Lake Elmo House 7-11-11

Mistaken Identity

Today’s guest post comes from littlejailbird.

A long time ago I was witness to a case of mistaken identity that came close to having disastrous results. This took place at the first home I remember living as a child. I was still quite young, 5 years old or so, I think, and had two older sisters and one younger brother.


Our family had close relationships  with several of our neighbors. On this particular day, we – my mom and us kids – had been somewhere with another neighbor family. They dropped us off at our house and as we walked up to our front door, we all saw it – an animal in the flower bed that was next to the front steps. My brother, who is 2 ½ years younger than I am, toddled towards this animal, calling “Kitty, kitty, kitty” and holding out his hand.

Well. This creature did bear some resemblance to a cat – a long-haired black and white cat – but it definitely wasn’t what any of the rest of us would call a kitty.

All of us girls were struck dumb with shock and horror, because we knew what could happen if our brother tried to pet the animal. I was too scared to move but luckily my mom was not. I rarely saw my mother running, but she did then – and the sight of my mom sprinting and snatching up my brother before he could get closer to this creature would have made me laugh out loud, if I hadn’t been so frightened.


Somehow we managed to all get in the house without anything disastrous happening. Later, I heard that the cute black and white animal was probably rabid, so who knows what would have happened if my brother had managed to get close to this “kitty.” Oddly enough, now my brother has a special way with cats, but I’m pretty sure he knows exactly what is and what isn’t a kitty and will never again mistake a skunk for a cat.

(skunk photo: Kevin Collins / CC-BY 2.0)

When have you been involved in or witnessed a terrible case of mistaken identity?

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Ask Dr. Babooner – Bad Job Edition

Dear Dr. Babooner,

When I was younger I imagined living off the grid in a perfectly balanced lifestyle that combined meaningful environmentally-sensitive work with sustainable practices at home that left no footprint on our fragile planet with regard to carbon generation or over-use of any other precious resources.

I saw myself living on sunlight and good intentions, and dying as compost.

But in reality I work in California’s Central Valley, drilling deep wells to reach the receding water table. I’m on the job 12 hours a day because demand has gone through the roof, even though there is no roof where I work and everything we do is directed into the ground.

But you get the idea. The job is dusty and hot and it can be dangerous if you’re not paying attention because you’re bored, which I am most of the time.

My employer does things on the cheap and charges top dollar. He tells me not to speak to the customers at all, ever, about anything. I think he’s worried that they’ll find out six months ago I was working a barista at Starbucks. I don’t know why this is a problem. The equipment in that job was noisy and complicated too!

Our customers get emotional because they’re spending tons of money on a bet and their entire livelihood is at stake. Last week this one guy sat in a lawn chair and watched us the whole time, drinking beer after beer and complaining about the government. The deeper we went without a strike the more morose he became, and the more beer he drank. Needless to say, he sprouted a gusher long before we did.

At least he went behind a tree.

People tell me I should be happy to have a well-paying, in-demand job, but I can’t help but think this is all a fruitless effort to continue a kind of agriculture that, if this drought continues, is destined to become, well … fruitless.

Dr. Babooner, I’d like to lecture these farmers about conservation of resources and finding ways to not over exploit the preciously small amount of water that’s available to us, but my boss tells me if I say one word about any of that he’ll fire me and bring in drillers from North Dakota who don’t care about the environment, they’re just looking for a way to get out of the Bakken oil fields before winter hits.

Bored, Always Drilling Activist Seeks Sustainability

I told B.A.D.A.S.S. she (or he) should just be quiet and take the money. If California’s drought goes on much longer, the central valley will run dry one with you or without you. And arid-land farmers are usually not open to lectures from the crew they’re paying to dig expensive holes. Keep your earnings and use them to save the world later on, although given your high ideals you probably shouldn’t ask too many questions about what the bank is doing with your savings.

But that’s just one opinion. What do YOU think, Dr. Babooner?


First Friday at the Fair

Today is the first Friday of the Minnesota State Fair.

For Eighteen straight years while I was working with Tom Keith at Minnesota Public Radio I didn’t have to think about what would happen on this day – it was our routine to do a live broadcast from the grounds. We had wonderful fun each time we went out, thanks in large part to our amazing producers (Nora McGillivray, Silvester Vicic, Mike Pengra) and a loyal audience that, in many cases (I’m looking at you, T.G.I.T.H.) managed to crash the gates before the fair opened at 6am.

The fairgrounds are lovely just before dawn and Pronto Pups smell surprisingly good in the morning air. Our technical crew (Mike Osborne, Rick Hebzynski, Scott Yankus and many others over the years) arrived literally in the middle of the night to have everything ready for us at 6 am.

In the later years, Eric Ringham would appear just before air time with his backpack and his DCOTY (Discardable Clothing of the Year), completely prepared to go hide on the fairgrounds for the “Where’s Eric” game.

Yes, we knew there would be at least one costume change.

Through the years, all of Eric’s pursuers made it fun but Leslie Ball and Ochen Kaylan stood out for their familiarity with the terrain and their eerie ability to unlock the clues. In the final year we took to hiding decoys just to slow them down a bit.

I shed tear for this tradition every time first Friday comes along, and I know many Babooners feel the same way.

You can still hear our final broadcast from the fair online. I’m proud of it – we had Ann Reed, Dan Wilson and ‘Pert Near Sandstone on stage and many of the standard Morning Show characters making what we knew would be their last fairgrounds appearance.

If you don’t have three hours to kill, here are some excerpts. This might be especially helpful for those who read about the Sherpa a few days ago, but haven’t heard Wally’s voice as he describes the product in his inimitable fashion.

What will you do at the Minnesota State Fair this year?


Windmill Tattoo

Today’s post comes from marketing wiz and idea generator Spin Williams, who is always at The Meeting That Never Ends.

Today is a great day to be alive!

Why? Innovation and technology!

I’m constantly amazed at the exciting new technical possibilities that just keep on emerging in a never-ending stream of inspiration – like sweat pouring from the brow of a long-distance runner.

No, literally!

There’s a new bit of research out there that demonstrates how to generate a small amount of electric current from the lactate in the sweat of people who are exercising strenuously.

This caused quite a bit of excitement at The Meeting That Never Ends, because we’re always looking to capitalize on the next big thing, and also we sit around a lot.

But that would change pretty quickly if technology created systems and techniques that could turn every person on the planet into a bio-battery. The researchers used special enzyme imprinted on a temporary tattoo to create a reaction that delivers the charge. The amount of electricity produced is very small right now, but wait a few years.

I mean literally – don’t do anything right now!

Save your strength for later, when it will pay. Imagine it – your sweat could provide the fuel to run your phone, or your watch. Or, you could sell your current to the electric utility by plugging your tattoo into a socket.


And here’s the best part – there is a kind of lazy man’s justice in the way this works. The more out of shape you are, the more electricity your exercise creates! That means there will be lots of efficiency-enthralled guys like me who will be doing the same numeric calculation in the name of trying to stay just broken down enough to be a top producer of juice. Young people – figure this into your future.

The day is coming when your armpits will do the very same work as nuclear reactors!

I love the future. If I could patent the whole thing, I would!

Your energetic optimist,

To become a bio-power plant, you’ll have to get a tattoo.
What does yours look like?


Slush Rush


Because the Trail Baboon blog is not, on its own, a financially sustainable venture, it is sometimes necessary to kick ethical behavior to the curb and yield the space to some unscrupulous lowlife with cash to burn.

Having a bit of space on the world-wide internet, even an obscure location like this one, fills some minds with visions of a vast, global audience that exists only theoretically.

I’m not about to discourage that line of thinking when there’s money on the line. Reaching the right audience in today’s complicated media marketplace is a dicey proposition, and with so many choices it’s inevitable that some messages will miss the mark completely.

And sometimes that’s the very best outcome for everyone concerned.

I’m not saying that’s what’s happening here today. But it’s also true that I can’t fully endorse the following message.

Hello SUV shoppers!

Car buyers don’t really need a reasonable reason to purchase a new sport utility vehicle. When it’s time, it’s just TIME! And that’s the only explanation you’ll need to justify today’s purchase of a new slush-beating Sherpa from Wally’s Intimida!

I’m especially talking to all you Tibetan Soccer Moms out there!

And don’t tell me you don’t exist! I did a Google search and found out you have your own line of “parking only” shirts and hoodies! If it’s happening on the internet, it must be real, right?

So pardon me ladies, if I don’t know much about Tibet, but I just read that the glaciers there are warmer right now than they’ve been at any time in the last 2,000 years! And you know what happens when a glacier starts to melt – slush!

I’m certain any Tibetan woman can handle ice and snow, but shlepping those soccer squirts through the slushy discharge from a softening glacier can sure slow down a speedy squad! That’s why it’s important that you have a chance to make the trip from Lhasa to Apso in a Sherpa from Intimida.

I’m not talking about a real Sherpa, which is something I know you have in Tibet.

I mean the car that’s as tough and versatile as a real Sherpa. Plus, it’s the biggest car on the planet – plenty big enough to make an impression at the foot of the world’s biggest mountain – Everest!

Some killjoys out there will claim greenhouse gasses from cars like the Sherpa are the very reason your glaciers are melting in the first place.

Maybe so!

But why should you be denied the privilege of plowing through a sliding section of glacial shrinkage just so the soccer moms of Shakopee can continue sit on the sidelines and watch their offspring play from the comfort and solitude of their air conditioned crow’s nests – relaxing at altitude behind the wheel of an idling suburban Sherpa?

Let the rest of the world rough it for a while. No one deserves a Sherpa more than a real Sherpa. You’ve earned a break!

Come on, Tibetan soccer moms (and dads)! Make the Intimida Sherpa your last line of defense against the increasingly hot glaciers that we’ve forced you to face! Find us online at Wally’s Intimida – we can handle the purchase digitally and we’ll swiftly ship a Sherpa to your location, just in time for the squishy season!

Your hopeful pal,

I don’t think any actual Tibetan Soccer Moms read Trail Baboon, nor are they inclined to buy a mammoth SUV. But you have to be impressed with Wally’s optimism. Or his audacity!

How are you at making the hard sell?

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Fear & Worry to Align in Morning Sky

Today’s post comes from Bathtub Safety Officer Rafferty.

At ease, civillians! But stay vigilant when it comes to bright spots in the sky!

We’ve already discussed the terrible risk posed by Asteroids and Lightning – two glowing airborne things that typically do not have your best interests at heart.

A good rule of thumb for the safety-obsessed (like me!) – intensely bright things overhead are usually a cause for concern.

Any full moon is a great reason to be on guard against strange behavior of every possible type.

The sun is another one that I simply don’t trust. I realize that this glowing orb is responsible for many good things, like warmth and everything we eat, but that doesn’t mean there’s no downside. The sun, to me, is like that generous uncle who is also a bit creepy – always hanging around and often just over your shoulder where you can’t see him, but can sense his presence.

I know I’m not the only one who is worried. Some of the people who write for this blog get what I’m talking about.

And now comes word that we are supposed to look at the northeastern sky just before sunrise this week to witness a conjunction of the planets Venus and Jupiter! It’s wise to question all these things that others simply accept based on propaganda like the following video.

As your local Worst-Case-Scenarist, I would caution against doing everything described in this unless you’re stationary, seated, and completely locked-down. Why?

Looking up in the sky means you’re not looking at the ground, where so many hazards wait to trip you or run into you head-on. The video shows a woman gazing out her window in the early morning light while holding a steaming hot cup of coffee in her bare hands. I don’t have to tell you, I’m sure, about the dangers inherent in this kind of reckless behavior. Gaping in wonder at the sky could cause a person to miss her own mouth while drinking, and she might pour that scalding beverage on her tender skin.

Plus, standing by a window when it’s semi-dark outside makes you a sitting duck for peeping toms and snipers, not to mention real ducks, migrating waterfowl and other natural creatures like bears who love to eat human food and may have already developed a taste for coffee. No one knows for sure what they’re thinking!

One account attempting to promote this remarkable convergence says some people may mistake it “for a UFO.” Not only is it troubling to think that people in the tender early morning hours will look at the sky and be thrown into a state of panic (especially while driving), but Science Fiction fans know that any naturally-occurring astronomical event that “looks like a UFO” can be used by actual space aliens to mask a real invasion!

Yes, “they” know our calls to 911 will be discounted, which gives their landing forces extra time to gain a foothold (if they even have feet – we don’t know!). And if you think the chances of any of this actually happening are beyond remote and bordering infinitesimal, congratulations! That’s exactly what they want you to think!

My advice on this is the same as I offer for most worrisome things – note the hours when this effect will be a fascination for most people, and stay in bed with the covers drawn until it is over!

You will probably be able to leave the safety of your protective cocoon shortly after sunrise, which is not a great sacrifice for most people. Please, sleep late all week in spite of attempts in various media to convince you to put yourself at risk.

Stay vigilant, but with your eyes closed!

Your safety-obsessed friend,

What constitutes “sleeping late” for you?


On The Road, Again

In the past on this page we have discussed where we are from and where we’ve lived. Baboons can be both wanderers and stay-at-homes. It can be a surprisingly tough mental exercise to walk back through your biography to list the places you’ve lived in the proper sequence, and for how long at each stop.

Likewise, each state of the union has a specific history of who happens to live there and from whence they came. Only demographers and other numbers geeks can find much enjoyment in looking over the columns of figures that tell those stories.

For the rest of us the info-graphics experts at the New York Times have developed 50 fascinating charts that display the data as strata – a cross section cut from each state’s census showing the last century’s changes in where residents were born.

Some of the curious things that appear:

Based on your personal history, you can get a sense for how common (or uncommon) you are in your current environment when birthplace is the sole yardstick. Back in the 1970’s I was part of a sliver (3%) of Illinoisans born in the Northeast. Now in Minnesota, my kind are still a rarity at a mere 2%. Rare as hen’s teeth. Precious as gold.

Sometimes we have to go out of our way to feel special.

After looking at this I’m left with the impression that people accumulate in specific places based on a variety of economic forces that drive them there. Because certain individuals may be rooted in place while others are entirely footloose, there is a variable and distinct human geology that defines each state.

Or maybe it’s just the wind.

Where are you headed?  

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