Yes, but how will it matter?

In the latest federal funding flap Governor Tim Pawlenty is calling for a change in how teachers become certified.

Strib reports

Pawlenty said he will ask the Legislature to act on a bill that would make it easier for people to find “alternative pathways” into teaching, something he said would give the state “the ability to get the most highly effective teachers” in the classroom.

There’s been much talk about letting the “experts” do the teaching meaning allow people with knowledge in a particular field enter into teaching without having to go through the normal process of a college degree and state certification. I admit this has it’s appeal. One example would be my soon to be brother-in-law whom has a PHD in Physics and wants to give up corporate life to teach science, but is put off by the additional schooling. I can see not wanting to go back to college once you already have a PHD. On the other hand teachers are taught skills beyond their subject area and the licensure process requires extensive knowledge related to teaching that extends far beyond the subject.

That said, is this really the problem?
I have to wonder if perhaps our governor is not seeing the forest for the trees. From what I hear for every open teaching position in Mn there are hundreds of applicants. Would adding more teachers to that mix really help?

I can’t help but wonder, how exactly does this give Minnesota “the ability to get the most highly effective teachers” in the classroom?

My understanding of the job search process for Mn teacher’s makes me think this will simply add more teachers to the mix that either A) won’t get jobs for years or B) will be shuffled from place to place as more tenured teachers take positions due to funding/position cuts.

Thoughts?

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A Call for MN poets and writers

Do you like to write poetry? Or perhaps Flash Fiction is more your bag?

mnartists.org is sending out the call for artists and poets to submit entries for it’s WHAT LIGHT POETRY PROJECT and mnLIT literary series.
The Deets

Eligibility and Submission Guidelines:

Any Minnesota resident may submit up to three short, previously unpublished poems (each may be up to 50 lines or, in the case of a prose poem, a maximum 300 words long); send your submission(s) as an attachment to poems@mnartists.org (preferably as Word documents or, in the case of pieces with complex formatting, jpeg files). You may also simply paste your piece into the body of an email. Please put “WHAT LIGHT poetry submission” in the subject line of your email.

You must be a resident of Minnesota and become a member of mnartists.org to have winning work published in this contest. At the time entrants to What Light submit their poems for consideration, they should also submit a low-res (72 dpi) photograph of themselves, a brief bio (no more than 150 words). With this biographical information, entrants should also include links to any relevant personal websites or blogs that they would like mentioned should their poem(s) be selected.

Read an archive of previously winning poems and short stories in these literary series on mnartists.org.

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Carrie Cordelia Handbags Trunk Show

Although we’re no New York or Milan, it’s safe to say that Minnesota has a pretty rockin’ fashion scene.  Need proof?  Check out the list of events for Minnesota Fashion Week, which is so jam packed that fashion ‘week’ is actually fashion ‘two weeks and one day’.  But I’m certainly not complaining!  Events begin this Friday, April 9, so call your friends and make a few fashion dates!

One event that is not to be missed is the Carrie Cordelia Handbags trunk show on April 22.  The evening will feature the premiere of the handbag collection, as well as music, hors d’oeurves, and wine.  Carrie Cordelia features two handbag lines that are a must-see: Cordelia, which is all about feminine silhouettes in lush fabrics and colors for women, and Cobalt, which has a contemporary look and abundant organizational features for the man in your life.  Something for everyone!

The trunk show is from 5:00 to 8:00 pm on Thursday, April 22, at the W7 Collective in the historic Pilney Building on West Seventh in St. Paul.  In addition to being a fun night with beautiful handbags, a portion of each Carrie Cordelia sale will be donated to the Children’s Culture Connection. Handbags with a heart – what’s not to love?

For more information or to RSVP, check out the Carrie Cordelia trunk show event on Facebook.


How Green Was My Garden: The Big Cover-Up

Last year the biggest trend in gardening & garden supplies was container gardening, specifically in specialty bags (see HGWMG post “Its In the Bag”) for everything from lettuce to potatoes. This year it is crop protection tools, everything involving row covers.  From pop-up insect screens to season extending hoop houses & cold frames, it seems the crop cover business is exploding.

Crop protection tools are exploding because they help gardeners achieve many goals. One of the most important in Minnesota is season-extension.  By using a cover to insulate your plants you can help to warm the soil & keep the plant protected from chillier temperatures, thereby allowing gardeners to plant earlier & get plants to their full potential without as much concern for the weather.

  

Too much sun & heat can also be an issue, causing delicate plants to wilt or bolt too early so a shade cover can be used to shield those plants from the elements.  For organic gardeners who would like to prevent insects (like the dreaded squash vine borer or cucumber beetle) from attacking plants, covers can be used to help prevent them from landing on your crop, but remember, the covers also prevent beneficial insects from landing, especially bees, so this tactic must be used judiciously.

In some areas birds are the biggest pest, in others rabbits or squirrels, with a crop protecting barrier these pests cannot penetrate to your plants, allowing them to thrive.

Some of the easiest row covers to install are floating row covers, basically specially made fabric you can lay over yourcrops to prevent insect damage or insulate the plants to protect them from extreme temperatures (hot or cold).

There are a few methods for using row covers, you can just float on top of plants & tack into the soil with landscape pins or you can build a structure to lay the fabric upon.  Hoops are the most common support structure, which can be made from several materials, everything from half hula-hoops to more sturdy conduit.  I purchased a hoop bender from Johnny’s Seeds to make tunnel hoops. Garden’s Alive sells different types of protective fabric that can be draped over the hoops from lightweight insect covers to frost protecting fabric.

Also available are numerous ready-made products like pop-up covers & tents that can work like greenhouses or can be kept up all season to prevent damage from insects or animals.  The pop ups work especially well on raised beds, especially smaller ones which can be very convenient for short season extension and seasonal insect prevention and allows for easy storage of the tents when not in use. These also come in different fabrics, the polyeurethane plastic for greenhouse effect and then the mesh fabrics for either insect or bird protection.

If you are really ambitious and have a large garden space you can construct a hoop house, which is basically a permanent structure like a greenhouse, but is made of polyethylene instead of glass. Crops like tomatoes, peppers and strawberries, which generally need hotter, extended growing seasons are grown in hoop houses or high tunnels

Commercial growers have been using the season extending row covers for years and now they have found their way to the home gardener.  With so many options for so many purposes you should be able to find one that suits your needs from container gardening to larger production gardens, so get out in your garden & Hoop it up!

 

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Shopping Cart

I love this pic “Shopping Cart” uploaded on January 12, 2010
by Dan Anderson

I hope you managed to get some groceries in that cart, Dan.

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A Monday call for Justice

As I read the news this morning I noticed two stories near each other that although about different topics seemed to be calling for the same thing, justice.

There seems to be a constant tug-of-war happening within our society pitting the need for more police power against the need to preserve the rights of the citizens. To call this tug of war a delicate dance would be like calling a bull in a china shop a remodeling experience, while both may be true to some extent, neither captures the lopsided nature of the situation.

The firt editorial, Editorial: Strong forfeiture safeguards needed makes the case for reforms on the State’s forfeiture laws.

Changes are also needed to restore the power balance between authorities and individuals. It’s too far tilted toward police right now. Lawmakers are weighing several bills, but reforms won’t be adequate unless they include these key elements:

•Property should be forfeited only if there’s a conviction. This would not stop authorities from seizing property, as some law enforcement representatives claim. It would protect innocent people suspected of wrongdoing, yet still deprive criminals of ill-gotten booty.

•Forfeiture funds should go into the state general fund, which would break the financial incentive for police to seize property to help their agencies, though it would also reduce their funding somewhat. (Gross sales of forfeited goods or cash totaled $3.8 million in Minnesota in 2008, down 21.4 percent from 2007.) Some law enforcement representatives’ objections to this are disingenuous. They argue that these funds are absolutely critical to police operations, but at the same time insist that this is not an incentive to seize valuable property. It doesn’t add up.

With recent abuses of these laws brought to light many stories have surfaced about innocent parties losing property due to the extreme nature of the forfeiture process and the high costs of fighting the system, few are willing or able to spend thousands of dollars fighting to get a few hundred or a few thousand dollars back.

The second story is something I have also written about and that is the use of cell phone tracking and historical usage without a warrant. In the article by Steve Chapman: If you carry a cell phone, you can’t hide he notes it “raises issues about privacy and unchecked government surveillance”

That gadget, you see, is called a cell phone. For years, the cops may have been using it to keep close tabs on you without your knowledge, even if you have done nothing wrong.

They don’t have to get a search warrant — which would limit them to situations where they can show some reason to think you’re breaking the law. All they have to do is tell a judge that the information is relevant to a criminal investigation and send a request to your service provider.

He then puts this into some historical context

Privacy protections can become meaningless if we don’t adapt them to new inventions. Today, we take it for granted that the FBI can’t listen to our phone conversations without a search warrant. But in 1928, the Supreme Court said the Fourth Amendment did not apply to anyone “who installs in his house a telephone instrument with connecting wires … to project his voice to those quite outside.”

Not until 1967 did the court correct that blunder. It ruled that “the Fourth Amendment protects people, not places,” including those things a person “seeks to preserve as private, even in an area accessible to the public.”

Maybe it still does. Or maybe not.

It seems to me that average law abiding people have been growing weary of the recent trend to treat em all like criminals, take their stuff, lock’em up, and let God sort’em out attitude that seems to permeate the criminal justice system.

These law enforcement lobbyists and representatives are better off listening to the public’s concerns and working with them rather than using the same old tired fear mongering fallacy that crime will run rampant if the public doesn’t fold to their demands.

Normal law abiding citizens have learned to fear those that are supposed to protect them and it’s time our elected officials realize this is more than just a bad case of the Mondays.

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Who has the power?

Strib reports “AG’s office asks PUC to turn down Minnesota Power’s rate request.”

The Minnesota attorney general’s office on Wednesday asked the state Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to reject Minnesota Power’s $81 million rate increase request.

In a filing with the PUC, the AG’s office noted Minnesota Power requested the new hike on Nov. 2, 2009, just one day after the PUC granted the utility a $20.4 million rate increase.

“What’s unusual about this is that this company essentially turned around before the ink was even dry on their last rate increase then filed for another increase for $81 million,” said Ben Wogsland, a spokesman for the attorney general’s office.

Did you get that? They were given a 20 million rate increase and then immediately asked for an additional 80 million.

What is up with that?

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q_j0vcc70Ig[/youtube]

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Your Daily Dose of Crazy

Cruising through the Star Tribune, I came across this gem from the police blotter:

Theft. A 69-year-old man from the 10600 block of 6th Street NE. called police to report that about five or six years ago his neighbor was coming to his home to hypnotize him. According to police reports, the man alleges that while he was under hypnosis, the neighbor stole his valuable coins and sold them to a coin dealer in Anoka. The man says the neighbor also orders books and has them delivered to him, but he returns them. The man called police back a short time later and wanted to withdraw the complaint because he fears the suspect has connections to the mafia.

It’s days like this I realize why I love Minneapolis

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T Minus 1 Day Until 30 Days of Biking

Uploaded on March 24, 2010
by Individual_romance

Have you made the pledge?

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The Buckthorn invasion continues

You’ve heard of Buckthorn right? The beautiful, yet nasty shade tree that is often used as a hedge is quickly becoming the invasive plant scurge of Minnesota and in many cases it is already threatening our native ecosystem.

A bill that would allow cities to make Buckthorn removal mandatory has been put on hold.
Strib reports

A bill that would let cities require property owners to battle the invasive shrub has advanced in the House but stalled in the Senate. Among the concerns? That for one property owner in particular — the state — clearing the plant could consume more resources than are available.

The bill is sponsored by Rep. Paul Gardner, DFL-Shoreview, but is the inspiration of an 85-year-old North Oaks woman who has gamely battled buckthorn on her property and has channeled her considerable energy to getting it out of her wooded city.

“The injustice is even if you clear your property yourself, [your yard] still can be reseeded by people who have the buckthorn and have ignored it,” said Joan Brainard, noting that birds spread the seeds.

Gardner’s bill would have taken a larger swipe, by giving cities statutory authority to “adopt an ordinance to eradicate buckthorn on all public and private property within its geographic boundaries.”

Sadly, considering the State budget woes, it was probably a wise move to table the bill for now.
I can attest to the nastiness of trying to remove this plant. It grows along my fence lines and removal has been a growing issue for my since I bought the house 3 years ago, not only do the berry seeds have an incredible rate of turning into a tree, but the wood is notoriously hard and quickly dulls chainsaw blades.

Have you done battle with Buckthorn?

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Welcome to the new week


Photo Development-3 uploaded on March 20, 2010 by PhotoPatzer

Now get to work.

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Citypages Wine Tasting Tonight

More info.


We want street food!

There’s been a lot of griping over the last few years (myself included) about the lack of street food vendors in the Twin Cities and the obstacles the seemingly arbitrary regulations faced by someone looking to start a street food business. (think St.Paul’s rule on taco trucks having to change locations)

Sheila Regan of TC Daily Planet covers the recent bruhaha in Minneapolis with Street vendors coming to downtown Minneapolis?

Minneapolis’s Regulatory Services and Public Works Committee on March 22. After hearing testimony pro and con, the committee voted to forward to the City Council, without recommendation, an amended ordinance that would allow 25 street food vendors to set up their businesses in downtown Minneapolis. In the next two weeks, city staff will make changes to the proposed amendment related to issues brought up at the public hearing.

As you might expect T.C. food guru Andrew Zimmern has something to say and in his column titled Moron Awards he lets loose on local favorite Hell’s Kitchen.

Most ironically the article included a quote from Cynthia Gerdes of Hell’s Kitchen who opined that “I paid $33,000 in rent last month, and now I have to compete with someone who pays $400 a year for their food license?” What a bone headed idea that is. How is this any different than any other business? If you choose (and yes, it is a choice) to pay $33,000 in rent then you are crazy. Second, these types of complainers already compete with those paying less overhead and have been for as long as there have been restaurants. Third, a falafel cart selling 100 sandwiches at lunch helps businesses in the same way that restaurants on the same block help each other to grow business. Fourth, HK is getting into the mobile food game so its unfairly hypocritical, and fifth, based on my visit there last Sunday for brunch, the biggest problem HK has is not the burgeoning groundswell of support for mobile food carts. It’s their own food and service, which have gone downhill in a big way over the last year.

What a disaster of a meal…rude greeting, a 40-minute wait for food, missed items on our order, major service missteps, six out of seven cold plates of food, and inedible items (truly). And the most puzzling of all: Even if you think its kitschy to have your servers wear pajamas, the least you can do is insist they are clean, not pilled, stained, and wrinkled. What a turnoff.

Ouch.
I don’t care what universe you’re from, that’s gotta hurt.

What kind of street food would you like to eat?

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How Green Was My Garden: Let’s get it started in here

“Everyone who enjoys thinks that the principal thing to the tree is the fruit, but in point of fact the principal thing to it is the seed. — Herein lies the difference between them that create and them that enjoy.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

Seedstarting. Not too long ago it was only for hardcore gardeners with casual gardeners usually purchasing seedlings ready to plant from big garden centers.  But the rebirth of vegetable gardening, especially urban gardens, has caused a huge surge in seed sales & folks trying their hand at seedstarting. 

Locally Mother Earth Gardens has offered seminars on seedstarting for years but in the past two the free seminars have reached capacity for reservations as soon as they are announced.  Their beginning seminars are full of people who are just starting their gardens as well as those who have never started their garden from seed before.  The seminars were so successful the neighborhood garden store added an advanced seminar. 

Advanced Seedstarting Seminar from Mother Earth Garden

During the advanced seminar we shared stories about how long we’ve been gardening, the best gardening books, and most of the time was spent sharing each gardener’s tips for everything on fruit trees, pruning raspberries and of course pest control. 

Seedstarting is simple once you have the right tools.  The most common mistake is hoping that sunlight in Minnesota is sufficient for good germination & plant growth.  The spring sun locally is not good enough and must be supplemented with grow lights.  There are many more options this season than ever before for setting up the best light system for your seeds.  I purchased hanging lamps  and just use a wire rack shelf from Target for all the trays but if you would rather have a ready-made system there are many options available, though they tend to be a bit expensive. 

The other key to good seedstarting is heat.  I keep my seeds in the utility room next to the water heater & furnace so it gets very warm in there. But there are many heat mats available as well to help you maintain that warmth. 

Humidity control is also important for good germination of your seeds, so making sure you have the plastic greenhouse lids on your trays until they are big enough for thinning out is key.  Different shapes available from large domes for bigger plants & short ones to greenhouse shaped units

Moisture is the final key to good seedstarting.  The plastic domes will help you maintain good water levels in your soil but you need to maintain tht with proper watering, not too wet (seedlings will rot & be suceptible to damp off) and not too dry.  Watering from above is okay as long as the spout on your watering can disperses the water without disturbing the soil.  Or you can water from below in the trays, just make sure you only water enough for the plugs to absorb & they aren’t sitting in standing water. 

Seeds at Mother Earth

The biggest advantage to seedstarting yourself is the increased selection of plants you can choose.  There are so many heirloom varieties and unique hybrids to choose from when using seeds that would never be available at your farmer’s market or garden store.  I usually purchase some seeds in stores in my neighborhood like Minnehaha Falls Nursery or Mother Earth & supplement those with ordering from garden catalogs.  The best part of February is pouring over my seed catalogs to choose what I will grow this year. 

 

This year I am adding some new lettuce varieties as well as a melon, interesting cabbage & brussels sprouts & filet beans to my garden, things that would only be affordable and even found through seed catalogs. 

Some good choices for organic seed catalogs include  Minnesota’s own Peter’s Seeds, TomatoFest, Botanical Interests, John Scheepers, Seeds of Change, and Seedsavers

It is a bit late for starting some veggies from seed, like onions & leeks, which I started in late February.  But in the right conditions you should be able to still get your seeds started on most all other vegetables now and early April.  The University of Minnesota Extension service has a great guide for a good seedstarting schedule. 

Because of our early warm weather you can get a jump start on direct sowing on things like peas, lettuce, radish, spinach and carrots.  You can just put those directly in your pots or raised beds, or in the ground if it is in a sunny location and has warmed up enough. It is best to wait just a bit longer on things like squash & beans because as we all know in Minnesota there is always a chance for more cold, including a hard frost or snow. 

So if you have never grown your plants from seeds, it is very easy & affordable with a few tricks & tips.  There will always be crop failures, it happens to nurseries too. But you can still be successful & have the great satisfaction of growing your own food from seed to table and have a fantastic variety of flowers too! So what are you growing from seed this year?


30 Day of Biking

With the tag line “We ride our bikes. every. friggin. day.” a new group of cyclists is born, 30 days of biking

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M9U-Rzd7Lqs[/youtube]

The only rule for 30 Days of Biking is that you bike every day for 30 days, then tweet about your adventures with the tag #30daysofbiking. Event starts on April 1 and ends on April 30! Several participants will be in the Ironman long-distance bike ride on April 25. There will be a party at month’s end (form yet to be determined) to celebrate this.

“Does around the block count?”

On Twitter, @ChaseThisBear asks, “Does around the block count [for #30daysofbiking]?” Our answer: Absolutely. You can bike as much or as little as you want; the key is to get out on your bike and go somewhere every day in April, whether to work or the store. 20 miles or one. And then document it on Twitter with #30daysofbiking.

Trust, though, that you won’t be able to stop at a block.

It’s spring people, how about putting some peddle in your your step and joining the clan?

I’d like to dedicate this song to my bikes.
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tzFoZ-I6O-4[/youtube]


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