Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Tom and I have a young friend, met through the blogosphere a few years back, who moved this past year with his parents to Katy, TX. He is finishing up college, most of which he had done in California where he grew up. There are a lot of significant health problems in his immediate family, although his own health is reasonably good. Without going into details about anything (since God already knows all that), I would ask you to keep Karl and his family in your prayers. Thanks!
Also, as you probably know from the news, things in Kenya are not getting any better. Again I ask prayers for my Carmelite friends over there and for the people of Kenya. Some of you may recall that at one point I was supposed to be sent there. I even learned a tiny bit of Kiswahili: Sijui kusema kiswahili vizuri. Sema pole pole. [Translation: I do not speak Swahili well. Please speak slowly. "Kiwswahili" is the Swahili word for the language.] After it was decided that I would not go, for a while I was the person in the United States who was delegated to be the contact person for the families of the friars in Nairobi to keep them updated in case of unrest like we are seeing now. Nothing ever happened on my watch that required my doing anything, for which I am grateful.
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
I would say that the weather is making the cats crazy, but as far as I can tell, they don't really need a reason. St. Ignatius of Loyola talks about a spiritual experience he calls "consolation without previous cause", that is, a sublime feeling of joy in the divine presence that simply comes upon you, not because of anything you have been doing but as pure gratuity. I think the cats have "craziness without previous cause" going on pretty much all the time.
Yesterday I dropped by the law office to help Joe and Evelyn with a couple of things. The sad news is that they have lost several lambs born during the recent stretch of sub-zero weather. Evelyn was particularly sad about the loss of one jet black lamb. They don't get many and she had been hoping for one.
After lunch I decided to go over to Wal-Mart to pick up a prescription the surgeon's nurse called in yesterday for my colonoscopy prep. The procedure isn't until next week, but I figured I'd go ahead and get it so they wouldn't have to call me. Turns out the nurse called it in to Walgreen's, not Wal-Mart. So I'll have to try again tomorrow.
Sunday, January 27, 2008
Some of the most common side effects of XXXXX are dizziness, sleepiness, dry mouth, blurred vision, weight gain, loss of balance, increased appetite and trouble concentrating.Good grief, I have most of those things and I haven't even taken their pill yet!
To enjoy the warm weather we went over to Reedsburg after lunch to the library book sale. There are lots of library book sales around here, and Tom and I go to many of them. The event in Reedsburg is one of my personal favorites because you take all the books you want and leave whatever donation you want. There isn't even anyone in the sale room to take money. You have to go into the library and give the money to them. Tom is -- as always -- very generous. It's just as well for the library that he decides on the donation. You know how cheap I am!
Tom picked up a few hardbacks -- a political biography and mostly thrillers -- and some mysteries for the guestroom. I picked up a Clive Cussler hardback and an Alisa Craig paperback.
Cussler is not one of my favorite authors, but I like the beginning of his books because he usually sets the mystery part in an interesting historical setting or legend. After that I think they get a bit absurd.
Alisa Craig is a pseudonym for Charlotte MacLeod, a Canadian-born mystery writer who became a U. S. citizen. She specializes in quirky mysteries featuring married couple detectives, set in New England and New York. The series written as Alisa Craig is set Canada, but the husband is Welsh and there is a lot of Welsh lore woven through the stories. I have been reading her books since the early 1980s. Ms. MacCleod died in 2005 after suffering for a few years with Alzheimer's.
Saturday, January 26, 2008
I thought of this when I saw this story on the BBC:
Some people may think that it really doesn't matter if the language of a few hundred Alaskan groups disappear. After all, what could they possibly know that we need to know?Last Alaska language speaker dies
A woman believed to be the last native speaker of the Eyak language in the north-western US state of Alaska has died at the age of 89.
Ms Jones dedicated much of her life to preserving the Eyak language
Marie Smith Jones was a champion of indigenous rights and conservation. She died at her home in Anchorage.
She helped the University of Alaska compile an Eyak dictionary, so that future generations would have the chance to resurrect it.Nearly 20 other native Alaskan languages are at risk of disappearing.
Well, if we can't understand their language, we won't find out, will we? Mrs. Jones has seven surviving children, but none of them learned their mother's language because the idea was that they should only learn English. I am sure that they need to know English. But what a shame they didn't also learn their own ancestral language, too.
Mama and I were recently discussing the problems that will arise in another generation when people no longer can read cursive writing. Why should schools waste valuable time teaching that when everything will be on computer and everyone will use a keyboard?
Perhaps because up until a few generations back, EVERYTHING was written. And even now, many or even most personal things are written. If you cannot read English cursive writing, you will not be able to read the things your grandparents wrote in letters to one another, or decipher those tell-tale remarks in old yearbooks. It is not some obscure Alaskan memories that will be lost -- it will be your own family memory.
So a moment of silence for the passing not only of a person but of a living language. And take a moment to realize how easily vital links to our own people might disappear in just one generation.
Friday, January 25, 2008
At least it is supposed to get above freezing for a few days starting Sunday, which should melt the ice that is creating a bit of a problem because for the second year in a row, the plumbing vent stack has frozen up. The layout of the house sets two bathrooms far apart, and the system, though not venting properly, doesn't back vent and no sewer gas is getting into the house.
According to Tom, vent stack freezing was rare in older houses, because the vent stack pipes were typically cast iron, and the cast iron would carry the heat from the house up the stack enough to prevent freeze under anything but the most extreme conditions.
Vent stacks now are made of PVC, which doesn't conduct heat, and houses are built so that attics aren't warm anymore. In that sense, vent stack freezing is a byproduct of energy efficiency.
This house is tightly wrapped and energy efficient, resulting in an attic that is at or close to the outside temperature -- and that has been near or below zero for a while. The vent pipe is at outside temperature for about ten feet, and the moisture from the plumbing system hits the top of the vent and freezes, closing off the opening.
He has discovered several options for dealing with it, but this is no time to climb up on an icy roof. So that will have to wait until summer. Meanwhile, we are waiting for a few warmer days to melt our own little polar cap.
Thursday, January 24, 2008
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
This morning Woody the Pileated Woodpecker was back. Tom says he's been hanging out in a poplar in the back for a while. Not sure why, but it is fun to see that huge bird up close.
The Owl and Woodpecker book tells a traditional Navajo folk tale about the woodpecker coming to the aid of animals who are frightened by the nightly hunts of the owl.
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Monday's drive was fairly ordinary through some light snow showers-- stopped off and had lunch with a couple of friends -- until I reached southern Wisconsin where the snow picked up. This was also okay until about twelve miles south of my exit, when the traffic came to a complete stop. As far as the eye could see -- admittedly not that far in the snow -- cars were parked on the interstate. No one around me knew what had happened -- I assume a wreck ahead. So I tried to call Tom on my cellphone -- and the battery was very low, of course. After about ten or fifteen minutes, traffic began to move slowly and the last twelve miles of my trip took about 45 minutes. I was so glad to pull into the garage!
I estimate I spent almost 24 hours of actual road time on a trip that normally takes about 16. Of course, most of that was because I had planned a side trip to see friends. I took the scenic side trip in Oklahoma and Wisconsin weather conspired to add an hour at the end. I promised Joyce and Gary Fielding that I would visit them in Oklahoma next trip, so I may wind up just taking three days to do it all.
It was snowing when I got here, but that stopped overnight. The deck is way covered, and the table looks like it has a two-foot thick white cushion on top of it, as you can see. The door is frozen shut, so we can't actually go out and measure it. That white wall surrounding it is the snow piled up on the railing.
It is supposed to warm up into the 30s later in the week, so maybe some will start to melt. Tom says it was 17 below a couple of nights ago. Glad I have my electric blanket!
Thursday, January 17, 2008
Cops: Dad tied up son who wouldn't cheer for the PackI wouldn't be too surprised to see the Kowalds showing up at my old law office ...
By Matthew Call
PARDEEVILLE — A Pardeeville father accused of forcing his 7-year-old son to wear a Packers sweatshirt and then tying him up during the divisional playoff game last weekend said the incident was a joke that "got blown way out of proportion."
Mathew Kowald, 36, was cited for disorderly conduct Wednesday after authorities arrested him Monday on tentative felony charges of causing mental harm to a child and false imprisonment. He was issued only a disorderly conduct citation for the incident.
Kowald reportedly forced a Packers sweatshirt on the boy, who said to his father that he refused to root for the Packers and was told by Kowald that anyone who said that would be grounded. Kowald allegedly also wrapped his son in insulation tape, forcing him to watch the football game.
The boy's mother took pictures of the incident on her cell phone camera and filed them with the Columbia County Sheriff's Department.
Kowald pleaded no contest to disorderly conduct after he was released from the Columbia County Jail. He received a fine of $186.
On Wednesday afternoon, Kowald said his son was challenging him in a friendly manner that he would not root for the Packers against the Seattle Seahawks when Kowald got home from work Saturday and began to watch the football game.
In a joking manner, Kowald said he told his son to put on the Packers sweatshirt and his son refused, throwing it back at him in jest, Kowald said.
In a continuation of that joke, Kowald said he tied the boy up and that his son was laughing at first. "Then he couldn't get out and he got upset and that's it. It lasted a minute," Kowald added. "I didn't mean no harm, and he knows that, but I haven't been able to tell him that."
Reached by phone Wednesday, the boy's mother, Rebecca Kowald, declined to comment. According to the Wisconsin Circuit Court Access Web site, she filed a restraining order Wednesday against her husband.
"I know I sound like the Big Bad Wolf, but anyone who knows me knows I'm not," he said. "It was just for fun. To me, it's something dads do with their kids..."
Kowald allegedly came home at around 5 p.m. Saturday and began yelling because he could not find a television remote control, according to a sheriff's department report. After wrapping the boy's wrists and ankles together, his mother asked Kowald if she could free him, according to the report. Kowald reportedly said no but let the boy's sister cut him free with a pair of scissors.
It does remind me of a local divorce case (not one of our clients) where the parents spent more time fighting over who got the Packer Christmas decorations than they did over custody of the children.
Unless you've been living in a cave, I suppose you've seen some of what's been going on in Kenya -- some of it right here in Nairobi! You know that the country has been in turmoil since the election results were announced. It was like Gore vs. Bush all over again, but with killings and lootings added in.
At this point they are talking about 600,000 displaced persons and 600 deaths, and those are fairly conservative estimates. We don't know when it will end, because both sides have dug in their heels.
The Carmelites, meanwhile, are all safe and sound, but it's taking a toll in other ways. Personally, I feel very strange that we are living securely in our compound in Karen while, a few miles away, people are being murdered and their homes burned. ...
So we are safe, but emotionally drained and exhausted. Keep us in your prayers.
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
I think if I had another week or so and a couple of cans of tuna, I could get the feral cat Mama is feeding to let us catch him and take him (she/it/whatever) to the vet to have that left leg looked at. He/she/it/whatever has a bad limp. The cat is spending more time on the porch and doesn't run away as fast or as far when I go out there, but that may just be because of the sore leg.
I made my reservation for Sunday night at the EconoLodge in Cameron, MO. The weather at this point looks like I will have a cold trip back, but no winter storms. From Tom I hear there has been even more snow in Delton Township, though.
Saturday, January 12, 2008
Here it was a cool breezy morning, but a very clear sky. Mama and I went for a walk up to the high school and back while Daddy supervised the yard work. I can't believe how big the high school is in Whitehouse now. Mama said when she graduated back when, there were 22 in her class. Now there are about 300 every year. When I graduated from Huntsville High School in 1968, I think we were only about 140 or so.
Lunch was Mexican food at La Hacienda and I did not have my ususal guacamole. Tom emailed that my lab tests came back, and I am going to have to pay more attention to the low glycemic diet the doctor wants me on, which means no avocados among other things.
This afternoon on the way back from Tyler, I got caught in a real downpour and thunderstorm. Rain continued for a while, but it finally ended and it is supposed to clear up again after midnight.
No critter report, although Mama is feeding another feral cat -- this a huge black pregnant one.
Friday, January 11, 2008
I stopped off at Barnes & Noble (no surprise there, right?), saw some friends and went by a carpet place to see about a runner for the front porch for Mama. I also went by the public library, updated Mama's expired library card, checked out an Agatha Christie and bought a couple of books.
One is A Confederacy of Dunces, a book I recently recommended to Helen. The story is set in the city of New Orleans in the early 1960s. The central character is Ignatius J. (Jacques) Reilly, an intelligent but slothful man still living with his mother at age 30 in Uptown New Orleans, who, because of family circumstances, must set out to get a job. In his quest for employment he has various adventures with colorful French Quarter characters.
Besides being one of the funniest books I ever read, it is a Pulitzer Prize winner. It is an important book for those of us who want to get a book published but are having no success. The author, John Kennedy Toole, tried unsuccessfuly to get the book accepted for publication. Tragically, he committed suicide. After his death, his mother approached Walker Percy (and if you haven't read any of his stuff, add it to your list) who used his influence to get the book published. As I say, it won the Pulitzer Prize. So the lesson is: just because a bunch of editors don't buy your book does not mean it is trash.
AND don't kill yourself just because your dream hasn't happened yet.
Thursday, January 10, 2008
Later I went with Daddy to make the Meals on Wheels run. As a reward, we got a meal, too -- ham, black eye peas, sweet potatoes and conbread. Pretty good actually, except for the cornbread.
This evening I took Mama and Daddy out for their 61st anniversary dinner -- at Daniel Boone's Beans & Burger in Tyler. (No one can say the Dodds ain't got no class!) Bobbie joined us and a good time was had by all. Various versions of chicken fried and country fried steak all around, although only Daddy and I ventured a bowl of beans.
So he told Mama I would be there at noon.
I have been away so long I didn't realize dinner to him means lunch to me, and dinner to me is supper to him. So they had been sitting around all afternoon wondering what had happened.
When I stopped for lunch and to gas up in Arkansas, I tried to call them, which would have resolved the confusion, but I couldn't get enough bars on my phone. By the time I tried again, I was almost there anyway.
Anyway, I'm here now. Apparently the plan today is for me to go with Daddy to deliver Meals on Wheels.
Tuesday, January 8, 2008
I listened to my CDs on major themes in philosophy. Pretty good, although the lecturer got pretty repetitive at times. I think he was trying to fill up the time, to be honest. But I learned a lot.
Tomorrow I will begin listening to the life of Einstein. I checked it out of the library at the Dells. It is 21 hours total. More than enough to get me to Texas and part way back!
My room here is quite nice, and they have free internet, although it took me a while to find the button on the front of the computer to turn on my wireless connection. My only real complaint is that I keep getting a busy signal when I try to make a long distance call from the room. Small problem, since I used my emergency cell to let Texas and Wisconsin know I had survived the trip. Tom tells me it is snowing again in the Dells, so I am glad I got out early.
Gasoline is under three dollars here! It is around $3.16 in the Dells area, more at the stations near the interstate, naturally.
I imagine I will be early to bed, though not necessarily early to rise. I hope I can sleep without a cat poking at me all night.
Sunday, January 6, 2008
WRONG! The hundred-mile ride back was the pits, and Tom chose to stay off the interstate, hoping the side roads would be easier to deal with. Even so, it was not fun and took much longer than usual. At one point a truck was driving right at us on our side of the road. Not sure what that was about, but he realized what he was doing in time to pull over into his own lane. Maybe he had just gotten off the interstate and didn't realize he was on a two-way road. At least he had his lights on and we saw him coming. Way too many people were driving without lights.
It turns out that fog closed down Interstate 90 east of Madison (we were north and west of Madison), and two pileups involved a dozen vehicles. Two people died in the accidents.
I trust it will be clear when I leave for Texas on Tuesday!
Saturday, January 5, 2008
The point of this story, though, is not the love life of cattle, but that ABS has a sign out front along the interstate and they always have pretty bad puns on it. For Christmas they have the best I have seen:
Angus We Have Herd on High.
Lest this seem totally irreverent, I remind you that Jesus is supposed to have been born in a stable and laid in a manger. And just about every nativity set has a cow (or an ox) seated near the baby.
Friday, January 4, 2008
I went to the doctor yesterday for my annual checkup and to renew prescriptions. He did change one of he blood pressure ones (my BP was 116/70), and I hope it makes a difference in cost as well as side effects. Have to keep an eye on it, though, and I may have to go back on the other one if necessary.
He also gave me a referral for a doctor to see about my colonoscopy that is due in the next couple of months. So I have that appointment set up and the surgery to look forward to in maybe February or March.
I will be heading to Whitehouse next week after I go in for the blood test part of my physical on Tuesday morning. If the weather looks reasonable, that means I could get there by Wednesday afternoon or evening. Have to play that part by ear. It's a two-day drive, and I don't want to get stuck in an EconoLodge in Missouri for a few days in a snow storm.
Also, BIG news, today was my last day at the law office. I decided that the stress of the job was not worth it, and so I am moving on. Life is too short to dread going to work every day. It was a very friendly parting, and I expect to stay in touch with the Screnocks. I have been keeping an eye on the job market, and when I get back from my trip to Texas, we will see what develops. I am continuing to teach for the Carmelite Institute's distance learning program and maybe I'll get serious about finishing up some articles to submit for publication. Right now, it just feels good not to have anything to do for a while.
Well, not anything except check the weather reports, make motel reservations, get an oil change before heading out, packing ...
Tuesday, January 1, 2008
The guys in the photo are some of the seminarians at the monastery in Karen, outside Nairobi, which the friars from my old province help staff. Not all of the students are from Kenya, because the monastery serves Discalced Carmelite students from all of English-speaking Africa, including Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria and Uganda. Friars from some of those countries as well as from the United States and occasionally Australia, Ireland, Poland and other places make up the senior community.
After the disaster in Rwanda in 1994, the friars took in a number of refugees. At one point, there was a Hutu seminarian and a Tutsi seminarian living there at the same time. They got through the tensions then. Pray that they get through the present crisis in Kenya itself.
Tim Dodd's short and pleasant visit last night began with some excitement. He called about 4:30 to announce that he had pulled into a drive to turn around and managed to get himself stuck on a mound of ice. It wasn't far away, but we wound up having to call in Rich's truck to help get him off. No damage to the vehicle, and it only ate up about a half hour of time.
The cats and dog began the new year in total pet-me-and-not-the-other-guy mode. I think being cooped up in the house most of the day because of the White Stuff That Must Not Be Named is getting to them, too. Tom, Peter and I drove into Portage Sunday afternoon to get some income tax software, just an excuse to get out of the house.
The new year also began with me cleaning out the kitty litter boxes -- the one in the laundry room and the one in the garage. I do this on a daily basis, and I can tell when the cats are not getting to go outside. It is amazing how much waste two cats can produce. Fortunately Buddy the Dog still visits the outdoors to do his business, no matter what the weather. When the White Stuff That Must Not Be Named melts in the front yard, I don't even want to think about what we will find, though.
I have the black eye peas simmering in preparation for being turned into New Year's Black Eye Peas later. Vince, does Boston Market have black eye peas? Hoppin' John? Any of the necessities for a Texas New Years meal? I can't remember what the one in Hyde Park had, because I usually just ate a salad when I was there. But given the large black population of the neighborhood, they may well have had black eye peas, cornbread and maybe even greens of some sort other than spinach. Love black eye peas and cornbread; you are welcome to my share of the greens, even though I read that you are supposed to eat them to guarantee you will make lots of money. (Folding green, get it?) Maybe that is why I am not rich -- never ate enough turnip greens or collard greens or ... Although I do consume my share of lettuce, which ought to count for something.