Category Archives: Miscellany

Missouri River Flood Photos between Onawa and Blencoe, Iowa

Missouri River flood photos taken between Onawa and Blencoe, Iowa, on June 22, 2011, as well as photos taken west of Onawa and at Decatur Bend in rural Monona County.

Click on first photo for slideshow of larger photos with descriptions.

All photos by Jody Ewing.


S l o w e r   T h a n   M o l a s s e s

[Another] commercial for Long Lines Internet services came on TV just as I finished titling this post … which was just after I took Long Lines’ We Dare You speed test, which was just after I took the speed test.

My Mac has a 2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, and despite my almost weekly (at times daily) conversations with Long Lines (who promise connection speeds up to 5 MG in exchange for my monthly [cough] $44.99 + tax ISP fee), I just can’t help but feel the numbers aren’t quite adding up.

Here’s a quick look at what I’m often getting in exchange for those five monthly sawbucks:

Results from

Or, when I dared to take the Long Lines speed test:

Speed test result from Long Lines

Now, if this isn’t bad enough, imagine how depressed I feel when I visit Long Lines’ website and see something like this:

Long Lines tells me the 10 MB speeds are (so far) only available in South Sioux City, NE. Okay. So, I guess they get “up to 10MBs” for $41.99 while the rest of us pay $44.99 for “up to 5 MB.” And while both 0.44 Mbps and 627 kbps fall within that up to 5 MB range, they’re not exactly the speeds I feel I’m paying for.

I know exactly what you’re thinking: So don’t just whine and complain — switch to a more reliable ISP!

Here’s where I’d have to tell you we live in western Iowa. Sure, there’s another option: Qwest, which only guarantees speeds of up to 1.5 Mbps. For all I know, their customers might even be connecting at something close to that, but every time I think about switching, I remember some of those oh-so-glorious days where my speed tests actually registered around 4 Mbps and I was flying through page after page, getting things done, rather than constantly resetting the modem/router after waiting endless minutes for pages to load.

Nowadays, I feel a little like a dog waiting for Long Lines to throw me the occasional high speed bone. I’m beginning to think, though, those 1.5 bones might be rather tasty — especially if Qwest threw me one regularly … like every single day.

Where for art thou Nick Nolte?

Okay. So I’ve been safeguarding this 1956 Benson High School (Omaha, NE) yearbook for some time for Bill Bowley, a close family friend. Bill attended Benson High with Nick Nolte, who (as most of you know) went on to become one helluva actor. (One of my favorites, in fact.) Bill, on the other hand, went on to own and manage a very successful roofing company — until Parkinson’s Disease forced him into early retirement several years ago.

Nick Nolte signature in yearbookIn 1956, both Bill and Nick were high school sophomores. Nick was the kicker for Benson’s football team (according to Bill, Nick was “the starring quarterback”) and they also shared some good-ol’-boy times in gym class and on the basketball court.

Nick signed Bill’s ’56 Benson High School annual, and though they both graduated in 1959 and will celebrate their 50-year high school class reunion(s) this year, here is where the road gets muddy.

Bill swears both he and Nick graduated from Benson High in ’59, and Benson’s Wikipedia page indeed lists Nick under notable alumni. Further research, however, indicates Nolte was kicked out of Benson High for “digging a hole and hiding beer before practice and then getting caught drinking it during a practice session.” After Nolte’s expulsion from Benson High, according to the actor’s Wikipedia page, he attended Westside High School in Omaha, and that alumni roster also shows Nolte as one of their graduates.

Additional online research produced these same details, over and over again.

Nick Nolte

Nick Nolte

So why does it matter, 50 years after the fact, which of these two high schools is Nolte’s true alma mater? Simple. Because his former friend and Benson High classmate, Bill Bowley — who recently underwent a brain implant to help control some of his advanced Parkinson’s disease symptoms — wants to attend his 50th high school reunion this June 5-6, and he’s got his heart set on linking up and visiting with his old friend Nick.

I’ve promised Bill I’ll do my best to track down Nolte and ask if his summer plans include a Midwestern high school reunion, even though I suspect Westside High School (whose 50th class reunion is Aug. 28-30) most likely lays the bigger claim to one of Omaha’s most popular and successful sons.

But, who knows. Despite the actor’s current shooting schedule (“King Shot” in production) perhaps he’ll work in a two-day break to catch up with friends who-knew-him-when. Based on the Nolte movie trivia questions Bill often poses to me, I suspect some of Nick’s old friends may indeed include some of his greatest fans.

Nick wrote the words in the yearbook, but now it’s time for Bill to say them. “Hope to see you in the summer.”

Double Tragedy for One Iowa Family

I can’t begin to imagine what Ann and Bill Byers of Schleswig, Iowa, must be going through right now.

One might think there could be nothing worse than losing a young son — with an infant daughter of his own — to a war launched under questionable circumstances. There is: losing another — the only remaining son and also a soldier — two days before the first son’s funeral. The double tragedy carries an unspeakable amount of grief, particularly for the residents of the small town of only 850.

Sgt. Casey Byers, 22 — a member of the Ottumwa-based Company B 224th Engineering Battaliona stationed at Ramadi — was killed Saturday, June 11, when a roadside bomb exploded directly beneath his Humvee south of Ramadi in Iraq. He was the 28th Iowan to die in Iraq since the war began in March 2003. Another Iowa soldier, 28-year-old Spc. James Migues, Jr. of Ottumwa, was on foot patrol in front of the Humvee and injured during the explosion. Another soldier, Sgt. 1st Class Neal Prince of Colorado, also was killed in the incident.

According to unit commander Lt. Col. Todd Jacobus of Des Moines, the tragedy was intensely personal to the soldiers’ fellow comrades. In an e-mail to the fallen soldiers’ family and friends, Jacobus recalled that Byers “told people that his first name was ‘THE,’ as in ‘THE BYERS.’ He was very proud that he had a daughter, and told many of the other soldiers that he was ‘the world’s greatest dad,’ commenting how he couldn’t wait to get home and spend time with his parents and daughter.”

That wasn’t the only thing on the young soldier’s mind. Lt. Col. Jacobus went on to write that “Spc. Byers had told members of his platoon that he had a brother in a United States Army Reserve transportation company out of Sac City, and that his unit was supposed to be mobilized in the fall. Spc. Byers had humorously mentioned to many that ‘Iraq can’t handle two Byers at the same time.’”

Neither Byers, nor Jacobus, could possibly have foreseen the twist of fate about to take place.

Two days before Byers’ funeral, his 19-year-old brother, Justin “Paul,” was struck and killed by a truck while walking out of a ditch along U.S. Highway 30 about a mile west of Vail, Iowa. According to the Des Moines Register, the younger Byers was hit around 9:40 p.m. Monday night.

Funeral services for Casey Byers, a 2001 graduate of Ar-We-Va High School in Vail, Iowa, are scheduled for today at 11 a.m. at the Company C 1st-168th Infantry Iowa Army National Guard in Denison. His cremated remains will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia at a later date. Services are still pending for his younger brother.

The brothers are survived by their parents and one sister, Jennifer, as well as Casey’s infant daughter, Hailey.

My heart goes out to this family who lives but 35 miles from me — “neighbors” as we rural Iowans call them — whose names I never knew until this June. May God, and peace, be with them all.

Western Iowa, Voice Your Opinion during Social Security Forum



Washington, D.C. — Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) announced today that a member of his staff will be conducting Social Security forums in LeMars and Onawa on June 8. The public forums will discuss the need to protect and strengthen Social Security without risking its future through privatization.

“I want to work with the president to strengthen Social Security, but I want to do it right,” Harkin said. “There is no excuse to rush into a plan that will cut benefits for America’s seniors, adds trillions to the debt, and does nothing to strengthen the program. That is unacceptable and the American people are rejecting that approach.”

President Bush’s privatization commission has proposed creating private Social Security accounts that would cut benefits by one-third or more, even for those who choose not to invest in privatized accounts. Workers could invest two-thirds of their Social Security contribution in stocks and bonds, but those returns could not make up for the deep benefit cuts and would be subject to the whims of Wall Street.

Even many supporters of the president’s plan acknowledge that private accounts have nothing to do with ensuring the long-term financial health of Social Security. In fact, to fund the private accounts, the government would have to borrow almost $5 trillion dollars over the first 20 years from foreign countries like China and Japan – making Social Security’s financial problems much worse and even further from being solved.

“We must be responsible and take reasonable, moderate steps to strengthen Social Security for future generations,” Harkin said. “Millions of Iowa seniors, Americans with disabilities and others who rely on Social Security are depending on Congress and the president to protect this program. I hope the president will work with Congress to do just that.”


TIME: 10:00 a.m.

TIME: 2:00 p.m.

If you have any questions, please call Senator Harkin’s Des Moines office at 515-284-4574. If you need an accommodation to participate please notify the office at least 48 hours in advance.

**Note from Jody: As a mother of a disabled child, I most certainly plan to attend the Onawa forum. I encourage everyone from this area (Democrats, Republicans and Independents alike) to participate. This is an important issue that WILL affect you, regardless of your age or party.


No Tiger in this Mac’s Tank

In all the years I’ve owned a Macintosh computer (which is all the years I’ve ever owned a computer), I’ve never once been disappointed by Apple’s products or their service.

Until now.

Let me first say that despite my preference for Macs to PCs, I’ve never been a Chevy/Ford Mac/PC person who bashed one or the other. I simply prefer Macs to PCs. And like many Mac users, I eagerly anticipated the release of “Tiger,” Mac’s newest and (supposedly) biggest and brightest upgrade. I’m guessing it probably is. I’m beginning to wonder when I’ll finally find out.

The very day Apple announced that one could “pre-order” Tiger (two weeks before its release on April 29), I did exactly that. Got out the old credit card, made sure my name was on the list. They guaranteed it’d be in my mailbox April 29. And it was. The problem?

You can’t “buy” Tiger on CD. It only ships in DVD format. I bought my G4 several years ago, and looking back, realize I “should” have had the DVD drive installed. But before pre-ordering Tiger, I’d read through the “System Requirements” listed on their website, and never once did it say a DVD drive would be required for the software’s installation. (They have since added that.)

Okay. So Apple “does” provide a solution to the DVD problem. AFTER one receives the DVD, they can download a document from Apple’s website through their (aptly titled) Mac OSX 10.4 Tiger Media Exchange Program. I did. Then, you print out the form, fill in your info, and mail it in, along with an additional 10 bucks ($9.95 plus applicable sales tax), the original Mac OS X v10.4 Tiger install DVD, and one original software proof-of-purchase coupon (found in the Tiger software box). Once they receive that, they say Apple will mail you a Tiger CD kit.

According to the Tiger Media Exchange document, it says: “Upon receipt of your order, products from inventory in stock will be shipped within 24 hours via U.S. mail.”

Great! (I thought.) You mail everything to South Bend, Indiana – only two states away from Iowa. And I’m getting mine into the mail right away, so I’ll have Tiger in my Mac’s tank within a few days. (I thought.)

I waited a week. Nothing. Two weeks. Nothing. Finally I called Apple’s toll free number (888-840-8433) listed on the Media Exchange document. After listening to the menu and pressing the appropriate keys, a message directed me to a specific website where I could check the status of my order. (Inquiry Site)

Here, they ask you for your name, zip code, and other pertinent info. Then you hit “Check Status.” What? It’s not working? You’re getting the message “Safari Can’t Open the Page”? Let me save you some trouble.

Okay. So Safari couldn’t open the page. I went to Firefox.
Firefox couldn’t open the page. I went to Mozilla.
Mozilla couldn’t open the page. I went to Internet Explorer.
Internet Explorer couldn’t open the page. I went to Netscape.
Netscape couldn’t open the page.

I ran out of browsers.

Only after “repeated” efforts (and I do mean Repeated — to the tune of about 100 tries during different time periods) did Safari finally open the page the other day. Luckily, I discovered that Apple had, in fact, received my order. But there were the dreaded words under order status: Backordered.

So here it is, three weeks to the day since first receiving the Tiger DVD, and nearly three weeks since paying even more and ordering the CD kit. I’ve gone back to the site several times to check my status again, but haven’t been able to load the page since. I guess I’m probably one of the lucky ones, to have gotten it to load even that one time. I suspect it’s busy all the time with people like me, wondering why Apple just didn’t offer a product up front available for purchase in either DVD or CD format, and save their loyal customers the hassle they currently are putting them through.

The irony in all this is that Apple makes such a good product (like my G4) that – other than the software upgrades – I’ve never had a reason to upgrade my hardware. I’ve never missed the DVD drive.

Until now.

But I don’t have a product I’ve long since shelled out my money for, and twice at that. For a company who’s always had exemplary service, this apple fell far from the tree.