1.19.2017

Plymouth's project "Agora" set to commence






West metro suburbs sees increase in hotels, with the latest coming to Plymouth in 'urban-type village' - The two new luxury hotels will be the first hotels in Plymouth in a decade.


Excerpt:

Plymouth’s abandoned Four Seasons Mall and its parking lots soon will be replaced with senior housing, shops and two upscale hotels — the first hotels to be built in the suburb in a decade. The project, dubbed Agora, got preliminary approval from the City Council this week for redevelopment of the 17-acre site near Hwy. 169 and Rockford Road. The council is expected to give final approval next week for the project, and also may weigh a lodging tax and tax-increment financing. ... Agora developer Rock Hill Management has signed a purchase agreement and is leading the $52 million redevelopment. Traffic and environmental assessments have been done, and the project would include wetland restoration and phosphorus removal. Agora, slated to be an “urban-type village,” would replace the 1970s mall that has sat vacant near the busy corner for about five years. “It’s blighted,” Callister said of the mall property. “It’s pretty exciting to have something actually in that area.” Wal-Mart bought the site in 2010 for $10.6 million and was going to build a Wal-Mart Supercenter, but the massive retailer faced resistance from neighbors. Citing poor soil, 4 acres of uninhabitable wetlands and traffic concerns, the City Council placed a yearlong moratorium on the site while a market study was conducted. A mixed-use development with offices, retail and senior housing was ultimately recommended, and Wal-Mart wound up putting the site up for sale in 2015. Besides the 95-room Aloft hotel and a 100-room Town Place Suites, Agora — which means “gathering place” in Greek — would feature a 139-unit senior housing project with independent, assisted- and memory-care units; retail, offices, restaurants, a bank and a mini plaza that could host community events. It also would include a three-story, 339-space parking ramp, which the city could agree Tuesday to buy from the developer for $5 million to accommodate park-and-ride commuters taking an express bus to Minneapolis. Construction is slated to start on retail space, offices, hotels and ramp this summer. Those areas could open by December; the senior housing is expected to open by December 2019.
Comments: WalMart still reports as the owner of the property: PID 1311822140013. Search by PID here.  Top two images from the project Agora Facebook page. Also see project website. For previous posts on the topic click on the #tags here and here

1.16.2017

Invest in "the woods"





Forests Are a Treasure. But Are They Good Investments?

Excerpt:

Trees don’t watch the stock market. Forests keep growing — and potentially increasing their value — even when inflation surges or the market swoons. Big investors, like university endowments and insurance companies, have long allocated money to timberland in places like Oregon’s fir-and-spruce forests, Georgia’s pine plantations and Appalachia’s hardwood groves. Until a few years ago, retail investors were mostly shut out of this market. The deals were too big, involving thousands of acres and tens of millions of dollars. ...

Owning shares of timber R.E.I.T.s is a more direct, if riskier, way to wager on the woods. These companies own forests across the United States.

Weyerhaeuser’s roughly 13 million acres approximate the combined area of New Hampshire and Vermont. Weyerhaeuser and Rayonier also have land abroad, the former operating in Uruguay and the latter in New Zealand. Potlatch owns only domestic timberlands. Daniel P. Rohr, an analyst Morningstar, called the R.E.I.T.s a “pretty good substitute” for timberland ownership “because the assets are the same.” In both cases, cash flows from the forest, either through the harvest of logs or the sale of land. He cautioned that whenever people buy shares in a single R.E.I.T. or any individual stock, they’re taking on company-specific investment risks, like potential bankruptcy. “If I’m owning a timberland R.E.I.T., it’s because I’m bullish on U.S. housing, not because I want to add diversification to my portfolio,” Mr. Rohr said.
Comment: We have some WY - like the dividend! Image snap from Weyerhaeuser homepage,  Also mentioned in the article the Timber ETF WOOD and PCH

KleinBank sued by Feds for Operating in Suburbia




Feds allege Chaska bank used discriminatory lending practices

Excerpt:

In the lawsuit, the federal government alleges that KleinBank violated the Fair Housing Act and Equal Credit Opportunity Act. The lawsuit says that from 2010 to at least 2015, KleinBank structured its home mortgage lending business to avoid serving neighborhoods where a majority of residents are racial and ethnic minorities. Specifically, the lawsuit says, the bank excluded minority neighborhoods from its service area, located its branch offices and mortgage loan officers in white neighborhoods but not in minority neighborhoods and targeted its marketing and advertising solely toward residents of white neighborhoods.
Comment: Image sources: Snap from KleinBank locations site & Google maps. My view: No real evidence of discrimination! Feds should employ black secret shoppers to demonstrate real discrimination!

Update 1/17: Bank says not having Mpls., St. Paul branches is good business, not discriminatory.
KleinBank officials denied the charges, saying they have been cooperating with Justice Department officials for more than a year. "The government's claim of 'redlining' has absolutely no basis in fact," Doug Hile, KleinBank president and CEO, said in a written statement. "To the contrary, KleinBank has an established history of responding to all credit requests with a commitment to fairness and equal opportunity." The lawsuit is the first of its kind involving a Minnesota-based bank, said Joe Witt, president and chief executive of the Minnesota Bankers Association. Witt said he was surprised by the government's argument that KleinBank engaged in discrimination by not opening branches in parts of town in which it has never done business, such as St. Paul. "I can tell you this — every bank in the country will be watching to see if the courts agree that the federal government can require that type of change," Witt said. "That seems to be a pretty significant departure" from other Justice Department cases.

Health Update: Good Report


I saw the urologist today and here's the update - it's good if you want to skip the details:
  • I'm now 10 months post surgery and exactly 1 year since "the news".
  • The pathology report on the cells from the removed prostate indicated that the cell type is aggressive and that the cancer had escaped the organ
  • So the routine has been: imaging, blood work and appointments
  • Today's appointment was 12 weeks from the previous
  • While nothing about the "aggressive" has changed, the PSA velocity is flat. It reports at .2 (should be zero with no prostate). The cancer cells are producing the PSA at this point. A helpful article on this is here.
  • Radiation is still a possibility but because they only can reasonably hypothesize that the cancerous cells are in the prostate region, it's a bit like shooting a shotgun into the sky (my analogy). He wants to postpone making the decision for now (radiation has many negative side-effects). A helpful article.
What's next?
  • PSA test in 2 months (March) (to see if velocity has changed)
  • SA text and appointment in May (the 22nd)
Thanks for your prayers and encouragement. For all blog posts on my cancer journey click here.

1.15.2017

Lee v. Tam: Why "The Slants" trademark dispute matters



Supreme Court To Hear The Slants' Trademark Case This Week

Excerpt:

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments this week for a trademark dispute concerning the Portland dance-rock band, The Slants

The federal Patent and Trademark Office refuses to register the band’s trademark, because, the PTO argues, the band’s name is an ethnic slur. Attorneys for the government argue that a ruling against the PTO in this case might undermine other important areas of trademark law.

Professor Eugene Volokh teaches First Amendment and copyright law at the UCLA School of Law. He and another professor helped The Slants’ legal team on briefs for the case. They contend the band’s right to register is a matter of free speech.

“In recent years the Patent and Trademark office has become more likely to say certain trademarks should be rejected,” Volokh said, “because they express essentially offensive political or ideological opinions. So, for example, the Redskins.”

The Washington Redskins football team is awaiting the outcome of the Slants case. Its own trademark was revoked for similar reasons, and the team is trying to get it reinstated. The Slants have traveled to Washington, D.C., for the hearing, scheduled for Wednesday.
Comment: Watch this one! More from the Star Tribune / SCOTUS Blog
As for the Slants, the band just released a new song called "From the Heart" about the upcoming case. Tam says it's "like an open letter to the trademark office saying we're not going to give up, we're going to continue fighting for what's ours." The song is on the band's latest album "The Band Who Must Not Be Named."
Their Twitter account 



Updates: 1/18/2017

Justices raise doubts over law barring offensive trademarks
The justices heard arguments in a dispute involving an Asian-American band called the Slants that was denied a trademark because the U.S. Patent and Trademark office said the name is offensive to Asians. Justice Elena Kagan reflected the concerns of several justices when she said government programs are not supposed to make a distinction based on viewpoint. "The point is that I can say good things about something, but I can't say bad things about something," she said. "And I would have thought that that was a fairly classic case of viewpoint discrimination." The Oregon-based band says the 70-year-old law violates free-speech rights. A federal appeals court had ruled that the law is unconstitutional, but the government appealed. A victory for the band would be welcome news for the Washington Redskins, embroiled in their own legal fight over the team's name. The trademark office canceled the football team's lucrative trademarks in 2014 after finding the word "Redskins" is disparaging to Native Americans. But the justices also seemed concerned that imposing absolutely no limits on trademark names might go too far. At issue is a law that prohibits registration of marks that "may disparage ... persons, living or dead, institutions, beliefs or national symbols." A trademark confers certain legal benefits, including the power to sue competitors that infringe upon the trademark. Slants founder Simon Tam says his goal was to reclaim a derisive slur and transform it into a badge of ethnic pride. But the trademark office said a term can be disparaging even when used in a positive light. A federal appeals court sided with the band, ruling that the law violates the First Amendment. The Obama administration wants the high court to overturn that ruling. Justice Department lawyer Malcolm Stewart told the justices that the law does not restrict speech because the band is still free to use the name even without trademark protection. Stewart said the government was concerned about allowing trademarks for racial slurs, religious insults and the "vilest racial epithets" that distract consumers and hinder commerce. Justice Stephen Breyer wasn't impressed, saying he could think of "perhaps 50,000 examples of instances where the space the trademark provides is used for very distracting messages." "What business does Congress have picking out this one, but letting all the other distractions exist?" Breyer asked. Justice Anthony Kennedy compared the trademark program to copyrights, noting that the government can't bar disparaging copyrights. "We have a culture in which we have tee shirts and logos and rock bands and so forth that are expressing a point of view," Kennedy said. "They are using the market to express views." Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said the law wasn't being enforced consistently, noting that the term "Heeb" was approved in one trademark application, but not in another. The term is considered offensive to Jews. John Connell, attorney for the Slants' founder, said the First Amendment should allow trademark approval of virtually any expression without limits. But some justices seemed to think his argument went too far. The trademark law, for example, places restrictions on words that are libelous or cause confusion in the marketplace. "You want us to say that trademark law is just like a public park" where people can say whatever they want, Kennedy told Connell. "Good-bye. That's it. That's your argument." Justice Sonia Sotomayor wondered about libelous trademarks. What if someone tried to register "Trump is a thief" before the president-elect became a public figure, she asked. Connell said that should be allowed. "That makes no sense," Sotomayor said. Breyer noted that the Slants are free to use their name in all kinds of ways, just not in the trademark itself. "This is not a general expression program," Breyer said. "It stops nobody from saying anything." Like the Slants, the Redskins say their name is meant to honor American Indians. But the team has spent years fighting legal challenges from Native American groups that say it's a racial slur. A federal judge upheld the trademark office's cancellation of the name and the team is appealing. The matter is on hold pending the outcome of the Slants case. A ruling in that case is expected by the end of June.

Lee v Tam 

The Wealth of the Super Eight - They Earned It and it's Not Bad for the Rest of Us!



Eight richest men are worth the same as HALF the rest of the world: Their £350billion haul is equal to the wealth of 3.6billion people

Excerpt:

The eight richest billionaires have as much wealth as half the world’s population. Analysis by Oxfam shows the tycoons have together amassed fortunes totalling £349.8billion. The planet’s poorest 3.6billion have the same sum between them. ‘This concentration of wealth at the top is holding back the fight to end global poverty,’ the report says, also claiming that executive pay in the UK is out of control.
Comment: Image source from the article. Bernie Sander's view (any surprise?)


The other side ... while inequality has increased, extreme poverty has also decreased. Source

The "Broomway": "the most perilous byway in England"


The Broomway is known as the most perilous path in Britain

Excerpt:


The Broomway traverses vast sand flats and mud flats that stretch almost unsloped for miles. When the tide goes out at Foulness, it goes out a great distance, revealing shires of sand packed hard enough to support the weight of a walker.

When the tide comes back in, though, it comes fast – galloping over the sands quicker than a human can run. Disorientation is a danger as well as inundation: in mist, rain or fog, it is easy to lose direction in such self-similar terrain, with shining sand extending in all directions. Nor are all of the surfaces that you encounter reliable: there is mud that can trap you and quicksand that can swallow you.

But in good weather, following the right route, it can feel nothing more than a walk on a very large beach.The Broomway takes its name from the 400 or so brooms that were formerly placed at intervals of between 30 and 60 yards on either side of the track, thereby indicating the safe passage on the hard sand that lay between them.
Comment: Seems like a metaphor for the Christian walk - follow the brooms. See "walk" in Ephesians as in 5:15, "Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise". The music in the above video is obnoxious and does not add value to it. Mute suggested!


Ritchie Valens called "heads", the rest is history





Tommy Allsup, member of Buddy Holly's Winter Dance Party band

Excerpt:

Tommy Allsup, a member of Buddy Holly’s reconstituted Crickets who endured harsh days on the road touring with the ill-fated Winter Dance Party tour in 1959 and lost the coin toss to Ritchie Valens that saved his life, has died. He was 85.

After the tour that took the lives of Holly, Valens and J.P. “the Big Bopper” Richardson in a plane crash in an Iowa farm field on Feb. 3, 1959, Allsup continued his career as a rockabilly and western swing guitarist.

But it was one of the fateful moments in rock ’n’ roll history that Allsup could never forget and that gained him fame among Holly aficionados. Allsup and the other Cricket, Waylon Jennings, were supposed to be on the plane that Holly had chartered to fly him and his band to Fargo for the tour’s next stop in Moorhead.

But the Bopper was ill, and Jennings gave up his seat to Richardson, the large Texas DJ who sang “Chantilly Lace.” At the Feb. 2 stop in Clear Lake, Iowa, Valens, who was only 17, begged Allsup to give up his seat. “Ritchie, all night long, would come around and say ‘Let me fly,’ and I said, ‘Get away from me, quit it, don’t bug me,’ ”

Allsup is quoted saying in “The Day the Music Died,” by Martin Huxley and Quinton Skinner. Later, as Allsup was checking a dressing room to see that the band had all “our stuff,” he saw Valens, the Southern California heartthrob signing autographs. “For some reason, he [Valens] said, ‘You going to let me fly? And I just flipped a 50-cent piece and said, ‘Call it.’ He called heads.

And so I went back to the station wagon and I told Buddy, ‘I’m not going to be flying. Will you get my shirts laundered?’ ” The single-engine, four-seat Beachcraft Bonanza crashed several hours later; the unheated tour bus filled with the rest of the entertainers, including Dion and the Belmonts, made it to Moorhead.
Comment: Image top: Buddy Holly and Tommy Allsup - January 30, 1959. Richie Valens. Below image of the crash scene. Source . I believe my brother has visited the memorial there. The dissemination of news was much different then, but at the age of 10 I knew about it.




1.14.2017

Six Questions on Finances



Six Questions to Help Determine Your Financial Health

Excerpt:

  1. How confident are you that you could come up with $2,000 if an unexpected need arose within the next month?
  2. Have you ever tried to figure out how much you need to save for retirement?
  3. On a scale from 1 to 7 (where 1 = strongly disagree and 7= strongly agree), how strongly do you agree or disagree with the following statement: I have too much debt right now.
  4. Suppose you had $100 in a savings account and the interest rate was 2% per year. After five years, how much do you think you would have in the account if you left the money to grow?
  5. Imagine that the interest rate on your savings account was 1% per year and inflation was 2% per year. After one year, with the money in this account, would you be able to buy…
  6. Do you think the following statement is true or false? Buying a single company stock usually provides a safer return than a stock mutual fund.

Comment: This week we had to replace a motor-mount on our Buick. Another question: If someone gave you $ 10,000 what would you do with the money?

Image source

"Dumpster Fire" replaces "Train Wreck"




"Dumpster Fire": A colorful metaphor for an exceedingly disastrous or chaotic situation caught fire last year

Excerpt:

“Dumpster fire,” which we defined as “an exceedingly disastrous or chaotic situation,” certainly fit the bill for 2016. Time and time again, people turned to the colorful metaphor, in the same semantic family as “train wreck” and “hot mess.” Often, pundits and politicians were dealing with events that, they deemed, were spiraling alarmingly out of control.
Comment: Train wreck photo is the famous Train wreck at Montparnasse 1895.  Kathee uses "hot mess" (what we have for dinner many nights!)


Does Science "constitute the entire domain of truth"?


The Folly of Scientism (PDF) (19 pages)

The Thomas Edison quote applies:
Until man duplicates a blade of grass, nature can laugh at his so-called scientific knowledge. Remedies from chemicals will never stand in favor compared with the products of nature, the living cell of the plant, the final result of the rays of the sun, the mother of all life.

Comment: Edison was not a Christian, but he did believe in a Supreme being: "I do not believe in the God of the theologians; but that there is a Supreme Intelligence I do not doubt."




1.10.2017

One of the hardest questions I've answered: "Did my bunny go to heaven?"



I was about 28 and I was with a small team going door to door in my neighborhood in Level Green, Pennsylvania.  A woman, perhaps 40, answered the door in tears. She said that her pet rabbit had just died and she asked me if God took him to heaven.

I'm not really sure what my answer exactly was but it wasn't "I'm sure of that". It was a difficult spot for me to be in and I'm sure that I wasn't as tactful as I could have been.

[If this woman has any recollection of this brief exchange, I'm sure that she doesn't remember it fondly like "that nice young man from the church comforted me"]

As an aside, this would be a good question at an ordination: "Do pets go to heaven?"

Before I give my view, I start with these comments:

  • Call me crazy, but I tear up when I hit a squirrel with my car. I avoid them, but they seem sometimes to be suicidal. And sadly every couple of years I crush one - and it pains me!
  • In my early 20's, I hit a raccoon with my VW and I cried
  • We've had 7 cats - 1 is now living. I've put 6 cats down - Gatsby, Smokey, Tabby, Blue [Blue when he was very sick], Emily, and Daisy. All the events were very painful. Gatsby was our newlywed cat that sat on my lap as I read and studied for seminary. Daisy was a bit different because we put her down (she was very sick and probably had just weeks to live) the day before my mother died. And pet grief is not at all like mother grief!
  • On Emily: she was the sweetest kitten, and her death was very painful! (but really the others too - I just didn't do blog posts on them!) (Please click these links!) - yet another Emily 

  • As I am writing this, Flaco is on my lap. We are sitting for my daughter-in-law's & son's 14 year old cat while Roger is away at Fort Benning. We've had Flaco for about 6 weeks.
  • There's a lot on the Internet about this - try Googling "Do pets go to heaven?". Obviously the Internet is not the authority which brings us to the next point ...
  • The Scriptures must be our authority
  • I did find this article - Do Pets Go To Heaven? - helpful. I only quote one very small passage: "it is most important to state that if pets do go to heaven, their owners will also have to go to heaven to see them. The Bible makes it clear that the majority of people will not go to heaven—see Matthew chapter 7, verses 13 and 14 (Matthew 7:13,14) for one example. Therefore, it is critical that we remind everyone that they need to get right with God themselves or their chances of seeing a departed pet again are zero."
  • So do pets go to heaven? 
  • One thing is clear is that there is coming a new heaven and new earth and animals will be there:  Isaiah 11:6, "The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them."; Isaiah 65:25, "The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, and dust will be the serpent’s food. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain,” says the Lord."; Isaiah 11:8, "And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice' den."  The curse (from mans' fall) will be ended / there will be no more death! The current natural order of violence and carnivorous activity will have ceased! As an aside, on more than one occasion, the aforementioned Smokey killed and ate mice!
  • Much has been made about Pope Francis' comments about pets in heaven. Before I link to this, even the Pope is not our authority! Google if you want more, but here is a link that says Pope Francis indeed did so state, and another that refutes it!
  • Back to Flaco. His real name is "Skinny". After Roger and Kate married, Roger renamed him Senior Flaco. His telling is that Flaco is Spanish for Skinny.  We think he's been underfed and we are, in spoiling him as much as we can, attempting to make him "Gordo"
  • Flaco and I share some traits or characteristics: We both breathe air. We each have a heart, lungs, kidneys, et cetera.
  • I have cancer just as Smokey had cancer. I hope my cancer won't kill me but time will tell
  • What Flaco and I don't share is that I am an image-bearer of God. God has stamped his image on my soul!
  • And as an image-bearer I have a soul that will exist forever - either in heaven or in hell!
  • Back to animals: they are not image-bearers and they do not have eternal souls. 
  • By the way, one man's pet can be another's monster: think: pet chimpanzee, pit bull, or a snake
  • I think that I have answered the question!
  • But: it is normal and healthy to grieve over the loss of an animal!
  • For the Christian, it is very important to discipline one's mind to think Biblically!
  • Finally: heaven will not disappoint! 

Comment: Image source is Wiki.  PETA often gets the animal issue completely wrong as in this!

1.07.2017

Financially savvy NFL players



Steelers wide receiver uses a budget his mom helped create and has saved 'most' of his $35 million in career earnings

Excerpt:

Heyward-Bey, with the help of his mother, who is a certified accountant, has been frugal with his nearly $35 million in career earnings, according to ESPN's Jeremy Fowler.

Heyward-Bey made nearly $30 million in his four years with the Oakland Raiders prior to a stop in Indianapolis in 2013 and then joining the Steelers in 2014. They re-signed him this previous offseason.

The 29-year-old receiver has managed his money closely, saving "most" of it, according to Fowler.

Darrius and his mother designed a monthly allowance for him and he pays her a commission to help manage his money and track his expenses. "I get an email [from her] every Tuesday," Heyward-Bey told Fowler. "I can read it over, check it up. I see where the money is going."
Comment: Heyward-Bey image source / Quin image source / for a complete contrast see The Sad Financial Future of Many NFL Players



Detroit Lions player has doubled his money in 8 years by investing 70% of his NFL salary

Excerpt:

Detroit Lions safety Glover Quin is in the fourth year of his five-year, $23.5 million contract. But by living on just 30% of that salary and investing the other 70%, Quin has managed to double his money.

In a fantastic story from Michael Rothstein of ESPN, Quin said his frugal tendencies and savvy investments — from the moment he entered the NFL in 2009 — had allowed him to effectively earn two contracts simultaneously.

"To sit here and say I've played for eight years and made this much money, I was in a couple investments for five years and kind of made the same amount of money," Quin told ESPN. "It's kind of like having a double NFL career, you know."

1.05.2017

The Principalizing Bridge and Biblical Interpretation



On Floating Axheads and Hungry Dragons

Excerpt:

The average Christian, even the one who attends church regularly, lives in two different worlds. On Sunday morning, from eleven o’clock to noon, such a person lives in a world in which axheads float, rivers stop as if dammed, donkeys speak, people walk on water, dead persons come back to life, even days after death, and a child is born to a virgin mother. But during the rest of the week, the Christian functions in a very different atmosphere.
Comments: From Grasping God’s Word: A Hands-on Approach to Reading, Interpreting and Applying the Bible p 46. The numbers in the image above
  1. Grasp the text in "their town." What did the text mean to the original audience?
  2. Measure the width of the "river" to cross. What are the differences between the Biblical audience and us?
  3. Cross the "principalizing bridge." What is the theological principle in the text?
  4. Consult the biblical map. How does our theological principle fit with the rest of the Bible.
  5. Grasp the text in "our town." How should individual Christians today live out the Biblical principle?

Macy's closure and the Minneapolis Skway



Downtown Macy's closure could affect Minneapolis skyways

Excerpt:

Macy’s is one of downtown’s biggest skyway hubs, providing a crossing over Nicollet Mall and connections to the IDS Center, US Bancorp Center, Highland Bank Court and City Center.

Peter Bruce, a consultant who tracks pedestrian traffic, said Macy’s is one of the busiest spots in the skyway with an estimated 15,000 trips a day.

Pedestrians rely on the skyways most between October and April, Bruce said. With the store scheduled to close in March, he said, it’ll be important to have signs in place to help pedestrians find their way around any closures.

“If the building is closed or the skyway route is made less attractive than normal … people will need to be reminded of what’s a block or two away,” Bruce said, “because they won’t have the natural inclination to just walk through Macy’s and just see what they find.”

Comment: The blue-shaded area in the red box above. See Skyway map . Update: Developer committed to keep skyways open