Archive - Jan 2014


January 29th

Eighteen days

Thats the magic number until pitchers and catchers report for spring training.

What are the hopes for the Twins? 

My hope is they will give great prospects Byron Buxton and Alex Meyer a try. Why not? 

One good reason why not: Look what happened to Aaron Hicks last year. After a great spring training, they handed the kid center field and he dropped it. He wasn't ready, and one hopes he isn't ruined for good.

Baseball is alchemy. You never know when a group of players is going to put it together and make a run. But you have to have talent to start with. The Twins have been thin on that score for three years. Now, their healthy minor league system seems ready to promote some real athletes to the big leagues. 

When a crop of young talent comes along, things get exciting. There is always a chance for a flash of glory amidst the missed cutoff men, stupid base running mistakes, lack of control and discipline so often exhibited by young players. 

But my favorite players (think Carlos Gomez) have always been enthusiastic, wildly talented guys with an eccentric streak that occasionally makes you shake your head in disbelief. Why did you steal third with two out? Oh well, it was fun to watch.And now you can try to steal home. 



Winding down

This year's visit to Tucson went too fast. On Saturday, I move to Carlsbad, CA for a month in a little beach bungalow.

Last night, neighbors Pat and Howard had me over for a goodbye dinner. They have been a touch of home for me here. 

Another touch of home: Fertilians Keith and Cathy spent a few days in Tucson, and happened to rent a hotel room only a few minutes from the Glass Cottage where I am staying. 

Two nights ago, the five of us––Howard, Pat, Keith, Cathy and I––went to an Ethiopian restaurant.

Yesterday, Keith and Cathy came over to view Pat's incredible artwork. Keith and I decided we should fill a truck with scrap metal from northern Minnesota, bring it down to Pat and see what miracles she could perform with it. 

It was fun to have Tucson friends meet Fertile friends and find out they have much in common. 

Meanwhile, I am back at editing and writing. I left the projects for a month, which turned out to be a good idea. When I go back to them, I see what I want to work on and what I want to let go. One project in particular needs to be let go entirely. It is a book I have worked on for fifteen years, on and off, and I think I am now done with it. Writing on it in November and December got it out of my system. I don't want to think about it any more. 

Another project: A history of the nursery, sort of a memoir. I wrote 200 pages on it early in the trip, then set it aside. Last week, my editor urged me to choose a 5,000 word excerpt to enter in a contest. I picked the excerpt, edited it and sent it on to her this morning. That felt good. I thought the writing was not good, but with some trimming, it isn't so bad. Maybe there is a book there after all. 

Over the past month, I concentrated upon learning a piece by Bach. My goal is to polish it up enough to make a video to post here. I am a ways from that. It has been a few years since I have learned a new piece, so to do so has been invigorating. The little electric piano I bought down here works well. It is portable, yet has the feel of a real piano. 

I look forward to exploring the San Diego area. Lance will come down after he gives his artist's talk at the Rourke Museum this Friday. We will have company. After a couple of months of near seclusion, I am ready for people again. 




January 26th

Back to Bach

Attended a good all-Bach pipe organ concert yesterday in Phoenix. Jonathan Dimmock played the Visser organ at All Saints Episcopal Church. 

Most pipe organ concerts attract a handful of enthusiasts, and that is about it. The church was quite full for this Bach concert, which was heartening. Dimmock played some of the old favorite organ pieces, but added three I had never heard. 

Pipe organs are so much better in person. The purity of the sound comes through, unobscured by the imperfections of recording devices. The crowd was perfectly well-behaved. Almost no whispering, even in the slow parts. Not one candy wrapper crinkled. 

The organ console, as it so often is in traditional churches, sat in the balcony, out of the view and at the back of the audience. I was glad that they provided a video feed of the organist on the front wall. It is fun to watch the feet, and the changing of the stops. Dimmock chose to turn his own pages, too, which gave me a little anxiety. 

Touring organists face a daunting challenge. Each organ is unique. They have to figure out which stops work at what time, and then they have to get used to keyboards which feel different, and to tabs which might be in an unfamiliar place. I think Dimmock was a lot more comfortable in the second half than the first, as he really let it rip. Must have gotten a good half-time pep talk from the contrapunctal coach.

Bach's organ music must be preached, and with conviction. That means keeping the tempo solid at all times. If the tempo goes limp, the internal rhythms of the piece fall flat. Firm tempo unites the fugues like a taut cable, making it more evident to the listener where and when Bach introduces innovative rhythms. Dimmock's tempo on the C minor fugue which follows the great Passacaglia was firm and unvarying. 

There are natural wonders, and there are cultural wonders. Bach's music is the cultural equivalent of the Grand Canyon. So many people are aware of its grandeur, but so few explore the depths for the real rewards. Yesterday's concert reminds me that I have just skimmed the surface of Bach's work, even though I have listened since junior high. 

January 22nd


Charles Blow argues for the traditional book.  

I agree. All of the media noise, and it is constant if you don't consciously tune it out, is no substitute for sitting down and immersing yourself in the thoughts of one person for an afternoon, or perhaps several days. 

At the same time, it is good to make sure the books one reads are quality. So much of the history written today, for example, is tailored to suit one or the other sides of today's ideological divide. A good book should provoke thought, even confuse and confound.

I have not been able to pull this off myself, but to really expand one's mind, it might be best to turn off one's connections to the media bilge pump and become immersed in good books from the past. Soak them up. We resist doing so because good books introduce complexity where we would prefer simplicity. 


January 19th

Monday links

Here is an insightful essay which argues that Martin Luther King's most important legacy had nothing to do with speeches and marches. I was shocked to find out that he was only 39 years old when he was assassinated. 

Here is the David Remnick article in the New Yorker which is being sensationalized today. It is long and insightful, unlike the resulting news coverage. 

Here is an elephant flinging dung. Or mud. Whatever. 

A more touching elephant video

And another

January 15th

Fired up!

I am working with my editor on a book. She was born and raised in Kansas and now lives in Colorado. As we plow through the manuscript, some of my regionalism becomes apparent, namely my affection for the word "up." 

We load up the kids. We fill up our coffee mug. We get worked up. We like the word up in Northern Minnesota, and I used the word dozens upon dozens of times without even thinking. 

Carol, the editor, has removed many of the ups, but wants to leave some because they are kind of cute, she says. As I go through through her edits, I find myself arguing for even more ups.

C'mon, you don't just fill the tank, you fill up the tank!

January 13th

Dementia is not the end

We need to learn this. People with a dementia diagnosis can go on to live many years of fuflfilling life. This is important as we get better at early diagnosis. The early diagnosis can be a blessing if and only if we do not stigmatize those with dementia and if we work to understand what is happening in their brain in order to help them help others. 

January 12th

Today in Tucson

For the curious, today was about the fifteenth consecutive day of perfect weather. That never gets on the news. Seventy and sunny. Again.

I went for a bike ride. When I returned, the park where I start and end my rides crawled with cops. One was putting police "crime scene" tape around about four acres of the park. I shrugged it off and wheeled home.

Later, I pulled up to a sushi bar for supper and saw on the local news that a "suspicious" backpack had been found at the park. Out came the bomb squad, dressed in camo and helmets. The camera recorded them approaching the backpack as if it was about to go off. 

Okay, about 500 people per day use the park to play soccer, volleyball, whatever. Somebody...left...their...backpack. 

I guess it was good practice for the bomb squad on a Sunday afternoon. That backpack scare probably rescued them from a dreadfully boring NFL playoff game.

In other news, there was a murder on the north side. Apparently a woman killed her friend, according to the subtitle. Some friendship that was!

I realize that back home there is a warm spell and that people are barbequing in the twenty-degree weather. 

No thanks. 

Only two weeks left here, then on to San Diego for a month. Tucson gets expensive during the Gem and Mineral show, which runs for much of February, so this year I decided to spend a month in San Diego where it is officially down season. Looking forward to exploring a new area. 



January 6th

Mrs. Casey Wants to Know

Just got off the phone with Aunt Olla. Her room at the Hilton is a little cool in the -30º weather, so she was sitting in the hallway. She was as sharp as I have heard her in at least six months. Amazing. 

She accused me of calling to gloat, which I admitted to. She told several stories I hadn't heard before, including one about the time she and her husband Doc were in Estes Park and couldn't find a room. Doc was a talker, so pretty soon he had convinced a man to let them stay in his house. They became friends. 

At the hotel where they had tried to stay there was an opera company. They all gathered in the big room by the fire and sang.

Olla recalled playing whist on the dark winter evenings. I asked her if my Grandpa played whist, too.

"Oh, heavens no!" she said. "He thought it was some sort of sin!" 

So Grandpa bought the game "Mrs. Casey wants to Know," which Olive loved.

"Whatever happened to that game?" she asked. 

"It seems when they have something good, they get rid of it."

I looked it up on the internet and sure enough, there are games available. Olla wants me to order one. 


January 4th


People are taking seriously the damage done by fundamentalist religion...