Book Review- methland

I recently finished reading methland by Nick Reding and really enjoyed the history and in-depth reporting of the story. Detailing the recent history of a small Iowa town, the author analyzes the economical and social factors which allowed methamphetamine to become part of life for so many in this town. With local farming operations and factory jobs no longer providing a stable income, some residents of Olwein, Iowa turn to meth in order to deal with the problem.

The author basically tells the story of a few local residents whose lives have been affected by methamphetamine. There is the former meat-packing factory worker whose stable income has been undercut by the consolidation of the food industry. There is the small-time meth producer who is able to turn a profit until she lands in jail. There are the local illegal Mexican immigrants who work for low wages in the newly consolidated factories and use meth to work overtime shifts. All of these characters serve to illustrate the far-reaching effects of the drug.

For many years, small town economies across the Midwest largely revolved around family farming operations and locally-owned businesses. This dynamic allowed a large number of people to live relatively stable lives. However, factory buyouts and the introduction of agricultural outfits caused wages to be reduced. With lower wages, more people had to work longer hours in order to make ends meet, and meth provided the energy boost to work these extra shifts… After all, Five Hour Energy had not been invented yet.

I guess I do admire the entrepreneurial spirit of those attempting to run their own meth lab, and one can only imagine the results if their efforts would have been put towards an upstanding vocation or hobby. However, money is usually the driving force for many decisions, and I’m sure this case is no different.

I currently live in Arkansas where Tysons is largely portrayed as a strong local business contributing to the state economy. However, after reading this book and hearing about their employment and business principles, I am not sure if ethics are held in the highest regard at the company. The hiring of illegal immigrants to work minimum wage for dangerous jobs does not seem entirely above-board. In addition, some in my family claim the company uses steroids to increase the size of their chickens. So again, probably not the most ethical practices… I normally buy Perdue products.

Eagle River Cruise

IMG_0450Reading the newspaper this past week, I was surprised to see an advertisement for a nearby boat tour designed to ferry passengers around a local lake to search for bald eagles and other migratory wildlife. I honestly did not know that much about bald eagles besides the fact they are the national bird and were an endangered species in the recent past. However, I was definitely enlightened during this tour about their migratory patterns and distinctive characteristics. Since lakes freeze in the colder climates of northern states, Arkansas provides a suitable environment where these birds are able to live, hunt, and survive.

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Upon arrival at the Jolly Roger Marina, I was greeted by the tour guide and wandered around the facility before boarding the boat. I had been warned of the cold temperatures while on the lake, so I came prepared and was sufficiently layered. Since the cost of the tour was only $15, I guess I was not surprised the tour boat was of modest proportions. Our group of eight situated themselves onboard, and we proceeded with the tour under the direction of the guide.

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Initially, the main waterfowl we observed were loons. Named for their clumsy nature, these birds will dive underneath the water in search of food. If you squint a little bit, one is visible in the picture below this paragraph. Other birds observed included gulls, crows, vultures, and ducks.

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And then we saw what we had all been waiting to see… a bald eagle. This bald eagle was flying in its distinctive pattern of soaring and gliding, but it was tough to differentiate the bald eagle and vultures because they are both large birds. According to the guide, there are four or five bald eagles inhabiting Lake Maumelle year-round while the rest migrate from northern locations. During the course of the tour we actually spotted two or three more of these bald eagles flying. If you squint a little, there is a black speck in the middle of the picture below this paragraph…I believe that was a bald eagle. (One of the negative aspects of photography with an IPhone is the inability to zoom.)

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There were a few other points of interest on the lake to include the Little Rock Yacht Club. The song “Redneck Yacht Club” comes to mind, but I’m not sure if this description fits.

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We also viewed a strip of land recently damaged by a tornado in the local area. Again, photograph is below this paragraph.

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Overall, the Eagle River Cruise was definitely a unique and enjoyable experience, and I am slowly starting to realize “The Natural State” is an appropriate designation for Arkansas. I’m not sure if I would be technically be considered a bird-watcher now, but I guess there are worse hobbies.

 

 

 

Random Golf Thoughts

I can’t help but notice the recent golf course invasions by foot golf and Frisbee golf recently. I realize golf courses are probably looking to increase revenue, but I’m not sure adding these sports is the best way to go. Maybe I only play on relatively cheap courses and this addition is the only way to sustain their business, I’m not completely sure. Having played golf off-and-on for over fifteen years, I guess times change.

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Believe it or not, my high school golf career was nothing to write home about. In fact, a bit of good fortune allowed me to score a double eagle on a 500-plus yard par 5 with a set of knockoff Ping starter set golf clubs in the tenth grade, but things pretty much went downhill from there. I eventually was fitted for a set of King Cobra irons and have also added some bargain bin clubs to make a complete set. In fact, in my bag currently are a Taylor Made 10.5 degree driver, Calloway 3-wood, 3-iron through pitching wedge King Cobra irons, 52 degree Cleveland wedge, 60 degree knockoff band lob wedge, and Scotty Cameron putter. These clubs allow me to generally play bogey golf as well as enjoy some fresh air once in a while.

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I think my introduction to golf happened because my friend played and Tiger Woods was in the middle of his dominance of the PGA Tour. In fact, I came within a couple feet of him during the Memorial Tournament at the Murfield Village Golf Course. The popularity of golf at this time was huge, and it was actually somewhat cool to play where I went to school.

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I think part of the draw for me is the nature aspect combined with having a defined objective, hitting the golf ball in the hole. For me, golf combines the outdoors aspect of hiking as well as requiring skill to accurately hit the ball. Another reason why I like to play is golf courses with history and character. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to play the Trump Doral course or Augusta National, but I think I would get just as much enjoyment from playing a local course that is scenic and relatively challenging. You know, the kind of course where one or two people run the entire show by serving as the starter, snack bar attendant, ground crew, and pro shop manager… Caddy Shack seems to comes to mind here. A place where the clubhouse has witnessed decades of club championships and serves as a gathering point for locals.

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I’m not sure how golf will fare in the future. I think Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy will help draw younger fans to the sport again like Tiger Woods did fifteen years ago. I think golf has done quite a bit to shed the elitist, white male stereotype with programs like The First Tee, LPGA Tour, etc… However, it does seem like more and more courses are closing, which is unfortunate. I think the benefits of golfing are numerous and include physical exercise, fresh air, and social interaction; you know, the kinds of things not possible to obtain in a shopping mall or most other developed settings.

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