Country Scribe : Eric Bergeson's Weblog

October 30, 2004

Down to the wire

Nobody seems to know which way the election is going to break, although many people are making predictions. There are 33 different scenarios which would throw the election into the House of Representatives.

If the Electoral College vote is tied 269-269, the House would decide the presidency with each state having one vote. That means North Dakota would have the same say as California. The Republicans control 30 of the House delegations, so it is likely Bush would win.

The vice-presidency would then be decided by a straight vote in the Senate, which may well be controlled by the Democrats by that time. That means that there is a possibility that George Bush would have John Edwards as his vice-president come January.

I have my preferences between the candidates, but more than anything, I pull for chaos. The closer the race the better. I want to see the old machinery of the Constitution dusted off and put to use.

I see that Minnesota's large Nader vote might throw the state to Bush. Typical Minnesotans.

In all likelihood, the race will be decided Tuesday night.

IT MUST have rained three or four inches last night. I know, I should have a rain guage so my reports would be accurate. In any case, I went over to the house this morning and swept the water off the second floor. Dean the carpenter also came out and got rid of some of the water--just in case it freezes.

Around the perimeter of the house, the ground is collapsing as it settles. The swamp's water level was raised several inches, covering the stumps from dead trees which Dad sawed for firewood a few years back. I put on some rubber boots and walked to the drainage ditch from the swamp, and it was roaring.

I would like eventually to dam that ditch up to keep the water level in the swamp high. However, for this winter, I would like the water level down a bit so that I can saw off some of the dead stuff out there on the open water when the swamp freezes over.

I HAVE SUCH a great view from the second floor right now. I can see the entire grand panorama of the swamp laid out at my feet. That view will be restricted somewhat by the roof. So, I am planning a couple more windows.

October 29, 2004


It rained like crazy tonight. Went over to Lakeview for supper and it was like a blizzard--both ways. The house is wide open and getting wet. I guess what happens will happen. Maybe the 2x4s will get a little gray, who knows.

THANKS for the help on the bolt problem! The general consensus solution was to use threaded rod, and that's what we're going to do. I ended up finding 6 inch lag bolts on the internet. They were UPSed from Illinois this morning.

A pretty good day of teaching today. The students were fairly lively, and I was in a pretty good mood--plus the topics were interesting, so that made things go a little better. In American history, we discussed American religion--always a favorite topic for me.

World History class is blissfully chaotic. Students participate, some more than others, some a bit more than is efficient--but I am not about to stifle it. We get off the topic a lot, which is fun. We went over the Sung dynasty in China today. The Sung emperors were a pacifist bunch, always eager to buy off their potential enemies before war hit. In the end, they went broke and the Mongols ran them over.

During the time of the Sung, scholars were honored more than warriors. In fact, the regime's soldiers were eventually reduced to sweeping the streets. Meanwhile, the emperor and his court recited poetry and wrote plays.

IT STRIKES me that our history books don't give the Chinese proper credit. They invented the printing press almost 1000 years before Gutenberg, but nobody mentions that. The Chinese also had a very advanced government bureaucracy two thousand years before the German Max Weber allegedly invented the concept.

I had another surprising paper come in--quite late, but when I read it, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the writer--who rarely shows up for class and doesn't seem all that motivated--was quite gifted. He looks like a jock who's there for football. I quizzed him. Do you know that you are a good writer? Oh, yeah, I usually do good on that kinda stuff, he said. I told him not to take his talent lightly.

SAW in the Star Tribune that St. Cloud State University elected a male homecoming queen. Ha! However, he's now getting threats. AND, the mother of one of the female homecoming queen candidates is starting a petition drive to prevent such a thing from happening again. Whatever. Always good to see people defending the sanctity of Homecoming.

I guess there's nothing more humorless than the mother of a daughter who didn't win.

October 28, 2004

Running in circles

My day started in Grand Forks, where I was searching for 3/4 inch bolts 20-inches long. Their purpose is to hold the giant beams in my house in place. Nobody had any, and several people informed me that I wouldn't find them.

So, I came home in defeat. I spent the late morning and early afternoon talking with the log home company to see what I should do, and calling various lumber yards to see if they had big bolts. None did. We need 3/4", and even Home Depot only has 1/2".

Tonight, I found 3/4 inch lag bolts online. I will order them in the morning. It is frustrating to spend a day getting little or nothing done.

I stained a total of eight boards before I decided I was so tired out that I had to go home for a nap. What a nap it was. I then got up and did what I usually do when I have a frustrating day--clean house. I scrubbed the bathroom down good, getting the rust out of the tub--since I think the Culligan man has finally exorcised the demon from the water softener. If the water softener is truly healed, then it makes sense to get the rust scrubbed off.

The iron-removing cleaner works wonders. I scrubbed hard, and the lime and rust came off in a hurry. I know you're supposed to use rubber gloves, but I didn't--and now my hands are a bit tingly. I hope the effects aren't permanent.

As for the water softener, service call after service call hasn't healed it. I think we finally figured out that the screen was plugged with rust chunks from the well. Sure enough, there's a filter in the water line which hasn't been used since I moved in--we changed filters, turned it on and hoped for the best.

I AM SO sick of this election stuff that it makes me literally nauseated. After reading the news on the internet--all too much election stuff--I have this sick feeling. I wonder, am I getting the flu? No, I quickly realize, I am just hung over from reading the news.

And then a bunch of insulting election literature arrives in the mail. And then Walter Mondale, or a recording of Sir Walter, calls me during my nap. And then a Republican pollster calls asking what issue I care about most. As soon as I answer, I find out that the Republicans happen have the solution--if only they could control Congress and the White House--oh, wait a minute, they already do.

October 27, 2004

Red Sox win

In an anti-climactic victory, the Boston Red Sox completed a sweep of the listless St. Louis Cardinals tonight at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. The World Series was a flop. Only the first game had any drama. The rest were runaways.

So, the Red Sox nation be celebrating throughout New England tonight. I suspect many people will be hung-over at work tomorrow.

CLASSES went well today. The students were a bit more lively in my first two classes. In the third class, American Government, they were sullen and sleepy. That is the class where the median age is about 18 or less. No wonder. Difficult for those kids to stir up any interest in the Supreme Court.

The house is moving along. Lots of decisions. Today, I saw that I probably want a couple of more windows upstairs. When the Kronschnabels put the sheathing on the walls, it looked like there should be more windows. I will check into ordering a couple tomorrow.

CONFESSION: A couple of you have asked about Nemo my cat. Truth is, Nemo disappeared when I tried to move his place of residence to the nursery. He shot out of my pickup and was never seen again. I feel bad about it, as if I am a negligent parent. But it is a cat, and fortunately, if you allow your cat to disappear into the wild people are more forgiving of you than if you do the same with a toddler.

October 26, 2004

Red Sox on the verge

Listened to Game 3 on the radio on the way home from Fargo tonight. No contest. Pedro pitched well, the Cardinals were dead in the water, and now the Red Sox, barring a collosal collapse on the order of the collapse suffered by the Yanks only days ago, will soon end their 86-year World Series drought. There will be some craziness in New England if and when it happens!

Tonight, I went to the Great Northern restaurant in Fargo where I spoke to the Fargo Garden Society. There were a surprising number of familiar faces. Had some very good salmon steak.

The Great Northern is a former train depot. It is sort of a jinxed restaurant location. Several restaurants have gone broke in that building. It is huge, and has a microbrewery. The heating bill is reputed to be $10,000 per month in the winter, so it is no wonder.

But it is a pleasant place, so every time it starts up again, I hope that it succeeds.

TODAY, I spent a lot of time out at the house site making decisions. Things shake out slowly. As you decide one thing, you end up upsetting another thing, and sometimes it all falls apart and you have to start over. Get rid of this wall, and that screws up the plumbing.

Well, today's decisions were pretty harmless, and resulted in things being more like I wanted than they were before, so that was good. It is hitting home that this is my house and nobody is going to care how it looks but me.

I have never been this busy in my life. I enjoy it. In the spring, we are very busy at the nursery--but that is one thing only--you go in the morning, give it your all, and flop in bed at night. There are results: Each evening, you add up the till.

This busy is different. It involves changing gears many times per day from nursery work (mostly management on my part), to house building, to teaching college students, to speaking to gardening groups and doing some music. I enjoy it, but I have to be careful to survey all activities several times per day to make sure I am not forgetting something important.

I was supposed to get a study guide ready for my American government class, and that sort of slipped off the radar screen.

What makes it all fun and completely bearable is that there is an end in sight on every one of the projects. School is half finished. So is the house.

GOT A FLIER in the mail promoting John Kerry. It showed him looking approvingly over a pitiful dead pheasant, all crumpled up in the hand of a hunter. That's the Kerry campaign's idea of how to appeal to Minnesotans. "Gol durn, that's a nice burd you done keeled, Gomer!" Gee whiz, Martha, he is really one of us! Ugh.

October 25, 2004


That's the word I would use to describe myself today! Even though the sun shone, I was a bit sloggy and so were the students. They yawned. They looked depressed. I tried to rev them up, but it was to no avail. Only a few times did the light flicker on.

Oh well. Tis the season. As we swing into the cold months, everybody gets a little bit slow. I have observed in past winters that everybody seems to get a bit crabby with the change of seasons.

The subject matter in my classes doesn't help. How do you make the Supreme Court seem interesting? It just isn't. I hear that Renquist is ill. I suppose I could make a thing of that on Wednesday. Will he resign quickly if Bush loses so Bush can appoint a successor before Kerry is inaugurated?

In World Civilization class, we went over the Gupta dynasties of India, circa 300-550 A.D. The Guptas presided over what the text claims was the best governed empire in the world at the time, perhaps ever. There was little or no crime. There were free hospitals for the poor. The people were nearly all vegetarians.

However, they left behind little historical evidence. It all comes from Chinese monks who made pilgrimages to India and returned with reports to their emperor which have survived.

One of the said Chinese monks knew that to get to India from China he would have to climb the Himalayas. He had nowhere to practice climbing within the vicinity of the monastary, so he piled up chairs and tables as high as he could get them and practiced climbing them for months.

His behavior aroused suspicions that he was going to leave, naturally. The emperor was alerted and summoned the monk. The monk said he was indeed planning to leave even though the emperor forbade it. The emperor tolerated the trip, and when the monk returned 16 years later with hundreds of manuscripts, the emperor welcomed him back in a big way.

So goes the tale. In American History, the tale today was about the Trail of Tears--the forced removal of the Cherokee Indians from Georgia to Oklahoma, despite the assertion by the Supreme Court that they were entitled to their lands in Georgia. Sad story. Thousands died on the trip. It was a forced march of the grimmest proportions.

So, perhaps it is no wonder that the students are in a bit of a stupor.

WHEN I RETURNED to the nursery, I saw that the Kronschnabel boys are starting on the second story of the house. I climbed up there to have a look around. What a view of the swamp! Again, it is good to be teaching--otherwise I would be out at the building site several times per day driving the Kronsch boys nuts.

THE RED SOX are up two games to nothing. Keep in mind, they were up two games to nothing in 1986 and managed to blow the whole World Series. Two games to nothing means nothing.