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Ten Takeaways from "Cedar Falls: City of Writers, Speakers, and Thinkers."

posted Dec 19, 2018, 8:58 PM by Cherie Dargan   [ updated Dec 19, 2018, 9:13 PM ]

Left -- The logo for the Cedar Falls Authors Festival

Right -- Nancy Price
Left -- Bess Streeter Aldrich

Right -- Robert James Waller
Left -- Cherie with her two books at the Fall 2017 Authors Fair, University Book and Supply

Right -- Hearst Center for the Arts
Left -- Ruth Suckow

Right -- James Hearst on the cover of the North American Review, reprinted as part of our CFAF.

            I finished up my third book chapter in August and sent it off to my editor. Here is a summary of my chapter, which is about the history of Cedar Falls and how it shaped the community's attitudes about reading, writing, and thinking.

The town of Cedar Falls, Iowa predates the Civil war by a decade: this frontier town became a railroad town, provided a home for Civil War orphans, then established a college to train teachers, supported a newspaper, created a library, and built a number of churches. Along the way, it became an important hub for writers, readers, and thinkers. Early town leaders like Peter Melendy wrote about its history and at least five best-selling authors have ties to Cedar Falls: Bess Streeter Aldrich, Ruth Suckow, James Hearst, Robert James Waller, and Nancy Price. The North American Review found a home at UNI more than fifty years ago, the Hearst Center for the Arts sponsors workshops and exhibits for writers and artists, The Cedar Falls Supper Club continues to draw from Town and Gown and encourage lively presentations and discussion, and other community groups support readers and writers. This chapter explores the history of Cedar Falls and examines the factors that make it the “City of Writers, speakers, and thinkers.”

What did I learn about my adopted town?

1.      At one time, we were the last stop on the railroad west. The railroad came to Cedar Falls on May 11, 1861 And the next day, Confederate forces fired on Fort Sumter, and war was declared two weeks later. For five years, Cedar Falls was the end of the westward line.

2.      Cedar Falls has a long history of supporting reading and readers.  Peter Melendy formed the Cedar Valley Horticultural and Literary Association in 1859, which developed a small lending library for its members. Later, a free city-wide library opened in 1878 and during Melendy’s tenure as mayor, 1895-1901, the city planned the construction of the Dayton-Carnegie Public Library.

3. The Cedar Falls Parlor Reading Circle met to discuss assigned readings and topics, which ranged from lectures on shipbuilding to the literature of Charles Dickens. Membership was limited to thirty and was open to men and women. One member said, “few towns…are more interested in social and intellectual culture than [Cedar Falls].” 

4. The Tuesday Club in Cedar Falls is the oldest federated women’s club in Iowa. It began with six women gathering in a home in 1892, but quickly grew to 40 members. For more than 125 years, Cedar Falls’ Tuesday Club members have gathered monthly to hear programs. Topics vary, and different themes are selected each year, frequently revolving around Cedar Falls and its history.

5. The Cedar Falls Supper Club grew out of a conversation in 1940, when a group of men talked about forming a group to connect the college and community. Ferner Nuhn was one of five founders of the Supper Club, along with poet James Hearst, professor Bill Reninger, professor Martin Grant, and businessman Paul Diamond. They recruited seven other local men, kept organization to a minimum, and encouraged lively discussions and debate. Each month members took turns presenting talks, and then, after the speaker was done, everyone discussed the ideas. Even today, the member in charge of the meeting reminds all visitors that they are expected to participate.

6. Several of our early mayors and community leaders were writers.  Peter Melendy’s The Record of Cedar Falls (1893) traced the first fifty years of the town’s history. Roger Leavitt was the unofficial historian of Cedar Falls, keeping numerous scrapbooks of clippings, which he used to write When Cedar Falls was Young (1928) and Main Street (1948). Leavitt persuaded novelist Bess Streeter Aldrich to write a pioneer novel about her hometown, sending her eighteen pounds of documents, which resulted in her novel Song of Years (1938). Later, University of Northern Iowa professor, cartoonist and illustrator Herb Hake gathered other people’s memories into 101 Stories of Cedar Falls (1977[3] [4] ). 

7. For the past fifty years, The North American Review (NAR), the oldest literary magazine in the nation, has been housed at the University of Northern Iowa, again reflecting the value placed on literature by the community and university alike. Founded in Boston in 1815 and subscribed to by Thomas Jefferson, The North American Review was purchased by the University of Northern Iowa in 1964. The magazine is published quarterly, and its contributors include Margaret Atwood, Raymond Carver, Joyce Carol Oates, Kurt Vonnegut, and many more.  Today the Review “showcases the [world’s] best short fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry.” 

8. In the fall of 2016, a group of retired professors and community leaders created another town/gown initiative: The Cedar Falls Authors Festival (CFAF). The CFAF celebrates five best-selling, nationally known authors with ties to Cedar Falls: Bess Streeter Aldrich, Ruth Suckow, James Hearst, Nancy Price, and Robert James Waller. A year-long Festival resulted, beginning in May 2017 and continuing through June 2018.

9. As I examined the relationships between the five writers, I discovered that James Hearst was at the heart of it all. He was friends with writer Ruth Suckow and Ferner Nuhn: they wrote introductions for each other’s books. He and Ferner were two of the five founders of the Cedar Falls Supper Club. Later on, Ferner donated a number of paintings done by his artist sister to what would become the James Hearst Center for the Arts. Hearst and Bess Streeter Aldrich corresponded. Hearst became acquainted with Nancy Price when she was a teenager, and he and his wife let her use their house for a place to write when they were traveling. After Hearst died, Professor Scott Cawelti compiled all of Hearst’s poetry into one book, The Complete Poetry of James Hearst (2001), and with a Foreword by Nancy Price. As I searched, I found that Robert James Waller had written a wonderful review of the book.

 "James Hearst wrote eloquently of the land, its pleasures and sorrows, carefully turning the language as one of his farmer heroes turns the soil. Scott Cawelti and his colleagues have done us all a favor by assembling this fine collection, ensuring the onward resonance of Hearst's words and sensibilities." - Robert James Waller (Review posted on Amazon)

10. UNI Professor Tom Connors compiled a list of twenty-four books about Black Hawk County and Cedar Falls, and another eight about the history of UNI. The complete list is posted on the Cedar Falls Authors Festival website, http://www.cfauthorsfestival.org/home/list-of-resources-on-cf-history



Last updated December 19, 2018 

Apps for the Holidays

posted Dec 19, 2018, 2:53 PM by Cherie Dargan   [ updated Dec 19, 2018, 3:29 PM ]

With the Hallmark channel featuring movies about romances set against a backdrop of snowflakes and snowmen, the holiday season isn’t far behind. Most of us are looking ahead to family gatherings, road trips, and gift exchanges, and wondering how we will get it all done. Maybe it’s time to check out a few new apps for our smart phones and tablets.

1.     Get organized! Create and share a calendar to manage all of those family events, such as dinners with the grandparents or in-laws, gift exchanges, kids’ school programs, church events, and community events. My family prefers Google calendar, since it works for both Apple and Android devices.  Download the app, open it up, and you can create a new calendar for the holidays. Here’s how. Look at the left-hand side of the calendar, and you will see your list of calendars. You can click on the x to create a new one, which you can name. Then, you can share it with family and friends by going into settings and sharing.

2.     Share “wish lists” with the notes App, Amazon wish lists, or Google Keep.

If you want Grandma to get the right size of pajamas for the little ones, share a wish list that includes sizes (and favorite colors) for each child or family member. You can do this several ways: the first one is to create a simple list with your phone’s note app that is then emailed to recipients.

You can also use Google Keep, a web-based note app that you can view on your PC, that is also available as an app for your phone or tablet. It’s very versatile: add text, photos, or links and then share the note. First, download the app and create the wish list: then select list actions and share to send it someone.

A wish list can be a good idea if you want to avoid getting three of the same toys for a child but you might want to keep it to 3 to 5 items to avoid encouraging five-year-old children from getting greedy and listing 25 pricey toys.

Finally, you can also use the Wish List feature built into Amazon, and here is how:

Start by asking your family members to install the Amazon app (for Android and iOS). On your own phone, open Amazon and navigate to your wish list. Then tap List Actions followed by Share to send it to someone else. This works particularly well because, when a family member or friend clicks through and buys a gift, that item disappears from the list so no one else can purchase it.

3.     Plan road trips with Apple Maps or Google Maps­

Road trips can get stressful enough: make sure you know the best route so that you can let family or friends know when to expect you. Apple maps and Google maps give you options to avoid traffic and let you know how long it should take to arrive at your destination. It also helps you anticipate possible places to stop, especially for longer trips.

4.     Entertain guests with music from apps like Spotify

Many families have a holiday DJ of sorts, who digs out his or her stash of holiday CDs and a CD player. However, what if you don’t want to listen to the whole album? Of course, you can use smartphone apps like Spotify to put together a playlist of everyone’s holiday classics. You can even share your playlist.

Or, there are other options!

5.     Check out an app called Christmas Radio, where you can choose from a variety of channels, including Countdown2 Christmas Radio, Santa Radio, Radio X-Mas, and others. You can play classic favorites, country Christmas, jazzy Christmas, and more. Touch the little radio icon at the bottom of the app and it brings up more options: Oldies, 70s, 80s, 90s, etc. The icon for this app is a white Santa beard on Red. This app might come in handy on those road trips, when you can pair your phone with your car, and play the music through your car’s speakers.

6.     Explore the options with another app called Christmas all-in-one. Created by Rocket Splash Games, this app is easy to navigate. The tools at the bottom include 1) Countdown (how many days until Christmas?), 2) Wallpapers (to decorate your phone), 3) Music and 4) More, such as the song lyrics to the familiar old Christmas carols. The app also includes ten Christmas stories, including popular classics by Charles Dickens, O Henry, Hans Anderson, and Clement Moore.

7.     Have fun with your family and friends using The Grinch edition of Dr. Seuss Camera. This app lets you take selfies--or pictures of other people—with your device, after selecting a photo frame. Then you can edit the photo and share it. You can also save it to your device’s photo library.

8.     Track Santa with the app appropriately named Santa Tracker. This comes with a built-in countdown at the top of the screen (only 38 days at this writing!) with a tiny Santa and sleigh and two reindeer racing across the snow below. The app then has two parts: Track Santa (showing a map) and Santa in Action (a series of animated videos about what Santa is doing to get ready for Christmas, and you can personalize it by adding your child’s name, age, and state.  Developed by Surreal Knight, this is a fun app.

9.     Finally, relax and unwind with the app Xmas Coloring for Adults. Some people love to color on their iPad or iPhone. You get seven free pictures and can unlock others with a purchase.

There are numerous apps for holiday recipes, games, calendars, and puzzles. There are apps for all religions and religious holidays. You could spend your entire holiday season just downloading and trying out holiday apps. Instead, pick a couple of these and have yourself a merry little holiday.

Last updated on November 18, 2018

Falling into Medicare

posted Dec 19, 2018, 2:41 PM by Cherie Dargan


Turning 65 has been more exciting than I imagined. First, in the months leading up to my birthday, I was besieged by phone calls, emails, texts, and actual letters about Medicare. It was exhausting. Mike and I attended a Welcome to Medicare session, met one on one with a volunteer who went over options, and looked at booklets and websites before selecting a plan. I felt like I was cramming for a Final Exam at college again, and if I made the wrong choice, we would pay dearly.

Then, October ended, and with it, my insurance from Hawkeye Community College, where I taught for 20 plus years. My shiny new Medicare card came, along with the cards for my new plan and drug card. Mike suggested that I make some photocopies, which I did – giving him a copy.

We made the decision to invest in adjustable beds in hopes of sleeping better, so we donated the guest room bed. Lynn and Kathy, my friends who clean our condo twice a month, arrived on the first Friday in November, and we took a look at the almost empty guest room. I had moved several small pieces of furniture out of the room already, and we had donated several pieces. They began to gather their supplies. I saw the big area rug and thought that I would move that out as well.

Unfortunately, I was wearing slippers. As I exited the bedroom and entered the hallway, the edge of the large rug caught my foot and since I was hurrying, there was apparently more momentum than I realized—I fell, landing on my head, face first. I lay there, feeling very foolish and tried to catch my breath. My glasses had fallen off. I tried to get up. Mike walked out of his office and cautioned me not to try to get up.

Kathy said, “You’re bleeding,” and Lynn got a wet washcloth. She, Lynn and Mike debated how best to move me, and I said, “Oh go push the emergency pendent!” Shortly, Gary, head of maintenance, arrived and gently helped me up. Mike got my rollator and the girls helped me put on a coat and grab my purse. They got me in the car and Mike grabbed that print out of my new Medicare card, folded it up, and put it into a pocket.

We went across the way to the Urgent Care at Prairie Parkway; they examined my face. I had a deep cut on my forehead, above the eyebrow and it was bleeding. My cheek was swollen and hurt; I had a headache, not surprisingly, and my eye was starting to shut. I couldn’t wear my glasses so Mike had wheeled me into the building with their transport chair. They put bandages on my head and told me that they were contacting a plastic surgeon because the cut was too deep to do a few stitches. They made the appointment for us, and we had a little time to wait so Mike got me a muffin and some chocolate milk at the Clinic’s self-serve food court while feeling like a Halloween mummy, with gauze wrapped around my head and blood seeping through.

At the plastic surgeon’s office, I finally got 14 stitches and was told that I needed a CT scan. Again, Dr. Congdon's staff made all of the arrangements and we just had to get in the car and drive to ADI. They asked for the scan to be read that afternoon, so as I lay under the CT scanner, trying not to move, I thought again that it looked like the Star Gate. A few minutes passed and it seemed like I had been under there for quite some time, and I tried to stay calm, telling myself, “You can move a tiny bit, you can breathe…..but you can’t sit up.” Finally, I said, “Are we done?”

The technician apologized and said that the doctor was looking at my scan. She came out and helped me out of the machine and back into the wheelchair. The doctor came out and told me that I had broken a bone in my cheek and had a blow out fracture. They got Mike from the waiting room and told him what they had found. The doctor said I should see my eye doctor to be sure that there was no danger of retinal detachment.

So, we were off to see Dr. Mauer late afternoon. He examined my eye and found that I could move my eye up and down and back and forth, so the muscle that controls those movements had not been trapped. My retina looked fine. He recommended we see a specialist down in Iowa City at the Eye Clinic there, to be sure that I didn’t need surgery. Sometimes when the injury heals, the eye sinks back into the eye socket – not a good look. While we were at the clinic, someone carefully adjusted my poor glasses so that they could fit on my face, and I could finally see, sort of, again because my eye was swollen nearly shut.
We got home around 5 that evening. Lynn and Kathy had done their usual wonderful job of cleaning our house. It felt surreal: we had been to four doctor’s offices in one day, from 11 in the morning on. I felt like a little package being wheeled from office to office.
My son Jon came to check on us that evening. He and Mike gathered the supplies that Mike would need to clean the area around the stitches. Jon also took away the offending rug.
For the next week, Mike took good care of me. I got the stitches out and recovery seemed slow, but I tried to be patient. 
A few weeks later we had the checkup in Iowa City: the young doctor examined me and assured me that I was healing up well and he did not see a need for the surgery. It was almost anticlimactic but what a relief! 
What did I learn from this experience?
1.      I had no idea how much damage a simple fall could do. I didn’t think I was hurt at first. I was very fortunate that this didn’t happen when I was alone!
2.      I was not prepared for how much a head injury bleeds – the people at urgent care wrapped me up in a bandage going around my head trying to control the bleeding and I bled through. I felt like a Halloween mummy.
3.      I was not prepared for the fatigue and headache that accompanied the injury. I lazed around that weekend, watching movies and napping and using ice packs on my head. It took several weeks to recover and even then, I felt that I was more tired at the end of the day than usual.
4.      We were blown away by the kindness, competence and cooperation among the medical community.  We are very fortunate to be within a few minutes of so many wonderful doctors. We have an awesome medical community in the Waterloo/Cedar Falls area and I want to thank the Urgent Care staff at Prairie Parkway, Dr. Congdon’s staff, the Staff at ADI, and the staff at Mauer’s Eye Clinic. They all took great care of me.
5.      It was quite a shocking way to break in that new Medicare card; however, we were not asked for a copay at any of these places and Mike was thankful that he had all of my information on one sheet. I would encourage others to think about what information they might need if a loved one needed medical care.
6.      I took a critical look at the rest of my house. I am more aware of the dangers of falling. I am more apt to put on shoes in the house instead of wearing my slippers. I want to do everything I can to avoid another fall, and I encourage you to do the same!

Last updated December 19, 2018

Back to School

posted Sep 22, 2018, 7:28 PM by Cherie Dargan

I’ve been retired from teaching at Hawkeye Community College for two years, but this is my first semester when I don’t have my younger grandson, Mason, to babysit during the week, and my volunteer work with the Cedar Falls Authors Festival has ended. I am still keeping busy with the League of Women Voters, but realized the other day that this fall is very different. Without Mason here, the house is a little quieter. It is the first semester that I am not mentoring a student from UNI’s Education department: I had four wonderful students over the past two years, and it is fun to watch several of them on Facebook as they enter the classroom. 
Mason is a big boy now, and enjoying Kindergarten. He likes to write his name and a few words, draw, and help his big brother create new board games. I can’t wait until he comes in the door and says, “I can read, Grandma!”  Big brother Corbin is in the second grade and a wonderful reader; he is a bright little boy and getting taller and taller.
We had a lot of fun with them this summer, and look forward to a few days this fall and winter when school will be out and we’re needed again. They love watching cartoons and movies, especially those about Phineas and Ferb, Paw Patrol, Curious George, and others. However, they are just as happy watching cartoons on PBS kids on our Kindle Fires. We try to get them out in the yard to blow bubbles, throw around a ball, or admire our neighbor’s big garden. We go to the park, the library, and the store.
Now that I am a grandmother, I occasionally help out with getting the boys to school. As with everything else, having a routine, being organized, and setting out clothes the night before makes all of the difference!

Some things stay the same
I’ve always liked shopping for school supplies. I have way too many pencils and pens, so now I am shopping for the grandsons.  
A few weeks into September, I love all of the back to school shopping clearance sales—construction paper, pencils, and three ring notebooks for a dollar? Yes, thank you.
I love the sense of a fresh start. I’ve been decluttering in the garage, closets, and my office. The return to school always brought with it a sense of getting organized, of a new semester, a new routine, and a new paper planner. 

Some things are very different
I love not having to rush out the door to an 8:00 am class!
I don’t miss all of the meetings that I used to attend, all of the grading, and the prep. However, I do miss my colleagues, the classroom, and interacting with students.

I’m as likely to focus more on my Google calendar than a paper one: I can check it from my phone, iPad, PC, laptop or Kindle Fire.
It took more than a year to disconnect my brain from the academic calendar of midterms, finals, spring break, and graduation. The first semester I would look at the calendar and think, “My Composition 2 class would be working on the first essay….My Literature class would be finishing up Fiction…my Technology in the Classroom students would be searching for their curriculum standards and working on lesson plans.”
So, what now?
I’ve always loved reading, and retirement has made it possible to read more. While I enjoy our new condo, there is limited space for more books, so I have shifted to reading eBooks on my Kindle and IPad. I also have more time to write and reflect, work on projects, and volunteer.  I love updating my websites and blog, posting to Facebook about new events, and catching up on my friends and family online.
However, anyone walking into my home office immediately recognizes that I have quite a few projects to work on, and each one is represented by several boxes, tubs, or totes. So, just as some of my teacher friends have returned to the classroom, it’s time for me to get back to work!
What does “back to school” mean for you?

Updated September 22nd, 2018
Also posted on my Blogging Basic bloghttps://bloggingbasicswithcherie.blogspot.com/2018/09/back-to-school.html?view=magazine

12 Takeaways from Gen Con 2018

posted Aug 20, 2018, 8:13 PM by Cherie Dargan   [ updated Aug 21, 2018, 8:18 AM ]

 My children ready for cosplay: Mikki and Jon Mikki and Sean

1.    What is Gen Con? It’s described as “Four days of gaming” and takes places in Indianapolis, Indiana each August. It recently celebrated its 50th anniversary.

2.    What kind of games? Board games, mostly—I saw one room with old fashioned arcade games. There are games for kids and adults, and at least one game company (Rio) had a big room where you could sit and play games to see what you liked. Of course, this grandma played a lot of games geared for children, such as Monster Factory, where you draw tiles and try to create a monster. Many of the children’s games teach math, build memory, and encourage children to problem solve while having fun.

 Mikki with my grandsons     Playing games in the family fun center

3.   Who goes to Gen Con? We saw young adults, teens, grandmas, young families with babies in strollers, middle aged people, retired people, and people of all races.

4.    How big of a deal is it? They sold over 60,000 four-day passes! Gen Con takes over downtown Indianapolis, packing the convention center and Lucas Stadium with people, food trucks, cars dropping off attendees, and lots of people in costume.

5.    What kind of people go to Gen Con? It is the nicest crowd you can imagine and a strange sort of High School reunion if all of the theater kids became friends with all of the “Big Bang” cast, the chess club, the PTA, and teachers and staff. They are all excited to be there, and kind to each other.

6.   Gen Con works hard to be friendly to people with mobility issues, and we saw a lot of people with walkers, wheelchairs, rollators, crutches, and surgery boots. I saw a double wide stroller with a screen on top for twins. We also saw a number of people on electric scooters they rented to help them navigate the hallways. Even though it is crowded, I found people opening doors and making way for me with my rollator, which made me feel welcome.

7.  How do you manage 60,000 people and over 18,000 events? It is run by volunteers – hundreds and hundreds of friendly people in special Tshirts. They use social media, their Gen Con Website to communicate, and of course, there’s an app! Food trucks line up outside the convention center with pizza, noodles, salads, hot dogs, etc. Inside, there were several places to buy food and drink.

My son (dressed as Doctor Who) with Chewbacca

8.   Can you buy anything at Gen Con? There are lots of vendors selling costumes, t-shirts, books, artwork, mystery boxes, jewelry, comics, Dr. Who stuff, books, and man kilts/skirts. I brought back some tiny “Tardis” earrings and a little zippered bag filled with Dr. Who loot.

9.   What else do they do for fun? COSPLAY. People dress in costumes from their favorite movie, game, or book – we saw people dressed up as a character from Lord of the Rings, Avengers, Star Wars, Star Trek, Japanese anime, The Transformers, Spider Man, and two people wore giant T Rex suits. There is a parade on Saturday afternoon and a costume contest.

10.   The overall sense that I get each year is one of collaboration and cooperation, not competition between cosplayers. Each year, we have seen a couple of volunteers walk around with materials to help cosplayers make repairs to costumes, replacing buttons or sewing up loose seams. I’ve also seen cosplayers help each other adjust costumes and head gear. There is a special area in one of the main halls where several dozen cosplayers gather at a time for photo ops and talking with the public.

11.   One of the things that impresses me about Gen Con is its focus on giving back, choosing several charities each year. They raised more than $50,000 for The Jack Vasel Memorial Fund and Second Helpings, Inc., the official 2018 charities, pointing out that they have raised more than $300,000 overall for charity. 

12. I was overjoyed to see TWO groups doing Voter Registration -- the Indianapolis League of Women Voters and another group. We had to stop and chat!

Last Updated August 12, 2018

Are you Registered to Vote?

posted Aug 20, 2018, 7:55 PM by Cherie Dargan   [ updated Aug 21, 2018, 8:22 AM ]

Midterm Elections -- on November 6, 2018 -- are getting closer. As the President of the local League of Women Voters, I am getting numerous requests for Voter Registration events. As we go out into the community, we get lots of questions about voting eligibility and voter registration. 
Are you eligible to vote in Iowa? According to Iowa’s Secretary of State, you need to be a U. S. citizen, a resident of Iowa, and 18 years old by Election day. Oh – and you need to be registered to vote!

Do you need to update your Voter Registration? Most of us know that we need to update the Voter Registration if we move or get married, but did you know that you also need to update it if you decide to switch political parties?

How can you check to see if your Voter Registration is accurate? You don’t have to guess. Just go to the link on the Secretary of State’s website and search at the following link.

Are you registered to Vote? Fill in the form and click to see.

What if you need to update your Voter Registration? You have three options:

  1. Go to a Voter Registration Drive—your local League of Women voters is having a number throughout the next couple of months. As time gets closer, I will post the dates. However, we are doing one on Monday, July 23 at an office for EPI on University Avenue in Waterloo, 4 to 7 pm.
  2. Download a paper copy to fill out and turn it in to the County Auditor at the Courthouse.
  3. Complete the Voter Registration form online – you must have an Iowa Driver’s License or ID number to use this method.

Online Form and a place to download a paper form.

Pay attention when you are filling out the form! Rock the Vote says that people make these three common errors:

1.      forgetting to sign the form at the bottom, with today’s date

2.      entering today’s date and the registrant’s birthday in the wrong place

3.      failing to provide a full driver’s license or the last four digits of a Social Security number.

The League of Women Voters identifies other common problems when people forget to do the following things:

  • Check the box affirming they are over 18 (unless pre-registering).
  • Check the box affirming they are a US citizen.
  • Provide any required identification number, usually their driver’s license number or some or all digits of their social security number.
  • Sign and date the form.

Remember, your vote counts! Amazingly, some elections have been decided by a handful of votes, as Adam D’Arpino describes in his article, “10 Elections Decided by One Vote (Or Less).”

In the 1994 Wyoming’s House of Representatives race, Republican Randall Luthi and Independent Larry Call each finished with 1,941 votes. Following a recount that produced the same results, Governor Mike Sullivan settled the election in a most unconventional (although state-appropriate) fashion: drawing a ping pong ball out of his cowboy hat to determine a winner. Luthi’s name was drawn, and history may well have proven him the right man for the job: He served the Jackson Hole-area district until 2007, ultimately becoming Speaker of the House

So, there are only 107 days until the Mid-Term Elections—are you registered to vote?


“10 Elections Decided by One Vote or Less.”

Questions? Check with your County Auditor’s Office. In Black Hawk County, go to
Links to changes in Voting Laws

Link to online voter registration and a link to download a copy to print out and complete.

You can also call your elections office at the Black Hawk County Courthouse directly.
Black Hawk County Election Office Phone: 319-833-3007

Voter Registration -- Requirements

To vote in Iowa, you must be registered to vote.
To qualify to register to vote, you must be:

·        A U.S. citizen,
·        An Iowa resident, and
·        At least 17 1/2 years old (must be 18 years old by election day to vote.)

You cannot:

·        Be a convicted felon (unless your voting rights have been restored),
·        Be judged mentally incompetent to vote by a court, or
·        Claim the right to vote in any other place.

Voting with Disabilities
Persons with vision impairment can call 888-SOS-VOTE (888-767-8683) or email support@sos.iowa.gov to receive accessible information and services.
Voting at the polls can present a unique set of challenges to people with disabilities. It is the intent of federal law to ensure that voters with disabilities are fully able to exercise their voting rights at the polls.
If you or a family member need special assistance to vote, you have the right to an accessible voting location, accessible voting equipment and to receive assistance in casting your ballot.

Last updated July 22, 2018

Ten Reasons to Vote

posted Aug 20, 2018, 7:49 PM by Cherie Dargan   [ updated Aug 20, 2018, 7:50 PM ]

Did you know that Pew reports that fewer than 50 percent of eligible voters cast a vote in the midterm elections, and fewer than 60 percent vote in Presidential elections? We need to step it up! Most developed countries around the world do better! In a survey, the United States came in at 26th place out of 32 countries for percentages of voters who participated in elections.

So, do you need a reason to vote--other than the fact that you are a citizen and it is your right and responsibility? 
Here are ten reasons to vote.

1.     Vote to support public education in your community and state.

2.     Vote to make sure your voice is heard. Don’t assume, “I don’t need to vote—other people will make sure that we support our schools, take care of veterans, the elderly, and the mentally ill, etc.

3.     Vote to make our country a better one.  President Lyndon Johnson once said, “The vote is the most powerful instrument ever devised by man for breaking down injustice and destroying the terrible walls which imprison men because they are different from other men.”

4.     Vote to advocate for change, because communities with higher percentages of voters get more attention from elected officials.

5.     Vote for those people who cannot vote. Children and teens under 18 can’t vote but depend on us to look out for them and their futures.

6.     Vote to make your voice heard on an issue or candidate, because every vote counts!

7.     Vote to send a message. More people voting sends a stronger message that we want new policies or people in office.

8.     Vote because of what’s at stake in the next election: a specific issue, a specific race, a specific candidate, or an important ballot measure.

9.     Vote to make sure that we continue to have free and fair elections, civil rights, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, and protection of private property. Don’t take freedom for granted.

10.  Vote like your future depends on it! Remember, elections are sometimes decided by fewer than 100 votes.

However, you can’t vote if you aren’t registered!

Am I registered to vote? Not sure? Search with this easy to use form.

Have you moved in the last two years or gotten married? Have you updated your Voter Registration with your new address and/or name change?

Find the form at the Black Hawk County Election office website,

Find the form at the State of Iowa Elections link,


"Reasons to Register and Vote."

"U. S. trails most developed countries in voter turnout," by Drew DeSilver. May 21, 2018.

Last updated July 15, 2018

Apps for Seniors, PART ONE

posted Aug 20, 2018, 7:45 PM by Cherie Dargan   [ updated Aug 20, 2018, 7:45 PM ]

Fitness and Entertainment Apps for the Jorgenson Plaza

As active seniors, we’re embracing technology including smart phones and tablets, and exploring apps for every facet of our lives, including fitness. Let’s look at some apps you might want to download before heading down to the Jorgenson Plaza to work out. You have lots of options: listen to music, watch a movie or television show, listen to a podcast or enjoy an audible book. There’s an app for all of these options!

First, if you don’t have a set of wireless headphones, you’ll want to get a set. Mike got us the Hopday Bluetooth headphones on Amazon for $19.99. These are oversized in-ear Bluetooth earbuds; I can’t wear ordinary ear buds but like these, which include a little curved piece that fits over the ear. I also have a pair of folding headphones made by iJoy for $15.99 (also available on Amazon).

Remember, if you have a smartphone (iPhone or Samsung Galaxy), you have a built in pedometer, as long as you carry it in a pocket or clip to your belt. Download Map my Walk and it uses the GPS in your phone to record details of walks and can post them to your social media account. You can also try Map my Run or Map my Ride for runners and cyclists.

If you have a Fitbit, you are probably already using the Fitbit app to monitor activity levels and motivate yourself to get a few more steps in your day. However, did you know that you can also monitor heart rate and how much sleep you got last night? When it’s cool enough, Mike walks down to the Jorgenson Plaza to get a few more steps in his day, or walks back to get the last steps to reach 10,000.

So, what to do while working out to keep yourself entertained and motivated? Search for these apps in your apps store.

NetFlix (Free) -- The Netflix app is free, but you need a monthly $7.99 Netflix subscription to use its library of movies and TV shows. Mike downloads shows before he goes to work out, so that he does not have to rely on Wi-Fi.

National Public Radio, or NPR (Free) -- If you love NPR, you can use your phone or tablet to listen to your favorite shows. There is another app for NPR Music.

Yesterday Radio On The Air (iPhone and iPad) (Free) – Listen to Old Time Radio from the 1920s-1950s.

Pandora (iPad and iPhone)(Free)  – Type in the name of a song, band, or artist to find the music you love.

If I’m pedaling on the NuStep machine for 40 minutes, I sometimes put my device up on the bars and read. Whatever your device, you have a built-in reader (such as iBook or Kindle). If you like a bargain, here are some of my favorite sources for free or low cost e-books. Register at each website and you will receive daily emails with lists. Some of these books will come with a low cost audible book.

Book Bub. https://www.bookbub.com/welcome  Sign up here and select your categories.
Fussy Librarian – a daily newsletter with free books. https://www.thefussylibrarian.com/ Sign up here.

Early Bird Books -- https://earlybirdbooks.com/. Sign up here.

Book bub -- https://www.bookbub.com/welcome. Sign up here.

Audio books on Audible (from Amazon) and Audiobooks – my favorite thing to do while working out is to listen to books. There are also free options from your public library, but that’s another column.

Whatever your preference for keeping fit and entertained, there’s an app for you!

Last updated July 5, 2018

Protect data when using public Wi-Fi: Use a VPN!

posted Aug 20, 2018, 7:40 PM by Cherie Dargan

GUEST POST Blogger -- Mike Dargan
My favorite Geek read my article about VPNs and looked skeptical.
So, I said -- OK, write your own article. So, he did.

Isn’t it great to sit down with a double mocha latte at the local snob coffee shop, whipping out the iPad, agreeing to the cafe’s acceptable use policy and attaching to the free Wi-Fi?  Leaning back in that cushy booth, logging into the bank app and paying the month’s bill in your private little corner of the world?  What could go wrong?  Hold on there!  If you’re not connecting to that free Wi-Fi with a VPN, your correspondence could be easily intercepted by the bad guys!  Login credentials, bank account and credit card numbers might all there for the taking. 

The hapless Internet surfer might think, “How is this possible?”  I’m in Joe’s Coffee Cup Shop, I see the SSID (i.e., Service Set Identifier--used to publicize a Wi-Fi access point) is “Joes_Coffee,” I’ve known Joe for years and am confident of his honesty and technical competence.  Surely, everything is fine.

He also sees that he’s connecting with HTTPS and knows that all of the traffic is therefore encrypted and routed through the secure port 443.  Perfectly secure, right?  However, what if the user gets in a hurry and connects to “Joes-Coffee” or “JoesCoffee”?  (See the subtle difference? ) Things could go very wrong in a hurry!  

 It’s cheap and easy to set up  a rogue Wi-Fi router (AKA Honey Pot”) controlled by a bad guy who can read your traffic.  If so, all of your traffic will be observed by the criminals and put to their use.  Login credentials, credit card and bank information, social media and email credentials will all fall into the hacker’s hands.  However, the criminal’s task becomes much more difficult if you use a personal VPN when connecting to the Wi-Fi on a public access point.  The hacker can see the traffic, but he or she isn’t able to decrypt it, therefore rendering it useless.  

What is a VPN?  What are the pros and cons?  Should you use one?  VPN is an abbreviation of Virtual Private Network.  A VPN is typically a client/server system where both ends share a key that is used to encrypt/decrypt traffic.  You download VPN software on your devices.  The server, more precisely, a “proxy server,” then forwards the traffic, on behalf of your clients, to the intended target, e.g., bank, credit card company, social media site, email, etc.  An added benefit of the proxy server is that the originating IP address is not available to the target site, thereby providing anonymity.  Keep in mind, though, that the VPN server managers are not enthused about protecting the privacy of clients bent on violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998;   it’s possible that they will block typical P2P ports used by Bittorrent.  In other words, using a VPN to anonymously download copyrighted movies isn’t as easy as it might appear.

However, the VPN is not without issues.  The encryption/decryption of the data and the secure forwarding of traffic takes time.  Not much time, if you’re using a good service, however, latency will be greater when using a VPN.  Another problem is that some sites will not work with VPNs.  Netflix, for example, can detect a VPN and will insist on not using it.  A good work around is to download Netflix media from a trusted access point without the VPN for offline viewing later.  Another issue is the possibility of malware defeating your VPN.  In other words, if a rogue application gets between you and your VPN client, the encryption can be defeated.  There are decent ways to mitigate the malware issue, but that’s a topic for another column.

Furthermore, VPNs cost money to run; you’re going to have to pay for that client.  And, the client you want to buy for your family’s devices may not work on every Internet gadget in the house.  If you want the convenience of a VPN client that runs on iPhone, iPad, Android, MacOS, Windows, and Kindle Fire, etc., be sure to test or ask before you buy.  And, before you buy, get a recommendation from a trusted site that reviews VPNs; my favorites are CNET and PC-Magazine.  When my current VPN client subscription comes up for renewal, I’m going to take a hard look at the Cisco AnyConnect Client.  When I see “Cisco” I feel confident.  When I see that it’s “free” I want to give it a trial.
Despite the hazards of connecting to the Internet without a VPN it appears that most users choose to do without and take their chances.  Let’s hope that they’re lucky.  Thomas Gray tells us that “if ignorance is bliss, tis folly to be wise.”  Ignorance of unsafe Internet surfing is blissful until one’s privacy is violated.  Using a VPN to protect the privacy of important data is the very wise decision.

--Mike Dargan
Last Updated June 17, 2018

Secure your Family with a Virtual Private Network (VPN)

posted Aug 20, 2018, 7:27 PM by Cherie Dargan

With so many headlines about hackers stealing your information, such as credit card numbers, passwords, or contacts’ information, many people are reluctant to browse the web on public WIFI, so they’re buying their own VPN. What is it, who needs one, and how can it protect you and your family online? What do you need to know about VPNs before you buy one?

Our VPN protects our desktop computers, laptops, and tablets.

A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, sounds like something you would find at your workplace; however, smart people who value their privacy and want to safeguard their online activity are buying VPNs for use at home—and on the go. More of us are relying on our mobile devices to purchase products, make reservations, pay bills, and check bank accounts and credit card accounts. Doing these activities using public Wi-Fi is extremely dangerous and invites others to hack into your accounts. You need to protect yourself with a VPN.

What is it? A VPN is software; it does not create an actual hard-wired network. If you do a search, you will find hardware for routers or firewalls that builds in a VPN, but this will only safeguard your data in your home. You can install it on your Home PC, your phone (both Android and Apple) and mobile devices, such as a Kindle Fire tablet, iPhone, and iPad. Download the app, and once installed, you will see a little VPN icon on your device’s home page; you can also see that it is on by checking settings. An article on PCmag’s website compared a VPN to a tunnel connecting your computer (or mobile device) to the VPN server: all of your internet traffic goes through the tunnel.

Who needs to use one, and why? Anyone connecting to public Wi-Fi that is not encrypted is vulnerable to hackers who are trying to get your information. However, it is even more alarming that Congress passed a law in the spring of 2017 to make it legal for your Internet Service Provider to sell your browsing history to advertisers, without your consent. A VPN protects your data and prevents others from intercepting traffic, where they could get credit card information, passwords, or even see your laptop’s desktop. 

A VPN helps you to safely browse and use the internet to make purchases, especially when on pages with https (the s stands for secure shell) When shopping online, you should always be careful, but when you see the https, you can expect greater security. Adding a VPN to your browsing experience gives you greater confidence that your data is secure. A VPN is useful EVERYWHERE! However, it is especially needed in public when so many of us rely on public WIFI. At home, it depends on how secure your internet access point is, and that is another topic for discussion.

How do you get one, and what will they cost? Go to PC Magazine.org or CNET for product reviews. You can order them online: Amazon lists a number of VPNs, including a few that offer a free product such as Express VPN or Windscribe. Some offer a trial period when you can try them out. My husband tried one VPN but found it would not work on our Kindle Fires, so he returned it and got a second product, Windscribe, that worked on all of our devices. We are spending $100 a year for the family and it covers all of our devices. 

According to PC Magazine, some of the top-rated VPNs include NordVPN, Private Internet Access VPN, and Tunnelbear. CNET also lists NordVPN and adds VyprVPN, StrongVPN, and IPVanish, among others, to its list. While there are a number of products that offer a free version, or a trial version, be sure to read the details. Whatever you choose, it’s clear that if you want to use your devices to browse and purchase online, you need to protect your family with a VPN.

Last updated June 1, 2018

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