Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The beauty of a simple wardrobe

Plenty of shirts
Last week I viewed the movie "The Devil Wears Prada" on television.  It was a great commentary of the lure of high fashion and how living to keep up with the latest fashion trends can warp a person's values and priorities. In the case of the movie the lead character finally rejects her job in the cut throat world of fashion to revert back to her comfortable clothes and old friends.

I came across an article, "Adventures in Fashion: Six Items or Less", that advocates radically simplifying one's wardrobe.  Turns out that one of the participants with a large wardrobe discovered that her colleagues from work and even her husband didn't notice when she switched to the six item wardrobe. Another participant commented on how it freed up "bandwidth in his head", not having to spend precious time in the morning trying to figure out what to wear.

Lots of sweaters
The Uniform Project was started by a designer in New York a couple of years ago.  The founder of this project helped to raise well over $1,000 for a nonprofit serving underprivileged children in India.  She wore the same black dress for a year, but added a wide range of accessories to keep it interesting.  You can view her video at the Uniform project's website, and view the amazing creative things she did to complement the little black dress.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Speaking truth to power

At church this past Sunday we began a study on the amazing life of Martin Luther, a founder of the Protestant reformation. Despite the unquestioning authority demanded by the Pope and the Catholic Church, he followed his heart and mind, and by so doing dared to question the sales of indulgences, among other things.

Yesterday I read a daring article, "What to do about Rick Santorum? by Brian Rosenberg, the President of Macalester College.  Despite the potential fall out by wealthy donors to the college he felt personally and professional responsible to speak out regarding remarks made by Santorum that questioned the value of science in the area of the global warming debate and who also suggested higher education is an indoctrination mill and harms the country.

You may or may not agree with such rebels as Martin Luther or Brian Rosenberg, but I think you must, in some way, admire their conviction and willingness to take significant risk based on their firmly held religious and educational convictions.

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Oscars and people of importance

How many of the past 10 year's Oscar award winners can you remember?  While last night's Academy Awards seemed like such a momentous occasion, the importance and focus quickly fades as we all move on with our lives.  It really doesn't have lasting significance.

Think about the people that have mattered in your life. If you're like me those people are most likely to be teachers, family members, coaches, neighbors, and others who you know really cared about you and who were willing to invest in you future.

Most of us are not likely ever going to win an Oscar award, but we can have an even greater impact in the life of another person by simply showing them we care.  We do this by listening, encouraging, teaching, challenging and simply being there for them over time.  Who needs an Oscar, when we can be a real hero to a child in a neighborhood school through tutoring, or by visiting a shut in from our place of worship or spending time listening to a family member going through a rough time?

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Lyndale Park Rose and Peace Gardens

Hats of to William King and his wife Caroline who donated the land on the shores of Lake Harriet, Lyndale Park and the King's Highway.  In 1883 he lead the charge against considerable resistance in the creation of the Minneapolis Park Act.  After the approval of the Park Act by referendum Mr. King had the following to say... The intelligence, the pride, the public spirit and the humanity of our people have at last been vindicated. That mean, wicked and cruel spirit of selfishness and greed which for so many years has obstructed and defeated every effort to endow our city with public parks, has, at length, been overcome by the uprising and better sentiment and nobler spirit of our citizens.
Only count the sunny days ;-)


11:00 on the sun dial, an accurate reading


Cone flower heads in winter mode
Peaking through the snow

Waiting for spring

Beautifully awaiting spring...

More information about the history of the Minneapolis Parks is available on the internet at "Parks, Lakes, Trails and So Much More: An overview of the histories of MPRB properties. "


Saturday, February 25, 2012

Overcoming fear

Fear is a hot commodity these days.  Looking at today's StarTribune I was reminded of this with their leading headline "Iran stockpile fuels new fears".  It was this sort of fear that lead to our nation into its preemptive war in Iraq.

Rick Steves suggested we ought to at least go and visit some of these countries before we drop bombs on them.  Sadly too much of our nation's military action has been been based on unfounded speculation and fear. Fear keeps us from getting to know others that look differently than we do or who may be from other political backgrounds or faith traditions.

Fear and negativity also seem to be winning the day in political campaigning.  Republican candidates are constantly speaking badly and spreading fear of their fellow Republican candidates and President Obama.  Don't really know what they are for, but they certainly seem to be against an awful lot.

We diminish our human potential by living in fear.  Following are some quotes relating to this subject and which encourage us to live courageously.

If we let things terrify us, life will not be worth living. -  Seneca

Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear.  -  Ambrose Redmoon

For God gave us not a spirit of fearfulness; but of power and love and discipline  - 2 Timothy 1:17

Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage  - Anais Nin


Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.  -  T.S. Elliot

Friday, February 24, 2012

Travel as a political act by Rick Steves

Rick Steves at Westminster Presbyterian Church
Six months of travel abroad for all students after completing High School is something travel expert Rick Steves recommended to redirect the United States on a better political course for the future.  This idea was presented in response to a question at the end of Mr. Steve's presentation "Travel as a political act" at the Westminster Town Hall Forum.  He discussed the benefits of gaining insights from the lives and cultures of others who do things differently around the world.  His talk was broadcast on Minnesota Public Radio.


Statuary outside of
Westminster Presbyterian
Rick discovered an important example misunderstanding of language and culture while traveling in Iran.  When caught in traffic his taxi cab driver shouted out "death to traffic".  Seems this is simply a statement of frustration, much as a parent might say "death to teenagers" when rooms aren't picked up, loud music is blaring and homework isn't done.  Here in the US we've taken this expression to mean something much different, and are spending tremendous financial and human resources on the military. This fear of others is in large part contrived by the media and political leaders and is perpetuated by our lack of understanding of other nations around the world.

Did you know that about 1/3 of the world uses knives, forks and spoons for eating, 1/3 chopsticks and 1/3 use their God given tools... fingers! Asian cooking is done in such a thoughtful way so that the one eating a meal need not go to the added effort of using a knife to cut up their food.

Travel that is off the beaten path and engages one with the local people is a fantastic way to reduce ethnocentric and often misguided perceptions of our global neighbors.

Given the great costs of travel, both  financial and on our carbon footprints, I would suggest we can also learn a great deal from the refugees and immigrants that have come to settle in the United States.  Sadly many are never invited in to the homes of American neighbors and would love to both learn more about this culture and to share something of their own.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Fighting for the voiceless

Preparing to fight ;-)
We were encouraged to be a voice for the voiceless at our Ash Wednesday service yesterday at Valley of Peace Lutheran.  Our pastor, Chris Bellefeuille, noted that voiceless include those without political clout and yes, even our increasingly endangered environment.

Last Sunday a friend from church shared an article about Dr. John Abraham, an engineering professor from the University of St. Thomas, who dared to challenge a vocal climate-change skeptic (John Abraham takes a stand).  Name calling an a threat of a lawsuit resulted when Dr. Abraham took on this skeptic's highly questionable statements.

Blessed are they that are persecuted for speaking truth to power.  This lenten season I would encourage us all to be advocates and fight for those who have little voice or power, especially our endangered environment.

PS  This is a fun picture I posed for.  I managed to get 11 stitches to the eye from a boot hockey incident this past Saturday.  Wish I could say the black eye was from doing battle for social justice.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Fractal patterns in music

Fractal ice pattern
Earlier in the year I posted pictures of ice cracks that reflected nature's fractal patterns.  So, it was with great excitement that I learned researchers at McGill University discovered all musical pieces also reflect fractal patterns, where a part has a limited repetition of the whole (The beat goes on: the geometry that makes music pleasing). These fractal patterns in rhythm were more strongly recognizable in Beethoven and least likely predictable in Mozart.  Turns out the fractal rhythmic patterns were almost identical in works composed by Monteverdi and Joplin.

Ice cracks that look like dendrites
It is now believed that our brains are wired to both perceive and produce fractal patterns, not only in the three dimensions of space, but also across the time spectrum.  Seems to me the left and right lobes of our brains are a great example of a fractal pattern, with the intricate patterns which contain millions of neurons. The fractal ice patterns pictured both remind me of our nervous system's synapses and dendrites. Dr. Daniel Levitin's research was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Support for solar and wind power

Wind turbine at MN State
Fair Eco building
Even in a strongly capitalistic society, such as the United States, it is nice to see people would be willing to pay more for clean power sources than those that are more harmful to the environment.  An article in the StarTrbune, Solar, wind get strong support in Midwestern poll, noted that a majority of people in four Midwestern states would pay up to $6 more per month on electrical bills for power coming from sources like solar and wind.  A majority of those polled were opposed to hydraulic fracking to extract gas from shale.

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Lutheran reformation continues

I've often felt the Lutheran church is trapped in traditions around its liturgical worship style and music.  It felt like that the radical movement Martin Luther started back in 1517 when he nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to the wall of a Catholic Church has since been cast in granite, as it became the Lutheran tradition.

Valley of Peace Lutheran Church
However this past week it was evidenced that there is still a reformational spirt within the Lutheran Church.  Headline stores from the StarTribune these past couple of days included a story of a new female bishop (Svennungsen is new bishop of ELCA's Minneapolis synod) and an article indicating that the Minneapolis Area Synod of the ELCA re-soundly opposed a constitutional amendment restricting marriage between one man and one woman (Minneapolis-area Lutheran oppose marriage amendment0.

The United Church of Christ (UCC) had a national campaign a few years back declaring "God is still speaking". Seems that the Lutherans are in agreement with their friends in the UCC.

Jesus prescribed a radical lifestyle that often got him in trouble with the institutional church of his day.  He re-prioritized the vast number of laws that were prescribed in the Old Testament, with the primary focus on loving God and neighbor above all else. However even given those new marching orders the institutionalized church has often been slow to change with scientific discoveries and new cultural understandings of human nature.  I hope that Martin Luther, were he alive today, would be thrilled with the continuation of the reformation.  And much more importantly that the radical Jewish leader, Jesus, is pleased to see more welcoming and inclusive followers.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Jevons paradox applied to leisure time

Weed by Bassett Creek pond
Isn't it odd that with all of our time saving devises we seemed to be the most rushed people ever?  Wikipedia states that Jevons paradox proposes that the technological progress that increases the efficiency with with a resource is used tends to increase (rather than decrease) the rate of consumption of that resource. It occurs to me an example of the Jevons paradox is how technology has increased our leisure time, yet seemingly we are living a less leisurely lifestyle than ever before.  Think of all the time saving innovations we have had over the past couple hundred years; telephones, automobiles, washing machines, airline travel, computers, microwave ovens, email and twitter.  Yet, who is more rushed and harried, people living in this century or those a couple of centuries back?  I can't imagine that riding a horse and buggy would have been nearly the same experience as cruising down a busy highway with a bluetooth phone in ear trying to get some work done or keep up with family members. How much different it is sitting down together as a family conversing over a home cooked meal versus popping in a microwave dinner in the microwave for oneself, while watching the news on television and texting a friend.

There is truth in that old saying,"the hurrier I go, the behinder I get". We're going mighty fast these days, and I don't think it is helping us to live a fuller, more satisfying life.  Paradoxically with all of our time saving devises we've become more like human doings and less like human beings.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Fuel efficiency alone is not the environmental solution

Toyota Prius
      In an interesting article by the Simplicity Institute, The Voluntary Simplicity Movement: A Multi-National Survey Analysis in Theoretical Context, I learned about the Jevons paradox.  Somewhat paradoxically, simply through making technology more efficient we actually end up using more resources. So for example with our recent purchase of a fuel efficient Prius, the natural tendency is to drive more, given we don't need to spend as much on the price of gas.  With more fuel efficient cars this then drives down the cost of fuel as demand decreases, and hence again, increases consumption, given the lower prices.
     I have to confess that I've felt less compelled to walk or bike to get groceries now have a car that is getting over 40 m.p.g.  


Prius instrument panel monitoring fuel consumption
Simply relying on advances in technology will not reduce our consumption of fuel and the related emissions of carbon dioxide and other pollutants. We still must have government intervention to help consumers reduce their demand.  This intervention could come in the form of green taxes, a cap and trade program or higher fuel taxes.  Ideally these taxes could then help to remediate the ecological damage caused by our fuel use.  
     There is growing interest in a "green tax" that would be on carbon emissions.  It has been estimated that the median incremental damage to our environment is $14 per ton of carbon, but some estimates go as high as $350 per ton. The average North American generates about 20 metric tons of carbon dioxide each year.  This compares to a global average of 4 tons.
     Unlike our household garbage, that we can clearly see and measure, it is difficult for most people to be aware of their carbon dioxide emissions. If we are indeed serious about our emissions, we need to start measuring them and tax accordingly. 

Friday, February 17, 2012

Creating lasting positive change

Volunteering together at food shelf
Instead of seeking happiness after we've become successful, we're more likely to be productive if we develop habits that build happiness which in response lead to greater effectiveness.  This concept was articulated by Shawn Achor in a Ted video "The happy secret to better work".  With a positive brain our our dopamine level increases, which in turn causes a rise in our intelligence, creativity, and energy levels.

How is it that we can create a mindset of happiness?  Mr. Achor notes the following methods utilized to creating lasting positive change:
  1. Three Gratitudes (write down 3 new things for which we are thankful for each day, 21 days in row)
  2. Journaling - writing about one positive experience over the course of the day
  3. Exercise - releases dopamine into the brain 
  4. Meditation - helps to counteract over our cultural Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder
  5. Random acts of kindness - e.g. daily write a positive email to someone your work/support circle

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Valentine's Day rebooted as Generosity Day


Serving line volunteers

If  you haven't yet heard, there is a movement underfoot to transform Valentine's Day into Generosity Day! Little did I know this when I volunteered to fill in for a church member on February 14th to make a meal for those in need c/o Loaves and Fishes at River of Life Lutheran Church in north Minneapolis.

The goal of Generosity Day is to encourage all to give of themselves freely to those who come their way... by leaving generous tips, volunteering and or simply connecting with those who we might otherwise avoid.

Volunteers from Valley of Peace Lutheran
at Loaves and Fishes
After helping to cook and serve the meal at Loaves and Fishes I sat down with a couple of gentleman who had earlier been served.  Our conversation drifted into religion and specifically observance of the Sabbath Day.  I was blown away by the passionate discussion of faith and theology by these gentleman shared. Simply judging by their appearances I would have never guessed to be as theologically well read and passionate about their faith.  Once again, just went to reinforce that sage advise that we shouldn't judge a book by its cover.  Just imagine how people must have judged John the Baptist, who wondered in the wilderness in his camel hair clothing.  It was this very John the Baptist Jesus chose to officiate his baptism.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Giving Cancer the Boot

According to a recent report from Harvard Medical School, physical exercise is for more than just losing weight and cutting down on health problems associated with obesity.  More and more research shows that even mild regular walking can help patients with a multitude of different kinds of cancers, from breast cancer to mesothelioma.

Reductions in Recurrence

According to the Harvard study, it was found that women diagnosed with breast cancer who regularly walked three to five hours a week were half as likely to experience a recurrence of their cancer than women who did engage in physical exercise for less than an hour per week.

Another finding of this study is that people who are active as part of their cancer treatment tend to have longer and better survival rates than individuals who simply did not engage in much physical activity at all.

Improved Mental Outlook

Aside from the obvious health benefits of improved flexibility, improved heart rate and improved strength, physical activity can provide you with other advantages.  Many cancer patients struggle with feelings of depression and anxiety when they receive their diagnosis.  Traditionally, doctors have recommended that cancer patients relax and take it easy as they go through chemotherapy and radiation.  However, with recent studies, doctors are now taking another approach because of both the physical and mental health benefits that come with exercise and physical activity.

Often, patients will report that they begin to feel better emotionally when they begin to become physically active.  From a scientific standpoint, this is because physical activity stimulates neurochemicals that make you feel emotionally and physically better.

You may also feel better because it just feels good to be moving around and not stuck inside doing nothing.  Physical activity does not need to be strenuous.  Simply puttering around in the garden or taking a walk down the block can be a good starting place.  As you build your strength and stamina, you can begin to do other things, including activities that allow you to interact with friends and family.

Better Quality of Life

Being physically active also improves your quality of life.  Often, when you are feeling depressed and ill, you isolate yourself from others.  You may feel like you cannot do things you used to enjoy and do not want to burden others.  However, if you remain physically activity, you can continue to engage in activities that you enjoy.  This will keep your attitude positive and help you see your way through the dark days.

Better quality of life also means that you retain some feeling of being in control of your illness.  Through remaining physically active, you can feel like you have the strength and the determination to fight your illness and win.  So give cancer the boot and get moving toward feeling better.

--This entry was provided by "guest blogger" David Haas.  Thanks David!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

St. Valentine’s Day Flours

A large pair of Valentine's Day flours
We’re a frugal couple, so my wife insisted I not purchase flowers for her on Valentine’s Day.  So, instead I decided to purchase a couple of large ‘heart healthy’ (high fiber) flours.

To add frosting on the cake, so to speak, I’ll bake a batch of chocolate chip cookies with some of this flour (a free recipe was on the side of the bag!)

We need not buy into the commercial nature of Valentine's Day to celebrate a day with people we love.  Enjoy the day!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Empowering words by Newark Mayor Cory Booker

Cory Booker
You were not born to be average, normal or typical.
You were not born a carbon copy.
You were born unique, born to excel, born to manifest the glory of the universe in your authentic truth.
You are not weak.
You are stronger than you imagine, wiser than you know, and have vast powers that you have yet to actualize.
Stop playing small.
Be YOU. Tell your truth - now, today, this very moment.
Manifest your true self - not a poor reflection of your circumstance.
Don’t walk through this world unconscious of your greatness, sleep walking, surrendering your light to the bland grey around you.
You were born to be brilliant,
to be light,
to be fire.
Infuse your glory into this moment, into your choices, into your deeds, into the habits you create.
Consciously choose.
Choose your body through conscious consumption,
Choose your attitude, through conscious thought
your destiny by being present right now – for remember mindful moments multiplied, totally transform tomorrows.
Today choose integrity, choose discipline, choose joy, choose joy, choose joy.
Rejoice in your blessings AND, most importantly, know that EVERYTHING is a blessing.
And your blessings are rich soil.
So choose to grow into the boldest, proudest, most glorious version of YOU. 

You were born for this.
                                                                             -Cory Booker, Mayor of Newark, NJ

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Balanced fitness

One of the things people tend to do is those things they enjoy and are good at, while avoiding activities that are less enjoyable and may not be as easily assimilated.  As a runner I have a tendency to love endurance activities and stray from stretching and strength training.

When it comes to fitness there are three major components; strength, flexibility and endurance.

Walkers on a track in Taipei, Taiwan
Weight lifting, a form of resistance training, is one example of how we can develop strength.  As people grow older it becomes increasingly important to work on strengthening exercises in order to slow the muscles tendency to waste away. Sit ups and push ups are a couple of strengthening exercises that don't require any equipment.

Flexibility is developed through stretching activities.  Yoga and Tai Chi are great ways to stretch. In China and Taiwan it is great to witness groups of seniors that gather in the morning to do Tai Chi and other group exercises.  It is nice to have the support of a group to reinforce the discipline that is needed for an exercise program.

Running, walking, biking and swimming are some common exercises that build endurance.  Slow and steady is the key.  Like most good things, endurance isn't achieved overnight.

Bedrock to developing physical fitness is proper nutrition. As noted previously, it is great to witness the national "Let's Move" campaign that is encouraging exercise and nutrition.

What are your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to fitness?  Is there a group or perhaps one other individual you might commit to exercise? It may also help to have an personal exercise goal, such as completion of a marathon, swim across the English Channel or simply walk a few blocks around the neighborhood.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Let's Move turns two!

First Lady Michelle Obama's national "Let's Move!" campaign to enhance the health of our nation celebrated its second anniversary this week.  The primary emphasis has been on encouraging healthy eating and physical activity among our nation's  young people.  It was surprising and encouraging to see that the US Defense Department is also getting on board.  They are updating their nutritional standards to add more fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, and low-fat dairy products with every meal.  Isn't it great when adults lead by example, and not the old standby "do as I say, not as I do".  

I'll never forget watching the Minneapolis Police band play a concert at Lake Harriet.  Based on their portly appearance it appeared that most of them had desk jobs and were not either eating or exercising properly.  Sadly, a pretty fair representation of the general public.  It is amazing to witness a Center for Disease Control and Prevention chart that shows the changing obesity (BMI > 30) rates among the states since 1985.  We've gone from a nation where NONE of the states had rates of obesity over 20 percent to our current status where ALL of the state obesity rates are 20 percent or above, with many over 30 percent.  Fully 34 percent of the adults in Mississippi are obese.  This has staggering implications for quality of life, health care and worker productivity.

So, hat's off to the First Lady in her efforts to improve the health of our nation.  Let's move!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Measuring our CO2 emissions

Why aren't we measuring our emissions?  My wife and I recently purchased a used Toyota Prius.  It has a fuel gage that provides instantaneous readings of gas usage, along with a running average of miles per gallon (m.p.g.). It was amazing to see that even in the winter months, with a conservative driving technique, we averaged 42 m.p.g. on our first tank of gas.

This fuel gage has me thinking of emissions, which never get measured.  What if we could each see our CO2 emissions when we're driving, or even at home when our furnace or hot water heater is running? A business friend of mine once commented that we only improve upon those things which we measure. If we're really serious about reducing emissions we should be keenly aware of what we are emitting, and be taxed accordingly, based on our output.

On a personal note, since hearing about the value of measuring progress I've made it a point to annually measure my IQ and height.  Alas, as you might surmise, no improvements.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

End of peak oil and transition towns

How do we transition from peak oil to a future with less oil?  According to Rob Hopkins, who is the founder of Transition Towns, suggests that the future with less oil could in fact be preferable to where we are now. A 52 minute YouTube interview  with Rob Hopkins describes the concept of Transition Towns.

First step is to develop awareness of peak oil and the need for a transition in the community. The process requires engagement of the different sectors to develop a sense of resilience to withstand shocks/disasters.  Local food production is a key component of Transition Towns.  

One of the questions raised is how we can retrofit and rethink suburbia?  This may involve utilizing the land for producing fruits and vegetables and redesigning large homes for multiple dwelling places.

Mr. Hopkins suggests that as environmentalists we need new tools in addition to activism, protest and lobbying to make the significant change.  Internet communication and the utilization of research from field of addiction.  Our addiction to oil requires a sense of urgency and an action plan.  

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Another reason to exercise; cellular housecleaning

An article in the New York Times, Exercise as Housecleaning for the body, discusses how the removal of garbage that our body collects at the cellular level is enhanced through exercise.  The process by which cells rid themselves of useless debris is called autophagy.

Some scientist suspect that ineffective autophagy might contribute to the development of diabetes, muscular dystrophy, Alzheimer's and cancer.  It may also play a role in aging.

I'm thinking I need to cut this blog entry short.... I need to go for a run!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Hooray for the USA, we're eating less meat!

Piglets at Minnesota State Fair
A report on National Public Radio noted that citizens of the USA are eating 12 percent less meat than we were five years ago.  That said, we shouldn't boast too much about this trend, since Americans still eat about one-sixth of the total meat consumed in the world, despite that we're only one-twentieth of the population.

Why celebrate this reduction in meat eating? The environmental impact of meat production is tremendous. It is estimated that the meat industry contributes about 18 percent of global greenhouse-gas emissions.  Methane and Nitrous Oxide, byproducts of meat production. have many times the global-warming potential than Carbon Dioxide.  Another environmental concern is land degradation in the 30 percent of the world's land set aside for raising livestock.  Finally, the amount of water needed to feed animals is greater than to simply grow grains, vegetables, legumes and fruits.
Cows grazing on farm near
Lanesboro, Minnesota

Because of the high environmental costs of raising livestock it is thought that this sector is one of the top two or three contributors to our local and global environmental concerns. Hence, it is good for the environment when we eat lower on the food chain.  And, it is often better for our health too!

As our meat consumption declines I'm eager to watch a commercial from a national restaurant chain with the punch line of "Where's the tofu?"

Monday, February 6, 2012

Additional hoar frost photos

Swamp milkweed
These photos were taken at Bassett Creek Park in Crystal, Minnesota.  If you would like to see a larger view of a picture simply click on it with your mouse.


Cattail

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Building Kinship

"There is no us and them, there is only us".  These insightful words come from Father Greg Boyle, a Jesuit priest that has dedicated his life to working with gangs in East L.A. .  He spoke yesterday as a part of the Faith and Life lecture series at St. Philip the Deacon Lutheran Church in Plymouth, MN.

Father Boyle shared many touching and humorous stories of relationships fostered between gang members, who once were arch enemies, as they worked side by side with Homeboy Industries.  His primary message was encouraging us to live by a simple mission shared by Jesus "That you may be one". He noted that we enter the Kingdom of God as we form relationships and help others to recognize that they are exactly what God had in mind when God made them.  Working with many who have been disenfranchised, Father Boyle is about creating a community of kinship such that God might recognize it.

An interview with Father Greg Boyle, aka "G Dog" is available from Minnesota Public Radio.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Awe inspiring International Nordic Paralympic Games

Canadian skier following guide
Polish champion
I was thrilled to observe the final day of the International Paralympic Nordic Games  held at Theodore Wirth Park in Minneapolis. Skiers from many countries were competing in the following three race categories:

  • Visually impared
  • Standing (competitors with some form of physical disability, but who are able to stand on skis)
  • Sitting (amputees or athletes with paraplegia)


Much to my surprise I discovered that one of the Norwegian skiers was from Stord, the same island in Norway which was the home of some of my ancestors. 

Some of the Norwegian contingent
This visually impaired skier from Canada was following her volunteer guide.  The race guides all had microphones and speakers to communicate with the skiers behind them in order to provide direction regarding turns, hills and the like.  Unbelievable balance, strength and skill was demonstrated by these skiers.  Awe inspiring!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Join me on an information diet

Just within the past week I decided that I was going to work at making fewer Google searches.  One reason for this decision was concern about the site tracking done by Google on all of its users.  But the biggest impetus for my decision came from the fact that I don't like spending too much time at the computer when there are scores of other things to do that I value more highly. I know that I can easily spend hours heading down a seemingly never ending worm hole searching for interesting bits of information on the internet. As noted in earlier blogs I also don't like many of the negative side effects of too much time on the internet (Impact of the internet on our brain).

I was delighted to read "Information Diet: We are what we eat" in this morning's paper from Clay Johnson, that was originally posted in the Los Angeles Times.  He notes that much media content is designed to meet our tendency to be drawn to shrill opinions and celebrity hype. Even for someone who watches very little television I have to confess to knowing about a faux celebrity, Kim Kardashian, and a short sham marriage she had with a professional basketball player.  This is the kind of sensational information that the media feeds upon, yet is entirely worthless.

 Much like the media, food companies have capitalized on our natural tendencies to things that are not all together wholesome. They've successfully marketed products that help us to fulfill our natural cravings for fatty, sugary and salty foods. This has resulted in poor diets and the corresponding health problems of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, etc.

So, I invite you to join me in starting an information diet.  Let's not feed the beast of sensationalism that is growing rapidly, thanks to our viewing habits. Instead, let's focus on information which has depth and nourishes our souls and minds.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Reducing our use of plastic bags

Plastic bag caught
in tree branches
It was interesting to hear of the impact Andy Keller had on reducing his community's use of plastic bags on The Story of Stuff.  One of the things he did was make reusable "ChicoBags", which he developed into a business.  He also helped to generate awareness of the 500 bags the the average US citizen uses in one year.  To do this Andy created the "Bagmonster" (pictured right) by adhering 500 plastic bags to himself to help make a visual image of the bags we use.

It was pointed out that simply recycling plastic bags is not the best solution.  Often times these 'recycled' bags don't get properly recycled and sometimes are even burned.

Our household still needs practice to bring bags along when we go shopping.  Old habits are hard to break, but not impossible!  We can do our small part to minimize plastic waste.  Let's be the change we want to see in the world.