Tuesday, February 28, 2006

This Little Blog of Mine

Here in Madison, a group has been getting together and singing for about 25 years. They invited me to join them a year ago and now I'm one of the Madison MasterSingers. We put on concerts at Christmas time and Easter, so we're getting ready now for our Easter gig. You see at left some of the work that keeps us busy each Monday night for months at a time, just to sing for the folks. Work? Yes. Wasn't it Bettleheim that said children's play is their work? This play, singing in the choir, is work. And it's play. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Women With Pillows

Three women, pillows, a bag, a couch, and a clock. Evening at the Bechen's. Posted by Picasa

Lovely Day, February Style in South Dakota

Warm weather in February brings out the desire for spring in South Dakota, so when it gets near 50 degrees like it did today, we want to shuck our winter coats and get outside. Here are some photos I took walking downtown with my wife and dog.

Skateboarders were out in force, using the skate parks and streets. People were out to get groceries, as we were, and I saw many people I knew outside the store as I used Walter to meet people and make friends.

 Posted by Picasa

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Beadle Fans!

We tried! Our Lady Trojans came up against a buzzing swarm of Yellowjackets on Friday night and lost in the second round of the conference tournament. But the folks in Beadle Hall came with shirts on. We still have a chance to get in the national tournament; we just have to wait and let our throats rest. Posted by Picasa

Friday, February 24, 2006

USPS Working for You

The US Postal Service offers some services I didn't know about, including printing newsletters and mailing them out. You set up the type of publication you want to send, upload the document from, say, Publisher, and the guys with eagles on their hats will print, staple, fold, address, and mail it out, all for less than what it might cost you to print it. And no paper cuts on your tongue!

They call it NetPost, and not only newsletters, but postcards, gift cards, booklets, and flyers are available. Even certified letters. You upload the document and mailing list, choose the paper and form of publication, and they'll send them out, bulk rate if you have enough. If you have struggled with bulk mailings, you know how nice it would be to shed that problem.

Thanks for the tip, Pastor Watt!

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Online Games Galore

Some online games worthy of note, ones you can play for free, some that you can play with others online: Orisinal features a wide variety of flash games that are quick to load and easy to play. They're not your typical fare; I noticed that many have females as the top points-getters. Getting puppies to jump over balls that turn to cupcakes isn't your typical teen-boy fantasy.

Others mentioned are at games.aol.com, where word games are offered, and zone.msn.com, where you can play the newest tetris-like games. Yahoo offers games and chat at games.yahoo.com, and www.realarcade.com offers more as well. One Yahoo game, Diner Dash, gives you a chance to show your stuff as a waitress. It's a mouse-clicking madhouse that helped me see why my short stint as a waiter in a Chinese restaurant was all I wanted.

Now you can also play many of them on your cell phone. I guess I'd rather see someone staring at their cell phone mashing buttons than I would listen to them argue with a spouse about whether to buy a pound of pork or a half pound.

These games are featured in a New York Times article, "Just for Fun, Casual Games Thrive Online."

More Writing, Chautauqua

I just finished another article for our little paper, a piece on the Great Plains Chautauqua coming to town on July 13 to stay for a week. So far so good. We've managed significant success so far in raising the $3500 cash that we need to pay the SD Humanities Council.

I would really rather be reading my book, Teacher Man, by Frank McCourt, who also wrote Angela's Ashes and 'Tis.

Then again, I would also like to be talking to one of my kids on the phone or going bowling with them or even to the Mall of America. Or talking to my wife, or going off to bed since it's late and I have class tomorrow and papers to grade.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Sports Writer for a Night

Our DSU Lady Trojans were facing their first playoff game tonight. Who would write the story for the Trojan Times. Me?

Even though I mostly ate popcorn, cheered, cried foul, and whistled, I took the notes you see here, snagged the stats after the game, hustled home, banged out the two-fisted article, and sent it off to the editors well before the midnight deadline. I hope they print it.

I can put away my press card now. The leftover Valentine's Day candy, hard as it was, helped get me through those rough writing spots.

Our team won, by the way, defeating the Valley City College Vikings 69-62. On we go to the next round. Posted by Picasa

Monday, February 20, 2006

Trip Downtown

Haircut day today, so it's a trip to see Tim. For seven dollars he gives me a trim and tells me what's going on in his life, including his son and their race car, his grandchildren and their friends.

In the back the boys play video games. He's got this great old barber chair for kids with a horsehead.

He said I could take pictures of it and the old cash register (no electricity!) and a clock with its own sense of how the moments should pass. Check my flickr account for more pics.

Then we stopped at the local coffee shop, talked prom dresses and volleyball with the girls there, and popped into the thrift store next door where they have a lot of clothes.  Posted by Picasa

Green Giant, White Buffalo Welcome

Coming home from the cities, my wife learned that I had never stopped to see the Green Giant Statue in Blue Earth, Minnesota, so we took a brief detour. He was the only greenery in Blue Earth, but undaunted by the cold.

Not to be outdone, we thought a photo of the white buffalo that welcomes travelers to Madison would be fitting.

Posted by Picasa

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Big Day in the Big City

Yesterday we trekked our way from our dinky town and today we enjoyed supper in Dinkytown, up above the KitKat Club to Annies on the second floor, where they are generous with the fries and onion rings, which they should be, being so close to the U of M. We got to see two of my kids, who took us earlier to the Mall of America, where we walked past a wide variety of vendors, sampled some cheese and wine, and escaped with most of our finances intact.

The photo is a typical scene from the trip from Madison to Minneapolis, a four and a half hour drive. If the picture looks cold, it was, and last night it got to 20 below. Enough to frost your nostrils!

The primary cause of the trip was my wife's part in a presentation from a DSU delegation, showing what good things people are doing with computers in our English classrooms.

We don't get to see trains often in Madison, so it was fun to see and hear the big boy in the second photo here.

I have a flickr site! More pictures to follow! Posted by Picasa

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Dental Work and a Trip to Marine World

Today I spent three hours in the dentist's chair getting a root canal. On the bright side, it's one of the few times that I have singular freedom with a remote control and cable tv. So, what does one do while a person drills out the nerves of your tooth as though an annoying pain in your finger might result in the desire to have a digit numbed? One might as well have one's brain numbed too. How about some Munsters, some Green Acres, and some Beverly Hillbillies to muddle your mind? Add to that the construction of a frivolous automobile, and you don't need gas.

Is this what people get for their cable bills? The Beverly Hillbillies? Today Uncle Jed, Ellie May, Jethro, and Granny were going to MarineWorld, where they figured they could catch some fish. Granny wanted fish for supper, and once they got permission from a Marine, it was whale for supper or Granny's pitching a fit.

On the other hand, as the process continued, I did get a view of London on the travel channel. I was hoping it would be Paris. I've got a new tooth now I could take there.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Chinese Tiger Puppy

Here is a picture my wife took ten years ago when she was in China. A vendor had it for sale in a street market in Shanghai, the old market. Not a place where tourists should have been, she says. The big noses didn't blend in.

But neither does this puppy. Wife swears it was not painted or dyed, but that the little guy's coloring was natural. She seems trustworthy.

Any guesses? I don't know anything about it. Posted by Picasa

Monday, February 13, 2006

Lucky Me

I'm having my students writing about the use of short films for advertising products such as cars, drinks, and other products. Some are contest entries, and it's really quite impressive what some people have done in this short form. BMW had a series of short films directed by prominent filmmakers, but they're no longer available on the BMW website. Too bad; many used recognizable actors, all featuring Clive Owen.

Others include the Ford "Focus in Film" series (available now only on Atom Films), the Skyy Vodka film series (go to the Skyy Cinema link), and the Chrysler film contest entries. The Converse Gallery is also inventive in the array of very short films that people have sent in.

But one of the most ambitious is the site called Meet the Lucky Ones. It's strange and intriguing, more than simply a film, rather an interactive storytelling site.

Sure, there are lots of odd clips on the web that show people doing strange and unusual things, caught off-guard and vulnerable, but I like these films that are deliberately constructed. Their makers know they have to be good to keep their viewers, who know the whole thing is meant to get them more inclined to buy the product.

Any other good ones?

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Social Webbing

I've been looking at blogs and oddball stuff this morning, and it's interesting to see the many ways in which people can become networked through various tools, each finding a kind of niche. College students are enjoying MySpace.com and Facebook.com and the like, where they can form groups, share pictures, comment on each others' pages and more, all within a relatively safe environment, though some are pointing out that having students congregate in such spaces gives the site owners a nicely defined audience and market. Apparently these sites are getting more traffic, by some measures, than Google!

I'm not interested so much in the two sites above, but others seem more promising. I like the idea of Library Thing. Sharing pictures is also a key attraction, and everyone is getting on that bandwagon. I was a big fan of eCircles while it lasted; it must have been before its time. My family kept it busy. R.I.P.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Happy Birthday Rita!

All righty then, it's my big sister's birthday so this entry will be devoted to her and some booger stories regarding her past. Or maybe not. The high-falutin' tone of this blog shouldn't be lowered by references to her long-standing interest in her nostrils and the products thereof. As the photo here shows, even for formal portraits it had to be quick snap to catch her with all ten fingers visible. But perhaps it isn't that either. I suppose it's possible that she knew even 45 years ago that her brother might make fun of this photo so she's jumping the gun and giving me the bird over the decades. Happy Birthday, Rita! Posted by Picasa

Need a Word Meter?

I found this cool function that gives you a little word-meter you can stick on your web page to track the amount of writing you're getting done on a project. If this post was going to be a thousand words and I only had 236 done, you'd see this:
Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
226 / 1,000

It's The Zokutou Word Meter. It might be fun for students working on essays, writers working on bigger projects, or anyone who likes to see progress in graphical form.
(It looks fine in the preview and not here--Firefox or IE. Anybody have a comment as to why?)

Cool Coat

We need good coats here where it gets pretty darned cold in the winter, as it has recently. My wife has a cool coat that keeps her toasty warm as the wind whips across eastern South Dakota. Here is that coat. She didn't want her lovely face on my blog, so you'll just have to imagine it. You can also see a broach that was her grandma's.

We got the coat cheaply at an auction near Winfred, SD, where we also got a very cool hand-made crazy quilt. Those were her buys.

Mine were a wood-fired furnace that takes up space in her dad's shed, three lawn mowers, and a deck table with umbrella for her mom. One lawn mower, a self-propelled John Deere, was worth the five bucks that I gave for all three of them. So there. Posted by Picasa

Friday, February 10, 2006

Mountain Sunset in Madison

We enjoy our sunsets in South Dakota. Here's a typical one, nothing splashy or dramatic, just the color of the sky tinged with orange and pink, a few clouds smudging the lightening blue.

This past year the crops were good, and even now in February the overflow remains, mounds of corn across the quiet street from the tallest building in town, the grain elevator.

You can see the streetlights just coming on, about 6:00, the promise now of days getting longer. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Family Portrait

Here is another painting, this one by Lois Misegadis who now teaches at Hesston College in Hesston, Kansas. It used to hang in my office in Dodge City when I taught there, with Lois, at St. Mary of the Plains College until it closed. Now it hangs in my office at Dakota State University in Beadle Hall. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Mrs. Tittle

Here is one painting I have hanging in my office. The woman is "Mrs. Tittle," by David Cook, who has done a series of these society women paintings in 3-D. (I think it's his piece at the Ukranian Institute of Modern Art). My aunt gave the painting to me to hang in my office. She (Mrs. Tittle, not my aunt) gets a lot of comments, hanging in bold view as you step into my office space. Her chin and other attributes sort of jump out at the viewer.

I love it, even though she's not the sort of woman whose company I might enjoy. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Poetry--Its Old Face and its New

Two sites: One is from Ted Kooser, former U.S. Poet Laureate: American Life in Poetry, bringing poetry back to the newspaper, where once it lived quite nicely, thank you, until we decided only "new" news belonged, not "news that stays news."
The other is Born Magazine, "an experimental venue marrying literary arts and interactive media." Check them out.


Okay, so last night my wife and some of her friends got their fingernails done by someone who takes fingernails very seriously. Fine. They look great. My wife didn't like the idea of having squared off nails (too radical) or plain ovals (too boring), so she went for the in-between: "squovals!" Don't they look great?

There's really only one downside. These babies cost enough and were enough trouble, that it seems to render hands incapable of actions they once found routine, and necessary. So until scuba gear arrives, elegant fingers like these are too much for warm soapy water.

Monday, February 06, 2006

All the Way Back from Poetry

Today the first of many rejection letters came in after a flurry of sending materials out at the end of 2005. Here are your poems back, it says. It’s a hopeful thing to have material in the mail, though, hope like a paper airplane flying, like a seed in the ground. The planes come down. More positive is the thought that many seeds sprout. They don’t grow if you don’t plant them (something your mom tells you, but it's true). You put some writing in an envelope and you send it off to meet its fate rather than hiding it in a folder on your desktop.

It’s a hopeful thought too, though probably na├»ve, that the poems spent a few moments in the hands of someone at the citadel. These poems came back from Poetry magazine with a tidy little note that indicates the care with which the poems were considered, how they wish they had time to write, how they appreciate my interest.

When the first astronauts went to space, they took with them souvenirs to return to earth with, items that had crossed with them into the beyond. So my poems have done, come back from 444 North Michigan Avenue, Suite 1850, Chicago, where the air is thin, where, in the pages of the magazine, you can see stars.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Job and Squirrels

Today I heard part of the story of Job, how plagues came down upon him and he kept his faith in God, how, while he scraped his scabs with shards of pottery, he maintained his belief that the way the world worked was right and that God knew far more about order than he did. It's not a comforting thought, that God would be willing to test one of his truly faithful just to make a point.

Later I was driving home and kept seeing squirrels running around out in the cold. Coming down a gravel road one must have found himself on the wrong side of the car, so he scurried down the gravel road, probably a quarter mile, until he could scamper into a tree. I stayed back in the car, keeping my distance. Later yet I saw more squirrels out by Lake Madison, and even more later, one of which came up next to the car as I was pulling into the driveway. It stopped, eyed the ticking car, and calmly ate some snow from a dirty snowbank before it hopped away.

What were the squirrels doing out today? I don't know. The brain may be wider than the sky, but today there were things afoot, at least for squirrels, that I didn't know. It may not be comforting that there is more order to the world than I can comprehend, but then it is. I don't have to understand everything. The squirrels have a part to play; something had them on the move today.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

The Horseshoe Seven Brand

This is the horseshoe seven brand that my grandfather Sidney Clifford Nelson owned. He was from Hyattville, Wyoming, where my dad was born. It's a town near Ten Sleep up in the Bighorn Mountains. The brand is meant to represent two kinds of luck, the lucky seven and the hanging horseshoe. It was meant for livestock. We used to have, when I was a kid, a custom made wool rug that had this horseshoe seven brand in it. It was black with a white rectangle around the brand, and the brand itself was white. Somehow over the years the stitching came loose and the brand pieces separated from the background pieces, and for years that bunch of rug pieces was in our basement, but then it disappeared, along with the old horsehide blanket that we used to lay under as kids.

Friday, February 03, 2006

The Second Round

My brother Joe sent me a message about a new film that he's in: The Second Round. It is is being screened at the SF Indiefest in San Francisco. He's on the poster, he says, but I didn't think it looked like him. The directions are at this link: http://www.roxie.com/directions.cfm

Some info about the movie is at this link: http://www.sfindie.com/indiefest06/film/?film=Mini_Movies

A complete listing of the festival and films is at:


The director says that it’s made it into three film festivals so far: The Del Ray Beach film festival (Del Ray Beach, FL.) March 8-12, Tiburon International Film Festival (Tiburon, CA March 9-20), and last but not least the San Francisco Independent Film Festival (SF, CA Feb. 2-12). It is showing Feb. 4th 4:30pm at the Roxie Theatre and Feb. 12th 7:00pm at the Women's Building ( Just around the corner from the Roxie). For more information on where the theatres are and to purchase tickets you can go to www.sfindie.com. If you are local and plan to go, try and get tickets in advance. It is listed under MINI MOVIES "Second Round".

Way to go, Joe!

Great Plains Chautauqua

Yesterday and today my friend Jim Swanson and I went to several banks in town to ask for support for bringing the Great Plains Chautauqua to town. We're in the planning stages now--had our first meeting on Tuesday afternoon and will have another next Tuesday. It's exciting, though a fair amount of work. It will come to Madison on July 13, we'll put up their big blue and white tent, and we'll be able to hear what William Clark, Sacacawea, Tecumseh, John Jacob Astor, Dolley Madison, and Clark's slave York have to say.

Madison is one of several sites in the midwest where there was a permanent Chautauqua site. Linda Venekamp, at DSU, built a site about it here, and the Smith-Zimmerman Museum in Madison has a site devoted to it here. I'm excited to be bringing it back to Madison, if only for a week.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Letter to an agent

A big milestone. I've been thinking about a book, and writing chapters, for years, and I did little about publishing it until lately. I wrote a letter to an agent, so now it's out there in the breeze, my little book proposal, with an offer of some chapters from the manusript so far. We'll see what happens.

What's the book? It's a memoir, with my brother and me as the star attractions, the main event. Mainly it seems to show how unsupervised we were, able to roam free and play at will. I don't remember being called for supper; we knew when to be there, and if we weren't, we risked the loss of our share of the grub. There were ten kids in our family, all of us with healthy appetites. When food was served, you moved fast.

I have read some bits and pieces of this to some groups of people in the area, and I've had positive responses, so I'm hoping the agent, who was the agent for Haven Kimmel's beautiful and funny memoir Zippy, will be reponsive to my offer. We'll see.