Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year's Eve and counting

Okay, we had another three or so inches of snow late yesterday. Right now (9:12 AM as I write this paragraph) it is sunny, bright and two degrees below zero. We should make it into the teens later in the day and have a chance of snow again for New Year's Day.

This morning we decided to take down the Christmas decorations. When I was a kid at home, we took the decorations off the tree at least on New Year's Eve because we had a party and burned the tree that night and had fireworks. Buddy, Florence, Phyllis and Rex came and sometimes other friends. We always had to go back to school right after New Year's Day anyway, so Christmas was pretty well over.

Tom's youngest son, John, was born on December 30, so the Scharbach family tradition was to take Christmas decorations down before the thirtieth so that he could have a birthday uncluttered by other stuff. Since he never made it up here this year because of weather, we left things up longer. Tom had mentioned taking it down a few days ago, but Joe and Evelyn were coming to visit (they came Sunday) and I wanted the tree up for them to see.

In the monastery, of course, the tree stayed up until Epiphany (traditionally January 6, but now always on a Sunday around that time), because that is when the church celebrates the visit of the Wise Men, who were the ones, after all, who brought the gifts.

The cats, being cats, do not like change. It took them a week or so to adjust to the tree being up and all the other stuff. Yesterday and today they had taken to batting the tree skirt around and batting at the tree, and so we figured it was time to act before they started climbing the tree and breaking ornaments. Naturally when we started taking it down, they got all upset because now they are used to it and getting rid of it has become a change. (That is not a picture of our cat, but it is an image of what we wanted to avoid.)

Helen and Jay will be coming through on January 2 to take Buddy the Dog home. That means we can move the cats' food back to where it belongs. That is a change they will probably approve.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Another Dodd legacy

Back when I was a kid, Daddy would sometimes complain of gout and I always thought he was making a big deal out of nothing. Then when I hit my early 40s, I had a gout attack and discovered it is a very big deal indeed. Until I got help for it, I could be practically bedridden for a few days when it hit.

Gout (metabolic arthritis) is a disease created by a buildup of uric acid. In this condition, crystals of monosodium urate or uric acid are deposited on the articular cartilage of joints, tendons and surrounding tissues. These crystals cause inflammation and pain, both severe. If untreated, the crystals form tophi, which can cause significant tissue damage. Gout results from a combination of elevated concentrations of uric acid and overall acidity in the bloodstream.

Fortunately it is fairly easily treated with medication, and I had had no problems with it for a number of years. Doctors were of two opinions about whether I needed to keep taking the daily doses of allopurinol and colchicine, and a couple of years ago (after consulting with my doctor) I stopped them. No problems for the longest time, but recently I have had some minor flareups. Friday when I saw Dr. Ewing, he told me to get back on the pills until the uric acid levels get stabilized. Then I should be able to drop the colchicine except when I have an attack.

The downside of this is that the allopurinol actually causes a gout attack when you first take it. The colchicine helps control it, and the first time when I started on allopurinol I had no problems. This time, problem! My left foot looks quite a bit like that photo up there, with the inflammation and all. I can barely get my foot into a slipper, much less a shoe. So today I am stuck in the house because I am hobbling around. We had planned to go to Madison -- the trip yesterday having been canceled due to weather -- but I decided I would just be cranky and achy. So we put it off.

I think it is getting better. At least, I hope so. This shouldn't last more than another day or so, and after that I should be fine for the long term.

Gout is caused by a number of things, one of which is heredity and another is diet. My doctor told me that heredity seems to be the major issue in my case, and that is something I can't do anything about. I am going to be more careful of my diet, though, which I need to do anyway.


Saturday, December 27, 2008

Naughty and ice (and mice)

The weather, that is.

Right now (6:45 a.m.) it is 47 degrees out with a light rain. The warmer temperatures, the fog and rain have pretty much cleared the snow off the deck and are making inroads elsewhere. When Tom stepped out this morning with Buddy the Dog, he was delighted to see that the drive was clear of snow. But when he stepped up to the edge, he saw it was clear ice.

Temperatures are supposed to drop through the day, getting below freezing again by nightfall. Meanwhile rain, rain and more rain.

To be followed perhaps by a wintry mix (a polite term for horrible and treacherous mess) and maybe another one to three inches of snow overnight to cover up the icy patches on the road and make it even more exciting to drive.

We had planned to go into Madison to catch a sale at Half-Price Books and so that I could use the Barnes & Noble card Ted and Cynthia gave me (thanks again!), but it looks like that may not happen.

Although, to be honest, since it is 47 degrees, I am surprised Dave hasn't called from the R&GN Railway to see if we can come help run some trains ...

Meanwhile, Sundance brought in a big fat mouse and released it to run about the kitchen a bit. Tom did all he could to help her corner it, but she seemed more confused than grateful. We have developed an effective two-man mouse trapping operation for occasions when the cats fail to do their duty, and we put that into play and got rid of the critter that way.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Guests, non-guests and girth

I was just saying yesterday that we hadn't seen the possum lately, and today two of them showed up. There they are, a few feet away from the bird feeder, digging down to find what they can. They were both there for a long time, and one stayed until after dark. Must be getting hungry out in that snow-covered woods.

Earlier this morning the pileated woodpecker was at the suet for a while.

We had expected Joe and Evelyn to drop by sometime today for a visit. Joe called the other day to set it up, and he said they would call when he knew what time they would arrive. We never got a call, and the weather may have interfered with those plans, too. It warmed up today, but the melting snow led to very dense and dangerous fog. We may get some rain overnight, and there are actually flash flood warnings out.

Meanwhile Tom was able to find a temporary poster frame for his autographed movie poster. That's it, leaning up against the bookcase on which all our Christmas and other holiday cards are displayed. I am not sure where he plans to hang it. You can't make out anything on this small a photo, but the grayish squiggle on Heath Ledger's collar is his signature. Sad to think that he died so young this past year.

I had my annual check-up with the doctor this morning. The brutal truth is that my height is shrinking but my girth is growing! So I have to start paying attention again to the healthy habits that I know I need to maintain. At least I was honest enough not to try to blame it on Christmas dinner and the holidays. He added a couple of new prescriptions, too, and I have to go back in a couple of months for blood work to see if they are working. I already dread going to pick stuff up at the pharmacy. I think my monthly prescription costs probably just doubled.

PS -- I went by Walmart this evening -- through the terrible fog -- and discovered to my relief that my prescription cost is not much greater, largely because he gave me 90-day refills that cost less than 30-day ones. That made enough difference to almost offset the new prescriptions.

On the feast of Stephen

Non-Catholics may be confused by the Christmas carol Good King Wenceslas. What does a song about a Bohemian saint have to do with Christmas, other than that it is a miracle story about care for the poor? The answer, of course, is in the opening lines:

Good King Wenceslas looked out
On the feast of Stephen
When the snow lay round about
Deep and crisp and even...

Catholics keep the memory of St. Stephen, the first martyr, on the day after Christmas. It is this connection to Christmas that makes the miracle tale a part of Christmas concerts in lots of places where people haven't a clue who Wenceslas was, or even what happens after the first verse of the song, which is usually all one hears on such occasions.

Over the years there seem to have many Stephens or Stevens or Steves in my life. First there was an uncle; then my best friend for many years -- Steve Yarbrough; a roommate at MSU -- Steve Wagner; my best friend among the Carmelites -- Steve Payne. Then these are the DC Steves -- Comeau and Phan, plus a whole slew of Steves out in Silver Spring -- and Steve Flower in Ohio.

I'm sure some are slipping my mind here, but at any rate -- a happy feast day to them all from Wisconsin on this feast of Stephen, where the snow lies round about, deep and crisp and even.

And for those of you who do not know how the story turns out, here is the whole song:

Good King Wenceslas looked out
On the feast of Stephen
When the snow lay round about
Deep and crisp and even.
Brightly shone the moon that night
Though the frost was cruel
When a poor man came in sight
Gath'ring winter fuel.

"Hither, page, and stand by me
If thou know'st it, telling
Yonder peasant, who is he?
Where and what his dwelling?"
"Sire, he lives a good league hence
Underneath the mountain
Right against the forest fence
By Saint Agnes' fountain."

"Bring me flesh and bring me wine
Bring me pine logs hither
Thou and I will see him dine
When we bear him thither."
Page and monarch forth they went
Forth they went together
Through the rude wind's wild lament
And the bitter weather.

"Sire, the night is darker now
And the wind blows stronger
Fails my heart, I know not how,
I can go no longer."
"Mark my footsteps, my good page
Tread thou in them boldly
Thou shalt find the winter's rage
Freeze thy blood less coldly."

In his master's steps he trod
Where the snow lay dented;
Heat was in the very sod
Which the Saint had printed.
Therefore, Christian folk, be sure
Wealth or rank possessing
Ye who now will bless the poor
Shall yourselves find blessing

Thursday, December 25, 2008

More photos

The view from our front door at noon on Christmas Day 2008.
There is about 16 inches of snow on the ground, but of course it is piled higher down there behind the bench where Tom has shoveled.

On the pile of snow behind the bench last Christmas Day,
we discovered this flamingo that Peggy had decorated for us.
It now stands guard beside the front door.

This is the view of the tree as you come through the front door. Hardly anyone does come in that way, so most of the decorations are on the other sides of the tree.

And here's the train cake, baked and decorated and waiting to be consumed.


This is the camera I got for Christmas. I am still learning to use it, as you can tell by the photos I have taken so far. It does just about everything but iron my shirts, which is cool. It even takes movies, but I am way far from figuring that out.

Here is a shot I took of the tree last night, after the gifts were all distributed. It looks weird because two of Tom's paintings are hanging on the wall behind it, so you have a couple of creepy-looking guys peeping over it. The tree has great ornaments. Your basic globe-type, including some hand-made one's Tom did last year and this, a few flamingos and also cows, cats, trains, a red dragon (for Wales) and several Texas-themed ones: a map of Texas, a cowboy Santa, a red pepper and a cowboy boot.

I have been trying to get pictures of the cats, but I am still working on that. Meanwhile, here they are, perched on my bed and wondering why I am bothering them. Cassidy has the green background, and Sundance the maroonish.

I called Mama and Daddy to wish them a Merry Christmas while Tom and Helen got breakfast together -- bacon, sausage and a special Christmas bread Helen had baked. Then she and Jay packed up their bags and headed south, leaving a forlorn Buddy the Dog behind. After visiting family and friends in Chicago and points east, they will be back to get Buddy on January 2. Because of the weather, they took my cell phone along in case they run into an emergency and need to call for help. After getting stuck for a short time in a storm last winter, I know that a cell phone can be a source of some comfort.

Since our expected guests will not be here for Christmas dinner, we invited Rich and Peggy over -- they having been cheated of their trip to Minnesota by the weather -- and Tom is now baking a cake in the train cake pan they gave him. We'll see how that works out. It's the thought that counts I guess.

More details later as events warrant.

Merry Merry from the cats and the guys!


Another monastic custom - sometimes kept in regular parishes as well -- was the Christmas Proclamation. This announced the birth of Christ in the context (largely speculative, of course,) of the events of world history from the beginning of time and in the secular context of the Roman Empire. In the monastery it is sung in Latin from a beautifully illuminated manuscript, and is a lovely piece that builds to a crescendo of joy. We used to have it sung while the chapel was dark, and then turn up the lights with the final line.
  • The twenty-fifth day of December.
  • In the five thousand one hundred and ninety-ninth year of the creation of the world
    from the time when God in the beginning created the heavens and the earth;
  • the two thousand nine hundred and fifty-seventh year after the flood;
  • the two thousand and fifteenth year from the birth of Abraham;
  • the one thousand five hundred and tenth year from Moses
    and the going forth of the people of Israel from Egypt;
  • the one thousand and thirty-second year from David's being anointed king;
  • in the sixty-fifth week according to the prophecy of Daniel;
  • in the one hundred and ninety-fourth Olympiad;
  • the seven hundred and fifty-second year from the foundation of the city of Rome;
  • the forty second year of the reign of Octavian Augustus;
  • the whole world being at peace,
  • in the sixth age of the world,
  • Jesus Christ the eternal God and Son of the eternal Father,
    desiring to sanctify the world by his most merciful coming,
    being conceived by the Holy Spirit,
    and nine months having passed since his conception,
  • was born in Bethlehem of Judea of the Virgin Mary,
    being made flesh.
  • The Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh.
BTW, that picture is not from the Proclamation, but I like it and that's reason enough to put it up there.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

'Twas the night before Christmas (Or, That was the plan, but what happened was ...)

After lunch John and Lucy checked in by phone about their travel plans. They were supposed to take the train up from Chicago, but there was no word on what was happening with the train -- scheduled to leave at 2:15 and arrive here at 5:52. Time for the train came and went, and still no information on when it might actually arrive from elsewhere and then depart. (Yesterday it was running about four hours late.)

Lucy was thinking they could drive, but she has the flu, it is a four hour drive on a good day, they would not be able to get away probably before four, the roads between here and there range between snow-covered to slippery, the traffic out of Chicago would be horrendous and so on. After much back-and-forthing of phone calls, they finally were convinced that the sane thing to do was to stay in Chicago and go celebrate Christmas Eve with their grandparents. (There is a whole tradition at the Anastaplo house which includes reading aloud Dicken's A Christmas Carol.) As it turned out, the train was five and a half hours late leaving Chicago, so they chose wisely.

Helen and Jay were on the road by the time this was decided, and since they don't have a cell phone -- I told Tom that is what they need for Christmas, given how much they travel -- we could not reach them to consult. They got in a bit before 5:00 and after discussing options, Tom and Jay went toWalmart for some coffee filters for the new coffee pot (and to look at HDTV's.) While they were gone, Helen and I finished decorating the tree. Then we all sat down to consume some semi-Texan chili Tom had been simmering for hours on the stove. After that, Helen put on the roast (that was to have been our Christmas dinner) to cook. They will take it with them when they head to Chicago tomorrow morning.

We bagged up the gifts for Lucy and John for Helen and Jay to take with them tomorrow as well, and then we exchanged our gifts. I got a digital camera from Tom and some special coffees and other treats from Rich and Peggy. Tom got some train and tractor cookie cutters and cake pans from Rich and Peggy, and a couple of red railroad lanterns from me. From Santa he got a movie poster of Brokeback Mountain that had been autographed by the director and stars. Now the trick is figuring out how to frame it. Helen and Jay got books and coffee mugs and such practical things. They had already given us their gift -- what should have been a year's supply of pistachios, except we have already eaten our way more than halfway through them.

Eventually Helen went off to their room to read and go to sleep while Tom and Jay watched The Great Escape. I came in here to my room to finish this up before turning in myself.

One early Christmas gift to me was a great conversation with my friend Steve Comeau in Maryland. I called him this morning while sitting in the truck in the snow while Tom made a Walmart run. I didn't expect to reach him, because Steve was supposed to have gone to Maine to spend Christmas with his mother and his cell phone doesn't work there. (As it turns out, it does now, but he wasn't in Maine anyway.) That is a story I will share some other time, a real holiday travel nightmare that involved a flight to JFK from Baltimore and then back, after spending the night in the terminal and never getting to Maine at all. So instead of just leaving a message on his phone, I got to talk to him and that was a real treat. I also put in a call to Rick in Iowa, but I didn't get through to him. I'll try again after the holiday rush.

And with that, Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!


You may have seen news reports last weekend about Baghdad celebrating Christmas publicly this year for the first time. I noticed that the pictures all seemed to be of Santa Claus and his elves, so I am not sure what message exactly was being sent. But it seems to have been peaceful. Perhaps the organizers thought that Santa Claus has become practically a secular image and would not create religious tensions. Apparently many of those who came to the party were Muslims, happy to have any reason to celebrate.

The following report from CNN, however, highlights the ongoing tragedy of Christians in Iraq. My friend, Archbishop Sleiman, is the Roman Catholic archbishop of Baghdad, but most Roman Catholics there are actually from other countries (Philippines, France, etc.) The Christians native to Iraq, while in communion with Roman Catholics and accepting of the pope, are mostly Chaldean Rite. Keep all of them in your prayers.

Iraq Christians face 'bleak future'

By Joe Sterling

(CNN) -- It's a bittersweet Christmas season for Joseph Kassab, who grew up in Iraq under Saddam Hussein's Baathist regime and now lives in Detroit, Michigan. Tempering the season's joy is his concern for fellow Iraqi Christians, who have endured killings, displacement and daily intimidation.

Christians in Iraq face a "bleak future," said Kassab, executive director of the Chaldean Federation of America, a nonprofit group that helps Iraqi Christians.

"We are heading for a demise," he said. "It's getting to the point where it might be an ethnic cleansing in the future."

A recent U.S. government report focused on the plight of Iraq's Christian minority. U.S. diplomats and legislators are worried, too.

"I think the Christians are caught in the middle of a horrible situation," said U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo, a California Democrat of Assyrian and Armenian ancestry.

She said Iraqi Christians are suffering as a result of "religious cleansing," and she has urged more help for minorities who have fled their homes in Iraq.

The Iraqi government has worked to be inclusive and accepting toward Christians, but daily intimidation has cowed the Christian community, with crosses removed from churches, priests afraid to wear their clerical garb, the faithful reluctant to attend church, and churches hiring private security guards.

Iraq's Christian population has fallen from as many as 1.4 million in 2003 to between 500,000 and 700,000 more recently, according to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

A recent commission report outlined chilling abuse that Christians suffer in Muslim-dominated Iraq. It sounded an alarm about the treatment of minorities such as Chaldo-Assyrian Christians, an ancient people who embraced the Christian faith in its early years and still speak a form of Aramaic, the language of Jesus.

The community has endured displacement, killings and kidnappings, with churches being attacked and occupied.

The U.S. State Department's International Religious Freedom Report for 2008 says two-thirds of Christians in Iraq are Chaldeans, a branch of the Catholic Church. Almost a third are from the Assyrian Church of the East. The rest include Syriac Christians, who are Eastern Orthodox; Armenians, both Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox; and Anglicans and other Protestants.

Christians and other minorities represented about 3 percent of Iraq's population before 2003, but many have fled to Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, and other countries.



It helps to have friends all over the world. All the way from Africa, Steve Payne pointed me towards a book review in the recent Carmelite Review magazine of A Better Wine, in which my translation of a work by Jerome Gratian appears. The review of the book as a whole is rather mixed, but the author -- I have to admit he is a friend of mine -- has only kind words for my effort.
There’s a real gem in the collection which was quite a surprise—a translation into English of set of ‘Constitutions’ written by Teresa of Avila and her collaborator and friend, Father Jerome Gratian.

A few years ago, a book was published called How Not to Say Mass by Father Dennis Smolarski. The book gave examples of mistakes, most quite comical, that have been done by priests saying Mass. It is a training manual, by offering only negative examples, of how to then properly say Mass (by avoiding these examples yourself). Well, it turns out that Teresa and Gratian did exactly the same thing. After completing the Constitutions of the newly reformed group of Carmelites called “discalced Carmelites” they then wrote another set of Constitutions of what not to do as a religious, which they called the Constituciones del Cerro. And they used a lot of humor in these ‘anti-constitutions.’ When reading this delightful gem, I laughed and laughed.

As to whether I give this volume a ‘thumbs up’ or a ‘thumbs down,’ I am going to give it a ‘thumbs sideways.’ Yes, it is a rather uneven volume with essays ranging from mere rehashings to profoundly insightful. But that translation of the highly humorous Constituciones del Cerro made reading the whole book worthwhile.
Greg (the reviewer) did not read my introductory material carefully enough to see that this was not written by Teresa in collaboration with Gratian, but it was a work of Gratian alone, although possibly based on some conversations he had with Teresa.

Anyway, I had been hoping to see a review of the book somewhere, and I appreciate Steve telling me about one I would like. And a word of thanks to Fr. Greg Houck for his kind remarks. I'm glad I made him laugh.


In the monastery we talked about the feast day devil, you know, that growing irritation inside you as you struggle to get everything set up and decorated, and the food done and everything in place and perfect? Instead of making the feast day happy, the devil (just ourselves, of course) made us grouchy and cranky, spoiling things for ourselves and maybe others if we snapped at them.

The feast day devil is not confined to monasteries, I have learned. As we have tried to get ready for the arrival of guests, clean the house, plan meals, shop and shop and shop and still discovering one more reason to go out to Walmart, and it is snowing and snowing and snowing, and will this interfere with travel plans, and when will people get here and ... You get the picture. The cats are all wired up because furniture has been rearranged, including that most important item -- their food dish, which has to be set up where they can reach it but Buddy the Dog cannot. Then there is that white tree with the colored lights and all the boxes that is blocking the front hall where they want to run right this minute. Even the mice seem to be stirring quite a bit in the walls, or else the house is settling in for the winter.

In the monastery with Fr. Anthony, we always tried to have everything done in preparation for Christmas by two days before -- so that we could spend Christmas Eve more reflectively, waiting for the darkened chapel to be lit with candles as we began Midnight Mass. That was a good custom that made celebrating more relaxed and less frustrating.

Right now it is 9:00 A.M., snow is falling -- we are only due to get an inch or so, and it is a balmy 28 degrees! -- and we are waiting. We have begun what I hope is the last Walmart list of the day -- naturally, the coffee maker decided to go bonkers the day we expect a houseful of guests. At least all my gifts are wrapped, the carpet in my room is vacuumed and my bathroom clean enough for visitors to use.

Maybe I'll get an hour of quiet before it is all over. Things do seem to be quieting down -- if only the mouse fiddling on the roof would stop!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas past

Yesterday when we were shopping for food for the Christmas guests, I picked up a bag of tangerines. Tangerines are part of Christmas for me. They are one of those things that one didn't get year round back when, but at Christmas, there they were. Easy to peel with your fingers, even when you are just a kid, and great tasting. For some people, Christmas may have meant gingerbread, but for me it was tangerines.

And bowls of nuts. Daddy would buy a bag of mixed nuts and drag out the nutcracker -- not an ornamental one, but a real finger-crusher. So Brazil nuts, which I didn't particularly like, are a Christmas thing, but one I am willing to bypass.

At some point he would buy a huge peppermint stick, a foot long and several inches in diameter (at least in my memory) -- so big that he would have to crack it with a hammer to get pieces small enough for us to suck on. For some reason I associate the big peppermint stick with Gordon's Drug Store in Huntsville. I guess he used to buy them there.

Ribbon candy and other hard candies. I know Dolly Parton has a song about a hard candy Christmas, and I think the song is about hard times not getting you down. But I don't know that I ever thought of hard candy at Christmas as a sign that things were bad. I thought it was just a sign that it was Christmas. Hard candy was always around, I guess, but ribbon candy was another thing you didn't get year round.

I'm sure there are other things. Of course, there was the hunt for the little Christmas ornament that hung on the tree every year since I was born (and therefore, every Christmas for Ted, too). There was the gift exchange at school with classmates and the one with cousins whose names we had drawn. I still recall when the limit on gifts (at least at school) was a dollar, and you could actually buy a toy that someone might want to play with for a buck. I don't remember any in particular that I got, but I do remember getting a small printing set (blocks with tiny rubber letters and ink) for a classmate whose last name was Prentice. I think more often than not I wound up with a Christmas tree-shaped box with a variety of Lifesavers flavors. Not too imaginative, but well within the budget, and fun in its own way. So I suppose I need to add unusual Lifesaver flavors to the childhood taste of Christmas.

There were other flavors -- divinity and chocolate-covered cherries come to mind -- but these might show up at other times, too. The cherries were a sort of Valentine's Day thing, since that happened to come along right before Washington's Birthday and the cherry tree association, I guess. Those Whitman Samplers and such candies were not just for Christmas, but I think Christmas was probably the season when candy -- a bit of a treat the rest of the year -- was more common (and permitted).

Now you can get tangerines anytime -- but they aren't as good as those were back then. (A sure sign I am getting old.) And the Dells is filled with candy stores where every day you can get more ribbon candy than you can shake a giant peppermint stick at. But it's not quite the same. I don't imagine any kid would be happy to get a ninety-eight cent rubber stamp kit when his computer will print in full color without smearing. And a box of Lifesavers as a present?

But there was a time, not so long ago, when even a hard candy Christmas was still magic.

[UPDATE] Package 0414 0987 4420 0412 xxxx, where are you?

Some time back, I ordered something that I hoped would arrive by Christmas. They assured me it would ship in 3-5 days and arrive via 2-day priority mail. So a maximum of a week, right? That would have meant it arrived last week.

Nothing so far ...

A couple of things add to the mystery.

One, I ordered some software last Friday from Utah, and then I got an email message from the United States Postal Service giving me a tracking number for a package, but failing to say where the package originated. I went to the USPS site to track it, and found no information on who sent it, but was notified that it had arrived (from somewhere) in Atlanta on Saturday.

So I assumed this was the first package I had ordered, but I did note that the software people told me their package had shipped out via mail on Friday. So who knows?

Two, the software arrived Monday morning in the mail. Great job, guys! But apparently not the package with the tracking number. It shows as still out there in the beyond.

Three, today the Postal Service sent me an update on the package I had expected last week, to let me know that not only had it arrived in Atlanta last Saturday, it was delivered to Trabuco Canyon, California yesterday.


Is this even my package? If so, why did the package go from New York (at least, that is where the folks I ordered it from are located) to Georgia and now to California? Weather-delayed mail? Does the USPS have the wrong email address (mine) but the right mailing address (someone else), and is some dude in California now happily opening the box he was hoping to get by Christmas?

And where is my package? We only have two mail deliveries before the Big Day now.

I don't want Sundance and Cassidy to be disappointed.
[UPDATE] I kid you not, I had just posted this when the USPS pulled up to deliver the package. Thank you! Now the kitties will have a good Christmas.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Try to remember the kind of December ...

Try to remember the kind of September
When life was slow and oh, so mellow.
Try to remember the kind of September
When grass was green and grain was yellow.
Try to remember the kind of September
When you were a tender and callow fellow.
Try to remember, and if you remember,
Then follow.
(from the musical The Fantasticks)

Remember saying things like, "It feels like it's ten below out there!" when you came back into the house after being out in an East Texas winter day when it was like, say, 20 degrees?

Well, it is ten below out there up here this morning at 8:10 a.m., but it feels like it's thirty-two below. Yup, thirty-two below. That is 64 degrees below freezing.

Looks like it will be another indoor day nursing cold sores and trying to convince the cats that they do not really want me to open that deck door for them. At least there is a Hercule Poirot episode on the tube tonight.

I hope everyone who is traveling makes it home safely.

Finally, not only is today the first day of winter and the last Sunday of Advent, but tonight is the beginning of Hanukkah. So happy Hanukkah, dudes and dudettes! (BTW, Jesus, of course, did not celebrate Christmas, but he did celebrate Hanukkah -- the Feast of Dedication mentioned in John 10:22.)

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Sappy Saturday

Some more snow came in this afternoon. Worse, from my perspective, cold sores arrived along with it -- two on my upper lip and one on my lower. I am using Abreva -- which I find very good at keeping it from turning into a nasty fullblown outbreak, but it hardly makes them just go away. It's like keeping a pan of water a bit below simmer. Also, it is waaaaay over-priced. I pay more for one little -- and I do mean little tube of this stuff -- than I do for a month's supply of most of my prescriptions combined. I suspect if I can get my doctor to give me a prescription for a generic version (assuming one exists), it would cost one fourth what Abreva costs. Seriously.

Anyway, this makes eating, drinking and talking less than fun, and I have been grouchy all day as a result. Tom and the cats have been giving me lots of space.

Dave and Mary had invited us over to a dinner party for a few railroad people at their house tonight, and I finally backed out because it would involve the three not-so-fun things of drinking, talking and eating. Tom baked some gingerbread cookies, used his new train cookie cutters and then tried to decorate them. That effort ended after one attempt, so he took some tasty but simple train-shaped cookies to the party, along with a small hostess gift for Mary. I stayed home to keep the cats company and read.

Besides reading, I have been listening to a series of talks about Benjamin Franklin by a former history professor at Texas A&M, H.W. Brands. (He is now at UT, but he was still at A&M when he did these lectures.) Very interesting stuff, so I may listen to some more of that tonight if there is nothing on television.

We recently upgraded slightly for our DirecTV service. The original bare-bones plan we have had since moving up here is no longer available, so Tom took the next step up. It provides us with more options, but as you can imagine, there is still nothing on you want to watch most of the time. Since I subscribe to Netflix, we don't take any of the premium movie channels anyway.

We get lots of channels, but it seems that most of them show the same thing over and over and over and over. So there may be an interesting program on the Mayan empire, but it will show up a couple of times every day for a couple of weeks. So it is the only good thing to see on that channel, but once you've seen it, you've seen it.

See how groughcy I am? Just be glad you aren't here having to put up with me.

And don't get me started on the six more inches of snow and the predicted windchills of 25 below!


Snowmobiling is a big deal up here. In fact, the Sauk County snowmobile trail runs through Tom's property, below the ridge, and they showed their gratitude this year with a gift certificate to Home Depot. Tom likes the fact that they maintain the trail so well, because he likes to hike and they do a fine job of keeping things cleared during the winter, which makes for a good hiking trail the rest of the year when the snow is gone.

The sad part of this, however, is that snowmobiling is another sport with a high alcohol content. I mentioned in a conversation the other day that it would be a good year for snowmobilers -- we have already hit the average snowfall for a winter season and it has just begun -- and someone said, "Well, it's just another excuse to drink beer and drive fast."

I assume this was an exaggeration, but it is true that we have already had the first local man die in a snowmobile accident. A guy about my age from the Dells apparently went off the trail, into a ditch and through some trees up near Adams. They didn't find him until the next day, and the report is that "speed and alcohol were factors". The family reported him missing the day after he had been out there, but I get the impression they knew he was out there, after dark and that he was drunk (or at least drinking.)

So we will have to pray for the safety of the folks on the trail down below. This is a big family activity, so there are young people out with their parents. Would be a shame to have it turn into a tragedy.
My good friend Steve Yarbrough had a snowmobile when he and Bonnie were doctoral students at Penn State. He loved it, and he was out alone one day (sober, I hope) going through fields and such without a marked trail, when he went across a snow-covered pond. The snowmobile went through the ice, and he got soaked to the skin. The pond was shallow and Steve got out without serious injury, but then he had to hike back through the cold and snow two miles to the house, with his wet clothes turning to ice on his back. He wound up with pneumonia and got rid of the snowmobile.
On the good news front, some local tavern owners have come up with a plan to provide rides for customers who may have overindulged. Sauk County was the only county in the state without such a program, and now that is being remedied. As I mentioned before, Wisconsin leads (?) the nation in drunk driving and Sauk County is ahead of the Wisconsin average. This is a step in the right direction, since it provides help for those who need it when they need it, without imposing all sorts of unnecessary restrictions on those who know how to enjoy themselves responsibly.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Words to live by

Peggy gave me a book of prayers and reflections recently, and so far this is my favorite quote. It is from John Wesley, founder of the Methodist Church:
When I have money, I get rid of it as quickly as possible, lest if find a way into my heart.

Friday frolics, off and on

1) The snow came. Maybe eight to nine inches. As I write this (8:34 a.m.) the snow is still coming down, but it is supposed to be over by noon. But then another "event" will be coming through later in the weekend. Sunday? Low of minus 12. Monday? High of 2 above. Been there! Done that!

2) Tom was out early to shovel and snowblow and otherwise clear the drive so he could put out the garbage and then get over to the railroad to help receive some gazillion-pound package that was due. About the time he got the garbage and recycle box out to the end of the drive, it was clear that the road was not yet fully plowed. Peggy called to let us know that she had checked with the garbage pickup, and there will be no pick up today because of the snow. So he brought it back and will put it out again tomorrow. He brought it back because there will be more snow blowing to do later, and the garbage can and recycle stuff will just be in the way.

Then while he was thinking about getting ready to head to the railroad, over the river and through the snow on unplowed roads, Dave called to say that there is a foot of snow on the roads at the R&GN that have not been cleared, and he doesn't know when (or if) the delivery will happen at all. Meanwhile Dave and Jim are trying to clear a path and the platform, but Tom can stay home until called for.

The best laid plans and all that.

3) Our friend Karl in Katy passed a math test he had been worried about, and this puts him on track to graduate in the spring and move on to the next stage of his education. Congratulations, Karl! He should be getting his EMT certification soon, too, I think. He has wisely chosen to learn a practical and marketable skill while doing his regular college work.

4) A bit cabin feverish. Like the cats. Prowl. Sit down. Stare off into space. Get up. Prowl. Lie down. Close eyes. Get bored. Get up. Prowl. Cassidy has curled up in my corner of the sofa, as is her wont. Sundance has similarly curled up on my bed up against my pillows and on the side with my reading lamp. Typical cats!

The weatherlady at noon said that we have had almost 30 inches of snow so far this season, putting us about 10% ahead of last year.

The snow did stop, though, and the town eventually did come by and plow the road, pushing a big pile across our driveway and blocking it. Tom cleared that away and announced cheerfully that we were free.

"For what?" I asked.

"You're free/ to do what you want,/ any old time," he sang.


If I choose to feel snowbound, I will feel snowbound, thank you very much, and no amount of cleared roads will change that.

Pretending to be a grownup is such a strain! I see why the cats don't even bother.

Thursday, December 18, 2008


When I came back from Reedsburg about noon today, I saw an eagle flying over the house. I have seen them before up here, but never before right over our place.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008


Actually, it is above zero, so that's an improvement, and on its way to eighteen. Right now we have flurries, but the sun is trying to break through and this should not add to what is already on the ground -- four inches of beautiful, fluffy white stuff. That means I did not go into Baraboo last night, Marty having called to cancel when she saw the weather.

Rich and Peggy came over to drop off Christmas gifts yesterday afternoon -- mainly an excuse to get out of the house and into the falling snow --, and they wound up staying for tuna noodle casserole. Tom got it right this time, very tasty. They brought their mini-dogs, Ivy and Iris, with them, and the dogs explored happily until Rich took them home. Then Iris escaped him to run back over here and demand to be let in to see her mother. The cats kept a wary eye out, even though they are both bigger than either dog.

Unfortunately we are getting ready for a real winter storm to move through tomorrow night and into Friday, maybe up to a foot of it before it is all over. It is not supposed to start until after dinner Thursday, though, so I will be safely home from my library duties.

Hot chocolate, anyone?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


snow cats

It is now 9:15 in the morning and it is minus five outside. Sundance is standing by the door onto the deck, begging to go out. There is a sheltered strip along the back of the house where she likes to answer the call of nature. The door, however, is frozen shut.

I have taken her to the front door and put her out twice, but she just runs back through the cat door into the garage and then through the one into the laundry and heads directly for the deck door and begins to cry again.

There is a kitty litter box in the laundry room and another in the garage itself, both of which the cars use. But for some reason, they sometimes get into this mood about having to go outside no matter how cold it is.

Later --

So I put Sundance out the front door, right? Three minutes later she was sitting on the deck, crying to get in by way of the frozen deck door.

Anyone interested in a couple of cats?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Cold weather friends

The weather turned brutally cold overnight. We had a high today of about six or seven degrees, but the windchills stayed well below zero. This came after a warmish day, with some melting of the snow cover and a bit of rain.

All that meant the ground in many places was covered with ice, making foraging hard for the critters that share our woods. This afternoon I looked out and saw close to thirty wild turkeys pecking around beneath the bird feeder and along the path Tom had cleared to it so he could replenish the suet and bird seed. I have never seen so many in our yard at one time. Even Cassidy was captivated, as you can see from Tom's photo.

The temperatures are supposed to climb slowly over the next few days, all the way up into the lower 20s. On the other hand, we will be getting a bit more snow as well. I had promised to give a friend a ride into Baraboo tomorrow night. We'll have to see how the weather looks by then.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Earworms on roses and whiskers on kittens

Nope, that is not a line from the Sound of Music.

First, the earworms -- (the German word is Ohrwurm) -- a portion of a song or other musical material that becomes stuck in a person's head or repeats compulsively within one's mind. Other words are repetunes, aneurhythm, and perhaps best for the season: humbug. It is a particular plague this time of year when you are exposed to the same dozen or so Christmas carols played over and over and over and over and over and over and ... in every store you walk into. The one that drove me crazy last night was Sleigh Ride:

Just hear those sleigh bells jingling
Ring ting tingling too.
Come on, it's lovely weather
For a sleigh ride together with you.

Outside the snow is falling
And friends are calling 'Yoo-hoo.'
Come on, it's lovely weather
For a sleigh ride together with you.

Giddy up, giddy up, giddy up,
Let's go, Let's look at the show,
We're riding in a wonderland of snow.

Giddy up, giddy up, giddy up,
It's grand, Just holding your hand,
We're gliding along with a song
Of a wintry fairy land.

Our cheeks are nice and rosy
And comfy cozy are we
We're snuggled up together
Like two birds of a feather would be.

Let's take that road before us
And sing a chorus or two
Come on, it's lovely weather
For a sleigh ride together with you.

There's a birthday party
At the home of Farmer Gray
It'll be the perfect ending a perfect day
We'll be singing the songs
We love to sing without a single stop,
At the fireplace while we watch
The chestnuts pop.
Pop pop pop.

It makes me want to shoot Farmer Gray!

Second, the roses are for Gaudete Sunday, the third Sunday of Advent, the four-week season that precedes Christmas for Catholics, Orthodox, Episcopalians, Lutherans and various other Christian communities. The color of the robes worn by the priest or minister during this time is purple or violet, a note of the need to repent in order to be ready to welcome Christ. The third Sunday, being about halfway through this period, has scriptural readings about rejoicing, and so the penitential message is softened by the promise of joy. A tradition grew up, then, to make the robe colors lighter -- more of a rose shade than dark purple. So this Sunday (and a similar one in Lent) is also called Rose Sunday.

As for the whiskers on kittens, that was just to follow through on the allusion to the song, My Favorite Things, from The Sound of Music. In the song, of course, it is raindrops that are on the roses -- and since we are supposed to get rain today, we will have raindrops on the flamingos. Who are more of a rose color than purple. Except for the special one Tom made for Peggy, that is, which now decorates the inner circle of her driveway.

And all this reminds me of Fr. Michael Ciullo's adaptation of the opening words of the song, The Sound of Music:

The hills are alive,
and it's kind of frightening...

And I'll promise to stop before I turn into some sort of blogworm.

Saturday, December 13, 2008


All you Dodd readers already know this, but the handful of others don't, so here's the deal.

All three of my younger brother's kids will be having a baby in 2009. Justin and Angie, Kirstin and Jason and now Kristin and Vince are all getting ready for their lives to be turned upside down.

So say a little prayer for all of them!

And for Ted and Cynthia as they prepare to become grandparents three times in a matter of a few months.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Gift ideas

I know that buying gifts for guys can sometimes be a challenge, but look what I found online: a duct tape wallet.

Yep, made from 100% pure duct tape. There are a variety of versions, but this very basic one -- which seems best to embody the whole duct tape mystique, in my humble opinion -- is available through Amazon.

And in these days of troubled finances, we may need a wallet that will stand up to sticky situations.


My favorite gadget on my homepage at the moment is called "Things to Ponder."

For example, right now the thing to ponder is this:
Why is the word for "fear of long words" hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia?
Other recent topics:

If you can't drink and drive, why do gas stations sell beer?

If you can't drink and drive, why do bars have parking lots?

If you can't drink and drive, why do you need a driver's license to buy liquor?

Why is the man who invests all your money called a broker?

If WalMart is lowering prices daily, how come nothing in the store is free yet?

Why do psychics have to ask for your name?
And my personal favorite:
What was the best thing before sliced bread?
And if you want some more things to break your head over, go to this site. It includes such things as, What is the speed of dark?

So now you know what the underemployed do when they are not scanning the help wanted ads.

Your own list

BTW, if any of you want to get some more exotic things to put on your personal list of things you have done, come pay us a visit, and we will take you to Circus World Museum in Baraboo, where you will be able to ride a camel AND an elephant. (I'm pretty sure you get to ride on the elephant's back and not carried in his trunk.)

Plus you can play at Noah's Ark, the world's largest waterpark, not to mention take a ride on the Wisconsin River to view the Dells themselves. If you think this is no big deal, let me rimind you that when Ray and Christine were running their tour bus business, one of the things they did was bring people all the way from Texas to ride the boats and see the Dells.

You can even eat lunch at the world's largest McDonald's. (Sorry, Justin -- believe it or not, they DON'T have a play area, even though it is built on the site of Fort Dells, one of the original tourist traps up here, an attempt to bring a little bit of Disneyland to the Midwest in 1959.)

Our Lady of Guadalupe

In the list of things I have done, I did not mention that I have been within a couple of feet of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, whose feastday is today (December 12).
According to traditional Catholic accounts of the Guadalupan apparitions, during a walk from his village to the city on the early morning of December 9, 1531, [NB: Roxie's birthday] Juan Diego saw a vision of the Virgin - a young girl of fifteen to sixteen, surrounded by light- at the Hill of Tepeyac. Speaking in Nahuatl, the Lady asked for a church to be built at that site in her honor. When Juan Diego spoke to the Spanish bishop, Fray Juan de Zumárraga, the bishop asked him for a miraculous sign to prove his claim. The Virgin asked Juan Diego to gather some flowers at the top of Tepeyac Hill, even though it was winter when no flowers bloomed. He found there Castilian roses (which were of the Bishop's native home, but not indigenous of Tepeyac), gathered them, and the Virgin herself re-arranged them in his tilma (cloak). When Juan Diego presented the roses to Zumárraga, the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe miraculously appeared imprinted on the cloth of Diego's tilma.
The first time I caught sight of the image through the open doors of the Basilica when I was studying in Mexico City in 1974, tears came to my eyes. That happened every time I went there that summer.

Whatever one thinks about the origin of the image, there is no doubt that part of its power for the indios was that Mary appeared as one of them, a dark-skinned young pregnant woman. This was interpreted as meaning that her son, who had taken flesh in a particular place and time, comes to all people in their own time and place, and embraces their reality to draw it into the reign of God.

Some (perhaps most) Catholic Spaniards at the time doubted that the peoples of the New World could be saved or were even human. The message of Our Lady of Guadalupe was that, in the eyes of God, all are beloved children of the Most High.

For those today who feel rejected by some political and religious leaders for whatever reason, this is a message that still needs to be heard.

Because she is presented as pregnant, Our Lady of Guadalupe is considered a special protector of pregnant women and their unborn children. May she watch over the expectant mothers in the Dodd clan at this time and over the children to be born to us in 2009.

Other stuff

One of my readers has pointed out some things he wished had been on the list of interesting stuff one has done. Like him, I was thinking about other things that I have done. For example,
Climbed both the Pyramid of the Sun and of the Moon at Teotihuacan
Spoke to the pope
Also did that pope's corridor thing (that Joseph mentions in his comment)
Saw the alleged tomb of St. Peter at the Vatican
Wore St. Teresa's mantle and drank from St. John of the Cross's chalice
Rode a cable car in San Francisco
Served Mass for the Cardinal Primate of Mexico (no, that's not an ape)
Started crying while preaching in public (on more than one occasion)
Wrote a novel (unpublished, as you know)
Worked as a prison guard
Was interviewed on the radio and on television
Knew a convicted murderer
Can (could!) read Greek, Latin, French, German, Spanish and English
Know how to ask where the bathroom is in Kiswahili (but I probably won't understand the answer in Kiswahili -- just point!)
Have friends in England, Ireland, Spain, Germany, Italy, Croatia, China, Japan, the Philippines, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Ecuador, Peru, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria,Canada, Papua New Guinea, Zimbabwe, Uganda, South Africa, Israel, Iraq, Lebanon, Egypt, Colombia ... maybe more
Drove a diesel train (admittedly a small one)
Make fudge and other kinds of candy (but pretty much cannot bake cookies or cakes)
Single-handedly prepared a full meal for a group of 60
Discussed theology and science fiction with George Anastaplo, "The Socrates of Chicago" (Tom's former father-in-law)
Know the Cardinal Primate of Australia (this one may be an ape, actually)
Coordinated a visit to Chicago by the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Baghdad, John Sleiman
Carried on a personal correspondence with said Archbishop of Baghdad
Held in my own hands the original manuscript of St. Teresa's book, Las Moradas, (popularly known in English as The Interior Castle)
Ate octopus pizza
Sang the Exultet (the lengthy proclamation sung at the Easter Vigil)
Wait, there's more!

But I'm sure you have had enough by now.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Stuff I've done

I found this meme on Tom's blog, and thought I'd fill it in for you. A meme is just something that someone puts up on a blog -- like the following list -- and then gets other people to fill it in and keep spreading it around. This particular one is a list of 200 things you might or might not have done. I have put those that I have done in italics.
1. Touched an iceberg
2. Slept under the stars
3. Been a part of a hockey fight
4. Changed a baby's diaper
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Swam with wild dolphins
8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a tarantula

10. Said "I love you" and meant it
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited
Paris (Well, I landed at the airport.)
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea

14. Stayed up all night long and watched the sun rise
15. Seen the Northern Lights
16. Gone to a huge sports game
17. Walked the stairs to the top of the Statue of
Grown and eaten your own vegetables
19. Looked up at the night sky through a telescope
20. Had an uncontrollable giggling fit at the worst possible moment
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Bet on a winning horse
23. Taken a sick day when you're not ill

24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Taken an ice cold bath
28. Had a meaningful conversation with a beggar
29. Seen a total eclipse (Both lunar and solar)
30. Ridden a roller coaster
31. Hit a home run

32. Danced like a fool and not cared who was looking
33. Adopted an accent for fun
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors
35. Felt very happy about your life, even for just a moment
36. Loved your job 90% of the time
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Watched wild whales
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Gone on a midnight walk on the beach
41. Gone sky diving
42. Visited Ireland
43. Ever bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited India
45. Bench-pressed your own weight
. Milked a cow
47. Alphabetized your personal files
48. Ever worn a superhero costume
49. Sung karaoke
Lounged around in bed all day
51. Gone scuba diving
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Done something you should regret, but don't
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Been in a movie

60. Gone without food for 3 days
61. Made cookies from scratch
62. Won first prize in a costume contest
63. Got flowers for no reason

64. Been in a combat zone
65. Spoken more than one language fluently
66. Gotten into a fight while attempting to defend someone
67. Bounced a check

68. Read - and understood - your credit report
69. Recently bought and played with a favorite childhood toy
70. Found out something significant that your ancestors did
71. Called or written your Congress person
72. Picked up and moved to another city to just start over
73. Walked the
Golden Gate Bridge
74. Helped an animal give birth
75. Been fired or laid off from a job
76. Won money
77. Broken a bone
78. Ridden a motorcycle
79. Driven any land vehicle at a speed of greater than 100 mph
80. Hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon
81. Slept through an entire flight: takeoff, flight, and landing
Taken a canoe trip that lasted more than 2 days
83. Eaten sushi
Had your picture in the newspaper
85. Read The Bible cover to cover
86. Changed someone's mind about something you care deeply about
87. Gotten someone fired for their actions
88. Gone back to school
89. Changed your name
90. Caught a fly in the air with your bare hands
91. Eaten fried green tomatoes
92. Read The Iliad

93. Taught yourself an art from scratch
94. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
95. Apologized to someone years after inflicting the hurt
96. Communicated with someone without sharing a common spoken language
97. Been elected to public office
Thought to yourself that you're living your dream
99. Had to put someone you love into hospice care
100. Sold your own artwork to someone who didn't know you
101. Had a booth at a street fair
102. Dyed your hair (Well, bleached it.)
103. Been a DJ
Rocked a baby to sleep
105. Ever dropped a cat from a high place to see if it really lands on all fours
106. Raked your carpet
107. Brought out the best in people (Se below)

108. Brought out the worst in peoplev
(I tend to agree with Tom that people bring out the best and worst in themselves on their own.)
109. Worn a mood ring

110. Ridden a horse
111. Carved an animal from a piece of wood or bar of soap
112. Cooked a dish where four people asked for the recipe
113. Buried a child
114. Gone to a Broadway play
115. Been inside the pyramids
116. Shot a basketball into a basket
Danced at a disco
118. Played in a band
119. Shot a bird
120. Gone to an arboretum
121. Tutored someone
122. Ridden a train
123. Brought an old fad back into style
124. Eaten caviar
125. Let a salesman talk you into something you didn’t need
126. Ridden a giraffe or elephant
127. Published a book (Lots of articles, but so far no books)
128. Pieced a quilt
129. Lived in an historic place
Acted in a play or performed on a stage
131. Asked for a raise
132. Made a hole-in-one (Does miniature golf count?)
133. Gone kayaking in the ocean
Gone roller skating
135. Run a marathon
136. Learned to surf (If Galveston counts)
137. Invented something
Flown first class
139. Spent the night in a 5-star luxury suite
140. Flown in a helicopter
141. Visited
142. Sang a solo
143. Gone spelunking
Learned how to take a compliment (And forgotten again)
145. Written a love-story
146. Seen Michelangelo’s David
147. Had your portrait painted (Well, a caricature)
148. Written a fan letter
Spent the night in something haunted
150. Owned a St. Bernard, Great Dane or Irish Wolfhound
151. Ran away
152. Learned to juggle
153. Been a boss
154. Sat on a jury
155. Lied about your weight
156. Gone on a diet
157. Found an arrowhead or a gold nugget
Written a poem not for school
159. Carried your lunch in a lunch box
. Gotten food poisoning
161. Gone on a service, humanitarian or religious mission
162. Gone deep-sea fishing
Sat on a park bench and fed the ducks
164. Gone to the opera
Gotten a letter from someone famous
166. Worn knickers
Ridden in a limousine
168. Attended the Olympics
169. Can hula or waltz
170. Read a half dozen Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys books
Been stuck in an elevator
172. Had a revelatory dream
Thought you might crash in an airplane
174. Had a song dedicated to you on the radio or at a concert
Saved someone’s life (I'm not sure on this one -- but I took someone to the emergency room who had tried to commit suicide by taking an overdose.)
176. Eaten raw whale
177. Know how to tat, smock or do needlepoint
Laughed till your side hurt
179. Straddled the equator
Taken a photograph of something other than people that is worth framing
181. Gone to a Shakespeare Festival
182. Sent a message in a bottle
183. Spent the night in a hostel
184. Been a cashier
Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
186. Joined a union
187. Donated blood or plasma
188. Built a campfire
189. Kept a blog
190. Had hives
191. Worn custom made shoes or boots
Made a PowerPoint presentation
193. Taken a Hunter’s Safety Course
194. Served at a soup kitchen
195. Conquered the Rubik’s cube
196. Know CPR
197. Ridden in or owned a convertible
198. Found a long lost friend
199. Helped solve a crime
200. Commented on a stranger's blog

That's 80 some odd (more or less) out of 200.

Tom remarked that most of the things are normal things that just about anyone has done. So much of life is just regular stuff, don't you thing -- whether you are male or female, old or young, rich or poor, Democrat or Republican (or Libertarian, even).

And there's a lot of interesting stuff that goes on in the most ordinary life, I guess.

Even mine.