Country Scribe : Eric Bergeson's Weblog

September 30, 2006

Pin oak leaf



Fall photo safari



Photographer friend Bruce called me up to go on a photo shoot on this perfect fall day. We drove around on the gravel roads between Maple and Union lakes. Above, in the center of the photo is a white birch which has turned a buttery yellow. Maples make up the woods to the left.



Here Bruce gets down to the level of a snake. Bruce occasionally blew towards the snake, and it would immediately perk up and head in his direction. Apparently, the new scent rouses their curiousity.



Here, several cormorants gather after a swim. Two of them held their wings out to dry for an extended time.



This bug camoflauged nicely on the leaf of a pin oak.



This pin oak leaf was attacked by mites at some time early this spring. The resulting wart-like growths are ugly, but harmless.



Haven't seen swans since my swamp drained out. This family was intact and floating around. Papa was out of the picture.



This mourning dove perched atop a spruce until we scared it off.



Here is the very definition of "exfoliating" bark, this on a white birch.



The maple have turned at least 10 days earlier than normal this year. In my opinion, the color is almost as good as any other year. Often, droughts cause less color. This year's drought was the drought which didn't happen--crops were good, colors are good, and nobody knows why. We only had a couple of inches of rain the entire season.


September 29, 2006

Tough day

Last night, I found out that one of my students, Laural, was hit by a gravel truck on the way home from class yesterday. Laural is more than a student to me; I've known she and her family for many years. She took my class for that reason, and always was in the front row, filled with enthusiasm and commentary. On Wednesday, she brought me some cake. We had a good chat after class about the new weblog she was setting up.

Now, Laural is on life support. She's seventeen years old.


September 27, 2006

Opera canned

An opera in Germany is cancelled because it might offend Muslims. Judging from the description, the Mozart opera might have offended a few Christians, too.

This is when people have to have some guts and go forward with their life. Maybe add some guards, but for goodness sake, don't let the Neanderthals govern what operas you see or don't see!


Fall picture

Here is why I love fall.


Neshek

Once again, I have to link to Twins pitcher Pat Neshek's site. So, the Twins have clinched and he played a big role and there are playoffs ahead--but what does he talk about? He got an autographed Aerosmith card on the trip to Baltimore! This guy's a wonderful flake. What I like most about him is that although he is now rich and famous, his sympathies are still with those poor people seeking autographs, people doing what he did a few years ago--and still does, for that matter.


Compromise

It is now clear that the "compromise" on torture going through Congress will allow the President to use torture on United States citizens, or people from anywhere in the world, at his discretion. He is also allowed to detain them without trial indefinitely if he deems them dangerous.

Sounds more like a capitulation than a compromise.

So, what are we going to say to China when we don't like them locking up their dissidents without trail? Can we even so much as put sanctions on them without being hypocritical? How will we tell them that we are torturing and holding people without trial for good reasons, but they are not?

Oh, and the so-called "Family Research Council" took time off from raging about the homosexuals to make sure its members called their congresspeople to support torture and detainment without trial. Apparently, torture is now a family value.

I thought the religious conservatives would limit their support for torture to silent assent. But no, Dobson and company are all for it out loud. I would like them to show me what evidence in the teachings of Christ there is to support torture. Or are the teachings of Christ irrelevant in the modern age? Perhaps they are relevant only when it comes to keeping your kids in check? Or condemning people you don't like?

I think many of the modern pop theologians have gotten so lost in the notion of substitutionary atonement that the actual teachings of Christ really aren't important to them. In fact, many of them seem to think Christ's teachings are secondary, mystical, sort of not to be taken seriously, perhaps even misleading to those untrained enough to take those parts of the Bible literally. The real matter is that Christ was sacrificed for the sins of mankind. The crux of Christ's ministry was his torture and death and the legal transaction it represented, not any of his inscrutable teachings.

So I suppose if you share that theology, the present situation isn't the first time torture would be a good thing.

Also: the angry emails I have gotten about my column against torture, including one note which said, "thank GOD President Bush understands. One day you will!" have all been from women. I mention that because one other anti-torture blogger--a nationally known one--has noticed the same trend. What is that about? Does it have something to do with knowing that one is unlikely to ever have to face torture themselves?

Oh, and would Donald Wildmon, James Dobson and company be as eager to hand a President Hillary Clinton the right to torture and detain without trial? I doubt it. I know I don't want any president to have that right.

Fact of the matter is, Bush is getting a free pass from a segment of people who think he was chosen by God to do the job and as such, he is to be free of criticism. We are to trust him completely. This whole Constitution thing and all these liberal judges and all those reporters asking impertinent questions just get in the way of our Big Daddy taking care of us.


September 26, 2006

Color



It is time to get some color on this weblog. Above are some Red Wing raspberries. Although we have had light frosts, the fall-bearing raspberries are still in good shape. Nothing better than a cold, fresh raspberry.



Here is a yellow echinacea, its petals blowing in the breeze earlier today.



Here is a heuchera, otherwise known as Coral Bells, this one known more for its foliage than its bloom.


Twins in the playoffs

The Twins celebrated last night. They have made the playoffs. Now, they should put the pedal to the medal and overtake the Tigers to win the division.

One national writer is saying the Twins should ease up and try notto win the division. The reason? They would be better off facing the Yankees in a short series of five games in the first round than facing them in a longer series of seven games in the second round. If they win the division, they won't see the Yanks until the second round, assuming they win the first.

I think that is trash. While Gardenhire should rest his regulars a bit, the push to win the division and secure home-field advantage should go forward. Don't let up. You don't know if you'll be able to turn it on again when you have to.


Boof!

I take back all the bad things I have said about Boof Bonser. He has been doing the job in good fashion. Tonight he has pitched very well, well enough to make one overlook his mid-eighties blow-dried hair-do.

And now, this blog's other punching bag, Torii Hunter, has hit another home run. He has come on like gangbusters this fall. After going almost a-year-and-a-half without a hot streak, Hunter is back in the saddle, carrying the team on his back. I think that's a mixed metaphor, sitting in the saddle with people on your back, but so be it.

The Twins are six outs from the playoffs. What a season it has been! And now it could get really fun.

Unlike their previous three playoff appearances this century, the Twins go into this round of playoffs without a definite starting rotation. Bonser? Radke? Silva? Garza? It is difficult to know who to use behind Santana. In any case, the starting pitching problem is going to make the Twins the underdog against any of the three other playoff teams.

But the so-called problem doesn't bother me much. I think this team is on a roll. They have any number of pitchers who could rise to the occasion. If things fall apart against the Yanks, it could get messy, but I think it all will take on a life of its own and we'll have new heroes in October to replace Liriano and Radke.

TODAY, I give my first pure "motivational" speech. It was part of a seminar for teachers and education paraprofessionals in Bemidji. They had a piano there, so I played and sang as well. I enjoyed it.

I tried out an entirely new speech, so I prepared a little more than usual, even writing up a detailed outline. Which I promptly forgot at home. I also forgot my cell phone. So, I had to stop at a gas station in Bagley to call the nursery and ask Cindy to go out to my house and look for it and fax it to Bemidji. It was a good thing, because I would have been lost without it.

I don't usually work with an outline, so when I got what I needed off it, I would play with it and fold it and then lose it and not know what I did with it. So, when I stopped and asked where I put it, a woman in the third row said, "it is in your back left pocket." Without thinking, I had put it in that pocket and bottoned it.

So, that became the running gag. Whenever I lost my outline, I'd ask Claudia, the woman in the third row, and she usually knew.

It was very reassuring that this speech went pretty well because I am signed up to give it twice more, once next week in Mankato, and then again at the end of the month in St. Cloud. If it was a flop, I really wouldn't have known what to do to repair it. It can be improved, but the basics seemed to fly.


September 25, 2006

Wal-Mart

I decided to write a column (posted left) on the ambivalence people, including myself, have about Wal-Mart. It seems that some Democrats are running their campaigns against Wal-Mart, saying the retailer represents everything that is wrong with this country.

Now, just who do the Democrats hope will vote for them on that score? People absolutely love Wal-Mart, especially people in lower income groups. Now, the Democrats are telling the people who should be their constituency that they shouldn't shop where they want to shop. Campaigning against people's favorite store is not smart electoral politics.

ON ANOTHER SCORE, the torture bill went through on some sort of compromise. Sounds like we'll be still allowing "coercive techniques," like forcing people to stand for days, or depriving them of sleep for a month, or whatever. Torture by any other name is still torture, as far as I am concerned.

There is real pent up demand for torture, I have decided. For years, we have been hearing tales about our system letting people off and being too easy on the bad guys. You don't have to sit in a coffee shop too long to hear things like, "you know what I'd do is start pulling their fingernails off one by one," which is the classic cafe solution to most problems.

Some people take great comfort in knowing that the CIA is doing "things we'll never hear about" to protect us. I have heard that theme since I was a kid. We don't want to know about the dirty work, just do it. If it means overthrowing a democratically elected government in Chile, Iran, Guatamala, Greece or wherever, do it and we don't want to hear about it.

Underlying such views is a complete lack of faith in open government and free institutions to be stronger than those of a closed, secretive government. It also reveals an authoritarian streak--we want the big man to take care of us. We'll elect the big man and trust him to do the right thing for us little children. To ask questions of the big man is impertinent. Just trust the big man.

Authoritarians thrive on fear. The promote fear and they live off it. Central to the pro-torture argument is the notion that we face a "new kind of enemy," one which requires "updating" the quaint rules by which we lived before.

If we could beat the Nazis while abiding by the Geneva Conventions, we can beat a few thousand terrorists. I mean, do you think the SS men we captured were nice guys? The British went about their daily business during the Blitz, knowing they were going to lose more people the next night. In the end, they lost 43,000 citizens in the Battle of Britain, but they won the war--and they never panicked and they never lost their resolve.

Would that we could have such a stiff upper lip.

We have the upper hand. We will win. Let's not lose our souls in the process.