Minnesota Runs 2018: Women & Minorities Running for Office in Minnesota

Two years ago we heard nothing but complaints about our choices for who to vote for in the 2016 presidential election.

We hear complaints that there aren’t enough minority or female voices in the process.

People are frustrated that their views aren’t represented.

I’m a big believer in ‘stop complaining and start doing.’

We’re heading into the 2018 midterm elections, with all of the U.S. House, a third of the U.S. Senate, and control of state legislatures and governors’ offices around the country, as well as all kinds of local races on the line.

If you want to see candidates you support, now is the time to get involved. Here in Minnesota, caucusing begins Feb. 6. This is a byzantine process for parties to endorse their preferred candidate. It’s not the only path to office, but it’s a big one. So it’s time to start paying attention. Continue reading Minnesota Runs 2018: Women & Minorities Running for Office in Minnesota

Meeting Congressional Candidates: Jeff Erdmann

Tonight I went to another political meet and greet. Second one this week. And I took my daughter. Again.

I’m not sure what’s going on.

That’s not true. I’m angry. That’s what’s going on. This story broke about Minnesota House candidate Lindsey Port being blackballed  by DFL donors for speaking out against sexual misconduct.

So I’m feeling this push to be involved, to speak out, to let my voice be heard. I’m not just going to sit at home and complain.

Tonight Lexi and I walked to the coffee shop to hear from Minnesota 2nd Congressional District candidate Jeff Erdmann (“It’s spelled like ‘Nerdman,’ but take the ‘n’ off the front and put it on the back.”). He’s challenging 2016 DFL candidate Angie Craig for the DFL endorsement to face incumbent Jason Lewis in November.

I liked hearing Jeff’s story. He teaches American government to ninth graders at Rosemount High School. He teaches varsity football. He’s on reduced time at school in order to campaign (as reduced as he can and still keep health insurance) and his wife took a part-time job.  Continue reading Meeting Congressional Candidates: Jeff Erdmann

Senate District 52 DFL Gubernatorial Meet & Greet

I went to an event to meet DFL candidates for governor tonight. There are six candidates lined up so far: Chris Coleman, Tina Liebling, Erin Murphy, Rebecca Otto, Paul Thissen, and Tim Walz (Walz actually couldn’t make it, since he had to return to Washington for a vote).

The place was packed with a couple hundred people, all energized and fired up. It was a good chance to actually talk to the candidates and ask the questions you wanted to.

I’ve never been very involved in politics, but after the 2016 campaign when so many people complained about the lack of quality candidates, I think it’s important to get involved and be a voice in the process.

So Who’s the Best Candidate?

The challenge right now is there’s not a lot of difference between the candidates. They all have pretty similar positions. I liked Rebecca Otto going into this event, and I still like her. I also liked the energy of Erin Murphy and Chris Coleman.

I think Otto has some real practical plans—not just pie-in-the-sky ideas. As state auditor, she’s all about the numbers. She’s very practical, and I think that has pretty broad appeal. She’s also won state office before, by wider margins than both previous governors.

But I think I could get behind a lot of these candidates.

One thing I keep coming back to is I think it’s time for a woman to be governor of Minnesota. That’s not a deciding issue for sure, but when I see candidates that are pretty close on a lot of the issues, that becomes more important.

What it really comes down to is strong ideas to improve Minnesota. That’s pretty exciting.

The Next Generation

I also brought Lexi along with me tonight. We’ve talked a little about the gubernatorial contest and a lot about politics in general. Lexi doesn’t understand why there aren’t more women in these roles, so she’s excited to see more women running.

It was fun to bring her along and talk to some candidates and talk about some issues. Liebling talked about being inspired by Paul Wellstone, and mentioned talking to college students who didn’t know who Wellstone was. She said there probably wasn’t anyone here tonight who didn’t know Wellstone, though Lexi didn’t know.

So we got to talk about Paul Wellstone.

As a bonus, Lexi also won a door prize of a print with Wellstone’s famous phrase, “We all do better when we all do better.”

"We all do better when we all do better." -Paul Wellstone

We also talked about how politics actually does matter and changes things that impact our lives. The DFL passed gay marriage in Minnesota, making it possible for our LGBT friends to get married here. When Lexi started kindergarten she went half-day because we would have had to pay $3,000 to send her. When Milo started kindergarten he could go all day thanks to the all-day kindergarten the DFL passed.

We also talked about how ideas like help with college tuition will really impact Lexi’s future.

These kinds of things matter.

So it’s exciting to go to stuff like this and get involved and push for better things for our state and country. And bringing your kid along? Even better.

(Big thanks to everyone who worked to make tonight’s event happen.)

2017 Reading Statistics

In addition to tracking my reading, for 2017 I started grabbing some more stats.

The biggest numbers I’ve been tracking are for diversity, and I’ve been keeping an eye on those for a few years now. Being more intentional makes a difference (Just compare my favorites from now with a few years ago—if you have very few diverse reads among your favorites, you’re doing it wrong). If you ignore the numbers and hope it all works out, it’s eye-opening how it doesn’t.

Of course counting these numbers is tough: I base gender simply on the author, counting a book if any contributor is a woman. For race I count a book if a contributor or main character is a person of color.

This year’s numbers:

  • 64% POC books.
  • 55% female authors.

Here’s how that stacks up historically:

Books read by people of color and female authors

Here’s what that looks like compared to my total reading:

All time total books read, people of color authors, female authors.

I’m pretty thrilled to see those diversity numbers getting higher. If you think that’s silly or ridiculous, well, talk to my kids. It matters to them, and it matters to me.

Quick Trends

I also tracked some other details this year, which revealed some interesting trends:

  • New is always better: 75% of the books I read were published in the last five years. I only read 10 books that were more than 20 years old. (The oldest? A Wrinkle in Time, 1962.)
  • Nerds forever: As much as I love sci-fi, I don’t always read that much of it. This year I did. It was the top genre with 37% (last year it was 10%). Next came non-fiction with 18% (last year 6%). Then comes graphic novels and YA at 10% each, followed by fiction at 9%.
  • That’s how we’ve always done it: 82% of my reading was print books. Audio snagged 11% (mostly car rides) and digital 7% (thanks to the library not having Octavia Butler’s full collection in print; last year digital was only 0.6%).
  • Spring slump: For the months of March, April, and July I only managed to finish four books each month. For August I rebounded with 15. (Not sure that means much, and it’s easy to game, but I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I read the most during the month I took a vacation.)

If you want help reading more, check out my booklet 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading Again.

Top 5 Non-Fiction of 2017

I read 95 books in 2017 and have some favorites to share. I already shared my fiction favs, now here’s a look at the best non-fiction.

  1. Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America by Michael Eric Dyson – The best book on race I’ve read yet.
  2. The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson – The best history on race in the 20th century I’ve read yet.
  3. Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson – This book really pissed me off. The way we approach criminal justice needs to change.
  4. One: Unity in a Divided World by Deidra Riggs – A great, balanced book on division in the church.
  5. You’ve Got This: A Pep Talk for Church Communicators by Kelley Hartnett – It’s totally biased to put this book on the list (I did edit it), but I love it.

And an honorable mention to Busy: How to Thrive in a World of Too Much by Tony Crabbe. I didn’t rate this book well, but I did blog about it and it’s stuck with me.

More Reading

If you want to read more, check out my booklet 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading Again.

Top 10 Fiction of 2017

I read 95 books in 2017 and have some favorites to share.

I struggled to find books I loved this year and coupled with my relatively low reading count, that makes it hard to come up with a top 10.

I actually re-read several books that deserve to be on this list, but it doesn’t seem fair to list a book I’ve listed in a previous year’s top list. The last two are probably more honorable mentions than actual top books.

That’s not to say these aren’t great books. I gave the top 8 books 5 stars on Goodreads (and I’m stingy with my 5-star ratings).

But I’m parsing.  Let’s get to it.

Here’s a look at my favorite fiction of 2017:

  1. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng – The best book I’ve read in a while.
  2. American War by Omar El Akkad – A second American civil war that can help us understand terrorism. (read my blog post)
  3. Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View by Various – I don’t like short story collections, but this one is great. (read my blog post)
  4. All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai – Great time travel story.
  5. Dark Matter by Blake Crouch – Great multi-dimension story (kinda like time travel, but not quite).
  6. Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin – A novel about Congressional sexual misconduct before all the actual sexual misconduct.
  7. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas – This was a tough, but necessary read.
  8. March Book Three by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell – The finale in the series that hits the biggest points.
  9. Time Salvager by Wesley Chu – A really unique futuristic time travel story.
  10. Clay’s Ark by Octavia Butler – A very unique turn in a series. I’m not sure anyone else could pull that off.

And an honorable mention to Patina by Jason Reynolds and The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne (I wanted to quit it a few times, but I’m glad I stuck it out).

More Reading

If you want to read more, check out my booklet 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading Again.

2017 Reading List

I read 95 books in 2017.

That’s a bit off the mark for me. Last year I complained about a reading slump while still reading 158 books. That sounds ridiculous, I know, but that slump continued to plague me all year.

Total books, 2001-2017
My total annual reading, 2001-2017.

Last year I blamed fewer audio books while running , reading fewer books aloud to the kids, and just a general slump. All three problems continued.

This year I all but gave up on YA and middle grade books. Those books usually make up a significant portion of my reading (a third? half?), and this year they’re probably 15% (helped along by some Star Wars books in December). I do love those genres, but this year I was just tired of kid stories. I was tired of whiny YA protagonists and problems that just so happen to feature child-size heroes. Meh.

But my real problem was finding books I loved. I started and stopped a lot of books this year. I gave up on more books than I ever have before. All that quitting did result in finding some gems. But it’s hard.

I re-read several books this year. That’s one way to deal with a slump.

I also read a lot more non-fiction than I usually do. Sometimes it’s easier to tell when a non-fiction book is going to be hard to put down.

So that’s where I am this year. I’ll talk favorites (fiction and non-fiction) and statistics in other posts.

If you want to read more, check out my booklet 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading Again.

You can also check out my previous reading lists: 20162015201420132012201120102009200820072006, 2005200420032002, and 2001. Continue reading 2017 Reading List

Minnesota State Park Adventuring

Throughout most of the fall I’ve been spending weekends heading out to Minnesota’s state parks.

Nature With the Kids

It started after a summer vacation I took with the kids to South Dakota, Colorado, and Kansas. We took in lots of nature: the Badlands, the Black Hills, and Rocky Mountain National Park.

But watching over two kids by myself (until Colorado when I joined my parents), I didn’t have a lot of time to enjoy the nature. There wasn’t a lot of quiet. Or patience.  Or peace.

At one point in Colorado, after climbing across rocks in the river rapids with my kids, I sat down in a chair along the shore and put my feet up.

A moment later, Milo fell into the river. Continue reading Minnesota State Park Adventuring

Star Wars The Last Jedi: Post-Movie Thoughts

Last night I went to the opening of Star Wars Episode 8: The Last Jedi.

Star Wars is such an ingrained part of my childhood and life that these movies are just a flood of nostalgia. I love the experience.

We’ve certainly been disappointed with the prequels, but it’s so amazing to see Star Wars back in the theaters and to be so excited about it again. I love it.

Just as I did with The Force Awakens, I want to share my post-movie thoughts.

I often expect these in-the-moment reactions to temper a bit with time. I always admit that I came out of The Phantom Menace loving it. Even the second time. But then reality caught up with nostalgia.

I still love The Force Awakens.  I do think the re-hash of A New Hope, primarily Star Killer Base, was a bit much, but I don’t really care.

So we’ll see where I go with my Last Jedi reactions. Continue reading Star Wars The Last Jedi: Post-Movie Thoughts

U2 Songs of Experience

The new U2 album, Songs of Experience, came out today. For the last several U2 albums, I’ve blogged my impressions as I listen to the album for the very first time.

It’s a silly thing to do because I’m not very good at writing about music. But I like capturing my first impressions and then coming back later to laugh at my first take.

So here we go…

  1. Love Is All We Have Left – Weird slow intro. The reverb vocals are even weirder. Sets a unique tone for the album, thought not sure I like it.
  2. Lights of Home – Sonic shift from that opener. Seems to have a different feel from what I expect from a U2 song. I like the chorus better than the verses. “Free yourself to be yourself” bridge with the piano is interesting.
  3. You’re the Best Thing About Me – This is kind of a weird pop-rocker hybrid. Initially it struck me as so-so, but it’s growing on me. (This came out early as the first single, so hearing it again now with the album, it feels more familiar and I’m definitely liking it more.) “I’m the kind of trouble that you enjoy.”
  4. Get Out Of Your Own Way – The intro music feels so U2. The intro vocals are a little weird and breathy… ah, there’s Bono. The breathy part of the “Get out of your own way” in the chorus is kind of weird… and that’s a mouthful.. but the rest of the chorus is great. I like the repeats. “Nothing’s stopping you except what’s inside, I could help you but it’s your fight.” Hearing this again (it was released early), I like the rhythm in the verses. This feels like a quiet favorite.
  5. American Soul – The beginning of this does not sound like U2 at all. That guitar sounds a little more U2, but it’s different. I like it. The chorus sounds like another U2 song, I can’t place which one though.
  6. Summer of Love – This is slower and somehow more melodic. I liked the bridge, I was waiting for some soaring vocals but we barely got those. Meh.
  7. Red Flag Day – Seems like a very different album rhythmically, and I don’t mean drums and base but the rhythm of the vocals. This one feels catchy.
  8. The Showman (Little More Better) – Nice: “Singers cry about everything.” This reminds me of a song I hear on the radio and think, “That’s dumb, I don’t like it.” Some phrasing or the way they sing something seems annoying. But they keep playing it, and I start to like it. I don’t get that feeling often from a U2 song, but this song is totally it.
  9. The Little Things That Give You Away – This is the slow verse U2 song that’s itching to turn into an anthem on the chorus. We get hints on the first chorus, we’ll see if it picks up as it goes. The bridge sounds familiar (like another U2 song I can’t place). Now it’s picking up. I’m curious to see how this one holds up to repeat listens.
  10. Landlady – This song really didn’t catch my attention, until the last minute or so. That part felt catchy. Otherwise meh.
  11. The Blackout – The beginning sounds like several different old U2 songs (again, I can’t place them). Love the bass. I love these driving rockers. Second verse, is this about Trump? Seems like this one will be better live.
  12. Love Is Bigger Than Anything in Its Way – Sometimes it’s just interesting to hear U2 make music. They’re trying to do new things, not just cranking out more U2-sounding songs. That doesn’t always work. This song feels like that kind of experimentation. Parts of it work, parts of it don’t. Parts of it feel familiar, parts of it feel unique.
  13. 13 (There Is a Light) – Is this our quiet album closer? The chorus is super familiar—where have I heard this before? Is this a reprise of another song? Oh there, it is, “A Song for Someone” from the last album. Interesting choice there—I’ll need to compare these versions.

It’s always hard to judge a new album after hearing it for the first time. Am I liking it just because it’s U2? Is it initially catchy but won’t last?

I think it’s fair to say U2’s last several albums haven’t been major hits. How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb seems like the last one I thought, yeah, I like that. No Line On the Horizon still feels kind of fuzzy in my mind (what are the hit songs? None? “Moment of Surrender” and “Magnificent” are my favorites, but probably not hits). Songs of Innocence likewise felt short on hits (though “The Miracle (of Joey Ramone)” got radio play and is probably my favorite).

Songs of Experience feels lacking in a signature single. I like “The Blackout,” but other songs feel like they’ll need to grow on me.

We’ll have to revisit these thoughts and see how wrong I am. (My previous takes on Songs of Innocence, No Line on the Horizon, and How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb.)

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