Mitch's Blog 7.0

Mitch's Blog


Monday, March 29, 2004

The 50 state quarter program, the revolutionary project of the U.S. Mint to create a different quarter honoring each one of the 50 states, is presently more than halfway to completion, with 26 new quarters now having been released into circulation. 5 different quarters, each honoring a different state, have been released since 1999. The quarters have been placed into circulation according to the order in which the state that they represented was admitted to the union. Accordingly, Delaware was the first quarter released in 1999, and Hawaii will be the final quarter released in 2008.

The time has now come to begin thinking about the release of the 32nd quarter, which will be Minnesota’s. Minnesota will be the second quarter released in 2005, most likely in the month of March, meaning that we’re only one year away from being able to hold the final product in our hands.

Stage one of the multiple step process of creating the Minnesota state quarter has already been completed. This stage involved collecting designs depicting what the citizens of Minnesota think would be worthy of incorporation onto the quarter. The step after this, which has also already been completed, involved choosing 3 to 5 possible designs for the quarter and sending them to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Washington, D.C. After the Bureau turns the designs into actual coinage, which has not been done yet, the final products will be sent back to the state, so that the governor – or some other specially appointed committee in the state capital – can pick the final design for the quarter. The selected design is then minted onto millions of quarters and unveiled for everybody to see.

Pictures of the four designs that Minnesota sent off to Washington D.C. have been placed on a specially designed website commemorating the creation of the Minnesota state quarter. I thought it would be fun if I reviewed each of the four designs, offering my opinions of what I think of them, and their potential of becoming the quarter that represents Minnesota.

Quarter 1

As far as state quarters go, this one isn’t too complex, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. When working with a design space as small as a quarter, it can be difficult to get an exceedingly detailed scene on such a small area. The problems that I see with this design, though, have to do with the symbols that are used to represent the state of Minnesota. The loon is nice touch, since it is an animal that can be found in many places in Minnesota, and is also the state bird, but on something the size of a quarter, I doubt that many people will even be able to clearly recognize that the duck they see is a loon. It will merely be perceived as an ordinary duck, which is really not very interesting or appealing. I also have a problem with the snowflake. While Minnesota may not be the warmest habitat to live in, I think the snowflake just plays on the stereotype that Minnesota is a tundra wasteland covered with snow 9 months out of the year – every true Minnesotan knows that the correct number is 11.5 months out of the year. As is, no other state quarter, as of yet, has a snowflake on it, so it does get some creativity marks. Still, I don’t really think it’s the best thing to use to represent Minnesota. Finally, what can I really say about that thing on the bottom of the state? On a quarter, I doubt many people will be able to conclude what exactly it is. Overall, I can’t say that this design is terrible; I just think it’s rather boring and not very creative.

Quarter 2

This design really manages to capture a true Minnesota scene. I like how the lake, the shore lines with pine trees, anglers, and duck all blend together. Looking at everything that goes into this scene, there aren’t really too many states that could use this same design on their quarter, which makes it very creative and original. I also like the "land of 10,000 lakes" slogan written on this design. Lack of some sort of motto or slogan is something else that the first quarter design is lacking. The only bad thing about this design, though, and it is quite a big flaw, I think, is the engraving of the state. It looks sort of awkward in the design, not only appearing as if it is something floating in the lake – an oversized buoy perhaps – but also something that the anglers are trying to reel in. The state of Minnesota has quite a unique shape, and I don’t really think it is necessary to point that out on the quarter. It is also simply not necessary on this design, as I think the woodsy scene depicted on this design is hurt more than it is helped.

Quarter 3

Although maybe not quite as good as the second design, this design is very creative and original. After all, how many states can make the claim that they are the headwaters of the Mississippi River? Not even California can do that. There really aren’t any flaws that I can see to this design, making it really appropriate for use in representing the state of Minnesota. I like how the river goes from being essentially a small stream in the middle of a swampy marsh to a something that is wide and mighty downstream. This design mirrors exactly how the characteristics of the actual Mississippi River change as the river continues south through Minnesota from its Lake Itasca beginning. Along these lines, it’s also very appropriate that the ripples in the water are drawn in as the river gets to its widest point in the design. The only thing about this design that I would change is the drawing of the buildings as the bridge converges on them. Being that the Mississippi does flow through Minneapolis and St. Paul, it could have been more interesting if the skyscrapers of one of these cities were drawn in, instead of the rather small, short structures that are depicted. As such, the scene in this design still works out very well.

Quarter 4

The scene in this design is a lot like the one in design 2, with the exception being that a scene involving fishing is given more prominence. Like design 2, I really think this scene portrays a true Minnesota scene. Although this scene may not represent what the southwestern and northwestern parts of Minnesota look like – due to the dearth of lakes in these two regions – I do think that this scene accurately depicts a true Minnesota scene for at least much of the state. There are plenty of lakes in Minnesota, and it is true that a scene such as this would be able to be seen in many different parts of the state. Because of the representative nature of this design, I think it is the best choice of what the Minnesota state quarter should look like.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Here's the current temperature outside right now, an unbelievable 63°F.

Here are some more of the temperatures from around the region, which are all at least 20 degrees above normal for this date:

The temperature of 63°, which is the high for the day so far, will go down in the record books as being the warmest it has ever gotten on March 24. The old record high for this date is 62°F, set back in 1992.

Edit: The high temperature actually got all the way up to 64°F, so the record temperature will be broken by 2 degrees.

Sunday, March 14, 2004

I have posted the climate chart for Brainerd for the month of February. Scroll down the page a little bit, and look on the right side. There is a spot marked climate, and so far I have posted over a years worth of climate date for Brainerd. The February chart, though, includes something different on it, in that it also lists the average highs and lows for each of the dates of the month. Also, beginning with the February chart, I think I’m going to start reporting on some general observations about the weather in Brainerd over the past month. Hopefully, I will be able to do this for every month that follows, but I guess I’ll just have to see whether I’ll be able to continue doing or not.

Back to February though, the month did turn out to be 5°F above normal, fulfilling National Weather Service predictions that the month would indeed turn out to be above normal. The first half of the month was pretty average, with wide variances in temperatures. After the 18th of the month, however, both high and low temperatures remained consistently above normal. I’m pretty convinced that if the jet stream hadn’t taken a more southerly course beginning on the 18th, temperatures in the Brainerd area for the last half of February would have been consistent with the beginning of the month. However, due to the fluctuation in the normal pattern of the jet stream for the last part of February, high pressure systems carrying warm, moist air from the western half of the U.S. were allowed to flow into Minnesota, causing temperatures to become and remain above normal. This pattern has continued, so far, into the month of March, and appears as if it is not going to let up anytime soon.

The warmest maximum temperature recorded in February of 2004 in Brainerd was 43°F on the 18th, which was 16° above the average high temperature for the date. The coldest maximum temperature during the month occurred on the 3rd, when the high temperature made it up to only 7°F, 15° below average for the date. The coldest minimum temperature reached in February was -25°F on the 15th. This was 24° below the average minimum temperature for the date. Meanwhile, the warmest minimum temperature for February was 30°F, reached on the 27th, 28th, and 29th of the month. In total, there were 8 days in February with low temperatures below zero. Since the beginning of 2004, there have been 26 days with low temperatures below zero degrees.

The only record broken for the month of February was on the 15th of the month, when the low temperature for the date reached -25°F. This broke the old record of -24°F from 1949.

The high temperature of 34°F on the 13th of the month was certainly cause for many to rejoice in the Brainerd area, since it marked the end of a 41 day streak of continuous below freezing temperatures. The last time the temperature had gotten above freezing was January 2nd.

Officially, 7.6 inches of snow fell in Brainerd during February, amounting to 0.34 inches of precipitation for the entire month. This total was below the 0.66 inches of precipitation that usually falls in February.

Because February 29th only comes around once every four years, the low temperature on February 29th, 2004 of 30°F will most likely have an impact on the average low of the date next time the 25-year average temperatures for the Brainerd area are calculated. In 2000, the last time there was a February 29th, not only did the high temperature for the day break a record (52°F), but the low temperature was also 28° above normal. So, because of the unusually warm leap days of 2000 and 2004, it might not be surprising to see a big difference in the average temperatures of the 29th of February next time averages are released, which should be around the year 2025.

Saturday, March 06, 2004

Because of some heavy snow coming through the area, and the fact that I was out and about at the time, I decided to go around Brainerd with my digital camera and see if I could get any interesting long-exposure nighttime shots last night. Here are the results of the experiment. I particularly like the water tower one, which was something that I’ve wanted to try for some time now.

Clicking on any of the pictures will produce a 1024x768 version for your enjoyment, while putting your mouse over any of the pictures will list the most important aspects of the particular picture, the aperture value and exposure time. All of the pictures were taken at about 10 or 10:30 PM on Friday evening.

F/2.8, 15 second exposure
A scene looking into the woods at Lum Park on the eastern edge of Brainerd.

F/8.0, 8 second exposure
Stoplights are always interesting to photograph with long exposure times. Too bad there weren't more cars passing by this one when I was taking the picture. The big white spot in the center of the picture is a slow falling snowflake.

F/7.2, 3.5 second exposure
Here's one of the results of my experiments by the historic water tower.

F/4.0, 6 second exposure
This is a serene shot of the Mississippi River, with a filter added in Photoshop to remove the original heavy red tint produced by the sodium street lights in the picture.

F/8.0, 5 second exposure
A tree illuminated by the lighting in the Brainerd Public Library's parking lot.

And now here is a picture that I took about a week ago while walking around downtown Brainerd. It was on my digital camera along with the pictures that I took last night, so I decided to include with the other ones. I think it's kind of interesting, especially with the shot of the water tower in the background.
F/4.5, 1/1000 second exposure

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Four Years Have Passed
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The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of Mitch Wahlsten and the participants
Mitch's Blog began on December 23, 2001