Off the top of my head

Feb 25

U.S. graphics

You know the graphics, the ones that take each state and assigns something to it, thereby lumping all people together and allowing for no diversity.

Well, the practice has jumped the shark with this one, which lists the favorite* band of every state.

And South Dakota gets (drumroll please) … Hinder. That link will take you to the hard-rock band’s Facebook page, which as of today hadn’t had any comments since Feb. 12.

*I was corrected by co-worker David Montgomery, who can respond to tweets while covering both houses of the South Dakota Legislature. It’s not favorite, it’s disproportionately popular.

Two cars

Two cars recently were waiting at the stop light on 11th Street, waiting to go north on Minnesota Avenue.

One car had the turn signal on. One car turned left into the proper lane.

Wanna guess which one it was?

Feb 21


Apparently in the winter of my discontent, the rest of you here in South Dakota are feeling pretty darn good about things. Someone (me, for example) might even call you smug.

I base this on a Gallup study that says South Dakotans report so much satisfaction with their lives and jobs that the state ranks almost top of the chart in well-being in 2013. Only North Dakota ranks higher.

Even more amazing, last year neither state was in the top 10. Either life in the Upper Great Plains radically improved in the previous 12 months, or the survey-takers only interviewed Gov. Dennis Daugaard and Mayor Mike Huether.

"The Gallup-Healways Well-Being Index, based on interviews with more than 176,000 people from all 50 states last year, measures the physical and emotional health of Americans across the country," according to an article in USAToday.

In states with high well-being scores, residents were less likely to smoke (hooray, indoor smoking ban) and more likely to exercise regularly and learn new things every day (I need an example of that). “These states also enjoyed the positive outcomes of such behaviors, including lower obesity rates and other common health problems,” the article said. (That confirms my suspicion that I’m the only overweight person in Sioux Falls.)

The article points out that positive well-being scores don’t necessarily have high incomes (poor but happy?), but that’s outweighed by other advantages such as being smart AND employed.

And it’s apparently just one great big pocket on contentment because in addition to our jolly neighbors to the north, we’re joined by Minnesota, Nebraska and Iowa in the top 10. Perhaps the long winter months freeze our brains, and they don’t thaw out in time before winter strikes again.

Nationally, the well-being index dipped from 66.7 in 2012 to 66.2 in 2013. Here in South Dakota, our score is 70. North Dakota’s is 70.4, and they’re having an oil boom, remember. Would an oil well in my backyard make me happy? Probably not. But I wouldn’t mind a gold mine.

Here’s what the study says about South Dakota. You read that while I go off and enjoy my work environment:

2. South Dakota

• Well-being index score: 70.

• Life expectancy: 79.5 years (tied-18th highest)

• Percentage obese: 28.3% (17th highest)

• Median household income: $48,362 (22nd lowest)

• Percentage with high school diploma: 90.5% (tied-13th highest)

Respondents from South Dakota were among the most likely people in the USA to report good emotional health. More than 86% of those surveyed reported smiling or laughing within the past 24 hours, second-highest in the USA. Meanwhile, 90% reported enjoying a large portion of their day, and more than 93% felt happy during the previous 24 hours, both more than any other state. The state’s 3.6% unemployment rate in December tied for the second lowest in the USA. Not only did much of the workforce have a job, but also people in the state were more likely to enjoy their work environment than residents of any other state except for neighboring North Dakota.

Feb 19

Pee-air, S.D.

John Green shares 50 facts about state capitals.

And mispronounces Pierre.

Feb 17

Finding a new job

I have never really understood LinkedIn, and yes, I know that says more about me than it.

But I don’t think LinkedIn understands me either. That’s based on this list of new jobs LinkedIn thinks I might be interested in:

Graphic designer

General manager for a charter company

Production scheduler for John Morrell

Regionall sales representative

Metal paint manufacturing engineer for Polaris

Financial adviser for Edward Jones (THAT’s the funniest one of all. Me managing YOUR money.)

Maintenance engineer for a major health care corporation

An “overpayment recovery associate” (that sounds like a fun job, one that puts you in contact with lots of happy people)

Welding engineer

And territory sales representative for Careers Unlimited.

Feb 14


I hate fake, treacly stories that purport to be true but in reality, not a chance.

Like this one:

The man brought the three cards, the three boxes of candy, and the three sets of flowers up to the cashier for checkout. The cashier rolled her eyes at him as she looked at his wedding band and mumbled…”these players make me sick.” This caused everyone else to look at the man funny too. So the man responded…”one set is for my mom because my dad passed away and he used to do this for my mom…and he taught me how to give love. The next set is for my wife because I love her and she teaches me how to receive and treasure love. And the last set is for my daughter…because it’s up to me to teach her how she should be treated and who she should give her love to. Have a blessed day.”

Jack the dog

Space reasons meant today’s column about Jack the Great Bear dog had to be edited. A lot.

Here’s the story I wanted you to read:

Dan Grider tell in love with a dog, knowing someday that same animal would break his heart.

The heartbreak happened Tuesday, when Grider took Jack on one last ride to Great Bear Recreation Park, then drove him to the veterinarian’s office. Jack had been diagnosed with cancer just hours earlier, and despite the tempting promise of life-prolonging surgery, Grider looked in his dog’s eyes and knew it was time to let him go.

Grider isn’t the only one grieving for Jack. For 10 years, the spaniel-retriever mix had greeted visitors to the skiing and hiking area between Sioux Falls and Brandon. He often came out in the warmer months, but in the winter Jack was a fixture.

Between staff and visitors, it’s a family at Great Bear, Grider says, brought together in part by the brown-and-white dog who happily greeted everyone who came through the door.

A notice on Facebook announcing Jack’s death received so many notes of condolence that even the devoted Grider was surprised.

“Oh, we loved seeing Jack when we visited! His floppy ears always made us smile as he greeted us at the chalet,” reads one message.

Another says, “So many funny memories of Jack at GB … grabbing the hot dog right out of the young skier’s hand (just too hard to resist).”

Jack’s final act of mischief also involved the theft of food, Grider says. He allows himself one “cheat day” a week on his health regimen, and that day it meant a cheeseburger. It was on the table when he left the room, gone when he returned a few minutes later with Jack nearby, a sheepish look on his face.

Soon after, however, Jack’s appetite disappeared. Grider coaxed his appetite for several weeks, then made a trip to the veterinarian. Preliminary blood tests came back negative, but a few days later Jack staggered into a wall as he tried to stand up.

That trip to the veterinarian uncovered cancer and internal bleeding.

It was a day Grider had dreaded so much he almost didn’t get a dog. He had grown up with pets, he said, and he knew how painful it was to say goodbye.

“I know you outlive dogs,” he says, sitting in his office at Great Bear. “And that hurts.”

His then-wife thought having a dog would be good for their children, however, so Grider in 2003 headed to the Sioux Falls Area Humane Society. He already decided to bring home a small terrier.

When he arrived, however, the terrier had been adopted so he began to browse among the other dogs.

And there was Jack. A spaniel-retriever mix. Skinny. Dealing with fleas. And with a certain air about him.

He caught Grider’s eye, and Grider tossed Jack a ball.

“He looked at me like ‘you threw it, you go get it,’” Grider says, smilling at the memory. “Fifteen minutes later, we were out at Great Bear walking the trails.”

After cleaning Jack up, he began to make regular appearances at Great Bear, sitting contentedly under Grider’s desk or heading out to meet the skiers. Jack reveled in the patting, petting and stroking and never minded the occasional French fry that fell nearby.

A ski area suited Jack perfectly.

“He loved to run through the snow,” Grider says. “If it was just made or just groomed, four to five inches deep, he’d go running and barking, his tongue hanging out. If I drove the snowmobile to the top, he’d race along up there.”

Jill Lerdal, Great Bear’s event coordinator, and her husband, Pete, became Jack’s surrogate parents. When Jack and his “little brother,” Duke, a toy fox terrier, decided they’d rather live apart, the Lerdals took Duke in.

On the days Jack couldn’t go to Great Bear, he pouted. There’s no other word for it.

“He pouted and wouldn’t look at me,” Grider says.

Grider and Jack met  when Jack was 2 or 3 years old. In the decade since, Jack had gotten a little arthritic and a little hard of hearing, but he looked much younger than his years.

Then the cancer came.

Grider was faced with the decision all loving pet owners dread.

“He was my friend,” Grider says. “We had gone through a lot of thing. I could never let him suffer. … When I took him back to the vet, he died in my arms. It was terrible, but I knew it was the right thing.”

The right thing, sadly, means Grider no longer can listen to Jack’s snoring at night. The food dishes are empty, and life at Great Bear a little less joyous for the family of employees.

“It’s an empty feeling,” Grider says. “Jack had been everywhere I went. At the Atlantic Ocean, he ran on the beach and chased the gulls. There was no one who met him that didn’t like him. Even if they weren’t dog people, Jack won them over.”

Sometime later this year, Jack’s ashes will be scattered at Great Bear, over the hill he used to run.

Feb 11

Testing testing

Don’t mind me. I’m just testing to see if my blog is finally showing up.

Feb 03

Seeking a valentine

Hello, South Dakota! My 4th grade class in Plymouth, Massachusetts is “Looking For A Little Love” this Valentine’s Day. They are hoping to receive a Valentine’s card from all of the fifty states and as many foreign countries as possible.

To date, we have received 146 cards from 40 different states and 8 different countries. South Dakota is one of the 10 states that we are still waiting to hear from. Can you help us check South Dakota off our list – and maybe even make it the #1 state?

Social studies and mathematics skills will be integrated as the cards are sorted, counted, measured, and graphed. Valentine’s Day is sure to be a day of love and learning in our classroom.
We would greatly appreciate your help.

Please send a Valentine card to our class so that it arrives in time for our February 14th counting party. You are welcome to forward this email to friends, family, and teachers who may consider having their class send a Valentine.

Our classroom address is:

Mrs. Franks’s 4th Grade Class
Indian Brook Elementary School
1181 State Road
Plymouth, MA 02360

Thank you for your help! Wishing you a very happy Valentine’s Day from Plymouth, Massachusetts, America’s Hometown.
Most sincerely,
Nancy A. Franks, classroom teacher

Sioux City, SD, is for lovers

We received a stop-the-presses press release today that announced the Top 20 Most Romantic Cities in the U.S. according to

And Sioux City, SD, made the list for the first time.

Of course, we know means Sioux Falls, SD, because what romance could there be in Sioux City, Iowa?

Right? RIGHT??

The cities were determined by “compiling sales data of romance novels and relationship books (both Kindle and print); romantic comedy movies (digital and DVDs); a collection of romantic music, including Dean Martin, Barry White, Luther Vandross, Maxwell and Miguel (CDs and MP3); as well as the sales of sexual wellness products.”

Two questions: Who are Maxwell and Miguel? And by “sexual wellness products,” do they mean multi-vitamins?

Never mind.

The list in order includes:

1. San Antonio, Texas

2. Seattle

3. Knoxville, Tenn.

4. Miami

5. Alexandria, Va.

6. Orlando, Fla.

7. Vancouver, Wash.

8. Cincinnati

9. Spokane, Wash.

10. Dayton, Ohio

11. Columbia, S.C.

12. San Jose, Calif.

13.  Murfreesboro, Tenn.

14. Round Rock, Texas

15. “Sioux City, SD”

16. Las Vegas

17. Pittsburgh

18. Everett, Wash.

19. Eric, Pa.

20. Clearwater, Fla.

I tried to find some connection in the cities but wasn’t really successful. Several in Florida where it’s hot and humid. Several in Washington state where it’s cold and drizzly. Several in places that just sound boring.

*** Got a confirmation this afternoon, and Sioux Falls is more romantic — or more needy — than Sioux City.