Questions and Answers

Because I have control issues, and because I am a better driver, and because Husband doesn’t like to drive our van, I do almost all the driving.  He says he doesn’t mind being a perpetual passenger.

Living out here means we have to drive long distances to get to places. There is something restful about driving miles and miles in a remote area. I can relax and clear my head. It also gives me and Husband time to have good conversations.  I am fortunate that Husband likes to do research, because when my mind is not focused on work or duties at home, I start wondering about things I see when we travel and ask Husband what the answers might be.   I should also add that when I pose questions, he won’t stop researching until he has an answer. I wonder about the music we listen to (What is the story behind Faure’s Pelleas and Melisande, and how many requiems did Faure write?”), or the terrain we are passing through, or any number of stray topics.

This trip, I somehow started thinking about General Custer, and what routes he took through ND and SD on his first Black Hills expedition. We were driving in the vicinity when we traveled to Denver, so Husband dutifully looked up the route on his phone. Then I started to wonder, “What route did he take to the Little Bighorn”?, since he left from Mandan where he was the commander of Fort Lincoln. Did he go straight west, or did he follow the river boat that took his supplies from Mandan up the Missouri to what is now Williston, ND, where the boat turned south on the Yellowstone River to get close to the Big Horn River. Husband looked that up, too. Custer probably traveled right through our town on his way to Montana. and met up with the boat after it got to the Big Horn.   This led to a lot of discussion on the use of flat bottomed river boats on the Missouri and Yellowstone rivers and the part they played in transporting cannons and equipment.

The only problem with researching while we drive through remote areas is the spotty phone service, but when you have hundreds of miles to travel, there is no rush to find answers, and every so often there is a cell phone tower.

What questions have you had lately? What would you like to research? How do you pass the time on long drives?

50 thoughts on “Questions and Answers”

  1. A lot of what I read is continuous research, looking for answers to questions I have and also questions I haven’t thought of yet. When I do a direct google, it’s often an etymological question or to find the source of a quote that springs to mind. The other day I was looking into the origin of, “Sometimes I sits and thinks. Other times I just sits.”

    I’m surprised at how many books there are about Custer. He seems to be perennially fascinating to a certain crowd. I’ve read a couple—the Evan S. Connell one and I think the Philbrick. He is not, to my mind, admirable or particularly fascinating.

    My most recent investigation was into why my kitchen sink was not draining. There’s a drain cleanout in the basement but it hasn’t been opened in many years and it’s been blocked in so tightly by the furnace that you can scarcely get a wrench on it. I had to take apart the trap upstairs and work 25 feet of snake down the line to make sure I was reaching all the way to the main. Working under the sink is not as easy as it was years ago when I was more flexible. That seems to have done the trick, though.

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      1. The earliest instance came from a 1905 interview with an old Maine fisherman, I think, but it’s been repeated frequently and attributed to many authors and quotable persons from Mark Twain and A. A. Milne to Satchel Paige.

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    1. Bill, I’m one of those people who will eagerly watch or read anything new about Custer, and I find him loathsome. He is not especially interesting. His wife was. Some of the people who fought under his command were. Many of the native Americans who fought Custer were fascinating folks. The battle itself will always be an ambiguous and inconsistent event with many “facts” in dispute. As a man, Custer was a narcissist with many dangerous flaws. That doesn’t make the Little Bighorn boring or unimportant.

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      1. Husband agrees with your assessment of the man, Steve. We have rancher friends in the Medora area, and they showed us a grave on top of one of the buttes near their ranch where one of Custer’s men was buried after he died of an accident or an illness of some sort. I believe it was on the first Black Hills expedition.

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        1. Custer is hard to assess because his virtues and flaws were shared by many of his peers. He was a type. The 19th century was filled with characters who promoted themselves aggressively, even ruthlessly. Few of them were as glamorous and reckless as Custer. He was killed before most people learned how dangerous and shallow he was.

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        2. A few years ago, I contributed the image of a nineteenth century actor who was a friend of Custer to a television documentary of him, on PBS I think.

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      2. I also have researched Custer a bit. He appears to have had a personality structure similar to that of #45. It explains a lot.

        Philbrick’s books are really good. My favorite is the one on the Puritans of Massachusetts, where I found my ancestors lurking on his pages. Most of the stuff I never would have known had I not read it, and it sent me down a geneology research path I never expected.

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      3. I feel that way about John Brown and the raid on Harper’s Ferry, although Brown will always be more complex a person than Custer and his actions and motivations have been subject to endless conflicting interpretations. Historian Truman Nelson called Brown “The stone in the historian’s shoe.”

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  2. I love this way of travel that you describe, Renee! Taking the laptop on the next road trip!

    I frequently look up music – either to hear a song I’m hoping to use somewhere (i.e., here on the Trail), or find sheet music for one of the music groups I belong to. I love how I can now find almost anything on YouTube.
    Thinking…

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    1. The laptop will only be useful on the road if you have a smart phone link to data that allows your laptop to access the web.

      BIR, the smartphone web is closing around you.

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  3. What catches my eye in Renee’s appealing description of her travel is the obvious fact that she finds Husband an interesting person, as he finds her. The two of them have experienced many miles of travel together, and yet they find fresh delight in sharing new experiences like that.

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  4. What questions have you had lately?

    what is the true meaning of life is my go to question
    i get interesting responses

    What would you like to research?

    my list of areas of interest is called the internet
    i am all over the board

    How do you pass the time on long drives?
    podcasts if i’m driving. pandora if i’m feeling like a break
    ted talks
    on being
    tim pharris

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  5. I find myself researching a lot of details for the novel I’m working on (the sequel to “Castle Danger,” for “all” my fans! 😉 ) Topics have included homeless shelters in the Twin Cities, free clinics, the FBI, requirements for becoming a police officer in Mpls, colleges that offer degrees in criminal justice, tendon surgery, the organizational structure and scope of the FBI, Ojibwe and Sioux Tribes in MN, WI, SD, ND; drones, high-tech listening devices, street drug prices, and more.

    I find it far too easy to get lost in research and waste most of an afternoon of what was supposed to be writing. Ah yes, the black hole that is the internet. *sigh*

    Chris in Owatonna

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  6. Rise and Shine Baboons,

    Wow, you guys are off to an early start today.

    When we travel cross country to AZ, I stock up on audio books which we listen to as we travel. Last year I had a Mike McGarrity historical series (fiction) about the early settlement of New Mexico. It was so fascinating, and as ever, filled with the suffering of the early settlers who suffered if they did not emigrate and suffered if they did. We listened to it as we drove across Nebraska, Colorado, and New Mexico. That was fun and raised many questions to research. This winter in AZ, I want to take a trip over to the area of Southern NM that was featured in the Trilogy.

    My last research rabbit hole, related to geneology, was regarding the very early white settlements of Maine, which of course, had been settled by Natives many centuries before that. It was settled and financed by an English nobleman whose name escapes me now, who financed many of the East Coast settlements. The settlement failed, causing my ancestor, a pregnant Martha Doane Harding, to move to Plymouth, MA with her brother. She gave birth to a son, then died, leaving the child to be raised by her brother. He gave rise to the Harding family that eventually produced Warren G. Harding. And me. Who wants to share genes with Warren G. Harding? Not me. But here we are. The results of that rabbit hole has cooled my ardor for research.

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    1. I was researching someone I thought might be a relative in northern Maine. I would find them on a federal census, then on the next census they disappeared altogether, only to have them reappear in the same town ten years later. It took me a while to realize they had never moved—the US border did.

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  7. I was disappointed when we looked up Pelleas and Melisandre, and found it was the familiar love triangle story in which she marries one guy, falls in love with his brother, and then she and the brother die. I was also surprised to find that Debussy wrote a five act opera about it. I had no idea that he ever wrote an opera.

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  8. I love having a smart phone and looking up things whenever I think of them.
    Recently I had questions on programming effects on the lighting console. Between FB groups and YouTube I figured out what I needed to figure out.
    Google maps is a favorite. I’ll see a road and wonder where it goes and I’ll look it up. Of course if I have time I drive it, but usually you can’t do both or you don’t end up where you’re ever going.
    I changed the lamp in a follow spot recently. It was a lamp I’d never changed before so I googled that. Read the specs for the spotlight, looked up expected lamp hours, looked up which lamp in particular to order, looked up pricing.
    I also wondered about phases of the earth. Like we have phases of the moon, if you were on the moon, would the earth have phases? Yes, but they’re opposite of the Moons. (I got help from an actual astrophysicist friend on that one! Complete with hand drawn explanations!)

    Long drives are usually just music. As MiG said the other day, trying to listen to anything speaking or stories, I’m too easily distracted and I’d forever be backing up.
    There is a podcast called “Light Talk with the Lumen Brothers”. They’re a lot like Tom and Ray from CarTalk. Same laugh and attitude about doing a radio show. And I’ve been listening to that while driving lately. Last week was an interview with Broadway Lighting designer Ken Billington. Just listening to him talk about 4th grade theater was fun. And he’s just a nice guy.

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      1. She got off with a $500 fine. The best part is that her attorney found loopholes and ways around the city statues so that she can still rent out her dock. She is not responsible for the city of Orono legal fees, either.

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    1. That typo isn’t nearly as funny as Linda’s late last night when she typed “pan fried ham steak”, and it auto corrected to “pan fried hamster”. She caught it before it posted.

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  9. There are all kinds of things I’d like to research, but I often forget them before I get to the computer. Might be anything from some detail about a species of bird I think I’ve seen, or supplementing some item I’ve read on FB or in This Week. Some days it’s a crossword puzzle clue, and I frequently cook from a recipe I’ll find online – I love putting in a few key ingredients and seeing what the internet comes up with. At this point I really should just get rid of most of my cookbooks.

    Road trips we usually bring some books on CD. Discovered that something by Stephen King, if you’ve left off at an “interesting” part, really gets you up and out early in the morning.

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  10. I often wonder about certain products, especially food products, and what happened to them. Betty Crocker pudding cake mix, Why can’t you buy that anymore? Whatever happened to canned rutabaga? Pepperidge Farm chocolate goldfish cookies? Nash Finch grapefruit Italian soda? Is there some online store where you can still order London Lodge watermelon pickles?

    I worry that someday I will go to the store to buy my Jiffy pie crust mix and find it’s suddenly vanished.

    I also google song lyrics compulsively.

    I like audiobooks in the car, but I can drive for quite a distance without realizing my mind has wandered and I’m not really listening anymore.

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