Here’s to the women not here on International Women’s Day

I have a lot of women in my life. When your dad’s side of the family all lives in the same small town as you and all your cousins on that side are women, well, I think that easily constitutes my statement of having a lot of women in my life. Throw on top of that my amazing girlfriend and her family; I think I’ve painted the picture clear enough.

International Women’s Day isn’t the only day we should be thinking about the impact that women have on our life, but it did get me thinking many things.

First, how we are not to the point as a society where International Women’s Day doesn’t need to be a thing is quite amazing to me. It makes no sense that everyone isn’t equal in basic human rights. Sit back and think about that for a bit.

Second, the President of the United States has no grasp on the fact that there is a problem. Look at his track record. He’s a creepy gameshow host and now he sits behind one of the most powerful desks in the world. On the list of gameshow hosts that I’d want to have as President, President Trump would be far down on the list. Well behind Alex Trebek. He, of course, was born in Canada and the Constitution doesn’t allow him to be President, but we aren’t really following that document anymore anyway.

Third, god golly, do I miss my grandma. Seeing the thousands of tweets today about International Women’s Day naturally gets you thinking about the awesome women in your life be it in your real life or the artists on your radio or on your TV screen. I kept going back to the fact that the top of that list will always be my grandma. I haven’t been able to have an earthly conversation with her in almost five years and I really would’ve liked to have one or ten or a million since June of 2012.

Sometimes you think that you don’t change the world, but you do. Just being a hardworking person changes lives. My grandma changed the lives of employees of Kottke Trucking, a company she helped build. She changed the lives of residents of Buffalo Lake as the city clerk and as a part of the EDA and going back to being the city clerk after a tornado hit our little town. She changed the life of my family ten times over in so many ways that it could truly be a book. The things she did while she was alive is affecting those people right now, people that didn’t even know she ever existed are affected by her work. That’s amazing to me.

Connie Kottke would kick your ass and then five minutes later hold your hand. She didn’t sit on the sidelines in life. She was in the middle of everything. She was unique, too. She always had FOX News on the TV, but I have vivid memories of President Bill Clinton’s autobiography ‘My Life’ sitting on the table next to her chair.

As I drive by her gravestone everyday, I often think about how different life would be if she was still here. I think about how proud she would be of my cousins and the beautiful young women they are. I think about how she’d be amazed how different Kottke Trucking is. I think about how much she’d love my girlfriend. I think about how I really wish I didn’t have to do this thinking.

So here’s to all those amazing women that aren’t here for this International Women’s Day. The world is a better place because you were here.

I have a lot of women in my life. I’m blessed that many of them are in the same small town. I simply wish I didn’t have to drive by that stone.


We don’t deserve dogs

I’ve been the proud full-time beneficiary of two dogs in my life. I call myself a beneficiary for two reasons: my parents are the ones who bought the dogs and I’d bet that I’ve benefited more from the two pups being in my life than vice versa.

My first dog, Rusty, was around for a long time. One of my first memories is going to pick him up and he made it into my high school years. He was an energetic dog and would chase virtually everything he could. That chasing regimen didn’t change until he couldn’t really hear the things he’d love to chase. He was an outside dog that didn’t get as much attention as he deserved, but still he’d meet us at the car every time we’d come home and be ever so happy to see us.

We don’t deserve dogs.

Dog number two is the current dog: Kirby. Kirby just turned one and we are just coming up on the one-year anniversary of him being in our lives. He loves to play tug-of-war and run down the driveway when it’s time to go to the bathroom. He also loves to chase things, despite being maybe 10 pounds. While Rusty was successful in catching things, Kirby couldn’t quite capture a butterfly yesterday. 

When the front door opens, no matter where he is, Kirby runs to the front door to greet whoever is walking in. This running is not a defense tactic to protect whoever is already in the house, you can tell it’s out of pure excitement just by the look on his face.

We don’t deserve dogs.

I know these stories don’t just belong to me. Dog lovers everywhere are the proud beneficiaries of having these, typically, four-legged friends in their lives. It’s an incredible thing to think about, too.

I wasn’t a genius in science classes, but I did learn that dogs and humans are not the same species. We can communicate, but the process for this communication is like a very bad improvisational comedy sketch where you don’t know where your partner is going so you just go along with it and hope they are leading you to a good place. Humans and dogs communicate in different languages, but somehow when I say the word ‘outside’, Kirby will bark and confirm his need to go do his business. It’s really a more efficient conversation than some we have with other humans.

We don’t deserve dogs.

For the most part, dogs accept our schedules. There might be some accidents here or there, but they just blindly trust that we’ll eventually come back.

They’re adorable. You and I might think that a certain dog doesn’t exactly have the best look, but there’s always going to be someone out there that thinks said dog is cute.

Pups don’t care if we laugh at them. Kirby didn’t care that I couldn’t stop laughing as he went head-first into the ground and did a somersault because he was running too fast on an incline or when he wiped out on the hardwood floor after chasing a toy. He gets up running with a smile on his face.

Dogs don’t post their political opinions on Facebook.

We don’t deserve dogs.

We all know these things about dogs and the proof in that is the fact that we still have dogs for pets. If we didn’t know this, in that parallel universe, I’d probably be writing about why we don’t deserve penguins. We don’t deserve penguins either with their adorable tuxedo-wearing selves, but that’s a whole different topic.

In this world, there are a lot of things that we are simply not appreciative of enough: our family, our education, really good music, the perfectly baked pizza, etc. On that list is the never-ending love that dogs give us, sometimes we just expect and accept that love. We shouldn’t be taking that love or any kind of love for granted.

If your pup wants to play tug-of-war, play with him. If your dog wants to snuggle, let her. If your dog wants to lick you all over, well… maybe let them and then go wash up.

Dogs have so much love that they just want to give it to virtually everyone that they come in contact with. That’s a beautiful thing. We are at a time in the world where we could all use that love. Love by itself doesn’t heal everything, but there can be no healing in this world without love.

We don’t deserve dogs.

The Plane Truth: the University of Minnesota needs to give Richard Pitino a bigger travel budget

It’s no real secret that the University of Minnesota’s men’s basketball program really hasn’t lifted off under the tutelage of Richard Pitino. It’s widely known that the players that have graced Dinkytown during Pitino’s reign haven’t exactly been the best characters in the world with PR nightmares ranging from sex tapes on social media to an arrest for sexual assault. All of those are big problems, Richard Pitino’s travel expenses, and apparent overages on them, are not a problem.

Pitino’s travel expenses were thrown into the spotlight via the Star Tribune when it was revealed that the young coach had gone past his budgeted $150,000 over the past two fiscal years and had actually spent $325,000 over that span.

First of all, this overspending was approved by then-current Athletic Director Norwood Teague. Can you really overspend your budget when it is approved by your superior? Sure, that superior is a creep and is gone from the University now, but you can’t change the game on Pitino after the game was played.

Second, there is no real reason the University needs to be looking at the books of the athletic department. Athletics are self-funded, they spend the money that they make, and, to the best of my knowledge, are not taking money from the rest of the school. They are basically a standalone entity using the name of the school and its students to run itself. As long as the department isn’t stealing money from academic departments and is still operating at a sustainable level, President Eric Kaler and the Board of Regents should get their nosy noses out of athletics’ business. The nosy-ness probably comes from the hire of Teague and his later dismissal, but this is what happens when you hire an AD that had never overseen a football team before. That hire wasn’t a smart big boy move in a school that should be with the big boys.

Speaking of which, this paragraph is integral in the Star Tribune story:

“Elsewhere, other coaches have bigger private jet budgets. Rick Pitino, Richard’s father and the coach at Louisville, has a reported annual budget of $250,000 for private jet travel. At Kentucky, John Calipari spent more than $342,000 in 2013-14. In the Big Ten, Indiana spent $569,000 on chartered planes for all of its coaches to recruit that year. At Ohio State, Thad Matta is given a budget of $65,000 or roughly 11 hours, for recruiting, as well as an additional 15 hours of jet time for private use.”

His father has four times the budget at Louisville. Conference rival Indiana has over 11 times the budget. Thad Matta at Ohio State has well over double the budget if you factor in the private use hours. If you want to play with the big boys, the $50,000 budget that Pitino has isn’t going to get you anywhere close to the best schools in the country or, more importantly, close to the recruits you need to be successful. Hell, these other schools probably hire someone to fill up their head coaches’ rental car gas tanks, too. Pitino was flagged in the audit for returning rental cars without a full gas tank.

Pitino has this team in a mess, but his overuse of private plans isn’t a problem. The real plain plane problem is the lack of a reasonable travel budget for the head coach of a profitable sport at a Division One school.

Mark Coyle has more than enough on his plate as the new AD of the Gophers, but he should be adjusting the private plane budget before his new business cards are even made. The next basketball coach will greatly enjoy the added privilege if Pitino leads the Gophers to 8-23 again.

The formula to the Minnesota State High School League allowing schools to drop down a class

It’s becoming increasingly hard to run a school in many parts of Minnesota. The state owes each and every school district millions of dollars, for starters, but keeping enrollment up is also a challenge in the out-state and in the biggest cities. The state funds the school districts based on enrollment so it’s pertinent to keep enrollments up and to keep the money flowing.

Enrollments are also important when it comes to the athletic competitions that are organized by the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL). A school’s 9-12 enrollment dictates which class of competition they participate in. In a lot of sports that ranges from Single-A to Quadruple-A which is the case in boys’ basketball.

On March 12, Minneapolis North won the Single-A Championship against Goodhue. The same Minneapolis North that won the Quadruple-A title in 2003 and 1997. The cutoff for a team to be moved from Single-A to Double-A is 200 kids and when Minneapolis North’s enrollment was listed as 199 throughout MSHSL materials, well, it turned my head.

I understand that Minneapolis North has seen better times and has seen, literally, a mass exodus from the school’s population, but it’s still hard to believe that a school located in a city with over 400,000 people could only wrangle up 199 students.

The fact is that they didn’t. North has over 200 students which can be shown via documents from Minneapolis’ public schools websites here and here and here.

How is North playing Single-A basketball then?

Welcome to section 400 of the bylaws of the MSHSL:

  1. h) Prior to any classification determination, schools who believe their school demographics unfairly place their team sports (Football, Hockey, Basketball, Baseball, Lacrosse, Soccer, Softball, and Volleyball) in a larger tournament classification may appeal their placement to the MSHSL office provided that the criteria below is met:

                       1.1 The schools’ free/reduced lunch counts provided to the League office by the Department of Education exceeds 50% of the school’s grade 9-12 enrollment.

This is how Minneapolis North is playing in the realm of teams like Goodhue that come from towns with a population of only 1,179. According to Minneapolis Public School documents, North has only 38 students in grades 9-12 that are not eligible for free/reduced lunch. A remarkable 87% of students at North are eligible for the free/reduced lunch program.

To be clear, Minneapolis North isn’t playing tricks on us or making kids magically disappear to get their enrollment to 199, but they are taking advantage, and rightfully so, of the above rule set out by the MSHSL.

The question that remained was ‘why’. In athletics, shouldn’t a student count as a student? Why is there a need to fudge the numbers based on who can or cannot afford lunch? I asked that question to Assistant Director of the MSHSL Chris Franson and here’s his response via email:

“About 10-12 years ago we had a special committee that looked at factors that contributed to kids going out for activities.  One of the things they found was that a disproportionate number of kids who are on freed/reduced lunch participated in extra-curricular activities.  That could be because they didn’t grow up playing the sports, or had extra family responsibilities, or the costs associated with being on the teams was too much.  The committee felt that it was enough of a factor that we should include it in the enrollment calculation.  They found that on average, there was a 40% higher participation rate in kids who weren’t on Free/Reduced Lunch.

“So the 50% appeal came into play about 10 years ago and it allows a school to drop one classification (if approved by the AD Advisory Committee and MSHSL Board) in a particular sport.  We see a few in basketball, but the majority are in games where numbers matter, like football.    We’ve only had about 20 schools who fit this criteria and are large enough that they could drop down a class.  Most of those schools are Mpls. or St. Paul public schools, but we’ve seen it expanding out into the first ring suburbs like Fridley, Richfield, etc.”

The schools are playing by the rules that they are given, so don’t blame North or ‘the about 20 schools’ that fit the criteria.  The question that remains is should this be a rule, should a school’s enrollment virtually change because of the amount of children they have on the free/reduced lunch program?

You can decide.

Album per diem: Bob Dylan – Shadows In The Night

It’s only installment two of Album per diem and I have already screwed up. Bob Dylan’s Shadows In The Night came out in 2015 on February 3 not February 2. We have arrived to the second without me even noticing my error, so we’ll keep it this way and get you prepared for the one-year anniversary of the Dylan’s 36th studio album. Yes, that’s a lot of albums.

Not usually do Bob Dylan and Frank Sinatra go hand-in-hand. Both are musical giants, of course, but Sinatra is known for his knockout singing and Dylan for his poetic and beautiful songwriting. In this album, Dylan knocked down the walls and did an album full of pop standards that were made popular by Ol’ Blue Eyes.

  1. I’m A Fool To Want You – Even if you are just a casual fan of the steel guitar, you need to listen to this track just for that alone. And all the initial reviews are correct, the vocal is surprisingly great. That’s just not Dylan’s forte and it was really nice on this track. Some horns get added to the steel guitar by the end of the song which is just an awesome sound.
  2. The Night We Called It A Day – The song sends you to a lounge somewhere and you get lost in the lyrics. Every once and a while you go, ‘hey, this guy sounds like Bob Dylan’, but then you forget about it and go back to sipping your whiskey in very dim lighting. It’s nice soft and another great vocal from Dylan.
  3. Stay With Me – Another solid track, but a little high for Dylan’s register. The high notes have never been the Minnesota native’s forte, but it didn’t take away from another solid track on the album.
  4. Autumn Leaves – More epic steel guitar to open the track. It’s become more than evident that the instrumentation just takes this album to a high level. Dylan brought his a-game to the vocals and the players have done an amazing job. This album would be a joy to listen to without Dylan’s vocals, that’s not saying anything about his vocals just how grand the players are.
  5. Why Try To Change Me Now – “Don’t you remember I was always your clown, but why try to change me now?” That’s a great line. I loved this tune. I didn’t really know what to expect with Dylan’s take on pop standards, but I really like what has gone down so far. The album lacks a little bit of energy at this point, but it might just work in this instance.
  6. Some Enchanted Evening – Another solid track, but it is getting to the point that you have to be in the right mood for the album. The songs are very similar which makes a great intensive listening to the album a little dull.
  7. Full Moon And Empty Arms – It’s weird to me to be hearing Dylan signing songs so blatantly about love. I don’t why, but that just isn’t the picture of Dylan I have in my mind. Another nice track, but the same issues as before of sounding similar.
  8. Where Are You? – Bob Dylan is not supposed to be able to sign this well. This song might be the strongest vocal on the whole album which is saying something. In an album that keeps a little dull, this is a good reason to keep going.
  9. What’ll I Do – Bob Dylan was made to sing sad songs. This song is a sad song. Bob Dylan was made to sing this song. The raspy quality that Dylan has matches what we imagine a sad song should sound like.
  10. That Lucky Old Sun – I’m a sucker for albums that end in some positivity and this song is about ending up in heaven. You can’t get much more positive than that. The horns on this song make it seem heavenly supporting another great vocal from Dylan.

In the grand scheme of things, maybe I’m not cool enough to totally love Dylan. I liked this album, but in the middle of the album I was finding it hard to fully give attention to it. A lot of the songs sound similar, but they still sound great. There is great instrumentation throughout, the steel guitar is heavenly, plus Dylan does give a wonderful vocal especially for a Bob Dylan album.

It’s worth a listen and if you’re into lounge-like music, you should definitely enjoy it. If you are one that is just a casual music listener, the album would make great background music, I say that in the best way possible. It sounds beautiful, but it’s one you can’t concentrate too hard on.

If you can only listen to one song, go with What I’ll Do with Why Try To Change Me Now? a close second place.

Next up: Roseanne Cash – Seven Year Ache