Today's picture is an action shot I captured wandering along the shore of the St. Croix River in Stillwater on St. Patrick's Day.
Via the Dreamhaven Catalog email:
Extremely sad news for genre fans in Minneapolis. For years, we've been blessed by having two genre bookstores
to wander through and buy books from. That is a state of affairs that is not going to last:
VERY IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT:
I'll be closing the retail store at the end of January. It's been a tough
decision but in-store business has all but disappeared. Mail order
shouldn't change too much because of this but there definitely will be
changes -- different phone number, different hours, more used instead of
new books listed -- but all in all, things should be pretty much as is.
Perhaps even better since I'll have more time to catalog books that have
been piling up here for the past 35 years. There will also be some big
sales as I begin to clear some items out of my regular inventory.
I'll still be attending conventions, likely more than I do now. I'll go
where the business is. I'll be in San Diego for World Fantasy and Chicago
for WindyCon so come and see me at either one.
The route to Itasca and Bemidji on State Highway 71 doesn't have a lot of landmarks, but this is one of them.
This bizarre statue is dedicated to the legend of Saint Urho, who supposedly chased the grasshoppers out of Finland to save a grape harvest before the Ice Age. At least, that's what it says on the plaque.
If you go to the flickr page and choose the original size, you can read the entire story for yourself, if you are interested. My take is that it's a remarkably imaginative piece of fiction...
The 100 foot tall Aiton Heights Fire Tower in Itasca State Park is a great landmark and destination for fall colors, as you can see from the picture I took below. I took a bunch of shots from the tower in all directions and got some lovely shots. This is one of the views looking south from the tower.
It's time to start sharing pictures from my two fall color trips.
This is Itasca State Park, in northwest Minnesota. As the marker indicates, this is the outlet of the lake, a little river called the Mississippi. Yes, you can walk across those rocks there, and thus walk across the river. There is also a small wooden slab a few yards downstream (to the right) for those who are afraid of the slippery rocks, or don't want to cross them twice.
Itasca State Park and the lake sit on and north of the Itasca moraine, which is why, paradoxically, the river flows north and east out of the park, and only turns south for good at Grand Rapids (birthplace of Judy Garland).
This is Iggy, the statue of the giant Iguana that sits outside of the Science Museum. This is one of the side exits, and poor Iggy doesn't get the attention he deserves. Except, in this case, the unnamed child is ready for his closeup with Iggy...
This is the very top of Angle rock, at Interstate State Park, Taylors Falls Minnesota.Angle rock is a particularly hard piece of basalt. Its so hard in fact that the St. Croix River couldn't and can't erode it, causing the entire river to bend at this point.
I was particularly struck by the tree growing out of the top, and the mottled, twisted appearance of the top of it. So I pulled in with this shot to emphasize both.
Today's picture for you is of the capital of Minnesota, St. Paul. The mighty Mississippi river flows by...
In 9 A.D. Publius Quinctilius Varus lost three Roman legions and his own life in the Teutoburg Forest in Germany to the Germanic leader Arminius. He is memorialized in New Ulm, Minnesota (a big center of German culture in Minnesota) in this monument to "Hermann the German". It sits on a hill that overlooks the town. I visited there in 2009. Not the greatest of days to take a picture, and probably could take the picture better, today. But here it is.
"Varus, Give me back my legions!"
In my travels on the Labor Day Weekend, I discovered a little park behind the Minnesota State Capitol named for, appropriately enough, Capitol architect Cass Gilbert. The vantage point from that park, as you can see below, allowed for an interesting alignment of the State Capitol and the St Paul Cathedral.
I'm thinking this is a place I need to visit at other times of the day, especially sunrise, sunset and at night to see how other pictures might turn out...
Sen Yai Sen Lek
2422 Central Avenue
The Good: The dish I had was tasty. Thai Iced Tea went down well to cut down the aftereffects of the spice
The bad: Server messed up my order, bringing me Pad Kee Mao (Stir fry wide rice noodles with garlic, Thai chilies, Thai basil,
tomato and onion) when I had asked for Pad Gratiem Prik Thai (Garlic and black pepper stir fry with
cilantro and bell peppers. Served with steamed jasmine rice.). Rather easy to see the difference...
I wound up eating the Pad Kee Mao anyway, because it was one of the dishes I had been thinking about.
Also bad: The server brought me the wrong bill when it came time to pay.
Overall, food good, service less than stellar. I will return, but I won't "hurry back" if you know what I mean.
View along the Stone Arch Bridge, Minneapolis
Today's picture, the first from my Saturday expedition, is of a statue of Herb Brooks.
Herb Brooks is not only a local, but a national hero, as he was the coach of the "Miracle on Ice" US Olympic Hockey team in 1980.
After I went to the Science Museum on Saturday (as part of a work sponsored event), I then decided to branch out yet again, cuisine wise.
This time I went to a small family restaurant in St. Paul called Babani's.
The cuisine they serve...Kurdish.
Babani's claims to be the first Kurdish restaurant in the United States. I don't know the truth of that claim, but it was certainly the first time I'd ever heard of a restaurant specializing in Kurdish cuisine. Turkish, Iranian, Syrian, and even Iraqi, yes. Kurdish, no.
What I had, for my first foray was, as described in the menu:
"2- Kubey Sawar - Crushed wheat made into a dough and
filled with lean ground beef, spices, and onion then
sauteed in olive oil. This dish was first made famous
in Nineveh - Modern day Mosul, Iraq.
I had a choice of soup or salad. I chose soup:
Dowjic - Chicken, yogurt, rice basil and lemon juice. This
soup's tangy bite has traditionally kept many a Kurdish
traveler from wondering too far from home.
The food wasn't extraordinary, and not too different than other middle eastern cuisine I've had, although I admit the soup was a tangy, sour surprise. I wanted more of that when I was done! The Kubey Sawar's weren't spectacular, but they were certainly tasty enough.
Its not in a location that encourages me to visit often, but anyone who is already in downtown St. Paul might want to try it in order to get a taste of a cuisine not really well known on these shores.
I feel hot and sweating from my workout, so how about cooling off with this closeup of an artificial cascade at Roseville Central Park?
This is Minneapolis from the stone arch bridge, the old train bridge that was used in the late 19th century. The shot was handheld, so the depth of field is pretty shallow.
While at the Mall of America today, My Friends the Olsons™ and I visited Cantina Corona
for lunch. Its a Tex-Mex place on the fourth floor of the mall, in a narrow and twisting space that offers good views of Nickelodeon World but is a nightmare of a design otherwise.
We were less than thrilled. In point of fact, it was a very negative experience.
Dani seemed to like her kid's chicken burrito, and Scott's shrimp tacos were, to his mind, okay but nothing spectacular. The free appetizer we got (and one reason we picked the place), a queso-chorizo dip and chips, was again, nothing spectacular.
The problem came with my order and Felicia's.
I ordered the "Austin", which was advertised as two beef tacos and a chicken burrito. Felicia ordered a 4x4 shrimp dish.
First, when they brought the food, they brought *two* Austins by mistake. Felicia reminded them of what she had really ordered and settled to wait while the rest of us ate. And she waited and waited...
In the meantime, my dish was not much above the level of Taco Bell. The chicken burrito was unprepossessing, but the tacos were u-boats. What I mean is, they used what looked and tasted like bargain basement hard shell "tacos" that Scott and I call u-boats. An extremely negative dining experience.
Worse, they were so slow in getting Felicia some food (we all finished what we wanted of our dishes and were twiddling our thumbs) that she and we finally gave up, and left to settle the bill.
Ironically, it was as we were settling the bill that they finally had the shrimp dish ready. This is unacceptable, especially given how relatively uncrowded the restaurant was and how quickly shrimp cooks. We did not pay for that dish, of course, but we felt that our unhappiness, evident in every way, should have been rectified even more. It was not. They clearly wanted to wash their hands of us and we will return the favor.
We would never go there again, and I advise you never to make the mistake.
Come with me on a photographic journey to the Minnesota State Fair! I went on Friday, "Minnesota Public Radio Day"
Protip: Click on any of the pictures to go to the picture page to see a bigger one...
It was a cool, windy and cloudy day that I picked. Better than it being hot and too sunny, but it did mean that ice cream and cool treats were
less popular than warmer fare. And there is plenty to eat at the MN State fair...
As I said above, today was MPR day. I spent a bunch of time around MPR stuff. Like, for example, the debate amongst the candidates for Governor...
And, Prairie Home Companion host, Garrison Keillor
a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/jvstin/4963667909/" title="IMG_8527 by Jvstin, on Flickr">
In point of fact, the MPR people sort of know who I am. MPR Morning host Cathy Wurzer wanted a picture with *me*. She even
posted a version of this photo on the internet!
There is plenty to do at the Fair besides hobnob with radio hosts. Like, say, climbing fire towers....
It provides a nice view of the fair and beyond, don't you think?
A fair is not a fair without a Midway...
Minnesota is also the home of SPAM.
Finally, a trip to the fair would not be complete without seeing some local art.
I've only given you a sample of the pictures I took on my fair adventure. Want to see a slideshow with
more pictures? Check out the slideshow:
Not a new picture, but a bit of photography "news".
Minnesota Public Radio has been branching out into the online blogosphere for some time now. They have a sub-site, Minnesota Today, devoted to that, and one
of their features on that site is "Minnesota Scenes", photos from around the state.
Go to Minnesota Today, today, and scroll down to the bottom to Minnesota Scenes.
Yep, today's picture (the black and white picture of Maya the wolf) is courtesy of yours truly!
You probably have seen these already, but Eric Fischer has gathered Geotagging information on pictures that people have uploaded to flickr to find out where people take photos in major cities. Just as importantly, he has sliced the data to show if its locals or visitors who take the pictures.
Here is Minneapolis for an example:
Plenty more maps of cities are here:
Minnesota has great Public Radio. It's the people.
This is Bob Collins, blogger on the MPR site. He often will "liveblog" some of the more interesting discussions the other hosts have. He also blogs other stuff. I comment there often:
This is Kerri Miller, who hosts Midmorning. She's a strong book fanatic, too. Every time she talks books, I send in a question that touches on SF. I send in questions on other subjects, too:
This is Cathy Wurzer, who hosts the MPR side of the NPR show "Morning Edition". She wrote a book on Highway 61. I forgot to bring my copy for her to sign!
Meet Chris Farrell, who can explain economics and the economy for the average person. A sane and sensible voice especially during bad economic times:
John Moe is the newish host of "Future Tense", a segment which handles all things technological for Morning Edition.
Lastly, Gary Eichten, who hosts the Midday program. He can and has interviewed all comers, ranging from the Governor, to the local weather expert. No serious candidate for statewide office turns down an interview with Gary. He is really a Minnesota Treasure.
A few more photos here:
You may have heard the story (I don't know if it went National) about the vandalism of a mexican gray wolf pen at the Wildlife Science Center in Forest Lake. Someone pried open the enclosure. The alpha female, "Medium Toast" escaped, leading to a merry chase that led from Forest Lake into the main Metro area before she was caught.
Now the consequences of that act of vandalism are clear--her return has led to her sisters rejecting her as leader. She was stressed, emaciate and weak from her excursion, and her sisters have displaced and rejected her so thoroughly, she is being moved somewhere else.
I hope the person who opened the enclosure in their misguided effort to "free" the wolves are happy about what they have done. These wolves, an endangered species,are not suited at this time to living in the wild--ESPECIALLY a metro area. I have no idea what the person responsible was thinking. This was not good for the wolf at all.
To celebrate the completion of my move into my friends House, (and the fact that I had a coupon), I took my friends to Everest on Grand...
Everest on Grand, as you might expect from the name, is a Tibetan/Nepalese place, with some North Indian dishes thrown into the mix. On the menu were familiar items such as Chicken Tandoori, Tikka Masala and Naan. There was plenty of unfamiliar dishes as well.
Scott was amused that it was near his alma mater, Macalester College. Also, it wasn't too far away from Khyber Pass...an Afghani place.
anyway, once at the restaurant, we started off with an order of fried dumplings called Kothe. Kothe, like their steamed cousins the Momos, are made from a mixture of vegetables or ground meat, mixed with onions, cilantro and spices. We could have, if we wanted, gotten Yak meat ones, but instead we got ordinary meat Kothe.
The blend of spices made them tasty to Scott and I, Dani and Felicia found them less so.
We also got orders of Garlic Naan bread, and Papad, which are thin lentil chips. I am not a fan of lentils, but these chips were tasty.
As far as main dishes...
Felicia had Bangurko Chhoyla, a type of tandoori with marinated strips of pork meat. She loved it, and Scott and I thought it was pretty good too
Dani had Poleko Kukhura: Marinated chicken drumsticks are roasted in Tandoor oven and tossed in olive oil with freshly sliced onion, green pepper, and tomato; served with house mint sauce. Basically a version of Tandoori chicken. Dani liked it.
Scott and I decided to be real men and get some spicy Chau- Chau:: Wheat noodles sautéed & lightly pan-fried with vegetables and a meat of your choice. Scott got shrimp, and I got chicken; both of us got it medium hot. We agreed, afterwards, that it would rate about 3.5 on the Sawatdee 5 pepper scale. Both of us made good use of pieces of Naan to keep from overheating.
The restaurant was a little pricey but we were all absolutely delighted with dinner, and I expect that we will come back again. Scott and I are already talking about trying the Kothe, a small portion for just us, with Yak meat...
Time Magazine has a good article on the Matteo Ricci map created in China, and coming, permanently, to the University of Minnesota.
I first came across Matteo Ricci in a Jonathan Spence (one of the best scholars on China living today) and have been fascinated about his life and adventures. That biography did mention the map's creation, and I can't wait to see it at last!
The Minneapolis Institute of Arts will host an exhibit of Venetian Renaissance paintings and drawings which have never been to the U.S. before...Noon says the exhibit of 12 paintings and 13 drawings will be a rare opportunity to see Titian's work, and how he influenced other major artists, including Tintoretto, Veronese, Bassano and Lotto -- whose work will also be part of the exhibit.
The exhibit, "Titian and the Golden Age of Venetian Painting: Masterpieces from the National Galleries of Scotland," will be on display in February 2011.
I'm definitely going to go see this when it comes to Minneapolis.
So let me tell you a bit about my new job.
First, I am extremely fortunate, in this economy and market to have gotten a job 30 days after the loss of my job at the Fed. I feel and am pretty damned lucky.
Anyway, I am now a Warranty Administrator (in training...) at Horton, Inc.
"Horton is a leading provider of value-added engine cooling solutions worldwide"
What this means is that Horton is and for a half century has made fan drives and fans for trucks and other equipment. I will be helping administer warranty claims on that equipment. So, I am being immersed in a sea of information on fan drives and the like.
In point of fact, proof that they take the education of their staff seriously, tomorrow I get to fly out to the physical plant in Britton, SD (on the company plane) to see how product is built, and more importantly, how its torn apart and analyzed when it fails. I have to be conversant with this for when they put me on phones talking to vendors and customers!
Besides Britton, SD, there is also a manufacturing plant in Carmel, Indiana. The company has sales offices and partners in Mexico, São Paulo, Seoul and Australia, and a manufacturing plant/sales office in Germany. (its extremely unlikely I'll ever get to go *there*, but I can hope!)
NB: Unemployment has *not* done wonders for my reading time.
Next up is the latest in the Roadside Geology series, in my adopted State no less.
Richard Ojakangas is a native Minnesotan whose life has been spent in learning about and teaching Minnesota's geological history. He taught at the U of M in Duluth for over 30 years, and is the author of Minnesota's Geology, which is probably the definitive geology book on the North Star State.
That book, however, is not quite meant for the casual reader (although its less imposing than many other books of the type). Minnesota has lacked a Roadside Geology style book for too long. After years without one, Ojakangas has finally written a book for the non-scientist, the latest in the Roadside Geology series, the Roadside Geology of Minnesota.
It's been worth the wait.
After an introduction to the geological history of Minnesota (as you might expect, the Pleistocene, with its glaciations, gets a lot of space) as well as some basic geology to get those who avoided the rock science in high school or college, the book divides into several sections based on Geography. (Northeastern, Northwestern/Central, Southwestern, Southeastern)In each section, Ojakangas gives a general overview of the Geology of that area followed by the meat of the book, Road Guides.
There are plenty of photographs, maps and diagrams to elucidate the text and keep travelers oriented as they visit the various highlighted sites. I learned about plenty of sites that were just off of my route in previous travels that I will definitely visit with book in tow. I had no idea, for instance, of a beautiful beach of rhyolite pebbles lies just 3 miles north of Gooseberry Falls. I'd never heard of Chimney Rock, a spire of sandstone a few miles off of US 61 on the way south from St. Paul. In addition, I have an appreciation for places and locales I have seen, now having a better geological context for them. The composition and nature of Barn Bluff in Red Wing, for instance. I had no idea there's a fault that has shifted the layers on one side of it!
Armchair amateur geologists who buy the Roadside series of volumes will not want to miss this latest volume.I most especially recommend this book, though, for any and all Minnesota travelers interested in the physical geology of the state to buy the book, read it, and then take it with you on your next road trip to, say, Gooseberry Falls, or Winona, or the Boundary Waters, or Pipestone. I certainly will!
We here in Minnesota have a pretty good set of State Parks. No, they aren't "National Park" class parks (although Minnesota has two NPs, a couple of Monuments and a Waterway too).
It usually costs $5 for a resident to visit a park for a day.
However, Minnesota's DNR has an insane deal: A year pass costs $25.
I have such a year pass and this year have really used it.
This year, I have visited 18 of Minnesota's State Parks:
Cascade River (twice)
Temperance River (twice)
Split Rock Lighthouse
Gooseberry Falls (several times)
Jay Cooke (several times)
Mille Lacs (twice)
Interstate (several times)
Forestville Mystery Cave
It turns out that out of the 7600 items I have uploaded on Flickr, 1500 of them I have tagged as being in a state park. I think a few of these might be state parks elsewhere, but the vast, vast majority are Minnesota.
If the weather holds, I will visit my 19th State park of the year, Frontenac, tomorrow to get one last glimpse at fall color.
And some of these parks can be pretty in the winter, too...
It has been fascinating, in a "I'm stuck in a car with this guy" way to watch the evolution of the outward political beliefs of Tim Pawlenty, our Minnesota Governor.
Once upon a time, he cast himself as a Republican moderate, a Republican anyone in Minnesota could and did vote for.
Now, as his political ambitions turn toward 1600 Pennyslvania avenue, that has changed.
First, was his unilateral "unallotment" method of budget balancing by simply underfunding or not funding hundreds of programs in Minnesota
Second, there was his flirtation with tenthers,
In 2007, he used his time as chair of the National Governor's Association to suggest ways to improve, develop and advance clean energy. The effort was meant to reduce the nation's dependence on foreign oil, but Pawlenty also didn't deny that it was an attempt to clean up the environment.
Pawlenty was a vocal advocate of creating a cap and trade system to curb greenhouse gas emissions. In 2008, he and Janet Napolitano, then Arizona's Democratic Governor, recorded a radio ad urging Congress to address climate change.
Pawlenty has changed. Now, he uses climate change as a punch line.
In June, Pawlenty wrote a letter to Minnesota's Congressional delegation criticizing proposed cap and trade legislation in the U.S. House. He also came out against the Midwest Governor's Climate Change initiative -- an effort he helped launch.
I don't know what is in Pawlenty's heart, if he's changed his views or not. But its clear his political ambitions have caused him to evolve into a far more right-leaning candidate for higher office.
My next book is a travelogue by a MPR host.
Cathy Wurzer is well known to Minnesotans as a host of Minnesota Public Radio's Morning Edition, and is one of Minnesota's best journalists.
In this book, Tales of the Road, Highway 61, a companion to a PBS documentary of the same name (which I have not seen), Cathy Wurzer travels the quintessential highway in Minnesota, Highway 61.
Memorialized by Minnesota native Bob Dylan, Highway 61 stretches from the Canadian Border at Grand Portage and goes all the way to the Iowa border (although its re-signed as Interstate 35 for a good portion of its route). Wurzer takes us along this entire route, north to south, stopping at the famous locales, as well as the less heralded locations. Even more poignantly, like her visit to the tragic tale of rollingstone colony, only the site and a few ruins remain of one-interesting venues, attractions and historical sites.
This is where the power and strength of Wurzer's writing comes through best. Her stories about the famous Split Rock Lighthouse, Tobie's, and the Aerial Lift Bridge are strong writing, interesting and show good scholarship. Its her stories about the venues which are lost or are fading away, venues that, even though I have traveled much of Highway 61, I've never *heard* of, is where the strength of the book lies.
The next time this amateur photographer and transplant into Minnesota travels Highway 61, I will be taking this book along, so that I can find the sites and places, and stories that Wurzer has so ably brought to life.
Any Minnesotan, local or expat, would do well to have this book as part of their library.
Minneapolis -- The University of Minnesota's new football stadium has been designated as a LEED certified building.
The U of M's 50,000 seat, on-campus football stadium received LEED Silver Certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. The LEED program certifies green building design, construction and operation.
The stadium gets the designation in part because it was built with 90 percent recycled steel. It also uses an underground system to drain and filter rainwater before it's discharged to the Mississippi River.
Silver is the third highest LEED certification a building can achieve, behind gold and platinum. The U's stadium is the first collegiate or professional football stadium in the country to achieve LEED status.
See? Sure, we have idiots like Bachmann and Pawlenty. But we do good things up here too!
In a fiery speech that had her conservative Colorado audience cheering, U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann railed against the dangers of health care reform and other Democratic initiatives, warning the proposals "have the strength to destroy this country forever."
"This cannot pass," the Minnesota Republican told a crowd at a Denver gathering sponsored by the Independence Institute. "What we have to do today is make a covenant, to slit our wrists, be blood brothers on this thing. This will not pass. We will do whatever it takes to make sure this doesn't pass."
"Something is way crazy out there," Bachmann said in her remarks, billed as a "personal legislative briefing" by the Golden-based Independence Institute, which bills itself as a "free market think tank."
My congresswoman, ladies and gentlemen.
I've said it many times before and I will say it again. As inexperienced as I would be, if you put me in her office tomorrow as the Representative for my district, I think I could do a better job.
Frak that. I KNOW I could.
In addition to the record triple digits in Portland, OR and Seattle, WA, this has been the coolest July ever in International Falls, MN and the Twin Cities has not had a 90 degree day in July (and we are in an ever deepening drought),
According to Huttner's list, this unusual and record breaking weather is not even confined to North America.
And Coleman concedes not long after. It's over.
Senator Franken, here we come.
The Vatican has designated the Cathedral of Saint Paul as a national shrine, the first in Minnesota. The cathedral also becomes the the only national shrine in North America dedicated to honor the Apostle Paul.
It really is a beautiful Cathedral, as you can see by my photo. Personally, if you will permit me to be immodest for a moment, I like *my* photo more than the one on the full MPR story.
I took this photo at the Minnesota Scottish Fair.
There is no one Minnesota weather.
As I write this, up in Grand Marais (where I stayed for my vacation up the North Shore to Canada), it is currently 34 degrees.
Here in the Twin Cities where I am sitting, it is 90 degrees, and its a few degrees above that down in Mankato and Worthington, toward the bottom end of the state. It touched 100 degrees at Granite Falls.
The air is dry as a bone, or else there would be ferocious storms thanks to this temperature gradient.
Last year, it didn't hit 90 in the Twin Cities until late June.
(Picture by Minnesota Public Radio)
Minnesota has struggled for years to try and stop the spread of the Emerald ash bore, Agrilus planipennis Fairmaire,an exotic species which appeared in Michigan in 2002 and has been eating its way outward ever since.In 2003 foresters found the insects in Ohio. The following year ash borers showed up in Indiana. They popped up in Illinois and Maryland in 2006, Pennsylvania and West Virginia in 2007. In 2008 they were detected for the first time in Missouri and Virginia and Wisconsin.
Emerald ash borer starts out as a flat, rust-colored egg, just a smidge bigger than the period at the end of this sentence. A single female will lay 80 or so at a time on the bark of an ash tree in summer.
A lanky white larva emerges, burrows into the bark, and begins eating the living wood. In the process, it cuts off the conduits that carry water and nutrients from roots to leaves and sun-made sugars from leaves to the rest of the tree.
In spring the larva morphs into a pupa. In early summer the pupa develops into an adult beetle. Two to three weeks later, the insect bores out of the bark, leaving a telltale D-shaped escape hole. The emerald-colored adult flies off to mate and begin the cycle again.
Trees can survive for two to three years until borers finally push them past their tipping point. Enough larvae, enough serpentine trails, and the flow of water and nutrients inside the tree is completely severed. Twigs, branches, and ultimately the whole tree die.
And now, although Minnesota has tried for years to slow or stop it, the Emerald Ash bore has appeared inside the state borders.Now that its here, stopping it is virtually impossible.
Unfortunately, Minnesota has a *lot* of Ash trees. They are popular in urban and rural settings alike and many were planted for aesthetic reasons.
The landscape is going to be irreversibly altered by its arrival and not for the better.
The weather has been warm and unbelievably dry. (I'm worried the waterfalls are going to be drier than they should be when I go up there next week!). The weather has been clear, and absolutely beautiful. Ever since I posted those photos of the snowfall we received on April 5th, the weather has turned.
Now, if this turns out to be a Vintage Season, then I hope we don't wind up with some time travelers, a la Vintage Season by Kuttner and Moore. It would be a shame if this perfect Minnesota weather was ended by the "Blue Death".
After a trial spanning nearly three months, Norm Coleman's attempt to reverse Al Franken's lead in the recount of the U.S. Senate election was soundly rejected today by a three-judge panel that dismissed the Republican's lawsuit. Unanimously.
Coleman has been ordered to pay Franken's legal costs.
Al Franken has won the election. Should Coleman appeal?
My thoughts below.
As always, the instructive thing to do here is to reverse the roles in a hypothetical situation. Suppose Coleman had pulled ahead after those additional ballots were issued. Or, perhaps, Coleman was ahead all this time and Franken had brought the challenge. After the ruling, would I want Franken to appeal?
I find in my heart--no. I would not want Franken to appeal after all this time. I would urge Al Franken to not go to appeal. The reason is simple. It's been months since the election, and poor Amy Klobuchar is overworked as our lone senator. Sure, the loser, Coleman in our world, Franken in my gedankenexperiment, would have the *right* of appeal.
But just because there is a right doesn't mean it should be exercised. I am reminded of a recount in the Governor's race in 1962 between Lt. Governor Karl Rolvaag and Governor Elmer Andersen. The ultimate loser of the recount and court challenge, Andersen, did NOT appeal it (even though he could), and gave up for the good of the state.
I think Norm Coleman should emulate the late Gov. Andersen and not pursue an appeal, for the good of the State of Minnesota. I would hope, in my gedankenexperiment, that Al Franken would have and would do the same, and in that gedankenexperiment world, I would urge Al to give up his right of appeal.
Minnesota needs two Senators. Period. It's been long enough.
The head of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis is retiring. Gary Stern will leave his position as president and CEO of the Minneapolis Fed this summer. He reaches the Fed's mandatory retirement age of 65 in November.***
Stern will leave behind many legacies, including his almost prophetic writings about banks that are believed to be "too big to fail."
He's been at the Minneapolis Fed for 24 years, a pretty long tenure and the longest amongst the current Federal Reserve Branch heads.
***The MPR article is slightly incorrect here. The limit of 65 applies to voting members of the Federal Reserve Board, which is chosen on a rotating basis from the 12 member branch banks. Mr. Stern, if he wanted, could continue in his post, but he (and thus the Minneapolis Fed) could not be chosen as a voting member again.
I also need to read his book, he did come up with the phrase "too big to fail" a few years before it became common parlance.
More on the Red River Flood Plain:
This audio story talks about Glacial Lake Agassiz and the consequences for that in the current geology of the valley--and why it floods as it does.
The Red River, on the border with North Dakota is a wide and flat river valley (unusual geology because it used to be the outlet for a Glacial lake back in the ice ages). It's prone to flooding and a near or at record flood is due to hit in the next few days.
MPR has a bunch of pictures of the preparations for this predicted monster flood:
I have made no secret of my dislike for my Congresswoman, Michele Bachmann.
It's not so much her politics (I live in a Republican district, I'm bound to get a Republican Congresscritter, ok?), but that she is mendacious, stupid and possibly just crazy.
Keith Olbermann had a bit with highlights from her latest inanity...
I have said it before and I will say it again. I could do a better job, with my lack of experience and all, than my current Congresswoman.
Of course, the odds of me getting elected in my district are probably on a par with the odds of Michele Bachmann converting to Islam.
The Animal Humane Society says all of the some 120 cats removed from a St. Anthony mobile home had to be euthanized.
Spokeswoman Deb Balzer says the cats had diseases ranging from feline AIDS and herpes to upper respiratory infections and ringworm. She says the cats, which had been living in a 500-square-foot mobile home, were "very damaged animals."
Humane Society officials removed 118 cats from the mobile home last Tuesday. Police found more cats and brought them to the society's facility in Golden Valley.
Animal control officers say they removed 72 cats from the couple's previous home in Coon Rapids in 2002.
This is a crime and a tragedy to keep so many cats, and in such poor condition.
Readers of this space know that I listen to MPR complusively, and that they encourage online questions to their guests.
Today, Dr. Tyson of the AMNH's Planetarium "The demoter of Pluto" was on at 9am. I threw a couple of questions at him, and they picked one to ask him.
My question came up at around the 48 minute mark of hour one, but its a fascinating conversation that is complusively listenable.
(FWIW, I asked about a theoretical idea--if Mars were put in the Kuiper Belt, by the "clear the orbit" test, it might not be a planet. Would it lose its planet status? Dr. Tyson gave an illuminating and thought provoking answer.
Pew study on cities
A new national survey by the Pew Research Center's Social & Demographic Trends project finds that nearly half (46%) of the public would rather live in a different type of community from the one they're living in now -- a sentiment that is most prevalent among city dwellers
The Top three cities in the survey are Denver, San Diego and Seattle.
The bottom three cities are Detroit, Cincinnati and Cleveland.
Minneapolis is just above these three, and Kansas City, fifth from the bottom of the list of 30 cities.
The five least popular big cities -- Detroit, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Kansas City and Minneapolis -- are all in the Midwest. These attitudes reflect what government data indicate about the nation's migration patterns: Americans are leaving the Northeast and the Midwest in favor of the South and the West.
Most Literate Cities
Once again, bookworms in the Midwest and Pacific Northwest have beaten out Yankee types to reach the very top of a researcher's list of the most literate American cities.
Minneapolis and Seattle tied for the top ranking this year, based on local newspaper and magazine circulation, library data, online news readership, book purchases and resources, and educational attainment.
Here is the full Top 10 Most Literate list for 2008 (OK, there are 11 cities on the list) generated by Jack Miller, president of Central Connecticut State University:
Minneapolis (tied for 1st)
Seattle (tied for 1st)
St. Paul, Minn.
Cincinnati (tied for 10th)
Portland, Ore. (tied for 10th)
You will note that each of the Twin Cities came in tied for first, and Number 4 on this list.
So, if you are a science fiction author, you could do worse than a book signing at one of our two F/SF bookstores! And if you want to support an Independent bookstore that isn't explicitly F/SF, we have a boatload of them, too.
We read up here, you betcha. Blame it on the snow. What else are you going to do when the temperature is 10 below, the wind is howling and your satellite connection is out?
Take a look at some of these ballots, challenged during the recount of the Coleman-Franken-Barkley Senate race here. Could you be fair in all of these cases and determine voter intent every time without fail? Could anyone?
I like Minnesota's attitude and laws that allow same day registration and encourage voter participation and turnout. Our state has one of the highest participation rates in the nation and with good reason. Is it perfect? No. Errors can and do occur.
So, then comes this from "Minnesota Majority":
Spokesman Jeff Davis claims that same-day registration leads to errors, such as voters casting ballots in the wrong precinct. Davis says no one should be allowed to vote until their legal eligibility has been verified.
"We believe our current election system is making a mockery of eligible voters who try to follow the letter and sprit of the law. In doing so, the system is disenfranchising legitimate voters," Davis said.
I don't follow his logic. And I will not speak evil and say that the intent of this group and is to disenfranchise voters and discourage turnout, but rolling back Minnesota's progressive policies in this regard to require a photo ID and to end same-day registration certainly will do that.
The National Transportation Safety Board has closed its investigation into the I-35W bridge collapse. The board ruled that the gusset plates on the bridge were not designed properly and also found that MnDOT had not adequately overseen the bridge's design.
The 35W bridge's undersized gusset plates were staring bridge inspectors and engineers in the face for the 40 years of the bridge's life. They inspected the bridge, watched it age and documented it with photos.
But inspectors weren't trained to know that under-sized gussets posed a threat to the bridge. As NTSB Acting Chairman Mark Rosenker said, at the time, even computer modeling didn't consider gusset plates.
Bachmann basically suggests a new House UnAmerican Activities committee...or for the media to expose Unamerican Representatives.
She is the face of my district. It's sad but true.
New 35W bridge to open at 5 a.m. Thursday
by Tim Nelson, Minnesota Public Radio,
Melanie Sommer, Minnesota Public Radio
September 15, 2008
Minneapolis -- The new Interstate 35W bridge will open to traffic early Thursday morning, state officials announced today.
Gov. Tim Pawlenty, along with Minnesota's two U.S. senators, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, and U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters, announced details of the opening this morning at a news conference at the site of the bridge.
The $234 million bridge was fast-tracked to restore a traffic route that accounted for 140,000 trips a day. The old bridge collapse into the Mississippi River on Aug. 1, 2007, killing 13 people and injuring nearly 150 others.
Pawlenty thanked officials at the federal, state and local levels who helped get the bridge constructed in a short amount of time.
"Minnesota's congressional delegation has been outstading," he said, saying members from both parties displayed incredible teamwork and bipartisanship in pushing to get the bridge rebuilt.
Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak announced plans for a memorial garden to remember the victims of the bridge collapse.
"We've been working very quietly but very hard for almost a year with the families of the victims of the bridge collapse, to come up with a memorial that they found was appropriate," said Rybak.
Tom Oslund, a landscape designer who designed Gold Medal Park next to the Guthrie Theater, described what is being called a remembrance garden.
"Simplicity is the key," said Oslund, in describing an 81-foot square site with a 65-foot circle in the middle of it. The area will feature a 13-foot diameter fountain in the center.
Oslund and Rybak said the choice of Gold Medal Park as the site of the garden is appropriate, because of its role as an impromptu gathering spot when the bridge collapsed. Rybak said Flatiron Construction and Trivent Financial Services have already provided grant money to partially fund the memorial.
A photographer in Minnesota takes aerial pictures via a powered parachute. Wow!
The Minnesota Zoo has temporarily canceled its popular dolphin show because one of the dolphins is pregnant and another has been having behavior problems.
The zoo brought in two female dolphins in January, hoping to breed them with the zoo's only male dolphin, Semo.
One of the females, named Allie, is now pregnant and due next spring. The other female, April, is not pregnant but is seemingly acting as though she is.
The dolphin show, I have to admit, is one of the best things about the Minnesota Zoo. For those who have never been here, a lot of the zoo (including the aquarium area) is indoors (or accessible by the monorail) to make it more of a four season zoo in chilly winter.
The rest of you can enjoy her colorful sayings. Me, she's my duly elected Congresswoman.
As I have said before, I could do a better job representing the 6th MN district, my district, than Michele Bachmann.
This exhibit has me and my friends excited. Sure, the MN Zoo isn't the Bronx Zoo or a Zoo from a first tier US City, but its a nice zoo. This exhibit though is an attempt to "catapult" its status up a bit.
Today is practically a state holiday up here in the State of Minnesota.
It's the Walleye fishing opener. The Walleye (which tastes good deep battered fried, let me tell you) is the state fish and common in the lakes of Northern Minnesota. The first day that its legal to catch the fish in the season is called the fishing opener, and its a big deal here.
The Governor has a photo-op laden event every year (with various Governors having varying degrees of success...), and its estimated that a *million* people (in a state with a population of 6 million, so its one out of six Minnesotans) go off to fish this weekend.
Needless to say, the traffic to and from the north of the state this weekend is a complete and utter mess.
The Governor of Minnesota has a line item veto, and he used it with flourish and without restraint today, cutting a number of important projects from the bill. Most significantly (although far from the only item) is cutting funding for the important Central Corridor light rail project between Minneapolis and St. Paul.
I suppose Pawlenty thinks the crumbling freeways and the pitiful bus service are good enough transportation options. By cutting this, he makes Phil Krinkie, head of the
We hate Public Transit Taxpayers League, happy, and he shows off as a "fiscal conservative."
I think its a shot intended to make him a stronger VP candidate for McCain.
You've heard about the telecom immunity debate in the Senate.
(One place where it is discussed is in Carolyn's Livejournal: (http://kadath.livejournal.com/631883.html)
Some months ago, I emailed one of my Senators, Amy Klobuchar, about her previous vote to authorize an extension on FISA rules. She had emailed me back, then, explaining that she thought it was right and necessary.
On the recent spate of votes for amendments to the FISA bill, my Senator voted to deny the telecom companies immunity. Even though those votes failed, and the immunity remained, at least she voted the right way.
Today, unsolicited and unprompted, she emailed me about the bills, explaining her vote. She remembered that it was an issue I gave a damn about, and took the time to contact me.
Her email is reproduced below. I emailed her back immediately praising her for her vote, and taking the time to tell me about it.
Thank you for contacting me concerning the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. I appreciate hearing from you.
I believe that long-term FISA legislation must strike the right balance between protecting our safety and protecting our civil rights. Both the Intelligence and Judiciary Committees of the Senate passed bills that proposed to elevate the role of the FISA court and provide more oversight of the government’s surveillance activities. While both bills represented improvements over the temporary law, I believe the Judiciary bill struck a more appropriate balance between security and privacy considerations, and I voted to move that version of FISA reform forward.
After a majority of the Senate rejected the Judiciary Committee’s bill, I voted for several amendments to incorporate key elements of the Judiciary bill into the Intelligence Committee’s bill, including an amendment to remove the provision granting blanket retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies. Unfortunately, each amendment was defeated. Since blanket retroactive immunity was included in the final version of the bill, I could not support the legislation passed by the Senate on February 12, 2008.
Thank you again for your input, and please don’t hesitate to contact me again regarding this or any other issue.
United States Senator
The author of a new guidebook to trails on Minnesota's North Shore was interviewed by Minnesota Public Radio today. The book sounds like its right up my alley for geological,historical and botanical explorations up there.
I went to the Minnesota State Fair today.
One of the highlights was watching a live interview with Garrison Keillor, the creator of "A Prairie Home Companion". I asked Garrison a question...and you can hear it for yourself.
My question was early in the show (I knew what I wanted to ask and flagged down one of the staffers as soon as the show started). Its at just after the 9 minute mark.
I got a CD of Lake Wobegon stories for my trouble, and after the show, he was good enough to autograph it for me.
I sound like *such* a dork on the radio.
Minnesota Public Radio has been up front in covering the I 35-W bridge collapse.
If you aren't local and want to know more, this is the place to go. And if you are local or are coming through the Twin Cities, its an essential resource. It runs the gamut from the personal stories to the big picture of what happened and how (as far as we know so far).
Just letting my small reading public know that I was home safe and sound when the bridge collapsed here in Minneapolis.
I was very shocked when I moved here to see how much smoking there was, compared to New York and California. I am glad that Minnesota is joining them.
by Tom Scheck, Minnesota Public Radio
May 12, 2007
Early Saturday morning, the Minnesota House passed a bill that would ban smoking in all bars and restaurants across the state. Gov. Pawlenty says he'll sign it. The bill's passage comes after a day of doubt about whether there were enough votes to get it to Gov. Pawlenty's desk.
St. Paul, Minn. — Once the bill is signed, smokers won't be allowed to light up in any bar, restaurant, bingo hall or bowling alley beginning on October 1. Supporters of the legislation have been pushing for this type of ban for years because they say it will protect the health of workers. That refrain continued on Friday during debates in both the House and Senate.
Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, says the bill protects the public from the dangers of secondhand smoke.
"This bill will be such a huge leap forward for worker safety and worker health," he said. "It will be an important step that we take on behalf of Minnesotans. It's what citizens and leaders are telling us throughout the state that they would like to have."
But critics of the legislation say the cost is too great. Sen. David Tomassoni, DFL-Chisholm, said rural Minnesota bars -- and their workers -- will feel the impact quickly.
"When this gets out to rural Minnesota, the border areas are going to be seeing an exodus of people to the states around them and bars would close," Tomassoni said. "We will eliminate more jobs in rural Minnesota. This is a bill that will do exactly the opposite of what you want it to do. And that is protect workers. It is actually going to eliminate workers jobs."
The Senate passed the measure 43 to 21. The tougher test came in the Minnesota House, which started debating the bill close to midnight.
Throughout the day on Friday, the bill's fate was in doubt. Several House members expressed concern that the bill didn't include enough exemptions allowing smoking in certain settings.
One of the bill's fiercest critics, Rep. Tom Rukavina, DFL-Virginia, was unsuccessful in trying to convince his colleagues to renegotiate the bill with the Senate. The House originally passed a bill with several exemptions which did not survive the conference committee that hammered out differences with the much stricter Senate bill. Rukavina accused the House negotiators of caving in during talks with the Senate.
"I don't know how you fight, but I certainly wouldn't want to be in a fight with you backing me up if that's the hardest you can fight for a provision that made a lot of sense," Rukavina said.
Still, There are a few exemptions remaining in the bill. Smoking would be allowed at a disabled veterans rest camp, in the cabs of farm vehicles and farm buildings and for actors who are performing on stage. Smoking would also be permitted on outdoor patios.
The smoking ban debate divided lawmakers more by geography than party. Several Republicans, especially those who represent the seven-county metro area, supported the bill. Several DFLers, especially those representing the Iron Range, opposed it. The debate pitted the right to breathe clean air against personal freedom.
Rep. Dan Severson, R-Sauk Rapids, who supported the ban, suggested to his colleagues that they were on the verge of a historic vote.
"This is the bill that needs to pass this body tonight. This is the bill that sets the slate and sets the standard for Minnesota and for our health for us and our kids and our future," he said.
But Rep. Dennis Ozment, R-Rosemount, said the bill is too restrictive. He said he would have preferred to see more exemptions in the final bill.
"This piece of legislation turned out to be just plain mean," he said. "It's not trying to regulate something or put out options or talk about how to maintain the air or how to protect the workers. No, it's how to be mean to our fellow citizens through oppressive government."
Despite the question mark hanging over the bill, the House passed the bill by a lopsided vote of 81 to 48. Violations will carry fines of up to $300 for smokers and those who allow smoking in their establishments.
According to the state climatologist, the current lack of snow cover across the state is the worst that its been in 50 years.
Its certainly been cold, with temps in the single digits and low teens for the last few days, but there has just been no moisture. The drought we fell into so suddenly this spring and summer, a "Flash drought", continues unabated.
The reason why *you* should care is that this could result in higher produce prices next year if the crop season is bad.
Well, the Great White North is now in the worst drought they have seen up here since 1988 (long before I moved up here, of course).
The Mississippi is at its lowest levels in the same time period. From my window at work, I can see exposed shoreline that I couldn't see last summer. Water restrictions abound, and crops are taking a major hit.
One interesting thing that I've learned from this drought, though, is that most of the cities along the Mississippi get their water from the river. Back in New York City, getting water from the Hudson was impossible because of the pollution and the estuarine flow of salt water up the river. So, it came from hundreds of miles away, up in the Catskills. And of course, when I lived in So. California, water came from hundreds of miles away, from the Owens River and Colorado River flows.
This is the first time that the source of water for where I live has actually been local.
More photos, this time from Coon Rapids Dam Regional Park.
I had no idea, before I moved to Minnesota, just how turbulent the Mississippi is up here. Most people's view of the Mighty Mississippi is the big, wide, placid river down by St. Louis and New Orleans. Up here in Minnesota, its a different beast.
A sample, and link to the photos in the extended entry.
The Minnesota Road Research Project is a project on and near a stretch of I-94 NW of the Twin Cities, on the way to St. Cloud, MN. You can even tune your AM radio to learn about the project when you reach it.
It's the world's largest testbed laboratory for road research.
Most of you will have seen this on my LJ, but I decided to record it here, too, just so I can look back at how foolish I really can be.
Or, as my brother Greg might put it: Intelligence: 15. Wisdom...6
My Johari window suggests that I am caring, giving, sympathetic and helpful. It also says sensible, but I wasn't sensible today.
I drove into work today, since its Monday and its almost certain to be busy and overtime filled. I got off the interstate at my usual exit and drove up to the red light where I turn right and head toward work. Its a stoplight where one cannot turn right on red and so I was stuck there.
And that's where the adventure began. As I sat there waiting in the cold 10 degree morning, a man waved his arms frantically as he crossed the intersection, and me. It was a cold morning, so I watched and waited as he came up to the passenger door. I opened the window.
The african american man, maybe in his 40's, laid into a spiel about his pregnant wife being in a car nearby that had broken down, and couldn't I take him to the tow truck company?
It was early in the morning, and I didn't want to drive away. Despite my car having been broken into recently, I decided to believe him, and I let him into my car.
He introduced himself and kept flashing this ID at me, telling me that he worked at the U of M and his pregnant wife was in the car and he couldn't get a hold of his son, yada yada. I resumed driving and asked him where the tow truck company was. My intention as a Good Samaritan was to take him there, drop him off, and head to work. I did smell the alcohol on his breath by this point but figured he might still be on the level. I was wrong.
The gentleman pushed too hard and too early for money, which was his mistake in the end. He said that they were "only a few dollars" short of cash, and wouldn't I stop at an ATM. He said he would pay me back, I could hold onto his wallet for collateral and so forth.
The fact that he was so eager for money that he wanted me to turn onto a one-way street (the wrong way) to get to a cash machine sold me on the idea that this was a scam. So I kept telling him that I would take him to the tow company place and continued heading toward downtown. He kept up his spiel for money, saying he wasn't really a few dollars short, but he had talked the guy down to $139 and only had $130. Finally I told him that I could go no further and I would drop him off where we were, about halfway to the street he claimed the tow company was located on.
He was incensed. He begged me to bring him back downtown, or back to his wife and the car. I attempted to get him to leave the car on two tries, without success. I turned the car onto a couple of streets, heading back to downtown. The gentleman then tried to change the deal, telling me that I could drop him at Washington and Cedar, on the far side of downtown from where we were.
My patience was over. We were on the west edge of downtown, and I had to get to work. So I pulled to the side and for the last time, demanded that he leave the car. He refused.
I slammed onto the car horn, something I never have done in Minnesota before. This managed to get the guy out of my car, furious and upset, and, shaking like a leaf, I turned to head toward work.
Its possible that he was on the level after all, and if he had not asked for money until we had gotten to the tow company place, I might have actually given it to him. But a constant plea for money sets off my spidey sense.
If he had had a knife, or a gun, I might not be here right now. And yet...on a cold 10 degree morning in Minneapolis, I foolishly tried to do good.
Google has a beta version of their mapping program. It has a different look than Mapquest and its kin. The link above is a link to the area around where I live.
You can see just from this small slice that Minnesota is indeed the land of lakes.
An associate of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, Edward Prescott has won the 2004 Nobel Prize in Economics.
Also seen, and good commentary by a non Nobel prize economics maven, Brad De Long.
The building here, by the way, is covered inside with decorations celebrating the prize. And it got a mention at a meeting I attended today. People are really jazzed about it on an otherwise dreary looking day.
It snowed here last weekend, as you have no doubt seen on the news, be it internet, newspaper or the nightly news.
Where I am, we only got 7 inches, although it was howling and blowing at a good clip on Sunday. Is it any wonder I stayed home in the apartment?
Today? Cold and Clear. Blue skies, the sun is shining
...and its in the mid 20's.
(And a test to see if I am really back)
The local paper had this to say about tonight's weather:
"Unseasonably brisk. Low of 17"
Somehow, I've never thought of 17 as brisk, unseasonably or otherwise.
The makers of Cranium commissioned the guy who does the "Best places to Live" for Money Magazine to do the "Most Fun cities in America"
I must be a more fun loving guy than you or I might think.
#1 on the List is Minneapolis, Minnesota.
#2 on the list is Orange County, California (not a city, admittedly)
New York comes in at #41. Sin City, Las Vegas is a better but anemic #25.
Last weekend was a bit odd for me, since it was the first weekend that I wasn't moving stuff from Scott's house to my matchbox, or getting something for the matchbox, or whatever.
So, I found myself at an unusual amount of liberty, since I now have a car.
So, Saturday I went and saw a movie. Yeah, alone, after all my movie buddy is still in Florida awaiting the birth of the adopted baby-to-be. I saw "Runaway Jury", even though Grisham and law thrillers are not my usual genre by a long shot.
Did I like it? Yes, although I could see a few holes in the plot, and I thought that the structure of the groups of characters were not all equal. It has a very good cast--Hoffman, Hackman, Weisz (the female lead in the Mummy movies), Cusack (aka, he who I would pick to play me in a story of my life), and even a cameo by the guy from the Practice (or was from the Practice, anyway). The plot revolves around a trial of gun manufacturers, jury picking and tampering, bribery, corruption, ethics and morals. And of course the "big secret at the end" that one side is racing to uncover before time runs out.
Besides that, I wandered over to Borders, and also Best Buy. At the latter I found something I'd only heard of and not seen--and picked that up instead of my intended purchase of the Matrix Reloaded: A Cd-rom set of every National Geographic add-in map up to the year 1999. One of my favorite things about NGO is the maps that come in every other issue or so, and this Cd-rom has all of the ones from the previous century. Best of all, it was just $20 Sweet!
On Sunday, I decided to do the male-bonding thing with Scott. I came over, put a new experimental recipe for sausage chili in the crockpot, and we watched football (with a little Good Eats thrown in as well). I'll mention the Sausage Chili in more detail in an entry of its own.
Football was a disappointment--as Scott pointed out, we went "1 for 3" today--the Packers lost to the Rams, the Giants unbelievably lost to the Eagles on a punt return in the final minute, but Felicia's Saints won and won big. It was good to spend time with Scott, anyhow, and I think he appreciated the company.
But it was a fun weekend. Next weekend, assuming I don't get wrapped up in something else, I think I am going to go a little further afield and really begin exploring the metro area. Museums, culture, parks, and more await...and its much more practical to do this with a car of my own.
One of the things I can't handle well, psychologically, is generosity. It goes back to my low self-esteem, feelings of worthlessness and other such psychological lacunae in my mental health that many of you know, either from my online persona, or from knowing me personally.
I am not sure if its intended as an early Xmas gift, something to repay him back at some point, or what, but as I sat in my apartment last night, I got a knock on the door. It was Scott and he had some groceries I had left at the Olsons house--stuff he would never eat.
He also had a brand new television for me. Its the same brand as my old one, and actually a little better than that one. And, oh, yes, it does work, since I watched Dark City on it last night.
I just feel...awful isn't the right word, I am not sure there IS a word for the emotion that I feel about the whole thing. Unworthy is not an emotion, but its the closest word I can think of to it.
Now that emotion has turned into a purer guilt and unhappiness, since I have discovered that my brother has bought (and it has shipped) an early xmas present
Now the question becomes--can I/Scott return the first television? That might be easier than dealing with shipping back the second...
The moral of this story is to shut up about my problems.
Arref is right, that's not the moral. But sometimes when stuff like this happens, that's how I feel. Even if I know its utter greffet
Well, last weekend was again jam packed with goodness. I'm now moved out of the Olsons basement, and now have a matchbox sized studio apartment over in Circle Pines/Lexington (its a bit odd how that works, the USPS insists its Circle Pines, but other sources insist its Lexington).
I don't even have a dialup connection since Qwest is horribly slow, so I am sort of internet lame at the moment. One not so happy consequence is that I unpacked my television and tried to hook it up. It's been sitting in a box for months ever since I shipped it here.
It's dead as a doornail...and worse, now out of warranty. So I have no TV or DVD watching, either. I need a new TV and can't really afford one at this point.
Just more life in the Gopher state...
Yesterday was the first day that I haven't put a blog entry up for over a month, and with good reason.
First things first, Scott and I went over to what is going to soon be my new apartment. A tiny matchbox sized studio over in Circle Pines will shortly become home sweet home, since the whole baby thing is coming closer and closer. The downstairs bedroom (where I am now) will become the office (which it once was), and the office will turn into a nursery. So even with a temp job (although a fairly stable one) its time for me to risk a place of my own, and it was high time I left from being underfoot at the Olsons anyway.
Scott and I also mapped out and drove the route to a place that I have a job interview for on Monday. Yes, a real life job interview, finally. The job market has been tighter than, well, something better mentioned in A Grand Affair. So I realize that I have a fair amount of competition, so I am neither overconfident, nor am I "counting" on getting this job. It would be a fair commute, too, about 30 miles each way in a car.
But for a real, full time job, is it worth it? As they say here in Minnesota...you betcha. I got some badly needed driving practice on Interstates, even if I don't get the job.
On the way back, we stopped in the high-end grocery store Byerly's, which looked a lot like Zabar's back in NYC. Unable to find them elsewhere, it was here that I finally found good old Nathan's hot dogs, and I bought a package, naturally.
Scott and I also went to Big Bowl, even if save for the appetizer we didn't stray from our favorites. Scott went for a Thai inspired dish, I went for the equally spicy "Blazing flat noodles". As an appetizer, since I had not had them in quite some time, we had lettuce wraps (ground beef, scallions, rice noodles to which you add sauce and put in bibb lettuce, fold and eat).
And today, well, on Oct 5, 1971 at 1:35 PM EST, I was born.
No major plans for today...maybe buy stuff for the apartment, a few other minor chores and things. Last year I spent hours on a bus, bus, train, bus trip from my apartment in Anaheim all the way to the Getty Center and back. It was a long and exhausting trip but a lot of fun.
Well, if I were to be so lucky as to get this job, I probably will "celebrate"...otherwise I will be relatively frugal about the matter.
About Nine floors above me this morning, there was a shooting.
Oh, I'm all right. They did lock down the building for quite some time as they sorted this out.
UPDATE: Two people were shot, a man and a woman. The woman died from the wound. The shooter has been charged with murder.
I wanted to share the "big" news this weekend for me with everyone.
I bought my first car. Yeah, I know that I am overdue, but then I've only had a license for a few years. It was due, aye, past due for me to do this.
I am now financing a 2002 Dodge Neon. White, which will be bad if I get into a snowbank, but otherwise its a *nice* car with about 26,000 miles on it. I am paying through the nose on APR and such because this *is* my first major life purchase.
But I now have wheels of my own. I know most if not all of you have done this far earlier in your lives than me, so forgive me for my enthusiasm and (especially) nervousness.
I guess my quirkiness is becoming more noticed at the office. Today, when the head of the Department came over since he needed someone (me!) to fix a giant batch of mistakes in the database, he saw my background screen with Mars on it.
He asked me if it was "my home planet."
I guess my reputation for reading SF and stuff is *that* noticeable. But still...I discuss sports and stuff and other things with my co-workers. I'm not that eccentric.
I don't know when this temp assignment is ending. I've learned a further step today, and an accidental (honest) overhearing of my immediate boss felt good--since out of the small group back here, I was the only one she deemed good enough and trustworthy enough to fully register documents. But the paper suggests Hennepin County is not hiring any more people--even if they could likely hire me and save money on the deal, since they have to currently pay me AND a fee to Dolphin.
Well, almost on cue to Jenn's comment on the last topic of this name, Scott and I had an interesting evening last night.
First up, we went to a used auto parts store and fortunately found a replacement side-view mirror for the Dakota. Scott and I then proceeded to replace the mirror. Yes, I actually participated, significantly in this venture--Scott is a strong believer in that Protestant work ethic.
So, the car has a mirror again.
We also discussed other matters at length...
The dispensation of cooking duties, for example, is going to be a tennis match. Last night Scott cooked up sausage in buns. Tonight, I am going to cook buffalo chicken breasts that were in the freezer, and also make a Lipton Noodles and sauce packet. And so on. (So, the culinarily interested on this Blog will see a lot more food entries as I document my highs and lows in this venture).
We also discussed the "Exit strategy" for me. I cannot stay in the Olson household much longer, logistically and otherwise. They need the room with the baby coming in, and the guest room must perforce revert to office status. I might move into/with the apartment of Matt (mentioned here) but at this point, its a disaster area. Fortunately, from my piece of mind, this is not quite the bum's rush that I got from Bonnie and her mother. I don't think Scott expects me to go live at a hotel if nothing else comes up.
We also discussed auto transportation. Paying off Bonnie, unfortunately, was a hit as far my savings, but this is the season for relatively good deals on automobiles, and getting wheels of my own would open up more options. It would also prevent me from damaging the Olson's vehicles any further. I don't think I am going to go new, unless I get a really good deal.
And if I do wind up staying in the house past when the baby comes back, well there is paperwork that I must fill out and hopefully have California and NY process quickly--a background check.
Now if I would only get some of these job applications turn up for interviews, my days would really be packed...
I am home alone again this weekend, as Felicia and Scott have begun a driving trip that will take Scott as far as Atlanta before he flies back home, and Felicia all the way to Tampa, Florida.
The reason is something that I've resisted talking about in this space because, and this will sound foolish, I didn't want to jinx it, even though people like Deb already know about it...
Felicia and Scott are going to adopt a baby--a friend of Felicia's from one of the RPG message boards.
Anyone who knows Felicia as well as I do knows that she is a born mother. She loves children, is unhappy that the custody arrangement for Damion only allows her to see him a few scant months of the year, and the fact that she cannot have any more natural children is a sadness to her.
Felicia and Scott have talked about adopting a child for a long time, but this sort of dropped on them. One of her friends, Pam, called a few months ago with the news that she, a single mother, was pregnant again, and that she didn't feel that she could handle raising a second child by herself. And Pam didn't want to abort the baby, either. Instead, Pam wanted Felicia to adopt her baby, knowing that it would go into a good home.
Felicia and Scott debated and thought about this for a long while before Felicia convinced Scott. There have been ups and downs, a long series of paperworks, and other things (last night was a home study interview), but the due date for the baby is approaching, and so Felicia is heading down to be with Pam when she gives birth. (Felicia has long since met her before at "Portalfest"--a con for the message board where they met).
Scott's driving endurance is amazing, and driving such a long distance alone is a hardship, so Felicia and Scott are driving today all the way to Kentucky, and tomorrow as far as Atlanta. There, Scott will fly home, and Felicia will drive the remaining distance to Tampa.
Where I come in this is that I will have to pick up Scott from the airport, in Scott's truck. Scott offered to let me beg off and he take a cab-but I am no coward. Even if driving his truck on an Interstate is a sobering thought.
And that's Nuke-le-ar, not Nuke-cu-lur.
Anyway, the Strib (as the Minneapolis Star-Tribune is sometimes called) has an editorial taking the VP to task on his mendacity.
Admittedly, the Strib is the more left of the two major papers in the Minneapolis area (the other being the St. Paul Pioneer Press) and admittedly, this is a fairly progressive place (or to be more accurate, the Democrats here are very progressive, the somewhat less numerous Republicans are equally strongly conservative, it still washes out to overall somewhat progressive). In fact, Scott has told me that sometimes the Strib has been derided as "The Red Star and Tribune."
But still, the Editorial Board gives Cheney no quarter in this editorial. Sure, there have been some (mostly tepid) criticisms before of the Executive Branch's mendacity, but this qualitatively and quantatitively different. Read it. And wonder when other papers will dare to do the same.
Thanks to Eschaton for pointing out the weblink for the online version of the Editorial, I read the 'dead-tree version' of it this morning.
A toughie from Byrant this week, as he asks us to mash up...The West Wing
This one was tough for me. I don't watch the show, I just never had the chance to get into it, and haven't sought it out to do so. I have a general idea of what the show is and its theme.
Still, not knowing the peculiarities of Bartlet and his staff makes it hard to strike more than generic tones on this one.
The game I'd mash this with is one I've done before...Nobilis.
Get a set of players with high realm scores...ie, players who are very invested in the Chancel. This way, the plots and foci of the game will revolve around the Chancel's administration, the interpersonal relationships between the ennobled and their subjects. If the government of the chancel (perhaps an Imperator of Liberty?) makes at least lip service to being something other than autocracy, the PCs are going to have to juggle the needs and demands of the people with the realpolitk of keeping the Chancel healthy against Excrucians, other Nobles, and so forth. The GWB even mentions that governing the Chancel is something that the PCs can and should do--this sort of setup would bring that front and center, rather than a sideline in the Excrucian War.
Working in the Hennepin County Government Center as a Temp has been an educational experience.
For instance, I've seen for myself just how slowly the gears of government turn.
While working in the Public Records area here, I've done a number of tasks relating to mortgage documents. Until recently, I was reviewing Satisfactions of Mortgages, checking their details against what we have in the computer. It's just a process in the chain of handling these documents.
Now, I am doing document registration, taking documents which have already been reviewed, and assigned a new document number, and registering those in the computer, entering them, basically. Since I am registering Satisfactions and outright new mortgages, I am seeing some of my old Satisfactions.
The thing is, the Satisfactions that I did are over a month old. In essence, in a month's time, the document went to me, I approved it, stamped it, it moved on to someone to be assigned a number, and come back to be registered.
A month. For one intervening step in the process, and a rather mindless one at that. I know there is a huge backlog here (and one of the reason why there are a horde of temps), but that's ridiculous.
I personally think they should train and hire some more full time personnel but with budget cuts and a lousy economy, its not that likely. But to all of my friends doing refi stuff...now you know why it takes so long for the county/state to get their act together. I can't imagine that my observations of county government in Minnesota are atypical.
Clearly there is at least one out there.
While doing Document Registration of Mortgages today, I came across a Mortgage for a property in "Lot 4, Block 1, Isengard Second Addition."
It's the sort of thing almost no one is ever going to see outside of a Real Estate office, or, well, Public Records here in Minneapolis. It's not like a street name, which everyone can see. This is far more subtle, and I thought it amusing enough to share.
Well, its now official. Minnesota is in the throes of a drought, and apparently the driest summer in fifteen years.
The crops are just doing awful, up here. Yields are going to go down and prices will likely go up. The economics of this will eventually ripple out to the rest of the US, too. Sure, the dry, warm, clear weather is great in the short term (and it does help cut down on the mosquitoes), but this is just not funny anymore.
I'd gladly take some of the rain which has inundated the NY city metropolitan area as of late.
Today, The Olsons and I went to the Ren Faire down on the south side of the Twin Cities in Shakopee.
Although some bad connotations with me and previously visited Ren Faires threatened to spoil my visit, I managed to get over some early morose feelings and enjoy myself.
Of course, half of the fun going to such an event is the booths. The Minnesota Renaissance Faire is no exception, with a wide variety of wares to sell. And I found myself tempted at the booth of Windwolf Studio. While not quite at the level, monetary and otherwise of, say, Ruth Thompson (who also had a booth), I fell head over heels for a print of a rather unique Gryphon.
I like Gryphons (or Griffins if you prefer). Not as overdone as, say, Dragons, there is just something about the combination of big cat and bird that appeals to me. A merging, if you wanted to get mystical, of earth and sky. I point to the fact that Hadrian and his shadow of DuMarque have a Griffin as a special symbol and protector.
Anyway, the rather unique picture (which can be see at the link at the top of the entry) is of a Gryphon composed of a snow leopard and a gyrfalcon. I forced myself away from buying it the first time I saw it, mainly because I was still in that bad mood. The next time we passed by the booth in our looping travels, I was strongly tempted, and told the Olsons that I wanted to stop by the booth before we left.
When we did make that final trip, I picked it up. Sure, it cost me $25, but its absolutely unique, and gorgeous. And it helped to "make my faire", especially when the Olsons decided to throw in a surprise. Once we left the shop, Felicia went back in, ostensibly to look at other stuff. What I didn't realize until we got back to the car and she handed it to me was that she had gotten me a t-shirt with the very same picture as well. No doubt I will wear it at next year's ACUS.
Really, sometimes I don't deserve such generous friends.
Yesterday, Sunday, the Olson family and I went on one of their annual (semi annual?) pilgrimages down to Owatonna, MN. There lies the Cabela's superstore.
It's an Outdoor sporting goods store. Everything from fishing poles to kayaks to, well, an extensive gun selection. The restaurant upstairs has some unusual items on the menu, including Venison Ostrich, and Caribou along with the more standard fare.
It's quite a place. We spent much of the time in the gun section--since Scott does own and fire guns, Felicia has fired guns (especially during her short stint in the Marines) and Damion wants to learn to fire guns next year when he's legal to do so. And I? Well, although I couldn't hold it worth a damn, even I picked up a gun or two in perhaps unconscious imitation.
But even besides the firearms, its a rather intriguing place. There is a substantial aquarium, the aforementioned restaurant, and the largest collection of taxidermic animals this side of the Museum of Natural History.
Afterwards, we went to the megamall (aka Mall of America) where I somehow managed to be the only person not to buy anything. But, then again, we didn't pass near one of my major temptations there--the Atlantic Book Warehouse.
All in all, a long, but good day.
Finally, I've managed, in this weak economy, to at least score another temp job. I started yesterday, and this will run (theoretically) until the end of August. I am working for "The Man" again, this time over at the administration building for Hennepin Cty. I will be reviewing and looking at documents sent in pertaining to mortgages--seeing if the requests are properly filled out.
It's a job that my trainer wants me to do by visual inspection rather than "thinking too much" about any particular document. So I need to unlearn some of my habits in order to do this job. We'll see how it goes.
Well, its official. I confirmed with my Boss today that Friday ends my temp stint here at Community Health center of Hennepin County(Minneapolis).
Here's hoping for more temp jobs (as well as of course the larger fish of a permanent position).
Finally, my persistence has paid off, so to speak.
Starting Tuesday, I will be temporarily out of the ranks of the unemployed, and working at a temp job in downtown Minneapolis. Perhaps reassuringly, this was from a temp agency with whom I met only a few hours previous to getting the phone call with the offer. I have to call and get all of the details tomorrow, but it looks to be working with Excel spreadsheets for a Medical company.
Something is better than nothing, even if it is only a one month assignment
The 31st (and sadly last) Scottish Country Fair was held this weekend at MacAlester College, in the Twin Cities. Yesterday the Olsons and I attended it. MacAlester College is Scott's Alma Mater.
They have gone to it for years, and even if this was not the last one, there was no chance of missing it, or dragging me along. I was a bit blue because of the whole memory of the one-year anniversary of leaving New York, but I got into the spirit of things.
I've now covered the bases. I've been to Renissance Faires, Scottish Renissance Fairs, and now a Scottish Country Fair. This is not to say that you couldn't find pewter dragons or the like for sale, but there were things purely Scottish there...from dog breeds, to music, to food. I didn't see haggis for sale, but they did have Scottish Meat Pies and the like.
It was a lot of fun. The conglomeration of the bands was smaller than in previous years (usually I understand its around 500, this year I counted less than half that). But it was fairly crowded with guests, set on a small bucolic campus in the middle of the Twin Cities.
I even got to see Kaber tossing? Ever see men in kilts tossing "telephone poles" on TV? That's a kaber, and we watched a bit of them picking up 100+ pound pieces of wood, running with them, and launching them end over end. That, hammer tossing, and people trying to toss a 50 pound weight over a 15 foot high bar were the "sporting events".
The booths were diverse, offering things Scottish, Celtic, and even British. I was tempted by likely overpriced British candy they had available, including the elusive Cadbury Flake, but I remained steadfast.
...wait a half-hour, it will change.
It's an expression I had heard for Minnesota, and I have had first hand evidence.
In the last 72 hours, here in Blaine, MN we have had:
Record heat (90 degrees)
Ice and a bit of wet snow falling with the rain
Temperatures hovering in the 30's and 40's.
Fun fun fun. But I kind of missed storms. The lack of overhead wires, though, means fewer blackouts than I am used to. The blackouts I can kind of live without.