Your Monday motivation: Hang a left at the next star system, please

Voyager 1 entering interstellar space. (Artist's image, courtesy of NASA)

Voyager 1 entering interstellar space. (Artist’s image, courtesy of NASA)

I’m pretty proud that my well-worn car is approaching 170,000 miles and still running well.

But that’s nothing compared to NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft, which is now the first human-made object to venture into interstellar space, or about 12 billion miles from our sun. Now, that’s great mileage!

There seems to be some debate over exactly when Voyager 1 broke into this space between the stars, with “Now!” being proclaimed every few months over the past year. NASA made the official announcement earlier this month, after studying copious amounts of data.

It’s not the “when” that wows me, however. It’s the fact that a man-made object launched in 1977 keeps traveling, traveling, traveling. And it’s still sending data back home, though the signals are now at about 23 watts, according to NASA. That’s about the power of a refrigerator light bulb. Its twin, Voyager 2, is not very far behind.

We have created something almost unimaginable – a spacecraft that continues to explore, well beyond our own star system (depending on how you define our star system, of course).

Well done, little spacecraft. Well done.

For a stronger community: Face time more than Facebook

The Optimist Club is an example of local citizens building social capital.

The Optimist Club is an example of local citizens building social capital.

The Internet has brought a world of knowledge to our fingertips, but it’s no substitute for fellowship and human contact. Which is why civic organizations, schools, and churches – and the interpersonal relationships they weave – are the critical threads that make our community fabric strong.

I was reminded about that last evening, when the Eden Prairie Optimist Club celebrated its 35th anniversary with a dinner and program at a local restaurant.

If you live in Eden Prairie, you may have read about the Optimists’ work – mostly youth-related projects – in the local newspapers. But my guess is this organization is probably off most residents’ radars. It often works behind the scenes, with a small membership and little fanfare, raising money for such things as the school drug-education program known as CounterAct.

And it’s done these types of things for 35 years!

Our communities are chock full of organizations like this – Rotary, Lions, Lionesses, Women of Today, chambers of commerce, Jaycees, and more. We take them for granted. But they are developing leaders, funding critical programs, filling community needs, and generally adding to our city’s quality of life.

We know that networking and personal connections are what count when job-seeking. In the same way, networking and personal connections made through civic involvement help communities generate ideas, information, influence, and resources. It’s called “social capital,” and when a community improves its social capital – its level of citizen involvement – it makes good things happen.

The Optimists and members of other local organizations deserve our thanks and respect. I hope they are able to continue their community service for many years to come. Because, after all, they accomplish community-building goals that no single person is able to accomplish while at the computer, surfing the Internet.

Your Monday motivation: Fall is here

The fall color is coming! The fall color is coming!

The fall color is coming! The fall color is coming!

Welcome to “Monday Motivation,” a new feature I’m adding to my blog to help you get through the work week.

Today we are celebrating our first full day of fall, which in Minnesota is a fabulous time of year.

What’s so great about it? Well, GPS for the Soul asked readers to chime in on what makes fall such a wondrous time on the calendar, and the responses are part of this article on Huffington Post.

You are about to witness some of the most beautiful weather and wondrous landscapes of 2013. Enjoy every minute of it!

What to do when an anniversary comes around

The author and the lovely young woman who would become his wife.

The author and the lovely young woman who would become his wife.

You might be surprised to learn that one of the easiest and most effective way to say thanks to your employees has to do with the old and well-worn photo you see here.

The photo is from 1974 or ’75, and it was taken at Bemidji State University in Bemidji, Minn. It shows yours truly and Roma Given in the early throes of our courtship, which would lead to marriage on Sept. 16, 1978. We are celebrating our 35th wedding anniversary on this very day.

Happy anniversary, dear.

Today I am 99 percent focused on my mate, leaving 1 percent for this brief advice on how an anniversary can make you a better manager.

When you are managing employees, you would do well to record the dates on which they started employment with the company. Entering the employees’ names and their start dates on your Google Calendar or similar calendar offering works nicely.

When an employee’s anniversary date rolls around, thank them sincerely for their service, and do it in a way that’s obvious to other employees, so that they too congratulate the colleague for his or her milestone.

You’d be surprised how much they appreciate that you remembered and thanked them for their contributions.

And, if you can resurrect a photo from earlier years, well, all the better.

Three Twins baseball stories you’ve probably never heard

The cover of "Twins at the Met," by Bob Showers

The cover of “Twins at the Met,” by Bob Showers

A Minnesota Twins Hall of Famer pummeling a teammate? The unsavory side of a Campers Weekend promotion? A prank that almost had the Twins leaving the ballpark before playing the game?

If you closely followed the Minnesota Twins during their first two decades, which roughly matched their stay at Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington, you know some of the classic stories associated with that rather non-descript sports stadium.

You know that cows grazed just beyond its boundaries. You know The Beatles played one of their infamous concerts there. You know that in 1965 the ballpark hosted both the baseball All-Star Game and the World Series. And you know it provided a tremendous late-season, home-field advantage to the Minnesota Vikings football team.

But there are some lesser known but still fabulous stories about that skeletal structure and the baseball team that called it home from 1961 to 1981.

I recently heard several Twins-related baseball yarns – new to me, and new to you too, I’ll bet – from Bloomington resident Bob Showers, who has authored a new book, “The Twins at the Met,” after he recounted the ups and downs of another Minnesota sports team in a previous work, “Minnesota North Stars: History and Memories with Lou Nanne.”

Showers was able to unearth some new stories about the early Twins in part because of his impressive access to a treasure trove of player and stadium photographs housed by the ball club. The author pledged to contribute to the Twins Community Fund via book sales, and so he was given keys to the Fort Knox of Twins historical archives.

Once he spread old photos in front of the many early Twins players, managers, and staff he interviewed, the stories just kept coming, Showers said.

Without spilling all the beans – hey, Showers is trying to sell a book or two, you know – here are a few diamond gems from the author:

  • Rod Carew once took offense at teammate and pitcher Dave LaRoche’s attitude during a team meeting, and the two stepped into a utility close and duked it out, says Showers. (Arrow-straight Rod Carew? Really?)
  • Former Twin and brand-new Texas Ranger Bert Blyleven pranked the Twins when, during spotty showers before a Met Stadium game, he called the home-team dugout, impersonated the head umpire, and told the Twins the game had been called off because of the weather. According to Showers, Twins ballplayers were dressed and practically out the door before Twins skipper Gene Mauch smelled a rat and set things right.
  • And finally, the Twins had a popular promotion called Campers Weekend, reserving a corner of the Twins parking lot for campers and RV’s coming from far and wide to camp and watch baseball … until, that is, the sheriff department asked the team to stop holding the event. It seems that a few of the male patrons visiting the big city for a little baseball, rest, and relaxation might have also been enjoying some female companionship, says the author.

Showers can sure tell a story, and the photos included in “The Twin at the Met” are a real treat. You can find out more about the book at www.twinsatthemet.com.

Boomer suicide: a discussion that can’t wait

Ripped from the headlines: baby boomer suicides are up sharply in Minnesota.

Ripped from the headlines: baby boomer suicides are up sharply in Minnesota.

More Minnesotans in their fifties and sixties are committing suicide, and it’s got to stop.

It’s a difficult subject; no one wants to admit they’re at risk, let alone get professional help. So it’s up to the rest of us to elevate the discussion.

It’s critical to do so because of the numbers. New data for Minnesota, released Aug. 30, show that suicides rose 13 percent from 2010 to 2011, to 684. That’s 12.4 suicides per 100,000 residents but the highest rate in Minnesota since the early 1990s and, put in perspective, much higher than the 368 traffic deaths recorded the same year.

The largest increases, by category, were for men ages 55-59 and seniors older than 65, which experts say may be a reflection of economic worries brought on by the Great Recession and the uncertainty of retirement. It wouldn’t surprise me if there were other contributing issues, including the growing number of baby boomers who are caring for aged parents.

I know boomers who have lost their jobs, or who suddenly realized that retirement is a lot farther off than they once expected. The worry and concern gnaw at them. Suddenly, the standard of living they obtained or simply wished for is slipping away.

So, for their sake, and ours, we need to talk about depression, suicide, and all the associated warning signs.

That’s what has been missing from the discussion, it seems to me. The higher rate of suicide among Minnesota baby boomers has made recent headlines, but too little of the media coverage has included the how-to-help advice we all need to hear.

To that end, what follows are the warning signs of suicide and what you should do if a loved one exhibits those signs. Watch your friends and family carefully. Let’s get help to those who need it. And, to hell with being stoic – this is a topic that needs to be discussed. Resolve to do so now.

THE SIGNS

The following 11 warning signs of suicide come via the Minnesota Department of Health. The more of these a person exhibits, the greater the risk.

  • Talking about wanting to die.
  • Looking for a way to kill oneself.
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose.
  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain.
  • Talking about being a burden to others.
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or other drugs.
  • Acting anxious, agitated or recklessly.
  • Sleeping too little or too much.
  • Withdrawing or feeling isolated.
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge.
  • Displaying extreme mood swings.

WHAT TO DO

If you are concerned about a friend or loved one:

  • Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
  • Do not leave the person alone.
  • Remove firearms, alcohol, drugs or sharp objects that could be used in a suicide attempt.
  • Take the person to an emergency room or seek help from a medical or mental health professional.