Country Scribe : Eric Bergeson's Weblog

August 21, 2004

Stars

Cold a clear last night. Had a visitor from the city, an old college friend whom I hadn't seen for a dozen years. He had never seen the Andromeda galaxy, so we headed outside to look at the stars with the binoculars late last night.

The Milky Way was as vivid as ever last night. It was utterly clear. Andromeda was easy to spot. Also spotted Pleiades, the Seven Sisters, near the eastern horizon. Only a blur to the naked eye when it is low in the sky, the cluster was pulled into clear and spectacular focus by the binoculars.

Many satellites sped across, and there were a few meteorites as well. All in all, it was a pretty spectacular evening for stargazing.

EARLIER in the evening, I went for a 2-mile run at sunset. They are harvesting the grain field next to my house. The dust hung in the air like fog, likely because of some temperature inversion or something. The leaves in the corn field barely rustled, it was so perfectly still. Some of my best memories of nature, sunsets and the like come from the scenery I see when I run.

BUT: It froze yesterday morning. The soybean fields towards Fargo looked sick by yesterday afternoon. Some of the corn was hit hard. I didn't go over to the nursery yesterday, so I don't know what happened to the gardens. However, an August 20 frost would be the earliest in my memory.

TOOK a trip to Fargo yesterday with my college friend David, who was visiting from Anoka. We attended Northwestern College together in Roseville, MN, twenty some years ago. It was good to catch up.

STOPPED at the dealership to check on the 2004 Rangers which are now on clearance. I test drove one. It felt funny on the road. Didn't grip real well. Very swimmy. But, I had the salesman do the numbers and found out that I would have to pay them to take my present pickup in trade. Ugh. I didn't pull the trigger. My present Ranger has 130,000 miles on it, but there is nothing wrong with it. May as well drive it into the ground.

I love when the salespeople tout the Rangers for their durability and longevity--as long as you're buying a new one. If you have one already, they say, "Of course, you're going to have to start putting money into that old one here pretty soon."

I say, no, the Rangers are a good pickup that runs forever. You just told me that, didn't you?

TWINS 5, CLEVELAND 1: Good game to win for the Twins over the second place team. It is time for the Twins to reel off a few wins. The game was encouraging because pitcher Kyle Lohse, who has struggled all year, was pretty much untouchable. Tonight, I believe Mulholland will go. We'll see if the 41-year-old has a little more gas left in his tank.

CORN SMUT: Had lunch in Fargo with friend Andrea, who writes a food column for Fargo Forum. She's always on the lookout this time of year for corn smut, that mold which grows on ears of corn. It is great for cooking, and if you find restaurants which want it, smut can fetch $30 per pound. It cooks up like mushrooms, only it tastes much better. So, if you have problems with corn smut, count yourself lucky. Harvest it when it is firm, before it gets crumbly.


August 19, 2004

Twins win, etc.

Boy, these are fun days to be a Twins fan. They have won two in a row against the mighty Yanks. Their pitching has been superb, as has their defense. Combined with some recently-awakened bats, that makes for three quick wins in a row.

I made it through the Twins' recent losing streak by ignoring them. I am a fair-weather fan. I follow them assiduously when they are winning and ignore them completely when they don't. It is fun to follow the New York newspapers when their team gets clubbed by the hick team from Minnesota. Oh, woe is them.

I HAVE been trying to think of class projects to make history more interesting for the students I will have this fall at the University of Minnesota, Crookston. The class in World Civilizations will be particularly challenging. There is no way you can or should memorize all of those ancient civilizations.

I have decided to have each of the students pick a topic for a paper out of a hat. The possible topics will be cows, horses, potatoes, wheat, salt, corn, silver, perfume, spice, and so on--commodities. The student will then research the origins of that commodity and investigate its significance to world history.

For instance, potatoes originated in the New World. Their importation to Europe created a source of nutrition for the lower classes which resulted in a population increase--which, one could argue, resulted in excess population which almost had no choice but to emigrate to the new world.

This should be an easy project. For every commodity, there seems to be an author willing to argue at book length that it caused wars, famines and other great events in world history. Just type in "history of beans" in a search engine and see what you come up with.

FOR AMERICAN government class, I think I will have each student draw from a hat the name of a political commentator. They will chose from Molly Ivins, Cal Thomas, William Safire, George Will, and so on, including some internet commentators such as Glenn Reynolds and Andrew Sullivan. It will be the job of each student to report to the class what that particular commentator wrote about each week. At the end, the student will submit a paper about the columnist.

I AM FINISHING the inventory of the first shipment of house materiels today. I now know what a 2x6 looks like and can recognize one instantly.








August 18, 2004

Wal-mart Supercenter moves into Crookston

The Grand Forks Herald reports today that Crookston is getting a new Wal-mart Supercenter which will open in the fall of 2005. It will be on the location of the old Winter Shows building, which will be torn down.

This is big news. My first reaction was--all right! I do enjoy shopping at Wal-mart. Everything you want in one place at the lowest prices. However, you have to wonder what it will do to small hardware stores in the area, as well as the grocery stores.

Also, they do stock greenhouse plants. So, in theory at least, we will be competing with them. However, in reality, they take such poor care of their plants at Wal-mart and the other discount chains that their quality is poor, even if the plants look pretty good when they are shipped in. We'll have to see.

I really didn't see this coming. They are also putting up a Wal-mart in Thief River Falls. They must do the numbers and know they will succeed.

In any case, the reality is that we go to Fargo for most of our retail shopping. Now we can shorten the trip by about 40 miles one-way.

TWINS AND YANKEES: I am waiting eagerly for the game tonight. Santana against Mussina. It is televised nationally on ESPN. Mussina is 20-2 against the Twins in his lifetime. Santana has been unbeatable for the past two months. Should be interesting. My question is: Where is Joe Mauer, and when is going to play again? With Mauer and Morneau in the line-up, the Twins will have the most potent M & M punch since Maris and Mantle.



August 17, 2004

Learning lumber

I am taking inventory of the lumber shipment for my house which arrived last week. If I don't get the checklist in by the 23rd, I lose all right to claim that they didn't send it all. So, I am paying pretty good attention to this process.

I am learning lumber. I have never before actually put a measuring tape to a 2x4. I did now and learned that it is really a 1 1/2" x 3 1/2". Everything is 1/2 inch short. Whatever happened to truth in advertising?

Also in the shipment are boxes and boxes of metal brackets which are called "joist hangers" and such. Well, I can't tell one from another. So, I just count them and see if there is a quantity on the checklist which matches.

Was worried that the 2x12s had some cracks in them, so I called Dean the carpenter in a panic. He said that's pretty normal--just so they don't split into 2 2x6s. That was reassuring.

Dad is watching the lumber piles like a hawk. We have some outside. They are covered in plastic with the ends open. Dad takes off the plastic during the sunny days. Most of the lumber is in the Morton building. We left the bands on the stacks so they don't warp.

Two semi loads are here, three more to come. A lot of stuff goes into building a house. Thank goodness I am ignorant about all it takes or I would never have started the project.

TWINS beat the Yanks tonight! Great pitching Radke. Home run by Morneau. Always great to beat the hated Yankees.

I HAVE DISCOVERED that they have added a whole bunch of music channels to my satellite television subscription service--including one which plays swing 24 hrs per day. I love it. Was getting sick of the others, but hadn't explored the dial for a while.

SPENT the day getting ready for classes. They start in two weeks. Today, I divided up the government text into digestible bits. Wasn't too tough. The text leaves something to be desired, but I limited the assigned reading to about 8 pages per class period. A miserable 8 pages, indeed, but that shouldn't be too much.

Man, what they put students through. It is just awful. They should rebel. Dry textbooks--why read dry textbooks when there are so many good books to read? Why not assign good books and not worry about having to cover everything? Nobody remembers everything anyway.



Testing, testing

I just wrote a long, long weblog entry--only to have it disappear when I tried to post it. Discouraging! So, I am going to try posting this brief test message. This is a test of the emergency weblog system. If this were a real weblog emergency...


August 16, 2004

Birthday

Turned forty yesterday. Aunt Ede hosted a very nice party for myself and her granddaughter Kendra, my cousin's daughter--who shares my birthday 20 years behind--at her house--lots of food and fun. Cousin Ilene came up from Twin Valley and brought Aunt Olla along.

Olla was fine until somebody took her picture. That set her off pretty good. She just can't stand to have her picture taken, and she wouldn't get over it. I assured her that it was a digital picture and that it could easily be erased, but she kept at it. Pictures make her look old. That is, unless they are taken from more than eight feet away. The offending photo was taken from six feet.

Once we sat down for food, Olla forgot the picture fiasco long enough to tell many good stories about the old days. We learned that my great-grandfather went to seminary for two years. We learned that Aunt Millie went to high school for one day. She was 11, and had completed eighth grade already, but high school was not for her.

So, as always, the food and fellowship at Ede and Orv's was top notch.

Was so tired last night that I couldn't write a column. Set the alarm for six a.m. and wrote it this morning. I do love getting up that early in the morning, but I find that I can only do it when I have a specific task to accomplish that early or if I have to be at the airport.

What a beautiful day. People are already here visiting the gardens. I have to figure out how to inventory the stacks of lumber that came for the house. If I don't have that done in a couple of days, they won't replace anything that didn't come. I am not an expert on lumber jargon and acronymns. So, I'll have to learn. This whole house will be a learning process, to be sure.

WHILE I WAS writing this, gift shop manager Dot pulled me out of my office to the lunchroom for another round of birthday food--some fresh rolls. Delicious. Plus some funny gifts, one of which gave some statistics about the year I was born, 1964. The stat that hurt the most was the average cost of a new home: $13,700.

BROTHER JOE sold about 40 CDs at the open house, and then yesterday, when weren't really open, he sold 10 more just by having the CD playing in the gift shop. Today, he is sleeping. It was a rough few days for him before the open house, getting a bunch of CDs ready, including designing and printing the cover and packaging them.