Duolingo and learning lingo at an advanced age

I just spent some time reading a discussion site on my Duolingo ap. One person about my age had expressed frustration with how slow going it was to learn French at 67. She asked if there were other older learners who could give her tips. I just had to add my two cents. For anyone contemplating such an activity this is what I told Dranke (probably not her real name)

Good luck Dranke,

We are the same age and I started from scratch learning French on Duolingo 16 months ago just before my 67th birthday. I’ve had two streaks – 194 days when I quit because I had just begun a month long tour of France. 30 days later I started a 208 and continuing streak. I’ll have more to say after I share this link from yesterday’s New York Times about the limits of online language learning from someone who just passed a 500 day streak:


I don’t know if that will be an active link when I push post but if not just copy it and paste it into your browser.

The story is spot on but more dismissive of learning Duolingo than I am. I am not someone who simply redoes easy lessons to add points or win lingots or worry about owls. Everyday I try to cram new information in my head. I have put close to 2 hours a day memorizing…..as the article says….the vocabulary and the grammar. Nine months didn’t come close to preparing me for speaking in France. Neither has the subsequent seven months. But I am improving. I have started listening to cartoons in French, Peppa the Pig and Zazou the Zebra. Movies are too hard to follow so far.

I’ve considered similar immersion programs in Quebec. I’ve also considered spending a month in a rural part of France where there will be fewer English speaking residents to hamper my practice. Continue reading

Colbert on Trump………..again

I don’t watch the late night hosts mock President Trump very often anymore. They were a comfort to me for the first year of the Trump Presidency but I eventually decided that going to bed early was better for my mental health. But occasionally some of them are sent my way and this is another one that is right on target:

Jesus and Washington, lone wolves vs herds

This is a thought I may pursue before the day is out after I attend to some mundane chores. Otherwise I might just delete this post like a dandelion seed about to be blown to oblivion.


For an American George Washington is the first citizen of the land. He is the nation’s Father and Founder above all others. For Christians the same must be said of Jesus. George W. Bush was once roundly ridiculed when asked who his favorite “philosopher” was for answering, “Jesus.” That in a nutshell demonstrates the challenge of dual loyalties. By so honoring the founder of Christianity, even if thinking of him as a philosopher was a stretch, Bush offended the same crowd that Hillary Clinton may have had in mind when she called Trump folks “deplorables” and handed the Presidency to him. Continue reading

How a lot of us feel

I am in awe of what sculptors can do with sand. I was asked to give it a try in Two Harbors thirty years ago at their Kayak festival and that was enough for me.

I also know that I’m not that dedicated a snow sculptor especially in terms of technique. Weather plays a role as well. I’ve done a number of presidents over the years. I’ve done Lincoln twice. The second time I did I too used the famous sculpture of him seated in the Lincoln memorial. It was a warm day and my sculpture wasn’t huge and sun defying. One fellow at church afterward told me he just didn’t think my sculpture was as good as others I’d made and that it didn’t look like Lincoln. Well the head was only a foot wide not six feet wide and he saw it the next day which was in the mid thirties and sunny.

I later used its picture as one of my 50 “trading card” pack for my 2017 school board campaign. You will note the sculpture was built near Lincoln’s birthday in 2006. That was the same time as the birth of this blog when I ran for Congress as the sole member of the “Unity” party.

I want to write my own damned book

Having told my whole town about how I was witness to a fizzled out train I’m just popping to speak my mind about a whole lotta stuff. Claudia just ordered a book for us to read and I am a little PO’ed that it covers a lot of what aggravates me – My last 50 years watching the Republican Party pulling train on America. Look it up in the “urban dictionary.” I want to write that book.

The book is called “Fault lines” and I just took a couple of pictures of it but can’t manage to transfer them to the blog on my cell phone. I will attend to this post too, just like the previous one, later on. Probably before I go to bed tonight.

I am going to get my daily French practice in first. OK done. Here’s the book on my lap.

I did read the first seventeen pages to Claudia. It starts just days before our wedding as Jerry Ford was settling in as our new President. Its a good recap even for someone like me who was glued to the television through much of the tumult. It was almost fifty years ago.

Here’s one of the pictures of Jerry Ford who I very much liked and appreciated for pardoning Nixon.

The picture below it shows how he caught a lot of blowback from kids who wanted to see Nixon in prison.

Impeachments in our nation’s history have not been pretty. That’s a small part of why I would prefer to avoid one over Trump. It would only serve to make him a martyr and that is one pedestal I wish to deprive our Sleazebag-in-Chief from clambering up onto.

When I started this post yesterday I had a few other things to say but 24 hours can distract a fellow. For instance today I was sent Bill Maher’s thoughts about how Robert Meuller let America down by not calling for Trump’s impeachment. Here was my reply to that:

I understand but I don’t agree.

Trump is a symptom of 40 years of Republican mismanagement of America, the world and the Earth. If this was 1974 we could do what Bill Maher wants but its 2018.

Mueller, by being back-breakingly fair, has convinced a majority of Republicans, Democrats and Independents that his report was fair. That is a major accomplishment and something to build upon if we are going to knit the nation back together.

Using Mueller’s work to impeach Trump will deprive America of what we desperately need. To defeat Trump in a fair election.

To do otherwise will likely postpone any healing for a generation.

We all, Republicans, Democrats and Independents have a lot of work ahead of us for the Nation, the world and the Earth. Leaving the air poisoned with payback is a lousy way to start in on this work.

Thank you Mary KifFMEYER for saving us from the Indians

I got her last name spelled wrong so before I go any farther with this post I’m just putting this much in to remind myself to kick Minnesota’s former Secretary of State in the butt before it escapes my kick.

Mary wants to teach the State Historical Society a hard lesson by taking away its state revenue. After starving the Sioux and forcing them into a war they could not win we beat them, hung them, put them in concentration camps and then sent them to be ruled over by North and South Dakota farmers. God forbid we talk about their history in Minnesota and use (gasp) Indian words to tell it.

Here’s one news story outlining Representative Kiffmeyer’s objections. It comes from City Pages so it will have a liberal slant. Of course, City Pages has managed to write about real news that even my Duluth News Tribune declined to cover. Besides. I’m happy to take the honest historians of the Minnesota Historical Society over today’s crop of Republicans any day.

Republicans have done immeasurable damage to our nation’s history for decades. To cozy up with southern converts in the Post-Reagan era they began teaching that slavery wasn’t the reason for the Civil War. They don’t understand that socialism has deep roots in our government. And led by the Lone Star state’s influence they have managed to get textbooks all across the nation to insert REPUBLICAN preferred historical slants in all our school text books. I was so incensed by this that when I ran for the legislature one of my campaign promises was to make sure no Minnesota School District accepted any history textbooks approved by the State of Texas.

Political correctness is a two-way street but Republicans try to drive the same directions in both lanes.

My aplogies to the WLSSD

The Western Lake Superior District is not the garbage and recycling company Waste Management that so disapointed me from January to April. Not surprisingly WLSSD was taken aback when they read an April 12 post complaining about their lousy service.

I got a very concerned email from the water treatment folks today seeking clarification and if possible a correction.

This is the email I just sent them:


I am very sorry. I will make the change to Waste Management. WLSSD is next to it in my cell phone’s directory and I suspect that is why the acronym stuck in my head when I wrote that post.

I hope most of my readers saw my mistake but I will also post a correction for regular readers tonight in today’s posts.

My apologies

I am making the correction NOW. Tomorrow I am hauling last fall’s leaves to their compost site tomorrow! I don’t want to have to go wearing a disguise.

Donald Trump in Little Rock

Since Americans are all equal before the law and since we have a President whose lawyers refuse to let him testify under oath because perjury would be the natural result and because, apparently, our President is free to use lies to “tell the truth” I claim the same right. I want the truth to prevail even if it is built on lies.

I just watched the first half of PBS’s four-hour long documentary on Reconstruction. I’m fit to be tied as I always am at the ignorance of so many.

Barr none

I blame having so much on my mind for starting three or four attempts at a column next week before shelving all of them. But Attorney General Bob Barr gave me enough for a post this morning.

His reasonable explanation of the Mueller report’s findings will no doubt threaten to put Democrats into apoplexy otherwise knows as being chickens with their heads cut off.

The risk of apoplexy is that it will scare voters away from Democratic candidates. What Democrats need to remember is that there are plenty of reasons for American voters not to reelect Donald Trump even more reasons than there were three years ago not to let him become the Republican nominee.That’s when I first used snow to warn that he would be a disaster.

Then I put up a No Manchurian Candidate lawnsign…

…and after the snow melted then after his election I offered this:

Then I ran against a Trump enthusiast in the Republican Congressional primary then this year for new year I made this:

And BTW I just found an email from January from a witness who told me that he saw a young man with Massachusetts plates pushing the head over.

So when I say that Bob Barr sounded reasonable this morning I think Democrats should slow down. Newt Gingrich handed Democrats a huge weapon when he went after Bill Clinton over his sexcapades. There are plenty of other reasons to elect someone other than Donald Trump. An acquaintance of mine just texted me to say that Americans have 300 more days of Donald Trump before they can vote for someone else.

I’ve already written in the Reader that I will vote for whoever the Democrats nominate to challenge Trump. Not every potential Trump disapproving voter will automatically do that. I will support Bill Weld in the Republican field until the GOP swats him aside.

Our real enemy is disinformation. Both Russian and Fox News’s. I’d refer my readers to the story about Rupert Murdoch in a recent New York Times and to remember its News Impresario, Roger Ailes” who sold Richard Nixon to America.

And this demonstrates just how unbalanced Fox News is. To paraphrase Pogo, “We have met the enemy and it is Fox News.”

Perfect Duluth Day circa 1949

This 1949 Saturday Evening Post article about Duluth can be found at the top of Perfect Duluth Day. If you stumble on this post long after today you will have to go to Perfect Duluth Day and search for its author Baum. But you can read it today before it gets shuffled down the website at PerfectDuluthDay.com.

I was probably conceived a month or two before this story was published so I am roughly contemporaneous with it. One commentator fusses that the story about the city rushing to dig the canal has long been debunked but its still a charming fib.

Its interesting to read 70 years later. I had moved to Minnesota in 1963 at the time the Minnesota Taconite Amendment was being argued all over the state. It would make possible what the author of the 1949 story described as the the saving of the WW II depletion of the Iron mines. I moved to Duluth in 1974 a few years before an economic decline that would begin sending young Iron Rangers to Texas to become conservative Republicans.

My attempt to correct some Facebook BS

(Kaiser Permanente logo- the first wannabe HMO)

I just read some candidate for Congress’s explanation that the US didn’t have “for profit” health insurance until Richard Nixon passed a law in 1973. I knew that was nonsense and quickly found the truth in good old Snopes.com the original killer of urban legends:

Here’s what I put in Facebook:

This is not true. It’s a meme circulated by people unfamiliar with the long devolution of health care coverage in the U.S..

I thought Snopes.com, the original Internet source to swat down urban legends, might have a correction of this false information and I was not disappointed:

The truth behind HMO meme.

My Dad had been a Kansas State insurance investigator in the 1950’s making sure that “for profit” companies were not selling unfunded insurance. He taught insurance at Mankato University in the 1960s thru the 1980s He testified before Congress supporting HMOs in the 1970’s arguing that by incentivizing everyone to offer preventive care Medicare costs could be prevented from exploding.

Whoever this wannabe Congressional candidate is he owes it to himself to learn the history of this critical subject.

As for me, I am about ready for national health care.

Notre Dame Cathedral fire

a friend just texted me telling me that she hoped I visited Notre Dame Cathedral when I visited france because it was on fire. My reply is unprintable. What a tragedy!

I have fond memories of my September in France and I took a lot of pictures of and in Notre Dame. Here’s what I posted to my Flickr Page:


I am still working on learning French. I’d already spent two hours on the language today before hearning about the damage to this national treasure.

I will add that one of the marvelous cathedrals we visited was in Ruoen. This is what it looked like after the Normandy Invasion:

Despite the pictures below all has been resolved to my satisfaction

When I first moved into my house some traffic engineers made an official count of how many cars drove by our home daily. It was about 21,000. That was 32 years ago. It may be double that figure now.

Until this January I had never had any trouble with my trash and recycling pick up by Waste Management. After about six failed pickups I was tired of calling Waste Managements’s call center to complain that no one was picking up my garbage or recycling. I waited a day for the “Bomb Cyclone” blizzard to be over and I put my recycling next to 21st Avenue’s traffic as a little advertising. When I came in from putting it up my sweetie told me that minutes before the local office had called to say they thought our stuff had been picked up yesterday. Its the first time for the past three months we’ve gotten such a call after all our complaining. They were about to send someone to pick it up.

Before they got to our house I brought took the recycling bin away from the Avenue and put it by the alley but I kept the sign on it for the recyclers to see. While I was at it I took out three more bags of recycling to haul off as well.

Not long afterwards a pickup sidled up to retrieve my refuse. I went out to chat with the picker upper. He had already taken my sign off and was tossing the extra sacks into his pickup. He asked me if I was Welty and I said I was. He then introduced himself and I immediately recognized his name as one of my former Proctor students. He’d changed a bit over the previous 45 years. We had a cordial conversation and I told him how nice I’d been to the innocent call centyer folks who had no control over Duluth’s Waste Management management. He told me he’d taken my sign to show to the fellows in his shop. He asked if it had really been that long since my last pickup.

My sign had only been up for about ten minutes so my public protest ended quickly. Tomorrow they are scheduled to pick up my garbage. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

After I came back inside I practiced my part in tomorrow night’s Symphony Chorus. Having seen my recycling hauled off my singing soared. Too bad I’m not one of the soloists.

The Hippy National Anthem

I enjoyed this NPR story about the musical group, The Youngbloods” contribution to the “Summer of Love.” Get Together came out in my junior or senior year of high school when America seemed ripe for an explosion. This reminiscence about the song’s history brought a tear to my eye for that lost summer fifty years ago. I am scheduled for a big high school reunion this fall. We might get together again.


A young woman who graduated a year ahead of me made me a felt covered burlap wall hanging with the song’s lyrics. I’ve kept it for sentimental reasons all these dust collecting years afterward. Here’s a slightly belated thank you for my former, Sioux City Sue:

Joseph and his amazing technicolor dreamcoat

Tired of Duluth and of winter I happily signed on to hop in my daughter’s car for an overnight jaunt to the Twin Cities with my grandsons. We weren’t fussy and looked for some theater we could take the boys too. They’ve been in some local musicals lately. The Seminary at St. Paul’s St. Thomas was putting on the Andrew Lloyd Weber musical about Joseph.

It was great and the students played themselves as collared student priests studying the Old Testament before they transformed into Joseph’s jealous and murderous older brothers. Never saw so many religious collars at one time.

The following morning before the latest weather bomb was supposed to smash a blizzard into Minnesota we went to the Science Museum. We went to check out a big roaming exhibition on the history of electronic games. We spent a good four hours playing them.

“We’re gonna take care of you.”

I’ve written about waste plastic recently in the Reader. I’ve complained here in the blog about the reportedly mafia owned Waste Management failing to pick up either our garbage or now our recycling. And for about the fifth time since they didn’t pick up last week’s four-week load of recycling. Its supposed to be picked up every two weeks. I’ve been putting in more calls to their call center. Its my third call of the day and it isn’t even 10 AM yet. They are five weeks overdue. And I am invariably polite and ruefully humorous taking to their call service staff who have no control of what’s happening here in Duluth. The supervisor today who answered my third call to tell them that no, the locals didn’t call to schedule a pick up told me not to worry. “We’re gonna take care of you.” Twice.

I can’t help but wonder if China’s decision to refuse further American recyclables a few weeks back, thanks Mr. President, isn’t partly to blame. He tells us private enterprise solves all problems. I’m beginning to have my doubts about that.

The official source for all the blather of the eccentric Harry Welty – Duluth School Board member, off and on, since 1995. He does his best to live up to Mark Twain's assessment: "First God created the idiot. That was for practice. Then he invented the School Board."