Aug 14 2017

Radisson RED Minneapolis Review

I was a little skeptical when I found out the hotel I booked was “geared towards millennials”.  What does that mean?  I don’t own any flat-brimmed baseball caps or call my friends “Broseph”.

I downloaded the app for the hotel and it had options to check in via the app.  Cool!  So parked in the parking ramp and I attempted to check in.  It gave me an error that I could not check in.  I’ve had the reservation for 9 months, so I should be in their system.  Technology failed me.  So we went inside.  There was no traditional front desk.  Just some folks with iPads.  We were greeted and Lowell (he was super friendly)  and he started checking us in on the iPad.  My inner geek tingled.

I gave him a credit card for “incidentals”, but the HUGE mag stripe reader attached to the iPad wasn’t cooperating.  In a day where I pay for my haircuts with Square and even pay for Subway with ApplePay on my phone, this credit card reader seemed outdated and HUGE.  I may be exaggerating, but it may have been steam-powered.  We had to go “do it the old-fashioned way” and go to the small kiosk with a laptop.  That worked.  We got two proximity key cards and went to our room.

The room was better than expected.  Very graphical, but not overwhelming.  Very modern.  Clean lines for everything.  Even the window had simple shades instead of curtains.  Black out shades and a separate light diffusing shade.  Very nice.  I immediately took two panoramic photos of the room to post on social media.

Lay down on the exceptionally comfortable bed (during the last 2 weeks, we’ve stayed at 5 other hotels, and this was by far the BEST bed we’ve had) and opened the app.  I had read articles that I could use my phone as my room key, so I found that in the app.  “No keys available”.  Huh.  I have them right here in my sweaty little hand.  I wondered how they would securely link a phone to a room key.

Like the Old-Schooler (Gen-X) that I am, I went down to the front desk to ask.  A really nice lady was there and helped me set up my phone as a key.  Evidentially it’s a manual process.  How odd.   She did mention that I could use the app to chat with staff and ask any question I want.  This was one of the best features.  The evening I asked a question about where to get donuts.  I received three suggestions with addresses and a brief review.  My wife and I were out walking and now we knew where to get our sugar-fix.  I asked several other questions using the app because I found their responses both very helpful and they were just fun to chat with.  In fact, of the handful of young folks I interacted with at the hotel, they all seemed very proud of their community and very helpful.  A great combination for someone who is not a native of the area.  The people that work here and the ability to chat with them is one of the single best features of the hotel.

We arrived back at the RED (we’re on a first-name-basis now) and I jumped into the elevator, pressed my phone against the sensor and selected the floor (5).  It worked!  I approach my room with phone in hand with the key app running, place it against the door sensor.  A green light lit but the door did not unlock.  I tried three more times.  Nope.  I pulled out my keycard and got in.  This has been the norm.  The phone app just isn’t reliable.  I have to bring a keycard with me everywhere.  Close but no cigar.    Darn.

That seems to be the story with the hotel technology…don’t trust the cutting edge stuff.  Always have a back up.  For instance, every room and even in the lobby by the self-check-in kiosk (that is tucked around the corner) there are landline phones.  You heard me.  LAND LINE PHONES!  Sure, they are a sleek modern design, but it’s still a land line.  Grandma would be happy.

Let’s talk about the second most important part of a hotel room—right after the bed, it’s the bathroom.  The bathroom is sleek.  Square toilet, square sink, glass shelves, glass shower with rainfall head and separate wand.  VERY nice.  Good water pressure, shampoo, conditioner, and body wash dispenser in the large walk-in shower.  Two items I would improve in the bathroom.  1. Counter space.  There isn’t much.  My wife ended up using the large square toilet as counter space.  The other change is the frosted glass door on the bathroom.  We were in a king bed room, so it was just my wife and I.  Not a huge deal.  But if this were a two-double bed room and we had our teenager daughters along, it would be WAY more awkward.  There would be announcements like, “I need to pee, family, please go look out the large window for 4-5 minutes and hum “Yankee Doodle” loudly together.  Thank you.”


The bathroom automatic light is both a blessing and a curse at 2am.

Now let me tell you where they got the technology right.  Bedside tables.  There are two outlets by the floor and two outlets by the lamp and one of those out lets has USB ports.  TAKE NOTE other hotel chains.  This is how you do it.  I typically pack two extension cords and a power strip when I travel because every hotel has one outlet behind the bed table and both receptacles are taken by the lamp and the alarm clock.  I did not need any of my special extension cords.  I plugged in my iPhone, iPad, Apple watch and still had outlets available to charge camera batteries.  YES YES YES!  Thank You Radisson RED!

The TV has built-in ability to stream from Apple or Android devices.  The cable signal when we were there was having issues, so I launched the TV app on my iPad and synced right to the TV.  Something I wished I could do in EVERY hotel I’ve stayed at in the last 5 years.  I didn’t need to bring my own Apple TV or Chromecast.  It just worked.   Last but not least, there’s a room light switch by the door AND by the bed AND it’s dimmable.  Both pluses for me.  Well done, RED.

Our room had two complimentary cans of water.  You read that right.  Aluminum cans of water.  First off…. I appreciate “complimentary” ANYTHING and it was kind of different in a can.

Lastly, there’s a small dry-erase board on the closet with a note from our housekeeper, Laden.  I don’t know if this was the intent, but I erased it and left Laden a little message back.

I would stay here again.  It’s been a very positive stay and they have done several things differently than other hotels.  The beds are comfy, the outlets are plentiful, and the staff is helpful.  If this hotel is geared toward Millennials,  Gen X also appreciates it.


In short. I would stay there again.


Jul 16 2017


I have been coughing since May of this year. The cough as morphed, ebbed and flowed. Unfortunately it is now very much flowing. I have decided to make the best of a bad situation. I have book marked the WebMD page for Tuberculosis and have it on my screen when someone sits too close to me. And then let the coughing fits happen. So far it’s worked most of the time. The one person that it didn’t work on, I’m pretty sure had some sort of flesh-eating chronic respiratory illness. If I caught something from him, I’m hopeful that they will name the new disease after me. “Matthew’s Consumption” or “Chronic Brianitis”

Jul 14 2017

Love and Affection

Sitting at an airport, you get to see all kinds of people. During my recent trip to New York, I was sitting at the gate in Minneapolis pondering who there was going to New York to visit and who was going home to New York. It was then I saw Matthew Nelson from the 80’s hair band “Nelson”. Matthew and his twin brother, Gunnar had long blonde flowing hair that Barbie dolls were jealous of back in 1980-something. I am fairly sure it was Matthew, because I sneezed and said “GUNNAR” really loudly and he didn’t even flinch. It’s not a DNA match, but good enough for me. The other thing that made me pretty sure it was him was the moment that we locked eyes. It was if I was saying,”Hey, I know who you are, and I’ve owned your cassette tape!” Then his gaze back seemed like he was saying,”Thanks, dude. We should get together and share pictures of when we had long hair some time.” “Yes. We should do that. Do you know Axl Rose?” “Get lost, loser”.

Jul 14 2017

Bismarck vs. NYC

In walking around the streets of New York City, there’s a few difference I’ve noticed when I compare it to walking around the streets of Bismarck.
1. More hotdog stands in NYC. I asked for Cloverdale red and the nice gentleman told me to go away.
2. In Bismarck, summer has the smell of fresh asphalt of road work. In NYC, there’s an asphalty-smell, but there’s also a combination of hot old metal, 20,000 armpits that have never seen deodorant, and a touch of exhaust from the taxi that nearly hit you.
3. Bismarck has the alley of art where local artists have put their touch on the downtown buildings. New York has something similar, but near as I can tell it’s a little less colorful and says things like “SMIRNT 4 LIF” and “DJ APHID”. I don’t know what either of those mean, but I’m guessing they are historical figures.
4. The number of people walking around yelling about unhappy they are about “the clouds listening to their dreams” is larger in New York. It could be due to the cleaner air in North Dakota.

All in all, it feels like home…after the apocalypse.

Jul 13 2017

Bluetooth for everyone!

Everything is better with Bluetooth. Headphones, televisions, refrigerators, Toyota Carollas, plant watering devices. Yes, this is not a joke. Your plant can send you a note when it’s in need of water. Cute. I wake up in the morning to check the news, see what the weather will be like, and be greeted by my krokus. Why not?
I already talk to my phone and to the little device in my living room to automatically purchase laundry detergent pods at low low prices with free two-day shipping. Why not my ficus?
I would like to add one item to that little device–sound. I think it would be awesome if the device could produce a sound depending upon it’s needs. If it’s got enough water, it whistles a happy tune—maybe the Andy Griffith Theme song. If it’s dry, it begs for water. If it’s really dry, it screams in it’s death throws and pleads with a dry raspy voice. If you over water it, the soundtrack from “The Titanic” pan flute music plays with subtle gurgling. I would buy that. In fact, if they had add on packs where you could get different personalities for different plants, I would buy those too. Maybe a soft-spoken spiritual-sounding voice for my aloe vera, and a loud raucous personality for my cactus. Just thinking out loud here.

Jul 13 2017

TSA All the Way!

Bismarck airport is the best way to start a trip. No lines to check my bag and no lines for the TSA. I literally stood at the conveyor belt after the screening to put all my stuff away because there was no wait or line of people.
This is totally opposite of what I will experience in the next several days. There will be nothing but humanity all around me all the time no matter where I go. Armpits and plumber’s smiles as far as the eye can see.
I’ve been on enough of these trips now to home my packing skills. Currently I have a pocket full of q-tips and quarters. That’s really all I need. I’m a simple man with simple cotton swab needs.
The TSA uses these full-body scanning machines. You step into the cylinder, raise your hands, I assume they pass just enough radiation through you to shrink that nasty mole on your back. But what happens after that? I imagine a TSA person sitting in a dimly-lit broom closet looking at screen after screen of person with hands above your head looking at our underwear. I saw an article for a product that was undergarments with messages for that poor TSA person. Some sort of metal-infused ink that would show up over the apparition of the wearer. I should have purchased a t-shirt to wear under my clothes that reads,”If you can read this, you are a TSA Agent”.

Oct 29 2012

Ball Point pen

Listening to: Henry Rollins – Provoked

Today in 1945 the 1st ball point pen goes on sale, 57 years after it was patented.  To celebrate, I’d like to hear:

I Love you Period – Dan Baird

Paperback Writer – The Beatles

Everyday I Write the Book – Elvis Costello

The Gypsy – The Inkspots

My question is why did it take so long between when it was patented to when it was made available for sale?  Upon further research (quick search on Wikipedia), I found my answer.  I won’t go into verbose detail here, but what it stems from is the contraction of siphalis by key patent holders thus causing the ball point pen to become a magic wand used for castrating sheep.  I could be wrongly interpreting this since I kinda skimmed the article and I have a penchance to make stuff up.

Jul 16 2012

My Perfect Lunch – The Recipe

Two Slices of the whitest, fluffiest bread you can find.  No “Whole Wheat”. 

Half a stick of real butter WITH SALT.  Melt the butter in the microwave for about 30 seconds. 

Spoon the liquidy butter onto the sponge-like bread evenly until most of the half-stick of butter is saturating the bread.  Bring a skillet up to about 300 degrees.

Place one slice of bnuttery bread into the skillet, place a slice of Velvetta onto the bread, followed by a slice of heavily processes “Swiss” cheese followed by another slice of Velvetta.  Top it off with another slice of butter-soaked bread.  Cover the skillet and brown the bread, flip and brown the other side.  Serve on a styrofoam plate with Cheesy Pringles or Nacho Cheese Doritos.  Wash it all down with a Mexican Coca Cola made with real sugar in a glass bottle. 


You are welcome!

Jul 13 2012

The Menards Time Vortex

I love Menards.  I love to buy home improvement items and then go home and improvement my home.  Unfortunately, anytime there is a special order involved, I fall into a black hole of time that in inexplicable by modern science.  Akin to the search for the Higgs boson, I search for a way to pick up a special order in less than 2 hours.  It seems to elude me.  Here’s the events from last night. 

Mark (our hairy and devilishly handsome son) comes with me to pick up 2 special order doors.  We had received an e-mail alert a few days before that they were ready to pick up, so foolishly, I assumed they were actually ready to pick up. 

We drive into the abyss of time (a.k.a. the lumber yard) at Menards and find a nice gentleman.  I hand him my crisp sheet of my soul only to have it returned crumpled, slightly soiled and dampened with the comment,”Sorry, I can’t find it.  You are going to have to go inside and talk to the Millwork Desk. 

I shutter momentarily as a cold chill runs up my spine.  This is all too familiar.  The Chinking incident of 2011, the countertop fiasco of 2010 and 1999.  The vanity disaster of 2000.  They all rush to mind and I recall losing half days to the vortex of the Menards Lumber yard. 

Unfortunately, I did exactly as he said and went and talked to someone at the Millwork desk.  Again—nice genteman—I handed my now handled soul stapled to a receipt to him and he disappears for what could be called an “Era”.  As I recall from 7th grade science, an Era is a significant time period. 

So in the time, I will now refer to as the “Millwork era” of my life, Mark and I stood and consumed oxygen and listened to the hum of the high preassure sodium vapor lights over our heads.  I could be mistaken, but I’m fairly certain I may have worn a groove in the industrial linoleum where I paced. 

The nice gentleman returned with my receipt and the words, “I can’t find them”.  So, I would like to take this opportunity for scientists all over the world to come witness the true magic that is “Menard’s Vortex of Time and Space Lumber Yard”.  Not only did I lose 3 hours of my life, but they also lost the doors I was there to pick up.  I am in awe of the growing power of this trancient being.  I imagine this must be what the ancient Egyptians felt like upon the completion of the Great Pyramid.

Jul 12 2012

What do you want to be when you grow up?

What do you want to be when you grow up?  I asked one of my daughters this and she almost immediately responded “Account representative for a mid-sized industrial supplier, as long as they have a decent 401K plan”.  I think I need to take her outside more.

Jul 10 2009

Happy Birthday Bill Cosby – Age 72 on Sunday

It was a hot summer afternoon as I sat on the floor watching “Bill Cosby – Himself” special on HBO. I laughed and laughed and laughed. I didn’t understand all of what he was saying since I was in 3rd grade. I watched that special a few dozen times until HBO finally got sick of me watching it. Three kids and 25 years later I listen to the audio from the show and enjoyed a whole new level that my 3rd-grade existence did not know even existed. If you are in 3rd grade or have three children, I highly recommend you check out this classic show!

Dr. Cosby is 72 this Sunday. In his honor, a burning of ugly sweaters will be organized.

Brian “Chocolate Cake” Matthews