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The Cutting Edge

Well, it happened.  The famed Bootleg Series just released “The Cutting Edge” an amalgamation of recordings from the three different albums at the pinnacle of Bob Dylan’s creative peak:  dylansleeve

  • Bringing It All Back Home, 1965
  • Highway 61 Revisited, 1965
  • Blonde On Bonde, 1966

These three albums are all master works of creativity.  At the time, and really, since, no one had written anything like Dylan.  He had already been crowned the king of folk music four years earlier, emulating his idols growing up such as Leadbelly and Woody Guthrie, as well as his contemporaries in the “protest” era.

Dylan was funny in that much of what he wrote and did at the initial part of his career was simply improving upon what others were doing, I don’t think he was nearly as passionate about the political issues of the time as some–yet he was seen that way initially.  He revolted from his anointed position from fans and was labelled a pariah, a Judas, by some as he moved from the conventional acoustics to a more complex musical styling in the above records.  His writing was always best, no one really held a candle in that regard, but it changed over that time period.

Thirty four songs were actually put out over those records.  The Cutting Edge has three versions,  but the most commonly purchased will be a 36 track compilation of different cuts.  If you’re a fan, it’s fascinating to hear the different versions–there are lyrics not used in the final versions that show up in other songs later.  There are sets that are completely different in timing and instrumentation than the final releases.

Putting out this grouping of songs is a big deal.  This time period was his most relished and distinguished him as truly unique.  Sony could easily have done three different bootlegs for each album to make more money, but putting it out as a compilation is better for fans.  People who are truly fanatical can buy the larger edition with basically all the different takes–Like a Rolling Stone has an entire disc dedicated to it with 20 recordings!  For me that is overt and unnecessary, however there are likely many rejoicing at being able to pore over  multiple renditions.

My adoration of Dylan’s stylings and abilities is not completely unique, but compared to anyone in my real life grouping of friends, it’s quite over the top.  Trying to explain what set him apart from others of that era, as well as others, is a continued pursuit, yet ultimately futile.  You either get it and appreciate it or you don’t.  Most are in the latter category, but every now and then I’ll run into another big fan and we’ll gush accordingly.  This album is for those of us who want to reminisce about our first experiences with Bob, hearing a virtuoso of multiple respects putting it all together in a bright wave of creativity–fueled by drugs, publicity, raw talent, pop culture, cynicism and love of music.  It was an amazing period in time for music and it altered where everything went thereafter.

Timberwolves 2016 Season

This is the first time in about four years that we signed up for cable.  The main driver of that is the NBA season and Timberwolves.  I grew up playing basketball in my driveway and idolizing players like Kevin Garnett on my home town team.  I didn’t really get to see that many games because they were on cable and we could not afford it, however every now and then a few games would be shown on the local station.  I’d also watch games at my neighbor’s occasionally and keep up with the team by reading newspapers and going online at school.

This season is kind of a big deal for me because there is so much going on from a franchise standpoint.  The biggest and scariest thing is the health of Flip Saunders.  Flip was our only truly successful coach in team history.  He brought us to the playoffs for years with KG and although we never won a championship, we had a lot of very good years that gave us credibility.  He is now fighting lymphoma and it is not going to be easy for the team in that regard.

KG came back last year.  He is the most important person in the history of our team.  Our only MVP, our only leader capable of bringing us to the playoffs.  A first ballot hall of famer.  Now a twenty year veteran, he will be a low minutes, high impact guy on the team.  He’s always been known as a vocal player who can help teams as much defensively with communication as his other more tangible skills.  The Twolves are a very young team and he’ll have his work cut out for him trying to teach the kids the ropes.

2016 marks a pivotal year for our best player, Ricky Rubio.  Most people do not understand how good our point guard is.  He is in the top of the class defensively and an elite playmaker.  His weaknesses are offensive capability; creating and making his own shots, hitting open jumpers.  He is a liability to his team in that regard, if he can turn it around and become average in those areas his value would sky rocket.  He is a Jason Kidd level ceiling, but his trajectory never met those expectations due to his offensive incapabilities.  Whereas Kidd figured it out, Ricky has not.  He is now 24 years old, this year is truly make or break.  Most basketball players peak from 27-30; he’ll have to set some building blocks in place if he is to become great.

By the end of this year, Andrew Wiggins will likely take the crown of “best wolf” away.  He is an absolute beast.  His athleticism is truly elite, even in the NBA.  His defensive capabilities as a rookie showcased that he could be a star.  His offensive game is impressive as well; he has an array of post moves with the strength and size to body up most players at the 2 and 3, while explosive enough to make any 4 in the league a mismatch.  His shooting was also very good as a rookie toward the beginning of the season.  It dipped further along in the season but that is a normal thing to happen.  Wiggy is the reigning Rookie of the Year, for good reason.  His ceiling is a Kobe Bryant level.  His biggest weakness is his handle, he dribbles too high.  He also doesn’t have the gifts of passing that some players such as KG or Lebron have, but he is adequate.  Aggression has also been questioned, but I think he did well overall last year without pressing the issue.  The challenge for him this year taking the reigns of the team and becoming a vocal leader.  When you are the best player, you need to be vocal.  KG will help teach him that.

Zach Lavine has no issues being aggressive.  You can see in his style of play that he wants to score.  He is a great fit on this team at the two guard, someone who can dribble drive and hit threes.  He’s also likely the most athletic player on our team, which is absolutely insane to say when you have Wiggins on the roster.  Zach is a good player who could be very good.  His ceiling is likely the all star level, but it’s still a little early to know for sure.  He was drafted out of UCLA one year in, just like Wiggins, and has the physical gifts.  He’s too light and needs to build more muscle, but he will.  What’s yet to be seen is his basketball IQ high enough.  It wasn’t last year, which is why a guy like Wiggins can win ROY; he understands the game and how to use his physical tools.  This will hopefully be the year that Zach does so and turns into and NBA level starter.

Karl Anthony Towns.  The Timberwolves actually won the number one pick.  And they didn’t mess it up by taking Jahlil Okafor.  Okafor is going to be a good player in the NBA.  He’s better than Towns today, his footwork and offensive capabilities will make him an 18ppg player this year, which is a big deal.  He will vie for ROY.  Towns is going to be a slower starter, but his ceiling is Tim Duncan.  (As an aside, I do NOT make these comparisons lightly though it may seem so as names like Kobe and Duncan get tossed around.  These are some of the absolute best players in the history of basketball, but our squad genuinely has that level of talent in terms of ceilings.)  KAT can shoot threes.  KAT can do the East Bay Funk Dunk.  KAT can pass incredibly well for a C.  KAT can shoot the 12-15 footer.  KAT can post up and already has a great hook shot.  He can roll over either shoulder, though he’s better turning his left.  Defensively he has a great motor, his fundamentals need a bit of work but the motor will turn him into an all star within four years alone.  There just aren’t that many guys with the size and motor he has shown and on the defensive end that wins games.  I am extremely excited to watch this kid play and learn.

The rest of the squad is interesting too.  We have vets in Kevin Martin, Tayshaun Prince and Andre Miller.  We have depth and youth in Shabazz Mohammed, Gorgui Dieng and Nemanja Bjelica – the recent Euroleague MVP.  We have all the pieces and a ton of talent.  We just don’t have the time together yet.  And that’s what the season will be all about.  Learning to play together and gelling as a team.  This is going to be an AMAZING year and I can’t wait for it all to get started.  ARRROOOOO!

USP NBA: Washington Wizards at Minnesota Timberwol

Seasons – Fall Is Here

2015 has been a truly remarkable year in terms of weather.  Our summer has been filled with beautiful days and a good amount of rain, keeping the grass growing week after week.  The last month has been filled with above average days, and today in early October we have 70’s and low 80’s.  Fall is the best hiking time here, it’s cool enough that longer walks don’t get too hot with beautiful colors as the trees turn.  It’s also still dry, unlike the spring time which is rather muddy.  Today we’ll likely go down to 9 Mile Creek and do a walk, before getting back and handling chores as well as getting some work done.

I’d like to get back to Alexandria for a weekend, however we have to get up to Cloquet and Detroit Lakes as well so I’m uncertain if it will happen.  This weekend we’d considered it, but with the amount of work happening for business planning we needed a little time to chill out.  I’d like to get back to the normal cadence of writing twice a week.  I believe that will be happening soon, it’s been a very fast three months and things tend to slow down come winter.

It’s time to get outside and hike Minnesota with Juni and Teresa.

9 mile

Shed Rebuild

About a month back I started rebuilding my shed.  The main reason is that the door was right next to the house.  Over the years the door had become blocked by the cement next to the house, it still opened but not at a 90 degree angle, which makes for a pain to actually open.

I decided to rebuild it using mostly the same pillars and add two doors, proximally distant from the house.  Maneuvering our grill and other things into the previous door was a pain, so moving the doors away from the house makes it easier to both get things in AND out.  By putting another door on the shed, I can drive our snowblower in and out with relative ease.

Here’s a picture of the shed in mid demolition–I really need to get better about shooting actual before pictures.


After getting all the boards cleared out, I had to rebuild the pillars in the middle of the shed.  I purchased two treated 4×4 beams for repositioning.  Once I started tearing out the previous beams, it become obvious the first build incorporated a very large screw cemented into the ground, which held the large pillar in place.  A good idea–but I wasn’t about to recement the slab to do the same.

So at that point we had an issue, the new pillars need stability.  Part of that is covered through being screwed into the roof framing, but it isn’t ideal.  There aren’t a lot of options for this sort of thing, but in the end i purchased “L” brackets and on each side of the beam screwed them in at the base of the job.  After that I used a cement epoxy glue around the brackets and the beam itself.  Again, not ideal but certainly more stable than just a freestanding beam.

One of the larger issues with the old build was the doors leaning downward off their hinge and limiting their swinging arc.  this happens over time.  It’s happened on my fence, but it’s something you can plan for and mitigate.  On the shed I actually purchased two larger door stops and epoxy glued them at the doors resting spot as well.  This was my father’s idea, and it’s a good one.  By having a stop in place the door will always rest at the same place and only lean against the hinge when open.  I imagine this should totally mitigate the issue but time will tell.

The boards on this are all cedar, mostly just to match my fence.  I’ll let it sit over the winter so that the wood dries out and then apply a layer of the same color of stain as the fence.  Once that’s complete I’ll post another picture or two to see how it looks comparatively.  One issue I’m a little concerned about is that the stain of the fence will be two years old by the time the stain of the shed goes on.  It may look quite a bit different and I’m considering just waiting until we do another stain job on the fence–but that may be another couple years.  Tough call.

Here’s a picture of the shed rebuilt.


RIP Ralph – Lessons on Living

A good friend told me about a coworker at my last company who passed on.  His name was Ralph and I enjoyed his personality and working with him a good deal.  He was practical and knowledgeable about what he did.  He was sometime surly, but basically everyone in that business was and it was understandable.  Ralph was about two months away from retiring–he had worked a solid 25+ years at the company and was just about to ride off into the sunset.  It sounds as though Ralph had a heart attack and passed away in his home.

I hope that Ralph’s family is doing alright, its very hard to lose anyone close in your life.  I also hope they realize that he was loved at the company and valued.  On a personal level it’s tough for me to see people pass on in general, but especially someone like Ralph who worked hard and was just about to start enjoying his retirement.  I know he cared about his family and had plans to do lots of things with friends afterward, so it makes me sad to hear it happened so fast.

A few things come to mind in light of this circumstance:

  • You really never know when you’re going to go – it’s important to live your life in a way that you can be proud of in the case of the unexpected
  • Planning for these events is critical, making sure your family is taken care of or at least has clear direction on what to do if you were to pass on is important regardless of age
  • Retirement sooner than later is probably a good strategy – I truly love working and building things with teams, but it’s not my sole purpose; it seems like the going trend is leaning toward later retirement for folks due to factors like volatility of social security, planning is key to avoiding that if you choose
  • Retirement doesn’t necessarily mean quitting work entirely, but picking and choosing where and when you do

Those last two points are something to consider and develop a working plan for.  What would it take to retire?  How much would you need on an ongoing basis, including insurance for healthcare and any other particular needs you have?  What would you actually do with your time?

After a certain amount of time, sitting around with nothing to do is it’s own special type of hell.  I can’t stand it.  I HAVE to do stuff or mentally get frustrated.  Those things may be reading a book, exercise, writing, or any other set of leisurely activities.  However sitting in front of a television set for hours at a time being broadcast to is not part of it.  Planning that out is not a bad idea–I’ve heard of many people simply growing bored and becoming malcontent in retirement due to lack of activity.

Yesterday was a sad day for this reason, and a stark reminder of how brief a time we have here.  RIP RVH.

Bulleted Happenings

Quick one today–

  • Rebuilding the shed today in the same vein as the fence last year, should keep me busy most of the day.  Have to go buy some cedar posts and crossbeams, then install.
  • New iPhones ordered today for Teresa and I; definitely time to do so, my phone won’t charge and the home button is busted.  Ack.
  • My cousin is married!  Going over there today to wish him well.  They are both lawyers; it’s a tough time for that so I’m interested to see where he goes with it.
  • Time to clean up the garage for the winter, things are getting cooler here in MN and the condensation is coming out on the cars.
  • Blown away by how quickly the year is going, over and over this is a concept that continues to show it’s head.
  • Preplanning a trip to Sweden and Iceland next year to visit my friend who is teaching there–will likely write more on this later.
  • Gone most of next week for a trade show in California, the first for my new job–very excited to meet some folks in the industry and learn from others.
  • Musical rotation:  Beach House, Desaparacidos, Guided By Voices, Sage Francis.
  • New stuff:  Beirut, Chvrches, Metric

Too Many Spinning Plates

There’s an adage in business that you can only handle so many spinning plates.  This is in reference to old shows where a performer would spin many plates on sticks and wow the crowd with their capability.


The adage itself is a simple one, you cannot mentally or physically manage  things after a certain tipping point.  No one is immune to overwork or taking on too much.

Earlier in my career the tasks and things that needed to be done were simpler than now, and far less in number.  However my personality is wont to take on more and more–which I did successfully.

As your career goes on, the amount and complexity of the work available escalates.  One of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn in the last decade is when to say no.

Saying no is really important.  If people don’t understand that you have a capacity, they will likely continually ask you to take on more and more.

This is a big issue as it has a detrimental effect on both your capability to finish work as well as the quality of work.  Over time, both of those characteristics can affect your perception in the work place, all despite doing your best to make things work and help the organization.

It’s commonplace for most people to try to take on more and more.  The vast majority of people I’ve worked with mean well and are more than willing to go the extra mile.  Most of the time this is a good thing, but there’s a very real line between taking on an extra task and overloading.

When people overload, they actually hurt themselves and potentially the organization they work for.  It’s management’s job to make sure it doesn’t happen–and that is actually more difficult than it sounds.  Understanding where people have time and don’t, how quickly they can get a job done well and getting to Good Enough Move On (GEMO) in a given work state are all matters of perspective and usually a function of experience.

Everyone is beholden to the “too many spinning plates” rule.  Great managers and workers understand it and the ramifications on quality.  They manage it.

Time for a New Phone

I have had my iPhone 4 since the Fall of 2010.  That actually kind of blows my mind.  The phone has been pretty poor for the last two years, the hardware doesn’t work properly as the home button is pretty well broken.  Luckily you can put a digital home button on the screen, which I’ve been using for the last year or so.

I’m waiting for the iPhone 6S to come out, but am still uncertain if it’s really going to be worth it.  I like Apple products generally, but these their premium is significant and other hardware does have it’s merits.  I’ll have to watch the event next week to try to make a decision.  Regardless, it’s time to upgrade and I’ll be very happy to have gotten something new.

The Nature of Happiness

Having a child is a life altering experience in many ways.  The very first is the need for security multiplies, mostly due to the fact that this little being is so easily harmed.  Safety and precaution or magnified in previously mundane situations such as backing out of your driveway.  Thoughtful processes for how and when to allow your pets access to the bed become a quick game of chess to begin your day.  These situations are solved with relative ease, however they continually require diligence as the lack of focus for one instance can cost you gravely.  The loss associated with an automotive accident or a paw erroneously trampling the youth are disastrous, whereas the work to prevent it is an redundant exercise.

Another change is the day in day out review and analysis of a being only now, before your eyes, growing through childhood.  It is fascinating.  It’s difficult to take an objective view due to your inherent bias toward your progeny.  You love them and their actions and peculiarities are similarly lovable regardless of true merit.

Part of the said analysis is understanding how human emotions work.  Juniper smiles at me every day for seemingly no reason other than waking up, or seeing my visage in her periphery.  The sense of personal satisfaction received from this perceived adulation is monumental–it simply feels great to have a small child give you that every day.  However upon further reflection there really is no good reason for it.

Could it be that she knows her father (and mother) so well already and correspondingly smiles at their presence?  It’s altogether possible.  When she sees Teresa she recognizes her and smiles genuinely, or changes her tune depending on the feelings she has at the moment.  Recognition is there.     However she will smile at complete strangers as well, again for no real reason.

My time of watching her without any humans in her view is very limited, so it’s a struggle to say whether she is smiling as much without some sort of human stimulus.  My expectation is that most events or objects that can set themselves apart from the normal environment in some way such as movement, color or sound have the potential to elicit such a response.

More importantly, this stimulus response relationship points toward an inherent happiness in humans.  Nature prompts elation–the very experience of experiencing life is joyful.  On the flip side of the coin, there exists a natural propensity to experience unhappiness as lack of resources like food or shelter.  These natural formations of emotion are intriguing–and something to learn from for years to come.

The Last Month

It’s been too long since getting some words down on pixel.

On the family side, we’ve continued to work to get my father in law back up to speed.  He is now home and working on restoring his cardiac health with doctors up in Cloquet.  In short, it’s been a scary experience that reminds of the precocious nature of life on Earth.  It comes and it goes.  Vonnegut called it clearly in Slaughterhouse 5, in a detached yet loving manner.  Life here is complex and all encompassing in the moment.  But it’s over in a short time – we only have a lifetime.

Teresa’s grandmother has recently had a heart attack as well, getting a stent the other day.  It was much milder than her father’s, but her health is still in question.  It is difficult not to reflect on your own actions and time while that of others is diminishing.  None of this is meant as a sad story of course, it’s merely a time to consider how to spend your time.

Juniper continues to grow and is cuter and cuter.  She smiles when she sees me and her mother, she is now rolling over on both sides–it won’t be long until she is sitting up and crawling around.  She is small, but strong in the legs, back and neck.  Her arms are not on par with the rest of her little being, but will catch up in due time.  She is also enrolled at daycare, which seems to be going without a hitch.  The daycare has only little girls, not by design.  Normally my role is to drop off, while Teresa picks up.  This last week I picked up at about 5pm and was accosted by 6 little girls, each one of them cute as button, giggling and asking questions about the baby.  Lots of fun there to be had for Juni.

Work wise, I started a new role at Mortenson Construction working for their Solar & Emerging Renewables Group.  This industry is completely outside of my background, but 100% what I want to do with my career.  Sustainability has always been very high up on my priority list and there isn’t a better place to have taken a role.  Everyone at the company has been extremely welcoming and helpful.  The process of learning about the industry and technology involved with the work has been extensive–with a huge list of things to do yet.  It has kept me busy.  Every day I wake up at 5am and read for an hour and a half on technology before getting Juni to daycare.  The process is long but learning new things has always been enjoyable for me, so it’s a labor of love.

In light of that, I may start posting more information on Solar technologies in my other accounts, or potentially here.  My work has always been off limits on this blog, but the idea of the technology itself is fair season.  The bottom line is that solar energy is a clean, economically sound way to provide power and I’m ECSTATIC about being in the industry, more to come.

Teresa has started school again, so our house is a mess while we balance day care, a new job for me, her returning to work and the hectic nature of family illness.  Blog posts postponed until now, however they will likely pick up again as we return to some semblance of normalcy.

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