Category Archives: Media

Escape Artists

Photo Credit: Texas Biomedical Research Institute

Baboons were making the news again yesterday – escaping from a facility in San Antonio.

Per CNN, “Four baboons, having clearly read too much dystopian fiction, escaped a biomedical research lab in San Antonio by climbing a 55-gallon barrel and jumping out of their enclosure.  The institute says the three baboons and their turncloak co-conspirator are all “doing well.”  The blue barrels they used to escape, however, have been removed from the enclosure and will be evaluated. Perhaps they enriched too much.”

What would you like for a little enrichment?



Too Much of a Good Thing

Two years ago, husband and I bought cow pots (containers made from cow manure), in which to start our vegetable seedlings. It certainly made sense, since they were advertised to fertilize the plants while they were getting started. Then the plants could be put  in the garden pot and all, so they would continue to be  fertilized as they grew outside.

They sure didn’t work the way the ads said they would. We had the most pitiful seedlings the last two years.  (It didn’t help that last year the cat ate all the pepper seedlings before we could get them in the ground.) The seedlings started out fine, but  6 weeks after of germination their growth came to a stand still as the roots made contact with the pot, and they languished until we got them out of the pots and into the ground.  It dawned on us that the manure that made up the pots was too rich and “hot” for the seedlings to tolerate. We should have known, since we put composted manure on the garden in the fall so it has a chance to really rot and cool down over the winter.  The cow pots were too much of a good thing. This year we used plastic pots to start the seedlings, and they are the best we have ever started.

When have you experienced too much of a good thing?  When has a product (or person) not lived up you your expectations?

Saints Preserve Us

I really enjoy reading about the lives of the saints.  I am fascinated by their histories, and I am also fascinated by the veneration of the saints by many Christians.  Lawrence Durrell writes in his book The Greek Islands that he observed the Greeks to have an intensely personal relationship with their saints, often chastising them for not coming across with answers to prayers. He heard one person angrily refer to their saint as “that stinking old cuckold in the niche” after being particularly disappointed by him.  I am Lutheran, a member of a church not typically associated with the saints.  I understand, though, how important the saints are to many people, and how comforting and reassuring it is to know that someone who was human and not perfect but really, really special,  has our interests at heart.

It is interesting to see  references to the saints in modern day life. Unless you know about St. Apollonia, for example, you might not understand why the new dentist office in town is called Apollonia Dental Services.

Many of the saints died horrible and violent deaths for their faith. Many are exlemplars of Christian charity.  Some saints are more difficult to fathom.  St. Christina the Astonishing is one of the patron saints of mental health workers.  Born in 1150, she was a rather alarming  Belgian woman who died of a massive seizure at the age of 20, and arose out of her casket at her funeral and floated to the rafters of the church complaining that she couldn’t bear the smell of all the sinful people in the congregation. She went on to behave in very alarming ways until she died again at the age of 74.  I don’t know if I would want her to intercede on my behalf.  She was pretty odd. I would rather rely on Isidore of Seville, who wrote the first encyclopedia compiled in the post-classical world, and who probably knows a lot about  everything there is to know.

Even if you are not a believer, who would you want to be your patron saint? 



Another World

[Begun Friday past: ]

I am not turning on the TV till this evening.  I spent most of the past two days allowing myself to surf the tube: the limited stations we get with our basic cable, which you have to have to get any reception here in Winona, because of the bluffs. I am down – nay, flattened – with a virus, onset early Wed. morning. This hardly ever happens to me, and I’m a little out of my element. Of course I have several books/magazines I could be reading, but nnnooooh, my brain would rather veg out. So I started flipping channels.

If you’ve been “grounded” for any reason, you probably know about this:  daytime television is one of the strangest places on the planet. You have your soap operas, your game shows, your talk shows, your day-court shows, and your Dr. shows (Oz, Phil). And now thanks to Decades, we are treated once again to such gems as Donna Reed and Petticoat Junction. MeTV gives us Saved by the Bell, and Mama’s Family, which I didn’t watch, and Matlock and Diagnosis Murder, which I did. There are two or three channels full of all manner of Westerns (who knew there that many of them?). I saw a Gunsmoke and a Wild Wild West. Can’t recall where I ran into Real Stories of the Highway Patrol, but I’d much rather watch Broderick Crawford (Highway Patrol, late 50s)!

It’s probably just as well we don’t get any of the Movie channels.

There are a few bright spots – I can always watch an episode of I Love Lucy or M*A*S*H, and Laugh-in is still a hoot, but one a day is plenty. And for some reason I can still watch Dick Cavett… he was one classy interviewer. PBS has some episodes of Home Fires, one of my favorites, Last of the Summer Wine (for Clyde), plus cooking shows, some Rick Steves travel, some crafts like origami, and Paint This with Gary Yarnell, that I would watch any old time.

What do you do with your down time if you’re laid up for a while?



Optical Illusions

Husband and I were buying groceries when a magazine cover on display near the checkout gave me pause.  It was a magazine tribute to Billy Graham. The way the magazine rack was designed made it look as though the Reverend Graham had payot, those locks of hair  sported by Hasidic men near their ears.  I had to look twice to convince myself I wasn’t seeing what I thought I was seeing.  Whew! That would have really rocked my world had it been true!

I am the sort of person who sees fanciful designs and drawings in floor tiles.  I like administering the Rorschach Inkblot Test because I like to hear all the interesting things people tell me they see.  I know the person is in trouble when not even I can see what they see.

James Thurber writes about his poor vision and the interesting things he thought he saw, like an elderly admiral in dress uniform peddling  a bicycle next to a vehicle Thurber was sitting in.  The admiral wasn’t really there, of course.  Thurber thought it was probably a billboard or starlight shining through the trees.  He also writes of throwing stones at what he thought was a flock of white chickens that had invaded his neighbor’s vegetable garden, only to find they were newspapers placed on top of the plants as protection from frost.

I am going to pay more attention to the magazine racks next time I buy groceries. Who knows what I might see?

When have your eyes played tricks on you?


Napoleons of Crime

The police here arrested two enterprising  local men last week and charged them with passing thousands of dollars of counterfeit $20 bills around town. The men, ages 19 and 20, were caught with the fake money and the equipment for making the money. It was the wrong shade of green and had the wrong designs on it, but their scheme seemed to work, for at least a while. I think they might have had longer success had they gone to other cities to pass the bills.  I am amazed that they were able to pass so many bills without people noticing the poor quality of the money.  I guess people don’t pay as close  attention as I thought they would.

Our two local guys reminded me of some shop lifters I heard of in the news who used the same method and the same  get away car for multiple thefts from multiple big box stores. They always left through the fire doors of stores, and the police just started to watch the fire doors and surprised the thieves and the get away driver.

How do people come to ignore the poor chances of getting away with criminal activity? It seems to me that, eventually, most people get caught, whether at the local or national level.

What do you think makes for a successful crook?  Have you ever known a real crook?  How do they fool themselves?

Blowing Things Up

I commented a few days ago that my cousins and I liked explosives when we were children, and  used homemade beer can cannons and fireworks to lob things at younger relatives.  (We were thoughtful, though, and  gave them helmets to wear.) July 4 was a big holiday in my family. Most of my cousins are boys, and they started to collect firecrackers and other fireworks as soon as they could, saving their money for the purpose for months. It was handy that we were so close to the South Dakota border and had easy access to firework stands.  I still really love fireworks, but I don’t shoot them at people any more.

I don’t  know what has got into me, but for the past few weeks one of the first things I do when I get home from work it to put a recording of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture on really loud, and wait with gleeful anticipation for the cannons at the end of the piece.  I love those cannons.  I wish I could be the person in the orchestra to set them off.  My recording is by the Kirov Orchestra conducted by  Valery Gergiev.  The liner notes say that members of the Royal Dutch Marine Band also performed, and I assume they shot off the cannons and artillery.  What a great job to have!

What music would best reflect the state of your life right now? What music helps you cope?