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Today marks the one-year anniversary of Fish Wrap.  In that year, Fish Wrap writers have written 257 posts and the blog has received 16,031 views.  Our most popular post, with 1,145 views, is 9/11 Conspiracy Theory – Zeitgeist by Brooke Trout.  The day that received the most hits was Tuesday, June 24, 2008.  That was the day that Gordon Wheeler, Sr., held county commissioners hostage at the Morrison County Courthouse.  The two posts that caused the flurry of hits were Outrage (232 hits) and Sanity in the Courts (40 hits).

While those popular posts dealt with serious topics, one of my favorite posts, written by Suckerlip Blenny, is a humorous post that hasn’t had nearly enough hits in this fish’s humble opinion (a mere 10).  It’s called Bat Boy Moonlighting in Morrison County and it’s got pictures.  Bat Boy is a cultural hero, having been spawned in the pages of the Weekly World News.  We’re pleased he’s decided to make his home in Morrison County.

On that note, we’d like to thank our readers for checking in with us over the year and wish Fish Wrap a happy anniversary.

Bubbling happily in the pond,

Phineas F. A. Pickerel

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A friend sent this link and it’s too important not to share.  It’s a piece by Larisa Alexandrovna of The Huffington Post and shows the historical links of President Bush’s grandfather Prescott to Nazi Germany.

All the President’s Nazis (Real and Imagined): An Open Letter to Bush

Read it and weep.

Swimming sadly,

Phineas F. A. Pickerel

Following is a post from Fish Wrap correspondent Black Molly. – P.F.A.P.

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The Spring 2008 issue of Initiative Quarterly, a magazine produced by the Initiative Foundation, has recently been released. The Initiative Foundation, for those of you who don’t know, attempts to assist the fourteen counties it serves in central Minnesota with economic development, leadership training, natural resources projects, and children, youth, and family issues. The Initiative Foundation meets a portion of its mission through loans and grants and works to grow the funds it manages in order to expand upon its programs. The Initiative Foundation is one of six Minnesota Initiative Foundations in the state, all of which were started by The McKnight Foundation in the 1980s. In fact, the Initiative Foundation used to be called the Central Minnesota Initiative Foundation.

For each quarterly magazine, the Initiative Foundation picks a topic of focus. This quarter’s topic is stated on the cover: “Ready or Not? Minnesota’s Future Workforce.” While the magazine does indeed focus on the up and coming Generation Y or Millennials who will soon be entering the workforce, what’s curious about one story, “Workforce Interrupted” by Dawn Zimmerman, is how it spotlights the entry of the Millennials into the workforce as a replacement for aging Baby Boomers, who will soon be leaving the workforce in droves. As I read the article, I sensed there was something missing within the Boomer-Millennial polarity that was being presented. What was missing was Generation X. It was almost as though Millennials were expected to take over for the departing Boomers with nary an Xer in sight.

I have a particular bias toward Gen X because I can be counted among this cohort. I also tend to be sensitive about generational discussions because I typically see that Gen X gets the short end of the stick when it comes to coverage.

The Boomers are huge because, well, they’re huge in numbers. They seem to have been the first named generation and they got the name because of the massive population boom after World War II. The boom lasted from 1946 until 1964 and, thus, those born within these years are considered to be Boomers. Sometimes the Boomers are split into two groups, the Baby Boom Generation (1942-1953) and Generation Jones (1954-1965). (Generational dating is obviously not an exact science because you’ll see some overlap in dates between the generations.)

Gen Xers, who are generally considered to be those born between 1965 and c. 1982, were first called the “baby bust” generation because of the drop in births in 1965. This was five years after the introduction of the birth control pill, which, according to the FDA, was being used by about 5 million women in 1965.

The years associated with the Millennials haven’t been precisely pinned down, with dates ranging from 1978 to 1984, c. 1980 to 1994, or perhaps 1988 to 2008. There’s another named generation, only it was named after the fact, by Tom Brokaw, no less. It’s the Greatest Generation and is supposed to include those who came of age during the Depression and World War II.

That last point is key. While generational discussions can be irritating because they pigeonhole us and don’t describe the individual very well, part of what defines a generational cohort for sociologists and marketers, other than population numbers, is the kaleidoscope of cultural events occurring during our formative years. The thought is that those of us who grow up through the same critical moments together develop a particular view of the world. For the Boomers, it was the Vietnam War, the assassinations of the Kennedys and Martin Luther King, Jr., the Feminist Movement, and the Civil Rights Movement. You can also count the Summer of Love and Woodstock among the Boomers’ cultural influences.

I’ve said before that what seems to have defined Gen X is the ill-defined threat. We had the Cold War, with its constant threat of nuclear holocaust. (Remember the movie “The Day After”?) We had the Shuttle Disaster, the start of the AIDS epidemic, and a president who was almost assassinated. We lived through a ton of divorces and moms entering the workforce. We became latch-key kids. We had reduce, reuse, recycle and the first major energy crisis. (Gas lines, anyone?)

Gen X women grew up knowing we’d have to work. Staying home wasn’t the option it had been for older generations. We were told that we had to put our careers ahead of having children, and many of us did. We watched as major companies threw responsibility out the window when it came to their employees and laid them off right before they were due to retire, thus avoiding having to pay pensions. We were promised good jobs if we went to college, but when we graduated, no good jobs were to be found. Due to these economic forces, we lost the concept of loyalty to a corporation. We became free agents, changing jobs that didn’t suit our lifestyles, retraining when necessary for completely different careers than we’d first been educated for. We were called slackers and cynical, yet we became independent and entrepreneurial out of necessity. (It’s pretty hard to be entrepreneurial if you are a slacker.)

Call me irritable, but when I see a magazine article that seems to hint that Millennials are a direct replacement for the Boomers (i.e. they get to jump right into the high-level jobs being vacated by the Boomers), the cynic in me makes an appearance and starts thinking that the Gen Xers are getting kicked in the teeth again. If employment attrition works as it traditionally has in the past, the ones who should be directly replacing the Boomers are the Gen Xers, who hopefully have been in the workforce long enough by now to have acquired useful experience and some of those soft skills this issue of Initiative Quarterly is encouraging the Millennials to learn.

I don’t think the article’s author really intended to slight Gen Xers. Her focus, after all, was elsewhere. But, when we’re looking at “a workforce exodus about the size of Minneapolis” as the Boomers retire, I don’t think we can afford to discount an entire group of people when we look for solutions. Rather than ignore the Xers, why not take advantage of their continual training and wide range of employment experiences? As the Boomers retire, some Xers may be ready for another career change, maybe into one of the areas for which employee shortages are predicted. How about having Xers and Boomers collaborate on giving Millennials some pointers on the employment experience?

While it may be easy to put us into generational boxes with cute names, we have to be careful about the judgments we make about each of those generations, especially in relation to the economy and our livelihoods. No matter what our age, we all want to be taken seriously in the workforce and know that our labor matters.

Your Fish Wrap Correspondent,

Black Molly

Evidence that we are all fish on the inside.  A book by Neil Shubin:

Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body

With a smirk on my scaly face,

Phineas F. A. Pickerel

In this week’s issue of the Morrison County Record (March 23, 2008), there’s an article by Liz Verley about the Little Falls City Council’s discussion concerning the Dewey-Radke house.  (See Section A, page 4, or do a search on the Morrison County Record’s website using the term “little falls city council”.  The article is called, “Council discusses whether to repair Dewey-Radke house”.)

The Dewey-Radke house is located next to the entrance of Pine Grove Park.  The Deweys offered the house to the City of Little Falls in 1974 so that it could remain a part of Pine Grove Park.  This makes sense because the park wraps around the house’s property.

For as long as I can remember, the house has been little used by the city.  The West Side Improvement Association has been using it for meetings and activities for the past few years, but this organization’s use also appears to be minimal.  The trouble is that it is a house – great for living in, but lousy for any kind of intensive public use.  Most houses are not built to be handicapped accessible, but this particular house, which is of the 1890-1920 vintage, was constructed long before society took that sort of thing into consideration.  Also, like most houses, the floor plan isn’t conducive to public use, what with the rooms designed for individual, private use and small gatherings, not large group activities.

The city is now struggling with what to do with the home.  It is in need of repairs, to the tune of $150,000, according to the Record.  That’s a lot of cash and the city isn’t sure the home is worth it.  Jerry Lochner, the city’s Public Works Director, has suggested that it may need to be torn down “if we can not find a public purpose for the building.”

The City Council isn’t taking the situation lightly, which is a good thing.  Little Falls has become known state-wide for its active pursuit of historic preservation.  If the city starts knocking down historic buildings willy-nilly, people will note the hypocrisy.  Unfortunately, it is incredibly difficult for a city or municipality to own a formerly-private home because of the costs involved in repurposing and maintaining it.  Taking care of homes is not the first priority of a governmental unit.  In fact, houses and their attendant property are revenue streams for the government, so owning private homes works against a city’s budget in more ways than one.

Compounding the problem for the City of Little Falls is that it owns not one private home, but several.  In addition to the Dewey-Radke home, it owns the Burton/Rosenmeier home, which houses the Little Falls Convention & Visitors Bureau, and the Weyerhaeuser and Musser homes, collectively known as Linden Hill.  This is contrary to what Council member Brian Crowder is quoted as saying in the Record.  He said, “As a city we do not have anything to do with Linden Hill.  We need to look at taking care of city property.”  Well, Linden Hill is city property and while the homes are being looked after on a day-to-day basis by the Friends of Linden Hill, ultimately, the city does still have responsibility for the homes.

The city ended up with these properties through the generosity of those who bequested them and, in the case of at least three of the homes, the city was given funds to assist with maintaining them.  Frank and Alice Dewey provided funds for the Dewey-Radke home and The Musser Trust provided an endowment for Linden Hill.

According to Brian Crowder, the Dewey Trust has earned “over $1 million in interest used by the city,” and he suggested using some of that to repair the Dewey-Radke home.  What a sensible idea.  But, if the city hasn’t been using that money on the home to date, what have they been doing with it?

Even if there is funding available to make necessary repairs, the city is still going to have to figure out how to use the Dewey-Radke home, something it hasn’t managed to do in the 34 years it has owned the structure.  I’m sure it’s not for lack of brainstorming sessions; it’s just that sticky a problem.

While I offer no solutions to the current dilemma, I would like to offer a tip.  If you are considering donating your house to a city or municipality – don’t do it.  Just don’t.  I know you have an emotional attachment to seeing your house preserved as is for all eternity, but that isn’t how things will work out.  What you’re doing is putting a governmental unit into a position that it is not equipped to handle, even if you provide a generous amount of funds for the home.  Much better to create a nonprofit organization devoted directly to the house and turn the funds over to it.

My other piece of advice is this.  If you are a governmental unit – don’t accept a house.  Just don’t.  Learn from the situation Little Falls is in and save yourself the hassle.

The weeds I’m in are bound to decompose,

Phineas F. A. Pickerel

I have occasion periodically to drive past the newest park in Little Falls.  Have you been there yet, or have you blown right past it without even knowing it was there?  If you’ve done the latter, don’t feel bad.  The park is barely visible from Lindbergh Drive South.   It is hidden by a berm upon which railroad tracks run.

Mill Park, as it is known, was fashioned out of the former Hennepin Paper Mill site.  Several artifacts of mill operations have been purposely left on the site, including a portion of the smokestack, brick arches, a metal spiral staircase, and a massive wall that was part of the canal’s raceway through the mill.  The City of Little Falls has made several improvements to the site, paving a long ramped sidewalk, adding railings, and laying down sod.  I can’t do justice to the site by merely describing it, so you’ll have to go see it when the weather cooperates.

For as wonderful as Mill Park is, I am concerned about its lack of visibility.  It’s been hard enough to control vandalism in more visible city parks, but Mill Park’s hidden nature is an open invitation for this sort of thing.  While I’m sure the city police patrol the area, we can’t expect them to have an officer permanently assigned to the site.  Instead, I’d like to suggest that the city create an informal Park Watch, which would be useful for not only Mill Park, but for the other city parks, as well.

Park Watch doesn’t have to be a complicated program with loads of bureaucracy.  It would be a program of encouragement.  Those of us who enjoy the city’s parks tend to have favorite ones in which we like to hang out.  As long as we’re there anyway, why not pick up any trash we see and report signs of vandalism to the police?  Once or twice a year, spring and fall, perhaps, the city could have clean-up days in the parks.  I wouldn’t make Park Watch any more complicated than this, unless maybe to provide simple badges to those who want to participate.

While I am sure there are already people who do this sort of thing, the point of Park Watch, other than keeping our parks clean and safe, would be to build community through a shared connection and pride in our surroundings.  That’s what city parks are supposed to do for us.  Park Watch would enhance the effect.

Willing to do shore duty,

Phineas F. A. Pickerel

Have you ever tried to use the search function on the Morrison County Record’s website? I’ve done an awful lot of online research and arrived at decent results, but not with the Record’s search feature. You can type in the most obvious terms associated with a story appearing in the paper and get no hits back. Part of the problem is that the Record does not put every story that appears in the paper version online. That’s troublesome from not only the standpoint of doing a search, but from the fact that it causes gaps in the historic record. If the editorial staff of the Record thinks that a story is important enough to appear in the paper, it should also be important enough to make it online.

Advice to any MC Record staff reading this (and I think a few of you do): 1) Put all of your stories online and 2) Improve the newspaper’s online search function.

Getting a load off my gills,

Phineas F. A. Pickerel

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