Friday, August 29, 2008
It's here and ready for the final judging to determine the winner of this year's Ashton Ritchie Cup. Our neighborhood lawn contest has hit a fever pitch as the contestants are doing any last minute improvements to make their lawn a winner this year. The voting will be conducted this evening and the Cup will be awarded right after that. The winner will bask in the glow of a job well-done, a hard fought summer against all rivals. The judging will be done by all the contestants, husbands and wives, and no one can vote for themselves. In the event of a tie, a group of the top three persons in the voting will decide between the two lawns. It's going to put a cap on this fun summer contest with a view to next year's competition. As promised, the video of the award ceremony will be posted here.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
I find it interesting that about 30 years after energy became a public issue, people are finally getting serious about doing something about it. I remember the 1970's when gas lines, shortages and higher prices became the norm for most Americans. At the time, I was in college working at gas stations, in fact, I even pumped gas for customers. I think I'm probably that last real gas jockey there ever was, after that, it all went self serve in the US. It's good to see people like T. Boone Pickens talking about his plan for an energy independent future. It's something long overdue, getting private industry involved in solving the problem. Government won't do a good job at this, it takes private industry to make it happen, with some government tax breaks. It's something that should have been truly considered 30 years ago, even without today's technology, we could have been in better energy shape now. I guess the pain at the pump finally has reached critical mass. I don't think there's any stopping new technology from changing the way we develop and use energy. The more quickly we apply new ways to generate electricity, drill here at home, add more nuclear power plants and conserve, the faster energy independence will happen. Some people say 20 years, but I think changes could be totally implemented within 10 years if we all pull together. It's good to see this finally getting some traction in the public discussion.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
One of my favorite movies is Field of Dreams. I suppose many people like it, that's why it's always seemingly on TV. It's not that I'm a baseball fan, I'm not. The game itself means very little to me, and although the movie is centered on baseball, that's not what grabs me. I think what is interesting to me is the underlying current, of innocence, of days in America that were more simple. It's that aspect of the film that's attractive, it's as much about an innocence, about the ways things were, nostalgia, as much as it is about baseball. But baseball has been a seeming constant throughout our history, and it's a shared experience. I personally don't think it's the glue that's held us together, no way, it's been our shared vision of one nation under God, indivisible with freedom and justice for all. Regardless of what we see as our historical constants, it's easy to feel a sense of loss, and yet the possible return to what we found as good, solid, and our shared experience. Instead of sports seen as an individual accomplishment, it's better to feel that team pulling together, simply for the love of the game. That's a lot of what the movie is about, old days, goodness and believing in something that transcends the individual. Of course, I get to the last 20 minutes of the film and it breaks my heart every time. The chance to see my father again would be a dream come true. The whole story is a ridiculous fantasy, but it's always on and I'm strangely drawn to watch it again and again. The innocence of life regained, a father returns, and people desperately want to see what they remember when they were young, a still fascinating, unreal story.
Monday, August 25, 2008
Over the past weekend, my family and I had the good fortune to spend a little time in Brainerd, Minnesota which is just a short drive to Nisswa. For those of you who have never been to northern Minnesota, it's dotted with some small towns that are farming communities not unlike other parts of the US. But up north, there is a large number of lakes that are everywhere. Near these lakes are many small towns that live off of summer tourism. It's a wonderful time visiting these places and having some fun with all the various activities they provide. There is so much to do in the summer, that it can be tough to fit all of it in when you're there. There are some tremendous golf courses which are as beautiful as difficult as they look. It's an area that offers so much and we often forget this playground is only a few hours from Minneapolis and St. Paul. Nisswa is one of these small towns that has a tiny business strip that has no corporate stores or outlets, they all seemed to be owned by local people, therefore retaining a small town feel, something that's lacking in many places today, where all the giant national chains have moved in. They've retained that feel while delivering some great commerce. I wish that more towns had this much success, but that must be from the lakes tourists and cabin owners coming up every summer. Some of the town closes up in the winter even though many snowmobilers and ice fisherman call it home for a short time. The resort we stayed at was great and offered all the fun you could stuff in a weekend. I wonder how they and other communities in the area balance this tension between staying quaint, yet wanting to attract the maximum number of people to the town. I think it's key to keep business ownership local and forget the national chains. So there must be some good city guidance that makes it happen. Unfortunately, you often see towns that buy into the "more, bigger is better" philosophy, but that invites a clutter and ruins the charm of a small town. Once that sense of small town community is ruined, there's almost nothing to bring it back, try as they might. A reversal to the very thing that attracts city folk can be lost by bringing in business that is just like the city. That isn't what most people want, I think they want a place that is more like things used to be. It seems as though some towns have grasped this essential, keeping the charm of bygone days, Nisswa would be one of those places. It's feel makes it a place you want to see again and experience a life that is different from your own city life.
Saturday, August 16, 2008
As some of you know, our neighborhood lawn contest is coming to it's conclusion at the end of the summer. It looks like the Ashton Ritchie Cup for the best lawn will be awarded August 31. It's going to be a great time of voting for the best lawn and perhaps being humbled by the lush, green natural carpet of some of the contestants. For my part, the contest has given me an incentive to try harder on my lawn this year, and the result is that it's never looked better. So even if I don't win the cup, which probably will be the case, I still have a lawn that reflects my hard work and effort. About a week and half ago, I put more Scott's fertilizer on, and it sure gave it a late season boost, a wonderful greening, but it still isn't quite what my neighbors have done. I think that's because more early season fertilizing is paying off now. In other words, there will be no Hail Mary play to win the trophy. And speaking of the Cup, it's true last year's award was an old bowling trophy, but this year, it's the real deal. An engraved cup will be awarded that reflects the inspiration we've all gotten from Mr. Ashton Ritchie himself (thank you Mr. Ritchie!), lawn uber-maven and Scott's Miracle-Gro guru. Soon this contest will be over, no 2nd place, no 3rd place, no honorable mention, simply the winner of the finest lawn in our neighborhood will stand atop the Haut pedestal to receive his reward. We will have this for you on video here in my blog, the award ceremony, the triumphant victory and the humbling of the losers. What else could you possibly want in a lawn contest?
Friday, August 01, 2008
During the warm summer months, I enjoy taking time to check out the night sky. Although the city lights wash out some of the stars, it still provides a good show every night. The stars of the Milky Way have a relaxing effect for me and I think that the the beauty of the field of space is comparable to other natural wonders. If you haven't done it in a while, looking at the stars, really looking at them is like being a kid again, full of wonder. The other thing I've noticed is that Earth's orbit is very busy. There seems to be a constant stream of satellites, meaning that I probably see at least fifteen per hour. They are very faint, but you can detect them as you focus on the sky in a motionless state. I know that these are essential to modern communication, but it would be interesting to know which ones they are, which ones belong to who. I would guess that many are simply communcations satellites, because I imagine that the military ones can't be seen. They wizz by crossing the sky in a matter of minutes. The sky is very busy these days, and it would seem that it will get even busier as more countries launch more junk into space. Regardless of this, the sky at night is still a wonderful object to behold.