All posts by Dale Connelly

I am a writer and broadcaster living in the Twin Cities.

Roll The Credits!

Prepare yourselves for a string of new news-based celebrities, led by stowaway teen, the 16 year old who climbed into the wheel well of a passenger jet and hitchhiked through extremely low temperatures and dangerously thin air to the island of Maui, where he dropped on to the tarmac remarkably, and thankfully, alive.

Once he is identified, ST will face justice.

But he will also have an opportunity to appear on as many TV shows as he pleases. He can become extraordinarily famous and maybe a little bit wealthy if he decides to sell exclusive rights to his story to one deep pocketed outlet, even if that kind of arrangement and that level of exposure is not in his best interests right now.

Will he take the bait?

It would be a remarkable act of mature reasoning for anyone at any age to pass up offers of stardom and the pleas of network and cable producers.  And remember, he had not-quite-enough impulse control to resist climbing over a security fence and into the wheel well of an airplane headed to he Knew Not Where.

I’m betting we’ll see a lot of him.

Other personalities slated to appear:

  • (Former) Airport Security Employee (FASE) who was supposed to be monitoring the monitors, but clearly wasn’t.
  • Friend of Stowaway Teen (FOST) who knew he was going to do “something crazy” but never expected this.
  • Parents of Stowaway Teen (POST). Brave and Unappreciated, or Horrible and Clueless? Watch the story line develop.
  • Crusading Representatives and Senatorial Scolders (CRASS). Members of Congress will vow to Get To The Bottom of This.

I’m sure there will be many other characters to emerge before this whole thing is done.

If I was going to play one of them, I think I’d like to be Teacher Of Aforementioned Stowaway Teen (TOAST), who will marvel at the turn of events with a comment like: “I don’t know how he found the energy to climb into the wheel well of a jet. I couldn’t get him to lift his head off the desk.”

Help populate this story with a character we haven’t met yet, but will.  

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Ask Dr. Babooner

We are ALL Dr. Babooner.

Dear Dr. Babooner,

Taking a cue from the government-funded activities of NASA, several years ago I purchased a powerful telescope and began looking around my immediate neighborhood for other homes that showed signs they could support life as comfortably as the home I live in now.

I’ve been studying the area very carefully and for the most part the places I see all have something terribly wrong – they’re way too big or far too small, they’re too close to a busy street or too far from the local park, they have aluminum or vinyl siding (which I hate), or smokers live there and the air inside the home is simply not breathable.

That last bit is something it took quite a while to learn, but now that I’ve had time to practice with the telescope I’ve become quite good at training it on windows and getting a clear sense of what goes on inside by measuring shadows as they pass in front of the interior lights.

Just the other day I found a house that is quite far from my own but it seems to have all the
elements I love about the place where I already live. The size and temperature are nearly perfect and I think there’s even liquid water inside. I’m pretty sure on that count because I saw someone taking a bath!

You can imagine how excited I was!

But just this afternoon the police came to my door and told me if I don’t start pointing my telescope at the sky rather than the other houses up and down the street, they will try to move me to a new home that is cold and desolate most of the time and has food water only at certain times which are not under my control.

Dr. Babooner, I thought scientific exploration was a pathway to a better life, but in this case it feels like all my work is taking me in the wrong direction. Should I stop, or keep pressing onward, hoping for a breakthrough?

Curious K

I told “Curious K” that he (she?) should definitely stop peeping into other people’s homes and calling it research. The sad truth is that even if you found a place that could support your life as nicely as the place where you already live, the chances are slim that you could get there and even slimmer that you would be welcomed by the current inhabitants. It would be much better to take care of and learn to cherish the place you call home.

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


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?

Screenshot 2014-04-04 at 9.43.24 PM

Goats in the News

An Irishman says a ewe on his farm has given birth to a rare Goat-Sheep.

The animal is exactly what you might imagine – the product of a union between a goat and a sheep. According to the BBC article and Wikipedia, such offspring usually don’t survive.

This one, however, is thriving. He’s faster than a typical sheep, and woolier than a normal goat.

Of course when a story like this surfaces on the Internet, alarm bells go off and a skeptical reader looks for signs of a ruse. And this tale has them.

For one thing, the farmer’s name is Paddy Murphy. I’m not saying such a name is unlikely – far from it. I would argue the opposite – Paddy Murphy is a go-to Irish name that any writer from The Onion would choose.

Paddy Murphy’s would also be a logical first choice for anyone with enough cash and bad taste to open a phony Irish pub in Coon Rapids. And sure enough, the farmer owns a pub, (Murphy’s, naturally), though his is in County Kildare.

Yet I believe this story, because I love the odd duck and pull for the underdog. Which would be the Underduck – a sad-eyed and lovable but highly temperamental hairy billed beast. And the story originates with an unimpeachable source – The Irish Farmers Journal.

No one would make that up.

What sort of hybrid are you?

Congressman Beechly's State of the Shanty Adddress

Money Storm!

Today’s post is a fundraising letter from Congressman Loomis Beechly, representing Minnesota’s 9th District – all the water surface area in the state.

Greetings Constituents,

Yes, the forecast is alarming.

But I want to assure you that I am fully aware that a deluge is headed this way, and I have taken every possible step to prepare for the coming storm.

The expected onslaught will yield unprecedented piles and prodigious accumulations – exactly the type of crisis I have dreamed of facing from the moment I was sworn into this office.

And now, thanks to the Supreme Court, it is coming true. The country’s richest people are finally free to dump boatloads of money on me!

The court’s ruling in the McCutcheon case means individual Americans are no longer limited in the number of politicians they can support with direct contributions. While they will still have a $2600 ceiling per candidate per election, the overall election cycle restriction of $48,600 for Federal office seekers has been removed.

So if you have ever said to me, “Really, you’re the next Congressman I’d write a check to if I hadn’t already hit the limit!”, the McCutcheon decision means that excuse is gone and now is the time to pony up.

And yes, I realize that $2,600 would buy a very nice pony indeed, but as I’ve said at hundreds of chicken dinner fundraisers over the past ten years, “Why waste that kind of cash on such an extravagant gift for your daughter when I’ll be more grateful and I’ll actually listen when you call to offer your sage advice!”

Don’t expect others to take care of this. I don’t have any illusions about this making much difference to the average residential contributor in the waterlogged 9th district. After all, most people who live on the lake have boats, and boats consume dollars faster than horses eat oats. Ordinary people would be much better off giving their money to some worthy non-profit, like your local community radio station!

But major, major, bottomless-bank-account political funders coast to coast – you’ve got the resources and you know who you are. You now have it within your reach to make a maximum offering to every member of Congress! And what hobbyist hasn’t dreamed of collecting the complete set?

Trust me, the complete set has dreamed of being collected by you!

Mega-donors, your phone is about to start ringing. Yes, there will be pleading, cajoling, and some begging. The clamoring voices of Congressmen may all begin to sound the same to you, but if, in the background, you hear the call of a loon, that will be me!

Congressman Loomis Beechly
Minnesota’s 9th

Ever been strong-armed?