Dept. of Neat stuff
Gregory J. of Dayton’s Bluff: “Subject: Neat stuff, Brown & Bigelow Division.
“When we were kids, there was something called neat stuff. It was difficult to define exactly what neat stuff was, but you knew it when you saw it. It could be something as simple as a cool rock or a fancy marble. Being much older but not much wiser, I still like neat stuff and find eBay an endless source of it. To my surprise, much of it comes from our own Brown & Bigelow.
“I knew Brown & Bigelow made playing cards, calendars, and all sorts of things imprinted with pictures of dogs playing poker. But it also produced Remembrance Advertising items, which were all manner of doodads and whatnots, much of it meant for adorning desks. While I don’t know what a clean desktop looks like, I wish I had one to display all the B & B neat stuff I’ve been accumulating over the past few years.
“One item is a white ceramic bank made in a stylized image of the old B & B building on University Avenue in St. Paul. It was known as ‘THE HOUSE OF QUALITY’ — or more precisely ‘THE HOVSE OF QVALITY,’ as was literally carved in stone on the building.
“B & B also made desktop thermometers, one more unusual than the next — and, amazingly, still accurate after 60 years or more, no battery required. One of them is constructed of clear Lucite, or the equivalent thereof, with stars and constellations decorating the area under the temperatures. My poor attempt at photographing it doesn’t do it justice.
“Another thermometer has a gold-tone world-map motif, a common design in many B & B objets d’art.
“What may not be apparent in the photo is a small hourglass in the center of the map. The entire map section can be rotated 180 degrees to start the hourglass, which very accurately measures off 3 minutes. Maybe people used to cook soft-boiled eggs at their desks, or timed phone calls, or . . . ? Your guess is as good as mine.
“There is more B & B neat stuff in my collection, but that is enough for now.”
BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: Keep ’em comin’, Gregory J. (and others)! Neat stuff of every description is as welcome as ever here.
The Astronomer of Nininger: “Subject: Winning.
“Decades ago, when I was on the school board, I had the wonderful privilege of granting diplomas to many students. But I took special pride in awarding them to my daughter and son as they walked across the stage for their respective high-school graduations. They graduated three years apart, but I distinctly remember telling them to ‘Be the best you can be.’ That’s what you need to do to be successful in life.
“That was roughly 30 years ago, and times have changed. It seems that we want everyone to feel good. It is arguable that we’ve seen our culture slip a bit, and the ‘Everyone is a winner’ mentality has allowed some hard work to go unnoticed or even replaced by a ‘Why should I work any harder than I need to?’ attitude. Participation trophies and watered-down criteria for merit have replaced what it takes to be a winner.
“I started running when I was a freshman at the University of Chicago. Stagg Field had the track that was moved from Soldier Field for the Pan Am Games in 1959; at the time, it was considered one of the finest running tracks in the world. The Chicago Track Club had a number of Olympic gold-medal winners, including Ira Murchison. I could warm up with him but certainly not compete against him. He was a sprinter. I could plod along, slower and better for longer distances.
“I took up running again when I served as a visiting professor at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado. I put a lot of miles on those mountain trails and ran in the Garden of the Gods and even in Bolder Boulder. They were fun races, and I always tried as hard as I could. Even though I didn’t win, I kept trying my best. I actually found my times improved.
“I did finally win a race around Como Lake in St. Paul. I still have the trophy.
“One thing that I can tell people who might say that winning isn’t important: They never won anything!”
Stars and Stripes Forever
Independence Day note from The REF in White Bear Lake: “Subject: Broad stripes and bright stars.
“For his annual tradition around this time of year, a guy I know on the West Side of St. Paul was joined early Saturday morning — by virtue of a Friday-night sleepover — by two of his delightful grandkids. ‘Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness’ indeed!
“Photo credit to his wife (a.k.a. ‘Grandma’), a delightful woman I’ve known my entire life.”
This ’n’ that ’n’ the other ’n’ the other
All from GramB of Nisswa: “Subject: A few of my favorite things!
“Other than family and friends, a few of my favorite things have always been writing, photography, nature, and our beautiful red, white and blue waving in the breeze!
“I am blessed!
“Subject: A Real Challenge.
“My mom passed away in 1970 at the young age of 45. She loved growing purple iris, and raised them for years at the home in which I grew up. I had always wanted to honor her by planting and nurturing this flower. Five years ago, we planted iris in two different locations near the lake. Being that our soil is all sand, we gave it a try anyway, adding plant soil to help. The first year, nothing. Year 2 brought little sprouts of leaves. Year 3 brought full-grown leaves, but no flowers. Year 4, we decided to add a good fertilizer, and voilà! We are now in Year 5 and have learned the secret of fertilizing our plants! A beautiful iris for you, Mom!
“Subject: Food chain.
“It happened in mid-May, the day of the last snowfall of the season. GrampG called me to the window. There we saw an American eagle perched on our dock. I hurried for the camera just as the eagle jumped into the lake, then returned to the dock to eat his unidentified catch!
“Cruising on the pontoon yesterday with our daughter and family (masking and distancing), we saw from afar mama loon with her two new babies! I grabbed the telephoto lens and caught this shot!
“Welcome, little fuzz-balls!”
Our birds, ourselves (update)
Including: What is right with people?
Arwen of Inver Grove Heights reports: “Subject: Barn swallow babies nearly grown!
“It’s almost 14 days since the baby barn swallows hatched in my garage. Four hatched; at about day 10, I found one on the floor of the garage, all hunched and shivering, with eyes closed. I captured her easily; she didn’t run, which was worrisome because healthy birds want to get away. But she (?) did loudly protest, so that was encouraging.
“I put the baby up on a platform I had made with a wooden crate lid, lined with newspapers, and placed up on two tall ladders underneath the nest, so the baby could stay off the floor, where the cat roams. Then I watched and waited, for 24 hours.
“At first, it seemed like the parents were taking care of the baby. (Parents often still take care of babies who come out of the nest at fledgling stage — although it seemed too early for this one to fledge.) They perched near her on the platform, or on the box I’d put on the platform in case babies would want to hide. But it just didn’t look right. The parents would go up to the nest and feed the three left in there, but they never came down to the one on the platform. And then the baby started to cheep. Just one small cheep, then a pause, then another cheep: ‘Here I am. Please find me and feed me.’ It was pitiful. At that point, I figured that the baby had been kicked out of the nest and left to die, which sometimes happens with birds, so I went out and grabbed that baby, put her in a small box, and drove her 20 miles to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. (Very unhappy she was, to be grabbed! Especially since I found she had become stuck on some masking tape that had been under the box. Poor baby lost three feathers, still in sheaths, but fortunately, they were downy body feathers, not flight feathers.) They have a whole baby-bird nursery there, and they will be able to feed the baby the food she needs to grow into an adult. I hope she makes it.
“Unlike two years ago, when all four babies came out of the nest onto the garage floor and I had to grab them and put them in an inverted lid on top of a garbage can (I hadn’t thought of the platform idea then) and lost two babies in the process, these three babies who are left now are being smart little barn swallows and staying up in the nest area where they belong. (Barn swallows usually do not come down to the ground at all.) They’re perching on the edge of the nest, or sitting next to it. I imagine they will fly in the next few days. I hope they stay up there! Maybe my platform will not be needed.”
Photos and captions by Al B of Hartland: “A fox squirrel looking to see what its tail is pointing at.
“Believe it or not, a ruby-throated hummingbird can weigh more than a penny. Or not.
“A damselfly that delights and dazzles, the ebony jewelwing.
“A Japanese beetle on a rose. Sadly, it’s not just there to smell the sweetness.
“A bald eagle looks good while it’s having a good look.”
Friendly Bob of Fridley: “Subject: Where have you gone, Mrs. Malaphor?
“I just love mixed metaphors, or one where the speaker confuses two similar ones and has words freely cross over between them. A late friend of one of my sisters used to amuse us with her statement that someone was ‘madder than a wet hornet.’
“Reddit calls these ‘malaphors,’ and indeed there is a malaphor.com site out there. I knew better than to actually go there, as the rest of the evening would be gone shortly!
“On a forensic show I was watching recently, a detective was frustrated that they could not seem to get anywhere on a certain case. He called it ‘a tough nut to swallow.’ I just had to look that one up. The malaphor.com site described it as a ‘clever congruent conflation [that] is a blend of “tough nut to crack” and “bitter pill to swallow”, both referring to hard things to do.’ A clever congruent conflation. An awesome alliteration! Of course, ‘malaphor’ is itself such a blend of ‘malapropism’ and ‘metaphor.’
“I actually hear these quite often on the forensic shows — like the time a person going over some evidence found something that ‘made red flags go off in my head.’ Ow.”
The Permanent Friendly Record
Including: Fifteen nanoseconds of fame
John in Highland: “Subject: Barley pop.
“I belong to a group of friends, some from as long ago as grade school, with whom we struggled through early years of college. We were young enough to not be able to legally drink alcohol, but old enough to be eligible for the draft. Most of us were to eventually serve our time in the military, but a few actually maintained their college deferment until 1970, when the lottery came into effect.
“In those early days of college, we had a hangout in one friend’s garage. It was a haven for lifting weights, listening to the latest music, and, of course, drinking barley pop. The garage had a small fuel-oil stove, so we were able to use it year-round.
“Three members of the group had purchased a lot and built a cabin on Moose Lake, near Ely, on the edge of the Boundary Waters. Many times in the garage, one genius would pipe up with ‘Let’s go up to Ely!,’ and a small group would set out in the middle of the night for northern Minnesota.
“On one occasion, a similar entreaty was made by a member whose name will not be mentioned, but who went by the nickname of Slippery. It happened that Slippery had a motorcycle, and he and another member decided to take off for Ely on the bike. It was a Honda 305cc SuperHawk, the same model that Robert Pirsig and his son rode cross-country on a trip that was the basis for his book ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.’
“The trip to Ely did not last very long, however. Interstate 35 was not completed, and the pair was riding up on the old Highway 61. It was the year that mandatory helmet-wearing had become law, and they had only one helmet. It wasn’t very long before a highway patrolman spotted them, pulled them over, gave Slippery a ticket, and forbade them from going any farther. One of the bike riders told us how depressing it was to be hungover and stranded in Wyoming, Minnesota.
“Some of my friends wondered how I knew what kind of bike Pirsig had driven, because he does not reveal that information in his book. I was living with my parents, whose house was right across the back fence from the Pirsigs’, and I saw him packing up the baggage on the bike when he set out on his trip in the late 1960s.
“As for the rest of the story, friends are not so convinced that my memory of the details is totally accurate. All I can say is: It’s my story, and I’m sticking to it!”
Frontiers of Midwestern Cuisine
Dennis from Eagan: “Remember that turkey-cake at Cub Foods last November?
“Here are watermelon and hamburger cakes that I found today at Apple Valley’s Walmart store.
“Amazing real-looking decorations!”
Everyone’s a copy editor
Carp Lips of Wyoming: “Tuesday’s Pioneer Press had an article about the Wild’s opening training camp to ready themselves for their upcoming playoff series against Vancouver.
“The accompanying photo states: ‘Minnesota’s Jason Zucker and Vancouver’s Jake Virtanen could be squaring off again when the teams begin their postseason series on Aug. 1.’
“Uh . . . no.
“Mr. Zucker was, to the dismay of ALL Wild fans, traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins on February 10.
“I know, I know, don’t cloud the issue with facts.”
Email from Donald: “Subject: And harder to spell.
“This headline (for an article continued from Page C1) appeared on Page C3 of Saturday’s Sports section of the paper west of St. Paul: ‘Short season harder to precict.’”
Then & Now
Rod More: “Subject: Classic Comic.
“It’s a classic because the subject matter is as relevant today as it was in 1993.
“Thank you, Mr. Watterson.”
The Doryman of Prescott, Wisconsin: “Subject: The latest cartoon in my head.
“The drawing is of an old guy asking a sales associate in a big-box home-improvement store a question.
“Old guy: ‘Where are the restrooms, please?’
“Sales associate: ‘I’m afraid they are at the other end of the store.’
“Old guy: ‘In that case, can you tell me what aisle the little plastic buckets are in?'”
Tim Torkildson: “I’m a very generous guy . . .
“I’m a very generous guy — I share all my advice for free.”
Floral Photography Division
Mounds View Swede and his camera have been out and about lately (as usual!): “The owners of a house on the far-away corner of our block planted flowers on their corner around the street-sign pole. They were eye-catching and camera-catching, too.
“This one caught my eye right away with the bright red and different white colorations on some petals.
“We have a clematis growing on a fence post in our front garden that has pretty much disappeared under some other kind of plant, but our corner neighbor’s clematis was a very vigorous plant with dozens of blossoms.
“And a white rose was blooming there, too. The soft, creamy look of the petals was very soothing to me.
“There are a great number of pink and red blossoming plants. I like this, but don’t know what it is.
“This looked like some kids had fun with some deep-red paint.
“When I brought a bucket of food scraps to the Ramsey County compost site near me, I was greeted by a joyful sight. Hollyhocks!
“I always bring my camera with just in case and was glad I did. I stood there with an incredulous smile on my face and then got busy.
“The range of colors was enjoyable to see. I have no clue what causes the variety of colors. Cross-pollination?
“I didn’t remember the many fine lines that each blossom has.
“The creamy white makes me think of ice cream. This time of year, my mouth waters for an ice-cream cone.
“This one has some of the skin tones I am familiar with: lightly sunburned. I can’t tan and just get pink or red.
“I was happy to see a bumblebee busy gathering nectar.
“And the deep red of these petals was very distinctive.
“Covered with pollen, this bumblebee was busy cross pollinating. I know this happens, just rarely have even seen it.”
The sign on the road to the cemetery said “Dead End”
Electronic Board of the Church on Lexington in Shoreview Division
Our Official Electronic Board of the Church on Lexington in Shoreview Monitor — Red’s Offspring, north of St. Paul — reports: “Subject: Always the right choice.
“The most recent message on the electronic board of the church on Lexington in Shoreview reads:
“‘When given the choice . . .
Then & Now
Kathy S. of St. Paul: “Subject: Losing sweet souls.
“Getting a parking space at my church meant I got there early. I would look around to say hi to folks sitting alone. And I hugged certain folks who seemed to need one. But hugging is verboten now that we are now stuck at home.
“We recently lost Judith to old age, and now an older nun with a great smile is in hospice. Both of them appreciated good hugs; I will miss them.
“In the movies, deceased people are shown lining up in front of the gates of heaven to be assigned their final destination (Up, or Down). With all the additional people dying of COVID, it occurred to me that the line in front of St. Peter might be longer now. I wonder if any will have earned demerits for not wearing face masks.”
Band Name of the Day: Good Fertilizer
Website of the Day (or: Lemonade from Lemons [PandemicDivision]), recommended by Semi-Legend: “Subject: BUCK UP — Quarantine Edition!
“If you’re feeling down, this may buck you up.
“Song written by Carsie Blanton, Ric Robertson, and John Prine.”