Friday, August 30, 2013

Dreams and random acts of linkage

You ever had a dream where a wolf is chewing on your head and you wake up and …

 Well, me either, but this kid lived it.
The unidentified boy, who is reportedly from Solway, Minn., stood up and kicked at the wolf, which then ran away, according to state wildlife officials. 
The teenager, who was staying at a campground in the Chippewa National Forest, was driven to a hospital near Bemidji, where he was treated for a gash on the back of his head and canine punctures on either side of his face.
It does remind me of a joke I still tell, but was especially effective when the kids where younger and their friends were over. The conversation almost always turned to "you wouldn't believe this dream I had last night."

To which, I chime in and say:

"I had a dream once where I ate a giant marshmallow!"

(pause for dramatic effect)

"And when I woke up, my pillow was gone!"

That one reels them in like fish. Feel free to steal it.

*** Da linkage ...

*** Our paths crossed briefly when I worked at the Argus Leader, but I still remember Dick Thien's advice on a perfect sentence: A noun and a verb. Here is Jon Walker on Mr. Thien.
We played every day and every news tip as though we were down two runs in the last of the ninth. Scramble. Make the phone call. Don’t make excuses. Make readers wonder how we did it. Live another day.
*** This guy at the NY Post touches on one of my pet peeves and takes this author to the woodshed. His column: “Batman in love - Baffled by teen boys, experts keep trying to turn them into girls. Surprise - it’s not working.”
What boys need are male role models, unashamed of being men, who can teach them why masculinity is not a prison.
 *** So, where did Syria’s chemical weapons come from, you ask? Apparently, former nutburger Saddam Hussein.

*** Here's video of an unbelievably long line of people waiting to get their book signed by Mark Haugen Levin. 

 *** This week’s nominee for Don’t Go Away Mad, Just Go Away is obvious: No-talent, aspiring stripper, amateur porn star Miley Cyrus.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Don't forget about Crash

Allow me to toot my own horn here. Since it’s my blog, I guess you really have no other choice. But with the start of high school football season, I’d like to direct you to one of my favorite little short stories I wrote: Crash Bonaparte. It’s silly, it’s football, it’s fun. Take a few minutes and tell me if you agree.

See it up there? On your left? Under the “short story” header? Yeah, that’s it. Click it. Click it! Read it. Now!

Vets helping fight forest fires

We’re hearing a lot about the fires out west right now. Fortunately, the Black Hills has had a quiet fire season (knock on wood). Here’s a good story about a new program catching on in the BHNF and around the country (via the USFS):

Custer, SD – For the past two summers, the Black Hills National Forest has had veterans working side by side with firefighters and other forest employees as part of the Veterans Fire Corps program.

This summer, both Mystic and Hell Canyon Ranger Districts hosted these veteran teams. Each team has a project leader and 5 members.

This unique program, specifically for men and women who have served in the armed forces, is designed to prepare veterans for positions as wildland firefighters. The program is geared toward training veterans to protect public lands from the threat of wildfire. The program is operated as a partnership with the Student Conservation Association.

Tim Gurnett, from Omaha, Neb. is a Project Leader for the Arapaho National Forest in Colorado. He worked as a Project Leader on Hell Canyon Ranger District on the Black Hills National Forest last summer. Gurnett served in the Navy for five years and is now a member of the Naval Reserve. He is in his third year with the program and likes everything about it. “It is refreshing to be with people that have similar experiences and similar issues,” said Gurnett. “I love this kind of work and it is good to be around fellow veterans. It is good to talk together and work together and gives us something to be proud of again.” Gurnett is a senior at the University of Nebraska and is working on a double major in Environmental Studies and Criminal Justice. He hopes to land a Law Enforcement position with a land management agency such as the U.S. Forest Service.

One of Gurnett’s team members from last summer is now a Project Leader on the Big Horn National Forest in Buffalo, Wyo. Mike Madalena, from Williamson, NY served in the Marine Corps for four years and completed two combat tours; one in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. Madalena is passionate about the program and feels one of the best parts of the Veterans Fire Corps is that it is therapeutic. “It’s about saving lives, really helping each other out and talking things out. Veterans that leave the service and get into this program can fill the void of team camaraderie and get structure and organization back in their lives.” Madalena is enrolled in Finger Lakes Community College pursuing degrees in Natural Resource Conservation and Law Enforcement. He hopes to become an Alaskan Wildlife trooper.

The Veterans Fire Corps program is a win-win for veterans as well as the U.S. Forest Service. It gives veterans an opportunity to learn a new skill and see if firefighting is something they want to do as a follow-on career. It gives the Forest additional personnel resources to fight fire and reduce hazardous fuels.

While partnering with the Black Hills National Forest, the team was able to work on various projects. Dave Ruhl, an engine captain for the Mystic Ranger District, was also the liaison for the Veterans Fire team on his District this year. “Even though we didn’t have many big fires this summer, the team was able to do a variety of things such as improving egress routes in sub-divisions, pile cut and chunk logs from mountain pine beetle treated areas, assist archaeologists with culvert work from an old civilian conservation corps project, and many had the opportunity to shadow various technicians where they had interest.” Ruhl says the program is good because it gives veterans exposure with the U.S. Forest Service before taking a job to see if it is a good fit for them.

Alleyn Friedrich, from Mobile, Ala. was the project leader for the Mystic Ranger District this summer. Friedrich is a Marine Corps veteran with 2 deployments in four years in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). “I got a lot out of it this year, we had a good team and Dave (Ruhl) was always willing to help us with what we needed. It was a good experience and I’m glad I did it,” said Friedrich. Friedrich is between schools right now but wants to get a degree in Criminal Justice and Fire Science.

One of Friedrich’s team members was looking for an adventure and saw the Veterans Fire Corps as an opportunity to get paid while participating in an internship. “This is not just a program, and then it’s over,” said Juan Rangel, a Navy veteran from Houston, Tex. “We worked outdoors, learned a lot about fire, did some hiking and got training and certifications that will help us get jobs. They (Forest officials) even provided training for us on resume building and how to apply for jobs.” Rangel is enrolled in the University of Phoenix pursuing a degree in Environmental Science.

David Herbert is considering employment with the U.S. Forest Service after he finishes his degree in Land Use with emphasis on Environment and Resources from Metropolitan State University in Denver, Colo. Herbert is from Morrison, Colo. He is a Navy veteran of eight years. “The Veteran Fire Corps program fits well with my degree. We responded to a few fires, I did preservation work at a historical site, worked with fuels management technicians to reduce fire danger in populated areas and worked on an old Civilian Conservation Corps project. It was a good opportunity for me to get my foot in the door to learn and hopefully improve my chances of being hired by the U.S. Forest Service in Colorado,” said Herbert.

The Veterans Fire Corps program is in its third year, nationally, and is becoming more popular among veterans. Most are finding out about the program through word-of-mouth, Veterans Affairs (VA) officials, forest officials, school counselors and more. Preston Keough, an Army veteran from Columbia, Mo., now a member of the Missouri Army National Guard learned about the internship program through a school counselor. “I was able to get involved because I talked to my counselor about an internship opportunity. I am very interested in fire and my counselor suggested I contact the SCA to let them know I was interested,” said Keough. “I wanted to work for the Forest Service to see if it was something I would pursue as a career and the Veterans Fire Corps program gave me that opportunity.” Keough recommends this program for other veterans looking for an internship that provides a real-world, hands on learning experience in the forest.

Todd Pechota, Fire Staff Officer for the Black Hills National Forest is a strong proponent of the Veterans Fire Corps program. “The program is a great way for the Forest to provide training and experience which may lead to career opportunities for our veterans. The teams increase our capability to fight fire, reduce hazardous fuels and complete work in other resource areas.”

Veterans wishing to learn more about the Veterans Fire Corps program can go to Additional information on internship opportunities can be found by contacting the Student Conservation Association (SCA) or by going to their website.

For more information on the Black Hills National Forest, go here.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Friday's Link-Oh-Rama

Taking my middle child to college today. Link away:

*** William T. Vollmann was first suspected by the FBI of being the Unabomber, then the anthrax mailer. Turns out he’s just another author I’ve never read.
"UNABOMBER, not unlike VOLLMANN has pride of authorship and insists his book be published without editing," part of the file states. Other sections link his appearance to composite sketches of the bomber and suggest that "anti-growth and anti-progress themes persist throughout each VOLLMANN work." A source told the FBI that Vollmann "reportedly owns many guns and a flame-thrower." ("I would love to own a flamethrower," he notes cheerfully.) After the real Unabomber was caught, Vollmann was listed among the suspects in the 2001 anthrax attacks.
*** I don’t know where I’ve been, but I have never heard of this lady. What an amazing bio and what crazily prolific writer. BBC News reports that Barbara Cartland's complete collection of 883 novels are to be published as part of new distribution agreement.

*** Clint Eastwood is in early talks to direct the movie "American Sniper," based on the autobiography of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle.

*** Here are 21 jokes only history nerds will understand. Like: In the Class of 1825, Robert E. Lee was voted “Most Likely To Secede”

*** You may have seen the news that Bradley Manning now wants to become Chelsea Manning. It reminded many of this funny Monty Python sketch.

*** And the biggest news of the week: Prince has released a new single "Breakfast Can Wait."

Thursday, August 22, 2013

My writing is going to the dogs

I think Huckleberry has OCD.

Our basset hound pup is about seven months old. Due to his slow potty-training progress, his eating habits that consist of beans and tomatoes off the vines in my garden and plums off my trees, and his relative slowness in everything he does, we've suspected that he might be a little mentally challenged.

Granted, his housemate and mentor, Stanley, a Golden/lab cross, is a member of MENSA for Dogs, so it's not a fair comparison. Still, I've heard that bassets have two brain cells and only use one of them, and Huck is doing nothing to smash that stereotype.

But lately Huck has been showing some progress. He's learned to scratch at the door to go outside or even woof. And he really surprised me the other night.

My normal routine in the late evening is to let the dogs outside to do their business, then we go into the spare room where I have my desk, books and an extra single bed. The dogs usually hop up on the bed and snooze while I write. Then after a half hour or hour, I tell them it's bed time, they hop down and we go into my bedroom where they sleep on the floor.

Except for the other night. I was extra tired and decided to skip the writing part so we went straight from outside bathroom duty to the bedroom. A minute later, Huck started scratching on the door. I told him he'd just gone outside. He didn't answer, kept scratching. So I opened the bedroom door. Instead of taking a right to the outside door, he took a left into the spare room, hopped up on the bed and looked at me. I told my wife, "Guess I'm going to write for a few minutes."

Stanley joined Huck on the bed where they immediately fell asleep. I proofread some stuff for 10 minutes, announced it was time for bed and they hopped down and went into the bedroom for the night. All was well.

I guess you don't mess with Huckleberry's routine. And, if nothing else, he keeps me on task in the writing business.

Puppy steps.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Leonard's train to Yuma departs

Elmore Leonard died. The best article about Leonard I’ve seen was from The Washington Post back in 2008. He seems like one of the few celebrities who didn’t act like one and would’ve been fun to hang out with.

 His 10 tips for writing:

1. Never open a book with weather.
2. Avoid prologues.
3. Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue.
4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said” … he admonished gravely.
5. Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.
6. Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose.”
7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
9. Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.
10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Friday's Link-Oh-Rama

*** I heard the term “Juggalo” for the first time about a year ago. I thought my son was mispronouncing the word “gigolo,” but he explained that there was a girl in his class who said she was a Juggalo. I came to find out he was correct. Here’s a long read to explain: The Juggalo Cult. (warning for a couple F bombs, but otherwise interesting)

*** Jill Callison at the Argus Leader points out old books as book shelves.

*** Forbes has released its annual “World’s Top-Earning Authors” list. Again, missed it by that much. The ’50 Shades’ lady raked in a cool $95 million. You can buy a lot of fuzzy handcuffs with that dough.
“When it comes to predicting a single solitary book, there’s little science behind it. You can have as much access to this data as you want but there’s nothing to quantify luck.”
*** Lighter moment at the Little League World Series as this Panamanian boy has an embarrassing encounter with a curveball.

*** Speaking of which, here’s Van Halen.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

'Honeys play me close like butter play toast'

In a column titled "The Ideal English Major," U. Virginia professor Mark Edmundson comes to the defense of, and actually advocates for, the English major. He extols, in an entertaining way, the benefits of reading and compliments all types of clever, colorful language.
I love Wordsworth and Shakespeare and Donne. But I like it when a fellow pickup b-ball player points to a nervous guy skittering off to the bathroom just as the game's about to start: "He's taking a chicken pee." Yup — hit it on the head.

This column can be droll in parts, as English majors often can be, but it’s actually very good, and quotes Biggie Smalls, so it’s worth reading. And I think it captures the essence of an English major, at least this one.
We live in the lap of enormous wonder, but how rarely do most of us look up and smile in gratitude and pleasure? The English major does that all the time. 
The English major: in love with language and in love with life — or at least hungry for as much life as he can hold.
 And, in case you weren't a fan, the title of this post comes from The Notorious B.I.G. (aka Biggie Smalls) hit "Juicy."

Saturday, August 10, 2013

The kids' journal ...

One thing I'd highly recommend for any parent is to keep a journal of the little things that happen in your kids' lives. I did it when mine were young, not on an everyday basis, but just often enough to keep track of some the things I would've forgotten, which is a lot.

I ran across it tonight while going through some old papers. It brought a smile to my face - kind of along the lines of Kids Say The Darndest Things. Now, 21 and 19, here are some of the entries I noted when they were ages 2-4.

* Katie and I climbed the lookout tower by Brandon. When we got to the top, Katie said: "Where's the slide?" Now, whenever we go past it, she says: "There's the tower. No slide, just lots of steps.

* We were driving in the car and Katie was looking at the back of a Bugles box. I asked her what it said and she replied: "When empty, go to the store and buy some more."

*Katie had a chair set up a couple feet from the couch and would put her feet on one, hands on the other, and turn around. Every time she did it she would holler: "I won! I'm the greatest!" She did it a few times before falling and got up: "I lost. I'm not the greatest."

* Katie told me in the car: "Mom knows a lot, but she doesn't know tons like you and me." (That's my favorite.)

* Katie, Rylee and I went to a Renner Monarchs game and it got rained out after 1 inning. When we were leaving, Katie said sadly: "But that's my favorite baseball team."

* Katie asked Nancy, regarding me being named editor of the Tri-State Neighbor: "Does that mean Dad can tell the computers what to do?"

* I was at the Sioux Empire Fair for work and twice saw Rylee's daycare class walking around. I stayed back so Rylee wouldn't see me and get upset for not being able to come with me. When I picked her up at daycare, one of her teachers said that when Rylee got on the bus she said: "I saw my Daddy." When we got home Nancy asked her what she saw at the Fair. Rylee said: "Daddy." Then she asked what I was doing and Rylee said: "Hiding."

* Katie gets into watching "ER." One week they had an episode with a baby in the hospital. It continued on tot the next week's episode, and Katie saw it and asked: "Has that baby been in the hospital all week?"

* While sledding with Katie, she flipped over, landed hard, got up and said: "That was a double uff da!"

* Rylee told me: "Daddy, Katie called me a tattle-tale!"

Friday, August 9, 2013

Friday Link-Oh-Rama

Usually I'm pretty fired up about Fridays, but not when they come as the last day of a week of vacation. Oh well, the trout in Montana have 51 weeks now to recover from the beating they took.

Here's some linkage:

*** Argus has a story about one of South Dakota's greatest combat pilots, Cecil Harris. Also with a shout-out to his 93-year-young friend Harold Thune, a man I've had the great pleasure getting to know.

*** Pope Francis is pressing ahead with his efforts to strengthen ties between Muslims and Catholics. His message: Promoting Mutual Respect through Education.

*** Moron of the Month Award goes to ... Robbie Knievel, drinking and driving in my hood and not caring: "I friggin’ drink and ride … that’s my deal.”

*** Get well soon Elmore Leonard!

*** What do biocryptology and Antonio Banderas have in common? They're both at S.D. School of Mines next week.

*** Alex Rodriguez could use the Yankees' former assistant traveling secretary - Seinfeld's George Costanza.

*** Need a song for your baseball workouts? Who doesn't? Rival Sons: Keep On Swinging

*** The NPR fiction paperback best-sellers for last week. Missed it by that much.

*** My random act of kindness for the week: Rob Zombie does We're An American Band

*** Each year Forbes calculates the net worth of the wealthiest characters from novels, movies, television and games, constructing portfolios based on those stories, and valuing them using real-world commodity and share prices. You'll never guess who leads the list.

*** In case you need them: 7 tips for writing an email.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Friday Link-Oh-Rama

Some good stuff this week on all things interesting - to me:

*** He's baaaaaack: Art Bell, radio's master of the paranormal and outward edges of science, will return to the microphone on Sept. 16 with a new nighttime show on Sirius XM Radio.

*** Colonel Bud Day, RIP stud: “To have known him in prison, confronting our enemies day in and day out, never, ever yielding, defying men who had the power of life and death over us, to witness him sing the national anthem in response to having a rifle pointed at his face, well that was something to behold. Unforgettable. … Bud was the bravest man I ever knew.”

*** It's not just me saying it, though I would've named him No. 1: "There is no question that Prince is one of the best to ever strap on a guitar, to pick up a mic, to perch behind the keys, and so forth. Rolling Stone thinks so too."

** If, like me, Rihanna and Lady Gaga aren't doing it for ya, Holly Williams, the soulful daughter of Hank Williams Jr. will.

*** Worth thinking about anyway: Are you (me?) becoming the dreaded Baseball Dad or Mom?

*** It's always funny when it happens to someone else: Interviewer gets soaked.