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Spaced Out
“Minneapolis, We Have A Problem

July 19, 2019

I'm reading Carrying The Fire by Mike Collins. Don't tell me how it ends!
diagram of the Saturn V rocket for Apollo 11
Collins was a test pilot at Edwards Air Force base. He performed a spacewalk on Gemini 10. And he commanded the Columbia command module on Apollo 11, but I'm not at that part yet.

Early on in the book, he commends Houston as the location for mission control, “I can't imagine calling from the moon with, ‘Say, Minneapolis, we have a problem up here.’

Collins is so crystal clear on details of astronaut training and NASA chronology that it puts all those Apollo documentaries to shame. When I watch a documentary on any subject I know anything about, I evaluate them by how many new things I learned, how many things are grossly oversimplified, and how many things they clearly have no clue about.*

After describing everything leading up to the launch of Gemini 10, Collins asks himself the most frequent question, “How long does it take to train for a flight?” He then responds on page 197, “I hope you are sufficiently bewildered by the events described so far in this book that you don't know the answer because I don't either. ” I guessed his lifetime. He starts with the six months preparing for Gemini 10, but then added to that the six months preparing as backup for Gemini 7. He adds all the Basic Grubby Training of orbital mechanics, jungle training, centrifuge, zero-G airplane rides, and pressure suit work across the country but primarily in Worchester, Massachusetts. But omitting all the years as a test pilot would be a mistake because it taught how to be cool under pressure, memorize details, report details, and follow up on corrections. He says, “... it had taken me thirty-five years to reach crew quarters at Merritt Island, Florida” and he felt ready.

Gemini 10 pogo-stickingly launched. But right after the Titan rocket first stage engines cut out and the second stage started up, the first stage tank ruptured and blew up. The Gemini 10 spacecraft was undamaged by the blast. After docking with an Agena spacecraft, they used Agena's engine to increase Gemini's altitude to a (then) record-breaking 475 miles up. On their way to meet up with a second Agena while preparing for a stand-in-the-doorway EVA (Extra Vehicular Activity), Houston's Deke Slayton complained that John Young and Mike Collins were too quiet. Houston wanted to talk baseball while Collins was trying to work through a 131 step EVA checklist.

Did Houston want to know about the knee pain Collin's had endured? Or the two pictures of voluptuous, beautiful women someone had secretly affixed to the Gemini 10 sunshades?!?

After a complex, second EVA, Collins took a moment to see the superbright world moving by every ninety minutes without doom or gloom, only optimism. That's Collins, the Michael Palin of astronauts.

Both are optimistic, ex-smokers turned runners, writing with matter-of-fact ease.

Music Association: Sinatra - Fly Me To The Moon
* A show purporting to explain why the Beatles broke up was so laughably sloppy on information, I was surprised they got Paul's name right.

Hopes and Dreams

Retail Apocalypse
Hennepin Library To Move To Southdale

June 25, 2019

The Hennepin County Board of Commissioners voted on June 18th to negotiate a lease agreement to move Southdale Library to the nearby Southdale Center. The existing library building will be demolished and sold to brown-brick condominium developers.

Meanwhile, Rojo Mexican Grill closed its Southdale location on June 3rd. Restaurateur Michael McDermott said, “There’s been a lot of changes at Southdale, a lot of people leaving.” Commenting on the library move, he said, “I just don’t think that’s going to draw a lot of people, at least not our customers.

Hennepin County will be locked into Southdale rent at $562,600 for each of the first five years, with increases for the following 15 years.

There had been an artist rendition of the formerly Herberger's space with a library above a restaurant. That has disappeared, because what could go wrong? Restaurant fires result in direct property damage of $165 million annually.

Music Association: Millie Cyrus - Wrecking Ball

Hopes and Dreams

Retail Apocalypse
Saving The Shopping Mall

June 15, 2019

Dinosaurs are gone. There is no good reason to bring them back to life.

Retail is always dying and evolving.

The general store killed specialty stores, which were then hit by the Sears mail-order catalog and mass merchandising. Department stores overtook general stores but were overtaken by mall conglomerations, which were undercut by discount stores like Target and Walmart, which were almost overwhelmed by Amazon.

There are still general stores (in places), and specialty stores, mail-order catalogs, department stores, shopping malls, discount stores, and e-commerce.

When the Mall of America opened in 1992, it was a risk. Nobody knew whether it would succeed or fail. When it succeeded, it changed how the Twin Cities viewed the Dales (Southdale, Rosedale, Ridgedale, & the late Brookdale). The Dales were no longer the pinnacle of shopping experiences in Minnesota. Nearby Southdale (1.2 million retail sq ft) will always be in the shadow of the Mall of America (2.5 million retail sq ft). The Mall of America has 555 stores, an indoor amusement park, and an aquarium. What does Southdale have? Library plans?!?

Developers want the land under the Hennepin County Library near Southdale, which is why it's slated to rent space at Southdale. Southdale would get a tenant with rent money. Hennepin County would get to sell prime land for more brown-brick condominiums.

What are top shopping malls doing to survive?

The most valuable shopping mall* at $5.74 billion is Ala Moana Center in Honolulu, Hawaii. It has an extreme advantage over mainland malls in that there is no land available to build another mall. Its retail area is 2.4 million sq ft with sales of $1,450 per sq ft. Bloomingdale's took over for Sears (closed). Target took over for Nordstrom (moved). Marshalls will replace Foodland. So the Ala Moana anchors are Bloomingdale's, Macy's, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, and Target. Discount retailers like Target and Marshalls in the mix signals all is not perfect in paradise. To cater to the Instagram crowd, they have cheesy Aloha Photo Stations.

The largest single-floor sprawled shopping mall is Sawgrass Mills in Sunrise, Florida, valued at $4.1 billion. With 2.3 million sq ft of retail space, it is the 11th largest shopping mall in the U.S. Its anchors are Super Target, Burlington, BrandsMart, TrendMax, Bed Bath Beyond, Dick's, Marshalls, and Century21, plus Neiman Marcus Last Call and Saks Off 5th Avenue. It was closed due to flooding in June of 2017. The Sawgrass Mills survival plan is to keep their heads above water.

The third most valuable shopping mall* is Oakbrook Center in suburban Oakbrook, Illinois, valued at $3.5 billion. Two of its five anchor stores are vacant.

The fourth most valuable shopping mall* is Woodbury Common Premium Outlets in Central Valley, New York, valued at $3.2 billion. Its sales per square foot of $1,624 is one the highest in the country. As an outlet mall, its anchors are Saks Off 5th Avenue, Calvin Klein, Nike Factory, Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren, Under Armour, and Gap Factory. Traffic jams are their main problem. Their plans to survive are to build two hotels, a new parking deck, and a helipad. They will survive.

The fifth most valuable shopping mall* at $3.06 billion is Fashion Show in Las Vegas, Nevada. Its anchors are Dillard's, Macy's, Macy's Mens, Forever 21, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Saks 5th Ave, and Dick's Sporting Goods.

The sixth most valuable shopping mall* at $2.92 billion is Tysons Corner Center in McLean, Virginia, a suburb of Washington DC. Government employees and contractors spend $980 per square foot at Tysons. Its anchor stores -- Bloomingdale's, Macy's, Lord & Taylor, and Nordstrom -- will be enhanced by plans of adding a 7-Eleven!

Compared to Fashion Show with $975 of sales per sq ft, the Forum Shops at Caesars has $1,616 of sales per sq ft, due to its direct connection to Caesar's Palace. The seventh most valuable shopping mall* at $2.79 billion, allows gamblers to get something in return.

King of Prussia Mall is the largest shopping mall in the U.S. at 2.6 million sq ft and the eighth most valuable* at $2.77 billion. The Pennsylvania mall is anchored by Bloomingdale's, Dick's Sporting Goods, Lord & Taylor, Macy's, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, and Primark, with one vacant anchor store last occupied by JCPenney.

All of those shopping malls are Real-Estate Investment Trust (REIT) owned, as indicated by the asterisk (*).

Now imagine a family-owned mall with 105 stores (100% full), including Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue as anchors, $3,010 of sales per sq ft, and a waiting list of stores wanting in. That's Bal Harbour Shops just north of Miami Beach, Florida. You can't afford to go there. How do I know? You are reading about shopping malls with problems. That's not their problem. They don't care.

None of these shopping malls will be putting in a library.

Music Association: Gloria Gaynor - I Will Survive
* REIT owned shopping malls

Hopes and Dreams

Retail Apocalypse
Moving Into A Shopping Mall

June 14, 2019

A letter complaining about Trump's 25% tariff taxes on goods from China was sent yesterday to President Trump. Two key sentences of the letter explain: “Broadly applied tariffs are not an effective tool to change China's unfair trade practices. Tariffs are taxes paid directly by U.S. companies, including those listed below -- not China.

The one-page letter was signed by 14 pages of stores, companies, port authorities, and trade associations, including:

Active Brands
Ralph Lauren
American Eagle
Designer Brands
Jo-Ann Stores
Levi Strauss
Tomy International
Eddie Bauer
Pier 1 Imports
Regal Games
Urban Outfitters
Columbia Sportswear
Foot Locker
J Crew
LA Gear
Pacific Sunwear

At the end of 2018, shopping malls had a vacancy rate of 9%. Store closings increased in the first quarter of 2019. Over 6,000 store closures have been announced in 2019, topping all of 2018. The economic bumblings of our president couldn't have happened at a worse time for retail. There are about 1,100 malls in America, with about 800 vacant anchor spaces.

Ships Without Anchors
Southdale Mall, the first enclosed shopping mall, opened in Edina, Minnesota in 1956. It has three vacant anchor spaces. The Herberger's department store closed in 2018 as part of the Bon-Ton Stores bankruptcy. And JCPenney and Gordmans also closed anchor stores at Southdale.

Southdale plans to replace JCPenney with a LifeTime Fitness, which is funny because the mall may no longer last a lifetime. And sure, it's foot traffic, but those feet keep moving.

They also plan to demolish the Herberger's building and build a half-size replacement of the Herberger's building for the Hennepin County Library near Southdale.

Hennepin County Library near Southdale in Edina MN

The Hennepin County Library near Southdale is the fourth most visited library in the county with 303,316 visits in 2016 and 329,550 visits in 2017. The Le Corbusier inspired building opened July 25, 1973 and has been a jewel in the Hennepin County Library system ever since. Condominium developers are salivating over the land under the library. The plan is to tear the library down, move it to the mall, and pay retail rent. What could go wrong?!?

Hennepin County Library at Southdale (Edina, MN)

Music Association: Semisonic - Closing Time

Hopes and Dreams

The Power of Powers
Exponential Bugs

May 29, 2019

Mosquitoes are exponential bugs.

Winter doesn't kill them all. They hibernate (diapause) and come out from cabins and burrows, sniffing around before the snow melts.

Mosquitoes diverged from other insects 226 million years ago. Primitive mosquitoes have been found in fossils that are over 90 million years old. Modern mosquito fossils are 46 million years old. There are 3500 species of mosquitoes with 160 in North America, 51 in Minnesota, 45 in the metro area, and 12 species around you right now.

These mosquito species swarm in two categories, spring and summer.

Spring species only produce one generation of mosquitoes per year, and the adults can live three to four months. They lay eggs in the summer, but those eggs need to freeze before they can hatch, which usually happens in early spring after snowmelt or cooler rains. Summer species can have multiple generations per year. They also don't live as long as their spring species counterparts — usually only a few weeks.

A female mosquito will lay 150 to 200 eggs, which will hatch with water or could wait for years until getting wet. Minnesota mosquitoes of the culex tarsalis species can carry the West Nile Virus which can kill, paralyze, or cause brain damage.  So, you know, look out for the culex tarsalis mosquitoes.

Again, mosquitoes are exponential bugs. You do the math.

P(t) = P0ert

P(t) = the mosquito population at time t
P0 = initial amount at time t = 0
r = the growth rate
t = time (number of periods)

Other exponential pests are political campaign ads, engineered by Data Propria (Cambridge Analytica part II), repropagated by Russian troll farms, and powered by Facebook and Google using PAC money.

They bite too.

Trump Plan Bingo

Trump Plan Bingo
President Trump uses tariffs to hammer the stock market until just before the 2020 election when he lifts the tariffs for no apparent reason, other than to pump the stock market.

Trump keeps out of jail by being elected to a second term with Ivanka as Vice President. In 2024, President Ivanka Trump pardons former President Donald Trump.

Music Association: Power Station - Some Like It Hot

The Power of Powers
Exponential Climate Change

May 11, 2019

Polar ice melt messes with ocean currents.

Oceans move in oval conveyor belts that are up and down and around and around. Cold fresh water on top of warmer salt water in vast amounts will halt current currents.

Ever hear of El Niño and La Niña? The effects of polar ice melt are similar but far worse with polar waters becoming colder and equatorial waters becoming warmer without the circulation. Think energy without a release valve. Think superstorms.

Read more about the impact of polar ice melt in Ice melt, sea level rise and superstorms by James Hansen & Makiko Sato, et. al. in the Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics journal 16, 1-52.

Music Association: Ratt - Round and Round

The Power of Powers
Exponential Growth

May 1, 2019

If I could have any superpower, it would be the power of powers, exponentiation. In a fight, villains won't get an ordinary pounding, they will get a compounding to the n-th power.

Compounding and exponentiation make good things better and bad things worse.

Savings interest and stock dividends compounded lead to financial growth. Credit interest and penalties compounded lead to financial trouble. Diseases infect and spread to infect more and more. Seeds grow to produce more seeds.

And that's where my superpower steps in. I want kernza.

Kernza (thinopyrum intermedium) is a small grained wheat, meaning it probably has extra gluten. It tastes like wheat generally, I think, but I don't know because I haven't had it. Not enough farmers are growing it because there aren't enough seeds yet. Exponential growth of kernza takes time and fields.

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, “How do you know that you want kernza when you haven't even tried it?


I'll eat it. It doesn't matter what it tastes like. What matters is that it is a perennial grain with deep roots that can be harvested with the same harvesters as common wheat (which has to be replanted every year). Kernza is easier on the farmers and easier on the environment. No more annual tilling of the soil.

Kernza cereal, kernza bread, kernza crackers, kernza pizza, kernza pasta, kernza donuts, and even kernza cakes are the foods I want to eat.

Music Association: Bread - It Don't Matter To Me

Hopes and Dreams

April 15, 2019

The Notre Dame Cathedral fire.

Notre Dame Cathedral fire

Notre Dame Cathedral fire

Music Association: Carl Boberg - How Great Thou Art

Hopes and Dreams

Playing With Food
Fish in Water
March 27, 2019

One of the joys of restaurant food is figuring out the recipe behind the dish.

I stopped in a non-chain restaurant while traveling years ago, and the special of the night sounded just special enough that I took to it like a fish to water.

The mixture was slightly crispy salmon with tomato, on a bed of angel hair pasta, lightly oiled and fried, with simple Mediterranean spices.

I've done a brazilian variations on the meal, but here are the basics.

Angel Salmon Pasta

Angel Salmon Pasta

salmon fillet
angel hair pasta (2-4 servings)
can of whole tomatoes
olive oil

Heat oven to 375°.
Bring about a quart of water to boil.
Put salmon fillet skin side down in baking dish and add a centimeter of water around it. Put it in the oven. Set timer for 25 minutes.
Add angel hair pasta to boiling water. Cook for 8-10 minutes.
Open can of tomatoes and cut into halves or quarters. Put into frying pan. Add a teaspoon of olive oil. Add the cooked angel hair pasta. Stir. Add a few pinches of basil and oregano. Heat on low, stirring frequently, otherwise keep covered.
When the frying pan mixture is thoroughly heated and slightly fried, it's ready. When the salmon is slightly tan (the top is just starting to be crispy), it's ready.
Take the salmon off the skin and put on top of a bed of the angel hair pasta and tomato.

Feeds two to four.

Music Association: Heart - Barracuda

Playing With Food
Half-Baked, Part 2
March 16, 2019

Several times when I was growing up I innocently or naïvely asked adults for certain recipes.

People were very defensive of their recipes.

State secrets were nothing compared to family recipes.

I don't guard recipes and cooking details like others did to me, but then I also find it hilarious when people say, “It's just this and this and this, right?!?” They are never absolutely right or absolutely wrong. So I'll say, “Kind of,” and I hope I will never have to eat that kind of because it'll be kind of wrong.

One of the things people accuse me of is following other people's recipes. I never follow other people's recipes. I interpret recipes. I improve upon ingredients. I improve upon consistencies and flavors.

For example, the second time I made the orange coconut muffin recipe below, I chopped up a Dove Dark Chocolate and split the pieces between two muffins. To be clear, I made sugar and oil free muffins and then slipped in some sugary and oily Dove Dark Chocolate into the mix for two specific muffins.

Music Association: Big Head Todd - Bittersweet

Playing With Food
March 2, 2019

Cooking is educational. It can involve reading comprehension, math, chemistry, some physics, and art.

Earlier this winter, before the Minnesota winter was an actual Minnesota winter of years past, I thought I'd try to make some healthy muffins.

If you've spent some time reading ingredients lists and nutritional panels, you've probably realized healthy muffins is an oxymoron like jumbo shrimp, military intelligence, or President Trump. The two words just don't seem to go together.

I blended a few Internet recipes together, experimented, and came up with a few recipes for healthy muffins -- with no oils and no refined sugar.

Corn Muffins

1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinammon
1/4 tsp salt

2 large eggs (deshelled & mixed)
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup honey (genuine)
1 cup milk

Heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Put six large paper muffin cups in a large muffin cup pan and two or three regular-sized paper muffin cups in a regular muffin pan.

In a two-quart mixing bowl, mix the dry ingredients (the first 5 items listed above). Next, add the eggs, applesauce, honey, and milk to the dry ingredients.
Fill each muffin cup a little over half full. Place the muffin pans in the middle of the oven and bake 15 minutes for regular-sized muffins and 20 minutes for large muffins.

Remove the muffins from the pan and place upright on a wire rack to cool for five or six minutes.

Fresh out of the oven, the result is kind of chewy and difficult to remove neatly from the paper cups. After a day, the muffins are a little less chewy and a little easier to remove from the paper cups.

Substituting oat flour for the corn meal makes a less chewy, more basic muffin. Plus, increasing natural flavorings doesn't hurt either.

Orange Coconut Muffins

1 cup oat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinammon
1/4 tsp salt

2 large eggs (deshelled & mixed)
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup honey (genuine)
1 cup milk

1/4 cup grated orange peel (orange zest)
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut

Heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Put six large paper muffin cups in a large muffin cup pan and two or three regular-sized paper muffin cups in a regular muffin pan.

In a two-quart mixing bowl, mix the dry ingredients (the first 5 items listed above). Next, add the eggs, applesauce, honey, and milk to the dry ingredients.
Then add the grated orange peel and the coconut, adding some to the tops of each muffin. Fill each muffin cup a little over half full.
Place the muffin pans in the middle of the oven and bake 15 minutes for regular-sized muffins and 20 minutes for large muffins.

Remove the muffins from the pan and place upright on a wire rack to cool for five or six minutes.

Music Association: Gerry Rafferty - Baker Street

voter suppression
Voter Suppression

music videos
Music Videos
October 2018 Twin Cities Calendar
Landmine Hopscotch


Impact Investing
Impact Investing

Gifs of Kittens (part 1)
Holiday Gifs of Cats and Kittens Part 1   Part 2   Part 3   Part 4   Part 5  

Climate Solutions
Climate Change Solutions

Hennepin County Library at Southdale (Edina, MN)
Southdale Hennepin Library

Wonder Woman
Wonder Woman

food fraud
Food Fraud

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