The Year In Place: 2017

The Year In Place: 2017

When you live in or near a big city, it’s crucial to get out of the city and reconnect with the outside world. I’m pleased to report that we found several adventurous ways to do just this in 2017.

Coast-to-Coast in 2017:

  • Cannon Beach
  • Roseburg
  • Ashland
  • Omaha
  • Gleneden Beach
  • Boise
  • McCall
  • Walla Walla
  • Seattle
  • Eugene
  • Sundance
  • Marco Island
  • Seattle

I do have a well developed obsession with place, particularly with how geography and climate impact people and culture. To me, it’s endlessly fascinating to explore the differences and likenesses in people and places. Inside the state of Oregon, we go from Portland urban to something else entirely in Eugene and Ashland—two of the finest university towns on the West Coast. We enjoyed seeing the Ducks play Nebraska in Eugene this September. We also visited wineries and played disc golf along the Umpqua River in April, and saw “Julius Caesar” in Ashland. Travel Or-Eee-Gun!

One of the highlights of the travel year was our visit to Idaho in July. My mom flew into Boise and we proceeded from there to McCall, and then over to Walla Walla, Washington. McCall was the star of the show. The charming mountain town on the shores of Payette Lake is a great destination. I’m a fan and I’d love to return in any season.


We also made it to Sundance this Fall for the changing of the leaves and incredible new memory making with old friends.

An interesting side note here, almost everyone we mentioned “Sundance” to this year thought it was in Park City. The film festival is in Park City. The mail order catalog is in Salt Lake City and the resort is a few miles up Provo Canyon from Orem. The resort is another destination where time slows down and nature takes over. My hat is forever off to Robert Redford for using his Hollywood money to save Sundance from unchecked development.

“Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind.” –Seneca

Seeing close friends in Seattle, and family in Omaha and Marco Island were also joyful and important trips in 2017.

Place is endlessly fascinating. The people in the places are the reasons we live.

Prior movements: 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 |2008 | 2007 | 2006

Mike Riley’s Soft Serve Makes Big Mess at Autzen Stadium

This Husker fans know: It’s Mike Riley’s third season in Lincoln and he continues to lose well, which he did again this past Saturday in Eugene.

What we witnessed in person at Autzen was football ugly. From the opening kickoff, the game seemed like a painless scrimmage for the Ducks.

Here’s one honest press report for all Husker fans to weigh:

Long passes, big runs and a raucous Autzen Stadium had a dizzying effect on a young group of Blackshirts still learning the ins and outs of regular playing time and a new 3-4 defense.

The carnage report at intermission was equally disorienting: forty-two Oregon points on 409 yards of offense.

NU was within a touchdown of tying the most points it had ever allowed in a first half (49 vs. Oklahoma in 2008).

It’s hard for me to relate to this team. These Cornhuskers in no way resemble the tough-nosed teams I once knew. I still love Nebraska and I love my people of the Corn, but I do not relate to a defense that’s soft like room temperature butter. I watched intently on Saturday for any kind of pressure on the QB. Herbert was never touched. He may as well have had his red practice jersey on. That’s how easy it was for him to pick Nebraska apart.

Once the Huskers were down 42-14 at the half, I was hoping for the full Ducks treatment. Putting up 84 points on Nebraska would have been the kind of thing Grandpa Riley could never explain away. The fact is Nebraska was never in this game. And the second half was as off-putting as the first. Oregon was asleep and Nebraska is simply bad.

As a fan, it’s tough to take and harder to understand. The University of Nebraska can hire any coach they want, so why is this now the third coach in a row that has little clue about where they are, or how to conduct themselves in a winning fashion?

It’s fair to ask if “Nebraska Nice” is a real thing? Not on the gridiron!

I don’t care how nice he is—if the Nebraska football coach fails to win 10 games a year, he’s not a good cultural fit in Lincoln. Thus far, Riley is 16-12. That’s a winning percentage of just .571. Will this be Riley’s breakout year? One look at this team and the slate of conference games ahead and the answer is as clear as a dinner bell on the prairie.

The Year In Place: 2017

2015: The Year In Place

I started tracking my movements about the country a decade ago (and logging them here) as an annual exercise meant to encourage memory, cataloguing and in the best cases a bit of travel writing.


Looking back on it, 2015 wasn’t a big year in travel, although quality and quantity are two different things.

Here’s a list of amazing places where I spent one or more nights away from home:

  • Hood River, OR
  • Seattle, WA
  • Cannon Beach, OR
  • Marco Island, FL
  • Bend, OR
  • Omaha, NE
  • Long Beach, WA

We traveled to Seattle for Poppy’s fourth birthday; to Cannon Beach for my 50th birthday; to Florida for Danna and Gary’s 50th anniversary; to Bend for my first Phish shows in 18 years; and to Nebraska for the opening game of The Mike Riley era.

2015 was also the year of the home for Darby and me. We purchased the mid-century home in West Linn that we had rented for four years, and invested time and energy in repairs and remodeling. It’s good to be home, and good to have a place to come home to, after expeditions near and far.

Prior movements: 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 |2008 | 2007 | 2006

Bill Jennings Went 1-9 in 1957; Mike Riley Will Top That But Not By Much

Bill Jennings Went 1-9 in 1957; Mike Riley Will Top That But Not By Much

Since Frank Solich left Lincoln in 2003, the Nebraska Cornhuskers have been in a free fall.

Many of us, myself included, have been in various states of denial about the truth of this, but the fall finally became an undeniable reality yesterday, in the most unlikely of places. West Lafayette, Indiana is not the place where football players from opposing teams go to be humbled. And Nebraska wasn’t humbled, it was decapitated in a real life Halloween massacre.

The Huskers were down 26 points to Purdue to start the fourth quarter. The previous sentence would have been impossible to write, much less comprehend, until now. Now, it’s all too easy to comprehend. The football program is in utter shambles. Nebraska hired an arrogant Loserhan, replaced him with “needs professional help” Pelini, and now Grandpa Riley wanders the sideline, slackjawed and in seeming disbelief.

Whatever Coach Riley is pondering as his team gets pounded on the field is his private reserve. What the public sees is clear as day. Nebraska football is now in the most pathetic, clueless state it’s been in since the late 1950s. The only fans who can relate to this are 60-plus years old. That was the last time the Cornhuskers stunk up the place this badly.

Only once has Nebraska ever had nine losses in a season, which is a very real possibility this season. That was in 1957 under head coach Bill Jennings, who coached from 1957-1961. He was given a long leash, given his record during that span. Leashes do not come in that size today. Today, Nebraska football is a big business and losing is bad for business.

Let’s look at The Daily Nebraskan’s reaction, for one:

Nebraska let me introduced you to rock bottom. Rock bottom, meet Nebraska.

…There’s no sugarcoating it: Nebraska is no longer a team to reckon with in college football.

It’s important to bring the historical perspective into view. Before Bob Devaney came to town from Wyoming and turned the program around, the Huskers were laggards.


The Huskers are laggards again. For the first time in many fans’ lives the expectation to win when the team takes the field isn’t there. As a fan we wish for a win but we know how unlikely it is.

Michigan State and Iowa are coming to Lincoln this month and they’re not going to show Nebraska any mercy. Unless something major changes today, the team that got pummeled by Purdue will be crushed into oblivion by Sparty and the Hawkeyes.

Where might this change come from, if it comes at all? The Regents, the University’s new President, the A.D. who wants to keep his job? Time will tell, but the clock’s ticking. Football players will go elsewhere, students will go elsewhere, and believe it or not fans will too. Nebraska is the only game in town, and that’s been a large part of its build to national prominence, but football at Nebraska is no longer the only game in town.

Maybe it’s natural and good that football is put in its place. When it means so much, perspective is lost. In the end, it’s a game among many others. At the same time, it would be foolish to deny how Husker pride is about much more than football. Thus, losing football games is about much more than losing football games.

Husker Nation Is Hurting After Team Carelessly Tosses Away Another Victory

I’m glad Tom Shatel is pissed off. He’s the senior writer on the Huskers’ beat and if he’s not spitting venom after yesterday’s debacle in Lincoln, then Husker Nation would truly be at a loss.

Let’s observe some of Shatel’s keen observations:

Let’s not waste our time talking about bowl scenarios.
Nebraska just lost, 30-28, to a Northwestern team that was beaten 78-10 the previous two games.


The Husker team that showed up didn’t show a great deal of interest in blocking, catching passes, covering kickoffs or making smart decisions with the ball.

Not a lot of urgency, period, and ther’s absolutely no reason for that in this program, ever.

Shatel goes on to question whether Tommy Armstrong will be the QB next year. It’s the right question. I can hardly remember the last time the Huskers had a real QB under center. Let me be generous and give the nod to Joe Ganz. Crafty and intelligent Ganz left the field of play in 2008. Since then, Nebraska has been outplayed at QB in just about every game. It’s more than a little embarrassing.

Will Mike Riley fix this problem at QB? Yes, he already has and we will see the results of this focused recruiting when a real QB takes the field next season. Tommy Armstrong is a tough player. If I was the coach I’d want him on the field, but not at QB. Maybe he can play cornerback? Nebraska certainly needs a lot of help in that area.

Honestly, there are so many things wrong with this team, it is hard to pick the most meddlesome problem to tackle. Nevertheless, let’s select mental toughness or the lack thereof. Maliek Collins—like Alex Lewis before him at Miami—was flagged for a personal foul at most inopportune time possible on Saturday. I’m not hanging these two losses on these two 4th quarter plays. What I will do is point to these two plays and ask, is this the Ghost of Pelini? The fact is Nebraska is playing almost exclusively with players recruited by the coach who can’t keep his composure.

In Lewis’s case, the offensive lineman from the state of Colorado made matters much worse by blasting Nebraska fans on social media. “I’m done playing for the state of the Nebraska!” his Facebook post began. It’s since been deleted. But yes, from the looks of things, he is done playing for the state of Nebraska. The Huskers O-line was completely dominated by Northwestern. It wasn’t pretty, and it’s going to take some time for that particular sting to work its way out.

Here is another fact that no one likes. Mike Riley is left to clean up one of the messiest scenes of his career and redeem a program that has been splintering for more than a decade. To make matters worse, the fan base can’t see why Riley was entrusted with this job, based on his mediocre W-L record at Oregon State.

I saw a comment somewhere in the social stream that this job is going to make Mike Riley old. That saddens me, but I can also see the truth in it. Lincoln is only three hours by private jet from Corvallis, but when it comes to the game of football, it might as well be on a different planet. In Corvallis, it truly is all good, whether the Beavers win or lose. I can see how a competitive man like Mike Riley would want a greater challenge that, and now he has one. It’s clearly not all good in Lincoln, and it won’t be until the Nebraska Cornhuskers blow people off the ball and win.

The Year In Place: 2017

TransCanada Calls Upon American Law To Take Land Away From Americans

Eminent domain seems unfair and un-American. Particularly, when called upon by a Canadian multi-national oil company to wrestle a rag tag group of ranchers for the last bit of right-of-way for its heinous oil snake pipeline.

TransCanada 20110120

According to The Guardian, by law, TransCanada can use the courts to force Nebraska landowners to sell access to their land. Company officials say they still need to acquire 12% of the total land easements from owners who have not yet reached a deal. Some holdouts have said they will not negotiate no matter how much TransCanada offers.

In an unexpected twist, Nebraska state senator, Ernie Chambers introduced a bill on Tuesday that would repeal the pipeline-siting law and bring the project “to a virtual standstill”.

Chambers is the only African-American serving in the Nebraska state Senate. He’s also famously contentious. Frequently employing legislative rules and filibusters to block proposals, his legislative opposition has caused friction with some of his colleagues in the Legislature.

“The pipeline is like King Kong, and the people and farms are like ants and grasshoppers,” Chambers said. “If they get in the way, they will be crushed with no redress.”

“The Great Plains has a rich history of this sort of rabble-rousing individual,” says Gary Moulton, professor emeritus of history at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Chambers’ detractors should take heed of the state’s populist legacy, he says, one that includes William Jennings Bryan and other advocates for the ignored and voiceless. “Ernie comes out of the ’60s, but if you take a step back you can see that it’s another aspect in the same populist vein,” Moulton says.


Let’s hope Chambers’ penchant for obstructionism pays off for the ranchers in the way of this pipeline. The concept of eminent domain makes sense on paper. Private property owners must give up their rights for the good of the larger community. The problem here is the Keystone pipeline is not clearly a seen as a benefit to the community or to the country. In fact, it’s not hard to see the project as the snake it is, carrying 800,000 barrels of crude oil a day through sensitive Ogallala Aquifer-fed habitat.

Everyone knows some of this 800,000 barrels of crude is going to leak into the sandy soil and infect the life-sustaining water underneath. It’s a matter of when, not if.

Could there be armed conflict and sabotage on the horizon? Most Nebraskans are prudent people. At the same time, I’ve always thought of my home state as a Midwestern version of New Hampshire. “Live free or die” is an expression of the granite state’s native extremism. There’s no such expression in Nebraska, but there is a pervasive live-and-let-live/don’t tread on me mentality.

Terms like “patriot” get bandied about in debates like this. The right wing wants to own the term patriot. But who are the patriots in this conflict? Are the politicians with oil money stuffed in their suit pockets patriots? Or are the people of Nebraska and America who say no to another short-sighted fossil fuels scheme that creates virtually no local jobs patriots?

The odd thing is many of the people in rural Nebraska fighting for their land might present as conservatives, but they’re now allied with populists Ernie Chambers and Barack Obama and a bunch of leftist environmentalists.

Political terminology and ideology doesn’t mean much at a time of crisis. It’s all so much simpler than that. “I’m an American, this is my land, and you’re not going to destroy it,” is about all there is to it.

How Twitter Is Changing The Game Day Experience For Fans

How Twitter Is Changing The Game Day Experience For Fans


The experience of watching college football is altered considerably when using a double-screen setup to watch the game on one hand, and talk about it on the other.

It used to be one would simply jump up from the couch and yell affirmations or hurl curses. Today, we express our emotions as fans on Twitter, the closest thing we have to a real-time coversational platform on the web.

Sports writers take part in it:

Bloggers take part on it:

Fans take part in it:

I think it is fair to ask, does the Tweeting make for a richer college football viewing experience, or is it a digital distraction that we’d be better off without?

During today’s game, Nebraska came out running the I-formation, slashing and gashing for ground yards. I was happy and I was stunned. I hadn’t seen this team–our team, the real Nebraska–for many years. Sadly, the vision did not last. It slipped away in what seemed like an instant and the madness on Twitter got loud fast. I decided to put the second screen away and watch the game.

Of course, there’s also the post-game commentary to consider and take part in.

I wonder how many college programs are using social listening software to judge fan/consumer sentiment about the players, coaches and program. We don’t need to guess at the sentiment of fans or customers. Their support, love for the program and alternatively, their disbelief and disgust with it, is all neatly cataloged in the database for data scientists and marketers to mine.

Another thing worth noting about these game day “conversations” on Twitter: Good luck trying to engage with Bo Pelini, the NU athletic department or even the journalists on the Huskers beat. All of the above clearly approach Twitter as a broadcast channel, and they don’t want to get entangled in the complexities of managing fan anger or opinion of any kind. As a result, they ignore 99% of all @replies, which makes no sense within the context of Twitter itself, but plenty of sense when you realize how access in college sports is a privilege—one that Bo Pelini has been keen on revoking. His team’s practices are closed to the press, for instance.

Know What You’re Laughing At, Or The Laugh’s On You

I love American history and American culture. I love ‘merican people (especially our artists, writers and musicians) and ‘merican places. Therefore, it pains me to encounter geo-cultural ignorance. And sadly, I encounter it all too often in places populated by lots of “book smart” people.

Last Sunday, for instance, was a pleasant early-fall day. We played disc golf at Pier Park in St. John’s. The course, nestled among elder Doug Firs, was demanding but majestic. After our round, we boot scooted back to the car and headed to Breakside Brewery for the first time. I’ve been wanting to visit Breakside on NE Dekum for some time, so it was fun to finally arrive, find a place on the outside patio and order a Cucumber Gose. And an IPA to follow, washed down by a perfectly prepared blue cheeseburger.

A woman and her husband, both in their late forties or early fifties, approached the picnic table next to us and sat down. They minded their own business until Lucy emerged from our under table with a loud bark at another pooch passing by on the sidewalk. The lady — who wanted us to know she’s a native Portlander — started talking shit to Lucy and Lucy barked at her, which elicited more shit talking. A storm began to brew…

The banter from there went down the typical American superhighway. “Where do you live? Where are you from?”

West Linn. Omaha.

Full frontal scoff from the lady.

Darby says uh-oh. I say, I guess we’re done talking.

The lady wants to know where Darby’s from. Ohio and New York.

“Welcome to Oregon,” she says.

We’ve lived here four years.

In the years I spent living on the East Coast, and the years spent living in California and Oregon, I’ve noticed that coastal sophisticates sometimes feel sorry for people like Darby and me. We’re from Cleveland and Omaha – such unsexy places, they’re actually invisible to the “fly over” crowd.

News Flash! Yes, we have left our native grounds behind — as have our friends here in Oregon who migrated from Michigan, North Carolina, Arkansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Colorado, Iowa, New Jersey, Louisiana, Ohio, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Missouri and Minnesota — but we’re still proud of our homes, our histories, our friends and family that continue to grow their own American dreams, back home in the fertile soils of the south and middle.

Ink Stains May Wash Off, But They Don’t Wear Off

Ink Stains May Wash Off, But They Don’t Wear Off

Warren Buffett, the greatest investor the modern world has ever known, just ponied up $142 million to add Richmond, Virgina-based Media General to his list of prized companies.

Media General operates 18 network-affiliated television stations and their associated websites, plus several dozen community newspapers across the Southeastern part of the U.S. Titles like Richmond Times-Dispatch and Winston-Salem Journal are well known, but most of the others like The Goochland Gazette and The Bland County Messenger have small circulations in the range of 5,000 – 25,000, according to paidContent.

Is the old man getting sentimental, or is this truly a wise investment? Both, I reckon.

“I’ve loved newspapers all of my life — and always will,” Buffett, who delivered newspapers as a boy, wrote in a letter introducing himself and his newly formed BH Media Group to the Media General team.

Berkshire Hathaway purchased The Omaha World Herald, its hometown newspaper last year, and has owned the Buffalo News since 1977. Buffett has also been on the board of The Washington Post and owned a large share of that national paper for years. One might say he’s making Omaha something of a genuine media town now. As a native of the hilly river city, I’m happy about that.

Of course, there are others with other more important media matters on their minds. Professor, consultant and writer Clay Shirky, for one. He argues that “ordinary citizens don’t pay for news. What we paid for, when we used to buy the paper, was a bundle of news and sports and coupons and job listings, printed together and delivered to our doorstep.” Shirky believes that news has always been a loss leader subsidized by advertisers. And now those advertisers are off to greener pastures. “Ad dollars lost to competing content creators can be fought for; ad dollars that no longer subsidize content at all are never coming back,” he contends.

GigaOm writer, Mathew Ingram, adds that “the subscription price of a newspaper and circulation revenues in general have historically only accounted for a small proportion of a media company’s overall revenue. In most cases, the bulk of that revenue comes from advertising.”

I’m a fan of both Shirky and Ingram, but I don’t agree that all the value is in the platform. The Oracle of Omaha believes there’s value in content and he wants his new newspaper managers to find ways to maximize that value for readers (who will be asked to pay for the content, regardless of the platform). “It’s your job to make your paper indispensable to anyone who cares about what is going on in your city or town,” Buffett outlines.

TransCanada’s “Big Poisonous Snake” Loses Its Head (But It Could Grow Back)

I love when an environmental issue, or any issue, helps to melt the artificial construct of political lines between people and communities come together to face off against corporate agressors.

Thankfully, that’s exactly what’s going on in Nebraska, Texas and other communities that would be directly impacted by the proposed Keystone Pipeline.

According to Roll Call:

Property-rights conservatives, water supply activists and landowners are banding together along the pipeline’s proposed route through Texas, challenging plans to claim land for the proposed pipeline that will run from Canada’s oil sands to Texas’ Gulf Coast.

“Crippling someone’s water supply knows no party line,” said Rita Beving, consultant to the bipartisan East Texas Sub-Regional Planning Commission. A Republican mayor and a Democratic city secretary lead the group’s fight against the pipeline.

In other words, cowboys ain’t taking any of TransCanada’s shit. Or Washington’s, for that matter.

“Lifelong Republicans are standing shoulder-to-shoulder with urban tree-huggers,” Malinda Frevert, a spokeswoman for BOLD Nebraska, said of that effort.

Check out these videos from BOLD Nebraska: