Category Archives: Harry’s Diary

Good manners count – so to do donations

I was tied up much of the morning but I got an hour-and-a-half to pass out snow sculpture trading cards at Chester Bowl’s Fall Fest. I passed out roughly 250 cards. They went almost exclusively to children and I was impressed how nearly uniform their parents were in encouraging them go say thank you to me.

Like Minnesota Public Radio my campaign is always open to donations which can be made here on line.

I would like to think that I have many more potential helpers out there and I’ll start something of a drive for donations soon. More expenses are looming and I daren’t drop them if I want to have a chance to serve another term of office through 2020. Beat the drive. A lot of the kids who got my card had eyes that sparkled and even their parents couldn”t help but smile.

On 21st Av and 4th St. – Two steps forward one step back

A few days ago I took a picture through the blue spruce of the curbing that had been set into the big dig at my intersection. It suggested a speedy end to the month of construction.

It was not to be so speedy after all. My wife’s sister and family came up for a visit on Thursday where a brand new hole had been dug in the filled in excavation. There were huge yellow tubes laying on the ground nearby. My sister-in-law’s husband said they were probably gas pipes. He said they were bumble bee yellow for a reason.

Sure enough some of the workers told me that after they had laid the original gas lines the massive concrete sewer passages had been poured above them. Inspectors came around and made the gas specialists dig their smaller pipes out from under the tunnels to reroute them where they would be less prone to crushing by the massive sewers above. They told me it would likely add a week to the completion of this phase of the project at our busy intersection.

This morning it looks like the hole having been refilled is getting leveled for a big concrete pour.

Progress always has its steps backward.

Mischievousness in the pursuit of Sanity, Justice, Competence and other Miscellaneous virtues . . .

. . . And why it would be a damned shame if I am not reelected to the Duluth School Board this year.

Here’s a visual metaphor to explain my reasoning taken from a mural I painted in our church’s children’s rooms twenty years ago:

This is a picture of a small boy sneaking his head under the Red Tent. Twenty years ago the novel The Red Tent was so popular that church women across America began decorating Sunday School Rooms to look like the Red Tent. Because of my snow sculpting people in Glen Avon assumed that I could paint too. Well, I could use an over head projector. I could paint within lines – coloring book fashion. And I can improvise. When asked to paint a scene of a desert on the wall of a room painted red like the book’s tent in the Era of Jacob, who wrestled with the Angel, I gave it my best. (You can see the full mural and others on this page of my old website Snowbizz.com.)

Not having read the book there is, to my knowledge, no child peeking into the tent but I thought putting one on the wall doing just this, seemed appropriate for a Sunday School classroom. I borrowed a Sunday School student wearing a shepherd’s costume from our Christmas pageant.

As for the metaphor – that could me me peaking into the sacred precincts of our Schools or Government or the News Business just like I do when I pick up a history book. And I read lots of them. But unlike that little kid looking into the Red Tent I’m 66 years old and I have taught myself to write and report and look at big mysteries critically for most of my adult life. Few people in Duluth have the breadth of knowledge and experience I have when it comes to the Duluth Schools. Furthermore, I don’t keep it all to myself. To many people’s chagrin I share much of it with the public. As this election season goes on I will be sharing more.

But I’m an acquired taste. Not everyone likes my peeking into the tent or under rugs especially the folks who have swept disagreeable things under the rug to keep them out of sight. But peeking under the rug is called “transparency” and everyone says (officially) that its all the rage except for our President who calls it “fake news.”

I have been pretty subdued in the blog this summer. I’ve had other things to do – organize a school board campaign, visit China, garden, walk door-to-door. But the actual General Election is seven weeks away and my readership has doubled recently. Its time for all the blogging I’ve postponed to kick into a higher gear. There is so much to share.

I truly believe my being on the school board is absolutely vital to moving our schools into the future that the Red Planners promised Duluth. But the Trib, in looking for some magic solution, once again endorsed neophytes (newbies). I must say that the neophyte they endorsed over me as a “fresh face” in 2007 helped make the School Board distrusted while remaining completely ignorant of our downward spiraling finances for her entire eight years on the Board. Likewise, they endorsed a young thing, elected with me in 2013, who’s lone witnessing of an alleged assault (even the so called victim denied it) plunged the School Board into two years of farce. And now, once again, the Trib is trusting neophytes in the hope that their ignorance will give us bliss.

Mine isn’t a blanket condemnation. While looking for their editorial endorsements I stumbled into their videos of the school board candidates in the first few minutes of the Trib interview. I recommend looking at them. I was pleased with mine.

As for me sneaking under the tent, Well, my tent sneaking evidently caused a ruckus at the Trib leading to the replacement of one of the Editorial Board members. I’ll explain my theory in the next post as I ramp up my coverage of the School Board and campaign to rescue the District from a status quo of “Ask no questions.”

From one Artiste to another

Artist, James Zotalis

Caption: The Cathedral of Our Merciful Savior, 1862 – 1869 Faribault, Minnesota. The first church in America to become a Cathedral

Trading card collection of snow sculptures 1987-2017, by Harry Welty

There is apparently a religious conference in Duluth at the moment. One of its attendees is a Mankato classmate of mine, James Zotalis, an Episcopal Priest currently serving near Rochester, Minnesota. He gave me a call last night to see if I was at home. A friend from Duluth was having a heck of a time finding his way in the dark to my home with the intersection at 21st Ave blocked and darkened.

Jim had been regaling his friend with his story about a trip to Washington D.C. in the slummer of 1971 and the tour his old classmate, Harry Welty, then a Congressional summer intern, gave him of every nook and cranny on Capitol Hill. The host mentioned that Harry only lived a few blocks away. Jim called me while en route and, after a comedy of errors with phones acting up during instructions on how to get past roadblocks, we had a brief, cordial reunion in my driveway. I’d last seen Jim when I spent a weekend in his old stomping grounds, Faribault, which I visited to research a former Duluth School Superintendent.

Jim was serving an historic Minnesota Church at the time and introduced me to some Faribault folks in the same way as I introduced him to Capitol Hill. Before I left Faribault Jim gave me one of the prints of his depiction of Bishop Whipple’s church. Whipple was the priest who advised clemency to President Abraham Lincoln for the 300 Sioux warriors condemned to be hung in the aftermath of Minnesota’s Sioux War. When I mentioned that he had given me a copy he asked me if I’d read a book by a New York Historian about the incident. I hadn’t but I was well aware of the history. Its infamy lives on in our old hometown, Mankato.

When the subject of his artwork came up I paused and told him that it was time for me to reciprocate his generosity and ran into the house to find a deck of my snow sculpture trading cards to give him. His friend had already mentioned my prolific snow shoveling to him. Then he drove off into the night to resume his conferencing with a little trip to follow up the North Shore.

16 years ago on Snowbizz.com

I found this old image courtesy of the Wayback machine.

In 1999 Claudia and I had decided to take a little trip to New York to overlap a visit there by Duluth East’s a Capella choir which our daughter Keely was a member of. I got the chance to take a picture of them on Liberty Island with a great shot of the World Trade Towers behind them and directly above my daughter’s smiling face. Shortly after 9/11 I posted the picture as a small memorial to the lives lost in the beginning of what is now called the “War on Terror.”

Paper bags, Hurricanes, Credit Cards, Skipping Church to politic and the making of teenaged fanatics

8:10 AM! That’s when I woke up this morning. Its been months since I woke up that late after a long sound sleep. I give my 32,000 cell phone accounted steps yesterday the credit for that.

At eight last night I had four houses to go when the bag I was carrying tore open spilling out my campaign material. Today I patched up a bunch of the gift sized shopping bags I’ve discovered are perfect, other than their fragility, for holding the envelopes that contain my lit. Since my family is in Iowa for the big pot luck supper for Claudia’s family reunion I think I’ll skip church today and work on getting another good night’s sleep with another 30 thousand steps.

I got a call a minute ago. Claudia had trouble paying for breakfast with her credit card this morning and just learned that our card was hacked and is now caput. Thanks Equifax. Also her father got very upset in the sturdy home he was sent to and demanded to go to his own far more rickety home last night. That move was possible because Naples and Ft. Meyers on the Gulf Coast will be taking the brunt of Hurricane Irma.

I read a letter in the Trib today excoriating them for electing Donald Trump because of their mainstream coverage of the news and letting such racists as Eugene Robinson show up on the Editorial Page. I think Mr. Gerdes is a bit off. I agreed they were responsible but tendered a very different analysis in a post I wrote with a very different conclusion. To wit:

I could rest my case with a single editorial that is emblematic of their, finger-in-the-air-to-test-the-wind editorializing – their deplorable failure to point out that one of last year’s presidential candidates was a demagogue and a threat to our Democracy. The Trib was too chickenshit to choose an alternative to the Donald Trump.

I guess that if there is any good news from Trump’s election it is that as a demagogue he doesn’t believe in anything other than himself. Mr. Gerdes isn’t blaming Trump for backing off claim that illegals are rapists. No, he thinks the liberal columnist, Eugene Robinson, is a racist. Gerdes would rather blame the moderate sellout Republicans for letting the DACA dreamers future hang on Congress’s willingness to go along with Obama’s “unconstitutional” executive order. (I haven’t put that well. Its too convoluted but I hope you get the idea. I’ve got lit dropping to do so I don’t want to untangle this paragraph right now.) Where do thinkers like Gerdes come from?

A fascinating story on NPR this morning about a goody-two-shoes patriot gone bad had an interesting insight on the creation of malleable teenagers who become dogmatists like Gerdes. The author, a cousin of the goody-two-shoes, concludes that he’s the victim of too little “liberal arts,” eg. the lack of history being taught in the schools. He thinks it helps explain his cousin’s eagerness to accept nonsense drilled into him during the brutal training he got to become a Ranger. Sound like ISIS anyone?

That concern echoed a conversation I had yesterday as I went door to door. I told one person that I’ve seen our District strip the social studies faculty the same way schools stripped elementary schools of recess. The former denied kids challenges to their pre-conceived thinking the same way the latter deprived elementary kids the chance to run off their accumulating calories. We’re slower thinking and more sedentary and spending a lot of time reading Russian hacker generated propaganda on Facebook. It took Mr. Zukerberg a long time to figure out how to make money on Facebook. Electing Trump is one consequence of his success. That and an indifference to History.

CAMPAIGN PHOTO – DAY 60 AND COUNTING DOWN

This is the Lowell School where the League of Women’s Voters held the at-large candidate’s forum. I counted 36 people in attendance. Subtract the League officials and the PTA co-sponsors and the candidates and their friends and families and the Superintendent that probably left 8 civilians in attendance.

There is no recording of the event. My microphone didn’t work most of the time but I enjoyed myself and gave the shortest answers.

I gave up on door to door this morning because of the rain. Instead I opened up the book on General Stilwell and read to Claudia. We sat by a fire in our living room and managed to finish the chapter I’d been stuck on since China. it ended dramatically with the General successfully marching over a hundred castaways through the jungles of Burma just ahead of a Japanese invasion without losing a single person. When the newspapers back in the US quoted him about the Burma campaign he was terse and honest explaining that the Japanese had whipped the allies. This came after newspapers back home had reported that the Japanese were on the run. It was the beginning of his public fame as “Vinegar Joe” for not sugar coating hard truths. My kind of guy.

As I was heading to the League of Women Voters event Claudia was heading to a Tai Che class. When I got home she gave me a head’s up that the Duluth Reader will publish a scorcher of an attack letter against me tomorrow. It turned out that Bob Boone, its publisher, was also in the class and realized who she was. I guess he didn’t want me to be surprised. As I told Claudia it’s his job to print such letters. Claudia was impressed with Bob, the only male in the class, who she deduced was there because to support his wife. She thought that the huge Boone was very funny as he asked tough questions of a tiny, ancient, nun teaching the class.

There must be something in the water. First there was Gary Westorff’s snide comment on Facebook. There is this letter in the Reader, as yet unseen by me, and then I was sent to a link in the DNT’s website from Mike Miernicki commending the Trib’s editors for not endorsing me. I told the friend who sent it that I’d been tough on Mike and that I didn’t begrudge him his opinion. I think he’s as wrongheaded as ever especially considering the folks I talk to when I’m going door to door. Mike commended the Superintendent and pronounced him innocent of the Red Plan. I never told Mike that when I complained to the Superintendent about being kept out of contract negotiation talks four years ago Mr. Gronseth strongly suggested to me that there was just no reasoning with Mike about this. I have always doubted that Mike blew a gasket over my attending because, until Rosie Loeffler-Kemp was permitted to take my place, Mike sounded happy to let me take part.

I described the event after-the-fact here on the blog writing:

I know I’ve written about the episode but perhaps only in a hot email to Janna Hollingsworth or Art Johnston or Chair Miernicki. I was furious with the Superintendent and sent him an angry text message telling him how angry I was [as] I sat on a couch in his office while his tight little negotiations group met behind closed doors including Rosie Loeffler-Kemp a Board member with no more authority than me. It was Tim Sworsky that turned to me as I was about to follow everyone else in and told me I couldn’t come in. I didn’t blame him but I did blame the Superintendent and our Attorney for not following policy. He was just the designated bouncer. I let Mike Miernicki, who had agreed in a closed meeting that it was fine for me to attend, know too. Mike seemed confounded and caught in the middle. He eventually decided he had to side with the Superintendent’s position.

As for the rain. I took a little nap. (My grandson had crawled into bed with us at 2AM the previous night seriously cutting my zzzzzz’s.) Afterward, the sky looked better so I spent two hours going door to door after all. One fellow gave me a rapturous testimonial to his friend after I introduced myself. I doubt if Mike has ever talked with folks like that. He used his vinegar to try canceling Art’s 2013 election with allegations that never panned out. Frankly Mike and the Trib have a lot of gall to accuse Art and me of negativity. We were the victims of his Board’s wrath for having the temerity to request public data. I guess we can’t expect a newspaper to care about such things. But Mike likes that.

Snow sculpture Trading card 48 of 50

Three people have told me that pictures have failed to appear in my recent posts. I was afraid that would continue but judging by Ms. Congeniality up above I have figured out a fix. I make some points with snow but I’ve mostly relied on word pictures to make my points over the last 40 years. I believe my word pictures are the reason I will likely defeat most of the Duluth News Trib’s endorsees for the at large school board position…….that and the fact that yesterday on a gorgeous day I spent five hours passing out literature door to door.

I’m bad news…..which means I’ve helped sell a lot of the Trib’s papers over the years. But the bad news for the Trib is that I report what the Trib is unwilling to investigate because it could offend advertisers and big shots. I think that helps explain my snubbing.

Their main stated reason for denying me an endorsement was that I couldn’t stop harping about the consequences of the Red Plan which this entire town has to deal with – lost millions for the classroom, lost teachers, and lost students. As ever the Trib’s leadership, now tied to the conservative Forum Communications group, prefers blinders and hates reminders. Reminders that they rooted for the Red Plan and joined the angry chorus of Red’s fans who brooked no dissent from citizens like Art Johnston, Gary Glass and me.

I could rest my case with a single editorial that is emblematic of their, finger-in-the-air-to-test-the-wind editorializing – their deplorable failure to point out that one of last year’s presidential candidates was a demagogue and a threat to our Democracy. The Trib was too chickenshit to choose an alternative to the Donald Trump. But that wasn’t their first offense against democracy. I saw their indifference to the attempt by my former school board to subvert the 2013 election of Art Johnston with petty, overblown accusations of racism (false), conflict of interest (false), violence and assault (false) that cost the taxpayers $200,000 and the good name of the Duluth School Board. The Trib was so consumed by a desire for payback against Art, who shows them little respect, that they were willing to abandon an election to curry favor with the pro-Red Plan mafia who hate being reminded that they screwed up our schools.

I, on the other hand, spent all last year warning that a demagogue was running for President because I’ve read enough history to know what could happen. You have only to look down this blog’s list of subject categories on the right to find “Trump.” This shrewd, billionaire, ignoramus even earned a place in my trading card deck of snow sculptures. Its by far the most disgusting pile of snow I’ve ever put in my yard. Jabba the Hutt pales in comparison.

Today I will passing my cards out to the folks at Bay Front Park celebrating Labor Day. Today only one in ten Duluth families have union members. That’s a sad decline from the 1970’s when over 30 percent of Duluth families had union members. I remember this well because back then I was forlornly running for the legislature as a Republican (albeit a liberal Republican). I managed to make at least one friend, however, Mike Jaros, my campaign chairman. He was the Democrat I tried to knock off twice in 1976 and 1978.

I’m big at predictions and good at them. And I have a startling prediction to make now, not about the Schools but about the next Presidential campaign. If Robert Mueller can’t get the goods on Trump for an impeachment I think Trump’s got a good chance of being reelected. That is how much disarray I see in the Democratic Party.

And among Trump’s voters will the 70 percent of Duluth families who were in union households forty years ago.

I’ll be passing out my cards to the remnant of the old union movement today and I fully expect most of them to take their voting cues from the Red Plan problems that have been heaped on their children and grand children rather than the endorsements that their union leadership is handing down to them.

When I read the Trib’s editorial page I often I see the flattery of imitation. Their slogan (at least where our schools are concerned) could be: “fair and balanced.”

How’s that for a word picture?

PS. I’m a journalist at heart. I was tempted to start a boycott of the Trib during the early stages of the Red Plan but never did. The Press, however plagued with humans it may be, is central to democracy. Every great newspaper had their fallible and myopic leadership – New York’s Horace Greely, Chicago’s Colonel McCormick come to mind. And who can forget Citizen Cane?

I’ve subscribed to the Trib for 43 years and I hope to die thirty years from now with a Trib in my hands. I’m rooting for the paper. We need it even if their endorsements can sometimes disappoint. And I can’t help but like all those folks who snubbed me. They have given me a great motivation to campaign door-to-door from now until November. Like everybody else in this town – The Trib needs me on our school board – words, warts and all.

Oh, and here’s my inspiration:

You can order all 50 cards for a donation here: http://www.weltyforschoolboard.com/

Back when Republicans were likeable

The long planned E 4th street project has finally reached my home’s intersection on 21st. Avenue. Its a noisy mess which has been plagued with rain and huge pools of red water covering the clay turned up in the massive excavations. Dismantled street lights and absent traffic make for an eerie calm and darkness. Last night Claudia and I sat in the darkness over our sunroom lit by solar lights in flower pots listening to a young couple trying to navigate around the pit in the gloom. The man’s voice was full of imprecations about how he couldn’t see an effin thing and the woman’s voice was reassuring. “He’s not going to have that girlfriend for long,” I told Claudia.

This morning I went out to take some pictures from my neighbor’s front yard and gingerly stepped over a fresh pile of deer scat. The local wildlife doesn’t mind our inconvenience in the slightest.

A year ago Claudia and I signed over the temporary rights to our front lawn for a windfall of $800 to the County. When our sidewalk was removed a week ago the workers were careful not to damage our relatively new and expensive brick steps. We spent some to keep our home true to its original condition. I am a little worried that the diggers that dumped a ton of soil on the bottom two steps may have damaged them. I hope when its removed its done with men and shovels instead of a bull dozer.

The best yard in Duluth for showing off political lawnsigns has been temporarily transformed. The three at large school board candidates whose signs are laid out on the rhubarb I planted a couple of years ago sit forlornly unread by the 30,000 vehicles which usually breeze up and down our avenue every day.

I began to remedy that yesterday by passing out my upgraded literature on London Road. I was out with Kurt Kuehn. (Remember that’s pronounced KEEN) Kurt is challenging Rosie Loeffler-Kemp for the first District seat. We slapped up five signs on east London Road. Meanwhile dozens of another school board candidate’s signs went missing over the weekend. I hope ours don’t suffer a similar fate. And the frustration of lawnsign maintenance is why I have taken to putting up signs just a couple of weeks before elections rather than months beforehand. Ah, but there is a primary in a little over two weeks. The Trib has already started endorsing candidates for the City Council. No doubt the School Board endorsements are soon to follow. Yesterday I went to the DNT’s offices to get a new head shot taken. They’ve been using a nice photo from a few years ago when I was still wearing a beard and I had more pepper in my hair. Salt is making new inroads and I didn’t want people to think I was trying to disguise my age. As Ronald Reagan once said of Walter Mondale when folks were accusing the President of being decrepit:

Float like a butterfly . . .

For reasons that passeth my understanding I have been unable lately to upload my cell phone pics to the blog from my Flickr account. Well, Google also captures my pics and this is a Red Admiral Butterfly I caught on one of our garden’s cone flowers. The picture has nothing to do with anything I routinely blog about.

This one does:

Over the past four or five days I’ve put 20 plus hours into stuffing about 4,000 envelopes to pass out door to door. I added one more item to it that I didn’t pass out my first day going door to door before driving to Nebraska to watch the full eclipse. It has a little more meat to it. I was pleased with the op ed piece I wrote for the Tribune so I printed up 5,000 copies in hopes it might make my request for donations a tad more compelling. (I’d wager that less than one in three voters reads the Trib these days) I will resume passing out my literature tomorrow and will do so in such a way that the post office will not call me back to complain that my flyers are touching mail boxes.

One thing puzzles me. I caught 3/4ths of Barbara Reyelts’s interviews with school board candidates on Sunday morning (including mine) just as their News Director, Kevin Jacobsen, told me they would be scheduled. It may be Reyelts’ last appearance on KBJR. I can’t find them anywhere on KBJR’s website. That is unusual. The local TV stations do so little “public affairs” programming its surprising they would bury the little they produce. I heard that after the first interview, the one between Rosie Loeffler-Kemp and her challenger Kurt Kuehn (pronounced Keen), Rosie read Barbara the riot act. I missed that single interview Sunday but someone captured a blurry video of it. Rosie did not acquit herself very well. Mr. Kuehn did.

Rosie is Annie Harala’s close ally and both board members worked hard to recruit candidates with the help of folks like AFSCME’s longtime President, Alan Netland. They want to keep the balance of power unchanged on the Board after Annie’s departure. In fact, I’d say that all the new recruits they found sounded a bit fuzzy in the Reyelts’ interviews. Kevin Jacobsen is Annie’s husband so I can’t help but wonder if this helps explain why the interviews didn’t make it to KBJR’s website. Probably not, but then its hard at times not to scratch one’s heads over strange doings. In any case, their absence seems like a slap in the face to Barb Reyelts.

E Calypso

I am a driving wimp. I like to let Claudia drive while I read to her. A trip to the Cities clocking in at 2.45 hours is OK and I can manage the drive back on the same day. More than that – backbone daggers.

There was a broken bolt on a pulley for the serpentine belt. Not fixable. A trip that I thought was given a still birth came about because my daughter let me use her vehicle while mine was left in Hinckley for repairs. My Grandson and I didn’t get into a hotel until 9:30 PM far too late for a swim as I’d promised him. And the weather forecast for the next day suggested another long drive into iffy cloud cover. But it mostly worked out. I had an old map of Nebraska in an almanac and I evaluated all the roads along full eclipse’s route and matched it with semi-reliable day old satellite imagery.

I had to wake my reliable 6 AM riser grandson at 7:30 to get a move on. From 8 until we crossed into Mountain Time Nebraska we were shrouded in fog and then covered by dense clouds. It didn’t look good. We passed by the Rosebud Casino where I gassed up my daughter’s car. Tan huddled over his cell phone playing games and I listened to all two hours of NPR on Nebraska Public Radio. Trump’s going to give a speech. He’s going to imitate the foreign policies of the Presidents he called fools for not abandoning Afghanistan. At best, he’s an annular eclipse.

As I raced down back roads through Nebraska’s Sandhill country I saw small breaks in the clouds. I was heading in a zigzag west and south nearing but never quite reaching the panhandle. I had Tan look at my map and tell me the times in each of a half dozen tiny towns that the eclipse was expected to arrive and the mileage to calculate which one to head for. I decided that Tryon, Nebraska, was within reach and as good a bet as any right smack dab in the center of totality give or take a mile.

As we turned south the breaks in the clouds grew wider. Soon large swaths of sandhills had sun shining on them. We began to see cars pulled off on this remote road with folks setting up lawn chairs to get a view of the show. It turned out a lot of them were Minnesotans who had taken the same roads we had.

As the time for eclipse neared I pulled over to get our eclipse glasses out and instructed the Tan Man to see if a bite had been taken out of the sun. He thought so and I still had 30 miles to cover to get to Tryon. No problem. The show was going to take an hour from start to finish. I sped up and that did me in. Doing seventy to outrace an eclipse in a sixty mile per hour zone got me pulled over by the friendliest Highway patrolman in Nebraska. My heart lurched when he asked for the papers my daughter should have had in her car – registration and insurance. It took some digging in the glove compartment but we discovered it was all good.

As the moon progressed to an eighth of the distance the patrolman issued me a warning ticket. As I promised to abide by the speed limit he told me I was already in the epicenter of totality. Recounting the experience to the Texans who joined us later I explained that this patrolman would never see a busier day on this quiet stretch of backroad for the rest of his career.

The garrulous Texans, a 40-ish son and his cataract suffering father, had just made a nineteen-hour trip from Huston. They had just talked to another Minnesotan who had made a nine-hour trip. I allowed that we had come from Lake Superior further north and had 14 hours under our serpentine belts.

The patrolmen had followed me after ticketing me and I lost the steam to drive into Tryon perhaps another 12 miles ahead. I knew I would still get at least a minute of totality from the point of ticketing and, when I found a hilltop overlooking both east and west, I pulled off the road and climbed a short distance warning my Grandson not to step on a snake.

Sadly, one of the wispy clouds moved in as totality approached by which time we could no longer move out of its way. Still, we saw the coronal ring as the moon’s shadow passed over. A friend’s email afterwards noted that some folks found the experience spiritual. I replied that I had experienced it with a couple of gabby Texans.

Its been twenty hours of solo driving for me in two days. I’ve got another six or seven to go from the Sheratan in Sioux Falls. (We hopped in the pool at 9 last night.)

I Facebooked our experience and, for those of you who will have to wait until 2024 for the next eclipse over the US, I’ll whet your appetite with these modest pictures of our hour in and out of the Sandhills. Continue reading

Eclipsing my campaign

Couldn’t sleep last night. I’m heading out with my grandson to catch 2 minutes of total eclipse if we can find a route that will take us to cloud free skies. The Tan Man usually wakes up at 6 AM on his own. If he wakes in an hour and a half we’ll sneak out three hours earlier than I had originally planned. (Must take advantage of my wakefulness)

As I opened up the computer a headline that cried out for reading – I ignored it – said that people taking off for the eclipse will cost the U.S. economy $750 million. Heck, that’s half again more than the cost of the Red Plan. Its always helpful to have a guidepost to put things in perspective.

It might have been my mighty effort to pass out campaign literature yesterday that made sleep difficult. My cell phone’s exercise app said I spent 250 minutes walking yesterday. It was four hours under a reasonably hot sun and I suffered twice because because I hadn’t taken water with me to hydrate myself. The app said I put in 26,000 steps or something like that. I managed to pass out close to 500 of my lit pieces. That’s 1/20th of what I printed out. Unless it leads to some orders for my “trading cards” that will be the end of my door to door work because, as I have indicated before, I simply refuse to spend anymore on school board campaigns. You can tote up my expenditures if you check out all the candidates, including my own, campaign finance statements. Its me versus the DFL and the DFT. I’ve also contributed to some excellent candidates who I hope to serve with over the next four years should I prevail in the September primary and the November General election.

But, I’ll be out of town until Tuesday when I return for the next school board meeting. The following day, Wednesday, I’ll be interviewed by the News Tribune’s Editorial Board and resume my door to door work. Depending on the weather I should be able to increase my average daily lit dropping. I think my record two years ago when I was helping Loren Martell and Alanna Oswald was something like 36,000 steps.

The campaign for the Duluth School Board is simply that important to me. But I won’t let it eclipse the next couple days with my Grandson. Now I must go to my weather apps to see where the clearest skies are forecast.

Stuff it!

I face long hours stuffing envelopes to deliver door to door around Duluth. They are both information sharing and fund raising and they are the most fun I’ve ever seen in campaign literature. I got immediately bored and it occurred to me to show what its like to stuff envelopes and while I videoed myself.

I laughed at the ridiculous but true things I said about the Duluth Schools for ten minutes until I had to quit to go to Sunday dinner with my daughter’s family. The grandsons were going to get to eat two of the fish they caught yesterday. Here’s Uncle Craig helping take a fish off the hook. Both boys caught three. I only caught one. They were very happy about this.

And here’s a ten minute video of me stuffing envelopes and laughing, ruefully, at my own jokes about the plight of the Duluth Public Schools.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I6al15bThfs

If you don’t want to wait for me to put one of these invitations in your door to donate for snow sculpture trading cards you’d better order them online here: http://www.weltyforschoolboard.com/

Oh, and its 500 envelopes stuffed 9,500 to go……..and 10,000 door to stick them in before I order the next 10,000 envelopes.

Second to the last China Slideshow

I’m not quite sure what days of our trip these represent. We berthed in Wuhan two nights next to some not quite mothballed Chinese Naval vessels. We had a couple venues the first being a provincial museum dedicated to a remarkable tomb that had been uncovered in the 1970’s of Marquis Yi of Zeng. His grave was the first tangible proof of a pre-historical character before the unification of China in the Chin Era about the time of the Roman Republic.

Zeng had himself buried with a remarkable set of cast bronze bells. A larger more powerful state had a leader who coveted them so Zeng had them buried with him along with a dozen wives/concubines who had to commit suicide so the Marquis could have some company. Zeng calculated that the Chinese have so much distaste for ghosts that no one would invade his grave to recover the bells. Ghosts are still a powerful idea in China. All the old buildings we visited had door jambs with a raised area below the door for tourists to trip on upon entering. They were put there to deter ghosts who apparently carom off them like ball bearings in a pinball game.

Later that day we were guided to the local Walmart along a pedestrian only street of shops and stores. The goal was to find this Walmart’s living products, chickens, frogs, turtles, fish which the Chinese much prefer to have fresh rather than frozen. I got no further than the candy aisle and decided that a great gift for my Grandsons would be some mysterious hard wrapped candies. They were a hit except for the jackfruit. Both my grandsons and Claudia spit them out although I rather liked their creamy centers.

I followed the advice of our guide after leaving Walmart and turned down side streets to check out a typical neighborhood. It was not fancy living but even with ten million residents it was not a tenement. And as our guide said 90% of the folks had AC. And it was definitely another AC day so as long as the Three Gorges Dam was humming all was good.

Claudia wasn’t keen on shopping so I had gone solo and before I returned to the Emerald I hied it over to the City Park which ran along the Yangtze and which had recently been flooded. I saw no damage but walked gratefully under a canopy of trees filled with cicadas in full throat-ed fever to find a mate. I had been skunked for five days straight looking for one so I held on in the heat looking for one to snap a picture of. Finally, I found a small tree that was making a terrible racket and ducked my head underneath to check it out. Sure enough there were half a dozen of the cigar butt bugs flitting underneath its canopy courting. I finally got my picture. A good one.

Here’s the slideshow:
https://www.facebook.com/harry.welty/videos/10154537856956394/

On being up to my neck in alligators…

…and trying to remember that I came to drain the swamp.

I worked overtime before leaving for China to get all my projects tidied away so that when I got back I could have a running start on my school board campaign. On my return home I walked up to my office, after mowing an overgrown lawn, and found a pristine environment. I would so like to keep it that way but my head keeps finding new tasks which accrete little piles of debris which act like magnets for more debris.

Yesterday I could have worked on that debris but a call from Art Johnston Sunday night made me change my plans. Art had gotten tied up and would be unable to attend a pre-school-year conference of the Minnesota School Board Association he’d signed up for. Our District had paid a couple hundred bucks for him to sign up and he hoped I could make use of it. Its emphasis was to be “equity” and so I had been strongly inclined to go but weeks ago I was afraid my August would be so busy/chaotic I didn’t dare do so. But yesterday was empty on my calendar so I hopped in the car at 6 AM and trusted I could sweet talk myself into being Art when I arrived at 8:30 for registration. (A text to the superintendent requesting a little help even ended up with me getting my own name tag with my own name on it)

I’m very glad I went. A wise and funny speaker, Willow Sweeney, gave my day a boost and got me thinking. It got me thinking about a confession I wanted to write as a belated apology to my son. But I still have to finish editing a 500 word piece the DNT requested I send them regarding my campaign. I still have two more posts on China I’d like to write just to finish my modest report to the blog. And I’m monitoring the printing of my campaign fundraising letter which I will be delivering door to door in coming days. It will be contained in an envelope addressed to my house with a letter from my Chair Mike Jaros and one sample of my “trading cards.” There is no way I’ll get to all 30,000 houses in the District so if you want to make a contribution (and receive a full deck of trading cards) you better go to my campaign website to order before you die of old age.

By the way, I took some of those cards to the MSBA conference thinking they could serve as my new “business card.” I ended up only passing out a few. A half dozen went to African American board members and administrators. Their numbers are soaring over their numbers twenty years ago when I went with Mary Cameron to similar conferences. I’d judge they constituted a magnificent .016% of yesterday’s attendees. That is a ten fold improvement over what was closer to a .0016% twenty years ago. As one black superintendent told me when I gave him my card “people of color” would need to count on people like me (colorless I guess) for support on the equity front because there just weren’t all that many of them in positions of power in good old Minnesota.

By the way, the latest scores for the MCA’s came out (its THE test for the education gap between have and have not students) and Duluth’s numbers were at best mama hu hu. They had been announced earlier in the day and Alanna showed them to me in her conference papers in a very appropriate red ink. Our richest elementary school was heads above our poorest schools. Was that all the result of drawing from a richer population of parents or was it possible that the $300,000 they get each year from the Compensatory Ed money based on our “free and reduced lunch” population gave them an extra hard to justify jolt?

That’s what this election should be all about.

As for my room; I’ve got spending to record in my ledger and a campaign finance report to fill out and letters to stuff once I pick up them up from the print shop and lawnsigns to put together and some meetings to attend and another 8 News Tribs to go through from my vacation and and, and, and…..

That Civil Engineer who gave me grief in Memorial Park on Saturday about spending a million dollars to get rid of the rubber tire mulch asked me show him a bunch of my snow sculpture cards. “How do you find time to do these? He asked incredulously. I explained I had gotten pretty fast and that I did have 30 years to make them. “But what do you do that gives you time to build these?” he persisted. I surrendered and confessed that I married well, and a look of comprehension passed over his face. Not approval mind you. Just comprehension.

Trying to justify myself has always been the grain of sand in my oyster shell. Perhaps three sentences from the campaign literature side of my trading cards help justify my indolence. They explain something no one else in town has noticed about the property taxes we pour into our public schools. It reads:

Twenty years ago, 1997, local taxes were $23 million – $9M for debt service, $14M for classrooms. Today taxes are $31 million – $28.7M for Red Plan debt service, $2.5M for classrooms. That’s $11.5 million less for classrooms despite an $8M property tax increase!

At yesterday’s MSBA conference I only handed out my trading cards to one non minority attendee – Tom Melcher. Tom is the Department of Education’s top finance man. He has gotten to know me and my complaints about Duluth’s Red Plan so well that he said, “Hi Harry,” when I approached him. After his lucid presentation about the legislature’s changes to this year’s state education financing I gave him a card. (Maybe it was the one with Godzilla and Barney) I told Tom I would be getting in touch with him for his thoughts on its revelations. I’m looking for something, anything, to remedy the crimes of stupidity that took so much money away from Duluth’s children. Only $2.5 million from local taxes available for the classroom! That’s shameful and if our modest operational levy isn’t renewed none of our property taxes will go to pay for actual education. It will all have been dedicated to paying for beautiful new buildings. Well, the Beijing’s Olympic’s had very nice buildings too.

Look at them now. Or look at Brazil’s abandoned Olympic venues.

I wonder if their builders just tell everyone to move on?

Spirit Valley Days not. . .

. . . Spirit Mountain Days. I had two people correct me about that faulty post.

I attended the “family day” part of it late this afternoon and had a blast. That makes today my first official day of pressing the flesh. And most of it was with kids except that I didn’t offer them my hand to shake I offered them one of my trading cards.

Here is a picture I took of them this afternoon mixing them up so I could hand them out randomly at Memorial Park. One of the cards has a snow sculpture that I made 15 years ago at the park for the Spirit Valley Winter carnival. Valley, Valley, Valley! Got to get that right.

I told the kids that they were “snow sculpture trading cards” and the kids were so nice and polite thanking me for giving them the cards. “Did you make this?” was a typical reaction. To their parents I would say, “They are really political literature disguised as trading cards.” The parents seemed amused except for one fellow, a civil engineer, who wondered how I found the time to make them. “I had thirty years to make them” I sputtered. Then he turned around and pointed to the pile of pea rock by the Laura MacArthur playground and asked why the School Board had spent a million dollars to replace perfectly good rubber tire mulch that protected kids from falls with wood chips. I was not prepared to switch gears……not with a civil engineer! Heck, he told me, even California hasn’t said rubber tire playgrounds were unsafe and they think everything is bad. “Democrats!” he said, summing up his disgust.

Rubber tire mulch or not this is going to be a fun campaign. After I got back home a friend brought me some wire stands for my lawnsigns……I’d given all of mine away after the last campaign. Then another friend called to tell me that he/she would be putting an ad in the Duluth Reader sticking up for me next week. And I’ll probably have all that I need to start going door to door by Wednesday or Thursday. Maybe I’ll even find time to do some fundraising.

Anybody want to donate to my campaign for a deck of snow sculpture trading cards?

Making up for Chinese ceansorship

Finding myself denied the chance to send out greetings to Facebook left me with some pent up frustration. As my eight loyal readers know all too well, I hate being shut up.

So, I have put a second video “scrapbook” on Facebook of Days three and four. To my chagrin the video ends with this photograph in which my head is cut off. How very Chinese of Facebook.

Remember this picture when you see the last headless frame in the video.

This trip became more personal for me shortly after we visited the Great Wall. On our way back to Beijing we were taken to the “Ming Tombs.”

The Mings were the last indigenous Han Chinese to rule before the Manchu from north of the Great Wall invaded and reinvented themselves as the Ching Dynasty shortly after the English settlement of North America. Only after I entered the path with columns of paired animals to greet deceased emperors did I realize I was walking where my parents had stepped 35 years before on my Father’s sabbatical tour of the Pacific. If you look on the left column of the quilt my Mother made to remember her travels you will see the standing camels from the Ming Tombs. Claudia and I posed by one of the resting camels just past the standing camels which you can see on Mom’s quilt.

You may also have noticed the picture on the sign showing Mao tse-Tung and three comrades standing by one of the elephants. I took the occasion to pose by an elephant too although in a little more whimsical pose.

Our guide pointed out chips and cracks in the great statues that were inflicted on them during the Cultural Revolution when Mao’s youthful, know-nothing fanatics went about the nation burning and obliterating every object of ancient Chinese cultural veneration just like ISIS and the Taliban have done or like President Trump’s supporters are doing now to the “small D” democratic traditions of America.

The statues had been repaired by the time my parents visited and were there to greet me too. I can almost forgive the Chinese Communists for trying to tamp down the sometimes chaotic Democratic impulse. They are the latest dynasty, albeit an oligarchical one without a living emperor. Their emperor lies under glass an ancestor who’s picture is hung up to loom over Tienanmen Square.

type in “Mao under glass” and you will find a you-tube explanation that, along with all other YouTube offerings, is blocked in China.

In case Tiananmen Square is too remote from rural China Mao also finds himself on all denominations of bank notes.

China in the rear view mirror – Post 1

China may block Facebook but Facebook is pretty stingy about letting people easily share the posts they’ve put together. Last night after picking out several dozen of the 500 or so pictures I took with my cell phone I took a dozen from our first two days in China into a short Facebook “slideshow.” It is much quicker than browsing through a dozen photos and if you really want to see one you can pause the video. This is what I posted to Facebook about the first of several slideshows to come:

Sites from Beijing – view from our hotel and bus window, Tianamin Square and Forbidden City and the Dowager Empresses’ Compound. The Dowager is said to have brewed poisoned tea for one of her court rivals. Ever since Chinese have joked that the tea was “mama hoo hoo.” In English that means, so so.

https://www.facebook.com/harry.welty/videos/10154528702981394/

It took me ages to edit and upload what otherwise would have been simple posts had I been doing my work on my computer here in Duluth. I often did it in the middle of the night in the bathroom of our hotel or river ship’s state room. More of my fellow travelers were asleep then giving me more bandwidth and less wait time.

Half way through our trip I discovered one Internet necessity that the Chinese did not block – Wikipedia. That was a godsend and it was explained in a news story I read while abroad that said the authors of Wikipedia were particularly faithful to the notion of journalistic impartiality in their work. I guess even the People’s Republic could live with that although they probably have a small army of checkers who edit critical Wiki posts so that they comport with the Chinese view of the world.

In my video you will see some shots of Chinese that I did not ask permission to take. I hope they can remain as anonymous here as they were to me when I snapped them. I must stress that whatever international disagreements exist between our two nations the Chinese I met were very friendly. As my little tour group went around to various Chinese hot spots we were constantly being asked by more rural visitors to their nation’s iconic destinations to pose with them for pictures they could show to friends back home to prove they had actually seen exotic foreigners. Our guide told us that we are often referred to as “dabizi” (Dah-BEE-zee) meaning “big nose.” That and mama hoo hoo are part of the paltry Chinese lingo I acquired while traveling. The Chinese I met spoke English with a great diversity of competence.

2 minutes of random Shanghai traffic

Shot from the 11th floor of the Westin “Lotus” Hotel.

It’s being uploaded to YouTube. Will explain after our drive to Duluth this afternoon.

Best I can do while on my cell phone waiting to have my tires checked in Inver Grove Hts is share the link:

https://youtu.be/uCz4HW3tNUg

As I explained on Facebook:

“This is not a dramatic picture of the Great Wall or the Terracotta warriors but a mundane 2 minute video taken from our last day in China from the 11th floor of the Westin “Lotus” Hotel. Gov. Christie is defending President Trump on CNN in the background.

American street traffic is much more orderly but Chinese Internet and television traffic is even more orderly. No troubling news….unless it’s about the USA.”

On our first day in China, in Beijing, I found a startling sign in the 5 star Kerry Hotel that I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. I took a picture of what I found in the top drawer of the bedside table. It wasn’t a Gideon’s Bible.

Not a Gideon's Bible

It was a pair of free prophylactics.