What are you going to do for me, Mark J. Lindquist?

We’re in trouble. Now is the time for people to begin running for office in the little places, like the 7th congressional district where I live, and where a dud of a Republican placeholder is our current representative. And we have a new, fresh face! Mark J. Lindquist is gearing up to run for that office, and he’s certainly enthusiastic and outgoing, which is a good start.

But I think he’s doomed.

Nice website, but it’s all about Mark. It’s like a vanity page for Mark Lindquist: I learn that he’s served in the Air Force as an analyst for the NSA, and when he got out he’s been working as a motivational speaker for Fortune 500 companies, and he aspires to sing the National Anthem at the Superbowl. I could find nothing about policy. For instance, this is is a largely rural district, with a lot of farmers who tend to vote Republican — where does he stand on agricultural policies? Personally, I’m a university professor, and I want to know what he’s going to do for education. I can’t find it! At the top of his web page, it says he is “reinventing American politics”…how? What’s he doing differently?

His big plan is to sell books to fund his campaign, thereby getting big money interests out and changing American politics. It’s not very revolutionary.

If he’s the Democratic nominee, he’d probably get my vote simply because I’ll vote against Republicans automatically, but he’s going to have to work harder at presenting some deeper policy vision if he wants to sway my Republican neighbors, who consistently outnumber me around here.

I did something normal last night!

It felt good. The Morris Theater has re-opened after a long pandemic hiatus, so I actually went to a movie! I love just going to a movie theater, and I’ve missed it.

In case you are concerned because the pandemic is not over yet, I was sensible about it. I’m vaccinated, I wore my mask while interacting with the box office clerk, and, well, this is Morris. I was the only person in the theater! I would like to complain to the management that they could have stayed open all through the past year if they had only allowed one person, me, to attend each showing.

Oh, the movie? Cruella. If I’d had a lot of choices, it’s not one I would have picked, but well, this is Morris. You take what is offered. It was an OK bit of fluff, it’s main virtue is that it gave two Emmas (Stone and Thompson) an opportunity to chew the scenery as over-the-top villains. I like them both as actors, so I’m not going to complain that they got paid to have some indulgent fun.

I also have low expectations for summer movies. The previews were a blur of car chases, superheroes, and random explosions.

Local is global

That’s kind of how I picture my great-grandparents’ farm. I should look it up someday.

It certainly is strange to read an article in the Guardian which mentions all these little towns in my region of Minnesota. Who has ever heard of Greenwald, or Dumont, or Chokio, or Kerkhoven? These are tiny little towns that I know of because they’re within 50 miles of me, but why is an English paper writing about them? Also, the article talks about a lot of things I was thoroughly ignorant of, despite living here.

The issue is the ongoing consolidation of dairy farms in Minnesota. My great-grandparents were dairy farmers in another teeny-tiny town north of here, Fertile, Minnesota, but they gave up on their small farm around about the time of WWII, when one of their sons invited them to live by a real fjord out in Washington state, but that loss was part of an ongoing process. Small dairy farms can’t make it anymore. Now you have to run a mega-factory farm. These are huge operations.

Dairy conglomerate Riverview LLP is​ by far the largest mega-dairy operation in the state. ​​​At the company’s flagship dairy in Morris, Minnesota, ​10​​​​,000 cows wait expectantly for the feed truck. In the “nursery”, a still-wet calf, its umbilical cord dangling, struggles against a worker who tilts back the small head and inserts a tube of colostrum all the way to its stomach.

At one day old, calves are strapped into vests, machine-lifted into a truck and transported 10 miles away to the company’s calf facility. A few days later, they are trucked more than 1,000 miles, ​either to New Mexico (if bound for the beef market) or Arizona (if destined for dairy) – a move that Riverview says is for the warmer weather.

I had no idea. I guess I need to get out more, because as a non-farmer I didn’t have a clue about what’s going on right under my nose.

Despite a ​55% nationwide decrease in dairy farms between​​ 200​2​ and 2019, cow numbers have held steady and fluid milk volume has increased – a fact that illustrates a trend toward fewer farms operating on much ​larger scales.

Between 2012 and 2017, ​Minnesota lost 1,100 dairy farms.​ In contrast, those years marked enormous growth for Riverview as it built ​three​​​ new Minnesota ​mega-​dairies, a feedlot in South Dakota ​and expanded ​its calf and dairy operations ​to New Mexico and Arizona.

Are these mega-farms better for the environment or for the people who work the land than numerous smaller farms distributed over a wider area? Probably not.

One of those potential neighbours, a ​crop farmer in Dumont, Minnesota, says a Riverview official visited him in April 2019 and shared a plan to build a 24,000-cow dairy ​​​a​ mile away. The official offered to buy the farmer’s corn for feed, and to sell manure to him as fertiliser. The offer was declined. “I said, I’m not very interested in that because you’re not paying enough for the product, and you’re charging too much for the manure.”

​​The farmer – who asked to remain anonymous – was also horrified by the idea of so many cows so close to his home. He worried about odour and air quality, wear and tear on the roads, manure leaching into streams and rivers, and the demand on the groundwater supply. “I’m telling you, it’s scary they’re going to come in here and suck that much water from the ground,” he says.​​

The 24,000-cow dairy has not ​​been built but, ​according to state records, the company has applied for a permit to build a 10,500-cow dairy approximately ​130 miles north in Waukon Township.​ Additionally, an application for another 10,500-cow dairy, in Grace Township, is under review.

I’ve been to Grace, but had to look up Waukon — it’s up north, near Fertile. These towns are tiny, between 100 and 200 people, and they’re planning on farms that hold a hundred times that many cows.

But that’s capitalism!

Gneiss news for UMM

Thanks to generous donors, we are about to launch a new named professorship.

The University of Minnesota Morris announced a new privately funded named professorship to assist in recruitment and retention of faculty at the University. The Morton Gneiss Professorship for Environmental Sciences will provide funding support for U of M Morris in recruiting, supporting, and retaining outstanding faculty members in the area of environmental sciences. With the help of private donors, this is the first named professorship at the U of M Morris.

I love the title. Morton Gneiss is not the name of the donor.

Morton Gneiss, the name selected for the professorship by the donors, refers to the 4 billion-year-old [more like 3.5 billion, I think] bedrock below western Minnesota — a symbol of permanence. The Morton Gneiss Professorship starts in the fall of 2023.

You’ve got a little time to tune up your CV if you want to apply. That timing means we’ll probably start advertising the position in the fall of 2022.

Inconstant weather

Well, it’s 32°C in Morris today, with extremely low humidity and the potential for strong winds. I think that means the spiders will be stirring, so I’ve got to abandon grading for an hour or two to wander the streets looking for my little friends. I better do it now, since for all I know it’s going to snow later this week. That’s my excuse for evading my responsibilities, anyway.

Shut up, Ted

Once again, local old coot Ted Storck has a letter published in the local paper. He needs a friend to take him a side and explain to him that he’s looking a bit obsessive, obnoxious even, or maybe to just say, “Shut up, Ted.” He’s still upset that the neighborhood got tired of his loud, repetitive chimes, so he feels the need to explain himself, and he’s reading articles in the National Catholic Register to explain how it’s Satan that led to the removal of his noisy electronic gadget.

Awww. The article also states the devil hates the electronic recording used by some churches, or the electronic carillon bells that used to resonate across Summit and Calvary Cemeteries, and now is heard at St. Clare Church in Surprise, Arizona, after they were forced to be moved from the Morris cemeteries. If I were to read that aloud, I’d be sure to break into melodramatic sobbing as I got near the end of the sentence.

Clearly, the problem was that the devil moved into the corner house a block south of the cemetery, and has triumphed.

Shut up, Ted.

I have a talent for inspiring people to hate me

Way, way back in 2007, a guy in Morris decided to generously donate a great big fancy electronic carillon to the cemetery near my house, which was nice. Except that he programmed it to play hymns and patriotic tunes loudly, every 15 minutes, all day long, every day, from 5am to 10pm. He lived nowhere near his giant cheesy loudspeakers. I did. I complained. Other people in the neighborhood complained. Nothing was done, because this is small town America, and how dare you question a person’s right to screech Sousa marches and Lutheran hymns into your ears all day long are you some kind of commie pinko atheist or something? It went on for a few years (millennia?) with constant complaints & letters to the paper & some brave hero cut the wires & it was repaired & the guy left town in a huff & took his precious colossal beep-boop Nintendo away with him & donated it to a more grateful town in Arizona where the residents appreciate his contributions to the spiritual life of the community.

He has retired and moved away, but he still writes in to the Morris paper to tell us how much the carillon is loved in its new location, or how he visited some other town that had one and they adored it, and how Morris is full of philistines and liberals.

Well, Ted Storck is back in the paper again.

He’s still nursing his resentment. His account is accurate, as far as it goes. The bit where he says Things then got even worse… and refuses to say how is a little misleading, though. What happened, as I recall, is that town officials finally asked him to turn his music down and maybe play it a little less frequently, which I think is what prompted his hissy-fit and his decision to take his toys away.

It’s silly and stupid, but I have to note that Ted Storck has been seething in rage for fourteen years now and is focused on me as the source of his impotent grudge. That’s not good. I’ve had many obsessed haters over the years, but they all tend to be far away and more into railing at me over the internet. This goon knows where I live, and apparently visits the area now and then. I’m a little worried that some day I might open my door and there’s Ted Storck with a shotgun, and that’s how my story ends, blown away over a petty, small town dispute by an “insufferable self-important Christian” who can’t even spell “Pharyngula”.

Glory! Welcome the Jubilee!

I drove by the local grocery store, and there, on the other side of the street, was a…was a…you won’t believe this, but I actually saw a…


In Morris! I don’t know if it’ll be here for long, but we were promised this way back in 2016. At last it has been accomplished, at last it is done.

(I didn’t actually stop at the taco truck — there were several people in line, but I don’t do that anymore.)

I think there’s something wrong with this place

In Morris, there is a 4-way stop at the intersection of Columbia and 7th Avenue. I usually avoid it, because 4-way stops ought to be a crime in Minnesota, but I mistakenly went that way the other day. I came to a stop last at the intersection. Three other cars were stopped there, their drivers all smiling and waving at each other to go ahead. It was an impasse. Who would be the first to be less nice and proceed?

It was me. I let them have about 2 seconds of indecision before I gunned the engine. I blame it all on 7 years of driving in Philadelphia, which is kind of on the other extreme of impoliteness.

Anyway, this video reminded me of fairly typical Midwestern norms.