Archive - Mar 2013



Thomas Friedman publishes a great column this morning on what people need to survive in today's economy. There are great opportunities, but they don't lie in getting a job, but in creating your own job. However, the education system is still preparing people to enter a traditional job. Traditional jobs are vanishing. The people who thrive are on their own. The skills to be on your own are the skills which need to be taught. I would argue this has always been true, but it is even more true now. 

As the article points out, the number one problem we all must tackle to survive today: motivation. You are no longer going to be able to show up at a job, go through the motions with a modicum of competence, and collect a check. You are going to have to have the creativity, but most of all the motivation, to package and sell your own talents, not just to get a single job, but to get many little jobs. Not only do you need the motivation to sell your talents, but you then have to learn to charge enough for those talents to pay the bills. 


March 28th


The weather is warming here in Minnesota, if only slightly. Meanwhile, the usual "welcome home" cold hit me this week. Miserable. I think the weather change causes it. I know very well that if I were in Arizona enjoying the 85 degree weather until mid-April, I would not have such issues as lethargy and coughs.  

On the upside, the Twins season starts only four days from now. I do not think the Twins have much chance this season, especially given the precarious state of their starting pitching. But I am going to enjoy watching, and try to watch without getting to involved with whether they win or lose. 

Speaking of which, the Twins just lost to the Red Sox. However, it was good to watch baseball. 

A few nights ago, I attended a town hall in Ada, MN with our MN Rep. Paul Marquart and Sen. Kent Eken. I was impressed with how both handled the issues. It seems things are on a rational footing again. No games with state tax cuts which only force local governments to raise property taxes, which is what you get from the Republicans when then get their grimy hands on the levers of power. 

One intolerable know-it-all showed up and was spewing Tea Party doctrine, including "the more guns out there, the safer we are," which is demonstrably false. He also figured we have to cut teacher's salaries. And he went on and on, a pompous know it all, making references to the Ayn Rand novel "Atlas Shrugged," which is really nothing more than a teenage "I am omnipotent" fantasy, not a book meant for serious consumption. Of course, the Tea Party lapped it up and uses it as a philosophical justification for no shared burdens whatsoever. All government is bad. All regulation is bad. 

Then, a man asked about gay marriage. He was a supporter. Neither Eken nor Marquart has made up their mind yet. I suspect they are watching the national winds, which would seem to indicate that they will not be punished at the polls for a vote in favor. During the discussion, the table of big Tea Partiers snickered and acted generally immature. 

No empathy. Complete self-pity. That's what the Tea Party and most of the Republican party are all about. Senator Chambliss of GA: I am not gay, so I am not going to have a gay marriage. So, I am against it! Oh! So that's the level of your interest in the issue? If it doesn't effect you personally, you aren't interested in finding out more? 

Not impressed. 

Right-wing movements throughout  our history have always been ignoble. Name one which looks good in the light of history! They are always wrong, always suspicious, always subscribing to fantasy over reality, always paranoid, always impatient with people of different backgrounds. Slavery? They were for it. Civil rights? They were against it. Women's rights? Against. Child labor in factories? All for it. Five-day work week? Against. Mixed marriage? Against. Daylight Savings Time? Against. It was a communist plot, as was flouridation of water. 

Right-wing religion is as bad as their politics. Focusing solely on pharisaical personal piety and petty personal morality, perverting prayer into a means to browbeat the diety into getting their way, they have no general concern for the poor, other than to toss the heathens a bread crumb every now and then. Their only concern is that people get converted, after which, presumably, the hungry new convert will pick up the virtue of hard work and not be hungry any more. There is almost nothing about the Gospels of the New Testament that is reflected in the right-wing attitude or behavior. Nothing. Yet, they view themselves as the most Christian. And oh, how they suffer! Yes, they have to put up with all these people who are different than them. What really should happen, they wish in their hearts, is that people who are different should be forced, bullied, sermonized, whatever it takes, into conforming, not with the New Testament, but with a male authority cult which worships the 1950s ideal of Dad in the living room reading the paper, Mom in the kitchen cooking macaroni and cheese.

There is an undercurrent of coercion and meanness in these people. And rage. It disturbs me when it rears its ugly head. 

Thank goodness for the epic election of 2012, which has shut most of the Tea baggers up most of the time. I listened to Rush the other day. He sounds beaten. He was lying about gay marriage, saying it has been defeated at the polls 30 times and has never been approved. Of course that was true before the election, but no longer. It was a bald-faced lie, but it came from somebody who is losing his audience to attrition and who is relying on an obsolete formula to whip up his remaining rump of uneducated rubes. 

March 24th


I haven't been watching the Twins progress in spring training too closely, as it usually has no bearing on their regular season. However, it is fun to see that Aaron Hicks stepped up to take the center field position. He has more native talent than either Ben Revere or Denard Span, who were traded for pitching last winter. Hicks looks like a winner. He has power. You really need to have a center fielder with power these days. He also has an arm. And he gets on base. 

In the end, it comes down to starting pitching, and there is no assurance that the Twins have improved in that department over last year. They stocked up on prospects, but those prospects are still a couple of years away. They must get through this season. The three three veterans they signed, Harden, Pelfrey and Corriea, haven't shown much hope. I think Terry Ryan's entire focus should be on building up the number of strong pitching arms in the organization. To that end, I would advocate trading Morneau and Willingham as soon as possible for pitching. Pitching, pitching, pitching. No such thing as too much. 

I also think managers who stick around too long get stagnant. Baseball teams can benefit from new managers with a new approach. I think George Steinbrenner was correct: Fire managers early and often. 

I would make an exception for Tom Kelly, Jim Leyland, Joe Torre, Sparky Anderson, Joe Maddon, Earl Weaver and maybe a few others. 




President Obama had a very successful trip to the Mideast. Is anybody even watching? Or do we have to start a war before anybody feels like we are accomplishing something? And what about the snakes who claimed, without one ounce of evidence, that Obama was "sympathetic" to Islamic extremists--do they find evidence for their fantasies in this trip? Or does it bore them because they don't want to see evidence of Obama's pragmatism, moderation--and, above all, plain old competence?

March 22nd

Thunder from the Fargo Forum

Wow, the Fargo Forum calls out the North Dakota legislature for its looniness this session. Congratulations to the Gray Lady of the Great Plains for a plain-spoken editorial. 

March 20th


Wow, coming back to the cold took the wind out of my sails. I have been sleepy or sleeping most of the time. Today, I drove to Hawley to perform for Hawley Senior Living. I almost had to pull over to the side of the road for a nap. That after nine hours of sleep at night and a four hour nap yesterday afternoon!

I think our bodies adjust to the seasons and mine never adjusted to winter, given how I escaped almost all of it. In years past, I have struggled to get moving once I got home from Arizona, only to have spring come along and wake me up. I suspect as soon as the temperatures increase, I'll be fine. 

I went in to see Aunt Olla yesterday, thinking maybe a trip to the Hilton would wake me up. It didn't! I got even sleepier. Aunt Olla was in the same shape. She couldn't put together sentences very well and neither could I. We eventually gave up trying, and I left.  

If I could run, that would help. The elliptical machine stares at me in the garage. I could use it. That would wake me up. But I haven't managed to take the plunge yet. 

It is just to wait until it warms up!


March 18th

Bakken, cont.

Take a look at this video of the Bakken. Wow. 

March 17th


Here is a video of the place where they load the trains with oil, trains which you can see passing through Fargo and on down Highway 10. I passed through the Bakken on the way home this week. It is something. Dickinson is so lit up. It is like beet harvest times 100. Gas flares and oil rig high voltage lights light up the night sky. 

My rough calculations are that each train of 100 cars carries about $5 million worth of oil. It costs about $60,000 to haul it to Cushing Oklahoma for delivery. 

It is encouraging that Burlington Northern is considering using natural gas for their locomotives. Rather than abandoning fossil fuels cold turkey, which I suspect will never be politically viable, we should constantly move to the better forms of energy from the massive stores underneath us. Natural gas is so cheap right now, perhaps companies will be inspired to move to it for cost savings. 

March 16th

More Yosemite


A foggy day at Yosemite produced scenes which were almost Japanese in their elegance, subtlety and simplicity. 



Yosemite Valley has the feel of a gothic cathedral. The mists and fog only add to that effect. 


The many waterfalls in the Yosemite Valley turn into snow-making machines when the temperature hovers around freezing. 

On the road

I am sitting at the computer this pristine winter morning recovering from two days on the road.

On Thursday, I traveled to central Minnesota to speak to two libraries as a part of their series of "author talks." At the first talk, nobody showed. So I visited with the librarian. Eventually, a woman came with Fertile connections. We shared some Fertile gossip. Then a twelve-year-old who had been too shy to show up on time arrived, chastened, with her mother and we went over a short story she had started. That was fun. 

I drove to the second town, took a nap in the car and went to my second presentation. The woman who was hosting was there, as was her mother-in-law, who made it clear that she was just there to keep her daughter-in-law company "in case nobody showed up," which is just what happened. 

So, 360 miles, a nice fat check––and no presentations. 

Oh well. 

Yesterday, I drove to Thief River Falls to a children's writer's conference where I worked with three sections of 5th-7th graders. The presentations were an hour long. The kids were a delight. They are intelligent and they love to read. We had many good laughs. 

But the experience required a two-and-a-half hour nap once I got home. I don't know how teachers do it.