The USCA and Team Birr

I know everyone is tired of writing their Senators and Representatives. If you’d like to take a break from that, you can do me a favor and email a different governing body, the United States Curling Association.

“Why in the world would I want to do that?” you might ask. It’s simple, this year the USCA blatantly snubbed Team Birr from the Olympic Trials after they finished second at Men’s Nationals. To put this into context. Team Birr isn’t a team fighting for the March Madness play-in game. This omission is like the NCAA saying, “You know Gonzaga, you came in second last year. How about you just stay home for the Tourney.” That’s not cool.

This isn’t a dig at the four teams scheduled to compete at the Olympic Trials. They are good teams, but there are only four of them (by contrast, Canada is sending 11 men’s

How can say “NO” to these faces?

teams to duke it out for their Olympic spot).

How do you send the best our country has to offer to the Olympics when you won’t even let all the best teams compete to get there?

Anyway, if you’d like more of the details, here’s a letter asking the USCA to change their minds and fix the problem by adding a fifth team to trials: Letter to the USCA.

The ask: Can you take a minute to send an email to Rick Patzke rick.patzke@usacurl.org requesting Team Birr be added as a fifth team at the Olympic Trials? He’s the chief dude at the USCA in charge of these things. Please keep things positive, we’re curlers and not animals you guys! There’s a sample below, but if you’ve got something more creative/positive, take a screenshot and Facebook/Tweet it to me. We can all use a good laugh. If you aren’t feeling creative, send ’em the sample letter.

Dear USA Curling,

I, ______________, believe that, based on the merits of their performances in the 2016-17 World Curling Tour season and the 2017 USA Curling National Championships, Team Birr should be added to fill the remaining 5th available spot at the 2018 USA Curling Men’s Olympic Trials.

Respectfully yours,

________________

Note: Those underlines are your name and/or curling Mad Libs.

Thanks,

Joel

Lupus Spiel USA 2017

TL:DR Version: We’ve all been donating to a lot of stuff lately. Even the ACLU now has

I’m taking a break from drinking beer for an important announcement here, people!

enough to money to purchase a tank. That said, I still need a few bucks. Please take a few minutes to donate $5, $10 or $20 on my behalf to support Lupus research here. Be sure to put “Ingersoll,” “That guy from the Twitters,” FlyoverJoel,” or “Hey Dummy” in the sponsorship line.

If you are still interested in that reading gig…
We’ll start with a syllogism:
The average curler walks more than two miles in a game.
The Lupus Spiel has a three-game guarantee.
Therefore, I will cover nearly three more miles than a 5K.

There is no concussion risk at your 5K color run.

This means your Polydactyl Cat Awareness 5K can suck it, Lydia.
Okay, that was really rude to fictional Lydia, but this is important. A cure for lupus is just a stone’s throw away and you can help!

What this really means is that your donation on my behalf to the Lupus Spiel will go at least twice as far (geographically) than it would for other bipedal-based fundraising events. And, at no additional cost to you, people will scream at me for hours on end!!

We may be sporting pandas and black bears, but we really bonded over April the Giraffe.

The Lupus Spiel is a pro-am. That means average curlers like me are paired with really talented curlers. Like *really* good curlers. Two years ago, I curled with Val Sweeting, one of the top money winners in Canada. Last year, I teamed with two-time Olympian Jessica Schultz. This year it could be even be Kevin Martin (that would be like getting Brett Favre to quarterback your flag football team but with less pants on the ground). Or maybe, I’ll curl with someone whose name rhymes with…um….Schmessical Jultz. Okay, trying to rhyme Jessica or Schultz with anything is like trying to rhyme with “orange.” Completely terrible.

Before this really gets “Too Long; Didn’t Read” the Lupus Spiel is a charity bonspiel

He may have a gold medal, but he’s one of eight North Americans that I still have more hair than.

(curling tournament) that matches amazing curlers with regular schmucks like me to raise money for (Spoiler Alert) Lupus research. It’s a great time, and last year the event raised over $50,000 for research to help those with this awful disease.

In the past few years, I’ve written a lot about the symptoms of Lupus, so if you want to learn more take a look at the Mayo Clinic.

So I know a lot of you have already been shelling out money to lots of worthy causes recently, but I’d appreciate it if you’d send a few bucks my way. Like really appreciate it. $25 bucks would be great (more would be even better), however if money is tight, $5 or $10 would be fantastic as well. All you need to do is go here. Then slap my name into the Sponsorship box and make your donation – you can even skip past all that text!
Be sure to let me know you donated so I can give you a hug in person or online (I don’t see the donations in real-time).
As always, thanks!
Joel

All the oat bags

Life isn’t always as terrible as the internet leads us to believe.

Blink 182

It’s takes the fur from 15 confetti monsters to fill just one of those cannons.

Thursday night for example, Fiona and had an amazing evening at the Blink 182 show. We didn’t go out on Friday, but scrounging for dinner I had a small amount of leftover spaghetti and a salsa verde microwave burrito. Italian and Mexican on the same night? Only in America! Today, Fiona and I are going to drink some beer in the fall sunshine and watch live music at the Summit Backyard Bash with Bob Mould as the headliner.

Other than our cat’s 5:30 AM air raid siren meows, life is pretty good.

911 What's your emergency? I'd like to file a noise complaint against my cat.

911 What’s your emergency?
I’d like to file a noise complaint against my cat.

Before heading out into the sunshine, we had something much more important to do. This morning we attended Hiram College Alumni Volunteer Day in the Twin Cities. Hiram AVD is an important annual appointment for me. For all of us, it’s easy to fall into a comfortable routine where you don’t even *think* about people in the world who aren’t experiencing life in the same way you are. Alumni Volunteer Day breaks that cycle. If you don’t think that’s important, just take five minutes and listen to all the screaming TV heads bemoaning how America has gone to crap. By all measures, that’s not the case, but when you can’t adjust to competing world views, you get mired in a pit of anxiety, fear and despair that you can’t escape.

Hiram College AVD takes me out of my comfortable Saint Paul cocoon and, while I just go to the suburbs to volunteer at a food bank, it provides me the great opportunity to ruminate on how fortunate I am and reinforces how important it is to help others.

With that in mind, I toddled off to Second Harvest Heartland in my Hiram College shirt to spend a few hours thinking about someone other than myself.

Someday son, all of this could be yours (to pack for hungry families).

Someday son, all of this could be yours (to pack for hungry families).

Because this is our fourth rodeo, with experience stacking tortillas, bagging apples and onions, and counting carrots, we skipped the introduction and got right to the good stuff. Pounding oats. By pounding, I don’t mean beating them to a pulp, but instead bagging and sealing them in one pound bags. For two hours, we scooped, poured, squished, weighed, sealed and packed oats until we, and some other volunteers, packed 928 pounds of them. That’s the equivalent of 773 meals and our mighty Hiram four accounted for 172 of those meals.

As usual, I have a list of things I learned during Hiram Alumni Volunteer Day while at Second Harvest Heartland. For all citations, please reference Second Harvest Heartland Hunger Facts: http://www.2harvest.org/our-impact/hunger-facts/#.V9RFTpgrKUk

1. Tonight, 600,000 Minnesotans will not know where their next meal is coming from. It’s not a question of where to obtain food, but rather how they can purchase it.

2. 80’s music is the best to listen to while doing repetitive labor. Madonna advising us to “get into the groove” right at the start set the tone for a productive morning. This also reminds me of one of my favorite tweets that few other people enjoyed: https://twitter.com/FlyoverJoel/status/320581794053382147

There were so many oats, it was like an episode of Chopped but for horses.

There were so many oats, it was like an episode of Chopped but for horses.

3. Opinion Alert: Anyone who suggests we should cut “entitlement” funding to programs like SNAP should be required to volunteer at a place like Second Harvest Heartland. Families aren’t going to stop being hungry just because some politicians reduce program funding because to them it’s just a line item on a budget.

4. My first “adult” job was in 1988 working at a marina. My first day on the job, I counted worms into Styrofoam cups for four hours—it might have been icky but at least I didn’t have to wear a beardnet.

5. While it’s a good feeling to help, I’m just one person. It takes 1,500 organizations and over 40,000 people annually for Second Harvest Heartland to serve 77 million meals to 532,000 people. That’s a lot of people and money. Good people who all deserve our thanks.

I'd make a handsome beekeeper.

I’d make a handsome beekeeper.

6. Instead of donuts, I wish I could carry around a baggie that contained a donut bakery smell and just pull it out for a furtive whiff when someone is wearing too much perfume. I’d also like a second baggie that smells like freshly ground Caribou Coffee beans, and a third baggie with a burrito smell. Basically, I want to be your drug dealer but with wonderful scents.

7. In 2010, the University of Minnesota Food Industry Center estimated that hunger costs the state at least $1.6 BILLION annually in healthcare, hospitalization, medication, education, and other things like lost productivity at work or school. Imagine spending just a fraction of that upfront to reduce hunger and the benefits we could reap as a state.

8. My wife and I make a good team when it comes to manual labor. Like a really good team. We are still probably really bad at canoeing.

9. I think I now have the skills to start my own overpriced, yuppie focused, organic trail mix.I plan to call it Pumpkin Spice Kale ‘n’ Nuts.

Not pictured: Spouse already in the car, listening to the Gopher game.

Not pictured: Spouse already in the car, listening to the Gopher game.

10. It’s great to say, “See you next year!” to my fellow Hiram alumni at the end of our shift when I know they will be back next year–even if they missed the beginning of the Gopher game (again).

11. Our group included a High School freshman who was in the process of logging 100 hours of volunteer work at Second Harvest so he could get a certificate to help get him into a good college. Sucker.

12. Why don’t I do this more often? Why don’t we all do this more often? That’s an important question. Because it’s really easy to get focused on the next concert, the next food truck, the next Minnesota State Fair (had to mention it, didn’t I?) and forget that there’s a whole world of people who are not having the same experience as you—and that life experience is not so great.

Humans are both communal and insular at the same time. This means we seek out others like us and project that framework on the world because it’s comfortable. It’s agreeable to us, but also creates dangerous stereotypes (why don’t these hungry people just get a better job? I pulled myself up by my bootstraps with no help, why can’t they?). It’s so much easier to know we know something about other people (like the food insecure) and it is to actually learn something about them.

For one day a year, Hiram College gets us back out there as a reminder that we can do good for others—especially for those who aren’t having those not so terrible lives. After four years of education there, I can’t think of a better lesson learned.

125 Miles by Boot

Fiona isn't in this photo with me, but that's okay because I'm ARF (Always representing Frogtown).

If you are reading this on a mobile device, I might be upside down. Weeeeee!  Fiona isn’t in this photo with me, but that’s okay because I’m ARF (Always Representing Frogtown).

The pictures started on February 6th. Fiona and I bundled up against a cold and gray background with the sign for Afton State Park photobombing us in the lower right-hand corner. We were smiling, despite wind chills below freezing and my recent exclamation that uphill is terrible (I used stronger language) just moments before as we trudged up and down the packed snow and ice for a meager 4 miles of hiking. The sounds of me panting and the snow crunching underfoot were punctuated by a raucous high school skiing competition being held just outside the park.

The best part of winter hiking is the distinct lack of insects who want to consume your blood.

The best part of winter hiking is the distinct lack of insects who want to consume your blood.

A few weeks later, I posted another picture of us in front of a sign. This time from Wild River State Park. Nerstrand, Whitewater, Carley and Lake Maria State Parks followed through the end of March. As of last Sunday, we had visited 18 different Minnesota State Parks, and hiked 116.24 miles together. Some of it was amazing, like the sandstone potholes at Banning State Park and the stunning hike along the Saint Louis River at Jay Cooke. Others were more death-marchy, like a wind chilled 8.7 miles across the tundra at Saint Croix State Park, sweating out a bonspiel on a Sunday afternoon at Interstate State Park, or our Quixotic sprint through a bug infested 2.2 miles at Moose Lake (Spoiler Alert: In this reboot, we were the windmills futilely swatting at mosquitos THE WHOLE TIME). With a short jaunt through Charles A. Lindbergh State Park this Friday where we hope to learn all about the baby, and a longer Saturday hike at Itasca State Park, home of the headwaters of the Mississippi River, we will have finally reached our goal.

“And what is that goal?”, you are probably asking yourself, or if you are on Facebook, have already asked me at some point since March.

Our goal certainly wasn’t to increase the overall handsomeness of the internet by plastering photos of the two of us all over Facebook.

Sliding down a frozen waterfall on your butt totally counts, you guys.

Sliding down a frozen waterfall on your butt totally counts, you guys.

Our goal was simple, and to us, an important one. In celebration of the 125 anniversary of Itasca State Park, the second state park in the United States, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources rolled out their 125 Miles by Bike, Boot or Boat campaign to celebrate. Propel yourself forward in any Minnesota state park (on a bike, canoe, kayak, or shoe) for 125 miles and get a sticker. A sticker that is 477% cooler than your 26.2 marathon sticker.

But why will it take us 175 days to cross that 125-mile threshold?

Because Fiona is an attorney, and because I like a thorough structuralist framework to inform my world view, we came up with a few more rules for our participation in the challenge.

1. We would only count miles hiked together. All those random trips I made from Fort Snelling State Park to Minnehaha Falls for a shrimp po’boy at Sea Salt don’t count.
2. We would only count miles hiked in a park once. All those random trips we made from Fort Snelling State Park to Minnehaha Falls for shrimp po’boys, could only be logged once. (This is why we’ll have visited 20 different state parks).
3. We’d finish the 125 at Itasca State Park, where the Minnesota State Park system began.

Aww yeah. this is worth walking for.

Aww yeah. this is worth walking for.

This covers what we were doing, but not the why.

I could argue that I’m just getting into walking shape for the Minnesota State Fair, or that nothing tastes better than brunch and a beer after gamboling over some rocks and through the mud for seven or eight miles, or even that there is little in life better than turning your phone to airplane mode by choice rather than aviation fiat. There are many healthful reasons to go hiking, but if you aren’t convinced here are some other reasons to go hiking:

Who needs a shower when you can just fall in the river.

Who needs a shower when you can just fall in the river.

1. It takes at least 2 ½ hours for your Candy Crush lives to recharge.
2. Since June of 2004, you’ve been running a severe “listening to Tom Petty while driving on the highway” deficit.
3. You enjoy seeing litter and/or graffiti in the most remote parts of your state.
4. The last item on your bucket list is to be eaten by a bear.
5. Showering on a Saturday is overrated, but you don’t own daytime pajamas.

The other reason why we are doing the 125, is that I needed a goal. When Fiona suggested this back in January, I thought it was a great idea, and that it was a nice midrange challenge for us. Something that we could accomplish, but would involve effort while simultaneously showing incremental results. Ticking off mile after mile (not picking

Fi's Post-Hoke Brunch Review: Mimosas were large. 4 Stars. Would drink again.

Fi’s Post-Hike Brunch Review: Mimosas were large. 4 Stars. Would drink again.

off ticks mile after mile) on a spreadsheet and stamping our Minnesota State Parks passport, gave us another weekend goal to reach beyond “well, let’s make sure we get the laundry done and get to Costco.” It was an opportunity to look forward to something during the week, even if it was digging through Trip Advisor or Yelp to find some cool place to eat a very sweaty post-hike brunch on Saturday. Or making the day a grand adventure by touring the August Schell Brewing Company in New Ulm after a morning at Flandrau State Park.

Goals aren’t the only reason we are compelled to hike. Getting to all these parks gave us the opportunity to see some pretty amazing wildlife. Eagles and swans and deer and all sorts of creatures, but nothing tops the Godzilla sized turkeys we saw just hanging out in front of an apartment building in Saint Paul before we even got to nature! That’s not quite true. Minneopa State Park has bison. Other parks have squirrels the size of baby bison. This is a fact.

We can't stop here. It's squirrel country.

We can’t stop here. It’s squirrel country.

At Whitewater State Park, there was a sign to report any dead radio collared squirrels to the DNR office. I looked at Fiona and asked, “If we find a live radio collared squirrel, are we supposed to kill it and report it to the DNR?” She said no—probably because the squirrels could eat me whole and then go after Fiona. While we are up-to-date on how to survive a bear attack (yell, “Hey Bear!”), there aren’t many publications explaining how to repel a giant deranged squirrel.

There is a massive off leash dog park right next to Fort Snelling State Park that you can walk through on the way to Minnehaha Falls and for the dogs it is the best place ever in the history of dogkind. A dog goes flying past us, stops, looks in every direction and takes off again. He repeats this every five to ten yards. We realized his owner had tied his little bag of doggie business to his collar (assuming this dog is a male because all dogs are males) and the poor canine was trying to escape and couldn’t.

No matter how wet your pants are, the ticks won't drown.

No matter how wet your pants are, the ticks don’t drown.

There are 75 State Park and Recreation areas in Minnesota (plus numerous other state forests and places of interest), and many of them are within a two hour drive of the Twin Cities. Just hauling yourself out of bed at the same hour as a workday means you can get to a park, enjoy some nature, have lunch and make it back home in time to mow the lawn (boo!) or take a restful nap (yay!) with time to spare before dinner. If you have a water bottle, sunscreen, Deep Woods Off! and some shoes, hiking doesn’t have to be a production. The Minnesota DNR charges $25 for an annual parks pass, which is probably the best deal in America this side of mailing a letter to Guam.

I would assume other states are the same. You don’t have to make grand gesture by hitting a National Park to get your nature fix (the one you might not even realize you need). There’s even a website www.stateparks.com if typing your state’s name into Google is too much digital effort. Either way, you probably aren’t too far from one of those handsome brown highway signs directing you to a state park. And if that isn’t compelling enough, let me share with you all the brochures I have about ticks.

You don't have to be in Minnesota to practice tick safety. Be sure to always check yourself for ticks. Like right now.

You don’t have to be in Minnesota to practice tick safety. Be sure to always check yourself for ticks. Like right now.

#Tweet4Meat 2015

Tweet4Meat 5: This Time It’s Delicious

Basketball and egg bake have nothing to do with each other but you have to live your life.

Basketball and Tom Selleck have nothing to do with each other but you have to live your life, grandma.

It’s time for #Tweet4Meat 5, and my egg bake game is tighter than Tom Selleck at a grandma convention.  This year we are expecting the best jokes (they will still be terrible) and the largest amount of money (which will not be terrible) raised since this project began five years ago.

What is #Tweet4Meat?

Why, it’s only is the only tax-deductible hashtag [citation needed] on Twitter.  For a whole week, some of the funniest people on the Internet will tell jokes (often food-related) and encourage others to donate to Heifer International via our FirstGiving page.  In the past four years, Tweet4Meat has raised more than $24,500, and this year we are raising the stakes (pun intended) by aiming for $10,000.  That’s about 500 flocks of ducks, 333 hives of bees or funding for five female-led farming cooperatives in Nepal (oddly specific, but on task).

What can I do to help?

The easiest thing to do is give right here.  You can write your own jokes and share the #Tweet4Meat hashtag and this link (bit.ly/tweet4meat2015) to encourage friends, family or that creepy dude who stars all of your tweets to donate.  Can’t think of something funny to say?  No worries, retweet #Tweet4Meat jokes with vigor! It’s your Twitter and you dig it the best, baby.

This thing again, really?
Yes. Don’t be a jerkpants about it.

Why Heifer International?
Because meat jokes are always funny to our inner 12-year-olds, and the stoners took #Tweet4Tacos.  The real reason is that Heifer International funds projects from Arkansas to Angola to help empower people to change their lives.  They don’t just drop a goat on someone’s doorstep and say, “Have at it!” They help communities increase income and assets that enable them to develop stronger, sustainable local economies.  Heifer International also works to educate women and promote gender equality through its opportunities.  What could be more important than that?

You can read more about Heifer International on its website.

I’m a socially conscious vegetarian, can I help?

Baby_goats_jan_2007_crop

I AM NOT A STEAK, I AM A MAN. GOAT… KID… GOAT… I AM GOAT!

Yes. While we can’t guarantee that our collective donation won’t go to a goat, we can promise that it won’t go to goat steaks.  Heifer International doesn’t deliver meat to a community.  They deliver hope for the future in return for a pledge to pay that gift forward.
Give a family a goat and the next year it has baby goats (BABY GOATS), those baby goats (BABY GOATS) are given to another member of the community.  Within two decades the entire community is making goat milk for use in overpriced lattes in Manhattan [results may vary].

We appreciate any and all contributions to Tweet4Meat. If you have an idea or an incentive you’d like to offer to help reach our goal, let me or @juicymorsel know so we can help ensure it’s shared widely.

Remember: The chicken only crossed the road to look for a sustainable farmer — and a rooster. Probably a rooster.

Please donate now.

Here’s a list of amazing people committed to participating in Tweet4Meat 2015

AmberTozer • audipenny •  BDGarp • Behindyourback • BillMc7 • blobert • btemps • CabbageNews • Cheeseboy22 • cjwerlman • Cortronic • cpinck • crowejam • DanielRCarrillo • DothTheDoth • dwaghalter • Dragnut • Exlibris • FattMernandez • FilthyRichmond • Gladstone • gneicco • Greeblehaus • hiimles • Home_Halfway • Hormonella • Hurlarious • Igotsmarts • Jedfudally • JennyPentland • jerryRenek • John_M15 • Jwynia • Karentozzi • KayM77 • KristiCollen • Linajkreturns • LaetPO • LifeCoachers • longwall26 • LostCatDog • llvvzz • Manda_like_wine • ManginaMcCool • Marcmack • MarcusTheToken • MarkAgee • mauleePillar • MetricButtload • MollySneed • MrWordsWorth • OhNoSheTwitnt • nice_mustard • Northpacific • Paxochka • PoguePhilosophy • Primawesome • ProfessorSnack • ReelQuinn • RexHuppke • SamReidSays • ScottLinnen •  Shanehasabeard • Shanethevein • shariv67 • SirEviscerate • Smethanie • Somecleverthing •   SteveHuff • Squiggleline • TheBosha • TheDairyLandDon • Theguydf • Theleanover • TheNardvark • Thereisnohurry • thetigersez • TheWallStBull • Tinynietzsche • Trixieboots • TwiterHero • UncleDynamite • UNTRESOR • VerifriedDrunk • VocabuLarry • WarrenHolstein • wwwesty •yoyoha

Those Are Some Mighty Strange Looking Pumpkins: Hiram AVD 2015

AVDEach year, Hiram College organizes an Alumni Volunteer Day in early September. It’s an opportunity for alumni across the United States to get together and work in their communities while also wearing free Hiram College t-shirts.

In Cincinnati, Ohio they made baby quilts for a children’s hospital. This afternoon in Chicago, Hiramites will be at Feed My Starving Children in Shaumburg. In Minneapolis/Saint Paul, we picked the hell out of some carrots.

Carrots? You are fired, Charlie Brown.

Carrots? You are fired, Charlie Brown.

Peter Piper has nothing on us.

During our time at Second Harvest Heartland, we worked side-by-side with a small volunteer team from Honeywell (you know, the people who made your desk fan and/or the guidance system for your ICBM) and managed to bag and box 4920 pounds of carrots–which makes about 4100 meals (although, I hope dinner isn’t just carrots).

Pull them out of a giant box. Weight them in 5 pound increments. Dump them into a bagger. Tie the bag. Put them in a box with six bags. Repeat for two hours. It doesn’t sound like hard work, but it wasn’t sitting at a desk all day either.

This was a big learning year, so here are the 15 things new things I picked up in 2015 (15 in 2015? Don’t steal this nifty idea, you guys):

Note: All citations of statistics on hunger are taken from Second Harvest Heartland’s Hunger Facts.

Eating donuts out of my trunk is just like tailgating but for work.

Eating donuts out of my trunk is just like tailgating but for work.

1. I don’t think I ate a single donut in my four years at Hiram, but now they are an integral part of the AVD experience. This year we got donuts from SugaRush in Saint Paul, which were fantastic. I’ve come to realize the whole non-profit volunteer economy is driven by exchanging labor for t-shirts and donuts.

2. There are 600,000 people in Minnesota and Wisconsin who are at risk of missing a meal every day. This isn’t, “I was sooooo busy at work today that I didn’t even take a lunch.” Instead, it’s people who miss a meal because they don’t have food or have skipped meals because they are afraid of running out of money before the next paycheck.

3. I enjoy AVD because I get to sleep in on a Saturday all the way until to 6:20 AM.

4. The worst drinking game ever is the one where each time Sting belts out “Roxanne,” you eat a carrot.

And these trays we're just for the first chorus.

And these trays were just for the first chorus.

5. We do these things because it’s the right thing to do. It’s that sometimes we just need a little nudge–like a cruise director for good to get us organized and moving in the right direction. It’s easy to look at your job and life and just let yourself be too tired all the time to help. Hiram AVD is a reminder to get out of our own heads and into the community.

6. Hunger costs the state of Minnesota $1.6 billion (BILLION) in healthcare, hospitalization, medication, education and lost productivity at work or school. That’s a lot of money and a huge impact on a state – just imagine the impact in your own community.

These are not the shirts you're looking for.

These are not the shirts you’re looking for.

7. Change is weird. “You changed your shirts?” was the second most popular question this year. The most popular was, “Where is Hiram?”

8. Last weekend, I was contemplating throwing out the shoes and jeans I am wearing today because I forgot why I was keeping them. It was reminder that I’m not doing enough physical labor. It’s nice to get lost in the routine and focus on other things like the cheesy 70s, 80s, 90s and today radio station–even if they play songs from when I was in college sandwiched between songs from the early 80s and essentially collapse the first 50% of my life into an seven minute, carrot infused, montage.

9. Second Harvest Heartland serves 532,000 people annually in Minnesota and Wisconsin. More than 33% are under the age of 18 and 10% are over the age of 60. So get this, 43% of the people getting assistance are the most vulnerable in our community.

10. I really enjoyed the music today. Nearly every song can be adjusted to be about carrots. I even considered an alternate title for this essay: Going Down the Rails on a Carrot Train. I did realize, that while Eddie Money and Van Halen makes great potential carrot tunes, Rush is a bit more challenging.

11. There are some weird looking carrots and some giant carrots. I saw one carrot so big that Tonya Harding probably could have had it used on Nancy Kerrigan.

The technical term for this is bulls***

The technical term for this is bulls***

12. Fiona and I had a discussion this morning about Fitbits being considered as jewelry at Second Harvest Heartland or not, and then I realized that either way it’s disgusting germ vortex just dangling out there on the end of my arm all of the time. It does, however, pose the existential question: if a Fitbit isn’t there to perceive its agent perform an act, did it actually occur in the physical plane. Did I actually do anything before my Fitbit was there to witness it? It doesn’t track carrot bagging so maybe this is all a dream.

13. I’m pretty sure I lost my innocence as a child when I realized Bugs Bunny and the Road Runner were just animated anthropomorphic prop comics.

14. Second Harvest Heartland’s partners served 74 million meals in 2014. This is roughly the equivalent of serving every person in Lorain, Ohio breakfast, lunch and dinner every day for an entire year.

15. When you think about what we accomplished today, it was great to help out. But wow, we made such a tiny contribution to an organization that helps parts of two states, that it’s hard to fathom how much money, effort and volunteer time it will take to solve the problems of hunger and food insecurity in the Twin Cities and across the United States.

Life is like a bag of carrots: generally misshapen, somewhat damp and mostly orange. Or is that just Cleveland on a Sunday?

Life is like a bag of carrots: generally misshapen, somewhat damp and mostly orange. Or is that just Cleveland on a Sunday?

Lupus ‘Spiel USA

TL;DR Version: I’m relentless at raising money. Please donate $10 to the Lupus Foundation of Minnesota on behalf of my team.

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As the weather transitions to summer, the trees green and thoughts of lawn care pop into my frontal lobe, one would assume that it would be time for me to lovingly pack my curling broom away in the basement for a few months.

One would be wrong.

Or as my teammate Clint explained, “Saturday is the Wisconsin fishing opener, but I don’t

They are still ice fishing in Wisconsin in May.

They are still ice fishing in Wisconsin in May.

fish. So curling it is.”

The weekend of May 1-3, I will be curling in the Lupus ‘Spiel USA at the Four Seasons Curling Club (you know, the one from Curling Night in America) with two friends and one, not yet determined, really, really, really good curler.  And we need your help, specifically a small amount of your money, but more on that later.

So you might already be asking yourself, what in the world does curling have to do with Lupus?  Well one is a quirky sport that most people don’t understand while Lupus is a disease that most people don’t understand.  I fall into the latter category myself.  When I decided to sign a team up for this bonspiel, I didn’t know much more about Lupus than it was some running gag on House.

Here are some facts about Lupus from the Lupus Foundation of Minnesota:

•         Lupus is a chronic, complex and prevalent autoimmune disease that affects more than 1.5 million Americans.
•         Lupus is difficult to diagnose because its symptoms come and go, mimic those of other diseases, and there is no single laboratory test that can definitively identify the illness.
•         More than 90% of lupus sufferers are women, mostly young women between the ages of 15 to 44.
•         Women of color are two to three times more at risk for Lupus than Caucasians

The symptoms of Lupus are horrible and debilitating.  Lupus can attack nearly every different system of the body.  If working an office job for 45 years were a disease, it would be Lupus.

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If you aren’t from Cleveland, this never gets old.

So you might be thinking, “Joel, if Lupus is hard to detect and the symptoms are even harder to treat, is there really anything that can be done about it?”  I would propose that you already know that I’m Cleveland sports fan, which means I’m always steadfast in my hope against incalculable odds.

A number of Olympic and National Champion curlers are donating their time and money to participate in the Lupus ‘Spiel USA and one will be assigned to skip each team.  It’s just another way the spirit of curling drives people to do better and be better competitors and community members.  In other words, instead of me yelling at my teammates for an entire weekend, someone else gets to yell at me.  And since yelling is my favorite part of curling, we’re all making sacrifices for a good cause.  Think of it as shelling out a few bucks to have me yelled at, because you’ve all wanted to yell at me at some point in your life.

So I need your help.

The Lupus ‘Spiel USA is planning on raising $25,000 for the Lupus Foundation of Minnesota.  I’d like to be responsible for $2000 of that total.  Which means, I need 200 of you to donate $10. Or 100 of you to donate $20. Or any mathematical permutation in-between that I could figure out on my graphing calculator if I only knew how to use it.

To donate, please visit my team page.

For more information on Lupus, please check out the Lupus Foundation of Minnesota.

The Big Spiel

It is not recommended to curl without sleeves, you guys.

It is not recommended to curl without sleeves, you guys.

You guys remember curling, right? You know, that quirky sport you only think about every four years during the Winter Olympics?  Well I’m sneaking it back into your collective consciousness during non-peak hours.  This weekend I’m competing as a last minute sub in The Big Spiel, a ninety-six team curling tournament held in the Twin Cities.

You already know what Big means, a movie starring Tom Hanks, but you might not know what a Spiel is.  Spiel is short for bonspiel and is often defined as a drinking tournament interrupted by curling.  Its origins as a word are disputed as being either Gaelic or Germanic, but linguists can all agree that it’s a rather jaunty word to say.

The Big Spiel is a four day event organized by the Twin Cities Curling Association where teams from as far away as Texas (nothing says a winter vacation like a -23 wind chill) and Canada (closer than Texas) curl at three Twin Cities clubs: the venerable Saint Paul Curling Club, the high-performance Four Seasons Curling Club and my home away from home, the Frogtown Curling Club.  Each club has its own personality and frame it with a Faber College metaphor, Saint Paul is Omega Theta Pi, Frogtown is Delta Tau Chi and Four Seasons is the Administration (I’m totally kidding, you guys. Don’t put me on double secret probation).  As each club is unique and special in many ways, it gives local curlers an opportunity to experience throwing rocks and socializing at each location and gives out of town teams a chance to measure themselves against the competition in a hotbed (coldbed??) of American curling, Saint Paul, Minnesota.

Every home should have and bench-and-bar like the Frogtown Curling Club

Every home should have and bench-and-bar like the Frogtown Curling Club

Bonspiels are a little different than most adult recreational sports contests.  Unlike other sports, you might have an opportunity to test your curling mettle by going up against a current or former Olympian or national curling champion (imagine showing up at a softball tournament and having to pitch to Joe Mauer) and you  get to test your emotional strength by getting absolutely clobbered by that champion.  Also, bonspiels are self-policing when it comes to determining talent level.  Typically teams estimate their skill level during the signup process which often leads to teams playing down to win or overestimating their talent and going home with some losses and orange slices as consolation.  At a bonspiel, it’s different.

This bracket is not in comic sans.

This bracket is not in comic sans.

Instead of single or double elimination, bonspiels have a game guarantee.  For The Big Spiel (and yes, I do say it like THE Ohio State University), it’s a four game guarantee, while for less massive spiels it’s typically three games.  As you win or lose in the first three games of the Big Spiel, you move into different Events.  If my team wins our first game, we stay in the Event A bracket, and if we lose, we move to Event B.  Losing the second game might drop us to Event C, and so on.  After three games, you have all of the 3-0 teams in one Event, all the 0-3 teams in another bracket and so on a so forth for each permutation of results (this feels a lot like math, but I promise it isn’t).  Now that the teams are sorted into some sense of skill level, game four becomes essential for survival.  Everyone who wins that fourth game stays in the bracket and everyone who loses is out.  So yes, you could be 3-1 and you are metaphorically golfing with a team that is 0-4.  The rest of the way out, it is single elimination.  Until you have winners for each Event—in this case eight teams will have a chance to compete for an event title.  It keeps it interesting for less experienced curlers and lets you know how you stack up.  The guarantee games are completed by Saturday night which means the goal for nearly all curlers is to play on Sunday.

Even if you don’t make it to Sunday, there is still breakfast to be chewed and beer to be swallowed which also means that once you lose at a bonspiel, it never really means you are out.  As bonspiels are as much a social event as they are a curling tournament, there’s plenty of opportunity to share in the fun even after you are eliminated.  You entry fee did help buy the kegs, and they aren’t going to drink themselves.

#Tweet4Meat 2014

For those of you who don’t like words and reading and stuff, you can donate here: Tweet4Meat.

As I write this, I’m eating a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich–which is like the most delicious Triple Crown of animal products this side of the magical turducken. All too often, we take for granted that we can pop down to the store and buy anything we want to eat, or after a few beers, all of the things.

However, to be a little less uplifting, there are millions of people in this world who don’t get to transition from a pumpkin spice latte to a peppermint mocha. Tweet4Meat gives you an opportunity to help those less fortunate and lead them down the path of hating kale.

This Again?

Yes, this again. In the last three years, #Tweet4Meat has raised $15,452 for Heifer International. If all of that money was spent on honey bees, it could create 515 bee beards for those in need. Spent on women’s empowerment? 56 girls get to go to school.  #Tweet4Meat is a great opportunity to help the international community and to raise people out of poverty.

What is Tweet for Meat?

#Tweet4Meat is a week-long event where some of the brightest and funniest people on Twitter tell jokes and encourage people to donate to Heifer International so that we can make the world a better place. This year it starts on Taco Tuesday, December 9th and runs through Taco Tuesday, December 16th.

Who is Heifer International?

Their own words are better than mine:

We empower families to turn hunger and poverty into hope and prosperity – but our approach is more than just giving them a handout. Heifer links communities and helps bring sustainable agriculture and commerce to areas with a long history of poverty. Our animals provide partners with both food and reliable income, as agricultural products such as milk, eggs and honey can be traded or sold at market.

When many families gain this new sustainable income, it brings new opportunities for building schools, creating agricultural cooperatives, forming community savings and funding small businesses.

What Can I Do to Help?

The most important thing you can do is to donate here: Tweet4Meat2014. You can also favorite and retweet the Tweet4Meat jokes you enjoy and write your own with the #Tweet4Meat hashtag. Please note: We do not get some mythical donation for every retweet. That would be cool, but it doesn’t exist. Tweet and retweet with enthusiasm, but don’t forget to donate!

I’m a Vegan, Why Should I Help? Also, Did I Mention I’m a Vegan? Vegan.

Some people are under the misconception that #Tweet4Meat is paying to airlift hamburgers to remote places in the world. Those people are dumb. Heifer International supports sustainable agriculture and education. Including helping to empower women in places where they’ve never even heard of a Kardashian. Now, just because you can waddle down to the gluten free, vegan frozen yogurt shop whenever you want, doesn’t mean everyone else can.

Participants

UncleDynamite JuicyMorselVocabuLarryFlyoverJoelgneiccoSmethanieOhNoSheTwitntCabbageNewsTheBoshaTheWallStBullHeyitsLorishanetheveinLifeCoachersSteveHuffBDGarpGreeblehausHome_Halfway LaetPOshariv67theguydf longwall26primawesomeMariyaAlexanderFattMernandez $pencerpleatedjeansPeachCoffin DothTheDoth LizHackettWigCannon – chris_stellerDanielRCarrilloyobully –  PoguePhilosophyLostCatDog – Playing_Dad ImaFlyontheWallUrplePingoScottLinnenWarrenHolsteinBuckyIsotopeSamGrittnerYoyohaErin Mallory LongShawnGarrett  – ManginaMcCooldragnutgoldengateblondVerifiedDrunkTheNardvarkIGotsSmartsAmberTozer WetzelGeekTheThomasonSCbchbumGrowlyGregotheblowout MarcusTheTokenCh8rmingStellacopter marcmacksusie_meisterRexHuppkeMrWordsWorthheymonroeJennyPentlandAaronFullertonReelQuinnCheeseboy22samuelheard – FilthyRichmondrobfeetheleanoverRockabillyJayexlibris ProfessorSnackCoatCzechCodyMelcherEsqbrentcetera – jerryRenekcpinckUNTRESOR dietredbulldrivewaydrankerTwiterHerobehindyourbackanythingatoncekarentozzivladchocjuskewitchlafixhiimlesfrozensighsangelahelgaJohn_M15 HormonelladorsalstreamPauly_MillerToneLoafcurlycomedycortronicSortaBadKyle_LippertTheThryllMrBigFistssucittaMNicCageMatchkelkulustinynietzschenorthpacificTravonBillMc7MmeLaCroozKAH4553slyoung5RistolableSamReidSaysJedfudallyanythingatoncejwyniacalluptomekeplyqManda_like_wine

Want to be on this list of amazing people? Let me or @JuicyMorsel know on the TwittersDotCom.

Halloween: Get on My Lawn (Please)

I wandered into my neighborhood liquor store on Wednesday to pick up a six pack of aiming juice for curling and noticed they were setting up for Halloween.

“So, you guys going to hand out little bottles of liquor to the kids?”  (This is my favorite old man liquor store joke next to “It’s not like I’m going to return it,” when asked if I want a copy of my receipt).

“No, we are going to give little tastes of wine to any parents who want one, and we have all of that for the kids.”

I looked to my left and saw three massive pumpkins full of individually wrapped, tiny, plastic sealed sugar goodness.  There isn’t a king sized pillowcase in the world that could have hauled off that diabetic booty.

My heart sank a little bit since I knew that parents feel more comfortable letting their kids get candy from a store than to actually take them door-to-door through our neighborhood.

Here’s what happens every year:

We buy a bunch of candy and get really excited to see all of the kids in their costumers—little Batkids, robots, ghosts and football players (I expect a lot of Jared Allens tonight as nothing says “fun” like dressing your child up in a number 69 jersey) being forced to mumble “thank you” by their parents all night.  Then a few hours before the big event, get really irritated at the grocery store as all of the kids are in massive lines, blocking everything I need to get to (mixers and cheese) because they are trick-or-treating INSIDE the store.  Between 5:30 and 7, maybe ten kids stop by our house for candy.  Then we have a break until 8 PM, when the high school kids show up uncostumed.  By the third one of them, I drop an entire bag of no-longer-fun sized candy into the kid’s bag and turn off the porch light.

Normally when we talk about the commercialization of a holiday, we think of CVS stocking Christmas stuff in October or Valentine’s Day chocolates the day after Christmas.  We talk about how holidays exist solely for the purpose of selling us stuff, and not how companies are taking the holiday from us.  Minimum wage retail employees being forced to work on Thanksgiving Day is the real war on Christmas.  That’s not a real door buster HDTV, Charlie Brown.

Instead of Smarties from the odd family on the corner house, it’s Peppermint Patties at Subway.  Rather than chatting about how cold it is with our neighbors, it’s kale chips at Whole Foods.  “I hear the Trader Joe’s is handing out full flax-seed bars! Score!”

One year when I was little, I got a pair of white dress shoes from my grandpa and borrowed a briefcase from my dad.  I slicked back my hair, put on a red sweater vest and went as a door-to-door insurance salesman, thereby illustrating my generation’s well developed sense of irony before I even understood what irony was.  Also, my briefcase was stocked with candy cigarettes.  I predated the integration of Halloween and companies years before I had the tables turned on me.

This isn’t Citizens United; these are just some employees handing out candy in lieu of me getting to do it.
Much like the tiny shopping carts advertising “customers in training,” this too perpetuates the concept that commerce is essential to our identity.  It defines our communities by our stores rather than by our people.

Maybe I’m just turning into a cranky old man, but one night a year I do want kids on my lawn.

On the bright side, I hear Chipotle is handing out cups of guac.