Troutbirder II - Click pic below to view

Troutbirder II - Click pic below to view
Book reviews plus miscellaneous

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Burglary

It was during the Vietnam era and the country was torn and divided.  Some thought the war was immoral or unnecessary. To the patriotic “silent majority” it was essential to prevent the march of atheistic communism combined with “my country right or wrong.”   That is all water over the dam now though the fact that China attacked and fought a war with Vietnam in the aftermath and Vietnam now wants to  be our friend seems historically relevant. There was no "domino."

Still, The Burglary is only indirectly about Vietnam, what makes it an important and riveting book, is its portrait of the destructive power of excessive government secrecy and spying.  Relevant today, it tells the story of J Edgar Hoovers  FBI and his attempt to stifle any dissent by any Americans and/or groups he personally didn’t like……   And thus strike at the core values of a democratic society. 

The groups he hated included blacks, war protestors, the highly educated, unions, most homosexuals, left handed people, people with a certain shaped skull, hippies, anybody who disagreed with him and also strangely the C.I.A.   He loved secret files he had built to coerce and blackmail people and petty and stupid easily caught criminals who built the FBI’s “success ratio” though the mob didn’t attract his attention as they were a tough nut to crack.

The heart of the book though is about a very small group of ordinary criminals who broke  into an office in a small suburb of Philadelphia, stole some government files, and then sent them off to major newspapers across the country.  It was, of course, an FBI office  and the files revealed the depths of  Hoovers paranoia and violations of the American Constitution.  They, three women and five men, some with families and young children, were never caught.They were  quiet, ordinary, hardworking Americans but nevertheless their  break-in of the FBI office made them criminals in the eyes of the law.

It begans in 1971 in an America being split apart by the Vietnam War . . . This small group of activists the Citizens Commission to Investigate the FBI, inspired by Daniel Berrigan’s rebellious Catholic peace movement, set out to use a more active, but nonviolent, method of civil disobedience to provide hard evidence once and for all that the government was operating outside the laws of the land.

   The would-be burglars—nonpro’s—were ordinary people leading lives of purpose: a professor of religion and former freedom rider; a day-care director; a physicist; a cab driver; an antiwar activist, a lock smith ; a graduate student haunted by members of her family lost to the Holocaust and the passivity of German civilians under Nazi rule.

Betty Medsger's extraordinary book The Burglary recreates the who, the how and why of this fascinating story. The author, the first reporter to receive the FBI files, began to cover this story during the three years she worked for The Washington Post and continued her investigation long after she'd left the paper.  Regardless of any preconceived views you might have on the people and events of the Vietnam era,  The Burglary is a book well worth your time. I found the story both appalling and inspiring at the same time….

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Brother In Law Bill

Bill is the outdoor physical fitness type and an avid biker.  He and his wife Candy also are serious "dog rescuers" usually keeping the maximum allowed by city law in Minneapolis.  Bill visited us a couple of weeks ago and the weather was glorious.  Naturally,
 we took Lily our new GSD for some hikes and also went biking.....
The native prairie at Lake Louise State Park.  The next day Bill and I biked the Shooting Star Trail which partially runs through the same park. It was there a year ago last June that I crashed and burned. It was then that so enthralled by the spring wildflowers, the birds singing and the gorgeous views that I forgot I was biking, rolled to a stop and fell off my bike.  It's true. Anyway this was my first outing since then.
Bill with our bikes at the Shooting Star trailhead in the little town of Leroy. Not wanting to overdo it I put a halt to the ride at about the ten mile mark.  Heading back home Mrs. T. had a nice lunch ready for us.  Afterwards, leaving me in my easy chair, Bill headed off for a thirty plus mile ride on the Root River Trail.  That man is definitely an inspiration for my physical fitness program!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Hearing and Pronouncing


Me and two other retirees, each with a hearing loss, were playing golf one fine April day. One remarked to the other, "Windy, isn't it?" "No," the second man replied, "it's Thursday." And then I chimed in, "So am I. Let's have a beer." 

 Which reminds me, I have to run into town to get some new hearing aid batteries.

A Polish immigrant went to the DMV to apply for a driver's license.  First, of course, he had to take an eye sight test. The official showed him a card with the letters:

'C Z W I X N O S T A C Z.'

"Can you read this?" the official asked.

  "Read it?" the Polish guy replied, "I know the guy."

On my first day as a high school teacher I was doing quite well in front of a class of seniors.  I managed to correctly read all the names on the class roll.  Then for a reason I’ve long forgotten I had to read some of my fellow teachers names. The first one was Mr. Czapiewski.   Cee zap ewe ski I tried.  A burst of laughter that followed from my students told me I hadn’t even come close….  It was shah pesk  e.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Empire - A Novel of Imperial Rome

Ok, cutting to the chase I love some historical fiction a lot.  Others, especially the mushy stuff, take Harlequin romance wannabes, not so much.  The Romans, the Middle Ages, and the American Civil War I’ll give a shot anytime, which brings me to Steven Saylor’s  Empire. 

Saylor, Latin scholar and author of the acclaimed Roma Sub Rosa mystery series, knows his Romans. Especially the emperors around whom the historical record mostly focuses. The emperors command center stage in most accounts of Rome, as they did in life. Saylor’s novel  Empire   brings to life the period of the Imperial Rome  from the reign of Augustus to the burial of Hadrian. He tells the story of the aristocratic Pinarius family.  It is through several generation of this family we see an insider’s view into imperial palaces and gladiator games and even  daily life in Rome. Good historical fiction takes the true facts of an era and in the words of a knowledgeable author we can read characters words and thoughts and see those people come alive.     Thus,  the great events of the span from 14 C.E. through 141 C.E., including the Great Fire, the persecutions of Christians, numerous military campaigns, and, of course, insanity and perversion among the emperors also come alive.   Saylor does this well.

On the negative side there isn’t really much of a plot. The point seems to clearly be that the majority of the emperors in the period focused on where bad bad bad.  The tale does, however show how the underlying strength of Roman culture held firm in spite of some bad leadership.  The characters are somewhat thinly sketched except for the emperors and what a collection both good and bad they are……

All in all though,  I enjoyed the book but   it doesn’t come close to author Coleen McCulloughs novels on ancient Rome. Now that woman could   really write....


Wednesday, September 3, 2014


I’ve been really busy the last month with limited time for blogging.  It seems some trees had taken over my time. Dead ones that is.  Huge ones like this oak.  Actually, there were eight just like it that had given up the ghost in the last two years, probably due to “oak wilt” a fungus born disease.  I had much experience clearing out dead trees to burn in the furnace in our old house next door.  Then with several quite close to our new house in the woods, I opted to save big money by having a local tree service put them on the ground leaving me to cut up, clean up and dispose of the remains.  And what a job that was…..

First I had to clear path thru some obnoxious buckthorn so the big truck lift could get into the backyard to deal with the dead oaks.


Then make a deal with a neighbor who gets the logs to heat his house while I get them cut up on the ground and hauled away. Fortunately Dewey has a tractor with a scissors fork lift that can lift and carry the giant logs next door to his property and a number of wagons to haul the smaller stuff. 

Finally, there were mountains of branches to be cut up, twigs and leaves to rake up and all to be burned.  That was my job.  Busy Busy Busy.  Maybe I'll go fishing next week....:)


Friday, August 29, 2014

The Gateway Inn Redux etc.

It's a small town cafe. On Saturday morning the breakfast crowd is mostly divided. The men sit at tables pushed together on the north end. The talk is of the weather, farming and the Twins and Vikings. The women are by the window on the west end. I'm not sure what they talk about but their is much laughting. The Troutbirders and their friends, John and Joanne sit together at a middle table. This passes for "gender integration"  in a small town in the Upper Midwest. The conversation is pleasant and often boisterous. The service is friendly. Sometimes, due to the rush, people jump up, get their own coffee and fill the cups of others at nearby tables. Life goes on....
But things change too.
The decades long owners sell their business and invite their regular  customers to a "thank you picnic" at their dairy farm.  There the farm wife, who with her sisters and nieces ran the inn,  served a buffet dinner with steak sandwiches and all the trimmings to a crowd of hundreds.  A country western band played in the background. We meet old friends and neighbors we haven't seen for a while.

The next night it's a summer concert in the park along Spring Valley Creek.  There is a new gazebo to be checked out and a couple whose name I didn't catch filled the air with more "country."  We're comfortable in our lawn chairs and Mrs. T. shares
her bag of candy and some pop from the cooler. It's a very pleasant evening.  Life is good......

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Yellow Brick Road - One Year Later

Well, it wasn't actually a brick  road but it was definitely yellow. A year ago at this time I was hiking a path along the Upper Iowa River in Lake Louise State Park. It was late August and there was yellow all along the trail.
 It was mostly different types of   sunflowers with other varieties of prairie plants tossed in for good measure. We hadn't hiked in the park much that summer as Mrs. T and I were sadly missing our "Big Guy" Baron the GSD. 

So today with Barb visiting a friend in the Twin Cities, Lily ( our newly adopted GSD) and I decided to head over to Lake Louise and check out The Yellow  Brick Road....
Come Lily Come.    Good Girl