High Water Mark

Enjoy the end of September, Babooners.

Northern Minnesota will see the peak of fall color over the next few days. The DNR has a nifty website that can keep you up to date on the progress of autumnal glory.

Southern Minnesota will spend the weekend bailing out from last Thursday’s record setting rain. If I had a radio station to play with, I would offer at least two high water songs to inspire the bucket brigade. Were there an officially sanctioned flood music genre, these would be its classics.

Randy Newman playing Louisiana 1927 in Germany.

Johnny Cash doing Five Feet High and Rising in Los Angeles in 1959.

Two famous songs about real floods sung by their authors. Our recent deluge probably isn’t extensive enough to add a tune to the flood song cascade, unless someone comes up with an irresistible, watery rhyme for “Owatonna“.

Have you ever had to do battle with floodwaters?

Full Body Scam

The introduction of a full body scanner at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport has drawn interest from travelers concerned about check-in delays and privacy advocates worried about a new level of unwelcome scrutiny, but to dealmaker and idea man Spin Williams, it’s a great opportunity.

Americans love attention!

I know a lot of them say they don’t, but really – they do! Once you understand that simple fact, everything else becomes clear. I’ve heard people worry that an unseen screener will laugh at their odd bulges, but I believe my fellow citizens hate being ignored even more than they resent being mocked, and basically most people are OK with a full body scan at the airport. And who among us is physically perfect, anyway? The chances are good that no matter how bad you think you look, the next person to step into the box probably looks worse.

And besides, the images I’ve seen make everyone look like the Silver Surfer, who was one of my favorite comic book heroes!

But if you happen to be one of the rare attention-haters out there, safeguards are in place. The software automatically blurs your face so the screener can’t pick you out of the line and laugh at you directly. AND, the machine erases your full body image completely just as soon as you are cleared as a security risk. That’s where I think a great opportunity is being literally thrown away!

Here’s my BIG idea to make it all work out fine.
Sell the images to their owners as a keepsake.

Why not? Look at Facebook – people there are letting it all hang out every day. And wouldn’t you like to own a full set of naked portraits of yourself with your arms over your head? Standardize the angle and the distances from camera to subject in every booth, and you could use multiple images taken at different airports to track changes in your shape and weight – a federally subsidized fitness program that would inspire millions to skip that candy bar until after they pass through the screening.

And with a little digital manipulation, you could easily insert your TSA full body scan into a greeting of some sort. How about Christmas cards!
Here’s a mock-up!

After all, there is nothing we find more interesting than ourselves, and this is a photo taken during a memorable experience that can be discussed for years if it is properly packaged and celebrated. So TSA, take a hint from Disney World. Sell people their full body scans at the airport!

From the Meeting That Never Ends,
Spin Williams

I wrote back to Spin to suggest that he needs to proofread his mock-up greeting card. But he might be on to something here. I have several arms-over-head, open-mouthed screaming-in-fear amusement park photographs that I paid way too much for, but they do a good job of capturing a moment in time.

At the end of the ride, do you buy the photo?


Just in time for your unique Halloween costume planning needs, two brand new dinosaurs have been introduced, and though they’ve been dead for millions of years, they’re just right for our times. Want to dress as one? Get a hat and pile it high with as many spiky protrusions as you can find and you’ll be close enough.

Utahceratops and Kosmoceratops are baroque boneheads with plenty of skull bling.
Each ancient cranium is full of enough distracting and extraneous ornamentation to qualify as a vocal solo on Glee! The purpose of all the skeletal action – to attract potential mates. It seems that some amorous dinos found their thrills in bony frills above the neck and shoulders.

Utahceratops and Kosmoceratops come from the same family of beasts that gave us our beloved Triceratops, a kid-favorite fossil “brand” that just merged with the relatively unknown but equally hornful Torosaurus.

credit: Ron Blakey, NAU Geology

But here’s the part that surprised me – they lived during the late Cretaceous period, an age when the western part of North America was separated from the east by a body of water named the Western Interior Seaway, or the Niobraran Sea, though of course no creature alive at the time called it that. I believe they dubbed it “GHRRRRROOOOOGHGGGGGGGG”.

What we think of as the Rocky Mountains today was a separate continent, which had no name at the time but is now called “Laramidia”. If climate change continues to melt the polar ice and sea levels rise high enough, our descendants could become the new Laramidians. No doubt they would need a fancy sounding anthem for this intensely vertical, suddenly prairie-less land.

Laramidia hail to thee!
Hail to thy great mountains high.
Hail to thy uplifted hills.
Hail to thy thin-layered sky.

From thy summits to the sea,
From thy peaks straight down to foam,
Thou art vertical indeed.
Laramidia, my home.

Thou has not a grain of wheat
Nor a field that’s ripe with corn.
Nothing flat, as you can see.
Only dinosaurs, with horns.

Laramidia, be strong.
Laramidia, be tall.
If thou walks abroad at night,
Laramidia, don’t fall.

Thou art nought but up and down.
Thy terrain do we extol.
When we tumble we make straight
Unto the waves. That’s how we roll.

Do you know the words to any national anthems other than the good ol’ USA’s?

Equal Knocks for All!

Today is the day of the Autumnal Equinox, one of two points in Earth’s year-long trip around the sun when the planet’s and the star’s middles line up and we have equal daytime and nighttime hours.

The official moment is 10:09 central time this evening.

I like the equinox because it is one of the few calendar events that can be said to provide roughly the same experience everywhere on the planet.

What happens in the weeks before and after the equinox is vastly different, depending where you are. In the Southern Hemisphere, this day is a signal that summer is coming. In fact, some say we should call the two equinoxes “March” and “September” or “Northward” and “Southward”, because the terms we’ve been using are North Hemisphere-centric.

That’s undeniably true, but I do like the standard names because they make our Equinoxes seem like twins – related, but very different. One is hopeful, the other, dark.
So I’ve written them a little sing-song poem.

A pox, Autumnal Equinox!
A pox on your arrival.
To see the sun sink, southward bound
Bodes ill for our survival.

We’ll watch our day shrink to a blink
Its golden globe, a kernel.
Then wait through months of dark to greet
Your warmer brother Vernal.

Are you like or unlike your siblings?

The Hard Part Is Over

Good news, Jane and John Q. Public. The recession is finished!

The data sifters announced it yesterday. Their analysis reveals that the recession has been over for more than a year. You may not have noticed it due to all the commotion from businesses closing and distraction of unemployed people with their moaning and complaining, but trust me, the great tumult has passed and Happy Days Are Here Again.

The stock market already knows this. Wall Street has been adjusting its numbers accordingly over the past year, so don’t expect a sudden huge uptick. Larger forces anticipate what small players can’t see happening, I guess.

In short, the most troublesome stretch is finished but today will feel much like yesterday and all the concerns remain. The fundamentals have shifted but nothing is really different.

Kinda like when your child comes of age.

Twenty-one years ago today I witnessed a miracle as my beautiful and brave wife Nancy gave birth to my amazing, wonderful son Gus.

Everyone said having a child would change the world for us.
It did.

Everyone said raising him would be the hardest, most rewarding thing we’ve ever done.
It was.

Everyone said the time would fly and he’d be grown up before we knew it.
It has, and he is.

We could not possibly have imagined how delightful it would be to see him turn 21, or how proud we would be of the smart, funny, caring man he has become. A man! We really didn’t get it back in 1989 that we were dealing with a baby man, even though Everyone Said!

Birthday Boy and his Handlers, 1989

At each stage along the way we assumed the reality of the moment would last forever. At the time I would have said that feeling rose out of exasperation and fatigue, but now I know it was essentially optimistic. We were loving every minute and hoping against change. But change came anyway, and now that it is here it’s cause for celebration.

So starting today, things are in a new phase. The world has shifted again, and yet nothing is different. I feel like I should shave my head as a reminder that we have entered another realm, but wait! Nature has already taken care of that. Larger forces anticipate …
The show goes on and a new act begins!

When has a good change crept up on you?

Party Pooper

A statement from Congressman Loomis Beechly regarding the November election and the Tea Party:

Greetings Constituents, and thank you from the bottom of my heart for not coming up with a Tea Party candidate to challenge me this year. Minnesota’s 9th district – all the water surface area in the state – is known for a fiercely independent streak and a willingness to throw caution to the prevailing northwesterly wind just to “see what will happen”. That’s a wonderful, adventurous quality for any group to share, and it keeps me awake at night.

As I watch what is unfolding in other places I’m appalled to see that people with little more qualification than the ability to carry an enormous chip on their shoulder are running and defeating incumbents in primary battles. Back when I first ran for office, it wasn’t so easy to take an election. For one thing, I didn’t have ME to run against! If I could have gained traction by just NOT being my opponent and NOT being part of the “establishment”, it would have saved me a lot of money and several ruined pairs of loafers that were sacrificed to cattail marshes when I went door knocking on houseboats.

And yet today’s upstart Tea Partiers still seem angry, even after they win! They’re ungrateful for how easy we’ve made it for them. They think political success is nothing more than a Beach Boys lyric – catch a wave and you’re sitting on top of the world! But there is so much more to public service than that. To survive you have to be able to catch a wave headed into shore, sit on top of the world for a short while, then catch another wave headed out, then switch to a sideways wave, get wiped out, swallow a whole bunch of awful tasting junk, almost have your head taken off by your board and come up spluttering that you meant to do it all along and make people BELIEVE you.

That takes political talent, and I don’t think these Tea Party People have it.

You have to be able to get all the nuances right, like casually messing up your opponents’ name to belittle him without actually saying out loud that you think he doesn’t matter. That’s an under-the-radar technique I learned from watching a great President, BLJ. A lot of today’s Pea Tartiers are too young to remember him.

And another thing – don’t be too honest. This isn’t Facebook and not everybody needs to know your status all the time. A little mystery is a good thing in romance and politics. If you liked to hang out with vampires when you were a teenager, that doesn’t make you a bad person, but it is also not a picture I want to have in my head when I go to the polls. Remember, all politicians are expected to kiss babies, but no one is likely to hand their precious bundle over to a candidate with blood dripping from her pointy fangs, even if she has pledged not to raise taxes.

Find a way to accuse your opponent of horrible acts without assuming any accountability yourself. Guilt by association works, and if that association can be with unnamed mythical characters who are widely regarded as evil, all the better.

Seeming to give advice to your adversaries is another subtle way to plant the idea in the public mind that you have the exalted status of teacher while your competitors are mere novices. People will forget the details of what you said but will remember the dynamics of the relationship, so move to the high ground as quickly as possible. Just be sure your advice isn’t very useful.

Right now it looks like I’m running unopposed, but the 9th district being what it is, an unanticipated write-in campaign can surface very, very quickly, just like the Loch Ness Monster. If you are already planning to vote for me in November, thanks for your support. And if you are undecided or opposed, I respect you, and I have an amazing timeshare deal in Phoenix you should definitely check out at a special all-day on-site sale-a-bration this November 2nd.


The Right Honorable Loomis Beechly
Minnesota’s 9th District

Are you the sort of person who gives advice?

Goats in the News

The Wall Street Journal featured an article about goats and trademark law yesterday. The story described legal battles launched by the family-owned Al Johnson Restaurant in Sister Bay, Wisconsin. The restaurant has a sod roof and features roof-grazing goats in its advertising. Apparently people come from quite a distance to eat a meal there and marvel at the animals overhead.

Fourteen years ago, the restaurant trademarked its use of goats on the roof to attract customers. When another restaurant in Georgia also employed elevated ungulates, the Wisconsinites sued. The manager of the Georgia restaurant is quoted in the Wall Street Journal calling the lawsuit “ridiculous”, but a settlement was reached and now a fee is paid by the Georgia company for the use of the surprisingly successful Roofgoat marketing strategy.

For those in goat-based industries, this line lifted from the story is a chilling reminder of what is at stake.

Any business that sells food and uses goats to lure customers may be violating the trademark, says Lori Meddings, the restaurant’s lawyer. “The standard is, is there a likelihood of confusion?” she says.

I guess if you’ve seen one goat standing on a restaurant roof, you feel like you’ve seen them all. The lines that separate one goat boasting establishment from another may blur. Mass confusion reigns! How in the world can one remember the rules that govern how they are and are not supposed to exploit their goats?

Perhaps a rhyming law is required!

Goats are good and even great if you’ve a grassy roof.
To trim the gables, eagerly they’ll lift up haunch and hoof.
But if you run a business don’t use goats to sell the food,
For restaurants with Roofgoats are quite regularly sued.

The thought of Roofgoat legal suits inclines some folks to laughter,
But many, many people eat where goat treads over rafter.
Perhaps a legal remedy would just involve some switchin’.
Put all the cooks up on the roof and goats down in the kitchen.

What would you trademark, if you could?

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