Thursday, May 29, 2008

Guerrilla Gardening

Heard of guerrilla gardening? It's a pretty cool movement in urban settings where people are planting flowers and vegetables in heretofore neglected plots of land. LA Times wrote an article about it and there are websites devoted to it.

Seen any good opportunities for a little guerrilla gardening in your 'hood? I'll help.



Monday, May 26, 2008

Swede Hollow Walk

Yesterday morning I took one of my favorite walks up through Swede Hollow and ended up at a new restaurant called The Strip Club for breakfast. I intended to eat at the Swede Hollow Cafe, but they're not open on Sundays. I didn't expect The Strip Club to serve breakfast, but was just walking by it to check it out. The Logger's Tower breakfast consisting of 3 pancakes stacked with 3 intermingled layers of egg and ham was very good.

Swede Hollow is this great little gulch just east of downtown St. Paul that is now nicely connected via paved trails to Lowertown and the new Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary. 100 years ago it was the place where Swedish immigrants settled near the creek running along its bottom. But in the 1950s is had devolved into a slum and all the homes were torn down by the city. Today it is one of those great little urban oases with which not many people are familiar. I feel lucky to live in the city and have such amenities (in addition to the river) so close.

Swede Hollow Then
Swede Hollow Now

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Bike Ride: Sakatah Singing Hills

Went for a bike ride today with Jay & Mikko to the Sakatah Singing Hills trail down between Faribault & Mankato. It was quite windy and the trail was just so-so. We biked from near Faribault to the town of Elysian and back with little side jaunts to check out Elysian and Waterville, about 40 miles round trip. The trail wasn't in the greatest shape and reminded me of the Douglas Trail near Rochester that I rode last year -- lots of seams and bumps and just looked like it had been there for a long time. It was mostly flat and straight and through farm country, which I like. We rode by some lakes, too, but they were pretty unimpressive.

Afterwards we stopped at Grundy's in Northfield for lunch. We each had the double hamburger, which was terrific, but the French fries weren't too good. Always fun to get back to Northfield, though.

Trail Rating: 5 out of 10

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Dr. Seuss Speaks

Courtesy of the Onion:

Stop Making Movies About My Books
by Dr. Seuss

On the fourteenth of March, in towns nationwide,
In every cinema, multiplex, on every barnside,
Gleamed another adapting of one of my books,
CGI-ed and digitized by another sly crook.

Horton, my favorite—look how he's been treated!
Stuffed with tinsels and tassels and promptly excreted!
The puns! And the filler! The script fees you must save!
While I tumble and grum-humble around in my grave.

Did you learn all but squat from The Cat In The Hat?
Please tell me you fired the prick who made that.
I would have stopped writing, maybe sold Goodyear tires.
If I knew one dark day I'd costar with Mike Myers.

And Oh!
Oh, dear! Oh!
My poor Grinch, what they've done!
They crammed in live-action and snuffed out all the fun!

It's icky, it's tacky, it's awkward, it's wrong.
The Whos look like ferrets, it's an hour too long.
What a rotten idea to spend millions destroying
This masterful tale kids spent decades enjoying!
But still you keep making them!
Just how do you dare?
Sell my life's work off piecemeal
To every Tom, Dick, and Har'.

Why it's simply an outrage—a crime, you must judge!—
To crap on my books with this big-budget sludge.
My books are for children to learn ones and twos in,
Not commercialous slop for Jim Carrey to ruin.

Have you no respect for the gems of your youth?
To pervert them on screen from Taiwan to Duluth.
Even after you drag my last word through the dirt,
I know you, you pirates,
You'd cut out my heart for a "Thing 1" T-shirt.
For eighty-some years I held you vultures at bay,
knowing just how you'd franchise my good name some day.
Not yet cold in my grave before you starting shooting
the first of my classics you'd acquired for looting.

Mrs. Seuss, that old stoofus, began selling more rights
to Dreamworks, Universal—any hack in her sights.
First The Cat In The Hat and then this, that and Seussical
without a thought to be picky, selectish, or choosical.

So to Audrey, you whore, you sad sack of a wife:
Listen close. Pay attention, for once in your life.
You give Fox In Sox to those sharks who made Elf
And so help me, I'll rise up and kill you myself.

No Sneetches by Sony—
No One Fish: On Ice
Burn that Hop On Pop II script not one time but twice.
Don't sex up my prose with Alyssa Milano…
And no Green Eggs And Ham with that one-note Romano!

This must stop! This must end! Don't you see what you're doing?
You're defiling the work I spent ages accruing.
And when it's dried up and you've sucked out your pay
There'll be no going back to a simpler day,

When your mom would give Horton a voice extra deep,
And turn the last page as you drifted to sleep.
Instead you'll have boxed sets, shit movies, and… well,
You'll have plenty to watch while you're burning in hell.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Most Desired Future

I'm taking this Strategic Management class right now and enjoying it. One technique the professor is using is to have us envision our own most desired future (MDF), and then think through the strategy of how we will get there. If we can do this for ourselves, then we should be able to do it for a company.

The kicker is that he is really challenging us to define MOST DESIRED future, not just some future farther along the current life/job path we are all on. He is insisting that we envision a future that may seem barely possible and that if your most desired future is actually to be V.P. by 50, then you have a serious problem. He is trying to get us to go through a visioning exercise which is about the journey of thought, not the destination. After all, how many people 40 years ago would have envisioned today?

For me, this is the perfect culmination to a lot of thinking I've been doing over the past two years. Between school and work, I have given a lot of thought to what I want out of life (and out of a career as a subset of that). But it amazes me how virtually nobody in the class, and these are smart people, can see beyond the job title paradigm, even for a simple exercise like this. They continue to want to define their most desirable future in terms of a job.

I'm not sure what this says about me, but it has been easy for me to step out of that box. Of course I'm the guy that picked up and moved to Utah at 26 to ski bum, too.

Past performance is not indicative of future results. If you have no vision, any strategy will get you there.

Monday, May 19, 2008

What's Been Spinnin'

I'm on my second listen through Nine Inch Nails' "Year Zero" and its very good. I've never bought any of Reznor's stuff before, but I'm diggin' this one.

Also spinnin' a lot recently while I've been writing a couple papers:
  • The Swell Season
  • Andrew Bird - and the Mysterious Production of Eggs
  • Arcade Fire - Neon Bible
  • The Hold Steady - Boys and Girls in America
  • New Pornographers - Live in Soho
Those have been in heavy rotation in the 5-disc changer. And yes, I do still listen to complete albums, not just singles shuffled on my iPod. To me, a quality album is a piece of art and should be experienced as such. Crazy, I know.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Arcwelder

What day of the week is it? Saturday? Sunday? Because depending on what day of the week you ask me, I could tell you that Arcwelder is the greatest rock band of all time. Yesterday it might have been Afghan Whigs, but today it is Arcwelder. They were formative in the development of my appreciation of rock in the '90s and they continue to be a favorite.

Today I had the pleasure of seeing them live again, if only for 40 minutes, at Art-a-Whirl in Nordeast Minneapolis. I remember a year ago this weekend I was on a first date at Art-a-Whirl and I mentioned to my date that the music we heard faintly in the distance was Arcwelder. I think she thought I was crazy. And maybe I am, but I know my Arcwelder when I hear 'em. Just ask me about the show in 1992 at the Northfield Ballroom. They did a kickass cover of the Wings' "Jet".

Alas, there is not sufficient online documentation of their greatness for me to relate it to you here. But trust me. They rule. You know me. You know that I know music. See previous posts and trust me on this one.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Song of the Day by Afghan Whigs

I just discovered Greg Dulli's latest project called the Gutter Twins with Mark Lanegan. Of course you remember Mark Lanegan from '90s rockers Screaming Trees. And of course you remember Dulli from Twilight Singers and the legendary Afghan Whigs. Today's song is Debonair by Afghan Whigs. I love this band.

Here's an old MTV clip, circa 1993:



Previously (and still) recommended songs:

Gen X: A Bridge, not a Barrier

I'm not one to complain too much about generational differences, but I was a bit surprised last year when a generational biographer of sorts came to my place of work and talked about the different generations and how they need to work together. What surprised me was how closely I related to the Gen X stereotypes she presented. I think they fit me to a "T". Most people don't like to be stereotyped or pigeonholed, but this one was tough for me to deny, I gotta admit.

Anyways, the reason for this post is only to link to this article which I found through this great blog. Check 'em both out. I like the article's tone and it was fun to read the angle about how Gen X was dealt the shaft as being defined as slackers because we didn't want to interact with the business world in the same way that the Baby Boomers did (amongst other things). But now Gen Y is being hailed for their inventiveness and everyone is being warned that they will have to change in order to adapt to the greatness of Gen Y.

Well it seems to me that Gen X was really the forefathers of this movement. We were the ones who started the change in the workplace and that were first really connected to computers and technology (the Walkman was revolutionary, man!), but the ones who start the change are always resisted. So now Gen Y is cruising in on our coattails. That's cool. Like, whatever. I'm glad I wasn't the baby on board.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Great Day on the Bike

Gorgeous day in the Twin Cities today. I think we hit 70 degrees for the first time and I enjoyed it by biking both ways to work with the fragrance of spring blossoms in the air. Ahhhhh.

Historically, I have mostly put my bike on the bus rack in the morning and then biked home in the evening. It's easier to not have to deal with getting sweaty and changing clothes and stuff. But I got inspired yesterday when I biked in to work for Bike Walk to Work Day as a part of the now greater Bike Walk Week, replacing the former B-BOP Day (bike, bus or carpool). I think I'll keep the hair short this summer and bike both ways more often. Hopefully I can pull it off with just a change of shirts.

Yesterday during my ride in I counted 65(!) other bicyclists on my 12-mile cruise from downtown St. Paul to downtown Mpls. via Summit Ave and the River Road. That's a lot of bikes. Normally on the rides home I notice 15-20 maybe. This morning, for comparison sake, I counted again to see how many were lured in by the special festivities in both downtowns yesterday morning. I counted 35, so a significant number of folks were encouraged to bike commute by the organized gatherings, which is great. Hopefully they enjoyed it and will do it again and again (but, of course, not so often as to make it more crowded for me).

Then, on my ride home this evening I had a classic Overheard in Mpls (St. Paul) moment. I submitted it, and its posted here.
Guy on souped up scooter to guy on normal scooter next to him at stoplight: This one lets me ride on that short stretch of 35E at 45 mph.
So that kept me chuckling for awhile. Then, as I pulled up to the stop sign on Summit at the top of Ramsey hill I caught up to the scooters again, but they turned right. And right behind them this guy sticks his head out of the passenger side of a nice, new, big, red pickup and cheerily says "Hi". I wasn't sure if he was someone I was supposed to recognize, but couldn't place him, so I replied with the same greeting. Then as they turned right down the hill he smiles and says "Been with ya since Cretin".

I kept up with traffic on Summit for about 4 of its 5 miles of length.

That's the story of my great day on the bike. Now I need to write a paper and try to watch as much of the hockey game as possible.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Bicycle Rules of the Road

Being a bicycle commuter, people are curious about how well I abide by traffic laws. In Minnesota, bicycles are governed by the same rules as cars -- they have a full right to use the road and are expected to obey all traffic signals. To tell the truth, I do not obey the rules on my bike the same way I do when I'm driving my car. I roll through four-way stop signs when no cars are present and, while I always come to a complete stop at red lights, when the coast is clear I will sometimes not wait for it to turn green (but this is a complete judgment call on my part, always erring on the side of caution).

As you are probably aware, there is a tenuous relationship between drivers and bicyclists around town. Bicyclists get upset when drivers don't notice them and drivers get upset when bicycles go through red lights and stop signs. With rising gas prices and environmental concerns, more people are biking than ever. Recently, during sweeps week, KSTP TV ran a story called "Bicyclists Breaking the Law?" and a couple people asked me if I had seen it (I hadn't).

I think the tenuous relationship stems from multiple sources. First, bicyclists are supposed to ride on the road because the speed limit on sidewalks is 10mph and serious bikers go faster than that. Sidewalks also offer all sorts of obstacles like runners, walkers, dogs on and off leashes, children, baby strollers, etc. Second, the obvious safety issues of bikes riding next to cars on the road. Third, when a bicyclist stops at a stop sign, he has to gear down and then use leg power to get going again -- a lot more personal effort involved than in stopping a car. And yes, I know the exercise is part of the deal, but the reality is that when you're out biking you'd prefer not to stop and go too frequently. Fourth, drivers see bicyclists who go through lights and stop signs as reckless (debatable) and as disregarding the law (which they are). After all, bikes appear to want the benefits of being legally the same as a car, but not the responsibilities.

Idaho, of all states, has come up with a potential solution. In Idaho, a bicycle is not treated exactly like a car, but is treated like a bicycle. Here's Idaho's bicycle statute. I think it makes a lot of sense and hopefully it will be adopted more broadly.

49-720. STOPPING -- TURN AND STOP SIGNALS.
(1) A person operating a bicycle or human-powered vehicle approaching a stop sign shall slow down and, if required for safety, stop before entering the intersection. After slowing to a reasonable speed or stopping, the person shall yield the right-of-way to any vehicle in the intersection or approaching on another highway so closely as to constitute an immediate hazard during the time the person is moving across or within the intersection or junction of highways, except that a person after slowing to a reasonable speed and yielding the right-of-way if required, may cautiously make a turn or proceed through the intersection without stopping.

(2) A person operating a bicycle or human-powered vehicle approaching a steady red traffic control light shall stop before entering the intersection and shall yield to all other traffic. Once the person has yielded, he may proceed through the steady red light with caution. Provided however, that a person after slowing to a reasonable speed and yielding the right-of-way if required, may cautiously make a right-hand turn. A left-hand turn onto a one-way highway may be made on a red light after stopping and yielding to other traffic.

(3) A person riding a bicycle shall comply with the provisions of section 49-643, Idaho Code.

(4) A signal of intention to turn right or left shall be given during not less than the last one hundred (100) feet traveled by the bicycle before turning, provided that a signal by hand and arm need not be given if the hand is needed in the control or operation of the bicycle.

Softrocks at Stasiu's

Stasiu's is a classic Nordeast Mpls bar and I was there with Mikko to see a couple bands we used to play shows with. The Softrocks were having a cd release party and Dallas Orbiter was opening for them, so we decided to check it out.

My band played with each of these bands back in the day. Three years ago, Dallas Orbiter was an up-and-coming space rock band with local critical approval while The Softrocks were a hard working group of twenty-two year olds trying to find their voice. The Softrocks were really good guys and they opened up for us once or twice. Tonight Dallas Orbiter was pretty decent, but their new stuff fell short of my expectations. Their highlights, for me, were the couple older tunes that I knew. But The Softrocks have come into their own. They have had some lineup changes, and are now a 3-piece with a new, kickass drummer. Captain Softrock, the charismatic frontman, has found his voice, too, and they really rocked.

After the show I made a point to talk to Captain Softrock. I feel like an old-timer and wanted to let him know I like the direction his band is moving in. I've bumped into him in the skyway a couple times over the past 3 years and exchanged pleasantries. But tonight I was sure to tell him how I feel he has improved and how I like their new drummer. It was great to see a band with whom I was familiar from their youth, now coming into their own. Hopefully they'll keep it up and hopefully it won't be another three years until I see them rock again.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Brilliant Music Video

This unsigned British band called The Get Out Clause used various public and private security cameras around Manchester to film their video. They set up their instruments and played in 80 different locations and then used the Data Protection Act to gain access to the film. Brilliant!

Smart Design

Architect Michelle Kaufmann recently designed a sustainable, modern pre-fab home that is on display at Chicago's Museum of Science & Industry. Architects have learned a lot in recent years about how to build homes that work much more efficiently with their environment, showing us how we do not need to continue building houses like we did 200 years ago. Most houses built today are still built from an ancient model with little thought given to true spatial and environmental design. They are designed to maximize profit for the mega-developer company who is overseeing the project. The mega-developer cares little for how much money you will spend on energy over the life of the home, or how well your home interacts with the neighborhood. It doesn't care about conserving water or emphasizing passive solar heating and cross-ventilation cooling because most Americans are not yet clamoring for these features. But we will be.

Eventually sustainable, modern design will become the norm simply because it is far superior to the ancient model. Virtually every other industry has seen dramatic changes in the past several decades, so why not the home? I see a day not too far off where power lines are rendered virtually obsolete because each home will be able to generate all the power it needs.

Open your mind and check out some modern pre-fab. And if you're visiting Chicago this summer, tour the SmartHome at the Museum of Science & Industry. Tour the WWII German U-boat, too.


Thursday, May 8, 2008

This One's a Deuce

I went to the Ace Frehley concert at First Ave tonight. Some of you may know Ace from his work in Frehley's Comet, but most of you probably know him as the guitar player in KISS.



Now I'd be lying if I said I was super psyched for this show. I mostly went because a friend wanted to go and I knew I'd enjoy 4 or 5 songs. But Ace delivered in a big way. His supporting band was made up of L.A. Motley Crue wannabes, but they were tight and the sound experience in First Ave. is so far superior to any arena show. I've seen KISS a couple times, and this was better. New York Groove, Deuce, Love Gun, Rock Soldiers, and the opener Rip it Out were all highlights. He did the flaming guitar gag too, which was great, but was lessened a bit by the lingering scent of cherry bomb that was never smellable in the '80s at the Civic Center.

First Ave. was sold out (1,200 people) and there were probably 20 women there. One fan came dressed in costume as Ace circa '79 and there were lots of old KISS t-shirts. Ace is clean and sober now, a far cry from some of his old antics.

So how 'bout a little respect for the true soul of one of America's greatest rock bands. You wanted the best...

Monday, May 5, 2008

Next Travel Destination?

In a rough priority order by combination of desire and realistic expectation at this stage of my life:
  1. Biking French countryside - Maybe explore a couple different regions, including food and drink
  2. Amazon jungle eco-lodge - Peru got me fired up for the Amazon
  3. Ireland/Scotland - Two words: pub crawl
  4. New Zealand - Beautiful adventure travel opportunities
  5. Kenya/Tanzania/Kilimanjaro - Safari and climb Kilimanjaro
  6. Nepal/Bhutan/Tibet - Himalayas and buddhism
  7. SE Asia - Will need to hone in on one country at a time
  8. Austria/Switzerland - Mountain beauty
  9. Turkey - Why did Constantinople get the works?
  10. Kyrgyzstan/Tajikistan/Mongolia - Not exactly Asian, definitely not European
  11. Budapest - a classic
  12. Germany - I'd rather Oktoberfest than Carnival or Mardi Gras
  13. Paris - a classic
  14. London - a classic
  15. Australia - not real high on my list

Saturday, May 3, 2008

The Office un-DVRed

To my eye, the American version of "The Office" tv show has jumped the shark. The first few seasons were terrific, must see tv for me, but after watching the last few episodes I officially canceled my DVR setting for it. Many sitcoms hit the wall after just a few seasons, if not earlier, almost as a matter of definition. When you force a show to be in the same setting with the same cast of characters, there is only so much you can do with it. The Office has used many of the classic techniques to try to keep the story fresh: cross romance between characters, new characters arriving and other characters leaving, giving the token black character his own very special show, etc., but it's just not working any longer for me. I need to cut back on my DVR shows anyways, so The Office takes the hit. They still did have 3+ fantastic seasons, though.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Song of the Day by Okkervil River

"Okkervil River Song" by Okkervil River, here featured on the newly launched Pitchfork TV



Previously (and still) recommended songs: