Friday, January 15, 2021


Everyone has moments in their lives that leave an indelible imprint on the memory, moments that bring back a vivid image and the flood of emotions that accompanied them.  Moments of joy, of grief, of pride, of fear, of horror, of awe.
I have a chronology of these kinds of events stashed in my hippocampus recallable, at times by conscious thought, but often triggered by some happening seemingly unrelated to the memory. 

I share here but a sample of my inner self.
  1. My earliest flashback memory is one of fear, having gotten myself lost in Powers Department Store in Minneapolis at some tender young age. I went up an escalator and could not figure out how to get back down. That fear is palpable.
  2. I misspelled 'cheif' in the county spelling bee. Shame.
  3. The Cuban Missile Crisis.  This is not a sharp image but rather the fuzzy memory of days of angst that nuclear devastation was looming. 
  4. The Kennedy assassination November 22, 1963.  I was in high school and I relive those moments in a study hall when Walter Cronkite removed his glasses and announced to the world that Kennedy was dead. Then following in succession Martin Luther King & Bobby Kennedy
  5. Tagging out Kerkhoven's Wayne Carlson at 2nd base, he 4 feet off the bag and the umpire Phil MacIver calling him safe. The anger is still real.  Go figure.
  6. A standing-room-only train trip to Seattle with a young child (not mine) on my knee.
  7. The joy of my wedding day
  8. Augsburg College graduation with Hubert Humphrey as commencement speaker.  But I remember not a word of his oration. More vivid is the cigar I smoked afterward - so dizzy & nauseous I had to lay down.
  9. The moon landing accompanied by a burst of wonder and pride of country.
  10. Rescuing a drunken prof in Conrad, Montana while a student at Montana State University.
  11. The Watergate hearings and the sonorous voices of Barbara Jordan and Sam Ervin.
  12. The awe and wonder of the birth of my children
  13. My first day in a classroom at Charlotte-Paulson Gymnasium in Hamburg, Germany, trying to communicate auf Deutsch.
  14. The reception we received at the home of my wife’s great aunt in Leksvig, Norway.  They raised the Norwegian flag above their home.
  15. The death of my mother at age 58.  The unfairness and awful depths of grief.
  16. The Challenger explosion.  I was at work at Control Data and the shock of the images scarred me.
  17. The elation of Twins World Series wins in 1987 & 1991.  It was as if my love of baseball had been rewarded - finally. 
  18. The icy Wacouta bridge in St. Paul ending with my truck perched atop a trailer.
  19. The pride at our childrens’ graduation from college. 
  20. 9/11. Transfixed by the horror
  21. Birth of my grandchildren and the endless joy they bring to us
  22. Sandy Hook.  Tears and anger beyond anger.
  23. When the family was visiting my father in his final days, as we were leaving, my ten year old grandson asked us if this was the last time we would see him.  We had to say yes. He turned around and ran back to the room to give a last hug.  The tears still come.
  24. The death of my father. The hardest hit of all. We talk daily.
  25. A retirement day.  Sadness and joy mixed.
  26. This old man flying over the handlebars of his bicycle. I can clearly recall the landing but the flight is a mirage.

And now January 6, 2021, a confederate flag in the US Capitol. 

Copyright ©  2021  Dave Hoplin

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Deep Thoughts

I don't do New Year's Resolutions.  They are hazardous to your mental health.  Just signing up for something you know will fail indicates irrational thinking and then when the predictable happens, you fall into depression over what you knew would happen from the get go.  And then next year you do it all over again.  There's a word for that kind of behavior.

Instead, I record "Deep Thoughts". You know Jack Handey-like, without the schmalzy music.


Buy clothes that are too large. They offer freedom of movement and are cost saving in the long term

People tend to lose interest in their health in the winter & send regrets come spring

I’m convinced each gray hair preserves a memory.  Not sure where bald guys keep theirs. 

Agility. The test of whether you have lost it is when you attempt to get your leg in your underwear.

It’s easier to go through life with someone you love

Tell people what to think. Otherwise someone else will

The places you remember from your youth are no longer there

Days go slow but weeks go fast during a plague.

If you are good at procrastinating, you don't need to be good at anything else.

I refuse to join any organization that would have me as a member (borrowed from Mark Twain)

It's a lot easier to realize your zipper is down in the winter.

You can be fined for smoking inside and for drinking outside so you shouldn't do both at the same time.

Everyone has an expression they use overmuch in their speech. I hope yours is not “like” or “at the end of the day”.  If your phrase is “in truth”, I will run for cover.

Wash your feet before bed and wear clean underwear in case you're transported by ambulance (channeling my mother).

If you encounter a man in deep contemplation, chances are he's not thinking of anything.

Life is easier if you want what you have.

The top bit the toothpaste tube lasts 10 times that of the rest.

Idiocy is contagious.

I am told I look like my father.  Unfortunately no one said that when he was young and handsome. 

Do you ever look at the list of today's famous birthdays and wonder what rabbit hole you've been down?

A good walk cures boredom.

The best way out is through. (borrowed from Robert Frost)

Copyright © 

Dave Hoplin

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Scandinavian Delicacies

In 2020, the Joy of Christmas is under pressure. It's unlikely we will experience the normal large family gatherings, the fabulous church services and music .. many of the traditions that make the season so special. People are hurting both mentally, physically and economically. Many have died or are in hospital.

My wife loves Christmas.  She's a giver, at times over the top but it gives her joy.  She loves the specialness of the season, the family love and closeness, the Christmas music (which starts about Halloween around here), the church services, the decorations that trigger a childhood nostalgia and the foods that make the mouth water with anticipation of that Christmas Eve dinner table. She loves to bake so the bounty overflows, much to the delight of friends and family. Trilbies, krumkake, flatbread, pies, fudge, brownies, almond bread, cookies ... and of course, *lefse.

Lefse is the one tradition that cannot be skipped in this household.  Lefse lights the Christmas spirit.

Here's a tutorial.

1. Block out 2 days on your calendar and a 3rd for cleanup.
2. Pick out good potatoes.  If you fail this step, you are doomed.  Russets are best. Others absorb too much water during the boil (see below). 10-20 lbs.
3. Buy a lefse grill.  The one we have is from Hoplin & Nelson circa 1970  $18.95. You'll have to outlay a bit more today.  And a lefse stick.

4. Peel and boil.

5. Rice. If you're up to it, twice. Find a volunteer with strong hands.

6. Mix riced potatoes with the flour, butter & cream.

7. Roll into balls. Refrigerate overnight

8. For each ball, roll and roll and roll on a lightly floured pastry cloth.
9. When it is rolled to exactly the right thickness, use the special lefse stick to flip it on the grill. (Remember to plug it in.)  Brush off excess flour. New unused paint brush works well - watch for loose bristles. Don't worry about the shape. It's not a beauty contest and it doesn't affect the taste.
10. At precisely the right time, flip and repeat for side two. Then add to the finished lefse to the stack forming on a clean towel.

10. When cooled, fold and package. Two to a package, three if you're feeling generous.

11.  Consume. Butter & white sugar (brown if you were not brought up right) and roll into a tube. Some people go sugarless - can't understand that.
12.  Give some away.  It's really not Scandinavian nice to hoard all your lefse. 

This is a mediocre specimen.  I am only allowed to eat the less than perfect. But the misshapen taste just as good as the "good enough for company" pieces. 

Best wishes to you'all this holiday season.  Stay well.

Copyright © 2020 Dave Hoplin

* Lefse is a traditional soft Norwegian flatbread. It is made with potatoes, flour, butter, and milk or cream. It is cooked on a large, flat griddle. Special tools are used to prepare lefse, including long wooden turning sticks and special rolling pins with deep grooves.

Thursday, November 19, 2020


Royal fever returns. Season 4 of "The Crown" released on Netflix November 15th. The saga of the House of Windsor. Philip, Elizabeth, Charles, Margaret, Anne and Diana - but the character that most intrigued me in season 3 was Princess Alice.

Princess Alice of Battenberg was the mother of Prince Philip, mother-in-law of QE2.  She is quite a story.  She was diagnosed as congenitally deaf as a young child and learned to communicate by lip reading in multiple languages, becoming fluent in German.  She married Prince Andrew of Greece in 1903 at the age of 18.  They had 5 children, Philip the youngest, the only son.  During the Greek-Turkish war, 1919-1922 the family fled Greece, becoming royal refugees. Philip was sent to boarding school in England. Alice converted to Greek Orthodox and became deeply religious. In the late 1920's, she was diagnosed with schizophrenia and institutionalized, garnering interest from Sigmund Freud.  In the mid-30's, she left treatment and returned to Greece, volunteering with the Red Cross and soup kitchens and a life of poverty.  During the occupation of Greece by the Nazis, she hid a Jewish family friend and her daughter in her apartment.  When questioned by the Gestapo, she pretended she could not hear or understand. While Philip served in the British Navy during WWII, his four sisters were married to German men who fought for the Nazis. None of these sisters were invited to Philip & Elizabeth's wedding in 1947.

In 1949, Alice, taking the name Sister Alice-Elizabeth founded the Christian Sisterhood of Martha and Mary, an order of nuns caring for the sick in Greece.  In 1967, after a military coup in Greece, she moved to Buckingham Palace. She formed a special bond with her granddaughter Princess Anne.  She died in 1969 at the age of 84. She was interred in Jerusalem. 

She makes a fairly brief appearance in The Crown, but she makes a statement that caught me on the chin:
    "When I hit 70, I realized that I had become a spectator, no longer a participant."  

A spectator!  In this age of vile name-calling, this one might be the most wounding. To be complacent and fiddle while the world crumbles certainly begs self examination.  

But what to do?  I fall back on my mother's words: "Bloom where you're planted." Regardless of your age, do what you can, as long as you can, where you are, to better the conditions for others.  You don't need to change the world, rather work on "your" world. That is sufficient.  Share a pie or hotdish with neighbors, volunteer, give money if you can, speak out against injustice, be kind.  Imagine if this were a universal ethic.

One of my favorite poems and inspiration is Lord Tennyson's Ulysses with this to the point section:

   Old age hath yet his honour and his toil;
    Death closes all: but something ere the end,
    Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
    Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.
    The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks:
    The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep
    Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
    T'is not too late to seek a newer world.
Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho'
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

T'is not too late. T'is never too late.

Copyright © 2020 Dave Hoplin

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Losing the Middle

You might be expecting an inspiring weight loss story, but no, in the time of pandemic that is but a pipe dream.  Rather this is another nostalgia piece, this time over shrinking middle class America.

Growing up in the small town of Lowry in the 50’s, I didn’t know any poor people. Oh, there were a few families that lived across the tracks that were “needy”, but poor - not in our town. 

Most people lived in single family homes but some families lived in apartments: Molander Apartments, Lowry Flats or other rental properties. Several Main Street businesses had apartments above the business level: McIver’s Store, Chan’s Tavern, Lowry Telephone and the Dahl House.

My first six years were in an apartment above the Dahl House. From the alley in the back, it could have been mistaken for a big city tenement.  But in my memory it was great. The stairs led straight to Hank Bosek's roof and in the winter the snow banked high allowing for "jumping off the roof". 

My mom worked as a nurse for Doc McIver my dad worked as an electrician for Hoplin & Nelson.  Most apartment dwellers were retired, single parents or families trying to save enough for a down payment on an $5000 home. Lowry State Bank was notoriously conservative in its lending practice having survived the depression without being forced into closure. My father was turned down by LSB as a poor risk- and 2 other banks as well - even though the the Hoplin family had operated a business in Lowry since 1916. Luckily, WWII vets had the option of appealing to the Veterans Administration for a loan, so in 1953 my father obtained a 3% loan for $8500  ($38/mo) to build a home on Drury Ave. 

So, in 1953 our family moved from Dahl House apartment, straddling the poverty line to 249 Drury Lane, lower middle class. Mom was no longer "working", rather managing a home, cooking 3 meals a day & 2 little kids. Also money management & paying the bills, unusual for the day.  My father worked 6 days a week from 7 AM to 6 PM, plus summer Saturday nights at the hardware store when the county came to town (see: Saturday Night). Sunday morning church & Sunday School. Summer Sunday afternoons at the Lowry Leghorns ballgame. And Sunday nights were generally devoted to working on next week work plan and bids for future electrical or plumbing work. (Not to mention, emergency calls at all hours - doctors had nothing on Glenn Hoplin).  Not exactly the Life of Riley.

From my POV, we were comfortable. There was always good food on the table - mom was a great cook - but the boiled ring baloney once a week was not my cup of tea - to mix a metaphor. I had my very own room. I'd get a new pair of Buster Brown's and a winter jacket from Bob's Clothes Shop in Alex every fall. And a pair of Red Ball Jets from McIver's Store for the summer and skates from Hoplin & Nelson for the winter.  Eating out was Sunday dinner at Esthers and a trip to the Starbuck DQ a couple times a month in the summer. That was about the extent of the luxuries. There was usually vanilla ice cream in the freezer tho. 

There were a couple Lowry swells who purchased a new car every 2 or 3 years but most people drove theirs to the ground. Our family did not own a car until 1960 and that was a hand-me-down '57 Buick from Uncle Dave. We made due with the work truck, packing the 4 of us into the seatbeltless cab. On the rare vacation or trip to Iowa or Minneapolis to see the sisters, Uncle Dave graciously made loan of his Buick. 

We did have a black & white TV pretty early, coupled with a tower antenna on the south side of the house. The nearest stations were 150 miles away in the Twin Cities so reception was sketchy at best.  I spent considerable time fiddling with the rotor to try to position the antenna so I could make out Roy Rogers in the snow. In the late 50's, Alexandria brought KCMT & Huntley-Brinkley to the area, assuring 1 clear channel.

This is a pretty typical story of small town USA in the 50's and I think a fair description of middle class life in rural America.  Hard working, optimistic families striving to secure home ownership and improved quality of life. 

This picture of course is no longer familiar.  The middle class doubled in numbers in the 50's but since the 80's has been dropping precipitously. A middle class existence now requires two wage earners with families one serious illness away from bankruptcy. (Covid of course changes this equation even more radically) Small towns are on the wane, losing their young people, their schools, churches and businesses. (Covid is accelerating this)

The wage and wealth gap is ripping a hole in the middle. The country is dividing between the very wealthy and the working poor. As the old saw goes .. "thems whats gots keeps."  

And a few data points.

The pay gap between CEO's and their workers is now roughly 270x, CEO's averaging ~$15 million/yr. Average USA wage is ~$52K but this is misleading because the very high earners jack the average up.  The median wage is $34K, which means 1/2 earn less than that. 34M people live below the poverty line. The top 1% reap 20% of the income and own 80% of the wealth.


The minimum wage in 2020 is $7.25/hr.  For full-time (40 hrs/wk) employment, this yields $14,500/yr before deductions.

Think about it.

Copyright © 2020 Dave Hoplin

Saturday, October 31, 2020

This I Believe

A few years ago, NPR had a weekly series titled "This I Believe". People of all walks of life, famous, little known or unknown would submit an essay on a subject meaningful to them and if chosen, they would read their essay on the air. The original "This I Believe" aired on CBS from 1951 - 1955, hosted by Edward R. Murrow. The idea was revived by NPR and continues on PRI. Check it out   I'm sure you will find something inspiring.

I have no expectation of appearing on the radio, but here's my essay.

This I Believe.

I believe a healthy democracy requires a separation of powers where all three branches of government have equal power and act as checks and balances on the others. The Legislative branch should create laws, exercise the power of the purse and confirm political appointees and exercise oversight of the Executive branch. The Executive branch shall administer laws assuring they are faithfully executed, act as commander in chief of the armed forces, conduct foreign policy, propose legislative initiatives. The Judicial branch shall interpret laws, settle disputes, rule on the constitutionality of laws. The judiciary should be non-political.

I believe that voting is both a right granted by the constitution and a sacred duty for all eligible voters.  I believe voting should be simple, fair and accessible to all. I believe attempts to suppress the vote is criminal. 

I believe that affordable, quality health care is a right and should not depend on income or locale.

I believe the US needs allies. I believe we should work diligently to build partnerships around the world, especially with countries on our borders, Europe, Israel and Japan. I believe we have surrendered our moral and political leadership in the world.

I believe that climate change is an existential threat to the planet. It is a global problem and must be met by coordinated global action. I believe we are failing and the time for action is short.  

I believe that environmental protection is a fundamental component of the health and welfare of a society. I believe it is a responsibility of all of us but governments have a special responsibility to preserve our natural wonders, protect water & air quality, combat deforestation, punish polluters.

I believe that science leads to progress.

I believe in the separation of church and state. I believe we all have the right to worship as we choose without interference from government.

I believe that peaceful protest is a fundamental right granted by the constitution.  I believe that looting and burning is a crime and should be punished.

I believe in individual liberty coupled with individual responsibility. I believe liberty means you are free to make your own decisions as long as the rights of others are considered. I believe responsibility requires empathy and compassion for those less well off than yourselves. 

I believe it is possible to disagree and still be respectful of the opinions of others. 

I believe that embracing false conspiracy theories causes great damage to civil society.

I believe the USA must work to recover our long held standing as a beacon of freedom to the world, the shining light on the hill and again '... and lift our lamp beside the golden door'. 

Copyright © 2020 Dave Hoplin

Monday, October 26, 2020


Growing up in the small town of Lowry in the 50's was a pretty insulated environment. But you had to learn to get along with people.  A civil society.  As kids, we bonded through mutual interests and by 'following the leader'. Tubba was that leader  Now "Tubba" seems like a derogatory, bully-like nickname, but for us it was a term of affection. Everyone liked Tubba. And, point of fact, we all had nicknames. Nowadays, nicknames seem to have gone out of style. For us, it was a bonding thing.

In the 50's and before, nicknames were more common in society in general, particularly among sports figures. Baseball, the national game at the time, in particular was awash in colorful handles. Babe, of course. And Shoeless Joe made famous by Field of Dreams;  The Barber whose shaving implement was a fastball under the chin; Three-Finger,  whose mangled hand made for nasty pitches; Rapid Robert with his hundred mph fastball; Yogi, master of the malaprop; The Splendid Splinter; Say Hey Kid; Hammerin' Hank; Joltin' Joe; Duke; Killer; Big Train; Big Poison; Little Poison; Pee Wee; Scooter; Charlie Hustle; Mudcat; Catfish; Dizzy; Preacher; Satchel; Puck ... you get the idea. (bragging rights to the first to identify all these players :-)

I was "Hoppy", a rather dull moniker derived from my surname. However, I identified with Hopalong Cassidy, the black hat hero, so I didn't object too much. Hi-yo Topper. Others in the "gang" had more interesting alter egos.  

  • We had "Utta" (derivation unknown) who lived in the Molander Apartments above the International Harvester dealership and regularly fired his 22 at the water tower a block away from his bedroom window. 
  • Big Time was a load, especially on the ice rink. I know of no one brave enough to try to take the puck away from him when he got up a head of steam.
  • Dubshay is Bohemian for Tak, so that seems like a pretty nice honorific.
  • Mucka (derivation unknown).  What the heck is a mucka?  Muck is not a nice place to find yourself.
  • Engie, another derivation from a surname. Not everyone is creative.
  • King - a mystery.
  • Tonto - The Lone Ranger sidekick, but we had no Lone Ranger.  go figure
  • Butch - perhaps the most common nickname of the day.  Leland the Barber's specialty.
  • Bumpy earned his nickname.
  • Bubby. No clue although he was Bumpy's brother and Bubby & Bumpy has a nice ring to it.
  • Speed was Tubba's brother. Slightly different frames.  I remember playing touch football on the skating rink and Tubba was running back a kickoff straight up the middle.  As Speed was closing in, Tubba faked a pitchout and Speed bit, tearing off to the supposed receiver.  Tubba motored on and Speed circled around from 20 yards back and caught him about the 30 yard line.  Nice move tho.
I'm sure I've missed a few. Lowry oldtimers - help me out.

You've probably noticed there are no females in the list. Rare, except for a shortening of the given name:  Dort, Maggie, Abby, ... I thought that with all the Mabels, Esthers, Leonas, Hilmas, Agnes, Clarices and Gertrudes in town, you'd think they would have welcomed a clever handle. 

Nicknames for men on the other hand were common, perhaps a legacy of WWII. 
  • Captain: Anzio vet
  • Happy: And he truly was. 
  • Fluke: A rare lucky happenstance so someone must have liked him.  
  • Spook: Just take a long look into those eyes. 
  • Slim: Don't tell me we didn't understand irony. 
  • Wimpy: From the cartoon character I'm guessing.  
  • Goose: I could guess but I'll defer. 
  • And an assortment of Buds', Andy's, Hank's, Punky's.

I realize I am suffering from stage 3 nostalgia but those were the days my friend.

Copyright © 2020 Dave Hoplin

Tuesday, October 20, 2020


Covid-19 is not the same as influenza. We are now (20Oct2020) at 40 million cases and over 1 million deaths worldwide from this pandemic and cases are spiking as we enter the fall "flu" season. The death rate from Covid is about 3%.  Influenza death rate is about .1%.  They are not the same.  We have flu vaccines. We do not have a Covid vaccine. What ticks me off are the frequent comments like "it's only old people dying" - which targets me by the way - and is also false. It's as if the right to life has an expiration date.  Yes, the vast majority of those dying are over 65, however if you're young "you have nothing to fear" is wrong, especially because you may potentially infect your parents and grandparents or other vulnerable "old people". And your death risk is higher that the flu.  If you have any empathy for your fellow man, you will do everything you can to prevent yourself from passing along this virus.  In short, wear a mask, wash your hands, keep to social distancing.

Remember, many cases are asymptomatic. You don't really know if you are a carrier.  Carriers can infect others. Yes, your risk of infection varies by zip code but everyone is vulnerable. The disease is highly infectious. Densely populated urban areas are riskier but on the other hand, take a look at North Dakota numbers.

And, regardless of your age, you really don't want to get this disease.  Not because it might kill you, although it might, but because of what long-term effects it might have on you. 

It is pretty easy to accept that those that surviving a hospital stay for Covid are likely to sustain lung or heart damage. An elephant on your chest. I can't get enough air. I feel like I'm 100. A respirator keeping you alive.

The virus attacks blood vessels and the associated organ is at risk of long term damage. In addition to lung damage, liver damage, brain damage, myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) is the most common "leftover" from Covid.  It is triggered by the over-aggressive immune response to the disease. It can produce arrhythmia (irregular heart rhythms), AFib symptoms,  and reduce the ability of the heart to pump. These symptoms can occur weeks or months after recovery from Covid.  A German study showed that 78% of recovered patients had indications of myocarditis.  Only half of those resolve without a chronic condition. Another study found CV19 in the heart muscle of 7% patients whose death was attributed to lung failure.  We are likely to see an increase death rate due to heart failure in the future.

Finally, "herd immunity", the latest proposed solution to Covid.  Herd immunity is the concept that if enough people contract the virus, there will not be enough uninfected to transmit to and the virus will become harmless. This first of all assumes you will have immunity once you have contracted the virus. Perhaps.  In the US, to have effective herd immunity, roughly 200 million people would need to get the disease. The current US death rate is about 3%, but be optimistic, assume that as the herd gets sick the death rate falls to 1% - purely hypothetical by the way.  Do the math 200,000,000 x .01 = 2,000,000.  Mass murder.

Copyright © 2020 Dave Hoplin

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