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.

The plan for building a southern fence

The immigration bill passed the U.S. Senate with funding approved to “strengthen” the border with Mexico, but that made me curious about the plans for this new fence. So often you hear about the massive funding approved for some government project, but the specific details are difficult to find. Interviews with politicians in Washington give some insight, but not a whole lot. Saying exactly where or what tends to affect the bidding for the contract for whatever company takes on the task, but the lowest bidder always wins.

The details I’m looking for come from the interest group pushing hard for this reform. offers their opinion on what the border should be, either in its entirety or along “strategic points” along the boundry to Mexico. Barbed wire, ditches, motion sensors, and double fences. It’s the dream setup for any militaristic entity wanting to promote a “you’re not wanted here” message.

The message this promotes is unhealthy. Illegal immigrants are a problem, but the problem won’t go away that easily. It’s never been proven that gaps in the southern border has directly led to terrorism, and you might recall news story prior to 9/11 when a man tried entering Washington State from Canada with bomb making materials.

The same interest group makes a comparison of the U.S. situation with terrorism to Isreal’s.

A secure, state-of-the-art border fence must be one element of any comprehensive effort to address the illegal immigration problem. Similar fences in Israel have reduced terrorist attacks by up to 95%. [weneedafence]

If that’s true, and there was, very recently, a sizable terrorist plot broken up in Ontario[], located much closer to Washington D.C., shouldn’t there be as much concern for Canada? Our biggest trade partners? That might impede on both of our economies though, so that would be potentially damaging. More, visible terrorists plots to the north, but more economical effects coming for the south. The money is always the winner.

Here’s an idea. Create stiffer penalities for employing illegal immigrants and follow up on them. And by that I mean fines. Then you can take the millions that you don’t blow on building a fence combined with the cash you make on actually enforcing laws to pay off the debt for the war in Iraq. Even that idea has holes, but it makes a whole lot more sense than a big “do not enter” sign.

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.  []

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.”

A Reason To Fly JetBlue?

In addition to having some of the lowest fares for flying, JetBlue[wiki] hopes that WiFi on their planes will make their airline even more appealing.

JetBlue Airways Corp. won a wireless license to offer high-speed Internet and other communications services on commercial aircraft in a U.S. Federal Communications Commission auction that ended on Friday. []

It seems like there are two types of people when it comes to JetBlue; those that think it’s the worst airline and those that think it’s one of the best. Their record doesn’t help them too much either, but this is a boost for those business travelers out there.

Among 19 carriers reporting to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, JetBlue had the lowest on-time arrival rates in January, according to the Department of Transportation’s Air Travel Consumer Report for that month. The popular upstart airline landed on schedule just 70.6 percent of the time. Hawaiian Airlines was best, with a rate of 95.9 percent, and other airlines arrived promptly 78.8 percent of the time.

The report is more bad news for JetBlue, which lost $42.4 million during the fourth quarter due to fuel costs, and it plans to raise fares to improve profits. But it did have one of the lowest rates of canceled flights, at 0.2 percent, which could be tied to its many delays. Other airlines would rather cancel a flight than hurt their arrival rates. []

Don’t You Want To Be an Immigrant, Too?

Border line in the road.One thing Rebecca has been asking me lately is about the southern border of the U.S. She asked, kind of laughing in doubt, if there are just these holes in the fences where people walk through from Mexico into the southern states. I tell her yes, that’s exactly it. The holes are not huge, but it’s not unusual to have people just wandering into, and out of, the U.S. It’s probably gotten tougher over the past few years, but these things happen.

It’s so strange to think about this issue being where I am now. I’m currently an immigrant to Canada. And let me tell you, even being an American, getting into this country to legally stay is not an easy task. You might think so, but as I was told many times, it’s easier to get a permanent resident status if you are a refugee from a third world country than it is for an American.

It might be easy to get to Canada and stay here without making yourself legal, but you wouldn’t be able to apply for provincial programs or a social insurance number. I do hear that there is some money to be made in the business of illegal drugs, but there seems to be a high risk factor in that industry for some reason. If you’re lucky enough to not be deported after that, then you have a ticket to reside in the crown’s wonderful prison system with no chance of getting any residential status here. Doesn’t that sound lovely? Continue reading “Don’t You Want To Be an Immigrant, Too?”

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.

Tracking the Price At the Pump

I found this interesting website from CNet News that tracks the price of gas across the U.S. and Canada. has a tracker that is color coded by county for the states, but I can’t find anything similar for Canada. At the same time, I’m not too sure of how often this is updated, but it seems to have valid information.

As of right now, California and New York seem to be getting slammed the most with prices going around $3.30+ per gallon, the rest of the U.S. not fairing too much less. And the U.S. congress wants to give everyone in the nation a $100 rebate for gas? At this rate, $1000 would be a better amount for everyone. I say save the money and put it into energy alternatives.

Hey, the oil companies seem to be loving this.