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July 1, 2006

Craigslist Kind of a Day

The saga of "cleaning up" after our flooded basement from last October continues. Today I prepared 8 items for sale and posted them on Craigslist. Three of the items were offered for free, and I had at least 10 offers on each one within the first 2 hours. The sale items (furniture) have moved more slowly, but 12 hours after posting, I have either disposed of or have inquiries about 6 of the 8 items. Not bad! But more to go...

I'm really sold on the freecycling aspect of Craigslist. As the saying goes: one person's trash is another person's treasure. And recycling these gems keeps them out of landfills.

I've also been searching Craigslist for jobs in Austin for someone down there. Did you know that you can get $10 - $13 per hour for wearing an outfit and standing outside a new housing development holding a sign and trying to allure drivers-by to take a look? I keep flashing back to the poor guy who dressed up as the Statue of Liberty in February (yes, in Minnesota) to try to lure drivers into a strip mall near our house where a tax preparation service had set up shop (it was probably Liberty Taxes or something like that.) I'm glad he got $10-13 an hour!

Posted by hgroteva at 7:00 PM

July 4, 2006

America Travels

I've been meaning to write a bit about the trip we took a few weeks ago, and I got the inspiration I needed when I read the review of a new book, Are We There Yet? by Robert Sullivan (2006). (The review was in the New York Times Book Review, July 2, 2006). (The subtitle of the book is worth a mention: "Fifteen Years and Ninety Thousand Miles on the Roads and Interstates of America with Lewis and Clark, a Lot of Bad Motels, a Moving Van, Emily Post, Jack Kerouac, My Wife, My Mother-in-Law, Two Kids, and Enough Coffee to Kill an Elephant" -- sounds like many a trip I've taken!)

The reviewer (Bruce Barcott) commented: "Our south-north crossing bound our family with the emotional ties of shared adversity, and it's Sullivan's contention that road trips bind us together as a nation. America is all impatience and movement and 10 more miles to higher wages and warmer winters. "The America that I see," he writes, "is an America that tells you to keep moving, to move on to something better, to get on the road and keep going, to stop only briefly to refuel your car and yourself but then to keep pushing toward the place that is closer to where you should be or could be, if only you would keep going. America says move, move on, don't sit still.... In other words, America is the road."

On my recent visit to my niece's wedding (in rural Mass.), my sister and I reminisced about some of the trips our family took while we were growing up and shared stories of our own families' trips. Road trips are an important part of my story. On June 6, I blogged about a nifty map-maker I found -- and when I entered the states I had visited, I found that I'd at least set foot in 45 of our 50 states.

Since our family moved to Texas from New York when I was 10 (believe me, it felt like the move to tne end of the earth), we made many road trips back "home" to see family. But we also took major trips through the southwest, far west, deep south, and other parts east. I think the nadir was the trip when my father was suffering from a kidney stone but didn't want to tell any of us because he wanted to keep pushing on to the next destination. He didn't say anything until my mother noticed that he paced all night in the motel room -- fortunately, he made it to the hospital early the next morning for appropriate care. That's driven!

The "move on" factor seems to be peculiarly American. I've had interesting discussions about it with my European friends. It happens in decisions about going away to college, in taking first jobs, in following promotions, and then in finding the perfect place to retire to. The nomadic existence creates complications with family responsibilities, however. In my case, parents, kids, and grandkids have all conveniently migrated back to Texas. Hmmm.

Happy 4th of July - Time for a road trip! Woops - how much does that gas cost??
(By the way, the size rental car we reserved for our trip was not available, so they gave us an "upgrade" to a minivan. Interestingly, the headline in the NYT that same day was "When an upgrade is a downgrade" - because of the price of gas. But we got a Toyota Siena, and it got 25mpg, which isn't bad. It had a nice smooth ride. If I needed a minivan, that's how I'd go - but I don't. I'm thinking Prius.)

In a forthcoming post, I'll talk about 4 specialty museums we saw on our trip - all were memorable and worth a visit.

Posted by hgroteva at 5:03 AM

July 6, 2006

Small New England Museums Worth Seeing

Recent travels took us through Massachusetts and New Hampshire; along the way we visited several smaller specialty museums and thoroughly enjoyed each one. Here are a few comments + links to each, in case you have the chance to check one or more of them out

First, I'll mention the Sandwich Glass Museum, in Sandwich, MA, on Cape Cod. Both Susan and I enjoy glass of various kinds, and there was plenty to see at this museum. The pieces are displayed nicely in brightly lit rooms with light in back of the glassware. We saw a zillion different colors; among my favorites were amethyst and emerald -- deep, deep, deep. They had a glassblower giving demonstrations; he was quite good. He served a 5 year apprenticeship before he was able to do the work he demonstrated.

Next is the Whaling Museum on Nantucket, MA. Of course, this was a special trip because it began with a 2 hour cruise from Hyannis to Nantucket - very enjoyable. When we arrived, we were greeted by colorful planters all over the town.

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We had seen the Whaling Museum many years before, but it's been totally re-done in the past few years. The displays are great, but the centerpiece of the museum is the skeleton of sperm whale that beached on Nantucket in 1998.

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The story is actually rather sad, but they have a tastefully done film that tells the story. When the whale came on shore, it drew quite a lot of attention world-wide. The residents tried to coax it back into the water using various kinds of equipment and the old heave-ho. But apparently the whale was sick and had come to die. After the whale died, the residents got permission from the government to remove its skin and innards so that they could preserve and display the skeleton. They've done a nice job with it. While we were there, they also had a dramatic recounting of a whaling expedition. It was an enjoyable few hours - would have been great for kids as well as adults.

On to the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester, NH. This is a smallish, but very accessible museum. One thing I particularly liked was that you could get very close to the paintings and sculptures. (My trifocals present challenges with getting good close-up views of art objects, but at the Currier I was able to get within inches of canvasses.) The museum closed the next day for about 2 years while it remodels. One of their satellite "exhibits" is the Frank Lloyd Wright - Zimmerman House, also in Manchester, NH. We hopped a van with a total of 12 passengers and were taken over to the house for a guided tour. Some of Wright's unique touches were quite innovative for the times (early 1950s). I especially liked the way he tried to make the boundary between the inside and outside vanish in the back of the house. The house was for a couple sans children, but it still felt pretty small to me. Here's the view from the back of the house.

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Next stop: the American Textile History Museum in Lowell, MA. Fascinating exhibits about the history of textiles and the history of the region. Some of my wife's ancestors came from Ireland into the states via Ellis Island to settle in Lowell, so it had special interest. There was a quilt exhibit there which showed amazing creativity in different approaches to quilting. (I knew next to nothing about this form of craft.)

From there we visited the Boott Cotton Mills Museum - in Lowell, MA. Here's where we saw the extremely difficult and dangerous work that young women did in these mills for many hours straight in deafening noise. Many of the workers were young teenagers. I was particularly drawn to the videotaped oral histories of women and men who had worked in the mills (which are all closed now). The interviews were extremely poignant. One woman who had worked in the mills for over 50 years recounted the story of a co-worker whose hair got caught in one of the machines and she was hoisted up to her death. At one of the points in the exhibit, the signs directed visitors to check the clothing tags of the people they were with. Where are clothes being made now? Well, the 4 of us looked at our tags. NONE of our clothes had been made in the US. Labor is too expensive. So the reality of the mills, the oral histories of the former workers, and the reality of today's economy and political terrain contributed to some powerful reflection. Just as closing time neared, we scooted across the street to tour the quarters where the mill worker girls lived. They slept in very close quarters, 3 or 4 to a bed, in a building with many bedrooms, no toilets, and only one door to the outside. What right do we have to complain about working conditions?

Special thanks to Debbie and Pete for taking us to the Manchester and Lowell museums - we would never have found them on our own, but thoroughly enjoyed the expeditions.

Posted by hgroteva at 5:51 AM

July 9, 2006

The latest - Google Trends

Nothing will excite Inner Geek more than learning about the latest tech gizmos, gadgets, and techniques. I had the luxury of reading the New York Times cover to cover on Wednesday, as our choir was heading to Chicago to perform Frank Ferko's Psalm Cantata at the meeting of the American Guild of Organists. (It went well, and I've really grown to love the piece. I know the music well enough now that I could let the texts work their magic on me - it's really quite beautiful. But I digress... )

The headline that caught my eye was "The Internet Knows What You'll Do Next" (NYT 7/5/2006, C1). Pretty scary, eh? The article talks about "Google Trends," one of the latest Google offerings.

(To find Google Trends, go to the Google home page (www.google.com), click on "more," and then click on "google labs" and then "google trends". Or just go here.)

The article's author argues that Google can identify what will be happening in the future on the basis of the searches that people do beforehand. Makes sense, of course. Here's a description from the article: "It allows you to check the relative popularity of any search term, to look at how it has changed over the last couple years and to see the cities where the term is most popular."

The search tool requires that you enter at least 2 terms -- and up to 5. So I searched for the use of geek vs. nerd. Would you believe that the second highest use of "geek" (in the world) is in Minneapolis? We come right after Portland, Oregon. Fancy that. Now I'm hooked.

Next, I paired adoption and foster care. Interestingly, Minneapolis is #3 in the world for mentions of adoption. (I am not surprised.) One of the nifty things that Google Trends does is to identify when spikes of searches have occurred and to link them to news headlines of those days. Here are 4 frequency spikes for "adoption."

a) Tsunami raises interest in adoption (Jan., 2005). Remember the huge rush of calls that came immediately after the tsunami, when people wanted to adopt babies that had been separated from their parents?

b) Nevada bill to make written post-adoption contracts legally enforceable. (Feb 2005) This was a story about the attempt to make written agreements about post adoption contact between birthparents and adoptive parents legally binding. I don't know if it passed. Note to self: look it up!

c) Adopt-a-Pet up for adoption. (Sept. 2005) This was a headline from Victoria, TX about an adopt-a-pet program being ousted from a shopping mall and needing a new home.

d) Adoption Institute Supports Gay Parents" (March 2006) about the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute supporting the right of gay and lesbian persons to adopt.

So it is interesting to see how headlines cause spikes in google searches, and thus how those searches might forecast something about news to come.

I'm eager to play with this a lot more! One sentence in the NYT story read, "And it's totally addictive." I agree - just like its sibling, Google Earth. Here's a picture of 4 generations of the men in my family while I was demonstrating Google Earth to my father just a few weeks ago. He was truly amazed.

Four Generations of Geeks-b.jpg

Posted by hgroteva at 5:59 AM

July 12, 2006

The Excitement Builds....

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The excitement is building ... almost 20 of us from the University of Minnesota are heading to Norwich England this weekend for the Second International Conference on Adoption Research. Personally, I'm very excited, for several reasons.

The adoption research community is small and highly specialized. Adoption researchers are found in psychology, social work, family science, public health, psychiatry, pediatrics, sociology, history, and related fields ... but our total numbers are small, and so our regular disciplinary scientific meetings usually only have a handful of adoption researchers. At ICAR2, we'll all be together for a glorious week of stimulating presentations and discussions.

The first ICAR was here in Minneapolis in 1999. Manfred van Dulmen and I co-organized it, with the very dedicated assistance of students and volunteers from our research project. This year's host is Beth Neil, from the School of Social Work and Psychosocial Studies at the University of East Anglia. Beth has gone out of her way to make sure that the conference is scientifically rich and socially enjoyable. She was able to get presenters to submit their papers far enough ahead in order to burn a CD-Rom of all the conference papers, so that people can study them in advance and make plans for conversations they'd like to engage others in. This was quite a coup!

I'm very proud of the 6 graduate students from my project who will be attending and presenting. They have all worked hard and gotten feedback in advance on their papers. The conference should be a good experience for them. I e-mailed Beth today, noting that there's something special about the folks who conduct research in this field. On the whole, it's a very supportive, collaborative, interesting, engaging group. It will be a great week! New blog posts will likely be sporadic or nonexistent until early August.

Posted by hgroteva at 5:00 PM

July 26, 2006

Monet in Leiden - 2006

Claude Monet, French Impressionist and a favorite of mine, painted tulip fields near Leiden. As he got older and his vision deteriorated, his paintings provided evidence of the blurry way in which he must have seen the world at that time. I took this photo last night and immediately thought of Monet when I saw it. Yet another good memory of Leiden.

Leiden at night - Monet effect-b.jpg

Posted by hgroteva at 11:12 AM

July 28, 2006

Adoption Research in Leiden

ICAR2 in Norwich was a wonderful experience - there's a strong consensus to that effect! It was powerful and energizing to have so many adoption researchers in the same place at the same time. There were 10 keynote addresses that provided a broad view of the field and probably about 100 papers or posters that filled out the most current research details. There were almost 20 people from Minnesota in attendance: 6 graduate students, 3 co-investigators and an affiliated post-doc from our MTARP project + several folks from the International Adoption Clinic, several from Rich Lee's project, and more.

Following a weekend on the north Norfolk coast, we made our way to Leiden University to meet with Femmie Juffer and her colleagues. Femmie holds an endowed chair in Adoption Studies, one of the few in the world. The centre's work is of the highest caliber. Here is a link to the centre. One of the centre's services is an online searchable data base of adoption research. You can access it from the navigation bar on the left side of their home page. It is a wonderful resource, especially since the searchable data base from the Donaldson Institute is no longer being kept up.

This scene awaited us just about a block or two into town from the Leiden rail station.

windmill in Leiden-b.jpg

We had two sessions at the Adoption Centre at Leiden University with Femmie and her colleagues. On the second morning, Wendy Tieman presented her research (based on her dissertation) from Wave 3 of Frank Verhulst's longitudinal study of adoption in Rotterdam. We had a wonderfully spirited discussion, facilitated by our open time schedule and a room full of people already knowledgeable about the relevant work. Here's our happy group after lunch: Gretchen Wrobel, Femmie Juffer, Wendy Tieman, Rich Lee, and me.

Gretchen Femmie Wendy Rich Hal-b.jpg

The adoption centre is located in a new university building that is very nicely appointed. On the occasion of the department's 40th anniversary, 40 faculty were each invited to prepare a quilt square to be included on a wall hanging in the foyer. Here are some of the squares; Femmie's is in the first column, third row from the top. You may not be able to make out the detail, but it depicts international adoption between India and the Netherlands.

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And what trip to the Netherlands would be complete without Rembrandt? This daunting face stared down at us during an al fresco dinner at the City Hall cafe on our last night here.

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And one more beautiful sunset canal scene to close our visit.

Leiden bridge - sunset-b.jpg


Posted by hgroteva at 5:58 AM

July 29, 2006

The Beauty of Leiden

I hope you enjoy these scenes from Leiden - it's a charming city with a relaxed atmosphere. Definitely a place that begs return.

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Leiden canal night-b.jpg

Leiden bridge + boat - sunset-b.jpg


Posted by hgroteva at 11:01 AM

July 31, 2006

Hot Enough for Ya?

Despite our extreme winters, Minnesota also gets its share of extreme summers. From today's Star Tribune:
"Today will bring dangerous, almost extraordinary heat to the Twin Cities and much of the Midwest. The heat will peak probably a few degrees above 100. Factoring in dew point, Sunday felt hotter in Minneapolis and St. Paul (110) than it did in Baghdad (103). Today will be worse. No preaching, lecturing or fear-mongering. Just know that today's heat will be life-threatening."

For fun, compare this to my entry from Feb. 17, 2006.

Posted by hgroteva at 7:34 AM