This post takes the cake

125th_cake_32051I mentioned a while ago that I was able to play with my new macro lens and grab some close-ups of the various decorations adorning North Dakota’s 125th birthday cake.  Here are a few…and by a few, I mean many.

 

125th_cake_31991I’ll start off with a piece that you’ve already seen: the state capitol building.  It’s missing the J-wing, but that’s alright.

 

125th_cake_32025Let’s start with the eastern border of the state.  Down near the Wahpeton area we have sunflowers…

 

125th_cake_32028To the north a bit we have Roger Maris’ record and Cass-Clay for the Fargo area…

 

125th_cake_32004Let’s not forget the NDSU Bison…

 

125th_cake_32030Then of course we have the sugar beet and (I presume) wheat or other crops…

 

125th_cake_32023As we reach the Grand Forks area we have a catfish (and UND, in the background)…

 

125th_cake_32033Topping off the Grand Forks area is, of course, the Grand Forks Air Force Base.

 

125th_cake_32012I presume this is a tribute to the North Dakota honeybee, who are all probably wintering down south somewhere at the moment.

 

125th_cake_32013Hat tip to Devils Lake and the Spirit Lake nation.

 

125th_cake_32009We then move westward to Rugby.

 

125th_cake_32010Here’s the Floral Clock, one of the attractions at the International Peace Garden.

 

125th_cake_32011Turtle Mountain representin’.

 

125th_cake_32035Good ol’ Lake Sakakawea and the Garrison Dam are featured.

 

125th_cake_32017To the northwest we have a tribute to oil country.

 

125th_cake_32016Here’s the far northwestern corner of the state.

 

125th_cake_32008Now we head south into Roughrider Country.

 

125th_cake_31997Here we have the Bully Pulpit and Medora.

 

125th_cake_31996If I’d gotten the focus right here, you’d think that Dickinson was known more for the Dinosaur Museum than for I-94.  In the low light I had to use a wide aperture, making the depth of field very shallow.  Excuses, excuses…

 

125th_cake_31995Not much in southwestern North Dakota.  I’d have put a police car with a mannikin in it to celebrate Amadon, at least…but instead we head east toward Standing Rock and a hunting scene.  My friend Nathan just got a big buck like this one.

 

125th_cake_32019Strasburg celebrates the home of Lawrence Welk, don’tcha know.  Bubble machines come to mind.

 

125th_cake_32020Next we have Gwinner and the Bobcat plant.

 

125th_cake_32001I’ll wrap this up with the enormous bison at Jamestown.

There were a couple of other fittings on the cake, such as some tractors and nods to the Bank of North Dakota and the North Dakota Wheat Commission.  It was a really cool tour around the state, and I made sure to get a slice of Slope County, where the cake is thickest.  See, it helps to know a little bit about my home state of North Dakota!

Happy Birthday!

capitol_125th_31825I was unable to attend the festivities today, but I’m told that as the rain subsided the crowds began to fill the capitol mall.  Good deal, today is a day worth celebrating!  I was satisfied to just swing by after everyone but the stage teardown crew had gone home and take a couple of quick photos of the occasion.

I must begrudgingly admit that the ND 125 in the windows totally escaped my radar this year.  I’m glad I saw a photo of it elsewhere Friday night, or I may have missed it entirely!  I’m pretty sure nobody’s on staff to change the lights on Sunday, so you may still have a chance if you haven’t grabbed a picture already.

Sign up now: Bismarck Police Department’s “Citizens’ Police Academy”


A few years ago my friend Lee and I were accepted into the Bismarck Police Department’s “Citizens’ Police Academy” for several weeks of education into what the Bismarck PD is all about. A couple dozen of us spent each Tuesday night from September through December learning about the various aspects of police work, the structure of the department, the special duties of various officers, and the standards of accountability and professionalism to which they hold themselves. It was a real eye-opener.

Some of the people in the class were interested in pursuing careers in the criminal justice field. Others, like me, are simply average citizens who support our local law enforcement personnel and jumped at the opportunity to learn more. I’d spent plenty of time in the Mandan Police Department growing up through the Explorers program, working in the control room and doing traffic control, color guard, etc. but I didn’t know much about things here on the Bismarck side.

While most of the Academy consists of classroom time, it’s not boring. It’s an informal environment, the chief and/or deputy chief are usually on hand to help answer questions, and there are always some interesting tales to tell. While the class went until 9pm each night, it was not uncommon for that night’s officer to stay until 10pm chatting about what we discussed in class.

Of course, there was a mandatory ride-along in a police car on a Friday or Saturday night. I think everybody had an eventful time, especially myself. I go on ride-alongs from time to time other than in Bismarck, and my rule is “what happens in the car stays in the car.” I respect people’s privacy as much as a value my own, and that sort of confidentiality is very important when dealing with people in the sort of situations that require a visit from a police officer. That wasn’t the only thrilling part of the Academy, however:


I think everybody was looking forward to the shooting portion of the class. One night a week we went through an evening discussing firearms and then going to the indoor range to fire some Simunition. We each were given the opportunity to fire eleven rounds from the same firearm carried by Bismarck police officers. It was performed under very close supervision after great attention to safety details.


I had to chuckle at my target, which I got to keep: six shots to the heart, five to the chin. I didn’t want to look like an idiot, so I intentionally aimed low for the head shots to avoid hitting the clamp holding my target. I think the groups would have been tighter if I’d had my own Glock, but Lee and I had the tightest performance out of the group. Something about videographers having a steady hand, I suppose. I got to keep my shell casings as a souvenir of the evening as well.


It was bittersweet to reach the completion night for a “graduation” celebration. We had pizza and got our pictures taken with the chief & deputy chief and were presented with some additional memoirs. As you can see we each received a framed certificate, Bismarck PD patch, and Citizens Police Academy mug. My little boy PJ had come with to see Daddy’s graduation and insisted that he be in the photo with us. Later he talked ’em out of a CPA mug of his own, and he’s still very proud of it.

It’s a great opportunity and speaks volumes that our police department wants to reach out to the public like this. It’s amazing how much misinformation is floating around out there about how police officers operate, and those of us who have received a little bit of education to dispel the rumors can act as ambassadors for the department. I gladly embrace such an opportunity, because I’m proud of our local law enforcement in Bismarck-Mandan. I’m fortunate to call several officers and deputies my friends and am grateful for their service to our community.

According to the City of Bismarck’s website, they’re still taking applications for the Citizens’ Police Academy. You can download the application PDF here and get it in immediately if you’d like to try for a slot…I don’t know how many they have filled.

There are some requirements for application, including a clear criminal record and passing a background check. If you are an adult resident of Bismarck and can meet these criteria, you’re able to apply. I highly recommend availing yourself of the opportunity to do so!

Five years ago and twelve degrees colder – and I was out with my cameras

January 26th, 2010 was a great day. The fact that it was even colder than today’s bitter winter Monday didn’t dampen my spirits, as I was on site for the move of the Falkirk Mine’s dragline “Chief Ironsides” from the west side of Highway 83 to the east side.  I was being paid to document the occasion, as it happens very infrequently.  I’m glad I dressed in layers; while Sunday’s low in the area was -7 with a mean temp of 12, the low that day was -4 with a mean temp of -2.  I’m using the mean temperature for the title of this post.

In order for Tuesday’s dragline walk, enormous preparations had to be made. For instance, a gap in the power lines running parallel to Highway 83 had to be made. The machines are simply too tall to go under. The railroad tracks had to be covered as well.

Next, a compacted dirt road several feet thick had to be constructed. This served the purpose of protecting the paved road as well as creating a level deck for the scoop and draglines to traverse.

Crews worked from each side of Highway 83, meeting in the middle. Enormous excavators filled dump trucks, which deposited their dirt at the end of the constructed road on their side. Big dozers pushed it into place, and the biggest grader I’ve ever seen did the grooming.

A bed of shredded straw was placed on the highway prior to the dirt work, presumably to aid in the cleanup. This way the dirt wasn’t plastered onto the roadway below. I got to stand really close to where these guys were doing their dirt work, but at a safe distance. Of course I brought my hard hat, vest, and safety glasses with, and I had an escort the whole time to make sure I wasn’t in danger.

With the road complete, it was time to get the “small” stuff across. The two machines in this shot are on tracks, simply driving across instead of the meticulous “walking” of the big dragline.

This equipment is electric, running with giant extension cords that lead back to the power plant. When they need to take a trek like this, the smaller ones are powered by a generator on a trailer. The truck follows dutifully behind or beside this scoop shovel as it tracks across.

For bigger equipment such as this tracked dragline or the big Chief Ironsides, they operate tethered to their usual power source. There’s a new power cable waiting for them on the other side.

This “little” tractor isn’t so little. Its sole purpose in life is to guide the electrical cable supplying power to the big dragline. It’s got a hoop-shaped guide on the back that is used to push the cable around to where it needs to be.

Weather delayed things a bit, but we finally got going just before sunset. That made for some challenges with shooting video. Stills are one thing in low light, but HD video is another. The main shot I was set up for was a time lapse of the roadway crossing, and the light was changing on me very quickly.

It was quite dark by the time the thirteen million pound behemoth, controlled by a woman named Melody, crossed the road. There was a thick dirt road constructed across Highway 83 just for this purpose, since the dragline needs a level deck for moving. It also protected the highway from the immense weight of the machine.

There was a dedicated crew for this task; the rest of the mine’s operations didn’t skip a beat. Talk about a daunting task: close the highway, build a new road capable of handing a thirteen million pound load, get the equipment across, then remove that road…all within 24 hours. Great job, gang! That’s an impressive day’s work.

I froze myself silly, but I got the shots. I had one HD camera, tucked in the Suburban parked sideways in the median due to wind, doing the 1080p time lapse while I ran around getting other angles and video footage with a second HD camera. Of course I kept my trusty still camera bag with me at all times.  Thankfully I dressed really warm, and had a real blast!

In case you have a Hobbit on your farm

rusticway_0046You may have seen this little hut along I-94, where it would seem to have been deposited after having been plucked from Middle Earth.  I didn’t want to show the signs on either side of the roof in this photo, but I’ll tell you the web address they contained: rusticway.com.

That’s the website of a guy who makes interesting creations made from reclaimed wood rescued from dilapidated farmsteads.  As an aficionado of such sites I couldn’t help but be instantly enamored with the idea.  From the site’s About page, talking about artisan Dan Pauly:

“As I uncover an old barn or shed,” Dan says, “I realize that it could be the same lumber that my great-grandfather used more than 100 years ago. I think that respect for the craftsmen and craftswomen of the past, and for the wood they used, make a difference in each new piece I create. Until you have dismantled an old barn, you can’t imagine the painstaking effort it took from Old-World craftsmen to erect it. They were each a work of art.”

Pretty cool, huh?  Click on the link and go take a look.

Mandan Fire Dept plans Fire Prevention Parade & Open House

mandan_fire_night_15336When I was in broadcasting I’d find myself frustrated when we reported cool events like this after they’d already happened.  Of course, if news stations broadcast upcoming events they’d never have time for the news.  Even so, I’d love to see more attention paid to upcoming events on the local morning, noon, or 5pm shows.  I bet many of you would, too.

Anyway, as a service I’d like to point out that a really fun and educational event is planned for this Tuesday at the Mandan Fire Department.  Here’s what the Mandan City website has to say:

The Mandan Fire Department will hold its annual Fire Prevention Week parade and open house on Tuesday, Oct. 8.

The parade of fire trucks and other emergency apparatus will depart at 6:30 p.m. from the Mandan Rural Fire Department Station at 3014 34th Street NW, proceeding to Old Red Trail and Collins Avenue, finishing at the Mandan Fire Department Station No. 1 at 110 Collins Avenue.

The Fire Department open house at Station No. 1 begins at 7 p.m. Activities will include demonstrations of vehicle extrication and fire extinguisher training, fire truck rides, hands-on experience spraying a fire hose, a smoke house, and Patches The Fire Dog. Free hotdogs and pop will be served.

Local fire departments, emergency medical services and rescue serve workers and volunteers will participate including the Mandan Rural Fire Department, Bismarck Fire Department, Bismarck Rural Fire Department, Metro Area Ambulance, Morton County Emergency Management, Mandan Police, North Dakota Highway Patrol, SWAT Team, Morton County Dive Rescue, Sanford Health, State Farm Insurance, and Mandan Marlins Swim Club.

Mandan firefighters have visited nearly 1,400 children in more than 50 kindergarten through third grade classrooms at Mandan’s five public and two private elementary schools in recent weeks to provide instruction on fire safety. Presentations are planned this week at St. Joseph’s Elementary and Christ the King Elementary. Points covered include the “stop, drop and roll” technique of escaping a fire, the importance of crawling low in smoke and having a household plan for a predetermined meeting place in the event of a fire. Third graders “hunt for hazards” in their homes.

So, there you have it.  Take the little ones and have a blast (and a hot dog)! Line up early along the parade route to see the fire trucks go by with lights & sirens, then join them at the fire station on Collins to see the demonstrations.

I love the 80s

flashback_iphone_1040Going through some boxes of old books that my mom brought over from their house, I found these among the forgotten gems in those dusty old boxes.  Pac Man themed Archie, a guide to defeating that darn Rubik’s Cube, and an orientation to my beloved Apple //c.

I was among the first to get that new Apple computer, a pseudo-portable version of the Apple //e.  Sure, it had a handle, but it was like stapling a handle to your PC.  The power supply was external, there was no battery, and you had to lug a monitor with you as well.  Still, it was a capable and dependable little computer.  I soon shrugged off this paperback for the ring-bound Technical Reference Manual as I started digging into the guts of the machine.

I like Archie comics as a teenager.  I’m not sentimental about them, really, I just think it was cool to find one with a Pac Man theme on the cover.  I’m sentimental about THAT.

Maybe it’s time to take another crack at the Rubik’s Cube.  I never had the patience for it as a kid.  This summer somebody handed me a Pyraminx, the tetrahedral equivalent of the cube, and I was still able to solve it in under two minutes.  That pesky block, though, always bested me.  Perhaps I should read this book and give it another go!

Among the other treasures I found are piles of old Peanuts paperbacks, which I plan to share with my kids.  Peanuts cartoons are timeless, insightful, and the star of countless hours of my childhood.  I’m excited to sort through the rest of these and find appropriate places on my bookshelves to make them available for our family.  While I love archiving things digitally, there’s just something about having a book to draw from the shelves.  These are one of my favorite parts of the 80s.

Tenacity

tenacity_27037

I have noticed this post the past few times I’ve traveled into town on River Road, and decided to use my lunch break yesterday to investigate.  What caught my eye was the plant that had climbed the north side of the post and eventually made it to the top.  I don’t know why I found it so intriguing, but I did.

tenacity_27062

As you can see, the roots and base of this plant actually reach a couple of feet up the post before the main part of the plant takes over.  This thing really wanted to get to the top!  It reminds me of when I was growing up in the Rockies and would spot one lone little tree springing out of the side of a rocky cliff in the middle of nowhere. God sure made these things tough. It reminds me of a phrase I heard from my pastor once: “even a mosquito doesn’t get a pat on the back until it starts working.”  This plant has put in quite a summer.

Well, at least until winter approaches and the cycle starts over, this little plant has become King of the Post for all its hard work and tenacity.

Classic: So how do those letters and numbers appear in the capitol windows every July 4th, Christmas, and New Year’s Day?

Monday night some of these windows will be lit up with “4TH” as part of the Independence Day celebration on the front steps of the capitol. Every year the celebration features the music of the Bismarck-Mandan Symphony Orchestra and finishes with a dramatic fireworks finale. Have you ever found yourself wondering how those numbers or colored Christmas tree shapes appear in the capitol building’s windows every July and December?

That’s where Bill comes in. He works for the Facility Management Division up at the state capitol, and it’s Bill and his crew who oversee the window shade pulling (and opening) to make sure it’s done right.

While Bill can pretty much do this by habit now, he does have an interesting aid: a diagram of the capitol with the relevant squares (the ones to be lit) highlighted. Facility Management and Bill were kind enough to let me tag along for this year’s window shade operation.

Bill has his custodial crew of around thirty people close all the shades on the front of the capitol as well as the east and west sides. The idea is to have the sides completely blacked out for the celebration, with the “4TH” visible only on the front. Once the crew closed all the shades on those three sides, Bill and I roamed the necessary floors and pulled open the shades forming the text.

Some windows are in spacious offices, and some are in pretty tight spots such as narrow supply rooms. Some are in such tough spots that I got to lend my lanky arms to Bill’s aid in order to snag & pull the cord. Because of that, I can lay claim to part of the 4 and (I think) the H!

The whole process took about a half hour, and I don’t think I held up Bill at all. This was an easy one; the letters were small and compact, and only one side is lit. During Christmas there is the complication of colored shades and two sides to do. For New Year’s there are four sides of the building to do. Also, for displays that are left up for more than one night, it’s important to stay on top of things to make sure the right shades are up and down and lights left on.

I originally posted on this a few years ago and wrote an article for the Dakota Beacon as well. Later on the local TV stations picked up on the story, probably around Christmas time when the windows were decorated again. It’s one of those little things that makes Bismarck-Mandan special!

How do you put something this big in the water? Slowly

After its hull inspection and a winter spent safely out of the water and potential ice jams, the Lewis & Clark riverboat was ready to hop back into the Big Muddy. It’s been up on blocks since the end of last season, prompting questions from my little boys as to how it got there. Well, thanks to a tip from my friend Diana, I was able to take them out to observe last weekend. Even better from a little boy’s point of view: they use a huge crane.

Since the boat lacks sufficient anchor points with which to attach crane hooks, it has to be cradled to be moved. That’s where this rig comes in. It provides a nice, wide configuration to which they can attach the necessary accoutrements for such a delicate job.

With the rig in place, it’s simply a matter of using very large straps beneath the hull to provide a cradle for the gentle lift.

The tricky part: the propellers and rudders. If the rear strap would slip and hook on those parts, it could be disastrous. Proper placement is key.

Once everything is snugged into place and checked as tension is applied, it’s time for the slow lift. I presume that the first rule of using a crane is to lift as slowly as possible and only as high as is necessary. Force equals mass times velocity, so getting a suspended load moving too quickly makes it much more dangerous.

Slow and steady. The crane had a lot of counterweight attached to allow it to extend out into the river without taking a dip. As the riverboat slowly made its way out past the shore, crews with guide lines made sure it stayed straight. Lots of eyes were on the payload and communication yelled between the guys holding the anchor lines at each end to keep it straight.

As it eased into the water, these rails kept it from nudging the rocks along the shore. They had been placed there for the lift to provide extra protection. As the waves began to lap against the bottom of the hull, it eased into the water safely along these wooden bumpers.

With the boat safely placed in the river and tension eased on the straps, it was simply a matter of letting the straps relax beneath the boat and slowly easing the rig downriver. Thankfully the straps did not get hung up on the props or rudders, or someone would have had to jump in and work ’em loose. It looks like the lift went without a hitch.

By this point it was too cold and windy for my little guys, so we headed home instead of watching the crane be dismantled. It’s always fun to see a big lift, though…even though it moves slowly, it’s a really neat spectacle to watch.