The Lope: March 2007

Friday, March 30, 2007

Rattlesnakes Down

The "RATTLESNAKES EXIT NOW" sign along Route 66 in Texas has been my favorite Texas site since I ran across it in 2003. I shot the photo above from the west-bound lane of I-40 in July of 2005. I guess I love the sign because, of all the worthy sites along the route in the Lone Star State, the sign for a defunct reptile ranch most evokes the Rt66/I-40 of my childhood, strewn with far more shlockish sideshow/roadside attractions than it has today.

Last year I saw a dim echo of this when I shot a traveling reptile show along Rt66 in Joplin. It didn't hold a candle to the reptile ranches I saw as a kid...the ones everyone got their dads to pull over for by jumping up and down in the back floorboard of the station wagon (seatbelts?...those things had seatbelts?).

Thus, I was sorry to read in the ever-useful Route 66 News that the sign was down, a victim of recent severe storms. Route 66 News pointed me to a bit of history of the sign, as reported on the website of the Old Route 66 Association of Texas:

"...the Lela area also marks the last stand of roadside reptile exhibitor E. Mike Allred. The surly carnival man—who at one time operated snake attractions along Route 66 near Elk City and Erick, Oklahoma—moved to Texas to establish the Regal Reptile Ranch at Alanreed. He partnered in this scaly enterprise with his sister, Addie. But when business relations grew rough, E. Mike moved his share of snakes toward Lela and set up shop in the old service station that had once been graced by Conald Cunningham's Neon Steer.

Today, E. Mike's towering RATTLESNAKES: EXIT NOW sign survives as a local landmark. E. Mike's old building has been moved to McLean and now serves as part of the Red River Steakhouse. E. Mike himself can best be honored through a visit to the Devil's Rope Museum of McLean, Texas—where some of his sister's pickled snakes remain on display.

I looked for the sign as I passed by on March 11, but it was too dark to see.

On the way back through this part of Texas, on March 24, I saw the ugly truth. One post remains upright; the other appears uprooted or broken and is held up only by the structure of the rest of the sign.

Snakes in the grass - "RATTLESNAKES" lies in the grass at the base of the posts.

"EXIT NOW" is twisted about 135 degrees around, being read properly from the southwest as opposed to the east.

I do hope this is fixed and re-erected. Texas just isn't the same without the promise - even a long-expired one - of snakes on a plain.

(If I jump up and down loud enough...?)

Monday, March 26, 2007

Sony DSC-H2 problems

UPDATED December 21, 2007

I've never used this blog for a rant, but I feel compelled to do so tonight. I am occasionally asked what photographic equipment I use, and for the past five months it's been a Sony DSC-H2 mid-range digital camera I bought at Office Max in Seattle while on a trip last September.

Do yourself a favor; don't make the same mistake I did.

To give it its due, it's medium size and 12x lens would make it a great blogger's camera. It does have the "digital delay" on the shutter, just as all non-SLRs I've tried, but it's about half the cost of a DSLR and more suitable as a "carry it anywhere" camera. Also, I've been in a few places (i.e. concerts, Clinton's speech and Highgate Cemetery) that inexplicably would not allow SLRs or "larger cameras" but would allow "small cameras"; the DSC-H2 with lens retracted and the cap on passed for a small camera in these places and I got pictures while watching others have to take their cameras back to their cars.

The main problem is the shutter button function and the button itself.

In the last month of its life, the camera would re-focus just before taking a picture, even when the button had already been pushed halfway down to lock the focus. This was a problem for shots in which the foreground subject was to be off-center, as Ace Jackalope often is. The movable focus spot feature would solve this problem, but is another step to have to take in often rushed circumstances. Plus, the camera's tendency to re-focus added more shutter lag.

Then, just before I went to photograph President Clinton about a month ago, I was driving along with the camera in the passenger seat and heard a "ping" noise. I looked on my dashboard and there was my shutter button. It had popped off the camera all by itself, propelled by a spring that I never did find. The camera could still be operated by replacing the button, which has a thin plastic rod on the bottom, but it would fall off easily and even the slight weight of the button would keep the camera in permanent "half-way pushed" mode.

The camera is still under warranty but there was no time to send it away and get it back from Sony before doing the Clinton shoot and a vacation to the southwestern US which was coming up in a few days. So, I re-attached it by making a donut of thin foam rubber to substitute for the spring, and kept the button on with a short length of electrical tape. It was a workable, if somewhat ghetto-looking solution, and it kinda-sorta worked for awhile.

Finally, about two weeks ago in Santa Fe NM, it stopped working entirely; the button would no longer trip the camera. I tried using the pointed end of one of the hat tacks that I use as wardrobe for Ace, with the sharp end clipped to the right length, to trip the shutter, but that worked only in a haphazard manner.

Fortunately, the one time I had bought an extended warranty, it was for this camera back in September. I had office Max's "Max Protection" plan but it's only supposed to be in effect after the manufacturer's warranty is expired, which is months away. I took time that I'd ordinarily use to see Santa Fe and sought an Office Max. Thanks to an assistant manager in Santa Fe, who was sympathetic to a guy on a road trip, it worked. They called in my extended warranty and replaced the camera right there and then. I was such a happy camper that, even though I was out 50 bucks for the first extended warranty, I bought another.

I was back on Route 66 with a working camera...for awhile.

Eleven days later, the shutter button came off the replacement camera. I was shooting pictures at Palo Duro Canon near Amarillo and as I lifted my finger off the shutter button, it came loose. That's right - two cameras, same exact problem. At least the first DSC-H2 lasted five months.

My brother loaned me his DSC-H2 and I noticed immediately that the shutter lag was much less on it. All this time, with my two examples of the same camera, I had experienced a shutter lag longer than his example of the model. Fortunately, this was on the last day of that trip.

This time, I had the spring and I took time to photograph the camera's problem with my previous digital camera, a temperamental Olympus that still works sometimes.

Here's the grip area of the camera without the button. You can see the hole the shaft on the bottom of the button fits in.

Here's the underside of the button and the spring. You can see a small light spot in the middle of the shaft on the bottom of the button: that's the place the plastic shaft broke. It's less than a half-millimeter wide. That's right, the thing that keeps the DSC-H2's shutter button attached - the thing that lets you capture the sights you want to share - is a plastic shaft thinner than a toothpick, which is under regular pressure and has a spring trying to push it apart all the time.

Today, in Joplin MO, another Office Max replaced my camera. It was not necessary to use the extended warranty as the camera was still within the 14-day Office Max return period. They replaced it even though, by the letter of their policy, I was supposed to have the original packaging, which was miles away. I'm actually pretty happy with Office Max.

I did a little research tonight and discovered that I'm far from the first to experience the flying shutter button.

For instance, here.

Several different users commented on that they had the same shutter button problems, for example: "Yesterday I found another interesting thing about the DSC I hadn't used for about a week: the shutter button isn't anymore, it disappeared. Finally I found it somewhere on the carpet together with the spring but a part is stil missing as the button cannot release the shutter anymore."

And at "My Sony DSC-H1 was sitting on the desk all alone for about an hour when all of a sudden I heard a slight noise and saw parts flying. It was the shutter button and spring! No on had touched the camera."

I found more examples of this, but frankly I'm tired of thinking about it, just as I'm weary of borrowing other people's cameras to make due until I can take prime tourism time to find yet another Office Max in the middle to the urban banality I usually try to avoid.

My Canon AE-1 lasted 30 years. My Canon T-90 lasted 21 years. My First digital, an Olympus C-60, lasted 14 months. My first Sony DSC-H2 lasted five months. My second DSC-H2 lasted eleven days. I'm not liking this trend.

Learn from my mistake; don't buy the Sony DSC-H2. There are competing mid-range cameras from other manufacturers, try one of those or buy an SLR. I think that'll be my next step.

Update added May 1: On April 8, the focus lock on my third Sony DSC-H2 began failing. It would work for awhile on any given day, but would fail an hour or so into a shooting session. This was the pattern: it would work properly at first, the focus lock engaging when I pushed the button half-way down. Then, at some point, there'd be no halfway down and focusing would occur just before the picture was taken. The total time from pushing the button til exposure would be about 1.5 - 2 seconds at this point. Then, after a rest, the camera would work properly again.

Until April 22, when the absence of the halfway-pushed focus lock became permanent. As of now, May 1, it still only focuses right before a picture. This is a problem when shooting off-center subjects (i.e. person off to side of background) as the camera will focus only on the center unless the movable center spot is used, which is not a fast process.

Focus is stuck on the last picture taken, until refocusing, which results in taking a picture whether I want it or not. This is a problem when in flash mode as one flash is expended in the focusing process, forcing me (and my subject) to wait while the flash recharges after what may of may not be a good shot.

I have tried to return the unit to Office Max, but was informed it will expend my 2-year extended warranty to do so. Since I have no confidence in yet another Sony DSC-H2, I'm hoping that Office Max discontinues the DSC-H2 in favor of the DSC-H7 and I can exchange for it - if, I can tolerate the behavior of my H-2 that long (and the shutter button does not all off). Not that I'm eager to try another Sony, but at least the H-7 might not have the same defect.

Update, August 27: I'm on my fifth DSC-H2. I had to cash in the Office Max extended warranty to get the 4th one on May 7. It lasted less about 24 hours before focus lock broke during an assignment which included photographing the President. No kidding - I'm taking a picture of the President of the United States and the focus lock doesn't work. No matter what you think of him, that's a pretty rare opportunity. I was lucky enough to get a couple shots anyway, when Bush stood in the same place long enough that the extended delay was not a problem, but I'd have had more frames from which to choose if focus lock would have worked.

I was able to trade it out for the 5th one because the problem occurred well within the receipt period. Not all of my area Office Max stores were amiable to this, and many no longer stock the camera so it took awhile to do the switch. I think they're getting tired of me walking into the sore with a broken shutter button. I flirted with getting a demo model as it would have been manufactured much earlier and I think the problem does not date back to the very beginning of production, but was not able to do so.

So here I am with #5, which is behaving so far. If you ran across this little blog entry because you're having the same problem with yours, you might find the comments over at to be comforting. At least you're not alone.

Update, December 21, 2007 - The focus lock on my fifth DSC-H2 failed a few months ago and the shutter button popped off a month ago. For awhile I could still use the camera with the button held on with cellophane tape. I could not swap it out for another DSC-H2 as there were none left at any Office Max I checked. The model has been discontinued now.

On December 17 the camera stopped working; the taped-on shutter button would not trip the shutter. Based on information on Photographyblog, I ordered Release Assembly part #: X21083252 from Sony and received it on December 20th. I ordered that it be sent second-day shipping. The part was $18.61 and shipping and tax brought the total to 32.72. Had I gone with standard shipping, the total would have been $27.36.

(Note above model number updated to X21083252 from X21083262)

It arrived in a much-over-sized box about 11x5x5 inches. Inside that was this smaller box with the part.

Here's the part.

You can see two tabs that lock into slots on the camera body. They are fragile.

I was able to pry off the remainder of the old release assembly - a bezel that holds the button - with a thumbnail and slight counter-clockwise twist. This is what I found inside.

You can see a small piece of the shutter button shaft that has broken off, resting on the membrane that, when pushed, actually trips the shutter. As you can see, the shaft was indented, causing a distinct weak point in already thin plastic. I surmise that the camera worked as long as the two parts of the broken shutter button shaft were aligned and failed when this lower part turned sideways.

And here is the cause of the focus lock problem. A membrane underlying the shutter button shaft has become dented, probably from being held in the focus lock position as any user who is tracking a moving object would do. I presume that, as someone on Photographyblog has suggested, the membrane is supposed to touch another one beneath it to cause focus. Now it is in constant contact with whatever is beneath, causing the malfunction. I can't fix that right now. I believe it'll take a different part, probably the switch block control (Part No: 147969921) at $62.91.

However, I did install the new release assembly (shutter button) with a careful push and clockwise twist. The camera works now - as far as taking pictures - but focus lock still does not function.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Want of Megaliths

In lieu of Stonehenge or other ancient megalithic monuments, one makes due. A bit over a week ago, we stopped to admire Cadillacs in the mist.

The crescent moon set last night on the last day of winter.

And while traversing Arizona - which uses a radiant star as a flag - we looked for settings in which to pay reverence to the almost eternal sky.

And found one, a few days ago.

Monuments are what you make them, be they ancient by the measure of a civilization, by the span of an era or by the yardstick of your own human life.

top: Cadillac Ranch, west of Amarillo just south of I-40, is nearly shrouded in a morning mist a week and a day ago.

next: The crescent moon is seen from The Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, AZ last night.

then: Ace Jackalope with a souvenir Arizona flag

last: A BNSF mainline train passes behind a Route 66 icon. The Wigwam Village in Holbrook, AZ rests under the stars in a 30-second time exposure taken a week ago.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

St Patrick's Day Megapost

I tend to save back anything remotely Irish in nature for release around Saint Patrick's Day, like this Shamrock Foods sign in Phoenix which I actually shot a few years back and just found a print of. Here is this year's potpourri of shamrocks, churches and other things green.

Chapman, Kansas - Forever Ireland

Last May Day I was tracking Union Pacific's steam locomotive 844 across Kansas and ran across the small town of Chapman, population about 1,400. Chapman was settled in 1853, largely by Irish immigrants. I returned to Chapman in March of 2007 and have combined the photos here.

I knew there was something green and different going on when I passed the convenience store.

And the Irish Acres sign was a strong clue.

Sure n' begora, I'd stumbled upon an Irish town with a treasure trove of Irish stuff, from the metal shamrocks on the light poles... some of the street signs, like Irish Drive. I believe that's a bit of rain dripping off the sign; it was overcast during all of my stay in Chapman.

Yep, this would be a theme town, as seen in the signs for Chapman Retail Liquor and the Chapman Senior Center Community Center.

Of course there'd have to be an Irish Pub.

And the local high school team would be the Chapman Fighting Irish.

Chapman's small downtown has the typical nice old small Kansas town buildings.

I liked this bit of architectural detail.

I stopped to have a snack and download my steam engine pictures into my laptop at the Irish Palace restaurant.

The restaurant had this cool anthropomorphic ice cream guy. His eyes were even green.

Chapman's St Michael's Church dates from 1883.

Here is the top of its tower.

One of St Michael's stained glass windows.

The jewel of the city is St. Patrick's Cemetery, founded in 1859. From what I've read at their Preservation Society's website, the city started in 1853, so that's just six years later. I guess when you start a town you have to think about a cemetery fairly soon.

This is the classic small town cemetery on a lonely windswept hill. The overcast day in May of 2006 lent a starkness to this place.

The St. Patrick's Cemetery History link at the Chapman Preservation Society's gives tombstone transcriptions and genealogical notes.

You'd think that'd be pretty dry stuff, but there's a lot of human drama contained in those notes - not just the usual hard life of a pioneer stuff either. There's murder, suicide, a marshal and the outlaw who killed him - it's all there.

There were two big statues like this one, which marks the graves of the John and Mary Ann Scanlan family, both originally from County Tipperary, Ireland.

Many of the grave markers mentioned the place of birth of the deceased, and it was often Ireland.

This similar statue is for Mary Ann Boland who died in 1888 at the age of 19.

The marker for this priest's grave was nothing noteworthy, but the Michael Moran's epitaph summed up the apparent feeling of many of the inhabitants: "This 3' x 8' corner of St Pat's will be forever Ireland"

(Note added in March of 2009: On June 11, 2008, a 1/2 mile wide tornado swept through Chapman. One person died and about 100 were injured. Over 60 homes were destroyed and about 80 percent of the town suffered major damage. I do not know if any of the structures in the photographs above were affected.)

Other things Irish

About two weeks after being in Chapman, I photographed this wonderful Murphy's bar neon sign on Main Street in Joplin, MO.

In early July, our Illinois Route 66 trip included a stop to photograph Chicago's St Patrick's Cathedral,

This is one of its towers.

And in August I saw these mushrooms growing along Kansas hwy 61 north of Hutchinson, KS. Can you spot the leprechaun?

In October I flew to London and got a real kick out of the GPS screen on the seat backs. "Celtic Sea"...sometimes a mere name is so evocative.

There was total cloud cover, so I could only tell we were passing Ireland by the image on the screen.

I always feel a longing when seeing how close I am to a country I've never visited.

Highgate's Celtic Crosses

While in London I took the Underground and a couple busses out to see Highgate Cemetery, London's beautifully decrepit Victorian cemetery.

Scattered among the many evocative tombstones were many examples of the Celtic cross.

Legend credits Saint Patrick himself with inventing the Celtic cross as a way to help Christianity go down smoother, as it were. He is said to have combined the pagan sun symbol with the cross, thus giving us this classic symbol.

The crosses in Highgate Cemetery are examples of a Victorian fad, but there are much older ones scattered about the UK, especially Ireland.

With great difficulty, I finally tore myself away from this place.

I've never been to Ireland, but I've flown over it

I shot pictures on the flight home. The glare was awful and the clarity of the windows was, as is usual on planes, abysmal. However, I had previously learned that greatly increasing the contrast with Photoshop really helps, even "auto correct" will get you most of the way there, with some dodging, burning in and color correction required for tweaking the image. The drawback is that already light areas like clouds burn out, and color becomes a bit speculative.

If my flight attendant was correct, this is Ireland.

An advantage of knowing Ace

Since last year's post, a reader asked if her tattoo might be of interest in a future St Pat's post. Here's Ace checking out the ink on his friend Fran.

Green Route 66

As if the name wouldn't clue you in, you'll know the Route 66 town of Shamrock, Texas plays up its Irish connection. The Shamrock Inn sign is one of several in town with an Irish theme I saw just a few days ago.

The Blarney Inn sign is faded.

But the jewel of Shamrock is the art deco neon encrusted wonder, the restored 1930s Conoco station.

If ever there was a case for a very wide angle lens, it's here. You have to use one to get the corner view without the traffic light.

I don't know if the green neon is historically accurate, or if it was chosen because of Ireland, but it sure works.

The building currently houses the Shamrock Chamber of Commerce. The city holds a huge St Pat's festival, as if you'd need to be told that. It's not e over yet for this year; here's a schedule.

I've had the pleasure of seeing the restoration evolve, as I go through here every couple years or so. I noted the station in last year's St Pat's post, and included some links to more photos.

The U Drop Inn, attached to the service station, was a diner back in the heyday of Route 66. The space is currently used for receptions.

Ace kisses the blarney stone slab in a Shamrock park.

Moving on west on Route 66, Ace encountered this Shamrock gas globe in Dot's Mini-Museum in Vega, TX.

Shamrock has changed to this logo, seen on a working Shamrock convenience store in Vega.

The Green Onion, a bar in Santa Fe, NM, sports a shamrocked satellite dish.

Turning south from Rt66, I find myself in Phoenix again, where the first photo in this post was taken. The neon shamrock is the only cool thing about this Budget Inn sign on Hwy 60 in Phoenix.

It looks better at night.

And now, an updated close-up of the neon shamrock in that Shamrock Foods sign.

Have a happy and safe St Pat's Day!

For more photos of our London trip, see the An American Jackalope In London series:
More Easter Stuff - Easter Island moai (stone statue) in The British Museum
Good Friday - Crucifix tombstone in Highgate Cemetery and a crucifix at a church in London.
St Patrick's Day Megapost - Celtic crosses in London's Highgate Cemetery.
Red, Gold and Almost Gone - Includes photos of London's Chinatown.
Why Jackalopes Don't Play Soccer - Battered Buckyballs litter London.
Christmas Leftovers - An October shopping trip through Harrods, Selfridges and Hamley's, with lots of Christmas decor pictures.
Spamalot - We go to the Monty Python-based play and meet Tim Curry
London Trader Vic's - A visit to London's oldest tiki bar
Where is Ace Jackalope? (episode 13) - The game is afoot!
Werelopes of London - Lycanthopic jackalopes stalk places mentioned in the Warren Zevon song, plus a few pictures of the London Underground.
Dracula's London - A Halloween tribute to Bram Stoker using London locales implied in "Dracula"
Where is Ace Jackalope? (episode 9) - Mind the Gap

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Bill Clinton

Temporary note for March of 2009:
This post is being accessed largely for pictures of Kathleen Sebelius. In addition to the ones here, see more pictures of the Kansas governor and nominee for secretary of health and human services at The Governor, the Jackalope and More Fair Stuff (2005 Kansas State Fair), October 18 Obama campaign rally and Bushed, a post about George Bush and Governor Sebelius visiting Greensburg, KS, after the tornado. And now, back to the original blog post about Bill Clinton (featuring Kathleen Sebelius, too).

As seen in our last post, we obtained tickets to see Bill Clinton at Kansas State University in Manhattan, KS in a speech he gave March 2. We also had tickets for his appearance in Topeka that evening, seen above.

We arrived in Manhattan plenty early, knowing that even though Ace was well-disguised as an ordinary attendee, the Secret Service is very observant. Ace met initial resistance, but did managed to get in.

The speech was part of the Landon Lecture Series and completed their run of lectures by recent presidents. They've had all of them, as far back as Nixon.

About 14,000 tickets were issued for this event at Bramlage Coliseum. For photographers planning to attend events at Bramlage, I am offering the following facts. This is Bramlage's "end stage" configuration and is an uncropped view from section 15, row 19, seat 2. The lens is the equivalent on a 35mm film camera of about a 35mm lens. As you can see between Ace's antlers, Clinton is a spec in the distance. I wouldn't have done much better as a member of the press. See that box of photographers at the bottom of the picture? According to media information released by K-State, they were confined there with no ability to roam; this was a requirement set by Clinton's management.

And to answer the question several of you have emailed to me, no, I didn't get a picture of Clinton with Ace. I applied through numerous channels beforehand to do this, but was met with polite refusals due to Clinton's time constraints. I don't feel too bad, as even the Landon Lecture Series patrons - who pay $300 a year for the privilege of floor seats and the opportunity to meet the guest speaker at a luncheon - did not get to do so with Clinton. There was not even a press conference. I did a little research into what President Clinton has been up to since leaving office, and discovered the Clinton Foundation, on which Ace's shirt is based.

For awhile I thought the best pictures I was going to get would be from the jumbo TV screens in the scoreboard above the court.

I'm going to do something a little different with this post. I'm showing the full text of the President's speech, "Five questions for the 21st Century", as published in the Manhattan Mercury newspaper of Tuesday, March 06, 2007. I'm inserting some of my pictures in the approximate places they belong; they are by no means evenly distributed because I was not photographing the whole time. The Presidents words are in italic, the speech begins after Clinton has been introduced by the president of K-State, hence the "president" reference in the first line:

Thank you. Mr. President, I always like being on platforms with presidents who aren't term limited. Apparently C-SPAN is covering this and did you notice how he used that introduction to shamelessly flack for K-State? Wasn't he great?

I expect Monday morning to be another 5,000 young people here demanding open admission right away. I thank you for having me here. Governor, I'm delighted to see you again. We first met nearly 20 years ago when we were in different positions and I flew home and told my wife after I met you that I had met, I thought, one of the most gifted natural politicians I had met in many a day. I waited a while but you have certainly proved my prognosis right. Thank you for your outstanding service.

I'd like to thank the others on the platform ... Mr. Seaton, Director Reagan, Faculty President Adams. I learned that Mr. Maddie's sister Katie is the elected vice president of the student body and I was glad that you didn't have any anti-nepotism law that interferes with the popular will of the students here.
Whatever their parents raised them on we need to find it and give it to all the non-voters in America. That was very, very impressive. Thank you for your service. I want to thank my old friends, Rep. Moore and Rep. Moran, thank you both for coming so much.

John Carlin and I served as governors together 100 years ago and as you see he looks younger than I do now that his mummifying process is working better than mine. We had a great time and then he was the National Archivist caring for our country's most important records when I was President and he stayed on under President Bush when I left. Thank you for a lifetime of friendship and for your service to Kansas and to America.

(That's Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius on the stage with Clinton.)

In their absence I want to mention three other Kansans. First of all your former Congressman, Dan Glickman, who was my Secretary of Agriculture and did a great job in that position. Secondly, former Senators Dole and Kassebaum. I went to Bob Dole Center to give a speech for him and you know we do a few things together. After 9-11 we raised $110 million to guarantee college scholarships to the children and spouses of all the people killed or disabled on 9-11, from all over the world not just the Americans, everybody who was.

I loved him but in his droll way when I was there, I said Bob, I'm having a good time. He said yeah, but he says, you know how Kansas works now you got to go to K-State. He said, Nancy will get to check that box.

Sen. Kassebaum invited me many years. This is the first time I've been able to come so I'm delighted to be here and particularly honored by the presence of the men and women in uniform from Fort Riley and Fort Leavenworth who are here. Let's give them a hand. You all deserve that, thank you. Thank you all very much, thank you. I will get back to them in a moment.

For all the students here especially here's the deal. What we're supposed to do as I understand is I'm supposed to say something halfway profound and then you're supposed to ask questions about it. I'm going to take you on a trip through my mind sort of, it might be scary, to try to help you make up your mind about various things.

Forty-one years ago when Alf Landon gave the first Landon Series lecture, the title of the lecture was New Challenges in International Relations. This, in shorthand, the title of what I'm about to say to you in part at least is, Why There's No Dividing Line Anymore Between International and Domestic Relations. If you're a Kansas farmer worried about the price of wheat you know that in one level. If you're a K-State student and you spend half your time on the Internet you know it at another level.

If you, as I and my wife did, if you know anybody who was on one of those airplanes or in those office buildings on 9-11, you know it at another level. If you saw what happened to the stock market in America this week after it dropped in China you know it in another way.

So the first thing I want to say is I'm here in the heartland of the country with a bunch of people who are far more connected to the world beyond America's borders than students would have been 41 years ago on either coast.

What I want to talk about today in my remarks before we get to questions is how are you supposed to think about this world? I believe that every concerned citizen without regard to party or religion or whether you think you're more conservative or more liberal, everybody needs some sort of framework within which you can evaluate all these issues that are happening all the time and where you can sort out the ones that don't amount to much.

Half the stuff that makes the headlines every day you know instinctively are just fleeting dross. They don't amount to anything. And then some things represent trend lines. They reflect things that show big underlying sweeping changes in society. You need to be able to have a framework that you use to think about all this stuff otherwise when you look at the news or read the paper or scroll up on the internet the day's events it looks like the political equivalent of chaos theory in physics. Looks like just a bunch of stuff unrelated and how are you supposed to remember it all and figure out how to evaluate it?

Now the way I do it, the process that I arrived at, was to ask and answer five simple questions. I think every one of you needs to be able to answer the same questions. Even though I'm not running for anything I'm still enough of a politician to hope you'd get the same answer as I would but I know you won't, not all of you.

It's not nearly as important that your answer is the same as mine as that you have an answer. But if you can answer these five questions then you'll be able to think about where America and the world are going, what you ought to do, how you fit into the larger stream of events, and what your responsibilities are not only to your family and your community but to the future as it unfolds. So here they are.

Question #1: What is the fundamental nature of the twenty-first century world in a word? Most people would say globalization. I prefer interdependence. I prefer interdependence for two reasons. Number one, globalization to most of us is an economic term. This goes way beyond economics. Before World War I the rich countries of the world were as tied together economically as they are today by trade. But now there's more money movement but there's far more information technology movement, more travel, much more interchange going way beyond economics. Number two, there is more internal diversity in America and in all other rich countries than there used to be as people flock to centers of opportunity seeking a better tomorrow. I just look through this crowd and I bet it's more diverse by race, by religion, even by gender than it would have been if we'd had a meeting here 40 years ago. So I like the term interdependence.

Question #2: Is it a good or a bad thing that we're living in an age of global interdependence? My answer is both. It's self-evidently good for most of us, right? We wear reasonably decent clothes and we know how to log on to the Internet and we'll probably get to take a trip or two in our lives and we meet people who are from different places and different backgrounds. We learn things and see things and do things and we are empowered in a way by our being connected to this global economy.

But it doesn't really work today for about half the people. Half the world's people live on less than $2 a day. A billion people live on less than $1 a day. A billion people will go to bed hungry every night. A billion people have no access to clean water. Two-and-a-half billion people have no access to sanitation.

One in four of all the people who perish on earth this year from the wars, the terrorist incidents, the natural disasters, from cancer, from heart attack, from stroke, from you name it, one in four of all deaths will come from four sources that almost no American will die from AIDS, TB, malaria, and infections related to dirty water, cholera, dysentery, diarrhea. Eighty percent in the last category will be children under five years of age. So all those people are not very well connected to the rest of the world. Even in the wealthy countries in most of them a huge percentage of the people are only peripherally benefitted by globalization.

If you look at the United States for example this process has been going for more than 30 years. Median, not average — average includes guys that make a lot of money like me — median, those in the middle, wages have been more or less flat in America from 1973 through 1996.

In my second term they went up again and inequality diminished for the first time in 20 years and then in this decade they've been flat again. It'd been very unusual in this decade because we've had high rates of economic growth, high rates of work or productivity growth, a 40-year high in corporate profits and yet you have in the United States median wages flat, the percentage of working families dropping below the poverty level going up, the percentage of working families without health insurance going up by four percent.

You can see that I'm sure all over small towns and rural areas in Kansas. You can see it in Arkansas, where I grew up and where my library now is and you can see it all throughout New York where I travel a lot now because both my office is there and my wife represents the state in the Senate so I see all this. So is this good or bad? The answer is both.

A lot of people in America were upset when all these kind of left wing guys started winning public office in Latin America — Evo Morales the first native Indian in Bolivia, the poorest country in South America, ever elected to his country's presidency. He wasn't married and his sister served as his First Lady and she had to borrow a dress and take a bus from their little village to the capital in order to participate in his inaugural ceremony.

We were all worried because he said he was going to nationalize the mines and all that. I told everybody, I said, if you were a 45-year old Bolivian miner and you had four children and your body was old before its time and you thought your kids would never do any better than you and all you could do for them no matter how hard you worked was put a scrap a food on the table at night you would have voted for Evo Morales.

He was clearly an honorable man, clearly an intelligent man, clearly a person who just wanted to try to make things work for ordinary people. So that's the second question, is it good or bad? I think it's both.

Third question: How should we try to change this world? I think we should try to move from interdependence which is good or bad to integration to a set of integrated communities locally, nationally, and globally. All integrated communities — university sports teams, families, businesses, military units — all integrated communities, successful ones, have three things in common.

They have shared opportunities to participate, shared responsibilities for the welfare of the whole, and a sense of genuine belonging. That is if you're part of one related to all the other members in the unit you think that your differences are interesting but your common humanity, your common membership, matters more. This is very, very important.

Do you remember a year or so ago when they had the terrorist bombings in London? The British were shattered by this because unlike 9-11 when the United States was penetrated by terrorists from other countries the people who pulled off these horrible killings were British citizens who had grown up there, who went to work and lived in neighborhoods and had friendly relations with people at work and in neighborhoods and people that were interviewed afterward were just stunned because they didn't really belong did they?

The people that strapped those bombs on thought their differences were more important than the common humanity they had shared with people some of them for decades. Meals, holidays, playing games down the street, the whole nine yards and still it did not penetrate them. A lot of people died because of that.

But if you look at the modern world we have no choice but to try to move from interdependence to integration cause the world we live in today is we can't keep going this way. We can't keep going with half the people left out of it economically. It's unequal. It's also unstable.

I think it's highly unlikely that this century, for all of you who are younger than me which is nearly everybody these days, I think it's highly unlikely that this century will claim as many innocent lives as the twentieth century did. You just go back and add up sometime when you're feeling really pessimistic about terrorism and really worried about Iraq and Afghanistan and all that, you should be concerned about all this, but go back and look at how many people died in a much smaller world in World War I and World War II in the Soviet Union between the Wars and the Chinese purges and when Pol Pot took over in Cambodia, a country with only eight million people, two million killed, I think that it's unlikely.

On the other hand, unlike the last century we all feel vulnerable all the time. When the news just broke not very long ago about the terrorist groups in England trying to put an explosive into baby bottles to put it on airplanes, everybody who flies an airplane felt a tingle up and down their spine because it meant we were all feeling vulnerable.

And we all feel vulnerable to other things, disease. One of the most interesting things about the news that's changed over the last 10 years is you can now turn on the evening news and if a chicken has been found with avian influenza — this is in the last few months, I watch the news and I've seen a chicken in Romania, a chicken in India, and a chicken in Indonesia they found with avian influenza. I can tell you how many square kilometers in those three countries and they killed every last chicken to make sure that no bird with avian influenza got out here into the human population.

Now we're smiling but this is a good thing because they recognize there is no known cure no known vaccine right now for avian influenza in people and we know that at the end of World War I in three rolling waves the so-called Spanish influenza which actually began on an Army base here in Kansas, killed 25 to 50 million people because there was no known antidote to it. This is an unstable setup.

The third thing I want to say about it is that it is unsustainable because of climate change and because in addition to climate change because of resource depletion. Matthew Simmons, a distinguished petroleum investor who is no liberal Democrat tree-hugger like me, he is one of the Bush family's close friends. He's a conservative Republican. He says we have 35 years of recoverable oil left. The Saudis and Exxon say no, no we've probably got 100 years. Now the oldest city in civilization according to carbon dating that we know about today is Jericho in the Middle East, 10,000 years old. That means that the real happy talk people are saying we have a hundred years out of 10,000, one percent of the whole history of civilization, left to burn oil.

In addition to oil we have serious topsoil erosion around the world, which is going to create food shortages and food refugees. In the last decade only Argentina and Brazil which have about 22 feet of topsoil, still the biggest deposits in the world, only Argentina and Brazil in the last decade had significant increases in food yields.

America and Canada and the bread basket of Europe, they held their own. They continued to produce very well but we didn't have any big breakthroughs.
That only happened in those two countries. The world population is supposed to go to nine billion by the middle of the century from six-and-a-half billion today. How are we going to feed all these people if the soil keeps eroding?
You have water quality erosion, you have biodiversity loss. Ninety percent of the major fishing areas of the world are now understocked. So what we're doing is not sustainable. Good and bad but unequal, unstable, unsustainable but if we went to a set of communities locally, nationally, globally where we had shared opportunities for participation, shared responsibilities for our common welfare, and a genuine sense of belonging because our common humanity is more important than our interesting differences we'd have a chance to overcome all these problems.

Fourth question: How in the world would you do that? These questions get harder as you go along. I could keep you here until tomorrow morning talking about any part of this answer so I'm going to be very brief to get to the questions. How would you do it? You have to have a security policy. We need people in uniform like these people. You've got to have a security policy.
There are people trying to take us down and destroy the enterprise.
But, I just read a stunning essay by a young man that I feel that I helped raise who just retired as a captain in the Marine Corps to pursue the rest of his life. He won the bronze star at Fallujah. His unit lost no men in the battles. His Iraqi unit had no deserters that he trained to fight. He was, in other words, a successful American soldier in the Marine Corps. He wrote an essay because for this study he wants to do to go on with the rest of his life in which he said, we did about as good as you can do over there and what I think is we can't look to our military solution first. The military can only be effective if we also have a diplomatic solution and if we're over there trying to make friends as well as deal with enemies.

He said, with all the problems in the world with unstable circumstances and non-state actors like terrorist groups and organized criminals and drug dealers and all this you've always got to have politics at work with military. There will be very few purely military solutions available, no matter how good we are at what we do. If you look for example at this deal the President just made with North Korea I happen to think it's a pretty good deal and I was delighted to see it happen but it was produced by diplomacy.

So you need a security strategy, a diplomacy strategy, you need thirdly a strategy to make a world with more partners and fewer terrorists. If you remember that whole litany of numbers I gave you showing that half the world is not part of what we are let me give you some good numbers. Bob Dole wrote a book with George McGovern in the last year or two about how he could end hunger. Guess what? It doesn't cost very much money. We know how to get the 130 million children in the world who don't ever go to school into school and it doesn't cost very much money. We know how to achieve the so-called millennium development goals to eradicate extreme poverty on earth by 2015 and it doesn't cost all that much money. We actually know how to do it now.

In my last year as President we put $300 million into a school feeding program that Sen. Dole and Sen. McGovern supported, and we increased enrollment in poor countries by offering them a free student lunch or student breakfast but they had to come to school to get the meal. Enrollment went up with $300 million by 6 million. Cost us 50 bucks a kid to get children in school. How much is it worth if out of those 6 million kids 10 of them would have become terrorists? Just 10? We saved money didn't we? We spent $100 billion in Afghanistan; we spent $400 billion in Iraq.

It is irrelevant whether you support or oppose our policies in either of those places. The point I'm trying to make is we've got to have a security strategy but if you live in an interdependent environment and you can't kill, jail, or occupy all your enemies you've got to have a strategy to make more partners and fewer enemies too. It is always, always cheaper than fighting — the health, the education, the development.

Finally, last question — who's supposed to do all this? This is the most important question of all. Who's supposed to do all this? And the answer is we all are. Are there things that the government has to do? Absolutely. There are things that need doing that you can't do legally unless you put on a uniform and train properly for it and you'd be ineffective if you tried.

There are policies that cannot really change in America effectively unless the government changes its direction. I'm encouraged that we had Wal-Mart, basically a conservative company not unionized and the SEIU one of the most liberal unions in America standing together last week calling for universal health care for all Americans because SEIU wants it for humanitarian reasons and Wal-Mart realizes that we're going to go bankrupt if we won't do something about it. It was really interesting. We all have to do something about it.

That brings me to the second point which is that in America we have a whole history of citizen action too and that's what I do now. When I got out of the White House it was interesting and my wife went to the Senate it's like we changed roles in a play after 30 years cause for 30 years she'd been out there doing those things that non-politicians do — starting advocacy groups for families and children, bringing in free school programs to Arkansas from Israel, worrying about how we built up health care and education in rural areas, doing all this stuff not elected to anything. Traipsing over to Beijing to tell people who were oppressing women and kids to quit.

All just as a person and then all of a sudden I had to do that and I realized I didn't have a clue. I'll never forget that I was shaving one day in early 2001 after I left the White House and I looked in the mirror and I said I have become a non-governmental organization. Who am I? What am I supposed to do? Now I spend lots and lots of time answering that question every day.

I've done a lot of work with people that were otherwise political adversaries of mine. Former President Bush and I, we always had a good relationship and we've become immensely close working on the tsunami relief, working on the Katrina relief, and I've developed a good relationship with the current President and we don't agree on much of anything but I have a good relationship with him.

When he does something I like I take up for him like something that may not be popular here. He wants to speed food aid to poor countries where people are starving quicker by letting us buy 25 percent of the food in the country next door which I think is better than requiring that it all be grown in America even though farmers markets on Kansas don't like it very much. Your tax dollars would go further and more people would live quicker. I try to think about all these issues in a different way now.

I try to say I'm a citizen now. What can a citizen do? Let's answer that question then you identify everything that's left and you say what has to be done at the state or local or national level or what can be done by the business community? Identify that question and sort of in my mind I'm passing out assignments every day.

I want you all to think about that because a big part of building this world is the last point I want to make before we open for questions is what I would call a relentless search for home improvement. I want to end where I began. If Alf Landon were giving the lecture today I guess he'd be 120 years old almost but he wouldn't be able to say trends in international relations cause he was a very smart guy. He would talk about how the line between what is international and national. What is local and global has totally evaporated.

I find I work in a lot of poor countries. I have AIDS projects in 25 countries where we provide the least expensive high quality aids drugs in the world. We sell them in 62 countries; 540 thousand people in the world who are getting aids medicine since 2003 are getting off these contracts we negotiated. We work in 25 countries.

I can tell you I won't go into a country unless the government asked me in and they agree to work with us and we work through them cause if something happens to me I want to know the system, the health care system, is working better. Not just for AIDS but for TB, for malaria, for maternal and child health, for tropical diseases.

I want people to be stronger. If they don't have a good government there's not much the rest of us can do to help them, similarly in America. If half the people in Kansas believe that the world is going darker for them, that they're not part of this new future that's bright and Dennis Moore as a representative in Congress goes out and tries to give a speech in his district about how we should be feeding all these kids in poor countries so we'll get them all in school and then they won't go to madrasahs and they won't be radicalized, then people are going to look at him like he's nuts. They're going to say, Dennis, every third store front in our town is closed. What the heck are you worried about those people for? They can't vote for you. Take care of me.

I guess what I'm trying to tell all of you is I think we have to take care of us too but in the end we can't take full care of America's next generation unless we take care of the world. I leave you with this thought. I think there are three home improvement issues that if we dealt with them they would dramatically increase our ability to deal with the challenges the face. We can't keep going with the health care system we got —we can't.

Of all the new members of the House of Representatives that were elected the one I was closest to, Joe Sestak from Pennsylvania, is a retired three-star admiral, former commander of the George Washington battle carrier group, from a Catholic family of seven siblings and he had six in the district and all their relatives. All he had to do was find 10 non-relatives to vote for him and he got elected.

But Sestak ran for Congress in part because he started a family late in life. He was traveling at sea a lot and his only child got brain cancer. He was told in all probability that she would die. It has a happy ending, this story, she did not. She recovered but he didn't know that.

So he took early retirement so he could be at his daughter's bedside every single day she still had left on this earth. He kept meeting all these people who unlike him had not been in the military and didn't have a good health insurance policy whose kids were sick. He just couldn't take it anymore. It was one of the three reasons he cited at every speech when running for United States Congress. Most over qualified person I used to tell him to go to the Congress. The guy ran a carrier battle group.

We've got to do something. We're spending 16 percent of our income on health care. No other country spends more than 11. That's $800 billion a year we're spending. This is supposed to be a state of fiscal conservatives, prudent people. So if you're going to spend 800 billion dollars more on something than anybody else on earth surely you're going to get something out of it, right? We insure 84 percent. Nobody else insures fewer than 100 percent.

Our overall health outcomes rating is 37th although we do rank as high as 34th in life expectancy. What are we paying for? Well we spend 34 percent of the health care dollar on administration costs from providers and insurers. No one else spends more than 19. That's $300 billion a year that we pay for 2 million Americans to go out and play tug-of-war every day over getting paid for providing health care. One side trying to get the money and the other side trying either to keep from paying or hold on as long as you can and earn interest. In the grinding transaction cost there's more than enough to insure everybody in the country who doesn't have insurance today.

There are other things that we should talk about if we had all day that involve medicine that involve life style. We have enormous rates of obesity. Our diabetes among young people, adult onset diabetes among young people, exploding in America. Emory University said that in the 1990s when I served 27 percent of the increase in health care costs was caused by diabetes and its consequences — more heart attacks, more strokes, more blindness, more amputations.

These members of Congress here will have to spend a lot of your tax money on a Medicaid budget this year. Twenty percent of the Medicaid budget which cares for poor people goes to conditions directly related to the explosion of diabetes in America. There are lots of issues. That's issue number one.

Issue number two is the economy. We can't keep having an economy where people like me in the top one-tenth of one percent get more and more and more money every year and they throw a tax cut at us every year and middle class people's wages don't rise.

Now here's what happens. I promised at the very beginning of the talk to come back to this. I would like to tell you that we got inequality down and wages up in my second term because Bob Rubin and I were utter economic geniuses. I'd love to stand here with a straight face and tell you that. We didn't hurt anything. We had good policies. Our policies were directly responsible for moving 100 times as many people from poverty to the middle class in our 8 years as in the previous 12 but the real reason that all the jobs were created is that America had a source of good new jobs in the 1990s because the jobs in information technology moved out of the companies and the video game companies in Texas and exploded into every aspect of American life.

I could go out when I was governor of Arkansas I remember at the very end I'd go out at harvest season when they were bringing in the rice crop or I'd go to planting season and all my farmer friends all of sudden were in air-conditioned tractor cabs with computers telling them what to plant, when to plant it, and what kind of fertilizer to use. It was the darndest thing I ever saw.

That created millions of jobs. Every work place in America changed in the 90s.

Now, this decade has not seen its source of new jobs, that's the problem. That's why we've got flat wages. Yet it is a bird's nest on the ground. If we made a serious commitment to a clean independent energy future, we would create those jobs in Kansas and across the country.

You do not have to accept my word for this you can look at the evidence. I'll give you two pieces of evidence.

Number one, in Europe the economies that look most like America's, that is the ones that are the most free market oriented, the most unregulated, are probably the Netherlands, Denmark, and the United Kingdom. In Denmark, unlike America, their unemployment rate is almost identical to ours but their growth rate is higher, their wages are going up, inequality is going down.

Why? In the last few years the Danish economy has increased in size by 50 percent. Now at the same time estimate how much their energy use has increased and how much their greenhouse gas emissions have increased. Answer? Zero. Nothing, zero, no increase in energy use, no increase in greenhouse gas emissions.

Their greenhouse gas emissions have gone down while their economy has gone up 50 percent because they have also decided to generate 22 percent of the electricity from wind. Let's take the U.K. even more like us. In my last year as President when we negotiated, in '98 not my last year, we negotiated the Kyoto climate change accord which calls for all these countries to cut their greenhouse gas emission down below 1990 level by 2012.

Al Gore and a guy named Stu Eizenstat went to Japan to propose this deal for me and I was signing off on it. They didn't even get off the airplane before the Senate voted against it. One hundred percent of the Republicans and nearly 100 percent of the Democrats voted against it before I could send it to them because they said ... would bankrupt America if we had to reduce our energy consumption and the poison we were spewing into the air. It would be the end of civilization as we knew it.

Then when I gave a speech on climate change it elicited a giant yawn from all but the most fanatic members of the press on the subject. Now look at what the United Kingdom did. United Kingdom said something very different. They said oh we like the Kyoto accord. It's a perfectly nice little piece of paper but the truth is it's a little bit of a weak sister. It's too much compromise it's too weak. We're going to beat our Kyoto targets by 25 to 50 percent.

Guess what? They did and their unemployment rate is as low as ours but their wages are going up and inequality has not gone up and their growth is high because of all the jobs they created in clean energy. The British government has actually put out a list by category of how many new jobs they created by beating their Kyoto targets and they're so excited they're gonna beat them again.

I'm telling you if you look around here the greatest thing about biofuels of any kind is that they don't travel well. That's good. That means no big long pipelines and every 50 or 100 or 200 miles you got to have a new production facility and a new distribution network and we can revitalize rural America.

We can bring back the small towns and the rural areas. Once we get a cost conversion fix on cellulosic ethanol we can do it without having corn prices so high that all the chicken people and the cattle feeders go out of business and everybody goes crazy. We can do it all in a balanced way here.

But it's not just that, it's not just that. My library has 308 solar reflectors. I cut my greenhouse gas emissions 34 percent. Those things were made in America by Americans. I could go on and on and on and on. If we made this a commitment then we could deal with health care, deal with the economy, and deal with the climate change and we would give Americans space — emotional space, financial space, to say okay go out there with your security policy, your diplomacy, your policy to build more partners and fewer terrorists and bring the world together. Bring the world together. Give our children the future they deserve.

So anyway that's how I think. If something happens tomorrow and you want to know how I feel about it you can already figure out my answer cause my answer is always determined by this question. Does this or that or the other course of action help or hurt our efforts to build a world with more shared opportunities, shared responsibilities, and genuine sense of belonging?

If it helps I'm for it, if it hurts I'm against it, and if I don't know I try to figure it out. That's how I deal with emerging events every day. You may not agree with my analysis but you should be able to answer those questions. What's the nature of the twenty-first century world, is it good or bad? How would you like to change it? What steps are necessary to do that? Who's supposed to do it? Finally the answer is whether you're in or out of government, you are.
Thank you very much.

Here are a few pictures I did not place yet. So many of you have asked for Clinton pics that I thought I'd throw everything in, which will make this one of those posts that clogs the front page for awhile, then vindicates itself by being accessed so much afterwards:

If you care to see Clinton's lecture, the Landon Lecture Series website has handily provided both audio and video links at a "past speakers" link on their website.

We missed Clinton's Q&A session because we needed to dash down I-70 to Topeka. Here's a shot of the Kansas State Capital Building, of which I shot a bizillion pictures the next day inside the dome, but that will have to wait.

Our destination was the Ramada Inn, a non-descript building. Yeah, you knew I had to get in a remark about architecture somewhere in this post.

The event was the Kansas Democratic Party's annual Washington Days gathering.

I'd never attended a large political gathering like this one, but I was surprised there were only a few tables set up to promote specific agendas, such as this table. I bet Al would not have been surprised by the winter frog.

I was happy to see a vender of political buttons and stickers. There used to be two women at the Kansas State Fair who sold a variety of these for all sorts of causes, but they retired years ago and political buttons have been a rarity in these parts ever since.

And now, another batch of pictures. The speech, given before about 1,400 people, was somewhat similar to the one at K-State but was more of a rally for the troops, as it were, since Clinton was speaking to his own party. There are way too many pictures here, but I haven't time to thin them out just yet.

Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius introduces the President.

Clinton played to the press box quite a bit. They saw his front a lot more than we did.

That rim lighting on Clinton is caused by someone else's flash going off during my exposure.

Sorry for the lag in posting, I've been very, very busy. However, I should have a nice post up on or before St Pat's Day that'll feature novel places, neon signs, cool buildings, a tatooed woman, some mushrooms, two graveyards and a jackalope. Oh, and no politicians.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Waiting for Bill

Last Friday we had an impromptu adventure. We had just found out the night before that tickets for a Landon Lecture Series speech by Bill Clinton at Kansas State University would be handed out Friday morning at 10. The catch was that they'd only be handed out at internet or mail distribution - so we had to drive about two and a half hours up to K-state in Manhattan, KS. That big cat symbol on the building in the background is the "powercat" a symbol of the university; I was informed of this rather enthusiastically when I asked a group of K-state alumni what a "powercat" was.

We got there before 8AM and were nearly the first in line, as seen in this photo of perfectly ordinary people waiting in the cold wind. Why endure it? Because I've never seen a former president and Clinton is one of my faves. We do get our share of former world leaders in these parts, having seen a visit from Gorbachev in 2005.

As usual, Ace got along with the ladies. Notice the purple shirt he's wearing in order to blend in? That's the main color of K-state.

After obtaining the necessary tickets, we went sight-seeing. What did we head to first? Well, we fell back on jackalope travel rule #22, always check out a town's giant something-or-other. In this case, it's Johnny Kaw constructed in 1966 to illustrate a Kansas mythological figure created in a 1955 story by George Filinger for the Manhattan centennial.

This Johnny Kaw has fared better than the first statue of him that was placed here. That first statue was beheaded by vandals, then moved to a farm where it was backed over by a wagon. I wonder if Paul Bunyan ever had these problems?

We didn't explore Manhattan thoroughly, but we did happen across this gem. It's
the Vista Drive In at 1911 Tuttle Creek Blvd. The name "Vista" derives from that fact that when the place was started in 1964, there was a nice view of the fields from this hillside. Of course, those fields are developed now.

This is not the original Vista building or sign; I don't know when these were built but as I find out, I'll add that information.

Some of the shapes, type styles and materials used, like the fake stone sides, reminded me of mid-20th century "googie" diner architecture. I'll try to eat lunch here sometime.

I love souvenirs and shirts from specific local institutions. My problem with t-shirts, though, is they have no pockets and between the camera and the cell phone, I gotta have pockets!

This neatly angular church is along Kimball Avenue, near the University.

From the sacred to the profane, I suppose: After a brief stint through a more rural area, Highway 114 neatly segues the college town of Manhattan into the military base town of Junction City. And what have I seen outside the gates of every military base I've ever encountered? Strip clubs. I shot this one because of the old sign, the style of which leads me to believe it's first owner is not the G-Spot, 1014 Grant Avenue. This is a file photo from last year, but I don't believe the sign has changed.

The Korean Grace Baptist Church, 629 Grant Ave., looks like an old grocery store or strip mall with a steeple.

It's more recycled signage, but it has an interesting shape.

D.E.L. Motors, 1737 N Washington St., has a pair of nice signs at the corner of Grant and Washington. We turned south here, and traveled Washington for some miles as it is the main drag through downtown Junction City.

One of the proprietors of Jack and Dick's pawn shop, 1434 N Washington St., had a very photogenic face, but did not want his picture taken.

However, the pawn shop guy was helpful and agreed with people at the street rods place across the street that it was once a Burger Chef. See the cool ceiling fixtures inside?

I love these dodecahedron-shaped plastic lamps. I'm not sure about the era...1970s, maybe?

Rex's Auto Sales, 1122 N Washington St., has a nice sign as well as a banner that mentions "Little Apple" as a nickname for nearby Manhattan. I ran across a 2003 article in the Topeka Capital Journal in which a manager at Rex's is interviewed; it gives an insight into the concerns of business leaders in towns dependent on military bases. "If nearby Fort Riley were to close, he said flatly, Junction City would be a virtual ghost town," the article states. Apparently, the population of troops stationed at Fort Riley has dropped about 40% in recent years. 10,000 troops were stationed there, as of the end of 2003.

This little sign was also on the lot last May. It probably still is and I just missed it this time.

Williams Cigar Store in the 900 block of North Washington St. is long gone, but the sign remains over what is now a bar. I went into the bar to glean more information about the sign, but found none. However, the bartender had another one of those faces you just want to photograph - rough hewn and in good indirect lighting, too - very much a character. He seemed puzzled that I ordered a soft drink and went on to an animated conversation with patrons at the other end of the bar, leaving me near two women who were discussing friends of theirs who were on parole.

I'm not a bar person, save for tiki bars, but I was willing to deal with the cigarette smoke for awhile if I could get the shot I wanted. But when other patrons kept looking uncomfortably at my camera, I felt my own naivete and remembered that sometimes people in little hole-in-the-wall bars in the middle of the day don't like to be seen, as opposed to tiki bar patrons who are often out on the town with cameras of their own. When one of the women remarked that my camera must be expensive, I walked back into the fresh air and sunlight. Maybe I should have brought Ace inside as a conversation-starter to get the bartender's picture. I can hear it now: "A man and a jackalope walk into a bar..."

Junction City's downtown has the usual assortment of impressive late 19th and early 20th century buildings.

The urban archeologist and the history buff enjoy guessing at the original purposes of such buildings.

But, oh! How my space-age baby boomer heart leaps when I see an echo of that much-later Jetson-esque era in some unexpected place - bits of "googie" architecture in the bread basket of America.

This cool antenna-like sign belongs to the Central National bank, 802 N Washington St.

Just over in the next block south is the cryptic tower of Masonic(?) emblems. I've always thought of these as suburban totem poles, inscribed with hieroglyphics.

Sometimes eras overlap, as in this likely mid 20th century sign for Tom's Mens Wear on much older buildings.

Somewhere on a side street near downtown, I shot this aging sign for Puett's Motors.

Reich's Foreign Cars, 305 N Washington St., has a nifty old sign.

Sometimes I find unexpected things when I google the various places I've photographed in preparation for these posts. In this case, I found CNN trial transcripts for the Timothy McVeigh OKC bomber trial, in which a former manager of Reich's testified as a witness to events in Junction City (she was not at all involved in the bombing).

Way on down Washington Street, at 835 South Washington, I saw the Big Bowl bowling alley.

I've seen these elongated trapezoids before on signs and on furniture. I'm not sure of the era...1960s?...70S?

The nearby Denny's Restaurant at 1032 South Washington sports a later generation of Denny's architecture than I usually see. There were too many big trucks in front of it to get a decent picture, so I shot the back since the shape of the roof was what I was after.

I'm no big fan of Denny's food, but they've left some great buildings behind. Here's a link to an earlier Denny's building I shot in Needles, CA.

I turned east from Washington St., right before it peters out near I-70, and drove along an access road which is the old Hwy 40 in some places. Stacey's Restaurant, 118 W Flint Hills Blvd., is actually in the very small town of Grandview Plaza, right next to Junction City. I found a nice description of the food and decor at Virtual Tourist.

The Dreamland Motel, 520 E Flint Hills Blvd., was built in 1950 and is quite visible from I-70, the interstate that replaced Hwy 40 in Kansas. Flint Hills Blvd. is the name for Highway 40 in this area, which runs just yards from I-70 at the Dreamland. The Dreamland also played a role in the OKC bombing, through no fault of the owner or management; Oklahoma architect Dan Harris was hired to make a model of it for use in illustrating the movements of McVeigh and his rented Ryder truck. The transcripts indicate there was even a model of the sign. As dark as that chapter is, I must admit to wondering what became of the model and how accurate it was.

The star-shaped sign was built in 1958, according to the woman working the desk. Notice the generic block letters that spell "motel." They are replacements used after the original letters on this, the west side, were damaged by hail in recent years.

The east side still has the original letters. See the difference in the type style? Also note the "pray for our troops" message on the marquee, a reminder of the nearby Fort Riley Army base.

This photocopy in the lobby is of a photograph dated 1950. You can see that the stone pedestal was in use then, but the star had not been added. Barely visible is some lettering under the word "motel" that spells "Dreamland."

That original 1950 "Dreamland" lettering was saved and is in use above the motel lobby. Now that's urban architecture conservation the way I like to see it. Changes were made and the owner got a splashier new sign in 1958, but thought to keep and use one of the 1950 sign elements. If I ever need to stay in Junction City, I'll likely be here. After photographing the Dreamland I headed back onto I-70 and home.

And what of our original purpose in going to Manhattan? Bearing in mind that Ace must disguise himself to fit in wherever he goes, we came up with this Clinton Foundation t-shirt. I doubt he'll attract even a glance. I very much doubt we'll get a chance to take a picture of Ace with Clinton; but we'll let you know how it goes.