Monday, December 01, 2008

Free book!

To celebrate the generosity of the season, I am offering one signed FREE book to the first person to follow this blog ... your choice from one of these titles (one book per person):
  • Getting Your Financial House in Order
  • Chicken Soup for the Soul: Great and Grand (NEW release!)
  • Chicken Soup for the Christian Woman's Soul
  • God's Abundance for a More Joyful Life
  • Beanie Baby Stories for the Heart
Check out the covers here.

Friday, November 28, 2008

American Indian Heritage Day TODAY, November 28, 2008. "For the first time, federal legislation has set aside the day after Thanksgiving for this year only to honor the contributions American Indians have made to the United States." Read the rest of the story here.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

America in danger?

So a Russian professor predicts the break-up of the U.S. into six regions as a result of the financial meltdown and cultural instability, leaving two major world powers: China and Russia. Then, on 9/11/08 no less, Russian bombers arrived in Venezuela, welcomed by President Chavez. Now Russian nuclear warships arrived at Venezuela's shores for "training exercises." Chavez said, "The Yankee hegemony is finished." Given the financial meltdown here in the U.S. and a time of transition between President Bush and President-elect Obama, this raises alarming concerns. What do you think?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Newspaper front pages for the election

To celebrate the historic presidential win of Barack Obama, enjoy browsing the front pages of America's newspapers announcing his victory, all available online through the new interactive Newseum in Washington D.C. Actually, the site contains 735 front pages from 67 countries. Look for your hometown paper here.

In honor of my two hometowns, these front pages come from the Seattle Times, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer (where I worked in the business office) and The Gazette (Cedar Rapids, Iowa):

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Historic Election Nov. 4th, 2008

I am very proud that America elected our first African-American president. What a monumental moment in history! We've come a long way, America.

Congratulations, Barack Obama. You have been charged with the people's trust. Please honor that trust.

In my journalism class, supporters of President-elect Obama unanimously expressed how John McCain's concession speech moved them and deserved more attention by the mainstream media. As of this posting, I haven't seen the speech, so click and watch it with me:

Why I didn't vote for Obama

Barack Obama in his own words:

On the Constitution: "When we get in a tussle, we appeal to the Founding Fathers and the Constitution's ratifiers to give direction. Some, like Justice Scalia, conclude that the original understanding must be followed and if we obey this rule, democracy is respected. Others, like Justice Breyers, insist that sometimes the original understanding can take you only so far--that on the truly big arguments, we have to take context, history, and the practical outcomes of a decision into account. I have to side with Justice Breyer's view of the Constitution--that it is not a static but rather a living document and must be read in the context of an ever-changing world." (The Audacity of Hope, by Barack Obama, p. 89-92, October 1, 2006)

On abortion: "The first thing I'd do as president is sign the Freedom of Choice Act. That's the first thing I'd do." [FOCA is legislation sponsored by Obama and 18 other senators that would "abolish all state laws limiting or regulating abortion," including the federal ban on partial birth abortion]." (Barack Obama's speech before Planned Parenthood Action Fund, July 17, 2007)

On sex education for students: Voted YES to amend the Illinois School Code and Comprehensive Health Education Act (Bill No. SB0099), changing the law covering 6th-12th grade students to include all students in grades K-12; granted, the bill includes the term "age-appropriate," but although it provides a specific section defining terms such as "factual information" and "medically accurate," it fails to specify or define "age appropriate," leaving it wide open to interpretation. (January 11, 2005)
Later Obama addessed the controversy over this legislation: "I remember him [Alan Keyes] using this in a, his campaign against me saying, [mimicking Keyes] 'Barack Obama supports teaching sex education to kindergartners.' [Laughter] And, which I didn’t know what to tell him. But it’s the right thing to do, you know, to provide age-appropriate sex education, science-based sex education in the schools." (July 17, 2007)

On energy: "Let me sort of describe my overall policy. What I've said is that we would put a cap and trade system in place that is as aggressive, if not more aggressive, than anybody else's out there. I was the first to call for a 100% auction on the cap and trade system, which means that every unit of carbon or greenhouse gases emitted would be charged to the polluter. ...So if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can; it’s just that it will bankrupt them because they’re going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted. ...The only thing I've said with respect to coal--I haven't been some coal booster. What I have said is that for us to take coal off the table as a (sic) ideological matter--as opposed to saying if technology allows us to use coal in a clean way--we should pursue it. So if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can. It's just that it will bankrupt them." (San Francisco Chronicle video interview, January 17, 2008)

On conservative Americans in Pennsylvania: "You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations." (In a speech given at the Getty fund-raiser held at Alex Mehran's mansion in San Fransisco, April 6, 2008)

On taxes: We've all heard of Joe the Plumber, but to be fair, not many of us have seen the entire conversation in context between Obama and Joe, so here it is (from ABC News, 5:47 length). UPDATE: Video was removed from YouTube. Try this link instead (5:47 length). In 2001, he also discussed how to achieve redistribution of wealth through legislation during a Chicago Public Radio interview on WBEZ-FM (4:17 length).

For more on taxes, read this.

On healthcare: "I happen to be a proponent of a single-payer universal healthcare program. ...A single payer health care plan, a universal health care plan. And that’s what I’d like to see." (Speech to the Illinois AFL-CIO, June 30, 2003) He later denied he ever held this position, in spite of this video proving it, and findings by (see second bullet point).

On the war in Iraq: "I am unwavering in the belief that this has been a strategic mistake and that this war has to end." (Reuters, July 5, 2008) We all want the war to end, but we don't all agree that intervening on behalf of the Iraqi people was a mistake. See Dear Mr. Obama (1:55 length).

On national service and security: "We cannot continue to rely only on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives that we've set. We’ve got to have a civilian national security force that’s just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded." (In a campaign speech given in Colorado Springs, CO on July 2, 2008)

Some believe this is out of context. See what you think.

On faith: "I am a Christian. So, I have a deep faith. So I draw from the Christian faith. On the other hand, I was born in Hawaii where obviously there are a lot of Eastern influences. I lived in Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world, between the ages of six and 10. My father was from Kenya, and although he was probably most accurately labeled an agnostic, his father was Muslim. And I'd say, probably, intellectually I've drawn as much from Judaism as any other faith. ...So, I'm rooted in the Christian tradition. I believe that there are many paths to the same place, and that is a belief that there is a higher power, a belief that we are connected as a people." *

Like other candidates, Obama also carries several specific "lucky charms" (White House Photo of the Day,; his include a Madonna and child along with the Hindu monkey god, Lord Hanuman (June 2, 2008).

* "Jesus answered, 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.' " (John 14:6, New International Version)

(Interview by Cathleen Falsani of the Chicago Sun-Times in 2004 with Obama on his faith and spirituality, released this month four years later and also highlighted on the Huffington Post.)

Obama's interview in "On faith" added 11/12/08.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Obama's grandmother

Barack Obama's grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, died early this morning of cancer. She also suffered from a broken hip after a fall earlier in October.

It took mainstream media about two hours to verify the news, since I noticed bloggers talking about it at 3pm CST but I couldn't find a verifiable, credible source and did not want to report rumor or gossip earlier today. But the terribly sad news IS true.

Last April, USA Today published a nice piece about Madelyn Dunham.

Thursday, October 09, 2008


You know it's fall when
campaign signs
litter the lawn like

Photo by K.S. Gollnick (10/8/08), taken on the drive to school in Cedar Rapids, IA.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

McCain/Palin in Cedar Rapids, IA

The McCain plane lands at the Eastern Iowa Airport, c.2008 K.S.GOLLNICKMcCain-Palin rally in Cedar Rapids, IA, photo by K.S. GollnickMcCain in Cedar Rapids, IA, phot by K.S.GollnickSarah Palin speaking in Cedar Rapids, IA, photo by K.S.GollnickChildren waiting for the bus after the McCain-Palin rally in Cedar Rapids, IAJim MacDonald at the McCain-Palin rally in Cedar Rapids, IAJohn McCain and Sarah Palin spoke to an enthusiastic crowd today at the PS Air hanger on the west end of the Eastern Iowa International Airport in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. I arrived late with several busloads of other attendees, delayed by the crush of traffic crawling on I-380 this morning between 9 and 10am trying to get to the airport (some who certainly missed flights and most for the rally, evidenced by the majority of vehicles turning into the wide acreage used for today's event parking).

Fortunately, candidates for local races spoke first so I didn't miss the McCain plane landing and the speeches of Sarah and John.

Sarah was confident, warm, fresh. She caught my attention in particular when she talked about our city's flood victims and acknowledged the need to expedite and coordinate help for them--this personalized her presentation. And yes, I forgave her for calling our city "Grand Rapids" instead of Cedar Rapids (they'd just flown in from Grand Rapids, Michigan).
She introduced John and he gave an equally stirring speech, including comments on the Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac debacle. McCain had urged the Congress back in 2006 about the potential for their failure but the Democratically-controlled Congress refused to act on the warnings--and sure enough, Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac fell, resulting in our government scrambling to rescue it earlier this month.
You can watch both of their speeches here.

Jim MacDonald after the rally.

And of course, protestors made an appearance.

I liked the ones holding signs, moving slowly alongside the lines of attendees waiting to be screened through security. I appreciated their respect for our right to be there, while also communicating their objections to certain issues and ideologies.

However, other groups erupted and disrupted the speeches. These protestors struck me as insulting and immature. Of course, it occurs to me that these displays are never really targeted toward attendees, but more likely for TV cameras and YouTube audiences.

A couple of disruptive groups interrupted Palin and then John. The worst was a couple of guys and a couple of girls protesting the Viet Nam war (say what? didn't that *end*, like, 40 years ago???)--or perhaps it was McCain's participation in the Viet Nam war? (um, he served and suffered as a P.O.W., enduring worse than the paper cuts and hurt feelings these protestors have suffered in their short, passionate lives).

Anyway, their shouts and shenanigans interrupted John's speech for two or three minutes, causing McCain supporters to drown them out shouting, "JOHN MIC-CAIN, JOHN MIC-CAIN...." Police escorted the disruptive protestors out of the area. I was relieved, because for a few moments the raised emotions signalled an edginess, as if just a moment more would push the rally into a riot. Police presence probably diffused this. Officials did not arrest the protestors but released them back into the wild.

Quite an eventful event.

Kimn at the rally.Afterward, Angie, a student reporter accompanied by a student photographer, both working for "The Torch" of Kennedy High School in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, asked to interview me. I felt flattered and tried to answer her questions as interestingly as I could on the fly. (There's a reason I'm a writer--I write as a process of organizing my thoughts, in order to know what I think, if you know what I mean.) I'll try to get a copy of the issue in which she publishes the story and perhaps post a link to a PDF version.

After the rally, McCain and Palin toured the flood-damaged neighborhoods of downtown with Cedar Rapids officials, including the mayor pro-tem, Brian Fagan. This is yet another issue: Cedar Rapidians are growing impatient to the point of downright angry with Mayor Kay Halloran for her lack of visibility, which translates as indifference toward those who suffered in the catastrophic floods of June '08. I fear whether her health is a factor. More later.*

P.S. Out of fairness, I wanted to attend an Obama rally, too, but it looks like it's too late. According to his website (scroll down to "Obama Events"), his plans include Pennsylvania, Virginia, Missouri, Ohio--no more appearances scheduled in Iowa. McCain is coming through Iowa again on Saturday, Oct. 11th.

Cedar Rapids, IA - Mayor Kay Halloran has obstructive sleep apnea. Now that the diagnosis is public, the tone of the press has softened considerably. (I can't even find the articles from KCRG and the Gazette attacking her for not providing an interview prior to this announcement.)

However, does sleep apnea explain why she chooses to remain in the background while the mayor pro-tem, Brian Fagan, seems to serve as the city's public leader?

Or is she naturally an introvert?

It's hard not to recall the hands-on public style of Guiliani, mayor of New York, after the catastrophic morning of 9/11 when he provided visible leadership at Ground Zero, while our mayor remains invisible to the public, inaccessible to her citizens who suffered enourmously after the June floods in Cedar Rapids. It doesn't help when she's caught on-camera barking dismissively, "We didn't cause the flood."

Interestingly, both the video and the Gazette story with that quote do not appear online, and all previous articles casting her in a negative light have vanished. I objected to KCRG's daily negative coverage of Halloran (some would call them attacks) prior to her diagnosis--which included a daily countdown of her refusal to do an interview with reporters--but neither do I agree with the media's apparent "cleaning up" of news stories afterward.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Professor's body identified

The body of UI political science professor Arthur Miller was identified during an autopsy this morning using dental records, ending a week of wondering what heppened to him and increasing speculation as to his guilt or innocence over his actions toward four students during finals week in May.

"Miller is accused of offering higher grades to female students if they would let him see or fondle their breasts. He was arrested and charged Aug. 8 with four felony counts of accepting bribes."

His wife reported him missing Wednesday, Aug. 20. Iowa City police located his BMW in Hickory Hill Park and initiated a two-day search for him in addition to a missing rifle he purchased in June. They ended the search and re-opened the park to the public Thursday night.

"On Sunday, a man [Daniel Hoover of Marion] who works with Linn County Search and Recovery searched the park and found Miller's body in a small, brushy clearing near a meadow on the north side of the park. Miller's body was found slumped over the rifle, lying in a prone position with the yellow blanket nearby . . . about a 5-minute trek on a narrow path from Miller's car."

My thoughts: From the various local news outlets, it appears that the four female students 1) did not know each other and 2) reported the sexual solicitations by Professor Miller separately and independently of each other, lending credibility to their claims. In addition, the police obtained emails initiated by Professor Miller which "referenced meetings about grades, an extension, a final, assistance and 'grades and offer by Miller to negotiate,' according to an evidence sheet included in the search warrant".

I realize it's easy to assume his guilt since he killed himself, but then again, I believe that an innocent man would want to defend himself. But no matter where you and I fall on this issue, we can agree, at least on a human level, that it's tragic.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

UI professor might be dead...

Breaking news: University of Iowa political science professor Arthur H. Miller was reported missing by his wife early this morning and police located his red BMW this afternoon at Upper Hickory Hill Park in Iowa City near the UI campus. He was charged August 10th with four counts of bribery for soliciting sexual favors from female students in May 2008 in exchange for better grades. He purchased a rifle in mid-June, which is also missing. The is reporting that police think he's dead. WKOWTV is reporting that Miller left a cryptic suicide note for his wife saying he was sorry.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Two months since the flood...

Today I drove through a few neighborhoods near I-380 in downtown Cedar Rapids. The devastation is still overwhelming. I plan to post photos as soon as I upload them from the camera. In the meantime, consider the costs of what the city of Cedar Rapids has spent thus far on flood recovery, posted at my financial blog, "Getting Your Financial House in Order."

Friday, August 08, 2008


I had to blog today simply for the purpose of mentioning August 8, 2008, which must be newsworthy in a numerical sort of way, wouldn't you say?

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Flood ground zero

Yesterday I reported for volunteer work with Serve the City to distribute the city's newsletter for flood victims downtown. About 50 of us showed up and after some instruction and a word of prayer, we divided into five groups to tackle five areas in the flood zone. I paired up with another volunteer and she drove to our section, dubbed "Area C," encompassing the neighborhood west of I-380 to 4th St. S.W. and south from 10th Ave. S.W. to 15th Ave. S.W.

While she walked one side of each street, I walked the other, knocking on doors. At first, I anticipated handing the newsletter to the homeowners directly, but it soon became obvious that a majority of these homes were uninhabited because they were uninhabitable--rooms gutted to avoid mold, glass missing in windows, screen doors broken or swollen from the water. I tucked most of the newsletters in the doors or in small boxes mounted on the houses for paper delivery in case the owners came back. On each home, we could see the flood high water mark, some 4' high, others as high as 6', even this far from the river. Wooden porches sagged or appeared wavy from the flood two weeks ago which covered more than nine square miles and devastated more than a thousand city blocks.

In spite of the absence of a majority of residents, signs of life sat silent on these porches: a coffee can filled with cigarette butts, a vacuum cleaner coated in silt, a muddy shoe without a mate, a dirty snow shovel used in mucking out a basement, a set of silt-covered patio chairs and a couple of stools, even plants beginning to rebloom in preflood gardens edged by rocks still anchored in place, a broken garden statue carefully reassembled on a step.

I wanted to take pictures--oh, how I wanted to take pictures!--but my conscience wouldn't let me. These people have suffered so much, including invasion by "Strike Teams" and now drive-by gawkers, something to which they have expressed violent public objection and outrage. I also recognized that I was there to help them, not to benefit my freelance work. I felt that as soon as I whipped out my cell phone camera someone would come around the corner or peer out a window. So out of respect to the victims, I took it all in and tried to make mental notes of what I observed.

Around the corner on the next block, I met three men sitting on a porch taking a break from hauling out debris from the home. Their eyes appeared weary; masks dangled around necks moist with sweat, drinks dangled in their hands with nails darkened by sludge. In spite of the devastation around them, they smiled when I handed them copies of the newsletter. Iowans, after all, are polite.

At the next house, a man named Tom sat in the shade of his porch on a lawn chair. His shirt read "Property of Gatorade." He shared how the water advanced on Thursday, June 12th, the day of the big thuderstorm; how it filled the street in front of the house that morning and to his family's surprise, rose quickly by that afternoon and reached the front door four feet above the ground. They later learned the water rose two more feet inside the first floor. He wiped his forehead with the memory of it all. I asked about the block of concrete steps in front, offset and sitting askew from the front porch by at least three feet. He smiled and shook his head. "Yep, can you believe it? The water lifted and moved our front steps--that block of concrete's gotta weigh at least a ton. Some fellows from the National Guard stopped by one day and asked if they could help and we said, 'Sure, can you move our steps back?' and all these young guys, you know, all macho, said, 'You bet!'--but they couldn't budge it." He smiled at our reaction.

On the last block we ran into other volunteers wearing bright orange "Corridor Recovery" T-shirts. They were employees of Aegon, a major financial employer here who encouraged their people to take time off work to help in the flood recovery effort. One girl called to another that the lady down the street had just returned home from chemotheraphy and should take priority; I asked if the woman was a flood victim in one of these homes and they answered, "Yes." Four of them headed down the street to her house to offer help and continue cleaning her home. After removing sludge in basements, mold becomes the next concern. I wondered if the woman had no family who could take her in.

A large waste retrieval truck rumbled loudly down the street and parked in front of a house nearby. A large claw swung out over the curb and scooped up a debris pile near where we stood. About 50% of the detritus has been removed while the hazardous waste such as cans of paint, cleaners, etc. still sit in the hot sun awaiting pick up.

Block after block, shards of glass lay scattered on sidewalks shifted by flood water. I stepped over broken cell phone components, stray VHS and cassette cartridges, CD disks, wheels broken from cabinets or tool boxes. A small toy resembling a Beanie Baby lay on its side, brown sludge disguising its pink fur--possibly Squealer the Pig. In front of another house, I nearly stumbled at the sight of a pair of dice lying directly in front of the walk--one red, one white, bearing the numbers 6 and 3. An unlucky roll? At another location, an Awana award ribbon lay where it rested after the flood, smeared with mud. In the dirt-smudged window of another home, small angel statues alternated with sports trophies, sitting together on the window sill below the flood line. Bits of people's lives, representations of hopes, dreams, accomplishments and activities, from children to just memories, lost items no longer deemed as important as their homes or putting their lives back together.

Sections of foundations had washed away from some of the homes, circled by caution tape. One in particular allowed a clear view of pipes under the first floor in the basement. How a flood could knock out portions of foundation walls like this shocked me. Some of these homes appeared to have cinder-block foundations, which probably allowed for this kind of damage.

Some houses bore more of the overpowering acrid smell of water-soaked rotting wood, mold, and bacterial growth in the sludge. I wondered then if I should have brought a mask with me due to spores or other dangerous particulates in the air. After all, I'd urged so many people who came to the Red Cross pick-up last week that they should wear masks and change them every three hours, and here I was sans mask. I guess I thought being outside negated the need for a mask.

Many of these displaced residents are still living in local shelters. As of yesterday, FEMA trailers started to arrive with more on the way. Officials have requested 500 trailers but there are an estimated 26,000 residents displaced by the flood. We've got a lot of work ahead of us as a community.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Animals of the flood

People's pets--the smallest victims of the Cedar Rapids flood--found themselves rescued and temporarily housed in the Kirkwood Community College Equestrian Center until their owners can reunite with them or while families who lost their homes in the flood can make new living arrangements. This is a view inside the shelter. The guy in the yellow T-shirt is Quinn, one of the volunteers with whom I had the privilege of working with today.

I cleaned out stalls and gave the dogs clean food and water. Talk about noisy! These poor animals, under such stress when they just want to be with their families. Here is one of the dogs I took outside for a walk--or rather, he walked me--a feisty little terrier named Spot. We had fun. :o) Here he is, after a good workout and a chance to dig into his dinner: His paperwork notes that his owner's name is Angie and lists an address, which means they've been reunited. I would guess his owner is trying to find a new place to live so, in the meantime, Spot will extend his stay at the center.

Working in teams of 3 or 4, we made quick progress. The rescue operation is caring for about 600 animals now after a high of a thousand. Kevin, a handsome young hunk from Chicago, and Leslie, a trained animal rescue worker from Connecticut, both came to Iowa to help during the flood aftermath. What lovely people! Here's Leslie and I:

The New York Times wrote a very nice piece about the rescue operation and care of these animals, including how it compares to Katrina.

I also delivered meals today with Horizon's "Meals on Wheels" program. Tomorrow morning I report to Prairie High School to travel by van into the downtown area to distribute flood recovery newsletters to the affected homeowners. Every little bit helps.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Link to flood photos

I volunteered my time this past week with the American Red Cross, Mission of Hope and Meals On Wheels assisting flood victims and the needy. It was one of the most meaningful experiences of my life.Photo by K.S. Gollnick, taken at Sam's Club, Blairs Ferry Rd., Cedar Rapids (June 24, 2008).

Then I decided to gather my flood photos online, at least to share the shocking scenes of high water and post-flood damage with friends and family who do not live here. (I hope to add shots of people, the victims and volunteers, soon.)

Okay, so then I spent waaaay too much time putting this together. I posted over 100 photos of Cedar Rapids as well as the University of Iowa buildings where I invested the past two years of my life completing degrees in journalism and English. So please browse my flood site and let me know what you think by posting a comment here at my blog.

Also, flood-related inspirational quotes appear on my home page. Pray for the thousands of families who have been displaced and for the organizers and volunteers who are working on the front lines.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Jay Leno jokes for Iowa

Jay Leno announced he will contribute all proceeds from his Wednesday and Friday night shows this week in Las Vegas to the flood recovery effort here in Iowa.

Dan Baldwin, president and CEO of the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation, estimated the flood caused about $25 million in infrastructure damage for about three dozen nonprofit organizations that were in the flood zone. Last night's show brought in about $100,000. Thanks so much, Jay!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

"Why the massive flood took the city by surprise"

National Weather Service meteorologist Donna Dubberke says the final answer will be the same as the answer they gave on Monday:

"It is a function of too much rain in the wrong spot again and again," Dubberke said.

Click here to read the full article.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

President Bush statement on Midwest floods

President Bush commented officially on the Midwest flooding, published this morning in the local paper, the Iowa Press-Citizen.

President Bush to view flood damage

WASHINGTON—President Bush pledged housing help and other federal aid to the Midwest victims and said he would inspect flood damage in a trip to Iowa on Thursday.

Helping journalists hurt by flood

Editor & Publisher announced today the creation of the Iowa Journalists Flood Fund for local news reporters and staff who lost their homes in the Cedar Rapids and Iowa City floods.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Iowa flood statistics

Deaths from flooding: 5
Evacuees: Roughly 36,000 Iowans in 11 counties, including 25,000 in Cedar Rapids.
Counties declared federal disaster areas: 24. A total of 83 counties are covered by a disaster declaration by Gov. Chet Culver.
Iowa National Guard soldiers deployed: 2,500
Sandbags: 4.8 million
Gallons of drinking water distributed: 180,930
Acres of soybeans lost: 2 million
Acres of corn lost: 1.3 million
Tillable acres of farmland under water: 16 percent of the state's 25 million acres.
Buildings flooded at the University of Iowa campus: 16

Sources: Associated Press and local news outlets.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Distaster in Iowa

By Friday night, the Cedar River hit an all-time high flood stage of nearly 33 feet above normal, breaking the old record set in 1929 by 11 feet. This flooded over 400 blocks and filled beloved businesses and buildings, including the historic Paramount Theater and the downtown Cedar Rapids Public Library where I've spent much time in browsing and research.

The water has receded remarkably in the downtown area and bridges once submerged have emerged as of this morning, but Iowa City is bracing itself for unprecedented flooding from the Iowa River between now and Tuesday. I just graduated from the University of Iowa (May 17th), so it is surreal to learn that the two buildings where I spent so much time these past two years are under threat. Video broadcasts last night showed efforts to sandbag the area and I saw the student parking lot where I parked every day is now submerged under six feet of water. This means the English & Philosophy building (EPB) is probably a total loss. It is next to the river and one floor was built below ground--I suspect the second floor is also affected.

Further up from the parking area is the Adler Journalism Building (AJB), which was completed in 2006--a beautiful facility where I spent much time completing my studies in journalism. The first floor offers a luxurious student lounge with a bank of television screens tuned to news channels around the world, and the classrooms were state-of-the-art. The offices and work space for the Daily Iowan, the award-winning student publication of the School of Journalism, also fills much of the first floor. They moved operations last week uphill to the Iowa City Gazette. Students moved as many of the books and special collections from the Main Library adjacent to the AJB building, so I hope it will not be affected but there's no way to know for sure. The freeway was closed Friday night so I cannot get to campus to help. This is very difficult for everyone connected to Iowa City and the University of Iowa.

Also, for those not familiar with the area, Cedar Rapids is just a mile or so from my home and the downtown area is about seven miles from here. The City of Marion is pumping water to Cedar Rapids to help residents with their urgent need, and we are under water restriction. FEMA arrived last week as did the American Red Cross, working with officials to assess and set up a claims process and get assistance to residents in need. As the water began to recede last night, the air became pungent with the aroma of sewage and dead fish. I think we are still in shock over the magnitude of this event which technically is not over yet. So many roads and freeways are closed that it is extremely difficult for anyone needing to get in or out of eastern Iowa.

To view photos taken of the area by me and my husband Russ, visit the flood page at my Web site.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Flood hero

My hero and close friend, Laurie Haldeman, saved a 95-year-old man by calling for help when she discovered him trapped by flood waters on the second floor of his home in the Edgewood area of Cedar Rapids yesterday. He had refused to leave during the mandatory evacuation order issued Tuesday. She told me she couldn't sleep Wednesday night and went to check on him Thursday morning when she discovered water filling the first floor of his home. The water, rising fast, required rescuers to arrive with a boat to remove the man with his miniature poodle. What onlookers did not know is that Laurie suffers from severe disc/nerve damage in her middle back which causes her unspeakable pain, yet she cared enough about another human being to get him help during this catastrophic flood occuring in Iowa.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Iowa Flood '08

"April showers bring
May tornados
June flooding..."

Pictures to come soon. Pictures posted here. Today my sons and I ventured out after 3 straight days of flooding in Cedar Rapids, to stock up on water, milk, bread and other essentials. While we shopped, yet another major thunderstorm erupted overhead and we drove home in axle-deep water. Fortunately, our home in Marion is on high ground (thank God!). But the water keeps coming--downtown Cedar Rapids is flooded several blocks away from the Cedar River, and Iowa City (and my beloved University of Iowa campus) is flooded along with Coralville. Roads and bridges are closed, college classes cancelled, businesses closed, postal service suspended, homes ruined, and the storms keep coming. We didn't live here in Iowa during the 1993 flood that caused 1/3 of the state of Iowa to be declared a federal disaster area, but officials say that THIS flood has broken all records including 1929 and '93. And unbelievably, the water hasn't yet peaked, and won't until next Tuesday. Calgon, take me away! No, on second thought, I'll huddle in front of my laptop with my cell phone.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Newseum

Wanna see the new 250,000 square-foot "Newseum" that just opened April 11, 2008 in Washington D.C.? USA Today created an interactive, floor-by-floor model of the place! Take a peek here.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Tragedy in Iowa City

While getting ready for class this morning I received a Hawk Alert from the University of Iowa. The message stated that an "active shooter" was in Iowa City, a male driving a 1998 Toyota Sienna tan minivan, and that if spotted, witnesses should call 9-1-1 from a safe location.

I jumped online to get more information from local news sites. They did a very good job providing details, but I noticed a post by a female visitor in which she complained about the Hawk Alert being used this way. What?!! This is EXACTLY how and when it should be used. Unlike many university campuses across the country which sit isolated on their own property, the University of Iowa campus is integrated with the downtown area of Iowa City--something I appreciate for the vibrant variety and feeling of community. It's charming and eclectic, college kids mixing with residents, bookstores and churches mixing with lecture buildings and class halls.

I appreciated the Hawk Alert so I could proceed to campus with caution. The message was not alarmist but factual. [Note: Read the dispute by some students about the Hawk Alert failing to "tell them what to do".]

And the story is extremely tragic. The suspected shooter is Steven Sueppel (age 42), a man who had been charged with stealing $559,040 from the bank where he worked as a vice president. He apparently shot his wife Sheryl (also 42) and their four young children in their home at 6:31 this morning. Police received a call from a cell phone telling them to get to the residence ASAP, then disconnected. It was probably Steven. He was not at the home when the police arrived and the family's Toyota Sienna minivan was missing.

A short time later, a Toyota Sienna minivan was found smashed into a sign support along I-80 fully engulfed in flames at approximately 7:00am this morning. A lone figure could be seen in the driver's seat, dead. An autopsy will be conducted tomorrow to determine if this is Steven.

Coming home from class this afternoon--eerily, in my 1998 Toyota Sienna minivan, although mine is blue--I turned off my radio and reflected on this man, his family and his choices.

I'm sure when he was a little boy, he never thought he would get into this kind of trouble. I'm sure his wife Sheryl, active on their school's PTA and interviewed once for local radio, didn't imagine how her life would end and that her husband, the man to whom she'd said "I do" and shared dreams for a future together, that this man would fall into the trap of lies and deceit, nor that he would turn on her and their four precious children and kill them.

I'm sure his children, Ethan, 10; Seth, 7; Mira, 5; and Eleanor, 3 (all adopted), had enjoyed a fun Easter weekend with their grandparents and family in the area and had no idea what their daddy was capable of. His choices, each step of the way and concluding this morning, wiped out six people's lives--five of whom were completely innocent.

His choices, what he did in secret, eventually came out and destroyed him and his family.

If we think our choices do not matter, then we must think again.

And choose differently.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Global warming--not?

Could global warming actually be an ice age in disguise? And for those who think Iowa is made up of only cornfields and baseball diamonds, here's a shot of yesterday's traffic in a snow storm near Cedar Rapids. I drove home in that exact mess--I left the University of Iowa at 5:00pm and it took nearly 2 hours to drive 35 miles, due to the umpteenth snowstorm this year (I've lost track at this point). And yet another major storm system is headed our way. Yikes! Check out the snowfall totals where I live, or visit the National Climatic Data Center for details on storms across the northern hemisphere.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Caucus Night

My first Iowa caucus! What a night. It's a downright balmy 21 degrees outside, but windy. Brr. Our precinct, 4-2, met at Oak Ridge School with four other precincts. Precinct 4-2 shared the gym with Precinct 4-3, packed with probably 250+ people. Here are the results of the votes by these two precincts:

Precinct 4-2
Huckabee 52
Romney 30
Thompson 23
McCain 15
Giuliani 11
Paul 10
Hunter 0
Keyes 0

Precinct 4-3
Romney 41
Huckabee 35
Thompson 25
McCain 17
Paul 13
Giuliani 7
Keyes 2
Hunter 0

Local news stations are reporting the following numbers right now with 78% precincts reporting (9:10pm CST):

Huckabee 34%
Romney 25%
Thompson 14%
McCain 13%
Paul 10%
Giuliani 4%
Hunter 0%
Tancredo 0%

Obama 36%
Edwards 31%
Clinton 30%
Richardson 2%
Biden 1%
Dodd 0%
Gravel 0%
Kucinich 0%

This is shaping into a very interesting election come this fall, wouldn't you say?

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Iowa caucus and the UN-"Fair Tax"

Okay, the Iowa caucuses are coming in two days and I'm going.

However, I'm alarmed--I thought I finally found a candidate I could support until I learned this week about the "Fair Tax" legislation backed by some of America's presidential candidates (and click here to see who in Congress supports it from the Fair Tax Web site).

If you haven't heard about it, the "Fair Tax" act will eliminate income and business taxes BUT replace them with a 30% national sales tax. Supporters claim it makes taxes "fair," but analysis by shows it will help only those who make more than $200,000 per year. How is this fair? It's not.

Don't be fooled--just because it's called a "Fair Tax" does not make it so. We all know this is a favorite tactic in politics--to name bills the opposite of what they really are in order to fool voters.

Under the "Fair Tax," all food is taxed. We will pay 30-34% tax on gasoline on top of current taxes (these will not be repealed). If you get sick, your visit to the doctor is subject to this 30-34% tax. If you buy a new house, you will pay a 30-34% tax on the purchase price. Everyone with a mortgage, credit card, or car loan will pay a 30-34% tax on all interest. How many low- to middle-income families can afford this?

"They assume spending will remain at current levels," Russ Gollnick said. "The fact is, a 30% jump in price will affect spending. I'm concerned the impact it will have on our economy--it will cause a severe recession, even a depression."

Ah, but the "Fair Tax" proponents say salaries will go up--because they calculate their numbers by assuming salaries will go up when businesses are freed from paying social security taxes and revenue taxes. Have they learned nothing from Enron? Businesses today do not pass along increased revenue to their employees by increasing salaries! That just doesn't happen. As a former human resources director I can tell you that corporate management hires employees at the lowest salaries they can to keep costs down and profits up. Supply and demand controls salaries as much as consumer prices.

So as Sir Francis Bacon declared, "Knowledge is power." Question the assumptions of the "Fair Tax" and empower yourself. I invite your comments.