Return of the Winter Getaway

Today’s guest post comes from Barbara in Robbinsdale.

Several weeks ago Husband and I had an afternoon appointment in Stillwater, about an hour from home, and he delighted me by saying we should make it a winter getaway and stay overnight there. I was elated – the winter has been long and grueling, and we had not yet been able to “get out of Dodge”.

But where to stay in this river town overflowing with Bed and Breakfast places? I’d stayed at one of them decades ago, was charmed by the antique oak furniture, lace, and florals. Still, I wanted to try something new. We searched online and eventually came up with The Elephant Walk Bed and Breakfast, whose byline is Tour the World One Room at a Time.

They are not kidding. Although the house is an 1883 “stick style” Victorian, walking in is like taking a trip to the Far East, where owners Rita and Jon Graybill spent twenty some years, he in military and diplomatic service in Bangkok, Thailand. Downstairs parlors are a veritable bazaar of large and small antiques from Thailand, Bali, Spain and Italy, and the Americas – many of the items for sale. Elephants abound.

They’ve given the upstairs guest rooms names like Rangoon, or Raffles (for the British Colonial Hotel in Singapore), and filled them with exotic and colorful furnishings. Bedrooms are also equipped with a whirlpool in a private bath, a gas fireplace, small fridge with soft drinks, and a sound system. Ours was the Chaing Mai, named for the mountainous region of north Thailand.

We found the place so enchanting we didn’t even leave for dinner… we’d eaten a late lunch in historic downtown Stillwater, and we were provided with complimentary wine, cheese, fruit and nuts, and homemade crackers! The bay window in our room faced west, and we could see The Sunset. Breakfast the next morning was outstanding.

It was so refreshing to have entered this exotic world. I used to think I’d like to run a Bed and Breakfast, and though I probably won’t at this late date, The Elephant Walk has had me thinking of what unique theme I could use for an inn that was something out of the ordinary.

What would be the theme for your B & B?

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A Punishing Defeat

Today’s post comes from Wendell Wilkie High School’s perennial sophomore, Bubby Spamden.

Hey, Mr. C.,

Thought I’d better tell you how it all went down in the big debate in Mr. Boozenporn’s class yesterday. Me and Alicia Erickson went toe-to-toe in what will probably be our only-ever thing that we do together, arguing about whether there should be a maximum wage to go along with the minimum wage that got signed into law by the Governor yesterday.

I could tell I was in trouble from the start. Alicia had two big loose-leaf binders on her desk crammed full of papers and there were three of her brainiac friends sitting right behind her, just glaring at me. People had been saying on Facebook that she spent the whole weekend cramming factoids and statistics into her memory – stuff she found in macro-economics and labor relations textbooks that she got from her parents, who are both trial lawyers.

And I think her mom is also a ninja.

It made me kind of sorry that I spent all my research time on Sunday looking into the history of the word Woot!, but it was too late to kick myself over that. I had to go first and make my best argument for the maximum wage, so I launched into my speech that I wrote on the bus this morning and I have to say that I think it was pretty good.

I said a bunch of words about how some people are so good at economic stuff they manage to get a whole lot more than they need. Which is fine, I said, until it gets ridiculous and they have so much they can’t even think how to spend it.

And then I threw in a quote from “Grapes of Wrath”, that I caught Lester Wells saying out loud in the seat next to me on the bus. He was supposed to hand in a book report today in Ms. Hecubensen’s English class, which he had all written except he needed to add something to make it sound like he had really read the whole thing rather than just looking at parts of it online.

And it just so happened it really lined up with my project too:

“If he needs a million acres to make him feel rich, seems to me he needs it ’cause he feels awful poor inside hisself, and if he’s poor in hisself, there ain’t no million acres gonna make him feel rich, an’ maybe he’s disappointed that nothin’ he can do ‘ll make him feel rich.”

Which set me up for my big idea – capping personal income at 10 million dollars a year and then giving individual over-earners the WOOT! title – Wealthy Oligarch Opportunity Titan! Kinda like getting a knighthood, except it has the extra responsibility of using your money smarts to lift up other people.

Some of the kids in the class answered with “Woot, woot, woot” and every time I said it after that more of them joined in until Mr. Boozenporn told them they had to stop. But that was a cool feeling. Like I was winning them over!

So then Alicia gets up and I figure she’s going to come at me with studies and numbers and probably the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, both.

But instead, she says …

“My whole case comes down to gold and silver, two things the super-rich covet and collect. I’d like to see a show of hands. Who thinks there should be a maximum wage law to limit the income of those greedy super-rich people?”

Just about every hand in the room goes up. I’m feeling pretty good.

“And who thinks there should be a law to limit how much YOU can make?”

Nothing. It was the raised-hand equivalent of crickets chirping.

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” she says, “And do not do unto others what you would not have them do unto you.” “The golden rule and the silver rule. You can look it up.”

Then she sits down. And everybody says WOOT! Game over!

So I felt bad for a while but a bunch of people told me that I did better than they expected me to and they didn’t really disagree with me, they just weren’t ready to totally give up the idea of being super-duper rich someday themselves.

“But as soon as my hope dies,” said Jennifer Goff, “I’m on your side.”

That’s what friends are for!

Your pal,

Do you follow the rules?


Distracted By WOOT!

Today’s post comes from perennial sophomore Bubby Spamden of Wendell Wilkie High School.

Hey Mr. C.,

So I spent all weekend thinking about my upcoming showdown with Alicia Erickson in Mr. Boozenporn’s class. Our debate about the Maximum Wage is going to be epic! Like I said I’m pretty sure she’ll destroy me but at least I’ll have her attention for almost fifty minutes, which was all I really wanted to do in the first place, so no matter what happens, I win! Woot!

But I’m still a little scared.

I was going to do lots of research on the huge differences between the top earners and the bottom earners and all that, but once I got online I got distracted by Facebook messages from people at school who were kinda taunting me and telling me I was going to do a face plant in the debate and it was gonna be an awesome debacle and woot! woot! and all the stuff that people say when they’re spouting off. Which got me to wondering what woot! means.

So instead of looking at wage statistics I spent a couple of hours researching WOOT. I found out that there are a bunch of different stories. Some say it started out as an acronym for “We Owned (the) Other Team” or “Want One Of Those”, but thanks to over-usage WOOT doesn’t really mean much of anything anymore other than Yay!

Once I got that figured out, I was ready to start on the debate research but then my mom came in and said I had to help her clean out the garden and the flowerbeds so new stuff could grow. I told her I had homework but she never lets me skip chores, so I lost the whole afternoon to doing stuff outside.

But this won’t surprise you – while I was out there, I kept thinking about Alicia Erickson. Especially where she said my idea of setting a maximum wage was stupid because it would discourage job creators and drain away their “urge to achieve.”

Even though I was raking wet leaves and using sharp clippers to trim away dead plants, my eyes kept seeing Alicia’s lips forming those words – “urge to achieve.” Good thing I didn’t cut off any fingers! But after a couple of hours of that, I feel like I’m kind of an expert on urges.

I decided that Alicia might like my maximum wage plan more if there was something in it to let the super-rich still feel special. It would have to have some way for them to keep competing with the other super-rich people besides just piling up money.

And that’s when I remembered WOOT!

So here’s the plan: Once you get to a point where you earn ten million dollars a year, you can’t earn anymore for yourself but you become a WOOT, or an Wealthy Oligarch Opportunity Titan!

Doesn’t that sound cool? It would be an all-capitals title that you’d put at the end of your name, like this – Warren Buffett, WOOT! The exclamation point would be part of it! By law!

I put the word “Titan” in there so they’d feel like superheroes, and the word “Opportunity” so they’d get the hint – everybody who reaches WOOT! status would compete with the other WOOT!s to do good works, like creating opportunities for other people.

Exactly what or how, I don’t know. I haven’t gotten that far on the details yet because we left so much stuff sitting in the garden at the end of last year and it took me all afternoon to clear it out.

But I think this is a pretty good start. It’ll be a lot more impressive than a bunch of dumb old statistics. And I’m sure I’ll think up even more details to add to it while I’m debating Alicia. I just have to remember to keep my mind clear, and not to look directly into her eyes or I might forget everything that’s in my brain.

Wish me luck. WOOT!

Your pal,

Of course I wished Bubby luck but I have to admit I’m worried. Doing some real research might have been more helpful than coming up with a new meaning for WOOT!

If you could add an impressive title to your name, what would it be?


Wage War

Today’s post comes from perennial sophomore Bubby Spamden of Wendell Wilkie High School.

Hey Mr. C.,

So I think I got myself into a kind of a tough spot yesterday.

We were talking in Mr. Boozenporn’s Social Studies class about Minnesota raising its minimum wage, on account of a lot of us are going to earning it someday (if we’re lucky), working at burger joints and discount stores when we (some of us) graduate.

Pretty much everybody was saying “it’s a good thing” and “about time” and blah, blah, blah. But all I ever want out of that class is to get Alicia Erickson to look at me, and she seemed pretty interested in the topic.

So I kind of blurted out that the minimum wage “… isn’t really the issue.”

And Mr. Boozenporn, who is the laziest teacher I’ve ever had and he really ought to be fired for wasting our class time this way, said, “What’s the real issue, Bubby?”

And so I said “It’s the huge difference between the money that little people get and what the fat cats get, which is why there ought to be a maximum wage too.”

Then it got really quiet in Mr. B’s room.

Don’t get me wrong. I like my school but a lot of the kids come from over around the lake, so the idea of a maximum wage didn’t go over too well because most of them saw it right away as a ceiling on their inheritance, which they’ve already imagined collecting because some of them (I won’t mention any names) have told me they daydream about strangling their parents in their sleep and running away with the money.

Really! Like you could get away with that!

So Mr. Boozenporn said “Bubby, tell us more.

I didn’t really have any more to say, but you know how it is. So I think I said something about “… once you get rich you can’t really spend it sensibly anymore …” and “… the super rich aren’t happy …” and “… anyone who can’t be satisfied with ten million dollars isn’t really trying …” and some other stuff I don’t remember.

So then Alicia Erickson (of all people!) speaks up and says my ideas are stupid and putting a cap on income would just drain incentives from the job creators and that our economy is built on what she said is “the urge to achieve.”

Which was kind of thrilling because Alicia was looking right at me and talking about urges.

So Mr. Boozenporn said “Alicia and Bubby will debate this on Monday. They’ll be graded on the quality of their reasoning and everyone else will be graded on respectful behavior and the clarity of your note-taking. Class dismissed.”

And then the bell rang.

Now everyone is mad at me for ruining Monday with a whole hour where they’ll have to sit quietly and take notes. But I’m mad at me because I have to debate Alicia Erickson and I’m pretty sure she’ll destroy me!

I guess I need to think some more about the stuff I said, to see if I believe any of it. Right now, my plan for Monday is just to move my mouth and make random sounds until the bell rings.

Unless you have some other ideas for me?

Your Pal,

How do you win an argument?


A Few Limericks in the Mars Light

Who can blame impatient fans of extraterrestrial life for so closely watching the photos sent back by NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover? There’s got to be some kind of critter up there! It’s simply a matter of time before it wanders in front of our camera.

It’s this sort of anticipation that gave us the momentarily famous Mars-rat-(shaped rock).

And it’s the very same level of breathlessness that brings us the latest frenzy over a mysterious light in the distance on one of the Rover’s photographs.

NASA was quick to debunk the alluring spark as a momentary effect that can be easily explained by anyone who understands the physics of sunlight. But for the rest of us who know nothing about the physics of sunlight, the flash is most easily explained as a desperate attempt by alien life forms to get our attention by sending up a flare!

Just as puzzling is why this disagreement over supposed evidence of Martian light technology made me want to write limericks.

On a planet that’s barren and flinty
Shone a light inexplicably glinty
But the experts said “Pooh!”
To the rumors – “Untrue!”
“It’s the lens of our camera that’s linty.”

Martian motion detectors don’t glow,
unless triggered. This much we all know.
Out on Jupiter’s moons,
they’re set off by raccoons
But the wildlife on Mars is too slow.

A mysterious Red Planet beacon
has the UFO translators freakin’.
It means “We’re over here.”
Or else, “Don’t come too near.”
Based on which dialect they are speakin’.

We will creep like a moth to the light
towards an alien campfire at night.
If we see them, in mobs,
roasting Earthling kabobs
we’ll retreat at a minimal height.

What kind of signal would draw you in?


A Congress (or Something) of Baboons

I’m thinking the title of today’s post will draw many readers who are scanning the internet for the rare chance to indulge in some choice primate-based vitriol about our elected representatives.

If that’s what brought you here, welcome and apologies, for I’m going to disappoint you a bit – we don’t spend a lot of time venting about Congress at Trail Baboon. But we do tell stories and make lighthearted observations – often in the comments section of each post where a core group of visitors congregates. These are the aforementioned Baboons of the eponymous Trail.

It just turns out that a gathering of baboons anywhere in the world is called a “Congress”. Or not. There is some disagreement about this. It might be better to say “troop” or “tribe” or “flange”. Apparently an e-mail has recently made the rounds to promote a Congressional collection, but English is a living language so ultimately a group of baboons will be named whatever we decide to call them.

The Baboons in this Consortium, Collection or Clump sometimes write guest posts and I (as blog administrator) have resolved to credit those entries more clearly and completely, thus the new item in the top task bar called “The Baboon Congress”.

Take a look – you’ll see the names of some of the writers who have penned guests posts since this blog began almost four years ago. Each name should be accompanied by a click-able link that says “All posts by …” This will give you a sense of the prolific amount guest-blogging done at this site.

I’m grateful to the gentle readers who populate this place and am in the process of adding pages, bios, and the collected writings of every person who has contributed along the way, so check back with us regularly, feel free to join in the discussion, and before long you may discover that you are a baboon too!

What do you call it when you and your friends get together?

He Found a Smart Phone in the Woods

Bad Day At The Office

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

Yo, Bart here.

I know all the people are pretty happy about the weather finally making a turn towards actual spring, but if you think you’re glad, imagine for just a minute how nice it must be for the wild things that live around you.

Me, for instance.

Yup, we’re all smiles out here in the woods, too. Everybody’s in a good mood. I had a rabbit wave at me yesterday – just a feelin’-good, how-ya-doin’-neighbor type of wave, which is odd because I eat rabbits sometimes. And I waved back! It really does lift your spirits when the weather gets warm.

But in case you were wondering, it’s still not a good idea to be too friendly with bears. And I say this even though I’m the friendliest bear you’d ever want to meet, assuming you want to meet a bear.

We can have tempers.

I read this article online about bear awareness that had lots of good information. It really opened my eyes to the risks we pose in springtime. For example, I had no idea that some people don’t clean their BBQ grills! There could still be greasy, crusty meat chunks in there. That’s gross and really exciting at the very same time. I know where I’m going to look next time I’m on the deck!

But here’s what convinced me that they really knew what they were talking about – the story quoted Jeff Selinger, a biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. He was talking about wild animals and the need for people to be cautious when he said this:

“You don’t know what they’ve been through lately.”


I’m glad somebody finally gets it – not every day is the same for a bear in the woods. Yesterday, for example. I went down to the lake because there’s finally open water and I thought maybe I could find a fish. Well there wasn’t a fish, but I found this cooler that looked like it had been sitting out there all winter!

That’s really a great find, because people keep all kinds of tasty treats in their coolers, and if was left there last Fall the stuff inside might still taste pretty much OK. I tried to pull it open and the top wouldn’t come off. I shook it and could hear there were some heavy things sloshing around inside – I was imagining hot dogs or hamburgers.

I had to throw it around a lot before it finally popped open and what did I find inside? Plastic bottles full of water! Water is not in short supply right now. What a letdown!

And then when I looked across the lake I saw another bear who had broken open a different cooler, and HE was EATING something. It figures – I found the drinks cooler and he got the one with the grill food inside. Darn the luck!

I caught his eye and I let him know with facial language that I was not happy, but it didn’t seem to bother him at all. We bears aren’t too supportive of each other, and I felt miserable that he was getting all the good grub. Plus, he let me know that he didn’t respect me much.

Somehow word had got around that I had waved “hello” at a rabbit.

Your hungry, frustrated pal,

What kind of springtime wildlife activity are you seeing?

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