Mitch's Blog 7.0

Mitch's Blog


Friday, November 25, 2005

Der Fünfundzwanzigste November

Today, November 25, is my favorite day of the year, since it’s my birthday. Thank you, Kayla, for remembering me and posting that little note on your blog. We don’t celebrate birthdays in my German class at UND, so it seems like ages since I last heard zum Geburtstag viel Glück.

As for my thanksgiving and birthday, everything went just perfectly. I slept most of today and yesterday away, but, even so, it’s nice to be able to take a nice, long sleep in my own bed in my own house. I wish Brainerd would have gotten the snow that the Twin Cities got today, since it really looks dreary around here. Plus, a good couple of inches of snow would have made for a nice birthday gift; it seems like it’s been quite a few years since the last time any significant amount of snow was on the ground during my birthday. Oh well, maybe there will be some snow on the ground in Grand Forks when I head back there on Sunday. There’s going to be some sort of annual ceremony to light up the trees on campus and in the community on Monday, and I’m sure some snow falling from the sky would make for a very Christmas-like appearance.

Turning to something different, while I was at the library Tuesday evening, I took some pictures of interesting magazine covers. As Tuesday the 22nd was the 42nd anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, I took pictures of and looked through all of the current affairs magazines from 1963 that the library has in its massive collection.

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Life magazine from December 6, 1963

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The Saturday Evening Post from December 14, 1963

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Der Spiegel from November 27, 1963

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Der Spiegel from December 4, 1963

Another interesting magazine cover I found belongs to a Der Spiegel magazine from a few weeks ago. If only this magazine article had been published last year and Herr P were a subscriber to Der Spiegel rather than Focus, I think we could have had a lot of fun in last year’s AP German class.

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Sunday, November 20, 2005

"I Went to the Sugar Factory and all I got was this Smelly T-Shirt"

So, a few things have taken place since the last time I posted. I thought it would be a good idea to talk about them for a little bit.

First of all, on the Wednesday before the big three-day Veterans’ Day weekend, I had a very special lab period for my Chemistry 221 class. My TA had decided many weeks earlier that we should forego having a lab before the holiday and instead take a field trip into the community to see some real-life chemists at work. So that’s exactly what we did.

All 25 or so of us in the two lab sections – plus a couple of special guests – ended up getting the opportunity to go on a thorough tour of the American Crystal Sugar Company in East Grand Forks, Minnesota. After donning the appropriate gear (hard hats, goggles, and ear plugs), we got to see the quite involved and complex process of turning famous Red River Valley sugarbeets into the bags of Crystal Sugar that I’m sure you’ve all seen in the grocery store.

I, for one, really enjoyed the tour, and when I say that we got to see just about all of the seemingly unrelated processes that go into the production of sugar, I really mean it. I was able to witness everything from the contents of a large semi-truck full of beats being unloaded and put onto a conveyer belt leading into the factory to seeing the large rotating drum granulators drying the damp sugar crystals into the final product that either gets purchased by consumers or corporations.

By far one of the worse aspects of the tour was the fact that basically the entire factory emitted a very unique smell. Both the sugar beets themselves and the chemicals used to extract the sugar from them are quite odoriferous, and the smell is something akin to fresh oatmeal mixed with old garbage. It was very definitely not a pleasant smell, but, all things considered, it wasn’t necessarily all that bad either. I suppose you could say it was like the smell of skunk along the roadway: it’s not an enjoyable smell, but it’s also not an overwhelming or choking one either, and you even become accustomed to it after a little while. Needless to say, I made sure to immediately change my clothes once I got back to my dorm room. The quote used in this entry's title came from one of the factory chemists who was trying to think of what the factory would sell if it had a gift shop.

I’d rather not go into the specifics of sugar production, but if you do have an interest in the matter, you should head over to, a website set up by Crystal Sugar to educate people on the techniques of producing sugar.

By the way, I also learned that Crystal Sugar has a large presence up here in the Red River Valley. The East Grand Forks facility is just one of five sugar-producing plants that the company owns in the area, with the other four located in Crookston (MN), Drayton (ND), Hillsboro (ND), and Moorhead (MN). Amazingly, each factory produces around 2,000,000 pounds of sugar each and every day during the “campaign” period that runs from about September to May.

Turning now to a completely unrelated topic, the other interesting thing that I wanted to write about was my experience doing some service learning work last Monday and Saturday (the 12th). One of the requirements of getting the semesterly tuition waiver for the Honors Program at UND is completing a minimum of 12 hours of service learning projects during the semester. Up until the 12th, I had only gotten 1 hour of involvement placed on the record books. I had some service learning to do. So, at about 6 PM on Saturday evening, I went over to the North Dakota Museum of Art, which is one of the buildings on campus and only a short walk from my dorm, to help out with the annual autumn art auction, an event that draws numerous (upwards of 300) well-off people from the Upper Midwest and Manitoba to Grand Forks for the evening to buy expensive (mostly over $400) pieces of art created by regional artists.

I had signed up weeks before the auction to help clean up everything at the end of the event, but after realizing that that wouldn’t earn me very many of the 12 hours that I needed, I decided to show up 30 minutes before the auction to see what sort of assistance I could provide.

There was only one other person signed up to do the thankless job of dishwashing, so I got to help out with that undertaking. It really wasn’t all that bad though, considering that most of the “dishes” were either big bowls that had held the hors d'oeuvres or wine glasses that could be placed into, to use one of my favorite ultra-long German words, a Geschirrspülpulvermaschine (dishwasher). There were a lot of wine glasses, though. Hundreds of them, in fact.

Meanwhile, on Monday, I went back to the museum to help set up the latest exhibit, a collection of flamboyant sculptures and glass works by Rochester (MN) artist Judy Onofrio entitled “Come One, Come All.” I was invovled largely with the unpacking of all of the pieces of art from the large wooden crates they had been sent in and then laying the pieces out so that they could be assembled by people who both knew what they were doing and were also willing to take the blame for anything that broke. I also helped clean up the museum so that it would look presentable for the opening of the exhibit.

I never would have thought that I would enjoy spending time in an art museum, but the North Dakota Museum of Art is a pretty interesting place. I’m glad that it’s a part of UND. It’s by no means a gigantic art museum (it’s housed in a former two-story gymnasium nearly 100 years old), but it is nice to have some good, unique art make its way up to the area. In addition, exhibits change about every 6 weeks, so there always seems to be a constant array of “new” art for visitors to look at.

To wrap this entry up, I thought I would post some pictures around campus that I took last Thursday while the Upper Midwest was experiencing its first rush of arctic air this season. The 18°F temperature during the time I took these photos felt really nice, and the dusting of snow that Grand Forks received during the day made yearn for the snowy days of winter.

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All it took was one night of near-zero temperatures for the coulee to freeze

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Here's another picture of the frozen coulee

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Here's a stubborn tree that hasn't yet given up its leaves

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Here's a view looking out the window in my room toward all-female Johnstone Hall

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The spot where Johnstone Hall and all-male Smith Hall connect to one another is the other view I can see from my window

Friday, November 04, 2005

Remember Oates?

I wanted to provide a quick update to basically say that I don’t have much to write about. Unless you want to note the fact that I picked up volume two of the fifth edition of Stephen B. Oates’ Portrait of America from the "free books" table outside the History Department’s office on Tuesday, not much has been going on. With that said, I suppose you may have noticed that a lot of the pictures on this blog suddenly and mysteriously disappeared about a week or so ago. This incident was out of my control, as it happened due to the fact that Yahoo – without warning – decided to shut down my account. The official reason I was given was that I had violated some part of Yahoo’s Terms of Service, although I’m still not positive that I know exactly what part of the contract I violated, and nobody at Yahoo has yet decided to let me know. Needless to say, I had to suffer without any sort of Yahoo services for the better part of a week as I waited for customer service to handle my appeal to try to get my account back to normal. I finally did get my account back on Thursday afternoon, but since Yahoo has still not sent me an email telling me what’s going on, I have no idea whether access to my account is merely temporary.

I still have some pictures to share from a long, long time ago and I will probably make an attempt to upload them sometime later today or on Saturday. I have sort of a glut of photos right now that I’ve been meaning to share for a while, but I just haven’t gotten around to doing so. Speaking of pictures, I got an early birthday present when I went home last week – a Canon Digital Rebel XT. As far as I’m concerned, I couldn’t have selected a better camera. The Digital Rebel XT, also known as the Canon EOS 350D, is a professional-grade 8 megapixel beauty. The lens I decided to pick out was the EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM, a nice standard zoom lens that can handle both wide angle and telephoto shots with ease. Of course, since the Rebel XT is an SLR camera, I can always upgrade to any one of the many SLR lenses in the future.

Meanwhile, it’s the time of year here at UND to begin registering for spring classes. Whereas the official date to begin signing up for courses is sometime in the middle of November, I’ll be able to sign up next week. Early registration is one of the benefits of being in the honors program. Here are the classes I’m considering taking:
Chemistry 222 – Fundamentals of Chemical Analysis
Chemical Engineering 102 – Introduction to Chemical Engineering
Mathematics 166 – Calculus III
German 202 – Second Semester German II
Honors 293 – Evolution & Society

My primary dilemma is the fact that I don’t know whether I should follow the track to major in chemistry or the track to major in chemical engineering. Hopefully the introduction to chemical engineering course will give me more answers. In any event, the university recommends that I take Chemistry 116 (Introduction to Organic and Biochemistry) if I intend to major in chemistry or Physics 251 (University Physics) if I intend to major in chemical engineering. I’ve just decided to be difficult, however, and not take either class next semester. Neither one is an absolute necessity for me to take my freshman year anyway, plus I don’t have any room in my schedule to handle another class.

This was a rather random post.

Previous Posts

Four Years Have Passed
Winter of 2007-08 Musings
7th Annual Top 10 Super Bowl Commercials
Another Birthday
A Beltated Update
2007 Vacation: Day 10 Summary
2007 Vacation: Day 9 Summary
2007 Vacation: Day 8 Summary
2007 Vacation: Day 7 Summary
2007 Vacation: Day 6 Summary


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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