Saturday, January 31, 2015

Marvelous Muslim volunteers

I had a wonderful encounter yesterday afternoon with a group of Muslim volunteers at Second Harvest Heartland.  Twenty plus students carpooled over from the University of Minnesota to help us pack over 1,000 one pound bags of pecans.  They were part of the Al-Madinah Cultural Center.  These students were friendly, courteous and fun loving.  After a few hours of volunteering they gathered together for evening prayers before heading back to the U of M.  This group was a great reminder for me of how the violent extremist groups of Muslims around the world misrepresent the greater body of Muslims who are respectful of others and peace loving.

The Al-Madinah Center's mission is to create better understanding and appreciation for the diverse culture of Islam through educational, social and community activities at the University of Minnesota.

Friday, January 30, 2015

A long wait for justice

"The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice."
- Martin Luther King Jr.

It took 54 years, but finally the criminal records of nine men who sat down at a  'Whites Only' counter at the McCrory variety store in Rock Hill, South Carolina were tossed out.  You can read more about this in an article "Friendship nine have criminal records cleared."

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Reducing the impact of waste collection

I wrote the following for our local newspaper this week....

Great to hear that Golden Valley is considering reducing the number of garbage trucks throughout their community.  With an average truck weighing 64,000 pounds, and getting extremely poor gas mileage, it would be a big win for the environment to consolidate this service.  I sure wish we didn’t have so many loud, polluting trucks roaming through the city of Crystal. Certainly it is also a safety hazard having these many trucks starting and stopping throughout our neighborhoods.

Did you know that a single waste collection truck has the relative impact of 830 cars? That’s a lot of additional wear and tear, especially when you multiply that by multiple garbage haulers.  A Roseville study on this topic concluded that limiting the number of garbage trucks to only one hauler could extend the usefulness of the street 5 to 10 years.  Wow, that offers a significant savings for us taxpayers.

I would also think that the collective bargaining power of a city, versus individual households, could also be a big win for residents. 

All the best to Golden Valley as you consider this economically and environmentally beneficial decision to have a single garbage hauler.  I hope that the city of Crystal will soon follow.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Is the USA ready for Universal Health Care yet?

Did you know that all of the developed/industrialized countries around the world already have Universal Health Care?  In fact, Norway has had health care coverage for all of its citizens since 1912.  You can see a chart of countries with Universal Health Care.

While the USA doesn't yet offer health care coverage for all of its citizens, the Affordable Care Act is helping more Americans find coverage, especially those with little income or who have pre-existing medical conditions.  Having recently gone through the process for establishing coverage in Minnesota through MNCare, I can tell you it isn't easy. For one thing, the online registration process had lots of glitches.  Additionally there were a dizzying array of providers and plans to choose from, with so many varying options. We ended up purchasing inexpensive coverage, but with a high deductible.

It seems crazy to have health care tied to employers, especially considering how less stable jobs are for most people these days. We can only hope that instead of leading the world in military spending, we might find the will amongst our political leaders to adopt Universal Health Care, despite the vast lobbying from the private health care industry.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Keystone Pipeline: Not so fast

There was an instructive commentary in the StarTribune regarding the proposed Keystone Pipeline construction project: Deny Keystone XL unless traded for a carbon tax. The time is now for significant carbon taxes to help us make a change in our behavior.  Simply talking about the need for change will not make it so.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Developing a circular economy

We've been living on this planet as if we had limitless amounts of natural resources to make all of the great many things we 7 billion inhabitants desire.  We also have been dumping waste on land, water and in the air as if there was going to be no tomorrow.  Well, God willing, tomorrow will come, and we need to start acting like it, if not for our own sakes, for the sake of future generations.

It was refreshing to hear Ellen MacArthur discuss her work on the 'circular economy' on a recent BBC newscast. She is working with businesses to help them develop a business model which considers how they can build things so that they can be reused, either by components or refurbished for reuse.  As the widely acclaimed author and motivational speaker has often stated, we should 'begin with the end in mind'.

This new business model brings great hope for the future of our planet. It will most certainly take time for this new paradigm to be implemented, but with huge multinationals like Unilever jumping on board, things could get moving rather rapidly.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The beauty of silence

Bouquet of Flowers in a Vase
Vincent van Gogh, 1890

"Open your mouth only if what you are going to say is more beautiful than silence."

Arabic proverb

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Never too old to volunteer

Yesterday we had a group of people who were associated with Martin Luther King Day Governor's Commission volunteering at Second Harvest Heartland. They, along with a few other volunteers bagged over 7,000 pounds of potatoes during their three hour shift.  One of the participants had her mother join us, who had recently traveled up from New Orleans.  She was 95 years old.

It was amazing to visit with this lovely lady who still had a thirst for travel and learning about others from around the world.  I was inspired by her curiosity, positive attitude and willingness to help others.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Hold fast to dreams

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.
- Langston Hughes

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Speaking of Gun Violence

This morning at church I lead a forum on the issue of Gun Violence.  In order to express how guns have infiltrated our language I began with the following introduction...

Earlier in the week when I realized under fire I was responsible for the forum this Sunday on Gun Violence I thought I made a commitment and should stick to my guns and do it. For a while I contemplated shooting from the hip, and simply take a buckshot approach. But then I thought it would be better to utilize some bullet points so I would stay on target.

Before I pulled the trigger, and decided to do this presentation, I received information on a summit; World change through faith and justice: Elevating the issue of gun violence.  Shoot, I thought, if I’m going to drop them dead with presentation, I had better be loaded for bear. Rather than skirting around the issue I thought it best be addressed point blank. I just hope I can make a high caliber presentation and not bomb out! So it is that I’m aiming high, and hoping not to disappoint, when I’m up here under fire on the front lines.  If you have already formed your opinion on this topic, I’m asking you not to jump the gun and be overly critical of me right away.  Please hold your fire until afterwards, and then let me have it, with double barrels if you like. 

The forum went well, and may result in an additional gathering to discuss specific means to reducing the epidemic of gun violence in America. 

A timely editorial on this topic was in today's StarTribune,  A gun in nearly every hand. 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Manhattan Bird Man

On a recent trip to New York City we came across this man in the park that has been feeding birds for the past 12 years.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Cutter and sleigh rides

Pictures from a Sleigh and Cutter parade in Ashland Wisconsin this past weekend.

Icy Cornucopia Harbor

Photos from a recent stop in Cornucopia, Wisconsin.  This is a harbor on Lake Superior's scenic south shore.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Tuesday, January 6, 2015


Ravens are alleged to be some of most intelligent birds around.  We have some that live in our neighborhood.  It seems they are quite observant, but rather skittish around people.

They were discussing the cold temperatures yesterday.  I overhead a bit of their conversation regarding whether they would choose to live in Minnesota again. One responded, and I quote, "never more."

Monday, January 5, 2015

Cold ducks

With temperatures of 10 below zero, the mallards on the pond looked rather chilled this morning.