Cure for waning political power is more people

It is again time to tabulate the U.S. Census, an incredibly boring task that affects every aspect of our state and federal government.  As with most complicated topics — taxes, First Century scrolls, technology — it’s easy for people to hold outrageous, illogical views without any real consequences. After all, who really knows? That’s why… Read More →

To think or not to think

For all its horrors, the pandemic allowed many Americans to finally experience what teachers do for a living. It’s certainly useful for parents to know that teachers aren’t just babysitters. Rather, the work teachers do at all levels remains complex and important.  However, the pandemic has also taught us where modern society falls short when… Read More →

What’s done is never done in 2021

The otter’s hot breath stirs me from my slumber. I do not know how long he’s been standing there. My eyes open to see him on his hind legs, his front paws dangling expectantly in front of his tiny burlap overalls. “Is time,” he whispers.  Behind the otter stands a black bear holding an empty… Read More →

2020 defied words, but created plenty of new ones

Major events alter the way we communicate. New words enter the language when the old ones fail us. You can’t find a better example than what we’ve experienced in 2020. Language marks changes in lifestyle. For instance, when I leave the house now my wife asks, “Did you remember your face mask?” If you told… Read More →

Every year is a Brown Christmas

I often tell people from outside Minnesota that the snow and cold don’t really become unpleasant until after Christmas. Everything before then is a crisp, cool puff of snowy magic.  But here along the Mesabi Iron Range we’ve received very little snow this month. As we approach Christmas Day we might have a brown Christmas…. Read More →

The cat came back … again

Nineteen years ago I was the 21-year-old boy editor of the erstwhile Hibbing Daily Tribune. That year I wrote the most consequential article of my entire career. It wasn’t my best work. The story could have used another edit. Its journalistic veracity was thin, to say the least. But more people read this story than… Read More →

From iron to steel without emissions

Let’s start with the bad news. Climate change is actively reshaping the whole world; adding billions in property damage, rising insurance premiums, and increased human migration. Among the side effects: economic inequality, declining air quality, natural disasters, and yes, even pandemics. We may come to regard our current struggles with COVID-19 as a normal part… Read More →

Trauma in the American story

When the Joel and Ethan Coen movie “Fargo” came out in 1996, Minnesotans complained that we don’t really talk that way. But the fact that the (only slightly) exaggerated regional dialect is what most of us remember from “Fargo” displays the wit of the Coen Brothers, both Minnesota natives themselves. Because “Fargo” isn’t about the… Read More →

In chaos, only gratitude will do

Thank you. Simple words not said enough. We gather this week for Thanksgiving. But not like usual. We gather in our homes, mindful of events outside our control. Not all of us can travel for the holiday this year. Instead, we approach the day with trepidation as the COVID-19 pandemic rages out of control across… Read More →

On whitetails, nimrods and a northern Minnesota tradition

If you walk into a deer shack and call the biggest guy there a “nimrod,” you might be in trouble. But that’s just because you’re in the wrong century. In another time you’d be paying him a compliment. How “nimrod” became an insult is an elaborate story worthy of any late night deer camp conversation…. Read More →