Friday, December 31, 2010

another year shot to hell

(Very unimaginative of me -- that's the same title I used on 12/31/07)

I was just watching a news video of fireworks and celebration in New Zealand, Australia, Asia, where it's already 2011. We in the U.S. Central Time Zone still have a few more hours to savor 2010.

2010 was kind of weird, but aren't they all? For me personally, it was kind of a transition year -- difficult at times but better than the "unsettled" year of 2009. 2010 was the first full year of my new business partnership and the year of our remodel of the condo that we finally moved into in late April. The saddest part of the year was the death of my brother-in-law John, who I will miss tremendously, and the serious health issues and financial crises of so many family members and friends.

But like any year, there were many happy times to balance the sad ones, and life is mostly good.

Best book I read in 2010: By far -- Life by Keith Richards.

Best movie I saw in 2010 (not that I saw all that many): The Social Network.

Best vacation: Hawaii in November.

(I may fill in some more "bests" later as they occur to me) :-)

I'm optimistic about 2011, mainly because pessimism is a drag.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

wolves and lambs

Busy as the year winds down....

Went to the Timberwolves game last night, we took my nephew-in-law Ryan, the Wolves played well but lost (big surprise - they are now 8-25), we had a good time anyway. Came out of Target Center to a rainy evening, and the rain continues today: Lots of rain and melting snow, big puddles everywhere, it should be interesting when it all freezes later tonight. Sometime this evening we're going over to our former neighbor Dee's house for a combination one-day-early New-Year's-and-Jerry-and-Howard's-anniversary dinner/get-together with former neighbors. Dee has made this sort of an annual tradition, and it will be good to see former neighbors and Dee also. Sad news from Dee -- her cat Ming is dying, so we may be saying our goodbyes to Ming.

Tomorrow evening, we will have kind of a bizarre send-off of 2010. We are taking my sister Joan to see two of her favorites from her '70s teenage years, Donny and Marie Osmond, at Mystic Lake Casino. Why bizarre? Well, Mystic Lake allows no-alcohol anywhere in the building, so it will be an alcohol-free New Year's Eve party, which is a little hard to picture. The no-drinking piece of it, though, will fit right in with the squeaky-clean Osmond Mormon image. And, wouldn't you know it? These are performers that I'm not at all excited to see, and somehow we managed to get perfect seats in the second row center -- surrounded of course by aging Osmond fans (This show sold out immediately).

Saturday, the first day of the New Year, back for another Wolves game. I sure wish they could think of a way to avoid all those turnovers.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

somebody's definition of the best

I used to know the top songs of any given year, at least in those years early 60s through early 70s. Now I don't hear new pop songs, let alone know which ones are the "top" of the year. I thought it would be cute, though, to list the "top 10 songs of 2010" for you year, so I went Googling for some info about the current top of the pops and print the lyrics here for you, and the more I found, the more depressed I got. What a bunch of junk (Which is exactly what my parents said about the 60s stuff). Plus, this is a family-friendly site, and the lyrics are, well, explicit at times. So I'm going to spare you. You should thank me.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

standing in line at toxic hell

We were at the Mall of America last night, which was really kind of weird because there were too many people, all for the after-Christmas sales, I'm sure, and we hadn't even done any Christmas shopping this year at any mall, it's just not our thing. But we had seen that Nordstrom was having a sale on certain Ecco shoes, and there was a certain kind I wanted since my old Eccos in that style were falling apart. Needless to say, that particular style was not on sale, so it turned out to be a dumb time to go, but I bought them anyway.

Afterwards, we strolled the Mall a little, had a quick fast-food dinner at one of the food courts. Or at least I thought it would be quick. Jerry finished his dinner (Japanese) and was still hungry so went to find something more. Out of all the food court choices, most of which had no lines of people, he picked Taco Bell (also know as "Toxic Hell"), which had a line of about 20 people. Well, first of all, I don't do lines. I'd rather skip dinner entirely than stand in a line that long. But, Taco Bell? To me, the food is kinda repulsive. But there Jerry and all those people patiently stood for probably 15 minutes in a line that hardly moved. It's a world I don't understand, waiting for Taco Bell when you could choose from all those not-busy places.

So I sat at one of the food-court tables and played with my Blackberry and people-watched a good cross-section of Twin Cities suburbia walk by with their bargain treasures. The mall life in the 'burbs is an okay place to visit, but I sure wouldn't want to live there.

Monday, December 27, 2010

googling a lookback

This will be the week to look back at another strange, awful, wonderful year of our lives.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

another boxing movie

You know how weird I get about trying to see the Best Picture Oscar nominees, which of course haven't been announced yet, but there are some films that are a shoo-in for a nomination, like Black Swan and The King's Speech and The Fighter, so maybe we should do some of those to avoid a February last-minute marathon. I'm thinking today or tonight might be a good day to see The Fighter since it might be cute to see a boxing movie on December 26, which is Boxing Day in various remnants of the British Empire.

Of course, Boxing Day has nothing to do with boxing, although it's unclear what its original purpose is except to extend Christmas for a day -- something to do with boxes set up for donations to the needy, according to Wikipedia.

I must admit disappointment that there is another acclaimed boxing movie, though. I mean, haven't we been through enough of those -- Rocky, Raging Bull, Million Dollar Baby, etc.? Joan says it's good. We'll see, tonight or sometime soon.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

while the televised yule log burns

As Jerry finishes making dinner and Joan texts Merry Christmas to her nieces and nephews and we wait for Jon and Tom to arrive, we have a TV channel on playing holiday music while the screen shows a fire in a fireplace. Funny how it warms up the room!
I hope all my faithful readers are having a warm and wonderful holiday.

Friday, December 24, 2010

what christmas 2010 is going to look like

White, very white. We even got a little more snow overnight to make it a very-clean looking fresh white, and it was enough to officially make this the snowiest December in Minneapolis history (If you're gonna do it, you might as well do it big). This photo I took a few minutes ago at one of our condo building entrances, right after I took a leisurely walk through downtown to watch the last-minute shoppers panicking through the stores. I'm usually one of them, but this year we finished everything early, even the wrapping. Now I'm not sure what to do with myself! :-)
Our Christmas routine: This evening, as usual, we spend Christmas Eve with our friends Diane and Tony and some of their other friends and family. It's always nice, festive, always sort of overdone by Diane and Tony. That's how they are. I might go to church late, we'll see. Then tomorrow morning my sister Joan will come over, and my sons Jon and Tom will show up a little later for Christmas gift stuff and dinner and all our usual traditions. Our Christmases are always beautiful... I hope yours are too.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

flipping back and forth

Across the room, there's a movie on TV, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, and it's over my head, I guess, because I'm really not sure what's going on, story lines flipping back and forth confusing me (if I'm really paying attention at all), but it sure looks good on HD, sort of like moving art work interrupted by sound and commercials, so it goes on and we haven't switched it.

Cozy evening at home. The Christmas tree looks good, I'm glad we have it. Happy to be at home.

And I keep thinking about my brother Ronnie, lying in that hospital bed in Philly feeling weak and awful. He won't get home for Christmas. He probably won't get home until 2011. I wish I could go see him.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


The 2010 census numbers are in, and the "official" population of the United States is 308,745,538. That sounds like a lot. The population according to the 1950 census was 150,697,361. No wonder the stores seem so crowded! On the other hand, I just heard that with only three days left until Christmas, one in five people had not started their Christmas shopping yet. My question, obviously, is this: Who did a poll to find this out? Out-of-work former census workers??

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

winter begins...

....or so my calendar says. After record-setting snow and cold, it feels like we should be nearing the end. Guess not.

The end of the home Vikings games for this year ended infamously last night at that outdoor stadium at the University of Minnesota. The way they played this year, the end is a good thing.

The end of Christmas season approaches. The end of 2011 next week.

Ah -- a good end -- Over the weekend, the end of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"...

Monday, December 20, 2010

well, why not? it's christmas week

The Christmas spirit? Again, not sure what that means, but I thought maybe my Monday video this week should be my favorite Christmas carol. And why a Josh Groban version? -- well, that's for Vickie.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

the mouse king and all that

Well, we found a real tree, and it's not overwhelming and is actually quite nice. We didn't give in to the temptation to go artificial. Not this year, at least.

Then last night, spur of the moment, Jerry, Tom and I walked over to the State Theater and saw Nutcracker Fantasy, the Loyce Houlton version that has been performed this time of year here in Minneapolis by the Minnesota Dance Company for many years now. It's a beautiful, elaborate production, and it was fun. Maybe we're finally getting into the "spirit of the season", whatever the heck that means!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

on the verge of selling out

For some reason, it's been sort of a melancholy kind of week for me. Maybe it's the dreary cold weather or some lack of motivation at the office or worrying about my brother in NJ who has been in the hospital the past week (And not responding to treatment as he should be). Or some combination of these things and everything else.

But, on the positive side, most of our Christmas shopping is done, which is unusual for us by this date -- a week before Christmas. Back on the negative side, we don't have our Christmas tree yet, and it looks like we need to go get one today. It's just been too cold to go schlepping through Christmas tree lots to find the right one. I actually spoke verboten words to Jerry the other day: that maybe we just sell out and give in and buy an artificial tree this year. He dismissed my words as that of a madman, but I just got to thinking about dragging a real tree up the elevator and dealing with needles and dirty looks from the other condo residents. And any real tree will take a day or two to thaw out after sitting outside all this time. Oh geez, somebody talk me off the ledge!

Friday, December 17, 2010

wiser heads prevailing

OK, we're not going to the Monday night Vikings game after all. Tony and Diane decided it would be a miserable experience, so they're going to get their tickets refunded. A sigh of relief from me and Jerry. We'll watch the fiasco on the HD screen at home.


More Facebook news. Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, has been named Time magazine's Person of the Year. Good choice, isn't it? Think of how Facebook has affected the lives of us who have been suckered into it! In addition to that Time recognition, the film awards for the year are starting to be announced and the somewhat fictionalized movie version of Zuckerberg's story, The Social Network, is already racking up nominations and awards (Good movie!). Zuckerberg also recently announced that he plans to leave most of his wealth to charitable organizations. That Computer Nerd sure made it big with such a simple concept. Why couldn't we have thought of this?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

too many people on a lesser scale

Our friend Tony called early this morning to see if we want to go with him and Diane to the Vikings-Bears game Monday night. The Metrodome is still deflated, you know, so the game is going to be played outdoors at the totally-unprepared-for-the-NFL University of Minnesota football stadium.

Reasons to say No to Tony's offer:
-- It's going to be colder than a witch's you-know-what. Monday evening the real temps could be 12 to 15 degrees, so you can imagine what the wind chill will be like, winds gusting across that field. Plus, there is a possibility of snow.
-- It's going to be chaotic. There will be a potentially 64,000 Vikings fans squeezing into a stadium that seats 50,000. No reserved seating. First-come, first-serve.
-- The Vikings have totally disintegrated as a team this year. The third-string quarterback will probably be starting this game. They have almost no chance of winning the game.

But will we probably go, just for the experience of witnessing a potential catastrophe to be remembered for a long time? Of course!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

i sometimes think there are too many people

It used to be, back in the 70s, maybe even the 60s, that we used to always hear from people who were concerned about the "population explosion" and about promoting "zero population growth", but we never seem to hear much about those issues anymore, which makes no sense to me. In 1970, the world's population was about 3.7 billion people. Now it is almost 7 billion.

The possible overpopulation of the earth came back to me as a concern while reading the Jonathan Franzen book, Freedom, in which one of the main characters has what becomes his life mission: to convince people to have fewer or no children in order to somehow save the earth, which of course has limited space and resources. At the current reproduction pace, the earth eventually is going to run short of the necessary resources to feed the world, which will lead to wars and mass starvation in some parts of the world or who knows what else.

But what to do? Political leaders only think of terms of the next election, so don't expect any answers from them. Churches, especially those which are against birth control, are still encouraging people to have lots of babies. The Bushes loved starting wars over Middle Eastern oil, but can you picture wars over water and food? It could happen within a couple more generations. Our cheery thought for today.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

hey, it's time to go home

I got too wrapped up my work, and here it is 6:30. I'm sitting here dunking Oreos in coffee and watching out my office window for the traffic to subside before I start out for home. Rush hours the past two days have been nuts because there is so much snow everywhere that the traffic lanes have been narrowed; plus, people forget how to drive on snow-packed streets. And call me crazy if you want, but I'd much rather eat Oreos than sit in traffic.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

the Vikings always find a way to stay in the news

As I write this, there was supposed to be a game here at the Metrodome. Whoops. There went the roof.

The Twin Cities are digging out. It's fun. Joan took the bus over from St. Paul (yes, the busses are running again), we met downtown for coffee and compared stories about how hard it was to cross intersections getting to the coffee shop. How boring might it be to live in a place where they never get a snowstorm!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

the cool thing about blizzards

Having a home. Being warm at home.

Our worst snowstorm in years. Cars stuck and stranded everywhere. Travel isn't advised. But my son Jon drove from St. Paul to Minneapolis this afternoon ("to be defiant", he said) only to find the event cancelled that he drove over for. Jerry has been out in his four-wheel drive Subaru several times and loves driving around in this stuff, except for having to maneuver around the cars that can't make it through. The New York Giants football team can't get into town for tomorrow's game against the Vikings -- they've been diverted to Kansas City.

I say, it's time for a cozy weekend at home. This is the reason hot chocolate was invented.

Friday, December 10, 2010

feeling the vibes

It's getting weird. I'm not crazy about carrying this Blackberry anyway (I mostly dislike the whole concept of cell phones), but there it is on my belt, and every time I get an email, it vibrates on my hip, and I look and it's usually a worthless email anyway. But then sometimes I feel a vibration and look, and there is no email. I just imagined the vibe. It's getting really bad now: Sometimes I feel the vibe, and I'm not even wearing the Blackberry! What is this thing doing to my body??

Thursday, December 9, 2010

jobs without a bubble

The unemployment rate is still high. As a band-aid, it looks like unemployment benefits will be extended for the long-term unemployed, and all politicians say their #1 priority is to create lots of jobs.

I keep wondering, what kind of jobs will they be?

It used to be that the U.S. could count on the manufacturing sector to create good-paying jobs, but factories have shut down and manufacturing has been shifted to other countries where labor is cheap. Then in the '90s, there was the dot/com bubble that burst somewhere around y2K. In the middle of this past decade, real estate and mortgage companies were booming but that all crashed circa 2008 and it's hard to see real estate coming back big anytime soon.

So is there another boom coming that politicians can see that the rest of us can't see? Or do they think, "A job is a job", regardless of whether it pays enough to support a family or sustain middle-class lifestyles?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


My friend Elke sent me a CD of a concert that her choir in northern Germany did last month, the highlight being Mozart's Requiem, which she knows I like. So I've turned off my Sirius Radio for a while and have been listening to the Requiem on my car CD player, sometimes in bits and pieces on those short drives. Full blast, this is adding some Amadeus-type drama as I meander through my chilly downtown Minneapolis life. It's a fine recording, the choir and orchestra sound good. Thanks, Elke!
Thirty years ago today, my friend Steve (now deceased) called to tell me that John Lennon had just been murdered. It still seems as odd today as it did then: Why would anybody want to kill John Lennon? When the news came that he had been killed not by somebody who hated him but by a fan, that made it even more odd. I wish John would have still been with us these past years. I feel like my generation missed out on part of its history.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


Haven't heard much about Pearl Harbor Day this year... December 7, 1941 -- "a date that will live in infamy", according to FDR. Not long ago, I was reading a poll that was testing Americans' history skills, and there was an amazing lack of knowledge of that attack that launched the U.S. into World War II. A large number in the survey thought that the Pearl Harbor bombings was the beginning of the Vietnam War! A sad commentary on our educational system.
Am very disappointed that Obama caved in to the Republicans so easily on extending the Bush tax cuts. His political base is appalled at his weakness.

Monday, December 6, 2010

celebrating my location

Back at work, back at home, back in Minneapolis, and trying to remember all the good things about living here.

A couple of ironies in showing this as my Monday video: That I, the un-Republican, am posting a promo video targeting the delegates to the 2008 Republican National Convention; and that the Convention wasn't held in Minneapolis, it was held across the river in St. Paul, and St. Paul never gets a mention here.

P.S. If you can't find reasons to celebrate your location, you should be moving.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

confessions of a doorknob

Jerry, Tom and I went to a fun Timberwolves/Cavaliers game last night. Wolves beat Cleveland 129-95 -- a total blow-out. We saw another Wolves game like this last month where they blew away the New York Knicks and looked unstoppable, and you'd sit there wondering, How can these guys ever be beat by anybody? Ah! But this is a team that so far has only won five games this season while losing fifteen. Sometimes they look so absolutely pathetic that you wonder if they've ever played the game of basketball before. How is it that the very same players can be so nearly perfect some nights, feeding off each other's energy seemingly without limits, and then other times they seem weighed down by anchors? An impossible energy to maintain indefintely?
Tonight, Sunday evening, I'm at the office for a little while, trying to get a jump on Monday morning, catching up on two-weeks' worth of mail, email, phone messages, and administrative details. Say what you will, but this will make Monday morning much easier to face, and at the moment I'm fired up to get back to work and go gangbusters. Funny how I can go through periods of being totally motivated -- not just with work but with my social choices, work-out routines, healthy eating, etc. -- and then go through periods of being a total inanimate doorknob and can't shake myself out of inertia no matter what I do. Phases of the moon? No, I don't think so. Sometimes I can be ultra-motivated and something will happen -- somebody saying something that drains the positivity right out of me. It just takes a split-second, and it's over and I can't get it back. Or is that just my excuse to withdraw and re-group?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

red mud on my shoes

Yesterday afternoon, our last day in Hawaii, Jerry wanted to go to a state park located remotely near a mountain neighborhood overlooking Honolulu, so we picked up some take-out KFC and headed up the mountain for a picnic lunch. A lovely park, lots of tall trees and good views, nobody there but us and a few chickens. Cannibal chickens, as we found out when Jerry tossed some leftover KFC chicken their way (By the way, it's very eerie eating chicken when there are a bunch of chickens standing next to you watching).

The dirt in this park was very thick and red (as is a lot of dirt in various parts of the Hawaiian Islands) and it had rained earlier in the day, so walking around was a little icky. Not a big problem until I got back to the condo in downtown Honolulu and realized I was tracking red mud onto the carpet. Jerry went to work cleaning my shoes (not an easy task, it doesn't come off very handily) and worked on them even more when he got back home to Minneapolis because they still had some crud on them. These are the only shoes I have that are good in snow, of which we were greeted with much on our arrival this morning. They're still not spotless, it might take a while. I guess it was just my way of bringing part of Hawaii back with me.

Friday, December 3, 2010

here we go, aloha-ing again

To me, the hard part about living in Hawaii would be the isolation way out here in the South Pacific, the fact that it is so far from the rest of the world.

But the great thing about being here for a two-week vacation is the isolation way out here in the South Pacific, the fact that it is so far from the rest of the world.

I do have a conscience, though, and would feel guilty if I were to complain that this is the day we have to go home. The people that I know and love back home have been putting up with the miseries of an early winter -- low temperatures and wind chills, ice, snow, dreariness in the past couple weeks. I know we were lucky to have this time here. My way of justifying it all: Now and then you need to step away from your life and take a look at it from far away and see how it all shakes out. The issues back home don't go away while you're gone, but maybe you're better able to handle them. I do have a Dilemma Number One (which I can't discuss in these pages) that I feel better able to face plus some of those other more minor nagging problems. My head feels cleared. A Hawaiian brain enema, maybe that's what it all was.

The plane leaves at 6 this evening. I'm going to go enjoy the day.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

sudden notice of the deficit

Believe it or not, I do try to keep my political rants to a minimum, since I know it sort of irritates some of my loyal readers... But sometimes I can't hold back.

The Republicans in the Senate have announced plans to block every bill until they can get the tax cuts that their corporate-goon paymasters want. If they got everything they wanted (continued lower rates for millionares), the budget deficit would grow much worse in years to come. Plus, this is the party that got us into wars we can't afford and allowed Wall Street to create an economic disaster that required a massive government bail-out. So it's obvious to me: the last concern they have is the staggering budget deficit.

But now a bill is coming up to extend unemployment benefits (A relatively modest amount, I'm sure, compared to the above travesties). I admit that I don't know what the answer is regarding the long-time unemployed, but the Republicans have already lined up against the bill because it "would increase the budget deficit"! I guess they just aren't dependent on the jobless voters to help fund their re-elections.

(One of the effects of being on vacation is that I get to spend more time keeping up with the news).......

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

hawaiian sunburn

No, I don't have a sunburn, a little pink maybe... When I go to the beach, I tend to mostly stay under this umbrella; otherwise, I'd be burned to a crisp, and that's not a pretty sight.
I actually spend more time on the extended patio outside the condo (in the shade, mostly) reading and/or listening to my iPod. A delightful existence -- and without sand between my toes. Jerry spends a lot more time at the beach than I do, snorkeling and developing a beautiful tan, of which I am envious but unable to attain.
The "Hawaiian sunburn", actually, was the name of a wonderful fruity drink I had last night at a place called Cheeseburger Waikiki... Vodka, raspberry, pineapple, I'm not sure what else -- all very Waikiki. Good cheeseburger too!
Back to the patio now, as the days dwindle down to a precious few.... After a stop-and-go start, I've really gotten into the book I'm reading now, Freedom by Jonathan Franzen.