Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Snowy shadows and tracks

Deer tracks
Little critter
Large bird
Snowshoe hare

Bird tracks

Snowy torchbearer

Monday, November 29, 2010

Shinrin-yoko.... forest bathing

Path along bamboo forest in Kyoto, Japan

Bamboo forest
Japanese researchers have documented a physiological reduction of stress and increased relaxation resulting from time walking in a forest (shinrin-yoko). Not too surprisingly they found walks in the forest were more beneficial than walks in an urban area.

Additional studies by Japanese scientists explored the physiological effects isolated according to the seperate senses of smell, sound, feel, and visual stimulation, which partially reflect the nature of the forest. Certain odors seemed to have significant impact on relaxation and stress reduction, such as Taiwan cypress essential oil, hiba oil, cedrol and limonene.  While soothing sounds didn't make much of a physiological difference on relaxation, the sound of a dentist drill significantly increased participant's blood pressure levels.

One study indicated that shinrin-yoko was useful in the lowering of blood glucose levels for persons with diabetes. This lowering occurred after either a 3 or 6 kilometer walk, depending on the participant's physical ability.

The researchers suggested that humans feel a sense of relaxation with the natural environment since that is where we originated.  Conversely the modern "artificial" society has become stressful since it is not as natural.

Bamboo pictures were taken during a 2008 family trip to Japan.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Gather wood, build fires

Wood pile

Home wood burning stove

I gather wood.
I build fires.
Oh what happiness.
Oh what joy.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving for MN as best trail state

Bicycles on trail at Bassett Creek Park
Walking the dog on trail
I'm thankful to read in today's StarTribune that Minnesota was named by American Trails as the best trails state in the country.  American Trails provides a listing of many different locations of trails across the sate, be they for walking, skiing, snowmobiling, biking, ATV, boating, or horseback riding. 

Way to go Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the multitude of volunteers who work to develop and maintain this vast network of trails across the state of Minnesota.

Horseback rider on trail with dog

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Professional sports lunacy

Full moon
Moon by cherry tree
I read in this morning's paper that the Minnesota Twins will have a challenge to retain some of their key players within what might be the confines of a $125 million dollar budget for salaries.  How is it that professional sports have become so costly?

Pure sport? Unlikely to see it on ESPN. There seems to be an inverse relationship between the amount of press sports get and the purity of the sport. I was hoping to see the results from last Saturday's NCAA Division III National Cross Country meet in Sunday's StarTribune. Seems they didn't have room. Yet, the paper added a separate section on the 100th game being played later in the day between the Green Bay Packers and the Minnesota Vikings football teams. How pathetic that game turned out to be... 

A couple of weeks ago the state cyclocross meet was held with some amazing athletes competing in extreme conditions. Not one word of coverage was provided by the newspaper.  The last article in the StarTribune on cyclocross was three years ago. I've discovered that Ultimate, another wonderful, fast growing sport also receives sportsana non grata status with the media.

Moon with tree silhouettes
I'm finding it increasingly difficult to cheer for sports that have become big businesses, owned by a millionaires, being played by athletes making millions AND who demand publicly funded sports cathedrals, er, ah... stadiums.  Even the Olympics, once only for amateurs, has gone professional.  It has been sad to watch the drug doping that has become increasingly common at this spectacular international event.

Pure sport is about the athleticism, discipline, game smarts, strength and often teamwork. The motivation is simply to do ones best, improving if possible and hopefully winning the game/match/meet/race.  Sadly there are many parents pushing their kids from a very early age into sports, hoping that they might win a college scholarship.  Even more tragic are the millions of youth from disadvantaged environments that dream of becoming athletic superstars, often at the expense of study.

Want to watch a sport where it isn't about the business?  Seems best to watch any sport that doesn't get coverage by the newspaper or television stations.  Better yet, don't watch at all, play!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Nordic ski waxing bench construction

Nordic ski waxing bench
Quick link after modification
Mission accomplished.  I was able to make a waxing table for nordic skis yesterday utilizing instructions from a website on the internet.

The project wasn't without a few minor challenges.  One of my first discoveries was that the quick link, pictured left, had too large a circumference to fit into the ski binding (where the boot secures on to the ski).  I used a grinding wheel to narrow the quick link.  I have since discovered that a 1/8" quick link works without any additional modification needed.

Old bike inner tubes covering 2X6
Next I discovered my jigsaw blade was dull.  I needed the jig saw to cut the 2X6 according to the contour (camber) of the ski.  A trip to the hardware store was needed for the new blade.

Then, the old bike inner tubes that I was hoping to use to cover the 2X6 were too narrow.  The inner tubes make the bench more adherent for the ski being waxed.  A trip to the bike shop solved this problem.

Underside view
Finally, I needed a bolt to loop though the turnbuckle on the lower side of the bench.  I discovered with my improvised pattern that the head of the bolt interfered when I wanted to tighten up the turnbuckle.  I used the grinding wheel to remove the bolt's head.

Like so many projects, things look like they should go smoothly and quickly, and then reality hits.  I'm pleased my persistence was equal to the many little hiccups realized with this project.  Now I'm ready to wax my skis ... and go into business making waxing benches!  Interested in a bench, please let me know.

If you get the right sized turnbuckle, the added block of wood isn't necessary to tighten the ski to your bench.

Bench on platform of 1/2" plywood (16" width x 8' length)


I added a 1/2" plywood platform to the bottom of the bench to catch wax shavings.  On the long edge of the plywood I adheared light weight metal edging (via small 1/2 wood screws). This edging is most commonly used for hanging ceiling tiles. 

Since the wax is scraped from tips to tail, it is best to have a longer overhang on the backend of the platform.

Tail end of platform

Underside of platform

Monday, November 22, 2010

Importance of daydreaming

Great Blue Heron... daydreaming of fishing?

Walking partner on bridge
To balance out an earlier blog entry on "mind-wandering", how about let's hear it for daydreaming!  An article in today's StarTribune by Harvey McKay, a very successful businessman, referenced a study that indicated high achievers think, fantasize and dream constantly about how to improve their performance and achieve their goals.  He recommended keeping a dream journal to keep track of ideas when sleeping at night or napping during the day.  Mr. McKay went on to advise the best way to make those dreams come true is to wake up and get to work ;-)

Tire tracks on road

I've been dreaming about making a waxing table for cross country skis for a week now.  I've done some research on models others have made, so now it is time to quite the dreaming and get it done!

A few pictures of the fresh snow this morning....

Snow on ice

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Joy and calm instead of depression and anxiety

I was delighted to read an article, "Capturing Calm", about Dr. Henry Emmons' holistic psychiatry practice in today’s StarTribune. I was impressed with  the approach he took to dealing with pain and suffering at a workshop he did a few years back for Social Workers. He noted how pain and suffering was universal, but when we learn to accept it and not battle things outside of our control we can live a balanced and joyful life.  It is also vital to have a reserve, from which to draw, during challenging times.  He stressed the importance of resilience and utilizes Buddhist traditions in his practice and teaching. 

Some common sense disciplines Henry recommends include:
  1. Eating healthy foods
  2. Exercising regularly
  3. Getting quality sleep
  4. Reducing anxiety by calming the mind
Dr Emmon's has two books out, "The Chemistry of Joy", and "The Chemistry of Calm".
Morning sun reflection on ice

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Mind-wandering related to unhappiness

Winter willows in reflection
Frozen cherries by pond
A recent study indicated that being focused on the here and now is more likely to bring happiness than letting one's mind wander.  This was reported in a New York Times article, When the Mind Wanders, Happiness Also Strays, by John Tierney.  One of the primary researchers, Dr. Daniel Gilbert noted, "The heart goes where the head takes it, and neither cares much about the whereabouts of the feet.”

Perhaps not too surprisingly, they discoved that people's minds were wandering abut 50% of the time.

They found evidence that mind-wandering caused unhappiness, but not that unhappiness caused mind-wandering.

One word of caution about this study.  It was conducted using subjects with IPhones.  This might not be representative of the general population.

Breaking the icy trail

Trail blazer

Geese taking off from pond

Much to my surprise, when all of the other Canada Geese were flying off the small ice free area of Bassett Creek Pond this week, one stayed behind and diligently broke its own trail through the ice.  I was impressed with its sense of purpose, battling the icy water.  It simply stuck its neck out and flapped its big webbed feet to gradually make its way across the pond, leaving a trail behind. 

Earlier this fall I had a blog entry about the need for people to blaze new trails.  This goose was a shining example for us all!

Canada Geese prints

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Abercrombie and Fitch selling something other than clothing

I’ve crossed Abercrombie and Fitch off my holiday shopping list, and I hope you do to.  They currently have “Naughty or Nice” advertisements in their stores, with models that are mostly pictured without clothes.  Odd for a clothing store, isn’t it?  Their larger than life pictures of models in sexually provocative poses might make sense for a sex store, or perhaps even a gym, but not a clothing store.

For a healthy society we need to balance freedoms with responsibility.  Sadly, Abercrombie and Fitch’s overtly sexual marketing to teens and young adults does not demonstrate responsible marketing.  They’ve earned their unabashedly naughty reputation.  Join me in shopping elsewhere for clothing, where the models actually wear clothes.

PS, If you would like to join me in dropping them a line to express your opinion, an address follows:

Marketing Department
Abercrombie and Fitch
6301 Fitch Path
New Albany, OH 43054

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Safe Harbor: Reducing sex trafficking in Minnesota

Amy Hartman presenting at workshop
Did you know that human trafficking, including sex and labor trafficking, is the second largest criminal industry in the world, behind drugs and ahead of arms?  According to one service provider, 8,000 - 12,000 people are estimated to be involved in prostitution/sex trafficking in Minnesota.  Around the world in 2008 it is estimated $32 billion was spent in the selling and buying of humans.

Michele Garnett McKenzie
Beatriz Menanteau
A workshop recently co-sponsored by The Advocates for Human Rights and Cherish Our Children discussed sex trafficking and explored ways in which the church might help combat this crime against humanity.  Michele Garnett McKenzie, Advocacy Director at the Advocates for Human Rights provided recommended changes for the Minnesota Trafficking laws that will be presented early next year. 

Beatrize Menanteau the staff attorney with Advocates for Human Rights helped clarify legal definitions. Sex trafficking is a form of slavery and involuntary servitude, resulting in grave human rights violations. It involves the "receiving, recruiting, enticing, harboring, providing , or obtaining by any means an individual to aid in the prostitution of the individual or receiving profit or anything of value, knowing or having reason to know it is derived from sex trafficking." Hence, sex trafficking and pimping are part of the same continuum of criminal activity: the sexual exploitation of  women and girls.

Workshop participants
Workshop participants came from St. Barnabus Lutheran (Plymouth) , Valley of Peace Lutheran (Golden Valley) and Our Saviours Lutheran (S Mpls)

Additional note, the November, 2010 Minnesota Christian Chronicle has a couple of articles on the Church's role in working against human trafficking.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Cyclocross in the snow

Race start
Coming around the bend

Charging up the stairs
Race spectator with beer, bell and dollar bill

Cruising on the trail

Heading downhill through the snow

Going up stairs

Carrying bikes up stairs

Morning after trail tracks