Friday, May 31, 2024


Haiku Friday: Things to Celebrate


It's that time of year when people have a lot of celebrating to do: graduations, weddings, the re-appearance of the sun. Let's haiku about that this week! Here, I will go first:

Red, yellow, purple
The backyard bursts with new friends
Each day, new hello.

Now it is your turn! Just use the 5/7/5 syllable pattern and have some fun!

Thursday, May 30, 2024


Mercy Mayhem Thursday: Clemency for Tim Morin


Some of you might remember that back last December I had a piece in The Atlantic about clemency in Minnesota that described the case of Tim Morin, who was denied a pardon in 2019. (you can read that here).

Yesterday, as reported in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Mr. Morin got another chance, and received a pardon. He works as a firefighter in St. Paul, and the Fire Chief there, Butch Inks, testified for him.

But that wasn't the most remarkable support he had. That would be Dan and Susan Ferber, the parents of Shawn Ferber, the victim of Morin's crime. I'm in awe of people with that level of forgiveness, and am so happy about how this worked out.

Wednesday, May 29, 2024


A Response to Trump

 By chance, it turns out that right when I drive to work is when Donald Trump talks to the press before walking into the courtroom, so I've heard a lot of his thoughts and views lately. It's usually kind of boring and repetitious of what he has said so many times before ("rigged election," etc.), but also sort of mesmerizing given the context of being on trial for felonies. He often does the same thing on the way out of the court.

Yesterday, actor Robert De Niro offered a response, standing outside of that same courthouse:

Tuesday, May 28, 2024


Beauty Everywhere

 This is one of my very favorite times of the year (along with July, September, October, and January). Things are blooming all over. People are out and about. Kids are graduating, and plans are being made. There are things to celebrate.

Yesterday, it was rainy. Then it was sunny. then it was rainy again. Then the sun came out, and then there was a thunderstorm. Then it was beautiful and sunny again. Quite a day!

And full of this amazing thing: sunshine on wet grass and burgeoning gardens. 

If you are one of those people who have been planting and tending, I salute you! You make all of our lives better.

Monday, May 27, 2024


On Fictional Characters

 Zounds! Great turnout last week for the exceptionally vague category of "fictional characters." We had this FROM IPLawGuy:

Adam West - Batman
None of this silly angst stuff
My kind of hero.

And an anonymous post ABOUT IPLawGuy:

And IPLawGuy
Isn't he just fictional?
I bet that he is.

My old friend Mark L. sticks by his old favorites:

Green and orange clay,
Googly eyes, my fav’rite pals,
Gumby and Pokey.

And so does Desiree:

Flying his Sopwith
Camel with Wingman Woodstock -
Snoopy’s a hero!

Jill Scoggins goes to the classics:

It’s elemen’try:
We want brains like Holmes’ to solve
our life's mysteries.

And so, in a way, did this anonymous post:

I Dream of Jeannie!
Harem outfit, turns to smoke
Purple bottle couch.

CraigA, a man of my own heart:

Calvin and Hobbes: A
wonderful life full of play,
joy, and adventure!

And the Medievalist is stuck in the future:

Max Headroom icon
For the computer A.I.
Generation is.

Sunday, May 26, 2024


Sunday Reflection: The passage after John 3:16


John 3:16 is ubiquitous-- on t-shirts, on signs, on the back of cards handed to you by some guy on the street. But, like any passage, there is some context. Let's look at the rest of that story:

Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with that person.” Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?
11 “Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen, yet you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.
17 “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world but in order that the world might be saved through him. 

Jesus's point seems pretty clear: a life of faith will be transformative, to the point that you may seem like a new person, and feel like a new person.  He seems a little frustrated, too, that Nicodemus doesn't seem to believe him when he speaks of the kingdom of God.

My favorite part of this passage is not 3:16, but the verse that follows: "God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world but in order that the world might be saved through him." So often it seems like the John 3:16 people DO think Jesus condemns the world. But condemnation is not love. Love engages, and cares, and stays-- all the hard things, that take more than one verse to understand.

Saturday, May 25, 2024


This one holds up....


Friday, May 24, 2024


Haiku Friday: Fictional Characters


Pictured here is Lucette, Paul Bunyan's girlfriend, as found in Hackensack, Minnesota. She's a strange kind of fictional character-- one that was created ancillary to an existing fictional character. Apparently, there used to be a Paul Bunyan, Jr., too, insinuating that old Paul knocked up the local giant lady.

We all have a fictional character we are particularly fond of: Pooh Bear, Tony Soprano, Max Headroom, Ryan the Temp, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Road Runner, Peppermint Patty, etc.  So let's haiku about them this week! Here, I will go first:

Maxwell Smart, my man
His assistant did the work
He lived it up.

Now it is your turn! Just use the 5/7/5 syllable pattern and have some fun!

Thursday, May 23, 2024


Political Mayhem Thursday: Snap Election!!!!


While we wallow in a year-long slog of two elderly men going at it through insults and mumbling, in the UK a "snap election" has been called by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. That means that an election that will decide the future of that nation will happen on July 4-- just six weeks away. 

The past 8 years of Conservative Party rule have been pretty messy, with four prime ministers and the whole Brexit debacle. Now they face not only the Labour Party (which is ahead by double digits) but a newer and more conservative group, the "Reform UK" party, which is running to the right of the Conservatives.

It isn't Sunak who will be running alone, but every member of Parliament-- and in just 6 weeks! That should be fun to watch, and a nice distraction from the election that continues to drone on here.

Wednesday, May 22, 2024


Excitement in the Cities


Minneapolis is a great sports town if you love participating in sports-- there are lots of great places to run, ski, skate, etc, and it seems to be a part of the culture here.

For spectating, it's more of a mixed bag. The good news is that pretty much any pro sport is represented-- and we have the AAA team for the Twins, the Saints, right over in St. Paul. The fields and arenas are all pretty good, too (especially the new soccer stadium), and they are all in either Minneapolis or St. Paul. We have college sports, too, with the Gophers and the newly-D1 St. Thomas. 

But some of those teams are perpetually middle of the pack. That means that when one of them excels, people really go nuts. Right now that is the Timberwolves, who are in the NBA's Western Conference Championship against Dallas. I'm not a huge NBA fan, but it is fun to watch people get revved up, and there have been some great storylines-- especially the huge Game 7 comeback against Denver, the defending champs.

Will it last? Maybe. And I'm hoping for a MN-Boston final, so I can make a bet with CraigA....

Tuesday, May 21, 2024


Good news on crime


Results vary across the country, but in many places crime is going down dramatically. Mostly, I think it is the receding of the pandemic and its destabilizing effects, but the hard work of many people in social services, law enforcement and education probably have something to do with it, too.
Here in Minneapolis, the news is pretty good. If you ever want to check out the trends, the City of Minneapolis has a very hand dashboard.  It reports both year-to-date compared to prior year (both the prior year and the preceding 3 years) and the last 28 days compared to the same period last year. Here is some of the good news:
Motor vehicle theft, which has been a huge problem, is down about 35% compared to last year up to this date. 
Homicides are down a little-- about 9%. (though it is small numbers-- 20 v. 22).
Carjackings are down, too, by about 24%. 
Robberies are down 12%. 
Stolen property is down 27%.
That's all good news, and the crimes that have crept up or remained flat (including vandalism and domestic assaults) are only up a little.
Law Enforcement is always wary of the coming of summer, but right now things look ok....

Monday, May 20, 2024


The scent of spring....

 Such good poems this week! I always love to hear from Craig!:

Winter starkness gives
way to an explosion of green:
Hidden life revealed!

And this is kind of Christine's sweet spot:

Driving the backroads
Windows down, surprising scent
The first cut of hay.

My Mom is a gardener, too:

Scent of fresh cut grass
and of mint that is taking
over the garden.

And this, from the Medievalist:

Lilacs are lovely
And winter is now over

We had three anonymous entries, and this was my favorite:

My favorite scent:
The lilies of the valley
Cherished memory.

Sunday, May 19, 2024


Jesus on the Shore


I've always been taken by how many of the stories about Jesus take place on the shore: He calls his first followers in from their boats, he preaches to people on the shore, he is baptized in the water and he leaves us with that beautiful scene on the shore, as he makes breakfast for those who are hungry.

It's not surprising, I suppose; the shore is the boundary between the known and unknown, between what we can traverse on foot and where we can't. Of course, Jesus turns that upside down when he walks on water-- which, if you think about it, is a really weird miracle. But perhaps it has that deeper meaning: maybe it is about turning things upside down. 

Which, of course, kind of fits....

Saturday, May 18, 2024


My secret hope...

Could the upcoming debates be something like this?:

Friday, May 17, 2024


Haiku Friday: The Scents of Spring


I love the smell of this lilac behind my house-- it not only bursts into bloom, but it smells like this moment, that smell of Spring with a promise of summer. And in Minnesota, we love that promise.

So let's haiku about that one of our five senses. Here, I will go first:

Snow has a sound, feel
But not a scent or promise
So we wait for Spring.

Now it is your turn! Just use the 5/7/5 syllable pattern and have some fun!

Thursday, May 16, 2024


PMT: Losing interest


In the picture above, I'm talking-to someone in the cabin after dinner. And that's kinda what I want to do this summer. That, and write. And ride my bike. 

What I don't want is to spend my summer obsessively watching Trump and Biden bluster at each other. Does anyone else feel repelled by that? I know, I know... it's the most important election in the history of the world, etc. etc. (according to both sides)... but I'm just not feeling engaged.

It's not that I'm not informed, or don't know what's at stake. It's just that the prospect of months and months of these two old men acting mad all the time makes me want to do anything else but watch.

Wednesday, May 15, 2024




Does anyone really not believe in climate change at this point? I mean, there are people like Ted Cruz who are clearly faking it. But, I fear there are people who believe the people who are faking it. 

We know that the Earth is warming. Has that happened before? Sure-- the Earth has its cycles. But what is different this time is that WE are causing it. That's a terrifying thing, because we humans are terrible at stopping when we are doing something destructive. We waltz right into endless wars, we enact policies that create poverty, we pave over what shouldn't be paved over, and then keep going.

How do we change that mindset?

Tuesday, May 14, 2024


The Dutch-English connection


I was a little surprised recently to learn that the widely-spoken European language most similar to English is Dutch. You may not have noticed this if you visited the Netherlands, as 90% of the people there speak English to some degree, and you may have not listened for it. 

Many Dutch words are cognates with English, sharing the same Germanic roots. The biggest difference as that Dutch retains gendered words (like French and Spanish), but neither English or Dutch has a case system where words have lots of variations. 

It's relatively easy for English speakers to learn Dutch, but not many do-- probably because of the limited number of people in the world who speak Dutch. But still... it is tempting!

Monday, May 13, 2024



 Great haiku, everyone! There were two from Christine. This one was general:

Graduation is
bittersweet, a moment in
time, a forward step.

And this one specific:

Last name starts with T...
Large grad class; so I waited
a long time to walk.

Desiree remembers it well:

Commencement for this
Army brat meant leaving the
place she lived longest. 💚

IPLawGuy didn't strategize well:

At College Commencement
Drank some beers on way to Hall
bladder nearly burst.

IRT didn't want to go: 

Don't do it, new grads!
Stay in college 4eva
There's no place betta.

And Jill Scoggins took this one deeper:

The dichotomy:
Beginning and end. That’s what
Graduation is.

Like life that follows.
You will always be starting
and stopping something.

Even at the end:
If you’re a person of faith,
death will hold no fear.

It gloriously
will be your transition to
life everlasting.

Sunday, May 12, 2024


Sunday Reflection: Forest Bathing


I get to a sense of God by thinking more than feeling, and sometimes that isn't great. I know people who are the other way around-- they sense God much more by feeling and seeing what is around them. I have a lot to learn from them.

The truth is that I have a lot of opportunities to be more that way. I'm fortunate in that I find myself in nature and suffused with beauty pretty regularly, one way or another. I see it and appreciate it, but don't usually connect it to the divine the way others often do. That's something I hope to change about myself as I grow-- I want to have that integrity between the beauty I see and the Creator. 

That doesn't mean I'll stop thinking, though.

Saturday, May 11, 2024


Vermont's Been Fun...


Friday, May 10, 2024


Haiku Friday: Graduation


You know what is kind of weird? I remember nothing about my high school graduation-- nothing. I'm not sure why; it's not like I was drunk or anything. I do remember college graduation, though with some disappointment. I had auditioned to be the commencement speaker and was rejected as "too iconoclastic." Harsh, but fair. I remember law school graduation fondly, and these days I love seeing my students graduate.

So let's haiku about that this week! Here, I will go first:

Commencement means "start"
But it feels like such an end
We walk our own paths.

Now it is your turn! Just use the 5/7/5 syllable pattern, and have some fun!

Thursday, May 09, 2024


PMT: MTG Fails to Oust Mike Johnson


Yesterday, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene failed to oust House Speaker Mike Johnson in a battle between to far-right characters. A staunch pro-Russian Republican legislator (yeah, that's where we are-- there are lots of pro-Russian US legislators), she was mad at Johnson because he pushed through a bill that aided Ukraine. In a historic first, Johnson saved his post because the House Democrats voted for him along with most Republicans-- if they had voted against him, he would have been out.

The House is a messy place these days. The last time I was in DC (last month), I popped into Rep. Ayanna Pressley's office, which is across from MTG's, and I took the photo above of the obnoxious sign outside her door. My favorite part? "Trust the science." Um... don't you mean "Trust the Scientologists?" or something like that? Because science actually tells us that gender can be pretty complicated....

Wednesday, May 08, 2024


My Gaming Problem


It all started with Wordle. 

"You should try it," people told me, "it's fun." And before I knew it, Wordle became a staple of my morning, even to the point that I write a poem about it every day on Facebook. So, that was a threshold. After Wordle moved to the New York Times I was fine, since I had a subscription.

But it wasn't the end of it. Next came Spelling Bee, also at the Times, which captivated and befuddled me. I cursed by vocabulary issues even as I came up with words like "Nationalization," which got about one zillion points. Spelling Bee takes a LOT more time to do than Wordle.

After that came Connections, a game where you find words that have something in common. The combination of challenging and kinda fun was irresistible. But was I becoming an addict?

Next came Flashback, a game so obscure that it isn't even listed on the "Games" page of the Times. You have to search for it by name. 

Do I need to seek help for this?

Tuesday, May 07, 2024


Met Gala!


The Met Gala was held last night, raising lots of money so kids can be cured of cancer, or something like that. Who's not for that?

The big attraction this year (as every year) is the outfits people wear as they walk in. For example, Yogi Bear, pictured above as he waited in line to check his coat,  took the bold move of wearing a scarf and nothing else.  What do you think?

Monday, May 06, 2024


My bad car

 I gotta get off car topics, I know... but it does make for great haiku!

This second paragraph of Craig A's poem... I like it more than anything I've seen in a long time. Great work:

Sixty two Chevy wag
Ran on six of eight cylinders
Beer can patched exhaust.

Crash it and leave it rig,
Summer ride to life guard gig.
Best beater car ever!

Desiree is not a Prius fan:

Rented a Prius.
Crappy little car that could
Not clear a speed bump.

RTI had a stinker:

Geo Metro, ack!
Felt like a rolling bomb
But also, quite slow.

And this anonymous entry rings true!:

Bad Chevy Vega!
Your engine parted melted, then
You went, “TICK TICK TICK…”

Sunday, May 05, 2024


Sunday Reflection: Compassion always

 There are a lot of stories in the Gospels like this one, from Luke 10:

10 Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. 11 And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. 12 When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.” 13 When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. 14 But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the Sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured and not on the Sabbath day.” 15 But the Lord answered him and said, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger and lead it to water? 16 And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the Sabbath day?” 17 When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame, and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things being done by him.

What we see here is a simple message: Compassion is more important than rules. The Pharisees have a point, too: that there were plenty of other days other than the day of rest to do some healing. But Jesus shames them, as they treat their animals better than the people around them in need. 

Breaking rules is something we all do (some more than others). Perhaps one guide to the principled breaking of rules is that we are at our best when we do so on behalf of others rather than for our own benefit.

Saturday, May 04, 2024


White House Correspondent's Dinner

 If you missed it, here are some highlights:

Friday, May 03, 2024


Haiku Friday: Worst car


We have written before on the best cars we ever owned, and bad ones generally, but let's look now at the worst we have had. If you haven't had one, you can write about someone else's! Here, I will go first:

Volkwagen Rabbit
Nothing on it worked right
Loved to stall out.

Now it is your turn! Just use the 5/7/5 syllable pattern and have some fun!

Thursday, May 02, 2024


Political Mayhem Thursday: Politics and Protest


I'd like to step back a minute. Before the Gaza protests spread to other campuses. Before the police moved in at Columbia, at Yale, at Univ. of Texas and other places. Before the map of protests looked like the Pappa John's locator.  

In the beginning of all this, the President of Columbia decided to take a hard line on the protestors in her Congressional testimony-- or, at least a harder line than some of her colleagues did (including the subsequently-fired president of Harvard). I think that was a real inflection point. I wrote previously about how these protests seem to draw people searching for meaning, and I wonder about the intersection of that and what Columbia's President did in her testimony.

Will the protests change anything? IPLawGuy says no, because there is not a specific ask out there. I'm not so sure-- but I'm also not sure that the change would be good.

Protests like this usually both result from and accelerate young people's sense that government does not work, other than as an instrument of oppression and wealth generation for the privileged. There is some truth in that, of course: governments do oppress people and often advantage the already advantaged. But it doesn't have to be that way, and sometimes isn't, but only if people who care engage with the system, and this all pushes the other way.

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