The “Other” List: What I Love About Des Moines

Juice has come out with a list called “50 Things We Love About Des Moines”.  I’m not a “list” person by any means.  There are far too many things about living here in Iowa I love, and about Des Moines, since I’m a resident here.

This is going to be Des Moines-centric, so for you fellow readers out in Cedar Rapids and Eastern Iowa, you have been warned.

With that said, I have no opposition or issues with the list.  It’s a good list.  But, as my eccentric nature of independence, there are a few things not on the list that I love about living in the Des Moines area.

Looking for tickets for the State Wrestling Tournament next week? Good luck.

1.  State Tournaments  Did you know that high school state tournament season begins the next week with state wrestling?  Des Moines has a pep in its step when teams and fans from across the state arrive to Wells Fargo Arena for wrestling and girls and boys basketball action.

2.  First Saturday of Farmers Market The first Saturday in May has become an unofficial holiday as the start of the Downtown Farmers Market kicks off.  20,000+ people, with babies, dogs, and shopping bags looking for the freshest goods available.

All locally grown.

I'm looking forward to renting out a B-cycle this spring.

3. B-Cycle The B-Cycle is on its way to becoming the new way to tour the city, without burning gas in the car.  The city-owned bicycle rental program is one of the best ideas to take advantage of the great bike trails in the Des Moines area.

4. Manhattan Deli  No bells, no whistles, and no splash.  Just simply walk up, order, and then sink your teeth into a local sub sandwich delight.  PGA golfer, Cedar Rapids native and Drake grad Zach Johnson has a sandwich named after him.  It’s the only sub sandwich I order when I go there.  Oh, cash and checks only.  No debit or credit cards.

5. Americana’s “Winner Winner Chicken Dinner” Americana Restaurant’s “Bombshell Brunch” is the place to be on Saturday and Sunday mornings, but if you are not a morning person, schedule a trip for Monday nights for “Winner Winner Chicken Dinner.”  Endless amounts of fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and cornbread is all waiting there to be dined on as you decompress from the start of the work week.

Des Moines skyline.

6.  A view from the Capital Head to the Capital, park your car (no meters), get out of car, and walk around.  Take in the view of downtown.  Get some fresh air, albeit cold wintry air.

7. East Village There was no such thing as East Village when I moved here from college in 1998.  Slowly and quietly, the area between the Capital and the Des Moines River downtown has become the model of success for local shops.  From Vitae to the Kitchen Collage, The Village Bean to eden, East Village is the original local success story of entrepreneurship and realizing big dreams.  Which leads me to…

Your mission for 2012: get to know Christian Renaud (left) and Tej Dehwan. They run Startup City Des Moines.

8.  The Silicon Sixth If you haven’t heard of Silicon Sixth Avenue, make 2012 the year to learn about it and the people involved.  Dwolla is located on the Sixth, so is Startup City Des Moines, ShareWhere, and the Des Moines hub of Silicon Prairie News.  The Silicon Valley isn’t the only place where new ventures and technology are being created.

9.  Mars Cafe The Drake Neighborhood got a jolt of caffeine when Mars Cafe opened.  Similar to East Village, Dogtown, as the locals affectionally call it, is another great example of neighborhoods being revitalized and attracting visitors and patrons alike.

10. Home Sweet Home Many people in my age group couldn’t wait to get out of Iowa after college.  I never had an inclination to leave.  Why?  I’m happy here in Iowa.  Des Moines has always been a city where if the right people, the right time, and the right opportunities fall into place, it could be a great place to live.  The verdict:  it is the right place for me.


News and Sports Links – Drake Relays Edition

The Drake Relays are underway at Drake Stadium/Johnny Bright Field. They'll be plenty of Drake alums returning as this is the school's unofficial "Homecoming" weekend.

Mother Nature always have a way to throw a monkey wrench into Drake Relays week in Des Moines.  But if there is one thing she can’t do, and that is stop me from rolling some links today.

On your mark…get set…let’s go.

Despite the warnings, over 200 people were killed by the nearly 20 or so tornadoes flying all over the state. 

If you are planning on heading to the Saturday session of the Drake Relays, show some love to the athletes from the University of Alabama track team and the other schools from Alabama.  Several of them have lost homes, family members, friends, or all three in one of the worst storms that state, or the nation have seen in years. 

  • Big Omaha is coming up in two weeks and Danny Schreiber of Silicon Prairie News has the lowdown on who’s speaking, the panels, and the parties. 
  • A familiar voice in horse racing will not be on hand to call the Kentucky Derby next Saturday.  Tom Durkin, who has called the last 30 Triple Crown races and calls races for 3 tracks for the New York Racing Association, has decided to not renew his contract with NBC to call this year’s major horse races, citing stress. 

I will miss him behind the microphone calling the Kentucky, Preakness, and the Belmont.  The rumor is that Larry Collmus could replace Durkin.  Collmus gained notoriety last year for this memorable call: 

That’s it for now.  Have a great weekend. 

News and Sports Links – April 14, 2010

Justin Schoen of eComegy. (Eric Rowley/Juice)

I have several projects on the docket and I’ll be out and about on this wet day.  Let us get to the business of finding out what’s going on over the past few days. 

Before I do, I want to thank all of you for being patient and allowing me to keep the “Life Disrupted” post up for a few days.  I hope that it was a source of inspiration for my fellow friends and acquaintances who knew her.  As I said, I didn’t know Ashley very well, however my friends Pete Jones and Shawn Harrington did.  I’ll let you read their words on their blog “Des Moines is Not Boring.”

  • I never thought this day would come, but it has.  ABC has announced that “All My Children” and “One Life to Live”, their daytime bedrocks, will be cancelled.  AMC will bid adieu in September, OLTL in January.  Time to bid adieu to Erica Kane and Viki Buchanan.  My childhood memories have now been permanantly dismantled (I’m kidding).  It might be a good time wax poetically on soap operas one of these days. 


Erica Slezak, the actress who plays Viki Buchanan, on OLTL.


  • With the NBA playoffs looming, popular and oft-controversial national Fox Sports columnist Jason Whitlock spent a few days with LeBron James‘ friend and manager Maverick Carter.  While Carter and James continue to recieve bad press for how LeBron left Cleveland, Whitlock learns that Carter is taking the lessons from the debacle and have started to put them to good use as a savvy businessman. 
  • Tim Epstein from the impressive Sports Law Blog writes an opinion about the Illinois Legislature reigniting the debate over the hotly-debated “multiplier” rule that was put in place by the Illinois High School Association in 2005.  Basically, the concept of the enrollment multiplier is that it requires actual enrollments of non-boundaried schools be multiplied by 1.65 in determining classification in athletics competition.  As a result, this pits smaller private schools against much larger public schools, as an effort to bring the number of state championships won by private schools more in line with their smaller numbers relative to public schools. The Legislature is working on an amendment to do away with the multiplier rule. 
  • Silicon Prairie News‘ (in conjunction with Juice) Christopher New profiles a fellow friend of mine Justin Schoen and his company, eComegy.  eComegy is a commerce and marketing consulting firm here in Des Moines.  
  • There is some movement at ESPN according to The Big Lead.  Josh Elliott shocked the Worldwide Leader by announcing that he is heading to join ABC’s Good Morning America.  TBL reports that Kevin Neganhdi will replace Elliott on the live morning SportsCenter.  

Apparently, Chris Berman felt that it’s way too early for a 5:00 am wake-up call!  

That’s it for now. 

I still can’t believe that my favorite soap opera character is going away. 

I’m going to miss Viki Buchanan! 

Role Reversal


Ben Milne of Dwolla. Watch the video of his talk from the BIZ Luncheon.


“I’m the dumbest guy in the room.”

Ben Milne, CEO of Dwolla


Growing up, I was always the “smartest guy in the class”.  I knew more about current events, sports, and miscellaneous facts than all of the other kids in school.  One classmate asked if she could have my brain so she could pass her social studies test.

Today, I wonder if being “the smartest guy in the room” means anything anymore.  Being the smartest guy meant following a script:  get all A’s in school, go to college, get a job, get married, move up the ladder, start a family, make money, yada yada yada.

It was always the “you have to do this, if you want to get to here” road to success.

That script, which I was told to follow and I followed it because it was “the right thing to do” has made me “the dumbest guy in the room.”  I cut myself off from trying or doing different things because someone told me that my dreams and passion was stupid.  I was told to go into a career field that I was never “felt smart” in.  I am an analytical sort of fellow, never creative or imaginative.

I was told to use my smarts to get ahead and succeed.  Oh, I worked hard, but I overworked, stressed myself out, and was never given credit for anything. I felt dumb, used, and washed up.

Bill Gates dropped out of college.  A few others took a detour path and found their drive and motivation.

Sitting and listening to Ben last week talk about how he started selling speakers from his couch to creating Dwolla has made me wished I wasn’t so “smart.”

Because Ben isn’t the dumbest guy in the room.  He’s the most intelligent, humble, and brightest guy in the room.

He didn’t follow that stupid script.  I was the dummy who did.

News and Sports Links – February 10, 2011

The Midwest is more than agriculture these days, thanks to Silicon Prairie News.



I’m working on two posts that is providing some challenges for me.  So while I’m hammering them out, here are a couple of news and sports links that raised a few eyebrows, if anyone noticed.

  • Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports that the Baltimore Orioles are returning to powerhouse WBAL-AM 1090 radio in Baltimore after four years on the FM side (105.7 The Fan).  Add that to the St. Louis Cardinals’ return to KMOX-AM 1120. Does these moves signal that major leagues teams are returning to stronger AM stations that has helped their brand and popularity over the decades?
  • Lately, I’ve been reading Silicon Prairie News, a website that covers entrepreneurship and the new creative class in the “Silicon Prairie” (Omaha and Des Moines).  A new addition to SPN has been their Prairiecast shows, hosted by Geoff Wood and Andy Brudtkuhl.  This week, Alexander Grgurich of Foundry Coworking and Michael Ferrari of Smarty Pig were the guests.  If you want to know more about entrepreneurship and start-ups, SPN is the go-to site.

Mike Shannon and the Cardinals are returning to powerhouse KMOX radio.



Speaking of  Huff Post

As if Arianna needed the money.  She was already loaded before she created the vastly large news aggregate site.

Finally, Pete Jones of the popular Des Moines is Not Boring stops by Tony Lemmo’s new place, Gusto Pizza.   Pete’s verdict?  Well, I’ll let you read and decide for yourself.

That’s it for now, but enjoy Gusto’s viral commercial that had everyone talking prior to opening.

Get some!

and creatives on the Silicon Prairie

“What do you do?”

Is your identity defined by the company, or by what you do for a job/career?

A week ago, Geoff Wood, a local entrepreneur and part of the Silicon Prairie News team, was talking to local tech wizard Jon Thompson of Evolve and I after a morning YPC social.  Geoff noticed something while networking with some fellow young professionals.

Geoff would ask someone “What do you do?”

That person would reply “I work for _________.”

Geoff was intrigued by that.  What does it mean?  Is the person defined by who they work for?  Does that person have an identity beyond their employer (accountant, customer service rep, administrative assistant, etc.)?  Is saying where you work at enough to be looked at as important and credible?

By only stating where you work at may sound “important”, but it doesn’t define you as a person with skills and expertise in a field of work.  What if you turn it around and say, “Hi, my name is _______, and I’m an accountant/computer programmer/lawyer at ________.”?  Would that get the other person interested in what you do, in contrast to thinking “Oh, he or she is one of thousands of people who work for __________.”

Will you stand out in front of the crowd if you talk about what you love or like to do?