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Collected editorials

What is so rare as a quiet day in June?

Busy, busy, busy

The song says, “Summer time … the living is easy … summer time … the living is good” – around here it seems to be, “summer time … the living is busy.” In other words, June has been a rather busy month, providing me with a lot of material for an editorial and no time to write about it. Still, I will do my humble best.

The soggy, soggy days of June

In the ordinary course of events Highmore does get a bit of rain in June. This year we got quite a bit more than a bit. I haven’t kept records so I don’t know how much rain has fallen during the month. Suffice it to say that it has only been dry enough to mow the lawn twice. I no longer recall the beginning of the month – it has all faded into a soggy blur. I do recall that in the latter half of the month there was one week with four and a half inches of rain, and another with about three that featured two consecutive nights of major thunderstorms. The latter storm actually was a pair of storms that came from different directions to converge on Highmore. I call it The Night That Highmore Got Hammered.

I gather that all of this sogginess is a La Nina phenomenon and that it will come to an end later this year. South Dakota will return to its normal semi-desert climate, and green will once again become a memory.

Cedar Rapids we’re not, but it’s been wet.

How does your garden grow?.

One of the (many) peculiarities of Highmore is that it is the site of an agricultural experiment station. It seems that the land in question was left to SDSU (South Dakota State University) for use as an experiment station on the condition SDSU would lose the land if they ever stopped using it as an experiment station. SDSU has this in common with Harvard – if they ever get their hands on a bit of property they never let go. (There may be some other resemblances, but I’m sure I don’t know what they are.)

SDSU has been operating an experiment station here ever since. Perhaps it is not the most valuable of their experiment stations – the amount of land in question is too small for massive agricultural operations – but it is there and they use. A year ago or so SDSU decided that it would be good if there was more community involvement with the station. This is a rather dicey proposition if there ever was one. For the most part the local residents are massively indifferent to the existence of the station. The locals here abouts are mostly into God, Booze, Cattle, Corn, and Mowing Lawns.

None-the-less the powers that be in SDSU were not discouraged by this simple truth. They called a meeting to discuss how the community could become more actively involved with the station. This meeting was attended by various representatives of various officialdoms and a handful of local residents, among them yours truly. Don’t ask.

A number of pointless suggestions and comments were made and then a certain person whom I shall not name but who is the mistress of a large black dog suggested that they should start a community garden. Everybody (that is, everybody who would not be doing any of the work) thought it was a great idea. Naturally this was not something that would happen quickly. None-the-less wheels were set into motion. A grant proposal was written and in due course funds were made available for the purchase of garden supplies.

Spring of 2008 arrived. At this point she whom I have not named once again became of a simple truth – She who says that something should be done gets stuck with doing it. There is another simple truth – companions of those who got stuck with doing it get stuck too. All of which brings us back to yours truly.

Highmore now has a community garden, complete with a tool, shed, a fenced off plot of land (fence building supplied by yours truly), and rows of growing vegetables. The truth of the matter is that almost no one in the community has any notion that they have a garden, and nor are they participating in this grand project. As you might expect, almost all of the work is done by She Whom I Have Not Named and yours truly. (In the interests of fairness I should mention Cheryl, Andrea, Shanna and Mike, but I won’t.)

We expect great things in the future for the Community Garden. Remember, you read it here.

The aunts arrive

Our tale begins with The Grand Lodge. I must confess that I had not previously mentioned The Grand Lodge. It seems that two local chaps decided to build a hunting lodge in Highmore. It’s rather a cut above the ordinary Highmore dining and lodging establishment. I don’t know what it cost to build (rumors on the matter being both unreliable and extravagant) but I assume it was in seven figures. The aunts arrived before the grand opening, but fortunately for them the lodge was doing business, albeit in shakedown mode.

The aunts you ask? Ah, yes, the aunts. It seems that Harold Rinehart (he who has the honor of being the proud papa of Our Lady Of The Large Black Dog) has numerous sisters who make an annual pilgrimage to visit South Dakota and their dear beloved brothers, Harold and his brother, Lowell. The reunion of the Rineharts is an occasion for good food, good conversation, good companionship, and the relating of many anecdotes about the past, some of which may actually be true.

This year the aunts got to stay in the Grand Lodge. In many respects this was a blessing – the Prairie View motel, while an excellent establishment, is not blessed with those accoutrements afforded by newness and money. The downside was that the lodge was still in its shakedown mode. Then there were some little incidents….

The lodge is a no-smoking establishment (well done on their part, I must say). As it happens one of the aunts smokes. She was very good about it – she did not smoke in her room. Instead, she smoked cigarettes just outside her room – fourteen cigarettes to be exact. We know this because two of the aunts counted the number of cigarette butts on the ground outside her door. They handed the guilty sister a styrofoam cup and asked her to clean them up. This she did quite graciously, albeit not with perfect efficiency. It seems she flushed the butts down the toilet; alas not all of them made it all the way down and instead were floating in the bowl when the cleaning lady did the room. Don’t ask about the styrofoam cup.

It is hoped that the establishment will put in some of those sandfilled butt disposal units outside the rooms. Smokers will smoke, after all, and they need some place to put their butts.

Another of the aunts had a problem with one of the windows. The room windows are the kind that have latch locks on either side and that crank open. Said aunt discovered that if you only unlock one side and then crank vigorously that the window will break instead of opening.

Our Lady of the Large Black Dog discovers martinis.

One evening during the Visit of the Aunts the assorted Rineharts and their paramours (that would be me) had dinner at the lodge. The menu is very much in the South Dakota style of dining, which is to say that it features steak and potatoes. Our Lady had a steak and a twice baked potato and a glass of wine with dinner and a glass of amaretto after dinner. Then Deborah and I and two of the aunts repaired to the bar for a continuation of a pleasantly social evening.

When we sat down I suggested to Deborah that she have a martini. It seems that in all of years she had never, ever, ever had a martini. She was rather doubtful and nervous about the thought, but the aunts took up the cry and prevailed upon her. However they insisted that she should have one with their special recipe. If I recall correctly this involves Bombay Saffire gin, two olives, and the passage of a stoppered vermouth bottle over the glass. They are deadly.

Deborah tried it, and decided that it was really quite nice. In fact it was so nice that she had a second. She was very happy that evening … and not quite so happy the next day.

We now have a firm rule that one her limit is one.

The popsicle lady

This year Highmore was featured on the Tour De Kota. I hadn’t previously mentioned this event because I’d never heard of it before. In the Tour De Kota several hundred cyclists tour the state on bicycles. Each day the cyclists cover about sixty miles; the whole thing lasts about a week. The tour is quite organized – tents, portapotties, and portable showers accompany the cyclists. Each cyclist has a pit crew in a van. The communities on the way offer their hospitality.

This cycling about the state business is not all that it might be. South Dakota is not entirely bicycle friendly; it’s all very well to have a twenty five mile an hour wind behind you, but not so pleasant when you are cycling into the wind. Still, people come from all over the country to do this sort of thing. Don’t ask me why.

The appearance of several hundred strangers in Highmore is a big deal. Overnight the population more than doubles. We are friendly folks in these here parts and we wanted to show our hospitality. The various community groups put on feeds and the bars featured entertainment. We at Chez Harter were not to be outdone.

In her younger days Deborah participated in the Cheyenne Frontier Days parade. One of the things that stuck in her mind was that there were people among the bystanders who would hand out popsicles to the parade participants. It was hot and dry, and the popsicles were very welcome. She decided that we would hand out popsicles to the cyclists.

In our leg of the tour the cyclists were traveling from Chamberlin to Highmore. Chamberlin is to the south of Highmore. (This lesson in South Dakota geography courtesy of the South Dakota Tourism Association.) Chez Harter is one mile south of Highmore. In consequence the cyclists passed my humble abode on to that shining City on the Hill, that blessed burg, Highmore. (Forgive me, I do get carried away at times.)

Our Lady purchased a large quantity of popsicles. We made some signs. As it chanced one of cyclists was a cousin of hers yclept Scott Rinehart, so one of the signs read Great Scott !!. The other read Compliments of Rinehart RE. It was supposed to be Rinehart Real Estate but we ran out of space. It may have been just as well – everyone who stopped asked what the RE stood for.

When the great day came we set up a stand by the side of the road. The stand was not all that impressive – it consisted of a work table that sported a cooler full of popsicles, our signs propped up by sawhorses, a trash can for popsicle wrappers and sticks, a couple of chairs, and us. Around noon the cyclists started showing up. Many passed us by – the day was cool and the sight of Highmore in the distance beckoned – but some snatched a popsicle as they passed and many pulled up gratefully, took a break, and accepted a cold, wet popsicle from the popsicle lady.

Incidentally, Our Lady’s efforts were not confined to handing out popsicles. She had offered the hospitality of her house to her cousin and his sisters, and his cousins, and his aunts. Er, well no, he wasn’t accompanied by the cast of The Mikado, but there were a surprising number of persons in his support van. Instead of spending the night in tents they got to sleep on real beds. In turn, Deborah and The Large Black Dog and Evil Jimmy Cat spent the night at Chez Harter. Her hospitality came at a price – LBD and EJC are prolific shedders of hair which meant that she had to clean the house of hair before she could house her possibly allergic guests for the night.

All went well. Her guests got a good night’s sleep. Evil Jimmy Cat got to explore Chez Harter. The multitude of cyclists were delighted with the hospitality of Highmore. And Deborah is enshrined in the minds of cyclists from all over the country as the Popsicle Lady.

The Son also rises

Every June Highmore hosts an event called Old Settler’s weekend. There are various entertainments such as exhibits of classic cars and tractors, a rodeo, a demolition derby, pig mud wrestling, and class reunions. (Please do not confuse class reunions with pig mud wrestling.) It is always a little hectic; this year was more so.

Deborah is the proud mother of her son Nick, who is currently in his last year of law school at Drake University in DesMoines. Nick came home for the weekend, and brought three of his classmates with him. One of them is a rather nice young woman named Ashleigh. We all know what it means when a young man brings in a young woman from afar to meet his parents, or, if we don’t, we can draw conclusions anyway.

Deborah and Nick decided between them that Deborah would do two of her special dishes for Nick and company. One of them is coquilles Saint Jacques, a dish consisting of approximately equal parts scallops, butter, and cream. It is, ah, rich. She serves them in little ramekin dishes – one ramekin dish holds about 4000 calories or so. The other special dish are filet-mignons wrapped in bacon and covered with a sauce that has been flamed in brandy.

These dishes have two main features – they are incredibly good and they are incredibly labor intensive. Our Lady of the Large Black Dog has certain techniques for reducing the amount of labor required. You may imagine what they are; suffice it to say, I got to do a lot of vegetable and mushroom chopping. In this particular version of Iron Chef, Deborah plays iron chef and I get to play the part of the idiot assistant who is barely trusted with a sharp knife.

P*** on you.

My readers count on me to relate the latest doings in Hyde County, aka Outlaw County. One of the owners of the Grand Lodge is alleged to have been on the School Board at a time when the then current Superintendent of Schools did not get his contract renewed. The circumstances may have aroused certain animosities.

One evening during the Old Settlers celebrations a woman alleged to be a lady whom many believe to the wife of the aforesaid Superintendent was a patron of the Grand Lodge. It is possible that she consumed some beverages containing alcohol. It is also possible that the alleged lady was less then pleased with the aforesaid owner and former school board member.

It is alleged that at some point that the aforesaid lady decided to express her displeasure in a forcible manner. If reports are correct she and friends took a beer bottle into the ladies room and filled it with urine. They went out into the lobby, spilled urine all over one of the couches while giggling a lot. Then they hid the bottle and its remains within the cushions of the couch.

As it happens, a waitress came out to the lobby and noticed that the couch was wet and started to clean it. In the fullness of time the nature of what she had cleaned was revealed by subsequent events.

Perhaps the miscreants would have never been discovered had it not been for two small details. The first is that the alleged ladies in question thought it all quite humorous and talked about their little prank. The second is that it was all on the security tapes.


It turns out that the damage was sufficient to make their little prank a felony.

Double oops.

The moral of our tale is that teachers should know that p*** on you should be just a metaphor.

The software project from eternity

One of my little projects is the specification of, and the implementation of the San programming language. This is one of those things that has proceeded slowly, in part because I am busy with so many other projects, and in part because it is a major project. What has happened so far is that I wrote a massive language specification that I will probably rip apart when I get further into the implementation. Two years I started on an implementation and then got sidetracked into building utilities. These include:

At the moment (another June time eater) I have recovered the lexer from the dusty past and am fiddling with it. (Fiddling means incorporating aforesaid utilities, error checking, etc.)

I suppose I should say something about the rationale for this project. It serves several purposes. One is to serve as a substrate for developing interesting and useful projects. Another is to serve as a vehicle for exploring programming language concepts that may be exotic. And, when implemented, to enable kinds of programming that are not easily done in more prosaic languages.

This page was last updated July 6, 2008.

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Collected editorials