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Archive for October, 2008

Campus Visits

Today found me cruising west on I-94 to the far reaches of Minnesota – Moorhead to be exact. In Moorhead sits a small liberal arts college, Concordia, that held potential as a college of choice for my high school senior. It’s not the first campus visit. It won’t be the last.

While Concordia sits on a nice campus with nice students and a nice admissions counselor named Joe, the college’s offerings didn’t quite leave my high school senior with warm fuzzies all over. Who knows, maybe it was the 200 mile drive (one way). Or perhaps it was the idea of spending four years of a young life tromping around a campus in Moorhead, where winter temperatures dip well below zero. Whatever the issue, the key is feeling the fit.

It’s like a relationship. You either feel the click and the a-ha when walking through the campus tour or you don’t. And if you don’t, you don’t force it.

More campus visits to come and she will find the one that leaves her wanting to return and learn.

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Job I Wouldn’t Want to Have

Assistant manager at a bowling alley. The shoes!

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Monday Mix

Will The Real Jackass Please Stand Up?

In today’s New York Times, a fascinating account of the man who created the sensationalized rumors about Barack Obama – Andy Martin. Mr. Martin, himself, it seems has the sordid past. A law school grad who was denied by the Illinois Bar due to obvious mental stability issues, Martin turned to filing “a prolific” number of frivolous lawsuits as a way to gain some notoriety with the news media. He also failed three times in efforts to achieve public office. In spite of his failures in life, he successfully used his access with the news media to begin a contrived and mean-spirited attack on Senator Obama.  He professes Obama is Muslim, which of course he is not. But, as gossip and rumors will do, the Internet has helped Martin spread his lies – reaching the outlying areas of U.S. creating fear, uncertainty and doubt among our very own family and friends and neighbors. Here in Minnesota, many living in “greater Minnesota” – the rural areas and exurbia, especially retirees and skeptics – buy Martin’s slander hook line and sinker.

I encourage each of us to reach out to our neighbors who have heard the Senator Obama stories and accepted them as truth. They don’t have to vote for the Democrat next month if their ideals don’t mirror this candidate’s concepts for rebuilding America. But they should hear from someone they know and trust who can help quell their fears that Obama has anything but America’s best interests in mind. It’s our right to vote and our civic duty to learn and discuss the facts with our friends and neighbors – and to be informed as best we can when we cast our ballots.

Fleeting Fall

Autumn’s longevity in Minnesota seems to get shorter each and every year.  For the past decade I’ve lived here, Fall’s fleeting weeks have turned into what seems like a few days.  Thanks to Mother Nature’s great invention – photosynthesis – and an adequate amount of rain through the summer months, the spectacularness of Autumn has been particularly eye-popping this year. But, even after a balmy weekend in October in which the colors of the trees were more than photo worthy, today (this morning) Fall seems over. Leaves have piled in the yards and in the streets, on the lakes and streams and rivers – stacks of yellow and red – blankets just begging children to leap into the massive bed and roll around in laughter. Back in my childhood, one annual game conducted by the neighborhood kids each Autumn was to build a leaf house. Rakes in hand, we architected rooms, hallways and furniture – all carefully carved out with leaves in patterns on the ground. In our imaginary houses, we lived for the afternoon and as evening fell we’d shut the windows and doors of our “homes” only to wake up in the morning and realize the wind had literally blown our leaf houses into the neighbors yard.  Today heavy rain drops strike the remaining leaves still hanging on to their branches with all the strength left in them,  which isn’t much. One strong northerly wind yet to come and this year’s Fleeting Fall will be a memory.

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Friday evening found me at The FItzgerald Theater in St. Paul, Minn., for an evening of “A Prairie Home Companion,” you know, Garrison Keillor’s public radio program that airs live around the country. Lake Wobegon? A Hollywood movie of the same title was made several years ago starring Keillor, Merrill Streep and several other big name actors. Does any of this ring a bell?

Anyway, we sat in the first balcony and watched Keillor (who must be 65 by now, but looks only 45 from a distance) do his show with his posse of musicians, actors and others. The show is highly entertaining in and of itself. From one word guy to another, Keillor still has it goin’ on with the writing and story telling.

But the highlight of the evening was hearing the music of Nick Lowe. Lowe, if you don’t know, is a musician, singer, songwriter from London and has written some very memorable tunes…stuff like “Cruel to be Kind,” and “What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace, Love and Understanding.” While these songs left a mark on the music world, the best news is this: Lowe still has all the talent from back in the day and then some.  On Friday evening he performed, masterfully, “The Beast in Me,” a song he originally wrote for Johnny Cash. He also sang, “I Read A Lot,” and “When I Write the Book.” His voice, the lyrics and the performance won’t be forgotten by this Guy Noir.  (Oh come on! Google Garrison Keillor and you’ll get it.)

Here’s Lowe with Elvis Costello singing “What’s So Funny…” together a few years ago.

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The News Hour with Jim Lehrer has a great interactive map of the U.S. that shows how each state will likely vote in the upcoming presidential election. Check it out here:

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/vote2008/primaries/states/

What a great tool to stay on top of the swing states that Obama and McCain are fighting for in the next three weeks. I won’t be surprised in the least to see blue dominating the map on Nov. 5 when all the precincts have reported. This is not going to be a “winning by the skin of his teeth” election year.

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McCain-Palin: Who Are They?

As the McCain-Palin campaign makes attempts to associate Barack Obama with an anti-war figure and activist who conducted himself questionably back in the 1960s (when Obama was an eight-year-old boy), the obvious question now begged is who are John McCain and Sarah Palin?

Online searches provide lots of fodder. The following info comes from reports in the Arizona Republic newspaper, the web site truthout.org and from an article written by Jonathan Raban as published in the London Review of Books.

Who is John McCain?

  • Divorced and married Cindy Hensley (17 years his junior) whom he met in Hawaii while separated from his first wife. Hensley lived in Arizona, John did not, although he would move there and run for senate successfully as an Arizona resident – winning election three times. The Hensley family money gave McCain the cachet and political career he coveted.
  • As an Arizona resident and senator, McCain “is infamous throughout his home state as someone who studiously avoids mixing with the little people.”
  • First made national headlines in the late ’80s as part of the Keating Five, a group of senators who lobbied in defense of a failing savings-and-loan company under investigation during the S&L scandals. Charles Keating made a $112,000 contribution to McCain and paid for his trips to the Bahamas.
  • McCain’s office in D.C. is believed to be the source of leaks that undermined fellow senators including Dennis DeConcini of Arizona and GOP senator Warren Rudman.
  • Major legislative accomplishment – the McCain-Feingold Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act. In early ’08, McCain reversed his position on campaign finance reform and told the Federal Election Committee that he would not abide by primary spending limits. He faces severe financial penalities for doing so.
  • His old campaign finance reform allies introduced a bill in 2006 to shore up the public financing of presidential campaigns, which McCain supported in 2003 but failed to support more recently.
  • He initially voted against Bush tax cuts, he now supports extending them.
  • On abortion, he said In 1999 he would not support the repeal of Roe v. Wade. In 2006, he said its repeal, “…wouldn’t bother me any.” He also no longer supports adding rape-and-incest exceptions to the GOP platform that opposes abortion.
  • He has backpeddled on the issue of torture, first speaking against certain methods of interrogation and then assisting in a bill that gave the White House power to ignore the Geneva Convention if it wished.
  • If elected, McCain will turn 73 years old seven months into his first term.
  • On the War in Iraq, he has said that a hundred-year U.S. presence in the country would be “fine with me.” On the  Middle East, he said in April ’08, “…people should understand that I will be Hamas’s worst nightmare.”
  • On Healthcare, his plan is based on a $5,000 tax cut for families that would cover less than half the cost of today’s average family health-care plan and lead to high deductibles and greater risk. He pays for the plan by taxing individuals for the healthcare benefit paid by their employers, normally twice the healthcare premium paid by individuals.
  • His economic policy supports spending cuts in a way that will destablize Social Security and Medicare.
  • He supports appointing John Roberts and Samuel Alito as Supreme Court judges should he win the Presidency.
  • He has a temper and his sarcasm is also condescending often engaging in inappropriate joke telling and self-deprecation. In 1992, his wife, Cindy, teased John about his thinning hair in front of reporters, to which he said aloud, “At least I don’t plaster on the makeup like a trollop, you cunt.”
  • In May 2006, he delivered the commencement address at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA.

Who is Sarah Palin?

  • She drifted through five colleges before securing a degree in journalism from the University of Idaho.
  • Residents of Wasilla, Alaska, where Palin served as mayor, refer to her term in the city’s highest office as a regin of terror. Upon election she demanded the resignation letters from all city department heads. City employees were banned from speaking to the media and she provoked a string of appalled editorials in the local paper.
  • She surrounded herself with fellow congregants from the Pentecostalist Wasilla Aseembly of God church and with old school chums from Wasilla High.
  • She abolished building codes and re-zoned residential property for commercial use.
  • Her agenda was to pare down Wasilla to “the basic necessities, the bare bones,” but she instead spent $50,000 to redecorate the mayor’s office and another $24,000 on a Chevy Suburban she drove known as the mayormobile.
  • She hired a city manager do run day-to-day operations of the city and employed a D.C. lobbyist to promote the town’s ever-expanding list of claims for congressional pork barrel spending.
  • Backed by her fans at the Assembly of God church, she “suggested” to the city librarian that unsuitable books like “Daddy’s Roommate,” and “Pastor, I’m Gay,” be removed from the library. She backtracked later saying it was a “rhetorical question,” (she meant hypothetical).
  • Elected as governor of Alaska in 2006, she went to Juneau and started firing state officials from the attorney general on down, replacing them with malleable old friends from her church and high school.
  • She focuses on connecting with the surly mass of occassional, floating voters who feel themselves to have been disenfranchised by more orthodox politicians.
  • She views science including evolution, anthropogenic climate changed and wildlife management as the enemy of working-class jobs, contentiously advocating drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and fighting the listing of the polar bear as an endangered species.  The director of the national widlife refuge in Alaska said her motto is, “to cut, kill, dig and drill. She is in the stone age of wildlife management.”
  • She further endeared herself to her Evangelical friends saying that “intelligent design” should be taught along with evolution in the state’s public schools. She later declined to back a bill which would have made that teaching mandatory.
  • She charged the state a $60 per diem for living in her own house in Wasilla while serving as governor.

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Weezer rocked the house on Friday, Oct. 3 at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.  As if hearing the band perform its hits including Beverly Hills, Islands In The Sun, El Scorcho, Troublemaker, and Perfect Situation wasn’t enough, it also happened to be my son’s first-ever concert.

We sat in a suite far away from the mosh pit on the floor and enjoyed the ramp up provided by the Tokyo Police Club and Angels & Airwaves. Weezer owned the stage for a solid 90 minutes and put on an awesome show with humor, great guitar and a hootenanny consisting of more than 30 local musicians.

Here’s Weezer and the bands video for “Pork and Beans.”  Betcha recognize more than one familiar YouTube face…

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This made my morning.

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