Country Scribe : Eric Bergeson's Weblog

October 22, 2004

Drippy and dreary

Rained much of the day in Crookston where I was teaching, but when I got back to the nursery, I found out that it had held off until 4:30. So, Joe and Ken got a full day of digging trees in, and the carpenters made some progress on the house.

I was able to stand on the second floor today for the first time. What a view! Of course, it there will be walls impeding some of the view, but there should be enough windows to see quite a bit. I have never lived in a house with a full two stories of height.

I have 80 papers to read this weekend. Five pages each. I won't get them done. I did read a couple of them, however. The student showed a genius for malapropisms--many words were used in wrong ways, although her intent was clear. But the clincher came when she ended with a deathbed scene where her hero gasped his last words: "I am contempt!"

The World Civilization class complained a bit about my lecture today. Funny. As I finished, one student announced, "That was boring!" A second chimed in, "well, the first half wasn't too bad." That brought agreement from the others, and from me, for I really didn't have a good grip on the second half of the lecture--and they noticed. Tough crowd.

They did papers on the history of various commodities. They dressed the papers up so nice, some with elaborate front pages with pictures, and produced some great titles: "Beans Through the Ages," "Cattle and Their Effect on History," "The History of Beer." I can't wait to read them.

Of course, about a dozen people were suddenly too ill to come to class. Term paper illness. Two overslept because they were up all night working on the paper. Three others wrote emails confessing to be "one of those types" who waited to the last minute. Could they wait until Monday? Of course, I said. The meanest thing you can do is postpone the due date, for you know they'll wait until the last minute once again and be miserable the whole while.

I commented on a couple of the American Government opinion papers to the class. A couple of sweet looking girls advocated solving the prison overcrowding problem with drastically increased use of capital punishment. I mean, these people cost money! They aren't worth it! They should be put to death and that would clean things up in a hurry! Plus it would be a deterrent! So, we had a little debate over that.

October 20, 2004

Red Sox win

Good finally beats Evil, although the Red Sox, with their $150 million payroll, may be a dubious representative of Good. Still: anybody who opposes the Yanks is good by default.

If the Twins would have beaten the Yanks and had gone on to face the Sox, they would have robbed the Red Sox of their golden opportunity for sweet revenge against the Yankees. So, I suppose if the Twins had to lose, allowing the Red Sox to beat the Yanks wasn't a bad way to go out.

What a scene outside of Fenway Park in Boston tonight. Mobs of people jumping up and down. And the game wasn't even in Boston.

Now, if Houston wins tomorrow, Roger Clemens will return to Fenway Park in an Astro uniform to face the team he jilted ten years ago.

To make a long story short, there should be a lot of good baseball left.

AND, PERHAPS we have some fall left. Tomorrow, the temperatures climb into the sixties. The carpenters will be putting the floor on the second floor of the house. Meanwhile, we will start digging trees with the help of our high school contigent. They are off school due to MEA meetings.

TODAY was a frustrating day in two out of three of my classes. I was bored by the topic in American Government. So, I went off on something I was interested in--the penchant of historians for ranking presidents, as well as their reasons for ranking presidents as they do--but the class sensed, accurately, that I was killing time because I was bored with the original topic, and they got restless.

I brought a book of pictures of cathedrals which I projected onto the screen for World Civilization class. However, my enthusiasm for cathedrals didn't necessarily translate into rapt student interest in the pictures and my commentary.

In American history class, we trudged through the Industrial Revolution. I tried to give the story of Eli Whitney some oomph. I sort of assumed that everybody has heard of him and that the stories are all old, but I am starting to think that this was the first time around on Eli for most of the students.

How could that be? Wasn't the invention of interchangeable parts part of our elementary school history curriculum?

On the upside, I had a hoot reading the second batch of American Government papers. Instead of assigning a topic, I told them to write about "something which torques you off." Wow, did they respond to that command. Hilarious!

October 19, 2004

Red Sox amaze

I have been watching the score on ESPN with the sound off because I am busy preparing for classes tomorrow. The game between the Sox and the Yankees was not on my satellite dish, but I did listen to the ending on the radio.

Amazing. Curt Schilling pitched injured, only threw hard when he had to, and tamed the Yankees. There were two controversial reversed calls by the umpires, both to the detriment of the Yanks.

This is the first time in baseball history that a team has returned from a 3-0 defecit in a seven game series to even the series at three apiece. The Sox could make it all even more amazing with a victory tomorrow night in Game 7.

The central figure in this is the loquacious Curt Schilling, an excellent pitcher who came to the Red Sox with the expressed purpose of helping the Red Sox end the jinx of 1918. Schilling has a sense of baseball history. He may get into politics after his career ends. Right now, I bet he could beat John Kerry in Massachusetts.

I was forced to spend the evening on school work because I spent the day staining the siding for my house. It felt good to get a start on that formidable project. Now I know it is not that tough.

Tonight, I prepared a lecture on the Byzantine Empire for World Civilization class. Wow, is that interesting. I have always been a fan of huge cathedrals. I didn't know that one of the most amazing of them all was built in the 540s. (yes, 540, without the 1 in front) The Hagia Sophia--type it in Google to find pictures--still stands in Constantinople--today called Istanbul.

Red Sox revive

Boston beat New York last night in 14 innings. No team has ever come back from a 3-0 defecit to win a seven game series, but the Red Sox have a chance. It is good to see former Twin David Ortiz pound the ball.

Oh, to be in Fenway last night for the game. Every baseball fan should see one game in Fenway Park in their lifetime. It isn't so much the park itself--although it is perfectly charming--it is the fans. They cling to every pitch with a tenacity unequalled elsewhere in the baseball world.

CAME HOME from class yesterday to see walls on the house--actual walls you can't walk through. The thing is taking shape, although I don't know how the rain during the night will effect today's progress.

Had home construction dreams last night. Nightmares, more like. One of the sub-contractors who is a gentleman in real life decided to turn difficult in my dream and was extorting money from me in various nefarious ways. It was a relief to wake up and have my life be simple again.

JOE AND I traveled to Mahnomen last night to sing for the Knights of Columbus banquet at the Catholic Church. First, because I hadn't paid attention enough to the information sent to us, we drove to Waubun--eleven miles beyond Mahnomen. The Catholic Church there was very empty, so I figured the event must have been in Mahnomen.

Lots of familiar faces, good customers of the nursery in a different environment, friendly people. The emcee Ed told jokes which were quite good. The priest gave an efficient and well-phrased talk. The food was church basement good.

Joe and I used Joe's new sound system, which we hauled in from the pickup. It was very helpful. I never thought I would be in the position of hauling in sound equipment to a church basement, but life takes us in strange directions.

Joe sold four CDs, even though he hadn't brought any along. People asked. He offered to mail them out. They wrote checks. I suspect if we had brought a bunch along and promoted only slightly, he might have sold a could of dozen.

I suppose I shouldn't be generalizing about church basements after only one experience with Catholics and after dozens with the Lutherans--but here goes: I think the Catholics have more fun when they hold a banquet in their basement than the Lutherans do when they hold a banquet in their basement.

Who knows why. There was a relaxation there, and there is a relaxation with Catholics, a willingness to be human and make jokes and be honest and generally carry on--that you don't find with Protestants, who generally act as if they are responsible for their own salvation.

With Protestants, the external rituals, what there are of them, are supposed to reflect an inner reality, a reality which is of greater importance in the eternal realm. With Catholics, the rituals themselves do the heavy lifting--which sort of frees up the people to have more fun. Get the rituals in order and go out and be human.

October 17, 2004


With the Twins' season over, I watched my first couple of quarters of football tonight over at friends Garth and Colleen's. It looks like the Vikings have a good offense again. It was fun to watch Moss do his thing. Culpepper seems to have hit his stride.

How can anybody hit their stride in this weather? Wow, all I feel like doing is eating and sleeping. I have quit running. It is too cold. When the weather gets raw, I immediately get a raw throat. It calmed down today, but man, I am thinking of Tucson.

No Tucson when there's a house to put up. Not that I will pound a nail. There are just a lot of decisions to make. What kind of tile? What kind of carpet? As if that wasn't enough, today I started thinking I will move around the walls upstairs.

Of course, it is all fun. I am not going to complain. I am, after all, spending my days building a new house and not searching for my next meal.

I mean, if you think about it too hard, it looks grotesque. There are all those poor people suffering in Haiti--from all sorts of deprivations--disease, lack of shelter, storms, political chaos, the works. And I am building a house.

I am not going to justify it because it ain't justifiable. And I am not going to feel guilty because that won't do any good either. I guess I'll just keep in mind that I am ridiculously lucky and leave it at that.