Monday, January 31, 2011

moody mood?

(This is one of those videos that, if you watch it, you should click that little "x" so you won't see the advertisements)...

I saw that tickets went on sale Saturday for a Moody Blues concert here at the Orpheum in June, so I've been debating whether to maybe buy tickets or not. First of all, I'm not good at planning that far ahead. And am I really that much of a Moody Blues fan, even though they've had some very likable music since the mid-60s? And what do they sound like at this age?.... and yet.......

Anyway, I like this song from the 80s. The video is kind of corny, but there are times when I'm in the mood for corny. As you know.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

suite smell of success

Oh wow. I'm so tired and was headed up to bed when I realized that, Damn! I hadn't blogged yet today! and I have a streak going! so here it is, faithful readers...

Tonight, Jerry and his business partner Clark had a Client Appreciation Party upstairs in the condo's party room (22nd floor) and needed my niece Ruthie to help out, which left me to be the babysitter for Ruthie's kids, Corey (2 years old) and Kylie (1). They are sweet kids and we had fun watching Toy Story movies together, at least until it became bedtime when they quickly became tired of Uncle Howard and suddenly nothing could please them. You know how that goes. And Uncle Howard got tired of changing their diapers, so I guess we're even, and Ruthie came back and saved the day.
Last night! Our office, maybe 16 of us, had a, what?, Team Appreciation Party? at the Timberwolves game. We had a suite for the evening, which would have been cool no matter how the Wolves did, but the Wolves actually broke their losing streak and hammered the Toronto Raptors, who apparently are even worse than the Timberwolves are. So it was a rewarding evening. And the reason I picked the Toronto game for our suite night? --- So that I could hear "O, Canada!", which I love. Those Canadians are lucky to have a cool national anthem!
Well hey, I need to push the "publish" button before midnight strikes. Gotta keep the streak alive.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

toy stories

One of my weird little quirks is that I like seeing the all of the Best Picture Oscar nominees every year (Which isn't easy anymore now that there are ten nominees instead of five). The Oscars will be held in late February, and I've seen six of the ten.

The sixth one was last night, and I'll tell you about that. I was dreading it. Toy Story 3. Not only did we not want to see it, but we were thinking, can we see Toy Story 3 without seeing 1 and 2? But all three were on Pay-Per-View, so over the last couple days, we bit the bullet and watched all three movies. And this is why it's good to have low expectations: We loved all three. A cute story, unbelievable animation, appealing Disney-type characters. I think maybe we liked 2 the best of the three. 3 shouldn't be the Best Picture of the year, but it sure deserves to be in the Top Ten.

So four films yet to see and only one to actually dread seeing: that one where James Franco cuts his arm off. Yuck! We're going to wish we were back hanging out with the toys.

Friday, January 28, 2011


I talked to my brother Ronnie on the phone a few minutes ago. He sounded better and says he maybe feels better than he has since early December. He should be going home from the hospital again soon. Best news of the week.

An exhausting day here at the office, but I'm not complaining. It's a job, and it even has its occasional rewards. Life is good.

Weekend will bring some relief even while I'm working. The phone won't be ringing, and it's the phone that I learn to dread.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

knowing when to be afraid... (always)

Wow. The Department of Homeland Security is finally doing away with the color-coded terror alert system, which had to be one of the silliest ideas ever conceived.

I mean, look at this chart. What is the difference between "elevated" and "high", or when does "high" become "severe"?.. And if the risk goes from orange to red, what do you do then? Stay home, not go to work? Cancel your plane reservations? Or were the alerts just a reminder that we should live in FEAR?

And you might be interested to know that the alert has not been below orange since August 2006. Would it have been such a big deal to reduce it to yellow now and then? Or did they just need to be able to say, "Well, you can't say you weren't warned!" if there is an actual terrorist attack?

We'll see what they replace this with. Whatever it is, it won't be any less useful.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

you say you want a resolution

I got home from work last night as the State of the Union address was wrapping up and couldn't handle the idea of listening to the talking-head analysis or the other-party responses (If I were a Tea Partier -- which is hard to even imagine -- I would be very upset that a dumbass like Michele Bachmann has become the spokesperson for the movement), so we flipped over to Pay-Per-View and watched, Winter's Bone, a film that I hadn't even heard of til yesterday when it was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. It's an intense movie -- meth use in the Ozarks kind of stuff. Very low budget but pretty good.

So I got to bed kind of late but still woke up at 6:15 this morning and thought, what the heck?, and headed to the gym again (But am I becoming sleep-deprived?). And I must say, it surprises me how many people are at the gym that time of day, a workout before work. It's been busy after work too, which is when I usually go, and I think that's because New Year's resolutions haven't been totally blown off yet. January is always a busy month every year at every gym, and it's amusing to watch the crowds begin to gradually dwindle as the new year moves along and good intentions fizzle out. Sort of like a new Congress.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

resisting at the egg and i

Worked late last night, as I will be working long hours morning and night until April. I get into a routine, a groove to get through it all, but then I wake up some mornings and resist that routine and take a break.

Well, it didn't help that I woke up in the middle of the night all conjested and runny-nosed and all that, and I thought, Damn! I'm getting a cold because I haven't been going to the steam room at the gym lately. So I got up extra early and went to the gym and steamed the heck out of my head and lungs and we'll see if that helps. Feels better so far.

Then I went back home and pulled Jerry out of bed and said, "Hey, let's go out to breakfast!" So we went over to the Egg and I Restaurant over there in Uptown and had an utterly fantastic breakfast and had a chance to catch up on what's been going on.

So I got to the office a couple hours later than I would have normally but now should be more productive (except for the five minutes writing this blog) and with some better perspective... Back to work... well, after I check out the Oscar nominations that were just announced this morning...........

Monday, January 24, 2011

Sunday, January 23, 2011

let's get radical

My brother Ronnie, much to his dismay, is back in that Philadelphia hospital -- fever, pneumonia remnants, fluctuating blood counts. I talked to him this morning, he's depressed and scared. And he's very unhappy that he's back in that dingy little hospital room. This has been a long, awful ordeal for him, and I'm sure he also is stressed at the financial implications of this period of no income and unknown medical costs.

Then I called my cousin Bev to update her on Ronnie's condition, and that was another sad phone call. Bev has gone through hell with breast cancer and the treatments 0ver the past two years and is now dealing with overwhelming medical bills and no job and the possibility of losing her home because of this illness.

... and while they and millions of other people have to struggle with the financial trauma of medical catastrophes, the U.S. House of Representatives voted last week to repeal the Obama health care law, the benefits of which haven't even kicked in yet. The bill will not survive in the Senate so repeal won't happen now at least, but I am disgusted that these Congresspeople would be willing to sell their souls for the insurance companies and go back to disgraceful policies that have already destroyed so many lives, which the Obama law only begins to correct. Shouldn't there be some innate benefit to being an American citizen? Can't obscene profits be taken out of the health care system? If that is socialism, then I say, Bring it on.

My feeling is this: Nobody should be making a profit on somebody else's cancer. There has to be a better way, and, if government is the answer, then so be it.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

if you're thinking about moving to minnesota...

As we deal with a couple days of subzero temperatures and a snowier than usual winter and as we're thinking, "Hey, Becky likes it here -- Wouldn't it be nice if she moved here?", here are some of my words of wisdom for people considering a move to Minnesota and thinking "I don't know if I could handle the Minnesota winters!"

-- If you have a car, make sure you have a garage or some other kind of indoor parking; otherwise, make sure you have a good snow shovel and battery cables and that you stay informed on parking restrictions during snow emergencies.
-- Live somewhere near your job. Commuting during bad weather is a major stress-inducer (And commuting during good weather is really no picnic either).
-- Live in or somewhere near the urban core of Minneapolis and St. Paul. I used to live out on the prairie in southwestern Minnesota for a while, and it's a whole different world out there when the weather is bad. For one thing the wind never stops blowing. Wind chills and snow drifts can be ridiculous. Plus, there are lots of things to do here in the Cities even when it's cold. If you're out in the boonies, you're going to have major issues with cabin fever.
-- Focus on all of the positives of living here. Winters are something you sort of get used to.

Friday, January 21, 2011

a higher percentage of good-looking people

My niece Becky, who lives in the Philadelphia area, visited us here in Minneapolis last summer and liked it here, noting how many fun places there are, how clean it is, how there seems to be a higher percentage of good-looking people here...

... so, a couple months ago, she made reservations to come here for a January weekend. She arrived last night, just in time for what they are calling the "coldest 48 hours of this winter." There were predictions of temperatures last night as low as minus 22 for the Twin Cities. I'm not sure if it got quite that cold here in the urban core, but it's cold enough for Becky's first below-zero experience....

... and the good-looking people don't have tans and are wearing unflattering parkas and stocking caps... Wonder if that will make a difference in Becky's judgment!

... but she's doing fine and seems to be making the most of her mid-winter visit. As I write this, she and Jerry and Joan are at the Mall of America shopping. That should keep her nice and warm.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

double vision

I was whining for no good reason, because my computer transition went well and I'm not finding any major glitches. Windows 7 seems fine (It helped that I had been using Vista at home, so it's not such a stretch as moving right from Windows XP might have been). Thanks for the encouraging feedback from my blog readers!

A new experience: Dual monitors. I have windows open all over the place. It's kinda cool!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

technological trauma

I shudder as I write this post. It's the last one I will write from this office computer. My new computer is on its way, and Dave our outside IT guy will install it later this morning...

... and I'm traumatized by the idea of a new office computer! I've had this machine for seven and a half years, a fact that for some reason tells everybody that I'm way out of date, but it's been a great computer and still seems fine to me and if it is somehow deficient, the deficiencies are not obvious to me, the user.

... But will all of my programs still work on the new computer? Something always seems to get lost in a transition -- plus I'm going to be the office trailblazer with Windows 7 and Microsoft Office 2010... I don't have enough room in my brain to learn new systems!.... Oops, I hear Dave, he's arrived.... Signing off...................... :-(

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

while under the clippers

As I was walking in the door of the salon, a pile of snow fell off the roof of the building and hit me in the head... so my hair was already wet when I sat in the chair.

Brian, the guy who cuts my hair, didn't seem to notice, and now I am freshly shorn. I've been kind of in a wearing-my-hair-longer frame of mind and Brian seems to love to chop it all off, but he restrained himself mostly.

Things we talked about as he clipped, which also indicates the shallowness of my cerebral functions these days --

-- The football playoffs -- the way the games turned out this past weekend (Mostly great, except for Chicago winning).... (Jerry and I are rooting for the New York Jets to make it to the Superbowl, by the way).
-- How were your holidays?
-- The weather (Of course. This is Minnesota).
-- The Golden Globes. And since you're dying to know, I thought Ricky Gervais was great as host. Not sure if any of the stars are really offended by his jokes. They shouldn't be. But it sounds like Ricky Gervais will never be invited back.
-- Any travel plans coming up? No. None.

Really now, wouldn't making small talk be the worst part of being a barber/hair stylist?

Monday, January 17, 2011

happy MLK day

The video clip is from Martin Luther King's March on Washington (the "I have a dream" speech rally), 28 August 1963.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

what hibernation looks like

Hey, it's cold out there, and it's warm in here, so it's a bit of a couch-potato weekend. We had tickets to the Wolves game last night, but it's a cold 8-block walk over to Target Center, so Jerry, Tom and I opted for staying home and curling up under throws and afghans and dozing in front of the TV. Jerry made dinner, and we channel-flipped back and forth between the Wolves game, the Packers-Falcons playoff game (happy to see the Falcons lose), and the Miss America Pageant, which is, surprisingly, back on network TV. Today hasn't been any better. Jerry made us an enormous breakfast, and we've been sipping coffee and eating Entenmanns donut-holes and watching football off and on, with no worthwhile agenda. Hibernating on frigid January weekends is what Floridians miss out on.

... and did you even know that the Miss America Pageant even still existed? It's been all downhill for that organization ever seen it left Atlantic City, and it's only a shell of its former self, but we still found ourselves rooting for Miss Hawaii, who deserved to win, and being outraged that Miss Nebraska won instead. The judges, obviously, were airheads and they picked one of their own.

... and maybe we'll be watching the Golden Globe Awards tonight, if we aren't on couch-potato overload, and finding plenty to complain about... But life is good.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

in love with shakespeare

Naomi, sixteen-year-old daughter of my friend and co-worker Theresa, loves Shakespeare, and we have started taking her to local Shakespeare plays as they come about. Last year, it was Macbeth at the Guthrie. This year, we have a bunch of Shakespeare to potentially squeeze into the next several months. Last night, it was The Comedy of Errors, again at the Guthrie (but performed by the Acting Company of New York). Starting soon at the Guthrie will be The Winter's Tale. Within the next several months at various local theaters are a couple of local productions of Hamlet and who knows what else. We find ourselves being educated in Shakespeare by Naomi and whichever friend she brings with her, sometimes in the car on the way to the theater. Last night, there were a lot of other high-school age kids at the show, all bussed in from the suburbs and obviously more prepped for this play than we were.

The Comedy of Errors was funny and entertaining, though. One thing I don't understand about most recent Shakespeare productions is the reasoning behind updating to modern-day dress and a more current time frame instead of original Shakespeare-era settings. Naomi, the Shakespeare purist, agrees with me on this. If the intent is to make Shakespeare more relevant to 21st-century audiences, then they don't seem to realize that it's the Shakespeare English that is difficult, not the funky Shakespeare-era costumes. Oh well, I guess they all know more about this than I do. I struggle just to get the basics.

Friday, January 14, 2011

black swan

Black Swan. The word has been that this movie is intense, and Jerry can handle only so much intensity (on the screen, that is -- not in real life), so he opted out of seeing this film. Jon, my son, can handle lots of intensity on screen, being a fan of numerous slasher movies, and this should movie be a lot tamer and more civilized than those, so he went with me last night to see it. We went to dinner first, at Green Mill over there on Hamline Avenue in St. Paul, and then off to the Highland Theater, a neighborhood theater we hadn't been to in quite a while. The crowd was sparse, maybe because of the snowy streets (St. Paul is infamous for not plowing) or maybe because Black Swan had been playing for a while. We had a fun evening though.

The movie? Well, maybe our expectations were too high, but, although we both liked it, it mostly rated an "okay" from us. The suspense was less than we expected, and the story didn't seem to be all that original. But the acting is good, Natalie Portman especially as the conflicted white swan/black swan, and our favorite aspect of the film may have been the Tschaikovsky Swan Lake soundtrack. Worth seeing, and everybody knows that it will be a nominee for Best Picture Oscar. And I think even Jerry could have handled the intensity level.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

who inspires what?

I would be amused, if it weren't such a somber subject, by the video that Sarah Palin defensively released yesterday, in which she basically blames the media for somehow inspiring hatred and violence by implying that she is partially responsible for inspiring hatred and violence with her nasty, divisive, weapon-loving speeches. The ironic part of her blaming the media is that the media have totally created her. It wasn't any accomplishment on her part or her intellect or her skills that made her, theoretically, a would-be Presidential candidate. It was her bizarre uniqueness that made her a celebrity, and it was the media that brought her out of nowhere to become a household name right up there with Paris Hilton. She owes the media for all the money she is making now as a speech-maker and a political cartoon character. If she can't divide people, she has no message. Compare that Palin video to the unifying, sensitive, and articulate speech by President Obama last night. If these are the choices, I'm so thankful that he's the one who is President.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

last night's tarmac thoughts

The plane we would be taking was late arriving in Philadelphia. Our flight was supposed to be leaving for Minneapolis at 6:35 PM, and it was well past that when the incoming flight finally landed. Then they had to unload those passengers and get us on the plane as fast as possible so that the people making late connections in Minneapolis wouldn't miss their flights. It was the fastest boarding I've ever seen. Everybody was cooperating, getting their carry-ons stored and getting into their seats quickly. I was impressed.

But then we were loaded, and we just sat there and sat there. The pilot finally came over the intercom to say there was a mechanical problem that had to be checked. So we waited and waited, getting nervous about the people making connections and also about the heavy snow that had started and was accumulating around us while we sat there helplessly. The mechanical issue was resolved eventually, and we pulled away from the gate. And sat some more. And then had to wait to be de-iced. More waiting. Then waiting in line to take off. And finally out of there. Almost everybody that had connections in Minneapolis missed them.

While sitting on the tarmac, I was wishing I could be blogging, although the blog posts would have been frustrated rantings about the annoyances of air travel these days, and you got to hear some of that today anyway. I had the time while waiting to read yesterday's New York Times, which is something I wish I had time to do every day, but that brought some more irritation. There on the front page was a large photo of that demented Arizona killer. I bet you could win the Nobel Peace Prize and not get your picture on the front page of the Times, but you can if you're a nut-case murderer.

And then today I see that Sarah Palin is appalled that people are blaming her and other irresponsible loudmouths of her ilk for helping to create an atmosphere of guns being glamorized and painted as solutions. Her gun talk -- her "don't retreat, re-load!" idiocies -- gives permission to the unstable to go after their perceived political enemies with literal firepower.

...and anyway, I'm home and back at the office, with no time to read the Times today.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011



On my way to the Philly airport, hoping to beat the winter storm... Had a good visit here in Jersey... Now back to reality. Or is this the reality part?

Monday, January 10, 2011

you know what i mean

Well, Goodbye South Jersey would be more appropriate, and I don't know who this singer is, but I'll flying home out of Philadelphia again tomorrow, which always makes me sad, so you get the idea.

It's been a good visit here, watching as my brother Ronnie recuperates and spending time with my sister Mary. I'm happy to have siblings -- all five of them.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

embracing the snow

Staying with my sister Mary while I'm here in South Jersey and having a great time with her. It's been a long time since we've had some one-on-one time.

But this morning, while she went to church, I got in my rental car and drove to Atlantic City, about a half hour away. It was an absolutely beautiful morning. There was a fresh layer of snow everywhere, the sun was shining, the roads were good. It was a perfect winter morning in AC on the Boardwalk.

Mary and I visited yesterday and this afternoon with my brother Ronnie, who is recovering at home and seems to be making good progress. He mostly seems like himself. His immunity is still very low, so he'll be confined at home for a while, but he's in good humor and we had a great time talking and watching the football playoffs (Lamenting the Eagles loss, though).

I'll be leaving on Tuesday, although there is a big snowstorm predicted for here for Tuesday, so who knows, maybe I'll get snowed in here. Maybe that's okay.

Saturday, January 8, 2011


On my way, an early morning flight to Philly, then the drive over to South Jersey, where snow is predicted for today... :-(

Friday, January 7, 2011

he ain't heavy...

It's been a long, long road for my brother Ronnie the past month, spending most of that time in a hospital in Philadelphia in pretty bad shape. The hospital sent him home on Monday, even though he was still extremely weak from those hellish and scary weeks (there is some question whether it might have been an insurance-company-driven decision to discharge him), but he was thrilled to get home even though he is still very confined and limited. I talked to him on the phone the other night -- he sounded pretty good, although he says he doesn't recognize himself in the mirror anymore.

So, with the intention of trying to help him get through the boredom and tedium of recovery (and not making it worse, I hope!), I'm going to go visit and spend some time with him this weekend. Flying to Philly tomorrow (Saturday) morning, back Tuesday evening. It will be good to see him and my other family members there in South Jersey.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

definitely not a susan

I was in the 6th grade, and the teacher, Mr. Taylor, announced to me and the class that my dad had just called to tell me that my mom had just given birth to a baby girl. I am the oldest of six siblings, this new sister is the youngest: three boys, three girls, a good balance. In those first couple days, I lobbied my parents hard to name my new still-unnamed sister "Susan". I'm not sure if they even paid any attention to me, but they named her Joan, and she sure seems like a Joan now.

There are twelve years between me and Joan, but somehow it has turned out that she is the sibling that I know the best, and we are very close.

That 6th grade day was 52 years ago today. Happy Birthday, Joan!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

the tears of a clown

The new U.S. Congress starts today. The Republicans are in the majority in the House now, and it looks like there may be a circus atmosphere as they go through the motions of trying to un-do the accomplishments of the Obama Administration, all for short-term political points and not for solutions to long-term problems. The Tea Party faction of their party will be doing their own sideshows of distraction and disruption. It will be an awful session but perhaps kind of entertaining as the media focuses on the clowns.

Leading the circus for the Republicans is the new Speaker of the House, John Boehner -- the guy who cries at the drop of a hat, during speeches, during interviews, usually when talking about himself. There has been a lot of discussion lately about what the reactions would have been if it had been Nancy Pelosi or some other woman politician with so little control of their emotions. Would they have been laughed out of Washington? Probably. But somehow this Boehner dude has reached this pinnacle of political success, and in his new position he has indicated that he does not intend to cooperate with Obama and the Democrats, so here we go with more gridlock.

Not sure whether to watch the spectacle in Congress out of some morbid curiosity, or, out of helplessness, look the other way and take a leave of absense from politics (Like my son Jon is doing). I feel bad for the elected officials who would like to really accomplish something positive. I don't think it's gonna happen.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

the walls came tumbling down

My poor hometown of Millville, New Jersey. The city has been going through rough economic times, coincidentally starting at about the time I left in 1976, due to a lack of planning on what would happen if the glass plants all closed (Which they did). Downtown Millville, like many downtowns across the U.S., mostly died, unable to compete with big-box stores outside of the downtown core.
Several years ago, a big push was made to turn downtown Millville into an arts center, which has gone fairly well, but the centerpiece of the newly fashioned downtown was to be the renovated Levoy Theater, a 102-year-old theater which hasn't been used in 30-some years. Local citizens formed a non-profit organization and set out to raise the money, and reconstruction started a few months ago.
I was surprised, though, when it turned out to be a re-building of the theater as opposed to a renovation. Only the outer walls were saved (the roof was already gone), and everything else was gutted. The dream, as imagined in the picture at the top of this post, ended yesterday, though, when the outer walls collapsed, and the building is now a rubble. Millvillians, past and present, are feeling very sad about this nasty and unexpected turn of events. There are a lot of memories from long ago lost in that pile of bricks.

Monday, January 3, 2011

one of my predictable moments

It was inevitable that this would eventually be one of my Monday videos.... Today, it seemed appropriate. Busy season starts today, the holidays are over, my brain is on hold until at least April 15.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

brett favre's last game...

... and he probably will be on the sidelines, not playing because of a concussion...

This afternoon will be the last Vikings game of this football season, since they were too pathetic to make the playoffs. And Brett Favre's final game will be anticlimactic since the game is pretty meaningless and he'll be out of the action. He'll just be over there on the bench while the announcers gush about his career. This his final year as a player just sort of fizzled out, but he found ways to be at least interesting on the field and off the field. He's been a major presence in the sport since 1992, so it's sort of sad to see him finish.

Our friends Tony and Diane are coming over to watch the game on TV with Jerry and Tom and me, saying goodbye to the Vikings 2010-2011 season and preparing for the off-season ways the Vikings will have to stay in the news: Who will be quarterback next year with Favre gone? Will there be a season next year or will there be an owners' lockout? What will happen to the still deflated Metrodome? Will the Vikings move to Los Angeles after the 2011 season if they don't get a new stadium? The drama will continue.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

can you picture donny osmond throwing up onstage?

Well, that didn't happen. But it could have. Theoretically. He called in sick instead.

After risking our lives slip-sliding on icy roads last night between Minneapolis and Mystic Lake (20 miles or so) to see Donny & Marie, we sat down for a quick bite to eat at the casino's food court. I went to get us some sodas, and on the way to the free-soda machine, I saw the signs that said that Donny had the flu, hadn't been able to make the trip to Minnesota, and that Marie would be performing solo. We were there for my sister Joan, the Osmond fan, and I had the dreadful task of going back to the table and telling her that our plans had gone awry, that her beloved Donny was a no-show. I give her lots of credit for not bursting into tears on the spot. She had already decided that 2010 was a bust, and this was just icing on the cake, the year's last gotcha.

But you know what? Marie's solo show turned out to be pretty darn entertaining, and we had a good time regardless. The casino gave us gift cards to partially make up for Donny's non-appearance, we gambled a little afterwards and rang in the New Year as we went slip-sliding home.