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Aine’s robotics team is going to State by Ann Treacy
November 20, 2017, 6:49 pm
Filed under: St Paul


The Cinderella story of the robotics world is the meteoric climb of the Circuit Sisters. OK maybe I don’t mean meteoric, maybe I mean lucky as all get out!

Aine’s team is all girls. This is their second year. If you’re not wise to the world of robotics, the deal is you work and work and work and you get one meet to show your stuff. So today the girls’ robot probably didn’t not perform as well as it could have. They had five qualifying heat. At one point they were in 20th place out of 24; next we looked they were 16. I’m not sure where they ended in the ranking – and the beauty of robotics is that it doesn’t really matter. There’s a lot of room for wildcards.

So the drill is a morning full of qualifying heats leads to determining the top four teams. Those four teams each get to select two teams to form their alliance. It did not occur to us that the Circuit Sisters would be selected. But the first team chose the second team, third team selected the fifth – in other words the top teams were all forming alliances, which I thought might be good for the wildcards. But you could have knocked us all over when Circuit Sisters were the second choice of the first team!!

The next stage is a play off – the first and fourth alliances (and second and third) play a best of three tournament. The winners play each other for another best two out of three for big winners. Turns out the robot from one of the teams wasn’t working so Circuit Sisters ended up in the ring (only two teams of two in the ring at a time) all of the first three matches. Things were up and down. At one point, they forgot to turn the robot on. It didn’t move – at all. As luck would have it, another team on the other alliance made the same mistake. Yup it’s that kind of intense.

In the end, the first ranked team (Next Gen) just rocked -. really, really, really rocked and that brute muscle got the win for the alliance. And all of teams on the winning alliance go to State. But the girls had something about them that got them selected for the alliance. AND they were able to help out another alliance team with an extra motor and some expertise. So they absolutely proved their worth. And no one can underestimate the cheer-ability of 13 teenage girls!

Also the girls won the innovator award!!

So now we’re basking in the glory – and by basking I mean Aine has been figuring out how to make the robot better for the tournament in February.

I have to add that the robotics leaders are amazing. Mr Harrier and Mrs Dougherty have spent hours with these kids helping them learn how to build a robot, helping them how to work effectively with each other, helping them internalize the robotics (First Tech) motto gracious professionalism. These kids help each other, make room for each other and cheer each other on. Nice job leaders!

The terrible beauty of a well-kept homeless campsite – awesome and heartbreaking by Ann Treacy
November 18, 2017, 8:00 pm
Filed under: St Paul

My friend Monica and I have walked literally hundreds of miles together. She has introduced me to running, a more purposeful generosity, Minneapolis politics and the world of advocacy for the homeless. On a classically Minnesotan cool, crisp sunny autumn day a couple weeks ago she brought me face to face with an unusual homeless campsite.

It was amazing. The footprint is easily the same size as a generous house. There is a dining room, living room, sitting room, lots of sprawling space. And every inch of every room is filled with a little piece of art or tchotchke. The parameters of the space are loosely a bridge, a walking path, a rusted out truck and a shed-like building. You could walk by this place a hundred times and note realize how extensive it is.

The home is kept by a couple – that I will call Peter (Pan) and Wendy because this reminds me of Never Never Land. It’s as if someone brought everything out of your grandma’s house and rebuilt the home outdoors. Commemorative plates, dolls, a dining room set up with china! The tree decorated with empty pop cans and airplane bottles of booze is less grandma-like but crafty and weirdly beautiful when it catches the light. And clever use of refuse. Walking up to the “door” we saw pots of plastic flowers lining the walkway. There are matching sconces on the wall, tennis shoes, pictures and hubcaps.

Each item had significance or purpose at some time and it feels like that significance or purpose has been extended by being a part of this home. It’s post-apocalyptic; it’s timeless. It is the childhood fort beyond your wildest dreams. It’s very romantic – even as you imagine being out here in the dead of winter. Even as you imagine trying to get cover from the rain. Even as you wonder how this place has been preserved and not vandalized or gentrified. It still seems romantic.

Until Monica says – but just imagine the rats and mice. It’s snaps you back into grownup reality that while the creativity, perseverance and ingenuity are applauded, the need for a home without walls is heartbreaking. There is a chance that this couple sleeps in a shelter. Most shelters, most of the year, are run like bed and breakfasts – you can’t hang around during the day. So this may be a daytime haven. The couple is unable to qualify for more permanent housing together. (They are not teenagers; these are seniors.) They busk for money and apparently are gifted musicians. Mental health plays a role in their circumstances. As it often does with homelessness.

Visiting their home was a reminder to me that my reality – my worries and joys are not universal. I have a lot; I have so much I don’t save commemorative plates, hubcaps or shoes. I have to remember the other realities out there – when I donate, when I volunteer, when I vote.

Day of Religion Part 2 – Confirmation by Ann Treacy
November 6, 2017, 1:37 am
Filed under: Minnesota, St Paul

After our morning at the peaceful Buddhist Temple, the confirmation at the Cathedral was like a mad house. Well – like a full house anyway. I tried to look at the art like it was art but of course I have spent hundreds of hours in the Cathedral (and that was today alone!).

The Cathedral is majestic. Often I walk there and back from my house. I like hearing the bells. I like how stately it is. And the art inside is amazing – but it’s dark. As Lily pointed out mostly you see a lot of suffering. It does make you wonder what the crucifix is the symbol of the Church – not a resurrected Jesus or an angel or Ricky Bobby’s little tiny baby Jesus. I’ll have to go back another today – today there were too many people and most of the art is far away – on the ceiling really but I bet on a sunny day you can see it.

Starting our day of religion at Watt Munisotaram Buddhist Temple by Ann Treacy
November 5, 2017, 7:07 pm
Filed under: Minnesota

To hedge our bets or maybe to offset some things we’re not down with for the Catholics, we celebrated Aine’s confirmation by going to the Watt Munisotaram Buddhist Temple. It was chilly and cloudy but still the beauty shined through. It’s kind of amazing – out in the middle of nowhere about 35 minutes from our house is this gorgeous temple. We were the only ones we saw. It’s very peaceful; everything was open unmanned. So when we bought trinkets, we left money in the donation box. Inside the main temple the painting on the wall tell the story of Buddha – not unlike the Stations of the Cross. It’s cozy and inviting. Outside the Statues are grand and gold.

Our mini miracle is that everyone decided it was worth getting up early to go. NO one really fought while we were there. And I got a picture of all three girls!

Maybe I’ll try this afternoon to get good pictures of the Cathedral to post. The Temple seems so amazing because it’s different – but the Cathedral isn’t too shabby either.

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