Tag Archives: Featured

Cousin Dan Keeps It Simple

Today’s guest post comes from tim.

i may have mentioned cousin dan before here on the trail.

this time of year i have to call him and thank him one more time for making me aware of the special circle we live in.

dan comes from fargo, i come from fargo. i got out, dan didnt.

when cousin tim would come up from the cities it was a special time. the cities were like the emerald city in fargo in 1960-70. i would come in in my twin city finery with peace sign pendants and floppy hats from the mod psychedelic stores in the heart of minneapolis.

dan was a wild man and did things i would never dream of doing. reckless drug trials, trouble that anyone would know better than to try but in fargo you knew where to draw the line, when you could get away with it,  and when you were pushing your luck.

dan went off to study fine art painting with figure studies and landscapes as his focus. i love his work. his hay bales in the field and his rolling fields with the focus being the rows of corn stubble and large cloud skies took my brain away on trips to the places i visited when i had time to look and enjoy

about 4 or 5 years ago he had an aneurism and today reminds me of chauncey gardner in jerzy kosinskis being there which peter sellers brought to life. its fitting. he has traded in his wild youth for the most laid back passive existence on the planet where he paints and watches people on the sidewalk scenes in his world and enjoys the simple things.

the paintings he did and does are of the landscape and the gentle surroundings we miss if we are not paying attention.

for the next 3 or 4 weeks the greens are magic. the developments in the world of leaves make the world a kaleidoscope of greens. today i saw willow leaves sprouting almost dandelion yellow the celery green and moss and white hued buds popping as the leaves do their butterfly form the cocoon imitation and sprout from those tree branches like aliens form a sigourney weaver movie.

so thanks to dan for making me appreciate green in april and may.

what do you do to simplify your life?

The “You” in Menu

Header Image: “Culex sp larvae” by (Image: James Gathany, CDC)  Licensed under CC BY 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons.

Today’s post comes from marketing maven Spin Williams, who is always in residence at The Meeting That Never Ends.

One of the top restaurant marketing trends of 2015 is locally sourced, organic foods.

If it’s local, people are fascinated. Why? Because a lot of them have no idea food can be grown nearby. That all connects to the concept of going “out” for dinner, which the baby boomers learned to think of as an exotic treat when they were growing up in the hardscrabble 1940’s and ’50’s.

“Out” was always a better place to get a meal than at boring old “in”, where mom was likely to serve up the same gray meatloaf or chicken hotdish again tonight.

“Out” might bring you an exotic choice like chicken wings, or at least the chance to have a milk shake with your meal.  The chances of that went way up if dad ordered a beer.

The message to impressionable youngsters of that era – the farther “out” you went, the better the meal.

But yesterday as we were going over the latest science stories at The Meeting That Never Ends we saw this bit of research about how mosquitoes choose who they’ll bite.  The clear indication is that the little pointy-nosed critters are lured by something genetic that is shared among families!

The assumption here is that it’s a fundamental element of body odor.   Identical twins were found to be equally attractive to the tiny bloodsuckers of summer.

A couple of great marketing ideas quickly came out of this.

My favorite – identify particularly scrumptious bloodlines and present them as “decoy guests” for hire at high-buck summertime parties. If we know mosquitoes love those Johnsons, or just can’t get enough of the Herrera sisters, hire them to draw the swarms away from the more important invitees.

The downside?

Having to segregate the bait people from the rest, and possible lawsuits over West Nile Virus.

But then we realized something else – if we completely disregard the scientific method and turn this research on its head, it could be an early indication that the reverse is true and people also have genetic predispositions to like certain foods!

For restaurateurs, that means there is this tantalizing future scenario – when guests arrive they check in at the hostess stand and are given a quick DNA test to determine their pre-ordained dining tendencies.

That person then receives a menu tailored to their genetic food preference profile! Imagine – a restaurant that could hand you a menu where you’ll like absolutely EVERYTHING!

Would you go there?

Of course you would, as long as your family doesn’t also have an inherent fussiness over things like genetic privacy.

Our bet is that most people will be perfectly fine with it, and the establishment could also work some side agreements with marketing firms to get a secondary income on the data!

Yes, we realize that people get particularly overwrought about misuse of personal information. But for the most part, when our data is harvested we don’t even know about it, so the pain is nearly invisible.

The only obvious downside we see for consumers in this would be a tendency for restaurants with outdoor seating to put especially tasty people in a separate area, to draw away the attention of any needle-nosed intruders!

Yours in Marketing,

Do you come from an especially flavorful family?

Thar She (someday) Blows!

It’s not new to hear that Yellowstone National Park is a giant super-volcano, but new research adds some detail to what we know about the plumbing underneath.

It turns out there’s a reservoir of very hot and molten rock sitting ten to thirty miles below the surface, warmed from beneath by a scary plume of nasty Earth’s-core-grade magma.

Here’s my favorite line from the Washington Post article – “This is a volcano that can erupt either in a big way or a truly colossal and catastrophic way.”

It’s nice to know we have choices.

One gets the impression that were this baby to blow, it would have an effect everywhere and you could count on a level of personal inconvenience well beyond having to some wash dust off the windows.

But on the global disaster hand-wringing scale it’s hard to know how freaked out to be about this, since humans haven’t been around long enough to have witnessed the last Yellowstone eruption. Is it more or less troublesome than a meteor strike?

Or what if a rogue comet scored a direct hit on Earth with the point of impact right on top of the Yellowstone caldera? I know the odds are against it, which is why that disaster movie is probably already in production.

Oh for the innocent 1950’s, when the Earth’s center was filled with giant lizards and mushroom forests.

What’s your favorite disaster movie?

Ask Dr. Babooner

We are ALL Dr. Babooner

Dear Dr. Babooner,

I’m not a bad person, but I’ve had trouble in my life that has everything to do with the inappropriate places where my arms, and to be more exact, my hands, wind up.

I won’t go into too much detail here, but it has been brought to the attention of law enforcement by several people (shopkeepers, women I’ve known, and women I haven’t known), that my mitts tend to violate certain legal and ethical boundaries.

Usually I say something like “I didn’t realize I was doing it.  That hand has a mind of its own!”

And usually that explanation is rejected as just so much bunk.

But now, there’s scientific evidence that the octopus has smart arms that really do work independently of the central brain!

Dr. Babooner, this news gives me hope.  If mind-of-their-own appendages can be a real thing for hideous deep-sea creatures, isn’t there a possibility that I suffer from the same condition?

I’d like to start an emotional support group for people with Octo-digititis, a term I just made up to describe those whose fingers are autonomous and unprincipled.  I know this might be a tough sell, but if you were to sign on as an adviser, it might give us the heft we need to be taken seriously as an afflicted community.

Would you consider it?  Name your price.  Given enough time and the opportunity, I’m pretty sure I could get my hands on whatever it takes to convince you to join our cause.

Groper Lightfingers

I told ” Groper Lightfingers” that Dr. Babooner does not lend her “heft” to any cause, especially not one which is simply a glorified excuse for poor behavior. Blaming the newly revealed mechanics of octopus locomotion for your trouble is an insult to cephalopods everywhere. Octopi are social creatures with “smart” arms, while your out-of-control extremities are clearly anti-social and exceedingly dumb.

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

Rough Landing Haiku

Space travel fans and recyclers are full of admiration for the people at Space-X, who come closer with each attempt to doing something the throw-away generation of the ’60’s didn’t even consider. They’re trying to create a rocket booster that can carry a vehicle to orbit, and then land, vertically, the same way it took off.

To allow some room for error, they built a barge that can float out in the ocean, away from population centers. Smart, but problematic, as it creates a somewhat unsteady surface.

This last time they came quite close to making it work.

I love the slow yielding to gravity at the end, as it gradually becomes clear we are not going to remain vertical.

The fall takes about 7 seconds – just long enough to read three lines of 5, 7 and 5 syllables.

if there is no land
just a barge in the ocean
there is no landing

falling down to earth,
a job anything can do,
gets tricky at last

hold the platform still
and I will stick the dismount
at some other time

practice makes perfect
but first some big explosions
for entertainment

Space X says next time, they’ll try to do the landing where there is actually some land.

When has practice made perfect for you?

Baboon Achievers: Trained Baboon Tracks Trains

It hit me the other day I’ve been writing under the long face of our friend Blevins (the hairy fellow on the masthead trail) for nearly five years and yet I am still  thoroughly ignorant about baboons, their achievements and their history.

This is exactly the feeling I had in fifth grade when I was expected to know the difference between several white-wigged forefathers and on test day it occurred to me that Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Madison and Dolly Parton looked pretty much the same from the neck up.

So on a whim fifteen minutes ago I decided to do a google search for famous baboons and immediately stumbled across the strange tale of Jack the Signalman.

Jack was said to be a companion to James “Jumper” Wide, a railroad man in Uitenhage, South Africa, who had the unfortunate habit of leaping from car to car on moving trains.  This is the sort of show-off activity you can be good at until the one day when you’re not, and then you never do it again because both your legs have been cut off at the knees.

Handicapped by his injuries but determined to return to work, Wide formed a productive partnership with an actual baboon, Jack, who eventually learned to do the signalman’s job and wound up employed by the railroad for a number of years,  paid in brandy or beer depending on which account you believe.

The notion that a baboon can hold a job will surprise no one who has worked alongside such a creature in their daily tasks.   The feeling that your strangely unstable co-worker might suddenly do something wildly inappropriate is familiar to everyone, I imagine.

But in this case the biological baboon of Uitenhage was much more reliable in his work than the emotional baboons of our modern cubicle-rich employment landscape.

The story claims that Jack was flawless in his performance of his  duties, regularly receiving a whistled signal from the engineer of an oncoming train and properly moving levers to send that train down the appropriate track.

Too amazing to be true?  Even self-identified skeptics are mollified.

After thinking about this for a moment, I realized that I would have a hard time being successful at such a job, given that I’m a daydreamer and my mind is known to wander a bit.  I’m afraid that in the role of signalman, my train of thought would eventually get derailed and without delay much larger calamities would ensue.

Fired and replaced by a baboon, for the greater safety of all.  Good thing I just imagined that so none of us had to live through it.

So here’s a salute to Jack the Signalman, a baboon-achiever!

 How are you at performing mindless tasks?  

Kids vs. Dogs

Today’s post comes from Trail Baboon’s Living and Loving Correspondent B. Marty Barry.   He’s a bottomless well of wellness!

Yes, it’s my life’s work to be there for people when they need to talk.

And once we get past the preliminaries and start to explore hidden areas that are truly and deeply painful, my clients will ask me why their children are not as sociable as their dogs.

There is a great deal of guilt and anguish here, because people just naturally feel responsible for how their kids turn out.  They believe that it should be more pleasant to hang out with Timmy or Susie than it is to spend the afternoon sitting by the fire with Sparky.

After all, children have the ability to speak an understandable language and hold conversations.  They can tell stories and jokes.  They’ve got  the higher brain functions to enjoy and create art.  There are all sorts of enjoyable pastimes that are family-friendly.

Meanwhile, dogs shed, have bad breath, and poop in the yard.

It should be no contest!

My clients feel terrible about preferring their dogs to their kids.  When I ask them to tell me more, I usually hear that the children are sullen and self-absorbed.  They barely speak and only interact with their electronic devices.  And they almost never make eye contact with another person, especially not their parents.

The dogs, on the other hand, are enthusiastic and playful, unless you’ don’t want to play.  If that’s the case, then they’re patient and attentive, but quiet.  And eye contact is a canine specialty – they do it constantly, with intensity and love.   Unless you’re holding a treat, in which case they watch you with joy and anticipation.  But dogs are always totally OK with whatever you want to do.

Once I get them talking along these lines, people eventually realize they are unfairly judging the children because no human can compete with a good dog for sociability.

I always take note of the children’s names.  Someday they may need to talk deeply about how they resented Brandy’s easygoing relationship with mom and dad.

And now academia has decided to address dog cognition.  Look at these programs!

What this means is that now those same sullen, uncommunicative children who were less engaging than Fido can someday leave home, go off to school, and run up $300,000 in college debt watching  a dog, which is basically the same thing you did, for free, while they were away.

But if this scientific research bears fruit and we are better able to understand the level of awareness of dogs, maybe it will open up a whole new range of opportunities for people like me.  Getting dogs to talk would be a world-changer.  After all, I can only guess the emotional toll it takes on old Buster to know that he is, and always will be, the favored child.   

Who was your parents’ favorite?