Morris just became a little more civilized

We now have a coffeeshop that is open on Sundays!

My plans to see Morris become a happier place are advancing. I have a list.

  • Coffeeshop with longer hours open every day

  • A regional airport

  • Henry Kissinger chokes on his own blood and dies

  • A good bagel place

  • A deep water seaport to the Pacific Ocean

  • For the entire Trump family and their cronies to be arrested and convicted for corruption and fraud, and to spend the rest of their lives in jail or in poverty, whichever makes them more miserable

  • World Peace

See? I’m not asking much.

Hey, look! It’s a tenure-track biology job!

The University of Minnesota, Morris biology discipline has been approved to fill a tenure track line in biology. Here’s the description:

The University of Minnesota, Morris Division of Science and Mathematics seeks an individual committed to excellence in undergraduate education, to fill a tenure-track position in biology beginning August 20, 2018.

Required/Preferred Qualifications:

Required: Applicants must hold or expect to receive a Ph.D. in molecular biology or related field by August 20, 2018. Experience and evidence of excellence in teaching and mentoring undergraduate biology students is required (graduate TA experience is acceptable.)

Preferred: Preference will be given to applicants who are able to develop and teach upper-level elective courses in their area of expertise and which complement those offered by the current biology faculty. Applicants with expertise in quantitative approaches to molecular-scale data are strongly encouraged to apply.

About the Job

Duties/Responsibilities: Teaching undergraduate biology courses including introductory biology, molecular biology with lab, electives in the applicant’s areas of expertise, and other courses that support the biology program; advising undergraduates; conducting research that could involve undergraduates and potentially in collaboration with our data sciences faculty; and sharing in the governance and advancement of the biology program, the division, and the campus.

This tenure-track position carries all of the privileges and responsibilities of University of Minnesota faculty appointments. A sound retirement plan, excellent fringe benefits and a collegial atmosphere are among the benefits that accompany the position. Appointment will be at the Assistant Professor level for those having the Ph.D. in hand and at the Instructor level for those whose Ph.D. is pending. The standard teaching load is twenty credit hours per year.

As a small university, note the teaching requirements: we need someone to help teach molecular biology, so wet lab experience is important. Molecular biology is an awfully broad category, though, so also note the buried detail: “Applicants with expertise in quantitative approaches to molecular-scale data are strongly encouraged to apply.” The magic word there is “quantitative”. We’re looking for someone who applies quantitative analysis to their work. We’re wide open to a lot of different approaches. Are you a bioinformatics person who is analyzing the evolution of specific genes? Lovely. Are you a systematist studying plant taxa with quantitative techniques? Go for it. Looking at biomechanics? We don’t do that here, but it would be cool to have it. We just hired a big data guy in computer science and statistics, so being able to work with that field is a big plus. Help us add a deeper mathematical element to undergraduate education.

Why should you apply here? We’re on the western prairies of Minnesota (no, we’re not located in Minneapolis/St Paul, so don’t think we’re a big city place) and kind of remote — if you like small town life, it’s a great place to be. Our university strongly emphasizes a quality education, personalized and supportive, so if teaching is your bag, we want to hear from you.

Shorter summary: we are looking for a biologist who likes math and teaching. Come join us!

If I ever get this cranky, just shoot me

crankyclintYou may recall Ted Storck from his greatest hits here in Morris: he’s the guy who donated the chimes that annoyed everyone for years, who wrote bitter letters to the local newspaper when asked to turn them down, who complained when a vandal cut the wires (OK, that was wrong to do, but he also accused me of having done it), who, when the chimes were finally silenced by the city council, whined about how he should never do anything nice for the community, before stomping off to his retirement in Arizona.

I thought we were done with crotchety ol’ Ted — the chimes are gone, he’s moved away — but no! He’s taken to writing cranky letters to the local newspaper, about things that have annoyed him. And the paper is publishing them! Ah, Morris.

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#1! #1! #1!

In this list of every state, ranked by how miserable its winters are, guess who the winner is!

Although I’m suspicious that we beat both Dakotas. I think I’d rather live in Minnesota than either of those places.

I came up with a balancing idea, though: if you suffer through winter in your state, you get to reward yourself by retiring to the complementary state on the list — just look at (51 – your state ranking). That’s the karmic redress you must someday pay. I’m looking forward to my twilight years in Hawaii; Hawaiians might not be as thrilled with the deal they’re getting.

Away in the darkness

There has been a bit of silence here because my mad wife decided she wanted to go camping. In Minnesota. In the middle of January. I know winter camping is a thing, it’s just not my thing, but I went along. So we headed off to Glacier Lakes State Park yesterday, where she’d reserved a snug little cabin for the evening.

Strangely, the DNR link above advertises the place with lots of pictures of beautiful meadows and sparkling lakes and groves of wild flowers. For some reason, they don’t tell you what it’s like in January. It’s like this.


Skies like spilled milk. The lakes are sheets of ice, covered with snow. The trees are barren and skeletal. Which isn’t unlovely, in its own way, but it’s not how I picture camping (which is more gray, with constant drizzling rain, and bears.)

It wasn’t bad. We settled in, we later went to bed, and we turned off the lights, and discovered something else about the experience.

Total darkness and silence. We were far from anywhere, there were no other campers, the heavy cloud cover meant the moon and stars weren’t shining through at all. I held my hand up to my face, and saw nothing. I waited an hour, for my eyes to adjust…still nothing. There was no wind, and no animals were crazy enough to be out and about, so there was no sound, either. So this is what a sensory deprivation tank might be like.

It turns out I do not cope well with sensory deprivation. I was lying there awake all night, my brain churning away trying to find something outside itself to latch on to, and refusing to go to sleep until it heard a little noise or got a faint glimmering of something. I don’t know whether it was claustrophobia or agoraphobia, but something about being swaddled in dark emptiness was unsettling.

So next time my wife demands that I share her madness, I’m bringing a metronome and a night light. I’m kind of wrecked for the day now, too, and am suddenly noticing more acutely the tick of the clock here at home, the occasional distant swish of a car driving through the snow, and all the clutter in our house.

It’s a flocculent sort of day

It was snowing lightly this morning, with relatively little wind, and the flakes just seemed to have a kind of magnetic attraction to the trees. So instead of our usual landscape with skeletal black branches everywhere, we got blue skies and black skeletons limned with crystalline white.


It was actually much more spectacular earlier this morning, when I was off on a walk, and I took these pictures around noon, when the sun was beginning to melt away some of the effect. But here are some branches that were in the shade and still had the full laciness.


Flat white

I took a break from the grading and grabbed a quick aerial shot of the results of last night’s snow storm. Morris is still flat, but at least it has a fresh coat of whitewash.

snow day

I won’t inflict more drone videos on you until I’ve mastered that flying thing. Also, what do you call it, video editing. Yeah, that would be good to know.

Now, back to the stacks!

I get email

You know who scares me? It’s not the trolls on the internet. It’s the local loons.

I got a weird demand from some guy named Terry Dean Nemmers (for some reason, he calls himself “Terry Dean, Nemmers” — I’ll refer to him as Comma from now on). This was sent to me and many other people at UMM, but it’s really irrelevant to me, since he’s going to have to go through campus police and the administration to get any of those things he is requesting. But he’s clearly been fed well on Fox News to direct his hatred at me.

Chancellor Johnson:

Chapter 13 data request – Email me the 13.82 Comprehensive Law Enforcement Data. Subd. 7. Criminal investigative data for the incident involving PZ Myers, associate professor at UMM. Email me the incident reports, handwriting samples, audio files and the referral to the prosecutor for prosecution. It shocks the conscience that UMM personnel would incite others to engage in censorship and criminal activity, isn’t it?

Oh, and in case you intentionally forgot, you are currently illegally withholding (censorship, right?) the following public data: 1. Names of all UMM personnel 2. Salaries of all UMM personnel (In dollars and cents – if coded provide key to code) 3. Incident reports for the 09-05-13 botched West Central SWAT raid (publicity stunt) at America’s Best Value Inn in Glenwood. You remember: The willful misuse of municipal, county, state and federal funds on a wild goose chase for Andrew Dikken.

Terry Dean, Nemmers

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