All posts by Dale Connelly

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

Ice Out = Nice Out

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

Today, Minnesota Congressman Loomis Beechly, ?-MN, congratulated all Minnesota lakes and lake-area-residents on achieving a remarkably early ice-out status for 2015.

“Our ice-out performance this year is a huge improvement over the previous two years, when it seemed like the dang ice hung around pretty much forever,” Beechly said in a prepared statement.  “We were still worried about icebergs on the Fourth of July in 2014, so this year we’re all completely delighted that every Minnesota lake is ready for warm weather activities to begin almost a full week before April 1st!”

Beechly’s announcement is a key part of a larger marketing strategy launched by the Congressman with the aim of unifying what has been a haphazard tradition of uncoordinated ice outs happening across the state.

“In the past, every local official and municipal hoo-hah has had some say in when a particular town or village declares that the local lake has achieved ice-out,” Beechly explained.  “For some, it’s when an old junker they towed out there in January finally falls through the crust.  For others, it’s when you can see mostly water out there.  But for the most stubborn ones, every last bit of ice has to be gone before they’ll declare it.”

Beechly says this approach means the state sends a mixed marketing message to the rest of the world.

“In early June, a visitor from Texas consulting the DNR’s statewide ice-out map cannot be sure which kind of skis to bring to a Minnesota lake. By declaring ice-out statewide right now, I’m using the authority of my office to jump past the chaos being written into our story by well-meaning people who happen to have different feelings about the desirability of ice.”

In response to critics who complain that the Congressman is being “bullheaded” and “willfully ignorant” regarding actual environmental conditions outside his office, Mr. Beechly said “I accept the compliments and I’m grateful that people have noticed. It’s true, I’ve learned a lot by being a member of the House of Representatives.”

When does Spring begin for you?

Baboons in the News

Left-leaning cynics might assume from the title of this post that I am writing today about the prospective presidency of Texas Senator Ted Cruz, but what is on my mind is a far more likely possibility – that one of us will some day inadvertently (and ironically) encounter a wild baboon while innocently walking down a trail.

As some of you know, the name of this blog is nothing more than a play on words, coined because my original choice for a title, “Trial Balloon,” was already spoken for.

I don’t actually know much about baboons, or their trail behavior. Frankly, I didn’t know that a trail was anyplace where one might encounter a baboon, but apparently it is not unusual to meet them on trails around Capetown, South Africa.

And I was surprised to learn from the above-linked article that baboons live in groups of about 50, which is approximately the number of people who regularly read this blog.

Coincidence? I think not.

Here are the two most fascinating baboon-encounter tidbits I’ve taken away from this document:

  • When encountering a baboon on a trail, don’t smile or show your teeth, as this could be interpreted as an act of aggression.
  • By all means remain calm, and stand up straight to display a strong and confident yet non-threatening behavior.

As a habitual smiling sloucher, I’m afraid I am ill-equipped to handle baboons properly during an accidental trail encounter – just another reason to keep all my baboon interactions virtual.

How should a person meeting you for the first time behave if they aim to keep you from becoming riled up?

We Are Stardust

The latest news from deep space is that scientists believe the explosion of a supernova at the center of our galaxy generated enough cosmic dust to make everything on Earth 7,000 times over, including us.

But then that should come as no surprise, since the noted scientific researcher Joni Mitchell, along with her lab assistants Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young detailed our connection to stardust back in 1970.

Long before that (but after that supernova explosion), Hoagy Carmichael was using chords to depict stardust, and Mitchell Parish provided some elegantly twisty lyrics to turn the focus of the song outward and back on itself at the same time.

Strangely, because it is a work of art and doesn’t have any particular physical qualities outside of the paper its notes and words are written on, the Carmichael/Parish song Stardust is actually one feature of our cultural landscape that’s NOT made of stardust. But that couldn’t protect the song from some savage treatment – me trying to wrangle it into something that reflects this latest bit of astronomical information:

Sometimes I wonder how the stuff
that makes us up, came to be around.
Floating free, scientists agree,
some dust congealed to me and you.

When we were brand new,
drifting in a constellation!
Ah, but that was long ago,
and our coagulation means that to stardust we belong.

Exploding ancient stars
gave off some light, and a lot of stuff.
The stuff survived. Later we arrived.
I can’t explain it, nor can you.

I believe they know
So let’s all just say it’s so.
We’re stardust, you and me,
Debris from chaos, long ago.

What are you made of?

Ask Dr. Babooner

We are ALL Dr. Babooner

Dear Dr. Babooner,

I was excited to hear there would be a solar eclipse to watch yesterday, until I discovered it wasn’t happening anywhere near me.

Not only that, by the time I worked out the location issue, the eclipse had already occurred, and other people were busy complaining that it was a letdown.

One person said on Twitter that he was “… mad at space.”

But that’s nothing compared to my disappointment, because I learned that all I could have to look forward to in terms of celestial events yesterday was a supermoon, and the vernal equinox, which is great but it’s like a band that comes to town every year – you kind of hope they’ll do something new.

And besides, the Supermoon is invisible right now, so it doesn’t even count.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m a fan of the seasons and the circle of life and all that stuff. But if there’s going to be an amazing solar eclipse, why can’t I be one of those people who flies on a private jet to see it from a luxuriously appointed yurt set up specifically for that purpose on a remote, cloudless hillside in the Faroe Islands?

Not only would it be fantastic to witness such a thing, I could use social media to brag to people that I had done it in the most expensive and extravagant way possible, which would make them feel the kind of intense envy that Facebook was invented to promote.

I know I’m special but I feel like my life is slipping by and I am only allowed to have ordinary experiences!

What’s with that?

Sincerely,
Bummed

I told Bummed that he is indeed special, but so is everyone else, which ultimately makes him ordinary.  He could go out of his way to collect extraordinary experiences, but it would have the odd effect of making exotic and unusual things quite common in his life. People who use their wealth to do this eventually come around to the feeling that they are missing out by not having mundane lives. So enjoy your dull opportunities! More zealous and financially able adventurers have to spend a lot of money to wind up in the very same place!

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

Guitar Hero

Only in a society handicapped by racism and misogyny could someone like Elvis wind up being a bigger and better-remembered star than Sister Rosetta Tharpe, whose birthday is today.

She was born in Cotton Plant Arkansas. They say her father could sing and her mother was a musician and preacher. The apple didn’t fall far from the tree and she was wowing them as a prodigy in Chicago by the time she was ten.

All that talent, stage time and encouragement led to something truly wonderful. Tharpe had dominating stage presence and ample skill. The voice and the phrasing catch you right away, but note the guitar solo here – she has serious chops.

Oddly, Tharpe is not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, though many who were inspired by her, including Johnny Cash, are.

But when I hear Sister Rosetta Tharpe sing and play the guitar and read about her precocious youth, it suddenly becomes easier to believe that certain people are put on Earth to do a particular thing, and when opportunity and talent align, it’s a sight (and sound) to behold.

What were you good at when you were very young?

Look, Up In The Sky!

Today’s post comes from perennial sophomore Bubby Spamden, a permanent 10th grader at Wendell Willkie High School.

Hey, Mr. C.,

We got to talking about the future in Mr. Boozenporn’s class today. He says it’s going to be amazing, and that we’re not going to appreciate it because we haven’t had any handicaps like the ones he had when he was growing up, such as a closet full of ’70’s fashions.

I really do like these days when we can get Mr. B talking about himself – it’s SO educational even though some of my classmates think it’s super boring. But Mr. B has been through a lot, and we’ll all wind up having pretty good lives if we can escape being as disillusioned as him.

To make his point, he showed us two videos. Neither one was listed in the syllabus and he said they won’t be featured on any of the standardized tests we have to take, but they show exactly how things go – you grow up with an impossible dream in your head and then against all odds – it happens! But here’s the catch – when it comes true it’s kinda pale compared to what you had in mind – not nearly as great, literally, but somehow better looking. Weirdly.

His example was the wild idea of a flying car, which he said filled his imagination when he was little.


And now it looks like a Flying Car, or “Supercar”, will really be a real reality someday soon, possibly as early as 2017.

And yet it’s kinda disappointing.

I think the real flying car kinda looks like an insect, which is not too cool-looking compared to the original “Supercar”. But I guess as you get older, you kinda make compromises along the way, which is what makes it possible for those dreams to get a little closer to being true. “But you can see in the ad,” Mr. B said, “that it will only be within reach of paunchy white-haired CEO-type guys like the one in the ad, and not normal people like you and me.”

And I guess that’s the way it turns out most of the time – the best toys go to the folks with all the money, and not to marionettes of kids and monkeys, or schoolteachers.

Your pal,
Bubby

What childhood dream of yours has come true?

Leave Your Message After The Beep

I have things neatly arranged so an e-mail is generated whenever a call comes in to the phone at home.

I realize that may sound strange and other-worldly, so for any millennials who might be reading this, I’ll explain:

A “home phone” is a telephone that stays in the house.  Odd, I know.

This comes in handy for people like me who happen to know a lot of other people who were born in the previous century.  This population still believes calling “home” is the best way to reach someone.  Should one of these troglodytes leave a message, I’ll be able to read it within moments.

That is seldom the case these days.  And yesterday, a very 21st century thing happened.


Machine_Message

 

That’s right.  If you read between the lines, you can see that a machine called my machine and left a message.

That message was sent by the machine on the desk at home to the machine in my pocket.  The message?
Press 3 to tell the machine not to call my machine anymore.

I listened to the message and I can confirm that’s what happened.  Unfortunately, when I heard the message, it was too late to press 3 to do anything, because the machine that called was no longer listening.

Too bad.  I regret the missed opportunity that could have led to fewer machine-generated calls in the future.

I think what I need is a machine that can respond quickly by pressing 3 when it matters most.  Then I wouldn’t have to know anything had happened.

Twenty years from now, how will messages reach you?