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Monday, September 23, 2013

Norwegian Math Test

Ole wants a job, but the foreman won't hire him until he passes a little math test.

Here is your first question, the foreman said. 'Without using numbers, represent the number 9.'

'Without numbers?' Ole says, 'Dat's easy.' and proceeds to draw three trees.

'What's this?' the boss asks.

'Vot! You got no brain? Tree and tree and tree make nine,' says Ole.

'Fair enough,' says the boss. 'Here's your second question. Use the same rules, but this time the number is 99.'

Ole stares into space for a while, then picks up the picture that he has just drawn and makes a smudge on each tree. 'Dar ya go.'

The boss scratches his head and says, 'How on earth do you get that to represent 99?'

'Each of da trees is dirty now. So, it's dirty tree, and dirty tree, and dirty tree. Dat is 99.'

The boss is getting worried that he's going to actually have to hire this Norwegian, so he says, 'All right, last question. Same rules again, but represent the number 100.'

Ole stares into space some more, then he picks up the picture again and makes a little mark at the base of each tree and says, 'Dar ya go. Von hundred.'

The boss looks at the attempt. 'You must be nuts if you think that represents a hundred!'

Ole leans forward and points to the marks at the base of each tree and says, 'A little dog come along and pooped by each tree. So now you got dirty tree and a turd, dirty tree and a turd, and dirty tree and a turd, vich makes von hundred.'

'So, ven do I start?

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Christ and His Saints Slept

It was so bad the people said "Christ and His Saints Slept."It was in the 12th century, several generations after the Norman conquest, of England. Civil war raged across the land. Two people battled for the English Crown. One a man and most surprisingly, the other, a woman.
The woman was Maude, daughter of Henry I, who dies without a male heir. He annoints and trains his daughter for the job. She is smart, courageous and yes stubborn. The problem is many of the English barons (this is a feudal system) will not submit to a woman. Mauds cousin usurps the throne and the battle is on, as some of her barons and relatives remain loyal.
Never quite fullfilling her quest, she becomes the "mother" of kings. In effect, through the child she bore to the abusive Count Geoffrey of Breton, a son, the future Henry II, founds the Plantagenet Empire and dynasty. What a remarkable story. What a remarkable woman! I loved it.
This book is the first in a series of eventually to be four volumes, in author Sharon Kay Penman's "Eleanor of Aquitaine" series. If you like historical fiction this is a real good stuff. Penman combines excellent historical background knowledge with realistically drawn characterizations.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Beloit College Mindset List.

If the entering college class of 2013 had been more alert back in 1991 when most of them were born, they would now be experiencing a severe case of déjà vu. The headlines that year railed about government interventions, bailouts, bad loans, unemployment and greater regulation of the finance industry. The Tonight Show changed hosts for the first time in decades, and the nation asked “was Iraq worth a war?” 

Each August since 1998, Beloit College has released the Beloit College Mindset List. It provides a look at the cultural touchstones that shape the lives of students entering college. It is the creation of Beloit’s Keefer Professor of the Humanities Tom McBride and Emeritus Public Affairs Director Ron Nief.  It is used around the world as the school year begins, as a reminder of the rapidly changing frame of reference for this new generation. It is widely reprinted and the Mindset List website at receives more than 300,000 hits annually.

As millions of students head off to college this fall, most will continue to experience the economic anxiety that marked their first two years of life just as it has marked their last two years of high school. Fears of the middle class--including their parents--about retirement and health care have been a part of their lives. Now however, they can turn to technology and text a friend: "Momdad still worried bout stocks. urs 2? PAW PCM".

Members of the class of 2013 won't be surprised when they can charge a latté on their cell phone and curl up in the corner to read a textbook on an electronic screen. The migration of once independent media—radio, TV, videos and CDs—to the computer has never amazed them. They have grown up in a politically correct universe in which multi-culturalism has been a given.  It is a world organized around globalization, with McDonald's everywhere on the planet. Carter and Reagan are as distant to them as Truman and Eisenhower were to their parents. Tattoos, once thought "lower class," are, to them, quite chic. Everybody knows the news before the evening news comes on.

Thus the class of 2013 heads off to college as tolerant, global, and technologically hip…and with another new host of The Tonight Show.  

The Beloit College Mindset List for the Class of 2013

   Most students entering college for the first time this fall were born in 1991.

  1. For these students, Martha Graham, Pan American Airways, Michael Landon, Dr. Seuss, Miles Davis, The Dallas Times Herald, Gene Roddenberry, and Freddie Mercury have always been dead.
  2. Dan Rostenkowski, Jack Kevorkian, and Mike Tyson have always been felons.
  3. The Green Giant has always been Shrek, not the big guy picking vegetables.
  4. They have never used a card catalog to find a book.
  5. Margaret Thatcher has always been a former prime minister.
  6. Salsa has always outsold ketchup.
  7. Earvin "Magic" Johnson has always been HIV-positive.
  8. Tattoos have always been very chic and highly visible.
  9. They have been preparing for the arrival of HDTV all their lives.
  10. Rap music has always been main stream.
  11. Chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream has always been a flavor choice.
  12. Someone has always been building something taller than the Willis (née Sears) Tower in Chicago.
  13. The KGB has never officially existed.
  14. Text has always been hyper.
  15. They never saw the “Scud Stud” (but there have always been electromagnetic stud finders.)
  16. Babies have always had a Social Security Number.
  17. They have never had to “shake down” an oral thermometer.
  18. Bungee jumping has always been socially acceptable.
  19. They have never understood the meaning of R.S.V.P.
  20. American students have always lived anxiously with high-stakes educational testing.
  21. Except for the present incumbent, the President has never inhaled.
  22. State abbreviations in addresses have never had periods.
  23. The European Union has always existed.
  24. McDonald's has always been serving Happy Meals in China.
  25. Condoms have always been advertised on television.
  26. Cable television systems have always offered telephone service and vice versa.
  27. Christopher Columbus has always been getting a bad rap.
  28. The American health care system has always been in critical condition.
  29. Bobby Cox has always managed the Atlanta Braves.
  30. Desperate smokers have always been able to turn to Nicoderm skin patches.
  31. There has always been a Cartoon Network.
  32. The nation’s key economic indicator has always been the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
  33. Their folks could always reach for a Zoloft.
  34. They have always been able to read books on an electronic screen.
  35. Women have always outnumbered men in college.
  36. We have always watched wars, coups, and police arrests unfold on television in real time.
  37. Amateur radio operators have never needed to know Morse code.
  38. Belarus, Moldova, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Armenia, Latvia, Georgia, Lithuania, and Estonia have always been independent nations.
  39. It's always been official: President Zachary Taylor did not die of arsenic poisoning.
  40. Madonna’s perspective on Sex has always been well documented.
  41. Phil Jackson has always been coaching championship basketball.
  42. Ozzy Osbourne has always been coming back.
  43. Kevin Costner has always been Dancing with Wolves, especially on cable.
  44. There have always been flat screen televisions.
  45. They have always eaten Berry Berry Kix.
  46. Disney’s Fantasia has always been available on video, and It’s a Wonderful Life has always been on Moscow television.
  47. Smokers have never been promoted as an economic force that deserves respect.
  48. Elite American colleges have never been able to fix the price of tuition.
  49. Nobody has been able to make a deposit in the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI).
  50. Everyone has always known what the evening news was before the Evening News came on.
  51. Britney Spears has always been heard on classic rock stations.
  52. They have never been Saved by the Bell
  53. Someone has always been asking: “Was Iraq worth a war?”
  54. Most communities have always had a mega-church.
  55. Natalie Cole has always been singing with her father.
  56. The status of gays in the military has always been a topic of political debate.
  57. Elizabeth Taylor has always reeked of White Diamonds.
  58. There has always been a Planet Hollywood.
  59. For one reason or another, California’s future has always been in doubt.
  60. Agent Starling has always feared the Silence of the Lambs.
  61. “Womyn” and “waitperson” have always been in the dictionary.
  62. Members of Congress have always had to keep their checkbooks balanced since the closing of the House Bank.
  63. There has always been a computer in the Oval Office.
  64. CDs have never been sold in cardboard packaging.
  65. Avon has always been “calling” in a catalog.
  66. NATO has always been looking for a role.
  67. Two Koreas have always been members of the UN.
  68. Official racial classifications in South Africa have always been outlawed.
  69. The NBC Today Show has always been seen on weekends.
  70. Vice presidents of the United States have always had real power.
  71. Conflict in Northern Ireland has always been slowly winding down.
  72. Migration of once independent media like radio, TV, videos and compact discs to the computer has never amazed them.
  73. Nobody has ever responded to “Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.”
  74. Congress could never give itself a mid-term raise.
  75. There has always been blue Jell-O.


Saturday, September 7, 2013

Minnesota and the Civil War


A major new exhibit on Minnesota’s role in the Civil War began this summer at the Minnesota History Center in St. Paul.  We decided to take a look with out friends Gary and Rosie. It was more than a decade  ago now, when the multi-millionaire owners of the Twins and the Vikings were threatening to move their franchises unless public  funds were provided to build them new stadiums,  that our legislature chose instead to fund a new history center. I supported that decision not liking to be blackmailed into funding a private enterprise.  Recently new stadiums were built first for our State University and then partially  funding the Twins baseball park.    The beautiful history center remains a point of State pride to me. Looking out from the upper floor of The History Center toward our State Capitol.
It is an interactive museum with both permanent and changing exhibits. It  hosts concerts, lectures, family days and other special events throughout the year. The building is also home to the Minnesota Historical Society library and archives, a research destination for schoolchildren, family historians and academics.

 The intense divide between North and South in the 1850s—an explosive mixture of politics, beliefs, and economics—turned to war in 1861.
From a brand new state flush with patriotism, Minnesotans were the first in the Union to respond to the call to support the Union.  Romantic notions of battle quickly fled, even as perseverance in the face of unforeseen carnage sparked an enduring legacy. In family and friendship circles at home and on the battlefield, people mourned, made sacrifices and weighed every possibility and outcome. Minnesotans’ lives were changed forever.

“I am sick of reading in the papers of “the glory” of war....Is there glory in the shrieks of men torn by bullet or shell? Is there glory in the cry of the mother as she sees her child’s head swept off by a cannonball? Is there glory in the weeping of widows and orphans? Is there glory in the burning cities and the desolated homes that War leaves behind him? Is there glory in the undying hatreds that war creates and nourishes?...Let these newspaper men come down here and see for themselves war in its terrible reality.”
-William Christie, First Battery Minnesota Light Artillery, writing to to his father from Vicksburg, August 6, 1863.

Here Mrs. T. checks out an exhibit on the role of women in the war. There were some 250 who actually fought. And knowing her attitudes on human slavery she could well have been one of them.


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Smoke Jumper

Yes, I’ve gotten somewhat away from my usual diet of history and biography lately. But what the heck it was summer and time for some novels with exotic locales, daring adventures, and romance. Take my latest The Smoke Jumper by Nicholas Evans .

Positive: Descriptive, informative background , unconventional love story.

Negative: Predictable. Ending was a little far fetched.

The Bottom Line is  I enjoyed this book for its entertainment  value. It had  lots of action and really interesting settings.    I recommend it. 

The Smoke Jumper was written basically in three Parts,  The first part sets the scene of a platonic love triangle who protagonist are two young “smoke jumpers" and a beautiful girl. The fact that their interactions were initially set in Western Montana won me over right away. Unfortunately the smoke jumping part, which I find quite fascinating is limited  to the opening chapters.  

Part Two focuses on the tangled a tangled web of love and duty following deaths and injury from a major forest fire. It’s interesting but a little stilted and while the background is believable the events seem a little too pat.  Romance its not.  Its denial and moral dilemmas.

Part Three has lot of action in a civil war in  Uganda but to fit the plot  together   the story line stretches credulity.
I really did enjoy  the book. With only a few,  but really interesting characters,  it didn’t take too long to become involved in their fate.  A fun book to take along to the beach!