Actual Conversation with an Actual Tween

Blowing and Drifting - Christopher Tassava - Thu, 05/28/2015 - 7:51pm

Christopher: “Julia, what are you reading?”
Julia: ” A book.”
C: “What’s the title?”
J: “Some words.”
C: “What’s on the cover?”
J: “The title and a picture.”
C: “Who wrote it?”
J: “The author.”
C: “Is it any good?”
J: “I’ve read better. I’ve read worse.”

If she didn’t offer all these answers in the most cheery, funny tone, I’d be annoyed. As it is, I make a point to ask her these questions all the time. Occasionally she forgets and gives me one or two real answers before reverting to tween.

Categories: Citizens

Pat Micheletti has kidney transplant

Carol Overland - Legalectric - Thu, 05/28/2015 - 6:55am

Fair Use from STrib

In today’s STrib:

Micheletti recovering from transplant after brother donates kidney

Says he was in severe pain and thought he had hip issues… whoa… and then went to Mayo to get checked out:

Doctors believe Pat Micheletti’s kidneys were failing because of years of taking the over-the-counter pain reliever, Motrin (ibuprofen), to deal with discomfort stemming from his hockey-playing career. Alex said his dad plans to start making hockey players aware of the dangers of taking too much ibuprofen.

I’ve not dealt with Pat since Excelsior Energy Mesaba Project days, what a protracted sticky and very painful mess that was.  He’s probably very glad to be out of that… I remember when he was caught in the midst of an ex parte contact blitz:

Excelsior’s indirect ex parte contact July 26th, 2007

I will never forget the packed standing-room-only hearing in Taconite when one of the public commenters drifted up the aisle in flowing clothing and brought a sculpture/collage/birdcage(?) as an exhibit to present to the judge, representing the Mesaba Project and what it meant to her, the devastation it would create, and she said she made it especially for Pat (it might have been his birthday that evening).  He was sitting near the back, on the center aisle, head in hands, shaking his head in disbelief at this odd presentation.  The judge was visibly afraid/concerned, he held his hands up, “stay back” or some such, did not want her to approach with that “exhibit.”  It was one of the most hilarious parts of that long mess.

Categories: Citizens

Bernie Sanders in Mpls on Sunday!

Carol Overland - Legalectric - Thu, 05/28/2015 - 6:47am

Time: Sunday, May 31, 2015 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM CDT Host: Bernie Sanders Contact Phone: (802) 862-1505 Location: Minneapolis American Indian Center (Minneapolis, MN)

1530 East Franklin Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55404 Maps:

Categories: Citizens

Spring Bridge

Blowing and Drifting - Christopher Tassava - Wed, 05/27/2015 - 8:27pm

I love looking at the arched bridges that connect the campus “mainland” to Stewsie and Mai Fete Islands in the lower Lyman Lake. The bridges were rebuilt last fall, and are just now being finished with a lovely coat of dark stain that complements the green of the islands.

Bridge to Mai Fête Island
Categories: Citizens

10 years? A decade of Legalectric?

Carol Overland - Legalectric - Tue, 05/26/2015 - 9:39pm


I realized recently that it’s been 10 years of Legalectric.

LEGISLATIVE CHANGES??? NO!!! April 10th, 2005

It sort of snuck up on me, the anniversary occurring around the same time that I was trying to figure out Alan’s Medicare, receiving the bill for a few months of Part B, how the Rx “benefit” works, and all that.

10 years of blatherings.  I need to change the categories, do some housekeeping, but it’s disturbing the similarities of the themes.  Ten years ago it was “LEGISLATIVE CHANGES??? NO!!!” and today as I try to review the session, I get nauseous and depressed, same old thing, Xcel Energy trying to have their cake and eat it too and charge us for it.  Great, just great.

Nothing changes?  Yeah, nothing changes, just deeper and deeper into the same hole.


And on the other hand:

Governor’s action Veto Ch. 80 05/23/15


Categories: Citizens

Patrick Durkin: Wisconsin’s political leaders suffering from 'nature-deficit disorder' :

The Children's House - Tue, 05/26/2015 - 1:52pm
News from the political environment of our neighboring state...and my brother in law!

Many of Wisconsin’s political leaders seem to be suffering from “nature-deficit disorder.”
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and wildlife agencies nationwide have spent recent years trying to recruit, retain and re-engage hunters and anglers in a society increasingly disconnected from nature.
As Richard Louv noted in his 2005 book “Last Child in the Woods,” kids often prefer to play indoors because, as one fifth-grader said, “That’s where the electrical outlets are.”
Louv coined the term “nature-deficit disorder” to describe the chronic ailment.
Agencies, hunting and fishing clubs, and other private organizations responded by creating programs to introduce kids and nonhunters to the outdoors. They work together on mentored-hunt and nature-based programs to provide staffing, publicity and qualified instructors.
Likewise, schools and teachers team with agency staff to host workshops and outdoor classrooms in state parks, public forests and wildlife areas to show kids and young adults that there’s more to this world than TV, smartphones and electronic games.
Judging by Gov. Scott Walker’s proposals for the DNR’s 2015-17 budget, and some lawmakers’ efforts to inflict even more cuts, maybe all those hunting, fishing and outdoor mentors should have focused first on politicians. If lawmakers aren’t eliminating naturalists’ jobs, they’re shifting education and communications jobs from the DNR to the Department of Tourism while considering whether to auction off naming rights to our parks.
Talk about nature-deficit disorder. Besides eliminating 24 of 27 research scientists and two of three research technicians, the budget calls for eliminating 11 communications jobs, eight of 16 educator jobs, and the Wisconsin Center for Environmental Education at UW-Stevens Point.
These proposed cuts highlight what happens when people who really aren’t outdoorsmen and outdoorswomen dictate conservation and environmental policies. They simply don’t see natural-resource education and information as core missions for the DNR, and see no problem shipping such jobs to the tourism and education departments.
Are they blind to efforts by their colleagues and predecessors to make nature relevant to citizens? Do they not even realize the economic benefits of state parks?
A study released in 2014 found our state park system created 8,200 jobs and $350 million in income for Wisconsinites. The roughly 14 million “visitor-days” spent in state parks generated about $1 billion in economic benefits in 2013 alone. Much of that occurred in the “gateway” communities near the parks, with 60 percent coming from people outside the area.
And parks are just the most obvious destination for outdoor-folks, partly because they attract entire families. Young parents take their kids camping, hiking, fishing and canoeing in summer, hunting in fall, and special events and programs year-round to connect everyone to land and water.
Likewise, our parks, forests and wildlife areas give the DNR a face. Hunters and anglers have long enjoyed a love/fear relationship with game wardens, and kids and campers connect regularly with rangers and naturalists. Further, one reason the visitors are even there is because someone from the DNR told them about it. Repeatedly.
Whether through the agency’s magazine, Wisconsin Natural Resources, or in press releases and public announcements in newspapers and on TV and radio, agency staff help residents appreciate that our parks and other lands offer recreation few states can match. And most DNR staffers sought such work because they value natural resources and enjoy sharing that passion with others.
One wonders if DNR administrators are even capable of advancing nature-based principles when so many are political appointees whose expertise and interests lie elsewhere. For instance, the DNR’s communications director, Bill Cosh, has no formal training in natural resources or conservation communications, and neither does his boss, Mike Bruhn. Their experience lies in political-advising and policy-making, not communicating/appreciating an outdoors ethic.
Some label DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp similarly, but at least she recognizes that most DNR employees sought careers that engage their devotion to Wisconsin’s people, land, air, water and forests.
Last week, Stepp told DNR employees that Earth Day is “a celebration of the work you do throughout your careers to care for our little piece of the Earth.” Stepp went on to say:
“Wisconsin has a legacy of conservation leadership (that lives) on through each and every one of you. Because of your dedication to the natural resources, you carry on the legacies of great Wisconsin conservationists such as John Muir, Aldo Leopold and Gaylord Nelson.
“Thank you for being leaders in conservation and providing above-and-beyond customer service to our internal and external partners. You inspire others to take care of our Earth by living out DNR’s mission, and I thank you for your part in providing a healthy and sustainable environment today and for generations. Have a great day celebrating the 45th anniversary of Earth Day!”
A day later, 57 of those employees received “at risk” letters about the possibility of losing their jobs because of budget cuts.
Unfortunately, that seems par for this course.
 Patrick Durkin is a freelance writer who covers outdoors recreation for the Wisconsin State Journal, at patrickdurkin56@gmailcom or write to him at 721 Wesley St., Waupaca, WI 54981.

Categories: Citizens

Thoughts on a Rock Shuffle

Blowing and Drifting - Christopher Tassava - Mon, 05/25/2015 - 7:58pm

Driving up to see a friend on Sunday night, my iPhone served me a nice mix of tunes off my favorite playlist, “Rock Goodness.” My thoughts on the tunes:

  • AC/DC, “Money Talks” – A great song marred by a crappy guitar solo.
  • The White Stripes, “Seven Nation Army” – A so-so song improved by an insanely great solo. Or series of solos.
  • Art Brut, “I Will Survive” – Great lyrics with a superb solo.
  • R.E.M., “What’s the Frequency, Kenneth” – Incomprehensible but awesome.
  • Creedence Clearwater Revival, “Fortunate Son” – A pretty freaking apt summary of 2015 America.
  • Springsteen, “Glory Days” – I’m glad this isn’t a summary of my life.
  • Guns N’ Roses, “Sweet Child o’ Mine” – As great in 2015 when it seems to apply (partly?) to my actual daughters as it was in 1987 when it seemed to apply (partly?) to imaginary girlfriends. (Is that creepy?)
  • Kanye, “Power” – Maybe the best rock song of the ’00s.
  • Jay-Z and Danger Mouse, “99 Problems” (off The Gray Album) – The Beatles’ zipper guitars never sounded better.
  • The Who, “Seeker” – The best name-dropping of any rock song.
  • The Hold Steady, “Massive Nights” – A color-by-numbers party song that is so much more.
  • Phosphorescent, “Ride On/Right On” – I’d love this song even if it weren’t about sex and bicycling.
  • Wild Flag, “Racehorse” – You are rock ‘n’ roll fun.
Categories: Citizens

Echoes of the Past, Hope for the Future

My Musical Family - Joy Riggs - Mon, 05/25/2015 - 6:44pm
Two months ago, I stood in the cemetery at the Andersonville National Historic Site in Georgia and looked out at the rows and rows of nearly identical white gravestones. My paternal great-grandfather, G. Oliver Riggs, stood in that cemetery in November 1906 with other members of the 51st Iowa Regimental Band, his cornet to his lips. At the close of a memorial service for Iowa soliders who died in the prison camp at Andersonville, G. Oliver played “Taps.”

The Iowa Memorial in the Andersonville cemetery.Earlier today, I stood in the Northfield Armory, the rain location for the 2015 Memorial Day Tribute to All Veterans. The building was packed with people of all ages, from infant to centenarian, and members of the Northfield High School band provided music for the occasion. At the close of the service, I listened as my older son, Sebastian, played “Echo Taps” with fellow trumpet player Jarrett Croy.

If I could have been in two places at once today, I also could have listened to my dad play “Echo Taps” at a cemetery in Alexandria, as he does every year.

Sebastian after the event at the armory.Participating in Memorial Day services is a long-established tradition in the Riggs family, going back to the time the holiday was known by its earlier name, Decoration Day. The holiday started as a way of honoring Civil War soldiers, and it was meaningful to G. Oliver because his dad, Jasper Riggs, and several of his uncles had fought to preserve the Union.

G. Oliver was 16 — the same age Sebastian is now — when he began playing for Decoration Day services. Except for the time he was in the hospital recovering from typhoid, he continued to participate every year, as a performer or band director, until he retired as director of the St. Cloud Municipal Band in 1944.

I teared up several times today at the Northfield event, mostly during the speeches by eighth-grader Reed Roney and high school senior Erin Hahn. Hearing the eloquent words they had written about what Memorial Day means to them, as young people who have not experienced war themselves, gave me hope for our country’s future.

Their speeches also brought to mind a speech that G. Oliver heard in 1906 — not at Andersonville, but at Shiloh National Military Park, another stop on the battlefield tour. During the dedication of a memorial to the Sixth Iowa Regiment, Jesse A. Miller, the son of the regiment’s colonel, said:

“I, as one who was born after the war, as one who knows nothing of the war except what I have heard and read, feel that I am a better man and will live a better life for having visited these battlefields ... I hope that as the days go by and as the years roll on ... these memorials will ever tend to raise the citizenship of this country and make the people of this nation a better and higher type of civilization than any that has gone before.”

As someone who also knows nothing of war, except what I have heard and read, I feel that I am a better person because of the veterans I have known in my life, and those I wish I could have known. As the days go by and the years roll on, I will be forever grateful.

Categories: Citizens

From the Archives: Dandelion Clocks Aglow

Penelopedia: This & That in Northfield - Mon, 05/25/2015 - 12:39pm
This post was originally published June 6, 2008, when my son was eight. I've been noticing again how dandelion seedheads catch the light and have a magical appeal -- if you're open to it!

On a recent evening walk, I found the glow of dandelion seedheads, or "clocks," illuminated by the setting sun, quite magical. My son, like many children, loves to blow the dandelion clocks. Adults, on the other hand, tend to consider dandelion clocks an eyesore and shudder at the thought of those countless seed parachutes wafting over their lawns. I remember my mother teaching my brother and me to "tell the time" by counting the blows it took until the seeds were all blown away. There is still something compelling about those weightless, silky orbs, if we take the time to notice.
Categories: Citizens


Carol Overland - Legalectric - Mon, 05/25/2015 - 12:02pm

The miracle was he was brought to the hospital, treated, and released. WHEW!

Who would hold an event with fly-ins of any type next to a big honkin’ transmission line?


From Scripps Channel 5 News
Skydiver Treated, Released From Hospital After Hitting Powerlines

And another version:

And in the Winchester Herald Chronicle:

Skydiver lines jolts Memorial Day event landing in power

Posted on Monday, May 25, 2015 at 9:27 am

STAFF WRITER courtney stachel

A skydiver drifting into a power line from a wind gust Saturday at the Red, White and You Memorial Day event in Winchester was followed by a happy ending when word was given that he had been treated and released from the hospital.

More than 400 spectators witnessed the incident when skydiver John Pitts, of the Fly It Like You Stole It skydiving team, was the first of three divers to exit an airplane and came down toward the ground gracefully while the National Anthem was being played.

A wind gust hit Pitts, causing him to drift into the electrical lines where he was left hanging for less than a minute. He dropped from the lines and fell onto a rocky area next to Tims Ford Lake.

Zachary Colescott, Winchester Municipal Airport manager, said right after the fall that Pitts was conscious and being airlifted.

Colescott said the team was concerned about the wind flow the day of the event.

“That was one thing we were worried about was the wind — being so close to the water and the power lines,” he said. “I’m really glad he is okay.”

Despite the scary interruption to the show, acclaimed country singer Lee Greenwood went on to perform as scheduled.

The event lasted all day and held plenty of entertainment for spectators, including the traveling Vietnam memorial wall, musical entertainment and a boat parade.

Jayson Davis, Moore-Cortner Funeral Home family services counselor, said the outcome at the event was surprising.

“There were a lot more people who came out than we expected,” he said. “I’m proud that so many people came out to enjoy the day with us.”

Greenwood was the main attraction. He spoke from the heart in a talking to the Herald Chronicle about small town U.S.A. and how he was looking forward to coming to Winchester and preforming.

“I love the small town flavor as it reminds me how I grew up in California,” he said. “Little towns are becoming big towns, and big towns are becoming big cities. Somewhere in the transition, we are losing the face of America. Winchester, Tennessee, is a reminder of all that is good with the United States.”

For Greenwood, Memorial Day provided the perfect opportunity to spread his message of patriotism.

“Memorial Day is not just about the good food, drinks and fireworks, which thrills the crowds — it’s about remembering those who have sacrificed through the years to give us that chance,” he said. “There are memorials all across the nation that bear witness to the struggle America has had in gaining and maintain our independence. It’s that thought I reflect on when I sing and when we observe this holiday.”

Categories: Citizens

Kentucky: Pipeline company does not have power of eminent domain

Carol Overland - Legalectric - Sun, 05/24/2015 - 6:44pm

Great decision this week from the Kentucky Court of Appeals:

Kentucky Court of Appeals – Bluegrass Pipeline Company v. Kentuckians United to Restrain Eminent Domain (KURED) – No Eminent Domain

Here are some choice snippets:

In granting summary judgment, the trial court believed that KRS 278.502 only granted condemnation powers to entities providing public utilities regulated by the Public Service Commission. It also believed that since the pipeline was only going to be utilized to move NGLs to the Gulf of Mexico, the pipelines would not be “in public service.” We agree.

And another logical finding:

If these NGLs are not reaching Kentucky consumers, then Bluegrass and its pipeline cannot be said to be in the public service of Kentucky. We therefore affirm the circuit court’s judgment that Bluegrass does not possess the ability to condemn property through eminent domain.

Categories: Citizens

Postcard: May 25, 2015

Winona Media (Leslie Schultz) - Sun, 05/24/2015 - 1:00pm

Categories: Citizens

Fire in Wabasha County last night

Carol Overland - Legalectric - Sun, 05/24/2015 - 12:42pm

On the way home from the Rohlfing Raj, on County Road 1 north of Mazeppa, there was a huge fire back behind a farm’s buildings and trees, very violent rolling flames, not like a campfire, bonfire or even a junk pile fire.  Called it in, and then had to turn back because I’d forgotten something, and saw the crew of trucks headed out, filling the farm yard, at least a dozen trucks out there, and they were still there when we returned headed finally home, fire still burning.  Seemed gaslike to me, propane tank?  Much like a mini-Bakken BOOM! train fire:


Categories: Citizens

The Go Somewhere Goal

Myrna CG Mibus - Idyllwild - Fri, 05/22/2015 - 3:07pm
I envy my friends who live in town who can hop on their bikes and quickly pedal to the grocery store for, say, a red bell pepper needed in order to finish dinner or ride to the library to return books. I also envy my friends who commute to work via bike paths in the cities or by road in Northfield.

It seems so ideal, replacing a car trip with a bike trip and it has long been my goal to ride my bike instead of driving my van on a trip to town. The thing is, I live 7 miles from the nearest town and about 14 miles from Northfield, the town in which I work and run most of my errands. A ride to Northfield would take me about an hour and fifteen minutes. A lot of the route is on busy roads and I don't like riding them alone and don't have panniers to haul stuff and wasn't comfortable riding on gravel and....well,  I haven't managed to complete my go somewhere goal.

Until today, that is.

Today I rode my bike home from work.

True, I have to go back to town now to pick up my van so that sort of defeats the saving money on gas benefit of riding home. But I'm not going to focus on that because today I accomplished a my Go Somewhere Goal!

I packed my Salsa Vaya in my van this morning, worked my shift and changed into my bike clothes. By 12:15 I was on my bike heading for home. It took me an hour and 16 minutes. To avoid the busy roads, I took a route that mostly gravel (a good compromise as I like biking gravel). I saw two red foxes. I got tired and sweaty. My knee hurt. But I did it. Yay!

Now that I know what it takes to ride from work, I can plan to ride to work and back home again and completely replace a vehicle trip with a bike trip.  I'm not sure I'm ready for that 30 mile round trip commute quite yet. Here are my obstacles

  1. I am a little concerned about how I will, uh, smell, after riding 14 miles to work
  2. I don't have a shower at work so I can clean up
  3. I'd have to get up really early to get to work by 8:30. I'd have to leave home at 7:00 a.m.
  4. I'm scared I'll get a flat, fall off, get too tired etc. etc.
Here's how I can deal with these obstacles:

  1. I'm thinking if I leave early enough it will be cool and I won't get too sweaty. I will change into work clothes and they will not smell
  2. In place of a shower, I can always clean up in the bathroom with moist towelettes or something.
  3. Well, I can wake up at 6 and get ready, I guess. It's only 30 - 45 minutes earlier than my normal wake time.
  4. I can pick a day to bike to work that Owen is working from home so I have a backup crew to help me - just in case.
All for now. I'm going to get a whole mile latte to celebrate accomplishing Go Somewhere Goal!

Categories: Citizens

Spring Evening

Blowing and Drifting - Christopher Tassava - Wed, 05/20/2015 - 8:26pm

I had to work late today, which meant I rode home around 7:30 and saw a very different Northfield than I do when I ride home just after 5: slow strolling students on campus, lawn mowers and dog walkers and stray skateboarders, wide empty streets, a golden yellow haze over the fields

and just for mystery’s sake, a hot air balloon drifting east of town.

Categories: Citizens

Seeing Life Through My Great-Grandfather's Eyes

My Musical Family - Joy Riggs - Wed, 05/20/2015 - 3:35pm
When I returned home on Sunday afternoon after a four-day writing retreat in northern Wisconsin, a gorgeous burled walnut secretary was waiting for me. The piece of furniture had once belonged to my great-grandparents, G. Oliver and Islea Riggs.

The burled walnut secretary in its new home.My parents delivered it to my house because they are downsizing. I had admired the secretary for years, even though I knew little about its history.* I figured it would be a good fit for our circa 1920 bungalow-style house, which has high ceilings and dark wood built-ins. But it was even more fun than I had anticipated to walk into the family study and see it there; it looks like it has always been there, like the space was made for it.

My dad had also left a surprise gift for me on the secretary:

G. Oliver’s glasses.These are the glasses that my great-grandfather, G. Oliver Riggs, wore during the later years of his life. My dad had unearthed them several years ago from a box in the garage.

It seemed right to find the glasses after I had spent the weekend thinking and writing about key moments in G. Oliver’s life. I have been trying to see things from his point of view as I write the chapters in my book and reflect on all that I have learned about him, his family and his career. Now I have his actual glasses.

I tried them on yesterday, and I can report that the view through them is slightly blurry, which also seems appropriate. Memory and time have the same effect on me, as I try to write about scenes from my own life that happened even just a few years ago. Some details are sharp, but some are more difficult to bring into focus without the help of photos or notes.

It’s often difficult to know in the moment what is going to seem important to you later. Sometimes your vision at the time is blurry, with or without glasses.

Fortunately, I have a wonderful teacher and mentor who loves to dig into issues like this. What do we remember, and why? At the Motherhood & Words retreat at Faith’s Lodge, which I attended with five other women writers, teacher/editor/writer extraordinaire Kate Hopper somehow knew the right mix of readings and writing exercises to use to inspire and motivate us in our nonfiction work. During the retreat (my fourth time attending — I am hooked!), I wrote an important scene from one of my book chapters, and I wrote two new parenting-related essays. 

I also had a massage — a fairly new, and highly welcome addition to Kate’s writing retreats — and I walked the new labyrinth on the lodge grounds, picking up only two hitchhiking wood ticks in the process.

I took a break from writing to walk the new labyrinth.I came away from the weekend feeling even more confident about the direction of my book; I just need to keep writing and meeting my self-imposed deadlines. I also felt happy that I stepped away from working on my book occasionally to explore topics I had not planned to write about — these exercises became the essays I am revising this week.

That is one of things I enjoy most about the retreat — it offers the freedom and opportunity to play around with writing, in a supportive and nurturing environment, in a way that I don’t always allow myself to do at home.

I have had great success lately with essays I have written at Kate’s Motherhood & Words retreats, so I am hopeful that the new ones I wrote will find homes, too. The essay I wrote at the Februrary 2015 retreat about wig shopping with my mom was published on Mamalode on May 4: Life and Death in the Dressing Room. And the essay I wrote at the February 2014 retreat about whether to have a preventive mastectomy appeared in the Star Tribune last month: Women's Health: Mastectomy Now or Later?

I have already signed up for the next retreat in October. By then I hope to have written three-fourths of my book chapters. I don’t think I will put on G. Oliver’s glasses as I write, but I may try sitting at the secretary with my laptop, to see if it helps me travel back in time on the page. The secretary has been a witness to a great many years of family history. It is ready for a new chapter of its own.

* In case you are interested in the secretary’s history, here is what I have been able to determine, with the help of and the 1882 History of Mercer County: Within the secretary I found the name of a Chicago furniture company and the handwritten words: Jos. B. Moore, Aledo. Joseph B. Moore is my third great grand uncle; he is the brother of Islea’s grandmother, Scienda Isle Moore, for whom I think Islea was named. 

Joseph Moore moved to Aledo, Illinois, in 1865 from Ohio. He worked on an 80-acre farm for ten years and then quit to work in Aledo as a cabinet maker and furniture dealer, which was still listed as his occupation in 1882.

Categories: Citizens

Recovery can take a while…

Carol Overland - Legalectric - Tue, 05/19/2015 - 9:26pm

A couple years ago, ALJ Kathleen Sheehy, now Hennepin County judge, was overseeing the public hearing for the CapX 2020 transmission project, and at one point, she threw up her hands, “ENOUGH ABOUT THE TREES!” and shut down a witness’s testimony about the impact of that project on his tree farm.

But FYI, Judge Sheehy, you can’t ever say enough about the trees… and shrubs and plants of all sorts.  It’s horrible without them, and with some nurturing, they can come back.  New trees are replacing the ones mowed down for the West Avenue project, the plants eaten down to the ground by those damn deer are growing back, seems like the deer are somewhere else this year, even the hostas are thriving.  First load of rhubarb pulled and the rhubarb cheezecake was to die for, lasted all of about 24 hours.

Rhubarb Cheezecake

From this, which really, really sucked:

And this:

And this:

To this — the City says they’ll be done with seeding by June 1, and I want to move a bunch of day lilies in on the boulevard:

And in the back, when the house was abandoned, the garage had a “dog door” and a fence, seems the poor dogs spent a lot of time out there (though there were dog poops on the attached garage roof, someone was letting them out the upstairs door.  From the County Assessor file:

Cleaned up some to sell:

And now a shop, AC, heated, and water too!

Steiner’s grave under the hosta, with the pink bleeding heart and “liberal” (white one!), and the peony by the A/C over Tippicanoe.

Spireas were eaten to the ground by deer a couple years ago, and last year but not as much, and now they’re taking off!

Although one of the barberry shrubs from the other house didn’t survive:

And the honeysuckle is going nuts, the one on the other side is too shaded, but it’ll grow.  Along the day lilies is where the drainage tube went all the way to the street, the City has been good about helping with drainage:


Categories: Citizens

Origins of the Buffalo (the Bike, not the Animal)

Blowing and Drifting - Christopher Tassava - Tue, 05/19/2015 - 6:00pm

I dunno if that many bike riders name their bikes, but I know a few who do, and I have named my last three bikes. My first gravel bike, a Surly CrossCheck, never earned a name, but my blue Salsa Mukluk fatbike was "the Beast," because it was a beastly machine that could go anywhere and looked (I think) a little scary, with those big tires seeming to be giant black paws. My Salsa Vaya gravel bike is "Giddyup," because it’s got a lot of get up and go – which is true even if I don’t ride it enough.

My favorite bike, my silver Salsa Mukluk, is "the Buffalo," a name that took me a long time to choose – or which took a long time to choose the bike. Quite a few people have asked me about the name – including several strangers at the Almanzo last weekend who rode up next me and asked, "Is that the Buffalo? Are you Chris Tassava?"

Despite or because of the weirdness of having strangers recognize me and my bike, I thought maybe I should explain the name.

I bought the Mukluk from my friend Ben, who’d built it up for himself a few years before but hadn’t had time to really put it to use. He gave me a great deal on the bike, so I snapped it up. Riding the nameless bike for months after I bought it, I thought about its many wonderful qualities and waited for the right moniker to emerge. My daughters lobbied for "Beauty," partly as a complement to the Beast (though I no longer owned the Beast) and partly because they’re girls. Honestly, the bike is pretty. Dressed in its blue and gray frame bags for winter racing or bikepacking, the bike looks, I think, like it’s wearing a comfortable, functional uniform.

Without the bags, the bike shows off all of its unpainted silvery titanium – definitely the bike material that’s easiest on the eyes.

Despite all that, "Beauty" didn’t fit. Not that one can’t define beauty in many ways, but to me, the bike was too burly and too aggressive-looking to be "Beauty." Then, on a long training ride last fall, with the bike dressed in its all bags and laden with most of my winter-racing gear, as I ground my way up a long, messy gravel climb, it hit me: "the Buffalo."

My mind was primed for this revelation. I’d just read an article somewhere about bison. Most people know about the bison’s near-eradication in the 19th century, and also know the bit about how Indians used "every part" of the bison, but the animal itself is as fascinating as its history. It’s the largest North American mammal, the only survivor of the megafauna that thrived tens of thousands of years ago but that were almost all killed off by humans when they migrated out of Asia.

The bison survived because of their unique physical characteristics. They’re massive, but their physiology enables them to thrive in a wide range of conditions – hot southwestern deserts, temperate grasslands, lowland forests, mountain valleys, Alaskan swamps – and of course, the dry, windy grasslands that run up the center of the continent, which was where I live and where I would largely be riding the bike. A bison is fast – able to run up to up to 25 miles an hour. A bison is nimble – able to jump over fences that are six feet high or ditches and holes longer than their body length. A bison is tough – able to move dozens of miles a day in the right conditions (not to mention to survive the white mans’ guns). And a bison is very pleasing to look at, in a wild way.

My fatbike, too, is fast, nimble, tough, and above all adaptable – good on pavement, great on gravel, excellent on dirt, and of course phenomenal on snow. With those rationalizations in place, I just had to make sure the name was right "Buffalo" is a laden term, with pedants loving to point out that the American bison isn’t a "buffalo" like the water buffalo of Africa. (This is true, but also dumb, since the French explorers didn’t give the name to the weird humpbacked cattle they saw on the plains because they looked like water buffalo.)

But "the Bison" didn’t sound right, and "Tatanka" (the Lakota word for "bison") didn’t seem right coming from a white guy. Growing up, I’d always used the label "buffalo" for bison, which mattered to me because riding bikes – especially fatbikes – can be a pure, childlike pleasure. And "the Buffalo" just sounded right when I said it. The name fit all the more because I’d installed some weird curved handlebars that looked – from above and behind, which was my view of them – a little like a horned bovine head. Within a few hundred yards of gravel road, the nameless fatbike became the Buffalo, and the Buffalo has taken me to some cool places.

Categories: Citizens


Blowing and Drifting - Christopher Tassava - Mon, 05/18/2015 - 9:57pm

Saturday, I raced the Almanzo 100, the huge gravel-road bike race that’s been held in southeastern Minnesota for many years now and that is arguably the biggest, best-known gravel grinder in the country.* I’ve done the Almanzo every year since 2011, when that year’s muddy, cold, rainy edition got me hooked on gravel racing.**

This year, I was woefully undertrained, with a 40-miler standing as my longest ride since the Arrowhead at the end of January. In addition, this was the first time that the Almanzo was going to be run by someone other than its hardworking founder, Chris Skogen. No longer able to stage the event on his own, Skogen had turned the race over to the city of Spring Valley (a few minutes south of Rochester, MN) and a Minnesota bike-store chain. By all accounts, they did a great job running the whole show: the 380-mile Alexander, which starts on Friday night and rambles through Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota; the 162-mile Royal, which adds 62 miles of gravel in far-southern Minnesota and northern Iowa to the Almanzo course; and the main race, which this year set something like 1,000 racers loose on a 101-mile course in and around Fillmore County.

While I was looking forward to racing again after months “off” and to seeing the course in all its springtime glory (Skogen’s course is a work of art), I decided a couple weeks before the race to approach it like a really hard training ride. Without enough miles in my legs to make them race ready, I’d still ride as hard as possible, but I wouldn’t aim for a particular time or a place (apart from “today” and “not last”). I’d also give myself a couple other challenges by riding my fatbike, rather than my sadly-neglected gravel bike, and by going self-supported: no drink or food at the aid stations and no purchases at convenience stores. These challenges – and the prospect of a solid day on the bike – ensured that I was in a good mood as I waited for the 9 a.m. start in Spring Valley, having seen my friend Scott off on the Royal two hours before.

Finding a spot in the start area, I realized that I occupied quite a bit more space than most everyone else. The Buffalo was laden with me, a few pounds over my idea racing weight; a 2.5-liter water bladder in my frame back; and 4,000 calories of trail mix, gels, jerky, and assorted other treats in my bar bags. From the gun, I focused on riding a steady pace that was maybe a half-notch past sustainable. True to the Almanzo’s rep as a race full of newbies, the first few miles were littered with lost water bottles, scattered cue sheets, and riders fixing flats. I was pleased to see that the Buffalo’s tires – 4″ Maxxis Mammoths – let me roll as fast as anyone around me on the flats and straights. In the corners, I could confidently take inside lines that I wouldn’t even try on a gravel bike, and on the downhills? A freaking divebomber. On the first big descent, I jumped onto the rough gravel at the far right edge of the road and roared past the two lines of riders in the open lines on the road itself. 40 mph of exhilaration.

Of course, pulling 40 pounds of bicycle up the climb on the other side of that descent was less fun, but my low gears and those giant tires helped me grind away at least as fast as the riders around me, and then we were back on the flats and rollers.

A bit later, the course’s first really tough climb, Nature Road – maybe the most picturesque spot on the course – was very nearly fun: find a low gear, get my chest down in the stem, and turn the cranks. In between interesting spots like that climb, I chatted a bit with other riders, including my fatbike-adventuring friend Minnesota Mark, who was crushing the course on Rosalita, his gorgeous titanium Salsa El Mariachi. Folks on gravel bikes wanted to talk about my bike and why I wanted to ride the Almanzo on a fatbike, while folks on mountain bikes (or the occasional other fatbike) wanted to talk about my tires and whether I’d done any other fatbike racing. I met a couple other Arrowhead racers and several wanna-bes. I exchanged fist bumps with any fatbike riders I could.

The Almanzo course can be divided into four sections increasing intensity: 40 miles to Preston, 25 miles to the second checkpoint at Forestville State Park, 15 miles to the water crossing, and then 20 miles to the finish – a section that includes two huge climbs. While I was enjoying the cruise to Preston, a few of my fellow Northfielders came past me. I caught them at the first checkpoint, hung out for a bit (turning down offers of water and Coke), and headed out en masse. Those damn gravel bikes easily pulled away from me on the paved climb out of town, but I was spending some good time with the Buffalo, so I didn’t mind.

I spent most 30 miles to Forestville riding alone: getting small for the headwinds, sitting up to catch the tailwinds, eating and drinking regularly, and setting up little games – pushing hard to that telephone pole, trying to catch that guy before the next corner. More than a few times, I was surprised to recognize a spot on the course that seemed out of place – a corner that I remembered being later in the course, a hill I could have sworn we descended earlier. I guess my previous 400 miles of Almanzoing hadn’t fixed the course in my head well enough.

Riding along the valley floor toward the Forestville checkpoint, I encountered the single most annoying racer ever: a guy tooling along with a stereo on his handlebars, blasting some sort of rap. I like rap, and listen to it a lot – on my headphones or on earworm radio, not through a tinny stereo on my bike. I was happy to let him get away from me and take his music along, leaving me to absorb the peace of the green hills.

At Forestville, many racers were in full recovery mode – eating hot dogs and chips, having beers, napping – but I wanted to get in and out quick. I refilled my water at the spring, ate some food, and downed a good carb/protein shake. I also ran into the guy who was my R.A. during my freshman year in college. Peter and I have been in plenty of the same races, but had never actually connected. It was good to say hi to him, chat for a few minutes about the race, and then get out of there. I was tempted to have one of my two Red Bulls, but I refrained, promising to have one at the water crossing (and saving the other in case of a bonk).

The 15 miles after Forestville are always the most painful of any in the race. My legs are dead, the excitement of the start or even of the crowds at Preston is absent, the tiredness of the racers at the checkpoint is contagious, my eating and drinking is off track, and I’m dreading those two big climbs in the last 10 miles. But pedaling has so far always worked to keep my bike moving, and so it did again. Up the paved climb out of the park, down the swoopy fun of Maple Road, and then out again onto the flats and rollers that weave on toward water crossing at the bottom of Orion Road. I started to gather up racers as we neared that spot, and others started coming up from behind me, so a good group of us went down Orion together. When we popped out at the creek, I paused for a second and then tried to ride right through. I made it halfway before a big rock stopped me. Hopping off, I hustled the Buffalo through the water and up onto the opposite bank.

I stopped there for a minute to enjoy the feeling of the icy water on my legs, to watch other racers negotiate the creek (many did so only after removing their shoes and socks, a bit of delicacy that I can’t even), and to guzzle that promised Red Bull. When the empty can went into my frame bag, I got back onto the bike and started the rough, fun climb up Orion Road from the creek. 15 miles to go. Three women on mountain bikes rode up near me, chatting the whole time and trying, I think, to set up a rendezvous with someone else on course. I was happy to reach the top and pull away a little. I consciously tried to stay light and loose, readying myself for those last climbs. The stretch from the top of the Orion Road to the first and harder of the last two climbs – the infamous Oriole Road – is actually pretty easy, and easier this year thanks to some tailwind. Feeling decent, I rolled past the now-standard aid station slash kegger in Cherry Grove. A few miles later, when I made the left-hand toward the base of the Oriole climb, though, I felt myself tensing up. I had to get loose again. Roll the shoulders. Flex the hands. Do some neck circles. Find a nice low gear. Unzip the jersey. At the sign that says “Oriole Road,” turn right and set the dial on “max effort.”

I have never walked the hill, and didn’t want to disappoint the Buffalo by walking it this year, so I dropped as low onto my bike as I could. Some stolen glances showed that the hill was a steep son of the devil and that the slope seemed to be covered with racers walking their bikes. Mostly I watched my knees cycles in and out of view and the gravel pass under my front tire. I could sense when I passed other racers, but I couldn’t hear anything over my breaths and heartbeats. Abruptly the pedaling got easier. Looking up, I saw that I had reached the top of the first ramp. There was plenty of hill still to climb, but the hardest part was over. I bore down again, passing a few more people, winding through the gentle curves, and then emerging suddenly at the crest. Ahead of me, two little girls were giving away bottles of water to other racers. “Want some water?” the taller one asked me. I said please and thank you and downed all of it in two gulps. A violation of my rule about self-support, but my god, delicious.

I sat up to relax my back but kept turning the pedals. Five more miles of rollers rolled past, and then I was taking the twisty descent to Masonic Park, where a small creek rushes along a gorgeous rock bluff. The bridge over the creek starts the race’s last big climb: nowhere near as severe as Oriole, but taxing with 95 miles in the legs. Here again were quite a few walkers, some of whom I passed for good, others who caught me after the top of that hill, almost within sight of Spring Valley.

From the high points on that home stretch, I could see dozens of riders strung out on the roads to the finish. Just before the turn off the last gravel road and onto a highway that runs right into town, two guys came past me. Knowing we’d have a headwind into town, I fought to stick to them. When we turned into the wind, the work paid off by giving me a sweet wheel-sucking position behind them. We cruised around a few singletons and small groups, then missed the turn into the finishing zone. Whether the corner was poorly marked or we were too gassed to correctly read our cues (and/or notice the giant arrow that others later told me was spray-painted on the road), we wound up weaving through city streets and popping out on the wrong side of the finish line. I ducked back around and rolled through the chute at 8:36.

Given that I was on the Buffalo, that I rode (almost entirely) self supported, and that I spent very little time at stops, I was pretty satisfied with this time and my place (406). Hanging out and chatting with friends like Ryan the Giant and Bonnie the Trashtalker, I concluded that my Almanzo bodes well for other races I’ll do this summer, especially the Maah Daah Hey 100 trail race in North Dakota on August 1, which – being a new race for me – I’m considering the main focus of my off-season. And I had enough fun on the fatbike that I might ride the Buffalo at the two gravel races at the end of the summer – the Inspiration 100 and the Heck of the North.

  • I say “arguably” because several other regional races draw pretty well, and the Dirty Kanza 200 in Kansas seems to have a “biggest and baddest” reputation.

** (Back then, I wrote a loooong summary that I see now set the tone for my long-winded race reports: Part I | Part II. I wrote a much shorter report on the 2012 race, and apparently nothing much on the ’13 or ’14 races!)

Categories: Citizens

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