KH of White Bear Lake reports: “Subject: Thistles.
“My dislike of thistles goes all the way back to childhood, when my siblings and I were instructed to walk our farm with the objective of plucking the thistle blossoms before they turned to seed. Later in life, they seemed bent on ruining our back-yard lawn.
“Last summer, with much sweat and determination, I won the war of attrition as I cleared them, one by one, out of the apple orchard. But just outside the orchard, they continued to thrive, and continued to irk me. Until one day.
“One day I noticed the goldfinches had moved in, apparently seeking treasure. I watched — first with curiosity, then with awe — as they ripped out the thistle down and feasted on the seeds. Each day, I was drawn to the spectacle. I watched for hours. They seemed to exert the same perseverance harvesting the thistle seed as I had spent clearing the orchard of the pests. To me, the thistles were garbage; to them, treasure.
“Day after day I watched, becoming ever more curious how they actually got the seed. One day I took my camera, zoomed in from afar, and started shooting a series of photos. By studying them, I was able to determine that the seed was at the base of the down. I also could see that when the down was ripped out, sometimes the seed came along with the down, and sometimes it stayed behind. So the next day, I went out in the thistle patch and began to play goldfinch. I yanked the down and plainly saw what this photo shows.
“Sometimes the seed comes out with the down (to fly away and grow new thistles), and sometimes the seed remains (to be eaten by the finch). It seems obvious now, but their actions were so incredibly quick that it took some time to piece it together. Getting the seed requires two steps: Yank some down, and then go into the bud to get the seed(s) left behind.
“In this photo, I managed to capture the result of both steps. This finch yanked out some down, which landed on top of its head. Quicker than you could blink an eye, the finch went and pulled out the seed that was left behind. I got the photo before it could swallow the seed. It’s a wonder to watch 20 finches doing this at the same time. Down is flying everywhere. From a distance, it looks like a small snowstorm going on.
“In the end, I was once again reminded that if I’m not seeing the beauty around me, it’s because I’m just not paying attention.”
Our birds, ourselves
A quick note from our Official Ornithologist, Al B of Hartland: “Birds are a way to experience joy and wonder. They are adorable and outdoorable.”
The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon
And: Our community of strangers
Jim Fitzsimons of St. Paul: “Subject: Credit where credit is due.
“Well, well, well! I don’t know if my fellow B. Boarders (I know I’ve been
away for a long time, but I’m still a B. Boarder at heart) are aware of a
podcast called ‘Omnibus!’ — but recently the podcast gave credit where
credit is due.
“‘Omnibus!’ is a podcast in which the two hosts — Ken Jennings, the ‘Jeopardy!’ grand champion, and John Roderick, a member of the band The Long Winters — discuss various aspects of human history. Their take is that there will be some cataclysm in the near future that will wipe out much of the historical record, and they are making this podcast in hopes of informing those living in that post-cataclysm world. It’s a conceit to tell interesting stories.
“Recently, they talked about the Baader-Meinhof Gang. It was an intriguing hour or so of how the far-left West German militant group formed, what its goals were, and its effect on the world. Good stuff.
“Here’s where the credit comes in.
“The very next episode was about the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon. (Sound
familiar?) When I saw that was the topic, my ears pricked up. I thought: ‘Hey! Are they aware of the connection to the Bulletin Board?’
“It does take about 27 minutes into the podcast for Ken Jennings to tell why the psychological phenomenon called the ‘frequency illusion’ is also known as the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon. (In fact, the term Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon predates the term frequency illusion.) The credit for the term goes to a little thing we all know as the Bulletin Board of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
“In 1994, a B. Boarder known as Gigetto on Lincoln commented on an odd but frequent occurrence he had dubbed the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon: ‘. . . the first time you learn a new word, phrase, or idea, you will see that word, phrase, or idea again in print within 24 hours.’ The hosts even talked about the Comics Page Corollary of B-MP, in which there will often be two comic strips in the daily papers making the same joke on the same day.
“I was pretty jazzed that the BB was credited, and even more jazzed to learn that Gigetto coined a term that is now listed in the Oxford English Dictionary. That’s awesome!
“And I remember when it all happened.
“In honor of this news and to make a long post even longer, I have a B-MP to report.
“Just last week, my wife was asking if we might have one of those clip things: ‘What are they called? It’s a cara-something. Carabean something.’ She described it, and we looked it up online.
“It’s a carabiner. I was familiar with the object, but I didn’t know what it was called. I learned something new. Then later that same day, I was listening to the popular true-crime podcast ‘My Favorite Murder,’ hosted by Georgia Hardstark and Karen Kilgariff. During the telling of a survivor story, Karen mentioned a fastening device called . . . yep . . . a carabiner!
“The frequency illusion . . . er . . . I mean the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon is such a very cool thing.”
BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: Indeed, it is. So was that discussion on “Omnibus!” —despite Ken Jennings’s insulting description of Bulletin Board as “just a lazy editor’s dream come true. It’s just a series of random reader suggestions and ruminations.”
That Jennings fellow might well be the all-time “Jeopardy!” champ — but he has certainly never been a B. Boarder, or he would know that there was nothing “random” about it. Nor did he have to do the work!
Sometimes, a know-it-all . . . doesn’t.
Our theater of seasons
Mounds View Swede: “The sunny weather highlighted some of the remaining blossoms and leaves in my yard, so I went out to take a look.
“I liked what I found, though you had to be close to get a good look at them. The hydrangeas had the showiest mass of dried petals.
“And there was a leaf here and there still hanging on.
“One milkweed pod remained.
“And one raspberry leaf still had some green showing.
“I was glad to see these remainders of summer growth still ‘hanging’ in there.”
The vision thing
OG Fox: “Mrs. Fox and I were raking leaves a couple of weeks ago and noticed that our horse, Doc, seemed to want to help. I was skeptical, but we decided to let him try. In the end, I thought he did a pretty nice job. You can look at the picture and judge for yourself.”
BULLETIN BOARD MUSES: Very tidy work!
But can’t you hear what Doc must be thinking? “A couple hours of this, and I’m pooped. Not to mention — I’ve gotta pee like a rakehorse!”
What is right with people?
The Doryman of Prescott, Wisconsin: “Subject: Never leave home without the courage of your convictions.
“So I’m off to my favorite woodworkers store this morning, and as I’m preparing to leave, I open the hall closet and the Runabout says: ‘You won’t need your coat.’ I replied: ‘It’s kinda chilly out.’ She ‘concluded’ the conversation with: ‘You’ll be in the car. You’ll be fine.’
“I gave up.
“As I pulled up to the Rockler store, I noticed a long line waiting at the entrance. A quick glance at the car clock (OTDs remember when none of them worked, back in the olden days) showed it was well past opening time. When I got out and questioned my peer group, they pointed out the sign that read only 20 customers at a time were allowed in the store.
“After about five minutes of shivering, I started laughing and explained to them why I was so scantily clad. The benevolent brotherhood of woodworking hobbyists propelled me to the head of the line. It felt like we were all this together.”
Could be verse!
Tim Torkildson: “To work in shared locations
“in cities big and bright
“was once the dream of millions —
“you might say a birthright.
“But then the COVID virus
“did trap us all at home
“to work online forever
“and nevermore to roam.
“At first the workers fretted
“and thought the setup vain;
“they didn’t get their work done —
“their bosses were a pain.
“Now company directors
“are loath to push too hard
“to place employee bases
“back in their own backyard.
“Infection rates are soaring;
“so workers stay secure
“in basement or in kitchen
“until there is a cure.
“And so big cities dwindle
“as people move on out
“to live and work in suburbs
“(and maybe fish for trout!)
“The eateries and taverns
“are giving up the ghost,
“as workers use their Crockpots
“to make their own pot roast.
“Nobody takes the buses;
“nobody takes the trains.
“So trams just sit decaying
“in quiet empty lanes.
“With office rentals waning,
“portfolios have flopped,
“and even active tenants
“have rental payments stopped.
“New York and San Francisco,
“Detroit and spry Dubuque,
“are turning into ghost towns —
“an optimist’s rebuke.
“A crystal ball might show us
“a future that is bleak
“for burgs that once were mighty,
“with commerce at its peak.
“Perhaps like ancient Carthage
“they’ll be plowed up for spots
“where cabbages will flourish
“and peasants dance gavottes.”
Semi-Legend: “Subject: Ponzi Polka?
“My wife is not a big fan of country music, but occasionally she speaks in what could be considered country lyrics.
“Trained in psychology, she recently criticized a therapeutic approach she disfavors: ‘I know it’s not a Ponzi scheme / But it feels like Amway to me.’”
And: The bumper crop
Dennis from Eagan: “I saw this guy’s T-shirt on Saturday and immediately thought of related decals that you find on many minivan windows.
“I love the happy and sad reaction of the two figures on the shirt!”
The Permanent Paternal Record
Or: Cuisine comique
Eos: “I saw a recipe on Facebook tonight for ‘Crazy Cake,’ and I was transported back in time to the day my dad made ‘Wacky Cake.’
“When it was time to make the indentations, he used his ELBOW! He was very demonstrative about it, too, and made a big deal of it. I can still see him with his elbow in those dry ingredients, a big grin on his face.
“I love remembering little moments in time. Such a silly thing, but it makes me smile.
“Here’s the recipe, from Mom’s recipe box:
“Set sifter into ungreased baking pan. (Dad used a 9 x 13 cake pan.)
“3 cups sifted flour
“2 cups sugar
“1/2 cup cocoa powder
“2 teaspoons baking soda
“1 teaspoon salt
“Sift, and mix (with fingers)
“Make 3 indentations (Dad used his elbow).
“2 teaspoons vanilla in one indentation
“2 teaspoons vinegar in one indentation
“2/3 cup vegetable oil in one indentation
“Do not stir. Pour 2 cups cold water over all, then stir well and bake at 350 degrees.
“(There’s no time listed, but I found a recipe online, for half of this recipe, using an 8-by-8 pan, that said:’ Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 26 to 30 minutes. Place the pan on a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.'”
The highfalutin amusements
Cherie of Inver Grove Heights: “Subject: Our Pets, Our Friends.
“In an email from my friend Denise, she said it was hard to type because ‘I am having a hard time seeing the screen. There is a kitty butt in my way because she’s chasing the cursor.’”
The darnedest things
WARNING! Cute kid story ahead, from King Grandpa: “On the occasion of a grandchild’s birthday, we stopped by the kid’s house in the afternoon to drop off quarantine gifts and cake. The 9-year-old looked up and said: ‘Grandpa, I don’t have time to talk. I have a meeting in five minutes.’
“Got the bum’s rush from a third-grader!”
Band Name of the Day: Feels Like Amway — or: Bum’s Rush
Website of the Day, recommended by Kathy S. of St. Paul: “Humor for old folks: ‘Forgetfulness,’ by Billy Collins. Former Poet Laureate of the United States.”