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Sunday, May 21, 2006

Westmar Woes

The Campus is Gone, Sort Of...

Yesterday I took a few hours and rode my motorcycle around. After an hour or so of tootling about the countryside, I ended up in my hometown, LeMars. I decided to swing past the old campus to see what's changed. Turns out that quite a bit has changed...

I went to Westmar College from the fall of 1986 off and on until I graduated in 1992 or 1993. You know, I always thought that Westmar was going to be my life - I was going to go to school there, get my degree, work there for a while in the Communications Department, and eventually end up teaching there. It never occurred to me that I would ever leave the warm bosom of the campus... But life intervened and I ended up working for a living some 30 miles away in Sioux City.

It also never occurred to me that Westmar may not even exist someday. But in the fall of 1997 the college closed, after 107 years of higher education... For a campus that covered a mere eight square blocks (more or less, give or take) it sure held a lot of memories for a lot of people!

Some of the buildings are simply gone (Wernli, Dubs and Thoren Halls, and that old dorm between Bonebrake and Weidler), others are being "repurposed" (the library was a church for a few years, Weidler is home of a mental health institution, the dorms are now apartments, etc.). But for me the biggest change was the "Memorial Park." In the space where Dubs, Thoren and Wernli were is now a memorial to America's veterans. I won't bore you with all the memories I have of Westmar (and I have a LOT), but I will tell you it was rather emotional for me to wander through the campus, thinking of people now scattered the world over, remembering buildings that aren't there, wondering where the faculty and staff ended up...

I took pictures. As usual, you can click on any photo to see a larger image...

The old "Activity Sign." For years it was my job
to update the sign weekly. Now it's empty...

The Library, with a "For Sale" sign in front.

Part of the new veteran's memorial. Interestingly enough, between the
jeep and the church there used to be two buildings that housed the mail room
and the Institutional Advancement office. Those two buildings were "repurposed" military barracks. They've been torn down now.

This new structure stands in what used to be the amphitheater.
Inside it is a plaque containing a poem.

Circling this monument are a number of plaques, one for each war the
United States has fought, listing the number of casualties.
There is no plaque for the Iraq war yet, oddly enough,
nor did I see space set aside for it.
You can see the "new gym" behind it.

Another view of the statue and plaques.

The art building. At least, that's what it was used for
when I attended Westmar. I guess it used to be the
largest gymnasium in the area at one time...

A memorial to Dubs and Wernli halls

A closeup of the plaque on the above memorial...

This statue is how I felt, too. Despair.
It's sitting on the cornerstones of some of the earliest buildings on campus.

This gate used to be the main entrance to the campus, leading to
Thoren Hall (which was the tallest structure in this part of the state).

Another view of the gate

The science hall still looks like it's in good shape!

Westy the Eagle

The entrance to Weidler.

Bonebrake still looks like it used to, though there is now a
funeral home and a fire department in the "back yard."

I'm happy the city is using the gym as a Community Wellness Center.

The Commons is now used for a Convention Center.

Centennial used to be a men's dorm.
It was odd to see a street running between Centennial and the Commons.

Between Memorial and the Library there's now a water tower.

Back to the start of the tour...

There is a web site dedicated to Westmar HERE. I also found out that there will be a reunion of "The Decade of the Eighties" this summer, July 8 and 9. You can sign up on the web site. I hope to be there...

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Bizzy Daze

Ye cats, I've been busy. I haven't forgotten about this blog, trust me, I just haven't had much time as of late. Things are busy at work, yardwork needs done, and I have a motorcycle. Therefore, not much writing is being done.


Wednesday, May 10, 2006


Advanced Dentistry

"It's only quarter after six," my beloved Austrian Snowflake mumbled into her pillow. "Vhat are you doing up? Go back to bed."

"I can't," I replied. "I have to be at the dentist at eight."

"An hour and a half you have before you have to leave. Go back to bed."

I sighed. "I can't. I have to start getting ready..." With that I heave my carcass out of bed and start the morning process. One cup of instant coffee - lukewarm so I can gulp it down in one swell foop. Check e-mail. Off to the bathroom. Brush teeth, comb hair, bathe, floss, brush teeth again, gargle with generic Scope, brush teeth, use waterpick, put clothes on, brush teeth - I think I'm ready. I swish with mouthwash again and head for the door, grabbing some mint gum on the way. "I'm off to the dentist," I say. "Wish me luck!" My wife pats me on the head and kisses my nose, and off I go.

Fifteen minutes later and I'm sitting in the waiting room, desperately trying to keep my breath fresh. I should have brought some mouthwash with me. I could have gargled again in the waiting room...

As I sat staring out the window, waiting for my name to be called, my mind started to wander. The last few times I was at the dentist it really sucked. It sucked quite bad. I remember staring past the torturer's bloodshot eyes at the ceiling, sweat running off my face and pooling in my ears, hands clenched on the torture chair so hard the fingerprints must still be imprinted in the metal. "We're almost done," said the torturer as she grabbed yet another meat hook and headed in for round five...

I shook my head to clear the memory and bring myself back to the present. (I have an Etch-a-Sketch kind of brain. Shake my head and it erases the last five minutes and leaves a blank slate to work on...) The other guy in the waiting room is hogging the only Sports Illustrated in the room as he fidgets nervously. I don't really want to read a ten-year-old issue of Vogue, so I continue staring out the window, trying desperately to think of anything other than dentists.

When I lived in LeMars I had a root canal. It was kind of spooky, but after about five minutes of laying on my back, staring past the two intent faces that were peering into my gaping mouth I realized it wasn't all that bad. Disengagement is wonderful -- I remember keeping a mental chant/mantra going, "That isn't smoke coming out of my mouth, that isn't smoke coming out of my mouth," over and over again. My mantra was broken, however, by the head torturer suddenly blurting "Oops" at the same time the drill made a very odd noise. I glanced at the faces hovering over me -- there were four very wide eyes staring at my mouth. After a second or two, they continued working. Having no choice but to lay there, I promptly forgot the "oops." About an hour later I was wandering numbly through the grocery store, hoping to find something mushy to eat before I had to go to work. I noticed no one at the store wanted to get too close to me, and they were all staring, slightly horrified looks on their ashen faces. When I got home and looked in the mirror I realized why. The dentist had dropped the drill into my mouth. The drill cut the inside of my cheek, then flopped out and made a delicate cut from the corner of my mouth to my chin. My numbed face was covered in blood. It was running down my neck. My shirt was covered in blood, and I had no idea. I never went to that dentist again.

"Chris?" calls the receptionist, breaking into my reverie. "Come this way, please." Back to the present. Man, I hope it's not bad...

"Have a seat here," said the lady, pointing to the chair in Torture Chamber One. I sat. It's best to be polite to someone who is soon going to be waving sharp things around in your mouth. Once again I found myself staring at the ceiling, mouth open, total stranger sticking pointy things in my gums.

"You have an extra tooth," the lady said after a few minutes. She glanced at my X-rays. "Oh, your wisdom tooth erupted. We'll have to ask the doctor about that..." With that she went back to poking at my teeth, occasionally pausing to drown me with a little squirt gun. The whole time she kept asking me questions. "Do you drink soda pop? That's bad for your teeth. Do you chew gum? Don't do that." I kept waiting for her to tell me that eating is bad for my teeth. After slightly less than an eternity she stopped hurting me and started grinding my teeth with sand. (You know, if you have your teeth ground with sand first thing in the morning, you know it's going to be a good day! Absolutely nothing else that happens that day can be worse, so it's all downhill. You may as well enjoy the rest of the day -- the hard part's done.)

"I'm going to get the doctor now," she said, putting the sand away. "We need to see about that wisdom tooth." Out the door she bustled.

About the time I got my jaw popped back into joint, the doctor wandered in. He looked at my X-rays. He looked at me. He looked at the X-rays again. He harrumphed a bit, then looked into my mouth. Then at the X-rays. "That tooth has to come out," he said. "We can leave your other three wisdom teeth, but this one has to come out."

"Out of my head?" I asked, just to be sure I heard him right.

"Yes," he replied. "I can do it here at the office. It really won't take more than ten or fifteen minutes." I could feel myself getting paler. The doctor continued, "You won't even notice it's gone. Post-op pain should be minimal..."

"You want to pull one of my teeth out of my head?" I asked again. "But it's attached! And there's nothing wrong with it."

The doctor gave me a dirty look and pointed to the receptionist's desk. "Make an appointment," he said. I made my dejected way to the front desk.

"That will be twenty-two dollars," said the receptionist, taking my insurance card.

"You mean I have to PAY to get tortured? That's not right!"

"Doctor says you need to come back in June for the extraction," she said, handing me an appointment card. "And we'll go ahead and make an appointment for you to come back in November."

"Wait," I said. "Why do I have to come back in November?"

"To get your teeth cleaned," she replied.

"But I just got that done!" I wailed. "Why do I have to have it done again? Didn't you do a good job?"

"You have to have your teeth cleaned every six months until the doctor's kids are all out of college," the receptionist told me with a straight face. "Tuition is high, you know."

So now I have to have a perfectly good tooth ripped out of my skull. I am unhappy. AND I have to pay for the pleasure.

In about four hours or so I have to go to the eye doctor. Wish me luck! I hope they don't have to grind anything with sand..

Within Walking Distance?

As people who peruse this blog may know, I'm a bit disenchanted with my neighborhood. My neighbors have mowed their yard exactly once since last August. There's a man living in a bus in front of my neighbor's house. Grocery carts can be found in almost any alley in the area. Graffiti and vandalism are rampant, as can be witnessed by my back door. Theft is on the rise, too -- ask me about my missing weed whacker, or let me tell you about the time we caught the neighbor kid stealing our door knocker. As near as I can tell, there are four people in our neighborhood that have jobs -- the young people are living on government assistance and the old people are retired, leaving Dagmar, myself, and two 70+ year old Vietnamese immigrants as the only legal wage-earners around.

But there's another blight that's been creeping up on us in the neighborhood as well. Since the Bush administration gained control of the government in 2000, we've seen an increasing number of businesses fail.

The little rib shack around the corner is gone. The diner across the way is only open two mornings a week now. There are two gas stations across the street from each other, both boarded up, and a third locally owned station was recently bought out by a national chain. There's an abandoned building a block up the street that no one will rent or buy. But the big problem now is the grocery stores.

A few years ago Hy-Vee bought out Boulevard, a grocery store on Hamilton Boulevard a few miles away from our house. We thought that was a bit odd, since there was already a Hy-Vee store just up the street the other direction. The new Hy-Vee raised their prices right away, which didn't bother us much, as we went to the old Hy-Vee anyway. The new Hy-Vee is part of a mini-mall, a mile or two from the residential district. The old Hy-Vee was right in the middle of the neighborhood -- within walking distance for many of the poor and elderly people in the area. In fact, low-rent apartments bordered the old Hy-Vee's parking lot on two sides.

Sure enough, the new Hy-Vee expanded, and they closed the old Hy-Vee. Now all the people in the neighborhood had to walk an extra mile to get to Cub Foods instead. That truly was a burden on many of the elderly people in the neighborhood. Well, Cub Foods closed about a month ago. They couldn't compete with the new Hy-Vee either.

So, in the past few years we've lost two neighborhood grocery stores in favor of a massive Hy-Vee. Prior to that, we've lost three or four small "general stores" in the neighborhood, too -- the kind of stores that don't have much, but you can always get some milk and bread. Yet the Republicans say the economy is booming. It ain't. Look at the price of gold, compare the dollar to the Euro, look at my paycheck, and look at my neighborhood. The economy ain't good.

It makes me sad that we can't walk to the store any more. It makes me even sadder that those who don't have transportation - the poor and elderly -- have no option now but to pay for a cab to go to the store. As far as I can tell there is no bus line that goes to Hy-Vee.

UPDATE: After writing this, I found out that there IS a bus route from the parking lot of the old Hy-Vee to the new Hy-Vee, and the new Hy-Vee actually gives people a $1.50 rebate if they've taken the bus, as that's what the trip costs. That's a good thing. But still not as good as having a grocery store in the neighborhood...

Alternative Fools

I saw a cartoon the other day that may explain our current oil woes. It starts in 1976 with then White House Chief of Staff Dick Cheney telling President Ford that there's "plenty of oil." The next panel, set in 1986, has congressman Dick Cheney telling congress that there's "plenty of oil." The third panel, 1996, has Haliburton CEO Dick Cheney telling people there's "plenty of oil." The last panel (2006 of course) has President Bush telling Vice President Dick Cheney we need an alternative to oil. Cheney responds, "Nonsense, there's plenty of oil. And there always will be."

We've elected monkeys to guard our bananas. What did we expect? Bush and Cheney are simply too deep into the oil industry to get us out of this predicament.

If our government was showing true leadership, all government vehicles would be hybrids at the least -- preferably E85 hybrids. (If they don't make E85 hybrids yet, well, they should.) All government buildings would be retrofitted with solar panels and wind generators to jump-start that technology. True leadership would mandate that all new cars get at least 45 miles per gallon. I guarantee you the auto industry could and would find a way to do that if they had to. True leadership might put a hefty tax on gas-guzzling cars -- due when you pay your registration. True leaders would be meeting with Brazilian officials on a daily basis to find out how that nation managed to wean itself from foreign oil.

We do not have true leadership. I surely hope we make some changes come election day!

Quote of the Day

From Reuters:

BERLIN (Reuters) - U.S. President George W. Bush told a German newspaper his best moment in more than five years in office was catching a big perch in his own lake.

"You know, I've experienced many great moments and it's hard to name the best," Bush told weekly Bild am Sonntag when asked about his high point since becoming president in January 2001. "I would say the best moment of all was when I caught a 7.5 pound perch in my lake," he told the newspaper in an interview published on Sunday.

Monday, May 08, 2006

This is getting silly now...


My website has been up and down the past week and a half. It's driving me nuts.

My e-mail doesn't work, either. It's been on and off the past week and a half. It's driving me nuts.

Suddenly my password doesn't work on the server, so I can't log into cPanel (the software that helps tweak how my website works). I need to log into cPanel to fix my e-mail. I told the server people that my password didn't work, and that their very own tech support people told me that I needed the password so I could get into cPanel to fix my e-mail. So they e-mailed the password to me.

Anyone see the flaw in that logic? "Oh, you need a password to fix your e-mail? We'll just e-mail it to you..." It's driving me nuts.

I have to admit, it's partially my own dumb fault. I'm sure if I hadn't missed that day in second grade when they taught you that "Y" is a consonant and a vowel I'd know how to run my website today. But I missed that day in school.

I had a plan. It was a good plan. I was going to switch hosting companies. I know of a very nice hosting company that would take me. Had I been bright enough to realize that I needed to pay them first, THEN try to move all my stuff over, things would be hunky-dory right now. But I'm rather dense. I didn't set up an account, but I somehow expected them to magically fix my stuff. Once I figured out I needed to give them some moolah, I figured I was home free! All my problems are solved! But no... Alas, my stupid password doesn't work on my old server any more, so I can't get a backup of all my stuff to put on the new server. Nor can I check my e-mail.

Did I tell you that they said they were going to e-mail the password to me? It's driving me nuts.

I haven't even had time to write in my blog. I've been too busy wringing my hands and gnashing my teeth over my silly website and e-mail woes to think of anything else. I pace a lot now. I haven't slept in days. It's driving me nuts.

It's been over eight hours since I first told them I needed my password. I should have heard something by now...

Anyway, if anyone's been inconvenienced by bounced e-mails or the lack of this blog, I do apologize. I am trying to get things sorted out, but I really am a color-blind historian who moonlights as a graphic designing bassist. I'm just not trained for this sort of thing. It drives me nuts.


I take a lot of pictures. As usual, you can click on the photos below to see a slightly larger version. I hope. If my website works. (It's driving me nuts, I tell you!)

Everyone takes pictures of roses. Me too.

My medieval bunny-chaser. This actually IS my mower. It's the only one I have.

Sioux City musician Matt D at Sweet Fannies. I like this photo 'cause I turned the flash off,
set the camera for a night exposure, and set it on the table.
The colors turned out way cool...

Music and beer. Abbey and music. They work so well together.

Dagmar and I went to Hillview Park near Hinton, Iowa. They have elk there. Elk are cool.

Cows on a hill.

Talking on the phone and taking pictures of my elusive shadow.

Self Portrait II (I must be feeling full of myself).
I like this one because it was pitch dark outside.
I held my little point-and-shoot digital camera as still as I could
with the flash off to get a long exposure.
That explains the pained look on my silly face...
(I was waiting in the car for Dagmar to come drive me somewhere.
I must have had a beer. I don't drive if I've had a beer.)

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Server Woes

I'm gonna switch...

I apologize to anyone who's been trying to access my site the past four or five days. AffordableHost, the company that owns the servers on which I have my site located is having troubles. Their servers are going up and down faster than a kid with a sugar rush on a pogo stick. As soon as I get time, probably tomorrow or Thursday, I'm going to switch to a different host - most likely AxisHost. I can't say I like the name, but I do trust the people there. (From what I understand, AffordableHost was bought out a year or so ago, and some of the fine people who founded AffordableHost in the first place moved to AxisHost. I could be wrong. I do know that AffordableHost has been getting worse and worse ever since the new owners took control - service has been spotty and technical support is nearly nonexistent other than the occasional poorly-worded mass e-mail.)

Not only has my blog been wiggin' out, but my entire "radloffs.net" site has been crashing with alarming regularity since Friday. I can't get any good answers from the server people, which is irritating, and I just found out that if you go to the Smokin' Clams website you end up on the radloffs.net site. That's GOTTA be fixed soon! That could affect the Clams' business, and I don't want that. My e-mail doesn't work, either.

As I said, I'm a-gonna switch companies as soon as I have time to figure out all the intricacies of such a move. I've never done it before, and, to be honest, the thought scares me a bit.

Again, apologies for the hassle, and I hope to take care of it soon.


Since I've quit the Smokin' Clams (a fine band indeed - they just didn't want to play as often as I do) I've been happily catching up on my other hobbies (eating popcorn and watching TV). So I was very happy when I got a message from an old bandmate of mine from a pre-Clam band I was in. "Hey," he said. "I was wondering if maybe we could get Hippie Go Lucky back together again to do a set at a street dance this summer..." Yay! We're gonna have a few rehearsals between now and July, polish some of the old stuff up a bit, and generally have fun! First rehearsal is tonight, and I'm really looking forward to it!

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