School District 197’s 2014 Tech/Security/Stadium Referendum

Apparently this is the year I blog about local election politics. Sheesh. I didn’t intend to get into these discussions, but it’s been so frustrating to get misleading information. It’s hard enough to research local elections, we shouldn’t have to wade through misleading info as well.

197 Referendum Facts

So School District 197 (West St. Paul, Eagan and Mendota Heights) has a referendum on the ballot to approve levies for three separate things—technology, security and a new stadium.

You can get the full details of the referendum here.

The technology portion covers student iPads and other equipment, as well as software and training (there’s lots of personalized instruction that can happen with technology these days, but you have to pay for it). The security levy is to upgrade school entrances and minimize the risk of school shootings. The stadium portion—which can only pass if the other two pass (very smart)—is to build a multi-use stadium at the high school. Currently the football team plays 2.5 miles away at one of the middle schools.

For a $200,000 home, this referendum will raise property taxes by $32 per year. The district has some helpful graphs showing our property taxes compared to surrounding districts, before and after the levy.

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Be a Human

Have you seen the story about the Green Bay alderman quizzing a Muslim about terrorism before answering her question? Crazy.

Here’s the full blown exchange and the USA Today story, but basically the woman, Heba Mohammad, emailed Green Bay Alderman Chris Wery asking about free public transportation on election day. An innocent question, especially considering Green Bay offers free bus service on Packer game days, and not a bad idea. But beside the point.

Instead of answering, Wery asks Mohammad about her background with a local Muslim student group:

I just want to be assured that your group in no way promotes or defends militant Islamic ideology or Sharia law. Do you and the MSA condemn both of those as well as terrorist groups such as HAMAS?

What?!

Wery has quickly apologized, brushing it off as being busy with too many things at once. He realizes he was too blunt and phrased it poorly.

I’ll say. Give the guy the benefit of the doubt, sure, even Mohammad was impressed he called to apologize.

But let’s treat each other like people, OK? You don’t grill someone about stereotypical associations before being willing to talk to them. Especially when you’re an elected official.

Nobody asks me if I condemn the KKK before taking my questions.

I Will Not Finish Books I Don't Like

33 Thoughts on Reading from Austin Kleon

I think perhaps Austin Kleon has reduced my book on reading down to 33 quick points. My book was pretty short anyway, but if you’re too busy for that, Austin’s version will work.

Austin Kleon is the creative mind behind Steal Like an Artist and Show Your Work!—both are good kick-in-the-pants books for creatives.

I can really get behind his points:

1. I will make time for reading, the way I make time for meals, or brushing my teeth.

4. I will read whatever the hell I feel like.

20. When I find an author I truly adore, an author who makes my gutstrings vibrate, I will read everything they have written. Then I will read everything that they read.

21. If I hate a book, I will keep my mouth shut.

Some of it is advice I’ve had a hard time following (though it’s still in my book):

8. I will not finish books I don’t like.

But this past week I really put it into practice. If a book isn’t doing it for you, move on. No obligations. I quit about four books in a row last week before finally settling on one I liked.

And I’ll let it go that some sound like he’s quoting me (steal like an artist), because it’s the best advice ever:

2. I will make an effort to carry a book with me at all times.

24. I will keep stacks of unread books at the ready.

25. The minute I finish a book, I will start a new one.

It’s a fun little post on reading. If you want to go deeper, you can check out my book, but this probably has you covered.

West St. Paul Mayor Race: John Zanmiller vs. David Meisinger

Local elections are usually yawn fests, but this year the race for mayor in the Twin Cities suburb of West St. Paul is heating up. incumbent West St. Paul Mayor John Zanmiller is facing off against former West St. Paul Mayor David Meisinger.

Zanmiller has served as West St. Paul’s major since 2005 and ran unopposed in the last election in 2012. Meisinger served as mayor from 2001-2002. (You can see Zanmiller and Meisinger together in this 2013 photo from a gathering of past West St. Paul mayors.)

The contentious issue in the 2014 West St. Paul mayor race? Robert Street.

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Turned on the Heat 2014

Finally caved in and turned on the heat this afternoon. After a couple days in the 70s and 80s, temps have sunk below 60 consistently. The cold, overcast days haven’t allowed anything to warm up in the afternoon, so it’s been a high of 60 in our living room.

That’s probably ridiculous.

The forecast has temps dipping into the 30s at night and never getting above the high 50s. So it’s time.

We had a very cool summer this year, rarely getting those hot and humid days when we hit 90. Now the fall seems to be following suit, going cold pretty quickly.

Here’s my annual breakdown:

U2’s Songs of Innocence

Best. Date. Ever.I can be pretty fanatical about my love for U2. Since 2000’s All That You Can’t Leave Behind, their music has been fiercely personal and deeply spiritual for me.

So yesterday’s surprise news at the Apple event that U2 was releasing a brand new album and giving it away for free? Incredible.

There was a mad scramble as 500 million iTunes users powered up the program (many of us for the first time in a long time) and tried to grab the new album. Once I finally got it downloaded, I had to sit back and let it play.

The last time a new U2 album came out—2009’s No Line on the Horizon—I sat at the kitchen table and streamed the entire thing on MySpace (yeah, remember MySpace’s short-lived second life as a music site?) while waiting for news of my son Milo’s adoption.

(We cleared court and were able to announce Milo’s adoption to the world later that day.)

U2’s music is special, and that first listen is always interesting. I like to grab my initial thoughts on a new U2 album. It’s funny because it’s hard to judge music on a single listen. The songs you hate at first grow on you. The songs you loved can get tired. So you end up being wrong. But it’s still fun. I did it with No Line on the Horizon and before that with 2004’s How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb.

Songs of Innocence

What’s perhaps most interesting about this album is that U2 has been working on putting out an album for ever.  Bono has said they’ve recorded several albums, they just haven’t released them.  And now they drop the album with very little warning. If you were following the rumors, there was talk that we’d get a new album in 2014, then in September, then a week before the Apple event there were unconfirmed rumors about U2 being involved. But we never had a single, never had an album name, never had a date and the Apple rumors were denied right up to the day. It’s a very different release strategy (compare it to the hype for How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, which also included a big Apple partnership).

The album is also being described as a very personal one, reaching back to U2’s roots as teenagers.

My Song-by-Song First Impressions

So with all that, my initial thoughts as a fan:

“The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone”
It feels bold and joyful, crisp and fun. I love the guitar, love the driving beat. I like the line, “Music so I can exaggerate my pain.” Really like the abrupt end.

“Every Breaking Wave”
I like the sonic feel of this album.

“California (There Is No End to Love)”
I hate the “Santa Barbara’s” at the beginning, but once it gets going it’s better. I love the idealism in the lyrics: “All I need to know is there is no end to love.”

“Song for Someone”
Slowing it down. I like the echoing on the verses. Thematically it reminds me of “Stuck in a Moment” “Sometimes You Can’t Make It on Your Own.”

“Iris” (Hold Me Close)
It reminds me of “Miracle Drug.” But it has a deeply melancholy feeling (I read later that Iris is Bono’s mother, who died when he was 14).

“Volcano”
I like the thumping bass. It has that ‘garbage can’ feel reminiscent of “All Because of You,” though this is a little more polished. I like the driving beat. The album seems to get darker and grittier from here on.

“Raised by Wolves”
Huh? This is different. The near spoken word delivery remind me of “The Wanderer” and the chorus has echoes of “Bullet the Blue Sky” and early U2. As much as U2 embraces belief, they also embrace doubt: “I don’t believe anymore.”

“Cedarwood Road”
More of the gritty feel. Nice acoustic guitar in the mix. “A heart that is broken is a heart that is open.”

“Sleep Like a Baby Tonight”
Wha? Weird keyboard stuff at the start. This one is dark and ethereal. I like the falsetto on the bridge: “Hope is where the door is / When the church is where the war is.” I don’t know what that means, but I like it.

“This Is Where You Can Reach Me Now”
More of the gritty sound. This one is fun. I like the “choir-ish” vocals. It doesn’t sound like U2 and I love that.

“The Troubles”
I like the guest vocals from Lykke Li. Bono is amazing, but I wish they would experiment like that some more. This is a dark closer, but it’s hopeful. I like how it ends.

Songs of Innocence as a Whole

I’m not sure what I think of the whole album. No Line on the Horizon was a so-so album, and I think there are elements of that here. But it also feels like they push past that and create some better stuff. I’m still not sure if I have some standout songs. I like “The Miracle,” but it doesn’t strike me like other singles have. Not yet anyway.

I do like the thematic approach. They feel like more personal songs.

Anyway, there it is. New U2. Check out RollingStone‘s song-by-song take and their interview with Bono.

College or Jail?

Facts like this make white privilege real for me:

African American males have a higher chance of being incarcerated than they do of earning a college degree. (TakePart)

Talking about privilege is difficult. People get defensive. When you talk about inherent advantages it implies to some people that their hard work doesn’t matter. See? Difficult.

But that doesn’t change the fact that privilege is real. Lots of ways to get your head around it. If you’re not there yet, keep trying.

But don’t tell me that race is not still a problem in this world, or worse, that racism against whites is a bigger problem.

That’s right: White people believe they’re being discriminated against more than black people. (How’s that for playing the victim, which I believe is what this mindset likes to accuse black people of doing.)

Reverse discrimination is such a hardship for us whites. Meanwhile black men are more likely to go to jail than earn a college degree.

Let’s open our eyes.

Colorado Vacation

Rocky Mountain National Park West GateEarlier this summer we took a much-needed vacation. It’s hard to believe it was this summer… seems like so long ago.

But it was so good. We met my parents in Nebraska and dropped the kids off with them for a week of grandparent bliss in Kansas. We went on to Colorado.

Kevin & Abby with the RMNP SignAbby and I spent about four days in Rocky Mountain National Park. Growing up my family made it to Grand Lake, Colo., and Rocky Mountain National Park every summer. In 2002 Abby and I took a vacation to Colorado and loved it.

So it was glorious to go back.

We spent our days doing, well, nothing. We read lots of books. I went on a few mountain runs. We grilled out and watched Buffy and checked out the wildlife. There was lots of sitting.

Hopefully it won’t be another 12 years before we do it again.

Like No Other by Una LaMarche

Like No Other by Una LaMarcheLike No Other by Una LaMarche is a lovely Romeo and Juliet story between a Hasidic girl and a black teen in modern day New York.

Maybe even more than the original Romeo and Juliet, this story is truly about crossing family lines. Devorah sees something beyond her strict religious upbringing and wants to know more. But instead of just condemning her former life, she still sees value in it.

And the nerdy Jaxon who never quite fit in or connected with a girl, found a girl, well, like no other.

Landline by Rainbow Rowell

I love Rainbow Rowell’s work and wanted to read her latest, Landline, as soon as I heard about it. It features a magic phone that allows you to talk with someone from a different time.  Time travel is always an awesome setup, and the phone-based approach is just fun.

So a workaholic mother, Georgie, sends her family off for Christmas vacation without her and as her marriage is on the brink she discovers a magic phone that connects her with her husband from 15 years earlier in the midst of another relational crisis.

Complicated? Yes. It’s probably not as coherent as it could be. The time travel effect was subtle and it took me a minute to catch up. But once you realize what’s going on, it’s fun.

Like other Rowell books, it’s full of humor, warmth and random asides. Plus you’ve got the time travel element, so that’s pretty great.

A work-at-home dad wrestles with faith, social justice & story.