Back from BW

I had a nice little four-night trip to the Boundary Waters with my 15-year-old son Leif. We headed in at Round Lake off the Gunflint on Tuesday and did a loop through Tuscarora, Little Saganaga and Gillis.

Nice to have a partner who’s almost man-sized. We did most of the portages in one trip, with me carrying the small pack and canoe or Leif double-packing.

He also got to experience portaging the canoe a few times, and next time will be capable of even more.

The last morning we had it down, paddling out from Gillis — nine lakes and eight portages — by 10 a.m.

Rather than bringing my old 80-pound Michicraft battleship, we rented a trusty old Alumacraft 15-footer from Tuscarora Lodge. Fifty-three pounds felt like nothing. I didn’t feel too bad for being too cheap to pay the extra 10 bucks per day for the kevlar. The folks at Tuscarora were super nice and helpful.

Fishing was an almost utter failure, which is no surprise and not that disappointing, since neither of us is an avid angler or cleaner or eater of fish. Not a lot of wildlife, other than loons and mergansers and one red-necked grebe. We did have 13 loons cavorting in front of our campsite one morning.

The Little Sag loop has always been a favorite, but this year much of it was burned over. Tuscarora and Gillis and about half of Little Sag are still untouched, but in general, lots of devastation. Made the berry picking good, though.

Did I mention that it rained about half the time? It didn’t bother us much, and we had plenty of great weather, too.

Living in a dog’s mouth builds character

I’m sure we can all agree that those with air conditioning are lesser beings.

They don’t suffer the elements the way we do but simply chill in the climate-change-inducing false reality of their refrigerated pseudo-lives.

My parents got AC when I was about to leave the nest, and I’ve never lived in an air-conditioned apartment or home since then. I reckon that’s why I have become the ubermensch I am today.

I went to a neighbor’s house the other day and I swear it was 64 degrees in there. This is how ridiculous Minnesota has become: 64 inside in the summertime; 76 in the middle of winter.

It should be just the opposite, of course, but as the world circles the drain we flush again. It’s like the oil companies melting the Arctic sea ice, then saying, “Great! More ocean to drill!”

One of my favorite writers compares the deep south in summer to the inside of a dog’s mouth. We’ve had a taste of that in recent weeks with record-breaking heat across the northland.

When we were kids in the ‘burbs, there were three ways to deal with the heat: sprinkler, lake and other lake. When I was too young to walk to the lake, Mom would let me turn on the sprinkler to cool off.

As I got older, I could walk or bike to Lake Owasso, where taxpayer dollars paid for a free lifeguard and a raft to jump off of. If I had a dime I could buy an ice cream sandwich. Last time I went there was no lifeguard, no raft and no ice cream.

When I could finally bike or drive the eight miles, I’d choose White Bear Lake, where all the pretty girls were, because by then I cared more about them than I did about doing a can opener off the raft. Now the lake is running out of water, and the old beach looks like a hayfield.

Nowadays we have to preserve tax cuts for the rich, so we flush public sector investments like public beaches. It doesn’t matter, though, since today’s kids won’t swim in a mucky lake. They need a warm pool in a cold building on a hot day.

When we were kids, if we were desperate for air conditioning, there was always the mall or the movie theater, which my kids and I chose on the 4th of July for a little respite from the heat.

That was after taking advantage of the heat-beating methods of my middle age: hose, river, brother’s pool, and cold hot tub.

Rob wrote a few weeks ago about his “Hillbilly hot tub,” which has become his hillbilly swimming pool during the heatwave. I have a hippie hot tub — wood-fired with a submerged stove — which has been serving the same purpose for me.

July 4 I spent an hour in the morning and another in the evening floating in an inner tube in the 7-foot cold tub. It’s the nearest thing to heaven, when it’s hotter than you-know-where.

The secret is to cool your core. Once you do that, you’re good for another hour or two of Phoenix heat plus Bangkok humidity. For a while, the dog’s mouth never felt so good, then it’s back in the tub, or the river, or the pool, or under the hose.

Unless, of course, you are a lesser being and your house is artificially cooled by one of those carbon-spewing, soul-stealing air conditioners.

What? Jealous? You think I’m jealous?

That’s like you being jealous of my riding mower. No, really, I admire the way you push yours around the yard every week. It builds character. Even moreso considering it’s not self propelled.

You’re a better man than I when it comes to mowing. But when it comes to braving the elements, neighbor, I’ve got you beat hands down.

Brett Larson is the editor of the Messenger.

Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math | Politics News | Rolling Stone

Think of two degrees Celsius as the legal drinking limit – equivalent to the 0.08 blood-alcohol level below which you might get away with driving home. The 565 gigatons is how many drinks you could have and still stay below that limit – the six beers, say, you might consume in an evening. And the 2,795 gigatons? That’s the three 12-packs the fossil-fuel industry has on the table, already opened and ready to pour.

via Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math | Politics News | Rolling Stone.

Isle Days, editing and a dispatch from the front

Sometimes I wish I were a better person, one who rolls up his sleeves and gives of himself and his time to make life better for strangers and friends alike.

Fortunately, we have in our midst dozens of good people who are not as selfish as I, and they are the ones who make community festivals possible.

I am not worthy to unlace their Red Wings at the end of a backbreaking day of volunteering. All I can do is use my bully pulpit to say thanks — and to encourage you to do the same.

I had the opportunity to spend most of Saturday at Isle Days and ended the day with a humble sense of gratitude for those who made it possible. At the fun run in the morning, I saw how many volunteers it took to make it possible, folks like Bruce and Genal and Gene and Mark and Butch — not to mention the dozens of firefighters, cops and scouts who directed traffic and manned the water stops.

A similar list could be compiled for the kiddie parade, car show, coin hunt, quilt show, fishing tournament, grand parade, coronation and pancake breakfasts.

Later in the day, manning the ticket booths, food stands and beer garden were folks like Duane and Diane and Jan and Dan and Troy and Lisa and Josh and Kathy.

It takes hundreds to pull off an event, but usually a handful do most of the work. Over the last few years, Steve and Mitzie Reis and Hans Woelfle have earned a special shout out for directing so much love and energy toward their adopted hometown — and doing it all with a smile. Duane and Kathy Zimpel, Linda and Dale Teal, Kristen Cooper and Steve Kautz also deserve stars on the sidewalk.

He’s rubber, she’s glue

When you accuse someone of poor editing, you should make sure your own editing is beyond reproach. In Rep. Erickson’s column on page 5, this sentence appears: “The result of these changes tell us one of two things, either the wording for these questions are completely politically motivated in an attempt to confuse voters, or Secretary Ritchie’s editing simply deserves a failing grade.”

As a former English teacher myself, I spotted two cringeworthy subject-verb agreement problems: “Result” is the subject of the first clause and “tell” (should be “tells”) is the verb; “wording” is the subject of the second clause, and “are” (should be “is”) is the verb. I would also recommend a colon instead of a comma after “things.” Tsk, tsk, Mrs. E.

A dispatch from the homefront

Most of the time I believe I live with a woman who is intelligent, charming, kind and beautiful, but then we decide to have company over and she morphs into someone you would find on a reality TV show like “Hoarders” or “Intervention.”

Apparently the goal at these times is to make the house as much like a sterile laboratory as possible by removing any evidence of human habitation.

Every microscopic mite must be eliminated. Each chair and table must be squared with the walls using a micrometer and the Pythagorean theorem.

On Sunday, in preparation for a visit from the family of Diane’s work friend, I had to take the mattress and box spring off the front porch because they looked “white trashy.”

“But they’re your friends,” I said. “That means they don’t care if our house is perfect.”

She cast me that blank look that speaks volumes no man can translate, so I went back to wallpapering over the bathroom doors, lest our friends realize what goes on in there.

Brett Larson is the editor of the Messenger.

Why can’t we all just get along?

My uly 4, 2012, Mille Lacs Messenger column:

The world will long remember the historic statement — “Can we all get along?” — by Rodney King, who died too young a few weeks ago. For those of you too young to remember (or so old that you’ve forgotten, as I tend to do), King was the man beaten by cops in an incident caught on video. It went viral before the word had its current meaning.

When the cops who beat him were found not guilty, L.A. erupted in riots, prompting King to ask his famous question.

Nowadays it’s as relevant as ever as our two main political parties seem more and more polarized and less and less capable of compromise for the sake of the country.

I read a book recently at the suggestion of Frank Courteau, with whom I’ve had my share of disagreements.

The book is called “The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion.” It’s an interesting exploration of the human brain and moral psychology, and I highly recommend it.

Reading it brought me back to my experience in New Zealand, where my family spent the year from July 2006 to July 2007.

It was a relief to be away from the bitter partisanship of the U.S., but I soon learned that things were similar down under.

What struck me was not just how divided people are, but how evenly divided.

Why would so many elections here at home and around the world be determined by a 51-49 margin, give or take a few percentage points?

My conclusion is that whatever makes a person lean conservative or liberal must exist in every person’s brain, and communities or countries must teeter on a knife blade for good reason.

Whether we believe in evolution or not, all of us would agree that humans spent at least thousands of years as bands of hunter-gatherers or livestock-herding nomads, jockeying for territory and dealing with threats from competing groups.

Depending on the situation, two responses might be called for: fight for more territory, or find a way to get along.

At any moment, a leader like Joshua in the Old Testament might need to transform from warrior to diplomat to save the community.

Maybe the group is attacked and determines that it can’t win the fight; the proper response at that moment is to save the group by making nice with the enemy.

Maybe the group grows too large for the territory to support; the proper response at that moment is to save the group by expanding its territory, even if that means waging war against the neighbors.

Every one of us has both of those innate abilities: to respond to the unknown with suspicion and aggression, or with submission and appeasement.

Both abilities are crucial to survival, and both should be recognized as positive human traits.

In our current political environment, we are evenly divided between two parties that are reluctant to embrace certain changes and eager to embrace others. Yet each party mischaracterizes the other as being stuck in the past, unrealistic, immoral, stupid or even evil.

As we head toward the next election, we should remember that we all share our essential humanity, and that we are all capable of shifting from conservative to liberal, depending on the circumstance, the times and the topic.

Brett Larson is the editor of the Messenger.