Thursday, May 31, 2007

Dells River Walk

Although we had some showers, it turned into a beautiful afternoon. It was too nice to just stay in, so after dinner we went into the Dells and strolled along the River Walk. It was a great evening for it, except that the sun was right in our faces part of the way. Now that the leaves are all out, the river banks look prettier, but the view is blocked from parts of the walk. There is a restaurant bar overlooking it all and they were having a cookout with a LOUD live band. Not exactly back to the silence of nature... I gathered that a birthday party and a graduation party were going on.

A guy named Dave Riggs does caricatures in downtown Wisconsin Dells and a week or so back we watched him at work. Tom has been teasing me to get one "for yore mama", so I thought I'd get it over with while there were no crowds to gawk and snicker. Tom did plenty of both. Dave asked me, "Have you ever been made fun of... er, sketched before?" "Yes to the first," I said, "no to the second." The end result is amusing in the way that caricatures are meant to be. If I can figure out how to scan it (it is 11"x14"), I will post a picture here for all to see. How I get it to Whitehouse will be another question.

Saw the crane at the pond and a doe leaping into the woods on the way into town. Dragonflies are filling the skies, taking care of the mosquitoes I hope. And I found another tick in the middle of the bathroom floor. The bugs are certainly back. That's about all for the critter report.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

A Ruckus and some cannas

I had another fairly quiet day at the office. Just before noon, Joe realized that we had a minor crisis that required a letter going out to a judge posthaste (if the USPS does post haste anymore), with copies to two other attorneys and to the client, and a cover letter to said client. It meant staying a little overtime, but we got it done and he dropped it in the mail on his way to lunch.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, Tom had decided to go to Richland Center to do some more research on purchasing a Ruckus. I fully expected to see one sitting in the garage when I got home, but nary a thing in sight. He said after he took it for a test drive, it just didn't seem like a good fit. So now he is looking around for another toy. To console (or distract) himself, he went over to Home Depot and got some tomatoes and peppers to plant in the garden. Evelyn had sent some cannas for him home with me, and he is trying to figure out where to put them. The first batch of gladiolas is starting to come up, the irises (as you have seen) have been blooming away, the handful of daffodils are past and the day lilies should be coming along. The wildflower patches are filling up with greenery, some of which must be flowers. Once they begin to bloom, we can tell what is just weeds and start pulling those out.

Okay, I'll be honest. Tom can start pulling those out.

He also bought a new weed whacker today, so maybe that's his toy.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Lazy Tuesday

The temperatures went into the mid-80s, and it is a lazy day all around.

Joe stayed home to work on the farm today, and Tom went over to get a truckload of sheep poop. Since Joe wasn't in the office, I had a chance to catch up on a number of pending projects. I got the letters he had left for me to do out, got the office supply orders phoned in, got the merge forms (don't ask) he wanted installed on his computer along with the instructions on how to use them and did a how-to document for looking up court decisions online. Not bad, given how many post-holiday telephone calls I had to deal with at the same time.

On the way home I saw a chipmunk race across the road in front of me, the first I have seen this year. Peggy was complaining about them the other day, but I don't see many of them around here. Or squirrels, for that matter. Peggy says she and Rich decided to put up some squirrel feeding stations when they first bought their house, and now all the squirrels are on that side of the road. I would have thought that Tom's attempt at corn last year might have attracted them, but the raccoons clearly got to the corn first. Tom got nary an ear. Jerry's daughter Hannah took pity on us and brought some corn down from the farm. Jerry had warned Tom that the raccoons would get all the corn, so I guess they were keeping an eye out to see when to step in and help. Of course, Tom refers to the field across the road as Jerry's Restaurant because Jerry's crops seem to attract large numbers of turkeys, deer and other varmints, including the sandhill cranes.

Back home I finally washed the Vibe, and now I see that we will probably have rain tonight and tomorrow, thus muddying up the roads and meaning the car will be all splashed by the time I get to work in the morning.

The local gasoline prices stayed around $3.389 or so over the holiday, except for the stations closest to the interstate, which are always higher. They were pumping at $3.479.

Cassidy brought in a bird -- maybe a cowbird? -- and let it loose to fly around. I managed to corner it into a window ledge with a broom so I could grab it and let it go outside. Cassidy looked thoroughly disgusted and went to her post to pout. She can't figure out what we want. We aren't happy with snakes and mice that crawl, so she thought maybe something that flew would work. There's no satisfying humans!

Monday, May 28, 2007

Wisconsin fair food-on-a-stick

By which I mean the sort of thing you get at local fairs...

All civilized people know about corn dogs on a stick, right? I mean, how else would you eat one of those things without making a mess?

And shish-or-anything-else-kabob makes sense because you cooked it on a stick to start with. Something like chicken satay or chicken teriyaki on a stick is just carrying the idea a step further. When I was at Michigan State, they served something in the cafeteria called city chicken, skewered chunks of pork and veal dipped in bread crumbs and fried like chicken legs. Not my favorite meal, but it made a certain aesthetic sense. It didn't really taste like chicken -- maybe that was why it was city chicken, for city people who didn't know better -- but it did look a bit like a chicken leg.

And I think even cheesecake on a stick is an acceptable idea. It is just a citified up version of a popsicle when all is said and done. Dreamsicle was partway there way back when.

But here in the Midwest, pork chop on a stick seems to me to be carrying a good thing too far. And that's all it is.

A pork chop.

On a stick.

And this is a good thing because...?

Memorial Day Weekend continued

On the way into the Dells for the Memorial Day Parade and program, we saw the albino squirrel again. I had mentioned to Tom not long ago that I had not seen it for a while, but apparently it has survived winter and is doing fine. I understand that there is at least one albino squirrel on the campus at Texas A&M, Justin, so I am not making this up.

Yesterday we saw the fox again, but Tom thinks it is an adolescent male and not a vixen. Since he raised two adolescent boys and had others hanging around the house because he had two adolescent daughters, I will bow to his experienced judgment in this regard.

The small parade was fun, lots of flag-waving little kids with their grandparents and some parents watching from the sidewalks as the veterans, the fire departments, Brownies, Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, kids on patriotically decorated bikes and the local school bands went by. One little girl ran out into the street to grab her fireman father marching by, winning a chorus of "aw-w-w-'s" from the crowd. Tom's cousin Jerry is a member of the Lake Delton Volunteer Fire Department, and he was there, too. Jerry has the farm down the road and hates to put on his dress uniform and march in the parade. We spoke with him a bit before it got started and managed to catch his eye by waving when he went by. In spite of himself, he grinned.

The memorial service was short this year and they didn't read the names of all those who had died the way they did last year. I missed that part. As we were leaving, we ran into one of the women who works with Tom (he would probably say she works against him) on the Stewards of the Dells of the Wisconsin River project. She is getting ready to go to China for a year to teach. She has taught for many years in Korea and had come back for a year to help take care of her aging father and stepmother. Now she is able to go east again, and she will head out sometime this summer. While she and Tom were talking, I noticed that the kids on bikes were having their design efforts judged by one of the veterans. He was handing out dollar bills, and as far as I could tell, everyone got a little something. A good thing or we might have had another major conflict erupting in our midst.

At yesterday's cookout I had my first (and probably last) brat of the year, along with ribs, potato salad, baked beans and rhubarb-and-strawberry pie. Today we are going lazy for the holiday itself. Tom picked up some German potato salad and combo bean salad (I guess that means it is more than three kinds of beans) at a local deli and plans to get KFC to round out the meal (and us).

Meanwhile, yesterday I finished editing what I had of Vinko's dissertation and emailed that to him. I wound up spending over five hours on forty pages, so this could be a time-consuming task before it is all over. I graded the latest paper from one of my students -- this one from New Zealand, I think -- in the Carmelite Studies program at the Washington Theological Union. I have also finished all of the introductions I am writing for the Carmelite's July conference and got that out to Mary. I think that will finish off what I am doing for that project. I have not written intros for a couple of people, but she did not send me any information so maybe they are not on my to-do list.

More anon, if there is any anon worth sharing.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Flower power

Some of the wildflower seeds that Tom put in around the house are sprouting up beautifully, but for some reason, other patches -- planted in the same soil at the same time and getting similar sun and water -- are not doing squat. His plan is to have plants around that are native to the area and will require little attention. But today he decided to give up on the section in front of the house that is not working and went over to Home Depot to get perennials to stick in.

Closer to the house are a bunch of iris plants, some a donation from Peggy across the road and some that he brought from Chicago. Here is what he has to say about those in the photo:
The iris are out this weekend, and I am delighted to discover that a number of the "Ringling Iris" made it back to the farm.

The "Ringling Iris" are an old strain of iris, dating back to the turn of the century or before, which Alf Ringling [of the Ringling Brothers Circus, headquartered in nearby Baraboo] gave my great-grandfather. The "Ringling Iris" are not spectacular, but they mean a lot to me.

My great-grandfather, Nicholas Stein, bred a strain of black Percherons [see photo], and the Ringling Brothers used them as draft horses to pull the circus wagons. He and Alf, an Iris fancier, were friends, and Alf gave him some Iris to plant. At least, that is how the story is told, true or not.

Whether or not the "Ringling Iris" were from Alf's garden, the iris grew in a patch in our front yard, somewhat neglected as flowers tend to be on farms, but a reliable harbinger of summer, opening right around Decoration Day, now known as Memorial Day.

I took a few of the iris south to Chicago when my brother and I sold the farmhouse, and I've been moving them around from house to house since then. I brought a bunch of Iris to this house -- hoping but not certain that I had any of the "Ringling Iris", because the plants were not in bloom when I took them out of the garden -- last year.

And this year, I am delighted to know, at least five of the "Ringling Iris" are home again, a half mile from where they started their journey.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Memorial Day Weekend: Our story so far

1) Traffic was starting to build up when I left the office at noon Friday. When we stopped off at Wal-Mart last night about 9:30 on the way back from Baraboo, it was so crowded we decided to skip it and go back this morning. All the tourists had arrived and moved into their campgrounds or their rented condos and were stocking up for the weekend. From now until after Labor Day, our quiet little semi-burg will be a hotbed of activity and the parking lots will have plates from Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois and the Dakotas almost as much as from Wisconsin.

2)Tom has been doing some pro bono computer work for the Screnocks and Joe offered to give him some compost consisting largely of sheep... predigested organic residue? -- for the yard and garden. Tom said he thought he was working for s___ before, but this was the first time he was actually getting paid in it. Anyway, he went over to get a truckload of that this morning while I put in a couple of hours editing Vinko's dissertation. I completed the editing of the first 41 pages and now have to finish putting the changes into the computer and emailing them to him in Boston. Hope to finish that off by noon tomorrow. (See paragraph 4 below.)

3) We had our official beginning-of-summer dinner tonight. Tom cooked pork chops and corn on the cob. I have never seen people eat as much pork as they do in Wisconsin. I guess it's the German influence. Tom's folks on both sides came over from Germany back in the 1840s. The corn on the cob was the first of the season for us, and I love it. Of course, in deference to my doctor I no longer roll it around in butter but instead pour extra virgin olive oil on it -- not one impure thought among these olives -- and sprinkle liberally with pepper. I need to have my teeth cleaned immediately afterwards. You'd think with all the big gaps between my teeth, nothing would get caught in there, but corn manages to do so.

4) Peggy called this afternoon to invite us to a cookout at their place tomorrow afternoon. Rich's family is coming down, and his mother has taken a great liking to Tom and one of his nieces has taken a shine to me. Peggy finds her in-laws a challenge, and we were first invited over as a buffer when they visited last Thanksgiving. She was delighted to discover that we were a sufficient distraction to invite back. For Thanksgiving I took a traditional green bean casserole, which may be why she assured us we didn't need to bring anything this time.

5) If the weather holds up, Monday morning we will go to the Wisconsin Dells Memorial Day Parade and the program at Bowman Park, which the local paper indicates will include "an invocation by Legion Chaplin, Maurice Delmore Jr., [Michael's note: I assume this is a typo and that Mr. Delmore is the chaplain, not a mustachioed cane-swinging comic] the raising of the flag by Scouts, the National Anthem, Pledge of Allegiance, a musical selection, introductions of Legion Vice Commander Bob Alvin, Legion Auxiliary President Doris Randall and VFW Auxiliary President Angie Warnecke, an address by Gary Cooper, [Michael's note: I assume it is a different Gary Cooper] a musical selection, closing prayer, a tribute to fallen comrades of a minute of silence, the firing squad salute to fallen comrades and Taps." The most touching part of the program last year was the reading of the names of all the local military personnel who died in wars beginning with the Civil War. For all those who died in World War I and after, they included a brief biography. It was the sort of thing that can probably only happen in a small town where many of the families of those who died are still around. (I probably should not mention that one of Tom's ancestors who is buried in the local cemetery was a veteran of the War of Yankee Aggression and served under a certain General Sherman, so I won't.)

Fun in Wisconsin

1) A Cop By Any Other Name: Actor Andy Griffith filed a lawsuit in November demanding that the former William Fenrick change his legal name back from "Andy Griffith," which he admitted he acquired only to help himself get elected sheriff of Grant County, WI. He lost the election. I guess he should have changed his name to "Andy Taylor" , that having been the name of the sheriff of Mayberry. Grant County is in the southwest corner of the state and is the Gideon Bible (in Boscobel, 1899.

2)East meets West in the Midwest:
At St. Cecilia Parish in Wisconsin Dells, Fr. Felix often begins by asking people to greet the people beside them and tell them where they are from. That is because the town itself has a population of under 3,000 but the place is jammed with tourists during the season. They have Masses going on simultaneously in the church and in the school auditorium, and plans are underway for a new church building. Anyway, the last time I did this, the young couple beside me were from Kiev! The town and its surrounding rural area has too small a population to deal with the tourist invasion, so some time ago the local tourist industry began recruiting college-age workers mostly from eastern Europe. Some places even have the staff include their native country on their name tag. So you are likely to find an entire staff at a fast-food place from Ukraine, and the waitress at the fish fry last Friday was named Natasha. They get better wages than would be available at home, I suppose, work on their English and have an experience of the United States to take back with them. I sure hope they get somewhere besides just the Dells, though. Otherwise they will go home thinking this country consists of waterparks, fast-food restaurants, old-time photo shops, fudge purveyors and tasteless t-shirt emporia.

3) Local police see action: The "Police Reports" in the Baraboo News Republic are perhaps what makes the paper worth the fifty cents you have to pay for it. Recent examples:
Tuesday, May 15
1 pm -- A cat was captured in the 900 block of Moore St.
3:48 pm -- The grill of a vehicle was reported stolen in the 500 block of South Blvd.
8:27 pm -- An officer responded to the 700 block of Sixth St. for a dog at large complaint. On arrival, the dog fled from the area. [NB: Michael notes that the last sentence is grammatically incorrect. It should read, "Upon the officer's arrival, the dog fled..." As it stands it means that the dog fled as soon as it arrived.]

Wednesday, May 16
12:22 am -- Report of a dog barking on South Street. The area was patrolled and it is unknown which dog was causing the problem.
8:28 am -- Report of a dog running at large on the 100 block of Jefferson St. The area was patrolled. The dog was not found.
11:45 am -- Funeral traffic was directed on Eighth Street at East Street.
12:25 pm --Check welfare of a subject on the 1000 block of Lincoln Avenue. Formal action was taken.
Now you see why that guy running for sheriff in Grant County wanted to disguise his name.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Critter du jour

After saying goodbye to David and Rebecca this morning (they were returning to Chicago today), I left for work. At the intersection of Berry Road and Birchwood where I turn, I saw what I thought was a reddish dog coming towards me from a small meadow in the Springbrook Golf Resort. As it crossed the road in front of the car -- stopping to stare and vacillate which way to go -- she (I am pretty sure) turned out to be a red fox/vixen that I have seen on a few occasions near the same spot. She decided it would be safer to return to the subdivison rather than go into the woods, I guess, and she headed back that way. Once last year I saw her standing by the side of the road before pouncing across the ditch to grab something in her mouth. With her ears perked up, she looked cute as a bug.

I stopped at Wal-Mart to pick up a prescription on my way home from work at noon. I noticed that, contrary to experience and all expectations, the price of gas has dropped 5 - 6 cents a gallon here right before the holiday weekend. I'm not saying this has anything to do with recent discussions among lawmakers about investigating accusations of price-gouging...

And as I was finishing up lunch, Cassidy came in an dropped another garter snake in the middle of the living room. We may indeed start closing the cat doors and forcing them to come to the door on the deck where we can see what they have in their jaws. Or maybe I can get the fox to stand guard.


The cats are named Sundance and Cassidy, since Tom and Helen somehow had the custom of naming cats for outlaws and dogs for NASCAR champs. But they also have nicknames.

Cassidy is noticeably plumper and this extends all the way to her tail. So Tom calls her Fat Tail, and Sundance is Skinny Tail.

He also calls Sundance Dancer. I call both of them Thundercats, but the name mainly applies to Cassidy who sounds like a baby elephant when she climbs the basement stairs or runs across the living room floor.

This morning Sundance was in even more needy-mode than usual, and everywhere Tom or I went (mainly Tom), she ran over and demanded attention. Tom and Helen say that Sundance was taken from her mother too soon and has never quite adjusted. Although she and Cassidy are from the same litter and look so much alike, Cassidy is the independent one and Sundance likes to be in physical contact with someone. So I decided another name for her is Ubikitty. You know, from ubiquity: existence or apparent existence everywhere at the same time. (Not quite the same as ominpresence, which means being everywhere at all times, not just at the same time.)

Thursday, May 24, 2007


Since I work in a law office, I wear slacks, a dress shirt and tie every day. I lucked out that Tom, having been a high-powered city slicker lawyer all those years, had a ton of ties and when he hit retirement had no intention of ever wearing one again. So I have lots of ties without having had to invest anything.

This morning when I was shredding documents -- we do a lot of that in a law office -- a page slipped behind the shredder. Although I am usually very conscious of the tie when I am around the shredder, this time I just leaned over and the shredder grabbed the tie and began to do its best to destroy it. Luckily I happened to be leaning over right by the electrical outlet and pulled the plug before it had eaten too much tie. I then reversed the shred and was able to get it out. The tie -- probably my favorite, naturally! -- was not totally destroyed. It looks like Sundance or Cassidy decided to paw at it with claws extended. I wore it the rest of the day and, unless I pointed it out, no one seemed to notice But I think this is the end of that lovely tie. (Not green like that hideous one in the photo -- mine is dark blue with very small red dots. Quite classy.)

When I told Evelyn what had happened she asked, "Did your life flash before your eyes?"

"No, but my stupidity did."

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Guests and other friends

Tom's daughter, Rebecca, and her husband, David, are here for a couple of days. Rebecca is a doctoral student in the divinity school at the University of Chicago and David teaches in a Hyde Park Jewish school. They got to relax around the house and go for a leisurely walk today while I got to work another long day at the office. Tom made a great pasta with pesto sauce for dinner and razzleberry pie. Scrumptious and just what I needed after work.

Joe has an all-day trial tomorrow and part of the day was spent preparing some exhibits for that and the rest of the day continuing to play catch-up. There's light at the end of the tunnel, and we hope it's not an oncoming train. He is determined that we will all quit at noon on Friday for a long holiday weekend. I have my fingers crossed.

Today I saw a Ho-Chunk friend I hadn't seen for a while. He is a fairly young man (by my standards, anyway, although he is already a grandfather), and he has cancer. When I first met him the doctors had given him about six months and he has outlived that prediction. But he recently lost 80% of the sight in one eye and is having difficulty adjusting to this new complication. It doesn't look like a good sign.

During dinner I got a call from a friend in Rhode Island (a woman I met when I was living at the nuns in Barrington) this evening, followed shortly by one from a college-age friend in California who is about to move to Texas. His parents moved there some months back, and now he is going, too, down near Katy. I can go for weeks without getting calls from anyone, and in the past week -- partly because of my birthday, of course -- I am getting them all the time.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Travels with Tom

The following is taken from the blog Tom keeps for his family:

I spent the last week traveling to and from John's graduation in Santa Fe. [John is the youngest of Tom and Helen's four kids.]

John did his part, which was to graduate. As he came down the aisle, I said "Congratulations, John ..." and he countered with "Thanks for dropping a hundred and sixty grand ..." to the amusement of the other parents, who laughed, knowing that they all had dropped a hundred and sixty grand, too.

I drove out because I wanted to see the country from the ground for once. I've flown, I think, over every square foot of the country at one time or another on business, but I hadn't experienced it as you can do driving.

The trip was three days out, three days in Santa Fe, two days back....

I took the northern route through Minnesota, South Dakota and Wyoming along I-90 and then down the eastern side of the Rockies along I-25.

I spent Monday driving across the high plains, sometimes called the grasslands.

The grasslands of western high plains are something else. Early descriptions of the grasslands speak of an "ocean" of grass, and I understand, now, why. The distances are immense, and signs of settlement sparse. It is possible to see all the way to the horizon at points without seeing any sign of human habitation or a single tree. No wonder settlers from the east became disoriented....

Tuesday was tourist day.

I spent an hour and a half in the Badlands... I spent the rest of the day working my way through the Black Hills, the Laramie range and southeastern Wyoming, headed to Fort Collins, Colorado.

I didn't think much of the Black Hills, frankly. The Black Hills, for all the mystery surrounding them, "aren't much", as my mother-ex-law might say ... [Tom's mother-ex-law is a native Texan, as is his former wife, actually. Helen didn't grow up in Texas, but Mrs. Anastaplo still has a touch of Texas in her speech.]

Custer State Park, though, was interesting. Custer State Park is south of the Black Hills and has a road through a buffalo range. The road is posted with warnings to stay in your car -- buffalo are dangerous -- and pay attention -- buffalo have no compunction about standing in the middle of the road, knowing that if you hit them, you'll lose. I saw a lot of buffalo, some of them a few feet off the road....

The drive Wednesday down I-25, through the Fort Collins, Denver and Colorado Springs corridor, was a grind. Colorado is not a state I'd recommend. The corridor along the eastern Rockies has overgrown its infrastructure. I-25 is a long traffic jam, and the road isn't kept in decent repair.

Past Colorado Springs, though, things improved, and northern New Mexico was wonderful, as it had always been. I wandered down to Santa Fe through the Sangre de Cristo range, and it is much as it was fifteen years ago, when I vacationed there for a week....

I spent my time in Santa Fe attending to family -- dinner with John, a shopping day with Peter and his girlfriend, Liz, visiting with Helen and her husband Jay, and catching up with Helen's sister Teddy and her husband, David. [Teddy and David live in Austin. More Texans...] All of this was interspersed with John's graduation, and getting him packed up for the summer.

... [I skip over Tom's negative evaluation of Santa Fe.]

The mountains, though, are as beautiful as ever. I walked up into the Santa Fe Natonal Forest in back of St. John's College, and took in the view, high above the city itself. It was worth the three miles of hiking....

I started back Sunday morning, in what can best be described as a marathon, driving I-40 across northern New Mexico, the Texas panhandle, and Oklahoma to I-35, where I headed north to Wichita, and then up through Kansas and Iowa to US 20, and back into Wisconsin at Dubuque.... I came back into Wisconsin along US 151 to Dodgeville, and then up STH 23 through Frank Lloyd Wright country to Reedsburg, where I met Michael for dinner, and it is as gorgeous as always.

As Dorothy said, "Toto, I don't think we are in Kansas any more ..."

John Steinbeck noted, in Travels with Charlie, that Wisconsin was the prettiest state in the Union. Nothing spectacular, mind you, but pleasing to the eye. Thanks be to God.

More bird notes

I saw an article online about parrots living wild in the United States. The question posed was whether this was an urban myth.

We had them in Chicago, although technically they are monk parakeets -- green and about the size of a lovebird. The alley behind St. Thomas Parish had lots of nests -- they like the transformers because it kept them warm in the Midwestern winter, I guess. It was cool to have them around, although it would have been better had they been more colorful and less squawky. We always said they were imitating traffic noise.

The first sighting of Chicago's free-flying monk parakeets dates to 1973. According to local lore, they settled in Hyde Park after escaping from a cage at O'Hare International Airport. Apparently such a group did escape from an airport in New York. Experts suggest that the Hyde Park population more likely sprang from the escape or even intentional release of pet monk parakeets, which, unlike some other small parrots, have poor mimicking skills and high-pitched screams. Adding to the birds' legend, the late Mayor Harold Washington is said to have directed police to protect the colorful creatures that flew outside his apartment overlooking "Parrot Park" at Lake Shore Drive and 53rd Street. (This is only a couple of blocks from where I had my apartment in Chicago.) Hyde Park's monk parakeet population has grown to about 200, with 80 nests perched on power transformers and in the trees of Parrot Park and of Washington Park.

As I was driving home from a long day at the law office -- they asked me to work all day to help catch up with some things -- I was thinking about the parakeets and that I hadn't seen any interesting birds around here lately. When I got home, Tom was sitting on the front porch waiting for his daughter Rebecca and her husband who were coming for a visit. I sat with him for a while and was rewarded by seeing my first hummingbird buzzing around and using the feeder several times. I think it was the male -- Tom says he has seen a male and a female -- but it wasn't as bright as the one in the picture. Still, it was a nice treat under the circumstances.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Sacred Clowns

Because they do not wear masks, the Koshare or Hano Clown are technically not katsinas. However, they play an important role among and integrate with the serious katsina. Like most katsinas they teach lessons and give social commentary with their actions.

The Koshare figures are both sacred and profane. When there are pauses in the kachina dances, they amuse the audience with their inappropriate actions, loud conversations and gluttony. Koshare are also called Gluttons, which is why Koshare dolls are often shown gorging themselves on watermelon. They overdo everything to show you how stupid inappropriate behavior can be.

The Koshari clowns are considered to be the father of the Kachinas. Indications are that the clown belongs to the Underworld and the normal Upper World, and possesses attributes of both worlds, this is why they become the fathers of the Kachinas.

From First People
I first learned about koshare clowns from Tony Hillerman's mystery, Sacred Clowns, set on a pueblo in New Mexico. I was quite taken with the notion of these "holy fools" and the role they play in Native American culture. It is a bit like that of the medieval fool or jester. Because they are clownish and make people laugh, they are able to show the truth in a way that would get others in trouble. They serve as a social conscience in a gentle way.

I had been looking for a koshare doll for some time, and Tom found one while he was in New Mexcio for John's celebration. He brought it back as a second birthday gift. Although I found some images of kachinas by the artist who carved this one, none of them were similar. But I am putting up an image of a koshare to give you an idea. The black and white stripes and the watermelon are typical. The one Tom got is about a foot tall, handcarved from cottonwood with leather and fur trim. If I can get a photo, I will post it later.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Sunday projects, sad news and animals

Today I put in some time on my Carmelite projects.

I sent Vinko fifteen edited pages of his dissertation to see if the format I am using will work. If so, I will send him some more. His English is quite good -- he is Croatian and a professor in Rome -- but he is tripped up by things like the proper usage of "the" and "a/an". It is not always easy to tell him why the way he does it is wrong, either, because proper usage is second nature to native speakers. I remember when I taught English as a second language in Washington, DC that I sometimes had to look up the rules to explain to my students why I did something the way I did. I did it correctly, but I didn't know why. Somehow just saying, "Because that's the way it's done" was not always that helpful. I was amazed to discover that there was a rule that I followed, even when I didn't know I was following it at all.

I also have been working on writing introductions for the speakers at the Carmelite Institutes's conference in Rhode Island this summer. One of the saddest to write is for Andrew J. Bacevich, a professor of history and international relations at Boston University. His area of expertise is war and peace and the list of his publications is more than twelve single-spaced pages. A retired Army lieutenant colonel, a veteran of Vietnam and the first Gulf War, he is a graduate of West Point and taught there for several years. He has been a vocal critic of the war in Iraq. One son was a political aide to Mitt Romney when Romney was Governor of Massachusetts. That twenty-seven year old son, First Lieutenant Andrew J. Bacevich, Jr. joined the Army in 2004 and was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas. He had been serving in Iraq since last October, but he died on Mother's Day, May 13, from wounds suffered in a bomb explosion. That is his photo, and I am sure his Catholic family would appreciate your prayers at this time.

About midafternoon, I decided to get out the house by taking Vinko's dissertation to Starbuck's, get an overpriced cup of coffee and work on it there. When I went to check that all the doors were locked before I left, I saw Cassidy jump up from where she lay on the deck and run over to the side, stand perfectly still and peer out into the edge of the woods. Fearing she had spotted another snake to play with, I looked over and saw a doe. Then behind the doe came a tiny fawn, barely taller than the weeds. They wandered around near the tree line for about five minutes, with Cassidy crouched down behind a post on the deck and staring at them intently the whole time. I don't know if she thought the fawn was small enough for her to attempt or what. At any rate, the doe left and the fawn jumped over weeds to follow her. Then on the way to Starbuck's, I passed two doe grazing along Berry Road.

The house is built over an old deer path, and although we often see tracks, deer don't come close to the house very much. We see lots of deer alongside the road and in the fields across from us, but it is more rare to have them in the yard itself. I wish I had had a camera! I have been thinking of getting a digital one that I can download easily to the computer, but I'm basically too cheap. I'll probably break down before summer's over, though.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

The endless tale of the snake

You may think this is getting old, but trust me, you don't know the half of it.

This evening I went out to water the garden for a while. After that, I came back in to get a broom and sweep the front porch, which is small but everything seems to get blown up there and stay. When I came back out, there was Cassidy with another (the same?) green garden snake by the front door. I picked it up by the tail and tossed it out into the yard. Cassidy trotted off after it, poked it around for a while and then picked it up in her mouth and took it off to a bare spot. I thought she was eating it, but when I walked over later, it seemed intact and had its head held up alertly. It wasn't moving, but who knows? Sundance came over and sniffed at it for a while. I told them they were welcome to eat it but not to bring it back into the house. They gave me that feline "What are you yammering about?" look.

[Time passes.]

I just went out to sweep the garage and as I walked by a window I saw Cassidy trotting towards the garage and -- more ominously -- the cat door. When I went into the garage, she lay in the middle with the snake lying stretched out in front of her. It seemed to be alive but it wasn't moving much. I swept it out onto the drive away from the house and began to sweep the garage. Both cats came and stared at the snake for a while, then lay down and pawed at it. I finally decided to put the thing out of its misery and took a shovel and cut off its head. The cats promptly lost interest.

They're out in the woods again, stalking something to bring in when I least expect it.

If only they'd use their power for good -- like sweeping the garage or turning the sprinklers on and off.

Birthday buzz WITH UPDATES

1) When I talked to Mama and Daddy on the phone, they had been to the cemetery to put flowers on graves. Rusty recently sent me a picture of Tacky's grave, so I am including a photo for those who haven't been to Whitehouse lately.

2) I did go to the library bag sale and picked up a bunch of hardback histories and biographies, mainly for Tom. I still didn't find anything that appealed to me that much, even at the "Take A Bag or A Box Full for a Free Will Donation" price. I was almost home when suddenly an alarm went off in the car. I had put the bag on the passenger's seat and when I made a turn, the weight shifted in such a way that the Vibe decided someone was sitting there without a seat belt buckled. Scared me for a moment, but there were no flashing red lights or grinding gears...

3) Speaking of the Vibe and my aging, yesterday someone drove by in a classic car and for some reason it made me think of Pontiacs. You know, that great old hood ornament! Anyway, my half awake brain got to wondering if they still make Pontiacs. Then it dawned on me: I was driving a Pontiac Vibe even as I wondered. And I thought I was going to have to take care of Mama and Daddy when they start to lose it!

4) Gasoline hit $3.359 here yesterday. I suppose the predicted $4.00 a gallon will come true this summer. Of course, everything is so much more expensive than when I was a kid and dinosaurs roamed the earth. Gasoline wars sometimes put it in the lower twenty-cent range. Cigarettes were thirty-five cents instead of three bucks a pack. The summer Ted and Cynthia got married, I shared a house with Steve Yarbrough, David Lejeune and Other David. Total rent and utilities was $100 and we each had a private room -- such as it was. This is the house that Daddy wouldn't let Mama go inside. Of course, I was working at the bookstore probably still for $1.00 an hour... Mama tells me that the 4+ acres on Southwood Drive in Huntsville that Daddy bought for $450 back in 1956 is now for sale at an asking price of $100,000. Good grief! And that's without a house on it!

5) More birthday related news:
a. Tom's son John graduated from St. John's College in Santa Fe and the crowd called me afterwards to sing Happy Birthday. John's senior essay was "A Glimpse of Heaven: On Love and Humility in the Phaedrus". Yes, it's that kind of school.
b. And I got an email from my Carmelite buddy in Nairobi, Steve Payne: Happy birthday, old man. It's consoling to know I'm still a youthful 56. I confess to being a little slow with the congratulations. Today was graduation day for the Institute of Spirituality and Religious Formation at Tangaza, the first at which I had to perform as Director. It went well enough, but as is always the case at African events, everyone has to give a speech, everything has to be sung or danced. So right now I'm exhausted. (Here there was a big debate over whether the ISRF students, who are only getting diplomas, should wear caps as well as the gowns. The lifers here insisted that the hats are only appropriate for degrees. I told them it didn't make a big difference to me one way or the other, because I've been to nursery school "graduations" in the US where the kids are wearing cap and gowns!)
c. More phone calls: Fr. Joe Wolf, one of my other Iowa friends, called and in the middle of that call, Kristin/Nike called. She wished me a happy 700th birthday and said she remembers when I was young. Who needs nieces, anyway?
d. Just got another e-card, this one from Ted reminding me I am only three away from the big 6-0. And who needs little brothers, either?

Birthday ponies

This Tewa horse figure was my birthday gift from Tom. It is part of a series, "The Trail of Painted Ponies", and was designed in 2004 by Pueblo artist Tom Tapia. He used geometric and animal designs that have served to decorate Cochiti pottery for centuries. The Tewa are an ethnic group of the Pueblo American Indians.

Cool horse!

Now I have to figure out where to put it so the cats won't eat the feathers.

It's the year for e-cards. Mama and Daddy sent one early, because she wanted to make sure it got here. Cynthia sent a funny one from Ted and her.

I even got an e-card for my birthday from Noni Ham (née Blalock). Ted will remember her. Her father was our ophthalmologist and I went with her my senior year -- 39 years ago. Ouch! She married David Ham, a classmate of hers from Huntsville High, and they have a couple of sons. Noni and David got divorced a few years ago, and she lives in Austin and works with special-needs students in the public schools. She faithfully attends the reunions at HHS, and that is where she got my email address a while back. I hear from her occasionally and was thinking about her the other day because it had been a while. At one point it looked like she was going to marry another mutual acquaintance from school, but she hasn't mentioned that for a long time, so I guess it didn't work out.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Fair Friday

Not much to report today. Things were busy at the office -- I was nowhere near caught up when I left, but when I was hired I was told not to expect everything to be done at the end of the day. That is still taking some mental adjustment...

I had a nice lunch with Marty at the Cheese Factory. My black bean burrito was very good and it is a pleasant place. She brought some booklets about her religion, and I listened politely but am not interested.

Another beautiful day. Tomorrow is the Faire on the Square in Baraboo, arts and crafts, the opening day at Circus World, bag day at the library book sale and so on. I have already been through the book sale once, but I didn't find anything that appealed. I may give it another shot. They have great things at the arts and crafts fair, but I prefer to wander through things like that with someone. Tom is an artist, and the house is decorated largely with his paintings and his former wife's pottery. I have encouraged him to consider selling things at one of the fairs. He likes to talk to the exhibitors and get ideas, but he has too many irons in the fire right now to get serious about painting enough things to exhibit anywhere.

Last night my friend Rick called from Iowa. I haven't talked to him for a while and it was good to catch up. If I can get a long weekend I hope to get down there to visit him and some other Iowa friends. I had thought about trying to go this weekend while Tom is away, but I wound up with some other commitments. It is almost a four-hour drive each way, too, and I don't particularly want to have to stay overnight. After a long drive these days, I have learned that I need a full day to recuperate afterwards before heading back to work. Oh, for the days when I would drive with another guy from Michigan State to Texas straight through in twenty-two hours and be ready to go do something when I arrived! Not hardly no more.

Rich and Peggy across the road had a bonfire last night. This is a frequent thing for them. It seems to be a big tradition in Peggy's family, and they have a large stone-ringed fire pit in front of their house. The first time we went over for one they showed us how throwing in old burnt-out Christmas-tree-lights makes for wild colors as the wires melt and burn. A little weird...

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Yada, yada, yada

Tom is an early riser. I, on the other hand, think if God had wanted us to wake up early he would not have created stop buttons for alarm clocks. Tom lets on like I sleep until noon, but I am usually up before my alarm sounds at 7:00. When I worked at Retreats International in Chicago, I was out of bed, dressed and waiting for a bus by 6:15. Now I have a more leisurely start to my day.


At 5:30 this morning Sundance decided it was time for me to get up, so she poked her cold nose in my face for a while and then began to lick my hand. According to my computer it was 36 degrees out. But I was awake.

My friend Chris Kimball came through his fifteen-hour surgery fine on Tuesday. Thank you if you said a prayer for him. The doctor thinks they got all the cancer and now he will have three weeks in recuperation in the hospital and be undergoing chemo.

Tom arrived safely in Santa Fe. John's graduation is on Saturday, and Helen (Tom's ex) will fly in with her husband Friday. Tom plans to pack John's stuff in the truck (which he insists is pronounced trawk) and take off on Sunday morning. With luck he will be back Tuesday evening, but it may be Wednesday. His daughter Rebecca and her husband David have a few days off for Pentecost and hope to be up to visit Tuesday to Friday. He's going to be familied-out before it's all over, I suspect.

One of our more interesting friends called and left a message that she wants to take me out to dinner (dutch treat) at a local vegetarian restaurant called the Cheese Factory. It is run by a quasi-Christian crowd called the Endeavor Academy, (heretical? schismatic?) folks connected to A Course in Miracles. (Click on that link for more info.) We keep running into people associated with the Academy. Generally very nice people but their spirituality is ... different. Anyway, Marty knows Tom is out of town and that I have never eaten at the Factory. I have to call her back and try to set something up. For a look at the menu, click here.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Beep, beep! Beep, beep! The horn went beep, beep, beep!

Last night I went to bed around 9:00 to read for a while. Soon Sundance came in to investigate. Since Tom is away, she decided to come pester me. She loves to rub up against the book I'm trying to read or to move in close to my face and lie down across my arm. I don't see how it can possibly be comfortable, but that's her schtick.

I tried to keep reading, but finally gave up and turned out the light around 9:30 and dozed with Sundance lying up against me purring...

About 10:15, I was awakened by the urgent beep of a smoke detector crying for its battery. The one outside Tom's bedroom is near the kitchen and often gives trouble. So I got up, dragged a chair down there, pulled the battery out and it stopped. The alarms are actually hooked up to the house electrical system, so the battery is only a backup. Tom discovered that we can take the battery out if necessary to shut off the annoying beep signaling a low battery.

No noise, so I went back to bed and tried to get back to sleep. At this point Sundance had left the building.

Just as I began to doze again, another beep dragged me out of bed. I came out and looked around. Now I am almost deaf in my right ear, which makes it hard for me to detect the direction from which a sound is coming. The open plan of the house, the pitched ceilings and the hard floors make it a wonderful echo chamber anyway.

But I saw that there is an alarm over the door to my room. Unfortunately it is up near the top of that pitched ceiling. I put on shoes and went to drag in the big stepladder from the garage. Not a happy camper, needless to say.

I got it all set up and then heard another beep, and it didn't sound like it came from above me. I got down and looked around. There was another alarm outside the door into Tom's office. This one was lower and I was able to reach it from a chair. I took out the battery, waited for a while and then went back to bed.

Time passes...

Beep! It is now almost 11:00 and I still have not resolved the problem.

I go back to the alarm I had just de-batteried and decided to look for a replacement battery,. Maybe that would make it happy. I looked in the box where Tom keeps the extra batteries and found one. I plugged it into place and waited. No noise, all seems well.

As I headed back to my bed, another beep.

This time when I looked up at the alarm outside the office, I noticed an ominous shadow. Sure enough, there was an alarm on the ceiling just inside Tom's office as well. (Why are there two alarms within two square feet? I haven't a clue.) I couldn't tell where the beep came from, so I disabled both alarms. This time I turned on the TV and lay down on the couch to watch Drake and Josh and waited. And waited. And waited.

About midnight I decided I had fixed the problem and went back to bed. By now my body was past its normal falling-asleep time, my adrenaline was flowing from having been dragged out of sleep several times in the last two hours and having climbed up and down ladders and chairs.

I was just falling asleep again around 1:30 when Cassidy decided to jump up on the bed and poke at my feet. There's another heart-starter-upper. I was just hoping she hadn't brought a snake with her as an offering.

I guess I got to sleep about 2:00 or 2:30...

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


As you may have noticed, there is only one link over in the Places to Go and People to See column. If anyone else has a blog or a webpage or something of that sort and would like me to post a link to it, just send it to me by email and I will do so. I don't want to post a link without your permission.

Also, I am not responsible for what people post on sites to which I put up a link. Just trying to make it easier for everyone to connect.

Also, the good news of the day: We got the newsletter out at the office! This is no small thing, because we were receiving new items to include up to 10:00 a.m. this morning and it went out before I left at lunchtime. Amazing.

And the bad news of the day: Gasoline has hit $3.259 around here. And Memorial Day is still two weeks away...

Names and snakes

Mama told me she had asked Nicolane if she could call her Nikki (Nicky? Nickie?) because it was easier. I'm not sure what is is with names in this family. Ted, of course, thought his name was too short and asked if he could be called Bill instead. Then we have the weird names: Muggie Minerva. Doylene. Tacky was really Malyer, both uncommon names. And then LaNelle, Cordell, Talmadge, Fayne (both Roxie and Linda). When I joined the Carmelites, they had the custom of replacing your family name with the name of a saint or some Christian mystery. So I became (in my fully Catholic name) Michael Damien of Christ Crucified. Cool, huh!
Damien is my confirmation name, but I won't waste more time explaining that. And it is for Blessed Damien of Molokai, a holy man who worked with lepers. It has nothing to do with the Omen movies.
Anyway, I was thinking about Nikki and it made me think of Nike -- pronounced like the shoe but actually referring to the Greek goddess of victory. Νίκη is represented as a winged woman in sculpture, perhaps the most famous being the now-headless Winged Victory of Samothrace pictured. Since Kristin/Nicolane and I always had an angel thing going, I think a winged victory -- i.e., Nike -- would be a good symbol. If she wants, I will pronounce it like Nikki, but I will spell it Nike. Any thoughts?

Lest you think a headless lady is not too nice an image, remember that Audrey Hepburn did a take on this image in Funny Face.

As for the snakes, well, the cats just brought in another little snake, this one about six inches long. It's going to be a long spring... Makes me almost long for the dead mice. Wisconsin has two venomous snakes, the timber rattler and the dangerous and endangered eastern massasauga rattler. Neither one is likely to be around here, but I would as soon not find out.

BTW, did you know it is not correct to say a snake is poisonous? Venom is poison, but technically an animal is venomous if it injects poisonous venom into your body. It is poisonous if you get the poison into your system by eating the animal. I never heard of any of those folks who eat fried rattlesnake meat getting poisoned, so I guess that means they are venomous and not poisonous.

TMI, right?

Monday, May 14, 2007

Boy's toys

For the past couple of weeks, Tom has been pondering buying a motor scooter. The one he has been fantasizing about is the Honda Ruckus pictured. I have encouraged him to some extent. He is very generous to other people, but cheap when it comes to spending money on himself. "Prudent," he says. To-may-to, to-mah-to. Whatever.

When Chris was here, they talked about it. Chris has a big something-or-other, not just a little scooter. But I noticed Tom took notes about insurance companies and that he has been flipping through the Wisconsin Motorcyclist's Handbook. When I suggest he should do it, he gets all no-it's-too-dangerous. I realize that. I told him about Ted's two accidents and why I am a big believer in helmets and appropriate clothing when riding one of those things, even a small Honda. Anyway, we'll see what he is thinking when he gets back from his trip to Santa Fe.

On the way to work this morning, I pulled up behind a guy at the stop light where I turn left to get onto the freeway. He was on a scooter and was wearing no helmet, a short-sleeved brown shirt, brown shorts and athletic shoes. When the light changed, he flew across the road and up the ramp. I think he was doing at least 80 when he merged into traffic on the interstate. I saw him exit way ahead of me towards Baraboo, but by the time I got onto Highway 12, he was nowhere in sight. I think he may have turned off a mile or so up the road where there is a UPS place. He looked dressed for that. I hate to think what would have happened had he been in an accident, or even if he had just lost balance and skidded along the pavement on his side. I remember what Ted's helmet looked like way back when...

Boys and their toys!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Of cats and snakes

Tom and I had just started watching a movie after dinner, when I heard the catdoor flap and a few seconds later the noisy trot of Cassidy into the room. She makes so much noise walking that I have nicknamed her Thundercat. It sounded like she was trotting over to demand attention -- Sundance had already curled herself up on the couch and was getting petted --, but Cassidy stopped in the middle of the room. I figured that she was bringing us a critter, so I looked over. It was a green garden snake, a foot long or so and very much alive. I told Tom not to look and got a broom. I was able to trap the snake under the broom while Tom got the door. I swept it outside, not very smoothly, and it slithered away.

I wish there were some way to get the cats to stop bringing things in! It's bad enough when they bring in half dead mice, but live snakes are animals most non gratae. Once in the night last year I stepped on a dead mouse in the middle of the living room rug. That was creepy enough, but I don't even want to think about stepping on something that slithers out from under my foot. Or worse, that wraps around my ankle.

Pause when agitated

At a meeting Friday night, someone commented that he had learned to pause when agitated. It struck me as a strategy worth trying. After my frustrating experience with the computer yesterday at the office when I tried to get ahead on the newsletter, I took a long pause. This afternoon, after I put together a chicken enchilada casserole for dinner, Tom dropped me at the office while he did some shopping. I was able to do all I wanted on the computer with no problems and am now where I had hoped to be.

Pause when agitated...


Today we finally got down to see the new Aldo Leopold Legacy Center (mentioned in this earlier post) and saw Homer's bronze. He and Tom had spent a long time discussing a problem he was having with the eyes due to the perspective forced by doing it as a bas relief. He wasn't totally successful in resolving it, but it is still a lovely piece.

The Center itself is still under construction and they only have one large display of photographs for viewing. It is an amazing complex of buildings and should be beautiful when completed. We will have to go back maybe in the fall to see how they have progressed.

Next I want to visit the International Crane Foundation's place nearby. They have fifteen species of cranes that they study and raise for release to the wild all over the world. The black crowned cranes in the photo are from Africa, where in some areas the population is down to a handful. Of interest to Texans, the Foundation was part of the effort that has brought the whooping crane back from near oblivion in 1942.

Last night while Tom was visiting a friend in Baraboo, I spent about an hour working on my boss's family newsletter. It goes out every couple of months, and is due to be sent on Tuesday. Since I am only there part of the day now, I wanted to get some work done when he wasn't around to give me other tasks. After fighting with formatting problems and getting almost everything that I had on hand done, the computer decided that it needed more work and deleted all the work I had just put in.


Saturday, May 12, 2007

Boston, Brookline, Brighton and Brooklyn Broccolos

This morning the Brooklyn Broccolos called to find out where I used to live in Boston. Apparently having exhausted things to see in New York, they decided to go to Boston.

Both having been to Holy Hill, they thought maybe my Boston residence had been similarly gorgeous, but that is not the case. Holy Hill is in a class all its own.

The beautiful old Cabot mansion I lived in when the Carmelites were in the Brookline part of Boston was bought from the friars back in 1989. The property had cost $27,000 when purchased and given to the friars in 1942. It sold for a little over $6 million in 1989. Although it was on the state and national registers of historic places, the new owner had it torn down to put in a subdivision. Part of the irony is that he originally bought the property claiming he wanted to prevent someone else from putting in something that would not fit in with all the large surrounding estates. But, as one of my college roommates said, money talks, nobody walks. (If you can understand that, explain it to me sometime.)

Ray and Christine visited me there in the early 1980's and must be the only other Dodds to see it. I was unable to find a picture of it online, but this is a picture of what had been the cupola on the house. Before the house was razed, all the valuable paneling, the fifteen fireplaces with elaborately carved mantles, stained glass and such architectural elements were removed and resold. The main rooms had beautifully carved plaster ceilings, but these could not be saved. Someone found this cupola with its domed roof in a salvage yard, and bought it for $1,200. The cupola was restored and reinstalled as a gazebo or tea house in the garden of former Massachusetts Governor Endicott Peabody's farm house. When that house was sold after his death, the tea house was given to the Shirley-Eustis House, built around 1750 to be the residence of the British Royal Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. It has been part of that museum site since September 2001.

I was not able to find a picture of the Brighton house where I lived my last time in Boston, but Mama and Daddy visited me there. They have a small watercolor of it hanging in their living room. The watercolor was done by one of my postulants. Unlike the stately mansion in Brookline -- which had over forty rooms, a carriage house, sunken garden and so on -- the Brighton house looks like a 1950's Catholic high school. Not so much to look at, and quite plain inside, although much more functional for a monastery than the old mansion had been.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Good weather, bad meds

As I mentioned in an earlier post, my atenolol makes it impossible for me to be out in direct sunlight for very long. Now that the weather has turned warm, breezy and beautiful and the leaves are out and it is time to enjoy the natural beauty of this part of Wisconsin, I really look forward to my doctor weaning me off of these things. He told me in December that there was a good chance I could stop taking them, but he was taking me off two or three things at that time and wanted my body to settle down for some months before he made any other changes.

This particular med doesn't cost much. It is one of the Wal-Mart $4.00 a month generics, so that is good. The lotrel -- another hypertension drug -- is quite expensive, though, and I look forward to a significant savings on that one. I pay almost as much for a one-month supply of lotrel as I do for three months of all my other drugs.

I pointed out to Rusty when we had lunch that is a a sure sign of aging when your conversation turns to medications...

Excitement on the way to work

First, as I was on my way to work this morning, a wild turkey flew across Highway 12, managing to fly between vehicles in both lanes without changing direction or speed. It would have been a big mess had anyone hit it, or tried to stop abruptly to miss it. (So this is not exactly a post about birds, in spite of that picture.)

Second, as I passed the place where I normally buy gas, I saw that it had gone up ten cents overnight. This was particularly annoying because I was low on gas and had decided yesterday that I was going to wait until today to gas up for the weekend. When I got into Baraboo, I saw that the gas prices were the same as yesterday (still two cents higher than where I usually shop at the Ho-Chunk Nation's stations), so I went ahead and filled up. When I came back by the station in the afternoon, the price had gone up ten cents.

Most places around here gasoline is now $3.199. That is an increase of about a quarter in the last two weeks. Tom is not a happy camper, because he takes off on Monday for a long drive to Santa Fe to attend John's graduation from St. John's College on May 19. I'm glad I made my trip to and from Texas just as prices were starting to climb.

Now that Chris has taken off to return to Chicago, Tom has started packing for the trip. He was just patching up his suit bag with clear packing tape, and when he went to put it over the new sports coat he got for this occasion, the handle pulled out of the hanger and everything fell to the floor. Maybe not the best of signs!

The cats always know when something is up, and Tom being gone for over a week is going to drive them crazy. He is usually home all day, so when he is gone, it upsets their routine. Since I will be away at work during the days, too, that means they will be very demanding of attention when I get home. I hope it will be safe to sleep with my door open again. If I close it, they will just claw at the door or find a way to come through the screens. And give me one of those, "This is all your fault, you know" glares.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

A human guest for a change

Chase, Christina, Chris, Linda and Peter Kimball
Tom's friend, Chris Kimball, arrived for an overnight visit this afternoon. I first met him when I lived in Chicago, and he is one of the greatest people I have had the pleasure of meeting. He worked at the law firm where Tom was a partner in Chicago for a while and they got to be quite close, although Chris is somewhat younger. He is a member of an important Mormon family. In fact, his grandfather, Spencer W. Kimball, was President of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints from 1973 until 1985, and a great-great-grandfather was one of the original Apostles of that church.

Recently someone at the firm where Chris now works had to undergo treatment for cancer, and Chris was one of the men in the office who shaved his head as a sign of support so that their friend would not be the only one without hair. Chris's hair has grown out now, but he has kept it shorter than it is in the photo above.

Ironically, he was recently diagnosed with a rare form of cancer himself -- pseudomyxoma peritonei. It does not metatastasize, but it can be deadly if left untreated. He is facing a very long and massive surgical procedure next Tuesday in Washington, DC. He wanted to visit Tom before that happens.

BTW, Chris says there is a lot of bad information about this syndrome on the internet, not worth looking at. The procedure he will be undergoing is affectionately call MOAS -- mother of all surgeries. It takes more than twelve hours -- sometimes up to twenty-two -- , you are in ICU for two to five days undergoing chemo, then in a regular hospital room for a couple of weeks, and you face months of recuperation or possibly more after that with monitoring to see if they managed to get it all.

Chris is a strong, active and healthy man as a result of all those healthy Mormon habits, but this will obviously be a massive trauma to his body.

Please keep him, his wife and children in your prayers.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Baby rabbit?

This morning when I went out to the living room, there was a smear of blood on the floor, tufts of hair scattered all around and what appeared to be two small kidneys. Too big for a mouse, so we decided one of the cats had disemboweled and eaten a baby rabbit there last night.

As usual, I was the one who go to scoop up the mess.

But I'm still sleeping with my door closed until I am sure the cats' frustration with the flea-and tick gunk has worn itself out.

I want to keep my kidneys, thank you very much.

I know you're thinking it!

I doubt many of you read Stephan Pastis' dark comic, Pearls Before Swine, but here is an example.


You may remember that a few years back, I had the pleasure of helping arrange a visit to Chicago by the Latin archbishop of Baghdad, John Sleiman. He is a Discalced Carmelite from Lebanon, and I have kept in touch with him by email since. He is a gentle and holy man, and he and his flock have suffered much in the chaos of the war.

An article in the Chicago Tribune reports that the situation is about to get worse:
Christians are fleeing in droves from the southern Baghdad district of Dora after Sunni insurgents told them they would be killed unless they converted to Islam or left, according to Christian leaders and families who fled.

Similar episodes of what has become known as sectarian cleansing raged through Baghdad neighborhoods last year as Sunnis drove Shiites from Sunni areas and Shiites drove Sunnis from Shiite ones, but this marks the first apparent attempt to empty an entire Baghdad neighborhood of Christians, the Christians say.

The exodus began three weeks ago after a fatwa, or religious edict, was issued by Sunni insurgents offering Christians a stark choice: to convert to Islam and pay an ancient Islamic tax known as jizyah, or to depart within 24 hours and leave their property behind. If they did neither, they said, they faced death.

Sunni gunmen have been enforcing the edict by knocking on doors, posting leaflets on walls and with a dozen or so kidnappings and a shooting -- actions that have prompted hundreds of Christians to leave an area that was once home to one of Baghdad's largest Christian communities.
Most of the Christians in Iraq are not Latin rite. The Chaldean community has its religious roots in the church founded, according to tradition, by Thomas, the Apostle. So it is one of the truly ancient churches that is facing this crisis. We tend to think that any Christians there are recent converts. As I have mentioned before, the fact is, there are families there that have been Christian for almost two millennia.

Please pray for Archbishop Sleiman and his people, for all those whose lives continue to be disrupted by violence and sectarian hostility in the name of God there and elsewhere in the world.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

More critters

Tonight when we sat down to watch a movie, I felt something crawling on my arm. A big old tick!

After getting rid of it, I asked Tom if we had given the cats their flea-and-tick medicine -- a disgusting-smelling goo that has to be rubbed into the back of the neck where the cat can't lick it off. I held them down while he applied the goop. Cassiday gave me such a look that I think I had better sleep with my door closed for a while.

Later Sundance came in, bringing a small garter snake. Tom announced the invasion and quickly left the room. So I got it and threw it out in the yard. I told him the cats were punishing him for putting that junk on their necks.

I suppose this means that the time for the hunters to drop mice on the rug every night is back with us for a while. Tom makes fun of me for thinking the mice are disgusting -- but I am the one who winds up getting to dispose of them as well as any reptiles that are brought in. And he's the Green Beret.

Definitely sleeping with the door closed!

A new one

This afternoon while Tom was cooking Chinese food for dinner, I saw a new bird at the feeder -- a rose-breasted grosbeak. Cool!

It may begin to look like this is going to turn into a bird report, but I'll try to restrain myself. Still it is fun when a new one shows up.

Today was a pretty good day at work. On my trip back from Texas, I somehow twisted a muscle or something in my left shoulder, and it has been hurting since Sunday morning. I didn't sleep all that well Sunday night and I was hurting all day at work yesterday. There was a ton to do, and not feeling good did not make it any easier. I am sure the tension did not help the muscle any, either.

Tom applied the massage machine to it last night and that seems to have done the trick. I was still feeling it when I went to bed, but I slept well and woke up with the pain gone. There was plenty to do at the office today, too, but I felt way better. I am sure I am easier to be around when I am not in pain. When I am in pain, I can be a pain.

I got one paper graded and another one read and made my notes. With luck I will send that one out tonight.

I then printed out 41 pages (single-spaced) of Vinko's dissertation. Yipes! This is not all of the first chapter, and I think there will be five all told. I suppose I'll learn something from working through it with a fine-toothed comb. The title of this part is "Parable and Communication." It begins, "Every linguistic choice of communication is determined by some socio-historical norms..." Should be lots of fun.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Pileated return

This morning when I went to let Cassidy out, the pileated woodpecker that we have seen occasionally was at the bird feeder. He is our most dramatic feeder visitor so far, as much for his size as anything. We get lots of woodpeckers, but most are not all that big. This guy is the size of a crow.

I went to the office today and tried to catch up on everything. Thank goodness Tom had been filling in for me and working overtime to do it. Even with him having taken care of so much, I wound up putting in an extra hour myself. And tomorrow when Joe and Evelyn get back, I expect it will be very hectic as they try to catch up after being away a week.

Meanwhile I have two papers to grade for the class I teach for the Carmelite Institute and about a half dozen introductions to write for the speakers for their conference this summer. I also have to proofread the first part of a dissertation I am editing for a Croatian Carmelite.

A break from all this with Mama and Daddy was nice, but now it's back into the maelstrom...

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Back in Wisconsin

I made it back safely. On the way up I listened to a set of CDs on the tragedies of Shakespeare (on the way from Texas to Missouri) and to a set on the great ideas that shaped the world (on the way from Missouri to Wisconsin). It does make the ride go faster and gave me something to think about. These are part of a series of college-level courses produced by Barnes & Noble called "Portable Professor", each consisting of fourteen lectures. I picked them up on sale in Tyler. There are 25 courses in the series, covering world and U.S. history, arts and literature, economics, philosophy and science.

My boss, Joe, has been taking a class on Shakespeare at the local branch of the University of Wisconsin in Baraboo -- affectionately called "Boo U" by the locals -- but he had to miss about a third of the classes. I plan to offer to let him listen to the Shakespeare talks if he is interested. He was always asking me about Shakespeare, and I wish I had heard the tapes before he started the class and started asking questions!

The weather was good for my whole trip -- overcast a lot, but no rain. Now I see it is supposed to storm here tonight. And I thought I left that behind in Texas!

Friday, May 4, 2007

Latter Days

This is my last full day in Texas. Tomorrow morning early I will hit the road and drive to Perryville, MO. I will make it back to Wisconsin Dells sometime Sunday afternoon.

Today the sprinkler men came and finished installing the new system. Mama and I went to visit the cemetery, particularly Tacky's grave. Then we went by a nursery so she could get some hanging baskets for the shepherd's hook thing in the front yard, but the man didn't have anything she wanted.

All in all it was a pretty quiet day until around 7:00.

Mama called me to see a large snake crawling out of the liriope. A mockingbird was staring at it like she wanted it for a week's worth of meals, but finally flew off. The snake then went into the garage. Mama went to get Daddy and while he was loading a pistol, we tried to keep an eye on the snake. It crawled under the freezer and we were unable to find it after that. We rattled rake handles under the freezer and even tried the leaf blower to spook it out from behind the fertilizer stacked in the corner, where we think it wound up. Finally we gave up and left the garage door up, hoping it will find its way out.

I am reasonably sure it was not poisonous -- no rattles, not a coral snake or a copperhead by its coloring. Probably just a rat snake or some such, although with a creek in the back yard, I suppose it might have been a cottonmouth. Never got a good look at it's front end.

I just hope it doesn't curl up in the shoes I had to leave out in the garage after getting them muddy in the yard from all the rain and the digging.