Harbinger of autumn comes early? Well, not exactly

dq_ip_3663Few things can strike fear in the hearts of summer-loving Bismarck residents than the closure of the DQ on Broadway and Washington.  We can kid ourselves endlessly until the CLOSED sign shows up in the window, meaning that cold temps and seemingly endless winters and school years are right around the corner.  So you can understand why the sight of this sign can make hearts jump when passers-by spot it!  In this case, however, a little context is needed.


dq_ip_3661The job market is an interesting one in North Dakota, and has been for some time.  I remember even several years ago, before the oil boom, hearing from a friend how he’d receive such poor service when traveling to the northwestern part of the state.  It was explained to him that “people who can pass a drug test are working in the oil industry…what’s left is who’s taking your order, preparing your meal, or providing your customer service.”  Again, that was before the big “oil boom”.

Now there’s simply a shortage of employees, period.  HELP WANTED signs adorn shop windows all over the state.  We’re blessed in that regard.  With the onset of school as well, labor in certain types of positions will probably be even harder to obtain.  For example, I recently heard of Arby’s paying $20/hr for certain positions in Williston.  Well, how many $5 roast beef sandwiches do they have to sell to pay for that labor?  It gets to be quite a pickle, I’m sure.

Thankfully we still have other DQ options in Bismarck-Mandan.  Now, when the store on Highway 83 closes for the season, then it’ll be time to panic.

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.

‘Twas a good week to be a boy


skytypers_31000 Last week I got to treat my little guys to lots of fun boy-stuff, thanks to the generosity of some friends.  I thought I’d share a few highlights:


thunderbirds_31425We got to see the Thunderbirds perform at Airventure 2014, in Oshkosh.  Once those F-16s rolled on the throttle at the beginning of the runway, it was like slowly pushing the Smile Lever on those little faces!


wall_of_fire_31787As if that wasn’t enough, there were also simulated bomb runs and dogfights, along with the notorious and aptly named Wall of Fire.  My youngest boy’s favorite, naturally.


thunderbirds_31371I got a really cheap deal on renting a nice telephoto lens from borrowlenses.com, and it performed admirably.  I have so many cool shots like the one above that I’ve hardly had time to sort through them all.  To top it all off, later in the week we went to see Planes: Fire & Rescue at the Grand Theater back here in good ol’ Bismarck.  It’s still the nicest movie theater I’ve ever seen, and I appreciate the effort they put into providing a good experience.


natl_night_out_ip_3306Next, we attended National Night Out on August 5th.  This is where various agencies like Police, Fire, Sheriff, State Patrol, Red Cross, et al put on displays for the kids (and parents) to showcase how they protect and serve our community.


natl_night_out_ip_3275Kids love trucks as much as firefighters do, and they got to sit in this one until it was called away.  There was also a hose set up and the wooden “fire house” where kids could grab the hose and knock down the ‘fire” in the windows.  Always a big hit.


natl_night_out_ip_3333Robots are a staple in the life of any kid these days, and Bismarck PD’s got one.  Target was kind enough to not only host the event, but provide free hot dogs, hamburgers, pop, and chips too!


medora_musical_ip_3504The finale for the weekend, bookending a long stretch of fun times, was the Medora Musical last night.  I hadn’t attended since my friend and show host “Gentleman Wade” Westin passed away.  They did a nice tribute to past hosts of the show this year, as it’s an anniversary for the Musical, and that was nice to see.


medora_musical_ip_3465The kids got to take the stage for the singing of the national anthem, and each got a little flag to bring home with them.  Something I didn’t get a shot of was the colors of Old Glory splashed on the wall of the hill behind the stage at the end of the show.


medora_musical_ip_3496A tribute to the hosts of the Musical.  My boys had never seen this show before, and they really liked it.  Especially the acrobats who performed during intermission and the battle scene reenactment from the Spanish American War.

As you can see, we’ve been a little busy lately.  That’s a nice break from the things we’ve been dealt over the last year and through which we are still struggling.  If I can provide my little guys with some joy and excitement along the way, then I feel like I’m at least doing my job as Daddy.  This past week was full of little victories in that regard.

Fighting Falcon

f-16_44794While looking for a photo of a B-2 Stealth Bomber in my collection last night, I came across this really cool F-16 Fighting Falcon photo that I’d totally forgotten. I couldn’t help but process it and share it right away.  One of my little guys loves F-16s; he has a toy one and thinks they’re really fast and cool.  He’s right.  I have a surprise for him.

mafb_nnd_44370That B-2 photo I was looking for?  Here it is.  Still one of my favorite photos ever, because I’m so fortunate to have seen one up close.  By the way, most of the time when it’s approaching or departing it’s almost invisible to the naked eye.  When banking, it looks like a goofy, jagged sliver.  Stealth, indeed.

Sunflowers, sunset

sunflower_sunset_30502I finally had not only the opportunity to catch the sunset tonight, I also had a decent set of foreground objects in mind.  A sky photo is usually unremarkable without an interesting foreground.  Today was my day to find both.

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!

July Flame


July Flame
I’m seeing fireworks
They’re so beautiful
Tell me why it hurts

July Flame
Ashes of a secret heart
Falling in my lemonade
Unslakeable thirsting in the back yard

The red sunsets we’ve been enjoying are because other areas really are aflame. Today was a scorcher as well, so that made the song seem oddly appropriate. It is still July, although it’s scary how little of the month we have left. The lyrics are from my favorite July song EVER, “July Flame” by Laura Veirs. You can check it out on iTunes by clicking here.

Oh, by the way…here’s the video in case you want to peruse the song:

July marks my return to action with my cameras, on a limited basis and for the time being. This sunset, for example, actually came from my deck instead of from a photo trip. Hopefully my family will put all our various health issues behind us and will be back on our feet, better than ever by the time next July rolls around!

Heidi Heitkamp for Abortion…so much for the Independent Voice for North Dakota™

heidi4abortionQuick rundown: Democrats want to force Christian employers to pay for abortion and “birth control” drugs that abort a pregnancy.  Many resisted.  The Supreme Court sided with the employers in the “Hobby Lobby” case.  Vowing to proceed with infanticide, Heidi Heitkamp’s party decided to push through a new law to specifically counter that decision.

Guess who voted “Yea” for cloture on this bill?

heidi_adBut wait a minute!  Didn’t the self-proclaimed “Independent Voice™ for North Dakotans” say in her campaign ads, “I’ll only answer to you.”?  Yes, that’s exactly how she ended the ad portrayed above.  That’s how she portrayed herself throughout her campaign: go check out her TV ads for yourself…they’re all online.

North Dakotans oppose abortion.  That’s never been arguable.  We send people to our state legislature who oppose it as well (aside from pockets of Democrat party dominance).  On our behalf they have passed multiple laws and resolutions defending life in the womb, and we continue to re-elect them.  I think it’s pretty clear what the citizens of North Dakota, whom Heidi Heitkamp claims to represent regardless of “partisan politics”, believe on this issue.  Yet she sides with her Democrat cronies consistently.  In fact, she sticks with President Obama 97% of the time, and it’s been documented.

Heidi Heitkamp is a liar.  This prompted me to make  the following graphic a while ago:

heidi-howClick on the image for a full size version.  Download and share!

Back when the “What I really do” meme was big in the net, I was able to come up with this in a matter of minutes; Heidi makes it easy.  It illustrates perfectly how the Independent Voice™ really pulls a fast one on North Dakota.

Fortunately, the Republicans were able to stop the Democrats this time; the pro-abort Dems were unable to get enough votes for cloture on S2578..  They won’t give up, though, and how they’ll be shrieking about “partisan politics” and how they tried in their valiant effort for “reproductive rights™” to raise more liberal campaign donations.  Business as usual.

There are a lot of things Senator Hoeven does that I don’t like, but in this case I think it’s worth a trip to his Facebook page or email inbox to let him know that this was the right stand for North Dakota.

Unfortunately, having a Heitkamp in the Senate means that the Democrats can effectively cancel out Senator Hoeven’s vote any time they want to.  By splitting our vote, they take North Dakota out of play on any given issue.  Think about that if you ever consider casting a vote for a Democrat Senator in a future election, no matter how many starry-eyed promises of independence they make.

A Googled gaggle, a fox that baled, and a pause for reflection

I bolted to Sweet Briar with my best friend tonight to see if I could catch a red sunset.  There’s a lot of particulate matter in the sky right now, making for some very red suns, and I wanted to get in on the action.  There were a few things in the way of that plan, however:

road_geese_30196First is this gaggle of geese. I had to double-check my terminology to make sure that I was right, and apparently a “gaggle” is at least five geese.  This bunch easily meets the requirements and, although they were plopped down as if they owned the road, I was able to convince them quite quickly that it was time to move.


fox_bale_30194Just prior to that, I’d spotted an unusual sight: a fox laying on top of a hay bale.  He had his front paws out in front of him and was just lounging around as we passed.  I grabbed a telephoto lens and a camera and circled back, but this time he must have seen the lens or something…and scampered away.  Shot missed.


sweet_briar_30213The sky played a cruel one on me today: the clouds moved in, obscuring the sun and the horizon.  That’s okay, I had a Plan B: catch some nice reflections in the calm water of the lake.  That worked.

Because of the advancing clouds and haze of the sky, it got dark quickly and it was time to head for home.  It wasn’t the result I was looking for, but it was a good night nonetheless.

Hot rods and memories at the BK

hotrod_iphone_2996I drove past the Burger King in Mandan with my family tonight, and my youngest little guy (a big car fan, even at his age) spotted the classic cars and wanted to take a look.

Since my surgeries and my wife’s surgery, along with all the other stuff we’ve gone through, the little boys have been great.  They’ve been cooped up a lot when Mommy and Daddy can’t take ‘em places, although we have friends that have stepped in.  But to have actual family time on a summer night like tonight…well, that’s long overdue.  It’s also taught me a sense of perspective.  We were on our way to a specific destination, but I’ve learned to make time for whatever little thing is important to my children.  So we stopped.

The best part about my evening was one of the first: my little guy grabbed my hand, led me around the parking lot, and talked up a storm about all the shiny hot rods on display.  He had a blast, I was on cloud nine, and before long we were all back in the truck and continuing on with our evening.

I often quote one of my favorite songs by Grasshopper Takeover: You can never get it back; you can only let it go.  Well, tonight I didn’t have to let anything go.