Friday, January 31, 2014

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

When the going gets tough, the tough get volunteering

Yesterday morning, with temperatures of 15 to 20 degrees below zero, a mother in a foot brace and her three children came in to volunteer at Second Harvest Heartland. They had come to volunteer the previous weekend with a large group from their church.

Together, with the help of a few other hardy souls they labeled and repacked over 3,000 pounds of crackers for their neighbors in need.

Way to go!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Snow dunes

With temperatures of 14 below, and strong wind gusts, it made for bitter cold, but also beautiful snow dunes on the pond at Bassett Creek Park this morning.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Summer residence

I discovered this summer residence on Madeline Island.  I wonder where this snow bird went during the winter months.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Winter leaves

I went outside yesterday to explore subject matter which might be interesting to photograph.  The few leaves that were randomly scattered on top of the snow seemed to shout out for a portrait.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014


There were icicles of all shapes and sizes on the ice caves outside of Cornucopia, Wisconsin.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Ice textures

It was amazing to see some of the beautiful textures ice and frost form while up north this past weekend.


Monday, January 20, 2014

Madeline Island, Wisconsin

Lake Superior ice on the northern coast of the island
Sign along ice road between Bayfield and Madline Island

White-tailed deer and young
I enjoyed a trip "up north" to Bayfield, Wisconsin this past weekend. While there I went out to the "sea caves" and made an excursion to Madeline Island.  Pictured above are shots from Madeline Island.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Possible restructuring of the Minnesota Orchestra

After a lengthy 15 month lockout the Minnesota Orchestra musicians will once again be back in action, with concerts starting in February. While this comes as a great relief to many musicians and music lovers, not all are happy with the way a resolution was developed.  (Three year  Minnesota Orchestra deal ends 15 month lockout)

Following are a few thoughts from a friend, George Jaquith, regarding a possible reorganization, with ownership by residents of the state of Minnesota.

To guarantee the future of this 110 year cultural, social and economic asset, the State of MN truly ought to assume control of the Orchestra and the endowment.  The City of Minneapolis already owns the Hall which could remain as it is or be transferred to the State. Community ownership already serves great performing arts companies on every continent.  Ownership by the citizens would increase good will, remove it from narrow control, labor disputes and partisan politics. 

Unlike other countries, we need not seek public funds, although the State and local level have already contributed millions for the Hall and later for the 50 million dollar expansion.  Perhaps six million of the 500 million dollars appropriated by the Minnesota for the Vikings stadium could have been diverted in the form of a loan to cover the deficit of the Orchestra, as suggested by both former Governor Arne Carlson
 and Gary Gutting in the New York Times of November 30, 2013.

Patron comments may be directed to the MOA:   612-373-9204

Be it further recommended that:
1)      The MOA swiftly appoint a temporary management experienced in concert production and an executive board amenable to working with the musicians.
2)      A coalition be formed including the MOA, musicians and community members to revive a concert season immediately.
3)      That the MOA work with Rep. Kahn and the Minnesota Legacy Committee on the State level to pass the legislative bill and provide a smooth transition to community ownership.
4)      This being accomplished, a committee should approach Director Vanska to return ASAP.   Anyone who heard his comments from the podium at the farewell concert senses that he may be receptive, given a greater stability on the part of the MOA and a more responsive management.  (He already agreed to conduct a special concert at the new Northrop Auditorium in May, 2014.)
Also, House Representative Kahn at: or Write Governor Dayton, Minneapolis mayor Betsy Hodges (who stands behind the musicians) and your area legislators.
Express now your support for the bill to dissolve the present legal structure of the MOA as it exists, replaced by a community ownership.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Winter bouquet

Blowing snow added to the beauty of a cattail and plant growing by the pond's edge at Bassett Creek Park.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Disturbing trend in childhood poverty

An article, A poverty, not eduction, crisis in U.S. describes how the poverty rate for children has been growing since President Clinton's term in office.  Now nearly 50 percent for those children in our public schools are at or below the poverty rate. Seems to me THIS is our nation's greatest long-term security concern.  When our children aren't getting a good start they are much less likely to become the successful contributing members of society that we need to continue to thrive as a nation.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Finding one's bliss

It is always great to see people working in areas where they have experience, passion and talent.  An evening watching violinist Pekka Kuusisto play with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra reinforced this belief.  Mr. Kuusisto played beautifully and seemed to express sheer joy throughout the evening, making music with other talented musicians.  It's tragic that so few musicians and other artists are able to make a living sharing their talents with others.

A full review of the concert was provide in today's StarTribune, SPCO on its game with Kuusisto at the helm.

Friday, January 10, 2014

National development of a Civilian Conservation Corps

Minnesota Conservation Corps:
Memory Lane Park Project
Wouldn't it be great to have a means of putting thousands of unemployed youth to work, while also enhancing our natural environment.  That is exactly what the United State's new Secretary of the Department of Interior is interested in doing.  Let's hope she gets support, both from the government and corporate sectors.

You can read more about this in the Huffington Post, A Civilian Conservation Corps for the Modern Age

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Arctic Vortex

The arctic vortex moved south and brought extreme cold to much of the United States earlier this week.

Pictured above is a chunk of ice on a stretch of open water in the Mississippi River.  It was about 18 degrees below zero at the time of the shooting of this photograph.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Pillsbury mill ruins

While exploring the Mississippi River, at 18 below zero, I found remnants of the old Pillsbury ruins to be of interest.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Goose down at 18 below zero

I felt somewhat self-conscious about taking this picture of the geese sitting on the ice at the Mississippi River, while enjoying my warm down jacket.  Thankfully the geese didn't ask to see the content label of the jacket, otherwise they may not have sat so lovely for the photo shoot.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Frosty Beauty

Subzero temperatures created hoar frost on leaves, twigs and grasses on, and alongside the pond at Bassett Creek Park.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

If at first you don't succeed...

It was 32 years ago that I had an "epic failure" in my debut a public speaker.  I was asked, along with another classmate of mine, to provide a chapel talk at our alma matter regarding our experiences as youth ministers.  My friend insisted we not use notes, and simply speak from the heart.

Well, as we got midway though the presentation, I grew increasingly uncomfortable with our unscripted presentation, and as I looked out on an audience of former coaches, professors and students I fainted.  The next thing I knew I saw a gathering of people hovering over me, wondering if I was okay.

One thought I learned in youth ministry training kept burning in the back of my mind throughout the presentation "Whenever you go unprepared, you never go along. Fear is your constant companion."

I've since made hundreds of presentations to groups large and small since that first dramatic entry into public speaking.  My current position with a food bank involves making daily presentations to groups, ranging up to 100, where not only do I provide information, I also ask for a financial donation.  Not an easy assignment!

The reason I share this reflection is to remind myself, and others, going into a New Year, that though we may have had some "epic failures" in the year gone by, we can learn from them, and be prepared for the next opportunity that comes along.  As any inventor or entrepreneur will tell us, we learn the most from our failures, about what doesn't work.  If we continue doing what didn't work in the past and expecting success we are likely to keep falling short of our goals.  So, if at first we don't succeed, regroup, prepare, and try, try, try again.

PS  If you would like to make a financial contribution to Second Harvest Heartland, a $5 gift can purchase food enough for 18 meals for people in need.

Friday, January 3, 2014

The art of photography

Exposed branches on the pond at Bassett Creek Park

A photographer friend recently shared with me the following, which I think rings true...

Painting is an art of addition. You add different colors and textures to a blank canvas and create your subject. But photography is just its opposite. In photography, the whole world is a canvas and you keep on subtracting elements until you find your subject matter. Remember this: Photography is an art of subtraction!  

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Risk and reward

This past year the stock market provided an excellent example of the rewards of taking calculated risk with one's financial resources.  The Standard and Poor's 500 index ended the year up nearly 30 percent.   On the other hand, the much more traditionally safe investments of treasury notes returned less than three percent, while bonds lost two percent over the year.

While it was only recently we were reminded how the stock market can also drop dramatically, on average it outperforms other traditional investments that are considered much less risky.  Such is life, isn't it?  To receive a significant gain of any value one must take significant risks.

My biggest risks over the years also reaped the greatest gains.... leaving home for college, spending my junior year abroad, getting married and adopting our child.  All of these were great risks, and brought me well outside of my comfort zone, but also helped me to grow and a person.

While directing a mentoring program I often reminded people that the significant risk and investment required to become a mentor could also yield a great gain, not only for the child being mentored, but also the volunteer doing the mentoring. People who only want to make a brief, one shot volunteer commitment shouldn't expect the significant kinds of returns of those who make a great investment of themselves and their time.

So, as you enter the new year, what risks might you consider taking to help you grow and possibly yield a great return on your investment of your time or money?