Farewell, Professor Van Allen

Professor James Van Allen - June 14, 2005One of the neatest things that I can recall from my early days of becoming a lifelong geek was discovering that something in space was named after a guy who was born and raised not far from my home. I think that’s common for anyone who has some one from their home state do something that makes you proud to say that you are not afraid to say where you are from.

Then in high school, you are taught by physics teachers who studied under the guy. I had an interest in astronomy that died out during these years, but that didn’t make me any less interested in learning more about it. The Van Allen radiation belts? James Van Allen[wiki] was that guy.

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Physicist James A. Van Allen, a leader in space exploration who discovered the radiation belts surrounding the Earth that now bear his name, died Wednesday. He was 91.

The University of Iowa, where he taught for years, announced the death in a statement on its Web site. [globeandmail]

When I worked at WSUI, we used to venture downtown for various live remotes that we would have to setup for, and that would take us to Van Allen Hall, the physics building that is named after him. We’d park the car in one of the official vehicle spots just outside the lecture hall, and there was one, professor emeritus, reserved parking spot that had an older, green, Jeep Cherokee in it. That was Professor Van Allen’s, and it was usually there every single time we dropped by.

Professor James Van Allen - June 14, 2005Even in his 90’s, he was still leading projects and heading into his office nearly every single day. I’m not sure to what capacity, but if you had a some sort of physics research that needed some help in getting a monetary grant from some institution, who else would be better to help sign off on it? He changed a lot about space travel with his discoveries, and the life he led is hardly a dull one.

These pictures are a few snaps that I took when BBC Radio wanted to do an ISDN[wiki] interview with him from our studios in Iowa City on June 14, 2005. He was the kindest man, parking in the lot out front with that classic, green Jeep. His wit was still pretty sharp, and the stories he told were fascinating.

I can’t even recall what the BBC wanted with him, and it doesn’t even matter. I just remember being so excited to shake his hand on that day. It’s not so much about him being a celebrity as it is meeting a great man. A lifetime of researching and discovering new things is an incredible thing in my opinion.

“Certainly one of the most enthralling things about human life is the recognition that we live in what, for practical purposes, is a universe without bounds.”
– James Van Allen (September 7, 1914 – August 9, 2006)

More sports in the middle of corn fields

All Iowa Lawn Tennis Club

In case the Field of Dreams wasn’t enough, you can now play a game of tennis on a natural turf court on a corn and soybean farm in northern, rural Iowa.

“I had a friend who died suddenly at 50, and I thought about this thing I’d wanted all my life,” he said. “If I was going to pursue this dream, I needed to go ahead and do it.”

The first time he looked at the level, rectangular lot on the family farm 3miles outside Charles City and envisioned a grass court, he was 11 and a budding player.

“One of my chores was feeding and watering the cattle,” he said. “I’d look at this area and say, ‘That would be a nice tennis court.’ My dad didn’t think a lot of that idea.” [desmoinesregister]

Field of Dreams - July 2005 - Me on the mound, Dad's playing thirdThe main thing to remember is that this is a real life project. The Field of Dreams was created for the movie and is now milked for all its tourism worth. I spent the day up there almost a year ago today for some 4th of July festivities with my family. It’s a good time, and the corn would be at a good height right now to get the total effect.

Ride the prairie with Lance

This almost makes me jealous. I’ve always wanted to do this.

Lance Armstrong, winner of the Tour de France the last seven consecutive years, is passing up Paris this summer to ride RAGBRAI.

Barry Jackson of the Lance Armstrong Foundation confirmed Tuesday that Armstrong hopes to ride at least one day of the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa. [desmoinesregister]

It’s like one, big rolling party. The last time the ride stopped through my home town, I was running the beer ticket stand with some friends. I’m not sure I could handle a night of drinking followed by a 45+ mile ride the day after to get to the next town, not to mention the heat and humidty if the weather decides to be nasty. For some people, that’s the best part of the ride.

Still, it’d be pretty neat to say that you rode RAGBRAI[wiki] the year Lance Armstrong[wiki] came out.

Been seeing a lot of Iowa around Vancouver lately

Slurpees at 7-11Did you know that American Gothic[wiki] is one of the most replicated paintings in pop culture, if not ever? You’ve more than likely seen the painting before. The dude on the farm with the pitchfork and his wife. Yeah, it’s that one. The wife looks less than impressed, and the guy seems a bit perturbed.

Grant Wood[wiki] is the man behind the painting. So often, these two facts escape the memory banks, but people know the painting when they see it. Well, at least those that stand to be familiar with American art, but it’s popularity world wide is constantly amazing.

I was born and raised in Grant Wood country. In grade school, we would spend weeks learning and celebrating who he was. There still is the Grant Wood Art Festival that goes on every year in Stone City, Iowa, which happens to be the the town that Grant Wood named my most favorite painting of his after. In fact, the 34th annual event just passed this month. It’s nothing huge, but the festival is worth the summer day and hospitality.

Now that I’m in Vancouver, my eyes catch these “signs of Iowa” more. When I walked into 7-11 the other day, it struck me to see this image above the slurpee spouts. Yet another parody of this less than a hundred year old artwork, and this time it’s to aid in the attraction of flavored, crushed ice drinks. For me, this completely envokes the summer time vibe to buy into the effect that it’s intending, not that I really need the added help.

Stone City - Grant WoodCombine this with the passing of some dude that I freaked out just the other day who was wearing the Tigerhawk[wiki] on his baseball cap. We were on the way to the NHL draft at GM Place when we passed him in the crosswalk on Burrard Street. I gave him a “Go Hawks!” with a fist pump, the universal thing that any good Iowan would do when we spot our own. He was caught off guard and just kind of looked back at me as we walked on. I’ve lived here for nearly eight months, waiting for that moment to come.

Anyhow, I have to say, Grant Wood truly is one of my more favorite artists, even though many critics of his time, and even today, don’t regard his works with much enthusiasm. I can’t say much more artsy fartsy things about him than that. I like his work, and his works help reflect the beauty of where I grew up.

They are pushing for the ban in Iowa as well

The amendment to ban gay marriage in the U.S. is not limited to the federal level. States around the nation are taking on the issue, and Iowa is included.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Jim Nussle[wiki] says banning gay marriage is a “quality of life” issue. Nussle, who is leaving congress after serving 16 years in the House, supports amendments to the federal and state constitutions that would ban gay marriage. “I’m an original co-sponsor of the amendment to protect marriage at a federal level. It was just re-introduced and I’m an original co-sponsor of that as well and I believe Iowa needs to set a standard when it comes to quality of life, and that’s based on the union between a man and a woman,” Nussle says.

Nussle says “activist judges” are “out of control” and have “free-lanced” on cases which have set in motion a fight over whether gay and lesbian couples have the same rights as married men and women. “I believe there’s a clear difference in this election between the candidates on this issue,” Nussle says. [radioiowa]

I’ve always had it in my mind that, aside from the idea of seperation of church and state, the government should always make laws regardless of sex or race. More often than none, much of those laws that have been created revolve around crime. People want the right to celebrate their love through marriage, regardless of their sexual orientation.

It’s all a matter of governments officially recognizing the union of a same-sex marriage, but there is also a slight stigma that conveys a sense of it being against the law for homosexuals to be in love, in the eyes of the state. We struggled with similar notions, such as apartheid, in the past. All humans deserve the respect and ability of being treated as equals.

I know who I don’t want for “guber” this fall back in my home state, but don’t think you can escape to Canada where gay marriage is llegal today. Prime Minister Harper[wiki] is pushing for a vote to repeal the law this fall. Conservative mindsets are noticeably on the rise in North America.

Luring In Illegal Immigrants Via Email

News coming out of Iowa.

When a lawyer for Estephanie Izaquirre, a parentless teenager from Honduras, received an e-mail from an immigration official in Des Moines saying the girl should come downtown and “complete the paperwork” Thursday, he thought that meant she was about to get her green card.

Instead, a deportation officer arrested Izaquirre, five days after she graduated from East High School in Des Moines.  [desmoinesregister.com]

Both sides of the issue present arguments that are understandable, but the fact is that this girl is fresh from graduating high school.  That is hardly a  high crime compared to some of the other immigrants staying in the U.S. illegally.  More so, “at age 17 (she) was granted special immigrant juvenile status as an abandoned, abused child with nowhere else to go.”  She moved beyond that status and became illegal when turning eighteen.  I would like to think that immigration officials would consider that history prior to arresting her just a few days after her eighteenth birthday, having it translate over to an approved status as an adult.

The more you consider all the elements of this situation, the less it seems to make sense.  Immigration being the hot topic in the news right now, authorities are doing everything they can to show that they are doing their job.  This might be evidence that they are doing too much in certain areas.  Lori Chasser has it right by saying, “What are we going after juveniles for? I mean, can’t we concentrate on drug traffickers and human traffickers? I don’t understand where we’re going with this enforcement.”

Iowa City is a Smart City

Kiplinger’s Personal Finance has published their list of “50 Smart Places to Live” in the U.S. and listed Iowa City, IA at #10.

…we asked hundreds of you for the criteria you’d use to pick a place to call home. You told us you wanted good value in home prices and a reasonable cost of living — not surprising, considering that choosing a place to live is one of the biggest financial decisions you’ll ever make — combined with a great quality of life. [article]

Iowa City was and still is my choice of places to live when it comes to my home state. The cost of living is getting to be a tad of the nutty side. Rent in the downtown area seems to go up almost every year even with new apartment complexes going up all over the city.

Compared to a lot of larger communities in Iowa, IC has a great arts and music scene for my taste. Rebecca and I were talking about it the other night. I’ll forever cherish my many nights of whiskey and live music at Gabes, but it’s not a place for the faint of heart. Still, there’s a lot more to it than that. I’ve thought to myself quite often that Vancouver is what Iowa City would be like on steroids.

All You Need is a F2

I’m still getting reports trickling in from the homefront.

I’m going to give all the credit for these photos to the Iowa City Press Citizen. In fact, I still have some pals back there that took some of these shots. This is amazing stuff. I used to live right near some of these places.


The Dairy Queen! It’s completely gone! It was probably one of the most ghetto, little ice cream stands in Iowa City, but when you wanted to get a frosty blizzard on the way back to the radio station, you didn’t care. The bugs would chew at your skin while you waited in line, but you waited until those folks inside peered at you through the window screen to ask you what you wanted. Continue reading “All You Need is a F2”

Life Back In the Rolling Prairie

Got an IM from my brother tonight while watching the game.

Major storm damage in the Iowa City area. Anamosa got hit bad, as well, where they have called out the Red Cross… someone must have lost their home.

Iowa City Menards had a roof collapse. University Heights homes damaged. I’m sure more stories will come out by tomorrow morning.

Probably about four confirmed tornados since about 7:30ish.

It’s spring time in the midwest. A far cry from the constant rain that we’ve had in Vancouver all day long.

To tell you the truth, it’s kind of a rush. Big, rolling storms in the Iowa countryside. I kinda miss it.

Update: The Iowa City Press Citizen has a story about the big storm. Also check out their site for photos. You can also check out the Cedar Rapids Gazette Online for their coverage.