All posts by Dale Connelly

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

Fightin’ Words

Today’s post was discovered on a soggy roll of parchment stuffed into the foot well of a tiny boat in Ye Olde Mill at the Minnesota State Fair. The markings appeared to be the frantic scratchings of some kind of caged animal, but after separate examinations by an INTERPOL agent and a State Fair poultry judge, it was determined that the document is indeed a message from Captain Billy, skipper of the pirate ship Muskellunge.

Ahoy, Landlubbers!

I has it on good authority (th’ cursed Internet) that the Chinese is toyin’ wi’ th’ idea of developin’ some kinda super-fast submarine what would zip across th’ ocean in no time, travelin’ in a ‘air bubble’ under th’ waves.

Artist's Approximation of Captain Billy
Artist’s Approximation of Captain Billy

Needless t’ say, me an’ me boys is highly alarmed.

Super-fast subs would be one way t’ move passengers an’ goods from one shore t’ th’ next shore real smooth like an’ well out of reach of low-tech, wave-tossed low-lifes such as ourselves. Th’ scheme what’s bein’ described in th’ press would make these here submarines as remote an unreachable as a jet airliner is, flyin’ overhead.

Naturally, such a scheme would cut into our profits from boardin’ an’ robbin’ conventional, slow-chuggin’, surface-huggin’, sea-going vessels, unless we was able t’ somehow force these here underwater missiles t’ come t’ th’ surface fer th’ occasional pirate-swarmin’ an’ pillagin’.

Therefore, me an’ me boys hereby demands that all seagoin’ powers sign a compact what commits them t’ keepin’ all commercial ocean traffic within reach of th’ international pirate community! Doin’ otherwise would risk upsettin’ th’ global balance of larceny, otherwise known as th’ creative stress of imminent danger, otherwise known as hooliganism, otherwise known as our livelihood.

Ain’t that right boys?

Seriously, why ruin a good (fer us) thing?

Yer iconic buccaneer,
Capt. Billy

The Captain makes a good point about a technology that could turn out to be quite disruptive to the status quo, though his position on this new transit option makes him somewhat the opposite of the typical foe who demands that the latest innovation go somewhere that is Not In My Back Yard (NIMBY).
Is he a NABMBY (Not Anywhere But My Backyard)?

What latest piece of technology could you do without?

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Inversion of the Burger Pods

How delightful that the perennial American fast-food also-ran, Burger King, is courting a financial inversion strategy that would make it technically Canadian.

This is one I will file under the heading Things I Already Thought Were True. Because there was always a slight Canadian tinge to BK, starting with the fake royalist vibe and including its cheese-smothered, can’t-be-good-for-you ham sandwich of the ’80’s, called the Yumbo, which sounds like something a starving Manitoba lumberjack would murmur when he hears the dinner bell.

I loved the Yumbo so much, I did not see how the bottom line of other junk food chains could compete with its obvious appeal. This is just another example of how completely out of step I am with what most Americans think. Back in the middle of the last half of the last century, when fast food was still a novel idea, a kid could imagine Burger King and McDonald’s competing for total control of our culture. The notion, back then, that one or the other might consume another entity that dispenses massive quantities of coffee and donuts would have been breathtaking and possibly the End of History. To have been able to get french fries and a chocolate old-fashioned at the very same counter would have kept me from reaching adulthood.

My other favorite thing about Burger King was that by wrapping its sandwiches in paper, the company stood in stark contrast to McDonald’s reliance on wasteful styrofoam clamshell containers, otherwise known as Burger Pods. When governments started to ban this kind of packaging and forced McDonald’s to re-configure, I thought Burger King had finally triumphed.

Alas, it was just one skirmish in a forgotten battle.

Today, in realm of trendy things that are taking over our lives and that cannot be stopped or ignored, fast food has fallen far behind the Internet and being drenched by Ice Water from Buckets. But there was a time when we even thought the future would be shaped by the containers our food came in – as frighteningly depicted in this trailer for a film by my friend Jeff Strate of Timid Video:

I did believe that I would never again live in a world without burger pods, though it has been years since I’ve seen one. And I have finally accepted that the Yumbo, like the Triceratops, will never again drip globs of cheese on a thirsty earth.

What did you used to eat that you don’t eat anymore?

We are ALL Dr. Babooner

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?