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Kevin Grinde

Kevin R. Grinde is a veteran journalist. He grew up on the Minnesota Iron Range in the town of Hibbing but graduated high school in Roseburg, Ore. He is a Bemidji State University mass communications grad. Grinde and his wife, Sara, have three daughters, Arin, Alexis and Aleah. They turned out OK, he says. All of them own advanced degrees in science, teaching and motherhood. The five grandkids are turning out OK, too. In the mid 1980s, Grinde developed his chops in the newspaper profession as a reporter, editor and page designer at the Fergus Falls (Minn.) Daily Journal and Mesabi Daily News in Virginia, Minn. In 1985, he began his 26-year run in Grand Forks, N.D., working for the Knight Ridder Corp.-owned Agweek Magazine. In 1989, he joined the Grand Forks Herald as news editor. As a sidebar to that job, he was editor of Northland Outdoors, a four-state monthly magazine about the outdoors. He was the paper's outdoors reporter from 1995-98 and then became managing editor and ran the newsroom until 2011. In the last few years, he has spent extended periods assisting his three daughters and five grandkids and five granddogs at their homes in Brainerd, Pine City and Mentor, Minn. He's edited two books, including "Cracking the Channel Catfishode." He is one of a handful of instigators who launched Unheralded.fish. He spends his time reading about the universe, observing hockey, delving into drums and drumming, hunting, fishing, backpacking and teaching kids how to become strong individuals and decent human beings.

TERRY DULLUM — The Dullum File: The Shortest Song In The World

An interview I did with Dan Keating of KMAV/KMSR Radio in Mayvillle stirred up some memories for me earlier today. Clomping down memory lane a bit.

For me, before there was television, there was radio.  And before there was television news, there was radio programming.

KMAV is where I picked up my first paycheck in broadcasting “some” years ago. In 1970, and again in 1972, in between my stint keeping the world free by serving in the U.S. Army, I worked at KMAV, now KMSR-AM. At first, I “signed on” the station with a program of “middle of the road” music. Good for me because I was familiar with the likes of Andy Williams, Tony Bennett, Peggy Lee, and of course, Frank Sinatra.

Later that year the owner decided to switch formats to country music, taking advantage of the then new “Nashville Sound” which was sweeping radio stations across the country that year. Not so good for me.  At least I didn’t think so. But eventually I learned to like, if not love, country music. Later I would meet and interview on television artists like Bill Anderson, Eddy Arnold, Glen Campbell and Ray Price whose music I played on radio.

Like any business, hay must be made while the sun shines. In this case, the hay we’re talking about is commercial advertising dollars during the holiday season of 1972.

As we got closer and closer to Christmas that year I noticed that the station’s log, which dictates exactly what gets heard in radio and when, was getting more and more crowded with commercials. There was no time to play any music. What I mean by that is that there was no time for ANY music. Literally, no time! There was network news at the top of the hour, weather at a quarter to and a quarter after the hour, and local news at the bottom of the hour. In between there was solid, back to back commercials.

Finally, I complained to my boss who said, “Don’t worry. Nobody will notice.” Nobody will notice?

I decided to take some action. In those days we played mainly 45 rpm records with an “A” side meant to be heard on the air and a “B” side which was some times something of a throwaway. I found a 45 by Kenny Price the B-side of which was called “This is the Shortest Song in the World.” Not only is “This is the Shortest Song in the World” the record’s title, it is also the song’s entire lyric. The whole thing is about 18 seconds long.

On the air, I played a cluster of, I don’t know how many, 30-second commercials. Then I said, “Now, here’s Kenny Price.”  Then, “The Shortest Song in the World” and then another half dozen or more commercials. It was my little passive-aggressive commentary of what I thought was commercialization gone mad.

I was also quite certain I’d be fired for it. Sure enough, just as the segment aired, out the window I could see KMAV’s owner/operator Austen Kramer driving in to work for the day. And sure enough he made a bee-line for the control room and me.  Here we go!

Instead I got, “Do some more stuff like that. That was funny.”

As I recall, it was shortly after that that I got a raise. Coincidence? I think not.

Interviews with some former KMAV employees will be heard on KMSR-AM and KMAV-FM on October 20 beginning at 4 p.m., the date and time the station first went on the air 50 years ago.

MARTIN C. FREDRICKS IV: Four The Record — Kids Just Wanna Have Their Planet

Leave it to a bunch of kids.

Twenty-one of them from around the United States filed a “constitutional climate lawsuit” against the U.S. government in 2015. At the time, they ranged in age from 9 to 20. For the most part they were, and still are, people with next-to-zero voice in our formal political system. Even so, they’re out in front of a new offensive in the environmental struggle.

According to Our Children’s Trust, which has taken up their cause, the kids’ assertion is that, “… through the government’s affirmative actions in causing climate change, it has violated the youngest generation’s constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property, as well as failed to protect essential public trust resources.”

They’re holding us accountable. Other citizens of the planet are beginning to do the same.

There Are Costs

The truth of man-made climate change is no longer a matter of debate among the clear majority of scientists. The use of fossil fuels has released billions of tons of CO2 and other toxic gasses into the atmosphere. They, in turn, have caused Earth to warm at a dangerous, perhaps disastrous, rate.

Despite that, the U.S. president has withdrawn from the Paris Climate Accord, an agreement signed by more than 190 countries, including the United States, to limit future emissions. Instead of being a world leader, we’re now in the company of Nicaragua and Syria as the only nations that refuse to participate.

This bolsters the kids’ argument. Once again, we’re shirking responsibility for protecting the only home we have, to the point where clean air, safe water and a livable planet are no longer a given for future generations. Instead, they’ll be dealing with more — and more extreme — weather events that cause billions in damage, including droughts that dry up entire regions and force people to flee.

Think there’s a refugee crisis now? Just wait. As the ol’ saying goes, “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”

Needless to say, President Donald Trump is now listed as a defendant in the lawsuit.

Meanwhile, litigators around the world are smelling opportunity. There are costs to climate change, and there will be a lot more in the relatively near future. Somebody is going to have to pay. To figure out who will be picking up the tab, they’re headed down paths similar to the one our bunch of kids are walking.

A recent headline in the Toronto Star asked, “Could governments and oil companies get sued for inaction on climate change?” The story references potential litigation in Vancouver, B.C., over the costs of erecting a storm surge barrier and climate cases already in progress in Germany, the Netherlands and elsewhere.

Back To “It”

Here in the States, “it” is the legal battle headed for court in February 2018. “It” also is the mess the kids’ entire generation will need to deal with. Probably their kids and grandkids, too. Finally, “it” is taking responsibility for the causes of climate change and doing something about them.

Unfortunately, “it” for too many individuals, groups, companies, elected officials and governing bodies over the years has been a dangerous game of kick the can. We’ve booted it right on down the road for decades, collectively singing along the way, “It’s not gonna be my problem.”

“Leave it to a bunch of kids” once was reserved for young people who did wrong, like vandalizing buildings or walking away from a mess of beer cans in a pasture. In this case, “it” is still negative, but now it’s generations of adult leaders who have done wrong, either through action or inaction.

As far as the Paris Accord is concerned, I’m no lawyer, but I’m thinking the kids now have another stick they can use to beat the government over the head. A big one.

Speaking of the original environmentalist president, Theodore Roosevelt would have loved their fighting spirit.

Bully!

Links

www.ourchildrenstrust.org
www.thestar.com/news/canada/2017/05/23/could-governments-and-oil-companies-get-sued-for-inaction-on-climate-change.html
http://billmoyers.com/story/kids-suing-trump-climate-change-will-day-court/

RON SCHALOW: Just Say Nyet To Cro-Magnon Cramer

It did not go unreported that Kevin Cramer might run for Senate in 2018, but the news was largely lost in the fog of the scandalous AMC miniseries, “The Case of the White Pantsuits and Other White Outfits,” based on the true story of a primitive male, with a bad combover, and his faithful miniature poodle, Port, named for the fortified wine the holy man uses to give himself Communion.

His other pup, Hennen, is at the vet. The Pomeranian pounded too much port.

Besides being livid at what Port would call a violent riot of white-clothed feminazis — he’s one of those women hating talking dogs — the perpetually befuddled man, not in the yellow hat, was appallingly mortified that the female lawmakers fled the chamber so quickly after the president addressed a joint session of Congress. Some took off their heels and ran for the exits and into waiting Ubers. Nothing left but vapor.

Why, the man stupidly wonders. So, he and Port wander the country looking for clues. It’s quite the mystery. In the meantime, Port broke this story, “A State Senator Cracked a Fart Joke During Floor Debate Today,” which really classed up the InForum website, but the dim duo still hadn’t cracked the riddle of the sprinting woman.

Here’s a clue, Columbo: Perhaps none of the women wanted to be felt up, or indelicately grabbed, by the predator in chief. The weird man may pine to be held close by the large soft piece of $#!*, with the wandering small, smooth hands, but it’s not a pleasant experience for everyone. Being ranked a four by the orange-tinted primate won’t get the peculiar man assaulted any time soon. Sad.

Anyway:

“The at-large congressman from North Dakota also reiterated that he hasn’t ruled out a Senate bid next year for the seat currently held by Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, and he said Trump has already pledged his support should Cramer decide to run.” — CNN.

It’s good to know that Kevin will have the backing of the Mad King, but it assumes a lot. Six weeks in, Trump is already up to his armpits in borscht, and is cracking under the pressure of three-day weekends, down from his accustomed seven.

DT has been tweeting various lies about Barack Obama — former president of the United States, kind of an important hombre, in case the sleazy birther forgot — and bragging about his golf scores.

His weekly trips to his safe space, the Mar-a-Lago resort, are costing American taxpayers millions, plus an extra half-million per day to keep Melania safe in New York, although you can hardly blame her for wanting time apart from the crude bastage. Plus, the old man hid her passport.

And if Donnie keeps tweeting trash to Arnold Schwarzenegger, Arnie might catch up to him on the back nine one day and squeeze DT’s head until his hair pops off like a fuzzy Dom Perignon cork. Even the Secret Service wouldn’t tell on the Terminator and Danny DeVito’s twin brother.

Becker and the Inglorious Bastiats

Besides, I think Rep. Rick Becker wants the senator job. Something is up. Not since the days of limit-free duck hunting have so many bills been carried by a single individual.

The primary could include Cramer, of the Bat$#!* Crazy Caucus and Becker of the Bastiat Caucus.

Thanks to the Bastiats, grandma can still sell her banana cream pies at the church fundraiser without the nanny state getting involved, as if that would stop her. They say nanny state a lot. Google maps can’t find it, but it seems to make them happy.

They couldn’t get raw milk legalized, though, so our freedoms got sapped, milk-wise, except for the lactose intolerant. We’ll still have buy our unpasteurized milk from those seedy-looking guys who man the corners of inner city Mott. Bring a pickup, or trailer, for faster service. Tipping not required but welcome.

They post on Facebook quite often, Memes featuring quotes of Frederic Bastiat, a Frenchman who died in 1850. He said some smart things, and most of them seem to take shots at the government and people who would be legislators, which seems masochistic. People who hate the government but want to be in it. I guess that schick has worked many decades for Cramer.

This Ludwig character also holds some sway with the Bastiat Caucus:

“Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders; no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way out for himself if society is sweeping toward destruction. Therefore, everyone, in his own interests, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle. None can stand aside with unconcern; the interest of everyone hangs on the result. Whether he chooses or not, every man is drawn into the great historical struggle, the decisive battle into which our epoch has plunged us.” ― Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973)

Dark quotes like Ludwig’s, — Wiggy to his friends — and the bills they introduced, which are gun-heavy and include issues like homeschooling, milk from the tap, marijuana, overwrought concern about refugees and the elimination of “safe spaces,” just in case they crop up, leads me to believe we have some ideologues on our hands. Namely, Libertarians, who ran as Republicans, so they would get more than twelve votes.

“Interesting or dorky? You decide. Mises, Bastiat, Goldwater, etc. — all on on Rick Becker’s desk in the State House.” From the Bastiat Caucus Facebook page.

There has never been a government that has successfully run on libertarian principles, so there’s that, but Dr. Becker is popular with the far right. It could be the glasses — or his ability to drive while simultaneously streaming his latest update to the troops. Most likely, it’s the guns. Freedom, dude!

A Bastiat Caucus meme:

“Many gun-control advocates really do believe that government regulation and management can solve every social ill. They ignore the realities behind failed experiments such as alcohol prohibition or the war on drugs and instead move on to the latest sexy prohibitionist drive because they sense an opportunity to control one more aspect of daily life.” — Ryan McMaken, Mises Institute

Or maybe some of us just want fewer people to be perforated with high-velocity lead, but whatever.

Becker also tried to free the liquor. According to the manager of his bars:

“So, some of you also know that the owner of our bars and most amazing boss ever happens to be a state legislator. Well, we’ve been working on a bill that would allow license holders to bypass distributors and purchase products that distributors are unwilling pick up. Yes. You read that correctly. GAME CHANGER.”

That bill failed, so we’ll have to manage with the zillion brands of alcohol we already have, and the beer selections are getting out of hand. Freedom averted this time but fewer top shelf bottles to dust saves on the Swiffer sheets.

Finally, this Bastiat Caucus gem:

“Bottom line: American beer is awesome, and Michael Moore is an as$h%le. #BeerIsFreedom”

We know Heitkamp. Don’t we?

Heidi could pull a fast one and switch parties. Allowing coal gruel in the streams? Really? That isn’t going to save the coal industry, anyway. Just because tangerine face doesn’t understand how markets work doesn’t mean you have to jump off the cliff with the bozo. And Ben Carson? Sheesh.

Seeing her in such a close proximity to weasel head made me itch. And there must be a hard to wash off fumes emanating from his odious carcass. It isn’t Old Spice. It’s probably the sweat from some endangered species, that one of his boys shot in a refuge for the filthy wealthy.

I would still crossover to vote for her in a three-way primary, since I wouldn’t vote for the other two on penalty of death — or worse. She will have options, but since Trump is intent on burning the place down, Heidi will remain a D.

Or she could just call it a day, and retire like people do.

Then a very wealthy Democrat, willing to spend his own money, will be needed. It’s a proven winning strategy.

Back to Cramer

How many months will Trump have spent behind bars by the time of the 2018 election, or will he have quit? Will he hang on and wash all of the R’s down the drain like bread crumbs?

45 isn’t right in the head, and defending his abhorrent behavior isn’t normal either. It isn’t a sign of good judgment, which begs the question:

Is Cramer any more fit to be a senator than Trump is to be president? No, he isn’t.

“He (Cramer) called Trump’s speech the best before Congress since President Reagan’s addresses three decades ago.” — E&E Daily

Now, that’s some certifiably insane *&@ $#!*. Dogs aren’t that loyal, even the stupid ones. The deranged riff on women’s fashion didn’t make him seem all that solid, either.

Paraphrasing the Dalai Lama:

“He may not be operating his brain properly.”

Cramer said this, just a handful of years ago: “We’ve normalized perversion and perverted God’s natural law.”

Such a charmer.

But what is Trump, if not a normalized pervert? He used to walk through teen beauty pageant dressing rooms and gawk — because he could, for crissakes! That’s OK with Cramer.

Cramer has always plays the pious one, but his views don’t come from the nonsmiting parts of the Bible. Not the one I read. Jesus, lepers, prostitutes, money-changers, the destitute and the other good stuff. What Would Trump Do? Not words to live by.

The congressman is positively giddy at the prospect of separating people from their health insurance and cutting assistance to the poor and hungry. As Trump’s footrest, he is willing to sacrifice lives, give corporations a greener light to pollute, take health care away from women, keep wages low and fight a woman’s right to choose.

Stained by Trump means being anti-science, lie-accepting, ethically challenged, xenophobic, racist, ignorant, anti-free speech, white nationalistic, Islamophobic, anti-government and a Putin loving bully. That’s OK with Cramer.

45 is narcissistic, offensive, an exaggerator and a megalomaniac. He condescends and is full of jealousy, yet fragile, and a sociopath. That’s OK with Cramer.

Trump has conned people out of thousands with a fake university, and he’s a bilker. He’s bilked his contractors, employees and business partners. There really isn’t enough space — or time — to do the whole list. His promises are worthless, but this is the slop bucket that Kevin Cramer chose to hitch his wagon.

Cramer handles the misogyny and homophobia just wonderfully by himself. He and his wife seem to be on the same page, which is between them, but his cherry- picked biblical views need not be accepted by the voters.

Given the choice between making Bakken oil producers make the mixture they ship by train safer by removing the explosive gases, he sided with big oil over the safety of his people. I asked. He answered. Let the market decide if more people should die. A malleable ideologue. Rare.

He holds a Town Hall one da, and then badmouths the people who attended the next day on the radio, hosted by his pooch Port.

Cramer’s a shill for oil and coal, as are his hounds. He got so excited when Trump mentioned the Dakota Access pipeline, in 45’s first big boy speech, he nearly had a seizure.

He is not a good person. Not a moral being. Not an empathetic individual. Not an honest man. Not an ethical human.

His wife, Kris, tried to help normalize his nutty white fit, but I still don’t know what “We wore plaid,” infers:

“Women in white: the majority of North Dakotans and I understand how you feel. We just lived through eight years of Barack Obama. We wore plaid.” — Kris Cramer

The Cramers could watch any of Obama’s State of the Union and see how the Republicans treated the president. Wearing white is peanuts comparatively.

History will judge this period harshly. That’s OK with Cramer.

I can imagine how one of the forthcoming anti-Cramer ads might go:

Cramer: “Waiter! What is this woman doing in my cream of milk soup?”

Waiter: “She appears to be giving you two fingers — and treading soup, sir.”

Cramer: “Well, I never. This is an obvious attack on President Trump!”

Waiter: “It is?”

Cramer: “And in broad daylight!”

Waiter: “I believe it is just regular daylight, sir.”

Cramer: “Take this away. First, we give them the vote, allow them to dress poorly, and now they want soup and comfortable shoes. When will this insanity end?”

Waiter: “Perhaps when #%&@!’s like you go extinct, sir.”

KEVIN GRINDE: Rhythm Of The Trail — A Walk Along The Red Lake River Corridor

Spring teased the Northland last weekend. The seasonal diversion seemed as though it knew the winds from hell would soon attack us from the north.

Rarely do March temperatures rise into the balmy, high 40s. But when they do, cabin fever-crazy Minnesotans head — where else? — outside.

Sunday was the ideal day to take a hike along the East Grand Forks Greenway.

A long walk on the bike trail would have provided enough free medicine to chase away the fever. A walk along the more rugged Red Lake River corridor provided the instant cure.

The flooded ice-covered river had occupied the deer trail I followed only a week prior when the Red Lake had crested.

The path allowed easy access to the surreal frozen wonderland the river had deposited along its banks as far as I could see.

The icy river flowed west underneath a tumult of covered ice. But, on shore, the Red Lake had transformed a 50-yard wide strip into an Arctic landscape.

The river’s retreat had deposited endless rugged hunks and lumps and chunks of ice in many shapes and forms: sculptures, pool table tops and sheets that could have hosted a pond hockey game.

Cottonwoods, willow trunks, limbs and vegetation had trapped many slabs as large as a garage floor and as small as a table top.

Across the river (of course), where the current is always lazy, I could see the phalanx of cottonwoods had arrested suspended slabs as long and wide as driveways.

Most of the shore’s ice I walked on was glued to the ground, but many sheets were left suspended a few inches or feet in the air. Still others were captured as high as my thighs.

I hadn’t crossed a hockey rink in boots in decades, but that’s what walking across the miniature glaciers sort of felt like.

Every once in awhile, the ice cracked beneath my boots. Another step, another crack. Another step and suddenly — woomph! — a swimming pool size slab would drop to the ground. I recalled a little nervously that’s exactly what I felt when I fell through a frozen beaver pond while deer hunting back in the day. Only then, I never touched bottom. On Sunday, the ice and I landed on ground with a thud. The experience was eerily similar, though. After the eighth or ninth time the ice dropped, I couldn’t help but giggle or laugh.

I couldn’t resist dropping to hands and knees to peer beneath the trapped sheets at the ground. One fat grey squirrel sprinted under one ice field. No fear there.

The river’s gift of an other worldly landscape offered the ideal diversion for two hours.

I hiked back realizing I’d just witnessed two seasons at war with winter still on top and spring down below.

Who knows what spring will bring tomorrow?

Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

KEVIN GRINDE: Rhythm Of The Trail — Trump By Any Other Name

And so the Illegitimate One has taken the oath and in so doing has vomited even more lies with the world as a witness.

Meanwhile, “Hairman Mao’s” Cabinet of criminals awaits approval from his fellow congressional conspirators.

Never has a man so unpopular and so divisive taken the oath of office as the president of the U.S.A.

As the world turns, its citizens hold their collective breath while believing nothing good can come of this.

The Clown wears many names.

Except for his deplorable fanatics,  #Notmypresident may be the most common.

In keeping with PutinPuppet’s list of Cabinet nominees, the list is not inclusive.

Time and research would produce a book of epithets the size of “War and Peace.”

The names were compiled from letters to the editor, news stories, comedians, politicos (some from his own party) and astute students of politics in the USA.

Names like these are a dime a dozen in the cellar of newspaper/magazine web sites typically called The Comment Section. You’ve seen them. You’ve laughed at them. You’ve probably cried after digesting the fact that they’re all mostly accurate.

You’ll see the list contains some profanity (duh). So for readers with hard-core and supersensitive Christian beliefs, spare yourself the pain — don’t read it and just turn the channel.

Careful readers with a just a gram of brain matter will discover the list reflects the American virtues of creativity, hard work and fairness, equality and justice for only the richest of the rich bastards. As Bernie calls them: “The One Percenters.”

On the day few saw coming, the list is most appropriate and fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on one’s perspective,) eerily accurate. Critics will call the list classless, tasteless and lacking respect for the fool who now occupies the alleged top office in the land, which, of course, is complete b.s.

If and when Americans finally figure out that the president is nothing but a figurehead, and that the top offices of the land always have been and always will be located on Wall Street (but now in Moscow), the throne of corporate oligarchy the world over, maybe the country will  get its act together.

But don’t hold your breath because you’ll need a breathing tube to survive.

One last warning: the names are funnier than hell. Reflecting the future state of the union, the list is in no particular order. Chaos, you see, just went nuclear.

A complete list of names would take four years to read. By then, most of the USA and the world hopes the fascist and his criminal cronies will be just an asterisk in history. Meantime, do you have your bugout bag ready?

The List

  • AntiChrist.
  • Camel hunter.
  • Adulterer.
  • Fascist.
  • Racist.
  • Plebeian.
  • Rump.
  • tRumPutin.
  • Sauron.
  • Buffoon.
  • Lex Luthor.
  • Orange sad man.
  • Orange philistine.
  • Hairman Mao.
  • Rapey McRaperson.
  • Conman.
  • Peodophile.
  • Rapist.
  • Orange manatee.
  • Mein Furor.
  • Misogynist.
  • Clown.
  • Fat, arrogant orange penguin.
  • Con man.
  • Great Genghis CON.
  • Twitler.
  • Rump.
  • Donald.
  • Hitler.
  • Sphincter.
  • Asshole.
  • Babyman.
  • Baby.
  • Traitor.
  • Liar.
  • Psycho.
  • Mr. Golden Shower.
  • Stupid.
  • Trumpaloopas.
  • Sicko.
  • Sick son of a bitch.
  • Bigot.
  • Dipshit.
  • Dumbass.
  • Trumpet.
  • Putin puppet.
  • Sociopath.
  • Narcissist.
  • Nazi.
  • Manchurian candidate.

And last but not least, the list ends with a batch of names from a story the New York Daily News published last summer. They’re the best of the best.

  • Angry Creamsicle.
  • Human-toupee hybrid.
  • Orange manate.
  • Like Godzilla with less foreign policy experience.
  • Short-fingered vulgarian.
  • F–kface Von Clownstic.
  • Decomposing jack-o-lantern.
  • Fascist carnival barker.
  • The face of a butternut squash who wished on a shooting star and became a real boy.
  • Chairman of the Saddam Hussein fan club.
  • The uncle who hits on your wife at funerals.
  • A racist clementine.
  • Sociopathic, 70-year-old toddler.
  • Tangerine tornado.
  • Failed mail-order meat salesman.
  • America’s back mole.

KEVIN GRINDE: Rhythm Of The Trail — I Had Fun Reading A Bunn Coffee Maker Instruction Booklet

We’ve all been there. You’ve bought something — an appliance, tool, toy, DIY furniture, whatever — and the time arrives to use the thing.

But first, decision-making time arrives.

You see, humans divide themselves into those who read instructions before use, and those who don’t.

Many, many men (mostly) I know believe they are born with that special intuitive skill — you know, the one that allows them to assemble, build or connect the damn thing and watch it work.

I’m not one of them. That’s because I possess an instructions fetish and enjoy reading them. I think that’s because instructions provide a much-needed diversion or distraction from consuming way too much information from way too many websites that may or may not contain Fake News.

After reading volumes of instructions over the years, I know that most are written by technical writers who’ve never used the gadget they’re writing about. I also know the chances are pretty good that the poor person tasked with writing them lives in a country where English is the fifth language. Whatever the reason, reading instructions can be an adventure.

The guide that came with the Bunn coffee maker we bought was stunning in its simplicity and clarity. And get this — whoever wrote it had a heck of a sense of humor. I laughed at least a half-dozen times reading the step-by-step guide. (These days, laughs seem to be a precious and seemingly rare commodity. Again, I blame it on the news.) As I read the booklet, each page drove my anticipation of using the device a bit more. That, I swear, has only happened to me one other time, when I bought my first audio/video receiver.

For the record, the Mr. Coffee machine we bought four years ago and blew up a few weeks ago clearly was a victim of engineering incompetence. But when it worked, the machine looked cool, especially at night because its clock cast a cool blue glow throughout the kitchen. The Mr. Coffee maker (what a stupid name for an appliance brand) also made OK coffee. Imagine that. Problem is, it met my definition as a piece of crap precisely because it lasted only four years. For $50, I figured the thing would last at least a decade, like its predecessor did.

The new Bunn is made in Iowa, and Bunn promotes that in its package literature. I’ve got nothing against Iowa, but I still found it strange that Iowa was the machine’s birthplace. Who knew? (I always thought Iowa made only hogs and Republicans — including the biggest GOP freak in Congress right now. His name is Steve King. For more about this asshole, check out your own news source.)

About that instruction booklet
The “Welcome” booklet’s cover grabs your eyeballs and doesn’t let go. That’s because it’s printed on blaze orange paper. I like blaze orange a few weeks out of the year. I turned the page and soon found myself immersed in the directions like a container of crushed, aromatic beans in Bunn land.

Page 3 greets the reader/user with “Why Bunn?” in large, black type. The paragraph that follows explains: “Since 1957 restaurants have been using Bunns to make ‘the best coffee experience possible by building the best coffee makers possible.’” The graph goes on to explain that Bunn is a proud company that’s based on honesty and passion and other haughty claims. Maybe they’re even true. Time will tell.

The paragraph ends by saying, “Great coffee is just moments away.” I’m not sure how Iowegians define “moments,” but I needed 20 minutes to read the booklet.

Page 4 is an actual table of contents. Remember them? They were common back when people read books and didn’t tweet. The Bunn table tells the user that “Let’s Get Started” begins on Page 6, for example; “Meet the Brewer” is on 7; “Let’s Be Safe” can be found on Page 10. The one that raised my left eyebrow when I read it was the last line: “Legal Mumbo Jumbo.” Hmmmmm, I thought, so far these instructions definitely beat reading the news.

The Big Black Page 5 yells out in 3-inch letters, “Let’s Get Started.” And in type 90 percent smaller: “PLEASE FOLLOW THESE INSTRUCTIONS TO A TEE.” I liked that line because it suggested Bunn knows that far too many people — even the ones who buy their stuff — are dumb asses and need extra encouragement not to goof up. (For proof dumb asses rule the Earth, have you driven anywhere yet today? And then, of course, there’s tomorrow.)

The next few pages contain a parts diagram, which is even accurate. In fact, all of the illustrations in the book are accurate because they look like the actual machine. This is a first for instruction booklets and should qualify Bunn as a Pulitzer Prize contender for Community Service.

After turning the page, one can’t miss the warning on Page 8 in all caps: “Do not plug in until Step 4, or you risk permanently damaging the machine. AND WE DON’T WANT THAT ANY MORE THAN YOU DO.” (I love that line. Honesty. It’s another precious commodity these days. For proof, as of a month ago, Wells Fargo was our former bank.)

Page 9 marries illustrations with the step-by-step printed instructions that explain how to prep the machine. Step 5, the last one, reads: “TURN ON BREWER. Press Tank Switch on side to ON position. Wait 15 minutes for water to heat (you only do this once for life of brewer, so don’t fret). Keep Tank Switch on (unless you’re taking that much-needed vacation). Then be sensible and shut it off.” (I found that funny. Maybe because I’m a fan of using parentheses wisely. That the words within the Bunn parenthesis are funny to me is a bonus. I actually read them aloud to Sara when she asked what I was laughing at. She laughed, too.

“LET”S BE SAFE” launches the list of dos and dont’s most product instructions contain. Page 11 begins with, “IMPORTANT. NO, REALLY, THIS IS IMPORTANT.” I laughed again.

Finally, we get to the most important part of the instruction booklet: “Let’s brew 101.” Here Bunn explains the Bunn Difference, which contains more claims about how the machine makes great coffee. There’s a ditty for Time, Temperature and Turbulence. That’s right: turbulence. Bunn anticipated my consternation … “Created in the Brew Funnel as water uniformity showers over coffee, resulting in smooth flavor.” Hmmmm. I never thought of water as having uniformity. “Let’s Brew 101” ends with another sentence in parenthesis: “(We coffee geeks call this uniformity of extraction.)”

The last 10 pages tell how to clean the machine and how to troubleshoot if something’s amiss. I found more humor there, too.

The Basic Cleaning section ends: “If you’re a neat freak, do it more than occasionally.” The last page is reverse white type on a black background that simply says, “ENJOY.”

And I did. The machine performed exactly how, according to the instructions, it should. The thing made the best cup of coffee I’ve had in months.

So, here’s a tip of my coffee mug to Bunn for manufacturing what seems to be a bulletproof coffee maker. In four years, we shall see if what Bunn says in its instructions proves true.

I wish all gadgets, toys and tools were accompanied by instructions half as funny as Bunn’s. Reading them made my day and beat the hell out of reading the news, fake or not. Better yet, it made a perfect cup of coffee, when the temperature outside was 12 below.

Bravo (for now), Bunn!

RON SCHALOW: Sorry To Break This To You …

… but, our president lied to us on the very night of 9/11. On a sacred day in American history, George W. Bush decided that politics were more important than telling the truth, and this is where his re-election campaign started. Luckily, he wasn’t under oath.

Here are his words, when the commander-in-chief uses his photographic imagination to recall the days events:

8:30 p.m. on 9/11/2001
“Immediately following the first attack, I implemented our government’s emergency response plans. Our military is powerful, and it’s prepared. Our emergency teams are working in New York City and Washington, D.C., to help with local rescue efforts. Our first priority is to get help to those who have been injured and to take every precaution to protect our citizens at home and around the world from further attacks. The functions of our government continue without interruption. Federal agencies in Washington which had to be evacuated today are reopening for essential personnel tonight, and will be open for business tomorrow.” — GEORGE BUSH
Lie: Bush didn’t implement emergency response plans immediately, or at any other time. All actions took place without input by the president.By his own admission, which also served as an alibi, the president claimed not to have a single notion, “no alarm bells,” after being told that the first airliner hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center, that it was terrorism.
The FAA, NEADS, the Air Force, the Secret Service, and others knew, but the information didn’t make it to Mr. Bush.

A few heard bells.

“I think when information came in about the first crash, I think the natural reaction was, was it a plane that went off course, what could this be, is this terrorism?” — ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY, TO REPORTERS ON 9/11/2001 (His story changed.)

“This has bin Laden all over it. I’ve got to go.” — CIA CHIEF GEORGE TENET’S REACTION, AFTER HEARING ABOUT THE FIRST ATTACK.
Earlier:

8:19 a.m.
“I think we’re getting hijacked.” — BETTY ONG, A FLIGHT 11 ATTENDANT, SPEAKING ON PHONE TO AMERICAN AIRLINE OFFICIALS.

8:37:52 a.m.
The military — Northeast Air Defense Sector is notified of the hijacking by the FAA.
FAA: Hi. Boston Center TMU [Traffic Management Unit], we have a problem here. We have a hijacked headed toward New York, and we need you guys to, we need someone to scramble some F-16’s or something up there, help us out.
NEADS: Is this real-world or exercise?
FAA: No, this is not an exercise, not a test.

8:46 a.m.
Two fighter jets are scrambled from Otis Air Force Base in Massachusetts to track down Flight 11, as is the protocol, soon after the FAA determined that the airliner had been hijacked.
Even if the jets can get to the airliner before it reaches New York, the pilots will have few options, since the president is the only person who can order the shoot-down of a commercial airliner,and he’s unaware of the situation, and for some reason, he can’t be reached.

8:46:40 a.m.
American Airlines Flight 11 Smashes Into The North Tower Of The World Trade Center

8:47:50 a.m.
In New York City — “We have a number of floors on fire. It looked like the plane was aiming toward the building.” — BATTALION FIRE CHIEF JOSEPH PFEIFER “102 MINUTES”

8:55 a.m.
Before entering the classroom, the president spoke to National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, who was at the White House. She recalled first telling the president it was a twin-engine aircraft, then that it was commercial, saying “that’s all we know right now, Mr. President.” — 9/11 COMMISSION

It wasn’t until the second plane hit the south World Trade Center tower — and Andy Card came into the classroom. And whispered into his ear, “America is under attack,” when Bush was sitting in the Sarasota, Fla., classroom listening to children reading, when his mind, but not his body, began to stir.

“I was thinking about what the heck we were going to do. I’m an action-oriented guy. And I am thinking to myself: What is it I need to do?” — GEORGE BUSH
“I have nobody to talk to. My God, I’m commander-in-chief and the country has just come under attack!”— GEORGE BUSH

“In the Dec. 4, 2001, town-hall meeting, the president said he didn’t begin to make major decisions about the emergency until he was back aboard his plane. “I got on the phone from Air Force One, asking to find out the facts,” he said. — WALL STREET JOURNAL MARCH 22, 2004
“… and so, I got on the phone from Air Force One, asking to find out the facts. You’ve got to understand, Jordan, during this period of time, there were all kinds of rumors floating around. Some of them were erroneous. Obviously — for example, there was a news report saying that the State Department had been attacked. I needed to know what the facts were. But I knew I needed to act. I knew that if the nation’s under attack, the role of the commander-in-chief is to respond forcefully to prevent other attacks from happening. And so, I’ve talked to the Secretary of Defense; one of the first acts I did was to put our military on alert.” — GEORGE BUSH AT TOWNHALL MEETING

The problem with that story, is that the president didn’t get back to Air Force One until three planes had hit their targets, and he didn’t talk to the clueless Secretary of Defense. Minutes later, passengers forced Flight 93 to crash into a Pennsylvania field at 10 a.m., and the four attacks were over.

“Secretary Rumsfeld told us he was just gaining situational awareness when he spoke to the vice president at 10:39.” — 9/11 COMMISSION REPORT
Lie: The commander-in-chief didn’t have the military prepared to protect people on THIS continent.
“The nation was unprepared.” — 9/11 COMMISSION REPORT

“I remember very well that the president was aware that there were issues inside the United States. He talked to people about this. But I don’t remember the al Qaida cells as being something that we were told we needed to do something about. ”— CONDI RICE TO 9/11 COMMISSION
Rumsfeld covering his own butt. Always amusing.
“Under our Constitution, under our laws, the United States military’s task is to defend against foreign invasion and foreign threats. The threat we saw recently was from a person in our country in one of our airplanes filled with our citizens. This is a law enforcement job. It is a job for the FBI. It is a job for the police.” —DONALD RUMSFELD INTERVIEW FOR ABC NEWS “THIS WEEK” WITH SAM DONALDSON SEPTEMBER 16, 2001
“The purpose of a hijack is to take the plane from one place to another place where it wasn’t intended to be going, not to fly it into buildings.” — DONALD RUMSFELD TO 9/11 PANEL MARCH 23, 2004
“Prior to 9/11, it was understood that an order to shoot down a commercial aircraft would have to be issued by the National Command Authority (the president and secretary of Defense).” — 9/11 COMMISSION REPORT
“The mission of the Air National Guard at the time was to protect the American coast. We were trained to shoot down other airplanes.” — GEORGE BUSH, “A CHARGE TO KEEP”

Lie: Bush’s first priority should have been to protect the country from further attacks …
… but it wasn’t. The commander-in-chief wasted many a minute, sat through a photo-op, made a TV appearance, showed no evidence of knowing his duties and vamoosed to Louisiana and Nebraska.

But after a day of failure, the president’s approval ratings soared over the 90 percent mark, his staff got the stories straight, and he rode 9/11 into a war of choice and a second term. Slick.

Conversely, when four Americans were tragically killed by terrorists at a CIA compound in Libya, the response of a certain sector of U.S. citizens was totally unforgiving.

“At any rate, I knew I had a job to do. And I was quoted in the press the other day as saying I haven’t regretted one thing I’ve decided. And that’s the truth. Every decision I made, I stand by. And I’m proud of the decisions I’ve made.” — GEORGE BUSH DECEMBER 4, 2001

NANCY EDMONDS HANSON: After Thought — To Form A More Perfect Pumpkin

Russ spotted a row of pumpkin pies at the Village Inn the other day. He stopped dead in his tracks, and breathed one wistful outburst: “Yummm.”

So now, it’s officially autumn. A few weeks earlier, he’d never have wasted a second glance for a brown ugly duckling pushed toward the back of the pie case, skulking behind the more glamorous choices — strawberry, peach, Key lime, coconut cream, lemon meringue….

But somehow, as sure as the world keeps turning, the first hint of autumn inspires a longing for perhaps the least celebrated but most temporarily beloved pie in the cabinet.

Pumpkin pie — or “punkin,” as we knew it growing up — is the Rodney Dangerfield of desserts. For most of the year, it garners no respect, none at all. And worse: Even now, in these few brief months when it finally gets its turn to shine, pumpkin — or, more properly, pumpkin spice — has turned into fall’s version of a Christmas fruitcake joke.

Among the trendier, latte-sipping cohorts, the overexposure of pumpkin spice has turned it into a punch line. The bullying started when Starbucks debuted its seasonal hit, the Pumpkin Spice Latte, about 10 years ago. Suddenly, the flavor was turning up everywhere — no longer just in Mom’s dog-eared recipes for pumpkin bars and pumpkin bread, but in neighborhoods where no self-respecting orange orb had formerly been known to venture.

Pumpkin-flavored everything is popping up all over. I’ve only read of many of its permutations, rather than spotted them on our local shelves, but believe me: This is the kind of thing that, once described, makes a real impression. Pumpkin Pop-Tarts and Pringles Potato Chips. Pumpkin vodka and beer. Pumpkin bagels and breakfast cereals. Orange-stuffed Oreos. Pumpkin chewing gum, M&Ms and even Peeps. Scented candles that smell sort of like pie … and pumpkin air fresheners.

The funny thing — I mused last night, as I happily slurped my single Pumpkin Pie Blizzard of the season — is that the real fruit that bears the name (and yes, it’s really a fruit) doesn’t deliver much flavor of its own.

Pumpkin flesh is notoriously watery and fibrous. Only the distinctive pop of spices sets it apart from the Valley of the Bland.

We who are known to pie it up already understand the fresh pumpkin’s inadequacy in a half-subconscious way. That’s how we justify never sacrificing potential jack-o’-lanterns in pursuit of our desserts. Why take a chance at cannibalizing the Great Pumpkin when it doesn’t even taste all that good?

Instead, we invariably turn to one of Libby’s best-selling products, its canned puree. The label proudly proclaims it “100% pure pumpkin,” grown in good ol’ Illinois — a special variety the cannery itself developed.

Funny thing, though. The Libby’s label shows a lovely piece of pumpkin pie … but not the globular orange gourd of that name. And there’s a reason for that.

Libby’s “pumpkin” — and every competing brand on the grocer’s shelf — is squash.

Yes, squash … the unprepossessing dull-colored but delicious gourdish spheres and ovoids. Fill them with sliced apples, brown sugar and cinnamon, then bake to dinner table perfection. But don’t fashion a face on your butternut and light a candle inside. You’d get more centerpiece bang from carving broccoli.

This deception does not come as a shock to botanists. They’ve always known that pumpkin is merely a species of squash, closely related to its dull-shelled but golden-fleshed cousins. It’s distinguished only by its glowing color, stiffer vine, edible seeds and sub-par contents.

That’s right. In the tasteless department, the pumpkin bears a strong resemblance to its notorious shirttail relation, the zucchini. There’s a hidden resemblance there. Both are valued mostly because, if grated fine and stirred into well-spiced batters, no one even realizes what’s hidden inside.

According to Department of Agriculture statistics, only a scant fraction of the 2 billion pumpkins American farmers grew this year are destined for the dinner table — and that includes pretty much all of Libby’s proprietary variety, the dull-colored, butternut-shaped Dickinson squash.

False advertising? Who cares? The Ag Department says it’s perfectly all right that the canner universally calls it “pumpkin.” Same difference.

Try telling that to a child picking out his Halloween pumpkin, though, or the householder piling perfect specimens on her front porch. “Those” are undeniably pumpkins. They’re good for décor, not dinner.

But “pumpkin spice” is really a thing. It just doesn’t involve a molecule of its namesake. A little can of McCormick’s pie spice has been living out the twilight of its half-life here since my grandmother gave up housekeeping in 1970 — inedible for sure, but part of my family’s heritage.

That flavor that inspired you in October is composed of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves and allspice, the blend McCormick’s officially christened “pumpkin pie spice.” The venerable seasoning company created a real stir with the pre-packaged blend back in the 1950s. It took a load off the minds of home cooks who used no more than one pinch of allspice per year, yet fretted over wasting the remainder.

What you smell when you pull a pie out of the oven is the spice blend, not the squash. The aerosol that covers your cat odor is spice, not pumpkin, magic. The delicious aroma you inhale as you sip your Pumpkin Spice Latte is from your barista’s industrial-sized bottle of flavoring, not the produce department.

What puzzled me most last night, as I suctioned the last milliliter of my Blizzard from the cup, was this: How can a classic flavor so long anticipated and so fabulous, beginning right this moment, leave you totally cold by the day after Christmas?

And would Halloween night ever be the same for little Linus if he were waiting for the Great Squash?

KEVIN GRINDE: Rhythm Of The Trail — Another Hike, Another Fantastic Mushroom Discovery

Fall has finally arrived, and we’re on a roll.

I said two blogs ago Nature is pregnant with surprises and looked forward to a return trip to the Brainerd (Minn.) Lakes Area to discover more of them.

A couple of weeks ago, my oldest daughter, Arin, and her mountain climbing son, Asher, stumbled on a delicious species of edible mushroom called the Bear’s Head Tooth. The soft, white ‘shroom resembled a chunk of coral that looked like it would be more at home on an ocean reef than a forest floor. 

Once we discovered the Bear’s Head was edible, of course I cooked it. I described the eating experience like this:  “The ‘shrooms were so tasty, so delectable, so mouthwatering delicious, so slyly and subtly flavorful, so creamy, just so damn good! we were astonished — speechless even. We couldn’t believe that something so odd looking could taste so heavenly.

Last weekend, we took a short hike around a small lake hoping to absorb Minnesota’s fall colors (and more mushrooms?). Our walk took us along the top of a ridge that contained a beautiful early autumn overlook of the far lakeshore.

North-central Minnesota’s fall color transition is happening in slow motion. The foliage remains 70 percent green, but the splashes provided by golden draped maples promised the fall color explosion is on its way. Although we couldn’t fully see autumn, we could feel and smell the cusp of its arrival. 

The hiking area contains an almost balanced mix of blowdowns and standing trees. That’s because powerful straight line winds ripped the Nisswa/Baxter/Brainerd area apart this past August and in July 2015. Besides tearing up the forest, storms raised havoc by damaging roofs, blocked roads and knocked out power for some people for a week. The area also has been a target for parades of tropical precipitation two years in a row. Besides producing too many wet basements, the wet earth makes trees susceptible to toppling during hurricane force winds.

We were witnessing the result of what happens after nature twice flexes her muscle. White pines, popples, basswood, oaks, maples — the indiscriminate wind didn’t care what it bullied. The Weather Service calculates the wind in 2015 blew more than 100 mph. Uprooted stumps, angled widow-makers — hung-bung severed trunks that haven’t completed their inevitable surrender to gravity — and fallen trees lay haphazardly on the ground.

In time, the wood will rot. As it does, the trees will return to dust, fertilizing the forest floor with nutritious decay that will allow new plants and trees to take root.

Already, mushrooms are finding the battle zone to their liking. I counted nine species of ‘shrooms on our mile-long hike. I couldn’t identify eight of them.

And then we struck gold again, or should I say orange?

Chicken of the Woods mushroom.
Chicken of the Woods mushroom.

Sara was the first to ask, “Aren’t those pretty?” as she pointed toward a clump of stuff that reminded me of Halloween. Three clumps of elongated pumpkin colored fungus, each about the size of a football, were growing just above the ground attached to a fallen oak. I sliced one clump and was surprised it weighed much heavier than a football. The “cap” contained about 30 individual fan-shaped and overlapping “shelves” that were 3 to 8 inches across. I’d soon discover that these are the parts one cleans and eats.

I had a pretty good hunch my hand held another type of mushroom that wore a wacky sounding name — maybe as goofy sounding as the Bear’s Head Tooth ‘shrooms we found a few weeks ago.

To confirm our discovery, like I did with the Bear’s Head find, I posted a photo on Facebook. Amazingly, the social media site proved it has some value once in awhile. My nephew, Blake, supplied the answer in minutes: chicken of the woods. Five more people confirmed what I already suspected. More research back at the lodge confirmed the confirmations.

We found what are called Chicken of the Woods. One more time: Chicken of the Woods. I like saying the name. Especially when it’s the answer to the question: “What are you cooking?”

“Chicken of the woods, of course.” 

COTW are sort of related to another mushroom that looks similar and grows in a clump but isn’t as colorful. The COTW’s relative is called Hen of the Woods. I’m not making this up. Both species are not only edible but deliciously so.

I learned a few things about COTW from the web:

  • COTW is sometimes called chicken fungus, chicken mushroom and sulphur shelf.
  • They grow on hardwoods.
  • COTW, as Sara demonstrated, is easily identified because of its orange color. As specimens age, their color fades as does their taste.
  • The ‘shrooms grow in northern states east of the Rockies.
  • I repeatedly read COTW are one of the easy and “safe” mushrooms to identify.

Back home, I cleaned the chickens with a paper towel. I removed the tough firm, white base and discarded it, then sliced the orange shelves into 1-inch pieces.

I grilled them for 15 minutes at 400 degrees with an occasional coating of parsley butter.

So, what did they taste like?

Some humans compare COTW to chicken of the sea or other seafood critters such as snow crab. I think they taste like chicken. The friend I invited over agrees. “Tastes like chicken,” he said. We’re not making this up. That the mushrooms accompanied grilled chicken breasts also may have had something to do with the taste comparison. A second meal of COTW the next day, this time in an omelette, confirmed the culinary chicken connection, however.

 I’ll be heading south to the Brainerd area again soon, which is getting pretty late in the mushroom hunting game. But who knows, striking gold — or orange or whatever color the edible surprise turns out to be — three consecutive times on the fungus front remains a possibility.

I know one thing that won’t be difficult to find because the fall’s color explosion will be peaking.

Fall carries with it treats that tease and saturate multiple human senses. Autumn, with its orange and crimson and bronze and tan and yellow and purple palette, is the sensual season.

And I’ll take its offerings in our neck of the woods over any other state, thank you very much. If I find some edibles in the meantime, that’s just more frosting on Minnesota’s ultimate season.

 

KEVIN GRINDE: Rhythm Of The Trail — A Coupon Lesson In Toilet Paper Mathematics

Coupon grocery shopping is sort of like hunting for Easter eggs.

Since I have no say in our household, I do both the shopping and egg hunting.

The local family-owned grocery monopoly mails coupons to residents every once in awhile. Two weeks ago, we received some, so I decided I’d go spend and save some money.

The colorful coupon package is entitled, “CouponMania! Enjoy family Favorites For Less!”

There are 32 coupons in all. Coupons are divided so shoppers are offered four bargains a week. For you mathematically challenged shoppers like me, that computes into eight week’s worth of coupon shopping. What a deal!

Once I got permission to spend, and armed with the coupons plus a few other items on My List, I headed to one of the grocery chain’s stores on 32nd Avenue South in Grand Forks, which for people living in East Grand Forks may as well be in North Fargo. I could have chosen the EGF store, but I had a few other stores in North Fargo to hit.

Most of the time, assuming you are willing to travel every aisle, navigating the grocery store’s lanes for  coupon products isn’t difficult — except there always seems to be that one elusive item on the list. Always.

I’m not sure but I think the store owners are trying to pull a fast one on us. Could it be because they hope each shopper might throw three unnecessary packages of Oreos or whatever in our cart in addition to buying the coupon specials?

So I found the coupon specials — deli meat package, the bottle of juice and Lay’s Family Pack of potato chips — no problem.

I paused before retrieving the last list item to catch up on my label reading. For many reasons, I study product labels. I pay attention to the ingredients, the weight and how many slices of product are promised  in the package. Frequently, the company doesn’t tell you how much product the plastic or cardboard container contains. Drives me nuts when I’m trying to count those invisible slices of bacon.

If one has read labels over a period of years, you’ve probably noticed a trend. One has to wonder why we are paying much more for much less of whatever it is we choose to buy. Coupons allow consumers to forget — at least for a while — that we’re probably getting screwed again.

I discovered the salami in the plastic box weighed 7 ounces, which is 1 ounce shy of 8 ounces, which is a half-pound; the healthy potato chips in their red and yellow package wore a 15¾-ounce weight — not 1 pound, mind you — 15¾ ounces.

I wanted to know how many chips are in 15¾ ounces, but that information remains secret. I wondered out loud how much more of a profit margin Lay’s makes by eliminating that 1 ounce of chips.

The juice actually contained 64 ounces, which is a whole one-half gallon. I was momentarily stunned when I saw the 64 ounces. Following the logic used by the other manufacturers, I expected to read 63.2 ounces.

tppicSince I’d left the hunt for the 16-roll package of TP — aka toilet paper — until last, off to the “bathroom tissues” aisle I went.

And that’s where I found Jerry and enough TP packages to fill our deer shack outhouse 50 times over.

Turned out I wasn’t the only person using my Mania coupons.

Jerry had to be pushing 80 on the human anniversary scale. He was slowly moving along the TP display and mumbling to himself. I could relate.

After a few minutes he asked, “You seem as puzzled as I am. Are you doing what I’m doing?”

“You mean trying to find the 16-roll pack? Yes. I wonder where they’ve got them stashed because they don’t seem to be here. Maybe they’re in the organic aisle.”

We continued hunting for a 16-roll pack of Northern Puffs — or whatever they’re called.

We found packs of 4, 8, 12 but couldn’t find what we both imagined to be a package containing 16 rolls of TP.

I normally don’t buy TP at the grocery store — too expensive. My wife and I head to a double-jumbo box store to stock up on bulk paper products such as TP and PT — aka paper towel. We grab the usual brand and heft it into the cart and are on our way to paying $17 for a pack of 18 rolls. I’ve never read a TP package until the other day. Apparently, my new shopping partner hadn’t either.

We focused our attention on typography and labels hoping to discover the secret to TP packaging.

“Do you see this?” he asked, pointing to the bottom line of tiny blue type on a clear background.

The label clearly stated he was holding 16 rolls of TP — and the word “Double.” We deployed Google Analytics and examined the package even closer. You see, both of us wear glasses.

“I’ll be damned,” I said. “I only see eight rolls, how about you?”

“Yep, eight rolls. Must not be the one.”

To gain clarification, I read the entire package aloud. In green type, top left, it read: “Double 16 double rolls = 32 regular rolls.” And at the very bottom in blue type: “16 rolls. 312.8 SQ FT (28.7m2). 176 2-PLY SHEETS PER ROLL. 4.0 IN X 4.0 IN (10.1 cm X 10.1 cm).”

“That’s a pretty crappy thing for Northern Puff to do — lie about the number of rolls in a package in plain blue writing!” Jerry said. “And what the hell is a CM? And who the hell measures toilet paper in square feet or inches?”

Jerry was getting a bit ornery.

“You’ve got that right, but technically, they’re sort of being honest.”

“It’s still a crappy thing to do. With that logic, when we check out, we should get our stuff at half price. Or get twice as much of everything for the same price.”

Clearly, Jerry is a math genius, and he lost me.

We both tired of the toilet paper challenge.

“Hell with it, I’ll submit this to the checkout person and punt,” he said.

“Got any more coupon items to buy?” I asked.

“Three more.”

I told him where to find the juice, the meat and chips, said “good luck … nice talking TP with you,” and I headed to the checkout aisle where I was interrupted by another TP-related blockade.

The whole ordeal reminded me of constipation.

“Ummm,” the very pleasant checkout woman said, “this isn’t the right toilet paper package for the coupon. Would you like me to get it for you?”

And off she went but quickly returned.

I thought that fetching my TP was a very nice thing for her to do and told her so.

“Thanks. I’ve been doing this my whole shift,” she said.

“Coupon shopping is sort of like Easter egg hunting,” I said, while grabbing my bags, “except then the eggs are free.”

“Actually, they will be on sale in a couple of weeks,” she said. “See you then!”