Category Archives: Uncategorized

The March of the Policy Makers

I am attending a conference in my role as a member of a regulatory board.  The focus of the conference is professional competency, mobility in employment, and international standards in ethics and professional conduct. These are quite important topics when you have to consider how to evaluate foreign trained professionals for licensure in your jurisdiction,  but my is it boring to listen to for 4 days.  When it gets too tedious I surreptitiously check my email or the Trail,  imagine everyone in weird hats, or else marching around to this Elgar Pomp and Circumstance March I Heard on MPR before I Ieft home.  I see others seated around me doing similar things, so I don’t think I am the only one who needs some stimulation.

Tell about how you handle boredom.  What is the most boring, tedious thing you ever had to do? What is your favorite march?

As the Seasons Turn

My father’s extended family hails from the north woods, so even though I grew up in St. Louis, I experienced the Minnesota/Wisconsin climate from an early age. When it was time to look at colleges I announced to my parents that I would only go to a college in Minnesota or Wisconsin.  When college/grad school was over for me and wasband, we hightailed it to the Twin Cities.  I’ve been here every since.

This morning, I noticed it was snowing at about 8 a.m. and my mood jumped up a couple of notches just seeing it. I love snow and cold.  Spring, summer and autumn are nice but winter is my season of choice.  I love visiting tropical locales but I don’t think I would happy in a place that didn’t have winter.

I took pictures all morning and even though I knew that snow in mid-October wouldn’t last, I was a little wistful when it stopped around noon.

Of course, this is seriously early for snow, so I didn’t start pulling out big sweaters and coats just yet. And I still wore my zorries to the gym and the grocery store!

What is your favorite seasonal transition? Have you transitioned to your winter clothes yet?

Unexpected Encounters

I was shopping at Walmart the other day when I turned my cart into the baking supplies aisle and encountered a strange scene. A young female Walmart employee  was on her hands and knees, weeping, as she peered under the shelving.  Two other employees were also peering under the shelving. One explained that the weeping woman was stocking the shelves when her wedding ring flew off her finger and settled somewhere on the floor in the dark recesses under the baking supplies.  It caused quite a bottleneck in the aisle, but shoppers were very understanding and respectful and we all wished them luck in their search.

The next day I was back again in Walmart, this time in the dairy aisle, when I encountered the formerly weeping employee busily restocking the sour cream. I saw that she had no ring on, and stopped to ask her if she had found her ring. She explained happily that she had, under the pallets of sugar, and that she no longer wore her ring to work. I told her I was very happy for her. Then, unexpectedly, she asked if she could give me a hug.  I, of course said yes, and we embraced in front of all the pudding and sour cream and chip dip.

I treasure these sort of encounters. I work with people all day, but it is somewhat artificial, with a power differential that is always there.  Unexpected interactions with people when we are both just people are so nice.

When is it easy for you to be with people? When is hard? Tell about some fun, unexpected encounters with people. 

Regionality

While on our recent road trip to visit relatives in central Georgia, I was able to take a side trip to Greenville, SC, for a reunion with nine friends from college. We do this every couple of years now, and one of our rituals is a Saturday night book swap. The book I offered this time was Gardenias, by one of my favorite “regional” authors, Faith Sullivan of Minnesota. I’ve loved her books since one of her earlier publications, The Cape Ann; in fact, I included a used copy of that book for background, since it has some of the same characters.

Wiki has this to say about American literary regionalism, or local color: “In this style of writing, which includes both poetry and prose, the setting is particularly important and writers often emphasize specific features such as dialect, customs, history, and landscape, of a particular region.”

I was delighted to find that the book I drew, One Foot in Eden by Ron Rash, was also by a regional author – Carolinian Appalachia – and now that I’ve finished the book, I’ve learned some background history of the area I just visited. I also got to hear some local dialects; got to know some characters whom I would probably not have found in, say, Minnesota; and read descriptions of places I’ve seen only from a distance. And although the ending to this tale was sad, I would probably read another book by Ron Rash.

I have found (and loved) over the years several authors I whom I consider to be regional writers, but will wait to see if other Baboons name them before I do. To that end:

Do you have a favorite regional author? Is there a region of the USA that you would like to learn about through reading?

Self Regulation

Last March I went to the doctor for my annual checkup and he informed me that my cholesterol  and blood sugar levels were too high. He asked me to come back in six months for a recheck.   I spent the summer working in the garden and changing my diet only a little. I  went back to  the doctor in September, and he said my cholesterol had dropped 50 points to a normal level, and my blood sugar was in the normal range.  I was surprised as well as dismayed, since that meant that I had to maintain my current level of activity and continue to watch my food intake.

The elevators at my work have been out of commission for three weeks, and won’t be in operation for another two weeks.  I work on the 4th floor of my building. I know that I will need to continue to walk the stairs all winter once the elevator is repaired.  I hate to exercise, but I hate the thought of poor health even more.

How do you motivate yourself for good health choices?  What should you do for better health, and how will you accomplish it?  How do you maintain your health?

Death in a Jar of Salsa

I gave one of the nurses at my office a about 40 lbs. of tomatoes this year, since she wanted to make salsa. We had an abundance and I was glad to get rid of them. She said she got other tomatoes, too, and canned 60 jars of salsa. She gave me a jar earlier this week, and it was all I could do to smile and thank her when she handed it to me.  Once I got up to my floor, I flushed it down the toilet.

Perhaps I am overly cautious, but I would never can and process anything in a used Hormel ham hock jar using the original cap.  She hadn’t even removed the ham hock label.  I know that salsa has lots of acid in it from the vinegar, and that her salsa will probably be fine, but, still, this person is a nurse and there are some basic rules of hygienic food preservation that you just never violate. There was a story in the Fargo Forum a few years back about some well meaning woman in the eastern part of the state who invited people for Sunday dinner, fed them home canned peas, and killed half of the guests with botulism.  Those stories  stick with a person who does any home canning.

Tell about some gifts you would have rather not received.  Got any canning or food preservation disasters or horror stories? Am I being alarmist?

VS Travelogue – Mount Etna

I know that Mount Etna on Sicily is one of the earth’s most active volcanos because it comes up in crossword puzzles all the time.  So it was with a bit of trepidation that I traveled to Sicily with a client two weeks back.  I stayed in Taormina which means you drive past Etna and then sleep in the shadow of the volcano.

The Sicilians do not refer to Etna as “volcano”; they prefer to call it “la montagna” since mountain is a feminine noun in Italian and they definitely believe Etna to be a mother figure.  More than one of the Sicilians I met said that they look to “la montagna” every morning to see the constant steam that rises from the top.

One person told me that they think of Etna as a properly functioning pressure cooker.  As long as she is emitting steam, she is not in any danger of exploding.  Of course when there is an eruption, the lava flow is very slow; a study of deaths in historical time reveals that only 77 folks have lost their lives due to Etna.

So feeling a little more secure we headed up Etna one morning on our trip.  First you take your car (or bus) up to the Lodge which is at 1910 meters.  Then you take a cable car up to 2500 meters.  THEN you get on a big 4-wheel bus (looks a little like the polar bear vehicles you take in Churchill) that climbs over lava up to 2900 meters.  Then you climb that last bits on the inactive crater just to the east of the main (active) caldera, up to 3150 meters.

It’s an eerie feeling, since everything you travel over once you get on the cable car is like a moonscape; totally black and crunchy; in 2001-2002, an eruption destroyed all the tourist infrastructure down to the Lodge.  And even though it was plenty warm at the bottom, it was windy and fiercely cold at the top.

Of course all this lava means that the regions around Etna are extremely fertile and the wonderful Etna wines can only be bottled with grapes grown on the mountain (kinda like you can only call it champagne if it comes from the champagne region of France).  We had a wonderful lunch at an Etna winery before heading back to the hotel that made me glad that I had visited one of the most active volcanos on the planet!

Have you ever visited a place you were a little afraid of?