Thursday, August 30, 2007

Best Sentence of the Day

Best sentence today in the blogosphere:

That's like becoming a nudist because you realize you have crappy clothes.

It's actually from a post by Ann Althouse about an article in the NYT asking whether women should embrace their gray hair.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Flickr Fun

H P1000806 B B L is for ... E Cimetière de Passy R-ight here U N N E R

Cool site, Spell with Flickr.

Fishing With Norwegian-American Men of a Certain Age

[Insert Photo of Small Child with Large Fish Here. Camera remains at cabin – sorry.]

Everyone needs an uncle named “Bub” – or some other unlikely moniker. Bub is my wife’s uncle. Bub might seem an unconventional name to some, but not to me. I had my uncle Ole. Yes, Ole was his real name, though my hip, urban friends couldn’t believe it. They must have thought he adopted “Ole” as some sort of ironic statement, a commentary on life in rural Minnesota as recalled by our ancestors but surely not lived out into the 21st century. (Ole died at age 90, while working in his garden. Probably last guy I’ll ever know who actually “died with his boots on.”)

Bub knows fish like my uncle Ole knew fish. It’s instinctual, and despite spending an ungodly amount (he told me how much, but the male fisherman’s code of silence forbids me from sharing) on a color depth finder, and possessing an underwater camera, he still finds his favorite fishing spots by lining up landmarks from shore. Once he has the visuals in place, then he checks the depth finder just to make sure he was right – though he probably suspected he was right all along.

The Dude and I went fishing with Bub on Sunday. We were out on the lake almost 4 hours – not bad for a 7 year old (not to mention my 45 year old butt which still hurts from bouncing along in the waves in that rather Spartan fishing boat.) We didn’t catch a lot of fish, considering the time spent on the water – only 12 total. But the twelve we caught were of a good size. Eight Large-Mouth Bass, 2 Walleye, and 2 rather large Blue-Gill Sunfish.

The Dude caught only one fish, but it was the largest – a bass. “You gotta put this in your blog he said.” (If someone told me when I got married that 13 years later I’d be sitting in a boat fishing with my 7 year old son, I would have believed him. That sounds credible. But if you were to predict that he would say, “Put that in your blog,” I would have had absolutely no idea what you meant, thinking perhaps it was insult aimed at me.)

The Dude insists on calling them, “Big-Mouth Bass” despite my constantly correcting him, “Large Mouth Bass”. “It’s another Big-Mouth,” he’d say as we drag another Large-Mouth into the boat. It’s like he’s calling them names, “Hey Big-Mouth! Shut-up already!”

Catching the two Walleye was exciting. These were not the little “baby” ones we’ve caught when fishing on the dock but real keeper sized Walleyes, the kind that drive Minnesotans crazy (Walleye song - sung to the tune of Rawhide.)

WARNING: Note to squeamish – do not read next paragraph.

Interesting find – when cleaning the monster bass that the Dude caught, we uncovered a rather good-sized crayfish in its belly. It looked recently consumed. The bass must have been real hungry that morning. The Dude was amazed.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Yes, I Judge Books By Their Covers

This got me thinking.

I often select books by their cover. I don't not “judge” the book by its cover, but it’s the cover art that first catches my attention.

Cover art is important to me for a number of reasons. I’m not a “fast” reader so the book is going to be sitting around the house for a while before I finish it (or even start). I want the cover to look good – it helps validate my selection. Yes, it makes me feel good about myself.

[Older cover art]

Let me illustrate with an example from Nero Wolfe. I love Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe’s mysteries, and will root around the stacks at the library to get the “original” cover rather than the later covers – many of which were redone in the 1970s or 1980s. These later covers are just awful. I’d be embarrassed to be seen with it.

[“Newer” Art]

Needless to say, when deciding to read “Might As Well Be Dead” I chose the first cover shown - the more dark, noir-like art.

Junior Rangers

When we were traveling in South Dakota, the kids (especially the Dude) participated in the National Parks’ Junior Ranger Program. I’d never heard of the Jr. Ranger program, the Hobbled Wife learned of the program during her extensive trip planning. It turned out to be a cool way to get the kids involved in what might seem a boring, sight-seeing day.

Junior Ranger Program,

The Junior Ranger Program is an exciting opportunity for children and their families to learn about the park. Becoming a Junior Ranger helps youngsters understand the park's ecosystems, the cave, and the animals. It also helps them learn how they can help protect all parts of our environment. Junior Ranger booklets are available for $1.75 at the bookstore. There are activities for children up to age 12.

M and the Dude both became Junior Rangers at the Badlands, but M declined to participate at other parks, so the Dude went on to score Jr. Ranger badges at Mount Rushmore and Wind Cave National Park as well. At the last place, Wind Cave, they actually snapped his picture for their web site. You can visit their site to see all the August Junior Rangers , as well as ones from other months.

As you can see by the photo, the Dude proudly wore all his badges. M, already the “Tween”, declined to wear her badge.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Fair Feet

The family just now (yes - almost 9:30 p.m.) returned from the State Fair. It rained for the first several hours - yet they went nonetheless - true Minnesotans!

This picture shows what happens to a 10 year old's feet wearing leather tennis shoes, after exposure to rain, puddles, and general wetness for 7 hours.

Peaches and Dinner

"Peaches" she said, when I answered the door.

I was busy fixing dinner (photo below)when I heard someone at the front door. I opened the door, and there stood a woman. "Peaches" was all she said.

"I don't have any peaches," I replied.

"Oh, maybe I have the wrong house," she said. "I'm looking for Peaches, a hamster."

"We don't have a hamster, but we do have a chinchilla," I replied. This was getting interesting. I didn't mention the tarantula - somehow he (or is it she) didn't seem relevant to the conversation.

"I'm here for Peaches who's fighting with [another hamster whose name I forget]. They want to give Peaches away," she said.

"Oh, I bet you want my neighbors, they are always giving away hamsters," I replied.

I realize this sounds crazy, like our neighbors are running some kind of hamster-mill or something. Our neighbors have a menagerie of pets - and they are not too careful about the gender of the hamsters, so they've had little broods of hamsters on more than one occasion.

So the woman left - very embarrassed - though I don't know why I wasn't just as embarrassed. She went next door to the neighbors to retrieve Peaches - apparently they were giving away their hamster on Craigslist.

By the way, here's the dinner I was preparing for myself (family has gone to the Fair - opening day you know.)

Yes, that's a salami, onion, red pepper, and Parmesan cheese omelette. Sounds weird - but it was very tasty. The steamed vegetables on the side were fresh from the farmer's market - very yummy.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Less than 24 hours from now . . . on a stick

The Minnesota State Fair starts tomorrow morning at 6:00 a.m. The Hobbled Family won't likely attend until next week, but we will be in the mood as our neighborhood traffic level increases, and we hear the nightly entertainment and fireworks. We live about one mile from the Fairgrounds.

This video gives you a complete rundown of the food on a stick offered at the Fair.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Other Side of South Dakota

Upon hearing of our family's idyllic vacation in South Dakota, a colleague shared this picture. He had been in South Dakota the week before us for the annual Sturgis bike rally. There were many Sturgis-type folks still crusing around the Black Hills.

"Alleged Musicians"

[Beatles press conference, Metropolitan Stadium, Bloomington, MN, 8/21/1965.]

Not everyone loved the Beatles. The "Fab Four" received a rather tepid reception at their only Minnesota concert - on this day, August 21, 1965.

"The Twin Cities was visited Saturday by some strange citizens from another world. They wore long hair and wide grins and were easily identified as Ringo Starr, John Lennon, George Harrison and Paul McCartney. They were the Beatles--alleged musicians."
-St. Paul's Pioneer Press
[Emphasis mine.]

Source: MN Historical Society

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Rain Gardens Loving this Weather

We left MN in the middle of a streak of 90 degree weather, and returned to what the Dude has declared is a "Minnesota Rain Forest". It's cool, wet, lush, and green. The weather is beautiful - if it doesn't kill you.

The Hobbled Wife - on her blog - has posted about our new rain garden.

Home - from South Dakota

Arrived home late last night, after driving through some horrific weather. We (actually the Hobbled Wife) drove through some of the worst rain we'd ever seen. At one point we pulled off the road to "let it pass" - but it just kept coming.

South Dakota was great. Lots of activity - and I mean LOTS of activity. We pushed the kids to the limit, and they responded very well to the busy schedule.

(The kids and I pose in front of a petroglyph - hard to see during mid-day, and impossible to capture on camera. If you look carefully over M's left elbow, you see an image of a buffalo - I think.)

On the way out we stopped by the Jeffers site, combining business with pleasure. As we drove away, the Hobbled Wife got on the cell phone to colleagues back at MNHS World Headquarters to suggest cool things that had to be added to the Jeffers' web site.

(There was a spot where this very large, rough rock was rubbed as smooth as glass. It was a bison rub, where bison came each spring to rub off their winter coats. Of course, being the tourists we are, we posed right in front of the smooth rubbed part, pretending to take advantage of the rub itself to relieve out itchy backs.)

Later that day, we stopped by the Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD. It's not as odd (notice I didn't say "corny") as you might think. Yes, it's constructed out of corn-cobs, and the design changes yearly, but it's free. Inside the palace was an interesting history of the palace, with lots of cool art - oh and souvenirs.

Day 3 we were in the Badlands. (Day 1 was a short trip to Windom, MN; Day 2 was Jeffers and the Corn Palace)

The Badlands are a place unlike any other. I'd been there three times before, but it was the first for the rest of the Hobbled Family.

The end of Day 3 found us at Palmer Gulch Lodge where we spent the next three days. Lots of fun visiting Mount Rushmore, the Wind Cave National Park, and Custer State Park.

Mount Rushmore was more fun than I recall from my youth. Lots to do, and lots of historical interpretation. We took the audio tour of the Presidential Trail, which took us right up under the faces themselves. The close up of George was taken by the Dude.

Very sore bottoms!

The Dude has a "thing" for horses so we signed on for a ride leaving Palmer Gulch and winding up the hills in the forest. Stunning scenery, etc. - but I've never had such a sore butt! One and a half hours on horseback! My horse was named "Rat-Boy" - sheesh! The last time I went riding (20 years ago), I rode a nag named "Fonzi". Just once I'd like a "King" or "Scout" or something a little more horse-like.


(The kids help clear the trail.)

In addition to being a horseman, the Dude believes he's quite a rock climber. A relatively "easy" hike at Sylvan Lake allowed him to test his skills.

This trail makes a complete loop around Sylvan Lake, and is one of the easiest trails in Custer State Park. Enormous granite formations line portions of the lake making it one of the most picturesque in the Black Hills. This trail offers passing motorists an opportunity to stretch their legs on a leisurely walk the whole family will enjoy.
(Sylvan Lake Trail description.)

Note - to do the entire loop you have to get down on your hands-and-knees at points, and it helps to have someone above to help you up, or below to catch you as you descend one of the "enormous granite formations".

He's actually quite good at scurrying up rocks and boulders. When he saw the "real" climbers on the Needles - ropes, full gear, etc. - he asked why we couldn't do that?

Blah, Blah, . . .

("Wild" burro - or member of the horse family scratching an itch on our side-view mirror.)

OK - I could go on for hours, and I will post more pictures in coming days. But I'll leave you with this great shot of one of the "wild-life" spotted on the Wildlife Trail.

(Some real "wild" life.)

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Suburban Response

[Photos courtesy Deputy Chief Greg Peterson, Roseville Fire Department, and Roseville Review]

This article was interesting. After reading a lot of big media coverage of the 35W bridge collapse, the little Roseville Review tells the story from the vantage point of the police and mostly volunteer firefighters who responded from several of the northern suburbs of St. Paul.

Roseville had responded with four chief officers, an engine with a crew of five, a heavy rescue truck with an eight-man crew, and a medical response unit with three responders aboard. In all, 20 or 21 people from Roseville were on the scene within 8 minutes of the call and ready to help in the multifaceted rescue effort, Gasaway said. "They did a wonderful job - I'm so proud of 'em."

Wednesday, August 08, 2007


We are doing a fair amount of un-cluttering these days at the Hobbled Household. The Hobbled Wife is unloading tons of stuff - and I need to buckle-down myself.

I enjoy getting rid of stuff - it's a liberating experience.

Here's a timely essay about stuff by Paul Graham:

And unless you're extremely organized, a house full of stuff can be very depressing. A cluttered room saps one's spirits. One reason, obviously, is that there's less room for people in a room full of stuff. But there's more going on than that. I think humans constantly scan their environment to build a mental model of what's around them. And the harder a scene is to parse, the less energy you have left for conscious thoughts. A cluttered room is literally exhausting.

Hat tip - the Unclutterer.

Monday, August 06, 2007

The Bridge

Both M and the Hobbled Wife saw the 35W bridge remains today. M was not that thrilled when her camp - Taste of History Day Camp - based at the Mill City Museum decided to take a little hike across the Stone Arch Bridge. She's ready to move on. She was surprised to see all the people and the TV crews. M is amazed at the attention the bridge event is getting, "One week after it fell". Kids have a very different sense of time - or perhaps it's just too overwhelming for a 10 year old. Despite the bridge, she's loving the camp - best yet. She wished she could have been in this one all summer.

After dinner the Hobbled Wife and friend decided to drive over to see the bridge. The friend had seen it earlier this AM, but wanted to go back. They did not go to the Stone Arch Bridge but just walked in from the North (or East) side - away from downtown. The pictures are courtesy of the Hobbled Wife.

Up North

[Almost impossible to get all the kids to hold still for the group photo.]

[The three big kids.]

Another year gone by, and we found ourselves at Lake Pleasant with the Hobbled Wife's high school (and grade school) friends. 8 kids, ranging in age from 4 to 11, and 6 adults. It was lots of fun - I was not the only father this year. Lots of good swimming and fishing.

The "Bass Buggy" lives up to its name - even the kids got to catch some big fish. The Dude caught a Largemouth Bass that almost bent his little fishing pole in two. He had to "rest" for a few minutes afterwards because his hand "hurt". It's nice to fish with a teacher who spends his summers as a professional fishing guide.

Other photos:

Friday, August 03, 2007

A New "Marshall Plan"

This from

I think this week we saw the birth of an entirely unexpected issue in the 08 Presidential race. Someone’s probably focus-testing the phrase “Marshall Plan for the Nation’s Road” this very moment.

This may be Pawlenty's to win/lose - as new chair of the National Governor's Association, and often mentioned running mate for John McCain.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

How Will We Get to Grandma’s House?

Traveling to either grandparents’ home requires an “over the river” (but not “through the woods”) route. The river route of choice is/was the 35W Bridge over the Mississippi. When news first broke last night the kids asked, “How will get to Grandma’s house?” We assured them there is more than one route.

This morning, the Dude shared his thoughts on the bridge collapse. Let’s call it the “gravity theory”. He believes that gravity comes from “the earth” or rock, concrete, and other large solid objects connected to the earth. The Dude argues that removing rock/concrete during construction lessened the gravity on the bridge. That – in combination with the weight of all the vehicles, especially the trucks – caused the collapse.

This is the second or third time that he has presented his “unique” theories on gravity. It’s amazing what he comes up with.