Just cuz it’s the big city

Just cuz it’s the big city you should not assume these fellows are more sophisticated and make smart decisions.



It is garbage day and this is the view down my street. What I want you to notice is the different colors of the garbage containers. Each color represents a different company. The trucks begin their runs at 7. There is a truck for garbage. There is a truck for recyclables and a truck for yard waste. So, multiply the number of trucks by the number of companies and consider how the simple matter of waste collection has been made far too complex.

Despite the damage to the streets, the noise and the danger (trucks sometimes move very quickly because the next container for them may be a block or so away), the city cannot seem to escape from this situation. The companies claim the right to compete for business. Different residents have allegiances to a different company. Greed and stubbornness make a bad combination.

Some local politician needs to be brave. Perhaps it could be someone who has already decided not to run in the next election. Divide the city into districts if there is a concern that all companies have a chance. Ask the companies to lower their rates because of the greater efficiency the city ca offer. Use the lower cost to explain to citizens why they must now have a blue garbage container instead of a green container. The higher quality of the road surface could be a bonus. There must be an opportunity for reasoning and logic in a situation such as this.

This never would have happened in North Dakota.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Just cuz it’s the big city

Professional Credentials

It is late in the “hiring season” and some schools have yet to staff their classrooms. This challenge has reached the level it has generated coverage by the NY Times (North Dakota was not mentioned, but it appears the state has a similar problem).

I have relatives involved in both the education and health care “industries” so inconsistencies sometimes jump out at me. Remember before the compensation for nurses jumped how the health care industry was concerned about staffing challenges? I don’t remember that bringing in “community experts” to fill positions normally held by those with training was considered a solution. So, a nurse might teach biology, but a biologist could not be a nurse? A pharmacist could teach chemistry, but a chemistry teacher could not count out pills? Is this kind of the way things work?

Yes, this post is over the top. But, my point is that we accept ideas when applied to the profession of education we find ludicrous when applied to other professions.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Professional Credentials

Donald (not the duck)

Given the significance of politicians in shaping our society, one would think those of us selecting our representatives would take the selection process seriously. I am a fan of logic and my assumptions about the selection process seem logical to me. Obviously, my perspective is flawed in some way I cannot figure out.

The present interest in Donald Trump has me stumped. Someone whose only qualifications seem to be having a lot of money and hosting a strange television program in which he gets to ridicule those paid to be on the show and send them packing in disgrace. Even if business and wealth creation are to be admired, the strategies that apply in this domain are not necessarily what we need in our leaders. Just for the record, playing the “bankruptcy card” is not a move a President should use as a governing strategy.

I wonder if some folks just suggest they would vote for a given candidate because it will get others upset. I am a Democrat (surprise!). For the record, I would be willing to enter Donald’s name on the ballot right not. What do you say?

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Donald (not the duck)

Google’s Mobilegeddon

I cannot claim credit for labeling Google’s prioritization of what they define as optimized content for mobile as “Mobilegeddon”, but I am impacted by this decision. Mobile content pretty much requires “responsive” web sites that recognize what type of device is requesting content and adapts accordingly. Much of my content does not meet these expectations. The consequence is that the ranking used when my content comes up in a search is decreased and readers are less likely to find my content. For me, the ideal solution would be tedious and time consuming. Blogs can be upgraded through the use of a different theme. Web pages may have to be redone individually.

Google did give those of us offering content time to make modifications and ways to evaluate whether our content met their expectations. I suppose they are looking at the numbers. I am not concerned that my “long form” content would appear ranked lower when a search is conducted from a phone. I only read long pieces on my phone to say that I have done it. I am a bit frustrated that an iPad seems regarded as a “mobile device” as my impression is that my content looks fine on an iPad and whether the pages are responsive or not is not really an issue. It seems one of those policy decisions based on a premise that was only partly implemented. If device is to be a variable in ranking, then decisions made taking device into account should be made in a more sophisticated manner.

Here is the Forbes take on Mobilegeddon.

BTW – One of my methods of adjusting to the Google policy is to cross post my posts. Blogger blogs meet standards (as one might expect), but many WordPress blogs do not.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Comments Off on Google’s Mobilegeddon

Personal history

Everyone lives a life of historical uniqueness. I was thinking about how I exemplify this claim.

carletonI spent the last couple of days attending a reunion of a unique group. This group was made up of individuals who had worked in the resident halls at Iowa State University in the early ’70s. The reunion meets in different locations with this year’s gathering at Carleton College in Northfield, MN. I have an association with this group because of Cindy. What makes this group kind of interesting is that they were associated with the “professionalization” of college dormitory supervision/management and the introduction of co-ed dorms. Prior to such changes, dorms often had a “house mother”. With the change, student personnel employees took on a somewhat different role with a broader educational mission. The co-ed transition followed a gradual path. First, males and females lived in same-sex houses within the same building. The group recalled the next major event being the unlocking of the fire door separated male and female “houses” on the same floor so that females could walk to the dining hall without having to go outside of the building in the winter. Some revolutions begin with small changes.

What does this have to do with historical uniqueness. Cindy, my wife, was one of the early employees within this new system. Her first role was as a hall advisor within a woman’s dormitory. We lived in the dormitory. I am claiming to be the first male to legally live in a woman’s dorm at ISU.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Personal history

Unless you are an educator

“It doesn’t matter whether you come from a big city, a suburb or a small town, I will fight and win for you,” Mr. Walker said. “Healthy or sick, born or unborn, I will fight and win for you. Young or old or anywhere in between—I will fight and win for you.”

Scott Walker declares his interest in the presidency and says he will fight for you.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Unless you are an educator

Manufacturing Error?

I have been in a maker mood and exploring solar power. I do not really expect to save any money doing this, but I am interested in alternative energy sources and thought building a working system would be a way to explore and comment.

I bought a kit from Renogy (panel, charge controller, cables), a battery appropriate for off-grid projects, and an inverter. You pretty much hook the panel to the controller (which prevents overcharging and some other important functions), the controller to the battery, the battery to the inverter (like the device you might plug into the cigarette lighter outlet in your car), and the inverter to whatever you want to charge/power.

My brother (an engineer) and I could not get it to work. It was very frustrating and I kept staring at the sparse instructions hoping something would make sense and hoping something was not broken so I would have to go through the process of shipping things back without knowing exactly what was wrong.

Finally, I traced the cables back from the controller to the solar panel and thought my brother had made a mistake by reversing the + and – wires going into the controller. This seemed to be the case, but it was unusual he would make such a mistake. Then we looked carefully at the connection between the short cable leading from the panel and the 20 foot cable you use to connect the panel to other parts of the system.



Each of the pairs of cables can be joined in only one way so you would think an error would be unlikely. If you look carefully, you can see the problem. The two ends that snap together are marked – and + (+ and – for the other cable). So depending on which of these markings you happen to focus on, you have a 50/50 chance of reversing the desired connection to the controller. My brother had made the wrong connection, but only because he assumed the + marking on the connecting cable should go to the + connection point on the controller (most of know to look for a similar match when connecting a charger cable to a dead battery).

I thought I would bring this flaw to Renogy’s attention. I send an email with a picture to customer support. The rep responded indicating this was a known problem and the company was working with their manufacturer to address the problem.

What can you say? I can think of about a dozen ways to fix the problem if you want to continue to sell the mismarked product – file off one of the markings, attach a tag to the cable explaining the error, include a page describing the problem with the documentation, etc. Perhaps engineers and marketers just don’t think like psychologists.


Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Comments Off on Manufacturing Error?

Turning straw into tomatoes

Lately many of the folks I follow online have been bragging about their failures. You have to be part of the education community for this to make sense. Often, a description of a recent setback brings up a reference to Thomas Edison who supposedly described unsuccessful attempts to develop the light bulb as learning one more thing that would not work. See these were not failures, but learning successes. I typically have few such learning experiences, but a recent effort might qualify.

I have been taken in by the educators who argue we and our students should become makers. The traditional project would involve coding, or building a robot, 3D printing, or something like that. This type of thing is pretty much what I am good at so there would be little opportunity for personal growth. Gardening, the type of activity in which you get your hands dirty and have to bend over, sounded like a more significant challenge. I thought I would make a garden.

So, I was once a farm boy, but that was a long time ago and I could use a little refresher when it comes to all things agricultural. Just to make the task a little more challenging, I decided I would grow vegetables in straw. This is the newest thing. You may have heard of turning straw into gold. I decided I would take my shot at turning straw into tomatoes. It turns out that finding straw was tougher than finding dirt. Cost more too – $4.50 a bale. You can buy a lot of stuff at the grocery for $4.50.

It turns out growing stuff in straw is a multi-stage process. First, you need to turn the straw into dirt and then you grow stuff in the dirt. It is reported that if you dump a little organic fertilizer on straw and water the straw for two weeks it kind of turns into dirt. Compost is what the accomplished gardeners call it. You know what we used to call organic fertilizer back on the farm? Anyway, the inside of the straw is supposed to heat up and this is how you know the conversion process is working. I watched a YouTube online and the lady said you should not do this on your deck because it might start a fire. I think this is one of those things you sometimes find on the Internet that is not exactly true, but I put my bales of straw down by the lake just to be safe. No fires were encountered.

By the way, a couple of geese and their off-spring like to hang out by my bales down by the lake. They leave a great deal of organic fertilizer behind. I already bought my supply in a plastic bag and my supply must have come from a different animal because it smelled a lot better. Who knew? Thing one learned – use the organic fertilizer that comes in a bag.

It was a cold Spring. Thinking back the cold may have prevented the bales from heating up and turning into dirt. Edison would likely have called this learning and made certain his next effort was conducted in a warmer year.

Here is what my bale (compost) garden looks like. The plants just sit there. Since, the plants should be much bigger by now I think I can count this as a failure. The broccoli created a head prematurely instead of waiting for later in the summer and making the kind of head you buy in the store. I am counting this as failure number two.

I guess you could say that things have been going very well. I will offer more insights later.

The curmudgeon
Learning lots


Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Turning straw into tomatoes

I am an excellent driver

I am an excellent driver and because of this fact I seldom have difficulties with the highway patrol. I can think of only three instances in my long and distinguished driving career when I have been pulled over and the experience was always the result of a misunderstanding.

Back in ’97, I was driving around Grand Forks with Cindy as one of the first to return to town after the great flood. Cindy was there to work with computer equipment Apple had donated and I was there to take wet carpet out of the basement. We were driving about just to see how bad things were and we were pulled over by an officer. My thought was that there was a concern we were looters. College profs are unable to afford expensive autos. It turned out my vehicle had expired tags. Who goes about town looking for vehicles with expired tags in the aftermath of great flood that forced the evacuation of the entire community? I am guessing he was bored. He did let me off with a warning.

Then, there was that time in South Dakota. I was driving through the nothingness of South Dakota on the Interstate and I came across a construction zone with those orange cones visible for miles into the distance. I tapped my brakes to slow down from my normal driving speed of 65. Out of no where comes this officer with lights blazing. Evidently, I was going 62 in a 55 construction zone and all fines double. I indicated to the officer that I had hit my brakes (as he had seen my brake lights) and there was in fact no actual construction going on nor any other vehicle for as far as the eye could see, He suggested that if I wanted to contest my ticket I could make a court appearance in Pierre. Since that would be about 500 miles out of my way, I decided to pay the ticket. Have a good day.

My final encounter just happened. I was driving carefully in my Minneapolis suburb to get Cindy some sinus medicine at the drug store. As I approached the turn into the parking lot, I saw lights behind me. I courteously signalled I intended to complete my turn and waited for the officer in the parking lot. Where do they get these guys? He seemed high school age and was not wearing his hat. I know you are supposed to wear your hat.

“Are you Mark”, the patrolman asked.

“Yes I am”, I responded bewildered. How could he know my name?

“Our records show you and Cindy do not have Minnesota driver’s licenses” (see previous post – you can see why I found this ironic).

Now, I knew I could have a little fun.

“I have my license in my pocket.”

“Can I see it?”

“Certainly”, I said. “I just took the exam a week or so ago and I was told to show this form (producing form) to explain why my North Dakota license has a clipped corner. ”

I considered I might tell him I missed only one question on the exam and that this question was poorly written. By the way, did he know the difference between the fines when an accident resulting from drunk driving results in moderate as opposed to serious injury? I do. I decided not to show off.

The officer disappears. I guess he had to sit down to read the document I gave him.

He came back, gave me my ND license and document and said “You are good to go. Have a nice day.”

“Sir, I passed my licensing exam more than a week ago, It is funny your computer does not have this information.”

“You should be getting your MN license in a few days.”

So it goes in Minnesota. Have a nice day.


Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on I am an excellent driver

MN Nice

I have been studying to take the MN driver’s knowledge test. I am learning lots – hopefully enough. There are many distances – 12 inches from the curb, your lights should help you see 350 feet when you cannot see 550 and fines – minimum fine for a violation of a work area has been increased to $300.

Some things I have learned disappoint me about the state. Do you know that if you run out of gas and pull your vehicle to the side of the road your vehicle now represents a hazard and you can be fined? I guess you are supposed to just push your car into the ditch because of your lack of attention to the gas gauge (which should never be obscured from view by something hanging from your mirror).

So much for Minnesota nice.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on MN Nice