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Hello Norway

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So, we’re in Norway. To make the most of the open day before the class begins, we decided to take the Norway in a Nutshell tour, an 18+ hour train, boat and bus journey that has proved to be more of a march of attrition than it has a tour. That’s not to say it hasn’t been awesome, but we are all completely wiped and are dreading the mile or so walk back to the hotel.

This country is ridiculously expensive, especially for food. (Today I spent over $10 for a hot dog and soda.) I’ve already stocked up on cereal from a grocery near our hotel–$15 for corn flakes and milk–which I hope to use to cover dinner for the next few days. Aside from that, my strategy is to make extensive use of the breakfast included with our room and eat as little as possible outside of that.

Well, my brain is failing, so I’m going to try to reserve my remaining faculties for the walk. More later.

Posted in Journal,Travelog at 11:07 pm

Indiana

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Officially, we’re here in Indiana this weekend for the baptism of Lisa’s cousin’s youngest son, for which Lisa will be the godmother, but after today I think the real reason is so Mathias can run around crazy with his extended family.

Mathias and James

It was a long drive down yesterday—Minneapolis to Northern Indiana probably feels like an eternity for a four-year-old, but all things considered Mathias handled it well—but we got to break it up with a too-infrequent stop in Madison to visit Robin, Andy, and their talented escape artist of a toddler, Calvin. Tomorrow we get up early for the baptism, and on Memorial Day we head back to Minneapolis, this time stopping in Madison for lunch/dinner (linner?) with Lisa’s folks. In all, it’s going to be a quick weekend, but it’s still been a nice diversion from everything else going on.

~ ~ ~

Despite the nice opportunity to visit with family and friends, my brain is focused on Scandinavia. In addition to getting ready for the trip, I have a ridiculous amount of work to get done at work before I head out on Friday. Two weeks is a practical eternity at my job, and I’m going to be gone when a number of Big DecisionsTM are going to have to go down, but I guess this wouldn’t be a Carlson MBA class if it weren’t disruptive to family and work life.

Early morning tomorrow, I should hit it. More later.

Posted in Journal,Travelog at 11:49 pm

Scandinavia on Deck

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Sometime yesterday evening it dawned on me that I’m just over two weeks away from heading to Scandinavia for my class on corporate social responsibility, a trip for which I’m grossly unprepared. In many ways my brain is still in China, as I reach the midpoint in Richard McGregor’s immensely interesting The Party, and as I still try to cut through the 5000+ photos I took there in January. It’s kind of like when you trip on something, and have that long moment to process the fact that you’re falling, and then that split second when it becomes clear that the floor is going to happen.

I entered that split second last night. I used up my existing credits on Audible to grab any CSR listening I could—off topic, but is there anything as ridiculously broken as Audible’s search function?—and grabbed a few books for my Kindle as well. It’s going to take quite an effort to get my brain to shift, though. Even with my pre-courses at Carlson, I somehow managed, completely unintentionally, to keep my mental focus on cleanup from the past months and years rather than preparing for what’s on deck. In a way I suppose this is somewhat natural after four years of parenthood, work and school: As my classes have eased up and my bandwidth has increased, the natural inclination has been to catch up on that which had been set aside.

But, I’m not done with school yet, and with the huge time and financial commitment this final course represents, I owe it to myself to get as much out of it as possible. So, I’m going to have to put down The Party mid-read—something I hate, hate, hate doing, as I’m fantastic at not picking up books back up after an extended pause—get the photos done tomorrow or Friday (my American classmates have seen them, my Chinese classmates have not) and get going on CSR.

~ ~ ~

And with that, I should probably apologize for what may happen to this blog over the coming weeks. It’s been fairly dormant since I started school—there have barely been ten posts since my dad died—but now its reanimation may make it look like a hack CSR blog. (Emphasis should be on the word “hack.”) Some people talk aloud to work through their ideas. Me, I tend to write, and as I work through the vagaries, motives and conflicts surrounding the topic of CSR, I’ll probably be writing about them here.

Posted in Education,Journal at 11:45 pm

Weekend Update

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It’s hard to remember the last time Lisa or I had to give a statement to law enforcement.  This weekend both of us did, but for completely different events.

But I should back up a bit. We had a fun weekend.

On Saturday we headed to Northeast Minneapolis to go to Brickmania, where the Greater Midwest Lego Train Club was having its monthly open house.  The GMLTC basically appears to be a bunch of grown men who never got over their love of playing with Legos, and the results are kind of spectacular.  Mathias had a lot of fun, especially with the huge ramp for Lego cars.

Mathias and the Lego subway

After that we headed up Central looking for lunch, and ended up at Flameburger.  Flameburger makes an excellent hamburger, at least by Twin Cities standards, and Lisa had a pretty good grilled cheese as well.  We got Mathias chicken strips, which tasted more like fish than they did chicken, but that was probably OK as Mathias basically ended up eating french fries for a half hour anyway.

It was on our drive home–we headed up to 694 to encourage Mathias to take a nap–that the weekend started to get wonky.  The weather was rainy and windy, so traffic was moving pretty slow, and I quickly settled in in the middle lane at around 55.  The left lane was going about the same speed, much to the annoyance of the old Grand Prix that suddenly appeared to my left.  Just as my brain started to register that this dude could really be a problem, he opened just enough space between me and the car in front of him that he could dart over in front of us–and start fishtailing all over the center lane.  Expecting an accident, I backed off, but he recovered.  He clearly wasn’t happy being stuck in the middle lane any more than he was the left, though, so he sped ahead of the two cars to my front left and did an extremely sharp lane change back to the left lane.  Once again he started to fishtail, but this time he would not recover.  He slammed into the center median and then pivoted back across all three lanes of traffic.  I momentarily took my eyes off of him as I braked–traffic was dense I was afraid of us getting hit from behind–but when I saw him again his car was headed right back at the center median, almost perpendicular to traffic.  He hit the center median close to straight-on.  There his car came to rest, sans his left-rear tire, which was laying on the right shoulder.

We ended up being the ones who called 911, which resulted in us getting a call from a state trooper about 20 minutes later.  He asked me to give a statement, which I did, after which he told me the driver of the Grand Prix had said that he’d been driving in the right lane when his tire blew out.  Uh huh.

As planned, Mathias zonked out on the drive home, so I stayed home while Lisa headed out to run some errands.  One of the items on her list was to stop at Walgreen’s to pick up some photos, where she encountered a moderately crazy looking guy at the one hour photo counter punching the Kodak photo kiosk.  Some of the staff tried to stop him, which resulted in him attacking one of the managers.  Suddenly there were cops everywhere, and in the end it turned out the guy was trying to print off photos of naked girls who couldn’t have been more than preschool age.  With that it was Lisa’s turn to give a statement.

~ ~ ~

Today was generally pleasant, and thankfully did not include distractions like car accidents and child porn.  We headed down to the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum with one of Lisa’s old college friends and her husband (their son, by weird coincidence, goes to the same preschool as Mathias), where we had a picnic and let our kids look for frogs, hit things with sticks and run themselves crazy on the bog walk.

Mathias looking for frogs

Aside from one rock-eating incident, Mathias and his friend Nicholas were pretty harmless, although towards the end there was a clear risk of them dismantling one of the flower gardens, so we had to get out there.

And now it’s Sunday evening, and we haven’t even done our weekly grocery shopping yet. I guess that’s one way to tell you had a full weekend.

Posted in Journal at 10:08 pm

So That Happened

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I had my last in-classroom class at Carlson last night. I paused before exiting the room, feeling that I should mark the occasion somehow, but in the end there was not much to do other than just walk out. I guess that’s how these things often end. Getting an MBA has been one the more difficult initiatives I’ve taken in my life—I have the extra weight and debt to prove it—but it is now essentially over.

The only things between me from that incredibly expensive piece of paper (and becoming the target of well-deserved jokes) are a couple of reports and a two-week trip to Scandinavia in June. I’m thankful I’ll be ending the program with a class that includes me getting to visit a part of the world I’ve never been to, and getting access to companies I’d never have the chance to see up-close otherwise, but in a way it will make the end of my degree an even quieter experience. Instead of the sound of a door closing behind me, at some point in the near future a single tap of a mouse will mark the submission of my reports, and the end of a wonderful, challenging, and sometimes strange four years.

~ ~ ~

I’m not sure if this was appropriate or not, but after the class I went out for a few beers with some classmates, came home in time to help put Mathias to bed, and fell asleep after reading him some books. I woke up in his room around 3:00 am, tip-toed over to Lisa and my room, and fell asleep as soon as I hit the bed. In the process, I got more sleep last night than I have in months.

Posted in Education,Journal at 10:59 pm

Journal for 14 Jan 2011: China

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Uh, hi. I’m in China, Guangzhou to be exact. I’ve been in China all year.   Tomorrow I head back home.

It’s been an interesting couple of weeks, both long and incredibly short at the same time.  When I talk to my wife and son it’s like I’ve been gone forever, but when I think of the trip itself, it feels like I landed in Hong Kong yesterday.

In reality, I landed in Hong Kong on December 30th, and rang in the new year from a rooftop bar near Victoria Harbour.  A few days after that the Carlson School international program I traveled half way around the world to attend got underway, and everything since then has passed in a blink.  I’ve learned a lot, although not in the way I expected, and met some great people I hope to stay in contact with for a long, long time.  But the class is over now, and I’m itching to get home to my sick wife and son in that cold wasteland we know as Minnesota.

I have a lot to write about, but may not have time. I have no classes this coming semester.  I’ve been accepted to another Carlson international program, this one on the Scanadanivan approach to business ethics, and the four credits I’ll get for that in June will allow me to close out my MBA program.  Only a term paper and a class separate me from school, and…  And what?  What do I do next?  My wife has a job she loves, and I love the place I work, but I’m itching for a change.  There is also the little matter of the massive student loans I’ll have coming due in less than a year.  So, that’s what I’ll be working on.

That, and all the photos from this trip that I need to put on Flickr, of course.

Posted in Journal,Travelog at 9:30 am

Journal for 21 Nov 2010

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Tomorrow I get my free turkey at work.  Weather permitting, Lisa and my parents will be arriving on Wednesday, and on Thursday we’ll be hosting our first Thanksgiving in Minneapolis.

It seemed like a good idea when we planned it, and it still is, but Lisa and I have been down with really bad chest colds for almost three weeks now–Lisa actually got pneumonia–and Mathias has been sick on and off as well.  (He’s been fine for the past two weeks, but as of today has a fever and diarrhea.  And Diarrhea with toddlers is awesome.)  So, life has been beating us up a lot lately.  In the grand scheme of things we’re still doing OK–at least none of us have landed in the hospital–but it would be nice for us to have all three family members healthy for a few weeks.

If bad things come in threes, I’m due to have someone spill something on me.  Last week I had just finished pouring myself some boiling-hot tea in the company break room when a coworker swung around into me, sending the tea all over my left hand, resulting in some first-degree burns that took the better part of a week to heal.  (At least we have a nurse on-site.)  On Friday, a server at The Tea House dropped a bottle of Asahi on the back of my chair, where I had conveniently hung my freshly-dry-cleaned winter coat.  Maybe I should just avoid anything related to the word “tea” for the next few weeks.

I tried to explain to Lisa how the scalding tea incident was actually kind of funny–I had a bad cough, which caused me to pick tea over coffee, which resulted in my hand getting burned–the thing that was supposed to help me hurt me, it’s irony!–but she didn’t see the humor in it.

Since I’m talking about physical pain, I have really interesting bruise patterns on my arms right now. We had a huge ice storm last night, so I went outside to see how slippery it was, and found the answer by sliding down 10 concrete steps onto our back driveway.  A neighbor who was heading out at the same time watched the whole incident and decided she’d use the front stairway instead.

Well, it looks like we have a sick toddler to put down for the night. More later.

Posted in Journal at 7:10 pm

Journal for 12 Sep 2010: One Year and Counting

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I’m sitting, surrounded by homework, in a hotel room in Door County, so I guess it must be September.  We’re on our yearly trip here–this is a family tradition I inherited when Lisa and I got married–and I’m one week into what I hope will be my last year at Carlson.  I’m trying to enjoy both the trip and my second-to-final semester, but the fact they’re starting at the same time kind of works against that goal.  Granted, I actually like the subject matter of my courses this year, and they’re heavy on reading and writing, which typically makes things easier for me, but the sheer level of work I’m facing is daunting.

This is what a typical Wednesday will look like for me for  the next 14 weeks:

  • 6:40: Get up.
  • 7:15: Depart for work
  • 8:00: Traffic willing, arrive at my desk.
  • 4:45: Depart for the U
  • 5:45: Start class
  • 9:05: Depart class
  • 9:30: Arrive home, say hi to the dear wife
  • 10:00: Weather permitting, go out for a quick walk or run
  • 10:45: Prep for my evening meeting with India
  • 11:00: Meeting with India
  • 12:30: Brief, fleeting moment of free time
  • 1:00: Sleep

Unfortunately, for most of the fall, I will have a class on either Tuesday or Thursday as well, meaning I’ll be going two days without seeing Mathias.  I really didn’t want to take classes on sequential days, but this late in the program, fewer remaining electives means less control over one’s schedule.  This schedule also puts a lot of pressure on Lisa, of course, but the only other option would be for me to extend my program past next spring, and I can safely say neither of us wants that.

Posted in Education,Journal,Travelog at 3:48 pm

Journal for 25 Aug 2010

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We had a crazy weekend driving back and forth across Wisconsin, and to some extent are still recovering.  It was a lot of driving for three days:  On Friday evening we left the Twin Cities to visit Lisa’s grandmother in Wausau, and on Saturday headed to northeastern Wisconsin to visit my mom, my uncle Eric (who just happened to be in town the same time), and visit with friends.  We weren’t there long, though, and on Monday headed back across Wisconsin–mostly on two-lane roads because of the route–to take Mathias to an allergy specialist in La Crosse.  From there, it was back up the river to Minneapolis.

I’d like some time off–not a vacation but just some time to rest–but things are not letting up.  Lisa is changing jobs next week, which means Mathias will be changing his preschool as well.  Due to scheduling conflicts at work, I’m starting to go back to the office late at night for meetings with India–I’ll actually be heading there in a half an hour–and in a few weeks the fall semester will be underway again at Carlson.  On top of all that, we’ll be making our annual trip to Door County in a couple of weeks, and this weekend will have Lisa heading to Madison (sans toddler) to visit her mom, who’s recovering from surgery.  I’m thinking of taking some days off at some point just so I can have some alone time and catch up on stuff around the house…  But I need to reserve as much vacation as possible for the China seminar I’ll be attending for school in January.

Have I mentioned I’ll be going to China in January?  I’ll be in Hong Kong for about five days at the start of the year, and then in Guangzhou for about a week and a half after that.  So, there’s a lot coming up in the next few months.

Posted in Journal,Travelog at 8:26 pm

Journal for 6 Jul 2010: North Shore

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If you had asked me two weeks ago what I expected to be doing this evening, I would’ve told you that Lisa, Mathias and I would be camping with my mom in the Black Hills, but that was before my mom took a tumble off of her bike, resulting in a sprain that scuttled her involvement in the trip. Since Lisa and I have already been to the Badlands and the Black Hills, and since Mathias is still too young to remember much (if any) of the trip anyway, we decided it didn’t make sense to haul ourselves all the way across the boring side of South Dakota to go camping.

But we still wanted to go on a trip this week, so we now find ourselves camping (metaphorically, not literally) at a ski resort on Minnesota’s North Shore. (Hey, it was available on short notice.) And aside from our hotel, which is a bit weird, the trip has turned out pretty well so far.

~ ~ ~

On Sunday we departed the Twin Cities and headed up to Duluth. Between the two of us, Lisa and I know a couple hundred folks who just love Duluth, but I don’t think either one of us have really fallen for the city in the same way. If anything, we’ve been a bit perplexed about what people find to be so great about the city, but we tried to go back in with open minds. The Fourth of July was a good day to visit, as it provided us an excuse to hang out on the riverfront and watch fireworks, which Mathias loved. Other than that, we basically walked around a lot, trying to crack the nut that’s Duluth.

Before bolting for the North Shore on Monday afternoon, we stopped at the Duluth Depot to hit the children’s and train museums there. The Lake Superior Railroad Museum has an impressive collection, but the lighting in the main shed made the place a bit creepy, and that, along with the huge trains and the penetrating silence of the place, kind of freaked Mathias out, so we didn’t stay as long as expected. On the flip side, it was a bit of a challenge to extract him from the children’s museum, so the morning was by no means a wash.

After a quick lunch in the canal district, we headed up to Lutsen to check in at our hotel, and from there headed up to Grand Marais, where we had dinner at Sven & Ole’s and watched Mathias throw rocks into the lake for over an hour. Today had another rock-throwing marathon, this time at Cascade River State Park, followed by a drive up the shore to Canada, plus brief visits at a bunch of other parks along the way. (Mathias was sleeping in the car, which obviously limited what we could do.) Tonight we had a catastrophically bad dinner at our hotel, but I’ll save that rant for Trip Advisor. (I’ll probably complain about the wifi as well, which exists only in theory, not in practice. I probably won’t be posting this in real time tonight.)

~ ~ ~

Tomorrow should bring more trips up and down MN-61, followed by the short trip home. Nothing too exciting overall, but it’s been nice to get out of Minneapolis with the family for a bit.

And now, I should get some sleep.

Posted in Journal,Travelog at 11:17 pm
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