Sunday, February 28, 2010

Eyesore or Crystal Cascade: It's in the Eye of the Beholder

Wednesday, February 28, 2010. We'd better enjoy the snow while we can: It's been melting.

If we wait, spring will take care of that snow. February 24, 2010.

It'll take a while for that (two feet or so?) to go, though. Particularly where it's been piled up.

Eyesore, or sound barrier? Depends on your point of view. February 24, 2010.

That's barely a snowman. Snowkid, maybe?. February 24, 2010.

Springtime in Minnesota isn't that picture-postcard-lovely season of chirping birds and brightly-colored flowers you read about. The only bird song I heard today was a crow's caw.

Not that all we have around of an avian nature are crows. There are sparrows too: and chickadees. Speaking of which, I saw a chickadee after church this morning, in the alley west of Our Lady of the Angels church. The alley is covered in compacted snow, some of which has melted and flowed into wheel tracks. A chickadee was taking a bath in one of those little pools.

As I was saying, springtime in Minnesota isn't green grass, blooming flowers and all that. Not until rather late in the process, at least. Mostly it's winter, melting.

This year's snow is really rather clean. Even so, sunlight on the south face of snow banks melt away the snow, leaving whatever dust, dirt and debris got scooped up with the snow. As I wrote a few years ago, introducing a half-dozen photos, "it combines the more unpleasant aspects of winter and summer."

True enough, but a person doesn't have to see things that way. Take what you'll see on the north side of quite a few streets, for example.

I can see it as a mess that'd be a headache for someone who's particular about the appearance of the front lawn.

Or, I could see it as a sort of sculpture: a frozen cascade of crystal.

Frozen cascade. February 26, 2010.

However you decide to see them, those melting snow banks are ephemeral phenomena: they'll be gone, replaced in many places with grass that'll need to be trimmed.

I mentioned, Wednesday, how the chain link fence on the Lake Wobegon Trail bridge over Main is a sort of community bulletin board. Sauk Centre has quite a few places where folks can read about events that are coming up.

Last week this pillar in Jitters Java, downtown, had mostly commercial posts on it. February 24, 2010.

And you'll see the occasional ad for some product. Like Dr. Julian Dubiois, Jr.'s DVD, "A Walk to Remember." (I mentioned it in January.) You can't see the poster for that recording too well in the photo: it's that tannish bit toward the upper right.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Nobody Wants a Rapist Next Door: and More, Mostly About Snow

Wednesday, February 24, 2010. First, the unpleasant news. I've got some nice photos, so stick around. Or skip over the next few paragraphs.

If Minnesota Department of Corrections (MN DOC) information is correct, Dustin Gene Ayres was released on Monday, and has probably moved into town by now. I can't say that I envy him. He's a Level 3 predatory offender: the sort of rapist who'd most likely to re-offend. He's also served his sentence, including whatever extra time he earned by violating parole the last time he was released.

Don't get me wrong. I think that second (third?) chances are a good idea. I also hope that nobody in town gives him a hard time because of what he's done in the past. It's possible that he'll change.

The Sauk Centre Herald had another couple of articles on Mr. Ayres, and related topics, this week. I wasn't pleased to learn that Stearns County is the #1 county for (relocated?) sex offenders, outside the metro area: but there's not much to do about that.

Something I read in the print edition of this week's Herald matches other information I've dug up. The recidivism rate for sex offenders is fairly low. On average. Mr. Ayres is in the category of people who are most likely to re-offend.

But there isn't much, given the way the law works today, that can be done. Apart from what MN DOC is doing: keeping a rather close eye on Mr. Ayres for the next decade, and limiting what he can do. Unless he breaks parole again, he won't just be wandering around town. As I said, I can't say that I envy him.

And - what I think is a very important point - we're allowed to know about him now. I can remember when that wouldn't have been the case. The American judicial system has started to realize that protecting people who don't break the law is important, too: and I think that's a good thing.

More, in "Level 3 Predatory Offender Coming: Photos and Links," Sauk Centre Journal Blog (February 19, 2010).

That Haiti fundraiser's banner is a little dated. It's about something that was scheduled Monday. And yes, that's a snowmobiler. February 24, 2010.

The chain link fence on the Lake Wobegon Trail bridge over Main Street ("Original Main Street" the signs say) is a sort of community bulletin board. Quite a few events get announced there.

Snow. We've had snow this winter. Lots of snow. A drift in my back yard just about covers two lawn chairs - and even after excavations, I have to bend over to reach the grill when I'm fixing burgers on the weekend. I figure I'm standing on at least a half-foot of compacted snow and ice.

The band shell by Sauk Lake. February 24, 2010.

Finding a place to put snow from the driveway and sidewalk wasn't a problem for us. We've got more yard than pavement, so it's just a matter of throwing - or blowing - it onto something that can stay covered until spring.

Snow piled behind Jitters Java, downtown. And two guys on the other side of the street, probably discussing the utility system. February 24, 2010.

The city street department, and many (most?) businesses aren't in that position. There's been a whole lot of snow cleared off streets and parking lots this year: and it all has to go somewhere. In residential areas, at least some of it goes onto that rampart that grows at the edge of the street. Some parking lots have a few spaces piled high with snow. And, since nobody's using the band shell this time of year, a little is piled up on the edge of the parking lot there.

Finding a place to put snow from the driveway and sidewalk wasn't a problem for us. We've got more yard than pavement, so it's just a matter of throwing - or blowing - it onto something that can stay covered until spring.

A Christmas angel, half-buried in snow. This photo is almost crying for a caption, but I can't think of one. February 24, 2010.

I've heard people say that we're always talking about the weather, here in Minnesota. I don't want to disappoint out-of-staters, so: It's been a beautiful day today. Clear blue sky, sunlight sparkling on the snow, and not much wind. A little nippy: 11° below this morning. Fahrenheit. But hey: this is Minnesota!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Mostly About Home-Town Newspapers

Sunday, February 21, 2010. Getting your name in the paper can be good news, bad news, or just plain strange news. Sauk Centre's got it all three ways.

An article on DL-Online (Detroit Lakes) starts with this headline: "Paranormal Files: The Palmer House's ghostly guests" (February 13, 2010).

Then there's this, from KSAX: "Heavy Snowfall Boosts West Central Minnesota's Snowmobile Sales" (February 15, 2010). The connection there is Centre

And, there's another KSAX story: "Level Three Sex Offender Moving to Sauk Centre" (February 16, 2010). It's the same information we've been seeing for a while now: Dustin Ayres, a young man who's sexually assaulted underage girls and violated parole before - will be our new neighbor.

Second chances (third, in Mr. Ayres' case) are, I think, a good idea. And, according to the law, he's served his sentence. And will have his activities scrutinized for the next decade, I understand.

I hope he takes advantage of this opportunity, and makes better choices than he has in the past. That's his photo, by the way, from the Minnesota Department of Corrections, via the Sauk Centre Herald (Thanks, to Bryan Zollman, who has been covering the Dustin Ayres story. I read in the online edition that there's going to be more information in this Tuesday's Herald.)

I haven't been out all that much this week, apart from a trip Lakeview clinic, to get an expert opinion on how I feel. No big deal, but I've learned to listen when my wife tells me that the doctor should see me. (More, in a Through One Dad's Eye post.)

So, here's something I've been saving for an occasion like this: three photos of the Sauk Centre Herald. Big deal? If you live in Sauk Centre, yes. After the photos, I'll harangue (briefly) about home-town newspapers.

Sauk Centre Herald front page. February 9, 2010.

What can I say? It's a home-town paper: and pretty good reading. February 9, 2010.

And, like just about any paper, the Sauk Herald has an advertising supplement - the Classy Canary - and a sports section. February 9, 2010.

There's more to a home-town newspaper than being a place to put legal notices. Sauk Centre would probably get along without the Sauk Centre Herald - but I'm pretty sure that we'd miss the chance to read about what's gone on during the week, how the local teams are doing, and how some of our neighbors are doing.

And I'd have had to wait longer to get involved with the Internet. The Sauk Centre Herald was Sauk Centre's first Internet service provider, in the late 1990s. 1997, if my memory serves.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Level 3 Predatory Offender Coming: Photos and Links

Our photos on driver's licenses and passports are notoriously unflattering. My guess is that the same can be said for 'mug shots.'

But, in my case at least, the photo on the drivers' license looked like me: not as friendly as I occasionally seem to be, but recognizable. And that's the point of those things.

The same goes for the photographs taken of people incarcerated by the state of Minnesota.

Which brings me to Dustin Gene Ayres. He's a Level 3 predatory offender, due to be released February 22, 2010: next Monday. If everything goes as planned, he'll be Sauk Centre's newest resident.

That's him, in photos provided by an Offender Information page of the Minnesota Department of Corrections' website.

Mr. Ayres will be on "Supervised Release" - which would be more reassuring, if he hadn't gotten in trouble before, for violating the conditions of his parole.

I don't envy Mr. Ayres, at all. Thanks to his behavior, he's lost out on quite a bit of what a 50th percentile young man would have experienced in his twenties. And, if I'm reading the MN DOC page correctly, will be on a short leash for another 10 years.

On the whole, I like publicity, but I certainly wouldn't want the sort that Mr. Ayres has earned: "Level 3 Predatory Offender Information | DUSTIN GENE AYRES."

I've written before, that I think second chances (third, in Mr. Ayres' case) are a good idea. I also think it's a good idea to think about the safety of people who don't assault other people. Which is why I'm focusing on Sauk Centre's new citizen.

It's important to remember that he has 'paid his dept to society,' as far as the judicial system is concerned. I hope that Mr. Ayres isn't abused by his new neighbors - and that he doesn't abuse us.

Finally, I'm glad that America is getting over one of the sillier eras in its history, and has started showing concern for the victims of crimes, as well as for those who are accused and convicted. Both sorts of concern are, I think, very important.

Related posts:

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ash Wednesday; a Lovely Day: & a Rapist is Coming to Town

Wednesday, February 17, 2010. I missed that meeting, yesterday, about the rapist who's coming to town. The Sauk Centre Herald had a pretty good write-up, though. Here's an excerpt:
"Sex offender has history of sexually assaulting young females"
By Bryan Zollman

"...Dustin Gene Ayres, 27, is scheduled to move to the 600 block of Fourth Street South (located near city hall) after his release from prison on Feb. 22. He is currently incarcerated for violating probation from a previous criminal sexual conduct charge in 2005. His most recent arrest was in 2006 in Benton County after he was charged with First Degree Burglary when he entered a residence and sexually assaulted a 16-year-old while she was asleep...."

"...Dustin Gene Ayres, 27, is 5'11", 237 pounds with blue eyes and blonde hair. He has a history of sexually assaulting underage females while they are sleeping. In one instance he broke into a home to sexually assault a 16-year-old. He was known to both his victims. Ayres is moving to the 600 block of 4th St. S. after his release from prison next week...."

"...Much more information in regards to Ayres, including public reaction, will be in the Feb. 23 issue of the Sauk Centre Herald."
The article points out that Mr. Ayers is on parole, which involves some rather strict rules about what he can and can't do. Which is nice: and would be more reassuring, if he hadn't violated terms of parole before. I wrote about this matter last week, and probably will touch on it again. Don't get me wrong: I think forgiveness and second chances - third in this case - are good ideas.

I also think that people who don't assault other people deserve consideration, too. Which is happening to a greater extent, now. Remember: We're allowed to know about Mr. Ayers, which is a huge improvement over 'the good old days.'

On a happier note, I was sick today and didn't make it to Ash Wednesday Mass. Maybe it's just as well: I'd probably have taken another photo of my forehead, and put in in this entry.

On the whole, I rather like today's information technology. February 17, 2010.

So I show a photo of a TV screen? This is an improvement?

Icicles on my house are thinner and shorter now, than they were earlier. It's been a warm day: up around freezing. But this is Minnesota: I'm pretty sure the weather will change.

This has been one beautiful day. February 17, 2010.

Finally, and again from the Sauk Centre Herald, a rather nice piece about Charlie's Cafe, a sort of area landmark: "Even when Charlie Heidgerken retired and no longer owned the Freeport café, his spirit remained in traditions like the mile high caramel rolls. People continued to ask...." Oh come on: You didn't expect me to copy the whole article, did you? Papers should still be on the shelves.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Comments, Spam, and Having to Wait

Comments on this blog will be moderated from here on.

Sorry about that. I like to see the comments I make show up right away, and figure that you probably do, too.

On the other hand, I've been getting too much obscene spam: which I don't like to see, and figure you may not, either. Particularly if you understand the language it's written in.

I rambled on about this more, in another blog:

Sunday, February 14, 2010

St. Valentine's Day, 2010: Balloons and Burning Palm Branches

Sunday, February 14, 2010. St. Valentine's Day.

I thought Cupid could use an equipment upgrade.

It's Valentine's Day: a Saint's feast day, and an occasion for putting a whole lot of red and pink merchandise in the stores. I don't mind a bit: this time of year, we can use a bit of bright color. Or, in this case, a whole lot of bright shiny color:

Lots and lots of heart-shaped balloons in Coborn's. February 11, 2010.

My oldest daughter changed her travel plans Saturday morning: freezing fog in the wee hours of the morning put beautiful frost on the trees, and made traction on the roads dubious. She and I went to see "Avatar" at Main Street Theatre this afternoon: maybe not as much fun as what she had planned, but I enjoyed having some "quality time" with her. Interesting: it's been a long time since I've heard that phrase.

What's left of the house that burned on South Birch. February 10, 2010.

This is the Sunday before Ash Wednesday, so that chest of palm leaves from last Easter season was carried out of the sanctuary after Mass at Our Lady of the Angels. The dry leaves went into a sort of cage, and were burned. We'll get the ashes on our foreheads on Ash Wednesday.

Last year's palm branches, before Mass at Our Lady of the Angels. February 14, 2010.

Those dry leaves burn fast. By the time I got there with a camera, it was over, except for a bit of cleanup. February 14, 2010.

My new son-in-law is from Louisiana, so I'm learning a bit more about the culture in that part of the south. And, I think he may be in for quite a surprise this Tuesday - if he hasn't already figured it out. Up here in the northern tier of states, we don't make much of a big deal out of Mardi Gras. Apart from things like a fundraiser at Holy Family School.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Sauk Centre's Street Crew Clearing Snow

This is one of the reasons I'd rather live here in central Minnesota, than in - say - Washington, D.C.

"Small Town America, Central Minnesota: Snow Blower"

ApatheticLemmingMinn, YouTube (February 12, 2010)
video, 1:25

"Sauk Centre's street department dealing with snow."

Around here, we know we can expect several feet of snow, scorching heat, floods, droughts, and the occasional tornado. Not on the same day, of course.

The point is, towns like Sauk Centre have equipment on hand, crews who know how to use the equipment, and a budget for this sort of (for us) normal weather.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Wednesday: Winter Storm; A Rapist's Coming to Town; Concern Over Hazardous Materials - But Otherwise, Pretty Routine

Wednesday, February 10, 2010. I spent more time in the Red River Valley of the North last weekend than I planned to. More about that in "Home, at Last! - of a Winter Storm, Interstate Traffic, and Utility Trucks" (Through One Dad's Eye (Feb. 8, 2010).

I hope you had a less exciting Monday evening than I did.

The Sauk Centre Herald has another story about the fire on South Birch street (November 25, 2009 and September 20, 2009). Or, rather, its aftermath. One of the neighbors is concerned about debris that hasn't been cleared away yet. There could be asbestos in it - and that could be the reason she's been feeling unwell.

Today, it's hard to see how asbestos - or much of anything else - could get out from under the snow. But of course, that's now. There was time before the snow fell when stuff could have blown off the property.

What's left of the house that burned on South Birch. February 10, 2010.

There's also a touching story in the paper, "From Haiti, with Love," about Kathy and Brian Borgerding's adopted daughter, three and a half years old.

And, again in the Sauk Centre Herald, a Level 3 Predatory Offender will be moving into town. An excerpt from the online edition of the Herald:

"...A community notification meeting is scheduled for next Tuesday, Feb. 16, at 6:30 p.m. at the Sauk Centre City Hall in the council chambers...."
I can't say that I'm really happy about the situation. At least these days, the police are allowed to tell us about this sort of thing. I wrote more about what's happening in "Good News, Bad News, and a Level 3 Predatory Offender" (Sauk Centre Journal Blog (February 10, 2010)). I'll probably be at that notification meeting.

Now, on a happier note, we had a winter storm roar through this area over the Super Bowl weekend, and it looks like there's more snow coming in a day or so. I saw several vehicles in the ditch, driving back Monday evening.

The new snow sure is pretty, though.

The grill needs to be dug out. Again. February 10, 2010.

I've been hearing on the news, how Washington, D.C., and other eastern seaboard cities are paralyzed by the snow they've been having. I sympathize. What's a fairly routine matter of breaking out shovels and plows for us is a rare and calamitous event for them.

Two days after the storm, streets have been plowed and sidewalks dug out. For central Minnesota: routine. February 10, 2010.

Just a reminder, for my fellow-husbands: This Sunday is Valentine's Day. Happily, I've got my wife's gift - - - and, yes: it's still where I thought I'd put it. I'm pretty sure she'll like it: She told me what to surprise her with.

This is the last time I'll add this plug for Haiti relief:
I see in the Sauk Centre Herald that First State Bank is offering $20,000 in matching funds. Here's what the Herald says, in part:

"To make a donation checks should be made payable to the American Red Cross and dropped off or mailed to First State Bank of Sauk Centre, PO Box 266, Sauk Centre, MN 56378. Contributions will be accepted until Feb. 15."
There's still the rest of this week to get a check to the American Red Cross, by way of First State Bank.

Good News, Bad News, and a Level 3 Predatory Offender

There's good news, and there's bad news this week.

First, the bad news: a rapist is moving into town, by courtesy of the Minnesota state government.

Now, the good news: these days, we're allowed to know about the situation. Before the chap hurts someone else.

I appreciate the Minnesota Department of Corrections providing a page where folks can determine whether a Level 3 (or "Level III" - Minngov writes it both ways) offender is living near them. (Level 3 Predatory Offender Information) It levels the playing field a bit. There are links to some "Community Safety Information" on the page, too.

Awfully sporting of them, I think.

Paranoia? Hysteria? I don't Think So: But I'm a Trifle Concerned

A page on the Fridley, Minnesota, website made a good point:
"...This notification is meant to provide information and alleviate fear, not create it. The most important factor to consider is that people who commit predatory crimes have always lived in our communities. The difference is that since the 1990's, Minnesota statutes allow local police departments to inform citizens of certain offender's general whereabouts...."
As I said before, letting the common folk know when a rapist is released is awfully sporting of our state leaders. And shows a remarkable trust that 'The Masses' won't go charging after offenders with torches and pitchforks.

A "Level 3" Offender? How Bad Can That be?

You might think that "Level 1" offenders were the most dangerous - 'top of the list.' Or, you might think that "Level 3" offenders are third on a scale of one to ten - going either direction.

I wondered just what "Level 3" meant - and noticed how careful the easy-to-find online resources and announcements were, about not saying what the "Level" system meant. After a little digging, I found this:
"...The committee shall assign to risk level I a predatory offender whose risk assessment score indicates a low risk of reoffense. The committee shall assign to risk level II an offender whose risk assessment score indicates a moderate risk of reoffense. The committee shall assign to risk level III an offender whose risk assessment score indicates a high risk of reoffense...."
(Subd. 3.End-of-confinement review committee, (e) "244.052 PREDATORY OFFENDERS; NOTICE., 2009 Minnesota Statutes, Minnesota Office of the Revisor of Statutes)
Okay, now I know: the town my family and I live in will be playing host to "an offender whose risk assessment score indicates a high risk of reoffense."


Well, at least we're allowed to know about the situation these days. That's an improvement.

Protecting People Who Don't Hurt Other People: What a Concept!

I think what we're seeing is a process that Minnesota - and American - leaders are going through, where they're adjusting to the idea that people who don't rape other people deserve the sort of care and consideration that's given people who are accused of crimes.

I don't want to live in a society where someone is guilty until proven innocent - or broke. And I do appreciate the intention, if not the results, of an earlier generation's concern for the welfare of people who don't behave.

Eventually, I hope that processes and maybe technologies can be developed for doing more to protect the innocent, than (it seems) telling a community that a rapist will be moving in with them, and asking the rapist to be nice.

This isn't the 'Wobegon Trail' Rapist

The Level 3 offender, according to the Sauk Centre Herald, is Dustin Gene Ayres, 27. He "...has a history of sexual contact with female victims age eight to 16...." And, so far, he's known his victims.

Yeah, I feel sorry for him, and hope he'll decide to stop being naughty. I'm also concerned about the folks who could be his next victims.

Related posts:

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Winter Storm, No School Monday, and Where I was Sunday

Tuesday, February 9, 2010. Sorry about that! I'd expected to be back in town by Sunday night. Instead, my family elected to stay at this family's newlyweds' home, and watch the Super Bowl. That was a good decision: but it meant that I was up in the Red River Valley of the North when Sunday evening came.

Then, I drove us home yesterday. (More at "Home, at Last! - of a Winter Storm, Interstate Traffic, and Utility Trucks")

I'll be back, Wednesday, with more about Sauk Centre.

Briefly, we've got more snow now than we did before: and there wasn't any school yesterday. Prudent decision, I think. School was two hours late today.

That was quite a storm.

Just a reminder: here's that plug for Haiti again:
I see in the Sauk Centre Herald that First State Bank is offering $20,000 in matching funds. Here's what the Herald says, in part:"To make a donation checks should be made payable to the American Red Cross and dropped off or mailed to First State Bank of Sauk Centre, PO Box 266, Sauk Centre, MN 56378. Contributions will be accepted until Feb. 15."
Like I've said before, the folks there can use help. There's the rest of this week to get a check to the American Red Cross, by way of First State Bank.

Monday, February 8, 2010

From the Headlines: Weekend Snowmobile Event at the Racetrack

From KSAX:
"U.S. Nationals are Underway in Sauk Centre at the I-94 Speedway"
KSAX (February 5, 2010)

"The U.S. Nationals will be held in Sauk Centre at the I-94 Speedway...."
By now, it's "were held." The snowmobile event ended Sunday.

By the way: I checked the I-94 Speedway website. According to a press release: "The I-94 Speedway in Sauk Centre, MN will be temporarily closed during the 2010 summer racing season...." I'm glad to see "temporarily" there. That track's been part of Sauk Centre culture for quite a while.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Winter Storm: Not the Washington D.C. One

Sauk Centre, Minnesota, and Washington, District of Columbia, have at least one thing in common: we're both dealing with winter weather.

I wasn't be able to update the Sauk Centre Journal page today, and may not have an update there until Wednesday. If then.

Meanwhile, it looks like schools in the area will be starting late tomorrow.

Sauk Centre's first on-the-street webcam (as far as I know) should continue giving you a look at the corner of South Ash Street and 9th: "Small Town America: Central Minnesota."

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Fire, Ice, and Haiti

Wednesday, February 3, 2010. I haven't been out of the house since Monday. Nothing serious: and I'm going to keep it that way.

So everything I know about what's happened here in Sauk Centre is either what I've heard, or read in the Sauk Centre Herald.

The big-deal item actually made it to the St. Cloud Times. The good news is that apparently nobody got hurt. The bad news is that Adam Gress is down by a snowmobile, a four wheeler, two cars and a house. The St. Cloud Times seems to say that the fire started in a wood stove. I'll skip the usual stuff about being careful with that sort of heater. I'm just glad everybody got out.

Remember that power outage, a week ago last Friday? The St. Cloud Times says that ice caused the outage. The headline was "Ice breaks pole; Sauk Centre without power". The two accounts aren't contradictory. The St. Cloud Times mentions the fire in their second paragraph.

We've gotten a little more snow since Sunday afternoon. My son cut a path from the driveway to the back yard - but didn't include the grill in his route. I'll be encouraging to get that done. I've mentioned this before: I like to grill.

Now, at the risk of getting dull (duller?), here's that plug for Haiti again:
I see in the Sauk Centre Herald that First State Bank is offering $20,000 in matching funds. Here's what the Herald says, in part:

"To make a donation checks should be made payable to the American Red Cross and dropped off or mailed to First State Bank of Sauk Centre, PO Box 266, Sauk Centre, MN 56378. Contributions will be accepted until Feb. 15."

If you haven't given yet, there's the rest of this week, and all of next, to do so. From what I've heard, the folks there can really use help.