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February 28, 2006

The first hurdle has been passed

Hennepin County is ready to play ball with the Twins. The vote went down 5-2 with Steele and Koblick voting against the measure. While Dorfman voted in favor, she is probably only voting in favor of the process, not the resulting plan. At least she isn't wasting everyone's time like some other commissioners. The text:

WHEREAS, the Minnesota Legislature convenes on March 1, 2006 for the second year of the biennium and will conduct its business in a short session with compressed deadlines for committee action; and

WHEREAS, Governor Tim Pawlenty has convened several meetings with Minnesota Twins officials, Hennepin County Commissioners, state legislative leaders from both political parties in the House of Representatives and Senate to consider a new initiative to build a ballpark in Hennepin County; and

WHEREAS, the adopted 2006 Hennepin County Board calendar has no scheduled meetings of the County Board in the month of March; and

WHEREAS, Governor Tim Pawlenty or legislative leadership may request that Hennepin County and Minnesota Twins officials renew negotiations on a new ballpark agreement in the near term and may request that a revised agreement be presented to the Governor’s office and the Minnesota Legislature
during the 2006 session;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that in the event Governor Pawlenty or legislative leadership request that Hennepin County and the Minnesota Twins conduct negotiations on a new ballpark agreement to be considered during the 2006 session, that County Administrator Vargas and County staff are authorized to work with the Board Chair and staff to comply with this request; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that in the event a revised ballpark agreement is acceptable to both County negotiators and the Minnesota Twins officials, that the Chair shall schedule a special meeting of the Board to consider the proposal for Board approval as soon as practical.

What I find interesting about this text is that the onus is clearly on T-Paw, or the legislative leadership, to get the ball rolling. It will be by their request that the Twins and Hennepin County start negotiating again. This looks like a shrewd move by the county. In essence they are forcing Pawlenty or Sviggum to play a stronger role ... they are actually forcing them to lead on this issue. Well, you can bring a horse to water, but you can't make him drink.

We'll see what T-Paw does. I for one am excited to see what happens in the next couple of weeks.

Posted by snackeru at 5:35 PM | Comments (1)

A flurry of activity

• What a magical time of year. Stadium season is upon us and is in full swing. I've made some more changes to the Voter's Guide and the totals are now:

   Pro-American (Pro-stadium) legislators: 78
   Anti-American (Anti-stadium) legislators: 49
   Unknown: 7

Can you believe it? Could this be the year? Truth be told, I would be stunned. I know people are feeling more optimistic than ever, but if a stadium bill ever passed I would be absolutely amazed. I don't want to bum you out, but it would just plain be amazing to the point of almost being impossible. Let me put it this way: when this stadium bill passes the House Taxes committee, that is when I will start feeling optimistic. Not before.

Recent changes to the Voter's Guide include Zellers, Erhardt, Mullery, Walker, and Vandeveer all now in the YES column. Of course, I can't confirm any of this (this is all a guess on my part) but I am hearing a lot which leads me to believe the votes are there. Can it get to the floor of the House? We'll see.

Also, I changed Otremba back to a No. I just don't believe she will vote Yes. Curt in Grand Forks is checking that for me.

• Secondly, today should be an interesting day for Mike Opat. According to the PiPress, Opat will seek a HC board resolution authorizing him to renegotiate a contract with the Twins to build a stadium in Hennepin County. As per usual, I'm sure my good friend Linda Koblick will have all her ducks in a row and give Opat all that he can handle. Please, Linda, please go easy on him. As you know there are a lot of people in Hennepin County that want this to happen, myself included, of course.

According to the article, the added $30 million to the overall stadium price tag will be the biggest sticking point in any future negotiations. I really have no idea where this will go, but I hope Pohlad doesn't ruin what seems to be some stadium good will out there by throwing it back in the County's face. Unfortunately, I think we can all see the writing on the wall on this one: the Twins will expect the County to pay. This, in my opinion, will be a huge mistake and may change some votes back to the No column.

• Finally, I got an interesting email from Jim in St. Paul yesterday that went a little like this:

I was tempted to throw this out last year but maybe this is the year. If our esteemed legislators can finally see the light and pass a Twins ballpark bill this session I would like to extend an invite to all loyal Greet Machiners to come down some Saturday afternoon to my place of business, Summit Brewery, for a tour and celebration. I may even go through my archives and get out for display all my St. Paul related ballpark campaign items (I have a bunch). Like I said, hopefully this is the year and some celebration would definitely be in order.

How about that! A celebration at the Summit Brewery in St. Paul would be awesome. Thanks for the offer Jim! And of course, all "Greet Machiners" would be welcome (even you anti-stadium bums). And I must say, if Jim in St. Paul is feeling optimistic ... that really gives me pause. I dare say Jim knows more about this issue than me! Thanks for the day brightener Jim! I will be there!

Posted by snackeru at 8:30 AM | Comments (4)

February 27, 2006

Weekend update

• So, as we gear up for the upcoming legislative session, I've been getting some notes from people concerning my Voter's Guide and changes that should be made to it. Here is what I've heard so far:

Maxine Penas (1A): changed from a No to a Yes.
Pete Nelson (17B): changed from a No to a Yes.
Scott Newman (18A): changed from an Unknown to a No.
Greg Davids (31B): changed from a No to a Yes.
Tom Emmer (19B): changed from an Unknown to a No.
Dan Larson (63B): changed from an Unknown to a Yes.

This brings the grand total so far to:

   Pro-American (Pro-stadium) legislators: 75
   Anti-American (Anti-stadium) legislators: 52
   Unknown: 7

I have also been told that Tony Cornish (24B) should be changed to a Yes. This is surprising to me since last year in the Governmental Operations committee he made it quite clear that he wanted the Twins to put up at least half before he would approve. In fact, I was going to write him to ask him if he was therefore in favor of the Viking stadium bill since Zygi is putting up half. I may have to contact him and ask him what is up. Not that he'll get back to me. As David has said, I think legislators are avoiding me now.

Also, I was stunned to hear that Mary Ellen Otremba is now in the Yes column. Stunned. Curt, isn't this your former district? Can you contact Otremba and ask if this is true?

Finally, I know pro-stadium people are feeling optimistic, but let's take a moment for a little reality check here. The session starts on Wednesday and that is when the partisan politics will begin. Both sides will say, "We can't deal with stadiums until we get all our other business taken care of." Two months later they will still be arguing, the session will end with the stadium bill never reaching the floor, and we'll begin the long summer of "should we call a special session?" I'm not saying I am giving up, no no no... I am just steeling myself for this inevitability.

• And on a completely different note, awhile back I alluded to the possibility that the Greet Machine would soon cease to exist and that changes in my life could be coming. Well, you'll be happy (maybe not?) to know that neither will be happening. In November I applied for a new position at the University of St. Thomas. I had an interview at the beginning of February, but in the interview I think we could both tell that it just wasn't the right fit. I found out last Friday that I didn't get the job.

This process was both painful and exiciting. After the interview, I was pretty confident that I might get offered the job. So, at that point I had to make a choice of telling my boss and his boss that I might be leaving. This was a hard decision because, obivously, I didn't know how they would react. Fortunately, they were happy for me. They understood that I wanted to take a step up in my career. But what made me even more surprised, and actually touched, is that they said they would make me a retention offer.

So, even though I didn't get the new job offer, or the retention offer, it still felt good that my work is appreciated here at the U. In fact, this whole process has really showed me how much I enjoy working here.

However, back to the fact that I got nothing for my troubles. This kind of bothered me, so I bought myself a 30GB iPod Video. Sure, I slept on the couch that night, and yes, I really can't afford it. But I justify it based on all the pain I went through, and because, quite frankly, I deserve something nice every once in a while.


Talk to you later!

Posted by snackeru at 8:27 AM | Comments (6)

February 24, 2006

Spycake was right!

You know, it is not often that I am wrong, but I'd like to think that I am man enough to admit when I am. Two nights ago I wrote a piece that suggested Matt Entenza was playing partisan politics in witholding the results of a survey to gauge support for the Hennepin County ballpark plan. Spycake chastised my carefully crafted work of genius with these words:

But it seems like right now, there's nothing more to these accusations of "political gain" than Steve Sviggum's fear and Shane's lack of information. There's still plenty of time to discuss the stadium reasonably and get Estenza's honest opinion -- the session hasn't even started yet! Let's not rush to conclusions and label people (and whole parties!) political opportunists ...

Ha! I thought. While Spycake might make more sense than he usually he does, his words of wisdom would fall on deaf ears yet again, I decided. "Let's not rush to conclusions ..." Bah! Rushing to conclusions is what I am best at! It is something I take pride in! You can't take that away from me! Then, I read this in today's Shooter column:

Within the past 24 hours, the Twins have heard from the four major political caucus leaders who have reported a positive vote count for a new ballpark in downtown Minneapolis without a referendum, as the plan was constructed a year ago. The next step for the Twins is to re-engage with Gov. Tim Pawlenty in the near future. A state legislative vote on a ballpark isn't expected until late April or May.

Although Shooter doesn't spell it out in great detail, I would wager that the four major political caucus leaders would be Sviggum, Dean Johnson, Dick Day, and ... Matt Entenza.

Taking it a step further means that yes: Spycake was right! Oh the humanity! Does this mean that David Wintheiser is sometimes right? No, I don't think we can jump to that conclusion, but my world today has been turned upside down! It is like I am Superman in Bizzaro world! Nothing is as it should be. I should have never got out of bed.

What else could Spycake be right about? Nothing much I would wager ... but I've been proven wrong before.

• And now I would like to explain something to all of my new readers. You aren't going to change my mind. We can debate about things in a civil manner, hopefully, but if you are here just to blather about how much the Twins suck, or the Hennepin County ballpark plan sucks, then you have come to the wrong place. I won't listen to you. In fact, I might even lose respect for you which is sad because I don't even know you. This is not to say that I don't respect anti-ballpark types. If you write something to me in a coherent manner with good reasoning and well crafted sentences I will read what you say and ponder it for a while. Take my good buddy David Wintheiser, for example. For as much pain and suffeiring that he brings me I actually am quite fond of the guy. I wish I had half the writing skills as he does, and I dare say if we ever met we would probably have a good time discussing various topics over a pint of ale. The fact that he is anti-stadium doesn't matter. I welcome his opinion. So, in other words, treat me with respect and I will do the same for you (sometimes).

Also, I thought it might be handy for all the newcomers to read a little bit of where I am coming from. So, without futher ado, here is a list of some of the things I believe:

So, there you have it. Those are just some of the things I believe. You may think I'm wrong, but difference of opinion makes the world go round.

Thanks for stopping by!

Posted by snackeru at 8:50 AM | Comments (12)

February 22, 2006

The DFL is playing games

Sigh. Well, sorry for the delay, but I've been trying to get a hold of Matt Entenza today, the House Minority Leader, in order to ask him about the DFL response to the survey sent out by the governor concerning support for a Twins stadium bill this session. A little birdy tells me that the DFL has yet to turn in their responses, and that Entenza may be holding things up. Could this be for political gain? Could the DFL be looking for something to pin on T-Paw as another example of his failure as governor to get things done?

Aron Kahn had a another great article today discussing this issue:

For example, Sviggum, a ballpark supporter from Kenyon, said there are 41 Republican House members who'll vote for the measure, but "I'm not sure I want the number to rise higher than 41.''

In other words, with 68 votes needed for passage, Sviggum wants DFLers to make up the rest of the winning tally. "There has to be Democrats because it could be used (against Republicans) in a partisan, emotional election,'' he said.

Entenza's lack of response concerning stadium issues and the infamous survey I mentioned above demonstrates, at least to me, that the DFL may be contemplating using either the passage, or defeat, of a stadium bill against the Republicans in the upcoming election. If Sviggum got more than 41 votes, it would look like the Republicans in the House were the driving force behind its passage. Obviously, this could come back to haunt them.

However, if a stadium bill doesn't pass, again the DFL can blame the governor for his lack of leadership. It is definitely a sticky wicket for T-Paw.

The fact of the matter is I am excited with any headline that says "Twins stadium bill has might." I am also excited that Sviggum claims to have 41 Republican votes. That is three more than I count.

So, for the next few weeks I will be watching the comments of both Entenza and Dean Johnson very carefully. When they start breaking out the partisan rhetoric I will be very, very let down. I know I shouldn't be so naive, but to sacrifice the Twins for their own political gain will be disheartening to say the least.

One more thing, Steve Sviggum is the leader of the Republican party in Minnesota, plain and simple. T-Paw doesn't have half the leadership skills of our friend from Kenyon. I know actions speak louder than words, but I have a feeling Sviggum is going to step out on a limb this session in a way that would make T-Paw wet himself.

Ain't "stadium season" a fun time of year?

Posted by snackeru at 6:37 PM | Comments (10)

I'm working on it

I'm working on some stuff based on what I've read in this article. Sviggum says he's got 41 votes, but the DFL seems to be remaining silent. Who says Entenza won't be important?

Posted by snackeru at 8:41 AM

February 20, 2006

The Miracle of Life

comoconserve.jpg So, I went to the Como Conservatory today. After all this cold we've been having, it was nice to see things green and alive again. If you are feeling in the dumps and you are sick of winter, I must suggest going to the Como Conservatory to brighten your outlook on life. The smells, the freshness, the humidity ... it is all just wonderful.

Anyway, as I was walking through the Conservatory I was struck with the diversity of life in this relatively small, enclosed space. So many different types of trees, plants, and flowers, and as you walk through it you suddenly realize that the variety in the Como Conservatory is really just the tip of the iceberg. It is amazing to think about.

And to stay with the sci-fi theme, why is Earth the only place that we've found so far that has life, and furthermore why do we have life so abundantly? We don't have just a few bacterium struggling to survive on the tip of a comet, we have so many species of life we can't even name them all, and we are still discovering new ones. Again, life is amazing.

Again, these thoughts got me to thinking about Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything which coincidentally has a fascinating chapter on this miracle we call life. When you really think about it, the life we have on this planet and the immense variety should make your head explode with wonder. Especially when you consider how difficult it is to even create a simple protein:

Proteins are what you get when you string amino acids together, and we need a lot of them. No one really knows, but there may be as many as a million types of protein in the human body, and each one is a little miracle. By all the laws of probability proteins shouldn’t exist. To make a protein you need to assemble amino acids (which I am obliged by long tradition to refer to here as “the building blocks of life?) in a particular order, in much the same way that you assemble letters in a particular order to spell a word. The problem is that words in the amino acid alphabet are often exceedingly long. To spell collagen, the name of a common type of protein, you need to arrange eight letters in the right order. But to make collagen, you need to arrange 1,055 amino acids in precisely the right sequence. But—and here’s an obvious but crucial point—you don’t make it. It makes itself, spontaneously, without direction, and this is where the unlikelihoods come in.

The chances of a 1,055-sequence molecule like collagen spontaneously self-assembling are, frankly, nil. It just isn’t going to happen. To grasp what a long shot its existence is, visualize a standard Las Vegas slot machine but broadened greatly—to about ninety feet, to be precise—to accommodate 1,055 spinning wheels instead of the usual three or four, and with twenty symbols on each wheel (one for each common amino acid).1 How long would you have to pull the handle before all 1,055 symbols came up in the right order? Effectively forever. Even if you reduced the number of spinning wheels to two hundred, which is actually a more typical number of amino acids for a protein, the odds against all two hundred coming up in a prescribed sequence are 1 in 10260 (that is a 1 followed by 260 zeroes). That in itself is a larger number than all the atoms in the universe.

And this is just proteins. Think about when you connect them all up, stick DNA into the equation, and get plants, and animals, and all the other variety of life we have on this planet. How does your eyelash know to become an eyelash? How does a human embryo know to create a kidney or a pancreas? As Bryson suggests, we shouldn't even be here. How did this happen? Why did it happen?

Feel free to surmise your own reasons. I'm not here to get into an argument. I think we can all agree, though, that life on this planet is a miracle, plain and simple, regardless of how it happened. I choose to rejoice in it.

Posted by snackeru at 8:20 PM | Comments (7)

February 19, 2006

The Vastness of Space

So, I'm reading an interesting book right now called The Braided World by Kay Kenyon. It is kind of a sequel to her book Maximum Ice (which I enjoyed) so, I thought I would pick this one up too. The Braided World tells of a crew of humans traveling 30 light years to a distant planet with the hopes of finding some of humanity's lost genetic diversity. That is as far as I've gotten.

But what I'd like to write about today is that figure: 30 light years. 30 light years is the distance it takes for light (traveling at the speed of light) to travel if it traveld for 30 years. In other words, 30 light years is a long, long way off. Think about it: even if we had a space craft that could travel at the speed of light, it would have to be able to maintain that speed for 30 years to get to this fictional planet. Needless to say, with our existing technology we aren't anywhere near the ability to become interstellar space travelers anytime soon.

This got me to thinking about another book I've read that describes the vastness of space specifically in our own solar system. In the amazing A Short History of Nearly Everything, Bill Bryson describes space like this (page 24):

Now the first thing you are likely to realize is that space is extremely well named and rather dismayingly uneventful. Our solar system may be the liveliest thing for trillions of miles, but all the visible stuff in it—the Sun, the planets and their moons, the billion or so tumbling rocks of the asteroid belt, comets, and other miscellaneous drifting detritus—fills less than a trillionth of the available space. You also quickly realize that none of the maps you have ever seen of the solar system were remotely drawn to scale. Most schoolroom charts show the planets coming one after the other at neighborly intervals—the outer giants actually cast shadows over each other in many illustrations—but this is a necessary deceit to get them all on the same piece of paper. Neptune in reality isn’t just a little bit beyond Jupiter, it’s way beyond Jupiter—five times farther from Jupiter than Jupiter is from us, so far out that it receives only 3 percent as much sunlight as Jupiter.

Such are the distances, in fact, that it isn’t possible, in any practical terms, to draw the solar system to scale. Even if you added lots of fold-out pages to your textbooks or used a really long sheet of poster paper, you wouldn’t come close. On a diagram of the solar system to scale, with Earth reduced to about the diameter of a pea, Jupiter would be over a thousand feet away and Pluto would be a mile and a half distant (and about the size of a bacterium, so you wouldn’t be able to see it anyway). On the same scale, Proxima Centauri, our nearest star, would be almost ten thousand miles away. Even if you shrank down everything so that Jupiter was as small as the period at the end of this sentence, and Pluto was no bigger than a molecule, Pluto would still be over thirty-five feet away.

In other words, our solar system is absolutely huge compared to the distance we traveled on our last vacations. Bryson goes on to say that it is unlikely that any human will ever visit the edge of our solar system. It is just too far away. It is the reason why science fiction authors always describe space travel through special means like going through wormholes or black holes ... these theories, and theories yet devised, are probably our only hope of ever getting past Mars.

When I read books about humans traveling to distant planets to meet with an alien civilization I can't help but think about stuff like this. Space travel, using our existing technology, is woefully inadequate. Quite frankly, it is impossible. Thus ends another episode of "who gives a rat's butt theater." Stay tuned for more.

Posted by snackeru at 7:48 PM | Comments (3)

February 17, 2006

My favorite songs right now

Like I said in the previous post, I have an iPod, but one thing I have done very little of is use the playlist creation function of this handy little piece of hardware. I've been listening to some new (for me) music lately so I thought I would put together a new playlist so I could listen to these new gems without having to search for them all the time. I know, I'm quite the technological genius, but I've been satisfied with the shuffle function for so long that I never really considered this. Anyway, here is what I'm digging right now:

  1. "Gideon" by My Morning Jacket
    This is an oddly powerful song. I really enjoy it.
  2. "Lightening Blue Eyes" by The Secret Machines
    This is from their upcoming album "Ten Silver Drops" (graciously given to me by Jim in St. Paul). Strangely enough, the album only has 8 songs, and this is probably the best. Fantastic. If you haven't heard it yet, you will.
  3. "Upon the Tidal Wave of Young Blood" by Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
    Oh yes, I'll definitely say "Yeah!" with an emphatic exclamation point at the end. I'm not sure the singer would win any "American Idol" contests anytime soon, but the song is a real toe tapper.
  4. "Lazer Beam" by the Super Furry Animals
    I just love the beginning to this song. Good effects and guitar work from this Welsh band. It has a very 1970s feel to it.
  5. "He Woke Me Up Again" by Sufjan Stevens
    He woke me up again to say hallelujah ... I wish I knew more about what this song is about. It is beautiful. Sufjan Stevens is the master of the understated banjo. I can't believe this is a good thing.
  6. "The W.A.N.D." by The Flaming Lips
    I'm trying to get into the new Lips album At War With the Mystics. This is the first single. It is good, but like any Lips effort it takes a while to get used to. Very creative.
  7. "Dead Man's Rope" by Sting
    I love this song. It certainly has a religious theme which I always gravitate towards, and it reminds me a little of "I Still Haven't Found" in that the narrator is searching. A good contemporary gospel song.

That's all for now. There is more, but you get the idea.

Posted by snackeru at 2:49 PM | Comments (1)

Yes, it is cold

So, I was sitting at the bus stop yesterday freezing my butt off. I don't really need to tell all of you just how freakin' cold it is outside, but this is the type of cold that gives a person an understanding of just how someone could die of exposure. This is the type of cold where the tears from my eyes freeze to my face, the snot in my nose freezes, and my exposed skin feels like it has thousands of pins sticking in it. Makes me proud to be a Minnesotan.

Anyway, as I was saying, I was standing at the bus stop last night waiting over 20 minutes (!!!) for my bus to arrive. Man it was cold! To take my mind off of the cold I was listening to my iPod when suddenly the perfect song came on to brighten my mood:

"Surf Wax America" by Weezer

This brought a huge smile to my face, this song about beaches, surfing, waves, and beautiful weather. As I stood there singing along it suddenly wasn't so cold anymore. It is amazing how music can sometimes make -20 degree weather tolerable.

Posted by snackeru at 10:41 AM | Comments (1)

Random musings

• First of all, I've been quoted! There is a great story about the wonder that is UThink in the Minnesota Daily today. Sometimes the Daily staff really messes things up, but I must say I am very impressed with this article. No errors, and I think it concisely captures the essence of class blogging though the UThink system. Anyway, I'm pretty pleased with it.

• Now, I shall answer/comment on freealonzo's suggestions for non-stadium related content for the Greet Machine:

Star Wars vs. Lord of the Rings
For me, the winner is clear: Lord of the Rings. I don't think there has ever been a better trilogy. The orginal Star Wars trilogy was a big part of my childhood, but Lucas has really screwed it up with the prequels. Revenge of the Sith was good, but not anywhere near as good as Empire Strikes Back.

Gopher hockey
Truly, I am cursed to live in a state that is so hockey crazy. Having said that, though, I must say I am warming up to Gopher hockey. For example, I know I'll be watching the game tonight. There is something about college hockey that is way, way, way more exciting than the pro game. I will never claim to be an expert on hockey in general, but I love the Golden Gophers.

Liberal v. Conservative Christians
Now you are just trying to get me in trouble. But I'll play along. Jesus was liberal. He did not follow the rules. He turned both the old covenant and the law on its head. Jesus mentioned the poor and needy hundreds of times. He did not mention anything about homosexuality, tax cuts, or assasinating foreign leaders. Love the Lord God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself. If only. The world would be a better place.

Does Jesse Ventura now like V.P. Cheney because he's hunted man?
Yes. Actually, I thought this was so hilarious I really don't know what I can add to it. Nice one, freealonzo.

Pinewood derby speed tips
You want a fast car? Focus on the wheels. Make sure the tops are angled slightly outwards, and especially make sure all the wheels are symetrically balanced with each other (are they all touching the track at the same time at all times?). Then, soak the axles in graphite. Not the white stuff either. I'm talking the real graphite. Buy some graphite during the summer because around Pinewood Derby time you won't be able to find any in the stores. Lastly, put the weight towards the front of the car. Follow my advice, and you too might be a winner.

Dumb Kevin McHale trades and/or NBA rule changes
I don't know how McHale can ever top the stupidity of Marko Jaric for Sam Cassell and a first round draft pick. That is the winner, hands down. And the NBA rule I hate the most is the defensive three second rule. Stupid. Almost makes Minnesota state legisltators look intelligent.

RSS and Movable Type 4.xxx primers
If Six Apart releases Movable Type 4 anytime soon I will fly out to San Francisco and personally open a can of whoop ass on Ben Trott. It took us forever to get MT 3.2 up, I am not overly enthused about having to go through that any time soon. And I like RSS. So, you can mark me down as being in favor of that technology.

Stratego reenactments
My cat peed all over my Stratego game, so there won't be any reenactments of that game for a while.

Worst/Best concerts
Best concert I ever saw was U2 last September. Just marvelous. Second best would be Pink Floyd in 1995 (?). I was in the 12th row. 3rd best would have to be Page/Plant in 1996 (?). Lots of good Zeppelin songs (although I could have done without all of Page's drooling).

Worst concert I have ever been to was the Rolling Stones Bridges to Babylon tour at the Dome. Horrible sound and we were way too far away. I was just not impressed.

So, there you have it. Anything else anone wants to know about?

Posted by snackeru at 8:24 AM | Comments (12)

February 15, 2006

OK OK OK ...

OK everyone. You've got to understand something. I've been writing about this Twins stadium mess for 3 years now. And I've been thinking about it for probably more than 10. Words cannot express both how much I want a new Twins stadium and how tired I am of thinking about it.

So, I'm not sure I can totally stop writing about this issue. I have too much invested in this at this point in time. I also believe that this might be the last year. I have learned not to make any predictions, so I won't do that, but I think there may just be one more big push for a new home for the Twins. And then that is it. We'll have what we have.

In other words, now is not the time to say I will be stopping. No, I'm all talk. The Greet Machine will live. However, I've been encouraged to start thinking about something different for a little while. At least until the legislature starts their predictable bickering, partisan politics, and do-nothing ways.

I need to refresh my thinking. So, I will be writing about some other stuff for a while. Family, maybe some politics, maybe some religion. Who is the better singer: Jessica or Ashlee. You know, important stuff. Whatever strikes me as interesting.

So there you have it. Hope springs eternal and all that jazz.

Posted by snackeru at 3:32 PM | Comments (3)

February 14, 2006

Cut me some slack

I am not willing to do it. In fact, I don't think I can physically do it. Try as I might, today I cannot write another entry on stadiums. I am less than enthusiastic about this topic right now, and there is nothing I can do about it. What is truly sad about this is that I probably could think of something to write about this never ending topic. You might think to yourself, "How can anyone write about stadiums as much as Shane? Is there really that much to write about?" Again, sadly, for me there is. I could probably write a PhD dissertation about the topic and keep on truckin'.

But not today. Today my mind is using its non-stadium related synapses and neurons for thinking about an entirely different topic. A topic that has a great deal of impact on me and my family. A topic that is keeping me up at nights thinking and thinking and thinking. I'm sorry I can't be more specific, maybe tomorrow.

But don't worry about me. No, no, no, no ... it is nothing to worry about. Changes could be coming though.

What would life be like without the Greet Machine?

Posted by snackeru at 8:48 AM | Comments (7)

February 12, 2006

Is a referendum really required by law?

So, I finally read Nick Coleman's recent piece of crap concerning the Twins and their never ending quest for a new stadium. As far as Coleman columns go it was exceptionally weak. I know, this in iteself is shocking, but stay with me for a second. Nick wants the people to vote whether or not we should build a new stadium. Yes, the same people that vote down school referendums. Yes, the same people that were NOT given the chance to vote for the Xcel Energy Center, the Mall of America infrastructure, the Guthrie, the Minneapolis Convention Center, and the Metrodome itself. Would any of these things have been built if it was given to the people to vote on? No, absolutely not. Is Minnesota a better place because of these amenities? Yes, it absolutely is.

But I'm not writing today to flip out on the genius that is Nick Coleman. I'm here to look at the actual Minnesota law that supposedly requires a referendum.. We've all heard John Knight (where has he gone to? it seems he can't stand the heat in the spotlight) and Laura Lehman from Citizens for a Stadium Tax Referendum moan and groan about the requirement for a referendum. Let's take a look at what the Minnesota legislature actually says about this.

From a document entitled "Local Sales Taxes in Minnesota" from the House of Representatives comes this snippet:

Summary of the Local Sales Tax Provisions in Minn. Stat. § 297A.99

Local Taxes Subject to the Statutory Provisions

The statutory provisions apply to all local sales taxes authorized after June 2, 1997, unless the enabling legislation specifically exempts the local authority from these rules by reference.

Hennepin County isn't proposing to circumvent the law, as they have been accused of. The referendum requirement on local sales taxes was just added in 1997--and it includes a specific provision ALLOWING a local sales tax to be enacted without a referendum. Just like recent sales taxes enacted in Minneapolis, St. Paul, Bloomington, and Rochester, all of which were imposed by local ordinance.

Let's break it down even further. According to a 2004 report from the Minnesota Department of Revenue (page 21):

[T]he uses to which local sales tax can be put should be limited to large projects that would otherwise not be able to be funded by other means. These projects should have broad benefit and encourage multi-jurisdictional cooperation. Projects that cross boundaries or will be utilized by surrounding communities are examples of proposals that meet this criteria. While this may sound like another name for "regional benefit," the focus here should be on the scope of the project and the inability to fund it from other sources.

According to the Department of Revenue, what Hennepin County is proposing to do is completely within the boundaries of the local sales tax statute. On page 23 of this same report there is this little tidbit:

The local sales tax is best used as a mechanism for financing large, special, multi-jurisdictional capital projects.

In addition, the Governor's bipartisan 2004 Stadium Screening Committee determined a local sales tax was an appropriate mechanism to fund the local share of a stadium project. And speaking of governor created committees, after extensive debate the Stadium Screening Committee voted 18-1 that local taxes should fund stadiums and that they should NOT be subject to a referendum requirement.

To me, the law and the legislature are clear. Local sales taxes are an appropriate funding mechanism for the Twins stadium, and a referendum, while certainly encouraged, is NOT required. So, I wish anti-stadium folk would quit saying it is.

Finally, a local sales tax, such as Hennepin County is proposing, is a dependable and predictable revenue stream that allows the County to issue tax-exempt debt (thereby saving the public money). In addition, because the money is predictable, the interest rate on the loan should be lower thereby saving taxpayers even more money. In the Denver area, they used a .1 percent sales tax to finance Coors Field and they were able to retire 20-year bonds in less than 10 years. How soon will Hennepin County be able to retire the debt on a new Twins stadium? That is unknown, of course, but I doubt it will take 30 years.

And to wrap this up, when a new Twins stadium is built people will be giddy. Who in their right mind will wish that we hadn't built it? It will be the jewel of downtown Minneapolis and people will flock to it. How do I know? No one wishes we didn't build the Xcel Energy Center, no one wishes we didn't build the Metrodome. And these were both built with taxpayer money. I don't see Nick Coleman complaining about the Xcel Energy Center and the half-cent sales tax that pays for it. Why? Because it has been proven to be a good idea.

Posted by snackeru at 10:52 AM | Comments (9)

February 10, 2006

All editorials point to Hennepin County

• Wow! Now this is a surprise! The Pioneer Press has reversed its stance and now favors a Twins ballpark in Hennepin County. Plus, this editorial also calls on Zygi Wilf to privately finance a new Vikings stadium. Check this out:

So what to do to ensure Minnesotans can continue to enjoy baseball and pro football? Here's our advice on Minnesota's stadium conundrum: Wilf should build the Anoka complex after lining up financing, which is his specialty as a real estate mogul. He could then build a Vikings stadium as he wants it, reaping all the benefits — and profits.

By doing this, Wilf would free up the Legislature to focus first on the Twins, who are the greatest threat to pack up and leave. The Legislature should then give Hennepin County the exemption on the 0.15 percent sales tax. That would avoid the costly referendum — which quite possibly could fail. At the very least, it would keep the price from going up another $30 million.

In short: Problem solved.

Problem solved indeed. I wish it were that easy. Again, though, what is interesting about this is the shift of the Pioneer Press editorial staff to now favor the Hennepin County plan. This could be because the PiPress has a new editor, or it could be because they realize that Chris Coleman doesn't have a plan or the desire to create one. I, for one, welcome this shift in their stance, but I expect Jim in St. Paul is weeping in his Summit right now.

• Today I received confirmation that the Greet Machine Voter's Guide has indeed been placed in the hands of Speaker of the House Steve Sviggum. I can't express to you enough what a thrill this is, although in looking what I have written for Mr. Sviggum himself it appears I have a little updating to do. I'm still confident in the votes I have predicted, but my pithy commentary is a little stale. I'm going to try to work on it this weekend.

And speaking of Sviggum, I have heard that he spoke at a breakfast this morning with Senate Majority Leader Dean Johnson, and he said that the Twins and Gophers have stadium priority over the Vikings. I know, this is stunning news, but I thought I would just mention that Sviggum does appear to have the Twins on his mind. I'll take that as a positive, no matter how small it is.

• The more I think about this stadium mess, and how T-Paw screwed the pooch by not getting this bill done last year, the more ticked off I become. Because of this delay, the stadium will cost at least $30 million more? Ouch, ouch, ouch. I can't help but think this will be brought up over and over and over again as we battle through the legislature this year. $30 million. Who is going to pay for it? Probably the County, and for that reason this will be a really sticky issue. Thanks a lot T-Paw.

• More later. I've got some interesting news on the state law that supposedly requires a referendum. It seems there is room for interpretation (as always). Until next time...

Posted by snackeru at 12:52 PM | Comments (2)

February 9, 2006

Ways and Means Committee

UPDATE 2/28/06: I've been informed that Vandeveer and Walker will now vote Yes on the Hennepin County plan. Add that to Dan Larson's yes vote and that brings the total to 22 for and 16 against. Yep, that would do it!

Ouch. Once the stadium bill gets past the Taxes committee (ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!!! that is a good one!) it would have to be passed by the Ways and Means Committee. From what I can tell, this will be another huge battle. It is also where the Pawlenty/Sviggum stadium bill was killed two years ago. Here is the breakdown:

Chair: Jim Knoblach (R) rep.jim.knoblach@house.mn No
Vice Chair: Jerry Dempsey (R) rep.jerry.dempsey@house.mn Yes
Lead-DFL: Loren Solberg (DFL) rep.loren.solberg@house.mn Yes
Jim Abeler (R) rep.jim.abeler@house.mn Yes
Ron Abrams (R) rep.ron.abrams@house.mn No
Irv Anderson (DFL) rep.irv.anderson@house.mn Yes (?)
Michael Beard (R) rep.mike.beard@house.mn Yes
Fran Bradley (R) rep.fran.bradley@house.mn Yes
Mark Buesgens (R) rep.mark.buesgens@house.mn No
Lyndon Carlson (DFL) rep.lyndon.carlson@house.mn No
Karen Clark (DFL) rep.karen.clark@house.mn No
Dan Dorman (R) rep.dan.dorman@house.mn Yes
John Dorn (DFL) rep.john.dorn@house.mn Yes
Ron Erhardt (R) rep.ron.erhardt@house.mn No
Mindy Greiling (DFL) rep.mindy.greiling@house.mn No
Bob Gunther (R) rep.bob.gunther@house.mn Yes
Rod Hamilton (R) rep.rod.hamilton@house.mn Yes
Bill Hilty (DFL) rep.bill.hilty@house.mn Yes
Mary Liz Holberg (R) rep.maryliz.holberg@house.mn No
Thomas Huntley (DFL) rep.thomas.huntley@house.mn Yes
Margaret Anderson Kelliher (DFL) rep.margaret.kelliher@house.mn Yes
Karen Klinzing (R) rep.karen.klinzing@house.mn No
Philip Krinkie (R) rep.phil.krinkie@house.mn No
Dan Larson (DFL) rep.dan.larson@house.mn Yes
Carlos Mariani (DFL) rep.carlos.mariani@house.mn No
Denny McNamara (R) rep.denny.mcnamara@house.mn Yes
Bud Nornes (R) rep.bud.nornes@house.mn Yes
Mary Ellen Otremba (DFL) rep.maryellen.otremba@house.mn No
Dennis Ozment (R) rep.dennis.ozment@house.mn Yes
Michael Paymar (DFL) rep.michael.paymar@house.mn No
Tom Rukavina (DFL) rep.tom.rukavina@house.mn Yes
Connie Ruth (R) rep.connie.ruth@house.mn Yes
Marty Seifert (R) rep.marty.seifert@house.mn No
Steve Smith (R) rep.steve.smith@house.mn No
Barb Sykora (R) rep.barb.sykora@house.mn Yes
Ray Vandeveer (R) rep.ray.vandeveer@house.mn Yes (formerly No)
Jean Wagenius (DFL) rep.jean.wagenius@house.mn No
Neva Walker (DFL) rep.neva.walker@house.mn Yes (formerly No)

19-19 and one unknown. Actually, a couple of unknowns. Again, this is all an educated guess on my part. And I'd like to know how and why after we get done with Krinkie, Abrams, and Knoblach in the Taxes committee we have to see these turkeys again in the Ways and Means Committee! That bums me out.

I'd also be surprised if the stadium bill got out of either committee without a referendum attached. I'm not sure that is a bad thing either. We need to get this bill to the floor of the House. Once it is there I think there would be enough votes to strip off a referendum. Don't get me wrong, I'd love to see this bill fly through without any referendum attached, but every single committe will try to attach one, and then there will be multiple attempts on the floor. It will be fun (?) to watch.

If anyone has any insight on this committee please let me know.

• Secondly, Charley Walters reported yesterday:
Gov. Tim Pawlenty, some legislative leaders, and Hennepin County and Twins officials are expected to meet again next week to continue dialogue about a new ballpark in downtown Minneapolis.

And the beat goes on. Another year, another round of talks. Let's see if anything happens this time.

Posted by snackeru at 9:03 AM | Comments (1)

February 8, 2006

More drivel

• You all probably already saw this, but according to the Pioneer Press:

House Speaker Steve Sviggum, R-Kenyon, said the 2005 bill had the support of 69 House members, enough to guarantee passage if it came to a vote. The DFL-led Senate has been more receptive to stadium bills.

I wonder if some of this calculation is based on the Voter's Guide. I would like to think it is. And speaking of the Voter's Guide, I've been told that it was given to Erik Paulsen, House Majority Leader, at a GOP fundraiser last Friday night as proof that the votes are there to pass a stadium bill in the House. Of course, Erik Paulsen is the main reason there was no special session last summer to deal with this issue. His lobbying against a special session will cost taxpayers millions of extra dollars in increased stadium costs if not for a Twins stadium then certainly for a Gophers stadium.

Thanks Erik! You are a genius!

And speaking of Erik Paulsen, check out this website that he and some other state senators put together for our edification. I pray when the Twins are gone that Mr. Paulsen takes some extreme heat for his stance on this issue.

• You probably already also saw this article concerning Bruce Lambrecht and Rich Pogin of Twinsville fame by Mark Kaszuba of the Star Tribune. I truly can't believe how stupid this article is. First of all, if Lambrecht and Pogin had T-Paw wrapped around their little fingers as the article claims, we would already have a new Twins stadium! For goodness sake, I wish Lambrecht had T-Paw in his pocket!! I wouldn't have to worry about this anymore! Where is the logic in this article?

Secondly, God forbid anyone make money or use their connections in this state. I can't believe how anti-capitalism we are in the great state of Minnesota. What? You mean someone might actually make money? Someone might actually better their life at my expense? No! I won't let this happen! Me, me, me, me me!!!

People make money. People have friends in high places. Neither of these two things are inherently evil! So get over it!

Posted by snackeru at 8:38 AM | Comments (6)

February 7, 2006

I am still not optimistic

UPDATE (2/28/06): I have been informed that Zellers, Erhardt, and Mullery are now going to vote YES on the Hennepin County plan. That brings the vote total to 18 for and 11 against. That would be amazing. Can you imagine if a Twins stadium bill got out of Krinkie's Tax committee unscathed?

I have heard from a connected anonymous source that Hennepin County was not encouraged by the governor's words yesterday.

And while I personally am encouraged that Entenza at least kept the door open giving the stadium plan at least the tepid support of the 4 caucus leaders, there is one thing that needs to be made clear:

T-Paw has to lead!!!!

There is no getting around this. In order for a stadium bill to go through normal legislative protocol, T-Paw is going to have to give it a great deal of support. Normal legislative protocol has a stadium bill going through at least 3 committees before it gets to the floor, and in the case of any stadium bill that means a stop in Krinkie's Taxes Committee. Last year I do not believe the stadium bill would have gotten out of that committee.

You may also be wondering why a bill can't just be pushed onto the floor for a vote. In order for that to happen the legislature would have to vote to suspend normal legislative protocol for that bill and it would take a 2/3 majority. I believe the stadium bill has enough votes to pass, but I don't think it has a 2/3 majority.

So, back to T-Paw. If he wants this bill to at the very least get to the floor he is going to have to put pressure on not only the legislature in general, but also specifically the Taxes committee. Here is the current breakdown for where I see the votes falling in that committee:

Chair: Philip Krinkie (R) rep.phil.krinkie@house.mn No
Vice Chair: Dean Simpson (R) rep.dean.simpson@house.mn Yes
Lead-DFL: Ann Lenczewski (DFL) rep.ann.lenczewski@house.mn No
Ron Abrams (R) rep.ron.abrams@house.mn No
Irv Anderson (DFL) rep.irv.anderson@house.mn Yes
Joe Atkins (DFL) rep.joe.atkins@house.mn Yes
Connie Bernardy (DFL) rep.connie.bernardy@house.mn Yes
Laura Brod (R) rep.laura.brod@house.mn Yes
Gregory M. Davids (R) rep.greg.davids@house.mn No
Jim Davnie (DFL) rep.jim.davnie@house.mn No
Chris DeLaForest (R) rep.chris.delaforest@house.mn No
David Dill (DFL) rep.david.dill@house.mn Yes
Dan Dorman (R) rep.dan.dorman@house.mn Yes
Ron Erhardt (R) rep.ron.erhardt@house.mn Yes (formerly No)
Larry Howes (R) rep.larry.howes@house.mn No
Mike Jaros (DFL) rep.mike.jaros@house.mn No
Jim Knoblach (R) rep.jim.knoblach@house.mn No
Lyle Koenen (DFL) rep.lyle.koenen@house.mn Yes
Paul Kohls (R) rep.paul.kohls@house.mn No
Morrie Lanning (R) rep.morrie.lanning@house.mn Yes
John Lesch (DFL) rep.john.lesch@house.mn No
Paul Marquart (DFL) rep.paul.marquart@house.mn Yes
Joe Mullery (DFL) rep.joe.mullery@house.mn Yes (formerly No)
Peter Nelson (R) rep.peter.nelson@house.mn Yes
Tom Rukavina (DFL) rep.tom.rukavina@house.mn Yes
Katie Sieben (DFL) rep.katie.sieben@house.mn Yes
Ray Vandeveer (R) rep.ray.vandeveer@house.mn Yes
Andrew "Andy" Westerberg (R) rep.andy.westerberg@house.mn Yes
Kurt Zellers (R) rep.kurt.zellers@house.mn Yes (formerly No)

As you can probably tell, no other issue in all of the legislature is as non-partisan as stadium politics. Thanks to some reworking of where I think the votes will fall it appears that the vote in this committee is 15 for and 14 against. However, it is all a guess on my part. If T-Paw can convince a couple of other Republicans it would be a done deal.

And thanks to the Twins recent court victory, I think the pressure is more acute than ever before for our do-nothing governor. Will this be the year? Only if it can get to the floor of the House.

Posted by snackeru at 8:34 AM | Comments (7)

February 3, 2006

A couple of things

This will be completely stream of consciousness ... please forgive me.

• A little birdy tells me that the meeting that was supposed to happen a couple of weeks ago will actually happen this Monday (2/6). The same people are rumored to attend: Opat, Bell, T-Paw, Day, Sviggum, Johnson, and Entenza. And like I said before, my focus will be on Entenza. He is the only one of these people that I still would consider anti-stadium. If he comes out of this meeting even remotely favorable towards a new Twins stadium I will consider it a victory. For example, if he comes out of this meeting and says, "The plan doesn't suck as much as I thought it would," I will take that as a positive.

• Speaking of Entenza, I heard that he was on WCCO radio today talking about the stadium. According to my sources he said that he wanted to study any new plan in detail before making any judgements. A step in the right direction, I think.

Again, if T-Paw can get Entenza on board that would mean he would have the Speaker of the House, the Minority Leader of the House, the Majority Leader of the Senate, and the Minority Leader of the Senate all in favor of the Hennepin County plan. That would be a nice little coalition. Right now T-Paw has 3 out of 4.

• T-Paw was on WCCO radio last week again touting St. Paul as a better location for a new Twins ballpark. I have no problem with St. Paul being the new home of the Twins, but Governor ... they have no plan. And any plan they do promote will have to include state money. The 3% stadium tax Kelly promoted would not be able to raise the same amount of money a .01% tax would be able to raise in Hennepin County.

Is Coleman even that gung ho about a new stadium in St. Paul? My impression is no. Jim in St. Paul, if you are reading this, help me out with this. Would you take a stadium in Hennepin County right now over the possibilty of the Twins giving up and packing it in? Or do you prefer waiting for another chance for St. Paul?

• Unfortunately, however, as we all know any chance we have relies on T-Paw taking a stand. In fact, it would probably come down to T-Paw playing the bonding bill card ala Arne Carlson and saying, "I won't sign until a Twins stadium bill is approved." How likely is that? Not very.

I was talking with another stadium expert today when I asked him, "What chances do we really have this year? Less than 50?" And he looked at me and said, "The chances are better in 2006 than 2007." What he means by this is that the Hennepin County plan, the Twins desire to try again, the governor's even tepid support ... none of these will probably be the same in 2007.

• However, it seems we do have some reason for optimism. I have heard that stadium supporters might be happy with the outcome of Monday's meeting, for whatever reason. We'll see.

• And I can't believe I didn't write about this before, but last week was our Cub Scout Pack's Pinewood Derby. As you can see below, my son came in second out of about 40 cars! We both were thrilled, especially my son, but I was really happy too because I worked really hard on that car! It was a nice way for my son to end his Cub Scout career. He gets the Arrow of Light later this month.


Posted by snackeru at 8:02 AM | Comments (4)

February 2, 2006

I choose anger!

Someone just sent me a picture of this huge sign that sits on the outskirts of the Rapid Park ballpark stadium site in downtown Minneapolis.

I have a number of emotions when looking at this picture. Hope. Sadness. Hapiness ... and anger. I choose anger!


Anger is a good emotion for me today. It is better than "woe is me" depression. Why? Because I can blame other people for my problems! Anti-stadium people! Bah! A pox on all your houses!

There, I feel better now. Hope again springs eternal. I'm sorry you had to witness that.

Posted by snackeru at 2:38 PM | Comments (2)

Winter Blues

What the heck is going on? I think winter is getting to me. Nothing is exciting. Nothing is worth writing about. It is all the same: get up, go to work, slave away, go home, do something else, go to bed, repeat. Where is the fire? Where is the life? Nothing. Just mundane monotony.

Quite frankly, I think my pessimism over this year's stadium bill chances is really bumming me out. And the goofy thing about that is, why? Why should this year be any different? It never works out! I should be used to it by now, but I guess I'm not.

My only hope to bring me out of these doldrums is winning the $180 million Powerball jackpot this weekend. That is the only thing that will make me happier. If I don't win, there is no telling what depths of depression I will enter. Wish me luck.

Posted by snackeru at 8:59 AM | Comments (4)

February 1, 2006

Links of the day

Busy, busy. Enjoy these links!

Posted by snackeru at 8:21 AM | Comments (6)

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