Archive | December, 2008

Meet the man behind the weather report

December 16, 2008

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“Nature’s Messenger: Memoirs of a Prophetic Meteorologist,”

by Craig Edwards

Craig Edwards was the man behind the scenes for our weather in Minnesota and the rest of the Upper Midwest.

As the Twin Cities area chief meteorologist for the National Weather Service, the St. Hubert, Chanhassen parishioner recently finished a 34-year career warning people about storms, tornadoes, blizzards — you name it.

It’s from that experience of watching the weather patterns and witnessing scientifically the dramatically visible changes we see and feel that Edwards moves from telling his life story to almost a self-appointed role as prophet about climate change and global warming.

Edwards, who upon retirement from the weather bureau in 2007 took a job in the weather department for Minnesota Public Radio, religiously — pun intended — writes about his Catholic upbringing in Illinois and his fascination with the weather from an early age.

Readers of a certain age are going to see parallels with their own youthful years, I’m sure, and I didn’t find much of that part of “Nature’s Messenger” compelling reading.

But when you get to page 56 of this paperback, that’s where the good stuff starts.

Come behind the curtain

Edwards takes readers on a lengthy behind-the-scenes tour of operations at several Weather Service locations around the Midwest, into the personnel issues, how and why the government got behind commercial television stations in working with new technologies like Doppler radar.

If you’re old enough you’ll be able to relive some of the major weather events of the past 34 years, including record snowstorms, tornadoes and of course the Red River Valley floods. Edwards calls the central part of North America “the world’s greatest playground for the forces of nature,” and thus a prime spot for weather people to work in.

All along the way in this life story of a man with an interesting job he works in what’s going on with his family life and especially his faith life, including his finding blessing in Eucharistic Adoration and teaching in his parish confirmation program.

Interesting, too, is this comment about the parallels between life and weather: “There are a large number of days when things are just simply partly cloudy.”

A man on a bigger mission

There’s a good bit of preachiness here about the importance of striving for excellence in one’s career without having to be pushed by outside forces, but Edwards doesn’t over-do it. His writing style like his leadership style is more of collaborating, mentoring and preaching with his actions.

But when he starts laying out his thoughts about climate change, Edwards preaches a tough-love homily. “The planet is more vulnerable than ever before,” he claims, and we humans have brought it on ourselves.

He sees the evidence of global warming as disrespecting God’s creation, and he drives home with paragraph after paragraph of evidence the fact that we ignore all the warnings at our peril.

The answer lies in “a substantial sacrificial response and personal accountability,” Edwards said. “All God’s people have an inherent purpose to preserve the goodness of the earth.”

Edwards does speaking engagements on the topics he writes about in “Nature’s Messenger,” an iUniverse title. Reach him at http://www.naturesmessenger.com. — bz

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Coming up short

December 16, 2008

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I had a lengthy conversation with my friend, Al, last night about deer hunting. He and his hunting party went down to southeastern Minnesota to take part in the B season, which ran from Nov. 22-30.

They have done well there the past couple of seasons and I was anticipating a good report again this year. But, it ended up being a tough hunt for them. They had some deer sightings, but missed on every shot. That leaves empty freezers this winter, except for a small amount of venison left over from last year.

I felt bad for them. No one enjoys the taste of venison more than Al and his family. In fact, they have a Christmas Day tradition of a venison meal. They’ll have some venison, but will have to add beef to feed everyone.

Fortunately, it was a good year of deer hunting for my family, so I offered Al some of the venison in my freezer. He quickly accepted, with the exchange to take place this weekend. I’m happy to help out. Truth is, we have plenty of venison in our freezer, to the point of having too much. So, I have a good reason to share.

Of course, I’m hoping that Al and his group will have a better year next year. However, Al is not sure his dad will join him. They had a longer walk than usual to their hunting spots — about a mile — and the trek took a lot out of him. They hunted on public land and their usual short cut across private land to their spot was cut off when the landowner decided this year not to let them cross.

This is a very unfortunate situation, but is symptomatic of a deeper problem of deteriorating relations between landowners and hunters leading to the elimination of access to private land. Frankly, I think a lot of the blame falls on hunters. I have seen and heard of many examples in recent years of hunters abusing their privileges and being jerks to both other hunters and even landowners. I don’t blame landowners for getting fed up with all of the hassles of letting people onto their land.

Yet, I wish there was a way to resolve Al’s access issue so that his dad can hunt. Being able to hunt with your dad is a fabulous experience and I continue to enjoy that luxury with my own father, who is now 87 and says he wants to hunt wild turkeys in Wisconsin with me again this year. For now, I will be content to help put a little venison on Al’s table.

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Do you know where you came from?

December 12, 2008

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“Disguise,”

by Hugo Hamilton

What’s your earliest memory?

You’ve heard from parents and extended family stories from that part of your life for which you have no memory because you were just too young to remember.

But what if you discovered that maybe you hadn’t been told the complete truth about those early years?

What if there was evidence that the people who call themselves your parents may not be your parents at all?

Hugo Hamilton gets inside the mind of a character in that very scenario. It’s a novel that traps you into reading to the end.

Who are we, really?

The setting is Germany, and the story starts during World War II and flips back and forth between the generations and decades after the war and 50 some years later. Hamilton offers us a wonderful sense of place in every one of the locales he takes us to.

And as much as “Disguise” offers plot as a main device, it’s really character that is in the spotlight, and not just for the family whose story is drawing us in.

How is who we are and where we come from — and who we come from — important to what we become?

What impact is there on our psyche in knowing our ancestry, or, more to the point, of not knowing? What does it do to you when you can’t trust — or don’t know if you can trust — your own parents? If you don’t belong in a place, where do you belong?

How do you know when you’re home?

No formulaic ending

“Disguise” isn’t a book I’d jump up and down to recommend. By grade, maybe it’s a “B+” thanks to the absolute beauty of the prose.

But I do recommend this Harper title (www.HarperCollins.com).

We need to read literature that doesn’t have the formulaic endings of best-selling novels where you know before you start that the hero will conquer evil. — bz

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The hunt is over

December 11, 2008

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For most hunters, myself included, the hunting season has drawn to a close. I walk away very satisfied with the fall of 2008. It was memorable, not just for me, but for my children as well.

One of the highlights was shooting my first fall turkey ever. Actually, I almost got two. I have been trying for several years to bag an autumn bird, but something always seemed to go wrong. Then, this year, I tried a new strategy and succeeded in just two hours in Minnesota. In Wisconsin, I took a shot at a bird and missed.

The Minnesota bird came less than a week after my son, Andy, shot his first deer ever, a whitetail doe during Wisconsin’s youth deer hunting weekend. Then, I shot a buck in Minnesota and my son, Joe, added a doe to the harvest. Finally, Joe and Andy each shot bucks in Montana.

As a reflected on these hunts, I came across an article in Field and Stream talking about the declining number of hunters and what’s causing it. A number of factors were examined, then a heavy finger pointed at parents who are deciding not to take their kids out hunting.

I’m happy — and a little relieved — that this is not the case with me. In fact, I have thoroughly enjoyed the five falls in which I have hunted with my two oldest boys. It was an adjustment, at first, from hunting just by myself or with other adults. But, the rewards have been great, especially when the boys have been fortunate enough to get something. Of course, that’s not all there is to hunting, but it is thrilling to be there when they see an animal and take a shot. And, I have experienced the added thrill of taking their picture when it’s over.

It’s a joy I wish more dads could experience. And, yet, I acknowledge that it can be very difficult to take a child out into the field if you have done little or no hunting yourself. Frankly, there are lots of activities that are easier to help your kids do than hunting.

Still, it is worthwhile when you make the effort. Kids are losing their connection with the outdoors and this a great way to reestablish that link. Plus, passing on the tradition to our youth will help ensure the future of hunting. The number of people opposed to hunting is growing, plus the amount of land available to hunters is shrinking. We should not sit idly by and let those trends continue.

I have taken steps to try and put the future of this great sport into the hands of my children. My No. 3 son, William, is 10 and on the cusp of his first hunt. The Minnesota DNR has created more opportunities for kids his age to get out into the field. Turkey hunting is now legal for kids of all ages and the state has created the chance for 10- and 11-year-olds to deer hunt. I may start him out next year with a fall turkey hunt. That strikes me as a great way to begin.

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Sausage day

December 3, 2008

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Today marks an annual tradition — bringing in fresh, venison sausage to my coworkers at The Catholic Spirit. Yesterday, I picked up a batch of summer sausage from Stasny’s Food Market right here in St. Paul. I had dropped off a deer for processing back in November and I always order Stasny’s delicious summer sausage.

I feel a little strange driving around St. Paul with a deer in my trailer, but I wouldn’t take it anywhere else. The heart of St. Paul might seem like an unusual place to find a deer processor, but the folks at Stasny’s have been doing it for a long time and it shows.

I really like the taste of the summer sausage I get there, and I also like sharing it with others. In fact, I will be giving more of it away to landowners who have given me and my sons permission to hunt on their properties. That’s an annual tradition, too. I’m very grateful for the privilege of having good places to hunt and it’s nice to give the landowners a small token of appreciation.

In this day and age, finding land on which to hunt is getting harder and harder. I sure hope my children will be able to continue our tradition of hunting. For now, we’ll keep enjoying the sausage, plus all of the other venison now taking up space in our freezer.

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Returning from Big Sky country

December 1, 2008

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We got back from our trip to Great Falls, Mont. very early yesterday morning — 5 a.m. to be exact. It got interesting in western North Dakota when we encountered some snow and slush, making for some tense driving. But, God answered our prayers for protection and brought us safely home.

I did some elk and deer hunting with my two oldest boys, Joe and Andy, and their Grandpa Bob Guditis, his daughter, Jessica Gray, and her husband, Jerry. The results will be revealed in my monthly outdoors column in The Catholic Spirit in an upcoming issue. For now, I’d like to highlight one important aspect of the hunt.

It has to do with being prepared for the hunting conditions out west. Thanks to my friend, Steve Huettl, we had the right clothing. He works for a hunting clothing company called Gamehide and he was able to get us jackets, bibs, caps, neck gaiters and gloves at a significantly discounted price. He shipped them to us just a few days before we left and even shipped another jacket when Joe needed a bigger size.

Everything worked great and kept us warm and comfortable, even when it got cold and windy. The weather can vary greatly out west in the mountains, and we experienced that in our five days of hunting. It got to 60 degrees the first day, then dropped into the teens later in the week. The clothing worked through it all. I was confident it would do the job because Steve told me he uses the same stuff himself. It’s Gamehide’s top of the line and it showed. Many thanks to Steve!

A second important part of being prepared is to have rifles that shoot accurately. Bob is a civil engineer who understands technical things like bullet trajectories very well. He sights in every rifle he uses and we had a very important sight-in session at the gun range before the hunt. Unlike many hunters, he zeroes his rifles in at about 250-275 yards. He knows that shots that long — and longer — are common out west. Although the bullets will hit two or three inches high at 100 and 200 yards, a hunter can take longer shots without having to aim high on an animal.

All I will say for now is I’m very glad we took the time to sight in our rifles. Stay tuned to my upcoming column for a detailed story of our hunt!

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Most useful and used gift book you could buy this Christmas is about, of all things, the Rosary

December 1, 2008

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“The Rosary: A Journey to the Beloved,”

by Gary Jansen

It’s one of those small, easy-to-handle books, only 100 pages or so, and the pages are of the 5 inch by 7 inch variety, but “The Rosary” may be one of the most useful gifts you wrap this Christmas.

Gary Jansen, a book editor by trade, rediscovered the Rosary as a prayer of transformation, a prayer of peace and a prayer of hope, and his little book will help others do the same. As he explains about his own “dark night of the soul,” “God had not abandoned me; I just hadn’t been listening.”

He wrote “The Rosary” as a short introduction on how to listen to God’s words in day-to-day life and as a reminder that we are never alone.

There’s some introductory pages that offer down-to-earth questions you may have asked yourself at one time or another, like: How long have Catholics been praying the Rosary? What’s the point of repeating Hail Mary’s over and over? What’s behind the “mysteries” of the Rosary?

Jansen offers this simple way to look at the Rosary:

See the Rosary as sitting with Mary and paging through a scrapbook of Jesus’ life; it will let you know Jesus on a whole new level, an emotional one, a loving one, and a familiar one.

But can we ever just sit and take the time to do the Rosary?

We 21st century people may have to re-learn how to reflect, not “just do it.” Just the opposite of doing, Jansen encourages praying the Rosary as a way to sit with the stories in each of the four mysteries — Joyful, Luminous, Sorrowful and Glorious:
  • See them as the high points in the life of Jesus;
  • Think about their meaning;
  • Become a character in the scene (for example, a waiter in the gospel story of the Wedding Feast at Cana), and ask yourself how you might have reacted, what you would be thinking were you there at the time, what you might have done in response.

Don’t know thing one about the Rosary? There’s an easy to use how-to section.

After you’ve read those introductory pages, though, you’ll find Jansen’s work useful time after time as you pray The Rosary. Just pick up at Page 39.

You’ll see the opening prayers, and then a scripture passage and beautiful painting that goes with each of the 20 mysteries to help you focus on that aspect of Jesus’ life story. None is more than one page, most very short, and the simplicity is perfect for helping target your attention.

Art buffs will appreciate the credits in the back that identify each of the paintings and their artists.

All will appreciate this Faith Words imprint (http://www.faithwords.com). — bz

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