Thursday, December 28, 2006

"I'm On The Hunt, I'm After You. . . "

The local oldies station, KOOL 108, after several weeks of holiday-only music, has switched its format. No longer do I hear "oldies". It's been creeping towards modernity slowly. I recall several years ago when it played only 50s and 60s music. Then it played music from the 60s and early 70s. The new format seems to be some sort of 80s - maybe 90s thing - - with some old stuff thrown in for good measure.

Odd note - the web site still touts the 60s and 70s - maybe the web folks are off for the holidays?

Tonight while driving home from work I heard Surfin' U.S.A. by the Beach Boys, followed by (with no commercial interruption) by Hungry Like the Wolf, by Duran Duran. Now I can't get that one out of my head - OOOOWWWW!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

New Blog in the Family


Forgot to mention that M is now blogging. We set it up on December 23, but she's been so busy with her new iPod (thanks to Grandma-ma) that she has not had much time to blog since Christmas.

That's "Lambie" or is it "Lamby" or perhaps "Lammy" - I've never had to spell his/her/its name before - with a batch of cookies that the kids and I made on Saturday. Very tasty - I had the last two today. [Photo courtesy of M - who received a book on digital photography for kids on Christmas - expect even more photos to follow.]

Post-Christmas: Sorting it All Out


The Hobbled Runner is enjoying a few days home with the kids while the Hobbled Wife toils away - making history (inside joke that). It was a successful morning, with the Dude working mightily on his Harry Potter Lego ship - a million pieces at least, but he does a great job reading the instructions - and really got into sorting pieces by color and function (YES!- someone to pass on the retentive gene).

We got out of the house around 11:00 to visit the Como Zoo. This was my idea, I can't stay inside all day, and I wanted to see the new Tropical Encounters exhibit at the Conservatory. Very cool - they have tropical birds and lizards (and one Sloth) just "out in the open", and fish tanks full of pirahanna (sp?), a water anaconda (green, gross, and gigantic). We even ate lunch at the zoo - very nice cafe which I'd only walked past and never entered. It beat the planned lunch at Perkins.

After Como, we stopped into Target to pick up a prescription and some groceries. That's right, Target one day after Christmas - a bit crazy, but on busy days they have all the registers open, so things moved very fast.

Back home for fun, fizzy experiments with the new chemistry set pictured above.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas Day


Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house - the goodies are laid out awaiting the arrival of the Man in Red.


Not Santa - but the "other" Superman. The Dude is ready to map out his adventures for 2007 with his new Superman calendar.


Diggin' into the loot - time to take the new things for a spin.


Later that day with Grandma-ma, the kids display the plates the made at Color Me Mine.

Christmas Eve


Lots of fun at the Gisselquist family Christmas eve celebration at Uncle Paul and Aunt Deb's new home in Lake Elmo. The "kids" (cousins and grown-ups) decorated cookies before the appetizers/dinner, then opened presents.


Here the Hobbled Runner trys his hand at cookie decorating.


Belle awaits the crumbs.


The cousins.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

SNOW - FINALLY



M in the backyard.

Centerville, SD


Mentioning my father in the last post, got me Googling around South Dakota for a picture of the church(s) he attended as a kid. Found this nice site for Centerville, where he lived from birth to about age 13 I believe. I found a few, but will have to consult with family elders to make sure which is which.

This picture of Gunderson Park is interesting for two reasons: First, I've actually been there - during my first trip to Centerville - I was probably about 13 or 14 at the time; second, I'd love to be able to scan in closer to see if any relatives are amongst the crowd.

Lutherans - Always on the Cutting Edge


Heard an interesting story on MPR this morning, about the changing face of Lutheranism. The story is about an exhibit at the U of M's Immigration History Research Center, that looks into how Lutheran churches are reaching out to the immigrant communities around them - and some are offering services in different languages.

According to curator Allison Adrian:

"My world really does not look like Lake Wobegon," she says, so she wondered, "Why is the stereotype still out there? So I decided to investigate Lutheranism and drove around looking for Lutheran churches that did not fit that Scandinavian, white mold and they were surprisingly easy to find."


Amen to that - the older I get the more tired I am of Lake Wobegone. It's charming, but - - enough already.

One big change - besides services in different languages - involves the music:

"The immigrant congregations have services that run from two to three hours," she says. "They actually want to sing for a much longer period of time than the older Lutheran congregations want to. So music is really at the heart of the tensions that exist around these cultural changes in the church."


This reminds me of my father's stories of having to attend services almost that long - conducted in Norwegian. The problem with those services, according to my Dad, wasn't the singing (wasn't much of that), but the incredibly long prayers, and fire-and-brimstone services.

It's not just Lutherans though, several churches around here (one Baptist, and the other non-denominational) hold services in different languages, in this case Korean and Japanese. I believe some of these instances are actually other congregations using the space of the larger, more established church.

Another link here.

White Christmas?


While it seems like we will get some white stuff, I almost hope it doesn't snow. It would be the only non-white Christmas in 44 years that I recall. Something to tell the grandkids.

Drizzle will change over to snow Thursday night...give yourself a little extra time getting to work Friday morning

A powerful winter storm could drop 3-5 inches of snow on the Twin Cities starting Thursday night and ending early Saturday


Source: StarTribune Weather.

Gift Giving Advice - from an Economist

Here's some last minute gift giving advice from Marginal Revolution:

The economist in me says the best gift is cash. The rest of me rebels. Some people argue that the reason we don't give cash is because that is too easy - to show that we know the person well we must signal by shopping for something "special."

Yet this can't be quite right, either. Imagine the following thought experiment. Someone gives you $100 cash. You go out to the store and buy a set of car tires. Purchasing the tires clearly maximizes your utility. Now imagine that instead of $100 the gift giver gave you a set of car tires. Would you be happy that they know you so well that they purchased for you just what you would have purchased for yourself? I don't think so.


I'll try to keep this in mind as I hustle around the Twin Cities on my last-minute shopping errands.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Jingle Bells, and All That Jazz



Quite a fun time on Monday night as 30 or so Cub Scouts from Pack 150 went caroling at St. John's Hospital. The kids did a great job, stopping twice on each of 4 floors, and working through a standard program of 5 songs: Jingle Bells, Frosty the Snowman, Deck the Halls, Away in a Manger, and The Dreidel Song.

Big sister came along - it was either that or go with Mom to a school meeting. Caroling won - no doubt about it.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Crazy Busy - Holiday Edition

I've edited yesterday's whining, sniveling post (which I pulled) to be a little less self-centered, but still give you an idea why I have a little less of the Christmas spirit this year.

Tired, tired, tired – and two tired kids: M has been on-the-go, non-stop for a few weeks with the Alice play, Ragazzi (Opera) choir, and Church choir. This past weekend was the culmination of many weeks’ work – Friday night play performance; Saturday morning, the Dude had “play class” and M had a 3 hour Ragazzi practice; Saturday night was the final night for the play, and the kids didn’t get to sleep until 10:45 am; Sunday morning – to church by 8:00 for two services (9 and 11) “Lesson in Carols”, home by 12:15 – leave house by 12:45 for piano recital; leave by 2:30 for Ragazzi choir concert starting at 4:00, short concert, followed by terrible dinner at Fuddrucker’s (I know – I know – what did I expect?). Though both kids almost fell asleep over dinner, no one was tired when we got home – both up until 9:30 – 9:45 – and up by 6:45 for school.

[Monday/Tuesday update: Monday night was the "strike" and cast party for Alice. For those non-theater types (which included me until last year) "strike" is not a reference to a labor dispute, but referes to the act tearing apart the set after the play is done. Much fun, and potentially dangerous. I've never seen so many kids ages 9 - 15 walking around with power tools in their hands. It's amazing no blood was shed. Of course, kids up late - - again.]

No Christmas Letter – I’ve spent about one hour trying to write the damn thing, but it’s the only writing I’ve done recently where I face serious writer’s block. The words just won’t come. I’ve been so busy with work and kids (see above paragraph), that it’s going nowhere. Don’t expect anything this year – perhaps a New Year letter – but don’t hold your breath. I always get guilty when I don’t get cards and letters out on time. This past year I’ve posted hundreds of blog entries, somewhat continuous updates with news and pictures, but now I have to condense one year down to one or two pages – it’s ridiculous! If more than two of my relatives ever looked at this darn blog, I’d feel less guilty – at least they would be getting the news. Thanks to those who do read – Merry Christmas.

The Dude hates school – or something: Every morning it’s the same thing – he digs in his heels and refuses to go. Sometimes he claims illness (and I do believe the school thing is effecting him physically), other times he just gets stubborn. He’s been late several days, and had to come home sick once. I have no idea what to do. It’s even impacting bedtime since he “can’t close his eyes” because he thinks about school. You can’t sleep without first closing your eyes – but it’s amazing how long he can keep them open in the face of exhaustion.

Hah – there’s my Christmas letter. I think I’ll just print it out and send it. -

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Weekend Highlight - So Far


This will no doubt be the highlight of the weekend - if not the entire month! The Dude sat through the 4th performance of Alice in Wonderland - this time Grandmama and Boppa were in attendance. After the show the Dude (with a great deal of coaxing from the Dad) approached the Cheshire Cat (or Chessie as she is known throughout the play), and asked for an autograph. She was very nice, and chatted with the Dude a few minutes, then posed for this picture.

The Dude has been smitten by Chessie. He talks about her a great deal, and likes to act out her lines around the house.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Inland North

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Inland North
 

You may think you speak "Standard English straight out of the dictionary" but when you step away from the Great Lakes you get asked annoying questions like "Are you from Wisconsin?" or "Are you from Chicago?" Chances are you call carbonated drinks "pop."

The Midland
 
The Northeast
 
Philadelphia
 
North Central
 
The South
 
The West
 
Boston
 
What American accent do you have?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

Hmm - "Inland North" - you betcha that's my accent. Funny little test to determine what sort of American accent you have.

I Used Google - Duh!

The Dude was on the computer last night and he called out for assistance. I assumed he had a Word formatting question on one of the many stories he is working on. (He always wants to use some bizarre font.) Turns out he was just about ready to start an online Chess game. Without scaring him, we steered him off that site, and discouraged him from playing any games online, and told him the only games he can play are at pbskids.org.

When asked how he found the chess games he said, "I used Google" - of course - I taught him that.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Bike Helmets

This has bothered me for about a year now. It seems - and this is based only on my personal observation - that fewer bicyclists are wearing helmets. Sure - kids still wear them (for the most part), but I've noticed lots of older bikers without helmets.

Harvard Economist and blogger Greg Mankiw points to a recent article in the NYTimes that suggests they may be on to something:

Examining the data, he found that when he wore his helmet, motorists passed by 8.5 centimeters (3.35 inches) closer than when his head was bare. He had increased his risk of an accident by donning safety gear.

Why? You might suspect that cyclists wearing helmets are more prone to take risks. But studies have found otherwise. The real answer, Walker theorizes, is that helmets change the behavior of drivers. Motorists regard a helmet as a signal that the cyclist is experienced and thus can be approached with less caution. “They see the helmet and think, Oh, there’s a serious, skilful person,” Walker says. “And you get hit.”


As tempting as it is to ride with the wind blowing through (what's left of) my hair, I suspect I'll be wearing a helmet for years to come. Have to set a good example for the kids.

More Alice - Backstage Antics


Here are a few more photos the Hobbled Wife snapped at Sunday's performance of Alice in Wonderland. M and two of her fellow "flowers" are all made up and ready to go. M enjoyed giving her brother kisses with her orange lips.

Judging by the look on the Dude's face, it was better to be the kisser than the kissee.

Christmas Concert


While doing a little "research" for the family Christmas letter - yes - it's gotten to be quite the project - I'm actually "researching" stuff - anyway - I came across some nice publicity for Maria's upcoming choir concert. In case any of you are in the TC area this coming weekend.

The Minnesota Opera’s Project Opera Concert

Project Opera, The Minnesota Opera’s co-ed youth opera training program, will be performing December 17th at Westwood Lutheran Church in St. Louis Park. This free concert will include Benjamin Britten’s moving A Ceremony of Carols along with other season selections. Both Ragazzi (grades 4-7) and Giovani (grades 8-12) ensembles will join forces for these exciting concerts. Westwood Lutheran Church, 9001 Cedar Lake Road, St. Louis Park, 612-333-2700, www.mnopera.org


Maria is a member of Ragazzi.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Opening Night



Friday was opening night for Alice in Wonderland. All went well. No one dropped a line, and the audience enjoyed themselves. All the old preschool friends showed up to watch M - who played one of the flowers, and Johanna - who stared as Alice - at opening night.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Hobbled and Happy

Sometimes it's a good thing to be a Hobbled Runner:

This has been an unusual season for the cardiac health of marathoners. After years in which almost no deaths were attributed to heart attacks at this country’s major marathons, at least six runners have died in 2006.

Two police officers, one 53, the other 60, died of heart attacks at the Los Angeles Marathon in March. The hearts of three runners in their early 40s gave out during marathons in Chicago in October, San Francisco in July and the Twin Cities in October. And at the same marathon where Mr. Turner was felled, another man, 56, crumpled near the 17th mile, never to recover.

Source: NYTimes

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Sew What!


Finally - Dad and the Dude purchased the official Cub Scout shirt. We had to sew a number of different patches on the dang shirt. Here I am early in the day when I was still in a good mood - and hadn't poked myself 100 times (the Dude actually just left a box of band-aids next to me while I was sewing) and had to start the darn pack number patch over 3 times. The Hobbled Wife finally relieved me about 8:00 p.m. and finished the job in no time. Photo courtesy of my sis-in-law.

Alice - "Off With Their Heads"


M has been quite busy rehearsing Alice in Wonderland these past few weeks. It opens Friday, and we are all very excited. M is one of the flowers - far right in this picture - pink shirt, blue jeans. Alice is played by an old friend of M's - someone she's known since she was about 6 months old in day-care. They went through day-care and preschool together, so it's fun to see her in the lead. It's a very big cast - 54 kids in all. Should be a great show.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

"More Homeruns, Less Singles"

Sports metaphors are easily overused - especially in the corporate world. Where I work, we've been asked to "Hit more homeruns, less singles." This means we shouldn't waste time on little products with few customer/subscribers, but instead concentrate on the bigger ones that generate more revenue. Never mind that you can win a baseball game by hitting a lot of singles.

Along those same lines, I found this post interesting. Via Kottke.org, it's a list of former major league pitcher Don Carman's list of canned responses to reporters questions.

Don Carman pitched in the Major Leagues from 1983 through 1992; for the Phillies, the Indians and the Rangers. During the post game interview he was often well known for his catchy response phrases and cliches given to reporters.

During the 1990 season he posted a handwritten list of his responses on his locker which was published in many newspapers across the country and used by him to answer questions.


Some of my favorites:

1. I'm just glad to be here. I just want to help the club any way I can.

. . .

14. That All-Star voting is a joke.

Of course no list would be complete without the old standbys:

24. Yes.
25. No.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Feeding Birds . . and People


I've been neglecting the back-yard birds lately. It's been about 3 months since I've filled my many feeders. I'm not sure why - just got too busy. Now it looks like I may face higher prices at the birdfeed stores when I resume feeding. The Birdchick blog tells us why.

This is interesting because it combines my interest in nutrition with birding. Apparently the price of sunflower seeds is on the rise due to the increased use of sunflower seed oil (a healthier alternative) in cooking.

A Small Visitor


Everyone has recovered from our weekend visitor - cousin Isaac. Actually it was a pair of visitors - Aunty Amy and Isaac - but as any parent knows - the excitement is all around "the kid."

Big news this evening - Amy called to say that the little guy is crawling! Apparently the lessons he received from his cousins paid off.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Might as Well Give Iowa a Try

[Crazy looking Iowa State Capitol.]

Oh - the glamour of business travel. Drove to Des Moines and back - all for a 40 minute meeting. Granted it was a good meeting, and it was important that I attend in person - but I've got a serious case of "car butt" as well call it around our house.

Left home at 7:40 and arrived in Des Moines at 11:45 - plenty of time to enjoy lunch at the Noodle Zoo. After that I visited the Iowa History Museum. It was right across the street from the "Zoo", and I figured the Hobbled Wife - historian that she is - - would want a full report.

[Iowa History Museum]

Had a nice meeting with one of our larger government customers in Iowa, then hit the road for home. Attempted to call into a meeting/conference call later that afternoon, but lost my signal somewhere near Albert Lea.

[There's no place like home.]

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Perfect Gift for the Man Who Has Everything


I was born hundreds of years too late. These are very cool: Gentlemen's Pocket Globes.

Back Again

Been very busy lately – and too stuffed with Turkey – to blog. Here are some highlights from the kids’ lives, since my own life has been rather dull as of late.

The Dude last night, “Why do Churches have so much to do with Christmas?” Oh it would have been a great opportunity to educate him on the “true meaning of Christmas”, but since we had just watched Charlie Brown’s Christmas special, and had heard Linus deliver the story, I decided not to go too deep. I reminded him that Christmas is centered around the birth of Jesus.

His comeback, “But why December 25? How can they really know Jesus was born on that date.” I admitted that the actual birth date is open for historical speculation, but told him that this is the historically agreed upon date. I didn’t get into the whole B.C./A.D. year designation – and how I once heard that Jesus (the “Historical Jesus”) was probably born in 4 B.C. – rather than the famous “Year Zero”.

I also avoided the entire pagan roots of Christmas discussion – I was trying to get the kid to sleep after all!

Educational Update: The Dude is participating in a “Great Books” program for 1st/2nd graders – really – I’d never heard of such a thing, but sounds like fun and he is looking forward to the challenge. Finally, some enrichment – though interesting how it doesn’t quite fit into the usual school day routine. The sessions are lead by a parent volunteers, and he has to miss the valuable morning “snack/recess” time to participate.

M also misses “snack/recess” on Mondays because she is in Orchestra.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

New Maps, Baseball, and Grocery Stores

When you are too busy to really blog, you just post a few neat quotes and links and call it a day.

Cool election maps (remember Red/Blue state maps) for 2006 election. [Source: A Constrained Vision]

Nice review of the Minnesota Historical Society's new baseball exhibit. [Source: Mistress of All Evil]

Lileks visits the new Lunds grocery store in downtown MPLS:

I was born in a country where you didn’t pay to park for groceries, and dadgum I’ll die in one.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

News From Home

I always appreciate the email updates from the Hobbled Wife:

M has taken the electronic piano up to her room with all her Christmas books. She wants to be in her room so she can sing loudly - she doesn't like to sing in front of her family!!!! She's belting it out up there...

Bones is on the computer making a list of the first 16 presidents (after telling me Washington was 1st, and Lincoln was 16th). He wants their biographies. Did you know that 4th and 5th Presidents had the same first name? Or that many presidents have a J in their name?

I might have to turn off the spell check for him-- it's very distracting!

Commute x 3

A 35 minute commute is not so bad – unless you pull into the parking lot at work, park your car, open your trunk – and discover that you left your laptop at home. Then your commute becomes 35 x 3 = 115 minutes. Adding insult to injury – by the time I got here I had to park “out back” in the gravel overflow lot – adding another 10+ minutes to the commute if you count the walk from car to cube.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

Looks like the DFL is already getting ready for the next election. Too bad they are helping the other party more than themselves. I've been meaning to post on this subject, several folks in the media have already commented on it, and Doug Grow had this to say in his column today:

Hours after holding statewide victory parties, DFLers in the House and Senate opted to become the party of Minneapolis. In a stunning disconnect from reality Thursday night, Margaret Anderson Kelliher and Larry Pogemiller were picked as the leaders of the House and Senate.

These two live blocks apart in Minneapolis. In much of Minnesota, including metro suburbs, they represent two of the scariest words in politics: "Urban liberals."

Picking Anderson Kelliher and Pogemiller marks the first time in 40 years the DFL didn't manage to reach outside the metro for at least one of its top leaders.


I suspect that Repubs are licking their lips - getting ready to go against the big urban, liberal DFL machine.

Recipe Inside


While I will never take it to the level of the one and only Recipe Inside site, I'm quite proud of these. They are a variation on the recipe inside the Quaker Oats container - - under the lid to be exact. I substituted chocolate chips for raisins.

[Observe the clutter of the "lived in" kitchen. It's the new look - all the rage this Fall.]

Friday, November 10, 2006

Politics + YouTube

Combining the subjects of my two most recent posts - Politics and YouTube - I'd like to direct your attention to yesterday's Future Tense spot on MPR.

Internet videos may have played a part in the defeat, or apparent defeat, of several prominent candidates, including Senators George Allen of Virginia and Conrad Burns of Montana.

This got me thinking. I'm not ready to say that all politicians will abandon their expensive TV ads in favor of home-grown YouTube-like productions, but it does open new possibilities for those candidates not associated with one of the major parties - or those who don't have a lot of money.

Granted, not all voters look to the internet for their political news - yet. But through a campaign web site and sympathetic bloggers your home-made video ads could get a lot of play. It's sort of a viral marketing approach to campaigning.

I know that's what I'd do if I was running. Don't worry S, I'm not even thinking about it.

Yeah – I Felt the Bump

Yeah – I Felt the Bump – but I didn’t stop to look in the review mirror.

Star Tribune columnist Nick Coleman examines the “road-kill” left behind after Tuesday’s election. Here’s what he has to offer about the Independence Party:

Spoiling to be Spoilers: The Independence Party has begun to give "good government" a bad name. The party called itself "Team Minnesota" but forgot there is no "I" in "team." Peter Hutchinson got an embarrassing 6 percent of the votes in the governor's race, and his statewide total of 141,800 was close to the total received by the LOSING candidate for Hennepin County sheriff, despite the fact many Minnesotans embraced his party's platform. Ol' Hutch can chisel "Finished a Distant Third" on his tombstone, but had no effect on the 2006 election. Except for the spoiler part. The Independence Party is supposed to care about what's best for Minnesota. If so, Hutchinson might have said, "Only one person can win, and it's not me. Please vote for the viable candidate who most favors my platform, Mike Hatch." If just 22,523 Hutchinson voters (16 percent of his total) had voted for Hatch, Hutchinson would be in line for a post in the Hatch administration. Some folks are just too smart for their own good.
[emphasis mine]

I've often felt I'm too smart for my own good.

The Coleman solution: The candidate with no chance of winning should graciously step aside and hope to get offered a job in the coming administration? Talk about cynical politics.

To be honest, I don’t care that much about the Independence Party as a political party; and Hutchinson is the only IP candidate who got my vote. But when a serious, thoughtful politician presents himself to the voters, I think we owe that candidate some consideration. And when the Hatch campaign buckled under pressure and ignorance of the issues in the last two weeks, I was happy to have a positive alternative for my vote. It beats holding my nose to vote for the Hatch or Pawlenty. Besides, you need both hands to vote – one to hold the ballot, and one to hold the pen.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The "New" YouTube

I’ve noticed a “new” YouTube already. They appear to be doing a good job removing the copyrighted material that folks had illegally posted. See this related article.

I like to search YouTube for Beatles concert footage – I love them live. Before Google bought YouTube, most of the videos were blatant copies of footage from the Beatles Anthology series.

On Monday night, I was messing around on YouTube and found a lot of new concert footage. Granted the quality is pretty bad – imagine home movies circa 1964-65 with crappy (or no) sound. Most of the clips don’t even include an entire song, just bits and pieces. I actually like these since they probably give a more realistic picture of what the concert attendee actually saw and heard (or given the screaming – saw but didn’t hear). I invite you to try it – go to YouTube and use search terms, beatles concert. If nothing, it will confirm what a Beatles geek I truly am.

Hobbled Runner Decides Governor's Race

Wow - I think my vote really mattered. DFL Atty General Mike Hatch lost to Republican Incumbent Governor Tim Pawlenty by 1%. Now I have to make peace with the fact that I was one of those voters whose last minute decision to vote for Independence candidate Peter Hutchinson, probably robbed Hatch of the election.

Hmm – I think I will be able to sleep at night – no problem.

As the Star Tribune reports this morning:

A couple of miscues in the last week by Hatch and his lieutenant governor running mate, Judi Dutcher, loomed large in the final days of the campaign. Dutcher in a television interview fumbled a question and displayed a lack of familiarity with the term E85 and issues surrounding the ethanol industry, a growing and important sector of the state's rural economy. Hatch compounded the gaffe by verbally abusing two reporters as he was being questioned about the issue. Hatch did not apologize but said his choice of words, including "Republican hack" and reportedly "Republican whore," were "inappropriate."
Hatch campaign manager Jon Youngdahl said the missteps "had an effect for a day or two but voters look at the issues and are very forgiving when people say they made a mistake."
Political observers may be speculating for years about what effect the late blunders had on the final outcome.


Yep – that’s why I switched.

Anyway – enough politics. Don’t want to alienate any loyal readers out there. Time to get back to complaining about the schools and posting cute pics of my kids.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Only for Minnesotans - How to Merge in Traffic

Apparently all the Minnesota-Nice doesn't really help matters any when it comes to the issue of how to merge when you see that a traffic lane is ending (due to construction).

This is very interesting:

That's because merging early makes the backup longer. When we use both lanes until the actual merge point and then take turns the backups are shortened by as much as 35 percent.


My only experience with "better" merging came in California - San Diego. When 2 lanes went down to one, I noticed that everyone waited until the last moment to merge. At first I thought, "How impolite", but then I saw that it really worked!

Although just yesterday I tried this (merging late) when entering 35E. The minivan that I merged in front of got VERY ANGRY, and turned on its high-beams. Given that it was dusk (5:00p.m.) and misty, the high-beams didn't help matters at all - - if not for my superior driving skills it could have caused a crash - - though I suspect it made the mini-vanner feel smug.

Source: MNSpeak.

Of Course I Voted

Vote experience – I showed up at coffee break time – the first judge was not there, so her colleague had to look up my name. Just then the judge shows up, confirms my name and asks me to sign on the line. While I’m signing, she turns her back to pour coffee from her thermos. When she turns back to face me, she didn’t seem to remember that she had already looked up my name and asked me to sign. I reminded her we had completed those steps. She was OK with that, and gave me the little slip of paper to take to the other judge for the ballot.

I arrive at the table to receive my ballot just as that judge stuffs half a muffin into her mouth. She hands me the ballot and mumbled the instructions through her muffin

After that I was on my own in the voting booth – without the benefit of coffee or muffins. It was over in minutes – a rather painless process.

Note to Hobbled Wife – I “threw” away my vote by voting for the Independence Party candidate for Governor. That’ll show them – message sent!

MPR played a nice commentary from our friend John Doan – whose son attended preschool with our Dude. John spoke of his family’s history in Viet Nam, his arrival in America, and reflected on why voting and democracy was important to him. Unfortunately 10 minutes is all I have to spend looking for the darn link on the MPR site. Perhaps you will have better luck yourself.


One final “item” (rant – if you will): Yes, I voted, but I’m not wearing my little red “I Voted” sticker. I’m always slightly embarrassed wearing the sticker. Perhaps it’s my Norwegian modesty. It goes without saying - - of course I voted. Maybe we should ask those who don’t vote to wear an “I Won’t Vote” sticker?

Friday, November 03, 2006

They're Jackals, Not Wh*res

More trouble in Hatch-land:

Hatch had several sharp exchanges with reporters and Republicans over Dutcher's misstep. The News Tribune report says that when "A Forum Communications reporter asked Hatch about Dutcher's knowledge of ethanol and why she wasn't available to discuss the issue...Hatch abruptly ended the interview with: 'You're nothing more than a Republican whore. Goodbye.' He then hung up."


He should have stuck with Jesse Ventura's description of reporters - - "Media Jackals" - - at least that got him votes!

Ventura enjoyed an arduous relationship with the local media. He referred to them as "media jackals," a term that even appeared on the required press passes to enter the governor's press area.

How I Get My News

I saw it on my RSS feed, “Niche Blogging Will Continue to Challenge Big Publishers.” [I can set my internal intranet home page to receive various news feeds – kind of fun, but sometimes distracting.] That got me thinking of how I receive my “news” every day. I get most of my “news” online.

Here’s the typical day:

I start each day with the Source section of the Star Tribune – that’s what they used to call the Variety section. I read the Quirk by James Lileks, followed by the comics: every comic, every day – and some of them really suck. On most days that’s it for the print newspaper. If I have time, I check the metro section, mostly for the kinds of things that I wouldn’t hear on the MPR headlines, then finish with the obituaries. Lastly – I read the Business section – but probably only 3 out of 7 days a week. As for the “A section” – besides scanning the headlines – I open it up once a week – if that. Sometimes I read the Opinion page – but it’s mostly stuff I’ve read online several days earlier.

I listen to MPR while doing yoga and then while showering (can’t really hear it) and shaving – then off and on in the car while driving to work. I change stations all the time – which makes this time of year a pain – I’ve yet to perfect my “gloved finger” push button technique.

I now get most of my news online – via blogs. I don’t rely on the blog itself for the news, but if the blogger’s comments interest me I usually following the link to the source – usually a newspaper article or opinion posted at the news source’s web site.

I occasionally check cnn.com, to see what the sensational news of the hour is.

So I’m officially one of those people who gets their news online and not in print. I will probably always subscribe to the paper in print since I’m physically unable to start my day without Mark Trail in print (yes, I know I can probably find it online). We also like to do crosswords and Sudoko at our house – and we prefer those on dead-tree byproducts, rather than online – so far.

9:10 - Oops I'm Late For Lunch

Wow - school lunch at 9:05 AM. I thought our kids' school had a crazy schedule, but this is interesting:

So Virginia Beach, where at least 1,500 students at six high schools have lunch at 9:05 a.m., either must convince the state it has unique scheduling problems or change its lunch schedules.


Luckily the Feds recognize the problem - I think:

"People recognize the need for a midday meal someplace close to midday," said James Harmon, mid-Atlantic director of Special Nutritional Programs for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.


via Newmark's Door.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

E85 - Will That Be On The Test?

The Hobbled Runner endorses no particular candidate in the MN Governors Race. You can make up your own mind. But listening to this little exchange gave this former politico the shivers:


DFL Lt. Gov. candidate Judi Dutcher campaigned around the state Tuesday. When she got to Alexandria, a local television reporter from KSAX asked her about E85.

Dutcher: "E85...The Job Z zones you're talking about?"

Reporter: "I'm just basically asking about E85 in general, how we've turned around a lot economies out here, saved some small towns...

Dutcher: Can't even comment on it, I'm sorry. It's like you've asked me the college quiz bowl question. What is E85?

Reporter: That's fine, that's fine.

Dutcher: What is it?

Reporter: E85, the gas.

Dutcher: E85 gas...

Dutcher: "He's asking me about E85 gas. It's like the college...

Man off camera: It's Ethanol.

Dutcher: Thank you, Thank you. What has he said about ethanol?

Man off camera: Oh, Mike [Hatch]? He's 100 percent for ethanol.

Dutcher: Yea, but, I can't tell you specific programs. I'm sorry. I bombed out. Sorry."


I heard a story about this on MPR this morning, and they played the audio of the encounter. Very painful to listen to – Dutcher comes off sounding like some ditzy high school kid (my apologies to any ditzy higher school kids out there)

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Indiana - Revisited


Finally loaded all our pics from Indiana. The Hobbled Wife and I enjoyed some of the shots taken by the kids. Some nice shots by the Dude of the river behind the South Bend Farmers Market, including some of the junk left along the path.



M's Zoo shot makes it look like the Dude is being attacked by the Tiger.

Halloween


Quiet Halloween around the Hobbled House - only about 50 trick-or-treaters. The kids had a nice time. Snapped a few pictures of the Dude (Harry Potter) and M (a "Broadway Star").

Meant to post more - but Blogger acting up.

Way Above Average!

I found another example of how I’m way above average. Here’s an interesting statistic in an article about how Dunkin’ Donuts new coffee strategy:

"Coffee demand in the United States is the highest it's ever been," says Rodriguez. In fact, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated that the average American drinks nearly 24 gallons of coffee a year.


Hah – 24 gallons a year is nothing compared to my 90 gallons. Weenies!

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

"The Pot Broke"

Grandmama and Boppa called to say they were on the way over - had to see the grandkids after 4 weeks overseas. The phone rang and the Dude answered. After the call he reported that Grandmama said, "The pot broke."

"Did she say anything else?" asked Mom.

"No, just that the pot broke."

Mom called Grandmama right back. It turns out she is bringing Pot Roast - - not a broken pot for dinner.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Sunday Update


Day two without Mom - and all is well. Most of the weekend revolved around M - with 2 hours of "Opera Choir" practice on Saturday, and then church choir on Sunday, followed by an Opera Choir performance at the Ordway. Not a huge performance - the Ragazzi choir (Grades 4-7) sang two numbers for the folks in the lobby before the "real" Opera performance. We didn't stay for the big show - - had to get home to carve pumpkins.





The pics show M and her brother - she in her choir dress - he in his Harry Potter Halloween costume - - before we left for the Ordway. The kids played with the camera in the backseat while I was driving - - note M's newly pierced ears.

Fall Picnic



With the Hobbled Wife out of town (girls weekend away), the remaining family (Hobbled Runner, M, and the Dude) were prowling the streets looking for trouble. Luckily the neighbors invited us to an impromptu picnic. The day started out nice enough - sunny, windy, but cool. By 3:00 p.m. it had clouded over. The temp was about 45 (maybe). The picnic was a rather cool affair.



It's never too late for a picnic, if you have a roaring fire, and wear your winter gear. That's M and the Dude - buried under all those layers.

Friday, October 27, 2006

I Love SPAM

“Melvin” sent this one. I didn’t open it (I'm not a fool) – but copied this out of my preview pane. It’s notable for its lack of typos and rather flowery prose.

Somewhere out there is an aspiring novelist – awaiting the big break:

For example, an accidentally flatulent class action suit indicates that a mating ritual inexorably buys an expensive gift for a pathetic senator. A turkey prays, and an infected line dancer sweeps the floor; however, the mortician writes a love letter to some seldom purple tabloid. When a skyscraper inside a skyscraper trembles, a greasy plaintiff earns frequent flier miles. Now and then, a ball bearing secretly befriends a knowingly alleged insurance agent. The wheelbarrow living with a fairy, a paper napkin related to the cowboy, and another smelly freight train are what made America great!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

"Flufy Dide"

Our hamster Fluffy died the other day. The Hobbled Wife was out at book club on Tuesday night, and we were having a little bedtime snack when someone mentioned Fluffy - our male hamster. I couldn't recall hearing him since returning from Indiana on Sunday night. It's not odd to not see or him him much - - he is/was seriously nocturnal - and seldom ever awake during the day.

We checked the cage and found him "sleeping" under the wheel. The kids were pretty sure he was just sleeping. The wise old Dad knew otherwise. I removed the wheel, and petted him gently - in case he really was sleeping. When he didn't move, I lifted him up and we laid him in a little plastic container (the coffin). He appeared to have died in his sleep - we like to think he went peacefully.

The funeral was last night - - when M and I were at Choir School. She didn't want to participate, so HW and the Dude did the honors.

Here are the notes the kids left for HW before going to bed that night. [Click on photo to see larger, clearer image.]

Don’t Like Sports?

Here’s the perfect diversion for you. A Fantasy League for Policy Wonks.

This is just nuts enough it might catch on – Fantasy Congress League.

Via Robert Ambrogi’s Lawsites.

So Long Taurus

Interesting article, with a great title, “Goodbye Jelly Bean” about the Ford Taurus - and Ford's decision to stop producing this successful car.

Ford seemed to lose interest in the car about a decade ago despite the fact that it has been an excellent seller for the ailing company.
Ailing indeed. The $5.8 billion loss reported this week is evidence of just how deeply in trouble Ford is. The company's market value has dropped close to 50 percent since 2001.
And now it is killing off one of its bread-and-butter cars.
Ford has sold more than 7 million Tauruses and over 2 million of its slightly more luxish clone, the Mercury Sable, since the car was introduced back in 1985. It was America's best selling car for five straight years - 1992-97. Those are pretty good figures. And given today's segmented market they compare pretty well with Ford's legendary Model T, which sold somewhere around 16 million copies between 1908 and 1927.
[snip]
I'm just another auto enthusiast. A common consumer. What do I know? Maybe Ford is right. Maybe buyers will flock to its new Fusion and Five Hundred. But one wonders what might have happened if Ford had taken half of the billions put into those two new models and spent it to build on the faith the public had already shown in the Taurus by concentrating on making it a better and better car.


My father-in-law owned a Taurus forever (he owns all his cars forever) before he "got religion" and bought a hybrid

No More Wrapping Paper - Please

Laura Billings, in today's Pioneer Press complains about the onslaught of school fundraisers.

I own this wrapping-paper extravaganza not because I place a high value on presentation or can even locate the Scotch tape when I need it. Rather, I buy reams of wrapping paper because it is how one is now expected to show support for children and the importance of their education.

Wrapping paper is the school-fundraising effort most favored by my circle, but it takes many forms. Some of you may have boxes of aging Almond Roca in the basement, back from when the nephew was in the marching band. Others may be awaiting pricey frozen cheesecakes and great tins of tinted popcorn ordered from a catalog delivered by the sixth-grader across the street.


Our kids school does things a little differently. We don’t require kids (and their parents really) to sell candy or wrapping paper – instead, we send out a letter asking parents to contribute money. This - - combined with a few events at school where money is raised - - netted $17,000 last year. We hope to do better this year. Oh yeah - - and my employer matches the donation. My employer would not buy wrapping paper.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Indiana


Haven't had time to look through many of the 350 pictures that Amy snapped in Indiana last weekend. We took advantage of the teacher convention - do they still call it MEA? - to travel to see cousin Isaac. A splendid time was had by all - a more substantial post to follow when I feel a little better. The Dude and I have some sort of cold-thing - blech!

The Beatles Come Through Again

Here at the corporate mother-ship we have a Talent Management System for managers. It requires us to complete an extensive online biography, identify strengths and weaknesses, set goals, and submit a photo of yourself. This Talent Management file is then reviewed by your boss and her bosses.

We have a new VP in our division. At his first meeting with our division (approximately 50 people) he asked us to introduce ourselves and tell something about our musical tastes. I hate these things because I cannot easily describe my diverse musical tastes. To be safe I usually just say I like the Beatles - it's true, simple, and something everyone can relate to.

So my boss just relays this story. Today the big bosses held their Talent review meeting (or whatever they call it). My profile comes up and the new VP says, "Oh yeah, he's the guy who likes the Beatles." Turns out the new VP is a big Beatles fan.

All you need is love - - yeah, yeah, yeah.

Do We Expect Too Much From Elections?

Some interesting thoughts on the approaching election:

Democracy does not lead to particularly good choices. Most successful institutions in society are not democratic.
An example of an institution that I believe works well is a sports tournament. A good chess tournament or tennis tournament produces a winner who is far better than mediocre.
Another example of an institution that works well is the scientific method. I trust the results of well-designed experiments much more than I trust popular opinion.
Many institutions give concentrated decision-making power to experts. Examples include business decisions made by corporations or tenure decisions made by academic departments. Many government agencies are built to work on this model, but in the absence of the competitive discipline that exists in the private sector, the results are mixed. My personal impression is that some agencies, such as the Federal Reserve, have an abundance of expertise, while other agencies, such as the CIA, appear somewhat deficient.

Yoga in the Bathroom ??

Reduce stress at work? How about Yoga in the bathroom.
1. Do yoga. In the bathroom.
Of course, doing yoga anywhere is a good idea. But during the workday, tension builds up every hour, and you can't do real yoga in your cube without calling attention to yourself for being eccentric. So go in the bathroom and do some downward dogs. A few in the middle of the day can relax your body clear your mind and keep productivity and creativity at higher levels. (Hands on the bathroom floor? I've been doing it for years and haven't gotten any diseases. That's what the soap is for.)


Haven’t tried it – yet. We don’t have private (lock the door) bathrooms here so I might as well do yoga in my cube. I have been known to stretch a little after walking – mainly my calf muscles.

I’ve recently taken to stretching out my back by learning forward in my chair, letting my hands dangle down on the floor, and breathing deeply. It won’t be long before someone reports me to HR.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Museum of the Future?

Here's one for the Hobbled Wife and all her historical colleagues:

I love museums, and I'd like to see them become more like the Web. After "living" on the Web day in and day out for years, any space that isn't as interactive, customizable, and "deep" as the Web is a bit frustrating to me.


via Kottke.org

Another Endangered Species


You won't read about this in any "serious" birding blog - then again you might.

The pink plastic flamingo, a Florida-inspired icon that has been reviled as kitschy bad taste and revered as retro cool, is dead at age 49.

The pop culture symbol met its demise after its manufacturer, Union Products, of Leominster, Mass., was socked with a triple economic threat -- increases in costs of electricity and plastic resin combined with loss of financing. Production ended in June, and the plant is scheduled to close Nov. 1, according to president and CEO Dennis Plante. Union Products made 250,000 of its patented plastic pink flamingos a year in addition to other garden products.


Via Newmark's Door.

School Days - School Days

The Mistress weighs in on the education discussion - with an interesting private school perspective. I like her last paragraph:

Back when I was a kid, you just went to the school that was in your neighborhood. In some cases, you maybe went to the Catholic church in your parish. Some people moved in order to get into certain desireable districts, but there was not all this hand-wringing about getting the "right" education. Maybe our generation needs to lighten up--our kids will learn something, and there's no telling what they'll really need to know 15 years from now. Fifteen years ago, there were no Website designers, no content providers, no e-commerce gurus...fifteen years from now, what our kids will need to know might just be what they can learn from being in a school environment--how to think critically, how to decided what they want and how to get it, how to operate in ossified bureaucracies. Maybe the best thing we can do for our kids is to just get out of their way and let them find their own paths.


Well-put. Who knows what the kids will need when they grow up. For what it's worth, I decided to be very cutting edge and took the only computer class offerred at my college. I learned some of the rudiments of Basic (I believe) programming language. My homework was carried around on a rolled up yellow strip of paper - full of various punch marks. Very high tech - circa 1981.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

School Blues

I am so tired of having to think this much about school. I know that sounds like whiny BS. You are probably thinking, “There you go again. All you overeducated middle class parents are all the same. The schools don’t do enough to meet your child’s ‘special’ needs. No one understands why your Johnny or Susie needs this or that to succeed.” Sometimes I even doubt whether I care too much. But then I get a good night’s sleep, and awake recharged to take on the monolithic education machine.

Is it our fault that our kids are fully prepared to “do” school at age 5? It’s a natural by-product of having educated caring parents who read to their kids, engage their minds, and place them in quality child care. With that background, kids will do crazy things by age 5 – like sit quietly and follow instructions in a classroom, (and read in the case of the Dude). They don’t need to “learn how to do school” as the Hobbled Wife said last night.

So we (actually my better-half) are active in the Gifted and Talented program at school. They promised assessments, clustering, etc - - none of which seems to have happened yet. If it did, it’s invisible to us. All the time they say, “You have to be an advocate for your child.” That’s all well and good – but with all our work and advocacy, we are left wondering what the school is doing?

So here we are: One teacher doesn’t believe in the Gifted and Talented stuff as was obvious by her reaction to our questions at last night’s parent-teacher conference. She went to the training over the summer – but it didn’t “take”. The other teacher has no clue that the Dude can read and do math at 2nd or 3rd grade level. After all, she hasn’t had time to assess everyone yet.

So we are back considering “other options” – we came darn close to sending them to private schools this year – and most likely we eventually will unless some sort of miracle happens.

Me personally (and I do not speak for the Hobbled Wife here) – I’ve pretty much given up on public schools. I don’t see class size shrinking any time soon. Any referendum that passes at the local level, or increase in State or Federal funding just goes to maintaining the status quo. At this point I’d be happy with a voucher system that allocates every family a certain amount of money that can be spent or applied where they see fit. I could choose to apply it to my local public school, or take it to a private option.

Now this is not a new theory – most would acknowledge that the present public school model is a hold-over from the 19th century agrarian culture. Kids are off summers to help in the field. The classrooms (most still set with desks in rows) are designed to teach kids to follow instructions like little assembly line employees. The schools were designed to create the little office and factory workers of the late 19th and early 20th century. Almost none of those skills mean anything in today’s world. And then there’s the age/grade pairing. Why does a 6 year old have to be with other 6 year olds, if he is doing work that the district saves for 7 and 8 year olds? I’m presently work with a group of people ranging in age from 30 to 50 – and we all do the same thing mostly. I’ve heard somewhere that those early readers tend to level out by 3rd grade. Does that mean their intellectual growth slows – or the school environment has been sufficiently dull for them that the others have time to “catch up”?

Assuming you are still reading – thank you. More to follow

Monday, October 16, 2006

The Circus



The Dude and Marcy - next door neighbor - spent about 4 hours Sunday afternoon planning and then performing a little circus. Good help is hard to get - so they settled for some Halloween figures as ushers.





The program promised an exciting evening of circus trickery.



That boy knows how to hoop.



The audience was warned to stay back. There's nothing worse than a circus-related injury.



In the end - an introspective audience member ponders it all.

Friday, October 13, 2006

A Paper In the Door - - ahh nice!

Kottke directed me to an interesting list of fifteen ways to reenergize newspapers. Here are two of my favorites.

9. Run obituaries and weddings for free, and increase the type size in classified.


I love obits. I’m rather fond of the NYT obits – wish the Star-Tribune did more like that.

11. Announce that for home delivery customers, the paper will once again be found inside their screen door, not in the puddle in the driveway. Every home, every day.


Hah – that was my claim to fame as a paper-boy (for the old Mpls Star). I always put the paper inside the door. It paid off in tips.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Urban Wildlife Report

I've seen (and heard) coyotes near my workplace, but now things are getting interesting. There's been reports of a black bear in Eagan. OK - so it's several miles from where I work, but it's a great story nonetheless.

Speaking of urban wildlife, last week I stopped by to pick up "our" farm produce at a friend's house in the St. Anthony Park neighborhood of St. Paul. [The friend's house is the drop-off point for one of those deals where you buy "shares" from a local farm - Featherstone's is the farm.] After grabbing the box of goodies, I was almost chased into my car by two wild turkeys. I say almost chased - - they weren't moving fast but they were moving right at me, and even when I got in the car they approached very near the car and followed me as I backed the car down the driveway - - brazen, stupid birds.

Dhaka - State Fair Without Pronto-Pups

Not my idea of a good time, but then I'm kind of a homebody. The mother-in-law provides an email update from their "big trip". Here's her brief description of Dhaka, Bangladesh:

yesterday we did a river ride. it is very hot and humid. we sweat just standing still. millions of people on the streets. we walked through the "kitchen" market and through some vendors of everything you might need. i think it is more crowed even than the mn state fair. it is like a hugeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee ant hill. horns honking. .....oh, my the electric just went off and thank goodness my draft was saved. the electric does this every once in awhile...then comes back on...


My cousin David lived in Dhaka for a time. I recall him returning home with Malaria after his house was lost in a flood.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Good Thing He Drives a Hybrid


This post made me think of my jet-setting inlaws who are currently spending almost one month in India, Thailand, and Bhuton.
If you take just two cross country and two overseas trips a year . . . not a big number for today's more mobile young adults . . . you're consuming as much carbon as you would by driving a huge gas-guzzling SUV 12,000 miles a year.

Good thing he drives a Honda Insight.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

What's Michael J. Fox Like?

Despite never having seen Back to the Future (1, 2, or 3), and having no idea who Michael J. Fox, Crispin Glover, et. al. even are, the Dude got quite a kick out of this little video by "Biff".

Everyone's Reading


I posted a few days ago about how I'm reading more these days. Like my nephew Isaac (aka Ike), I'm devouring books - though not in the literal sense.