At 90 years old, she’s still alive and trekking . . . while counting her blessings.

Then & Now

Grandma Pat, “formerly of rural Roberts, Wisconsin”: “Fifteen years ago, when I was just 75, I had a 2-mile route that I regularly walked near my Wisconsin home. On that route, I could feel the wind on my face, hear the rustle of cottonwood leaves above me, and see bright green watercress in the clear water of a spring-fed stream.

“Now I take my 1-mile, 25-minute walk through the carpeted hallways of my senior abode. It is quiet and safe, no gravel or ice or snow. Instead there are art pieces, plants, photos, etc., to enjoy outside apartment doors.

“Occasionally, I do have to assure someone that I am not lost, just exercising. That’s all right; they mean well. I count my blessings.”

Life as we know it
Education Division

The Astronomer of Nininger: “Some may rightfully argue about the process of learning and how best to enhance desired learning outcomes. I submit that if we make the process itself become an adventure rather than just a task, it can be transformed into a desirable challenge, something tangible that will never be forgotten.

“For many years, I had the good fortune of being able to share the excitement of science by taking students on travel studies abroad during the January term. We typically enrolled students from a number of campuses, so the diverse background of the learners themselves and their home-campus educational environments provided a healthy mix that enhanced the classes to begin with. Then, traveling to different parts of the world enabled us all to share a global excitement that kept our learning interests peaked for the entire course. Our focus was always on the educational objectives and where they could be met best.

“When I think back to the various courses I have led, I sort of stop and find myself riveted to the ground. I hear some music playing in my mind: that of John Williams and ‘The Raiders March,’ from ‘The Raiders of the Lost Ark.’

“Like Indy (Indiana Jones) seeking a rare artifact, we had the opportunity to seek knowledge with the world as a backdrop.

“Imagine what it would be like to be on the beaches of Bora Bora and be shown the Southern Cross for the first time.

“Between classes, we engaged in an arduous trek to find the Tiare Apetahi, a rare flower that grows only in a specific locale atop a mountain on Raiatea in French Polynesia. Twelve kilometers each way, but this was how we studied astronomy in the Southern Hemisphere. Not only did we learn astronomy, but we got to know and understand Polynesians in Pago Pago, New Zealand, Hawaii and many other islands.

“To study the science of climate change, we traveled to the Antarctic among penguins, orcas, icebergs and international science labs.

“To get there, we rocked and rolled on a ship across the Drake Passage from Ushuaia, Argentina, the place they called ‘Fin del Mundo’ (end of the world). We measured solar radiation and what is happening that affects the globe. Since water vapor is concentrated in the tropics, we stopped in Costa Rica on our way home. And found how difficult it is to predict global atmospheric weather and climate patterns. We gained respect for Shackleton that likely was heightened by our adventures. We probably never could achieve such perspectives in a four-walled classroom. Additionally, our class did a real ‘polar plunge’ where salty sea water freezes at a lower temperature than fresh water.

“In Europe, we studied the Crossroads of Science and Theology as applied to the nature of matter and the origin of the universe. A theologian from a neighboring university joined us so that while I tried to share the essential elements of string theory, elementary particle physics and cosmology, the theological perspectives could help us reconcile that interface between science and theology. We visited the Gran Sasso neutrino laboratory outside of Rome and the Large Hadron Collider beneath the border between France and Switzerland. Being there, we could experience how complex this issue is. Looking at other ideas over the centuries that politicians and theologians developed for the origin and development of the universe, we visited the Vatican Observatory, where the church tested theories of Copernicus and Galileo and others. Being there took us back in time to when various theories were formulated.

“These are only a few of the experiences we absorbed and participated in. But every time, we were part of an adventure — an adventure of learning. Even today, as I try to learn something new and different, like how to get Alexa to engage in some complex functions, I hear echoes of the ‘Raiders March.’ Don’t take that away from me.”

The highfalutin bemusements

GramB of Nisswa: “Subject: The day I met Alexa.

“I’m getting better, but I’ll never be known as a techie!

“A couple of years before the COVID virus hit our country, I was playing Bridge one afternoon in one of our members’ homes. During the game, this member turned her head and I heard her shout: ‘Alexa, turn that thing down!’ At the moment, I thought to myself: ‘I didn’t know her granddaughter was visiting! How fortunate she is’ — but I also thought: ‘She doesn’t speak very kindly to her granddaughter.’

“As the afternoon went on, she shouted a couple more orders to her ‘granddaughter,’ and it made me uncomfortable. It was only when another player asked her where she got Alexa, and she replied ‘Amazon.com,’ that I realized we were talking about something other than family!

“Oh, well, live and learn!”

Verbing of America

Elvis: “Elvis just read that the social-media giants are working to ‘deplatform’ the president.”

Donald: “Commenting on a speech that was being discussed on a cable news channel, a pundit commented: ‘Obviously, he was woodshedded.’”

What’s in a (band) name?

Semi-Legend: “Subject: ‘Zits.'”

Blindsided by the lyrics

The Retired Pedagogue of Arden Hills: “Subject: A tune from the past.

“The other day, I heard the opening lyrics to ‘I’m Sorry’ by Brenda Lee. It reminded me that years ago, when grandson Jack was playing youth hockey, the person in charge of the audio system at his home rink would play that same opening when one of their players was called for a penalty: ‘I’m sorry, so sorry, that I was such a fool.’

“Not sorry to see that go.’

Our birds, ourselves

Al B of Hartland (our Official Ornithologist) writes: (1) “Nature gives me bearings and values. Birds brighten my days.

“A new birdie’s headlights illuminated a recent morning. It was a stranger to my yard.

“The chestnut-capped and white-cheeked visitor was slightly smaller than a house sparrow.

“A Eurasian tree sparrow was hanging around with a gang of house sparrows in my yard. I’m thrilled it was where it shouldn’t have been.”

(2) “A little snow goes a long way on a chickadee.”

And now, The Hastings Crazy Quilter: “Subject: Just a spoonful of peanuts makes the woodpeckers come ’round!

“With the COVID-confinement, my husband (the Naster Maturalist) and I made a commitment to really keep our bird feeders filled with a variety of tasty temptations for our feathered friends. In addition to feeding thistle and sunflower chips, cardinal mix and peanuts, we have been stocking our suet baskets very regularly (four times a week!). We also have a heated birdbath.

“This has been pretty successful, as we’ve attracted some birds we haven’t seen for a while: flicker, red-breasted nuthatch, tufted titmouse, and flocks of cardinals — they really brighten up the view.

“We’ve also been getting the woodpeckers. Now there’s some open space across the road from us, and we occasionally would get a pileated woodpecker. This year, however, they have been coming in numbers. When they come in pairs, they can really go through the suet!


“Our neighbor, seeing all the activity at our feeders, decided to put up a feeding post by the window by her reading chair. Their daughter’s cat likes to sleep in the sun on that chair back. The first time the pileated landed on their feeder, it scared the cat out of the room!”

Our theater of seasons

Our pandemic winter is not keeping Mounds View Swede from his appointed rounds:

“What I found most satisfying in my visit to Arden Park was the variety of plants and how the rime ‘decorated’ them.

“The buildup of ice along the edge of a leaf and heavily on one side of a branch, but not on the side facing me, makes me wonder what is involved in this selectivity.

“The out-of-focus branch on the right looks more evenly covered with rime.

“Some of these needles are a little more evenly covered, but still leaving some areas relatively bare.

“I don’t know which plant makes such an array, but it was a delight to see the ice accumulated on it so interestingly.

“It looks like a celebration to me.”

“More soon.”

Soon: “This first photo has what looks like a single ice crystal at the top, middle — standing up.

“Looking across one of the ponds provided a nice view of all the rimed trees.

“This leaf, still with some green, didn’t have the large ice crystals I had been seeing on other branches and leaves.

“And this evergreen branch was not so heavily covered, either.

“And to see the cattail with only the north side with ice crystals made me think there was some north wind involved.

“The loopy, well-covered branches made this seem more interesting.

“And these long stringy connected ice crystals made me wonder if they were
accumulating on stringy plant tissue or just growing longer by themselves
each frosty night.

With the warmer January thaw coming [Bulletin Board notes: It has come and gone by now], I wonder if any of this will be here afterwards. But I’m glad it happened and in such an interesting, beautiful way.”

Dept. of Neat Stuff
Christmas Ornaments Division (responsorial)

Bicycle Babe of the Midway: “The ‘Twinklers’ ornaments are my favorites of all time. We had some of both the star and bird-cage styles, in several different colors, and we always called them ‘Spinners.’ It was always fun to place them at just the right place above a light to be sure that they would spin freely.

“I still have four of them, and no matter what size tree we have, those four ornaments always get the best placements. I’m not sure why the company who made them called them Twinklers, but they will always be Spinners to me. I’ve included photos of two of them on this year’s tree.”

Life in Wisconsin
Pandemic Division

Dennis from Eagan reports: “Subject: Minne’s meet on the Kinni.

“My wife (Lori) and a Blaine couple (Sam & Sally) went to River Falls, Wisconsin, on Sunday afternoon. Junior’s Restaurant & Tap House on Main Street has eight heated igloos on their outdoor patio that each features waitress service, Wi-Fi, decorative lighting and plenty of room for four to eight people.

“The owners also manage the Swinging Bridge Brewing Company a few blocks away, where we met a Lindstrom, Minnesota, couple at a table. Ironically, both small towns have a St. Bridget Church in them, and we joked about them being ‘recovering Catholics,’ which is OK now because they don’t serve wine at Mass during the pandemic. As expected, bartenders fill pints and growlers at the counter, but the men’s room does put a retired keg to good use.”

In memoriam
SNAFU Division

Paul from Oakdale: “You mentioned last fall that the number of contributors of stories has been gradually declining ever since you left the daily paper four years ago, and is now so low that your survival is in question. You wrote that you would happily welcome back those who have vanished without a trace, and that you miss their stories and observations.

“I also would happily welcome back those individuals, including one in particular, my father. Unfortunately, he passed away five years ago. Like me, he very much enjoyed reading the Bulletin Board, and contributing stories to it.

“He was from what some have called The Greatest Generation. I thought that I
would share a story from his military service.

“He was a teenager during much of WWII, and he followed the news of the war
very closely — especially the fighting in Italy, for that was where his older brother was serving. Before the war, his brother had shown a real aptitude for working on motorcycles, and, as a teenager, had built his own motorcycle from what had been a bicycle. When the war started, his brother had enlisted in the Army. The Army had seen his mechanical aptitude, and had sent him to training schools to learn to work as a mechanic on military vehicles. But when the fighting in Europe escalated, his brother, like many other ‘specialists’ in the Army, was transferred to where the main need in the Army was — for front-line combat infantry soldiers.

“He indeed did end up on the front lines, and was repeatedly involved in heavy
combat. Letters home were infrequent, though there were periods when he did
have the chance to write. Those chances came when he was in the hospital, where he ended up over and over again. The reason for the hospital stays was that he kept getting wounded, over and over again. He felt lucky, though,
because many of his buddies never survived to make it off the battlefield. As
soon as he was well enough to walk and hold a gun, he was sent right back to the front lines.

“So my father was very aware of the realities of war when he enlisted in the
Army at age 17 ½. At that time, he was told that it was expected that the war could go on for another two to three years, and that American casualties could be half a million or more.

“Three days after he enlisted, the atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. The
war was over a week later. My father thought that maybe the Army would no
longer want him, since the war was over. No such luck, though. The Army was
taking all the new soldiers that they could get, to replace the soldiers who had
served so long during the war and wanted to be discharged.

“My father had graduated first in his class in high school, and had done exceptionally well in science and math subjects, so the Army sent him away for six months of training in engineering subjects and field-communication methods. He figured that he would end up working on construction engineering, or combat engineering projects. Eventually he was put on a troop ship, with 4,000 other soldiers, heading for South Korea. This was after the Second World War, but before the Korean war. This was also before the modern era of electronic communications and weather forecasting. None of the 4,000 soldiers on board knew what they were going to be assigned to do once they got to South Korea. And because of the lack of good weather forecasting, the ship sailed right into a typhoon. For a week, the ship tossed and turned, and had 4,000 very sick soldiers on it. Eventually the typhoon moved on, but the ship had barely moved.

“When my father eventually got to South Korea, everyone who had been on
board the ship spent a few days in a big camp, waiting to be assigned to
someplace, but not knowing where that might be. He eventually got orders to
report to a military institution, at a certain time, and still did not know what he
might be doing. When he got to the military institution, he was given his assignment. He was to be a prison guard! This was at a prison for American soldiers, who were awaiting trial for crimes committed in South Korea. He had absolutely no training in how to be a prison guard, and he was given no explanation as to how he got that assignment.

“Like many other soldiers over the years, he wondered why he was assigned to
do something that was so different from what he had been trained to do. Unlike most soldiers, he did eventually find out.

“He found it out, just by chance, when it was his time to leave Korea and be
sent back to the United States. When that time came, he was given orders to
report to the port that he would be shipped out from. When he got to the port,
there was not a ship ready to send him home in. He came to find that there was a great deal of confusion at that port. Because of the poor electronic
communications of that time, and the unpredictable weather which affected
shipping, he could only be told that he might be sent out in a day or two, or a
week or two; they just did not know.

“In the meantime, all of the soldiers at the port were assigned to work details to keep them busy. Just by chance, my father was assigned, with a half-dozen other guys, to the office that was supposed to make duty assignments to the 4,000 new soldiers who had just arrived on a troop ship.

“The office had boxes and boxes of the personnel files of those 4,000 soldiers, and long lists of numerous Army institutions throughout South Korea that were in need of certain soldiers. There was only one officer in charge, some clerks, and the half a dozen guys who showed up along with my father. The officer in charge gave each of the guys a few boxes of personnel records, and then he started reading off the requests from the Army institutions. It went something like this:

“Such-and-so a base needs 50 mechanics, such-and-so a base needs 50
quartermaster workers, such-and-so a base needs 25 cooks, etc. So my father,
and the other guys, started reading through the personnel files — to try to find soldiers with those qualifications. After a few minutes, the officer in charge said: No, don’t read the files. They needed to make all of the assignments that day, because another big troop ship was expected in another day or two, and they needed to clear all 4,000 troops out of the port that day! The officer told the guys to just hand the clerks five files or 10 files each, to make up the requested number of soldiers needed. The clerks then had to type orders for those soldiers as fast as they could.

“My father then realized why he, with engineering training, had ended up as a
military prison guard.”

Now & Then (responsorial)

Bill of the river lake: “Subject: How to Project.

“The latest BB entry by John in Highland reminded me of my high-school experiences in the late 1950s, down by St Louis.

“Another classmate and I were honored to become movie projectionists for a small, private school.

“We showed first-run movies every few weeks. So the ‘fans’ (other classmates and staff) looked forward eagerly to the next blockbuster, usually on a weekend evening.

“We received the movies in several large canisters of 35-mm film. In preparation, we had to set up two projectors. Initially we began feeding the first reel carefully into multiple sprockets and lighting two carbon arcs, which produced light bright enough to show the movie on a large screen on the opposite wall.

“Reel changing was also important. In those days, movie film showed a couple of black dots in the upper right of the screen, telling us to start the second projector. A short time later, a second set of dots appeared, and we then switched from one projector to the other. When this worked seamlessly, the audience did not know of the reel change. Success!

“Sometimes the film broke, and everything ground to a halt. A short chorus of ‘Boo!’s could be heard. We used a hand-held splicer to reconnect the film, taking great care that the sprocket holes were lined up. Then started all over.

“These were very fond memories from way back when. One memorable movie was the classic ‘Bridge on the River Kwai’ from 1957.”

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: I have now.

“The most recent message on the electronic board of the church on Lexington in Shoreview reads:

“‘Laughter is the shortest distance

“‘between 2 people

“‘Have you Laughed Today?’”

Life as we know it
Pandemic Division

Kathy S. of St Paul: “This Christmas, I decided to give some teenagers and their parents wishes, for when we don’t have to hide from the pandemic. I added a wish to each Christmas ornament, then wrapped them in tissue paper so only the wish was visible.

“Someday we will come together and travel and enjoy live music. Until then, I’m wishing we’ll all have hope.”

Band Name of the Day: The Colliders

Website of the Day (because Mr. Brandenburg and company have launched a new series of daily videos; free subscription heartily recommended!): Nature 365