So this past week the missus and I set off (with the in-laws) for the Black Hills and Devils Tower. We took two days to get out there, stopping the first night in Mitchell, SD, home of the Mitchell Corn Palace (as well as the home of George McGovern). Long-time readers will know that I’ve done a musical “portrait,” albeit tongue-in-cheek, of the Corn Palace as part of my work Next Exit. The building is actually quite fascinating.

Very direct - tells you exactly what it is upfront.
Very direct – tells you exactly what it is upfront.
Go to their website and read about the artworks.

From there (after a brief stop at the tourist trap known as Wall Drug), it was out to a cabin at the Powder House Lodge in Keystone, SD. If you ever need a place to stay in the Black Hills, I highly recommend this place. This was the view from our cabin:

In two days, I spent more time on this porch than on my own front porch the first 17 years of my life.
In two days, I spent more time on this porch than on my own front porch the first 17 years of my life.

I haven’t been this relaxed in ages.

The first full day in the Black Hills meant monuments. We went first to Mount Rushmore, and I cannot overstate the power and majesty of this sculpture. The attached picture does not do it justice. (I chose this picture so you could get a sense of the scale of the thing.)

And I for one welcome our new giant stone president overlords.
And I for one welcome our new giant stone president overlords.

I also recommend having some of Thomas Jefferson’s ice cream (made from his recipe, the first ice cream recipe in the US) at the café. Very creamy, very sweet, not at all what you’d expect.

I wanted to order it "Hemings style," which meant adding a nice caramel sauce that no one would ever mention again.
I wanted to order it “Hemings style,” which meant adding a nice caramel sauce that no one would ever mention again.

From there, it was off to the Crazy Horse Memorial. I have a larger post on that one; for now, here’s a picture.

Crazy sculptor, too.
Crazy sculptor, too.

Day two meant checking off states 40 and 41, as we went to Devils Tower in Wyoming and then clipped the far southeastern corner of Montana. I had seen this movie many times, of course, but I was caught off-guard by the beauty of the real deal. See for yourself.

G5-A5-F5-F4-C5 (fermata).
G5-A5-F5-F4-C5 (fermata).

Of course, no trip to Devils Tower is complete without mentioning the Prairie Dog Town.

World's largest game of Whack-a-Mole, really.
World’s largest game of Whack-a-Mole, really.

After one more night in that heavenly cabin, we set out for home via the Badlands. The panoramic photo below gives you a sense – just barely – of this area, so famous in western American history.

That first step's a doozy.
That first step’s a doozy.

The closest I ever got to the rim was about 6 – 8 inches; at that point, I had to pull myself back. It’s a long way down.

This little excursion came at the best possible time. We are back home now, and my life has returned to composing, working on this book chapter, and planning next semester’s courses. I am refreshed and excited about what the future holds again.


This is an older article, but it was recently brought to my attention.

As L.S.S.I. Takes Over Libraries, Patrons Can’t Keep Quiet

Where does it end? Must every aspect of the commons be sliced up, sold off, and turned into a profit-making enterprise? (I suppose if Bain Capital SuperCuts Mitt Romney becomes President – *shudder* – that just might happen.)

Yes, I’m angry. My beloved Jawa Girl is getting her MLIS degree, and I shudder to think that her chosen field is being turned into Just Another Corporate Wasteland by the forces of privatization at L.S.S.I. and elsewhere. We’ve been fighting (and arguably losing) this battle in academia, and I don’t want libraries to fall victim to the scourge of Capitalism Über Alles as well.


No malaise here!

Yep, that’s me and Jawa Girl with President and Mrs. Carter. They still live in Plains, GA (pop. 675 or thereabouts) and we went down to hear him speak this weekend.

The mug I am holding was a gift from my beloved late Aunt Ginny, who was for many years the only other Democrat in the family (for all I know, that has not changed). It has a picture of President Carter on it.

Also, it seemed appropriate to wear a sweater when meeting the man.


(1) The Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal should be one more nail in the coffin of high-stakes standardized testing, but it won’t be. I have seen everything from teachers’ unions* to desegregation** to parents blamed for the decline in American public education, but I still lay most of the blame at the feet of the Testing Über Alles mindset.

(2) I had the opportunity to audition for a Big Name Game Show! this week, so I drove up to Lexington, KY and used the opportunity to see some old friends and visit my Alma Mater. What a good trip! If you’re my friend on Facebook, you’ve probably seen the pictures. I may post some on here later. Thanks to Tom Musgrave and his lovely wife Julia for the room and board on Wednesday night.

(3) For unrelated reasons, I spent most of the week of July 4 up in Indiana visiting family. That was most relaxing as well, and the visit inspired Jawa Girl to come up with a new band name – Acidic Lard Water. (That’s why I married her, kids.)

*even though states with teachers’ unions invariably have stronger education systems and higher graduation rates – and yes, higher test scores – than nonunionized states.

**I actually can make this argument, but from the other side; when the schools were desegregated, many school districts here in the South intentionally let their public schools fall apart while the white kids were all whisked away to “private academies.” Anyone who says racism is dead need only read the comments to any blog post in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.