December 03, 2005
It isn't a big deal, but the Twins added a good second baseman, Luis Castillo, via a trade with the Florida Marlins. In return, they gave up a couple of hard-throwing pitching prospects. Castillo, 30, is expected to finally
fill the gap at second base for the Twins after a season during which they tried six others in the spot.
The only problem is that the Twins have historically failed miserably when trading for second basemen. Last summer, they traded for Bret Boone. He was gone in two weeks. Tom Herr? A big bust that cost the Twins Tom Brunansky. Wally Backman. Larry Milbourne. Every time the Twins go out and get a good second baseman, he fails.
I remember an article about the California Angels which claimed that they were jinxed at third base. They had something like 58 different third basemen in 10 years. Bad things happened to whoever they tried at third base. The Twins might have the same thing going at second base. We'll see what happens to Castillo.
I can be rational, but then there's baseball. My superstitions include but are not limited to:
--a firm belief that if I turn on the game and the opposing team is batting, I must turn it off right away or the opponents will score runs until I finally do switch the game off. This has happened dozens of times--it is okay if the Twins are batting when I tune in, but if the opponents are up when I click the on button, I have to shut it off right away or I will cost the Twins the game.
--if the game really matters and it is going well, I have to stay just where I started watching/listening to the game until the last out. This has worked countless times, including the time my motionless state won the final game of the World Series for the Twins in 1991.
--if I really want something good to happen, I need to turn off the game when the Twins have the bases full. The resulting grand slam is well worth missing when I know it wouldn't have happened had I still been watching.
December 02, 2005
Traveled to Alexandria yesterday. Last night, I performed for a bank Christmas party. It was a fun, good-spirited bunch. They obviously felt very comfortable with their boss and their fellow employees. That is something you can tell right away when you enter a room.
On the way down, I took a picture of my favorite lone cottonwood in the world, on MN 108 north of Rothsay. The tree was on the cover of my second book, but it looked elegant once again yesterday. All of the branches were covered in ice, but I gave up on trying to catch that effect with the camera--it just doesn't come across.
To my notion, the area between Rollag and Fergus Falls is the prettiest country on earth. I have never seen any scenery I like more. Of course, I would rather the hills were green with spring wheat, but we'll take what we can get.
Between here and Fergus Falls, I think there are about a half-dozen old townhalls, some renovated nicely, and at least two old schoolhouses, including this one south of Rollag.
November 30, 2005
I am slowly getting used to winter, enjoying it a little more, not being so restless. It helps to have a day like today where the temperature was moderate and travel wasn't quite so difficult. The pile of firewood is going down fast; at some point in the near future I am going to have to start sawing again.
I have started to read again--the first time I have done much reading since I taught some history classes last fall. Since then, I have had to get reading glasses. When I have them on, the hours of reading fly by. I wonder how long I was avoiding books because I couldn't see the print and didn't realize it.
Went to town today for bananas and milk. And a noon meal at the cafe. It was a good time. The folks at my table discussed our various English pet peeves. It was noted that the special at the cafe was escalloped potatoes, and it was spelled correctly, a rarity. Except--later we noticed that on the board at the other end of the cafe it was spelled "scalloped potatoes." Equal opportunity, I guess.
I then went to the hardware store and bought two bird feeders and some seed. I have been putting off feeding the birds because I was of the opinion that if I start feeding them and then stop when I go to Arizona or somewhere, there will be a bunch of birds who will starve due to my neglect.
Bruce, a bird photographer, assured me that was pure baloney. For good measure, he said that the notion that birds which eat the rice thrown at weddings puff up, explode and die is also a myth. Birds eat rice all the time. They eat it in the wild all over Asia. They eat wild rice here. As far as anybody can tell, exploding birds haven't been a problem.
So go ahead, throw rice at the weddings.
As of this afternoon, no birds had discovered the feeders yet. I wonder how long that will take.
Tomorrow, I drive to Alexandria to play and sing for a bank Christmas party. I never feel too up for performances this time of year, but I am not too worried. Company parties can be stiff. Everybody's uncomfortable. Attendance is obligatory for the employees and putting on the party is obligatory for the boss, so it's all in all a joyless affair. Everybody'd rather be home watching TV. But for some reason, I think this party is going to be fun.
Photographer Bruce came over today for a photo tour. I learned some things from him about improving depth of field on the camera. He's trying to get me off the automatic settings.
The fine hairs of the miscanthus plumes are a soft touch in the otherwise harsh landscape.
November 29, 2005
I really didn't need
to go to town, but I came up with an excuse. Aunt Olla needed some Christmas cards from the drug store, and I had to go to the bank.
However, as you can see above, the roads are so icy slick that even at 25 mph with four-wheel drive turned on I was sliding around on the highway. The main highway is slightly better--it has been graveled--but only slightly. So, it is best to stay home.
I did get a picture of the Mountain Ash berries at the Fertile Hilton. Grandpa planted this tree perhaps fifteen years ago. It is a variety he called the Fertile Mt. Ash. The berries are a pleasant orange. Here, they are encased in ice.
November 28, 2005
When the power went out tonight and stayed out for two hours, it was difficult to know what to do. I lit up some candles and read in the crow's nest. Lance, stranded here due to the storm and unable to get to classes, decided to get creative with the camera and a flashlight.
Apparently the power outages are widespread. No surprise, given the amount of ice on the wires. I went out to check on the stove after the power came on and was greeted by six inches of snow. General ugliness.
Last night everything was glazed in ice. Even the gravel was hazardous.
I let the wood stove burn down too low. To get it going again, I piled in a bunch of logs--which were glazed with ice. That ice melted and put the stove out, a fact I discovered about midnight.
So, I skated and stumbled out to the stove with matches and cardboard (no old newspapers in the house thanks to the internet) and tried to get the thing started several times before finally succeeding about 12: 45 a.m. The key ingredient was some paperback books I was going to throw anyway--they really made the fire take off.
With the wind and the ice, it was difficult to stand. In fact, at one time I was convinced I wouldn't be able to climb the hill. Finally, I took a piece of cardboard and used it as a sail. That helped me up the slope. I am sure I looked like Charlie Chaplin out there.
Without pestering those of you with slow connections by adding more pictures to this page, here is a little gallery of old truck photos. I love old trucks. Always have, since I was a baby. From the Ford logo
to the reflectors
to the signal lights
to the gas cap
, I love everything about old trucks.
Photographer and friend Bruce called this morning--just to tell me to get out of the house and take some photos of stuff covered with ice. It was a good idea. In this miserable storm, which makes the simplest attempts to walk miserable, it was good to get out and see how the ice on everything changes the visual effects.
This is the newly planted grass in front of the house.
This asparagus plant looks bejeweled with crystal beads.
The American cranberry fruit have kept their color despite the many freezes and thaws in the past month.
In the foreground is a "Scarlet Curls" willow. It is a willow selected for its tormented branching habit and orange branch color. It is planted near the pond in the gardens.
The ice-encased branches of plain old swamp willow were bending in the strong wind, which caused the ice to crack.
Today wouldn't be the day to sit on the seat of the old Farmall A McCormack.
Nor would it be the day to get into the 1962 Ford truck.
But one could still admire the old hood ornament and enjoy the patterns on the truck box, made more vivid by the ice which covers every surface.This photo
, which looks best in a larger format, sort of expresses what a day like today feels like. It is of a willow behind the peat piles taken through the windshield.
November 27, 2005
The thought-provoking and thoughtful Charles Krauthammer
weighs in on the torture issue. He makes good points, as always. I don't agree that we should codify the limited use of torture in special situations, but Krauthammer makes the useful point that John McCain's righteous opposition to all torture doesn't cover some of the horrible contingencies. McCain says, well, those things will take care of themselves--if somebody has to torture somebody to find out where the ticking nuclear bomb is, they'll likely recognize the need to violate the law in that instance-- while Krauthammer says we should write the law to cover those special situations.