Friday, August 31, 2007

#1 Daughter Still in Interesting Times, #2 Daughter Briefly Back

Our oldest daughter's life, this week: She
  • Got a job and moved to Alexandria
  • Lost the job
  • Got another job
  • Lost that job
I think she's now convinced that she can't get work done in a paint/chemicals/stuff-in-the-air environment.

Then, today, she slept for 14 hours and woke up with a fever.

There's supposed to be a Chinese curse, "may you live in interesting times." Whether the saying originated in China, or in the April, 1950, issue of "Astounding Science Fiction," I can attest to the preference I'd have for stability, serenity, and predictability, in contrast to what this family has been experiencing lately.

Not that all surprises are bad.

After we'd finished eating supper (the evening meal, for this family), the doorbell rang. It was #2 daughter, home until tomorrow afternoon, when her ride comes through town again.

I've seen her, and exchanged a few words before she was whisked off by #3 daughter. At this point, #2 daughter is consulting with my wife on some matter that I probably wouldn't understand, even if I could hear them clearly.

Hoo Boy, That Was Embarrassing

A recent post in this blog, "Minnesota Travel Blogs: a Commercial Venture," was supposed to be posted in the "Apathetic Lemming of the North" blog, where it is now.

You won't find that irrelevant post here anymore, by the way. I deleted it after copying the thing over to the blog where it belonged.

Now, to write something that does belong here.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Interesting Times for #1 Daughter

Our #1 daughter moved into an apartment in another town yesterday, and started her first day on the job.

Today, she learned that although her new employer reported that quite a few positive adjectives apply to her, she's not a good match for the job.

We knew that the job was a temporary one, but we'd assumed that it would last until the end of the year.

I'll be following her progress with considerable interest.

(For those of you who may be curious: don't let the calm tone of this post fool you. Inside, I'm screaming.)

Parenting in a Diverse, Multicultural,
Borderline-Insane Culture

This post isn't about politics, although the central character is a politician.

The headline attracts attention, as they're designed to: "Republican senator arrested, reportedly for lewd conduct." The politico is Idaho Senator Larry Craig. The senator was "apprehended by a plainclothes police officer investigating complaints of lewd behavior in an airport men's room."

News reports very carefully didn't mention what the "lewd behavior" was. I finally learned what happened in a report that started, "WASHINGTON - Idaho Sen. Larry Craig, who has voted against gay marriage and opposes extending special protections to gay and lesbian crime victims, finds his political future in doubt after pleading guilty to misdemeanor charges stemming from complaints of lewd conduct in a men's room."

Still sounds serious. Farther down, the article said that "Sgt. Dave Karsnia made the arrest after an encounter in which he was seated in a stall next to a stall occupied by Craig. Karsnia described Craig tapping his foot, which Karsnia said he 'recognized as a signal used by persons wishing to engage in lewd conduct.'"

Tapping his foot.

That's proof, apparently, of something. "Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, an advocacy group, on Monday called Craig a hypocrite.

"'What's up with elected officials like Senator Craig? They stand for so-called family values and fight basic protections for gay people while furtively seeking other men for sex,' Foreman said."

Tapping his foot = furtively seeking other men for sex = being a hypocrite. I hate to think what the senator would have been guilty of, had he blown his nose.

I'm a devout Catholic - yes, one of 'those' - and now I'm going to have to decide whether to add foot-tapping to the list of culturally inappropriate behaviors, or whether it's a rule that applies only to conservative politicians.

No complaints: to be Catholic is to be counter-cultural. Strongly, in some cases. But living in a culture where foot-tapping has become inappropriate behavior doesn't make parenting easier.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Moved the Kids Out

I wasn't involved very much with today's project, which wrapped up our family's double-header nest-emptying.

My wife picked up a 14' U-Haul truck, she and the kids packed it, and when they were done there was room them, but not me, inside. I joked that they might strap me to the top of the truck: and my wife said, "don't tempt me."

I stayed here in Sauk Centre.

Today's move got our oldest daughter into an apartment, so she'll be closer to her new job. Sure, it's a temporary job, good until the end of the year, but: it's a job!

It's different now, with half of the kids out of the house. Quieter. My son came in a while ago, on his way to bed, turned to where his oldest sister would have been working with her laptop, and observed that he wasn't used to her being gone yet.

It will be quite a while before I'm "used to it." In a way,I suppose I never will be.

This summer was a wonderful time, with all four of our surviving children under the roof. It may be the last time that happens for a full season. In a way, I hope so. The two oldest are adults now, and it is time that they begin setting up households of their own.

There are times when I wish we lived in one of those cultures where several generations of a family might live in one compound, or on adjoining farmsteads, or whatever the arrangement might be. But, counter-cultural as my wife and I are in many ways, there's no sense in trying to run a family's economy one way, when several hundred million of your neighbors are doing something else.

Besides: this way, I figure that we're likely to get grandkids sooner, than if they stayed at home.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Moving the Kids Out

Two of them, anyway. I drove the family van up to visit my father last Friday, followed by our #2 daughter in her car. She was packed and ready (more or less) to get back to studies. After a visit with grandpa, of course.

I'm glad I went, although I slept 12 hours Friday night, and Saturday morning, after a slight intestinal event.

That was really odd. Sure, I've been short-changing myself on sleep for the last few weeks, but that's nothing. When I was in our daughter's position, a college student, my schedule demanded crazy hours, and I could do it standing on my head: no problem.

Wait a minute. That was - let's see. Thirty. Years. Ago.

Looks like my wife is right: I do need more, and more regular, sleep.

Then, just to keep my life interesting, my body decided to keep me awake most of last night. I relaxed all of today: which didn't take much of an act of will on my part. I very sincerely didn't feel like doing much, aside from letting my eyes blink, and twiddling my fingers over a keyboard and mouse once in a while.

Tomorrow morning, our #1 daughter and I will go through about the same routine, except not over such a long distance. In her case, it's a move down the road to a town where she got a job.

Driving up to my father's home, in the Red River Valley of the North, brings me back to the area where I grew up. I'm a town boy, but the edge of town wasn't that far away, and the family went from town to town fairly often.

I'm used to a landscape that's a bit on the roomy side. In the half-century since I got started, the Red River Valley has gotten built up quite a bit. Most of the shelter belts and wind breaks weren't there when my mind was establishing how the place "should" look. Just the same, this picture gives you a little idea of how much elbow-room there is.

Sauk Centre, on the other hand, is a very pleasant place. It's a bit on the crowded side, though, with farmsteads less than a mile apart, and a horizon that's often not much farther away. Still, it's a nice place to live. This picture is of fields between the west side of Sauk Centre and the Interstate.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Back to School: I'm Keeping my Head Down

I've found a corner of one room where I'm safely out of the way. My wife, three daughters, and eleven-year-old son, are packing our second daughter's car, and the family van.

"Hectic" is a modest way to describe the process.

As soon as it's safe, I'll emerge and serve as van driver.

And we've still got #1 daughter to move out.

I love my family: and not just because they keep my life from getting boring.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Kids moving out, New Water Heater, Street Repair Coming

I haven't been bored since my wife and I got married and started this family. This week has been less boring than usual.

My wife and the kids were in Alexandria, about 20 miles (32 KM or so) up the road, most of the afternoon, checking out apartments for our oldest. It's exciting times at this household right now.

#1 daughter has a job, and is moving out this weekend.

#2 daughter is going back to college this weekend.

Thankfully, #3 daughter and #1 son aren't going through anything quite so major right now: just back-to-school stuff.

Which isn't exactly minor, except in comparison with those moves.

Meanwhile, the household has a new water heater. That should fix the issues of having hot water for washing, and not having a funny taste in the water. Also, that puddle in the basement won't be around now.

That's mostly good news, but of course it cost money.

The street maintenance planned for later this year will, too. It's needed, even overdue, and they're going to work on the water mains and sewers. More good news. Just one problem: someone will have to pay for it.

I know the local paper wasn't trying for laughs, but I thought this was funny - "water main and sanitary sewer improvements will not be assessed against residential property owners with the city picking up the cost."

True. Property owners aren't assessed directly. But we pay, directly or indirectly, for all the revenue that the city picks up from taxes and fees.

On top of that, There's an average of $8,400 that every household on Ash Street will get to pay for having the street torn up. I'm not complaining. It has to be done.

But thinking about that, and a layoff that's into its second year, and a tiny business that isn't quite off the ground yet, is giving me the heebie-jeebies.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

My Daughter Got a Job!

Daughter #1, the oldest one, that is, got a job.

Okay, it's only until the end of the year: but she's got a job!

My wife leaped into action when she heard the news, finding apartments in the town where our eldest will be working. The two of them have some possible places lined up, and will be going to look at one this evening.

After that flurry of activity, my wife said that she'd better get our daughter to do some of the particularly grungy jobs around the house before she leaves.

We love our daughter, of course, and will miss having her around: but the whole game plan was to get her out of the house, and now it's happening.

Sorry about that!

This blog was unavailable for at least an hour this morning.

Since you're reading this, you've come back to try accessing it again: thank you for your patience!

Google seems to have been doing some maintenance: and about time! My service has been a bit 'iffy' for some time.

I'll be back with a 'real' post as soon as I can.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Beware! the Last Harry Potter Book is Coming!

My oldest daughter warned me to "prepare yourself for blood and gore all over the house.... The latest Harry Potter book is in, at the library."

When we get our hands on a copy, it's going to be exciting times in this house.

I plan to spend a great deal of time on the computer.


And, just after I keyed that in, my oldest daughter returned from the library.

Just inside the door, she called out a request that she not be hurt. She didn't have the Harry Potter book.

The librarian had said that her sister had picked it up, along with the rest of what the family had requested.

I think the daughter who picked the book up will have some explaining to do, when she gets home.

Right now, she's at "cousin camp," over at grandpa's. There's only one cousin there at this point. Some sort of bug is keeping at least one away. Despite the name, it isn't anything like camping: more of a get-together-with-grandpa event.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Haze Outside, and in My Head

Back-to-school in this household has been mostly a matter of getting our second-oldest daughter ready to go back to college, and readying our son for return to Elementary school.

Thankfully, I'm not directly involved in either project. At least not right now.

I've read that families should share activities, in order to forge emotional bonds. Two of the kids have had coughs lately, and today I have a slight fever. I don't mind the fever: It's being half-asleep all day that's bothered me.

And "half-asleep" has been an optimistic estimate.

I don't think this is what the experts had in mind, when they wrote about shared activities.

Recent rains have been good for yards in town, and settled the dust, but we've still got a drought here. There's an animated map showing the last 12 weeks of drought status at the U.S. Drought Monitor. (The most recent update shows May 31 - August 16.)

At least it isn't too hot. Too cold, maybe, but not too hot.

I'm counting on being more alert tomorrow. It wouldn't take much.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

End-of-the-Weekend Report

Today was quite a bit like yesterday, plus going to church.

The rain has continued, and is welcome. I know: this is 'just talking about the weather,' but during a drought, rain is more important than usual.

The lawn of someone I talked with last week was so dry, the weeds were withering. Here in town, our weeds had been doing okay, but now the grass is starting to get green, too. Which means that it'll soon need mowing.

I've been told there was some excitement near our home recently. Someone I knew was arrested for stealing from the Alexandria Wal-Mart. And apparently he'd been living in a house near ours. It was a rental place, and the last two sets of tenants had lifestyles that encouraged the police to visit at intervals.

I'm not making excuses: if he's guilty, he must deal with the consequences. Still, it's a sad day for the guy and his family. I also hope that the stolen property was recovered.

Small town America is a wonderful place to live, but it's not paradise. Still, I'd rather live here.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Saturday Night

I'd better warn you up front: This is a rambling narrative of what life was like here at our house today. Nothing exciting happened, but on the chance that you'll find something interesting, here goes:

It's quiet now, understandably: everyone else in the family has the good sense to be in bed and asleep at this hour. I'm still up, getting some work done and, now, writing this post.

It's been a good weekend so far. The rain is fine: we need it this year. And, it didn't keep me from grilling lunch today. I wrote a word or two about grilling in the rain, with a picture our second-oldest daughter took, over on Easy Griller.

My wife and two (I believe) daughters were at rummage sales this morning. I think it's partly for fun, but they bring home practical items, too. Most of my shirts arrive that way. For a family that isn't unnecessarily burdened with wealth, it's a good way to get serviceable clothing and equipment at a fraction of retail prices.

I spent the afternoon at a very part-time job, got home in time for supper, watched a television show we'd taped earlier, and relaxed. Sort of.

Actually, I worked on some online projects while having a sporadic conversation with our oldest daughter, had a break from that (break from the work, not so much the conversation) for family prayers, and then back to trying to multi task writing and conversation. The latter didn't work so well. The conversation, which swung back and forth between theology and history, was okay. The writing, truthfully, had to wait until I wasn't distracted.

Meanwhile, my wife and second oldest daughter were in the kitchen, talking over what she'll be doing for the next two years. That's how long she has left in college, if all goes well. Our son and third-oldest daughter must have been somewhere out of sight.

He's still enthusiastic (understatement) about his new-to-him laptop. He's downloaded anti-malware software to supplement the anti-virus package he has, found a large number - I think around a hundred - items that shouldn't be there, eliminated them, and now his gadget works faster.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Back to School Looms

It's about a week before back-to-school makes the transition here from a looming threat to a current crisis.

Our second daughter is returning to college around the end of the month. It's been great, having all four kids under the roof this summer. Right now, I'm a safe two rooms away as daughters #2 and 3, and my wife, watching "High School Musical 2." The ladies tend to whoop, loudly, at parts they like.

Daughter #1 is with me, doing something with her new laptop, in the area we're using for computers and music now.

I'm going to miss #2 when she leaves. But, that's how life goes.

Our son is, most likely, with the ladies, and probably oblivious to anything other than whatever he as going on, in the laptop that he 'inherited' from his big sister.

Earlier today, my wife and #2 daughter got part of the north face of the house painted today. They rented a sort of do-it-yourself cherry-picker for the job. We live in a farmhouse that got enveloped by the town. It's somewhat higher than most houses are, these days.

Good grief! I haven't posted since Monday. I don't know if I should call the week busy, or crazy. I'll settle for busy. That has a better ring to it.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Crimson Conundrum Reveals Hostile Intent!

Nearly a week ago ("Computers, a Crimson Conundrum, and Digital Withdrawal"), I had reason to believe that the Crimson Conundrum, as I titled the strange presence who appeared, and disappeared, seemingly at will, around my laptop, might be a mere spectator: one who, for whatever reason, wished only to gaze upon the laptop's screen.

On Saturday, alas! I had to seriously consider that this strange figure clad in scarlet might have hostile intent!

See with what menacing posture he wields a quarter-dollar piece!

Consider the emotions which flooded my mind upon beholding this fell figure!

I hesitate to ponder what apparitions of this figure future may hold.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Ants! Hope at Last!

It was a time for desperate measures. Our kitchen had been overrun by grease ants.

Grease ants: so small, they can march through crevasses to narrow for ordinary pests.

Grease ants: so cunning, when encountering a patch of grease laced with ant poison, they eat the grease but leave the poison.

Until this weekend, the only means of slowing them down was the application of vinegar spray. And even that was only a temporary measure. They kept coming back.

Always, they kept coming back!

Then, my eldest daughter, after exhaustive research, came up with a new instrumentality through which this household might emerge victorious against the ants!

She combined
  • Talcum powder
  • Instant coffee
  • Ground cinnamon
  • Chili powder
- and applied the mixture to to the beachhead which the grease ants had established, and also applied the mixture at strategic points along their supply lines.

Success! Today, I can confidently say that the ants have been defeated, or at least repelled.

My daughter told of one ant she had observed. The creature advanced along a supply line until it encountered a grain of the noxious compound. Retreating, it adjusted its course and tried again, only to be thwarted once more. Again and again it tried, and failed, to circumvent the instrumentality of our new offensive.

I, myself, witnessed an ant: no doubt one of the last of the horde; running from one to another of its fallen comrades. In most cases, the sad creature approached closely enough to be within, I should think, antenna-reach before quickly turning aside to approach another corpse. Sometimes, perhaps because the evidence of destruction was so obvious, the lone survivor turned away while still at a distance.

Although I could, of course, hear nothing, I imagined the lone survivor calling out as it approached each fallen ant, "Abigail?" "Adelynn?" "No! Not Ahdena!" "Aldalee?" "Oh, no: They got Althea!" "Ambret?" "Azilda?" And so on, across the grim landscape.

It may seen cold, even heartless, but I feel but only a small pang of pity for the creatures who invaded our domain.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Minnesota's Wild Night

Sauk Centre wasn't the only place to get wild weather last night. Twin Cities news services reported that 100,000 Excel customers (that's a big power company in Minnesota) were without power at one point. The Twin Cities had trees uprooted, but no one hurt, as of this morning.

A friend of one of my daughters lives near Alexandria, about 20 miles (30 kilometers or so) up I-94. They were without power for 5 hours.

Here in Sauk Centre's south side, we didn't have more than about a minute of no power. But that was enough to add resetting clocks to today's task list.

The storm kept me up well past 1 this morning. I don't like having every member of the family asleep with weather like last night's brewing. Friday had been hot, humid, and with a strong south wind. Even without National Weather Service warnings, it was pretty clear that odds favored a storm.

There was another reason for staying up late. More about that at Starting a Small Business Without Losing My Mind.

The St. Cloud Times says that last night's rain brought their monthly rainfall total up to par, plus some. That's good news, considering the drought we're in, but I'd have preferred the rain to come more gradually.

Last Night's Storm: It Could Have Been Worse

Sometime between 1 and 2 in the morning today, I heard an enormous clatter. It was as if someone had thrown a king-kong-size garbage can or a load of metal siding into the street.

This morning my wife told me, as she was leaving to mind the store for her father, that a shed had blown over near Lake Wobegon Trail. That's what she saw, in the first and second pictures. Despite its appearance, it isn't a shed. It's part of a roof, I think. It could have been worse. As far as I have heard, no one was hurt.

Several yards near the intersection of Ash and Lake Wobegon Trail in Sauk Centre had debris deposits and broken branches.

Finding where the bits and pieces of building came from wasn't very hard. A neighbor of mine pointed out where the most damage had been, but I think I'd have been able to follow the trail of broken trees, crumpled metal, and cracked timber.

Seeing what happened to the trees, I'm glad the event missed the houses and housing in that part of town. I've heard two explanations of what happened: it was a small tornado; or it was straight-line winds, something like a downburst. Just how the storm re-arranged part of Sauk Centre will be discussed for a while, most likely.

The worst damage seems to have been at a car dealership, John Weis Ford.
  • Mr. Weis's new body shop lost part of its roof
  • Light poles are bent - one all the way to the ground
  • Quite a few vehicles are damaged
  • His lot won't be ready for use until the mess is cleared away
I'm pretty sure he has insurance, but this is going to hurt.

By the time I got there, a couple guys, one armed with a monkey wrench and tool belt, were starting work on the worst of the light pole damage.

This was around 10:30. Cleanup and repair were already underway.

Meanwhile, just west of the car dealership, folks one of the apartment buildings on Fairlane Drive were driving around a tree that had tipped onto about half of a driveway.

Back on the south side of John Weis Ford, the new body shop obviously needed 'body work' itself. It looked like a work bay on the east side was still in working order, happily.

Clouds off to the northwest promised a chance for more exciting weather, later today. The U.S. Weather Service bears that out. Can't say that I'd mind a little meteorological boredom, at least for today, but there's not much I can do about it.

There was some damage in the residential areas. That modern art sculpture, behind the pool in a back yard near Lake Wobegon Trail, was a trampoline yesterday. Again, it could have been worse. Another few yards to the east, and those folks would have had more fresh air in their house than they'd want.

By the way, have you noticed how much those new above-ground pools look like the old-fashioned cloth-bottomed ash trays?

You'd think that, with parts of a building ripped off and strewn across a thousand-foot swath, trees uprooted and branches torn away, this old branch would have been broken off: But no, Minnesota storms didn't finish the job this time, just like they left the work half-done before.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Small Town Life: a Poetic Link

Famous in a Small Town is a post on another blog that does a pretty good job of distilling one aspect of life in a small town.

I know: This post has "Poetic" in the title, and "Famous in a Small Town" gives the lyrics of a country song.

That's poetry: some combination of experience, thought, emotion, and awareness; combined with careful attention to what words imply and refer to as well as their "dictionary meaning," as well as the sounds which form the word; sometimes, but not always, in rhyme.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Family: a Wonderful Opportunity for Cultivating Calm

This morning, my wife needed to be minding the shop for my father-in-law. She expected to use my #1 daughter's car, and had told #1 daughter about her plans.

#1 daughter drove off to get some supplies, returning about 6 minutes after my wife and a near-quorum of the family had left. In the van. Which is the only vehicle I'm remotely comfortable in, even after the hip replacements.

No problem. In the fullness of time (quite promptly, actually), #1 daughter drove her car over to the shop, returning in the van.

Which enabled me to work up a sweat at Fitness Guru (weird name, good exercise place). Also to fill the van's fuel tank. Gasoline is $2.769 now: not bad at all, compared to what it was around Independence Day.

I didn't mind getting out of the house for a while. I was having a moderately hard time concentrating on my work, with a young son eagerly, and not quietly, waiting for his new-to-him laptop to return.

Then it did return, but now with the software that was expected. I'm going to skip the details. #1 daughter can discuss that, if she so chooses, and if she does I may link to her blog.

My son is learning valuable lessons in the nature of reality and social interactions. He's not learning them quietly, but he's learning them. He and #1 daughter have hammered out an arrangement of some sort regarding her efforts to make the laptop ready for him.

I'm not being coy about details. I stayed out of the way, letting them discuss the situation. Good learning experience for them, that way: not so easy on my nerves.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Computers, a Crimson Conumdrum, and Digital Withdrawal

After an inexplicable absence, the crimson-clad conundrum reappeared this morning. I think I may have deduced his motive. Judging from today's appearance, I'd say that he's either interested in looking at the laptop's screen, readying himself to cut power at some time of his choosing, or perhaps both.

I drove to Alexandria with my eldest daughter this afternoon, on a quest for a new laptop. For her. With her money. I think she's made a reasonable choice, but time will tell. She's been going through digital withdrawal symptoms, in the absence of a working computer devoted to her projects.

At the other end of the offspring age spectrum, my son is now the proud possessor of a more-than-slightly-buggy laptop, formerly the property of my eldest. He'll be much happier when it comes back from a shop, with some (to him) vital software re-installed.

This has been an interesting couple of weeks for me, dealing with the two other computer enthusiasts in the family: and trying to be reasonable as they sought refuge at my computer.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Ants! It's a Two-Front War Now!

Somehow, the ants found their way into our general foods storage depot. They've occupied a box of crackers, and probably have targeted other units as well.

A valiant effort at cutting off their supply lines on the southern front was partially successful, but I fear that this is only a temporary reprieve.

Chemical warfare is still the backbone of my wife's strategy against the ants. Determining that our stock of basil leaf has lost its potency, she is bringing fresh material into action.

Our Research and Development unit deployed an innovative device, consisting of glue and several types of grease. The ants formed a perimeter around the device, but otherwise ignored it.

"Those are smart ants," my wife observed.

Additional reports will follow, as circumstances warrant.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Sunday: A Day of Rest and Grilling

This morning I sat down where I usually do, look at my laptop, and the diminutive fellow again. Except that now he's moved.

I don't want to sound like an alarmist, but it did strike me that it looks like he's trying to get around the screen to get at something. Or someone?

Nah. I just didn't get enough sleep last night, that's all. It's just a little Dare Devil action figure. Holding an improvised quarterstaff.

On a more reasonable and realistic note, my father-in-law, the deacon, was back at his usual post in Our Lady of the Angels church this morning. He's been back at deaconing since sometime last week, but I hadn't noticed.

That's good news. His recovery seems to be going quite well.

After getting home from church, my wife showed me the spatula. Time to grill. That's something I enjoy doing on most weekends. For an only slightly-interminable account of my grilling experience, there's Sunday: Not So Much About Grilling, as About the Experience of Grilling, today's post from my "Easy Griller" blog.

My wife and one of our daughters had been at the horse show this morning: helping with the food service. The local Soo Bahk Do group runs the food concession at that show each year, as a fund-raiser. (I don't know if I'm going to be able to start learning Soo Bahk Do again. The replacement hips are pretty good, but not quite up to the specs of original equipment. I have to be careful about subjecting them to impact stress: which means running is inadvisable, and so are the usual forms of Soo Bahk Do.)

An afternoon of kicking back and relaxing, an evening of pretty much the same, and I'm up to the present. Good night, all.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

What I Did Saturday: It's Not as Boring as it Sounds

One of my daughters had been using my laptop yesterday evening. I've got it set up on top of a small cart. I need to pick the thing up and put in on my lap: she can sit in a nearby chair, swing around to face the laptop, and use the cart as a desk. Being five-feet-nothing has some advantages.

This morning, I sit down in that chair, and see a small figure hanging resolutely from the top of the laptop screen.

My daughter was delighted when I noticed him. She explained that he'd been in one place for most of the summer, and was due for a change of scene.

The rest of the morning was routine, apart from a bit of hydraulic engineering involving a plumber's friend. I think they're more properly called plungers. The key to happiness in situations like that is making sure that the p.f. is stored close to where it's used: and kept where it's stored.

On a tastier topic, I grilled lunch, as usual. I got a little carried away later, writing about it on the Easy Griller blog.

I spent most of the rest of the day online, following up on some information I'd seen in a online community. If I were a little younger, and a little more focused on the cybersphere, I might be a geek.

Actual online time was less than it sounds. I work, or try to, in an area that's pretty heavily populated by the rest of the family. One of my daughters had me read through the rest of a story that she'd written. I'd started it yesterday. My son stopped by a few times to see what I was doing. Our conversations are often the sort of stand-look-grunt sort of thing that wise wives learn to expect from their menfolk. My boy and I have some pretty good talks now and again, usually about Bionicles or computers.

Supper, catching up on another task or two, and evening prayers took up most of the evening.

Don't worry: I won't do this slice-of-life thing too often, but I thought it would be interesting once in a while.

Drought in Minnesota

Sauk Centre got a sprinkling of rain, starting around noon.

That interfered with our plans to eat outside, but I don't mind. Before the sun set, I saw that the grass between the house and the street was a much richer brown than it was this morning.

More to the point, crops around here will be that much less parched.

The U.S. Drought Monitor shows that quite a bit of the USA has drought conditions: particularly in the old south.

Here in Minnesota, it could be worse, but we're not having a good year. The Minnesota Drought Situation Report of August 2 talked about lake levels staying lower than normal - including Lake Superior. That's not going to be good for tourism. The USDA-FSA is starting a formal damage assessment of crops. We could have a disaster declaration later on. (USDA-FSA is the U.S. Department of Agriculture - Farm Service Agency.)

We had a drought last year too.

The good news in all this is that the unusually low water level in the Mississippi River made rescue efforts easier last Wednesday when the 35W bridge went down, and probably saved some lives.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Ants! Nothing Stops Them!

Sometimes I feel like I'm in some fifties science-fiction B movie. Relentless hords of creatures have invaded. Conventional weapons are useless. (Sort of like Them! (1954), except that this enemy doesn't provide the big, slow-moving targets that the Hollywood ants did.)

Sure, saturation-bombing of an area with vinegar kills some of them, but a seemingly endless stream of replacements keeps marching in.

Those tiny ants are still in the kitchen.

Putting a plate into the washer last night, I saw dozens fall onto the inside of the washer's door when I tipped the plate. We've cleaned what we can, but a family of six needs to eat a few times a day, and that isn't an entirely smear-free process on the kitchen counter.

I took a picture of some of the things, plus a few crumbs, I think, earlier today. My wife may not appreciate that. The big oval thing on the right is a spoon. As I said before, those ants are tiny.

I made a post yesterday about them, and there really hasn't been that much change in our status.

The ants still have numbers and single-minded purpose on their side. They seem to have nothing to do but raid our kitchen. We, on the other hand, are distracted by day-to-day duties, but have superior intelligence on our side.

My wife still hasn't formulated a winning attack strategy.

Gingerly treading the narrow way between the twin threats of myrmecophobia and myrmecophilia, I'll continue to report as there are fresh developments.

Minnesota Bridge Disaster: Front Page News in Alexandria, Minnesota

The 35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis made the front page of the Echo Press today. That's Alexandria, Minnesota's newspaper.

The front page story was under the fold - on the bottom half of the page - and with no picture, but on the front page nonetheless. A sidebar to the article talked about the burst of cell phone traffic, as folks in this part of the state touched base with friends and kin in the Metro area.

(The Alex paper is pretty important to this family, when it comes to news from outside Sauk Centre. Alexandria is the nearest larger town, 20 miles up the Interstate. At about 8,000 population, it's roughly twice the size of Sauk Centre, where I live.)

The extended family that I'm a part of added a little to the communication overload, although what my wife did was call her father, who lives in town, to see how everyone was. At this point, his home is a sort of headquarters for the family.

The Alex paper's Friday edition has a photo of the mess on page three of their "A" section, part of an article on how folks in this area can help. Most of it's very local: important, but if you're that close to Alexandria, MN, odds are that you'll have seen the paper already.

For anyone in Minnesota's Metro area, here's what I posted on another site on Wednesday: I've heard that they're going to need blood. In case you're in the Metro area, interested, and able, here are some places to donate: Memorial Blood Centers / Where to Donate: Twin Cities Locations

The Red Cross Twin Cities Chapter says that eligible donors can "call 1.800.GIVE.LIFE" (1.800.4483.5433) "or go online to to learn more about blood donation and to make a blood donation appointment. A blood donor card or driver's license are required at check-in. Donors must be at least 17 years old and must weigh at least 110 pounds."

I'll add another link today: American Red Cross Twin Cities Chapter. That site was alternately very slow to respond, or not responding at all on the night of the disaster. The Red Cross TC home page has a link to, where people who were in the area can register as being alive and walking, and where family and friends can search the list of those who have registered.

Two Metro area television stations are doing a decent job of covering aftermath of the bridge collapse, KMSP and KSTP.

One item that's half-way into the news that I read is what happened with the Twins game at the Metrodome, on one end of the 35W bridge. The folks running decided to keep the game going (that's been in the written news that I saw) because they didn't want all those fans driving out of the Metrodome before Minneapolis law enforcement had a chance to set up some sort of traffic control for re-routing a few thousand cars. The last part was on radio news in this area, I understand.

I've already heard a Minnesota politician say something guardedly stupid about the collapse. There's probably going to be quite a bit more as election time comes up.

Finally, I've been very glad to see how folks around the bridge collapse handled the catastrophe. KMSP said that many "were asking police if there was anything they could do to help." "They thanked us for the sentiment, but said there wasn't much we could do right now," KMSP quoted a woman as saying. She'd walked a few miles from where she lived to the disaster area.

Then, there's the security video footage of the bridge collapse. It shows the bridge breaking and falling, then a young woman with a cell phone running away from the bridge. She was making pretty good time, and I don't blame her. Maybe two beats later, she was trotting back toward the bridge, cell phone still held to her ear. My guess is that she was going to see if she could help.

Thursday, August 2, 2007


We've got ants this summer, again.

Little ones, tiny, smaller-than-a-breadcrumb things that just keep coming!

One of my kids reports that my wife, having cleared out the space under the kitchen sink, was sitting in front of the open door, with a flashlight, staring into the open space.

"Making battle plans against the ants?" she asked.

"Oh, yeah!" was the reply.

Minnesota Bridge Disaster Followup

Amazingly, the death toll is still very low in the 35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis. Only four people are confirmed dead at this point. There are 20 or 30 missing: people who were out on errands, coming home from work, or otherwise engaged in the area who haven't returned yet.

I posted a few online and toll-free contacts where people in the area can help, on yesterday's Sauk Centre Journal entry.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Minnesota Bridge Disaster

About 2 hours ago, at around 6:10 pm central time (USA), the I-35W bridge over the Mississippi River between Minneapolis and St. Paul collapsed.

That's rush-hour traffic.

This extended family does not seem to have been directly affected: our family members who might have been in the area have been accounted for.

Other families, however, have lost people in this disaster. This family's prayers are with those who lost their lives, with those who are hurt, with the families who are affected, and with the emergency and trauma workers who are sorting out this mess.

God be with you all.

Storm Watch, Sirens, and a Drill

It started getting dark outside around noon, here in Sauk Centre. About an hour later, we had heard thunder and saw that severe thunderstorms are predicted in a swath that starts somewhere beyond Nebraska, runs square over us, and ends up in Canada.

Then the sirens went off.

Odds were pretty good that this was the monthly test, but my wife pointed out that this would be good practice.

Down to the basement. We saw that there wasn't any severe weather near us: not even heavy rain.

So, back to our usual routines. That was a good drill, though.

Another Advantage of a Large Family?

One of my kids is dizzy, another had a harder-than-usual time getting up this morning, a third has a sore throat, and the remaining one is sneezing. One of them observed that they're distributing the symptoms among themselves.

I don't think that's actually possible.
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