Marketing, Minneapolis, Music & More

The Year of the Podcast

2017 has been filled with a lot of audio.  I’d never really listened to podcasts before starting my job at Mortenson, and did so to learn about the industry I work in.  There are a number of podcasts about energy, and the first one that hooked me was The Energy Gang, which is really well produced, topical and interesting.  The hosts discuss topics happening in the industry and some outside of it, while peppering in interviews with different folks and perspectives.

That podcast alone taught me a great deal about energy and the economics surrounding it.  But I didn’t stop there.  Podcasts are really interesting in that when done well

they are somewhat addictive.  Like a great television show or new hobby, you gravitate toward it again and again.  I expanded my list of podcasts, most of them work related but a few sports related for entertainment as well.  I love basketball and listening to podcasts on that is better than TV in my opinion.
All of this audio is on the way to and then back from work, or sometimes during mowing the lawn or a road trip to see my parents in Alexandria or Teresa’s in Cloquet.  It truly is edutainment at it’s finest.

The only issue I have is that my time spent listening to music has gone down.  I still buy albums but don’t repeat them as often.  They tend to come in and go out of my life faster than previous years, and that’s kind of an issue because many albums take a lot of listens to really resonate with you.   Right now I’m listening to Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile’s new LP, it’s slower and bluesy to an extent, but it’s well done.  This is the type of album you have to “learn” to really appreciate; the music is good but it’s not something that hooks you immediately.

Many, many things have changed for me this year, which I’ll probably update more during my December end of year or new years resolutions posts.  I’ve started some really good habits this year, and podcasts are only one of them.  But I do wonder if music listening is going to suffer, or will this be a temporary change?  Time will tell, as with all things.  Hope fall is treating you well.

The Madhouse Effect

Recently I’ve begun researching climate change.  It’s always been something important to me, since learning about it when An Inconvenient Truth began

making waves over a decade ago.  As part of that effort, I acquired five books on the subject through work.  Thankfully my company supports ongoing education (this is something I’ve expected out of all my employers, some have been more supportive than others; a post for another time but if you employ people, you should consider how to help your employees grow).   So in addition to attending seminars and reading new texts allows for me to understand some of the drivers of our business. Again we build solar power and a large driver is governance which is meant to help combat our effects on the environment.

The first of the books was The Madhouse Effect by Michael Mann and Tom Toles.  This is a very simple text meant to introduce people to the science behind climate change and how to explain what’s happening.  If you’re anything like me, you are certain about the science but don’t know how to adequately explain it to people who do not.  The interesting component of this book is that it’s coupled with small comics meant to make light of some of the political aspects of this surprisingly divisive topic.

Mann does well to explain the science, however sometimes feels as though he has a personal vendetta against those who’ve attacked him and his work.  I can’t blame him, I likely would also, but it doesn’t necessarily do much for the reader to go through the names of folks who have steadfastly stood to obscure the science and spread FUD.

The comics are funny and a nice touch.  This was a pretty fast read, not too long, and very accessible, which seemed to be the main point as opposed to longer more scientifically focused offerings.  I’d recommend it for people interested in climate change without much background on the subject.  For those who are already well versed, probably not a must read by any means but fun nonetheless.

Next up is Understanding Climate Change, which gets much more into the science.

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.

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