Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Out for a Skate

Nothin' like having the neighborhood rink all to yourself.

Shinny anyone?

Monday, December 29, 2008

Abstinence Pledgers Lie, Certainly Going to Hell

Did you know the federal government has been spending $200,000,000 per year on abstinence education that does not work? So says a study that just came out of Harvard that looks at the sexual history of teens who took an abstinence pledge (I read about it here in the Strib). In fact, not only does the virginity pledge not work, but those who took the pledge are less likely to use birth control before marriage.

The study's conclusion:
CONCLUSIONS. The sexual behavior of virginity pledgers does not differ from that of closely matched nonpledgers, and pledgers are less likely to protect themselves from pregnancy and disease before marriage. Virginity pledges may not affect sexual behavior but may decrease the likelihood of taking precautions during sex. Clinicians should provide birth control information to all adolescents, especially virginity pledgers.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Album of the Year

I don't buy as many records as I used to, but still appreciate the beauty of a quality album more than any other art form. So I didn't listen to hundreds or even dozens of albums like the critics and websites I respect did. But I do read and listen to a lot of music reviews over the course of the year so I am able to pick up those I believe to be most promising. Here's my cream of the crop from 2008, with the #1 cd coming into my home only last week.

  1. David Byrne & Brian Eno - Everything That Happens Will Happen Today. A+. I'm only on about my 3rd or 4th full listen to this album, and am absolutely loving it (though I did post about it here when introduced to it online back in August). Both of these artists are over 50 years old and both have very respected careers going back 30+ years. They have worked together before, but not recently, and fortunately David Byrne didn't bring any of that weird world beat stuff he was doing in the '90s to the table.
  2. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds - Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!. A. "We Call Upon the Author" is my song of the year. Nick Cave is another pentagenarian who continues to kick out the jams.
  3. Girl Talk - Feed the Animals. A-. In my attempts to stretch my ear I was very pleased with the mashup genius of Girl Talk. The entire album is made up of bits and pieces of other artists' work and is threaded together brilliantly into hummable, recognizable, but still unique dancey tunes.
Other 2008 releases I bought:
Other newish albums I listened to a lot this year:
Music website of the year:
Whaddya think? What did I miss?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Song of the Day by The Beta Band

Today's song of the day is "Dry the Rain" by the Beta Band. You might have heard it in the movie "High Fidelity" or in the intro to my favorite NPR show Sound Opinions. As always with these, I struggle to find the right YouTube link to use. There's a quality live version of this out there, but it doesn't have the slide guitar. And I absolutely love the slide guitar on this song.

"Dry the Rain" by The Beta Band:

And a link to the broader scene from High Fidelity.

Previously (and still) recommended songs:

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Gone Out Gone...On Ice!

My old band was given a hint of life recently sold out when the World Ice Racing Circuit tapped us for music to a pretty exhilerating ice racing video they put together. Looks like fun! I might have to go check them out at Lake Phalen for a Winter Carnival race in January.

Consumerism as Art

Last spring I ran across the art of Chris Jordan and was very impressed, but then lost the link or something and forgot his name. Somehow, though, I knew I'd stumble upon him again and today is the day.

Go to this link to see far better photos than I could try to represent here. He creates images depicting:
  • one hundred million toothpicks, equal to the number of trees cut in the U.S. yearly to make the paper for junk mail.
  • one million plastic cups, the number used on airline flights in the US every six hours.
  • 32,000 Barbies, equal to the number of elective breast augmentation surgeries performed monthly in the US in 2006.
It's hard to see the volume of consumerism depicted in this way and not be floored by it and not want to do something about it (at least for me). Especially at Christmas time I think it is important for us to re-think our impact. Maybe our President wouldn't tell us the best thing we could do to help the economy is to go shopping if we actually manufactured a quantity of products of enough value that we could export (see prior entry about America creating a capitalist world in which it cannot compete)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Praying for a Bailout

This NY Times article (via) shows how some Detroit residents are praying for Congress to approve the bailout. Maybe it's just me, but if you're gonna resort to prayer, why would you pray for this particular bailout option? Do they think that it is more likely that God would approve this prayer than a prayer for, say, each of them to be more wise and to give them strength to stand up to management when they see that management is being short-sighted? Or they could pray for a different bailout plan or for more money. Or simply pray for God to create more oil reserves....right near Detroit. Why limit yourself?

Last week Cardinal Maida gathered 11 Detroit-area religious leaders, representing Christian, Jewish and Muslim congregations, to call on Congress to approve the $34 billion in government-backed loans that the automakers have requested.
“We have done all that we can do in this union, so I turn it over to the Lord,” General Holiefield, a U.A.W. vice president for Chrysler, told the crowd. A vice president for the parts suppliers, James Settles Jr., asked those present “to continue your prayers, so we can see a miracle next week.”

Friday, December 12, 2008

Big 3 Compete for the Bailout of 2

Another brilliant Elliot Spitzer column in Slate. This one on his idea of how to solve the problems of the auto bailout. His idea: Have the 3 of them compete for 2 bailout spots.

The only issue, of course, is the difficulty in holding the two bailout recipients to their plan. But can a car czar really do that anyways? If so, let them do it this way.

We all know that a significant downsizing of auto-industry capacity is necessary. Maintaining all three companies is probably not economically feasible. We also know that the incipiency of bankruptcy tends to focus the mind and produce real offers. Why don't we tell the current Big Three that $25 billion in capital is available—but only to two of them? The surviving two will be those that submit the best, and final, binding bids, supported by all the necessary constituencies: boards, managers, suppliers, vendors, creditors, and the UAW. The plans that are the best, as judged by a panel of private- and public-sector figures—Jack Welch, Warren Buffet, or Felix Rohatyn, plus Office of Management and Budget and Congressional Budget Office officials—are the plans that will get funded. The measures they will be judged by will be announced ahead of time and will be a combination of retained/gained market share, return on capital, jobs retained, and mileage and environmental efficiency gains. The company with the least impressive plan will be denied funding. To avoid letting the third parties—creditors, the UAW, or vendors—pick the winner by refusing to sign on with their least favorite of the Big Three, third parties will be required to offer the same deal to each of the three. This process will force the companies to bid against one another for aid, giving us the benefit of genuine competition. This is better than an "oversight board" of Cabinet members who have no real understanding of the industry.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

America's Bed

Great article in Slate today by Elliot Spitzer about the now global capitalist economy that America has been encouraging all these years. But are we ready to sleep in this bed we've made? Are our big government bailouts being spent on the past or the future?

The great irony is that our new place in the global economy is a direct consequence of our grand victory over the past 60 years. We have, indeed, converted virtually the entire world into one integrated capitalist economy, and we must now bear the brunt of serious and vigorous competition. In the immediate aftermath of World War II, the United States was essentially the only nation with financial capital, intellectual capital, skilled labor, a growing middle class generating consumer demand, and a rule of law permitting safe investment. Now we are one of many nations with these critical advantages.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Who am I? What do I do?

I've been thinking recently about how common it is for Americans to define themselves by their career, but how I have never really felt that way. Liz and I discussed it a bit last week and this weekend I meditated on it while lounging in the spa at the new Ivy Hotel downtown Mpls.

At work, I also thought this through from a marketing perspective recently. The Lutheran financial services organization I work for can only sell insurance products to Lutherans and targets its marketing materials to more active Lutherans. I am technically a Lutheran and eligible to buy insurance from my company, but I don't go to church and never really think of myself as Lutheran. It is my opinion that many potential Lutheran clients of my company are ignored by our marketing practices because of the expense and challenges of marketing to a religious group anywhere beyond the church. There are lots of people who are technically Lutheran, but don't really think of themselves as Lutheran. More likely, they think of themselves as mother, father, artist, North Dakotan, Packer fan, whatever.

When I think about who I am and what I do, my career and my religion do not show up. If I were to, say, jot those things down in my blog and share them with you they might look like this:

I am a global citizen and world traveler,
a critical thinker,
a loving son/uncle/brother,
an appreciator of music and the arts,
a city dweller.

Note: subject to change as I evolve and grow.