July 28, 2006
The stately Red Lake County courthouse sits atop a hill in Red Lake Falls, MN.
July 27, 2006
These clouds were swirling with unusual vehemence this evening. A big storm cell passed just north of us. We only got a brief drizzle; I am hoping that they got doused up north.
I found myself hoping a funnel cloud would come down out of this thing so I could photograph it. That's not smart, I know.
LAST NIGHT I performed in Perham, MN for a reunion of former Federal Land Bank employees. They didn't know I was coming--I was a surprise.
When I got there, there was a little electronic keyboard for me to use. I managed to play a couple of songs on it, but those things are so hopeless. It's like squeezing blood out of a turnip. So, I just did monologue for a while. I used some different material. It went real fine.
TODAY, AT THE history seminar in Thief River Falls, we had good discussions about area history. There was a man--or a boy--who lived in TRF in the 1920s who was so taken with the lifestyle of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa that he joined them at age 14. He visited home later, but never returned for good.
The topic came up due to a history document that talked about the many white men who joined Indian tribes in the 19th century and never went back. One man cited their "superior integrity."
We also discussed, at great length, Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin.
I had to admit I had never read any of it before we were assigned it for this class. I avoided it because I thought it would be maudlin and preachy. But it was anything but. It was brilliant fiction, based upon reality, and, as Abe Lincoln told the author, it helped start the Civil War.
One of the class members teaches the book and gave a little talk on Stowe and the history of the publication. The book was so popular that at one time, there were four paper factories working around the clock to make paper for that book alone.
I decided to have the class divide into five groups and each of the groups could create the outline of a book which would, if properly written, have a similar effect on some social problem today. They came up with some interesting ideas. Health care, immigration, gasoline prices--some pedestrian-sounding problems, but the class used them to come up with some real pot boilers.
July 25, 2006
Fun game tonight. Santana was pretty good against the American League's best-hitting line-up. Then the relievers came in and did their usual slamming of the door.
In the field, Michael Cuddyer was a plus, throwing out a runner at third from right field and making another diving catch. Jason Bartlett made a spectacular play at shortstop at an important time. All in all, another nice game. The Twins unbelievable streak of quality baseball continues.
Look for it to stop tomorrow when Carlos Silva takes the mound. He gave up 13 hits in less than five innings last week and then complained bitterly about getting yanked from the game. That takes gall. He's on his way out.
THIS WEEK, I am co-teaching a seminar for high school social studies and literature teachers in Thief River Falls. We meet for seven hours per day. We do take breaks for lunch, etc., but it still gets to be grueling. My role is to "facilitate." Gosh, I love that word. But it is nice way of teaching--all I am responsible to do, along with my colleague, is shape the discussion and prod it along if it gets slow.
We did a few hundred pages of reading in preparation--at least we were supposed to. The thing with these seminars is there aren't any tests or grades, so you really don't know who does what. It isn't my job to worry about it. These are adults, and these are continuing ed credits, so they get what they want out of them. For the most part, the participants are actively involved.
Then, I saw on my schedule that I am supposed to perform in Perham tomorrow evening for some sort of retired bankers group. That means that I will drive from TRF back home for a few minutes and a change of clothes before heading to Perham.
This performance will be on an electronic keyboard. Not my favorite, but I couldn't expect them to haul in a piano for 34 people.
RAIN--if only a little this afternoon. So nice to watch it fall. So fun to see the ground wet after weeks of drought. This rainfall wasn't enough to make a difference, but it is better than nothing.
July 24, 2006
of the Star Tribune
shares my view that Ron Gardenhire has shown signs of becoming a manager lately. He choses a different incident than I to illustrate his point, but both came in the same game--the fourth and fifth innings of Silva's last start.
I think Gardenhire's smelling blood. He knows that the Twins have to keep winning to have any chance to make the playoffs, but he also knows that if they make the playoffs, they stand a better chance than any other team of winning the World Series due to the very high quality of their first three starting pitchers. (You only need three starting pitchers in the post-season due to the frequent days off.)
Part of Tom Kelly's genius was knowing when to pull the trigger and pull out a failing pitcher just before they completely blew out a gasket. Kelly could be ruthless, and he was the most ruthless when it mattered most. His most gutsy move: To walk out to the mound and pull Scott Erickson in the fifth inning of a playoff game against Toronto when Erickson was ahead of Joe Carter no balls and two strikes with two outs.
The announcers were incredulous, but I was utterly relieved, for I had watched Erickson lose it mid-game during the last half of the season, and when he lost it, he was finished. The two strikes Erickson got on Carter were two 450-foot foul balls, and Kelly had seen enough. David West came in and shut Toronto down.
Gardenhire is showing the same knowledge of his club. He is finding where the players do the best, and he is putting them there and letting them do their job. They are responding by playing great baseball, both at bat and in the field.
July 23, 2006
After losing 11-0 last night to end yet another long winning streak, this one eight games, the Twins came back today with Liriano and won 3-1. Just as impressive as Liriano striking out 10 in five innings of work was the bullpen which utterly shut down the Indians for the final four innings.
The Twins bullpen is statistically the best out of all 28 teams. Liriano and Santana are the best one-two starters in baseball by a long shot. Things are looking good, except for the last two spots in the pitching rotation. If Silva and Baker continue to fail, look for minor league phenom Matt Garza to appear in the big leagues, even though he started the season in the very low minors. The Twins are leery of bringing up young guys to quickly, but necessity might prevail over caution.
This is the most sustained roll a Twins team has been on since June of 1991. They are firing on all cylinders. And six weeks ago everybody, including me, was saying that the season was over and it was time to clean house.
Gardenhire is showing boldness and familiarity with the capabilities of his team. He is trusting his bullpen, something he hasn't in the past. Saturday, when he pulled Silva in the fifth inning and treated the inning like it was the ninth, using Lohse and Reyes to get out a righthander and lefthander, Gardenhire showed instincts worthy of Tom Kelly. He knew that the Twins lead of six runs was anything but secure and that the game was on the verge of flying out of control. His moves worked.
A startling statistic: In the past four years, the Twins have a record of 257-3 when they have led after eight innings. That means only three games have been lost in the ninth since 2003
Jeff Reardon and Ron Davis used to lose that many games in the ninth in a bad week!
Just to sum up, Twins fans are privileged to watch:
--the most exciting starting pitcher to come along in years, Francisco Liriano
--the best starting pitcher in baseball over the past three years, Johann Santana
--the best hitting catcher in baseball, Joe Mauer
--the sweetest swing in baseball, Joe Mauer's
--the best stopper in baseball, Joe Nathan
--the wierdest pitching motion in baseball, Pat Neshak
--a player with Pete Rose intensity on the basepaths, Nick Punto
--the best backup catcher in baseball, Mike Redmond
The heron has been standing out on the swamp all evening, striking various poses.
For a full five minutes, he stood like this--sort of cross-winged, as if in the heron lotus position.
All posing was abandoned when a salamander was sighted. The heron nabbed it, then played with it, dropping it back in the water, poking at it, picking it up, washing it off in the water--or dipping it in algae salsa--and finally throwing it back down the gullet.
Some of the poses are bizarre. Most are done in slow motion.