University of Iowa Surpasses Harvard, Princeton as No. 2 for Writing

The University of Iowa, according to U.S. News & World Report is No. 2 for writing in the latest rankings. It’s the only public university in the top 10, behind No. 1 Brown University. It’s out in front of Harvard, Cornell, Duke, and Princeton.

Deer Sport Fashion Camouflage After Hard Rain

The night of August 19, 2022 some loud thunderstorms rolled through our area. The next day we saw deer in our backyard with a lot of weeds stuck all over their coats. The doe and her two fawns (which we frequently see) were covered with the stuff. One of the fawns looked like it was wearing a weedy hat.

I compared it to pictures on the web and it looks similar to Virginia Stickseed (Beggar’s Lice), a common wildflower in Iowa. I’m not sure though; I’m definitely no botanist.

On the other hand, Beggar’s Lice tends to be pretty common where the deer population is dense—because they won’t eat it.

Maybe the loud storms scared them into running through the burr weed patches.

Update August 25, 2022: Here’s a picture I took yesterday of the deer after a week. They’re still festooned with Beggar’s Lice.

All About the Potato Salad

I recently got a checkup for my retinal tear surgery about 4 months ago. My surgeon was pleased with the outcome. Partly based on my good outcome, he shared that he was guiding his trainees on the wisdom of not necessarily always going with the new surgical procedures for the disorder, which happens not infrequently in those over the age of 50.

In fact, the trend seems to be to do more than just the oldest operation, which is the scleral buckle, in favor of adding vitrectomy as well—a relatively newer approach. I got the scleral buckle.

Progress is good. But just because something is old doesn’t mean it’s outmoded.

We saw the Iowa State Fair episode on old farm machinery the other night. It showed how much progress has been made in farming over many years. However, those old machines replaced a lot of hard labor, so they were definite improvements back in the day.

You can learn something new and valuable by considering what is old. We saw a short film called The Foursome. On the surface, it’s about 4 old guys who have played golf together at an annual tournament for 50 years in Waukon, Iowa. Waukon is in the Northwest part of the state, close to the Mississippi River, which borders the eastern side of the state.

The show is not really about golf, of course. But before it came on, I almost decided not to watch it because of that misconception. The description gives it away, saying that it’s about friendship, small towns, golf—and potato salad.

I think it’s also about getting older. Not everybody ages gracefully and I’m including myself as a pretty good example. I’m not so sure about my memory or my hearing these days. I can stand on one leg for 20 seconds. But one day not too long ago I cracked an egg and instead of emptying the contents into the poaching pan, I dumped them on a paper towel on the countertop. I was mortified.

Sena covered for me and brushed it off, saying it was because we had been talking about the finer points of poaching eggs and I just got distracted, and some hogwash about how she’s done that too. Maybe.

In the film, one of the Foursome was showing some of the artwork he has on the walls at his home. He stopped at one and seemed to fall into some kind of reverie. The camera operator had to sort of whisper to the guy that he needed to move on.

Let’s change the subject and talk about potato salad. They filmed the wife of one of the guys making this potato salad, the recipe for which you can get for free on the web. She used Miracle Whip instead of Mayonnaise. I pointed this out to Sena, who said nothing. Miracle Whip has been around since the 1930s and I grew up eating it on sandwiches at home. I favored it over Mayonnaise.

There has not been a jar of Miracle Whip in our house in almost 45 years—which is how long we’ve been married. I have learned to like Mayonnaise.

This reminds me of one segment on the film showing the wife of one of the other guys shopping for food (including burgers, chips, and whatnot as well as potato salad fixings) for the cookout, a part of the annual golf outing for the four guys. She said it really didn’t matter what she got because “They’ll eat anything you put in front of them.”

Some of them will eat nothing but the potato salad.

There is something poignant about the irascibility alternating with poignancy in the film. Their friendship is deep enough to move one of the four guys to tears. At least that’s what it looked like.

They have the usual flaws men have, including the tendency to be stoic in the face of oncoming frailty and the specter of death.

I don’t know if I’ll age as well as they do. But I do know I will never take up the game of golf. And I wonder if you can substitute Mayonnaise for Miracle Whip in that potato salad.

One thing I’m sure of, Sena is my best friend.

Iowa State Fair Musings

We’ve never actually been to the Iowa State Fair, but we really like listening to the Iowa Public Broadcasting TV shows about it.

The first show covered a lot of activities. Food at the Fair is always intriguing.  We know there are a lot of foods on a stick, but we didn’t know you could get a rattlesnake corn dog—with venom sauce! It’s pretty good according to the food guy, Travis Graven. You probably won’t find it in your local grocery store.

The big animals are impressive. I always wonder why the handlers sort of guide some of the animals (like that huge boar) using those little boards.

The lemonade stand was a little thought provoking. Dad’s Old-Fashioned Lemonade stand sellers aren’t out there to make money. They do it for the nostalgia. I’m sure they do it for the tradition as well.

That’s a nod to keeping tradition alive. One of those is the 4-H program. According to the Iowa State University 4-H Youth Development web page, the 4 H’s stand for:

Head for thinking, planning, and reasoning

Heart for being kind, true, and sympathetic

Hands for being useful, helpful, and skillful

Health for taking care of yourself and your community

The Iowa State Fair is a longstanding tradition. It started way back in 1854. It was on hold in 2020 because of the Covid-19 pandemic and that was the first time since World War II it was cancelled and only the sixth time in the Fair’s 166-year history.

A tradition is defined as the transmission of a culture’s customs, beliefs, knowledge, skills and more from generation to generation. In order to do that somebody has to do the passing down of all of that. And somebody has to pick it up.

You can store some of it in electronic archives, but a critically important part of it relies on institutional knowledge in the hearts and minds of the culture’s older people. It’s a two-way street; the young listen, accept some, and improve more if we’re lucky. It’s more than facts and figures—it’s the wisdom we want to preserve.

And we want to keep the rattlesnake corn dogs, with venom sauce.

Sena’s Epic Bigfoot Expedition!

We know you’ve been waiting for Sena’s next Bigfoot safari and it turns out aliens from the third galaxy on the left have been dropping them into Sand Lake at Terry Trueblood Recreation Area.

The aliens shoot through a gravel road type of portal and beam their Bigfoot pets who’ve outgrown their homes into Sand Lake. They eat like growing teenagers and the interdimensional highway is a convenient way to get rid of them. It’s a good thing they can dog-paddle to shore.

The uptick in Bigfoot sightings probably has a lot to do with the incoming hordes of invasive insects, including the most recent pest, the Spotted Lanternfly. It’s not hard to figure out why. Bigfoot creatures eat the bugs by the handful.

What’s not so clear is where the Spotted Lanternfly actually comes from. Oh, I know the official report is that they’re from China, but that dodges the conspiracy theory by many people (I don’t know them personally) that the Iowa State University (ISU) Extension agents are cultivating them on the sly. Their website downplays the whole affair and says you can send them specimens preserved in hand sanitizer if you’re interested, but nope, there’s no infestation.

Sure; tell that to Thompson Aero, Inc, which has been dusting crops and park woods areas around the city lately, using what they want people to think is Neem Oil Spray. You can buy a product called Neem Oil spray at Walmart. They sell it claiming it kills the Spotted Lanternfly.

In fact, our sources reveal that the opposite is true. Neem Oil actually nourishes the bug and increases their reproductive capacity. The ISU Extension office is in on it because the real goal is to increase the population of Bigfoot creatures (who like Spotted Lanternfly more than beef jerky) in Iowa because the states in the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, and Wisconsin are snatching up all the tourism trade. You didn’t know it was all about money?

This whole business is run by the ISU Extension, which is why it’s called Area 41. Don’t buy into the hogwash about the name pointing to this being an ongoing April Fool’s Day joke.

There’s such a thing as the Freedom of Information Act and those in the know (who I don’t know at all) found out about this scheme. They planned a Storm Area 41 similar to the Storm Area 51 Raid in Nevada in 2019. That was said to have started out as a joke—and then really crapped out.

Anyway, Sena is keeping an eye out for Bigfoot. I can’t promise that she won’t launch another expedition in the future. Even the men in black with their big-ass neualyzers can’t stop us.


You know, I don’t think there’s any such thing as Area 41 or Bigfoot either. Hey, I just saw a tall guy and a pug both wearing black suits walk by my window. The pug was singing “Who Let the Dogs Out.”

That’s weird. It’s way too hot outside to be wearing black suits.

Watch Out for the Spotted Lanternfly in Iowa

An invasive insect called the Spotted Lanternfly has been spotted in Iowa. It has been in the U.S. probably since 2014, starting in Pennsylvania. It spoils a lot of different plants and crops. You can learn more about how to identify, report, and help control its spread at the Iowa DNR website and its links to the PennState Extension (see video below).

Novavax Covid-19 Vaccine Gets CDC Green Light

The Novavax Covid-19 vaccine was approved by the CDC a few days ago. University of Iowa Health Care was one of the sites in the multi-site Phase 3 trial.

The vaccine is not based on mRNA technology; it uses a more traditional method similar to the flu vaccine, which is familiar to more people.

Exercise for Brain Health

University of Iowa research shows that exercise could help for protecting us against Alzheimer’s disease. After age 65, our risk for this category of dementia doubles every 5 years.

Even if scientists develop effective and safe senolytic compounds that could allow us to live to be 200 years old, that won’t be happening in the near future. There’s another way to help prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

Exercise can lower the risk for Alzheimer’s disease, especially some form of aerobic exercise.

When it comes to exercise, any exercise is better than none.

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