Thursday, December 30, 2010

Christine O'Donnell, Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann and Brett Favre

Witch hunt (this is too easy): the feds are investigating Christine O’Donnell, the Tea Party darling famous for her “I’m not a witch” TV ads. For spending campaign monies on personal stuff. Like rent. Allegedly.

That brings us to Sarah Palin, who is not a witch allegedly but sometimes rhymes with one. I’ve been wanting to write that for a long time. The line forms here for anyone offended by these grinners.

Oxymoron: Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann has been appointed to a super-secret intelligence committee.

Apology. I did not set out to offend only women with this post. Surely there are some wusses out there who object.


PS—The NFL barely gave Brett Favre a slap on the wrist for his alleged sexting to that woman who is young enough to be his daughter.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Internet -- pro, con

So. The Internet is good for us. Not always.

Quick fact: 35 hours of video are uploaded on YouTube every minute. Most of those rack up zero views. What a colossal waste of time.

Question: did the computer make us better writers? Did the eraser?

Headline: the Kindle is the best selling product in Amazon’s history, outselling even Harry Potter stuff.

Prediction: someday soon, over 200 million people will call themselves ex-bloggers. Yes, there are 120,000 new bloggers every day. But more than that go dark. The blog is where elephants go to die.

Smart phones. Tablets. That’s the future. Like plastics used to be when Dustin Hoffman was a boy.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

What would Ole do?

My new hero is Ole the First.

This marks my second Big Winter in Minneapolis. And it’s a doozy – the fifth toughest winter on record. Snowfall, even if only flurries, for 15 of the last 21 days.

Looking through the lens of history, I can see why Ole spent his first winter up here. He was snowed in! But, I cannot fathom why he spent the second winter, assuming he had a choice.

Admittedly, I’m feeling a little cocky. I’ve learned how to dress for the cold and how many calories I need to take in so I will have the strength to get the clothes off when I get indoors. I have learned to wear good socks because snow-slopped shoes are left at the entry.

Gradually, little things come to the icy dawning. Like frequenting only establishments with a parking lot that has been plowed recently. Curbside parking requires more athletic ability than I will ever again possess . Even in my best years, I’m not certain I could jump that high. Yessir, give me the good crunch, crunch, crunch of a fresh-plowed parking lot.

At last, I understand the muted cheers across the Twin Cities as the TV weather dudes get all wee-wee’d up about the temp “warming up to the twenties.” Between zero and 22, there's a big difference.

Only one last major hurdle: I scream a lot while driving.

The Mystery Woman is not sympathetic. She calls it my ice scream.

And then giggles.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Home for Christmas

The Mystery Woman and I wish you the best of holidays from our perch just above Minnehaha Falls, made famous for white people by that Longfellow guy. Indians already knew of its beauty. The 80-foot waterfall is now solid ice. At the time the picture was snapped, the outside temp was 14 degrees with a wind chill of 4. Flannel-lined everything: pants, shirts, car keys. Two more snows predicted this week.

Quite an adventure. Clink.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Move the Bears - Vikings game indoors


The decision for the Vikings to play the Bears Monday night at the open U of Minnesota stadium is difficult to understand.

The field will be frozen solid. It’s like playing on concrete in 15 degree weather. That’s dangerous to a lot of expensive beef. Those guys are athletes, not gladiators. The home field advantage is simply not worth the risk. After all, the Vikings are statistically out of the race for glory.

Where the hell is the player’s union? This macho is misplaced.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Roof skiing next Olympic sport?

When the first guy named Ole climbed up the side of his house just to look around, it was the Eureka Moment. Roof skiing was born.

After all, there’s not a lot to do once your world is buried in snow. Even ice fishing loses it’s sizzle after a while.

Men of all ages like to do many things while at the edge of the roof, but none are so edgy as roof jumping. A successful jump requires skill, daring and snow at the bottom.

Thanks to the glaciers, Minnesota is blessed with more than 10,000 lakes. Everybody knows that. What is less known is the glaciers knocked the top off all nearly all our mountains. Few survived.

And few men survived the early days of roof jumping. But once you’ve climbed to the roof, you have to get down somehow.

When I lie to my friends back in Austin, I tell them this is me skiing off the roof of our house into a snow drift. Like a native. (Over 30,000 viewers on YouTube. Click here.)

That’s not inaccurate enough to be wrong. Although I don’t know the skier, I do know his parents.

They are so proud.

Monday, December 13, 2010

More snow predicted Wednesday, Thursday

With snow this deep, it is easy to understand why there are no Chihuahua clubs in Minneapolis.

The temp was minus three degrees when I got up this morning. But it has warmed up to a toasty minus two since the sun came out.

It’s so cold that I’ll switch parties if Sarah Palin will shoot me a grizzly and gut it so I can crawl inside to get warm.

Layers. Explain to me how to do grizzlies in layers.

Palin’s in Haiti, you know. As Jimmy Fallon observed: "I just read that Sarah Palin is going to Haiti this weekend to deliver humanitarian aid. ... Because if there's one thing that's reassuring, it's seeing Sarah Palin above you, in a helicopter."

Because of the snow drifts, we can't get the van out of the garage. We're stuck for a while but at least we are near food and shelter. And we are both wearing nice color schemes. My pacemaker fritzes up at the mere mention of show or shovel so we'll have to wait until the teen-ager we hired gets home from school to run the plow.

Meanwhile, we've got enough firewood and barley products to make a stand.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Serious snow storm

As the Mystery Woman came down the stairs for her grand entrance to the day, she looked through the window at the mountain of snow outside and mused: “So, it wasn’t just a bad dream.”

The local newspaper can’t decide what to call the Blizzard of 2010 – Snowmaggedon or Snowmygawd.

People are beginning to venture outside. Mostly young people. To marvel at the snow. To shovel it. As a precaution, the Heart Hospital is on full alert.

But the snow gods sometimes take pity on old guys. The roof of the dome caved in which means Bret Favre might get another week for his shoulder to heal and keep his record of consecutive starts alive and counting.

During the worst, MDOT pulled snowplows off the roadways. Even for the professionals, too dangerous. By sun up, our street had been plowed twice. Now it’s trench warfare. Snow cliffs run curb to curb making snow canyons of our streets. The sun is brighter but has no warmth as it pinions shadows of bare trees to snow covered yards.

It was an honest mistake as I looked at the indoor/outdoor thermometer. I didn’t have my glasses and thought the device measured 38 degrees. (Let the party begin.) No. A closer look revealed the true story. It registered 3.8 degrees.

Maybe it’s time, a friend from Texas advises, to revert from wine back to bourbon.

This stuff won't melt for months.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Arctic, where blizzards come from

They buy hot chocolate by the keg hereabouts.

Winter is coming tomorrow. Blizzard warnings have been issued for Minnesota. Arctic clipper. We anticipate 35 mph winds packed with snow. White out conditions.

We may get a foot of snow.

A foot of snow! Our mini dachshund’s legs are barely two inches. Now that’s a serious winter problem. So far, I’ve managed to keep a patch in the yard cleared for her constitutionals. And she’s getting faster as the temperature drops. One minute, 45 seconds, that’s the time to beat. And that’s both barrels.

Gradually, the Norwegians are letting me in on their little secrets to winter survival. Like wearing pants lined with warm, soft flannel. The big blondes with the biggest smiles are going commando.

This is only my second Big Winter and naturally, I’m a little apprehensive. The Mystery Woman thinks it best we get outta here. Just this morning she said, “You know, honey, I’ve been thinking we should take a cruise.”

"To Alaska," she says.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


What is happening to me?

After 30 years of reading the NY Times every day, I let my subscription expire. For the past two weeks, I haven’t watched Keith, Chris or Rachel.

Barely, just barely, have I continued sending a conservative friend the news stories, essays and columns about the bad ass stuff the Tea Parties mistakenly call governing. The emails are like counting coup.

The Daily Show is still must-see TV, although the late schedule is giving new appeal to the re-run next day at noon.

I still spend about an hour on the computer each morning reading interesting stuff from half a dozen news aggregators.

Every day, I still read the local paper and watch local TV news.

But the thrill barely flickers where once there was enough heat to tan hides. What is happening to me?

Age-related? Perhaps. These days, I seem to need less bile.

Obama? Again, a real possibility. Our great hope has been dashed by his weak actions and the right wing victories.

The big money from big corporations? Jesus, yes.

Big money buys lots of big lies.

The lies? Yes. They are beginning to grow heavier than before.

Outside, the sun is shining. A beautiful day. So it’s not that winter disorder thing. I’m not hung over. No mood altering meds.

Battle fatigue? I dunno. All I want to do is build a fire and re-read all of Tom Robbins’ novels.

And dance with the butterflies.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Let it snow

A friend in Texas sent this knowing I am a sucker for beauty. And just in time for Friday’s snowfall in Minnesota. But beauty is apropos all the time.

by Joseph Stroud

Everywhere, everywhere, snow sifting down,
a world becoming white, no more sounds,
no longer possible to find the heart of the day,
the sun is gone, the sky is nowhere, and of all
I wanted in life – so be it – whatever it is
that brought me here, chance, fortune, whatever
blessing each flake of snow is the hint of, I am
grateful, I bear witness, I hold out my arms,
palms up, I know it is impossible to hold
for long what we love of the world, but look
at me, is it foolish, shameful, arrogant to say this,
see how the snow drifts down, look how happy
I am.

"Manna" by Joseph Stroud, from Of This World. © Copper Canyon Press, 2009.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Walking on water

You’ll never guess what I saw today. Footprints. On the Mississippi River.

Just when I thought I understood the Minnesota attitude about cold weather, I saw footprints in the light snow that covers the new ice on the Big River. It was strangely disquieting to someone who has never walked on water. Looks dangerous. Not my thing.

Up here, the dawn seems to break slower. Like it’s a street fight just to shove the wintry dark out of the way. There is some hope but little comfort in the morning sun. The wind bites. It is sharp enough to take your leg off.

I know these things. This is my second winter. I’m a cold country veteran.

After walking the dog in 15 degree weather this morning, I was checking the news on my computer and feeling pretty cocky about how easy I had acclimated to the tundra conditions. Then I happened to look out the window. In the near dark, I could see this guy my age walking by. I often see him walking the neighborhood. No dog in tow. Just good exercise. And there he was again, walking.

Why not? It had warmed up to 16 already.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Willie Nelson arrested on the road again

Why did the Border Patrol arrest 77-year-old Willie Nelson at a checkpoint outside El Paso? Of course he was smoking pot. He’s been smoking pot for almost 70 years. It's a pre-existing condition.

Give the guy a pass and send him on his way. Make it a lifetime pass.

The authorities said they smelled pot when they opened the doors to Willie’s tour bus. Hell, they would smell pot in that particular bus if it were a barn find.

At least Willie practices safe pot – he generally uses some sort of vaporizer. Hmmm. I suppose that does argue the point that the driver would also get high while driving inside that haze. Maybe he was wearing a mask. This is the flu season. Maybe it was medical weed.

Willie, ever the stand-up kinda guy, admitted the pot was his, got charged and the cops released him shortly thereafter. But he could be facing 180 days in county jail if convicted.

Get your bumper stickers ready: FREE WILLIE.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Crossed the Mississippi for what?

North is easy to find this time of year.

We've got a beautiful snowfall underway. Soft, fluffy flakes hushing straight down from the low cloud deck. The tree crotches are marked. Bare branches embrace the snow. No wonder so many babies happen this time of year.

Likely, this will be a light snow, only one to three inches. But it's going to decorate a gorgeous thanksgiving.

Every time I look out the window, I say the same thing:


Even as a winter novice, I had to get out. I had a mission. An old Texan will go to a lot of trouble for a Thanksgiving pecan pie. The wintry mix was not going screw with my tradition.

This morning before the roads turned treacherous, I managed to get to the pie place and back. Literally, I went over the river and through the woods – driving across the bridge above Lock & Dam No. 1 on the Mississippi River. The big river is already showing ice floes. Overnight lows of 2 degrees will make the topside ice more safe for those Sons of Herman who just have to see if it will bear their weight. And the pickup truck.

Hope these are Stuart pecans.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

All turkeys are frozen in Minnesota

The temperature dipped to 14 degrees last night. But the weather heads says it’s going to get cold by Friday.

This kind of weather requires some planning, especially if you are not within walking distance of a liquor store. The grocery today was filled with demographics my age wearing mis-matched hats and gloves. I was there, too.

We’re expecting a wintry mix the next few days off and on. I don’t know how, but frozen mist hangs in the air. Ice is coating everything. I worried about the seagull cruising overhead looking for Lake Superior. What kind of de-icer do birds need?

Sunday, freezing rain made driving a contact sport. Nearly 500 fender-benders. Some serious. After all these years of winter experience, you would think people would stay home. Every year, ice is slick.

Reader alert: anybody who has ever said “ice fishing” out loud can skip the rest of this and go grab a beer. Everybody else, listen up. The state sets out guidelines for people who like to walk on water – after it has turned to ice.
2 inches or less – stay off
4 inches – ice fishing OK
5 inches – snowmobile or ATV
8 to 12 inches – car or small pickup
12 to 15 inches – medium size truck

At first, this struck me as humorous but it is serious stuff. Every year, people fall through the ice and die. A quarter of those who are killed are 9 years old or younger.

Bundle up. Preferably with someone you love.

Monday, November 22, 2010

November 22, 1963

Today usually sneaks up on me.

Nov. 22, 1963 was the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated by a lone gunman in Dallas.

I was the newest, greenest cub reporter working in Dallas at the time. A 24-year-old skinny kid from Lubbock who was just damned glad to be here, I barely knew how to find my way to work, much less operate a movie camera. I had been on the job only six weeks.

Somehow, I survived the trial by fire and managed to help capture history on film. During those terrible events, I filmed the Kennedy arrival at Love Field, the beginning of the motorcade, chaos at Parkland Hospital, the perp walk on the Third Floor…

When Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald, Ruby was standing right next to me as he lurched out to kill the man who had murdered our president. I got it on film.

I was working numb. We all were.

Nearly 50 years later, four of us who worked at KRLD Radio/TV wrote a book about our experiences as reporters covering those dark days. (Click on the book to the left and it takes you direct to Amazon, if you are interested.) The book was Bob Huffaker‘s idea and he was lead author with able assists from Bill Mercer, Wes Wise, and me.

In writing the book, we were surprised to discover something we had in common. To do our job, we had to stuff our emotions. It was days later when we allowed ourselves to cry in private.

To this day, I get choked up describing the Kennedys getting off the plane in Dallas. They were beautiful and this was Camelot.

I guess I’m still a little numb.

Addendum from Huffaker, Mercer and me

Posted 15 January 2007 - 01:22 PM
William Kelly, on Jan 15 2007, 06:11 AM, said:


Yesterday, in Sunday morning's Austin American-Statesman, I read a book review of When the News Went Live: Dallas 1963, a memoir by four Dallas journalists-George Phenix, Bob Huffaker, Bill Mercer, and Wes Wise-who covered the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. It sounds like an interesting book. During the course of that memorable weekend in 1963, one of the men spoke with Ruby in Dealey Plaza the day after the killing, another interviewed Oswald's mother, another was present when Ruby killed Oswald, and so on. And yet, if you are looking for substantive information about the assassination, you are not likely to find it in this book. The review states: "From the get-go, the authors declare themselves 'weary of conspiracy theories.'"

It is not surprising that they should be so averse to conspiracy "theories," for had they embraced such "theories" in their coverage of the assassination they might have ended up like Jim Koethe and Bill Hunter. Koethe was a reporter for the Dallas Times Herald; Hunter for the Long Beach Press Telegram. On the night of November 24, 1963, the two ventured to Jack Ruby's apartment where they interviewed Ruby's roommate George Senator and Ruby's attorney Tom Howard. Less than a year later, Howard, Koethe, and Hunter were all dead. Howard died of an apparent heart attack. Hunter was shot in the head by a Long Beach police officer who, after repeatedly changing his story about the killing, was eventually convicted of manslaughter and given a probated sentence. Koethe was killed a few months later in his Dallas apartment when he emerged from the shower to be karate-chopped in the neck by an unknown assailant.

Koethe and Hunter's deaths no doubt served as an example to other journalists, and may have been a factor in the large number of Dallas journalists who left Dallas and found other professions in the wake of the Kennedy assassination.

Phenix, Hufaker, Mercer, and Wise, however, were not part of this exodus. Their coverage of the assassination turned out to be a boon to their careers, rather than an impediment. Not only did they remain in the profession, they prospered. Phenix went on to co-found the Texas Weekly; Huffaker became an editor at Texas Monthly; Mercer became a prominent sportscaster; and Wise served as Mayor of Dallas in the 1970s.

These men, then, owe much to the assassination-it got them where they are today. But they sure wouldn't have gotten there if they had embraced those wearisome conspiracy "theories."

Huffaker was an army reservist based at Fort Hood. That, coupled with his career in the media may indicate he was working military intelligence. His name was appears on a DPD list of people believed to hold information on a Ruby-Oswald connection. Others on the list included Pixie Lynn and George Butler. You can find what PL and GB had in that regard (PL supposedly told a barman that Ruby ad Oswald were attending gay parties - GB claimed he had info indicating Oswald was Ruby's bastard son) but all you'll ffind when looking for what Huffaker had to say is a report saying THAT report was already filed.

To Tony: great work.

It's even worse that this idiocy's theme is that we made our careers by keeping our mouths shut about "the conspiracy." And made ourselves rich. What a colossal joke.

There were two or three people who wrote this little exchange of silliness, which I copied and pasted from the Mack White blog. The one who assumes that I was a clandestine intelligence officer is addressing someone named Bill (probably the William Kelly). It appears that the Mack White fellow wrote the initial post. I don't know who the Tony is who is congratulated upon his "good work."


Here's a thing I wrote in our old blog:

Confessions of a Conspirator

By Bob Huffaker

OK, I'm part of the JFK assassination cover-up. I admit it.

Keeping the secret all these years hasn't been easy, what with those constant visits from the mob, Vladimir Putin, that diehard Fidel Castro, and LBJ's ghost. So now the truth is out at last, and I feel marvelous just having gotten it off my chest.

Some bloggists have criticized When the News Went Live: Dallas 1963 for ignoring the obvious horrible truth behind who really shot JFK. One fellow suggests that all four of us reporters somehow saved ourselves from certain death by keeping quiet for all these years about what we knew. He even hints darkly that each of us somehow advanced his career by joining the cover-up: Bill as famous play-by-play announcer, George as publisher of Texas Weekly, Wes as Dallas Mayor, and I as a Texas Monthly editor. That's one of the funniest things we ever heard.

Most conspiracy criticism has come from decent folks who are properly skeptical of an establishment that has damn well earned all the skepticism it gets. Some of them say they enjoyed the book even if they wish that we had dealt with the proliferation of conspiracy theories.

That would have been a different book. We dealt instead with things we know firsthand and those we have investigated.

The physical evidence of the murders of Kennedy, Tippit, and Oswald is incontrovertible, complete with complete and consistent witness accounts of Oswald's and Ruby's movements, ballistics, photographic and autopsy evidence.

Having covered these three murders four decades ago, I went back into Warren Commission testimony, police reports, FBI reports, and other reliable evidence for a year of research while writing the book.

All the best research confirms that Oswald acted alone in the murder of JFK and Tippit, and that Ruby was too flaky and too wired to have kept secrets. The controversy over the physical evidence is a shame, since it detracts from real questions that remain, such as the documented cover-up by the FBI and Oswald's associations with people who might have influenced or encouraged him to kill JFK.

We all agree that Oswald and Ruby both acted alone and independently, but none of us would ever claim that others might not have influenced Oswald, especially given the FBI's concealing their knowledge of the assassin and the CIA's shadowy presence. On CBS-TV the morning after the assassination, my first question to Chief Jesse Curry confirmed FBI surveillance of the suspect.

But Ruby was a police and media groupie, and nobody in his right mind would have chosen him as a conspirator--and certainly not as a hit man. I talked to Ruby enough to know that much myself, and his roommate George Senator had no secrets either. He was just a bartender who shared Ruby's apartment and might or might not have had a physical relationship with him--not that there's anything wrong with that.

I invite all conspiracy-minded folks to read When the News Went Live: Dallas 1963, give us your best shot, and let us know if you enjoyed the book.

This is almost funny if not so absolutely crazy. I interviewed a woman who claimed to have been a stripper at Ruby's club and was pushing a book in which she also claimed that Ruby and Oswald had dinner in Ruby's club the week before the killing. That ancient rumor has long been discredited.

To answer how we made our fortunes: I left KRLD News just before Christmas of '64 without a job! Huffaker quit and earned a Ph.D in English to teach and make a fortune? Wes won the mayor's contest and nearly went bankrupt. George Phenix founded and published Texas Weekly and other publications for two decades and is happily in Minneapolis writing The Blog of Ages. We all are retired with English Bulldogs and yachts? You can see why talking about conspiracies is a mite disgusting.

Bill Mercer

Maybe not you -- but I got rich. After I took the film of Ruby shooting Oswald, KRLD TV paid me a handsome bonus of $8.62.
That is not a typo.

George Phenix

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Winter grumble storm

When it snowed last week, I trudged out to get some pictures of the school yard three doors up from our home. It was a heavy, wet snow. Beautiful, but difficult underfoot.

About half way out in the playground, my hips complained. As I turned back toward the house, I was startled to get sniffed by a big brindle dog who was just happy to get outside. He was pulling his owner, a small young woman wearing something I had never seen in true life – she was wearing snowshoes.

Before I could gather all my amazement, I almost got clipped by another young woman who was little more than a blur. No snowshoes for this one – she was riding her bicycle. In the snow. Nearly seven inches was already on the ground.

This morning, in 19 degree weather but no snow, I watched an older couple briskly walking our block. They take this turn most every morning.

Last night, friends who are lifetime residents of the Twin Cities came over with pizza and booze. They were complaining that there was no snow. I don’t think it was the wine talking. They meant it.

Right on cue, the weatherman writes in the morning paper that an Arctic air mass may squeeze out “bursts” of powdery snow Monday through Wednesday.

Are you happy now?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Gadsden Flag displays your ...

Display your (fill in the blank) with a personalized Gadsden Flag license plate on your car. Starting in Virginia, perhaps a national movement? Curious timing – just as the driverless car is ready for the road.

More transportation news. AMTRAK expects a bump in ridership thanks to the growing irritation with TSA airport pat-downs. Someone noted that not a single terrorist had been captured by TSA but 23 TSA employees have been arrested for stealing from passengers.

Nate Silver reports: "Other passengers may substitute car travel for air travel. But this too has its consequences, since car travel is much more dangerous than air travel over all. According to the Cornell study, roughly 130 inconvenienced travelers died every three months as a result of additional traffic fatalities brought on by substituting ground transit for air transit. That’s the equivalent of four fully-loaded Boeing 737s crashing each year."

Someone else has proposed special flights just for parents with unruly children. Might work. Already, there are planes set aside just for pets. Someone else wants jets just for geezers. Another wants special treatment for overweight people. Next thing you know, there will be flights waving the Gadsden Flag.

Personal note: The American Flag is my flag.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Tea Party: Release the Kraken!

Come with me to yesteryear. Or at least to last Friday.

That’s when we left the Tea Party groups bitch-slapping each other over power and influence among America’s angriest voters. The show was put on by Freedom Works, Claremont Institute, and Tea Party Patriots.

Well, that was Friday.

Today, two more groups have announced plans to set up Tea Party farm teams supposedly, although unsaid, to pre-screen nutty candidates like Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell from ever seeing their names on another ballot.

Write these names down: American Majority and American Majority Action. Sounding close enough to be twins, these two non-profits are actually run by twins, Ned and Drew Ryun. They have a rich Republican pedigree having worked for Bush or the GOP or both. Did I mention their father was a Republican congressman?

But their new role as search party is for the Tea Party. Not the Republicans. Got that?

The brothers plan to spend a million bucks or more to anoint proper Tea Party Candidates for 2012. Like I said, the Tea Party is beginning to look a lot like a political party. Even if they represent the extreme right wing of the Republican Party.

Admitting the obvious would give them much more credibility.

Release the Kraken!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Tea Party lashes Tea Party

The freshmen congress haven’t even been sworn in and the conservatives are already pounding on their flesh. The Tea Party is acting a lot like a political party despite their protestations of purity.

Several groups are claiming squatters rights for the new members and demanding they are entitled to conduct orientation classes for the true believers.

First, high priests from Freedom Works, the front group for the right wing billionaire Koch Bros., invited the newbies to Baltimore to teach the cataclysms to the innocents.

The Tea Party Patriots were not in the mood to share mind control.

Enter the Claremont Institute, a conservative think tank. Word got out they were holding orientation same day as the Patriots. As bona fides, both organizations featured geezer speakers from the Ronal Reagan empire. Nearly normal people.

The Tea Party Patriots send out an angry e-mail that was at the same time paranoid and rabid, They attacked fellow conservatives and Republicans with a clatter of facts that were wrong. To top it off, Patriots published cell phone numbers of most of the ’11 class of freshmen which resulted thunderous phone calls all around. They had to cease, desist and apologize.

That was Friday. Hurry sundown so we can see what entertainment Monday brings.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Seven point seven inches of snow

Oh. I almost forgot to tell you. It snowed yesterday. Big wet stuff that plops off trees and down your collar if you aren’t vigilant.

Yesterday, beautiful. Today, ugly. It’s those damned leaves we used to love. The Minneapolis municipal street sweepers didn’t make it to our neighborhood but the snow plows did. They shoved the snow, leaves and all, up onto the curb. Dirty stuff. But they had to clear the roads before the snow iced to the streets. Forgivable.

Right now, more snow. Light little flakes. Rear gunners as the storm system drifts toward Wisconsin.

This is my second Big Winter in Minnesota. And I think I’m losing my accent. People talk faster when it is cold.


Friday, November 12, 2010

Screw Nat King Cole

Just a few weeks back, we loved the falling leaves. Red, yellow, orange or brown. We were absolutely giddy when the winds shook the leaves loose from the trees and sent them skittering down the street. The banks of the Mississippi were celestial. Painted, surely, by a union member on loan from heaven.

Now, the leaves are starting to piss me off. Two or three times, yards pile up with decaying, brittle plant life devoid of charm, rank or station. Rake them up, mulch them, bag and tag.

Repeat. Often.

Millions are still in the street and are plotting ugly stuff. No longer do the leaves glide to earth on gossamer wings. No more. Now the last stubborn survivors thud to earth. Heavy and dingy.

Gotta get them up before the first snowfall. At this latitude, leaves can clog storm sewers and turn intersections into hockey rinks. Hurry. Snow is possible tomorrow and we live on a snow emergency route. Our street gets plowed early which is helpful because I do too.

The city is put on alert. Pay attention, citizens, to the street sweeper schedule. Your vehicle will be towed if you park in the to-be-cleaned zone. Expensive mistake.

Our street goes both ways. Minnesota is a fairly liberal state.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

GOP success? Don't count on it

Blame George Bush. Seriously.

In a way, his loss paved the way for Republicans to chalk up big wins.

Bear with me.

From 9/11 to the first stimulus package, nothing in Washington worked very well. If at all. So voters got a running start on their anger. That’s the GWB contribution. That's when voters struck the first match.

Obama got in front of that fire line and outran it to the White House. But things started going bad in a hurry. Much of the Democrats’ humiliation was self-inflicted. Obama promised change, but people couldn’t see it happen. Not fast enough for the firestorm building. He passed lots of legislation but his team was inept at selling his accomplishments. They let Republicans keep stoking the fires.

Smooth teleprompter talk, however, could not soothe the voter anger. Too much word jazz. Obama and his team failed to understand the frustration but conservative opportunists did and organized around the nasty mood.

The only good news for Democrats is – in this new world of 24/7 news, Twitter and Facebook – within two days, the voters will have forgotten who won and start printing angry bumper stickers again.

Jobs. The economy. Don’t count on it. Gridlock. Most likely.

Fix Washington? Ain’t going to happen. Too much big money in play. Too much conservative money. Re-boot. That’s about the best you can expect. Wasteful.

And it won’t be pretty. Too much vitriol.

Were it not so dangerous for our country, I almost wish more of their crazies had won (Sharron Angle, Christine O’Donnell, Joe Miller) so we could really see how weird their ideas really are. We’ll just have to make do with Rand Paul.

No matter. The Tea Party need only look at the Census data to see the old white guys’ rule is on its last legs. America is growing more racially diverse by the minute. And someday soon, those new voters will take over.

Everybody will be a minority. With luck, even the K Street lobbyists.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert -- naive?

Here’s the thing: Glenn Beck wore a bullet-proof vest when he held his rally in Washington. Jon Stewart didn’t. Neither did Stephen Colbert.

Why is that?

I think it underscores the difference between hateful paranoia from Beck and smart-ass fun from Stewart. Anger begets anger. Fun. That’s one difference.

I love Stewart and Colbert. I stay up way past my bedtime to watch their shows. I loved their Rally to Restore Sanity at the Washington Mall.

Having declared my man-crush(es), I must tell you that I think the Stewart and Colbert boys are naive.

They ask too much. It’s too hard.

I want to put aside my anger at the Tea Party candidates like Sharron Angle, Joe Miller, Christine O’Donnell, etc. But it’s tough when they keep saying stupid things and doing stupid things like handcuffing reporters and stomping women’s heads.

I want Fox to cool the jets of their on-air ninnies. Doubtful. Very doubtful. Glenn Beck is getting rich off fear. Ditto Rush Limbaugh. Fear laced with greed.

The MSNBC sages also need to dial it back a little. Chris and Keith and Ed don’t like getting poked by the comedians. But they could do us all a service by sweetening their shtick. Olbermann at least has discontinued his segment called “Worst Person in the World.” It’s a start. But he is still pouting at the comparison between what he does and what Fox spews. I’m biased; I don’t blame him.

OK. I’ve said my thing. As a wise man just said, now, you go.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Swimming lesson

Early this morning, long before sun-up, I began to have this wonderful dream of nearly naked men and women having way too much fun.

The sylvan setting included an old rock building which had been restored as condos. A mountain stream ran alongside the property. Soft melodies filled the air.

Inside was a huge swimming pool (here comes the good part) with men and women older than me meditating, swaying to an inner music.

Unimpressed, I thought they were selfishly hogging the pool. Then I noticed someone was in the water floating in a happy way. To hell with it, I thought, and I decided to slip into the water and try not to make waves to disturb the meditators.

Next thing I know, my butt is hitting the floor.

I had thrown myself off the bed.

As I struggled to get up, the Mystery Woman just lay there, not saying a word, not offering a hand to help me get off the floor.

Once I struggled back into bed, I asked indignantly, “Why didn’t you help me get up?”

Her answer: “I didn’t want to get wet."

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Weather forecast -- that's easy up here

We took our three-season screened porch down yesterday. It’s a marker, the neighbors say, that red-lines reality from fall into winter. Reality that the first inch of our annual 48 inches of snow is due any day now.

Once again, Young Tom hired out to help us. He’s in his fifties. The task is just too much for us. We would have to set our pacemakers on stun to even attempt it alone – all that reaching, pulling, straining, hauling. Nope. It’s much easier to supervise. The Mystery Woman was born to supervise.

As the porch makes the passage from season to season, our world changes. Each year, we rush to set up our gauzy screen on the front porch. We start and end most every day in the little sanctuary. And, quite naturally, we drag our heels at taking it down.

But we must. The snows, the snows.

To honor the change, we put down a fire shield, drug out the fire extinguisher from the kitchen, set up the fire pit and whoosh, we enjoyed a fire on the front porch. A little early. The night-time temps were in the 60’s but the neighbors just smiled. They like to see old folks having fun -- near food and shelter.

For months, I have been saving any paperwork that might be useful if someone wanted to steal my identity. Don't laugh. The bastards already got most of my hair.

So last night, I burned the bills in the first fire of the season. Probably illegal. Not too smart, either. This morning, I discovered a piece of a torn check that included all the necessary numbers along with my name and address.

Wine makes you go blind.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Rally to Restore Sanity with Mystery Woman

One of these days, you’re going to find me laying in the gutter with my belly to the sun – the victim of a perfectly good ass-whipping.

Don’t bother calling the Mystery Woman. It will be her fault.

People who have just met her immediately put her in a “nice woman” box because she is a retired elementary school media specialist. But those of us who have been around her for any length of time know that she gets up every morning, gargles obscenities and brushes her teeth with barbed wire.

If you see us in a restaurant, and if you have noisy small children with you, run for your lives. If you don’t, it can get ugly.

Likewise if you like to talk in movie theaters. She has a patent on withering stares.

Let’s don’t even talk about traffic and patience.

What’s she up to now? What was that noise? Did you hear that? Sounds like a hammer pounding something into the ground.

Oh crap. The Mystery Woman was in the front yard planting a yard sign urging everyone to attend the Jon Stewart “Rally to Restore Sanity.”

Where did she get the poster? The normally mild-mannered school teacher downloaded Stewart’s artwork from the Internet, printed a small copy and took it to Kinko’s for a ginormous blow-up. A wire frame and a few staples later and there you have it.

An invitation for Tea Baggers to come whip my ass.

Already the neighborhood is reacting. A granny walked over with her toddler grandson to watch the tree-trimmers at work. When she saw our sign, she struck out her tongue. At the sign! Then she had the gall to sit on our front steps for half an hour to let the kid learn chain saw 101. True story.

I fear for my personal safety.

Take pity on me. Sure, I’m the guy the Mystery Woman came with but I’m old and only average size. Long ago, I forgot everything I know about karate. Just mutter and turn away.

Better still – join up 10.30.10 in Washington. Or organize a rally in your hometown.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Screened porch days are numbered

Not only do we talk about the weather, we do something about it, too.

We are pushing our luck on leaving the screen porch up too long. Once again, the little shelter gave us a summer of sanctuary. You know the routine: a little wine, a little music, the stars come out, the neighbors come over. Good stuff.

But reality comes out of the north in Minnesota. Soon, it will be too cold to sit outside so the screen porch has to come down in a few days.

Not this week. Thanks to Indian Summer weather. A generous gift.

Until I connected with Minnesota, I never had the opportunity to watch a whole forest change colors. Awesome, delicate beauty that you can almost taste. Texas, of course, has the Piney Woods but I grew up in Lubbock. Tumbleweeds don’t have brilliant hues unless you think gray is silver. And sage isn't purple unless you squint.

Between St. Paul and Minneapolis, the urban forest along the Mississippi River gorge offers a changing palate of gold -- yellow, orange and red trees against a shimmering blue sky.

I study the trees. Not to learn anything. I don’t even know their names. Wanda, maybe. I study the trees to relax and to feel good.

Many trees start changing colors from the top down. Golden tree tops touching the sky while reaching for the earth.

Some trees just can’t wait and start their new color scheme early. These trees literally pop in bright contrast to the dark greens trees next in nature's queue.

The slightest breeze can cast a spell of falling leaves. On some streets, when the tree canopy lets go, it’s like raining leaves. And it lifts your spirits. Magical.

I’m going to check with the Mystery Woman. She knows the weather up here pretty good after 31 years of bus duty while teaching in public schools.

I’ll ask her if we can leave the screen porch up a week or so longer.

We do love it.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Take back America

After two weekends of demonstrations at the Washington Mall, we’re finally getting somewhere in the national discourse. The argument has narrowed down to this: who bussed in the most people? Which side had the biggest crowd? Size is important, especially when it comes to screwing the public.

This much we know for sure: the right wingers did a better job of cleaning up after themselves than did the communists. But the mess left on the Mall could be nothing more than the beginnings of a leftist jobs program.

Confession: I have a man crush on Jon Stewart. He is one of the best satirists ever. But now that CNN's Rick Sanchez has been fired after criticizing Jon and the Jews Who Control TV, I think Jon should take the high road and stop banging on the poor guy. After all, he did lose his job.

Republican Sharron Angle, senate candidate from Nevada, has changed her position and lied so many times I’ve lost count. Now she has been caught on tape blasting the GOP for losing their principles. Don’t let her kiss your baby.

Take back America -- if you still have the receipt.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Gadsden flag -- "don't talk to me"

So – you Tea Baggers want to take back America. What, may I ask, are your plans if you succeed?

I have to ask. And I have to ask over and over because your candidates for public office have a self-imposed gag rule in play. More and more, your candidates won’t talk to any legitimate reporters from the national press.

No, I do not consider Fox to be a legitimate news outlet. GOP fund-raising arm, yes. News organization, no.

But back to the fearless Tea Bagger candidates. Why do you, in some cases, actually run from the press? Sharon Angle literally ran from her own press conference. Christine O’Donnell says “no mas” to national interviews. Sarah Palin openly encourages her chicks to hide under the wings of Fox. (That metaphor sucks, but you get the idea.)

Before you whine about “biased, mainstream media” – ask yourself why the other candidates are not afraid to meet the press.

Your fear is real. You cannot justify some of the stupid things you’ve said. In America, we hold candidates accountable for their actions and their public utterances.

You Tea Party candidates are not accountable.

And your supporters are being duped by the likes of Dick Armey and Freedom Works.

The Gadsden flag means "don't tread on me." You folks think it means "don't talk to me."

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Christie, Paladino -- cage fight?

Please, spare me the GOP tough guy routines.

I’m talking about New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and NY gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino. Both are bullies using money, power and bodyguards to shield them from their own big mouths.

Two quick examples:

Christie was flanked by bodyguards as he charged a heckler in the crowd. That take lots of courage, gov.

Paladino told a reporter he would “take him out” for asking impertinent questions. Presumably, the zillionaire candidate wouldn’t even have to use campaign funds to hire a hit man.

If these two adolescents want to show how tough they are, here’s an idea: let’s have a cage fight for these aging pudge-men who act like they are short of grease in their brain pans.

What do you say, boys? Want to duke it out?

Obviously growing up is too hard to do. That rules out anger management.

You want to know what courage is, guys? Passing health care reform. Refusing to extend tax cuts for the wealthy. Passing Wall Street Reform. Do these kinds of things even when you know it might cost you the election.

That’s how we got the Civil Rights Act. Men and women of courage.
Real courage.

You guys are just blowhards.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

More than Christine O'Donnell, for sure

During America’s Great Migration, six million people left their homes in the South to escape Jim Crow. Today, more blacks live in Chicago than the entire state of Mississippi.

A tree may grow in Brooklyn, but in the Minneapolis suburbs, a new Walgreens or CVS sprouts every 30 days. Old folks.

The curious Minneapolis weather nerd, Paul Douglas, cites the curious claim that more Americans are killed by deer every year than tornadoes or hurricanes. Not in Lubbock.

Another curious claim: a new study claims atheists and agnostics know more about religion than do the faithful. Some skeptics think the survey proves only that atheists and agnostics have more sex. “Oh, God. Oh, God. Oh, God.”

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Hiatus interruptus

(Sorry for the dry spell. Blame it on adjusting to new meds. Still loopy. A little.)

I love my iPad and MacBook. But using iTunes as the middleware is like having Sarah Palin mediate a discussion between Hitchens and Hawking… David McCreath, techie.

I don’t want to die without a hunting dog by my bed… a Minnesota hunter.

Write this down: way off the coast of Chile lies an island named Salay Gomez. If you reach Easter Island, you’ve gone too far. Chile owns both.

Note to city planners: stop laying out cities on East/West grids.That guarantees commuters will have to squint going and coming. Dummies. North/South, same thing. Dummies redux.

Now. For something really funny, read what James Lileks wrote in his column about “Grocery” as one of those words that never goes out in public alone. God, he’s funny. Click here.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Straight face. Keep a straight face

Perhaps you read that the new tea bag darling, Christine O’Donnell, is opposed to masturbating. That prompted one satirist to threaten staging a “Million Masturbators March” on Washington. Admire my restraint. Please.

Hang on. By the year 2020 there will be 123 million highly skilled jobs available but only 50 million Americans qualified to perform the work. All the rest will be tea baggers.

More numbers. The largest segment of Glenn Beck’s audience is over 65, while the largest segment that watches the Daily Show and the Colbert Report is under 30. Honey, we’re au courant.

Actress Martha Plimpton on Glenn Beck -- I don’t think he hears anything outside the H-bombs going off in his head. It’s just calliope music and gunfire in there.

The desktop fan was the first mechanical household appliance to use electricity. The Edco fan hit the market in 1883. Hot air has been with us a long time.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

9/11 -- When our hearts stopped

FRONT PAGES FROM 9/12/01, via the Newseum:

USA Today (“'Act of war'”)
N.Y. Times (“U.S. ATTACKED”)
WashPost (“Hundreds Dead”)
N.Y. Post (“ACT OF WAR”)
N.Y. Daily News “(“IT'S WAR”)
Chicago Tribune (“'Our nation saw evil'”)
L.A. Times
The (London) Times
The (London) Daily Telegraph “War on America”

(Thanks to Mike Allen, Politico)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Palin and Beck -- angels or demons?

Dollar to a doughnut – Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck are setting a trap and the main street media keep tumbling over the precipice like a stampede of lemmings.

On 9/11, the conservative darlings are holding a thing in Anchorage. Subject and purpose to be announced. Tickets cost from $65 to $200. Their promoter says the date is just a coincidence. So was their rally on the MLK anniversary – just a coincidence. Sure.

The blogosphere is buzzing bad about the 9/11 sacrilege. Ditto newspapers and TV.

Full disclosure: I really don’t like Palin or Beck. But I think they are too media savvy to host a fund-raising event on 9/11 just to line their own pockets. Too cunning.

I think they picked the date, then sat back and waited for the MSM to take the bait.

You watch (I can’t). They will contort the event into something heaven sent. Don’t be surprised if they baptize a child or two. Or announce the gate receipts will be used to fund a new flag factory in Alaska.

And the MSM will have egg on its face at the height of the salmonella scare.

Dark angels can do that.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Tea Bag sound and fury, signifying the usual

Good Lord.

The Tea Baggers are turning against Andy Griffith. All because he cut a TV spot supporting the new health care bill. Mayberry, Oh Mayberry.

On top of that comes news that Kelsey Grammer is among the investors launching a Tea Baggers TV network called RightNetwork. Not surprisingly, the first series will track the progress of Tea Party candidates. Quick, say Fox News. Now spell redundant.

The “liberal press” is recent history. The list of right wing media outlets is bigger than I can remember. Is all of talk radio aimed at conservatives?

Glen Beck and Sarah Palin are cooking up something in Alaska for 9/11, thereby upending the unwritten tradition of dignified observance for this dark day.

My money is on Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. Both are hinting broadly that they are moved to skewer the parade started by Glenn Beck, the modern-day Music Man. Maybe a truthiness rally? If you don’t watch Stewart and Colbert, you should give them a try. Colbert has better writers, but Stewart is funnier. Heads up: their satire is an acquired taste. Especially Colbert.

Olde Salty, a N. Carolina beach restaurant, has adopted a strict no-tantrum policy for unruly children. That would be the end of politics as we know it.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Political nuts: a bumper crop

It’s a legitimate question: if Glenn Beck was wearing body armor at his spectacle, do you think Sarah Palin was wearing Kevlar, too? Her white jacket looked a little boxy.

Frankly, I think Glenn Beck has jumped the shark, and Jonah and the whale. His piety sounds a bit tinny to evangelicals who do not share his Mormon conversion beliefs. Hell, many Mormons don’t either. I’ve said it before: we are watching a man breakdown on national TV. It’s sad.

There’s a change underfoot wherein politicians don’t meet with the press and don’t answer questions. Sarah Palin has honed it to an art. And her adoring followers don’t care. They hate reporters.

It’s spreading. Witness Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer stonewalling when she was asked to clarify her assertion that beheadings were common in her state. (Not true.) No more debates for Gov. Brewer either (she bombed). Tea Baggers may find this great sport – but wait until these nuts get elected and stop answering questions from voters. Accountability, ancient history?

How about Sharon Angle, the Nevada crazy woman who runs from reporters she called to her own press conference?

Joe Miller, the Tea Bagger from Alaska who would be senator, says his funding comes from God. Bulletin: don’t tithe.

And Rand Paul, a heavenly gift. Verily.

It’s opponents like these giving Democrats some hope, current polling notwithstanding.

Term limits, you say. At least 78% of Americans see term limits as an answer. Think again, please. There are no term limits on the lobby or the bureaucrats. They would eat the freshmen for lunch.

It’s a tough choice. Should we elect nuts or professional liars?

Friday, September 3, 2010

Winter? Already?

Last Sunday, there were 10,000 bikinis out in the 90 degree Minnesota sunshine. One for every lake. More, if you count skimpies at the State Fair food court.

Today, Friday, the girls are pulling on sweaters. Soon, they will be bubble-wrapped in parkas, hoodies, and flecks of ice melt. Anthropologists think the Eskimo nose fetish was first practiced here. From October til April, that’s the only skin showing.

Get this. In 16 days, historical statistics show we could have our first snowfall. Nobody is talking about it except weather rookies like me.

The giveaway? Long lines at the cleaners to get the flannel shirts and lined britches steam cleaned before you know what. Another clue: hardware stores advertise paint that goes on even in 35 degree weather. Is that when the Lutherans were taught to paint?

Sure, the trees are changing colors in an attempt to signal humans to do what they can’t: RUN. RUN AWAY. Next door, the neighbor’s tree has been shedding red leaves for a week. It’s the kind of tree Charlie Brown would hang his kite in.

Confession: all of the above is play-like. I might grump about winter but I actually kind of like it. The ice rituals. The screams as cars slide through intersections. The antennae on fire plugs so firemen can find them in the snow banks. The historical markers on pot holes. The bourbon.

Any day now, the department of transportation will make Minnesota Nice mandatory. And Kohls will have a sale.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Was Glen Beck wearing body armor?

Was Glenn Beck wearing body armor during his Washington side show? Sure looked like the outline of a Kevlar vest under his shirt. Hopefully, not because of death threats.

Alex Jones, right-wing radio host with a conspiracy theory for everything, claims Glenn Beck’s beliefs differ from the Tea Party in three major areas. Now how would he know? The Tea Party is not a political party, they say. But that’s a lot of shine.

Best headline:
Glenn Beck: Master Politician or Master Baiter? (As in race baiting.)

Busloads of people cost money and the bankroll came easy from the billionaire Koch brothers in New York City. And back when it was called Citizens for a Sound Economy, Dick Armey’s FreedomWorks received $12 million of its own from Koch family foundations. Bus tickets, getcher bus tickets right here.

Several of the preachers he recruited to stand with him have nasty history. Name two: Jack Abramoff ally Rabbi Daniel Lapin and bigot fundamentalist John Hagee.

Beck’s rally was neither good theater nor good theology. It was divisive and, in my view, cooked up by a deranged man. He spooned a lot of pabulum and platitudes. I think we are witnessing a mental break down on national television.


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Dead blogs everywhere

Dead and dying. More than 200 million people call themselves ex-bloggers. The fad is fading. Does that mean the myth of iReporters is passing, too?

In an article about the death of the Web, a hopeful young geek said, “We’ll always have Web pages. We still have post cards don’t we?"

Another wrote “Dead blogs litter the Internet like squashed bugs on a windscreen during a warm Southern evening.”

What did we used to call this movie staple: A pool of water, thickened with oatmeal, sprinkled over the top with wine corks. Give up? Quicksand.

In a recent New Yorker, we read that flight attendants often get gassy from the constant changes in cabin pressure. The poor dears sometimes relieve themselves by passing gas as they walk up and down the aisle. According to the New Yorker, they call it “crop dusting.”

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Unsafe at any speed, even slow

This will confirm what many of you have thought for years: I am obsessed.

God help me – I want a Volkswagen vanagon. I crave a camper van. A really old one with the spare tire on the front. That’s tops on my Bucket List.

It’s not like I need a hobby. I have one-third ownership in a dog. My third has to go walking every morning, rain or shine. Evenings, likewise.

But I drift from my talking points.

I cannot explain this hunger for a clunker. After all, I was never a hippie. Didn’t have much use for them. My Lubbock heritage was a beta blocker. Just couldn’t break through back then like I have now. There’s something about the slow process of going bald that sets you free.

Click and Clack, the Car Talk guys, say a vehicle this old is not a car – it’s a dependent. I know the drill. For years, I drove a 30-year-old Mercedes. My mechanic and I grew so close, we exchanged Christmas gifts. And he’s Jewish.

Yes, I know there are no cup-holders but I quit drinking and driving years ago.

So what if the crate can’t make Interstate speeds. Blue highways are better.

Too much arthritis to even think about getting frisky under the roof tent. Hmmm. Is that where frisky business is supposed to take place? I don’t even know.

Nor do I want to go camping. After four years as a Scoutmaster, I know camping. Generally speaking, campgrounds are a turn-off, roof tent or no. Although I do wonder if the Sun Shower that hooks on the roof gutter would work. The Mystery Woman absolutely refuses to test the device.

The Mystery Woman is not supportive. She owned a VW bus (not a camper) back when her kids were K through middle school. Her memories are vivid. Like the time the sliding door fell off and into the snowbank. And the time a hippie friend crawled under the van and re-connected the accelerator link with a paper clip. Or the see-through floor boards. Or …

I don’t care.

Undoubtedly, this saga will continue … as long as there's a CraigsList, I have hope.

Monday, July 26, 2010


Angelina Joli, a home-wrecker with six kids and a handful of humanitarian awards, is the subject of an unauthorized biography written by faux-fiction writer Andrew Morton. The book scheduled for release next month. Whether sourced or not, Morton gets close to his subjects. Consider: when he writes that Angie has a tattoo near her nethers commemorating Billy Bob Thornton, Morton revels it is in Helvetica typeface. Here's the question, Mort -- would that be bold or italic? Centered or flush left? All caps? Exclamation point?

Comic king Stan Lee isn’t satisfied with just creating Spider-Man, the Incredible Hulk, etc. Now he has unveiled the Super Seven, a group of ink-and-paper heroes who defy convention with powers never conceived before. “Think chubbiness as a weapon,” says the 87-year-old master.

Know what the Senate Dining Room in D.C. is famous for? Beans.

We could make a lot of money if we started selling sippy cups with the Congressional Seal conspicuously imprinted. And maybe bobble-heads, too.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The rhythms of South Minneapolis

This is getting to be even more fun.

Who would have thought a little screened in porch could provide such a window on the world? We live out on the three-season porch unless they need us at Walgreen’s.

Every day, I get to watch this quirky neighborhood come to life.

God lives two doors down. At least it sounds like the voice God when the giant Mastiff barks. Deep. Throaty. But gentle. The dog is huge. Thankfully, it is also friendly. He is so well trained to hand signals and voice commands that the little nurse who owns him walks the dog without a leash. I don't risk that with our Dachshund.

Yesterday, a young boy came walking down the sidewalk playing a violin. He was leading nine or ten children to the park. Picturebook. We could hear him playing for a while. I don’t know Mozart from Bach, but the act itself was beautiful. His music still floats around the neighborhood.

This morning, the music took a different direction. While reading the newspaper, I felt something else sneak into my consciousness. Somebody was yodeling. Not Blue Grass stuff. This was pure Swiss. As the sound grew closer, I realized it was a happy guy whizzing by on a soundless bike. It was electric – both the moment and the bike.

Only minutes later, another of my “markers” rode by. For the past four years, I’ve watched this older guy bicycle past the porch twice a day. Likely, he is commuting to his job. He is always decked out in the proper equipment: helmet, gloves, yellow safety vest, and blinking red lights at dusk. The dude is old and skinny but tough. His is a steady, measured pace. And he rides rain or shine, ice or snow. Always alone. But now there’s something -- rather someone -- new. Three times this week, he’s had a woman riding alongside. I can hear them talking. Not the words, but the tone. Cheerful sounds. Makes me happy just to hear them go by.

I simply love it. Coffee at sun-up, classical music, walk the dog, read the newspapers.

Sit back and smile.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Aging: you say potato, I say baloney

What the hell is successful aging?

An 85-year-old woman down in Austin, Texas, says it’s anyone who is still playing above the grass. Read more.

Hugh Hefner says it’s getting laid two or three times a week. He must have good health insurance; Medicare only pays for four of those little blue pills per month.

I dunno. I think it’s personal. To me, Mick Jagger’s strut is not nearly as satisfying as Tony Bennet’s cool.

And the only time I ever wanted to jump out of an airplane was right after that John Wayne movie about WWII. You want to jump when you’re 70? Be my guest. You’ll lose your dentures.

But ever since 70 became the new 40, skydiving has become part of the new aging narrative. You’d think everybody is doing it.

Not so. This is Tea Party aging. Extremist.

Most of us in the middle know successful aging begins with a functioning large intestine. A good book before the afternoon nap. Maybe a nice walk at sundown with our favorite squeeze. Good wine, reasonably priced. And enough sense to stop with the wine before starting with the emails.

Successful aging, I think, is doing the best with what you have left without too much whining. Not dying. That's what I would call successful aging.

Note to Hef: have you ever considered large print editions? Some only buy the magazine for the articles. And the fact-checking.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Utopia in our lifetime if we hurry

Most retirement facilities suck. They were designed by the same guy who calls Bingo on Wednesdays.

To hell with them. Let’s put our heads together and see if we can come up with something fun and practical, if not entirely legal.

First, let’s get a truck load of like-minded people who know how to have fun. Specialty retirement homes (golf, fishing, bare naked, etc.) have blossomed in the south. Don’t hold your breath until a home for snow shovelers opens in Minneapolis. Ice fishing, maybe.

Location. Location. Location. I want to live across the street from the heart hospital, the pharmacy, Krispy Kreme, IMAX and a liquor store. Every evening, the Wine Boy will cruise the facility two hours before prescriptions are dispensed.

On weekends, a charter flight will land with Tex/Mex for everyone. If we want to fly in Cooper’s BBQ from Llano, this will require a special assessment.

The physical therapy staff will be so good looking that everybody will think naughty. Good for the blood pressure. Improves nimbleness. And is a proven way to discern who is still completing synapses.

The Gift Shop will sell T-shirts that say, “Do Not Resuscitate” and big calendars that can talk to you: “Today is Friday, not Thursday.” Birthdays and holidays will be marked with those special brownies.

Matching clothing will be strictly forbidden. On the other hand, you can wear a glove.

Going commando requires a note from your social worker.

To limit debate, strong diuretics will be issued to residents before they can enter the political salon. Unless they are incumbents, in which case none will be necessary.

No exceptions. Children will not be allowed until they have read the complete works of Shakespeare or Bacon, whichever comes first.

Each resident will be issued a “Beware of Dog” sign unless theirs is a yapper. In that case, “Beware of George” will be your first warning.

Throw in a view of the mountains and the Mystery Woman is packed.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Balderdash can be a verb

The Geezer Hunk is back! Albeit in a different format.


Time was when I was a decent bike rider. Ten miles most every day and a couple of week-long trips of 200 miles. Ahhhh. But I’ve had so many surgeries and assorted half-life experiences that I gradually gained weight and lost hair.

I decided if I walk fast, it might seem like I have more hair. Might even lose some weight. So this past week, I’ve walked eight-tenths of a mile every day. Initially, it was huff and puff. Come to think of it, it still is.

First, I decided to gear up. Literally. My closet and my garage are filled with biking gear. I know the value of taking care of your equipment.

Every morning before I leave the house, I suit up for the trek.

The cell phone goes into one pocket. The younger EMTs will know how to call my bookie to find out who I am.

The digital camera into another pocket. (standard issue for iReporters.)

If I carry a flask, I’ll need to tighten the belt another notch.

Then I sling on the necklace with the medallion advising to EMS that I am outfitted with a fully-charged defibrillator and a four-barrel pacemaker.

What about getting a mouth guard in the event I pitch forward. Over the top?

I need a “Do Not Resuscitate” T-shirt. Maybe Walgreen’s carries them.

Have I forgotten anything? Oh yes, a note explaining my absence to the Mystery Woman so she won’t think I just went out for a pack of cigarettes and never came back.

Time on task should be 23 minutes thereabouts. Anything more than that, call the liquor store. Sometimes I answer to a higher priority.

If this works, next week I'm going to air up the bike tires.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Sure, they said that

When asked if he is ready for Hurricane Alex to come ashore, South Texas resident Jerry Wilson said, "We got two generators and lots of guns and ammo, so we're not worried about it."

“When you listen to Glenn Beck, he makes a lot of sense. Of course, when you don’t listen to him he makes a lot more sense.” —John Hodgeman, The Daily Show

“They're having the confirmation hearings down in Washington, DC, with Elena Kagan. And so far, the woman has offered very few opinions. I thought to myself, well, my God -- how do you find a woman like that?"—David Letterman.

In my noggin, it was still dawn when the phone rang this morning. “This is a recording. We have reached your number by mistake.”

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Where bad writing is good

Joy. The 2010 Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest winners have been announced. You’re familiar with the contest if you’ve ever read Peanuts – “It was a dark and stormy night.” Founders gleefully brag that this is the literary event where www means “wretched writers welcome.”

The first contest back in the 80’s drew only three entries. Today, tens of thousands.

This year’s winning entry was written by Molly Ringle of Seattle:

“For the first month of Ricardo and Felicity's affair, they greeted one another at every stolen rendezvous with a kiss--a lengthy, ravenous kiss, Ricardo lapping and sucking at Felicity's mouth as if she were a giant cage-mounted water bottle and he were the world's thirstiest gerbil.”

There’s more, much more, where that came from. Click here.


Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Little snap shots

Enterprising reporters turned up this quote from the 15-year-old neighbor of one of the deep-cover Russian spies just caught by the FBI: “She can’t be a spy,” the kid said, “Look what she’s done with the hydrangeas.”

Former Texas Gov. Dolph Briscoe died recently. He was a very wealthy man yet a common man. And Briscoe stories began. Here’s a good one from Roy Bragg, writing in the San Antonio Express News: “One woman said she went to his office to buy two copies of his memoirs for each of her grandchildren,” a friend said, recalling a story that happened two years ago. “He knew her and he knew her economic situation. He gave her the books and told her, ‘Just bring me some tomatoes.'”

More than $3,000 is spent EVERY SECOND on the World Wide Web. That’s around the clock. So say horny financial writers.

The word bankruptcy comes from the Italian tradition of conducting banking transactions on wooden benches in marketplaces. And banca rupta means broken bench. No translation necessary.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Appropos of nothing

Alfred Hitchock received an angry letter from a father who was concerned that his daughter would stop showering after seeing Janet Leigh hacked to death in “Psycho.” The lass had already stopped bathing since a bathtub drowning scene in a French movie. Hitchcock drolly replied, “Send her to the dry cleaners.”

A buddy who spent a lost weekend recently at Old Miss quotes the student body saying, “We don’t win many football games but we never lose a party.” Tradition!

One pundit has a name for other pundits who leave angry, yet anonymous, posts on blogs. He calls them keyboard cowboys.

The Weather Channel was ahead of the tornado outbreak which spawned more than 30 twisters in Minnesota. The weather honey said Minneapolis had a five in ten chance of getting hit. “Five in ten,” she said. “That’s nearly half.” Cue the lightning.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Somebody at the Post Office is laughing.

Targeted mail. Makes me paranoid. How do they know? I’ve been receiving a lot of it lately. Today, they doubled-down on me.

First was the four-color flier from Episcopal Homes wanting me to either move in or send money, whichever comes first. Years ago, I retired from the Episcopalians and I have no intention of re-upping. However, I will admit the Tuesday Hot Breakfast is tempting.

Next comes the unkindest cut of all – the catalogue for Kingsize men, big and tall. I know I’ll never get any taller so that leaves only big. Did someone turn me in?

I’m going to court. I’m going to sue the bastards. Clearly, this is a case of Double Indignity.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

If cumulus could talk

There was a time when every kid growing up in Texas knew the story of Quanah Parker, the greatest Comanche war chief who ruled the Plains for most of the 19th century. Or at least we thought we did. But few history books told of his second act. At the reservation, Parker morphed from a terrible warrior to a prosperous cattleman and hard-bargaining politician who became Teddy Roosevelt’s friend. The chief played a leading role in building the Native American Church and defended its role in the use of peyote. “The white man goes to church and talks about Jesus,” Parker said, “but the Indian goes into his tipi and talks to Jesus.” Read: Empire of the Summer Moon.

Put this in your GPS: Chef Point Café, Watauga, Tx. Just north of Ft. Worth, this little truck stop eatery got a nice review in the Sunday NY Times. Operated by chef Franzon Nwaeze, a Nigerian immigrant and his American wife, Paula, the restaurant is seven years old. The banks wouldn’t lend the couple $$$ for a café but they would for a gas station. So the enterprising couple bought a Conoco station and ditched the rotating weiner warmer and slushy machine. Reservations not accepted. Patrons include bikers and Dallas debutantes.

The Minnesota Nice tradition didn’t bother the guy who wrote this car-for-sale adv on CraigsList: “As I have sold here before: No Nigerian princes, principals only, no shipping, we have a great alarm system, Rottweilers and guns but we are very nice to good, decent people.”

In Minnesota, more than half a million drivers have been convicted of DWI.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Moon over Miami (pun)

Have you ever seen the catalogue from the Vermont Country Store? The venerable mail order business has been in the Orton family since 1946. Sweet stuff. Old fashioned. Suspenders, hand mowers, caftans, Modern, too. Now you can order a “full assortment of intimate solutions” and they vibrate. Guaranteed to arrive in a brown paper wrapper. When did this happen?

Up here in Minnesota, we have learned there is power in the potholes. They can scare hell outta the unwary driver and tear hell outta your vehicle. Now comes a firm who has invented a gizmo that converts the mayhem into electricity. GenShocks actually harvests energy that you can use in your hybrid. If this catches on, I’m going to quit driving in Minneapolis. Hmmm. Use this technology to harness the energy from the Country Store item above and you could light up Miami. You have?

Remember when you were 49 and a half and how indignant you were to get an unsolicited AARP card in the mail? Well triple that when The Scooter Store finds you and starts the incoming mail barrage. How did they find me 1,300 miles from Texas?

From the Collectables Direct catalogue you can order a spiffy multi-function walking stick. This fancy cane is adjustable and packs a 5 LED flashlight – plus an alarm and three flashing lights. Change your design to tote a couple of jiggers of Scotch and it’s a deal.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Another true story from the porch

The Mystery Woman has a soothing voice. She is blessed with good diction that smooths her Texas roots. In her speckled past, she has done voice over work for her production company.

So it was not unnatural when she began to read to us on the porch. Out loud. It was just like when Doris Day would burst into song in the movies. (Note to self: find a different example. The MW never liked Doris.)

To continue.

Not only was her voice comfortable, so were the words. I found myself transported back home to a more simple time. Childhood images began to linger in the air. At times, I thought I could smell blueberry muffins about to come out of the oven. I swear I could taste the gravy covering a quality chicken fried steak. And the carrots slathered in butter and cinnamon!

Take me now, Lord.

That’s when I realized she was reading selected passages from the book Eddie Wilson wrote: “Threadgill’s, the Cookbook.”

Maybe I’ve been whining too much about how much I miss Texas cooking. Ya think?

PS -- You would enjoy this little book. It’s about every day food. Southern cooking. A travel guide of sorts. As Eddie says: Threadgill’s Restaurant is a museum of Austin music history and a shrine to Kenneth Threadgill, the grandfather of Austin Country music. And Eddie is a good writer who shares his insights which are unusual and down home in the same breath. More than 40,000 copies sold last I heard.

Don’t forget -- at Threadgill’s, seconds are free.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The new Texas militia

For security purposes, visitors to the Texas Capitol are now screened. However, you can skip the long line if you flash your permit to carry a concealed handgun. Since the rule went into effect, probably each of the 1,500 lobbyist is packing the new form of I.D. Hired gun has real meaning now. Oh, the irony.

In related news, Austin police ran out of coupons as they gave away more than $30,000 in gift certificates to people who surrendered guns for groceries.

Sarah Palin’s last two speeches have been panned by audience members. Noted. File that under “you get what you pay for.”

If you’ve ever watched a young man play a video game with his opposable thumbs, you’ll question your faith in intelligent design.

Glenn Beck. I don't know why but I suddenly thought of him.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The magic porch

The porch is open for business.

Actually, we put up the screens in April but June was a tad cool. Now, the weather is just right.

First-time visitors are sometimes surprised how small it is – about 8’ by 16’ on a good day. But even on a bad day, the view is not bound by the curve of the earth. At least not in our mind’s eye. You can see stuff at the outer limits of your imagination.

If you want to.

For us, this little sanctuary is sometimes a cathedral that is open to the beauty of the sun’s rays back-lighting a single raindrop on a single leaf.

Sometimes the porch is a refuge that protects us from the storm.

Often the porch is a window that frames children laughing on their way back to school after a field trip to Minnehaha Falls just blocks away.

Bestest are the times on the porch visiting with friends, relatives, neighbors.

Like yesterday, when 89-year-old Virginia made it to the to the porch for the first time since she had surgery to repair her broken hip. She came barefoot to feel the warmth in first person.

We live together, the three of us – Virginia, the Mystery Woman and me. Three older people with a full pack of health issues. You name it, we got it. So we take care of one another. Sometimes it is difficult but fortunately we all like each other.

That makes our time together on the porch all the more special.

Come join us next time you are in the neighborhood. Enjoy the magic.

Bring white wine.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Tea Party 2.0

Rand Paul – heir of the dog.
Ron Paul – the dog.

Glenn Beck now had FreedomWorks as a sponsor and is touting the organization on his radio show as the best suited to unite tea party activists. FreedomWorks, you’ll recall is run for fun and profit by that scum-sucking pig, former Texas Congressman Dick Armey.

Sarah Palin rats on Obama claiming he is in bed with Big Oil. Wasn't her husband on the BP payroll for the past 17 years?

"I've been told by the ocean experts this stuff could hang out there on the bottom of the Gulf for more than 100 years. And as long as it's out there, it can come ashore” -- Ed Overton, LSU professor.

The overpowering orthodoxy of men’s studies is that if you’re male, you’re bad or in need of remedy, says Dr. Lionel Tiger, a native Montrealer who taught at the University of British Columbia for five years.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Gulf oil spill a month later ...

Memo to President Obama
RE: the BP oil spill

Sorry, Boss. Just appointing a study commission won’t cut it.

We need dramatic, drastic action to save the Gulf of Mexico, the Florida Keys and the Eastern Seaboard – hell, maybe even the Atlantic Ocean.

Nobody trusts BP to fix this mess. Every hour, BP lies about how much oil is spewing out. Every hour. They are more concerned with covering their corporate ass than the terrible sludge that is destroying life in our wetlands.

Take charge, Mr. President. If we don’t have the technology, commandeer theirs. If we don’t have the manpower, call up the National Guard. If you have to, use helmets for buckets.

Do something.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

More. Gimme more.

For those keeping score, there have been seven special elections for U.S. House seats since the president's inauguration 16 months ago: NY20, IL5, CA32, CA10, NY23, FL19, and PA12. Democrats have won all seven -- Steve Benen Washington Monthly.

In April, the Republican National Committee spent more than two grand on softball equipment. Now, if they could only find a leader who can teach them how to play ball.

Quote: Susan B. Anthony, a lifelong Quaker, included Mormons, Catholics, Christians, Jews and atheists in her movement. But she firmly believed that religion had no place in politics. "I dislike those who know so well what God wants them to do," she said, "because I notice it always coincides with their own desires."

Rand Paul. (That just about says it all.)

Saturday, May 8, 2010

When sex was ugly

Breaking news: scientists and voyeurs are pretty sure early humans had sex with Neanderthals. That would explain how Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck learned how to walk upright.

Her Facebook fans are falling out of love with Sarah Palin. When she endorsed non-Tea Bagger Carly Fiorina in the California U.S. senate race, many fans called “Strike two.” The first being her recent endorsement of another non-Tea Bagger, John McCain.

"Democrats are always suspect on national security, and anything that makes them look weak on national security creates an opportunity for Republicans," said Whit Ayres, a GOP pollster. An opportunity out of terrorism? That’s cold.

And Texas Gov. Rick Perry believes the BP oil disaster could be “an act of God.” So, this Neanderthal walks into a bar …

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Gulf oil spill will change life on earth

It’s like watching the end of the world.

The oil spill in the Gulf is a disaster that will plague all living things for decades. Soon enough, the gulf coastline will have a brown ring that stinks and kills. For decades.

This is big. Life on earth will change.

This is going to cost us. Lives will be ruined by the economic calamity. A way of life could vanish for shrimpers and oystermen. Land will be ruined by the oil that relentlessly seeps ashore. Plants and fish and wildlife will die in the thousands. Grieve for the eco system. Our eco system.

When will we learn?

How many more drilling rigs need to fail? How many more tankers need to run aground?

Frankly, I was sick at heart when Obama allowed for more offshore oil rigs. And I was furious when Palin chirped “Drill, baby, drill.”

When will we learn?

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Tea Party silent on Wall Street? Arizona?

Seriously, why hasn’t the Tea Party jumped all over the Arizona immigration law? Talk about government getting into your lives – “Papers please.” First, they came for the Hispanics …

Same question, different issue: why hasn’t the Tea Party gnarled at Wall Street for robbing all America? You folks need to replace that hate and anger with some positive ideas.

Glenn Beck has lost over one million viewers since January. But actually, the dip would be deeper were it not for the fact that Fox is bundled with basic cable in most cities whereas high-toned MSNBC is not. So it’s not apples to apples. More like horse apples to apples.

There’s a suspicion hereabouts that Texas Gov. Rick Perry may have popped that coyote to impress Sarah Palin. He‘s either a helluva shot or a terrible jogger. Normally, exercise revs up the heart rate and spoils the aim even when it is laser guided. Show me the carcass.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Giving Avarice a Bad Name

Emily Post wrote “Etiquette” in 1922. The venerable little book is now in its 86th printing. I think it should be required reading before anyone is allowed to post comments on the Web.

Admit it – you read the obits. If so, read today’s tribute to Allen Swift in the NY Times. The voice actor played many a role in radio and TV, from Mighty Mouse to Gen. Eisenhower. He was one of the “best-known unknown actors on television.”

“The Big Bang Theory” is a new comedy for geeks coming on CBS. The producer has high hopes that “Maybe at the end of the day this will inspire some kids to go into physics just like ‘Cheers’ inspired countless young people to go into bars.”

Eleven indicted Somali pirates dropped a bombshell in a U.S. court today, revealing that their entire piracy operation is a subsidiary of banking giant Goldman Sachs. An audible gasp could be heard in court when the leader of the pirates announced, "We are doing God's work.” We work for Lloyd Blankfein." Not true, of course, but a good story nonetheless. By devil blogger, Andy Borowitz.

"The cheese stands alone." That's just one of her punch lines as Maureen Dowd skewers the rats at Goldman Sachs. A good read.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Tea Party Trends

For once, Newt Gingrich was right. He predicts the Tea Baggers will become the militant faction of the Republican Party. Except he got his verb tense wrong. Present tense, Newt, present tense.

We hold these truths to be self-evident: Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann, Tea Bag queens.

"The problem with the tea party movement, besides their almost universal rejection of dentistry, is that they want money for nothing and chicks for free. They want a deregulated free market and their jobs to stay here in the US; they want guaranteed health coverage regardless of preexisting conditions without a big government mandate; they want to call themselves tea baggers and people to keep a straight face.” Bill Maher

MSNBC's Chris Matthews asked if Wall Street is like Acorn for Republicans. He might not be joking.

Why haven’t the Tea Baggers organized a march on Wall Street? After all, the greedy fat cat bankers are the people who caused trillions of our 401k funds to evaporate.


Monday, April 19, 2010

Sarah Palin out of the closet

Movin’ on up. Sarah Palin is making so much money that I expect her to come out as an Episcopalian any day now. Entry level.

Tell me something. Are those socialists who want me to have socialist health care the same socialists who want me to have Medicare? Are they the same socialists who want me to have Social Security? Devious while dumb.

“Once they finished shaving the cats, the glamour event of the dog grooming show began.” So starts a NYTimes article about Intergroom, a three-day trade show for the doggy biz. Last year, in a fit of canine topiary, one dog was turned into a peacock. Funny story, photos. I wonder why the Times put the story in the sports pages?

The Mystery Woman got an early birthday present: an outdoor thermometer based on an invention by Galileo a long time ago. The device is a glass chamber filled with weighted balls suspended in a clear liquid. The balls are red (hot), orange (temperate) and blue (you get the picture). The colored balls rise and fall according to the temperature. Reds when it’s hot. Blue balls when it’s cold. And I have the strangest sensation that my voice is changing.

Friday, April 16, 2010


Can’t you just taste the joy in the springtime air? Every morning, for a brief moment, my knees forget they know arthritis. I can run and jump again, I just know it. And even if my stiff joints won’t cooperate, my heart beats faster, my mind works better and my smile gets bigger as the day floats by.

What a wonderful contagion sweeps the nation …

From the John C. Campbell Folk School Spring Newsletter

Dear Friends: Now sings the tufted titmouse “peter peter peter” and the bluebird soars by carrying the sky on his back. The earth has tipped, the days extend, the ground is making worms again. The chickens can’t believe their luck, there’s treasures everywhere. The crows are calling back and forth across the fields. You probably have noticed roadkill never includes crows, though they spend plenty of time in the road. This is because they help each other out. When one is in the road, there’s always another one up a tree yelling, “Car! Car.”

Two Springs

New York Times: March 29, 2010

Lately, I’ve been studying celestial navigation, the seafaring kind that requires a sextant, a chronometer, and a nautical almanac. It’s a way of adding a little trigonometry to a life that’s mostly addition and subtraction.

I began this project just as spring arrived and noticed that spring, to navigators, isn’t so much a season as a point. There it is in the nautical almanac, just between 5 and 6 p.m. (make that between 17:00 and 18:00) on March 20 — when the sun passed from a southern latitude to a northern latitude.

There’s more to it than that, which is one of the basic rules of celestial navigation. Spring is the vernal equinox — one of two points of intersection between the ecliptic and the celestial equator. (The other is the autumnal equinox.) It’s also the moment when the sun reaches what’s called the First Point of Aries, a fictional line of demarcation, like the Greenwich Meridian, that happens now to be in Pisces.

I am not going to try to explain these things since I’m just beginning to grasp them myself. But this much seems to be true: In the nautical almanac, spring comes like clockwork, whether the snow has already withdrawn or is falling fast. The table of hour angles and declinations that pinpoints celestial spring seems to say, “Here it is, just where it always was. Make what you will of it.” It’s all dreadfully precise.

And then there is terrestrial spring, which is a matter of hints and wishes, promise and hope, a season that is only vaguely calendrical. On the first day of spring, I was driving along the Shields River in Montana looking out at a season that is really called “calving.” It was nearly over. Most of the new calves wore eartags and moved with confidence. Some chased each other across the fields and around their sober dams, as though they could never grow up to be that stolid. A few seemed already businesslike, thuggish, looking across the fence line at a wider and more forbidding world.

Along the edge of one creek-bottom ranch, a cow had just given birth, the umbilical still trailing from her as she tried to lick her calf to its feet. It rose and stumbled. The cow seemed both agitated and patient, eager to have her calf on its feet, but somehow certain that it would be soon. I moved down the road because there were other things for her to think about besides me. On a tree in the next pasture there were six bald eagles, waiting. There were ravens on the fence and magpies in the ditch, their young yet to come.


I wish y'all could see the Texas bluebonnets this year.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Meals, wheels and deals

Many people would argue that (Sarah) Palin did great ecological damage to Alaska and would like to do more by drilling all over it. So, getting her to host a show about the natural beauty of Alaska is a bit like getting Jeffrey Dahmer to host a cooking show for the Food Network. – Cenk Uygur, Huffington Post

In Denmark, they claim commercial incinerators burn trash so cleanly that many times more dioxin is released from home fireplaces and backyard barbecues. Ha. They’ll get my Webber when they pry it from my hot, scorched fingers.

Question: are those socialists who want to force me to buy health care insurance the same socialists who want me to pay for using the central sewer system? The bastards!

Bootleggers in Pakistan hide contraband in their cars. They stash booze in door panels and front bumpers. Suzuki Altos are the car of choice. In Tennessee, not so much.

We timed it. Last night’s hour-long episode of LOST! ran 53 commercials, which took up 24 minutes with only 36 minutes of actual island time. Commercial breaks can run as long as four minutes. One spot was for that expensive Lexus SUV that Toyota isn’t going to make any more.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Winter's last laugh

Horse pucky is to rodeo parades as potholes are to Minnesota winters. The streets are not safe. Both will hurt you. Major difference – the pothole is an inney.

I’ve never seen anything like it. Some streets look like earthquake zone aftermath.

The rash of bent wheels and broken axles or stabilizer links made the front page of the Star Tribune:

“The pocked roads have had Twin Cities drivers rattled and tire service providers running. A January thaw and rain cycle flowed by long stretches of frigid weather meant water seeping into cracks froze and stayed there. As spring approached, the asphalt bent, buckled and broke over the subsurface puddles. And potholes were born.”

They’re worse that anything I’ve ever seen in Texas. These are bodacious.

After almost 40 years in the Cities, the Mystery Woman has gotten good enough to offer a pothole class. She thinks. Here are her tips. I stand clear of any liability if you follow her advice.

1. Slow down. 2.Concentrate. 3. Drive like you’re in a bumper car at the fair. This is a test of your dodg’em skills. Makes you feel young again 4. When you find a particular bad stretch, don’t go that way anymore. There’s an alternate route to your left or right, through a different neighborhood, even if it takes forever. Roll down the window and wave at neighbors you didn’t know you had. 5. You can’t avoid the horizontal asphalt strips that have collapsed every 20 feet or so. But they act as speed bumps. Kathunk, kathunk. Good, huh? Helps you remember #1. 6. Drive just to the right of the usual path in your lane. You straddle a lot of potholes caused by that part of worn out road. (Just don’t drive to the right in your lane or you can end up in the oncoming guy’s lane. Not smart. Especially at night.) 7. Sit up high and straight. You can see ’em coming half a block away. 8. Follow your tires’ inflation guidelines, dummy.

True story. Just today, a mechanic told me that on-board computers in newer vehicles have a special diagnostic code for pothole damage. He reports seeing several that flash: Rough Road.

Road repairs will take forever. I almost wish it would snow to cover them up again.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Catbirds and robins

Here we go.

This weekend, we set up the screen porch. A month early. The snow pack has melted. There’s new green stuff at the ends of trees. Soon, we’ll have to mow. It’s time.

Of course, this being Minnesota, we run the risk of a passing April snowfall. But this time, the sun will help keep the nights warm. Yes, the nights, too.

That’s young Tom in the photo, left side. We call him Young Tom because he’s still in his fifties. That's me, Old George, on the right. We call him Honey.

In years past, the Mystery Woman would put up the screen porch single-handed. She likes to create things. She could assemble the puzzle in about two hours.

Later, when we began to giggle on a permanent basis, I would help. It would take about two hours.

Now, because of our rickety strength supplies, we hired Young Tom to help us. It took about two hours.

On our block, neighbors tell us they mark the start of Spring and the end of Fall by whether our porch is up or down.

Of course, I'm writing this from the porch. It's 53 degrees and feels good.

I guess I write about adventures from the porch in hyperbole. Visitors are sometimes surprised at how small the porch really is. Street level, too.

Small, yes, but from here the whole world opens up. Did you see that robin? Can you hear the children at the playground? Hello to John the postman. How you been?

It’s geezerlicious. (Stolen by permission.)

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Sarah Palin TV bad idea?

Let me go out on a limb and say that I expect Sarah Palin’s Fox TV show Thursday night to draw a huge audience.

Let me go further out and say I don’t expect her to last very long with that show or with her Alaskan reality show for Discovery. Already, the Fox anchors who have her on their shows are beginning to slice her here and there. Ego wars among the thin skins are inevitable. Face time. Gimme.

Initially, viewers will be drawn by her charm and celebrity. But ultimately, she will do herself in with her own word salad which makes little sense and is delivered in a high chirp that is set on stun. Listening to her try to talk about anything substantive is fun, but not informative once you get past the bromides. Great bumper stickers; poor government policy.

If the lady doesn’t know how to answer a question coherently, how do you suppose she figured out how to ask a question? Each is part of the same equation.

Besides, I don’t think Palin truly knows how to share a microphone.

Watching her in a studio two-shot with John McCain, wasn’t it obvious that she really, really likes the spotlight? Too much. I think she will fade from the exposure. Or get mad at the in-fighting and quit -- but only after her bank account green lines.

And then there’s the little question of ethics. "Real American Stories"are not real. Ask rapper/actor L L Cool J, who revealed Palin spliced in an old interview he gave someone else to make it look like it was a chat for her new show. He blew the whistle on the phantom interview and Palin dropped the segment the day before air time.

Likewise, country singer Toby Keith said he never sat down for an interview with Palin. Don’t know if his segment will also be dropped.

Tsk. Tsk.

Maybe quitting that state job was not such a good idea.

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