Friday, February 29, 2008

Change - Even 7 Year Olds Want It

The Dude and his classmates are riding the tide of Obamamania. Last night he asked me who I was going to vote for. Before I answered, he began offering his analysis of the Presidential race to date.

The Dude noted that Hillary was leading at first but now Obama was winning. I agreed that Obama has a lot of momentum behind him. The Dude can’t really figure out what anyone sees in Hillary, and parrots the Obama campaign themes when attacking her: “She followed George Bush into war,” etc.

Then he went on, “People must have supported her because she’s white,” he said. There you go – Hillary –potentially the first woman President of the U.S. –reduced to being just another white person, worthy of 7 year old liberal scorn.

Disclaimer: I’m very undecided. It’s just a hoot to have the Dude grilling me. It’s also fascinating – perhaps a sign of how far we’ve come – that the whole issue of Hillary’s gender is moot to him. He doesn’t quite grasp the fact that a woman is (for the first time) a real contender in the Presidential race. Perhaps he just expects to see women in power. The entire administration of his school are women. For as long as he remembers I’ve had woman bosses at work. Many women he knows have significant careers. The “first woman” argument is lost on him.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Put Down that Butter Knife!

Yeah you - put down the butter knife and step away from the kid. (Members of the wife’s family will know what this means.)

Yes – it’s a home strep test kit. Gone are the days of having your father the physician hold your tongue down with a butter knife to peer down your throat with a flashlight.

Hat tip Newmark's Door.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Have You Seen the Ghost of John, or Sven

Fascinating stuff. As Treasurer for the Cub Scout Pack, I’m the “bag man” making money runs all the time. Tomorrow evening, I have to stop by a parent’s house to pick up some receipts, etc. I entered the address in Google and discovered that it is near what Google Maps lists as the Norwegian Cemetery.

Further Googling reveals

Dale/Rice Cemetery, West County Rd B between Rice and Dale in Roseville, is an old cemetery, noted in 1913 as 'no longer in use.' It was originally the Norwegian Lutheran Cemetery; today it has been owned by the Muslim community since the early 1990s. The name has changed several times, just in the last decade: Rosedale, Rice/Dale, etc. It is divided into two parts: the older section is in front, with the Muslim interments at the back. The records for the early burials have been lost. Burials since the 1950s in the front part are almost exclusively from the Hennepin County Welfare Department. The Roseville Historical Society has transcribed the records for 1950-1988.

Muslim/Norwegian Cemetery with some paupers’ graves thrown in. Very interesting. Too bad it will be dark outside, sounds like an interesting place to visit. On the hand, perhaps night time is the right time to visit a cemetery. Perhaps I’ll run into the ghost of Ahmed Swensson.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Royal Feeding

It has come to my attention that by posting about my cousin Bjorn that I may have started a cute-cousin war. There can be no contest. Both the Bear and I-Man are in classes by themselves. Winners both.

Here the I-Man feeds faithful dog Maggie.

Beware Business Jargon

A colleague shared this Business Week piece with me. I found it very interesting. Can't believe I'm agreeing with Suze Orman - who I've only seen for brief periods when they drag her out for Public TV pledge week - but she nails it:

Financial guru Suze Orman once told me, "People criticize simplicity because they need to feel as though the topic is more complicated. If everything were so simple, they think their jobs could be eliminated. It's our fear of extinction, our fear of elimination, our fear of not being important that leads us to communicate things more than we need to."

I've always suspected that most people use business jargon to make the mundane tasks of everyday business life sound so much more important. There's got to be some larger reason I commute one-hour per day to a large building with tinted windows so I can sit in a gray cube 8 to 10 hours a day, while outside the sun is shining, and my heavily mortgaged home (without cubes or tinted windows) sits unused.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Seen Any Good Movies Lately?

Wow - My colleagues at work tease me about how I never go to movies, but I've never gotten this treatment. Here Jeffrey Wells of Hollywood Elsewhere responds to a friend who didn't see the top films:

"movies are not supposed to be pills that you take to feel better. They're not travelling carnivals with elephants and jugglers. They're supposed to be aesthetic journeys and emotional hikes that get us in touch with things that too many of us tend to push away (or anesthetize ourselves from) in our day to day. They're supposed to be compressions and condensations that create indelible moments, insights and excavations into our collective soul.

"We're only here for 80 or 90 years, we need to figure some stuff out before we pass on, and good movies are part of the learning-and-realizing process.

The only new movie I saw this year - and the only one in a theater (I think?) was Nancy Drew. I highly recommend it, though it wasn't a compression or condensation that created an indelible moment.

Hat tip Kottke.

Cute Baby Post

What do you when you are too busy/lazy to post original content of your own? How about posting very cute pictures of your 9 month old cousin. Here he is after consuming pancakes - note the smile. That kid must love pancakes.

Hey - wait a minute - take a look at that cat in the corner. I can't really tell but I wonder if he/she is sitting on a heated blanket - note the two layers of cushion and the close proximity of the plugs. Sheesh!

We'll have a chance to get to the bottom of the cat question next Friday when Bjorn and his parents come to dinner. Perhaps we'll serve pancakes.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A Different Kind of Change

And now for some non-Obama change, though I admit I don’t know where he stands on the issue of word processor margins. From the Washington Post:

A project founded by Los Angeles-based actress and writer Tamara Krinsky advocates a simple change that anyone can believe in: By altering the printing margin preference for Microsoft Word documents from the standard 1.25 inches to 0.75 inch, Americans can save a whole lot of paper -- and trees, and money.

Hat tip, Marginal Revolution – where you’ll also see some interesting discussion in the comments:

No! This is a false savings. Wide margins make the text width smaller, which increases legibility. Compare nicely typeset books with slapped together business reports. Human attention is scarce, paper is cheap. If something is worth printing, it is worth printing with good margins. A better way to save paper is to not print documents that will not be read.

And there’s more,

Go further! Change your margins to .75", single-space, and use aa 9-point font. Set your word processor to 2-column mode. Then send everything to the printer double-sided.

This isn't only a matter of saving paper. A standard 1.25" margin with a 12-point font has too many characters per line to be efficiently readable. Increasing the margins to .75" makes readability even worse. I fear a backlash. But if you treat the design problem as a whole, you can get crisply readable lines while saving whole reams of paper.

Maybe when I get a free moment, I’ll tinker with my own margins.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Cough, Hack . . . I'm Still Alive

Between a very busy social schedule and a debilitating cold, I'm bone tired, stuffed up, and have very little voice left. I'm not even up for much typing. So how about some pictures, and a link to a new blog?

Let's see - last Tuesday, Art Fair and Science at M's school. She entered the Art Fair with a presentation of her bead jewelry. It's really quite creative. Many of the kids told her she should sell her wares.

Friday and Saturday, it was the 5th Grade play at M's school. It was a very creative undertaking, with the kids creating the story, writing the script, and composing the songs. In these photos, M is a pirate. She had several roles.

Saturday was Pinewood Derby day for the Girl Scouts. While the Derby is an annual Cub Scout event, the Girls do there own race every 2 or 3 years. Like the Cub Scout event, the kids design their own cars. Also like the Cub Scouts, participation by Dads varies. M wanted her car to be a Pink Pearl Eraser. I did the cutting, but Maria painted it and drew on the lettering.

Finally, last but certainly not least, we have another entry into our larger family of bloggers. My cousin has started a blog to update us on the exploits of her very cute little boy. Check it out.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Happy Birthday Richfield

[Richfield 1954]

StarTribune had an interesting story about the upcoming 100th birthday of Richfield, MN. Thought some of you former Spartans out there might be interested.

As Minnesota's self-styled "oldest suburb" begins its centennial celebration this month, Richfield is not only acknowledging its past but also saluting its future.

Named for its rich black prairie soil, Richfield in 1858 stretched over 63 square miles, encompassing what is now Minneapolis from Lake Street south, Edina and St. Louis Park, part of Hopkins, the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport and much of Fort Snelling State Park.

Once known as the fertile home of vegetable-selling truck farmers with names like Bachman and Wagner, after World War II Richfield became the classic 1950s suburb with waves of newly built ramblers pushing cows off the farm fields. The population nearly doubled in just a few years.

Monday, February 11, 2008

No, I Do Not Know the Muffin Man

The weekend got off to an odd start Saturday morning at Scout Leader training. First a little background. I’ve decided to step up to the plate and become Den Leader for the Dude’s Cub Scout Den. The current leader has announced his intention to step down. No one else is stepping forward. The Dude has become less interested in certain parts of the Cub Scout experience, so I thought that if I were leader I could create the sort of experience that would help the Dude stay in scouting.

Why even try? Good question. The Dude loves the big scouting activities – especially the traditional scouting stuff like camp, outdoor nature stuff, etc. We haven’t been doing much of that lately, and I think I can help jazz up his Cub Scout experience. At least I hope I can. So it’s really mostly about him and making his Scouting experience better – though I suggest others will appreciate the changes.

Anyway – Saturday, 8:00 a.m. to 3:30, in some church basement. The church must save money by turning down the furnace after Sunday services and not turning it up until Saturday morning, because the morning started out cold! The first two hours were relatively interesting, PowerPoints and videos about scouting. The sort of thing you would expect. After a short break, we begin hour 3. Two presenters up front when someone shouts from the back of the room, “Hey Sue (not her real name), do you know the muffin man?”

Sue replies, “Yes, I know the muffin man,” and begins singing the familiar muffin man song while hopping up and down. As she is hopping up and down she hops over to her co-presenter and stands about two feet away from him. He then starts hopping in time with her – face-to-face. When she completes the song, he keeps hopping and starts singing the muffin man. There’s a twist – when he gets to the end he adds the street he lives on in place of Drury Lane.

Then – the co-presenter turns to me (that’s what I get for sitting in the front row), and starts singing the Muffin Man song. OK – I’m pretty bright – I know where this is going. They obviously expect me to hop and sing with him, just like he did with Sue.

At this point I do something totally out of character. I stand up, say “No, I don’t do that,” pick up my training materials and leave the room. He’s a pro. He doesn’t miss a beat – just keeps on singing the Muffin Man to the next guy down the line.

I walk out – along with a few other guys who had the brains to sit in back so they didn’t have to make a scene. I don’t know what to do. I see that one of the Scout Leaders who organized the training has followed me out and asks what’s wrong. I grab my cell phone and say, “Nothing, just need to call my wife and have her convince me that I should stay.” Very lame – I know – but at least I didn’t grab my coat and just leave – which was what I really wanted to do.

Don’t get me wrong – if the kids were there and this was a real Cub Scouting event I would have hopped and sang along with the Muffin Man. I’m not above humiliating myself in front of small children – but I draw the line at adults. Perhaps this was an icebreaker, but I didn’t need my ice broken. In fact, it took me about 20 minutes to calm down enough to tuck my tail between my legs and return to the blasted training. I couldn’t really concentrate for the next two hours – until lunch break – so I don’t even remember what the Muffing guys were even presenting on.

I spent the rest of the day flip-flopping between paying attention to the trainings, and brooding over whether I’d made the right choice to walk out in the first place, or whether I should have just kept walking.

The Hobbled Wife for her part was great. She talked me off the ledge, got me back into the meeting, and even suggested some nice strategies for peaceful confrontation should I ever be asked again, “Do you know the Muffin Man?”

Friday, February 08, 2008

Oh How Beautiful the Sky

Both M and the Dude are in the choir at House of Hope. They recently posted sample audio files from the House of Hope Christmas Concert 2007 CD. I didn’t even know they had a CD – and I don’t see any additional information on the site about where/how to get a CD. Oh well, click on the song samples and enjoy.


Very cool, Montage-a-Google, check it out.

Hat Tip, Happiness Project.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

I’ve Got Videophilia

Americans spend more time indoors,

Experts report that the typical American spends up to 25% less time in nature than in 1987, and time spent in nature dropped by about 1% annually since then.

The researchers tracked visits to National Parks, hiking, camping, and getting a license to hunt or fish. Chilling out in your backyard didn't count.

Time spent in nature isn't just down in the U.S. It's also declining in Japan, report the University of Illinois at Chicago's Oliver Pergams, PhD, and colleagues.

Why the trend? The researchers write that the cause may be "videophilia," which they define as focusing on sedentary activities involving electronic media.

Hat tip, Modern Forager.

Infamous Classmates

Law School always attracts a diverse student body. I just had now idea how diverse our class was until I read this interesting news in my law school alumni email. The email, written by our diligent class agent, calls our attention to a former classmate, about a former classmate of ours, Spiros Zorbalas, featured in the recent City Pages cover story as a slumlord extraordinaire. What amazes me is the way he kept one foot in the criminal world, and the other foot on the more legit side of life:

While waiting for the charges to be filed against him, Zorbalas decided to become more acquainted with the legal system, enrolling at the University of Minnesota Law School. In October 1989, just two months into his first semester, Zorbalas was served with a federal indictment. Charged with five counts of mail fraud, he copped to one, admitting to filing a false insurance claim. Pleading guilty in state court to possession of stolen property, Zorbalas acknowledged an added deception: In order to maximize his insurance check, he'd altered the sales receipt of the car from $21,500 to $24,500.

Zorbalas was sentenced to nine months in the Duluth federal workhouse. While there, he did his best to keep his education from suffering. He got permission for a weeklong transfer to a halfway house in Minneapolis to take his finals. (Zorbalas claims he never served time, though in a June 27, 1990, letter he wrote that "I am presently in custody" in Duluth.)
Perhaps recognizing that his rap sheet would make getting admitted to the bar something of a long shot, Zorbalas soon shifted his career focus. After getting out of prison, he quit law school and focused his attention instead on the U of M's Carlson School of Management.

Shortly after graduating with an MBA in 1993, he took a consulting job at Arthur Anderson, the now-shuttered firm made infamous by its pliant Enron audits. Zorbalas eventually opened his own consulting firm based in Atlanta, but by 1999, Zorbalas recalled in an interview with a Florida paper, he was burned out from the traveling. He decided to try his hand at real estate.

Whew! While my life will never be profiled in City Pages, I’m leading a more “boring” life.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Kill the Chickens!

It’s been a while since I posted about funny drive-time conversations with my children. As they age, they tend to become more mature (alas) and our conversations are more mundane, revolving around school, homework, extracurricular activities, and so on.

Over the past few days, the Dude and I have discussed possible re-uses for the buildings at “the Farm” – the farm property near Vergas, MN still owned by my mother-in-law’s family. It’s about 1 mile from the Cabin, so we usually spend some time playing and working at the Farm when visiting the Cabin during warm weather months.

The Dude and I got talking about my wife’s uncle Bob, who passed away shortly after the Dude was born. He has no memory of Bob, but we talk about him from time to time. The Dude calls him "Bob the Builder" because he used to build things.

I related the story of the time Bob supervised the male cousins as we re-roofed one of the out-buildings on the farm. That led me to a discussion about how several buildings on the old Farm needed fixing up. Now the Dude has an idea.

He wants to raise chickens at the Farm this summer, so we can have fresh eggs. The interesting part of the story is this. I asked him what we would do with the chickens when the summer ended.

"At the end of the summer we'll kill ‘em and eat ‘em."

Very practical. He's not the least bit upset about this - - funny considering how sensitive he can get about things.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Birding Humor

[Conference of Cardinals in South Bend]

Leave it to SDMoose (the sis-in-law) and her friends to mix birding, baseball, and religion for some great blogging humor. (Read the comments)


There's a whole lot of laptoppin' going on around the Hobbled Household with both the the Hobbled Wife and the Dude tappin' away.

Relatives in the News - "Good Boy"

John and Major

It seems I don't have much opportunity to report on famous relatives in the news. Perhaps it's time to get new relatives? Nah - that won't happen.

Ah - here's one. You notice I have to cast a wide net to find articles when I must resort to ones that feature the good deeds of my four-legged relations.

Major - a Roseville Police Canine Officer - is a relative of sorts. Major works with Officer John Jorgensen - whose married to my cousin. He had a busy night a few weeks back,

Two teens decided to go on a little drive in the wee hours of Jan. 11. However, Ross Niehues, 19, of Red Wing, and Joseph Barke, 18, of Roseville, didn't have sightseeing in mind. Instead, the two spent a good chunk of the morning committing various acts of vandalism in Roseville, Falcon Heights and Lauderdale.

Thanks to their mischief, Barke has been charged with a first degree felony count of criminal damage to property. Niehus has also been charged with felony first degree criminal damage to property as well as a third-degree DWI offense.

According to a report written by Roseville Police Sgt. Erika Scheider, police responded to a call about 1:10 a.m. on the 1300 block of Ryan Avenue. The home owner told police they heard a crashing noise outside their home. When the home owner went to check it out they saw two men running from the scene. The home owner saw the two men leave in a small pickup. The home owner then discovered significant damage to two vehicles, including broken windows and the theft of hockey equipment from one of the vehicles.

Meanwhile, the report adds, St. Anthony Police were also taking a report of criminal damage to property at the same time. That call also referenced the same pickup as the Roseville call.

According to the report, St. Anthony Police spotted the vehicle driving east on Skillman Avenue, and made a traffic stop. When the truck came to a stop, both suspects fled on foot.

A St. Anthony officer located the missing hockey equipment in the truck.

Major, a German Shepherd and Roseville K-9 officer, quickly apprehended Niehues. Major then tracked Barke, who was hiding under a vehicle.

. . .

Quick phone calls from home owners were a great help to police, Scheider added.

She also had high praise for Major.

"It was just a great job by the K-9 officer," Scheider said.

Good Boy Major!

Friday, February 01, 2008

At the Intersection of Running and Donuts

It’s been too long since I blogged about running and donuts, two old loves of mine. I never thought of combining the two, but Krispy Kreme did,

To Complete the Krispy Kreme Challenge is to:

1) Run 2 miles from the NC State Belltower to the Krispy Kreme on Peace Street.
2) Eat 1 dozen donuts.
3) Run 2 miles back to the Belltower.
4) Do all this in under one hour.

People always ask if puking is allowed. Don’t puke on purpose. That’s not fair to the rest of us. Keeping the doughnuts down is the real challenge, don’t cheat yourself!

Got that? Puking is OK, just don’t do it on purpose.

Too bad – it was last Saturday.

Hat tip: Big Armed Woman