Take it from Mr. Burns: There are worse things than being a bachelor!

Could be vairse!

The Astronomer of Nininger: “The end of January marks the time of year that Scotch drinkers around the world unite and celebrate Rabbie (Robert) Burns’s birthday — born January 25, 1759. He lived only 37 years, but in that short time gave the world well over 500 poems and songs that we know so well, including ‘Auld Lang Syne,’ ‘Sweet Afton,’ ‘To a Louse’ and ‘To a Mouse.’

“They were sublime philosophical statements about the human condition and the Scottish culture. He was a busy man in his short life to compose so many rhymes. His time and efforts also resulted in some 15 children by five different women.

“I was privileged to lead the toast to the Lassies at this past weekend’s celebration of his birth. Bonnie Lassies means pretty girls, with whom we find life worth living. Burns respected marriage and romance itself. He pointed out on one occasion that being a bachelor is perhaps not the worst thing a man can be. Being the son of a bachelor is worse.”

See world

KH of White Bear Lake reports: “Subject: Name That Creature.

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“The first photo, taken in a tidal pool, is a ‘chiton.’ According to the naturalist (who identified it by matching it to a picture in his reference book), its mouth is located on the underside of the animal, and contains a tongue-like structure called a radula, which has numerous rows of 17 teeth each. The teeth are coated with magnetite, a hard ferric/ferrous-oxide material. This allows it to ‘chew’ a pit into even the hardest rock. The chiton makes a secure home in this pit and ventures out only to forage for food at night.

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“The second photo was taken in the same tidal pool. The naturalist was unable to find a matching picture in his reference book.”

BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: We make no pretense to being an Edge of the Sea Authority, but are quite confident in saying that what we have here is the exceedingly rare and elusive Four-Holed Gray Button.

Add that to your Life List!

Life as we know it
Or: Then & Now

Al B of Hartland: “I put the final touches of peanut butter on a slice of toast as I brewed tea and listened to the radio. I was multitasking. The news on the radio was a series of verbal punches to the stomach.

“The news gave way to music. I listened to John Prine sing. He is one of my favorites. ‘Bowl of oatmeal tried to stare me down . . . and won,’ he sang. Coincidentally, I was staring at a bowl of oatmeal as I added a bit of honey to it.

“I talked to several friends via telephone. It was already up to the day’s predicted low: 29 degrees below zero. We needed to face the cold facts, so we said the required things: ‘Cold enough for you?,’ ‘At least the sun is shining,’ and concluding with ‘Stay warm.’

“One caller talked of doing livestock chores early that cold morning. I miss that, but only in my memories. I loved getting into the barn on a cold day and experiencing the welcome warmth and that pleasant smell of cows and fodder. The worst part for me was when there were water problems. Pumps and pipes would freeze, and there were many things more fun than playing in water at 29 below.

“We talked of plugging cars in to heat the block or fluids and setting an alarm clock to remind us to start a vehicle every couple of hours if we’d intended to use it the next day after a gelid night.

“I was reminded once again that these are the good old days.”

Life as we know it
Or: Now & Then

The Gram With a Thousand Rules: “They want to be the boss of me now. They tell me how to dress for the weather and what to do for amusement when the day is pleasant and sunny: ‘Mow the lawn, go on a picnic, get that raking done now before the wind picks up.’ When a cold front moves in, they suggest that I just ‘bundle up and stay by the fire.’ Oh, they just are overflowing with advice on how I should spend my time. I didn’t expect to be the recipient of all these instructions once I was an adult — a retired adult.

“When my kids were small, it was expected that I would advise them. How else would they know? In the wintertime during a snowstorm, I told them to slip bread bags over their shoes before putting their overshoes on. ‘They will keep your shoes dry,’ I said. On nice summer days I told them to ‘Put the darned Monopoly game away and get outside and soak up some of that sunshine. It will be winter before you know it.’ Just the usual advice every parent gives to their kids. (Well, maybe not the bread-bag part. All six of them still give me a hard time about that rule.)

“This winter, the unasked-for advice has seemed all-encompassing and more annoying than ever before. Last week when it was subzero for several days, they told me not to go outside or I would freeze my eyeballs; and back during the mild early-January days, they told me how nice it was outside and ‘Maybe it would be a good day to walk the dog.’ What the? I haven’t had a dog for the past two decades!

“I am fed up with advice from these blankety-blank weather forecasters. Tell us the temperature, and if your Doppler radar machine is showing a front moving in. We will take it from there.”

Not exactly what (if anything) they had in mind
Or: Unclear on the concept

Vertically Challenged writes: “On the news last night, there was a video clip of someone snowblowing after this storm, and their kid was having fun running through the snow that he was blowing. It was shown several times, and I can’t believe no one ever said anything about that except that it was looking like fun.

“PLEASE, PLEASE don’t let your child do this! That can be so dangerous. If that snowblower picked up a rock (and it CAN pick up many!), it would be just like a bullet coming out of there! I sure would hate to hear of an accident like that happening!”

Our theater of seasons (responsorial)

Email: “From: Cheesehead By Proxy [“back in Northern Minnesota”]

“To: Mounds View Swede

“We, too, enjoy looking at animal tracks up here in northern Minnesota.

“I believe your first set of tracks are those of a rabbit.

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“See this link: http://www.naturetracking.com/the-5-most-common-animal-tracks-in-snow/

“The second set you pictured look like deer tracks in deeper snow, when the deer tend not to lift their hooves up far enough, and thus the hooves drag over the snow to the next step. We see this a lot on our pond out front.

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“Our weather app today (1-30-19) says it was 36 below about 15 minutes ago (sunrise) with a ‘feels like’ factor of -59.

“Those are my bragging rights from rural Crosslake. I checked the app and got excited when it showed our temperature to be colder than International Falls!

“In this cold weather, my husband and I are apt to talk about scenes from the Jack London story ‘To Build a Fire,’ or Laura Ingalls Wilder’s ‘The Long Winter.’

“But then we have our own recollections from our 1970s hippie ‘Back to the Land’ days north of Park Rapids. In 1975, our actual mercury thermometer once read 50-below.

“We were ill-prepared for this, as stupid former city kids who thought we knew what we were doing. We huddled around a fire in a homemade barrel stove, and the water in our dog’s bowl froze. Also freezing were lots of proudly home-canned goods on the shelf in the corner. A friend came up to visit and dryly pointed out that it was almost as cold as the surface of Mars.

“My parents sent us a much-appreciated gift of down-filled booties; and the following year our Christmas gift was money with which to purchase a decent woodstove.

“We picked out a Fisher woodstove made in Bemidji, Minnesota, that we still have — but it’s out in our sauna now. That stove was so heavy, it took at least four strong young men to lift it, and we’ve moved it along on our ‘geographicals’ from place to place over the years. I just could never let it go. I think we’re in one place now, until we can no longer maintain our house. God willing, that will be a few years at least.

“P.S. My daughter sent us this wonderful photo of our grandson yesterday!”

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Live and learn!
Plus: What is right with people?

Bloomington Bird Lady: “Subject: Our Own Little ‘Shutdown’!

“‘Too soon old, too late schmart!’ comes to mind this morning. In all our years here, since 1964, there had never been a power outage in winter. Christmas candles had all been put away; even the matches they needed were stashed . . . somewhere. We were finishing our dinner, contemplating a nice quiet evening of TV, when the lights flickered once and then went completely off. The  realization hit hard: What happened? Where is the inadequate flashlight right now? (My LED-light one fell and died last year.) When will the power come back on? I looked around the neighborhood, saw only darkened houses, and some flashlight glimmers from across the street. So we weren’t the only ones fumbling for candles and matches, at least.

“When the furnace is quiet for quite a while, and then a longer and longer while, and the temperature begins to sink, survival mode takes over. I got Birdman to put on a stocking cap, and we hunkered down, still in front of the now black TV, patiently waiting under a blanket, watching the former Advent candles burn low.

“I thought of leaving a couple of faucets running slightly to prevent pipes from freezing.

“We have lived through power outages in the summer — a whole different scenario: ‘Don’t open the fridge unless you have to; find some candles just in case it gets dark later!’ I remember going out on the front lawn and talking with neighbors, just to see if someone had called the power company to see
if a transformer had failed. Last night, we were not about to go outside . . . period!

“At about 10 p.m., the power came back on. I’d been thinking of those poor souls out there who had to fix whatever was wrong in such extreme cold with maybe gloved hands — I hope. Bless the people who are ‘out there’ for us, trying their best to get our furnaces back on! I hope no one got frostbite.”

Kathy S. of St Paul: “As the temps headed lower than a basement on January 29, a trouble light in my car went on. It said the air pressure in one or more of my car tires was too low. I drove home to my semi-heated garage and parked until Thursday. I hoped that the light would go out as temps rose, but it was still signaling trouble today — Friday.

“Of course, the light went out as I drove to my car dealership. I kept going and got some air added to all four tires. I was lucky to get help, and I got out of the way as fast as I could.

“But I want to thank all the workers who handled the cold, plus all the ailing vehicles. They were practically stacking cars in and around the dealership like cordwood — let alone dealing with their own exhaustion and panicked car owners.

“To all those who braved extreme cold for all of us this week: May your bosses and customers reward you at least half as much as you deserve.”

The kindness of strangers

Papa Whiskey reports: “Subject: Minnesota Nice beats nasty ice!

“Sunday night’s freezing drizzle combined with a drop in temperatures to cover the city with ice. I had to leave my car running for a while, to loosen it up, so I could scrape it off and see.

“On my way home from buying a new Gullah album from the Electric Fetus, I was heading up a hill near the Fairgrounds when I saw someone crawling on all fours in front of some steps to a house. She had a dog with her, and I wondered if she was just picking up some poop, but I turned around to check anyway.

“When I got there, she was just lying on her back, and I got out to see if she was OK. She was conscious, but had slipped on the treacherous ice and couldn’t get up! Her poor dog was shivering like crazy and trying to lift her up with his muzzle.

“I tried to help her up, but didn’t succeed very well — she was around 60, but obese, and that ice was everywhere.

“But soon a couple in an SUV stopped to help out, and the three of us managed to get her over to snowy ground and on her feet. We bundled her and her dog into the vehicle, and they drove her home. She lived just three houses away.

“The paper says several dozen people visited emergency rooms today after falls on that ice. I’m glad I didn’t just leave her and that shivering doggie there; it was only around 10 above, which isn’t conducive to survival if you’re out there long.

“If you see someone lying on the ground, best check!”

Our theater of seasons
Including: Our pets, ourselves

Dolly Dimples: “You know the saying ‘from the frying pan into the fire.’ It wasn’t bad enough that we had the coldest winter in 20 years. We topped it off with having an ice storm. On top of that, we’ve had a dusting of snow today. Broken bones and car accidents to follow . . .

“It warmed up enough last night for mist and rain to coat our driveway and sidewalk, now slick with ice. Nonetheless, dogs need to be walked. My son-in-law, who was the designated dog walker early this morning, slid backwards when he tried to walk on the driveway. He has fallen twice walking Percy earlier this winter. Both times he hit his head. Once he got a lump on his forehead; the other time, he suffered a bruise on the back of his head. I’m concerned that if he falls and can’t get back up, he would lie there and freeze to death. He said that isn’t likely to happen, as other dog walkers would be able to help him. Also, since our street is fairly busy (there is an entrance to the branch post office across street from us), cars are coming and going, so someone would stop if they noticed a person needed help. Those dog walkers are a hardy bunch.

“The fun part of dog-walking is meeting other dog walkers. Our little dog is not the least bit aggressive, so he greets one and all with a happy little prance and a wagging tail. For the most part, the dogs we meet are friendly, too, so while the dogs have a sniffing session, the dog walkers engage in a bit of small talk. It’s a neighborly and pleasant encounter.

“However, one young woman with a large dog, whom I met occasionally, made a point of leaving the sidewalk and walking in the street in a wide path around us. She doesn’t acknowledge us with a smile or greeting; nor does she loosen the tight grip she has on her dog’s leash. I give her the benefit of the doubt that she isn’t unfriendly. Maybe her dog is aggressive, and she doesn’t want to initiate an incident. After all, her dog IS big, and he could topple little Percy with one swipe of his paw. I’m not able to walk with Percy anymore, but I truly enjoyed my daily walks with him.”

When life hands you frozen lemons . . .

Again from Kathy S. of St. Paul: “Subject: The positive side of cold.

“I visited the grocery store this uber-cold day. With the school closed, I saw more grade-school-aged kids there with parents, having fun.

“When life gives you a polar vortex? Enjoy!”

The great comebacks

The Doryman of Prescott, Wisconsin: “HELP!

“There is no mail delivery today, due to cold temperatures. Does anyone know if Kohl’s is having a sale?’

The great comebacks
Or: Our times

Grandpa Jack: “While watching a college basketball game on TV, I said: ‘I wonder why a team has to have so many coaches?’

“My wife, not a great sports fan, responded dryly: ‘They have to have at least one to yell at the referee — and two to hold him back!'”

Everyone’s a copy editor!

Horntoad of White Bear Lake: “Subject: Violence in Sports.

“Some sports are quite violent in nature. Hockey involves a great deal of body contact and checking and, at the professional level, fighting. [Bulletin Board interjects: Not so much nowadays.] Football involves blocking, hitting, and tackling on every play.

“Basketball has some body contact, elbowing, and crashing to the floor, but is not based on intentionally ‘taking out’ another player. A foul should be called for that.

“So I was surprised and shocked to read the cutline for a picture of the Timberwolves’ game on Page 2 of the Pioneer Press Sports section on Thursday, January 31. It read: ‘Memphis center Marc Gasol shoots Timberwolves forward Taj Gibson during the second half.’ What?! I hoped this was just an innocent printing error; maybe the word ‘over’ was simply omitted between ‘shoots’ and ‘Timberwolves’ in that sentence. That would make more sense, and would eliminate any real possibility of ‘foul’ play. That appears to be the case, since there have not been any follow-up reports in the SPPP. Otherwise, the violence in sports has certainly gone too far.”

Everyone’s a copy editor!
And: It just don’t add up

Red’s Offspring, north of St. Paul: “Subject: Let us count the years.

“An obituary for Millard Fuller, the founder of Habitat for Humanity, was published on Page A2 of Monday’s STrib. His name, plus ‘1935-2019,’ appeared above the headline for the piece. As I read those numbers, I calculated that he was 84 [Bulletin Board notes: or, of course, 83 — though we’ll grant you this: At some point during 2019, he would certainly have been 84] when he died, so I was taken aback when I read the beginning of the article: ‘Millard Fuller, 74 . . .’

“My aback was further taken when I read the caption beneath Fuller’s photo: ‘Habitat for Humanity founder Millard Fuller, in 2004, at a home in Habitat’s Global Village in Americas, Ga. He died at 74.’

“Let’s see: 1935 to 2000 is 65. 2000 to 2019 is 19. 65 + 19 = 84.

“At least they were consistent.”

It takes all kinds!

Newport Reader: “I am doing some volunteer work for an organization (thankfully in Florida), and my job is to organize a massive collection of books.

“It is interesting to see the various kinds of bookmarks that previous readers have used. So far, the most interesting is toilet paper!”

Department of Duh (responsorial)

The Divine Mum of Crocus Hill: “Subject: God Bless Bulletin Board — and Rusty of St. Paul.

“I can’t believe I never knew about the little arrow by the fuel gauge that tells you what side the gas cap is on. My husband had never heard of it, either. That will be my new parlor trick. [Bulletin Board muses: What will be? Showing up your husband? LOL.]

“P.S. Rusty‘s entry led me to this story. Turns out it was invented by a guy who worked for Ford, but Mercedes-Benz might have had it first.”

Old friends (responsorial)

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Inspired by KH of White Bear Lake’s picture of his now-retired boots, here’s John in Highland: “I still have one of the two pairs of boots that I was issued in Army basic training many years ago. We were instructed by the drill sergeants that in order to ‘break in’ both pairs, we were to wear the two pairs on alternate days. In order to make sure that we ‘followed instructions,’ we had to paint a white mark on the back of one pair of boots so that the cadre could verify that we were truly changing pairs each day.”

Our pests, ourselves

KMarie: “Story used with permission from a friend who lives in the North Woods: ‘I had been listening to a book on tape by Mary Ann Winkowski. She is the person behind the old show “Ghost Whisperer.” She claims to see earthbound spirits and helps them cross over or whatever it is they are supposed to do. She claims that one of the many ways that folks might know if there is an earthbound spirit is if things are misplaced, paperwork and keys and the like. I was in my office sorting papers in piles on the floor for tax preparation and year-end filing. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a notebook with a paper on top of it move. I looked and it stopped. I thought that it must just be my imagination. Then it moved again. At that point I got up and got my husband, a broom, a container, a flashlight and my canister vacuum minus the nozzle. If it was a “spirit” I wanted a witness and if it were some fur thing, I wanted help. After some shifting and back and forth we discovered the “spirit” — a little vole. He scurried behind the filing cabinet and using the combination of broom and vacuum, we finally scared him into the container. Big relief for all but the little vole.'”

Band Name of the Day: Little Percy’s Wagging Tail — or: The What Thes

Website of the Day, from The Monkey Lover’s Wife of Northfield:

“Hello, BB!

“I don’t know how many of the online readers are on Twitter, or if BB saw this thread from Sunday [Bulletin Board says: We are on Twitter, at twitter.com/bbonward, but follow no one — so we had not seen or heard of this thread], but I thought it was fun:

https://twitter.com/douglasfudge/status/1092279634845065217 

[Or, without tweets in reply: https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1092279634845065217.html]

“When I checked this morning, the author (his bio says ‘slimologist’?????) [Bulletin Board notes: To be “fair,” it says, in toto: “biologist at Chapman University, biomechanist, hagfish enthusiast, slimologist”] hadn’t yet found the boy in question, but he has tweeted out a picture of his father — and someone suggested looking at the videos to see if they could spot Jackie Gleason in the crowd.

“Thanks!”

BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: We are, sadly (we want to believe the guy, and we want to believe his father), a bit skeptical — but, then, we just finished Ian Parker’s extraordinary story, “Unreliable Narrator,” in this week’s issue of The New Yorker, about the self-fictionalizing, best-selling author of “The Woman in the Window,” “A.J. Finn” (real name, we trust, Dan Mallory). Don’t miss it.

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