July 12, 2014 – Getaway Day 2

We absolutely lucked out and got a great campsite at Split Rock State Park.  We happened to walk in just after a cancellation came in for one of the sites that you use a cart to haul all your stuff in, far away from other sites.

The dining room was ok.

But the view from the living room was spectacular, overlooking the lake and the lighthouse.

We headed down the hill to explore the lakeshore.

I’ve got the whole lighthouse in my hand…

This is a rather unfortunate composition of me against the lighthouse – Minnesota’s most photographed place, perhaps has never quite had this vantage point.

It was a wonderful night with the moonrise.  Can’t decide if the close-up, middle, or wide angle views are my favorite, so all follow.


January 18, 2014 – A Night on the Town

The Maintence Shop on the Iowa State Campus has brought the best upcoming acts for 40 years. Last night we saw the latest in a series of great shows in the small intimate setting. This time, it was the Lone Bellow.

Mark and Linda before the show.

We “double dated” with Emma and Jacob.

The Lone Bellow was a rare group that could alternately get the crowd amped up and vice-versa, could command complete silence, depending on the song. In the second song of the evening, the lead singer broke a guitar string and relayed a story he hoped not to share. At a show in Chicago last night, his guitar was ripped off. Now a guitar is a pretty initmate thing to a musician. He was playing his spare guitar, and now was down to 5 strings. Of course, the opening artist hopped up and offered his acoustic guitar – and he used it and a few songs later the roadie had restrung his guitar.

Instead of being angry, he said, he had to think that the guitar was going to lead to some great song that comes from the person who stole it. A nice, optimistic spin on the heartbreaking loss. At any rate, a video of the band follows.

September 22, 2013 – Fillin’ the Freezer

Emma played the good daughter when she said she’d come home from school Sunday afternoon to help us move 40-some chickens from outside to the freezer.  It certainly kept the line moving much faster than it otherwise would have.  Linda and Emma cut up all but about 10 of them for parts for quicker meals than a whole roasting chicken, but we left a few to roast or BBQ whole.

The plucker does an amazing job of taking the feathers off.  A just-plucked chicken must be the model for a rubber chicken!

It’s nice to know where the chicken we eat comes from and have a year’s worth of chicken in the freezer.  Especially now that the U.S. made it ok to sell chicken processed in China in the U.S. without having to reveal county-of-origin labeling laws.

August 19, 2013 – First Day of School (almost)

I dropped Emma off at Iowa State today.

Even though school doesn’t start until next Monday, there are things to attend to, like setting up the room, getting books in order, trying out for Marching Band, and going through orientation.

She’s staying in Martin Hall (easy for little brother to remember).  She’s got everything she needs, her purse and a box chock full of peaches!  Let the adventure begin!

July 14, 2013 – Checking up on the Girls

By chance, we stayed within a few miles of our daughters’ summer workplace.  In fact, we could see the wind turbine at their camp from the balcony of our room!

The girls at Wolf Ridge looking inland (the opposite view looks over Lake Superior).

Self-portrait family shot.

Le Voyageur room at Wolf Ridge.

The small indoor climbing tower. I still think it’s great the girls wanted to work together this summer.

Here’s a view of our B&B cabin from the river. I’m standing on a rock island in the river and wasn’t quite high enough to see all the water over the rocks.

Linda and the “morning pages.”

One of the magical pools below the Inn.

Although we didn’t get a chance to use it, there was a fanciful wood-fired sauna! As if Dr. Suess wasn’t Finnish!

May 28, 2013 – Emma at Accelerated Freefall Iowa!

For a graduation present, we thought it would be good to throw Emma out of an airplane a couple of miles above the earth! Cynics among you may view this as a way to avoid paying for college, but the guide she tandemed with is a colleague of Linda’s, so we knew he would treat his precious cargo appropriately.

Getting ready.  A purple jump suit is perfect!

Gaining altitude.

The moment of truth!

Head first out of the plane.  I wonder if it feels like birth is like?

Upside down, looking up for a while.

Freefall with the storms moved off to the east.




I can fly! Flap harder!

Getting closer you can see all the ponding in the farm fields.

Chute deploys.

Back to terra firma, almost.


Back to the soggy ground at the Boone airport.

May 25, 2013 – High School is Over!

Graduation 2013.  And Emma couldn’t have had any more symbols behind her name!

The one that’s most indicative of Emma is the one designating “Silver Cord” recipients, for those students with more than 100 hours of community service per year of high school.

Emma was also selected as a commencement speaker. Since the school is about half minority students (yes, in the middle of Iowa there is a school where there is such diversity), she presented a speech with a Hispanic friend.

Emma being a boss at the podium.

The ceremony was one most will not forget.  During the ceremony, which included a storm that pushed the local river to a record flood level, the sound of the civil defense sirens filled the gym.  As the principal was giving instructions to seek shelter from the storm, the policeman on duty alerted him that the sirens were for a flood warning, not a tornado, so the ceremony continued until… the power went out. And about 15 minutes later the lights came back on.

By the time the ceremony finally ended, the storm had passed and we could gather for a photo.

May 16, 2013 – Emma Competes at State Track Meet

Emma’s 4×800 team qualified for the state track meet.

Here’s the team overlooking the famed “blue oval” at Drake University, home of the Drake Relays and the 2013 NCAA Track and Field Championships. Now she can say she’s run on the same track as Bruce Jenner, Michael Johnson, Carl Lewis, Jesse Owens, Wilma Rudolph, Frank Shorter, and Gwen Torrence!

Emma ran a PB (personal best) for her leg of the relay, a great way to go out of her high school career.

April 15, 2013 – Emma State Champion – Check!

Emma said one of her goals in high school was to be on a state championship team.  Today, her team won the Iowa Envirothon championship.  The photo and story below are from a press release from the school.  Emma’s contribution was to envision a rotational grazing plan for 186 acres of pasture.

Marshalltown High School is once again the state Envirothon champion.

MHS Team 1, comprised of juniors Abby Snyder, Adam Willman and Ilene Finn and seniors Joe Metzger and Emma Runquist placed first at the state contest Monday, April 15, at Springbrook State Park in Guthrie Center. The team placed first in Wildife and Oral Presentation categories, placing overall ahead of Des Moines FFA by 3.75 points.

The title earns them a trip to the North American championship this summer in Bozeman, Montana.

Sixteen teams competed at the state competition, and about 60 teams competed at statewide regional competitions. The contest consisted of four outdoor stations covering forestry, wildlife, soils, and aquatics as well as a 15-minute oral presentation on this year’s current issue of range-land management.


March 1, 2013 – Visiting Gustavus Adolphus and Luther College

It’s been a busy couple of weekends wrapping up Emma’s college selection activities. Last weekend is was off to Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, and this week at Gustavus Adolphus college in St. Peter Minnesota. It is hard not to compare the events since they were so close together in time.

Emma will not make her decision (and it is her decision), until she gets the final aid offers from the schools still on her list – Iowa State, Luther, Gustavus, and St. Olaf. Since she has a strong interest in science and music, it seemed like Lutheran schools on hills fit the bill!

For full disclosure, I have many reasons for liking her decision whatever it may be.
Iowa State – Both Linda and I are alums, Linda with her Ph.D. and me with my M.A.

St. Olaf – Of all the schools we visited, I’m most impressed with the visit experience and facilities.

Luther – All of our kids (Martin this year) have spent numerous weeks at the summer music camp there and the trout streams are a bonus!

Gustavus – Important folks from my younger days, including Marianne K, whose house I lived in during college, and Annette Boman, outstanding friend, scientist, and mother who was taken from us much too early were Gusties, decades apart.

The visit to Luther exceeded my expectations.  Emma was invited there for “Scholar Days” to interview for the school’s “Imagine Fellowship.”  The day did a great job of “showing” us the school rather than “telling” us about it.  The day of the usual sessions was interspersed with heartwarming musical performances by the students.  Emma was able to visit the cadaver lab and attend a session on the physiology of running, while I went to a more traditional session on study abroad and a presentation in the planetarium by a physics instructor.  Students and faculty were front and center throughout the day, and perhaps the most brilliant stroke was our discovery that at the assigned seats for lunch, all the prospective students at our table were all high school XC runners AND thinking about pre-health professions.  Wow, everybody here is just like me!

At Gustavus, Emma was interviewing for the highest academic scholarship.  It was a more traditional visit day, with more “telling” than “showing” with perhaps the lowlight of the visit a talk by the college President, Jack Ohle.  Part of his remarks included telling us about the Gustavus “brand” along with the focus groups and process that went into creating the “brand.”  Suddenly, I felt like I had been reduced to a pawn in an advertising contest.  Like that of a carbonated beverage or political campaign, the message was finely crafted to be what I wanted to hear, at least until the current brand doesn’t work and it is “re-branded.”  Be that as it may, the school is also full of dedicated staff and faculty along with engaging students (in my eyes much more important to care and nurture those important elements, rather than “branding.”). One of the highlights for Emma was when I dragged her to a table with a couple of staff members from a session I had attended and we had an engaging conversation about current social justice issues.

Now Emma waits by the mailbox for the rest of her information to make her decision.  She’s eager to know what next year brings to her!