Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Dude in Motion

Having some fun with the new BlackBerry and it's camera. Tonight the Dude and I wanted to go for a bike ride. When we pulled the bikes out of the garage, his back tire was flat. Very flat!

I know from experience that Erik's Bike Shop can change a bike tire in about 10-15 minutes if they are not too busy ($14 parts and labor). That beats the one hour or so it would take me. So we threw the bike into the back of the Saturn Vue and drove to Erik's. Home about 20 minutes later for a bike ride at dusk. Everything working fine, all systems go.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Hatch Day Party

Saturday was the Dude's 8th Birthday. We celebrated with a Hatch Day party at the Raptor Center located on the University of Minnesota St. Paul campus. The Dude really likes raptors and the Raptor Center put on a great party.

The kids have their own personal bird show, where they learn about birds and get to see some raptors up close. The picture above shows the kids and Baron the American Kestrel that the Dude sponsors. After the show comes the tour, followed by the more traditional party in the party room.

The kids can do a craft and play games (pin-the-tail on the Red Tail Hawk), and have their cake and ice-cream.

It was a fun time.

Workplace Productivity

[Hobbled Central - where it all happens]

Wow - it's amazing how a company-approved productivity tool can waste so much time. Updated my BlackBerry - It's smaller, sleeker, and has some cool new features like a camera which seems to take very nice pictures. I'm interested to see how it looks with some outside shots.

In the meantime, it took me about 20 minutes to get the features back the way I like them - please don't vibrate every time an email arrives. That just makes me twitchy.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Day Two

Yesterday was "Day One" - that's day-one of the new company Thomson Reuters. Lots of festivities here. New business cards, new employee badges (same old picture - 1998 I believe), new voice-mail messages to record, new email addresses.

Actually it's lots of fun. Should be a good deal for company, employees, and customers. Unlike the deal that the company down the road just got into. Not sure how that will turn out.

For the record - I dressed up and it's Friday. Just wanted everyone to note. Heard that big-wigs might be walking through - like to make a good impression.

Here's somethign to ponder: Can you be a major executive if you are sensitive to the smell of new paint and new carpet? Every time a major exec is going to tour the facility, they spend a week or so painting the more visible public spaces and laying new carpet in entryways, main halls, and elevators. Everything smells very new! These poor people - everywhere they go, it smells brand-new!

Belated Fossil Post

Two weeks ago (April 5 to be exact) our Cub Scout pack went to Lilydale Brickyards in St. Paul for the annual fossil hunt. It's not much of a hunt - more like fossil-picking or fossil-tripping, because the darn things are all over the place.

The park is the site of an old brickyard (hence the name) and you can still find hundreds (probably thousands) of cast off bricks and pieces of brick lying around. The old kilns are also visible.

Before it was a brickyard - way before - the area was buried under an ancient sea. Now that it's high ground, and very clay-like, you can just kick the ground, or scrape the side of the cliff and find fossils. You need a permit to dig and take fossils home.

Nature (and St. Paul) also offer ice-climbing on the cliffs. Ice is still visible, as it's in shade all day. I wonder when that ever melts?

As usual, I forgot the camera. What kind of blogger am I? Luckily other bloggers visit and take even better pictures, with better cameras. Here's the BirdChick with some pictures. Link to yesterday's post for more pics on the fossils and the cool Indian Mounds park in the heart of the city. True confession - never visited the Indian Mounds. Add another to the growing "To Do" list.

[Not my pic. Source]

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Fight with a Brick Wall

(picture taken Tuesday, the morning after the injury.)

The Dude had a fight with a brick wall on Monday night. He was playing at the neighbor's when he tripped while chasing a ball and fell into the edge of a brick wall on the garage.

(Taken Wednesday night, wearing "eye-shadow"??)

It's a Jungle Out There

Interesting review of a talk given at a conference by Dr. Daphne Miller author of The Jungle Effect.

Over the past ten years, scientists have spent a lot of energy investigating the world's healthiest and longest-lived populations, trying to figure out what they are doing right. Why do they live so much longer and have vastly lower rates of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and other diseases than Western countries? We've picked apart and analyzed the traditional diets and lifestyles of Okinawans, Cretans, Icelanders, Cameroons, Pima Indians, and so forth, in an attempt to codify, once and for all, the healthiest diet.

The problem, as Dr. Miller discovered when she travelled to all of these places to see for herself, is that health and longevity are about the only things that these cultures have in common. The robust Tarahumara Indians, for example, eat a diet of 80% carbohydrates (mostly in the form of starchy vegetables like corn and potatoes!), while the indestructable Cretans get almost 50% of their calories from fat. Some long-lived cultures eat almost no meat, while the hale and hearty Icelanders eschew vegetables as "animal feed" and eat large quantities of lamb and fish.
. . .

A unifying concept that Dr. Miller didn't mention is that all indigenous diets are composed of a relatively small list of foods. In most cases, about two dozen foods provide 95% of the calories--in some cases, fewer than a dozen! Compare this with the tens of thousands of food products we are confronted with at the grocery store. Hundreds of kinds of produce from every climate inn the world. Dozens of kinds of grains. Scores of protein sources.

A small list of foods? Hmm, reminds me of my childhood. The only fruits I ate were Red Delicious Apples and the occasional banana. As for vegetables – carrots and maybe some corn. No wonder M is such a picky eater. She inherited none of the adventurous food genes from the Hobbled Wife’s side of the family.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Migration Nation

Minnesota Birdnerd has some cool radar shots of bird migration. It’s been a very busy week for bird migration and if you know what you are looking for, it’s a lot of fun. I’m still kind of an amateur birder, but not so dense that I can’t spot loons on Twin Cities area lakes.

Here’s an interesting post from the MOU listserv about the back-log of loons on lakes near the city:

Today, I too went loony and checked a few likely spots in Dakota County for a total of 53 Common Loons. Loons have been stacked up locally for several days due to weather and ice conditions to the north. By far the most loons I've seen in Dakota County in the 8-years I've been birding the area.

19 - Spring Lake RP near Hastings
8 - Pt. Douglas near Prescott
25 - Black Dog (22 on west lake-one sleeping raft of 17; 3 on east lake)
1 - new yard bird on my pond.

I had 15 at Lake Byllesby April 6 and D.S. counted 31 at Black Dog on the 7th. I did NOT check Byllesby today.

The Dude and I witnessed this loon-jam first-hand Saturday, driving between parties. We spotted two loons on Lake Cornelia, in Edina, at Highway 62 (the Crosstown) and Valley View Road- practically in the shadow of Southdale.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

That New Crazy Sound

Busy week. I flew to Rochester, NY on Sunday, returning late Tuesday afternoon. The Hobbled Wife flew to Montreal (via American - ha!) on Wednesday morning. She returned this afternoon. Phew! I'm pretty good with single parenting - but no one ever wants to practice their music lessons unless Mom is bearing down on them. Haven't had any discretionary computer time until now - so finally blogging.

Yesterday the Dude and I left the house at 9:00 for a birthday party, then had a short break before party #2. We returned home - finally - at 6:00. Crazy - worse than work! Between parties, the Dude and I had lunch with H and managed to come away with an old turntable owned by one of you - we think Uncle J??

The kids are fascinated by the turntable - and some of the records we borrowed like a single from the Monkees (Hey-Hey-We're-the-Monkees and Daydream-Believer) and the Go-Gos first album. Comment after the single played through the first time, "Hey, it shut off. That's it?"

Yep - that's it.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Doing Nothing at Work

[Creative-Commons License]

Nice Washington Post piece on things that have become obsolete. Here’s one I miss this one,

Doing Nothing at the Office

b. 1853 -- d. mid-1990s

The 20th century's best minds might have brought us many wonders fantastic (Decaf soy lattes! Shoulder-fired missiles! Plastic!), but what is truly stunning is the number of office hours Americans clocked during those same years doing . . . nothing much. Taking a cigarette break could sometimes nudge the minute hand a little. The water cooler was also created for this purpose. And paper clips. But in those many empty moments between tasks, much time was spent staring into space.

The patron saint of office inaction could be Herman Melville's Bartleby the scrivener, who sloughed off the responsibilities of his job in the dead letter office with a succinct, "I would prefer not to." But in some professions, downtime was practically a requirement of the job, and higher-ups would charge underlings with figuring out how to use it.

"When I started in the early '80s, there were word-processing centers," recalls attorney Howard Gutman, a partner at Williams & Connolly. "A 120-page brief could take two hours, and one mistake and you'd have to do it over again. Printing places would vie for business by having beds and food. If you were a young lawyer, sitting and waiting there really was your job."

Idle time's death knell was the Internet, which created a way to fill every moment while giving the appearance of productivity. The joys of making wastebasket two-pointers and using Scotch tape to extract nasal blackheads pale when compared with the minute-hand-massaging possibilities of Craigslist and YouTube. According to Nielsen ratings, the average American visits more than 2,000 Web pages a month while on the clock; surveys by suggest that close to 90 percent of workers spend part of their day doing Internet browsing that's unrelated to work.

During the early days of my career, in the mid-1980s I worked in an office without computers. My boss liked to use carbon paper, but we were the dinosaurs of the office suite. The hip, techno geeks in the other offices laughed, “Why do you still use carbon paper when you can type the letter and walk down the hall to the copy room.” Yes, the copy room, that was high tech. You wrote letters long-hand, the secretary typed them up on the IBM Selectric, and then she walked down the hall to wait in line with the other secretaries to make copies.

But I do miss the down-time. Without the internet, I usually filled the down time talking to the secretaries or other staff folks. We tend to underestimate the value of office gossip. It leads to institutional knowledge. I would also look through files. I kid you not! Just pick out a file folder or two and read through them, looking at old correspondence, reports, etc. I probably was a more well-rounded person for the effort. Down time forced me to reflect on what I was doing and learn more about the issues we faced.

There is still a lot of down time in offices, but now I fill the time in solitary pursuits like checking blogs or news sources on the web. This is valuable stuff – in my opinion – but totally unrelated to the business at hand. I still have files I could read through – though most of the content is stored electronically. But to tell the truth, if faced with 5 or 10 minutes of down time before a meeting, I’d rather check my email quick, and then surf the web. Seldom do I leave my cube to talk to a colleague.

What are we losing? I don’t really know. Personally, I feel less well-rounded, less aware of the big picture of the projects I’m working on. I probably have less institutional knowledge because I just don’t spend as much time talking to colleagues or looking through the old files.

Hat tip: Newmark’s Door.