Search this site
Other stuff

All banner artwork by Brady Johnson, college student and (semi-) starving artist.

Locations of visitors to this page

My latest books:


        Available now

       Available Now

Available now 

My book Machines are the easy part; people are the hard part is now available as a free download at Lulu.

 The Blue Skunk Page on Facebook


EdTech Update





Cave in and read the book


A North Shore Wedding

Certain place names simply conjure up adventure. I noticed this on the trip this weekend to attend a wedding on the North Shore (the area between Duluth and the Canadian border along Lake Superior). How could you not find excitement in places like:

  • Castle Danger (sounds like an Alistair McLean novel)
  • Gunflint Trail
  • Devil's Kettle
  • Magnetic Lake
  • Gooseberry Falls
  • Cascade, Temperance, Knife, Devil's Track and Baptism Rivers
  • Tettegouche (sounds sort of erotic)

In my experience, only Arizona with its colorful place names like Rattlesnake Frontage Road, Heat Stroke Township and Dead Man Meadows subdivision* comes close to the North Shore in great names.

Goliath Cave is another place name that carries with it both excitement and a bit of dread. The cave itself is one of the main characters in Cary Griffith's latest book, Opening Goliath. (Full disclosure: even if this book was really bad, I would still say I liked it since Cary is a true friend. Happily, I can say this is a very enjoyable book, and keep both my friendship and my credibility.)

Like Cary's book Lost in the Wild, Opening Goliath is a natural for both adults and young adults who enjoy true life adventure stories. Each of three sections of a book details the exploration of separate cave systems in Minnesota, one which resulted in the loss of life. Written in the present tense like a news documentary, the story relentlessly pulls the reader along non-stop.

Anyway, pick up this book for your middle and high school readers who want a claustrophobic thrill.

* Names reconstructed from memory.

I love The Onion!

About time!

(Some language)


The way we were - meme

Dear Grandson Paul,

When I was your age, I was a pioneer child on the prairie in the wilds of northwest Iowa. All 13 of my brothers, all 12 of my sisters, my mom and dad, two second cousins and I lived in the little log cabin that is still in the city park. There are now only me, your great-aunt Becky and great-uncle Jeff left of all my brothers and sisters. Two were carried away in a flood, four were adopted by wolves, a tornado carried away three, a band of robbers captured four, giant rattlesnakes scared away five, one went missing in a blizzard, a great golden eagle swooped down and flew off with one, and we think one just got left someplace and nobody remembers where. We are looking for some of my brothers and sisters to this day. It was a hard life when I was a little boy growing up on the prairie. Most parents always had a few extra children - just to have some spares. from The Grandpa Assignment

Been awhile since I've done a meme, but I was tagged by Mr. Wham down South who asked us to write about things we did as kids that are now "off-limits." I suspect it is a miracle any of us lived given the complete disregard our parents showed us ... (Just a joke, Mom.)

  1. Unsupervised play. Growing up a farm, we were pretty much turned loose in the morning and then simply expected to show up for meals. For me this meant riding my Coast King bike as fast and recklessly as possible (sans helmet, of course), riding my cousin's mean ponies, playing in the haymow often with pitchforks and corn knives, fishing and swimming in a near-by drainage ditch, shooting pigeons with any firearm that I could find, and sneaking off to read to avoid work whenever I could. The LWW and I often comment that while we know we have children living in our housing development, we rarely see them out and about. I don't know if it is due to video game addition or parental worries about safety, but to me our lakeside area would have been a dream environment as a kid and these kids are missing out.
  2. Hitchhiking. From about the age of 12 on through college, hitchhiking was a viable means of getting from one place to another. After getting kicked off the school bus for misbehavior (it was never my fault), I could often beat the bus home having hitchhiked a ride. It was satisfying waving at the bus driver as he stopped to let my sister off the bus. I suspect too many horror movies have sounded the death knell to this interesting and environmentally friendly means of transport. I wonder if there could be a security check and an "I am not a weirdo" card issued to make hitchhiking comeback? Oh, while the lifted skirt technique may have worked for Claudette, I never got any mileage from it.
  3. Eating past the expiration date. We ate potato salad, even after it sat on the picnic table all afternoon. We ate apples right off the trees and rhubarb straight from the garden (licking the stalk and dipping it into to the pilfered sugar bowl before biting off each tart bite.) We drank coffee that was more milk and sugar than coffee, put sugar on our Sugar Smacks, drank whole milk, high fat ice cream and stuff cooked with lard and Crisco. But we also burned lots of calories (see #1).
  4. Riding in the back of the pickup. Like Mr. Wham, I remember riding in the ledge below the back car window, but our biggest thrill was riding in the back of farm pickup trucks (standing up in our Ben Hur mode); riding on a tractor's hitch, loader or fender; or on whatever contrivance was being pulled by said tractor (except manure spreaders). The higher the speed, the better. I do admire the bravery of children today who perform similar acts of daring-do on ATVs and snowmobiles.

We all worry a lot about kids safety today - especially online safety. And I suppose we should - natural selection is not exactly a kind science to apply to human beings, despite our guilty love of the Darwin Awards. But also wonder if we aren't growing a crop of hot house flowers - young adults who have not made enough mistakes and had sufficient close calls to have developed some survival techniques.

Sara Johns, Paul Cornier, and Rob Rubis - tag you're it.