A Baboon By Any Other Name

A blog with a name like “Trail Baboon” that is headed by a photo of a trail must also feature a baboon.

You may have noticed the occasional appearance of a curious face in the banner across the top of this blog.   Sometimes there.  Sometimes not.  This, it seems to me, is natural and right.  A real baboon would not just sit there.

The name “Trail Baboon” comes from the name of my earlier blog, “Trial Balloon”, which I was not able to bring with me to this new environment.  (I consider “Tribal Loon” to be a better pun, but a baboon is a more friendly and engaging character, I think.   Loons tend to be regal and a bit remote.  And those red eyes!)

One of the first things the reading community did with “Trial Balloon” was to come up with a name for a computer that plays music.  Now there is a move afoot to name the baboon.

History repeats.

I feel compelled to point out that a group of baboons is sometimes referred to as a “congress”. In congress, whether they are baboonish or otherwise, they vote. And so we will do the same, to name our baboon.

Everyone gets to vote once, so choose with care.

A Few Lines for the Graduates

President Obama gave the commencement address at a high school in Kalamazoo, Michigan last night.  It was a coup for the school – a prize won in competition with other eager student bodies anxious to book a graduation speaker who wouldn’t be forgotten by everyone as soon as the hats were tossed.

Being the commencement speaker has to be a mighty big challenge.   Everything about your address is already known.  Everyone knows the speech is about following your dreams.  Everyone knows you’re going to salute the folks at home.  And everyone knows that whatever you have to say is one of the last tedious lectures to endure before the students are set free.

That excited feeling in the air?  It’s not for your speech, it’s for the end of your speech.  Trust me, as soon as you start, there is a great hunger for anything that sounds like a concluding line.

Bill Clinton supposedly asked Chelsea what he should say at her high school graduation in 1997.  Her reply – “Dad, I want you to be wise, briefly.”

Good advice, but how brief is brief enough?  And how wise must one be?
Would a haiku do the job?
A haiku usually includes a seasonal reference and has just three lines.

Five syllables first.
A second line of seven.
And five to finish.

If I was giving the commencement speech at Haiku U., here’s how it would go.

When the speaker stops
Life begins for graduates.
Why delay the spring?

Thank you.

Would you have felt cheated by a commencement address haiku?
Would you like to try one?  Be my guest.

Ding Ding!

Late in the day yesterday the topic of Ice Cream Trucks came up.

DanT said:

I suggest Dale would excel at driving an ice cream truck. I can just picture him in a snappy white uniform and bow tie borrowed from Tom Keefe. Best of all rather than playing tinny tunes on an amplified xylophone, he could play the The Galaxy song followed by Tom Waits!

I love Ice Cream Trucks!

But what an awkward business to be in.  You drive through peaceful neighborhoods, a stranger with a truckload of treats who is trolling for innocent, impressionable customers, playing your music as loud as possible, knowing full well you are sparking parent – child arguments in every other house up an down the street.

“You already had ice cream with dinner!”
“But Daaaaaad.  It’s the MR. WHIPPY truck!”
“That stuff is too expensive!”
“Everybody else is getting some!”

And so on.

At the wheel of an Ice Cream Truck you are potentially powerful outside actor in both the dark and the light realms of family dynamics.  You are an Attractive Nuisance, a Harmony Destroyer,  a Child’s Best Friend and a Lasting Memory Maker, sometimes all in the same visit.

As a parent, I’m sorry to say I was an Ice Cream Truck Grinch.

As a kid, I loved it best in the late summer evenings when the truck would be all lit up and I’d stand in line, full of anticipation, clutching my dollar while I looked over the menu.   Ice Cream Sandwich, Drumstick or Toffee Nut Crunch Bar?  The street rang with the sound of laughter and bells, mosquitoes buzzed around yellow lights, and the air was full of the smell of custard and exhaust.


Listen!  The Ice Cream Truck is coming!

The Dale-a-thon Will Not Be Televised

Gee, getting bounced from your job is not supposed to be this much fun.

Many, many thanks to everyone who has offered emotional and financial support.   I stand shoulder to shoulder with the gazillions of others who seem to have lost their employment lately.   I think we all recognize that such a thing could happen to anyone at virtually any time.  Your encouragement and comforting words are much appreciated, and I wish every person who winds up in my position could receive what you have given me.

Some have even suggested there be a membership-like fundraising event through daleconnelly.com to try to siphon off dollars that were formerly directed elsewhere, rather like dropping a “top hat” over a leaky underwater pipe to pump liquid gold into a pirate barge.

With gratitude and respect for every helpful heart out there, I have four words:

Please don’t.  Not now.

There may come a day when daleconnelly.com offers enough in the way of services and attractions to justify asking a fee to enter, but there are many questions (legal and ethical) that would have to be addressed before such a thing could happen.   Right now I’m just trying to figure out what to do with all the junk that used to be on my desk.  At this moment it’s in bags in the basement.

And to those who have declared on this site and elsewhere that they will no longer contribute money to MPR because they are angry about my dismissal, I respect you and I thank you for your passion but I have a few thoughts and one suggestion.

  • I understand your frustration.
  • I am no longer required to say any particular thing about what you should do with your money.
  • I still believe everyone who listens to a public radio station should make a contribution to that station.
  • When assessing the status of your contribution, consider everything MPR does, not just this incident.

That’s all.

Some people wrote to say the word “icon” appeared in a headline in the Star Tribune’s online edition over a few lines about me.  What can I say?  It used to be that achieving icon status took some doing.  Since computers came along, everyone has an icon, so I guess anyone can be an icon.

But if you didn’t notice,  you should be aware that YOU received a compliment from MPR’s top blogger, the brilliant, funny, totally iconic Bob Collins in his News Cut blog on Thursday.

Dale’s Trial Balloon blog is one of the finest pieces of online writing in the Twin Cities. There’s no other online community in the region that has been consistently as participatory and intelligent as that one. It was, as the name implies, a Trial Balloon. A great one. The good news: He’ll continue it — as Trail Baboon — on his own Web site.

What was the most meaningful compliment you ever received?

Imagined Problem Addressed

This could be an act of inspiration, or desperation.  I can’t decide which.

Beechy Proposes Lake Spill Prevention Act of 2010

Minnesota’s 9th district congressman, Loomis Beechly, representing all the water surface area in the state, today introduced the Northern Lake Spill Prevention Act, designed to limit deep water oil drilling in Minnesota lakes.

“We’ve seen what has happened in the Gulf of Mexico,” said the strangely obscure congressman, clutching a wheezing, lightly oiled walleye to his chest at the podium of a press conference in the shallow water just four feet from the shore of 7th Crow Wing Lake near Park Rapids.  “I am determined that will never happen here.”

He hastily added that the fish had not been involved in an actual drilling accident, but had been discovered thrashing around in a holding pond behind a SpeeDee Oil Change outlet in the parking lot of a strip mall in Blaine.  “But this poor fish illustrates exactly the kind of environmental catastrophe we’re trying to avoid.”

Beechly’s legislation would change rules governing the Federal Boat Ramp Support and Maintenance Program (FBRSM) to impose weight restrictions that would prevent the loading of mammoth oil rigs into lake waters nationwide, including Minnesota.

“This act leverages the federal government’s vital boat ramp subsidy to prevent the oil companies from filling our waters with floating derricks,” said Derrick Buoys, a policy analyst for the congressman.

Opponents of the new law pointed out that there is no evidence to suggest that oil reserves are hidden underneath the lakes of Minnesota, or that companies have any interest in drilling there.

“This pointless law is designed to trick constituents into thinking that the congressman is doing something valuable in response to the oil spill in the Gulf,” said Frank Dunmire, co-founder of “Beach Beechly Now!”,  a grass-roots political action group.  “He’s wasting everyone’s time.  There’s nothing we can do to plug that leak more quickly.  This is an embarrassing distraction.”

“Sounds like somebody’s already climbed into the pocket of Big Oil,” said Beechly.

The congressman assured animal activists that the walleye he displayed “to make a point” at the press conference would be thoroughly cleaned with lemon juice and would be “treated with garlic and cilantro to get it back to a state of utter perfection.”

Is every calamity really an opportunity in disguise?

Six Men In A Tub

An intriguing human experiment has begun in the western part of Moscow at the Institute for Medical and Biological Problems.

Six men just started a 520 day “mission” to Mars.  They are enclosed in “a series of windowless steel capsules” for the duration, with enough food and activities and chores to keep them busy.  There’s also ample time for relaxation.  The “voyagers” will have to exercise two hours a day but will only be able to shower once a week.

Uh oh.

There are many obstacles to overcome in a real journey to Mars.  There would have to be a shield to protect the humans from solar radiation.   And psychologists predict that one the greatest emotional hazards is the likelihood that the crew would begin to grow tired of each other’s company.   But at least in a genuine Martian trip there would be a sense of excitement and anticipation of arriving on the planet – something that’s missing in this effort.

Perhaps the greatest hurdle in this make believe exercise is to get six grownups to pretend for almost a year and a half that they can’t just walk out for a smoke or a bit of vodka.   After all, it takes skilled actors years of training to get you to suspend reality for two hours on a stage.  How long can fact-based scientists and researchers last?

Because a similar effort ten years ago ended badly (sexual harassment allegations, fistfights), the mission commander is quoted in an AP article as saying “Each crew member has the right to end the experiment and walk out.  We have had such negative experience in the past, and I hope it won’t happen during this experiment.”

Double uh oh.

Which guy will make a bid to scuttle the mission after 500 days because he can’t stand “Commander Flatulence” or would just like to get out and feel the sunshine? The longer you’re in, the greater the pressure to stay in.  And the longer you’re in, the greater the leverage for anyone who threatens to leave.

This sounds like a twisted reality show disguised as a scientific experiment.  All it needs a name and a theme song, like that ditty that introduced “The Brady Bunch”.

Here’s the story of a group of fellas
Who were simulating flying into space.
They were scientists and they all liked each other
Which is not commonplace.

They’re pretending to go to a planet.
If you’re Martian it’s the place that you belong.
In the movies when the Martians meet the Earthlings,
they never get along.

Till this mission where these fellas met this planet.
Well not really but they tried to make believe.
They had almost made it there when it started.
That’s when everyone declared “I’m going to leave.”

I’m going to leave.  I’m going to leave.
I can’t stand you, and you, and you I’m going to leave.
I’m going to leave.  I’m going to leave.
This is Moscow we’re on Earth I’m going to leave!

What would you need to survive 520 days enclosed in a series of windowless steel capsules with five other people, all pretending that you can’t go outside?



Trail Baboon?

I was thinking I wanted this blog to have a familiar title  – something easy to recognize, but sly.  A turn of phrase that describes information that’s sent out solely for the purpose of observing the reaction of the audience. Something catchy but common.  However, somebody else has that title locked up, and so one must make do with the opportunity that one has.

Maybe “Braille Typhoon” would be better. “Teal Ballroom”?  I’m open to suggestions.

My name is Dale Connelly and I think I just emerged from a very long tunnel. When I went in, it was 1976 and Gerald Ford was the president. I was 20 years old and just got my first job with a radio station in a distant land – KRSW in Worthington, Minnesota. I was driving from Illinois and had been told to report to the manager’s home.

My car broke down in Iowa City and I arrived a day late. The man who hired me couldn’t wait around to welcome me to town – he and has family were headed to the big city – Sioux Falls – for the afternoon.

“Let yourself in,” he said. “We’ll be back by sundown.”

He didn’t know me. I’d sent him my resume, a powder blue document that featured a large picture of me wearing long, wispy, flippy hair and a polyester suit. The photo had to be big – it took up lots of necessary space.  I had no accomplishments to speak of and precious little training. He listened to a tape I made in college and we had talked on the phone just once.   Miraculously, it was enough to convince him that I was a safe bet to wander unsupervised through his house for a few hours. How could that be? I might have cleaned out the cupboards and made for the hills, but I chose to stay. He became my finest boss and a lifelong friend. It was a good start and I had a wonderfully long and rich career working for the same company for 34 years. Pretty remarkable.

I understand that kind of long-term work relationship is rare today. I wouldn’t know. I’ve been cloistered. Reporting to the same place for a paycheck for over three decades was a very peaceful and secure and comforting experience, but things change and everyone hits that dusty trail into the sunset eventually. It is my turn to take that walk and see what is over the next rise. No regrets.

But I’ll have to come up with a new resume. I don’t think that 1976 version will do the job.

If you were hiring someone to be your assistant, what qualifications would they need?

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