Dave Sorensen Posts

Waving at Strangers

Saturday Essay - Dave SorensenIt started when I was twelve years old and my father consented to buy me a mini-bike. It was the real deal, a miniature motorcycle, not some boxy frame with a lawn mower engine. Sixty CCs, one hundred and twenty pounds, it would do fifty miles per hour. What a foolish gift.

There had been a couple of go-carts around the neighborhood before bikes took over. Two brothers had cobbled one together but had yet to master the complexities of throttle control or brakes. We put their sister on it, wound it up, and let it go. I don’t know how she eventually came to a stop, but she was last seen careening between the trees in our beloved public park. It was obvious from that experiment their machine had two too many wheels.

I probably knew a dozen kids with mini-bikes. My friend two blocks away had one identical to mine, and ours were among the coolest. Most common were the Honda 70s. Ugly, but they could keep up. The boy across the street had a Suzuki Trail Hopper. Pathetic. Honda 50s were tiny. The clown car of mini-bikes. One kid had an Indian which sounded like a chainsaw cutting sheet metal, yet law enforcement was strangely absent for a couple of summers when the world was young.

Welcome to Clough Island


Duluth City Council votes to oppose Trans Pacific Partnership

Thanks to the Duluth City Council for voting 8 to 1 to oppose the Trans Pacific Partnership. The DNT article is here. 

The TPP has been negotiated in secret for years, and has been called “NAFTA on steroids” and a “corporate coup d’ etat.” If you’ve never heard of it that’s no coincidence. It will offshore jobs, raise the price of medicines, threaten net neutrality, threaten environmental protections, undermine human rights, roll back Wall Street reforms, and perhaps most frighteningly of all it will establish unelected tribunals whose courts will take precedence over U.S. and other national court systems with regard to trade disputes. Laws passed by democracies will no longer be the law of the land. This is an assault on our republican form of government. Please read more about it here and here.

Please email Senator Al Franken and Senator Amy Kobuchar.

Souvenir Folder from the 1920s



Lovit Soft Drinks from Fitger’s


I read that Fitger’s made soft drinks during prohibition, but this wooden case I found doesn’t look all that old. Does anyone know when they stopped making soda?

Heating towns using cold water

Does anyone know about this or understand it? A town in Norway is using cold water to create heat for its municipal heating system.

BBC News: Heat pumps extract warmth from ice cold water

This is not the same as pumping ground water through a building.

The more things change …

A 1972 cartoon featured in the book “Minnesota in the 70s.”

Net neutrality under attack

The Federal Communications Commission is once again planning to put an end to net neutrality. I can’t weigh in on the geek end of this issue, but it is surely a bad idea, considering that print and broadcast media are so tightly controlled, with six corporations owning 90 percent of U.S. media. Big Money should not be able to control internet traffic. What to do?

Great Lakes as Carbon Corridor

Maude Barlow published a report on March 17 about plans to make the Great Lakes a carbon corridor for oil from the tar sands of Alberta and the fracking wells of North Dakota. Mayor Don Ness recently stated his support for more pipelines, saying his previous commitments to lowering carbon emissions were irrelevant because “the pipeline makes no impact on carbon consumption in the city of Duluth.”

I think Mayor Ness is a good mayor with a good heart, but this sounds like sophistry considering the global nature of climate change. And it may show the type of compartmentalization of thought we all indulge in to protect ourselves from larger truths.

Mayor Ness also recently stated on MPR that he was not well-enough informed to have an opinion on shipping oil by tanker across Lake Superior. I hope he will appreciate a lot of respectful pressure from his constituents on this issue, because here’s the deal: On one end is Tar Sands and fracking devastation and on the other end are climate-changing emissions. In the middle is a lot of fresh water we would be absolutely mad to put at risk. Now is the time to stand up for the big lake we all love and depend on.

Where in the Twin Ports?

Iron Ore Mine in Northern Wisconin

The sloughs of the Bad River comprise 40 percent of the coastal wetlands of Lake Superior. A mining company is now drilling test wells it hopes will eventually lead to a 22-mile-long open-pit iron ore mine in the wooded, rolling hills at the headwaters of the Tyler Forks and Bad Rivers.

Pollutants associated with iron ore mining include sulfuric acid, arsenic, copper, mercury and phosphorous. The Republican-led Wisconsin legislature has passed legislation exempting iron ore mines from complying with environmental standards. The proposed mine will turn these beautiful woods into an industrial wasteland, and severely threaten the Bad River Indian tribe.

The Two Faces of Al Franken


Minnesota Senator Al Franken loves Big Brother.

The State of Minnesota withdraws from mercury pollution project

An article in the Duluth News Tribune (read here) says the state of Minnesota is withdrawing from a research project regarding mercury pollution in the St. Louis River, even though much of the river’s fish are inedible to women and children, and despite the fact that 1 out of 10 North Shore infants have unsafe levels of mercury in their blood. The article states that sources of mercury in the environment are well known. They include power plants, taconite plants and sulfate pollution ( like the pollution from sulfide mining). Officials from the MPCA said the state first needs more research on how mercury behaves in nature, but later in the article the proposed study is said to have included new research on how mercury behaves in the environment. Huh? It seems this research would be especially timely due to proposed copper -sulfide mining in Northern Minnesota.

Artisan Bread at Red Mug

A while back PDD people were clamoring for artisan breads. Well, you can now get the real stuff at the Red Mug Bake Shop in Superior, from noon Thursday through Friday, at least through the winter. They are made by Dave Hanlon, whose breads you may have tasted at past Land Trust benefits. That’s about all I know.

Norman Pettingill: Outsider artist from Superior

Has anyone heard of this guy? Norman Pettingill was born in Iron River, Wis. in 1896. He moved to Superior in 1937. He was known for his “backwoods humor” postcards. A hardcover (plywood, actually) book on his work came out in 2010, with an introduction by R. Crumb, who published Norman’s work in the ’80s. He died in 1991.