Thursday, January 31, 2013

Nordic skiing

Start of Nordic Ski Race
I enjoyed watching our local, NWSC Nordic championship meet yesterday. It was something to see, watching these disciplined high school athletes race in the cold and wind, with nary a complaint.  Pictured above is the winner of the boy's competition.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Another brick in the wall

Aging 7Up advertisement on brick wall
I traveled to downtown Minneapolis yesterday on the bus.  What an amazing diversity of people on the bus, at the library and walking around town.

Kinda fun to see the different kinds of bricks on the buildings too.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


We recently received three inches of much needed snow.  The ground was getting bare in many areas around the Twin Cities.  Nobody was more appreciative than the organizers and soon to be participants of the upcoming City of Lakes Loppet Nordic ski races.  I stopped by their office yesterday while watching a ski meet at Theodore Wirth Park to visit with the executive director, who I've come to know.  This weekend I plan to help with taking pictures at the event.  It is especially beautiful with luminaries lining the course.

PS  If you are interested in visiting the City of Lakes Loppet, there are many different fun events, including bike racing on the ice, snow sculpting, skijoring (skiing with dogs), and of course classic and skate Nordic ski races/tours. Here's a link to the schedule.

Monday, January 28, 2013

What does it mean to be "Pro-Life" in America?

Only in America can you be 
Pro-Death Penalty, 
Pro-Unmanned Drone Bombs, 
Pro-Nuclear Weapons, 
Pro-Land Mines, 
AND still call yourself ‘Pro-Life.’     
                                                                   - John Fugelsang

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Fear mongering gone wild

I discovered a website that claims to have the mission of bringing ACTUAL fair and balanced coverage and opinion of news and events around the world.  This site promotes the rights of individuals, and provides access to the following booklets to their LampLighter Society members …

* How to hide your guns
* How to make primitive weapons
* How to kill a man with your bare hands
* Bartering with desperate people
* Get out of dodge
* How to make money after crisis
* How to build the ultimate bugout bag (survival kit)

Fear mongering anyone?  

I suggested on a Facebook posting that perhaps this group might create a local cable television series.  Turns out, they already have one!  It is called Doomsday Preppers.  I'm not making this up, though I certainly do wish I was! 

Friday, January 25, 2013

Books for Africa

Yesterday I enjoyed helping with other volunteers from our church, gathering books for Bronnum Lutheran Seminary in Yola Nigeria.  We loaded up 90 boxes of books and brought them over to the Books for Africa headquarters in St. Paul.

Money is also being raised to help transport them to the seminary, $2,000 of the $16,3000 is all that is now needed. Let me know if you might like to help out, we're just about ready to have them shipped out.  Designated donations for this project in Briska Nigeria can be made through the Books for Africa website.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Guns don't kill people

After hearing or the NRA's campaign slogan countless times I've finally come to understand it.  Of course guns don't kill people, it is those deadly bullets that do!

I heard Marion Wright Edelman, director of the Children's Defense Fund, share how since 1968 we have had 148,000 children die from gun violence in the United States.  The NRA had the audacity to suggest we need more guns to solve this violence epidemic.  A news article, Calif Schools police buy AR-15s to protect children, reports that a school district in California purchased 14 AR-15 rifles to keep its students safe from harm.

Why stop with the schools?  Using the NRA approach to protect our children we clearly need to train and arm our nation's bus drivers, day care workers, life guards, sports coaches, boy and girl scout leaders, Sunday School teachers.... Wherever children gather there should be at least one or two people armed with an AR-15 or the like. This is America and God knows we value the second amendment above all else!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

More icy artwork on the pond

What amazing artwork the cold frost created on the pond at Bassett Creek Park!  This picture was taken with temperatures of about 10 degrees below Fahrenheit.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Reflections on presidential inauguration

It was nice to witness the celebratory and peaceful transition of power during the United State's 57th Presidential Inauguration held yesterday in Washington DC.  I was particularly pleased to hear the president's commitment to immigration reform, fair treatment of gay Americans and response to the threat of climate change through the development of sustainable energy.

Poet Richard Blanco shared a moving Inaugural Poem about one America. A link to the poem and a video are available at the PBS Newshour website.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

"Gun Appreciation Day", I kid you not

Here in the gun lovin' US of A yesterday some folks celebrated "Gun Appreciation Day".  Hard to fathom how people can celebrate the gun when we've had more Americans killed by guns in the 18 year period between 1979 and 1997 (651,697) than were killed in battle in all wars since 1775 (650,858).  Further information on this tragic legacy is available from a press release "More Americans killed by guns than by war in the 20th century."

Seems to me the organizers of this effort should make it a weeklong celebration. Next year they could also include the following under appreciated means of killing people:  

hangman's noose, 
land mines, 
flame throwers, 
lethal injection, and the grand daddy of them all....

nuclear bombs!

If you're going to celebrate the tools of death and destruction, go big or go home!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Glenwood Springs

Glenwood Inglewood Bottled Water Factory
I wandered downstream from Bassett Creek Park in Crystal to a once famous bottled water company; Glenwood Inglewood. This company was launched in the last 1800's when a spring alongside Theodore Wirth Parkway was discovered. In addition to fresh water, this spring also allegedly had medicinal value. 

In the late 1980s the Glenwood Spring was permanently dewatered into a sewer system by the Minnesota Department of Transportation to make way for highway 394. The Glenwood company name is now owned by Premium Waters.

I discovered this beautiful work of art (below) on the backside of one of the large cement Glenwood Inglewood Bottling Company buildings. This was a bright spot on the otherwise dreary rundown edifices of a once thriving water business.
Graffiti on the building
I didn't know quite what to make of the sign in red placed above this masterpiece... "NO TRESPASS POLICE WILL BE CALLED!!".

Friday, January 18, 2013

Technology and the evolving brain

Did you know that students, 8-22 year old, get an average of 34 texts per night (after 12 pm)?  Boys are more likely to game during the night.  50% of those kept awake from electronic media had mood and attention issues, including ADHD. One of the biggest problems with this night time activity is that it takes a person out of stage 4 sleep (deep sleep cycle).  Therefore it is recommended that cell phone texting be turned off during one's sleeping hours.
Dr. Gary Johnson

It gives one pause to consider that before a child leaves for college they have spent:
* over 10,000 hours playing video games
* over 350,000 texts
* over 10,000 hours talking on digital cell phones
* over 20,000 hours watching TV (that's 1/6th of their life!)
* watched over 500,000 commercials
* 5,000 hours of book reading (that's 1/24th of their life)

This information was presented by Dr. Gary Johnson, who is with the Clinic for Attention, Learning and Memory.  He spoke earlier in the month for a gathering sponsored by the Hennepin County Juvenile Advisory Committee.

Dr. Johnson noted research that indicates the human brain is evolving. This evolution is happening in an extraordinarily quick time frame, just three generations.  The problem with this evolution is that the skull surrounding brain can not enlarge, therefore something gets reduced.   The brains of children who grew up with technology show strength at processing visual stimuli, especially peripheral and sifting/filtering information. The areas of weakening brain strength include face to face interaction, ability to read subtle non-verbals and empathy. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics Guidelines for children are as follows: 

* No electronics age two and below
* Limit electronic exposure for preschool children to one half hour a day
* Limit middle school students to one hour per day
* For teens, limit to under two hours per day (out of school)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

NRA, Guns and Mental Illness

I'm finally starting to track with the NRA in at least one regard, they want to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill. Having seen quite a few postings on social media, I've discovered there is a vast and growing number of people out there suffering from mental illness.  They are delusional and paranoid - these folks don't trust our democratically elected officials, military or even the police force. Alarmingly, these are the same hysterical people who are now rushing to buy even more guns, thinking they personally need to be able to take on the police force and the US military. The military alone is currently funded at $550 billion/year. 

Seems this group of people ought to be some of the first in line voting to reduce our military spending, wouldn't you think? It might at least give them more of a fighting chance! 

Nicholas Kristof provides an insightful article on the danger of guns in his column in today's NY Times, Lessons from Guns and a Goose

PS  Following are a couple of segments from emails I've recently received on this topic...

ALERT: Obama will order the United States government to impose Obama's will on all Americans by forcing Executive Orders for Gun Control. Obama is again using guerilla legislative tactics. Obama is not leading, Obama has become a Progressive Dictator ruling from the extreme liberal left with his own agenda.

The Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms has been working non-stop to defeat this "executive order" threat ever since we first learned of it.
Please do not assume that the slick, dishonest Obama Administration and their anti-gun allies in the media will report any of what you are reading right now. They want to keep Americans ignorant and in the dark - while they work behind the scenes to take your guns away.
Unless Congress steps in, the White House will ruthlessly advance their gun hating objectives for their anti-Second Amendment messiah.
...And if you can afford it, please generously give a contribution of $20, $30, $50, $100 or more to the Citizens Right to Keep and Bear Arms to keep our operation going.

Another sample from GUNALERTS
See with the way things are heating up between North Korea, Iran and the everyday threat of a terrorist attack you could need to defend your family sooner than you think.

And in a disaster situation can you guess what one of the first things to go is going to be?
Which means you'll be forced to rely on the same kind of weapons our ancestors used for thousands of years...
Weapons that a small group of men would use to hunt and kill anything from a wild elephant to a lion!
Click the link below to discover the truth about these 21 long-forgotten weapons....

Monday, January 14, 2013

More tips for happiness

Came across some more recommendations for living in a way that cultivates happiness ...

Think less, feel more
Frown less, smile more
Talk less, listen more
Judge less, accept more
Watch less, do more
Complain less, appreciate more
Fear less, love more.

To this list I would add just one more line...

Take less, give more.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Warm weather creates reflections from the pond

The unusually warm weather and rain this past Friday created some interesting reflections on the pond at Bassett Creek Park.
Pond reflections
Pond reflections

Pond art

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Record heat across the U.S.

Snowy footprints across the pond
became watery prints with
yesterday's warmth and rain
Seems that the predictions of global climate change are occurring.  Not only was it warmer this past year in the U.S., but the record was smashed by a full degree Fahrenheit over the previous record set in 1998.  Last year was 3.2 degrees warmer than the average for the entire 20th century. A StarTribune article, Last year hottest yet in the US since record keeping began in 1895; drought, mild winter factors provides additional details.

One of the consequences of climate change is a rise in  severe weather events.  The insurance industry has become acutely aware of this and is now on board with raising awareness of climate change (Climate change taken seriously by insurance industry, study says). This article notes that the industry is now having to pay claims of $50 billon a year for weather and climate related losses.  These claims have been doubling every decade since the 1980s.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Let's quit using styrofoam!

Join me in avoiding styrofoam whenever possible! 
A MOMENTARY use to a styrofoam cup/plate/container can create waste that has the potential to practically be with us as garbage ETERNALLY.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Lone oak leaf

I've always been impressed with the tenacity of oak leaves.  They manage to "hang in there" well beyond most other leaves.  Quite the image of perseverance, surviving cold temperatures and brisk winds.

A soulful rendition of "Last Leaf on the Tree" by Tom Waits is available for viewing on YouTube.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Daily habits to make you happier

"9 Daily Habits that will make you happier" found on the internet that I'll pass along...

1. Start each day with expectation.

If there's any big truth about life, it's that it usually lives up to (or down to) your expectations. Therefore, when you rise from bed, make your first thought: "something wonderful is going to happen today." Guess what? You're probably right.

2. Take time to plan and prioritize.

The most common source of stress is the perception that you've got too much work to do.  Rather than obsess about it, pick one thing that, if you get it done today, will move you closer to your highest goal and purpose in life. Then do that first.

3. Give a gift to everyone you meet.

I'm not talking about a formal, wrapped-up present. Your gift can be your smile, a word of thanks or encouragement, a gesture of politeness, even a friendly nod. And never pass beggars without leaving them something. Peace of mind is worth the spare change.

4. Deflect partisan conversations.

Arguments about politics and religion never have a "right" answer but they definitely get people all riled up over things they can't control. When such topics surface, bow out by saying something like: "Thinking about that stuff makes my head hurt."

5. Assume people have good intentions.

Since you can't read minds, you don't really know the "why" behind the "what" that people do. Imputing evil motives to other people's weird behaviors adds extra misery to life, while assuming good intentions leaves you open to reconciliation.

6. Eat high quality food slowly.

Sometimes we can't avoid scarfing something quick to keep us up and running. Even so, at least once a day try to eat something really delicious, like a small chunk of fine cheese or an imported chocolate. Focus on it; taste it; savor it.

7. Let go of your results.

The big enemy of happiness is worry, which comes from focusing on events that are outside your control. Once you've taken action, there's usually nothing more you can do. Focus on the job at hand rather than some weird fantasy of what might happen.

8. Turn off "background" TV.

Many households leave their TVs on as "background noise" while they're doing other things. The entire point of broadcast TV is to make you dissatisfied with your life so that you'll buy more stuff. Why subliminally program yourself to be a mindless consumer?

9. End each day with gratitude.

Just before you go to bed, write down at least one wonderful thing that happened. It might be something as small as a making a child laugh or something as huge as a million dollar deal. Whatever it is, be grateful for that day because it will never come again.
I think this is a pretty good list, with the exception of #4.  I believe it is okay to have a healthy exchange.  It is also helpful to try to understand the other person's perspective before trying to win them over to yours ;-)

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Creativity abounds with time in nature

Nordic skiers
Nature is a place where our mind can rest, relax and let down those threat responses. Therefore, we have resources left over -- to be creative, to be imaginative, to problem solve -- that allow us to be better, happier people who engage in a more productive way with others.  -Ruth Ann Atchley, Department chair and associate professor of cognitive/clinical psychology at the University of Kansas

The quote above was in a column by Harvey McKay in the StarTribune, "Creativity: how to get ideas flowing."  He also referenced a test done by researchers on four groups of backpackers before they heading out for a series of long hikes.  They administered the same test to backpackers who were already fours days into their expedition, and discovered that those who had been out hiking were almost 50 percent higher in creativity than those who hadn't yet hit the trail.

I've experience first hand that being outside and moving does wonders for getting those creative juices flowing.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Winter workouts

Nordic Skiing at Giants Ridge
I'm often surprised by how many people who simply don't want to go outside during the winter months.  Though I get cold very quickly when I'm standing still, the winter months provide some of the best conditions for a couple of my favorite sports; boot hockey and Nordic skiing.  I also continue to enjoy daily walks throughout the winter season.

I was delighted to read an article, Don't fear the winter workout, that confirmed the benefits of outdoor activity during the winter months. Following are five benefits of training outdoors throughout the winter, as noted by the editors of Women's Health magazine:

1.  You'll go for longer - thanks to a beautiful outdoor environment.
2.  You'll blast more calories - simply staying warm can cause you to burn 5 to 7 percent more calories.
3.  You'll save money - once  you've purchased some good winter clothing to go with your exercise equipment you no longer need to spend money on indoor facilities.
4.  You'll fight germs - Gyms are breading grounds for germs and bacteria. Indoor air is also two to five times more polluted than outdoor air.
5.  You'll think more clearly.  Being close to nature increases our well-being.  It has an immunizing effect by protecting us from future stresses and helping us concentrate and think more clearly.

It is also best to begin your workout into the wind and to wear layers of clothing.  If you become sweaty you can remove a layer or two.  Wet skin and cold are a bad mix.

Good clothing is of great importance.  It used to be merino wool was the only fabric that was effective at wicking away moisture from the body.  Now there is a lot of polypropylene base layer clothing made especially for outdoor activity.  In addition to a good hat and mittens, warm socks are essential.  As the Norwegians like to say, there is no bad weather, only bad clothing.  

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Saying YES to life

Snow boarder taking a jump at Giant's Ridge
Biwabik, Minnesota
When we say yes to life, 
we open ourselves to a full range of possibilities; 
when we say no, 
we begin our own death process.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Pictures from the ditch

I would never have thought that I would become one of those "Sunday Drivers" who drives slowly to enjoy the scenery.  But, that was exactly the case earlier in the week when I drove down to Northfield, Minnesota.  There was a lovely frost on all of the plants.  It was so beautiful that I had to pull over a couple of times to take pictures.

Another reminder for me "never say never...."

Friday, January 4, 2013

Redirecting national priorities to infrastructure

Did you know that according to the American Society of Civil Engineers the estimated cost of repairing America's surface infrastructure would require an investment of $1.7 trillion dollars by 2020?  Ironically that is the same amount the US Department of Defense spent on direct costs of overseas interventions since 2001, including debt services.  I discovered this reading Mike Lofgren's book, "The Party is Over: How Republicans Went Crazy, Democrats Became Useless, and the Middle Class Got Shafted."

Watching a show on PBS, A Journey to America's Smelly Depths to Confront Our Aging Water Systems, I learned that we have a huge amount of differed maintenance when it comes to our nation's water and sewer systems. It is so bad that the American Society of Civil Engineers rates them with a D-minus.

It is past time we begin redirecting our tax dollars from wars overseas to our aging domestic infrastructure.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Thoughts on reducing debt in the USA

With the New Year comes many a resolution to lose weight.  However it is all to common that we would do ANYTHING to lose weight except to eat less and exercise more. Is it any wonder that we have such an obesity epidemic in the USA?

It seems the United States law makers continue to treat our debt is very much the same fashion.  They would do ANYTHING to reduce our debt except to raise taxes and cut spending.  Even though we  have a debt problem we've been told for many years now by political leaders our role is to spend more and be better consumers, which is a bit like encouraging an alcoholic to take another drink. How will that help us to reduce our debt of $16,442,558,207,926, which averages over $52,000 per US citizen? 

Consider how in previous generations all the nation's citizens were required to sacrifice and ration for the additional costs required of a war. During 1944 and 1945 the top tax rate for individuals with incomes above $200,000 was raised to 94%. The current rate increase to less than 40% on the highest tax bracket is relatively small potatoes, and hardly constitutes "class warfare".  With the USA's most recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq the country went to war AND lowered the tax rate.  It doesn't take a mathematician to figure out that combination will create a major deficit.

The citizen/consumer mantra in this nation has become "quick, easy and cheap".  To lower our nation's debt will require time, it will be difficult and will necessitate sacrifice by all.  Are you ready?  A new year has dawned, and it is time we eat less, exercise more and start the hard work of reducing our personal and national debt.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Leaves and snow

Young and old birch trees
The contrasting colors between the golden young birch tree growing alongside of a more mature white paper birch tree made for an interesting juxtaposition (right).

A recent snowfall provided a beautiful topping of fresh snow on a leaf (left).
Only that day dawns to which we are awake.
-Henry David Thoreau

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Ice luminary construction

I decided to try my hand at making ice luminaries this winter.  It turned out to be really quite easy. All you need is some water, plastic buckets, candles and sub-freezing temperatures.

To get things started fill some plastic buckets nearly full of water and then put them outside to freeze.  I discovered it works best to place the bucket on some snow, so that the bottom doesn't freeze (this eventually becomes the open top of the luminary).  I tried making ice luminaries on a unheated cement porch, and the bottoms froze over.

Add caption
If it is around zero degrees Fahrenheit it might only take a day and night to create a sold layer of ice across the top and sides of the bucket. If it is only a little below freezing it could take up to three days, or more, to get at least an inch of ice formed around the buckets' top and sides.  Once the ice has formed the buckets can be taken indoors to warm up for about 15 minutes, before they're dumped over into a large sink or on the ground outdoors (the ice looses from the bucket as it warms). Be prepared for cold water to come gushing out when the buckets are dumped.  Once the water has been emptied from the insides of the bucket the luminary is ready to be turned over and a candle placed inside for illumination.

It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness!