Category Archives: News

Cruel April

I just read the NOAA weather map for later this week. Oh my! Minnesota Baboons may get a lot of snow! Son and DIL could get 20 inches in Brookings.

It has warmed up sufficiently here that people are jumping into yard work, cleaning flower beds and mowing lawns (which they oughtn’t do yet as it is too early).  Husband and I are waiting to do any yard work until we return from a trip next Sunday.  We first plan to prepare the garden for pea, lettuce, and spinach seeds, which we will plant later in April.  Husband tilled last fall, so we won’t need to do that now. The tomato and pepper seedlings are coming along under the grow lights, Tulips are up and crocuses are blooming.  We have pruning and flower bed cleaning to do, too.

I always find April a chancy month to garden. One April many years ago I was awaiting the first blooming of some tulips I had planted in the fall, when, on April 28, we got 18 inches of heavy wet snow. The tulips had flower buds just ready to open, and there they were, frozen solid just above the snow line. I had to wait another year to see them bloom.   April is the cruelest month. Sometimes March is just as bad, though.

What are your favorite and least favorite months? Any favorite T.S. Elliot poems? 

 

Big Splash

We live very near to an important geologic area called the Hell Creek Formation.  It covers parts of western North Dakota, Western South Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming. It contains some of the richest fossil beds from the Cretaceous period, the era that ended with the death of the dinosaurs.

Recently, two paleontologists published a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences  titled “A seismically induced onshore surge deposit at the KPg boundary, North Dakota”,  outlining just what happened in what is now North Dakota in the minutes following the crash of an asteroid in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. This was the asteroid that is thought to have killed all the dinosaurs.

Based on what they found in a grey/ black layer near the top of a butte on a ranch near Bowman, ND, about 80 miles from my town, they estimate that in minutes after the asteroid crashed in Yucatan, seismic waves of water and molten rocks smashed into what is now the Hell Creek Formation.  Molten glass particles filled the air, choking any living thing.  Fish (salt water and fresh water), trees, rocks, dinosaurs, and beads of molten glass were swept up into a jumbled mass, preserved in the mud and debris for the modern paleontologists to find.  The fish fossils in the KPg boundary dig  were so well preserved that they could see that their mouths were open, gasping for air.  It triggered fires within 1500 miles of the impact and formed a plume of fire that rose halfway to the Moon.  They estimate 70% of the world’s forests burned.  Almost all life on the planet died.

Well, I find that pretty awe inspiring and amazing.  I like it when scientists can make things real and exciting.  Yucatan is a long way from where I live. That must have made a really big splash when it hit.

What has amazed you recently? Would you want to be a paleontologist? Did you ever do cannon balls?

 

Marie Kondo is a Big Deal

Today’s post is by Steve Grooms

The title of this article is a joke. Marie Kondo is tiny, actually. Her height, according to the national press, is five inches short of five feet. And yet she is unquestionably a big deal in the culture. Kondo has become famous and influential by teaching folks how to reduce clutter in their homes. She wrote four books that have been translated into eight languages. She has produced a series of videos on the art of tidying up one’s home. A series of her videos has been airing on Netflix under the title of “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.” A newspaper article yesterday said Twin Cities resale shops are stuffed with bargains now because Kondo has encouraged so many people to offload unwanted stuff.

The title she prefers is The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Note how that differs from the simple idea that most people have way too much stuff. Kondo wants to change lives, not just tidy up messes, and she hopes to use “magic” to accomplish that. Working from her background in Japan’s Shinto religion, Kondo finds magic in inanimate objects. Before she helps a client declutter a home Kondo kneels reverently in an effort to introduce herself to the home. She asks clients to touch each object they own and keep it only if it “sparks joy” in their lives.

Kondo has a fairly rigid process for tidying up a home. It starts with clients making a pile of every single article of clothing they own. The piles are usually massive. Then she asks  clients to attack that pile, chucking out every item that fails to spark joy. The process moves along deliberately, taking several weeks to play out, concluding with an emotionally wrenching effort to jettison sentimental objects.

A few observers have criticized Kondo. Oddly enough, a woman who has written four books doesn’t seem to revere them. She has said nobody needs to keep more than 30 books. Kondo thinks a book one hasn’t read in three years is ripe for dumping, and she sees no value in keeping a book one has already read. My daughter, the person who urged me to get to know Kondo, vehemently disagrees on the topic of books!

Kondo could come off as a nag were it not for her sweet personality and spiritualism. Her approach to life and the stuff people accumulate keep attracting converts. I believe most people in our culture are troubled about how much stuff we own. Many of us would like ourselves better if we could dump a lot of that stuff and live in an uncluttered environment.

Do you currently suffer from having too much stuff? What sparks joy in your life?

Burger & Fries

Once a month, after I volunteer at Loaves & Fishes, I drive east on 98th Street on my way back to 35W to get home. Imagine my excitement to see that the Denny’s there has been sold and will be a new Snuffy’s coming spring.  While the Edina Snuffy’s isn’t actually that far from me, it’s not convenient to get to so I don’t think about it often.

But a Snuffy’s where I have to drive right by it? I’m thinking I’ll be having Snuffy’s take-out once a month from now on.  Veggie Burger, fries and a malt – either Oreo or Brownie or the Dreamsicle.  I’m drooling just thinking about it.

Do you have a favorite take-out place or meal?

Snow Days

I read an article yesterday that reported that increasing numbers of school districts are doing away with school cancellations due to bad weather by providing on-line assignments for students when they can’t get to school.  Teachers can also be available by computer for lessons, resources, and support. They can do video conferencing for group assignments.  These districts have to provide all students computer notebooks so they can access their homework when the weather keeps them at home.  I loved snow days when I was a child. I don’t know how I would have felt if I knew a snow day just meant doing school work at home.  A snow day always felt like a gift.

What are some memorable snow days (or other bad weather days) that you remember? What do you think of this new trend? 

RIP Stan Lee

I’m not a huge comic book or graphic novel fan. Not sure why since I AM a super hero fan; probably  because super heroes have special powers, not unlike wizards and witches.  The last several years have been a real boon for super hero lovers and Stan Lee was behind a lot of that:  Spider Man, Iron Man, The Hulk, Captain America, Thor, Black Panther, X-Men.  It was fun to see Stan Lee in small cameos in all the Marvel movies, a little like seeing Alfred Hitchcock showing up in the films that he directed.

Stan Lee passed away on Monday at the age of 95 from pneumonia. I’m sure his characters and movies will live on but it won’t be quite the same.  I’ll miss you, Stan.

What super hero would YOU like to be.

Lest We Forget

I thought about my paternal grandfather this week leading up to November 11. In December, 1916, at the age of 19, my  grandfather enlisted in the US Army.  He was one of the younger offspring in a family of 12 children. His father had died two years before.  His next older brother, Albert, had enlisted in June, 1916 and was in the 136th Infantry.  (Albert was reportedly chasing Pancho Villa around the Southwest with General Pershing.)

Grandpa was sent to Fort Logan, CO and assigned to Company C, 4th Regiment of Engineers, and on April 30, 1918, he sailed for France on the Martha Washington. He was stationed in France on the Western Front, sometimes at the US camp at Allerey sur Saone.  He sent home postcard photos of the camp.  The header photo is of the Allerey camp, too.

Here is a photo of his unit. He is the second one from the left in the back row.

Grandpa was involved in the Second Battle of Aisne-Marne (Summer, 1918), the Battle of Mihiel (September, 1918), the Second Battle of Meuse-Argonne (Fall, 1918) and Alsace-Lorraine (November, 1918).  According to one source I read, The Engineers were in charge of repairing the devastation of the war to expedite troop movements such as surveying, bridge and road repair, constructing buildings, maintaining communication lines, removal of land mines and “booby” traps, digging trenches and constructing shell, gas and splinter-proof shelters, providing clean water and constructing or removing barbed wire. They also launched gas attacks, built hospitals, barracks, mess halls, stables, target ranges, and repaired miles of train tracks. Their extensive and time consuming duties left them little time for rifle practice and drills and they were not relied upon for frontline combat, but the success of the Allied forces depended upon the support of the Engineer Corps.

When he wasn’t digging trenches or building bridges, he was chasing women. He is the man on the left. I have no idea how this photo has survived for 100 years, and why my grandmother never threw it out!

Once Germany surrendered, the 4th was marched into the northern Rhine as an army of occupation. He was near the Mosel and sent this postcard home

He sailed back to the US on July 21, 1919, on the von Steuben, a German ship captured by the US.  He stayed in the army until June, 1920. He was a sergeant. He lived until 1980.

Grandpa had several studio portrait photos taken in France, and it is interesting to see how he changed over the course seven months.  Here are some early ones. He looks so young.

Here is a later one.

Oh, the questions I have after putting this together! I doubt I will ever get them answered.

How did the First World War impact your family?  After reading this, what questions would you have for my grandfather?