Archive for March, 2014

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THE NEW BOOM OF PUBLIC TRANSIT

March 23, 2014

“Due to demographics, high gas prices, a recovering economy, and faster, more convenient service, transit use is soaring.”

What a welcoming way to start a new week to read that in the STRIB this morning!

Indeed, Millennials and older Boomers take advantage as public transit sees a boom in ridership and yes, I agree…it’s a quality of life issue!  No traffic to consider, fight, or sit through; no worries about gas prices, parking availability, and cost, or even “where is it and how do I get there?” And certainly, it is nice to be oblivious to that nagging worry especially on icy roads of “what if I have an accident, or what if my car doesn’t start?”  But it is much more than that.

First and foremost, the weather or not wanting to drive does not make me a prisoner in my home; and even worse, a prisoner of the television.  Ugghh!  I may not have achieved it yet, but it is still an overarching goal learned at the Mayo Clinic that I am active and exercise the same amount of time that I am plunked in my easy chair in front of the Boob Tube. And indeed, not all buses to where I want to go depart from the Entrance Circle at the Churchill!  So a daily walk of an hour gets me on my way to balancing the 1.5 – 2.5 hours in a day I am “catching up” on the world via a TV screen.  Add to that, time spent walking to the bus stops, and I earn an added bonus!

I’ve mentioned several times how much more I have seen of the city and its surrounds in the past year as I can look at the surrounding neighborhoods rather than keeping my “eyes on the road”.  I head for a new destination, and I feel like I am on that familiar “City Tour” I knew so well in cities all over the world during my “incentive travel” life.   More important, the $4800 I saved between 2012 and 2014 allowed me to pay for my own medical care and not become dependent on government assistance with that….and maybe this year, it will help me move!

And equally important, I treasure those times when a conversation starts up between me and another passenger (usually with a Millenial-we Boomers still cling a bit too much to OLD habits! – Don’t make eye contact; don’t speak to strangers J) I hear new perspectives and I learn.

In other words, Public Transit gives me a better life!  It is the one thing that concerns me as I consider relocating to RST….their existing system is NOT QUITE  a replica yet of what we have going on here in MSP.

So when I hear the Mayor talk about problems with noise created to build the SW LRT, I can only shake my head and wonder.  That’s pretty irrelevant in the big picture-although realistically, I know I am taking that comment a bit out of context. 

Nevertheless, although it is only a PIPE DREAM, I think it’s time to take a hard stand on the SW LRT.  Maybe we need a city-wide vote or a vote by residents impacted that live within one mile either side of the route, or a vote using some other equitable measurement.  If the majority of the resulting stakeholders do not want the LRT; give it up with a moratorium of x years freeze on any consideration to build; then use the available dollars to invest elsewhere in the emerging system.  Yes, I am aware there is an issue with already approved Federal dollars for SW LRT…but I’m just dreamin’, remember?

The fact that a few are holding the city hostage is not acceptable, in view of today’s news in the STRIB of escalating costs to build the SW LRT for every new period of delay.

Then in my dreams, we also move forward and declare no cars allowed within a defined border of downtown – perhaps the circle created by intersecting interstates- without a permit.  It worked for the Horse and Carriage; maybe it’s time to start the same for cars! 

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ARTISTS ON THE VERGE 5

March 22, 2014

Yesterday, inspired by the STRIB article entitled “Going techno at the Soap Factory”, I decided to add a stop on my walk to view the      ART(ISTS) ON THE VERGE  installation.  What a good decision that was!  This mash-up of history, art, science and technology had me smiling and wowing!  Good Job Soap Factory, Northern Lights, and the Jerome Emerging Artists Commissions!

“Builders of the Universe” gave me a fun welcome; “Poor Tastes Good” was thought-provoking as it told the story of sugar in Minnesota’s Red River Valley, and then “Survival Tactics” captured me …and I mean, I had to enter every section of the installation and experience the tendrils movements personally. This immersive interaction with the roots convinced me scientists are on the right track studying how plants COMMUNICATE via high-frequency acoustic vibrations from their roots when under stress!  Who knew?

[Ed: And thank goodness I didn’t know growing up. Chores in our “urban garden” were scary enough due to the incessant danger from bees, bugs and worms!  Had I known those potato roots were talking to one another as I attacked a potato hill, pitchfork in hand, in that first step to “start supper” before Mom got home from work, who knows what might have happened! 🙂 ]

By this time, I needed to be on my way, so I may need another visit to pay some attention to the two remaining exhibits “still Life” and “General Delivery”.

Nevertheless, I was duly impressed; once again Northern Lights.mn succeeded in doing something WELL that I’ve strived to accomplish not so well in the event world…to experiment “at the intersection of art, technology, and digital culture with a focus on net-worked based practices that are interactive and/or participatory”. And I am convinced, that once again, they are able to do this because they pay attention to the “art” part of this objective..

It seems the event world has a hard time bringing all of this together cohesively.  We get lost in the digital applications because they are a new medium, and lose sight of the desired end result.  Hence, we fall into those awful moments when a client screams “where are the “interactives”-not at all understanding that interactive engagements are built on content and message and are a means to the end-engagement and learning; not an end in themselves. Then again, that’s hard to do without any content…and, I am beginning to believe, without the emotion of the art connection.

 

 

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THE WORLD ACCORDING TO PUTIN

March 21, 2014

“So long as there aren’t the political circumstances, like now, for an important format like the G-8, then there is no G-8…Neither the summit nor the format”

Chancellor Angela Merkal then announced that the “European Union was readying further sanctions and that the G-8 forum of leading economies have been suspended indefinitely.”

And with that, BOTH the EU members and the US started sanctions against Putin & Russia, and President Obama clearly stated there’ll be no military actions; but US and allies will mobilize all diplomatic resources.

For those of you that have already positioned this as a “repeat of actions that didn’t stop the Nazis”-take note.  I’d say Angela Merkal and other EU leaders most likely have a clearer memory and a picture of today’s reality than do you.

Will sanctions alone work?  Who really knows.  I am an avid “once a KBG’ always a KBG kind of person so I have my doubts. But nevertheless, we have a responsibility to try all options before we start clamoring for a confrontation that puts our military and country into yet another war.

Yesterday, I advocated for a strong refugee plan-led and financed by the EU members so that Ukraine does not become further weakened by the cost and burden of that.  Just relocating 25,000 troops and their families out of Crimea will be a great burden to them as they juggle not only that, but also the seizure of their warships and continue to plan for what they fear will happen next – a Russian invasion and takeover of the Ukraine as well.

So, here’s another thought for all the Americans who think we know best.  Who is better at “Advertising” and Consumer Spin in the world than us?  Why not rally our spin doctor experts to assist in a counter plan to what Charles Lane of the Washington Post has labeled “The World According to Putin.”?

First step might be to change the nomenclature.  This is NOT a Putin vs. Obama dustup; so lets nix the “Obama’s war” labeling and start calling it what it is:  “Putin vs.The Free World.”

Don’t dwell on the fear factor, but make good use of Putin’s KGB background; and be careful about labeling it “Russian” bullying.  Keep the Russian people engaged and not climbing on Putin’s bandwagon.  Reality, not nationalism, needs to guide the Russian people.  Avoid stirring up their pride; memories of life under the Communists will be more effective, I think.

Use the Washington Post editorial as the starting point.  Take the Putin 40 minute dissertation apart word for word, line by line.  Show what’s FACT; point out the Putin interpretive twists and what is totally fiction.  Don’t spare anything.  Every untruth and contradiction should be identified; then draw the parallels between  the communist USSR and the  Russian “reality” under the KBG and Putin today.

Then take this truth and LAUNCH IT as an advertising campaign…not just here and in Europe, but everyway we can throughout Russia.  “Life in Russia” or “The World According to Putin” or some emotional, catchy, and memorable theme that ties Putin to the bad times of the KGB and the USSR.

Be relentless!  Use every communication and social media method we can.  Let’s see if we can “conquer” the KGB Russians the same way we “conquer” our own citizens.  Guns and death are not the only alternative.  We need to change their minds. We need to use our talents – not to move a new product, but to change world thinking!

 

 

 

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MUSINGS AS WE HEAD INTO SPRING

March 21, 2014

MINNESOTA FRAC SAND STANDARDS

When I read that environmentalists called the new guidelines “too soft” and the mining interests labeled them “overreaching”; I smiled.

I have not even read them in detail, but sounds like as a first step, the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board (EQB) should consider their “toolbox” a success! If extremists on both sides have issues, then I presume what the guidelines do is compromise!

We need to remember, it is just one piece of the puzzle…measures for additional aid to local governments continue to unfold.  Each sides wants more but just maybe, this is a platform that can lead to on-going rational discussions from which a win-win may evolve.

COLOGUARD

Although I have no medical background, nor have I done much research, it seemed to me Mayo has come up with another big plus with their DNA screening for Colon Cancer.

Apparently with the new process one in ten are misdiagnosed positive and then still need the colonoscopy to verify.  This seems like a small price to pay; of course, I am probably that one in ten that would be “recalled”!

AND SPEAKING OF RECALLS

The news from Torrance was disheartening to say the least.  I would expect deception from the Detroit crowd, but not from Toyota.  Perhaps the $1.2 BILLION fine will make the rest of the car industry TAKE NOTE!

WATER ISSUE AT THE WORLD CUP

It is only March, and water is already being rationed in Sao Paulo, Brazil, as they’ve had great heat and the lowest rainfall in 84 years.

Residents already have access to water only every other day and plans are now being made to install new pipes to tap the BOTTOM of reservoirs….Don’t envy the locals OR the visitors on this one!

A SECOND NICOLLET ISLAND  

The STRIB article this morning featured the designer rendering of the new “Nicollet Island” (6th to 8th on Nic) on page 1 of the Business Section. 

WHAT IS WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE?!!!  On yes, the real Nicollet Island is 6 blocks away in the middle of the Mississippi River.

I have been stewing about this since I heard it; people keep telling me not to worry that the duplication of the name is only a “place-holder”.  Nevertheless, my question remains:  What is wrong with David Frank that this stupidity is allowed to continue?!!

Again, I am fine with the design concepts; but could we please clean up the obvious problem and not perpetuate it in the STRIB?

PLEASE SET ME FREE

I reimbursed a past client for the working balance I still had in my corporate account at the end of February.  I sent the check with a return receipt, so I know they received it at their offices on March 4.  I was hoping the check would clear so I could get this account closed by month-end.

But apparently, not only are they SLOW PAY (unless you pay them a 2% ransom of what they owe you, the standard pay time is 90-120 days) they are also slow in handling income.

Now I am hoping it is “lost in the system” just like invoices often are – or perhaps they just forgot to tell me that AR is as inefficient as AP…Maybe it will clear before month-end so I can go about my business after March 31.

 But what happens if the check is still outstanding? If I have to stop-pay on my check and get a cashier’s check reissued, you better believe those fees will be deducted from the balance owed!  Do I need to send a registered REMINDER LETTER? Ugghh.

Were I still in the corporate world, I’d say they ought to spend a little more time on Accounts Receivable efficiencies.  Maybe they wouldn’t have had to initiate the AP “hold vendors hostage “policy to make their operating expenses.

And with that, all the little “thoughts and issues” have been removed from my desk and I am ready for Spring…although I was not so pleased to hear we are heading back into the deep freeze!

 

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CRIMEA

March 20, 2014

It will be very popular with the Repos to call Obama weak about Crimea, but before we all jump on the bandwagon, let’s just take a look at history over the last sixty years:

1956       REPUBLICAN      President Eisenhower did nothing when the Soviets invaded Hungary

1968       DEMOCRAT        President Johnson did nothing when Soviets invaded Czechoslovakia

1981       REPUBLICAN      President Reagan did nothing when Soviets imposed martial law on Poland

2008       REPUBLICAN      President Little Bush did nothing when Russia invaded Georgia (but then again,he had already started two wars that were both unwinnable and he was almost  ready to retire to his palate and easel so maybe we should give him a “Pass”).

 Yes, the RED are leading the BLUE in imposing sanctions, politically condemning, and doing nothing more.  Maybe if Little Bush had not gone to war with Afghanistan and with Iraq, he would have still been looking for a chance to prove himself and jumped right in there with Russia, but alas, by 2008, he had his hands full and was in deep doo-doo already.

So near as I can tell, the kettle should not be calling the pot black, so to speak.

A STRIB Letter to the Editor blames American business interests for that inactivity and I’ve no doubt that lobbying efforts are everywhere – making sure Obama does not do something that will hurt American business.

But let’s not forget that polls also show that the American people –despite finding the actions of Russia reprehensible,  are generally opposed to military action and so are our EU allies.

So it makes for good Press to show clips of McCain ranting on how wrong Obama is or sound bits of other Repos offering intense criticism (one more time I have to say it – demonstrating old-fashioned 20th century beliefs-), it all is just a way to fill air time and not much more.

But what if there are other options?

I, for one, am hoping that the US and its allies are already looking for the solution to the refugee problem.

Forty percent of the people in Crimea are not of Russian descent.  In fact, the 800,000 Tatars were deported from Russia by Stalin because they were undesirable. So what plans does Russia have for those folks of their new state?  I am sure it is not good.

In the negotiations and sanctions and political posturing is it at all feasible to negotiate SAFE PASSAGE for these people as well as for the Ukrainian soldiers who are pulling out starting today?

The Ukrainian Orthodox Archbishop Kliment (and the Pope) should be tapped to help organize the effort to ensure safe passage and safe transfer of resources.  These people should not have to leave their homes with nothing all for the lack of $1000 for a moving truck so they could take possessions as well.  

Could we use our influence, resources and money to supply trucks so these people do not need to arrive in the Ukraine destitute?

Can we use international means to transfer funds of these people from Crimea to Ukraine?

Can we use our military in the area in a benevolent way to help this migration?

Can all of us sitting here in the US with lots of opinions about how wrong our government is handling the crisis exert our voice, money,  and influence to save 800,000 people? 

 

 

 

 

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WILL MAYO FOREVER MORE BE UNDER THE MICROSCOPE?

March 19, 2014

The STRIB today shared an article about the new proton therapy buildings in Rochester –under construction for years- and scheduled to go online in 2015.  These were paid for by Mayo and their donors; they are in keeping with much of the history of the Mayo Clinic.  They invest in research – ever heard of cortisone? – based on the potential to help their patients.

The STRIB chose to position the article as one of a “debate over high-tech costs”.  I get that; I often wrestle about quality of life issues vs. the desire of a family to keep their loved ones-for their own sake-not the patient’s-with them.  It is costly; it only delays the inevitable; and I, like my mother before me, are emphatically in the “Do Not Resuscitate/Do Not Experiment” camp- if I need constant care, let me go!

But the STRIB should review the facts of Mayo before they choose to use them as an example of high-tech costs.  First of all, I urge ANY OF YOU who believe Mayo is expensive to get a referral from your doctor to Mayo.  Experience the process; Look at your bill.  You will be smiling all the way to the bank.  The Mayo Clinic pays their physicians a salary – NOT a percentage of the practice.  Nor do they refer patients to “specialists” all over the city that pay the originating doctor a percentage of the fee for those unnecessary MRIs at $6-10,000 each.

Believe me, I have been the victim of the medical system here in Minneapolis. Please don’t point fingers at Mayo for high costs. Look in our own backyard first.  And furthermore, those proton machines help treat children- who do have a long life ahead of them if they are cured.

And that is the reason I am writing.  The Mayo Clinic is not the bad guy; they are good guys – having gotten lost in the spin on their expansion.

 It causes more hubbub and increases readership to make Mayo the enemy. So let’s revisit ONE MORE TIME how they got on the “bad guy” list:

The Mayo Clinic is planning a major expansion at their home site in Rochester.  Over the next 20 years, they hope to double in size and to do so they will be spending $ Billions of their OWN MONEY (NO, not the State’s money) and that of donors to the cause.  (Like the man that donated 25% of the costs of the “Proton Beam Therapy” costs).

 They determined the expansion was needed; they preferred it to happen at home base in Minnesota; but they also were looking at Jacksonville and Arizona clinic sites as alternative options.

THE KEY POINT IS THAT the Mayo expansion itself is SELF-FUNDED.  However, when it doubles in size, it will do two things:  Increase the tax revenue of the State of Minnesota significantly; AND create a need for more infrastructure in the City of Rochester. 

Since Mayo is “home-grown” in Rochester, MN, they know the community pretty well as they are an active part of it.  So they knew immediately that the 100,000 person community did not have the funds to pay for the necessary infrastructure that would be needed to support the clinic expansion.

They estimated the infrastructure would cost $xxx,xxx,xxx.  They quickly realized the State of Minnesota would GAIN big time in new Tax Revenues from the Mayo expansion itself.  KEY POINT:  GAINS they would NOT HAVE if Mayo chose Jacksonville or Arizona.

So they went to the State of Minnesota and said:  We are investing $ X dollars in our expansion in Minnesota; but the community cannot afford to pay for the needed infrastructure to support it.  The State of Minnesota acknowledged the $x dollars in investment by Mayo will generate $ Y dollars in new tax income for the state.  Mayo then proposed that an estimate of one/fourth f that new state revenue be returned to the City of Rochester (not the Mayo Clinic) to help them expand the infrastructure.

This is not a loan to help build a bigger Mayo Clinic.  This is simply an upfront agreement that a portion of the state tax income generated by the Mayo Clinic in Rochester be returned to Rochester citizens to support needed infrastructure instead of going into the Big Pot and reallocated out to other cities or areas within Minnesota.

In other words, this is NOT A DONATION, FOLKS. This is suggesting to the State of Minnesota that  because of the Mayo Clinic expansion, there will be a new income resource for the State.  The State can do whatever they want with three-fourths of that money, but they did agree that one fourth of it will be returned to the citizens of Rochester (who also pay state taxes, by the way-as will all the new businesses that are generated in Rochester because of this expansion) for infrastructure needs.

So they are not the enemy.  They simply asked that part of the gift they are giving the State of Minnesota in taxes be returned to the citizens of Rochester to help them grow because the current citizen tax base in Rochester cannot fund the needs.

Yes; I am from Rochester; yes, I was born in the Mayo Clinic system; yes, I was a Spock baby – not raised by the book, but as a toddler, observed by the man himself when he was at Mayo, before he wrote the book-who pointed out to my mother some critical flaws in my personality that should be addressed J;  yes, I remember the time when Mayo doctors made house calls to check up on all of us; yes, I was able to pay my own way through college  because of the money I made in tips from Mayo patients staying across the street at the Kahler Hotel (despite a SALARY of $1.04 /hour); yes, my tuition at the U was paid for one year with a scholarship from the Rochester Foundation; yes, half my family still in Rochester is not as keen on this expansion as the other half is; yes, I know the Mayo Clinic does not walk on water; and is often regarded with great suspicion because of their influence just like any other single  business in any  “company” town across America.  

At the same time, how many of you transferred from a CITY college to a state college or the University of Minnesota and GAINED credits toward graduation?  That is pretty good proof that education was important in our town.  How many of you that grew up in the MSP metro or out-state interacted with heads of foreign states and kings and queens, or a good sampling of ‘celebrity personalities’ in your part-time job? 

And in full disclosure, all the readers of this know…yes, Rochester residents are just a little bit TOO CONSERVATIVE for my tastes!  Nevertheless, I am pretty proud to say that the Mayo Clinic influence made me who I am – good or bad.  J

 

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THE DEMISE OF GOLF!

March 18, 2014

With my intense dislike of the sport of golf, I find it amazing this trend has not been on my radar before now.  

[I won’t bore you with another rant; my disdain for the role of golf in the corporate world as a money and time waster, as a support for a need to RE-LOOK at executive salaries for 2 days of work a week-max in summer, and as a tool in 70s-80s to isolate women in the corporate organization is well-known]

But the on-going dispute about the Fred Richards Golf Course in Edina led the STRIB to a GREAT editorial today that shared some trends I had not been following:

“We have a new national trend; the incredible shrinkage of golf”

Apparently, according to the STRIB , the retirement of Boomers has not been able to stop a “sad confluence of social, economic, technological, and even climatological factors.”

The United States has lost 300 courses since 2005; the number of rounds fell 7.4% and the number of players decreased by more than Four Million people!

In Minneapolis, we seem to be ahead of the statistics…courses were only open 179 days last year; it will take $34 million to restore them to competitive shape, and traffic has declined 46% since 2000.  And yet, we are talking about reinvestment, restoration and revitalization because “young people must be attracted if the game is to survive.”

WHAT?!!!!

Tell me one more time why we need to INVEST MILLIONS to keep it alive? Surely, it’s not for future populations because the STRIB also admitted “The game moves too slowly for a younger generation tied to computer games and workouts in the gym.”  Yes they are partly right. It takes up too much time, it costs too much, it does not hold one’s attention, It’s a  good ole’ boys game of the past  and  keeps that division of the sexes in the forefront.  In other words, values have changed – and I might add, for the better!

When we vote no to educational improvements for our kids because we can’t afford it, or can’t continue good nutritional programs in those schools for those who need it, we should invest this money why? And don’t tell me about a “golf tournament to raise money for charities – that is an excuse; not a motivation in today’s world.

So that leaves the unstated reason – all those BOOMER golfers who live in Minnesota for one day more than six months in order to qualify as a resident and reap the benefit of lower taxes than in states they reside in in the winter…they need a place to practice their skills while they drop in for a visit to their grandchildren!

Remind me again why we should support this drain on Minnesota finances?

I say we would be better off investing that $34 million – as well as the revenue earned if those city courses were sold off –  in the real needs we have in the foreseeable future…The needs that are matierializing with the 2025 Plan; the Thrive MSP 2040 Plan, and the needs of a metro area where whites will be a minority; MSP will be a multi-cultural mix of young people now grown older that are not golfers!