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#38 Maybe my 7-year old nephew was right?

1 Mar

Wow, I haven’t been that nervous in a long time!

Prior to last night’s comedy workshop and open mic night I felt like I was going to pass out, throw up or both! Instead of “Mystery Item” I should have called this one “Do something that scares the crap out of you and makes you break out in a cold sweat!”

A few weeks ago I told my 7-year old nephew that I was going to do an open mic comedy night.

He asked, “What’s that?”

I said, “It’s where you stand in front of crowd of people and try to be funny.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t do that.”

“Why not? Because of the audience.”

“No, because you’re not funny.” Ouch! Maybe he’s right, though?!?

Anyway, I powered through and did the comedy workshop. I received some positive feedback on the piece I did – great storytelling, strong structure, good use of personal anecdotes – plus some tips on things to improve (like I’m seriously going to quit my day job and do this for a living).

The best part – for me at least – was that the open mic line-up for the night was already full. Phew!!! I know, you might think it doesn’t count then, but there were 20 other comics in the room during the workshop and they’re some of the harshest critics around.

Overall I’m really happy with the experience. And I’ve got a whole bunch of material put together – fear of flying, the one drawer in the kitchen you never want to open, why film cameras are better than digital cameras, kids and “health food,” roller skating as a 10-year old, and more – in case I ever decide to do it again… hahahahaha, now that’s funny!


#24 How to disappear without really trying

24 Oct

Step 1: Throw a dart at the map.

Step 2: Grab a collection of your favorite road trip CDs.

Step 3: Lock the door and go.

Pretty much spur of the moment, I thought, “This is a good weekend to escape – perfect weather, no responsibilities, nothing better to do.” So, on Saturday morning Zooey and I piled into the car and took off.

Most of the time we were chasing dotted lines (the map marks scenic routes with dashes) and searching for towns I’d read about in local magazines.

I had no idea how far we’d go or where we’d stop, but over the course of 420 miles we visited southeastern Minnesota, northeastern Iowa and a sliver of western Wisconsin. We stopped in good ol’ fashioned Midwestern towns like Lanesboro, Decorah and Rushford. And yes, we saw a heck of a lot of corn!

To those of us from big city Minneapolis, this part of the country is known for it’s antiques, rural bike paths, Amish heritage and hills. Three out of four isn’t bad. As someone who grew up in the Black Hills of South Dakota, I had to chuckle at what southern Minnesotans and Iowans consider “hills”!

All in all, Zooey and I had a great time discovering new places along the way, and the miles just seemed to fly by. Probably helped that the radio was on full blast most of the way. I loved listening to Radiohead while passing Amish buggies, U2’s Rattle and Hum while cruising along the Mississippi River (“And the delta sun burns bright and violet / Mississippi and the cotton wool heat…”), and my favorite techno tracks while flying down the Interstate (90, of course… it’s always 90) as day turned to night.

Anyway, hope you enjoy the photos below.

Oh, and I’d highly encourage escaping for a weekend, too, if it suits your fancy.

You just might want to pick somewhere a little more exciting than Iowa, though. 🙂

Photo: So many roads. So many options. So many corn fields.

Photo: A bit of Midwestern humor.

Photo: A pretty common site in this part of the country.

Photo: Walking the streets of Lanesboro.

Photo: Field of Dreams?

Photo: A little bit of American history.

Photo: A typical storefront in Lanesboro.

Photo: Traffic in the country.

Photo: A common site on the prairie.

Photo: A museum in Decorah, Iowa.

Photo: Zooey taking a break (and happy to be out of the car!).

Photo: High above the Oneota River in Decorah.

Photo: Bridge over the Mississippi River to Wisconsin.

Photo: The mighty Mississippi at dusk.

Photo: Picking up a perfect roadside pumpkin just in time for Halloween.

Photo: Taking one more break before heading home.

#20 Fight the Power(point)!

12 Sep

I’ve seen a lot of presentations over the years. Actually, I’ve seen a lot of really bad presentations, so I decided to do something about it!
A couple years back I started reading a bunch of books on presentations. Then I combined the best of what I read along with a bunch of my own notes and created the slides above.
I’ve already given this talk to several groups around the Cities and have received really positive feedback. So, I decided to put the slides on the web and see what happens!
Well, not much at first… but then… BOOM! This past Monday I was really excited because the number of views on Slideshare passed 1000. I thought, “Great, that’s a nice number to hit.”
Then something crazy happened. By Wednesday morning I had 2800 views and then 3200 by the end of the day and 4000 the next morning.
As it stands now the presentation has been viewed over 5000 times by people all around the world. Crazy!
It’s really cool when you work hard on something, put it out into the world and get such a positive response.
Hmm, now I need to work on another presentation!
(View more of my presentations)

#14 Now we’ve got Momentum

31 Jul

OK, so most of the items on this list are things “I” wanted to do throughout the year, but this one was truly a group effort.

During the Spring of 2011, the Institute on the Environment (where I work) launched the Momentum 2011 speaker series. Our goal: Bring three of the world’s leading environmental thinkers to the Twin Cities for an evening filled with entertainment, information and inspiration.

We kicked off the series with eco-entrepreneur Majora Carter and the Ananya Dance Theater. Next up was the highly-entertaining (and surprising talkative for a Swede) Hans Rosling with comedian Cy Amundsen.

My favorite of the bunch was the last one, though – deep sea diver Sylvia Earle with musician Mason Jennings.

Throughout the series, I had the good fortune of driving all of the speakers around town for a series of meetings and interviews we’d arranged. Majora was a lot of fun and really polite, while Hans was a bundle of energy and questions.

Sylvia was probably the most insightful, though. I had a great time asking her questions about exploring the ocean, fighting to change policies and getting people to care about the environment. She truly is a living legend and I feel honored to have been able to spend time with her.

For me, Sylvia’s presentation  was also the most inspiring of the bunch. On a couple occasions I had to hold back the tears. She had such a powerful and simple message – “When you know. There’s no excuse not to act.”

If you haven’t watched the video from her talk, please take 30 minutes and check it out. You won’t be disappointed.

Thanks team, for putting on such a fabulous, and yes, successful event series. Can’t wait for Momentum 2012!

p.s. Here’s another GREAT video with highlights from the whole series.

#9 Tornadoes and pets

29 May

So, today’s entry is going to be a bit more serious than the others on this blog. To be honest, I’m not even sure I should post this one. I don’t want to make light of the tragedy that hit North Minneapolis (or other parts of the country) or seem like this is all about checking things off a list, so I think I’ll just keep this entry straightforward and to the point.

If you’ve been following the news lately, you know that all across mid-America the 2011 tornado season has been the deadliest on record. Most of the storms have been south of Minnesota, but a week ago a twister went right through north Minneapolis. For those of you not from the area, the North Side is the most economically-challenged part of the city, so the destruction was especially devastating.

Shortly after the storm, The Pet Project sprung to action collecting pet food and supplies for displaced residents.

A couple words about The Pet Project before I get back to today. The organization was started a couple year’s ago by Minneapolis resident Kim Carrier to help people keep their pets by providing pet food and basic supplies to those who are struggling. The non-profit also provides connections to basic veterinary care and information on finding pet-friendly housing. I think it’s a fabulous organization and the drive and determination of the founder is simply inspiring. OK, back to the story…

I saw a note on Facebook a couple days ago saying The Pet Project was looking for volunteers to hand out pet food and supplies at a booth they’d set up as part of the relief efforts, so I signed up right away.

This morning I drove up to Fairview Park not knowing what to expect. All I can say is – Wow!

I’ve lived in the city for a couple decades, but I really haven’t spent much time in north Minneapolis. I was surprised by the resilience of the residents, their smiles in the face of adversity and the real sense of community that seems to exist. Such wonderful people and they seemed genuinely thankful that we were there helping out. Also, the amount of pet food that local residents and businesses donated to The Pet Project was astounding (but more is needed)!

Another thing struck me, though, that I want to mention briefly. It’s often said that America is becoming the land of the “haves” and the “have nots” or we hear things like the “economic divide is widening.” I don’t think there’s just a rich and poor America. I think it’s more nuanced than that and the gaps are even greater than even I had realized. You know what, though, for all the struggles and adversity on the North Side, I don’t think I’ve seen a more unified neighborhood. People truly looking out for one another. I think I definitely learned a thing or two today that I’m going to carry with me for a while.

So, I’m thankful for today’s experience. I’m thankful for the people I met even briefly. And I’m really thankful that organizations like The Pet Project exist in this world.

Please visit The Pet Project’s website and consider making a donation today.

Also, for those in the area, the city of Minneapolis has declared June 4 North Side volunteer clean up day if you’d like to pitch in.

#7 The only thing we have to fear is…

6 May

Warning: If the thought of going to the dentist makes you feel queasy, stop reading now.

I’m a teeth-grinder. No, I mean a hard-core, no protection left kind of teeth grinder. And despite wearing a night guard to protect my teeth, I finally did it. About a year ago I cracked a tooth. Broke it right in half and beyond repair. So, today was payback time.

I went in to the dentist to get an “implant” (a new fake tooth) with quite a bit of apprehension.

“How are they going to get a new tooth to stay in place,” I wondered. Aha, anchor it to my jaw bone. Yup, you heard that right.

So, letting someone drill a hole in my jaw bone certainly qualifies as “Do something you’re afraid of or wouldn’t normally do.” Hey, no one said everything on this list was going to be fun. 🙂

After they gave me the laughing gas and shot me up with anesthesia (photo below), it was time to go.

And here’s the funny part… once I realized that I wasn’t going to feel any pain, the sensation of a drill going into bone was oddly… thrilling! Yeah, I know that sounds crazy, but that’s what I was thinking (maybe it was all the drugs, though).

The good news is that I survived and will once again be able to chew on the left side of my mouth. For the rest of the day I’m supposed to take it easy and eat a bunch of soft foods, so I stocked up on yogurt, bananas, ice cream, pudding, mac and cheese… hmm, kind of sounds like a party actually.

OK, time to go make a smoothie, take a couple more painkillers and dial up a movie.

Photo: After the anesthesia… “I don’t know where I am, but I feel gooood…”

#5 Now we’re cooking!

18 Apr

Learning to make Chinese dumplings in Lausanne, Switzerland? Why not!

Tonight I joined a few of the other IMD partners (those of us supporting our spouses/partners while they go to school) for a cooking class at Alison and Howie’s place. The food was great, the company terrific and the dessert to die for.

Making dumplings is surprisingly easy once you have all the right ingredients and do all the chopping. I won’t give you a step-by-step account here, but I look forward to trying it on my own to see if I can do it.

It was great hanging out with some of the other partners, too, and hearing their stories about either living here in Switzerland or traveling to visit their loved ones. It’s kind of funny that so many of us are having similar years – doing our own thing while our partners study a ridiculous amount of the time.

The walk back to V’s apartment after dinner was also wonderful. Temps in the 60’s. People sitting outside on their balconies. Snow-capped mountains in the distance. Just a perfect night to be out and about.

So, there you have it. My first “official” cooking lesson and I didn’t even cut off a finger. 🙂

And so it begins (or ends?)

6 Mar

Ahhh, 39. The last year of my youth. I could sulk or I could celebrate. Hmm, I think I’ll choose celebrate!

A few weeks back a friend told me about someone she knew who’d created a 30 by 30 list – 30 things to do in a year before turning 30. I thought that sounded like a terrific idea, and thus the 40×40 list was born.

As I started browsing the web for ideas, I realized something. I’ve had a really great life so far! I was surprised by how many of the things I’ve already done appeared on other’s lists: get married, finish grad school, tour with a rock band, fly an airplane, travel overseas, visit the fjords of Norway, release a CD, have pets, learn a foreign language, hike in the Grand Canyon, score a touchdown, sleep in a castle, etc. I feel really fortunate!

Still, there are things I’ve always wanted to do. You know how it goes. “Someday I’d like to X” or “I wish I could Y.”

If the last few years have taught me anything, it’s that you really have to live for the moment. As clichéd as it sounds, you only have one shot at this thing called life, so why not get out there and create some memories?!

So, here’s my “it would be fun to do that someday” list for the next year:


  • Climb/hike a mountain
  • Go backcountry hiking
  • Go camping with Zooey
  • Go skiing in the mountains
  • Canoe on the St. Croix River


  • Do something completely spontaneous
  • Find a new running trail with Zooey
  • Go dancing
  • Go to a movie I wouldn’t normally see
  • Go to a waterpark with my nephews
  • Have a massive party on my next birthday!
  • Host a game night
  • See U2 live (again!)
  • Spend a weekend on my dad’s boat


  • Celebrate 10th wedding anniversary in style
  • Do something I’m afraid of or wouldn’t normally do
  • Find time to think about my long-term career aspirations
  • Get a tattoo
  • Get published (print or online) in national publication
  • Make a family video
  • Meditate more often
  • Reconnect with an old friend
  • Take a photography class


  • Disappear for a weekend
  • Mystery item – because halfway through the year I’ll think of something I want on this list
  • Participate in a charitable event
  • Take a cooking class
  • Stage a successful Momentum 2011 event
  • Start a random Facebook group and get 200 followers


  • Compete in a race
  • Go to a professional sporting event (NFL if there’s a season)
  • Go waterskiing
  • Play 60 tennis matches in a year
  • Try cross-country skiing


  • Go to a professional tennis tournament
  • Take a trip with friends
  • Take a trip with my sister
  • Visit a new continent
  • Visit a relative(s) that I haven’t seen in a long time
  • Visit Santa Fe, New Mexico