Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Insects by the pond

Bassett Creek Park fall photos

Dark clouds and morning light on pond
I submitted a couple of pictures of the pond to the TPT Capture Minnesota website this morning that I thought I might also share on this blog.   These pictures were taken in previous years.
Fall reflection on pond

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Evidence of fraying social safety net

An editorial by Tim Marx the CEO of Catholic Charities indicated how they are now for the first time in 30 years they are having to turn homeless away from their Dorothy Day shelter, due to such tremendous demand (Our capacity to help has been stretched to its limits).

The economic difficulties being experienced by many hit close to home for me yesterday.  I said final farewells to our next door neighbors, who lost their home of 15 years. They could no longer afford their mortgage payments. This family of five will now be renting a home. Later in the day I visited with a bright and delightful man from the northside of Minneapolis who was very soon to be losing his job of the past 10 years with the Salvation Army, due to cutbacks in staffing.

It has becoming increasingly difficult for people to find work that pays enough to support themselves and their families. It is staggering to think that over 37 percent of African-Americans and 39 percent of American Indians are living in poverty here in Minnesota.  As Tim Marx suggests, it is going to take a balance of compassion and common sense to get people back to work.  Hand outs aren't the answer nor is simply cutting taxes or relying and business for all of the solutions.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Minnesota in photos

Milkweed by the pond
Twin Cities Public Television (TPT) is gathering photos of scenes from around the state for the formulation of a Minnesota photo book.  I've both enjoyed submitting and viewing photos.  To see a wide range of pictures, or submit some of your own, visit the website, Capture Minnesota.

The photos that I've submitted can be found by using the search menu near the top of the page.  I'm listed under "Dano".

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Encourage generosity in giving

     Rather than guilting people into giving many growing churches have discovered that even during these difficult times it is better to focus on the joy of giving. 
     Yesterday's StarTribune highlighted this trend with an article, At metro megachurches, a recession-proof gospel of giving. Again, one of life's great paradoxes is that through giving we are blessed, receiving far more than we give.
     One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want. Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.                                       Proverbs 11:24-25

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Sweet Potato Success

The fruits of labor
Despite being told by many, including the mayor of Minneapolis, that sweet potatoes wouldn't grow in Minnesota, pictured left is evidence to the contrary.

Sweet potatoes and melons were just a couple of the many fruits (and vegetables) of labor from Project Sweetie Pie this past summer.  It is great to witness Northside lots being turned into green productive gardens.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Bike ride across Minneapolis

A beautiful start to the day!
I stopped to snap a few pictures yesterday on a bike ride I took to and from a breakfast meeting in St. Paul.  What a dramatically different feeling it was riding a bike through picturesque parts of town, versus driving in traffic on the freeway.  It was also a nice bonus to get in a workout over the course of 32 miles!
Downtown Minneapolis
Old Linden  Hills train depot
along Cedar Lake bike trail
Scenic overlook of Mississippi River
and Minneapolis from St. Paul
Park sculpture
Martin Olav Sabo bike bridge 
over Hiawatha Avenue 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

How to dig out from under national debt

I just watched an interesting video by Elizabeth Warren, a former Harvard Law School professor and candidate for the United States Senate. She discussed how the national debt was incurred and how it might be relieved.  She indicated the nation spent one trillion dollars on tax cuts for the wealthy, two trillion dollars on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and then and additional one trillion on a Medicare drug benefit plan.  To fix the problem she recommended we need to quit doing these things.

She went on to state NOBODY got rich in the United States on their own.  They had workers who were educated with taxpayer support, police and fire support to protect their business which was paid for by others, and roads to transport their goods that were collectively paid for.  She suggested that those who have been financially successful take a significant hunk of what they've earned and pay forward for the next kid that comes along.

This video is available at the following link, Elizabeth Warren on Debt Crisis, Fair Taxation.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Free classes offered in video production

Northwest Community Television
Northwest Community Television provides free classes in video production for residents of their service area (Brooklyn Center, Brooklyn Park, Crystal, Golden Valley, Maple Grove, New Hope, Osseo, Plymouth, and Robbinsdale, Minnesota).  

I've attended the first two of their three part series of two hour long classes...
  • Studio Production
  • Portable Camera Operation 
  • Final Cut Editing  
To start to process one is required to attend an one hour orientation.

Resident producing a show

Then, after completing three classes the expectation is that participants will produce at least one show within six months for broadcast on their public access channels, Channels 19 and 20.  

I don't know quite yet what I will be producing.  My current ideas include a show on volunteer activities within the community/school district, a program on area parks or perhaps a gardening show. 

Interested in learning more?  Click on the Northwest Community Television link above.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Volunteer, its good for your longevity!

Flowers by water's edge
A recent study discovered altruistic volunteers live longer than those who don't volunteer, or those who volunteer simply for personal gain. This research was conducted by Sara Konrath, and others from the University of Michigan, and is reported in a Health Psychology article "Motives for Volunteering are associated with mortality risk in older adults."  The study utilized longitudinal data collected from a group of Wisconsin residents who graduated form high school in 1957.

There is a problem for you and I, now that we've been made aware of the potential to increase our lifespan through volunteering.  It diminishes some of the altruistic motivation for volunteering, hence potentially wiping out the gains available to those who volunteer more for altruistic reasons...

So, now that you know about one more benefit of volunteering, pretend like you never heard it.  Speaking from personal experience, one of the benefits of growing older is that the ability to forget is enhanced!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Class warfare... on the rich?

The audacity of President Obama to suggest that wealthy Americans all be asked to contribute to the deficit reduction plan. Thanks to the complicated tax code, many are able to legally shelter a great deal of their resources from taxes. An article "Obama to propose $1.5 trillion in new tax revenue as part of long-term deficit package" further details his plan.

A newspaper yesterday contained the following article, "Europe's top car brands thrive as ultra-luxury sells out". This is additional evidence of the fact that the wealthy have been getting wealthier, as the poor have been getting poorer.

It seems incredulous that some Republicans have the nerve to call it class warfare, when the president wants everyone to pay their fair share of the nation's taxes.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Apple Orchard

Enjoying the wagons and a sucker
Sisters on hayride



Tree climbing assist
Went to the Minnetonka Orchards, between Ultimate Frisbee games at the polo fields in Maple Plain.  Fun to see the old tractors, kids having fun on the hay wagon and picking apples right off the tree.  With so few children living on farms, this is good exposure to see where food comes from.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Minneapolis at night

Foshay Tower
Street Musician
Took a trip downtown last night to see the Foshay Tower.  I picked up a free pass for two at my local Hennepin County Library through the "Museum Adventure Pass".

Turns out we just missed going up to the top of the Foshay.  They just changed the close of their visiting hours from 9 pm to 7 pm.

Reflection of Foshay and
Wells Fargo Center
Schmitt Music Building

Minneapolis Club and
Wells Fargo Center
So, we wondered around downtown a bit, and looked at the bright lights, and folks out enjoying a Friday night on the town.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Poverty on the rise

A disturbing headline in a recent StarTribune, "State poverty hits 10.8%, incomes slide." Additionally, one in four Minnesotans were considered "near poor", with incomes below 200 percent of the poverty line.  The federal poverty threshed is $11,344 for a single person, or $22,113 for a family of four.

There is a coalition of people that has formed Minnesota without Poverty. This group of adovactes is working to stem this disturbing tide.  They currently have a "2020 Enough for All Campaign" which will be hosting events October 22nd and 23rd.  To find out more visit their "Enough for All" Facebook site.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Canada Geese and a frosty start to the day

Canada Geese morning take off
Overnight we had the first fall frost.  Pictured above is a shot taken earlier this morning at Bassett Creek Park.  The geese like to spend their nights on the pond and then take off for the day, likely in farmers fields.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

French tax on soda

Seems the French don't like the unhealthy effects of soda on their citizens (French soda tax has Coke seeing red). They've proposed a one euro cent per can tax on soft drinks. This has upset the behemoth Coca-Cola, who has threatened to withhold investments in the country.

I don't blame France for not being eager to emulate the USA as a country overflowing with super-sized citizens suffering from diabetes.  A small tax is the least they might do to slow the unhealthy invasion that soda is making in their country and throughout the world.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Concerns raised about over stimulation

Cormorant flying with water's reflection
Seems that watching a fast paced children's television program, SpongeBob, may over tax children's senses and minds so that later they are not fully able to concentrate on their work.  This observation comes from a small study that was published in the Journal of Pediatrics.  Kids who either colored or watched a considerably slower paced television show, "Caillou", performed considerably better on four tasks they were asked to perform following their activity.  This research is briefly described in StarTribune article, "SpongeBob may soak up too much attention".

Referencing the "SpongeBob" group, Dimitri Christikakis, director of the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development at Seattle's Children's Research Institute noted "These children's brains were actually tired from all the stimulation, and then the expectation that they focus on something became a challenge for them." Dimitri went on to reference how the average preschooler spends approximately 4.5 hours a day watching television or DVDs.

Further research is needed to access the long-term affects of fast paced media on children's ability to concentrate.

This study ties into one of my earlier blog postings on "monkey mind".  I dare say that children are not the only ones who may be experiencing difficulty concentrating in this increasingly frenetic world.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Football player salaries and priorities

     I was pleased to have the following letter to the editor printed in last week's StarTribune....
When I saw "Greenway: The $41 million man" in a headline, I immediately thought of the Greenway that means more to me --the Midtown Greenway bicycle trail that runs through a portion of south Minneapolis.   It appears that the cost of land acquisition, trail engineering and construction, along with some infrastructure costs, were shy of $37 million. What a bargain, compared with Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway's new five-year salary.
     The absurd salaries for professional athletes continue with the following headline in yesterday's paper... "An All Day Payday: Vikings give Peterson $100 million for seven years".
     Imagine yourself a young, impressionable American student. Would you be more apt to concentrate on your academics, or your athletics, knowing there might just be a huge payday awaiting you along the lines of Greenway's $41 million or Peterson's $100 million?
     These enormous salary packages are coming at a time when teachers are under fire for their "excessive" benefit packages.  Remind me again about our nation's priorities....

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Last rose of summer

Last of this year's rose flowers
There is a poignancy about flowers just before they begin to drop their peddles.  It seems they're saying, take notice of me now because tomorrow may be too late.  This urgency and beauty is magnified with a setting sun, which reinforces that message all the more.

In the case of roses, their lovely flowers are transformed into rose hips, the fruit of the plant. So it is that the flower must drop its pedals in order to leave behind fruit for the growth of future generations of plants.

This morning I'll be taking pictures of rose buds, the children in our churches Sunday School program.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Grilled sweet corn

Grilled corn on the cob
When I think of savoring summer one of the things that comes to mind is fresh grilled sweet corn.  Nothing much easier to cook, and nothing can be tastier.  What a deal!

I like to soak the sweet corn in water, husk and all, for about 15 minutes before placing it on a hot outdoor grill.  Then grill for about 20-30 minutes, turning the corn a couple of times during the grilling process to assure it gets evenly cooked.  If you like, you can remove some of the outer leaves to speed up the cooking time. It is overcooked if it bends easily.

Allow the corn to cool a bit before husking (taking off the leaves and silk). After husking the corn it helps to run it through some luke warm tap water to remove any additional silk you may have missed. That's about all that is to it.

Since this is prime time of year for sweet corn is now be purchased most cheaply.  Extra corn can be cooked and frozen for later in the year.  To prepare the corn for freezing it is best to remove the kernels from the cob. A sharp knife can be run down along sided the corn to sever the kernels. This is best done with the larger butt end of the corn resting firmly on a cutting board. This is a messy process, as little bits of kernels and juice tend to get randomly launched around the area, so you might want to do it outside or place newspaper under your cutting area. And be careful with the knife, keeping your fingers out of harms way.

Freshly grilled corn on the cob is one way to enjoy the simple joys of summer!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Green Heron

Green Heron

Green Heron looking out
Much to my surprise I got up close to a Green Heron yesterday afternoon on a visit to Bassett Creek Park. I often see these herons, but in the past they typically fly away well before I get near.  This heron was quite focused on fishing near a culvert, and didn't seem too bothered by my presence.

I observed the heron for perhaps a half of an hour.  It wondered up and down a partially submerged log, straining to see fish/minnows in the shallow waters below.  It had no luck while I was watching, and finally flew of for presumably better fishing grounds.

Green Heron walking the log
This experience reminded me of how photography is a lot like fishing.  One sometimes looks and looks and looks, often quite diligently, and is sometimes rewarded, other times not.  But whether or not one gets a fish or photo, it can still be a joy to practice the art, and hone ones skills.

PS  Those are white duck feathers in the water that gather near the pond's outlet.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Value of growing your own food

It's time to harvest garlic
An enlightening program, "1 in 10 Minnesota households struggle with hunger", aired yesterday on Minnesota Public Radio.  It shared a report that indicated 14.5 percent of American households are food insecure.  That's nearly 49 million people.  Here in Minnesota there are half of a million people on food stamps.

Elsewhere a Star Tribune article "Minneapolis garden helps sow community" referenced a garden that was developed by a resident simply for the whole neighborhood's use.  The founder of this garden, Christina Suter Elias, noted the following... "In the native community, there's a saying, 'If you want to control a people, control their food source.'"

Seems during these difficult economic times it makes more sense than ever to reconsider sod yards in order to make room for vegetable gardens.  We can't eat grass... although I'm told dandelion greens are good, and the flowers make for a mean wine. 

Anyone know a good recipe that utilizes creeping charlie?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Yellow Jacket thief

Unburied yellow jacket hive
Much to my surprise I discovered a nicely dug hole, about the size of a basketball, in our yard.  It uncovered an underground yellow jacket's nest.

In researching this on the internet a few possible suspects were provided; fox, skunk or a raccoon.  We've never seen a skunk in the neighborhood, but on occasion have observed fox and raccoon.  Whatever animal did this I tip my hat to.  Those yellow jackets are notorious stingers, and have the capacity to sting more than once.

Any guesses from readers about the yellow jacket digger?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Making a case for a day of rest

Cone flower
"The hurried I go, the behinder I get."

Seems that the ancient Biblical mandate to take one day off of work a week is now being recognized by psychologist and neurobiologists as valuable. Rest it seems is essential for us to think clearly and make quality decisions.  An article in the Denver Post by Electa Draper, Getting a day of rest powerful for even the nonbelievers, briefly describes some of the research being done in this field.

The brain finds a flow of information helpful for decision making, however if it is flooded, much like a car with too much gas, it won't function well.  Somewhat ironically, if the brain is provided quite time to rest it often percolates up ideas and solutions from the subconscious.  Joan Borysenko has written a book "Fried: Why You Burn Out and How to Revive" for busy folks who need a reminder to give their brains a rest in order to be more productive.

Dr. Borysenko, a Harvard trained Biologist and Psychologist, recommendations that we consider the enjoyable hobbies and activities of our youth, and to then schedule time to regularly participate in such activities.  One Amazon website reviewer cited the following excerpt as a summary of Borysenko's book... "To prevent burnout, listen to yourself, rest when you need to, and love your body in the way you eat and what your senses take in...spend time in silence, meditate, take walks in nature. Talk or write, but don't let anything fester." (p. 144)

A personal example. Yesterday a good friend from church called asking if I might want to play touch football that afternoon.  I already had plans, but intend to add it to my Sunday afternoon schedule for the weeks ahead.  Even getting beat long by a teenaged guy beats lying on a couch and watching some overpaid profession football players beat each other up.

What were the things that you enjoyed doing during your younger years? Perhaps it is time to work them back into your schedule.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Minneapolis Farmers Market

Young vendors at the Minneapolis Farmers Market
Enjoyed a visit to one of our favorite places yesterday, the Minneapolis Farmers Market.  It is typically quite busy, but we discovered going shortly before it closed at 2 it was only modestly crowded. Parking wasn't difficult and there seemed to be plenty of vegetables from which to choose. We loaded up on veggies we didn't grow in our garden, such as egg plant and carrots.

The highlight of the visit was to see these three boys working at a stand.  They appeared to be close friends or cousins.  What a great experience for them to learn about sales and the world of work.  They also are selling one of the best products on the planet, vegetables.

Seems that in modern affluent U.S.A. most kids don't need to work to help their families.  Quite to the contrary, commonly children are a major financial expense to a family. Now that most of us don't live on farms there simply are not many needs or opportunities for kids to help their family make a living. How good it feels to be needed and valued for one's role as a contributor.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

In defense of weeds

Yesterday there was a fascinating interview on American Public Media with Richard Mabey, the author of "Weeds: In defense of nature's most unloved plants".

He recognized that weeds were the first food of humankind.  For example, 5,000 years ago lambs quarters was one of the first crops, and remained a crop plant for 4,000 years.  However once more desirable spinich plants were developed it became defined as a weed.

In addition to nutrition, another important role weeds may play is in amending troubled ground.  Where we humans have wrecked the soil the weeds come in to repair it.

All cultivated plants have their origin in wild/natural plants.  Unfortunately many of our cultivated plants are considerably less hearty than their wild ancestors.

Pictured left is one of my favorite 'weeds', Salsify or Goatsbeard.  This was once a popular food, as is recorded in vintage recipes. Love to know if someone has tried utilizing salsify or other 'weeds' in their cooking!  Please let me know.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Big birds of Bassett Creek Park

American Bald Eagle

Great Egret perched
Canada Goose
Pair of Cormorants
It is a treat to observe the variety of large birds and water foul that both visit and occupy the large pond at Bassett Creek Park in Crystal, Minnesota.  These pictures were all taken yesterday.

It is somewhat unusual to see the Great Egret perching in the tree.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Campaign against soda

I read with great interest an article in yesterday's StarTribune, Too much soda in your diet?  It referenced a national campaign being developed by 100 organizations to reduce the public's consumption of soda and artificial juices.  I love the message being shared by the campaign which is set to roll out in Los Angeles... "If you wouldn't eat 22 packs of sugar, why are you drinking it?"

Rational for the anti-soda campaign is provided by a recent study by The Center for Disease Control and Prevention. This study linked the dramatic rise in U.S. obesity rates to sweetened drinks.  They discovered that about half of Americans drink a sugared beverage each day and that males drink more soda than females.  They also found that poor people drink more soda and sweetened beverages than the wealthy.

If you you're still drinking soda, this might be a great time to reconsider your beverage selection and go with something a little less sweetener.  Water is still something of an under appreciated beverage, and need not be purchased in a plastic container.

To learn more about the harmful effects of soda please check out an earlier blog... "Pop or soda, just say no."

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Its zucchini time in Minnesota

Ready or not, zucchini are now in full production mode.  I've already given zucchini to neighbors on both sides of our house and made a couple of loafs of zucchini nut bread. Last night we incorporated zucchini into a pan of quiche. In keeping with my savoring theme I bring you a recipe that I received from my mom.  So you know its good ;-)

Zucchini-Nut Bread

3 eggs                                                      3 C flour
1 C sugar                                                 1 t salt
1 C vegetable oil                                      2 t cinnamon
2 C grated/finely chopped zucchini          1 t baking soda
1T vanilla extract                                      1/4 t baking powder
1 C chopped walnuts                                1/2 cup chocolate chips (I added this)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Beat eggs then stir in wet ingredients and then add the dry ingredients.

Pour into 9" x 5" pan or two 8 1/2" x 4 1/2 " loaf pans.  Bake approximately for 1:20 minutes.

PS  For more ideas on how to utilize zucchini, the StarTribune has an article in today's paper, Ways to use up zucchini bounty.