Monday, December 24, 2012

Exchanging Sweetness

The end of the fall semester often brings the opportunity to gather together and share, and this December was no different.  A group of cooks in our College of Arts and Sciences made goodies to share, exchanging half a dozen sweets to carry home, so that the wife and I were able to enjoy treats from colleagues, some of which appeared at that night's birthday party for yours truly.
Treats at the cookie exchange 2012

The cooks and their guests
Among the goodies were molasses cookies, Russian tea cakes, bourbon balls, and many other tasties.  Best of all was the sharing that goes with the exchange.  

Monday, December 17, 2012

Seeing The Hobbit in Only Two Dimensions

Peter Jackson's rendition of J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy was an astounding, mind-blowing, once-in-a-lifetime accomplishment, and certainly people had a reason to anticipate what he would do with The Hobbit.  But I have to say, after seeing the new film last night in our local theater here in little Madison, SD, it was something of a disappointment.

Yes, there were cool effects, and it was fun to see some of the same characters again.  And the story is a pretty good one.  But the results of stretching the journey into three feature films were a bloated narrative and gratuitous scenes for the 3-D viewer.

It made me a little sad.

For one thing, The Hobbit is a children's story, one Tolkien wrote and read to his children, and it was published in part on the recommendation of a nine-year old, the son of the publisher.  The movie is not one for children.  It taps into the same dark vision that Jackson rightfully employed for the LOTR films.  Even more sadly, the movie adds elements that were NOT in the novel.  For example, we see Saruman, the turncoat wizard in the later story, arguing against the continuation of the dwarves' journey, hinting at his later betrayal.  We see the dwarves hunted by a goblin king bent on revenge on Thorin.  We see the double personality of Gollum that was introduced in the LOTR movies.  Essentially, these elements were apparently added, perhaps to wed the story more tightly to the later works, but more probably to help sustain the length of the film series.

For another thing, the film just wasn't very interesting for several stretches.  The opening sequence, the unexpected party, took too damned long.  Nothing was happening, just a lot of silliness with food and the dwarves eating everything in Bilbo's larder.  I realized later that this, like some of the later battle and chase scenes, were there for their 3-D effects.  Watching them on a conventional screen made me impatient.  I guess it's worthwhile to see what 3-D will do for the movies, but it didn't do much for this movie.  It just made it longer.  Like I tell my students, it's either working for you or against you.  These long scenes weren't working for me.

Yes, I'll go to the next films in the series, but I'll try to keep my expectations low.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

How to Kill a Snowman (and other helpful tips)

My students in Composition II at Dakota State University have completed their final project, a slam-bam project they completed in about a week.  It's a video essay with a pretty open subject.  Many of them, because of time restraints, choose to do a segment of their longer paper as a video, but some are ready to turn to more fun projects, like one student, whose "Ways to Kill a Snowman" sounds mighty interesting.  She was, perhaps, inspired by my mention of "How to Kill a Mustache " included here. Another student tells how to make orange chicken.  Yum!

My student's efforts are included on our blog here:  They include essays on securing a network, building a man-made brain, driving the car of the future, and other wide-ranging subjects.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Meet the Other Old Boss: Our VPAA Also Steps Down

Another big announcement today indicating change at the top:

Dr. Cecelia Wittmayer, Vice President for Academic Affairs at Dakota State University announced her retirement today, effective June 2013.

Dr. Wittmayer has been a part of the institution since 1986, when she was hired as an assistant professor in marketing.  After a marketing career in the direct-mail catalog industry, she taught marketing/ advertising at DSU from 1986-1990.  In 1990, she took a three-year leave to earn a Ph.D. in Business Administration/Marketing from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.  She returned to her faculty appointment at DSU in 1993 and received a promotion to associate professor in 1995 and to full professor in 2001. In October 1998, she was asked to serve as interim vice president for academic affairs and was named to the position in June 1999 after a national search.

She has been responsible for the academic integrity of the institution and for the resolution of conflicts involving academic areas.  As VPAA, she supervised the deans and directors of the academic support areas; she also represented the institution on the system-wide Academic Affairs Council.  Most importantly, Dr. Wittmayer has shaped DSU’s academic programs and was instrumental in getting approval from the SD Board of Regents for master’s degree programs and in adding the doctoral program in 2005.  She also was responsible for moving the institution to the AQIP accreditation process, the adoption of the CQI perspective, and most recently wrote the university’s 2012 system portfolio for the Higher Learning Commission.  Dr. Wittmayer has been a member of Delta Kappa Gamma, Delta Mu Delta and the American Association of University Women.  In addition to being an AQIP Strategy Forum Facilitator and Peer Reviewer, she has published a number of articles spanning a 20- year period on a variety of topics.

Dr. Wittmayer’s influence at Dakota State University will be felt for a long time past her retirement.  I know you will join me in wishing her well as she spends more time in her gardens and reading on her front porch.

A national search for her replacement will begin shortly.
Here too, as with the change at the Arts and Sciences dean's position, we hope that change will go smoothly and the results will be good.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Meet the Old Boss: The Dean Steps Down

A big announcement came down at DSU today regarding the leadership we've had in the College of Arts and Sciences.  Our dean is stepping down.  
Dr. Kari Forbes-Boyte announced today that she will be stepping down as Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences as of June 2013 to pursue full-time teaching here at Dakota State University. She plans to teach in the areas of geography and cultural anthropology starting Fall 2013.
 Since Dr. Forbes-Boyte began her career at DSU as Dean in 2005, the College of Arts and Sciences has grown to include new cutting-edge programs and has fostered research activities for both faculty and students.  The programs in Digital Arts and Design and Computer Game Design, developed while Dr. Forbes-Boyte was dean, have quickly become some of the largest programs at DSU. The cross-college approach to the Computer Game Design degree has built a challenging program that brings the art and technology of gaming together for well-rounded educational experience. The College of Arts and Sciences has also fully implemented the Math Emporium for pre-general education math courses since Dr. Forbes-Boyte has been Dean.
 The research culture within the college has also flourished under Dean Forbes-Boyte’s leadership, with faculty in the college awarded almost $300,000 in grant funds last year. These grants and the active publishing agendas of college faculty have helped build a college where research in both liberal arts and natural sciences is greatly valued.   During her tenure, the Science Center underwent a massive renovation and reopened for classes in 2010.  And, under Dean Forbes-Boyte’s leadership, the college has developed a culturally rich program of speakers and has sponsored a wide variety of learning activities for students outside the classroom, including student participation in regional and national competitions and conferences.  Dr. Forbes-Boyte has also been key in developing a multi-cultural campus through her work with the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe.
 Dr. Forbes-Boyte is a tenured, full professor at DSU.  She has also served on the faculty at Chadron State College in Chadron, Nebraska, where she taught American Indian studies, geography and anthropology and on the faculty at Emporia State University in Emporia, Kansas.  Before coming to DSU, she served as the Dean of the Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences at Sacramento City College in Sacramento, California.
 A national search for her replacement will begin shortly.
Things change, and we always hope that things change for the better.

Monday, November 26, 2012

No Sense of Decency

I can't help thinking that it's about time, and it looks like soon, that some may stand up to Mr. Grover Norquist in the manner that others finally stood up to Sen. Joseph McCarthy when he attacked recklessly in a hearing concerning the U.S. Army.  McCarthy seemed to sniff out Communists anywhere there were people.  Joseph Welch, an attorney for the Army, uttered the lines, "You have done enough.  Have you no sense of dignity?"
A similar charge might be brought against Norquist soon, as Republican signatories to his no-new-tax pledge are beginning to chafe under the binding of his threat to come after them if they reneged.  But these public pledges to a figure not elected to office are helping drag the country to the so-called "fiscal cliff."  It's time they pitch their pledges into the burning barrel and pledged to solve the budget problems first and let Grover grumble.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Snow Queen Competition Update

Who knew what I was thinking when I agreed to be a judge for the 2012 Snow Queen competition that was held in Howard, SD, last night?  Nothing all that critical, I would guess.  And so there I was, spending my Saturday afternoon and evening with some intelligent, lovely young women and two other judges--Dan Bohl and Allison Malone. This competition, which sends its winners on to a state-wide contest, has been held since 1958, and once featured the wife as a contestant.  Turned out to be an interesting day.

Scoff as you might at such contests, the event puts the young women--from middle and high school--on the spot, with interviews with the judges and a pageant at night.  Judges were tasked with ranking the three senior and six junior candidates on several criteria, including poise, sincerity, personality, and other factors.

The interviews and the evening's competition resulted in the crowning of Sidney Thompson as the Senior Snow Queen and Kayla Pardy as Junior Snow Queen.  Each will move on to the state competition in Aberdeen in January.  Both will represent Miner County well.

It might come as a surprise that perhaps 300 people attended the event, and they were enthusiastic with each of the announcements of the winners.

The evening also included a talent show (not connected to the Snow Queen contest) where a very young Faith Genzlinger strutted away with the title of the Junior Talent division with a rendition of "These Boots Were Made for Walking."  Derick Burghardt was unopposed in the Senior Talent division.

Would I do it again?  I suspect I'd be tempted.  The event organizers treated us well and nobody egged the car or threatened to punch me out.  And it's not every day that a guy gets so many lovely smiles from attractive young women or gets to enjoy so much glitz and glitter.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Test Pie/Go Pie

Here's what comes from volunteering to make a "real" pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving at the in-laws.  It's a risky business, since pumpkin pie is, for some people, the linchpin of the entire meal.  So, it's not clear yet whether the pie will hold up under the scrutiny of the pie aficionados at the Hueners household, but from what I could tell from the pies in progress, it looked like I managed to hold my own.  
I started by walking out on to the front porch and plucking one of the display pumpkins--maybe not the best source of pumpkin flavor, but it made me feel real and practical.  Then I cut it in halves, baked it to softness, peeled and sorted it, then zapped it in the processor until it was smooth.  That was yesterday.  Today I chose a recipe that supplemented the pumpkin with yams for an even pumpkinier taste.  Lots of milk and cream.  Made the crust with a modified Nancy Moose recipe (changing some water to vodka), then filled the cooked crust with heated filling.  
Waited for the jiggle to move only to the center, and here we are.  I'm ready for a taste.  

Saturday, November 10, 2012

GPACW and the Future of Computers and Writing

Word is that the next Great Plains Alliance for Computers and Writing Conference will go big next year, being hosted by none other than the University of Minnesota at their main campus in downtown St. Paul (or Minneapolis--stay tuned).  After the success of the event yesterday at Mankato, it's sure to be a conference that brings in even more people curious and willing to share about the work that people are doing in this field.

My own session had a small but interested group that heard from Matt Barton of St. Cloud about what we could learn from Kickstarter and similar crowd-funding opportunities.   They heard me talk about our growing English for New Media program at Dakota State University, and they heard Danica Stith of Iowa State talk about using political ads in a swing state for doing rhetorical analysis.  That group lingered and talked and shared more ideas as the conference wound down to a close.

Kudos to Lee Tesdell and his crew at Mankato State University for a job well done.  I look forward to next year!

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Living in Red

Mr. Obama's election victory came as a welcome gift from those who made that choice in places mostly far from where I live, and mostly far from where I have ever lived.  In the end, those who voted for him in South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, and Kansas--all states I once and do call home--were essentially uncounted. Their electoral college votes all went to Romney. In fact, despite our hopes for a continuation of the President chosen four years ago, we could only watch as people in other places, most of them far from Lake County, South Dakota, overcame those who chose Obama's opponent.

So a guy has to reflect on living among a majority whose views are so different from his own.  So I look back on places I have lived to see how far out of synch from the majority I am, at least on choosing a president:
RED:  Stanley County, SD:  Obama 28.2%, Romney 69.0%
RED:  Lawrence County, SD:  Obama 35.0%, Romney 61.8%
RED: Albany County, WY:  Obama 46.4%, Romney 48.9%
RED: Yellowstone County, MT:  Obama 39.0%, Romney 58.6%
RED: Ford County, KS:  Obama 30.5%, Romney 67.5%
BLUE:  Roberts County, SD:  Obama 54.1%, Romney 44.2%
RED:  Lake County, SD:  Obama 43.3%, Romney 54.4%.

Makes you wonder, doesn't it?  It is nice to know, however, that my three children are all living in areas more friendly to Mr. Obama and the Democrats in general:  Hennepin County, MN, went for Obama 62.4% and Romney 35.6%.  They're among those who chose the President.  Thank you, people in blue. 

All figures are from the "President Map" on The New York Times.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Sunset on Election Day

Sunset on Election Day
We've watched and listened and read all about the candidates and the issues on the ballot, and now it's time to put that work to rest and watch the results come in.

Let's hope, whatever our choices, that we've made things better for ourselves and our neighbors.

Election Day

It's election day across the country, like the day we open the presents beneath the tree, ones that have been sitting there for a year and a half, one we want, one we don't (at least we think).  The sun came up like it does every day, and it will again tomorrow, no matter how it all turns out.

I can't help thinking, though, that the consequences of our presidential election will be big.  Two very different paths on the agenda.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Zombie Life Meets Gangnam Style

One of the more popular shows on television today depicts a post-apocalyptic world of a few survivors facing hoards of walking zombies, the AMC program "The Walking Dead." Our DSU campus is celebrating its own version of the dead versus the living in a game of HvZ--Humans versus Zombies. In a backdrop to these developments, PSY is dancing his ass off, gangnam style.  Which leads to the following.  You've been warned:

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Soul Mates?

Nice little video of love buzz.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Hey Kobrinsky, Check Out the Dead Man

Sister-in-law Sarah Kobrinsky (and fictional detective) has a new short piece in The Molotov Cocktail Dead Man! 

Friday, October 26, 2012

October 25, A Day to Celebrate

When the wife's birthday comes around, we take the chance to get out and do something a bit different to make the day special and to celebrate the event.  So, this year we buzzed out of town and did some things that she likes to do, which, in this case, involved eating some good food, doing a little shopping for clothes and other stuff, and feeling lots of different kinds of yarn.  Anything the wife wants to do, I'm her man. 

Crawford's in downtown Sioux Falls
We also did some things for yours truly, which involved picking up some new tires for the bicycle and having a good "old-fashioned" down at Crawford's, where we had some excellent food (blackberry ribs and walnut-encrusted pork chop) and dessert (midnight chocolate cake).  Yum!  Beautiful place, too. 

We also picked up a copy of the new Joe Walsh album, "Analog Man," but we forgot it in the trunk and haven't listened to it yet. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

First Snow, 2012

First Snow, Fall 2012
Schoolchildren across parts of South Dakota are rejoicing today (or at least going back to sleep) as snow has accumulated enough to cause schools to open a few hours late, from Bon Homme to Scotland to Bennett County. 

Rejoice, young people, and enjoy those few extra hours of sleep! 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Investing in the Zombie Future

Doesn't this look delicious? A zombie documentary, sort of, from the makers of THE PEOPLE vs. GEORGE LUCAS. Featuring Simon Pegg and George A. Romero.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Russell and Me

I don't have a picture of me and Russell Means, who died yesterday at the age of 72, like I do have of me and George McGovern.  But our paths did cross, several times.  I was a young kid working on a ranch down in southwestern South Dakota, just off the Rosebud Reservation, and the American Indian Movement was in full swing in that area.  I was working with some Lakota ranch hands on the place, but I was afraid of those wild AIM guys.  At that time Russel Means was active on the reservation, trying to revive some traditions that were being lost, and there was a sun dance planned near Ghost Hawk Lake, between Parmalee, SD, and St. Francis.

It just so happened that the ranch where I was working was north of Parmalee and my boss wanted me to drive a tractor to St. Francis, where we were going to work some land.  That meant I had to drive the tractor past where the sun dance was being held.  And it didn't have a road gear.  So, I remember full well the anxiety I had as I crossed bridges marked with spray-painted AIM lettering and other "Red Power" slogans.  And fearing what might happen as I neared the sun dance.  But nothing did.  Russell Means, the warrior/trouble-maker, in our view, was supposed to be there.  I couldn't see much.  Later, as I passed a little settlement of houses, some kids began to run out from their yards, and they could have caught me easily, even easier on bicycles, but they apparently had little interest in me.

Years later, I talked with Russell Means on the phone when I was researching the reaction of Indians to the popularity of "Dances With Wolves."  He denounced that film as one of the most racist movies ever, and although I agreed that there were problems with the film, there wasn't much of a chance to convey that to him.  He wanted to be heard.  Shortly afterwards I learned that he had been filming "Last of the Mohicans" about that time, and I was impressed with his role in that--a very non-stereotypical character.  But at that same time, what many do not know, was that he was also playing a very stereotypical role in a computer game, "Under the Killing Moon," one of the first computer games to include live action video.

I also seem to remember that my grandfather, who lived in Sioux City, once rented a house to Russell Means, which was right next door to him.  I remember a woman coming to the door, paying the rent, and my grandfather telling me, "That's Russell Means, in the car."  We knew who he was then.  That was maybe 1970 or so.  

So, another of these iconic figures for me is gone. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Borofsky Chosen as Dakota State University President

Just came from the meeting where the SD BOR announced that they were finished searching for a new president for DSU:  
MADISON, S.D. – David B. Borofsky, interim president at Dakota State University since February, has been chosen by the South Dakota Board of Regents to become the 22nd president of the university. The board took action on the permanent appointment at a special meeting today on the Madison campus.

He succeeds Douglas Knowlton, who left the South Dakota public university system earlier this year for a higher education position in Minnesota. “President Borofsky has done an outstanding job at Dakota State during this interim,” said Regents President Kathryn Johnson. “We crafted a series of expectations for him as interim president and he has far exceeded those. He has excelled at building relationships between the campus and the Madison community and at raising private funds for the university,” Johnson said.

“President Borofsky has been building a positive momentum for Dakota State University, and no one wanted to break that momentum,” she said. “I am excited to be named permanent president of Dakota State University,” Borofsky said. “I am impressed with the university faculty and staff and their commitment to quality education and superior service for our students, as well as to the success of Madison,” he said. “The Madison community has extended a warm and inclusive welcome and has been open to new ideas and change. I look forward to serving DSU and Madison for years to come.”

While the Board of Regents initially said Borofsky would not be a candidate for the permanent president’s position, Johnson said the board reconsidered and “responded to a groundswell of support from the campus and community.” She noted that Borofsky had been chosen for the interim position after a competitive interim search process that involved multiple candidates and applicant interviews.

Borofsky previously served as provost and chief academic officer of Westwood College, a for-profit college with 18 physical locations in six states. His resume also includes time as president of Bates Technical College (Wash.) and as a vice president and dean at Colorado Mountain College. He has served communities as a member and president of the local Rotary Club and Chamber of Commerce, as well as working with the United Way and a variety of economic development organizations.

His passion is working with local communities to help spur economic development and interest and growth in the arts and culture. Since coming to Madison, Borofsky has become a member of the Madison Rotary Club, is a board member of the Lake Area Improvement Corp., and has been an active member of the Madison Community Center. He also serves on the Mundt Foundation’s board of directors. Borofsky holds a doctorate degree in educational administration and supervision from Rutgers University (N.J.) and a master of education degree and B.S. degree in psychology, both from Springfield College (Mass.). His family includes his wife, Mady, and a daughter, Alexis, who lives in Portland, Ore.
So,  congratulations to Dr. Borofsky, and we hope for a great relationship with him as we move forward at DSU.  

Sunday, October 21, 2012

George McGovern Gets Peace

George McGovern and me in Mitchell, June 2008, at the Obama Rally.
George McGovern was my introduction to politics when he was running for President of the United States in 1972 and I was a high school student.  I knew little about government or politics but became engaged about some of the issues as our native son became the Democratic candidate for President.  He stood then, as he always was, as the candidate for peace.  His passion and commitment to that cause was always tempered by kindness and compassion, and he lived with a dedication to peace all of his life.  I take great pleasure in having crossed paths with him; his brand of leadership is something we can all aspire to and hope for in our elected officials. 

DSU Announcement Monday

Friday afternoon is not a friendly time for getting information out to employees, so it's an odd time for South Dakota Board of Regents head to send out the following message to the DSU campus:
Dear Dakota State University Community, The South Dakota Board of Regents will meet Monday, October 22, 2012, at 10 a.m. (Central Daylight Time) in the Straatmeyer Auditorium of the Tunheim Classroom Building (TCB 203) on the campus of Dakota State University for an announcement regarding the presidential search at DSU. Immediately following the regents’ meeting, at this same location, a campus-community forum will be held.
More contact information, but no additional hints, are provided on the Board of Regents website here:

Looking back through previous news releases, I see the meeting is in keeping with the timeline set for the search when Dr. Doug Knowlton stepped down as DSU head and Dr. David Borofsky was appointed interim president.  Announced in December of last year, the press release states, "The search process will launch officially in October 2012, once the new academic year is under way."  So the meeting may be simply to reveal the job description and indicate the rest of the search timeline.

Meanwhile, the search for a president for SD School of Mines is under way, with committee members chosen. 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

We Live in a Strange World

Today Felix Baumgartner rode a capsule into the sky, buoyed by a helium-filled balloon, up 25 miles into the very thin atmosphere, and then he stepped out and began the long, four-minute fall to earth, when he unfurled his parachute and stepped back onto solid ground.  He was falling, for a time, at over 800 miles per hour in his little space suit, looking like someone out of "2001 A Space Odyssey."  I'm not sure what we learn from such feats, even thinking of a man moving faster than the speed of sound, any more than people a century ago trying to figure out how to survive a leap over Niagara Falls. But learn we do, and we keep moving on, discovering new territory.
Others have tried such feats of altitude.  A note came in today from the alumni people at St. Mary of the Plains College, where I used to teach, that an alumnus there, Nick Piantanida, made his own attempt in 1966, which ended in his death four months later.  He had made other attempts, from early in life to this final dive, to challenge the gravitational field--not bad for a truck driver.  You can read more about that 1966 attempt in the article linked above.
The real tragic stories, though, are the failure not of an individual, but of a people.  I can't help shake the sense that it's just wrong to put a person to death for crimes they have committed.  About 24 hours from now, the State of South Dakota will put Eric Roberts to death.  I almost wrote "will kill Eric Roberts."  Same thing?  Sounds worse, doesn't it?  Roberts is a convicted murder and rapist.  He'll come to earth too, in his own way.  His death will bring some closure to the families of his victims, perhaps.  I hope so, because all South Dakotans share in the responsibility for what will now happen to Roberts.
Too bad these events are oddly linked in my thoughts; the triumph of Mr. Baumgartner is remarkable and inspiring, and his success is to be celebrated.  Congratulations, Felix.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Putting On The Hat and Animation

Interesting recording of the singer John Reuben confronting his animators about a change he has in mind for an animated video they've been working on for several months.  Having taken to wearing hats, Reuben suggests that the cartoon character of him wear a hat.  "It's just semantics," he says, thinking that putting a hat on the thousands of frames of him is as simple as putting on and taking off his hat, which he demonstrates for the animators.  Hat on, hat off.  Easy.  So, here's the interview as the video is in progress (which I can't help thinking is a bit of a setup), and then the music video "Word of Mouth."  Hat? No hat?  See for yourself. The confrontation: The resulting video:

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Craigslist Warning Light

Who looks at a bike like this and says, "I want it!" ??
I've got a friend who's convinced that I need to buy another motorcycle and fix it up.  I'm not sure he remembers that the last couple have not panned out.  But he seems to be having as much fun searching for me as I sometimes do myself, looking for two-hundred-dollar bikes that need my lovin'.  But I just sold an old 1982 Kawasaki Spectre 750 (see pic) for half what I paid for it after I had worked on it and tried to get it to go.  And a little Vespa moped is sitting in the garage waiting for my magic touch.
So, I told him my Craigslist warning light was on.  Blinking.  Alarms will sound.  I'm not buying another motorcycle after I've put the storm windows on.

What We Talk About When We Talk About Not Running

My daughter, her man, and her daughter live only a few blocks from Mile 14 on the Twin Cities Marathon course, where the flag marking that milestone is right across the street from an aromatic coffee and doughnut shop.  Because of my injured foot, I decided, late on Saturday evening, that there would be no marathon for me--no run, no medal, no finisher t-shirt.  And no regrets. 
Christopher Kipyego wins the TCM--from Star Tribune
It was fun to watch the runners come by; I'd never seen the front runners on the course before, and they were clicking along like clockwork, finishing in 2:14 for the men, 2:32 for the women.
I've been reading Haruki Murakami's book on running.  He's the author of several works of fiction, and although I have enjoyed them, this one seemed self-indulgent and meandering in a way that I didn't care for, but it kept my interest well enough to finish.  He deals with his own injuries in the book. 
On the drive back from dropping off the pooch for care while we were gone, we had a surprise when a coyote dashed out of the ditch and got clipped by the front of our car (knocked out the fog light!).  He wasn't to be seen afterwards, so his injury was not fatal, at least not instantly.  But his running certainly would be hampered.  I hadn't seen a coyote for a long time. 
It's been tough to deal with the injury to my foot; I didn't think too much of it the day it happened, out on a last long run two weeks before the marathon.  But as my foot rolled, something popped, and it had me instantly worried, but it didn't seem too bad.  And there were no real lingering effects.  But then another run and some time on my feet out in the garage seemed to bring it back a week later.  It's been hurting since, but getting better. 
Still, a short jog along Lake Hiawatha and the after-effects of that seemed to say, "don't run."  So I didn't.
But the trip was a good one, and we got to see the growing little granddaughter, a real peach.  The weather was good, and we enjoyed some good company and a little fun shopping.  Then, as usual, we made a stop at the cool apple place on highway 169 and picked up some tasty root beer. 
Two good root beers.  My Dang! was better.
So, when we talk, we can talk about all that, and not so much the not running. 

Thursday, October 04, 2012

A Cold Slap in the Back Yard

We've been enjoying beautiful fall weather here in Madison, South Dakota, but today took a change for the colder, bringing wind and a temperature that will stay in the 40's or 50's today, thirty or more degrees below the highs over the past few days.

The wind has convinced many of the leaves that have been decorating our aerial views to now move on to more earthy things.

Twin Cities Marathon Prep (and Electronic Tracker Service!)

This fall I'm in the ring again for the annual Twin Cities Marathon, hoping to survive the race again.  It's not looking great this year due, once again, to a mishap shortly before the race.  On my last good Sunday run, on September 30, I twisted my left foot and heard a pop as I navigated the gravel road just south of our house.  I gingerly kept moving, noting the degree of pain there, and decided it wasn't bad, so I kept going for about a ten-miler, out to Johnson's Point on Lake Madison and back.  For several days I could tell there was something there in my foot, but it didn't really hurt.  The following Thursday I took a good run out at Lake Herman, feeling good and fast, no pain.  Then Thursday night as I was in the garage, it started to ache, so I came in and got off of it, but it's hurt since, but getting gradually better.  So, we'll see.

In the meantime, I've been checking out the web site for the marathon, and it seems they've put in place a tracking and notification system for runner fans to get updates on their runner(s).  The system will not only send a text when the runner passes a tracking point; it will also predict when the runner will get to the next spot.  So,  IF I manage to heal up sufficiently to toe the starting line, I can look forward to broadcasting my progress as I go along.  See the video above for an overview of the service.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Where We're Headed

I'm preparing students for an essay on popular culture, and I ran into this cool vision of the future of electronic gadgetry meets dating.

Thursday, September 13, 2012


I liked this little stop-motion love story.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Harvest Time

It's that time of the year when gardens are bursting with produce, especially tomatoes at our house, and the wife has been bravely facing the perils of harvesting into the darkening hours.  Just last night she made a haul that filled several cake pans, bowls, and soup pots.  Take a gander at that tomato harvest!  Peppers large and small are coming in, and the one big tomatio plant is threatening to take over the yard, with its long reach adorned with its fruit on the make.   
Raspberries galore

Peppers small and large

Tomato invasion
We were also able to score quite a haul of raspberries from a friend's garden while she was away (with permission, of course).  So now the wife has set herself a task of preserving this haul, using a borrowed juicer, our dandy stove, a kitchen, her pots and pans, and her many wily ways. 

All this while we're also into the first weeks of classes AND cleaning up a mess that our deadbeat renters made before they skipped out. 

Those raspberries, though, should put new life into both of us. 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

This is Ground Control to Neil Armstrong

To a twelve-year old space nut, Neil Armstrong's setting foot onto the moon was a giant leap.  He made us all believe we were going there. I was one of those with a new smart line, "What do you think I am, an astronaut?"  We all talked about astronauts, from adolescent girls to old men, we saw the moon differently and were lifted by the possibility of our walking there, bouncing from one place to another like giant wingless birds.  The moon was our new back yard, a place where we would soon be setting up camps, driving dune buggies in our space suits.

Like many kids, I hung posters of the astronauts on my bedroom wall, watched all I could of the launches, landings, space-walks, maneuvers, returns to earth.  I built a Mercury rocket, then an Apollo, I built the moon lander, gluing the tiny little struts to the feet, painting the rocket cone, and sliding the decals to the right locations on my finished product.  I had relatives that worked at Cape Canaveral, later to become Cape Kennedy, and I pestered them for any kind of space memorabilia they might be able to get their hands on.

But that moment faded, and before long I was turning my attention to less grand hopes, a speedy motorcycle or a cool car.  From time to time that dream of space flight might be inspired again by a song like "Rocket Man," or "Space Oddity," even if the songs did seem to reflect a sad end for their subjects.

Still, hearing that Neil Armstrong has died, it takes me back to that moment where, even for a short time, we all felt like we were walking on the moon.  Thank you, Mr. Armstrong.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Driving on the Other Side

View Larger Map
Some of our travels on the Green Isle.  The map won't let me add another destination, but there were more.  

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A Bad Case of Writer's Camp

Having never been to camp as a kid, I didn't know what it might do to a person, but as I described my symptoms to the wife, who spent several summers learning camp songs and tying knots, she said that's what camp does to you--bonding, escape, reverie, general yearning to go back after the end of it all.

That's my case after having returned from Shadowcliff Lodge, in Grand Lake, Colorado, just south of Rocky  Mountain National Park, where the air is fine and the sky is clear, and where the Lighthouse Writers Workshop holds its annual Writers Retreat.  I'd never been on a writer's retreat, either, so it was all new and wonderful and I dived in and felt like a duck IN water.

For six days, from July 15 to July 20, I had an infusion of what writers in South Dakota don't seem to have found the formula for, a few days of learning, sharing, and writing that would lift the top of your skull, make you cry laugh and cry at the same time, and help you realize once again that writing is what people do, and it may seem like magic, but it's work, and craft, and imagination, all stewing in a mental pot.

My circle of friends has grown, and my circle of writer friends has exploded.  Thank you, Lighthouse people.  You rock.

Here's a happy little tidbit from the "top-secret" Lighthouse Blog:
This year the quality of the work was incredible. Each reader wowed and moved the audience. Each piece deserves to be published.
I do not exaggerate here.
Our emcee for the readings is J. Diego Frey, who should go on his own comedy tour. Or maybe fill in for David Letterman next time he’s on vacation. He’s witty and strange and odd and hilarious. (Last year he wore inflatable moose antlers. This year he was costumeless.) The copious humor was needed, as several of the readers—Laurie Sleeper, Martha Scherzer, Meg Nix, John Holley, Jo Harkins, John Nelson, and Laura Bond in particular—left us wrung out. The weeping was prodigious and unrepentant. (Pass the Kleenex people!) Yet each was a story that needs to be told, and we were given a gift in hearing them.
That’s the power of literature and writing, isn’t it? To bring us joy, to bring us to our knees, to bring us together.
I'm happy to be mentioned in such fine company.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Not Done Yet

It's not politics, nor cultural events, nor the weather or appearances of friends and family that lies behind the postings on this blog, kept in play since I began in 2005.  I'm not typically prompted to write as a result of seeing a movie (tonight:  "Kick-Ass," a nice surprise), or people having come here or on their way (DW and son just gone and daughter and family just arriving), or wonderful car trips across the country (hello Boston, meet my BMW).  I don't jump up to make entries at the turn of the weather or an event in the sky.  Or at landmark events like the Supreme Court's ruling on a national health care plan (yay!).

I'm most typically moved by some recognition of a truth or some odd observation, some surprise, some lucky lucky thing that happens across my path, big or small.  Or big and small at the same time, like having someone offer me a big stuffed marlin with its tail in need of repair.  How lucky is that?  Not that I want it, but the idea that I could GIVE it to someone.  Here's that marlin I promised you!  Here's your marlin!  Where shall I put it?

Saturday, May 26, 2012

DSU Runners Shine at Nationals

Nick Huntimer, DSU sports information guru, sends an update on the successes of DSU runners at the NAIA Outdoor National Track and Field Championship.  He notes the success of Nic Penning, Matt Fideler, and Andy Coy, all distance specialists:
MARION, Ind. – Three Dakota State University men's distance runners were in action Saturday at the NAIA Outdoor Track & Field National Championship at IWU Outdoor Track Complex. The national meet was hosted by Indiana Wesleyan University. Two Trojan runners earned their name on the list in the DSU record book.

The Trojans began the day Saturday morning with the men's marathon. In the 54-runner field, Nic Penning (junior – Hulett, Wyo.) recorded a 13th-place finish with a time of two hours, 39 minutes and 22.60 seconds. His time is the fourth fastest time in the DSU record book, only behind former NAIA All-American Chris Heezen in three different occasions. During the race, Penning came from behind, catching 23 runners over the last 15 miles.

Matt Fideler (senior – Volga, S.D.) finished 14th in the men's 3000-meter steeplechase final. He clocked a time of 9:49.45. Fideler concluded his stellar collegiate career as he earned NAIA All-American honors in four different events from indoor and outdoor track. In addition, he was a two-time outdoor track All-Conference runner and had been listed in numerous records in DSU school record book.

In the men's 1500-meter finals, Andy Coy (junior - Hill City, S.D. broke a new DSU school record time of 3:47.66 for a fourth-place finish (previous old mark was set by Tyler Van Peursem in 2009 with a time of 3:50.70). His time was the second fastest 1500-meter run by an athlete at any South Dakotacollege, second only to Jake Schneller from South Dakota State who ran 3:47.33 this year. Coy's time was also less than five seconds off the 2012 Olympic Trails 'B' Standard of 3:43.00 As a result, Coy earned NAIA Outdoor Track & Field All-American honor (his fifth overall NAIA All-American honor in his career at DSU).

The NAIA Outdoor Track & Field National Championship concludes Trojan outdoor track and field season.

Nick Huntimer, Dakota State University Spoorts Information Director
Congratulations Nic, Matt, and Andy on your great seasons and a great finish!

Friday, May 25, 2012

DSU Runners in National Finals

As a runner, I always love to hear about the successes of others, and we've got some young people running like the wind here at DSU.  Here's an update from our sports information guy, Nick Huntimer:
Here's an update with three DSU men's distance runners competing at the NAIA Outdoor Track and Field national meet in Marion, Ind.  Congratulations to Andy Coy and Matt Fideler as they ran in the prelims on the first day of the national meet Thursday and advanced to the finals on Saturday.

Coy (junior - Hill City, S.D.) advanced to the men's 1500-meter run finals with a time of 3:59.52.  He placed sixth overall out of 32 runners.  The 1500-meter run finals take place on Saturday at 3:10 p.m. (Eastern Standard Time)/2:10 p.m. (Central Standard Time).

Fideler (senior - Volga, S.D.) earned a spot in the men's 3000-meter steeplechase finals by recording a fourth-place finish overall in the 23-runner field.  He ran a time of 9:32.10.  The steeplechase finals is scheduled for Saturday afternoon at 2:20 p.m. (EST)/1:20 p.m. (CST).

Nic Penning (junior - Hulett, Wyo.) will be running in the men's marathon on Saturday morning at 6 a.m. (EST)/5 a.m. (CST).

An individual that placed in the finals' top eight will receive NAIA All-American honor.

Fans can follow the NAIA Outdoor Track & Field National Championships on live scoring on

In addition, Indiana Wesleyan had set up a headquarter website for the NAIA Outdoor Track & Field National Championships on

Good luck to those three DSU runners on Saturday as they prepare for national meet's finals.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Critiquing Work With a Multimedia Tool

I'm intrigued by the possibilities evident in a tool that I just discovered called CritiqueIt.  It seems to be a useful and intuitive tool for collaborative work, allowing for providing input on documents like word documents or images, maybe even videos, without leaving your browser.  I'm embedding the introductory video here, but if you're interested, you'll have to let me know how it goes.  I may have to try this with my students in the fall.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Man Lost in Madison Creek

Keloland News tells about the young man who was lost in the flooding in Madison over the weekend, the brother of a DSU student visiting family.  The young man, PJ Bean, from Alabama, was an experienced firefighter and trained to save others.  He got swept away on early Sunday morning as he tried to wade across the swollen creek.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Enough Water to Shake a Stick At

Tee off box for hole 6 at the Howard Golf Course.
The creek through Madison
 Water, water, water.  Imagine dumping six inches of rain on a town and on the land that drains into it.  Then imagine all that water gushing through a little creek bed that usually trickles with a slow drizzle.  What happens, as you can see here without the need for imagination, is a mess, a tragic event for those in the path of the water.  Some residents clearly had a basement entirely full of water, with huge pumps discharging water from two or three inch hoses.  They've got my sympathy.
Highway 34 going west from Madison

Madison golf course

Our Rain Gauge Runneth Over

Cherry-sized hail

 Waves of rain-clouds traveling above Madison yesterday dropped a whopping FIVE inches of rain, with some hail mixed in.  Thunder, lightning, wind, rain, hail, darkness.  Reports indicate that the little docile creek that runs through town overflowed its banks and caused trouble for residents nearby.  Collapsed or flooded basements? We're going to cruise through town to see what we can see.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Busy Saturday

2012 DSU Trojan Baseball Team
Today's schedule was packed with activities--from DSU's graduation ceremonies to niece Megan B's graduation reception in Brookings, to friend Lynn R's annual Kentucky Derby party back here on Lake Madison.  To top that off, many of us DSU fans had our baseball team at the back of our minds, even as the horses came around the final turn and headed for the home stretch with I'll Have Another hot after the finish line.  Our boys were in San Marcos, California, where they had fought their way to the championship game, only to fall today to Arizona Christian 9-2.  Both teams did, however, qualify for the NAIA National Baseball Championship, so they've got more life left in the season yet.  Congratulations and good luck to the Trojan Baseball team!

Friday, May 04, 2012

May 4, 1970

Neil Young did his tribute to the fallen in his great protest song "Ohio," and much has been written and said about the events on May 4, 1970, in Kent, Ohio.  But some of the surviving wounded from the shootings at Kent State University in 1970 are seeking a new investigation into the actions of the National Guardsmen who opened fire on students, killing four and wounding nine others.  The event remains a stark example of the distance between the young people who stood against the Vietnam war and those who saw the protester's stand as a threat to safety. 

Meanwhile, KSU again hosts a commemorative event today to remember the events.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Julie Gross--New LAIC Director

News from the Chamber of Commerce in Madison, and the Lake Area Improvement Corporation.   We've got one of our own now in the group, and I hope this means things will be getting better.  
The Lake Area Improvement Corporation is excited to announce they have hired Julie Gross to serve as their new Executive Director.
Gross currently serves as the Executive Director of the Madison Chamber of Commerce and will transition into her new role over the next few weeks.
"We are very excited about Julie accepting this important role within the Madison community,” said LAIC President Mark Stoller.  "The LAIC board, along with community members, interviewed several candidates and put a great deal of time and energy into the interview process.  We feel we have chosen the right person to promote our community and continue the efforts of the LAIC.”
“Julie is a lifelong Lake County native and has deep ties to the community.  She has successfully led the Chamber where she developed new programs, enhanced existing programs and made a positive impact on the community.  We are excited to have her on board."
I do hope this means better things for Madison.  Our man at the Madville Times has been calling for a replacement in this role for some time. Go Julie!  

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Student Work in Composition

My students have made videos on items of interest to them, including one on used computer games, one on animation and science, and another on CPR, among others.  You can also look at videos from years past. It's on Composition at DSU, a blog we use for sharing videos.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Considering April and Olive

Wolfram Alpha tells me that little Olive, the new granddaughter, is one of 10,544 people alive today who share that name (1792nd most popular name), much more rare and precious than her grandfather (26th most common) or her mother April, one of 225,152 people with that name, but not quite as exclusive as her dad, whose name only appears on 458 people per year.  However, a rash of Chads in the 80's put that name higher on the common list of names among 39-year-olds, making it the 235th most popular names.  April is slightly less popular at 237th, with Olive among those most rare and strange, unless you're in your 90's, where the bulk of Olives appear to be.  I'm among the 3.7 million Johns in the country while the wife shares hers with only 19,515.

Monday, April 23, 2012

An Olive on the Family Tree

Hand of a new generation
A trip to Minneapolis over the weekend was a good opportunity to put those cameras to work, and the wife managed her magic with this photo of a proud grandpa and his first little grandchild.  Pretty cool.  She's a calm, sweet baby, due in part, apparently, to the easy home birth that eased her way into our world.  Good for Olive.

Friday, April 13, 2012

A Spring for Olive

 Little Olive Mary Nelson Osmundson has arrived in Minneapolis to proud first-time parents April and Chester.  Born at her parents' home, little 8 pound, 4 ounce Olive showed up at 5:08 am on Thursday, April 12.  So far, she is getting along well in her new environment and has the full approval of her mom and dad.  She's getting a lot of attention and doesn't seem to have a bit of shyness.

So far, she has not asked for a pony.

I'm wondering now whether carrying photos in my wallet is a grandparental requirement.  In any case, the wife and I send out all the best wishes for these two new parents and their beautiful baby.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Long Tall Tree, Long Hard Day

The pine beetles seem to be plaguing the long-needle pines in Madison, including the old-timers in our yard.  Two have gone down already, and a third fell today to the chain saw.  Wind from the west made the call, since the old tree was brown and tilting westward toward the house.  My friend JH came over to provide ballast and direction to the tree fall, and it came down just where my mind's eye had laid it.  The wife and I humped it to finish up, and now scrap is at the tree dump, little logs are in the wood pile, and big logs are stored for drying.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Birth of a Book

Our DSU librarians shared this beautiful video of a book being printed and bound in traditional fashion.  Beautiful!

Sunday, April 01, 2012

TomTom Tames the Back Seat Toddler

This video demonstrates the results of the fine work that the people at TomTom, the navigation gurus, have done to improve the behavior of back seat toddlers.  Driver and passenger safety, they say, depends upon a driver free from distractions.  Luckily, TomTom has found a way to sooth these back seat grumps with their savvy innovation.  Enjoy April, fools.

New Tricks and the Hoop of Life

Students in one of my classes have been working this semester to bring the DSU literary magazine into the electronic world once again.  It had a brief moment in the sun of the internet years ago, when Dr. Dan Weinstein did some fancy html work to move the poetry from paper to pixels, but that moment passed and the site apparently disappeared.  So, here we go again with a dedicated site, not bound by the DSU biz.  Our site,, is up and running and waiting for the 2012 selections to be made and posted.

Sponsored by Sigma Tau Delta, the English honor society at DSU, New Tricks has been around since 1992, when the English majors sought to make things new by breaking with tradition at DSU.

We hope to shine a light on the good work that the writers and artists at DSU are doing, from students to faculty to staff.  If you're interested, check out the site, give us some feedback, maybe send us some of your work, and we'll have some new material there in the next few weeks.  Wish us luck!

House History

After noting in the Lake County Historical Society's newsletter that I was trying to get some information about the history of our house, I got a call from a man who used to be a neighbor to the house--Pete Hortle, now of Sioux Falls (winter) and Lake Madison (summer). He lived two houses west from 1939-1946, while Lou Coppersmith lived in our place. Pete thinks they rented.

Word Riddle

A friend sent me this video, which is probably widely distributed but which I found interesting. Before watching, check: What's one nine-letter word in English (a common word) that you can remove one letter at a time and the remainders still make a word, down to the last letter?

Ok, give up? Watch the video.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Diving into the Wreck--Adrienne Rich Gone Too

Not only has the Earl left us, but also the Poet, Adrienne Rich, one who led us on the dive below the surface of words in one of her most famous poems:
I stroke the beam of my lamp
slowly along the flank
of something more permanent
than fish or weed
the thing I came for:
the wreck and not the story of the wreck
the thing itself and not the myth.  
Fierce in her feminism, Rich left the world poorer in poetry on Tuesday when she left.

The Earl is Dead. Long Live the Earl.

Earl Scruggs is gone.  There will be bluegrass tears all through the country, mostly from folks who came to love the banjo through his fancy fingerwork.  His banjo picking on the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" album and the recorded commentary from him there were the things that drew me in.  I was taken enough to purchase a banjo way back in 1978, and I carted that banjo and Scruggs' banjo instruction record around for over 30 years.  Too bad I only ever learned a couple of licks and never really played.  But I always appreciate a good banjo picker, and Earl was among the best.  He was a great ambassador for the instrument.  Story here.
Enjoy this banjo dynamo as he appeared with Steve Martin and other men with banjos on David Letterman. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

St. Patrick's Day--Limericks and Libation

A week late, but the B's had their annual St. Patrick's Day party this past weekend, giving us some time to get together, share some limericks and talk, and gather 'round the "campfire" for storytelling and catching up.  Returning visitors from Missouri came up, and this photo shows the elite crew that remained until late, long after the lighter weight classes had cashed it in.  It was a great time!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Fictions in Your Brain

A talk yesterday with some budding creative writers, followed by reading an article about scientists looking at the brain on fiction has prompted some thinking about fiction.  It appears that a brain reading good fiction (see--good fiction) reacts to the text in a way similar to its reaction to events occurring in real life.  So says a recent article in the NY Times. 

I was saying as much to a small audience of Dr. Blessinger's creative writing class.  Young writers always struggle, perhaps knowing that their work is not up to the standards of good fiction or poetry or non-fiction writers, but knowing too that they need to work through those weaknesses, that not everyone gets to reach the top echelons with ease, or at all.

So we all struggle, boats against the current.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Let It Snow Snow

Madison has not seen a lot of snowy days this winter, but February shall not pass without one.  Here we're getting a good dose, light and fluffy, with no wind (yet).

Sunday, February 05, 2012

The Shooter's Legacy

This week has brought its share of unpleasant excitement, and it's no small thing in a town like Madison, where people know people in a tightly-knit kind of way. We have a friend who can generate family trees, along with temporary relationships and marriages, from generations past, and she's not a Madison native.  Even I, after living here a mere 10 years, know well how many of the townspeople are related to each other, who their kids are, and what their family history is.

But the discovery of an apparent 50-year grudge of one man against another stemming from an incident in high school is a real revelation, the stuff of fiction.  In news reports about the shooting of Norm Johnson by Carl Ericsson, the motive apparently comes from some incident lost to the memories of all but the shooter.  It reminds me a bit of Edgar Allan Poe's story, "The Cask of Amontillado," in which the narrator Montresor reports that he had borne a "thousand injuries" and so sets out to wall away Fortunato in the catacombs to die slowly in revenge for those unidentified injuries.  Poe's story identifies its narrator as the one carrying the grudge, the other not knowing what motive lies behind Montresor's actions.

In any case, the creative writer in me sees the possibilities in this small-town tragedy, dreaming as is my wont about the scene or scenes that may have played out repeatedly in the imagination or memory of the tortured soul.

I'm reminded though, that Poe had an idea of revenge that you'll see in movies and tv shows:  the act of revenge must be known about, that the person seeking revenge must inform their victim and have them know what's being done.  At the end of "Cask," the narrator, noting that it's been 50 years since he walled up Fortunato, still nurses a grudge, having never told his victim what was going on, so what he asks for at the end is perhaps not for Fortunato, but for his own conscience: "In pace requiscat!"