Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The View from Ridgefield

Above: the Oaks to Wetlands trail in southwest Washington's Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, which also features the Cathlapotle Plankhouse.

Postscript (Jan. 27, 2010) -- A story about a loose bull, a SWAT team, and another nature preserve in Ridgefield is making national news today. An excerpt from The Columbian:
The bull, which had a hump like a Brahman, was killed after sheriff’s deputies, riders and its owner spent several hours trying to lasso it.

“It wouldn’t let us get near it,” said Sgt. Steve Shea with the Clark County Sheriff’s Office. “We were chasing it all over the place.”

He added, “The worry was that, if someone came down the road at 50 mph and hit the bull, people could get hurt or killed.”

About 8:40 a.m. Tuesday, someone called 911 to say the bull was on a road creating a traffic hazard near Northwest 21st Avenue and 179th Street, near the fairgrounds.

Deputy Tommy Green arrived to find that someone left a gate open and the young bull was in an area that was mostly fenced. The bull had long, sharp horns and Green tried to keep it where it was.

Deputies summoned the bull’s owner, a property renter whose name was not available, to the scene. Deputies hoped she could walk close enough to rope the bull, but it was too skittish.

The owner tried putting grain in a can and shaking it, but the bull only allowed her to approach to an estimated 20 feet before bolting. Other people could get only an estimated 50 yards from the bull as it roamed the area.

Deputies also asked 911 dispatchers to call for someone with a tranquilizer gun, but no one authorized to deal with cattle was available, Shea said.

The bull wasn’t charging at people, Shea said. “He just wanted to get away from us.”

Melissa Williams of Ridgefield said she’d come to the park with a friend, Caitlynn Ralston, to ride their horses in the 300-acre park, which has more than four miles of trails.

Ralston, a Brush Prairie resident, offered to try to capture the bull with her horse, Zip, which is trained for herding cows, and her dog, Smoky, a blue heeler.

In a pasture, Williams said, “The horse got spooked about the bull and bucked her off.”

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The View from the Interstate

I-80, Wyoming

I-84, Utah

Trementon, Utah

I-84, Idaho

I-84, Idaho

Boardman, Ore.

Thanks to LP for help with photos along the road to Kyrgyzstan.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

RBM Goes Abroad

By R.B. Moreno
This week I accepted an invitation to assist English language teachers in the Kyrgyz Republic, better known as Kyrgyzstan, as part of a Peace Corps Master's International (PCMI) partnership with the Colorado State University English Department. Kyrgyzstan is a landlocked country of some five million people that shares borders with China, Kazakhstan, and two former Soviet republics adjacent to Afghanistan.

Kyrgyzstan's territory encompasses the ancient Silk Road. The country is about the size of Nebraska, with a climate often compared to Colorado's higher elevations. The Tian Shan mountain range covers most of Kyrgyzstan, and winter snows sometimes leave outlying cities inaccessible. Conditions in the capital, according to Google, can also be challenging.

My teaching assignment will commence in March 2010 and is expected to last 26 months. Check back here for more dispatches about "the Switzerland of Central Asia." These sources, meanwhile, may be of interest:
A final note: this departure overseas will confirm a rumor aired last year by some dear friends at NPR's All Things Considered:
One of our own is heading off on international adventures, although he probably won't be dodging giant boulders or hunting crystal skulls. Our assistant producer, Raul Moreno, has apparently decided the Peace Corps is more exciting than working for All Things Considered. In all seriousness, we will miss Raul, and we wish him the very best in his adventures and we're betting he'll look really good in a fedora.
To donate said fedora, see "CONTACT RBM" in the sidebar.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The View from Fort Collins

By R.B. Moreno

Spike Jonze and Dave Eggers' adaptation of Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are opens tonight across North America. "The night Max wore his wolf suit and made mischief of one kind and another," the original story begins, "His mother called him 'WILD THING!'" Sendak's 1963 picture book runs just 338 words, and it tells of a boy who must go to bed without supper:
That very night in Max's room a forest grew and grew––and grew until his ceiling hung with vines and the walls became the world all around and an ocean tumbled by with a private boat for Max and he sailed off through night and day and in and out of weeks and almost over a year to where the wild things are.
On Thursday morning, Sendak fans might realize, Jonze and Eggers' adaptation was spectacularly upstaged. Because for a couple of hours here in Colorado, the walls did become the world around another mischievous boy––as his imaginary self took to the sky in another kind of boat. "'Balloon boy' Falcon Heene found safe in attic of Fort Collins home," is how a team from The Denver Post reports the story in today's paper, which continues:
the bizarre image of a homemade, helium-filled flying saucer — thought to be carrying a 6-year-old boy — transfixed a global television audience as it blew for 50 miles across the Colorado sky.

But the tale of a boy's unplanned flight from his Fort Collins backyard aboard his father's experimental aircraft took two jarring turns: first when the craft settled to earth with no sign of the boy; and later, when young Falcon Heene reappeared, frightened but safe, from his hiding place in the family's garage attic.
Along the way, rescue workers from several jurisdictions mobilized, helicopters filled the air, Denver International Airport rerouted planes and perhaps millions of television viewers watched with reactions ranging from horror to disbelief.

At a news conference after the boy emerged, the family said Falcon hid because his father had earlier yelled at him when he tried to climb into the craft.
Police want to know more about why Falcon hid in the attic. But last night, there was also good news for the boy and his brothers at home in blustery south Fort Collins: despite satellite trucks at the playground and reporters lounging on the front lawn, in this adaptation, there would be pizza.

Update: the county sheriff says Falcon's disappearance was part of a hoax orchestrated by his parents. In November they pled guilty to related charges; Richard Heene began serving a 90-day jail sentence in January.

Friday, October 02, 2009


Every Friday, our friends at the journal Suss post "some number of things currently interesting us . . . be it a book, a building, an awesome peony bush." Today's gossip includes this excerpt from "Made in China," RBM's forthcoming essay on human hair:
DOUGH CONDITIONERS reads the fine print on a bright blue box of Texas Garlic Toast. It’s made by Great Value, or GV (“When Quality Counts”). Wal-Mart, the product’s distributor, describes GV as the country’s largest food brand. Peering closer at the ingredients listed under dough conditioners, which fall just before sugar but after yeast, I spot a familiar term: L-CYSTEINE.

Some time later, deep in the bowels of the European Union’s legal archive, in correspondence with an alarmed German legislator, I find that one means of dough conditioning hinges on a process called hydrolysis. This entails boiling hair, usually human hair, in vats of hydrochloric acid for several hours on end, which makes the follicles decompose into a white, odorless powder: L-CYSTEINE.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Don't Jump Off This Thing, You Don't Have Wings

An essay by RBM about BASE jumpers –– parachutists who prefer fixed objects, or Buildings, Antennas, Spans, and Earth –– has just been published over at Suss: Another Literary Journal. Here's an excerpt from "Don't Jump Off This Thing, You Don't Have Wings":
These are the last words many BASE jumpers utter. Not a prayer, not “I love you,” just “See ya!” The man’s body leaves the platform in a kind of forward-rotating cannonball. His fingers grip the exposed skin of his shins, concentrating enough centrifugal force around his midsection to become an Olympic high diver, a human flywheel turning once, almost twice. Clack! Already he’s coming out of the rotation, becoming a distant fleck of color against the south wall of the canyon. I can see his skinny legs flair wide—just a body now falling to earth. Clack! He’s too small to pick out with my lens. It’s not clear he’ll survive this. The bridge crowd leans forward. Pop! An oblong shape erupts against the granite, slowing the jumper’s fall just before impact. He’s already whipping his canopy back toward the river, sailing for the shoreline in an arc that draws cheers.
You can follow Suss and Lintel, Sash, & Sill Press on Twitter @lsspress. A definition for suss? "To discover or realize information," says Urban Dictionary, "usually with a level of intuition playing a role."

Update: "Don't Jump Off This Thing, You Don't Have Wings" is now featured at

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The View from Fort Collins

By R.B. Moreno

Lampposts in Fort Collins, Colo. are kindly asking for your assistance in locating Dog, who's fond of red and hasn't been heard from since last weekend's Tour de Fat.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

September Reading

On Thursday, September 17, Colorado State University's Organization of Graduate Student Writers debuts its fall 3 Voices series with a reading hosted by The Vault, in downtown Fort Collins. RBM will read from a forthcoming essay and be joined by writers Kir Jordan (poetry) and Mark Clements (fiction).

Photo update: the reading opened with a quick poll of public radio fans. At stage right, the Tivoli audio complement to RBM's essay.

Thanks to ST and family for help with photos and publicity and to LP for a glittering introduction.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The View from Fort Collins

By R.B. Moreno

Slideshow: Pooch Plunge 2009

At summer's end in Fort Collins, Colo., the public pool in City Park closes for cleaning. Just before the shutdown, something a little strange happens.

Monday, August 03, 2009

College Composition: the Blog

By R.B. Moreno

In preparation for teaching two sections of first-year writing this fall, I've developed a new point of contact for students that will integrate Google's Calendar, News, and Docs, file-sharing site, and the Colorado State University Writing Studio. Look for an RSS feed of posts at College Composition elsewhere on this blog.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Made in China

Over the weekend "Made in China," a story by RBM about whether American groceries and garden supplies should contain human hair, won third prize among research and reporting-based essays at the 2009 Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference in Grapevine, Texas. The essay will appear in the 2010 volume of the conference's journal, Ten Spurs. Above: an organic weed mat, intended for potted plants, is sold online and woven entirely from Chinese hair.

Update -- The full list of winners at July's conference, and our benefactors:

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The View from Grapevine

By R.B. Moreno

Day two of the 2009 Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference in Grapevine, Texas is underway. This being The Lone Star State, the grounds of the resort hosting the gathering lead to a warren of horse trails. There the jets bound for DFW seem to outnumber the dragonflies buzzing overhead.

Some attendees spent Friday in nearby Archer City, the hometown of author Larry McMurtry. Last night's opening address from Paul Theroux, another prolific writer and a former Peace Corps volunteer, finished with the line "leave home, tell the truth, you'll be all right."

Friday, July 17, 2009

Collaboration in the Writing Classroom

"Collaboration in the Writing Classroom: Can Pedagogy and Technology Get Along?" is now available via Google Docs. The slideshow is part of a teaching demonstration RBM delivered to The Denver Writing Project in June.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

What Endured

Below you can view cover artwork designed by RBM for Writings from the 2009 Summer Institute, an anthology of The Denver Writing Project. The shoes depicted belong to RBM's extended family in Guatemala, circa 1960.

Check back here for the text of RBM's contribution to the anthology, "What Endured: Looking for Boyhood Lost at Sea."

Saturday, June 27, 2009

A Meeting of Storytellers

In July RBM will attend the 2009 Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference, outside Dallas. Two of the conference's keynote addresses, by travel writer Paul Theroux and This American Life host Ira Glass, are open to the public. There's more information and a link to tickets online at the Mayborn Graduate School of Journalism at the University of North Texas.

Check back in the coming weeks for a story RBM has submitted to the conference, about the ethics of manufacturing human hair, from Asia, into American retail products.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Stories the Writer Knows to Be True in His Life

A slideshow and an essay RBM presented to the 2009 Federation Rhetoric Symposium in Commerce, Texas, is now available via Google Docs. Above: midnight on presentation day.

Where Faculty Must Buy Their Own Paperclips

Update: a 2009 interview by RBM with four Colorado State University composition scholars is now available via Google Docs. For current issues of the CSU English Department's Freestone, visit the department's new website.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Moby-Dick; or, The Whale; or, Into the Wild

On Saturday, April 4, Colorado State University's English Department will host its annual Graduate Literary Criticism Symposium. Below you'll find the full schedule of on-campus panels, which are free and open to the public.

Update:  RBM's submission, "Moby-Dick; or, The Whale; or, Into the Wild," is now available via Google Docs.