Cool Canadian Air

Playing on the porch. (from the Library of Congress)

It’s one of those mornings where I feel like having a big doggy stretch, and yawn, before curling back up and going to sleep. I’m basking in clear, cool Canadian air on the front porch this morning. It’s like a drink of water on a hot day. The weathermen meteorologists say it’s going to be like this all week. With a holiday weekend looming in the distance I couldn’t be more content. Time for a nice slow coast into the weekend.

Update on the Puppy: I have to say that having a second dog is easier, and even more wonderful than I imagined. Maggie the Wonderdog has really taken to us, and we couldn’t be happier. She has the sweetest disposition of any dog I’ve ever known. Best of all though, the Indomitable Moxie has accepted her into the pack. Other than a few dust ups over a bone, they have played great together. If you’ve never seen a Basset Hound run, you would be amazed at how fast they are. Granted, she’s part beagle, but she has the stumpy legs of a Basset and they don’t stop her from keeping up with the Indomitable Moxie when they are chasing each other around the yard. That’s saying something, because Moxie is about the sleekest, fastest little canine I have ever seen. When she turns on the jets she’s like a miniature greyhound. This weekend we’ll be dog sitting my brother in law’s little puffball, so it will be a festival of doggies for the 4th of July.

Yes, it’s hard to believe, but the 4th of July is already upon us. It seems to come faster every year. Summer has hardly even begun and already we are hitting the psychological midpoint of it. In another month we’ll be up in the U.P. again, sitting around the campfire in sweatshirts, getting the first faint whiff of fall in the air. I wonder if time continues to speed up as you get past 50, or does it start slowing down again when the kids leave the house? At the speed were going I’ll be sitting in a rocker on the front porch before I know it.

You know what? That sounds pretty good this morning.


Corn Powered Indy

Saturday evening at Iowa Speedway

OK, it’s taken me awhile to get around to it, but here are the pics from our trip to the races in Iowa last week. 20 Prospect Jr. and I attended the Iowa Corn 250 for the second consecutive year. This year was a little different though, in that the IndyCar series brought along all three of there “feeder” series to Iowa, so there was a full slate of racing on Saturday along with the qualifying for the big race on Sunday.

Star Mazda's getting ready for the green flag

As I’ve said many times, the Iowa Speedway is the cleanest, most family friendly race track I’ve ever been to. It’s a great facility, with plenty of amenities, friendly staff and awesome sightlines. There really isn’t a bad seat in the place.

Racing under the "Lights"

The attendance was down a little from last year, and the weekend weather forecast called for doom and gloom, and armagaedon like storms. It’s the damndest thing, but for the last 3 – 4 years the state of Iowa has been iniudated with biblical rains, while just a few hundred miles to the north we’ve been dry as a bone. This year was no different. The fields are flooded all over the place down there.

While the racing was interesting on Saturday, the highlight was the autograph session. After the Indycar’s were done qualifying, the league brings all of the drivers out to a large tent. The drivers are seated around the perimieter in groups of 3, and fans can line up to get the autographs of their favorite drivers. Predictably, the lines for Danica Patrick were ginormous, but luckily, we weren’t too interested in her anyway. 20 P Jr. had picked out a baseball cap from the sounvenier stand and we made our way through a couple of different lines getting drivers to sign it. In the end he came away with Tony Kanann, Graham Rahal, Sarah Fisher, Takuma Sato, Justin Wilson, Mario Moraes, E.J. Viso, and Rafa Matos. I was very proud of the way he politely asked for signatures amd said thank you afterwards.

Justin Wilson, Graham Rahal, and Sarah Fisher signing autographs

We got a later start on Sunday morning, having to driver over to Newton from Winterset, but we still had time to take in the fan walk. For $10 (kids under 12 free) you can walk the garage area before the race as the teams are preparing the cars. And by walk the garage, I mean walk inside of the garage, just feet away from the mechanics. The access is amazing, and unique among professional sports. This is like letting the fans down onto the field during batting practice. Mind boggling, but one of the many endearing qualities of Indycar. Even after 100 years it is still fan friendly and accessable.

The Dad's Root Beer 24

This beautiful Green & Yellow car would be in pieces just a few hours later

Marco Andretti's #26 getting fueld with 100% Corn Ethanol

The crowds outside of the garages

As for the race on Sunday it was amazing. There were 15 lead changes during the race, and it came down to the last 10 laps. Crowd favorite Tony Kanaan passed the dancing with the stars’ Helio Castroneves for the win.

Justin Wilson and Mario Moraes had a quick end to their day

Wave those green Iowa Ethanol Flags and let's start this race!

This will probably be our last visit to Iowa Speedway for awhile. I have promised Mrs. 20 Prospect to be home for Father’s Day next year. So it remains to be seen if we can swing another race next summer. This one might be tough to top.

Earth First! Mars a close second.

Last night God turned on the air conditioning, and a strong northwest wind blew our humidity away. Today is one of those lovely, comfortable days that makes Minnesota summers a wonderful payoff for suffering through a Minnesota winter. I’ve worked in a lot of different cities during my travels, and while I don’t have any scientific data to back me up, I’d have to say that the Twin Cities has some of the cleanest air of any metropolitan area. In fact, despite the dire predictions of looming environmental disaster, I would have to say that our air, water, and land seems less polluted today than it did 30 years ago.

Of course, there’s more to environmental assessment than visual appearances, and while I can’t say for certain that our environment is in better shape now than it was 30 years ago, I think it is safe to say that we are much more aware of the environment than we were then. Personally, I think our environmental awareness began with the crying Indian commercial. Say what you want about Iron Eyes Cody (aka Espera Oscar de Corti) but the man had a big effect on me, and countless others. Next to Louis Prima, he’s probably one of the best known Sicilian American’s from Louisiana.

I still feel guilty for littering

By the time I went to college in the mid 80’s, environmentalism was mainstream. In fact, Clarkson even offered a major in Civil & Environmental Engineering. When I enrolled at Clarkson my major was “Undecided Engineering”, which really didn’t mean much as all first year engineering students took the same core courses regardless of their specialty (Mechanical, Civil, Chemical, Electrical). For a while I flirted with the idea of majoring in Civil and Environmental, but for the life of me I couldn’t imagine what type of job that would actually entail, other than working construction. In the end, I chose the mechanical route as it offered the most variety of different industries and fields (Automotive, Aerospace, Power Generation, etc…) I was always the pragmatist, even at 19. I guess I get that from my Father.

While I didn’t choose environmentalism as a vocation, I did flirt with it as an ideology for a few years. (all the cool kids were doing it). One of my roommates at the time was a Civil & Environmental Engineering major, and given the fact that he was also prone to looking for a fight, activism seemed like a natural outlet for his anti-authoritarian streak. During the fall of 1989, our senior year, Chris came home one Friday afternoon and announced that he was heading to an Earth First! Rendezvous in the Adirondacks. Clarkson being Clarkson, there never was much entertainment to be had on a weekend, so Scott and I jumped at the chance to go camping and tagged along. And so late one Friday afternoon in October of 1989, we headed south down Route 56 in Chris’ VW GTI, with a tent, some sleeping bags, 2 cases of Genny Cream, and a pound of bacon. (If that ain’t the definition of a guys weekend, I don’t know what is)

My kind of green revolution

I had never heard much about Earth First! other than their penchant for “Monkey Wrenching”. If you aren’t familiar with the term “Monkey Wrench”, it originates with the book “The Monkey Wrench Gang” by Edward Abbey. In the novel, Abbey’s hero’s and heroine’s fight against the forces of corporatism, and big industry. They resort to destroying bulldozers, and equipment in order to save the red rock canyons of Utah. As novels go it’s nothing special, but Abbey is a patron saint of environmentalists, cranks, and “don’t tread on me” localists everywhere, so the monkey wrenching idea kind of caught on, and life began to imitate art.

Now Scott and I were no radicals, and the extent of our environmental involvement amounted to recycling, but a weekend in the mountains is nothing to say no to. So we went along for the ride. Arriving at the rendezvous site, south of Tupper Lake, we found tents, Subaru wagons, and VW microbus’ scattered about and knew that we were either in the right place, or the Grateful Dead were playing somewhere nearby.

As movement’s go, Earth First! is a little to the left of Trotsky politically. There was no real “membership” list, and the organization is about as close to a true anarchist organization as you will probably find. The folks scattered about in the woods around the place typically fell into one of two archetypes. Scary looking, bearded rednecks, and patchouli smelling dreadlocked hippies. To say that we three college boys stood out a little is an understatement.

We found a spot a little off into the woods from the main group, and I have to say that even Chris seemed to have some reservations. We needn’t have been worried though, when darkness came the campfire was lit, and people began wandering in out of the woods to sit around it, and talk and sing. One of the great things about hippies is that they usually carry musical instruments with them, and one of the great things about rednecks, is liquor is usually not too far away. It made for an entertaining evening. I’m sure most of the folks sitting around the fire figured us to be undercover FBI agents, or narcs, but they didn’t seem to have any problem sharing their beer. Over the course of the night, the discussion turned to the Earth First! agenda for the north east region. While the details are a little fuzzy, the jist of their plan was to advocate for the depopulation of large swaths of the United States, to be converted into wilderness areas where nature would be left to flourish without the impediment of evil humanity. The biggest discussion point seemed to be which parts of which states would be included in these green zones. No one seemed to get too hung up on the logistics of convincing millions of people to pack up and move somewhere else.

The next morning, the Earth Firsters convened for “roll call”. This amounted to the Northeast regional leader calling out the names of the different “clans”, each one named for a different animal, and the clans responding by making the noise of said animal. Watching grown men wiggling about on their hands and knees barking like seals was a little too surreal for us. When the groups split up for “class” sessions on such finer points of monkey wrenching as tree spiking, and bulldozer disabling, we decided it was time for a nice little hike. So Chris, Scott and I grabbed our backpacks with our homework (we were still students after all) and found a nice clearing in the woods where we could sit, and read. It was a glorious fall afternoon in the Adirondacks. The leaves were ablaze with color, and the sky was deep cerulean blue. We passed the afternoon hanging out, doing homework and talking, and when evening came we joined the group around the campfire for another night of singing and drinking. Freaks or not, cold beer and a roaring campfire is hard to turn down.

The next morning, as most of the Earth Firsters were heading on to Lake Placid to take part in a protest, we packed up our tent and made the drive back up to Potsdam. Our beer gone, and our bacon devoured, it was back to reality. I have to say it was quite the cultural experience. It taught me that no matter how much “Mother Earth” might suffer, deep down, I could never be an environmentalist. I liked personal hygiene too much, and I could never stop pining over girls long enough to get that worked up about saving the Earth. Always the pragmatist I knew that my future lay elsewhere. In less than 12 months I was traveling the country working at coal plants, serving “the man” as just another cog in the military-industrial-complex. I’m sure that somewhere in a file in Washington is a grainy spy photo of me standing around the fire that night, with my name, social security number, and personal information written on the back. Someday I might have to send off a letter and request a framed copy of it.

A little slice of heaven

Spent the weekend in Iowa, visiting friends and taking in the Iowa Corn Indy 250 with 20 Prospect Jr. I have to say, it was great to be out in the country for a few days. You just don’t get this in Fridley…

country road, take me home...

The kids were also happy to participate in their favorite rural pastime. Catching frogs.

The old frog pond

We don’t get Bullfrogs where we live in Minnesota, so they thought it was pretty cool to see the size of those monsters. Even the tadpoles were as big as your thumb!

A tadpole trying to make a desperate escape

Of course, not all of the frogs are genetically engineered monsters.

The race was amazing. The best we’ve ever seen. I can’t recommend Iowa Speedway enough to folks that like to go to the races. Clean, family friendly, awesome sightlines, good amenities, and that sincere Iowa friendliness that makes it such a great state. I’ll post some pics of the race in an upcoming post. In the mean time, it’s back into the salt mines this week. It is planning season at work, and I’m in the midst of teaching my first class. It’s also our first week with the new pup, so life is a little crazy, and sleep has been hard to come by.

Tonight, 20 Prospect Jr. and his Cub teammates have what may be their last game of the season. Lose, and they are out of the playoffs. Win, and we will be back again on Friday. Am I a bad parent if I pull for the other team?

Get along little doggie. Or get two short ones.

The big news in the 20 Prospect household this week is the pending addition of another member to the clan. No, we’re not having a baby. We’re having a puppy. Well, a 1 year old stray puppy looking for a home.

Say hello to Maggie.

The woman who dog sits for us found her. She had been living in a swamp out behind Central Rentals. (The dog, not the dogsitter) She’s been living with them for 7 weeks now, and our dog sitter has decided they just can’t take on a 3rd dog, so she asked us if we wanted her.

How can you say no to this face?

We’re guessing she’s a mix of beagle and basset hound. Hound dog through and through. She fits right in with the Indomitable Moxie.

The great thing about love is you never run out. If you add a member to the family, you just make more.

It's all bunnies and rainbows... er... puppies and rainbows here at 20 Prospect

Help Save the Youth of America

Tonight I begin moonlighting as an adjunct professor at a local university. If that isn’t a sign of the decline in American higher education, I don’t know what is. So for the next month my posting may be a little sporadic as I devote my spare time to reading papers, and rolling dice to determine which grades to give them.

In the mean time, I though I’d pass along some links to some interesting stuff I’ve come across lately, while out on aimless late night drives on the information highway.

I’m a visual learner, which means that to understand things and put them in proper perspective I need to see a visualization of them. Which is why I was blown away by this site: It superimposes the Gulf Oil Spill on a map of your home. I’ve read a lot of articles, and statistics about the size of this disaster, but this really put it into context for me.

Another sure sign of the Apocalypse coming to a theater near you. The Smurf Movie. Oh, The horror! The horror!

Sure sign of the Apocalypse #3 – Touchdown Jesus Destroyed by Lightning. Apparently Zeus has had enough of Christianity and has declared a Greek Jihad. First the Muslim’s and now the Greeks. What next?

OK, enough doom and gloom. Time to end it on a warm fuzzy. Here’s a column by Bill Kauffman from Front Porch Republic by way of the American Conservative, to get you all ready for the Muckdog Season Opener.

Is this Heaven?

Photo Copyright - The Des Moines Register

No, it’s Iowa.

For the 2nd year in a row I will celebrate Father’s Day in the great state of Iowa. One of my favorite states that begins with the letter I. Well, top 5 anyway.

20 Prospect Jr. and I will be attending the Iowa Corn 250, Indycar race at Iowa speedway. It’s a beautiful little 7/8 mile track in the middle of a cornfield in Newtown, Iowa. This will be our second year in a row for attending this race. They really put on a good show, and the entire facility is sparkling clean, and family friendly. Unlike the stereotypical NASCAR-Billy Bob’s, I have found that IndyCar fans typically sport IQ’s in the triple digits, and a full set of teeth.

Iowa Speedway

It seems like an odd place to build a race track. Apparently Rusty Wallace was standing in a cornfield in Newton when a voice spoke to him saying “If you build it they will come.” So he built the track in a natural bowl, with 40,000 seats, all of which offer views of the entire race track. There really isn’t a bad seat in the house. And they serve Maid Rite’s. What more could you want?

This year Mrs. 20 Prospect and Lil’ Miss 20 Prospect will be joining us on the trip and we will be visiting some old friends in Winterset, the county seat of Madison County don’t cha know. Home of the covered bridges of Madison County, one of Iowa’s top 5 tourist attractions. Right up there with the Field of Dreams, Amana Colonies, Pella, and the I-80 Truck Stop in Walcott. That’s some elite company!

Madison County Bridge

Iowan’s take a lot of grief from folks in surrounding states, but I have to say, Iowan’s are some of the nicest, most sincere people I have met in my travels. And they take the gentle ribbing in good spirits for the most part. I have often thought that someday when I decide to retire, I would look for a place along the Mississippi River bluffs over in the Northeast corner of the state. (The part known as the Lutheran Triangle. ) Cheap living, good folks, and beautiful country, a person could do a lot worse than spending their twilight years in Iowa.