Zig-zagging obsessions

On Monday, I downloaded one of the most annoying games ever on to my iPad.

Naturally, the only time I could stop playing it was when the kids’ begging for a turn became too overwhelming to bear any longer. (Actually, they weren’t too bad, but I think it’s safe to say they were about as addicted to this new app as I was.)

The game is called ZigZag, and the concept is simple. Here’s a to-the-point description I found on a YouTube link at www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Uodj16hfpc: “Stay on the wall and do as many zigzags as you can! Just tap the screen to change the direction of the ball. Try not to fall off the edges! How far can you go?” (My answer: Not far! Not far at all! This game wants me to throw my mobile device across the room! $%@&!!!!)

It was Grace who found this game during one her frequent searches for new apps to keep her entertained. These searches often take place when she’s procrastinating some other task, like doing a household chore or doing “summer homework” to keep her mind ready for the oncoming school year. For better or for worse, Grace is the one who seems to locate the apps that get my attention — like the various “Free Fall” games, something of the make-as-many-baskets-as-you-can-in-45-seconds variety (I have to admit this became a borderline obsession for me) and a pop-music trivia app I can’t remember the name of.

Why can’t I remember? Because both Grace and Zach change up their iPad games like directions of the wind. One day they’ll ask me to download an app for them — they always have to ask, the app must be free and age-appropriate and it can’t be too many megabytes — and the next day they’ll want something else instead (I only allow them so many games. After all, it’s my device.)There are a few token games that have remained in place for months; others depart in roughly the same amount of time it takes to download them. And then, sometimes, I’ll get asked if I can re-load an app that was previously removed.

I’ve said more about the games I’ve downloaded for Grace — and I haven’t even digressed into the seemingly mind-numbing clean-and-dress-and-feed-your-baby apps I’ve gotten for her — but Zach is the real “gamer” of the two. He’ll play any number of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” or “Power Rangers” themed games, among others in the action category so typically beloved by kids his age. He likes to have me watch him play, but I almost never take him on. It’s not uncommon for me to look at him for a little bit, offer words of support and then say something to the effect of, “Hey, do you want to go outside?”

Sometimes I wonder if our kids are spending too much time on both the TV or the iPad. While I’m sure they could do less, they both have done well in school so far and are also active outside in the yard as well as in organized sports — so it’s not as if they just sit around the house all day doing nothing but staring at a screen. Bec and I know — and I think Grace and Zach know, too — that it’s simply not good for them to be looking at an iPad for hours on end.

Besides, it’s my iPad, and I need a turn at ZigZag every now and again.

Getaway

The McGaughey family, sitting in a booth at the Hard Rock Cafe in the Mall of America, was talking about Elvis. On the wall beside us was a framed karate robe that was apparently worn by none other than the King himself.

“Is Elvis dead?” Zachary asked.

I think it’s safe to say that Becca and I may have both been wondering how to answer that question. We could say that some people believe that Mr. Presley is still, in fact, alive, thus avoiding any conversation about the (ahem) poor choices he made.

Grace, as she often does, chimed in before we did.

“He did a lot of drugs,” she said. I’m not sure where she received this information, but I wasn’t about to argue otherwise.

Zach, though, either didn’t hear what Grace uttered, or it simply just didn’t register. “What?” he inquired.

“He put a lot of bad stuff in his body,” I answered, wondering just where our Elvis history lesson may take us.

“You mean junk food?” Zach asked.

“Well, yes, he did eat a lot of junk food,” I responded.

The conversation quickly shifted. Perhaps Zach — I know I did, anyway — started wondering about all the junk food we had eaten during our short getaway to the Twin Cities.

For a while beforehand, we had been talking about heading up to Minneapolis for the primary purpose of seeing a Twins game, as both the kids had been imploring us to make a Target Field visit. But since we didn’t have any other out-of-town vacations planned for the rest of the summer, maybe we could do something else in the Cities? Among the suggestions was seeing “Mary Poppins” at Chanhassen, which met with considerable enthusiasm from Grace and a facial expression of obvious dread from Zach. In the end, witnessing both siblings’ eagerness to visit the Lego store in the mall — never mind Grace’s rejoicing at the thought of setting foot inside the American Girl shop, and Zachary getting to encounter his Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle heroes at Nickelodeon Universe — we decided on a baseball/mall combo. We booked a great hotel room at pretty much the next-to-last minute, arranged for Benji to enjoy what I refer to as “Spring Break at Dogtona Beach” (he stays at Brands Countryside Pet Resort & Daycare, just outside of Worthington) and packed for a Tuesday-through-Thursday mini-break that we completed this past week.

I’ve got to admit that a longer vacation would have certainly been nice, but our brief up-to-the-Cities-and-back sojourn was just right in a lot of ways. For starters, while we spent some money, we didn’t throw down as much as we would have on a longer vacation that was further away from home. The kids were also wiped out by the end of our trip; they would have been even more exhausted if we were out of Worthington longer. And while our hotel room was certainly cozy — and the kids loved the pool — it was nice for Bec and I to get home to a somewhat regular routine (and not have the kids surrounding us every waking minute).

It was a great Twins game, a good (relatively speaking) experience at the mall and …. well, we ate a lot of good food, no small part of which could probably be classified as junk. That’s another reason why it’s good the vacation was short. Wouldn’t want to be too much like Elvis.

30 years/12 years

We have a summer intern extraordinaire, Andrea Magana, who was out of the office Thursday to attend an orientation program at the University of Northwestern. Andrea will be a freshman at Northwestern this fall, and when she told me of her plans to attend orientation it brought me back to 30 (now that’s a depressing number!) years ago.

In the summer of 1985, I was becoming increasingly psyched to begin post-high school life at was when then known as the State University of New York at Binghamton (now, simply, Binghamton University). At some point over the course of the summer, there was to be an overnight on campus, and I was looking forward to what would be my first night at a college.

There are a couple of components of that night that I recall well. One of them: there was a massive screen set up outside on which hundreds of incoming freshmen (and, no doubt, upperclass orientation assistants) watched the movie “Footloose.” (The original version, obviously, with Kevin Bacon.) The second, not surprisingly, involves a young lady.

To say I was insecure and awkward around women back in 1985, at age 17, is probably a gross understatement. I can asset with total certainty that I had never approached a female I found attractive to generate conversation. It’s probably just as safe to say that girls weren’t exactly lining up to chat with me, either — so that made it all the more stunning when a gorgeous (as I remember her, anyway) lass made my acquaintance during the summer orientation night. If this was how college was going to be, I thought, this was (as I’d heard a few times already) going to be the best four years of my life.

The funny thing is, I don’t think I ever asked this fellow first-year student what dorm she’d be living in come the start of the semester. It’s almost as if my attitude, in retrospect, was something to the effect of, “She’s just being nice. I’ve got no chance with her.” As it turned out, I was both surprised and overjoyed when the fall semester began and she wound up living in the residence hall right across from mine. A romance was destiny!

Not so fast, dreamer. Within three days, she had met some of my floormates, and was soon walking hand-in-hand with a dude that lived next door to me. It hadn’t even been a week yet, and I’d been presented with my first college heartbreak.

I should point out that Andrea, our summer intern, will have a different experience at her orientation, as she’s engaged to be married. It took many, many years for me to be ready to make that commitment — and I still sometimes can’t help but think that I’m nowhere close to the “perfect husband” — but I’m completely pleased things worked out the way they have. As Becca and celebrate 12 years of marriage on Sunday, I’m incredibly thankful that our respective long and winding paths led us to meet. Happy anniversary, my dear.

Regatta in review

Considering the heavy rains of the 2013 and 2014 Regattas, I was a little bit antsy about this year’s festivities. Another downpour, I feared, would lead to talk about doing away with the festival or the making of significant changes. And in my opinion, there are few weekends in this part of the country that can top Worthington’s Windsurfing Regatta and Music Festival — if the weather cooperates.

Well, I think it’s safe to say that the 2015 Regatta was a smashing success. Thank goodness! When I wrote the Daily Globe editorial for Thursday’s edition and took note of the promising weather forecast, I was also worried about setting a jinx of sorts on the revelry. Waking up to clouds and a light mist Saturday morning only added to the anxiety, but dry conditions ultimately prevailed and — even though our breezes could have and have been much stronger — all worked out weather-wise in the end.

This weekend marked the first time Becca’s parents came to Worthington for the Regatta, even though Bec has been a resident of this fair city for all 16 years the celebration has taken place. They enjoyed watching the windsurfers glide across Lake Okabena, and spent a good portion of time (and money!) savoring all kinds of flavorful, fat-filled food. Our menu late Saturday morning began with an appetizer of mini-donuts, and a funnel cake order soon followed. We each made our respective lunch choices, and a bit later on, Bec and I were not to be denied what we’d each been dreaming about since we learned of their availability — a deep-fried s’more for her, and deep-fried cookie dough for me. For both of us, it was temporary nirvana. (I should add that I took the dog for two longer-than-normal walks later, though I imagine they barely burned a fraction of the consumed calories.)

Grace and Zach enjoyed crafts and sand time, respectively, and as in practically every other year the Regatta brought unplanned get-togethers, conversation and fun. I also “did my time” in the Daily Globe tent as well as helping at the chair auction — during which I was blown away at how much money was raised for Nobles County Pheasants Forever — and hung around for a while with the family at night to relax while listening to a pretty decent cover rock band in Guilty Pleasures Orchestra. Many, many others, had the same idea of simply lounging along the lake on a pleasant Saturday night, and it made for an awesome atmosphere.

I should mention that Friday night, though I was working, was a memorable Regatta night, too. While only down at the lake for an abbreviated time, I was able to see my wife and daughter finish the UV ColorSplash walk/run, which was pretty cool considering it was the first time either of them had done anything like that both individually or together. They absolutely loved the experience — though Grace did bang up her a foot a bit, she was doing much better by Sunday — and I may find a way to join them in the merriment next year. There were a lot of families participating, in fact, which was great to see. (Zachary, however, did not want to take part, and instead opted to entertain his grandparents, dad and a couple of others with some comical dance moves while waiting at the finish.)

This year’s weekend festivities, while certainly plenty of fun, have already sparked an anticipation for next year. Is anyone already ready to Regatta again?

Nose in a book

Back in 10th grade — the 1982-1983 school year — I had an awesome social studies teacher named Mr. Patterson. Just knowing Mr. Patterson had been a Major League Baseball pitching prospect in the Dodgers organization before incurring a career-ending injury was attention-getting enough to this baseball-obsessed teen, but he also happened to be one of the best teachers I ever had. Teachers I enjoyed always had some sort of reciprocal effect on my grades — the best example of this was 11th-grade chemistry, during which Mr. Barone was able to coax “A” work out of me (even though it was a subject I absolutely dreaded) thanks to being arguably the most hilarious instructor I’d had — but I always was engrossed by history, and Mr. Patterson simply made the subject even more likable and interesting than it already was.

I just wish I could remember more about what I learned those 30-plus years ago. I haven’t seen the game show “Jeopardy!” in quite some time, but I do know that when I do see it I consistently surprise myself with what I can answer and frustrate myself with what I can’t. I sometimes wish I could go back to high school and re-learn some of the things I did back then — and, in some cases, learn them for the first time (senior-year physics). I had a dream last week, actually, that I was back in high school, and among other things was the editor of the school newspaper. I’d still probably find a way to strike out at the whole prom experience, but that’s a sad story I’d rather not focus on here.

I recall little tidbits of knowledge Dave Patterson passed along, and even the way he uttered certain words in his strong Boston accent. (“Magna Carta,” naturally, was a favorite, and I remember sometimes hoping NPR’s “Car Talk” hosts would somehow to find a way to insert them into a conversation). For some reason, I also vividly recall him teaching us about the immediate cause of World War I: the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo. And I also remember talking about the sinking of the Lusitania.

It was less than a week ago that I had a flashback to Patterson’s social studies class while visiting the Nobles County Library with Grace and Zach. The kids were off looking for their own books to read, and I was lingering near the reception desk when I spotted a hardcover book — “Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania” — on prominent display. I stared at it for about 10 seconds tops, then grabbed it.

It wasn’t that this book was completely foreign to me, as I’d heard it discussed by Minnesota Public Radio’s Kerri Miller on “The Daily Circuit.” “Dead Wake” sounded compelling, and here it was — somewhat unexpectedly — right in front of me. (Yes, I was in a library, but this is a new hardcover book, and I wasn’t actively looking for a current best-seller). I checked it out, and after just a couple of days am on page 217.

Without going that much into “Dead Wake,” I’ll simply say it’s a very interesting read that I’d recommend without hesitation — especially to a history buff. In fact, I’m tempted to find Mr. Patterson on Facebook to find out if he’s read it yet. I know I can’t take 10th-grade social studies all over again, but maybe he could recommend a book … about the Magna Carta, perhaps?

Old guy wipes out, wins anyway

WORTHINGTON (UBI) — Ryan scattered three hits and overcame a potentially serious injury while chasing a fly ball Saturday, ultimately emerging with a 2-0 win over his brother, Ian, in their annual wiffle ball matchup.

Ryan, 47 — who also defeated his-now 45-year-old sibling last summer in Vemont, has won a majority of the games in the series over the last decade or so. That said, Ian utterly dominated before that, winning dang near every single time. In other words, it’s safe to say that even if Ryan continues to triumph in a hypothetical yearly ballgame for, say, the next 30 years (though it’s hard to imagine the games taking place that long, though one might at least find it amusing to see a couple of old dudes with walkers playing wiffle ball), Ian would still almost certainly be the McGaughey wiffle ball king.

This past Saturday’s game, which was played on one of the softball diamonds behind Worthington Middle School, could’ve been a Ryan blowout, if not for his propensity to leave multiple runners on base in virtually every inning. The tone was set early — in the bottom of the first, he hit a single and double, but took a pathetic left-handed cut (both brothers turn switching back and forth on which side of the plate they hit from) on an inside Ian pitch for strike three and then popped out.

Ryan got a run home in the second, but had the bases loaded with no outs and could get no more thanks to a pop out and double-play grounder. His pitching, though, continued to shut the normally home-run-slugging Ian down, and he played error-free defense in the field — it may have been the first wiffle ball game ever during which he flubbed neither a grounder nor a ball hit in the air (in other words, display a spastic lack of sure-handedness).

It was Ian, in fact, who committed the key fielding blunder on this afternoon, booting a slow grounder that would have otherwise been ruled a double play through the brothers’ elaborate scoring system. (Surprisingly, a 20-sided die isn’t involved). It led to a key insurance run in the bottom of the fifth.

It was fortunate that Ryan was even able to swing the bat at all at that point, considering what had transpired a few moments earlier.

In the top of the left, the southpaw-swinging younger sibling swatted a monstrous fly ball to deep right-center field that seemed to hang in the air for days. The brothers’ rule — contest every ball struck in the air — could have been waived here, as a lot of ground needed to be covered for even a reasonable chance at a catch. But Ryan kept going back … and back … and back … reminiscent of Willie Mays chasing down Vic Wertz’s long drive in Game 1 of the 1954 World Series. Mays, of course, made one of the most famous catches of all time on that occasion. Ryan, however, wiped out near the warning track, bloodying his knees, hands and right forearm in the process.

Ian promptly ruled his hit a fly-out, noting that such a ball would have ordinarily been caught by an outfielder given where he hit it. Ryan, as he staggered to his feet, had little reason to disagree.

“I thought I had it all the way,” Ryan said after the brotherly battle had concluded. “For a moment, I couldn’t believe I didn’t make the catch. That perspective quickly changed, though — I wasn’t happy I missed the ball, but I was very happy I didn’t fracture anything.”

The siblings hope to play another game somewhat soon — potentially around Thanksgiving, perhaps somewhere in Oklahoma. No matter the time or location, the “wiffle tradition” is sure to continue — as long as either one is able to avoid the disabled list.

Editor’s note: This “story” is brought to this blog by UBI (United Buffoonery International). Its motto: “We’re definitely not UPI. We’re simply buffoons.”

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The sounds of music

It has been a few weeks since Grace excitedly brought home a new musical instrument — and I use that term somewhat loosely — from school. I suppose that, technically, the recorder is a musical instrument, but I have long seen it as a unique means of torture. I personally think it’s challenging to make a recorder sound good when a song’s notes are played both correctly and in tune, and when this doesn’t happen the nearest bottle of ibuprofen can’t be located quickly enough.

There were ground rules set upon the recorder’s arrival in our abode. Perhaps the most critical: it stays upstairs, in Grace’s room. She can play it up there whenever she wants, but there only. Of course, this guideline has been occasionally tested on certain aggravating occasions, such as at the breakfast table over Froot Loops, in the kitchen while Becca was preparing supper (talk about a DON’T) or downstairs in the living room to the dog (surprisingly, he didn’t beat a hasty retreat to his kennel). But, overall, she has done pretty well behaving herself with the instrument, and apparently has learned to play it well, too; she keeps on passing certain “belt” levels in music class.

I’m not surprised. Grace has always loved music, and as she has taken an increased interest in learning to play new instruments as she has gotten older. She has taken three years of piano now with Diane Mick, and done well enough in a couple of judged performances to perform at special recitals. Though she has a tendency to sometimes pound on the keys as if she’s trying to drive a tent stake into the ground — and also has a once-in-a-while tendency to heed Superman’s creed and play “faster than a speeding bullet” — she certainly continues to improve and still enjoys making music. She just wrapped up her spring recital on Sunday, in fact; one of the pieces she played was Beethoven’s “Fur Elise,” her mom’s favorite. It was pretty special to sit next to Becca and hear Grace perform it.

The next musical frontier, of course, will begin to be crossed this summer, when Grace heads to a band camp and starts becoming acquainted with the flute. She’s very excited to perform in band next year, and relished the opportunity to sample a few instruments a few weeks back at the middle school. She had been torn between flute, clarinet and drums, and for a while both Bec and I thought we were headed for the latter (and I was thinking of potential construction of a studio somewhere in the yard where Grace could channel her inner Sheila E. all she wanted). Ultimately, though, she picked the flute, which to me has always sounded much prettier than a recorder.

I can’t help but look forward to many more years of watching Grace performing music. I was in all kinds of choirs going through school, but never band or orchestra (though I did take the violin for, like, five weeks before announcing my retirement) — those were left to my brother, Ian, who was even playing professionally at weddings before being done with high school. I don’t know where Grace’s musical career will ultimately lead, but all I know is that I’ll be listening every step of the way.

Lucky guesses?

Many, many years ago, I walked into a country store with my dad and brother, Ian. It was sometime in the mid- to late 1970s — I’m guessing ’77 or, more likely, ’78. We were somewhere in the middle of Vermont, if I remember correctly.

There was a black and white television on in the one of the corners of the store showing a Red Sox game. Ian and I wandered over to watch; Boston was at bat. Within a moment’s time Ian uttered the words, “Watch this guy hit a home run.”

Well, what happened next should be fairly obvious. The hitter — then-Red Sox right fielder Dwight Evans — smoked the very next pitch over the fence for a round-tripper. Other folks in the store were amazed. I was more jealous. Who was my little brother to steal everyone’s attention by successfully predicting a Red Sox home run in the middle of New England?

The crazy thing is, this was nothing all that new, this predicting-what-would-happen stuff. Ian had always shown a very peculiar clairvoyance by forecasting seemingly random things. It happened over and over again: the telephone would ring, and Ian would consistently predict who was calling. Maybe, just maybe, he was tipped off by someone in advance, but I don’t think either of my parents would be so cruel as to keep me in the dark on this for 40-plus years. He just knew, and it made me mad. Ian could predict telephone callers and home-run hitters, and my special skill was “only” memorizing baseball statistics dating back to — say — the first World Series in 1903. (A lot of that information has since been shoved aside by, arguably, even less meaningful knowledge.) Who was Ian to always show me up?

One afternoon — also in the late 1970s, or perhaps 1980 — Dad took us to Fenway Park to see the Red Sox take on the White Sox. I’m almost certain it was the first inning, and a ChiSox player named Mike Squires strode up to the plate. Being the total baseball nerd that I was, I glanced at the scoreboard and took note of Squires’ lack of power numbers. “Watch this guy hit a home run,” Ian said. Next pitch, sure enough, the ball comes sailing toward us, into the bullpen in right-center field.

I think I probably slugged Ian in the arm.

It has been a long time since Ian demonstrated these peculiar prognastic abilities, at least in my presence. Maybe it was all luck. Maybe whatever magic he had as a kid wore off. Maybe he just doesn’t want me to slug him again.

Still, I can’t help but wonder if all this was coincidence or some sort of mysterious force at play. I started thinking about all this the other day while watching the Twins take on the Indians.

Zachary, who at age 7 is showing admirable patience with an inconsistent Twins team, was with me and laying out the situation in front of us during a 4-1 ballgame our squad was actually winning. “There’s a guy on first and a guy on second,” he said. “If this guy hits a double, it will be 5-1. If this guy hits a triple, it will be 6-1. And, if he hits a HOME RUN” — he turns to me and smiles — “it will be 7-1!”

Well, what do you know? The very next pitch, Torii Hunter hits a big fly to left, and the Twins grab a six-run lead. Zach jumped out of his chair, beaming; we fist-bumped. And I thought of my brother, who I have shared so much baseball with over the years. I thought of how much baseball I can’t wait to share with Zach.

I don’t care if I ever call a home run myself.

Senator, scientist shine in speeches

Prior to attending the Worthington Bio Conference on Thursday morning, I joked that I wasn’t sure I’d had enough coffee.

Sure, I expected the 11th annual event — which continues today at the Worthington Event Center — to feature plenty of speakers filled with all kinds of interesting anecdotes and positive messages. Still, as someone who often is in the position of being able to admit “I’m not the smartest person in the room,” I fretted about the likelihood of being lost in a sea of technical language and what I’d deem “biojargon.”

As it turned out, my tuning out was kept to a blissful minimum. The morning began with an engaging, occasionally quite humorous presentation by Jim DeKloe, director/founder of the Industrial Program at Solano College in the North San Francisco, Calif., Bay Area (not the type of resume-topper that typically implies comedy), which ended with a touching story about DeKloe and his son. Next, Sen. Amy Klobuchar kept up the momentum by offering optimistic remarks about Minnesota and its economic future, sprinkling in a few good one-liners about Washington all the while.

Klobuchar, who was in the second day of a two-day swing around southwest Minnesota, said she continues to serve Minnesotans in Washington because she believes federal lawmakers can still work together to get things done. She did admit to some low moments, and singled out one as the lowest — the “fiscal cliff” crisis.

“It was New Year’s Eve,” she remembered. “I looked to my left, and I saw Harry Reid. I looked to my right and saw Mitch McConnell. Every girl’s dream on New Year’s Eve.”

Still, Klobuchar remains hopeful, and noted Thursday that she helped coordinate the bipartisan “Group of 14” that ultimately helped steer lawmakers away from that fiscal cliff. She’s rightfully proud of that, along with her efforts on the farm bill (which she deemed “one of our only stable pieces of legislation … and one that is critical for our economy.”)
Her attitude as a senator, she said, is to “focus on how we govern from opportunity and move ahead.” One of the priorities Klobuchar listed was workforce development, and she noted that a study on Worthington’s housing needs indicated that 500 more housing units are needed by 2020 (“At the current pace of development, that would take 60 years”). She also spoke of getting more youths into STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) studies, and immigration reform and tax reform were also at the top of her to-do list.

Klobuchar remarked that Minnesota ranks second in the U.S. in Fortune 500 companies and fourth in the nation for agriculture products, mentioning that strong and innovative operations such as Grazix Animal Health, Bioverse and Minnesota Soybean Processors sit in Worthington and its backyard. People migrate to Minnesota because innovation “is the bread and butter” of its economy, she said — and not for the weather, although Klobuchar pointed out that Minnesota “because of all its lakes, has more coastline than Florida, California and Hawaii combined.”

That was another one of Klobuchar’s laugh lines, but it wasn’t nearly as well received as her anecdote about a recent piece in The Washingtonian. In that article, she said, she and fellow U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Utah conservative, were named as “least likely to get into a scandal in Washington, D.C. … and I assume that means with each other.” There was more — she referred fleetingly to once being on a motorcycle with Worthington Mayor Mike Kuhle and, paraphrasing “A Prairie Home Companion” host Garrison Keillor, called Minnesota the place where “all the women are strong, all the men are good looking and all the bioscience professionals are above average.”

DeKloe may be from California and not Minnesota, but as a bioscience professional it’s pretty safe to say he’s well above average. (I’ll opt not to comment about his looks.) He spent a good portion of his time discussing the rising of Vacaville, Calif., into a biotech center, and how what transpired in that community could happen elsewhere. With an eye on both the future and the past, he contrasted life on the southwest Minnesota prairie in 1900 to what it’s like today, noting that a multitude of scientific advancements can be hailed as a “transformation of what it means to be human.” Noted DeKloe: “You haven’t seen anything yet — this is the century of the biosciences.”

It promises to be a pretty remarkable century, indeed. He said continued advancements are expected in vaccines, antibiotics, nutrition, biomaterials (genetically engineered cells with multiple enzymes that are eventually converted into molecules), addressing aging (“it is likely that sometime in the next 100 years, we will likely be able to turn off aging,” he said while acknowledging ethical and moral consequences) and synthetic biology (“taking chemicals off the shelf, mixing them, and out of that experiment will come a living organism.”) DeKloe spoke of a project he said he funded through a Kickstarter campaign in which genes are being put into a plant in order to fulfill a dream of having a boulevard with glowing plants. “They’re going to send me some seeds once it’s done,” he said. “They’re doing it in the garage … anyone can do it now, and that’s the way of the future.”

Perhaps DeKloe’s primary point was that biotechnology represents the intersection of science, engineering, business and government, and that “all of these agents have to come together to have a viable bioscience industry.” But he also did a dead-on impression of former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger at a bioscience-related groundbreaking, admitted that he did his “patriotic duty” and watched the Seth Rogen film “The Interview,” and made references to the classic book “Brave New World” (“it may come true) and not-nearly-as-classic film “Gattaca” (“It’s implications are staggering … and Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman met on the set and had a few genetic experiments of their own.”) In short, his other main point could have been that a little humor can give a speech a big boost.

DeKloe’s finest moment of his presentation came at its conclusion, when he discussed his then-4-year-old son contracting a sudden and life-threatening illness and being told of a possible solution — a drug that he, ironically, had developed with the biotech firm Genentech. His son is now a sophomore studying bioengineering.

“If you want an advocate for this field, you have no bigger advocate than me,” DeKloe said. With that kind of personal story, it was only fitting that he set the tone for what promised Thursday morning to be a very enlightening conference.

‘The big paper’

If you want to get a great glimpse of what’s going on throughout the Daily Globe coverage area, I’d urge you to pick up the March 28-29 edition.
Just don’t plan on reading this weekend’s paper in one sitting. After all, the Globe will contain 36 extra pages — and all of the copy is produced in-house, as opposed to being written and edited by Reuters or Forum News Service. Indeed, this is our biggest project of the year, at least from our newsroom’s perspective.
Each year, usually around late January or early February, plans get set in motion for what we’ve long referred to as our “annual report.” The focus of the content has been gradually tweaked over the years, and we now try to place an emphasis on human-interest stories from our southwest Minnesota and northwest Iowa communities. The subjects of these pieces can be people of interest, newsworthy events of the past year, upcoming community events or projects, an intriguing business — in a nutshell, anything having to do with the places in which our newspaper is circulated.
Our three full-time staff reporters usually have between five and six weeks to write five stories for the annual report, and other assignments are spread out between other Daily Globe newsroom employees and freelance writers. Of course, in addition to working on stories for the annual report, copy must be produced for the regular paper, so it can be a fairly busy time around here.
But — it’s a “good busy.” We all may get a bit stressed out as deadlines for the big special edition get close, but we also take pride in preparing these stories and passing them along to our readers. Each year, I can honestly say that I look at the annual report and marvel at the quality journalism contributed by all involved. And this past January, it should be noted, our 2014 annual report — titled “A Sense of Community” — earned third place for the best special section for all Minnesota daily newspapers at the annual Minnesota Newspaper Association convention.
I think we’d all agree that our 2015 annual report, “Home Sweet Home,” is at least just as award-worthy. But while awards are indeed nice, I just hope a lot of people pick up this weekend’s paper and give it a nice, thorough read. Anyone who pours through at least some of the 36 pages can almost certainly ascertain that we live in a great part of this country, and that there’s plenty going on. I’d also welcome comments and suggestions for the 2016 annual report, as this special section only gives us an extra opportunity to tell the kinds of stories you — our readers — want.
Enjoy our special edition. This blog will likely return to its usual format of silly things my kids did next time.