Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Global warming, who me worry?

Interesting article, "Why aren't we more worried about global warming", in the MinnPost by Don Shelby. He wonders why, when 97% of the world's climate scientists and experts believe global warming to be occurring as the result of human activity, two thirds of Americans still believe there is a lot of debate among scientist about climate change.  Among the naysayers are the current group of Republican presidential candidates.  Could their indifference possibly be related to the interests of big business, or could it be fear of upsetting the comfortable, wasteful habits of affluent Americans? As Al Gore's movie so succinctly stated, it is indeed an inconvenient truth.

This article suggests that rather than point people to frightening scenarios, it is better to win others over by relating to ways in which they can be a part of the change.  People are more likely to work toward change when they can be convinced of the benefits to human health, rather than reacting to frightening scenarios.

The increasingly severe weather patterns will hurt most those living in poverty, who have little shelter from the elements or financial reserves.  The wealthy have more buffers to insulate themselves from the multitude of harmful effects of climate change.  It is without doubt that our nation's decision makers are much more sensitive to the needs of big business and wealthy campaign donors and lobbyist than they are to others less affluent.  So, it is that we must continue to advocate and work to gain the attention of our nation's policy makers, many of whom don't seem to terribly concerned that their continued inaction may lead our world's state of health to a point of no return.  And, as I've come to more fully appreciate, we must be the change we want to see in the world.

Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world; indeed it is the only thing that ever has.   Margaret Mead

Monday, November 28, 2011

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk in Cottonwood tree
Red-tailed Hawk in morning sun
I spied a large Red-tailed Hawk when it perched on a cottonwood tree out in front of our home yesterday morning.  At first it was hard to tell whether it was a hawk or an owl, given its large size and coloring.

After 5-10 minutes of taking shots of this handsome raptor it flew off to another side of the pond.  I hiked over to see if I could find it again.  Turns out this wasn't hard, since a small flock of crows were gathered in trees around it, and were kicking up a ruckus.  Seems they wanted to let the whole neighborhood know about this potential danger.

Mink on the run 
When it flew across a stream I once again had to hike and track it down.  While hiking across a walking bridge I spotted a mink lumbering over the frozen stream.  I'm thinking that might have been one of the reasons this hawk picked a nearby limb for its perch.

I was surprised that the hawk allowed me to get within about 10 yards or so, while it watched for prey below.  It didn't seem put off by my encroachment in the least, and rarely even glanced my way.  I did however catch a glance in the photo above right. Note the 180 degree head swivel for this stare.

Exercise pill, how American is that?

There is an old joke frequently told about an obese person who vowed to do anything to lose weight, with the exception of only two things; diet and exercise.  While there are countless dieting related drugs, research is being done at the Mayo clinic to develop a drug that mimics the effects of exercise.  What a dream come true for many.  Just imagine, one set of pills for dieting and another for exercise!

While the initial intent is to make this drug available for people too weak to exercise, something tells me if it is effective it could be a hot seller for a nation struggling with an obesity epidemic.  The development of this exercise drug is partially described in an article "Mayo focuses on 'healthspan'".

As I've often lamented citizens of the US seem to primarily value things that are quick, easy and cheap.  The opportunity to pop a pill instead of exercising would hit on two out of these three values.

What an exercise pill won't do is to get one outside, breathing fresh air and listening to the birds sing.  An exercise pill also won't release the endorphins that comes with strenuous activity.  Of course, there just might be another pill to do that...
Minnesota Cyclocross Championship at Bassett Creek Park

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Scarcity versus abundance mentalities

With limited quantities of "door buster" merchandise, thousands of people stood in long lines all across the country. Then with store openings shoppers were sharply elbowing each other to get their prized deals before others snatched them up. One shopper in Los Angles, California even used pepper spray to keep her competitors away from her electronic purchase.

People are not typically at their best when they have a scarcity mentality.  This kind of thinking promotes fear and mistrust of others.  It leads to competitive behavior that starts out with a win-lose outlook and then in the long-term often results in lose-lose destructive encounters, such as was exhibited by the shopper using pepper spray. All end up suffering.

In sharp contrast, an abundance mentality generates cooperative, win-win, decision making.  It produces love, and fosters generous behavior.  Flow charts of scarcity mentality (the law of deprivation) and abundance mentality (the law of extension), submitted by Harry Owens, are available from a Healing Healthcare Association website.

So much of today's political discourse seems to be feeding into this scarcity mentality, and hence a lose-lose end result.  Let's hope that our political leaders can once again learn to be respectful of other's perspectives, and instead of attacking behavior they think collaboratively and creatively together toward solutions.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Priorities and lines

I couldn't help but connect a couple of very divergent stories in the news yesterday, both which were about people waiting in lines.  The first came from Moscow, Russia, where it was noted people were waiting 24 hours in a line to see and possibly kiss what was thought to be the belt of the Virgin Mary (Tens of thousands of Russians brave cold, line up to see newly arrived Virgin Mary's belt).  It was thought by some the belt could bring special reproductive powers, among other things.

Here in the United States there were lines of shoppers all across the country. At the Mall of America, in Bloomington, Minnesota there were 15,000 people at the doors when they opened at midnight (Black Friday midnight openings: No going back).  They expected to see 200,000 shoppers by day's end.  Many of these shopper's belts may have been busting after recently eating their Thanksgiving meal. I connected these stories by their vastly different rationale for what people believed was worth waiting for, utilizing their precious life's energy and time.  For what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world, and forfeits his life? Or what will a man give in exchange for his life?   Matthew 16: 26

There has been some outrage in the US over many large store chains who moved up their Black Friday shopping times such that thousands of store employees were required to leave their Thanksgiving gatherings early.  The store management indicated they had to do this in response to "customer needs".

E.F. Schumacher, a British economist, and author of "Small is Beautiful, Economics as if people mattered",  had the following wisdom related to this consumption frenzy... An entirely new system of thought is needed, a system based on attention to people, and not primarily attention to goods.

In response to all the hype generated by "Black Friday" some have chosen to protest with "Buy Nothing Friday", while today others will be supporting "Buy Local Saturday".

Friday, November 25, 2011

Ice cracks on the pond

What do these ice cracks on the pond appear to look like to you?  I'm thinking dendrites or synapse from our nervous system.  How about tree roots, branches, or perhaps leaf veins?  A river?

Interesting to see nature's designs repeated in different ways and places.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

National day of Thanksgiving and Humility

Our pastor, Christine Bellefeuille, delivered a well received sermon yesterday at Valley of Peace that had at its heart a recommendation that we reconsider naming Thanksgiving to a national day of Humility.  It was the first time at our church that I heard applause after the sermon. Pastor Chris noted how none of us can claim total responsibility for our success, or even the food on our table. We depended upon drivers, farmers, store workers and countless others for our daily existence. She referenced Elizabeth Warren's observation that none of us became successful on our own.

Suburban turkey
“You built a factory out there? Good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police-forces and fire-forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory — and hire someone to protect against this — because of the work the rest of us did.
     Being a national holiday, she also read President Barrack Obama's Thanksgiving proclamation.
Another Thanksgiving thought from Newark Mayor, Cory Booker's Facebook page...
     We drink from wells of freedom and opportunity we did not dig. We must give thanks not in words but in continuing this tradition of service.

So, as you are loading up on your Thanksgiving meal today add a slice of humble pie to the menu. Enjoy it in honor of all those upon whom we depend for our blessed existence.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Community Thanksgiving meal

Serving staff and volunteers

Kitchen crew
Serving crew
In celebration of Thanksgiving a first class meal was served to about 150  family members by the Oasis of Love yesterday.  The event was at the Family LIFE Centre in Crystal, Minnesota,  and was sponsored by the Donovan McNabb Fund. It was nice to watch Mr. McNabb along with a couple of other Minnesota Viking Football players and their family members in white aprons serving the meals and visiting with the guests.  They were most gracious.

Dining plate
Donovan McNabb visting a guest
The meals were prepared by Chef Jeff, who in addition to to his catering business also does training in food preparation and service.  Volunteers from Project Sweetie Pie also were actively involved in serving the meals and gathering well over 100 winter coats for the children and their family members.

After the meal winter coats and a variety of gifts were provided to those in attendance.  A massage therapist was also on hand to alleviate some stress.

On a personal note, I visited with one of the men in attendance. He had moved from Memphis, Tennessee to Minneapolis just within the past year and a half. He share something of his life story of being in prison for 20 years. Despite the cold Minnesota winters was extremely thankful for the quality social service system in Minnesota that has supported him in transitional housing.  He was most pleasant to visit with, and now is serving as a minister to others.  He hadn't eaten anything all day in anticipation of this special meal.  I was glad to see he wasn't disappointed.
Donovan McNabb, Pastors Diane and Rufus Thibodeaux and Michael Jenkins

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Solution to US defense budget reduction

     US Defense Secretary, Leon Panetta, is mightily concerned about the impact of budget cutting on military spending.  He warned last week:  "It's a ship without sailors. It's a brigade without bullets. It's an air wing without enough trained pilots..." A partial transcript of an interview with Secretary Panetta and radio broadcast is available at NPR.
     Seems to me that one solution might be to sell some of the Pentagon's ships and planes and and to reduce the number of brigades.  Certainly we must still have a few allies in NATO or elsewhere around the globe who might be interested in purchasing some of our military hardware, particularly if they knew the US would no longer be the world's policeman.  Wouldn't it be nice to attack our deficit by turning some of our long-term ongoing expenses into revenues?  And if perchance we can't sell all of that military gear to other nations, we could melt it down and turn it into plowshares, for people to use on their Victory Gardens.  Idealistic? I certainly do hope so!
     While I'm being idealistic, it would be great to see a change in focus for The School of Americas aka The Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation.  It currently serves as a US Army training school that teaches soldiers and military personnel from Latin American countries in subjects like counter-insurgency, military intelligence and counter-narcotics operations.  Wouldn't it be beautiful to see their mission redirected to peaceful conflict resolution through negotiation? Members of the US Congress should all be required to attend such a course.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Stores encroaching on national holiday

     Seems that many of our nation's big store chains are moving up their "Black Friday" sales times, some even into Thursday evening.  Best Buy and Target are two stores that are being targeted by petitions to end this unfriendly employee practice on the website  Following is the rationale for signing the Target petition being promoted by  
     A midnight opening robs the hourly and in-store salary workers of time off with their families on Thanksgiving Day.  By opening the doors at midnight, Target is requiring team members to be in the store by 11 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. A full holiday with family is not just for the elite of this nation -- all Americans should be able to break bread with loved ones and get a good night's rest on Thanksgiving!
Join me in calling for Target retail stores to push back their original opening time of 5am on Black Friday.     
     There are thousands of others who are choosing to send a signal to stores that they're interested in avoiding all together the feeding frenzy of Black Friday.  Adbusters is promoting "Buy Nothing Day" on November 25th.  They are encouraging consumers to buy less, to buy local and purchase fair trade produce and or products. They've got a thought provoking question for the Christmas season... "What would Jesus buy?".  

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Minnesota State Cyclocross Championships

Beer in route
Race Official
Riding through sand pit
Second place finisher, CJ Faulkner

Elite men's champion, Jordan Cullen
Yesterday the state cyclocross championships were held at Bassett Creek Park.  I enjoyed watching and taking pictures at this annual event. Like last year, snow added to the adverse conditions of wind and cold.  The championships take place over much of the morning and afternoon, with races for varying levels of riders, both male and female.

The top tier of riders were on the course for an hour.  As you might imagine, theirs was a highly competitive race.  Despite the intensity, there was also a certain festive atmosphere.  A group of drummers was stationed at the top of a long stairway that the riders climbed, people gamely rang cow bells and dollars were placed at points on the course for the riders to pick up in route.  Some riders even sipped beer near the top of the stairway, provided by the cheering spectators.

Drum corps
The top riders didn't stop for beer or dollars.  They were all out to do their best and win if possible.  That is the price one pays for intense focus, there is no time for distraction along the way.  There is only one "winner", and to stand atop of the podium requires considerable discipline. Hats off to this year's winner, Jordan Cullen, who ironically hails from Hudson, Wisconsin.
Start of elite men's race

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Who's holding the safety net?

Seems the "six billion dollar question" floating around at the local and national political level in the US is who is responsible to care for those in need?  The political right have mocked those on the left for supporting a "nanny state".  The "nanny budget" supports things like caring for those with physical disabilities, the mentally ill, sick and homeless.  This social services budget, significant as it is, pails in comparison to nearly 60 percent of the nation's budget dedicated to military spending.

The Reverend James Gertmenian wrote a thoughtful article on our diminished support for the shared good in a MN Post article "A culture of contempt: The selfishness of our lesser natures has taken over vast regions of the national soul."  He notes that the ideal of a common good has been replaced by hyper-individualism, libertarian self-involvment, ideological purity and anti-intellectual fervor.  As a person of faith Rev. Gertmenian is distraught that the root of this burgeoning culture of disrespect for the poor, earth, science and the Other is being claimed by some to be rooted in Christianity.

While religious organizations, family and neighbors can and should all care for others in need, they are  in no position to take on the significant role that our tax supported government plays in assuring the care for the most vulnerable of society.  Places of worship and nonprofits have helped with food shelfs and emergency shelters, etc, however this level of support is minuscule in comparison to the government's role in providing aid.  Even many of the "faith based" charities providing support to those in need, such as Lutheran Social Services, Catholic Charities, and the Salvation Army receive significant government funding.

Given the current economic crisis it appears likely that severe cuts will be occurring, and will most likely be impacting the most vulnerable within our society, who don't have well paid lobbyist in Washington advocating for their bottom lines. In order for the government's role supporting the safety net to continue  during this economic downturn is more important than ever that citizens remind their political leaders of this responsibility. Heading up our churches stewardship drive this year I know with great confidence that we are in no way prepared to take over the government's role in providing social services to those in our community.  Now if we could just levy taxes on our members.....  ;-)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Six word stories. What is yours?

I recently read about a six word story contest.  It is based on the classic short story Ernest Hemingway wrote, "For sale: baby shoes, never worn."

Here is my crack at a few short stories.... 
  • Short cut. Easy street. Dead end.
  • Heavy lift. Bad back. Long rest.
  • Big gamble. Bad luck. Collection agency.
  • Lucky duck meets luckier hunter. Roasted.
  • Chestnuts meet an open fire. Toasted.
  • Global climate change. I’m feeling hot.
  • English major needed: must be parsimonious.
  • Ugly model learning trade isn’t pretty.
  • Weak leader meets strong opposition. Revolution!
  • Who me worry? Unemployment really stinks.
  • Hot start-up. Cold Economy. Fire sale.
  • "Economic recovery", unemployed need not apply.
  • Uninsured American has bad accident; homeless.
  • Smart aleck meets bad ass.  Ouch!
  • Trigger happy. Anger Issues.  Life sentence. 
  • Smell gas? Got a light? Intensive Care.
  • Big gambler with hot hand. Bingo!
  • Beware of the unknown. What’s that?
  • Eat, drink... be merry. What next?
Ideas for six word stories?  Post them in comments.

Ice formation on the pond

Intricate designs on the newly formed ice

It has been an exceptionally mild fall.  Finally the weather is now starting to feel much more seasonal; read COLD.  Ice was forming around the sides of the Bassett Creek Pond.  I was intrigued with the structure the ice took.  Some areas were very three dimensional, and had amazing and interesting designs.

Frozen leaf image and submerged leaf

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Nonprofit mission drift

Within the past couple of days I've visited with people who were stunned and then spitting tacks mad about how nonprofit organizations they had come to value and count on over the years had dramatically changed their operations.  Both of the parties I spoke with felt that despite long standing expertise and commitments these agencies had to their core missions, they had recently shifted to other areas of programming. They sensed that these changes we brought on by new funding opportunities.

In one case an adoption agency was no longer offering temporary foster homes for new born babies.  This long standing nonprofit was now focusing on hard to place teens and international adoptions. Both of these services are already being provided by a number of other adoption agencies. They had recently licensed a number of temporary foster home providers, who then needed to go through a lengthy relicensing process with another adoption agency to continue to serve babies. No forewarning of this change was provided to staff or volunteers.

Another Minneapolis neighborhood center dramatically reduced its after school programming to grade school children and youth. Instead, they are now focusing on early childhood education.  The community activist I spoke with had children in the neighborhood was doubly upset, since the one park in their area was recently closed by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation. The park was then sold, unbeknownst to neighbors,  for a dollar to the neighborhood community center, which doesn't seem to be providing much if any staffing for the park.  When this concerned parent asked about what is being done for the multitude of kids in his neighborhood he was rebuffed by staff and the board of directors of this agency. In response he may generate a neighborhood petition requesting a hearing of people from the community by this nonprofit, with hopes that services will be provided for the large diverse groups of neighborhood kids with no positive outlets.

The Twin Cities United Way has shifted from funding general operating support to only supporting three primary focus areas;  basic needs, hunger and health.  So, many nonprofits that had a certain amount of autonomy to determine their community/constituent needs now are no longer eligible for funding unless they can make these programs fit within those guidelines.

To this observer with 27 years of work in the nonprofit sector it seems unfortunate that rather than focusing on core areas of strength some nonprofits are straying into other programming areas, lured by new funding opportunities.  They do this at their own peril.  Long time individual volunteers and donors or neighborhood constituents should be considered in such important program changes. Making decisions about programing only in response to funding opportunities is not a responsible way to run an organization. This is short sighted. Money follows mission. By narrowing their focus the United Way has made it more difficult for many nonprofits to sustain their previous program operations and core competencies, thus aiding mission shift.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Picking up horse manure for compost

Big pile of horse manure with rake
Compost in the making aka manure loaded in car
Farm dog
Yesterday I drove out west of town to a horse riding stable to pick up a load of manure for the garden.  It felt great to be a part of a symbiotic relationship, utilizing a waste product for a good use.

While out at the riding stable I couldn't help but snap a few shots.
"Puppy Love"

While we have got a very cute dog at home, I have to confess that this barn yard dog was mighty cute too, with his little stick he was carrying around.

Lower right is one of the many horses, "Puppy Love", that was at the riding stable.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Building raised beds

I have a neighbor who had had some 2x6 pine boards he no longer needed after he put in a new floor in his garage.  I mentioned I was interested in building raised beds. He readily offered to give me the boards instead of throwing them out.

I had one of those math word problems on my hands, trying to figure out how to utilize these 2"x6"x6", 2"x6"x8" and 2"x6"x10"s in the construction of three raised beds.

After I did the math, it turned out I could make three raised beds of of 52" x 34" and 15" in height.  Some of the boards were painted white, others were untreated.  I treated them all with some stain that I purchased for $7.00 at Home Depot.  It had been returned, so was heavily discounted.

The only "major" expense thus far in this project was the purchase of two 4"x4"x 8' cedar posts for the corners.

I'm hoping to use the same successful mixture of soil, vermiculite, peat moss and horse manure that the 4-H used at their Victory Peace Garden, which I helped to launch earlier in the year.  That garden was also on a south facing slope.  It was very productive and almost weed free.  

It feels great to construct something useful out of largely recycled material.  It is both inexpensive plus helps the environment. A win, both for me and mother earth.  What's not to like about that?

Gambling: more harm than good

A  headline article in today's StarTribune  "Gambling Debate: A wager on the States' Future", speaks to considerable interest among many to raise funds for the state through the expansion of gambling.  I've posted on this topic before, including "Taxes and gambling: why not combine", where I suggested, tongue in cheek,  taxes might be paid through a "Taxino", where prizes could be occassionally paid out to lucky contributors.  This in response to people's interest in what's in it for me, and the thrill of possibly striking it rich without having to work.

Seems ironic that many, including conservatives, are in support of raising revenues that encourage gambling, especially among those least able to afford it.  As former Minnesota governor Arnie Carlson notes "The entrance into gambling by government is a huge, huge mistake. You are fundamentally enticing people into a system of false rewards and it tends to victimize people in the lower income."

The other significant concern with the expansion of gambling by the government is that it would yet again pull resources away from the Native American people who were given special benefits through the gambling aka "gaming" industry. Good Lord knows we've already broken countless promises and treaties with Native Americans over the past few centuries in this country.

What's not to like about the expansion of gambling?  A lot.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Veterans Day Memorial Event

Vietnam Veterans Memorial    "We were young. We died. Remember us."

Only 50 yards from the Veterans for Peace group was another gathering of military veterans recognizing Memorial Day. They met around the Vietnam War Memorial located on the south end of Minnesota State Capital grounds.  

The primary speaker of the event was a mother who had lost her only child.  He died in combat as Ranger during the war in Afghanistan.  By enlisting in the military after 9/11 he was following in his grandfathers footsteps, who, from an early age, was something of a hero to this young man. 

This mother told of how since her son's loss she has been supported by vets, especially those from the Vietnam war.  She also indicated appreciation of the military that make it possible for her to feel safe sleeping at home, not having to worry about terrorist or foreign invaders. 

Sadly, there are many living in this country that worry nightly about the safety of their homes and neighborhood. For many they even worry about their children's safety coming and going from school.  I'm reminded of the slogan "wage peace, not war".  

Friday, November 11, 2011

11-11-11 and Veterans for Peace

I'm planning to head over to the Minnesota State Capital today for an Armistice Day bell-ringing ceremony commemorating the end of World War I at 11 a.m.  A program will start at 10:30 with music and readings, then there will be bell ringing at the south end of the State Capital grounds and throughout much of the city, at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of the 11th year of the century.  After the tolling of the bells 11 peace doves will be released.  Interested in learning more, you may call 612-821-9141.
Release of 11 doves

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Reflections on Andy Rooney the Curmudgeon

It was entertaining to read a story of the recently deceased news commentator Andy Rooney,  "America needs a new curmudgeon".  I must confess to being a long time fan of Mr Rooney's curmudgeonly commentaries.

In the spirit of Andy I would like add my own cantankerous reflection on daylight savings time....

Doesn't it bother you to have to go throughout the house and change your clocks twice a year to keep up with the changes for day light savings time?  We really don't save an hour of daylight by changing our clocks.  If that were the case wouldn't we be making these changes more frequently than twice yearly?

Though we don't actually "save" daylight, many of us do lose an hour each year "springing ahead" or "falling back" our various clocks on the walls, radios, stoves, microwaves and cars. And then there are watches and programmable thermostats we must also adjust. If you still have a VCR that needs programming, God help you, or better yet, a techno saavey teenager. Seems each of these devises have their own method of changing, so it can be a matter of relearning how to set these darn things every six months.  I don't know about you, but that's something I've come to dread.

So, I would humbly suggest we scrap this national daylight savings time plan and join Arizona and Hawaii with a standardized time year round across the nation.   If some people need to change their work schedules to be outside during the daylight hours, by all means, please alter their schedules, just  don't subject the rest of us to the pain of changing all of our clocks twice annually and all the frustration this involves.  I think that Andy Rooney would agree.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The story of broke

Our tax dollars being extorted by lobbyist
Annie Leonard has put together a series of short, informative videos that call into question the rampant consumerism that is bankrupting the United States and destroying the environment.  Her most recent video "The story of broke", shares how this country is still spending vast sums of money on a 'dinosaur' economy.  Millions and billions of tax dollars are going to extravagant military expenses and subsidizing corporate farming, while providing loop holes for huge corporations.  Despite this uncontrolled spending, government leaders, heavily influenced by lobbyist, claim the country is broke,  and are so are reducing funding for education and inadequately subsidizing environmentally sustainable efforts.  It seems we need to radically shift our government spending habits and priorities.  Communicating with politicians and voting for those that share our values has never been more critical in order to change the tide that is bankrupting this nation.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Students perform at Orchestra Hall

Robbinsdale All-District Elementary Choir, Armstong and Cooper Symphonic Bands and Orchestras, Bell Canto, Cantori and Concert Choirs 
Guest conductor, Kathy Salzman Romey
Students performed an amazing concert last night at Robbinsdale Area Schools 38th Annual Fall Music Festival.  Hundreds of choir and orchestra members sang and played beautifully to a sold out hall of parents, family members and friends.  The evening's performances were capped off by a series of Polovetsion Dances from Prince Igor by Alexander Borodin.  The guest conductor, Kathy Saltzman Romey, demonstrated great mastery at the podium and also provided the audience with some musical insights to the music that was performed.

Robert Peterson from the Minnesota American Directors Association presented certificates of appreciation to the choral directors in conjunction of the 50th anniversary of this organization.  He referenced Minnesota as the "Land of 10,000 Choirs".  Indeed we are blessed with so many outstanding choirs starting from the elementary level on up through the colleges and then in churches and other professional and informal choruses.

The director of the Metropolitan Boy's Choir, Bea Hasselman, has even has established a choir at a prison in Red Wing, Minnesota.  She noted how that one of the inmates after singing a particularly meaningful song felt something wet on his cheek.  He didn't know what it was...

Music is a great medicine for the soul.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Coats for kids

Coat drive collection
John Martin right
I helped pick up coats for kids last week in North Minneapolis.  The organizer of this event, John Martin, is planning to have a distribution of coats on the day after Thanksgiving at the Urban League.

We stopped by about 8 locations where John had placed collection boxes on the Northside. Micky's Liquor, pictured left, was the biggest contributor.

Sadly there are growing numbers of people living in extreme poverty.  A recent article in the StarTribune, Poorest poor hit record high, documents this disturbing trend.

Interested in donating a coat or making a financial donation to help this effort, just let me know.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Hooded Mergansers visit park

Double dating Hooded Mergansers... males first it appears
Couples dilemma... right or left?

It has been a pleasure to watch the Mergansers these past couple of weeks visit the pond at Bassett Creek Park.  They are on their migration south.  No doubt that when it gets just a bit cooler and the ice starts to stay on the pond, they'll be long gone.
Males Hooded Mergansers posturing in front of mallards
They are beautiful birds.  Much like the colorful Wood Ducks, they are also skittish around people.

They're big divers, and feed upon small fish, crustaceans and aquatic insects.