KH of White Bear Lake reports: “Subject: Thistles.
“My dislike of thistles goes all the way back to childhood, when my siblings and I were instructed to walk our farm with the objective of plucking the thistle blossoms before they turned to seed. Later in life, they seemed bent on ruining our back-yard lawn.
“Last summer, with much sweat and determination, I won the war of attrition as I cleared them, one by one, out of the apple orchard. But just outside the orchard, they continued to thrive, and continued to irk me. Until one day.
“One day I noticed the goldfinches had moved in, apparently seeking treasure. I watched — first with curiosity, then with awe — as they ripped out the thistle down and feasted on the seeds. Each day, I was drawn to the spectacle. I watched for hours. They seemed to exert the same perseverance harvesting the thistle seed as I had spent clearing the orchard of the pests. To me, the thistles were garbage; to them, treasure.
“Day after day I watched, becoming ever more curious how they actually got the seed. One day I took my camera, zoomed in from afar, and started shooting a series of photos. By studying them, I was able to determine that the seed was at the base of the down. I also could see that when the down was ripped out, sometimes the seed came along with the down, and sometimes it stayed behind. So the next day, I went out in the thistle patch and began to play goldfinch. I yanked the down and plainly saw what this photo shows.
“Sometimes the seed comes out with the down (to fly away and grow new thistles), and sometimes the seed remains (to be eaten by the finch). It seems obvious now, but their actions were so incredibly quick that it took some time to piece it together. Getting the seed requires two steps: Yank some down, and then go into the bud to get the seed(s) left behind.
“In this photo, I managed to capture the result of both steps. This finch yanked out some down, which landed on top of its head. Quicker than you could blink an eye, the finch went and pulled out the seed that was left behind. I got the photo before it could swallow the seed. It’s a wonder to watch 20 finches doing this at the same time. Down is flying everywhere. From a distance, it looks like a small snowstorm going on.
“In the end, I was once again reminded that if I’m not seeing the beauty around me, it’s because I’m just not paying attention.”
Then & Now
THE ASTRONOMER of Nininger: “I grew up on the South Side of Chicago. I suppose today one would consider it a rough neighborhood, but as a kid I really didn’t know the difference. We didn’t feel oppressed or different in any way. We just lived life to its fullest. What it was like is a story unto itself. What I care to share is how we recycled, then and now.
“In my adolescent years, I recall that my brother and I, when not in school, spent a lot of time out in the garage or up on the railroad, not more than a block away. That railroad tells another story, too. In the garage, I recall we salvaged reusable items that we could sell to the ‘Rags and Old Iron’ man. That was more than 60 years ago, but I can still hear his voice calling out for people to buy or sell to him items for resale at (hopefully) a handsome profit. He drove a one-horse wagon down the alley behind our homes. It was indeed rickety and seemed to moan as the wheels rolled on the concrete alleyway. Clop, clop, clop went the horses’ shoes striking the solid pavement, in a rhythmic pattern that was almost musical. The driver cried out ‘Rags and Old Iron,’ hoping someone could do business with him. He came through on Thursday. On Tuesday, a different vendor with another horse-drawn wagon sharpened scissors — and I suppose knives, as well. We saw him only during the summer, when school was out.
“It is strange how those sounds of the vendor calling to his customers seem to be lodged permanently in my memories. I suspect different senses have their own memory. I recall on Sunday afternoon that Uva (his last name) sold watermelons all summer along Cicero Avenue. ‘Waaater-mee-lown,’ he would cry out, with that old Italian accent.
“In any case, we had several 5-gallon buckets in the garage — one for scrap aluminum; another for old, already tarnished copper; and finally one with steel parts. I don’t recall ever selling any old rags, but I am sure some people did. We never made much money, just a few cents here and there, but that seemed like a lot to us. There were other youngsters all along the route the wagon drove doing the same thing. We always thought it would be interesting if, when the driver came into our garage and while we haggled over and negotiated a price for the metals, some other kids would be taking something off the wagon to sell to the next vendor. We never did this, but heard that others engaged in this dastardly deed.
“But habits stick with you. Later, when the Good Wife and I lived in Alabama, we recycled what we could. You could take items to the Piggly Wiggly grocery market. In Wyoming, we continued to take newspapers and aluminum cans to the Safeway store. There were no ‘Rags and Old Iron’ men, but we could take certain materials in for recycling to the ‘junk yards.’ While no one made us do so, we did it because it was the right thing to do. How could you just throw something away that had value?
“We continue the process today. The floor of our walk-in pantry had a large bin containing copious amounts of dog food, a grocery bag filled with newspapers (with some falling onto the floor), a wastebasket with aluminum cans, another with plastic bottles, and a plastic bag usually overfull of plastic bags. These containers moved around, so it was not inconceivable that someone might trip on them.
“Now the Good Wife has upped recycling to a classier level than ever before. She envisioned a combined Recycling Center. A quality carpenter, Kevin, crafted that Recycling Center cabinet in his spare time on a weekend. Kevin might as well be called the Dream Maker. He has done many impressive updates to our homes over the years, and now his son has taken over the business, so we expect the tradition to continue. They know how to keep their customers happy.
“The Good Wife shared a description with Kevin, and he understood exactly what she was talking about. He produced a five-compartment cabinet that was designed to fit in our pantry as if it were built there from day one. The Good Wife added her personal touch with computer-designed embroidered signs for each of the doors.
“Harper’s dog-food door is first, where 40 pounds of nuggets are securely kept out of her reach. She knows which one is hers. Then follow bins for Plastic Bags, Paper Products, Plastic Bottles and, finally, Aluminum Cans. A can crusher is mounted above that one to allow the flattened cans to drop through a hole into a bag behind the door. This keeps the recyclables neat and organized, but it makes our pantry cleaner, neater and safer than ever before.”
The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon
And: Our community of strangers
JIM FITZSIMONS of St. Paul: “Subject: Credit where credit is due.
“Well, well, well! I don’t know if my fellow B. Boarders (I know I’ve been away for a long time, but I’m still a B. Boarder at heart) are aware of a podcast called ‘Omnibus!’ — but recently the podcast gave credit where credit is due.
“‘Omnibus!’ is a podcast in which the two hosts — Ken Jennings, the ‘Jeopardy!’ grand champion, and John Roderick, a member of the band The Long Winters — discuss various aspects of human history. Their take is that there will be some cataclysm in the near future that will wipe out much of the historical record, and they are making this podcast in hopes of informing those living in that post-cataclysm world. It’s a conceit to tell interesting stories.
“Recently, they talked about the Baader-Meinhof Gang. It was an intriguing hour or so of how the far-left West German militant group formed, what its goals were, and its effect on the world. Good stuff.
“Here’s where the credit comes in.
“The very next episode was about the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon. (Sound familiar?) When I saw that was the topic, my ears pricked up. I thought: ‘Hey! Are they aware of the connection to the Bulletin Board?’
“It does take about 27 minutes into the podcast for Ken Jennings to tell why the psychological phenomenon called the ‘frequency illusion’ is also known as the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon. (In fact, the term Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon predates the term frequency illusion.) The credit for the term goes to a little thing we all know as the Bulletin Board of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
“In 1994, a B. Boarder known as GIGETTO ON LINCOLN commented on an odd but frequent occurrence he had dubbed the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon: ‘. . . the first time you learn a new word, phrase, or idea, you will see that word, phrase, or idea again in print within 24 hours.’ The hosts even talked about the Comics Page Corollary of B-MP, in which there will often be two comic strips in the daily papers making the same joke on the same day.
“I was pretty jazzed that the BB was credited, and even more jazzed to learn that GIGETTO coined a term that is now listed in the Oxford English Dictionary. That’s awesome!
“And I remember when it all happened.
“In honor of this news and to make a long post even longer, I have a B-MP to report.
“Just last week, my wife was asking if we might have one of those clip things: ‘What are they called? It’s a cara-something. Carabean something.’ She described it, and we looked it up online.
“It’s a carabiner. I was familiar with the object, but I didn’t know what it was called. I learned something new. Then later that same day, I was listening to the popular true-crime podcast ‘My Favorite Murder,’ hosted by Georgia Hardstark and Karen Kilgariff. During the telling of a survivor story, Karen mentioned a fastening device called . . . yep . . . a carabiner!
“The frequency illusion . . . er . . . I mean the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon is such a very cool thing.”
BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: Indeed, it is. So was that discussion on “Omnibus!” — despite Ken Jennings’s insulting description of Bulletin Board as “just a lazy editor’s dream come true. It’s just a series of random reader suggestions and ruminations.”
That Jennings fellow might well be the all-time “Jeopardy!” champ — but he has certainly never been a B. Boarder, or he would know that there was nothing “random” about it. Nor did he have to do the work!
Sometimes, a know-it-all . . . doesn’t.
Perchance, to dream
CARP LIPS of Wyoming (Minnesota): “How does a brain work? What makes us think of things unconnected and from long ago? How do they all come together in a dream?
“Thanksgiving night, I dreamt I was at a bar, and a man I used to sing with (40 years ago in a male chorus) sat next to me and didn’t recognize me (probably due to my COVID beard). I tried to give him some clues, and finally told him to ask one of the women behind the bar who I was. So a lady I used to work with (30 years ago), wearing a wig like Nikki Blonsky in ‘Hairspray,’ said: ‘Richard Sterban’ (bass singer for the Oak Ridge Boys).
“WHAT!?! How in the world?
“I had not been listening to any music that would account for those people. Nor had I been thinking about my previous job or place of employment.
“I could blame it on overeating on Turkey Day, but I did not do so.
“Maybe I’ll blame it on COVID (the threat of). It’s been a very stressful year.
The vision thing
OG FOX: “Mrs. Fox and I were raking leaves a couple of weeks ago and noticed that our horse, Doc, seemed to want to help. I was skeptical, but we decided to let him try. In the end, I thought he did a pretty nice job. You can look at the picture and judge for yourself.”
BULLETIN BOARD MUSES: Very tidy work!
But can’t you hear what Doc must be thinking? “A couple hours of this, and I’m pooped. Not to mention — I’ve gotta pee like a rakehorse!”
The sign on the road to the cemetery said “Dead End”
Electronic Board of the the Church on Lexington in Shoreview Division (Pandemic Subdivision)
Our Official Electronic Board of the the Church on Lexington in Shoreview Division (Pandemic Subdivision) — RED’S OFFSPRING, north of St. Paul — reports: “Subject: A Biblical update.
“The most recent message on the electronic board of the church on Lexington in Shoreview reads:
“‘“As for me and my house,
“‘“We will stay where we are . . .”’
“‘a selection from 1st Isolations 24:7’”
KATHY S. of St. Paul: “Subject: Good News from Italy.
“A little boy wrote to Italy’s Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte, recently. He was worried that Babbo Natale (Santa Claus) would not be able to visit kids in Italy this Christmas because of Coronavirus restrictions.
“Giuseppe’s answer is worth reading in full — including ‘Father Christmas assured me that he already has an international travel certificate: he can travel everywhere and distribute gifts to all the world’s children.’
“Yay! Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.
“BTW: I’m waiting for the Prime Minister of New Zealand to chime in on this. She already announced that the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy are Essential Workers. She is, after all, a mom.”
The darnedest things
WARNING! Cute kid story ahead, from KING GRANDPA: “On the occasion of a grandchild’s birthday, we stopped by the kid’s house in the afternoon to drop off quarantine gifts and cake. The 9-year-old looked up and said: ‘Grandpa, I don’t have time to talk. I have a meeting in five minutes.’
“Got the bum’s rush from a third-grader!”
Band Name of the Day: Bum’s Rush
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