Love Storm, Revisited

This morning at 9am, my good friend Mike Pengra will re-air the final broadcast of MPR’s Morning Show on Radio Heartland, recorded 6 years ago today.

Such a kind gesture from a true gentleman!

Since it’s only good manners to bring a gift of some sort to a party, I’ll offer this – a post from the old “Trail Balloon” blog that immediately followed the event itself:

Our final Morning Show broadcast was an immense hug and a truly beautiful thing thanks to the waves of faithful listeners who flowed to and through the Fitzgerald Theater and St. Paul’s Central Presbyterian Church. The size of the crowd went well beyond our expectations (I wagered 1500) and their warmth was off the charts.

As a lifelong radio guy, I am naturally timid at the thought of facing a live audience, but this group was as comfort-inducing as any collection of 2000 souls can be. What’s the opposite of an unruly mob? A ruly mob, I guess. That’s what we had.

All the heartfelt words of praise for our Morning Show were oh so welcome, but after awhile I did begin to feel a bit guilty. Let’s face it, everybody works hard and the stress of day-to-day living takes a toll. Who wouldn’t get a boost from having a gaggle of admiring people asking for your autograph? I confess I enjoyed it tremendously, but I recognize that most people deserve a kind word and a pat on the back for the good things they do every day, and do they get it? You know the answer. Sorry Jim Ed and I hogged the love storm, but what could we do? It blew down the doors.

The Morning Show is done. It was a long-running and sometimes confounding radio gymnastics routine with plenty of twists and flourishes and it looked like we would come crashing down a couple of times, but our spotters were there for us and gravity gave us some lucky breaks, and the dismount was incredible.

When have you finished well?

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Shoreline Property

Today’s post comes from Minnesota’s 9th district Congressman  Loomis Beechly, representing all the water surface area in the state.

Greetings, constituents!

What wonderful news from the surface of Mars – that the Curiosity rover has discovered evidence that the planet went through an extended period when it  was very wet, and Gale Crater was a large lake.

That makes Mars very much like Minnesota, notwithstanding the  uninhabitable bleakness of its current configuration.

You decide which one I was referring to right there.  Hard to do?  You bet!   Mars and Minnesota – separated at birth!

That’s why I intend to introduce a bill in Congress to make Gale Crater our first off-planet sister state!  Is Congress even the place to do that?  I have no idea – it’s never been done before!

We have so much in common, including a history of splashing streams and bubbling rivulets leading into large, round bodies of water boasting pristine shorelines and magnificent views.

And I’m sure as Curiosity continues its explorations it will find the same things we expect to uncover on the bottom of all Minnesota lakes – lots of fishing tackle,  boots, and beer cans.

Mark my words – the amazing discovery that will cinch it is bound to be something like a hat.     Why?  Because all the elements are there.

  1. Standing Water means there was a shoreline.
  2. A shoreline means there was shallow water.
  3. Shallow water means sunlight warming the soil, which leads to life.
  4. Life leads to boats, and docks.
  5. Where there is light and boats and life, there will be floating around on a lazy Sunday afternoon, and napping.
  6. Where there is prolonged exposure to the sun on water, there will be hats.
  7. Where there is napping and hats and wind, there will be hats overboard.

That’s just science.  I’m serious.  Curiosity should be scanning the bottom of Gale Crater for hats.  And when we find the first one, I want it to already be a law that Minnesota and Mars are sisters!

Get ready – the family is about to become larger!

Your Congressman,
Loomis Beechly

What have you lost in the lake?

Unidentified Lying (around) Objects

Today’s guest post comes from Clyde in Mankato.

As I have explained before, for my wife Christmas is a six-month season. She often buys gifts in the summer, stores them away, and then rediscovers them, usually under our bed, often after Christmas.  Last week she found two objects of clouded origin and unknown purpose.


Her initial recollection of when and where she purchased the objects led me down the wrong path in trying to discover what they are. So I put the photo up on Facebook and asked for explanations, encouraging the submission of smart-ass answers. My son re-posted in his Facebook page, from where, as I expected, came the answer. He has many professionally-creative Facebook friends of wide background and interests.

One of the answers, from one of my friends, was in Japanese. I do not know if Kazuki was right or not. Maybe. My two favorite smart-ass answers were 1) a Zanfir flute/pipe and 2) this link from one of my son’s friends.

This evening I will explain what they are. I bet during the day someone will correctly identify them. They are, by the way, nifty little devices. If you know the answer, you know the answer.

What mysterious objects have you run across in your life?


For a long time we have had plenty of strong health-related arguments to support the idea that smoking is hazardous, but some people persist in lighting up regardless.

Now comes a new bit of information for men that might convince even hardcore smokers that there is a price to pay in lighting up – the loss (in men) of the Y chromosome.

So what, you ask? Women don’t have a Y chromosome and they get along just fine with their two X’s.

Indeed they do, but that’s the point, since women tend to live longer than men. Guys, these researchers think smoking away your “Y” may leave you exposed to cancer.

Which, in a weird way, is good news if you remember the following Trail Baboon post from almost exactly a year ago. It’s one of the most popular articles on this site, and it still resonates, especially now that men’s disparaged “Y” seems to finally have some value.

The post comes from marketing whiz Spin Williams, a wheeler-dealer who is always in residence at The Meeting That Never Ends.

I’m not at liberty to say who made the offer, but  we heard from a very well-known genes manufacturer who was shopping around the famous Y chromosome for a possible takeover.


Naturally, we considered it. The Y is a well known brand name in the chromosome industry, making up a significant portion of all the chromosomes out there. It comes in second only to the X chromosome, which is the runaway market leader. In fact, the X is so reliable and effective, it has a 100% market penetration. Some people love the X chromosome so much, they have two! But there is a foothold – around half the population has at least one X and a Y. It was a bit disappointing to us to learn that very few people have two Y chromosomes, and we noted that as a possible marketing goal, should we decide to do the deal.

Doing our due diligence, we discovered that the Y was for sale because its maker has come to the realization that the chromosome is almost worthless, having been shown through scientific studies to contribute very little to any sense of individual well-being or overall usefulness. Most organizations considering a takeover would have walked away at this point, but my experience has shown me that marketing is more powerful than science. As proof, I offer the fact the we still have a tobacco industry! The value of any particular thing is in the eye of the beholder, and there is solid survey information to indicate that most Y chromosome users love and defend it simply because they already have one, and not because of any inherent benefits it may bring to the table.

And there’s a sizable portion of the chromosome-consuming public that doesn’t understand the product and doesn’t know which brand it prefers.

So in spite of the Y chromosome being inferior, we felt certain we could develop a marketing plan that would boost brand loyalty and make the Y seem more fresh and hip than it does today. Whether we would get to a point where X-only consumers might actually feel some envy for those with a Y was hotly debated at the meeting, with one side expressing certainty that such envy was impractical and impossible, and the other group adamant that Y envy pretty much drives all decision making by X’s. It turns out one of the side effects of having a Y is an outsized enthusiasm for the supposed benefits of Y-ness that X’ers don’t generally seem to share.

Similarly, it was the Y-friendly crowd that was all Gung-ho for immediately pulling the trigger on this deal and sorting out the consequences later. The double-X’s in the room were feeling less impulsive, constantly asking ‘How do we monetize this?’, ‘Where’s the benefit?’ and other fun-stifling questions like that.

Because there was no getting around this fundamental conflict, we walked away from the deal. First, though, we made a surprise bid for the X chromosome, thinking a seller in the mood to divest one of His low-performing properties might take the bait on an unexpected left-field offer for the most popular genetic product in the world.

That was a non-starter, but we all had a good laugh over it.

What is your most prized genetic trait?

Ask Dr. Babooner

We are ALL Dr. Babooner

Dear Dr. Babooner,

I’m no Albert Einstein, but I just found out I can rifle around in his life by going through his papers online. This includes not only his work in physics, but his personal papers too, including love letters and notes to friends. I can even toggle back and forth between German and English language versions of Einsteinian detritus.

This is thrilling and frightening to me because I’ve long been an Einstein fan and I’ve always wanted to be just like him, in spite of the fact that I have no real intellectual abilities.

Whenever a difficult problem has presented itself, I’ve backed down from it with Einstein as my excuse.

After all, I’m no him.

I say this a lot.

Now I’m concerned that if I explore Einstein’s life too deeply, I’ll find out that he and I are more alike than I thought and maybe I AM him!  I’m tormented by the notion that I could have been the Einstein of today but now I have fallen far behind him on the creation of a personal archive that might someday be worthy of an online library.

Dr. Babooner, should I look at the Einstein papers, or remain comfortable with my failure?

I’m Not Einstein

I told I.N.E. that the probability of discovering through these papers that you could have been “The Einstein of Today” is pretty slim – not mathematically impossible but almost. The real issue in front of you is a time-space quandary. An expansion in the amount of time you spend going through Einstein’s papers will have an inverse effect on the velocity with which you are able to live your own life. But that’s just one opinion.

What do you think, Dr. Babooner?

Jump, Jive & Wail

I always knew electric eels were creepy.

Not only are these sea eels creepier than snakes, but they seem even more sinister now that we know they can use their electricity to remotely control the muscles of their prey.

The BBC article above describes how researchers at Vanderbilt University in Nashville discovered that eel current can cause hidden prey to involuntarily ‘jump’, thus revealing their position. You can guess what happens next.

But why were scientists from land-locked Music City so interested in the effect eels can have on the oh-so-correctly-named “unfortunate fish”?

Perhaps it’s really research into the strange power bands have over dancers, especially with the energy of an electric guitar at the front and brass as a conductor.

How are you at operating the remote control?

Anti-Social Media

Today’s post comes from Bart, the bear who found a smart phone.

H’lo, Bart here.

Last time I posted I saw in the comments (yes, I read the comments!) where it was disputed that a smart phone found by a bear in the woods would be working this long, what with batteries wearing out and stuff.

Screenshot 2014-12-02 at 7.18.31 PM

Good questions. But it’s not that difficult for a bear to get a smart phone whenever he needs one.

As a rule, people should have all their senses turned “on” while out in nature. I am part of nature itself, so I can guarantee that we wild creatures are very alert!

So if you’re a bear who wants a smart phone, all you have to do is wait very patiently for a distracted hiker to come near. Usually it’s pretty easy, especially if they’re hiking & texting. When they’re about 15 feet away, step out of the brush and roar a bit.

The hiker stops.

If you’re a human, all the guide books say at this point you’re supposed to back away slowly, not turning around for fear I’ll chase you. Whatever you do, the books urge, don’t run.

This is good advice, because I do like to chase down running things.

But more and more these days, people don’t do either. Instead, they very slowly lift the phone up to take a picture of me. It kinda makes sense because they’re on social media already. When something special happens to you, you post it right away.

So I wait for them to lift up the phone and fumble for the camera app.

When I sense they’re about to click the shutter, I charge!

Most times, the hiker drops the thing and runs, and ta da! I have a new smart phone!

I also have a pretty cool collection of pictures of me, charging. That’s how it goes in the digital age. Just about anything can be captured and distributed, though I’m guessing those hikers weren’t expecting to share their phones with me in exactly this way.

But then social media has just been declared misleading when it comes to showing your real-life experiences and values.

Big surprise there! I know there are a lot of smart-phone holding bears in these woods who feel their lives are pretty dull when they see all the neat photos I have of the backsides of running hikers!

Yes, my life IS that good! Read it and weep, suckers!

Your pal,

Do you believe what you see, read and hear on social media?

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