Mitch's Blog 7.0

Mitch's Blog


Saturday, October 15, 2005

Peter Mansbridge Has A Job Again

Now that another week has passed by, I thought I would be a good idea to post a synopsis of some of the more notable events I experienced during the last 5 days or so.

From what I can recall, nothing much of any importance happened on Monday. On Tuesday, however, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) returned to normal programming following a 7-week “labour dispute” that shut down nearly the entire news operation and forced the postponement of new shows for the fall season. Without going into specifics, the CBC’s management and employees got into a fight concerning the hiring of non-contract workers, and this argument culminated in the middle of August, when management locked all CBC employees out of their jobs.

The importance of this entire situation to me deals with the fact that one of the channels on Grand Forks’ cable system is the CBC affiliate from Winnipeg. I’ve wanted to watch the news from Canada since arriving at college, but I’ve been unable to due to the labor dispute. During the lockout, the management ran a minuscule and laughable news operation that featured about 5 minutes of news reportage every day, if that. The rest of the available time for news was just filled in with a relay of the BBC World news network.

The strife between the two sides involved in the dispute at the CBC ended last Sunday, however, when both sides reached a tentative agreement. Though it took a couple of days for the news operations to get back up and running, once the news was back on, I really enjoyed it. I’ve now made it a daily habit to watch the hour-long “The National” each night at 10. So far, I have been amazed at how much better world events and stories are covered compared to news programs in the United States. While the video showing alleged police brutality in New Orleans was being replayed and analyzed ad nauseam on the United States news programs on Tuesday, the CBC devoted the first 15 minutes of “The National” to the devastating earthquake in Pakistan and India. In addition, another refreshing thing about the CBC’s “The National” is that it is largely free of commercials; the first commercial break usually occurs 40 minutes into the program.

Moving onto another topic now, my Thursday was pretty busy. First of all, I had a test in calculus. The material covered by the exam wasn’t hard at all – actually, I had learned a bit of it last year – but the format of the test was a bit problematic, as it was quite apparent that the test was written so that it would difficult to finish all the questions in the allotted 50 minute time period. I managed to solve all of the questions on the test, but I did have to rush through a few of them, including a 5 point multiple choice question.

After the test, I went over to Memorial Union to go take a look at the 11th annual North Dakota Clothesline Project. The project, which is national in scope, features t-shirts decorated by the victims of various forms of violence. I’m not sure how many shirts North Dakota’s contribution to the project contains, but I can say for certain that there were a few hundred shirts hung up on makeshift clotheslines in a large ballroom on the second floor of UND’s Memorial Union. It was pretty moving to see the many rows of multicolored shirts, not to mention the oftentimes traumatic stories the survivors of crimes like rape and domestic violence told on them. I spent close to an hour looking at as many shirts as I could, but that still wasn’t enough time for me to see all of them.

Once I was done seeing the Clothesline Project, I headed over the library to check out a couple of books I was interested in. The first one, called “Tallgrass Prairie: The Inland Sea,” features photography from all four seasons on a tallgrass prairie and came from the library’s Fred G. Aandahl Collection, a collection that contains only books pertaining to the Great Plains and Upper Midwest. Meanwhile, the second book, “North Dakota: A Bicentennial History,” deals, quite obviously, with the history of North Dakota. There’s also quite an extensive section discussing the geology of North Dakota, and this was largely the reason why I decided to check this book out. Another part of the book I like, however, is the introduction, which I’ve decided to excerpt:

“Most North Dakotans, whether native-born or adoptive, have had the occasion to feel that there is something unusual about themselves and their surroundings. The mere mention of the name North Dakota seems to cause certain predictable reactions from the outside world: first, an expression of incredulity that anybody live there or, at times, that the place actually exists; second, a sort of patronizing humor from TV comics, political commentators, and anyone else seeking a safe example of ‘Nowheresville, U.S.A.’ – the urban sophisticate having fun at the expense of the rustic. More distressing to North Dakotans, however, is the near-total ignorance about the state and its people on the part of much of the rest of the world....

“The glamour of the frontier never attached itself to North Dakota as it did to other regions of the west and the Northwest: North Dakota history has no equivalent to eh Alamo, the California gold rush, the Oregon Trail, or the Mormon trek. Although life was rough in the northern half of Dakota Territory, there were no Calamity Janes, Deadwood Dicks, Wyatt Earps, Buffalo Bills, or other of similar notoriety who passed into American folklore. North Dakota heroes never quite made it in the big time....

“The popular arts have done little for the North Dakota image. There is no memorable song like ‘Oklahoma,’ ‘California, Here I Come,’ ‘My Old Kentucky Home,’ ‘Beautiful Ohio,’ ‘The Yellow Rose of Texas,’ ‘Carolina Moon,’ or even ‘The Pennsylvania Polka.’ No one has produced a waltz like those which gave near-immortality to Tennessee and Missouri – one celebrating a lost love and one given added luster by its association with a figure of national importance. The film industry, too, has been less than kind....

“If one can judge by comments and observations about the state from people on the outside, North Dakota is...the American Siberia, thanks to national television weather forecasts that, more often than not, list the coldest spot in the Lower Forty-Eight as Grand Forks, Pembina (usually mispronounced), Minot (ditto), or some other point in the state...

“This land, almost exactly in the center of the North American continent on the northern periphery of the United States, was not an easy one to master. Because of the extremes of weather, its distance from centers of population, and its great size, North Dakotans have had to struggle harder than many other Americans to make their state livable. In doing so they created wealth out of little but hard work and willpower, building a society where differences between the richest and the poorest are not as conspicuous as in many other parts of the country....”

And pretty much the last significant thing I did on Thursday was check out a book from a different library: the one in the building housing the Honors Department. This third book is named “The History of English” and discusses a topic I find highly fascinating, especially since modern German and Old English are highly alike. In fact, both languages could be considered dialects of each other. I found myself picking up this book at about a midnight on Friday morning just to look over what was in it, but, an hour later, I had already read the first 50 pages and was thoroughly captivated. I’ve since read on a bit farther, to the point where I’m now learning how the Old English language functioned. All of the language’s inflections and most of the language’s words are quite similar to the German language of today.

I’ve also discovered the Online Etymology Dictionary to accompany reading “A History of English Language.” This website lets you enter in any word you want and get the full etymology behind it. Knowing German, I think it’s quite fascinating to see how all of modern English’s prepositions, pronouns, conjunctions, and auxiliary verbs, most of modern English’s irregular verbs, and a lot of modern English’s basic words have a direct cognate in German.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

I Lived Through Blizzard Zach

Blizzard Zach – the Grand Forks Herald decided to break from tradition and have the first blizzard have a name starting with a Z in order to honor the former Grand Forkian, Zach Parise, who scored his first NHL goal Wednesday night playing for the New Jersey Devils – largely skirted the Grand Forks area, but, if you’ve been paying attention to weather-related news, pounded northern and western North Dakota. The highest amount of snow that I’ve seen reported was 22 inches in Dunn Center, north of Dickinson, but a lot of other places around the Dickinson and Minot areas reported upwards of a foot of snow.

Grand Forks finally did get snowed on beginning at about 10 PM on Wednesday night, and, once the snow did start, it really came down hard. It snowed, I suppose, until about 2 AM, at which time about an inch had accumulated on the grass and rooftops of buildings. An article in the newspaper on Thursday mentioned that if the blizzard’s center of low pressure had managed to make its way about 100 miles farther south on Wednesday, the two inches of cold, sleet-like rain that fell all day in Grand Forks would have instead been 12-14 inches of snow. So, basically, Grand Forks narrowly missed taking part in the very unusual, unprecedented early October snowstorm.

The fact that places in the vicinity of Dickinson got most of the snow is a very nice segue to the pictures I wanted to present. You see, I visited the small towns between Bismarck and Dickinson last Saturday – on a day where all the temperatures were in the low 90s. Just four days later, the same cities were buried under 9, 12, and, in the case of Hebron (HEE-bron), 18 inches of snow.

I contend that southwestern North Dakota is one of the most beautiful places in the United States. These pictures explain why...

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This is the railroad bridge crossing the Missouri between Bismarck and Mandan

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The scenery changes abruptly once you've gone over the Missouri; this is a scene just a few miles west of Mandan

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North Dakota highway 31, just north of New Salem

New Salem's tourist attraction is "the world's largest holstein cow," Salem Sou, which is located atop a large butte just north of the city. Here are photos of the magnificent views from the butte:

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The city of New Salem

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Salem Sou has a wonderful view looking north

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This is Salem Sou and the butte she is on at a distance

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Interstate 94 is a pretty lonely road in this part of North Dakota

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There are some nice buttes off in the distance near Glen Ullin

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A very lonely hillside

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That little black thing off in the distance is a short train

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I liked this sign "welcoming" visitors to Glen Ullin

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I think this is a flax field near Dengate

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A train breaks the deafening silence near Dengate

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This is North Dakota's state capitol, with some nice fall colors surrounding it

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Closeup of the capitol

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One of the newer housing developments in the hills surrounding Bismarck

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That's the interstate 94 bridge crossing the Missouri River between Bismarck and Mandan

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I like the colors of the trees in this photo

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I also like the colors in this photo

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Much farther east in North Dakota, near Jamestown, there are numerous small "lakes"

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I like the contrasts in this picture; you have a tan wheat field, green grass, blue water, and symmetrical power poles, among other things

Having gone on this little "mini-trip," I do believe that I have found the place that I want to go to on vacation next year. Not only would I like to see more of southwestern North Dakota, but I would also like to once again tour eastern Montana between, oh, Glendive and Billings. The last time I saw this countryside, I had a broken leg, and consequently, I did not have all that good of an experience.

Monday, October 03, 2005

It's No Longer Summer

This week looks as if it will usher in the transition from summer to fall, as temperatures are not forcast to warm above 50°F for at least the next three days in the Grand Cities. On top of that, a winter storm watch has been issued for the area:

... Winter Storm Watch in effect from late Tuesday night to
Wednesday afternoon...

The National Weather Service in Grand Forks has issued a Winter
Storm Watch... which is in effect from late Tuesday night to
Wednesday afternoon.

An accumulating snow is possible from late Tuesday night into
Wednesday. Low pressure moving out of the central rockies will
head south of the region during this time... creating some rain at
the start... with the rain changing to snow as colder air gets
pulled down from Canada Tuesday night. By Wednesday morning... the
precipitation should be all snow for Devils Lake and the northern
valley... with a mix of rain and snow elsewhere. The potential
exists for a snowfall accumulation of 4 inches or more throughout
the watch area by Wednesday afternoon. Exact amounts are dependent
in part... on the time of changeover and the relatively warm
surface and soil temperatures. Wind speeds in the 20 to 30 mph
range may gust at times to 45 mph... causing visibility reduction
as the snow falls... but blowing and drifting of snow should be
minimized by the wet nature of this early season snowfall.

A Winter Storm Watch means there is a potential for significant
snow... sleet... or ice accumulations that may impact travel.
Continue to monitor the latest forecasts.

The colors of the leaves on the trees are near their peak here in Grand Forks, however. I want to try to get out to take some photos tommorrow, and I'd like for it to be snowing during the time, since that would make for some pretty pictures. I see the cold front hasn't yet come to the Twin Cities, though, since Minneapolis is currently reporting a temperature of 80°F (at 8PM on Oct. 3!). But don't worry, things will cool down there soon enough.

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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