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The Uncertainty of Certainty

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Benjamin Franklin notably wrote, “nothing is certain except death and taxes.” When I entered the world of commerce in the 1970s, Sears & Roebuck and Montgomery Wards were the two dominant retailers in America. K-Mart was rising in smaller cities, but no one thought it would topple Sears and Wards. Walmart and Target were just getting started. In those days, we (my peers and I) were absolutely certain the retail giants of the day were unbeatable. So how did that turn out? In my efforts to understand business leaders over the years, this issue of “certainty” seemed to always be lurking. Whether successful or not, leaders needed to appear certain. One thing I was certain of as a budding young capitalist was that a business needed to grow, and grow at double-digit rates, to succeed and survive. I was certain that growth was not only necessary for success but was itself the primary objective of a business. Turns out, I’m no longer certain I was right. The captain of the HMS Titanic was

UFOs and Brain Farts On Labor Day

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On Labor Day morning we were out walking the dogs early as I had to be at Holiday when it opened at 6 a.m. Looking up, I saw a weird row of lights moving slowly across the star-filled sky. Unsure what kind of flying object it was, I posted this on my Facebook page: At about 10 past 0500 this morning I looked up in the sky and saw a line of lights moving steadily from NW to SE. It looked like the lights of a 1000’ laker on Superior on a December night and tracked like a promotion banner towed by a Cessna. It was neither. My assumption is that it was the contrail of one of the jets that pass over at altitude occasionally, reflecting the yet to rise sun. Whatever, it was a strange site and I thought I’d post this to see if anyone else saw it or has a better explanation. Have I written about senior moments before? Sometimes frustrating, usually humorous, but dangerous if you leave the stove on and unattended for an hour or two. We all have those kinda moments, like not remembering if you’d

North Shore Waste Unveils Waste Improvement Program for Cook County

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Mack's Electric Garbage Truck On Monday, September 19, North Shore Waste, a solid waste management company in Grand Marais, unveiled its plans to improve the efficiency and environmental impact of Cook County’s waste management facilities and operations. A featured guest at the announcement was a 100% electric garbage truck that the firm will test drive on Tuesday to collect trash on its regular routes in Grand Marais. The Cook County Solid Waste Improvement Program is a five-year initiative spearheaded by North Shore Waste. The firm plans to utilize solar energy and electric vehicles to power its work in the future, mitigating the impact of rising fuel costs on Cook County residents and businesses while reducing the environmental impact of current operations. North Shore Waste has provided commercial and residential trash collection services to Cook County since 2012. Owners Barry Pederson and Dustin Hanson recognize that their customers are environmentally conscious and this pla

Community Housing Summit in Grand Marais

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The Cook County Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) held its first Community Housing Summit for the public on Thursday evening, September 8, to present the current state of local housing, how it got to this state, and what the future needs are in the community. Less than two dozen people attended the summit, and more than half were EDA board members, county officials, or contractors/developers. The summit was streamed online. The Mission Statement of the HRA is that it “catalyzes and advocates for the creation of safe, stable and attainable housing opportunities for current and future residents.” Jason Hale, Executive Director of the HRA, acknowledged a housing crisis in Cook County and the entire country. He presented data on current housing stocks and needs based on Housing Needs Analysis for Cook County Minnesota, a report that the county’s Economic Development Authority commissioned earlier this year. The report concluded, “Overall, there is a shortage of housing in Cook Coun

Be a Community Member on The Long Way Home

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I recently asked a guy I’d just met what it meant to him to be a resident on the North Shore. He answered, “Being a resident is one thing, being a community member is 100% different.” I thought about that at a recent meeting of the Board of Directors of the Colvill Area Volunteer Fire Department (CAVFD), where I volunteer, as we were discussing ways to recruit new community members. About 25 years ago, a group of people in Colvill, an unincorporated area about 10 miles east of Grand Marais, started the CAVFD. Two factors spurred the group's effort. First was protection from fires. The second was financial. Having an organized fire department near enough to the group's houses would see a reduction of up to ten percent on homeowners insurance. The original group included a couple of retired guys who spearheaded the organizing efforts. More than a dozen volunteers in the sweet spot age group of 40 to 50 years old assumed the role of officers and firefighters. At the time, Cook Cou

Community Building One Small Step Conversations at WTIP in Grand Marais

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On a Thursday afternoon in August, Scott Benolken and I met at the radio station WTIP in Grand Marais to record a StoryCorps One Small Step conversation. Strangers to that point, Scott and I had applied online to participate in the One Small Step program earlier this summer. WTIP is one of six hub radio stations across the country that are recording these conversations. The conversations are intended to bring together two people with potentially differing political and social views, and through directed questions create a discussion, not a debate, that brings out their life experiences and shared values. One Small Step seeks to move people beyond partisan and ideological labels and converse about the life experiences that shape how we each see our world. Applicants may request a conversation partner they already know. Most, like Scott and me, had not met before and were paired by the WTIP One Small Step Project Manager Barbara Jean Meyers. The pairings are like, “a puzzle to put togeth

The Long Way Home with Moral Dilemmas

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The folks who think “Let’s Go Brandon” is the height of political satire are quacking online and around town about the Biden administration canceling mountains of student debt. It seems they’re irked that some lazy English Lit major living in Mom’s basement, with purple hair, body piercings, and part-time employment at a coffee shop, will have their student debt paid with “my tax dollars.” Federal student loans are used by college students of course, regardless of the field of study. They are also used by trade school students. You know, plumbers, electricians, linemen, carpenters, and even computer programmers. Your hair stylist, dental technician, or medical assistant could have used student loans to pay for training. Many a rookie truck driver was trained at a trade school using a federal student loan for the tuition. The ease of getting a federal student loan is its biggest selling point. A borrower need not have a credit history, a co-signer, or an income. Interest rates are gen

The Long Way Home Through Rejection

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Rejection can be funny if you let it. When you’re my age, you have experienced more rejection than you ever thought possible in the glory years of vigor, youth, and absolute certainty. Like anyone who has ever submitted their writings (scribblings, nonsense, etc.) to a publication, I recently had an editor reject something I’d written. This rejection would have killed me 30 years ago, but his was so nice--and funnier than he knew--that it triggered my column here. He wrote, “Fun piece (especially when I read in the voice of Andy Rooney) but I”m going to pass on this. It’s a touch too local for us.” I’m guilty of being a curmudgeon, but I’ll never rise to the level of the brilliant Andy Rooney who spent 33 years ending each episode of CBS’s 60 Minutes with "A Few Minutes with Andy Rooney.” But the 60 Minutes reference returned a funny memory from my days publishing a weekly community newspaper. Our Arts writer was a freelancer who didn’t see me that often. One day, after yours trul