February 28, 2002

a salmon without tassles

Cold. This foul eve must have been suckled at the breast of a cruel enchantress. Mark and I poked around town putting up posters for the Head of the Lakes concert, and we successfully inundated Duluth with 17 of the suckers. As we left the Club Saratoga down in Canal Park, Mark mused about the distracting girl on stage.

“Now was it just me, or was that girl not wearing a top?”

“She was topless, indeed. I don’t even think she was wearing tassels.”

I expected such a sight, for I’ve been to the ‘Toga for Saturday afternoon jazz sessions, and have noted the strange number of mirrors and poles on stage. But don’t shake your fist in the air and reach for your Earth Liberation Front L’il Helper Arson Kit. It was clearly a gentleman’s club, full of guys in monocles and top hats, sipping at glasses of gin and slapping each other on the back saying, “Jolly good show eh, old chap?” Some were even munching introspectedly on cigars, contemplating quantum theories and how the hell they got that girl’s lower undergarments to shimmer like an undulating salmon.

I hope she doesn’t go outside dressed like that. As Chris Fahey said, the turkey is always done when it gets this cold.

February 26, 2002

deconstruction in the basement

In my continuing quest to divert my attention from school and be less bored, I took apart my optical mouse today.

Cool. The mousewheel works with an infrared LED. It shines through tiny slits in the wheel at a detector on the other side, at that determines the scroll movement. Of course, it isn’t detecting movement right now because the wheel fell on the floor. All sorts of springs keep popping out of this thing and I can’t figure out how they were previously aligned.

Ok, this spring sets the snap distance on the wheel by working against a series of ridges on the inner circumference. It doesn’t work anymore. The other spring resets the mouse-clicking motion.

The optical motion is driven by a red LED which is filtered though a number of clear, plastic lenses. There is a pinhole sized detector on the base of the main chip, though I still have no idea how it works. If this was sci-fi I could ask it.

Cromlech needs a facelift, if nothing more than getting rid of this dreary grey background. I feel like I’m writing on the walls of a basement. Just painting it white, however, makes me feel like I’m writing in a basement that’s trying too hard to convince me it’s not a basement. Everyone knows that painted cinder blocks were unpainted cinder blocks at one point in their dirt-thwarting lives. We’re not fooled.

The people upstairs are trying to smash through my ceiling again.

Mouse scrolling is weird without the snapping.

And people that say things like ‘dirt-thwarting’ obviously have no idea what they’re talking about. Ph33r th3 l4m3 0n35, d00d.

Writing is weird without the focus.

February 24, 2002

a mind of grog and apes

It’s been a long day. Just fired off the last of three articles for this week’s Statesman. One piece on Sunny Wicked’s show at the Spring Fling, a piece on Best Buy that may seem strangely familiar, and an op/ed piece that treads on some dangerously non-liberal turf.

Exhausted. I’ve been writing all day, and it hasn’t been particularly enjoyable writing. I’m getting pretty tired of holding myself to a higher standard than others. Just once I want to free free to do some schlock work and get away with it. I think this semester will offer many opportunities for that, but mostly on the reading front. As for writing, I haven’t figured out how to streamline that activity to take less time and effort. Sometimes it’s great fun wrangling together words, but other times it becomes a court of the upmost tedium.

It’s like flirting with a girl you are crazy about, and you are certain things would work out between the two of you, but catching her attention is so much work you wonder if it’s worth it. All you want is to take a long nap, after which you wake up and there’s an ape sitting on your couch. And your mind is so stuffed with Grog that you don’t know whether to court the ape or ask it to leave.

Not that I have much experience with girls or apes.

Grah. I can’t even see anymore. The words keep sliding off the monitor into my lap, and since they are such snarly little critters I needed to change into my rubber pants to avoid ruining my flannel pajamas.

Essay done. Time for bed. These rubber pants are hot.

February 23, 2002

end of week in a pig’s eye

Feelin’ kind. Feelin’ groovy. It’s been a splendid weekend.

I ate a tasty “Kolester-All Surprise” bacon cheeseburger at the Gold Nugget on Excelsior last night. Washed it down with Pabst. Discussed with parents how close St. Paul got to being named Pig’s Eye instead. A guy I worked with a few times at a coffee shop in ’98 was working at the Nug’s bar, and he immediately recognised me. Are you Dane? Yes, I replied as I faked some recollection. I didn’t remember the guy at all. I felt terrible.

Went to the Cabooze by myself and saw the All-Mighty Senators. Met a fellow from Plymouth who is going to hook me up with last year’s Big Wu Family Reunion Sound Tribe Sector 9 show in exchange for the rollicking Yonder Mountain String Band show from the year prior.

Went to Galyan’s and got a comfy pair of hiking boots to replace the pair I got back at the beginning of high school… also found a pair of Vans on clearance and a shirt with a lawnmower on it.

My parents helped me wash my car. Mom made me scrambled eggs and grilled cheese and chocolate chip cookies.

A trip to Ragstock yielded four awesome shirts at rock bottom prices. I am now Mario the bowling plumber, a nuclear technician, a member of the Rockridge Band and “Jon” of the I.H. Race Team. I got to hug my dog in front of the fireplace.

Unfortunately I did not get to the Hennepin County Library to look up old Tribune indexes.

I learned that trying to write while driving is extremely dangerous.

February 21, 2002

ihduhapi, news idiots, microfilm


Hoo boy, this one is gonna be a doozy. Hopefully I can stick with it until the bitter end. If the words cut off and are are suddenly replaced with static, it means I got bored.

Outdoor Career Day was yesterday in the Commons. As I was perusing potential summer employment a fiery-haired fellow grabbed my attention… asked if I was Dane. “But of course,” I replied, and immediately recognised Michael Shea, an upperclassman from Hopkins High.

Actually, I didn’t really recognise him… the table he was working at was for YMCA Camp Ihduhapi, and I remembered that he became camp director a few years ago. Ihduhapi is a summer camp that I attended during my wee grade school years, and is home to some of my fondest childhood memories. Playing campwide capture the flag, dressing up as Billy Idol or a pirate or something, swimming in deep pools of stinky bog, blowing up stoves on island campouts, high ropes courses, and some of the coolest kids I’ve ever met in my life. As an aside, I first met Tim Levindusky at Ihduhapi. He was in the same cabin as me, and brought along his AD&D Monster Dictionary. Nerd.

So Mike and I chatted a bit, and I think I have a good idea what I’m going to do this summer. Read Kentucky essays, baby! Well, no. Ihduhapi needs a high ropes instructor, a position I could fill with my vast knowledge of climbing. Lesson 1: How to do crack without freebasing. Failing that I could always be a counselor, and rule over a troupe of screaming kids. That’d be fun, too.

So, this brings us to the latest Statesman flounderings. They printed my article on UMDStudents.com but it was ousted from the front page by a poorly written story about Tuesday’s terrorism forum at UMD. This story included such vital front page information as how long the discussion lasted and the names of all people in attendance. Not just their names, really, but a cluttered minefield of long and confusing titles. The story told in chronological order what issues were discussed at the meeting.

Of course, I should be happy that my story ran at all. Yesterday they were telling me there wasn’t any room for it, and I couldn’t track down any editors to convince them otherwise. To make room they cut out two constructive comments from the class evaluation section of the website, while leaving the “Freshman Comp blows,” quote.

They also screwed up Don Harriss’ quote, which really pisses me off because Harriss and I discussed the word in question. He said ‘boon’, I recited ‘boom’ back to him, and he said that was incorrect. We chatted about the definition of ‘boon’, and I changed the word to reflect what he actually said. The Statesman changed it back. Now I look like a foolish, sloppy reporter that can’t get quotes right, even when direct attention is called to my mistakes.

But please, please, please spell my name right. It’s becoming epidemic. I’m getting sick of cornering every Statesman editor individually and telling them how to spell my name. I mean, to their credit they never made the same mistake twice when I call them on it, but then the editors that know the spelling never correct those that don’t. I take the spelling of my last name very personally. It has a wonderful visual symmetry with the three e’s, and when you toss in an o it gets thrown out of whack. The word becomes horribly imbalanced, and reading it makes me feel like I’m stuck on a puke-crusted Tilt-a-Whirl for the 30th time in a row.

PetersEn PetersEn PetersEn!

In other news, Ted Schoen’s ex-boy scout son read my Humor story about scouting, and he couldn’t breathe he was laughing so hard. I almost killed the poor kid.

Spent more time with a microfilm reader and dug up Duluth News Tribunes from 1918 and 1925. The big news in ’18 was the mandatory draft, and after the deadline for application was passed the big news was draft dodgers; so called “slackers.” The DNT was vicious when it came to local slackers, and fell just short of providing a map to the boys’ homes to aid the lynch mob. Cars in 1925 got an average of 12.5 miles per gallon, which has increased to 13 mpg in 2002.

There was also a fascinating series of articles on a grisly murder in Canyon, where parts of a person were found floating around in a bog. A mother soon identified the body as that of her son, but after her son was confirmed very much alive at an American armed forces base, the body went anonymous again. They never found the skull, which they figured was buried in muck at the bottom of the swamp. So far as I read there were no leads and the police had finally given up. A nameless corpse, killed by a nameless murderer.

In other news (and it’s possible I have this wrong, because I was busy scanning a month of old news in 15 minutes), Duluth was kicking around the idea of an Aerial Lift Bridge in 1925. They said it would help link the town of Superior to Duluth, which makes no sense because Park Point and Wisconsin Point aren’t connected at all. Maybe they were talking about a different area, but the proposal was for a lift bridge… and I know of only one lift bridge in the area.

Which raises another interesting question. Why does Duluth have a lift bridge in the first place? I read a current article the other day on how expensive and difficult it is to paint the bridge, so imagine what went into building the darn thing. It would have been a huge effort… for what? To link to a narrow sandbar? I doubt people were already living out there…

Oh wait. Duluth Shipping News has the answer. The bridge was actually an upgrade to the Aerial Transfer Bridge. People were living on Minnesota Point before the canal was even made. The demand was there, apparently.

Maybe the article wasn’t about linking Duluth and Superior at all. Maybe Duluth was trying to sucker Wisconsin into fronting some cash for the bridge. “Yeah, it’ll help you guys. [snicker snicker]”

And now that I want to look the story up again, I can’t remember whether I was reading the July 1925 or 1928 Duluth News Tribune.

February 20, 2002

today, numbers are fun.


Damn. Today’s date looks like some new kind of binary. Ever since Microsoft patented 1’s (the Supreme Court just recently decided they couldn’t have 0’s because those all belong to Enron, now) programmers have been looking for a way to write code that doesn’t violate copyright law. Hence the 2, which was a logical next step, all things considered. I suppose they could have chosen -1, but programmers would have to prove -1 as a direct satire of Microsoft’s 1, and millions of lines of computer code are a difficult place to write harsh corporate commentary. They definitely could not have used 3 because Dale Earnhart has that copyrighted. Or does he only have it copyrighted when it’s italicized to the left?


Stick your finger in one eye and it looks right. “Hey Dale, I’m usin’ your number. whatcha gonna do about it? Huh? That’s right, nothing!”

Now 4, that’s a cool number. She’d sleep with me if I asked.

Damn. This fired off in a completely unanticipated direction. Writing is just like jazz improvisation without the chords, melody and heroin.

February 18, 2002

snortin’ microfilm

I have no idea where this is going, but it’s probably in a handbasket, bound for some warm locale.

February. Birkenstocks. 54 degrees.

Microfilm machines kick the ass of any computer, hands down. Computers are so common they don’t mean anything anymore. Once upon a time, as evidenced by the Lone Gunman on the X-Files, computers had an aura of mystique about them. Only pale geeks that crawled around in basements could unlock their darkest secrets; make a ‘puter sing triumphant chords as it barrelled through locked steel doors and revolutionized the world. The Internet put the power back in the nerds, man, and look at the world cower before us!

Well, it never happened that way. Back in the day (and I reminisce now about the early- to mid-90’s, thanks to an unnaturally accellerated sense of progress) we enjoyed watching nerds sit in front of a computer and root around in digital FBI files. The portrayed power of the machine was incredible. From my chair, I have access to the entire world. If it wasn’t happening in front of a computer, it wasn’t happening, dude.

But now, ‘puters are lame. If I want to look something up I half-heartedly Google it and find exactly what I’m looking for and nothing I’m not. Oh sure, I could hack the FBI, but 99% of the time they wouldn’t have the information I need anyway. Grandma wants a delicious recipe for kelp chicken, not the secret thoughtcrime files of Yiddian Scrubblenesque. The romantic image has been dashed by the harsh reality: They’re too damn simple to be exciting.

So, where’s the excitement these days? Microfilm readers, of course. Working with microfilm, you actually feel like you’re doing something. You paw through the crate of 35mm rolls, grab the film of your liking, and try your darndest to spool it up to the hulking machine. It’s active, it’s tactile. You hope that other people in the library are watching you, because you’re so damn cool. Hey, look at me! I’m doing something with my hands! The wheels and gears make an awful racket as you twist the knob (it has knobs!) to scroll through hundreds of pages of newspaper. You pull levers to focus the lens and laugh in glee as you stumble upon unanticipated articles.


How many Google searches for ‘caves’ would return those results, huh? Huh? Where’s the tangent browsing? Where’s the repetitive flapping sound of a roll of film that just speedily wound itself back up?

Computers steal souls. The Internet is stupid. Give me hardcover indexes with brittle, yellowed pages. Give me snortin’ microfilm browsers. The only thing that could make the machine better is if I needed to shovel coal into its engines at the top of every hour. And a smoke stack; the reader could use a smoke stack.

And Harley Davidson handlebars. If I could curl my gloved hands around those hogs and scroll through pages with the accelerator, live would be good.

February 17, 2002

james brown and urban explorations

This weekend was fun. Friday night was Wuda Fisk, where a whole pile of Woochers dressed up, got together, ate potluck and danced with lamps pretending to be James Brown. I wore a tuxedo, but even my style met challenge from some shiny polyester shirts on other party patrons. Saturday I managed to wake up at 10:00, just in time to go rock climbing down at the wall. Luke and Mark showed up, so we spent a few hours playing add-on in the bouldering cave and doing crack.

At noon we collected in the LSH lobby and headed up to Bean and Bear Lakes out of Silver Bay. While trying to uproot a tree Luke got snow down his pants so he removed them. Chris Elness proceeded to taunt Luke, whereby Luke let loose with, “As soon as I get my pants back on, you’re gonna get hurt.”

After zig-zagging through the woods for hours we finally got to the lakes, fell down a cliff and visited a cozy cabin with a nail-infested welcome mat.

Hiking back to the car we decided the trail zigged and zagged way too much, so we blazed our own straight towards Silver Bay. I tried to crawl in a beaver lodge, but I couldn’t fit. In the swamp we found the remains of an ancient tree battle, and Chris showed his compassion for the victims by smashing as many dead trees as possible. We soon met up with a snowmobile trail that took us right back to the Green Dragon, the newest and possibly most permanent name for my wagon.

Following a random conversation while hiking, we stopped at the liquor store and picked up enough hard cider to drown Jonny “Beermeister” Appleseed himself. Our hiking party gathered at Mark’s place for a night of cider and Twin Peaks, which ended at 2:00 in the morn’.

As a testament to how great this weekend was, the floorspace in my room has been cut to five percent. Everything else is knee-deep in clothes, backpacks, books and a tuxedo. Walking in the dark is trecherous.

On another note, I think I need to cut back on Twin Peaks. My dreams for the past three nights have been detective stories, which while extremely cool, involve a lot of twisting, turning and waking up. I end up half-awake, trying to reason out what everything in the dream means. Even when I’m not a detective, this bridge between reality and nonreality extends into my urban spelunking dreams, which have all begun to cross-reference each other. Oh yeah, I remember that tunnel. I had a dream that I got in there and explored it. The first dream was about a month ago, and the tunnel lead to an extensive network of underwater pools and falls beneathe UMD. The second one we were in an empty bar at UMD, trying to avoid janitors wielding broken bottles. We didn’t go to the waterfalls this time, but we did find a large network of crisscrossing concrete tunnels.

I wonder if the falls network is connected to UMD’s underground nuclear reactor. The reactor was a really cool find and it made total sense for some reason. Oh yeah, all colleges have nuclear reactors. It was a huge room, like a factoy floor, with hundred-foot ceilings and bright yellow catwalks. The floor was taken up by large pools of bright blue water; probably cooling ponds. That water needs to come from somewhere, and it would make sense that it’s connected to the falls.

Maybe I’ll find out tonight.

February 15, 2002

microfilm detective

Today’s weather forecast: Spring

Today’s mental forecast: Spring

I got a great idea for my first book last weekend, and today after some false starts with search engines I started gathering sources.

What I learned: The Star Tribune came into existence in 1986. Prior to that it was known as The Minneapolis Star and The Minneapolis Tribune. If I am reading this correctly, they were actually two separate newspapers (perhaps with previous intimate relationships) that merged. UMD’s Star and Tribune archives only go back to 1973, so I don’t know how far back these newspapers go.

Oh wait, yes I do. Hold on a moment as I google…

From the website of the Minneapolis Public Library:

The Minneapolis Journal (founded in 1878) joined with the Minneapolis Star (founded by the Nonpartisan League in 1920) in 1939 to become the Minneapolis Star Journal. The Minneapolis Times was published from 1889 to 1948. In 1935 John and Gardner Cowles bought the Minneapolis Star Journal and began using the name Star Journal in 1939.

With the ownership of the Cowles and the events that were happening in the 1930s, a new aura of professionalism and social responsibility came to Minneapolis journalism. The Cowles family purchased the Minneapolis Tribune in 1941. On April 5, 1982, the evening paper, the Minneapolis Star, merged with the Minneapolis Tribune.

The Cowles family continued to own and operate the newspaper until 1998, when they sold it to the McClatchy Newspapers, a company based in Sacramento, California.

So now you know. And so do I. Once we pinpointed the name of the newspaper I needed to research, we walked amongst the library shelves and found the hardbound indexes of (hopefully) available Star and Tribune microfilm archives. I soon found out that the Hopkins mall (probably our Knollwood mall in St. Louis Park, as Hopkins doesn’t have any malls) opened in 1973 and was called the Welcomall. Lousy names are no new thing in this society. The Welcomall got three headlines in the Star and Tribune during its grand opening.

Oh yes, I also found some of the information I was looking for. Newspaper articles on Minneapolis caves. One makes reference to the Old Loop Cave, whose dimentions have not changed since 1904. I’m curious to know what happened in 1904 to make this a newsworthy story in 1978.

As the Minneapolis Star didn’t start publication until August 19, 1920, I will need to get my grubby paws on the Tribune to find out.

If my career is anything like this, I’ll be happy. It’s fun playing detective.