October 26, 2005
Is Blogging a Waste of Time?
Today's Star Tribune (10-26-05) reported a story from Ad Age that "U.S. workers in 2005 will waste the equivalent of 551,000 years reading blogs. About 35 million workers spend an average of 3.5 hours a week reading them." First, it's interesting that the article asserted that the workers WASTE all that time rather than SPEND that time or USE that time. Hmmm. It did cause me to ask why I read blogs and why I blog myself.
Blogs provide a window on the world, just like other media do. But when you read a newspaper or magazine, watch TV or listen to radio, the information is always filtered by those who produce it and those who pay for it. Blogging is citizen-journalism. You don't need anyone else to produce it, and you don't have to find a sponsor who will pay for it. It allows me to say anything I want to, even if no one is listening. Sometimes it just makes me feel good to get things off my chest. Or to write down perspectives, as I would in a handwritten journal. I'd like to remember such insights and perhaps return to them later for further enlightenment.
As a reader, blogs allow me to take the pulse of the world from ground level, and I like that. I've also discovered that reading blogs of people I know makes me feel that I know the person much better. Especially in relationships that primarily revolve around work or a single activity, some of the more personal interests and viewpoints just never come up. Many bloggers (myself included) also tend to be on the introverted side and find it much easier to write about themselves that blather on about themselves in person. (Especially in Lake Woebegoneland, where blathering on about oneself is uncouth.)
Blogs also provide connections with people who have shared interests. My Friday Cat Blogging posts and my posts about travel to the UK and to Door County Wisconsin have elicited the most comments from others. Even if I never actually communicate with people who read my blog, I'm pleased that what I write might give them food for thought or enjoyment of a picture of that sailboat right at sunset (Door County) or those cute cats all in their basket. Or maybe my post about the wonderful choral offerings in the Twin Cities will inspire someone to go hear one of the groups.
There are also blogs that impart information - such as the one L. started for our family quantitative research methods class. It is an expanding treasure trove of resources for the students in the class. (Unfortunately, I think most of them have been too busy to check it out - but maybe they'll find it later.)
So is blogging a waste of time? As with most things in life, it depends.
October 22, 2005
Choral Music in the Twin Cities
Excellent choral music contributes to the artistic richness of the Twin Cities. A number of outstanding groups provide rich fare for us to enjoy through listening and participation. I do both. I love to patronize the many choral events offered here. So many concerts, so little time! But I also sing in two groups at present: The Gregorian Singers and the Waltham Abbey Singers. In January, I will be returning to the House of Hope Presbyterian Church Motet Choir. My desk is overflowing with announcements from many groups advertising their concerts for the season that has just begun. I compiled a chronological list of those I'm aware of between now and the end of December. I hope you will patronize many of them. I'm sure there are many other choral events. If you'd like me to add them to the list, just e-mail me the information ( email@example.com ) and I will gladly do so. If there seems to be interest, I'll compile a similar list for winter/spring 2006.
DISCLAIMER: The information in the following list was compiled from information I received in the mail and found posted on the internet. Verify dates, times, and places for yourself, as these may have changed.
Here's the list. Enjoy!
(and please especially plan to attend the Gregorian Singers Advent Procession, November 26)
27th Rose Ensemble, Common Threads: Exploring Shared Texts among Early Christians and Jews; Sundin Music Hall, Hamline Univ, 7:30 pm
28th Cantus, “Home Field Advantage” First Lutheran Church, Columbia Heights; 7:30 pm
29th Cantus, “Home Field Advantage” Mt. Calvary Lutheran Church, Excelsior; 7:30 pm
29th Rose Ensemble, Common Threads: Exploring Shared Texts among Early Christians and Jews; Basilica of St. Mary, Mpls; 8:00 pm
30th Cantus, “Home Field Advantage” St. Mary’s University, Winona; 7:30 pm
30th Rose Ensemble, Common Threads: Exploring Shared Texts among Early Christians and Jews; Temple Israel, Mpls; 7:00 pm
4th Cantus, “Home Field Advantage” Westminster Presbyterian, Mpls, 7:30 pm
5th Magnum Chorum, Faure Requiem, St. Mark’s Cathedral, Minneapolis, 7:30 pm
11th Cantus with the MN Orchestra, Orchestra Hall, 8:00 pm
12th Cantus with the MN Orchestra, Orchestra Hall, 8:00 pm
12th St. Mark’s Cathedral Choral Society, Faure Requiem & Dvorak Mass in D; St. Mark’s Cathedral, Mpls 7:30 pm
26th Gregorian Singers, Advent Procession, St. Paul’s Church on the Hill, 1524 Summit Ave, St. Paul; 4:00 pm
26th Cantus, “Away in a Manger” Harriet Island Pavilion, St. Paul, 7:30
27th St. Mark’s Cathedral Choir, Advent Carol Service, St. Mark’s Cathedral, Mpls, 4:00 pm
27th VocalEssence with Garrison Keillor, We Gather Together, Orchestra Hall, 4 pm
4th VocalEssence, Welcome Christmas, Plymouth Congregational Church, Mpls, 4 pm
8th VocalEssence, Welcome Christmas, St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church, Mahtomedi, 7:30 pm
9th Bach Society, Bach Christmas Oratorio, Parts 1-3, House of Hope Presbyterian, St. Paul, 7:30
10th Rose Ensemble, Celebremos el Niño: Delights from Baroque Mexico; Weber Hall, U of MN Duluth, 7:00 pm
10th VocalEssence, Welcome Christmas, Normandale Lutheran Church, Edina, 7:30
11th VocalEssence, Welcome Christmas, Plymouth Congregational Church, Mpls, 4:00 pm
11th Magnum Chorum, Welcome All Wonders, Chapel of St. Thomas Aquinas, University of St. Thomas, 2:30 pm
11th Rose Ensemble, Celebremos el Niño: Delights from Baroque Mexico; St. Paul’s Church on the Hill, St. Paul, 7:00 pm
16th Cantus, Cantus and Carols with SPCO, United Church of Christ, St. Paul, 8:00 pm
17th Cantus, Cantus and Carols with SPCO, Ted Mann Concert Hall, 8:00 pm
17th Rose Ensemble, Celebremos el Niño: Delights from Baroque Mexico, Basilica of St. Mary, Mpls, 8:00 pm
18th St. Mark’s Cathedral Choir, Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, St. Mark’s Cathedral, Mpls, 4:00 pm
18th Cantus, Cantus and Carols with SPCO, St. John’s University, Collegeville, 8:00 pm
18th Rose Ensemble, Celebremos el Niño: Delights from Baroque Mexico, Trinity Lutheran Church, Stillwater, 7:00 pm
18th Magnum Chorum, Welcome All Wonders, St. Philip the Deacon Lutheran, Plymouth, 2:30 pm
20th Cantus, Christmas with Cantus, Westminster Presbyterian, Mpls, 10:30 am
21st Cantus, Christmas with Cantus, Westminster Presbyterian, Mpls, 10:30 am
23rd St. Mark’s Cathedral Choir, Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, St. Mark’s Cathedral, Minneapolis, 7:30 pm
October 21, 2005
Friday Cat Blogging - The Tonk Pile
As Minnesota slips into the autumn, our cat-tribe looks for warmth wherever they can find it. One favorite venue is any heating pad that has been vacated. But another is the company of each other. Tonkinese are known for piling up, and our guys do it regularly. Here's the "Tonk Pile."
October 17, 2005
October has always been my favorite month - maybe because it's when I celebrate my birthday - but more likely, because of the colors and the light. This editorial from this morning's Minneapolis Star-Tribune captured the essence of October for me.
"If you're outdoors this week, you'll see it. October light, on a clear afternoon, seems to illuminate the trees and lawns from within. And individually -- each leaf, each blade, each blossom on the aster glows independent of all others.
If there happens to be drizzle, the mist may seem charged with some kind of current, perhaps the same voltage that makes a clouded sky suffuse faint sunlight like backdrops in a portrait studio. Dawn and dusk tint overcast skies with tones a watercolorist could spend a lifetime imitating.
October light is not imagined -- a few moments' Googling will demonstrate its popularity as a subject for painters, poets and songwriters, and of course the late John Gardner, novelistic champion of nature and small heroism. But neither is it easily explained.
It is not an illusion generated by the turning foliage it illuminates, as many assume, nor the product of the frosts that may or may not precede it. We know a fellow who used to theorize that light grows more intense when compressed within a shorter day, but we've checked with the experts and physics doesn't work that way.
Meteorology, on the other hand, has much to do with the phenomenon. Some years ago the late Bruce Watson of Roseville, a weather-watcher born for the arcane inquiry, explained that atmospheric pressure at this latitude is especially high in mid-October, circling the globe with an unbroken belt of unusually clear air. Humidity is low and so is airborne dust, thanks to sinking masses of cold air.
That's the science, more or less, but of course the most intriguing aspect of October light is not why it happens, but rather what it does. Go ahead and look:
Across the lake, light fog is drifting out of reeds that suddenly seem extruded from brass or even gold. Downtown, sheets of blue-green window glass register shards of their surroundings so sharply you might think every building had been scrubbed and buffed last night.
Walk a familiar stretch of sidewalk, noting how each maple is redder than the last, how the yellows in the hedges seem to hum. These birches here, with the coppery bark -- how is it possible you've never seen them before? And when did chrysanthemums start to come in all these colors?
While you're at it, mark a few weekend hours for getting off your usual routes and just a little ways into the unsettled world -- the fields and woodlands where October light gathers in fullest force, and only for a week or two.
The short gray days are not far off. Too soon, we'll be struggling to remember a world of living color."
October 9, 2005
This I Believe
NPR has done it again. Back in July, I blogged about an innovative new program called "Open Ears," in which musicians talk about the music they love. I recently heard a new program (for me), which actually has its roots in a 1950s radio program of Edward R. Murrow's called "This I Believe". The NPR program of the same name asks listeners to "share the beliefs that guide you in your daily life." They are collecting essays of up to 6000 words, and they present a new one each week in the author's own voice.
The NPR website has links to a number of these fascinating essays that give voice to individuals' struggles and insights. They are well worth hearing. As one who studies narrative approaches to identity, I'm very excited about this project. These are powerful transformative stories that attest to the complexity and vigor of the human spirit.
Stories are powerful things. American Public Radioworks is also collecting stories --- of those involved in international adoption. They are developing a feature called "Finding Home: Fifty Years of International Adoption." This promises to be fascinating and useful. This program was recently discussed on colleague Rich Lee's blog "FamiLee Life."
October 6, 2005
It's "just stuff"
How attached we become to our "stuff." Our basement flooded Tuesday night, when the Twin Cities received a record 5 - 6 inches of rain in a short time. As best I can tell, the ground was so saturated that the water seeped in through the floor - hence, wet carpeting in Mark's bedroom. He spent today tearing it all out; the dumpster is in the driveway.
This afternoon I started surveying the closets downstairs and found a number of wet storage boxes. One box contained tax returns from the 1980s. Good riddance, I guess. But another box contained my college yearbooks - they're toast. Another contained my baby book, complete with everything my mother wrote about my first years. I think it will dry out and not have to be thrown away.
But in the end, it's all just "stuff." I have NO right to whine, after what the people along the Gulf Coast have experienced. They lost everything - all their "stuff." I've had a number of experiences over the years without stuff, and it's reassuring to know that I have some perspective on how unimportant it really is. One such experience was when I moved to Minnesota in 1990. My wife was staying behind in Texas for 6 months while Paul finished high school, so I just moved here with my car and the relatively minimal amount of stuff it would hold. I lived in a funky room in a large house the department used to own (that's another story...) but was very content with the minimal baggage I had to deal with. Another time when I realize how little stuff I really need is when I go on retreat and stay in a very small single room -- the "stuff" of every day life doesn't really matter very much at all. And I've also had experiences when the stuff feels like a millstone around my neck -- like when moving across country and the driver of the van tells you how many tons of "stuff" you have, and by the way, here's the bill for hauling it.
When it's all said and done, we enter the world with nothing and leave the world with nothing. Having "stuff" is nice, but there's a lot more to life. Less is more. That will be my mantra as I proceed to fill the dumpster in the driveway.
But I'm still sad to lose my college yearbooks and other artifacts of childhood.
Less is more. less is more. less is more. less is more. less is more. less is more.
October 3, 2005
Information Management Systems Brings Award to University of Minnesota
I am very pleased to share the news that Information Management Systems (IMS), the University of Minnesota unit directed by Susan Grotevant (see photo below), was recently named recipient of Computerworld's "Best Practices in Business Intelligence Award" in the category of Managing and Enhancing Business Intelligence Applications and Infrastructure.
Ron Milton, Executive VP of Computerworld said, "Recipients of this year's business intelligence perspectives' 'Best Practices in Business Intelligence' awards span across varied marketplaces and sectors, ranging from telecommunications to education, and wines and spirits to banking." "We honor each of these diverse organizations for their cutting edge IT departments, and their ability to prove that exceptional BI technology solutions can bring about outstanding results."
The case for the award noted that the declining state funding for higher education in Minnesota has resulted in long term structural changes in the public financing of higher education that places increasing reliance on tuition and other revenue to offset changes in state appropriations. As a result, the University of Minnesota System implemented a budgetary and management model designed to provide financial incentives to colleges and departments to enhance revenues and control costs. Implementation of this management model required the creation of an information-rich decision environment that could reach to the lowest levels in the organization where decisions affecting revenues and expenditures were made. This change, along with steadily increasing demands for accountability and productivity, improved academic and student outcomes, and the implementation of a new generation of enterprise resource planning systems drove a dramatic increase in the need to transform data into business intelligence and to improve the university's ability to translate business intelligence into strategic decisions.
What is Business Intelligence, you might ask? ...
Here's the answer from an article recently written in Campus Technology about BI and highlighting the innovative work of IMS. [Read the whole article HERE.]
"Business Intelligence (BI) software enables users to obtain enterprise-wide information more easily. These products are considered a step up from typical decision support tools because they more tightly integrate querying, reporting, OnLine Analytical Processing (OLAP), data mining, and data warehousing functions. They frequently are used in conjunction with Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems such as Oracle/PeopleSoft, SAP, or SCT Banner. There are a variety of products that claim BI capabilities, but the bottom line is that they should enable users to obtain all of the information they desire from their organization’s databases, provided those users are allowed access to certain information. All of the information is presented in sensible easy-to-read formats, most frequently over the Internet or via e-mail. The result, of course, is a more comprehensive and targeted search of available data, and the incorporation of that information into reports to assist in decision-making of all kinds. BI software is available in a variety of flavors—or cubes—designed to cull data from just about every area of university operations including Finance, Administrative Systems, Payroll, Grant Management, Admissions, Human Resources, Student Services, and more."
Congratulations to Susan and her unit for the excellence of their work and the honor they have brought to the university.