E-book readers like the Kindle and the Nook seem to be all the holiday rage, but like I do with most technologies, I’m kind of standing on the edge of the diving board staring down at the pool of technology, not sure of making the leap yet.   Maybe I’ll just climb back down the ladder on this one

I’ve checked them out, and while the capabilities are impressive, I think we’re getting caught up on the consumerism and gadgetry.

The Kindle holds about 3,500 books, so they say.  I’m not sure I’ve read that many books cover-to-cover in my life, to be honest, and I read quite a bit.  But inventory doesn’t equate to knowledge or wisdom.

It’s not the books in your e-reader, or even your physical library that count.  What makes a difference in a person’s life are the books in “you”.

The only purposes a book in any form can serve are to entertain, educate, and inform.  But to get that benefit, you have to actually read, digest and think about them.  Not just carry them around in a gadget or leave them on a shelf, unread, just to boast about the size of your library holdings.

I’m sure the next-generation Kindle or Nook will hold 5,000 or more books, and it’ll be an upward climb until a person will be able to walk around with a device that fits in the palm of their hand and holds the combined output of all of civilization.

But that capability won’t really change you….only time spent laying back in a comfortable chair with good light and reading and thinking will allow ideas to enter and roll around in your mind for when they’re needed.

Regardless of whether those ideas come from a musty book with yellowed pages, or the lastest reader with full graphics and e-ink.

Don’t confuse the map with the territory.


Bundt Cake Values

I was pleased to see readers respond favorably to my previous post about the resurgent Faribault Woolen Mills.  It was great to see people get the same positive feeling I had as I learned about it.

It also occurred to me that there’s another story worth telling right in my backyard.  You might be familiar with NordicWare if you do any baking, or if your mother or grandmother ever made you the infamous Bundt cake. Maybe you’ve even got one of their cookie sheets or baking pans rolling around in the back of a cupboard.

They make simple aluminum kitchenware.  Stuff that should have been sent to the banks of the Yangtze or Huangpu rivers years ago, to hear the modern CEO’s tell the story.

But they keep plugging along, as they have for 65 years.  But they tell the story on their own website more eloquently than I do.

From their website:

Keeping Jobs In America Since 1946

At Nordic Ware, we are proud to manufacture our products in America because we believe that keeping jobs in this country benefits everyone. Nordic Ware is also providing jobs for hundreds of people in America at a time when most manufacturers have moved overseas.

More than 300 people in our local community are able to support their families because of these jobs. This also results in countless jobs for other American workers employed by the suppliers we use on a daily basis:

  • Our Packaging and Corrugate Box suppliers (all less than 20 miles from our factory)
  • Our Machinery Suppliers
  • Our metal suppliers (all 900 miles or less from our factory)
  • Our tool makers
  • Our American nonstick coating and paint supplier
  • Local construction and maintenance workers.

Providing jobs in the United States rather than sending money overseas is one key to Nordic Ware’s sustainability strategy, which we invite you to read more about here. Our employees help ensure the finest quality standards anywhere. Now that’s something everyone can feel good about.”

That IS something everyone can feel good about, and I’m proud that this business is part of my community.  Can’t say the same for a lot of ’em.

So the next time you hear some business pundit start spewing about competitiveness and globalization, bake a Bundt cake.  Not only will you feel better about life but so will the good people of St. Louis Park, Minnesota.


Been Through The Mill

Took a little trip through time last week to the Faribault Woolen Mill in the bustling little burgh of Faribault, Minnesota.

As you can see, they’ve been around for quite a while.  As a matter of fact, they were the oldest manufacturing entity in the state.  At one time, half of the woolen blankets sold in the United States came from here.  But in 2009 the old mill was closed down, like so many other businesses, a victim of modernity.

It sat idle for awhile, the employees laid off with few options in a small Minnesota town.  A potential buyer in Pakistan was going to buy the machinery, and things were getting packed up.

But a former CEO of Dairy Queen and his cousin decided to buy the place and keep it going.  And now it has reopened, rehired many of those former workers, and continues to churn out blankets, throws, and accessories.  It is the only “integrated” woolen mill in the United States, which is just a fancy way of saying the raw wool comes in one end of the plant fresh off the sheep and your blanket exits the other end.

It’s the kind of story we’d like to see more of.  You probably never heard of this place, but if you take a look at the picture below you or someone in your family probably has spent a night or more under a Faribault wool blanket.

I’ve certainly slept the sleep of the just under the grey wool blankets with “U.S” stamped on them in various barracks and Navy ships.  My father probably did in WWII.  And I’m guessing that if you or a family member served in the U.S. armed forces at any time from WWI on these will look pretty familiar to you.

Seeing this old woolen mill come back from the brink renews my faith that not all businessmen are greedy, people do care about what they make, and every so often there is a happy ending.  I’m sure there were higher returns available to the current owners of Faribault Mills on Wall Street or some sexier business, but who does that keep warm?  What purpose does a hedge fund serve?

These blankets aren’t cheap, but you’re only going to need one for your lifetime, so I guess they are kind of a bargain.  And in keeping with the modern “green” movement wool is renewable (the sheep grows a new fleece every year) and biodegradeable.

Not many people know wool is the only material that will keep you warm even when it is wet.  Not even your space-age fabrics made of petrochemicals can do that.

Their motto of “Loomed in The Land of Lakes” puts a picturesque spin on the company that allows me to picture it in my mind.

Made in Guangdong or Anhui Province just doesn’t have the same ring.