March 31, 2005
Calling Dave St. Peter
Well, after my tirade below this morning I decided to call the Twins to see if they could shed any light on a stadium bill's chances this session. So, I called Dave St. Peter. Dave is usually very responsive to fan inquiries, but I am usually a little shy about calling him. I mean, why should he care what a single Twins fan thinks? But today I mustered up my courage and dialed his number. After two rings he picked up the phone.
He immediately asked me in a gruff tone why I was calling him. Was I a reporter? How would I be using his comments? I told him I was just a lowly blogger interested in getting a new Twins stadium built. He seemed satisfied with that. So I launched into my questions.
First I asked him if there will be a Twins bill at the state legislature this year. He told me the Twins are in a holding pattern right now and that there is still a chance. He said the imminent passage of the bonding bill is seen as a very good sign and that there may be time for a Twins bill this session. He also said the Twins are still in discussions with possible host communities and that all hope isn't lost yet. By the way, I am paraphrasing here.
OK. So, that is kind of good news, although it doesn't look like anything will be happening soon.
However, that really wasn't the main question I wanted to ask him. Although it is important to know whether or not there will be a Twins stadium bill this session there is a much more important question. If you've read this site before you probably know what question I am talking about.
So, I asked Dave given the efforts of the Florida Marlins and the Golden Gophers towards making huge contributions to their own stadiums, are the Twins also considering increasing their upfront contribution. I even said, "Will Pohlad consider paying more than $120 million considering what is happening in Florida?"
Dave responded, and again I'm paraphrasing here, that stadium negotiations are very complex and that every situation is different. Blah blah blah. That you have to fully understand the unique situation in Florida, for example, to understand why they've made the choice they have. Blah blah blah. That the Twins are still in favor of Pawlenty's plan of last year which called for the Twins paying for 1/3 of the stadium's cost. Blah blah blah!
Dave also said, "How can we even talk about a contribution when we don't have a deal in place? We need a deal before we can know how much the Twins should contribute." I am stunned with this reasoning. It is like a chicken and egg type of argument. Without a "deal" the Twins refuse to make any promises, but without any promises the legislature refuses to pass a workable stadium bill.
Wouldn't it work better if the Twins said, "We agree to contribute $200 million." Wouldn't the legislature feel better about negotiating in the first place?
After I basically heard Dave St. Peter say that no, the Twins are not considering increasing their contribution I thanked him for his time and for answering my questions and I hung up. However, I am far from satisfied. It is apparent that even if there is a Twins stadium bill this session it will go absolutely nowhere, just like all the others for the past 10 years.
Quite truthfully I am disgusted with this whole mess. The legislature can't seem to do anything right, and the Twins refuse to help themselves.
I give up.
The never ending cycle of "better luck next year"
I'm sure all of you have seen Pawlenty and legislative leaders falling all over themselves in praise for finally passing a bonding bill, but let's look at some of the facts of this recent activity. A bonding bill is typically passed in even number years (like 200-fricken-4) and a budget is passed in odd number years (like this year). So, it has literally taken the legislature 2 years to pass a bonding bill, and now they've got about a month to pass a budget. Special session anyone?
Concerning a new Twins stadium, this is very bad news. It just doesn't look like it will happen this year. How could it? With a budget battle looming on the horizon it looks like our legislators' plates are going to be full of partisan bickering real quick. Couple this with the "controversial" Gopher stadium bill that hasn't even been heard by a House committee yet, and the bad news just keeps on coming.
Shooter also rightly points out that next year is an election year, and legislators will be hesitant to tackle such a sticky issue of stadium financing in the next legislative session. This means that at best stadium financing bills probably won't be heard until 2008. This will be about one year after the current MLB CBA expires. It technically expires December 16, 2006. As you probably know, the player's union agreed that contraction could be an option for MLB after this CBA expires. What does this mean for the Twins? Your guess is as good as mine.
And what about the Vikings? The Vikings's lease on the Metrodome expires in 2011. Without a Twins bill in place before 2008, the legislature will probably try to tackle a baseball stadium first. And of course, they will probably fail. This means the Vikings are just flat out of luck.
Plus, as you all know, stadium construction costs keep rising and rising. What will a Twins stadium cost in 2008? $550 million? $600 million?
So, I'm suddenly in a bad mood and I need some answers. I'm going to write my legislators (again) and some people at the Twins offices to see if I can get some rays of hope. Please, if you read this and you know anything I don't about stadiums in Minnesota please let me know. Especially if it is good news. Also, please write your legislators (again) and ask them if there is any hope for a Twins stadium bill this session.
If all hope is lost, though, let's just enjoy the upcoming Twins' and Vikings' seasons. They both look to be exciting.
Curt in Grand Forks sent me this interesting bit of news from CNNSI.com's Peter King. Concerning Reggie Fowler's bid to buy the Vikings King writes:
TEN THINGS I THINK I THINK
1. I think if Reggie Fowler's bid to buy the Vikings succeeds, my name is Elmer Fudd. Won't be happening, people. And it has nothing to do with color, unless you're talking about the color of money. I don't think Fowler has enough of it.
So, yet another national pundit has come out saying that Fowler will not be purchasing the Vikings. Combine this sentiment with Shooter's column again and we've got the possibility of Glen Taylor coming in to save the day. That would certainly improve the Vikings' stadium chances, and improve my outlook on life in general.
Furthermore, again concerning stadiums, our best hope for some kind of financing this year came in the form of Pawlenty's metro-area casino scheme and it's "Community Assets Account." Well, after Mike Hatch came out with his "unconstitutional argument" the DFL led Senate is now sqwaking that this scheme is dead in the water. Dean Johnson has been quoted as saying:
Pawlenty's plan "was in the refrigerator yesterday. It just got put into the freezer."
I'll give our legislators one thing, they are good at giving the soundbites (and nothing else). Anyway, this will most likely leave a big gap in our budget since Pawlenty was planning on relying heavily on casino revenue for the next budget cycle. This means there will be a pretty acrimonious atmosphere at the state capitol for the next two months, that is for sure.
Finally, if you haven't checked out Mr. Cheer or Die today get over there and do that right now. He's got some shocking news that I am just flat out stunned by. Could the Vikings really be considering a 6' 6" RB that no one has ever heard of with the 7th pick? Yikes! My underwear is already full!
March 30, 2005
And that's all I need...
Do you remember the movie The Jerk? Steve Martin plays the character Navin R. Johnson, who towards the end of the movie loses all of his wealth and starts walking around his house saying he doesn't need any of this "stuff." Except for random items he decides to pick up like an ashtray, a paddle game ("the ashtray and the paddle game and that's all I need..."), a remote control, matches, a lamp, a chair, and a magazine. For those of you that have seen the movie you know this scene is hilarious, but it is also a little thought provoking. Hmmm ...
If I fell on hard times and lost everything what items would I pick up randomly to try to take with me? Assuming my family would be coming with me, what are the items that I would immediately try to grab before I walked down the street in a bathrobe and my pants around my ankles? The following is what I could think of:
- My surround sound stereo/DVD system. It took a long time for me to get this, and many discussions with my better half. I could not part with it!
- My collection of Minnesota Twins fishing lures. It is my most favorite collection. Anyone can collect bobbleheads! Bah! There probably isn't another Twins fan that has the complete collection of Twins fishing lures like I do. Needless to say, I will be at the May 13 Twins game for the Kent Hrbek lure. That is a given.
- My signed copy of Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. It says, "To Shane, a friend of Ender." It is so true! I am a friend of Ender! I love that book.
- My cable modem. You might be asking why? At this point I will be too distraught to think straight. My cable modem has provided me with hours of entertainment and service through the years. It is coming with me.
- My Last Starfighter DVD. I need something to watch on my surround sound stereo/DVD system.
That's it. That's all I need.
If you'll recall, though, in the movie The Jerk Navin Johnson trades all of the things he "needs" for a thermos. What would I trade all of this for? Can there be any item that would get me to part with all of these prized posessions?
I would trade all of this for a vintage Chuck Foreman "44" Vikings jersey. Like the one I had when I was a kid. That would make me very, very happy.
Links of the day
- Watch Martian space ships attack the Greet Machine! Run and scream in panic!
- OurMedia.org. Free space for your files (audio, video, whatever) forever. I find this a little too good to be true.
- Very interesting article detailing how KG has (by far!) helped his team the most over the past few years. MVP!
- Great article detailing a former computer programmer's switch to becoming a bike courier. Sounds like a lot of fun...
- This is soooo wrong. I probably shouldn't even be linking to it. And look how many comments it is getting!
- You've probably already seen this, but scientists found soft tissue in a T-Rex skeleton. That is fricken' awesome, although I read that this might be more common than we think. Scientists are just loathe to crack open dinosaur bones (which is understandable).
- Set list and review of the first U2 concert in support of HTDAAB. Although I don't mind them playing old stuff do they have to play three songs from Boy?
- Display any RSS feed on your website with no programming required ... I'm going to have to give this one a try. Seems pretty easy.
- Fantastic page that lists out all sorts of different search engines and why you would want to use them.
- This has been making the rounds: a clock that will hide after you click the snooze button forcing you to get up and turn it off. Genius!
- Unsorted life hacks from 43FoldersWiki. Fascinating list of nifty tricks people have submitted. For example: Just got a haircut you like? Ask the operator to describe it in his/her own words, and then take a photo. Good advice.
That's all I got for now.
March 29, 2005
Can you believe this weather we are having? This is why I stay in Minnesota, for days like yesterday and today. Most of the time we've either got months and months of dreary winter, or months and months of mosquitos feasting on our blood. But Springtime in Minnesota makes it all worth while. I would wager that you really can't appreciate Spring unless you go through the crap we usually go through. Anyway, I am loving it. It almost makes me forget about stadiums ... almost.
Speaking of stadiums and the business of sports, Mr. Cheer or Die and the Vikes Geek have written some highly frightening posts concerning the Vikings chances of moving to LA. I read these two posts and I just about started weeping. However, as much as I love a good conspiracy, and as much as I'm beginning to think it is obvious we can't trust a thing Reggie Fowler says, one thing remains painfully clear. Unless the Vikings get a new stadium they will move out of our state. It is the same as the Twins situation: the Vikings will not play in the Metrodome (as it is right now) forever. Something has to be done. I think that is a given.
However, what can be argued is the timing. How long have we got before the sky falls and Minnesota is annexed by North Dakota (becoming Super Dakota!)? I still feel very strongly that the Vikings are here until 2011. No matter what. Tagliabue does not want to mess with the Rozelle letter. And I also feel strongly that the NFL wants a team in Minnesota. We will receive every chance to keep the Vikings here, but after 2011 all bets are off. It is as simple as that.
And speaking of the NFL wanting Minnesota to have an NFL team, I also think that the NFL is rapidly losing patience with Minnesota. Why? Of course, we've already got our legislature's refusal to consider stadium financing for Minnesota's favorite team, and now we've got that idiot Dick Day and his exit tax for Red McCombs. The more I think about this the more moronic I think this idea is. Don't get me wrong, I can't stand Red and I wouldn't mind it if we got a chance to stick it to him for once, but this move by Day is just plain wrong. For one thing it demonstrates, at least to me, how much Minnesota hates rich people. God forbid that you are rich and successful in Minnesota because we will not like you. In fact, we will hate you, we will be jealous of you, and we will try to make your life more miserable. Of course, you'll have lots of money so we will be like a mosquito buzzing in your ear, but mosquitos can become annoying.
And Minnesota has become an annoyance. Don't think the NFL isn't paying attention to all of this and thinking twice about giving our fair state the benefit of the doubt. If this exit tax actually gets passed, which is doubtful, it will be yet another nail in the Vikings coffin. This new tax singles out Red McCombs and the NFL for special treatment and it sends a clear message that we are at best difficult to work with and at worst obstinate little children.
If you get a chance stop over at Stick and Ball Guy's web site today to see all the Twins bloggers picks for the upcoming MLB season. SBG is having a contest based around the picks, and the winner will be feted on SBG's website and receive a drink purchased by SBG himself! Be still my beating heart! And just for my own documentation purposes, here are all of my picks:
AL East: Red Sox
AL Central: Twins
AL West: Angels
AL Wild Card: Yankees
NL East: Marlins
NL Central: Cardinals
NL West: Dodgers
NL Wild Card: Cubs
AL Pennant: Twins
NL Pennant: Cards
WS Champ: Twins
AL MVP: Vlad
NL MVP: Pujols
AL Cy Young: Santana
NL Cy Young: Schmidt
If you haven't noticed, I figure if I'm going to lose, I mine as well lose cheering for the Twins. And looking at the other blogger picks, it looks like I'm not alone.
Finally, I chanced upon a very interesting LiveJournal post yesterday regarding a new format for music. This new format displays song lyrics in list format. At first I thought, how stupid! But then I found it to be quite addictive. Anyway, I thought I would give it a try by using this new format on "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" by U2:
- Things I have done
- Climbed the highest mountain
- Run through the fields
- Just run
- Scaled city walls
- To be with you
- Outcome of these efforts
- I still haven't found what I'm looking for
- Other things I have done
- Kissed honey lips
- Felt healing in fingertips
- What my burning desire felt like
- Spoke with the toungue of angels
- Held the hand of the devil
- Relative temperature of hand
- How did I feel?
- As what?
- A stone
- Outcome of these efforts
- I still haven't found what I'm looking for
- Something I believe in
- Kingdom come
- Outcome of kingdom come
- All the colors will bleed into one
- Even though I believe
- I have decided to still run
- Broke the bonds
- Loosed the chains
- Carried the cross of my shame
- I believe it
- Unfortunately, even after all of this
- I still haven't found what I'm looking for
It is not as easy as it looks! Give it a try!
March 28, 2005
Hello everyone. My ride won't be picking me up today to get into work in a timely fashion, so this will have to be somewhat brief.
As you all probably already know, Bob Casey passed away this weekend. This is a sad time for Twins fans. I don't think I ever heard anyone ever say they didn't like Bob Casey. Most people are talking about his introduction of Kirby Pucket, and his "No Smoking" calls as their favorite moments. But I always loved what he usually said after his "No Smoking" call. For example, if the Twins were playing Detroit, Casey would say, "There is noooooooo smoking in the Metrodome! No smoking! If you must smoke, go back to Detroit!" I loved that.
Whoever will replace Casey has some HUGE shoes to fill. He probably knows that though. Anyway, my prayers go out to the Casey family.
The Gopher's men hockey team is back in the Frozen Four. In fact, the Frozen Four is made up entirely of WCHA teams. This is the first time that has ever happened. Yesterday's game against Cornell was fantastic, as I'm sure you'll agree if you watched it, but I was struck by some of the music the Cornell band was playing. For example, at one point they played the Wisconsin fight song, "On Wisconsin" which made me think Wisconsin must have stolen the tune from the older Cornell. Wrong! Cornell was just trying to irk the pro-Minnesota crowd at Mariucci. That, I thought, was pretty funny.
There will have to more later. I've got to go.
March 26, 2005
Start to refelct
"Such nonsense!" declared Dr. Greysteel. "Whoever heard of cats doing anything useful?"
"Except for staring at one in a supercilious manner," said Strange. "That has a sort of moral usefulness, I suppose, in making one feel uncomfortable and encouraging sober reflection upon one's imperfections."
Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke
March 25, 2005
Songs for a Desert Island VI
Welcome to another installment of the Greet Machine series "Songs for a Desert Island." Before we begin, let's recap the songs I've selected so far:
- "Synchronicity II" by The Police
- "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" by U2
- "Subterranean Homesick Alien" by Radiohead
- "All this Time" by Sting
- Strawberry Fields Forever" by the Beatles
As you can see, so far my list is shaping up nicely. I definitely will have some good music to listen to and ponder over while stranded on my desert island. You should also note that most of the music I select has some sort of religious message inside of it, especially "All This Time" and "I Still Haven't Found." I am fascinated with the role and impact of religion, especially Christianity, within popular culture. It is hard to escape given our popular media's penchant to rehash famous biblical stories. Sure, the most obvious example is Gibson's The Passion, but we've also recently been treated to other movies in this same vein like The Matrix, or even more recently in Constantine (does Keanu have a messianic complex or what?).
|Get behind me Satan...|
The sixth addition to my desert island music list will once again have a religious message. And this is probably appropriate given that today is Good Friday. In fact, my next selection focuses primarily on Jesus Christ's betrayal and the most significant character in that betrayal: Judas Iscariot. So, without further adieu, my next selection is "Until the End of the World" by U2.
"Until the End of the World" is a close second to "I Still Haven't Found" for the title of my favorite U2 song. It features great lyrical writing by Bono, but also phenomenal guitar work by the Edge. Besides an absolute face-melting solo in the middle of the song, the beginning starts with an other-worldly and experimental guitar sound that only the Edge could work into a song. This is followed by solid drum and bass work by Larry and Adam that builds and builds up to quite possibly the Edge's most recognizable guitar riff. This riff frames the guilt-ridden and regretful mood of the entire song as Bono finally begins to sing:
Haven't seen you in quite a while
I was down the hold just passing time
Last time we met was a low-lit room
We were as close together as a bride and groom
We ate the food, we drank the wine
Everybody having a good time
You were talking about the end of the world
Enter Judas. It is difficult to say where Judas is at this particular moment. It certainly sounds like a long time after the crucifixion, as Judas is apparently seeing Jesus again after "quite a while." Judas goes on to explain the circumstances of their last meeting which obviously is The Last Supper. I'm not sure everyone was "having a good time," though, since Jesus was probably a little anxious knowing what would happen next. During this dinner, Jesus also revealed that one of his own disciples would betray him. The disciples were distraught by this news, of course, and they all asked him, "Is it me?" In Mark 14:21 Jesus says, "But woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would have been good for that man if he had never been born."
I find this to be an interesting problem. Judas obviously played a very important role in the crucifixion story. Without him, would Jesus have been crucified? It is hard to say, but Judas definitely set into motion the most important act in the whole Christian faith. He set into motion the crucifixion of Jesus which ultimately gave the entirety of mankind the promise of redemption and a doorway to the Father. Could it be argued that Judas actually did a good thing? Again, I find this to be an interesting paradox of sorts. On the one hand Judas betrayed Jesus, but on the other hand by doing so he was only a pawn in God's master plan. The question then is, given the importance of Judas in this story, could he be given forgiveness? We'll come back to that. Bono continues:
I took the money
I spiked your drink
You miss too much these days if you stop to think
You lead me on with those innocent eyes
You know I love the element of surprise
In the garden I was playing the tart
I kissed your lips and broke your heart
You...you were acting like it was
The end of the world
According to the story, Judas took 40 pieces of silver to betray Jesus. A relatively small price for the Son of God, to be sure. After the Last Supper Jesus took his disciples to the Garden of Gethsemene where he prayed and waited for his fate. Judas eventually arrives with some Roman soldiers, and he kisses Jesus in order to identify Jesus to the soldiers. This I find to be another strange part of the story. Jesus was very popular and well known by this time. In fact, just a short time before, he triumphantly entered Jerusalem in a parade type atmosphere that we now celebrate as Palm Sunday.
So I have to ask, why was Judas important? Why did he need to identify Jesus? Would the Roman soldiers not already know who Jesus was? Maybe, maybe not, again it is hard to say. Perhaps Jewish law mandated that an accuser publicly identify the accused? If anyone has any other thoughts about this I would love to hear them. Regardless, Judas kisses Jesus and after a brief scuffle the soldiers lead Jesus away. The story goes that Judas was so distraught by his betrayal of Jesus that he hung himself.
In my dream I was drowning my sorrows
But my sorrows, they learned to swim
Surrounding me, going down on me
Spilling over the brim
Waves of regret and waves of joy
I reached out for the one I tried to destroy
You...you said you'd wait
'til the end of the world
Now we get to the meat of the song. In this stanza Bono is essentially asking the same question I've been building up to in this post. Given the important part that Judas plays in this event, given the fact that he is merely carrying out the ultimate plan of God, is it possible for Judas to receive forgiveness and redemption? Bono sings about the regret Judas must have felt, but he also sings about "waves of joy" as Judas reaches out to Jesus for forgiveness. What a powerful moment. Is it possible? Personally I believe it is. I don't necessarily agree with the Catholic doctrine of damnation for people who commit suicide. There is no biblical basis for this belief. Given Judas's regret and despair, would the grace of God also be enough for even the betrayer of the Son of God himself?
Bono does not answer this question. The song ends with Jesus telling Judas he will "wait until the end of the world." Is Jesus referring to the Last Judgement? Or is Jesus telling Judas he will always be ready to forgive him? Even until the end of the world?
Judas ... certainly a reviled figure in the history of Christianity. However, I ask the question again: given his importance in God's ultimate plan, could he also receive forgivess and salvation?
Well, I don't know about you, but I will definitely ponder that between now and the end of the world. There is no definitive answer.
So, I hope you've enjoyed this installment of "Songs for a Desert Island." Hopefully if you listen to "Until the End of the World" again you will look at it a little more closely like me. Please feel free to share any other insight you may have. Until next time...
March 24, 2005
Things are really going the Gopher's way right now. Not only does the Senate's State and Local Government Operations Committee approve their stadium bill to move forward, but now TCF and the U have announced a deal that supplies the effort with $35 million. So, let's recap:
- The stadium will cost $235 million.
- The U promises to privately raise $141 million
- $35 million of that has now been raised
- The U is asking the state to supply the remaining $94 million
- Yesterday the Senate committee approved this plan with the caveat that the U must raise $141 million or 60% of the cost of the stadium
If you are anything like me, you are wondering what about the Twins? Is there anything in the works for the Twins, the team that actually could leave our state? Well, it sounds like a plan could be unveiled as early as next week. According to the Pioneer Press:
Neither a Twins nor Vikings bill has been introduced. Team spokesmen say they're waiting for a nod from legislative leadership before seeking a bill introduction, but such action must happen soon to meet committee deadlines. Jerry Bell, the Twins' chief stadium promoter, said a Twins bill might be introduced next week.
Well, well! The plot thickens. However, while this is exciting news, the Twins had better get a couple of things straight. The Gopher stadium bill is being received favorably because the U is paying for 60% of the facility themselves. The U is also creating momentum by announcing a partnership with a large Minnesota corporation to fund $35 million of the stadium. The U is also only asking for $7 million a year from the state. No new taxes, no messy referendums, nothing really controversial at all. Are the Twins paying attention?
Last year Pohlad and the Twins offered $120 million, which conservatively is only 25% of the cost of a new stadium. The Twins also refuse to 1) pick a site or 2) use any of the money from corporate naming rights to pay for the stadium. Pohlad has burned every bridge possible in the legislature, and yet he is still being quoted as saying he doesn't think he should have to pay for any of a new Twins ballpark.
The U of M is creating momentum by learning from the mistakes of the Twins and Vikings and making it easy for the legislature to pass a bill.
If Pohlad wants a stadium he has got to change his tactic. I know I've said this a million times before, but it just needs to be said again. If the Twins come out with the same, tired plan they have trotted out year after year it will go nowhere and it certainly won't make it to the floor of either legislative chamber.
The U of M stadium plan and the Marlins plan currently being debated by the Florida legislature have changed how the stadium game is being played. You know it, I know it, and the Minnesota legislature certainly knows it. Do the Twins know it? Do they get it yet? I sure hope so. Wouldn't it be nice if the Twins could take the momentum generated by the U of M's stadium drive and do something positive with it? It looks like we might find out next week.
March 23, 2005
Well, I was just writing a really good post about the new Gophers stadium bill passing through the Senate's State and Local Government Operations Committee today, but I must have hit the wrong button because my software lost the whole thing. That really stinks. So, I will have to write more about this tomorrow around lunch since I am giving a presentation early tomorrow morning about UThink.
To sum up, though, how I feel:
- A new Gopher stadium would be nice and definitely necessary at some point in the future. But...
- The Gophers aren't going anywhere
- The Twins and the Vikings could definitely go "somewhere"
- Given the fact that the legislature still hasn't passed a bonding bill and ...
- The legislature is now going on a 6 day Easter break, and ...
- The legislature still hasn't agreed on a state budget
- I think it is a given that this Gophers stadium bill won't get to the floor until the last week of the session, or very late into the session at the earliest.
What does this mean? I could be wrong, I hope that I am wrong, but I don't think there will be any Twins bill to discuss this year. And there certainly won't be any Viking bill discussed (Have you read Mr. Cheer or Die recently? Scary stuff.) in the hallowed halls of the state legislature. Again, I hope I am wrong.
Well, I'm going to bed now. Maybe I'll be more optimistic when I wake up.
Creativity and Artistry
As a webmaster/web designer I create a lot of web pages. In fact, the last time I heard, the University of Minnesota Libraries have over 60,000 web pages on our servers. How many of these have I created? I don't know, but I'm sure it is a fair number of them. However, even though I do this for a living, even though I create web pages everyday, I do not consider myself a "creator," or to be more specific: an artist. I am a thief. I see things I like on the web and I steal and modify them for my purposes. In essence, I am at the mercy of other people's creativity.
We are going through a "brand identity" project right now at the U of M Libraries. An internationally known, Minneapolis-based design firm is helping us create a unique brand that we can use for all aspects of our communication with the "outside." This includes a logo, graphics and layout for a library magazine, stationary design, and of course web site/page design. I am excited about this. Watching people create, watching true artists mold and shape all this different media is a wonder to behold. It is humbling, but at the same time it is invigorating to see people do things that they are really good at, especially when it comes to creativity and artistry.
This Monday we went out to lunch with members of the design firm, including the president of the firm himself. We went to Nami, a Japanese restaurant in Minneapolis. Usually I would not seek out a restaurant like this, especially one that is known for sushi, but I'm glad I was talked into it this time. It was wonderful. Good atmosphere and good food. Anyway, as we were sitting there at the table I noticed the president of the design firm tear off a piece of paper from his chopsticks wrapper. As he continued to talk, laugh, and entertain he began to fold the paper. I don't even think he knew he was doing it. I never saw him look down at it. Suddenly, before I knew it, he had folded the paper into a swan. I was stunned. It was beautiful. I almost asked him for it! Needless to say, I was very impressed.
It got me to thinking: what am I so good at that I can create something without even thinking about it? Specifically, is there anything that I am good at that I could create something with effortless artistry? Something beautiful that other people can appreciate? And it doesn't have to be art in the narrow sense. Could I write a short piece of music? Could I grow a flower? Could I make a beautiful spaceship out of Legos, or even clean my garage so as to be both aesthetically pleasing and an efficient storage place? I'm probably not expressing myself well, but I don't know. After I saw someone so effortlessly create a swam out of paper I asked myself, "Can I do anything like that?" And I have to answer, "I don't know." How upsetting.
So, I have decided to start looking for the things that I am good at. Things that I can create "art" through and be happy in/with. I want to be able to create and do so effortlessly. The thing is, I'm sure I already do. I just need to start recognizing it.
Sorry to ramble on. This has just been on my mind for a couple of days.
Links of the day
- The history of yelling "Freebird!" at a concert. I wish I could have researched this one.
- 3M workshop to teach you how to make a wallet out of duct tape. I am going to have to give this a try.
- 13 things that baffle even the smartest scientists. Cool article.
- FreeMind software project. A great piece of free software to help you brainstorm, among other things. I'm going to have to look at this one a little deeper.
- A phenomenally easy way to make rounded corners for CSS/XHTML tabs. Wow.
- Peter Jackson says that the movie "The Hobbit" is a few years away at least. Bummer. Can't wait to see that dragon.
- Springsteen's induction speech for U2 into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. This is a very good induction speech and worth the read.
- Everything you ever wanted to know about podcasting. For you COD.
- For all you Irish out there, Bush seems to be related to some pretty shady characters from Ireland's past. Thanks Curt!
- And speaking of Ireland, check out this Irish-Heritage Timeline from the Onion. Hilarious. My favorite: "1994: A leader known only as Roth takes over the Irish Republican Army, transforming it from a terrorist organization into a tax-deferred retirement savings plan." Brilliant!
- Learn UNIX in 10 minutes. Might come in handy for me as a reference.
March 22, 2005
Why does the Land Rover have a sun roof for your luggage or groceries? I don't know about your luggage, but I don't think mine cares about having a sun roof. Because of this obvious attempt to make the luggage happier than the occupants in the backseat I will never buy a Land Rover. Yes, I will stick with buying used mini-vans with hopefully less than 100,000 miles. That is how disgusted I am with this.
March 21, 2005
Let me know
Taking a page from Mr. Cheer or Die, I've decided to create a poll for (hopefully) everyone to fill out. I get a fair amount of visitors to this site everyday, and I would really love to know why the heck you come here. Is it because of my stadium commentary, or is it because there is a chance that I have written about something other than stadiums? Is it because of my quirky essays on my life and family, or is it because I write about the Twins and the Vikings every once in a while?
The following poll is completely anonymous, so please fill it out and let me know. You can even check more than one reason you read this site (or not). Anyway, I'm interested and I would appreciate it.
March 20, 2005
Well, Cheesehead Craig came home today and as you can see from the picture below, he vanquished the snowman in front of his garage:
He and his son actually had a pretty good time doing it, so that was nice. Of course, he had to destroy the snowman in order to get into his garage. That, I hope, will be only the first of many ways I get him back for all the crap he has pulled on me over the years.
Craig is a good neighbor. How many of you have a neighbor you can truly count on? One that always is ready to lend a hand, or share a frosty beverage with you? That is what I have with Craig and I am thankful for it.
And if I could digress for a second here ... While my son and I were building the snowman on Craig's driveway there was a woman watching us from within her SUV in the cul-de-sac Craig lives in. Why? I don't know. However, she must have thought I was an idiot because she kept on giving me directions, "Don't build the middle piece as big as the base, now, you'll never be able to lift it!" and "Pack it in good now! You don't want the head to fall off!" After a while it kind of gave me a chuckle. I just wanted to say, "Woman, do you think I have never built a snowman before?" And why was she sitting in the cul-de-sac watching us and giving us directions? After we finished she drove off. Very strange.
And I'm sure you've already heard this, but it looks like the name of the new Gopher's stadium will be TCF Stadium. It sounds like the University hopes to have this lead investor lined up by Wednesday for the first Senate State and Local Government Operations Committee hearing for the bill. I honestly hope that this bill passes through the committees quickly. The longer it is debated the longer it will be until a Twins bill has a hearing. However, I know better. If a Gopher stadium bill is considered problematic to pass, a Twins stadium is nothing more than an impossibility.
What kills me about this, though, is the fact that the sponsor and author of the House version of the bill is none other than Ron Abrams, who after Phil Krinkie I consider to to be Twins stadium enemy number 2. What a slap in the face! Abrams also had this to say about Gophers football, "[It] is our team. It is the Division I football team in the state. If you're going to be in the business of Division I football, it's almost mandatory to have an on-campus football stadium." Couldn't the same be said about the Twins? The Twins are the only MLB team in the state. The Twins are "our" team as much as the Gophers are. I never attended the U. I won't see any of the profits from a new Gophers stadium. But yet, somehow this is different. Maybe it is time to start looking at community ownership of the Twins again in earnest, I don't know.
Patrick Reusee sums up my feelings nicely as he finally comes out with a strong statement concerning new Twins and Vikings stadiums:
Key members of the Legislature continue to send encouraging signs to the university in its attempt to build an on-campus football stadium. It appears these knotheads really are going to do it -- kick in taxpayers' money for this needless stadium before they do anything to guarantee the future of the NFL and Major League Baseball for this area.
Let's try this once more: The Gophers have a commitment to play in the Metrodome through 2011, as do the Vikings. There is no reason to suspect the Gophers will recruit any better or win any more games playing outdoors. There will be no huge revenue increase playing in a 50,000-seat outdoor stadium.
An on-campus stadium for the Gophers is a luxury. Stadiums soon will be a necessity for the Vikings and the Twins. There has to be an influential person over there in St. Paul who realizes that being in the big leagues matters.
Governor? Speaker? Anyone?
Amen. And again, I'm not asking for a blank check. I'm asking for a solution to a problem. Alas, I'm not sure we have any problem solvers at the state capitol anymore.
March 19, 2005
Viking snowman part 2
I decided to go ahead and build another snowman in front of his garage. Of course, it will probably melt by the time he comes home, but I hope it is still somewhat of a nuisance.
The sign says, "This means YOU Chessehead!" Simple pleasures, people, simple pleasures.
Cheesehead Craig is out-of-town this weekend so, being the good neighbors that we are, my eldest son and I shoveled his driveway. As you can see, we also decided to have a little fun in the form of a Viking snowman parking attendant:
At first, I wanted to put it in front of his garage door, but my son thought CC's wife would be a little upset to have to knock down a snowman before they park their car in the garage. Especially after a long drive. So, we put it at the corner of his driveway. There are a few things to note, of course. First, the snowman is holding a sword, and he has horns sticking out of his head. Second, he is angry. Don't mess with the Viking snowman! Finally, he is huge. Note that he towers over my 10 year old son. It took us quite a while to get the middle piece on the base!
Anyway, I hope Cheesehead likes him. And this isn't half ... (a fourth!) as bad/good as the stuff CC has pulled on me. After one vacation I came home to a "For Sale" sign in front of my yard and 6 messages on my phone from people wanting to buy my house. Sheesh! Now I wish I would have put the snowman in his driveway. I guess my evilness isn't as powerful as the evilness of your average Packer fan.
Cats and U2
Both of our cats like to sit on their scratching post and put their paws over the bannister. Note the look on Trinity's face is one of happiness and relaxation.
U2 concert ticket update: Curt was successful in getting our tickets but the Ticketmaster employee messed up so we are sitting in the upper deck. Apparently Curt asked for two $50 floor tickets, but she misunderstood him and put in an order for two $160 floor tickets. She must have been confused by his lack of a Canadian accent. He probably should have said, "Two $50 floor tickets, heh?" or "Hey hoser, two $50 floor tickets." That would have probably worked better. Because of this mishap, by the time Curt corrected her they only had upper deck $50 tickets left. So, we got two tickets looking straight on to the stage from the upper deck. It will be awesome. Thanks Curt!
I don't know why, but I could handle Barry Bonds taking steroids. It didn't surprise me. But Mark McGwire? I gotta admit this has really bothered me. How can he vehemently deny using steroids literally for years, but then when he is under oath say, "I'm not going to talk about the past"? Although he didn't plead the 5th, he might as well have done so. And I'm sorry, his refusal to answer the questions yesterday was as good as admitting he used illegal substances. Babe Ruth, Roger Maris, and Hank Aaron. McGwire has been removed from this list (if he ever should have been on it).
The Golden Gopher's basketball team lost yesterday, but they will always hold a special place in my memory banks. They made it fun to cheer on the Gophers again. Hagen, Lawson, Robinson, Grier, Coleman, Stamper, Tollackson, Tucker ... this team will be remembered as the beginning of something special for the program. Hard working, fun loving, scrappy, and yes, even inspiring; I am upset I won't be able to watch them anymore, but I look forward to next year.
I made another bet with Cheesehead Craig, this time concerning the NCAA tournament. Whoever gets more points in the Offical Greet Machine tournament challenge will get a cheeseburger AND fries from Fuddruckers. So far, CC has 200 points and I have 190. Still a lot of games to go, but I gotta say I'm not feeling very confident anymore. I picked OK State all the way, but they barely escaped SE Louisiana. I'm beginning to think I'm cursed in the betting department.
My Final Four teams are OK State, Wake Forest, Duke, and UNC. I had no idea I had such an affinity for ACC teams. Blech...
As a big Clive Cussler and Dirk Pitt fan, I'm looking forward to the movie Sahara coming out this Spring. However, Matthew McConaughey as Dirk Pitt? And Steve Zahn as Al? Good actors to be sure, but these would not have been my first choices. I read that Hugh Jackman was signed on to be Dirk. That would have been a little more appropriate in my mind.
It looks like I have a new arch-rival in the stadium writing game over on TwinsTerritory.com. You all remember David Wintheiser who, although we have patched things up, I doubt will be gracing my blog's pages with his unique brand of wit and wisdom much anymore (he has his own site on TwinsTerritory now). However, it seems a blogger named "dbogen" has decided to unknowingly take his place. Twice in the last week I have posted a pro-stadium article and almost immediately he has put up a rebuttal. It makes me think he is watching for me, but I know that is just me being paranoid. Ha! Oh well, debate makes the world go around. I hope it stays civil. I am personally trying to keep it light-hearted.
Here's the thing about the anti-stadium crowd: they are not willing to compromise at all. Pohlad pays for everything or they are against the plan. This kind of inflexibility is just not conducive to finding a solution. If Pohlad has refused to pay for everything for 10 years I don't think he is going to suddenly decide to change his mind. And I certainly don't think the public should pay for everything, but I do think there are funding sources that may satisfy the average taxpayer: TIF, gambling proceeds, ticket tax, sports facilities tax, etc. However, the anti-stadium crowd would find fault with all of these. Can't we just find a solution?
You know what? It is a lot more fun to let it all hang out and be pro-stadium. It is actually very liberating. Anti-stadium people are just way too angry and intractable. Sure I've been angry before, but most of the time I am just trying to find a solution.
So, the Vikings have traded their 7th round draft pick to the Jets for Sam Cowart. This is a very interesting development. Does this mean that they aren't considering Derrick Johnson? Or would they still select him and use Cowart as a mentor? I still think Mike Williams is our man. Regardless, though, Sam Cowart will do even more to improve our defense (if he can stay healthy). I gotta admit I am just stunned with all this activity on the Vikings part towards improving the team, especially with this Fowler business hanging out there. Stunned and very happy, though. With even a 15th ranked defense I think the Vikings will make a lot of noise in the NFL this next season. And I don't think the Vikings will have a 15th ranked defense.
Speaking of the NFL draft, CNNSI.com has the Vikings picking Mike Williams with the 7th pick in their mock draft, even though they think Derrick Johnson will be available. We shall see. With the 18th pick CNNSI.com has the Vikings picking Erasmus James. Whooo boy. I would love that. Kenechi on one end, Williams and Williams manning the middle, and Erasmus on the other end? Yikes. And then Smoot and Winfield at the corners? And Cowart, Harris, and Driver to top it off? Why, oh why, did I give up my Viking season tickets?
Oh yeah, it was so I can save up to go to Disney World next year.
Curt in Grand Forks is going to attempt to buy our U2 concert tickets today at 10:00 at a grocery store in Grand Forks. I gotta tell you, this plan is usually fool proof. Curt and I bought Page/Plant tickets in Fargo and got 8th row seats. We bought Pink Floyd tickets in Sioux Falls and we got 12th row tickets. The concert is September 23 and I expect we'll be on the floor level shaking Bono's hand. I'll let you know if Curt is successful.
That's it for now. See you later.
March 18, 2005
Stuff I wonder about
Have you ever really looked at this logo? What exactly is this pig cooking? And why is he practically drooling over it? I love Famous Dave's, but I find this logo a little disturbing.
Pay attention, David
If you'll recall, a few weeks ago I discussed the stadium plan in Miami and possibly what it could mean for the Twins. Just to recap, the deal in Miami uses these funding sources:
- $192 million upfront from the Marlins
- $138 million from a county hotel bed and sports facilities taxes
- $28 million in tourist development taxes from the city
- Fees from a parking garage that will cost $32 million and pay for itself
- $30 million from the state in the form of a sales tax rebate.
When you take a closer look at this plan it is really a thing of beauty. First of all, you've got a huge contribution from the team itself. $192 million is an enourmous contribution from a team and one that has caused the city of Miami, Miami-Dade county, and the state to stand up and take notice. Secondly, the county is paying for its share using a hotel bed tax and a sports facilities tax. What is great about this is that in neither of these methods is the average Miami taxpayer expected to contribute. The $28 million from tourist development taxes is also in that same vein. Since tourist boards and departments are usually very gung-ho about stadiums let them also come up with a way to pay for them. The parking garage idea is solid and is also being used to help pay for a stadium in DC.
The final component of the plan calls for $30 million from the state. That's it. Jeb Bush, the governor of Florida, has already come out and said, "Out of the 300-plus million dollars, they are asking $30 million from the state. That's a small percentage, and I think it's really worth considering." I think you would get similiar statements from Pawlenty if the same amount was being asked for from the state here in Minnesota.
When I discussed this a few weeks ago I was hoping (praying!) that the Twins were watching the Florida situation closely. I was also praying that they were learning from it. It seems at least half of my prayers have been answered. The Twins and the Marlins have recently met for a couple of Spring Training games and Dave St. Peter had this to say:
"Miami and Minneapolis/St. Paul are certainly the markets that have struggled the most to get a ballpark," Twins President Dave St. Peter said. "In that way, we'll be forever linked."
Yes, David, but have you been paying attention to the funding sources? The team's upfront contribution? The fact that the Marlins finally are focusing on a single site for construction? All the article says is that St. Peter "has been following the Marlins' progress closely." St. Peter also states:
"We're also similar in that they've basically been playing in the corner of a football stadium," St. Peter said. "I think they feel they have a lot of things coming together at the same time. No question, their recent on-field success has been a benefit."
Yes, David, the on-field success of the Marlins has positively impacted their renewed stadium drive, but again I think the fact that the team has agreed to put up $192 million has had a bigger impact. Could you imagine if the Twins came forward with a similar contribution?
Another group of individuals that is surely paying attention to the situation in Florida is our own Minnesota state legislature. If this deal is approved (which is still not a given at this point) why wouldn't the Minnesota legislature also expect the same kind of upfront contribution from the Twins? Jerry Jones is contributing half for a new Cowboys stadium. Half of the new ballpark in DC is being financed through private funding sources. If this deal goes through in Florida the Minnesota legislature is going to start expecting the same thing to happen here.
In conclusion, I really, really hope that St. Peter and Pohlad are making plans to increase the Twins upfront contribution. We've been sitting at $120 million for a few years now and it hasn't gotten us anywhere. If the deal in Florida is approved, the Twins may not have a choice.
March 17, 2005
Erin Go Bragh
Long time Greet Machine reader and contributor Curt in Grand Forks and I went to college together at Concordia in Moorhead, MN. Now, one thing everyone who meets Curt quickly learns is that he is very proud of his Irish heritage. Curt even looks and acts Irish with his red hair and jolly demeanor. Curt will never let you forget about the contributions Ireland and its citizens have made to civilization as a whole such as U2, Guinness beer, and Lucky Charms. I, on the other hand, am a proud Norwegian. I also look and act the part with my 6' 5" frame, blond hair, and razor sharp wit (just kidding). Of course, I always remind Curt of great Norwegians of the past such as Leif Ericsson, Henrik Ibsen, and the great rock band A-Ha. As you can probably guess, as roomates Curt and I got into a fair number of arguments concerning which culture was superior.
One thing I was always quick to point out was the fact that the Vikings dominated the Emerald Isle for centuries. Ireland was a cog in the mighty Viking trading and pillaging empire. The famous saying, "From the fury of the Northmen, O Lord, save us!" comes from a monastary in Ireland. Curt, however, always had the perfect comeback: The Battle of Clontarf. Curses on the Battle of Clontarf!
The Battle of Clontarf took place on Good Friday in 1014. Supposedly this battle signaled the end of Viking dominance in Ireland as the Irish vanquished the Vikings in an all-day fight. Please. Nobody vanquishes the Vikings today or yesterday! I am of the opinion that the Irish embellished certain details of this battle in their own history books which has skewed our knowledge of what really happened. So, I offer you an alternate and more likely scenario.
The Vikings were sick of being in Ireland. I mean, how many potatoes could the Vikings eat? So, after bringing civilization to the savages on the island, teaching them a thing or two about being real men, bedding all their women, and performing other important services in a typical Viking "goodwill" tour of a foreign land, the Vikings decided to leave. They packed up their long boats and started to sail away. Meanwhile, along the coast, two Irishmen were having a drink at the local pub:
Seamus: Patrick, would you mind passing the cabbage? I need something to help my beer go down.
Patrick: Here you go lad. Say, look out the window. It seems the Vikings are sailing away from our island! Could they finally be leaving?
Seamus: Glory be, Patrick, I think you are correct! They seem to be pretty far off shore. Let's go throw some rocks at them. That will teach them to never come back!
Patrick: That is a grand idea! Let me finish my pint first, though.
Two hours later...
Seamus and Patrick [singing]: 'Tis I'll be here in sunshine or in shadow, Oh Danny boy, oh Danny boy, I love you sooooo.
Seamus: Patrick, those Viking ships are but wee specks on the horizon! Let's get out there and show those Vikings a thing or two about Irish might!
So, Patrick and Seamus stumbled out of the pub, walked to the shore, and started throwing rocks at the Viking ships as they sailed away. Some monks passing by saw what they were doing and became so overwhelmed by their patriotism that they went back to the monastary to record the event for posterity. Well, the monks must have had a few pints themselves because the story obviously became the "Battle of Clontarf" that we all know about today, and the bravery of Seamus and Patrick has been lost to history. Until today.
Curt does not care for my version of this "epic" battle. However, we have agreed to go together to Ireland in the year 2014 to celebrate the 1000th anniversary of the Battle of Clontarf with a re-enactment (using my version of events, of course). I will venture off-shore a little ways in a small boat, a dinghy perhaps, and Curt will throw rocks at me. It will be a grand spectacle that I'm sure the natives will enjoy. And of course, anyone is welcome to join us, especially if you have Irish or Scandinavian heritage. I don't want to be alone on the boat, and I'm sure Curt would appreciate having some help throwing rocks.
Anyway, Happy St. Patrick's Day everyone! I must also admit that my great-grandmother was 100% Irish. So, even though my Norwegian heritage usually takes precedence, today I proudly wear green. Erin Go Bragh, my friends!
March 16, 2005
Top 5 Rock and Roll Guitarists
Today I will be ranking the top 5 rock and roll guitarists of all time. My list is composed of guitarists that I find to be really freakin' good, guitarists who weren't afraid to experiment and push the envelope, and guitarists that actually sold a few albums. For example, your cousin Fred could be really good, but has he ever written anything that spoke to the masses? Probably not. Again, you can try to argue, but my list is really the last word on the subject. Enjoy!
- Jimmy Page -- Led Zeppelin -- By far the greatest song writing guitarist that ever lived. "Over the Hills and Far Away" is his crowning achievement (then again it is hard to pick just one).
- Eric Clapton -- A close second. Clapton's guitar work on the live version of "Crossroads" leaves my jaw hanging.
- Jimi Hendrix -- The complete package. Excellent song writing, guitar work, and showmanship. A little sloppy, though. "Voodoo Chile" is by far his best work.
- Tom Scholz -- Boston -- The perfectionist of the bunch. Listen to "Foreplay/Longtime" while you are in a plane that is landing. It will blow your mind.
- The Edge -- U2 -- The king of experimentation. The sounds he gets to come out of his "axe" are phenomenal. His best work is "Until the End of the World."
So, there you have it. Other guitarists that didn't quite make the cut are Stevie Ray Vaughan, Alex Lifeson (Rush), and Eddie Van Halen. You could probably think of more.
Anyway, that is the way I see it.
Links of the day
- That's my Vader ... A day in the life of everyone's favorite Dark Lord of the Sith.
- Star Wars Episode III trailer. This one looks really good actually. I must say I am excited for it.
- Web of Letters. Enter any word and this tool will search for graphics of the letters of the word to spell it out with. Give it a try.
- Daily Show clip parser. I could probably spend hours here!
- Pimp my Firefox. How to make your installation of Firefox even better.
- Take this speed typing test. It appears I can type 63 words a minute. Not too shabby.
- Very interesting collection of aerial propaganda leaflets dropped from WWI to Operation Iraqi Freedom. This is a perfect example of what makes the web so cool.
- Brainboost.com is another search engine attempt to master natural language queries. Seems to do a pretty good job at it too.
- How to blog by Tony Pierce. Interesting list of suggestions. Rule #3: "dont be afraid to do anything. infact if youre afraid of something, do it. then do it again. and again." Rule #13: "if you havent written about sex, religion, and politics in a week youre probably playing it too safe ..."
- Old Greet Machine regular David Wintheiser writes about "Community" on TwinsTerritory.com and uses his experiences at the Greet Machine as an example. A very thoughtful essay.
March 15, 2005
Parkinson's Law: The Law of Triviality
Last week I wrote a piece concerning Parkinson's Law and how it applies (or may not, up to you) to my favorite whipping boys: the Minnesota legislature. If you'll recall, Parkinson's law states: "Work expands so as to fill the time available for completion." However, that wasn't the only "law" that Parkinson wrote. Today we shall look at Parkinson's Law of Triviality and how it applies to my favorite topic of stadiums in Minnesota (and of course those morons in the state legislature). And please, once again, do not take this too seriously. I only write this because I found Parkinson's Law to be humorously accurate and I wanted to share it with you. Concerning the Law of Triviality Parkinson wrote:
People who understand high finance are of two kinds: those who have vast fortunes or their own and those who have nothing at all. To the actual millionaire a million dollars is something real and comprehensible. To the applied mathematician and the lecturer in economics (assuming both to be practically starving) a million dollars is at least as real as a thousand, they having never possessed either sum. But the world is full of people who fall between these two categories, knowing nothing of millions but well accustomed to think in thousands, and it is of these that finance committees are mostly comprised. The result is a phenomenon that has often been observed but never yet invesitgated. It might be termed the Law of Triviality. Briefly stated, it means that the time spent on any item of the agenda will be in inverse proportion to the sum involved.
Again, according to the Law of Triviality the less an agenda item costs, the more time people at the meeting will want to spend on it. Parkinson goes on to discuss a fictional finance meeting where there are 11 items on the agenda: Item 9 concerns the building of an Atomic reactor for $10 million. Now, the members of the committee are a bit confused by this agenda item. No one knows exactly what an Atomic reactor is, or what it does, and the members certainly cannot comprehend the cost of $10 million and/or why an Atomic reactor costs so much (keep in mind this was written in 1957). The agenda item passes quickly with little discussion. Parkinson writes:
Allowing a few seconds for rustling of papers and unrolling diagrams, the time spent on Item Nine will have been just two minutes and a half. The meeting is going well. But some members feel uneasy about Item Nine. They wonder inwardly whether they have really been pulling their weight. It is too late to query that reactor scheme, but they would like to demonstrate, before the meeting ends, that they are alive to all that is going on.
Next on the agenda is Item number 10: the construction of a new staff bicycle shed. Ho ho! Now here is something everyone can understand. Who hasn't ridden a bicycle? Who hasn't been in a shed? The cost of the shed to be debated is listed at $2350. Parkinson goes on to say:
The debate is fairly launched. A sum of $2350 is well within everybody's comprehension. Everyone can visualize a bicycle shed. Discussion goes on, therefore, for forty-five minutes, with the possible result of saving some $300. Members at length sit back with a feeling of achievement.
Next on the agenda is Item 11: Refreshments supplied at meetings. And I think you know where this is going. The yearly sum of $57 launches such an acrimonious debate that no decision is made and the agenda item is pushed to the next meeting. Sigh. Raise your hand if you have a better understanding of how the Minnesota legislature works.
Last year, the Minnesota legislature was at the height of ineptness. Nothing of importance was accomplished as our hard-working legislators preferred to squabble about every little detail. The one newsworthy bill they were able to pass was a new law allowing the hunting of mourning doves. What is remarkable about this is how much time this relatively small and inexpensive "agenda item" took to finally pass. Proposals to reinstate a mourning dove hunting season in Minnesota had failed about two dozen times, dating back at least 30 years, and up until last year this issue was debated annually. My favorite quote from last year's debate came from Sen. Sandy Pappas who said that the bird was "really a back-yard songbird" and that there were plenty of birds to hunt without hunting doves. Plus, she added, "there's more meat in one Chicken McNugget than in one mourning dove." Ahhhhh!!! Hold on ... I've got to take a moment to compose myself ... too ... much ... stupidity ... OK, I'm all right.
What does all this have to do with stadiums? Well, as I was reading about the Law of Triviality I was struck with how it didn't really apply to stadiums at all. Stadiums are relatively expensive, which would suggest that the legislature would pass through the corresponding bill(s) quickly. However, stadiums also deal with a topic everyone can understand and visualize: hitting a stick with a ball, or chasing a man with a ball and tackling him. Nothing too complex in either of these sports, at least from the perspective of a typical Minnesota legislator. In other words, stadiums are expensive, but they are not incomprehensible.
Obviously, Parkinson's Law of Triviality won't suffice in this instance. How can we reconcile this? Allow me to give to you the Law of Expensive Triviality, written by me! I know! Get on with your bad self! Anyway, the Law of Expensive Triviality comes in two parts because it is my own law, and I can do whatever I want with it:
The Law of Expensive Triviality
- The more expensive a seemingly trivial item costs, the less likely it will be purchased.
- Moral indignation rises proportionally to the cost of an expensive trivial item.
To describe this further let's use the example of baseball. Again, from the perspective of a typical Minnesota legislator baseball is not hard to comprehend. It is a sport played by grown men (in the case of major league baseball) and probably many of the children and grandchildren of the legislators. See the ball, hit the ball, catch the ball. A typical legislator thinks to him or herself, "How much money do they want for this? I don't care how many people in the upper Midwest care deeply and passionately for baseball, how much money are they asking for? It will cost that much to see grown men act like children? No way."
This is where the second part of the law comes into play. Because our legislators have probably already mucked everything else up to the point where, again, nothing of importance is being accomplished, they use this opportunity to get really morally righteous. In other words, they start to grandstand. They say, "We shouldn't be paying for stadiums! It is wrong to spend this money on a game my grandchildren play! We should be spending this money on education!" Blah, blah, blah. The sad thing is no one ends up getting anything. Another year goes by without solving any problems. There is a lot of moral indignation, the legislators possibly feel a sense of achievement (we really stuck it to the old man again this year!), but the problem still remains.
Oh well. Like I said above don't take any of this too seriously. I probably can't read the back of a cereal box without thinking of how it applies to the stadium mess in Minnesota (Captain Crunch has a handle bar mustache ... Rollie Fingers has a handle bar mustache ... build a new Twins stadium now!). Anyway, if you are ever in a library I urge you to check out Parkinson's Law by C. Northcote Parkinson. Humourous and thought-provoking, it will give you a new perspective on how bureaucracy works from the meetings in your place of business to the committee meetings at the state capitol. Until next time ...
March 14, 2005
Top 5 Arnold Schwarzenegger movies
Today I'm going to start a new category on my blog: Lists. Every once in a while I'm going to pick a topic and create a list on that topic. The topic selection will be completely arbitrary, and could include topics covering sports, movies, music, life in general, etc. My rankings will be perfect and you probably won't be able to argue with them, but just in case I will leave the comments open. Today's list will be:
The Top 5 Arnold Schwarzenegger movies
- True Lies -- Arnold's crowning achievement.
- Junior -- Arnold deserved an Oscar for this one.
- Terminator 2 -- Possibly one of the better sequels ever made.
- Total Recall -- I am still confused ... did it really happen or did he dream it all?
- Kindergarten Cop -- Arnold + little kids = comic gold.
You may be wondering why I decided to list the Top 5 Arnold Schwarzenegger movies. Really, I have no idea. I was reminded of True Lies today and I just started thinking about what other Arnold movies I have enjoyed. So, there you have it. More lists to come.
Let's start off with a little stadium news. There hasn't been much to report lately, but it appears that things are about to heat up. First we had Sid Hartman reporting that Hennepin County is working on a plan, then Jim in St. Paul reports that the Pioneer Press has written two editorials in as many weeks concerning the advantages St. Paul has over Minneapolis as host of a new Twins stadium. Then, Shooter reported this Friday:
As the state legislative session approaches its midpoint, there is little Vikings stadium talk, primarily because of the team's unresolved ownership status.
Discussion in the Legislature about a Gophers on-campus football stadium is expected to heat up in a couple of weeks, followed by talk about a ballpark for the Twins late in the session. The Vikings are rooting for a ballpark for the Twins, because then baseball no longer would be an impediment for them.
Because 2006 is an election year, if stadiums are not approved this year, they probably won't be approved until 2007.
Two things strike me about this snippet. First, what about the plan coming out of Anoka County for a new Vikings stadium? Anoka County has done a ton of work towards this goal and it sounds like the Vikings, due to their potential sale to Reggie Fowler, have pretty much given up on the issue. That is a shame because from what we've heard Anoka County won't wait any longer to start developing. If you'll recall, only Eden Prairie came up with another proposal that even slightly approached the level of determination shown by Anoka County to land the Vikings. Who will step up after Anoka County gives up?
Secondly, if nothing happens this year, if the Twins are yet again unsuccessful in their efforts to work out a stadium deal, the fact that 2006 is an election year isn't the only bit of bad news. Of course I am referring to the expiration of MLB's collective bargaining agreement. We won't have a lease or the player's association protecting the Twins from elimination after 2006, that is a fact. Some other facts: the Twins don't draw well at all, particularly for being division champions three years in a row; Steinbrenner and the other MLB fat cat owners are sick of subsidizing our franchise; and Pohlad has already proven he is willing to sacrifice the team.
Let's hope that Sviggum is still confident that a Twins stadium bill will pass this session. If it doesn't, I don't like the looks of the future for Minnesota's "beloved" baseball team.
You know who I feel like in all of this? Cassandra of Greek mythology fame. Cassandra had the power to tell the future, but no one would believe her predictions. I predict without a new Twins stadium the team will not be here past 2010. By that time the Vikings will also know where they stand with the citizens of this fine state, and the Twins will make damned sure they are not the only tenants in the Metrodome. After 2010, let the countdown begin until we lure another franchise back to the area.
Boy, I'm in a peachy mood today, aren't I?
Update: I just got accused of being "doom and gloom" over on TwinsTerritory.com for my prediction of 2010. What does everyone over here think? Am I being too pessimistic? Truly, what do I know. And I was in a pretty bad mood last night. Maybe the Twins will stay in the Metrodome forever!
If you haven't checked it out yet, you should head on over to the TwinsGeek's new site TwinsTerritory.com. I have a "site" on there called Ballpark Banter (thanks for the name SBG!) where I am rehashing some of my old posts from the Greet Machine. I've gotten some interesting comments, of course, mainly from what I would consider to be stadium opponents (of course), but that is what I expected. We are a rare breed, my friends, to believe that our community would benefit from a new Twins stadium. Most other Twins fans either don't want to think about this stadium business, or they are flat out against it. Anyway, if you are bored, you can re-read some of the posts I've already made here. What fun!
Have no fear though! The most recent and up-to-date stadium news will always appear on the Greet Machine first. Especially now that I've gone through the trouble to redesign this site!
A couple of things you might have missed regarding the Vikings this weekend. First of all, ESPN reported that Plaxico Burress fired his agent. Most likely, this means that Burress will not wear the Purple next year, but I also read somewhere that the Vikings made an offer for as much as four years that the WR is contemplating accepting. Regardless, according to the article above, a player must wait 5 days before retaining new representation. Again, it looks like Burress will not be replacing Randy Moss.
Secondly, it also sounds like our "affair" with Donovin Darius is over, but then again, this article was so cutesey about it I can't be sure that the Vikings aren't still trying to work out a deal. I don't think they are, but I could be wrong. Honestly I'm not upset about this. To give up a first round draft pick for a player that hasn't even been to a Pro-Bowl did not sound like a good deal to me.
And speaking of shaky deals, Darren Sharper is now a Viking. This is tough for me to stomach. Of course this is due to his being a former Packer, but also because 1) he is getting a little old, 2) it sounds like he is having some knee problems, and 3) he was the leader of the NFL's 25th ranked defense last year. Is he that much of an upgrade? Maybe I am being a little pessimistic. Is he better than Russell or Chavous? Yes. Will it be strange cheering for him? Yes. Will he give the Vikings an edge over the Packers? Oh yes. Even if he doesn't play, no one on the Vikings will know the Packers better. Hmmmm ... that makes me feel better.
Finally, congratulations to the men's Gopher basketball team on finally making it back to the Big Dance. Be sure to fill out your Official Greet Machine tournament bracket through ESPN! Details for how to join our group are at the top of this page. Let's have some fun!
March 12, 2005
Official Greet Machine NCAA Tournament Pool
Allow me to invite you to join the official NCAA Tournament pool bracket of the Greet Machine. Once again it is completely free, with only bragging rights at stake. I hope you all will join. In fact, feel free to tell others about the pool: friends, spouses, kids, family members, co-workers, etc. The more the merrier, after all. Don't let the lack of an encyclopedic knowledge of college basketball stop you from entering. Curt in Grand Forks's two daughters will have entries, and will base their picks solely on the "cooler" mascot! I think I might give that a try! It is a lot of fun, and I hope you'll join.
To do so, go to http://games.espn.go.com/tcmen/frontpage and enter the group name "Minn/NoDak Border Battle". You will need the password "nodak" to join. You will need an ESPN username, which is also free. You can register for this at the same website. So, please join and let's have some fun!
Special thanks to Curt in Grand Forks for putting this together!
Keep in mind that Mr. Cheer or Die is also running a tournament pool through Yahoo! Sports. Details for his pool can be found on the link above.
Build a new Twins stadium now or my cat will attack you!
March 11, 2005
As I was watching the Golden Gopher basketball game today, I decided to change the look of this fine blog. I won't bore you with my design strategy, but allow me to just say that I am going for simple and elegant. Also, if you reload the page in your browser, the header graphic and tagline at the top should change. I plan on adding a bunch of these. As you will have already noticed, however, most of my new headers are the artist renderings of possible new stadia for the Gophers, Twins and Vikings.
So, anyway, I hope everyone likes it. And I'm sorry about the lack of quality posts recently. I should be back in the swing of things next week.
March 10, 2005
The first rule of the Greet Machine
The first rule of the Greet Machine is, you do not talk about the Greet Machine.
The second rule of the Greet Machine is, you DO NOT talk about the Greet Machine!
If you can't tell, I watched Fight Club today. It was on, in the middle of the afternoon, on a channel my kids would have access to if I didn't block everything rated the equivalent of PG and over. I really couldn't believe it.
So I watched it while I was folding laundry. It helped me regain some of my manhood. With my wife gone I have cleaned the laundry room, scrubbed the kitchen floor, cleaned all the bathrooms, shuttled the kids everywhere, and yes, I've done some laundry. Seriously, I don't know how she accomplishes it all in a day.
Anyway, Fight Club was awesome. It definitely helped me get through the day.
Let me cut to the chase. The Vikings' recent free agency moves have left me very happy. In fact, I can think of little else now besides what the Vikings will do with their two draft picks in the first round to complete their Super Bowl team. First let's recap:
- Vikings trade Randy Moss to Oakland for LB Napoleon Harris the the 7th pick in the draft. Immediate improvement to our LB corps with addition of Harris.
- Vikings sign former Bill Pat Williams, a big, fast, run-stuffing DT who will immediately improve our defensive line.
- Vikings sign free agent CB Fred Smoot giving the Vikings two of the best corners in the league
- Vikings sign TE Jermaine Wiggins.
Now, if I could digress here for a minute to talk about Fred Smoot. Not the player, but the name: Fred Smoot. Wow, that has got to be the best/worst football name I have ever heard. The name Fred Smoot belongs in a Victorian era mystery novel, "My dear Smoot, could you pass the tea and crumpets?" Before he became a football player did he just get pummeled at school? I sincerely would like to know. Anyway, Fred Smoot is now one of my favorite Vikings. I just love saying that name! Fred Smoot!
Back to the business at hand. With the trade of Randy Moss and the signing of Smoot and Williams our two first round draft picks are just packed with intrigue. Here is how some of the big boys map out the first 7 picks:
- San Francisco 49ers: Alex Smith (jr.), QB, Utah
- Miami Dolphins: Ronnie Brown, RB, Auburn
- Cleveland Browns: Aaron Rodgers (jr.), QB, California
- Chicago Bears: Cedric Benson, RB, Texas
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Carnell Williams, RB, Auburn
- Tennessee Titans: Adam Jones (jr.), CB, West Virginia
- Minnesota Vikings (from OAK): Braylon Edwards, WR, Michigan
You read that right, Braylon Edwards, the best WR in the draft. Personally, I would be shocked if Edwards fell this far, but I would take him. About Edwards Kiper writes:
Edwards' size, strength, speed and overall athleticism would go a long way toward filling the void left by the trade of Randy Moss, which is how the Vikings acquired the selection in the first place. Minnesota also has needs on defense but can address them later in the first round.
Yes indeed, Next we have:
- San Francisco 49ers (2-14) Aaron Rodgers* | QB | California
- Miami Dolphins (4-12) Ronnie Brown | RB | Auburn
- Cleveland Browns (4-12) Alex Smith* | QB | Utah
- Chicago Bears (5-11) Braylon Edwards | WR | Michigan
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-11) Carnell Williams | RB | Auburn
- Tennessee Titans (5-11) Adam Jones* | CB | West Virginia
- Minnesota Vikings (from Raiders) (8-8) Mike Williams* | WR | USC
About Mike Williams, Scouts Inc. writes:
The Vikings have few needs to address and can really focus in on the ones they do have with two first-round picks thanks to the Randy Moss deal with the Raiders. The team is trying to improve the depth of its receiving corps by signing Rod Gardner in free agency, but Gardner is nothing more than a No. 3 receiver in the NFL. Williams might not possess Moss' freakish talents, but he's a dynamic weapon in his own right. Running in the 4.5's at the combine really solidified Williams as a top-10 selection and the trio of Williams, Nate Burleson and Gardner could make the transition a lot easier than expected for QB Daunte Culpepper.
Agreed. I think even if the Vikings get Rod Gardner, Williams would still be a great, and necessary pick.
So, Kiper and Scouts have the Vikings going with WR with the 7th pick. Unfortunately for us, they haven't updated their mock drafts since the Vikings signed Smoot, so I had to do a little digging to see who the Vikings may pick up with their CB situation taken care of (and if they don't give up this pick to get Donivin Darious).
- Mike Williams
- Thomas Davis, S, Georgia
Now we are getting somewhere. The play of Russell and Chavous has been horrendous. Put a decent safety in the secondary and we may see the defense reach at least a level of mediocrity. And I'll take mediocre over awful any time. About Thomas Davis, FoxSports.com writes:
Davis plays safety like a linebacker and excels in run support. The Vikings already have a run-stuffing tackle up front in former Bill Pat Williams; now Ted Cottrell's defense needs a sound tackler and punishing hitter in the secondary.
Wow, I get visions of Joey Browner in my head reading that. Smoot and Winfield, and the possibility of a decent safety? Oh my goodness, what have we done to deserve this? This kind of good fortune usually doesn't happen for Viking fans. Now if we could only get our linebacking up to par ...
About.com's James Adler
Who? Well, I'm not saying this guy is as well known as Kiper, but About.com is a respected site and his guess is as good as any. Let's see who he thinks the Vikings will pick up:
- Derrick Johnson, OLB Texas
- Troy Williamson* WR South Carolina
You read that correctly. Adler thinks both Edwards and Williams will be gone by pick seven, which will leave the Vikings with arguably the best LB the draft has seen for years. About Johnson Adler writes:
With the addition of cornerback Fred Smoot and linebacker Napolean Harris, the Vikings could really go a long way toward finally solidifying that defense with the addition of a potential superstar in Derrick Johnson.
Wow, I could go for that scenario, too. How can the Vikings go wrong with this 7th pick? Williams, Edwards, or Johnson ... I'm feeling really good about this. I'm feeling really excited about next year. Adler writes this about Williamson:
After picking up a playmaker on defense with their first pick, the Vikings might look ease the blow of losing Randy Moss by adding a talented playmaker to the receiving corps as well.
Randy who? Just kidding! He's no Mike Williams, but I 'm sure Williamson can at least catch the ball. And that will be more than we had with Jake Reed.
Anyways, that is the way things are shaping up. The way I see it, the Vikings will get Gardner. I expect that will happen soon. I'm 50/50 over whether or not the Vikings will pick up Darious. If that happens they would probably have to give up that 18th pick. As much as I'd hate to do that I think Darious would be a good pick up.
That's all I got for now. See you soon!
March 9, 2005
Links of the day
- I wish I could think of stuff like this. Give me money or I'll eat this rabbit. Genius! He's already made $17,000!
- A library in New York is checking out iPod Shuffles! Power to the people! I don't know why I just wrote that...
- What Yahoo! looked like 10 years ago. Ah, the good old days. No ads, just links.
- Yahoo's 10 year "netrospective." 10 years, 100 moments of the web. Fascinating reading in a cool user interface.
- The SciFi network has a new Battlestar Galactica series. That's cool and all, but in this series Starbuck is a girl!!! This is undeniably today's sign of the apocalypse.
- Mozilla will soon release a browser for cellphones and PDAs. This is so cool.
- Who's on first? The movie edition. At first I found this annoying, but then I realized it is kind of creative. Well done!
- I'm not really sure I get this, but play this game to figure out what hemisphere your brain prefers (?). Certainly interesting.
- 10 Things I Have Learned by Malcom Glaser. Great list of sage advice.
- CSS Garden Shot. See a bunch of designs from the wildly popular CSS Zen Garden on one page. Cool.
- Color Schemer 2.0. Figure out what colors go together. Seems pretty useful.
- Zopa.com. Borrow money from other netizens at reasonable interest rates. Interesting idea, but how safe is it?
- Names the NFL will not allow on the back of replica jerseys. Thanks for the link Mr. Cheer or Die!
March 8, 2005
Just to let you all know what is going on, my wife is headed for a 4 day conference today in Chicago. This means that I will be taking care of the home duties this week. This also means that postings on this fine blog will be erratic at best. I will probably have to start working on these entries late at night. Have no fear though! I have some entries rattling around in my brain, including some stadium induced ramblings. Until then, check out these links of interest:
First of all, if you didn't see this, there is an interview with Jerry Bell in the "New Ballpark" section of the Twins website. Now, before you get all excited, it does not have good news. In fact, Bell sounds a bit surly. First of all, Bell makes clear that Pohlad's contribution won't be higher than $120 million. And secondly, Bell also makes clear that the Twins won't be picking a site before a deal is in place. This is bad, bad news as far as I'm concerned. When will Pohlad realize he needs to do something different to shake things up? A larger contribution and a solid plan with a single site could go a long way if you ask me.
Also, the Twins Geek has a new site called Twins Territory where anyone can sign up and start blogging about the Twins. I have been pegged as one of the "founding bloggers" which is seriously quite an honor. My blog on that site is called "Stadium Stuff" (someone help me with a better name!). I am using my new site to rehash some of the things I've written here for a new audience. We'll see how it goes.
See you soon!
March 6, 2005
Parkinson's Law: an introduction
In 1957, C. Northcote Parkinson, a noted British historian and humorist, wrote a series of essays around the central premise of what he (unmodestly) called "Parkinson's Law." In its most basic form, this law states, "Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion." To offer further elucidation to this fact Parkinson wrote:
"Granted that work (and especially paperwork) is this elastic in its demands on time, it is manifest that there need be little or no relationship between the work to be done and the size of the staff to which it may be assigned. A lack of real activity does not, of necessity, result in leisure. A lack of occupation is not necessarily revealed by manifest idelness. The thing to be done swells in importance and complexity in a direct ratio with the time to be spent ... Politicians and taxpayers have assumed (with occasional phases of doubt) that a rising total in the number of civil servants must reflect a growing volume of work to be done."
To further explain, Parkinson was particularily interested in the odd fact that even though the British navy was in decline, as an adminstrative bureacracy it was still expanding in complexity and staff. Using his law as a backdrop, Parkinson especially wondered why the British navy continued to add more staff. He came up with two "axiomatic" statements: 1) An official wants to multiply subordinates, not rivals and 2) Officials make work for each other. In other words, let's say there is a person that feels overworked. He or she has three options: he can resign; she can decide to share her work with another person; or he can request to have two subordinates to help with the work. Parkinson rightly states, "There is probably no instance in history, however, of [the person] choosing any but the third alternative."
Why? It would do no good for the person to resign, and sharing the work with another person would be too competitive and bring on board an unwelcome rival. What does this have to do with the British Navy? Parkinson offers this stunning data:
|Year||Ships in commission||Officers and men in the R.N.||Dockyard workers||Dockyard officials and clerks||Admiralty officials|
|Increase or Decrease||-68%||-32%||+10%||+40%||+78%|
As you can see from the data, even though both the number of ships and the number of officers (and "men") decreased in the Royal Navy, the number of dockyard workers and officials, and the number of admiralty officials, increased, and sometimes increased dramatically. For what reason? Based on the fact that the navy was losing ships and officers, you would think that the work of the navy would also decrease. For some reason, however, the work increased so much that, as far as admiraly officials go, it was necessary to increase that staff by as much as 78%. Again, "Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion."
Where am I going with this? Even though Parkinson's Law was written to be humorous and show some of the foibles of modern bureaucracy, it still makes you think: what are some examples of this in my own environment? And what better example is there than our very own Minnesota Legislature? Now, this kind of makes me laugh because the example I'm about to demonstrate is weak at best, but in the end I'm really just trying to have fun with this. Oh, and of course to prove, as usual, that the legislature is a bunch of idiots.
What ultimately is the job of the Minnesota legislature? Off the top of my head I would say that their job is to pass laws. They are in the business of making laws that better our state. So, I decided to look back into the history of the legislature to find out if there was ever a time when our governing body was at it's utmost efficiency.
|Year||No. of legislators||No. of bills intro.||No. of bills passed||Avg. per year||No. special sessions|
From 1861-1866 our legislature had an average of 66 members total in both the House and Senate. During that time they introduced 4864 bills and passed 2393 for an efficiency rate of 49%. Now keep in mind that most of these legislators were probably farmers who rode a horse and buggy to St. Paul, wrote and typed their own bills, and had a staff of maybe 1 or 2. They introduced only the bills that they thought were important and they passed over half of them (with only one special session necessary). A model of efficiency? Compared with today I would have to say an unequivocal yes.
Today there are 201 legislators and all of them have a staff a great deal larger than their 1861-1871 counterparts (if someone can help me with that number I would greatly appreciate it). Since 1994 our legislators have introduced 41550 bills, while only passing 2302. That is an "efficiency" rate of 6%. Wow. And even with these increases in staff and actual legislators they still are unable to match the yearly average of bills passed of the 1861-1871 legislators. Furthermore, because they have had to deal with 41550 bills, 9 special sessions have been necessary to actually accomplish legislation of importance.
Interesting, heh? Even though 1861-1871 legislators and 1994-2004 legislators are passing on average the same number of bills per year, the 1861-1871 legislators were able to do that work with far less staff and actual legislators (not to mention less time in the form of special sessions). Does this suggest that our government could get by with less legislators today? Actually, I think it does. In fact, I would wager if we cut our legislature in half, about 210 bills would still pass per year, and they could be passed with at least half (or less) the special sessions necessary.
Well, if you made it this far let me say again that I merely write this all for my own entertainment. I'm sure both Parkinson's and my arguments could all be ripped to shreds. However, I still think a main point stands out: bureacracy grows and there is no stopping it. But it appears, even with all that growth, that the same amount of work gets done. And in the case of our legislature even less work gets done. Even though it is obvious our legislators are working harder and spending more time trying to get bills passed, they aren't actually producing any extra work. Is it time for a change? Would a unicameral legislature be more efficient and make more sense? Heck if I know, but I've had fun talking about it.
March 5, 2005
Azul and Trinity. Regal, aloof, selfish, fuzzy, and elegant. Ocassionaly affectionate, but most of the time solitary in nature. In a word: cat.
March 4, 2005
In my 32 years of life I have learned a few things, and one of them is to keep quiet if you don't have anything to say. And I haven't had anything to say for a while. I mean, really. How many more times can I say the same thing over and over again? Don't get me wrong, I love writing about stadiums, but if their isn't any news I have trouble manufacturing posts out of thin air talking about the same old stuff over and over again. I really, really want the legislature to start looking at this issue, but so far they just haven't. So, I'm kind of stuck.
Sure, I could write about the upcoming Twins season, but you've already got the TwinsGeek, Aaron Gleeman, Twins Chatter, and SBG taking care of that. I could definitely write about the Vikings, but I am stunned with the quality of posts put out by Mr. Cheer or Die concerning the Purple. How can I compete with that (did you see the NY Post is reporting that Plaxico Burress will sign with the Vikes?)? I could write about the T-Wolves and the Gophers, but as of right now I just don't have anything to say.
So, that leaves me with a dilemma of sorts. What to write about? Truthfully, I would love to write about all sorts of things. You'll note the tag line of this blog is "Minnesota sports, politics, religion, and life." How often do I talk about politics? Or religion? Almost never. And you know what? It is starting to tick me off. And not because I don't have anything to say, but because I am afraid of offending you and all my readers and that you won't come back.
You might guffaw at this, but it is true. People in general are very thin skinned and right now rattling around in my brain is something that you might be offended with, or that you might think is strange. It is true of all of us. Where am I going with all of this? Well, I guess what I'm trying to say is that I am practicing self-censorship so as not to offend people, and as a result I think I have become a little boring. I mean, I honestly don't think about sports as much as this blog would lead you to believe (stadiums? yes). I think about a whole lotta other stuff that never sees the light of day.
It reminds me of an exchange I recently read in the great book Omega by Jack McDevitt. The book tells the story of how we (humans) try to save an alien race from an omega cloud (if you are wondering you should read the book). We travel to their home planet and discover, of course, that this alien race is quite a bit different than us. For one thing, they are much more open with their opinions and feelings, and they are also not as easily offended. One part in the book in particular tells of a debate that some members of the alien civilization recently had and how two of the characters in the book are stunned with the level of freedom the aliens have to share their opinions. The two characters have this conversation as a result:
"How could they have more freedom than we do?" he demanded. "We don't have any thought police running around."
"Sure we do," he said.
"Whit," Digger raised his eyes to the overhead. "What kind of speech is prohibited? Other than yelling fire in a crowded place?" Digger smiled.
"Almost everything," he said.
He was baffled, "Whit, that's crazy. When's the last time anybody was jailed for speaking out on something?"
"You don't get jailed. But you have to be careful nonetheless not to offend people. We're programmed, all of us, to take offense. Who can go in front of a mixed audience and say what he truly believes without concern that he will offend someone's heritage, someone's religion, someone's politics. We are always on guard."
"Well," said Digger, "That's different."
"No it isn't" said Whit, "It is only different in degree. At my prep school, it was drilled into us that good manners required we avoid talking politics or religion. Since almost everything in the domain of human beahvior falls in the domain of one or the other of those two categories, we would seem to be left with the weather." He looked momentarily bleak. "We have too much respect for unsubstantiated opinion. We enshrine it, we tiptoe cautiously around it, and we avoid challenging it. To our shame."
"Somewhere we taught ourselves that our opinions are more significant than the facts. And somehow we get our egos and our opinions and Truth all mixed up in a single package, so that when something does challenge one of the notions to which we subscribe, we react as if it challenges us."
Do you get what Whit is saying? He is saying that we hold our own opinion is too high regard and that sometimes it prohibits us from seeing the truth and changing our opinion for the better. That is certainly true, but I was also struck with the truth of how much we guard our own speech and writing, again, so we don't offend anyone. It is so absolutely true. For example, I would love to talk more about religion, or healthcare, or conceal and carry, or a myriad of other topics, but I watch myself closely. I have almost sub-consciously decided not to write about these things.
In my defense, however, I do write about at least one controversial topic. Of course, that is stadiums. However, maybe I should write more about the others, too. I mean, do you as a reader really care? Yes and no. Would you stop reading this if I wrote something that offended you or that you didn't agree with? Maybe, maybe not. But I hope you as a reader would be able to look past some of these things and focus on the topics that you do agree with me on, or even take a close look at what I am saying and respect my opinion. Maybe we should all just lighten up. I don't know...
Where am I going with all of this? I have no idea. So, I'm just going to stop. It is definitely something that I've been thinking about though so I thought I would share. Talk to you later!
March 2, 2005
Links of the day
- Yahoo, the other search giant created by two Stanford geeks, turns 10.
- So called "dark energy" expanding the universe may just be a gravity leak.
- NY Post op-ed piece on democracy in the Middle East. Could our actions in Iraq and Afghanistan be causing this?
- Rat out your criminal friends who illegally sing "Happy Birthday to You." Helpful form letter included to make it easier to alert the ASCAP.
- More giant carvings found in Peru. I love this kind of stuff.
- Halle Berry actualy accepted her Razzie award for Catwoman in person. Nifty.
- Interesting searches for Google's new "movie: " search capabilities. Try "movie: greatest movie". Interesting choice.
- Tales of Future Past. Looks at science fiction predictons of the past and how off base they were. Interesting and thoughtful.
- Great list of CSS templates and template builders. I shall return to this site often.
- 101 things the Mozilla browser can do that IE can't. Have you switched yet?
- "I support the occupation of Iraq, but I don't support our troops." The Onion does it again.
- I will definitely be commenting on this later: "Vikings stadium would benefit community, state." Jerry Teeson is my new hero.
March 1, 2005
Back for another try
Well, I said I would never do it again, but tomorrow I will take part in another panel discussion concerning blogs. It kind of makes me laugh. You may remember what happened the last time I took part in a panel discussion. I was not very thrilled with how that turned out. However, I'm actually looking forward to tomorrow's discussion since it will primarily be focused on UThink blogs and how some people are using them in the department of Family Social Science. Such as the blog Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast. It will be a much more focused converstaion. I will let you know how it goes.
Some of you may be wondering what happened to my basement a couple of nights ago that made me miss my self-imposed blogging deadline. Well, even if you aren't wondering I'm going to tell you as it is a story that not only discusses the joys of home ownership, but also my expert parenting skills. Read on if you are interested.
After we put the kids to bed on Sunday night, my wife and I decided to watch the movie Mr. 3000. And if I could digress for a second, Mr 3000 is not a very good movie. In fact it stunk. Which is a shame because I am probably in a couple of scenes in that movie since they were filiming it during my trip to Miller Park last year with Cheesehead Craig. Anyway, we were watching the movie when all of the sudden I hear water trickling in the wall behind me. At first I thought nothing of it, but then the trickle became a very noticeable sound of water pouring. That is not a good sound to hear.
I turned to my wife and said, "There is water in the walls." I swear the last time I saw her move that fast we were at the State Fair making our way to the bucket-o-french-fries line (that one is going to get me in trouble). Anyway, she darts up the stairs and I follow behind her. When we get to the upstairs bathroom we see that water is pouring out of our clogged toilet and there is at least 2 inches of water on the floor. Oh my goodness. That is just really painful to see.
I of course go nuts. Obviously one of my kids got up after they went to bed and clogged the toilet. "Why do we even have kids! This is going on their 18th birthday bill!" I yell as my wife starts sopping up the water. I walk out of the bathroom and in a fit of what can only be described as stupidty I storm into my sons' room. Now, keep in mind that my two sons have already been asleep for about an hour. I start yelling incoherently "Clogged toilet! Water pouring! Carpet runied! You pay!" Then composing myself ever so slightly I add, "You are forbidden from ever using the toilet again! I'm going to dig a hole for both of you in the backyard!" My oldest son wakes up immediately and with wide eyed wonder and confusion says, "I don't know what you are talking about!" Realizing this I left the room saying, "Just go back to sleep." My youngest son didn't even move a muscle the whole time. Either he was asleep or he is really smart.
So, my wife and I stop the toilet from running, clean up the water off the floor, and go back downstairs to survey the damage. Water, of course, seems to be everywhere. We start to try to soak up the water in the carpet, but quickly learn that whatever we soak up is just replaced by the water still making its way down the walls. Man, oh man, does this ever tick me off. Like clockwork I start thinking about all the money this is going to cost me saying stuff like, "What did I do with all my money before I had a house? Or before I had kids? I must have been rich!!" I'm sure all the other homeowners out there can relate.
Well, after about an hour of soaking up water we realized we would have to cut up some of the carpet to get at the padding underneath. If you don't do that you will have mold. There is just no two ways about it. Taking a carpenters knife to my carpet and a symbolic knife to my heart, I made the first cut. Oh, the agony! The pain! But in the end it turned out to be an excellent decision. We were able to dry the padding underneath and save the bulk of the carpet. Plus, the area I cut could be hidden by a couch or a throw rug. Phew, after about 2 hours my ordeal was over.
In the morning my oldest son told me that I scared him half to death storming into his room like that. We had a good laugh about it and that was nice. He really is a great and understanding kid. However, he is still banned from using the toilet. He told me he won't go near it anyway if I'm going to be such a freak about it.
Kids and home ownership. Never a dull moment.
Stuff and more stuff
OK, let's get the obvious stuff out of the way here. On Sunday, Sid Hartman had an interesting snippet of text that I will now share with all of you (if you haven't already read it):
While things have been kept pretty quiet, the Hennepin County commissioners have been working behind the scenes on a plan to build a baseball stadium for the Twins. What is important is for the Twins to select a site in one city and progress from there.
Now this is the kind of snippet of text that keeps me awake at night. I can't stop thinking about it, not because it is so full of juicy information, but because it isn't. It lets my imagination run wild AND I CAN'T MAKE IT STOP! What could they be planning? Will their plan again focus on a county-wide hospitality tax? Are the Twins involved in the discussions? Is Pohlad finally going to open his wallet and put up at least half the money for the stadium like the Florida Marlins or the Dallas Cowboys? Will the Twins finally pick a site and tell either Minneapolis or St. Paul no thanks? Will the impossible happen? Will a stadium deal finally be struck that satisfies both the Twins and the legislature? Will monkeys fly out of my butt?
Here is what I hope the Hennepin County deal looks like. I hope first and foremost that Pohlad puts up a huge chunk of cash, at least $160 million (or even more). That will get the legislature's attention. Hennepin County can sell bonds to make up the approx. $340 million left to make up. With a 6% interest rate (and I think it is currently lower than this) that means we will need about $24 million per year to pay off those bonds. This is where it gets dicey. Looking back at other stadium deals that have worked across the country, it would be nifty if the following revenue sources could be considered:
- Ticket tax (no brainer) but not a lot of revenue: $2 million.
- Tax in the stadium district. Again, not a lot of revenue: $2 million.
- Pawlenty's tax increment financing: $8 million
- Increase in the state business income tax for the big businesses in Hennepin county. Since big businesses are usually pro-stadium it would make sense to make them pay for a part of it. This is also the method that DC is using the pay for half of its stadium, but the increase in Minnesota would have to be modest: $8 million (This is just a guess. Truly, I have no idea).
- Hotel tax. Again, this doesn't put the burden on your average tax payer in Minnesota and is a method currently used by Anaheim, Detroit, Houston, Seattle, and Tampa Bay. Why should we pay for other cities' stadiums and not return the favor? $4 million
OK, now for the problems. First of all the plan above is too complex. There are too many possible revenue streams to both keep track of and count on. The Twins will go for the the business tax and the hotel tax, but the TIF is not guaranteed money. That is a big reason why the Ventura/Sausen plan failed, because who knows if the investements from Pohlad's donation to the state would have paid off? The Twins thought it was a shaky plan. Secondly, the state legislature will never go for the business tax or the hotel tax. They've been tried and they have always been shot down. So, where does that leave us?
When Hennepin County's plan comes out I think it will focus on, once again, a county wide tax of some sort, most likely in restaurants and bars. Why? It is simple and it includes guaranteed money streams that both the county and the Twins can count on. That will mean a referendum of some sort will be necessary, and we will end up right where we started. Sigh. Even if Pohlad put up half of his own money, the yearly money needed to pay off the bonds would be $18 million. Where does this money come from? Does anyone else have any good (and simple!) ideas that could work?
I don't know how many of you saw this New York Post article on Reggie Fowler but it did not have any good news. It claims that Reggie is going to have a really hard time getting NFL approval. Personally, I think the NFL is going to overlook the questions of Reggie's finances just to get its first minority owner. But we'll see. The big question is if Reggie isn't approved, would Glen Taylor be given another shot? March 20-23 is going to be a really interesting time for Vikings fans.
Charley Walters writes a good column today where he interviews a former Vikings owner about what kind of advice he would give Reggie Fowler if he is approved. The advice is excellent, but what caught my eye is that the former owner is Skip Maas. Is this a long lost relative of Mr. Cheer or Die? Brian, why didn't you tell us you had this kind of history in your family?
According to the Star Tribune, tomorrow Steve Sviggum and Dean Johnson will be speaking from 7 to 9 am at the Four Points Sheraton in St. Paul concerning "the budget deficit, taxes, transportation and stadiums." I wish I could be there to hear if Sviggum will be making any more promises.
That's it for now. See you soon!