December 2010

Notice:

Prairie Fire Newspaper went on hiatus after the publication of the September 2015 issue. It may return one of these days but until then we will continue to host all of our archived content for your reading pleasure. Many of the articles have held up well over the years. Please contact us if you have any questions, thoughts, or an interest in helping return Prairie Fire to production. We can also be found on Facebook and Twitter. Thank you to all our readers, contributors, and supporters - the quality of Prairie Fire was a reflection of how many people it touched (touches).

The Rally to Restore Sanity: A Timeline

By Kandra Haha

My friend Pat Knapp and I have come to Washington, D.C., for Emmy-winning comedian Jon Stewart’s Rally to Restore Sanity. I saw him announce it on his show Sept. 17 and thought right away about going. Pat, a Lincoln, Neb. lawyer, read about it and sent an e-mail to a group of friends with the subject line, “OH MY GOD I WANT TO GO!!!” I replied and, typical of me, had already checked flights and prices. Our friends demurred, citing preexisting sanity. Pat and I had plane tickets and a room in a couple of days.

Alfredisms

“I Want Him Home”
Sept. 19, 2971

Last November a journalism student from the University of Nebraska spent a day interviewing us and one of the many questions she asked was, “What do you think of amnesty for those who fled to Canada rather than fight in Vietnam?” We had managed to handle her previous questions, even coming up with a credible answer for “Why did you paint your doors red?” We replied, “The doors needed painting.”

Election 2010: The Unintended Consequences of Change

By Randall Moody

When Rep. John Boehner of Ohio cried on national television election night, Nov. 2, in anticipation of becoming Speaker of the House of Representatives, it reminded me of another time a few years ago that I saw him shed a few tears. I was in his congressional office when he was told a story about two children who were caught fighting in school. They were separated and told they should settle their dispute in a more civilized manner; discussing their differences, finding common ground and agreeing on a solution. This whole process seemed to move Boehner at the time, but since then he has shown much more inclination to fight than to compromise.

ANDRILL: Antarctic Climate Change Research in Education

Penguins on ice. (Godfrey)

By David Harwood and Rita Thomas

Scientists from the international ANDRILL (ANtarctic geological DRILLing) Program study Earth’s climate history through their time machine—a 40-ton drilling rig mounted on sleds. They read the story of past climate change from rock drill cores collected using the time machine. During 2006 and 2007, teams of researchers, drillers, educators, students and support staff from Germany, Italy, New Zealand and the United States met in Antarctica to drill holes into the seafloor near McMurdo Station in the Ross Sea. They sought information about how the Antarctic ice sheet behaved during two previous periods of sustained global warmth, the early Pliocene and early to mid-Miocene (three to five million and 17 to 14 million years ago, respectively). With core recovery at record levels (98 percent of the penetrated rock strata), ANDRILL’s two new drill cores are the longest (>1,200 meters, 3,600 feet) and most complete geological records from Antarctica.

The Natural Christmas Tree

By Dave Titterington

The Christmas tree is a product of Nature herself. Just an infant in time when compared to the diminishing old growth forests, but these trees have served their mother well. Although carefully cultivated by the hand of man, cut fresh in their youth, then brought indoors for our holiday enjoyment, these miniature giants carry a history of their own. These special trees we place in a stand, carefully watered, and then decorate with bright lights and shiny ornaments may at one time have hidden a frightened bird dodging a sharp-eyed predator. They may have provided shelter for a group of birds from the blustery north winds of winter. The sturdy boughs of these young trees could have gently clutched the woven twigs and grasses of a bird’s delicate nest that brought forth new life. Or they may have provided the final perch of an old and weathered avian friend. The trees of Christmas present, which once helped to hold the landscape in place contributing to the natural world, now provide for us as a centerpiece during this most beautiful of festive seasons. When adorned, they stir the dreams of young children, while conjuring up past memories for those whose belief of a jolly fat man dressed in red, sliding down a soot-filled chimney, have long since faded.

Citizen Science in Action: The Christmas Bird Count

By Mary Bomberger Brown, Linda R. Brown and Chris Thody

“…the secret to effective conservation is to follow the birds.”
—National Audubon Society President David Yarnold

The Christmas Bird Count, sponsored by the National Audubon Society, is the oldest and largest citizen science event in the world. During this event, thousands of volunteers from all across the western hemisphere spend one day, always between Dec. 14 and Jan. 5, out with the birds. On count day, birds are identified and counted in the field and at birdfeeders in a defined 15-mile (24-kilometer) diameter circle. These counts provide an estimate of the total number of birds, and the species of birds, found in the area on that day; everyone is welcome to join in.

Globally endangered temperate oak savannas are being restored in south-central Iowa

By Sibylla Brown

Landowners in south-central Iowa are setting their woodlands on fire to restore globally endangered oak savannas. Temperate-zone North American oak savannas are one of the world’s most endangered ecosystems. Once stretching from Minnesota south to the Texas Hill Country, presettlement oak savannas, the transition between the eastern deciduous forests and the tallgrass prairie, encompassed 30 million acres. One of the top 10 ecoregions for diversity of reptiles, birds, butterflies and vascular plants, this two-tiered community consists of open-canopy deciduous trees over an herbaceous ground layer of grasses, sedges and wildflowers. It contains many globally and federally endangered plant and animal species and numerous unique plant communities.

Book Review: "Prairie Republic" by Jon K. Lauck

Review by Micah Intermill

“Prairie Repubic: The Political Cuture of Dakota Territory, 1879-1889”
Author: Jon K. Lauck
Publisher: Norlights Press, Nasville, Ind.

Perhaps one of the most dangerous contributions brought to us by the information age is the increased adherence to conventional wisdom. Indeed, the overabundance of information on any given subject, and our pure inability to thoughtfully synthesize it all, has created this paradox—but from time to time, something comes along that’s worth slowing down for so that we may reframe our view and break through the conventional wisdom-supporting clutter. Jon Lauck’s new book, “Prairie Republic:

Sonny's Corner: Truth or Consequences

By Jim Pipher

Truth or Consequences” was a very popular game show that ran for decades on both radio and television. The game began with the clever, wise cracking host (usually Ralph Edwards or Bob Barker) asking the contestant an off-the-wall trivia question. If the contestant did not provide the correct answer (The Truth) in a timely manner (before “Beulah the Buzzer” sounded), they suffered The Consequences. This involved performing a wacky stunt designed to deliver spills, pratfalls and general hilarity. Unfortunately, these days, The Truth is often much more controversial. And The Consequences usually involve more serious matters than water balloons or pie pans filled with whipped cream.

Immigration in Nebraska

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