Target Layoffs

Tuesday, March 10th, 2015 was a discouraging day for the 1,700 Target Corporation employees from the Twin Cities that were laid off as a part of Target’s efforts to try to save $500 million this fiscal year. This was the largest effort to downsize in the history of the company and it left many people upset and uncertain about their future. I first heard about these massive layoffs at work, where a woman who had been laid off after 23 years of employment was drinking at the bar with her husband and friends; trying to lighten the blow of such an unfortunate situation with a few bottles of wine.

In victory you deserve champagne.

In defeat, you need it.

– Napoleon Bonaparte

I didn’t ask about the details of her being laid off, but after word circulated around the bar about her situation, different people from all sides of the restaurant were pulling over me and my coworker to ask us to put her dinner on their tab or buy them a bottle of wine, while other people approached her to offer their condolences and even inquire about her qualifications to help her find a new job. It was inspiring to see strangers so inclined to help each other out and the support that filled the room was overwhelming and brought an air of hope to an otherwise dismal situation. I have good faith that she will be able to find employment soon and be able to carry on with her life soon, despite this unfortunate roadblock that she has stumbled across. Her situation and the entirety of the Target layoffs tell a truth about life that many people do not want to believe.

Job security is an illusion. Nothing is certain and everything is subject to change.

No matter how hard you work, how much education you have or what your qualifications are, anything that you work for can be taken away in the blink of an eye. CEOs get outed by their own companies, budget cuts and layoffs are made, entire corporations can be bought and sold and even entire industries can be dissolved. We all are subject to having things fall apart, no matter how much work we put into keeping them together. Most people may not ever experience this, but it is important to realize that it does happen and it can happen at any moment.

Many people believe that the phrase “survival of the fittest” means that only the strong or the smart individuals will survive when natural selection acts upon a population. This is a big misconception in evolutionary biology that can be apply to many aspects of life. Survival of the fittest means that the individuals who are “most well-adapted to the current environment” survive. Being adaptable and malleable is more important in the long run than any specific qualifications. Maintaining an open mind, pursuing our passions and always being ready to take any sort of obstacle head-on is the way to survive a setback like this. We can change to meet the demands of our environment, and adapt to be able to thrive in it.

The Target layoffs, while being a huge blow to many people in Minneapolis, is a cloud with a silver lining. Now that all off this experienced talent has been let go from Target, other companies in the Twin Cities are waiting to swoop up newly available employees, a win for both parties involved. I have high hopes for these people and for those companies, who will hopefully value their employees in a way that Target did not.

Stay positive and keep moving forward my friends.

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Minnehaha Frozen Falls

Last Thursday, March 5th was the last frigid day of this winter (or at least we are all hoping so now that we have officially hit 60 degrees in the Twin Cities) and that evening I found myself craving a little bit of adventure. I had seen pictures from urban explorer types from behind the massive ice sheet that is Minnehaha Falls in the wintertime, and I wanted to experience the ice and cold for myself.

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Hiking up past the “KEEP OUT!” sign is obviously illegal and discouraged by the city, but with no officials present to enforce this rule (thankfully) the adventurous spirits are free to meander and hike their way up to the frozen falls, climbing up a steep muddy trail in order to gain access. It took about 10 minutes for me to make my way up because I was holding on to all my camera equipment and moving slow to avoid sliding down on my face. Once I made it, however, it was really a unique experience. Behind the thick sheet of ice that would otherwise be a moving waterfall was very beautiful. The ice columns glowed blue and the frozen sheet of water particles suspended in the air was one of those picturesque moments that mother nature gives us in the winter to make up for the bitter temperatures.

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I went at around sunset to try to see if the timing would make a difference in what sort of pictures I could get from the falls, but in all reality it didn’t make too much of a difference as the sunset is not within plain view of the falls. If you decide to go next winter, make sure it has been cold for several days so that everything is really solidified, take caution when walking out onto the creek, don’t get too close to moving, unfrozen portions and be aware that it can get sloppy behind the falls with spots that are slush and not frozen solid.

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I would definitely recommend hiking up to the falls next winter for anyone looking for some fun afternoon adventure. In the winter in Minnesota, it is very easy to become trapped inside, avoiding any sort of adventure or activity that involve leaving the comfort of a warm home. This is why we all get so depressed for several months, only to be awoken once the snow starts to melt and Spring appears. Going out and doing fun activities (especially ones that are free!) is the best way to try to combat some of this seasonal depression, because keeping up the fire of adventure within oneself is the best way to stay warm even through the coldest and gloomiest of times.

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Never stop exploring! Every day is a new adventure.

Darwin Day: Sharing a Passion for Science and the Ocean

Darwin Day is an international day of celebration on or around Charles Darwin’s birthday  (February 12th). The mission of the established day is to spread awareness, intellectual curiosity and a hunger for scientific knowledge among humans across the globe. This concept is imperative; spreading a desire to understand more about the world and the planet, especially to younger generations is the best mechanism for activating change and preventing the ignorance that is currently destroying us from spreading.

The Marine Biology Club from the University of Minnesota, in which I am an active member, participated in Darwin Day 2015 at the Science Museum of Minnesota. We are very fortunate to have a “Traveling Touch Tank” – that is, a portable tank full of small marine invertebrates that the club takes to schools and other educational events to do outreach volunteering with young kids and teach them about the ocean and the organisms that inhabit it. These outreach events have been an amazing way to interact with young kids and teach them about different sea creatures and it provides an opportunity to bring up the subject of ocean conservation and the importance of preserving marine ecosystems. Nothing helps an idea sink in more than hands-on experience; and letting kids actually handle marine animals helps to create a mental awareness of life forms that are dependent on humans changing their destructive behavior in order to survive.

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This is a great video that gives some meaning to the phrase “ocean acidification.”

Educating the youth of today is a powerful tool in preventing a catastrophe from happening in the future. Propagation of science education and stimulating a thirst for learning more about the natural world is so crucial; it is easy for kids to fall behind in their science education when schools cut funding for labs and lack a strong, well-rounded science curriculum. I encourage everyone to help foster a love for science in the young people that they interact with, and place votes on government representatives who value science education.  Together we can save the oceans today and prepare youth to keep it preserved in the future.

For whatever we lose (like a you or a me),
It’s always our self we find in the sea.

.. (e.e. Cummings)

Minneapolis Holiday Market 2014 – 612 Review

2014 marked the end of the long-running annual “Holidazzle” Parade in downtown Minneapolis and in its place a German-inspired “Christmas Market” was set up in Peavey Plaza running along Nicollet Mall. My roommates and I decided to attend the festivities, to get into the Christmas spirit after the commotion and stress of finals.

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My first criticism of the market was the entry fee. $6 is a lot to pay on top of the already higher cost of food and beverages that one finds at these sorts of events. It also contradicts its own claim of authenticity; because “real” German Christmas markets are almost always free. It was also a surprise because since this market concept was somewhat of a replacement for the Holidazzle parade, which was free, being charged just to walk through a Christmas-y village seemed unnecessary.

IMG_3991The hot, spiced mulled wine – Glühwein, was awesome, but a very small quantity and expensive, as you had to buy the ceramic mug that it was served in. I do love the idea of using reusable cups to avoid waste, but it seemed a bit excessive. Compostable coffee cups would have sufficed, and then I would have probably had another (or four more) mulled wines.

The beer cheese soup and bratwurst were amazing, I would definitely recommend splitting the beer cheese soup with a friend. My personal favorite, however, were the potato pancakes served with applesauce and sour cream – I could have eaten three stacks. Absolutely phenomenal.

The non-food vendors included a wide variety of crafty people selling candles, soaps and other goods. There are plenty of options here for unique gift ideas, and supporting local artisans is always a good way to justify spendy Christmas shopping.

Some of the booths took credit cards while others were cash only, so be aware of this before attending.

IMG_3986Overall, it was a nice way to spend an evening but I’m not sure I would go back next year. For more information on the Holiday Market (Which is almost an entire year away, so don’t get too amped up) visit their website http://www.minneapolisholidaymarket.com/

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Kickin’ the Bucket… List. Skydive Twin Cities

 Skydiving is the quintessential cliché “bucket list” item that (almost) everyone claims they want to do before they die, but so few people work up the courage to actually suit up and jump out of a plane. That is fairly understandable, since throwing yourself at the earth from 13,000 feet in the air is less-than-rational in terms of entertainment preferences. Most people are satisfied with choosing what flavor of “Doritos” they want to eat as the most exciting part of their day, and in all honesty that is just fine. For others, like myself, however, we need a few good gut-wrenching, “oh-my-god-I-just-shit-my-pants” moments every so often.

To ring in the first day of my summer school class that I was taking at a community college in Minneapolis during the summer of 2013 (Physics, ironically enough) some friends and I decided that it would be a good day for a skydive. I called my good friend Brynne, whom is generally pretty easy to convince as far as doing questionable things at the last-minute goes, and alas, her and two other friends and I packed up and headed to Skydive Twin Cities which is technically in Wisconsin but we won’t talk about that.

Skydive Twin Cities in Baldwin, Wisconsin, provided a great first time skydiving experience for me and my friends. They are professional and have a huge commitment to safety. We watched a video on the details about skydiving safety, learned the basics on how it would feel when we jumped out of the plane, and then suited up and climbed aboard the mini-plane for our first skydiving adventure.

Once in the plane, my intestines started to throb and I was having serious second thoughts about this whole decision, but I was already strapped at several points of contact with my tandem partner, a surprisingly boring, soccer dad-like character who tried to make small talk about what I was studying in school. He was calm and composed, definitely important attributes in anyone that you strap your body to (in any situation) and especially when you strap it to them in order to jump out of a plane together.
Then came the jump. I first had to watch everyone else fall out of the plane as we were the final jumpers of the group. My bowels clenched at the sight of each of my friends being whipped out of the side of this mini plane. I hobbled up to the edge of the opened door, crouched down and before I knew it, there was nothing but atmosphere below me.

Much to my surprise, the sensation of falling with the G-force stomach drop that usually happens when an amusement park ride lets you fall to your death, never happened. The actual time spent in free-fall was quite surreal, and almost relaxing as I did not have to think about doing anything thanks to soccer-dad. After a few moments, he pulled our chute and we glided over the landing area, a beautiful view of the Twin Cities skyline on the horizon.

One thing I did not do which I have mixed feelings of regret and apathy over is that I did not pay the additional expense of $95 for the photo package. While it would be awesome to have candid pictures of my cheek fat vibrating in the breeze so majestically, it is a very expensive add-on for a thrill that lasts about 15 minutes. Maybe next time I will succumb to the peer pressure of all the extreme-sports activists that I greatly admire and strap a go-pro to my body before being pushed out of a plane headfirst. It is definitely something to consider for people who will only work up the courage to skydive once, but for me, I think sometime in the future, when I skydive in perhaps a slightly more interesting place or when it’s for my 85th birthday or something,  I will pay for the documentation full deal.

Skydive Twin Cities did not sponsor this post in any way, this was just a cool experience I had that I wanted to share with all of you, and I would recommend them in general as a company if you are looking for a good skydiving experience. Hope you enjoyed this post as much as I enjoyed wearing this suit:

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Not quite as good as my cheeks flapping in the wind, but proof I’m a badass!
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Have you ever seen the plane you took off in land before you do?

Scuba Diving in the Cuyuna Mine Range

 Since obtaining my Scuba certification this past June, I have been determined to not let it go to waste. Scuba certification is a neat thing to have because once obtained, it is valid for life. No need for renewal every 5-or-so years like many licenses and certifications. Toward the end of August, my good friend Molly who goes to school out in California and who is also Scuba certified suggested that we rent some equipment ourselves and embark on an adventure solo, without any instructors. I said yes without any hesitation!
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We rented our gear from Midwest School of Diving in White Bear Lake and then made the trek up north to the Cuyuna Mine Range which we found to be a bit confusing, as the specific mine pools are not clearly labeled on any map that we had, so we had to rely on a bit of GPS and printed map cross-checking to finally get to a dive spot that was recommended by an instructor. All the frustration was well worth it, though, and Molly and I were able to get in two dives and had a lot of fun exploring the depths of the old mine pool and gaining confidence in our ability to scuba without a seasoned instructor. Mines are great because they are essentially large, man-made bodies of water, so the conditions are very controlled and there are few environmental risks. The only downside is that they are not extremely ecologically interesting, with few plant species and fish species inhabiting them, there isn’t a whole lot of life to see when compared with diving in a big lake or on a reef.
Diving is a very fun and interesting skill to have, and it’s an important skill to maintain through routine practice. I would definitely go up to the mine range to dive again, but I am far more interested in saltwater diving in coral reefs in the Caribbean, and hopefully one day the Great Barrier Reef!
We took all underwater pictures on one of those Kodak underwater disposables. It was fun to play with but definitely makes me want to invest in a GoPro Hero3+ to document my future diving adventures.
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Chipotle Cultivate 2014

This past weekend, my roommate and I attended the 2014 Minneapolis Chipotle Cultivate festival, hosted in Loring Park. Chipotle Cultivate is a free music and food festival that is appearing in various major cities across the United States this summer. It features local chefs who perform cooking demonstrations, an all-day concert of different musicians and various food and drink options from local breweries. This helps bring together the community and support local businesses. It is also a great marketing opportunity for Chipotle to test out new menu items and see the response to them regionally. In addition to the typical festival food/drink/music scene, Chipotle went a step further to promote their core company values and spread their message of responsible and sustainable farming with their customers. It was a cloudy but nice day for a festival in Minneapolis

At entry, each attendee is given a small handbook with a map of the festival. There are 5 various stations throughout the park, each station is a different demonstration of a component of Chipotle’s company values. After attending each demonstration, fair goers receive a stamp and after collecting 4 stamps, the booklets can be redeemed for a free burrito coupon. This is an excellent way for Chipotle to spread their message of sustainability and also highlight the health benefits of choosing Chipotle restaurants for a quick meal over McDonald’s or other chain fast-food establishments.

New Foods

Katie and I tried Gorditas and the Meatball bowl, both new regional dish concepts conceived by Chipotle. Both were awesome, especially the pork-belly Gordita. I really hope to see these in Chipotle locations in Minnesota.

In addition to the new foods, I also sampled several beers and ciders from local breweries. A new favorite I discovered at Chipotle Cultivate was the Dangerous Man Cream Ale. It was awesome, and I am now on a mission to find bars and restaurants that have it on tap. Also loved Sociable Cider Works cider and the Lonely Blonde beer from Fulton Brewery.

Chipotle Cultivate is an awesome marketing idea and was a great way to spend a Saturday. I hope that it comes back to Minneapolis in the future, I can never turn down a free festival!

612 review: PEDAL PUB MINNEAPOLIS

For my friend Kira’s 21st birthday (link to her blog here) a group of friends embarked on a two hour drunken excursion known as the Pedal Pub in Minneapolis. The pedal pub is pretty well known downtown, many people have experienced or at least seen the massive keg-toting trolley slowly trucking down the busy streets of Minneapolis at one point or another. Because it is a unique thing to experience, I thought I would write a brief review.
(Note that there are other companies that do similar excursions, groups pedaling and drinking on a massive bicycle-bar apparatus, but this information is specific to the pedal pub.)
The cost when split between 12-15 people (number of available seats) is between 20-30 and that is just based price to have the pub for two hours with a guide, no included alcohol. Hard liquor and glass bottles are not allowed for safety reasons. A good method to BYOB is to used a big Gatorade cooler/dispenser to make some sort of punch, our group had an awesome sangria that people pitched in money to share. There are speakers with an auxiliary cord attachment so parties can bring their own music.
The pub pedal starts at chanticlear pizza downtown, close to the twins stadium and sexworld (sexworld is always a good reference point when getting directions downtown…) and there are different routes the pub can go on. We pedaled down toward the north loop and went to two different bars over the course of two hours.
Pedaling around Minneapolis while chugging beer and sangria was thrilling, it was also a decent workout.  We were cruising during a busy time, making the adventure even more exciting. My favorite part of the tour was when we pedaled down Nicollet Mall past the shops since normally one cannot drive on that street.
Overall, the experience was really fun and I think everyone of legal age should get a big group of friends together at some point to do it. It is a great way to enjoy the city in the summer and get drunk publicly while in a semi-controlled environment. I don´t necessarily think I would organize a group to do it again, but it´s definitely something that everyone should experience at least once. Pedal Pub Minneapolis also offers different packages, including more food-focused tours and mixers so that one only has to book one or two seats and has the opportunity to meet new people on their cruise.

More information
http://twincities.pedalpub.com/

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