Friday, January 28, 2011

A Well Heeled Gentleman

My “fancy” black dress shoes have been in tough shape for a number of months. Both heals are quite worn, and I’m almost coming through on the front soles as well. Finally, on the way home from work last night I stopped in at Hartland Shoes (591 North Hamline). I drive by the shop almost every day (it’s about one-half mile from the Dude’s school) so I thought I’d give it a try. It was my first visit.

What a place! The smell – old shoe leather and polish is a bit overwhelming but you quickly grow used to it. And you better get used to it – because the owner will talk your ear off. I learned all about the state of the shoe repair business – it’s booming! He listed off all the folks who have left the business in recent years. Fun fact: When he took over the shop (in 1989) there were seven (7) shoe repair shops in downtown St. Paul. Now there are none. Why?

I suspect people buy cheaper shoes, so they just buy new ones when the old ones “wear out”. Many people don’t even wear shoes they would think of repairing. It’s one of those things like darning socks – no one does it anymore.
However, business is booming, as reported on the site,

I have now owned this shop since 1989. Along with surviving 2 kidney transplants, I am now trying to survive A major Increase in business! One reason could be the "Perfect Storm"(2-3 major things happening at same time - A return of customers due to the economy, quite a few less shoe shops, and lots of New customers in general! Please allow extra time for us to get your repairs back to you! Thank you for your patience.

Heels and soles – 4 weeks! But I think it’s worth it.

Major Update

I realize that the Hobbled Runner is not your source for breaking news, but I’ve been negligent in blogging about Major.

Brief background - Major a K-9 member of the Roseville Police Department is partnered with Officer John Jorgensen. John is married to my cousin. News of Major's injury in the line of duty were big news for a while. Now I mostly rely on my Mom for updates.

From Mom I've learned that Major’s out of the hospital and home with my cousin’s family. It looks like he will not walk again. My mom reports there is some talk of using him as a therapy dog which would be great.

Despite his injuries I’m glad to see Major is up and around – testifying yesterday at the Legislature in favor of making the injury of a police dog a felony.

[Photo: MPR]

As reported by MPR:

Major can no longer stand on his own and will be officially retired from service next month.

"He was effectively killed as a police dog," Jorgensen told lawmakers.

The measure passed the House Public Safety and Crime Prevention Committee and now heads to the Judiciary Committee.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

What the Cluck?

[Here's a post I prepared for my neighbor's blog, The Chicken Project. Not sure when she plans to post it. I will include a link when it's up.]

While that’s not the response from everyone who discovers my neighbors raise chickens – a number of folks are surprised to learn we live next door to chickens – and like it!

Most of those surprised by the news have read about urban farmers in local newspapers. They assume incorrectly that urban chicken farmers are confined to “The City” where all those crazy urban trends flourish. These folks are surprised to learn you can raise chickens in Roseville.

I enjoy having chickens next door for a number of reasons. You usually don’t hear them as the noise of everyday life tends to overpower their quite clucking, but it’s always a treat to step out on the deck in the early morning with the dog and hear the chickens clucking away. It’s a quiet sort of noise, peaceful like a babbling brook.

Chickens are also fun to watch – kind of like a spectator sport. When they are let out of the pen to run around the yard they eat bugs, and pick around in the dirt taking dust baths. They seldom stray far, and are (usually) rounded-up easily.

Of course, the chickens are not always quiet. They squawk some, usually when a possible intruder is nearby. Sometimes squirrels set them off, other times it’s a raptor sitting in a nearby tree. (Watching penned-in chickens must drive raptors crazy – so close, but so far.) But when they squawk, it’s not nearly as loud as barking dogs, lawn mowers, leaf blowers, or other hazards of suburban living.

And of course – there are the eggs. These eggs come from truly free range chickens. On occasion, I’ve cooked with eggs still warm from the hen. We once cracked two eggs in a bowl – one from the co-op (no slouch for producing good eggs) and one from McNeal chickens. The yolk of the McNeal egg was a much deeper yellow – almost orange – and huge. I’m told that’s because of the high protein content. These chickens really like their bugs.

We also enjoy showing off the chickens to visiting friends and relatives. They are a big hit with the under age 5 crowd.

Living next to chickens is a win-win situation as far as I’m concerned.
I’ll finish with this fun historical fact: According to the 1931 Farm Holdings map of Roseville our homes are located on the site of an old 30 acre poultry (turkey) farm – plot 206. It’s destiny that the McNeals raise chickens!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

What - It's Only Tuesday?

It’s Tuesday no doubt about it – I can’t respond fast enough to email. It just keeps pouring in.

Thankfully – we’ve gone beyond 11:45. It’s all downhill from here.

Monday, January 24, 2011

What "Should" I Do?

Here’s a great post from one of my favorite blogs. It’s the story of my life – doing what you think you “should” do, rather than what you “choose”. The account of his people-pleasing childhood really rang true. I was also the kid who talked his friends out of doing the really fun stuff.

I’ve been reading the Art of Manliness for well over a year and I just now find out we work (worked) for the same company.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Worms Anyone?

The other night I told Shana about some worm research I read about online but I couldn’t find the blog post where I first read of the study. Yesterday I saw a Tweet from blogger Dr. Michael Eades pointing to an article about the same research. Turns out intestinal worms might not be so bad – or at least they serve a purpose,

While this scenario might appear to be win-lose, with humans the clear losers, research now suggests that may not be the whole story. In their drive to make humans hospitable hosts, parasites have developed the ability to suppress inflammation aimed against them. And this, it turns out, isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

“They have evolutionarily adapted to this long-standing interaction with their hosts — that’s us — and developed strategies to help the host dampen its immune response,” says Helmut Haas, an immunologist at the Research Center Borstel in Germany.

These strategies are not subtle. But humans have survived the effects and even adapted well to them: A toned-down immunity is, perhaps, the norm. A sober immune system might still defend against enemies while not overreacting to everyday substances in the environment, or otherwise going awry. Suddenly those prehistoric times don’t sound so bad — no Crohn’s disease, no multiple sclerosis, no asthma. Good old Stone Age.

In a stroke of medical inspiration as bold as it is counterintuitive, scientists are now testing this theory by treating patients with live microscopic eggs or larvae of parasitic worms designed to quell these very afflictions. Several clinical research trials are under way and more are planned. Whether promising early results will lead to treatments for these known or suspected autoimmune conditions — and extend to allergy, type 1 diabetes, psoriasis and other cases of immune revolt — remains to be seen.

Perhaps we are too “clean” for our own good.

Single Digits and Sun

[Dried up - and very cold - milkweed as seen from the walking path at noon.]

Despite plenty of cold dog walks lately, I couldn't resist a mid-day walk in the cold (9 degree) sun. As an added benefit, there was hardly any wind.

[More dried up plants peeking out of the snow. Off to the right you see one of many large piles of snow. The land in the middle of the walking path is the dumping ground for the snow removed from our various parking lots. It's quite a pile already.]

Friday, January 14, 2011

May the Force be With Me

Looking for some energy along about 3:00 p.m. on a Friday. Maybe a macchiato and Hans Solo cupcake will help.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

One of Her Favorite Sweaters!

I’ve ordered a few items from Lands’ End Canvas Store – the newer, hipper Lands’ End where all the models are under 30, the women ridiculously thin, and all the men have designer stubble. In addition to the obvious reason – I’m chasing my lost youth – I do like their clothes. Their stuff tends to fit my “youthful” (aka skinny) body better than other adult clothing. Over the past year, I’ve ordered two pairs of pants, one shirt, a sweater, and a jacket. I’ve been satisfied with all the items.

One of the more interesting elements of the Land’s End Canvas shopping experience is the follow-up thank you card. They appear to be hand-written – and I think they actually are – though I’m not up on all the latest technology so feel free to prove me wrong. What’s fascinating about them is the rather personal tone. I received one several months ago when I bought a jacket. The note read as if the writer had been following me around spying on me. She really liked that jacket!

When I read the note out loud to the kids, 13 year old Maria said, “Eww, stalker!”

It does feel that way. But then again – at 48 – to think some nice young woman is admiring my clothing purchases – well you take what you can get!

Here’s a note I received yesterday after ordering a sweater. OMG – it’s one of her favorites! Really. Oh – I have to admit; it does layer well!

Friday, January 07, 2011

Business English: Unhalt

Today's new word is "unhalt". I discovered it in an email this morning:

Rio Grande team to unhalt all Maestro groups and resume publishing of files through Maestro.

Not sure if this will become a new business buzzword - or if it's just someone using the word "halt" incorrectly.

Doesn't matter. Let's all look for ways to use the word today.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Back on the Path

What I observed on the walking path today – lots of snowy footprints and deer in the woods.


Back at work, reading through email I missed during my 2 weeks off.

Just read this line,

Unix needs to change an index mount to enable the collections to go to the different load domain.

Hmm – maybe I didn’t miss much.

Monday, January 03, 2011

16 Years, 9 Months !!

I just returned from a 2 week vacation. It’s been 16 years, 9 months since I last took that much time off. It took me a few days to unwind and get in the groove of doing nothing. “Nothing” here is defined as spending time with the kids and last minute Christmas shopping and decorating. About 5 days in I realized I was having “trouble” falling asleep. It turned out that once the exhaustion passed, I didn’t need to collapse into bed every night at 9:30. What a weird feeling.

Now back at work everyone seems pretty relaxed. Many colleagues took quite a bit of time off during the holidays. As I may have said earlier I think the last minute vacation scramble is due to two factors: First, our company’s use-it-or-lose-it policy where we can only carry forward 40 hours into the new year; and, second, the fact that everyone had a very busy year and couldn’t even take time off until now.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Shut Up Already!

We all attended the Dude’s Minnesota Boychoir holiday concert this afternoon. It was the second of two holiday shows – this one at the Landmark Center in St. Paul.

This performance marked the second in as many shows where talkers interrupted the event for us. On New Year’s Eve we got stuck behind an entire family of talkers at the Children’s Theater production of A Christmas Story. At that event, the kids talked with normal (non-whispering) voices frequently during the show. Grandma would respond to each outburst – also without whispering. It got very annoying. Several times we shushed them – the first time Maria and I both shushed them together – an unplanned, spontaneous show of disapproval. Of course, they didn’t “get it”.

Today at the choir concert, there were 4 people in the row behind us who almost ruined it for those around us. One was an elderly woman in wheel chair. She suffered from some affliction – perhaps Alzheimer’s – that caused her to hum a lot. Amazingly her humming all but disappeared when the boys were singing. However, before the show, and between numbers she hummed and sang softly – yet loud enough to be heard 4 or 5 rows away. I’m giving her a pass on this one, as she seemed to not be able to control herself. Here caretakers were another story.

Her adult helpers took advantage of the snacks provided by Boychoir officials (note to choir – no more potato chips in crunchy bags for God’s sake!). It was half-way through the show before the two chip eaters finished their bags. And of course – they talked a lot during the show. Last but not least, one’s cell phone went off towards the end of the show.

Shana got up and moved after the first number, but Maria and I stuck it out for some reason.

I recall years ago reading letters-to-the-editor from disgruntled Orchestra patrons about folks who dared open a cough drop during a performance. I thought those folks were a bunch of nuts and I vowed never to be so strict. However, I think it’s time to get a back-bone. A cough-drop wrapper would be great – at least it implies the person is attempting to control a cough. What’s with the talking – with barely attempt to do it quietly in a whisper? At the Children’s Theater I wanted to shout out – “Do you know how much these tickets cost!” or “You are not all sitting around at home watching a movie – there are other people here!”

I think I’ve reached my limit – woe unto the next person who even clears their throat.

P.S. Shana and kids just went to see Billy Elliot. Shana shared a similar thought – look out if you are sitting near them and make a peep!