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January 30, 2009

Friday Random Top 10

Wow Gophers put a defensive blanket on the Fightin' Illini. A nice needed win. Let's celebrate with a Friday Random Top 10:

1. Black Wind Blowing -- Billy Bragg and Wilco
2. Overture (live) -- The Who
3. Under Her Spell -- The Phones
4. Melt Show (live) -- Old 97's
5. A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall -- Bob Dylan
6. Whispering Pines -- Kelly Hogan and the Pine Valley Cosmonauts
7. Zooropa -- U2
8. Deliah (live) -- Koerner Ray and Glover
9. The Spider -- Weezer
10. I Still Miss Someone -- Johnny Cash

That KRG song is from their last concert ever at Princeton University. If you fill me up with beers sometime ask me about my theory of how the last verse of A Hard Rain, Tom Joad's speech to his mother, and the Holy Spirit and the theory of evolution are are linked. What's your top 10?

January 28, 2009

Haiti Trip

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So it's hard to describe in a blog post about my trip to Haiti. We've all seen the news shows or National Geographic specials on 3rd world countries with broken down houses and people living on scraps but its another to see it with your eyes. And without going on for paragraphs or writing a travelogue, I will try to describe some thoughts and would be willing to answer questions in the comments.

Part of our efforts in Haiti is to support that our church built about 5 years ago. One thing I can say is that the school is beautiful and the kids are getting a good education (and a meal too!) Compared to most of the construction in Haiti, the school is a shining beacon and something the people who run it and our Parish should be quite proud of.

Also the kids of Haiti are wonderful. We visited kids at our school, sick kids, orphaned kids, and others working on a farm. They were so fun and smiling, and so happy to see us. Playing and interacting with the children of Haiti was definitely the highlight of the trip for me. We went down to support them and instead they ended up supporting us. Also, if you see me sometime let me show you my new " go go flash" greeting, it's pretty cool.

Of course the poverty is just overwhelming in the City with people living in quite squalid conditions. Garbage is everywhere, the roads are rutted with pot holes, and traffic is crazy. Food and sanitation is barely adequate. Electrity is intermittent (in fact we went without electricity in Leogoane). Goats and Chickens, pigs, and cows roam the streets and public transportation.

Overall it was a great trip and I would encourage everone to make a similar trip to help the people of Haiti and to bring into perspective how most of the world actually lives. We truly are blessed living where we do.

Again, if you have questions, I'll answer them in the comments.

Also I am having problems posting photos. Check back to see if I figure out the problem as I will try to post more.

January 27, 2009

I'm Back!!

So I'm back from Haiti and will have a post or two soon. Since I was away from U.S. news and popular culture I have a couple of questions/requests:

1. Who replaced the Minnesota Timberwolves with the 1996 Chicago Bulls?
2. Why was Dick Cheney in a wheelchair at the inauguration?
3. Don't tell me what happened in last week's BSG, I have it taped but won't get to it for a few days
4. Nixon/Frost as a best picture nominee? Really?
5. What free agents signings or trades did the Twins make?
6. Does anyone still have a job?

January 23, 2009

Friday Random Top 10

Just because I am Haiti doesn't mean I can't drop in a Random top 10:

1. Shut Up and Let Me Go -- The Ting Tings
2. Wormhole -- Guided By Voices
3. Land -- Patti Smith
4. Redemption Song -- Bob Marley and the Wailers
5. Down by the River -- Neil Young
6. Too Far Apart -- Wilco
7. Why Do You Let Me Stay Here? -- She & Him
8. King And Caroline/Motor Away (live) -- Guided By Voices
9. Let's Kiss -- Beat Happening
10. Blue Suede Shoes -- Carl Perkins

That was some lo-fi fun! What's your top 10?

January 20, 2009

President Obama!

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January 19, 2009

Good Riddance!!!

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This weekend, at a strip mall there was both a Circuit City and Cost Plus Global Market that were going out business. We stopped by and both stores were packed with people acting like vultures picking over the detritus of a ruined economy. I thought it was a fitting that this happened in George W Bush’s last weekend as President. When this is posted there will be less than 24 hours of the reign of error known as the George W. Bush Presidency. Our ability to survive the past 8 years is case and point proof that the American people and its government are quite resilient.

However, already the rough edges are being smoothed over and forgotten. Before we look back too wistfully on the past 8 years let’s remember the following facts (most of tgis came from an article in salon.com):

When George W. Bush entered the White House in January 2001, he inherited peace and prosperity. The military, the Constitution and New Orleans were intact and the country had a budget surplus of $128 billion. Now he's about to dash out the door, leaving a large, unpaid bill for his successors to pay.

Expected shortfall of gross domestic product below normal growth path in 2009: $900 billion

Decline in the Dow Jones Industrial Average from its decade high to its value at the close of business, Jan. 7, 2009: 5,394.83, or 38.1 percent

Number of manufacturing jobs lost since 2000: 3.78 million

Increase in number of unemployed workers from 2001 to 2008: 4 million, a jump of 2.7 percent in the unemployment rate

Real median household income according to the 2000 census, adjusted for inflation: $51,804

Real median household income as of August 2007: $50,233

National debt: $10.6 trillion

Amount of that debt owned by China: At least $800 billion

Number of bridges judged structurally deficient: 70,000.

Meanwhile, the roads aren't only worn down, they're overcrowded. In part, we can thank an administration that gave tax credits to SUV buyers while targeting public transit for cuts.

The Bush White House's proposed cuts in public transit funding for fiscal year 2009: $202.1 million.

Target level of federal funding for Amtrak proposed by Bush in 2005: $0.

How many times have you heard, "With the money we spend in Iraq in just one week ..."?
So how much has that been, exactly? Linda Bilmes, a professor at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, and co-author with economist Joseph Stiglitz of "The Three Trillion Dollar War," thinks the figure in her book's title is, if anything, too low. (Bilmes and Stiglitz put the full price of all Bush administration debacles at $10 trillion in their own excellent damage report for the January issue of Harper's.)

Cost: From the start of the war through 2017, "You can't get any lower than $3 trillion."

Amount of money earned by a married U.S. Army sergeant with children per day in Iraq in 2007: $170

Amount of money earned by a Blackwater military contractor per day: $600

Number of U.S. military deaths as of Jan. 7, 2009: 4,222

Cost to conduct the war per month: $12 billion

Amount the Bush administration estimated the war would cost from start to finish: $60 billion

Difference in price of brand-name drugs, U.S. and Canada, in 2004: 70 percent more expensive in the U.S.

Increase in average prescription drug price between 1997 and 2007: From $35.72 to $69.91

While buying drugs for seniors, Bush denied healthcare to kids. In 2007, he vetoed an expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program, which gives federal money to the states to help provide health insurance for families with children.

Number of children kept off of SCHIP because of Bush's veto: 4 million

Number of nine warmest years on record that have occurred since 2000: Seven.

How much has the Arctic ice cap shrunk? 50 percent since the turn of the century.

By now, the stories of global warming denial and outright censorship of government scientists by the Bush administration are well known.

Finally I’ll leave you with this nugget to remind everyone about how well Bush kept us safe from terrorism:

August 6, 2001 Presidents Daily Brief: Osama Determined to Strike in the U.S.

Bush Response to the Agent giving the briefing: “Thanks, now you’ve covered your ass.?

Good Riddance, don't let door hit you in the ass on the way out.

January 16, 2009

Friday Random Top 10

Tubby's Gophers come back from 10 down with 5 minutes left against the dreaded BADgers. I look forward to some fun basketball the rest of this winter. Let's celebrate with a random to top 10

1. No Easy Way Down -- Dusty Springfield
2. Acid Tongue -- Jenny Lewis
3. Wild World -- Cat Stevens
4. Mexico City Blues 104 -- Jack Kerouac
5. Got You Down -- Paul Westerberg
6. The New World (demo) -- X
7. Imperial Bedroom -- Elvis Costello
8. Free Nelson Mandela -- The Special AKA
9. Nobody But Me -- The Human Beinz
10. Tomorrow Never Knows -- The Beatles

Nice list with a groovy retro vibe going on here. This will warm your cackles during a cold January day! What's your top 10?

January 15, 2009

Haiti Mission Trip

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As I mentioned a few months back, in a few days I will be going to Haiti on a Mission Trip (January 19-26). Our church sponsors a school in the small town of Leogane and we send 7-9 Missionaries every year to bring school supplies, clothing, and over-the-counter medicine to the children and their families. In addition we will be visiting an orphanage, hospitals, and hospices. The orphanage, hospital, and hospice rarely get any visitors beyond a nurse and much of what we will be doing there will just be interacting with the sick or dying -- typically people who just doesn’t get a whole lot of human contact, in essence they’ve been abandoned.

Part of why we go is to learn about the country and bring back to our comfortable homes the story of Haiti’s plight. With that in mind, here are some basic facts about Haiti:

-- 75 to 80 percent of the country’s 8.5 million population live on less than $2.00 a day
-- Half the population has no access to safe drinking water
-- Life expectancy is 49-51 years.
-- 23 percent of children suffer from malnutrition
-- 10 percent of the population has electricity
-- 97 percent of the country’s forests have been cut down.

Our efforts in Haiti are funded through my church: Annunciation Catholic Church, a non-profit that was established through this effort, Mission Haiti, Inc, and through our own private expenses. If you want to support our mission, check out the Mission Haiti web site or contact me personally.

If you want find out more about Haiti, the show 60 Minutes just this past week had a segment. You can view that here. Also check out the book Mountains Beyond Mountains, and the chapter on Haiti and the Dominican Republic in the book Collapse.

Obviously I won’t be blogging in Haiti but intend to have a few posts and pictures about my trip when I return. Just think, we’ll then have a new President and hopefully a few more degrees on the thermometer. (btw, this (Thursday) morning it is nearly 110 degrees difference in temps between Minneapolis and Port-Au-Prince!!!)

January 13, 2009

Bert Blyleven Denied Again!

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Another Hall of Fame vote and yet another year that Bert Blyleven was passed over (this year by Jim Rice for Christ sakes). I’m not going to go into all the reasons why Bert deserves to be in the Hall, if you’re not familiar with his stats, check this site out.

What was especially disappointing this year is that it was generally a weak group of candidates. Ricky Henderson was a no-brainer, but after that… Jim Rice? Andre Dawson? Tim Raines? Allan Trammell? All good players but more likely candidates for the Hall of Very Good, not the Hall of Fame. Alas, Blyleven only got 2 more votes than last year and is about 70 votes short of getting in the Hall. Hopefully Jim Rice’s enshrinement in his last year of eligibility is a good harbinger for Blyleven. With only three years left, it’s about the only shot he’s got.

When 28 HOF voters don’t deem Ricky Henderson Hall of Fame worthy and Jim Rice makes it even though he had stats that were similar to outfielders who are a dime a dozen, you know something is amiss with the way we have baseball writers elect players to the Hall. Unfortunately I don’t know of a better way. I am not sure we want some sort of BCS-like computer program determining who’s worthy and who’s not and God knows we don’t want some sort of fan participation like they do with the All-Star game. I guess we just acknowledge it is a flawed system and hope that eventually those that are deserving, and Bert Blyleven is deserving, eventually are enshrined alongside the rest of their immortal baseball brethren.

January 12, 2009

Yes It's Cold!

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Living in Minnesota you have two choices during January. You can either hunker down; leave the house only when necessary and try to stay warm. Or you can embrace the cold, the snow, and the ice and go outside and have some fun. I tend to hunker down but will venture out at times.

This past weekend was one of those times to get outside and what a better way than to fly some kites on a frozen lake? Our Neighborhood Association sponsors an annual January kite fest which was held on Saturday. It was a pretty good day, mid-teens, sunny, a slight breeze (could have used more for the kites but the exposed cheeks sure appreciated the lack of wind). Copious amounts of hot chocolate and malled cedar help keep people warm. Likewise watching kids on a treasure hunt, or ice fishing, or encouraging their mom and dads to get that kite up in the air will always warm the heart.

Given the fact that the weather forecast promises more snow and lows in the minus teens(!) I’ll definitely be tending toward the hunkering down over the next week. So it was good to get out, even if for a couple of hours.

How do you survive the cold January days?

January 9, 2009

Friday Random Top 10

It’s been an exciting week, I got a wireless mouse for my work computer. I desperately need a Friday Random Top 10.

1. First Time Ever I Saw Your Face – Johnny Cash
2. Sgt. Rock (Is Going to Help Me) – XTC
3. Brassy – Play Some D
4. (Just Like) Starting Over – The Flaming Lips
5. Don’t Turn Me Down – The Replacements
6. The Things I Used To Do – G. Love and Special Sauce
7. Rainy Night in Soho – The Pogues
8. Working Class Hero – Green Day
9 Blue Moon of Kentucky – Elvis Presley
10. 15 Years in Indiana – Jack Logan

Hmm, looks like the theme here is lesser tracks from well known artists. What’s your Top 10?

January 7, 2009

Thoughts on Franken v. Coleman

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Look at that picture above. Can you imagine a group of supporters that could be any whiter, older, grumpier? That picture is the face of the Republican party and speaks volumes over the apparent lack of future the Republicans are confronted with.

Second, I have no problem with former Senator Coleman pursuing a court case regarding the election results. First it’s well within his rights and second it will finally put to rest any questions regarding the election, recount and validity of Franken’s razor-thin victory. Also if Republicans want to contribute $$$ to a losing court case instead of party-building and candidate support, that’s ok with me. Coleman needs to be careful, however, if he taps too many deep pocket Republicans to support his election court case, they won’t have any money to support his legal defense fund, which is coming up fast. Former Senator Coleman, I wouldn’t want to be in your Manolo Blahniks.

Finally, the Star Tribune published my letter regarding the complaints over the election results. Click Here to read it.

January 6, 2009

I Got Older, Carl Pohlad Didn't

Quick, name one other famous person who died on January 5th, no fair looking at Wikipedia. One hint, it was on the day I was born and there is a slight relation to tobacco.

I have a birthday, go to California for a little more than a day and big stuff happens….

Vikings Lose a Playoff Game. Sorry, that’s not a surprise or big news. But to some folks it’s a big deal. As someone who was a kid when the Vikings lost four superbowls; was in my 20’s when Darrin Nelson dropped a NFC Championship-clinching pass in the endzone; and my 30’s when the ’98 Vikings choked, I just can’t get that worked up about another disappointing season. I’m not impressed by Brad Childress’ game planning, QB developing, or game management skills so don’t look for a huge improvement next year either. Sorry.

Carl Pohlad Dies. He was worth $3.8 billion, lived to 93, sired Madonna and Bono… dude lived a long, successful, and productive life. He saved the Twins from perennial cheapness of the Griffith years (for which I am eternally grateful) only to employ his own brand of cheapness (for which I am not). His efforts to contract the Twins, while probably a stunt, forever harmed my opinion of what he meant to the Twins, but the guy could sure make money. And unlike the bandits who fashion themselves as businessmen today, he did it the old fashioned way -- by outworking everyone else in the room.

Al Franken U.S. Senator. Thank God, I am not sure we could have handled another 6 years of Norm Coleman and his smile that was more fake than his principles. Al Franken might surprise some people about the seriousness he will bring to his new job. In one way it will be easy as his standing among most Minnesotans is pretty low. On the other hand a lot of people are just going to be ready to pounce on any Franken screw up.

January 5, 2009

California Dreamin'

Sunday Morning January 4th, I walked out my front door at 6:00a and it looked like this:

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Six hours later I walked out of the Santa Barbara Airport and this is what I saw:

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My what 6 hours can do to your body and spirit.

The Santa Barbara area is quite fetching and the UC Santa Barbara campus looks great. I should have stopped by the HR department to see if they had any openings. Alas I'm already back in Minny.

Also thanks George and Amy for a wonderful evening. I loved my swordfish and I think I might try my to pass off my "anchor steam(ed) crabs" on the expense account :o)


January 2, 2009

Friday Random Top 10

A brand new year, let's see how a Friday Random Top Ten rings in 2009...

1. Typical Girls -- The Slits
2. On the road again -- Bob Dylan
3. Go to the Mirror Boy -- The Who
4. One Man's Problem -- The Jayhawks
5. Ice Cold Ice --- Husker Du
6. The Trouble with You -- Missing Numbers
7. Sandusky -- Uncle Tupelo
8. Free Radicals -- The Flaming Lips
9. Honky Tonk Blues -- Hank Williams
10. Jacob's Ladder -- Bruce Springsteen

A heavy country/american vibe going here. What's your random top 10?