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Wide White: November 2010

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Why GPS is available to civilians today

I knew global positioning system (GPS) navigation was created by the Department of Defense for military use. Yesterday I learned why.

My wife and friends know that I'm an information geek. As such, here's the path that led me to my GPS find.
  1. A blog post on abuse in a "home school cult" referenced the John Birch Society, which sounded vaguely familiar for reasons I couldn't (and still can't) pinpoint.
  2. Curious, I Googled the John Birch Society. The Wikipedia entry mentioned the organization's second leader, Georgia Congressman Larry McDonald, "who was killed on September 1, 1983, when the Soviets shot down KAL 007."
  3. I hadn't heard of the KAL 007 incident and followed the link to that Wikipedia entry. The plane was shot down after the pilots mistakenly flew over prohibited Soviet airspace. As a result, "President Ronald Reagan ordered the U.S. military to make the developing Global Positioning System (GPS) available for civilian use so that navigational errors like that of KAL 007 could be averted in the future."
And this is why I know random facts that will probably never serve much purpose other than to satisfy someone's - or at least my - curiosity. Hopefully I'm able to teach my kids a meaningful thing or two that sticks in my brain.

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Monday, November 29, 2010

How to remember the number of days in each month

Memory techniques vary widely from one person to the next. My mom used to use every trick in the book to try to get me to remember seemingly useless information.

One frequently-used technique was poems, often set to little jingles. Here's one that crossed my mind yesterday as I was trying to remember which day this week would be December 1st.
30 days has September,
April, June, and November.
All the rest have 31,
Except for February alone,
And that has 28 days clear
And 29 in each leap year.
I always stop at "November" since I can already easily remember the information in the rest of the poem.

What memory techniques continue to haunt you?


Monday, November 22, 2010

Strange Spending: my new website

Last month I came up with the idea to start a site that documents strange expenditures from political campaigns. All federal campaign expenses are required to be documented in detail, but that detail varies widely from one candidate to the next.

I checked out the Federal Election Commission's website and found endless files with data stretching back to 2001. Given the extensive information available and the continual supply of new reports, I knew I wasn't going to have a problem with finding material.

Next, I was able to find a domain name and Twitter handle (that's Twitter-speak for "username") for a name that I liked: Strange Spending.

Over the course of the last month I've been building the site and pouring over campaign expense records. Last Monday I launched the site's first post. My goal is to post one expense every business day for now, with at least 2 or 3 per day being posted long-term.

Additionally, I'd love to expand the reach of the site to include state-level campaigns and potentially even include government spending. There are seemingly endless possibilities.

If you're interested in checking out what I'm putting on the web in addition to Wide White, head over to, follow on Twitter at @strangespending, or like it on Facebook.


Sunday, November 21, 2010

Norman Rockwell: the pictures from the paintings

I'm a huge Norman Rockwell fan. I think I got that from my mom, who had a book full of his stuff. I think he captured Americana from the first half of the 20th century better than anyone else.

So I got very excited when I saw an NPR compilation of his paintings alongside the photographs he used as his foundation.

Here are a few examples. Being a bit of a political follower, the second is one of my favorite Rockwells.


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Saturday, November 20, 2010

Battle of the bucks in St. Paul

A St. Paul resident was surprised to find a battle between two bucks in his backyard. As the deer locked antlers, he grabbed his camera.

(The quality in Part II is much better.)

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Friday, November 19, 2010

How much sleep is too little?

I'm writing this at 1 AM. This is my typical bed time. I'm usually up between 7:00 and 7:30, though I have a conference call at 7:30 tomorrow so it could be a bit earlier. 5-6 hours is a typical weeknight, with 7-8 hours usually only coming on weekends.

Some of you are tracking with me. You burn the midnight oil regularly. Others are in bed by 10 (or 9) every night with no exceptions. 8 hours is the MINIMUM.

I've always been able to function on little to no sleep. I had a semester in college where I pulled an estimated 20 all-nighters while I worked 2 demanding jobs, took 18 credits, and hung out with friends. I occasionally crashed in class or grabbed a power nap the following afternoon but more often than not I somehow held myself together. On a road trip this summer we drove through the night 3 times, including one night (and day) where I drove for 17 hours.

Naturally, anytime I see a story on the evidence behind how much sleep one should get, I'm interested, but I have yet to see one that changed my behavior.

How about you? How much sleep do you need to have to function? Do you lie awake for 20 minutes if you go to bed as early as 1 AM or do you crash at 8 PM?


Thursday, November 18, 2010

The persistence of failed congressional leadership

When an entire country rejects your political platform by one of the largest nationwide election turnovers in history, you would think a shake-up in your party's leadership would be coming.

With the Democrats in the House of Congress in Washington, that's not the case.
  • Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is now the House Minority Leader.
  • Majority Leader Steny Hoyer is now the Minority Whip.
  • Majority Whip Jim Clyburn is now the "Assistant Democratic Leader," a newly-created third-ranking position created especially for him to avoid a fight between Clyburn and Hoyer over the minority whip position.
  • Caucus Chairman John Larson remains in his position.
The top 4 leaders of a party that lost its majority in astounding fashion remains just as it was before.

Pelosi offers little more than excuses.
"I'd like to see what your (approval) ratings would be" if $75 million in negative ads had been spent against you, she told one reporter.
She's right, but her persistence is also unprecedented.

Let's take a look at other losing majority leaders over the last 100 years. Normal font reflects Speakers who did not retain leadership positions, italics reflects those who did.
  • 2006 - Dennis Hastert (R-IL), stepped down from leadership and resigned from office the next year.
  • 1994 - Tom Foley (D-WA), lost election for his seat in Congress.
  • 1954 - Joseph Martin (R-MA), elected Minority Leader but ousted 4 years later after major Republican losses.
  • 1952 - Sam Rayburn (D-TX), elected Minority Leader.
  • 1948 - Joseph Martin (R-MA), elected Minority Leader.
  • 1946 - Sam Rayburn (D-TX), elected Minority Leader.
  • 1930 - Nicholas Longworth (R-OH), was not elected Minority Leader.
  • 1918 - Champ Clark (D-MO), elected Minority Leader.
  • 1910 - Joseph Gurney Cannon (R-IL), was not elected Minority Leader.
At face value, Pelosi appears to be with the majority. After all, 5 of the 9 party turnovers have seen the Speaker retain leadership within their party.

However, it's hardly reasonable to compare this scenario with that of Rayburn and Martin, close friends who traded positions as Speaker while America waffled between their respective parties. Each retained their leadership positions as they traded 2- and 4-year stints in the majority before Martin's Republicans took significant losses 4 years after his last minority stint and he was ousted from leadership.

Removing Martin and Rayburn as examples, Champ Clark was the only one of the other 5 majority leaders to retain a leadership position after his party lost. His party sustained a 22-seat wartime loss, enough to tip the delicate political balance to the Republicans but not enough to cost him his seat.

Pelosi's grip on the Democratic leadership in Congress is simply unprecedented, not to mention the retention of the other top 3 Democratic leaders. Losses alone aren't a good reason to oust someone from leadership, but losses of such historic proportions would typically lead to consequences for anyone in a leadership position.

I'm having trouble seeing how this will possibly help Democrats re-establish credibility with the American people.

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

How much do NFL practice squad players make?

That's probably not a question that most people wonder about, but I did.

Any time I hear about a guy who makes an NFL team "off the practice squad," I picture a guy toiling away, barely making a living, and then suddenly hitting the big time.

I did a bit of Googling and came across a very different picture. Wikipedia and provided the following summary:
The minimum salary from 2008-2010 is $5,200 per week for 17 weeks, or $88,400 per season, in comparison to the NFL minimum rookie salary of $285,000. (Some practice squad players are paid considerably more, however. In 2006, the New England Patriots paid third-year player Billy Yates the full $425,000 he would have earned on the active roster.)

Season 06-07 $4,700/week
Season 08-10 $5,200/week

From Article XXXIV, Section 3 of the NFL collective bargaining agreement.
So next time you feel bad for the guy who "only" made the practice squad, don't worry. He's doing just fine.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Fat people on candy bars

The FDA recently proposed new regulations for cigarette manufacturers that would require them to include photos of "corpses, cancer patients, and diseased lungs and teeth."

First it seemed ludicrous. It's another government attempt to regulate behavior through legislation, similar to requiring states to raise the drinking age to 21 in exchange for transportation dollars.

Then I thought maybe it made sense because it certainly would be more effective than the surgeon general's warning. Maybe it would stop someone from going down the road that I've personally seen lead to death by cancer.

But when I read the story to my wife she brought me back to reality when she commented,
Are they gonna start putting pictures of fat people on candy bars?
I couldn't argue with that.

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Monday, November 15, 2010

The Underground Railroad and UPS

The brain of a child is a funny thing. It's been fun to observe in my 9-month-old twins as their brains develop and begin to pick up more and more information.

It's fun to remember things our brains processed when we were kids.

When I was a kid, I was sure the Underground Railroad was an actual train. I envisioned all of these great people working hard to build an escape train that ran through underground tunnels and somehow managed to avoid disturbing the slave owners and sheriffs above ground.

Once I figured out the Underground Railroad had nothing to do with trains, I still maintained that it must have been a network of underground tunnels. It took me a while to finally realize that it was a network of homes, people, and safe routes guiding escaped slaves north to freedom.

Metaphors, allegories, and figures of speech are funny things for kids to figure out.

Another thing that's funny for kids to figure out is their dream job. I had some of the standards, such as wanting to play Major League Baseball. However, the job that I most consistently wanted was to be a UPS driver.

Remember, you have to look at professions through the eyes of a child. My experience with UPS drivers was limited to the delivery of birthday and Christmas gifts. As far as I knew, UPS drivers spent their entire days every single day making people happy.

I also had a love for the road and thought the greatest job would be on the road. Driving a semi would be the ultimate road job, but I was conscious of the future family I had. Driving a UPS truck would let me be back home every night.

The fact that all of this went through my 8-year-old brain is a little crazy to me now. But then, I was the kid who owned an iron, ironing board, silverware, and other dorm amenities by 16.

What sort of things did you think up as a kid? Have any of those crazy ideas persisted into adulthood?

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Sunday, November 14, 2010

One way to handle rain in a convertible

This doesn't seem like a reasonable solution to a rainy day in a convertible.



Saturday, November 13, 2010

What downhill Olympic skateboarding might look like

The guy's hair really brings this whole thing together.



Friday, November 12, 2010

Passionately anti-airbags?

It seems that everyone is passionate about something that goes against the grain of 90% of the population and in some cases even against common sense.

Some people sit on the fringe, believing, for example, that the 9/11 attacks on New York City were an inside job by the U.S. government.

Others hold to minority positions that have a few more followers than the fringe, such as arguing that vaccines are bad for us. Even this position is sometimes taken to the fringe with the notion that the U.S. government is conspiring to infect its population through vaccinations.

When I was in high school, I jumped on board a rather peculiar "anti-" bandwagon: airbags.

I was in driver's ed. and had to write a paper. I don't think there's a much more boring class for which to write a paper than driver's ed. What are you supposed to write about, the advantages of automatic and manual transmissions in various driving conditions?

I decided to write about the effects of airbags. More precisely, I wrote about the NEGATIVE effects of airbags.

I found a story of an arm that was shattered when an airbag went off in a parked car. I wrote of little children injured when airbags went off for no apparent reason in a still vehicle. Who knows, I may have even found a government conspiracy in airbags.

I don't recall many of the other details of that class or that paper, but I do laugh in hindsight. I think I got a 50/100 on the paper. I'm sure I was annoyed by it and I probably I deserved it.

I can't imagine getting a car without an airbag now, but it helps to remember my well-meaning stance when I come across an idea that I think is really out there.

It's good to be reminded that there's always someone else who thinks that something I believe is really out there too.

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Thursday, November 11, 2010

An evening with the Citizens League of Minnesota

Last night Jamie and I attended our first Citizens League annual meeting.

If you aren't familiar with the Citizens League's, their identity statement offers details on their mission. In a nutshell, the organization serves as a nonpartisan group seeking common ground solutions to issues facing the state of Minnesota.

Jamie and I got involved after my CEO and his wife partnered with the Citizens League to pay for one-year memberships for people interested in joining. I've been looking for ways to get plugged in with civic and community engagement and this seemed like a great option. It didn't take much convincing from my CEO to get me on board and Jamie was all in favor too.

We arrived at the Minneapolis Hilton and I quickly saw the one face I knew, my CEO. He was talking to Rick Kupchella so we briefly said hello and moved on. As we headed into the meeting room (or was it a ballroom?) I spotted and was finally able to say hello to Tom Horner, who I supported for Governor. We found a table and started listening to the opening presentations.

10-15 minutes into the program we had a moment for everyone at the table to introduce ourselves and speak for a few minutes. When the person running the event began speaking again, Jamie got my attention and whispered, "Who's the woman sitting next to you?" I told her I had no idea. She had just asked if the seat was open, I said it was, and that was that. Jamie insisted, "She's a big deal. I think she was the mayor of Minneapolis."

I couldn't see her name tag at the moment, but I remembered that her first name was Sharon. I pulled out my phone and googled "Sharon Minneapolis mayor." Sure enough, up came a Wikipedia entry for Sharon Sayles Belton, the first woman and first African-American to become the mayor of Minneapolis. She ran the city for 8 years before losing to current mayor R.T. Rybak.

This just illustrates the kind of people who are involved in this organization. We had one woman at our table who is jobless and appeared to be homeless as well. We had a middle-age couple with their elementary-age child. We had a professor with a Ph.D. We had a stay-at-home-mom (Jamie). We had the former mayor of Minneapolis. We had people from all over the political, age, career, and racial spectrum.

And this disjointed group discussed a number of issues in the short hour and 15 minutes we were at that table together. I know very little about Sayles Belton other than what's in her Wikipedia entry and I'm sure we have significant policy disagreements, but she was funny, engaging, smart, and down to earth. In fact, at one point, she whispered to me, "Why hasn't your wife jumped in? She looks like she has something to say." I told her she should tell her to speak up and a couple of minutes later, she did and Jamie jumped right in.

I learned a few things last night. I learned that my wife knew a politician that I didn't. I learned that in spite of the differences we have, we can discuss them in a civil manner that isn't reflected in much of what's seen in the media. I learned that when a group sits down, they can generally find something to agree on. I learned that the former mayor of Minneapolis is pretty darn cool.

And ultimately, I had fun and was energized to get involved in finding solutions to the challenges we face. It provided a forum that no political party can hope to offer, which is probably why a number of prominent politicians are involved in the organization. They know that beyond the rhetoric, real solutions exist. It just takes some hard work with a group of smart people to put it on paper and get the word out.

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Notes from my kids

Once every week or two Jamie sends me an email while I'm at work with a picture of one or both of my kids and a caption to go with it that's usually written as a message from the kid. It's always the highlight of my day when one of those emails hits my inbox.

Here are the two she sent yesterday.

Subject: Dad! I can't believe you never told me about this before?!
Body of the email: This drawer is awesome! I especially like your mouthwash. It is so bright and makes good noise! Wuv you!

Subject: Happy Peanut!
Body of the email: Nothing like sleeping in and then taking a two hr nap to make a girl happy! Keira says, I wuv my Daddy!

It doesn't get any better than that.

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Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Thank you cards: email or snail mail?

I've sent and received many thank you cards, but I received one on Sunday like none I'd received before. Our friends threw a birthday party for their 1-year-old a few weeks ago and we attended. The kid had to have some bath toys!

The thank you card we received on Sunday didn't come in the mail. It wasn't given to us in person. It wasn't really even a card. It was a PowerPoint attachment sent via email.

I thought it was awesome. We've sent our Christmas letters over the last few years via email on Christmas Eve. If people want to read it they can read it in the body of the email or open the attached PDF if they want the photos included. We keep up with email addresses much better than snail mail addresses. Oh, and the best two parts: 1.) It's free and 2.) No trees (or recycled paper) are used.

It's great to see others willing to start using email to send what used to be sent via snail mail. You don't have to wonder if the intended recipient saw it or if their spouse got the mail and filed it away in the "to be read later" drawer. You can guarantee the date (and time) of delivery. You can easily interact with it. I frequently receive email responses to our Christmas letter.

I know there's probably still a cultural stigma that some have with email. I'm sure there are people who frown on our emailed Christmas letters. But the content of the message remains the same whether it's sent via email or snail mail.

So props to our friends for the emailed thank you. I certainly don't have a problem with snail mailed thank yous and I'm sure we'll continue to send them, but I love to see electronic communication accepted as an equivalent alternative to snail mail.

Social media and email will never replace the phone or in-person conversations, but they should be sufficient to replace many other written forms of communication.

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Monday, November 08, 2010

bd's Mongolian Grill - Burnsville, MN

DISCLAIMER: I was given a coupon for 2 unlimited bowls, 2 non-alcoholic drinks, 1 appetizer, and 1 dessert in exchange for posting a review of bd's Mongolian Grill in Burnsville. Our total bill was approximately $46.

And while this is my first restaurant review on this blog, I've done a fair amount of mystery shopping in various industries, including the restaurant industry, so while it's never been a subject on my blog it's not foreign to me by any stretch.

Price: Reasonable - $15/entree, $7/app, $4/drink, $7/dessert
Atmosphere: Bright and busy
Service: Friendly
Speed: Slow on appetizers and drinks, fast on the food line
Taste: Very good
Number of visits: 2
Last visit: 11/6/10
Would I go back? Yes

Other reviews: Lazy Lightning, Urban Spoon, Yelp, Twin Cities Restaurant Blog, Cafe Cyan

bd's Mongolian Grill
1025 County Road 42 West
Burnsville MN 55306
(952) 435-0032

bd's Mongolian Grill has been open at the old Macaroni Grill location at Burnsville Center for a little over a year now. We first visited it back in February. Our kids were just a couple of weeks old and we were with 2 of my brothers and their wives. I enjoyed it but had wanted to get back without a huge group.

Jamie called to make a reservation for 6:15 Saturday. We hadn't made a reservation on our first visit and wound up waiting for ~30 minutes. With 8-month-old twins we knew our window to be out of the house wasn't more than a couple of hours.

We were a couple of minutes late and a line was starting to form. Our table was ready and waiting with two high chairs already setup for the kids. We were really glad to have a table for 6 since you need 2 table settings per kid - one for the kid and one for all of the kid's crap.

bd's has a pretty straightforward formula. They have a happy hour that runs from 3-7 every day, which is pretty generous compared to most of what I tend to see. During happy hour, their appetizers are $3, with regular prices running from around $5 to $7, and draft beer is $2. They also had a banner advertising wings for $.40 each on Mondays. Judging from the wings advertisement and the TVs broadcasting a college football game, they seem to be trying to siphon part of the BW3 type of crowd.

In any event, you don't go to bd's for their appetizers or wings. You go for the Mongolian grill. A vegetarian bowl is $10.99, a meat bowl is $12.99, and an unlimited bowl is $14.99. Lunch prices run around $2-3 cheaper. You can check out their menu [PDF].

They have a number of recipe cards that can be used to find the right mix of meats, vegetables, sauces, spices, etc. I'm one to just throw what I like together though. Ingredients that I remember included ribeye, shrimp, chicken, scallops, crab, bean sprouts, teriyaki sauce, pineapple, apples, and more.

After filling up a bowl at the buffet line I went to the grill. The grillers do a great job of trying to keep the mood light. I guess I don't walk around beaming, because one of them jabbed me sarcastically about "how happy you are." The guy grilling my food kept flipping his tongs in the air, which served its purpose in leading me to forget that I was waiting for my food to cook as I instead wondered how long it took him to get to where he could confidently flip them on the job and whether he'd ever had an accident with them and how he managed to miss the vents and lights over head and...

Before I knew it my food was done and I headed back to the table to eat it with the kids while Jamie went to get her food. The food was really well-cooked, so how well you like it ultimately comes down to what combination you happen to put together. My wife worked in food service for a number of years in high school and college and tends to shy away from buffets due to the awful food preparation and cleanliness but she didn't have any problems here.

We had ordered the potstickers for an appetizer when our server arrived at our table, which was 5 minutes after we sat down and a little slower than I would expect. Our drinks came back right away - I had a root beer and Jamie had a virgin strawberry daiquiri - but the appetizer didn't arrive until 25 minutes after we ordered them. In that time, our server had been back to our table twice with a refill and tortillas with no mention of the status of the appetizers. We were already eating the main dish by the time the potstickers came out. Now, the potstickers - pork-filled with ginger and soy sauces - were excellent and were hot. However, in my opinion there's just no excuse for appetizers taking 25 minutes to arrive.

Jamie sampled their salad bar, but I was content with my bowl of meat. I was really happy they had apples, as I don't recall seeing that at a Mongolian grill before and thought they were a great addition.

We did order a dessert, going with a brownie with ice cream, whipped cream, caramel and chocolate. We shared it and were unable to finish it, not so much because of the size but because it was so rich. We agreed that we probably wouldn't order it again. Our server had recommended it and said he just had a table that had eaten the whole thing. In hindsight, I think it would take a whole table to distribute the brownie without giving everyone a sugar high.

By the time we left around 7:30 the line was out the door. You'll definitely want to make a reservation if you're going to arrive after 6:00-6:30 on a weekend.

We'll be back. I'm a big Mongolian fan and Khan's in Roseville is the benchmark I use since it's where I first had Mongolian. Jamie said she likes Khan's better and I like bd's better, so take that for what it's worth. I think bd's has a better variety and if my memory is correct - I haven't been to Khan's in a few years - the prices aren't that different.

While they do a great job with the main event, they could do a better job of handling appetizers. I'm guessing a lot of people skip them since there's plenty of food in the buffet line already, but still, if you're going to offer an appetizer, you should be able to deliver it within 10 minutes. I was also surprised that our server didn't suggest appetizers at the beginning or dessert at the end. I personally like the fact that he didn't try to push them since I normally don't order either, but I know most restaurants are big on their servers pushing that stuff.

Our server also apologized towards the end for any bumps in service and explained that all of his tables were on the other side of the restaurant except ours. This is obviously an oversight that seems pretty simple to correct. Again, bd's doesn't rely on servers to the same extent that most restaurants do since there's a fair amount of self-service, but it still resulted in a few delays that probably wouldn't have otherwise happened.

I also have a $5 coupon to offer to my readers. It expires on 11/15 so you'd have to be able to go this week. Leave a comment or send an email to widewhiteblog - at - gmail - dot - com if you want it.

Have you been to bd's? What did you think? Would you go back?

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Sunday, November 07, 2010

What's the difference between caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee?

This works for me.


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Saturday, November 06, 2010

How not to use a tow truck

I was impressed at first. Then I just laughed.


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Friday, November 05, 2010

How much is too much to spend on God?

Bill recently sent me an article on a $200,000 sculpture that was installed at Christian Family Church in Owatonna, MN.

The sculpture is called "The Coming King." It weighs 5,000 pounds. There are more impressive stats in the article if you care to read it, including their plans for a huge sculpture garden on the church's 22-acre campus.

What's amazing to me is that a small church in southern Minnesota just spent $200,000 on a sculpture!

And yet this sort of thing happens all the time and has been happening for hundreds of years, from Rome, Italy, to St. Paul, Minnesota.

Most of us probably agree that $200,000 spent on a sculpture isn't where Jesus would want us to spend our money. Yet when you look at the temple that Solomon built in the Old Testament, a $200,000 sculpture or even a basilica in St. Paul seems paltry!

So how much is too much to spend? How much should we materially show our love for God?

I don't think anyone has THE answer. They say that with some things, it's difficult to define what's wrong in words, but you know it when you see it. I suppose that's true of anything that boils down to being largely an issue of the heart.

With that in mind, that sculpture just looks wrong.


Thursday, November 04, 2010

Why I didn't vote Republican for governor

The St. Paul Pioneer Press was looking for someone who voted for Independent Party candidate Tom Horner for governor Tuesday night. Since that was me, I responded and was interviewed.

Here are the couple of lines they pulled out of the interview for the story that ran yesterday:
Joey White, 25, of Burnsville, considers himself a Republican but cast his vote for the IP candidate. "Horner had so many people lined up behind him saying, 'Yep, this is a balanced approach,'" White said.

"Emmer's only ideas were just cut, cut, cut Horner was able to find solutions that I think both sides of the aisle agreed with, and that was attractive to me."
Well, sort of.

When a 5-minute conversation is cut down to two sentences, you're not going to get much.

In short, Minnesota's biggest problem is the budget. It's a mess and needs to be fixed. Mark Dayton's proposal to raise taxes and inability to cut spending were a problem. Tom Emmer talked a lot about cutting taxes and cutting spending, but he said very little about what he would cut and what he did say didn't make much sense.

Horner was the only guy with a solution that included a combination of tax and spending proposals with cuts where needed and increases where needed. Horner was the only one whose proposals gained the support of independent groups and policy wonks across the board.

I knew Horner wouldn't win. The polling at the end made that obvious. Yet I don't consider my vote a throw-away vote.

My vote simply said that I thought Horner had the best solutions of the 3 candidates running. That's it, and that's really what a vote should say.

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Wednesday, November 03, 2010

A punctuation problem

The more communication moves to text-based formats - instant message, text message, email, blogs, Twitter, Facebook, etc. - the more people try to come up with creative ways to express their emotion. One of the most common - and often annoying - is the exclamation point.

Here's an example of what you may find in a text message response or Facebook response:
Thanks! Have an awesome day! I can't wait to see you!
Here's what the same response looks like without the exclamation points.
Thanks. Have an awesome day. I can't wait to see you.
This just lacks some of the pizazz that the exclamation points bring. The bland periods say, "I guess I sort of care."

So, we use exclamation points, and as our left pinkies wear out, we find that one exclamation point isn't enough, so we make it 3 or 5. If we find our a friend is expecting a baby, we throw 10 exclamation points in there.

What about moderation? What if that response said this:
Thanks. Have an awesome day. I can't wait to see you!
Would that really be such a bad thing? Can we live with just one exclamation point per paragraph - as a start?

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Tuesday, November 02, 2010

What not to do when running for office

It's election day. First and foremost, VOTE!

Second, if you're going to bother to run for office - especially any seat that will send you to a state capitol - build a reasonably competent campaign website.

This means you will have tabs. These should contain, at a minimum, an "About" page with your personal and professional background, an "Issues" page with your positions on key issues, and pages for donating, volunteering, and contacting you. You could use "Donate," "Volunteer," or "Contact Us." It's not very tough. You may even want to include a "Media" page with endorsements, ads, editorials, etc.

If you're looking for examples of what NOT to do, look no further than Matt Borup, who's hoping to be elected to the Wisconsin State Assembly out of Hudson.

This webpage was accessed 11/1/10. That's right, 1 day before the election.

You may notice there are no tabs. That's because this page is the only page on the campaign website.

More amazing is the quote at the bottom of the page:
Our page is still under construction. Come back soon for our events calendar and campaign news.

His opponent, Hudson mayor Dean Knudson, simply obliterates him on the web.

I have a pretty good feeling Knudson will obliterate Borup in the polls too.

Websites matter. They reflect your campaign. Put at least an hour into yours.


Monday, November 01, 2010

2010 Burnsville Voter's Guide

This is really only an effective guide if you live where I live, trust my judgment and don't care to research on your own.

Because of the number of candidates I won't elaborate on reasons for every candidate but I'm happy to answer questions in the comments. And yes, I've actually researched each race, some more extensively than others.

Here's how I'm voting:

11-3-10 UPDATE: The status of each race is included below.

Governor: Tom Horner (lost to Mark Dayton or Tom Emmer)
Attorney General: Chris Barden (lost to Lori Swanson)
Secretary of State: Mark Ritchie (won)
State Auditor: Pat Anderson (lost to Rebecca Otto)
Supreme Court Associate Justice 2: Greg Wersal (lost to Helen Meyer)
Supreme Court Associate Justice 6: Tim Tingelstad (lost to Alan Page)
US Congress: John Kline (won)
State Senate: Dan Hall (won)
State House: Pam Myhra (won)
Dakota County Sheriff: Mitch Scott (lost to Dave Bellows)
Dakota County Soil and Water Conservation District 1 Supervisor: Thomas A. Willenbring (lost to Diane Blake)
Dakota County Soil and Water Conservation District 2 Supervisor: Jason Swenson (won)
ISD 191 School Board: Peter Beckel (lost), Jim Schmid (won), Gail Morrison (won), Dan Luth (won) (Gail Morrison also won)
Court of Appeals Judge 13: Roxann Klugman (lost to Randolph Peterson)
Court of Appeals Judge 14: Dan Griffith (lost to Larry Stauber Jr.)
1st District Court Judge 8: Larry Clark (won)
Burnsville City Council: Charlie Crichton and Dan Kealey (both won)

To see the actual sample ballot for my precinct, click here. Better yet, find out who's on your own Minnesota ballot.

A few notes on a few races:
  • Secretary of State and State Auditor should not be partisan jobs and the State Auditor in particular should probably be appointed by a bipartisan committee rather than be elected. I hold minimal regard for the part of the candidates in these races.
  • In the State Senate and House races, I don't have a lot of big problems with John Doll and Will Morgan, the DFLers who currently hold office, but I've had a few policy disagreements. With Doll, my main reason for not voting for him is the shamefully dirty attack pieces that have been run against his opponent, Dan Hall, predominantly using the moniker "Preacher Hall" in a snide, derogative manner. I've also received calls from the DFL for both Morgan and Doll touting the fact that they signed legislation that supposedly brought jobs to Burnsville through a Goodrich expansion. Never mind that according to a Goodrich employee I know, the expansion was going to happen regardless of the legislation.
  • My main reason for voting for Mitch Scott for sheriff is his opponent, Dave Bellows, registered the domain when Scott first filed to run for office. That's just bush league. Scott almost loses my endorsement by putting an utterly cheesy opening musical element on his website that automatically blasts your eardrums when you visit his site. His whole "vote for the guy with two first names" thing is a little dopey too.
  • Please, whatever you do, if you have the chance, vote for Larry Clark for 1st District Court Judge 8! His opponent is a mess and has no business being on the bench.
Whoever you're voting for, just be sure to vote tomorrow!