Friday, October 19, 2012

Homecoming festivities integrate Twitter, Instagram to appeal to tech-savvy students

Central Michigan University sophomore Mackenzie Guest takes a photo of her Larzelere Hall teammates doing a pose from the photo checklist during the Gold Rush scavenger hunt on Tuesday evening. The photos were sent via Instagram for scoring.

Central Michigan University sophomore Mackenzie Guest, left, and freshman Natalie Scalabrino, right, anxiously
browse the list of things to photograph Oct. 16 during the 60-minute Gold Rush event. Photos were sent via
Instagram for scoring by the event coordinators.
As much as other industries that have looked to try the internet and its immediacy for delivering information, so has the operating of homecoming activities and events.

At Central Michigan University, the shift towards internet-based activity has not only become prevalent, but also essential to appeal to a generation of students affixed to absorbing information held online.

As C.M.U.'s homecoming week got underway this week, numerous events have been exacerbated by the services of instant information communications. During these events, like the well-known C.M.U. gold medallion hunt, a need has developed among competitors to communicate on an immediate basis to try and gain an edge over opponents.

Gold Rush event coordinator Will Damian, left, checks for incoming Instagram photos from the Gold Rush scavenger
hunt with Megan Ellinger, center, and Kelly Wright.
Meredith Vedder, center, waits for the final photo of the hour-long competition with her teammates.
The internet has also become a forum with which events have been run. In the first-ever 'Gold Rush' event at C.M.U., the structure of the game was to work on a checklist that gave clues about where teams had to go to take certain photos, which were sent via Instagram, the photo-sharing social media platform.

"I had a lot of people come up to me and say that this was one of the best homecoming events they had ever gone to," said Will Damian, a C.M.U. senior and event coordinator for Gold Rush. "It just warmed my heart. I'm really happy with it and I think a lot of other people are, too."

Integrating social media and the internet has been an ongoing effort by C.M.U. to make events appealing to students. Damon Brown, assistant director for the Office of Student Life, said the medallion hunt has been integrated with the internet for several years. The hunt is a clue-fed scavenger hunt for a medallion that results in points for the C.M.U. homecoming Maroon Cup. The goal of the homecoming activities is to connect students with each other and to the university.

"It's creative. We're trying to find new ways of doing things," Mr. Brown said. "Social media – everyone's using it – so it's a great way to connect and allow them to be a part of the homecoming event in an avenue that they're used to using."

It is a national movement towards disseminating homecoming on the web. The University of Delaware notified its students and alumni that they can use a "#UDHC" hashtag on Twitter for sharing their experiences during homecoming week. The Gold Rush event is an example of a rejuvenated attempt at connecting to a college generation that predominantly uses social media more so than others. 

"Will just kind-of came up with a good idea with Instagram and with locations and being able to use that as a means of having people spread out and not still being able to track everything that they were sending in," said Julia Moerman, program associate for the C.M.U. Office of Student Life.

Ms. Moerman said one of the objectives of aiming for students on social media was to increase attendance for the events, which has so far been successful. During the medallion hunt, groups of students from different residence halls gather their laptops and set up a headquarters in the residence hall lobby while others go out with cell phones or walkie-talkies and wait for instruction as the headquarters attempts to solve the clues about the medallion's location. Mr. Brown has made an effort to send the clues via Twitter as well as on the Office of Student Life website.

"That's the part that we like about it is the fact it gets people connected, and that's really what we're trying to do is connect students to each other, to offices, to services and more importantly, connect them to C.M.U. If we get them connected, they're probably going to stay here," Mr. Brown said. "At the end of the day, that's what we're really hoping is they come here, get connected, participate and graduate."
   Will Damian, center, tallies the final scores after the Instagram-based Gold Rush scavenger hunt at C.M.U.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

No longer campaigning, Herman Cain contributes to Republicans

Herman Cain, a former Republican presidential candidate, speaks to an audience at CMU on
Sept. 25, 2012.
Herman Cain
In his deep, rumbly Southern baritone voice, Herman Cain asks me, "What part of Michigan are we in, here?"

I stop shooting photos of him. I point on my hand, representing lower Michigan, where Mount Pleasant would appear on a map.

"Ah, okay."

The former Republican presidential candidate barely garnered a crowd at Plachta Auditorium in Central Michigan University's Warriner Hall. Central Michigan Life reported that an estimated 300 people attended Cain's speech, which lasted for about a hour.

The same number of people were reported to have attended CMU president George Ross' State of the University Address Sept. 13.

“The economy sucks,” Mr. Cain said to the audience. “We have the ability. Our (gross domestic product) … is one-fourth of the world’s GDP. If you get the GDP growing faster, it will be better for us, and it will be better for the rest of the world.”

The decline of Herman Cain's prominence as not only a prominent candidate for presidency but respect for his political views, has been realized in the past year. As allegations surfaced and surrounded Mr. Cain at a time when his candidacy was seriously vetted by politicians and voters and led President Barack Obama briefly in polls, his campaign stumbled.

Mr. Cain could do nothing but stumble on out of the campaign race to become the next president. In an interview with media after his speech, he signified a degree of importance with which the Republican party regards him. Mr. Cain is on tour, the College Truth Tour. In a seemingly experimental ploy to win young votes and generate conversation among young voters, the tour not only involves the political rhetoric, but musical notes. The band Quietdrive performed before and after Mr. Cain's speech.

Then, when Republicans have a chance, they ask Mr. Cain to be their eyes and ears.

"Mr. Romney and I have met several times," Mr. Cain said. "Each time he asks me, 'What are you seeing out there? What are people saying?'"

It wasn't only left for the professional politicians to venture into the merky waters that the sexual allegations against Mr. Cain have created. None of the allegations have been proven. The CMU chapters of College Republicans and College Democrats debated the virtues of inviting Mr. Cain to speak on campus.

“I think it is disgraceful that the College Republicans would invite a sexual predator onto CMU’s campus,” said Alex Middlewood, president of CMU College Democrats about the allegations that led to the disruption of Mr. Cain's candidacy.
Herman Cain, a former Republican presidential candidate, cleans his glasses before speaking at CMU on
Sept. 25, 2012.

Megan Gill, president of CMU College Republicans, defended her decision to invite Mr. Cain to speak on campus.

“Obviously, there has been allegations against Cain which prohibited him from continuing his presidential campaign,” said Gill, a Traverse City senior. “But I think Cain brings a valuable perspective as a business man and a presidential candidate. I think we need to bring important politicians and important speakers to campus, so students can observe for themselves and make their own judgements. We shouldn’t let allegations stop students from forming opinions for themselves.”

Yet applause from the audience during Mr. Cain's speaking points revealed something: he still had opinions that the majority of people could agree with.

"The economy sucks," Mr. Cain said, which was followed with applause.

Mr. Cain also encouraged students to vote and be responsible about making their choice while voting in November.

"Stupid people are ruining America," Mr. Cain said. "Don't be among the stupid."

Monday, September 17, 2012

Civil War Reenactments Bring Color to Black-and-White History

Civil War re-enactor Tim Stebleton relaxes with a plate of dinner sausage, green beans, potatoes, cornbread and a glass of water on Sept. 15, 2012 at Deerfield County Park, near Mount Pleasant, Mich.
Civil War re-enactor Dave Fountain plugs his ear during cannon fire in a reenacted battle on Sept. 15, 2012 at Deerfield County Park near Mount Pleasant, Mich.

John Martin smokes his pipe while dressed in Confederate garb after a Civil War reenactment on
Sept. 15, 2012 at Deerfield County Park near Mount Pleasant, Mich.

Twenty-three thousand people died 150 years ago today in the Battle of Antietam. 

The Civil War was the conflict that, perhaps, defined America more than any time in its history.

People have relived the Battle of Antietam, among others, through today. Even in Russia, the battles, soldiers and uniforms are reproduced.

John Loyd, left, smokes a cigarillo with Kevin Kettlehut before a battle reenactment at Deerfield County 
Park on Sept. 15, 2012.
The rustic, adventure of fighting a battle as some soldiers' families visited them at their base is just one element that sparks curiosity and intrigue within re-enactors and those interested in Civil War history. Families, ever-attracted to the sound of gunfire, picnicked on hills that overlooked the battlefield and watched both sides fight each other to oblivion.

The Civil War was also one of the last battles in the world to be fought using battle line tactics. The technological advancements introduced in the Civil War hinted at a change in future warfare: the rifled barrel, repeater rifle and machine gun. These and other developments introduced changes in the tactical strategies of the way battles were fought. The Franco-Prussian war in 1870-1871 and the Second Boer War (1899-1902) are thought to be the last wars using battle line tactics. This change in technology and tactics, among other changes in America impacted by the war, lead many historians to believe the Civil War to be the first modern war in American history.

Civil War reenactments preserve the vivid history of tactics, technology and lifestyles that have been obsolete for generations. The reenactments, in a sense, create a portal between the late 19th Century world to the world of immediately available information and general ease of living.
Arnie White, center, looks into the crowd after a Civil War reenactment at Deerfield County Park
near Mount Pleasant, Mich. on Sept. 15, 2012.

Apart from technological developments changing the nature of warfare were other developments that changed the future of industries, especially in medicine. Journalism was forever changed with the development of the inverted pyramid the method of presenting most important news at the beginning of news articles and broadcasts. Civil War journalists covering the war worked with shoddy electrical connections as battlefields between their telegraph post and news headquarters were bombarded with artillery. Journalists began to deliver the most important facts first in their telegraphs in case of a break in the connection. Consequently, the industry learned it was also the most effective way of presenting news to their readers.

A Civil War encampment at Deerfield Nature Park six miles west of Mount Pleasant, Mich. presented a chance for locals to question the details of Civil War life, both as a civilian and soldier on Sept. 15 and 16. Visitors to the encampment of authentic tents and equipment asked questions regarding anything from culture to card games of the time period. Apart from the history, re-enactors live history for simple reasons.

"I enjoy the camping and the night life," said re-enactor Tony Osterburg, a 17-year infantryman in the 2nd Kentucky Infantry Regiment. "Once my wife and I picked up the equipment and started doing this, we haven't looked back."

Osterburg served in the Gulf War and upon leaving the military, he longed for the military life. Even if its culture, clothing, weaponry and battle tactics were 150 years old.

"Everybody has a lot of reasons and purposes I'm sure," Mr. Osterburg said. "Not the same as mine, but I missed the flare of the military. We gave our modern equipment to our kids, the Coleman stoves, tents, all that. It all went to them.”

Mr. Osterburg also does reenactments of battles from the French and Indian War, the War of 1812 and World War II. He prefers Civil War reenactments.

"The Civil War defined us as a nation, as a character, who we are now," Mr. Osterburg said.

Confederate Capt. Jim Phillips looks back at his men near the end of a battle reenactment at Deerfield County Park near Mount Pleasant, Mich. on Sept. 15, 2012.
Debbie Phillips, a Civil War era re-enactor reflected in the mirror, looks out at the Civil War encampment at Deerfield County Park near Mount Pleasant, Mich. on Sept. 15, 2012.

Chandler Fountain, center, fires his rifle at Union soldiers during a battle reenactment in Deerfield County Park near Mount Pleasant, Mich. on Sept. 15, 2012.

Monday, August 20, 2012

UPDATED: Michigan's Only State Fair, In Vivid Moments

A rainbow bends across Escanaba, Mich. after an evening rain on Aug. 15 while rides continue during the U.P. State Fair.

Nicole Rutherford, 17, rides her 10-year-old horse Angel Lou in the arena on Aug. 14 in the U.P. State Fairgrounds in Escanaba, Mich.
James Young, Eli Young Band lead guitarist, plays before a large
crowd at the U.P. State Fair in Escanaba, Mich. on Aug. 14, 2012.

The smell of deep fried dough and sugar wafts through the air with the slight breeze. A thunderous roar of machinery is followed with deathly screams. Upbeat organ music echoes eerily through the rows of buildings, tents and campers. The sun feels warm on the skin.

They are some of the senses of the Upper Peninsula State Fair in Escanaba, Mich., where thousands of people come annually for the thrills, food and entertainment. It is considered Michigan's only state fair.

The fair was $1,500 short of last year's revenue, according to U.P. State Fair officials.

“We didn't quite hit our expectations and it's primarily due to the weather on Thursday and on Saturday,” said Vickie Micheau, Executive Director of the Delta County Chamber of Commerce in an interview with WLUC TV-6. “And of course, Saturday is probably the highest day of interest. So it was a little bit disappointing of course."

Micheau said the 2012 fair reached 98 percent financial expectations.

During the course of the fair, there were concerts, live animal births, thrills and spectacles. A team of trampoline acrobats bounced as high as 20 feet. Bands such as the Eli Young Band, Tesla and Thompson Square played before large crowds in the grandstand in the U.P. State Fairgrounds.

Live animal births happened in the Miracle of Life building where spectators saw cows, sheep and pigs give birth. There were also horse shows featuring barrel racing and other races. People showing their livestock participated in auctions and traded advice and stories about farming.

A rustic village with old-style storefronts was occupied with a quilt maker, blacksmith, barber, cornmeal mill, a small sawmill and ice cream shop. The storefronts overlook a square with a tall windmill in the center. The smell of fresh-cut wood blew around this village as volunteers sawed logs with a saw running off of a 1900 train engine, fed by a eight-inch-wide belt. The boards are later sold.

The Department of Natural Resources' Pocket Park in the northwest section of the fairgrounds features a pond in the shape of Michigan's Upper Peninsula and 6,000 hybrid bluegills for people of all ages to catch and release.

A steady stream of lines filled the fairgrounds for one of the most popular features of the fair each year: the food. Various stands featured a range of food from teriyaki chicken to italian sausages, onion blooms, burgers, barbecue sandwiches and elephant ears.

A late-morning rain and short afternoon rain on Aug. 15 slowed activity in the fair, but lines lengthened shortly after and rides filled up as a rainbow bent across the downtown district of Escanaba.

Marianne Seehafer works on a drawing of a dog in her display in the Ruth Butler Building during the U.P. State Fair in Escanaba, Mich. on Aug. 16, 2012.
Douglas Quaak walks his 10-year-old llama-alpaca hybrid, Sweet Pea, in the U.P. State Fairgrounds in Escanaba, Mich. on Aug. 15, 2012.
A crowd watches the Eli Young Band perform in front of the grandstand at the U.P. State Fair in Escanaba, Mich. on Aug. 14, 2012.

Sawmill volunteers work to feed the belt back onto a 1900 train engine, which is used to power the saw.
Thompson Square lead singer Shawna Thompson points at fans in the crowd waving their arms during a song at the U.P. State Fair in Escanaba, Mich. on Aug. 15, 2012.
A day-old lamb curiously looks into the camera.
Horses rest between shows throughout the day on Aug. 16 at the U.P. State Fair in Escanaba, Mich.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Visuals of Night

“The night sky lies so sprent with stars that there is scarcely space of black at all and they fall all night in bitter arcs and it is so that their numbers are no less.” 

 Cormac McCarthyBlood Meridian
A satellite streaks through the night sky in a 30-second exposure.

The night sky above my home. The sodium lights in downtown Ontonagon glow orange and also reflect in the clouds.

Passing cars on the highway create exotic light on the trees.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

MEMORIAL DAY: Burdens, honors and brotherhoods

Steve Robertson

Above: Changing of the guard. Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Arlington National Cemetery. Washington, D.C.

Children kneel in front of a World War II veterans' memorial at Lake View Cemetery near Calumet, Mich. on May 28, 2012.

Members of the Marine Corps League Keweenaw Chapter 1016 rehearse the rifle salute before a Memorial Day service at Forest Hills Cemetery in Houghton, Mich.

Marine Corps League member Bob Botkins grabs a cord on the United States Marine Corps
flag while setting it up before a Memorial Day service at Forest Hills Cemetery in Houghton,

Every war veteran ceremony that Frank Steiner IV remembers, an eagle has flown over.

"It's amazing," Mr. Steiner said. "It's a spiritual thing, you know?"

Mr. Steiner is a member of the Marine Corps League, Keweenaw 1016 chapter. He honors memorial services and ceremonies with fellow Marine Corps. League members at veteran memorials and funerals, including the Memorial Day burial ceremony of a Korean War soldier who was previously declared MIA for 61 years.

On Wednesday, Mr. Steiner traveled to Houghton to honor the original date of Memorial Day, May 30 at Hancock County Veterans Memorial Park. There were veterans of wars from the Korean War to the current war in Afghanistan.

   Frank Steiner IV talks with Joe Tormala before the May 30 Memorial Day services at
   Hancock County Veterans Memorial Park in Houghton, Mich.
The veterans trade stories about their deployments and trade advice about navigating a variety of veteran service programs for health and wellness issues. While the day is meaningful to veterans in honoring their fallen comrades, it also aggravates bad memories that they have worked through their lives since to get past. The veterans relive a sense of the comraderie that they experienced in their old units.

Korean War veteran James Moehrke said he vividly remembers his role in the war. He was in the 19th Ordinance Direct Support and participated in Operation Glory, recovering dead soldiers from battlefields, and Operation Big Switch, a mass exchange of prisoners of war.

"We had to go out and get the corpses off the field," Mr. Moehrke said. "And boy did they reak. Oh, boy. Did you ever hear of the Black Death over there? The rats would feed on the corpses and the mosquitos would bite the rats. Then the mosquitos bit you and if you had contact with this virus, you had about 10 days to live. There weren't many people who made it past 10 days."

The Marine Corps League, like other veterans associations, rotate duties between members for each ceremony. The ceremony honored a plaque commemorating veterans of the global war on terrorism, including the Iraqi War.

   Veterans pick up spent blank rounds after a rifle salute during a Memorial Day service
   at the Hancock County Veterans Memorial Park in Houghton, Mich. on May 30, 2012.
The plaque also listed two names of Copper Country natives who were killed in the war, including staff sergeants Paul Johnson, of Calumet, and Thomas Christensen, of Atlantic Mine.

Mr. Johnson, 29, was a squad leader in Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment in the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, N.C. He was killed Oct. 20, 2003 during a mounted patrol when the vehicle he was in hit an improvised explosive device near Fallujah.

Mr. Christensen, 42, was killed Dec. 25, 2003 when his unit's living area came under a mortar attack in Baquba, Iraq. Also killed in the attack was Staff Sgt. Stephen C. Hattamer, 43, of Gwinn, Mich.

Shortly after the blessing of the plaque, nine M-1 Garands were fired three times in cadence to honor Mr. Christensen and Mr. Johnson, along with all of the fallen soldiers.

Mr. Steiner, among other veterans, celebrated two memorial days in three days. Memorial Day, which used to be called Decoration Day, originated after the American Civil War to commemorate Union soldiers who died. Sometime in the 20th Century, the holiday was extended to memorialize all American soldiers who have died.

Congress enacted the Uniform Monday Holiday Act on June 28, 1968 that rescheduled four holidays, including Memorial Day, to a specified Monday, to create a three-day weekend.

Soon after the ceremony, Mr. Steiner and Iraqi War veteran Joe Tormala — who was wounded in the same attack that killed Mr. Christensen and Mr. Hattamer — spotted a bald eagle soaring.

"Again," Mr. Tormala said, watching the eagle. "It's amazing that this has happened after every ceremony. It really makes you think about what's out there spiritually — you just don't know."

The sighting invoked an experience Mr. Tormala's mother, Mary, had at a Native American Memorial Day service she attended. 

In a service for Spc. Robert Voakes, a 21-year-old Native American soldier who was killed June 4, 2011 in Afghanistan's Laghman province, Mary saw three eagles soaring and circling over the service. Two of the eagles, she said, swooped down and landed in trees near the service, uncharacteristic to their natural behavior of avoiding humans.

"Isn't that amazing?" she said. "It was amazing."
   Marine Corps League Keweenaw Chapter 1016 member Paul Smigowski stands at-ease during a Memorial Day service at Hancock County Veterans Memorial Park in Houghton, Mich. on May 30, 2012.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Pfc. Arthur Leiviska, missing for 61 years, comes home

Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Battisfore details the account of Pfc. Arthur Leiviska, a Korean War soldier who was declared MIA for 61 years, before a Memorial Day burial at Lake View Cemetery near Calumet, Mich.
   A map of Pfc. Leiviska's patrol, in blue, and the area of ambush, in red.
   It was there when Mr. Leiviska was captured and marched to a POW

CALUMET, Mich. -- A tear streams down the cheek of James Moehrke as he stands next to the hole and coffin of his friend, Pfc. Arthur Leiviska, a Korean War soldier who was captured during a patrol in early 1951. Mr. Leiviska's remains were recently identified and transported here for burial.

"We went to the teen center," Moehrke said, pointing towards downtown Calumet a few miles away. "We used to chum around together in our teen years."

He said the burial ceremony of Mr. Leiviska on Memorial Day didn't bring any closure for himself.

James Moehrke.
"It was a war that we fought and we didn't accomplish anything," he said.

Mr. Moehrke said Mr. Leiviska volunteered.

"I knew that he wanted to join the service," he said.

Mr. Moehrke was drafted into the U.S. Army and arrived in Korea six months after Mr. Leiviska was captured. He said he was a part of Operation Glory, a mass exchange of military war dead and Operation Big Switch, a mass exchange of prisoners of war.

Mr. Moehrke said that because his papers were lost in Seoul, now South Korea's capital, he overstayed his deployment by 38 days.

Mr. Leiviska was officially declared missing on January 21, 1951, the day after a patrol he was a part of was attacked by elements of the North Korea People's Army, according to a Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command report on Mr. Leiviska.

Mr. Leiviska was a private at the time. He was in L Company, 3rd Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division. Mr. Leiviska's remains landed at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport just after noon, May 26. On Memorial Day, Leiviska was laid to rest in Lake View Cemetery, six decades after he was officially declared missing in action by the U.S. military.

Mr. Leiviska's unit operated near Yangyon-ni, Republic of Korea. According to the JPAC report, Mr. Leiviska's patrol was two kilometers south of the 3/17 Inf. position when it engaged in a firefight with a "small group of NKPA soldiers with small arms and automatic weapons fire." The patrol advanced further south, to Ping-gol, where it was ambushed by a larger NKPA contingent. The patrol suffered 19 casualties before returning to friendly lines. Three survivors of the patrol reported later in the day at Yangyon-ni that Mr. Leiviska was missing.

The United Nations Command repeatedly requested the NKPA and Chinese People's Volunteer Forces to provide lists of American and allied servicemen held in their custody throughout the war. Mr. Leiviska was not on any prisoner of war list given by the NKPA or CPVF.

It was later found that Mr. Leiviska was captured and transported to the Suan Bean Prisoner of War camp complex in what is now the North Hwanghae Province, about 40 miles southeast of North Korea's capital, Pyongyang. According to the report, Mr. Leiviska died on April 20, 1951 and was buried there. He was 18 years old.

"It has been 60 years since he went missing in action," said Melissa Huuki, whose mother was Mr. Leiviska's sister. "I am at peace knowing he is back home to rest in peace where he belongs."

According to the U.S. Department of Defense, more than 7,900 Korean War soldiers are still unaccounted for. In total, nearly 390,000 people went missing during the war.

The Korean War was a full-scale military conflict that lasted for 3 years, 32 days. Since no peace treaty was signed along with the cease-fire agreement, the last 58 years have been regarded by some as a low-level war. Tensions between North and South Korea have come to light in the recent past.

Mrs. Huuki expressed her family's gratitude for finally receiving closure about her uncle.

"We heard about the positive match a week before Christmas, 2011," she said. "I wish my mother were here to celebrate with us."
The U.S. Army Honor Guard salutes the flag representing Pfc. Arthur Leiviska before presenting it to his family during his Memorial Day burial ceremony.