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Archive for February, 2008

The Donuts Have Left The State

donut shopThere’s 1,000 calories I no longer have to burn out of my system any more. Seems Krispy Kreme donuts pulled out of Minnesota. First, the store in the famed Mall of America was shuttered. Next came the Eden Prairie location. Those both closed in 2007.

Then, suddenly, the first location to ever open in Minnesota was boarded up…signs removed, fixtures no doubt unbolted and loaded up on trucks with a south-of-the-Mason-Dixon-line forwarding address.

To be honest, I’ve not eaten a Krispy Kreme donut for years. Even though I lived just a couple miles from the famed Maple Grove location. The same location that, when first opened, drew crowds in the thousands every day. Local police had to manage traffic. Shuttle buses carted people to the KK parking lot from distant shopping center parking lots. It was…hilarious.

I mean seriously, is it worth standing in line for hours to wolf down fat pills the size of your fist? Proudly, I never waited in line for the specialty donut.

I’m sure the executive management team at Krispy Kreme is carefully evaluating its strategy for growth. As it was, at least for the Minnesota locations, this proved to be one fad that wore out its welcome almost as fast as the dough could rise.

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In my busy life of work, parenting and doing other things that I enjoy equally when not working or parenting, I make time to connect with friends from my past. Two or three times a year I have lunch with one of my high school friends. Craig and I were friends from the time we attended kindergarten at Lincoln Elementary School all the way through high school. We have continued to stay in touch for the past 24 years of our lives – through marriages, children, jobs, and other events.

Today at one of our occasional lunches, we got on the topic of the relevance of good teaching and how several teachers from our high school years impacted our lives in positive ways. For example, our high school band teacher seriously helped to form our young minds and teach us about the importance of showing up in life, doing our best and taking pride in everything we touched. To do this day, that teacher continues to take great pride in hearing and seeing the successes of the students he taught.

Unfortunately, a vast majority of teachers sitting in front of classrooms today are unfamiliar with this concept. It’s a disservice to the kids who they teach and, what’s more, it’s their own poor attitude that helps to propagate the negative behaviors found in classrooms and schools throughout the country.

There are likely hundreds of reasons excuses for the attitudes and philosophies teachers have adopted or evolved to since the early ’80s when I was a high school student. There are, no doubt, endless piles of theories on what makes a good teacher today. But I’ll share with you one parent’s view on what makes a poor teacher.

What makes a poor teacher is when sheer laziness becomes the standard operating procedure. When simple basics, like having due dates for homework assignments, aren’t adhered to and when penalties for late or missing work aren’t levied. Teachers have forgotten what life in the real world is like when all they do is coddle their students and tell them, “Just hand in those missing assignments before the semester ends and you’ll receive credit.”
What happened to rules, authority and setting examples? What happened to expectations and ramifications of poorly done or incomplete work? What happened to teaching kids not just an algebra equation, chemical formula, or how to interpret Shakespeare’s sonnets but the importance of showing up (on time), giving a damn and being responsible?

Sure, as a parent I teach and mentor my kids on morality, ethics and the concept of how hard work pays off. And, in time, these lessons will rub off on my two teens. But when I was a kid in school these lessons were taught and reinforced by the teachers who gave a damn – the ones I spent six-plus hours a day listening to in the classroom. When I arrived home after school, I was often given more attention from two parents who – say it with me – gave a damn about the work I did (or didn’t) do at school.

It’s a soapbox that’s ready to crumble thanks to how our society has “evolved.” Unfortunately, this evolution to learning that we’ve adopted will be the formula to which our future becomes unhinged.

Satisfaction with mediocrity: What do we have to be proud of any more? What do we have to look forward to as the next generation enters their career path with a “who cares” attitude?

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Wordplay – Somnambulant

Som-nam-bu-lant: to walk as if asleep.

Former Nebraska Cornhusker head football coach, Tom Osborne, has a set jaw and stoic manner that famously makes him look somnambulant.

Wordplay went on hiatus, didn’t it. But when I read this line from story in the New York Times, I just had to add it to the Wordplay files. It’s truly a pompous-ass word for the basic and easy-t0-comprehend term, sleep walking. It’s also a word that make you focus on the placement of the tongue to enunciate each syllable.  Say it three times fast. C’mon. Say it!

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Did you notice how few words the Coen brothers had for the masses on the Oscars Sunday night?

Their movie, “No Country for Old Men,” (NCFOM) won four major awards including two directly attributable to the St. Paul St. Louis Park, Minn., writing duo who also won an Academy Award for their original work, “Fargo,” but they barely could get out a thank you to the millions watching the tome-length, dinosaur-ish awards show.

I’m a fan of Coen movies from the get go. “Raising Arizona,” “Fargo,” “O Brother Where Art Thou?” and NCFOM all could easily make my top 100 list of all-time favorite flicks. The brothers got game when it comes to adaptations of Cormac McCarthy’s novels or writing their own schtuff.

And apparently they still have a little Minnesota Modesty within them from their hometown roots, which keep them slightly bashful and soft spoken on the stage and in the lights of their peers (imagine giving an acceptance speech with Jack friggin’ Nicholson sitting 10 feet away from you). So saying a simple, “Thank You,” seems to fit quite well…even given their mighty success.

As for the Oscar production itself, the show’s host, John Stewart, did his best to keep it light but the pure length and boring productions make it impossible to really enjoy. And the songs nominated this year all blew chunks. The only real surprise of the night was Tilda Swinton’s best supporting actress award for her character in one of my favorite movies of the year, “Michael Clayton.” Swinton was humorous and charming accepting the award – which clearly surprised her as well.

Now I’m off to my first screen-writing class. Since the Coen’s have their mantel full of Oscar, I’ll let that Midwestern modesty work its magic on me.

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A co-worker shared a live version of this song with me recently and, while Mr. Nutini, is still a very young artist, he’s got some skillz and sings this version with the same emotion and strength that a David Gray, John Mayer or Jason Mraz would give.

Lyrics:

Slow down, lie down
Remember it’s just you and me
Don’t sell out, bow out
Remember how this used to be

I just want you closer
Is that alright?
Baby, let’s get closer tonight

Grant my last request and just let me hold you
Don’t shrug your shoulders
Lay down beside me
Sure I can accept that we’re going nowhere
But one last time let’s go there
Lay down beside me

Oh, and I’ve found, that I’m bound
To wander down that one way road.
And I realize all about your lies
And I’m no wiser than the fool I was before.

I just want you closer,
Is that alright?
Baby let’s get closer tonight

Grant my last request and just let me hold you
Don’t shrug your shoulders
Lay down beside me
Sure I can accept that we’re going nowhere
But one last time let’s go there
Oh lay down beside me

Oh, baby, baby, baby,
Tell me how can…how can this be wrong?

Grant my last request and just let me hold you
Don’t shrug your shoulders
Lay down beside me
Sure I can accept that we’re going nowhere
But one last time let’s go there
Lay down beside me (x2)

Grant my last request and just let me hold you

Yeah, lay down beside me.

One last time let’s go there,
Lay down beside me

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In training for a triathlon, there are a few things you just gotta do. Swim, bike, run. These are the legs and the training has to support event day. So I swim, bike and run.

LakeHOf the three legs, running sucks the most. I’m 6’2″ and I still carry with me about 15 extra pounds of winter weight. So running wreaks havoc on my system. But, it’s getting easier.

Today, for example, on a beautiful, crisp winter morning, I circled Lakes Harriet and Calhoun near downtown Minneapolis. Six and a half miles in just over an hour. Not a time to brag about, but that is the longest distance I’ve traveled yet this year on these legs.

Running may not be my forte, but on a great training morning who am I to complain?

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Guys, you know you want to…live as long as possible that is. From the moment we realize we’re not invincible (wait, you have realized you’re mortal, right? It usually happens around the age of 30), we start making attempts to extend our lives.

First we do all we can to stay young. We exercise. We get cool haircuts. We take sideways glances at GQ magazine in the bookstore, looking for ways to dress with style. Admit it, we let a little vanity slip in and we actually think that 50-ish guy in the Corvette convertible doesn’t look bad (except for the double chin and flabby ear lobes).

Next, we turn to late night infomercials and the Web to help us extend our lives. We admire Chuck Norris and his exercise contraption. We go online and search for the magic bullet of health.

There’s good news, my friends. A recent story in The New York Times focused on a study that shows how men can live past 90 and maintain good health along the way – versus simply relying on good genes and good luck.

Here are the five steps researchers found to help men live into our 90s:

  1. Abstain from smoking
  2. Maintain a healthy weight
  3. Control blood pressure
  4. Exercise regularly
  5. Avoid diabetes

Sounds rather easy, don’t you think? AND it makes perfect sense. If you smoke, are fat, have high blood pressure and don’t exercise, you’ll likely get diabetes. And if you get diabetes you’re going to face all kinds of chronic health conditions, which will ultimately kill you.

But if you kick the smoking habit, drop a few pounds, exercise, keep the blood pressure within a normal range, and exercise three days a week you’re going to fend off all kinds of diseases including diabetes, heart disease, various forms of cancer, and more.

We all want to live. But living long and living well are the keys to life people! The last thing I want is to be a 75-year-old, size 42 waist, oxygen dependent, insulin pumping, red-faced bag of bones.

The good news is that I’m already abiding by the five steps that will help me get to 90 and beyond.

Meet me in another 38 years for a game of checkers?

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Eclipsed

It’s been a busy couple of days.

Obama continues to eclipse his competition through states like Wisconsin and his home state of Hawaii. If he scores well in Texas and Ohio…well, that should seal the nomination for him.

The deep freeze continues to eclipse Minnesota. Last night the low dipped to -11 degrees F. Tonight, I stumbled out with full coat and head protection so I could stand in the driveway and watch the lunar eclipse. It was a perfectly clear night, which also meant it was perfectly friggin’ cold. Two minutes was about all I managed to stand, but it was enough to see a great eclipse of the moon…something that won’t happen again until 2011.

I’ve always been fascinated by certain constellations that form the shape of a “w” and the moon. For all the poetry that exists about the  moon and the stars, there simply isn’t anything that really trumps these objects – out of reach, but enabling us to feel so very connected just when we need it most.

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If my mind wasn’t made up a week ago, it is signed and sealed now.

Billary has come slashing at Barack following a stump speech in which Obama used some familiar words by his friend, Massachusett’s Governor Deval Patrick. The Financial Times reports on the story, but in a nutshell, Mr. Obama said:

Don’t tell me words don’t matter,” Mr Obama said in the passage borrowed from Mr Patrick. “I have a dream – just words? We hold these truths to be self-evident – just words? We have nothing to fear but fear itself – just words?”

BillaryBillary took issue with Obama’s using the excerpt from a speech made two years ago. Billary. The “let’s make this campaign all about the issues,” candidate. The “I’ve got the experience to win,” candidate. The “Words in speeches are just words. I’m the candidate who will actually DO something in office,” candidate.

I’m humored because, my friends, what do animals do when they’re angry and injured? They lash out. They go into defense mode, bite and claw at anything and everything that gets within reach. Billary is in defense mode. She’s losing ground. She’s fading. And, like any bad candidate will do, she’ll get in the ditch and start shoveling shit until she can no longer keep up with the sewers.

She’s gonna be up to her nose in it. And meanwhile she’s losing the votes that she had in a lock just months ago – women in their 60s.

Yep. My mind is made up. Billary is just another politico. Hope for change? Making a difference? Restoring some pride in the U.S.? Politics not as usual? It starts and ends with one candidate.

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Spencer High School gave me an education that took me places. Places even my high school guidance counselor didn’t think I’d go. In fact, upon reviewing my ACT score, my guidance counselor sat me down and, I shit you not, he said, “You should probably think about a vo-tech school for when you graduate.”

So I didn’t have the best of ACT results. That didn’t stop me.

Upon graduating high school, right in the middle of a class consisting of 176 seniors, I went with my best high school friends to the University of Iowa. Once there, I proceeded to have one of the blurriest years of my life. Twelve months later I was sitting out the fall semester at home contemplating my future. I did go back to Iowa…for a semester, which was much better educationally for me.

Finally, in Dec. 1988, I graduated from a small liberal arts college, Buena Vista University. I, proudly, finished in the top third of my class with a grade point north of 3.5. I had made the freakin’ Dean’s list on several occasions. So eat that, my high school guidance counselor.

Why the trip down Educational Lane?

Yesterday in The New York Times, an article entitled: Dumb and Dumber: Are Americans Hostile To Knowledge, suggested that here in the U.S. there’s an anti-intellectual movement. The writer’s theory was that cases like the Miss Teen U.S.A. fiasco last year and American Idol blonde bimbo Kellie Pickler (who had never heard of the city Budapest when questioned on the show, “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader”) serve as proof that kids today view education as a pox. The Times article states:

Ms. Jacoby…doesn’t zero in on a particular technology or emotion, but rather on what she feels is a generalized hostility to knowledge. She is well aware that some may tag her a crank. “I expect to get bashed,” said Ms. Jacoby, 62, either as an older person who upbraids the young for plummeting standards and values, or as a secularist whose defense of scientific rationalism is a way to disparage religion.

A hostility to knowledge?

I’m not buying it. I think throughout time some kids take issue with books and education while others soak it up like a sponge. That doesn’t mean kids and young adults today are anti-intellectual. Are they different than the kids I went to school with in the ’80s? Why yes. Yes they are. Just as I was different than my Dad or Mom as a young adult. And they were different than my grandparents. And so on. And so on. And so on.

Plus, let’s face it, while the vast majority of us should be able to find Hungary on a world map, how imperative is it to our daily living that we know its capitol city? For trivia questions, maybe, it’s significant. But with all the pages of history that have been added to the history books since the ’70s, do we expect next generations to know every detail of every worldly event that’s happened since the dawn of time?

Please!!! A little bit of reality with that reality show!.

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