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.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Caution Trans-Fats

Enjoyed this comment to a blog post on NYC’s attempts to ban trans-fats:

Husband was listening to a talk show program about New York, and also about the dangers of trans fats. He turned it down, and said “so let me get this straight, these trans fats such as shortening and margerine are more dangerous to health than the lard and butter they replaced?” “That’s what they’re saying.” A big smile crossed his face as he declared “There IS a God.”

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Twins Fever!! – Sheesh

Damn Twins game. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Twins. I would listen to or watch today's playoff game anytime - - if I wasn’t at work. Now my entire unit is meeting at some local sports bar at noon today to watch the damn game. I was off yesterday, and have ton of work to do. Deadlines for 2008 development are Friday, and I’ve got a ways to go to get that stuff together. My feeling is that if I have “permission” to leave work to watch a baseball game, I’d much rather go home and not work than sit in a smoky bar and watch the Twins – and not work. This incident points out one thing I dislike about the large corporate environment – the constant team-building things. If I was a twenty-something without kids and a house, I might want to hang out in a bar and watch the game, but things have changed. At this point in my life, time is my most valuable resource, and I choose not to waste it watching the game on company time.

Afternoon Update: So I stayed back from the “off-site” for two reasons: 1) I didn’t want to go in first place, and 2) I had an 11:00 am meeting and a 1:00 p.m. teleconference. Of course, I ended up cancelling my 11:00 – one participant was going to the off-site, the other had tickets to the actual game itself. Now I’m sitting here at 1:07 – hanging on the phone line waiting for my 1:00 conference call to start – and I’m the only one here.

Take me out to the ball-game - - Indeed!

Sorry – kind of crabby today.

Oh yeah - I just hung up - no one else showed.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Lazy, Hazy Days of . . . October

Home with the kids who have some sort of teacher conference holiday. Poor teachers - I'd hate to be inside when it's about 80 degrees and sunny.

I'm making the best of it - blogging from the deck while I "watch" the kids, one of home is next door playing with the neighbor and the other is upstairs with a friend from school. Since the upstairs gang consists of two nine-year old girls playing "dress-up" and applying some sort of sweet-sickly smelling lotion or make-up - - I'm barely watching them either.

To my credit on I'm load #3 of laundry, and have checked into work a few times, responding to email despite the fact that this is a "vacation" day. I've also done two drafts of the Parkview Center School fundraising letter. It's a beaut - guaranteed to open the pockets of parents everywhere.

Highlights of weekend - both kids went to the Twins game Friday, and Maria got to attend yesterday's season-closing game. Maria and her friend and her friend's mother waited around after the game for autographs. Only two (two!) players were signing (Lew Ford - who autographed a baseball for Boppa) and Torii Hunter.

All plans for indoor activity are on hold, while attention focuses on these last few days of "summer".