Dept. of Neat Stuff
Weather Prognostication Division
Here, once again, is Neat Stuff connoisseur Gregory J. of Dayton’s Bluff: “As Neat Stuff goes, the Weathercaster ranks pretty high on my scale of Neatness.
“First, it comes in a spiffy blue box with its name on the cover in gold script lettering. Second, inside the box is a slide rule-type device that purports to predict the weather anywhere in the United States for the next 24 hours. Third, it was manufactured, probably in the 1950s, by one of my favorite suppliers of Neat Stuff, Brown & Bigelow. Last but not least, imprinted on the Weathercaster is the name Midwest Plastics Mfg. Co., located at 208 Bates Ave., which is within walking distance of my home in Dayton’s Bluff. I assume Midwest Plastics gave these out as an advertising gimmick.
“So what exactly is the Weathercaster? Let’s see what the information sheet that came with it has to say. ‘There is something new under the sun! It’s the Weathercaster — the newest and most spectacular achievement of modern weather science — based on a scientific principle developed by Dr. Irving P. Krick, Ph.D., world-famed meteorologist, from weather data collected during the last fifty years for the entire Northern Hemisphere. In the Weathercaster, the weather lore of the ages is combined with the most recent war-born forecasting techniques; the Weathercaster is new, but its fundamental principle is as old as weather itself.’
“And how does it predict the weather? ‘The basic concept is that the major factors determining the short period weather changes are revealed by the cloud formations in the sky and by the wind. Predictions based on these principles are much more accurate than those prepared from a barometer which considers only air pressure.’
“But how does one use the Weathercaster? ‘1 Insert card in the back side of the Weathercaster corresponding to your region and the season. [For example, North Central States, which includes Minnesota, for the months October to May.] 2 Observe the sky. 3 Move indicator over picture best matching your observation. 4 Determine direction from which wind is blowing. If calm or very light, use west. 5 Turn Weathercaster over and read forecast under the pointer opposite wind direction.’
“From my brief experiments with the Weathercaster, it isn’t half-bad, certainly not much worse than what we get from the teams of TV meteorologists using their Doppler radars and multi-billion-dollar network of weather satellites.
“I can imagine good old Bud Kraehling looking out his weather window at WCCO-TV, noting the cloud patterns and the direction the flags were blowing, pulling out his trusty Weathercaster, and putting together tomorrow’s weather forecast. After all, his forecasts weren’t half-bad.
“Speaking of Bud Kraehling . . .”
Life (and death) as we know it
Grandma Pat, “formerly of rural Roberts, Wisconsin”: “Now that the days are becoming shorter, and the air has chilled a bit, I have been reflecting on the past summer. One day in particular stands out.
“My Santa Barbara daughter and son-in-law were visiting , and we drove down to Blue Earth to visit the family cemetery. My St. Paul daughter, my Des Moines daughter, grandkids from Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Oregon, and five great-grands joined us.
“We gathered near the newer graves of my husband and two of my adult children. We said an Irish Blessing and St. Francis’s Prayer of Peace, read a poem by a rabbi, and burned sage. We told stories, and cried, and laughed and hugged.
“I had brought along some old toothbrushes and a small water bucket in case any of the young ones wanted to scrub lichen off the 19th-century family gravestones. Oh, my goodness, there was great enthusiasm for this task! They scrubbed the gravestones of the Irish immigrants, including that of my great-grandfather, who fought in the Civil War.
“As I was soaking this all in, it occurred to me that I was standing right in the middle of the proverbial seven generations. Three generations before me were at rest there, my sister and I represented the middle generation, and the next three generations were all around me.”
Friendly Bob of Fridley writes: “Less than three years after the passing of my older sister Emily Phoebe (Mrs. Patches of St. Paul) from cancer, my younger sister Carol has now left us. What started as a large family of nine siblings is now down to four. Growing up on the farm, I was always amazed that we survived sickness and accidents to remain at nine. Now it is just our oldest brother, Bill (he’s 88!), me, my twin sister, Betty, and our youngest sister, Bev (who lives in Utah and is ‘only’ 67).
“At the end of August, Carol fell ill at the assisted-living facility where she resided in Mankato. She never fully regained consciousness, and died at Mayo Hospital in Mankato on September 9. Her health had been rather fragile for some time, but this was an awful blow for the family — completely unexpected. She had lived in Mankato for almost three years, as she had moved there to be near her only daughter, Lorena (her ‘miracle’ child; long ago doctors proclaimed she would probably never have offspring, and perhaps would not live to 35 or 40 — she was 69).
“This was especially tough on Lorena, who, along with her husband and only daughter, moved to Florida quite recently. They are in transition, and after teaching for 10 years in New Ulm, Lorena has not quite established herself in Florida. At great expense that they can ill afford, Lorena came to Minnesota alone when Carol first was sent to the ICU, and after Carol’s passing she returned, this time with husband and daughter in tow. Bev was unable to come from Utah, but the rest of us managed to get to the hospital to see Carol there, and this past Saturday Betty and I and a few more of the clan met up with them to help clear out Carol’s things. We managed to have a late lunch together.
“On Monday, Carol’s ashes accompanied Lorena and family back to Florida. We are planning a memorial service sometime in the spring (hopefully at the little country church where most of us went in our youth), and Carol will be interred (or inurned) with Mom and Dad in Dundas.
“Rest in peace, sis. We all miss you terribly.”
The Permanent Family Record
The Gram With a Thousand Rules writes: “It was an October day in 1963 when my little boy engaged in a flirtation with a nun.
“Our middle son was still the baby in our family then. He was 4 years old, and his three older siblings were in school. This was a new lifestyle for him, and he was having a hard time getting used to being the only kid at home. My husband had a day off from work one day, and we took him with us downtown to the St. Paul Book & Stationery store. We realized that he had never had the opportunity to go alone with us anywhere before — and boy, was he excited. He chattered away, exclaiming about all the Halloween decorations he saw along the way, and gawked at the colorful window display after we arrived.
“Once we entered the bookstore, he saw her: an elderly nun dressed in the full habit some of them still wore back then. His eyes followed her with wonder. She spotted him and gave him a smile. He was in love. He waved at her. She waved back. Pretty soon they were playing a game of Seek and Find up and down the book aisles. Winking, waving, ducking. He was having the time of his life, but all too soon it was time to go. She left first, and a few minutes later when we left the store, he let out a happy squeal. He saw her standing at the bus stop. He broke loose from the grip I had on his hand and dashed over to her. Giving a hearty pat on her ample rear, he told her: ‘You are a very nice witch!’
“The last we saw of her, she was boarding the bus, still bent over convulsed with laughter.”
Everyone’s a copy editor
Or: It just don’t add up!
The REF in White Bear Lake: “Subject: Unclear on the Concept (Math Division).
“From the St. Paul newspaper following Luis Arraez’s performance in the Twins’ penultimate 2022 game: ‘Arraez finished 1 for 4 in the Twins’ 8-2 loss … raising his batting average to an American League-best .315.’
“The only time a .250 night raises a batting average in the .300s is, well, never. In fact, it lowered his average to .315 (from Saturday’s .316).
“All’s well that ends well, though, as Louie bumped it back up to .316 to win the AL crown.”
Everyone’s a (copy editor) critic!
The Retired Pedagogue of Arden Hills: “Subject: Clever headline.
“A day after Luis Arraez won the American League batting title, this headline appeared on the front page of the STrib: ‘Arraez to the very top.’
BULLETIN BOARD MUSES: Had we been on the sports copy desk that evening, we’d have pitched “All Arraez! Judge overruled in Triple Crown bid.”
Or maybe not.
Everyone’s a (road conditions) critic!
Ted Powell on Grand Avenue writes: “What the street signs on Summit Avenue should say.”
Then & Now
Or: Our times
The Astronomer of Nininger: “Subject: Sputnik.
“It was a mere 65 years ago that I heard that word come over the loudspeaker of my classroom filled with other 11th-grade kids. The Russians had managed to place Sputnik into orbit around the Earth. Some of us were silent; others just couldn’t be quiet — but no one cheered. For some, it was scary because the United States was engaged in a Cold War with the Soviets, and this might indicate that they could be ahead. For me, this event opened the doors to a new world.
“Students were on the receiving end of a time when science and technology were promoted. I recall winding copper wire around a large oatmeal box to make an inductance coil and tuning in signals with the ‘whisker’ of a crystal detector. Then we could hear the eerie ‘beep . . . beep’ coming from that orbiting spacecraft down through our earphones. Less than a month later, they placed Laika, a dog, into space. That accelerated the competition between the United States and the Soviets.
“I never looked at this as competition, but rather as opportunity, opening doors to the space age. I became president of our high school Rocket Club. Between that fall and when I graduated less than two years later, we made attempts, but I don’t believe we had even one successful launch. So many rockets engaged in airborne antics, teaching us about stability, and others simply fell over and snaked through the grass, exhausting gases through the convergent/divergent nozzles meant to propel the tiny vehicles upward. These kinds of experiences led the United States and the world forward so that today we are comfortable in sending astronauts back and forth to the International Space Station, and we are awed by the images and data beamed downward from Hubble and the James Webb telescopes.
“The engineers who enabled us to get to the moon could not be told that it couldn’t be done. They were too young and full of pizzazz and vinegar! Now we are seeing private commercial companies take that giant leap forward, proposing to maneuver Hubble to a better orbit. It was T.S. Eliot who said: ‘We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.’ And, God willing, we will reach these new frontiers peacefully.”
Throw the cow over the fence some hay!
Cherie D of Inver Grove Heights: “I spotted this, um, interesting, shall we say, headline while surfing the ’Net a couple of days ago. While I think it speaks for itself, perhaps it speaks more to the person who wrote it: ‘Multiple Palace Sources Say Prince Harry Found Out His Grandmother Died From The Internet.'”
The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon
Plus: Joy of Juxtaposition — and: Joy of Juxtaposition? Or: The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon?
Babe of Burnsville writes: “Life seems full of juxtapositions lately. I wonder if it is just getting older and having more experiences and/or knowledge to juxtapose, or there really have been more.
“While going through some old travel papers, I came across a reference to the Bulfinch influence on the Massachusetts State Building. I had no idea what that meant. But within a day, the name came again as I read about an American who met Charles Bulfinch as well as famous British architect Robert Adam. Bulfinch was said to be one who ‘incorporated neoclassical elements in the design of American buildings.’ So a Baader-Meinhof for me, as I’d never heard of Bulfinch before.
“Then, a few days later, I came across a leaflet I’d picked up on a visit to the Queen Mary ship, which we visited where she is docked in Long Beach, California. Then a Joy of Jux., as the next day on TV was mentioned ‘the Queen Mary docked in Long Beach.’
“As if all that wasn’t enough, a third incident happened. I’m not sure which category this is in. I am reading one of Thomas Costain’s histories of the Plantagenet family. He wrote about the Wat Tyler rebellion in England. That I had heard about, but not in such detail, which included an attack on the Tower of London. Next day on ‘Jeopardy!’ was an answer/question that was about ‘This building was attacked by Wat Tyler.’ So I could shout at the TV: ‘What is the Tower of London?’ So, not sure is that was J of J or B-M. I knew of the Wat Tyler Rebellion before, but not the specific of the attack on the Tower. So a ruling please: J of J or B-M?”
BULLETIN BOARD RULES: Baader-Meinhof. Learning of the attack on the Tower of London twice in 24 hours (perhaps a bit more, perhaps a bit less), for the first and second times, is a textbook B-M.
Live and learn
Kathy S. of St. Paul: “Subject: What I learned from Anthropology 101.
“Among the college electives I managed to fit in around my two majors at St. Kate’s was an Intro to Anthropology class. I had fun — partly because the teacher and I joked back and forth during lectures. But what I remember is his explanation of how you should approach peoples who have had little or no contact with outsiders.
“He said you should tramp through the wilderness making plenty of noise — because local warriors would be trailing along near you, regardless. Then you should find a clear spot outside the ‘village’ and sit down, scattering your belongings around.
“First the kids would come to examine you and your things — guarded by the hidden warriors. Then the women would come, to make sure the kids were OK and check you out. Finally, the warriors would join everyone, and you could start to explain why you were there.
“My version of tramping through the brush has been more like meeting people of diverse backgrounds in urban settings, but I have found this model useful. And who can say I’ll never be out in the wilds, looking for friends?”
THE DORYMAN of Prescott, Wis.: “Subject: Approximate precision.
“Found online as a bullet point this morning: ‘Around 1,307 people were detained in 39 cities across Russia as of Thursday morning, according to independent human rights group OVD-Info.'”
Not exactly what they had in mind
Writes otvo: “Subject: Farmer Uniform of the Day.
“Last December, when I suggested to my hubby that we get cattle to graze the pasture, I could never have predicted what it would become. Part of the initial business plan, if you can call it one, was to avoid paying to mow the pasture. It has morphed into boarding the neighbor’s horse and then something more — much more expansive, or, shall I say, expensive.
“First off, my hubby came to view this an opportunity to dress like a real farmer, versus a wannabe farmer. After all, he is a retired Marine and felt he needed to wear the Uniform of The Day for a farmer, or at least what he thought it was: a pair of bib overalls.
“The ‘Greatest Generation’ farmers wore bib overalls for doing actual work. There was a lot to like about them. The chest pockets kept your watch, pencil and seed-corn notebook within reach. On chilly days, you could put your hands between the bib and your shirt and warm them before milking the cows. When BS’ing with the neighbor, it was customary to hook your thumbs around the suspender latch.
“Long before I married my hubby, I was a farmer’s daughter. I have a cherished classic farm-family picture on the fridge. It is of my handsome Dad turned out in his ‘dress bib overalls’ for the photo shoot and Mom in a dress with me on our Iowa farm.
“It was a huge deal to look for bib overalls in 2022.
“So I was considerate and indulgent and gave up my computer time in the evening so he could launch an online search for OshKosh overalls like his dad wore. While I looked on Facebook for about 15 minutes, he spent a couple of
evenings of scouring the web. After which, he unhappily concluded that OshKosh no longer makes bib overalls, at least for adults.
“He also found on the Web that bib overalls were priced a lot more than a pair of denim jeans. That discovery sent him into sticker shock. Apparently, these days wearing bib overalls is making a fashion statement. Hubby is far from being a fashionista.
“Bib overalls have been trending and lately become style items for women and workwear for wannabe farmers. The seed-corn notebook in the chest pocket has been replaced by the cellphone and hooking thumbs around the suspender latch when BS’ing with the neighbor has been replaced by social media.
“Hubby didn’t want to pay shipping and was uncertain about his size. So, we finally slinked into where, according to him, only wannabe farmers shop: Tractor Supply. There we found a pair of Liberty-brand overalls (the same kind that Junior Samples wore on ‘Hee Haw’) that needed hemming.
“They still need hemming.”
This ’n’ that ’n’ the other ’n’ the other ’n’ the other ’n’ the other
Al B of Hartland Division
All from the inimitable Al B of Hartland: (1) “I’ve learned . . .
“Dogs have taught me that when life stinks, I should roll on it.
“The distance to the floor increases with my age.
“I can remember everything like it was yesterday, except yesterday.
“If I had a dime for every time I’m confused, I’d wonder where all those dimes came from.
“I need a GPS to tell me where I am and why I am there.
“We all got along better before we had so many TV channels.
“Most election ads are intended for immature audiences.
“Noah believed in climate change.
“The Flat Earth Society has members all around the globe.
“Driving on highways in Chicago takes its toll.
“If one door opens when another closes, you had a bad contractor.
“No one complains about not having anything to complain about.
“Every day is a pop quiz.
“I never ask for gum. Beggars can’t be chewers.”
(2) “Ask Al:
“‘What were the names of the Spice Girls?’ All, Old and Pumpkin.
“‘Were you ever a cowpuncher?’ No, but I made a face at a goat once.
“‘How can I tell if a watermelon is ripe?’ Knock on it. If it says, ‘Come in,’ it’s ripe.”
“‘How can I become more patient?’ Wait for it.
“‘Do you play any musical instruments?’ I tried playing the violin by using the Suzuki method. It sounded like a motorcycle in my hands.”
(3) “The Carolina grasshopper is a banded-winged grasshopper with mainly black hindwings — and could be mistaken for a mourning cloak butterfly as it flutters. It’s also called the Carolina locust or butterfly grasshopper. It congregates in areas of bare ground and is commonly seen on school playgrounds, ballfields, dirt roads, gravel driveways, vacant lots and similar conditions where its coloration allows it to blend in. It crepitates, making a crackling sound as it flies.”
(4) “A squirrel barked behind a tree full of leaves. It was hopped up on acorn juice and angry because I’d filed a restraining order against it, which said the squirrel must maintain a distance of at least 100 feet from my feeders.”
(5) “Cardinals are among the earliest visitors in the morning and the last to leave the feeders at dusk. Why they like the day’s edges is a good question. They might feel safer then, as Cooper’s hawks aren’t active at either dawn or dusk. Maybe they don’t like crowds, or the feeder offers specials then. The male’s bright plumage appears dark in the dim light of dusk. This makes him a bit more inconspicuous. Cardinals often live close to feeders, which means they have a short commute home and face less competition at the feeders at dusk. They likely believe in Minnesota goodbyes.”
(6) “Mother advised me to avoid eating lutefisk. She had reason. As a teenager, she worked at White’s Grocery in Algona, Iowa. Lutefisk was kept in a wooden barrel outside the store. Dogs couldn’t resist raising a leg on the barrel. Like every mother, she told me I should try foods before dismissing them as something I didn’t like. She never tried the stuff, yet thought lutefisk was cod-awful.”
CAUTION! Words at Play!
Bill of the river lake writes: “Along with our Thursday (September 22) Pioneer Press was a very interesting and informative 48-page insert titled ‘More 20th Century Snapshots.’ One caught my attention on page 18 with this caption: ‘Dec 6 1946 Junk collector Morris Rosenbloom feeds the meter at 7th and Jackson streets in downtown St. Paul where he parked his horse.’
“The photo is simultaneously unique, odd and humorous, with the horse just standing in the street. I’m guessing that, if you had asked the horse if Morris needed to feed the meter, he would have let out a loud ‘Neigh!’
“Makes good horse sense to me. . . .”
Band Name of the Day: Flirting With Nuns — or: The Minnesota Goodbyes
Website of the Day: The Best Snack in Every State