In Oxford, England, just northwest of London, three Bactrian camels were born recently. Echoing that, the Minnesota Zoo announced the birth of the single camel baby Socrates on April 15. This thrilling display of confidence in future capacity has the zoo world agog. The British Bactrians had not mated in several years. By producing the single baby, the more conservative Minnesota Bactrians kept their enthusiasm in check as the good Lake Woebegonians they are. With a gestation of 12 to 14 months and the usual birth pattern of single calves, the births signal heavy betting on better times.
Some camel facts. The natural home of Bactrian camels is the rocky desert of Central and East Asia. Although domesticated for over 3,000 years, there are perhaps 1,000 wild camels that range freely. These are of another species and are the only truly wild camels in the world. Up to two million of their domesticated cousins lead shackled lives in service to their masters in Central Asia.
Had the Minnesota Zoo ungulates been reading the papers they would have undoubtedly felt justified in their enthusiasm. The nation's imports were down slightly and exports were up a bit as well. Seven straight months of downward pressure on imports is leveling off so those reading the tea leaves might see possible good news in that.
On the other hand, could the camels just have been expressing the pent up need to hear little hoof beats in the pen? Out in the retail world, human consumers are keeping their powder dry. Even those with lots of disposable cash are buying cheaper or not at all. Retail sales nationally are falling for Wal-Mart (1.4%) and Saks, Inc. (23.6%). That looks like continued downward pressure on at least part of all imports. In response, retailers will cut inventories through mid 2010. But will consumers eventually buy back to happy days levels? That is something the economists will not predict openly.
And on the third hand that all economists seem to have, Wall Street is sharing the enthusiasm of the camels. The market is looking for profit reports that are going in the right direction and found one from Wells Fargo. The company reported a whopping $3 billion in first quarter earnings. Mortgage applications are up. What do you know.
All in all the camels have it. Little Socrates has been named for his wisdom after all.
More from Laura Waterman Wittstock
Science teacher and member of the Dakota Nation, Jim Rock is the first to put an American Indian seed experiment aboard the NASA space shuttle.
We take looking up at the skies for granted. The stars and moon will always be there. Only the headlines of a transit of Venus or the infamous blue moon calls our attention to the reality that the firmament is not fixed and we are a tiny population in a galaxy far away. Most people agree that we should educate ourselves all of our lives. There is no room for closed thinking, especially not for the coming generations. It will comfort many Minnesotans to know that the MN Planetarium Society just passed an important 100,000 mark. That many school children have now had lessons about the cosmos, given by Planetarium teacher Sally Brummel. We have a few small planetariums like the ones in Duluth, Hibbing, or New Ulm, but only one serves the entire state: the Minnesota Planetarium and Space Discovery Center. For many reasons, support from the City of Minneapolis and then Hennepin County has lagged. Now, a new partnership with the Bell Museum at the University of Minnesota gives some hope that a new planetarium will be available to the people of the state. Minnesotans should show their support by picking up the phone, sending an email, or writing a letter to the members of the Legacy Division in the House or the Environment and Natural Resources Committee in the Senate.
The shootings that resulted in injury and death in Arizona compel every one of us to take stock - not just to what happened there but to what is happening in our own lives. In a strange way, the violent deaths of others causes many of the living to appreciate life all the more. We can link ourselves easily to the young child mercilessly gunned down but also to the adults, particularly those who died while saving others. This is the heroism of which we hope we all are capable when the time comes.
News coming from Leech Lake shines a light on kids using alcohol and drugs. There should be a light shining on Frank Reese.
Where does "pro life" figure in the debate of more insurance which will lower infant death rates compared to what we have now? Infant death rates are one thing, the uncounted numbers are in non-medical fetus loss due to poverty.