Trial Balloon

Something of Value

Posted at 6:00 AM on February 26, 2010 by Dale Connelly (29 Comments)

Many thanks and a tumultuous round of applause to all the Radio Heartland listeners who have taken the time and gone to the expense of supporting this service directly with your contributions. Your decision to become a member adds something of lasting value to this enterprise. You are the real force behind Minnesota Public Radio - there would be nothing here without you, so take a bow. You deserve it!

Today we'll hear a studio session that I recorded yesterday with singer and songwriter Bill Staines. Bill came up in the Boston folk scene - he's been at this songwriting business since he was a teenager. That's more than four decades making up and performing tunes without having another full time job along the way except for a five year stint at Sears Roebuck. That's remarkable.

Bill Staines.jpg

Bill says his aim is to create something of value - a difficult thing to quantify and somewhat intangible when the product of your work is as amorphous as a song. You don't know if you've met your goal until you do - the kind of moment Bill says he recognizes through isolated incidents he calls "little victories."

We'll hear the interview with Bill twice today - at 9 am and 1 pm, immediately following "The Dale Connelly Show".

Does your work create a physical product that has weight and takes up space? Is it electronic? A service, rather than an object? Does it defy description?

How do you know when you've done your job?

Comments (29)

Morning all. Can't wait to hear the Bill Staines session today!

I work in the service industry (travel) so have nothing substantial to show for my work, just stacks of various papers detailing what services I've set up!

Guess that's why I do so much crafty stuff on my own time!

Posted by sherrilee | February 26, 2010 6:12 AM

Good morning & happy Friday, all!

If the correct network traffic is flowing to the correct places and if offending traffic isn't coming in through the perimeter of the network, then I know I'm doing a good job. There are lots of auditors scanning from inside and out to make sure there are no security holes, and there are a lot of alerts sent directly to my BlackBerry should something not be working. I have a short leash that effectively advertises the quality of the job I have done minute by minute.

Posted by elinor | February 26, 2010 6:13 AM

Several lifetimes ago I was listening to Garrison's morning show when he was still doing it solo. He would smoke while broadcasting, which produced a lot of weird long silences. One morning Garrison somewhat awkwardly introduced a song that he said was about as good as a folk song could be and he invited listeners to pay respectful attention. It was Bill Staines singing "Scarborough Fair."

I used to make magazines. We would work as hard as we could and finally push a new magazine out the door, but before we could celebrate we knew we'd have to get cracking on the next one. It felt like throwing pebbles into Lake Superior--a lot of activity that only produced a few pages of writing that would soon be outdated and irrelevant.

It was thus thrilling to write a book. For me, making a book takes about as long as it takes to make a baby and hurts about that much coming out. But when the box of author's copies comes back from the publisher you have something you can hold in your hand and place in the book shelf. And you can always look at it and say, "I did that. By god, I did that."

Posted by Steve in Saint Paul | February 26, 2010 6:34 AM

Steve - if you mentioned this before, sorry I missed it. What is name of said substantial book?

Posted by sherrilee | February 26, 2010 6:37 AM

How sweet of you to ask, Sherilee. I've written (or ghost-written) several books so mediocre that wild horses could not get me to name them here.

I'm guilty of having written four books about pheasants and pheasant hunting, which is wretched excess. The only one worth reading is Pheasant Hunter's Harvest.

I've written books about bluebirds, sandhill cranes and wolves. The wolf book is pretty good.

My best book is unpublishable because the subject (my parents' love for each other) is not commercially attractive in today's publishing climate.

Posted by Steve in Saint Paul | February 26, 2010 6:49 AM

Good Morning All,

I think Bill Stain's "little victories" is a nice way to look at the progress you are making. It isn't good to take yourself too seriously or at least isn't good for me to do this. Still, it is great when something nice happens that gives you hope.

An example of a small victory for me was a suprise greeting I got from a farmer from my home town at the recent sustainable ag conference. I never expected to see this farmer at this meeting because I thought he was locked into a more conventional approach to farming. But there he was, greeting me with a smile.

Posted by Jim | February 26, 2010 6:55 AM

At a Bill Staines concert I heard him tell about the quiest audience that hardly even applauded. When he sang "Place in the Choir," the audience members revealed the animal hand puppets they'd been hiding on their quiet hands. Dale, can you please play a live version so all of us critters join in?

I don't make widgets. I did clinical work and teaching for many years. Now I am a bureaucrat trying to provide care and teaching at a distance. I know I have succeeded when I see the light go on in someone's eye or when the right sample actually makes it to the lab.

Have a great day whatever you do in the Heartland!

Posted by Beth-Ann | February 26, 2010 6:57 AM

Greetings! Elinor and Steve - those are very cool descriptions of the satisfaction you receive from doing your work. Sherrilee, I'm sure you get feedback from satisfied customers!

I work in a Natural Foods Dept of a large, local store. Most questions revolve around finding a product the customer heard about on TV, radio, internet, friends, etc. It's gratifying when I can point them directly to it, quickly and easily.

Other times, customers ask about how to deal with specific health issues or recommendations for good supplements. When they come back and relate their pleasure and great results with the product and my service -- that's a good feeling. Sometimes, they'll even say -- "Oh, Joanne -- I'm so glad you're here, I wanted to ask about ____." Those are the moments that make a lowly retail job worthwhile.

Posted by Joanne in Big Lake | February 26, 2010 6:58 AM

Joanne - you are correct, I do get feedback from my travelers. Just got a nice hand written card a couple of weeks ago. That's unusual these days.

Steve, Crane and Bluebirds are now on my request list (Mpls Library)!

Posted by sherrilee | February 26, 2010 7:09 AM

The almighty end of year test score? Not on your life!
I know I'm doing a good job when the wiggly and easily distracted youngsters are focused and actively engaged. When the timid and reluctant ones raise their hands and contribute to discussions. When the kid who's always in a rush relaxes a little and starts being more careful. When they all treat each other the way friends do. When they smile and laugh and make me smile and laugh. There's a lot more to say, but work is calling.

Thanks for a great week, everyone.
Tim - tweezers, hah!
I'm thinking of you Barb. glug glug

Posted by Donna | February 26, 2010 7:11 AM

i know if im not doing ok because the bills stop geting covered. i sell stuff and when the piano and theater classes for my kids start being jepordized because im not making enough money i know i should have been doing something differently six month ago to have headed this off at the pass. im lucky to have a gift for coming up with new twists on how to skin a cat so it never gets stale. far from it. i wish at times it would be a little more routine. reinventing the wheel every day can be exausting.a feeling of accomplishment is there when the deal goes through but its a little like playing golf, that was a great shot, congrats now take the next shot and get on with the game. i have tried civic involvment and i hate commitees. i was president of the pto (pta) and i spent the entire year imploding at the snails pace and the unbelievable walls popping up from anywhere and weverywhere. i was in a commmunity fundraising commitee and it thought it was a positive thing but the end of the day proves that it is again a wierd little club that does a baby steps worth of good where i have a need to catapult forward. i am involved with a political grassroots stuff ( i don't belong to any organized political party. i am a democrat) i do coach 3 basketball teams and a couple of girls softball teams for my daughters and when the parents come up and tell me their kids love the sport because of their involvement that feels great. i paint and write in my liesure to have stuff to show for it i suppose. more would be better but we all do what we can and rather than beat myself up for doing so little i have to celebrate what does get done on occasion. its like noticing the ten perfect days we normally get in minnesota a year ( i have been tracking for 25 years and the last two years we have gotten way more than normal) and making sure that you get out and enjoy them rather than looing out the window and missing the action. some days just taking a deep breath and time to notice that life is good is the best thing i can do.

Posted by tim | February 26, 2010 7:16 AM

Hey everybody-

I'm leaving shortly to go sno - tubing with my daughter and her school class. Sounds like a fulfilling day to me! And if I can still walk to get on the bus when we're done and my feet aren't frozen it will be an even better day!

Just skimming the prior entries for today... my feedback is a solid 'Look what I did' but it's all tangible; that crop gets harvested, that set comes down, those lights fade...
I commented a few weeks ago in talking about -- what was I talking about??-- being self employed so satisfaction has to come from within.

Catch you all later-


Posted by Ben | February 26, 2010 7:19 AM

I like the description of "small victories" -- ideally, at least one a day, if possible. Nothing I can put my hands around, but warms the heart for a moment.

In my off-work time, I have especially loved watching community theater performances of plays and actors i have directed...watched grow from crude moments to full-blown comedy that makes the audience rock back and forth with laughter.

Posted by cynthia in mahtowa | February 26, 2010 7:32 AM

My job is a series of words getting translated to 1s and 0s and back to words in a slightly different format. Same with the last job. I know I've done well when nothing breaks in those strings of 1s and 0s. I do get the occasional "thank you" email from someone, which is very gratifying.

One of my first jobs out of college was a true paper-pushing job. I worked in a student loan claims department. I'd get a stack of paper files to review, then I'd put the results of that review into a database, and it would become a stack of paper on the other side of my desk that was whisked away at the end of the day to become microfiche (and shredded paper).

Wish I had a nice big book, published or not, like Steve. That would be very satisfying.

Posted by Anna | February 26, 2010 7:42 AM

I've done my job when I've created new knowledge, and I've shared a graph that explains it clearly.

Posted by Charlie | February 26, 2010 7:44 AM

Dale, as usual on the mornings I don't teach, I am working at my computer and listening to Radio Heartland--the icon on my desktop feels like a magic amulet since you left the kitchen radio and settled on my computer. I just heard "Mama, You've Been on My Mind" and had to stop working and go to the website. Yesterday in class we did folk ballads for 80 minutes, and when I showed a couple of old videos of Dylan and Baez, I, too, tried to explain their "complicated and complementary" relationship (without being able to summon those words, unfortunately) by showing examples of Baez singing by herself and then Dylan singing over the top of her, and sort of insinuating his less-gentle style onto the duet version of songs they did together. But I sure wish I'd had this cut of "Mama" to use--which says it all! I am hoping I can play this bit in class next week, but don't know if we will be able to hear your intro to the song as well. Does the archive reproduce the whole show? Well, I'll investigate, but thanks for once again--I can't tell you how often this happens--providing a musical footnote to things I have been tossing around. Your continued presence on the air, though reliant on my computer, is one of the little miracles that makes it all worthwhile, and keeps me contributing to MPR
Thanks, Jan.

Posted by Jan | February 26, 2010 7:47 AM

ben perfect day...
charlie say more...
dale, thanks for you doing your job so well and mike for doing it so invisably. the teachers who patiently work to get us all though to the next level are the superstars of the universe. thanks donna and clyde, the health store knowledgable people that are there to get us all doing life better in a better way with the latest and gretest developments are revered. writers are gods, ( i love pen pals, talk of the stacks, talking volumes, ) raising your own subsistance part of the planet barb and jim and cynthia is very cool.
what a great group.
charlie say more. really

Posted by tim | February 26, 2010 7:59 AM

Any Richard Thompson works for me! Thanks Dale....
By the way did I mention thst the Loud & Rich tour is coming to the Fitz on April 14th? I'll be there!

Posted by Kate in Eden Prairie | February 26, 2010 8:09 AM

When I'm volunteering, I get thanked pretty frequently and so know I've accomplished something. When I'm doing my organizing work with people, they are so thankful it's almost embarrassing, and it is usually clear that something has gotten done. It's around the home that I'm never sure whether anything is finished!

Jan, I am able to listen to each hour of Dale's show by clicking on "The Dale Connelley Show" at the top here, and you'll find the play list for each hour and a "Listen" button to click -- you can listen to it an hour at a time.

Dale, it was so nice to hear your voice yesterday afternoon when we got home, and the end of pledging! Congrats to you and all MPR. And thanks for Country Pie a while ago.

Posted by Barbara in Robbinsdale | February 26, 2010 8:10 AM

First of all, thank you so much for "Tear Stained Letter". It made my morning.

As a teacher, the rewards can be sometimes hard to find. But I know I have done my job in two ways. The first is when a student goes "Oh!". That means they get the concept. Music to my ears. The second happened yesterday. My student said "I actually learn things in this class". Which is my goal.

Posted by Anna | February 26, 2010 8:11 AM

It's hard for me to know if I have done a good job, since psychotherapy interventions often take a while to take effect- Therapy is sort of like planting tree seedlings. Its takes a while to get a nice tree. I must admit, though, that I can get pretty quick results for childhood toileting problems. It's a strange gift, I know, but someone has to do it.

Posted by Renee | February 26, 2010 8:12 AM


The archive will stream the entire show, broken up into two one hour segments.
Here's what you do -

At, click on "The Dale Connelly Show"

At the show page, double click on the date of the show you want to listen to. Today's show will be posted after 9 am.

Each hour has a "Listen" link at the top. For Friday, Feb. 26th, you'll want the 7 am hour.

A slider appears on the screen as the hour plays. You can click along the timeline to jump to a specific portion of the hour. "Mama, You've Been On My Mind" appears at 28 minutes into the hour.

In case you're interested in having the actual disc of the recording, the song is on "The Bootleg Series Volume 6 - Bob Dylan Live 1964 - Concert at Philharmonic Hall" The record label is Columbia / Legacy.

I hope this helps, and thanks for listening!

Posted by Dale Connelly | February 26, 2010 8:25 AM

what an interesting group--and an interesting topic!

too funny, renee--but you're right, a great gift.

cynthia, LOVE that you got your neighborhood feral cats in for neuter and release--wish you'd been here in Kanab for the recent amateur community theater production--home grown, home written, home performed---highlight was a song by a black Lab they called Black Dog Blues--i was nearly hysterical as the dog stood on stage and howled (cuz a Dylan-wannabe was playing harmonica).

ah, results of work. i've been writing and editing for years, and one thing i do like about it is having a tangible product at the end--a book (by me once, by others usually), a magazine, a set of resources for others to use while teaching kids....

now, as i am working part-time at the local elementary school, i strive for a small victory each day with the 3 kids i work with the most. best moment lately: had the presence of mind to check in with the kids a couple days ago re their sleep and eating habits; turned out they were all allowed to stay up late and weren't fed before they left the house....i spoke with them all about how that makes it very difficult to have a good day and to do well in learning.

But when i checked in with them yesterday, and saw their brighter eyes and more eager faces, they each proudly said they'd gotten to bed on time and reported having eaten a good breakfast, and they clearly saw and felt the difference AND understood why.

it's a small thing, but when kids don't get the care and help they need at home, all we can do is start providing the small things, one after another, and hope they add up to making a difference.

next on the list: missing social skills--starting at the beginning with how to greet someone, how to do the back-and-forth of simple good conversations, the fact that when we have clean bodies and clothes we make a better impression on's a big hill to climb!

but utterly gratifying to start to fill the holes left by neglect....

Posted by Kay H in Utah | February 26, 2010 8:34 AM

Kay-what you are doing is invaluable!

Posted by Renee | February 26, 2010 8:41 AM

OK, have we talked about how many impressive people we have on this blog before. Today is like a revelation to me. Wow!

Kay -- what book did YOU write?

Posted by sherrilee | February 26, 2010 8:58 AM

hi, sherilee--
i wrote a sort of memoir for teenagers of my troubled teen and twenties years and the lessons i eventually learned from them--and called it "Life Freaks Me Out: And Then I Deal With it." ha ha--that's just how i am....

and yes, very impressive bunch of folks! out here in the boonies, i love checking in on the blog and knowing i'll find intelligence, thoughtfulness, and humor--

thanks, y'all---

Posted by Kay H in Utah | February 26, 2010 9:16 AM

Kay -- Mpls library has your book too! I feel like I've hit the mother lode today.

Posted by sherilee | February 26, 2010 9:26 AM

How do I know when I've done my job? More often than not, I don't. A big part of my job is making sure that bunches of things don't get in the way of other people doing theirs - kind of preventative damage control. It's hard to measure what didn't happen. I get to spend some time in research, and love the realization that I've learned something that no one knew before that moment. I've written some, mostly in esoteric trade and academic journals, and seeing them in print is incredibly gratifying. It's about the only time I have tangible evidence that I've accomplished something. I haven't had the chance to do nearly enough of that lately.

But it's really like my other so-called career as a musician. You know when you've given a good performance, and you know when you've given a bad one. You can't count on the audience to let you know. Sometimes they can tell, and sometimes they can't. Sometimes they're not paying attention at all, and you're playing for your fellow musicians and your own pride, satisfaction, and sense of accomplishment.

I think most jobs are like that. You need the audience (even though you might call them customers, or clients, or patients, or consituents). They pay the bills, after all, and positive feedback from them in whatever form it might take is incredibly gratifying. But they're not always paying attention, mostly through no fault of yours, and even if they are, they often can't tell if you've done a good job or not. But you know. You just know.

Posted by Don in West St. Paul | February 26, 2010 9:38 AM

Thanks for the help on stream from the archives--I can't believe I didn't know that little trick. And thanks, I will order that Dylan CD you mentioned. Listening to Asleep at the Wheel right now, and once again, this show is starting my day out like a predawn sunrise.


P.S. I heard two faculty discussing the wonderfulness of a certain student in the hall . . .and I chimed in with "I know who that is but he hasn't taken a class from me yet, rats!"

Posted by Jan | March 5, 2010 6:34 AM

February 2010
  1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27

Master Archive