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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Our weird local paper

I mentioned a while back, when Bill Nye visited Morris to speak to a sold-out crowd, that I’d be looking in our local weekly paper, the Morris Sun Tribune, to get a sense of the community response to the appearance of such a prominent advocate for science, who promotes evolution and the importance of responding to climate change.

I’ve been looking.

And looking.

It’s not quite what I expected.

[Read more…]

Mary’s Monday Metazoan: We’ve got company

We’ve been invaded by a pair of groundhogs who have taken up residence under our deck, and are apparently dining grandly on our weedy overgrown backyard. They’re evasive, though, and I’ve only got this one poor shot of one of them resting in the dappled shade.


OK, here’s a clearer shot of what they look like from the web.


These two are big beasts, and they probably outweigh our cat, who claws frantically at the door to the deck when they make an appearance. I have mixed feelings about their presence — on the one hand, they have gnawed on things in the past, and now we’ve got a mating pair — but on the other hand, they are native Minnesotans. Maybe I should leave them be.

On the third hand, they do look rather plump and meaty, and if we weren’t all vegetarian, might be tempting to toss in a stewpot…

We need to ban Minnesotans

Clearly, residents of this state are the problem. Look what this wretched Minnesotan did.

A Minnesota man who admitted shooting a 17-year-old girl multiple times because she asked him to stop trespassing on his riding lawnmower has been charged with attempted first-degree murder.

According to a criminal complaint obtained by The Associated Press, 40-year-old Chad Pickering shot the 17-year-old girl in the chest, right thigh and left ankle while she was standing on the deck of her Bemidji home on Monday night.

“The victim herself was able to describe what had happened and talk to us and tell us that she’d simply been shot when she stepped out of her house to check on her dogs,” Sheriff Phil Hodapp explained to WCCO.

The teen told investigators that she had asked Pickering not to ride his lawnmower through her yard. She also said that he often carried a pistol with him on the lawnmower.

That’s just the way Minnesotans are…

Oh, wait. Wrong word. Not Minnesotans, but rather assholes with guns.

Phil Plait promises us a spectacular meteor shower on Friday!

Well, I’m exaggerating a bit — he hedges on it being a good possibility that might produce a good show.

Experts are predicting we may be in for quite a show: a brand spanking new meteor shower that will peak on the evening of Friday, May 23, 2014! Folks in the United States and Canada have the most favored viewing locations for this event (but that doesn’t mean you should forget about it if you’re elsewhere). Predicted rates for this new shower are quite high, about 100–400 meteors per hour, far higher than normal showers. And they’ll appear to be coming from an area of the sky near the north pole, so they should be visible raining down all over the sky!

I checked the weather report for my area, and it’s supposed to be “mostly sunny”, so I imagine that means patchy clouds in the evening, so not perfect viewing conditions. However, where I live, I can drive a mile out of town and find perfect darkness and a total absence of any artificial lighting, so that might offset the lack of flawless weather. I might give it a shot.

And if it doesn’t pan out, I can wag my finger at Plait on Saturday morning.