Commuting to work, taking in the view

I love commuting to work, especially when I ride the fat-bike across the footbridge, crossing the Milwaukee River, passing the Lakefront Brewery, taking in the aroma of fresh yummy adult beverage.

Looking north up river.
Looking south toward downtown.
The fragrance of beer brewing. 

Riding through the red

This June, I plan on biking the Lewis and Clark Trail. The journey will begin in Minnesota, where my daughter lives, and end in Oregon, where my son lives. I chose this route because the parts of the country I enjoy cycling through are void of dense population, as is illustrated by this map.

Minnesota, South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, a bit of Idaho, Eastern Washington, and Northern Oregon–not a lot of population density going on there.

The map also illustrates the political and religious polarization taking place in this country. Generally speaking, “blue” people live in urban areas, and “red” people live in rural areas. I plan on talking to a lot of people in red portions of the country because I don’t understand their political and/or religious prerogatives. And I want to, because I believe this country will continue to be ideologically polarized until we understand each other’s points of view. We may not agree, but we should at least understand.

People tend to want to talk to you if you are bike touring. They want to find out what you’re doing and where you’re from. It’s my hope that the bicycle will serve as a vehicle for dialogue and understanding.

Cold walk

It’s important to get outside in winter. Daylight is limited, which makes it all the easier to spend time inside. You need some daylight when the days are short.

Rush needs to get outside. If we don’t take him on walks, he paces the house, whining incessantly like a child. Which is good, because it gets me off the couch to grab his leash and walk him.

Today was a good day for Rush. First, we visited Virmond Park, where he ran open in a field of frozen grass and snow (the photos are from this park). Here’s a video of Rush running.

Then we walked the Katherine Kearney Carpenter Dog Park, where Rush was able to play with an 8th month old Hungarian Vizla named Mila.

What’s good for Rush is good for us. We all benefited from being outside on a cold Sunday afternoon. Now I don’t feel guilty sitting on the couch, having a beer and enjoying the fire with my friend Rush.

Walking Rush.

The wedding set

When Sue and I were married 27 years ago, we registered at a fancy department store in downtown Seattle and chose Dansk dishware. The dishes were beautiful–too beautiful, given that when we were married we were living in a one-room cabin in Fairbanks, Alaska that had no running water.

Over the span of the last quarter century, the dishes have been breaking. We still have a few left, but they are typically used for feeding the animals. When our cat Moe was done with his breakfast this morning, he (unintentionally?) knocked one of the plates onto the floor. We don’t have many of our wedding gifts left–an old rice cooker, these few dishes.

Like everything that is tangible, the gifts we received on December 30, 1989 are impermanent. I’m glad that what Sue and I enjoy most are the intangibles.

Orville & Ralph

When I was a senior in high school, I had to take a remedial English class. One of the assignments was to write a children’s book. I recall receiving a C+ on the assignment; the teacher told me that the material was too adult for kids. I think she was right.

Here’s the digital version of my first attempt at children’s literature (viewer discretion is advised).


The zone of proximal development

Before I wanted to be a college professor, I wanted to be a first-grade teacher. I spent 2 years studying pedagogical theory in preparation for teaching K-6; but when I did my practicum, I only lasted 18 days. Those first-graders are tough to teach, a diffusion of energy. It’s much easier to teach engineering students at the university level.

When I was learning how to teach first graders, I learned about Lev Vygotsky and the zone of proximal development. There are things a student cannot do when they first enter the class. The goal of the class is to get students to learn how to do these things (the course objectives) unaided. The process we go through to make this happen involves students entering “the zone”, where they learn, with guidance, from the professor as well as the other students in the class. This involves being in close proximity, both cognitively and physically, with those who share the discourse community.

The fun thing about being trained to teach first graders is you know it works when you apply it on college students. Today was the day my Current Affairs class left the zone, when they no longer needed me to be in the classroom, where they demonstrated their ability to learn unaided. Check out the video.

The zone of proximal development.


Life after Facebook

My wife was reading about the Women’s March on Washington this morning. She wanted to share something she found on Facebook with me, so she tried using Messenger–unsuccessfully, since I deleted my Facebook account a couple of weeks ago. It was interesting to look at her smart phone’s Messenger account, because it had my name listed, but the photo was gone, as if I am both no longer her Facebook friend and no longer a person.

It made me think about the result of deleting Facebook. I have no regrets; the time I’m saving for other things (such as pondering and and reflecting) is staggering. More importantly, the anxiety I used to experience from all that feed is gone.

I’ve learned that I have more control over what I think about because I have to look for information rather than have it push to me.

I wanted to also learn more about the Women’s March on Washington, so I found some online articles and read them. The nice thing about an article is that it has enough space for depth of thought, for the extension of a well-supported argument. You don’t get that in social media, since the chunks of information are typically shorter, hence less substantive. There is so much information out there, and you can find it through so many mediums. I’m preferring mediums that allow for more space, mediums that don’t push so much data at me all at once that I feel cognitively polarized.

I also don’t miss the extreme emotions I used to consume through Facebook. You can get emotional when you write a longer article, essay or email, but emotions in writing, like emotions in life, tend to balance out when you give them more space.

I do miss the images and videos that often accompany social media, though the loss of images and video reminds me of what happened in 5th grade, because 5th grade was when the school reading books no longer had pictures, which meant I had to imagine what the characters were doing since the pictures were no longer there to do it for me.

What I’m not doing more is reading books. I want to read books more, and I have made the time to do so, but I’m not there yet. Making the shift back to book-reading is big, one that will take more time. Here’s hoping I can make that transition in the next month or two.

The Frog

When we visit my daughter, Kait, in Northfield, Minnesota, we stay at The Froggy Bottoms River Suites, located directly above the river pub. Kait’s lived here off-and-on for 4 years; when we first started to visit her, we’d stay at one of the hotels lining the main drag–the AmericInn or the Country Inn & Suites. But those establishments are short on character, which is by design.

The Frog (as we’ve come to call it), in contrast, is nothing but character. The room we like to rent is full of small frog ornaments, frog paintings, and froggy stuffed animals. The view out the window is of the Fraternal Order of the Eagles located across the street. At one in the morning, the river pub downstairs closes, and all of its patrons shuffle out into the street, making a ruckus that is interesting to listen to. And at several times during the night, a train runs through town, blowing a whistle that only a local could sleep through.

The Frog is quintessential Northfield. It’s unique, like this small town south of The Cities is unique. Like my daughter Kait is wonderfully unique.

The best decoration in The Frog is the painting hanging over the bed. It’s a portrait of a woman who has blue eye-shadow; one eye is slightly lower than the other. It’s a bit out of sync with all the frogs adorning the room; maybe that’s what makes it work.

Sue prepares a snack for Rush in The Frog. 


Lucy, my family’s yellow lab, passed away a year and a half ago. She was the perfect dog: an easy going disposition, always smiling, great with kids… a constant and ongoing source of love and affection. It’s the disposition of Labradors, but Lucy was more than a lab. She was the best dog you ever met.

Our family has a history of rescuing dogs from shelters. Lucy was the one exception; we picked her up at a breeder in Washington State.  When she died, we decided to adopt a dog at a pet event at Hoovers Hause All Dog Rescue. That’s where we met Rush, a mix that came from a kill shelter in Tennessee. They shipped him up to Wisconsin, along with a gaggle of other dogs, to find homes, and Rush found our home.

He is not perfect. He growls when he approaches other dogs on our dog walks. He is a bit too interested in the food on the kitchen counter. He likes to take on alpha males at the dog park. But it’s these imperfections that make him who he is–an intelligent, passionate rescue dog that has a bit of damage.

We all come with some damage. And though it’s the lack of damage that made Lucy so unique, it is the damage–the stuff that Rush and I have to work on day in and day out–that makes us such good friends.

Rush takes a nap.