Gas Rationing In Minnesota?

I went to fill up my tank last night at a Super America in St. Paul because news reports were telling me that gas prices were going to go through the roof (as if they were not already through the roof). So there I am, pumping gas into the Wrangler at a $2.79/gallon clip and I get to about thirty some-odd bucks and click there’s no more gas coming out of the nozzle. The trigger has no pressure, it’s slack.

You know how sometimes you have to hold the trigger of the gas pump just so to get it to pump without it turning off and how bloody maddening it is because when that happens the gas usually comes out in a tinsy little trickle? I figured that was gonna be the case here. But I had no luck at all. The thing just wouldn’t pump any more gas.

All right. Whatever. I went in and paid and was on my merry if not much poorer way. I looked at the tank and noticed that I’d only gotten three quarters of a tank of gas. I vaguely thought of gas rationing.

Well, I spoke to a colleague today and they had the exact same experience at an SA in Robbinsdale. No jiggering the pump trigger. Nothing. Only three-quarters of a tank of gas.

There’s only one conculsion: Super America Is Rationing Minnesotan’s gas!

Political Marketing

I just found this great political marketing story from Corey Anderson‘s post over at the City Pages Blotter: The Canadian National Post has a story dated August 23 about Bush’s recent speech in Idaho. The story was unremarkable enough but for the picture that accompanies it:


A Bullshit Protector! I love the ear flap. This is about the cleverest, and most effective political marketing tactic I’ve seen since the Clinton campaign had people dressed in chicken suits follow George Herbert Walker Bush around to highlight the fact he refused to debate Clinton.


Help Victims Of Hurricane Katrina

I remember the horror and pity I felt when watching the coverage of the Southeast Asia Tsunami. I’m feeling the same thing as I watch coverage of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Help out however you can. Here’s a FEMA press release to tell you how:

Cash Sought To Help Hurricane Victims, Volunteers Should NOT Self-Dispatch

Washington, D.C. – Voluntary organizations are seeking cash donations to assist victims of Hurricane Katrina in Gulf Coast states, according to Michael D. Brown, Under Secretary of Homeland Security for Emergency Preparedness and Response. But, volunteers should not report directly to the affected areas unless directed by a voluntary agency.

"Cash donations are especially helpful to victims," Brown said. "They allow volunteer agencies to issue cash vouchers to victims so they can meet their needs. Cash donations also allow agencies to avoid the labor-intensive need to store, sort, pack and distribute donated goods. Donated money prevents, too, the prohibitive cost of air or sea transportation that donated goods require."

Volunteer agencies provide a wide variety of services after disasters, such as clean up, childcare, housing repair, crisis counseling, sheltering and food. "We’re grateful for the outpouring of support already," Brown said. "But it’s important that volunteer response is coordinated by the professionals who can direct volunteers with the appropriate skills to the hardest-hit areas where they are needed most. Self-dispatched volunteers and especially sightseers can put themselves and others in harm’s way and hamper rescue efforts."

Here is a list of phone numbers set up solely for cash donations and/or volunteers.

Donate cash to:

American Red Cross
1-800-HELP NOW (435-7669) English,
1-800-257-7575 Spanish;

Operation Blessing

America’s Second Harvest

Donate Cash to and Volunteer with:

Adventist Community Services

Catholic Charities, USA
703 549-1390

Christian Disaster Response
941-956-5183 or 941-551-9554

Christian Reformed World Relief Committee

Church World Service

Convoy of Hope

Lutheran Disaster Response

Mennonite Disaster Service

Nazarene Disaster Response

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance

Salvation Army
1-800-SAL-ARMY (725-2769)

Southern Baptist Convention — Disaster Relief
1-800-462-8657, ext. 6440

United Methodist Committee on Relief

For further information: visit the website for the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD).

Ciatrick Fason To Get The Nod?

The Pioneer Press is reporting today that rookie running back Ciatrick Fason will likely start for the final preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks. I sure hope so because I’ve liked what I’ve seen from Fason duringg the limited carries he’s gotten thus far. It will be nice to see what he can do with some extended playing time.

I’ve said before that I’m impressed with his ability to make lateral cuts. That’s what he has in common with Mewelde Moore. As good as Moore is, it’s awfully painful to watch him get run down from behind by linebackers. Fason, is a step or two quicker than Moore, so he has that going for him, which is nice. Michael Bennett, on the other hand, has a two or three steps on both of those guys but, Jeeezus, will he ever remain healthy for an entire season?!?

What I want to see from Fason is how capapble he is of picking up blitzes and if he can catch. Check out my Vikings training camp post for video of Fason and my Minnesota Vikings’ 2005 Draft Picks post for Fason’s profile and video clips of him rushing for Florida.

Yesterday, I wondered why the Bears have such an affinity with players with unpronounceable names; well, the Vikings have one of their own in running back Adimchinobe Echemandu, who looked impressive last week against the Chargers. He, too, should get some extended playing time with Bennett and Moore on the bench.

Bears Acquire Another Unpronounceable Player

What is it about the Chicago Bears and players with unpronounceable names?

Last year, the Vikings’ division rival traded wide receiver Marty Booker to Miami for defensive end Adewale Ogunleye. Today, the Bears sent a tight end to the Dolphins for line backer Brendon Ayanbadejo. And both players they got from Miami. Hmmmm….

And, in case you haven’t heard, the Bears finally signed the fourth overall pick, running back Cedric Benson.

NFC North Preview

The good news is that Chad Hutchinson won’t have the Vikings to kick around anymore. That’s not to say that the Vikings are going anywhere; but Hutchinson sure is. The bench, specifically. He’s been demoted in favor of Kyle Orton, the rookie quarterback the Bears took with their fouth round pick.

You’ll recall that Hutchinson’s sole claim to greatness was that he absolutely tore up the Viking’s defense last year at Solidier Field. For VIkings fans, that would officially qualify him as a horrible quarterback but the Bears made it officially official by promoting Orton.

Thanks to the miracle of the NFL Network, I DVRed the Bears and the Packers games, so I was able to check out our NFC North rivals and things look good for the Vikings as far as those two division rivals are concerned.

You gotta feel for the Bears, despite the fact that they’re a division opponent. They have had such a long drought at quarterback, it’s almost painful. During the few games I’ve seen Grossman play, he sure looks like he’s got what it takes to be an NFL quaterback. Unfortunately, it sure looks like he’s got what it takes to get injured easily, as well.

I watched the Bears play the Colts last week and the Bills this week and two things stood out: 1) They have an agressive, awesome defense and, 2) Chad Hutchinson has no business taking snaps in the NFL.

Hutchinson could not, for the life of him, look off a receiver. Thus the interceptions. Orton, on the other hand, looked confident, made quick decisions and got the ball out of his hands quickly. To be fair, I have seen much less of Orton than I have of Hutchinson, but still; Orton’s demeanor says he knows he belongs, Hutchinson’s does not.

But he is still a rookie, and a fourth-round rookie at that, so expect the Bears to dramatically limit what he can do and to focus on the run game. That plan would be even better if they ever sign their top pick, running back Cedric Benson. The plan, then, against the Bears should be simple: Shut down the running game and then put the pressure on the rookie and force him to make mistakes.

The Packers

The good news here is that the Pack looks ab-so-LUTE-ly awful. Granted, they did play the World Champion Patriots but the Pat’s offense sliced through the Packers’ D like butter. I was salivating just watching, thinking what Daunte will do against this bunch.

Brett Farve had one of those games where he just laid an egg. He was just pathetic. He tossed three interceptions, one of which was called back due to a penalty. On the first two picks, there was no receiver in the vacinity. On the last interception, Farve just tried to force the ball to a reciever on an out pattern, even though he was double-covered.

I’m not telling you this because it’s any big revelation. There’s no denying he’s a great quarterback, I’m sure he’s still got gas in the tank, and we’ve all seen him have the occasional off day where he cannot make a play to save his life.

I’m telling you this because you should have heard the Green Bay announcer for the game. Oh my gawd, what a homer!! He couldn’t simply acknowledge what was apparent to everyone but, I guess, him: That Farve was playing horribly.

No, instead, he laid the blame anywhere but with Farve. It’s true that the Packers have a major problem at both guard positions, but after each interception, the color commentator said, "I sure do hope that this season is not going to be one where Brett is going to have to make all the plays for his team."

After I’d just watched Farve throw the ball directly into the gut of a Patriot defender with no Packer in sight, this goofball is telling me that the reason is that Farve is trying so hard to make a play while surrounded by piss poor talent? Wrong.

It was amazing. The guy said pretty much the same thing after all three interceptions.

The bottom line, though, for the Packers’ offense is that they are one big hurting unit without their dearly departed guards, Rivera and Wahl. It was eminiently clear that Farve was rushing his passes due to the pressure.

Vikings Vs. Chargers

Turns out, it was a good thing the game wasn’t broadcast in high definition television because it would have only served to magnify the mistakes the first-teamers made.

Just as they did against the Jets, the first-team offense was plagued by false starts in what would otherwise have been a decent performance. Daunte Culpepper again looked sharp, spreading the ball around, calling some nice audibles, avoiding pressure, buying time, and hitting recceivers in stride or out of the reach of defenders. Mewelde Moore, starting in place of the injured Michael Bennett, again looked sharp and more capable of bouncing runs outside than Bennett.

Honestly, the running back situation is rather frustrating. You so often see Moore running in open field but getting run down from behind by a linebacker or a lineman or something and the first thing you think is, "Yeah, if that was Bennett, he’d be gone." But then you remember that you can’t remember the last time you saw Bennett running in the open field.

Nate Burleson again looked great catching and running and Travis Taylor just catches everything that’s thrown to him, which is more than you can say for Marcus Robinson, whose strongest asset is supposed to be his 6’3" frame and his ability to outleap defenders on the fade. Yeah, not so much.

On the last play of Daunte’s night, he hit Troy Williamson on a nice play on the sideline and the rookie proved me wrong by making a nice adjustment to the pass and bringing it in with a nifty little jump.

And the offense just couldn’t punch it into the end zone, so Paul Edinger got plenty of work and looked in very good form.

The first-team defense, on the other hand, just let the Chargers have their way with them. Keep in mind that this was a first-team Chargers squad without their top two playmakers, Ladainian Tomlinson and Antonio Gates. It was a rather scary spectacle, considering how much faith we Vikings fans are putting into the defense to be the difference this year.

Who Will Replace Matt Birk?

I can’t say I blame Matt Birk for wanting some guaranteed money for delaying his surgery; nor can I blame the Vikings for balking. As Kelly Cam would say, it is what it is, and in this case it means that we won’t get Birk back until mid-November, if at all this season.

For all intents and purposes, we’ve lost Birk for the season and Corey Withrow will be our starting center. Which sucks because while Withrow is a fine back up, he’s not as athletic as Birk can’t pull nearly as well, which limited our running game last year when Birk was out.

Unfortunately, the pickings are rather thin now on open market. Jerry Fontenot is available, I think, as is Gennaro DiNapoli. See what I mean? Billy Conaty signed just last week with Denny Green and the Cardinals, so he’s out.

Maybe we’ll get lucky and someone good will get cut soon.

But perhaps the most pressing question on Viking fans minds everywhere this morning is just who will call out the team’s primma donnas when they get out of line? Just who will be the team’s moral exemplar?

MN Twins Bandwagon

I officially jumped on the MN Twins bandwagon last night when I tuned in to watch a Twins game for the first time in I don’t know how long. I had my doubts, too, because I tuned in during the fourth innning and the White Sox were up 2-0.

In the fifth, Joe Mays gave up three runs and yet I stuck with it and I was rewarded in the seventh when the Twins got a run off a solo shot (does he hit any others?) by Matthew LeCroy and again in the nineth when the Twins rallied for three more runs to pull within two points. They lost, of course, 6-4, but the thing is, this time I believed they would come back and win it. They had the look team that believed they could do it. You could’t say as much for them for most of this season.

So, I jumped on the bandwagon last night. I was pretty much running along side it since August 18th. That was when Patrick Reusse began the first of his four part series on the 1965 Twins. That article got me reading but I ended up reading every story about the Twins because, of course, the previous evening was the day that Johan Santana had a shutout going against the White Sox until Konerko hit a solo shot off him in the nineth. Santana no-hit the White Sox for six innings and shut them out for eight.

I’ve been following them in the newspapers ever since and now I’ve jumped on the bandwagon, largely because they’ve got a chance at a wild card spot.

In my own defense, I must point out that I usually follow the team through thick and thin, so there’s no need for a bandwagon. But, damn; there were such high expectations this season. I really expected them to kick butt. Yet they never really got it together. And, honestly, it just sucks watching a team win one run game after one run game when you have such high expectations for them. And after Torii Hunter went down, I figured Terry Ryan would say, well, that’s the season and if Ryan gives up on the season, it’s just too painful.

I’ve watched bad Twins teams for an entire season and enjoyed it. The difference is, I didn’t expect them to do anything. It’s a huge difference.

But I do need to apologize to the Twins in general and Johan in particular for my atypical bandwagon-jumping ways. Any team that can trot out such a phenomenal pitching talent, deserves an apology.

So in the best tradition of President Clinton: I’m sorry.

Halo – The Movie

Video games morphing into movies is nothing new, but I am following the Halo movie developments with great fascination. Yesterday it became official; Fox and Universal closed a deal with Microsoft to put the mega hit video game on the silver screen, Variety reported.

I’m fascinated with Halo, the movie, because I’m a fan of the game but also because it interests me as a pop culture phenomenon and from a marketing perspective.

It’s no surprise to anyone who has followed Microsoft over the years that the company tried to play hardball over the rights to the Alex Garland (28 Days Later) script. It makes sense, too. For a property whose two versions have generated more $600 million in sales, it is only logical to want as much control as possible over related products. One of the reported stipulations to the rights was that production of the film would take place under the auspices of Bungie Studios, the Microsoft-owned developer of Halo.

Looks like Microsoft didn’t get the control they were looking for, though. According the Variety article, Microsoft "is now guaranteed extensive consultation on the project, but won’t have approval over any elements." Rather than having creative control, Bungie employees will serve as creative consultants.

Considering the robust sales for the Halo franchise and the video game’s nearly fanatical following, the built-in audience for the film is significant. The fans of the game are practically a self-generating buzz machine. Hard core gamers are frequent contributors for online forums where they discuss all aspects of the game. The built-in communication features of Halo using Xbox Live helps gamers create buzz amongst themselves. The Internet is rife with speculation about the movie, with people wondering if Ridley Scott will direct and Ed Harris and Samuel L. Jackson star in the movie.

The nature of the Halo fan base helps explain why two Hollywood studios would agree to take the rare step of collaborating on a movie.

The thing to remember is that most people think Microsoft is a technology company. But it really isn’t–at least that’s not their expertise. Sure, they sell software but they excel at marketing it. Microsoft is less a technology company than a marketing firm.

So look at the timing. The movie is slated for a Summer 2007 release. Microsoft’s next-generation video game console, Xbox 360, will be available for this holiday season, probably in November. Halo 3, which will be designed specifically to take advantage of the new high-definition capabilities of the Xbox 360, is scheduled for release in the second quarter of 2006. And that gives it just enough time for sales to taper off for the release of the movie to boost additional sales. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Bungie develop additional maps and/or vehicles specifically tied to the movie and available as a download through Xbox Live.

Halo The Movie should be a textbook case in marketing convergence with each product driving sales of the other.