Now & Then
The Astronomer of Nininger writes: “Subject: Marvelous Fantastical Time Machine.
“Carl Sagan was known for saying that there are ‘billions and billions’ of stars out there. That’s a lot of stars.
“Our sun is one of those billions and billions of stars, itself in no way remarkable. Orbiting with it, quite far out, around the center of our galaxy, are eight tiny planets. (Get over it; Pluto is not a planet.) Other stars have planets, too. In fact, today we know with certainty about the existence of thousands of exosolar planets — those orbiting other stars. This may in fact be the norm. Searches for these mysterious planets have been nurtured by our search for life and the desire — or maybe, instead, the intimate need — to know whether other living beings inhabit them. Are we alone?
“Our journey of discovery is akin to a youngster peeking through a knothole in a really high wooden fence around a construction site. But we are, in a sense, making that hole bigger every day with space telescopes as well as larger and larger behemoth ground-based devices. Combined with robotic explorers on Mars and remote visits to other planets, asteroids and moons as well, we have been able to learn more about our solar system, our universe, and ourselves.
“I have told my students that a telescope is nothing more than a light bucket. Contrary to what is commonly believed — that a telescope is specifically used to magnify objects — rather, it is designed to capture light. Using round numbers for simplicity, if we assume that the pupil of our eye is about 1 centimeter across, then a one-meter (diameter) telescope can gather 10,000 times more light, so we can see an object that much dimmer or farther away. That light carries with it information from whence it came. With the right detectors, and if we are clever enough to interpret that light we just captured, we can learn the object’s temperature, its chemical composition, perhaps its age and life history, sometimes even its ultimate destiny.
“When we look out there, we see how the universe, or the specific object we are observing, was when the light we just gathered left it. So in a sense, our telescope is a magnificent device, a time machine, enabling us to look back in time. Our ultimate goal would be to look back in time and see how the universe was when God started it running. Traditional telescope technology and problems with understanding radiation, matter and anti-matter in the early universe preclude this. But we can continue the quest to keep learning more. And then we will know ourselves, and maybe God, even better.”
Our State Fair is the best state fair!
Karen Dare of Eagan: “Subject: The Great Minnesota (Let’s Not) Get-Together.
“When I first heard that the Minnesota State Fair was canceled, I shed a tear or two. Summer was already starting to look bleak. Vacation plans were altered, local festivals and county fairs were canceled, and now the 12 best days of summer, the Great Minnesota Get-Together, was soon to be known as the ‘Let’s Not Get-Together.’
“I wondered if the Fair had ever been canceled before. A quick Google search showed that in its 161 years, it has been canceled six times, including this year. The years 1861 and 1862 were canceled because of the Civil War and Dakota War. In 1893 there were scheduling issues between the Fair and the World Columbian Expo in Chicago. Fuel was in short supply in 1945 because of World War II, and in 1946 it was cancelled because of an outbreak of polio. The 2020 pandemic ends a string of 73 consecutive years of the Great Minnesota Get-Together. I personally have missed only a few.
“My earliest memory of going to the Fair was when I was 6 years old. We arrived so early in the morning that it was still dark. Most booths and exhibits weren’t open yet. The crowd was light, and it was easy to stroll around. The smell of strong coffee, cinnamon rolls and farm animals hit you the moment you passed through the gate. We stayed the entire day, taking in all the sights until it was once again dark. The once-quiet surroundings were now loud, and carnival rides lit up the horizon. Music was coming from the beer tents, the grandstand and the amusement rides, such as the Merry-Go-Round. The smells of coffee had long been replaced with the smell of spilled beer, hot sugar in the form of cotton candy and Tom Thumb mini-donuts. Fried foods are a staple at the Fair, but all you can smell is the hot grease, not the real item that has been stabbed with a stick and dipped into the hot spitting oil.
“The Grandstand is 134 years old. If you want the latest and the greatest gadget or gizmo, this is where you go. An energetic ‘hawker’ will try to make you wonder how you have lived your life this long without said product. By the way, I have lived just fine with these products tucked into a box in my bottom cupboard, waiting for the perfect recipe that calls for a vegetable to be sliced, diced, chopped or noodled!
“At night, the Grandstand’s marquee lights up and major headliners appear. Some of the artists are just starting their careers. Others are coming to the end of their prime and are just glad to be performing: Johnny Cash, John Denver, Bob Hope, Willie Nelson, to name a few. The first concert I attended at the Grandstand was Captain & Tennille in 1975. The crowd could be heard singing ‘Love Will Keep Us Together’ as the sun set over the stage.
“I was well into my teens before I even knew the Midway existed. My folks indulged me with the kiddy rides. There was the Sky Ride, which took us across the tops of the trees and brought us from one end of the Fair to the other. The Giant Slide, where you climb up many steps, only to plop down on a burlap sack and sail down a bumpy sloping channel, never disappoints. But my favorite ride is the original tunnel of love, Ye Old Mill. It is more ‘cheesy’ than a big basket of deep-fried curds. There is something mesmerizing about the kitschy vignettes placed throughout the dark tunnel that keeps bringing you back year after year.
“You know you are a Minnesotan if you purchased your Blue Ribbon Bargain book filled with discounts ahead of time. Then you earmarked the pages to help you find the coupon when you stood in one of the long lines to fulfill your craving of something on a stick, preferably deep-fried.
“One of the best things about the Fair is the food. I’ve had everything from a plated meal (Hamline Church Dining Hall) to Mac N Cheese on a stick. Every year, vendors come up with something new and unique that you would find only at the Fair. Deep-fried Twinkies, Reuben on a stick, and Spaghetti Ice Cream are just a few of the tasty treats to be served at the Great Minnesota Get-Together. Pronto Pups or Corn Dogs, Milkshake or Malted, Cheese Curds or Cheese on a Stick — how do you choose?
“Besides eating, listening to music at one of the many venues, and buying that perfect something that only the Fair would sell (wax hand), there are the 4-H, Education, Creative Arts, and the Horticulture Buildings that are all stocked full of give-aways, exhibits, vendors and unique displays. One of my favorite displays is the seed art [crop art], located in the Horticulture Building. Portraits of celebrities, landscapes and the latest fads all made out of seeds and legumes are truly something to behold.
“While there won’t be a Great Minnesota Get-Together in 2020, I will spend the 12 days it should have been reliving my memories, baking some frozen State Fair-brand corn dogs and Sweet Martha cookies. I’ll eat these treats while sitting in the sun applying my free ‘Healthcare 11’ sunscreen, and I will participate in the Virtual #StateFair hunt. I’ll measure the length of my Fair-bought camp chair with my free AFL-CIO yardstick to see if it will fit on my patio planned at last year’s Fair. Until next year, this will have to do.”
The best State Fair in our state!
Gregory J. of Dayton’s Bluff: “Subject: ‘We Need a Little State Fair’
“(Sung to the tune of ‘We Need a Little Christmas’):
“With apologies to Jerry Herman . . .
“Haul out the cheese curds
“Put up the Midway ’fore my spirit falls again
“Fill up the fish pond
“I may be rushing things, but deep fry those Pronto Pups now
“For we need a little State Fair
“Right this very minute
“Corn dogs with the mustard
“Cookies by the bucket
“Yes, we need a little State Fair
“Right this very minute
“You’re a giant rodent and very furry
“But Fairchild, dear, we’re in a hurry
“So walk through the Fairgrounds
“Look at the biggest pumpkins, that you’ve ever seen
“Check out the giant boar
“It’s time we saw some animals being born in the barn
“For I’ve grown a little leaner
“Grown a little colder
“Grown a little sadder
“Grown a little older
“And I need some mini donuts
“Just a little bag full
“Need a little State Fair now
“Haul out the cheese curds
“Haven’t I said ‘No Fair and wear a mask everywhere’?
“Fill up the fish pond
“But Gov’nor Walz, it’s one week until Labor Day now
“For we need a little State Fair
“Right this very minute
“Corn dogs with the mustard
“Cookies by the bucket
“So we walk through the Fairgrounds
“It’s been a long time since we’ve been in such a crowd
“Pass ’round the French fries
“It’s time we ate something deep-fried, and served on a stick
“For we need a little music
“Need a little laughter
“Need a little singing
“Ringing through the Grandstand
“And we need a little snappy
“Happy ever after
“Need a little State Fair now
“We need a little State Fair now
“Sorry, I’m an engineer, not a songwriter. Maybe someone else can fix my tortured lyrics or write some better verses.
“I suggest that we humbly petition the Great and Powerful Wizard of Bulletin Board to help us in our time of need and provide us with some relief from our State Fair-less condition.
“I’ve submitted a random selection of photos that I’ve taken at the Minnesota State Fair over the past 10 years, to get the ball rolling. I leave it up to his Wizardship to figure out how best to use them. Maybe other loyal subjects will submit their own State Fair photos.”
BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: Go for it, people!
Here are Gregory J.‘s random photos — every one he sent us:
The vision thing
Our State Fair Is the Best State Fair! Division
Dennis from Eagan reports: “Subject: State Fair barn-alternative.
“The Minnesota State Fair would have started Thursday, August 27. When I see Burnsville’s Bubble Barn car wash & vacuum complex (County Roads 42 & 5), I immediately think of the dairy barn with the milking machines out front.
“I miss the Fair already. I’ll look forward to the 2021 event!”
The Permanent Family Record
The Gram With a Thousand Rules writes: “Subject: Games kids play.
“Dad built a lot of fun things for us to play with in the house: desks, tables, chairs, a doll house, a sand table, a giant 3-by-5-foot checkerboard with side walls — which, when flipped over, could be used for any number of imaginative games involving Mom’s clothespins and a bag of marbles. But the outdoor contraptions were the most dangerous and fun. I was too young to participate in the trapezes he built for my five older siblings, but I did get a swing hanging from a tree. When I begged for a teeter-totter, he flung a 2-by-10 over a sawhorse and told me to go for it. My teeth hurt just remembering the sudden jolt I experienced when my reluctant sibling had had enough and I slammed to the ground.
“He built stilts for all of us, and my sister Nora was the best stilt walker in every neighborhood we moved to. She kept begging him to make hers higher. My niece just sent me this photo of Edith and Nora showing off their talents.
“Nora is age 12 and wearing our brother’s outgrown boots.”
Our theater of seasons
The Permanent Brotherly Record
From otto: “While on our daily morning walk, we saw this bush bearing clumps of gorgeous berries.
“Can someone help us out with what they might be? We are assuming they are for bird consumption and not for humans. Help? Contributor is otto. [Bulletin Board says: We are not a definitive source, but believe it to be a beautyberry. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Callicarpa. As for its edibility: Until you get a definitive I.D., we’d advise against eating it.]
“Also a funny: Recently had a phone call from my brother, who is 8 years younger than I. He said he was watching ‘Antiques Roadshow’ on PBS, and it made him think of me and thought it was time to give me a call. Who needs brothers when you got one like mine?”
Mounds View Swede has sent some more of his “work”: “While looking for some prairie views for a poet friend of mine, I spotted some prairie flowers to share with Bulletin Board readers. I have not tried to find out what these are.
“As I wandered among the weeds spotting different types of blossoms, I paid attention to those being visited by the bees or other insects. I was happy to see their presence.
“And I enjoyed seeing flowering plants I have never seen before.
“And I enjoyed this tall one that let me get a lower-angle view, with the sky as the background.
“I need to remember to visit the nearby prairie more often to see what is going on there.”
Another episode of creative hearing, reported by Rusty of St. Paul: “In one of my flower gardens up north, I have a section with bachelor buttons, yellow-orange cosmos, nasturtiums, and California poppies
“What my wife actually said at 9 a.m. the other morning, when we were having breakfast on the deck, was: ‘Look! The hummingbirds are at the cosmos!’
“I do not hear well anymore. Especially if there is any competing noise. Prior to her hummingbird statement, I had asked her a question that had to do with what we planned to do that day. My agenda is usually one of chores, and hers is more like taking time to smell the roses.
“I proposed: ‘How about we pick berries this morning and freeze them and stack firewood this afternoon?’
“My wife was never one to experiment much with recreationals back in her college days, so I was shocked — shocked! — when I heard her reply: ‘Look! I’m going to the Cosmos!’
“My feeling was that 9 a.m. was WAY too early for that.”
Life as we know it
Kathy S. of St. Paul: “Subject: Talking Sense to kids.
“In 1988, I joined strangers at the Y camp in Ely for a weekend. I shared a room with a 26-year-old woman who was upset over breaking up with her third major boyfriend. She was frantic to find a new one.
“So I told her about two of my girlfriends who had married alcoholics. Only one of the husbands was in recovery; the other one could not be saved. My point was that there are worse things than being single for life.
“She listened to my story in silence. Then she announced that she knew what my problem was: I hated men. So I gave up trying to talk sense to her. As my friends pointed out, you can’t argue with young people seized by the biological imperative to find mates.
“This year we have seen young folks on TV, partying in groups that might spread COVID. I know logic won’t modify this behavior. Maybe we can dream up something like cubicles on beaches that might keep them safer?
“Meanwhile, I’m crossing my fingers and wearing my mask. And avoiding beaches.”
Life as we know it
Woodbury Reader: “Last week I was grocery shopping for my elderly mother, and I ended up going to five stores to buy six items!
“This week we are on a road trip. Night # 1 at a well-known hotel chain, we were greeted by a sign that said they were out of bar soap. Night #2, farther west, we were given one bar of soap, which we shuttled between the shower area and bathroom sink. I wasn’t aware of a soap shortage. The proprietor wanted to charge an extra $10 for the second person! When my husband questioned that, he was told it was due to extra water, etc. We could have pointed out that two water sprinklers were saturating the plants, and that water was running onto the parking lot. In fact it was still running all over the next morning!”
Dept. of Neat Stuff
John in Highland: “Since the late 1950s, we have had a set of tongs that has been in the silverware drawer of our summer cabin up north.
“Recently I took note of the printing on either side of the utensil. I tried to Google the ‘Rustic Lodge Motor Inn,’ but could find no mention of it. There is a Rustic Lodge Avenue in south Minneapolis, but nothing close by that resembles a motel or motor inn. [Did you Google the address: 4737 Nicollet Avenue? It’s one block north of Rustic Lodge Avenue — and is now the address of New Central Auto Body.]
“On the other side is an advertisement for the Globe Oil company. Globe was the oil company started by Ignatius Aloysius (I.A.) O’Shaughnessy, who, along with his family, was a prominent benefactor for the colleges of St. Thomas and Notre Dame, among others.
“My mother worked for over 20 years as Archives Librarian at St. Thomas. As such, she was responsible for setting up all of I.A.’s ceremonial uniforms when he would receive a new award or donate another significant grant to the college. If she ever recognized the link between her tongs and the man who was responsible for building the beautiful library she worked in, she never made note of it.”
Merlyn of St. Paul: “Last week’s ‘Sunday Passage’ on ‘CBS Sunday Morning’ brought forth the death of Julian Bream.
“I am remembering his Schubert Club performance that Morgan & I attended at O’Shaughnessy Hall in the ’70s. Lots of beautiful music. When his performance was over, we hung around (because Morgan had some question . . . surprise). Unexpectedly (to us) the stage started filling with Schubert Club members, and we were awash in women saying the damnedest things to him, like ‘My daughter plays the dulcimer. Don’t you think that is the perfect feminine instrument?’ There was wine and food, and we did our hippie best to blend in. In the end, I was once again struck by the price of fame. Pride must be learned to be wallowed in (accompanied by numerous glasses of cheap sparkling wine).
“R.I.P., Julian Bream💕”
A thought for today
From Tim Torkildson: “A man may think he’s serving well
“and so his self-esteem will swell
“but God keeps not a detailed chart
“of anything but loving heart.”
The Retired Pedagogue of Arden Hills: “Subject: Inspiring confidence.
“The subject lines from two recent emails:
“‘All your contents have just came in with . . .’
“‘View how much you can now keepm in your pockets.'”
Everyone’s a copy editor!
Two emails from Donald: (1) “Subject: Pick a number.
“This headline appeared on the front page of the Sports section in Tuesday’s Pioneer Press: ‘No fall season, but U opens at No. 20 in poll.’
“The third paragraph of the Associated Press article: ‘Five other Big Ten (sic) made the Top 25, including No. 20 Minnesota, making its first pre-season poll appearance since 2004.’
“The ‘AP TOP 25 POLL’ appeared on Page 4B: ’19. GOPHERS.’
“This headline appeared on the last page (C6) of Tuesday’s paper west of St. Paul: ‘Idled Gophers hit preseason No. 19.’
“The second paragraph of the ‘STAFF AND NEWS SERVICES’ article: ‘The Gophers are ranked 19th in their first appearance in the preseason poll since 2004.’
“The ‘AP TOP 25 POLL’ appeared next to the article: ’19. Gophers.’
“Because #19 wins 3-2 over #20, I’ll go with #19.”
(2) “Subject: STribune strifecta.
“On Page C2 of the Tuesday edition of the paper west of St. Paul, the ‘NFL’ section contained the following:
“(1): ‘The Bengals the former Vikings (Trae Waynes) veteran to a three-year deal worth $42 million as a free agent . . .’
“(2): ‘Browns Pro Bowl running back Nick Chubb is being evaluated for a concussion after being tackled the first day Cleveland players wore pads. Chubb, who rushed for 1,494 yards last season, was taken down after catching a pass by linebacker Mack Wilson about halfway through Monday’s workout.’
“(3): ‘Saints starting left guard Andrus Peat has a hand injury and that the timeline for his return is unclear.’”
Muse, amuse (responsorial)
GormdG of Luck, Wisconsin: “Subject: Cartoon Colonoscopy Clinic.
“The Doryman of Prescott envisioned a sign for a cartoon colonoscopy clinic: ‘Sorry, We’re Open.’ Great cartoon, but the message seems a bit negative.
“Think of all those happy, helpful folk working there in the clinic. I’m assuming this mythical clinic may have modified patient procedures because of COVID-19 (as my actual dental clinic has done).
“Given that, I envision a more cheerful sign message on the front of the building: ‘Welcome! Please enter from the rear — it works for us!'”
The sign on the road to the cemetery said “Dead End”
Red’s Offspring, north of St. Paul: “Subject: Welcome . . . with conditions.
“This welcome mat appeared in a catalog:
“‘SEND A TEXT
“‘WHEN YOU ARRIVE’
“(picture of a dog bone)
“‘NO NEED TO KNOCK AND
“‘GET THE DOG INVOLVED’”
This ’n’ that
Or: Life as we know it (Pandemic Division) (responsorial)
The most recent Bulletin Board included this note from Booklady: “In these strange times, I’m always looking for something to make me laugh. We found a great example on a sign by a dairy farm between Centuria and Milltown, Wisconsin: ‘Why do cows have hooves? Because they lactose.’
“Here in the North Woods, we have been spending a lot more time at home than ever before. Gone are the spontaneous road trips and meeting friends for lunch or dinner. The upside is that we have been far more observant of the natural world. In the past week, we observed large numbers of what we presume are migrating birds: flocks of blue jays and warblers, miscellaneous varieties of sparrows and many UFOs of the bird kind. We need Al B! He could tell us if this is a particularly early migration.”
We presently heard from the aforementioned Al B of Hartland, our Official Ornithologist: “Dear Booklady,
“It takes a keen observer of nature such as you to remind us to look harder.
“July sees the male hummingbirds getting the green flag to head south. Females are next, followed by the youngsters, who make their first trip without the help of Siri or Garmin. Some shorebirds wintering in Central and South America begin to amscray in July. Now we’re seeing migrations of common nighthawks, Baltimore orioles and warblers. Some hawks are moving. Chimney swifts and swallows (including purple martins) are congregating in preparation for migrations, just as tour groups have pre-departure meetings. Other birds are flocking and wandering.
“Every year, month, week, day, hour and bird are different, but I’d say the timing is about average. Your results may vary depending on location and local conditions.
“Thank goodness for birds and things.”
Keeping your eyes open
Transplanted in Florida (formerly The Man from Milaca): “Subject: An update from the Sunshine State.
“I have been noticeably absent from the BB scene for over a year.
“I’ve been existing, more or less, in a dark, gloomy world of grief, following
the death of my wife in May of 2019. The days have just run into each other,
a jumbled blur of sepia images from our 28 years of marriage. It was hard to notice anything else.
“Even though I decorated for last Halloween, nobody showed. Christmas was celebrated by rote.
“Last night, I had a chance to look out at an eye-opening sunset. The sky looked like a lake of lava, endlessly flowing out of a bottomless fissure. It only lasted a moment. I was lucky enough to have a camera close by. See for yourself if my description is correct.
“Anyway, it served as a reminder to me — that life is still for the living. And even in times of great loss, such as during a pandemic, that beauty still exists. We just need to open our eyes.”
Band Name of the Day: The Recreationals
Website of the Day, recommended by The Monkey Lover’s Wife of Northfield: Jellyfish lightning!