Mitch's Blog 7.0

Mitch's Blog


Monday, January 30, 2006

Snowed In

To the surprise of a few meteorologists, a storm system full of moisture seemed to stall right over the Grand Forks area beginning on Saturday afternoon and lasting until Sunday evening. The temperatures were cold enough up in the air so as to make all the precipitation fall as snow, of which Grand Forks proper got between 8 to 10 inches. Other cities in the region, particularly those on the Minnesota side of the Red River, received more than a foot.

I went out on both Saturday and Sunday to take pictures of what I saw. Hopefully they aren’t too bright; they looked fine on the computer I processed them all on, but now that I look at them on my laptop, they all seem a little too overexposed. It could just be my computer acting up, however.

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This is Clifford Hall, home of UND's Aerospace Program

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On a normal day, you would be able to see a stoplight, a gas station, and an I-29 overpass from this location - not so when the snow is coming down at a rate of nearly 2 inches an hour

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Snowy cars

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Some people have fun near the fountain along the Coulee

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The prairie eagle has some snow on its wings

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The snake is also snowy

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This is a snowy University Avenue, the main street that goes through campus

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Those people pictured above next to the fountain were building a snowman

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The eternal flame continues to burn in the snow

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Like Another Country

Update: As expected, Stephen Harper and his Conservative Party won Canada's election. However, like the Liberals before him, Harper will have a minority government. Though the Conservative Party won the most seats in parliament, it only won a total of 40% of them.

Appropriately enough in regards to my last post, the front page article of Sunday’s Grand Forks Herald commented on Monday’s election in Canada. I’m going to post it here for everyone to read.

A couple of notes are in order first, however. Emerson, Manitoba (the city featured in this article) is the first Manitoba city a traveler will see if arriving in Canada either via I-29 in North Dakota or U.S. Highway 75 in Minnesota. The entire city is literally within walking distance of the United States-Canada border.

Also, one thing that sort of goes with this article is something played on the CBC news a few nights ago. There was a report discussing how in Canada, like other countries around the world, the participation rate of young people – those just old enough to vote – continues to decline. To help combat this, one school district in one province (I think it was Ontario, but don’t quote me on that) set up a mock election for grade four students to take part in. The teacher who created the program was interviewed, and she said that firstly she wanted to turn voting into a “fun” activity that children will be encouraged to partake in when they receive the right to vote in a real election. Secondly, she designed the program because when she asked her class if they could name the current prime minister of Canada, the majority answered...George W. Bush.

CANADA NATIONAL ELECTION: Like another country
Canadians know their politics and elections are foreign to American neighbors
By Ryan Bakken
Herald Staff Writer

"U.S. citizens can converse well about their own issues, but they don't show much interest in Canada, Europe or just about any other place in the world."
Thomas Demydowich

"The United States is Big Brother to most of the world. The reason we know so much about the United States is that whatever happens there directly affects us. What happens in Canada is mostly insignificant to what goes on in the rest of the world."
Bruce Rae

EMERSON, Man. Thomas Demydowich and Bruce Rae are long-haul truck drivers who travel across the United States.

Two of the 650 residents of this Manitoba town that is just across the border, they are partly amused and partly miffed about Americans' ignorance of Canada.
"Some don't even know we're neighbors with the United States, and some think Canada is the 51st state," Demydowich says with a chuckle over morning coffee in Tara's Place restaurant.

"U.S. citizens can converse well about their own issues, but they don't show much interest in Canada, Europe or just about any other place in the world."
They suspect that most Americans even their neighbors a few miles away in North Dakota and Minnesota are unaware of the national election Monday. Canada will elect all 308 members of its House of Commons, allowing the party that earns the most seats to name the country's prime minister.

But they understand if Americans aren't as interested in their politics as they are in U.S. politics.
"The United States is Big Brother to most of the world," Rae said. "The reason we know so much about the United States is that whatever happens there directly affects us.

"What happens in Canada is mostly insignificant to what goes on in the rest of the world."

Improved relations?
So, Rae, Demydowich and others at morning coffee in Tara's Place don't believe their election will have much of an impact south of the border. The only change, they say, may be improved diplomatic relations with the United States if the Conservatives take power from the Liberals. The Conservatives have favored closer ties to U.S. administrations.

But closer diplomatic relations with the United States are either good or bad, depending upon who's talking.

Conservative leader Stephen Harper's politics are aligned more closely with President Bush's. Prime Minister Paul Martin, the Liberal leader who trails in the polls by about 10 percent, is trying to make political hay out of that connection because Bush is not popular in Canada for multiple reasons, the biggest being the war in Iraq.

One Martin television commercial asks Canadians if they "would like to see George Bush's room valet as their Prime Minister."

That pitch is more effective in eastern Canada than in western prairie provinces such as Manitoba. Southern Manitoba is especially known as a Conservative stronghold, at least when it comes to national elections.

They're not fans of the gun registration laws and especially not Martin's campaign proposal to ban all handguns. Their biggest national issue and contention with America may be free trade. Whoever can better open the border to trade will win favor here.

"The big hang-up with America around here is free trade," Vince Lane said. "They don't want our hogs or cattle, and they're putting tariffs on our corn and our softwood lumber.

"Canada lives up to the free trade agreements, but America puts up roadblocks. Until that is settled, it makes it hard to get along with your neighbor."
Rae said he usually votes Liberal, but still was undecided on his vote a few days before the election. The Liberals have been in power for 12 years.

"Like everyone else who gets in power for a long time, they've gotten too big for their britches," Rae said.

Corruption is the underlying reason for the election. The Liberals, before Martin was prime minister, were diverting government money to supporters.
A national election is called when the ruling party fails to pass a significant piece of legislation. When that happens, it's called a no-confidence vote and an election is called.

The Liberals are in power despite not having a majority of members in the House of Commons. Because Canada has five parties with seats in Parliament, alliances are formed to pass legislation. The Liberals were bolstered by help from the socialist New Democratic Party.

Although polls indicate the Conservatives may earn the most seats, it's unlikely that they will gain a majority.

"If we have another minority government, the election will be just a waste of a pile of money," retiree Gordon Breckon said. "All those politicians put a little money in their pockets, but these guys got caught. I don't know if the election will change things at all."

Breckon takes the Conservative position on many issues, but also fears that the party might privatize health care.

"Our health system has its faults, but at least you don't leave someone out on the streets," he said. "It doesn't turn anyone away."

There's also some sentiment that the local Conservative representative Vic Toews would earn a powerful minister position if his party came to power.
The election campaign has lasted less than two months. But that's too long for

"I'm sick of it," he said. "They all promise that they're going to cut our taxes and also give us more money and services. I didn't go to high school, but I can figure that out."

Winning votes
Campaign developments, polls and political advertising have been the buzz of coffee hour for weeks, but absent are arguments over who should win.
"We don't wear our politics on our sleeves like in the United States," Rae said.
There's one sure way to win votes in Emerson and many other border cities. Any candidate who could guarantee easier border crossing would be popular. The difficulty of crossing into the United States is a major irritation to residents here. So is the closing of the Noyes, Minn., border to southern traffic, an act that has damaged the local economy.

"With the traditional open border, our economics and culture intermingled so much, it was like an imaginary line," Rae said. "Since 9-11, there's a gate to go through to visit our brothers and sisters in the United States.
"Freedom has been taken away. It's hard to live with, on both sides of the border."

Copyright 2006 Knight Ridder
All Rights Reserved

Friday, January 20, 2006

In All Thy Son's Command

There will be a big event taking place on Monday north of the border, and chances are you don’t even know about it. Canadians will go to the polls to vote in one of the fiercer elections for prime minister in recent years.

Since I regularly watch the news from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) here in Grand Forks, I have been paying attention to the election ever since Canada first discovered in late November that it would be voting on January 23rd. It’s been highly interesting to see how another country, besides the United States, conducts an election, as well as to follow along with all of the noteworthy events that inevitably happen in any campaign.

But it’s also been interesting to see, first hand, how a parliamentary form of government is operated. On the one hand, I like how in Canada’s system (and a lot of other parliamentary systems in the world), nobody can really say for certain when, or even if, an election will take place until the precise moment when the current prime minister dissolves parliament and issues a date for an election. Unlike in the United States, where a presidential campaign generally begins one (or even two) years before the actual election date, Canadian campaign seasons only last for as long as the prime minister sets the election season, which is usually anywhere between two and three months.

People don’t vote specifically for the prime minister; rather, the person who becomes prime minister is technically just a regular politician seeking office in whichever district he/she lives in. The only difference between this politician and the ones in the other districts is that whichever party this person affiliates her/himself with has designated him/her as the party’s leader, which basically just means that, should the party that this person represents win at least a plurality in the election, this person will become prime minister. In Canada, it’s also actually possible for a party leader to lose the election in whatever district he/she represents and still become prime minister, but I won’t go into that here.

All that you need to know about Canadian politics is that there are two major political parties and two fairly influential “third parties.” The two major parties are the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party and the two sizable “third parities” are the New Democratic Party (NDP) and the Bloc Québécois, which is almost exclusively found in Quebec and has pushed for Quebec independence in the past.

The Liberal Party has had control over the post of prime minister for well over a decade, even though its influence began to wane after the 2004 election, after which it formed merely a minority government in parliament. This means that, though the party held the most seats in parliament and got to install the prime minister, it did not hold over 50% of the seats – it merely had a plurality of them.

Of course, it’s not that hard to see that any party that has a pluralistic majority is going to run into some problems with its competitors in trying to effectively govern. The Liberal Party did have this problem, but that’s not what took it down. Rather, the party became involved in a big and complicated scandal that basically involved spending a lot of Canadian taxpayers’ money highly irresponsibly.

So two unlikely partners, the Conservative Party and the leftist NDP got together in late November to take advantage the Liberal Party’s folly and plurality in parliament by calling for a special parliamentary vote – a vote of no-confidence toward Paul Martin and his Liberal Party. As expected, the vote passed, and, for the first time in Canada’s history, a parliament was dissolved solely on a vote of no-confidence.

That was eight weeks ago. When the parliament was dissolved, a lot of political analysts figured that, despite the scandal, the Liberal Party would still stay in power because, at the time, the other parties did not appear to have as good of leaders or as solidified of platforms.

Right now, however, it’s become essentially a sure thing that, come Monday, the Liberal Party will fall from power. The most likely person to replace Paul Martin as prime minister is the leader of the Conservative Party, Stephen Harper. He’s run a highly successful campaign that has both effectively reminded Canadians of the Liberal Party’s scandalous ways as well as shown him to be a good orator and compassionate citizen.

Thanks to the mess that the Liberal Party created, the NDP – under the direction of Jack Layton – has also gone up in ranks and, on Monday, will likely have one of its stronger showing in years, not to mention that it should, along with the Conservative Party, be influential in taking away parliamentary seats from the Liberal Party. Despite this, I sort of get a bad feeling about the NDP, thanks to the almost pathetic way it has been begging for votes. The NDP’s primary strategy to try to sway fed-up Liberal Voters who, more than likely, share a lot of the ideological views as the NDP and tell them that they ought to lend the NDP their votes. That is, all we’re asking is for you to vote for us just this once. You won’t ever have to again, we promise!

All of this begs the question, what about Paul Martin and his Liberal Party? Although it would never admit it, the party sorely looks like it will be a tattered and defeated thing on Monday. Still, Mr. Martin continues to tread through Canada desperately trying to remind Canadians how much they need to fear Stephen Harper and his conservative ideology. The Liberals often say that a Harper-led government would be much more like a George W. Bush government than the European-style government that they have been trying to encourage for the last few years. Like the NDP, the Liberal Party also seems to be running around begging for votes at this point. Still, I must admit, Canadians should be terrified of a George W.-style regime in their country. The Liberals indeed may have been the driving force in keeping Canada from turning further into a mini-USA in the past six years or so.

Without a doubt, the Liberal Party has produced the best television attack ads during this election. The “Choose Your Canada” series of ads often use sarcasm or tongue-in-cheek humor to harass the Liberals’ nemesis, Stephen Harper. I recommend going to the Liberal Party’s site, right here, and viewing some of the ads if you have time. The “Washington Times,” “Diversity,” and “Campaign Promises” are especially good.

Whether those ads have actually helped the Liberal Party’s cause is up for debate. But once the results of the election are known on Monday, I will post an update. C-SPAN or one of its other two channels will probably replay the CBC’s news coverage on Monday as well.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

My Snowshoes and I

I’m back in my room in Grand Forks after getting back here late Monday afternoon. The drive back was particularly appealing this time, since Monday was the first sunny day that most of Minnesota had seen in more than 19 days. I also think it was the first time I’ve experienced good winter weather on the journey from Brainerd to Grand Forks. I really like how the countryside here looks under a nice blanket of windswept mounds of snow; take away the already low number of trees here and I’d like to think you’d get something that looks similar to Antarctica. Or so I’d surmise.

My vacation was all right, even though I wouldn’t have minded it being a bit shorter, since the last week was a bit boring. I think it’d be a better idea to stick that week off somewhere else – like a week-long fall break akin to the week-long spring break or something. I guess that wouldn’t be all that practical, though, since it would require school to start even earlier or continue on even closer to Christmas Eve.

Before I went back to school, I did manage to get something accomplished: I cleared my computer of unnecessary files and, in so doing, gained back some hard drive space that I had desperately yearned for. My hard drive wasn’t in danger of becoming completely full, but it did seem like the amount of free space was getting smaller and smaller each day.

So, what I did was get rid of a few programs that I had no use for as well as delete a bunch of insidious Windows files that, although largely unnecessary, sit on your computer indefinitely, taking up space that could be better used for something else.

All told, I cleared out 3.5 gigabytes of unneeded, unwanted files. I think that a good gigabyte of that came just from “temporary” files such as photos and scripts that Internet Explorer hid deeply within my computer. I discovered yet another reason to switch to using the Firefox browser, since it allows you to not only easily clear all of the files it caches and saves, but will also limit the amount of hard drive space that it devotes to these files. The default amount is 50 megabytes, a pretty miniscule amount in comparison to Internet Explorer’s space-hoarding ways.

To top the cleaning off, I ran Adaware to check for spyware and other assorted junk and then ran Regcleaner to deeply clean out the registry. It mostly got rid of links that referenced files that no longer existed.

Way back in November, when I was home for Thanksgiving, I got one of those external USB hard drives in hopes of being able to expand my total hard drive capacity and backup all of my (music and photo) files. I didn’t actually get around to opening the box of the drive until last Sunday, but, even so, I was pretty impressed with what I saw. I was able to hook the drive up to my computer and, after a round of partitioning and formatting, I transferred approximately 17 gigabytes of data. The whole drive holds 160 gigabytes total, so I’ll definitely have a while before it is completely full. Perhaps the nicest thing about it, though, is the fact that I can bring the drive back to school with me and have access to all my files from my computer at home.

The whole purpose behind all these shenanigans was really twofold. First, I wanted to be prepared for the switchover to Windows Vista when it is released later this year and, second, I wanted to also be prepared to purchase a new computer sometime after the new operating system is released.

In other news, I also went to Mille Lacs Kathio State Park over vacation to make use of something I got for Christmas: snowshoes! I snowshoed a bit down the self-guided snowshoe trail that goes through a bog and then also went down to the small waterfall formed by a dam on the Rum River that runs through the park. It was a lot of fun, too. There’s really nothing to walking with snowshoes; it’s like walking with fins instead of feet. And it's a whole lot easier than trudging through the snow with your legs sinking into it with every step.

Anyway, here are some pictures I took:

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This picture is of the frozen Mille Lacs Lake. Sorry about the noise in the picture, but the ambient lighing required me to shoot in ISO-400 mode.

Sunday, January 01, 2006


Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

I am looking forward to what 2006 brings, even though I know right now that it will personally be nowhere near as exciting as 2005, which will likely be one of the most unique years that I experience in my lifetime. Two events happened in 2005 to me that will never happen again for as long as I live: I graduated from high school on May 28, 2005 and then began college on August 19, 2005. So, all in all, I guess you could say that 2005 was a good and happy year for me. Hopefully 2006 will be too!

By the way, I’ve been a big fan of the Weather Underground ( ever since I discovered the website, oh, back in 1998 I guess. Out of all the weather-related websites out there right now, The Weather Underground is by far the best organized and offers the greatest amount of different features. There are some things on, like the full assortment of National Weather Service radar types, that you have to pay big money to view on other weather websites. Besides that, there are even other features, like the forecast model maps and astronomy charts, that are simply not available at places like Although The Weather Underground is completely free, the free website is plagued with all sorts of ads. So that’s why I recommend buying the year-long subscription to the website that, amazingly, only costs $5 – a penny a day.

And that brings me to my purpose in promoting As a subscriber to the website, I’ve received the opportunity to give a full year gift membership to anybody I want. I have yet to find anybody who could use a gift subscription, so, rather than letting it go to waste, I thought I would offer it up on here. If you’re interested, just leave a comment on this post and I’ll get you the directions for redeeming the membership.

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
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2007 Vacation: Day 6 Summary


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Mitch's Blog began on December 23, 2001