Explaining the hot idle

PHOTO: Aaron J. Brown

If you’re a regular reader of MinnesotaBrown.com you’ve probably noticed far fewer posts that usual this summer. This is what I sometimes call a “hot idle.” The term refers to what the mines do when they halt production of iron ore but keep their equipment “hot” and ready for a quick restart. It’s usually something that happens when the market is particularly volatile.

Anyway, I’ve gone awhile without explaining the slowdown, but I figured I’d share an update to bring you into the loop.

The good news is I’m fine. No secret health problems, other than being a fat, shambling husband and father of three, which I suppose merits some concern. But I feel good.

I am, however, wholly preoccupied with my book. I thought I’d be able to kick in a post or two each week, but all I’ve been able to muster this month is the posting of my weekly column that runs first in the Hibbing Daily Tribune. These are usually better than my normal blog stuff, so I could be doing worse. Nevertheless, I’ve had to let a lot of day-to-day things slide by.

No detailed discussions of the lawsuits involving PolyMet, the tailings storage plans at Twin Metals, the comings-and-goings of politics, the palace intrigue of St. Paul or Washington, D.C. No analysis of the hot market for iron ore or the long term dangers of a recession.

I didn’t write those posts but, then again, haven’t I written them all before? How many times must I repeat myself? The last 30 years of Iron Range news is just a long song with the same chorus repeated. Not exactly “The Song That Never Ends,” but certainly a song that won’t end until the musician dies of natural causes, or is murdered by a mob of angry listeners.

My new book is about Mayor Victor Power and the forgotten, often misunderstood history of early Hibbing. I feel that my research is teaching me things I didn’t know, so that I may write something that you and others haven’t read before. It’s a purely historical analysis. Still, you will see that the connections to our present time are strong.

At this point, this book is a much bigger priority for me as a writer and professional. The story drives my thinking every day. Frankly, it’s an affliction. I’ll be taking a leave from my job at the college this fall to write, so I want to maximize the time I have this summer to top off some research.

This story will end up being more than a book — a multi-media project of sorts. And I’m excited to share that update when we firm up the details in the near future.

As with all hot idles, we could be back in production at a moment’s notice. Ever vigilant, steadfast and true.


  1. Gerald S says

    Good luck with your book. We will have to be patient in waiting for further wisdom.

    Please arrange for the book to be available as an e-book, so it can enjoy wider readership. And while your at it, consider making your first book, now out of print with its publisher out of business, available on e-books too.

  2. Yeah its cool man. We’ll just read the book. The first book was great – actually amazing. I love everything about that book. The title was so perfect. So this will be exciting.

    I actually read the first book at Hibbing Public Library back in the day. I used to go there everyday. Actually got my first organizing jobs by typing up letters, saving them on 3.5″ disk, then printing at the library. Everyday just grinding out totally absurd letters. That and me and some guys dumpster diving for computer parts from the downtown offices. We actually did manage to build a workable word processor out of scrap from the dumpsters behind Howard Street.

    That copy of Overburden was written in, big time. Someone clearly had passionate feelings about everything in there. Reading the scribbled handwritten notes within the book was part of the experience. I could not discern the identity of the rogue scribbler. Coulda been anyone. There were some characters in the alleys back then.

    Still remember Aaron riding his bike in the alley. Honestly, lots of us were grizzled and just plain shady back then. No doubt. Not Aaron, though. So clean and fresh. Hahahaha…

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