Marketing, Minneapolis, Music & More

Welcome to the World, Olive

It’s been remarkably quiet on the site, for good reason.  We had our second daughter two weeks ago, her name is Olive Isabelle Ed.  She’s quite a cute one, significantly heavier than Juniper was initially.  They look pretty similar outside of that.

I should probably get a few photos up, but haven’t taken the time to save them to my computer.  In all truth, blogging has fallen off my radar pretty heavily as of late due to work and getting ready for Olive’s entry to the world.  But it’s more than that, it’s been kind of a rough year in terms of being excited about the future.  On a personal level, everything is going really well.  Life in general is really good.  But on a macro scale, the US seems to have hit some really trying times and it’s taking its toll.  Even on a global level, thinking about the ramifications of climate change and the long term issues which will arise are pretty daunting.

All of this in a world where two beautiful little girls are going to have to make their way.  I’ll do everything I can to get them up to speed, but sometimes looking forward can be a tough go.

I’m excited to see you grow up Olive.  Here’s to you!  :-)

Long Time No Post

It’s been a long time since posting, which is pretty sad given that there’s been so much going on.  It’s also pretty understandable given that, so perhaps that balances out.

As a brief run down–Juniper is three and hilarious.  She’s also really smart, and sweet, and terrible.  She has enjoyed planting her own flowers with mom, terrorizing any type of bug in the back yard, reading me stories from positions of authority, binge watching new cartoon series repeatedly, making new friends in any place with other humans, eating dilly bars, giving Jasper treats including melting dilly bars, and all types of other summer fun.

She also has a sibling coming in July.  Not sure if it’s a brother or sister yet, but she wants a sister.  Time will tell.

The house is in a state of disrepair due to the basement bathroom being remodeled.  It has taken a good amount of time, which is fine, however the initial rebuild required taking out the plumbing.  In order to do so they had to jackhammer out the surrounding cement, and unfortunately they didn’t put up protective sheeting and the concreted created a huge cloud of dust which coated our basement.  It hasn’t been the best experience, but hopefully it will be worthwhile once completed.

We also have to stain the decking and shed, so yesterday I started pressure washing everything.  First time in five years since living here and the grime came off in waves.  It was actually pretty fun.

On the work front, everything is very busy as we get into strategy planning and a number of other initiatives have left little time for self reflection or other activities otherwise enjoyed.  Teresa just finalized her work year for the summer, so will be taking an extended break until October.  It’s going to be a very busy summer, to say the least.

All the best to you and yours for an enjoyable season.

The Great Blizzard of 2018

Well, it’s April.  And every year I try to forewarn people that we’ll get a good snowfall 50% of the time.  It’s pretty normal.

This year we are getting well above average.  All weekend snow and ice fell and it’s a good twelve inches worth; easily the heaviest snowfall of the year here.  In mid April.  That’s pretty impressive.  In our house smarter people are saying that it was the top ten blizzards on record.

After snowthrowing out the driveway, the plow man deigned to stop by and offer me some additional exercise.  It’s all done and behind us now, until Wednesday when another three inches are expected.  We’ve basically stayed in all weekend waiting it out, fortunately there’s been plenty to do for entertainment but all of us are itching to be past this portion of the year.  Spring is not my favorite season, however I’d welcome it.

Other news, we are expecting our second child in July, which is delightful.  Naming the upcoming addition is similarly difficult to last time, but we’ll figure it out.  Many things to be done before then, including a large bathroom remodel downstairs.  The original build of the house neglected it pretty well so it’s time to remedy that; it will likely take a month or so and start in early May.

All is well, short of the snow.  Hope all is well with you too.

Even Keel

I have a strong admiration for those that can keep calm under pressure.  As you grow older and experience trying times, sometimes in extreme duress and sometimes slow but consistent stress, it becomes apparent that life isn’t always easy.  It’s actually a lot harder for some than others, and it’s easy to forget how good you have it.

Life is tough at times, and things can seem near insurmountable in the heat of the moment.  But the ability to sit back and consider what’s happening, while keeping calm, is an important trait of successful people.  Reacting negatively or acting rashly in the face of a trying situation or your own emotions will often have unintended consequences.  You have to try to keep calm and think things through, even when it doesn’t feel the right thing to do.  This is probably even more important as a young person, when so little of life has passed you and everything seems to be high consequence.

Despite how it seems, life goes on.  And as a great writer Kurt Vonnegut put it, so it goes.

What I’ve found over time is that the people that take the time to consider what’s happening and the best course of action, even if it takes days or weeks, usually decide on the best outcome.  Those that take action immediately or based on their gut are often unhappy with outcomes.  There’s a number of reasons for this, the most prominent being time gives clarity on almost all things.  Even an hour to think things through in lieu of a brash decision can open the door to options you may not have considered previously.  Also your emotions cool off in time, so what may seem like the best option initially could seem silly in the long term.  Lastly by waiting to make a decision the tenets reason a decision is needed may alter completely.  You’d be surprised by how much changes over seemingly small periods of time.

The bottom line is that keeping calm and thinking things through will serve you very well over your life.  Both in school and work, and outside those institutions.  The key to that is waiting until absolutely necessary to choose.  If there’s time, wait.  This doesn’t mean procrastinate or hold off until the last minute to do the work necessary for a particular outcome.  Hard work, especially the work that is time intensive, should be done straight away.  But taking actions when affected by others trying to influence you or your own emotions due to stress are normally worse decisions than if you take your time.  If the time is available, use it.

Time Passes Slowly: Human Consideration of Time

The other day while dropping Juni off at daycare, an important thought struck me.  Much of my life, I’ve wondered at how we experience time.  Large periods of time seem to have passed very quickly when considering how long they’ve been, however on a day by day basis, time is at a very deliberate pace.  It doesn’t truly change, although at times it feels faster or slower depending on what type of stimulus is occurring.

The thought that occurred to me is that we actually experience time in the exact same way that other nonhuman animals do, temporally.  We are reacting moment by moment over much like a fight or flight animal would, though with more consideration than less mentally capable.  Yet physiologically we are similar.

Despite that, we think about time differently than any other animal.  We are capable of considering the vast amount of time we have experienced and what has transpired over that timeframe.  So in essence it’s our memory alone that makes the expanse of time seem to have passed quickly.  Any rational human understands that time and space are constants given our physical limitations to transcend them.  But we cannot rationalize time as easily.

The moment to moment understanding of time as a constant is inherent to our lives.  They line starts to blur when we talk about hours, days, months, years, decades and so on.  Our memory cannot recall specifics past certain points of time.  In computer terms, our random access memory is tapped out.  So we make mile markers in our minds, subconsciously, to keep things straight.  The shorter periods of time we experience as part of that RAM feel like they should be equivalent to the longer periods.  One minute is one minute and the relative measure should apply to years and larger portions of time as well.

If humans were perfectly able to recollect all periods of time, the longer periods of time we reflect one would not feel as though they went quickly.  They feel that way because we can only remember small portions of them compared to smaller, more recent samples.

This issue has been on my mind for a long time.  It’s interesting to me that sometimes, seemingly out of nowhere, an explanatory reason for the way things are just pops into my brain.  My guess is that someone has already figured this out, and applied some real scientific reasoning to it, but the beauty one new idea that morning put a large smile on my face.

Guns and Gun Violence

In the last few weeks the national fervor around guns and violent acts, mass shootings, has hit a fever pitch.  In Florida, there was yet another school shooting where seventeen kids were killed.  That number is so frightening in itself it’s pretty difficult to explain.  One kid is way too many, and everyone seems to agree on this.

Yet we can’t seem to agree on logical policy to stem these events from happening.  The NRA advocates for very liberal laws that prop up the ability of citizens to buy and own firearms.  They have immense funding, lobbying power and influence.  It seems that any time one of these events happens, and it’s often here in the US, the push back on coming up with ways to stop them is just as strong as the sorrow, maybe more so.  Many US citizens are more serious about keeping guns than any other political issue.

I believe owning guns is acceptable as a form of recreation–hunting and whatnot.  The idea that assault rifles are available to the general public has always seemed silly to me.  I realize most people would never use these weapons in a harmful way, but the few people that would make availability a serious risk to the rest of us.  So they should go.  That’s probably not the most popular opinion with some people, but it’s how I feel.  The safety of our kids and general citizenship is paramount to people’s hobby.

More important than my personal view is the idea of a middle ground.  The NRA is not willing to give up an inch on this — they actually ask for less stringent laws.  As to why, I’m not sure, but this country needs to find our common values and build policy toward them.  The idea that everything is black and white is wrong, the world is mostly grey.

But this issue is a real one–17 kids just died for no reason.  This doesn’t happen in other first world countries and it’s an embarrassment that our priorities aren’t on human lives.

A Wrinkle In Time

My brother in law had recommended A Wrinkle In Time to me a few months back.  Having been in the midst of reading my 4th book on climate change, it seemed like a good time to take a break for some lighter reading.  It was worthwhile.

A Wrinkle In Time is the story of a young girl whose father has gone missing.  Her little brother and herself are beset by some mysterious strangers over the course of a few days and it sets in motion a journey across the cosmos to save their father.  It’s a fun, and intriguing look at the world through the eyes of youth.  It is a quick story to read, probably 4-5 hours worth if your a slower reader like myself.

The book is part of a five part series, which I purchased, and intend to read over time.  Last year and this year I’ve been reading a lot more children’s stories (Watership Down, Chronicles of Narnia, Hatchet, etc.) as a way to lighten my concern over more serious matters.  Eventually I’d like to introduce Juniper to all of these stories; I can only hope to instill a love for reading with her early as it’s such a powerful force in ones life if embraced.  If that doesn’t work I’ll probably bribe her, that’s been having a good effect on potty training.  Economists have it right on the incentive angle.

If you’re looking for some fun reading, this book is a good offering.  It was also a steal, I got the set of five books for $14 on Amazon; however it looks as though it’s now up to $30.  Guess I got in before the Disney commercials for the new movie got everyone interested in purchasing.

February Cold Snap

Winter of 2018 has been a pretty cold one.  It’s had ups and downs, but the last few weeks have been pretty frigid.  I just picked up a small cold and the flu has been making it’s rounds all over.  January is generally the toughest part of the year in Minny due to the cold and the fact that all the fun holiday things are past.  February is not much better for similar reasons, but you can see the corner your about to turn; it’s a short month and March undoubtedly has some warm weather to offer.

Something to look forward to, for certain.

This is the time of year to hole up and watch some movies.  We’ve been watching the Three Flavour’s Cornetto Trilogy as of late, two down and one to go.  Highly recommended.

Today is tax day, Teresa, Juni and I are headed to the tax man in an hour.  Hopefully he’s kind.  I like to get that sort of thing out of the way as soon as possible.  Depending on outcome we may start looking at remodeling the downstairs bathroom in the Spring.

Not a great deal to report outside of that.  The days are short and cold, the nights long and fun.  Life goes on.

Best Music of 2017

It’s been a long time since I’ve written about music.  There’s a good reason for that, this last year has been filled with far more podcasts than ever before.  The majority of it has been industry focused, learning as much as possible about the electricity industry in the US, but some has been basketball (all the more fun when the Timberwolves are playing like a playoff team).

So this year may be a tougher top ten list than previous years.  Here’s a list of albums from last year that I enjoyed more than any others:

10.  Hippo Campus, Landmark  – This is a local indy band that has been putting out some really nice EPs prior to this year.  Landmark is their first full fledged LP and it was a really well done album.  They have a unique sound, oriented around the vocal stylings of their lead and upbeat, light and feathery guitars.  This was one of the better indy rock releases of the year, IMO.  Definitely worth checking out.

9.  John Prine, Sweet Revenge – Every year I need to mention that this list isn’t just “new” music, it’s whatever caught my attention and warrants mention.  John Prine’s best years were before my time, but I saw him with my father in law this Fall in Duluth and he hasn’t lost a beat.  He played for near two hours and sounded absolutely perfect on the guitar, with great singing too.  This is the second of his albums I’ve spent a lot of time with.  At this point it seems fairly obvious to me he was one of the best song writers of his era, perhaps all American music.  Songs like “Christmas in Prison” and “Blue Umbrella” are absolute perfection.  It’s very difficult to describe what is so compelling about good songwriters, but when you find them it’s a truly great thing.  Prine is one of them, still shining.

8.  Waxahatchee, Out in the Storm – Another really good album from Waxahatchee.  Heavier guitars and a bit more production on much of this, but she’s simply getting better and better at executing her visions musically.  A faster, stronger showing than the last mean she is evolving.  Lyrically it sticks with you.

7.  Lexie, Record Time! – A side project of Gretchen Kline of Frankie Cosmos fame, this is a smaller EP with another male vocalist.  It sounds like music written and recorded in two friends’ bedroom–but in a really good way.  It’s light, but fun and keeps you engaged.  It’s over before you know it but there’s enough to make it a really good EP.  This might not be on my list however everything Gretchen touches is pretty high up on my list right now.  She’s fantastic!  I’m excited to see what they do for the next FC record.

6.  Sufjan Stevens, The Greatest Gift – It’s odd, but this remix from his last effort has hit a deeper chord with me than the first effort (though that really was an excellent record, it was just too sad to listen to).  This is a more upbeat remix of many of the songs, with more electronic influence and a confluence of different sounds overlaying tracks.  It’s much more listenable and fun, despite the subject matter still being somewhat dire.  Sufjan has shown repeatedly how he can create beautiful music in different styles and this is no different.

5.  Kanye West, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy – This year I made a concerted effort to listen to more hip hop, which hadn’t been as high on my radar the last few years.  The main reason was that indy and folk rock had kind of taken over, and then another album came out which blew my mind (read on) which led to a domino effect of picking up more albums like this one.  Out of all the top ten albums, this actually might be the best album overall.  It’s incredibly well produced, the beats are infectious, the wordplay and performances from Kanye and all his guests are very good.  Justin Vernon helps on a few tracks which are just mind bending.  I listened to this album a ton and despite Mr. West being a little off kilter to me personality wise, he does create really good music.  This is probably his best album.

4.  Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile, Lotta Sea Lice – A duet performance from two excellent young performers, Lotta Sea Lice is a bluesy tribute to one another and the life they’ve chosen in rock and roll.  It’s a pretty slow burn, with many songs taking their sweet time getting to their destination.  It’s a great “lazy day” type of album where there isn’t much going on.  This album took me quite a few rotations to really hit home, but when it does, good luck getting it out of your head.  Best tracks are “Fear Is Like A Forest” and “Blue Cheese”

3.  Kendrick Lamar, Damn. – This was the spark that made me think I was missing a great deal in hip hop.  Kendrick Lamar’s Damn is truly a master work for hip hop, one of the best albums in the genre I’ve ever heard.  In highschool and college much of my time with music was spent on indy rap (Atmosphere, Aesop Rock, Sage Francis, etc.) and although when those artists put music out it’s still good, it had been a long time since an album really grabbed me.  This is not indy rap, it’s mainstream, but it deserves all the credit it gets.  Kendrick’s writing and flow are really impressive, and unique, he’s a story teller and keeps these conceptual ideas recurring in time and genuinely makes you think.  You can’t really ask for more.

2.  Alvvays, Antisocialites – Two years ago this band came out with their self titled album and it got my top pick of the year.  This follow up was similarly great, I’d had it as my favorite album initially with the start of this list, but ended up relenting and going with another that just had a little more.  This is a tremendous sophomore effort, it’s really tough to top a great opening LP but they’ve done it.  Alvvays is mostly dream pop but can swing up or down tempo if needed.  This album is about a half hour and is similar to the last in that it uses synths and relies heavily on their lead singer’s capability to captivate.  She’s even better here than initially, with some fun curveballs for listeners to keep them on their toes.  The bottom line is that this album is easily one of the better options 2017 had to offer.  If you like pop music at all, this is a must.

1.  Conor Oberst, Salutations – This album was a dark horse.  Last year Oberst dropped a piano, harmonica and vocal only offering which was very good, but this album is a reprise of that with a backing band, many more songs and changes to the core way of playing them.  Based on that, it’s pretty difficult to imagine it having enough to get top billing, but it did.  The album just has too many good songs that stuck with me.  It ended up getting the number one spot on “value” instead of simply outclassing the other albums.  It got a ton of rotations, and Oberst is quite simply one of the best songwriters alive.  That’s high praise as Dylan, Young, Prine and a number of others are still ticking, but he’s that good.  He doesn’t write spectacular songs that blow you away with their intricacy, he writes songs that you can’t ignore due to their simplicity and truth.  There’s a lot to unpack in any of his albums, and that’s a very good thing for all of us.

This was a good year for music, but not a great one.  There just weren’t enough albums that really broke through.  That said, there’s always many diamonds in the past if you’re willing to dig!

Merry Christmas! …And 2018 New Years Resolutions

Today is Christmas Day.  Today is a special Christmas for our family because it’s the first where Juniper really knows what’s happening.  Last night Santa stopped by and dropped off some gifts for her:  a new book, some small carved wooden animals, and a cupcake.  She also got a small trampoline from us, which she seems to really like.

We have the fireplaces going, it’s a high of single digits outside and there are no plans to go anywhere.  Teresa and Juniper are watching a movie in the other room and I’m finally getting around to writing a post.  Charlie Brown’s Christmas is playing now on my computer.  Christmas really is one of the best days of the year, and the month is definitely one of my favorite aspects of Minnesota.

It has taken me the better part of an hour to get this started as my computer is obviously in need of replacement, nothing seems to run smoothly any longer.  That’s alright, I’ve had it many years and next year I’ll get another.  This post actually may be significantly shorter than previous years simply due to the computer not cooperating.  If that’s the case I’ll come back and explain things a little more in depth once I get a replacement.

This year we’ll be in Florida for NYE and a bit longer, so I’m going to write my resolutions now.  First I’ll look at last year’s however–including a quick grade:

Goal #1:  Become Educated On Climate Change.  A-:  I’ve read 3.5 books on the subject and learned a great deal through other consumption of content based on my job, as well as some other areas.  I feel much more knowledgeable than last year at this time, but still have a long way to go.

Goal #2:   More Family Time.  B:  Still learning how to do this given different likes and dislikes in our household, but better than a year ago, certainly.

Goal #3:  Cut Down Vulgar Vocabulary.  B+:  Definite improvement over last year, however probably need swear less at work too.  I’ve really cut down at home and am cognizant of what I’m saying around Juni much more, but still not perfect.  Old habits die hard.

Goal #4:   Get To Some New Places.  A-:  We are headed to Florida in a few days, which will be great.  We also did new trips to San Diego and the Bay Area this last year, so mission accomplished.

Generally last year went how I’d hoped in terms of goals.  There were a lot of other awesome changes last year though, some around exercise and fitness.  I’ve began working out much more regularly while at work, as well as conditioning my diet during the day really well.  Protein shakes for lunch has been a great change for me, about 5 minutes to make lunches for two days, they taste great and are a good amount of calories.  Podcasts on the way to work and back have allowed me to learn much more about my industry and other things I’d formerly not heard about.  This has come at the cost of listening to more music (a post on 2017 albums is coming!) but that’s probably a fair trade.

I’m a big believe in writing down goals–in business, in life in general and especially anywhere you want to make progress.  If you don’t take the time to build a plan, you’ll likely not accomplish what you want to do.  A good plan starts with objectives.  Good objectives need to be measurable.  If you write down your goals and plan to accomplish them every year (or in smaller increments of time) you will be very likely to accomplish them.  At that point it’s just following your plans, and adjusting if needed.

To that end, here’s a quick look at what I’d like to focus on in 2018:

1.  Lower caffeine levels:  This is a little odd, but it’s an important one.  As you get older you recognize behaviors of yourself that aren’t necessarily appealing.  I’ve noticed when I’m over-caffeinated from coffee in the morning it increases the likelihood of speaking out of turn, making jokes when not needed, and so on.  Nothing terrible of course, but the caffeine simply makes me a little more apt to say things outside of what I’d like to communicate.  So the limit here is two cups of coffee per day.  I’ve already started, it’s not hard, but it regulates the amount of caffeine and that’s a good thing.

2.  Internalize ideas and thought processes prior to stating them:  In business school, there are terms for students being more quantitative (quants) and those more prone to speaking and external interaction (poets).  I definitely fall into the latter category.  It’s a simple framework to categorize people, and it’s not really fair, as any one person can be good at multiple things, but generally personality types tend to fall into one or the other.

There are good and “less good” aspects of being in either category, particularly when dealing with someone that tends to be of the other group.  Quants are simply more likely to enjoy working with numbers and internalizing ideas and thoughts.  They like things finite and measurable.  Poets are usually OK with ambiguity and gravitate toward qualitative ideas and tend to “think out loud” more than the quants.  In business, you have to know your numbers–there’s no getting around that.  You also need to communicate effectively.

“Thinking out loud” is not a good strategy for communication with people.  It’s actually pretty good for ideation and deriving something “new” — but those are really limited circumstances.  I have worked with and currently work with many more internal thinkers.  Thinking out loud isn’t a good practice in business, I’ve concluded, and I’m going to focus on keeping my thoughts internal until they’re complete.  I’ve actually been doing this a lot over the years, but wanted to make it a particular focus in 2018.

3.  Carve out more time for my daughter:  This one is hard to quantify, but I think last year I made some strides in terms of spending time with Juni.  Truthfully she’s much more interested in hanging out with Mom at this point, which is great.  But I’d like her to understand that I’m always there for her and that starts with spending more time with her doing hobbies such as painting, swim lessons, taking bike rides, and anything else that puts a smile on her face.

4. Continue efforts to learn and add value at work:  Every year is a big year.  This is my third year at my current employer and it would be really easy to settle in and not have the same sense of urgency.  That will lead to becoming bored and not helping us to grow how we need to.  Last year I spent a lot of time learning about the electricity system the in US, how everything is regulated, and all the companies in the space.  I’m going to double down on that effort in 2018 after finalizing the books I’ve yet to finish on climate change.  There’s A LOT to learn, but it’s a lot of fun too.  This will be more of a qualitative measure for me, but still important.

That’s about it for 2018.  There are always financial and fitness goals on my radar too, but they are somewhat cliche and not necessarily needed to be reiterated every year.

Cheers to you and yours in the new year, hope you have an amazing holiday season!

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