February 15, 2009

Bike errand

My mission yesterday morning was to bike across town to the auto parts store and pick up a new battery for the car. Overall I use my bike to help my car a lot more than the other way around, and it feels good. Like, I don't drive somewhere to go biking, I just go for a ride. And I fix my bike myself but sometimes I bike in connection with taking the car to the garage.

My friend Tara wanted me to take a picture of myself while biking. This was after coming up the big hill.

The sun came out, finally, and dried off the paths. I got to take my touring bike out instead of my city bike with studded tire. It felt good to stretch my legs on my all time favorite bike.

There were lots of kids out sledding and in the afternoon I went back to this hill with Anders and he practiced going over the jump.

Car battery in the 'manbasket'.

January 31, 2009

Mouse finger

My right index finger has been complaining for two or three weeks. What it is is 'tennis elbow' in my mouse clicking finger.

So I have spent the last three days training myself to mouse left-handed.

It is not natural, but neither is it supernatural.

January 25, 2009

Letters from Charles Darwin

February 12, 2009 is the bicentennial of Charles Darwin's birth. My wife is making an exhibit in his honor for the Natural History Museum in Lund Sweden. She found some letters that he had sent in the library and I helped her read and transcribe them. His handwriting is neat but hurried, he wrote with a quill and he used some abbreviations, like 'cd' for 'could' and 'wd' for 'would'.

Here are the letters:

Down Bromley

Kent Aug 19 1868

My dear Hooker,

I dare say you could find some naturalist who could obtain for me from Professor Nillson a little piece of information. It is whether with the Reindeer in which both Sexes are horned, are the horns first developed (or are they developed in a greater degree) at an earlier or later age, or at nearly the same period of life as with all other deer, in which the males alone have horns? The comparison would be fairest with species of nearly the same size and inhabiting the same climate.

If Prof. Nillson does not know, would it be possible to interest him enough to obtain for me in his own country this piece of information about which I am very curious.

Believe me,
Yours very sincerely
Charles Darwin

Kent. S. C.

Oct 31st

Dear and Honored Sir,

I am very much obliged for your great kindness in sending me the reference about the Reindeer through Dr. Hooker. When next in London I will consult the work, and should be grateful for any further information from you. You will easily perceive that what I wish to ascertain is whether there is any relation whatever between the period of development of a character and its transmission to one sex alone or to both sexes.

I have much pleasure in enclosing my photograph, and if it would not cause you too much trouble I should very much like to possess one of you, as I have a collection of the photographs of eminent naturalists.

With the most sincere respect
I remain yours sincerely and obliged
Charles Darwin

January 10, 2009

Swedish public school

Here's a picture of the wood shop in F's old grade school. He was 8 at the time and made a cutting board in the shape of a fish. A year later in sewing he made a cool sea monster stuffed animal for his little brother.

January 09, 2009

Flat pack nation

Children in Sweden are expected to assemble furniture.

Botalit High Voltage Driver

I was going to throw out this scrappy old screwdriver and then I saw that it is rated for 12,000 V, so I decided to keep it. You never know.

January 03, 2009

Dog stories

Our five-year old son has been hard to put to sleep lately. He talks and asks questions and fidgets and wants to go to the bathroom or drink some milk. The last couple of nights though we tried something new. After stories and a snack and brushing teeth he lies in his bed and I tell him three dog stories, and then he doesn't have to sleep, he just has to rest quietly and think. After 10 minutes of thinking he is fast asleep. The key is the dog stories. Here are plot summaries of the stores so far.

1. St. Bernard. Strong faithful dog with keen sense of smell digs out avalanche victims and gives them rum.

2. Snoopy. Five sons (my Karkula cousins) and a black and white spotted dog who likes to jump in the boat and go fishing, watch when the fish are cleaned and eat fish cubes straight from the frying pan.

3. Chow chow with black tongue is out for a walk with his master and they discover an American Indian camp and watch them clean a buffalo and use the fur for a blanket and make buffalo stew and use a tiny buffalo bone as a sewing needle and make a drinking cup out of a horn. The dog gets a big buffalo bone to chew on.

4. Loosely based on Jack London's White Fang/Call of the Wild. Nice family dog discovers his roots in the wilderness and becomes a wolf.

5. Huskie goes out in a kayak with his master who harpoons a whale. Whale gets mad and breaks the kayak in two. The master is knocked out and the huskie swims him into shore and drags him onto a sled and pulls him back to the igloo, saving his life. The husky is rewarded with his favorite food: frozen chunks of fish.

6. Police dog captures bad guys and sniffs out stolen goods.

7. My brother's black lab Nico likes going for walks with kids, fetching and digging holes in the back yard.

8. My family's spaniel Goggles is out grouse hunting with Dad and my brothers and he runs off and doesn't come back. They call to Goggles and finally must drive home. Dad goes back after a few days and ties one of his T-shirts onto a tree in the woods where they had parked the car. Dad goes back yet again and there is Goggles by the shirt with his master's scent. Goggles never runs off again.

9. The younger brother whippet begs his parents to let him go to the dog races to show that he is faster than any other dog. He eats his food, sleeps at night and goes running every day, and wins the race.

10. The pirate dog's crew is lost at sea and thinks of eating him. The pirate dog climbs to the top of the mast and stands guard for three days. Finally he sees land and guides his crew to safety.

11. Seeing eye dog helps his blind master get through life.

12. Firehouse dalmation rides on the fire truck and saves a fireman from a burning building.

That was four night's worth of dog stories. Got any ideas??

January 02, 2009

Happy New Year

I'd like to congratulate everyone on completing a full orbit around the sun during 2008, and I hope that our ride in 2009 will be at least that much fun again, and hopefully more so.

The Holidays were kind to me, including a new digital camera and bike seat. I got out of the house for a while this afternoon and used them both.

They put a pair of bulls on the top of a hill near our house to welcome people driving down from the North. It's the highest point for miles around.

They put up three windmills earlier this year, the first of many. You can see we haven't gotten any snow yet, only frost. Temperatures in the teens today. Chance of snow tomorrow - ??

Then I rode to a wildlife area north of town. All the ducks were collected in a small patch of open water where the stream enters.

We had a good hard freeze last night and a few people were out skating.

Just north of the pond are these Viking burial mounds, for someone named 'Sten'.

December 16, 2008

Pre-dawn rumbler

We were shaken awake this morning by an earthquake. My body reacted very strongly, I flew out of bed and up the stairs to see the kids. I had been deep asleep and when the 'fight or flight' response wore off I broke out in a cold sweat, took the porcelain bus out for a spin and almost fainted. Things are pretty much back to normal now. I hadn't screwed the side panel back onto the PC after installing a DVD burner, and it fell off, but that's the only effect we've seen. It was unexpected and at 4.7 not that large of a quake, Sweden is not an earthquake zone. The whole thing was deja vu all over again. We were living in Pasadena when the 1994 Northridge earthquake hit, also a couple of hours before dawn.

December 09, 2008

Hat Trick

Last night I scored the cyclist's hat trick: fix three flats in the same day. It was good too because I had to fold up the laundry and move it out of the workroom before I could start in on the bikes. My wife's tire had a thorn, my son a shard of glass and my bike a sharp peice of metal.

Our five year old has the chicken pox so I am at home taking care of him today. He is covered in red spots from top to toe but so far full of vim and not itchy.

December 06, 2008

Mountain Men

There were several years when I thought the greatest thing you could be was a mountain man. This was mostly inspired by our Scout leaders who were real mountain men in their spare time. 'Tiny' was the largest of these men. He walked me through the process of making mocassins -- where to measure the foot and how make a pattern, how to hide the stitches so you don't walk on them. As everybody knows the best mountain man thread is waxed dental floss. He shared leather, deerskin for the tops and buffalo soles. Us Scouts made leather pouches, the mountain man's 'possibles bag', because it held the things that made life possible that you'd need even if you lose track of your birchbark canoe and Duluth packs while shooting rapids: Flint, steel and char cloth for starting a fire, needle and thread to sew yourself back up and mosquito repellent, maybe some water purification pills or a snakebite kit. Our ideal was that everything should be 'old timey'. Our leaders made tipi poles and we'd tie them to the top of Tiny's microbus and go camping, like characters out of the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers. Tiny was a blacksmith. He made a set of throwing tomahawks and we got to practice throwing them in his backyard. The trick is to judge the spin correctly for the distance. After some practice we were able to throw a double loop and drive the blade into the face of an oak log out back of Tiny's house.

December 03, 2008

Anthropomorphic rant

Thanks to Papa Twister for inspiring this.

First we stabbed the pumpkin with our long knives and then we cut a hole in the top of its head and disembowled it. We cut the flesh into cubes which were boiled, mashed and frozen. We proudly displayed the corpse on our front step with a flame inside.

November 30, 2008

Drive a green car

In money terms, emitting carbon dioxide gives you a lot of bang for the buck. But why not turn this around, and not emit some large mass of carbon dioxide for only a little bit of buck? This is the idea behind carbon offsets.

Here's a place where you can buy a carbon offset that will turn your car into a carbon neutral vehicle. To quote the late great Chef Tell, Very simple, very easy. These people achieve the carbon offsets through clean energy, landfill gas capture and farm power.

Makes a great Christmas gift!


Biking update

My New Year's Promise for 2008 was to ride my bikes farther than I drive our car.

Mileage totals, 30 November:
Biking, 4608 km, 2864 miles
Driving, 6080 km, 3779 miles

This doesn't look so good. In order to reach my goal I'd need to bike 50 km a day every day up to the end of the year and not use the car at all -- to pick up a Christmas tree or buy food or bring a carload of equipment to the electron storage ring for a study.

Even so, its been an interesting year. I started taking bike maintenance seriously -- it's a lot more fun to ride when your bike's in shape. I discovered that you can do without a car pretty well most of the time. The kids bike to school and we bike to work, and most of the trips to get groceries are by bike.

There are times when it is hard to do without a car though. We visit my wife's Aunt a few times a year, she's in her 80s and lives alone. We drove up to Stockholm to see my wife's parents this summer, and that one trip was 25% of our annual use. And sometimes I can't avoid driving to work -- doing this once is worth two weeks of biking, since most of the distance of the commute is by train.

In fact, most of the time when I drive I am not alone in the car. Like we were four to Stockholm, so I should subtract 1500 km * (1 - 0.25) = 1125 km. Similar trips to see Aunt give credit of 500 km. If I wanted to I could add some bike miles since I've noticed that most of the time I am biking into the wind, not to mention bonus kilometers for heavy driving mist, frozen slush and full body splashes from light duty trucks.

Adjusted mileage totals, 30 November:
Biking, 4608 km, 2864 miles
Driving, 4455 km, 2769 miles

Not half bad?

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November 25, 2008

Fun fact

In Holland we were told that chocolate is more nutritious than cheese. It is an accepted fact among the Dutch.

November 23, 2008


The Complete Bushisms on Slate.

"How can you possibly have an international agreement that's effective unless countries like China and India are not full participants?"—Camp David, April 19, 2008

"A lot of times in politics you have people look you in the eye and tell you what's not on their mind."—Sochi, Russia, April 6, 2008

"And so, General, I want to thank you for your service. And I appreciate the fact that you really snatched defeat out of the jaws of those who are trying to defeat us in Iraq."—meeting with Army Gen. Ray Odierno, Washington, D.C., March 3, 2008

"More than two decades later, it is hard to imagine the Revolutionary War coming out any other way."—Martinsburg, W. Va., July 4, 2007

November 22, 2008

The Election.

Fresca asks, what do folks say about the election?

I am pleased to say that what I am hearing now is a stunned silence, because 53% of the US electorate has just removed the favorite topic of conversation for a certain sort around here. Those who were secretly hoping the Bradley effect would confirm their judgement of Americans. What will they do now?

1. Last week my wife went to a dinner for all the moms at A's pre-school. A girls'/moms' night out. A mom from the Netherlands (she is a sex therapist) explains how she could never live in the U.S. because she has serious concerns about our legal system. Around the table, heads nod in agreement. My wife thinks carefully and explains, Well, we lived in Los Angeles for five years and I never once thought about that.

2. First son comes home from fifth grade with a homework assignment where he should answer questions about a Swedish newspaper article about the new U.S. President. The article says that some of Obama's policies would not be accepted in Sweden, for example that he is in favor of the death penalty. (I didn't know that and a with a little research I learned that he is for the death penalty for heinous crimes but he is also in favor of being able to establish guilt beyond a shadow of a doubt).

So. I explain to Swedes that the Unites States is a Federal system (it's like Germany, I say). States make their own laws and Minnesota for example banned the death penalty in 1906, something that did not occur in Sweden until 1921. (Until then, conviction for crimes such as murder, witchcraft, adultery, incest, fraud, abuse, sodomy and bestiality could and did result in capital punishment.) But these people will not let themselves be sidetracked by detail or fact: As everybody knows, the U.S. represents the worst of human nature: unfettered capitalism, rape of the ecosystem, ignorance and the perversion of all that civilization has to be proud of. (Another example is that the 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote in the U.S. before Swedish women were granted the same right.) Yet, year after year there is one argument that always wins, We wouldn't want it to be like it is in the U.S.!

Last week at lunch in Copenhagen a group of students told me that they read that Scandinavia is held up as a negative example by the right in the U.S. What do they think about us, they asked? I explained how some in the U.S. think Socialism is the first, second and third step on the road to hell, and how some people believe taxes pervert morals, turn people into liars and legitimize businesses hiding their income. I got a pretty good laugh out of a German guy when I told about Ronald Reagan's Nine Scariest Words in the English Language: I'm from the government and I'm here to help. What the students couldn't accept is that many (most?) Americans seriously believe our country is better than theirs. If you asked the students would earnestly explain about differences in child mortality, life expectancy, access to education, crime, divorce rates, death penalty and so on. And it is well known around here that Danes are the happiest people on the planet.

What makes me proud to be an American. First off, if you want to test your patriotism, try living outside the US. I took a taxi a few years ago and the driver told me he was from Iran. Oh, I knew someone from Iran when I went to college I said, now he is a chiropractor and makes a lot of money. That could only happen in the U.S., he said. I'm a civil engineer, but in Sweden all I'll ever be is a taxi driver. The unemployment rate among Somalian refugees in Minnesota is 15 to 20%; in Sweden it is 80%. Nobody assimilates immigrants like the U.S., and Europe has a much larger problem with homegrown terrorists than the U.S. does, and I think its because immigrants in the U.S. are too busy working to make payments on credit card debt. But don't try telling that to people around here, because they know that the U.S. invented racial discrimination. (It would take too long to explain that the very civil rights movement they support is an American invention, or that we fought a bloody civil war over the issue, and so on.)

Just as Swedes should take the beam out of their own eye, so ought Americans demote. I hate to indulge in schadenfreude but after 8 years of being on the shit list, a new day has dawned my friends when we can turn the page and begin a new chapter of history.

Finally, the short answer to Fresca is that I have been congratulated on the election by many people of good nature: Danes, Swedes, Germans, Dutch, two Norwegians and a Canadian.

November 10, 2008

The kid

Our 5-year-old 'A' told everybody at day care that it was his Mom's birthday. They let him cut out pictures and make a really nice card and we all told him how nice it was even though his mom's birthday is not for another 6 months.

Another time A told everyone at day care that his mom's bike tire blew up in a huge explosion so they had to walk to school. Nothing of the sort had happened.

Wife: Were you talking on your cell phone when you took A to the park yesterday?
Me: No.
Wife: Because A told me that you didn't play with him at all because you were talking on the phone.
Me: No, I didn't take my phone with me anywhere over the weekend. I left it at home on purpose so I could get away.

I am really proud of this little guy for his creativity and self confidence and ability to tell entertaining stories -- but when he tries to get his old man in trouble, then he has crossed the line!

November 02, 2008

Family photos are best shared

Recently I posted a photo of the homesteading Johanson family. Paraphrasing Rigtenzin's comment, This really nice..family photos are best shared.

And so here's another family photo:

Standing from left are my brothers Lowell Mark and Daniel Peter, front row from left sisters Beryl Allison and Andrea Susan, and Dad and Mom. The first thing to notice is that everyone looks so happy to be there. The photo was taken during my family's golden days in Crookston. Next, I'm not there; I wouldn't be born for a couple of years yet. Then there are the insider's secrets. Allison liked her stockings and wanted to show them off. That's my all-time favorite lamp on the left side. I grew up with that lamp and those philodendrons, they are my favorite kind of houseplant. Dan and Lowell have cool hairdo's and spectacles. And so forth.

Trip to Holland

Our family took a vacation in Holland last week. Some of us vacationed anyway as the Swedish schools were having fall break. I was officially on duty and gave some lectures at the University of Utrecht, and spent what time I could with my family. We stayed at a youth hostel in the countryside and rented bikes to get around. My camera went on strike so all I have to show you is these fuzzy cell phone photos.

Here's one of the University buildings. Colors are popular in Holland. The plastic trays they used at the airport to X-Ray your pocket change used this same combination.

Holland is a cyclist's paradise. Every road has a bike lane. The Dutch favor an upright cycling posture, as I imagine the handlebar-moustached Sturmey Archer himself rode.

Here is a canal in Utrecht, a beautiful city. Back in the day merchants would load their goods out of barges through these doors, and then sell them through the shop at street level.

Utrecht has one of the best post offices I have seen in a long time. Public buildings like this (train stations also catch my eye) are a high water mark of civilization. We don't seem to be building things like this anymore?

We hung out in the countryside, biked into Utrecht and one day took the train in to Amsterdam. After our walk through central Amsterdam I can only conclude that the favorite native sons are not Rembrandt, Escher or Vermeer but Marley and Guevara. I carried our younger son on my shoulders and we sang Twinkle Twinkle Little Star at the tops of our lungs through the streets of the red light district on our way from Rembrandt's house (worth the trip) to the train station. Yes they have women in the windows. You can smell wacky weed and the shops sell hash lollipops. I don't think much of what was going on registered with either of our sons, I imagine their innocence protects them. When we sing Twinkle Twinkle, in the last line, 'How I wonder what you are', you have to say the 'are' like a pirate would, 'Arrrgh'.

These stands selling french fries are popular. They are named after a famous statue of a little boy relieving himself. The fries are really good -- served hot in a paper cone with mayo.

I don't know if you can see this so well but it is a triple-decker bicycle parking ramp, located outside the central station in Amsterdam.

At no time did I see any land that was more than two feet above the waterline. The waterline is easy to find because there are ditches, canals and rivers everywhere. Somebody explained that they have discovered how to make a watertight lining so some new houses are built with basements, but the problem is that these houses can float up out of the ground. The countryside is lousy with mallards.


October 18, 2008

The Johansons

Let me introduce Peter and Christine Johanson who homesteaded outside of Wheaton Minnesota in the 1880s, and 7 of their 16 kids. Back row from left Algot, Helmer and Oscar. Front row, Clarence, Peter, Alvin, Arthur, Christine and Chester. Clarence was my grandpa. He fought with the Ohio Signal Corps in Belgium in WWI and then returned to Traverse County. Worked as an accountant at a creamery and eventually testified against the owner who was put away for skimming. True story. I inherited his typewriter, an Underwood No. 5. He took over the farm and that's where my mom grew up. My uncle farms it today and one of my cousins farms nearby. I knew my grandpa of course and his brother Chester, but not so much of the others; I think some of them ran off out west.

October 17, 2008

Long Burn is Dead. Long Live Long Burn!

Well its been quite a week here in post-Long Burn land. I have not had a chance to think two thoughts in a row since returning from Tokyo. Short version is I thought up a crazy energy saving device back in 2007 and some characters from the U.S. are investing in it through a Swedish company, and they've had a falling out. Counter accusations flying back and forth across the Atlantic. What I think really is that I had better get my butt moving in lab to find out just how this invention may work or else nobody is going to have to be worrying about making any kind of money off it anytime soon, and if everyone would just stop calling me on the phone asking me to be on their side then I could be getting some real work done. And just a couple of weeks ago we were all getting along so nicely!?

And they turned off the institute to change a transformer and when they powered it up again the voltage surge fried a bunch of my delicate electronics. Spent the day sorting that out, and pulling hot oily vacuum pumps out of the crawl space under the lab floor. Thank you Lord for giving us Axel the Electrical Engineer who solves problems like Reagan eating jelly beans.

And then yesterday a wayward train ripped down the power line over the tracks between Lund and Malmø bringing train traffic to a standstill, causing Godzillian chaos and greatly complicating my trip home not to mention delaying my appointment with dinner.

Can anyone remember the name of a short story they made us read in 7th grade, maybe 'Flowers for Agamemnon'? It was about a rat who is really smart and can run any kind of maze and even read in the middle of its life thanks to a potion or something, and then the rat and the author become a thankfully oblivious stupid child again at the end of the story/day/life. I think I am in that middle stage right now because everyone seems to think I can do everything they ask. Students. Investors. Spouse and kids. And many times I can even do all these things, it just surprises me that the people around me seem to have faith in me because they never used to give me the time of day. Is that what turning 40 means?

October 11, 2008


The blog muse kicked my butt for using that old line about not feeling inspired to blog anymore. If you're a blogger you post, resistance is futile.

I just returned from a trip to Tokyo. It was great. I love Japan, the food, the gardens, the people, even sometimes the music which is either bebop or classical music's greatest hits. Japan is a blend of 1950s Americana, Godzillan sprawl and post-modern metropol. I packed in a rush and arrived without my camera but with cell phone that didn't work on the network but I could still take pictures.

Here's the view of Tokyo bay from the hotel window at 5 AM. I'd been up since 2 with jet lag.

I played hookey from the conference for a half day and went looking for gifts and souveniers. Ran into this sign on the Zojoji temple grounds:

Outside the temple were these Jizo statues which are dedicated to lost babies. Beautiful and spooky.

I happened across a pet store for stag beetles. Enthusiasts arrange tournaments between the beetles.

There was a technology museum on the ground floor of the building where we had our meeting. The museum had a globe hanging from the ceiling that was like 30 feet in diameter and covered in TV screens. They showed films of the earth on these screens, for example how hot it is going to get by the end of the century or satellite pictures of cloud cover. This was a film of the ozone hole.

The subway was always crowded, even at 11.30 on a Tuesday night. In Japan I am extra-tall.

There was a small earthquake mid-week but I didn't feel it because I was riding a bumpy monorail. The final night we stayed at a traditional guest house with tatami mats that smelled like alfalfa pellets, thin futons and a pillow filled with dried beans. I know that may not sound so great but it was actually a lot of fun; also there was a bath and hot tub in the basement.

October 10, 2008

My only friend, the end?

It may be the end of Long Burn.

The beginning of the end was an obsession with election coverage which blended nicely into reading about global deleveraging. The CGS may now be the GS.

I noticed it was nice not to be thinking about what to blog next.

And I started hanging out on Facebook, and got kind of busy at work.

Its been a great run and thanks to everyone for showing up through the years! It has meant a lot to me. Stay tuned, I may be back, or not.

September 09, 2008

Issues vs. What we're getting right now

Sarah Palin: A Trojan Moose Concealing Four More Years of George Bush

By Arianna Huffington


September 07, 2008


Just found this cool blog wordspinning. It starts with this quote:

This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown aside with great force.

-Dorothy Parker

September 02, 2008

A walk on the wild side

I've been at a conference the last couple of days, helping man a booth, presenting our research, talking with different companies and whoever stops by. The University made a postcard with a picture of my photochemical reactor on it, and I get to hand out pens and memory sticks. The first few hours of this are quite fun and then the brain checks out and the mouth goes on autopilot. And then I needed a break so I cut out to shake the weasel. I went into a stall that I had visited the day before, and it seemed unusually fresh, and then I noticed there weren't any poems or diagrams on the walls. That's funny, and I waited for someone else to finish before I exited my stall. I looked around, and the urinals were missing. I could've sworn they were right over there...Oh, I sure hope I didn't....and then I made a quick exit, head down, and two women walked in as I walked out. Eeeyikes!

August 24, 2008


Here's part of a newspaper article from last week:

After having spent several summers in Sweden together with his Swedish wife and two sons, Will Ferrell knows what his favorite thing is to do in Sweden. 'It's going to sound crazy, but my favorite thing is going to the recycling station. Swedes have the best recycling I've ever seen. Like, 'Old shoes, please place them here.' I love to fill the car and empty it at the recycling station.'

Will I am with you 100% and in fact just today I filled the car and emptied it at a Swedish recycling station. Here is my photo-essay:

The main goal was to get rid of this ratty old couch. It was tossed into the 'burnable waste' container. It will go to the incinerator and be turned into electricity.

The recycling center takes folks yard waste and composts it, turning it into topsoil that they sell:

All of the 'white goods' are arranged carefully in the corner-- fridges mostly, and some water heaters

They accept all kinds of hazardous waste. The labels on these bins say 'cleaning agents', 'acids', 'bases', 'insecticides', 'mercury thermometers' and so on.

They also have a place for home mechanics to put used motor oil. This is great. It reminds me of a college housemate who changed the oil in his station wagon and dumped it in the middle of my vegetable garden in the backyard.

This friendly gent is there to help you find the right resting place for your junk. He told me that last week he got his picture taken by a busload of Chinese tourists.


August 23, 2008

High tech bikes

All these Minneapolis cycling types are twittering about the Xtracycle, a device that mounts into the rear of the frame and lengthens an ordinary bike, allowing you to carry things like lumber or four bags of groceries.

I also have a high tech device that allows me to carry four bags of groceries using an ordinary bicycle; it's called a bungee cord. It works like this. Put a big bag of groceries in the manbasket (this bag had four large milk cartons, yoghurt, potatoes). Pass the bungee through the handles of the three other bags twice and tie in a square knot. Finally, set these bags on top of the first bag. Ready to ride.


The most-hated man in Toronto

Igor Kenk, owner of The Bicycle Clinic, was arrested for bike theft and was eventually found to have 2,396 stolen bicycles. Kenk had stashed the bikes in 10 garages he rented around town, and in his house. The police also found cocaine, crack cocaine and about 15 pounds of marijuana.

There are different theories about what Kenk planned to do with the bikes. Some say he was hoarding bikes to prepare for a severe oil shortage. Kenk had a scrap metal dealer's license, so he may have been waiting for another spike in metals prices before melting down the bikes.

Kenk lived in a rented house in Yorkville, a nice suburb of Toronto, with his partner Jeanie Chung, a concert pianist. Chung faces charges for possession of stolen goods and drugs, and turned herself in after returning from performances in Banff.

You see, my dear wife complains sometimes about all the bikes I have been collecting (I am up to 3, but one of them is in a different country), and now she is afraid I will end up like this. I said, If I'm going to end up like that you'd better start practicing, it's a long way to Banff.

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August 19, 2008

MN is in good hands

Thanks to everyone involved for a great trip to Minnesota!

It was so great to see friends and family. Highlights of the trip:

1. Seeing my nephew Brett's week-old daughter Elanor Zeforah* Dregge

2. Seeing what wonderful young adults my neices Kristina, Amy and Cathy and nephew Brett have become.

3. Minnesota wildlife turned out in force. Well done! Highlights:
Bald Eagles on the Mississippi, Lake Chisago and Rice Lake State Park
Wild Turkeys in the hills of SE MN
Red Squirrels at Owatonna's Central Park and grey squirrels at Lincoln School
Pileated Woodpeckers, racoon, 13-lined ground squirrels, humming birds at the River Bend Nature Center near Faribault
Deer every evening just north of Owatonna
Buffalo, otter, wolves and bear at Oxbow Park in Olmsted County
Walking stick and huge wasp at Rice Lake

*Zeforah (Zipporah) was a wife to Moses. From the King James Version, Exodus 2,
And Moses was content to dwell with the man: and he gave Moses Zipporah his daughter.
And she bare him a son, and he called his name Gershom: for he said, I have been a stranger in a strange land.
And it came to pass in process of time, that the king of Egypt died: and the children of Israel sighed by reason of the bondage, and they cried, and their cry came up unto God by reason of the bondage.

Moronitude doesn't sleep

Fresca asks me to flesh out my proposal for using some of a fictitious billion dollars to help everyone stop being morons.

I find it is not going to take nearly that much money.

Here's my point-by-point guide to halt the ongoing march of moronity.

1. You find yourself watching Cops. Solution: Turn off the TV, eat some nuts, drink a glass of water and load the dishwasher.

2. You think that government is the problem. This is a self-fulfilling prophecy that will keep you from living in a safe, decent society. Solution: Become a lobbyist and make money getting the government to chase its tail.

3. You buy a big vehicle in order to get in touch with the wilderness. This is costing you a fortune in gas, not to mention the payments and insurance. Solution: Bike to work, feel the wind and sun, and learn the true meaning of force and momentum.

4. You think everyone is a moron. Solution: You probably have seasonal affective disorder and need more sunlight. Take a vacation and remember that your nation's future is in their hands.

Show business

The breakdown from a national survey of 'Most Admired News Figures'
Couric, 5%
O'Reilly, 4%
Gibson, 3%
Rather, Brokaw, Williams, Cooper and Stewart, 2%
14 people including Lehrer, Woodruff, Jennings, Cronkite, Limbaugh and Walters, 1% each
No Favorite Journalist, 44%

Note that Jon Stewart of Comedy Central's The Daily Show, tied for fourth, is a comedian.

Day of fluorine

I had a big meeting today to sign a commercial R & D contract and so I put on the new wrinkle-free, stain-free shirt I bought at the outlet mall in Medford. It smelled funny, like pesticides, and made my skin crawl and muscles ache, and so I put on a T-shirt underneath and that made the day tolerable. My wife said it was a good looking shirt.

Then I went to an 8 AM appointment at the dental hygeinist and she ran that devilishly sharp buzzing device around my gumline and painted my teeth with fluorine.

Then I went to work and on the train I discovered I had left my pass at home, so I got off the train in Malmø and bought a ticket. Earlier I would have chanced it but today I felt like being an honorable citizen. Got to work, and the big meeting was rescheduled so we can work out some details. I had ordered food for the meeting and instead of feeding lawyers I was able to give some students a free lunch-- one of my students just got a job at the new Danish Ministry for Climate and Energy, his dream, so he was psyched. He will be helping organise the next international 'Kyoto' climate summit, to be held in Copenhagen in 2009.

Back home again I got to take off that funky shirt. I read the label and found out it had been treated with teflon, a fluoropolymer. It was the day of fluorine. I'm going to wash the shirt and see if that helps-- has anyone else had this kind of negative reaction to a wrinkle-free shirt??

August 17, 2008

Back in the saddle again

We got back yesterday from a two week trip to MN. There's an old Swedish saying, 'Away is good but home is best'. It was a great trip thanks to family and friends and Minnesota is in good hands. We weren't able to spend nearly enough time with Tim & Kate, Mark Woodrich or my sister Andrea and will have to rectify this.

Went for a bike ride today and it was nice to be back in the saddle after two weeks of daily automobiling in the land of sky blue waters. Makes me think of Gene Autry, the singing cowboy:

I'm back in the saddle again
Out where a friend is a friend
Where the longhorn cattle feed
On the lowly Jimson weed
Back in the saddle again

Ridin' the range once more
Totin' my old .44
Where you sleep out every night
And the only law is right
Back in the saddle again

Rockin' to and fro
Back in the saddle again
I go my way
Back in the saddle again

My attempt to update these lyrics:

My chain is glidin' just fine
Ridin' my new 29"
Sharing roads with cars
and jumping broken jars
Back in the saddle again

August 09, 2008

Five things from 08/08/08

Tagged with fives by Tim:

What was I doing 5 years ago?
On August 8 2003 I sent 28 emails, to students, family, colleagues. Pithy.

Five things on my to-do list
Modify figures for book chapter on atmospheric chemistry
Call Tim and Mark Woodrich
Get a fishing license from Cabela's
Buy shoes
Read manuscript for Vibeke

Five snacks I enjoy
Cashew nuts, roasted, no salt
Beer sausages
Carrots, organic
Chocolate, dark

Five things I'd do if I were a billionaire
-Buy a cabin on a lake with a dock, canoe, stone fireplace and a separate building for my workshop (boatbuilding, bike building..)
-Invest in technologies: algae to fuel, algae to plastic, wave power
-Invest in society: how to take 10 years off your age by eating right and getting moderate exercise, and how to stop being a moron
-Organise 'Inventor's Club' meetings for my son and his friends every week. Topics: electrical motors, building bridges out of raw spaghetti, soldering irons, blowing glass, lathes and mills, mallets and chisels
-I would make music every day

What are five of your bad habits?
Not listening
Bitching and moaning
Too suspicious and too trusting
I should cut back at work and spend more time with my family

What are five places you have lived
Crookston MN
Owatonna MN
St. Paul MN
Pasadena CA
Lund Sweden

What are five jobs you've had
Mowing lawns
Soda jerk
Camp staff at Crow Wing Scout Reservation for 3 summers
Research Engineer

I tag:
Wood Row

August 06, 2008


Here's some highlights of our first few days in Minnesota.

This is the newest member of the family, Elanor. I'm a Great Uncle!

Here is a feisty Badger we saw at Oxbow Park, outside of Rochester.

We went fishing on a float below lock and dam number five, near Wabasha where they filmed the Grumpy Old Men movies. Younger son caught his first fish ever, a sheephead.

We saw a lot of animals during this trip: wild turkeys, deer, bald eagles, soft shelled turtles, racoons.

He is learning to play with cats, here at my brother's house.

My sister's husband got a buffalo statue from his job at the Salvation Army, took it home, put it in the backyard and painted it. Here's our younger checking out the buffalo, backed by his cousins.

Here on the monkey bars at Lincoln Elementary.

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