Walking CliffsNotes

I think I might be working too hard or something, because my professional life is beginning to seep into my personal life. It’s like a crossover episode where characters from two different television shows mingle, like they did on Happy Days and Mork & Mindy (or Family Guy and The Simpsons if my first reference went over your head, you Millennial, you).

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Case in point: last week I wrote a series of articles about this big construction project in Rapid City. Then, over the weekend, Tara and I drove past the job site and I launched into this long discourse about how the contractor took a 3,000-foot hose, filled it with glycol, heated it to 180 degrees, and covered it with blankets to act as a ground warmer and prevent frost when the dirt contractor was ready to come in and backfill, and by the way, they’re using 6,000 tons of engineered fill to aid in compaction so the sub-grade, concrete, and steel won’t settle.

Her eyes began to glass over. Hell, mine did, too. I know diddly-squat about construction, yet there I was, riffing on grade beams and pile caps like a seasoned foreman who grew up around backhoes and excavators. My only prior experience involved Tonka trucks, so you could say my knowledge has increased in spades (tools comprised of a long handle and blade, primarily used for digging).

See what I mean?

I’m like a walking encyclopedia these days, albeit an extremely abridged version. More like a walking CliffsNotes. I know a little bit about a lot of things, but I’m an expert on very few. And it’s mostly useless knowledge when you think about it. I can’t imagine a real-life scenario in which my limited understanding of engineered fill will ever impress anybody or come in handy.

The same thing happened when I worked for my previous employer, the medical consulting company in Washington that I still freelance for. I acquired all this knowledge about audiology, yet only once did I use it for practical purposes: I faked being a doctor at a meet-up event and gave the mom of a newborn tips about protecting her baby’s ears from noise at high school football games. Don’t worry, it was legit advice! I kept up the charade for a solid 90 minutes and everybody left fully believing I was an audiologist. Luckily, they didn’t follow me into the parking lot; the jig would have been up once they saw me climbing behind the wheel of a Hyundai instead of a Mercedes.

I suppose I might be halfway decent at trivia, but only if the topics are very narrow and focus on things like soils testing and auditory canals.

And crossover episodes of ’70s sitcoms.


I am fortunate to be within walking distance of the Dahl Arts Center, a free gallery with rotating displays. Quite literally, as evidenced by one of the current exhibits called 51 Spheres/51 Years, a collection of Termespheres® created by local Spearfish artist Dick Termes over the past…you guessed it…five decades.

Termespheres are essentially paintings that function as optical illusions; his website describes them as “an inside-out view of the total physical world around you on the outside surface of a hanging and rotating sphere. If you were on the inside of this sphere, this painted image around you would seem normal, but it is read from the outside. From any point when you look at the spherical paintings, the image reads correctly. Termespheres capture the up, down and all around visual world from one revolving point in space.” They’re really cool and each one is unique. My company recently published a profile of the artist and his creations. It’s pretty interesting reading.

Even more interesting is seeing the Termespheres in person.

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If you’re thinking about checking the exhibit out yourself, you’d better hurry: tomorrow is the last day.

But also, tomorrow might not be the best travel day. After a two-week stretch of warm springlike weather that finally melted every last trace of snow in town, winter is coming back with a vengeance tonight. They’re predicting anywhere from 3-7″ of snow in Rapid City and more in the Black Hills.

We’re planning a trip to Custer State Park, but I guess we’ll see how bad the roads are before venturing out.

21 Comments on “Walking CliffsNotes

  1. You have museums open?! My city is beginning to hunker down and brace for COVID-19. Every event is canceled (as it should be) except for work (despite the fact that my husband in another building test positive) and school (which will up infection rates exponentially, they are kidding themselves if they don’t think multiple kids are carriers at this point).

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    • We do. The effects haven’t been as dramatic here. I guess that’s a benefit to living in a sparsely populated state…I knew moving here would pay off for us someday! We also have tickets to a concert next weekend in Deadwood, though I wouldn’t at all be surprised if that ends up cancelled.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Termespheres are cool. I like them, having never seen anything like them elsewhere.

    And as for your opening paragraph, let me say: “Nanu, Nanu! Mork calling Orson…”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This post had me LOLing! Tonka Trucks! Too funny. I do love how we can become ‘experts’ on a vast variety of topics that are of little use. Interestingly, my husband was giving me all sorts of construction information recently, after he did a tour of an apartment building by a developer that his company is using. Mind you, he’s only involved in the legal aspect, so it was a bit odd to hear him tell me how apartments are painted and finished one floor at a time, while construction is still ongoing above. Who knew?

    Those spheres are really neat. I love that you, Ron, and I wrote different art posts all on the same day. Hope your weekend is not affected by the weather or #Coronapanic!

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    • Ha…that’s great! I can only access your blog from home (well, I could do so at work, but that would require switching Google accounts and then switching back and logging into all my work-related stuff, which is more hassle than it’s worth). Can’t wait to read yours this weekend. We won’t be too affected: coronavirus and winter storm notwithstanding, we’re headed out for sushi tonight!

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  4. Cool art work. It’s s great reminder that people, also, can be looking at the same thing but have an entirely different perspective. How much more peaceful our world would be if we all stepped back and looked at everybody’s pictures as part of the big round universe.

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  5. Mark, love that photo of Henry Winkler and Robin Williams. Those two shows were freaking fabulous! And I also remember CliffsNotes. Do they even print those anymore?

    Love your pics of the spheres. They are so AWESOME!

    Have a terrific weekend, my friend. And please send me some of that colder weather you’ll be getting because it’s been hotter than hell here. Today is was over 70. Gross me out and gag me with a spoon!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have no idea if they still make CliffsNotes. The last time I saw them was in my college bookstore, and that was…too many years ago to admit out loud!

      We got lots of snow and cold Friday night and Saturday. Hope your weather cools down too. Take care and stay safe!

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  6. Tonka Trucks. Those were the days.
    My parents are retired civil engineers. I can barely math and have limited spacial ability, but I did absorb stuff about engineering. Gross.
    The art is fabulous. I really like that, frequent rotations of exhibits. I really like that.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. It’s refreshing to see a blog post that doesn’t mention the virus. Are you largely unaffected up there? It’s becoming a zombie apocalypse down here. My 12 year old said she’d be jealous if this happened when I was a kid instead of her. She finds it exciting. I’m glad for her, I guess? Anyway, fun about the weird knowledge. Also, I’m perplexed by the Fonzi/Mork pic. You’d think I would’ve seen that episode, but I have no memory of it. Did Fonzi go to Mork, or the other way around? THIS is what will keep me up at night.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Don’t get too excited, because I’m working on a post addressing that topic now, lol. But I’m not going to turn the whole blog into a virus play-by-play. It’s a prelude to our big adventure yesterday.

      We aren’t as affected here (yet). There are nine cases statewide. Everything is still open (except our schools), though most events are being cancelled and…yes…it’s impossible to find toilet paper.

      Mork’s guest appearance on “Happy Days” was the inspiration for the comedy spinoff. That episode was a big hit, so the producers said, hmm…maybe we can make a whole show about this guy. And the rest, as they say, is history.

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      • Interesting! About the last paragraph. The rest of your response, meh. 😉 Although I look fwd to hearing about your big adventure yesterday.

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