4 12 2008

On my last night in Minneapolis I got to attend the Holidazzle parade.  While this is something that most people I know from Minnesota seem to laugh at and make fun of, I was so utterly charmed.  This is one of those things that you expect from a small town (i.e. Gambier Halloween Parade), but definitely not a large city.  Which was half the fun of it.

From dgwallick1 @ Flickr.com

From dgwallick1 @ Flickr.com

When we arrived downtown and began walking to the parade site I was still pretty confused about what exactly Holidazzle entailed.  We got down there probably 15-20 minutes before the parade was to begin and we arrived just in time; picked out a spot on top of one of the statues along the street and watched as the few open gaps in the crowd disappeared.  Other than how cold the statue we sat on was, this was pretty much the perfect spot.  My butt was frozen for the next thirty minutes as we walked around trying to find somewhere to eat after dinner.

As it grew closer to 6:30, the excitement of the kids was so clear, they were all inching farther out into the street, trying to catch a glimpse of the floats.  I was so impressed because the head of the parade was not the grand marshals float, but volunteers from a local food pantry network that were collecting donations.  Target is known for doing a lot for the community and I worked with them while I was at United Way, but I was still really impressed by this gesture.

From dgwallick1 @ Flickr.com

From dgwallick1 @ Flickr.com

Each individual segment of the parade got loud cheers from the kids and it was really nice to see the crowd wave to the participants.  Everyone waves too, it’s not just the kids, which was kind of surprising in itself.  Holidazzle is something that seemingly everyone from the Twin Cities area has been in at least once, or at least everyone that I have talked to.

Holidazzle pretty much had it all.  Fairytale characters, Joe Mauer and all those characters and things associated with Christmas.  The Transit bus all lit up was great, although the best part was definitely the spinners on the wheels, but you will just have to imagine that part. Joe Mauer probably had the largest following until the arrival of Santa.  Not a bad one to come in second to though.

I have to admit that on my way down to Holidazzle I was most excited just to hopefully see Bullseye, the Target mascot, it was still a great experience.  Holidazzle is without a doubt one of those heartwarming things that makes you feel good about everything in the world.  Maybe that’s overly dramatic, but watching all the kids crowd the sidewalks, watching them point and wave to the people in the parade and watching their excitement grow waiting for the grand finale and the arrival of Santa was really wonderful.

From dgwallick1 @ Flickr.com

From dgwallick1 @ Flickr.com


The Thanksgiving Travel Rush

3 12 2008

On my trip back from Minneapolis after Thanksgiving I ended up getting stranded in the Atlanta airport due to a horrific mix of weather delays and mechanical/human error.  What should have been a long day turned out to be a In Minneapolis, we had been told that it would be tight to get to our connections, but that mostly likely we would make them.  I made sure that I was put on stand by for the two remaining flights that evening out of Atlanta before we were even in the air.

We landed in time to make my connection except that no one came to pull our plane up to the gate and on top of that they had problems getting the door opened.  All in all, leaving us on the plane for almost 45 minutes, by the time I got off the plane and to my gate the plane had left 10 minutes before.

At this point I became just another one of the frightened, huddled masses in airports across the country.  All doing everything they can to get home from the holidays and all being utterly confused by the process and what it takes to achieve success.

I learned a few things from this experience

1. It does very little to get angry and make a lot of noise.  Ultimately, the staff on hand were in as bad a mood as everyone that was stuck, if not worse.  Granted, me being nice (when I could) didn’t get me any further than the times I was really angry but still.

1a. Get angry and vocal afterwards. The next day I made my disgust known with the way I was treated and how the night went overall and I was actually given a $100 voucher for my next flight.  Even though I wasn’t making any different arguments, the staff I talked to were just much more willing to listen and attempt to help out.

2. If you are going to sleep in the airport get as far away from the speakers as possible.  It never occurred to us that being far away from the tv didn’t necessarily mean that we were far away from the speakers.  As a result, it will be too soon if I have to listen to CNN International ever again.

3. After it is clear that you are going to be spending the night in the airport do not expect the airline to give you a blanket.  Even when they give you a little bag that looks as though it has a blanket in it.  Even when you ask them for a blanket and they hand you this little packet.  It is not a blanket!  It is an XL t-shirt, some shaving cream (despite the fact that you clearly do not have a razor with you), a solid brick of laundry detergent, a little deodorant and some toothpaste.  I would have much preferred a blanket.

Exploring Tulsa

29 10 2008
The Golden Driller

The Golden Driller

To say that I was not happy to be spending more than a week in Tulsa might just qualify for the understatement of the year.  But I came away from the conference feeling much different about Tulsa than I went in.  While it is not a city that I see myself coming back to at any point in the near future, I have to say that there was a lot to like about Tulsa and a few things to support the notion that the city is improving all the time.

We were fortunate enough to have a donor from the area who gave us a personal tour of the city which was immeasurably important in regards to my feelings and impression of the city as a whole.  He started our tour by asking us to list the things we thought of when they heard Tulsa. You got the much to be expected responses of oil, cowboys, and boring.  While I did see more than my fair share of cowboys over the week I have to admit that my preconceptions were quite far off base.

First and foremost, there is way more history there than I ever imagined.  Not just in terms of the oil boom but there is a very interesting civil rights history there as well.  I am in no way an architecture expert, but I do enjoy looking at interesting buildings and this city is full of them, even if I could never explain what style of architecture they are or anything of that nature.  There was also some of the more unusual landmarks including the “Praying Hands” at Oral Roberts University and the “Golden Driller”  in and around Tulsa.  While there were some great things about Tulsa the addition of 2,000 people seemed more than the city was able to handle and we saw some of the glaring deficiencies that exist there.

Tulsa desperately needs some kind of transportation infrastructure that does not rely solely on the

Cains Ballroom

Cain's Ballroom

dispersal highway that runs throughout the city.  There was zero retail downtown, the nearest pharmacy was 8 blocks away, there were no grocery stores to be seen, only one restaurant within 5 blocks, and one bar (the Cellar Dweller) that appeared more likely to have once been an underground casino as it was in the basement of a long, three story apartment building.  This was bad but matters were only complicated by the stunning lack of taxis and buses around the downtown area.

There was no better example of this than on Friday night when we walked from our hotel downtown for 20 minutes to the Brady Arts District for dinner and I can count the number of people we saw on one hand.  It was very clear that people were not exaggerating when they said that 60% of the land in Tulsa was “surface parking lots.”

The final night we had our closing party at Cain’s Ballroom which is in the Brady Arts District, another example of cities reusing warehouse space for galleries, restaurants, bars and clubs and really turning the area into a nightspot.

Most importantly Tulsa has another example of those street corner sculptures across the city.

Super Penguin

Super Penguin

My grandmother

28 09 2008

So I called my grandmother the other day, this is a fairly rare occurrence, but I’m really trying to get better about staying in touch with people and in particular my family.  She loves to send me these borderline offensive chain emails (I’m a bit of a cry baby obviously) to which I end up responding to the most offensive taking solace in the fact that I know that I’ve done something good.  Clearly, this is not the case and I’m not even convinced that she reads them anymore and just says that I have a great mind and moves on.  We talked for probably 15 minutes before we ran out of anything to talk about; but on the whole it was pretty nice and I felt pretty good about it.

I got through the normal questons:

– “How’s that girlfriend of yours doing?”

– “Do you have enough money?”

–  “Are you eating enough? Because you looked really bad last time I saw you.”

Yesterday, three days after the phone call, I got a card from my grandmother with money in it.  This isn’t the first time that this has happened either.

Now how am I supposed to keep calling her.  I feel like I’m being paid to call my grandmother.  This is not good

Just an update from DC…

23 07 2008

My daily walk around Dupont Circle is nothing less than a harrowing experience and every time I hear about a pedestrian being hit I naturally cringe because I am just waiting for me to be that pedestrian. This is not a post about the traffic in and around DC or even the dangers of walking in the city, although I must say I will be on the lookout for any rogue black Corvettes roaming the city.

The “Prince of Darkness”, Robert Novak, driving his black Corvette managed to hit a pedestrian and not notice while driving down through Farragut North today. My first reaction was maybe, he only bumped the pedestrian, which would explain the fact that he was only given a citation for hitting someone with his car. But from eyewitness accounts the pedestrian he drove into, hit the windshield before landing by the curb.  Mr. Novak continued on down the road and it was only when a bicyclist caught up to him a block later, promptly putting himself between the car and the rest of the road did Mr. Novak stop.

This is not the first time that Robert Novak has made news with his driving. In 2001, he had some choice words for a pedestrian and when questioned he had this to say:

“He was crossing on the red light. I really hate jaywalkers. I despise them. Since I don’t run the country, all I can do is yell at ’em. The other option is to run ’em over, but as a compassionate conservative, I would never do that.”

Luckily, this pedestrian seems to be okay.  But if you live in DC, watch out for those black Corvettes roaming the city


15 07 2008

There’s been talk about who killed JFK, there’s been quiet words questioning whether or not the Apollo ever landed on the mood, and there has even been talk about September 11th.  But as of yet, this subject clearly has not been given its due.  Yes, I am referring to the horrific conspiracy that is being waged against our illustrious Teddy Roosevelt.  This is related to no major event in history but something that I witnessed with my own eyes.

The authors of http://blog.letteddywin.com/ are true Americans, they are standing up for Teddy, documenting what has occurred and they deserve our heartfelt praise and thanks.

The stats speak for themselves, in the past year and a half there have been 130 officially sanctioned President races and not once has Teddy Roosevelt won.

Current 2008 Standings

Abraham Lincoln 29
Thomas Jefferson 10
George Washington 10
Teddy Roosevelt 0

Final 2007 Standings

George Washington 33
Thomas Jefferson 26
Abraham Lincoln 22
Teddy Roosevelt 0

Now, I understand how it could be tough to beat George Washington, he was a badass and one tough dude.  Abe Lincoln has those super-human long legs, I can see how that would be tough to compete with.  But come on! Thomas Jefferson?  He loved reading, writing, interior design not exactly a frightening athletic specimen.  Teddy Roosevelt on the other hand, was a boxer, a rower and a war hero, and yet for some reason he just can’t seem to win the President Race.  Not once in 130 tries.  I think there is something wrong here

It is obvious that Teddy will do anything to win (he has ridden in a rickshaw, taken a zipline, cut corners) and been disqualified a few times along the way.  But something has to give.  He has also been attacked by a panther twice, tripped by the Baltimore Oriole and been distracted by a man in a penguin costume.

I still have faith though, he’s bound to win one soon enough

Money on Display?

11 07 2008

This is becoming a common question from those of our parents generation and really for that in between generation.  For those people who are currently between the ages of 30-60, that haven’t grown up with the proliferation of Facebook, Myspace, blogs and those websites of the same ilk.  In our parents case, watching their children throw caution to the wind and opening their lives to the digital age and God only knows how many people.  While those 30-40 year old people now watch as their friends and colleagues slow begin to join the movement and begin themselves to contemplate where they should fall in this battle between good and evil (maybe?).

I can’t seem to make up my mind on all of this.  In some respects I am right in the center of it all; I have a blog, tracked my exercising (attempted to at least), use Facebook, do all my finances online, and yet at the same time I feel strangely unnerved by this notion.  But I subconsciously feel like I have not reached that level yet, making up excuses to content myself that I have not opened my entire life to the world of the internet and those in it.  “I only check Facebook when I get an email” or “I only read specific blogs, but don’t post/respond on them” or “I couldn’t ever do LiveJournal” but sadly these excuses no longer suffice.  I am all about Web 2.0 and whatever comes with it, I think.

The reason for this is www.Mint.com, an online money management tool that I recently signed up with and subsequently kind of fell in love.  I saw it on Lifehacker and after my rather disappointing experience with Quicken, I decided it was worth a try.  It is really impressive, it probably doesn’t do any more than Quicken, but it is so much more user friendly and I like being able to check my money stuff anywhere I want.  Although I guess that is probably not the best thing in the world.  It is not that much different than my online banking with Bank of America, it does a little more and looks decidedly prettier, but how important is that.  Yet, I love it. To be honest, I was a little surprised by just how much I like Mint.  Up till now, the trend has been decidedly one of these new-fangled toys comes along and I use it for a little while, and grow weary rather quickly before I eventually give up (i.e. my original, now defunct blog; Gyminee; RunnersAhead).  However, I’m not convinced that Mint will share the fate of those other toys that I no longer love.