Dusty Old Dust

The latest Ken Burns documentary project is about the Dust Bowl in the central plains in the 1930’s.

The four hour series debuted last night and will conclude tonight on PBS stations. Here in the Twin Cities the first two hours debuted at 7 last night and were repeated at 9pm, and on Monday at 1am and 3am. Like the dust storms themselves, the series fills the air and just keeps coming – it completely engulfs you.

I’ve recorded it and plan to watch when there’s sufficient time – probably sometime in 2013. But My understanding is that one of the major points of the series is that the Dust Bowl was an environmental disaster that was largely man-made.

For this project, Burns was fortunate to find dust bowl survivors who could tell their stories in front of the camera. He couldn’t do that with the long-dead eyewitnesses of The Civil War. And for the Dust Bowl he had the advantage of great archival photos and movies from the time, along with a sound track by none other than Woody Guthrie.

Here’s more on the series.

Meanwhile, the Mars Curiosity rover reports “feeling” dust devils pass by as it sits in Gale Crater. Maybe the Martian terrain is an example of what might have happened to Oklahoma if the government hadn’t intervened and the drought hadn’t ended.

Will Curiosity’s next shovel load of soil uncover some Martian troubadour’s ode to the Okies of Gale Crater?

What’s the most severe environmental calamity you’ve witnessed?
(Natural or Man-Made)

The Gold Standard

Four Baboons Wanted – I’m taking a blog holiday for Thanksgiving, from Tuesday November 20 through Monday, November 26. Guest posts from Clyde and Jim are in the hopper (thanks, guys). Four more guest posts will keep fresh material before your eyes throughout. Care to volunteer? Drop a line to connelly.dale@gmail.com, and thanks!

Today’s post comes from dealmaker Spin Williams.

We’ve been talking about investment opportunities at The Meeting That Never Ends, and I’m excited! There is now a new way to make fresh money, and to make the wealth you already have grow more quickly and last forever!

A labor dispute has pushed the Hostess company closer to going out of business, the result of a stubborn workforce (if you side with the owners) or greedy owners (if you side with the workforce). Regardless of who is most to blame, the Twinkie extruding machines have fallen silent, and the bakers (it feels odd to call Twinkie-makers that) may never work in the junk-food industry again.

What that means is that for the foreseeable future, the only Twinkies that exist will will be those that were made before yesterday.

When an item is scarce, its value goes up. That’s why gold is precious, and that’s long-lasting Twinkies will become the new gold.

Just look at what’s happening to the price on E-Bay!

Here, at last, is an investment opportunity that can pay dividends. If I had put all my savings into Twinkie Futures last week, I’d be headed for Cozumel right now. Another get rich quick scheme discovered too late! But one has to be careful. What about counterfeiters?

I’m not too concerned – Todd Wilbur’s knock-off Twinkie couldn’t fool an expert. If nothing else, the mere freshness of the thing would give it away.

And so, with the increasingly rare Twinkie we are left with a beloved gold rectangle that becomes more valuable with each passing year. I suspect now that we are rapidly approaching the Fiscal Cliff, the reputation of the dollar will suffer greatly in the near future.

Now might be the time to switch to Twinkies instead of cash money on the open market. They’re portable. They’re recognizable. They come individually wrapped. And they might be more stable than the Euro.

I have already begun to build my stockpile. How about you?

Spin Williams

I suppose Spin has a point, though I’d certainly remain a pauper if we started using Twinkies as money. I am, however, quite rich in Tostito’s.

If we started using ordinary household items as money, what would make you a millionaire?

Lonely Planet

Astronomers have apparently found a planet that is unaligned.

It’s not orbiting a star, and does not have a specified path or a romantic name. It doesn’t need one! There is no one to impress when one is a totally free agent.

But still, it would be nice if someone would write you a silly little poem.

A planet apart who’ll turn out to be fine.
While the rest, all be-clumped, blindly follow a star,
You quite independently stay who you are.
While they spin in circles, repeatedly seen
You’re prowling the spaces located between.
Untethered you float. Far from starlight so golden
You’re iconoclastic and much less beholden
than Venus are Mercury are to the Sun.
They are bound to a system. But you … are just one.
All alone in the cosmos – no rules, no agenda.
No massive, controlling companion to friend ya.
Keep yourself to your self. Don’t let others absorb it.
And never get pulled into some silly orbit.

When have you blazed your own trail?

Lake District

Today’s post comes from Minnesota’s 9th District Congressman Loomis Beechly, representing all the water surface area in the state.

Greetings Constituents,

Beechly is Buoyed by his Unseen Supporters.

Once again another election day has passed and I have been returned to office without a single vote cast against me. There is no one else in Congress who can boast of such a record!

I’m proud to represent the wonderful 9th District and I promise to defend it against all who would belittle its residents and squander its resources. And believe me, there are people who look down on us and think they should somehow have more influence just because their districts include so-called “dry land”.

First of all, “dry” is a relative term. If you look at it on a microscopic level, there is no “land” in Minnesota that is completely “dry”. So then it’s simply a matter of degree! Should some people be more privileged because the terrain under their feet is less damp? I say no!

There’s a lot of chatter in the press right now from smug “firmer-than-thou” territorialists who are snickering over a Minneapolis voting district that is entirely within the boundaries of Lake Calhoun.

Ward 10, Precinct 3B

Just because no votes were cast in Ward 10, Precinct 3b, that doesn’t mean the area has no issues. But countless re-postings of the original article have occurred under the same heading – “You’d need a boat to vote in this Lake Calhoun precinct.”

This is voter suppression at it’s worst. Or should I say voter submersion?

You should not need a boat to vote! In fact, it is for all the boatless people in my district that I work so hard at my job, representing all the water surface area in the State of Minnesota! They are the ones who need my help – need OUR help – the moist!

I will always stand up and if necessary, tread water, on behalf of those who have no one to speak, or gurgle, on their behalf. This mockery must stop! We should have more polling places in the blue areas of Minnesota’s map, not fewer! Because the future belongs to those floaters who always rise to the occasion and show the necessary ballast to cast their ballots.

Your Congressman,
Loomis Beechly

When have you been in over your head?

Ask Dr. Babooner

Dear Dr. Babooner,

I am caught in the middle of an unpleasant disagreement between my wife and my biographer over the awkward question of just how amazing I am.

My biographer thinks I’m over-the-top awesome in every possible way – as a thinker, a leader, and manager. She has written volumes about my strategy and my style. She even gives me high marks for the neatness of my desk, both on the visible surface and even the floor underneath where most people don’t check. And I would blush to repeat what she said about the times she’s looked in my drawers.

My wife, on the other hand, thinks it’s hilarious that I have a biographer. “Self-important”, “deluded” and “narcissist” are some of the words she has used to describe my willingness to be interviewed for a book about me.

Dr. Babooner, my emotional side tends to agree more with my biographer’s opinion of me, but my logical side finds it hard to discount my wife’s expertise.

Could they both be right?

Pretty Perfect Person, Perhaps

I told PPPP one of the first rules of human nature is that we are eager to accept the good judgement of those who lavish compliments on us. But rather than struggle with a false choice between believing his flatterer or someone who really knows him, I wondered why PPPP neglected to say nice things to his wife about how awesome she is? If he had been doing this all along, perhaps she wouldn’t be so realistic about his shortcomings.

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

Don’t Get Around Much Anymore

Today’s post comes from Bathtub Safety Officer Rafferty.

Attention Civillians!

Winter has arrived and if you have any awareness of what it means to drive under icy conditions, please share that information with your neighbor immediately. It may be an awkward conversation because most people who have been on the planet for more than five years think they already understand what a life-changing difference a little bit of ice can make, and yet we as a species suffer from seasonal amnesia.

As a result, we must all regularly re-calibrate our heads in order to deal appropriately with the likely occurrence of a total loss of traction. Too many people allow the reliable footing of late Spring, Summer and early Fall to become their default expectation. This leads to terrible consequences when things go frictionless in November and December.

The moments that pass between the time you start sliding and the time you stop are terrifying!

That’s why I always try to act like a space walker, no matter where I am.

I stay tethered to a stationary object, move gingerly and always operate under Newton’s First Law – a thing in motion stays in motion until acted upon by an external force.

Once you incorporate that idea into your moment-by-moment decision making, it has a profound effect. So before I start out in any direction, I look to see what kind of massive obstacle is likely to stop my progress. Usually I’m not too enthused about the way things will probably end.

So I stand around a lot and wind up not going anywhere, much.

Yes, people say I’m boring, but it turns out that standing still is also an important part of Newton’s First Law! When the first snow falls, staying put is a great survival strategy. You should try it!

Cautiously Yours,

Share some winter driving trips.

Hostage Drama

Today’s post comes from Dr. Larry Kyle of Genway, the supermarket for genetically engineered foods.

Let’s talk about Bamboo!

I don’t like it. Once it grows beyond the “shoots” stage, it’s impossible to eat. Most people I know don’t care for it as curtains for flooring either. So I could get through a typical day without thinking very much about bamboo, except for one thing. Bamboo is a major, major food for pandas. And we just heard yesterday that climate change could destroy bamboo forests and leave the already endangered pandas with nothing to eat.

That’s why desperate authorities begged me to take their money to apply Genway’s unique but strangely successful approach of random and unsupervised experimentation to the potential panda problem by creating a bamboo variation that can grow at any temperature.

Yes, they begged me to save these charming creatures from the ravages of climate change and starvation.

But I refused!

I did it for three reasons.

  1. ¬†Pandas have no money and can’t shop at Genway, so creating a new food for them is a waste of my time.
  2. We don’t do unsupervised experimentation using other people’s money, because it quickly becomes un-unsupervised.
  3.  Fixing bamboo so it can grow in spite of climate change will not solve the problem.

Americans need to do less driving. That’s the quickest way to reduce greenhouse gasses. But changing that habit will be very difficult, and I’m afraid science can solve it as quickly as intimidation can. That’s why I would like to suggest that food companies and political leaders join together to take another food hostage until climate change is stopped and the pandas are saved in a proper and sustainable way.

My suggestion – French Fries.

Yes, I know it’s a cold-hearted approach. But only when there is a terrifying personal cost will we even begin to consider not taking the car. Something dear has to hang in the balance. Think about it. The complete loss of French Fries would be emotionally devastating. And it would be a great step forward in the promotion of healthy lifestyles.

In other words, win-win, except for the political penalty to whomever proposed it and became its champion.

President Obama, are you listening? You’ve just been re-elected and you can’t run again. There is political capital in the bank and you’re looking for something significant to cement your legacy. You’ve already done the politically impossible by passing “Obamacare”. You’ve done something visceral by getting Bin Laden. Why not finish with something emotional and sweet.

How does “He Saved The Pandas (and the Earth)” sound as a legacy?

It’s simple. Take French Fries hostage. As the bamboo forests decline, ration the fried potatoes. Forge a connection between our favorite food, and their favorite food. Force America to change its ways and the pandas will live!

This is certainly a departure for Dr. Kyle, who would normally avoid politics and stick to science. But perhaps he has a point – some problems can’t be solved in the lab.

Driving or French Fries. Which is more important, and why?

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