Showing posts from April, 2023

The Long Way Home 4.28.23

While moving eight to ten inches of what I hope is the last big winter storm of the season I found myself pondering some of the economic and life lessons I keep bumping up against. Nothing like the routine of filling a sleigh shovel and sliding it to the side of the drive to open up the mind for pondering. My mother-in-law was widowed quite young, and she chose George Guthrie when she married again a few years later. George, unlike me, was an educated man. He held an MBA and had spent his working years with Soo Line Railroad as its Director of Corporate Planning. His experience with strategy and accounting was most helpful when I ran for the Minnesota Legislature.  George was not the most sociable of chaps, but he found me brilliant and shared lots of good stuff with me whenever we were together.. He told me that transportation leads to development. Most every major city developed on a port or near the confluence of two or more rivers. Transportation. To connect those cities, railroads

The Long Way Home 4.21.23

 My dad was a salesman, by profession and demeanor. Probably more Willy Loman than Tony Robbins, but he got the job done. Dad taught me many things. Drinking coffee (with milk and sugar) in the mornings with him and Uncle Kenny at the kitchen table before slogging off to school. How to smoke at the same table. And how to drink. Three habits with me still.  He also advised me, being the salesman he was, “Do not ever try to bull***t a bull***ter.” In “the freight business” we are often called upon to make excuses for why a truck was late. We joked about having a list of excuses for when a customer called to find out where the truck was we could refer them to number 8, or 64, or number 135 on the list.  I once worked for a company that provided transportation for a major frozen food company. Food companies are sensitive about timely and safe movement of their products. If you know the corporate world, this one had a protocol we followed if there were exceptions to planned schedules. One l

Silver Bowl Youth Go To Pepsi State Tourney

Six young bowlers will represent the Silver Bowl bowling alley in the Pepsi State Bowling Tournament next month. The tournament is scheduled for May 5-7 at Drkula’s 32 Bowl in Inver Grove Heights. The six bowlers came out of the 22 participants in junior leagues at the Silver Bay bowling alley this year. Competing in the state tournament this year is Keenan Fischer, the reigning state champion in the under 8 age category. Also competing are Ellis Goutermont, Emsley Fischer, Brielle Fischer, Gabriel Russell, and Donnie Melander. Each of these young people finished first or second in their class at district level tournaments held last month. “This was a record year for participants in our youth leagues,” said Silver Bowl owner Logan Fischer. “We went from nine kids last year to 22 this year.” He added that Silver Bowl is the only public bowling alley between Thunder Bay and Duluth and from Lake Superior to Virginia. Logan and his wife Joleen acquired the bowling alley nine years ago. The

The Long Way Home 4.14.23

This long winter saw a spike in complaints on social media about small package deliveries lost or misdelivered. Many complained about packages being left on snow banks by the road, some where the house was actually in view and accessible--by foot or wheels.  I was a bit entertained by the complaints, I’ll admit. The arrowhead is a very remote area that presents many challenges for what is euphemistically known as last mile delivery in the logistics world. We live in a country where package delivery is a large industry led by United Parcel Service (UPS) and Federal Express (FedEx). My brother in law points out that if the two package delivery behemoths were to merge they’d be known as Fed Ups. Last week I became another who went to social media and complained about a package left on our driveway, near the fire number, about 600 feet from our porch. Admittedly the drive weaves in places and the house is not visible from that spot. You might remember we had a final (I hope) winter storm T

The Long Way Home 4.7.23

This week I’d like to make some observations on the state of leadership.  I’ve been fortunate to be an employee (some say team member, but that title is BS) and an employer and manager with more than one business on my resume. I learned a great deal in those roles, but the employer experience gives me a critical eye for leadership today. I blame Garrison Keilor for some of the problems employers face. His mythical Minnesota paradise was the place where, “all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.” That fictional achievement has caused many employers to pronounce their employees “the best there is.” Above average if you will.  My friend Don told me that even our county board of commissioners here in God’s country proclaim their staffers to be the best there is. Above average I guess. That is impossible. County staff are like employees everywhere. Some are average, some are better than that, and a number of them reside below. Proper ma

The Long Way Home 3.31.23

My more conservative acquaintances lament the culture of so-called participation awards rampant with children these days. Kids get ribbons or trophies for showing up to sporting contests, theater, dance, and even school. These curmudgeons seem to think our children need to experience the agony of defeat in order to build character and that only the very best deserve awards. I’ve had a firm distrust of awards, participation and otherwise, for a very long time. There are so many, and they really only seem intended to stroke some egos. But we like having them. Earlier this century my lovely bride mixed up a batch of chili for an event at grandson Connor’s preschool in Las Vegas. The evening event at the school, an open house of sorts, included a chili cookoff. Attendees sampled about a half-dozen chilis and cast a ballot for the best one. Becky’s chili, made from a recipe of now uncertain origin, took first place among the discerning parents and siblings of the preschoolers. It was award

Trainer and Canine Massage Therapist Opening in Hovland

 By Steve Fernlund North Paws Wilderness, a complete dog training business, will open in Hovland this summer. Started in 2018 by Brittany North, North Paws provides training that is intended to help people live a cohesive lifestyle with their dog. Brittany is also certified as a Sports Canine Massage Therapist. Brittany and her husband, a carpenter, currently reside in White Bear Lake but they have acquired property in Hovland where they are building a home and intend to operate a sled dog kennel. They hope to be settled on the North Shore this summer.  Brittany North Brittany serves as a vice president of the John Beargrease Marathon and she hopes to compete in the future. Brittany wanted to become a veterinarian when she was in high school and did volunteer work as a vet-tech. “I learned it wasn’t for me,” she said. So after high school she worked in the healthcare industry. “I’ve been a dog trainer for about ten years,” Brittany said. She began her business in 2018. She has been pro

Cook County Commissioners Declare April 15-22 International Dark Sky Week

 By Steve Fernlund At its March 14th Board meeting, Cook County Commissioners proclaimed April 15-22 as International Dark Sky Week. The Tribal Council of the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa made the same proclamation. The resolution was brought to the Board and Council by Starry Skies North, the Duluth-based chapter of the International Dark-Sky Association. According to its website, International Dark-Sky Association is a global organization promoting “win-win solutions that allow people to appreciate dark, star-filled skies while enjoying the benefits of responsible outdoor lighting.” The site has a calendar of events schedule showing worldwide events during this week. Light pollution is the inappropriate or excessive use of artificial outdoor lighting. It is a consequence of our industrialized and growing society. Among other things, light pollution interferes with astronomical research, disrupts ecosystems, has some adverse health effects on humans and other animals,

Cook County Community Center Announces Youth Volunteer Program for Summer 2023

  By Steve Fernlund The Cook County Community Center is looking for young people, aged 11-14 years, to volunteer at various places throughout the county. Currently there are nine locations that offer volunteer positions and mentorship.  Volunteers are expected to commit 25 to 50 hours of time to the site of their choosing during the summer months. To reward these young people, they will earn an Exchange Credit Certificate to participate in a cultural or recreational activity of their choice after completing the number of hours they commit to. Youth volunteer applications are online at the Community Center website and they must be submitted by Tuesday, April 25. Following application there is an orientation meeting for volunteers and their parents/guardians held at the Community Center on Wednesday, April 26 from 630 to 7:30 pm.  The program has openings for 30 young people. If there are more than 30 applicants, a lottery system will select 30 lucky volunteers. Cultural or recreational

KTWH Progresses Toward Full Power Status

 By Steve Fernlund Two Harbors Community Radio (THCR), the non-profit owner of KTWH-LP (Low Power) took action in 2021 to become KTWH-FM, a full powered community radio station. The Federal Communication System (FCC) required THCR to make an application for a new license as a full-service Non Commercial Educational (NCE) station.  The application process is complex and extensive and requires the services of a professional engineer to prove the viability of the station’s plans. From start to finish the application process took a full year. The costs of this process were partially offset with a grant from the Lloyd K. Johnson Foundation of Duluth. In March of 2022 the FCC granted approval to THCR to take over the full-power FM frequency 88.3 provided that within three years, by April of 2025, they go live on the air as KTWH-FM. Currently KTWH-LP broadcasts at frequency 99.5. Since that approval, THCR has continued to retain a professional engineer as data is gathered to assist in acquis

KTWH Cabin Fever RelieverTake 2 Set for April 23rd

 By Steve Fernlund Old man winter forced the last minute cancellation of the 7th Cabin Fever Reliever variety show radio benefit for Two Harbors based KTWH. Take 2 is set for Sunday, April 23 at Two Harbors High School at 4:00 pm (doors open at 3:00)  All but two of the nine originally scheduled performers will be on-hand for Take 2. The two-hour program is co-emceed by the one-man band Steve Solkela and flutist/KTWH Beat Farm host Leslie Black. The Two Harbors Ukulele Group, known as THUG, will be the house band during the program. Tickets purchased for the March 12th show will be honored on the 23rd. Ticket prices when purchased in advance are $12 for adults ($15 at the door) and $8 for seniors and students ($10 at the door). Kids are welcome and those under five get free admission. Advance sale tickets are available at the KTWH studio in the Harbor Landing Building, 629 7th Avenue in Two Harbors and at Cedar Coffee located at 1130 11th St. KTWH is a radio station created after the U

AirDrop Active Shooter Threat at Wm. Kelly High School in Silver Bay

 By Steve Fernlund A multi-school event at William Kelly High School in Silver Bay was promptly ended by an active shooter warning Thursday morning, March 23.  Students from Grand Marais and Two Harbors had just entered the school auditorium for a “students only” presentation of “The Diary of Anne Frank.” A student from Two Harbors used the AirDrop function of their Apple iPhone to send a colorful graphic that included the words “Active Shooter in the Building.” Another student opened the AirDrop message on their phone and reported it to school officials.  There was not a shooter, active or otherwise, at the scene. There was a law enforcement presence at the school for the event. “We always have law enforcement present whenever we have big events at one of our schools,” said Jay Belcastro, Superintendent of School District 381. The students from Grand Marais and Two Harbors were immediately evacuated to their buses and WKHS students were returned to class. The play was canceled. In ord

Online Canadian Pharmacies Save Hovland Woman Almost 80% on Prescription Drugs

 By Steve Fernlund Shannon Crossbear, a baby-boomer and long time Hovland, MN resident, was facing an affordability crisis for a life saving prescription drug. Crossbear is covered under Medicare insurance and she opted for a supplementary pharmacy plan known as Medicare Part D. Part D premiums are generally more than $1,000 per year in the government/private program. Back to her affordability crisis. Crossbear normally purchased a three month supply of a prescription drug from a USA pharmacy. She went online and researched the cost of buying the identical drugs from a Canadian pharmacy. She posted her results on social media. “Let me tell you the difference,” she wrote. “In the USA, one three month supply of medication, with insurance, the out of pocket copay is $790.” She went on to emphasize that she expected to pay $790 after her Part D plan paid its contracted share. Pricing the exact same prescription at an online Canadian pharmacy she found her out of pocket and only cost is $16 From 2015

M uch is written about being a leader who asks, and keeps asking the right questions. Hopefully that’s you—100%. But you want people in your organization who will ask questions too. Tough, even annoying questions. And you better listen. After thoughtful consideration, you’re beginning a new customer service policy, technology, or compensation plan. You’ve consulted your advisers and they tell you it’s a great idea. Your management team says you’re on the right track. You think you looked at all the alternatives. As the boss, you are filled with confidence that the folks on the front line with your customers will immediately see the benefits of your wise decision too. And then… “Why are we doing this again?” A challenging and uncomfortable question anytime, but especially when it comes from one of your front line employees as you begin a new initiative. How dare they question you, the leader of this organization? Why are people questioning you now? Because you didn’t gather all the inpu