Saturday, March 29, 2008

Union Adventures

In Minnesota if one is a public employee, one has a choice of either belonging to a union or paying fair share to the union which represents one's position. If one is a faculty member at a state university, the union is the Interfaculty Organization (IFO). Yesterday and today I attended my first delegate assembly. The purpose of this meeting is to set the budget and hence the dues for the association for the next two years and to propose resolutions to guide the negotiation process for the next round of contract negotiations. It actually turned out to be quite interesting, and a great place for people watching.

In the proposed resolutions I noticed one relating to work that must be done for doctoral programs. It didn't seem right for the doctor of nurse practice program that is being implemented by four of the state universities. So when it came up mentioning only theses and dissertations, I moved an amendment to add doctoral capstone projects. Well, all chaos broke loose! People yelling about why was I being so exclusive. It wasn't even our university's resolution, but it suddenly became my problem. So after debate it got tabled for 30 minutes. Worked out new language and then people said they couldn't understand it and wanted to table it until it could be printed and distributed on paper to everyone. Well, I didn't do that after coming home at about 10 PM last evening.

Back this morning I reported there wasn't any way to do this on a Friday night at home. The whole day was occupied with a budget debate. When that got done, suddenly the proposed amendment was passed out and passed in about 15 seconds! Well, we'll have to wait at least two more years before such language may appear in a contract, but at least the road is started in the right direction. Very interesting experience!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Tax Adventures

Going to the CPA to see the tax return and sign it is sort of like going to the dentist or taking the car in for just a little repair. One never knows what the bottom line will be, and it is a source of concern -- just how much will this cost? Oh happy day! I'm getting back a big refund. That will make the travel to Europe this summer quite a bit less worrisome -- all more expensive since the dollar continues to lose its value. But it is the volunteering and the associated expense that produce the tax refund. It sure is more fun giving money away than paying taxes.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter 2008

For me, Easter really symbolizes the start of spring and new life. It is very hard to find that spirit this year, with Easter being as early a date as it will ever be until again in 2228. Here's what my car looked like this morning. What really made this aggravating is that this is the third time in a week we've had overnight snow. Last evening all the walks were shoveled and the car was cleaned off.

I picked up my older daughter and we went to the Nicollet Island Inn. This is the first time I've been there and it will probably not be the last. On a snowy morning, it was wonderful to find complementary valet parking. Service was magnificent through every interaction. We had a lovely table overlooking a channel of the Mississippi River. On a scale of 1-10, the food was an 11! Every bite was wonderful.

My daughter wanted to drive around a bit -- she can't drive, so this is treat for her. We went exploring neighborhoods in which I knew there were condos for sale. What I found was that I didn't want to end up in any of those places -- a good thing to know.

Spring and new life will come soon. This hopefully will be only Dicken's Christmas snow Easter that I experience. Give me green grass and flowers !

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Another Spring Adventure?

This morning we awoke to find our world covered in a layer of new, very wet snow. The trees and all the dirty snow banks were totally frosted. A sign of spring? Yes, for in other parts of the winter we don't get this kind of wet snow. Didn't have the camera out so no photos. Just trust all of us, it was beautiful and since the temperature was in the 30s it was quite easy to bear.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Spring Time Adventure

Here in Minnesota we've had the coldest winter since 2000-2001. I recently went looking for some spring poetry and in one by Louis Jenkins, I really resonated to the first line: "This winter has lasted for 11 years." This winter has surely seemed to 11 years long, and yet we didn't get the amount of snow here that is normal. It was the cold, cold weather that got to us.

Today I saw one of the first sure signs of spring. I went out to do some errands about 1 PM, and found I couldn't cross Summit Avenue here in Saint Paul because some organization was having a run. I always call the first time we get blocked from driving across town because of a charity run on Summit Avenue as one of the first sure signs of spring.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Adventure -- Leaving the comfort zone

Last evening I went to a poetry reading session at my church. What's so remarkable about that? Well, first of all all my degrees are in the sciences, and the humanities are always a stretch -- nice, but not an area in which I feel expertise. It proved to be OK. I don't think, however, I'll go again, because I'm a very visual person. I don't like just hearing the poems. I want to see them! But it was a good exercise to stry something a bit out of the comfort zone.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Adventures along the commute

Today I stayed home until about 10:45 reading student papers through the web site for my class. Being on an unusual schedule paid off. I was going along my usual route, Shepherd Road, which parallels the Mississippi River, when suddenly I see an artist on the sidewalk. He has a canvas about 16-24 inches, and looked just as do the painters along the Seine in Paris. A quick glimpse showed me a lot of green and blue that must come from his imagination. The weather is good today -- there is a lot of blue sky, but we've not yet had enough spring to have anything be green. It is good, however, to see that at least one other person enjoys this route as much as I do.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

More about Monetary Adventures

The money has arrived in Kenya. It took a couple more e-mails to get all the details settled. The picture above is of a young woman who is studying at a tailoring college. She will receive some of the financial support that we sent. She is holding the daughter of my former student. She missed some education for several weeks because she had returned to her home village. The civil disruptions in Kenya made it totally unsafe for her to travel back for a several weeks. We are glad to know she is now safe again with our former students' family.

We sent more funds that what was needed for this student, so another student will be receiving some support from us as well. Truly being part of a global community is an amazing adventure.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Spring Break Adventures

For Spring Break I had originally planned to go to Bolivia to help Mano a Mano, but that plan fell apart. When that happened I thought the best thing to do was to find a place to curl up by a fireplace and read books for a few days. I picked out the Cascade Lodge, 99 miles north of Duluth. This lodge got mixed reviews. It was OK, but not luxurious. It did have the necessary fireplace! And the fire building skills I learned in Poland came into good use. The best part of this lodge is that it is right by Lake Superior. I had huge picture windows through which to watch the lake. The colors, the wind, the lake changed almost every moment.

It took most of the daylight hours on Monday to drive up there. A bit north of Duluth I stopped at Betty's Pies and had a wonderful piece of peach/blackberry crumble pie. What a treat to have peaches actually taste like peaches. It was good!

After checking into the Lodge, I drove up to Grand Marais, about 10 miles. I ended up having a burger in Grand Marais for an early supper. I stopped at a grocery store and picked up chocolate,yogurt, and oranges for snacks.

On Tuesday morning I saw the sunrise over the lake. The wind was blowing so hard that it created an optical illusion making the lake look like it was a mighty river running south. About mid morning it began to snow, and that seemed like the time to build another good fire and hole up with the books. In the late afternoon the weather turned sunny so I drove about 9 miles back to explore the Lutsen Ski Resort. I marveled at how diverse Minnesota is. One minute I'm by a huge lake, and then in ten mintues I driving down a road with skiers wizzing over my head on a ski bridge. I had a nice early supper there.

Wednesday morning I found a light snow fall over everything. The lake at this moment looked as if it was totally frozen. There must have been some skim ice on the top that held the little bit of snow that fell over night. The weather was sunny, however, so I took off to see what I could find up the road. I stoppped for coffee and a cinnamon roll in Grand Marais. Then I headed all the way up the road to Grand Portage. Grand Portage is very, very quiet in the winter. Nothing in operation except the school and the casino. I was astonished to find that 90% of the cars at the casino were from Canada. I just couldn't imagine crossing an international border to come to a noisy, smoky slot machine casino.

I wandered back to Grand Marais and stoppped at the Pie Place. This is actually a gourmet restaurant. I choose the brunch lunch and had a very good plate of banana pancakes with caramel, banana syrup. I only wish I had found this restaurant earlier in my stay. I would have eaten more meals there. I stopped at a grocery store and picked up some more snack things, including a microwave potato/broccoli dinner, for I didn't want to go out for supper.

I stopped at Cascade State Park and walked around for a bit. I didn't have boots so had to be careful. I walked a bit on a deer trail. I'm certain I left smells that gave the deers something to think about when they wandered there again. Near the lodge I stopped to see where the Cascade River was entering Lake Superior. Even though the temperature was not much above zero, the river mouth was open and water was running over a low cascade into the lake. This time of the year the sound of spring rushing water is great. At the lodge I wandered around a bit and then went across the road to get down towards the lake shore.

On the drive home, Thursday, I also stopped at Gooseberry State Park. Even though the waterfalls looks totally frozen, I could hear water rushing underneath all that snow.

It was a good break from the usual routine.