Thursday, April 28, 2011

Obama birth proof puts mine to shame...

By Jim Heffernan

Well, there for sure goes any chance I might have had to be President. That’d be President of the United States (of America).

President Obama settled that for me when he went ahead and released his second official birth certificate (the first official birth certificate was shorter), proving, for the second time and once and for all, that he was, in fact, born in Hawaii, making him an genuine American citizen and therefore eligible to be President.

He just made it, though. A mere two years earlier Hawaii wasn’t even a state, and neither was Sarah Palin’s Alaska. I was born back in the days when there were 48 stars on Old Glory, and, frankly, it’s been hard to make the adjustment to 50.

Never mind that. We were discussing my prospects for becoming President as a result of President Obama releasing his entire long-form actual birth certificate, so help him God and, what is more, Scout’s honor.

As I mentioned in a previous post–way back when all the birther hype was in its infancy, my own birth certificate might be looked upon as questionable. I was shocked, shocked, a decade ago when I sought out my birth certificate for purposes of qualifying for a passport. I am my parents’ second born, sort of what Prince Harry is to Prince William in the United Kingdom, only not as much inheritance.

Anyway, I was told as soon as I was old enough to understand the king’s English that my arrival in our now four-member family had been eagerly anticipated; that it was planned even before I arrived that my name would be “James,” and that just a month before I was born the family had moved into the home I was brought to as a newborn, signed, sealed and delivered. Well, maybe delivered, then signed and sealed. Whatever. This was our family home throughout my youth.

So 60 years later (if you can believe it), I went to the courthouse in Duluth to get my birth certificate, and what did it say? It identified me as “Baby Boy” Heffernan. No James – not even James the Lesser (see Holy Bible). What is more, my parents’ home address listed a street and number where they had left several years before I was born. Not only that, the place no longer existed when I sought my birth certificate. Torn down.

The passport man was not happy. Can you imagine the reaction of the Tea Party if I ever decided to go ahead and run for President? (Don’t laugh. Reagan was my age when he ran. Oh, go ahead and laugh.) A birth certificate with no name, no address, no runs, no hits, one error and nobody left on base, if you grasp the baseball analogy. I don’t.

Not only would the Tea Party have a Target field day, but so would somebody like Donald Trump, who revived this whole birther issue now after it had only festered for some two years. Many people make fun of Donald Trump’s hair, but I noticed on TV that he’s getting fat, too.

Now Billionaire Trump (did you know he has his own helicopter with the letters TRUMP on the side?) admits that Obama is probably a native-born American but he’s questioning the president’s academic record that allowed him into such Ivy League schools as Columbia and Harvard, although not Princeton and Dartmouth.

Bringing up my academic record is all I’d need in addition to my vague birth certificate. I couldn’t run for dog catcher in the rye. Let’s say my own academic record in “higher” education ain’t exactly something to brag about, but I don’t want to go into detail about it.

I’ll just say this: About 20 years ago the then chancellor of my alma mater, the University of Minnesota Duluth, asked me to be the speaker at a commencement ceremony and as a reward I’d be named a Distinguished Alumni.

I was shocked, of course, and could only blurt out: “With my transcripts?”

I did go through with it, though, proud to be honored that way. But I couldn’t bring myself to wear a cap and gown for the academic ceremony. They can look pretty drab without gold braids.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Have yourself a merry little Arbor Day...

By Jim Heffernan

Arbor Day: It’s beginning to look a lot like holiday time...

The snow is falling steadily now as I gaze out my window. Blades of grass are still visible above the snow cover, but they are losing their battle. Off in the distance, on the hillside, evergreens are slowly being flocked in white, providing a festive holiday atmosphere.

And the holidays are just around the corner, of course. You can feel the pace quicken. Arbor Day is on Friday – have you got your shopping done? And with Mother’s Day merchandise on display in the mall stores, can Memorial Day be far behind? Then fishing season. Better sharpen up your ice augur.

Ah yes, and Flag Day, barely six weeks away on June 14 – soon time to break out the Stars and Stripes. Will you be ready? Then Father’s Day right on Flag Day’s heels, followed in turn by festive Fiscal New Year’s Eve on June 30.

The snow is getting deeper now, and the visibility is greatly diminished across the valley near my home. It’s exciting. You find yourself wondering what kind of summer it will be. Will this white wilderness brighten our Independence Day?

It is April 27 in Duluth, Minnesota, and points nearby. Have yourself a merry little Arbor Day.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Duluth-linked authors win in Minnesota Book Awards...

Congratulations... to authors, Wendy Webb and Laurie Hertzel, for winning awards in the prestigious Minnesota Books Award event held recently. Both are well-deserved winners.

Wendy, current editor of the Duluth~Superior Magazine–for which I write a print column–wrote her first mystery novel, The Tale of Halcyon Crane, and won in the Genre Fiction category. Laurie, a former co-worker with me at the Duluth News Tribune and current books editor for the StarTribune, won the Reader's Choice award for her memoir, News to Me: Adventures of An Accidental Journalist (about her early newspaper work at the Duluth News Tribune).

(Click HERE to read more about the MN Book Awards.)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

When dinosaurs roamed and tonsils were removed...

By Jim Heffernan

You can learn a lot about science in the weekly New York Times section called “Science Times.” Take Tuesday’s (April 12) edition. We learn a lot more about dinosaurs than my young grandchildren know (which is plenty) and about tonsils – who has them, who hasn’t, and why. Also lice.

But first, let me say I have never been big on science. Science frightened me in school because to understand it you had to concentrate really, really hard, which was not my practice during my formal education. Lazy, I believe it’s called.

So I always struggled with science, bumbling my way through high school biology (those poor frogs!) and getting out while the getting was good by taking no more science. In college you had to rack up some credits in a little bit of everything, so I took a series of courses called Natural Science I, II, etc., commonly referred to as “NatSci.”

Didn’t do well there either, even though we had to go through the whole dissection of worms and frogs routine again. I got a D in one of the NatSci segments and went to the professor to complain about my low grade. “You have no idea how lucky you were to get a D,” he responded when I questioned my grade. I thanked him and retreated, tail between my legs (metaphorically, of course, but you wonder).

So I believe this testimony establishes my non-science credentials once and for all.

But I have to admit that each Tuesday when I read the New York Times the science section has something that catches my eye. Like this week’s article on dinosaurs, focusing mainly on sauropods. Maybe you don’t know what a sauropod is. It’s a dinosaur with a huge neck – like, 50 feet long – and an equally long tail, with an elephant-like body in the middle, sans trunk. They can weigh as much as 70 tons, so we know that our obesity problem has been around for a long, long time.

I have often wondered why they give dinosaurs names that are so hard to spell. Like Apatosaurus, which the Times says were formerly known as Brontosaurus, not to mention Brachiosaurus and Diplodocus. Brontosaurus is the only one I have committed to memory because it makes me think of Brontosaurus Nagurski, the great football player from International Falls.

Anyway – and I don’t want to go too scientific on you – most of these huge sauropods ate nothing but vegetation, like the Duluth deer that munch up my wife’s flowers and shrubs, and also Adolf Hitler. They hardly had any teeth (the sauropods, not Hitler) and they had little teensy heads and practically no brains – not unlike what my science teachers saw on top of my own neck.

But enough about dinosaurs. They disappeared eons ago, if you have any concept of how long an eon is. Let me state without equivocation: an eon is longer than an era.

Moving ahead to our own era (an era can be as long as you want it to be) we find in this same Times science section all about how they used to routinely remove the tonsils from most children, but no longer. Hardly any children get their tonsils out these days. The dawn of the antibiotics era took care of all those sore throats.

Even I can recall the era when many kids missed school because they were undergoing tonsillectomies, not easy to spell either but better than Brachiosaurus. Happily, I escaped having my tonsils removed even though just about every kid I knew back then went through it. I was jealous.

Reading all this stuff on the same day made me wonder if dinosaurs had tonsils in those long necks, an area of scientific study I’m sure no scientist has ever approached without federal funding opposed by Republicans. But this is getting longer than I intended for human consumption, so I’ll have to leave out ruminations on Mr. Percy Dovetonsils, familiar to many of us in my college years, and also lice, the latter getting a big treatment in this week’s Science Times as well. Lice have been around as long as dinosaurs, it turns out.

In fact scientists in England are developing a family tree of lice going back 130 million years. Of course we all are familiar with more recent family trees of lice, although I never had them when so many other kids of my era did. I was jealous. But that was eons ago.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

UMD wins Frozen Four...

They did it! Tonight the fantastic UMD hockey team beat Michigan in the big Frozen Four title before a crowd of nearly 20,000 in St. Paul's Xcel Energy Center. The Bulldogs now reign as the NCAA Division I hockey champs. It's the world series of college hockey and we're pretty darn excited here in Duluth. Check it out HERE in the Duluth News Tribune web site.

UMD–NCAA Division I champs.....

They did it! Tonight the fantastic UMD hockey team beat Michigan in the big Frozen Four title. The Bulldogs now reign as the NCAA Division I hockey champs. It's the world series of college hockey and we're pretty darn excited here in Duluth.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

UMD plays in Frozen Four on Saturday...

Hey... great news about our UMD Bulldog hockey team. They're duking it out on Saturday night in the Frozen Four championship game in Minneapolis.  Check it out HERE.