Friday, September 30, 2005

Must Resist Force Feeding

Yesterday I visit the dietitian for a bit of "Nutritional Therapy" (working on that cholesterol) and now today this:

Hi everyone,

The food has arrived and is available in the vending area. The supply will be replenished throughout the day.

Thanks again for your hard work on this campaign.

This is how we reward people where I work. The food has been "out" for 45 minutes and the one or two veggie trays are empty, leaving chips, pop, cheese, crackers, cookies - - none of which are on my new plan.

For those family members who want all the gory details of yesterday's therapy, here's a brief summary (cut/pasted from e-mail to Hobbled Wife):

Dietitian visit very interesting. Needless to say, I am doing most things right: whole grain breads, fair amount of fruit and vegetables. She liked that I was trying to cut out between meal snacks and bedtime treats.

She recommended cutting back on sugars (jelly at breakfast for instance) in an effort to bring down the triglycerides. She also suggested cutting way back (or cutting out) cheese. (I have a ham/cheese sandwich in my lunch today). Another thing - - more fish (omega three fatty acids. Suggested flax seed as an additive.

She recommended a diet of 1400- 1500 calories per day (40 - 45 grams of fat - 11 - 15 of that saturated).

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Shirts, No Shi@

Slacker Manager has a funny post about a typo in a recent Land's End catalog. Very nice response from LE as well.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Whoa - Finished a Book!

If you knew how many books I start, but never finish, this may come as a surprise to you. And if you knew how I never read fiction, this would be an even bigger surprise.

I finished an entire book the other day!

And by "book" I mean "grown-up" book. I finish a half dozen or more kid books each week. Actually, this accomplishment is amazing for two reasons (well three):

1. It was a grown-up book, read cover-to-cover.
2. It was fiction - swore off fiction a few years ago.
3. It was actually science-fiction (in as much as it involved aliens)- and I "hate" science fiction.

The book, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, by Jack Finney. OK, OK, it wasn't deep or difficult, but it was entertaining, diverting, and fun.

I had purchased the book for the Hobbled Wife some time ago, but she ever read it. She is a Jack Finney fan, so I was surprised to find this at a book store, since I didn't know Finney wrote the Invasion of the Body Snatchers. In fact, I was surprised that anyone wrote it as a book - - I just figured it was a screenplay. Found it laying around, I was between books, so I gave it a spin.

Don't have the strength or interest to review it properly, but it was entertaining, not too scary (in fact pretty tame by today's standards), but an interesting "period piece". Finney was writing in 1954 or 55, but he set the book twenty years ahead to 1976. What was the reason for this? I couldn't figure it out. He didn't do any cool future-prediction stuff. Everyone still drove cars, lived in homes with regular appliances, etc. In fact, the main character was a doctor, who still made house calls and used an answering service. I thought most MDs gave up house calls by 76. Did they still use answering services?? Maybe pagers were a few years out. Anyway, couldn't see the point of the future setting.

On to another book, non-fiction again (whew!).

One of these days I will have to post about the great series that the Dude and I are working our way through: The A to Z mystery series by Ron Ray. We've kind of skipped around the alphabet, most recently finishing The Falcon's Feathers, and now working on The Bald Bandit.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Again With The Job

No disrespect intended to my company or the position I hold, but most 5 year olds are not that interested in the day-to-day activities of a call center manager. Sometimes even 43 year olds are not that interested. But when your kids start to nag you about your job, you know things have gone too far.

Saturday - driving to the library, we got to talking about school days and work days, vs. “stay home days” i.e. Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays. Out of the blue the Dude asks, “When are you going to quit that boring old job and get a real job building something?” Sort a little capitalist isn't he - the old jobs of value are those building something (creating wealth).

Never had that problem with my Dad. While he didn't actually build things he worked at the Post Office. A five year old understands what the Post Office does. My Dad “made the mail go through” - something anyone could understand. Call center manager doesn’t cut the mustard.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Busy Day

Rainy, dampish Saturday. The Hobbled Wife and Daughter accompanied Mattie (Susanna's) daughter to her swimming lessons, and then back here for lunch and play before M (our M) went off to Sleeping Beauty practice. They practice twice a week for two hours each time. She really likes it.

I spent the morning at the library, and the afternoon in the garage engaged in some sort of fall clean-up. Assembled one of those metal shelves that are always on sale at Home Depot. You get what you pay for. This is probably the fourth one I've assembled, and I always get something wrong, requiring me to take it back a few steps and re-assemble. In the end, a little order has been added to my cluttered life.

Dude and I dined together at Andy's Garage. Shana was not feeling well, and M wanted to play with her dolls, or go to Perkins (again!).

Everyone (but the HR) in bed early. Need a little alone with Patricia Walden and the PM Yoga - everything kind of aches from wrestling with the garage mess.

Susanna update - - she must be feeling GREAT. She called Shana this evening from her hospital bed. Everyone is amazed by her strength and determination. Go Susanna.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Oh Susanna

Our dear friend Susanna suffered a brain aneurysm while driving near Duluth. Her car left the road, but did not crash in such a way as to cause further injury. She was airlifted to St. Paul where she is undergoing a CAT scan in anticipation of surgery. S set up a CaringBridge site for her.

S is over at Susanna and Betsy's tonight for a while, with the kids, whilst the "regular" child care person (a family friend) visits Susanna at the hospital.

Seed Identification

The Hobbled wife and daughter asked that I post this pic taken over the weekend at Camp Lakamaga near Forest Lake, MN. They are some sort of unidentified seed, found on the ground, like acorns would be, but not acorns - - or at least not the type of acorn we are familiar with.

Any ideas?

Never Pay Retail

That's the name of a new site, dedicated to the proposition that why pay retail for TimesSelect material, when you can get it for free in a day or two.

Then there's this:
The New York Times Co. yesterday announced plans to cut 500 jobs from its payroll, with the deepest cuts occurring at its namesake newspaper and The Boston Globe, as advertising revenue remains in a slump.

The reduction, which represents about 4 percent of the company's workforce, comes on the heels of a 2 percent cut in May that saw 200 employees leave.

Sort of a bad news week for the NYT.

Sidewalk Dates

The Dude and I were "reading sidewalks" on Sunday. We were in the St. Anthony area of St. Paul, when we came across some new sidewalk - about three squares worth. They were stamped 7-20-2005, and they also had a name I have forgotten already: ABC Construction, Inc. or something like that.

The Dude thought someone was buried there. He's kind of fascinated with cemeteries and grave markers, so it's a logical leap. I explained that no one was buried there, but the sidewalk was stamped by the guys who made it, so we would know that they did the job. Once you know where to look, cement stamping is all over the place.

Today's Bleat touches on the same subject:

At the park a few weeks ago several of the concrete benches were stamped WPA 1939, and this gave them great poignancy - here the bench had rested for seventy-six years, facing the Mississippi; the trees had changed but the treeline had not. Traffic whined on the bridge; the flag snapped over the old hospital building; you could smell hotdogs. The relationship between today and 1939 was the same as your elbow and your ear. You could get them close but never make them touch. A few dozen yards away from the WAP tables laid slabs poured in ’64, marked with the name of a man long gone out of business. Al Parker. Forty years of feet and water hadn't erased his name; standing atop his handiwork in the impossibly sci-fi sounding year of 2005, we could still see his name and the day he finished the job. So few things are marked with the fabricator’s name and the exact date of completion; sidewalks are a common exception. Probably why we pay them little attention. If you had never seen a name or date stamped in a sidewalk, and you came across such a notation locked in the cement bond, it might be fascinating: who and why? But every street has a name, and every sidewalk has an author.

[Emphasis mine - nice words.]

Where's the Parade?

It’s official; Federated has changed the name of Marshall Fields to Macys. This doesn’t hit me very hard. I realize now that I abandoned my loyalty to the old Dayton’s when they became Marshall Fields a few years back.

When it was Dayton’s, I was very loyal. It’s probably genetic. My mother was employed by Dayton’s at Southdale when she became pregnant with me. I was employed at Dayton’s Southdale for two summers during college. To me, Dayton’s was Southdale, and Southdale was Dayton’s, part of the very fabric of my life. (That sound powerful, but it’s probably a bit of an overstatement—literary BS!)

Anyway, when they changed to Marshall Fields I began to drift away. Prior to the change, I occasionally bought suits from Brooks Brothers—back when you actually had to dress up to go to work—but I felt guilty. I rationalized that Brooks Brothers had a better selection, but I probably did it for some sort of snob appeal. After the change to Marshall Fields, it got easier to shop around. No longer bound by loyalty (or snobbery), I discovered the Men’s Wearhouse.

Now I hear Macy’s and I’m lost. There is no connection to the old Dayton’s there. Macy’s was always New York and the Thanksgiving Day Parade. Marshall Fields was at least Midwestern—based out of Chicago as it was. I think Federated may be Midwestern —but it doesn’t matter—Federated just sounds national.

I wonder how many people turn out early on Thanksgiving morning to find a “good seat” on Nicollet Mall for that big parade the Macy’s is so famous for. Heh - sounds like a Minneesoootan kind of thing to do. They will probably sit there for a few hours before it dawns on them—there will be no big floating Sponge-Bob, no Santa Claus. Oh well, there’s always Men’s Wearhouse.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Come Fly With Me

Interesting post on the Aviation industry, Wither Avaition, from Jane Galt. Food for thought here in Northwest's backyard, where the entire MSP airport seems to now be built around, and for, NWA.

Second of all, the business model is terrible. Airlines have a very high fixed cost, which is the cost of flying even if you don't carry any passengers, and a very low marginal cost, which is the cost of carrying each additional passenger. The temptation for airlines to sell empty "extra" seats at a very low price is extremely high. But every time one airline does this, it makes it that much harder for competitors to operate at a profit. Because so many of the costs are fixed, companies seem to enter a competitive death spiral, where everyone is desperately trying to dig themselves out of the hole as best they can by selling their product below cost. Also, the "hub-and-spoke" model, which makes it easy to get connecting flights, is much less profitable than the point-to-point model competitors use, cherry-picking only the most lucrative routes. And the airlines are hugely vulnerable to swings in the price of fuel.

Monday, September 19, 2005

No Thanks, I'll Wait

You may know that today marks the start of a new NYTimes service - charging a premium for viewing seleted content. I don't suspect that world was dying to know whether I became a TimesSelect member or not, but for the record, I have not. I'll just wait to read Friedman, et. al. 2 or 3 days later in the old print Star-Tribune.

In the meantime, Ann Althouse has some interesting comments:

It's awfully perverse to play up your influential opinion-leaders by making it harder for them to actually get into the interplay of opinion in the blogosphere. Or is the Times hoping this blog thing will blow over?

Sunday, September 18, 2005


The gals are back after a weekend at Camp Lakamaga (the Girl Scout get-away). Much fun was had as evidenced by many crazy pics I just loaded. Here's a nice shot of the gang (aka Troop 1253) with the Hobbled Daughter front-and-center.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Oh Right - - The Suffering Children

Sure - it's all about the suffering children:

Joachim, who lives in Toronto but hails from Sri Lanka, now holds more than 16 Guinness records, including the longest duration balancing on one foot (76 hours, 40 minutes) and bowling for 100 hours. He does it, he says, to raise awareness of suffering children.

Man Breaks Record for Watching TV.

Crazy - But I Gotta Have It

Gillette introduces the five-blade razor, the Fusion.

Fusion is also an affordable luxury. Sure, men will have to shell out $10 for an introductory set of a Fusion razor and two blades, and $12 or more for a four-pack of replacement blades. But over time, Hoffman figures Fusion will cost only about 20 cents a shave, "or about $50 a year." That's fairly reasonable compared to the cost of Starbucks coffee, bottled water, and other increasingly common everyday luxuries.

I'm a big fan of the 3-blade razor. The downside, I've been unable to find a "generic" replacement 3-blade device. Finder cheaper replacement blades was never a problem with the "old" double-blade models. Target, Walgreens, long ago introduced their own cheaper versions of the double-blade razor. Yet, I still pay full-price for the 3-blade models. The 5-blade model will probably break the bank.

But, damn they work so nice. Much better shave than the 3 blade model.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Hobbled Family

Recent photo courtesy of SDMoose (The Hobbled Sis-in-Law).

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

For a Limited Time Only - 84% Off Retail!!!

The Dude had some minor surgery in late August. There was a little confusion about whether the procedure would be covered by insurance. The question was whether it was cosmetic or not. It was resolved favorably for us, as the doctor assured us it would be.

After the surgery we get the bill. (They always send the bill, even if insurance will cover.) Among the bill's line items.

Total bill submitted for procedure: $6333.

Insurance company will cover $1032.

"Payment reduction" of $5301.

I’ve seen “payment reductions” or discounts before, but $5301? That’s 84%. If I was bargaining with someone and “talked them down” by 84%, I’d start to question their integrity. Do they just make these numbers up?

Oh well, at least all we got stuck with was a $25 co-pay. Ain’t it great!

"Helicopter Parents"

The only two people I know who sent their kids off to college this Fall are definitely not "Helicopter Parents", but the phenomena doesn't surprise me.

The Lavallees are part of a new group dubbed "helicopter parents" by college and university administrators. They say the baby boom generation of parents are so involved in their children's college lives they risk preventing their children from growing up.

Today's college students are e-mailing their papers home for their parents' inspection before turning them in. Their parents in turn are stepping in to solve roommate problems, helping students pick out courses and demanding improvements to their rooms.

Hope I don't turn into one - - but when they are only 5 and 8 it's hard to imagine not being a hovering parent.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Reduced Fat?

Enjoying my morning muffin - - enjoying it too much really. Can't really be "reduced fat" as advertised can it?

Checked the Caribou site. Select "Reduced Fat Mountain Berry Muffin". Hmmm -
Reduced Fat Mountain Berry Muffin.

Fluffy buttermilk cake, studded with blackberries, blueberries and raspberries, topped with coarse sugar topping.

10 fat grams? Not really "reduced fat" if you ask me. To compromise, I only ate half, and threw the rest away, so 5 fat grams?

A Little Humor Please

On the drive in to work I listened to the beginning of the Roberts hearings. I don't know why. As someone trained as a lawyer, these things make my skin crawl. You know Roberts is not going to answer a question about a specific case (no judge ever would), and he's certainly not going to "blow it" by saying something real stupid.

John Tierney in today's NYT has some suggested questions for the Senators that just might catch Roberts off-guard:

I'm not suggesting that Mr. Roberts is a liar, or that anything the Democrats ask today could stop him from being confirmed. But they might at least keep TV viewers awake by trying questions like these:

If Roe v. Wade were a tree, what kind of tree would it be?

Is there any chance that you could speed up Justice Stevens's retirement by addressing him as "Gramps"?

Monday, September 12, 2005

Whew! What a Relief

I've seen two reviews of the new McCartney ablum, both were good. The NYT covers it today, complete with a little video/audio clip.

I'm not a big fan of post-Beatles McCartney. I don't own all the albums/CDs. But as a Beatles fan, I just breath a little easier when I see the nice reviews. He's kind of like a distant relative. I don't follow his every move, but take a little pride whenever he does something right.

On "Chaos and Creation in the Backyard," he doesn't use the Beatles touches for easy nostalgia. They're the foundation of a musical identity that's not content, this time, with silly love songs.

Notice the "silly love songs" reference - - that usually gets worked into any McCartney review. It takes a lot to live down "Silly Love Songs."

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Public Radio Branches Out

As reported in today's Star Tribune, Minnesota Public Radio (MPR)—or rather MPR’s parent company—branches out:

American Public Media Group (APMG), parent company to Minnesota Public Radio, has invested almost $1 million in the for-profit, Boston-based The new venture is a "social networking" website devoted to creating an online community of public-radio listeners.

"We think we can take audiences beyond what we give them in public radio and connect them with a whole lot of people who have similar interests," said Bill Kling, president of APMG. "We hope there is a point where they actually get involved in activities with each other -- to take a tour of Italy, or live in a compound in Santa Fe."

"We can't do that in public radio," he said.

Not sure why I’d want to do that “in” public radio. I obviously don’t share the vision. I “listen” to public radio for the news (and sometimes music). I don’t expect to tune into MPR to hook up with like-minded individuals—ones who want to live in a compound in Santa Fe.

This didn’t sound suspicious to me, until I read Bill’s parting words:

Kling added, "Our challenge is to make sure that people understand that this is being done for the same reason that we produce public radio: For the advantage of our audience. We want to develop and strengthen content and to give audiences new experiences. If there's something wrong with that, then there's something wrong with public radio."
[Emphasis mine - sounds kind of defensive.]

I've blogged about this somewhere before, but it seems more and more like MPR doesn't need my few bucks a year. They seem to do just fine on their own. I"ll probably just up my pledge to KFAI - whose annual pledge form arrived in the mail yesterday, and whose Rockin-n-Rhythm show played an hour of Buddy Holly this morning in celebration of his birth.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Obligatory Food Shot

Members of the Hobbled Family consuming beef by-products at the Great MN Get Together, 9/5/05.

Enjoy Yourself Now

Given his grandfather's view on personal watercraft, the "Jet Ski Ride" on the Kiddie Midway is the closest he'll ever get to the real thing.

The Dude and unidentified female traveling companion, 9/5/06.

My Parents are Wimps

I'm forced to ride the scary rides alone.

Hitchin' a Ride

I'm not as tired as I pretend to be, just don't tell Dad.

Quick Health Update

Met with Dr today to discuss cholesterol results. We decided to try one last step before medication: The Nutritionist. This should please all those family members who think I'm just one donut away from great health!

Blogs vs. Novels

Ann Althouse has an interesting post/discussion with comments on the role blogs play in the workplace, and in our lives.

I agree - blogs are not novels, and novels are not blog. It's apples and oranges for the many of the reasons she mentions:

Almost anyone, anywhere can blog. It's not limited to persons with elite literary skills. Blog posts go up instantly and can be read instantly. There are millions of blogs, full of variety, and relatively few novels can be published and kept available. You don't have to pay to read a blog. Blog posts can describe isolated details without needing to fit them into some character's dramatic story arc. Writers with the time and ability to produce publishable novels do not populate all parts of the workplace. Novelists don't tend to care very much about the details of how different businesses work: literary novelists concentrate on personal relationships, and popular novelists concentrate on clever or thrilling stories.

I'm not knocking novels. I'm just saying they occupy one niche, and blogs have staked out another. Novels show things blogs don't and blogs show things novels don't.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Damn - these guys are loud

Sitting in my home - windows closed, air conditioning on, over one mile from nearest State Fair ground entrance - "listening" to Switchfoot. They obviously don't have kids who start school tomorrow.

Update - the fireworks have begun (God - they're loud too) - that means the concert's over - and the fair as well - for the most part.

State Fair Highlights

Whew! Just made it. Back from the cabin in time to squeeze in Labor Day at the fair. Fairly long day (9:30 - 4:30). A fine time was had by all.

Highlight (or lowlight): Almost vomiting on the rather subdued Monkey Mayhem ride on the Kiddie Midway. It was a popular ride amongst the kiddies, so the Dude and I had company in our car: three little hellians. All were relatives: brother, sister, cousin, ranging in age from 11 - 13. They had spent some time on the "big" Midway where they had purchased (or - at that age I fear - their parents had allowed them to purchase) fake cigarette lighters. Fake cigarette lighters - WTF! Not only were these pretty reasonable facsimiles of cigarette lighters, but they were designed to administer an electric schock.

Not to be outdone, the Dude showed them his bracelet: a State Fair approved child ID bracelet, so in case we got separated, Mr. and Mrs. Hobbled could be quickly contacted. These kids were not impressed with the bracelet. (I suspect their parents were aware of these bracelets but chose not to obtain them.)

The boy of this group - probably 12 or 13, and slightly cross-eyed, started spinning the car via the large wheel in the center of the car designed for that purpose. He didn't stop spinning for the entire ride - - and damn that kid could spin fast! I almost lost it. I tried closing my eyes and breathing deeply, but that didn't work. Breathing deeply rarely works at the fair. After the ride, the urchins asked me to try their lighters (heh- heh). I declined.

**Loved this from the Monkey Mayhem site:

"Monkey Mayhem gives customers, interested in our Spin Rides, a great new vehicle to choose from. The jungle theme is a look that has broad appeal, and the detail that has gone into this ride is impressive. You have to see it in person to truly appreciate it."

Back to School Special

M starts 3d grade tomorrow, and the Dude tackles Kindergarten on Wednesday. Ahh - back to that sweet routine. School, for months and months to follow.

Thoughts to ponder
for the new (academic) year, via Devclue, as I send the kids off to public school:

More important, however, is the fact that universities are far more subject to the discipline of the market, meaning they face financial consequences for displeasing students or parents. Nearly every American college student has to pay tuition covering a significant percentage of the cost. If colleges fail to serve the students well, they may lose tuition revenues or fall in rankings issued by organizations. Top spots in the US News & World Report list are particularly coveted.

By contrast, very few public schools charge anything for attendance. Because parents "pay" for schools only indirectly through property taxes, they demand expensive but inefficient features like small classes. While classes of over 30 are rare for high school seniors, many college kids learn quite well a year later as college freshman in lectures of 200 -- and the parents rarely complain because they are now paying the bill.

Happy September!