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Trollwood Performing Arts School Alumni: it seems there's an alumni association (complete with newsletter!) looking for you. Email Jennifer Collins ( alternate email) with a Where Are You Now, and what you'd like the alumni association to do for you. I'm very impressed that she got a hold of me -- my classmates couldn't even track me down for my high school reunion. #

Circus Peanuts: Controversy Of The 21st Century! Well, I dunno...hyperbole aside, I have never liked them; the article says that flavoring is 'banana' (which I hate anyways), but I don't think so, otherwise that'd be my source of deep-rooted hate for the spongy orange marshmallows. My guess the taste is actually pureed puppies. I can't stand those things. Circus peanuts, that is; I don't hate puppies enough to puree them. #

Jul
26
2006
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James Lileks headed for Fargo last weekend, as I sped away towards Wisconsin. He's been to Fargo quite often, it seems almost once a month lately, but this past weekend was an important one: his 30th high school reunion.

Lileks (his name, tied to his domain name, precludes the use of his first name -- how superfluous! Leaving off the "dot com" already implies a degree of familiarity, even though we'd never met. Were I to meet in person, I'd expect him to offer a small ivory calling card, each letter bearing the faint impression caused by the lead type of a hand-set letterpress, bearing the simple characters "lileks.com"...and then I'd have to apologize for borrowing and butchering his method of writing parenthetical asides full of excessive illustrative commentary) graduated in 1976 -- same year as my uncle, Kevin Black. Last spring, Kevin asked me to host a blog for the organization of the reunion, which manifested itself as fargonorth1976.com. I'd hoped the blog would be used to tell some sort of story about what the reunion means to the returning students, but alas that had not happened. Lileks, however, has devoted this week to writing about his experience (start at the beginning). It probably means very little to non-Fargoans, and probably even less to now-Fargoans with no sense of our town's history.

Me, however -- I like to hear what people think about Fargo and the region. People who stop to look at the details and the buildings, the people and the places. I feel a devotion to the place I live, an emotion that hasn't lived very far into the World Of Tomorrow, dominated by temporary living-places connected by streets that get you anywhere and internet connections that lead to the rest of the world. I've got a small-town complex, it seems; a dedication to living someplace without regard for commerce or society. Were I in a much smaller town, I'd eventually be that old guy who still lives there (who knew the town stil existed?), dutifully mowing the town-owned lawns and plowing the streets that lead to every place I need to go, hazily remembering that somehow I had been elected mayor, winning uncontested elections by one vote, because this is My Town. Fargo is far from being "My Town," having grown significantly since I first set roots here, but the part I live in is happily shielded from the suburbanization of the Southern Districts. It's nice to hear Lileks (or anybody) speak of Fargo with wistful remembrance, recalling actually enjoying life in this town that so many people react negatively towards.

Michael J Nelson, MST3K alumnus and Nobel-prize-winning author, has launched a new site: RiffTrax. It's MST3Kish, in that you download a custom commentary track for a movie, and play it back while you watch the film. Similar things have been done before (both in all seriousness by the actual makers of the movie and by amateurs who think they're 'all that') but Nelson's new endeavor bring the fun of MST3K back without the pain of hoping SciFi re-runs one you haven't seen before. My concern would be synchronization: as someone who has gone insane over the timing involved in encoding a DVD, even a slight playback delay results in damaging any hope of comedic timing by the end. Anyhoo, good luck Nobel Laureate Nelson, and I hope it's more successful than Timmy Big Hands. #

Useless fact: the Dallas Zoo makes their penguins go through metal detectors every day. No, not to prevent nail files or Zippos from getting onto the jet; penguins are attracted to shiny fish, which also makes coins look appetizing. To make sure no idiots have made a wish at the penguin tank, the birds are scanned for any injested metal on a regular basis. Hooray, metal detector: savior of penguins! #

The Fargo Public Library, via the Friends of the Library, will be hosting a book sale today (7/19) and Thursday 7/20. Members of the Friends get their first chance tonight, while the rest of us have to wait until 3:30 on the 20th. Even better: it's a bag sale: $2 for all the reading material you can cram in a grocery sack. We're gonna have to build more booksnelves 'round here, I think. #

At our house, we've watched those KFC commercials with utter digust. You know 'em -- the ones for the bowl of potatoes, gravy, chicken strips, and corn all tossed together like a pasty carb-and-protien salad. Dan Niel at the LA Times actually tried the concoction, against his better judgement, and seems to prove our worries. He likens it to "throwing up in reverse," and muses at how, despite eating like pigs, is it really acceptible to eat from a slop-trough? #

Remember the old cartoon Dungeons and Dragons? There was a final episode written where the kids are able to get back to Earth, but it was never filmed. The screnwriter has graciously saved it on the internet, for all to read. #

The US Constitution still retains the right to issue "Letters of Marque And Reprisal." In other words, the government has the power to commission privateers in lieu of declaring war on a sovereign nation. It allows private citizens engage foreign powers in battle and claim spoils of war (provided they turn over a portion to the gov't). The practice was becoming less common during the drafting of the Constitution, and the Hague Convention essentially abolished it. The US wasn't so ready to give up the right in the first place (waiting until almost WWI), and some today think it should be reinstated as part of our current War on Terror. #

Psst! Hey you -- yeah, YOU! Go pick up this week's Valley Midweek Marketplace. I'm mentioned in there a bunch -- including reprinting a column I wrote about going for walks in Fargo. It seems I've set my own bar rather high too quickly at Fargophilia. Let's see what I can come up with next. #

While Calvin & Hobbes can already be considered the greatest comic ever written, Progressive Bonk has compiled the greatest 25 strips evar, with description and explanation. Makes me repeat PB's final sentiment on the page: Thanks, Mr. Watterson.. #

The Marketplace for Entrepeneurs is holding a contest for an oft-overlooked self employment category: entertainers. (their press release link is messed up -- here's the good link) The focus appears limited to recording artists, because part of the award is a recording contract with Makoche Recording Company. #

Prepare for the festivities: dozens of towns celebrate centennial or supercentennial anniversaries on '06 and '07. In the ten years leading up to statehood, the railroads crossed the state, setting up little towns every dozen miles to support the trains, set up stations for passengers, loading docks to transport goods and crops, and open up the frontier to the less adventurous than original pioneers. #

Jul
8
2006
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Something in the back yard got the dog's attention - they stood at the end of the deck, barking at the splashing.

Earlier that day we had bought a plastic kiddie pool at a rummage sale. Hunter spent much of the afternoon splashing around in it, but we left it unattended for fifteen minutes and now somebody had fallen in.

When bringing back the dogs, Hunter let us know about the pool tresspasser.

"A bird falled in the pool and it can't get out."

We reassured him that it was probably just taking a bath, but I finished up what I was doing and went out to check on it.

There was no longer any splashing, but I did find a very exhausted blackbird. Its wings were spread out wide and were doing an OK job of floating, but his center of gravity was a bit too far forward and had to kick his legs to keep his beak above water. I scooped it up and set it on the driveway next to the pool. It didn't struggle, but when I set it down it didn't fall over or appear too injured. The blackbird was exhausted, maybe it strained something, but mostly it just needed to dry out.

We were preparing to walk down to the Chinese buffet on Broadway, so I went back inside. As we departed we decided to empty out the pool to prevent anything bad from happening while we were away. D considered putting something in the pool for a hapless bird to stand on if it got into trouble, but that seemed less safe than just draining it.

The blackbird I had rescued was still there. It had squeezed itself as far under the lip of the pool as possible. I worried he'd get hurt as we messed with the pool, so I picked him up again. Again, it didn't struggle, but as I wrapped my fingers underneath it did the same thing our cockateel does when it feels a finger near its belly: the blackbird grabbed on and tried to stand up.

Our cockateel, Luke, is not much smaller than the blackbird, but Luke's feet have spent their days holding on to specially manufactured perches designed for comfort. The blackbird's feet have developed in the wild, its claws accustomed to holding on for dear life during storms and wind, clawing at neighborhood cats and scratching for food. This little bird's toes hurt when it grabbed on; not enough to really cause damage, but the strength was a surprise.

I kept my other fingers cupped around the bird, just in case it lost its balance. It 'clucked' a few times as I moved it to a lawn chair nearby, gently setting it down in the seat. As I pulled my hands away, the blackbird decided not to release his right claw. Exclaiming, "hey, let go!" wasn't successful. As I've done with Luke in similar situations, I tapped on the blackbird's knuckles lightly -- and, just as Luke does, it let go.

The bird puffed up its feathers, held its wings away from its body, and closed its eyes. I went back over to the pool, and helped dump the water out. We left about an inch in the bottom, enough to keep the pool from blowing away but we figured it was shallow enough to prevent a drowning.

The blackbird did not seem well enough yet to defend itself, so I picked up the chair. The bird opened its eyes suddently, quite surprised at the movement, but it did not try to fly or fight. I carried the chair up to the deck, and set it on top of our picnic table. Our neighborhood cats have been known to rummage through our garbage, but we figured this was good enough to give the blackbird enough time to dry off and rest.

Sure enough, when we returned from the restaurant, the blackbird was gone. There was no evidence of struggle or foul play; a little spot of poop was a sign of 'lightening the load' before takeoff, so I was happily satisfied that I saved the bird's life.

Later that night, I commented to D that I'd never touched a truly wild animal like that -- dead ones, or baby birds that had fallen out of the nest, but never a healthy one. I mused that maybe, someday, the blackbird will be in our back yard and recognize me.

"Yeah, and then all its friends will atack you for leaving a dangerous pool in the back yard."

I suppose so; the rules of the wild are a bit different than our own, but I at least know I helped a bird in need, and that should account for something in a karmic way.

The Residents, a musical group with a cult following, has a new work for sale: the catch is, you buy their nice packaging, complete with blank CDRs inside. Then, as the episodic radio program is released online, you burn them to the discs. I forsee a future in this: Buy Stephen King's new work, distributed as a ream of blank paper - download a new chapter each week! The Residents' theory is designed to overcome the fleeting existence of digital media: providing a place to put the downloads, in a collectible format, makes the online work a little more permanent. #

Followup to the Fargo Forum link below: the Florida-Times Union, operator of jacksonville.com, is eliminating reader registration, and has some info about how useless it is to require users to register. Less than half of internet users even bother -- "a group too large to ignore" according to the article -- and I'd like to know how they validate/verify any of the valuable user demographics they're collecting anyways. #

Scientists are still analyzing the 1957 Fargo tornado -- a horrible event, but still providing valuable info about these natural disasters that are so common in the US. According to the article, the tornado was part of the study that resulted in the Fujita Scale, which categorizes tornado intensity; the Fargo storm was on the super-high-end of the scale. More photos at Fargo-History.com (click "please continue here" for numerous more photos) -- I rode my bike through this area throughout junior high school (BFJHS was on the north edge of the path); I knew about the tornado, and understood why 1920s houses were interspersed with 1960s houses. #

Remember the search engines of the olden days? These guys have a little history of what happened to them. I first used Infoseek religiously, then AltaVista because of better accuracy -- but, with the coming of Google, I haven't used a diferent search engine since. #



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