Friday, August 31, 2007


After a pretty busy week at the office, I am really looking forward to a three day weekend.

This evening our friend Michael Allocca is coming up from Chicago. (There are so many Michaels around that we call him by his full name -- Michelangelo.) Michelangelo is a doctoral student at the Divinity School at the University of Chicago, teaches Latin and theology at St. Rita Catholic High School and is very active in the parish I lived in in Hyde Park, St. Thomas the Apostle. He and Tom have known one another for about ten years and worked together at the parish in a number of things. He also teaches in the Basic Program, a liberal arts education program offered for mature adults by the University in which Tom's former father-in-law teaches and which Helen took. Michelangelo taught a course about one of the founders of the Carmelite community, so that is one of many interests we have in common.

He is coming up here to go to the Wisconsin State Cow Chip Throw tomorrow in Prairie du Sac. Last year our friend Karl came from California for this. He moved with his family to Texas this year and is going to college in Houston, so I guess he is getting enough cow manure slinging without having to travel this year. I will post some pictures if I can after the event. On Sunday we are thinking about going to Ho-Chunk pow-wow at Black River Falls.

The cow chips for the contest -- and the ones that they throw out of this giant wooden cow in the parade beforehand -- are the real thing, well dried, of course. The winners here go on to the nationals in Oklahoma. The candy pictured is from a candy company in Baraboo that I drive by on the way to work every morning. They do look a bit like the real thing, but made with chocolate, caramel, pecans, milk and butter. I also bought some licorice saltwater taffy at another local candy shop -- it has black and white markings like a Holstein.

Tom has already made lasagna for Saturday night and is making beef stew for tonight. I think Sunday he is making Chinese. I get to goof off!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Catching up by stealing someone else's work

I have been remiss here for a few days, but I don't have any good excuses. So I am going to fill in some by stealing some things Tom put up on the blog he keeps for his folks...

Land of the soggy ...

I'm back home.

Not a lot happened while I was away, except that Sauk County was declared a disaster area.

We had a bad storm while I was in Evanston zooming around with Chris taking in the storm damage in the Chicago area.

The power was out in the house for a while, and the phones were out of service about three days. Apparently all of the phone boxes along Berry Road were taken out by lightning in one night. Jerry tells me that his electrical fences were knocked out completely. I've got another four or five trees down -- none of them particularly large -- around the house. My rain gauge bucket was full when I got back, so we had at least 11 inches of rain while I was gone. The ground is saturated to the point where I squished when I mowed the grass Tuesday.

We didn't get it too bad in the eastern part of the county. We may be a cultural disaster in this part of the county -- after all, we are the "Water Park Capital of the World", culturally akin to being "Home of the Liberace Museum" -- but the storm disaster is ten miles west.

The storms really did a number on western Sauk County. A number of local bridges and roads are washed out or endangered by water and debris, and the local papers report that Ironton, a dot on the map in northwestern Sauk County, essentially blew away in 90 mph winds. The damage estimates for the county are over $2 million and counting.

Somehow or other, 2,000 pigs got dead on a large pork operation during the storm. It isn't clear yet whether the pigs were electrocuted by lightning or downed power, or whether they died of asphyxiation from a methane buildup after power went out and stopped ventilation in the sheds -- talk about a miserable way to die, asphyxiated by your own farts -- but the end result is that 2,000 carcasses were sent to the rendering plant, and a prominent farmer took a serious hit. But it all does sound like it belongs in News of the Weird.

I'm going to see what I can do about cleaning up the downed trees tomorrow, weather permitting. My chainsaw is electric -- the gas chainsaws make me crazy because they are always out of tune -- so I have to make sure that the ground is dry when I work. It won't take too long once I get set up.

So much for the lazy, hazy days of summer.

But better times are coming. Michaelangelo is coming up from Chicago for the Labor Day weekend, and we'll either take in the Wisconsin Cow Chip Throw in Sauk Prairie, or head up to Black River Falls for a Pow Wow. Or maybe do both, the Cow Chips on Saturday and the Pow Wow on Sunday.


The Fall List

Summer is coming to a close -- Labor Day, with one last shot swimming in the river, is the traditional marker around this area -- and Fall is coming.

Fall comes at its own pace, though. Jerry says he got the first whiff of fall the other night, but I haven't got mine -- the way the poplars smell right at the cusp of Fall -- yet, but I suspect I'll get it in a week or two.

The kids are headed back to school, and I realize that I'm still locked into the annual schedule of childhood. Fall is a time to buckle down and get serious.

So I'm making The Fall List.

The first list item is already checked off.

I made my eye examination appointment for next Wednesday, September 5. I need my reading prescription upped a notch, I think, and my doctor will want to check on the cataract in my right eye. My eyes are funny. My left eye, except for the need for a close-vision correction, is normal, but my right eye is a disaster -- blind-as-a-bat nearsightedness, a cataract, and lord knows what else. My eye doctor says that I have monocular vision.

My ears are a flip of my eyes. My right ear is more or less normal, adjusting for the damage I did to it in the days when I listened to rock at volumes I'd run from today, but my left ear is essentially useless -- deaf as a post.

Asymmetry is fine with me, but I do wonder how supposedly identical body components, all of five or six inches apart, could develop so differently. I guess that's not my business to figure out, but I do wonder.

Next on the list is to order a rug for under the dining room table. Michael and I decided to get one last fall, but we didn't find what we were looking for -- a good-looking indoor/outdoor rug that could be easily cleaned -- during a year of lackadaisical looking, so I'm going to head over to Home Depot and order an 8x10 version of the 8x8 rug we have between the couch and the TV. It is attractive, reasonably cheap, and will serve its intended purpose well enough, although it won't be as indestructible as an indoor/outdoor carpet.

I'm thinking about all the other things I need to put on the list -- get John's stuff from the garage to the basement, clean the garage and the basement (yuk, but I'll feel better when its done), check out the snowblower, cut and weed the new wildflower gardens so that they have a fighting chance in the Spring, move the summer clothes to the basement and get the winter clothes up, finish up leveling the gravel in the drive, clean the bird feeders, clear up and extend the paths through the woods, put the Christmas stuff out on the deck so that I can turn it on after Thanksgiving, and so on. The list is -- or will be, when I get around to making it -- long, but I've got all Fall to get it done.

The Fall List is, in its own way, comforting -- it gives me a sense that time is changing, but that things are more or less the same, year to year. Most of what will go on the list was probably on my grandfather's list. Living in a new house, though, I do miss, as I think about it, the more dramatic indicators of getting ready for Winter, such as getting the wood pile built up and taking down the screen windows and putting on the storm windows. Modern life, at least in this house, marks the real change with the first frost and the first snowfall.

Be that as it may, Fall is a busy, but good time of year.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Monday, Monday

The weather report I checked before going to bed last night said there was a 10% chance of rain, but about 5:30 I was wakened by rolling thunder. I let Buddy the Dog out for his morning ablutions before the weather got worse. It began raining around 6:30 and rained much of the morning, finally turning clear, sunny and humid this afternoon.

When I came home from work, Buddy the Dog was anxious to go outside. I let him out for a few minutes to do his business and later took him for a short walk. I explained to him in great detail what I had done at work, and he grinned politely but I don't think he was really paying attention. Later he disappeared and when I went to look for him, he was sleeping in Tom's room by the closet. I think the smell of Tom's clothes made him feel better.

I went out on the front porch to read for a while, and Buddy joined me. He doesn't wander around much if I am just sitting, maybe up and down the sidewalk. Tom called to say he will be back tonight around 9:00. I think Buddy will be happy to have him back, more company and someone around all day instead of just part of the afternoon and evening.

I got a royalties check in the mail for my audiotapes (now CDs mostly) from ICS Publications. Not that it amounts to much, but it is nice to be reminded that they are still selling. I have four titles in their catalogue and have sold over 2,000 of them. These are all recordings of lectures that I gave between 1991 and 1997. The picture is of the cover the last one I did. Hard to believe it was ten years ago!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Animaniacs II

The middle of the afternoon I went down to the basement to ride the exercycle, but I guess Buddy the Dog heard the bike and the television through the floor of the guest room where he was napping, and not knowing where it was coming from, he began to bark. So I came up and calmed him down. We sat together on the front porch for a while and watched the hummingbird wars rage.

We went for another walk later. He was very interested in something he smelled in the middle of the road and had to go back and forth tracking it for a while, but eventually I convinced him I was not going to let him drag me out into the brambles of the woods.

He has found a place to sit when I watch television: right on the other side of the cedar chest that serves as a coffee table, between it and the screen. At least he is not lying on top of my feet. Or on top of the chest where the cats like to stretch out and demand attention.

As soon as it got dark and I went into my room, Buddy came trotting in and lay down by my desk. When Tom gets back tomorrow or Tuesday, Buddy will start sleeping in his room. Until then I had better leave a night light on somewhere so I don't step on the dog at three in the morning. The cats know my routine well enough to get out of my way, but knowing them, they won't tell Buddy just so they can hear him yelp when I step on his tail.

Cats can be so petty.


I just took Buddy the Dog for a twenty minute morning walk. Helen said he didn't really need a walk, but what is the poor mutt to do -- sit around in the house all day? So I got the leash and we went for a stroll. He likes to go for a walk if he is wearing his leash, for some reason. Otherwise he sits in the yard.

That picture in the earlier post is not Buddy, BTW. It is a dog that looks a lot like him, but Buddy is black and tan instead of black and white. That dog looks kind of growly -- it is just a border collie herding sheep -- and Buddy is always smiling.

Earlier this morning Sundance wanted in from the deck. When I let her in, she began to chirp to be petted. As soon as I began to stroke her, Buddy came running over to be petted, even though up to that point he had been ignoring me from the other side of the room where he was grieving Helen and Jay's departure. When I began to pet both of them at the same time, Sundance gave me a sneer and hopped up on the buffet to eat. No sooner had she started crunching than Cassidy ran in from my bedroom where she had been snoring away. If food was being eaten, she wanted her share.



Helen and Jay arrived about 6:30 last night with Buddy the Dog. We went out for pizza and then to Kohl's so Helen could find some new walking shoes. They took off about 7:00 this morning on their way to visit Jay's father back east.

Buddy is a well-behaved dog. He goes outside but doesn't wander off. He is a needs-to-be-around-humans kind of animal, and he sat quietly on the garage apron while I picked tomatoes this morning. Once back in the house, he does stand at the door looking out forlornly for Jay and Helen, but at least he doesn't bark. Tom will be back tomorrow, and I know that will cheer him up. I talk to him and pet him and feed him, but I am a poor substitute for folks he's lived with for most of his life. Nonetheless, he just came into my room, because I am in here on the computer, and lay down by the bed. I know he will sleep there tonight. Just hope I don't step on him when i get up to go the bathroom.

The cats have always lived with Buddy until they came here last summer, so they are old friends, or at least acquaintances. They seem to get along fine, but they are not what I would call cozy with one another. The main thing about him being here that puts their feline noses out of joint is that their food has to be put up on the buffet or he will eat it. They act like it is the greatest inconvenience in the world to have to jump up there -- something they do easily and regularly when looking for one of us to pet them. When he goes home in ten days and their food is put back on the floor, they will act like we are moving it just to confuse them.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Playing catch up

Monday night/Tuesday morning about midnight, the thunder and lightning started. It was fierce and almost constant for close to an hour and a half. It was impossible to tell how close it was because there was no pause in the lightning so that I could count seconds until the thunder. The cats jumped out of bed and went under it – not what I consider a good sign. I got up and unplugged the computer and the internet connection. After an hour, the storm let up briefly for a bit before coming back with a vengeance. About 2:15 the power went out and the storm raged on for another half hour or so.

I wondered if I could remember how to open the garage door if the electricity stayed off until I had to go to work. I had considered opening it before going to bed, but it was so windy and wild outside that I didn’t know what might blow in and damage the car. As it was, when I went out in the morning, the wheelbarrow that leans up against the side of the garage had blown over into the flowerbed and the chairs (admittedly plastic) on the deck had been blown all around.

About 5:30 the power came back. I got up and checked around. The overhead light in my room would not come on, but most everything else seemed okay. The television was working – which meant the satellite dish had not been knocked out. But there was no water pressure. Hoping it was just a fuse – and that I could find it (Tom is out of town all week) -- , I went to the basement. Sure enough a switch clearly marked Well showed red as did one saying Master bedroom. Flipping the well switch brought a reassuring hum, and when I returned to my bathroom, the water pressure was fine. Flipping the Master bedroom switch had restored the overhead light.

What was not fine was the telephones. I discovered this because the computer – the first thing I do is turn on the computer, even before I go to the bathroom – would not hook up to the internet. Since our internet connection is part of the phone service, I lifted the phone and heard – nothing.

I called Tom on my cell phone to let him know that we had survived without serious tree damage and to report on the phone situation. At Holy Hill we lost our phones all the time in thunderstorms and there was a reset button that usually fixed it. Not so here. He suggested I leave it and see if the phone people took care of it, assuming it was out all over and not just in the house.

As I say, we had some limbs down and I saw a fairly good sized tree was down into the road on my way to work. When I came back more of it was down and it blocked half of Berry Road, but the county came by shortly thereafter and cleaned it up.

When I came back in the afternoon, still no phone. Hence no internet, which is why this is not getting posted until whenever, assuming the phone company comes through on their stated commitment to have it fixed by noon. I called Tom to report that they were not fixing it on their own – he was at the hospital with Chris who was beginning his chemotherapy session, which of course made a telephone outage seem not so much --, and then put in a call to Verizon. They did a trace on it and say it is in their system and not in the house. This means I don’t have to hang around waiting for the repair dude or dudette to come and that they won’t charge us for an inhouse service call. [Actually they got it fixed only about 5:00 p.m. on Friday, but the nice thing was that they called Thursday night to tell me that there was a delay and when they hoped to get to it. Given the flooding and continual storms, their workload has quadrupled this week.]

Not having access to the internet! How will I survive? How will I get to my email? Etc. I know, I know. The library has computers, but they are overbooked by all the students hanging out there. Phone is not as big a deal. I don’t use it that much and I have a cell phone for emergencies anyway.

So I took my notebook computer, went to Starbucks for an overpriced cup of coffee and worked on a short story. Then I went by the library on the off chance there might be a computer free, but what are the odds? Instead I got a Spanish dictionary and worked on a translation of a children’s book on marine life that I am putting into English for one of Joe’s grandkids. Then I checked out a 10-CD unabridged audio version of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility to listen to on my way to and from work – radio reception is amazingly bad! – and went home.

Turned on the television to see that the big news is – the weather! More rain, more thunderstorms on the way. Tonight, tomorrow, into Friday. More flooding, maybe hail and a possible tornado, though that is to the south of us. Sauk County is officially a disaster zone as of yesterday, but we are in good shape compared to some places. Still, officials already estimate we have about $1.5 million in damages in this county alone. Most of that is to crops, and they expect the amount to go higher. Most farmers were too busy saving their livestock to tell how bad the crop damage was so far.

So the cats, who are already disoriented by the fact that Tom is away and that no one is in the house for most of the day, have to cope with thunderstorms and torrential rains as well. They keep standing by the doors onto the deck looking out forlornly. If I open it to let them out, Cassidy will give it a shot, but Sundance usually tucks her tail down and goes back to a bed somewhere. Of course, Cassidy will be back demanding to come in within two minutes. Tonight should be another exciting time with them once the next storm fires up. At least they are well-trained to their litterbox, even though they hardly use it except in the dead of winter. The rest of the year I can tell the weather has been bad when I check it in the morning and need to clean it up.

Friday update: The phones and internet came back, as I mentioned, about 5:00 p.m. Yesterday I managed to get a library computer Thursday in Reedsburg just to get my email. It is nice to have the internet back, though. I have become used to having much more pinpointed radar and weather information than the television provides.

Tom, meanwhile, in Chicago is living through very severe weather there. They had power knocked out and lots of trees down in the neighborhood. My friend Michaelangelo’s school on the south side of the city had funnel clouds nearby, and they all had to pile into the basement yesterday afternoon until the danger passed. Today Evelyn needed to go to Prairie du Chien, WI and both the main roads were washed out in places.

The weekend is supposed to be better. But it rained pretty much all day today.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Do what?

Just to show you that I really live in the country ...

The Circuit City saga took me to Madison today -- don't ask! -- and on the way back I passed the Badger Ordnance Works, which was in 1942 the largest ammunition plant in the world. That's when the above picture was taken. It is located south of Baraboo and was in operation until the Vietnam era. In 1997 the Army decided it didn't need it anymore, and so it has been going through a process of dismantling buildings and trying to figure out what to do with the land -- over 7,300 acres with beautiful views. I think most of it is being transferred to the Ho-Chunk Nation.

Anywho, as Rusty says, when I went by today, there were lots of vehicles in the usually empty parking lot and a sign out front: Manure Expo.

Manure Expo?

Do we really want to expose manure more than we have to?

I couldn't see what all was involved in this event, and being dressed for law office success, I did not feel moved to walk around on a warm and humid afternoon to learn more.

I did find this mission statement online, though, when I did a search for "Manure Expo":I notice they don't mention manure at all.

But a Manure Expo is about as country as it gets, I figure.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Circuit City

Well, my Circuit City saga continues... but I don't want to bore you with the details. If I wait until I see you, the story will have grown into something much more interesting, I'm sure. I think I told them that you are all boycotting them, by the way. So if you do buy something there, use an alias.

The local near-flooding continues. There were a lot of leaks around windows at the office. Not in the area where I work, but Joe's office window leaked and soaked a lot of law books. It wasn't a roof problem so much as a gutter one. And naturally it happened on the weekend and wasn't discovered right away. And he had to leave town today to help move his granddaughter into college. But the roofers came and did a temporary patch that should hold it for a while. They are supposed to be back tomorrow -- but if it is raining again (as predicted) they won't be able to do anything.

So life goes on... pretty dull, huh?

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Before the flood...

I mentioned to Tom that Mama had been wanting to see some pictures of the house, so he went out this afternoon and took a couple before it washes away.

This is the front of the house. The large window is in Tom's office. The small window to it's left (as you look at the picture) is in my bathroom. That section of the house is where my living space is. Tom has the office in front and his bedroom, another bathroom and the guest room is at the end where the garage is.

This is a winter shot, taken before the front door was painted. And Kristin, don't panic! We do not have snow on the ground in August. Well, not that much.

This picture is distorted by the angle of the shot. I told Tom it looks like the house is falling down! So if you can ignore that optical illusion... The windows on the right are in my bedroom. The yard looks pretty weedy in this shot, but those taller plants up near the house are wildflowers in beds around the deck. You see the glass doors going onto the deck from the library, then the two large windows into the dining room (it is an open floor plan, but the dining table is by those windows), then the kitchen window and finally one of the windows in Tom's room. The living area (living room + library area + dining room) is the middle third or more of the house. Tom had them put in extra large windows, so the house is quite light and seems bigger than it is. Also, the ceiling in the living area goes up to a peak, adding to the sense of space.

He didn't take any pictures of the inside, but I am going to put some in that were taken while the house was being readied for occupation last spring. It will give you an idea, if you can imagine it duly furnished, painted and so on.

This is pretty much what the kitchen looks like, although now that we live here there is more stuff on the counters, of course.

This shows the living area, more or less, looking from my bedroom door. That bar-looking thing that divides it is a buffet Tom built. When completed, there is a bookcase facing this way. The square of cardboard in the lower left-hand corner is more or less where the sofa is. The patio doors are located out of sight on the far left. Another bookcase, the same height, is behind the sofa and a third matching one lines the wall out of sight on the left. This makes for a small library-reading area, open to the whole space. The wall to the right of this photo is where the entertainment center is.

These shelves hold the television, stereo, DVD and VCR players and the CDs, videotatpes and DVDs now. This, obviously, was when it was being built. Tom built almost all the furniture in the house -- the bookshelves, the buffet, the beds in all three rooms, his desk and mine and so on. The door on the right goes into my bedroom. That shelf at the top holds pieces of pottery that Tom's ex, Helen, made and donated to the decoration of the house. The shelf was designed supposedly for plants, but who wants to climb up and water and tend plants that are eight feet off the floor? Tom and Helen's husband Jay, a museum curator with a sense of how to display things, installed lights that shine up on the pots, and the effect is quite nice. At one point, the house had no furniture, but Helen's pots and a bunch of Tom's paintings on the wall. The overall effect when you came in was that it was a museum rather than a home. The sketch shows more or less what it looks like now with one of Tom's large paintings on the wall and television and all in place. The real painting does not look like that, by the way.

Finally, I put this picture in so you can see how the ceiling goes up a bit. That's Tom's youngest, John, sitting at the table. Over his shoulder you can see one of Tom's paintings leaning up against the wall.

So that gives you an idea of where I live. Kristin, Vince and Dior will see it at Thanksgiving. The rest of you are welcome to come use the guest room! It's at Tom's end of the house, so you will bother him, not me.

All things wet and wonderful:WITH ADDENDUM

Well, the rest of the Badger Steam and Gas Engine show got drenched. We got over six inches of rain yesterday in places in the county, and a bridge washed out not far from here. This house is safe from flooding, but not everyone is. The southwestern part of the state -- which includes us -- is under a flood watch and a state of emergency. Baraboo got over five inches of rain, and we expect more tonight and throughout the week. The roads in and out of Rock Spring, a small town just west of town, are all under water.

This morning instead of going to Mass, I went to the service at the United Church of Christ over in Baraboo. The pastor treated me to a cup of coffee a couple of weeks ago, and I enjoyed our conversation about life in a small town. I had thought about giving him a call or dropping a note to tell him how much I appreciated it, but decided it would be more polite to show up at his church on a Sunday morning.

Naturally he wasn't there, being off on vacation. I did see some other folks I know, though. Best of all, with the pastor away, they had a hymn sing instead of a sermon, and that was a treat. Oddly enough, we wound up at the end with Away in a Manger, because one of the ladies said that was what her grandmother always sang to her when she went to bed. Someone asked if we were going to all go to sleep. Fortunately no one said that that was what usually happened when the preacher gave his sermon anyway.

For dinner tonight we are having ratatouille (the food, not the animated film). Evelyn and Joe gave me an eggplant, a zucchini, a bell pepper and some tomatoes on Friday. Rataouille uses all those plus an onion, some garlic and seasonings. So I found a crockpot version and made it Friday night. It turns into a chunky sort of vegetable stew, and is one of those foods that is better a day or two later. It should be pretty healthy and tasty with all those fresh, home-grown ingredients. Tonight we will have it over rice. I bought a warm French loaf to go along with it after reheating in the oven.
ADDENDUM: I have had ratatouille before and liked it, but this one, not so much. It was a standard recipe -- I saw the same thing on a half dozen sites -- but it tasted pretty bland. It actually tasted better cold. Often you serve it hot as a dish and then use the cold leftovers as an appetizer. I think this would have been better cold to start with.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Belts and birds

This weekend is the Badger Steam and Gas Engine Club show -- antique tractors and steam-driven engines, flea market, fund-raising food booths for the schools and other organizations, shingle mill, antique cars -- swimming pools! Movie stars! Well, not so much the pools and the stars, but you get my drift.

Tom likes to look at the tractors and fantasize that he will find the Farmall model that they used on the farm when he was growing up here. I like to walk through the flea market. It is the only one I know where you can buy old books, jewelry or a full-size front-end loader. This is where I found Ted's Texas centenary spoon last year as well as the Russian icon egg I gave Angie and Justin.

Tom didn't buy a tractor, but he was on the lookout for a belt and found a guy doing beautiful handtooled belts, many with tractor names on the back. So he got a Farmall belt, if not a Farmall. He got another belt, too, nicely tooled but without an advertisement on it.

I found a small handcarved blackbird on sale for a couple of bucks. I have been looking for one -- to resonate with the chough's on the Welsh version of the Dodd coat of arms and also with Sam Houston's raven and Elijah's ravens, important to the Carmelites. This is not really a raven, and in the midwest, it is certainly not a Cornish choug, the member of the crow family pictured on the crest -- I know they look like smudges when it's this small. But a blackbird is close enough and the price was right.

(It's pronounced chuff.)

Friday, August 17, 2007

Sevki Kuzay

Among the people I have met through Joe Screnock is artist Sevki Kuzay, who was born in Soviet Georgia in 1949. According to his website, his passion for art began in his early childhood. He was constantly drawing, and always carried his drawing supplies with him. He would sit down outside and draw remarkably beautiful nature scenes before he had ever attended any school. By the age of 9, Sevki was drawing professionally accurate portraits of himself and his family members.

Upon entering grade school, Sevki advanced very quickly. He completed all his basic schooling 4 years ahead of schedule, graduating with perfect grades in all subjects. He then went on to attend a private art academy run by Robert College in Istanbul. Due to the corrupt state of the art world in Istanbul at the time, one of Sevki’s instructors suggested that he attend a German academy, where his talent would be better developed and embraced. After two years in Istanbul, Sevki took the advice and was immediately admitted to the Düsseldorf Art Academy. There he perfected his skills and wowed his instructors into jealousy in 1968-69.

Sevki then moved to the United States and lived in the Chicago area before moving to Cazenovia, Wisconsin a few years ago to be near his teenage son, who lives with his mother following a divorce. He has been making a living as an artist for his entire lifetime. His artwork is displayed in more than 17 nations in Europe, North America, South America, and Asia. He has sold well over 3,000 oil-on-canvas paintings, and hundreds of copper works and collages.

For the past year a lot of Sevki's art has hung in our office and some of his intriguing engraved copper sculptures as well. Among the items was a portrait he had done from life of Willie Nelson. Joe was hoping that some of the clients might be interested in buying, but most of the pieces are well over a thousand dollars, not really in the range of people going through the financial crisis precipitated by a divorce.

If you want to see Sevki's website, click here.

Recently Sevki was asked to bring as many pieces as he could to Turkey for a showing, so he came and gathered everything up. Joe talked him into giving him the painting above (this does not doe justice to the colors) which is 44 inches wide by 30 inches tall. Sevki also gave Evelyn a more traditional representational painting of birds -- also good sized. quite simple and lovely. Joe knew that I like Sevki's work but had said I could not afford it. So he asked if I could have one of the copper sculptures. Joe implied that no money changed hands, but I suspect he did buy it for me.

I don't have a picture of my sculpture, but it is titled simply Lizard, and looks like a green Gila monster to me, about two feet long. It is cool. So far the cats have ignored it.

The price on it was $250.00. Who knows, someday it may be worth much more.


We are looking forward to Dior's visit to Wisconsin in November, although I warned Kristin that the cats may gang up on her. Actually they are used to dogs, and if the dog gets excited, the cats just hang out outside or in the basement. Dior will be perfectly safe.

Speaking of dogs, Rich and Peggy have been gone this week and asked high school senior neighbor Kevin to house/dog sit for them. Yesterday after letting the dogs out for a run, Kevin was unable to catch Iris and get her back inside. The other dog, Ivy, is easy -- she has all the humans trained to throw balls for her, so all you have to do is toss a ball anywhere within hearing and she will run get it and come right to you. Iris, on the other hand, was rescued from a puppy breeding factory and is not comfortable around people so much, although she adores Peggy. So she doesn't come running when you call.

Kevin yelled to Tom for help and between the two of them they proved that a one pound hyperactive mutt is more than a match for two six-foot-tall men. We assume Kevin eventually got her inside, but last we heard, there was still yelping from their yard. I think the yelping was Iris, but who knows?

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Berry Road that can be followed is not the eternal Berry Road.

Tom called me at work this morning to warn me that they (whoever they are) were tearing up Berry Road down near the Fosters and that I should come in the back way. Looks like they just peeled all the paved part up. David Foster has told us that the entire road is to be redone, but it looks like major patching is what we're going to get.
The title to this blog is taken from the opening words of my beloved Tao te ching: The way (in Chinese, tao) that can be followed is not the eternal way. The name that can be named is not the eternal name.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Michaels Against Drunk Driving

The 74-year-old father of a guy I know was crossing a street in Madison the other night after attending a baseball game and was hit by a drunk driver who left the scene. Someone there got her license number, and she was picked up soon thereafter. This is the second time she has hit someone while she was driving under the influence. Mr. Schmidt was very badly hurt and his survival is still uncertain.

Please pray for him and his family.

And if you drink, don't drive!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Perspective and gratitude

Our friend (well, Tom's friend and my acquaintance) Chris is still in a slow recovery from the traumatic massive surgery he underwent a couple of months back. He or his wife post reports regularly so that folks can keep up with his progress. Here is a lengthy edited excerpt from the latest post:
Last week I took round three of chemotherapy. There were no serious side effects. Some tingling in my hands. Sensitivity to cold. Constipation for a few days, followed by diarrhea. I expect a deep fatigue, which is almost unavoidable...

The chemotherapy has become almost routine, with known effects all of which are tolerable or managed. The thinking is that I will be able to finish a full 12-cycle treatment... That's good news in terms of cancer treatment. In terms of how I experience it, this amounts to saying that I'll take poison 9 more times and we're pretty sure I'll recover each time...

We did make an emergency room visit on Saturday, but it was a very low key event. I was bleeding in my gums and it seemed the bleeding wouldn't stop. This is not unusual for someone on blood thinners...

I am up and about most days. I move a little slower than I'd like, and think twice about every new activity. But for an hour at a time I can do much of what I would like or ever did. There are three significant limitations. I have a PICC line in my right arm, which can't get wet and doesn't let me extend my arm fully. The blood thinner makes me very careful about getting a cut or bruise... And my digestive system is still adapting and having a hard time of it. The practical consequence is a trip to the bathroom every hour...

Next week Linda and Britta Christina will fly to Amsterdam and drive to Brussels to pick up Chase and accompany him through the Netherlands and home again. Six months ago I planned to make that trip and looked forward to it. But I'm not ready to travel those distances so I'll look forward to seeing Chase at O'Hare, when he arrives about two weeks from now. During that week my friend Tom will stay with me. It's not like I need a nurse all the time. But on occasion, and without a lot of warning, I need help. It is good not to be alone.

It is good for me to get these updates at a time that I am feeling frustrated by having to hassle with Circuit City and their rebate procedure. Like what's the big deal, compared to what Chris and Linda face on a daily basis? Doesn't mean that business procedures could (should?) not be more reasonable and helpful, but it's not the tragedy I can try to make it.

As someone said, "Build a bridge and get over it."

So I'm thankful that I have the energy to hassle with all this foolishness for half an afternoon. And I'm thankful that Chris is progressing, even though it is slow.


As I have mentioned, I recently bought a new notebook computer. I am pretty much satisfied with it, but I am annoyed with the dealer/manufacturer/industry.

Now I have to say upfront that I got a really good deal on this package.

But having said that...

The advertisement says (I checked it again)"Save $200 instantly".

Turns out "instantly" means mail-in rebates.

Turns out to mail in the rebate, you have to go online, find your order and click on and then print out rebate forms -- formS -- because it is not one simple $200 rebate but four separate rebates that add up to $200. Ironically, although you have to do all this online searching, you could not order this online. You had to go into the store or call them. Why didn't they just mail the forms with the stuff?

Then you have to go through all the hoops to mail in the rebates -- print out multiple copies of the receipt, cut and paste bar codes, swear that you are not now and never have been a Mac fan...

Well, I am exaggerating a tiny bit.

Also, although the stuff comes with $200 worth of rebates, the fact is that one is an either/or -- depending on which router you got, you get $40 or $20, but not both. (My router gets me $20.) Another is $40 with a possibility of $20 more if you upgrade for more initial expense. So what I am actually being offered is a savings of only $160.

It is neither $200 nor instant.

I have read articles about why rebates are so popular with manufacturers: most people don't figure it is worth the hassle to send in all the paperwork, and so they buy the thing expecting to pay one price but wind up paying more to avoid the hassle of getting the deal they were promised.

Sorry, folks! I can't afford to ignore $200, so I'll do all the stuff I have to do to get it.

But it ain't right.

You have to kiss a lot of frogs ...

Yesterday was a mouse day. The cats brought one in and played volleyball with it until I got it away from them and disposed of the body. Later Cassidy cornered a little fat one behind the door into the laundry room but lost interest when I moved the doorstop so she could get at it. I had to take care of that one all on my own.

When we went over to give Peggy keys to the house last night -- in case she or Rich ever need them or if we can't find our own -- Tom noticed a large birdhouse sitting by the garage. Peggy said it was the martin house and she was half hoping some mice would move in. I told her to come leave it in our living room for a while and she would get the mice.

Last night we had another thunderstorm, and this morning when I woke up, I found a frog in my room. I can't figure out how it got in unless one of the cats brought it. However it got here, it seemed not much worse for the wear, so I let it out back and it went its way.
That is a National Geographic picture of a mouse riding a frog in an Indian monsoon.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Savage Chickens

I love Doug Savage's chickens. I love the simplicity of the drawings, I love the fact that they're (usually) chickens, I love the fact that they are drawn on Post-Its. I don't love the fact that he only does them on weekdays, and I miss them on the weekends.

His explanation of their origin:
When I was a kid, I drew cartoons all the time. I drew cows and alligators and pigs and superheroes. I drew a platypus named Ed. I drew a dead dog named Dead Dog Bob. I drew everything I saw and everything I wanted to see.

Many years passed. By a strange series of coincidences, I found myself working in an office. The more I used a keyboard, the worse my penmanship became. The constant hum of computers made my brain twitch. That's when I stopped drawing cartoons.

Then the chickens came.

Like some sort of haunting supernatural force, the chickens bubbled up from the ol' subconscious mind. In a trance-like state, I drew them on office whiteboards. I drew them in notebooks. I drew them on anything that sat still long enough. People started asking, "Who's drawing those damn chicken cartoons everywhere?

The chickens were unstoppable. To retain my sanity, all I could do was grab a stack of sticky notes, and release the Savage Chickens.
If you want to see more, click here.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

It was a dark and stormy night...

About midnight last night, I was awakened by strong winds outside. There was lighting and thunder, but the noise of the wind was what woke me. I unplugged my computer and woke Tom to see if he wanted his stuff unplugged. The storm lasted about an hour and a half, and the cats were rather agitated by it. Sundance kept walking across me and waking me up, and at one point she or Cassidy brought in a mouse and dumped it on the floor in my bedroom.

When Tom went out to survey the landscape this morning, there were some dead twigs and things down, and a sizable branch down over at Rich and Peggy's. He didn't think we had lost anything significant. On my way to church, I saw a few more larger limbs down on the side of the road, but not much else. At Mass I sat beside some young people from Poland. In fact, I think the only word they knew in English was "Poland", but they had friendly smiles.

This afternoon I was talking on the phone with my friend Steve Comeau and saw what looked like a downed tree right in the front of the house. After I got off the phone, Tom and I checked, and sure enough, another big poplar had broken off and come down, almost exactly where the one hit by lightning exploded last year. This was no lightning strike, just a weak trunk breaking in the wind, about ten feet or so off the ground.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Another somewhat soggy Saturday in Sauk County (Why now?)

There were three -- let me rephrase that, we saw three turkeys in the backyard this morning.

They are such odd creatures. The way they stalk around, they do look like miniature dinosaurs. I told Tom I think God created them, looked at them, knew there was something not quite right but decided not to bother to try and fix it.

"And so he shipped them to America," Tom said.

Turkeysaurus rex!


The summer is usually full of festivals, parades and so on around here, but this weekend I had been looking forward to a couple of things in particular: the 43rd Annual Fine Art Festival (mighty elegant name for an arts and crafts fair) on the square in Baraboo and the Ho-Chunk Neesh La pow wow.

Although the weather was overcast and it felt like rain, the meteorologists -- men and women who are paid to guess what the weather is going to do -- assured us that the rain would hold off until night. Our plan was to head to the art festival about nine and then check out the pow wow on the way back to Delton. About five to eight, the thunder started and by a quarter to nine it was raining steadily.

We went back to the computer to look at the forecasts -- now they said 30% chance of isolated thunderstorms throughout the morning, increasing to 40% in the afternoon.

Outside the 30% soaked the ground. At least we didn't have to water the lawn and flowers.

Tom kept saying, "I think this isn't going to amount to much" and "This will be over soon" and so on. I would feel more confident if I didn't recall his, "I think the worst is over" remark during a severe storm last summer shortly before lightning hit a tree in the front yard, knocked out our power and burned up my hard drive.

Now when he is optimistic about the weather, I begin to feel like all those Star Wars characters: I've got a bad feeling about this.

But this time he was right. The wind picked up and blew the rain away about 10:00.

Then the phone started ringing.

By the time he was off the phone, the sun was out and we made it to the art festival. It was small, but with some nice things. Tom was hoping to pick up another painting of a cow wearing sunglasses, but the folks with those weren't there.

When we got home, my new laptop -- on which I am completing this post -- had arrived. I took a short nap while Tom -- the computer guru -- began setting it up.

Later, while the computer was doing something, we went over to the pow wow for a short while. We saw part of the teen (and I would say boy) fancy dancing and traditional dancing competition. It was interesting, but those guys must have been dying in the heat and humidity, wearing those elaborate costumes.

The rain started up briefly when we headed home during the dinner break, but we intended to return for the adult dance competition. Unfortunately my sun- or allergy-related wooziness kicked in and I wasn't up to going back. I tried to convince Tom to return, but the decided to watch a movie on television instead.

So I am still a little light-headed as I type this, but the good news is that the computer is up and running.

Mama and bluebonnets

First off, Mama sent a comment by email about the Wisconsin-Texas connection spoken of in an earlier post (click here), so be sure to go back and read her comment.

I don't think I have ever been to Albany, Wisconsin, but you go through Beloit all the time on the way to Chicago. (You'll have to read Mama's story for that to make sense to you.)

Second, I many have mentioned before how frugal Tom is. (I guess that's how he accumulated a million dollars.) Now that some of the wildflowers and others he planted around the house are going to seed, he is outside harvesting the seeds and putting them into plastic bags for next year. No need to pay a hard-earned 79 cents at Wal-Mart when you've been growing your own, right?

That plus the appearance of some blue flowers in the beds reminds me that we got a packet of bluebonnet seeds this past spring. I think they wound up in a patch that had to be redug and replanted, but from what I read, they are so hard to get going, it may not make no never-mind anyway. I am not sure we have any place on the property that would give them the eight to ten hours of direct sunlight they need, either, except maybe the deck. So I went online to see if they are good for containers. (They are, if...)

During the process I learned that Texas has five state flowers: five, count them, five. Typical! One isn't big enough.

But it turns out all five are bluebonnets. To save you the trouble of looking it up yourself, here is the info:
The five state flowers of Texas are:

1. Lupinus subcarnosus, the original champion and still co-holder of the title, grows naturally in deep sandy loams from Leon County southwest to LaSalle County and down to the northern part of Hidalgo County in the Valley. It is often referred to as the sandy land bluebonnet. The plant's leaflets are blunt, sometimes notched with silky undersides. This species, which reaches peak bloom in late March, is not easy to maintain in clay soils.
2. Lupinus texensis, the favorite of tourists and artists, provides the blue spring carpet of Central Texas. It is widely known as THE Texas bluebonnet. It has pointed leaflets, the flowering stalk is tipped with white (like a bunny's tail) and hits its peak bloom in late March and early April. It is the easiest of all the species to grow.
3. Lupinus Havardii, also known as the Big Bend or Chisos Bluebonnet, is the most majestic of the Texas bluebonnet tribe with flowering spikes up to three feet. It is found on the flats of the Big Bend country in early spring, usually has seven leaflets and is difficult to cultivate outside its natural habitat.
4. Lupinus concinnus is an inconspicuous little lupine, from 2 to 7 inches, with flowers which combine elements of white, rosy purple and lavender. Commonly known as the annual lupine, it is found sparingly in the Trans-Pecos region, blooming in early spring.
5. Lupinus plattensis sneaks down from the north into the Texas Panhandle's sandy dunes. It is the only perennial species in the state and grows to about two feet tall. It normally blooms in mid to late spring and is also known as the dune bluebonnet, the plains bluebonnet and the Nebraska Lupine.
If you don't believe me, that is courtesy of the good folks at the Texas Cooperative Extension, and I know they wouldn't lie.

Although, being Texans, they may be telling more truth than there is.

If you are just dying to read the whole thing, click here. (If you go there, you will notice this is connected to the Texas A&M University horticulture site.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Feast day

One of my Boston friends, David, wished me a happy feast day in the comments section to an earlier post, so I want to explain to any of the non-Catholic Dodds reading that August 9 is the feast of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Edith Stein before she entered the Carmelites and went on to die at Auschwitz. She is distantly related to Tom on his mother's side as well as to his fomer sister-in-law, Hannah Goldschmidt. The monastery I lived in in Chicago was named for her -- the Edith Stein House of Studies -- and it was her canonization I attended back in 1998.

The painting above was used in 1987 at the beatification ceremony (that is the stage before canonization) and was done by Sr. Marie Celeste, one of the Carmelite nuns I knew from Reno. In the painting we see not only Edith but her blood sister, Rosa, who was shipped off with her to the concentration camp to die, and a crowd of other Jewish victims of Ha-Shoa. When the Gestapo came to the monastery to take them away, Edith is supposed to have said to her sister, "Come, Rosa. We must go for our people." She died because she was Jewish, but she was rounded up to be killed along with other Jewish converts to Catholicism in retaliation against the Dutch bishops who had published a letter denouncing the Nazi persecution of the Jews.

Critter du jour

On the way back from the library tonight I saw a Great Horned Owl at the intersection of Clara Avenue (named for an aunt of Tom's) and Trout Road. Although others around here have mentioned seeing and hearing owls, this was my first sighting. Cool!

Not too much exciting news on the critter front. Yesterday I saw a young raccoon, and our young neighbor Kevin recently hit and killed one of the fawns that was hanging around the road by their driveway.

This morning Sundance was prowling around the cedar chest that serves as a coffee table in the living room. I figured she either had a mouse under there or one of her toys had gone under it. I picked it up, and there was one of the fat little basement mice. It stayed put and Sundance just stared, so I let the chest down and closed my bedroom door to keep the mouse out and went off to work. Tom said later in the day she chased it down into the basement and stayed there for about an hour. At least it's not up here any more.

Another not-so-good Texas connection

From time to time, Texas shows up in the local paper, the Wisconsin Dells Events. This time the story is not so happy:
Beacon House Center for Family Enhancement has suspended its classes after the non-profit's teacher was arrested for possession of marijuana and is being held in Sauk County Jail on a warrant from Texas.

Kandi Miller, 54, was taken into custody in late July on a warrant from Nacogdoches County, Texas for unauthorized use of a vehicle, according to a spokeswoman from the Sauk County District Attorney's office.

Miller signed documents stating that she is willing to be moved to Texas for court proceedings there as soon as possible.

She has been held in the Sauk County Jail since July 23 where she remains currently, according to a jail spokeswoman.
I have written about Beacon House here before. (I gave them some dragons for their auction.) Because of this, they have had to cancel their educational program -- basically helping people learn how to negotiate the process of finding employment and affordable housing.

Tom is going on a canoing expedition on the Wisconsin River with Debbie Kinder next week. She is on the board for Beacon House. I have been looking for some place to do some volunteer work. I'll get him to mention that to her and see if Beacon House is the place to get involved.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Greater Tuna

This evening we went to see Greater Tuna at the University of Wisconsin-Baraboo Summerset Theater. (The school is affectionaely called Boo-U around here.) It was very enjoyable and the weather held -- important because it is an outdoor performance.

Greater Tuna
is the first in a trilogy of comedic plays (followed by A Tuna Christmas and Red, White and Tuna), each set in the fictional town of Tuna, Texas, the "third-smallest" town in the state. The plays are at once a satrical and affectionate comment on small-town, Southern life and attitudes. They are notable in that two men play the entire cast of over twenty eccentric characters of both genders and various ages. Greater Tuna debuted in Austin in Fall 1981, and had its off-Broadway premiere in 1982. When George Bush, Sr. was President, there was a command performance at the White House.

I actually saw the second of the three plays -- A Tuna Christmas -- in Washington, DC a few years ago with Steve Payne. I happened to be there for some sort of Carmelite meeting around my birthday, and he got tickets. The two writers, who originally did all the acting, were the performers that time.

Anyway, we had a good time, and Tom even won a Boo-U frisbee in the raffle at intermission.

Closer yet

I mentioned the other day that I have friends who live in Minnesota. Since then I have learned that one of my friends, a Lutheran youth minister who was out of town at the time of the bridge collapse, normally drives over that bridge on his way from home to work and back every day. His life will now be disrupted by the traffic problems, but he himself is safe.

On the other hand, today I ran into one of my Ho-Chunk friends in Baraboo. He just returned from the funeral of a cousin who died in the disaster.

Closer and closer...

Local burger makes good

I have mentioned Culver's here before, the place we sometimes go for frozen custard and home of the Butter Burger -- the kosher nightmare. The version pictured is not only made from meat cooked in butter, but adds bacon and cheese to top it off and give the rabbis agita.

Now comes the news that theirs is the Best Burger in America:
Last week, a nationwide annual survey conducted by Restaurants & Institutions magazine ranked Culver's as the best burger chain in the country.
I do notice that this is the best burger chain in the country, which is not the same thing as the best burger, of course.

Although boasting that they are health-conscious and one of the first chains in the nation to switch over completely to zero trans oil, there is practically nothing on their menu that is not fried except for a paltry salad selection. They only have one item on their frozen dessert menu that is low-fat and low-sugar, and it is found in their packaged frozen food section, not in their freshly made offerings.

Still, a tip of the hat. Culver's began in Sauk County in 1984, down in Sauk City. Today they can be found in 17 states, including Texas.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Close encounter of the cervine kind

When dinner time was drawing nigh, I went outside to look for Tom. As I went towards the door into the garage from the laundry, I saw a deer -- doe -- amble across the drive. So I went through the side door and watched her feed for a while. She looked up at one point and seemed to look right at me. Then she went back to grazing. She kept coming closer and closer to the house, out of the brush along the road and into the park-like area by the lawn. I stood quite still and watched for about five minutes. Occasionally she would look up at me, but she didn't run away.

Finally she began to nibble on one of the poplars Tom planted this spring, so I clapped my hands. It startled her, and she backed away from the tree. But she continued to graze there in the open. I walked around to the garage and out onto the paved part of the drive. She looked up at me and stared, moving her head and acting like she was trying to see something behind me. She didn't appear afraid of me at all. After a few more minutes, during which she moved closer and closer, she nipped at one of the recently planted trees again. I clapped my hands, but it made no impression. Finally I spoke to her, and she turned, jumped into the bushes and took off.

There is a deer park in the Dells that is one of the oldest tourist attractions in the area. They have a bunch of other animals, too -- a sort of petting zoo -- and you can buy food for them. This deer actually moved towards me at one point, looking like she was waiting for me to feed her. I don't think she had escaped from the park, but that was the impression she gave. Tom thinks it may be that the drought has affected them in some way. We also have chronic wasting disease in the deer in the state, but she showed none of the signs of that -- drooping head and such. A couple of affected deer have been found in the county, so we do keep an eye out.
cervine -- adj., relating to or resembling deer

Weather, work and computers

We got another inch of rain last night -- accompanied by long periods of rolling thunder and constant lightning. We didn't lose power and it didn't sound like any of the lightning was nearby, but it did go on forever.

Yesterday was a long day at work. One reason I feel like I am always behind at the office is that I do more than just Joe's legal work. For example, he is president of the Sauk County Chapter Wisconsin Right to Life, and although I assume they have a secretary, I do a lot of his correspondence for that. Recently he needed to send out about twenty Thank You notes to people for staffing the booth at the Sauk County Fair, and he decided that what he wanted to do was start a database so that he could do this as a form letter, sort who had helped with what and so on in the future. Which means he wanted Michael to do a database.

This is not a major thing -- I did stuff like this all the time for Retreats International on a larger scale -- but it is the sort of thing that does take time away from preparing pleadings, Financial Disclosure Statements, and so on. So I suggested I come in on an afternoon and that I be allowed to do that and nothing else so that it could get done. He agreed. I also decided to use some of the afternoon to get Evelyn's guardian ad litem billing done, because billing is another thing that takes time and never seems to get done if I am trying to do other stuff at the same time.

It took longer than anticipated. No reason, really. Given his work-style -- write a letter, then after it is printed, decide to change it a few times... -- I should always build in an extra 50% on my estimate. But we got it done, and I also finished the billing for Evelyn's work for Sauk County, so it was a productive afternoon. I was pooped by the time I got home, though. One of the things I enjoyed about this job when I took it was I didn't sit around waiting for something to do. But every now and then, it would be nice to get a break in the action. Usually I am hard at it from the time I arrive until the time I leave.

Sunday when we were in Madison, I picked up a flyer at Best Buy that had a great deal on a notebook computer. After hemming and hawing for a couple of days, I decided to splurge, but then I found the same computer PLUS a printer/copier/scanner, a router for the net and security software for the same price at Circuit City. For the Best Buy deal, I would have had to drive back to Madison because they wouldn't ship it, but Circuit City gave me more stuff and would ship it for under four bucks. I also have to send in for the rebate, which I would not have had to do for Best Buy, but I am saving a two-hour drive plus gas. So I caved and the new one will be on its way. Now I have to deal with the new Vista operating system... And I won't be able to spend any more money until Christmas! (Not true, but you know how cheap I am.)

Sunday, August 5, 2007


So it looks like there is a possibility that the Brooklyn Broccolos will spend Thanksgiving here, which would be great. Last year we had Thanksgiving over with Rich and Peggy, although it was on Saturday when Rich's family came down. The Screnocks will probably provide a turkey, so the more the merrier.

The rain continued through the night, and we had a much-needed inch and three-quarters by the time it stopped this morning.

Tom came back last night from the Kimballs all a-dither over the house they are building in Utah. Eleven thousand square feet of house and another ten thousand or so of "barn", for lack of a better word. As you may gather, Chris did all right for himself.

There being nothing going on this afternoon in Sauk County, we decided to go to Madison and hit some bookstores and so on. To our disappointment, a recently-discovered and liked Chinese place was not open. It wasn't clear if that was because it was Sunday or if it has gone out of business. So to the food court we went for chicken teriyaki.

I got a book on writing and a new copy of the Tao Te Ching -- a Chinese spiritual classic that I love but keep giving away. Tom fiddled around with wind chimes for a while and then decided not to get any. Instead we bought a little television to replace the failing one that I watch while riding the exercycle in the exercise room -- AKA the basement. I really have to start getting more exercise and watch what I am eating! Then when Vince and Kristin come in November, I can eat what I want for that weekend at least.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Soggy Sabbath

Well, we finally got some rain today -- a fairly steady rain all afternoon. I don't imagine it has amounted to more than a half inch, but every little bit helps these days. And maybe it will continue into the night and even tomorrow.

Tom went to Chicago (Evanston) yesterday to keep Chris Kimball company and to give Linda a bit of a break. She will be going to Europe for a week at the end of the month to collect one of their boys, and Tom will be staying with Chris while she is away. I think this was partly a dry run so that he has a sense of what sorts of things Chris might need. Sounds like he is moving along, but it is a slow road to recovery from such traumatic surgery, even for someone as active and fit as Chris.

On the critter front, this morning I saw a doe and a fair-sized fawn in the back yard. On the way into Reedsburg I saw the elk herd, but I hear by way of the grapevine that the elk ranch may be going out of business. I do know that they no longer offer the tours they once had. Sitting out on the front porch watching the rain, I saw that the hummingbird feeder was empty. I didn't intend to do anything about that, but after a couple of birds came by to check up on it, I broke down and refilled it. Later one of the juveniles came by. It drank so long and steady that I think I could actually see the level going down in the feeder.

As for the human feeder, although I made a meatloaf for dinner tonight, I see that the Firehouse Pizza place that closed downtown has reopened up the road from us a bit. We have seen the "Coming Soon" signs for a while and today it looks like they are actually open for business. This is the best pizza we found around here, and I hope that is still the case in their new location.

Not that either of the old men in this household need to be eating too much pizza...

Where you live

The bridge collapse in Minnesota struck close to home because Minnesota is next to Wisconsin, but more importantly, I know people who live in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. Helen, Jay and Tom and Helen's foster son John and his family all live there.

The trial of Eric Hainstock held more interest than many others because the trial took place across the street from where I work and I know people who know people involved.

Flooding or drought in Texas concerns me because most of my family lives there.

When the steam pipe in New York explodes, I have family there.

When Katrina hit, lots of Carmelites -- including my dear friend Anthony Morello -- were affected by it.

Every time I read about another bomb in Baghdad, I think of Jean Sleiman and wonder if he's okay. I know a number of families here who have members fighting in Iraq.

A recent report about the murder of an American priest in Kenya makes me wonder about the safety of Steve Payne and Gene Wehner and Chuck Gamen and Dennis Geng, all people I have lived with in monasteries in America.

I am amazed at all the places that I have friends because of where I have had the opportunity to live. All the places where the news is more than news.

I have lived in Georgia, Texas, Michigan, Arkansas, Mexico, Washington, DC, Boston, Rhode Island, Maryland, St. Louis, Wisconsin, Illinois. I have friends in Spain, Australia, New Zealand, Iraq, Italy, Ghana, Ethiopia, Ireland, Tanzania, South Africa, Vietnam, Canada, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, Croatia ... Not to mention Iowa, Nebraska, New Mexico, California, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Florida, Arizona, Oklahoma, Kansas, Ohio ...

The news means more when it touches people we know.

Here is an old story:
Once upon a time the heathens wanted to make fun of the Torah, and of the rabbis. They asked one another:

"Are all rabbis as kind as, Hillel? Are all Jewish teachers as good as Hillel? Are all rabbis as patient as Hillel?"

So one of them said:

"I shall go and find out." He came to Shammai, also a famous rabbi, and cried:

"Your Torah, your wonderful Torah--I can learn it while I stand on one foot. Rabbi Shammai, you teach it to me while I stand on one foot." You see, he was just making fun of the Torah.

Now what do you suppose Shammai did? Do you think he had patience with a man who was making fun of the Torah? Who ever heard of learning the whole Torah while standing on one foot? The rabbis had spent all their lives in studying the Torah and even then they were not sure that they knew all of it.

Rabbi Shammai took a stick and shouted angrily:

"Get out of here, you scoffer! Do you think I have time to waste on people who mock our holy Torah?" The heathen ran away. He thought he would go to Hillel and see what Hillel would do.

All out of breath, he came to Hillel's home. Hillel thought the man had come for something very important. So Hillel said:

"What is the matter, my good man?" And the heathen answered:

"Teach me the Torah while I stand on one foot."

Of course Hillel, too, saw that the heathen was scoffing, but calmly and patiently he said:

"You want to learn a great deal quickly, don't you? Very well, I shall teach you the Torah while you stand on one foot. This is our Holy Torah: 'What is hateful to you, do not do unto others.'"

The heathen forgot that he had come only to jeer.

"Does it mean that the heathens and the Jews and all of us are brothers? Does it mean that we must be kind to one another like brothers?" asked the heathen, wonderingly.

"That's it, my son. That's the meaning of the whole Torah. All the rest is only an explanation of that. Go, go, my son. Go and study it," said Hillel kindly.

"When may I come for another lesson?" asked the heathen humbly.
I once said that if someone asked me to teach them the Good News while they stood on one foot, I would say, "God loves us. And there's only us. No them."

Knowing some of them in all these places helps me realize there is no "them" -- only us.

Friday, August 3, 2007


I heard from the editor of Spiritual Life magazine today that he likes the article I did on the treatise I had translated and that was published recently. So that will be published someday, but it takes a while for things to get into print with them. It is a quarterly, so I imagine the earliest it will appear would be about this time next year.

Still, it is good to get something accepted. Spiritual Life is a well-respected Catholic quarterly and regularly wins awards from the Catholic Press Association. Even better, they actually pay!

Deer. drums, decision

Last night we decided to go to the concert on the Square in Baraboo. On the way we saw a deer right in the middle of Berry Road. On the way back, another deer crossed the road ahead of us and over on Trout Road I saw about a dozen out in a field. A crane had flown over us on the way back, so it was a critterful evening.

There was a big turnout to hear the Od Tapo Imi Steel Drum Band. The leader is a relative local, although they are now based in Chicago. It was mostly Caribbean-type music, with a bit of Jimmy Buffet thrown in and even one Disney song from The Little Mermaid: "Kiss the Girl."

While we were there, Tom noticed that the jury bus for the murder trial was there, so we figured they were still in the building deliberating while the partying went on outside. When we got home we learned that about the time we were leaving the concert, the jury had convicted Eric Hainstock of First Degree Intentional Homicide. Tom (and Joe, if I understood him correctly) did not think the prosecutor had really proved that in her examination of the accused, but I guess the other witnesses were enough to convince the jury. I have a sneaky feeling that Judge Taggart was not so sure himself, because in his instructions to the jury he also gave them the option of deciding it was Reckless Homicide (Intentional or Unintentional). Tom thought that there might be enough uncertainty that the jury would opt for that, but that is not the way it turned out. Joe, by the way, was personally convinced that Eric was guilty of intentional homicide, but as a former District Attorney, he thought the case had not been convincingly made by the prosecutor.

At any rate, this sad chapter in the community's history is moving towards closure, with Eric requesting a speedy sentencing. I don't know if his attorneys plan an appeal.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Who's what?

Among the junk mail that came into the office recently was something addressed to me from Cambridge Who's Who. It was, they assured me, their pleasure to inform me that I was being considered for inclusion in the 2007/2008 Cambridge Who's Who Among Executives and Professionals "Honors Edition" section of the registry.

Since this was addressed to me at the law office, I can only assume they got my name off of a mailing list from Staples or some such place that sends supply orders to my attention.

Not so much, but thanks for playing!
That picture of the Mayor of Whoville is not from How the Grinch Stole Christmas, but from the other Dr. Seuss classic, Horton Hears a Who.


Yesterday afternoon I was questioned as a suspect in a murder case.

Sort of.

The Baraboo Public Library -- like just about every other library in the state, apparently -- is running a program on detectives this summer for teenagers. Besides reading detective novels, they have had lectures from police, the local CSI-types and such things. It's called "Get a Clue".

Yesterday they had a Mystery Game Party. Six teams of teenagers were given a description of the basic case -- the body of a man who had been missing for five years was discovered in the foundation of a library addition during construction -- and then had to go around and interview ten suspects who were scattered around in the library.

My role was Richard Eddington, an elderly man, recently voted president of the Board of Trustees of the library named for his grandfather. He would very much like to return to the days when libraries housed only aging works of literature and unnecessary talking was prohibited. He avoids the library in the hours immediately after school lets out. He was supposed to be a curmudgeon and I told them I thought that would fit me fine.

All I really had to say was, "I made no secret of my opposition to this addition. Since when does a library need beanbag chairs and a neon sign? Don't teenage students have a school library? But I'm not a violent man, and one death would not have stopped the project. I am also an officer at Crow Valley Country Club, and we had a long dinner meeting there that evening." It was supposed to be calm, stiff and formal.

We were encouraged to ham it up a bit, and I think I did that pretty well. Most of the kids seemed a bit intimidated by me.

I got hooked into this through the book club at the library, and I volunteered Tom because they were having trouble finding enough guys for the male suspects. He was a 35-year-old party-hearty guy who had once worked as a construction worker for the dead man.

It turned out we were both innocent, I'm glad to say.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Battle of the buzz

Well, Tom's homemade wasp trap doesn't seem to have interested the wasps at all. But persistent spraying of the nest combined with his ability to outrun the angry critters apparently met with success. This morning when he sprayed, nothing happened and he was able to know the nest down without any wasps emerging.

I suppose it is just a matter of time before another one shows up somewhere.

This war could last a generation.