WEEK 16 – THE SOUND OF MUSIC at my former school – Enjoyed!

Tonight I went to Pillager High School (where I taught for 34 years) and enjoyed myself. Now, that might seem like no big deal, but let me tell you …

Rob Freelove, who is the guy who is in charge of the show and the senior member of the music staff there now, had brought a great deal to the school with his music. He has done some amazing things with the band and choir, but doing full-blown musicals is all his doing. I admire his tenacity in bringing this to the school. He deserves extra credit and, if it were possible, a bonus check for all this.

rob and lead actresses

Rob couldn’t do it without the support he gets from the parents out there, including his wife, Anne. He goes out and gets help, finding the right people all the time. Somewhere along the way, these people build sets, do the painting, take care of tickets, arrange costumes, play in the pit orchestra.

And then there’s the kids. I hope the Pillager school district administration and school board realize that tonight there were 62 of their kids involved in this show . . . and that’s not just tiddly winking around. All 62 had a job to do, from the leads in the play to the crew that sat at the back table and ran the sound and lights, and the kids who sat in the pit and played the music, alongside some of those parents and other adults that were involved. That’s SIXTY TWO kids who all had crucial parts – – none of them were bench warmers, waiting to get into the game. EVERYONE OF THEM got into the game. Fully. First minute to last.


And in my own joy as a teacher, I got to see some of my last students participate. Some of them I had back when they were in the young grades. Tonya sang solos in those elementary school Grandparents’ Day programs – and did MOTHER ABBESS tonight. Emily and Megan were fine nuns, just as they sang well for me back in those same elementary programs. Chris has done several musicals now, but I remember when he and his family first came to town and brought some fun to the school. Hunter always had a happy smile for me back then, and still does. Miranda Paananen and her sister had to tolerate me calling the PANANANANNEEEN so many times, and tonight she was so good as the housekeeper. Some of the kids I had, including Katie, Julia and Paul (who doubled the part with another former student Gabe – and both of them are kids of teachers I taught with. Good guy Ezra was fun as a student – and he’s made himself a good job of doing the fun parts like Uncle Max . . .and Ben, who I thought was more quiet back then, knocked me over with his singing as ROLF . . . another Ezra did himself well as one of the German officers – as did Colton. Emily was there – always willing to do stuff back in my day, and here she was again, right in there. Alexis, Abby, Maria and Samantha were in there, too, just like they did as my students. I have to mention Brook, because I will never forget how she enthusiastically sang CHICAGO CHICAGO that year when we did a show about American cities .. and brothers Ben and Lewton – proud of you, guys.

In the pit – Lauren, Amber, Dawn, Luke, Ethan, Becky, Tanner, Ella, Levi, Eli, and Aaron – all who I remember – nice pit work from all of you.

And Logan, Chris and Jordan on sound – and Hannah, now graduated, but still involved – and another grad Jesslyn home from college and involved …


A great big “GOOD JOB” to all of you. With this show (and other shows that Mr. Freelove has brought to you) you have built yourself some amazing memories that you will love for the rest of your life. And I mean that …for the REST OF YOUR LIFE.

WEEK 15 — NCAA, Indiana, Baseball, and Potential Presidential Candidates?


Is it just me or was that a great tournament? There seemed to be little or no controversies over this and that – the referee work got minimal complaints, there were a good number of upsets, and hey, those final four games were as good as we’ve seen. I’m not a big fan necessarily of the sport, but it sure was a good gig all around. Congrats to the NCAA for running a good tournament and to all the teams who participated.


But then Indiana. Having passed their law regarding religion and owners and all that, I have this to say. In the best light possible, giving all the benefits of the doubt out there, this is an example of poor legislative practice in creating, writing, sponsoring, enacting and signing a law as can possibly happen. This law ended up worse than the bills we wrote in our senior ‘social problems’ class in high school. These elected officials should have known better as to how to write a bill and how to use clear language. The whole state government should have been a whole lot more aware of the problems that were to come from this bill. The governor should have sent it back on the bad language alone, regardless of his stance on the issue. As for the other states who have some form of this in place – we’ll see what pressures arise and what happens to those other laws.

Baseball season

I am a serious baseball fan …well, specifically, a serious MINNESOTA TWINS baseball fan. I don’t give much of a rip for the National League until the World Series – I just follow the Twins.

I know. So sad for me. How can I do that? How can I follow that squadron of ill-skilled players? I guess I’m just loyal. That’s all there is to it.

The Twins have started out with no wins and three losses. Here’s to a season with a record of 159-3.

Yeah, right.


Cruz or Paul? That’s what the Republicans are offering so far. More to come, I’m sure. Will it be another Bush? Will it be a woman who picks up the Republican banner? In all honesty, I don’t know which woman who would be. Sarah Palin has become a media/sensation/Reality TV stale joke, so I don’t think she’d have the carrying power. Are there any other women out there who might meet the Republican needs for a presidential candidate? I would love an answer to this one.

The Democrats? Okay, it looks like it’s almost Hilary C. Good old Hilary, who has been around since 1992 in one way or another and who carpetbagged her way to a senate seat in New York, which turned me off to her political work. But then, who else? Elizabeth Warren? Bernie Sanders? Joe Biden?

So put this all together. We haven’t really had a president who came into office with a good deal of international political experience… I did like George HW Bush for his work as an ambassadorial work. But look – Obama, Bush II, Clinton, Reagan, and Carter all came into office with not so hot international knowhow. LBJ had at least a good strong senatorial career before he was thrust into office, as did Ford. Nixon got elected twice because the Democrats did to themselves what the Republicans are trying to do to themselves this time around. Kennedy came with minimal international exposure and experience, so that brings us to Eisenhower – a military guy who wasn’t necessarily a politician.

Maybe that’s what we need.

I sure wish Colin Powell had run before. Maybe he’d do it again.

Week 14 – Baseball Playoffs in Parkville (A Semi-fictional reenactment)

This is dedicated to those wonderful friends and memories of those wonderful summers spent on those wonderfully dandelion-strewn baseball fields in the warm sun of our youth. Please don’t tell me how so-and-so didn’t play that position, or point out other baseball strategy flaws – and yes, I know there were so many more names I could have used – maybe in the next story. Some of this is rather true, and some of it is joyously fabricated. You can be sure, however, that this tale has been born of the best memories that can possibly swim in a guy’s mind.

That Championship Game

In the MIPWBL (Mountain Iron PeeWee Baseball League), Parkville and South Grove approached the end of the season with identical records of 9 wins and 2 losses. The league champion would be declared in the one game they had left, which was scheduled to be in Parkville.

And what a rivalry! Parkville, the ‘old’ town… been around since the 1920s, home to a great deal of mine workers, some of those families had been around since those first houses went up. South Grove… pretty new, really, a bedroom community of crackerbox houses, and many new families to the area.

On the five-mile bus ride to Parkville, their coach Gary Skalko spoke. “Boys, we wrap it all up today. I’ll fill you in on the lineup when we get there, but I’ll say this much. We’re gonna go with Scotty on the mound, but Phil, you be ready to relieve Scotty. Parkville has some good hitters, so we will need fresh arms out there.”

Scotty Edstrom was a scrappy right hander who threw as fast as anyone in the league. Phil Koski was a tall, skinny, kid – a lefty who was known for being wild. He’d walk a mess of batters but he’d strike them out, too.

Scotty’s teammates cheered their approval, their voices echoing through the big bus. Slapping his pal Scotty on the back, Gary Johnson, the chatty catcher of the team, smiled a big grin and let loose with a loud “Let’s Go Scotty-o!” bringing more cheers to the bus. The boys hooted and hollered as they arrived at the Parkville field.

The Parkville field was typical of the ball fields in the league.

Along each baseline, unpainted and weathered wooden benches served as dugouts. Five telephone poles driven into the ground draped with chicken wire made up the backstop. There were no home run fences – the outfield was defined by Highway 169 along right field, Fourth Street along left field. No one ever hit it as far as the roads, so every homer had to be run out as the fielders chased down the ball. No white lines appeared; the baselines were merely paths worn by players feet as they ran out their hits. The bases themselves were small sacks filled with sand. The pitcher’s mound was merely a board spiked into the ground.

Parkville’s coach Alan Nelson walked across the infield to the South Grove coach where they exchanged lineups in their official scorebooks. Once this was done, the books were handed over to the non-starters (Zach Edstrom for South Grove, Charlie Smith and Beanie Herbert for Parkville) to keep track of the stats of the game. Those lineups:

SOUTH GROVE – Gary Johnson, c; Scott Edstrom, p; Phil Koski, 1b; Greg Swanson, 3b; Steve Kottke, ss; Jeff Anderson, 2b; Mike Coleman, cf; Mike Kochevar, lf, Jake Nichols, rf

PARKVILLE – Jimmy Nelson, 2b; Gary Pagliaccetti, 3b; Jeff Skaudis, lf; Dave Olson, p; Steve Hoglund, 1b; John Jarvi, c; Del Savela, cf, Kim Knuti, ss; Warren Smith, rf

The coaches served as umpires as ruled by the league; Alan stood behind the mound to call balls and strikes, Gary placed himself between first and second base to call the running plays. Further rules demanded that every boy (ages 9-12) play in every game, batters and runners always had to wear helmets, no stealing bases, and all games ran six innings, unless more were needed to break a tie. A duffel bag filled with helmets, catching equipment, a few bats, and a few balls were provided by the league.

Dave Olson took his warmups as his teammates shouted the usual phrases; “Chuck it in there, Davey.” And “One-two-three inning!” and “Big man, little stick”, just to ride the South Grove batters a bit. South Grove gave it right back with “Rubber arm out there!”

It was a quick first inning for the Parkville pitcher. Gary Johnson, blessed with athletic ability, stepped to the plate with confidence. It didn’t matter much, as Olson struck him out on three fast balls. Scott Edstrom and Phil Koski, both good hitters, also failed to make contact.

The teams exchanged places as they passed each other, sharing good-natured insults on the way:

“Nice glove! Where did you get it? Your mother’s sewing kit?” “Don’t trip on the grass, you dork.”

Parkville barely managed any better in their half of the inning. Jimmy Nelson tapped a grounder back to the pitcher, and then both Gary Pagliaccetti and Jeff Skaudis struck out.

The game went quickly for the first three and a half innings. The six times that a batter managed to make contact, it was a feeble grounder that found its way into an infielder’s glove, pegged over to first base, recording an out; all the other outs were strikeouts. The only base hit went to Parkville’s Del Savela, who managed to knock one between first and second base for a single. He got no further than that.

Parkville came to bat in the bottom of the fourth, finally getting to the South Grove pitcher for some runs. Gary Pagliaccetti hit a double out to left field, and Jeff Skaudis sped safely to first base when he tapped the ball down the base line, running out Gary Johnson’s throw, allowing Pagliaccetti to get to third base. Pitcher Dave Olson, the biggest kid on the Parkville team, swatted a hard one between fielders in left and center that scored both runners, giving Parkville a 2-0 lead. Dave ended up on second base as coach Nelson found his way to follow the ‘every boy has to play’ rule and put in perennial benchwarmer Beanie Herbert as a pinch runner, which meant that Kim Knuti would move in to pitch and Charlie Smith come in from the bench and take over at second base for the next inning. Beanie handed the scorebook to Olson, grabbed a helmet from the bag, put it on, and sprinted to second, where he stood and beamed at getting into the game so quickly and unexpectedly. He immediately started looking for four-leaf clovers around the baseline. Coach Nelson called out “Pay attention, Herbert!” bringing Beanie back into the game.

Steve Hoglund was next, popping up just behind second base. Jeff Anderson caught the ball and looked over to second, expecting to see Beanie standing on the base. Beanie, not a big baseball mind, started running the wrong way, back to first base. Jeff tagged him out for an unassisted double play. The Parkville gang groaned their discontent.

The South Grove team shouted their approval. Coach Nelson, from his position behind the pitcher as umpire, patted Beanie on the helmet as Beanie returned to the bench, giving him a “Nice try out there, Beanie. You’ll do better next time.” The Parkville boys, knowing they needed to show good sportsmanship and support to their teammate, kept their comments quiet, muttering words under their breath as Beanie took off his helmet and exiled himself to the far end of the bench to stay away from any further digs and embarrassment, clearly realizing his error. Olson flipped the scorebook and pencil to Beanie with a slight air of disgust, but also with some sympathy; as the two were neighbors and good friends.

John Jarvi, after taking two pitches, ended the inning with a pop-up fly ball to shallow left field, easily caught by Kochevar. The fourth inning ended with a score of Parkville 2, South Grove, 0.

Parkville took the field for the fifth inning. Olson sat on the home plate end of the bench, drinking some water and relaxing his arm. Beanie sat at the third base end, still sulking over his misplay on the basepaths, but doing his best to keep track in the scorebook of the plays. South Grove came to bat with more determination than before. Kim Knuti, a lefty, pitched well, striking out Coleman, Kochevar, and Zach Edstrom, who had come in to pinch hit for Jake Nichols.

In the bottom of the fifth, Parkville faced a new pitcher and the fresh arm of Phil Koski. Despite his reputation as a wild-armed lefty who walked a good many batters, he struck out the side of Savela, Knuti and Smith. The boys of South Grove picked up on Koski’s success, and came in from the field, ready to bat, chattering of how they were going to tie the game or go ahead.

“Who’s up first?’
“Let’s get some runs!”

Best of all, they had the top of their order coming up.

That momentum carried them well, as they came to bat in the last inning of the last game of the season, down two runs. Catcher Gary Johnson stroked a line drive to center, just out of reach of Savela. Gary ran hard, and seeing the ball roll past the running centerfielder, generated more effort and stretched his way into a safe slide into second base. The next batter, Scott Edstrom, wasted no time at all with a big poke down the left field line. Johnson took off from second and scored easily while Edstrom tore past first and headed for second. The ball came in from left fielder Skaudis but eluded the second baseman Jimmy Nelson, caroming off his glove all the way out into right. Edstrom leaped up and took the chance to dash around third base and slide into home, just beating the throw from Warren Smith and the tag applied by catcher Jarvi. That tied the score, bringing a great round of screams and hollers from the South Grove team.

Coach Nelson went to the mound, directing Knuti out to right field, bringing in Warren Smith to pitch. It was the right move, as Smith and his herky-jerky pitching style deflated the South Grove rally with a ground out from Koski, a swinging strikeout from Swanson, and another out via a right field flyout. With the last Parkville inning to come, the game was tied at 2 a piece.

Koski ran back out to the mound, determined to stop the Parkville batters. Along with him, his team mates ran to their places, pounding their gloves and shouting their encouragement to each other.

“Hold ‘em, now, guys! They’re nothing!”

Parkville responded with the standard insult to pitchers: “Nothin’ on the mound out there!”

Just like South Grove had in the top of the inning, Parkville started with the top of its order. Jimmy Nelson worked Koski for a walk. Gary Pagliaccetti took two pitches before bunting perfectly between the pitcher and first base, sacrificing himself to allow Nelson to get to second. Left fielder Jeff Skaudis put a scare into the other team with a long fly ball that barely went foul down the left field line. Had it stayed fair, the game would have been over. He followed that up with another fly ball, this time an easy out for left fielder Kochevar to pull in and return to the infield. Two out, a runner on second. Charlie Smith, who was brought into the game in the fourth inning, was on deck, next to hit.

Charlie took his place in the batter’s box, kicked a little dirt on the plate and pounded his bat on the ground. His freckled face showed an unexpectedly strong notion that he was going to make a difference in the game. He, like Beanie, was a benchwarmer for most games, but this was to be his chance, as far as he was concerned. He took his stance and glared out at Koski.

The first pitch was inside, spinning Charlie around, almost making his helmet fly off. Gary Johnson caught the ball and teased Charlie, “That was a close one, huh, kid? You better watch out you don’t get hit.”

Charlie took his place again. Koski checked the runner over his left shoulder, wound up and hurled the ball.

Charlie didn’t take time to think. He swung as his coach had taught him; level and with speed. Bat and ball met, sending the ball into a high arc; higher than Peewee league batters usually hit it – but it didn’t go very far. Clearly the ball was going to come down half way down the third base line, just barely in fair territory. Jimmy Nelson took off from second, knowing that with two out you run at the crack of the bat. Koski and third baseman Greg Swanson converged on the spot, eyes on the ball. Each called out “I got it, I got it.” The ball seemed to hang in mid-air, defying gravity over the heads of the two South Grove boys. Neither boy backed off in their pursuit of the ball.

Beanie Herbert, watching the whole thing still sitting by himself at the third base end of the bench, got an idea. He threw the scorebook over his head, jumped up on the bench, cupped his hands around his mouth and aimed a loud, shrill shout at the two boys just a few feet in front of him in his unchanged soprano voice:


Both Swanson and Koski froze for a split second, put their gloves over their heads, reversed their direction, nearly falling to their knees. The ball plopped untouched between them, bouncing freely as Jimmy Nelson rounded third in full gallop. The shortstop Steve Kottke ran in, picked up the ball and threw to an anxious Gary Johnson, covering home plate. As the throw came in high, Johnson caught the ball and swept a tag, but Nelson had already cleared the plate, scoring the winning run for the Parkville Pirates.

Jubilation erupted from the third base side of the field. The Parkville Pirates could now claim the Mountain Iron Peewee League Championship of 1964. They clapped each other on the back in their joy. In a melee of arms and legs and grand, loud shouts, the Parkville team celebrated as the South Grove team retired to their bench, defeated and dejected.

On his end of the bench, Beanie Herbert jumped down, ran to join the victorious mob, sharing in the joy of being a part the best in team around, but not until he stepped just into fair territory by third base and performed a perfect bow to the spot where the ball had fallen next to his invisible tree.

Charles Johnson
Copyright April 2015

Week 13 – Uncle Dan, in the anniversary month of his leaving us

Here’s to our Uncle Dan – Dan Ruud. He left us too suddenly back in 1989, at a very young age. We miss him yet today.

Ruud; Daniel, 1954Daniel Henry Ruud (1936-1989) grew up on his parents’ farm (Paul and Hilda Ruud) near Eveleth, Minnesota, then moved to Parkville, where he then attended Mt. iron High School He served overseas in Germany during the peace years of the 1950s, married, and had two children (Mike and Jolene). Lived in Cambridge, MN, working as a teacher for the school district in that town. He was active in the American Legion there, earned his master’s degree in education and a pilot license.

Ruud; Paul, Hilda, Gladys, Paul, DanBack row: Gladys Ruud Johnson, Paul B. Ruud, Hilda Ruud

Front: Paul K. Ruud, Dan Ruud

Now that’s the black and white of Uncle Dan. But let’s get to his other colors.

Dan was a happy guy – lots of sunshine when he smiled and laughed and told his jokes. He could weave a good one, that’s for sure. Ethnic jokes, bad puns, and of course, stuff like his favorite sayings. He was known for saying:

“I wonder how the poor people are doing?” (Which he said often when I went on a camping trip with him….and at other times, as well.)

“If you don’t care where you are, you ain’t lost.” (And that was not only on the camping trip . . . just a good general knowledge thing he’d say.)

“No matter where you go, there you are!” (And more of the same . . .)

But there’s nothing like his favorite, and if you can make any more sense out of it than those of us who heard it all his life, then you’re a much better person. Try this one:

“I sure feel a heck of a lot more like I do now than since I came in.”

His laugh was infectious, his smile beaming, and his eyes would twinkle through his glasses.

Color Uncle Dan a bright, shiny yellow.

Dan served in the military in the peaceful years of the 1950s. I never heard much from Dan about those particular years, but he certainly manifested them. He was very active in the Cambridge American Legion, honoring his fellow veterans as much as he could. I remember watching him serving as a color guard in many parades across the state – and he was active in the Legion at the state level. He was patriotic and a dutiful citizen.

Color him red, white and blue.

I spent many late nights sitting up with Uncle Dan in my college years. We’d make up a pot of coffee and discuss the issues of the world. We hit such topics as family, religion, education, sports – and we shared so much. I will remember those nights with great affection.

Color Uncle Dan a deep-thought purple.

Dan and his music was another facet that we all enjoyed. He wasn’t a classical pianist; he could pick out a tune, figure out the harmonies, and then play a fine arrangement of his own. He was most famous for UP A LAZY RIVER, which I tried to emulate – and almost come close to performing with his own style. I will never forget, too, his performance with the North Branch Barbershop group, when the entire choir did a concert as various small town members. There were farmers, mechanics, shopkeepers, and so on… but Uncle Dan was the preacher, and he had to do the entire concert dead pan stone faced still while singing his part – and while the other guys tried to crack him up. We were impressed that they couldn’t do it . . . it also doesn’t hurt that he had a good, strong voice that he shared with more than just his barbershop friends.

Color Uncle Dan musical.

And when it came to family, Dan was as loyal a family member if ever there was one. If there was a family affair, Dan was there. A birthday, a Christmas feast, a celebration, a reunion – Dan was there. He loves his sister Gladys (my mom) and his older brother Paul. He was as close to his brother and sister as any siblings I know – the three of them were a lesson in how that should all work. (Note: Dan was the young one of the bunch.) His two kids were vitally important to him, who he loved to all ends of his existence. He reveled in his aunts, uncles, cousins.

Color Dan a true blue loyal family guy.

Like I said; here’s to our Uncle Dan – Dan Ruud. We miss him yet today.

Dan Ruud 1987  Dan in 1987

Week 12 – Getting in a Walk

Getting in a Walk


As Wilma and I prepare for a trip to Europe this summer, we have to get into walking shape.  I have begun in a good way.


Here in our town, we have an arboretum that offers a good chunk of trails to enjoy.  Today I walked three and a quarter miles, toting my camera along with me just in case anything interesting shows up.


And as I walked, I recalled the many times I hiked along similar trails near my hometown, usually walking the trails for some hunting – rabbits and partridge, mostly.  The conditions were similar – unpaved trails, wide enough for 3 or 4 people to walk side by side, grown over to some degree, occasional patches of sand showing through, and a few lingering puddles from the melting snow.  I picked up a great deal of familiarity with that kind of forest environs.


The Arboratum offers a network of trails over a good chunk of distance.  Even with today’s longer walk, I could have gone further than I had; probably another mile further north at least.  Trails are named after the Ojibway tribe, acorns, pioneers – and more.  The area is not as hilly as other trails in the county, but there’s plenty of up and down hill parts to make it interesting.


Today as I started away from the car, a pileated woodpecker flew from the north, landing nearly silently, high in a tree near me.  He caught my eye with his bobbing flying pattern so typical to woodpeckers – he sat at the top for a while as I took a picture or two and then flew back the way he came.   As I walked further, I could hear him squawking as he disappeared further into the arboretum.


I wove my way through the trails – I’m still learning the names and where they connect with each other – the first mile was still pretty much within the lighted trails, which are flatter.  As I got further north, the trail rolled up and down more than it had in that first mile.


I was surrounded by trees on all sides – pines, birches; the ground was covered with a good deal of trees that had fallen over the years.  The ground was covered with fallen leaves, moss – your usual forest floor cover and underbrush.


As well as the rolling, the arboretum also has some wetlands to walk by.  At this early time of spring, nothing is growing yet, but I could see that there will be ferns and reeds in the wetlands to go along with all those trees.  Further north into the trails, there is also a red pine tree farm of sorts – I haven’t learned the details yet, but there I was, among some tall pines, straight as soldiers hoisting their branches into positionSONY DSC.


As I looped around and headed south back through the arboretum, I came across a pair of nuthatches high in a tree, chirping back and forth about the day’s activities.  Further on yet, a pair of white tail deer scampered away from me – I couldn’t get a picture of them through the brush, but there they were.  I share here a pic from a previous visit when I did actually see the deer there, when they seemed to be posing for me.


And finally, to end my day, I exited the woods and into a more open area – and there, seen for the first time since last fall, were robins.  Not just one or two, but an easy 2 or 3 dozen.  They hopped on the ground as they do – sat on tree branches, flew around.  My first real sighting of any birds of the freshly arriving spring.  I considered it a nice way to end my walk for the day.


I have a feeling you’ll be hearing more about my walking as time passes.   This was worth it.



Week 11 – Minnesota has a 2 Billion Dollar Surplus. Now what?



Here is what seems to be a recovering economy, the state of Minnesota will be sporting a healthy 1.9 billion dollar surplus.  That is good news – at least in the fact that not so long ago, Minnesota was in a pretty large deficit.  First, some history.


Back in 1999, the state returned a tax surplus of 1.2 billion dollars (https://www.google.com/#q=minnesota+surplus+1999) in a form of a check sent to families in the state.  According to this article, that check ranged from $203 to as much as $2000.

In the first decade of this century, Minnesota faced deficits of 1.9 billion in 2003 and 1.2 billion in 2005.  (http://www.mnbudgetproject.org/research-analysis/minnesota-budget/proposals-budget-outcomes/options-to-address-2002-03-deficit.pdf)

Steps were taken in these years to address that deficit, including raising revenue, cutting costs, and using reserves.

And now in 2015, Minnesota is looking at a 1.9 billion surplus.  Do we copy the Ventura years and return this money in a check to families?  The state Republican Party is airing ads that support this idea.  It has been done before, it could be done again.  I wonder how much this costs to do … back in 1999, the state spent a great deal of money (I wish I knew how much) on sending out a letter saying that a check was coming, and then sending out the money in a separate mailing.  Then there’s the cost of printing all the checks and determining how much each family should receive.  It’s a pretty labor intensive act as well, taking a good many work hours to accomplish the task.  I repeat, it could be done.

But now, here’s a thought.

When we had those nearly equally deficits, the call was that we cannot leave these deficits to our grandchildren.  That comment was heard often also at the national level, as our federal government faces its own deficit.   I agree – it is horrible to think that we’ll leave such a deficit to our kids and their kids.

Leaving such a thing to our kids.  How nasty.  How ugly.  How burdensome for them.

I submit that there is an equally nasty thing out there that we cannot afford to leave to our kids and their kids, and that is our crumbling infrastructure.

Remember the 1950s, how the generation before us created and built our interstate system?  Hasn’t that been a blessing to us?  Wouldn’t it be nice to do the same for our kids coming after us?

The surplus in Minnesota should be applied to repairing our infrastructure as much as we can.  I am no expert in the costs, but 2 billion dollars could go a long way in repairing or replacing our bridges, roads, water and sewer systems.  Let us not forget, too, our public buildings like city offices, schools, libraries, fire stations and police stations.

Should all of this surplus go to restoring our infrastructure?  IN all practicality, that probably wouldn’t happen.  There are other concerns about restoring programs that got cut back in those deficit years.  Yet, I would like to see a majority of this surplus go to the infrastructure.  All that is in the hands of the state legislature.


So here’s the deal.  If it was important enough to consider our kids when we had a deficit, we should also consider them as regards our infrastructure.   Let’s address the surplus in the same way we addressed those deficits – address it with our kids in mind.

WEEK 10 — Billboard Brain/Posting “SHARES” on Facebook — is this YOU?

Subtitle:  No one cares who puts up the billboards, and no one will care if you share something if all you do is put your name to it.


When I was growing up, we would take a trip down the road.  There would be billboards all along the road, advertising all kinds of stuff:  hotels, restaurants, bait shops, malls, gas stations … you name it.  I also noticed that in our neighborhood, a good majority of those billboards had a small label on them on the bottom center of the billboard, identifying the company who put up the billboard.  In our part of northeastern Minnesota, that company was NAEGELE SIGNS.

The signs were huge when you think about it.  They were held up by three or four telephone type posts, and then maybe – oh, who knows – the bottom of the sign was a good eight feet off the ground, and the sign itself was maybe sixteen feet tall, and a good 24 feet wide.  That’s big.

These signs made their pitches in glorious living color and in large lettering, with some pretty classy illustrations as well.

And did anyone ever think that NAEGELE endorsed and/or supported the products on their signs?  Of course not – they were just shills, hired by the companies to put up the signs.  It got to a point where you didn’t even notice the “NAEGELE” part of the sign any more at all.

So if all you do is share, share, share and more share with no word of why you have chosen to share, share, share, you will disappear into the depths like NAEGELE, and eventually your sharing will just be so much white noise.  You will be eventually ignored by the passive, and considered a pain by others and then you’ll be sent to that area where Facebook people can click “I don’t want to see any more of this person”.

This Billboard Brain syndrome isn’t in any one category.  Politically, there are conservatives and liberals who are guilty of this method.  Also guilty are those who think it’s funny to drop in an F bomb at the end of an otherwise cute statement.    There’s those who post statistical stuff.  Doggie clips, cute cats, comments about education, men, women, getting old, staying young …. Not to mention all those wonderful little surveys about ‘what kind of cheese are you’ or ‘What color hair are you?’

If you must ‘share’ something, please realize you will make a larger impact by including some of your own thoughts.  Like I said about Naegele signs, eventually you will come to be regarded as merely a shill for whatever you’re sharing.

Be an individual.  Share if you must, but let us know it is YOU sharing.





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