It’s retirement time for the hardest-working man I know

I came across this piece about Yankton resident Bud Kratz in a Deseret News column written by his son, Greg. I can’t say that I know either of them, but I wish Bud the best of luck in his retirement.

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Published: Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2010 9:40 p.m. MST

The hardest-working man I know has had a quiet kind of career by most standards.

He once was a partner in a business, but it didn’t work out like he’d hoped. Since then, he’s worked for someone else, at one job, at one store, in one small South Dakota town.

He never got rich, pulling in an average salary that enabled him and his wife, a teacher, to make the house payment, feed themselves and their two kids and take the occasional family vacation.

He started his professional life as a barber, a solid career option in the early 1960s. However, as the children came along, he decided he needed to make more money. He tried his hand at a few side jobs, selling insurance and repairing television sets. But it was barbering he loved.

Then the trends of the time caught up with him. Even in little Yankton, S.D., men stopped coming in for weekly haircuts, and some even (gasp!) started going to beauty salons to have their hair “styled.”

Read the rest here.

Escaped Sow Captured At Ice Rink

This is the kind of story I live for as a reporter — the funny and absurd. It’s much more enjoyable than the alternative — sad and tragic. Unfortunately, events like the one detailed here don’t come along too often. I really wish I could have been on scene to cover this performance of “Swine Lake.”

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ABERDEEN, S.D.  (AP) — A big pig that escaped from an Aberdeen hog-buying facility was captured after police and volunteers corralled the porky critter at an ice rink.
The Aberdeen American News reports the 400-pound sow was seen wandering along a city street Tuesday night. Police and others herded the hog to a skating rink near an elementary school.
The newspaper described the incident as a version of “Swine Lake.”
Hub City Livestock owner Rick Hellwig says his brothers, Ron and Steve, helped police capture the pig. He says the sow didn’t put up a fight and seemed happy to hop in a trailer.
Hellwig says the sow likely got loose from a trailer while waiting to be sold at the hog-buying facility. He says the sow was returned to its owner.

Running For President Easier Than It Looks?

With Sen. John Thune still testing the presidential waters, he has been getting a bit more scrutiny than usual in the national media. The Associated Press ran with this story today on Republican candidates looking to take on President Obama in 2012. Thune gets the first mention:

By CHARLES BABINGTON | 12/28/10 03:01 AM | AP

Gop Presidential Primary 2012

WASHINGTON — This month’s early, under-the-radar campaigning by potential Republican challengers to President Barack Obama is a reminder of something too easily forgotten: Running for president is harder than it looks, and Obama ultimately will stand against a flesh-and-blood nominee certain to make mistakes along the way.

Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty and other possible GOP candidates stumbled over health care, taxes and other issues in December, even as Obama coped with the harsh political reality stemming from his party’s “shellacking” in last month’s elections.

No serious contender has officially launched a 2012 campaign. But with the Iowa caucuses less than 13 months away, at least a dozen Republicans are jockeying for position, speaking to groups throughout the country, writing op-ed columns and taking potshots at one another.

As all politicians learn, the more deeply they delve into contested issues, the likelier they are to stumble.

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., got caught in the middle of his party’s quickly changing views about congressional earmarks, the pet projects that some lawmakers sprinkle throughout big spending bills. Earlier this year he tucked more than $100 million in earmarks into a massive year-end spending bill that many had expected to pass.

But after tea party successes in the Nov. 2 elections, elected Republicans swung hard against earmarks and pork-barrel spending. At a Dec. 15 news conference in the Capitol, Thune came uncomfortably close to echoing Sen. John Kerry’s infamous line about voting for an $87 billion bill “before I voted against it.”

Thune told reporters, “I support those projects, but I don’t support this bill, nor do I support the process by which this bill was put together.”

Read the rest here.

Top 10 Albums of 2010

Here are my 2010 albums of the year, starting with number one:

1. The National — High Violet
To be honest, I’d never taken much notice of The National in the past. They have a dedicated fanbase, many of whom have expressed the opinion that “High Violet” is not the highpoint of the band’s career.
For me, however, they just never clicked.
That all changed when I heard “Bloodbuzz, Ohio.” That song’s dramatic grace coupled with an extraordinarily catchy refrain of “I owe money, to the money, to the money I owe” resonated with something deep inside me. The whole album is filled with those moments of profound lyricism and gnawing musical accomplishment.
I didn’t have much expectation when I saw them live in Portland, Ore., in September, but to my surprise they were extraordinary. Being enveloped by their music and watching lead singer Matt Berringer stumble around the stage screaming into the void added even more depth to the album.

2. Kanye West — My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
Talk about a beautiful dark twisted fantasy.
This album does not disappoint.
It is over-the-top, self-deprecating, self-promoting, self-destructive — add your “self”-description here. And on top of all those lyrical explorations, the songs are killer.
I’ve usually enjoyed Kanye West’s singles, but this is the first time I’ve fallen in love with one of his albums.
After all the hype I was reading about it, I figured I should investigate for myself. However, I expected to come away a bit mystified, which is my usual reaction to the rap/hip-hop genre — it just doesn’t typically speak to me.
West broke the mold, which is something he is quite good at for better and for worse.
I wish him luck on his personal quest for self-improvement, as long as he doesn’t stop producing riveting work like this.
“Runaways” and “Blame Game” continue to be among the most-played songs on my music player.

3. Crystal Castles — Crystal Castles
How do you describe a band as alien as this?
Often labeled as punk electronica, they alternate between sonic freakouts and some of the most melodic things I heard this year. “Empathy” and “Not in Love” rank as two of my favorite songs of the year — with a non-album Robert Smith-sung version of “Not in Love” possibly my favorite tune of 2010.
I’m not sure on what plane of existence the members of Crystal Castles dwell, but I definitely enjoy my visits.

4. iLIKETRAINS — He Who Saw the Deep
I was initially drawn to Britain’s iLIKETRAINS because of their brooding post-rock that was usually coupled with lyrics about historical figures or events. “A Rook House for Bobby” — as in Bobby Fischer — was an early favorite. However, on this album the band took a new approach and abandoned the historical themes. Instead, the focus is on an environmental apocalypse. Don’t worry, it’s not a heavy-handed Greenpeace manifesto. It’s quite artfully done, as on the epic “Sea of Regrets,” where singer Dave Martin observes, “And I will leave this world in pieces/I will leave it to the scarab and the crows/Under seas and under soil/In a million years/Our bones will be your oil.” You’d do well to hop on this train before it goes off the tracks.

5. Robyn — Body Talk
I’ve been saying this for several years now, but there is something strange going on in Sweden. I mean, how could that small Scandinavian country consistently produce some of the most innovative pop music to hit the airwaves in this new millenium? Robyn was everywhere this year. She released three albums (the third of which combines the highlights of the first two and adds a handful of new tracks), toured extensively and burrowed her way deep into my heart. Not only does she have an incredible ear for electro-pop, she manages to combine it with heartfelt, adult lyrics that don’t pander to the lowest common denominator as is so common in the genre. (Yeah, I’m talking about that other ubiquitous pop queen of 2010, Katy Perry.) “Dancing On My Own” and “Hang With Me” are just two of many highlights.

6. Spoon — Transference
Because of the mixture of very polished and almost demo-quality songs on Spoon’s latest album, I heard many people dismiss it as a letdown compared to 2007’s “Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga.” That was the first Spoon album I really enjoyed from beginning to end. But “Transference” has been played far more on my stereo. I love the hi-fi and low-fi stacked next to one another. But most of all, I just love the tunes. Seeing Spoon perform many of the songs live this year didn’t hurt, either.

7. Surfer Blood — Astrocoast
This album is filled with so many great tunes that Surfer Blood makes it sound easy. On their incredible debut album, they give their own twist to the college rock formula of the 80s and 90s, and I’m really excited to see what they do next. A band who names a song after David Lynch’s “Twin Peaks” is on the right track in my book. (Confession: I had the opportunity to ask lead singer John Paul Pitts about the song’s lyrics at 3 a.m. in a Subway located in downtown Portland. It was one of those totally unexpected “wowsers” moments that don’t come along often enough in life).

8. LCD Soundsystem — This is Happening
LCD Soundsystem was certainly happening in 2010. With what could be James Murphy’s last hurrah under the moniker that catapulted him from co-founder of DFA Records to certified indie dance music star, critics and fans were falling over themselves to lavish praise on the album. It is not undeserved. Murphy mixes his sardonic wit with catchy tunes — many of which carry on for more than five minutes and create an epic quality to the album. I still find my myself yelling out “Oh, eat it, Michael Musto/You’re no Bruce Vilanch” whenever I listen to “Pow Pow.” There are plenty of such exuberant moments on “This is Happening,” but there are also plenty of moments reflection, such as when Murphy sings “And all I want is your pity/Oh, all I want are your bitter tears … Take me home/Take me home” on “All I Want.”

9. Twin Shadow — Forget
Twin Shadow hit all my sweet spots. The music has a little 80s New Wave, a little funk and a little old-school emoting. The sum of those parts is an intimate, elegant and danceable album that easily swims through the brain for days on end.

10. Yeasayer — Odd Blood
“Odd Blood” is the closest thing to “world music” on my list, but it sounds nothing like what that term may conjure up in your head. There are plenty of “tribal” beats and Indian influences, but Yeasayer combine those sounds with a lot of keyboards, giving them a pop/rock sound entirely their own. Sometimes that works better than others — witness the pop grandeur of “Ambling Alp” versus the somewhat messy and potentially annoying (depending on your mood) “Mondegreen,” which has the lyrics “Everybody’s talking about me and my baby makin’ love ‘til the morning light” being sung over and over. Still, the band creates a unique sound for themselves that I find very charming. Plus, Yeasayer is another group I managed to see live this year, and I had a great time. That gives a band some bonus points for a few missteps.

Best EP of the year: Class Actress — Journal of Ardency
If you put 1980s Depeche Mode and Madonna in a bag and shook them up, this is what you might get. Make no mistake, it’s damn good.

I also have to make mention of one of my favorite live performances of the year. Staygold performing “Backseat” on a Swedish music awards show. It was love at first sight.

Honorable mentions for albums of the year:
Blonde Redhead — Penny Sparkle
ceo — White Magic
Girl Talk — All Day
Janelle Monae — The ArchAndroid
My Wet Calvin — All Great Events
Of Montreal — False Priests
Sharon Van Etten ˜ Epic
Sleigh Bells ˜ Treats
Best Coast ˜ Crazy for You
The Walkmen — Lisbon
Great Empty — Desire the Creator
The Besnard Lakes — The Besnard Lakes Are The Roaring Night
The Drums — The Drums
Tim Kasher — The Game of Monogamy
Warpaint — The Fool
Xiu Xiu — Dear God I Hate Myself
Zola Jesus — Stridulum II
And the list could go on …

Problems With Smoking Ban Go National

Apparently, the challenges being faced by Yankton — and South Dakota, in general — regarding the new smoking ban are of national interest.

A story I wrote on the subject last week got picked up nationally. I’m not going to lie, seeing my name printed in places like MSNBC.com and the Washington Examiner on occasion is still a bit of a thrill.

It’s just sometimes nice to know that what you’re doing is of wider interest than your little corner of the world.

Looking ahead, I expect this issue will be of great interest to the South Dakota Legislature. I’d be surprised if the 2011 session ends without some tweaking to the law, though in what form that will take I’m not going to predict. None of Yankton County’s three legislators had plans to introduce anything connected to the law when I spoke with them a couple weeks ago. However, at least one was willing to support clarifications and improvements.

We’ll see if any legislators bring forward “clarifications and improvements” or if they are something else entirely!

The Hot Seat

Talk about being in the hot seat.
Fire has been playing way too large of a role in my life lately.
My hot streak began a few weeks back, when Circuit Judge Arthur Rusch issued a verdict in a case that has been haunting Yankton since April 2009. I’d been following the case on and off since the night that someone lit St. John’s Lutheran Church on fire. Authorities arrested a juvenile in connection with the incident in January, but it was only this month that the case ran its course. Ultimately, the boy was found not guilty.
Cut to Saturday. I had just finished shooting photos of smiling kids at the Yankton airport meeting Santa and receiving gifts. As I was heading to a local store to do some Christmas shopping, my phone rang. It was my editor telling me to get downtown because the Press & Dakotan building was on fire.
Fortunately, it was a minor incident caused by bad wiring. Given another half-hour, Deputy Fire Chief Larry Nickles said the fire could have turned into something potentially catastrophic.
I got that story written up and out of the way yesterday, and thought I was in the clear.
But then I spoke to Nickles on Monday and learned of an incident where a woman had a flare-up at a gas pump due to static electricity. Again, it was fortunately a minor incident.
Still, I’m hoping I can get through the year without covering another story involving fire.
I’m ready to cool my boots for the season.

Daycare Ordinance

The Yankton City Commission is currently waiting to receive more information about the legal ramifications of a proposed daycare ordinance. They will also be informed about the daycare ordinances of some other South Dakota communities and what kind of staff resources are needed to enforce them.

In the meantime, you might want to read the draft version of the ordinance being proposed for Yankton so you can weigh in with your thoughts.

Here is a copy of the ordinance:

Yankton (Draft)
Article .  HOME DAY CARES
Division 1.  GENERALLY
Sec.   Definitions.
Building code  means the currently-adopted version of the construction standard and technical codes as adopted in chapter 7 of this Code.
Employee  means a person who provides child care services for compensation in a home day care business, but who is not the proprietor of such business, for at least 20 hours per week.
Fire code  means the currently-adopted version of the international fire code as adopted in chapter 8 of this Code.
Home day care  means the provision of regular care and supervision for compensation of no more than 12 children at one time (including the provider’s own children who are under the age of six years) for part of a 24-hour period as a supplement to regular parental care.
Play area  means an area in the yard of the premises where a home day care is operating which is outside of any structure and where children are regularly taken for outdoor play and recreation.
Special exception  means an approved application to the zoning board of adjustment in accordance with section 27 of this Code.
DIVISION 2.  LICENSE
Sec. .  License required.
(a)   Every person engaged in the business of operating a home day care shall, before engaging in such business, obtain a license to do so as provided in this article.
(b)   The fee for such license shall be $25.00 annually.
(c)   All home day cares must obtain a license before December 31, 2011; however, licenses may be obtained prior to that date.
Sec. .  Application.
Any person desiring to procure a license as provided in this article shall file with the city finance officer a written application on a form provided by the city. The application shall be signed by each adult operating the day care or residing in the premises in which the day care business is being conducted. The application shall contain, at a minimum, the following information:
(a)   A floor plan of the proposed location;
(b)   The expected number and age range of the children being cared for;
(c)   A consent form for performing a criminal background investigation and verification of central registry status.
Sec. .  License renewal.
Applications for renewal shall be submitted within 45 days of the expiration of the current license.  Licenses shall expire on December 31st of each year.
Sec. .  Criminal history.
(a)   All applicants for a license under this chapter and all adult residents of the household in which the home day care business is to be operated and all employees of the home day care shall submit to a nationwide criminal background investigation. This section shall not apply to any person under the age of 18 years. Employees of a home day care must pass a background check in order to obtain a license.
(b)   If any person who has been convicted of child abuse pursuant to SDCL ch. 26-10, a sex offense pursuant to SDCL ch. 22-22, or, within the preceding five years, any other felony resides in the premises in which the home day care business is being conducted, a license under this chapter may not be issued.
(c)   Nothing herein shall limit the discretion of the city council to deny issuance of a home day care license or permission for a person to work as an employee of a home day care based on the person’s criminal history.
Sec. .  Central registry for child abuse and neglect/sex offender registry.
No person whose name is currently, or at any time in the past has been on the South Dakota central registry for abuse and neglect, the South Dakota sex offender registry, or any similar registry or list maintained by any other state, shall reside in the premises in which the home day care business is being conducted, nor shall such person be employed in any capacity by the home day care.
Sec. .  Age requirements.
No person under the age of 14 years of age may be licensed under this article.
No person between the ages of 14 years of age and 17 years of age shall provide child care services in a home day care unless a licensed home day care provider is actually present in the home day care facility.
Sec. .  CPR required.
All home day care operators licensed under this ordinance must maintain a current cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification from the American Red Cross, American Heart Association, or suitable equivalent. Employees of a home day care are recommended to have such certification.
Sec. .  Special exception required.
Any home day care operating in any zoning district shall obtain a special exception to the applicable zoning ordinance prior to obtaining a license.
Sec. .  Inspections.
Any day care licensed under this chapter shall be inspected by the fire marshal prior to the issuance of a license. All home daycares shall be open to announced or unannounced inspection by city officials at any time during normal business hours. The fire marshal shall re-inspect each premises prior to recommending the renewal of a license.

Sec. .  Fencing or other barrier.
Any day care under this chapter shall comply with the City of Yankton zoning requirements for fencing or other barriers.
Sec. .  Building code requirements applicable.
Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to exempt any structure from any otherwise applicable portion of the relevant building code or fire code. In any case where the building code requirements are in conflict with the requirements of this chapter, section, the more stringent requirement shall apply. Where the use of a portion of the structure as a home day care is deminimis, the building official or fire marshal may deviate from the code by using alternate methods.
Sec. .  State registered home day cares.
Any home day care which falls within the scope of this chapter but which is registered as a family day care pursuant to SDCL ch. 26-6 and ARSD ch. 67:42:03 shall be required to obtain a license pursuant to this chapter. However, only the following provisions shall apply to state-registered family day cares:
(a)   No fee shall be charged for such license.
(b)  Shall provide a copy or the license or registration to the city.