Monthly Archives: July 2010

Ultimate – The Spirit of the Game

My nineteen-month old grandson Will and I shared a special experience last week.  We both took in our First Ultimate Experience.  Truth to tell, while Will’s parents tore up and down the Ultimate field at the Playing Fields of Blaine, aka the National Sports Center. Will and I mostly strolled and gawked – he was cute and I was dutiful.  Still I caught the ultimate bug.

So, as per usual, I had to Poke Around.

For starts, I learned that the essential Frisbee (aka “flying disc”) was the brainchild of early 20th century undergrads in the US.  What I thought was Ultimate Frisbee is now officially ultimate.  Ultimate, the game, was “invented” by successful Hollywood producer and director Joel Silver in 1968 as  a post-Frisbee tournament lark.  Silver is quoted as saying “It was never a serious thing when we played.  It was more of a counterculture thing” where players joked about people all over the world someday playing the game.

And so they are.  Ultimate is the fastest growing team sports in the US where approximately 4.5 million people now play – a figure that includes high school and college students and massive numbers of adults who play in leagues and clubs on playing field that range from the grandeur of the National Sports Center to far less manicured sites.  Folks play ultimate in an estimated 40 countries around the world following rules now published in myriad languages some 30 languages ranging from English to Catalan and Chinese, Slovakian, Turkish and Ukrainian.  No excuse for ignorance of the rules or the “spirit of the game.”

Ultimate is a self-refereed sport well summarized in a section of the World Flying Disc Federation Rulebook entitled “spirit of the game”.  The elements:

  • Know the rules
  • Be truthful about your observation
  • Be fair-minded to both sides
  • Be clear in communications
  • Be respectful to your opponents

This entire essay is a delicious read, including tips on improving spirit and capturing feedback on spirit at the end of each game.

Will and I saw all this happening that evening in Blaine.

The World Flying Disc Federation is the ultimate gospel – or should that be the gospel of ultimate?  In any event, the WFDF tells you everything you ever wanted to know about the sport.  The history is engaging.  If you need to prolong the international competition generated by the World Cup, you’ll love the stats. A recent WFDC post announced a new archival website exploring the totality international ultimate. To this librarian archives make it real.

Though I’m more interested in the history and spirit of ultimate than the rules, here’s a great explanation of “the game, explained as simply as possible” that offers a comprehensible intro to the ethos, the rules, the terms, dimensions of the playing field  and ways to get involved.

For an informal and subjective take on ultimate, Dana Thompson, writing in Seattle Woman Magazine, captures the “spirit” from the perspective of women playing with Seattle’s Riots .  It’s a delightful read covering history and rules peppered with insights about the sport.   Thompson includes a number of sage quotes from Seattle Riot veterans including  Liz Duffy who observes that “ultimate takes good sportsmanship to a higher level, putting respect for your teammates and opponents above winning.”

Will and I will be back in Blaine soon for another Tuesday evening watching his parents-as-players and their ultimate friends – on both teams – running at top speed, then back- slapping, laughing, chanting some amateurish cheers, then going out for a Surly’s.

Meanwhile, Will is catching the “spirit of the game” and I’m learning to appreciate a sport that has long been a part of my life though not of my understanding.

The “spirit” of Poking Around pays off again!.

Rummaging in the US Government’s Attic

As an inveterate rummager I take unending delight in this uber blog, a powerful if understated blog that aims to provide “fascinating historical documents, reports on items in the news, oddities and fun stuff and government bloopers.”

Properly outfitted with the Freedom of Information Act a volunteer crew scavenge relentlessly in federal public documents heretofore hidden from public view.  They then post the most delicious government communications, reports and other documents on

For those of us who just can’t get enough, they manage a dynamic email distribution system that lights up the mailbox 2-3 times every week.  And that’s a lot of us.  The site does no marketing, is run by volunteers, and averages about 6000 unique users and 190 GB of downloads per month.

Forget the dusty holiday decorations, the kids’ broken toys, the wicker baskets and the bent spoons – go instead for some of this snippet listing of long-hidden treasures posted within the past few days on Government  Don’t stop here – poke around!   It’s like this EVERY week – rain or shine!  A rummage sale not to be missed but to be savored

I Love Podcasts!

Sometimes a Poke evolves into a Probe.  Such is the case with this Probe into one of my favorite pokes, i.e. podcasts.

I love podcasts!  I love to poke around and learn about new pockets of podcasts.  I love audio and video podcasts, but mostly I love audios, audios that capture lectures, interviews, posts by journalists, scholars, and thinkers who ask good questions and elicit ideas and information from unexpected sources.

What got me started on this poke and probe path is the forthcoming meeting of the 35th Annual Community Radio Conference, the gathering of the National Federation of Community Broadcasters, set to meet in St. Paul, June 9-12, 2010.  These folks are major players in the world of podcasting – because what they produce is creative, unique and now accessible.

Podcasts are intellectual recycling, an ergonomically correct alternative  with great potential to simplify life, share ideas and wrest the viewer/listener from the rigors of commercial-saturated audio and video media.  Though the name “podcast” suggests iPod plus broadcasting, the fact is that podcasting predates the iPod invasion and actually grew out of the RSS feed format.

If you don’t have hours to probe, don’t get started with podcasts!  I’ve tried to focus on podcasts that are Minnesota-specific, audio, and spoken word (as opposed to the inestimable mountains of music about which everyone seems to know anyway).  My goal is to whet the listener’s audio appetite – no effort to plumb the depths that are both endless and shifting.

Note #1 about what follows:  Virtually all of these podcasts can be streamed on your PC.  They can also be downloaded and stored for replay on whatever audio device you have stuck in your ears.

Note #2 is about access: While traditional media are organized by topic, podcasts are organized by series or distributor. The user just needs to know where to look.

Note #3:  These are by or about Minnesota and Minnesota agencies.  In the interests of open government I tried to focus on publicly supported sources, though that’s a broad category that encompasses sports, public radio, the U of M and other key players in the world of podcasting.  I did not include state agencies per se.  Watch for a future blog.

Basic introduction to podcasting as a resource:

Try the University of Minnesota Digital Media Center for a great introduction/  They even support an ongoing Podcasting Discussion Mailing List.

Public Radio Player from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting focuses specifically on public programming in their excellent Q&A introduction to podcasting and related technology.

Christina Lopez at the University of Minnesota has written a superb piece about the potential of podcasting well worth more poking around.

Ready to listen?

Following is a totally random sampling of Minnesota audio podcast options – there are scores of other possibilities if you have but the time and a smattering of intellectual curiosity:

The University of Minnesota offers an incredible portal to podcasts of every stripe – lectures, interviews, backgrounders, opinion pieces and more.  Some samples:

  • Missed the Great Conversations series?  Check out the podcasts– everyone from Seymour Hersh to Ken Starr to Rafael Yglesias – fabulous!
  • Culture Queue from Radio K offers a pot pouri of information, ideas and opinions on current issues ranging from eating local to slam poetry and Tea Baggers..
  • The Civil Engineering department produces regular audio and video podcasts to which you can subscribe.

UMD is a podcasting mecca.  Check the Designer Network or, for the latest on research on The Lake (Superior, that is) try the Minnesota Sea Grant Feeds Library which offers audio programs and updated news and events on water quality, coastal communities and aquaculture.

The U of M is but one of many of Minnesota’s academic institutions floating through the airways to students and the general public. Check out St. Cloud State’s great website or what’s happening at Alexandria Technical college or Austin Community College for samples – virtually every publicly supported academic institution is in the podcasting game,

Access Minnesota is self-defined as a “weekly public affairs radio show featuring noted academics, authors, politicians and business leaders engaging in common sense conversations about compelling and relevant issues in the state of Minnesota, across the national and around the globe.”  It’s a joint project of the Minnesota Broadcasters Association and the U of M.

Some Assembly Required is a superb series of weekly podcasts based on music and audio art, an exploration of the world of sound collage.  Produced locally by MnArtists the series is now nationally syndicated.

Want to know more about Minnesota architecture – broadly defined? Check Minnesota Builds for stories, interviews and heaps of photos on the complementary website.

Truth to Tell, heard first on KFAI’s, features interviews with a wide range of Minnesota decision and opinion makers.   Northern Sun News, another KFAI product, features interviews about current issues particularly ecology, peace and justice

And then there’s Minnesota Public Radio the ubiquitous audio giant that podcasts just about everything.  Start here to explore the library of podcasts from MPR.

Or check out KYMN in Northfield where you’ll find nearly a score of locally produced programming ranging from the Law Review to an After School Special to Art Zany and Tech Talk’

No surprise, the Vikes are in the game, so to speak. So do the Wild.  And the Lynx.  And the Twins.  You get the picture….

But you might not know about The Icebox Radio Theater, an independent, nonprofit arts organization in International Falls.  They’re dedicated to using the “old art of radio drama to tell new stories about their corner of the world, i.e. Northern Minnesota and Northwest Ontario. Or then there’s the MN Standup Comedy podcast series or La Casa Rojas, Spanish language podcasts beamed and streamed from St. Paul.

The list and the listening go on!  Dip for now, then drink deep of the audio stream….

Farmer’s Markets Sprout

Farmer’s Markets are sprouting (to coin a phrase) on every church, parking, and vacant lot, it seems.  It’s great.  What I’m learning in my poking around is about the unique nature of many of these sites.  Thanks to Twin Cities Daily Planet shared penchant for poking around, I’ve had a chance to dig a bit deeper into just a couple – so far.

The Village Farmer’s Market, opening July 12 in my community, is the fulfillment of one woman’s dream.  Wendy Huebner is the dreamer who now has the whole community abuzz.  The VFM will feature a generous array of locally produced vegetables and fruit along with a rich assortment of entertainment/educational programs that range from accordions to jugglers to a talk about the history of cookbooks, with emphasis on delicacies created from locally grown produce.  Details on TCDP.

Another community building market is the fulfillment of Toua Xiong’s dream.  The Hmongtown Marketplace in St. Paul’s Frogtown is the hub of the Hmong community.  The nine-acre site features locally grown produce, much of which is new to oldtime Minnesotans.  The Market also features several restaurants and foodstands, acres of purchasable items ranging from clothing to videos to bubble blowing gear.  Again, details on TCDP.

The summer isn’t long enough to poke around all of the market opportunities, but I’ve got a good start on a most delightful and delicious poke!