What I Learned – Playing Putt-Putt with Chad Marshall

(This post is part of the continuing series called, “What I Learned.” In this series, I keep track of things that sparked my brain during different events and experiences.)

I’ve long said that the Seattle Sounders do more smart things for their fans and supporters than any team I’ve ever run across. Last week, they held a small event, hosting a pub night at a local bar near the stadium. The bar features a 9 hole indoor putt-pitt course, and as luck would have it, I got to play mini-golf with Sounders CB Chad Marshall and LM Aaron Kovar.

Both guys were great. Marshall was drinking a beer, and talking about golf and his 2 year old kid. Kovar is a friendly kid who looks like a guy you’d sit next to on a bus, going to his job at Amazon.
Of course, I didn’t think of anything really good to ask them until I was already home, but I did learn one thing. We talked a little about language barriers and how the team deals with that in training. Marshall admitted it’s a real problem for teams. Each team has interpreters on staff to translate what the coaches are saying in terms of strategy and game plans. But on the field for example, some players only speak Spanish, one only speaks French, and some – including the Goalkeeper – only speak English. So when a team is defending free kicks, basically the only words they can say to each other are “left, right, and back.”
My takeaway – whenever you see a goal scored from a free kick, especially if someone lost their mark, there was probably some sort of miscommunication between guys who speak different languages. I can only imagine what it must be like in Eurpoean leagues.

The Meat-Free Experiment is Underway

I’ve never contemplated vegetarianism. And no matter how long I live in Seattle, I can never see myself paying an extra $3 for a “sustainable” sandwich.

But I like experiments, so I have one underway. From May 17 – May 30, I’m going meat free.

I’m trading the steaks for salmon, bacon for yoghurt, and sandwiches for salads. Just to see how my body reacts to a meatless diet.

I’m starting this experiment about 20 pounds above where I’d like to be. I’m not changing any other aspects of my diet or exercise plan, to truly see how meat affects weight gain or loss. I’m also curious what this will do for my mood, sleep habits, energy level and more.

So, if I seem grouchy in the next few weeks while you inhale a T-bone and I choose the Ahi salad, this is why. And if you have tips on how to replace meat with other protein, please let me know.

Andy vs the Woodpeckers

Round 1:
Sometimes in the beginning of a war, only the protagonist knows that the war has started. In the saga of Andy vs the Woodpeckers, this was the case.

The evil Woodpecker staged a sneak attack one morning with a small series of annoying, but not overly damaging, pings on the side of the house. It wasn’t constant, it wasn’t overly obnoxious; it was just a few taps on the Northeast corner of my house. All I needed to do was tap back at the wall and he would flee. It seemed innocent enough.
Round 1 Winner: Draw
Woodpecker-2

Round 2:
Little did I know that this was the beginning of an invasion, and the WP’s were staking their claim. After about a week, it became clear that the enemy had entrenched itself. The tapping became constant. And it was more than a single woodpecker. It was a whole platoon. They were taking shifts. My tapping back was no longer a deterrent. They had gathered enough intelligence to know nothing was coming through that wall.
Round 2 Winner: Woodpeckers

Round 3:
Thus I had to regroup. I said to myself, “This will be easy. Surely, the internet has dealt with woodpeckers before. I will ask my friend Google for advice.” And Google did not fail me. There were lots of easy tips for deterring woodpeckers. I could attach tin foil to my wall. I could put a fake owl on my gutter. The list of ways to deter a woodpecker was nearly endless. And so, I walked to the northeast corner of my house, unfurled my 12 foot ladder, scaled as high as felt reasonably safe and realized I was still a good 15 feet away from where the deviants were pecking. I looked to my right and saw the nearest window that could be opened was about 50 feet away. Barring the unlikely event that I would learn to fly, there was going to be no easy way to attach tin foil to my wall 25 feet above the ground and 50 feet from a window.
Round 3 Winner: Woodpeckers

Round 4:
“Woodpeckers are probably easily scared,” I naively said to myself. “All I need to do is frighten the woodpecker. When he pecks on the wall, I will hurl a penny with my left hand from 50 feet away. I will scare him off and he’ll know not to mess with me.” And so, when one of my winged attackers attached himself to my abode, I took a penny and chucked it at him from 50 feet away.

Needless to say, I did not hit him.

I did make some noise with my toss and he flew away. First it took him about 20 minutes to come back, so I threw another penny and he flew away again. This time it took him 10 minutes to return. I threw another penny and 5 minutes later he was back. We danced to this song a few more times until he realized he only needed to fly away for 15 seconds or so to get me to leave the window.

About a hundred yards way, I could see a collection of woodpeckers congregating in a tree. I think one may have been taking tickets. I’m pretty sure they were all laughing at me.

Round 4 Winner: Woodpeckers

Round 5:
“I’m a reasonably intelligent human. I’ve seen McGyver. There is a way to get this tin foil on the wall,” I said to the amusement of the fates. On a piece of paper, I had drawn the perfect solution.

  • I would attach a nail just under my window and tie a 75 yard string to it.
  • Then I’d drop the ball of string to the ground, walk it over to a tree near the edge of the house and throw the string over the tree branch.
  • I would then bring the ball of string back towards the window, and hurl it 20 feet into the air, through the open window.
  • I could then tie the 2nd end of the string tight and create a “laundry line” which would pass directly by where the woodpeckers were doing their damage.
  • I would then use clips and attach a nice long strip of tin foil, and attach a long string to the tin foil that would reach the ground.
  • I could then pull the tin foil along the string until I reached the place I wanted to leave it. Easy.

Foil Plan 2

I attached the nail, dropped the string to the ground and began bringing the string across. That’s when I noticed the other trees on the side of my house and the branches that were making it difficult (read: impossible) to get the string through. After a few minutes, I managed to get the string to the target tree, got it over the branch and headed back. Now the branches really grabbed hold of the string. I pulled my way through and prepared to launch the ball through the 3rd floor window.

Foil Plan 3

My first attempt was close, but not successful. My 2nd attempt less so, to the point that the ball of string came back to earth through the tree branches. Attempts 3 thru 10 were similar in nature. Finally – SUCCESS! The ball of string made it through my window. I excitedly bound up stairs and got ready to revel in my win. I grabbed the string and started to coil it in so that I could have my taut laundry line in which to slide my tin foil across.

First there was a slight tug as the string caught a tree branch. I pulled it through. Then there were more tugs, as the tree opened all its fingers and grasped on to any bit of string it could find. The string was not coming up any further. I would not have a taut laundry line, all I would have was a tree full of string.
Round 5 winner: Woodpeckers

Round 6:
That was the end of one day of suffering and I decided to sleep on it and look for more solutions in the morning. So Monday, I headed over to Fred Meyer and asked the nice lady in the Garden Center if they had a Woodpecker Removal kit. When she said, “No, but I think we have some things for rodents or bugs,” my confidence waned. I was going to have to create a solution. 1st stop – some sort of garden sprayer so that I could poison the whole area where these evil creatures were burrowing. 2nd stop – the toy section and the purchase of a high powered Nerf gun.
I tried the poison first, spraying the side of my house high enough that no insect will ever return. This did not phase the woodpecker in the slightest. He was asking – no begging – to be shot with the Nerf gun.

Nerf Gun

This thing can shoot 75 feet, so my target would be well within the range from my window next time he came over. It was almost too easy.

It wasn’t long before I heard his return. He sat himself on the wall and started banging. I leaned myself out the window took aim. If he saw me, he didn’t show it. This was one cool cat. I lined up the shot, calculating for wind, distance and the unknown variable – how much velocity does a Nerf bullet actually bring to the equation.

I had him in my sights. He was all lined up. For a brief moment, I felt bad about what I was about to do.

That moment passed. I pulled the trigger.

The missile sailed a good foot over his head, as I was surprised by how much speed the missile had. The surprised woodpecker noticed immediately how lucky he was to be alive and fled. Surely, almost being shot would keep him from coming back.

10 minutes later, he was back. Once again, I shot and missed, and he fled. He came back. I shot and missed, and he fled. He came back. I shot and missed, and he fled.

We did this another 10 times or so, me firing from different angles and spots around the perimeter. This plan may work eventually, but I did not have the patience to keep it up.
Round 6 Winner: Woodpeckers

Round 7:
Google couldn’t solve my problem, so I crowd-sourced an answer on Facebook. The obvious solution was raised for me – Helium Balloons!

Just my luck, it’s the day after Easter and QFC was stuck with a ton of Mylar “Happy Easter” Balloons that the florist said he’d sell me for $.99. And he threw in 30 feet of ribbon for fun (or because he just wanted me to leave.) I wasn’t sure how many balloons was the proper amount for Woodpecker removal, but 3 seemed like the right number.
balloons

I tied 12 feet of ribbon to the 2 feet already attached. With my ladder still perched against the wall, I climbed to the 12th foot and tied the balloon to its anchor. The balloon swayed back and forth, never going more than about 10 feet from the Woodpecker’s target, but always returning home.

3 hours later, the balloon is still up and the Woodpeckers have not returned. This isn’t a long term solution, but we can put this day in the books.

Round 7 Winner: Andy

I Went To A Mariners Game… And It Was Fun

We are 4.32% of the way through the MLB season. And your Seattle Mariners are in 1st place.

Sure, we still have about 1,395 innings to play. And a lot of things can go wrong during those innings. But for 9 innings yesterday on a rainy April evening, it was FUN to be in Safeco Field. I can’t remember the last time I said that.

I’ve “enjoyed myself” at Safeco Field a few times in the last 5 years. I’ve also “spent time with friends” there. But I can’t remember the last time a combination of optimism, anticipation, energy and crowd noise equaled a “fun time.”

But there I was, watching Corey Hart hit two home runs to lead the 1st place Mariners to a come from behind win over the arch-rival Angels in front of a sold out and loud stadium. Look at all those words I haven’t been able to use in a long time to describe the Seattle 9:
– Two home runs
– Win
– Come from behind
– Loud
– Sold out
– 1st place

I’m not going to project that the Mariners will still be in 1st place on Sept 1 and that we’ll be in a playoff race. I won’t presume that the next 1,395 innings will be devoid of heartache, injury or frustration.

But I will enjoy this time. Top of the standings, a potential Cy Young winner and some young exciting players, combining to make baseball fun again. That’s all we can ask for.

The Best Pumpkin Seed Recipe

Relax… this isn’t going to become a food blog.  But ’tis the season for candy and jack-o-lanterns. And I took the guts and remains of my small little pumpkin the other day and turned them into something worth sharing.

So here’s the recipe for the best pumpkin seeds you’ll ever eat.  They are so good that people who don’t like pumpkin seeds will like them.

Prep:

  1. Wash pumpkin seeds
  2. Lay seeds on a slightly tilted cookie sheet to drain and dry them overnight for 24 hours.
  3. When you get grief from impatient people about the 24 hour drying process, ignore the impatient people and go to sleep.

After 24 hours:

  1. Melt a few tablespoons of butter in a bowl.
  2. Mix in salt (just a little to start).
  3. Mix in cayenne pepper (about the same amount as salt).
  4. Mix in white pepper (little less than the cayenne).
  5. Mix in black pepper (little less than the white pepper).
  6. Mix in brown sugar (your choice).
  7. Stir the seeds around the melted butter and spices, and give the mixture a taste. It should be sweet, then bring a little kick about 3-5 seconds later.
  8. Reseason to taste. More sugar and heat.
  9. Stick in the pre-heated oven at 300 degrees for 30 minutes.
  10. Take out the seeds and shake them around to wake them up.
  11. Put them back in for another 15 minutes.
  12. Take them out and put them in a bowl.

Trust me. These are the best seeds you’ll eat. And the best part is that you are able to take the healthiest part of this candy-gasmic holiday and turn it into a sugary butter bomb.

Happy Halloween.

Lessons From Launching New Products

We started toying around with the idea of Relaborate a little more than a year ago, in late 2011. In the beginning, we weren’t really sure what was going to happen with it, but everybody we talked to seemed to think it was a really cool idea.

These last months have been a great education in learning the differences between a “really cool idea” and “something that I immediately want to invest money in.”

There are a lot of hurdles to jump through to raise money. It’s not about the idea. It’s about being able to quantify an addressable market, convincing people your team is solid from top to bottom, and showing enough of the product that they can see the potential without criticizing the present MVP version.

It’s been a long and funny road, and I’m sure like any entrepreneurial organization, we’ve made some missteps along the way. But here we are in April 2013, with a brand new release of the product that we really think is starting to live up to the expectations we had when we first conceived it. And other people are saying nice things too.

So I guess my moral for this personal blog post is that it’s never just about the idea. Ideas are easy. People invest in execution. So if you have something that you’re sure will be a success, keep plugging away at it. Don’t expect to be rewarded for simply having an idea. The real effort is in taking that idea and making it something somebody else will understand and use.

They say there’s a very thin line between being an entrepreneur and simply being insane, and we probably straddled that line a few times in the recent months. After all, to start a new company you have to build something that no one else thinks is worth building, or they’d be doing it themselves. There’s something a little inherently nuts in that.

So if your reader of this blog, I expect you to run over to Relaborate.com and sign up for the trial of our new product. Read this blog and if you know me, I’m sure you’ll end up getting a discount (if you ask). Let your marketing people test it out, and if you end up bringing it in your organization, you know I’ll be the first one by you a round of drinks.

Relaborate Photo Search

Speaking Today at Market Mix 2013

I hope to see some of you today at MarketMix 2013. I’ll be speaking in one of the Breakout Sessions, talking about how to add Storytelling to your Content Marketing Plan. If that’s not enough incentive, I also brought along Rebecca Lovell of Vittana and Billy Pettit of Pillar Properties.

If you want to cheat, here’s the presentation I’ll be giving.

Where are all the Blog Posts?

So I’m getting this question a lot.

“I thought you were some sort of social media guy. In fact, I thought you were part of a start-up that helps bloggers. What’s with your blog with no updates?”

Excellent question. Easy answers.

There are a few different places where I’m publishing these days.

  • For thoughts on start-ups and content marketing, I suggest you check out my posts over on the Relaborate blog.
  • For some coomentary on social media and marketing, you can check out my occasional posts on the Social3i blog.
  • For great insight to start-up marketing, I urge you to read the great content being produced by the UW MBA students in the Entrepreneurial Marketing class I teach.  They’re producing some great stuff on the blog there.

Sadly, AndyBoyer.com falls 4th on the list.  We’ll try to get some content up here, but feel free to check out the other sites as well.

Man vs Plumbing, or, The Great Kitchen Sink Adventure

It all started innocently enough.

It was a Friday morning that looked like any other Friday morning.  Except this time, as I headed through the kitchen on my way to work, I noticed the sink was backed up.  I’m not very handy, so these kind of things fill me with dread.  So, I walked over and followed the process adhered to by every man who suffers from my lack of home improvement ability.

  1. Look at sink and say to self, “(Sigh) This doesn’t look good.”
  2. Turn on garbage disposal, and think, “I’m a genius” as the water goes away.  However, as soon as the disposal was turned off, the water returned.
  3. Stare at garbage disposal and try to figure out what law of physics caused Step 2.
  4. Grab plunger, plunge, and watch water spray out of the silly useless little release valve on top of the sink that I had never noticed before.  Plunge more, and notice how all the water from one side of the sink was being pushed into the other side of the sink.  Stop plunging, and watch the water return to its original home.
  5. Look under the sink.  I’m not sure why we do this.  It’s like we’re expecting to see a little elf with his hand stuck up the pipe, and a sly mischievous grin saying, “Ha, you caught me.”
  6. Look at sink again and say, “Well maybe it will magically fix itself while I’m at work.”

I successfully made it through all 6 steps, and headed to work.  And to my surprise and delight, when I returned home, the sink was clear.  Sure, there was residue, but no more clog.  Life was good.  I was a home repair genius for not panicking.

Now just to be safe, I called for a moratorium on kitchen sink usage.  I wanted to make sure we were safe.  No dishwasher, no washing machine, no sink.  And so when I looked that evening at a messy (but not smelly) kitchen sink with dirty water backed up, I had to scratch my head.  Where did that water come from?  I decided to worry about that later.

Attempt 2: The solution seemed easy enough.  If it was a clogged kitchen sink pipe, all I needed to do was undo the pipes, find the clog,  replace pipes. Piece of cake.  So, I emptied the sink out the kitchen window, pulled out the pipes and…..found no clog. (Sigh).  Now I had an empty sink, but one that wasn’t connected to the pipe system.

Attempt 3: After careful consideration, it was now my expert plumbing opinion that there was a clog somewhere below the second floor.  So I grabbed about a gallon of Drano, and dumped it down the kitchen wall pipes.  Surely, a gallon of Drano would do the trick.  Environment be damned.  It was with a certain amount of displeasure that I watched the Drano come back out of the wall pipe, and into the bucket below the pipes.   Side effect – Child was starting to find this quite funny, and I was becoming a trending topic in her text world.

Attempt 4: It was clear I needed some professional help here, so I consulted the place that all amateur home repairmen go – the Internet.  And the Web provided a genius solution – the baking soda and vinegar bomb.  Child was particularly excited to find out how this would play out, as my battle with the pipes was achieving Movie of the Week status, and her frequent updates were giving her unemployed friends something to focus on.  So the next day, I carefully mixed a few boxes of baking soda with water and salt, and poured them down the pipes.  Then I dumped a bottle of white vinegar down the pipes.  I could hear the compound getting ready to fizzle back up, so I shoved a sock in the pipe to force the mixture in the right direction.  In my head, I imagined a gigantic, organic explosion, blasting its way through my invisible clog, like a supernova soaring through space……In reality, I have no idea what happened, but the clog seemed unfazed.  All I had were pipes with baking soda in them.

Now, somewhere along this time we had a discovery.  Remember, I still never figured out how that sink filled with water again a few days back.  However, suddenly upstairs I heard a toilet flush, and watched with horror as water came from the pipes and filled my bucket.  Our problem was somehow related to the pipes associated with the toilet upstairs.  Not a happy discovery. The upside was that now we had introduced a new set of drama into Child’s broadcasts, and ratings were up.

Attempt 5: It was time to do some real man’s work on this thing, so the next day, I commandeered a 25′ snake from a friend, and shoved it down the pipe.  I went down 25′ without issue.  No blockage.  I thought maybe I had saved the day, and confidently went back upstairs to flush a clean toilet just to test and confirm my successful snaking effort.  Alas….I once again had a full bucket.  At least the water was clean.

Attempt 6: It was time for some real professional macho man work on this thing, so I did what us men do when we want to release our inner caveman.  We head to Home Depot and rent big tools.  Tools so big, they get their own room in the back corner of the store, back where women refuse to wander. In this case, I got the big ol’ 100′ mechanical snake to run through the clean out valve.  It was dirty, heavy and nasty, and I prepped myself for the mess that would come from opening the clean out valve.  Except….. I couldn’t get the clean out valve open.  It was glued shut.  Now, I could have forced it open, but I took a moment to pause and reflect.  Whoever had built my house had gone through a lot of work to stop a yahoo like me from successfully acting upon the thought that it would be a good idea to open the pipe.  He obviously knew something I didn’t, and I trusted that opinion.  The clean out valve would stay closed, and I would return the super snake.  Child had mixed emotions on this.  She was anxious for some real open pipe drama – though admittedly less so when she realized the clean out valve was in her room.

So now we’re close to a week without sink, laundry, dish washer or upstairs toilet, and the natives are getting restless.  But I’ve invested enough hours into this process that stubbornness trumps practicality.  It’s been kind of the theme for the month anyway, dealing with some toxic people and situations, so what’s one more.

Attempt 7: There seems to be one solution left, and if I had known what I know now, it would have been Attempt #1, not #7.  It’s time to remove the toilet, and go in through the pipe.  I’ve never removed a toilet before.  It certainly doesn’t look hard on YouTube, so what the heck.  I get another mechanical snake, this time a slightly smaller 75′ version.  And I go to work on it.

I’m not going to lie, it took me a good 20 minutes to figure out how to use this machinery without either getting my hand or shirt stuck in the wire and almost getting flipped upside down.  I mean, there was a pretty good chunk of time where that snake was beating the heck out of anything in the bathroom that it wanted to.   But for the grace of god did I make it through that “training period” with all my fingers and not winding the power cord into the spinny thing.  But I eventually settled into a nice rhythm, and only had to jump out of the way and hit the emergency stop button every 10-15 minutes or so.

And then suddenly, success!  There was a silence down the hole, as whatever the snake had been banging on for 30 minutes finally gave way.  I recoiled the snake, and the size of the clog I brought back up made me pretty sure I’d solved the problem.

I was riding a pretty high level of confidence, and thus the re-assembly of the sinks and toilets were accomplished at a speed normally reserved for someone who knows what they are doing, not me.  It was a pretty crowning achievement in my home repair merit badge list.  I felt like Foursquare should have a check-in for “I fixed my plumbing” and give me 100 points.

Anyway that’s my story.  9 days, 3 snakes, 4 trips to Home Depot, 2 trips to hardware stores, a gallon of Drano, a few boxes and bottles of Baking Soda and Vinegar, and about $80 in supplies.  But in this episode of Man vs Plumbing…..Man wins.

2 Weeks to Rock and Roll Half-Marathon

I was recently asked the following. “So, after the lip surgery, funky knee thing, bizarre disc thing in your back, and freakazoid frostbite incident with the dry ice, did you finally accept that the fates are telling you to bail out of the 1/2 Marathon?”

Well, I’m actually THAT stubborn. I’m not bailing out.  I just stopped writing about the training.  

There’s no question that I’m going to be one of the slower perfromers.  I’ve done a few 8 mile runs so far, and it’s clear that while 13 miles will be doable, my time is not going to be impressive.

But with 2 weeks left, there’s still time for some slight improvements.  Barring any other “out of left field injuries,” look for some results here 2 weeks from today.