30 December 2010

New Years Resolutions

This first one I ever stuck to was when I was in college and vowed to not have any carbonated beverages for a year.

This years will have something to do with diet, swearing off something. probably something about exercise. And i would really like to finish the Koran, which i've been working on since last year. Saturday we burn the hat again.

Tomorrow we are hosting a New Years eve party. It will be the first one I have been to as an adult. When I was a kid I thought this was something all adults did, wear funny hats, drink champagne, kiss someone at midnight. This one will be a little milder. 12 aging Minnesota protestants will sit around for a few hours and play board games and talk about the weather. It's embarrassing.

29 December 2010

Me and my passport

I did not go outside the US until I was about 30, when I attended a conference in Montreal. Did not make it outside North America until well into my 40's. I never would have expect a year of travel like this, but mainly for my own archive, the list of places traveled is below. The US places were about two thirds business and the rest family stuff. The international trips were all business but fortunate I was able to include family, Rob to Hong Kong and Seoul, Robin to Cyprus, the whole family to Barcelona.

In North America: St. Louis, New York, Winnipeg, Los Angeles, Chicago, Helena MT, Las Vegas, Toronto, Philadelphia, Wilmington, New Orleans, Little Rock, Boston, Charlotte, Columbia SC, Greensboro, Charlottesville, Chicago, Atlanta, Roan Mountain, Chicago, San Francisco,  Fort Worth, Waco, Philadelphia, Charlotte, Columbia SC, Keswick VA, Boston, Winnipeg, Kansas City, Little Rock, Charlotte, Columbia SC, Richmond

Elsewhere: Hong Kong, Seoul, Amsterdam, Cyprus,  Buenos Aires, Rio, Sao Paolo, Santiago, Lima, Barcelona, Paris.

Another day with Delta

Yesterday afternoon I boarded a plane from Richmond to Atlanta, two hrs late. The cabin door closes, my phone rings. Who is it? It's Delta, calling to let me know my plane is taking off late. It would be funny if it wasn't so stupid.

28 December 2010

In the twelve days of Christmas

We are now in the twelve days of Christmas. That traditional time between the birth of Christ and the arrival of the wise men. To most of us Christmas is over, but in olden days the celebration and days of worship were just starting. Imagine hearing someone exclaim, "Happy Christmas!" on January second. Even if you returned the greeting, you would think they were a bit off, or eccentric at least. Christian tradition says otherwise. It says these are the days to ponder those first proclamations about the birth, the visit of the Magi, the angelic host, his worship by the shepherds, and the first visit to the temple before the aging Rabbi Simeon. Proclamations that ring down through the centuries.

Our Christmas this year was spent in South Carolina. Not a large group, eleven of us. We spent it enjoying our company, eating wonderful food from ancient family recipes, arguing over minor points of board games,watching a bowl game or two, and in my case...sleeping through movies. Christmas eve was spent at a Baptist service and a Catholic mass, reflecting a coming change in the composition of our extending family. We witnessed firsthand the wonderful unity of all Christianity and the senseless divisions that must grieve the one whose birth we are celebrating. Below is a picture of St. Joseph's in Columbia, where we worshiped.

There were other changes that reflected the passing of time and generations. Rob and Laura drove from St. Louis, retracing a trail his parents first took when they were engaged. A simple act but a beautiful sign of his commitment to Laura by helping cement her place in our family. Caroline's news of college acceptances and plans added another big element of change. Because our children are now adults, every event carried the possbility that "this might be the last time". Such as when all the women gathered around the piano and sang as my mother played Christmas carols and old hymns. They must have sang for a solid hour. It was the high point of our days there.

The bookends to our trip were evenings spent in Charlotte with Kevin. A snowfall on the last day of our visit added an extra special Christmas feel to his home. He makes certain it is always is a very welcoming place, no matter what hour of the day or night his family arrives.    

This will be a Christmas remembered. Happy Christmas.

22 December 2010

Winter Solstice

About 715 this morning I looked out the front window and saw a full moon shining down on our snow covered neighborhood. I quickly slipped on my boots and tramped through the thigh-deep snow to a fir tree in our back yard, where I took this picture. I should have used a regular camera rather than my blackberry, but still not a bad shot.



"I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape - the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn't show." ~Andrew Wyeth

19 December 2010

Diamond Dust

This morning was clear and sunny, for the first time in several days. The temp was around zero and as I stopped at a traffic light I saw thousands of tiny ice crystals, much smaller than snowflakes, sparkling in the air. At first I thought it was a breeze hitting a snowbank and throwing flakes across the roadway. But the more I looked the more there was nothing to account for this.... a clear morning, frigid temps, something strange and beautiful in the air.


I researched this oddity online and found that "when condensation nuclei are present, diamond dust may form at temperatures just below minus 20oC (0 oF). At such temperatures, the water vapour in the air spontaneously forms ice crystals which slowly settle earthward. When these falling crystals are caught in the light, they sparkle like gemstones, a weather condition known appropriately enough as diamond dust."

The phenomena was followed by hearing passages from the Messiah as I walked into church. A great way to start this last Sunday before the nativity of the Lord.

12 December 2010

Twin Cities - The Big Snow

Last night we were supposed to host a Christmas party for about 60 people. Nature intervened with a snowstorm big enough to collapse the roof of the Metrodome. The party was cancelled but rescheduled for tonite. We ended up with a smaller group due to the normal conflicts but in the end the party was probably more enjoyable for the hosts.

I got out the snowblower a record five times from beginning to end of the storm, to keep the driveway and sidewalk clear. High temp today was 4, but that special Christmas warmth seemed to be everywhere. This is a shot of the front of our house right after the party. The ice lanterns were made by Robin, I lit the candles and cleaned off the walk.

Although it was a little disappointing that weeks of work and decorating did not get to be used to their full potential, the house looks great and will be a special place for all of us over the next few days.

07 December 2010

What I learned today from the president and congress

The message from my president and my congress, as per the recent tax related announcements....

No citizen will ever be asked by this president or this congress to make a sacrifice of any fashion, except perhaps to die in military service.

We do not take responsibility for fiscal matters.

If we give you money you will think we are governing.

04 December 2010

Our Home in December


About 8 inches fell last night. This was the white fluffy stuff that is both beautiful and easy to snow blow off the driveway.

30 November 2010

These ornaments are at least 7 years old


They look nice but this is Christmas #7 that i've gazed at them over lunch. They must have been made by the child of the building owner, who can't bear to get rid of them. They're nice the first time, and I certainly prefer lunch with them than without them.

If I were running for Christmas Czar of Minneapolis, "CHANGE" would be my slogan...., or maybe "GLITTER".

28 November 2010

Straight River Rest Stop in Minnesota














How does one of the most beautiful states have one of the country's ugliest rest stops? Got to be pure regional blindness. As one of the caretakers of the place said, when he saw me taking a picture of this rare Minnesota eyesore....." you should come back in the summer, lots of folks come here for picnics".

Arkansas to Minnesota, a perfect drive

Spent the day driving across the middle of America with my two favorite daughters... In brief it went as follows, along I-40West to I-540 North to US 71 North to I-35 North. Perfect weather for a drive, not a drop of rain or snow. Passed my neighbor from across the street on I-35 just south of Des Moines, still scratching my head over the odds of that. Being a history and trivia buff I have thrown in an interesting fact about each city.
417am left North Little Rock, AR (hometown of MLB pitcher AJ Burnett)
5am   Morrilton, AR,  (county seat of Conway County, yawn)
6am   Ozark, AR, (Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie spent a month here working at Sonic)
7am   Fayetteville, AR (Home of the University of Arkansas)
8am   Goodman, MO ( a small town in McDonald County. Nothing of note has happened here)
9am   Sheldon, MO (Depopulated by Union forces during the Civil War.)
10am Harrisonville, MO (Named for a congressman Harrison)
11am Kearney, MO (birthplace of Jesse James)
12pm Eagleville, MO (slogan "A small town with a big tomorrow")
1pm   New Virginia, IA (per 2000 census, one hispanic person lives here)
2pm   Ames, IA (home of Iowa State and 9th best place in America to live )
3pm   Dows, IA (home of the "Dows Corn Days", the first weekend in August)
4pm,  Geneva, MN (named after Geneva, NY)
5pm   Northfield, MN (home of Malt-O-Meal and site of a James gang bank robbery)
530pm Home

25 November 2010

At twilight

I am spending thanksgiving morning with a friend who is 99 years old, and a few days away from 100. We watched the Macy's parade and now The Godfather.

What goes on in the mind at that age? Here are a few of his comments this morning. Some of these are things said to me, other are prayers uttered as the mind slips back and forth between places and times.

"The birds have gone south, why can't I?
O Father, my heavenly father, I love you, thank you.
I'm 107, born in 1910
I didn't expect to be this old, I'd give anything if my son was here.
I can still hear some, but see very little.
My wife, I'd give anything if she was here. She's my second wife, she'll be my last one.
How I miss walking through the trees, rather have trees than flowers.
O god, our father.
My brother and I never did get along, don't know why. He was always a momma's boy.
God only knows where my son is.
O father, take me home. To Harrison. It's not far.
I wish the birds would come back, but I don't think they will, I don't blame them.
My wife, my beautiful flower, why did you take her away from me?"

He sleeps a lot, comments on what he sees outside his window, and prays. His prayers are an
ongoing conversation with God. Expressing regrets over past mistakes or failings. He is a good Godly man. I hope that when my mind begins to fail as his is, I will have the Lord and my
family continually on my mind, as he has on this 99th year and 335th day of his life.

22 November 2010

Fort Garry Hotel at Christmas


This is where I was earlier today. One of my favourite hotels of all, the beautiful Fort Garry in Winnipeg. They do Christmas quite well here in Manitoba. Father Christmas is on the move.

the end of the known world


This is the last gate on the B concourse, Minneapolis airport. It is the farthest outpost of modern air transport in the Cities. You cannot walk any farther from security to any other gate. Last Sunday night it was here that I waited for a flight to Winnipeg.

18 November 2010

The speed of invention

Life is changing fast. So fast that we often don't notice and just adapt. I am on a plane to Boston and posting this entry via two products that did not exist a year ago, the iPad and airborne wireless service. In the past five minutes I have sent a note to my son and another to a friend who is job hunting. I'll post this in a few minutes and it will be broadcast to anyone in the world who cares to read it. I wonder if there was ever a time when things changed so rapidly.

Of course there has. We always view our time on this planet as somehow unique when in reality it is not. Harnessing fire, domesticating animals, the written word, and most recently the wiring of the world electrically all changed the lives of our ancestors immediately and permanently. They adapted quickly or they were left behind.

I wonder what's next? What is the big thing that is just around the corner? The one that will cause my grandkids to laugh at things like ipads and cloud computing. What is it that will make us look so primitive to our descendants? It won't be our faith, that we know. Everything else though seems on the table.

14 November 2010

The Christmas Tree is up

This is the earliest we've decorated our tree. Usually we do it the weekend before Thanksgiving but next weekend is so busy we decided to go ahead a week early. The outside lights are turned on, which also seems early, but two of my neighbors beat me to it last weekend. It also helped that we got a foot of snow yesterday, which made all of this seem right on schedule. Some neighbor kids used our yard as the stage to build a couple of snowmen, which was a nice addition as well.

Trimming the tree is always fun, hanging the ornaments the kids made when they were little, and the ones weve picked up at various vacations. We miss not having Rob here, but we had plenty of fun commenting on his elementary Christmas art.

There is something peaceful about a home with a Christmas tree. All the problems of the world seem to melt away when you gaze on the tree and think about the perfect gift of goodness and righteousness that this season represents.

Merry Christmas

12 November 2010

This is why we put Christmas lights up in early November

Tomorrow's forecast
.. WINTER STORM WARNING IN EFFECT FROM 6 AM SATURDAY TO 6 AM CST SUNDAY...
  * MAIN IMPACT... HEAVY WET SNOW WITH ACCUMULATIONS OF 6 TO 10 INCHES

Put another log on the fire and give me another cup of hot chocolate. Winter is here!.

.....Mid-morning Saturday photo of our back yard.

09 November 2010

Midway

On 32 highway, between the cities of Bolivar and Buffalo, Missouri is the village of Halfway. An aptly named, beautiful piece of America. 

It is Tuesday mid-afternoon in mid november, middle of the week. It is mid autumn, mid sixties farenheit, mid 1930's in political time. I am midway through a reading of Exodus and midway through my first reading of Tom Sawyer. I am not midway through the Koran, though I am perhaps midway to midway. I am midway through a rather contentious business dispute. However, this is offset by knowing that the Christmas decorations are about midway to their full glory.

Not a week for closure, but for simply putting one foot ahead of the other.

When in southern Missouri, stop in Halfway. On some days it is the very best place to be.

07 November 2010

Christmas lights

Here's the November pic of the house. Leaves gone from the trees and an unseasonably warm Sunday has us out putting up the Christmas lights, wreaths and the Moravian star.

There seems to be a national shortage of the red mini-lights as it took trips to Walmart, Target, Home Depot and another Target before I finally found them. Another neighbor across the street was putting up lights today, while one around the corner fell off his ladder and an ambulance was called.

26 October 2010

The world is full of idiots, fortunately they usually don't breed

I am on a flight from Philadelphia to Minneapolis. Seated by me is a man (I think) who flew from San Diego to Philadelphia to purchase a dog. A terrier that he transports in a small carrier. Not sure who I feel sorrier for, the dog or the man's parents.
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

19 October 2010

Last smoking of the season ???

I smoked a pork shoulder and brisket this past weekend, in honor of my brother, who lives in ________, and his visit to Minnesota. I'm not allowed to say where he lives as he does not like to be on the internet and prefers to stay off the grid, as he puts it. Actually, as he reads this he is probably already irked that I have acknowledged that I have a brother, or brothers, (oops). Anyway, because we had a packed weekend I decided to smoke the meat Thursday night... all night. I planned to tend the firebox all night and set my alarm for every 2 hours, starting at 1030pm. That 230 awakening was rough, but the others were manageable.

Unfortunately in my sleep deprived state I did not keep the meat warm enough. I suspect a good part of the night was spent with a temp of around 160 or so, when it should have been at least 50 degrees higher. When I checked the taste around 6 am parts of it were ok but other sections were almost raw in texture. However, after a couple of hours in the 275 range, the shoulder came out great. The brisket was edible, though a bit tough. so what did I learn? That those less thick cuts of meat, such as ribs and brisket, take much more care to get right. Lesson learned.

Another lesson was learned again and it had to do with taking risk. In the financial markets I've made money slowly and I've made it quickly. Quick is better as you do not have time interrupt good fortune. Losing money slowly is better than losing it quickly. Slow losses eventually get your attention and cause you to make adjustments to failed strategies. With quick losses you tend to act irrationally, and think some quick act or the next trade will put things right. In reality events are beyond your control and you often don't have the opportunity to right them.

So, what else did we do... stopped by the local ice cream shop and had dessert prepared by Minnesota's finest ice cream artist, had one of the midwest's best breakfasts at Wampach's in Shakopee, twice did NOT drive to the Buddha in Hampton, toured the world's most worthless flea market in St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin, strolled the streets and shops of Stillwater MN, watched the SC KY football game, played 10 little indians, ate dinner at Santorini - a Greek restaurant, went to church, had hotdogs at Costco, ordered pizza, played Godfather trivia.

13 October 2010

I hate dimes

I hate dimes. It started some time after I became economically self sufficient, which was around midpoint between the birth of my first two children. I can feel those little devils in my pocket. They feel fake, like toy money. You can't do anything with them, except occasionally use them as screwdrivers. Pennies seem more valuable and more like real money. They make me a bit skittish. When I get a dime as change I always look at the receipt, as they are almost always part of some crooked transaction.

When I was a kid most things that adults told me made sense. Things like, "honey the world isn't flat, it's round. It just looks flat because it's so big". "No son, people don't get small when they walk down the street, it just looks that way". Got it, understood. When it came to money, a nickel was worth more than a penny, it's bigger. A quarter is worth more than a nickel, it's bigger. A half dollar, etc. The bigger the coin, the more it's worth, got it. What about dimes. Why are these little things worth more than pennies and nickels. I don't get it. I also don't like the fact that all my adult life I thought it was Thomas Edison on the dime instead of FDR. I don't know how I got that idea. I've never heard anyone else who thought that. Some time in my mid-40's I realized I'd been wrong about the person on the dime, and I consider myself the type who is fairly up to date on such trivia. If you were on "Who wants to be a Millionaire", I'm the person you would call on Phone a Friend. I'm the guy who would know this sort of stuff. Well forget that. Don't ever call me on any coin questions. I'm also the kid who rushed to spend all his Franklin half-dollars when the Kennedy version came out. I assumed the old ones would be worthless. I was either stupid or about 50 years ahead of my time.

So don't give me dimes as change or to repay any debts. When I become a homeless beggar my sign will say "will work for food or money, except dimes. God Bless Thomas Edison" I don't want them. I'd rather tote a wad of pennies than that little money. I don't know which gives me the creeps more, dimes or Linda Hunt, from the cast of NCIS-Los Angeles. I bet she's got a purse full of dimes, and a jar of them on her dresser.

12 October 2010

48 hours and one lousy picture in the city of lights


48 hours in Paris, 24 of which was basically free time.
7am Sunday, landed. 830am I'm at the hotel. 9-10 went for a run in the gym. 1030 - walked to the Louvre. 1115 to 1pm, toured the Louvre, mainly to see the big three, Monna Lisa, Winged Victory, Venus de Milo. Guards with machine guns outside the Louvre. If I was Greek or Eqyptian I would be very disturbed at all of my countries treasures that have been ransacked and put on display here. 1pm to 4pm mainly walked along the Seine with the obligatory side trip to Notre Dame. Back to hotel where I conked out until 7, when I met a friend from London for dinner. Had steak tar tar, which is almost impossible to get in the US anymore. Took this one photo after dinner.

Monday, Meetings and a nice dinner in the evening.
Tuesday. Got to airport way too early due to a transit strike that threatened to tie up all the cabs, so I grabbed an early one. Met a couple from Excelsior while in the Delta check in line. Had a nice talk with them off and on as we waited for our flight. Beth and Rob, did not get their last names. She is in the same large bible study group as my wife. Small world.

This is only my second trip here but as before I was struck by how much we copied the French in the early history of our country as we designed our cities and buildings. Every building here looks familiar, because you've seen a copy of it somewhere back home

08 October 2010

October

This is my October shot of the house. With the angle of the sun it's hard to see the colors in the back yard but there are a couple of maples back there in full color. Near the peak of color now. Last Saturday we fell below freezing for the first time. Today we hit an all time record high in the mid 80's. Same on tap for tomorrow. Ready for the cold but nice to get these little reminders of summer. Current yard project is the nurturing of the tiny burning bushes in the front and destroying the fungus that is killing parts of the lawn. Weekly grass cutting today, could have waited another week as the growth has really slowed. A boring blog entry on a somewhat boring Friday night.


 

San Francisco one more time

I'll never live here but I think i've written more about this city than any other. Something about it that makes me wonder why I don't visit more often. This trip was like all the others. Airport, office, nice dinner, hotel room, airport, home. Dinner at Anchor and Hope Restaurant. Not bad. Pic is from Gate 44 at the airport as I awaited my 6am flight back to Minneapolis.

01 October 2010

Quarter End

Yesterday was the end of the third quarter of the current year. My life revolves around quarter end.

When I was younger I thought about the passing of the year in terms of semesters and the Christmas, Easter, and Summer breaks. School, and the escape from its shackles, drove the cycle of the year. May 17 was a day in the second semester. July 2nd was during summer vacation. October 20th was about halfway through the first semester. Somewhere in my mid-twenties I stopped thinking about the year in terms of semesters. September became September and May became May.

Now, in my occupation, four days on the calendar jump at me. Every day of activity looks back to one or forward to another. March 31, June 30, September 30, December 31. Every communication with a client references one of these. These are the demarcation points that measure the success or failure of people in my business. We rise and fall in the esteem of our clients based on the results we delivered vs a benchmark during the most recent quarter and trailing year.

Every job is that way. We all have scorecards of some sort. Usually there is one key thing that our clients count on us to do, and do very well. If we get that right, every thing else seems to fall in to place. In my first job it was whether I got your newspaper on your doorstep by 6am. In my second job it was whether I got your groceries to your car without breaking your eggs. In my third job it was whether I could pump gas into your car without a spill and get you quickly on your way.  Now, my career is with a financial gymnasium where companies come for help in staying healthy and keeping future commitments. It's a good work and a challenging way of service.

30 September 2010

Old Hymns

Every once in a while I find the lyrics to some old church hymn stuck in my head. Hymns that aren't sung much in churches today, in part because times have changed, in part because some of them just weren't that good. They are also absent because we find the words or message unsettling or they harken back to a life of suffering and destitution that we find it hard to relate to.

I never cared much for the music of "When the roll is called up yonder", but the lyrics are beautiful. It was typically played in a quick tempo but I think it comes across best when played very slowly and there is time to contemplate each phrase. All of human history and all our activity is a road to that first sentence in the first stanza.

"When the trumpet of the Lord shall sound, and time shall be no more,
And the morning breaks, eternal, bright and fair;
When the saved of earth shall gather over on the other shore,
And the roll is called up yonder, I'll be there.


On that bright and cloudless morning when the dead in Christ shall rise,
And the glory of his resurrection share;
When his chosen ones shall gather to their home beyond the skies,
And the roll is called up yonder, I'll be there.


Let us labor for the Master from the dawn till setting sun,
Let us talk of all his wondrous love and care;
Then when all of life is over, and our work on earth is done,
And the roll is called up yonder, I'll be there."

It is not the greatest of hymns, but it's a very good, and stuck in my head this 30th day of September. The greatest of hymns, that is reserved for this one where both lyrics and music seem to be from beyond this realm....

O for a thousand tongues to sing my great Redeemer’s praise,
The glories of my God and King, the triumphs of His grace!


My gracious Master and my God, assist me to proclaim,
To spread through all the earth abroad, the honors of Thy name.


Jesus! the name that charms our fears, that bids our sorrows cease;
’Tis music in the sinner’s ears, ’tis life, and health, and peace.


He breaks the power of canceled sin, He sets the prisoner free;
His blood can make the foulest clean, His blood availed for me.


He speaks, and, listening to His voice, new life the dead receive,
The mournful, broken hearts rejoice, The humble poor believe.


Hear Him, ye deaf; His praise, ye dumb, your loosened tongues employ;
Ye blind, behold your Savior come, and leap, ye lame, for joy.


Glory to God, and praise and love be ever, ever given,
By saints below and saints above, the church in earth and heaven.

28 September 2010

Summer to Autumn

You can't tell it from this picture but it was absolutely a fall day last Sunday afternoon when this was taken. Surprising how the trees look so green, despite all the changing colors that seemed to jump out to the naked eye.  It was 37 that morning, our first temp with a 3 handle since May. As you can tell by the attire, this was autumn, not summer. A nice church picnic to close the summer.

23 September 2010

O'Hare on a Thursday

I have lately had a knack for snagging an early flight home, particularly from Ohare and usually on United. No one likes getting stuck at the airport but if I had to be delayed at one of America's mega-airports, my pick would always be this one.

22 September 2010

Life in America's Best City

I live in the best small town in America, according to Money magazine.


It's even a great place for vandals. Such as the one who broke into my car yesterday. I park daily at Southwest Station, and when it comes to bus stations, this place is beautiful. A state of the art parking facility. Even has a picturesque lakeside setting, as shown in the picture that i found on the web.

Yesterday I got in my car to find my back window busted in and my gps gone. The window was worth much more than the gps. From now on, i'll keep the doors unlocked so my fellow citizens of America's best city can have whatever they want. When I got home one of Eden Prairie's finest had called the house to inform me of the details of the robbery and ask that I call her back to discuss my loss further. In America's best city, this is high crime.
http://money.cnn.com/magazines/moneymag/bplive/2010/snapshots/PL2718116.html

13 September 2010

The Bus Stop

My bus stop. At the intersection of 6th and Marquette in downtown Minneapolis. The 690 Express to Southwest Station in Eden Prairie. This was taken around 430 this afternoon. In the winter we stand here in sub-zero weather waiting and waiting. Ten minutes seems like ten hours. There have been a few times when it was so cold that I swore I was getting on the next bus, whether it was going my way or not, just to get warm. Today I saw a few people with coats. Not heavy winter coats, but a step heavier than a windbreaker.

11 September 2010

Summer?


It looked much better in person. Taken today in Excelsior, MN

10 September 2010

Retail

I don't like to shop, though I love for others to do so. Perhaps it goes back to my first "real" job, as a management trainee for JCPenney at McCain Mall in North Little Rock, Arkansas (another story for another time).

Anyway, as an orthodox capitalist, I like to watch the exchange of goods and services unfold and witness the way it all plays out to create jobs and wealth. How people find new ways to innovate and get a better product to me at a better price and then convince me to change my buying habits in their favour. This is the big stuff of commerce that people do very well, both on a small scale and a massive one, particularly when left to their own devices to figure it out. It's also something that governments by their very nature cannot do well, on either a small scale or a large one.

These are a few of the places I like to shop, when I have to. Most are big, because they're really good at what they do. A few have chosen to stay small.

Gander Mountain          Costco
Macy's                          Dunn Brothers Coffee
Amazon.com                 QT
Bachman's                     Fleet Farm
Tim Horton's                 Cracker Barrel
Valley Park Hardware   Ted Drewes Frozen Custard

07 September 2010

House - Early September

Not much in the way of falls sign from this picture. However, the tree in the front yard has been trimmed. The shrubs along the left side of the front yard have been replaced. Here and there in the neighborhood a few trees a showing color, but with the exception of a drop in temp, it still looks like summer.

The flowers below are from our side patio.

Roan Mountain II

I spend a part of each summer in Roan Mountain, Tennessee. Roan Mountain State Park to be exact. You can travel all around this country, and the world, and find few places to spend a weekend better than this. The most recent stay was a collection of events that made for another memorable trip...

Thursday - A beautiful drive from Charlotte, up one side of Jonas Ridge and down, driving to the cabin.  A special afternoon to cherish with my mother and later share over coffee that evening with two of my dearest cousins. Grocery shopping for the weekend at Ingles in Newland, NC, which sounds routine, but never is.

Friday - Another year and another grueling run up to Miller's Homestead and back. A prayer of thanks at the top that I have lived to return to this spot one more time. Creating my annual version of breakfast, complete with grits, biscuits, my amazing sawmill gravy, eggs and bacon.  Hiking the beautiful Balds at Carver's Gap, which straddles the NC/TN border. For the second year it includes Laura, this time her status elevated from my son's girlfriend to his fiance.

Saturday - A picnic at Elizabethton's Covered Bridge over the Doe River with the four main women who watch over me - my wife, my daughters, my mother. Can't leave out a special niece, the only one on this side of the family who will ever call me "Uncle". Watching my brother assemble one of the best meals of my life. The greatest steak in the world from the worlds greatest family chef. His is the only cole slaw that you can make a meal of. His baked beans could almost be served as dessert.

Sunday - This day begins with a sermon from a local minister shared at the park with fellow campers and believers. Hiking Linville Falls and losing three of our party who were in search of a bathroom. Missing the goodbyes to relatives who left before we returned. A hilarious re-telling of Aunt Bill's reaction to Aunt Inez' experiences in the death of Uncle Harry Goforth.  Finally, a Sunday night gathering of all the leftover kin and leftover food for one last feast and sharing of memories.

Along the way there were games of Scrabble, Dominoes, Catch Phrase, and Take One. Discussions of wedding plans that finally get my attention as they have something to do with my family. Empty bottles of Dr. Enuf rattling around in the bottom of the trash. The morning clean up of trash cans attacked by raccoons. Nights spent staring up at the Milky Way, which you never see in the city. Frosty mornings that really do call for a roaring fire in the stove.

In a flash it was over. In a wink, it will be back.

31 August 2010

Midday Minneapolis

Downtown Minneapolis is a good place to work. In my initial draft of this post I said it was "great". An overused term. It's good.

In the summer there are multiple sites competing for your attention. Occasionally, I ride the light rail out of town at lunchtime, as I did today. 15 minutes out, 15 minutes back. A nice diversion. My office is somewhere in the background of this picture.

29 August 2010

State Fair Minnesota

The State Fair is a big deal in Minnesota. Bigger than in any state I have ever lived. It is part of the culture, part of being Minnesotan. I know people who plan their vacations around it, who will take off work for a week and attend every day. For some, it's a bigger deal than Christmas. I have a friend who is currently agonizing over the fact that the eminent delivery of his third child may keep him away from the fair.

It's a huge production, one of the biggest in the country. For some it's all about a favorite ride or some form of fried junk food on a stick. For me the big thing is the butter sculptures in the dairy exhibit. This picture was taken as a parade was passing through the fairgrounds, though I didn't get much of the parade.

27 August 2010

Project complete

This painting project of the bathroom and bedroom is finally finished, Like all such projects it took longer than expected but i'm glad to have finally done it, after putting it off since we first moved into this house in 2003. It took half of last Saturday, all day Sunday, Monday evening, all day Tuesday and 6-10pm on Wednesday. Another shot of the bathroom from a similar angle.

23 August 2010

The secret ingredient for great barbecue

I smoked a pork roast this weekend, which was rather crazy because of a massive painting project in the bathroom. Note the bathtub full of old wallpaper. Sunday morning after church I loaded the smoker and went about my business of removing wallpaper, taping windowsills and trim, and painting. Periodically when I needed a break I would tend to the meat, which mainly involved throwing some some hickory chunks on the fire and heading back to the project.

The bathroom turned out fine, and after about ten hours both it and the meat were done. The roast was amazing, one of my best. It had a juicy black crust that covered a deep smoke rink about a quarter of an inch thick. Worn out from the painting, I sat on the couch with a sample of the pork and dozed off watching football.

The secret ingredient was the painting project, which forced me to leave the meat alone. I had something else to do that kept me busy and away from the opening and closing of the smoker that is always tempting but bad for the meat. I've heard it over and over that the secret to great barbecue is to leave it alone, and it's so very true. The trick next time will be finding something easier than painting to occupy my time.

18 August 2010

Jayhawks in Minnesota

The worst thing about this state, is they let just about anybody in.

17 August 2010

Home - Mid August

I'm starting a series of photos that i'll post of our front yard through the seasons. This time of year it is almost impossible to take a shot of the house, due to this huge birch tree in our front yard. It will be trimmed soon but for now it's nothing but lush green everywhere. Taken this afternoon.

North Shore

I've lived in a lot of beautiful places, Minnesota's North Shore is hard to beat. We spent last Saturday roaming the shore of Lake Superior.

First Visit to Twins Stadium

Sunday August 15th, Twins 4 - A's 2.


First trip to the stadium. Caroline and I vowed earlier in the year our first trip to the new park would be together. Finally got our schedules in sync. We only had SRO tickets so we spent out time wandering around various spots looking for the best vantage point to view the game.

It is a nice ball park from the inside. Sight lines are great. Hard to have a bad view. It is not a true baseball fan's park as it is adorned in various trapping of entertainment. Cartoon characters and fast food logos abound, but this is a modern day sports problem, not just a Twins problems. Unbelieveable but it is almost possible to walk by it and miss it, so hidden it is in the various building and infrastructure of downtown.

We found ourselves talking mainly about old Busch Stadium in St. Louis and how much of our summers were spent there. Nachos in the upper decks. Waiting for Ray Lankford or Mark McGwire to step to the plate or Ozzie Smith to launch a 6-4-3 double play. It was a big part of her childhood that she will remember all of her life. A big part of my adulthood.

When they announced the DH coming to the plate, she shook her head in disgust and muttered, "it's not real baseball". Made me proud.

12 August 2010

A sign that the end of western civilization draweth nigh

Think about all the stories of recent months on bank overdraft charges. The discussion of course has been that banks are gouging consumers and the little guy must be protected. How terrible what the banks are doing, why, its almost criminal!!

Hmm. I seem to recall that writing a check when you don't have enough money IS a crime. A real one that you can go to jail for in every state.

What world is this where writing a hot check is some sort of badge of honor? You pass bad paper, a type of theft, and it's someone else's fault....or maybe just following an example set in Washington.

(In the interest of full disclosure the company I work for is owned by a bank. I am also a former, but long-since-reformed, writer of hot checks.)

11 August 2010

Cardinals clobber the reds = A good fight wasted on a team with no soul

Photo by Tom Uhlman / AP
Baseball in August. The Cardinals marched into cincinnati on Monday down 2 games to the reds and leave today with a sweep and the division lead. Back where they belong. 

There was this well publicized fight yesterday and it's a shame it was wasted on a team most of us had forgot existed. Replay this in Chicago or Houston and you've got a brawl that keeps simmering for months. "Reds", what kind of name is that. What is a red? a drug, a communist, a color? Their claim to fame is that that Pete Rose once played for them, but that was a couple of lifetimes ago, and not really something to be proud of. This season they are in the midst of their once a decade run for the division pennant. They should behave like they've been here before... but they haven't.... so they can't.

Players move around so much these days that you wonder if there's much team spirit in pro baseball. Well there is Cardinal named Yadier Molina who answered that. On the flip side there is a red named brandon phillips who will only be remembered for having a bad temper and, umm, uh, uh, hmmm

Go Cards!!!!!

10 August 2010

My take on the iPad

I have an iPad. I'm writing this entry from it. I've had it about three weeks and have not yet decided if it is just a big iPod, or something better. I keep it with me a lot in the evenings, as a substitute laptop. Good for checking email, the news, playing a game,etc. Very good for basic retrieving of info. Email client is weak though, and basically limited to your inbox. The most basic email program will beat this thing easily.

I use it on the bus as I commute. It's not bad as a reader and I have a dozen or so books loaded on it. There is also a kindle app that allows you to download anything in the Kindle library.

All in, I'd say I like it,don't love it. Could easily live without it, but would rather not. If I lost it would I spend my own money for another one? Hmmm

Combinations that don't make sense

Been working on this list for a while
things i've seen in my life that just don't go together, that I can't make sense of.....
(i've really seen this stuff, not making it up)
............................................
Hotdogs and ketchup, Pineapple and Pizza, A bride in a white dress with her baby in tow

A Minnesota Vikings jersey at church,

Fruit on meat, Ornaments on trees at Halloween

A woman smoking a cigar, A man with a corporate logo tatooted on his neck (Nascar)

Grits and sugar, Grits and shrimp, Clothes on dogs, The DH and baseball

Steak salad, Carter and Mondale, McCain and Palin

Cheez-It and Pineapple Casserole

Sage advice from my fellow bloggers at the White House

 I have edited for brevity but not distorted the point of each item below....Don't think about your major, your roommate, the job market for your chosen career, the quality of your chosen institution. Here's what's really important...

From the White House Blog

Top 5 Things You Should Know Before Heading Back to College
Posted by Julia Simmons and Sophia Solomon on August 09, 2010 at 02:24 PM EDT
  1. The President has invested more than $40 billion in Pell Grants....The great thing about Pell Grants is that they are free and clear....
  2. If you’re under 26 years of age, may be already be able to get on a parent’s health insurance plan – and all plans will allow this in September.
  3. Community colleges are a great alternative, and they will receive an extra $2 billion over the next four years..... 
  4. If you attend one of America’s 105 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) or 225 Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs), your school might get a cut of $2.55 billion in coming years.... 
  5. The Department of Energy...will dedicate $19 million in funds for its undergraduate and graduate fellowship, scholarship, and traineeship programs. 
 Did I really get this from the White House? or was it The Onion, or simply a joke posted by Republicans hacking the White House blog. 

08 August 2010

Another summer roaming the Mother Ship

The last two summers I have spent a few Sunday mornings at The Church of Saint Mark, in Shakopee, Minnesota. Compared to last year it seems to be growing. Nice, full summer crowds, which is a bit unusual for any church. Though protestant by belief and family tradition, over the years the theological lines that seemed so clear and important when I was in my twenties are now getting fuzzy. As often as not I find myself siding with the Catholic perspective on the major theological divisions between this church and mine.

One things is certain, this is the moral bulwark of the world. It is this church that holds those same timeless and true positions everywhere it stands. Although there are things I can't yet reconcile with my own understanding of scripture, I would not want a world without the Mother Ship and here's to a day when we all sail a little closer to her.

07 August 2010

Summer wanes

There is a crabapple tree in our backyard. It is one of the heralds of spring, the first to show a fat buds in April and the first to be covered in a dome of white flowers in May.

It is also the first to shed leaves and send the first hint that the long warm days will end very very soon. Unattractive little sailboats of brown and yellow that soon spread in a arc around her branches, like those shown in the picture below, taken today. The rest of the yard is oblivious to this. The grass has that slightly overcooked August tint of brown. The daylilies, rose bush and daisy are cranking out new flowes daily. The hummingbirds hum while the swallows dive in and out of the garage.

When the maple bursts in a glory of red and gold, we will acknowledge that fall is here and winter close behind. But the unglamourous crabapple knows already that the days are running short.

29 July 2010

Another Last Family Vacation

Our first "last big family vacation" was in 2002, if I remember right. We all went to Alaska for a week of salmon fishing, hiking, petting sled dogs and petting glaciers. Since then we've had one other notable LBFV, to Maui in 2005. There was also 2006, which was the year that we could have had another  LBFV, but chose to split up, guys to Alaska with Uncle Kevin, girls to the Caribbean.

I know we do this because the kids are grown and going separate ways and we all feel a need to get in one last big fling together. Although there have been the alternating annual treks to South Carolina and Arkansas for Christmas, we don't usually consider those as vacations, though I suppose we could.
This one, to Barcelona, was really something. A place we probably woudn't have selected had it not been for the fact that I was there on business. Caroline is almost 18 so I suppose this was the first one with all adults, sort of, if you include me. Although I was working I got to spend a fair amount of time with the family. Mainly it was nice just to see everyone together and the interactions that are uniquely ours.  


....the punches in the arm, the nicknames that go back to some event known only to us, the words and phrases that are just ours, a sister laying comfortably next to her brother. Occasional talk about weddnig plans, career plans, college plans, but mainly a few days of no plans. Just time together. Time for shared bathrooms that bring back memories of a full house in St. Louis. Time for shared food across a crowded table. Time to remember vacations past with toddlers in tow. Time for strolls in ancient churches on ancient streets. A moment or to for thoughts of Spain and old lessons from grade school about the long past glory of this country. One more time to just be together and be thankful that we have each other. Was this really the final LBFV? Perhaps, but not the last time together.

14 July 2010

Macho Machu Pichu

Did it. Along with a friend climbed to the top of Waynapichu, the big monster that towers over Machu Pichu, shown below. At the time of the taking of the picture there were about 60 people there and I was clearly the oldest. Don't know whether that's cool or a sign of my stupidity.

Peru is an amazing place. Full of people so warm and friendly. A Peruvian colleague told me it was due mainly to the magnetic force of the earth being so strong there. He said it softens the personality or some other such new age rant. I tried not to laugh since he clearly believed what he was saying.

The country is full of hard working poor. Not lazy poor, but back bent, gnarly handed, grey haired men and women who physically toil more in a week than I do in a year. You can't hang around these folk for long without feel ashamed for every having said " I had a hard day". We must open our doors to people like these.

Food, wow. Ate my first guinea pig, which inspired me to tell of the day I murdered Buster, a hamster. Murder is perhaps too strong, accidental homicide perhaps. Also a little Alpaca, a unique meat with a texture like poultry and a taste like beef.
I have to go back to this place and spend much more time buying alpaca sweaters, sampling amazing desserts, stare once more at the Southern Cross, climb more steep trails to majestic views, wonder at the altar of more churches, adjust my lungs to the higher air, and return with a few more phrases of Spanish.

09 July 2010

Flying across Peru

One of the things I've learned in my travels is that the concept of a "remote village" is fading. I can pick up enough of a weak cell signal to know that in all the little enclaves of humans below there is access to the same flow of info I have back home.

Just a few years ago the ancient dirt roads that crisscross the valleys and mountainsides were the only way of gathering news from the outside world. And just a few generations before the same was true for mountain people everywhere. No more.

Bye Santiago










I could live here, if I never had to go through customs

Probably the most beautiful big city that I had never given much thought to.

07 July 2010

Leaving Brasil

As big and explosive as I'd heard. Wonderful people. So much potential in the markets. Rio yesterday, Sao Paulo today.

06 July 2010

A place I never expected to be

Inside the Peruvian Consulate to Brazil in Rio. Waiting for a friend to sort out a visa problem. Staring at the walls. When an official comes in the room to make an announcement I shrug, nod, and roll my eyes along with the others as though I understand what is being said. The silent universal language of citizens waiting in government offices.

04 July 2010

Independence day

Let freedom ring. Watching Britney's top ten hits on mtv in a hotel in Buenos Aires. (Hit me baby was #1)

02 July 2010

In Search of Higher Education

Just returned from a week retracing the hallowed steps of Lee, Jackson, Stuart and others in search of a college for our youngest daughter in the heart of our native Dixie. Clemson, Furman, Davidson, Elon, Washington and Lee, James Madison. Each with its strengths and weaknesses, each in need of more students like my daughter. Some appropriately focused on helping her find a career, others more interested in helping her find herself (assistance she does not need). A great week that also included church with Grandmother, and assorted get togethers with her Uncles Kevin and Rodney, Aunts Diane and Mildred, cousins Katie and Becky. Also two great hikes in the Shenandoah Valley.

Still a long road ahead and a lot of decisions to be made over the next year. I'm sure she could have found better company than me, but for a mom and dad there is no better way to spend a week than close to a child helping shape a big decision. When you first hold your child there are things that flash through your mind. Riding a bike for the first time, learning to read, walking.... Somewhere in those little thoughts is the college search.

01 June 2010

August 6

There are dates that get ingrained in your mind. Something happens, or doesn't happen, and they stick.  Usually they are important, but sometimes trivial, like the birthday of my second dog that I got when I was a kid, March 16 1964. In my country there are many dates we think are important and should be remembered. But I have easily let slip by more than one July 4, September 11, November 11, November 22, December 7 without so much as a thought.

June 16 I remember. I got married. Long time ago but I have never missed an anniversary, never even came close to forgetting.

Funny thing, I cannot tell you when anyone else in the world got married. I guess it doesn't matter to me as much I would like to think it does. I know my parents got married some time in August. I have a cousin who got married the Saturday after 9/11 and a nephew who got married about a month after Christmas. It gets really fuzzy after that. Although I am glad other people in my family are happily married, when it happened is something I can't keep in my head. 

Other dates of importance. November 24, April 17 and November 27. The birthdates of my three children.

August 6, 2011 is the day that the first one of the three above gets married. A wedding date that hasn't happened yet but is already burned in my mind. It's the day a wonderful woman become part of our family. Already the date means something to me, though nothing like what it means to her and to my son.

I look forward to the event, but more importantly, to every blessed anniversary that follows. Welcome Laura.

26 May 2010

Farmington

It was last Saturday, the grass was cut, I'd put in my run for the day, I was bored, and ready to get out of the house. According to the Minnesota Tourism website, the Minnesota Soybean Festival was one of the big events of the weekend. This photo is taken from ground zero of the soy extravaganza, at the height of the festivities.

We stayed there all of 5 minutes, chatted with the locals, then moved on to the Afton Arts Festival, which was like Times Square compared to this.