Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Scandi-Sotan: Someone Already Invented the Word

Yesterday, I took credit for the word, "Scandisotan" a mixture of Scandinavian and Minnesota.  Today, curiosity got the best of me and I Googleed the term.

I have to admit, several others have used the word before.

Here's a restaurant review:

I would add Bachelor Farmer to your list of possibilities based on "new American" (or Scandi-sotan) and also because you mention wine--they do a cool wine share thing where you can get a glass of any bottle and the rest goes on a chalkboard for consumption likewise. 

And there's more, from this book by David Hage, where it refers to an accent.


Monday, April 14, 2014

Putting the Hobbled Back in Hobbled Runner

And so it begins – another round of physical therapy.  This time it’s my shoulder, the right one to be precise.  The pain began in January after a few hard weekends of cross-country skiing.  Shoveling snow didn’t help, and now I can’t comfortably cross my right arm in front of my body.  It makes it hard to wash my left side in the shower, and makes putting on shirts a bit of a challenge.  Sleep is impacted as well.  I usually sleep on my right side but the pain in forcing me to sleep on the left side.  Inevitably I roll over and wake up on my right side – with a stiff, sore shoulder. 

The PT guy was probably my age – maybe a little younger.  During the intake process I mentioned that as a result of the shoulder injury I found push-ups challenging and I wasn’t doing pull-ups anymore.  He sort of snorted/laughed and kindly offered that he hadn’t been able to do pull-ups with ease in a while.  Then he asked how old I was – implying that pull-ups were for kids.  Hah! 

I’m no Cross-Fit gym rat but I know my way around the pull-up bars.  The nerve of the guy!  Just because he’s too old for pull-ups doesn’t mean the rest of us can’t hope to swing again from the bar.

In my typical Scandisotan* way I tried to down-play my ability – said I wasn’t a pull-up freak, and they were probably easy because I’d been doing them for years.  This is true.  I started doing pull-ups when we lived in south Minneapolis.  I would run with Favorite around Lake Nokomis and take time to do pull-ups (and dips!) on the old 1970s era Parcourse fitness equipment. 

While it’s true, I’m not 15 anymore – but I think I see some pull-ups in my future – once I lick this latest shoulder injury.

*Scandisotan – (Adjective, first used 2014) – A new word of my own invention; a combination of Scandinavian and Minnesotan meant to imply one who has the “best” traits of both traditions.  See also, “Minnesota Nice”, and passive-aggressive. 


Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Digital Reading

This Washington Post article about reading skills in a digital age is interesting.   The title implies that online reading is not "serious":

"Serious reading takes a hit from online scanning and skimming, researchers say"

It sounds the familiar alarm - that our online "reading" (skimming and scanning) is hurting our traditional paper reading - but also points out this interesting point:

The brain was not designed for reading. There are no genes for reading like there are for language or vision. But spurred by the emergence of Egyptian hieroglyphics, the Phoenician alphabet, Chinese paper and, finally, the Gutenberg press, the brain has adapted to read.
I always enjoy the evolutionary way of looking at things.  Of course, humans learned to read over time - and now we are learning a new way to read.  
I'm not ready to be alarmed - yet.  Of course, I seem to have developed a new way of reading - the digital way - and have been able to keep my "old" way of reading deeply with concentration.  Online reading is highly distracting (to me), too many links, far too easy to stray over to your email, etc. . . 
Perhaps - one could argue - successful online readers will develop the ability to filter distractions and continue to read deeply, with concentration online.  Those are the folks who will succeed in the years to come - digital readers who can read the "old way" - with concentration in an increasingly distractable world.
  

Question of the Day

Question of the day:  How hard should I try to ignore the urge to retire from public service?  

I have one year left to serve on the local Planning Commission.  We are limited to two, three year terms.  I considered getting off the Commission in time for the annual new member selection in March.  Every year the Commission has two open spots, guaranteeing staggered terms which are good for continuity. 

Why now?  Why not just stick it out through the end of the year? 

Last month’s Planning Commission was a bummer with a contentious public hearing that seemed to drag on forever.  At one point I lost my temper.  I ended up being the only “no” vote on a new redevelopment site plan review.  I didn’t like the way the issue was presented to us.  Our decision will set a precedent for future similar developments.  It seemed that we couldn’t delay our decision to gather more information because this project was rolling forward and was expected to be at the City Council by a certain date.  That made me feel like a rubber stamp. 

It often feels like we can’t slow things down and hold a matter over another month for more staff work or time for commissioners to consider the matter before voting.   As it is, we usually find out about the agenda items the Saturday before a Wednesday meeting, giving us only a few days to read the materials and visit the site(s) of the agenda items. 

So I felt rushed in the meeting, I would have preferred more time to consider the issue.  Top it off with the fact that the big development issue came after more than a one hour public hearing on some new lights being proposed by an athletic field at a local college – or University as it’s now calling itself.

A small but vocal group of neighbors came out to complain about the proposed lights, and also raise all sorts of complaints about existing operations at the school.  I know I take criticism personally and some of the folks were just mad at the city or the system, but it really got under my skin.  As the years have gone by I find I’m much less patience with the average citizen, especially the rude ones.

The older I get the more valuable time becomes to me.  Recently I find I’m anxious at events where I feel I’m “wasting my time”.   I want to leave, go home, go back to my desk – anywhere where I can do things on my own time and my own terms.

As for the Planning Commission, I could stick it out – see it as a challenge.  Maybe I need to overcome my anxieties about contentious public hearings.  Perhaps my service can help me develop skills I either don’t have or might want to develop.  But I had those skills in my younger day – I’m just much more impatient as I grow older. 

A wise friend once told Shana when she was complaining about some upcoming volunteer obligation:  “If it causes so much grief, why do it?”

“Why do it?”  That’s a good question. 


Perhaps we “do” because so many “don’t.  Once you start volunteering for stuff – school committees, board memberships, you become the type of person who is called upon even more to serve.  As I learned back in Cub Scout leader training (yuck!), don’t ask for volunteers from the group of folks who are currently doing nothing.  Sure they have time to spare; but they don’t want to get involved.   Seek volunteers from those parents who are already busy.  The do-nothings will continue to do-nothing, while the volunteers always say, “Yes” to more.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

All Dressed Up - and Nowhere to Go


Those who know me well know my position on office dress.  While we are officially a “business casual” workplace, I have a different opinion of “business casual” than others around here.

This morning I put on the fancy duds – OK, not that fancy, just a sport coat and tie – but plenty fancy around here – for a customer presentation.  As frequently happens, schedules changed and the 15 minute audience was cancelled. 

So here we were, all dressed up with nowhere to go. This led to a clothing discussion with my colleagues.  Several of us agreed; we are surprised by what passes for acceptable business dress.  I observed that during a rather boring segment of a recent “stand-up” meeting I did a quick clothing inventory:   Of the 14 in attendance, 7 were in jeans, and of those, 3 had shirts un-tucked.   One of my superiors seldom wears jeans, usually only on Fridays – if then.  When she wore jeans recently she was congratulated by an HR rep for doing a nice job setting the proper example for her employees – essentially endorsing and encouraging folks to dress casually.  The gist of the HR thought was that bosses should dress casual to assure the rest of us that it’s OK to dress casual.  As if they needed any encouragement. 


OK – where’s this post leading – nowhere really.  People will dress how they want, and I enjoy the ability to “dress-down” on some days – it’s a nice perk.  But I don’t dress-down every day.  Honestly what do some of these folks wear around the house in the evening?   


Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Bony Shoulder Post

There will be no photo with this post.  No picture of the weird bony protrusion from my right shoulder.  The one picture I snapped to share with my medical relatives looked kind of gross.  I ended up deleting it.
Picture or not – I’ve got shoulder troubles.  (Yes, I need to call the doctor back and see about a referral to physical therapy.)  

So, thinking about my shoulder – I was interested to read today’s StarTribune article about neck strain.  Perhaps that’s the source of some (all?) of my trouble. 

"Marked by a stiff neck, knots in the shoulders and headaches, the malady arises when the head is pushed forward away from the body’s center. The unnatural posture strains muscles in the neck and chest area. Left unchecked, this constant scrunching of the upper body increases the risk of pinched nerves, bone spurs and degenerative disk disease, doctors say. It could even lead to a Quasimodo-like profile much earlier in life."

Sunday, March 30, 2014

It Must Be Spring - Making Syrup


Shana and John decided to tap our two maple trees Saturday.  This was our first year tapping trees.  The next door neighbors are keen tree tappers and were very helpful getting us started on the road to maple syrup.  

By bed-time Saturday, we had a gallon or two of sap set aside.  We started boiling it down this morning, adding more sap as the day went by.  By 5:00 pm (and we started at 7:00 am) we had filled the mason jar seen in the photo.  By 9:30 we had another small jam jar full.  We are quite pleased.  Lots of folks complain how hard it is - hours of onerous boiling of sap only to come up with a pittance, but this seems like a fine amount of syrup for the effort.

On my walk this morning, I observed another sure sign of spring – the return of Red-winged blackbirds. My birding skills have atrophied to the point where I can’t say this is the first time I’ve observed them this year.  In the past, I was quite keen to note the arrival of certain migrating birds like the first sighting of a blue bird, or the familiar call of the Red-wing blackbird. 

Anyway, birding skills being what they are, I practically walked into several Red-winged black birds along the little pond at the park.  I believe the males come north first, staking out nesting territory.  They were calling and flying about the dead cattails surveying the real estate, and wondering when the hell the ice would melt. 


A few blocks from home I greeted a father pulling two little kids in a wagon.  They must have been on their way to the park.  I recall going to the park with our kids when we first moved here.  I felt sad thinking how time flies and kids grow quickly.  To hammer home the point, as I turned the corner I saw Maria come out of the house, get in the car and drive away.  Sigh – I bet she wouldn’t fit in a wagon any way.  

Friday, March 28, 2014

Bleak, Bright Spring



Here's a photo from the walking path taken today around noon.  It's getting warmer but when you look up at the trees, spring seems a long way off.   Of course it helps that half the trees in this photo are dead - the ones in back.  They died when what was once woods flooded to create a small swamp alongside the walking path.  Anyway - no trees are budding yet.

Today I learned the value of patience, of waiting - and perhaps even delay.  Without getting into the boring details I can sum the situation up like this:  Yesterday's crisis resulted in a quick untested fix that ended up breaking stuff we hadn't ancipated.  We spent most of today rolling back the changes and scrambling to set things right.

We're not done yet - but almost there.

Twenty-four hours later - countless person hours of work - and we are back where we started before we attempted to "fix" the problem.

My advice for the next crisis:  Stop, think, better yet, delay.