Sunday, July 30, 2006

Watching My Runner Advance

The wife used to scoff at my running habit, wondering what motivated me, why I would take some pleasure in the pain of running a marathon or such as the 10K here in Madison on Saturday that nearly cooked my goose. But now she has a pair of running shoes herself, some running shorts and other athletic apparel. She wants a pair of shorts that don't chafe her thighs. She wants a pair of good earbuds that don't pop out as she runs and that still sound good. She's thinking about a new pair of running shoes. She reads my Runner's World magazines and the CoolRunning forums. She's also been tracking her workouts at CoolRunning. And now, she's got a runner's watch, one that will keep track of her lap times. Best of all, she's got a PR for that first 5K. I'm proud of her. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Crazy Days Camera

Today was Beadle Days in Madison, which used to be called Crazy Days, but since it's DSU's 125th anniversary, we changed the name. The day included a Dog Expo, the Madison Area Arts Council's Art in the Park, a Dakota Jam rock concert, and a downtown merchants sidewalk sale. Perhaps you note the altered quality of the photos. Radio Shack was selling some tiny digital cameras for ten bucks apiece, so I bought one. It takes pictures! You can identify people in the pictures! It's tiny! For the record, it's a DigiGR8, capable of taking 300K pixel photos, comes with its own software, lanyard, and cord. It will even take video and serve as a webcam. But you get what you pay for.
That's all I have to say about that, for now. It may turn out to be fun.
The day also included a 10K, a 5K, a mile race, and a kids run. First on the bill, at 8:00am, was the 10K, and yours truly found himself at the starting line. 52 minutes later, my race was over and it was 89 degrees. OUCH! I'm recovering. Thank you, air-conditioner! Hang in there! As I write it's about 93 degrees, coming up on 9:00pm.
I look forward to the end of the heat wave that the entire midwest has been suffering from. Mom said was 111 degrees in Pierre today.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

A Kindness Among Acquaintances

Here's an example of the advantages of living in a small town--or, at least, how small town people overcome the disadvantages of living in a small town.
Yesterday I decided to change the oil in my Honda. I had the filter, and I had the oil. But my oil drain pan was full, so I went down to the farm supply store, Campbell's, to pour the oil in the tank that sat there free for anyone to pour their used motor oil into. It had a new cap and a lock on the spout. Previously it had been open all times of the day. I went inside and asked about the oil tank. "I'll open it up for you," the guy in the red shirt told me. On our way out, he mentioned that some people would continue pouring oil even when the tank was full, so they needed to control it. He opened the tank and asked me to lock the padlock again when I was done. Their response to the problem wasn't to give up taking oil, or to hover over people as they poured, just to take a minimal step to address the problem.
That's not the end of the story. I returned, drained the oil out of the Honda, and put on the filter. As a precaution I checked my manual (it's the first time I've changed the oil on the Magna), and it mentioned a particular kind of oil I should have--API SG. Mine said SM. The manual said the clutch might be damaged if I didn't have the right oil. So.
It was about 5:35. I thought the parts stores might be open. All three had closed at 5:30. I went to the hardware store; it was open. I explained my dilemma to Jim, the owner (the guy married to the lady who used to be half-owner of the coffee-shop, the friendlier one). Hmm. "Check CarQuest," he said. "I just came from there," I told him. "I don't have this stuff," he said. Yep, small town. "Let me call out do D and R," he said. No answer. He called the owner, who said he would be out to the shop in seven minutes. I drove out to the little building on the edge of town, where a couple of old motorcycles sat in the windon and waited. Here he came, the guy from CarQuest. He found me four quarts of Castrol GTX, meanwhile showing me the shop I'd never been in. "How late are you open?" I asked. "Until ten," he said. "You're just open in the evenings?" No, his son kept the shop open during the day, basically, and he came out himself to work in the evenings. "It's my addiction," he said, "we live and breathe motorcycles."
So he told me about the custom bikes they build and how people still prefer the old rat bike in the window, a primitive Triumph 750 chopper. With that, I wanted to get back and finish my own work on my bike, so, with my good oil, I came home and finished the job with the help of my fellow citizens.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Summertime Clouds

The landscape out here in eastern South Dakota isn't always a wonder to behold, consisting of corn, soybean, and wheat fields and pasture land, unless you include clouds as part of the scenery. Then, visitors often get a real eyeful as the weather twists and thunders through at the end of a hot summer day. These pictures were all taken yesterday, Monday, within about a two-hour span, on a drive to Mitchell. The thunderhead, at the top, ended the softball game we had gone to see, lightning spitting and flashing as the big mushrooming cloud, fingers radiating in all directions, crept over the town from the south.
It amused me that when the man in charge called the games because of lightning, he came over to where the girls were playing and offered his explanation while leaning on the chain link fence and backdrop that was probably the most attractive conducter for a bolt from the beyond.
We did, by the way, get some good rain in Madison out of this cloud bank, breaking the building drought.

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Monday, July 24, 2006

Video Games as Learning Tools

Now that I've got a bit more leisurely time, reading the NYTimes has been getting more attention. A recent article described how some game produceers, think-tanks, and advocates for peaceful solutions to conflicts have been working to develop games that simulate the decision-making that human beings must use to unravel disputes. The article, "Saving the World, One Video Game at a Time," describes, for one, the game Peacemaker, based on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Big backers are supporting the development of such games, including Carnegie Mellon University. It's apparent that some are beginning to recognize the importance of tapping the interest in gaming. Universities that are training the game-builders of the future should take note.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Some Bad Weed

Along the trail where I run, there's a stand of flowers in bloom, perfuming the track with its scent, and as beautiful as the smell is, I can't quite enjoy it, knowing that these flowers are building seeds for even more Canadian thistle. As I see these noxious weeds, I'm reminded of my own efforts to curtail the growth of thistle on my little farm, plants that used to stand higher than a person, thick enough to kill off everything else, some plants as big arounds as a wrist. But each summer I went in there with a sickle bar mower and knocked down those thistles, discovering afterwards that grass was simply waiting for a chance to come in. Where I couldn't go with the tractor and mower, I waded in with a scythe, sweeping away the weeds in the summer heat. It was one of the battles I made progress on, many of the weeds never coming back.
Now, I don't try to fight the thistle near the old egg factory. That's someone else's job these days.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Evolution of a Carp and His Pond

My little pond along my running route is going through a transition. Too bad. Even my heron has bugged out. I should have known maybe that the carp in the pond were starving for oxygen in the heat and lack of rain, and the other day there was clear proof--the tactile odor of dead fish wafting across the gravel road. Here you see some small fish, bullheads, I think, sipping at the air, but a day later they too had turned belly-up.
Not all pictures worth looking at are pretty.

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Thursday, July 20, 2006

Saying Goodbye to Sinner

Back in my wilder days one of my good friends was Leo Durkin, who grew up on a ranch south of Ft. Pierre and who always took his own approach to life. We hadn't seen each other for a long time, having taken different roads, and my last visit was to help his friends and family say goodbye one last time. Mine kept taking me further away, on to new things, while Leo--or Sinner, as his family called him--stayed close to home, making his travels between the pages of the many books he read and from the stories that others would come to tell him. He kept a close eye on the things nearby, the wind over the Missouri River, the plants and animals that came and went with the seasons.
It was with Leo (furthest left) that I had my first political discussions, back in '72 when McGovern was running against Nixon, my first physics debates (Can a two-wheel-drive motorcycle do wheelies?), some of my first drinking, my introduction to some great books (Another Roadside Attraction and Even Cowgirls Get the Blues), and some great bluegrass music (Norman Blake).
He had a lot of friends, and the simple ceremony and the Native American drum group would have been just what he would have wanted. Danny Hall put a fitting end to the farewell, singing "My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys" and "Desperado" at the lonely cemetary at St. George as they placed Leo's ashes in the bone-dry hill overlooking the Missouri and the Durkin ranch.
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Tuesday Night at Chautauquaville

Sacagawea packed them in on the last night of the Great Plains Chautauqua in Madison, with nearly 200 people under the tent for her presentation, preceded by a rousing performance of "The Great Bottleneck Diamond." Contented Madisonians and others helped pack up the tent, fold up the banners, and pack away the chairs. Soon all that remained were the holes from tent stakes and the well-trod paths of the audiences. Wednesday they headed for Pierre, where I hope their attendance is even better.

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Monday, July 17, 2006

Chautauqua Hits Its Stride

After tonight, only one more day remains of the Great Plains Chautauqua in Madison, and when they leave here on Wednesday, they will set up camp in Pierre, which hit 117 degrees on Saturday. It's supposed to be cooler later in the week, both here and there. We're hoping for a good crowd tonight and an even better tomorrow.
So far crowds have been okay, considering the heat, and the conditions under the tent aren't bad once you get sat down and let the breeze work its magic. The first night, William Clark (Patrick McGinnis) played his role as explorer and adventurer to the hilt, and Saturday his manservant York (Charles Everett Pace) was an excellent example of a man committed to his charge. Last night Tecumseh (Jerome Kills Small) made his point clear in opposition to American expansion into his people's homeland. Tonight Jerome Tweton plays John Jacob Astor. Much more is going on, and you can look at the Chautauqua pics on my Flickr site.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Chautauqua Good Times

My concerns about attendance at the Great Plains Chautauqua in Madison have been allayed. After 120 or so people appeared at DSU last night to set up the big blue and white Chautauqua tent, when 5o were needed, I thought we were in good shape, and in the first event today, over 50 kids were there, and 15 attended the first adult workshop. The Kiwanis served over 200 pork sandwiches, and over 150 people braved the heat to hear James McGinnis's adept portrayal of William Clark, a healthy crowd with great questions. Tomorrow I hope things go as well.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Blue Heron of Happiness

Rarely do I run with any devices, especially a cell phone. This morning, though, the wife convinced me to carry her iPod, which had on it some NPR Driveway Moments, including one about quadriplegic psychologist Dr. Dan Gottlieb, who told about the despair he sometimes felt and he knew others felt. But he told a story about a man who had come to see him and, when the session was over, the man strugged to get out of his chair as Gottlieb watched. "I'm glad I can at least still get out of the chair," the man admitted. "I'm glad I don't have to struggle with that," the psychologist said, and they both laughed. That story is here: "Lessons from a Psychologist, and Grandad."
As I listened I was just coming to my blue heron pond, and I slowed to a walk, hoping to see the heron. Gottleib told about his father who sometimes wished he could slough off "this veil of tears," and just then the heron rose, its wings stroking the air, quietly lifting the giant bird into the sky. He wasn't startled today, it seemed, just cautious, and I noticed the carp that usually swirl away so quickly were still lined up gulping at the air along the pond's flat surface.
Later I listened to another story of wonder, a woman whose vision had always been monocular, seeing everything as a flat surface, though she could drive and play tennis. In an unusual development, she began to develop binocular vision, and her description of seeing herself in a snowfall, rather than just observing it, is well worth the listen.
As I ran along, listening to these stories and seeing once again my random rabbit, my patient blue heron, my chorus of carp, poet Mary Oliver's book Why I Wake Early came to mind, her emphatic joy in the life around us.
(This image is from Mark Goldstein's collection of photos at PhotographyBlog.)

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Let's Meet Our Friend the Chigger

There's nothing humorous about chigger bites, not a damned thing. They itch, they hurt, they look like hell. But it's not always clear whether you actually have chigger bites, since they might look like spider bites or something else. But these little rascals are not friendly, and they don't have a dramatic mythology to give them that street cred. They're just nasty. Take a look at this fellow.

Now take a look at the damage he and his mates did to my mate (at least he's the primary suspect). There might not have been poison ivy poisoning, but there was damned sure ill effects from the lovely Roy Lake camping expedition.

Monday, July 10, 2006

When a Tree Falls in the Forest . . .

Today was a day for a good long run, 9.7 miles according to G-Maps, so after much delay this morning, I finally headed out while it was still cool, about 65 degrees. Read on. I include herein a narrow brush with death, and I don't mean neglecting to bring my cell phone on the run.
I remembered to look for the blue heron that usually rises from a pond on the route, surprising me and flapping away, but he wasn't there today. In his place was a family of ducks that hustled in line out away. No dogs chased me on the way out, the lake was calm, and turkeys called to each other from the trees. A half-dozen rabbits were out and about, and only two people were free enough to gaze out over the water, one guy with a bike and a poor overweight woman who looked as though she were a figure of mud that had been dropped from on high. She was fixing her makeup. I enjoyed the jaunt through the trees, Lake Herman State Park featuring several trail sections that are like half-mile long arbors. But as I came out of one, turned, and headed into another, I hear behind me what appeared to be a tree falling. So I went back, and sure enough, a dead branch, about five inches in diameter and maybe 20 feet long, was lying across the path where I had just run. My reminder of life, the tree branch must have been jostled by my heft. But I dragged the tree branch off the path, tidied up the twigs, and carried on, bouyed by my personal reminder, knowing that branch, or the sound of it at least, was meant for me. Later, I had another kind of luck, as during my cool-down walk, I found a rolled-up, undelivered copy of today's Argus Leader lying in the park with nary a soul around. It too must have been dropped there for me. Two kinds of luck? There are many.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

A Flying Trip to Roy Lake, Ft. Sisseton

After seeing Risë Smith's presentation about the Lake Madison Chautauqua on Saturday morning, the wife and I hit the trail and joined TQ and LS camping at Roy Lake. We headed over to Ft. Sisseton, where the Northern State University Theatre Department is kicking off its first year of a summer theater season there. The play was an interesting and fun rendition of A. R. Gurney's play "Sylvia," about a dog that enters the lives of a couple. The play was set up in the old barracks at the fort, which didn't always work well. It was too warm, and the seating left a lot to be desired, but the food was good and I saw some people from Sisseton I knew.

We had a good evening camping (despite mosquitos) and hiking today, and we ate well, as always. No one got poison ivy, I hope! It's a beautiful park and the whole area up in NE South Dakota is beautiful right now. In addition, we paused in Roslyn to drive by the Vinegar Museum, which was closed. Dang!

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Friday, July 07, 2006

A Trip to Carthage

It must have been the windy day. For some reason I wanted to go to Carthage for the end of the filming there of "Into the Wild," a new film directed by Sean Penn and starring Vince Vaughn, among others. It's a true story of Chris "Alexander Supertramp" McCandless, who died in the Alaskan wilderness a few weeks after he left this sleepy town north and west of Howard.
So, five of us trucked up there to have a look, and one of us spotted Spiccoli crossing the dusty alley behind the establishment where we stopped. They were just getting ready for some filming, and we watched a bit as they set up some of the sound equipment.
But, a little was enough, and the wind soon brought us back home without even stopping at the beer tent that flapped in the gale like six sheets in the wind. Read more about the story here and here.
We got the inside scoop on two things. It was Chewy's birthday today (as noted by the sound crew), and the food served to the crew is like nothing you can get around here; it beats anything Taco Bell can offer (according to one of the security guys from Mitchell).
Too bad I couldn't have tried that good food and met Chewy so I could give him birthday wishes.

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Chautauqua is Coming

On another front, I hopped out of bed early enough to snap this picture of the city crew hanging up the "Chautauqua is Coming" banner over the "Welcome to Madison" sign that graces Egan Avenue. They ran my photo with a Chautauqua story in the Madison Daily Leader. Yay! (But not online, apparently).

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Hats Off to Sophie

The hats you see here were made by Sophie Holt, a woman from Arlington, SD, who was born in 1896 and went to a millnery school in St. Paul and worked in Chicago for Stanley Korshak as a designerfor 38 years. Mavis Sorenson, a resident of Ramona, has a collection of more than 250 of these hats, some of them with a Mister John label. Sophie Holt made them all by hand. The flapper hat on the figurehead on the counter belonged to Mavis herself, Sophie's niece. The wife tried on several, finally deciding on one that went with her cool coat, the black one on the rack.
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Wednesday, July 05, 2006

July 4 According to the Dune Buggy

If the dune buggy is in the Ramona parade, then it must be the Fourth of July, Independence Day, Firecracker Day, and my niece Melanie's birthday (along with George M. Cohan). It must be the anniversary of that day when my grandma told me, "Don't let one of those blow up in your hand," just before a big Black Cat exploded next to my ear and made my head and hand throb for the rest of the day, especially when the big boomers rattled the air over Lake Herman.
But enough about me. The dadgum Ramona Fire Department put on a heck of a fireworks display with plenty of dazzle. J and C B, with A, came for the big show, as did SR. Cool.
As you see here, the poor vehicle was enlisted to hawk the Madison Chautauqua, which it did well, though it much prefers spinning cookies in the Howard High School parking lot. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Five-K Firsts

The big news in Howard yesterday wasn't the Tootsie Rolls, not really, nor the fact that it was (and is) celebrating its 125th anniversary. The bigger news was that the niece and the wife ran their first 5k races ever, handily dispatching the distance, although not without some effort and weak moments. They earned their t-shirts, so it didn't help that the organizers announced, right after the race (for which participants paid $15), that left over road race shirts would be available for $5. Sister-in-law bought one just to get my goat, but she can't have it. I'll wear mine with a clean conscience.
My conscience is clear too, with the knowledge that as we three ran together, I stuck with the wife (over her stated objections) when the niece began to pull away. Don't know when the next race is, but the wife now has a PR she can work on improving. Cool.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Tootsie Roll Tragedy in Howard

In the excitement of the celebration of Howard's 125th anniversary, a lot of candy got overlooked as the long parade made its way down the main street, and as children darted into the street to collect the goods that flew from car and float. Most of them, sadly, were Tootsie Rolls like these, candy that on any other day would be regarded as treasures.