Posts tagged with Citizen Journalism Academy

Uncle Sam Needs You

Economic news has become an obsession. I hang on the advice of "experts," while listening for stock market quotes and news of bailout legislation. The stock market continues to fall with only modest rallies. It is too big for me to fully understand or do anything personally. Then I had an idea.Savings bonds. a beginning as "baby bonds" during the depression, they grew up to become the popular war bonds during WWII. Savings bonds gave people with modest incomes the ability to help in the war effort while accumulating a modest savings.What if each individual purchased a savings bond. They are available for as low as $25. How about a reduction in our taxes for the bonds we buy. Series EE are easy to purchase at any financial institution or online. It is something we can do to help our country right now. This is too simple-more than a little naÃive. On the other hand:


You Won’t Believe This Gig

How about traveling the world and writing about it-for pay!Pam Grout has this gig. She is a professional travel writer and author of Kansas Curiosities, the Read Across Lawrence 2008 book.Always on the lookout for writing information, I was excited for the opportunity to hear Ms. Grout speak Tuesday evening at the Lawrence Public Library. In addition, to her award winning column, "Now, Where Was I?" Grout's articles have appeared in Lawrence Journal World's Boomer Girl and many popular magazines including Travel & Leisure, Cooking Light, Midwest Living and Modern Bride. In addition, she has written fourteen books.In her short introduction, she mentions an early love of reading and a journalism degree as her incentive to write. However, her father, who loves to travel and takes time to visit places off the beaten path, is the motivation for her fascinating career as a travel writer. Still she portrays herself as "lucky" when success comes her way. When asked how she broke into the professional writing field, her answer suggests the luck is more the result of hard work.Smartly she lets us demonstrate our interviewing skills by asking the questions. Whether a personal journal, blog or for pay, she offers the following travel writing suggestions. Try to find local residents who are willing to talk about the area and share insider views. The server at the locally owned cafe knows all. When observing and writing, engage senses. The writer is the eyes, nose and hearing of the person reading the article. If the destination smells good, write about it.Find at least three interesting bits of information or descriptions about the place you are visiting. Perhaps not the obvious rather the unusualFinally, take a vocation vacation. Always be on the lookout for a good story when traveling.All too soon, our time is over. Pam Grout has a wonderful career story. She possesses a keen ability to listen and a honest open approach. Perhaps in the end, these traits are her most important advice for a good travel writer. Lawrence Public Library is hosting additional authors and workshops at the library with their Read Across Lawrence 2008 and at their River City Reading Festival 2008 on Saturday 27th, 2008, 10:00 a.m. 4:00 pm. Pick up a brochure at the library check the schedule online or contact Maria Butler, Public Relations Coordinator.


Kansas State Fair 2008

The Kansas State Fair is in full swing this week. Half of Kansas must have been there last Sunday. Well, perhaps a bit of an exaggeration, but many took advantage of a near perfect day to experience a Kansas tradition.No problem finding the fair. Hutchinson makes sure of that. is the fair. A sample of our day will give you a taste of what is available: fried green tomatoes, Pronto Pup, BBQ beef sandwiches, nachos, cotton candy, hot apple dumpling and cherry strudel alamode, a couple of funnel cakes, ice cream cones, malts and root beer. Did I say healthy eating is a part of the fair? Big swings, upside down rides, loud music. The carnival harkens. We put down something like $30 for the Farris wheel, several white water rides, bungee jump and the Mega Loop. A bit expensive but fun stuff for ten and eight year old grandkids.The Cosmosphere, Hutchinson's outstanding space museum, managed to blast off several rockets during their presentation. Good information for elders and children alike. Pride of Kansas Building is home to the biggest pumpkin-all 652.7 pounds of it. While looking at the pumpkin, check out the butter sculpture. A display of noxious weeds of Kansas puts names to plants.During the day we walked past the chainsaw artist, hot tubs, several free music concerts, hot tubs, farm and lawn machinery, hot tubs, a large Army tank for inspection, hot tubs. Wonder how many are soaking in a state fair hot tub right now. The 4-H building houses many hours of work. Photography is a popular project. The cow looked ready to have her calf at the Kansas Veterinarian exhibit. We checked twice, but no baby. Who can blame her with everyone watching?Then there are the exhibitors. It seems they add a new building each year to house the politicians, state agencies, state colleges (yes KU had a big exhibit) and many businesses. We wondered over to the area under the grandstand, just for old time sake. A vacuum cleaner salesman perks up as we approach, but we avoid eye contact and he is too tired to rein us in. Not so the cleaning and cooking innovator sales persons. They had their mojo going. Standing off to the side, it reminded me of a card dealer at the casino. The crowd watches the amazingly quick hands work the product. Then just when you catch the crowd start to slightly move away probably thinking, "I don't need that" extra gadgets are thrown in and the money flows. We didn't sit elbow to elbow with an arm wrestler nor enter the text messaging contest (overall winner gets $1,000), ride the sky ride or purchase a hot, butter-dipped grilled ear of corn. There is always next year.One of the best entertainment bargains in the State, the tickets are $8 adults, $6 seniors, and $4 children over six years old. It runs through September 14th. Plan three hours one way for the trip to Hutchinson. Try to arrive about 10:30 am in order to have a chance to catch all the programs for the day.It never changes. The Kansas State Fair is where tradition and excitement meet.


GPS and the National Park System

Sherlock Holmes and I have something in common. A magnifying glass as a tool to solve mysteries. My mysteries are not literary. Gathering clues from state brochures, welcome center hosts, local residents, friends and of course internet web sites, I then use a magnifying glass on a map. (Does anyone else have trouble seeing a map?) This is my way of solving how to navigate through a state using the best scenic routes. As much as I love electronics, so far no GPS. Recently, I read on one of my favorite blog sites, National Park Traveler, in select national parks for $15 a day, you may rent a GPS gadget that you place on the dash. As you reach a certain location, it will present an interpretative of your surroundings. While this might not be much different than CDs available at many National Parks, Kurt Repanshek feels it has the potential to be much more popular perhaps even to the point of eliminating the give and take of human interaction.Repanshek, a former AP journalist and now freelance writer, writes in a blog post September 27, 2007, "is the relevance of our national parks dangling on the future of where technology takes us?" National Park Rangers are highly trained and knowledgeable about the area they serve. Their presentations are well prepared. Most importantly, they answer questions. The interaction is invaluable. As far as I am concerned, a visit to a National Park, including our National historic fort sites in Kansas, is not complete without a presentation by a ranger followed by questions and answers.Repanshek addressed this subject again several days ago when he posted "Another look at those GPS Rangers in National Parks." He admitted they have proven to be beneficial. Rangers can see where the traffic in the parks is heaviest, directing people to other sites. Many parks are cutting ranger positions and the electronic devices are filling the gap. Importantly, they include tours in American Sign Language. Kurt Repanshek again hints at his feelings when he ends his most recent post with, "Is this a good move for the National Park System?" Granted, it appears the interpretative GPS unit is a beneficial tool. On the other hand, I want to listen to a real person who has answers to my questions and stories to tell. I think it would be a mistake for the National Park Service to allow GPS gadgets to replace our National Park Rangers.I think Sherlock would agree, is always good ask questions to better magnify a mystery.


A Fishing Story

It's not like I've never fished before. As a kid, I remember fishing with a cane pole, bobber and worm for bullheads in Clarks Creek, later running lines all night for channel cat at Reading Lake, catching walleye below the dam at Perry and trolling for white bass at Milford Lake. Heck, we even spent a week fishing for walleye at Canada's Cedar Lake several years ago. Of course, there is Clinton Lake and the farm pond.Until last week, I have never fished for trout.We are camped in Routt National Forest west of Ft Collins, Colorado. The talk at the bait shop in Gould is people are catching trout on worms, salmon eggs and power bait below the dam at North Michigan Reservoir located in nearby Colorado State Forest. Three friends from our party and I are on the road at 6:00 am the next morning excited about the possibility of catching our breakfast. I am dressed in a winter coat against the 35 degree morning. As we approach the lake, to our dismay, a car is there. Did someone beat us to the spot? We peer over the dam to see the young family who told us where to fish the night before. We begin the steep descent to the area below the dam. The adults already there are accomplished fly anglers, beautifully arching their lines to settle the bait wherever they want it. We have rod and reels. The couple assures us they will share the limited space around the pool. My friends get their hook baited and in the water. I am struggling to get the hook tied with my cold fingers. Finally, we are all "in." My friends each catch a fish. I am hung up.Hook retied and baited, I am back in business. I feel the hit, jerk to set the hook and the trout flies out of the stream and lands behind me. Excited about the fish, but embarrassed about my performance, I hurriedly put the fish on a stringer. The young couple quietly asks their son to move closer to them.Everyone is catching fish. I feel another hit. Excitement takes over and I yank-too hard again. The fish escapes. The hook catches on the side of my jeans. Nothing to do but cut the line and leave the hook hoping no one notices. I tie on another hook and move to a different location away from everyone. I finally catch another fish. We soon leave as everyone except me has caught their limit. We return two more mornings and catch our limit each time. I improve. When asked about the fishhook in my jeans later that first morning, I said I put it there so it wouldn't get lost. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.


Barn Swallow Cafe

Click on picture to enlarge view.


Landon Center on Aging Offers Continuing Education

Theo and Alfred M Landon, names often associated with Kansas State University, also contributed to Kansas University. Research at the Landon Center on Aging located north of the KU Medical Center complex in Kansas City focuses on major issues for the aging population including stroke recovery, Parkinson's Disease and Alzheimer's. Recently, I attended a class offered at the Landon Center. Maril Crabtree, a published author and presenter spoke about Flow Writing. I cannot pass an opportunity to learn something new about writing. Arriving early allows time to study "This Motherless Child" series of eight drawings by Elizabeth "Grandma" Layton on display. I say, "study" because one cannot just look at these drawings. Elizabeth Layton describes the Motherless Child as a "frail, elderly person, who, like a very young child, has become dependent on someone else, yet still has dignity and independence of spirit." Perhaps because of experiences with my family, I find her drawings reassuring. She uniquely captures the elders determination of character in a care facility with drawings and explanations. As the tables fill, I feel apprehensive. All women and one man sit with pen in hand. They are mostly retired. Were they previously English teachers, newspaper editors? Listening to conversations, I learned there are several poets. Thankfully, no credentials checked and in fact, laughter all around and I feel at ease. We are ready to write."Flow Writing is a way to find out what's going on inside. It's an act of discovery" explains Ms. Crabtree. To accomplish this, she tells us to keep our hand moving, try not to think too hard or control our thoughts. Lose our critical editor. Be specific. See a mind picture and write it. Don't worry if it doesn't make sense.The hour and half flies by. We write three essays, read them aloud, feel emotions of humor and sadness in the compositions while learning something about ourselves. I know these people a short time, but feel they are old friends.There is a final Flow Writing Class this summer on August 12, 2008, from 1:00 to 2:30. Attendance at previous classes is not a prerequisite. In addition, September 23rd will be another writing class entitled "Thanks for the Memories" all taught by Maril Crabtree.Our last assignment was to write two minutes about an object from our past that is dear to us. Try it. Get a piece of paper or sit at the computer and let the words flow.


Blog Roll

As you web loggers out there know, I am not talking about bread or a new location of body fat.A blog roll is a list of linked blog names placed somewhere on a personal site. They are there because they are preferred daily reading or the site administrator feels they are worthy of recommendation.I thought it might be fun to share my roll with you. Before I do, I would like to encourage others to consider beginning a personal web site. There are free hosts available including Lawrence Journal World's site and Google's Blogger. With personal letter writing taking the back seat to deposable email, a blog or journal is one way to document life. It does not have to be public; most sites have a private setting. Or, start private and as you develop confidence, make it public. I have not listed any of the Lawrence Journal World's bloggers. It's a given I read those. Perhaps these sites will give you additional ideas.Erie's Argonaut Located in Erie, Pennsylvania. Linda posts pictures and videos of wildlife in her area.Flint Hills of Kansas Dr. William Smith is a professor at Emporia State University. If there is something happening in the Flint Hills, Dr. Bill has it on his site.Kansas Prairie Blog Peg is from Ellsworth, Kansas. She recently celebrated her 80th birthday and writes beautifully. My day is not complete unless I check in on Peg.Lawrence Community News An independent site by Dave. He has an excellent roundup of area news.Life as I Live It Obviously this over the road trucker and middle aged man likes to write and I enjoy his keen observations about life.Ontario Wanderer Beautiful pictures, talented artist from Ontario, Canada. Unknown to me when I first started reading, the writer graduated high school only a couple years before my husband and they ran track together. Small world!Prairie Point Located in northern Texas. A nice read.Pure Florida High school science teacher in Florida. Witty and good eye with the cameraRound Rock Journal Located in Kansas City but writes about his property in Missouri.Rurality Located in Alabama. Well written. Beautiful camera work and attention to detail. Excellently done.The Anchored Nomad I've read this young woman's work for years. She is funny, honest and, in my opinion, the best writer on my roll.The Boomer Chronicles I have recently been interested in elder bloggers, although Rhea hardly qualifies. This site has a lot of good information and her short concise way of posting is an easy read.Times Goes By Another elder blogger. This nationally recognized writer obviously puts time and research into her posts. A regular reader will certainly learn about elder issues.Finally, How Not To Act Old This is a relatively new find. So far, the writer makes me laugh each time I visit. Very well done.


Need water? Get a Witcher

Witching for water may seem a bit outdated in an age of technical instruments hooked to computers. Possibly some of you reading this would say it is down right ridiculous.Ridiculous or not, I believe. And, my late uncle had the gift.In an article entitled Ancient art of water witching survives the centuries, M.L. Lyke reports the earliest records of water witching are 6,000 to 8,000 year-old cave paintings in Africa. Then, as now, a water witcher or Dowser is primary used to find underground water for wells, although some say they are able to find graves. Practitioners use metal rods, wire coat hangers, or pliers. Others require a certain type of tree such as apple or peach. Holding the instrument of choice with both hands, water is located when the tip pulls either down or up. Dowsers have different thoughts on who actually has the gift. The American Society of Dowsers maintains everyone is born with the gift while others will say only one in a thousand can do it.There is much controversy surrounding the practice. Geologists almost unanimously condemn it. Lyke says "many modern-day critics call dowsing a superstitious relic." Although there are many people who do not believe, dowsing remains very much alive. Why? Because what is there to lose. When it costs $20,000 or more to dig a well, why not?Witching for a well was a common practice in the rural area where I grew up. I remember well the day my uncle came over with his peach stick when Dad decided to dig a new well. Gripping the Y shaped branch with a sort of backward grip, he walked back and forth over the area. Sure enough, the stick pulled down hard in one certain area. He kept walking around, always going back to the same spot. The well is there to this day.Years later, we were visiting with my uncle. When asked how it works, he said he did not know. We pressed for a demonstration. No peach branch was available but he thought pliers from the shop would do. Although he had a very tight grip, we could hear the rubbing on his hands as they pulled down while walking around the kitchen. He said the pliers were reacting to the water lines in the house. That sounded crazy so I held on to the pliers over his hands and, sure enough, I also experienced the pull. I discussed Uncle Lawrence's witching gift with his son not long ago. He agreed his dad had this ability. He saw him use it many times. When asked if he too could witch, he said, "Hell no." What ever one might believe on this subject, perhaps this quote from an article entitled Dowsing, Science or Humbug says it all"Simple truths about nature can't choose to hide from the skeptical minds and be seen by the gullible at the same time."


Diamonds in the Grass

Is it diamonds in the grass? Yes, only it's dew drops at sunrise. Sparkling prairie and occasional wildflowers seem undisturbed the morning after. I peek out of our modern covered wagon, see empty tents, gently waving flags and remember.Symphony in the Flint Hills greeted 6,000 visitors with a miracle of sunshine and a gentle breeze on Saturday, June 14, 2008, at the Lakeview Ranch south of Council Grove. Horseback riders ever willing to visit and tell about their horse and life on the prairie greeted us on the walk to the concert site. As we arrive, we are surprised to see Bruce and Susie Taylor, lifetime Chapman area residents. They are enjoying a day away from the traumatic past few days at home. Although they personally did not have damage, members of their family did. It was good for them to talk and us to listen.We still have time for three seminars before our volunteer duties. Luther Pepper, a member of the Kaw Nation, tells stories of the early Kaw/Kanza Indian presence in the Flint Hills. Kansa means "south wind people." The men hunted and the females cultivated, harvested and stored. They called the prairie their home from the 1600s until 1854 when they were moved south to Indian Territory now Oklahoma.Leo Oliva is a long time expert on the Santa Fe Trail. On September of 1821, William Bicknell and four other people set out from Franklin Missouri with goods to sell at Santa Fe. They make a 2,000% profit and thus the beginning of the well-known commerce trail established centuries earlier by prehistoric Indians.Seminars in the Butterfly Milkweed Tent feature families who have deep roots in the Flint Hills. Their love of the land, cattle and open spaces is obvious. Modern ranching is computerized and complicated. I did not hear one panel member say they wished to do anything else.We eat a traditional picnic dinner of barbecued beef and pork and all the fixings. Many others tote in picnics and eat on blankets spread on the hillside. The concert is beautiful. The vastness of the open prairie provides the perfect backdrop for a symphony, which at its loudest speaks to thunder and softest the song of Bob White Quail and Meadowlark. After intermission, we notice wranglers slowly herding cattle over a knoll. Horses and riders hold them in place as the music continues. Then, as Overture to The Cowboy (1980) by John Williams begins, they herd the cattle over the slope and through a break in the hill behind the orchestra. The cowboy music with the visual makes me tearful.As if on cue by the conductor of the Kansas City Symphony, Damon Gupton, the sun slowly slips down over the hills at the last note of the concert. Most packed blankets and chairs and headed home. We opted to watch the stillness set in over the prairie then headed for the star gazing area to look at an almost full moon and stars. I was able to see Saturn's rings, a thrill. Earlier in the day, Peg Jenkins, a Flint Hills rancher, eloquently told her thoughts about living her entire life in the prairie. "There is sacredness in the grasslands. You can see God. When I was a girl, I dreamed I would ride to the top of every hill to see what was on the other side. I have never had any desire to do anything else" Thank you, Peg, for sharing your prairie:and its diamonds.

Symphony in the Flint Hills 2008
Click on photo for slide show.