Country Scribe : Eric Bergeson's Weblog

September 18, 2004

Footings poured

The cement trucks came at 5 o'clock last night, accompanied by a majestic boom truck which pumps the cement up 60 feet and drops it down through a PVC tube wherever the cement men want it. Man, was that slick. I guess the boom truck costs over half a million dollars. However, I bet it is a popular device. Better than a wheelbarrow.

The footings took 18.5 yards of cement. When the first truck ran out, there was some discussion whether the second truck would contain enough cement to finish the job. There was a little to spare, but not much.

Man, is it fun to see that project proceeding.

OTHER NEWS: The cement men reported this morning that all seven swans--the two parents and the seven signets--took off on one end of the swamp and flew to the other this morning. That marks the first time that anybody has seen the young ones leave the surface. They aren't completely white yet, but they will apparently have the skills needed to fly south.

Man, for wildlife on the swamp which is going to be outside my big windows. The concrete men saw two sandhill cranes, as well as a bald eagle chasing behind another large bird. There is at least one blue heron. Countless ducks of all sorts. And, of course, some Canadian honkers coming over every now and then. I look forward to sitting in my living room and watching the show.

In fact, I have tended to think that I was merely settling for a house on a wetland--after all, everybody would rather be on a recreational lake. After seeing all the wildlife, I have come to think that I am greatly privileged to be on a wetland, and in such a spot that many acres will be fully visible through the front window.

THE TWINS finally lost last night, ending their win streak at nine. I hope they don't fall into a swoon.

AFTER a good day of classes Wednesday, yesterday, as one might have expected, was a little sobering. A little over half of the students seemed not to even care that they didn't have a clue on the daily quiz. In the history class, I handed out another quiz and asked how many of them had made their bed that morning. I didn't require them to give names. Well, it didn't matter much. Only two out of fourty-five had made their bed.

I told them that the point in college when I had started doing well and taking advantage of my classes was exactly the time I started making my bed. Plus, I have an uncle to says he considers making the bed to be one of the surest signs of adulthood.

Other responses: "My girlfriend is still in the bed so, yes, it's made."

"I got up at 10:44 and struggled to make it to class. My bed remains unmade."

"My wife made it."

"I HATE making my bed, so no it's not."

Next class, World Civilization. Because UMC is a laptop campus, students drag their computers around everywhere and hook them up in every class. Many then sit there using chat lines and email and playing video games. Man, that makes me mad. So, I blew up and told them this was bullshit, pull those plugs now. They stared like cows.

During the next class, one girl was viewing a DVD. Another was playing solitaire. A third student was messenging friends throughout the world. So, another blowup from a steaming Herr Professor. More mild barnyard language. More blank looks.

Then came their first papers. They tried admirably. Several were quite clever. There was one nice paper with about fifteen references to President Busch. Another wrote, "(the columnist I studied) was a balls to the wall no bullshit conservative who doesn't mind pissing people off." That writer will probably get an A.

But first, I will hand back the papers without grades and tell them to get the grammar and spelling right or they flink entirely. Good grief.


September 16, 2004

Busy, beautiful day

What a perfect fall day arose out of yesterday's dreariness! Lots of dew this morning. And a lot of slime out at the building site. But that didn't stop the backhoe man and the cement men from arriving at 8 a.m. to slide around and do their work.

The gravel man hauled loads all day. Two semi loads of house materials came, the last of that. Marv, the neighbor with the forklift, came to help unload the heavy pallets--some of those shingle pallets weigh two tons--even though they look like you could fit them in a broom closet. Amazing.

Marv rolled in about 7:30. The first semi arrived soon thereafter. It was unloaded within the hour. The driver reported that he saw the other truck pulled over at a rest area in southern Minnesota. "I'll bet he's sleeping," he said.

Well, the other truck didn't show, so I called the company and they tracked him down. Oh, he'd be here by 12 o'clock. Well, it took him until 1:30. By that time I was steaming out my ears, filled with smart aleck remarks, ready to give that doofus truck driver a piece of my mind. I had specifically asked them to arrive by 8 am, and they had said they would be sitting in the yard by then.

Well, he pulled in at about 2 pm, stumbled out of his truck and said he had overslept at the rest stop. My anger melted into mild annoyance. At least he was honest and a little contrite.

Meanwhile, out at the building site, the cement men (and later, one woman) attacked the job of digging footings and putting down forms. The footings go so deep and the trenches they dug are so wide that I almost wished I had put in a basement. Oh well.

There's no place to turn around at the site that's solid right now, so the gravel truck had to back in about an eighth of a mile for every load. The cement trucks will need to do the same.

TWINS 10, WHITE SOX 1: Or rather, Good 10, Evil 1. The White Sox are the single most annoying team in baseball. They play the game wrong, lose more often than not, and then grumble that the other teams aren't really that good. I'll bet their manager Ozzie Guillen wants to pound their heads in. Errors. Arrogance. Shrugs.

Meanwhile, the Twins are playing like I have never seen them play since June of 1991 when they won something like 22 out of 23. They are on a serious roll. Even Kyle Lohse took part tonight, pitching seven good innings. I think they look good enough to make it farther this year than they did the past two. They are solid, solid, solid, from top to bottom.

THRILLING DAY today on the teaching front. Didn't teach classes, but I did read some of the quiz cards submitted by the American History students yesterday. They each have a historical figure to research. Yesterday, I asked them to report on their findings and, if possible, tell me what direction they were going with their paper on that person.

Well, most of them wrote a full 3x5 card about their historical figure. Many have thought out what part of their lives they are going to research. And some even talked about how various sources treated the person differently--and expressed interest in investigating the different views historians have taken of their character--wow!

The internet helps a great deal--they can find multiple sources in seconds, and those sources tend to be pretty easy reading--and very opinionated in one direction or another, even about the most obscure historical figure. Ironically, the more biased the writing, the easier it is for students to analyze. And some students have picked up on this.

So, that's encouraging. We'll see how it goes tomorrow.



Soggy

The rain yesterday dampened the house festivities a bit. They dug trenches for about 1/2 of the footings before getting rained out. So, a lot of machinery sitting out there in the mud.

We only had about three-tenths of rain, so perhaps there won't be much delay. The rest of the house comes today. Two trucks. They should be here in about an hour.

The well ended up to be 79 feet deep. Not bad. Most wells in this area are 110 or so, it seems, with some going as deep as 180. I am not an expert on the subterranean, so I have no idea how aquifers work. Supposedly, we sit atop a pretty good sized underground lake in our township.

I didn't get to watch the various diggers at work; I was in class. Just as well. I get impatient.

LAST NIGHT, I performed for a group at the casino in Mahnomen. It was a little rough--I had asked for (demanded) a real piano. I show up to find a keyboard on a stand, as if I was playing for some band. Whoa. Nothing I could do about it. Apparently the casino's piano had fallen down a flight of stairs or something.

The group was gathered at the casino for a convention of some sort. They had many sessions. It had something to do with wildlife and trails and so on. They had some acronym which I have forgotten like FLWTB. The gathering was not particularly festive. It went fine, but it was a tough audience to win over. The room was dead--carpet on the floor, walls and ceiling. And you can play your heart out on those keyboards and they still sound dead, dead, dead.

TWINS win again, their eighth straight. The Chicago White Sox are fun to beat. They remain arrogant. They seem to think they're the best team in the world even though they can't seem to win more than they lose. They constantly denegrate the Twins, saying they aren't that good; then they go out and flop around the field like they don't care and lose badly. If act like they don't care, the White Sox seem to think, then Twins can't get too excited about beating them.

The White Sox are adolescents. The Twins are emerging into adulthood. One more reason to like the Twins.


September 14, 2004

Santana sails, Twins win

I tuned in to the Twins in Fargo after speaking to the Fargo Botanical Society. It was the sixth inning. Zero-zero. The Twins had no hits thus far, but before the inning ended they had nine runs. Santana, who only gave up three hits in seven innings, had an insurmountable lead. Although I almost would have preferred a good pitcher's duel, the Twins are rolling right now. It is their seventh win in a row.

After they defeated the Tigers in four games over the weekend, Tiger superstar catcher Ivan Rodriguez, who played with the world champion Marlins last season, said the Twins have the look of a team which is going to win the World Series. I agree. They have a killer instinct right now that was lacking the last two years. And they are better in almost every aspect of their game. They are playing like Tom Kelly used to get them playing when they were on a roll. Good stuff!

What a day. The well-drillers came this morning. The cement men came in the afternoon. In between, Dad alertly noted that conditions were ideal to put new plastic on the greenhouse. Perfectly still, lower 50s. Always a frustrating job, but it went so smoothly that Joe, Ken, Dad, and for a little while, myself, got four sheets on two greenhouses. That's a good day's work.

The well-drillers hit some glitch. Possibly a rock. Dad heard a racket from across the pond. They weren't the talkative sort, so I didn't ask. But they drove out fast a couple of times, and it looked like a big drill bit sitting out there looking forlorn. Lots of grey mud.

Then the gravel man came to see how the new driveway was packing. We have a little work to do there. I can sense that I want the curve banked so I can take it fast, so dad went out with the grader to bank it up a little bit before we get the last layer of gravel.

The concrete men are pros. The backhoe is coming tomorrow to dig the trenches for the footings. I will be in Crookston teaching, of course, which is probably for the better. I would just be pacing.

IN THE middle of it all, I went to vote in Sundal Township. Three elections judges sat in the spanking new Town Hall, a little tin building about ten by fifteen feet put up to replace the collapsing old hall, which was destroyed this summer. Three judges for twelve hours--for about 70 possible voters, of whom probably fifteen will show up for a primary as uncontested as this one. Well, you never know--last election, a mid-term, I think 69 of the 70 voted. That's over 98% turnout. Not bad.

No voting booths yet. I had to go over to another table to sit. It was private enough. I sat and chatted with the judges for a long time. They wanted to know all about the house. I told them not to die of boredom. When I left, Morris said, "Well, thanks for unboring us for a while!"

Then, on to Fargo to speak to the Botanical Society. They took me out for supper first at Juano's, my favorite Mexican restaurant north of the Arizona border. Then I spoke. Very nice people. Then, the Twins on the radio as I drove through the night--what could be better? A clear, cool fall night after a full day of work--the Twins winning their seventh in a row late in the season--


September 13, 2004

Forward, march

Suddenly, some progress on the house. The concrete men are going to arrive tomorrow afternoon, and in a complete surprise, the well-driller is going to drill tomorrow morning. I thought that might take a while, since he seemed quite backed up.

The family of swans moved around today. Odd, since they sat all summer in one little area of the swamp. This morning, Ken saw them out in the field walking around, two parents and five little ones. Later this afternoon, I saw the entire family on the water near the house site, a full 100 yards closer than they had ever been to the house before.

They just sit. They have sat all summer. In one spot. Paddling a little, but only moving a few yards. I wonder what they eat? I wonder if they move at night. I hope they come back in years to come so I can watch them with the binoculars from my living room window.

TWINS 5, TIGERS 3: Radke pitches well again. Twins play flawlessly in the field and make smart decisions on the bases, as opposed to the Tigers who lost the game by making errors of commission and omission. Baseball is unforgiving. Last night, the Tiger's manager Alan Trammell said that the Twins hadn't made a single mistake of note in three days. Make that four, for tonight they were nearly perfect.

The Twins aren't hitting that well, and they haven't really hit that well all season. But when you run the bases well and take advantage of the other teams' mistakes, you don't need to hit like the 1927 Yankees to win a lot of ballgames.

This is the sort of baseball I absolutely love. Solid starting pitching. Solid defense. Good execution at the plate whether or not the bats are really booming. The way the Twins are playing right now is the way baseball should be played, and I can't imagine a team in the major leagues that's more fun to watch--except, maybe, the Cardinals.

Tony LaRussa has the Cardinals on a roll. They have more wins than any other team. LaRussa does that every five years--manages a team that wins a whole bunch of games. But he really doesn't do well in the playoffs and World Series. My contention is that he doesn't make the proper adjustments from the regular season to the playoffs.

The Twins will enter the playoffs with the best pitching they have had in three years. Their hitting isn't so hot, and it could just shut down again as it did in last year's playoffs against the Yankees, but something tells me that this club is much more prepared for winning in the playoffs than the past two clubs were. I will say it: Eddie Guardado wasn't made for playoff baseball. Joe Nathan is. That's a big difference right there. Johan Santana and Brad Radke are made for the playoffs, and they are pitching better right now than they ever have. Too bad that Milton was traded--he was great in the playoffs, too.

I like that they have some old guys, particularly at catcher. Doesn't look like Mauer will return, so you had just as well have Blanco and Borders to keep the younger pitchers calm. Mulholland is a real find, despite his 41 years.

That's the function of baseball: I have a bunch of mental energy to wear off at the end of this long day of teaching, etc., and I have no desire to use it on matters of work, so I divert myself by thinking about the Twins. Work will be there in the morning.