Derek Johnson Muses

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Monthly Archives: January 2014

Simplifying to Gain: A Twitter Lesson

Twitter can be a lot of things, but in many ways, it’s like the rest of life: you need a plan that is direct but encompasses what you need to do. When I applied that lesson to my Twitter bio, I gained followers.
For about a year and a half, I tried to list all of my interests in my Twitter bio starting with, “aspiring writer/photographer”. But after some of my affiliations had changed last fall, I realized it didn’t make sense to try to cram ten things into that bio when the vast majority of the time, I tweeted about Husker/college football. So I simplified my bio with links to and my own site, and over that time, I steadily gained followers.


Road Notes: Quick Trip in Semi-Winter

It was a wee bit nippy outside...

It was a wee bit nippy outside…

Sometimes my world gets rocked a bit. Take last Tuesday afternoon, when my dad called me and asked me to go to Eastern Iowa the next day to pick up seed inoculant to take to northeast Kansas because it had to stay above freezing and couldn’t be sent  via UPS. I had fourteen hours notice before I was to leave, so I prioritized quickly. I got a hold on my mail, found out where I was supposed to go, and called my friend Tom to let him know I’d be stopping over the next night. The goals were simple: get the inoculant and get to Dubuque Wednesday, then deliver the inoculant and possibly get home Thursday night, if it didn’t get too late.

I woke at five on Wednesday morning and drove furiously. Tom had the day off, so I wanted to get to Dubuque as soon as I could. Other than the Crane Coffee in Omaha and the Culver’s in Des Moines, I managed not to stop for food or gas. The adrenaline rush was so strong, I didn’t even drink one of the two Starbucks refreshers I had brought.

I don’t have to drive in winter very often. But if there is no snow, January interstate traffic is blissfully light. Up until I got to Cedar Rapids, only light scattered flurries intruded on my drive. At Cedar Rapids, I stopped to get gas at the the Casey’s on the east side of town, and when I got back in the truck, this is what it looked like outside.

Not great.

Not great.

Mercifully, the dark clouds plagued me for only a short distance, although snow had drifted over parts of US 151 between Cedar Rapids and Dubuque, and  I took appropriate caution. Still, it could have been worse

The innoculant resided at Naylor Seed in Scotch Grove, Iowa, a town with a total of about 20 buildings sitting around a square, several of them empty. But for all the snow and decay, the town seemed pleasant, like it was a place people wanted to live. It was a quick in-and-out and back on the road, and I reached Dubuque close to my goal of 4 P.M.

Bright Winter's Day...

Bright Winter’s Day…

For the evening, Tom planned that we drive up to Platteville, Wisconsin and attend a men’s basketball game UWP (against UW-Stevens Point), the former school of current Wisconsin Badgers coach Paul Ryan. One of Tom’s friends is UWP corporate sponsor who has tickets right off the court. It was a great experience-even though UWP lost, it was great to just watch some basketball that involved crisp shooting and passing, and not just guys looking to cut to the rim. (Like the last 12 years of Nebrasketball.)


Big Name Court!

After the game, I remembered I would regret it if I didn’t bring back New Glarus beer, my favorite Wisconsin beer, or any local beer from anywhere. Hence, a Piggly Wiggly run.


Main Reason Anyone goes to America’s Dairyland

Thursday started out with a 20-minute ordeal of trying to get my truck throw snow drifts out onto the narrow, ridge-top road that runs by the farm where Tom lives (thankfully, I had help.) The omen for the day got even worse when I realized, 30 minutes after leaving Dubuque, I had taken US 61 instead of US 151 and was twenty miles north of Davenport. I shrugged it off and found a crossing highway from Maquoketa to Anamosa, enjoying the unintended change of scenery. I still made it to the Culver’s by Newton, Iowa in time for lunch, so most of my goals where still intact.

I ate the pork tenderloin combo for lunch, as I’d been thinking of that big breaded piece of meat for the longest time. I’d only had a snack-pack for lunch the previous day, so I’d earned the reward. As I passed Des Moines on the south side (something I almost never do), I took time to find the Caribou Coffee off the interstate, and it took time. After consecutive nights of 6-hours of sleep, plus 15-hours of driving, I wasn’t at my sharpest and was questioning my ability to get back home that night.

In the past year, I’ve crossed the Iowa-Missouri border 3 times not on I-29, where most Nebraskans cross it. It’s the most nondescript college of modest size towns in this country.

Stick Gone By..

Stick Gone By..

I made hay through rush hour traffic in St. Joseph, cruising though the industrial district after yet another wrong turn and passing an accident in mess of on-raps before getting onto the Pony Express Bridge and crossing into Kansas. Finally, I was in the land of small spurs off the highway.

I delivered the innoculant to a grower in Robinson, Kansas, a hundeds-something town only a couple of miles from US 36. I dropped it off at 6, and by the time I was headed back to the highway, it was pitch black. Normally, I hate night driving, but at this point in the day, I could surprisingly bear it. I made hay down US 36, opting not to take the Google Maps-recommended rout of US 75 through Auburn and Nebraska City, and instead using US 77 through Beatrice. It may have taken more time, but the difference to me was negligible, given that I would not have to drive through south Lincoln.

In my final hours driving back, I kept one goal clear in my head: if I get back by 10, there would be a replay of PTI at 10:30. I made that goal.

End Day...

End Day…

Apple Turnovers

A few weeks ago, I realized that I needed to use up the apples I had in my freezer. They were not cut the right way to make into filing for kolaches, so I decided to make them into apple turnovers. Of course, first this required finding a recipe for turnovers. And thawing the apples.

The Filling

The Filling

And yeah, adding brown sugar and decent cinnamon.

I found a pie crust recipe online that used Crisco. I’m not a fan of any recipe where you have to cut butter into a flour mixture. I made only a small amount of dough, only enough to see that it would work and it was enough for four turnovers. I had to stretch the dough, but I used all of the apples and filings.



Mercifully, only one had an opening big enough to allow the juice to leak out onto the pan. The turnovers themselves were a bit bland, but had a still small preservation of apple taste. I’d try them again; even though it felt like a lot of work, it wasn’t that bad.

Snack Time

Snack Time

The Quickly-Expiring Phones

My Christmas present this year was a new iPhone, the first one I’ve ever owned. I loved taking it out of the box, setting it up, and finally having an electronic device that runs fast. My only regret is how soon it will be obsolete, compared to the other phones I’ve.

I bought my first phone sometime when I was in college, and kept it for about four years. It was one of those cheap, Virgin mobile pay-as-you-go plans where it’d buy twenty dollars worth of minutes whenever I needed more. Sometimes I’d need new minutes in a month, more often two or three.

My next phone I bought in 2007, and I kept that phone for four years. I loved the wallpapers I had on that phone: the front wall paper was in Memorial Stadium, the picture of a Husker team kickoff huddle on the field against Iowa State, right after they’d scored a touchdown. The inner wallpaper photo was Memorial Stadium from the east, as I was passing the stadium on the I-180 early in the morning. It was a great phone, but it didn’t have a texting keyboard, and once everyone I knew started texting, I needed a new phone. (I even had a friendship which dissolved, in part, because I wasn’t able to text back at the rate the other person did.) Still, I was patient and upgraded phones at the proper time.

The next phone I acquired in the spring of 2011, and I didn’t want it to do that much. I was used to iPod touches, and I was okay with being detached at certain points. The phone, even with its spotty data coverage, did me well throughout two and a half years. But then my Kindle Fire staring running slow, and it is barely year old, prompting me to ask my dad for a new phone for Christmas. It was impulsive of me, but hey, I was just simplifying gift giving for my parents.

I would have been happy keeping my old phone for another six months or a year because of the natural rhythm that develops when you keep your phone for a while. You place certain memories, certain conversations and places with the phone you had at the time. At two years, a phone becomes as disposable as the soap in your bathroom, all because there’s a new phone to be sold to keep the economy going. Like everything else in life, it fades quickly.


Too Soon Gone…


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