West Indies Soul

There must be some slight Karmic misalignment because when I thought about getting some Jerk Chicken today at West Indies Soul, I actually could.

The thing is, nearly every time I get a craving for Jerk Chicken, it’s on a Monday and West Indies Soul is closed on Mondays…and Sundays, it turns out, but that doesn’t matter because I’ve only thought about eating there once on a Sunday.

It goes like this: I get a craving for Jerk Chicken around noon on a Monday and so, of course, I think of going to West Indies Soul. Then I remember that they’re closed on Mondays and I gently curse them for their lack of consideration. By noon on Tuesday, I don’t have a craving for Jerk Chicken so I think of someplace else to eat, go there, eat, and then remember that West Indies Soul is open. Again, I gently curse them. For the rest of the week I have neither cravings for Jerk Chicken nor do I think of West Indies Soul. So it goes.

The point, faithful reader, is that I strongly suspect that there is some type of harmonic convergence conspiring to keep me from eating at West Indies Soul. Either that, or they should be open on Mondays.

I’m sure you’ve surmised by now that their Jerk Chicken is quite the treat. It is. It’s crispy. It’s Jamaican spicy. It comes with seasoned rice and fried plantains that are delicious.

Maybe one day I’ll get something else on the menu, but I doubt it.

Red Bull vs. SoBe Energy Drinks

Have I mentioned how much I love football? I do. A lot. This much [Fade in picture of me with arms outstreched to either side of my body]. I love football so much that I play it at least twice a week (touch football, that is). I’ve been playing with more or less the same group of guys for about three years now. We play pick up games every Saturday (usually three games, sometimes four).

Yesterday was a perfect day for playing, with the sky fairly clear and the temperature hovering in the mid-sixities. We’d played several games when someone spotted the Red Bull mobile. The Red Bull mobile is a modified pickup truck that wanders Minneapolis and St. Paul dispensing Red Bulls. It’s easy to spot because the truck has a huge can of Red Bull with the bottom resting in the cargo bay and the top resting on the back edge of the cab. In the cargo bay, on either side of the can, are refrigerated storage areas where they keep their supply of the energy drink.

So we were playing ball when we notice a pretty blonde girl and a nice looking guy walking toward our game. And of course, they are Red Bull employees come to give us each a complimentary cold can.

I’ve seen the Red Bull mobile around town but that’s the first time I’ve seen it in action. I gotta say that I was very impressed. Their target market is young male athletes, night owls, and college students and they nailed all three because a couple of the guys I play with probably fall into each category. Several of the guys I play with are regular Red Bull drinkers. And everyone was quite happy to get a free Red Bull.

But after enjoying a practical monopoly on the energy drink market, Red Bull is losing market share to, for my money anyway, better tasting and more effective competition (Fortune magazine calls Red Bull a "a caffeine-laced drink that tastes like cough syrup and promises to enhance athletic performance and concentration."

SoBe Adrenaline Rush

The drink does taste like cough syrup and I don’t think it works nearly as well at energizing than SoBe. SoBe has a diverse product line but I’m partial to SoBe Adrenaline Rush, a direct competitor to Red Bull. It tastes good and works longer. But don’t just take my word for it, I’ve turned three of my friends into SoBe-drinkin fools.

SoBe’s original can design displayed their sense of humor with the slogan "Get it up. Keep it up. Any questions?" Beneath that was a 1-800 number which I presume you were supposed to call and ask when it would go down.

Mmmm….I do love my SoBe but they do gotta work on both their distribution (like in bars) and their visibilty. Hey, they could always sponsor my touch football team.

Nokia 3650 Review

I was planning on writing an ode to my Nokia 3650 cell phone, then it looked as if I would have to write a eulogy instead but as it turns out, I am writing one of those amazing product stories that marketers would kill for.

My phone, you see, died only to be miraculously revived. Or, more precisely, my phone was killed. Murdered. Diabolically drowned.

It all stared innocently enough with my friends and I going to Champps Americana in New Brighton to watch the Vikings/49ers game. We ate, we drank, we were merry watching the Vikes kick the 9ers all over the field but then late into the fourth quarter, when the Vikings had their third-stringers on the field and our attention was more focused on things other than the game, it happened.

My friend’s wife discovered my pen, which she claimed, absent a shred of proof, to be her own. I, of course, said No you don’t. She replied by writing on my hand with my own pen. I returned the favor and before I knew it, she had seized my cell phone and was threatening to drop it into my glass of Summit.

No civilized person would do such a thing so of course I ignored her threats but, then, the next moment, there it was: My phone. In my beer. Just sitting there. Two great things that are not great together.

So I end up with her cell phone (a Nokia that looks as if it’s just been excavated from an archeological dig) while we figure out how she’s gonna replace my Nokia 3650. Adding insult to injury, I belatedly realize that she’s set her ringtone to ABBA’s Fernando. I begin to feel nostalgic for my dear departed cell phone.

I think of all the good times we had together; the things we’d been through, the moments we’d shared: All of the conversations we had, the emails we sent, the photos and videos we took together, the arcade games we played.

O Nokia 3650, you were my photo album, my life organizer, my memory. You were the first thing I heard in the morning and the last thing I set before going to bed.

So yes, I began to miss her. But, as I’m one of the super-wired class who have abandoned their land lines in favor of a sole cell phone, I knew that she had to be replaced. And soon.

So I began to research her replacement with no small degree of guilt over my extremely abbreviated mourning period. The more I looked, the more exited I got as I pursued the sexy new Sidekick II, with her sleek, elegant lines and easy communication. But then my guilt would overcome me and I’d set aside my searching…only to be drawn irresistibly back to her. I was intrigued, verging on obsession in my quest to find our more and more about her. The fact that she would not have Bluetooth technology only proved that she wasn’t perfect, making her all the more endearing. The fact that she would not be available for another month made her only that much more appealing.

Thus it went, being buffeted between despair and desire, until that by-now familiar refrain of Fernando careened across the walls and, answering my temporary Jurassic Nokia, I heard my friend’s wife on the other end:

"Hi, David."
"Guess what?"
"I’m calling you from your cell phone!"

Well, there it was. My beloved Nokia 3650 had ripped off her black veil and would soon return to my life. Suddenly I was feeling a new emotion: Disappointment.

It was clear it was only a matter of time; that I’d be living a double-life, caught between residual affection and anticipated excitement. It is unfair, but I know I’ll just be marking time, counting the drawn-out days until I abandon the old for my new Sidekick.

Mike Tice’s Blind Spot

Okay, I was wrong. When I said yesterday that the game against the 49ers wouldn’t be a test of anything at all, I was wrong. I admit it. It was a test for kicker Aaron Elling, and he failed.

I feel for the guy; even moreso as he sounds like a stand-up guy, which the Strib’s Mark Craig pionted out in his piece today by saying that "Elling didn’t duck any question after the game." That’s getting rarer and rarer these days. Still, the guy is having problems and there’s no reason they need to be our problems.

Mike Tice didn’t want to answer questions about his inaccurate kicker after the game but he had to acknowlege that Elling was an issue, saying "we can’t continue to go down this vein." Or keep opening that vein. Tice voiced his annoyance with Elling but did pull his punches. VikingUpdate appeared to be charitable by appending a question mark to their Elling on the bubble headline cause I’dve figured that after that performance, Elling was a sure-fire goner. Again, I’m wrong because ESPN has reported that Tice is going to give the guy another chance:

"If he comes back and nails his kickoffs and hits his PATs, then I’m just chalking (Friday’s performance) up as, he had a bad week," Tice said.

[You can throw your hands up now.]

It is time for Tice to look in the mirror and face the fact that he has a blind spot when it comes to evaluating kicking talent. It’s okay–Dennis Green‘s blind spot was much more damaging; he couldn’t evaluate defensive talent–just recognize the fault and address it. By finding a replacement for Elling.

The Vikings do have rookie kicker Dan Orner on the roster who has kicked a 46-yarder. But apparently, the coaches aren’t convinced in his leg-strength for kickoffs. But it’s not like Elling could possibly be any better; one of his kickoffs landed at the twenty on Friday.

Dominance & Submission

It was nice to see the Vikings completely dominating the 49ers. Not that it wasn’t expected but so often in the past we’ve seen the team struggle against teams they should beat. It has also been a long time since I’ve seen the Vikings look so crisp from the opening kickoff. If they play that way against poorer teams in the regular season, we’ll be just fine.

Looks like Tice was prescient by insisting on holding on to all his running backs when Ricky Williams left the Dolphins because it now appears that Michael Bennett‘s sprained kneee is worse than originally thought and he’ll be out from one to three weeks. It is enormously reassuring in retrospect that Mewelde Moore has looked so good this preseason.

Online Buzz – Vikings vs. 49ers

Don’t expect this game to be a test of anything, least of all our depth at secondary. The 49ers were a bad team when they had Tia Streets, Jeff Garcia and Terrell Owens. They are a worse team now that they’ve lost them. Add to that the fact that they are a injury-plagued team right now (minus the frontline quarterback, center, defensive lineman and their one recognizable star, linebacker Julian Peterson). It is what it is and we’ll find out what it is tonight.

Online Showdown – Most Popular Searches

The Vikings are far more popular online (according to search popularity) than the 49ers, with 1906 searches related to the Vikings being performed over the past sixty days versus 1624 for the 49ers. (Read my methodology here.)

Click for Large Chart
Click for larger version of Most popular searches - Minnesota Vikings vs. San Francisco 49ers

When it comes to player-versus-player searches, Brock Lesnar is again the hands on favorite for the second week in a row, beating out not only Randy Moss, 1651 to 739, but also just edging out the entire 49ers team. Ouch! Daunte Culpepper beats both of the 9ers QBs and the only area where the 49ers beat the Vikings is on searches for the teams’ first round draft choices, with San Fran’s Rashaun Woods beating out the Vikings’ Kenechi Udeze 53 to 11:

Click for Large Chart
Click for larger version of player searches - Minnesota Vikings vs. San Francisco 49ers

Vikings Back Up Centers

The importance of depth at center became apparent to the Vikings during the Falcons game when, with Matt Birk already out with an injury, Cory Withrow suffered a concussion on the first play of the game, forcing third-string center Billy Conaty into the game. As the Strib‘s Kevin Seifert points out in his piece today, the Vikings didn’t miss a beat with Conaty manning the line.

Seifert goes on to report what a pleasant surprise Conaty has been to Tice and the other coaches and says that the center could become a nice piece of trade bait, possibly commanding a conditional late-round draft pick.

Or, maybe, a back-up corner? That’d be nice.

But how ’bout this scenario that, surprisingly, Seifert didn’t broach?

Seifert reports that Conaty is also a long-snapper. In the article, he says that Tice could keep as many as 10 lineman, but carrying three centers is luxury few teams can afford. Tice has complained about incumbent long-snapper Brody Lilliard, whom he says has a hitch in his snap. And, in order to spur Lilliard to fix his hitch, he brought in Cullen Loeffler to compete with Lilliard.

Well, if you’ve got a guy who so far has cost you nothing, who’s proven to be a quick study in picking up the offense, who’s proven himself capable of handling the duties of a center during much of a preseason game, and who is a long-snapper, why not have Conaty compete for the long-snapper position?!? If he wins the job, you’ve got your long-snapper (minus the hitch) and you’ve got an emergency center you can feel confident about. And you’ve got an extra roster spot to boot!

Is it just me, or is that a no-brainer?

Marcus Robinson Hurt, Again

Kevin Seifert‘s piece in the Star Tribune today is headlined "Injury talk irritates Robinson." Well, that’s funny cause it sure as hell is irritating me and I’m sure plenty of other Vikings fans. Especially the injury talk coming out of Robinson’s own mouth, the talk that says he needs to be 100% before he can play. The Pioneer PressBob Sansevere properly tears into Marcus Robinson for his primma donna attitude over what Coach Mike Tice calls a "mild, mild [hamstring] strain." Sansevere quotes Tice’s dripping sarcasm regarding his new number three receiver:

"He’s one of those gifted athletes who I guess needs to be right all the time. I’ve never been right, so I don’t know what it would be like to be 100 percent. I guess he feels like in order to have his great abilities come through, he wants to feel better than he’s feeling.”

Robinson, however, seems oblivious to Tice’s obvious irritation , telling Sansevere "When I go out there on Sunday, I need to be 100 percent. If you can’t run 100 percent in this offense, you’re not going to make it.”

Dude, you just signed a four-year, $9 million contract. You’re playing opposite the most talented receiver in the world–a zillion times more talented than you–and who will make you better by the mere fact of his presence on the field. Not to mention that Moss himself is playing through the pain of planter fasciitis. Get out on the field and play!

Maureen Dowd

New York Times columnist and unofficial Bush family psychologist Maureen Dowd is out selling her new book, Bushworld. I saw her on Real Time with Bill Maher and, man does she look uncomfortably out of her element; she seems very awkward and almost at pains to answer interview questions. For someone who has been reading her clever and elegant writing for years, her interviews are an abrupt and startling contrast.

Dowd’s interview presence, however, is not the point of my present musings. Rather, it is who I discovered is reading Dowd’s book and what that may mean for the presidential contest.

On Saturday I found myself hanging out with a guy I have had drinks with on occasion and who is not in the least bit political. He’s a normal blue collar guy who voted for Jesse Ventura in 1998 because Jesse "told it like it is" and who rarely talks politics, and certainly doesn’t bring it up on his own accord.

On Saturday, however, I was fascinated to hear him bring up the fact that he’s reading Dowd’s new book on GW. Dowd’s readership are by and large liberal-leaning political junkies, not this friend of mine. Further, he was also talking about how he was trying to "turn" co-workers to vote for John Kerry.

It is yet another anecdote that would seem to indicate the President Bush is creating new Democratic voters.

Michele Tafoya – Monday Night Football’s Female Sideline Reporter

The Star Tribune’s Judd Zulgad gives plenty of a laudatory ink to local-girl-made-good Michele Tafoya, who will debut this season as Monday Night Football’s female sideline reporter. Tafoya will most certainly be an improvement over last year’s Lisa Guerrero, whom she replaced.

One thing is clear when you look at Tafoya, Lisa Guerrero, and Guerrero’s predacessor, blonde hottie Melissa Stark, is that beauty is a prerequisite to stalking the sidelines for the MNF crew. And judging from Guerrero’s performance last year, talent is optional.

Tafoya, however, has got tons of talent and for that reason, you gotta wonder if she has any misgivings about the gig. Monday Night Football is a wonderful vehicle for becoming a household name and if you have higher ambitions in television, that’s what we scientists do in fact call, A Very Good Thing.

On the other hand, it ain’t exactly the perfect role in which to showcase your blinding talent. The position, frankly, is pretty much useless. And that doesn’t just go for Monday Night Football. Watch Joe Schmit‘s dispatches from the sidelines during the Vike’s preseason games: Nine times out of ten, you learn absolutely zilch about the game. The only benefit that I can think of from having a sideline reporter is for injury updates. But, of course, you don’t need a sideline reporter to get those updates.

So don’t expect to be blown away by Tafoya.