Archive for December, 2009

Talking Minnesotan – 01/31/2009

It’s the end of another year and Minnesotans,much like people everywhere, are making lists.

There are lists for music and lists for food
lists of fashion and lists that are rude
there’s a list for this and a list for that
be thankful, a list alone can’t make you fat

there’s a list for events and a list of regrets
and a list of things we’re not supposed to forget

Yeah there’s a list there, but no list here
I just wish you a Happy New Year.

A toast made to kindness

Yup, lots of lists. And the world keeps moving around the sun.
MPR wonders about “School levies passing in a weak economy? An odd reason” Think about it.
Starting tonight @FirstAvenue will debut their newly expanded sound system on New Years Eve. More bass for 2010 and I like the sound of that.

And soon…very very soon @spclassiccookie will be opening the greatest of new stories a cookie store. Act now, they are having a contest.
I asked Katie the question “How awesome is it to sell cookies?” and she answered it up

Pretty darn awesome!
I am passionate about scratch food, especially baked goods and cookies was the one thing I was always interested in mixing and baking since I was a young child. With cookies there is so much potential for creative expression, whether in the kind of cookie you are making, or in how you decorate it, there are never ending possibilities to create.
Basically we are ecstatic to be able to reopen and once again have the opportunity to make the most delicious cookies, muffins, cakes, and other baked goods.

Saint Paul Classic Cookie: 2386 Territorial Rd., St. Paul & the cross street is Raymond Ave.

C is for Cookie, and that’s good enough for me.

Another toast

Let’s close it all out with a video by our own Todd Pittman on December 26, 2009 at the Nomad World Pub in Minneapolis, Minnesota
City on the Make – Chicks on Bikes

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PuG-kG46xj4[/youtube]

Winter Biking

PhalenBiking2

Forgive me while I wax nastolgic. I don’t usually get this way at the end of the year, but @patiomensch got me talking about winter biking and it dawned on me; I’m 37 and I’ve been winter biking since I was 19. That’s almost 20 years of year around peddle power.
PhalenBiking3

Back in the day, in downtown Minneapolis, there were only two winter bikers. At least as far as I could tell. There may have been more, but for the hardcore out-in-any-weather at all times of the day there was just me and a bike courier with a giant beard that I figured must have been in his 30’s.

Now it’s me in my late 30’s and though I’m baby faced and clean shaven I love putting on my gear and biking in the cold Minnesotan winter. These days there are many more people that use bikes year around and seeing them out and about is a gentle reminder that not all progress is bad.

The way things are in the world these days, I think that’s an important reminder.

PhalenBiking

Here’s a video I shot that originall had this song, but youtube decided to disable my audio, so I spiced it up.

Enjoy.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v8xtdCvCdK8[/youtube]

Any winter bikers in the house?

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The Company Shredder

shredder

Spotted this paper shredder at work today. Someone has a good sense of humor.

Via Kingbozo

Planes, trains, and automobiles: the terrorist in your panties.

Yesterday MPR asked “How far should authorities go to protect air travelers from terrorists?” and there are now new technologies that allows screeners to basically see you naked as Slate writesShow Some Balls
Want to get on an airplane? Let’s see your scrotum.

I think it’s a timely question, especially here in the Twin Cities where we have a major air hub and are building more and more public transportation.

What next? There are still orafices terrorists can stuff things into and there’s the old drug mule trick of swallowing stuff. How will they attempt to detect that? Will all travellers need a TSA approved Dr. screening before boarding? Will these new rules soon be applied to all mass transportation, LRT, Metro Bus, Greyhound, Amtrack, Subway, etc?

In not, why ? Aren’t they just as at risk?

So I ask you, my dear readers, just how far should the government go with this?

[poll=20]

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Incoming!

Image uploaded on December 28, 2009
by the queen of subtle and she writes

countdown to white-out conditions: 3… 2… 1…

i think this is the only snowplow in the state.

Then I write . . .
I don’t know about your neighborhood, but our street is down to one land as the city plows left a 3 foot ice wall in the intersection. It’s actually quite menacing, I hope no one runs into it at 30mph.

Do you have any storm stories? Or more importantly, do you have an post storm bitch-fest you’d like to share about your city streets, sidewalks, neighbors, or that creepy person that watches you in the gym locker room?

Do tell.

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Game Day – Vikings vs. Bears

The Vikings have been stumbling with 2 horrible performances in their last three games. Top it off with some major changes in the last month: the loss of their Defensive heart and soul E.J. Henderson, a new coach, an offensive line that refuses to block for more than one-mississippi, and you have the recipe for a team preparing to quietly slide out of the season and point to their 11 or more wins as “progress”.

Did I mention those two losses were on National TV much like tonight’s Monday Night Football appearance.

Let’s hope they hit the brakes on that slide and here are a few key factors that need to met for tonight’s W.

1) Abandon the run – Sure Chicago is allowing 128.5 rushing yards per game, but the new coach prefers to pass. When faced with a defense that makes mean faces at the running back Coach Brett America becomes prone to audible into a incomplete pass. Word out of Winter Park is that the old coach Chilly the Meek still has some power over the play calling and he needs to adjust the gameplan to exclude all run plays. Or at the very least, recognize when the new coach is getting his ass handed to him compliments of the five fat men up front and call the occasional screen play. I wish I had some stats on how many screen plays we’ve called in the last three games, but I only remember two. So let’s say, not enough.

2) Defense – Our defense has to ramp up the intesity with every single game remaining in the season. An offense wins games, but a defense wins championships and they’ve been looking more chump than champ in the last month. Sure they’ve been playing a solid three quarters, but the last time I checked an NFL game actually contains 4 or more quarters.

3) Bribe the refs – It’s no secret the NFL refs are getting better and better at deciding which major market team who wins a game. It’s also no secret they are constantly angry at the NFL over their contract and pay, so I say let’s cut out the middle man and get them on payroll. Of course, tonight that could be costly as Chicago is known for it’s organized crime and chances are they have already made some payments. That is, if there were a mob, which there isn’t.

Reports are saying weather will play a factor in tonight’s game, but those reports are bogus and should be ignored. Also, some may lead you to believe the all is harmony and rainbows between Childress and Favre, lies. If anyone tries to tell you that in person you can legally kick them in the shin and push them over.

My prediction:
Vikings: Win
Bears: Lose
Monday Night Football: Music and Announcers suck eggs.

Hand it over! – Holiday Traditions

The word Tradition comes from the latin root traditio which mean “handing over or passing on. It was a great song from Fiddler on the Roof. But when it comes to the holidays most of us have many traditions that make the season what it is, whether there are old ones or new ones that we have created over the years.  These traditions give us comfort and bring us together and help us to carry on our cultures.

Being the first generation American of Welsh parents many of our traditions are British.  Though after attending a Jewish preschool, Talmud Torah at the Temple of Aaron in St. Paul, we added lighting of the Menorah for several years too, though we no longer do that.

One of the traditions started when we were children still continues today, the Christmas Nightie.  Yes, my sisters and I all used to get matching nightgowns for Christmas, and now to this day, we get matching pajamas, and it has expanded to include my mother, my sister’s husband & kids, and my other sister’s boyfriend.  If we were all in a room together and had a picture taken it would be quite a sight!  The only rule is no flannels, too cliche’. I think the most funny was the year we got gold lame’ & black ones, hysterical. Sorry, not posting a picture though.

We decorate our Christmas tree on Christmas Eve.  All the ornaments collected over the 41 years my mother has been in this country come out of the boxes, including the ones each of us get from Santa in our stockings each year, come out and are placed on the tree.  No more room for plain ornaments on the tree. Along with those are the few antique ornaments my mother brought with her from Britain as well as the ones we have made over the year, well the ones that have survived a few basement floods, and cats and dogs toppling the trees.  It is quite a collection and the reminicing is always fun when each ornament is hung.

When we were children we used to put out a plate of cookies & milk for Santa Claus and sit by the fire to read Dylan Thomas’  “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” before bed (wearing our Christmas nighties).  Alas, with no more children in the house here, that tradition is no longer observed. More likely than not I am usually still up wrapping presents until the wee hours instead.

Christmas Morning it was always my little sister that woke everyone up first and we opened stockings first, which of course always had a tangerine in the toe.  The orange in the toe of a stocking is a universal tradition that symbolizes the gold left by St. Nicholas in the toes of the stockings of three girls that either saved them from slavery or gave them a dowry so they could be married, depending on which story you read.  The other must for our stockings is a Toblerone.  All of our stockings are handmade by my mother, petitepoint with our names on them, backed in red velvet.  They are hung on the mantlepiece and look so wonderful there.

Still wearing our Christmas nighties we then open presents, each of us with our own position in front of the tree that we have held for at least 20 years and we take turns opening the gifts from under the tree.  With the roaring fire next to us it is a fantastic tradition as we look out the picture window and watch the neighborhood awaken. Across the street we even get to vicariously watch our neighbors partake in their annual Christmas pinata tradition on the tree outside. After cleaning up any bags and wrapping paper it is time for the Christmas puzzle and breakfast!

SoldiersBecause the greatest traditions of holiday time involve food,  our family is no different. When we are decorating the tree on Christmas Eve we have a lovely steak dinner.  It wouldn’t be Christmas Morning without soft-boiled eggs and soldiers, which for the uninitiated, is toast cut into strips to dip into the gooey egg, and bacon, sauteed mushrooms and fried tomatoes.

For Christmas Day we now go to our family friend’s house for dinner surrounded by all their children grandchildren. They have three boys, we have three girls so it has always been a fun time to have our families get together.  Now with all the extended families and seeing the kiddie table recreated with their children instead of us is very fun.  And now instead of playing Atari or Simon we all are playing Wii after Christmas Dinner which includes Turkey, Green Bean Casserole and yummy pie for dessert!  I usually get called in to the kitchen to help make the gravy.

Boxing Day is the big day for us (the day after Christmas for you Yanks).  That is when we have our own traditional dinner that includes Bread Sauce, boiled carrots, brussel sprouts, mashed buttered parsnips, roast turkey draped with bacon for basting and stuffed with two kinds of stuffing, herb in one end and sausage in the other, roast potatoes. For dessert the Christmas Pudding of course, with brandied white sauce. 

Christmas pudding

When we were younger we used to help my mother start making the puddings in September in big laundry tubs. It is quite an undertaking involving suet, lots of dried fruit and lots and lots of booze including Guinness! We would stir and stir with big wooden spoons but inevitably would give up on that and just dig in with our arms. After several days of mascerating the puddings were ready for their molds and would get steamed so they would be ready for Christmas.  It is definitely an acquired taste, but the pudding contains either silver coins or silver charms, which are believed to bring prosperity in the new year, so getting a child to eat it isn’t that hard because they want to find the coins and, you can smother it in the white sauce too (made with vanilla instead of brandy for the kids).  The pudding is always brought to the table with a piece of holly stuck in the middle and the pudding is ablaze in a bath of brandy.  There have been a few close calls with too much brandy and burned holly, but it is usually quite a sight.

In earlier years my mother also used to make a Christmas cake, which is similar to a fruit cake, but iced in a layer of marzipan and then a layer of hard royal icing, and then a holiday or winter scene decorates the top. I still remember an elaborate skating scene on one that she made that included a mirror for the ice!

Crackers

Of course no Christmas dinner or Boxing Day dinner in our house would be complete without Christmas Crackersxmas dinner. Not edible ones, but the ones invented by Tom Smith in the 1800s in Britain. He worked in a confectioners shop and reinvented the “bon-bon” he had seen on a trip to Paris. Inspired by the “crackling & pop” of the sound logs make in the fireplace he created the cracker, which is a tube that usually contains a riddle or joke, a toy of some kind, and of course, the paper crown, and when you pull the ends to open them, they “POP”.  All of the photos of our Christmas & Boxing Day dinners growing up show us around the table wearing the paper crowns.

Boxing Day is a big holiday in Britain. The day is usually the day the Alms boxes were opened, hence the name, but also because the aristocracy gave gifts to the less fortunate in a Christmas Box. Because servants and workers did not have Christmas day off Boxing Day became the day they were allowed to celebrate and party, so it is very much “the people’s” holiday.

So between decorating the tree, Christmas nighties, the Christmas puzzle, soft-boiled eggs & soldiers, bread sauce, Christmas pudding, and Christmas Crackers, we have so many wonderful traditions that are continued to this day that were started as a child and I am sure will be continued as long as we celebrate the holiday together.

Wishing everyone a wonderful season of sharing their favorite traditions.

Ho Ho Ho

This will likely be my last post till after Christmas, so have a merry one and remember Santa loves you.

How much?

So very much.
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C2G9EiRsQzM[/youtube]

Well . . . the weather outside is frightful .. .
but Santa’s luvin’ is so delightful
And since we’ve no place to go
Ho Ho HO
Ho Ho Ho
Ho HO HO

Shaver haven

wetshavingThere comes a time in about every guys life where they become set in their shaving. Sometimes it’s with an electric razor or sometimes it’s with a blade with 9 mini-blades. In any case, as technology advances, so do our methods. Very rarely do we go backwards in the process. However, going backwards can be the best thing ever. Case and point: 2 years ago I took up wetshaving. That’s right, one razor just like grandpa used to. Sure, to do it correctly, you need some good shaving cream, after shave balm and a badger hair brush. The problem is that this stuff isn’t exactly carried at Target. So in order to get it, you need to find it online or some specialty shop. Insert the Galleria in Edina. As I was Christmas shopping last week, I found that there are three superb stores that carry top notch stuff. Goodbye online shopping…..

Ampersand is a home decor-type store, but they also have a huge section of shaving products by Art of Shaving and Kiehls. On top of that, they also carry Molton Brown products.
Since when was there a L’occitane in the Galleria?? The only one I ever knew of was in the MOA. Anywho, they have some of the best aftershave balm out there–actually 3 very good kinds.
And then there’s Twill. From the outside looking in, it’s just a tailoring/suit/dress shirt shop. But in the back they carry Truefitt & Hill shaving products. Besides Geo F. Trumpers, this is the best brand out of London.
Since shaving products are easily available now, toss out those old disposables and take some time in good shaving. And remember: If your shaving cream comes out of a can like cheeze whiz, it’s probably not that good.

Build it and they will come?

Let’s say you’re a governement official and you need to raise some “revenue” for your county.

Where would “Hey let’s build more jails!” be on the list?

According to the Star Tribune article “Empty cells mean counties go begging

Some county boards built new jails as a way to make money; as crime dropped, that gamble didn’t pay off. ”

Minnesota counties have spent tens of millions of dollars building jail cells no one needs.

In the past five years, county boards have built modern jails that have added about 2,300 new beds to the state’s total, with more opening in the months to come. But they did so just as crime has plummeted, with 18,000 fewer arrests than five years ago.

The result is a fevered competition to help the jails pay for themselves by renting out empty beds for other counties’ inmates. One sheriff has even asked legislators to rewrite laws to allow him to make money from Wisconsin inmates.

No one claims to know exactly how bad the problem is. But it looks as if there are thousands of empty beds — the equivalent of all the combined space in the state’s 40 smallest jails.

Much of the building boom was sensible, preparing for future needs and replacing antiquated facilities. But some of it amounted to an entrepreneurial gamble that is starting to look ill-timed.

I realize that counties are paid a fee for housing inmates from other counties, but really, jails as a revenue builder? This is not only nonesense at it’s finest, but a sure measure of the police state mentality that has been gripping our country. Maybe it generates “revenue” for a county, but putting people in jail has great expense for our state, both financially and socially.

If you’d like to see how much of a cost justice is to Minnesota here is a nifty website that includes data up to 1998
County expenditures: sheriffs` office, corrections and public safety capital outlay
Here’s a sampling.

Expenditure type 1998
Sheriff’s office $228,807,070
Corrections $255,228,573
Public safety capital outlay $64,423,361
Total county expenditures $3,696,581,075

You are reading that correctly, over 3 billion dollars in 1998 for Total county expenditures.
A quick search of the cost of a single jail bed and all that goes along with is found that in 1999 it was a little over $14,000 per bed versus a national average of $10,000. I could not find more recent data. Note, in 1991 the total justice cost was approaching about 1 billion. In just over ten years these costs have tripled. Read the Office of Legislator Auditor report from 1991 Sentencing and Correctional Policy

Naturally the data has caveats, which lead one to believe the actual costs are far greater.

Caveats
•All data pertains to Minnesota county expenditures for criminal justice activities, including those related to sheriff’s offices, corrections and public safety capital outlays.
•The data pertains only to county-level agencies and does not include expenditures by city entities within a county.
•Court and county attorney costs also are not represented in the data set. Expenditures associated with these functions are included under the “general government departments” heading and are not distinguishable from other noncriminal justice costs grouped in this category.
•The dollar amounts listed for each county reflect actual expenditures for the given year and have not been adjusted for inflation.
•Due to an accounting change in 1988, total county expenditures data for 1985 to 1987 does not include debt service payments. For this reason, comparisons among these years will result in distortions and should not be made.
•Caution should be exercised when comparing corrections expenditures. Some counties are missing data for this category because either they did not report or they characterized these expenditures differently in their budget.

I for one can’t wait for the Minnesota Tourism Board to release it’s next ad campaign “Explore Minnesota, get arrested, and fill our empty jail cells!”

What do you think?

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