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.

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