Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Bloggin Break

It was a long weekend - with two sick kids, and the Hobbled Runner feeling a little under-the-weather himself. Now it's off to sunny Phoenix where I will probably spend most of 4 days inside. The facilities look grand, so I hope I'll have a little time to look around.

Friday, January 26, 2007

I Love Science

It doesn't get much better than this: Scientist develops caffeinated donuts.

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

Very interesting Obama piece linked from Lileks.

Obama is a smoker. Who knew? I like the way this story raises the issue – they’re concerned about the effect on his voice if he stops smoking, don’t you see. Hah! I’m waiting for the candid shot of Obama having a smoke – if he’s in a good suit, giving off that Rat Pack vibe, it’ll set the anti-smoking cause back ten years. It's he's wearing a fedora, which would add a jazzman / forties twist, I see a fifty-state sweep. Or maybe not. Given how cigarette smoking has become a moral issue, it’ll be interesting to see how this gets played. A humanizing frailty? A surprising character flaw? DID HE SMOKE AROUND CHILDREN? Doesn't matter; the more I look at this fellow, the more I see a fifty state sweep.

For some reason I feel some sympathy for smokers. Perhaps it’s because I don’t know any real smokers today, so all my smokers come live in my childhood memories. I recall helping clean out ashtrays after family gatherings at our house. When did people (non-smokers) stop keeping a supply of ashtrays around their house? Many relatives (Mom’s side) smoked as did many family friends. On my Dad’s side smoking was a SIN. I always thought it funny how we served beer and put out ashtrays when entertaining guests on the Nordeen side, while on the Gisselquist side, hot apple cider was as wild as it got.

Then of course there was my Dad, the secret smoker. I don’t recall how young I was when I realized he smoked. He kept an old pipe in his dresser drawer – but we all knew he had given that up years ago. He would be seen smoking the occasional celebratory cigar when some relative had a baby. But of course the big secret was that he smoked cigarettes. Why he kept that a secret I can only guess. I suspect he didn’t want to set a bad example for us kids. Most likely he was scared of his family’s reaction to such a mortal sin.

Whatever the reason, we all knew that he would take frequent walks – probably to get a little exercise and blow off some stress – but also to smoke.

He kept his cigarettes – Kool 100s – hidden in a sport-coat pocket in his closet. No great surprise that I stole the occasional cigarette. I recall smoking one the night before track meet. The next day, I ran a 4:40 mile – not bad for a 10th grader. At the time I thought I was on to something – perhaps I should smoke before every track meet. But I never did again.

Lucky for me that coffee provides my "oral" fix - I'm always sipping coffee at work. Probably a good thing I never started smoking - I'd be a 3-pack a day guy.

Erik and Mike – an Update

The Dude brought Erik and Mike (the family wax worms) to school for “sharing” time – that’s “Show and Tell” to us older-timers. They created a minor sensation beyond the classroom.

The Dude reported at a 4th grader confronted him on the bus, stating he was a “Nature Killer” for harboring wax worms that were bred as fish bait. Never mind that he’s got it all wrong – the Dude saved them from certain death as fish bait and they now live comfortably as “pets” in a plastic container on a bed of oatmeal and sugar.

Another kid offered to buy the wax worms – price $2.00. He wants to feed them to his pet lizards. “That’s awful,” I said, appealing to the Dude’s humanitarian trait as saver of wax worms, “What did you tell him?”

“I’m thinking about it,” was his reply. !!!!

Don’t tell Erik and Mike.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Note to Self - Must Specialize

There's a reason why I only average 15 to 16 hits a day on this blog - I don't specialize.

1. You will force yourself to specialize.
You can’t really write a blog about everything. Well, you can, but it will suck. So you’ll need to pick a topic and stick with it.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Panned by Pandora

If the Rockin' Berries are still around - and reading Pandora - this has to hurt:

The Berries wrote little of their own material, and this, combined with the wimpiness of some of their recordings, doomed them to little recognition, and little critical respect, even among British Invasion aficionados. For what they were, however, their best pop-rock outings were pretty respectable. A career strategy that put an eye on the "all-around entertainer" niche, however, led them to record many comedy numbers that have dated excruciatingly badly, and also ensured that they were denied artistic credibility and fell out of the British charts after the mid-1960s.

Use (or Don't) Use Voice-Mail

Here's some interesting advice from the Brazen Careerist:
2. Don't use voicemail.

It's slow, you can't file it, people leave inaudible phone numbers on it, and reception is bad everywhere you need it to be good. Train people to not expect you to answer your phone and they'll stop calling.

Answer emails fast and answer voicemails after someone calls twice. It's rude, but you can be extra nice in email to make up for it.

This one is eary for me. I work in a very email-intensive environment. I hardly ever make phone calls, and seldom leave or receive voice mail. The only problem with the email-only approach is that it allows some people to avoid responsibilty and allows for certain types of passive-aggressive behavior.

Despite my mastery of email, I find I get things done more effectively if I can just talk to someone in person. Lately, I've taken to calling first (before drafting an email). If the person doesn't answer, then I email - I don't leave a voicemail.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Ice Fishing and New Pets

Suddenly it's winter. It's been cold for about 2 weeks now, and the snow from last weekend has stuck around all week. The Dude and I attended the Boy Scout/Cub Scout Ice Fishing Contest on Snail Lake. It was the Dude's first time ice fishing. Despite my love of fishing, I've only gone ice fishing about 10 times in my life - - the last being almost a dozen years ago. For me, it's not real fishing unless you are wearing sunscreen - - and not just on your nose.

We didn't catch anything. The kids who were catching fish were hauling out little crappies - the kind that fit into the palm of your hand - - the hand of your average Cub Scout.

One odd note. The Dude took a liking to the bait - wax worms. His first grade class kept wax worms all last fall - in order to observe their various transformations. They are a lot of fun. Did you know that if you hold them by their "butts" they sort of stand up and dance? They do. Now we have two wax worms at home. Amazingly they came back from the "dead" - they were frozen solid when we left the lake. The Dude assures me that all they need is oatmeal and sugar. Oh - and their names are Erik and Mike.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Blogging for Health Purposes

Feeling kind of downish and I know blogging (about anything) usually helps snap me out of it.

Very busy at work. We are getting ready for the annual National Sales Meeting. This year it's in Phoenix. I'm there Wednesday through Saturday. Did I mention I hate business travel? I hate to be away from my family and home for that long. I hate to be "on" for about 16 hours or more every day. Don't feel sorry for me, I always have a good time once I get there - - and we are talking Phoenix in February - but it's the pre-trip stuff that gets me down.

Oh - - and I have to buy black pants for this deal. They go with the baby-blue colored sweater we will all be issued.

B-b-b-b-b-b-black slacks
B-b-b-b-b-b-black slacks
B-b-b-b-b-b-black slacks
B-b-b-b-b-b-black slacks
B-b-b-b-b-b-black slacks
Pegged cool, daddy-o
When I put em on
I'm a rarin' to go

Two coyotes sited on yesterday afternoon's ramble. Didn't have time for my usual lunch time walk, so I snuck out around 3:00 p.m. That's usually a good time for wildlife - deer, etc. The coyotes looked "good", not all scrawny like in winters past. The mild winter must be treating them well. Perhaps it easier to find rodents when you're not digging down through several feet of snow?

Thanks for Nothing - Pioneer Press

Damn Pioneer Press – and Damn Me – What a chump! They played on what’s left of my liberal white guilt. Why do I always feel so sorry for young African American males who are assigned to sell stuff in the suburbs?? Obviously that angle works with chumps like me.

Here’s the letter I just sent to the Pioneer Press – it explains most of the “problem”.

January 19, 2007

Pioneer Press
P.O. Box 64831
St. Paul, MN 55164-0831

To Whom It May Concern:

Please do not deliver any more copies of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. I never intended to subscribe to this newspaper. I believe you secured this “subscription” via deceptive practices. Here’s what happened:
One of your sales people came to my house. I told him I was not interested, and began to close the door. He asked me to wait while he explained himself. He said that the people who had hired him wanted him to prove that he was actually making contact with the households he had been assigned to solicit – even if those households decided not to purchase the paper. To prove he had made contact with me, all I needed to do was complete my name and address on the card he provided. This was obviously a ploy on his part to get my name and address in order to sign me up for a subscription to your newspaper. I should have seen through this – but I took sympathy on the young man and signed the card. I DID NOT indicate anything about delivery options – weekdays vs. weekdays and weekends, how I wished to be billed, etc. He never discussed these options with me. For this reason, the process seemed legitimate to me. Obviously I had been duped.
Please discontinue delivery of your paper immediately. While I actually like your newspaper, and appreciate its coverage of local news – especially it’s coverage of the Minnesota State Legislature, this is the second instance of your company having used less than “above board” sales practices. Those two episodes have soured me on ever subscribing to your paper.

The Hobbled Runner
123 Main Street
Roseville, MN 12345

Long time readers of the Hobbled Runner may recall our earlier Hell with the Pioneer Press. A little history.

That’s the last time I feel sorry for anyone selling anything. I’m such a chump.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

New Toilet Seal - Again

[Note the damp wood.]

Time to replace the toilet seal. I did it a few years ago - but it was that time again. For some reason, probably due to the conversion from old, clunky toilet to a newer sleeker model that uses less water per flush, the floor beneath the toilet is part tile, part wood. The prior owners probably pulled the old one and found untiled floor beneath. Rather than adding additional tile, they put down plywood. After we lived here for a year or two I noticed the wood was getting damp. In addition, the grout between the tiles was damp. I replaced the toilet seal - and the wood flooring. That time it took 2 days - I was such a novice.


This time, I didn't wait for the wood to get too damp. I just pulled the toilet sooner, and was rewarded with a dry sub-floor. The wood was the only wet part.

[Another riveting mid-job photo.]

Next time - assuming there will be a next time - I will re-tile.

Total elapsed time: 4 hours - and one trip to home depot. Damn - those toilets are heavy.

[Ta-da, finished.]

Friday, January 12, 2007

Indexed - My Latest Favorite Blog

Here's my latest favorite blog, Indexed, for those who like small graphs rendered on Index cards.

The Week in Review

It was a busy week – and a sick one at that. Came down with a bad cold over the weekend, and felt like crap on Sunday, then I missed work Monday. I attended an “off-site” meeting Tuesday (again no work). I went to the office on Wednesday to play catch-up.

On Thursday, I participated in some “ethnographic customer research” at a law firm in downtown MPLS. Ethnographic – think Jane Goodall watching the chimps, except this time it was the Hobbled Runner watching the lawyers. Did you know it takes about 7 hours to draft a 10 page summary judgment motion? Well, it does.

On Friday, winter returned, and I returned to work to get caught up on stuff I missed being out of the office for three days this week. I did get a chance to walk at noon – lots of fun with a temperature of 4 above, and a nasty wind-chill (about minus –15). But I really can’t complain about the cold because I walked with a colleague who didn’t have any gloves. Instead he had a cup of coffee that he passed from hand-to-hand to keep his hands warm. It seemed to work – he’s a true Minnesotan.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Wednesday = Good School Day

He told me earlier this week, that he would be OK to to go school on Wednesday and Friday this week. I didn't believe him, but he proved me wrong this morning. He left the house willingly, commenting that this was, "the first time in 8 weeks" that he's wanted to go to school. He's probably not exaggerating.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Monday Update

All-in-all, it was just another school day at Chez Hobbled. Today’s line was, “I’ll go to school on Wednesday, just not today and Tuesday.” We don’t know what that’s about. He did leave – but only after I retrieved him from his bedroom where he had ran to hide under the covers. I carried him out to the car, and he was crying some. It sounds bad, but we’ve seen worse.

Options we are considering: talk to school psychologist; talk to teacher; visit yet another private school option. Speaking selfishly – I hope it ends soon, I’m going crazy – but more importantly, I hope he gets to a place (in mind or physically in a new school) where he feels comfortable leaving the house in the morning.

On a related note – “It” is spilling over into other areas of his life. It was next to impossible to get him to leave the house this weekend. He may have had a cold, and so was not feeling well. (I have some sort of “crud” and am writing this from home – oops I better post quick, the cable people have returned to work on the wiring out back – so I’ll probably lose the connection soon.)

So, in summary, we have a problem. He won’t go to school, and he is starting to refuse to leave the house. Where did our adventurous little dude go?

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Medical Breakthrough

Parents - Do your children hate to take cold medicine? Do they squirm and shriek when you apply the menthol-like cold medicine to their congested chests? Fear not, I have the solution for you.

How? Take one small container of Chap-Ice Medicated Lip Balm, place it in the pocket of a child's blue jeans. Wash said jeans along with the rest of their clothes.

Result: All the close have a fresh, eucalyptus smell. Now your children can simply wear their medicine!

No - you don't have to thank me. It's a public service.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Got 5 Minutes - I Love This Kind of Stuff

As a very-busy guy, I love these sorts of suggestions:

Minute 1: Stretch
Minutes 2,3,4: Push-Ups
Minute 5: Stretch

Or what I usually do

Minute 1: Stretch
Minutes 2,3,4: Blog
Minute 5: Stretch.

Charles Beck - Video

[Picture source]

The Hobbled Wife and I enjoyed watching this video of MN Artist Charles Beck last night. I'd never heard of him, but the HW had - of course - MN Historian that she is.

Beck does woodcut prints. He lives in Otter Tail County - location of the in-law's cabin. The scenes in the video and his work look very familiar.


Visited the family grave site today at Fort Snelling national cemetery. Today marks the 6th anniversary of my Dad’s death – also the 48th anniversary (plus one day) of my brother’s death. We used to go to the cemetery on a regular basis when I was growing up – to visit my brother’s grave. We lived in Richfield, so I suppose we are about 3 miles away. Having an infant brother die three years before I was even born had no impact on me as a kid. Going to the cemetery was just something we “did” – though I recall that you could not say “No” when the trip to the cemetery was announced.

It was only after having children of my own, that the full impact of my brother’s death hit me. I knew my Mom and Dad struggled to have kids for many years. To have your first child day, only 24 hours after birth – I really don’t know how they went on living – let along trying to have children. I know they had the baby’s room all ready to go. I believe they just kept the entire thing intact until I came along in 1962. Amazing! I’m glad they did.

I feel bad that I haven’t visited my Dad’s grave in over a year. I used to go a lot when the kids were little. Then the kids will follow you anywhere, you just told them you were leaving the house, and they wanted to go. Now it seems such a big production to bring them. Why I fell out of visiting on my own, I don’t know. I can communicate with my Dad without visiting the grave itself.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Har Mar Mall Sold?

Interesting article in the Strib about the pending sale of the local Har Mar Mall.

With its hodgepodge add-ons over the years, Har Mar -- named for its original owners Harold and Marie Slawik -- exudes a quirky charm for fans and has become a local pop culture reference point, from the singer Har Mar Superstar to lyrics by the band the Hold Steady.

"It's essentially a strip mall cobbled together into an indoor mall," writes Ross Schendel on his retail history blog Labelscar.com -- named for the mark left behind after a store's sign is removed from a mall's exterior.

"It failed to compete with the glitzier, bigger Rosedale Center just up the street and reinvented itself by replacing the anchors with big-box stores and off-price, nontraditional anchors and stores," Schendel writes.

Labelscar - now that's an interesting concept for a blog:

If you’ve ever seen a store go out of business and remove the signage from their old building, then you’ve seen a labelscar. It’s more or less the equivalent of a watch tan; it’s the mark left on a building, where weather and the elements didn’t take their toll on the facade because it was once covered by signage for the occupants of the building, but is no more.

Labelscar - reminds me of Ghost Signs.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Snow Pictures

What do you do with the first good, measurable snow fall? Everything - cross-country ski, snow-shoe, and build a great fort. We only received about 3 inches here in Roseville, but we made the most of it. M was outside practically all day, and the Dude, Dad, and Mom spent a great deal of time outside as well.

Happy New Year - SNOW!!

Finally, last night around dinner time, the rain changed to snow. It was a quiet New Year's Eve - no party for the first time in several years. The family went out to eat at Bascali's Brick Oven then drove around a little, enjoying the snow. When we got home we went walking around the neighborhood. M and I ventured farther, making snow angels and saying "Happy New Year" to the few hardy souls who were out and about.

We are hosting my Mom for a New Year's Brunch and I hope to get some cross-country skiing in before it all melts (I'm a pessimist when it comes to real winter weather this year.) Conditions look good for a few laps around the back-yard (the open field behind Fairview Community Center). Perhaps I'll try the U of MN golf course - since I have to go down that way to pick up bagels for the brunch.