Tuesday, July 6, 2021


My truck started squealing and I thought the worst 

Perhaps the throwout bearing. But it was only the belt.

I had Teresa pick one up but they sent the wrong belt:

Flat and not vee. Now the long weekend had started.

I'll take off the old one to show at the shop.

I could see the two bolts to loosen to pivot the alt to get the belt off. 

The top bolt was easy, but the bottom 

Was right by a motor mount, no room to ratchet the nut.

And my hand wrench was not box. The nut was too tight.

Don't round it off!

The bolt's head was accessible.

But too tight for my ratchet or breaker bar

I rummaged the garage and found a short pipe

Slipped over the breaker, the bolt moved. 

The tough nut could be held. 

And the belt came right off. 

Lesson learned:

Never ever throw anything away.

Well the old belt can go.

Friday, July 2, 2021


 It was this past Saturday in 1974 that the first item with a UPC was scanned in a grocery store. The item was a pack of Wrigley gum, which is now in the Smithsonian Museum.

   The technology was first developed in 1952, but it took another 22 years to make it practical. Getting an idea is the easy part. Making it work takes perseverance and luck. The guy who came up with the idea was working for IBM and he just waited till his colleagues, who were working on other things, came up with the technology for his project to take off.

   Soon Univeral Product Codes were on everything. It speeded up check out and kept track of inventory. By the turn of the century, stores had set up self checkout kiosks to save on labor. Roseau County got it's first self check out kiosks this past May. It seems the Super One grocery store was unable to hire enough cashiers. Lines got longer and you'd even see Gary the manger running a register. So four kiosks were installed at the store replacing two register lanes.

   I was delighted. I dislike waiting in checkout lines. Especially when the person in front of me waits until all their groceries are bagged before withdrawing their checkbook, writing a check, balancing their checkbook, and then discovering an error in their receipt that requires the help of the manager. 

   Since they put in the kiosks I have not visited a checkout clerk’s lane. I have not missed the personal interaction. Often, my clerk will be carrying on a conversation with another employee while checking me out. Don't miss that at all.

   I had used self checkout kiosks in department stores previously with no problem, but the Super One kiosks are fussy. The device was constantly locking up and accusing me of putting unscanned items into my bag. Or else I was bumping my knee against the scale which also shut me down. When the kiosk perceives a prop elm, a yellow light goes on announcing to everyone you're an idiot.

   The scale exists to reduce theft. If I scan a gallon of milk, the scale is programmed to receive an 8.6 pound item. If I put the milk directly into my cart instead of on the scale, the voice orders me to put the milk on the scale, but by the time I react, it's too late and the light comes on and I must wait for the kiosk clerk to reset my machine. The clerk and the voice of the kiosk are both very nice. And even if they get nasty, I won't mind. I'm never going back to the checkout line. My time is too valuable.

Don't hate it till you ate it.


Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Bemidji Bemidji Bemidji

    There's a bird on our land that sings Bemidji three times in a row all day long.  The bird is not hard to find, just hard to see. It haunts dense underbrush or lush tree foliage. You can stand for 15 minutes while it sings away and not be able to catch a glimpse of it. 

   Two years ago, I determined to identify the bird, no matter how long it took. It took about an hour of following the song through a low area of willows, as the bird flitted from thicket to thicket. I got a positive ID, hurried home and paged through my bird book, and got its name. Then during the winter I forgot the name and what it looked like.

   All next summer it sang Bemidji, but I never sought it out. He was back again this summer. I went out yesterday with binoculars to the forsythia hedge. He was in there somewhere. I caught a flash of yellow as he hopped around. If there's a gap of thirty seconds in the song, you know the bird has moved. But it quickly takes up singing again. I followed the song to four different spots, but never got another glimpse. After an hour I went home.

   I checked my bird book. I was sure it was a warbler. I could eliminate many of them, then guessed it could be the Hooded Warbler. The description of it's song sounded like a possibility but Iowa is the northern limit of its range. Maybe with global warming...

   I was out in the yard this morning when I heard it singing away in the forsythias. I didn't have the binoculars, but I was so close to the bird, binoculars would have been useless. It was in the leafy part at first, then moved to some dead branches which were so thick and tangled I still couldn't spot it. At last it appeared in an opening. Black mask over its eyes. It dropped down into the weeds, then popped up again. White eyebrows connected in the middle. Got it!

   I didn't rush home. I knew my bird would be waiting in my book. And there it was: Yellowthroat, a warbler. Range: southern Canada south to the Gulf Coast. Winters in the Caribbean. Habits: "an active, inquisitive frequenter of dense, low cover on a variety of sites." Voice: "short, vigorous series of clear, high-pitched, 3 note phrases often written witchity, witchity, witchity." Some write bimidjity.

   I should circle Yellowthroat in my book, but I don't ever write in books. I'll just write a post to the internet, where I can look it up next summer, if necessary. I must to come up with a memorable title for my post.

Monday, June 28, 2021

Down on the Wilson Road

    It's war here with rodents. They chew up our stuff and frighten the womenfolk. I've tried prevention, but even the White House has mice, so I'm okay with trapping and poisoning mice in and around the house. I don't like it and I offer a prayer for the dead, and do it anyway.

   I used to shoot squirrels, but could not stand watching their death throes, so I switched to trapping. I transport them five miles from home and let them go. I know their chances of survival are slim in a new environment, but at least they have a chance.

   This spring I saw a fisher in the rafters of our garage. Fishers and other members of the weasel family eat squirrels. I noted a lack of squirrels at that time. The fisher probably moved on after cleaning up our place. Now we have an infestation of chipmunks, bold little creatures that scurry around your feet and retreat under the porch when you go for them.

   I set out my Havahart trap last evening and baited it with sunflower seeds. When I arose early this morning, there was a chipmunk in the trap. The sibling who was condoling with him zipped under the porch at my approach. I usually go for my mile long walk along County Road 8 first thing, but I was not going to make the chipmunk wait. Who knows what he was imagining. So I put him in my trunk and headed west on 8. 

   My friend Steve accuses me of dropping my prisoners at the end of his road. Whenever he sees a squirrel at his bird feeder, he presumes it's one of mine. Indeed I once caught a squirrel during a blizzard and left it off at the end of Steve's road because I feared both the squirrel and I would perish in the storm. When I let the squirrel out, he bounded over to the old one room school house nearby and got up on the roof. I presume he went down the chimney and found shelter. He may be there yet.

   In good weather, I'm a strict five mile man. I read that if you drop an animal off less than five miles away, he'll be able to make his way back to his home. So I drive west on 8 and after a couple of jogs, I reach a Wildlife Management Area. Perfect. I point the cage towards the woods, open the door, and after a moment's hesitation, the critter bounds across the ditch and into the thick undergrowth. They almost always climb a few feet up a tree for a look around. We say goodby and I head for home.

   Ennaways, as I drove west this beautiful morning, I decided to drive another mile to the northwest end of the Wilson Road. I love the Wilson Road. It's one of those places like Beltrami Forest and Thief Lake that give the lie to the rectangular flatness of this area. I drove down the gravel road a thousand feet and let my passenger out. I set my Fitness app for one mile and walked along the road, tall trees on one side, a field of buckwheat and rye planted for the deer on the other. After half a mile I turned back to the car. It was a morning in paradise for me. I can't speak for the chipmunk. But he'll cheer up when I deliver his brother later.

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Purslane Bloody Purslane

A man of words and not of deeds

Is like a garden full of weeds

   I've quit talking abut my garden and started planting one. And once a garden is planted, it must be weeded. I would prefer to weed standing up with a hoe, but we have a pernicious weed called purslane to deal with. It's called purslane because its plump, shiny leaves look like little purses.

   It's possible to uproot purslane plants with a hoe, but most of them will start growing again. If chopped up, each piece will start a new plant. If ignored, it will turn into an inoffensive looking mat-like plant which will shoot its seeds rocket-like all over the garden.

   The only thing to do is to get down on hands and knees with a small entrenching tool and uproot each plant. The plants must then be placed in a container and removed from the garden. One website called purslane a zombie plant for it's ability to return from the dead. They recommended burying the plants with nuclear waste. Another site recommended sending them on a SpaceX voyage, but for me that would be overkill.

   I have fought purslane in the past, but I've always slacked off by late summer, distracted with the harvest. This year I am forming better garden habits. Every day I enter the garden with my tool and a pie plate and concentrate on one quarter of the garden. The place looks good at a glance, but at ground level, new infestations are always coming up, and I set to work. My kill for the day goes into a plastic grocery bag. I'm still pondering what to do with them. I don't want to infest the landfill.

   On a positive note, purslane is edible. Archaeobotanists have found that people on the Greek island of Samos were eating purslane in the seventh century BC. The Greeks and many other peoples still put purslane in their soups, salads and seed cakes. It has a sour/salty taste they say. But I can't do it. For me that would be like wantonly slaughtering 10,000 buffalo then ordering a bison burger. Wouldn't be appropriate.

   Two final notes: I googled "purslane tattoo" and got zero results. That should tell you something right there. Also, there are two South American soccer clubs nicknamed "The Purslanes" (Verdolagas). You can search their various uniforms but you won't find a trace of the famous weed. Maybe someone ate them.



Friday, June 25, 2021

Water Day

   Yesterday was the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, a day that always reminds of the time I celebrated it in the Philippines. I was in the Navy, stationed at a little base on the northwest coast of Luzon. My job involved listening in on the North Vietnamese across the sea.

   The Navy provided me with a comfortable bunk in the barracks on base, but some friends and I decided to go native out in the barrio. We rented a small house in a compound and reveled in the Filipino culture. Filipinos are among the nicest people in the world. A local barber told me they liked Americans because we payed our bills. The Japanese just took what they wanted during their occupation not so many years ago. 

   It was two miles to the base and I often arranged with a motorbike driver to pick me up before work. The motorbikes had covered sidecars, with plastic curtains for the monsoon season. I was not aware it was the Nativity of St. John that cloudless June morning when I left the compound. I was surprised to see that my sidecar had its curtains down and the driver was wearing his raincoat. I asked what the deal was, but couldn't hear his response through the plastic.

   The reason came soon enough as water balloons and buckets of water were thrown over the motorbike as we made our way though the barrio. I stayed mostly dry. The driver did not, but I could see he was laughing. He was young. When we got to the base I asked him again. "Birthday of St. John," he said. Ah, we were renewing our baptismal vows.

   I was telling someone yesterday about this little adventure and we speculated that before the coming of water balloons, the people may have dropped coconuts onto each other's heads. Had that been the case, the coming of rubber balloons alone would have raised the life expectancy of the average Filipino by at least two years. On a more somber note, while I was being hit with water balloons the people over in Vietnam were lobbing real bombs at each other. 

Sumaiyo ang kapayapaan.

Thursday, June 3, 2021

June 3, 2021 Thursday

   I've wondered what the bottom of the ocean would look like if all the water could be drained in a flash. For one thing  there would be lots of surprised fish flopping about. If this happened near a city, there'd be lots of shopping carts and refrigerators and unmade Mafioso.
   I read that immediately before a tsunami hits, the water near the shore withdraws, then rushes back in a giant wave. When a munitions ship blew up in Halifax Harbor in 1917, the harbor bottom was exposed for a few seconds. Both these methods of seeing the bottom of the ocean are by chance only as well as being dangerous for the onlooker.
   I took advantage of a third option yesterday afternoon by driving south from my home towards the town of Trail, Minnesota, a distance of 65 miles. Teresa and I were on a mission to pick up a mobility scooter for her father Enar, age 103, who lives in an assisted living apartment at the Warroad Senior Living Center.
   Enar used to get his exercise by walking to the dining room three times a day. But when Covid-19 hit, the dining room was closed and his meals were delivered to his room. Enar could have exercised by walking around the facility, but at 103, he said, forget about it. Enar's leg muscles weakened. He was no longer the man he had been at 102.
   Enar had asked previously about a scooter, but the family said no for fear that he would become dependent on the scooter. Also, Enar had had several close calls before the family took away his car in his nineties. There was a fear he'd run into a fellow old timer at the home.
   But now he really was a candidate for a scooter. Teresa thought it was worth giving her father a chance for some mobility for his final few years. She called Marty, our local VA rep. Yes, Enar would be eligible for a scooter, but there was a process. The next step was a call to Altru Hospital in Grand Forks. The man there said the VA process could take months. He said he might have a shortcut.
   A couple of days later a coworker of the man at Altru called. Her father had gotten a scooter from the VA and now that the father was deceased, she would be willing to loan it to Enar, no charge. So that's why we were driving across the bottom of glacial Lake Agassiz yesterday. The ancient lake bottom is flat. There are lots of trees and the crops in the fields are just greening up. It's the time for spraying the fields for weeds so there were lots of trucks and tractors on the road.
   As I say, the lake bottom is flat. No Mariana Tenches, though you could find fossils if you knew where to look. The lake had been formed many thousands of years ago by a melting glacier. At one time the lake had an area larger than the Black Sea. When it drained quickly 8,000 years ago, it raised the level of all the oceans about five feet which affected weather patterns everywhere, even boosting agriculture in Western Europe. 
   As I pondering these earth shaking consequences, Teresa got a text that the battery on the scooter was shot, but that it was easy enough to push. So we got the scooter loaded into the truck and headed for home. My thoughts were no longer on sea bottoms but on matters of battery procurement. 

Ancient Lake Agassiz with Scooter