July 22, 2006
The air is heavy with grain dust. Harvest has started. It feels like Labor Day. Although the drought is taking its toll on the crops, the colors are striking.
The days are getting a little shorter, but even so, this sunset happened just after nine p.m.
The dust and the dusk combine to make it appear as if the combine is floating in the gloaming.
And the sunset, probably made more red by all the dust in the air, was a good way to finish a hot day.
July 21, 2006
For those of you who watched the Twins game to the end tonight, you got to see new pitcher Pat Neshek with his unusual, and apparently impossible-to-hit pitching delivery. Added bonus: He writes a weblog.
July 20, 2006
poses what to me is the relevant question of the moment: Are we in much the same place as the world was in 1914?
August 1914: The world was prosperous. It has been 100 years since a knock-down, drag-out European War. The upper classes of Europe were sort hankering for some sort of way to prove themselves. War was seen as a tonic, a builder of manhood, something a society needed every now and then to maintain its virility. Believe it or not, there were people who advocated war for war's sake.
On this side of the pond, there were enough survivors of the Civil War alive to prevent people from being completely naive about a war with modern weapons, something Europe had not yet seen. But memory of the Civil War was fading, and nobody under the age of sixty-five had any direct memory of its carnage.
So, when Archduke Ferdinand was shot in Sarajevo and a whole row of treaty guarantees kicked in like dominoes falling, the nations went to war with more eagerness than dread. There are even historians who claim that the war came as a relief to many in Europe. Finally, business as usual!
But the Great War, as it was called until a second Great War necessitated that they be called WW I and WW II, turned out to be a not-so-gentlemanly affair. Millions died in futile attempts to gain mere yards of territory. Old military methods didn't work with new weapons, but the generals just didn't catch on--and they continued to send men by the 10,000 over the top to be blown to bits.
Nine million died before it was all over. Nothing much was accomplished besides the creation of some artificial states, such as Iraq, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia, which would blow up later due to ancient religious and ethnic divisions. The "war to end all wars" did the opposite, instead laying the groundwork for a century of conflict.
For some reason, this recent attack by Isreal on Lebanon seems to be the beginning of something bigger. It may not be, but it feels like it. Some possible reasons:
First, there are a lot of people who think war is the answer. Bomb now for a happier tomorrow. Iran, Al Qaeda, Hizzbollah, Hamas, Isreal, and many foreign policy wonks in this country are hankering to have it out and settle things once and for all. There isn't a reluctance to go to war, nor is there a moral seriousness about prosecuting a war. Instead, there seems to be a flippance about it. Let's get it on!
Second, there are a bunch of people who see no choice. Israel--you could argue they have no choice but to wage war. Iran--they have loony theological motivations that only they understand. So, in addition to people who see war as a good thing, there are even more people who can be convinced that it is a necessary evil.
Third, there are people with weapons who answer to no government--elected or unelected. Hizzbollah and al Qaeda have no territory or nation. They cannot be overthrown because they answer to nobody but whomever is giving them money and weapons at the moment.
Israel is trying to force the Lebanese to take responsibility for Hizzbollah, which operates from Lebanon, but the Lebanese government probably isn't strong enough to do so. This problem is duplicated throughout the Mideast. There are a lot of well-organized wackos willing to die, not for their nation, but for a mere idea. How do you completely defeat an idea?
And yet, the proponents of radical Islam aren't going to be satisfied until they have destroyed Israel and the west. They are going to have to be subdued in some manner at some time.
I am thankful not to be in a position to have to deal with all of this, although if it goes far enough, we'll all be involved in some way.
July 18, 2006
Hobbled Twins roll behind Liriano
Francisco Liriano was back in form tonight, pitching eight and two-thirds innings without giving up an earned run. He gave up only three hits. He would have pitched a complete game shutout had not substitute first baseman Terry Tiffee dropped a ball at first base.
The Twins are having injury problems. Outfielders Lew Ford, Torii Hunter and Shannon Stewart are on the disabled list. Minor leaguers Jason Tyner and Josh Rabe (so now the Twins have a Justin, three Jasons and a Josh--sounds like a 1990 kindergarten class roster) are up, as is Rondell White. All are doing well. In fact, I sometimes prefer having hungry rookies in there to veterans like Hunter.
Hunter and Stewart seem to be on the downswing of their Twins careers. Stewart will find a nice home somewhere as a designated hitter. Hunter will get a huge contract which he doesn't deserve and will underperform for the duration of it.
Meanwhile, White has been as bad as he's going to be--and the young and hungry are doing the job in the other spots. Nick Punto, the third baseman, got a little advice from Hall of Famer Rod Carew and has turned his career around. He is fantastic on defense, and now he is actually hitting his weight.
So, no matter if the Twins can catch the White Sox and Tigers, they are going to be fun to watch.
CONTRADICTIONS: It seems I am doomed to contradict the lessons I claim to have learned in the columns I write as soon as I write them. Last week's column advocated letting nature take its course and not interfering with the drying up of the swamp during the dry spell. Today, I built a dam so that when the rains finally do return, the water will not run off so quickly and the swamp will stay more full.
Tomorrow, I will be doubly hypocritical: After announcing that I am leaving up the standing dead ash around the swamp for the birds, I am now going to saw some of them down. It is just to easy to get at those dead trees when the water is down to resist wiping their grim presence off the skyline.
Sensible conservative George Will weighs in
on the Mideast.
July 17, 2006
The celosia need heat to do their thing. This year, they are thriving.
July 16, 2006
Yesterday was probably the hottest day of the year, although today couldn't have been far behind. It was an opportune weekend to have two invitations to visit lake homes.
So yesterday Lance and I set out to Perham in my Ford Ranger which has 180,000 miles on the odometer but no problems to speak of. Five miles down the road, the air conditioner quit. Undaunted, we rolled down the windows and pressed onward.
Within twenty miles, I noticed the heat guage was going up. Not good. Now we had to turn on the heater to get the engine temperature down.
So, on the hottest day of the year, we are driving with the windows down and the heater on full blast.
After we arrived, I suspected that if the pickup cooled down all would be well. Other experts concurred. So after dark, when it had cooled down to about 82 degrees, I started the pickup. Sure enough, the air conditioner worked beautifully.
For five miles. Then the heat guage went up again, the air conditioner shut off, the windows went down--and after ten more miles, the heater had to come on to keep the engine temperature down.
So, it was a grueling trip. Good to get back into the air conditioned house, although the air conditioner is having a time keeping up.
Today, off to Union Lake for an employee party. I jumped in the lake even though I hate water. We played some good volleyball games and tossed frisbee. Great food. Fun people. A good way to spend a hot day.