Country Scribe : Eric Bergeson's Weblog

September 24, 2004

Getting ready for Santana

After writing a column about Johan Santana, I am pretty sure I jinxed him up good. I am worried that tonight will be an off night for him--he's overdue for one--and that all of his streaks will collapse. But I am not going to miss a pitch of the game!

Tonight's game has meaning--at least for Santana. He could win the Cy Young award if he does well. Otherwise, it is a little disappointing watching the Twins after they clinched the division--they're playing the B Team.

You just hope they get their edge back by playoff time.

I am taking a break between classes. I will be giving a lecture on Buddhism in my World Civilization class. I have studied it more than any of the topics we have thus far covered, but that doesn't necessarily translate into a good lecture. I think the textbook missed the whole point, which isn't surprising. So, I will give my twist--which, in a nutshell, is that Buddhism is not really a religion, but rather a psychological approach to daily life, and a brilliant one at that.

Last night, a benefit pancake supper in Fertile for a local man who's got pancreatic cancer. I remember him as a kid on the bus, so it sounds funny to call him a "local man." He doesn't wear overalls, like "local men" should; in fact, I still think of him as wearing a KISS t-shirt.

Well, one person I talked to at the supper figured they had served 500-600 people. For a town of 900, that isn't too bad. It was free will, and all I saw in the basket were $20 bills, nothing smaller. One of those times when you realize that people are good.

September 22, 2004

Time flies when you're having fun

Even though it was a dreary, drab day, teaching went well, so that means it was a good day. Tiring, but good. And it went fast, like this entire fall.

Covered all of Classical Greek civilization in World History class today--what a joke. It is a joke because 1) I know so little about it 2) there is so very much to know and one day is not enough 3)our ancestors spent years learning about Classical Greece. Greek civilization was considered basic. Now, we ignore it.

Then, on to American History where we went over the Stamp Act, Lexington and Concord, The Battle of Bunker Hill, Ticonderaga, the First Continental Congress, the Second Continental Congress and the Declaration of Independence in one day.

Friday, we will fight the entire Revolutionary War. That's not so bad--not really much happened in the war itself--most of the American Revolution had happened already in the minds of the people. The formal war was really a matter of the British putting up a decent fight until they could find a decent excuse to get out.

In American government class, we went over their papers. That was fun. Some of them had a struggle with their topic. All we can do is hope they get a better one next time. I have to think about a creative assignment for their next paper. But for now, I am letting them all revise their present papers. I told them that the whole goal of these papers is to improve their writing a few notches. No matter where they are at, they can improve a little bit. Writing is a craft, and it isn't all that difficult to improve markedly.

We then talked about the media. My main point was that we are going back to a more partisan press. At the beginnings of our history, the press was relentlessly partisan. Affairs, corruption, drinking--all was mercilessly exposed. I mean, the whole country knew about U. S. Grant's drinking before he was appointed head of the Army or was elected president.

However, when journalists became more professional--that is, when they weren't just trying to sell papers but were instead trying to abide by a professional code--they laid off the politicians for a few decades. FDR's handicap was off limits. Kennedy's womanizing wasn't mentioned. Nixon's drinking never was exposed. Johnson's general corruption, as well as his lechery with any woman who crossed his path, was ignored.

Suddenly, we have gone back to a more partisan, sensational and fragmented press. Once again, we have actual competition. For many years, the whole press consisted of AP, UPI, ABC, CBS, NBC--the old guys. Now, it has opened up. Even people like me can run a daily newspaper--for no cost whatsoever.

Dan Rather's problems go beyond this memo thing. He's a dinosaur.

AS USUAL, ONCE THE Twins clinch their division, they let up a bit, play the young guys, and start losing. I don't like this part of the season--but I won't complain. It sure is better to be preparing for the playoffs than to be preparing for next season.

September 21, 2004

Drippity dew

More rain, mostly drizzle. It didn't stop the concrete men from working on the foundation walls. They are setting up styrofoam insulating forms which will stay after the concrete is poured.

The plumber/electrician came out to go over the plans. Then we had a meeting with the concrete man to go over time-tables, etc. It is quite important to get things in place before the concrete is poured, of course. It is almost frightening.

So, I had to make some decisions, none of them traumatic. Where will the hot water heater be? In the corner. The water softener? Next to the hot water heater.

THE CEMENT MEN informed me that seven additional adult trumpeter swans landed in the wetland this morning, much to the chagrin of the two adults and five signets who have called the swamp home all summer. The trumpetings were quite violent until the new seven swans took off.

The swans also have been sighted wandering in the field out west. They get under the electric fence on one end, but when they reach the opposite end, they can't sneak under the wire without getting a shock, so they are forced to return the way they came and go back to the swamp. They seem to want to reach Erickson Lake, across the highway. It might be easier for them to fly, but I won't be suggesting that since I want them to hang around my swamp for a while.

Headed to Red Lake Falls to get the necessary parts for plumbing in the external wood stove to the new house. Learned a few things about stoves, etc., most interesting of which was the notion of a heat exchanger--which I found so intriguing that I think I am going to find an excuse to have a few of them in the house.

A heat exchanger is a one-inch thick slab of heavy copper which is honeycombed with intertwining, but invisible passages. There are two hoses running in and two running out. In between, in the metal rectangle, the two waters mingle in the passages without actually mixing--so the hotter water will raise the temperature of the colder water in just a brief time.

Get it?

That's why I am not writing technical manuals. So, I can't write about the heat exchanger in an elegant manner, but that doesn't subtract for the elegance of the invention.

I READ THROUGH some student papers again tonight. They are getting better upon further review. It is obvious that they made a good effort. I hope to get that across tomorrow--at the same time I am handing the papers back without a grade until they improve them.

September 20, 2004

Twins Clinch Division Title

No surprise. The Twins clinched the Central Division title for the third straight year. It was a formality. There was no way they were going to lose it in the last week--the White Sox weren't even close.

Now, they must get themselves lined up for the playoffs. In the first round, they will face either the Red Sox or the Yankees. Neither will be easy. It will be only a five game series. I like the Twins chances, as long as they can get Santana and Radke lined up to pitch the first two games.

I could go down the list of reasons why the Twins are better this year than the past two years, but I'll save that for later.

WHAT A MISERABLE DAY. Weatherwise, at least. I remember a few falls like this: the remnants of hurricanes down south seem to douse us for days on end. Today was like a mini-hurricane. I couldn't bear to go out to the house site to see what sort of swamp it has become.

So, it was just as well that I spent the day inside teaching classes. American History class is starting to get more interesting now that we are into the Revolutionary War. We'll spend an entire two days on that event.

Oh, and for World Civilization class, we will dispense with Classical Greek civilization in all its glory in the space of one hour on Wednesday. Buddhism is Friday. Confucianism Monday. Today, we covered the history of Isreal.

These survey courses are insane. Too much at once! Too fast! Nothing gets its due. When you skim at this fast rate, you don't get into enough detail to generate much curiousity. I am trying to add some details, but it is a struggle. Fact is, I am about two days ahead of the students on the topic matter, if that.

Government class is going fine. I attempted an internet exercise today, sending them to look up things on the web. It didn't really work. They were all staring at their computers, but only a few people volunteered any information about the questions involved. To work, such an exercise would have to be meticulously planned. You wonder why college professors drift towards giving lectures? It's easier.

Computers provide an entire new batch of excuses for lazy students. Oh, you didn't get my email? Wow, the system must have been down. I had my paper done, sorry you didn't get it.

Wednesday, I am going to tell the American history class that instead of giving them a test, I think I will just grade their posture during lectures and leave it at that. The grades will likely be the same for posture as they would be on the test. I can't envision anybody who sits slouched with their arms folded doing very well on the test. Meanwhile, you know that people who sit poised and at the ready during lectures are going to get an A or a B on the test.

September 19, 2004

Santana sails

Pitching poetry. Spent the afternoon watching Johan Santana make the Baltimore Orioles look foolish. I was angry when Gardenhire pulled him after eight innings. Good grief, let him go for the complete game shutout. He had 14 strikeouts over eight innings--and had struck out five straight batters when they pulled him.

A little drama in the dugout as Gardenhire walked down to talk to Santana and was obviously told to go jump. Gardenhire walked away smiling, but you knew he wanted him out of there and that Santana had no say in the matter. Eventually, however, and unfortunately, Santana agreed to leave the game on peaceful terms, and his teamates lined up to congratulate the amazing 25-year-old.

Thirty consecutive scoreless innings! Eleven straight wins. This is big stuff for a pitcher. Santana's out of this world right now. This is a streak of dominance that hasn't been seen since Koufax.

Subtext: Santana, Luis Rivas and Henry Blanco are from Venezuela, as is Juan Rincon. Venezuala hasn't been known as a source for good players until now. The Twins have had a good scout down there, and now it is paying off. The Twins are the favorite team in Venezuela, which at present is in anarchy.

Santana and other ball players are being told not to go home. They are wealthy, obviously, and since there is little law there right now, they are likely to be accosted, kidnapped, whatever.

WHAT A BEAUTIFUL day, even though it was hot and windy. I went out to the house site and watched the swans, who are moving around the swamp more and more. Spent an hour there. Never once was bored. Nice break from class work. I think my swamp is beautiful. Two blue herons flew around today, and numerous ducks.

Looked at more student papers today. The most memorable line: "The columnist I read seems to put all Republicans up on a pedal stool."