The Latest Episode in Our Attempt to Acquire a Dog

See where we're coming from? Look at this thing.

As I wrote a few weeks ago, my girlfriend and I desperately want a dog. I assume that’s typical of a couple 20-somethings whose idea of a wild Saturday night is making to the Weekend Update segment on SNL.

In our last episode, we were looking at a German wirehaired pointer, but that breed simply grows to be too big. We’d done a pretty good job purposely forgetting about getting a dog until we were at lunch with my grandma the other day. She encouraged us to do so, because if nothing else, the dog we were considering adopting may be put down. Our hearts sank. We recommitted to getting a dog. (We also found out the Blue Earth Nicollet County Humane Society has a no kill policy.)

As we resume our search for the perfect dog, we face the following dilemmas:

  1. Cost. Always a concern and everyone we know has warned us of the hidden costs of pet ownership.
  2. Permission. We haven’t been given the green light by our landlord, but the bigger concern is our …
  3. Wood floors. We live in the bottom floor of a duplex. Our neighbors above us have a pomeranian-papillon mix that weighs no more than 15 pounds, but they also have carpet, so scratching isn’t a concern.
  4. Furniture. A friend let us use her furniture when we moved in and she’s asked for it back should we get a puppy. Understandable. No one wants puppy urine dried up on their furniture, especially when it’s someone else’s puppy. So, new furniture — nothing Craigslist can’t fix.

Kix was born Aug. 29 at Cowpound Kennel in Peever, SD.

Our breed du jour is the labradoodle. A coworker has recommended a breeder in Peever, SD, which is about an hour from where my girlfriend grew up. My coworker implored me to say I’m from South Dakota and not the Twin Cities to get a better rate, which makes me feel more like I’m buying contraband or black-market weapons, not a harmless puppy.

The upside: Labradoodles can be hypoallergenic, which is critical for my girlfriend. And just look at that puppy. Makes me want to wear a wool sweater with a labradoodle stitched on it. Is that so wrong?

Of course, getting a labradoodle entitles you to join the Cult of Labradoodle Owners. I’ve done some unofficial polling to determine labradoodle owners are more obsessed with their dogs than any other breed’s owners. It’s awesome and terrifying, but most importantly, great blog material. Is it sad I’ve ignored all the hang-ups of dog ownership for the fact it might just be good topic matter? I could be a crazy dog blog guy. That’s a good look.

We’re shifting things around and trying like hell to make this happen, and soon.

Stay tuned.

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Pardon The Inconvenience, But Recount Isn’t Horner’s Fault

For those who witnessed the 2000 presidential election, recounts are a painful walk down memory lane.

Here we go again.

Democrat Mark Dayton leads Republican Tom Emmer by just about 9,000 votes in the Minnesota gubernatorial election, soit appears the race will be decided by automatic recount. State election rules require an automatic recount for any election decided by less than 0.5 percent of the overall vote. Dayton’s lead is just about 0.43 percent.

In 2008, Minnesota endured a recount between two senatorial candidates — Democrat Al Franken and Republican Norm Coleman — who sparred for eight months while the votes were tallied and the results were taken to court. Franken eventually won but the lengthy process was an embarrassment and left Minnesota underrepresented in the U.S. Senate.

This time around, the candidate I voted for, Independent Tom Horner, is catching a fair amount of heat for siphoning votes from Dayton, à la Ralph Nader-from-Al Gore in the 2000 presidential election. There may be a sliver of validity to the argument. If I hadn’t voted Horner, I certainly would’ve voted Dayton. But voting isn’t about convenience or expediency and I didn’t have to choose between Horner or Dayton. I wasn’t about to spurn the candidate I truly wanted to appease Dayton supporters or quicken the vote counting.

Here’s some of the Horner vitriol I’m seeing on Twitter:

  • “Oh goody. Another MN recount. Thanks, Tom Horner! asshole”
  • “Holyfreakincrap the Minnesota Gov. race has entered recount territory. NOOOOO! Damn u Tom Horner. Independence party sucks. Pick a side!”
  • “Frickin 3rd parties!!! From Ross Perot to Tom Horner to Tim Olson & everyone in between, self-serving 3rd parties steal votes from Repubs”
  • “Right now I HATE Tom Horner, well meaning peep as he may be.”

So much for favoring the emergence of a third party, because, as one of the above tweets put it, moderate voters should just “pick a side.”

I say kudos to Tom Horner. Though he pulled just 12 percent of the vote (compared to about 44 percent for both Dayton and Emmer), he commanded respect through nearly 30 debates and represented the Independence Party of Minnesota with class and integrity. I believe Horner’s campaign paired with the feckless back-and-forth between Republicans and Democrats will boost membership and interest in his party over the next few years.

Who knows how long Recount 2010(-2011?) will last. No matter what, though, don’t let impatience turn to blame. Horner had every right to run, as did the four other third-party candidates whose combined 24,000 votes kept Dayton and Emmer within the automatic recount margin.

That’s democracy, folks, and it aint’ always a drive-thru. Even if you voted Dayton or Emmer, you should celebrate the fact there were other options on the ballot. One of the two will still win. If you believe in your candidate and your candidate is worth a damn, it shouldn’t matter if there’s two, three, 15 or 100 names on the ballot. If your candidate loses, that’s really no one’s fault but their own.

Election Day 2010: Don’t Overlook the Grey Areas

I have little to offer on Election Day 2010. I won’t implore you to vote, because that’s your decision and I’m sure there’s many real-life reasons you may not. However, if you’re invested in a race or a candidate or you simply feels its your civic duty, go vote. Celebrate democracy.

One thing, though: Be an informed voter. You know you don’t have to fill in every bubble on the ballot. School board, city council, state legislature — those offices often affect our day-to-day life more than congressional elections. Don’t vote based on party alone, and that goes for the whole ballot. Know exactly who and what you’re voting for.

If I vote today, I’m voting for an Independent gubernatorial candidate, Tom Horner. My conservative grandmother always warned I’d turn Republican once I got past college and entered the real world. I’m still a registered Democrat, very much a liberal, but with maturity, I’ve started looking at issues more pragmatically. Maturity makes you respect grey areas. As Democrats and Republicans continue to stretch an already gaping divide, the grey area from issue to issue has become more apparent. Not everything is as simple as conservative or liberal. That’s why we need a third party in our political system. That’s why I’d be happy to vote Independent.

Fat chance politicians will lead the way in ending partisan nonsense, so maybe as voters, we should shy from straight-ticket voting and give each and every race for which we vote a good, honest look. I’m hard-pressed to believe my views align 100 percent with any politician I’ve ever vote for, but in good conscience, I’m willing to overlook some differences in opinion as long as we agree on the right issues.

What are the “right” issues? The issues that truly inform your political beliefs. I believe each of us has a handful of top tier concerns, while the rest of our beliefs often just fall in stride with our party’s. For instance, I support the Second Amendment, but feel their should be a ban on handguns and assault weapons. However, that takes a backseat to my beliefs surrounding education, health care and gay marriage. A candidate’s stance on the Second Amendment wouldn’t necessarily sway my vote one way or the other.

What am I saying, albeit poorly? Be open-minded. Be pragmatic. Acknowledge the grey area. Don’t let voting be as simple as finding the “D” or “R” next to a candidate’s name and don’t be afraid to leave bubbles unchecked. The only thing worse than not voting is casting an uninformed vote.

Now is not the time for voting blindly.

I’m Pledging Allegiance to the Minnesota Timberwolves

The No. 1 reason I'm becoming a Timberwolves fan? Kevin Love. Have you seen him outlet pass?

I’ve been an Orlando Magic fan now for 18 years, dating back to Shaquille O’Neal’s rookie season. Growing up, I had a mural of Shaq on my wall featuring him flying over Florida palm tree with a Superman cape on. I owned all of his rap albums. I owned his video game, Shaq-Fu. I had his No. 32 Magic jersey in blue. I went to Kazaam in theaters the nigh it opened. When he signed with the Los Angeles Lakers, I bawled. I hated Shaq and remained a Magic fan.

I’m still a Magic fan, but I’m wondering what it takes to transfer your allegiance to another team. That’s generally considered jumping on another bandwagon, but so be it. I never liked the Magic based on proximity and frankly, I feel like I should be supporting the local ball club. They have no bandwagon.

I watched the entire Minnesota Timberwolves game last night — the first time I’ve watched a full T-Wolves game when they weren’t playing the Magic. They’re awful, but in the cutest way possible. Last night, they lost at home despite scoring 116 points against a team playing without their two best players. Kevin Love, probably the best player on the Timberwolves, played just 23 minutes and sat the last eight despite earning a double-double (11 points, 10 rebounds) by halftime. This is one hot mess of a team that you can pay just a few bucks to see in person.

Last night got me thinking about Bill Simmons, the closest thing the sportswriting world has to a rock star. Simmons writes long-winded columns for ESPN.com, often riddled with obscure pop culture references as glue for his fragmented rants. Still, he’s managed to make a 700-some page book about basketball a best-seller. He must be doing something right.

Simmons and I suffer a similar affliction. He’s based in Boston where he makes no bones about his pro sports leanings. He’s a Red Sox and Patriots fan to the core, but when it comes to basketball, he actually chooses the putrid Los Angeles Clippers over the vaunted Boston Celtics. What gives?

On Dec. 1, 2004, Bill Simmons declared himself a Clippers fan for the good of the franchise. He wrote,

“After the Patriots and Red Sox won titles within a nine-month span, I found myself without any remaining challenges as a fan. I had climbed every mountain. I was like Garry Shandling after the final “Larry Sanders” show, at a complete loss for how to top what just happened. So I decided to go the Jack Morris route. I became a hired gun. I brought my winning résumé to a franchise that always loses. That’s right … I became a Clippers season-ticket holder. Only one outcome would be more improbable than the Sox winning the Series: The Clips winning a series.”

Simmons actually has the fan equivalent of dual citizenship. He’s a Clippers and Celtics fan. In fact, last spring, he started a new Twitter account — @CelticsChants — for the sole purpose of leading the Celtics crowd at TD Garden in heckling.

I won’t paint switching to a lesser team martyrdom like Simmons did. Sorry Orlando, but I’m doing it. Maybe not all at once, but I’m becoming a Minnesota Timberwolves fan. That means reeling through seasons of futility — like this one — and getting to know exciting young players, like Anthony Tolliver and Nikola Pekovic. It means calling for the coach’s head — watch it, Rambis — and plastering message boards with anti-David Kahn sentiment. It means tempering the shit out of expectations, which is second nature for fans of any Minnesota pro sports franchise.

I can do this.

Unlike Simmons, I bring no “winning resume” as a fan. I was barely eating solid foods when the Twins won their last World Series and the Vikings — well, you know. I did stay a Florida Gators fan after Mitchell, S.D.-native Mike Miller played there, so I get their back-to-back college basketball titles in 2006 and 2007. I was a Tiger Woods fan. The Michigan Wolverines split a title with Nebraska in 1997. That’s my track record and it’s not about to get any better.

I’m no Bill Simmons, but I want to be a voice for the Minnesota Timberwolves fan base. (All 13 of us.) Pro sports are about entertainment. Last night, I couldn’t look away from a squad that went 15-67 last year. This is going to be a fun ride.

Worst Minnesota Storm Ever! (No, Really!)

Today's storm is expected to produce 28-foot waves on Lake Superior. Don't forget your lifejacket.

In the spring of 1995, my family moved into a new house in what was then the westernmost part of Sioux Falls, S.D. My dad — a homebuilder — included an elevated back porch that faced the northwest horizon. From there, we had a perfect view of the summer storms that would bubble up and slowly rumble in to wreak havoc on the city.

It was on that back porch I would obsess over severe weather, giddily awaiting the next hail storm, flash flood or tornado. I would run in and out of the house during severe weather warnings — inside to check the latest Doppler radar image and outside to spot tornadic activity on my own. Twister came out in 1996 and I fantasized being among that bunch of wily storm chasers, zigzagging across Tornado Alley, partly for science but mostly to win Helen Hunt’s affection. Unfortunately, my math and science skills lagged, so I never really stood a chance at being a meteorologist.

My parents still live in the same house, but the view has since been blocked by residential development. Still, the weather geek in me lives on. I think it’s a Midwestern thing. How many arbitrary conversations do we have on a day to day basis regarding, of all things, the weather?

To be fair, we endure some brutal weather in the Upper Midwest. This isn’t news to any of you reading this within the region, but try living in the mundane, entirely redundant Pacific Northwest climate you’ll yearn for days like today.

What’s going on today? Oh, you haven’t heard? Check weather.com:

Unimpressed? Check out this headline from Star Tribune meteorologist Paul Douglas:

That’s right, weather nerds — this is a storm worth talking about. Douglas writes:

Computer models are predicting today’s storm undergoing “bombo-genesis” near Duluth today, with a central pressure as low as 28.3″ by evening. If the computers verify we may very well set a record for Minnesota’s strongest storm (measured via barometric pressure) on record. According to Jesse Ferrell’s blog at Accu-Weather.com Minnesota’s deepest storm on record was 28.47″ near Rochester.

I doubt I’ll be the only one hitting refresh on weather.com later today to watch the barometric pressure drop. (Geek cred!)

It doesn’t take a sociologist to determine why we’re so adamant about idle weather banter. Weather is one of the few things that links strangers living in a common area. In fact, locally, I suspect it’s a point of pride. Sure, we grimace when the high is (-6) degrees, but it’s one of the first things we’ll brag about when anyone asks what Midwestern winters are like.

The forecast for Minneapolis today calls for a high 55 degrees with sustained winds of 35 miles per hour, gusting to 60 miles per hour. An inch of rain is likely. Also likely: I’ll talk to a total stranger about the weather at some point today. That’s nothing to be ashamed of, either.

That’s part of being a Minnesotan.

(Note: If you snap any cool weather-related photos today, send them my way so I can post them here. E-mail them to atmiller14@gmail.com! Include a description if possible.)

In Minnesota, Melancholy Isn’t a Mood — It’s a Lifestyle

It’s 8 a.m. The streetlights are still on as the sun has yet to rise. Why should it? Why waste a sunny day as we Minnesotans wallow in our swelling melancholy?

The Vikings fell to 2-4 last night after losing 28-24 to the Green Bay Packers. Quarterback Brett Favre was — again — the storyline. He threw three interceptions that led to 14 points, effectively ending the 14-month honeymoon for Vikings fans like yours truly. Another season of wonder has turned to blunder.

This bleak feeling has become all too familiar of late, where on the local scene mediocrity has become the standard:

  • The Minnesota Twins? Swept from the playoffs by the Yankees.
  • The Minnesota Gophers? 1-7, already on their second coach of the season.
  • Brock Lesnar? UFC heavyweight title lost to Cain Valesquez after a first-round TKO Saturday night.
  • The Minnesota Wild? 3-3-1, but honestly, I had to look that up. I’m not a hockey fan.
  • The Minnesota Timberwolves? Their season doesn’t start for a few days, so right now, they’re the best team in town.

Last season, I was living in Portland as the Vikings stormed through the regular season and into the playoffs. I was back home for losses to the Chicago Bears and Carolina Panthers, so all told, the Vikings were 13-3 in games I watched 1,700 miles from Vikings territory. Last night, I got to thinking — would I rather live far from Minnesota and see the Vikings win or live here and see them lose?

Still undecided.

Misery loves Minnesota sports. It’s Monday morning agony like this that defines Vikings fan experience. We’ve gotten used to losing, or, as used to it as one can get. Still, you have to wonder what it was like living in a place like Boston the past decade. In the aughts alone, they saw their New England Patriots win three Super Bowls, their Boston Red Sox win two World Series and their Boston Celtics win an NBA title. A Minnesota pro sports franchise hasn’t advanced to a title game, no less won a championship, since 1991 when the Twins won the World Series.

We’re the punchline and the punching bag.

Last night, I tweeted, “So, how about that Minneapolis arts scene?” What I meant was we, as a fan base, should probably look beyond sports for joy. I know it’s a hard transition, but season tickets at the Guthrie Theatre must be cheaper than season tickets at Target Field. As foodies and provincial microbrew drinkers already know, there’s plenty of fine establishments where you can get full and get a buzz for the price of nachos and a Coors Light at a Vikings game. Here’s a bonus: When an artist snaps a photo of his penis, it’s just art!

That’s not going to happen though. You and I will go on in hopeless support of our fledgling pro franchises, just as anyone with Stockholm syndrome would. The highs will be high, the lows will be low, but failure will find us like a shock collar the moment we’ve wandered too far from reality.

Go on in gloom this Monday, which should be nothing other than dark, cold and miserable. What could be more befitting of the Minnesota sports fan experience?

My New Driver’s License and a Five-Year Retrospective


I finally received my Minnesota driver’s license over the weekend. My South Dakota driver’s license expired on my 26th birthday in September, meaning I now have one less link to my home state. That’s a little dramatic, I realize, but I’m proud to be a Minnesotan and I feel validated now with this new driver’s license.

When I first saw my new license, I was compelled to compare it to the old one. I noticed — as you might, too, from the picture above — some major differences:

I’m shrinking — At age 21, I listed myself at 6-2. At age 26, I listed myself at 6-0. The second height is accurate and the first one isn’t. The truth is I always wanted to be taller. I guess at age 21 I was still holding out hope I might grow to be a small forward instead of a portly point guard. I’m happy with 6-0. It’s so much cooler than 5-11.

I survived college without becoming obese – Look at the first ID — I had jowls! At 21?! Despite all my best efforts, I now weigh 10 pounds less than I did the day I began to legally drink. That’s one hell of an accomplishment, considering all the beer, tater tots, nachos and pizza I put down in college. (It might have something to do with the fact I shrank two inches, too.)

Also shrinking: My hairline –  Look at that hair. That lush canopy of bangs. Look at that naive 21-year-old who thinks he’ll be gray before his hairline ever recedes, not knowing five years later, the race between graying and balding will run neck and neck.

That’s MPLS to you – OK, I’m a little annoyed with the state’s decision to use “MPLS” in place of “Minneapolis.” Clearly, there’s plenty of space. I don’t know if this is a technique to dupe counterfeiters, but as a former bouncer, I’d be more suspicious of the condensed, text-message version of Minneapolis. Sort of makes me miss my South Dakota license, which was patient enough to spell out all 10 letters of “Sioux Falls.”

I still write like a child – Are we done with handwriting yet? Can we just type everything now? Anyone can make out the “A” that starts my signature, but from then on, it’s a crap shoot. The government should have me writing coded messages, because no level of foreign intelligence could decipher that chicken scratch.

Wear and tear – You can’t see it by the picture, but my South Dakota license was falling apart. Most of the laminate on the back has curled up in the corners and the front side has several air bubbles. As the ID became less necessary, it started to look more like a fake. I’m holding on to this South Dakota license as a reminder I put it to good use in college and the years following. It’s something of a relic. New Minnesota license feels, frankly, like my adulthood certificate. New Minnesota license and I have yet to share any good times the way South Dakota license and I did.

Most importantly, this makes me a Minnesotan, right? I know, I know — I’m really a native South Dakotan, an expatriate who learned the language and tried to fit right in. This Minnesota license doesn’t mean I’m going to start watching hockey or drinking Grain Belt or wearing electric orange snowmobile jackets. Nonsense. But it does mean I can say “we” and “us” when referring to Minnesotans.

Jeez, that’s good enough for me.