world of fatherhood, music, and leftist snark because it’s (sadly) been a while since I made time to join in the 100 Word fun. 

Thin Spiral Notebook. I like Tara R.’s blog because it’s full of photographs and still contains her writing. I’d like to take a cue from This Spiral and put more of my own images on my blog.

I wanted to throw this last one in there because not only did I used to write for BleedinBlue.com but I remain a huge Blues hockey fan. They have great articles about the team, the NHL, and all things hockey. Give them a follow!

The Missing Sidebar & Making it Count

During the course of Blogging 101 I’ve completely revamped the look of my blog. In doing so, I’ve done away with the Sidebar feature in the spirit of drawing focus on the content of my posts. That makes this a little difficult:

Today’s assignment: add and/or customize two widgets, one text-based and one image-based.

I have a long list of widgets already set on my Sidebar, but my current Theme doesn’t show them. That could change moving forward if I decide on another make-over, but for now I’m sticking with my look. Please enjoy the following post as I completely ignore today’s task 😉

Photo Challenge: NIGHTTIME

I enjoy taking photos of the sky, be it daytime, nighttime, cloudy, sunny, or any combination of those conditions. I tried capturing a shot of the last Super Moon of 2014 recently with my iPhone camera. I’d love to have a DSLR, but until I get a job as a professional photographer I can’t justify the cost! 

Super Moon, Saint Louis, MO Sept. 23, 2014