Archive - 2013

March 24th


President Obama had a very successful trip to the Mideast. Is anybody even watching? Or do we have to start a war before anybody feels like we are accomplishing something? And what about the snakes who claimed, without one ounce of evidence, that Obama was "sympathetic" to Islamic extremists--do they find evidence for their fantasies in this trip? Or does it bore them because they don't want to see evidence of Obama's pragmatism, moderation--and, above all, plain old competence?

March 22nd

Thunder from the Fargo Forum

Wow, the Fargo Forum calls out the North Dakota legislature for its looniness this session. Congratulations to the Gray Lady of the Great Plains for a plain-spoken editorial. 

March 20th


Wow, coming back to the cold took the wind out of my sails. I have been sleepy or sleeping most of the time. Today, I drove to Hawley to perform for Hawley Senior Living. I almost had to pull over to the side of the road for a nap. That after nine hours of sleep at night and a four hour nap yesterday afternoon!

I think our bodies adjust to the seasons and mine never adjusted to winter, given how I escaped almost all of it. In years past, I have struggled to get moving once I got home from Arizona, only to have spring come along and wake me up. I suspect as soon as the temperatures increase, I'll be fine. 

I went in to see Aunt Olla yesterday, thinking maybe a trip to the Hilton would wake me up. It didn't! I got even sleepier. Aunt Olla was in the same shape. She couldn't put together sentences very well and neither could I. We eventually gave up trying, and I left.  

If I could run, that would help. The elliptical machine stares at me in the garage. I could use it. That would wake me up. But I haven't managed to take the plunge yet. 

It is just to wait until it warms up!


March 18th

Bakken, cont.

Take a look at this video of the Bakken. Wow. 

March 17th


Here is a video of the place where they load the trains with oil, trains which you can see passing through Fargo and on down Highway 10. I passed through the Bakken on the way home this week. It is something. Dickinson is so lit up. It is like beet harvest times 100. Gas flares and oil rig high voltage lights light up the night sky. 

My rough calculations are that each train of 100 cars carries about $5 million worth of oil. It costs about $60,000 to haul it to Cushing Oklahoma for delivery. 

It is encouraging that Burlington Northern is considering using natural gas for their locomotives. Rather than abandoning fossil fuels cold turkey, which I suspect will never be politically viable, we should constantly move to the better forms of energy from the massive stores underneath us. Natural gas is so cheap right now, perhaps companies will be inspired to move to it for cost savings. 

March 16th

More Yosemite


A foggy day at Yosemite produced scenes which were almost Japanese in their elegance, subtlety and simplicity. 



Yosemite Valley has the feel of a gothic cathedral. The mists and fog only add to that effect. 


The many waterfalls in the Yosemite Valley turn into snow-making machines when the temperature hovers around freezing. 

On the road

I am sitting at the computer this pristine winter morning recovering from two days on the road.

On Thursday, I traveled to central Minnesota to speak to two libraries as a part of their series of "author talks." At the first talk, nobody showed. So I visited with the librarian. Eventually, a woman came with Fertile connections. We shared some Fertile gossip. Then a twelve-year-old who had been too shy to show up on time arrived, chastened, with her mother and we went over a short story she had started. That was fun. 

I drove to the second town, took a nap in the car and went to my second presentation. The woman who was hosting was there, as was her mother-in-law, who made it clear that she was just there to keep her daughter-in-law company "in case nobody showed up," which is just what happened. 

So, 360 miles, a nice fat check––and no presentations. 

Oh well. 

Yesterday, I drove to Thief River Falls to a children's writer's conference where I worked with three sections of 5th-7th graders. The presentations were an hour long. The kids were a delight. They are intelligent and they love to read. We had many good laughs. 

But the experience required a two-and-a-half hour nap once I got home. I don't know how teachers do it. 


March 14th



Just trying out to make sure the picture function is fixed. Looks like it is!


Hard to believe that we were here about a week ago! It seems like long ago in a galaxy far, far, away. 


The snowline of the day was only about 150 feet above the bottom of Yosemite Valley. Below that, rain. meadowyose.jpg

John Muir meadow. Lovely spot from which to view the heights from a flat place well-suited to a prairie dweller. 


This is not a small volume of water thundering down the side of this massive cliff. I wish I had the rumbling sound to go with the picture. 

March 13th


Brother Joe placed a well-written and cogent letter-to-the editor in the Fertile Journal in favor of the legalization of marijuana. It has unleashed a round of "have you seen the Journal yet?" gawking locally, as is to be expected. The knee-jerk shame reaction to having somebody take a stand contrary to prevailing dogma is strong.

We need to examine these questions cooly and logically. All scientific studies have found that marjiuana's negative effects are simply inconsequential compared to alcohol's. It is high hypocricy to sit at the bar sucking down beers while denouncing marijuana. The beers cause deaths on the highway. Marijuana has almost no effect on reaction time. Alcohol is addictive (although not as addictive as nicotine), marijuana causes psychological dependency, but nobody has had to go through detox to get off pot. 

I agree with Joe that pot isn't harmless, but locking up 800,000 people for marijuana offenses in this country is a waste of jail space. 

Is marijuana a "gateway drug" for kids? Only if you maintain the lie that it is in the same class as meth, cocaine, LSD, etc. The only way it is a gateway drug is if you have propangandized the children to believe pot is pernicious. They try it. They don't grow horns. They don't grow hair on their palms (an actual result promised in anti-pot literature of the 1920s). So then they think the are also being lied to about cocaine, meth and heroin. Then they turn into junkies. It is the lies that make it a gateway drug. The answer, then, is not to maintain the lies about pot to your kids as you head out the door to the bar, but to face the truth and say, don't do it. And then if you actually believe it, don't do it yourself, either. 

Another hypocricy that parallels this, to my notion, is people who don't curse around the kids but who swear like sailors when the kids aren't there. The fear there is not that the kids might grow up to swear, it is that they will swear at the improper time and bring shame down on the household. So many irrational "I don't want my kids to..." prohibitions stem from the fear of potential embarrassment rather than an actual honest assessment of risk to the body or mind. 

Joe just forwarded me the text of his letter, posted here in full:

I have heard that there have been several recent arrests in our community for the possession and/or distribution of marijuana. My heart goes out to the people whose lives have been affected by these arrests. It’s time for the madness of marijuana prohibition to stop.

The facts show that marijuana is less addictive and far less harmful than alcohol, tobacco, and many prescription drugs. There is no known lethal dose of marijuana, something that can’t be said for aspirin or ibuprofen or Xanax. While it is possible to become psychologically dependent on marijuana, it does not cause the severe physical addiction associated with narcotics, tobacco, or heavy alcohol use.

This is an issue that crosses political divides. Conservatives oppose unnecessary government interference with our lives and choices, while liberals want the government’s involvement in our lives to be rooted in compassion and logic. The current state of prohibition is illogical, intrusive, and the farthest thing from compassionate.

Millions of people in this country use marijuana recreationally and are able to lead productive, normal lives. I have read story after story of people who found marijuana effective for a medical condition when no other treatment would work. A commission appointed by Richard Nixon conducted a comprehensive review of marijuana and public policy and concluded that "from what is now known about the effects of marihuana, its use at the present level does not constitute a major threat to public health.” More than a dozen other government appointed commissions here and abroad have come to similar conclusions.

Before you judge those who use or sell this plant, please take a look in your medicine cabinet and your fridge. I’ll bet that the painkillers, anti-depressants, and Xanax consumed each day in our community would fill a coffee mug. Likewise, the alcoholic beverages we consume in Fertile would likely fill a bathtub. We all have problems, and we all struggle to find the best solutions to those problems. We should have the right to choose our own medicine, and our own way to unwind at the end of the day.

I am not for a minute suggesting that anyone, especially young people, should smoke pot. It dulls the mind, inhibits short-term memory, and I feel that it can delay emotional development by allowing people to run away from their problems day after day. It is much better to keep a clear mind and face the problems of life head on.

However, we need to start respecting the intelligence of our youth. Kids are adept at detecting when they are being lied to. When we attempt to portray marijuana in the same light as truly dire drugs like meth, we run the risk of losing all legitimacy with our kids. Worse yet, they might assume that the warnings about harder drugs are also baloney. Regulating marijuana like alcohol will eliminate the black market that now makes pot so easily available to kids, while helping to restore faith in the law.

Joe Bergeson, Fertile, MN

Good work, Joe!



March 11th

Angel in Billings

Long drive yesterday. I started in Dillon, MT. Had thoughts of going all the way home, but why push it. Bismarck would be far enough. So I stopped in Billings at my favorite chain restaurant, Famous Dave's, and then stopped at a local coffee shop for a thick, caffiene-heavy latte for the road. While at the coffee shop, I checked emails. One of the emails contained a very interesting proposal, which was whirling in my mind as I left the coffee shop. 

Whirl, whirl, whirl. The first forty miles of I-94 went fast as I was thinking about the email. Then my phone buzzed. It was brother Joe. 

"Some woman from Billings, Montana just called and said she has your laptop." 

I had no idea what happened. I must have left it at the coffee shop, I thought. What an idiot. 

Turns out, I was a bigger idiot than I thought. After getting in touch with "some woman," a Kristen of Billings, it became obvious that I left the Macbook Air on the roof of my car while I took off my jacket for the drive. After throwing my jacket in my car, I got in, drove off, only to have my computer end up on the street in front of Wal-mart. 

Kristen found the computer on the street, opened it up and found my contact information, tried my cell phone which didn't connect, then found the nursery by searching on the internet, called Joe, and then, what's more, offered to bring the computer out to the edge of town so I wouldn't have to drive back so far. 

I am reminded of the Buddhist tale of an angst-ridden young man who brings all his wealth to a wise man and offers it in return for the secret to happiness. The wise man steals the chest and runs away. The young man chases him for miles and miles, grows exhausted, gives up and goes home, defeated and demoralized. 

The next morning, the wise man, holding the chest of gold coins, knocks at the young man's door and hands him the chest. The young man is ecstatic, utterly thrilled to have his gold coins back. 

"There you have the secret to happiness," the wise man repled. Getting back what you already had makes you appreciate what you had and now have again more than when you first had it. 

Got it? 

Not that Kristin stole my laptop from me––my stupidity did that–– but I was happier for the rest of the day having her return my laptop than if it had been sitting beside me on the front seat the whole while, in which case my mind would have likely wondered into unproductive rumination on the 411 mile trip to Bismarck that was stretched into a more enjoyable 490 miles by Kristin returning my gold chest. Or my laptop, as the case may be. 

And meeting Kristen was a delight. According to her Facebook profile, she is a "bikini athlete." I love it! (You may have a good samaritan tale, but I'll bet my good samaritan is hotter than your good samaritan!) She is entering a body-building competition next week. 

She's already a champion in my book.