December 2007

Minnesota Public Radio’s Jeff Horwich visited 107 year old Marie Ring on Decemeber 16th at St. Otto’s nursing home to talk to her about her life.  His radio show was taping a segement called The Year According to You,  specifically they were looking for news stories that had been overlooked by mainstream news media in 2006, a journey that brought Jeff Horwich to Little Falls, Minnesota.

Last year Marie Ring made U.S. history when, at the age of 106 she became a U.S. citizen. Marie is the 2nd oldest person in United States history to obtain her citizenship,  surpassed only by a 117 year old Armenian man from California. As a tribute to Marie, Jeff Horwich wrote and peformed a song in her honor during the taping of the In The Loop’s segment, The Year According to You.

Happy New Year!

Olive Rockfish


Sometimes it’s not the people out front that you have to keep an eye on.  It’s the ones running things behind the scenes.

From the mysterious whirlpool in the lake,

Phineas F. A. Pickerel

In this week’s Morrison County Record there is a guest editorial from five members of the Little Falls City Council.  In it, council members Kate Davis, Sharon K. Hogan, Brian-Paul Crowder, Mike LeMieur, and James Laird attack recent comments made by Mayor Cathy VanRisseghem concerning the city’s budget.  Council members Mike Doucette and Duane Bobick had the good grace not to sign the letter.

You know, there’s nothing I like better than watching a city council dissolve into contention over every bloody issue, rather than pull together for the good of the city and its citizens.  (In case you didn’t catch it, that’s sarcasm, folks.)  Since this particular council was voted into office, it’s been nothing but pick, pick, pick, fight, fight, fight.  Most often the disagreements result in split votes, with Hogan, Crowder, LeMieur and Laird ganging up on Doucette and VanRisseghem.  Bobick tends to side with the first camp, but can sometimes be persuaded to listen to Doucette and VanRisseghem.  Davis is apparently a wild card.  I didn’t expect her to sign a letter like this.

Ah, the letter.  What is up with that?  You people are not currently running for office.  You’re already there, so quit your public bellyaching and get something done.  After seeing the childish behavior you’ve engaged in thus far, when I see a letter like this, all I can say is that I don’t believe one word of what you’re saying, no matter what the topic of discussion is.  It’s simply another example of more of the same.  We get it already.  You don’t like the Mayor.  Well, guess what?  The citizens elected her, so grow up and deal with it.

From the broiler pan,

Phineas F. A. Pickerel

The donkey has been stolen from the manger scene on display at Lindbergh Elementary School in Little Falls, MN. So reports the Morrison County Record in its December 23, 2007, edition. The baby Jesus has been stolen twice before, so the Lindbergh Lions, who sponsor and take care of the display, didn’t bother to put him out this year. What good is a manger scene without the Christ child?

Some might condemn me for finding this incredibly humorous. What lends humor to the situation is the ransom note left behind by the “twisted sisters,” who want a million dollars in Monopoly money, three live chickens, “7 maids a milken, and a pare tree,” and for “sexy to be brought back,” whatever that means. Oh, and they want some smokes, too. A pack of Marlboro Red 100s.

What the “twisted sisters” don’t realize is that they may have hit upon a solution to all the enmity caused by displaying Christian scenes and symbols on public property. If pranksters start stealing the symbols and scenes, people will think twice before displaying them.

While I take no issue with religious organizations displaying items of faith on private property (their own, or that of consenting property owners), I do take issue with the display of religious items on public property when the displays favor one religion over the others. This is what we have come to in America today. Christianity has become the de facto public religion and if anyone complains about it, well they’re just too sensitive and they should just get over it.

Since when has it become illegal in the United States to practice a religion other than Christianity? Have Christians forgotten their history? (Did some of them ever know it?) At one time, their religion was the repressed one and they were persecuted. Now some Christians are attempting to turn the tables in a land where religious plurality is supposed to be the rule. Be careful of wishing for a totalitarian state of any kind. You just might get it.

Oh, and “twisted sisters?” Pony up the donkey. Stealing is not nice, although you do get a few kudos for a creative ransom note.

Happy Holidays to Fish Wrap readers of all faiths, and to agnostics and atheists everywhere.

From my pond to yours,

Phineas F. A. Pickerel

Sure.  Blame it on the nonexistent work ethic of young people.  What a convenient excuse.

Some unnamed soul wrote a column for the Our View section of the December 16, 2007, issue of the Morrison County Record, in which a meeting between the Morrison County Healthy Communities Collaborative (HCC) and area manufacturers is described.  Those involved in the meeting were working on a grant for career counselors for area schools.

During the meeting, talk apparently turned to grousing about the crappy work ethic of today’s young people, about how they don’t show up to work on time, or at all.  According to the article, “The manufacturers believe more young people than in the past come to work with a sense of entitlement and without a clear understanding of what is required of them to be a successful employee.”  The article takes sides with the manufacturers, scolding young employees by saying that they should feel lucky to have jobs and blaming their parents for their lack of work ethic.  It also blames the demise of the family farm, as if the family farm is the only place anyone can learn ambition and a decent work ethic.

Frankly, I think the employees are coming to work with a clear understanding of what is required and they don’t want to play the game.  While the employees may be displaying a sense of entitlement, they’re not the only ones.  The manufacturers are just as guilty of feeling entitled.

Let’s look at a manufacturing job from the standpoint of an employee for a moment.  Most employees at manufacturing facilities can expect:

1)  Low pay (a non-living wage),

2)  Part-time work with no benefits, or . . .

3)  Full-time work with required overtime,

4)  Stultifying, repetitive work that is not good for a human body over the long haul, and . . .

5)  The ever-present knowledge that the company can lay them off anytime it feels like it.

Further, some manufacturers enforce draconian workplace rules that show no consideration for employees as human beings. There is no loyalty displayed by manufacturers for their employees.  If the bottom line demands it, employees are the expendable cog in the machinery of capitalism.

Manufacturers don’t want human beings.  They want drones who will shut up and do as they are told.  Is it any wonder that young people don’t feel like wasting their work ethic or their lives on such conditions?  To put it bluntly, they don’t wanna be ‘yo bitches’ anymore.

There’s another problem in this entire scenario – the HCC and other community initiatives like it.  Every time some organization gets a burr up its saddle to improve the community, it runs right to the business owners and other community leaders and asks what they want.  Never, and I mean never, do these initiatives talk to workers to see what problems they are facing, what issues (in the business or in the community) they’d like to see resolved.  The HCC and similar initiatives are guilty of patronizing the average worker and citizen, of trying to do what they think is “best” for the masses without engaging the masses they’re attempting to help.  Putting an announcement in the paper for a community meeting isn’t going to cut it.  The HCC needs to get out of its comfy office chair and get its hands dirty – find ways to meet with the average citizen where he or she wants to be met.

When we manage to get some of these issues straightened out, then we can talk about work ethic.

Removing barnacles from the shipwreck,

Phineas F. A. Pickerel

December 22 officially marks the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere.  (Didn’t we just celebrate the equinox?  How time flies!)  The winter solstice, that day of the year that contains the most darkness, has influenced many of the world’s religions in some way or another.  You’ve got to admit, it is a pretty dramatic day, what with all of us fumbling to open our car doors from 4:30-ish p.m. on in the dark after work.  To read more about how the winter solstice has affected various world religions, head on over to and have yourself a happy solstice.

Darn!  I dropped my keys and now they’re at the bottom of the pond!

Phineas F. A. Pickerel

I got a “You & Blue” newsletter from Blue Cross/Blue Shield the other day.  Health insurance companies like to look as though they really care about you by sending out these little missives on how you can improve your health.  Of course, what they’re really trying to do is keep you from getting sick so they don’t lose money.

Anyway, one of the articles in the newsletter is called, “Over-the-counter cold busters:  Truth or fiction?”  From that title, I’m expecting an examination of typical cold medicines of the pharmaceutical type – cough syrups and decongestants and the like.  I was expecting wrong.  Instead, the article looked at “popular home remedies,” including echinacea, zinc, Vitamin C, and Airbourne, which is an herbal cold remedy.  Echinacea and Airborne were both quickly dispatched with, Blue Cross/Blue Shield reporting that there’s no evidence that either has an effect on colds.  Zinc was said to possibly “shorten the duration of colds” and Vitamin C “doesn’t prevent colds, but may lessen symptoms if taken early on.”

Curious how quickly health insurance companies and big pharma are to dismiss herbal remedies.  We don’t get any evidence of how to find the studies the article is based upon.  In fact, the article admits that “studies have been small, so more are needed.”  How then can they pass along their findings with such certainty?  Also, if herbal remedies are so ineffective, why are pharmaceuticals with herbs at their base not dissed with equal fervor?  (Oh, yeah.  It’s because big pharma can patent them and make money off of them.)

Le cough, le hack, le gurgle,

Phineas F. A. Pickerel

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