A group of New Orleans street musicians perform on St. Patrick’s Day. I recorded them a couple months ago during a road trip down South. They’re a great example of the city’s resilience after Hurricane Katrina.
In 1994, Cem Erdem frantically doled out postcards to businessmen in skyways to advertise a new concept — software as a service. Back then, the Internet wasn’t that popular. He made $4,300 his first year. Now, as founder and CEO of Augusoft Inc., a Minneapolis-based software development company, Erdem wants to help other young entrepreneurs. His solution is a program — named Project Skyway after his early days — to accelerate the success of infant technology companies. Funded personally by Erdem, Project Skyway will provide founders of new software enterprises with $6,000 cash, two web developers and three months of training. In return, Erdem will get between 5 percent and 9 percent of the company’s future earnings — if they make it.
Read more at mndaily.com by clicking on the above link.
The “littles” —127 children in purple t-shirts — traveled in packs around Coffman Union Friday during Big Brothers Big Sisters’ third annual “Big Day at the U.”
The University’s Big Brothers Big Sisters student group, which mentors young people in kindergarten through eighth grade, raised $2,000 and staffed the event with more than 50 volunteers and 80 “bigs.” Organizers held the event to get the kids excited about higher education, said Mike Marcotte of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Greater Twin Cities.
Read the story on mndaily.com by clicking on the above link.
While most students in Wilson Library stress about upcoming exams, Burnsville, Minn. resident Rev. Thomas Ries can be found there thinking about the future of Concordia University, St. Paul.
Ries, a doctoral candidate in the University of Minnesota’s Higher Education Administration program, emerged as the ninth president of Concordia, St. Paul last week, following a lengthy selection process.
His predecessor, Rev. Robert Holst, was president from 1991-2011.
A number of groups are working on the transition, but Ries fits the school’s current vision well, according to Eric LaMott, Concordia’s vice president of administration.
“It’s more a steering of the ship than a … 180 [degree change],” he said.
This is a shout out to exhausted students everywhere!
28 Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
29 He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.
Patricia Painter’s songwriting career started when she got her second dog. Auggie’s howling inspired Painter to write “Black Dog Blues,” one of the songs featured on “Dog Tracks,” her first release.
Painter, a School of Nursing associate professor, spent a year and a half laying down those dog tracks with her partner Ken Beck at a local friend’s studio.
On Sunday, Painter recorded her first live CD before a small audience of friends and fans.
On top of teaching two classes at the University of Minnesota and writing grant proposals, Painter is the secretary of the Minnesota Association of Songwriters.
Painter said the music gives her balance, but aside from a few nursing school coworkers, she has kept a low profile about her music at the University.
“I think [students] can sense there’s probably more to me, even though they don’t know I do this,” Painter said.
While many people write songs to “sell to Nashville,” Painter writes songs because when inspiration hits, she has to do something with it.
“What are the chances of my songs getting on the radio?” Painter said. “That’s not why I write.”
Painter hasn’t marketed her music much either. She estimates she’s sold about 200 CDs and given away more. She pays a small fee to an organization called CD Baby that puts the CD online so people can order it. Then services like iTunes and Amazon pick it up.
Painter and Beck also perform at open mic nights, coffee houses and city parks like Lake Harriet and Minnehaha. Painter writes and sings while Beck, a classically trained guitarist, strums accompaniment.
PHOTO by Erin Westover, MN Daily
A year and a half ago, Painter hosted a 50th birthday party for Diane Treat-Jacobsen, a nursing school colleague. She and Beck performed a song they dedicated to Jacobsen and invited other guests to give birthday wishes.
One woman, a physiology lecturer, said she’d also like to sing. Lisa Carney Anderson sang a Puccini aria in the living room and “knocked everybody’s socks off,” according to Jacobsen.
And that’s how the musical connection spread. Painter gushed about Anderson’s opera voice. Anderson got to know Painter’s dog songs. She and her husband sat in the audience Sunday for Painter’s concert.
Another nursing school faculty member and “Dog Tracks” fan, Karen Monsen, knew she had to get a copy of the CD to her sister, a dog owner in the Twin Cities metro area.
Monsen didn’t know that her sister had recently been walking outside when her dog jumped up and tripped her, causing a lot of physical pain and a rift between the dog and its owner.
After listening to Painter’s CD, Monsen’s sister broke down and cried, realizing it had just been a loving, playful incident that she didn’t want to alienate her from her dog.
“It was really beautiful for her to have that experience,” Monsen said.
A ‘second identity’
Music pervades Carney Anderson’s daily life.
“When Lisa comes down the hall, you know she’s coming ’cause she’s whistling. That’s her second identity,” Painter said.
PHOTO by Erin Westover, MN Daily
She was in the Minnesota Chorale, sang the soprano role in Handel’s Messiah and took part in a madrigal group while getting her master’s degree. She’s also recorded in a number of genres.
Every other month, Anderson sings at the University Club with two friends who play jazz piano and bass.
Last Friday, she taught two courses, met with students, proctored makeup exams, then rushed to St. Paul for a 5:30 p.m. performance –– throwing on a black velvet jacket she keeps in her car.
“I don’t have to get out my rhinestones or anything,” Anderson said.
Anderson likes to use musical examples to teach science. She used music to illustrate the difference between sensation –– being able to detect a stimulus — and perception, which is the ability to provide a context for the stimulus.
Recognizing the sound of music is a sensation, she said, but labeling the sound as Louis Armstrong playing the “West End Blues” is perception.
Clinical professor Joanne Disch was the program coordinator for the School of Nursing’s 100th anniversary celebration at the Minneapolis Convention Center in 2009. Disch hired Anderson as a headlining act for the event.
Disch said Anderson can take a song from the 1940s and personalize it so “it’s like you’re hearing it for the first time.”
She moves around the stage, singing boldly, then reduces her voice to a whisper.
Anderson said she has learned that there are musicians who are as passionate as she is, everywhere she goes.
“And that’s just the music! It’s absolutely everywhere.”
My friend Erin did a really nice slideshow to accompany my article about a nursing school professor who records songs about dogs. Her photos make you feel like you’re hangin’ with the folk musicians. You can watch it at the above mndaily.com page.
My old vacation mentality was “I’m gonna splurge, and I’m gonna like it.” Well, that model flipped upside down and crashed with the economy in 2008, so my friends and I decided to test-run a new vacation strategy. We planned and executed Spring Break 2011: “Road trip on a Budget.”
Our destination was post-Katrina New Orleans. My personal budget was $300. I withdrew the amount in cash and intended to hitchhike home if necessary. So here’s the spoiler alert. I came in $50 under budget. I side-stepped a few financial pitfalls and fell head first into others, but at the end of the week drove home still tasting beignets and swaying to jazz riffs. Not only did I collect money-saving tips, I also gathered enough entertaining stories to fill our 21 hour drive back to Minnesota with steady reminiscing.
Talk about free fun, one of the best moments of the trip for my friend Rachel was when she joined a local mob of scruffy men playing baseball-style catch in the park. As a high school athlete turned basketball coach, that was pure vacation for Rachel.
For my part, I sipped lemonade in the balmy sunshine on the sidelines. And I liked it. Normally, I spend my time being productive, and I spend my money….seldomly. Why did I have such an easy time relaxing – and spending – on this trip?
According to behavior decision theory, the science of why and how people make choices, I took the hit all at once by setting aside $300. By the time I got to New Orleans, I had effectively “spent” that money. Instead of feeling buyer’s guilt for each purchase, I experienced the satisfaction of maximizing my pre-paid vacation.
Professor Akshay Rao teaches a course on behavior decision theory at the University of Minnesota. Rao explained to me that I was like a gambler whose unexpected winnings become flexible dollars to pay for things he otherwise wouldn’t have. People attach value to money depending on its source, Rao said. The source of my money was my vacation budget so I was disinclined to waste it, but willing to pay for superfluous pleasures.
I’m still amazed I only spent 250 bucks. One of the big-ticket savings that made it possible was staying with friends in the area, instead of a hotel. At $90 a night, renting a tiny room for the four of us would have cost added up. We got over our embarrassment and called up the friends a few weeks ahead to ask for hospitality. They were happy to let us take over their basement. With a little networking, we saved $450. There were three additional perks:
We didn’t drive each other nuts in a cramped hotel room – at an uncomfortably high price. We ate most dinners with our hosts and even cooked a Minnesota meal for them. We got the local perspective on the city, along with insider tips on what to see and where to go.
Another big saver was our decision to drive instead of flying. We decided to use the car with the most efficient gas mileage and took turns paying for gas. I filled the tank twice and spent a total of $70. A round-trip ticket from Minneapolis to New Orleans costs $400 right now. And granted, most vacationers don’t want to spend a day of their trip in the car. Make that two. Fortunately, as young, healthy college students, we decided our ability to rally in the car beat the convenience of flying. With our lodging and transportation decisions, we paid a fraction of the typical cost.
Continuing on, the rest of our savings came from smaller, cost-effective decisions and lady luck. Lady luck was a portly woman who worked at Swampy Joe’s. The swamp tour is a required activity in New Orleans if you’re not from the Florida keys. Khaki-wearing, tour-guide prostitutes beckon from doorways in the French Quarter, and their average fee is $49 including hotel pick-up.
Fortunately, my friends and I found a coupon in our hosts’ long-abandoned entertainment book for half off a $29 swamp tour. Then, lady luck allowed us to apply it to our group four times so we each paid the bargain price of $13. For this piddling sum we had the good fortune to watch our tour-mates, a large group of dodderingly energetic old people from Chicago, provoke a lazy alligator with that most supreme invective: “Coward!!”
We spent a full day exploring the famed French Quarter on our own, ducking in a tourist center to grab a map and do-it-yourself walking tour with blurbs at each stop. We lingered at and were not lured in by the flea market hawkers. We waved goodbye to the Natches, a waterwheel riverboat a la Tom Sawyer that wanted to charge us $25 a piece, and chose to walk along the river. We convinced our hosts take a day off school and work to drive to a beach on the Gulf of Mexico. We did a grocery run and each threw down $10 for food, gas and an entire day of blissful inactivity.
I must admit, there were a couple times when we flubbed or forgot about a necessary expense. The good news is, by sharing both the preventable and the inevitable, I’m reducing the net effectiveness of all New Orleans’ crooked schemes. My first piece of advice – carefully consider the all-day trolley pass, or any other sweet looking discount. My friends and I paid $5 for the day pass and only rode it twice. I could have taken photos with two street performers with the leftover money. This waste of a deal taught me to be on my guard.
Another Business School professor at the University of Minnesota, an accountant by the name of Ed Joyce, helped me understand why I did that. “You were buying insurance,” he explained. If I had wanted to get on and off the trolley multiple times, I knew I would not spend more than $5 doing it. I paid for that security, so in a sense I didn’t waste my money. And really, I’ll say what we’re all thinking: “It was only two stinking dollars!”
A principal area of unexpected pocket-lightening in New Orleans was the tipping. I tipped musicians, I tipped the statuesque men who posed on corners and I tipped waiters. It was all so good and we felt so benevolent that we became lavish tipper-toppers, all trying to out-tip our companions. That last meal, we tip-toed away from our table. Just kidding. But a tip for tippers, then I’ll stop: most popular vacation destinations have some kind of tourist trap, be it street musicians or lei-selling hula dancers. These people often make a living off these kitschy gigs, so if you don’t want to be a miser, do the research in advance and set aside some money for tipping the locals.
My next advice is going to seem obvious, but I guarantee it gets forgotten when you’re anxiously making sure you have sunscreen and binoculars as you begin your day of mega-tourism. BYOW. Bring your own water. I spent $5, including a $1 tip for the visored Tootie Frootie man (see what I mean), on a passion mango smoothie. Pure thirst-quencher. I had no smoothie craving. Yes, there is a delicate balance between under-packing and bringing my not-so-travel-size French-English-Creole dictionary “just in case,” but I think I could have made room in the old fanny-pack for a water bottle.
I need to wrap up here, but I can’t slip out the back before at least mentioning the budget challenge those “evenings out” presented. I’ll use the example of a night the girls and I decided to go out on the town. We left respectably late and started at Maple Leaf Rag, where we paid a $12 cover. Several drinks, a number of tips, and two or three crappy starter-bands later, we heard what we came to hear, the Rebirth Brass Band.
At this point it was stiflingly crowded, so we headed to Frenchman Street, where mercifully there were no covers, and significantly less tourists. There, we dropped $2 in quarters on a meter that ended at 8 p.m.; where-in lies the hidden cost of partial-inebriation, for which we must also account. There was more toe-tapping, tip-topping, and tipsy-tippling at the Spotted Cat, and in one evening we maxed out at about $20 each. Imagine if we’d eaten at an expensive restaurant first.
Professor Joyce told me his instinct as an accountant was to call my budget a constraint. Normally, he said, budgets are imposed by a higher-up and therefore restricting. I made my budget by choice, though, and it did a few good things. It left me free to splurge within an amount I was comfortable spending. My friends and I derive satisfaction, what economists call “utility,” from buying dust-covered antiques and being generally thrifty, We benefited from the saver-satisfaction that our budget facilitated. Each atypical vacation activity was the second-hand store equivalent of a good pair of combat boots. See for yourself – the “Summer 2011: Road trip on a budget” season is just beginning.
*Note: Some of you have heard this story. I decided to use it as an essay for my magazine writing class. It was scary at the time, but even then, I realized how ridiculous it was. Anyway- enjoy!!
Conned on the streets of South America: a first-hand account
The people were crammed on the bus so tightly that one or two fell out every time the door opened, but they pulled me in and shoved me past them towards the seats, because I was a woman. I had been advised by my family and state department travel warnings that walking alone in Quito was extremely dangerous. But I had seen Ecuadorian school children taking the bus alone. As I left Plaza de la Republica that day, the number of people on the street quickly dwindled to one.
He was a short old man, standing right in my path, looking confused. He greeted me in Spanish, explaining he was a poor, illiterate man from rural Cuenca, looking for directions. The Cuencano was very nervous because his grandmother, who had raised him when he was orphaned as a child, had told him not to trust anyone in the city. The Cuencano then reached into the breast pocket of his jacket and drew forth: a lottery ticket.
Pause. If alarm bells are not already clanging wildly in your head, I’ll tell you why they should be. First, I was half a mile East of a tourist district recently designated the petty theft capital of Quito by the State Department. Second, the so-called “Latin-lotto scam” is not only a household joke in South America, but has been pulled off in Florida, Texas and California as well. Third, I’m young, foreign, and female, and he’s asking me for directions? Last but not least, he’s wearing Western clothes, not your indigenous farmer’s fare and he doesn’t have a Cuencano accent.
A lottery ticket. This was over my head. Fortunately, just then, a well-dressed man who had overheard our conversation offered to help. He introduced himself as a university professor and took the ticket to a newsstand. He returned looking flushed and suppressing great excitement. “Katy, we must congratulate this man,” he announced to me. “He is the grand prize winner of$200,000.”
I almost stopped breathing and my heart dropped into my intestines. My eyes widened and I blinked several times. The Cuencano started to cry and the Professor pumped his hand rapturously. The Cuencano asked innocently, “How much is $200,000?”
“Enough for you to buy a house or whatever you want,” I told him.
The professor once again took control of the situation, advising our new friend to quietly take his ticket to the bank and open an account for his winnings. Unfortunately, the Cuencano was terrified of banks and was sure they would take advantage of him. In exchange for our accompanying him, he gregariously offered us each $3,000. Wavering uncertainty transformed into firm resolve. I would help this poor, illiterate man from Cuenca. There was another round of crying and hugging. I know Latin men are sensitive but this is getting over the top, I thought, as we started out towards the bank.
Like he was asking for a nickel, the Cuencano asked both of us to withdraw “good faith money” to prove that we were responsible individuals. The professor willingly complied, and withdrew several thousand dollars. I didn’t understand the custom, but agreed to take out a token amount to appease the poor man. As we walked back to the bank I began bargaining with the Professor. I’m notwithdrawing as much as you did, I told him firmly. I’m not about to risk everything, I thought.
As I returned from the ATM with $200 cash the Professor seemed agitated. “Are you well?” I asked. “I just really have to pee,” he told me. “This is very exciting.” I’m a pretty open person about stuff like that, so I walked a little faster and rejoined the Cuencano. When he shoved a small, orange sack at me I dropped in my money without raising an eyebrow. He made a fuss of dropping his lottery ticket in with it and I was momentarily distracted by the professor sidling up behind me. The Cuencano handed me the sack and told me to guard it carefully. Then, they told me they’d be back in a few minutes. The professor said something about introducing the Cuencano to his wife – and suddenly I was alone.
I waited. I wrote some of the crazy details in a notebook I had with me. I waited longer, fingering the drawstring of the orange sack. At least they had left the lottery ticket with me. They would certainly come back, if only to retrieve the ticket. People here are so friendly, I said to myself. Then a terrible thought occurred to me. What if? Impossible. Fumbling with the string, I opened the bag and, for the second time that day, my tongue went dry with shock. I had been left with a sack full of crumpled newspaper. I had been scammed.
Later, there was the crying, the asking my father for money and the paralyzing fear of walking by myself. And still, I almost think I’d do it again. For the two hours I wasted on those scammers, I got to star in my own Ocean’s Thirteen. In my view- they earned that $200 with Oscar quality acting. In Ecuador, where many desperate criminals threaten violence, my experience was a walk in the park. Or rather, a walk to the bank. Call me gullible; I don’t mind. I was there when a nobody from Cuenca won the lottery.
I’m guilty of blog abandonment. I start them. I write ineffectively long posts. Then I leave them in the cyber-vortex. But! Most of my blogs have still been well read. I don’t take credit. People get addicted to their computer screens.
Apparently, tumblr is different. It’s been vetted and approved by the big cheese of journalism- the NEW YORK TIMES. So, good evening, tumblr.
I’m Kathryn Elliott. I’m a policy reporter at the Minnesota Daily. Scratch that- I’m switching to science and technology beat in a few days. I’ve done general assignment for the Pioneer Press and the Daily. For me, “general” was license to go random. This semester I wrote about the mundane (pedestrian ramps), the controversial (proposed tuition freezes at the University of Minnesota), the creepy (cadaver class), the disastrous (students forced to return home from Japan after the tsunami), and more!
For class, I’m working on a long term look at the student services fees allocation to student groups. I’m also doing a larger project about immigration courts in Minnesota.
It’s what I love - learning about a broad range of subject areas while honing in on the skill that makes it possible: good reporting. With this blog, I plan to re-purpose or simply pass on some of the stories I’m writing for school and work. We’ll see what else comes out of it. Nice to meet you!