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10 Craziest Things Done on a Bike in Amsterdam

In my glorious return to blogging, I’m easing into things a bit. Sorry for the delay everyone, in the last two months I got married and recently returned from our European honeymoon. Our last stop on the honeymoon, Amsterdam, provides inspiration (no, not that kind) for today’s post.

If you haven’t been to Amsterdam, the city is primarily organized by 3 canals that run through most of the city that act as boulevards with roads on each side. Additionally, most of the roads in Amsterdam are quite narrow, making driving and providing ample parking spots very difficult. As such, Amsterdam has roughly 750,000 residents, yet over 1 million bikes (stats from Mike’s Bike Tour, which was awesome and you should do if you ever head to Amsterdam).

Biking is a basic part of life in Amsterdam, with many parents dropping their kids off to school, doing their grocery shopping and going to work, all on their bikes. With all of the biking, I noticed several somewhat odd and usually impressive acts done on bikes, and thought I’d share my top 10.

Bikers were:

10. Smoking tobacco
9.   Rocking out to Beats/Bose/noise canceling headphones
8.   Eating a sandwich
7.   Smoking marijuana
6.   Transporting 2 kids at the same time
5.   Using an iPad
4.   Carrying unassembled boxes
3.   Transporting 2 kids at the same time while using a cell phone
2.   Wearing a 3 piece suit
1.   Running red lights at intersections involving cars, pedestrians and trolleys

In addition, though I didn’t see it, our tour guide told us that he had witnessed someone eat a bowl of cereal on their commute to work, while riding a bike. I’m not sure why, but riding in the suit particularly impressed me. I can barely survive half an hour in a 3 piece suit without sweating and I witnessed several people biking in a suit looking very comfortable.

If you ever go to Amsterdam (and you should, it was awesome) be sure to keep an eye out for the bikers and the crazy stuff they do while riding. If you have time, take a tour! Mike’s was awesome, about 3 hours long with about 2 to 2 and a half hours of riding.

Boston: The Marathon and Memorial Day

American Red Sox HatFor the first 22 years of my life, I lived in Ohio. Growing up in Toledo and attending Miami University in Oxford (yes, there is a school in Ohio called Miami and it’s older than the state of Florida, look it up), I envisioned a life where I never left Ohio. The recession in 2008 and its effects on the job market in the midwest made me re-think this plan as a whole. After graduating and living at home for a few months, the cities of my job search rapidly expanded from the 4 C’s (Chicago, Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati) to any city I had any interest in living and thought I could get a job. Fortunately, the hunt did not last long and I landed in Boston in February of 2009.

Since moving to Boston, I have lived in several different neighborhoods ranging from historic (the North End) to quintessential Boston (Charlestown) and college (Allston and Brighton) and moved to several different jobs since insurance brought me to Boston. While I’ve come to learn and love the city of Boston, for a long time I still thought of Ohio as “home.” These feelings changed drastically on April 15 of this year, the day of the Boston Marathon bombings.

Marathon Monday is a special day in the city of Boston, and my first one was less than 2 months after I moved to Boston. Through some luck and roommates at the time, I attended the Red Sox game on Marathon Monday in 2009 (the Sox play before noon on Marathon Monday every year as part of the festivities for the holiday) and then spent time downtown watching the runners finish. It was my first truly memorable day in Boston and was one of my first Red Sox games (of which I have now been to over 30).

2013 was the first year I celebrated Marathon Monday without being downtown to watch the runners as they finished. Seeing the explosions and aftermath unfold on TV in areas I was so familiar with and with so many close friends downtown was overwhelming. It was relieving and simultaneously scary to receive texts and emails from close friends letting me know they were safe. Great to know that my friends were safe, but how were the people I hadn’t heard from? Eventually I learned that all my friends were safe, though there were some close calls including one friend who was on the T less than 2 blocks from the bombing.

Knowing that these events were happening only a few miles away from my apartment made the events seem more real than other tragedies I lived through. While I remember where I was and watching the tragedies of 9/11, the Atlanta Olympics bombing and the Oklahoma City bombing (among others), having the events unfold in the city you live in makes all of the emotions associated with these events heightened.

As I watched the coverage on the news throughout the rest of the day, while the events themselves were very depressing and tragic, it was also very uplifting to see the stories of police officers, paramedics, off duty military personnel and the general public running to the aid of others. Additionally, the amazing Boston, Cambridge and Watertown police forces worked endless hours throughout the week to catch the perpetrators. Stories of everyday citizens helping in the aftermath, like getting people clear from the wreckage of the explosions or runners from the marathon running straight to hospitals to donate blood seemingly had no end. In the following days, the One Fund was formed to give back to those affected by the explosions and groups formed additional fundraisers through promoted events like the #BackToBackBay campaign. Whatever chance people had to help, the people of Boston were going to do it and they were going to send a message doing it.

To me, this was where the city of Boston started to shine through this tragedy, showing the world that the people from here are not afraid of anything. Bostonians may have inter-city rivals (townies vs. yuppies, pink hats vs. diehards, everyone vs. college students), the city rallied together in response to these actions. This may sound cheesy to some, but it was really cool to be at a Red Sox game weeks after the events and see every person in Fenway give a standing ovation to one of the first responders, or to be in a bar where a random “USA!” chant went on for 5 minutes. It made it seem like this united feeling was here to stay in the city. While life has slowly returned to some level of normalcy, I still notice people being more appreciative of police officers helping direct traffic or people that check bags walking into sporting events or concerts.

In addition to all of our Veterans, the first responders should be held up in our memories on this Memorial Day, especially in Boston. Veterans have made this country a big part of what America great, don’t get me wrong, but the first responders in Boston were serving in what felt like a war zone throughout the week of April 15th. These police officers, paramedics, off duty or retired military personnel and common citizens rose to great heights to ensure that no further damage was inflicted on the city as a whole and were successful. They worked together, sacrificing life and limb in some cases, to catch the animals behind these actions.

One picture from the memorial for the Marathon victims

One picture from the memorial for the Marathon victims

Throughout this whole experience, I realized that Boston is now my home. From visiting Back Bay for the first time after the bombings, to seeing the memorial every time I go downtown, to receiving texts, calls and emails from family and friends the week of the Marathon; the city is now a part of me and I am proud to be part of a city that responded so bravely in the face of danger.

I realize this is a very small, inconsequential piece of the marathon story, but wanted to share it. Thanks for reading, please donate to the One Fund and the fund for the tornado victims in Oklahoma if you haven’t already.

Breaking Down the Arrested Development Promo Posters

As promised, below are my descriptions of each of the Netflix Arrested Development promotional posters and the references they are making. Before I dive into the posters though, I want to further touch on why I think this marketing strategy by Netflix is a stroke of genius (my blog on the Marketing around the return of Arrested Development).

Each of the promotional posters focuses on one specific member of the Bluth family. On the surface, it may seem obvious to do one poster for each of the show’s main characters, but this strategy of devoting attention to one character is not only being used for posters by Netflix. If you read my blog on the return of Arrested Development (click here to catch up, different link than in last paragraph, I guess you could say I like Arrested Development), each episode of the new season will be devoted to one specific character. So, while there will be scenes where the characters interact (say Michael and Gob are having a confrontation), one episode will follow Michael after the scene, while Gob’s episode will follow the exploits of the Bluth’s favorite illusion artist. By using the posters to introduce this single Bluth character focus, Netflix is making a subtle introduction of this new, innovative way to structure the episodes of a show.

While the thoughts in the below are my own, I found the Arrested Development wiki helpful in compiling and thought you might enjoy having the full background, so I’ve linked to descriptions where available.

Now, without further adieu (yeah, I went French on you), the posters (I will follow the same order as the Gawker article I originally linked to with the posters and where all images were “borrowed” from, click each poster to enlarge):

Michael PosterFor Michael’s poster, we see a reference to his frequent references to leaving the family to their own devices (being the only responsible one). This happens a few times across the series, though one specific episode that jumps out is in Season 2 when Michael and George Michael head for Phoenix, return to see the family, and then tell them they’re leaving for Phoenix (spoiler: they never leave). Several times while making this threat, Michael represents his departure by making references to the Bluth family business, handing over the company checkbook or, in the case shown by the poster, tearing up his business card.

Tobias PosterTobias’ poster brings back one of my favorite running bits from the original episodes, Tobias’ rare condition of being a never nude.This means that Tobias is never comfortable being nude, not by himself or with his wife, Lindsay. Instead of being nude, Tobias wears cutoff jean shorts, as seen in the poster. Tobias being a never nude comes up throughout the first three seasons. Whether it is George Sr. finding cutoffs in the attic to Tobias mistaking George Michael as another never nude, or Zach Braff’s guest appearance as a fake “Girls Gone Wild” host who (spoiler) is a never nude, not to mention the several shower and bath scenes, Tobias and his friendly cutoffs are never far from an Arrested Development episode.

Buster PosterFor Buster’s poster, the marketing team pulled out a double whammy, with two references. First, the juice box, representing Buster’s obsession with juice. Buster loves juice, whether it’s the unlimited juice at Gob’s bachelor party, trying to get a sip from Annyong’s juice box or finding mother’s “adult” juice box in the fridge, he’s in constant pursuit of his next supply. Last, but not least, is Buster’s hook for a hand. Buster received the hook when he defied orders from his mother, Lucille, and went in the ocean only to have his hand bitten off by a loose seal (if you miss the irony, say Lucille and loose seal back to back). After losing his hand, Buster used a hook for his hand, similar to George Senior’s friend with the fake arm who taught the Bluth children lessons growing up.

Lindsay PosterThe Bluth’s resident shopping addict, Lindsay, is the owner of the credit card on ice. Lindsay loves to shop, drink and do anything else that requires spending money while doing little to no physical activity or work. While this doesn’t drastically change her from the rest of the family, Lindsay has no job, hobby or really anything else that makes her stand out from the rest of the gang. There are countless references to Lindsay’s love for shopping, where in some instances a Bluth will ask her where she’s been shopping when she comes home, instead of saying “hi” or “where were you?” because they all know if Lindsay is out, she’s probably shopping. I think this is probably the weakest of the posters, especially when compared to the awesomeness of Tobias and Buster.

Maeby PosterMaeby Funke’s meteoric rise as a Hollywood Executive is depicted in her poster; representing an entertaining and rather lengthy recurring subplot from the original episodes. Maeby stumbles into a job at a studio while Tobias is trying to generate buzz to get his nonexistent acting career off the ground, by sitting in an office and having people walk in thinking it is hers. When they ask why she looks so young, her response is always “Marry me!”, which somehow continues to work and charm everyone, aiding in her climb up the corporate ladder. While I am trying to limit my expectations for the new episodes, I would like to see future Maeby as a grown up executive (maybe she is the one who brought the show back? Probably not, that seems like a Dan Harmon-esque level of meta-ness that would be weird for Arrested).

George Michael PosterMr. Manager is the title of the one and only George Michael Bluth, the Bluth family’s favorite whipping boy and banana stand employee. In an early episode (the one where the late Patrice O’Neal plays T-Bone, an arsonist who later burns down the banana stand), Michael decides to promote George Michael to manager of the banana stand, and when he tells him, he calls him “Mr. Manager”. George Michael, in his typical nerdish behavior, continues to refer to himself as “Mr. Manager” even after Michael tells him it’s just “Manager”. The Bluth Banana Stand is a source of comedy throughout the series, so it is only appropriate that it is referenced in one of the posters. With George Michael being the Bluth we see most in the stand during the original episode, choosing him to represent the stand is a great choice.

Gob PosterThe dead dove is a product of a failed illusionist Gob Bluth, who purchases the dove for an illusion, only to kill it by walking into the door of the pet store immediately after buying it. Then, because he feels he is entitled to a refund but doubts the person who sold it to him will give him one, Gob brings the dove home and places it in the Bluth freezer. Narrowing down one reference for Gob must have been a difficult task for the marketing team. I feel that Gob is one of the most easily referenced characters, with his awesome chicken dance (arguably the best of the Bluth’s), his career as an illusionist (I will never call him the “M” word) or his frequent use of a Segway; there were several easy choices for Gob. While some of his other illusions were funnier in the show (the sinking of the yacht, the “Sword of Destiny” or his routine of cutting someone in half come to mind), I’m glad the decision was to represent one of his illusions.

Lucille PosterThe final posters are saved for the elders of the Bluth family, leading off with Lucille and one of her favorite hobbies, abusing  prescription drugs. Whether it’s her postpartum prescriptions (she’s been on them for the 30+ years since Buster’s birth) or taking Buster’s pain medication, Lucille likes pills, and they are even better when combined with her drug of choice, hard liquor. I particularly enjoy the one occasion where she takes Buster’s pain medication and mistakes the drowsy eye alcohol warning for a winking eye alcohol suggestion, in the morning. Plus, it provides reason to link to this list of Lucille Gifs (the first winking comes to mind with this poster and always gets me).

George PosterFinally, George Sr.’s posters. First up, is the original poster that was released showing an ice cream sandwich with one bite taken. While George Sr. is in prison, there is an ice cream sandwich machine right near the visitors area, so the sandwiches come up a few times. There’s one time where the machine broke, so everyone got them for free (which seems funny in prison) and I also remember him saying something along the lines of “I’m having an affair with this ice cream sandwich” in reference to Michael telling him about Lucille and his twin brother Oscar’s fling, both of which are awesome moments.

Glisten PosterGeorge Sr. is the only Bluth to have two posters, as the specially revealed poster after the scavenger hunt in New York City was a reference mostly to him, with the poster of his favorite toothpaste, Glisten. This reference is relatively obscure, and thus appropriate for the scavenger hunt prize, in that I only think Glisten is referenced in a few episodes. In one of the episodes where the family is looking for George Sr., one of the Bluths (I believe it was Michael), stumbles upon a tube of Glisten, which lets them know that he is nearby. However, each time Glisten is referenced, it’s either George Sr. or one of the Bluth children talking about how much George Sr. needs to use his Glisten.

While the references in the posters range from relatively well known (Tobias being a never nude and Buster having a hook for a hand come to mind) to the obscure (Gob’s dead dove), that is what makes them great. I hope you enjoyed this overview and that it helps you reacquaint yourself with the Bluths and Arrested Development before the show’s return May 26th.

Sorry to tack this on at the end, I wrote this over the weekend but Monday morning Netflix released this Arrested Development Season 4 Trailer which I highly recommend watching, enjoy!

What’s your favorite poster?

Accumulating Value for Future Use – The Cleveland Browns 2013 NFL Draft

On a recent radio appearance, Michael Lombardi mentioned that the Browns brass (probably Lombo, Banner, Chudzinski and Ray Farmer) decided that Barkevious Mingo, the team’s first round pick at #6, was so much better than the talent available later in the first round that they had to pick him instead of trading down. Craig at Waiting for Next Year, covered both of Lombardi’s radio spots from earlier this week here. While I still would have preferred a trade down and a chance to pick in the second round, I’m glad that the Browns’ decision makers decided on a target and took him when their pick came. I was delighted to see the Browns take Mingo, as I think he is potentially a premier edge rusher, a piece that would be put to good use in Ray Horton’s defense.

After deciding not to re-enter the second round, the Browns drafted cornerback Leon McFadden out of San Diego State in the third round. McFadden will play a large role in the Browns defense, the cornerback starting opposite Joe Haden. McFadden is an experienced college player who could be ready to step in as a starter on his first day of training camp. While I can’t claim to have a deep knowledge of McFadden, he seems to be great value where he was picked at a position of need for the Browns, similar to some of the picks Tom Heckert and the former regime made that worked out so well (thinking T.J. Ward, James Michael Johnson and Mitchell Schwartz).

The decisions made on the fourth and fifth round picks have been the source of much consternation amongst Browns fans since the end of the draft. Why? Because they were traded for picks next year — this year’s fourth for next year’s third round pick from the Pittsburgh Steelers, and this year’s fifth for next year’s Colts’ fourth rounder. Most of the displeasure around these trades stems from two reasons: first, why would the Browns trade with bitter (and consistently smarter) rivals the Pittsburgh Steelers? Second, why are the Browns trading for picks next year, when they need players to help their team now?

Addressing trading with the Steelers; am I thrilled about it? No, I’d prefer to trade with other teams. However, if the offer of the Steelers’ third round pick next year was better than any other offer on the table, then it was the right move to make. I would much rather have the Steelers’ 2014 third round pick than say, the Jaguars’ or 49ers’ 2014 seventh round pick. While that may seem obvious, what other offer do Browns fans upset about trading with the Steelers think was available that the Browns didn’t make? While the Steelers do have a better history of success in the draft than the Browns, that by no means guarantees that Shamarko Thomas (the player drafted with the pick received from the Browns) is guaranteed to be an all-pro. The Steelers have been off target on draft picks before, and just because they traded up for Mr. Thomas does not ensure his success.

Trading picks from this year’s draft for picks in a better round in next year’s draft is a classic smart team move. What team is most identified with trading back in the draft for the last decade? The Patriots. As much as I loathe the Patriots, their success is undeniable. In addition to the Patriots, San Francisco and Baltimore are two other teams identified with trading back in the draft, and they played in last year’s Super Bowl. San Francisco’s Paraag Marathe talked at this year’s Sloan Conference about the value and flexibility offered by having multiple draft picks (the 49ers entered this year’s draft with 14 picks) and I believe the 49ers have had the smartest front office in football for the past five years, given how effectively they have built their team through the draft while complimenting their young players with low risk and high value free agency signings.

Gaining more picks for next year’s draft provides flexibility for more strategic planning. With extra picks next year, the Browns could trade up for a player they believe strongly in (think the Redskins moving up for RG3 last year), continue to try and roll their picks over into slight improvements for the 2015 NFL Draft (think the Patriots method of trading picks almost every year, to the chagrin of some of their fans) or they can simply use them in next year’s third and fourth round. Given the Browns general need for talent and depth, I think any added flexibility that allows the Browns to be more strategic is a win for the front office and reflects a focus on process oriented thinking, instead of focusing on short-term results (for my thoughts on process versus outcome based thinking, read this).

Another point for consideration regarding the Browns choice to trade out of the fourth and fifth rounds – most of the scouting staff for this draft were from the prior Heckert-Holmgren regime (as pointed out by @thecaffeined last night on Twitter, give him a follow, and broken down by Pro Football Talk this morning here). Typically, when a new front office takes over, they keep the scouting staff in place through the draft, as it would be too much work thrown away and too much to catch up on if they immediately brought in their own staff. Since the draft has ended, Mary Kay Cabot has already reported that there will be shakeups on the Browns scouting staff, which to me screams that Lombardi and Banner want to bring in some of “their guys”. If this turns out to be the case, it makes sense for them to want to give the scouts they trust more picks to make next year, especially if they can be more valuable picks, rather than let guys they didn’t know six months ago and who probably won’t be with the Browns another month make picks that could have affected the team for several years down the line.

I have little to comment on regarding the Browns sixth and seventh round picks, because I don’t know a lot about Jannoris Slaughter (Safety, Notre Dame, sixth round), Armonty Bryant (Defensive End, ECU, seventh round) or Garrett Gilkey (Offensive Lineman, Chadron State, seventh round). I hope Slaughter pans out as the Browns can use more playmakers in the secondary and I’m never against adding depth on the lines. I was excited to hear that one of new Brown Paul Kruger’s brothers, David, signed with the Browns as an undrafted free agent out of Utah who I have heard a few people mention as a good size for 3-4 Defensive End.

Overall, I am pleased with the Browns draft, primarily because, from an outsider’s perspective, it seems like they had a plan and executed it. They added players at several positions of need while positioning themselves to be more active and strategic in next year’s draft, when the front office has had more than a few months to plan and also have their own scouts in place.

How do you feel about the Browns moves? What did your favorite team do in the draft and what did you think of it? Let me know in the comments.

There’s Always Money in the Banana Stand – Showcasing Netflix’s Genius in Marketing

The return of Arrested Development is rapidly approaching (as I covered here). Netflix is ratcheting up the level of their promotion substantially in the buildup to the premier of the 15 new episodes. With Netflix making the news recently with the success of their first foray into original programming (House of Cards) along with the fact that they are now the largest television subscription service in the US right now, having overtaken HBO (click here for New York Times article), I wanted to compare their strategies for promoting House of Cards and Arrested Development.

I found the choice by Netflix to have these two shows lead their original programming to be a bold one, given how different they are, not only in content but presumably also in audience. House of Cards was a completely new show, with no built-in audience and little to no expectations from audiences before the show was released. Beyond the fact that David Fincher and Kevin Spacey were involved and that it centered on the political environment in DC, I knew nothing prior to watching (and enjoying) the first season of the show.

On the other hand, I, along with legions of others, am a diehard Arrested Development fan and have been waiting its return ever since it was originally cancelled by Fox. Netflix has catered directly to fans like me with their promotional posters, the reveal of the first publicly released scene from the new season (!!) and the scavenger hunt they hosted last weekend in New York City.

In case you missed it, the official Arrested Development Twitter account (@arresteddev) announced last Saturday that all of the promotional posters were visible on sidewalks throughout New York City. Once each poster had been found and tweeted to @arresteddev, the team at Netflix would reveal a new promotional poster seen below:

The bonus poster revealed by Netflix as part of their scavenger hunt in New York City (photo via twitter.com/arresteddev

The bonus poster revealed by Netflix as part of their scavenger hunt in New York City (photo via twitter.com/arresteddev)

This promotion plays perfectly to the crowd of Arrested fans who have been starving for the show to return to pop culture relevance. All of the promotional posters play into obscure references from the original seasons (to be explained poster by poster before the new episodes are released), so by referring to them while promoting the new episodes, Netflix is letting these fans know that the Arrested Development that will be coming back to Netflix will include similar references to earlier episodes. I also love that each of the posters concentrates on an individual character, similar to the rumored structure of the new season (with each episode following an individual character). Additionally, Netflix is organically helping build a community of Arrested Development fans by tweeting out the users who found each poster during the scavenger hunt promotion.

By using obscure references to promote the new episodes and putting existing Arrested fans in the spotlight, Netflix is also sending the message to the fans that they are one of the reasons the show is coming back. While the scavenger hunt may not have “gone viral” or lit up message boards across the Internet as a whole, that does not seem to be Netflix’s intent with this promotion. Instead, they are focusing on the group who already knows they like Arrested Development, making sure they know the show is returning to Netflix on May 26th. Don’t believe me? Check the background on the @arresteddev Twitter page.

In showing versatility with the choice of their first two forays into original content, and the different approaches used in promoting these drastically different shows,  Netflix seems destined to repeat their success from House of Cards with Arrested Development. House of Cards is almost unanimously regarded as a hit. Arrested Development is going to teach Fox a lesson for cancelling it (possibly using George Sr.’s one armed friend), and now that Netflix is the largest subscription based service in the US they are positioned to lead the challenge of the traditional cable distribution method.