At the Meat Lab: When I was an ag reporter

Back in the 1997, during my several months as an reporter for a weekly statewide agriculture newspaper, I wrote a story about a program at the University of Illinois Meat Science Lab called “Beef 2000,” which educated cattle farmers about the slaughtering and grading process. (Story was published on one full page, and here are PDFs of the top and bottom of the page.) I took some pics, which I’ve described to my students and am posting here. Black and white photos were scanned from the original article, but this color photo from the kill floor was not published.

University of Illinois animal science professor Tom Carr explains the calculation of a carcass's yield grade by measuring ribeye area at the twelfth rib cross-section.

University of Illinois animal science professor Tom Carr explains the calculation of a carcass’s yield grade by measuring ribeye area at the twelfth rib cross-section.

Illinois Department of Agriculture meat inspector Jim Reinhart examines the carcass of a freshly killed animal while its still on the processing floor. Beef 2000 participants observed as Reinhart looked for lesions and signs of disease in the animal's glandular system, lungs, liver, and other parts, as well as inspecting the carcass for cleanliness. (Caption as published.)

Illinois Department of Agriculture meat inspector Jim Reinhart examines the carcass of a freshly killed animal while its still on the processing floor. Beef 2000 participants observed as Reinhart looked for lesions and signs of disease in the animal’s glandular system, lungs, liver, and other parts, as well as inspecting the carcass for cleanliness. (Caption as published.)

U of I animal science professor Tom Carr leads farmers as they evaluate before, and later, after, slaughter.

U of I animal science professor Tom Carr leads farmers as they evaluate an animal before, and later, after, slaughter.

University of Illinois researcher Robert Wells demonstrates how ultrasound technology is used to measure both the size of the ribeye and the amount of fat on the animal's back.

University of Illinois researcher Robert Wells demonstrates how ultrasound technology is used to measure both the size of the ribeye and the amount of fat on the animal’s back.

 

‘A mandatory thing that Jesus gave me’: The week in pocket pages

Condensation condescension. 6 Dec.

Condensation condescension. 6 Dec.

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I’m speaking the truth and getting ready to die in about 35 minutes,” said a keynote speaker at an education conference I went to last Monday. The speaker framed his remarks by saying if he were to die at the end of his speech, he would want to tell us only his most important messages. It was a pretty intense rhetorical device. 5 Dec. 2016

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Condensation conversation. 6 Dec.

Condensation conversation. 6 Dec.

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I kinda wanted a Jolly Rancher one of those days,” said my student C.P., of wishing my substitute had been the sub next door, who typically brings candy for the students. 7 Dec.

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My cat shelved himself. 25 Nov. 2016

My cat shelved himself. 25 Nov. 2016

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Lots of businesses sell what people want, but teachers (and maybe doctors and others) tell people what they need (even if the clients don’t want it).  7 Dec.

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Outside the history museum in downtown Byron, Ill. 26 Nov.

Outside the history museum in downtown Byron, Ill. 26 Nov.

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Education policy focuses on generalized programs, though of course all learning is in particular minds, at particular times, and in particular situations. 7 Dec.

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I really can hold a grudge,” said student A.M., seemingly realizing this about himself as he was reading his journal from earlier in the semester. 7 Dec.

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My high school and its slowly colorizing pear trees, 30 Nov.

My high school and its slowly colorizing pear trees, 30 Nov.

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This is a mandatory thing that Jesus gave me,” said my student D.V. as she made a point about why she shouldn’t have to pay for tampons since it’s not her fault she menstruates. 7 Dec.

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Soybean field, Bethel Road east of railroad crossing, 2 Dec.

Soybean field, Bethel Road east of railroad crossing, 2 Dec.

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When my dog dies, I’m definitely gonna get him stuffed,” said my student A.M. (contra Alan Alda’s advice). Student H.B. said that if A.M. got a compliment on her stuffed dogs, she could say, “Thanks. They used to be alive.” A.M. said she’d prefer to get her dog stuffed rather than bury it because “I’m not gonna bury him in the ground, where it’s dirty,” she said. “OK, and stuffing him isn’t gross?” asked student A.V., who added, “I don’t think you can stuff a dog that small.” A.M.’s dog is apparently a two-pound purse dog. 7 Dec.

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Out a Pheasant Run window, 6 Dec.

Out a Pheasant Run window, 6 Dec.

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Gee, I wonder what the inside of a testicle looks like,” said A.M. of a mink dissection she had performed (in anatomy class, I hope). The mink’s gland was “a solid ball, like a nut, like a cashew, that’s what it was,” she said. 7 Dec.

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Pheasant Run Resort Atrium, St. Charles, Ill. 5 Dec.

Pheasant Run Resort Atrium, St. Charles, Ill. 5 Dec.

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Student A.H. asked how students get quoted by me in my pocket pages. “Say something dumb,” said student F.J. 8 Dec.

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After carnival workers were mentioned in class, a student announced that his friend had sex with a carny to get free rides. If that’s true, that’s maybe the saddest thing I’ve ever heard, I said.

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Snow on leaf and safety pegs. 10 Dec.

Snow on leaf and safety pegs. 10 Dec.

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Go suffer cold in my car,” said student D.H. to his cousin in the parking lot after school. The cousin wanted the keys to start and warm up D.H.’s car, but he wasn’t giving over the keys. 8 Dec.

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Hell, yeah, I would — I gotta pay for college somehow,” said my senior student H.B. about whether she would sell a kidney. 9 Dec.

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Pheasant Run Resort Atrium, St. Charles, Ill. 6 Dec.

Pheasant Run Resort Atrium, St. Charles, Ill. 6 Dec.

Dogs take the world as they find it: The week in pocket pages

Even when national politics seem troubling, I’m gonna keep enjoying writing my journals, driving my morning commute (it’s pretty, and it’s a chance to think), and walking my dog. 14 Nov. 2016

Ginko tree, 4 Nov. 2016

Ginko tree, 4 Nov. 2016

This morning I saw a pile of ginko leaves along a rural roadside. It seems funny that someone would go through all the trouble of moving leaves from his or her yard to this random spot. Why not just cut down the tree?

“I like doing stuff when people are talking,” said a teacher colleague in a meeting where the rest of us were discussing curriculum choices. The stuff she was doing was stickering plastic bags with “Education Week” stickers.

Sun and rainbow spot to its right. 15 Nov.

Sun and rainbow spot to its right. 15 Nov.

Passion is everything, I read today in an article in yesterday’s Chicago Tribune that was left in the in-school suspension room.

I don’t need the world to match my expectations of/for it in order for me to be content. (How fragile an orientation that would be.)

Teaching: In explaining to others, I also get to hear it myself. I’m thinking here of talking philosophy in class recently. We were talking about the idea that what we can name is real, leading me to think that we can define our own realities. If we don’t have a name for something, if we haven’t distinguished it, we probably won’t recognize it as a distinct thing, like how radioactive minerals weren’t recognized before scientists discovered radioactivity, though of course the radioactive minerals were always there. 15 Nov. 2016.

Even to define real is to make it abstract, not present — not real. Real is not here, and here is a word that means consciousness at present.

We can think only ideas. So anything you can think isn’t real. Ideas aren’t necessary. But of course, we can teach through ideas, through talking, and we can also amuse each other through ideas.

Looking at news sites tells me what’s going on elsewhere.

On the calculus teacher's desk. 14 Nov.

On the calculus teacher’s desk. 14 Nov.

I take notes on my reality — my particulars (things I hear, things I see, etc.)

Options as I try to take in less media: get the news from poetry (as William Carlos Williams suggested)? Eh, I may not need news at all.

Gutter leaves. 19 Nov.

Gutter leaves. 19 Nov.

I’m not interested in publishing some one-off essay, the kind of essay that gets edited into “Best American Essays” books. I prefer a more holistic approach. I don’t want applause, I don’t just want to be a performer. My unit of communication is not the formal essay. 16 Nov.

The Story of Now that I constructed from news I heard and read. This isn’t one story but a subdivided set of stories about what’s going on in the world–in the environment, the economy, arts, education, all the many topics. And I may not need to know most or any of this. Maybe I’m feeling disappointed that my Story of Now seems to have so little overlap with some people’s stories of now. Not saying I despair, but I wonder if there’s better use for my time than taking in news. 17 Nov.

I’m not just a role-player writer, a topic-writer. I write from and in my life, my living. I try to keep an open-mind, not holding onto a particular idea as an answer. If I’m alive, I keep thinking, writing — I’m not done! It’s ongoing! And the most-important topic/idea remains (even if it’s in the background), how do I live — how to be alive, how to accept the challenge and opportunity of being conscious!

Leaves outside the gutter on a windy morning. 19 Nov.

Leaves at the curb outside the diner on a windy morning. 19 Nov.

The society/culture may already value performances (of music, acting, etc., but also I’m thinking of poems, novels, and other texts written for others as performances). But I see also an opening for honest non-performances — such as those journals and notes written mainly for oneself. Every experience doesn’t need to be (because it can be) made into a lesson. Not every experience needs to be abstracted into a lesson — sometimes a particular can stay a particular. 18 Nov.

Dogs take the world as they find it. When we go to a local forest preserve prairie, my dog doesn’t ask if it’s true wilderness — he just starts sniffing what’s there to sniff. It’s a reminder to me to attend to what is with me, around me. 19 Nov.

Planter bowl group-portrait. 19 Nov.

Planter bowl group-portrait at the diner. 19 Nov.

No wrong way to journal: From 20 Nov. 2011 journal

At Costa's Ristorante, 18 Nov. 2011

At Costa’s Ristorante, 18 Nov. 2011

Each journal is complete.

I’ve tended to judge some of my journal texts a bit harshly in recent weeks, in that they don’t all have grand ideas. But I need to remember that each journal is the result of a real experience. That I sat down each morning and wrote, and, of course, there’s no such thing as success or failure there — it just is. It’s experience — it’s not even fully described by “experience.” It’s me, it’s me being here, being present.

I am sometimes grumpy, sometimes over-generalizing, sometimes repetitive. But that’s all OK, it doesn’t matter. There’s no wrong way to do the morning pages, as Julia Cameron wrote. These journals aren’t merely texts to rifle through — they are part of me (and, of course, also not part of me). They are me being open, honest, putting words out there even if they aren’t brilliant or original. That’s OK, too. I guess what I’m saying, partly, is that when I go to read journals, I don’t have to be dismissive. I can accept what’s there — embrace it.

Shadow frost. 23 Nov. 2011

Shadow frost. 23 Nov. 2011

Grandpa Lorin, ‘Papa’

23 Aug. 2015

23 Aug. 2015

23 Aug. 2015. Sarah, Squeak, Papa.

23 Aug. 2015. Sarah, Squeak, Papa.

This post will be a collection of photos, texts, videos, etc., of my grandpa Lorin, who died last week.

Here’s his obit:

Stillman Valley, IL, Lorin H. Larson, age 90, died Tuesday, October 18, 2016, at home, surrounded by family. Lorin was born September 22, 1926, in Rockford, IL, the son of Herbert and Edna (Paulson) Larson. He attended P.A. Peterson Grade School where he set a record for the 40-yard dash that was not broken for many years. He graduated from East High School in 1944, the first class to go all four years there. He enlisted in the Navy after graduation and was sent to the Philippines where he served as a Petty Officer. Lorin married Phoebe Gibson on February 21, 1948, and they had five children. Meanwhile he went to Stout Institute in Menomonie, WI, for three years. In 1952, they moved to Rockford where he worked in construction: at Security Building, National Mirror Works, and then with Stenstrom Construction as a superintendent. In 1964, they moved to small dairy farm near Stillman Valley, and he started his own business, Lorin H. Larson, General Contractor. He retired from a position with Norandex Aluminum Company.
Lorin was a charter member of Alpine Lutheran Church. He had many interests: singing with a barbershop quartet and in choirs for Methodist churches in Rockford, the Congregational Church in Stillman Valley, and the Unity Church in Rockford; league bowling for many years, and for a few years, proudly bowling on a team with his three sons; coaching a Little League team; being a Boy Scout leader; gardening; Lions Club, constantly remodeling his house; doing almost anything that could be done from the seat of a tractor; and his dogs. Lorin built a pop-up camper in the early 1960s and took his family on several camping trips, frequently to parks in Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and one memorable trip around Lake Superior.His signature characteristic was probably his corny sense of humor. If given the slightest chance to make a pun, good or bad, he took it with gusto. He thrived on having an audience and loved being around people.
“Papa” was preceded in death by his mother, father, and stepmother Margaret (Hedeen) Larson, and son-in-law Jim Rackley. He is survived and deeply missed by his wife and his sister Mary (Dale) Peterson, Bloomington, MN; and children: Sherry (Bob) Piros, Chana, IL; Christine (Joe Stemke) Rackley, Masonville, NY; Larry (Marcia) Larson, Lucky (Diane) Larson, Bruce (Carolyn) Larson, all of Stillman Valley, IL; and George (Heidi) Gonzalez, Rockford, IL; sixteen grandchildren, eight great grandchildren, and one great great grandchild.
A Celebration of Life will be held in Christ Church Unity, 4381 Manchester Dr, Rockford, IL, on Saturday, October 22, 2016. Service at 11:00 with visitation one hour prior. Memorials to be determined.

More to come.

September here and there

Sammy swims, 8 Sept.

Sammy swims for sticks, 8 Sept.

Prairie thistle. 26 Sept.

Prairie thistle. 26 Sept.

 

Justice cat, rainy day.

Justice cat, rainy day. 10 Sept.

Milkweed. 26 Sept.

Milkweed. 26 Sept.

Pen reflections.

Pen reflections.

Scraps. 14 Sept.

Scraps. 14 Sept.

Above the school parking lot. 16 Sept.

Above the school parking lot. 16 Sept.

Ronald stares.

Ronald stares.

 

Oak leaves. 14 Sept.

Oak leaves. 14 Sept.

Rail textures. 6 Sept.

Rail textures. 6 Sept.

Grass at prairie. 28 Sept.

Grass at prairie. 28 Sept.

Barn siding. 14 Sept.

Barn siding. 14 Sept.

Milkweed, goldenrod. 28 Sept.

Milkweed, goldenrod. 28 Sept.

April and September:

View of part of the forest preserve prairie, 29 April 2016.

View of part of the forest preserve prairie, 29 April 2016.

View on 26 Sept. 2016 of the same prairie spot.

View on 26 Sept. 2016 of the same prairie spot.

Bands of corn, grass, sky. 29 Sept.

Bands of corn, grass, sky. 29 Sept.

News from the bridge today

The Rock River surface as crumpled aluminum foil. 25 Sept. 2016

The Rock River surface as crumpled aluminum foil. 25 Sept. 2016

Homecoming was a week ago. View of south end of bridge, 25 Sept.

Ribbons remain lashed to the rails, though Homecoming was a week ago. View of south end of bridge, 25 Sept.

Under the south end of bridge over Rock River at Byron, 25 Sept. 2016

The hobos’ gallery: Under the south end of bridge over Rock River at Byron, 25 Sept. 2016

The cheeriest under-bridge art ever, possibly.

The cheeriest under-bridge art ever, possibly.

Signed Gerald I'm sincere

“signed gerald I’m sincere”

Stay positive.

“Stay positive.”

Oak leaf bunch, south of bridge, 25 Sept.

Oak leaf bunch, south of bridge, 25 Sept.

My dog and "YOLO!" under bridge.

My dog and “YOLO!”
under bridge.

Oak leaf, south of bridge. 25 Sept.

Oak leaf, south of bridge. 25 Sept.