Monday, January 29, 2007

Lucy and Pete

Check out the cute couple. Pete and Lucy were featured on the "Commitments" page in Mpls.St.Paul magazine, January issue. Click on the image to get a version big enough to read. Adorable!

In related news, the scanner that came with my computer works.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Crazy in the Woods

For those who haven't heard the story (how did you manage to avoid me?), I went canoeing in the Boundary Waters in October for a week with Denise, Joe, and Ben. We ended up doing some unintentional winter camping, to the tune of six inches or so of snow. I know this is old news, but one has to milk these foolhardy nature adventures for all their worth. It helps justify having been cold, wet, and mildly terrified. On vacation.

More to the point, Joe (our fearless leader) sent some more photographic evidence. (Of course, I assume you all think I've been exaggerating.)

One morning we found ourselves breaking ice as we paddled. That's me taking point, y'all! When we finally reached the portage, we took a picture of the trail we had blazed. That's Joe reveling in the snowfall.

Crazy in the Woods II

We at least began with good weather.

Indeed, we had a few beautiful sunsets and some pretty scenery. Even the snow was pretty, though we perhaps didn't appreciate it completely at the time. It is weird though that we saw way more snow up there in the second week of October than we've seen down here in all the winter since.

While we were still in the woods, Denise asked me if I thought I'd go on the same trip again. We speculated that it might be like childbirth--when you're in the middle of it, you think, "Dear God, this is horrible! Why did I ever agree to this?" But later, your memories are softened, and you get to tell a lot of harrowing stories and make yourself sound intrepid, and you think, "Hey, that wasn't so bad."

I did not learn a thing.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Justice is NOT Served. Again. Some More.

I've been thinking lately that nothing is so damaging to our notions of justice than the average workplace. It seems like the universal work experience: People are always getting promoted who shouldn't be, the folks that are genuine screw-ups are never held accountable, and you rarely get the recognition you deserve. And then there's this: Some genius has decided that My Former Employer warrants an award for "championing work-life balance."

Oh my sainted aunt! Since you all are either personally acquainted with the terrors of that place, or have already heard my endless screeds on the subject, there's no need to say more here. Except the Center for Ethical Business Cultures and WFC Resources can go suck it.



From the blog of Jimmy Gaines:
Product idea: A flask that, when tipped up, displays messages that you can read while drinking ala the magic 8-ball.
"Church is halfway over"
"She's a bitch anyway"
"Problem solved"
"'Guilty, my ass!"
"One day I'll show them. I'll show them all!"
I wish I saw that guy more often.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Funny Voices

My oldest brother Beau has always had a way with little kids, even when he was one. When I was maybe four or five, he had this thing where he would take two of our many stuffed animals—I think it was a bear and dog (with floppy ears?)—and make them "talk." He had these specific funny voices for them. It was the first thing I remember laughing uncontrollably at. And I'm pretty sure that's why I love any comedian who does voices:

Katie, Phillip, and I went to see an expanded version of this live at the Varsity. She was filming that performance in hopes that it could become a sitcom. It is simply delicious. And there's a pug!

If that gets your mojo workin', check out The Ointment Interview #2 on her MySpace page. I laughed until the tears came.

A shout-out to any sibling who can remember the name of the bear and the dog!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

God's Waiting Room Has Great Art

I wish I was in Florida this week. Buk's having a show. Congrats Buk! I love your firing techniques—you seem to be putting that kiln to good use. But you also seem to have significantly reduced your use of pointy shards of metal, which makes me wistful.

I still tell people the story of emptying out that storage space of yours in Verm, in which you were keeping random shards of metal in boxes made of like, two by fours. For maximum portability, as we found out. We joked about what would happen if you had an accident while you were hauling all that extra metal: "What the hell happened here?! There seems to have been another car involved .... that was blown to pieces ..."

Mully, I'm so psyched that your Erturk surprise worked out so well. Yay! I must go book a flight to Florida this instant.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Get Yer Ya-Yas Out

I finally walked the tens of feet necessary to check out the Sunday night Cajun action at Half Time Rec. The Cajun Hot Soles were playing (fantastic!), and the place was jumping. No feet were spared in the dancing. In fact, many people changed out of sneakers or boots into smooth soled dancing shoes—the corners of the bar were piled with shoes and coats. The steps do involve a lot of shuffling, and I think my "sticky" shoes were interfering with my moves. (Oh. I have moves.)

The band featured Pop Wagner and his ten gallon hat on fiddle. (In a surreal coincidence, one of the interns here has that photo of him as her desktop background. I've been a little freaked out by his mustache as I walk by her desk. I'm happy to say that it's not nearly as alarming in person.)

I'd definitely recommend the Rec-reation, if only for the people-watching. One white-haired gentleman sported a truly inventive comb-over: Except for a fringe around the back at his neck, all the hair was combed up toward the crown of his head and arranged into a modified pompadour. Nice.

Friday, January 19, 2007

God, Inc.

Dig this scene, if you dare. If you like it, there are three more episodes.

I AM the man

I had an oh-my-god-I'm-working-for-the-man moment yesterday. I went to a meeting of the local building owners and managers association, because they were talking about the likelihood of new major office buildings getting built. ( I do geek out on the commercial real estate.) The meeting was held at a country club in the 'burbs. We'd just finished breakfast when a group of protesters trooped in -- about 20 people, I think.

It was the local janitor's union, and they were there to demand a meeting because their employers were refusing to discuss health care benefits. They said that of the 4,200 people in their union, only 14 of them had health coverage for their families. That's not 14 percent, it's 14 people.

A man who identified himself as a pastor spoke first, calling it a moral issue. And then a number of others kept repeating their demand for a meeting. One woman started telling the story of a man who didn't have coverage for his gall bladder surgery. They were mostly met with stony stares and silence.

Meanwhile the meeting organizers had called the cops and the protesters were soon evicted, to the sound of clapping from the audience. There were a few jokes, which got hearty laughs, and a few references by the speakers to "the earlier excitement," but that was about it.

I really have to admire the courage it took for the protesters to walk into that room. It's a lot different than protesting in front of the federal building downtown, where you probably won't confront a specific person with your issues. These people walked into a private country club and a room full of suits, probably aware of the reception that they would get. I don't know all the ins and outs of their beef, but I have to take it pretty seriously if they are willing to do that.

But I was uncomfortable sitting there, clearly in the "suits" camp. I mean I'm aware that I'm a suit, but I wanted to somehow let the protesters know that I wished them well. Or perhaps find a way to yell "Preach it!" without a) looking like a dork, and b) alienating the magazine's audience, which could be detrimental to my job prospects. Then there's my role as "the media," but working for a magazine that would not cover such an issue -- we tell "the good news of business."

And indeed, writing about business will tend to make you see their side of things. The health care costs for employees are threatening businesses, too.

So here's the thing: The workers with crappy health care coverage and the overburdened businesspeople should get together and go after the damn health care industry! Why should they get away with having that kind of power over you?! Why should they bleed you dry?! You could take 'em! I love an unlikely alliance.

I know I'm just a cockeyed optimist, but I think it could work!

Thursday, January 18, 2007


Ohmigod, y'all! The site went down as I was nearing the end of a long post -- all was lost. I'm stomping off to bed in a huff. I'll see ya tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


It's freakin' cold and my bones are achy and everything is harder than usual. I've lost the slight inspiration that sustained me. It's either that or the fact that the whole lower level of my house won't get warm, even though the furnace runs continuously. Thanks a lot, thousands of dollars worth of new insulation. You've been so helpful.

Perhaps I just stayed too long at work. Even so, at 6 p.m., there was still this complete backup to get on the freeway. Everyone stayed late at work, I guess, but somehow that doesn't make me more empathetic towards them. Out of my way, you faceless obstacles to my happiness!

When it takes that long to get on the road, you'd think I'd value the time I spend driving on it more. "I'm finally here! I've waited so long!" Sadly, no. I wait forever on the ramp and then the freeway's backed up, so I start looking for ways to get off and take side streets home. Traffic is no place for the rational.

Spam Rage

A discussion at work yesterday about the annual Spam Museum festival caused me to remember my dear departed friend Val. Sometime in the early '90s, we went to see that documentary about the Hormel strike, American Dream, which is pretty brutal. Val, who was an activist to the core, was so pissed by the end. Her battle cry: "Let's go to the Rainbow and snap all the keys off the Spam cans!" You go, girl.

We did see the movie on a doubled bill with Incident at Oglala, so I guess we were asking for trouble. I miss you, girlfriend.

Monday, January 15, 2007


I just caught Hugh Laurie's Golden Globes acceptance speech. He said nice things about the "House"crew and said, "Of course everyone does that, but it can't always be true. Somebody's got to be working with a crew of drunken thieves."

He went on to say about his own crew, "They smell of newly mown grass."


Saturday, January 13, 2007


I'm bound to say at the start of this thing that I've shamelessy stolen my handle from Molly (aka Mully, aka Moll-doll). She is and will always be the master of sass. I only hope to someday to reach the pinnacle of sassiness that she has achieved.


I heartily approve Time's choice for Person of the Year. You have always meant so much to me, and I'm so pleased that you've been recognized in this way. You really do represent the heights of human achievement.

I finally got around to reading the issue. The feature package included a rather patronizing profile of the the two YouTube founders, which somehow made them appear both savvy and clueless. Like they've made all this money, but they don't really deserve it. One of them is described thusly:

"Chad Meredith Hurley has the lanky and languorous carriage of a teenager who just rolled out of bed. He wears a stubble beard over a complexion that doesn't see enough sun, and he has a habit of pushing his chin-length hair back from his forehead so that by the end of the day it's a bit oily and Gordon Gekko-ish."

Ish, indeed.

Those crazy geeks are still loving their Interweb, I guess.

Monday, January 1, 2007

Books Read in 2007

That Old Ace in the Hole by Annie Proulx -- I listened to the audio book on a road trip. It was a kinda fun story about a guy that goes to Oklahoma to scout locations for huge hog farms. Lots of well-written characters. My favorite was a cowboy monk whose monastery raises buffalo. Yay!

Larry's Party by Carol Shields -- Essentially, the life story of an average man who is crazy about mazes. It was alright, but it didn't light my fire. OK.

Becoming Real: Defeating the Stories We Tell Ourselves That Hold us Back by Gail Saltz -- OK, that title is terrible. But it turned out to be one of those books that makes so much sense that you start applying it's theories to everyone you know and trying to convince people to join the cult. Yay!

The Big Sea by Langston Hughes -- He's an oddly flat narrator of his own story, which makes it a little hard to relate. OK.

Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights by Kenji Yoshino -- Amazing, life-changing ... about the way we think about ourselves and alter our personality to fit in. Double Yay!

The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem -- About two boys growing up in Brooklyn, mingled with urban music history. Yay!

The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen -- A rather cynical story about a family. No likeable characters at all. Boo!

Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner -- This is one of those books that might have worked better as a series of magazine articles, but it's quite clear that that wouldn't have satisfied Levitt's ego. God, this guy! He's SO proud of himself. He even begins each chapter with excerpts from a profile written about him in the The New York Times Magazine. His skill as an economist is very dependent on happening upon decent data gathered by other people. I mean, he tells a few compelling stories, but he's not all that and a bag of chips, as he seems to think. OK.

Maurice by E.M Forster -- I love me some Forster (especially Howards End), and this one was no different. His writing is so lovely. And I support his advocacy: he decided he wanted to write a love story about two men that ended happily. He says:

A happy ending was imperative. I shouldn't have bothered to write otherwise. I was determined that in fiction anyway two men should fall in love and remain in it for the ever and ever that fiction allows...

It's a beautiful story. Yay!

Smilla's Sense of Snow by Peter Hoeg -- This one's been sitting around for years after a friend gave it to me and insisted it was super. I should have heeded her earlier. What's not to love about a heroine who's prickly, depressive, and prefers her solitude, but tries to solve a crime anyway. The story is set in Copenhagen, and Smilla's a transplanted Greenlander who's not crazy about Europeans. There's lots on the culture of Greenland and it's exploitation by the Danes. The science of snow and ice. And a rather slow part in which we get more than we really need about life aboard a ship. But the author used to be a sailor and clearly didn't want his knowledge to go to waste. I would definitely recommend it though, especially to other prickly depressives. We're not alone. Yay!

Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs -- I believe this got a lot of positive attention, but it seems mediocre to me. It reads like the unedited journal entries of an unhappy kid living with some crazy people. Parts are amusing, if you're fond of the scatological, but I don't get the feeling that all that writing allowed him to make any sense of it all. More writing that's just typing? OK.

The Unthinkable Thoughts of Jacob Green by Joshua Braff -- Oo, this is a hard one. It's a beautifully written story about an adolescent and his overbearing father. The characters are so well done, and often really funny. The scenes with the father in a rage make me feel I'm experiencing them myself. I mean, so hard to take, but ultimately: Yay!

Pamela by Samuel Richardson -- Published in 1740, this is "generally considered the first modern novel," according to the cover blurb. It's the story of a servant girl in a British country house who resists (and resists and resists) the efforts (including kidnapping) of her employer to force her to become his mistress. (P.S. I was kind of surprised at how relatively frank Richardson was about the sex stuff. Jane Austen didn't say nearly so much almost a century later.) Eventually, the master is so moved by his servant's high-mindedness and virtue that he falls in love and marries her. Part of how you can tell it's the first novel is the author doesn't provide us with any B-plots. The story becomes quite tedious after while, when we are treated to nothing but Pamela's narration on a decidely narrow train of thought. But it does give some perspective on the history of fiction. OK.

Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross -- I read this one on the recommendation of my Dad's late wife Carole. It came up when everybody in my family had seemingly just finished reading The DaVinci Code. This one also deals with a bit of unsubstantiated Catholic legend -- a pope around the time of Charlemagne who was a woman disguised as a man. The writer could be clumsy in her efforts to jam in historically relevant information, but she tells an engaging story, pushing all the right womyn-power buttons. And she does something I wish more historical fiction authors would do: she includes an author's note that explains who and what in her story is part of recorded history. Indeed, what is the good of doing all the research necessary to write historical fiction, if you can't know what's true and what's imagination? Yay-ish.

Rumspringa: To Be or Not to Be Amish by Tom Schachtman -- This is a pretty amazing look at the Amish culture, not just the practice of Rumspringa, which begins for kids in the tradition when they turn 16. At that point, the teenagers are not subject to the church's rules about forbidden behaviors and can spend time in the outside world deciding whether to be baptized and live in the Amish community or remain outside and go their own way. Between 80 and 90 percent of them decide to return to the community, and the book largely wants to answer the question "Why?" The author makes some fascinating comparisons between Amish and mainstream life, and talks about what the community offers: a sense of belonging, strong identity, and meaning. One of the things I took away was that the community limits self-actualization and the idea of an individual reaching his or her own potential (no education after 8th grade is permitted), but provides lifelong support and safety that is hard to come by elsewhere. Good stuff. Yay!