Series: What Makes the Muskrat Guard His Musk?


a01
The 2017 Fall Faculty Series at Mount Mercy will be interesting for several reasons.

One is that it’s the first series that I won’t coordinate. That role is being taken over by Dr. Joy Ochs, current faculty chair. She’s already setting up planning meetings.

a12

Inscription near Rohde Family Plaza. Mercy words.

Another is that it has a theme that could lend itself to many interesting directions. The theme is “courageous compassion.”

It takes some guts to go where mercy is needed, I think. In troubled times, the courage to care is an important human attribute.

So, I’ll enjoy watching this series. Joy already claims I still have to attend all the events—something about covering the series with Facebook photos and my blog. I’ll do my best—in any case, it still won’t be as time consuming as series that I did coordinate.

I feel pretty good about passing on this baton. For one thing, I think it’s healthy for MMU’s faculty to have someone else lead this effort. It makes it less one man’s crazy idea and more of an institutional thing, a tradition that “we” do.

For another, I have lots of faith in Dr. Ochs. She’s going to push to make this an interesting, compelling, series. I’m excited to see what she and other faculty members come up with.

Leave a comment

Filed under Mount Mercy

#ICMA 2017—Things I Think I Learned


icma-1

Kevin Kush, head football coach at Boys Town and author of “A Pieces of the Puzzle: Eight Traits of a Quality Teammate” speaks at the INA and ICMA conventions in Des Moines.

On Monday, IowaWatch.org is scheduled to publish a story that says, basically, college newspapers are changing all over the state—some college news media have abandoned print altogether and gone exclusively online, while those that still produce newspapers are printing fewer pages or issues as their core audience rejects print.

So it was interesting to me, in an afternoon panel Feb. 3 on “How Do Campus News Organizations Remain Relevant?” to hear a student at Buena Vista University and panelist among leading journalists from many Iowa campus, report this news from BVU: Print will be back.

For a university had led the way several years ago in shifting from a physical newspaper to strictly a virtual news source on-line, an upcoming special print edition is a big deal. Maybe it makes BVU’s college new media more tangible, real.

But, to me, the theme of Friday at the Iowa College Media Association (ICMA) convention was the inevitable media shift to mobile, instantly accessible journalism.

icma3

Zack Kucharski, executive editor of The Gazette, moderates an ICMA panel.

One afternoon panel of college journalists was moderated by Zach Zucharski, executive editor of The Gazette. He had, for me, the quote of the day on media innovation:

“We have an opportunity, every day, to do it better,” he said. Then he said something like: Even if it didn’t work today, we still have tomorrow. I can’t put that second sentence in quotation marks, honestly, because my notes get too spidery at that point.

The second day of the ICMA conference on Friday began with a shouted inspirational speech by a football coach. To be honest, I wasn’t looking forward to it—the Iowa Newspaper Association had brought in a football player last year as its morning speaker, and although his presentation was so compelling that I purchased his book right afterwards, I just wasn’t thinking before Friday’s speech that what my life needs is more wisdom from football.

But, despite his very coachish delivery style, Kevin Kush, the football coach at Boys Town in Omaha, Nebraska, turned out to be a very good speaker. His advice on how to be “A Piece of the Puzzle” was pretty straightforward and familiar—points like “a piece of the puzzle believes in the team concept,” or “a piece of the puzzle adapts to change.” Yet, the anecdotes and personal humor he used as illustrations made the advice more powerful than I expected.

Although it was number three on his list, he said his main point was “a piece of the puzzle respects everyone.”

Well, as journalism tries to puzzle together a changing media environment, remembering both respect and adaptability are important to us, too. And yes, once again, a football person talked me into purchasing his book.

icma-2

Kevin Kush sells a book to MMU student Capria Davis.

Also on Friday, I attended a presentation by Kelli Brown of The Des Moines Register. She showed many examples of new news storytelling platforms, including interactive videos that let the viewer stitch together a story. To be honest, some of what she showed seemed to me to fit into the blurring of news and entertainment that is not a positive trend in our society, but I still appreciated the peek at up-and-coming storytelling tools.

And I’m going to email her to get a copy of her slide deck so I can check out those tools and some 360 cameras.

One points she made stood out to me—these days, a large majority of the Register’s online audience accesses the newspaper through mobile devices. If you’re producing content for the web, you have to take into account that most of your consumers will be looking at it via a tiny smartphone screen.

ICMA 2017 was an intersting conference. Thank you, INA, for again hosting us. Here is a link to my Facebook gallery of day 2.

And watch for that IowaWatch.org story Monday!

Leave a comment

Filed under Journalism, Mount Mercy

#ICMA2017: And Connor Does It Again


a01

Connor Mahan, who repeated as winner of best news photograph in the annual ICMA contest. He is, I assume, texting his family the good news.

Kudos to Connor Mahan, Brooke Woolley and Madison Coates. The MMU students won first-place awards in various categories of the Iowa better newspaper contest announced Feb. 2 at the Iowa College Media Association Convention in Des Moines.

It was interesting that, of the four first-place awards going to the MMU Times, the three that were won by Connor and Brooke all were related to the flood of 2016. Connor was a repeat winner in one category—last year, his photograph of a young boy at the replica of the Vietnam Wall at MMU won best news photograph of the year, and he did it again this year with an image of Father Tony Adawu and an MMU student sandbagging during the September flood.

issue2-front

Winning page, with winning photo and story.

Both Connor and Brooke shared the first-place award for best news story of the year for their jointly written coverage of that flood. And Brooke got best front page for the edition of the Mount Mercy Times reporting on the flood.

In addition, Madison Coates’ staff editorial last school year defending journalism won first place for best editorial leadership.

I had hoped to write several posts about ICMA today—there was a lot of think about from day 1. But, it’s getting late and I’m tired.

So here are just a few notes. Victoria Lim, who does PR for Brandman University, but who until recently was a multimedia PR storyteller for Disney and a multimedia journalist before that, was an excellent ICMA keynote speaker.

I thought her “zoo” idea to demonstrate storytelling was very good. And she made a key point to students, one I’ve often stated, but it’s good to hear someone else make. She asked the students what is the most important skill needed to be a multimedia storyteller. They listed attributes such as imagination and creativity, which she conceded were important.

But to her, the number-one skill is what I tell all communication students their number-one skill has to be: Writing.

“If you can write, you can do content, stories, whatever you call it, on any platform,” Lim noted.

Anyway, here is a list of the awards won by the MMU Times this year:

  • First place, best news photograph, Connor Mahan.
  • First place, best news story, Connor Mahan and Brooke Woolley.
  • First place, best page 1, Brooke Woolley.
  • First place, best opinion/editorial leadership, Madison Coates.
  • Third place, best profile story, Todd Cross.
  • Third place, best headline writing, Bianca Kesselring.
  • Honorable mention, best opinion writing, Billie Barker.
  • Honorable mention, best sports photograph, Sam Techau.

    Job well done, students. More images. And now I’m going to bed.

a02

MMU students Capria Davis, Connor Mahan, Brooke Woolley and Anna Bohr with prizes won by the MMU Times at the ICMA convention in Des Moines.

Leave a comment

Filed under Journalism, Mount Mercy

I’ll Admit I Was Distracted By Their Shoes


a01

Mary Vermillion, professor of English at Mount Mercy University, speaks at the Writers Resist event at Coe College.

I attended an interesting event Jan. 15 at Coe College. It was “Writers Resist,” part of a national movement. The day before Martin Luther King Day, writers gathered to “defend the ideas of a free, just and compassionate democratic society.”

Donald Trump was never mentioned by name, but he was sort of the patron nemesis of the event.

The first writer to speak was Mary Vermillion, one of my faculty colleagues at Mount Mercy University. She read a poem she recently wrote, and then a prose piece that described her coming out in the early 1990s.

One powerful part of Mary’s prose piece, I thought, was the connection she had with her father, who shared some of his Korean War experience to her as a way of trying to be authentic with who he is, just as his daughter was being honest about who she is.

I didn’t take notes during the writers’ readings, but I did feel like I was among kindred spirits. They read some Whitman, some contemporary poetry, some original works of both prose and poetry. One Coe student sang a song she had written the day before.

One reaction I had to the event was a sense of hope. Even as the culture cools to change, these people aren’t going anywhere. They are steadfast in standing up for expression and honesty and tolerance.

And they wore an interesting variety of shoes, too.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

You can see more of my images here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Mount Mercy, Writing

Of Birds and That Darn Tree Rodent


b01

The feeder, put back together, filled with seed and hung. soon, I suppose, to be found by tree rats …

Over time, I’ve come to dislike squirrels. Not really hate them. But mildly dislike them.

Sure, they are cute. But they are basically tree rats, and they act the part. They dig in the garden with their nasty rat paws and eat the bulbs I plant for sprint flowers, for example. Granted, their digging is pretty minor—I would much rather watch a dozen squirrels in the backyard than see one rabbits.

Rabbits are evil.

Still, squirrels are like little raccoons. They are agile, aggressive and have little nasty hands that they can use, along with their rodent teeth, to wreak havoc.

Oh well. I do admit that I enjoy watching “chippy” enough that most of the time I’m willing to leave the tree rats unmolested. Besides, they are a good food source for owls, hawks and eagles.

But I wish they would leave my bird feeders alone.

Yes, I know, they are hungry wild things, too, and there are no property rights in the backyard. Whatever animal gets there first gets the food. But birds, messy as they get, just eat the seeds.

Squirrels disassemble.

Case in point—the current bird feeders I use. I’ve experimented over the years with several different kinds. Plastic ones are a thing of the past, as rodent dentation beats dead dinosaur compounds. (Is there some new version of paper-scissors-rock there? Plastic, squirrel teeth—what?). I have wasted my earthly treasures on fancy metal “squirrel proof” feeders with spring-loaded features that are supposed to allow small dinosaurs in while denying entry to arboreal mammals.

The squirrels don’t care about the springs and pried the lids off of those feeders.

So now I have two feeders. Neither is “squirrel proof” in the sense that tree rats can’t eat from them, but both are of durable metal construction and at least aren’t chewed up by those rodents.

Then, some big, tough mamma squirrel appeared this winter. I don’t know for sure if she is “she,” she just looks like a mean mama to me. She’s large, she’s mostly indifferent to naked apes and she is amazingly dexterous.

Late in December 2016, I found some parts of my red metal feeder, one of two seed feeders I use along with two suet feeder “cages” that I have to wire shut, on the ground. The pieces of that feeder are held together by basically a big wing nut that holds the metal hoop by which I hang the feeder.

Someone or something had unscrewed that lid and emptied the feeder—plus it (or she, as I think of her—am I feeling a bit oppressed as the only boy in a family of seven?) had unscrewed and disposed of or lost the top of the feeder.

I didn’t have a lot of time to devote to searching for that smaller piece In fact, I shouldn’t be writing this blog post right now, as I have work to do. But I looked for that top every time I filled the other feeder.

b02

b03

Birds. I waited in the lower yard for about three minutes on Sunday, and this crowd quickly showed up. This is my other seed feeder, which has not been taken apart.

Then, just by accident this weekend, I found the missing feeder top in the yard. The good news is that the metal construction of the feeder proved durable. While completely taken apart by, I presume, a vandal tree she Hun (there, I’ve accused her of being a simultaneous member of two different barbarian tribes—I like her that much), the parts of the feeder were fine.

I filled it again with seed. And I screwed the lid on extra tight this time. It may take her a few days to undo my work.

But she probably will.

Leave a comment

Filed under Garden

I Was Asked For A Ho Ho


santa-and-mrs-claus

Santa, students and Mrs. Claus at MMU.

It was Christmas Eve, in the morning, and I was at the gym. A janitor who chats with me now and then came up and said, “can you say ho, ho, ho?”

Well, I have, now and then. I was a mall Santa when I was in graduate school, and had minor Santa gigs this Christmas season at Mount Mercy University.

I hope your Christmas was fine. Mine was good. I’m still munching on the plethora of chocolates available due to that day (who knew the birth of a poor Palestinian refugee 20 centuries ago would be so good for candy sales?). I got and gave several nice gifts—my wife decided it was the year of the gnome for me, and I am quite fond of both the gnome coffee mug she found, and the figurine of a T Rex devouring gnomes that will no doubt grace either my office or my gardens.

For her, I mostly gave gifts related to a new three-season room we added to the house—pictures to hang there, a clock and a radio. We’ve got to have some NPR and KMRY in that room.

Christmas Day itself was a bit odd due to weather—we don’t often have thunderstorms on Christmas Day. Note to our new president: The Chinese did not invent global warming. Trust me on that, please.

christmascat

Granddaughter in Christmas cat mask.

Anyway, besides the odd rainstorm, it was a great day. There were enough grandchildren running around to cause a constant Christmas cacophony, which is the way it should be. We got to Skype with the daughter and grandchildren in England, and my wife chatted with our California son. Turkey was cooked and eaten, a bottle of wine opened and consumed.

It was, in short, a fine holiday. I hope yours was filled with fun and family, if you celebrate Christmas, and if you don’t, I hope you have some fun family day around this time anyway. To celebrate the season, here are a few more Christmas lights I made pictures of.

I’ve always liked Christmas, although I’m happy to report I’m slowly growing out of the habit of waking at 5 a.m. on that day. This year, I slept in. Until about 6:30.

santa2

Santa filter glasses turn Christmas lights into these images.

Leave a comment

Filed under Grandchildren, Uncategorized

Saying TTFN to Immigration Series


a01

Dr. Laurie Hamen, MMU president, speaks Nov. 17, 2016 at final event of Fall Faculty Series in Chapel of Mercy.

The topic, of course, goes on. This past week was the end of the 2016 Fall Faculty Series on immigration at Mount Mercy University.

image-of-logo-colorThe series, called “Building Walls, Building Bridge: The U.S. as an Immigrant Nation” was well worth doing, I think. It brought out lots of information on an important topic.

And it was popular. As I noted Thursday night at the final event, my rough count is that, all told, more than 1,000 attendees were at series events this fall.

That’s not “unique” people—if a person came to two events, she or he was counted twice—but still, that’s a lot of people going to faculty talks and other events.

The penultimate event was the Barbara A. Knapp Business Series, given by Rue Patel, plant manager of General Mills. It was interesting to me, partly because I have an indirect personal connection—a family member who works at that plant.

a04

Rue Patel speaks Nov. 16 at MMU.

Patel spoke of moving to the United States at age 12 in the late 1970s. In school, sometimes classmates would ask ridiculous questions, such as “did you ride an elephant to school today?” Children can often be cruel, and one concern that we have now is they often echo the cruelty of their parents and are influenced by the larger culture.

Well, anyway, the Sisters of Mercy University Center was packed for the event. Thanks, business, for making the business lecture dovetail so well with the immigration series.

Thursday’s program included a speech by Laurie Hamen, Mount Mercy president. She talked of how important events like this series are to giving students a chance to become engaged in important ideas. As I said at the event, I appreciate that President Hamen has been so supportive of the idea of a series all along.

Two students gave readings, I presented some thoughts on the series and then we had a panel discussion from several of the faculty speakers.

All in all, it was an interesting event. It was the first time I tried to summarize the content of the series this way, and it wasn’t a bad idea, although I think last year’s poetry reading session was good, too.

Anyway, while the immigration issue is particularly important now, I am glad that the series is over. I’ll miss it, but this may be the final one that I coordinate, at least for a while. I’ve asked if another faculty member could step forward, and I think someone very capable is seriously thinking of the idea.

Which I think would be a healthy thing—someone new can revisit the way the series is done and maybe inject the idea with new life.

So, so long, for now, Fall Faculty Series. But I think you have a bright future.

Leave a comment

Filed under Mount Mercy