Friday, November 30, 2012

Ice and feathers


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One of the things I enjoy just as much as looking at wildlife is looking at the patterns in nature; be they in the ice or the amazing detail in the feathers of birds.

Swamp Milkweed Pods

I thought that the swamp milkweed pods looked especially beautiful with the morning sun reflecting off of the ice on Bassett Creek Park's pond.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Thoughts on generosity by the Dalai Lama

"Giving material goods is one form of generosity, but one can extend an attitude of generosity into all one's behavior.  Being kind, attentive, and honest in dealing with others, offering praise where it is due, giving comfort and advice where they are needed, and simply sharing one's time with someone - all these are forms of generosity, and they do not require any particular level of material wealth."
-His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Living under the "Nanny State"

When we fail to live responsibly it only makes sense that the government must become more involved in directing and possibly restricting citizen freedoms. Some people bristle when the government takes an active role in the "regulating" the lives of citizens and corporations, calling it the “Nanny State.”

Consider the recent financial irresponsibility evidenced just a few years back here in the United States by many bank managers and Wall Street investors. Their reckless behavior helped to trigger a collapse of the economy. Seems they could have used a nanny to regulate their financial decisions. 

When it comes to our nation’s public health and safety, we must be concerned about our national obesity epidemic, and the corresponding health related complications of diabetes, etc.  No wonder the Mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, decided it would be helpful to have a ban on large soft drinks.  First Lady Michelle Obama has created a “Let’s Move” campaign to help educate young people and their families about the benefits of exercise and proper nutrition. 

Strong government controls have been essential to protect our natural environment. If we are simply to rely on education and self-restraint reduce carbon emissions, it might never happen to any meaningful extent.  Consider DDT, and the benefit the environment has had since it was banned by the government.

Freedom must be equally yoked with responsibility.  When it is not, we must learn to accept living under a “Nanny State”. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Robbinsdale Area Schools Music Festival

Dr. Matthew Mehaffey at Robbinsdale Area Schools Fall Music Festival
Cello section

What a joy it was to attend the Robbinsdale Area Schools Annual Fall Music Festival at the Minneapolis Convention Center on November 19, 2012.  It is amazing the level of musical achievement the students demonstrated, thanks in large part in the support of music within the school district, going from elementary school all the way through high school graduation.

The festival's guest conductor, Dr. Matthew Mehaffey, is Associate Professor of Music at the University of Minnesota.

The concert featured performances by the Robbinsdale All-District Elementary Choir, Robbinsdale Armstrong and Cooper Symphonic Bands, Symphony Orchestras, Bel Canto, Cantori and Concert Choirs.

The pictures above were taken during the performance of "Requim" by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Monday, November 26, 2012

How much do we value education?

I was saddened to read an article recently confirming what a retired professor and friend had told me about the pathetic wages of adjunct college and university professors.  The article Working for change in higher education: The abysmal state of adjunct teacher pay, notes how in a state like Florida those teaching at a state or community college level make under $2,000 per class.  That means for someone teaching eight classes a year he/she would annually make a grand total of $16,000, and likely have few if any benefits. My guess is they would do far better working as a custodian at the college or university.

Garrison Keillor, a popular radio personality, used to joke about college english majors having work that involved asking if the customer wanted fries with their meals.  Seems that even if those same english majors were to find full-time work as adjunct professors they might be paid about the same as those flipping burgers or serving coffee.  This has to be a harsh reality for those who have labored so hard to get a masters or doctorate degree AND who have likely taken out tens of thousands of dollars in student loans. So, if you are a student interested in teaching at the university level, caveat emptor, let the buyer/student beware, your degree may not be nearly as valuable as your investment.

Please remind me again... how much do we value education in this country?

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Problems with high tech mono crop farming

Farm tractor, pumpkins and chicken
As farmers continue to increase the size of their fields and plant only one crop year after year, using genetically modified seeds, they risk adaptation by nature's weeds and bugs that can wipe out their crops.  A story about how this is happening in Southern Minnesota appears in the StarTribune, Those bugs are going to outsmart us.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Retail "Turkey" award

Thanksgiving day promotional flier 
Black Friday sales newspaper fliers
I'm casting my vote for Gander Mtn. to receive the retail turkey of the year award.  Not only did they decide to open all day on Thanksgiving, they also had a .22 that loos a lot like an assault rife as their lead sales item. Could be a great gift selection for Rambo Junior...

Yes, it is a free country, and this is all perfectly legal, but that certainly doesn't make it laudable.

In some ways this epitomizes American free market values, which in order to function well need to be tempered with responsibility and self-restraint.

Friday, November 23, 2012

White-tailed buck visiting Bassett Creek Park

I enjoyed taking a few shots of a buck (male) deer that was visiting Bassett Creek Park.  He didn't seem overly concerned by my presence.  Maybe he was looking for something many a cash strapped person is in search of... a little doe!
White-tail deer (buck)

White-tail deer
White-tailed deer

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Walmart strike

Did you know that many Walmart employees are going to be striking tomorrow, aka "Black Friday"?
Sadly many of the employees are treated poorly and are not making a living wage or have the benefits upon which they and their family need for a healthy and respectable life. I would encourage you to view a brief video"Stand with Walmart Strikers on Black Friday."

How bad is it working for Walmart?  Did you know that the average full-time associate makes about $15,500 a  year.  Despite those low wages the company is even pushing more of their employees to permanent part-time status.  This is in stark comparison to the heirs to the Walmart fortune, who have a combined wealth of $93 billion... more than the bottom 30 percent of Americans combined (Making change at Walmart.)

With the huge vast of money spent by some billionaires in the election to get rid of government subsidized health care it seems it would have been better spent directly on employee health care benefits by those same plutocrats. If corporations don't want the government involved in the health care industry they need to be providing affordably cost benefits.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Lowry Avenue Bridge

Lowry Avenue Bridge

Lowry Avene Bridge
Early yesterday morning I took a trip with a fellow photographer to the newly rebuilt Lowry Avenue Bridge.  This bridge spans the Mississippi River, connecting North Minneapolis to Northeast Minneapolis.  The new bridge with its beautiful arch and decorative lighting is a dramatic contrast to the old metal bridge which it replaced.
Cement and block factory

While along the river bank it was interesting to watch coal being loaded onto a barge.  The area around the bridge is highly industrial.  It is only fairly recently that luxury apartments and townhouses have been built by the Mississippi as it flows through 
Transporting coal
Lowry Avenue Bridge at sunrise
downtown Minneapolis. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Ice shapes

An astonishing variety of shapes made by the newly formed ice this past week.  Seems with temperatures far above average this week, the ice may be gone for a while.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Shoreline surprises

Muskrat swimming under the ice

Milkweed seed
When taking pictures of the interesting ice formations last week I had a couple of shoreline surprises.  First I was startled by a muskrat that launched out under the ice just in front of me.  It must have been resting along the shore.

One of the things I find quite interesting is how some of the ice forms very geometric shapes, with straight lines, with there are a similar number of curvy forms that appear to be cloud-like.

After the muskrat surprise I discovered a beautifully dew covered milkweed seed.  It had the appearance of a ballet dancer pirouetting in a billowy white dress.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Free market capitalism

A guest on the Bill Moyers' show, Naomi Klein, helped me to understand why some people refuse to believe in climate change; it would require collective action, which is anathema to their belief in free market capitalism.  I would encourage all to take a half of an hour to watch the show, "Naomi Klein on Capitalism and Climate Change".

Given the damaging impact of CO2 on the environment she recommends disinvestment in oil companies, calling them rogue entities. They have enough oil in storage to raise the world temperature over 2 degrees Celsius, which would be catastrophic for the environment.

If you are concerned about this issue you might consider taking the Climate Reality Pledge

I pledge my name in support of a better tomorrow, one fueled by clean energy. I demand action from the world’s leaders to work toward developing clean energy solutions. I pledge to demand action from our leaders. And I pledge to share this global promise. By uniting our voices, we have the power to change the world.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Climate change is real!

 Dr. Gene Takle (right) and I (left)
I rode my bike yesterday to hear the director of Iowa State University Climate Science Program, Dr. Gene Takle.  He spoke spoke on "Responding to Climate Change: Avoiding the unmanageable and managing the unavoidable."

He noted the catastrophic impact a rise in temperature of 2 degrees Celsius would have on the world.  It took over 18,000 years for the earth to rise 8 degrees Celsius, which moved us out of the Ice Age.  We've already risen 0.6 degrees just since 1900.  We must work diligently to avoid dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.  To do this will require us to reduce our carbon dioxide emissions down to zero by 2070.  We've already lost half of our sea ice in the past 40 years.

In addition to global warming there is now a tendency for the springs to be wetter, falls drier.  We will continue to experience more extreme floods and droughts and weather events. The stratosphere is getting cooler while the troposphere is warming.

Scenery along the bike trail
When asked about what we can do as individuals to address the serious nature of climate change Gene's first response was VOTE, VOTE, VOTE.  Isn't it amazing that we have politicians who refuse to address the issue of climate change?  He also suggested we consume less.  The things we consume all emit pollution; including the production, use and disposal.

One of the benefits of riding my
bike to Dr. Takle's presentation was
seeing wildlife along the way
In addition to being an environmental role model, Gene Takle is also a running hero of mine.  In 1965 he won the national Division II cross country meet, while a student at Luther College.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Pond art surprise

While on a walk yesterday I noticed beautiful clouds in the morning sky, so I returned home to grab my camera in order to take a picture of the pond (right).  Later I was thrilled to discover this amazing reflection (above).  I never cease to be amazed at the beauty and originality found in nature, if only we take time to see and reflect.

One of the Capture Minnesota photographers provided an interpretation for this photo that may be pretty tough to top... "Fabulous Flying Figments of Fragmented Feeding Fish Forms"

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Elegant ice

I would rather take a simple clean picture of elegant ice,
than photo a pair of lice infested mice, shooting dice in a bag of rice.

Yes, I would prefer to capture a cool chuck of ice, 
even more than a shot of a tropical island paradise.

Simple cool ice, oh so nice!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Under the willow tree

Under the willow tree 
Ice fishing bobbers
Yesterday morning I went in search of photographic images at Bassett Creek Park's pond.  Initially I found a whimsical pair of bobbers that had formed around a couple of sticks.

Later, as I hoped to take a picture of the beautifully yellow limbs of a Weeping Willow tree, I looked down and noticed a willow leaf that had gracefully fallen onto the ice.  This turned out to be my favorite image.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Ducks and geese heading south

Geese and ducks heading south
It appears that with the sudden dip in temperatures (it got down to around 21 degrees F yesterday), these ducks and geese were headed south.  Or it could have just looked this way after a spill on the ice.... just joking ;-0

Monday, November 12, 2012

Exercise extends your life

Running for two at the Twin Cities Marathon
An article, Want to live longer? Better get moving (StarTribune), describes how a large study found that people's lives could be extended through regular exercise. Just by regularly incorporating moderate exercise one's life on average extends one life by 3.5 years.  For those willing to put in about an hour's worth of daily exercise life expectancy is extended to 4.2 years.

It was suggested that exercise might even be an even more important factor in longevity than one's weight. A couple of the most significant risk factors that exercise impacts are cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes.

One thing that this article didn't mention, that I think is just as noteworthy, is the enhanced quality of life that comes with exercise.  Not only is the duration of one's life extended, so is the quality. Following are some additional benefits of exercise:
    Wheelchair Racers
  • Exercise helps you sleep.  Regular exercise can help you get to sleep and improve the quality of your sleep.  Just be careful not to exercise too close to bedtime.
  • Strengthening bones is a key benefit of exercise.  Weight-bearing exercises, such as walking and weight training, are especially helpful for maintaining healthy bones.
  • Exercise can boost your energy and self-esteem.  Far from making you tired, regular exercise can improve your stamina, mood and confidence.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Rethinking our attitude toward taxes

When was the last time you heard someone proudly share how much they paid in taxes? Not recently, if ever, I would venture to guess. We need to have a change of heart in this country about how we view taxes.  We must come to recognize that it is not only right, but also patriotic to pay local, state and federal taxes to support our common good in these United States of America.

It has become a common practice for individuals and corporations to avoid payment of taxes by hiring tax consultants or wealth management advisors to construct sophisticated means of avoiding taxes. Some even hide money in foreign accounts. Those of us paying taxes are coming to feel like we’re suckers for not figuring out the loopholes that so many of the wealthy have had written into the law.  Thanks to the encouragement of relators and tax consultants many Americans purchased homes far to large and expensive in order to claim mortgage interest deductions.  Others have even purchased second homes.  Far too many have overextended themselves.

Despite what Grover Norquist wants us to believe, neither tax, nor taxes, is a four letter word. With a huge national debt, we desperately need both Republicans and Democrats to compromise and figure out a way to raise revenues and lower expenses. The no tax increase pledge that Mr. Norquist strong-armed so many Republicans into taking is flat out anti-American.

How about we add “pay it forward” to our concept of the “American Dream”?  What if through our taxes we felt good about supporting people and efforts across our nation, in recognition of our many blessings?  Indeed, we’ve been blessed to be a blessing, and strange as this might sound, taxes are one way in which we share our blessing for the common good. 

I would be so bold as to say paying taxes is more patriotic than wearing a flag lapel pin. Even more patriotic than sporting a “support our troops” bumper sticker or yard sign. Yes, paying taxes demonstrates even more patriotism than becoming fabulously rich or “successful” as a company while front line worker jobs are outsourced over seas as those remaining have their work loads increased and their wages and benefits cut.

Taxes support our public schools, which help to create a civil and educated citizenry.  They help pay for our trains, roads and bridges; critical to individuals and businesses.  Our taxes also support research and help to restrict pollution and products that might be harmful to our health, and the health of our children. Taxes actually do go to supporting our troops; both overseas and when they arrive back home. The taxes that you and I pay also help us respond to national disasters, such as the recent megastorm, Sandy. 

Yes, taxes also fuel “entitlements”; aiding those who are impoverished, mentally or physically ill. Having a brother with schizophrenia, I’m a strong believe in “There but by the grace of God, go I. “

Are you a taxpayer?  If so, be proud that you are able to make a contribution to the common good of this great nation. After all, it’s no shame to pay taxes, in fact it is even patriotic.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Testosterone trouble?

Pond Cyclops
An interesting commentary by David Morris suggests that many large institutional problems  may the the result of too much testosterone e.g. male leadership.  In his article, Intolerant? Intemperate? It's the testosterone, Mr. Morris notes examples of questionable decisions made by such institutions:
  • The Vatican (focusing on opposing contraception and same-sex marriage)
  • Boy Scouts of America (banning a boy from becoming an Eagle Scout because of his sexual identity, in stark contrast to the Girl Scout's policies)
  • Iceland's bankers who lead the collapse of its three main banks (this is being corrected by female leadership)
  • Wall Street wheeler and dealers who ignored and chastised concerns about a possible economic collapse raised by a female head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (Booksley Born).
This editorial doesn't discuss the decision to go to war in Iraq, which undoubtedly also suffered from an  unfortunate testosterone imbalance.