Collective Soul and King Washington rock Pittsburgh

Collective Soul has been a staple in my music rotation for years. During the 90s their self titled CD was deemed the ultimate mix to listen to while cleaning the apartment. After their 2001 Greatest Hits release, Seven Year Itch, though I stopped paying attention. It wasn’t that I fell out of love for their music but the relationship was more “out of sight, out of mind”.

I wasn’t buying many CDs, Napster and downloading whatever tunes I could get my hands on had me falling down the black hole of awful music. This was before legit digital downloads, iTunes and streaming services were available. The thought of only music in a non-digital platform may blow some of your minds today.

Adult Sippy Cup

Fast forward to 2015 and Collective Soul’s “See What You Started” tour supporting their 9th studio album rolled into Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Music Hall of Homestead with jamming opener King Washington.

Prior to last Thursday I had no idea the album or the tour were taking place but something told me I should open the City Paper weekly email. “WIN TICKETS TO SEE COLLECTIVE SOUL IN PITTSBURGH!”. Sure, why not. Later that afternoon I received the email saying I won the tickets so date night was now set – Sunday night at 8pm.

Before kids this would have been a no-brainer. After kids my thoughts are “How will we find a sitter on a Sunday night?”, “What is the parking situation like?”, “What time do I have to be up for work in the morning?” and the most important part “Who won’t be tethered to their phone all night?”. You’d be surprised how often that last one is the deal breaker.

Since it was short notice we flew solo on this trip and had a great time reliving our college days. King Washington is new to me so every song was a treat. I liked their stage presence and most of the songs but I enjoyed their sound more once I got home and checked out their music online. Now I’m kicking myself for passing up a chance to chat after the show.

Collective Soul exceeded expectations (geez that sounds like I’m doing an HR performance review) and kept the crowd going for close to 2 hours. Lead singer Ed Roland is one helluva entertainer and painted the stage like an artist. The show reminds you of going to see your buddy’s band and feels like he’s playing just for you. They played the classic singalongs and mixed in the new release which had me in a mad rush to download when I got home. Joining Ed from the original line up were his brother Dean and bassist with mad skills Will Turpin. Rounding out the band is drummer Johnny Rabb who had me mesmerized and lead guitarist Jesse Triplett who could freaking THRASH! Not kidding. Every song was like a contest between Johnny and Jesse to see who could outshine the other. They both turned it up to 11.

The night ended with an extended version of Run which made the experience come full circle. I stood there looking at these guys not much older than me (well, except for Ed) and realized that we all grew up but not old. I now understand and appreciate what my brother feels when he goes to see bands from his younger days. We have shorter hair and even a few grey ones, but music is still bringing us together and for 2 hours everything in the world was good.

Derda boys hit the Pirates final home game

PNC Park

Fan Appreciation Day (a.k.a. final home game of the season) with the Pittsburgh Pirates was as much of a tradition as attending Opening Day when I was younger. I could dream of playoffs but next to the 90-92 run, the reality was that I was there for the giveaways or “Clean out the promo closet for next year!” day. Last Sunday I was able to relive those times as a kid with my oldest son.

Spoon and Teaspoon at the Pirates gameTeaspoon has been on me all summer to attend a ballgame and on Sunday the stars (and our schedules) finally aligned to make it happen but going isn’t cheap for a family of four. After a quick search of StubHub I scored 2 seats to the right of home plate for $20/each. Two not four? Cheeseburger was more interested in spending the day with his mom so I got lucky on this one.

Quick trip on the Red Line brought us down to the North Shore where we took part in the Sunday Pirates Kids Zone. Bouncy houses, face painting and plenty of fun activities for kids.

Having burned his energy outside, Teaspoon was ready to kick back and watch some ball. Actually he wanted food and he wanted it NOW! Since we were working on many firsts for this game I got one in for myself. A meal I’ve dreamed about for years but could never stand in line long enough to justify hunger over waiting. I finally had a Manny’s BBQ and the bbq pulled pork sandwich (pictured below) lived up to the hype I’ve been hearing. The secret is getting to the stand behind center field when the gates open to 45 minutes before first pitch otherwise you could be waiting awhile.

Before the game kicked off the Pirates saluted A.J. Burnett and Aramis Ramirez who will be ending their careers at the end of the season. A.J. didn’t spend a lot of time with the Pirates but quickly won over the fans and team with his gritty presence. He’s a badass. This team would not be as successful as it is now without his leadership.

A-Ram came to the Pirates in the 90’s and bounced around the majors before returning here for one more season. He’s the last of the Pirates who can say they played at Three Rivers Stadium and PNC Park.

Just before first pitch came the last surprise, a monstrous weather balloon from the Carnegie Science Center which they launched 96,0000 feet into the mid-stratosphere! Cameras were attached to the balloon which you can watch in the breath taking video below.

Oh yeah there was a game too. Pirates held on to a 4-0 win against the Reds which leads to the NL Wild Card game tonight against the Cubs in Pittsburgh. Buctober is taking the country by storm and I’ll be on my couch with the boys catching every minute of it. They may get a pass to stay up late but they’ll have to clear it with their mother first.

Getting out of the house – the year of family travel

I’ve joked over the years that unless someone was getting married or had passed away, we’ve never been on a family vacation and I haven’t taken a break in over 10 years. Sad thing was, I wasn’t kidding. It was the truth.

Cheeseburger Derda Erie ZooVacations and time off were never part of my vocabulary and looking back it has been one of my biggest regrets. I was raised to believe that you work no matter what and there will be time to rest when you are dead. I was constantly connected and little did I know there was more than time in the sun I was missing. It would piss me off when I saw friends who always griped about not having money posting pics from trips they took every couple of months. If I was going to do this I would have to learn how to relax. You read that correctly. I didn’t know how to relax.

Every winter we would day dream about trips to take and then reality would sink in, I’d freak about money, logistics behind organizing an adventure and stress out to the point where I’d say “screw this!” and go back to work. After being off for a year to stay home with the boys I discovered I had to make more time for my family and more importantly, myself.

You may have noticed a serious lack of posts this year… or you haven’t (hi new people!). After returning from our first trip in April I made the decision to take a blogging break as well. Then we went on more unplanned vacations and let me tell you, it was freaking wonderful. Nothing breaking the bank either. We found great (read as hella cheap) ways to relax as a family and have fun. This post will be a kickoff for the 2015 Derda travel series which include:

  • Waco, TX – Week long adventure including flights with Spirit Airlines, dining at the restaurant where biker warfare took place and so much good BBQ it shot out my ears.
  • Sherman, NY – A week in the woods at “Cabin on Echo Pond” by Chautauqua turned out to be one of the most relaxing places in the world.
  • Erie, PA – Sometimes you need to go home to get yourself grounded.
  • Cherry Hill, NJ – You don’t know a long road trip until you’ve been on a Greyhound bus. Solo trip for my first ever guy’s weekend and memories that ummm well we ate and drank very well.
  • Harrisville, PA – Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park at Kozy Rest was the site for my 1st ever camping trip. You can guess how this city slicker handled the woods.

Stories above will become live as the stories are posted over the next week and they’ll all link to each other.

Fast Food Friday – McDonald’s Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Sandwich

Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Sandwich

Commercial Description
A tender, juicy, filet made with 100% chicken breast meat, real buttermilk and no artificial colors. Plus fresh tomato, crisp leaf lettuce and mayonnaise. All atop our delectable artisan roll.

Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Sandwich

Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Sandwich Nutritional Facts

Spoon’s Thoughts
Buttermilk Crispy Chicken SandwichMcDonald’s buns have been a huge upgrade over the past year and I’d say the best in fast food. The chicken had a slight crunch and was juicier than I expected but I couldn’t tell if any buttermilk was actually used. The texture was similar to original crispy KFC chicken but the flavor came in around the bland and boring mark. I might consider buying another one but the execution of the sandwich was also poor. Barely a dab of mayo, tomato tasted frozen and lettuce was stale. There wasn’t anything to get excited about.

What could make this better? Actually put mayo on it, add BACON and/or thick cut pickle chips.

The Marketing
I had zero interest in trying the sandwich (mostly because of the buttermilk/don’t give me lactose thing) until I received an email promoting the sandwich. I work in digital marketing and have been researching what the major brands are working on these days so I decided to check it out. What I saw made me scratch my head.

When you click through to the website you’re greeted by a gallery of animated gifs. That’s the trendy thing right now so why not. The gifs should start playing on mouse over, instead you have to click on the image and wait for it to load. People are very forgiving about video quality if server load is an issue for you. Your customers just want to have a good experience.

Once the gif does start there are options to share (Hooray! Sharing!). Hey that’s great but you’re not sharing the image, you’re sharing a link to the page which you then have to click again to get the gif to load. There should be an option, especially for Twitter, to let you share the image in your feed or download it so you can post it. Giphy is how this gallery should be.

How do you tell your super fans from the shares? From a tracking standpoint on multiple machines I didn’t see the short link change. This would be a good way to see who your power users are. I know from what I’ve worked on this is easier said than done so I’ll let it slide. There’s no hashtag though so you need to find a way to filter the pre-written tweets to profiles. Radian 6, HubSpot, Hootsuite Enterprise or Adobe Social should have a way to do that.

The TV/web commercial is also on the page. I dig the woman who’s out talking to the crowd. She has a very energetic attitude like most vendors I visit and given the reactions I’ll look past the possible plants but it’s the messaging that I have a problem with. If I was a food truck vendor and I found out McDonald’s was there trying to fit in, I’d be pissed. Honestly the quality of a few menu items would win in a blind tasting but knowing how it’s usually a mom and pop operation running a truck fighting to get exposure for their business, a corporation coming in undercover doesn’t sit well with me.

The mobile experience is… well… less than glamorous. You’re sent to a page with ads and a scrolling banner. If you’re fast enough to tap the Buttermilk Chicken image you’re taken to a brief overview that does nothing to wow you. Let’s be real here, no one is going to look at boring content from their phone and make a decision. If you’re on MyFitnessPal you *MIGHT* take the nutritional value into consideration but overall, this could have been better.

Final Thoughts
Sandwich was good but not a “OMG you know what I could go for right now…” good. It’s a spur of the moment decision when the kids are screaming and you need to eat.

The Pittsburgh Tribune Review crossed the line

Pittsburgh Tribune Review 082715

There are countless times when I’ve said I would quit/unsubscribe from a publication because of something they printed and never did. I’d cool off, say eff it and move on but this morning I couldn’t. I was pissed when I opened up the Pittsburgh Trib.

Pittsburgh Tribune Review 082715That photo is the moment before reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward of Virginia-based WDBJ-TV were executed by Vester Flanagan during a live TV report.

There are so many ways this story could have ran and the Trib decided to go with the view from the gunman which he broadcasted to the internet. You could have used just the profile pictures of the two journalists and made your point but no, you had to sink this low.

I’m absolutely disgusted by this move. I tried to hold onto my subscription because there are a handful of really good reporters there but this was too much. I called this morning and broke up with the Trip. Told them to keep whatever I still had left and take me off all future calls.

This isn’t a post to be all “oh look it me. I’m doing something *hrumph*!” it’s to say, what the bloody hell. I know click bait and “shock” sells and you need to make money but there are sites like TMZ who should deal with the trash, not the local newspaper. Journalists and reporters nationwide asked that people on Twitter not to watch the video and here you are eating up your own kind. I was in a seminar this past spring where I heard a Trib employee say “it’s about the clicks” (which is pretty much why they keep Rossi around). Now I see that it’s true.

UGH I’m so frustrated. You can’t just get straight up news anymore. It has to be right or left wing and be a SHOCK piece to make people go *BLOOP BLOOP BLOOP* crazy insane and fear the world. No wonder everyone is on edge. You’re now the equivalent to those “What happens next will amaze you” website ads.