Shawn's tweets

Eulogy for Dad, Chuck Plank: 1937-2013

Dad never seemed to know how to be pessimistic in the face of keeping a farm machine dealership in business during the farm crises of the 70s and 80s or in the face of a cancer diagnosis in May. He died July 24. My eulogy for Dad: Chuck Plank, 1937-2013. 

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Twenty years later: Taking pride in our newspaper's tribute

When my old friend and colleague called to remind me of a special section we did 20 years ago in tribute to the life of fallen basketball star Chris Street, it brought back memories and made me realize, all these years later, what a great thing we did. And though it was a great section, the paper itself didn't have one anymore. Fortunately, I did. 

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Moving pictures

Three short personal films created over the years now appear on the website’s Video tab. The movies, featuring still photos accompanied by music, celebrate the life stories of a couple of family members upon high school graduations and a couple of beloved, but inevitably dead cats.

Click here to see the movies



Are you now or have you ever been a columnist? (Well, yes, I was ... but it was a long time ago)

A poem on farm market reports, thoughts on the use of profanity as a productivity tool, pondering generational labels, and trying to figure out why birds were trying to kill me. These were a few topics of a weekly column I wrote for just over five years. Though I wrote upwards of 250 of them, I mercifully only share (or inflict upon you) 20 of the columns here and reflect back—way back—to the days when I wrote them.

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Column highlights:

• An ode to farm market reports

• Is it apropos to make English official?

• Lessons learned from birds that tried to kill me

• Too young to be a baby boomer, too old to be a Gen-Xer

• Wavering over flag burning law

See all columns 


Reclaiming September 11 as a normal day: Calling event “9/11” has unfairly besmirched a date that happens to be my birthday

On this, the 11th anniversary of 9/11, I want to begin the process to reclaim the day of September 11 as a normal day again. Don’t get me wrong. What happened that day in 2001 was terrible and should not be forgotten or downplayed. I would just prefer that what happened not be so firmly attached to and defined by the date it happened. It is almost as if the numbers that make up the date themselves have become evil. It is almost as if the numbers 9/11 have replaced in our mind the horrible events of the day. It is almost as if it was the numbers themselves that did it to us.

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Joy & frustration (mostly frustration) in upgrading Apple Macs to Lion, iCloud

As a June 30 deadline nears to update my Apple Macs to Lion and iCloud, I've spent hours converting old files to make sure they will still be accessible in the modern system—many would not have been if not for my intervention. This has provided me great opportunity to relive the past, but it's largely been a frustrating and confusing time that could have been spent doing just about anything else. If computers can be made easier to use, why can't they be made more easily backwards compatible?


Compiling songs about Iowa — not ‘Ioway’

A collection of songs by and about the people (not the folks) of Iowa (not Ioway).





My brother: Andy Plank, 1969-2010

Eulogy to my younger brother who was diagnosed with ALS in 2005.



 Grandpa's Hills

A tribute to my maternal grandfather, who lived and farmed on the same southwest Iowa hills most of his 96 years.

 An influential teacher retires 

Comments I made at the retirement ceremony for Sandy Martin, my Columbus Junction, Iowa, high school English teacher, newspaper advisor, yearbook advisor, speech and drama coach, who gave me confidence I could do stuff.

 My Ode to Dad Upon Selling the Shop

A poem for my dad, Chuck Plank, who sold his farm implement business after nearly 50 years in business.