M. C. Escher in Winona, Minnesota

I like Bing maps because they provide a Bird’s eye aerial view which provides a little more perspective than Google’s top-down aerial view.  I recently saw an impossible aerial view on Bing, more akin to an M.C. Escher painting than a real photo.  Buildings next to each other at impossible angles.stmarys_bing_4.PNG

Having never been there, at first I thought it was perhaps unusual slanted architecture. Closer inspection showed that it was the incorrect auto-stitching of two photos from different vantage points (clear from the unfinished building edge in the upper center.)  The entire campus (Bing maps link) seems unfazed by this physical warping of space.stmarys_bing_1.PNG

I’m still not sure of the building below.  Having not been there, I’m not sure if all the sides are vertical, or one or more are architecturally slanted.  I will have to visit some day to see for myself.stmarys_bing_5.PNG

M. C. Escher’s painting Relativity, below.p02vhq1v

Solved: e-File requires issue date of MN driver’s license

I ran into a problem with e-Filing my Minnesota Taxes.  Using H&R Block software, the pre-check for e-Filing requires a valid driver’s license number, issued date, and date of expiration.  Most states are doing this to prevent e-Filing fraud.  That seems simple to do, but not with a Minnesota license.

The problem is the Minnesota licenses provide only the month of issuance.  The H&R Block software would have none of that.  It required an exact date.  Chat support and H&R Block didn’t know what to do.  They suggested maybe I could remember.   I did my last renewal by mail three years ago.  I have no idea what that day might be.  Guessing could cause the e-File to be rejected.  They suggested I call the DMV and ask for the date.

It turns out there is a DMV / DVS website you can do a query on any Minnesota license to check whether is it valid, and that site shows both the issuance and expiration dates!  Here is a link to the Minnesota driver’s license lookup. Problem solved!

Hopefully this can help some other Minnesotan with their e-File!



My theory of why children have so much energy

DSCF4695 copyYou’ve seen children at the playground jumping and chasing. Just watching them seems to make you tired. You’ve experienced being around children running in circles and waving arms and hands and being silly.  Just being around them wears you out.  How is it children can have so much energy in such tiny little bodies?

My theory is children actually drain the energy of the nearest adults.   You are actually a large energy store for them.  They are using your energy!

Don’t believe me?  Just think about it…

  • They have more energy than could be contained in such a little body.
  • The closer you are to them when they are active, the more tired and drained you feel.
  • The crazier and wilder they are, the more tired and drained you feel.
  • More children acting wildly will make you feel tired faster.
  • But, when they go to sleep, you can feel your energy return.
  • When they even settle down, your energy begins to come back.

I think that pretty well proves it.

Ripples of Forgiveness

I watched a video of the powerful true story of Chris Williams, who forgave the young drunk driver that killed his wife and two of his children.  Soon afterward, he decided he needed to forgive and let it go.  Chris then visited the young man, still in prison, and talked with him and encouraged him to also let it go.  It’s an amazing story of forgiveness.  It shows how one’s life can be more free and unburdened by letting go of anger and disappointment.  It shows how forgiving someone allows them to also move on with their life and forgive themselves.

What opened my eyes was how the forgiveness rippled through the friends and family on both sides of the equation.  It helped them find peace as well.  Neighbors. The parents of the young man. (see 05:30 in the video) The bishop (pastor) of the congregation. One also assumes Chris Williams’ children, and their future children.  The future children of the young man.  A single act of forgiveness can indeed heal a community.

Reconciliation of Jacob and Esau

It has been along time since I read through the Bible. I’m finding that I’ve forgotten many details of some of the stories.  As I studied Genesis 32 and 33, I felt genuine suspense at Jacob’s return to Abraham’s land.  I sensed the anxiousness of Jacob, who was committed to follow God’s command to return, but terrified that his brother would still seek to kill him and his family.  I was impressed with his wisdom to divide up the family so that half could live should things get ugly.  Also with his wisdom and humility to send flocks ahead of him as a gift, and have his servants state that Jacob would be the servant of Esau.  What would happen?  I ran out of time yesterday in my study.  It was just like a cliff-hanger for me.

Today I was deeply touched by the continuation of the story.  How touching kindness and love Esau showed to his brother to run and greet him.  How gracious were the words of Jacob to his brother.   Time heals many things.  Efforts to be kind and humble, gifts of recognition, and words of healing make a big difference.  It helps when both sides seek to repair the relationship.

The study lesson also pointed to a video about two real life brothers, who had a destructive relationship.  I wept as I watched this video and saw how things changed.   I learned that we don’t always know what is under the surface and why people are unkind.  Sometimes it’s deeper.  I learned that making and effort, even when a relationship is deeply damaged can sometimes make the difference. Applying the love of Christ to the relationship makes all the difference in the world.

My recommended inspiring video of the day:  Two Brothers Apart (at LDS Youth; 6 minutes long)

New favorite: “Mountain Men” by Gerard Curtis Delano

In an obscure history museum in the small town of Craig, Colorado, I came upon the art of Gerard Curtis Delano, who painted western themes in the early 1900’s.  Delano used simple forms and rich colors, almost chromatic, especially when depicting the bright colors in traditional colors of native American colors.  The museum had several prints of his work.  I had never heard of Delano previously, and would have probably not even remembered him, had it not been for what happened next.

As I came around one display, I encountered his work, Mountain Men, depicting two mountain men riding a makeshift raft down a river.  This was an original, 30″ x 36″.   The image I have linked hardly does justice to the rich pastel colors, which make the water so cold and atmosphere so misty.   What really exited me was the action implicit in the scene, and the feeling of being there, achieved by the low angle of view.

No prints were available.  Research shows that it sold in 2013 for $74,750.  Still, it is a new favorite of mine.

Mountain Men by Gerard Curtis Delano

Fitbit is changing my behaviors

I was given a Fitbit Charge for Christmas.  I expected it to be a useful tool in my quest to manage my weight.  What I didn’t expect was the way it would change my behaviors.

Fitbit told me I had a goal of 10,000 steps a day.  I previously had a pedometer years ago and counted steps, but I found that it was easier to log my exercise and count calories. I lost almost 70 pounds by carefully counting calories from food and exercise.  At the time, I was highly motivated by The Hacker’s Diet, which I still highly recommend.  Stepping didn’t do much for my motivation, so when the pedometer broke, I didn’t replace it.

I soon realized the Fitbit was more than a pedometer.  It was watching me and encouraging me.   I got an email of encouragement when I my first 5,000 steps.  I saw I was getting credit for taking stairs.  I was also getting extra calories in my calorie counting app, My Fitness Buddy.  I got a badge!

The big surprise came late in the first day.  The Fitbit on my wrist vibrated several times and started flashing.  I had reached 10,000 steps for the day and Fitbit was having a nice fit of congratulation!   I was surprised how motivating that little buzz on my wrist felt. I know people respond to feedback — that’s one reason Facebook notifications and gathering Likes are so addictive — but the buzz has become very personally motivating to me.

The Fitbit buzz at 10,000 steps!

The Fitbit buzz at 10,000 steps!

I anticipate the buzz.  I wait for the buzz.  I check for my steps and think, what can I do to add a few more so I can get to 10,000 and make Fitbit buzz and flash?   The thought of not making 10,000 steps and missing the buzz fills me with disappointment.

This has changed several of my behaviors.  At work when I need to talk to someone, I walk down the hall rather than pick up the phone.  I plan for small motion breaks between meeting. I walk up the stairs to the restroom on the next floor.   I jog in place for a few hundred steps when I am on phone calls.  I walk in a circle when my food is in the microwave, just to pick up a few more steps.  One morning, I got up extra early before an early meeting so I didn’t miss my workout steps.

The charts and stats really help me to see progress and consistency.  The geeky side of me loves to see charts.

Last year I shifted jobs from home to back to the office.  I gained a 15 pounds and I’m realizing in part because I became more sedentary in the main office than I was in my office at home.  At home, water (and food) are downstairs, so I would do the stairs 20 times a day.  Sometimes I would walk about while on the phone because there was more space. There would sometimes be people at the door (more stairs.)  In contrast, at the main office, I would sit and grab food out of my lunch box and sit some more.

Fitbit’s motivation has given me  back the many small motions lost by going back to the main office.  It has also motivated me to find more ways to add a few steps.

One week of Fitbit, and I am down 8 pounds.   Some of that is water, but Fitbit calculates an 800 – 1000 calorie deficit each day, thus some of that is real pounds.

I am motivated to keep this up and see how far and how long Fitbit can keep me motivated.  I’ll check back in four weeks and see how it’s going.