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Wide White: January 2010

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Persistence does not always pay off

A financial representative from Northwestern Mutual called me last January trying to sell me life insurance or any other financial products he thought I may need.

I told him that we were already in the final stages of getting a new policy through Thrivent Financial and that we were happy with that policy. He was a little pushy, using the by-the-book tactic of, "Does this Friday work for lunch?" I said it didn't. He proceeded to offer a few more dates that I said didn't work before I had to put my foot down and say that nothing worked because I wasn't interested. I even left a follow-up voicemail a couple of days later for him confirming once and for all that we were happy with our current policy and didn't want to switch.

For the next year, he kept calling. I always knew it was him because it was the same number on my caller ID. He called my work line every time. I have no idea how he got my work number since it isn't published anywhere. He told me that he was a friend of a guy that I went to college with. I don't know how that was supposed to help since I wasn't very close to that guy. I even followed up with that college guy - a guy who definitely wouldn't have had my work number - and he said he'd never given him my information either, though he did have a policy with him.

I thought that with starting a new job two and a half weeks ago I was in the clear. Marcus would no longer be contacting me since there's no way he'd have my new work number!

I was wrong.

Last week, I got another call from him. Once again, I ignored the call.

Today, I got another call from him. This time I picked up, said, "Stop calling me," and hung up.

I'm hoping the message stuck this time around...

Friday, January 22, 2010

Keeping the Heart of the City prettier than the Rest of the City

Browsing the Burnsville City Council's worksession minutes from 1/12/2010, I was happy to see a reconstruction project for Burnsville Parkway listed. The $9.65 million price tag is going to be tough to swallow, but the street is in terrible shape and is in major need of improvement.

However, I was perplexed by one portion of the recommendations in particular to which the council agreed:
Burnsville Parkway/Pleasant Avenue - Burnsville Parkway HOC DRC Recommendations
  1. Replace colored concrete intersections with bituminous (blacktop) pavement except for Nicollet Avenue
a. Partial removal necessary for underground improvements
b. DRC didn’t feel colored intersections provide as much appeal as other aesthetic elements on Burnsville Parkway
c. DRC feels that the color fades with time
d. Bituminous intersections would reduce project cost by estimated $80,000
e. Bituminous intersections would reduce project time and provide better access during construction
f. Ride quality would improve with no material change at intersections
  • Council consensus to move forward with the recommendation
So, blacktop is cheaper and doesn't fade and there are more aesthetically pleasing options than colored concrete, but we're still going to use the more expensive colored concrete at the intersection with Nicollet Avenue?

Can you think of any reason we might do that?

First, let's be honest: colored pavement IS more aesthetically pleasing - at least when it's brand new. Never mind the additional expense upfront and the fading in the future. It's got a prettier finish for at least the first few years.

Second, let's not forget: this is the Heart of the City we're talking about here. Part of keeping Mayor Kautz's playground beautiful is spending whatever is necessary to, well, beautify it.

Here's what this intersection looks like now from the ground:

View Larger Map

Can you imagine the horror if that were all black?!?!

Yeah, I wouldn't care either. (And for what it's worth, I go through it a few times every day.)

This is what sucks about the Heart of the City. We'll continue to invest more money in the Heart of the City than we will in what we might as well dub the Rest of the City. It's wrong and it sucks.

I hope I'm wrong. I hope there's a really compelling reason to use colored concrete in this intersection other than pure beautification.

But I can't imagine any other reason for the additional expense.

Burnsville Parkway currently has colored concrete at its intersections with Aldrich, Gateway, Pleasant, Pillsbury, Nicollet, and Eagle Ridge. Based on the suggested savings of $80,000 that eliminating colored concrete from 5 of these intersections would bring, colored concrete costs an additional $16,000 per intersection over blacktop. In case you've forgotten, our police department needs $18,000 to maintain its canine unit. Settle with blacktop at Nicollet and you're just $2,000 $700 short. I'm just saying...

Oh, and in case you're wondering, the aesthetically pleasing element that is being suggested to compensate for the lost colored concrete intersection at Eagle Ridge is street lights. I'm not sure how something used only at night during the parkway's hours of least usage is more aesthetically pleasing than something everyone would see during the day. I do know that 10.4% of the construction of the street will be paid for with property assessments, while 65% of the street lights will be paid for with assessments. Take that for what it's worth.

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Friday, January 15, 2010

Observational honesty and tact

With the impending birth of my first two children upon me, there are a number of things my wife and I are often told:

1. You'll be great parents!
2. You look great! (My wife, not me.)

Soon, another will surely be added to the list:

3. Your babies look beautiful!

(Notice the exclamation point at the end of each of these statements. The exclamation point is essential. Each statement's full effect would be lost without it. I mean, "it!")

I often wonder, for every positive comment I hear, how many negative comments are withheld?

How many people are really thinking:

1. They're what?!? They're going to be parents? Oh boy...
2. She looks like a beached whale! I feel so bad for her!! And wow is he putting on the sympathy weight!
3. Uff da, that is one - strike that, two ugly babies! Granted, they do carry their dad's genes, but I would have thought at least a few of their mom's genes would have kicked in by now. Poor kids...

What I'd give to hear the comments that are withheld! But I know I'm thankful - and my wife is doubly thankful - for the tact that most people have.

90% of kids are ugly when they're first born. 100% of parents screw up. Feel free to let loose with me. Besides, with twins, you can always balance out the negative comment about one with a positive (if untruthful) comment about the other!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Who is the best and fastest Twin Cities news source?

On Twitter, that is.

I like reading my news through Twitter. I get a quick headline and if it intrigues me, I can click on the link to read more.

But the Twin Cities are full of choices for local news. Which news feeds should you follow? Which ones are just full of clutter? Which delivery the news the fastest?

I'm forging ahead with a very unscientific exercise: follow every Twin Cities news source I can find and see who delivers the best news.

Factors will include:

1. Who posts first
2. Who posts the most breaking news
3. Whose overall posts are most relevant (in other words, is there a ton of white noise to sift through to get to the big, breaking news, or is it a feed with enough other relevant content to make it worth following?)

I don't know how long this will last, but I'm hoping to make it through at least the end of January.

While the third factor in my list is fairly subjective, the other two aren't.

Here are the feeds I'm following for this:

Star Tribune (@MN_news)
Pioneer Press (@pioneerpress)
WCCO (@wccobreaking)
KARE (@kare11)
KSTP (@kstp)
KMSP (@myfox9)
WCCO AM (@wcco830)

I realize there are others. The Star Tribune has WAY too many Twitter feeds to keep track of, which is a major annoyance. I'm following the one most commonly used by them, but they also use a few others, including @minn_news and @startribune. (For reference, 7 of the 8 news stories I've tracked so far have been posted by @startribune; all 8 were posted by @MN_news, with only one story breaking on @startribune before @MN_news.)

Additionally, I did not include news aggregators like @twincitieslocal or @MinnesotaNews since they simply spew an endless stream of links to other sites. I also removed regional feeds focusing only on one area of the Twin Cities metro as well as organizations that don't focus as much on breaking news (@minnpost, for example).

The goal here is not to follow those who post the best investigative stories. We're talking about breaking news where it's as simple as typing, "Here's what just happened." In other words, if I stuck my head out of the window, I would have seen the same thing. I just need you to tell me about it so I know that it happened too.

I've been tracking this since January 1st and the results have been interesting. So far, the Star Tribune (@MN_news), KARE 11 (@kare11), and WCCO AM (@wcco830) are leading the pack, with Fox 9 (@myfox9) trailing far behind everyone else.

More comprehensive totals will come at the conclusion of this little game. If I'm missing any good local Twitter news feeds, let me know.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Chet and Priscilla

I spent last weekend in Wyoming being a groomsman for the wedding of my brother Chet and his new wife Priscilla.

I spent a solid ~200 hours over the last few months before the wedding putting a video together for their reception. It contains pictures of each of them growing up and pictures and video of them together.

I realize this won't mean a thing to a lot of you so feel free to ignore this post.

But for those who know Chet and Priscilla and would like to see it, here it is.

(You can view it in full screen by clicking the box at the bottom right of the window to the left of the menu. The video starts with pictures of Chet, with Priscilla's pictures starting at 6:39 and the section of them together beginning at 11:54.)

To tweet or not to tweet

I ran a post back in April called "Why I don't tweet." I resisted Twitter for a long time.

My primary reason for not tweeting was:
Could my life possibly be interesting enough to warrant "tweets" every two hours with a maximum of 140 characters letting everyone know...well, nothing, really.

For me, the answer is a clear and resounding NO!!

(NOTE: if I am tweeting in 2 months, this post can and must be held against me...)
Well, that post can be held against me. You can find me at

I first opened a Twitter account this summer because my pastor started tweeting and I wanted to follow him. I hardly used it for my own posts for a number of months. A few things have lead me to increasingly use Twitter.

1. I don't post updates every 2 hours and don't follow those who do. Like Facebook updates, it's pretty worthless if you waste your time with that.
2. It's a great way to follow the news. I subscribe to a few news sources that post headlines with links to their stories.
3. It's a great source of comic relief. I follow a few comedians who help brighten each day.
4. I get spiritual encouragement from my pastor and others who I respect.
5. Organizing those I follow into lists and using HootSuite has helped keep it simple and reduces potential for a lot of noise.

Those are the first 5 reasons that come to mind anyway. I do follow a few friends too and use it to a small extent as an alternative to Facebook status updates, but that's not the majority of my usage so far.

And I haven't started using it to drive traffic to my blog. Hmm...I may have to try that next.

I just have to make sure it doesn't turn into this:

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

For those following the story of the Japanese whalers who rammed the boat of an anti-whaling group, here's video of the confrontation.

CNN has additional video from another angle.

As you can see, the whalers were using water cannons on the anti-whalers. As you can hear, the anti-whalers were blasting the whalers with high-powered noisemakers. They also often throw stink bombs at ships or tangle their propellers with ropes.

Make your own assessment of who's right and wrong here and whether the whalers rammed the anti-whalers or the anti-whalers got in the way of the whalers. All I can say is the anti-whalers' argument that the interaction was unprovoked is asinine.

What is a false start in football?

My wife and I were watching football a few weeks ago and there was a false start. She's a big baseball fan and so am I, but it's taking her a little longer to pick up on the rules of a few other sports.

A flag was thrown for a false start. She asked what that meant and I explained that a false start happens when an offensive player not already in motion moves before the ball is snapped. This seemed like a pretty simple, one-sentence summary without getting into too many details about how one person can be in motion and...well, you get the picture. I told her the reason for prohibiting movement was so you didn't try to draw the defensive players offsides.

She became confused as this related to the defensive players. I realized pretty quickly that she was applying backyard football rules to the NFL.

She said, "Doesn't it work like this? 'Ready, set, hut!' And then the defense goes, 'One apple, two apple, three apple, four apple, five apple, and THEN you can rush.'"

I wanted to dive into the difference between a rush and a blitz, but why? Besides, technically the defense is rushing. After all, it is called a bull rush.

Regardless, I was too busy laughing to answer the question for a few minutes after that. I love the candid, honest innocence of my wife.

And she knows me too well, as through my laughter she noted, "You can put that in your blog, too."

Common sense wins in Eagan

Two weeks ago I had a post on an Eagan principal in hot water over a BB gun.

Thankfully, common sense rules and he will not be disciplined for allowing a parent to shoot helium balloons down from the ceiling with a BB gun after an evening event at his school.

It's easy for bloggers to gripe when there's a problem, so it's only fair to point out cases in which the right decision is made as well.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

A reason to stay away from Santorini Taverna in Eden Prairie

...and it has nothing to do with their food.

I don't know how many of my readers search for Mediterranean food in the Eden Prairie area, so this post may be somewhat pointless. I've never eaten there and definitely won't now.

They are refusing to pay one of their service providers and I don't know about you, but I can't support an establishment that won't pay its service providers.

For all I know the food may be great, but ignoring your bills is just not okay.

That is all.