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Nebraska license plate idea

March 24, 2015

So, I had an idea yesterday.

I was on the road, idly gazing at license plates, when I saw a Utah plate.

blankPlate“Arches National Park,” I thought. “I’d like to go there.”

Then, the style of the plate suddenly reminded me of something else: the series of Great Plains ecotourism posters I recently posted about.

What if . . . what if . . . when it’s time to get rid of our boring bird-and-flower design, we issue a series of plates styled with the ecotourism poster designs? THAT WOULD BE SO COOL!!!

I’ve previously written about the Nebraska license plate. In fact, it’s my most popular post of all time. A state’s license plates really matter – to its people and to its brand. (Interesting survey of favorite license plates (possibly done in late 2013?) here. The top three are Wyoming, Hawaii, and Utah.)

Hmmm . . . which plate would I choose?

For me, it might matter how well the design was adapted, but, in support of cycling, I might choose a rails-to-trails plate.

eco-praire-grassBut then, there’s that insect thing – that might win out, actually, in an entomologist’s household.

eco-butterfly

I would also like the Fossil Freeway one, because I like the color purple. And the starry sky with windmill? That would be awesome, too. I bet that would be the most popular one out here in Wyobraska.

I don’t imaging the prairie dog plates would be too popular out here in ranch country, but Senator Ernie Chambers might like them.

eco-prairie-dogSo – what do you think? Good idea? Then let’s share away and get ‘er done!

What would be YOUR favorite plate?

Copyright 2015 by Katie Bradshaw

Treasure hunt at SBNM

March 22, 2015

It’s spring on the calendar, and while other areas of the country may still be covered in snow, here in Wyobraska, the sun has been very warm.

So warm, in fact, that spring flowers are already emerging at Scotts Bluff National Monument.

Now that sunlight lasts longer these days, why not go take a hike up the Saddle Rock Trail and see how many flowers you can find? A springtime treasure hunt!

Here are a few Bugman and I found yesterday on our end-of-day walk:

Missouri milkvetch

Missouri milkvetch

Narrow leaved musineon

Narrow leaved musineon

Hood's phlox, with a darkling beetle right smack dab in the middle of the picture. (Bugman was happy. He got to see an insect.)

Hood’s phlox, with a dusty darkling beetle right smack dab in the middle of the picture. (Bugman was happy. He got to see an insect.)

Copyright 2015 by Katie Bradshaw

Nebraska ecotourism posters

March 10, 2015

eco-crane-countryI love the vintage-style ecosystem posters the Great Plains Ecosystem Coalition produced!

I can’t decide which one is my favorite, though, being married to an entomologist, I’m partial to the butterfly.

I decided to post the sandhill cranes poster, since these birds are soon to descend on the Nebraska flyway. Deliciously prehistoric-sounding creatures!

The other poster topics include prairie chickens, bison, rails-to-trails, starry skies, American white pelicans, Nebraska birding opportunities, prairie dogs, the “sea of grass,” and our Fossil Freeway.

The posters are on display at Legacy of the Plains Museum in Gering at the moment, where copies (and postcards) can be purchased in the gift shop.

Copyright 2015 by Katie Bradshaw

Thanks for the suggestion, SBNM

February 9, 2015

Yesterday, someone at Scotts Bluff National Monument posted the following on their Facebook page:

Screen Shot 2015-02-08 at 8.16.11 AM“Come and enjoy the park.”

Well, since they suggested it . . . okay!

It’d been ages since I’d hiked up the bluff.

It was time!

Bugman and I chased our shadows up the Saddle Rock path.

Bugman and I chased our late afternoon shadows up the Saddle Rock path.

I kind of forgot how steep the path gets on that one section just after the bench. It’s a good workout.

It reminded me of the time Bugman and I were in Queensland, Australia, back in 2004, hiking up the Mount Beerburrum trail in the Glass House Mountains.

The Mount Beerburrum trail is a bit steeper than Saddle Rock Trail at Scotts Bluff, rising about 530 feet in about 0.4 miles, as compared to our local ~460 feet in about 1.6 miles.

I recall that as we were huffing and puffing up the Mount Beerburrum slope, a woman pushing a baby jogger passed us – la la la – as easy as you please. I felt like such a wuss, but I reminded myself, “She probably does this every day. I’m a flatlander tourist. I have an excuse.”

Welllll . . . I can’t really use that excuse anymore, now that I have this fabulous natural training facility right in my community. I better get my butt out there more often, so the tourists don’t pass me by – la la la – and bruise my delicate ego.

A comparison:

A two-shot panorama of the view from Mount Beerrum.

A two-shot film panorama of the view from atop Mount Beerburrum.

We watched as the shadow of the bluff extended over town.

A view of the shadow of Scotts Bluff creeping over town.

Chimney Rock, warmed in temperature and color by the unseasonably balmy winter sun.

Chimney Rock, warmed in temperature and color by the unseasonably balmy winter sun.

On our way back down Scotts Bluff, a great horned owl started its evening territorial hooting.

The sun sank, and turned the clouds to cotton candy hues, with a vibrant smudge of indigo at the horizon.

sunset

Just before the light died, several gunshots rang out in the valley – the last salvo in the 2014-2015 goose season.

On our way home, we passed several flocks of geese browsing in the cornfields beside the road.

“Safe!” I shouted, making a subdued spread-handed baseball umpire gesture in the confines of the car.

I was glad they survived the hunting season. And glad I had an opportunity to get out and hike on a lovely Sunday afternoon.

Copyright 2015 by Katie Bradshaw

An American Dilemma in Scottsing

February 6, 2015

onscreen_american_denialI attended a Community Cinema discussion of the film “American Denial” at The Midwest Theater last night, and I’m still stirred up about it, with a thousand things swimming in my head.

This post is a bit difficult to write, in part because I don’t know where to begin, and in part because this post takes a different tack from what I generally write about in this space.

This blog has focused on highlighting the positives of living here in western Nebraska. The truth is, every place has its warts.

One of western Nebraska’s warts is racial discrimination. (I would note that a vast portion of America suffers from this as well.)

There’s the stuff that makes the news. The student who had a racial epithet written on his car. The xenophobia stirred up by a proposal to bring in Korean workers for a meat-packing plant. The nasty remarks made to the Korean-born spouse of an area resident. And a bit further afield, but still in our broader region, the Native American kids who were mistreated at a hockey game.

And then there were the topics brought up at the discussion last night after the film. A young person who drives around town flying a large confederate flag. Latino people who feel pressure to change who they are to engage with community institutions and white-dominated social groups. A mother who felt the need to take her mixed-race child out of school due to bullying. College students who have noticed stares when they accompany non-white foreign students to local stores.

Getting back to the film . . .

“American Denial” centers around the 1944 study by Swedish economist/sociologist Gunnar Myrdal, published in 1944 as “An American Dilemma: the Negro Problem and Modern Democracy.” One of the central issues raised in the book and in the film was the difficult conflict that can arise between ideals and innermost, sometimes unconscious, beliefs.

Myrdal noted that there was a disconnect between a core value of American society – equality and the sense that anyone can make it if they just work hard enough – and the racial discrimination inherent in American institutions and policies and in the beliefs of many white Americans.

Americans want to be good people. They want to hold up this ideal of “liberty and justice for all.” Yet, many of their actions run counter to this ideal, sometimes unconsciously. An uncomfortable truth of American society is that it produces in its citizens an unconscious bias against people of color, even within people of color themselves.

There was a scene in the film that just made me ache. Dark-skinned children are presented with two dolls – one dark-colored and one light-colored. They are asked things like “which is the good/pretty/nice doll?” and “which is the bad/ugly/mean doll?” The kids, when forced to choose, often chose the dark-colored doll for the negative descriptors. Then, in the part that broke my heart, the kids were asked to pick the doll that looked like them. You could see the hesitation in some of them as they picked the doll that they had just chosen as bad/ugly/mean to represent themselves.

Ouch. Ouch. Ouch.

“American Denial” discussed the Implicit Association Test, which uses a person’s reaction times in sorting images and words to test a their automatic, unconscious responses between such things as race and positive/negative emotions. The results can be kind of shocking.

People who consider themselves to be completely open-minded can still show an implicit bias against a particular group of people, buried in the circuitry of their brains.

It’s very uncomfortable to think about. But denying that the bias exists does not help it go away.

The challenge is – how can people be encouraged to take a hard look at the way their brains react, without shutting the people down because they feel like they are being accused of racism?

One woman at the film discussion highlighted this point by asking whether her childhood preference for a blonde Barbie doll over a dark-colored Barbie doll would classify her as a racist.

The Implicit Association Test FAQs notes a positive point in which I think there is hope. Implicit associations can be unlearned. Research suggests that being exposed to people who counter the biases in your brain will erase those biases.

This highlighted something for me, which one of the Latino participants in the film discussion mentioned – making an effort to actively participate in different social groups. It’s a lot harder to hold a negative bias against a group of people when you are friends with a member of that group.

This idea of erasing biases by associating with a variety of people, and how biases can affect society, was brought to the forefront of my mind by a meeting I attended immediately before watching “American Denial.” It was a meeting of the Community Connections group, populated by many of the movers and shakers in the community. The attendees were vastly white. It made me start wondering about the implicit associations held by those in the room . . .


Now, I begin my linkstravaganza, in an attempt to exorcise all the thoughts that are pinging around in my head.

Here is the page about “American Denial” – what the film is about and when you can see it, with a discussion guide included.

Here is the link to take an Implicit Association Test yourself. There are other tests available beyond black/white preference.

Here is a link to a Washington Post article that does a good job of explaining the context of the test, from when it hit the news in 2005.

Here is a link to an interview with comedian Chris Rock, which I thought of when someone in “American Denial” mentioned that “the Negro problem” is not a problem with black people, but with white people. Chris Rock was also mentioned in the post-film discussion last night. To quote the part of the above-linked interview that struck me:

Here’s the thing. When we talk about race relations in America or racial progress, it’s all nonsense. There are no race relations. White people were crazy. Now they’re not as crazy. To say that black people have made progress would be to say they deserve what happened to them before. … So, to say Obama is progress is saying that he’s the first black person that is qualified to be president. That’s not black progress. That’s white progress. There’s been black people qualified to be president for hundreds of years.

Here’s a link to a kind of game, “Parable of the Polygons,” in which triangles and squares are use to illustrate how segregated neighborhoods happen.

Here’s a discussion of how America’s housing policies have helped to keep minority families in poverty. I was introduced to this concept in graduate school. It blew my mind.

Here is an analogy comparing white privilege to American transportation infrastructure, which really stuck in the minds of several people with whom I’d shared it.

A mention in “American Denial” about how black men being portrayed as thugs, being constantly held in suspicion, can contribute to them embracing that stereotype made me think of this Humans of New York post. I just love the whole saga of HONY’s chance encounter with young Vidal, and where it has led (most recently to the White House).

Here is a description of a little taste I got of what it feels like to be a racial minority, when I traveled to South Africa.

Here is a (rather too academic) processing of a racially-charged incident I once faced as a community college instructor.

Something I will never forget: a mixed-race friend from junior high loudly questioning how he was supposed to respond to a standardized test that required at its start a single fill-in-the-bubble response for race. What was he supposed to choose – black or white? How could he choose? And the later knowledge that bothered me – that when members of groups stereotyped as “inferior” (blacks, women) think about their category prior to a test, those thoughts can cause a person’s test scores to tank. I could recall filling in demographic data at the start of so many tests!

Once again, thank you to the Midwest Theater for hosting Community Cinema!

Grace!

January 29, 2015

I was first introduced to Kelly Morten’s culinary ability at a farmers market. I could not leave a market without one of her cupcakes (Or three. Or five. I didn’t buy them in odd numbers – I’m referring to the ones that left the market.) They were always so pretty, and there was such lovely variety, it made my little sugar fiend heart happy. (See this blog post, which includes a picture of a plate of sweets. The cupcakes on the plate were from Kelly.)

Somehow, I managed to miss Kelly’s Kickstarter campaign this past summer. She has been dreaming for a long time about opening her own restaurant, and she got an opportunity to do just that – in an old bank building on 1st Avenue in downtown Scottsbluff. (If you cross the street behind the Midwest Theater, you’ll find it.)

The old bank building now sports benches outside and chairs inside in a variety of happy colors. grace is a reality!

graceIn keeping with my resolution to “go out to lunch with a friend every week,” I targeted grace for my most recent meeting, which was also an opportunity to keep another resolution at the same time: “go someplace new every month.”

As grace is still a very new and small restaurant, the menu is starting out small as well. There are breakfast options, and I remember a hot brown sandwich being on the menu.

The advice I heard was, “check out their Facebook page for their daily special, and go when the special is what you want.”

So, I ordered the special. Two of them, actually.

I tried a cup of the day’s chicken cordon bleu soup. I loved the texture of the ham and chicken in the soup, but I loved the flavor of the Swiss cheese most of all.

My main dish was a Thai crunch salad. How can your eye not be made happy with a colorful dish like this on a winter’s day?

thai saladThe flavor of the sweet-spicy chili-peanut dressing punched through my cold-dulled sense of taste. And, I got to eat with chopsticks! Fun!

I did not order dessert, as I was plenty filled up by the salad and soup. Also, a person I was with was doing a workplace-wellness-type challenge, so she was avoiding the dessert case. I am such a good friend, I did not want to tempt her. (That’s my story, anyway . . .)

Because there was a line of people in front of the bakery case, I did not get a picture of the goods in there. (Also, I’m a little rusty after my long hiatus from blogging.) So, I will borrow a picture posted today on grace’s Facebook page:

Raspberry vanilla and chocolate strawberry cupcakes . . . mmmm . . .

Raspberry vanilla and chocolate strawberry cupcakes . . . mmmm . . .

Bottom line – I’d recommend heading over to grace. Get some good food, support an entrepreneur’s dream.

Copyright 2015 by Katie Bradshaw

Why I love the Midwest Theater, and cultural sponsors

January 23, 2015

Matuto

Last night, I attended a wonderful concert at the Midwest TheaterMatuto.

Matuto is a “world jazz” band that ties together musical traditions of African diaspora on the North and South American continents, blending bluegrass and Brazilian folk music. On stage, the members of the band radiate a joyous energy that seeps into the audience. I left the concert feeling a warm happiness in my core and thought, “Ah, this! This is the power of music!”

Matuto has received some pretty big honors and has seen a lot of the world. The band was awarded a Fulbright Grant in 2009 for a residency in Recife, Brazil, and in 2012 was appointed “American Musical Ambassadors” for the U.S. State Department. In 2013, the band toured Mozambique, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, and Senegal.

This is the type of band that appears at universities and major music festivals, yet, here they were, performing in a rural community in western Nebraska.

It’s this type of programming that makes me feel a little more connected to the university-campus-town type of life that I led for 17 years before moving to Scottsbluff five years ago. Yes, we have a community college campus here, but it’s not the same vibe.

I’m grateful to the Midwest Theater for providing exposure to a variety of art forms and for opportunities to think about our connections with the wider world and other people.

I’m looking forward to the Community Cinema screening of “American Denial” on February 5. I could just stay home to watch the films (they are also available on TV), and I may not always stay for the community discussion after the film, but I appreciate these screenings because they provide an uninterrupted time to watch a thought-provoking film and an expectation that there will be a discussion of the issues presented. I love walking home with Bugman after a Community Cinema screening and talking about the film.

This type of programming would not be possible in our community without sponsorships. The program for the Matuto concert alone listed 19 sponsors, and other grants and sponsorships enable the Community Cinema program.

To all the organizations, individuals, and businesses that sponsor events at the Midwest Theater – thank you!

Copyright 2015 by Katie Bradshaw

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