Sunday, September 30, 2012

Capture Minnesota Photos

Over the past year I've enjoyed posting pictures on the Capture Minnesota website, along with hundreds of other photographers around the state. It has been fun to see the wide range of pictures taken from folks around Minnesota.

I was pleased to have a couple of pictures selected for the Capture Minnesota book that was produced this past spring.  With hundreds of photographs still coming every day they will be producing another book this coming winter.

Pictured below are some of the shots that I've uploaded to this site.  You can find more when you're on the Capture Minnesota site by searching under the name "Dano".

Friday, September 28, 2012

Government funding of faith-based nonprofits

It was interesting to read about how Hennepin County tax dollars are being spent.  Listed among many  organizations in the county's 2011 financial statement recipients in the Public Aid category were: 

Catholic Charities: $293,526
Greater Minneapolis Council of Churches, $150,264
Jewish Family and Children’s Services, $587,608
Lutheran Social Services, $566,912

Many faith-based organizations, such as these, rely heavily on county, state and federal tax dollars to provide services.  So, when it is suggested that the government slash funding for social services, and allow churches, temples, mosques and faith based organizations to pick up the slack, it would dramatically reduce services provided by many faith-based nonprofits serving those in need. 

Presidential candidate Mitt Romney belongs to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which has a strong expectation of its members to give 10 percent to the church, some of which is targeted to help out Mormans in need. This level of giving is not nearly as great among most other religious groups.  Even though individual giving to places of worship may be high, they commonly prioritize their own financial needs (church mortage, pastor, music, lights, heat…) before feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, or caring for orphans, the mentally/physically ill, children and the elderly. Knowing that churches and faith-based groups can't do it alone, we developed a social contract in this country that includes paying taxes to care for those most in need.

An article “How Romney/Ryan would undermine churches and faith-based charities" elaborates how unrealistic it would be for the faith community to adequately respond to proposed government cuts.  There is simply no way on God's green earth that faith-based organizations and places of worship could  or would fill the void left by taking away tax supported medicare, medicaid, food stamps, and social security. If we remove the safety net there will be millions of people falling through, with little if anything to support them.

Some of us were born with strong family connections, bright minds, good looks, physical and mental health, the right color and gender, enjoyed nutritional meals, were competitive, lived in safe neighborhoods, attended the right schools, and made good investments. Others were far less fortunate. Some call taxes to support those less fortunate a "redistribution of wealth", for others it is simply a just and compassionate response.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Canada Geese in flight

Taking off for the day (frontside)
Taking off for the day (backside)
The geese at Bassett Creek Park have a habit of taking off at dawn and returning at dusk.  Those of us who walk around the park appreciate this habit, as they are less likely to leave their goose poop on the sidewalks.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Cultivating change through gardening

Cabbage from the garden
It was great to read about vegetable gardens that have been developed at Minnesota prisons (Cultivating Change).  Gardening is not only good for the soul, the vegetables are also good for our nutrition.  Kudos to those responsible for developing and passing a statute that directs the Minnesota Department of Corrections to consider establishing gardens at facilities where space and security allow.

One of the prisoners at Red Wing, Cory Shilling, reflected on his gardening experience... "It sounds cliched. But doing something for someone else, feeding hungry children... it builds self-esteem. I had to come to prison to learn it, and I'm grateful for the lesson."

Monday, September 24, 2012

The power of walking

Recently I was visiting with a fellow walker about the tremendous return on investment (ROI) that one gets from walking.  It takes very little other than some of our time, a good pair of shoes and comfortable clothing to enjoy the many benefits of walking.

According to researchers, just 30 minutes of regular brisk walking - about the pace if you are trying to reach a bus before it pulls away - can help lower your cholesterol, risk of stroke and some cancers, and it can improve your cognitive function and blood pressure.  How's that for a great ROI?

An article in USA Weekend, "The power of walking", speaks to the growing trend in walking among Americans; 145 million and counting.  Unfortunately, there are still too many people think they need to buy a fancy sweatsuit and gym membership to get some exercise, when all they really need to do is lace up their shoes and head out the door for a walk.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Lefse and a 5K

It was a blast to run a 5K trail run yesterday, sponsored by the City of Lakes Loppet.  The running courses they planned for the Loppet 5K, 13.1K and half marathon all went through a scenic and VERY hilly Theodore Wirth Park.

Prize mug
Being of Norwegian ancestry it felt like an auspicious start to the race when we were offered Mrs. Olson's Potato Lefse.  I couldn't help but enjoy a pre-race snack.

Following the run there was live music, Surly beer and more lefse!  For those of us who rode our bikes we were rewarded with an extra cup of beer.  I was extra pleased to receive a handcrafted mug, filled with beer, as a result of placing second in the 5K race.  I must confess that three beers before noon is a bit more than I'm used to ;-)  Thankfully I avoided any bike accidents on the ride home, and a possible RUI (riding while intoxicated).

Saturday, September 22, 2012

International Day of Peace and the Peace Pilgrim

Did you know that yesterday, September 21st, was the International Day of Peace?  Neither did I until just  yesterday.  I guess it just isn't a big commercial hit, like such an important holiday as Halloween.    

While researching this topic I was surprised to learn of a woman who became "Peace Pilgrim" and walked 25,000 miles as a penniless sojourner, while sharing the message of peace.  Following are some of her thoughts about attaining inner peace.  More detail is provided from the Peace Pilgrim website.


1. Assume right attitude toward life

2. Live good beliefs.

3. Find your place in the Life Pattern.

4. Simplify life to bring inner and outer well-being into harmony.


1. Purification of the bodily temple.

2. Purification of the thoughts.

3. Purification of the desires.

4. Purification of motives.


1. Relinquishment of self-will.

2. Relinquishment of the feeling of separateness.

3. Relinquishment of attachments.

4. Relinquishment of all negative feelings.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Climate change video... "Our Biggest Challenge"

Check out "Our biggest challenge" video produced with help from Bill Nye, David Attenborough, Richard Alley and Isaac Asimov.  This four minute video addresses the challenge of global climate change.

Even the small things which we to be better stewards of the environment can make a big difference.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Obesity rates climbing at alarming rates

Going for a walk
Americans are getting fat, it is undeniable.  An article "F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America's Future 2012, notes how if things don't change, over half of all Americans will be obese by the year 2030. This would result in a rise of obesity-related disease rates and corresponding spike in health care costs.

In order to curb our nation's growing weight problem the following recommendations were made:

  • Fully implement the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, by implementing the new school meal standards and updating nutrition standards for snack foods and beverages in schools;
  • Protect the Prevention and Public Health Fund;
  • Increase investments in effective, evidence-based obesity-prevention programs;
  • Fully implement the National Prevention Strategy and Action Plan;
  • Make physical education and physical activity a priority in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act;
  • Finalize the Interagency Working Group on Food Marketed to Children Guidelines;
  • Fully support healthy nutrition in federal food programs; and
  • Encourage full use of preventive health care services and provide support beyond the doctor’s office. 
  • Wednesday, September 19, 2012

    Bassett Creek
    We recently had a third of an inch of rain, which caused a dry creek bed to flow with water.  The rippling water and morning sun made for a beautiful glistening pattern.

    Like much of the United Sates we have had a dry summer and start to fall.  Many of the trees are prematurely losing their leaves.  

    Tuesday, September 18, 2012

    American Goldfinches

    American goldfinches like to flock together at the north end of the pond at Bassett Creek Park.  They perch on the large pussy willows and other brush that grows by the shore.

    Pictured at right are some of the females, who aren't quite as brightly colored as the males.

    These finches also enjoy snacking on sunflower seeds from our backyard feeder. As you might imagine, a flock of them can go through a lot of seeds quickly.

    Monday, September 17, 2012

    Inconvenient truth about football

    A StarTribune article, The truth behind the death of a Vikings legend, noted how researchers are discovering that the physical impact from games like football is likely causing repetitive brain trauma. Thanks to Wally Hilgenberg's family for donating his brain to researchers in Boston.  This however presents an inconvenient truth about the long-term consequences of football, a popular American sport.

    Instead of passively watching football it would be far for people's physical and mental health to choose from the great abundance of non contact sports and just "do it". As for people that want to continue to play the game, it is still a free country!  Just don't expect me to watch your games.

    PS  I have great admiration for Wally and Mary Hilgenberg and their son Eric.  For many years they mentored Matt, a young man through Kinship.  Matt came from a troubled home environment in South Minneapolis.  Thanks in large part to the encouragement and support he received from the Hilgenbergs he graduated from law school. Eric Hilgenberg serve as the best man at his wedding.

    PSS Minnesota Public Radio had a show on this topic just this morning, Is the NFL concerned by head injuries?

    Sunday, September 16, 2012

    Blue and White

    Great Blue Heron and Great Egret
    It was a treat to see a Great Egret and a Great Blue Heron side by side a the pond this morning.

    A heron is blue,
    an egret is white.
    Together they fish,
    both day and night.

    What a beautiful sight!

    Nearby the Swamp Milkweed was disbursing its seeds, while glistening in the morning sun.
    Swamp Milkweed

    Saturday, September 15, 2012

    Gray Catbird

    Gray Catbird
    I was a bit surprised to see a Gray Catbird earlier this week at Bassett Creek Park.  These birds like to hang out in dense shrubs, small trees and vines by the edge of the forest, steams and fields.  This bird was perched on some red twigged dogwood by a pond.

    It didn't appear to be too camera shy, for which I was thankful.

    Friday, September 14, 2012

    Fall in the air

    A touch of fall in the air
    Chill of the morning air prompts fog off the pond.
    Yellow pussy willows by the shore.
    Canada Geese in flight.
    It appears the seasons are a changing.

    Thursday, September 13, 2012

    Wednesday, September 12, 2012

    Diets for top performances and daily survival

    Yesterday I visited a food shelf in South Minneapolis.  Like many social services, they have far greater demand than they have resources.  Later in the day I read a news piece from Minnesota Public Radio, Report: More children on food stamps, which noted there are now 500,000 Minnesotan's on food stamps, twice as many as there were in 2006.  The fastest growing group requiring food stamps are children. This is a disturbing trend.

    While many children and young people struggle with simply getting enough to eat, others are focused on high performance diets. In the StarTribune an article, Top athletes believe diet is key to success, notes how many young people are giving up soda, and eating heathy foods to improve their athletic performances.  We got rid of pop in our house after our daughter's cross country coach let the runners know how bad it was for them.

    I'm pleased to report that the Victory-Peace garden at our church has donated over 200 pounds of fresh vegetables to the local food shelf at PRISM.

    Monday, September 10, 2012

    What kind of capitalist would Jesus be?

    It seems almost mandatory for political candidates running for a national office here in the US to declare their identity as Christians, of one sort or another.  It was scandalous for some to suggest President Obama might actually be a Muslim. 

    All of this Bible banging by politicians has caused me to wonder about how Jesus became associated with capitalism.  Consider some Biblical teachings…

    ·      If you have a spare coat, give it away! (Luke 3:11)
    ·      Don’t store up treasures on earth (Matthew 6:19)
    ·      Give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s (Mark 12:17)
    ·      Don’ t charge interest (Deuteronomy 23::19-20)
    ·      Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5)
    ·      Whatever to do to the least of these, you do unto me (Matthew 25:40)

    As the “great healer”, (Matthew 9: 12–13) I also wonder what Jesus would think of the world’s wealthiest nation that doesn’t provide universal health care?

    What kind of capitalist would Jesus be?  Not a very good one it seems...

    Eagle scout project at Victory-Peace Garden

    Drilling a hole for the foundation of the trellis

    Enjoying the new bench by the entrance
    of the Victory-Peace Garden
    This past week a beautiful trellis and garden bench were built and installed by an Eagle Scout, and friends, to enhance the entrance to the Victory-Peace garden at Valley of Peace Lutheran.  Earlier in the year this scout organized a car wash at the church to help raise funds for the project.

    Did you know that in the past 100 years since the Eagle Scout award has been established only about 2-4 percent of the Boy Scouts receive this high level of achievement.  This award has been identified by some as "the Ph.D. of Boyhood."   It is estimated that more than 100 million hours of service have been provided over the past century by Eagle Scouts (A century of Eagle Scouts).

    Way to go scouts!

    Sunday, September 9, 2012

    Cross country: no train, no gain

    Crossing the finish line
    It was awesome to witness 16  high school teams out running cross country at Bassett Creek Park yesterday, on a beautiful, sunny morning.

    One of the things I admire most about cross country, and those who run, is the discipline required to become good.  There are no short cuts to becoming a great runner.  It often involves running outside in the cold, heat, wind, rain or snow.  Running just a bit harder than is comfortable is also essential much of the time.  While it helps to have the right body type, even that can be dramatically enhanced with steady training.

    I discovered from some parents at the meet yesterday that they had a daughter in a race that lost nearly 50 pounds, thanks to running and a healthy diet.  It was amazing to see her now running competitively.
    Bringing it home strong

    Running the trail
    Hats off to all of the young people who have chosen to run cross country.  The discipline involved in running cross country will certainly help them later in life.

    Special kudos to Minneapolis Washburn High School cross country team, that ran spectacularly!

    Saturday, September 8, 2012

    Sage running advise

    Start of boy's cross country race
    Earlier this week I visited with an outstanding distance runner, Allen Zetterlund.  We were both watching our children run at a high school cross country meet. Allen is now 57 years old, but "back in the day" he was the first winner of the Twin Cities marathon, with a time of 2:16:46.  He's still running strong.  When I asked about the key to his longevity as a runner, without hesitation he said it was core conditioning that is keeping him injury free. Core conditioning primarily strengthens the muscles of the abdomen and torso. He felt that runners of old could have even been faster had they more balanced conditioning.  We used to just lace up the shoes and hit the road for some long, hard runs.  Back in the 70's and 80's we lived by the old expression "no pain, no gain". Thankfully much more is known and practiced regarding effective training; including stretching and core conditioning.

    Girls storming up the hill
    An interesting side note.  Despite running being his primary passion, Allen noted that his son wasn't overly fond of cross country.  I confessed that the sport wasn't our daughter's favorite either.  I shared how she is most passionate about Ultimate frisbee, which I then discovered was his son's favorite sport too.  We're both happy that our kids found sports that suit them and they can enjoy over the course of their lifetime.

    Friday, September 7, 2012

    Canning jelly and pickles

    Canned pickles and grape jelly
    I spent the pretty good part of a day earlier this week canning dill pickles and grape jelly.  This effort was prompted by a neighbor who had grapes in abundance that he offered to us.  I picked about four pounds of grapes, and then decided to make jelly.

    This then prompted a bike ride to the grocery store to purchase pectin for the jam recipe.  I next biked to the hardware store to get jar lid covers, cheese cloth and a funnel.

    Next step involved straining the grapes.  Then it was cooking the grapes, with lots and lots of added sugar.  After that I funneled the jam into previously sterilized jars, sealed and submerged them in boiling water to complete the deal.

    Since I was set up for canning I decided to put up a few jars of pickles, using cucumbers from our garden.  This was pretty quick, since we already had the dill, vinegar, onions, garlic and salt on hand.

    I have renewed appreciation for previous generations who went through the rather laborious process of canning much of their food.

    Thursday, September 6, 2012

    Groomed to consume

    Earlier this week, while running around the park, I noticed a young guy riding a large red plastic battery operated fire truck.  His grandmother was riding a bike nearby. I couldn't help but think about how this little guy was being groomed to be a passive consumer of battery powered gizmos.

    The day before I saw a couple of boys, of about the same age, who were tooling around the park on bikes with training wheels.  How much better it was for them to be getting exercise, while also powering themselves in order to get to the places they wanted to go.

    A story in the StarTribune, Lunchroom menus push healthy foods, noted how new school lunch menus were being developed for students that included more fruits and vegetables and fewer calories.  This is in response to an obesity rate of 17 percent among American children. What a good thing it is for children to be groomed to consume heathy foods.  While some adults fear that kids won't eat healthy foods, the nutrition director for the Minneapolis School District, Bertrand Weber, noted "Kids will eat the food if it's presented well, if it tastes good and if we keep reinforcing and keep doing it over and over again." Isn't it great that we might begin grooming kids in school to consume healthy foods?!

    Wednesday, September 5, 2012

    The power of persistence

    Persistent Sunflower
    A sunflower plant voluntarily grew up in our front yard garden.  It grew quickly, reaching for the stars.  Just as it was ready to blossom, deer came by and ate off the top of the plant, blossoms and all.  These deer have munched on this plant's foliage a couple of more times.  Now we've got this well rooted plant with hardly any foliage at all.  Despite these setbacks, it persists in sprouting shoots with small blossoms.                                                                                                    Inspiring!

    Tuesday, September 4, 2012

    Labor Day anger

    While mowing the front yard yesterday I instinctively waved to a passing car.  While waving, with my red ear muffs on, it appeared a passenger was yelling out some inflammatory remarks.  Perhaps he read one on my recent blogs about "being mad as hell, and not going to take it any longer?".

    I'm guessing there is a strong chance that his hostile drive by passenger is a part of the 99 percent, many of whom have seen their financial outlooks become ever bleaker in recent years, while the 1 percent continues to soar.  With uncontrolled, laissez-faire economics it is said that "the rich man's dog will drink the milk the poor man's child needs to survive."

    I expect we will, and should, hear more from people who have become disenfranchised by the economic disparity between racial groups and social classes.  Many formerly among the middle class are now strugglng to make ends meet, and have joined the growing ranks of working poor.   These past three years the US has not raised its federal minimum wage from $7.25 per hour, which equates to $15,080 for a year. How well do you think you might live on this?

    The 99% Spring is a network of organizations that among other things are working to train people to take action regarding economic injustice.  They've got an online training to help people take action on their website, The 99% Spring.

    Sunday, September 2, 2012

    Corporate take over of nonprofit and government sectors

    Have you noticed?  Business is taking over… the government and nonprofits are all being gradually redirected by corporate, as in ‘business’, interests.  If only these interests were truly ‘corporate”, as in our ‘common good’.

    Consider the common corporate belief that bigger is better. This belief has been forced onto other sectors. Supersizing isn’t just for fast food menus; nonprofit and school mergers have become popular.  This has happened despite studies that have proven smaller schools are more effective in educating students than larger ones. Efficiency and reduction in costs have become much bigger priorities. The recently proposed nonprofit healthcare merger between Health Partners and Blue Cross Blue Shield is an example. If you are a business, and you get big enough, you become “to big to fail” and can expect taxpayers to come to your aid.

    Public education has become suspect. Unions are demonized. Schools are becoming more business like. Instead of taxes paying for our children’s extracurricular activities they now have fees.  If you child wants to be in debate, drama or a sports team, be ready to pay extra.

    The business world’s outcry for testing has created a testing industry within education.  As a math tutor I’ve witnessed how third grade children and teachers are stressed about passing their Minnesota Comprehensive Exams. How is it that so many of our current business, government and nonprofit leaders were able to succeed, when their early schooling was diluted with classes like art, gym, music, and home economics? Isn’t innovative and creative thinking still vital to success in the 21st century? With our nation’s obesity epidemic don’t we need to teach our children about nutrition and encourage physical activity? These things are just as critical to our nation’s future and “bottom line” as the core subjects of reading, writing and arithmetic, and yes, of course, Microsoft Office.

    The one area where bigger isn’t better, according to most corporate interests, is the government, aka the arch nemesis of unbridled business. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and all the other government institutions that go by an acronym and have a role in checking the power of business have come under immense scrutiny and budget cutting pressure.

    Nonprofits and government agencies being pushed to become “social entrepreneurs” by incorporating profitable business models into their services. As if it weren’t hard enough to manage a nonprofit, government agency, now they need to become successful at business too!  Watch out, public libraries might soon be charging to check out popular books or our public highways might charge extra for those that can afford to use express lanes. Oh wait, those things have already happened…

    While serving as the Executive Director of a nonprofit organization I had a well meaning, successful businessman on the board of directors who suggested that in order to save costs we might consider outsourcing our receptionist functions to workers in India.  The business approach has even drifted into the faith communities. Mega churches now have “executive pastors”, who are simply glorified business administrators.

    Why is it that business has become the dominant sector at this point in our nation’s history?  Perhaps as Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof observed… “when you’re rich they really think you know!?”. Or maybe many have a delusional belief that they too will become a part of the one percent club?

    President Obama has been discredited for being a “community organizer”, and so wouldn’t know about running the business of government. Isn’t our government supposed to be of the people, by the people, and for the people? Last time I checked corporations are not people. Governmental agencies and nonprofits deserve our admiration and support for the work they do in meeting the unmet needs of people and the environment. A healthy, civil society benefits by a respectful balance of strong government, nonprofit and business sectors.