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Columns

  • What's Going On: Are videos making baby Einstein’s or baby Homer Simpsons?

     Like many parents, my wife and I have turned to the electronic babysitter in the living room more times than we would like to admit. 

    The television can provide parents 30-minute windows to grab a shower, something to eat or simply enjoy a quiet moment in an effort to regain one’s sanity from the constant grind of raising children. 

    But in the case of my wife and I, there is that pang of guilt. Letting your children watch television as a diversionary tactic is kind of like feeding them hot dogs for lunch. 

  • Notes from the Capitol: Propane prices generate serious concerns

     I have heard from a number of constituents throughout the last several weeks regarding the prices of propane and it is a great concern to all leaders from our local, state and federal levels.

    Propane prices more than tripled this month, skyrocketing from $1.30 per gallon to more than $4.30 during a 10-day span. The soaring propane prices have many concerned as this issue impacts our entire state.

  • The Time Capsule: Supposed ‘death-braid’ returns to SWIA

    The tress of hair is dark brown, almost black, carefully braided into a meticulous chain of links that comprise a circle about four inches in diameter.  A so-called “death braid,” the hair was clipped from the head of a young woman who died in Illinois in the summer of 1835. If one version of the story is true, the “death braid” of Ann Rutledge is now in southwest Iowa.

  • What's Going On: How a little snow can cripple the South and turn us into jerks

    Are we all a bunch of jerks?

    What’s the definition of a jerk? If it’s easier for you to conceptualize, substitute another word for jerk that starts with an A and ends with an E and includes two S’s and an hol in the middle.

  • Miner Queries: Can the House move beyond horsefeathers?

    Last weekend, my husband mentioned the cold weather was making him hungry for duck soup, something we’ve been anticipating since we carved up a duck for Christmas dinner.

    “Now why does that always make me think of the Marx brothers?” I asked. 

    “You know they made a movie with that title,” he said. “It includes the song ‘Whatever it is, I’m Against It.’”

  • The Time Capsule: From a fireman to a typist in the military

     In my mind they are marching still, row after row, rifles slung, helmets low over their eyes, boys that from a distance look like men. Are they four abreast or five?  The guide-on is out front and on the flank is a Drill Sergeant. Lean and straight as a flagpole, his fatigues perfectly tailored and crisply starched, boots well-worn with a spit-shine only time and labor can produce. He is calling cadence.  

  • What's Going On: Morality and legislation: A distant memory?

    Since this nation was first conceived, the framework of it in terms of the constitution, the Bill of Rights and centuries-worth of legislation can trace its collective lineage to either moral or pragmatic reasons.

    Most of our laws, especially today, are passed for pragmatic reasons. It’s not safe to drive recklessly, tax loopholes need closing, environmental regulations enacted.

    Laws passed based on morality though are becoming less and less frequent.

  • Outside the Box: Of snow days past and present

    A few weekends ago, my NFL playoff watching experience was interrupted by an incessant crawl of data streaming across the lower portion of my television screen.

    Schools, I was informed, were already canceling for the following Monday.

    My son’s Christmas vacation would be extended by at least a day.

    With high temperatures expected to barely crack zero and early morning temps to be double-digit below-zero, the school cancelations didn’t come as a surprise.

  • The Time Capsule: Low temperatures and the storm of 1888

     A recent news item tells us this unusually cold winter has been a result of global warming.  The article explains warming has caused masses of heated air to create aberrations, including a distortion of the polar vortex, which has allowed invasions of arctic air to dip far south more often than normal.  

  • What's Going On: Why the rabbits are screaming

    The rabbits are screaming.

    Newspapers get a lot of mass mailings whether of the snail or email variety. Whether it’s from the left or right end of the political spectrum, they share a common thread of fanaticism that doesn’t really resonate with most of the values and shared beliefs found in southwest Iowa, or most of rural America for that matter.

    So when I got my on average bi-weekly email from the unintentionally comically liberal People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), I gave it my cursory subject line review.