"In the central portion of the great North American Continent there lies an arid and repulsive desert, which for many a long year served as a barrier against the advance of civilization. From the Sierra Nevada to Nebraska, and from the Yellowstone River in the north to the Colorado upon the south, is a region of desolation and silence." - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, A Study in Scarlet

Thursday, December 31, 2015

A Farm Boy Critiques a Nativity Scene

Why is there a cow in there?

Because Jesus was born in a barn with all the animals.

But one of the cows might think he was hay. That's the problem when you have cows because they don't know very much.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

A Word from Germany on the Migrant Crisis

From Der Spiegel:
...integration only works if the state doesn't lose control, and Germany at present has lost control. Of course there is a basic human right to asylum, but without an upper limit -- enforced, if necessary, with border controls -- it will be almost impossible to find a way out of the crisis.
This is well said because it provides unpolarized recognition of both the crisis and the plight of refugees, when either element is often denied or ignored.

Read the rest here ("Reflecting on Refugees: A Plea for Measured Debate").

Sunday, December 6, 2015

A Child's Guide to Advent

Referring to Advent calendars:
"I like Advent because we get chocolate every day."

Friday, December 4, 2015

Will Russia Sponsor Kurdistan?

Greg R. Lawson writing for The Hill raises an intriguing possibility for the future of the Middle East :
It is not difficult to envision the Syrian Kurds striking a deal with Russia to gain more autonomy, up to and including a de facto state. This is something the West can't do given ties to Turkey and fears of a spillover effect into Turkey itself... Over time, this could represent the beginning of a literal carving up of chunks of southern Turkey.

This would not happen immediately, but Putin can afford to be patient.
The United States has not supported an independent Kurdistan, likely because of a desire to see Iraq succeed, but how exactly does the country that went to war to create Kosovo tell the Kurdish people they don't deserve a state because Turkey is our (dubious) ally?

Saturday, November 21, 2015

More Snow

From the Sioux Falls Argus Leader:
Fourteen inches of snow were reported in the southwest quadrant of the city by Friday evening, the National Weather Service office said. On the other side of town, Sioux Falls Regional Airport recorded 7.1 inches by 6 p.m.

The numbers shattered the previous snowfall record for Nov. 20, which was measured at 3.8 inches in 1975.
We got less than an inch, but it finally feels like winter!

Monday, November 9, 2015

Farm Dog on Duty

Our dog, seen through a basement window, keeping an eye on the approach to the south.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Financial Literacy vs. Money Savviness

After South Dakota's 6th place ranking for Money Savviness, the Center for Financial Literacy gives South Dakota an F for "financial literacy."

How is this possible? Looking only at high school requirements instead of actually trying to measure financial literacy.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Snow is Here

It is our first snowfall of the season. KELO reports:
An area of light snow showers has been working its way from cold air in North Dakota down through eastern South Dakota. No accumulation is expected, however.
We have accumulated a dusting, which should be gone tomorrow. But what better way to celebrate South Dakota Winter Awareness day than with snow! Weather.gov wants everyone to "prepare your home, vehicle, and your family for the onset of winter weather" with various tips and reminders, from stocking up to checking weather reports before you leave home.

Welcome winter!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Alternative Tourist Stops

Business Insider has posted "10 overrated tourist attractions in the US — and where to go instead." For South Dakota, Badlands National Park is recommended over Mount Rushmore. This is correct. A drive through the Badlands (or possibly even Spearfish Canyon) is more scenic than Mount Rushmore (which I did not visit until my 14th-or-so trip to South Dakota). It also has its own gift shop and the chance to visit world-renowned Wall Drug on the way in or out of the park.

For Washington DC, they recommend Smithsonian museums over a non-tour visit to the White House. An extra benefit of the Smithsonian museums is that they are free. You can leave and go to another without wasting an admission fee. Two specific recommendations for Washington DC:

1. The National Museum of American History has a broad collection, including First Ladies' gowns, the original 15-star Star Spangled Banner, and Kermit the Frog (and once displayed the "puffy shirt" from Seinfeld). It's also about a block from the Ellipse view of the White House, so you can take any necessary pictures from there.

2. Out by Dulles Airport is the much larger Air & Space Museum: the Udvar-Hazy Center which basically has all the aircraft that were too big to fit downtown.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

South Dakota and New Jersey, Neighbors at Last

South Dakota was recently rated the 6th best state for Money-Savviness. #7? New Jersey. How did these two very different states end up ranked next to each other? Arbitrary methodology.

The survey from GoBankingRates.com considered "use of banking services, strong saving and investing behavior, and strong financial education policies." Without the third element, South Dakota would have been higher and New Jersey would have been lower:
With stronger financial education policies than most states, New Jersey requires high school students to take both an economics and a personal finance course.

South Dakota's financial education requirements are average, requiring only that both economics and personal finance courses be offered in the state's high schools but not requiring students to take them and not requiring testing.
If simply requiring a course made a notable difference, it eventually show up in the better financial statistics: fewer bankruptcies, better spending, and better use of banking services. Merely requiring a course does not guarantee learning, and may have originated from residents' financial problems.

Monday, October 12, 2015

We Grow Beef, Acres and Acres of Beef

I had to pass this along, because it is so very true. We have a vegetable garden, but the fenced part (to keep the dog and deer out) is smaller than the garage.

From The Cow Docs:
"We Grow Beef Because We Can't Grow Vegetables Here"

...Our climate dictates that only certain thing[s] do well here. For example, vegetables are a poor crop choice for most of the state. Yes, my wife’s garden looks phenomenal, but only because she uses a few thousand gallons of water on it each year. If we tried to raise water-intensive crops out here like that on a statewide scale, we’d make California look damp in no time.

...By putting cattle on land that is unsuitable for crops, we can use it to make a nutrient-dense food source. And, if we want the best of both worlds (which we always do in agriculture), we can graze cattle for most of their lives and feed them corn for the last few months so they reach slaughter size more efficiently (meaning, same size but using fewer resources).
For more explanation of cattle on grasslands, read the rest here.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

A Note on the World of Resume Advice

From The Muse, the very first recommendation in their guide "45 Quick Changes That Help Your Resume Get Noticed" is to use a common font:
If it’s not done already, switch the font of your resume to Helvetica, Arial, or Times New Roman—in other words, make sure it’s not hard to read (or stuck in Word’s standard Calibri). Using a common, clean font may not make your resume the prettiest out there, but it will make it more readable (and less likely to be rejected by applicant tracking systems).
Luckily, my resume predates Microsoft Word's switch to Calibri, so I'm accidentally ahead of the curve.

But isn't that the opposite of something else I read recently? Indeed, The Muse also recommends recommends a Bloomberg article which claims:
Using Times New Roman is the typeface equivalent of wearing sweatpants to an interview
Common, clean... sweatpants.

The takeaway - if you're not working in graphic design, don't worry too much about typography. Just make it readable.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Population Density

Here are some of the most appealing statistics we saw in preparing for our move back to South Dakota:

Population Density (persons per square mile, 2010)
Washington, DC:   9,857
Alexandria, VA:   9,314
Fairfax County, VA:   2,767
Jerauld County, SD:   4

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Our Interest in Syria

Andrew C. McCarthy writes in the National Review:
Our vital interest in Syria (and Iraq and elsewhere, for that matter) is to prevent its being used as a platform for the launching of attacks against the United States, our allies, and our interests. Moreover, this, it is crucial to remember, is an American problem. It is not one we could responsibly delegate to another country’s “moderate rebels” even if they were numerous enough to need something bigger than a phone booth for their meetings.

That means it is going to take a large commitment of American forces on the ground as well as in the air to achieve our vital interests. But there is no political support for that in our country at the moment.
This seems correct. The United States cannot identify a realistic and desirable winner and will not commit to deposing a brutal Baathist dictator itself under an administration that campaigned against deposing the brutal Baathist dictator next door.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Friday, October 2, 2015

Our Home in Literature - Willa Cather

"Freedom so often means that one isn't needed anywhere. [In the country] you are an individual, you have a background of your own, you would be missed. But off there in the cities there are thousands of rolling stones... We are all alike, we have no ties, we know nobody, we own nothing. When one of us dies, they scarcely know where to bury him. Our landlady and the delicatessen man are our mourners... All we have ever managed to do is to pay our rent, the exorbitant rent that one has to pay for a few square feet of space near the heart of things. We have no house, no place, no people of our own... We sit in restaurants and concert halls and look about at the hundreds of our own kind and shudder." - O Pioneers! by Willa Cather

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Monday, September 28, 2015

Australia's Prime Fireman

A fun story out of Australia:
Former prime minister Tony Abbott has resumed his duties as a volunteer fire fighter, helping out his local brigade on a Sunday afternoon.

Mr Abbott took part in the training day with the Davidson Fire Brigade ahead of the the upcoming fire season and posted a photo to his Facebook page captioned "Glad to be back with the crew".


In October 2013, during his first month as Prime Minister, Mr Abbott worked a night shift with Davidson Brigade, helping with a back burning operation near Bilpin.
I have to appreciate him staying involved outside of the world of politics. He previously received a "a 10-year service award from the NSW Rural Fire Service."

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Thursday, September 24, 2015

No Solution for Syria?

A reasonable analysis of the Syrian conflict: there might not be a side to the conflict that we would want to win.
No solution seems more viable and durable than the status quo or a variant thereof. A national unity government, encompassing figures from both the present regime and moderate factions of the insurgency, would be too disparate, weak, and exposed to terrorist groups to last or to effectively rule.

Like it or not, the Syrian standoff is there to stay. The rivalries are too deeply entrenched, and the combat means at the disposal of belligerent factions are too exorbitant, for peace and stability to be an attainable objective in the months or years ahead.
Read the whole thing at RealClearWorld.
The one thing that seems most likely? Russia keeps its naval bases.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Monday, September 21, 2015

Seagulls on the Prairie

Seagulls were circling around the next field, which needless to say did not include a sea.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Our Home in Literature - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

"In the central portion of the great North American Continent there lies an arid and repulsive desert, which for many a long year served as a barrier against the advance of civilization. From the Sierra Nevada to Nebraska, and from the Yellowstone River in the north to the Colorado upon the south, is a region of desolation and silence." - A Study in Scarlet, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle