Archive | July, 2009

Off and running

July 30, 2009

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On July 4, I began my campaign to get healthy. I kicked it off with a 3-mile walk near my St. Paul home. It felt good to get my body moving and I pondered the possibility of running this route someday.

That day came sooner than I thought — Tuesday of this week. I didn’t set out to walk the entire three miles. Up until then, I had been walking it six times a week, with a few running intervals thrown in.
Just two blocks into the walk, I decided to start jogging. I was just planning on going a few blocks, but I ended up going the whole way. It felt great. Then, I did it again today.
Two 3-mile runs in a week is way more than I would have predicted for the first month of my exercise program. Granted, the jog was slow, but it was a jog, nonetheless. I’m hoping the regular exercise plus some dietary changes will trim my bulging midsection and help me gain more energy. Plus, it will get me in shape for our Montana hunting trip in November.
I pray I can keep up this regimen. It has been more than 10 years since I have run this far. Who knows? Maybe I can add a mile or two over the next few months.
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Right place, right time

July 28, 2009

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I ventured over to Lake Calhoun last night, this time without my fishing boat. I was there to take engagement photos of a wonderful Christian couple, Sean and Julia, who have hired me to shoot their wedding.

They met at Lake Calhoun, so it was a natural place to take the photos. A day earlier, weather forecasters were predicting rain, but the evening was dry and sunny. We went to the west side of the lake and found some really neats spots for photos. Then, at the end, we decided to go to the lakeshore and get a few pictures with the water in the background.
As I positioned them on the grass, I noticed a beautiful white cloud in the sky behind them. And, it was lit up nicely by the setting sun. As I spent several minutes shooting, some nice color appeared in the sky and was reflected in the water.
It was about perfect. I snapped some photos in the waning moments of this beautiful light and ended up with the type of dramatic photos I would not have predicted. God is so good to have given me this gift. And, Sean and Julia recognized this blessing as well.
I remarked that it would very hard, if not impossible, to see something like this and not be convinced that there is a God. The experience made me wish that a group I had seen at Lake Cahlhoun the day before had been able to see this sunset. About eight or 10 men and women in their 20s were gathered near the boat landing wearing black t-shirts that said “Religion is a lie.”
I would have really liked to have watched this sunset with them and then had a conversation with them about God. Not sure I would have persuaded them to believe in Him, but I sure could have made a compelling case.
No matter. I am content to experience the joy of this special gift from the Lord. I’m sure scenes just like this must have inspired the words of the psalmist.
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Different lake, same result

July 27, 2009

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I decided to take advantage of a beautiful day yesterday and I headed over to Lake Calhoun to try for some bass. After not doing well on Cedar Lake, I decided to give Calhoun a shot.

Because it’s bigger and deeper, it’s usually colder and takes longer to warm up than Cedar. That means the bass typically spawn later and settle into their summer patterns later. For this reason, I always try Cedar earlier in the summer, then switch over to Calhoun in August.
I was hoping the fish would be active, but the results were about the same as on Cedar. I caught a few bass, with the biggest measuring 17 inches — not at all what I’m used to on this lake.
I sent out some e-mails to some expert anglers that I know and they all agree that this is a very abnormal year. One of them has done a lot of bass fishing this summer and has done very well, but he said the fish are scattered and he really has had to work for them. He catches some shallow and some deep, but is not getting the numbers of fish deep that he normally does.
To be honest, I have had such consistent success over the years fishing deep that I rarely visit the shallows at this time of year. Guess it’s time to try, although the city lakes are choked with eurasian milfoil shallow and it won’t be easy to get a lure to the fish if they’re in the thick stuff.
The good news is, this is a severe departure from the norm and it probably won’t happen again next year. On the other hand, we still have the entire month of August left, so maybe a deepwater pattern will develop yet. I sure hope so!
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Walleye in the strangest of places

July 24, 2009

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I got out on one of my favorite bass lakes yesterday — Cedar Lake in Minneapolis. It’s on the chain of lakes that includes Calhoun and Lake of the Isles.

I took my oldest son, Joe, and we were hoping for some good bass action. Two previous trips had been slow, but it was a nice day and we were on a warming trend, which has been rare in the month of July.
We had a tough time getting through the channel going from Lake of the Isles to Cedar because of the low water this year. At one point, Joe got out and pushed the boat through a shallow spot.
Once on Cedar, I went to a small point and made a cast to the weedline. I felt a few taps, then set the hook. After a short battle, the fish came up — a walleye!
I have been fishing Cedar for several years and never caught a walleye. It was about 13 inches long and I dropped it into the livewell. Walleyes this size always taste good. We continued working our way around the lake pitching plastic worms for bass. The only takers were small bass and one decent-sized northern. The biggest bass of the day was only about 13 inches long.
That’s not what I’m used to on this lake. In fact, just three weeks ago, my friend, Dave Altman, and I each landed an 18 1/2-incher. I’m not sure what’s going on. Usually, by this time of the summer, the bass are set up on the deep weedlines and willing to bite plastic worms.
Not this  year. The best theory I can come up with is the cold weather we’ve had this month has thrown them off their summer pattern. In a normal year, temperatures have been in the 80s consistently for several weeks, with a few 90s thrown in. I’m not sure we’re going to see that anytime soon — or at all this summer.
Does this mean the usual summer pattern won’t exist this year? I sure hope not. One thing I do know is I probably won’t go back to Cedar this year. It’s really tough getting through that channel and the results are definitely not worth the struggle. I may try Calhoun in the next few weeks, but I’m not sure things will be any different there. It’s a deeper and colder lake than Cedar, so I don’t know if there are any fish on the deep weedlines there, either.
Maybe I should switch over to walleyes. All the reports I have heard about walleyes this year have been good. And, I had success on Upper Red Lake with my family last month. I’m planning on fishing a lake in the Brainerd area in early August. It has both walleyes and bass and I think I’ll try to target both and see which one is biting.
If it ends up being walleyes, I won’t complain. More fish for the frying pan is a good thing!
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An exotic hunt

July 20, 2009

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My son, Joe, returned Saturday from his week in Del Rio, Texas, at a youth hunting camp that he won from Safari Club International. He really enjoyed the experience and was able to harvest one of the exotic animals on the 10,000-acre Indianhead Ranch.

He was able to bring home meat from an axis deer that he shot on the last morning he could hunt. There were lots of animals on the ranch, but they were spread out and difficult to locate. Plus, he was only able to shoot what is known as a management buck, meaning something that is mature in age but not considered to have big enough antlers to be considered a trophy.
Still, the deer had a nice set of tall antlers that Joe is having the ranch mount for him. For me, the best part is the meat. Joe had eaten axis deer while he was there and found out how good it tastes.
The rest of our family made that discovery Saturday night when I decided to grill the tenderloins. They were absolutely delicious. There was no gamey taste whatsoever. Tonight, we are making an axis deer roast in the crock pot and I’m sure that will taste great, too.
As good as that deer is on the table, I doubt that I will go down and hunt them anytime soon. It’s very expensive to hunt at this ranch and others like it — several thousand dollars, depending on which species you hunt and what kind of trophy you end up harvesting. It would make a good once-in-a-lifetime hunt, though. If I could get an axis deer or something that tastes as good, I’d sure consider it.
When Joe was there, they mentioned the possibility of having him come down next year and be a counselor at the youth camp. He’s very excited about this. I think it would be a great opportunity and he could learn a lot while he’s there. We’ll have to see how that works out next summer. He will have just graduated from high school, so he will be making plans for college. Perhaps, this can fit in. In the meantime, we have more good meals of axis deer ahead!
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Catholic values pop out of major novelist’s mystery

July 19, 2009

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“Where Are You Now?”,
by Mary Higgins Clark

With more than 30 titles under her belt, Mary Higgins Clark knows how to write a mystery.

In “Where Are You Now?” she pulls out the expected array of clues and characters.

The story-line starts 10 years after a college senior disappears. Once again on this Mother’s Day he calls home. His attorney sister decides to try to locate him, but the police detectives she turns to quickly make a connection: the brother may be their best suspect in a murder and the disappearance of three young women in the same New York neighborhood.

All the good mystery pieces are there: the passionate protagonist, the love interest that may or may not be true, the greedy landlord, the nervous apartment caretakers, the demented perpetrator, the likable victims, the suspicious chauffeur, the pain of post-abortion trauma.

What?

A major American novelist works the pain of post-abortion trauma into a book that a major publisher — Simon & Schuster — prints and promotes?

Catholic writer includes her values

Okay, I’ll be clear: “Where Are You Now?” is not a mystery about abortion.

It’s just that the way abortion usually is found in mainstream publishing is that it is extremely one-sided, treating the taking of the life of the in utero baby either casually and matter-of-factly or sympathetically toward the pregnant woman with no regard whatsoever for the other living being in the picture.

It’s usually “Abortion? Nothing to it. Get it done and get on with your life.”

Author Mary Higgins Clark has found a way to live her Catholic faith in the marketplace in which she is one of the high-ranking celebrities.

And it’s a good read!

Like all good, page-turner mysteries, Clark works interesting characters through clues and dead ends, throwing suspicion on a number of them, challenging readers to ponder motives and to try to guess “who-dun-it.”

Oh, did a mention the kindly and wise old Irish monsignor? — bz
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Look and learn about the places you’ve read about in the Bible

July 16, 2009

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“Oxford Bible Atlas,”
Edited by Adrian Curtis

If you’ve never been to the Holy Land or other places mentioned in the Bible, this is the book to take you there in absentia.

If you’ve been to any of those ancient sites, this Oxford University Press large-format paperback is the book to rekindle memories.

It was nearly 50 years ago that the Oxford Bible Atlas first appeared in print, and this fourth edition blossoms like none of its predecessors thanks to color photography throughout. As you might imagine, satellite photos of the Dead Sea, the River Jordan, and that portion of Earth from Egypt to the Arabian Penisula weren’t in that first edition in 1962.

As Adrian Curtis explains, the primary aim of the atlas is to provide the reader with an awareness of the world in which the biblical stories are set. Aerial photographs do what one’s imagination never can to show what the hills of Galilee, the road from Jerusalem to Jericho and the City of Jerusalem are really like.

While many of us are accustomed to looking at an atlas for directions, the Oxford Bible Atlas does so much more, offering not just geography and history but archaeology and geology, too. There is as much text and photography as there are maps.
We don’t just see where Babylon is on the map, for example, but we learn how the exile of the Jews there came about.
Curtis, a Methodist lay preacher, is an excellent teacher with a background as a lecturer on the Hebrew Bible for 40 years at the University of Manchester in Great Britain.

You can very easily sit down with the atlas and read it as any other work of nonfiction, chapter by chapter. It would be great for Bible study, small group, faith sharing or adult faith formation purposes, reading a chapter a week. Most chapters are just a few pages, with full-page maps included, and they tend to read chronologically.

Where did the Ephesians live?
While many are likely to have a fairly good idea where Damascus is (in Syria, north and east of Israel), how many times have those of us in the pews heard the lector proclaim names of biblical places such as “Cappadocia” or “Ephesus” (Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians!) and not had a clue that both are part of modern-day Turkey?

A couple of the later chapters offer a real education in archaeology, including a two-page spread on ancient writing systems.

I enjoyed reading and finding my way along on the maps, but I could see where others might enjoy and learn about biblical lands just by looking at the many photos and reading the captions. That alone is an education.
Bravo to all involved in bringing Bible places to life. — bz
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Sea-going adventure keeps you turning pages

July 16, 2009

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“Blindfold Game,”
by Dana Stabenow

“Blindfold Game” has been out for three years now, but if you’re looking for a good read and a glimpse of life in some new places, find it and take it to the beach.

The bulk of the action takes place aboard U.S. Coast Guard vessels in the Bering Sea. That’s that cold and rough-water part of the Pacific Ocean between Alaska and Russia, and Dana Stabenow’s thriller puts readers right into the salty spray.

The scene: Terrorists are taking aim at an Alaskan city with a rocket filled with deadly chemical substance.

CIA agent Hugh Rincon and his off-at-sea-too-often Coast Guard officer wife Sara both get pulled into the effort to prevent the attack.

It’s only partly romance, but a better-than-average yarn. Stabenow’s an Alaska native, so her descriptions of her home state include an authentic love of the land.

Landlubbers will enjoy learning something about life at sea and an arm of our services that doesn’t get all that much ink. — bz
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Small-town editor, big-time stage

July 16, 2009

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“Picking the bones of Eleven Presidents and Others,”
by Jerry Moriarity

The subtitle of Jerry Moriarity’s self-published collection of notes and anecdotes identifies it as a work “By a Journalist with Presidential Credentials.”

That’s both the good news and the bad.

Working for and editing small-town newspapers like the Star-Courier in Kewanee, Ill., Moriarity was able to get press credentials to cover presidential events — including White House press conferences. Over a 40-year newspaper career, that gave him the ability to collect a double-handful of interesting stories about U.S. presidents from Truman through Bush II.

You got to hand it to the guy, a self-proclaimed Irish Catholic Democrat who lives half the year on Little Pine Lake near Perham, Minn.: He was there, he was paying attention, and he kept great notes. Along with those interesting anecdotes, Moriarity pulled together a fun and insightful bit which he called “creating an ideal president.” Naming each of the 11 presidents he interviewed, he offered his opinion about the characteristic of each that he valued.
For example:

  • Truman — feisty decisiveness;
  • Eisenhower — popularity;
  • Reagan — intuition.

Too close to the newsmakers?

As good reading and as insightful as “Picking the Bones” is, I couldn’t help but get the sense that at some point Moriarity’s “covering” the presidents wasn’t more about his own being near the seat of power than about reporting. I’m not sure what the editor of the Kewanee, Ill., Star-Courier gets for his readers by being at a presidential press conference.

I have a hard time with all the posed photos of a newsman and the person he is supposed to be writing objectively about.

And some of the questions that Moriarity writes that he asked those presidents made the journalist in me squirm.

There’s a wonderful little story about the author being in the right place at the right time to show Sen. John F. Kennedy — campaigning for the presidency in Peoria, Ill., in 1959 — the way to the men’s room! Moriarity says he’ll direct him if Kennedy will answer a question for him. The future president comes out of the restroom and makes good on his promise to answer a question in return for the favor.

So what does Moriarity ask? “What is Peter Lawford really like?”

Yikes!

Balance, for the most part

Moriarity doesn’t pull punches for the most part, telling it like he saw it. He calls Lyndon Baines Johnson “a dangerous egotistical hypocrite,” but one who knew how to wield power and did some good by pushing civil rights legislation through Congress.

Moriarity himself became a bit of a celebrity by writing an editorial that called for reasonableness in judging a disgraced Richard M. Nixon. The piece was carried — by Moriarity’s count — in 573 newspapers across the country.

The chapter on Nixon is where a touch of hypocrisy blooms. Moriarity acknowledges that he “supported Nixon,” but them is critical of the folks at National Public Radio when, touring NPR studios, he sees a sign that reads “Impeach Nixon.” Pretty hard to charge others with being biased when you are, too.

On balance, though, by publishing this memoir Moriarity has preserved some great anecdotes and given a glimpse of a world of reporting that is no more, for better and for worse. I’m glad he did. — bz

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Fine mystery, fine writing woven into politics surrounding fall of Communism

July 16, 2009

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“Victory Square,”

by Olen Steinhauer

Characters you find yourself cheering for get involved in the chaos of an Eastern European country as its Communist government falls.

That’s the storyline behind this well-written novel with flashes of — even a foundation in — real-life history.

There’s global politics, too, and international intrigue as people on a list start dying. Emil Brod, the chief of detectives just days away from retirement, and detective/spy Garva Noukas search for answers.

Olen Steinhauer makes you care about what happens to these two, and that’s key to any good novel. The plus is that “Victory Square” is as much literature as it is mystery.

What’s unique in a mystery, too, is that it offers an other-than-American point of view of the global politics of that time when the Soviet empire was crumbling, and seeing historical events through others’ eyes can bring clearer vision to readers.

Pick up this 355-page St. Martin’s Minotaur paperback for a great read. — bz
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