April 15, 2005
Because the game wasn't on television, I only heard the end--but Santana won again and the Twins beat Cleveland 3-2. I can't wait until the Timberwolves season is over so that they don't preempt the Twins any more.
The past two days, I attended a retreat for the Northwest Minnesota Foundation. I am on their board. We toured Digi-Key in Thief River Falls yesterday, and had a sort of annual evaluation of the foundation today.
Digi-Key is an amazing company. I was very, very impressed. They don't really manufacture a thing. They simply stock electronic parts--around 280,000 different parts. They send out 4 million catalogs per year, each one numbering 1500 pages.
Fifteen minutes after a phone order is entered on the computer, it is boxed. The genius of the company is finding a way to sort out those parts and get them packaged efficiently and quickly. You should see the machinery--the belts and clickers and clackers that do the work. I still barely comprehend what they do, but I have an idea.
So, Digi-Key buys in parts from Panasonic and dozens upon dozens of other electronic part manufacturers. Some of the parts are a small as a grain of pepper. The challenge is to automatically package the grain of pepper part with, say, a 100-lb spool of wire--in the same package--automatically--without losing the pepper grain. It all happens so fast you can barely see it.
Digi-Key has 1400 employees. They are looking to hire 200 more soon. They are planning an enormous new building. The company takes in 1/2 billion dollars per year.
It was a very worthwhile and interesting tour.
After a four hour meeting this morning with Foundation staff, I drove to Lengby to pick up Cassio, one of the two Brazilian exchange workers we are having at the nursery this spring. I have spent the rest of the day orienting Cassio to the nursery and the house--where he will stay all of three days.
April 14, 2005
So, the Twins' slugging first baseman Justin Morneau goes on the disabled list because he gets conked on the head. The Twins dip into the farm system and pull up Terry Tiffee. They put him in the #4 spot in the batting order and in his first game, he homers, doubles and has three RBIs.
This shows the strength of the Twins. Tiffee is a player the Twins don't feel has exceptional talent--but he just keeps doing so well when they bring him up to the majors. He shows a flair for getting hits at the right time. He makes big plays at third base. He's the sort of workhorse Tom Kelly likes. The Twins will have to keep him up now, even if Morneau comes back.
Just as important, Tiffee shows that the Twins can replace almost any one of the parts in their lineup without losing a step. Lew Ford can step in if any outfielder gets injured and do just as good a job--with the exception of catcher, where Mauer is one of those once-in-a-lifetime players who just can't be replaced.
Again, I say, this team is just going to wear people down.
April 13, 2005
Swan from the crow's nest
The white dot on the lower left of the picture is a swan. It has spent endless hours the past few days grooming itself on that very spot. Then it disappears, only to return to the same tuft of grass.
None of the water is visible from the nursery, so it is a surprise to people who come out to the crow's nest. For me it is fun to finally be able to watch the bird activity on the swamp which we have heard
for years, but never seen.
For those of you who have been to the nursery before, the green grass across the swamp is the gardens.
The first interior paint went on this morning out at the Swamp Castle. Marvin is putting on a coat of Chocolate Eclair in the kitchen. It is actually maroon, but with a hint of brown. Marvin thinks it will only require one coat. As usual, Marv is spreading it on thick.
April 12, 2005
Early season Twins prognosis
The Twins came back to win in the 9th inning tonight. I continue to feel good about this team, and I think they are just going to wear down opponents this year. Why?
1) Good starting pitching. They have more in the minors, too. Mays is back, Silva will probably be okay, and if either one or both goes down, they have two minor leaguers who are more than ready to pitch up in the majors.
2) Cuddyer at third is an improvement over Koskie.
3) Bartlett at short is an improvement over Guzman. I was wondering about this guy, since he did make a few errors last year--until I found out that the old gray fox, Tom Kelly, is the one who scouted him and recommended that the Twins trade for him. Kelly makes almost no mistakes about analyzing players. You notice that the Twins have no prima donna stars? No big spoiled sluggers? No steriod users or even people suspected of steroid use? That's because Tom Kelly is still in the organization quietly giving advice.
4) Mauer is going to be one of the best catchers in the league. He's not hitting now, but he will. He's a great catcher.
5) Shannon Stewart is healthier than he was last year at this time. In fact, last year at this time, both Stewart and Hunter were struggling to get used to the soft new turf--it caused an injuries to both of them. The turf has firmed up this year--there's no complaining now.
6) The bullpen is more solid than ever before. Terry Mulholland functions as a coach as well as a pitcher. They have a leader, which is what they lacked down there last year.
7) Mientkiewitcz is gone. Mr. Soap Opera Daily Drama man is what he was, although his glove at first base is one of the best ever. Even his defense wasn't as good in the last two years, however. He seemed to slow down. Yes, we are two steps lower in defense with Morneau there, (and about ten steps lower with LeCroy there), but Morneau has more potential with the bat.
Potential problems: The Central Division is toughening up. Every team has improved with the exception of Kansas City.
Injuries can ruin any good season; however, they Twins have more solid minor leaguers waiting for a chance to play in the big leagues than any other team in the majors.
The main thing is--when you have a bunch of live arms in the bullpen who can come in a fire hard, you have a chance to win every game. This bullpen is stacked with live arms.
With the house deal finalized this morning, and closing scheduled for about a week from now, I started packing my belongings today. I found a bunch of things I forgot I owned. I threw several bags full of stuff I never want to see again.
And I started pulling books off the shelf. Books are the bane of any moving experience, but I won't part with a one. There's too much there. I have packed about six boxes full, and they are backstrainers. The only ones I was tempted to throw were textbooks on finance. I don't know when and where I picked them up, and I am 98% certain they are absolutely worthless, but I boxed them up anyway.
I decided to empty the deepest closets first so the house has the appearance of normality for as long as possible. I took all the junk from the closets, put it in a pile in the middle of the basement and then sorted it out into boxes. One box of work shoes. One huge bin of afghans. All musty.
So many clothes! Musty smelling clothes. I'll have to wash them all before I take them to Goodwill.
Enough for a day. Tonight, its time to vegetate in front of the Twins game.
Cousin Anne had the misfortune of coming home from a trip to find that the trees which lined the canal next to her property were all torn down. She recorded the disaster on her weblog.
Anne spent the winter photographing bald eagles which perched on the trees. Now, the trees are gone.
None of the trees appeared to be poplar, but I ran across this poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins last week which expresses his feelings about the cutting down of trees.
BINSEY POPLARSfelled in 1879
MY aspens dear, whose airy cages quelled,
Quelled or quenched in leaves the leaping sun,
All felled, felled, are all felled;
Of a fresh and following folded rank
Not spared, not one
That dandled a sandalled
Shadow that swam or sank
On meadow and river and wind-wandering weed-winding bank.
O if we but knew what we do
When we delve or hew—
Hack and rack the growing green!
Since country is so tender
To touch, her being só slender,
That, like this sleek and seeing ball
But a prick will make no eye at all,
Where we, even where we mean
To mend her we end her,
When we hew or delve:
After-comers cannot guess the beauty been.
Ten or twelve, only ten or twelve
Strokes of havoc únselve
The sweet especial scene
Rural scene, a rural scene,
Sweet especial rural scene.
This poem contains fewer of Hopkins' eccentricities than most. His use of the word "unselve" is typical. It is a word he made up, and it comes from the word "self" which Hopkins uses as a verb meaning "to do what you were meant to do." If you are in tune with your mission on this earth, you are "selfing."
Once you get around some of Hopkins' strangenesses, he is, to my notion, the most rewarding poet out there.
This bloom caught my eye this morning. It is a dreary day, but sometimes cloudy days make the flowers show up better even than sunny days do. In particular, the geraniums are looking luminescent this morning. It is tough to capture their color with a camera, however--geranium pictures always seem a little lacking to me.
The striping on the bloom of the dahlietta pictured here is caused by a controlled virus. In fact, any time you see variegation of this sort, be it in a bloom or a leaf, it is probably the result of a benificent virus. Usually benificent, anyways--I do know that some grower segregate their variegated leafed varieties from other varieties just in case. By the time the plants reach us, we don't worry about it.
April 11, 2005
Swans at the Swamp Castle
I had the good fortune to be out at the house this evening when five swans flew over. They are so huge you can hear their wings creak. Two splashed down. The other three apparently weren't welcome, so they circled and flew away.
One of the landed swans went off into the reeds and dug for food while the other stood out in the sunshine on a little tuffet in the swamp and preened, sticking its head under its feathers on its back and grooming. At one point they came together and flapped their wings at each other. Both skimmed the water with their beaks, presumably for algea, which seems in short supply.
I had about 15 minutes to sit in the crow's nest before I had to get back up to the nursery to take the Fertile 4-H club on a tour of the greenhouses. I suppose I could have sat there and watched the swans for an hour or two.
Instinct is an amazing thing. Swans just know
to find a muskrat house upon which to build their nest--or do they learn that because they were raised on a muskrat house and recognize the smell? Who knows. It is incredible in any case. How do they know to groom so fastidiously?
I enjoy cats for the same reason--it is fun to watch them to all of their instinctive things. Stretch. Yawn. Cuddle. Press their paws alternately on your chest. Lick their paws and clean their face.
It makes you wonder how much of our behavior is instinctive, or perhaps mutated instinctive behavior. Why do nearly all adolescent males like loud pounding music? Why are mothers of teen children often quite humorless and serious, while older women join the Red Hats? Why do men get so preoccupied with conquering the world until they retire when they get interested in making birdhouses and drinking coffee?
Are these hunting and nurturing urges that are programmed into us but which are being played out on a modern stage?
Why does there seem to be a deep need in all of us for attention? What primal role does getting attention play in our psyches?
If a swan with a bird brain can find the same swamp each spring after thousands of miles of flying, can you imagine instinctive urges might be stored in our brains--urges of which we only have the dimmest clue, but which control us all day?
I find it useful sometimes to view humans as little wind-up toys, doing their thing, their little act, unable to stop playing out their little act, thinking they're in control, but really not even able to stop doing their thing even if they wanted to...until they wind down to a stop. Kerpunk.
If one steps back from the human circus far enough, it can be as fun...and as beautiful to watch...as swans landing on a swamp. I suppose. I am not sure. I have not yet attained that exalted state where I view all human foibles with equanimity and humor.
Here is Melfred Roragen, who will turn 90 next month, at a recording
session in the schoolhouse at the nursery last week. He will return
this week to finish up the recording project.
Melfred has sung at hundreds of funerals in the Fertile area over the
years, most of them at Little Norway Church. Aaron Rongen, who has
worked at the nursery for many years and is a neighbor of Melfred, got
the idea that Melfred should record an album. Another neighbor of
Melfred's, and a friend of mine, Colleen Kaste, agreed to accompany.
Joe has the recording equipment, so now it is a go.
Melfred is still going strong. He works at the school every week as a
volunteer. He says the kids "gave me a new lease on life."
April 10, 2005
Here is a satellite image
of the old hometown, Fertile, MN. Now, take your cursor and move around on the map and fly anywhere you want. The nursery is three miles south and five miles east, not hard at all to find given the large number of greenhouses on the property. As far as I can tell, this picture was taken in the fall of 2003.
They are watching us!
I get an odd thrill out of making big decisions quickly. Today at Lowe's, I found two toilets I liked (no, I didn't try them out) and ordered two bathroom vanities. I also bought all the interior paint. Five colors. Those people are impressive. They had all 14 gallons mixed in 20 minutes. All of these decisions done in 45 minutes. Just a little longer than an oil change.
Of course, I have been fretting over paint colors for several weeks, and I had in mind what I wanted on all of the other items. I am just not into standing under those awful flourescent lights in a big box store and hemming and hawing. No fun. In and out. Quick. Get it done and get me outta there.
So far, my plumber has been a good source of decorating wisdom. He has picked out most of the fixtures and has displayed exquisite taste on every occasion.
I would have left the toilets to him, too, but today I ran across a woman in the toilet section at Lowe's who was such a wonderful salesperson--she just said to me, I'll tell you what, these are the toilets you need, they're high quality but not overly expensive and plumbers love 'em. I was sold right there. What more can you ask for in a toilet?
Although he gave up two runs over seven innings--a good performance by any standard except his own--Johan Santana got on a roll and struck out 11 hitters. When he's on a roll, there is just nothing opposing batters can do. I found myself tonight hoping that the Twins' batters would get out so I could go back to watching Santana pitch. That doesn't happen very often. It was good to see a very good crowd at the Metrodome. I think people have caught on that this is one very good Twins team.
Okay, my mother is managing the greenhouses--which at this time of year means she is working 10 hrs per day, seven days a week trying to get things organized for the spring rush. So today, she took some time off to do this
: build a model of a proposed new garage for their house. She wanted to see what it would look like.
I planned a bit for my new house, but never once did it occur to me to build a model of it. And certainly not during the spring season!