Remembering and Celebrating the Extraordinary

My Musical Family - Joy Riggs - Wed, 11/26/2014 - 9:39pm
I’m used to being the one with the press hat and reporter’s notebook, so it’s always a little unnerving for me to be on the other side of an interview. It’s also a rare occasion, fortunately. It’s not that I don’t trust other reporters to do quality work — it’s mostly that I don’t trust myself to speak off the cuff and provide insightful and quote-worthy remarks. I prefer to refine my words on the page before letting them loose into the world.

Fortunately, Star Tribune reporter Matt McKinney is a professional, and he did a thorough and thoughtful job with the obituary he wrote recently about my friend Ted Papermaster.

Matt interviewed me last week, and the story ran in last Sunday’s edition along with a photo of Ted. Here's a link to it, in case you didn’t see it already: Obituary: Theodore Papermaster, longtime Twin Cities pediatrician, World War II vet.

My friend Jane Burns, a former Des Moines Register colleague of mine, wrote to me after reading the piece and said she was glad to see that the Star Tribune still sees the value in publishing obituaries on “seemingly ‘ordinary’ people who have led extraordinary lives.”

I am, too.

That’s one reason why I got into journalism in the first place; I find the stories of real people so fascinating.

It’s impossible to convey everything about a person in a short piece, but you can get to the essence of what was important to him or her, and be reminded of how one life can have an impact on so many others. I know Ted made a difference to many, many people, in ways he probably didn’t even realize.

So on this Thanksgiving Eve, I am feeling especially thankful for Ted, and all the other people I have met through researching the life and career of my bandmaster great-grandfather, G. Oliver Riggs.

Today would have been G. Oliver’s 144th birthday. He was born in 1870, on a farm outside the town of Wapello in Louisa County, Iowa. When he died at age 75, the St. Cloud Daily Times ran his obituary on the front page. The newspaper did not interview any Papermasters for that story — that would have been an interesting coincidence — but it ran a photo of G. Oliver and summarized his extraordinary life in about seven paragraphs.

G. Oliver on left, at age 29; on right, about age 74While I generally admire brevity, in the case of G. Oliver I think there is much more to say — I plan on telling my story of his extraordinary life in about, oh, 25 chapters or so.

Happy Birthday, G. Oliver! Here’s to celebrating many more!

Categories: Citizens

Darkness Ride

Blowing and Drifting - Christopher Tassava - Wed, 11/26/2014 - 7:42pm

The gang of gravel cyclists here in Northfield have, under the leadership of the indefatigable Bruce A., made a custom of rides on (or nearly on) nights with full moons. These "Full Moon Howl" rides are pretty great. This month, another of the gang’s leaders, Joe P., proposed the opposite – a "Darkness Ride" on the night of the new moon.

And so it came to pass on Saturday that nine of us went for a 25-mile roll to Randolph and back. I rode the Buffalo, loaded pretty well with my racing gear. The conditions were pretty good, and I was feeling strong, so I snuck in a few short full-gas efforts, but the companionship was the best part – even if it’s hard to get good photos of bike riders in the dark, whether they’re rolling

or stopped.

After the ride, we gathered at Joe’s house, where his girlfriend Julie put on a huge spread of food and drink and where we were all bitten by this ferocious beast.

What an amazing night.

Categories: Citizens

What the hell is wrong with people?

Carol Overland - Legalectric - Wed, 11/26/2014 - 6:23pm

Photo from STrib of woman hit when guy drives car through protest.

In Minneapolis, a guy drives into demonstrators, a couple jump up on the hood to keep from being run over, and one isn’t so lucky, he hits her, pushes her a ways down the street — a miracle that he didn’t run her over.  Watch the video.  Crowd pictured trying to lift the vehicle off her, get him to back up, somehow she’s pulled from underneath, and then he hammers down, almost running over a couple more people.  What the hell is wrong with people?

VIDEO – Peter Lang – STrib – street video and KSTP helicopter video and more street video

STrib: Car plows through protesters during Ferguson rally in south Minneapolis

STrib: Mpls. police: Driver who hit protester was fleeing ‘the mob’ but is considered suspect

VIDEO- KSTP report: Man who drove into Mpls. protesters was trying to get away from crowd

That KSTP piece has been updated to note that the driver is now “suspect” and not “victim” as was stated in previous police report, and are looking for victims and witnesses:

The man drove away from the intersection. Police eventually caught up with him and questioned him. No charges have been filed and the man was not taken into custody. Police are now calling him a suspect in the case.

The Minneapolis Police Department Traffic Unit is actively investigating. Police are asking any injured people or witnesses to call the Traffic Investigations Unit at 612-673-2981.

On the good news side, the STrib has also updated its article, and notes that the MPD announced it is now referring to the driver as the “suspect” and not the “victim” and has referred the matter to the County Attorney (important because the County Attorney handles the larger, heavier offenses).  Not only that, but about the perp,  Jeffrey Patrick Rice:

Rice’s driving history in Minnesota includes three drunken-driving convictions, with the most recent coming in 2003. He’s also been convicted of driving with an open liquor bottle, and driving after his license was canceled and also in violation of restrictions placed on his license. The most recent of these convictions came in early 2008.

From the state’s site (click it for a larger version):

And from the Police Department:

In another incident, later yesterday, a van rams through two groups of demonstrators and the second time, right in front of the cops who go after him, and at the end of this, he’s taken out of the van, into the cop car.

Video of white van driving through protesters and getting arrested

What the hell is wrong with people?

Categories: Citizens

This Thursday and Friday: Buy Nothing Day!

Carol Overland - Legalectric - Wed, 11/26/2014 - 4:34pm


One of the things I love about Alan Muller is his arrest record, he walks the walk.  That’s Alan and now Rep. John Kowalko objecting when the public was not allowed to speak at a Delaware legislative energy committee meeting on proposed legislation:

Seven Arrested in Buy Nothing Day Protest at Delaware Mall (2007)

And on to trial:

Two Sisters and ‘Santa Claus’ to Go on Trial for ‘Nothing’ A jury trial for three of the seven people arrested at Christiana Mall on Black Friday, aka Buy Nothing Day, in November 2005 is scheduled in the Court of Common Pleas on Monday, February 12, 2007, in Courtroom 5A. Sisters Anna and Rachel White and Alan Muller decided to challenge the charge of ‘criminal trespassing’ instead of paying a fine. They are represented by Wilmington attorney Michael Modica. At the time of the arrest, Anna and Rachel White were wearing Santa hats and t-shirts that said “NOTHING – What You’ve Been Looking For!” and “Ask me about NOTHING” and carrying bags labeled “FREE SAMPLES – NOTHING.” Alan Muller was dressed like Santa Claus. WHAT: Jury Trial (State of Delaware vs. Anna White, Rachel White, & Alan Muller) WHEN: Monday, February 12, 2007 – 8:30 a.m. WHERE: Court of Common Pleas, 500 N. King St., Wilmington, Delaware

And they were convicted:

‘Buy nothing’ activists fined, banned from mall Ruling supports Christiana center’s ‘humorless’ stance

By SEAN O’SULLIVAN, The News Journal

Posted Tuesday, February 13, 2007  

WILMINGTON — A trio who promoted “nothing” at Christiana Mall on Thanksgiving weekend 2005 will have to pay fines and stay away from the shopping center for six months to a year.

On Monday, Anna White, her sister Rachel White and Alan Muller were convicted by a Court of Common Pleas jury of third-degree criminal trespass, a violation.

Anna White and Muller, who is also executive director of Green Delaware, were each fined $75 and banned from the mall for a year by Chief Judge Alex J. Smalls. Rachel White was fined $25 and barred from the mall for six months.

Anna White said she was disappointed by the verdict and is considering her appeal options, saying the case raises questions about freedom of speech and the limits that can be set on people in quasi-public places such as a mall.

“I think it is a slippery slope when you ban people like us, who were not doing anything wrong. Where does it go next?” said Anna White.

The White sisters were arrested Nov. 25, 2005, by Delaware State Police. The women, who were wearing red Santa hats and white T-shirts with the phrase “Nothing — what you are looking for,” had refused to leave when ordered to do so by non-uniformed mall officials. Muller was with them, wearing a Santa suit.

All three testified that mall officials refused to provide identification, give their names or explain why they had to leave. Frank Kaleta, director of mall security, testified that he did not give his name or identification, but said he did clearly identify himself as mall management.

A second security officer, Nicholas Shovlin, now a state trooper, said he gave his name and showed a badge.

During his opening statement, defense attorney Michael W. Modica wore a Santa hat, telling the jury, “This is a case about Christiana Mall getting worked up about nothing.”

He said the trio were engaged in a lighthearted attempt to get people to think about consumerism.

Deputy Attorney General Natalie Haskins said it was “a very simple case.” The trio were asked to leave by the owners of a business, they didn’t, they were arrested and were guilty of trespass.

The three never shouted slogans or accosted shoppers, but only walked, answering questions from shoppers when asked, according to testimony. They said they planned to leave if asked by authorities. Kaleta testified that the three were involved in “political action” and that violated the mall’s ban on solicitation or demonstrations.

Modica said later they would not have been confronted if they’d had “Shop Till You Drop” on their T-shirts: “I think it’s a ridiculous case. I think the mall overreacted and was just humorless.”

The lone alternate juror, Dan Weigman, who did not participate in deliberations, agreed. He said mall security did not properly identify themselves and police never asked the group to leave, so he would have voted to acquit.

As for the upcoming holiday shopping season, Anna White said, “I guess we won’t be going to the mall this year.”



Categories: Citizens

New Local Wine: A Trip to the Cannon River Winery

Winona Media (Leslie Schultz) - Wed, 11/26/2014 - 11:50am

When, in the course of research for my post on wine labels, I was encouraged to visit the ten-year-old Cannon River Winery in nearby Cannon Falls, Minnesota, I was interested. When I called to inquire, I learned that not only were tours and tasting available — and often live music — but that the next day was an annual showcase for local artisans who produce cheese and chocolate.

Once arrived, we learned more about the wines and the vineyard. The Cannon River Winery has an informative website, and has accomplished a lot in its ten years of operations. The space contains a shop, a tasting room, and a capacious event room with high windows and touches of stained and leaded glass.

In addition to winning a clutch of medals for its delicious products, it has celebrated the stories of its family and of Minnesota regions with its wine names and labels. My favorite is the “Grandma Series”.

On the day we visited, we were also able to view original art work submitted for the winery’s annual label contest and to vote for our two favorite pieces.

Their shop and tasting room is decorated for Christmas…

They are an official sponsor of the St. Paul Winter Carnival, and will be present there with three special wines: Boreas Royal Reserve, Winter Ice, and Vulcan’s Revenge…

And one of their upcoming events in December is….

Next year, I plan to visit again. I want to discover which two pieces by local artists were transformed into wine labels. I hope to visit their vineyards and (possibly) to assist in bringing in the harvest. (They offer this opportunity with a catered lunch — it sounds like a wonderful way to learn about viniculture. Perhaps my wine-ignorance will fade in time. I am fairly certain my wine appreciation will increase.

For now, I am just glad to know about this local landmark, and to have a bottle of Gunflint Red to uncork one snowy day in January. This time, I know I haven’t just fallen for a lovely label, because I have already tasted a sample of this wine, and I know it is to my taste!

Until another Wednesday, wishing you well!

Categories: Citizens

New Wine in Intriguing New Bottles

Winona Media (Leslie Schultz) - Wed, 11/26/2014 - 11:49am

It all started almost as an after-thought…and turned into two fraternal twin posts on wine, a subject on which I know very, very little…

One day this month, on my way home from doing a string of errands, I thought I would try to replace the now-empty bottle of Côtes du Rhône, a delicious French red wine given to  us last month by a friend. I stopped at one of the local places, Firehouse Liquor in Dundas.

Once in side, for once not in a hurry, I wandered a bit. I didn’t find exactly what I was looking for, but the helpful staff did point me toward the South African salute to Côtes du Rhône when I finally asked for what I had come in to seek. That bottle made me laugh out loud when I saw it, and, knowing we were having a Capricorn dinner guest the next day, I bought it on a lark, for the label.

Now, I have never bet on a horse race, but if I did, I suspect my money would go on the horse with the name I like best. What I know about viniculture could fit in a teaspoon, and I sometimes have purchased a wine due solely to the appear of the label’s name and graphics. (Results have been mixed. If it is too sweet, tinny, biting, or sharp, then one sip is all it gets.) Even with books, a subject in which I have immersed myself for decades, I have sometimes been seduced in to judging a book by its cover. (Again, with mixed results: happy spontaneous discoveries balanced by impulsively acquired literary equivalenst of sand bags to be discarded at the earliest opportunity.)

And yet, at least since the god Dionysus sailed into view of the Greek coast, sponsoring maenadic cults and sharing Apollo’s temple at Delphi, wine has been part of western culture, western story-and-myth making. Without it, we wouldn’t have Homer’s immortal metaphor, “the wine-dark sea”. (This line resonates for me not only with classical allusions but with the memory of being a giddy-headed tweeny-bopper — a few years after my wild fan love of Barnabas Collins and Dark Shadows – in Melbourne, Australia, memorizing all the lyrics to the rock-opera “Jesus Christ, Superstar” and rippling out to purchase the first album of Australian cast member Jon English: “Wine Dark Sea”. There, I admit it — I have always had a weakness for the craggy, Byronic, goatish, bad boy on the scene. In vino veritas. But I digress…)

As I looked closely at the offerings from today’s vintners, I was struck by two strands or story lines emerging from the standard labels identifying vintner, grape, region, and alcohol content: the dark, brooding, and even macabre; and the light-hearted, whimsical, and friendly. Both used clever names, eye-catching graphics, and succinct back stories to attract buyers. Vampires are back in literary vogue, and so are goth-inspired wine appellations. Yet this is also an age of domestic fiction, and that, too, is reflected back on new wine labels with a softer side.

Here is a short photo “tasting” of these visual decoctions, beginning with the dark side:

Even the boxed wine sometimes follows this trend…

Followed by the gentler, softer, lighter side, sometimes lady-like, sometimes girly:

In addition, there is also the simple and relaxing eye candy of the colorful labels:

Was I imagining these trends? Or had I just been inattentive before? Sean Adams, owner of Firehouse Liquor since 1983, confirmed what I had been seeing. “The tendency toward weird or amusing names goes back at least ten years,” he noted. “But there has been a great improvement in the quality of the wine behind those names. A catchy new name or logo isn’t enough any more. People are more discriminating about taste, too.”

One of my favorite bits of packaging is this bottle:

This combines the dark red wine and the frightening name “Predator” with a cute logo of a voracious “good” garden predator, the ladybug.

Another wine that made me think was this one:

This Australian wine borders on the gallows humor but with more historical acumen that most. While our family elected to spend two years as immigrants to Australia, most of the original “settlers” (from 1788 to 1868 ) were “transported”, that is, given the choice of a long and uncertain sea voyage to the Australian penal colony or a short, dead-certain cart ride to their local gallows hill. If convicted of any one of nineteen more minor violations of ‘Bloody Code’ of British law back then (which listed 222 crimes deserving of the death penalty), this choice might have been yours. As the wine label summarizes “Nineteen crimes turned criminals into colonists….This wine celebrates the rules they broke and the culture they built.”

I also learned that Firehouse Liquor hosts monthly wine-tasting events, and the reactions of customers influence what ends up on the store shelves. The next one scheduled is on Monday, December 15, 2014 from 2:00 to 7:00 p.m. During that time, all wines in stock are on sale for 15 percent below their shelf price.

In talking with Firehouse Liquor staff, I looked more closely at local wines.

I decided to buy a bottle of this 100% cranberry wine from the Chisago Lakes Area north of the Twin Cities for Thanksgiving. The clear, light color and the tartness of cranberries might go very well with the turkey tenderloin Tim has planned.  Here, too, I was drawn into the story behind the logo: the honeybee represents the Peterson family’s heritage as producers of fine honey, and the vineyard itself is “where four generations of Petersons continue to live, work, and play.”

This focus on local wine at my local liquor store got me thinking. I asked a staff person whether the local wine was any good, and was told that, yes, it often was very good. She pointed out the offerings of Cannon River Winery in Cannon Falls, Minnesota. Had I ever been there? No? “Oh, it is a wonderful place! You should go!”

I knew where it was. I had seen the mural on the outside of the building but I had never been inside. More meandering?  I pulled my car over on the way home to phone Tim. Tomorrow was a Saturday. Would he like to consider a field trip? He would!

And so, this unplanned post on wine turns into a pair of posts, since that field trip deserves its own space. Here is a preview of coming attractions:

 Until the next post, wishing you well!

Categories: Citizens

Outrage! Grand Jury says no charges!

Carol Overland - Legalectric - Tue, 11/25/2014 - 11:04am

“A hallucination of your worst fears” : Legal scholar Patricia Williams on what Darren Wilson’s testimony reveals about racism in America

One of the functions of a prosecutor is to prioritize, to make a case that there is reasonable cause. McCulloch didn’t do that. He chose to present a mess with no attempt to persuade. That’s what prosecutors are supposed to do, and he didn’t do that. He emptied several bales of hay and told the jury to go sort through it. Relevance and focus is absolutely what you need to create a case. He didn’t try to create a case.

If you don’t understand why people are really pissed off, take a look in the mirror and at society and confront white privilege, privilege of race and privilege of class — think honestly and deeply.  Then do something about it in your world — within your family, at work, at church, in your community, take steps toward justice and equality.  If you do understand and are working toward change, keep at it with perseverance and patience.  The struggle won’t be over soon.

Yeah, I’m an attorney, sworn to uphold the Constitution.  What a concept!  I spend my time helping regular people exercise their freedom of speech, association, and protecting their property in their efforts to participate in a legal and administrative system that’s stacked against them, daring them to stand up for themselves.  The legal training I have, and the rudimentary experience and knowledge of criminal law and police procedure has me tied up in knots, sick at the Grand Jury decision… but I’d not expected Wilson to be charged.  Everything leading up to the start of Grand Jury deliberations pointed up to last night’s release of their decision.  But this is not about the law, it is not about justice, it is not about police procedure, it is not about appropriate or legal use of deadly force.

Ferguson’s Trial – Sarah Kendzior

12 things white people can do now because of Ferguson

Why It’s Impossible to Indict a Cop

If we presume the facts are as stated by McCulloch, and note what facts were not stated…

McCulloch said that Wilson knew about the reported theft at the store, and yet in the transcripts it’s said that he repeatedly stated he did not know, he was not responding to that call.  McCulloch said he had called for assistance, but the transcripts say he did not until after the shooting.  In his statements, he said he got out of the car and chased Brown.  In what world is it police procedure for an officer to, without backup, get out of his car and run after and shoot at someone who is running away after an altercation and where two shots were already fired from inside a police car?  How far away was Wilson when Brown stopped and turned around?  Reports and transcripts say about 20 feet… a couple of car lengths.  Why didn’t Wilson carry a taser?  How far away was Wilson when he fired the final shot?  How many shots should be fired at an unarmed man?  When shooting an unarmed man, what’s your target?  When his immediate supervisor questioned him after the incident, why wasn’t that recorded, why were there no notes taken?  When is use of deadly force acceptable?  Justified?


A chart from PBS (Click for LINK), click image for larger version:

A transcript that jumps out – other officers and Darren Wilson’s testimony.

The federal investigation is ongoing about civil rights violations, and there’s the civil suit, but neither will do much, if anything, to alter the systemic mindset in Ferguson, or in this country (look no further than the police killings in Minneapolis).

Will this provide an opportunity for whites to examine the meaning and impact of white privilege and racism?  Will we look at class stratification in our society?  Is this a teaching moment?  Hardly.  It’s necessary, but I’m not holding my breath.  From what I’ve observed, so far it’s “circle the wagons” in the onslaught of virulent protests.  What will it take to reach an understanding of why people are so pissed off and do something about it, do something different?  We have made some progress in the last 50 years, what I’ve seen in my lifetime, but there is so much further to go.  I so distinctly remember that day in 4th grade when saying the Pledge of Allegiance in school on a cold winter morning, red stretch pants and a multi-colored red based shirt, when I realized that we don’t have “liberty and justice for all.”   Now it’s ~50 years later.  We’re not even close.  Change of the magnitude necessary is never easy, particularly where so many people believe that equality means less for those with privilege.  Change of the magnitude necessary is never easy, particularly where spewing racial hatred has become recreational sport.

I feel very fortunate to have been a near-suburban white teenager who transferred into the Magnet program at Minneapolis Central H.S., when the public school system was trying to avoid a segregation lawsuit. This was a time where part of my education was exposure to race and racism first hand.  After high school, I lived in Prestigious East Phillips for 20 years.  It was impossible to ignore the impact of race-skewed education funding, racism and death threats in Harry Davis’s Mayoral campaign, the gutting of Minneapolis neighborhoods with a freeway, housing segregation and covenants, and awareness of white privilege.  That awareness shifts my perspective, but it doesn’t wash me clean, nope, we all carry those biases.  We are all racists, and we each need to look at that.  Over the last 50 years, the balance has shifted some, but white privilege remains.

People tend to be innately afraid of “other,” which often manifests in anger and hate.  How do we deal with this other than systemic changes from birth — little kids playing together, going to school together — so it’s “us” and not “other.”  How do we move away from parental and societal lessons of racism when it’s so deeply instilled?  When it’s everywhere we look?  When it fills the airwaves and internet?

This is not the world as I want it to be…

Categories: Citizens

Not a Great Ride

Blowing and Drifting - Christopher Tassava - Mon, 11/24/2014 - 10:25pm

Today’s ride did not live up to expectations, and yet the magic of bike riding ensured that it still didn’t suck. I fell short on both saddle time and total distance, crashed twice on the ice, experienced no lovely falling-snow moments, fought a heavy headwind, damaged various bits and pieces, and had to call for a rescue ride home from my great friend Michael. Yet! I was grinning as I rode into the garage.

By way of summary, here’s a rundown of damaged stuff and their current dispositions:

  • Front blinker light: cracked in crash #1; now junk
  • Right hip: bruised and scraped in crash #1; now healing in a purply way
  • Right elbow: jarred in crash #1; now aching nicely with a likely bruise tomorrow
  • Rear derailleur: slightly bent in crash #1; straightened by hand later and now functioning fine
  • Cranks and spindle: mysterious malfunction led to complete separation of cranks about 20 miles from home and a call to a friend for a rescue; repairers quickly and at no cost at the LBS.

Categories: Citizens

Postcard: November 24, 2014

Winona Media (Leslie Schultz) - Sun, 11/23/2014 - 4:56pm

Categories: Citizens

Saying good bye to Kady

Carol Overland - Legalectric - Sat, 11/22/2014 - 3:12pm

Today we said good bye to our Kady.  Above, there she is on her “Gotcha Day!”

           K-K-K-Kady…  January 28th, 2010

And here she is in our “new” house a few years ago:

And this morning:

She’s been our dog for five years, the first dog that Alan and I got together, found on Petfinder not long after Krie, the doggy with the winglet ears, died unexpectedly.  That was January 2010.  I was in the middle of the Susquehanna-Roseland transmission project hearing in Newark, New Jersey, camped out officing at the R.Treat Hotel and I saw this photo and knew she was THE dog:

That’s Kady, and her “pup” in the background, peering out.  She was no spring chicken, a middle-aged grrrrl found as a stray in Georgia, with her young pup, and was spayed down there, and headed up the  I-95 dog underground railroad to 6th Angel German Shepherd Rescue, where she was treated for heartworm and then fostered out on Long Island.  She was there for a year before we saw her listed for adoption.

Kate was then “Lady,” and we were told that she was extremely dog aggressive and shouldn’t go to a home with another dog.  Sure… whatever… we filled out the application, went to meet her after the hearing in Newark, and took “Lady” and our Kenya for a walk.  They fussed a bit at first, but when we got back to the house and put Ken in the van, “Lady” jumped right in.  No doubt about it, she wanted to be our dog.  So a week later, after the house visit, we went back to Long Island to pick her up.

“Lady” is no name for a dog of mine, and no name for a German Shepherd, so given all our grrrrrrrrls were “K” grrrrrrls, she became “Kady.”  And getting to Delaware was kind of a rude awakening for our new grrrrl, she arrived just in time for FOUR feet of snow:

And she was clearly dog aggressive:

After Kenya died, we were inexplicably drawn to our Little Sadie, and life with Sadie was quite an adjustment for our shep grrrrl, but they became fast friends (one faster than the other!):

And then there’s the day that we brought them east to Co. R. E near Oconomowoc, WI to pick up a third sister, the irrepressible Summer!

Next thing she knows, Kady and the big galoot are headed down to St. Louis for BaronFest I for some GSD bonding, and that did it for these grrrrls:

And these grrrrrls got along famously, when they weren’t being bitches and drawing blood:

And then a year later, BaronFest II:

And then the next year, she was on her own for BaronFest:

(where are the rest of those BaronFest photos???)

Kady was a quiet grrrrrrl, a good match for her rowdy sister Sadie.  She loved the neighborhood kids and was oh-so-gentle, and loved to be loved up.  She was my constant companion every day, spending most of her time under my desk or behind in her spot with her toes curled around the wheels of my chair — YEOW!

It was time… she’d checked out and was just existing, no fun for her.  We will miss her every day.  Sadie seems to be pissed at us, and when we got home and she smelled us over good, she ran into the living room, jumped up in “her chair,” and was cowering and shaking, so I guess we need to convince her that we won’t be taking her to the vet any time soon.

Categories: Citizens

Advocating for mountain biking to be part of Northfield’s new Meadows Park

Mountain Bike Geezer - Sat, 11/22/2014 - 9:17am

Back in the summer of 2013, I blogged about the mountain biking-related possibilities for Northfield’s new Meadows Park. So it was pretty cool to attend the City of Northfield‘s Meadows Park community planning meeting at the Northfield Middle School on Wednesday night and have mountain biking be mentioned by the consultants (Paul Miller Design and SRF Consulting) as one of the possibilities under consideration.


Even better, there was some support for it from citizens at the small group discussions, helped along by participation from fellow Cannon River Offroad Cycling & Trails (CROCT) members Marty Larson and Scott Klein. 


After the meeting, we had some informal discussions with Ward 2 Councilor David DeLongAt-Large Councilor Rhonda Pownell, and PRAB Chair Dale Gehring, as well as City Administrator Nick Haggenmiller, Community Planning and Development Director Chris Heineman, and Interim Public Works Director/City Engineer Brian Erickson.

The CROCT Board has not taken an official position on what we’d like to see in the way of mountain biking for the park.  But in our comments, we talked about the advantages of having:

  • a beginner/intermediate-level singletrack (multi-use) trail around the perimeter of the park
  • a bike park in one corner, with features like pump tracks, dirt jumps, and a skills course, all serving a range of abilities (progression) including a tot area
  • a pavilion area with bathrooms, changing facilities, picnic tables, grills, water fountains. See the West Trailhead facilities page for Dakota County’s Lebanon Hills MTB Park for a good example.

The next Meadows Park community meeting will be on Jan. 21.

Want more information about Meadows Park? See these documents that I extracted from the Nov. 20 PRAB meeting agenda packet:


Subscribe to my free Thick Skull MTB Skills/Mountain Bike Geezer newsletter and get:

  1. The free 3-part video series, 'Light Hands, Heavy Feet': 17 mountain bike drills to develop the 'light hands' habit and make your riding more stable no matter what the terrain
  2. Exclusive how-to-ride related content every week that I don't post on my blog.

So do it. Get it through your Thick Skull.

Categories: Citizens

Jones Loop Handlebar: A Belated Review

Blowing and Drifting - Christopher Tassava - Wed, 11/19/2014 - 8:34pm

When I sold the Beast in August to upgrade to a titanium Mukluk, I also decided to switch from traditional straight handlebars to the funny-looking but apparently quite comfortable "Loop" H-Bar made by Jones Bikes.

I had had problems with my hands going numb on many rides on the Muk with straight bars, but many riders on the Internet swore up and down that the unusual backwards sweep of the H-Bar helped relieve pressure on their hands and thus numbness. Mindful of the self-selection there, I figured that I could always sell the H-Bar if I found that my hands still fell asleep on them.

Having now done about 500 miles on the new (to me) ti Mukluk with the H-Bar, I can report that these funny-looking bars are in fact much more comfortable than my flat bars (even cushy flat carbon bars!).*

I spend most of any ride with my hands on the grips at the ends of the bars, where I’ve found the sweep to be very congenial to the way I ride. Bike control is excellent because of or despite my hands being fairly far out and quite far back, even in tight cornering situations like singletrack. The 710mm width seems to allow for more steering by leaning my hips and shoulders and less by actually turning the bars.

When I’m cruising, I can reach forward to the joints where the front loop meets the back bar or even all the way out to the front loop, creating a much more "aero" position that’s perfect for straight flat sections, on gentle uphills, and especially on steady downhills. I have much less control over the bike in these forward positions, but just enough that I can avoid bumps and potholes. And it’s very easy to pop back to the grips to resume full control over the machine.

In my use of the bars, I’ve only had one brief episode with numb hands, which I chalked up to wearing thicker-than-usual gloves and white-knuckling the grips on some long downhills. Lessons learned: relax and switch hand positions frequently.

In addition to excellent handling and comfort of the H-Bar, I have discovered that the bar is great for attaching all the junk needed for the kind of riding I’m doing right now: bar bags on the aft bar for food and stuff, sleeping pad/sleeping bag/drybag under the loop, cyclocomputer on the stem, light on the front of the loop… And the loop itself is a pretty handy spot for either stuffing clothing (at different points I’ve securely wedged my windshell and my vest between the bar and the drybag underneath it) or for carrying stuff:

All in all, the Jones H-Bar has been a great addition to my bike. I’m looking forward to racing on it this winter. That front spot should be a great place for number plates!

  • One note: I did switch from a 90mm stem to a 100mm stem after my knees started getting achy on long rides. My LBS guy guessed that the backsweep of the bars was keeping me a little too upright. By getting me forward more, the 100mm stem seems to have fixed the knee problems.

Categories: Citizens

State Rail Plan – Meetings & Comments!

Carol Overland - Legalectric - Wed, 11/19/2014 - 9:23am

There’s a “State Rail Plan” and it’s up for comment NOW! But I’m wondering just what it is that they’re trying to do, and it seems like the goal is to secure public spending for necessary private infrastructure.  If not, what’s the goal here?

MN DOT has been holding meetings all over the state, Alan went to one in Red Wing last week, and there’s a couple more coming up:

Nov. 24: Moorhead, MN
Hjemkomst Center 5 – 7 p.m.

Nov. 25: Winona, MN
City Council Chambers 5 – 7 p.m.

What’s up for comment?

Start with this 2010 Report from the DOT website:

MN Rail Plan Final Report Feb2010

And updates to consider:

Now check this, from last February:

BNSF Announces $5 Billion Capital Commitment Program

Why is this news?  Isn’t it their job to keep the rails in decent shape, to invest in their own infrastructure, not just to put money in Warren Buffet’s pockets!

When the DOT predicts this level of service (LOS) with or without improvements, are they including improvements such as the $5 billion of BNSF?  The DOT seems to be cheerleading for PUBLIC spending on PRIVATE infrastructure!  These are private for-profit companies (well, some may be “public” in the corporate sense) and they are responsible for their infrastructure.  What is the DOT doing to force the rail companies to upgrade to keep their Level of Service (LOS) at an acceptable rate, SAFELY, so they’re able to handle all the freight that they’re wanting to ram through our communities?  It’s not the job of government to subsidize the likes of Warren Buffet!

Here’s a freight survey from their site — note it’s called “Metroquest” so go figure.

Something I found interesting when considering rail is this testimony from the Sandpiper pipeline case (go HERE and plug in dockets 13-473 for Certificate of Need and 13-474 for Routing):


They’re framing this Bakken BOOM! as binary, either rail or pipeline, and whenever something is framed that way, that’s a big red flag to take a closer and more thoughtful look.

DOT says there are going to be “stakeholder” meetings — meetings that should be well attended by people like us!  From their site:

  • Three major stakeholder meetings are also scheduled, coinciding with the November 2014 Passenger Rail Forum, the December 2014 Freight Summit, and the January 2015 Passenger Rail Forum. A second round of open houses will be held in early 2015.

So when are these meetings?  Passenger Rail Forum meetings are supposed to happen monthly but don’t.  Just this last Monday, Gov. Dayton’s “Rail Summit” was supposed to have happened. MPCA Commissioner Stine mentioned it at yesterday’s meeting and said there would be another next month, and Frank Hornstein’s fb post, but there’s very little about it in the news other than announcements 10/31 that it would happen, in St. Paul, and of course we all weren’t invited:

Here’s how it’s framed by our good friends at KSTP — if you click on the link, it’s pipeline promotion:

Dayton Hosts Governor’s Rail Summit to Discuss Rail Safety, Backlog 17, 2014 Railroad, agriculture and political leaders will be attending the Governor’s Rail Summit to talk about increasing railway safety, addressing the …

Back to the DOT — look at this “Passenger Rail Forum” and how that’s been “working” — meeting after meeting canceled:

Forum meetings

All forum meetings are held from 10 a.m. to noon at the State Office Building unless otherwise specified below. Meetings will be canceled when there are insufficient topics to merit a meeting.

State Office Building, Room 5
100 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd
St. Paul, MN 55155


Location / Time

Jan. 6, 2014 Canceled Feb. 3, 2014 Canceled March 3, 2014 Conference call April 7, 2014 Conference call May 5, 2014 Conference call June 2, 2014 Canceled July 7, 2014 Canceled Aug. 4, 2014 Conference call Sep. 8, 2014 Rescheduled to Sept. 15 via conference call Oct. 6, 2014 Canceled Nov. 10, 2014 State Office Building, Room 5, 10 a.m. to Noon Dec. 1, 2014 State Office Building, Room 5, 10 a.m. to Noon

Check out their site.  What are they really doing here?  What’s really at issue?  I think we’re looking at a scam to get the public to pick up the tab for infrastructure updates that haven’t been made over the last few decades:

These slides are from this presentation — note the date: November 12, 2009… presented at the November 12, 2010 meeting (That’s what the date is on the site, and the 2009 date matches up with the properties date.)  ???


And another thing… why is the Norwegian American Chamber of Commerce interested in Bakken BOOM oil and why is DNV-GL top-heavily loading the panel coming up here on December 4th?

Categories: Citizens

Bike-cation in Northfield

Betsey Buckheit - Wed, 11/19/2014 - 9:18am
Bikeyface took a bike-cation somewhere near Boston, but could have been visiting Northfield instead.  Doesn’t that look like MN Trunk Highway 3 through downtown Northfield? What would a bike-cation in Northfield look like? There’s a surprising amount to do on … Continue reading →
Categories: Citizens

Poems By Heart: On the Valuing of Memorizing

Winona Media (Leslie Schultz) - Tue, 11/18/2014 - 10:05pm

When the days shorten and grow chill, I turn to knitting, quilting, and crossword puzzles. The other day I was working on a  puzzle (‘My Stars!’ by Charles M. Deber, originally published in The New York Times.) Hmmm….what was a five-letter word for the clue ‘Commit to memory’? The answer was: ‘learn’.

What does it mean to learn something?

When I was in grade school,( classically the ‘grammar stage’of development when memorization was stressed) memorizing facts or poems–learning things “by heart”–was pedagogically passé.  I, have, however, always felt that, contrary to fashion, learning a few selected things by heart was the gold standard. Naturally, I don’t mean simply mean the ability to parrot without understanding. Instead, I mean that there is a confidence in being absolutely certain of a particular bit of material that can then anchor new explorations and the creation of new work.


Personally, I have found value in memorizing many different kind of material, from the Pythagorean theorem, the colors of the rainbow, and the books of the Old and New Testaments to the U.S. presidents in chronological order. What I most enjoy memorizing (and repeating over and over in odd moments) are poems I love.

I have been memorizing poems my whole life, beginning (like most of us) with nursery rhymes, moving on to proverbial sayings, and song lyrics and such poems as relatives had memorized. My father recited “The Cremation of Sam McGee” by Robert Service with gusto, and my sister can still recite it, a breakneck speed, in under a minute. Later, in high school, I began making the effort (thanks to all my English teachers) to memorize poems. It is a practice I have continued fitfully ever since. For several decades, I had a file folder (an actual blue paper file with sheets of typewritten paper in it!) labelled “Solaces: Poems Committed to Memory”.

This year, I expanded to a three-ring binder, and I included copies of poems I have securely in my ‘neural anthology’ as well as those I have about three-quarters of but still need some work. (I have found that many of the longer poems require periodic polishing to remain clear, but once something is truly learnt by heart then it doesn’t take much to brush up. The oftener it is reviewed, the more reliably it can be called up. Some frequently revisited  favorites are as deeply engraved as the Pledge of Allegiance.

The majority of the ones I have memorized are formally structured using rhyme and meter.

Why do I do this? What is the point? Pleasure, primarily. I am intrigued by why my brain responds to language poetically patterned, and I keep coming back to this ground-breaking research, The Neural Lyre, first published in 1983 in Poetry Magazine, by Frederick Turner and Ernst Pöppel. Are we, I wonder, hardwired to respond to musical language? If so, why? And I am fascinated by more recent research that suggest memories of music and poetry can still be accessible after other problems remembering facts arise.

As my hearing becomes (ever so slightly) less acute and my eyesight needs (just a few) props – so that’s why my Condensed Oxford English Dictionary came equipped with a little drawer and a huge magnifying glass! — I know there is a chance I might, one distant day, become unable to enjoy reading, viewing a film, sewing, taking in an exhibit of art, hearing a lecturer, or listening to music. If that day ever comes, I plan to deepen my practice of breath work, explore the textures of flowers and vegetables and fruits, and continue to explore the contours of poems I have safe in my heart.

Below is my ‘life list’ of poems. The ones with asterisks are Recite On Demand. The others are, shall we say, Under Construction.

In future posts, I plan to share insights I have had about specific classic poems that I could not have had without the experience of committing them to memory; techniques for memorizing that have served me well; and a few stories, of my own and of others, of moments when the ability to call a poem to mind has been a valuable thing.

For now, I invite you to let me know if there is a poem you particularly cherish, or if you have thoughts on the merits of memorization generally — what do you know by heart? If you want to hold my feet to the fire, next time you see me you can ask me to recite an asterisked poem–I would love it if you have a poem to recite, too.

Poems Memorized (*) and Becoming Memorized         November 2014

Leslie Schultz
“Twilight at Tenney Park”*
“Gilbert’s Hobby”*

Robert Francis

Emily Dickinson
“441  This is my letter to the World”
“712  Because I could not stop for Death”
“445  They shut me up in Prose”
“656  I started early, took my dog”*
“249 Wild nights, wild nights”*
“254 Hope is the thing with Feathers”*
“341 After great pain”*
“288 I’m Nobody. Who are you?”*
737 “The moon was but a chin of gold”
“214 I taste a liquor never brewed”

Robert Frost
“Provide, Provide”
“Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”*
“Fire and Ice”*
“Acquainted with the Night”
“Nothing Gold Can Stay”*

William Butler Years
“No Second Troy”
“Lines Written in Dejection”*
“The Circus Animals’ Desertion”
“Among School Children”
“Sailing to Byzantium”
“The Wild Swans at Coole”*
“An Irish Airman Forsees His Death”*
“The Second Coming”
“The Lake Isle of Innisfree”*
“When You Are Old”
“Who Goes with Fergus?”*
“The Magi”
“A Coat”*
“The Scholars”*
“To be carved on a Stone at Thoor Ballylee”

William Shakespeare
“116 CXVI Let Me Not to the Marriage of True Minds”*
“29 XXIX When in Disgrace with Fortune and Men’s Eyes”*
“73 LVIII That Time of Year Though Mayst in Me Behold”*
“130 CXXX My Mistress’s Eyes are Nothing Like the Sun”*

Gerard Manly Hopkins
“Spring and Fall to a Young Child”*
“Pied Beauty”

William Wordsworth
“I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud”* (often cited as “Daffodils”)

Richard Wilbur
“Two Voices in a Meadow”*
“Advice to a Prophet”

Wilfred Owen
“Dulce et Decorum Est”
“Arms and the Boy”

Ronald Wallace
“Fathers and Daughters”*

Arthur Guiterman
“On the Vanity of Earthly Greatness”

Sarah Norcliffe Cleghorn
“The Golf Links”*

William Blake
“A Poison Tree”
“The Sick Rose”*
“They Tyger

T.S. Eliot
“The Magi”
“The Song of the Jellicles”
“The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”

Carl Sandburg

Edna St. Vincent Millay
“Oh, Burdock”*

Alfred, Lord Tennyson
“The Eagle”
“The Lady of Shallot”

George Gordon, Lord Byron
“She Walks in Beauty”

Percy Bysshe Shelley

Thomas Lovell Beddoes
“A lake”*

Rosalia de Castro
“Black Mood”*

John Keats
“On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer”

Mary Oliver
“Wild Geese”

James Wright
“A Blessing”

A.E. Houseman
“Loveliest of Trees, the Cherry Now”

Robert Herrick
“Upon Julia’s Clothes”*

Robert Southwell
“The Burning Babe”*

Richard Lovelace
“To Althea, From Prison”

Until another Wednesday, wishing you well!

Categories: Citizens

I’m Such a Yankee

Blowing and Drifting - Christopher Tassava - Tue, 11/18/2014 - 9:27pm

I’m such a Yankee.

Sadly, the countries-I’ve-visited map would have just two spots of color.

Categories: Citizens

Permits amended for Black Oak/Getty Wind

Carol Overland - Legalectric - Tue, 11/18/2014 - 1:02pm

The Orders are out!  On October 30, 2014, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission ordered that the permit for the Black Oak (10-1240) and Getty (11-831) wind projects be amended.  This is the one where they were “NOT” talking about “layout.”  Or so the Chair most emphatically said (despite the meeting notice, staff briefing papers, and their order options saying layout was at issue).

PUC Chair: This is not about layout…

The written order came out today — note that the term “layout” is used 27 times in the Order… and then there’s the attached permit for a total of 41 times… oh, and the part about ownership:

Black Oak Wind Project_Amended Permit_WS-10-1240

Getty Wind Project_Amended Permit  WS-11-831

And on that note, here are Comments filed yesterday in the Certificate of Need docket:

Comments, Petition to Intervene, and Petition for Contested Case on behalf of Residents of Getty and Raymond Twps_11-17-2014

Categories: Citizens

Downtown Northfield in winter, Bridge Square and Division St

Northfield Photos - Tue, 11/18/2014 - 7:18am

I took these photos last February.  Last week, the Downtown Northfield Facebook page used one of them when they changed their cover photo and I commented. Then my wife Robbie posted one of them on her Facebook timeline.

I’ve not made an effort to sell them but if anyone would like a free high-res version of one to print for personal/non-commercial use, contact me. I’ll suggest that you make a donation to your favorite Northfield non-profit or educational organization.

Categories: Citizens

From Container to Cookpot: A Squash Soup Story

My Northern Garden - Mary Schier - Tue, 11/18/2014 - 7:00am

Earlier this fall, I bought three nice squash from the Northfield Farmers Market to use in a fall container. When the weather turned cold (and then nasty) a week or so ago, I brought the squash in to put them to use in a soup. Squash are ornamental, and most are edible as well, so there was no reason to let the squash rot on the porch.

This soup turned out especially good and I think it’s in part because I had more than one kind of squash and because of the way they were prepared. The squash included a blue Hubbard squash, a red Kabocha squash and a buttercup squash. (Here’s a great guide to all things squash.)

I have been reading chef Alex Guarnaschelli’s book Old-School Comfort Food (Clarkson-Potter, 2013). For her squash soup, Guarnaschelli first roasts the squash with a rich coating of butter, sugar and molasses. I cut the butter by about half, but it was still plenty rich and delicious. After the roasting, I freelanced things and made a squash soup the way I normally would with onions, wine and warm spices. (Guarnaschelli’s soup sounds delicious, too, but this is my preferred recipe.) It turned out beautifully, elevating a simple soup and sandwich supper to gourmet levels. Of course, I served it with the red pepper relish that I make each fall.

That’s a lot of squash!

A couple of notes: 1) This is not a quick meal. Do it on a day when you will be hanging around the house for several hours. 2) The amounts of some of the ingredients are variable. Because I had lots of squash, I used six cups of cooked squash for the soup and the rest went into a squash custard. You may need more or less liquid depending on how big your squash are. 3) This soup calls for an immersion blender. If you don’t have one, you could mush up the soup with a potato masher or use a regular blender and blend the soup in batches, though I think that’s a bit dangerous. (Immersion blenders come at a variety of price points. Walmart has one for less than $15; if you spend $40,  you can have this nice one I got for my daughter when she got her first apartment.) It’s a good kitchen investment.

Squash Soup from a Container Garden

2-3 winter squash (your choice on type) If very large, you may only need one

5 TBSP butter, melted in a sauce pan

2 TBSP brown sugar

2 TBSP molasses

2 TBSP olive oil

1 large onion chopped

1 TBSP chopped garlic

1 jalapeno or other hot pepper diced finely (totally optional)

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp Garam masala

1 tsp cumin

Salt and pepper to taste (don’t skimp)

1/2 cup white wine (optional)

1-2 cups chicken or vegetable broth (or water)

Water as needed

1 cup (more or less) whole milk or half-and-half

Prepare the squash: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Also, check to make sure your oven shelves are far enough apart — especially if you have big squash. Wash the squash, then cut them into large pieces and scrape out the seeds. Place the pieces on large trays, preferably with a 1-2 inch lip, and drizzle the melted butter over them. Sprinkle on the sugar and molasses and some salt and pepper. Put a little water in the bottom of the pans to add some steam. Then cover it all with foil and crimp the edges around the pan. You want the squash to be semi-sealed in to prevent the sugars from browning too much. Bake for 90 minutes or more until the squash are soft. Take it out of the oven (carefully!!!) and let it cool so you can handle it.

The soup: Remove the squash flesh from the skins with a spoon or knife. For my soup, I used 6 cups of squash, but you could use more and just increase the liquid. Have your onion and garlic chopped and your spices ready. Put the oil in your soup pot and warm it slightly, add the onion and a bit of salt and pepper. Let it cook until it’s translucent. Then add the spices, garlic and hot pepper, if using, and let them cook for a minute or two. Pour in the wine and let all the goodness meld for about 2 minutes. Then, add your squash, the broth and enough water to just cover the squash. Bring it to a boil, then turn down the heat and let it simmer for 30 to 40 minutes. (If your squash is not perfectly soft, it may need more time. If it is soft, less.)

Blend the soup. When everything is soft and smelling good, blend the soup with an immersion blender until smooth. You may need to add more water because it should be rather thick. Add in the milk (as much or little as you like) to get it to your preferred consistency. Serve with a dollop of sour cream or (my preference) some red pepper relish.


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