a tidy home

a tidy home

take a moment, today, and step outside. really pause and notice: the greening grass underneath your feet, the trees overhead, the pit-pat of rain falling on your outstretched hand; the smell of dampness on a chilly spring day, the increasing chirp of birds that have made their way north after the calm silence of winter; how the wind whips around you and the dead leaves and seed pods in the trees rattle against the cold in their hopeful knowledge that spring is right around the corner.

welcome home. this is it, earth-dweller. this pale blue dot is ours to call ours. it is our only.

somewhere along the way, a smart person decided to declare that earth day would happen on an annual basis. that we would learn about the three Rs in gradeschool. that we would encourage our parents to recycle and not focus too much on the reuse and reduce (arguably more productive than the recycle R). that we would plant trees on one day. that we would paint pictures and draw with our colored pencils and create art of the earth, our home, on this one day. somewhere along the way, the earth was reduced to one day.

you don’t think about home just one day a year. home is year round. home is always. home is where you are. earth day is every day.

and then it has become pressing. the science is resounding. the knowledge is there. and ignored, because why would you fix something that’s worked for the last couple centuries? why should you be inconvenienced? why would you need to change what you’ve been doing when you can’t see that anything’s wrong? why should the disposable lifestyle you’ve become accustomed to be taken away? you’re burnt out; why make things harder?

but: you don’t need to see the fire in order to know what to do when the fire alarm goes off.

and here’s what we need to know: the earth will prevail. the precipice we stand upon is not one of “will the earth survive;” it’s one of “will humans survive.” water shortages hurt people. flooding forces relocation. dying coral reduces species, which flows right up the food chain. after we’ve annihilated ourselves and several animal species, the climate will eventually equalize and the earth will be happy again.

our home is ours. we are not its responsibility. it is our responsibility.

this edge we are standing at is what future generations will notice and look back at. it will be the turning point of either something good or something bad. and whether or not you believe climate change is caused by humans, one thing i think we can all agree on: we don’t want to mess up our home. if cleaning the rivers and lakes, making sure the air is clear enough to breath, watching the crops we plant so we build sustainable agriculture and profitable agriculture, seeing that clearcutting trees is not just poor stewardship of the earth they grow from but also aesthetically displeasing, preserving natural areas not just for preservation’s sake but for our sake, is not going to combat climate change, then at least we can agree that keeping a tidy, clean home is good for the human spirit.

what is wrong with making the earth a better place to live in, even if human-caused climate change is a hoax?

i like my house. i like cooking in my kitchen, sleeping in my bed, hot showers, sitting in my faux-cabin living room; i enjoy the amenities that life in this era has given me. but where i truly feel at home and at peace and alive? in the woods. at the lake. under the milky way. standing in just-tilled dirt. pushing fingers through sand on a beach. listening to the frogs croak in the evenings. watching the gloaming fade into dark. feeling the sun on a warm-ish february day. hearing thunder in the distance. kicking through autumn leaves. standing in falling snow on a moonlit december night in a silence so complete.

this is the home i love. i would bet it’s the one you love too. let’s do what we can to make ourselves hospitable earth-dwellers.

monday musings

monday musings

  1. i am most aware of how quickly time is passing by how seasons ebb and flow, ebb and flow. our everyday routines tend to lull us into a sense of complacency about time: how it passes and how much is left.
  2. speaking of seasons, i think spring is sort of here. the light lasts past 8 p.m. now, and the birds sing a cacophony every morning. there’s still snow on the ground from last week’s snowstorm, but i have a feeling it’s going to be gone tomorrow with 60º weather.
  3. …which is good news. liz and i have the earth day half marathon on saturday, and i have been feverishly watching the long-term forecast. not even 4 days ago, i was expecting to start that run off in 30º, which is pretty awful. now it’s up to starting in mid-40s and ending in mid-50s with minimal wind and no clouds. fantastic. here’s hoping the weather holds and my feet hold up.
  4. earth day is almost here. i remember earth being a big deal in gradeschool. maybe it was of the era where the gas shortages of the 70s were still fresh in people’s minds and they needed to make sure to catch impressionable young minds. or maybe the catholic gradeschool i went to was progressive on that front. either way, it was a big deal. i’m hoping the green new deal catches fire and spreads, putting out the naysayers and fools who think we can do nothing to prevent climate change. and so what if we can’t prevent it even after changes are made? we made a better, cleaner world. no one likes garbage in the street, dirty air, and gross water. what’s wrong with making them better just for the sake of making them better?

    i have got to be better at using less wasteful items. it’s doubtful that i would ever go 100% waste free, but it’s a nice goal to aspire toward: more trips to the food coop and getting better at bringing my own containers. the amount of garbage we create is pretty awful, and it’s almost all plastic. i knew that the reckoning was upon us when i saw totino’s party pizzas in plastic packaging. i’m not sure why companies can’t use recycled paper (which apparently recycling centers can’t give away) to use for packaging. that’s a future fight.

  5. i was out on my run yesterday and i ran past lower spunk lake, which has probably half its ice gone. there were two loons hanging out. there’s hope!


give me some blogging topics 🙂 i’ve been really slacking lately. in good news, i have been doing really well at my yoga resolution of yoga-ing every day. at least there’s that!

in which i travel!

in which i travel!

oh hello! so i went to san antonio for a work conference, and i was pleasantly surprised with the area.

  1. the place we stayed at was a resort, and a pretty nice one at that. good job, conference organizers
  2. the weather. the weather! there was humidity. there was 80º+. there was perfect sitting by the pool weather. i got a slight sunburn. huzzah!
  3. the allergens were a little intense. at this point, i’m waiting to see if it was actually allergens that affected me or if i have the beginning of a cold. i’m hoping NOT the cold, as my half marathon is 3.5 weeks out and i really slacked on the running while i was in TX.
  4. we visited the missions. first, conquistadors in the guise of missionaries was pretty disgusting. but, the architecture of the missionaries is pretty awesome, and it’s held up over 300 years. it’s pretty awesome to think that san antonio was settled before some of my ancestors even thought to immigrate. (i say some because i think some of my mom’s peeps were here at that time.)
  5. and the riverwalk alone was worth the trip! that was an especially pleasant surprise. a lot of food, a lot of people watching, a lot of chances to trip into the drink. but really, it was nice to walk outside in warm weather and enjoy the greenery. it makes me that much more excited to be home at the beginning of spring trying to burst forth!
in which i do a brief history of israel and have some thoughts and also i’m slightly scared to publish this

in which i do a brief history of israel and have some thoughts and also i’m slightly scared to publish this

i have often wondered why the US is very much involved with israel – why we give the country money and don’t question politics. why presidents and senators and representatives and other government officials don’t criticize or say anything negative about israel. in fact, i blogged a 2-sentence blog post in 2006 wondering the same thing.

(let it be known that jewish people have basically gotten a bum deal in life. tons of stereotypes (which i have never understood), the wandering people, the holocaust, etc. i have no doubts about that. also, i don’t get jewish stereotypes. i just can’t comprehend why people are prejudiced against jews. good on you if you get it; i just don’t.)

i’ve asked my peers what the deal is. no one seems to have a good answer.

and then MN representative ilhan omar (a muslim of somali descent) asked a question that i thought was relevant and useful in my own musings on israel dealings, and she got SUCH criticism.

What I’m fearful of — because Rashida [Tlaib] and I are Muslim — that a lot of our Jewish colleagues, a lot of our constituents, a lot of our allies, go to thinking that everything we say about Israel to be anti-Semitic because we are Muslim. And so to me, it’s something that becomes designed to end the debate because you get in this space of — yes, I know what intolerance looks like and I’m sensitive when someone says, “The words you used, Ilhan, are resemblance [sic] of intolerance.” And I am cautious of that and I feel pained by that.

But it’s almost as if, every single time we say something regardless of what it is we say that is supposed to be about foreign policy or engagement or advocacy about ending oppression or the freeing of every human life and wanting dignity, we get to be labeled something, and that ends the discussion. Because we end up defending that and nobody ever gets to have the broader debate of what is happening with Palestine. So for me, I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is okay for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country. And I want to ask, why is it okay for me to talk about the influence of the NRA, of fossil fuel industries, or Big Pharma, and not talk about a powerful lobby?

(points that especially piqued my interest: nobody ever gets to have the broader debate of what is happening with Palestine; political influence in this country that says it is okay for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country)

she got slammed. and i got more curious.

so, if you’re like me, and wondering what the deal is with US-israel relations, why rep. omar is being lambasted, how any negative talk about our muslim citizens isn’t treated the same way, and how you are also now scared to even question this, THIS POST IS FOR YOU.

some history

i thought it would be good to learn about the history of israel as a country.

the place we currently know as israel is also known as the holy land or palestine. the land is THE holy place for major religions in the world: the birthplace of judaism and christianity, and it also contains sacred sites for islam, samaritanism, druze and bahai faiths.

various peoples have lived there, but jewish people were the major inhabitants from about 1000 BCE-300 CE. christianity became more widespread at that point and then lasted until the arab muslim empires conquered it the 7th century. then we know all about the crusades between about 1100-1300. then the muslims continued to hold onto it from then until 1917.

during WWI, britain was committed to creating a jewish national home – the balfour declaration – after the fall of the ottoman empire, when britain took over palestine. (some research into the balfour declaration indicates that britain’s intent was monetary. they wanted to convince american jews to enter the war and use connections to jewish financiers in new york that would help out. i’m not a historian. don’t quote me on what i found out on the internet.)

in the late 1800s, the zionism movement (a move to establish a jewish nation) had been established by jews in the russian empire. after a crap-ton of persecution, they called for a jewish state, arguing that it was the only way to protect jews from anti-semitism*. eastern european and russian jews began immigrating to palestine. in the 1920s and 30s, british rule continued in the section of palestine, due to (deserved, in my opinion) arab opposition.

there was fighting, and the brits tried to limit jewish immigration. then the holocaust happened and many jews entered illegally. radical jewish groups started terrorism against the brits in palestine, and at the end of WWII, the US on the cause, and the united nations voted to partition off palestine in 1947.

the UN gave more than half of palestine, even though they made up less than half the population. in 1948, the jews secured their UN-allotted land and some more. britain withdrew and israel became a country.

the next day, egypt, transjordan, syria, lebanon, and iraq invaded. enter much turmoil.

US-israel – what’s that about

ok so this is where i’d like to know more info.

in general, zionism was a non-issue in the US until about the time the british enacted the balfour declaration. congress passed a resolution during the wilson administration that supported the establishment of a jewish homeland in palestine. after WWII, the US was suddenly all hands on deck in the affairs of the middle east, which was a complete 180. the reasons? soviets, israel, and of course, petroleum.

ok, let’s go by some years.

1953-1961: the US was mostly out of the way except for loans for basic food necessities. a lot of israel’s support cam from german reparations, and france supplied weapons (to counter the attacks from the surrounding arab and egyptian attacks).

1961-1969: in 1966, an iraqi pilot who defected landed a soviet fighter jet in israel, and info on the jet was immediately shared with the US. this was during the arms race and escalating cold war, so this was a big deal. the US policy shifted 100% toward israeli support.

this was also the time of the 6-day war, during which israel decided to preemptively attack egypt. and then accidentally attacked a US navy ship (accepted by the government, but still held by some to be deliberate). in the kennedy years, the US was seen as a fair country by the middle east. by the end of the johnson years, the US was the most distrusted/hated country in the middle east.

1969-1977: israel had been occupying egypt and syria since 1967 (6-day war), and they finally attacked the israeli forces. thus launched the yom kippur war. soviets began to resupply the arab forces, and israel asked the US for military supplies. (sense the theme of US vs. soviet union among all this as well. good grief.) israel cornered egypt, giving the US an upper hand in the cold war. henry kissinger told israel to not destroy the egyptian army, the egyptians withdrew the request for support from the soviets, and the soviets went along with it. then kissinger got the israelis out of arab lands.

oh, and this all contributed to the OPEC embargo that happened in 1973-74. in 1975, israel declined the US to redeploy to sanai. president ford then basically stopped relations with israel for about 7 months until there was an israeli-egyptian accord.

1977-1981: god bless jimmy carter. check this guy out. he wanted to start pressuring israel to withdraw from the palestinian lands they had captured and also supported a palestinian homeland. as such, he wasn’t the most president among the israeli government.

1981-1989: reagan, however, was different. relations between the US and israel strengthened under reagan because of his perspectives on terrorism, security, and above all, the soviet threats. in 1989, the US granted major non-NATO ally to israel, so that it had access to weapons systems. at this point, the US was giving $3billion in grant aid annually.

at the end of the reagan terms, israelis were once again annoyed because the US opened dialogue with the palestine liberation organization.

1989-1993: big news: secretary of state told one of the pro-israel lobby groups in the US that israel should abandon its expansionist policies (like, why was this even a policy to begin with? that’s what i don’t understand. you get a country after millennia of being flung about, and the first thing you do is decide to take over the land around you? how is that a good idea, especially since the people around you are the ones who got thrown out of their homeland…that seems a bit hypocritical). THEN, GWbush says that east jerusalem is occupied territory and not a sovereign part of israel. WOO BOY.

amid all this was the iraq-kuwait (gulf war I). the US somehow convinced israel not to retaliate against some attacks, and good thing because then it would’ve been all out war against israel. this paved the way for the israeli-PLO recognition and signing of  a declaration during the oslo accords.

1993-2001: yitzhak rabin was assassinated and replaced by netanyahu, whose policy was to expand jewish settlements. after a visit to israel, clinton offered $300 million for weapons defence.

2001-2009: ah, enter 9-11. israel was annoyed because bush II was apparently being nice to the palestinians at israel’s expense so that the arabs would support the US in its anti-terror activites. and another $9 billion in conditional loans were made available through 2011.

bush was also the only president thus far who thought it was ok that israel was pushing its boundaries, stating that it was unrealistic that israel would return to its 1949 borders (can i eye roll here).

oh, and here’s something: the US provided israel with bunker buster bombs, which were used on civilian areas in lebanon in violation of international law. ugh. why can’t we all just get along.

2009-2017: obama wanted a peace deal between israel and palestine. in 2009, israel agreed to a 10-month freeze on settlement construction in the west bank (but not east jerusalem. or units already under construction. or dismantle israeli outposts). palestine said no thanks.

in 2011, there was a UN resolution that declared israeli settlements in the west bank illegal. obama vetoed. then in 2010, israel said that it would continue with its expansion in east jerusalem (seen internationally as occupied territory; by israel as annexed territory). obama was pissed. he gave an ultimatum. (i don’t think the ultimatum included “no money for you.”) there was no agreement.

and then, netanyahu said this: “I know what America is; America is a thing you can move very easily, move it in the right direction. They won’t get in their way.”

obama pushed for pre-1967 borders (before the 6-day war) and settled-upon swaps – so that israelis and palestinians would negotiate. but also he was ready to veto palestinia application for statehood at the UN (so seriously, palestine is basically the west bank, gaza strip, and part of jerusalem, but isn’t a real country. this gets more and more messed up.)

2017-now: well well well. guess what. DT lifts all restrictions on construction in the west bank and the US will open its first permanent military base in israel. and he recognizes jerusalem as the capital of israel.

the $$$

let’s see. in 2010, $2.8 billion was spent in foreign aid to israel. $3.1 billion in 2014. israel has been one of the top recipients of US aid since 1970. a portion used to be dedicated to economic assistance, but that was ended in 2007. now israel just gets $3 billion.year for foreign military financing. 74% must be spent by purchasing US defense equipment, services, and training. what a stupid subsidy for US industries. (talk about welfare.)

the land

israel’s need to expand is disturbing to me. but it views jerusalem as a god-given right. israelis actually threw rocks at US diplomats who’d come to check out vandalism at a grove of olive trees planted in honor of a palestinian who had died after an altercation with a soldier from israel. this was in the israel-occupied area of the west bank. seriously?

since the 6-day war, when israel annexed east jerusalem, the arabs have been pushed out of their neighborhoods where israel is building homes and government offices. israel insists that jerusalem is its capitol.

all this is weird to me because the large portion of israelis are jewish immigrants since 1947. and even before that, jerusalem was established around 3500 BCE and it wasn’t until 1000 BCE that it became the jewish kingdom. babylonians occupied it in about 600 BC, destroyed the temple, and exiled the jews. but then 50 years later, jews were allowed to return and rebuild the temple.

in 300 BCE, alexander the great took over, and since then a few different groups have ruled it: romans, persians, arabs, egyptians, crusaders, islamists, etc.

its holy connections:

  1. the jewish temple built in 37 BCE
  2. jesus was crucified 30 AD
  3. muhammad died in jerusalem in 630ish AD

see, THREE MAJOR RELIGIONS can claim that town.

israeli citizenship

i wondered if american jews were automatically citizens of israel. but here’s an interesting thing. since palestinians were living in israel when it became a country, you’d thing that they would automatically become citizens. not so. arabs only became citizens if they met certain stipulations, and since many of them fled during the 1948 war, they didn’t meet residency requirements. in fact, they became stateless because none of the surrounding arab countries where they were refugees would grant citizenship (except jordan). imagine that: you’re hanging out at home, then some country halfway across the globe decides that your lands should be made into a different country, they immigrate there, a war starts, you hightail it outta there because war, then when it settles down you want to go back home and you can’t because you don’t meet these citizenship stipulations that you didn’t know about when you fled. because they weren’t enacted.

so, a few ways on how to become an israeli citizen:

  1. live there. those arabs/palestinians who were continuously present were granted citizenship.
  2. descent. if you are born of israeli citizens, you are a citizen.
  3. law of return. all jews have the right to immigrate to israel and claim citizenship upon arrival. after three months, immigrants receive israeli citizenship.

israelis can hold dual citizenship.

US citizens can hold dual citizenship, BUT if you are naturalized in the US, you are required to renounce any prior allegiance (not citizenship) to other countries (interesting as this is what rep. omar brought up).

the lobby

the lobby. why are there even lobbying groups in america? what a racket. i wish they would be done away with entirely. but that’s another blog post.

so the israel lobby is the american israel public affairs committee (aipac). it consists of secular, christian, and jewish individuals and groups. it goes back to the mid-1800s! some other george bush denounced oppression of the jews and called for elevating them to an honorable rank by restoring jews to israel (and then converting them to christianity!!!! OMG). doing this would benefit EVERYONE, forming a “link of communication” between humanity and god. good grief.

as for the current formal lobby, which works like all other lobbies, the members ask the government to stop pressuring israel to divide jerusalem and israel (according to the group’s founder). weirdly enough, a large chunk of the lobbying done is by evangelical christians.

jewish americans vote more than any other ethnic group and will vote according to a candidate’s stance on israel. jewish americans have also been major benefactors to campaigns. aipac is also known for being a well-organized, influential lobby (unlike pro-arab interest groups).

the aipac is similar to other lobbies. we know them: the NRA, AARP, big agriculture, etc. some commentators have been critical of the influence that the aipac has over US policies in the middle east. and apparently, this is the “tired trope” that rep. omar brought forth. according to some, there is no other lobby that claims as much criticism as the aipac, and this, i guess, is antisemitic in that we think there’s a jewish conspiracy (see damascus event* for example of such conspiracy theory). but… THAT’S WHAT LOBBIES DO. THEY TRY TO INFLUENCE. i’m so confused.

some thoughts

  • jerusalem should be a neutral zone, like switzerland. make it its own state where no one holds citizenship or something. the UN is its governing body.
  • the history of that area is so varied. it’s hard for one religious group to claim it because they ALL can claim it.
  • why does israel insist on expanding its borders? i’d be happy with any country at all! i mean, they could’ve ended up in china (the balfour thing suggested the middle east, but hadn’t promised it).
  • for a group that has been severely dumped on in the past, it sure is doing a lot of dumping.
  • is there a connection between the US supply of weapons and money to israel and the surrounding middle eastern countries’ continued dislike of the US? would 9-11 have happened if the US hadn’t had as close a relationship with israel? (is this considered a jewish conspiracy theory? good grief.)
  • i still don’t understand anti-semitism. like, why people are anti-jewish in general. or the whole money-hungry stereotype. maybe i’m naive.
  • lobbying in general i think is evil. it should be banned. candidates should have a stance based on their own research and morals, not on how much money someone gives them.
  • i don’t think there’s anything wrong with rep. omar’s remarks and questions. i have them. i’m sure other people do too, especially those who don’t know anything about the history i’ve just shared with you. just in case this gets “found”, i’m gonna say right here that i consider myself to be open-minded and did try to find sources that were objective. if that’s not the case, then right my wrong!
  • i think what’s happening to palestinians SHOULD be addressed. they are turning into a displaced people, just like the jews were.

i’m not sure how humanity gets to a point where we can’t see our own humanity reflected back to us in others. 



*some things that all jewish people were blamed for: the death of jesus, the black plague, they were forced to practice christianity (well, along with every other non-christian, let’s be real here), too lofty a position in islamic societies, those living in muslim lands had to pay a tax to muslims (this was actually true of all non-muslims living there), general expulsion from areas, discriminatory laws,  etc. i think the tipping point for the zionist movement was the damascus affair, when 13 well-known jews were arrested for kidnapping and ritually killing a french monk in damascus (????). 9 were let go and blood libel accusations (the ritual thing) weren’t allowed anymore.










pros and cons: a list about weight loss

pros and cons: a list about weight loss

this morning i stepped on the scale and saw a number i haven’t seen since 1999. 20 years ago!! i also just bought two pairs of pants that are size 12. i have only worn a size 12 once in my life, when i was 13 years old. (granted, 1993 size 12 was probably like today’s size 16, but i’ll take it.)

(i’ve done a few dietbets in the past 6 months or so, and now i’m down a total of 80 lbs. i’ve lost about 20 over the past 4 months.)(and made about $30 from the dietbets.)

so yeah, there are the pros to losing some junk in my trunk (and running as part of it):

  1. it’s easier to find clothes that look nice
  2. clothes fit better
  3. i fit into chairs better (not great yet, but better)
  4. when i cross my legs, my leg isn’t sticking way out in the middle of the room
  5. my leg muscles are pretty intense these days
  6. my cholesterol levels are super awesome
  7. my triglycerides levels are also pretty awesome

but it isn’t all butterflies and sunshine and kittens and unicorns. there are downsides to being overweight and then losing it. and i guess some of these apply to people who haven’t been overweight ever, too.

  1. the flabby skin is getting out of control. something about subcutaneous fat or some such. i need to google it and how to deal with it. i know part of it is age, too, which sucks because i can’t do anything about that. obviously the skin was more taut when there was more fat underneath it, but now it’s just hanging out. literally, in some cases.
  2. fat was a good face filler. my smile parentheses wrinkles were non-existent, but when i lost weight, they appeared. this is apparently a common thing among people who’ve lost a lot of weight.
  3. i’m a side sleeper most of the time, and when i snuggle up and put my legs together, my knee bones rub against each other. no fat there to keep the bones from knocking together.
  4. same on the butt bones when sitting on hard surfaces at a certain angle.
  5. i am COLD(er). COLD ALL THE TIME.
  6. i read a great quote in a book today about running and weight. the gist of it: if you were fat as a kid, as an adult you are either fat or scared of being fat. i remember the first time i had to take extended time off running (2 weeks for an injury). i was terrified i was going to gain back all the weight i’d lost – 40 lbs in 2 weeks, which would never happen. the struggle over weight anxiety is real, folks!
the sun the run

the sun the run

my blogging has been flagging lately, that’s for sure. let’s blame the winter blahs. seriously, the only thing pulling me through at this point is that i know spring will come because the sun is out longer during the day.

speaking of sun being out longer during the day, i have to say that one of the plus sides of running through the winter, yes, even on the treadmill, is that it has kept any seasonal depression at bay. i’ll put up with that boring treadmill so i can be happy and eat food!

anyway, the great thing about the sun being out longer is that i feel more compelled to do stuff. i drive home from work when it’s dark out and i just want to be a slug (well, i overcome slugginess to run on the treadmill), but even during february, i drive home in the bright shiny sunlight and it’s like a new lease on life! when should i do?

of course, there’s 3 feet of snow and it’s -16, so i can’t do much.

then it’ll be suddenly june and i’m driving home from somewhere thinking i’ve got a ton of time left in the evening because the sun’s just setting and it’s 9:30 with bedtime an hour away. (looking forward to those days!)

at this rate, there will still be snow on the ground at that point.

(seriously, the highs this time of year are around 30º. climate change is really being mean.)



it was in the deep heart of a smoggy august when my cousin lori and i headed up the north shore and back to central minnesota to hit up 18 state parks over a 3-day weekend. wildfires in canada brought smoke across the sky, turning it from the deep azure of late summertime to a pale white with an anemic sun that tried to burn its way through the cover.

we had spent the previous day stopping at mille lacs kathio, banning, and jay cooke state parks. we were ready for the shore part of the trip.

the smog made for surreal looking landscapes along the lake; while we meandered our way up the shore, it was hard to discern where the lake ended and the sky began, and the craggy rock outcrops stood out in sharp relief.

of course we made all the stops: a mid-morning snack at betty’s pies (me the blackberry peach; lori the maple walnut), a stop at gooseberry before the crowded madness of mid-afternoon, and the ensuing parks along the highway as we headed northeast.

of all the itineraries during my summer of state parks, this was by far the easiest trip but also the most park intensive. the only park that was out of the way was george crosby manitou, and that was just a short jaunt off hwy 61. the rest of the parks along the north shore were just a pull-off hwy 61 into a parking lot, and that made for an easy trip. as we headed more northerly, the parks grew less crowded, the shore more gentle, and the drive a little easier.

prior to this, i hadn’t been past grand marais, and even then it had been 20 years since i’d been that far up the shore. while the smog persisted, lori and i persisted up the coast, and it turned out to be one of the more breathtaking drives i’d take during the summer visiting the entirety of the state. the cragginess was gone, replaced by easy slopes and tall hills filled with pines. the closer we got to the border, the more beautiful the landscape became. we stopped at grand portage national monument, and while we were too late to check out the visitors’ center, we stopped to take in the views of the bay. the smog had dissipated a little throughout the day, and standing at the edge of minnesota staring at the big lake into its canada and michigan parts, one could only try to imagine canoeing across the water for weeks and finally seeing this bay as a destination, a reprieve.

our stay that night was at judge cr magney  state park, the most northeasterly state park with a campground. i had done a lot of research before choosing a weekend to stay at this park, making sure we were visiting during a time when the moon was the least visible. the past few years i’d dabbled in astrophotography, and i was on a mission to see the milky way in as much glory as i could.

after reading the book “the end of dark” by native paul bogard, i had become more aware of how lighted we are in the more populated areas. i knew that my trips to the state parks might bring me opportunities for night sky viewing, and i had done my best to create the best conditions. while i plotted according to moonrises and new vs. full, i never foresaw the smog. another thing i hadn’t known about during my plans was the perseids showers, which were to peak that evening. i held out hope that the smog would be pretty minimal and the perseids pretty great.

on the way back to judge cr magney park, lori and i stopped at small beach on the side of the road which turned out to be an ideal spot for some star watching. the beach was comprised of small pebbles and swung around to the southeast, creating a small bay. the water was almost calm, and small waves lapped at the shore. it was still hard to separate the water from the sky at a distance, but if the sky remained clear, we’d be able to see some stars that night.

we set up camp. judge cr magney is a small campground with very few campers; the majority of visitors to the park that evening used tents or small pull-behind pop-ups. after our tent was up, lori and i went for a quick walk around the park, then decided it was too late in the day to check out devil’s kettle falls. instead, we picked up a bundle of firewood and had a fire while cooking supper on our campstove. i set up my hammock between two trees. we organized the camp box and made sure the wet towels we had thrown in the box that morning were set out to dry. after a day of driving and stopping, hiking and sightseeing, it was nice to do menial tasks with feet on the ground.

meanwhile, we had to wait for the sun to reach past astronomical twilight and into dark night, which is when the sun is 18º below the horizon. that was about 10:30 p.m. so while it appeared the sun was set, we needed to wait a bit longer. lori took a nap in the hammock. i sat in my camp chair by the fire’s embers and read a book by my headlamp. at 10:30, i whisper-shouted to lori across our site, and her head popped up from the hammock. time to go.

i was excited about seeing the stars in their full glory. lori was just along for the ride, and i have a feeling if she’d been a tiny bit more tired, she may have stayed in the tent. as it was, she dragged her sleeping bag along with her into the car. i made sure i had all my camera gear.

it’s an eery thing, starting your car in the middle of the night in the middle of a silent campground. it felt sacrilegious, especially when i turned on the headlights. i quickly turned them to parking lights until we were out of the campground loop.

not even a mile down the road, we pulled into the small beach parking lot. and as soon as i stepped out of the car, i could see it: the milky way.

most people need to let their eyes acclimate to see stars beyond the few bright ones in our skies near metro areas. it takes up to 3 hours before humans’ eyes are fully opened for night vision in full dark conditions. but we were far from any metro, or any a small town, so even with our closed pupils, the stars spread across the sky, pinpricks of white in dark.

a ball of fiery red lay low on the horizon; i don’t think i have ever seen mars so red or so clearly. i can only imagine what the night would have been like if it’d been completely smog free. if the water had been calm, we’d’ve seen the reflection on the water.

i with my camera equipment and lori with her sleeping bag, we set up camp on the pebbly shore. i did my best with my photos, moving around to get different shots of the stars, the milky way, and by chance, perseids shooting across the sky in long swipes. after 45 minutes of trying different settings and various positions (i am amateur at best), i set aside the camera and sat on the beach alongside lori and watched the stars and meteors burning up in the atmosphere.

close to midnight, i was spent from the long day along the shore, and i suggested we go back to camp before i fell asleep on the beach. at this point, i was unsure of how lori was faring with the amount of time we’d spent on the beach, and i felt a little guilty forcing her out for stargzaing. but it turns out that she was reluctant to return to camp and said she’d stay out there all night if she could. i turned back to the sky and we watched for a while longer.

when watching stars like this, at some point, you lose yourself in the sky. you get lost in the stars. you forget that you are solidly held to the ground with gravity, and part of you senses that, given release, you’d float into the galaxy – become one with the spots of light. the wide sky takes up your entire vision and the primal part of your brain says “hold on!” lest you become one with the stardust. but of course we are all stardust. we forget that we are one with the stars.

bug out

bug out

brrr it’s been cold! i mean, what good is it when it gets this cold?


with the extended cold we had, it’s possible that those invasive insects could’ve been wiped out.

but first, a list of invasive terrestrial “animals” in minnesota:

Asian-Long horned beetle*

Brown marmorated stink bug*

Earthworms (!!!)

Emerald ash borer

Eurasian swine*

European Starling

Gypsy moth

Japanese beetle

Jumping worm

Mute swan*

Sirex wood wasp*

Walnut twig beetle*

first, let’s talk about the emerald ash borer, since it seems to be one of the big bad bugs i keep hearing about. it’s the reason you can’t bring firewood with you to campgrounds and have to pay $5 for 3 logs.

temps need to get to -20º to begin to kill the borer, and at that point, about 50% of them die. around -30º is when 90% of them will die. i think we can safely say sayanora to at least 50% of the EAB larvae in the state, more like 90%.

another bug that i would probably run away from, the gypsy moth, would suffer from some cold. temps of -20º that lasts 48-72 hours kills exposed eggs, and alternate freezing and thawing in springtime can prevent hatching. i think we may have hit that -20 (or close to it).

in other entomological news, the beetle epidemic that was sweeping the black hills is over!

and while the bugs won’t be gone forever – they will eventually migrate back – this summer will give the people who manage invasive species time to implement a containment plan and basically start with a clean slate.

and since we’re talking entomology, let’s end with some etymology.

the word bug was formed in the early 1600s from the word bugge (beetle) which grew from two words: bugge/bugja/bogge and budde/budda/buddo.

bugge was a word for a hogoblin, bugja meant swolen up, and bogge meant snot. budde was beetle, budda was a dung beetle, and buddo means a louse/grub. sounds like they just took a bunch of gross things and smashed them into one word.

state park followup

state park followup

…and some other stuff!

  1. i FINALLY got my state park plaque in the mail. it took a little longer than the 6-8 weeks promised, but it arrived and now it’s sitting on a shelf.
  2. WONDERS NEVER CEASE we had a late start on monday and then TWO DAYS where campus was closed, so no work but paid days for me! in talking to other peeps, this is unheard of. but, it’s also the coldest weather MN has seen in 20 years, so i’ll take it! at this point, we’re waiting to hear on tomorrow. it’s possible that we get a late start. definitely have to work friday though!
  3. and since i have cleaned and sorted out my filing cabinet and got a haircut and altogether exhausted my non-couch items to do on my days off, i am baking some cookies today

    these cookies are like crack. brown sugar cookies from america’s test kitchen. i think i’m also going to make some chocolate chippers.
  4. as far as what’s been happening, megan and i went to the tattoo convention a couple weeks ago, which was REALLY entertaining. seeing all the peeps there, some with no tattoos, some literally covered, was a feast for the eyes. definitely worth the money to get in! i’d recommend it to anyone who wants to step outside their comfort circle!
newsflash: everyone’s burnt out.

newsflash: everyone’s burnt out.

you know, millennials, i didn’t really understand all the flack and outrage toward you. as a half millennial myself, i kind of understood (i’m a xennial – born in 79). i didn’t get the special snowflake syndrome. i thought the hipster phase was quirky. i was annoyed by the articles pitting boomers against millennials, but that was mostly because i was wondering “where am i in this?”

but overall? millennials are ok. i have siblings who are millennials. rock on.

until this article: “How Millennials Became The Burnout Generation”

But when it came to the mundane, the medium priority, the stuff that wouldn’t make my job easier or my work better, I avoided it.

Burnout and the behaviors and weight that accompany it aren’t, in fact, something we can cure by going on vacation. It’s not limited to workers in acutely high-stress environments. And it’s not a temporary affliction: It’s the millennial condition. It’s our base temperature. It’s our background music. It’s the way things are. It’s our lives.

i read this article slack jawed, reading how people in their mid 20s-late 30s are not going to the post office, avoiding getting their knives sharpened, not submitting insurance claims to the tune of $1000. and how life is hard. the recession killed jobs. but now they’re working all the time because it’s expected of them. and most of all because they’re ill prepared for life.

before i get too far, i have a couple caveats: i’m an oldest of four. my mother was a taskmaster to all of us. minus the guy with a TBI, we’re all gainfully employed and able to make it in life. a lot of this i attribute to excellent parenting.

but, that’s not to say that being an adult is not HARD WORK. there were a lot of things as an adult* that i was ill prepared for, ESPECIALLY in my 20s and 30s.

and that’s how i became extraordinarily irritated at this article, at the author, at the stupid unfinished to-do list, at the millennial generation. sure, they can’t all espouse these ideals, but really? really?

then here’s a secret: we’re all burnt out.

i kept thinking about my mom while reading that article. the woman is probably one of the hardest working people i know. in the early 90s, she quit her job to go back to school with a house of four kids and my dad (who was kind of in and out of work and more SAHD). add on top of that managing a household, little income, and no one to tell her how to do all that – talk about burnt out. now, she’s still working, houses my brother with a TBI, and has an octogenarian husband (hi dad!). i’d imagine she’s still burnt out. and she’s no millennial.

we all had to work hard in our 20s. we all didn’t have a $45k/yr job waiting for us out of college. we all had to work at making ourselves indispensable at work. and we all can figure out how to get to the post office to put our ballot in the mail. or not, if that’s what we choose to do. this is not new news.

i left college in 2001 and worked at a newspaper for $7/hr (almost $10/hr today). then i decided to go to grad school to amass more debt, i guess. new job for $12/hr. then i got laid off. in 2006. (that’s pre-recession.) then i graduated from grad school and worked at target. then i got a job for $12/hr, where i worked for 5 years over the recession years, making it through 6 series of layoffs, until i quit to pursue a job that actually made use of my skills. that job that finally was what i wanted to do? i got it when i was 33.

from what i can tell in the article, the burnout comes from working too much. i can’t figure out if that meant that people don’t want to work 40 hrs/wk anymore or if millennials are working 60-hr weeks. and part if it, i gleaned, comes from the expectation that they would work that much. well, STOP IT. salaried? put a max on the hours you will work. yes, we know there’s work to be done, but if i stayed til my work was done, i would have to work straight for a month with no sleep.

worried about getting replaced? you’re cheap (see $7/hr above). and, if you can make yourself indispensable at work, then all the better. the reason i survived 6 rounds of layoffs was because of that. i was the last person to be hired in pre-press, and 5 people were laid off before i quit. you can learn new things – cross train, work hard during your 40 hours, and be open to change. another pro-tip: get an hourly job if you can. i have NEVER been salaried, and if i go over 40 hrs/wk, i am paid OT.

so what was i ill prepared for? budgeting was not a fun thing for me. dealing with bad roommates, figuring out how to manage school loans, debt, and eating. awful jobs. more awful jobs. bosses that sucked. figuring out what exactly i did want. you know, what most people deal with.

i’m sorry that we can’t all be a trust-fund baby, not work, and have a butler to do all our bidding. you don’t think all people would take that if offered? you’re not the lone generation to not want to do that. i think the only thing from the past that espouses the ideals that millennials would like to aspire to are the 1950s white men who went to work, came home to a meal on the table and a sparkling house (thanks to their wives), then got to sit in the living room afterward reading the paper and drinking a scotch until it was time for bed. talk about making america great again.

my dad once told me that the best time for americans was in the late 1800s. i scoffed at that and told him that may have been the best time for white american men. now is a pretty great time considering rights and amenities for women and POC, even with the current administration. if i think about if i’d rather live and work now or in the late 1800s, i’ll take now in a heartbeat. think about no electricity, chopping wood, killing and growing your food, preserving it, saving seeds, tilling with handheld tools, doing laundry over the course of 2 days, cooking on a woodstove, etc etc. it had to have been backbreaking. they weren’t watching netflix for five hours straight, that’s for sure.

i think a huge part of why millennials think they got the short end of the stick is that now there is this platform that shows everyone what CAN be. what we should strive to be. instagram, facebook, twitter – the way to show our best faces. all we see of others is the good stuff – the perfect lives. so why wouldn’t millennials be confused when we don’t have that? and better question: why don’t millennials get that that’s not real life?

real life. here’s what real life is: leaving work and heading home right away even though you know you should stop at a grocery store and pick up some milk. making a frozen something food even though you should make some real food. sitting on the couch and watching netflix even though there are clothes to be folded. getting up to run on the treadmill because that’s the one productive thing you’ll do tonight. glancing at the dirty carpet and dishes on the counter even though you’d feel better if you cleaned it up. putting off cleaning the catbox even though the cats would be happier and you’ll regret it when you finally do get around to it. and on and on and on.

and i’m not a millennial. and i’m not burnt out.

this is life. for most everyone.

sorry to break it to you, but this is how the majority of people deal with life. now think about people who are in poverty. think about oppressed groups. think about those who work two full-time jobs in the service industry. think about veterans with PTSD and other mental health problems.

not so burnt out now, are you. cuz here’s some news:

being an adult sucks.

life blows sometimes. you deal with it and make the best of it the way you can until you feel pretty ok with your life balance.

*adult? i mean, i still think of myself as 8 years old sitting in second grade staring at the guy picking his nose wondering why he’s an idiot. a lot of the time i’m not sure how anyone thinks i know what i’m doing. fake it til you make it!

here’s some pro-tips for those who can’t be bothered to sharpen their knives or go to the post office:

  • i bought a fancy electric knife sharpener. best thing ever.
  • get a kitchen scale and weigh your packages with it. buy postage online. if it fits, put it in your mailbox. if not, check out your work’s mail room – they may accept outgoing mail, including UPS and fedex. if not, and going to the post office is inevitable, leave the package on the counter, skipping the line.
  • i don’t know what to do about rebates. i wish they would all move online. but you can buy single stamps from the customer service counter at a grocery store, and they usually have a mail drop.
  • most insurance/HSA things accept online submissions these days. i was annoyed the first time i got a note that i needed to submit my receipt, but after i saw how easy it was, i got over it. save a PDF from one thing and upload it to another. can’t figure out how to save a PDF? take a screenshot. can’t figure that out? visit google.
  • i now have catfood delivered to my house through chewy.com. my next step might be litter.
  • if you hate grocery shopping, use free grocery pickup! i just learned from my cousin that it’s free at walmart. (i do not hate grocery shopping, so i will continue to peruse the stores.)