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Urban canoeing: Dining at The Sample Room

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I finally found some time to upgrade my Wike canoe trailer. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the trailer had a hard time handling Scrappy, my 17' Alumacraft canoe. I added a U-bolt to adequately secure the bow, and I reinforced the aluminum axle with an iron rod to keep it from bending. It's working well enough to resume canoeing around Minneapolis without a car shuttle.

Amy and I took the trailer down Saint Anthony Parkway to the Mississippi River for some paddling at dusk. We put in at the Camden Railroad Bridge. The moon was huge, so we had no trouble navigating after the sun went down. You can see the moon above Psycho Suzi's Motor Lounge in the picture below.

We got hungry on the river, so we stopped at one of our favorite spots in Northeast: The Sample Room. The restaurant conveniently has its own dock and stairway up the steep bank of the river. Our server even comped us a drink for canoeing in with our life jackets! After dining on the patio, we continued down the Mississippi to Boom Island Park and rode our bikes home from there. It was a fun way to spend an evening in Minneapolis!

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Urban canoeing: North/Northeast Minneapolis

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Back in July, my friend, Joe, and I were laid off during the state government shutdown. It was a stressful time, not knowing if or how the shutdown would end and having to cut back on expenses to make up for lost income. We decided to put our worries behind us for a day and make the most of our time off by taking a canoe trip down the Mississippi River.

We started under a rainy sky in North Minneapolis, at the Camden Avenue bridge boat launch. I had never paddled the northern section of the Mississippi as it passes through Minneapolis. It's an industrial stretch of river, but plans have been developed to transform it into a more attractive and accessible destination, much like the river's character further downstream.


A highlight of our trip occurred just above the uppermost lock on the Mississippi River, near Saint Anthony Falls. As we explored the northern channel around Nicollet Island, we paddled past a ceremony honoring the ratifications of an Urban Conservation Treaty for Migratory Birds attended by Mayor R.T. Rybak and several other environmental enthusiasts. A local news station filmed us paddling by to highlight the outdoor recreation potential of urban rivers and the importance of conserving them. Check out my sweet J-strokes!

The City of Minneapolis recently held a design competition for the stretch "Above the Falls." The video accompanying the winning proposal is below. As a resident of Northeast Minneapolis (river left), it's thrilling to envision an inviting riverfront right in my neighborhood.

My new nephews are way above average

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Jacob_Outlier.jpg My new nephews, Jacob and Jadon, are way above average. And though they don't even live in Lake Wobegon! See, it says so right on their onesies that I got from NausicaaDistribution.


Eastside Food Co-op goes solar

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I love Eastside Food Co-op. They're in my neighborhood and stock all my grocery needs. They show informative movies like "Troubled Waters: A Mississippi River Story," which the University of Minnesota helped create but balked at showing. They hold community forums to discuss issues like pollution at Shoreham Yards. And they've welcomed Recovery Bike Shop into the building. A lot of great things are happening at Eastside Food Co-op.

To top it all off, Eastside Food Co-op has gone solar! Their solar panels began operating on December 8 and have generated over 160 killowat hours so far (see chart below). At at time when the Minnesota Legislature is considering nuclear power expansion, I am proud to belong to an organization that is investing in clean solar energy.


Anniversary trip: Lake Pepin and Zumbro River

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Amy and I celebrated our eighth anniversary with a trip to southeastern Minnesota. The forecast called for warm and sunny weather, so we decided to camp and canoe. We wanted to camp at Frontenac State Park to get some more mileage out of our state park pass, but the fall colors and warm weather helped fill up Frontenac's campground. One of the park rangers recommended Hok-Si-La Campground in Lake City. It was a fantastic campground with well-kept facilities and campsites right on Lake Pepin's shore. During breakfast in our campsite we saw several species of birds, including a bald eagle and a downy woodpecker.


For our canoe trip, we chose a section of the Zumbro River from Theillman to river mile 13 near Dumfries. We chose that route because much of it is protected as part of the Richard J. Dorer Memorial Hardwood State Forest. Riverland Outfitters shuttled us to the put-in. A month before our trip, flooding devastated towns along the Zumbro River. Although the waters had receded well below flood stage, the river was still running at a brisk pace. It took us about six hours to cover 13 river miles on the Buffalo and Nemadji Rivers, but it only took about three hours on the Zumbro. We enjoyed the views of the hillsides and farms, the sand bars, and dodging all the submerged trees in the river. According to Paddling Minnesota, the Zumbro derives its name from the French pronunciation of "embarrassment" caused by the river's obstacles.


After getting off the water, we walked around downtown Wabasha before heading across the river to Pepin, Wisconsin, for an anniversary dinner at the Harbor View Cafe. The cafe was hopping. It took about two hours to get a table. We didn't mind because it gave us a chance to walk around the harbor and listen to some live jazz and folk music outside the pub next door. Harbor View Cafe was overpriced for the quality of the food and service, but the overall experience of visiting and dining in Pepin made it worthwhile. The great company and occasion made for a memorable experience.

Urban canoeing: Lake Phalen to Gervais Lake

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Here are some pictures from a nice little canoeing trip we took with our friend, Jim. He owns a beautiful wood canvas canoe. The three of us became friends at YMCA Camp Widjiwagan in Ely, where wood canvas canoes are used as part of the curriculum to teach young people about teamwork and environmental stewardship. In addition to being easy on the eye, wood canvas canoes are very quiet on the water--much quieter than Scrappy, our aluminum canoe.

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It was nice to spend some time in the Payne-Phalen neighborhood of Saint Paul. We hardly make it over there. We put in at Lake Phalen, padded through Phalen Park, portaged around a bridge repair project to Round Lake, paddled along a scenic creek leading to Keller Lake, and then paddled under Highway 36 into Gervais Lake. It was getting dark, so we didn't spend much time on Gervais Lake before heading back to the put-in. People gush about the Minneapolis chain of lakes, but the Phalen-Gervais chain of lakes is quite nice, too. Some highlights: water fowl, families enjoying the park, ice cream truck, many bridges, kayakers practicing rolling, fall leaves, quiet canoe, spending time with a good friend.

KFAI rocks

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I want to give a shout-out to KFAI, Fresh Air Community Radio. I listen to KFAI just about every day. And every day I am impressed by the station's diverse programming and skilled volunteer DJs. I urge everyone to tune into 90.3 in Minneapolis, 106.7 in Saint Paul, or on the Web at Then support them with a contribution. Here's a list of my favorite shows to get you started:

  1. African Rhythms
  2. Sugar Shop
  3. Sangam
  4. Caribbean Jam
  5. Mostly Jazz
  6. Blueslady's Time Machine
  7. Louisiana Rhythms

Urban canoeing: Cedar Lake to Minnehaha Falls and back

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Chris Desjardins and I took another urban canoe trip yesterday. We originally planned to pick up where we left off last time, at Hidden Falls in Saint Paul, but we chose a different route to take advantage of recent rains that had swollen Minnehaha Creek and to try out my Wike Woody Wagon Canoe Trailer.

We left from Cedar Lake where my canoe, Scrappy, resides on a rack rented from the City of Minneapolis. After loading my bike, we paddled through Lake of the Isles to Lake Calhoun, portaged to Lake Harriet, and then portaged over to Minnehaha Creek. The creek was so high that we had to portage around or duck under several bridges. We used the bike trailer for the longer portages before the creek, and after reaching Minnehaha Falls, I transported Scrappy all the way back to Cedar Lake by bike. Click here for a map of our canoe route.

The entire trip took about seven hours, not counting a stop for dinner at Sea Salt Eatery. My bike took a beating from trees and a wall along the creek, the Wike trailer didn't perform as well as I had hoped, and I'm still exhausted the next day, but I thoroughly enjoyed the Cedar-Minnehaha-Cedar loop. I especially got a kick out of people's reactions to Scrappy hitched to my bike.

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Florida paddling excursions

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Amy and I had a wonderful time vacationing in Florida with my family. We visited Cedar Key along Florida's hidden coast and stayed the rest of the time in Redington Beach. The BP oil spill had not yet reached the coast there, but almost every Floridian we talked to was bracing for environmental and economic disaster.


We experienced the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem by boat on three different occasions. Amy and I paddled a tandem kayak from Cedar Key out to Atsena Otie Key and Snake Key, two islands within the Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge. We encountered great egrets, cormorants, and a pod of dolphins that swam within 10 yards of our kayak. The kayak was provided at no extra charge by Faraway Inn, a nice place to stay in Cedar Key. Vsiting the Shell Mound, built over 3,000 years by Native Americans, was another highlight from our time in Cedar Key.


For our second excursion, we headed to Manatee Springs State Park where we rented a canoe to explore the springs and the Suwannee River. We were amazed by the clear blue water of the springs, the cypress trees covered with Spanish moss, the sturgeon leaping out of the river, and the amount of sunbathing turtles and alligators.

We were sad that we didn't see any manatees at Manatee Springs or in the Suwannee River, but my family and I saw a couple manatees on the third paddling excursion at Fort De Soto Park. They were eating near Soldier's Hole in Mullet Key Bayou, and we caught glimpses of them when they surfaced to breathe.

Kettle River ski trip

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Here are some pictures from a ski trip that Amy and I took to Banning State Park. It was our first trip to Banning. We stopped there on our way to the Wilco show in Duluth. We met several friendly people along the trails who agreed that Banning is underrated. The trails were well-maintained and covered a diverse mix of terrain and cultural artifacts along the Kettle River, including the historic Sandstone Quarry. The Kettle is one of the few whitewater rivers in Minnesota. I hope to paddle it someday, especially after seeing it up close. I'm an awful skier, but cross country skiing is a great way to enjoy the frozen lakes and rivers until they thaw. (If you can't canoe it, you might as well ski it!) Amy, on the other hand, is a powerhouse skier who competed for her high school team.

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Urban canoeing: Minneapolis to Saint Paul

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Sometimes I enjoy seeing architecture and other human artifacts from the river's vantage point as much as I like experiencing nature. Garbage and pollution are major exceptions.

The Mississippi River offers a great mix of nature and civilization as it flows through Minneapolis toward Saint Paul: bald eagles flying near skyscrapers, blue herons fishing from the dams, geese wading under bridges, and trees clinging to public beaches.


My friend, Chris Desjardins, a veteran of the Mississippi River Challenge, guided us down the urban route from Boom Island Park to Hidden Falls Park. The photo at right shows us paddling past the Education Sciences Building where our offices are located.

We hoped to make it to the backwaters near the Minnesota River confluence, but it took too long to navigate the locks with so many boats on the river for Labor Day. I plan on putting in at Hidden Falls for my next urban trip.

Nemadji River canoe trip

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Amy and I took a fantastic day trip down the Nemadji River near Duluth. The north fork of the Nemadji River valley is wild and undeveloped compared to its sister river, the Saint Louis.


We camped the night before at Jay Cooke State Park, dropped our canoe off at the put-in on state highway 23 in Minnesota, drove our car to the take-out on county highway W in Wisconsin, and then took a taxi back to the put-in.

The river was running at about 300 cubic feet per second (cfs), which is about the minimum for an enjoyable trip and only occurs after significant rainfall. The Nemadji carries a large amount of clay sediment, making the water red and obscuring "widow-maker" rocks just below the surface.


We saw no signs of human life along the river, except for few deer stands and a couple pieces of trash. We did, however, see several mergansers, two blue herons, a hawk, and several beaver chews.

I highly recommend a trip down the north fork of the Nemadji, if you can time the river level and are willing to arrange a shuttle.

Computer recovery

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My computer crashed a few days ago. I own a Lenovo T60 running Windows XP. The crash happened very suddenly, right in the middle of working on an AERA proposal. My battery gauge needs calibrating, so I probably just ran out of power. I plugged in, restarted, and was greeted by a blue screen saying,
Stop: c0000218 {Registry File Failure}
The registry cannot load the hive (file):
or its log or alternate.

This type of failure has been appropriately dubbed the "blue screen of death."

Microsoft's support page attributes the problem to corrupt registry files. Their solution requires a Windows XP startup disk, but Lenovo does not provide such a CD when you buy one of their computers. Lenovo instead supplies its Rescue and Recovery software, which allows the owner to restore the computer to its factory state or to a back up point if the owner has taken initiative to archive their operating system configuration. I regularly archive my files onto DVDs, but I had not archived my system. I didn't want to restore my computer to its factory state because re-installing all of my software would take a very long time.

I successfully recovered my computer without the Windows XP startup disk, so there's hope for those of you with running XP on a Lenovo (or another brand that provides a pre-installed rescue option in lieu of a startup CD). Here's how, with a second, functioning computer nearby:

  • I read Microsoft's poorly written blue screen of death support page. The Guided Help option was no help at all... it kept stalling out on the second computer.
  • I read this great entry posted by subtle on
  • I installed Avira NTFS4DOS Personal on the second computer and used it to create a DOS boot disk. (Note that if you do not have Lenovo Rescue and Recovery, then you can use the boot disk and DOS commands to follow the steps below, but it may be more difficult because the file names will appear truncated in DOS.)
  • I used Lenovo Rescue and Recovery to copy the system, software, sam, security, and default files from c:\windows\repair\ to a USB flash drive.
  • I also copied recent registry snapshots to the flash drive. Those files are located in c:\system volume information\_restore{***}\RP##\snapshot\, where *** is a bunch of seemingly random letters and numbers and ## are numbers corresponding to the order of recent snapshots made. In DOS, the location will appear as c:\system~1\_restor~1\rp##\snapshot\. The registry files corresponding with system, software, sam, security, and default are named _REGISTRY_MACHINE_SYSTEM, _REGISTRY_USER_SYSTEM, _REGISTRY_MACHINE_SAM, _REGISTRY_MACHINE_SECURITY, and _REGISTRY_USER_.DEFAULT. The DOS dir command will list the dates when the registry files were last saved, which can help you decide which snapshot number to use (i.e., how many days back to revert).
  • I used DOS commands to overwrite the files named system, software, sam, security, and default in c:\windows\system32\config\ with those from c:\windows\repair\. (You may want to back up the config files first.) Then I re-started the computer and performed repairs with chkdsk and Rescue and Recovery, which resulted in another blue screen of death failure:
    System error: Lsass.exe
    When trying to update a password the return status indicates that the value provided as the current password is not correct.

    I was happy to see that message because it occured much later in the boot up process than the original failure. In other words, I could tell I was making progress.
  • I renamed the snapshot registry files on the flash drive from _REGISTRY_MACHINE_SYSTEM and so forth to their respective config names: system, software, sam, security, and default.
  • Returning to DOS, I overwrote (again) those files located in c:\windows\system32\config\ with the just-renamed registry snapshots, thereby restoring the computer's registry files to a point from a few days earlier.

It took many, many hours, but I was able to recover my computer using the steps above. I'm thankful for the DOS I learned in high school and for the tips and shareware provided freely on the internet. I could have avoided a lot of headache if I had just used Rescue and Recovery to perodically archive my system configuration. I will from now on.

Apostle Islands adventure

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I paddled the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore last week with my good friends, Darren and Jesse. What an amazing place! Several local paddlers recommended that I visit the Apostle Islands, but I had no idea how incredible it would be.


On the first morning we rented sea kayaks and took a safety course from a local outfitter. After a shuttle to to Little Sandy Bay, we paddled out into Lake Superior. Paddling on the largest lake in the world (by surface area) was intimidating at first. Thankfully, we had low winds and sunny weather to ease our fears.


Our first destination was Sand Island, which is notable for its sea caves, lighthouse, and old-growth trees. The calm weather allowed us to spend a lot of time exploring the caves. The lighthouse was picturesque from the water as we rounded the point. Our campsite was in Lighthouse Bay on a secluded, tropical-looking beach. After setting up camp, we hiked up the beach for a visit to the lighthouse and the old-growth stand.


On the second day we paddled about 10 miles from Sand to Oak, stopping at York for lunch. We faced relatively high winds and choppy waves at first, but the weather eventually calmed and we strategically paddled on the leeward sides of the islands. We covered the 10 miles quickly--much faster than hiking the same distance--and arrived at Oak for a two-night stay. We chose to take a layover day at Oak because it offered inland hiking, including a trail up the highest point in the islands.


On our first night at Oak, we shared the bay with two sailboats seeking refuge from southwesterly winds. The crew from one of the sailboats came ashore in their dinghy to check out the trailhead originating from our campsite. They were very nice folks from the Twin Cities, and they invited us out to see their sailboat. I took them up on their offer and paddled the solo kayak out to their boat to watch the sunset.


We woke up to beautiful weather again on the third day. We explored the beach, took turns paddling the solo kayak out to some rock formations on the northeastern corner of Oak, and hiked about two miles to the high overlook. From above, Lake Superior looked even bigger--much too big for kayaks. Another highlight from day three... practicing my kayak roll that I learned while attending Maryville College.

We packed up early on the fourth and last day and headed back to the outfitter where our car was parked. Our next stop was Duluth and Fitger's Brewhouse for food and a celebratory beer. My friends really liked western region of Lake Supeior, as well as Minneapolis. I hope they'll return for another adventure soon.

It has been a while since I've posted any fun, canoe-related content. So I created a set of Google Earth KML maps of the BWCAW. I was inspired to post the map set after I saw the UMN Borchert Map Library post a link to an interactive BWCAW map. Canoeists, enjoy.

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Source of geographic information: Superior National Forest GIS downloads (SHP files created by USFS June 2006)
Source of functions for converting from SHP to KML: maptools and rgdal

Spring break in Idaho

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Amy and I visited her brother in Boise, Idaho, over spring break. It was great to see where Brad lives and to meet some of his friends and co-workers at Boise State University. It was also nice to be in the mountains--Minnesota is very flat! Boise reminded me of Boulder, Colorado, but with a more relaxed feel.

I spent some of my break finishing proposals for the American Evaluation Association conference and a survey instrument for the North Star STEM Alliance. Nevertheless, we experienced a lot in just a few days:

I highly recommend a visit to Idaho, if you've never been.

Bogus Basin and dining out
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Pine Flats hot springs
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Harrier falcon and turkey vulture
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Rokia Traoré concert at The Cedar Cultural Center

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I saw Rokia Traoré perform at The Cedar Cultural Center last night. My familiarity with Ali Farka Touré and other Malian artists had me expecting a good show. My friend, Shane, heard a good preview on Minnesota Public Radio (at minute 2:17) and was psyched, too.

Rokia and her band exceeded our expectations. They packed the house and had everyone dancing. Rokia's singing was forceful at times and sultry at others, such as when she sang Gershwin's "The Man I Love" to honor Billie Holiday. I looked around the audience and saw many jaws drop when she showed off her vocal prowess, not to mention her dance moves. The band was tight and having a lot of fun. As a Kentucky boy, I especially liked the banjo-like riffs from the Malian guitar. Their one encore song lasted about twenty minutes, segued in and out of Fela Kuti's "Lady," and featured a solo by each member of the band. Shane, Amy, and I went to Palmer's afterwards, where we sat around the bonfire and swapped concert reviews with other folks who had been there.

Don't miss her when she comes to your town!

Below are some video clips from last night's concert. In the first clip, watch Rokia get rid of her mic stand so she can dance freely. She plays guitar in the second clip.

Go Broncos!

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My brother-in-law, Brad Wick, recently became head cross country running coach at Boise State University. He moved to Boise after three years as Assistant Coach of the Gopher men's cross country team. Heading into the Western Athletic Conference championship, the Bronco men are predicted to finish third and the women fourth. Go Broncos!

An interview with Brad

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Kelli's birthday party

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Here are some pictures from Kelli's 30th birthday party. Welcome to the club, Kelli! Our friends sure do have some cute kids.

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Pollster, my addiction

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Election day is only six weeks away. I grew dependent on during the primaries. Now I have a full-blown addiction.

I like Pollster because it's run by professional survey researchers who pay attention to sampling error, nonresponse bias, and other threats to making accurate inferences about the electorate's preferences. They have sought to offset some of those threats by mashing up survey results from many reputable sources and running a smoothed trend line through them. Additionally, they critically review results and methods, pointing out strengths and shortcomings that poll consumers can use to evaluate results.