Category Archives: Uncategorized

Free-Range Kaleidoscope

Today’s post comes from Clyde.

ThomasMy last guest blog was rather drab, don’t you think? Those photos of foggy Lake Superior were nearly monochromatic.

Beer Guy

However, we did have our moments of color tucked in here and there in our ten days of family celebration and travel. Sometimes, delightfully, in unexpected places.  For instance there was Thomas, when we did not even know he was in town.  And our local ballpark beer guy, who leads the crowd in his own cheer. Yes, the ball park is so small that it has only one beer guy.


And many more.

What is your color palette? 

No Post Today

At least one baboon was alarmed at the apparent absence of a post yesterday, though she relaxed when I pointed out to her that it was located at The Baboondocks.

But it reminded me how we skate so close to the edge here at Trail Baboon.  The daily post (with Sundays off) is such a relied-upon accessory, one must wonder what might happen if the post didn’t materialize.

Like today.

Yes, because yesterday was such a busy day, I decided late last night that I simply wouldn’t be able to post today.  I was exhausted and  I was all too aware that this morning would bring a day-long chore that cannot be postponed.

My apologies, baboons.   Time ran out.

I briefly thought about quickly writing a post about how there was no post, hoping you’d catch the irony of it and my laziness would seem like inspiration.  You’d be mildly amused, and I’d get away with an easy win.

But I quickly realized you’d see right through that gimmick. Besides, I just don’t have it in me.  Lying takes energy!

So please forgive me for falling down on the job this time.  I hate to deliver less than a sub-par performance, but occasionally events conspire to create failures and disappointments.

No post today!

What th?

The Carrot That Is Not A Carrot

Getting humans into space has been a long, complicated process. Not everyone is able or willing to go, and the costs are formidable.

We found this out after going back and forth from the moon a few times. Because getting off the planet is such a pain, there has to be a clear reason to go, and some irresistible kind of incentive.

In case you thought it was heroism, post-launch fame is no longer guaranteed. All sorts of different nobodies have been to the International Space Station.

A series of helmeted government employees have been sent but we paid them to do it. Years ago a succession of dogs and monkeys were launched with mixed results. I think it’s fair to say all the animals and some of the people were happier and better off on the surface of the Earth.

California in 1849 had a golden magnet. But what force will lure humankind to the stars?

Enter a group of young Swedes with a wonderful idea – let’s send donuts.

The Homer Simpson in me is already looking skyward, hungrily.

Which kind is the most attractive & delicious doughnut?

Don’t Let The Stars Get in Your Eyes

It should be obvious by now that I’m fascinated by outer space, a place I’ve seen on TV but will probably never visit. If I did get a chance to leave the atmosphere, I would want a window seat and would spend most of my time looking back at the place I’d just come from.

From what I’ve seen on the printed page and the flat screen, all views of Earth from orbit are enthralling. Even the ones that don’t allow me to say “Hey, there’s my house!”

I don’t know how long it would take for the scenery to become ordinary or (heavens forbid!), boring. Maybe that’s not possible, but there’s a chance we’re going to find out now that a couple of guys have been sent to the International Space Station to stay for a year.

Scott Kelly and Mikhail Kornienko will help answer a boatload of questions during their odyssey.

The one that caught my eye (literally) is this one – quoted from the BBC article linked above:

“However, there are other problems that doctors still need to study and understand. They have poor data on the effects on immune function, for example, and there is considerable concern about the damage spaceflight causes to the eyes. This is a newly recognised phenomenon, and appears to be related to the way fluid is redistributed in a weightless body.

Pressure is seen to build in the skull and on the optic nerve, and a large number of astronauts return to Earth complaining that their vision is not as good as when they went up.”

So in other words, space is beautiful, but the longer you stay, the less you’re going to see.  If diminished vision is part of the deal you have to cut to experience the stunning visuals of long-term space flight, is it worth the price?

When have you agonized over a trade-off?

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?

Champion Climbers

I’ve completed my annual Excursion of Terror up and down our almost-big-enough aluminum ladder to place six strings of gigantic old energy-burning Christmas lights at the peaks of our gables. Each year another handful burn out and I replace them. Each year I think about the falling-off-a-ladder injury and death statistics for men in their ’50’s. Apparently we are oblivious to the rules of ladder safety, which for men in my age group, starts with “Stay Off The Ladder!”

One of the enlightening statistics regarding ladder safety is that around half the falls happen because the ladder user is carrying something in one or both hands while trying to climb. Yes, of course this is foolish but if I didn’t have to carry something there’d be no reason to go up there in the first place. Next year I’ll try telling the lights to meet me at the top for installation.

My nervousness about taking objects up the ladder helped me appreciate the fine work of some of the local rodents.

After every Halloween I find wrappers in the yard. Bits of candy too, sometimes. When you’re candy-rich, shoving a handful of M&M’s in your mouth as you leave the door means you don’t have to go to the trouble of putting the treat in your bag. So what if some of them hit the ground? You’re a sugar mogul on Halloween night!

While installing the Christmas lights I noticed a gap in the siding about 12 feet above ground level – there seemed to be a passageway to get under the aluminum and up against the softer, more chewable building material that makes up the outer shell of our home. Concerned, I got a screwdriver and started to dig away at the debris that had collected in the opening.

Out rolled a malted milk ball.

I was appalled, but also appreciative. That’s not an easy climb, getting a malted milk ball 12 feet up. A mouse takes serious risks lugging such an awkward object to such a high point, only to discover it’s too big to get into the house. Bummer.

I thought for a moment about leaving it there as a testament to a monumental achievement. But only for a moment.

When has your hard work gone unrewarded?

Apostle of Jazz

Radio legend, jazz lover and gentleman Leigh Kamman passed away last Friday at 92.

Leigh was a rare individual in many ways, but particularly in the world of radio where the microphone amplifies the voice and also inflates the perceptions of listeners about the qualifications of the person doing the talking. The medium itself adds authority whether you deserve it or not. If you’re just smart enough to walk around the outside edges of a topic, many listeners will assume you know everything inside. Careers have been built on this.

Leigh Kamman was the real deal. With him, you got a radio host who actually knew what he was talking about. When it came to jazz, he was a true devotee, and his primary interest was in sharing the art and uplifting the performers. I can’t recall hearing Leigh say a negative word about anyone except himself. I think about that when I read music reviews where critics use their pedestals to bash performers who don’t live up to their expectations.

As a radio host, I admired Leigh for his ability to set a scene and transport a listener to someplace new. He did the most essential thing when enveloped you in his world. As the Jazz Image theme music – Django’s Castle – began each Saturday night, I waited with great anticipation for the moment when the music would fade and he’d step in with that voice to take us to an unexpected location. “Hanging upside down over the Aerial Lift Bridge in Duluth” was my all-time favorite. Just hearing the music by Gerry Mulligan’s band takes me back there – you can listen and fill in with your own Leigh Kamman memory.

I know several people who worked directly with Leigh on his MPR program, The Jazz Image. Each one was grateful for the experience, none more than Tom Wilmeth, who wrote this fine profile for the Jazz Times.

One of my favorite quotes is this one, where Tom captures Leigh’s inherent modesty:

Leigh consistently kept the focus on the music, and never on himself. He had spoken to Duke Ellington on numerous occasions, first as a 17-year-old fan at a train station! But he wouldn’t think of dropping this fascinating nugget into a conversation in order to impress. I had worked with Leigh close to three years before I heard him mention, in passing, about speaking with Charlie Parker. I froze at the tape deck with reel in hand. I asked him to expand a bit, but he drifted away to another subject.

When you know a lot about something you can use that information to intimidate others who are less knowledgable. I have seen smart people who are also enthusiasts of one sort or another wield volumes of minutiae to demonstrate that no matter how big a fan someone else might be, they are a MUCH, MUCH BIGGER fan. I guess there must be a good feeling that comes out of that, but I doubt that it lasts long.

Leigh Kamman was a distance runner – he had lived the life and had the history and the raw material to be that guy who made you feel inadequate and dumb, but he was principled and like a superhero, he used his immense power only for good – opening minds, gaining converts and spreading his love for the art form of jazz.

In what area are you an enthusiast?