The TURING TUMBLE: A game? A learning tool? It’s BOTH!

When I was growing up, Mattel produced a game called HIGH GEAR.

high gear

The object was to move your pegs along the procession of gears until you reached the top gear. Each move required the player to figure out where each gear turn would go and what it would do to his pegs – and his opponent’s pegs, for that matter.

When my son was young, he had a similar toy. It used gears that could be placed on a board, allowing the player to form different configurations

We both learned about mechanics, logic, and planning through the concrete examples presented to us by our mechanical toys.

And now we have Paul Boswell’s game – or, rather, his device called TURING TUMBLE.


In what appears to be a game like PLINKO on THE PRICE IS RIGHT, TURING TUMBLE provides more than random chips that fall into random slots. Paul Boswell’s innovative project takes those random chips and slots, throws in some cleverly designed pieces (ramps, bits, gear bits, crossovers, interceptors, pressers, a book with 51 projects for the player to try, and even red and blue marbles), allowing the player to learn how computers work.

To quote Paul from his video on his kickstarter page, “We know how computers behave. Turing Tumble shows us how they work.”

You can find Paul Boswell’s words, videos of his prototype version, and more information at this link:

The site will go public on May 30 of this year.

*** A personal note: Paul’s wife Alyssa is a former student of mine, as were her two brothers and sister. Their parents taught with me for 25 years. That may not matter to you, but there it is.

ARTS ADVOCACY DAY at ST. PAUL – Feb. 28, 2017

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Sue and I spent Tuesday down in St. Paul at the state capital as participants in the annual Arts Advocate Day. With a head count of 800 or so art supporters, our day went like this:

8:00 am – Rally, learning about the study done about the impact of the Arts in Minnesota, hearing from a few legislators who are on the Legacy committee, an award given, and then meeting in our teams that would head together to visit legislators.

Some things we learned from the study of arts in Minnesota:
Information is from the report prepared by that group. You can see the whole report at their website

Minnesota artists and artistic organizations have an economic impact in Minnesota of 2 BILLION DOLLARS.

 This generates a total government revenue of 222 MILLION DOLLARS

Minneapolis is the second best rated place for the arts in the country, behind only New York

 There are over 62,000 volunteers in the arts in Minnesota, provided over 2 million hours of their time.

Minnesota’s population is 5.4 million, but the head count at arts events is 18.9 million. 77% of these people are from households that make less than $100,000 – so much for the arts being something the rich people do.

Of the nearly 1 million students in the state, they see, hear and learn from the arts about 3 times a year from outside their own schools – either visiting artists or field trips.

10:00 am – our appointments begin. We met with Representatives Kresha, Heintzeman, Layman, and Poston. Then over to the senate building where we met with Senators Eichhorn and Gazelka. We had others scheduled but they were tied up in committee meetings – and that happens.

2:00 pm – back on the road, headed for home. Tired, but satisfied in knowing we were part of a big day.


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In the theatre at the Minnesota History Center – there are about 400 in this shot – the other 400 couldn’t get into the theatre.

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Our group (Group E – People from Little Falls, Long Prairie, Grand Rapids, Brainerd, Walker and other communities in this part of the state…. (I’m not sure I have the names right – nor were all the people in our group in this photo . . . please send corrections ….)

Back Row – Charlie Johnson, Joe Haj, Sam Grigsby
Middle Row – Millie Engisch, Mariko Yoshimura, Hannah Novillo Erickson, Kate Henricksen-Benes, Patty Norgaard, Scott Lykins
Front Row – Sue Johnson, Luan Thomas – Brunkhorst , Mark Turner, Chelsey Johnson, David Marty,

In this group, we had Five Wings Arts Council members, people who work for the Walker Art Center, The Guthrie Theatre, The HennepinTheatre Trust,The Reif Center in Grand Rapids, the MacRostie Art Center of Grand Rapids, the Lakes Area Music Festival, the Long Prairie Chamber of Commerce We were just one of well over 25 groups that visited all the state legislators that day.

Here’s our full group with Representative Sandy Layman

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Target Field

I am ready for baseball to start. As I write this, the tv brings me a spring training game between the Twins and the Red Sox from Fort Myers, Florida. How nice! In just over a month, the regular season will start, and that will be equally nice.
Consider the nearly silent anticipation before each pitch, the gasp of expectation from the crowd at each swing, and then the shouts and hoots at each hit and catch – it is all exciting, so very satisfying as the rituals of baseball appear in each game; never in the same order, never in quite the way it’s been witnessed before.
At the stadium, the senses are activated with vast possibilities. Listen for the concession guys as they carry their wares up and down the sections of the stadium, and for the crack of the bat as the PA announcements ring through each tier. See the flags fly on top of the stadium as the wind changes, affecting fly balls in windblown arcs, and see the fresh, clean uniforms as the team first comes onto the field after the national anthem. Feel the sun on your face, the excitement as the crowd reacts, the up-and-down as THE WAVE comes by in its different levels of intensity. Taste that bratwurst with all its spicy trimmings and taste the thrill of a stolen base or a double play well executed. Smell the wonderful cotton candy, smell the tantalizing hot spicy foods, smell the dust as a base gets stolen or a run gets scored with a slide under the catcher’s tag.


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Buxton Sliding into second base

Whether you’re sitting in a stadium or in your own armchair as you watch in on TV, or listening to the game on a radio out in your fishing boat, consider the intellect of the game – the sensation is virtually the same no matter where you take in the game. You sense the strategies as they happen – an intentional walk, a executed successfully hit and run, a pitching change – it’s all there, whether in person or by courtesy of your home appliances.

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There’s not a big fluff of endless pre-game blabber from overexuberant, underqualified talking heads like we see in other sports (please read here: football.). There’s no need for tailgating – baseball doesn’t need to hype itself up to get going. There is no clock – it is not a matter of who scores more points in a time frame, but who puts who out 27 times while trying to score more times in that limit of 27 outs.

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Casey, Ted and Jim enjoy a game at Target Field

And as George Carlin said in his famous routine about baseball, the goal of baseball is to ‘run home’. How can it be any better?



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My hometown … the field in this poem is at the arrow .. .the houses in the town are mostly gone now, moved out by the mining on the Mesabi Iron Range … but imagine all these town blocks filled with houses and families who have boys who want to play ball.  This is for them.

(dedicated to my boyhood friends who were there . . . )

Boys gather automatically

At Berquist’s field

No signal or notice

The game is on

They call their own strikes and foul balls

(No umps, no sir, never ever)

Disagreements work out one way or another


Jimmy, fast on the bases

Gary pitching, so smooth, so clean

John behind the plate with his classy Finnish catcher’s glove

Ole Olson batting so tall, hitting so hard

Charlie and identical twins Rob and Ron

Cover the outfield

Ready to catch ‘em all.


Ernine and his brother Etsie

the greatest nicknames in town)

Pull up on their bikes, shouting encouragements

as they lower their kickstands

Pull their gloves off the bike handles

No question, they know what to do next

One heads to the infield, straight to shortstop

One to the team at bat

Joining Jeff, Steve and Roy

On a bench by the third base line

Awaiting a turn to bat.


Just a year or two older,

Kim and Tom and John Lee

Lend their age-wise experience

In hitting, catching and pitching.


Early spring brings snow shoveled baselines

The summer sun hangs up in the sky longer and later

The fall skies get cooler and darker quicker

The game continues anyway

Until the ball is only a sound as it is pitched or hit


All comers welcome

Side by side, turn by turn

Just for

The fun

The pleasure

The joy.





I first learned my love for the game from my dad. We played catch from when I was old enough to give a ball any form of forward momentum. Mom, too, could bring it when she was available to engage me in a game of catch or a round of batting practice. Even my lovely grandma Hilda took a swing or two with a bat. Aunts Shirley and Inky played semi-pro softball so they showed me some good techniques when they visited from St. Paul. Many other aunts and uncles joined in as we visited them or they visited us.

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Dad in front of his brothers (My uncles) Elwood, Willie, Gus, Henry and Ken

Get all the cousins together and you never saw such a festivity of baseball. We played in back yards, front yards and back alleys. We chased balls under apple trees and down the curbs of the streets before the ball would go down the storm drain. We teased each other about our feeble swings or waving at the air with helpless effort. We would drop our bats and gloves right in the middle of the yard when we were called over to the grill for hot dogs and hamburgers, only to return and play some more. This was true of both sides of the family – whether it was the Johnson/Grundstrom side or the Ruud/Strand gang. And by the way, boys and girls played as one. Who knew, also, that decades later I would join my wife’s cousins in the identical games of fun in their own yards and fields.

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The Johnson cousins, all grown up –  front: Chris, Jean, Charlie, Jim   back; Leslie, Aunt Inky, Cher, Becky, Aunt Shirley, Lois


Then we grew up and had our own kids. I first taught Heidi and Steven through simple ‘roll the ball across the floor’ to encourage good hand-eye coordination, just like a good daddy of the 1980s should do. Then it was underhand tossing out in the yard, and finally full games of catch or some batting drills in front of the garage door. Then it was out into the street where I would throw balls as high into the air so they would learn to catch those fly balls . . . and later hearing from the neighbors how fun it was to watch that Johnson family get out and enjoy themselves so much.
There’s the joy of taking the whole family to the game. Down to the Metrodome we’d go, maybe once a year, and we’d experience the grandeur of the game. 2002 presented a nice thrill, when I was selected in a lottery to get tickets to the playoffs against the Angels. I managed to squeeze in a game with each kid at those playoffs … I will remember that for a long time. And again, later on in the first season of the Twins at Target stadium, Sue and I got to take in a game with Heidi and her husband Jon – and it was Jon’s first major league ball game ever – truly memorable when Thome hit a home run to win the game in the bottom of the tenth.


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   A young Steven ready to play

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Jon, Heidi and Sue at Target Field

My sister’s kids, too, found their uncle Charlie (Me) always good for some time outside with a bat and ball …. And now as their own kids issue forth, I suspect I will not hesitate to show those babies of this not so old century a thing or two about the glories of baseball, too.

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My kids and their cousins – kids of my two sisters.  Steven in front, In the back is Karen, Paul, Dan, Adam, Joel and Heidi

Baseball – a family game in so many ways.


By Brendan Boyd and Fred Harris
Published by Tickor and Fields

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I first found this book in the bookstore at college, back in the 70s. Being a baseball fan and card collector, I read it. And read it. And read it. And read it. I wore it out. I found it again at a used book store in Indiana, sometime in the 90s. That copy has been opened every year.

What’s the attraction? For ordinary guys like me, the authors have spun the truth about baseball cards and what they meant to kids like me, who grew up in the 1960s. We spend a few chapters reminded about pop culture of the day – the TV shows, our news heroes, and how horrible it was to find out that mom had thrown out our baseball cards. We spend a chapter in the offices of the TOPPS baseball card company, learning how they produce cards, learning how certain players were tough to deal with and how some could hardly wait to see their cards. We also got the inside info on some of their other products like Bazooka bubble gum and that gum that came in a big plastic tooth.

But most the book considers individual baseball cards as they feature certain players – and don’t expect the list to center on all-stars or Hall of Famers. Here you will find the workaday ballplayer; the scrubs, the benchwarmers, the goats, the ones with funny names, and even an entire page dedicated to ballplayers named BUBBA… and that even included an umpire.

The team of Boyd and Harris is clever – we don’t just learn about Ryne Duren, a pitcher for the Yankees, leading the league in how thick his glasses were. And there’s Herbie Plews, who played second base for the Senators – our authors’ take on him? “Suffice it to say that if Richard Nixon played baseball, he’d play it like Herbie Plews”. Then there’s Don Mossi, who led the league in five o’clock shadow. I think you get the idea…. The authors poke fun at some of the lesser known players out there, but they do it with love, and also with the recognition right up front in the introduction that they know full well that the authors’ own baseball skills pale against even the least of those in the book. But there are the reverent nods to the greats of baseball – what they decided to say about the great Ted Williams touches the heart of the child that lives in sixty three year old guys like me.

And as if that isn’t enough, there are mention of specialty cards like team cards, world series cards, and the dreaded checklist cards.

I enjoy the gentle humor of the book. That’s why I read it almost every year. The illustrations are mostly color pictures of single baseball cards, many that I had in my collection as a kid. What a fine, fun book for the baseball card aficionado. I close this in the same way they close their book . . .


My Baseball Memorabilia – An Illustrated List

Carew Poster.JPG1969 Poster containing the TWINS Home schedule for that year, autographed by Rod Carew
I got this at a Father/Son banquet at church in the winter of 1969. It is my most prized baseball keepsake.

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Ball from the 1993 All-Star game in San Diego from my sister in law Sandy
Sandy was living in Sand Diego back then, and she and her boyfriend went to the All Star game that year. I gave her a hard time about not bringing me a souvenir when she first came for a Christmas visit… and wouldn’t you know, lo and behold, she had this ball all wrapped and ready for me. Red Face time.

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Matchbox Truck with the Twins logo
No idea when and where I got it. It’s just cool

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Stan Musical’s HOW TO HIT record album, distributed by Phillips 66
An actual record, complete with a sheet filled with pictures of how to bat. The record includes radio clips of Stan Musial’s biggest moments in baseball and the voice of Stan Musial actually giving batting tips.

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My oldest baseball card – a 1953 Topps Peewee Reese
As an adult, I got back into baseball cards as I saw the market exploding. I went down to a card shop in St. Cloud and found this card – as well as others. I was born in 1953, so it was cool to me to get this one.

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My Paul Molitor Rookie card, 1878 Topps
Like I said, I got back into baseball cards as an adult, and found myself with nearly a full set of 1978 Topps cards. One of the more valuable cards is this Paul Molitor rookie card – and who knew bck then how he’d be connected with the Twins.

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. . . and many baseball cards, including several complete sets. I have a good many boxes of cards and some complete sets. My thanks, might I add, to an understanding wife.