Marketing, Minneapolis, Music & More

Fall Music and Shows

We are approaching fall here in Minnesota, time to bunker down the hatches, take out the docks and lifts, wrap up the outdoor furniture and clean out the gutters.  Seems odd to be saying that given that it was mid 80s the last few days, but it’s on my mind as October approaches.

That also means my music of the year post is coming in a few months, which was one of the reasons I had the site fixed.  It’s actually been a slower year for music thus far, however there have been a few break throughs.  Strangely, I’ve had a number of events for music in the last month that I’ve been really excited to see. A few weeks back Conor Oberst played at Palace Theater in St. Paul.  He played a really good mix of his older tunes and newer stuff.  His new album is really good, highly recommend picking it up.

Shortly after we went up to Cloquet to visit Teresa’s family.  I took her dad to see John Prine at the DECC auditorium, and it was a fantastic show.  John is getting on in age but you would never know it by his set.  He played a good hour and 45 minutes and his guitar was immaculate.  His voice is obviously a little different than his 20s and 30s, but he sounds great.  Some artists lose that (my favorite artist, Bob Dylan falls into this category for sure) but Prine is still on top of his game.

In two weeks Frankie Cosmos is playing at the Triple Rock.  I’m as excited to see this band live as anyone, they are one of the most interesting groups making music today.

If you are looking for some new albums:  Alvvays new one is really good.  Deer Tick’s new double album sounds pretty good thus far but I’ve only listened a few times.  Open Mike Eagle just dropped an album I haven’t picked up yet.  It seems like the spotify model of streaming is taking over for most people, but I’m sticking to albums for now.  It costs more, but it’s better for learning an artists style and change over time in my esteem.

Climate of Hope

Earlier this year, I visited New York City for the first time.  It was for work, but the day of landing at the airport my coworker and I checked out a few tourist areas.


This was Central park, I saw the financial district later that night, as well as the Times Square, below.

New Yorkians have always caught me a bit off guard.  They tend to reference their city often, “I’m from New York, it’s different there…” and generally I find that the East and West Coasts have very differing perspectives from my midwest.  I could actually spend a long time explaining some of the differences, they really are fascinating, but that’s for another time.  That ideology that people from New York are different always seems a little arrogant.  I also really dislike the Yankees, as a Twins fan.  Despite these things, for some reason people from the East Coast tend to get along with me quickly due to me being pretty straight forward.  When you actually break bread with people from the East Coast they are actually pretty similar to most other

folks, just have a different outlook due to the urban economies they’re brought up in.

Anyway, that initial high brow perspective on New York always bugged me.  It just seemed like everyone must be overrating the city.  So when I went there for the first time, mentally I expected to be a unimpressed.  Or at least not in awe of another city.  I’ve been to many cities and what could be that different here?

Well, I was wrong.  New York City is one of the most amazing cities I’ve ever been to.  There’s a vibrant aspect of the people there that is really entrancing and fun.  The food was amazing, the people and places in the city don’t really stop.  “The city that doesn’t sleep” is an apt description.  I was enamored.  Central Park was a gem, the city was clean and had a lot of great places to visit.  For what it’s worth, other cities that I’ve visited recently haven’t been nearly as interesting.  For instance, Philadelphia and Boston didn’t have the same charm; though they were interesting as well.

ClimateofHope_HI-RES_3quarterbook-1While in town, the Bloomberg New Energy Finance gathering was happening.  During that a free book was given to me, Climate of Hope.   The book is written by Mike Bloomberg and Carl Pope–a former governor of New York City and a former director of the Sierra Club (founded by John Muir–a West Coast icon) respectively.  The narrative is specifically set up to juxtapose the two protagonists who are attempting to address climate change while having seemingly far different ideologies and backgrounds.

It works.  It’s clear they aren’t really the same person, but have a similar goal.  A goal we all need to consider and attempt to solve.

The premise of the book is that of independence, particularly in the role of cities and smaller organizational groups of people taking the reins to solve issues as opposed to waiting for the larger oversight of federal government to lead.  They provide a great deal of examples where this has already happened previously and advocate for more efforts throughout the US and beyond.  And that’s what has to happen.  The federal government has all but washed it’s hand of the science showing what a dire future we’re facing.  They’ve put leaders in place who deny not only that science but the very efficacy of the people and departments which they’ve been sworn to oversee!   It’s a strange time to be certain.

The importance of local governance and self directed efforts are perhaps never more important than here and now.  If you’re interested in how cities and citizens can take charge now, this is a good start.  Bloomberg in particular seems like someone who could get things done.  I’ll be watching to see if he has higher aspirations in regard to office–seems like someone I could vote for.

A Quick Low Down

Since it’s been near six months from our last posts, it’s probably a good time to recap what’s been happening lately.

Probably best to start with work.  Mortenson continues to be an excellent place to spend my working hours, and the solar industry is an absolute joy.  I oversee the marketing for our operating group, it’s a lean team but we’re also an industry leader and there’s a lot of room for growth.  The solar industry has been booming the last few years. 2016 was the largest year in history, near double the size of any other mostly due to an expiring tax credit.  The technology is getting less and less expensive and is now competitive with other types of generation assets like natural gas and wind.  In many areas it’s the least expensive technology.

The industry is going to continue to grow for the next three decades, maybe longer, until something better is developed.  In all likelihood this is where my entire career will unfold.

It feels pretty amazing to be working in an industry like this.  The biggest reason is that climate change has been on my mind for near a decade, but before starting here I really had no clue what to do about it.  I still don’t have the answers, but do have a plan.  One of the best aspects of this role is it’s tangential nature to very smart organizations like Fresh Energy, Great Plains Institute and SEIA who do excellent work to help decarbonize our electricity infrastructure.


One of my biggest goals this year was to become educated on climate change.  In the last few months I’ve began reading books on the subject and hopefully will become more active in taking actions that lead to a better future for younger generations.  The first book I just completed was by Mike Bloomberg and Carl Pope, called Climate of Hope, it’s a book explaining how urban areas control their own destiny and can lead without federal oversight.  More to come on that and many other books in the coming months.  Learning the science is next up.

Outside of work Juniper has been growing like a weed.  She learns new words every week.  She speaks in complete sentences (sometimes) and has a wonderful personality.  Well wonderful isn’t the word for it, I’m more in awe of her as a being than her personality being wonderful.  I love her to death but she is particular and favors her mother a great deal.  Tough to blame her, I would too.  She is back full time in day care as Teresa just started her new school year.  Sounds like most of her kids are great but the last hour is a little squirrelly.

This summer went quickly, it’s near fall now.  We rebuilt our deck this year, it looks really nice.  We just had some new carpet put in two rooms, one for guests and another for Juniper to move into when she outgrows the crib.  It struck me the other day that we are pretty much rebuilding this house from the inside out.  There are only a few more “big” projects, but a whole lot of small ones.  My guess it will be another five years before everything is final structurally speaking.  That’s OK.

A lot of friends have been buying their second houses lately.  The only place I’d really want to move to would be South Minneapolis, either the Cedar Lake area or around Lake Harriet and Minnehaha park way.  I’d consider it, but the houses aren’t much nicer, just a lot more expensive, as are taxes.  Who knows, maybe someday.

Not a lot more news than that, it’s time to winterize everything here and up at the lake with Mom and Dad.  Mom just had her knee replaced.  This is the second surgery and it sounds like everything went well.

We are running up to Bethel today to see a friend and his farm animals.   Speaking of that, a few weeks ago we went to a llama farm for Teresa’s birthday–I’ll try to update this with pictures after the functionality is fixed.  Currently it’s not working…enjoy your labor day.

Hackety Hack Hack

It’s been an extremely long time since I’ve written anything on the blog, and the main reason is that it was hacked!  Nothing serious, just some adware and a few other issues.  The actual, real, secret reason is that after it was hacked I was too lazy to get it fixed.

Well, sort of lazy, just as much busy.  More to come on that.

This is technically a test blog, just to see if everything is on the up and up.  I have a lot to write about soon, mainly how work is going and what I’m learning about.

Talk to you soon.  :-)

Dr. Sleep

drsleepI’ve only read one Stephen King book prior to Dr. Sleep.  That book was The Shining, and the only reason I picked this up was because it’s the sequel to that book.

The Shining to me stands alone as a monument of frightening reading, in the best way possible.  It tip toed around the supernatural in a way to make ever nook and cranny a potential pitfall and drove you up and up to that mountain peak then downward into they abyss.  It kept you guessing until the very end.  It was a masterpiece.

Dr. Sleep does not meet that level of excitement, but it is a really good book.  It’s written in a way that unveils a few surprises but steadily keeps the pressure up over time, it loses a bit of steam at the mid point but will keep most people’s attention throughout.

This is the story of young Danny growing older and dealing with similar demons that he saw growing up.  Some are outsiders, some are old accomplices of some sort.

If you’ve read the first part of the story, you’d be selling yourself short to not read this.

Thinking Fast and Slow

Daniel Kahnemen wrote this book published in 2011 and it is the best business book I’ve ever read.  Only it’s not really about business.  It’s about humans and how we think.

ThinkingThis book’s many, many lessons on human thinking, heuristics, fallacies and ideas are mostly premised on two “systems” of human thought.  System 1 is our knee jerk, act first, consider later system.  It’s near instantaneous.  System two is our in depth, deep analysis, do the work system.  It’s what allows us to do complex math problems or build out a logical rationale regarding a nuanced subject.

Neither of these systems are mapped out anatomically speaking.  They don’t exist as part of our physiology.  They are a black and white creation in a world of grey.  Yet they are an excellent way to explain what we, the most advanced beings known to our little planet, utilize when faced with stimuli.

The results ain’t pretty.  When put into scientifically crafted experiments to test the psyche, humans are proven to make decisions that often times go completely against what they should decide, or what they’ve stated they believe, or what they’ve previously decided.  It’s altogether fascinating.  Kahnemen spent his career creating and testing psychological evaluation and attempting to prove out differentials in what many in his profession and other similar studies thought were the case versus what actually happens.

My problem with the book is that it’s SO good and SO full of lessons I don’t know that it’s really all that easy to blog it’s importance.  Anyone who works in a professional environment and has to get groups of people to make decisions should read this.  It’s incredible.

Here are a few lessons covered:

  • Attention and Effort:  how often humans faced with difficult decisions or in depth decisions simply skip it for the easy path
  • Mental Energy:  how certain mind states and times can lead to less critical thinking
  • Prior Mindsets:  how humans use their preconceived notions to find the evidence that supports their prior conclusion
  • Cognitive Ease:  how a more complex subject or argument is found less attractive due to difficulty
  • Causes:  how people build a story around something they want to believe, regardless if it’s true or not
  • Jumping to Conclusions:  how people have illusory understandings based on what they see and know, they are incapable of seeing outside of their current understanding and anchor there
  • Anchoring: how humans use a frame of reference as a starting point and gravitate toward it
  • Small Samples:  how extremely poor humans are at statistical validation due to believing small sample sizes are representative despite not matching base rates
  • Availability:  how we misrepresent recent or highlighted phenomena as more common than actual happenings
  • Halo Effects:  how we take performance or appearance in one area and apply it to others without actual proof
  • Snowflakes:  how humans always assume their case is different and that statistics don’t really apply to them
  • Statistical Errors:  near all humans are not good with statistics, it would seem our brains simply aren’t wired well for it
  • Regression to the Mean:  how humans assume that a particular happening is average when it’s actually an outlier and ensuing happenings will regress toward the actual average
  • Overconfidence:  how overconfident people are more typically the worse performers of a group (not to mention they brush off results as not representative)
  • Formulas:  how replacing humans doing an exercise with a formula replaces human error and creates a statistical certainty of what’s being measured
  • Intuitions:  how humans use feeling and intuition to ignore base rates without good reason
  • Prospector Theory:  how costs are regarded more negatively than gains are positively
  • Endowment:  how quickly humans internalize novel gains as the norm

There are more.  This book took me about six months to read, which is a long time, but it’s 420 pages and extremely dense with ideas that are critical.  I really can’t recommend it enough, but go in eyes wide open as it is not an easy read.  It’s worth it though.

San Diego Vacation

Tuesday this week we left on a jet plane to San Diego for a very quick getaway.  The trip was exploratory in more ways than one, with Juniper we just don’t know how well she’ll travel at this point.  Her first trips to Florida, Sweden and Iceland were a different time in her cognition state and reactions are subject to variance.  As such, the trip was only until Friday, about three days in total but including two four hour flights.

It was also my first foray into California for pure tourism.  My job dictates traveling to California roughly four times per year if not a bit more, so I’m used to the areas, particularly San Francisco, but haven’t had a lot of time to simply explore.
IMG_3748 (1)
On the first day we went to Seaport Village and walked along the shoreline, did a bit of shopping (tourist wares are almost always a waste of time unfortunately), and had free ice cream from Ben and Jerry’s – free cone day!  What luck!  IMG_3801 (1)

The second day was significantly busier than the first.  We woke up and headed to the San Diego Zoo after breakfast.   The zoo is renowned as one of the best in the US, and although my exposure is somewhat limited I thought it was well thought out and a lot of fun.  Juni saw a great deal of animals she’d never seen before and seemed to be enjoying herself.  That night we went to Coronado and got a feel for the area including the beautiful beach that stretched for what seemed like a mile long.  Coronado seemed like a really nice area and if we go back I’ll be looking to see if we can find a place for rent there.
The last full day we spent going to Balboa Park in the AM, walking around the museums and shops at first then going to the children’s park.  Afterward we walked around the area while Juniper slept and finally got lunch at the Prado which had excellent food and drinks.  Later that evening we went to La Jolla Cove.  This was my favorite part of the trip, we saw seals, sea lions, and many varieties of birds.  The best part was Juniper learning to walk along the sand and getting wet when the tide rolled in.  She held my hand, which isn’t necessarily something she does often, and we laughed as the cold water lapped at our ankles.

It was a packed trip, but I’m glad we did it.  Since then we’ve been doing spring cleaning around the house.  Having a few days after a vacation prior to work may be the nicest aspect of it all.  I have to catch up on email and a number of other things, but it has been well spaced.

Our next trip is planned, back to California in July.  This time it will be San Francisco and the red woods.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

fear and loathing

The last of three non work books I picked up last year due to needing a break from industry research, Fear and Loathing is Hunter S. Thompson‘s most renowned work, an entry into gonzo journalism which he helped to pioneer.

This was the first book I’ve read of Thompson’s, and it was extremely interesting.  The idea behind gonzo journalism actually makes it difficult to ascertain what’s true, what’s not, what’s embellished, what’s completely fabricated either purposefully or due to a drug fueled mis-remembrance.  The book itself is a walk through of Thompson and his compatriot lawyer as they investigate two potential stories to be written for different publications.

The writing is in first person narration.  There are a few things notable in his style, for instance, he uses italics continually as part of speech to denote inflection.  This is a common practice in English writing, however the number of times he does so makes it stand out, usually to comedic effect.

Fear and Loathing is outrageous from the outset.  It’s a drug addled storyline with actions so out of the norm for most Americans that it must border on unadulterated fiction.  However, like other novels that seem somewhat surreal such as Kerouac’s On The Road or Kasey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, these stories were written in a different time.  America was wildly different in the 50s, 60s, and 70s, so much that these stories seem outlandish when in reality there were many things happening like this all the time.  It doesn’t mean that everything is capital T truth, but you’d be surprised.

Characters say and do things that make them seem like maniacs, and in all appreciable sense they are.  From one scenario to another, they seem to avoid any real implications of all their illicit activity.  Time and time again, the story keeps on.  It works.

This is a fast paced book, you could read it in three hours or so.  It’s entertaining, funny and a stark departure from most writers’ style and story.  It’s worth reading.  Thompson also wrote about Hell’s Angels in another gonzo journalism entry which at some point I’ll pick up.  He was a character, to say the least.  And he was a good writer too.

Why America Is Important

This could be an essay of hundreds of thousand of words.Statue Lib

Instead, I’m going to summarize one major area of importance about this particular nation state, despite its flaws.

I am not a “patriotic” person with an ideology that being born in a certain geographical area of the planet Earth makes you different than any other person.  Borders of any nature are simply human concocted lines of ownership meant to sequester resources.  The planet is not owned by anyone, it’s a symbiotic parcel of livable space matter.  Us humans either abide by the unwritten rules of that symbiosis or get shrugged off the carousel circling our one and only energy source, the sun.

Being human is more important than being of a certain geography.  The rights for humans should transcend those of being of a certain geography.  In the same vein, a human’s choice of religion (or lack thereof), their prosperity in terms of being rich or poor, their “race” or any other facet of their being is irrelevant to their humanity.  Governance that embraces this means humans are truly free.

America has embodied this to me.  Despite being a cynical youth that sees through many governmental and corporate talking points, our country has long been a sanctuary to the distressed.  A place where anyone could come to make a home, work hard and be successful.

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

This is what made America a great nation, although imperfect.

Yesterday the president signed an edict that refuses entry to refugees into the United States of America.  Compounding this, it is particularly weighted against a certain religion.  This runs contrary to the main ideals that make me proud to be an American.  I can only hope that this is overturned and the innocent lives of refugees are spared.

Thank You for Arguing

thanks argueThe last few months I’ve been reading a book called “Thank You for Arguing,” which is dedicated to understanding and improving the important art of rhetoric.  Of all skill sets in life, I’d imagine that the capability to utilize rhetoric effectively in personal or group discussions will likely have the largest impact on your career and life as a whole.  Every interaction you have in life is somewhat reliant on these skills.  Most people are inherently utilizing rhetoric, but fail to recognize the art as it happens.

I actually have a minor in rhetorical writing, which has served me fairly well in vocational pursuits, but has failed to take hold well in my other areas of life.  The truth is that rhetoric and persuasion are genuinely difficult in practice.  The main reasons are that interacting with others is not necessarily fun–I’ve found as I get older that more and more people would rather not interact with others if avoidable (though not everyone is like this), and that persuading is becoming more and more difficult; it seems like more and more people shut off any argument that’s counteractive to their initial thought processes.  Yet it is the only way to really get what you want.  Or to do what is right.  And that’s an important distinction, what you want is likely (in your mind) what is right.  You cannot do what you think is right in most instances without the support of others.

Rhetoric is supremely important today.  And this book does well to describe how to use it effectively in speech and debate.  Those two activities are not so formal as they sound; they happen every day at the water cooler, kitchen table, email strings and so forth.  Learning the tools and wielding them effectively is to your benefit.  The following is a brief outline of the concepts in the book:

1.  Set Your Goals

  • Before any actual discourse, consider your preferred outcomes — not necessarily “winning” the argument, but what you want to happen as a result (very different ideas)
  • Set your goal for the audience, in changing mood or thought process or action

2.  Control the Tense

  • Focus on the future and the choices of the audience, what are the implications moving forward?  Looking backward does nothing.
  • Avoid fault and/or blame of any party as it is unlikely to provide good will

3.  Soften Them Up

  • Argument by Character (Ethos):  this relies on reputation of the speaker or other parties – e.g. this person’s reputation is worthy of consideration and potentially consent
  • Argument by Logic (Logos):  relying on the logic of the audience, regardless of the position, this could mean accepting opposing ideas in order to get a certain outcome
  • Argument by Emotion (Pathos):  concern with the audience and their mood given a certain situation

4.  Get Them to Like You

  • Use decorum to fit the audience’s consideration, fit in with the decisions making

5.  Make Them Listen

  • Virtue:  adopt the values of the audience
  • Values:  align with the commonplaces of the audience — commonplaces may be one of the most important ideas in this book, it signifies the areas where the group already agrees, which are the areas where an argument starts.  Things so basic as “we all want to grow the company” or “we all agree treating customers well is part of who we are” are mores within organizations and need to be considered.  Those are obvious starts, the questions come from when you get to alignment of resources or functional expectations.
  • Touting experience, or having others do it for you, will lend itself toward getting consideration

6.  Use Your Craft

  • Show your experience
  • Take the middle course – always weigh both sides of the argument and regardless of which way you choose to go, make certain that you’ve covered off on both sides prior to taking a position

7.  cavemanShow You Care

  • Reluctant conclusion – come to your position while highlighting the potential of the other areas of choice, perhaps reluctantly given the situation being overwhelmingly right given the facts
  • Personal sacrifice – sometimes decisions come at a cost of your personal area but are for the greater good
  • Doubt in rhetorical skill – simple words with verbal consideration “I may only be a caveman, but I know this is right.”

8.  Control the Mood

  • Belief, use the experience
  • Tell stories where applicable
  • Control volume – good point to state that any time an argument escalates, you’ve lost
  • Simple language
  • Patriotism and alignment of the group to argument, potentially posing the opposition as against the goodness of the group
  • Desire and emulation

9.  Turn the Volume Down

  • Use the passive voice and do not assign action/blame where avoidable
  • Get audience comfortable, smiling and laughing if possible
  • Empower audience and the importance of their choice for the future

10.  Gain the High Ground

  • Focus on what’s advantageous for the audience
  • Commonplaces — find where everyone aligns and stem argument from that point of trust
  • Normally when people continue to repeat ideas (babbling) there is a commonplace in that place
  • Get to agreement on the subject to create a commonplace where one previously didn’t exist

11.  Persuade On Your Terms

  • Labeling – use of terminology is important as they can hold connotations, use your terms, choose your opponents terms when it helps but reframe their definitions
  • Future tense problem solving includes focusing on Facts, then Definition, then Quality, then Relevance.  Move down the scale as your argument runs into issues, and then consider other action if needed.

12.  Control the Agument

  • Deductive logic creates agreement through “if/then” argumentation
  • Inductive logic ends commonplaces at the time and creates new paths forward
  • Facts / Comparisons / Stories are all valuable in these discussions

13.  Spot Fallacies

  • False comparisons – unalike ideas that are compared regardless
  • Bad example – example doesn’t fit conclusion of argument
  • Ignorance of proof – when you haven’t seen an example and assume that one does not exist due to that ignorance
  • Circular logic – using the premise to lead to a conclusion that is therein the premise
  • False choice – creating a false dichotomy of decisions where none is actually needed
  • Red herring – creating a non linear distraction to avoid the argument at hand
  • Wrong ending – proof doesn’t match conclusion

14. Call a Foul

  • Switching tenses from future to past – always focus on what’s next
  • Inflexible insistence on rules, when realigning rules may be needed
  • Humility – setting out to embarrass another is poor form and shouldn’t be tolerated
  • Threats / foul language – unhelpful and distraction
  • Utter stupidity – difficult to stop but often times can’t be fought head on

15.  Know Who to Trust

  • Apply a needs test – what are the actors looking to achieve and how does it match their rhetoric?
  • Check extremes – are they measured in consideration or one sided?

16.  Find the Sweet Spot

  • Assess the practical wisdom:  Absolutely one way answers, or “it depends” on the situation, latter means impartiality in most instances
  • Actual experience of actors and outcomes
  • Ability to succinctly describe the crux of the issue

17.  Advanced Offense

  • Twist cliches for memorability
  • Change word order of arguments, clever and sticks with audience
  • Edit out loud, shows nonscripted consideration and commonplace compass
  • Emotion where valuable
  • Invent new words

18.  Speak the Audience Language

  • Simple language where possible, use the lexicon of the group to fit in

19.  Make Them Identify With The Choice

  • See the choice as how the group self identifies for the easiest path to victory, few will disagree with the group identity
  • Summarize argument with a halo of identity
  • Do not apologize, ever, just use argument to position for future e.g. “the previous action didn’t live up to my expectations, and I’m going to improve that moving forward”

20.  Right Timing

  • Wait for the right time to push for change — it can take an extreme amount in different scenarios, be patient

21.  Give a Persuasive Talk

  • Invention:  create the issue through facts and choosing the historic considerations going into decision now
  • Arrangement:  choose how to layer the argument for maximum impact, with expectations of questions or commentary
  • Style:  word choice, clarity, vividness, storytelling, decorum, ornament
  • Memory:  having your argument down pat helps delivery and considers rejoinders and how to handle
  • Delivery:  execute the ideas

As you can tell, there was a lot covered in the book. And although you’re already doing this on the daily, thinking through what works and doesn’t is probably a helpful exercise.  The book is recommended, as are the ideas themselves.

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