Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Four Degrees

After the snow comes the cold.

It's four degrees here today. That's that finger freezing nose chilling cold I blogged about yesterday. It's beautiful cold when you're on the river front, looking across the river at the Minnesota Science Museum. I haven't seen the river frozen like this for many years. I believe it always used to freeze, and this year is a return to "proper" Minnesota winter.

We shall see.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Minnesota News?

Is this really news? There is snow in Minnesota in December. Who'da thunk it.

It's nice, white, powdery stuff. Easy to shovel, though I'm not that into shoveling snow. I went out in it about a half an hour ago, took these pictures, made a path to the car and came back inside. I'm not a cold wiennie or anything - but it is cold along with the snow and I'm not that used to this much cold anymore.

There was a time. Why, back in the days of '89 or '90 Jon and Emily came for Christmas and it was freezing cold in my apartment. I bought Jon hockey skates that Christmas and we bought a snow tube that didn't slide and a saucer that did. That was cold - it must have been 20 below on Christmas day, yet we went skating at an outdoor rink so Jon could try out the skates.

Ten minutes. Tops. Then frozen fingers and fighting children.

Ah, good times, great memories.

A Vacation Tradition

Every trip we make to the Twin Cities includes a trip to a movie. Usually we look for something light and light-hearted, but something we're not likely to see back in Lindsborg.

This year we didn't choose light and light-hearted,though one of Kris' best friends recommended "Marley and Me." Instead, we chose "Doubt."

Probably because it features Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman, both of whose work we greatly admire. The film script is John Patrick Shanley's adaptation of his own Pulitzer Prize winning stage play. As such it does feel a bit more like a stage play than a movie.

We came out of the multiplex debating the film. That makes it an unusual film for our time and one that is worth seeing, and perhaps seeing again.

Here's the trailer, in case you've missed it on TV.

The IMDB discussion boards are fascinating. Most of the discussion about the movie follows the line "Did Father Flynn do anything wrong with the Miller boy?" It seems to me that that isn't the point of the movie, or of the stage play. It seems to me that the point is to awaken in the viewer the feeling of doubt, of uncertainty, and to contrast that feeling with the feeling of absolute certitude that Sister Aloysius maintains throughout the bulk of the film - and that most of us maintain about any number of issues and attitudes toward the world. On the slimmest evidence, based on our convictions, based on our experiences, we are certain of how the world and no amount of pleading can change our minds.

There is virtue in deeply held convictions that are unshakeable. There is also a great deal of harm that can be done to ourselves and others by our certitude.

In the film Father Flynn tells the story of a woman whose gossip has injured another parishioner. He compares that to opening a feather pillow to the winds and allowing the feathers to fly. They can never be brought back to the pillow.

There's truth there too. Perhaps doubt, in the face of the world in which certainty leads to violence - just take a look at the bombings in Gaza and Israel - perhaps doubt is not just needed, but absolutely necessary for our survival as a species.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

In Minnesota

This is my brother-in-law. He has a secret identity as Mr. Coffee.

Ok he doesn't, but we're in Minnesota and things are frozen and I can't get out and I'm feeling claustrophobic and so I'm writing a blog post about nothing. Help - Help - Help. Waiting for Ask a Ninja Christmas story, part II to finish loading.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Why Did We Do This

From Blogger Pictures
Six am and we're late? How can that happen?

I think it happens because we live so close to church, so we think we have more time to get to church. We're not always late to church, but it's often enough to make you think that the Isaacson household might need to change habits.

As we were walking the block to church, aside from commenting on being close and being late, I asked, "So, why are we doing this?"

Six am, walking to church in the dark and at a modest chill (I've been to julottan at much lower temperatures), I asked, "So, why are we doing this?"

Six am, walking to church wearing my Norrbotten red woolen shirt, with the Sami renstovlar pinching my toes and my Mora hat on my head, I asked, "So, why are we doing this?"

And Kris answered, "Because we're Swedes."

Oh yeah, that explains it.

From Lindsborger News

Saturday, December 20, 2008

New Browser

Well, I've managed to screw up both the Mac and my Windows Vista machine's Firefox browser. The Mac requires that I upgrade the OS to Leopard - which will happen in January, probably. I'm not sure what happened to the Vista machine, but the version of Firefox 3 that I downloaded won't tab properly and I can't find a way to solve the problem - but I haven't tried very hard.

So, on the Vista machine I'm using Google Chrome. It works well and has a couple of nice features. Faster than Firefox when it loads and less nagging when it encounters pages it doesn't like than Explorer.

One feature I particularly like is the page you see when you click on the new tab. On that page you see images of the pages you most recently visited. I haven't figured out how many you'll get to see, since I haven't been using it that long. I'm sure I will find out soon.

On the Mac I've switched to Opera. Haven't done much on it, so I don't have much to report. Like Google Chrome it loads more quickly than Firefox - or Safari (a slow loading browser). Beyond that, no comment.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Think Globally, Shop Locally

Went into Blacksmith Coffee Shop this afternoon. It smelt so good that I had to buy some certified organic fair traded El Salvador Vienna Roast. I also got a short description of the history of coffee.

I haven't tasted the coffee yet, but I'm guessing that I'm going to enjoy it. It will definitely be the freshest coffee I've ever ground. I'm suspecting that I'm going to like it.

Mark Galloway is the owner of Blacksmith Coffee. A friendly guy he knows more about coffee than anyone else in this town, he's good for a complete program on coffee and all its phases - from sprout to roasted bean.

We're working on inviting him to Rotary - so if you want to get the whole story, watch this space for the announcement of the date he'll be giving us the coffee scoop.

In the meantime, go buy yourself some fresh roasted, take it home and brew it up.

Monday, December 15, 2008

What Will We Have to Do With Our Shoes

After the incident in Baghdad yesterday I wonder what journalist might have to do with their shoes before Presidential Press Conferences.

I mean, it only took one demented British malcontent to make every traveller take off their shoes at the airport.

Do you suppose that part of the strategy of government has been to create as many silly humiliations as possible so that we wouldn't notice the big humiliation of our jobs being sent overseas?

I certainly hope things change quickly on all fronts after the 20th of January, but I'm not holding my breath. I think the new President will have difficulty undoing some of the nonsense that the last eight years have foisted upon us.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Sunday, Busy Sunday

On a Sunday morning one usually has opportunity to slow down and reflect on the week. This Sunday, not so much.

Despite my desire to have Saturday night off I ended up going into the office to get cameras set for one of the yearbook shooters, then got to the basketball game where I shot photos in the half-time and second half of the game. Somebody had to do it.

Now it's church, Omar's show opening, Vespers. In between the activities I'll grade papers. I thought things would slow down during this third week of Advent.

Well, they have to slow down come Thursday. The students go home on Thursday - and I'll probably complain that I miss their complaining. I guess we never know when we have it good.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Betlehems Stjärna

Here's Ana-Frid of ABBA singing a beautiful Swedish Christmas carol

Lucia Day

It's Lucia Day, in the old calendar the shortest day of the year. It is a time of reflection and family and saffron flavored "lucikattor" and girls in white linen dresses.

I don't want to sound like Springsteen, but as I get older being around young people - especially young people in all the purity of their idealism - becomes more and more important. To me, that's the message of Lucia. A message of the hope and purity of ideals.

Selma Lagerloff's story carries that message. Girls wandering Clark Street, Chicago, candles in hand, singing the first verse of the Lucia song carry that message. The girls may not mean to carry that message, but they do. So do the kids here in Lindsborg - despite all the ways we've worked to turn this into something it isn't.

The fur coat, the star boys with farm lanterns, and the cider on the lawn are all parts of the Lindsborg tradition I find laughable. But I'm not laughing in derision. It's more of a gentle amusement at what we've made of the tradition - even while the heart of the tradition remains the same. This is about light and hope and new beginnings.

For me the day is also about being at the half-way point.

For the Folkdanslag this represents the half way point of our dance season.

This is my sixteenth year as an adult folk dancer. I met Kris because of folk dancing, and she's been my dance partner for the past 16 years.

I wonder when I'm going to learn the dances we do. Ah well, there's always another midsommar to try to get it right.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Browser Wars - and other events

I just upgraded my Firefox browser, and the thing stopped tabbing correctly. Maybe it will come back to proper tab functionality when I reboot. Otherwise I'm going to have to spend time getting that to work - or switch to another browser. Temporarily I've gone to Safari for Windows. Not that fond of Safari, but it's better than explorer. It means rebuilding the browser password data base, but that's a minor inconvenience.

Finished classes today. Finished strong in two of the three - great conversation in Argumentation; interesting presentation in Rhetoric. Intro was just a review for the test, but even that went well. The truly great class was Mass Media. They finished with presentation of their projects on Thursday. One group did a trailer for a movie they'll never shoot.

The team that put this together did it with a crappy digital camera (Digital 8 - an ok format but with a tendency to crash on Mac) and no training. They figured out what they were doing on their own. I'm pretty impressed.

Overall I'm impressed with our year thus far. Good kids, good classes.

Now I have to get grading. But not before I dance with the Folkdanslag Saturday, 10 am. Pictures up tomorrow night!

Basketball, Art Show Gallery Talk, Vespers, Break time, Orchestra Concert all coming in the next two days. Amazing!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Volvo and Saab

We tend to think that the problems we face in America are either unique or at least distinctive in the world. I'm listening to Swedish Radio just now, and they program is all about the problems of Volvo and Saab. Like the American car companies - of which they are divisions these days - the two Swedish auto giants are facing hard times.

If they build better cars that are environmentally friendly they'll get money from the government. Sounds like us.

The problem isn't just quality, however. It's also cost. We just finished paying for the Ford Taurus - and we could never think about having a Volvo or a Saab. I'd love to have one, but they're just too expensive. The Ford was really more than we could afford. I can't even afford to think about a Volvo.

Still, I wish I could help the economy by purchasing a car - American or European - but it's not going to happen.

The Fun of Movies

Au Pair Kansas is shooting on the college campus today and tomorrow. I'm hoping that some of my Mass Media students go out and watch the fun of movies being made.

Spending time waiting for the cameras to be set.

Spending time waiting for the lights to be set.

Spending time waiting for the sound to be set.

Spending time waiting.

That's the heart of movie making!

I recently - and finally - got a copy of an early Essanay Film, Sweedie Learns to Swim, starring Wallace Berry as Sweedie, the Swedish maid. It's hysterical.

A silent film, shot in Chicago in 1913/14 (released in 1914), the film shows Sweedie taking her day off and going down to the lakefront to take swimming classes. It is, of course, a disaster.

There's a scene where Sweedie tries to learn to swim in the bath tub. Of course the water overflows, leaks through the ceiling and pours into the dining room below (where, for some reason, the master of the household is gathered with guests, but without a maid). How many times, I wonder, did the carpenters at Essanay have to rebuild that studio dining room? It surely wasn't destroyed in one take.

That's the wonder of film. Nothing is ever destroyed in one take!

BTW: Here's a photo of Beery in 1914 at A dapper dandy, but nothing like a Swedish maid. The thing is, Beery didn't try to be a drag queen. No bust line, no affected walk, no nothing. He just put on a wig and a dress (or a bathing cap and bathing suit) and did a little bit of coy mugging for the camera, and there he was.

Like Beery Au Pair Kansas features a couple of guys in drag. One is the husband's ghost. The second is a local drag queen. I guess it's just a good Swedish American tradition to put guys in dresses for laughs.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

End Of Year Hijinks

Today was a day with a little more life in it. Three Mass Media students are working on a video for presentation to class on Thursday. They're convinced it is hilarious. We'll see.

In the meantime, Kris called from Mac, reporting a flat tire. Not what we needed. I may have to make a run to Mac to get her on track and headed home. Or maybe the tire will hold air long enough for her to make it home. I hope the later.

How do we get our days so full of stuff as this?

I love the stuff I do, I'm just a little concerned that I never take time to think anymore. I had an hour today, but I used it to clean rather than contemplate. Ah well, there's always tomorrow.

BTW, I like the word "hijinks." It reminds me of collegiate life in the 1940s (not that I was there) and the sort of stuff that Theodore Geisel did as an undergraduate.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Last Week of Class

Everybody's getting a haircut, says Nancy Pelosi. The Chicago Tribune declared bankruptcy. Even your scotch tape company is cutting jobs.

But I'm more interested in things that are going right, or maybe just things under my control.

Going right: The balcony at Presser Hall. Thanks to DeVere Blomberg it looks and sits much better. DeVere not only contributed to the costs, he spent hour after hour working on the project. The balcony is beautiful and it was well occupied for yesterday's Jultid concert/worship service.

On the other hand, students, in their last week of classes seemed rather dead today. I felt that way too. The 9 and 11 am classes just wouldn't talk. The 1 pm class was different, since it was a student presentation.

We have to keep going to the end, but it is sometimes hard to keep all the way to the goal. DeVere's work at the college is a great inspiration to me.

Thanks, DeVere!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

That's What I'm Talking About

I mentioned in the last post that I was easily distracted. Then I went looking for a youtube version of one of my favorite Jultid sånger, Staffan var en stalledräng. I found this one from Cornelius Vreeswijk, a Dutch folkie who revolutionized Swedish pop-folk music.

this is a version you'll never hear in Lindsborg. The last minute of the cut is blank, so carry on without it.

Here's a more conventional version of the same song - more or less -

Okay, I guess that's less. Who says the Swedes don't have a sense of humor?

Ooops. Almost forgot to post this one.

Catching Up

I've been catching up in the last two weeks. I finished my grading of Argumentation debates tonight. I finished a six minute version of the Leonard Inauguration Week and posted it to youtube. I'm not satisfied with the quality, but I'll fix that later.

Here's the six minute version.

There is an hour version of the week's events, available from me or through the development office at the college.

I went to Jultide today and videotaped with a change in equipment to fix some sound problems. I fixed some and made others. Oh well. But I've already started capture. Maybe I can keep up - if I just keep focused.

There are too many options in life these days, it's too easy to be distracted.

We'll see how long I can keep focused.

Friday, December 5, 2008

The New Cat

We've put a new cat in the house, thanks to Dwight Swisher. Here's teh kitteh at work.

She's an active cat an loves to go fishin'.

The music in the background is supposed to be Swedish Christmas music, but it's actually Swedish translations of Disney movie music.


We're only a week away from Lucia. Here's a young Swede with a lovely voice singing verses from Sankta Lucia you never hear sung in Lindsborg.

I'm sad that we don't even try to sing in Swede anymore - not even the simple children's ring dances of Christmas and Midsommar. We could learn those!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

A year away

It's been almost a year since I posted a comment.

How are things going in Lindsborg right now?

There are reasons to be excited, and reasons to feel gloomy.

Jallisco is doing landoffice business, the Crown is doing moderately well, the Ice Cream store has closed and the Courtyard's tennants have disappeared. It's a mixed bag on main street.

The College is building and busy and beautiful. I had a student come back from Atlanta the other day and she was amazed by how different the campus looked. "I can't believe it. It looks like a college campus." The people at Student Life are doing a great job of serving student needs. The new dorms have students excited about living on campus. Lots of positive stuff.

But there are students who are discontented. One of my advisees got registered for spring classes, declared a major and a week later withdrew. He was unhappy with a part of the athletic program. He could get more for less money. He's not alone in leaving.

I love my house. The Carlsons left us a great place to live. My in-laws were down for the holiday and praised the place. But the siding's old enough to have cracks in it. There's a small and troubling leak in a second floor closet.

So, how's it going?

A little great, a little down in the dumpsie.

That's what life's supposed to be like, isn't it?