February 2008

I have occasion periodically to drive past the newest park in Little Falls.  Have you been there yet, or have you blown right past it without even knowing it was there?  If you’ve done the latter, don’t feel bad.  The park is barely visible from Lindbergh Drive South.   It is hidden by a berm upon which railroad tracks run.

Mill Park, as it is known, was fashioned out of the former Hennepin Paper Mill site.  Several artifacts of mill operations have been purposely left on the site, including a portion of the smokestack, brick arches, a metal spiral staircase, and a massive wall that was part of the canal’s raceway through the mill.  The City of Little Falls has made several improvements to the site, paving a long ramped sidewalk, adding railings, and laying down sod.  I can’t do justice to the site by merely describing it, so you’ll have to go see it when the weather cooperates.

For as wonderful as Mill Park is, I am concerned about its lack of visibility.  It’s been hard enough to control vandalism in more visible city parks, but Mill Park’s hidden nature is an open invitation for this sort of thing.  While I’m sure the city police patrol the area, we can’t expect them to have an officer permanently assigned to the site.  Instead, I’d like to suggest that the city create an informal Park Watch, which would be useful for not only Mill Park, but for the other city parks, as well.

Park Watch doesn’t have to be a complicated program with loads of bureaucracy.  It would be a program of encouragement.  Those of us who enjoy the city’s parks tend to have favorite ones in which we like to hang out.  As long as we’re there anyway, why not pick up any trash we see and report signs of vandalism to the police?  Once or twice a year, spring and fall, perhaps, the city could have clean-up days in the parks.  I wouldn’t make Park Watch any more complicated than this, unless maybe to provide simple badges to those who want to participate.

While I am sure there are already people who do this sort of thing, the point of Park Watch, other than keeping our parks clean and safe, would be to build community through a shared connection and pride in our surroundings.  That’s what city parks are supposed to do for us.  Park Watch would enhance the effect.

Willing to do shore duty,

Phineas F. A. Pickerel


I’m connecting the dots with a couple of stories that have appeared in recent issues of the Morrison County Record.  In this week’s issue (February 24, 2008), there was an article in the Education section on a Swanville student who had to be out of school for surgery.  (I’d link to the story, but it doesn’t appear to have been put online.)  So that he wouldn’t miss much during his recovery, school district staff Cheryl Johnson and Neal Weisz rigged up a webcam in the student’s home that was connected to his classroom.

What a brilliant idea.  And, according to Johnson, one that hasn’t been done in this area before.  Now that the Swanville district has taken the lead and shown the possibilities for home education through technology, perhaps other districts will get on board.  This would have been a simple solution to implementing the 504 plan for Olive Rockfish’s daughter in the Little Falls district.  (See here and here.)

Aside from innovative uses of technology in the classroom, where else might technology transform our usual way of life?  How about that library folks in Pierz would like to see built?

Technology has already seriously affected how libraries operate and you have to look no further than the Carnegie Library in Little Falls to see that it is so.  When I was a kid, you could check books out of the library, or look at magazines in the library, and that was pretty much it.  Now, you have your choice of not only books and magazines, but books on tape or CD, music CDs, movies, and on-site access to the internet.  The Carnegie is a part of the Great River Regional Library system, which has implemented an online book catalog and check-out system.   This means that if you have internet access at home, you can peruse the library catalog at your leisure outside of regular library hours and place holds on items for check-out at your convenience.

The entire production and distribution of all kinds of media has turned topsy-turvy with the internet, which will naturally cause changes in how libraries operate.  As downloadable audio books and e-books become standard, could it be that the space we devote to books in our public libraries will shrink?  That would seem to be an obvious outcome.

I am not privy to the specifics of Pierz’s library plan, but I do hope the building’s planners are taking all of these factors into consideration.  Building a ‘traditional’ library at this point in time doesn’t seem to be the wisest course of action.  Envisioning a futuristic library, one that would meet needs we can only imagine at this point, is what Pierz should be shooting for.  Think what can be done with webcams nowadays.

Fish is brain food, but I’d prefer it if you didn’t look at me in that light,

Phineas F. A. Pickerel

If you’d like a weighty read on book circulation in libraries over time, check out this study done by Douglas A. Galbi.

Have you ever tried to use the search function on the Morrison County Record’s website? I’ve done an awful lot of online research and arrived at decent results, but not with the Record’s search feature. You can type in the most obvious terms associated with a story appearing in the paper and get no hits back. Part of the problem is that the Record does not put every story that appears in the paper version online. That’s troublesome from not only the standpoint of doing a search, but from the fact that it causes gaps in the historic record. If the editorial staff of the Record thinks that a story is important enough to appear in the paper, it should also be important enough to make it online.

Advice to any MC Record staff reading this (and I think a few of you do): 1) Put all of your stories online and 2) Improve the newspaper’s online search function.

Getting a load off my gills,

Phineas F. A. Pickerel

Check out this article on Your Inner Fish from Discover Magazine.

And you thought I was kidding about being a fish . . .

Phineas F. A. Pickerel

 Stan Painter, President of the National Joint Council of Food Inspection Locals presses Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer for answers regarding the largest beef recall in U.S. history. In his letter, Painter reports that inspectors from Hallmark Meats had expressed concerns to union stewards regarding the handling of “downer cows” and were subsequently threatened.

Painter’s letter also asks pointed questions about the beef sent to the National School Lunch program and its potential for Mad Cow disease.

I admit that when I look in the discount meat bin at Coborn’s I avoid purchasing items that look like they’ve been sitting around for too long. As consumers we tend to squeeze fruit and inspect things like color in order to gauge the products freshness. So why would the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) consider an additive that would do nothing more than give packaged meat the appearance of freshness long after its too old to be consumed?

What’s worse? The additive in question in none other than  corbon monoxide. 


Not just any lunar eclipse refracted light will turn the Moon a dusky red and tonight there will be a rare bonus, Saturn will be visible, for those of us in North America. The ringed planet will be 3.5 degrees above and to the left of the moon’s center at midtotality. At the same moment, the bright bluish star Regulus will sit just 2.8 degrees above and to the right of the moon. This double event will be the only one of its kind occurring within the next millennium!

Image Display

Happy Mooning!

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