Thursday, May 5, 2016

Life's Imponderables


Kismet

Dear George, 
I tend to be pretty rigid in my thinking, and my brother Peter often encouraged me to be more open to the mysteries of the universe.  From an early age, Peter was interested in ESP and the paranormal and was drawn to esoteric belief systems like Zoroastrianism.  He especially liked puzzling about events in his own and his family’s lives that bordered on the mystical  

Some years ago Peter passed away prematurely from a heart condition.  Distraught when I received the news, I got in my car and drove across the river to the thrift shop in Newport, Kentucky.  I thought if I bought a red T-shirt it might provide a bit of solace.  There were at least three dozen red T-shirts on the rack, and I reached for the one whose hue stood out from the rest.  I was pleased to find it was my size.  But when I looked at the logo, I gasped and held my breath.  The logo said, “Si Como No, Costa Rica.”  Our last big family trip had been to Costa Rica, and Peter was the only family member to stay at Si Como No, the area’s finest resort hotel.  He had wanted a wall safe in which to store his expensive camera gear, and they gave Peter the same suite in which Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise had recently spent their honeymoon.  I was astonished at the coincidence.  What are the odds of finding a Si Como No T-shirt in a Newport thrift shop on the very day that Peter had passed away?  And the very first shirt I had picked from the rack?  Perhaps a trillion to one.  Very eerie…I couldn’t help but wonder if this were some kind of message from the beyond. 

Lately I haven’t been thinking much about mystical happenings because I’ve been preoccupied with my Fitbit.  It takes a lot of mental energy to organize one’s life in terms of numbers of steps and floors climbed.  Actually, though, my Fitbit itself was the object of a recent strange, improbable experience.  It started when I noticed that the Fitbit’s black rubber wristband was starting to peel away.  I solved the problem temporarily by winding an inch-wide strip of silver duct tape around the wristband.  The duct tape, a miracle as always, did a perfect job of holding the wristband in place.  I wasn’t happy with the color contrast though.  The silver stood out too much against the jet black wristband.  Then it dawned on me that I could use black electrician’s tape to cover up the silver tape.  I looked for electrician’s tape on our neighborhood pharmacy’s one-dollar shelf, but there wasn’t any.  I came back the next day, but it still wasn’t there.  I thought about going to the hardware store across the street, but I knew that a roll of electrician’s tape there would cost at least three dollars, and I didn’t want to spend that much.  I decided to make electrician’s tape my top priority on thrift shop and yard sale excursions. 

A few days later I stopped by Donna’s house to take her thirteen-year-old sheepdog Sophie for a walk.  Donna is recuperating from foot surgery, and I’ve been trying to walk Sophie regularly to keep her fit.  We always follow the same route — three blocks east, three blocks south, three blocks west, three blocks north.  This time, though, I decided to depart from our regular pattern and took a shortcut down a side street that I’d never walked on before.  We had gone about thirty yards when I noticed an electrician’s truck parked in front of a house with a guy putting his toolbox in the back of the truck.  As I passed by, I glanced down and saw a roll of black electrician’s tape lying on the sidewalk.  The guy had his back to me, and I quickly reached down, scooped it up, and continued on my way.  I hurried home to put the black electrician’s tape on my Fitbit wristband.  It looked great.  I couldn’t believe my good fortune.  

Afterwards I started thinking of the likelihood of my finding the very item I was looking for on the sidewalk.  It only happened because I chose to walk on a street I never walk on, the electrician was out on the sidewalk at that moment, he happened to drop his roll of tape, and nobody else had come along to pick it up. How is this even possible?  Had I entered some kind of alternate reality?  I’m certain I could spend the entire rest of my life wandering the streets of Cincinnati and never again find a roll of black electrician’s tape on the sidewalk.  If Peter were here, he would simply smile and give me a knowing look.  Is this what they mean by Kismet?  It gives one pause…  
Love,
Dave

Thursday, April 28, 2016

An Election Primer




Dear George,
I’ve been following the presidential primaries fairly closely since they began, and they’re unlike any campaigns that I can recall —  mesmerizing, perplexing, sometimes frightening.   The Democratic contest has been a lot more competitive than anybody expected, and the Republican party seems on the verge of dissolution.  In an effort to get a handle on it all, I’ve been busy assembling various relevant facts.  Though much of this information is probably familiar, I pass it along for readers’ interest and contemplation. 
Love,
Dave

The voters

How many Democrats and Republicans are there?  
A recent large national survey of over 25,000 adults by the Pew Research Center found that 39% of respondents identify as independents, 32% as Democrats, and 23% as Republicans.  Among independents, 48% lean Democratic, and 39% lean Republican.   Party identification as Democrats is higher among blacks, Asians, Jews, Hispanics, well-educated adults, women (especially college graduates and single women), and Millenials.  Republican identification is higher among  whites (especially white evangelicals, white southerners, and white males with some college or less); older persons (ages 69-86); and Mormons.   (13)

How often do various groups vote?
58.4% of the eligible population voted in the presidential election in 1996, 59.5% in 2000,  63.8% in 2004, 63.6% in 2008, and 61.8% in 2012.  Voting rates by race/ethnicity in 2012 were 66.2% for Blacks, 64.1% for Non-Hispanic Whites, 48,0% for Hispanics, and 47.3% for Asians.  Women have voted in higher numbers than men in recent decades (64% vs. 60% in 2012).  Voting rates generally tend to increase with age.  In 2012 41.2% of 18- to 24-year-olds voted, compared to 71.9% of those 65 years or older.  (4) (21) 

Campaign funding

How much have the major parties raised for the upcoming presidential election? 
As of Apr. 26, 2016, the Democratic Party has raised $370 million for presidential candidates in the 2016 Election cycle and has spent $324 million.  The Republican Party has raised $350 million to date and spent $330 million.  (12)

Who gives to Republicans and Democrats?
Political donors are commonly subdivided into Business, Labor, Ideological, and miscellaneous Other interests.  Business accounts for 75% of contributions, followed by Labor (3%), Ideological (6%), and Other (13%).  According to Federal Election Commission data (Apr. 16, 2016) on individual, corporate, and union contributions to candidates, parties, super PACs, and outside spending groups, Democrats received  greater contributions from than Republicans from Labor ($21.9M vs. $4.6M).  Republicans received greater contributions from Business ($549M vs. $398M), Ideological ($34.5M vs. $34M), and Other sources ($101M vs. $94M).  (12)

Who do Super PACS support?  
As of April 27, 2016, there are 2,265 Super PACs, and they have raised $707,071,383 in the 2016 election cycle.   Of seventeen Super PACs spending ten million dollars or more to date, 14 have supported Republican candidates and 3 have supported Democrats.  (12)

What has been the impact of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision?
In their Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission ruling (2010), the Supreme Court ruled that corporations, like individuals, have free speech rights under the First Amendment, and consequently unlimited political spending by corporations and unions should be allowed.  Critics were concerned that Citizens United would result in a dramatic increase in corporate influence in politics, enabling business corporations to “buy” elections.  According to Wikipedia information, however, corporate funding is relatively small compared to donations from a small group of billionaires based on ideology.  (23)

 How much money has been raised for specific candidates? 
Candidate committee money and outside money for current candidates as of Apr. 21, 2016, are as follows: Hillary Clinton, $256 million; Bernie Sanders, $183 million; Ted Cruz, $142 million; Donald Trump, $51 million; John Kasich $29 million.  (12)

The Presidential primaries

Caucuses vs. Primaries
Some states use caucuses and some use primaries to select party presidential candidates.  Caucuses were the original method but have decreased in number since the early twentieth century.  With caucuses, a party announces the date, time, and location of the caucus, and any registered party voter can attend.  Prospective delegates are identified as supporting a specific candidate or as uncommitted, and an informal vote to choose delegates is taken after several hours of  discussion and debate.  Primaries, which were adopted as part of a reform movement in the early 1900’s, allow registered voters to participate in selecting a candidate by voting through a secret ballot, as in a general election.  In closed primaries, only voters who are registered for a given party can vote in that party’s primary.  In open primaries, a voter can vote in either primary regardless of party membership.  (20)  In 2016 Just 14 states and 4 U.S. territories held or will hold caucuses.   Turnout tends to be lower in caucuses than in primaries.  For example, only 20% of registered Republicans participated in Iowa’s caucuses in 2012, but 31% voted in the primary election in New Hampshire.  (5)

Proportional vs. winner-take-all methods of awarding delegates
The Democrats use a proportional method for awarding delegates.  For example, if one candidate gets 60% of the primary vote and a second gets 40%, the first gets 60% of the delegates and the second, 40%.  The Republican Party, in contrast, allows each state to determine whether the proportional method or a winner-takes-all method is used.  In the winner-take-all method, the candidate who wins the caucus or the primary vote receives all of the delegates.  (20)  The Republican Party required states with primaries or caucuses before March 15 to award delegates on a proportional rather than winner-take-all method.  This year Florida and Ohio hosted the first Republican winner-take-all contests on March 15. (5)

The conventions

When are the conventions?
The Republican convention will held from July 18 to July 21, 2016, in Cleveland.  2,472 delegates are expected, and a candidate must win over 50% (1,237) to receive the party’s nomination.   The Democratic convention will be held from July 25 to July 28 in Philadelphia.  4,765 delegates are expected, and a candidate must win 2,383 delegates.  (7) 

Who are delegates? 
Delegates to the national convention are chosen at state and congressional district conventions.  Delegates are often party activists, local political leaders, members of a campaign’s steering committee, or early supporters of a given candidate.  Presidential campaigns seek local and state politicians as delegates because they usually bring the support of their followers.  (5)

Superdelegates. 
The Democratic Party uses pledged delegates and superdelegates at the national convention.  Pledged delegates (about 85% of the total) are selected at the state or local level, with the understanding that they will support a particular candidate.  However, they are not actually bound to vote for that candidate.  Super delegates (15% of the total) include members of the national committee, members of Congress, governors, former presidents and vice presidents, former leaders of the Senate and House, and former chairs of the Democratic National Committee.   (5)  Superdelegates are not obliged to represent the popular primary voting in their region, but rather are free to support any candidate.  The purpose of superdelegates is for high-ranking Democrats to maintain a degree of control over the nomination process.  Examples of super delegates from Ohio this year are Senator Sherrod Brown, David Pepper (chair of the Ohio Democratic Party), and Mark Mallory (former Cincinnati mayor).   (7)  The Republicans also reserve a certain number of delegate slots for high-ranking officials.  In 2016 these include the three members of each state’s national committee (less than 7% of the party’s total delegates).  The party has instructed state delegations to bind RNC members based on voting results in their state.  (5) (22)

Can Donald Trump win the Republican nomination outright?
According to the New York Times (Apr. 27, 2016), if Trump maintains his current level of support in the remaining races, he can win a majority of 1,237 or more delegates before the convention.  However, it will be close, and if the race shifts even slightly Trump could fall short.  The outcome of Indiana’s primary on May 3 is critical to Trump’s chances.  He currently holds a single digit lead in Indiana.  (10)

What if no one gets a majority on the first ballot?
Delegates become free agents, no longer bound to follow the state’s primary results.  Anti-Trump forces are planning a delegate-by-delegate fight to back another candidate than Trump.  If there is a Republican rule change, the nominee could be someone who is not currently in the race, e.g., House speaker Paul Ryan.  (9)

The candidates

How liberal or conservative are the presidential candidates?
Crowdpac.com, a nonpartisan voter education website, rates the candidates on a liberal/conservative dimension from 10L (the most liberal) to 10C (the most conservative), based on public statements, voting records, and campaign contributions.  The current candidate ratings from most liberal to most conservative are: Bernie Sanders (8.2L), Hillary Clinton (6.5L), John Kasich (4.6C), Donald Trump (5.1C), Ted Cruz (9.9C).  Sanders is the most liberal of the seven Democrats who entered the race or declined to run.  Except for Rand Paul, Ted Cruz is the most conservative of 16 Republican candidates.  (2)

How many endorsements have candidates received from governors, senators, and representatives?
According to the Nate Silver’s website, FiveThirtyEight (Apr. 25, 2016), Ted Cruz has received endorsements from 5 governors, 3 senators, and 34 representatives; John Kasich, from 3 governors, 2 senators, and 8 representatives; Donald Trump, from 3 governors, one senator, and zero representatives.  Hillary Clinton has been endorsed by 13 governors, 40 senators, and 160 representatives; Bernie Sanders by 1 senator and 8 representatives.  (15)

Who are some other candidate endorsements?  (A true but whimsical listing)
Ted Cruz: Jeb Bush, Gun Owners of America, Texas Patriots PAC, Georgia Right to Life.  John Kasich: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Charles Barkley, Jim Tressel (former Ohio State football coach).  Donald Trump: Jerry Falwell, Jr., Clint Eastwood, Hulk Hogan, Dennis Rodman, Mike Tyson.  Bernie Sanders: Erin Brockovich, Julia Butterfly Hill, Clay Aiken, Michael Keaton.  Hillary Clinton: Amy Poehler, Drew Barrymore, Ben Affleck, Tom Hanks.  (24)

How do the candidates rate on fact-checking? 
Politifact.com assessed various candidate statements as True, Mostly True, Half True, Mostly False, False, and Pants on Fire.  For the Democrats, statements were judged to be True or Mostly True 51% of the time for Sanders, 49% of the time for Clinton.  For the Republicans, statements were judged True or Mostly True 52% of the time for Kasich, 22% of the time for Cruz, and 9% of the time for Trump.  (14) 

How are the candidates doing in the polls?
USA Today’s Elections 2016 Presidential Poll Tracker reports national poll results (as of Apr. 27, 2016) as follows: Clinton, 49.5%; Sanders, 45.8% for the Democrats.  For the Republicans, Trump, 43.0%; Cruz, 30.0%; Kasich, 21.0%. (19)

How many primary delegates have the candidates won so far?
According to USA Today (Apr. 27), Trump has won 954 primary delegates; Cruz, 562; and Kasich, 153.  Clinton has won 1,151; Sanders, 1,338.  According to FiveThirtyEight, based on results to date, Trump is on target to win 97% of the primary delegates needed for the nomination; Clinton, 107%.  (15) (18)

The November election

What are the swing states in 2016?
Swing states are those in which no single candidate or party has overwhelming support, and consequently, winning swing states is the best opportunity for candidates to increase their electoral votes.   According to the Rothenberg and Gonzales Political Report, pure toss-up states and their total electoral votes are: Colorado (9), Florida (29), Ohio (18), and Virginia (13).  Toss-up states which tilt or lean Democratic include: New Hampshire (4), Wisconsin (10), Iowa (6), and Pennsylvania (20).  Toss-up states which tilt or lean Republican are: North Carolina (15).  Rothenberg and Gonzales list 19 states as favored or currently safe for Democrats (223 electoral votes) and 23 states as favored or currently safe for Republicans (191 electoral votes). (17) 

How big a problem is voter suppression in 2016?  
The ACLU reports that 10 states are putting into place restrictive voting laws for the first time.  All have Republican-dominated state legislatures.  Restrictions include early voting cutbacks, elimination of same-day registration, Voter ID requirements, proof of citizenship requirements, purging voter rolls, and dual-registration systems (e.g., separate registration for federal and state elections).  Voter suppression disproportionately affects blacks and Hispanics, the poor, the elderly, college students, and persons with disabilities — mainly groups prone to vote Democratic.  The ten states are Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio, Alabama, Mississippi, Wisconsin, Kansas, Texas, North Dakota, and Arizona.  Combined, they contain 80 million people and account for 129 of the 270 elector votes necessary to win the election. (1)

The Electoral College
The President and Vice-President are not elected directly by the voters.  Rather, their votes function to elect the “electoral College,” the group of citizens chosen by the political parties to cast votes for President and Vice-President.  With the exceptions of Maine and Nebraska, the candidates who win the popular vote in a given state receive all of that state’s Electoral College votes.  The winner of the election is the candidate who receives 270 or more of the 538 Electoral College votes.   The Electoral College system was devised by the nation’s founders who wanted to stay true to republican principles but were wary about permitting average citizens to vote.  A state’s number of electoral votes is equal to the sum of its numbers of Senators and Representatives.  Thus, the bigger the state, the more electors it has.   However, like the Senate (with two members per state), the Electoral College serves to shift power away from the nation’s most populated states.  For example, California gets 55 votes and Wyoming gets 3, but, in fact, California’s population is 66 times greater than Wyoming’s.  Historically, five candidates have lost the popular vote nationally but won the Electoral College vote and become president, including George W. Bush over Al Gore in 2000.  (vs2)

How do the Democratic and Republican potential candidates currently fare against one another in national polls? 
According to realclearpolitics.com, if the election were held today, Clinton would defeat Trump (49.0 to 40.5%) and Cruz (46.0 vs. 43.0%), but would lose to Kasich (48.2 vs. 40.2%).  Sanders would defeat Trump (53.0 vs. 37.8%), Cruz (51.0 vs. 39.0%), and Kasich (46.8 vs. 42.0%)  (16)

And that’s the story for now. 

SOURCES:
(1) www.aclu.org, “Will the 2016 Presidential Election Be Decided by Voter Suppression Laws?”;  (2) www.ballotpedia.org, “2016 presidential candidate ratings and scorecards”; (3) www.ballotpedia.org, “Republican National Convention, 2016”; (4) www.census.gov, “The Diversifying Electorate”; (5) www.cfr.org, “The U.S. Presidentail Nominating Process”; (6) www.cincinnati.com,”Trump allies sidelined in KY delegate battle”; (7) www.infoplease.com, “Superdelegates”; (8) www.nbcnews.com, “In Kentucky, Anti-Trump Forces Again Dominate Delegate Selection”; (9) www.newsday.com, “GOP presidential race: How a brokered convention would work”; (10) www.nytimes.com, “How the rest of the delegate race could unfold”; (11) www.opensecrets.org, “Election Overview”; (12) www.opensecrets.org, “Super PACs”; (13) www.people-press.org, “A deep dive into party affiliation”; (14) www.politifact.com, “Fact-Checking the 2016 GOP presidential candidates”; (15) www.projects.fivethirtyeight.com, “The Endorsement Primary”; (16) www.realclearpolitics.com, “General Election: Clinton vs. Trump”; (17) www.rothenberggonzales.com, “Presidential ratings”; (18) www.usatoday.com, “Elections 2016”; (19) Elections 2016 Presidential Poll Tracker (USA Today) (4-27-16); (vs2) www.votesmart.org, “What is the Electoral College?”; (20) www.votesmart.org, “United States Presidential Primary”; (21) www.washingtonpost.com, “Why women are far more likely to vote than men”; (22) www.wikipedia.org, “Delegate”; (23) www.wikipedia.org, “Citizens United v. FEC”; (24) www.wikipedia.org, “Endorsements for the Democratic (Republican) Party presidential primaries, 2016” 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Lake Michigan Whitefish



Dear George,
In 1695 a French explorer visiting what’s now the U.P. praised the whitefish caught by the Ottawa at Mackinac as follows: "Moreover, better fish can not be eaten, and they are bathed and nourished in the purest water, the clearest...you could see anywhere."  Native Americans in the region made a powder of smoked whitefish to use in soups, stews, and fish pies.  When we were growing up in Menominee in the 1940’s and 50’s, our whitefish came from Green Bay and Lake Michigan. Fishing had been an important local  industry since the 1800’s, and fishing boat expeditions from the twin cities extended from Green Bay into Lake Michigan and even Lake Superior.  An 1899 news story reported that a wholesale fish dealer from Buffalo purchased 15,000 barrels of fish from Menominee and Marinette fishermen for $55,000. The local catch included whitefish, perch, blue fin, and herring.   



Menekaunee fishing boats, Marinette, Wisc. (ca. 1990)

According to the sources listed below, the whitefish has a small head with a blunt snout that hangs over its lower jaw.  Older whitefish develop a bump at their shoulders that makes their head look even smaller.  Whitefish aren't entirely white.  They're greenish-brown on the back, and their sides and belly are silvery-white.  Whitefish have a sharply forked tail which enables them to swim very rapidly.   On average, whitefish measure 17 to 22 inches in length and weigh between two and four pounds.  They can live for over 25 years.  Whitefish are also known as Sault whitefish, gizzard fish, and humpbacks.  Their scientific name is Coregonus (meaning "angle eye") clupeaformis (meaning "herring-shaped").

Great Lakes whitefish spawn from September through January and lay their eggs on shoal of rubble and gravel.  The young hatch in the following spring and are immediately on their own to survive.  At the larval stage, baby whitefish feed on plankton.  Once they're 3 or 4 inches in length, they become bottom-dwelling fish, feeding on snails, insect larvae, freshwater shrimp, and small clams.  Whitefish swim in schools and prefer depths of 200 feet or more in the summertime.  Their natural predators include lake trout, northern pike, walleye, and burbot.   Sea lamprey also constitute a major threat to Lake Michigan whitefish.

Biologists believe that whitefish runs on the Menominee River between Menominee and Marinette ended in 1870, probably because logging and sawmills contaminated the river with a lot of silt.  Much to the amazement of experts, whitefish began returning to the Menominee River to spawn about seven or eight years ago, and they've shown up on the nearby Peshtigo and Oconto Rivers as well.  According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, scientists believe that the whitefish's return is due in part to the passage of the Clean Water Act of 1972.  In November 2013 a crew of biologists netted 106 whitefish in a morning's effort at the Menominee River public boat ramp on Stephenson Island in Marinette.  The largest was a 22-inch female, about ten years old.       







Commercial fishing for whitefish is normally done by means of gillets and trapnets.  Whitefish are the most important species for Great Lakes fisheries, and about 8 million pounds have been harvested annually in recent years.  There is some sport fishing for whitefish.  Fishermen use a small hook which is usually baited with a fish egg.  Ice fishing for whitefish is also popular, especially in northern Wisconsin.  The largest whitefish on record was caught in Lake Superior in 1918 and weighed 41 pounds.  Whitefish are rich in vitamins and protein, including Vitamins B6, B12, Niacin, and Thiamin.  A 3-ounce serving provides 1.38 grams of Omega-3 fatty acids, more than pink or sockeye salmon.  Grilled, broiled, or poached whitefish is one of the regular specialties in several of Menominee’s restaurants, and we've never failed to enjoy whitefish dinners at Schoegel’s or Berg’s on Landing on trips home.  In our youth my dad would purchase newly caught whitefish at Pederson's Fisheries in Menekaunee, and my mother would make them the centerpiece of an extraordinary meal.  On my last trip home before my mother’s death, she instructed me while I cooked a broiled whitefish with almonds for dinner at Farm.  It was a passing of the torch.
Love,
Dave

Sources:  www.greatlakeswhitefish.com; www.jsonline.com, "A century later, whitefish are turning up in Wisconsin rivers (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Nov 27, 2013);  www.michigan.gov, "DNR - Lake whitefish, Coregonus clupeaformis";  www.outdoorblog.net, “It’s a great time to fish for whitefish”; www.rootsweb.ancestry.com, "Fishing", Marinette County Centennial 1879-1979, p. 6;  www.wikipedia.org, "Lake whitefish"


Saturday, April 16, 2016

Shooting Hoops


Score Card: MHS Maroon Basketball Team, 1957-58

Dear George,
My brother Steve’s birthday was a week ago.  Were Steve still with us, he would have turned 75, and his birthday is a vivid reminder of how much we all miss him.  The next day I was browsing on a Menominee history/nostalgia website when I came across a couple of Menominee Maroon basketball and football programs from the 1950’s.  I was thrilled to find Steve’s name on the basketball roster for the 1957-58 team, along with many of his best high school friends — Peter Johnson, Bob Picard, Tom Kuber, John Dewane, Jim Payne, Ken Hruska, and others. 

Basketball was a big part of Steve’s and my growing up on the Menominee River bank.  As the older brother, I started playing basketball in sixth grade when my grandfather, V.A. Sr., insisted that I join the Washington Grade School team.  The shortest boy in class with no sports history, the idea of joining the basketball team terrified me, but my grandfather insisted and  soon I became interested in learning to play better.  The D.A.R. Boys Club on State Street in Menominee had a basketball gym, and I started going there every day after school to practice on my own or play pickup games with my age-mates.

My dad bought a basketball hoop and mounted it above the garage door in our cinder-covered driveway.  There weren’t any other kids within a mile of us during our early years on the river, so Steve and I relied on one another as playmates, and basketball quickly became our avocation.  We learned a lot about winning and losing, effort and skill, striving to improve, fair play, and camaraderie.  I was four years older, so I was taller and more physically adept, and our games of horse, 21, free-throw shooting, and one-on-one were often one-sided.  However, Steve, just a third-grader when we started, was a fierce competitor and determined to win.  We’d play for hours on end.  When the sun went down we’d hook up an extension cord to a socket inside the garage, connect it with a desk lamp that we’d tied to a nearby maple tree, and focus the light on the basketball hoop so that we could play until bedtime.  Even the harsh U.P. winters didn’t deter us.  We’d simply shovel off each successive layer of snow and play on a solid floor of ice.  After warming up we’d take off our winter coats and play in our shirtsleeves in the freezing temperatures.   

By the time I left for college Steve was starting ninth grade, had grown a lot taller, and was winning a majority of our driveway contests.  When I came home at Xmas I was thrilled and proud to learn that Coach Bob Noonan, the basketball coach at Menominee High, had recruited Steve and one of his freshman classmates to join the varsity team.  That was unheard of since ninth- and tenth-graders had traditionally only been eligible for the Junior Varsity.  However, Coach Noonan decided that year to get his most promising prospects started at as early an age as possible. 

I wasn’t around for Steve’s high school basketball career, but he went on to win varsity letters for four years in a row.  A bunch of the team members were best friends off the court as well, and they used to convene at my grandfather’s log cabin next door to our house to play poker, drink a beer or two, and carry on.  They were a rowdier bunch than my peer group, and they had many more adventures.  Even though he and Margie moved to Seattle after law school, Steve kept in close touch with several friends from those teenage days.  Peter Johnson’s wife told me many years ago that Peter laughed more when Steve returned to Menominee for family reunions than any other time of the year.  I totally understood that, since I felt the same way.  Despite all their youthful antics, their group enjoyed lots of adult career success, including a couple of lawyers, successful regional businessmen, and the principal, coach, and athletic director at Marinette High.  For myself, I look back upon our thousands of hours of driveway basketball as one of the most enjoyable and engaging pursuits of my youth.  Were it possible for Steve and I to be together today, I know we’d go over to my next door neighbor’s and shoot some hoops in the driveway.  I wish we could.
Love,
Dave

ADDENDUM:



After I did the above blog posting, a Menominee friend shared on the Internet this photo of the 1955-56 Menominee Maroons, my brother Steve's first varsity team.  FRONT ROW: Dale Bero (54), Steve L. (22), Donnie Hofer (20), Al Axtel (12), Jim Payne (10), Fritz Wolf (14); MIDDLE ROW: Billy Wolf (Manager), Wayne Allard (4?), Burke Cooney (30), Ron Janquart (42), Coach Bob Noonan; TOP ROW: Ray Anderson (32), Mike Miller (52), Bob Ziemer (50), Vernon Highdale (40), Dale Minzlaff (54), Freddie Christopherson (?4).  



Friday, April 15, 2016

Cincinnati Zoo Blooms 2016



Dear George,
Zoo Blooms is at its peak at our Cincinnati Zoo.  With over 100,000 tulips, it’s one of the largest tulip displays in the Midwest.  In addition, there are thousands of daffodils, hyacinths, flowering trees, shrubs, and other spring bulbs.  Here are a few tulip facts to whet one’s appetite.  

  • There are over 3,000 varieties of tulips in the world.
  • The name “tulip” is believed to come from the Persian word “delband" (turban), presumably because of the similarity of the flower’s shape to a turban. 
  • During tulip mania, a period from 1634 to 1637 in the Dutch Golden Age when tulip bulb prices reached extraordinarily high levels, some single tulip bulbs sold for ten times the annual income of a skilled craftsman.   In one such transaction, a single Viceroy tulip bulb was sold for two lasts of wheat, four lasts of rye, four oxen, eight swine, 12 sheep, two hogsheads of wine, four casks of beer, two tons of butter, one bed, one suit of clothes, and a silver drinking cup. 
  • A Turkish legend holds that a prince was so grief-stricken by the death of his love that he rode his horse over a cliff.  A scarlet tulip sprang up from each drop of blood on his corpse, giving the red tulip the meaning of “perfect love”.        
  • Tulips are edible, the petals having a mild-bean like or lettuce-like taste.  During World War II numerous Dutch people were forced to eat tulips because there wasn’t any other food available. 
  • Tuna stuffed tulips are a classic dish served in Great Britain.  
  • The Dutch royal family sent 1,000,000 tulip bulbs to Ottawa in 1945 as a thank you for sheltering Princess Juliana and her daughters during the Nazi occupation.  Juliana became queen in 1948 and continued to send thousands of tulip bulbs to Canada each year until her abdication in 1980.    
  • Tulips reportedly can be used to treat high blood pressure, anemia, circulatory problems, back pain, and a variety of other disorders (just what we oldies need).  
  • Red tulips are a declaration of true love; yellow tulips mean cheerful thoughts; white tulips express purity; purple tulips symbolize royalty; and pink tulips mean affection and caring.       

I went to the zoo with Katja the other day to admire the beauties and capture images of the tulip festival.  Here are some tulip pics.
Love,
Dave        








Jan Reus Tulip




Red Emperor Tulip




Golden Apeldoorn Tulip








Banja Luka Tulip




Inzel Tulip




Apeldoorn Tulip








Negrita Tulip



Orange Bouquet Tulip




Monsella Tulip








Princess Irene Tulip 




Monte Carlo Tulip








Merry Go Round Tulip




Shirley Tulip




Daydream Tulip








Orange Sun Tulip



Apeldoorn Tulip




Pink Impression Tulip










SOURCES:  www.alloveralbany.com,  “20 facts about tulips”; www.care2.com, “12 fascinating facts about tulips”; www.cincinnatizoo.org, “Zoo blooms”; www.flowers2013.blogspot.com, “Benefits of tulips”; www.livingartsoriginals.com, “Tulip symbol meanings”; www.medplants.net, “Tulip”; www.poshposey.net, “Tulips trivia”; www.spinfold.com, “Amazing facts about tulips”; www.teleflora.com, “10 weird facts about tulips”, “Meaning and symbolism of tulip”;  www.tulipsinholland.com, “11 fun facts about tulips”; www.wikipedia.org, “Tulip”, “Tulip mania”