Monday, November 30, 2009

Cow and cat

When John was here last month, he and Tom went shopping one night and brought me this Christmas candy-pooping cow. Here Sundance ignores it while Tom tries to get her to look. [Push the small arrow at the lower left of the frame.]

What can I say?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Santa Trains

The railroad closes down for the winter after the last train on December 6. The last two weekends before we close, Santa is there to visit with kids. We survived the first weekend without any casualties, although Santa found his suit to be very warm! Tom, on the other hand, was conductor today, poor man. It was cold and damp with spits of snow for a while this morning. It was a very slow day -- four out of six trains carried just one family group each, one carried only volunteers and the last carried 9 passengers -- six of whom were freebies.

Oh, well!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanskgiving in Three Acts (with apologies to Hercule Poirot and Dame Agatha Christie)

ACT ONE: Tom gets up early to prepare the turkey and five quarts of stuffing. He discovers that we do not have chicken broth. Michael notes that we do have lots of vegetable broth. Tom points out that he does not use vegetable broth for the stuffing. Michael finds chicken bouillon cubes. Tom admits that he could use them, but it would involve getting water and he does not have time to drill a well to get the water.

Michael wonders out loud why we are going to have five quarts of stuffing when only five people will be at dinner. Tom explains that he loves stuffing. If necessary, he will cook four quarts for the dinner and cook the rest tonight after the meal. Michael notes that Tom plans to use all three of the round, covered Pyrex bowls for the stuffing. Tom finds Michael another baking/serving dish for the green bean casserole.

Michael asks when the turkey will come out of the oven so he can bake said casserole. Or should he plan to use the microwave? Tom explains that he will need the microwave for the last hour before the meal is served to make the five quarts of stuffing. The regular oven will have the turkey and the acorn squash baking in it. Finally the boys realize that the green beans can go on the lower shelf in the oven, and the turkey will come out of the oven a half hour before dinner anyway, leaving ample time for the beans.

Michael says he plans to go to Reedsburg and then come home, sweep and vacuum and set the table. Tom mentions that he has cleaned his bathroom and suggests that Michael clean his, something Tom implies (by stating it outright) that Michael does not do often enough. Michael observes that he cleaned his bathroom four days ago because Tom was having a meeting at the house on Sunday. He also mentions that the toilet gets very rusty very fast because of the well -- what, we already have a well? -- water.

Michael politely does not mention that Tom will probably leave the door to his bedroom open so that guests who visit his bathroom will see that he has not made his bed or put his clothes away since the defeat of the Spanish Armada.

Sundance looks back and forth in perplexity while Cassidy snores on Michael's bed. Peter sleeps soundly in his own room, having reportedly been up all night. He set his alarm so that he will be up in time to eat with the rest of us at one o'clock.

Michael gets dressed and goes to St. John's in Reedsburg while Tom decides he can make chicken broth by using the vegetable broth, chicken bouillon and water. When he puts the stuffing into the Pyrex bowls, he discovers he has only made enough to fill two of them, leaving the third bowl for Michael's beans.

Sundance heaves a sigh of relief and goes to get into bed with Cassidy.

Peter sleeps on.


ACT TWO: Tom's turkey got done about an hour and a half sooner than expected. Michael vacuumed the carpets and steamed part of the floor. He cleaned the bathroom and put out clean towels. Michael asked Tom if he should put one leaf into the table. Tom said yes and opened up the one at his end of the table. Michael began to set the table and Tom said, "Do we want to put on a tablecloth?" Michael took the dishes off the table and suggested a tablecloth that was in the buffet, but Tom remembered one that was in the basement that would match the napkins better. Michael did not roll his eyes heavenward, no matter what you may hear. So they went to the basement and looked through bins until noticing the box sitting on top of everything and labeled "Table Linens." And there it was.

Michael put the table cloth on the table and straightened it out so that it was even. Tom said we did not need the extra leaf. So they took the tablecloth off the table and removed the leaf. They put the tablecloth back on, but now it was way long. They folded it up and found a way to more or less fit the table. Michael went to get the dishes and Tom decided the tablecloth needed ironing. Michael mumbled something unimportant and Tom got the iron. After wondering why the iron wasn't working, Tom thought maybe it was broken. Michael suggested that it might be plugged in but was not turned on. And so it came to pass. Tom ironed the tablecloth.

Michael set the table with the new napkins and napkin holders, plates, salad plates, silver, water glasses and wine glasses (for the sparkling grape juice -- no imbibers in this particular crowd).

And on and on and on.

Tom went to wake Peter who hadn't decided if he was getting up or not.

Michael made the casserole and put it in the oven with the Tom's acorn squash and the turkey (being warmed). Then he began work on the salad.


ACT THREE: Tom decides Peter is not getting up, so he and Michael remove Peter's place setting and move stuff around to make more room.

Five minutes later, Peter gets up.

Michael and Tom re-set the table, replacing Peter's place setting and rearranging chairs.

Jim and Adela arrive bearing gifts -- a snow man candy dish that plays a song when you pick up the lid, a pillar candle holder (which they seem to think is the base of the candy dish) and a bottle of Shea butter shower soap.

Okaaay. Michael gives them the Christmas bell ornament he had made for them.

Dinner is excellent. Tom's turkey and stuffing and acorn squash are a hit. Michael's salad is excellent and no one dies from eating the green bean casserole. We have Tom's homemade cranberry sauce and Peggy's orange-cranberry sauce to top it all off. The razzleberry pie is wonderful as always. Conversation is non-controversial. So non-controversial that Adela can barely stay awake. After giving up on stifling her yawns, she gets Jim up and they head home.

Time to do the dishes.

And to all a good night.

See, we made it through the day with no murders after all!

We will survive!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Snowing ...

Well, rain mixed with snow when I was driving home from my Baraboo meeting. The kind of night where all light is absorbed into the darkness, it looks like your headlights aren't on at all unless you put them on bright, and then all you can see is rain and snow streaming toward you.

But I made it home safely and Peter has made it home safely from work. Now to see if Tom gets home safely from the Wellness Center, and we and the cats can hunker down in the warmth and dryth of the house and wait for morning. The weather report calls for this "wintry mix" to last off and on all night, but it should be over by breakfast and stay above freezing until tomorrow night.

And best of all, no accumulation!

We are three inches behind on snow from last year and about the same behind the average.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Somewhat imaginary scenario

HE: Are we breaking up or something?
SHE: What? Didn't you notice I moved all my stuff out?
HE: No.
SHE: That's how insensitive you are! You didn't even notice I moved all my stuff out a week ago!
HE: I didn't notice you had moved any stuff in.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Did you ever feel like just ...


Okay, now that that is out of my system ...


Tom was saying something about heaven needing to include whatever you need to be happy. It reminds me of a story about Cardinal George in Chicago. Shortly after he came to Chicago to become archbishop, he was giving a lecture at the Divinity School of the University of Chicago in a large lecture hall decorated with wooden angels on roof beams. Each angel held a book. When I was working for the Lumen Christi Institute at the U of C, many of our programs were held in this room.

The Cardinal began his talk on that occasion -- it may even have been for a Lumen Christi program -- by saying that, as a philosopher, he needed to point out that the angels do not read in heaven because they do not need to do so. I said later that if there were no reading in heaven, I wasn't sure I wanted to go.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Someday ...

Someday I will tell you how crazy the little railroad has been lately. For now, I just admit to being bemused and amused. But mostly happy that after the first of the year I will be moving on to something that I hope to enjoy much more.

So stay uncrazy, if you can!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Deer dreams

Tom and I went to Madison today to get a dining room chair to replace one that was broken. (Don't ask, but it was Peter.) We couldn't believe how heavy the northbound traffic was. And even more striking, out of a randomly-selected group of 20 vehicles, 3 were cars -- all the others were SUVs and pickups. As you may have guessed, deer season begins tomorrow. Gun season, that is. Wisconsin also has a bow season and a short season for youth hunters as well.

A friend of Tom's hunts at one end of Tom's property, and neighbors on the other side hunt on their own property. So it is not the season to go go for a walk in the woods with your fur coat and antlers on.

'Tis the season

The first angry letter to the editor about Christmas showed up in this morning's Baraboo paper. This one was about people who dare to say Happy Holidays! instead of Merry Christmas! I am sure you recall when saying Happy Holidays was just to provide some variety and not something that you automatically assumed meant the person saying it was an atheist or worse.

This letter will be followed, if history is any indication, by complaints about the nativity on the courthouse lawn -- from those who are offended by its presence and those who are willing to die (or worse) to make sure it stays there.

Back in 2007, Cynthia sent me the following piece. I'm not sure where she found it. It sounds like an email. Anyway, I liked it then and I like it now. I am not inclined these days to write letters to the editor -- well, I am not inclined to mail them. But I thought I would post this here for the handful of people who read it. It is identified as a letter from Jesus. (Who, BTW, never celebrated Christmas but did celebrate Hanukkah. See John 10:22)

Dear Children,
It has come to my attention that many of you are upset that folks are taking My name out of the season. Maybe you’ve forgotten that I wasn’t actually born during this time of the year and that it was some of your predecessors who decided to celebrate My birthday on what was actually a time of pagan festival. Although I do appreciate being remembered anytime.
How I personally feel about this celebration can probably be most easily understood by those of you who have been blessed with children of your own. I don’t care what you call the day. If you want to celebrate My birth, just GET ALONG AND LOVE ONE ANOTHER.
Now, having said that let Me go on. If it bothers you that the town in which you live doesn’t allow a scene depicting My birth, then just get rid of a couple of Santa’s and snowmen and put in a small Nativity scene on your own front lawn. If all My followers did that there wouldn’t be any need for such a scene on the town square because there would be many of them all around town.
Stop worrying about the fact that people are calling the tree a holiday tree, instead of a Christmas tree. It was I who made all trees. You can remember Me anytime you see any tree. Decorate a grape vine if you wish: I actually spoke of that one in a teaching, explaining who I am in relation to you and what each of our tasks were. If you have forgotten that one, look up John 15: 1-8.
If you want to give Me a present in remembrance of My birth here is my wish list. Choose something from it:
1. Instead of writing protest letters objecting the way My birthday is being celebrated, write letters of love and hope to soldiers away from home. They are terribly afraid and lonely this time of year. I know, they tell Me all the time.
2. Visit someone in a nursing home. You don’t have to know them personally. They just need to know that someone cares about them.
3. Instead of writing Barack complaining about the wording on the cards his staff sent out this year, why don’t you write and tell him that you’ll be praying for him and his family this year. Then follow up. It will be nice hearing from you again.
4. Instead of giving your family a lot of gifts you can’t afford and they don’t need, spend time with them. Tell them the story of My birth, and why I cam to live with you down here. Hold them in your arms and remind them that I love them.
5. Pick someone that has hurt you in the past and forgive him or her.
6. Did you know that someone in your town will attempt to take their own life this season because they feel so alone and hopeless? Since you don’t know who that person is, try giving everyone you meet a warm smile; it could make the difference.
7. Instead of nit picking about what the retailer in your town calls the holiday, be patient with the people who work there. Give them a warm smile and a kind word. Even if they aren’t allowed to wish you a “Merry Christmas” that doesn’t keep you from wishing them one. Then stop shopping there on Sunday. If the store didn’t make so much money on that day they’d close and let their employees spend the day home with their families.
8. If you really want to make a difference, support a missionary- especially one who takes My love and Good News to those who have never heard My name.
9. Here’s a good one. There are individuals and whole families in your town who not only will have no “Christmas” tree, but neither will they have any presents to give or receive. If you don’t know them, buy some food and a few gifts and give them to the Salvation Army or some other charity which believes in Me and they will make the delivery for you.
10. Finally, if you want to make a statement about your belief in and loyalty to Me, then behave like a Christian. Don’t do things in secret that you wouldn’t do in My presence. Let people know by your actions that you are one of mine.
Don’t forget; I am Jesus and can take care of Myself. Just love Me and do what I have told you to do. I’ll take care of all the rest. Check out the list above and get to work; time is short. I’ll help you, but the ball is now in your court. And do have a most blessed Christmas with all those whom you love and remember:
Thanks, CA!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

I been working at the railroad ...

Tom and I went over to the railroad this morning to do some initial prep for Santa's visit. That meant moving a bunch of stuff from the rear of the store to make room for the Jolly Old Elf's bench and for the Christmas tree. We managed to get quite a bit done in a couple of hours. I will go back over on Friday and take down what remains of the Pumpkin Train decorations and replace them with Christmas stuff.

We are open for five more days this year -- a total of about 24 hours. Operations cease December 6. Then I have to figure out what to do about inventory and some early preparation for the February train show in Madison. This is above-and-beyond the call of duty, because I would not have to do anything at all about either of those things before the job ends December 31. But Tom is going to make me be a good guy and do it.


Monday, November 16, 2009

Fortune cookie

Last week I ate at the Chinese place in Reedsburg for lunch one day, and this was my fortune cookie:
You will receive unexpected support over the next week. Accept it graciously.

Early Christmas presents

So here is an early Christmas present to myself -- a three dollar battery-operated Santa Train from Walmart. You will need to push the small arrow at the bottom left of the frame.

Ta-dah! That is about a 10-inch diameter circle of track, and the engine is about three inches long.

On a much more important note, the Kilbourn Public Library has offered me a job running the bookmobile. This would start January 4, 2010. So that gives me time to finish up at the railroad -- our last day of operations is December 6 -- and then move on to the job I have been wanting for a couple of years. So that is my BIG early present. I told Cathy, the director of the library, that she had not only made my day but my year!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Home again, home again

We made it back safely to Berry Road, and it is nice to be home, even though we were only gone overnight. But this past week we had John with us and that meant the routine was a bit disrupted even before we headed down to Iowa. John and Tom were up early Monday through Friday, Tom made them a big breakfast (I got the wonderful leftovers -- pancakes, bacon, sausage, eggs, biscuits ) and then they headed over to the railroad for a full day of track work. They made it back just in time for dinner and then an evening dozing in front of the television with cats climbing over them.

Now John has returned to Judi, Matthew, Ryan and Andy in Mt. Carroll, and our cats are starting to settle back into their usual sleeping rotation on Berry Road.

While we were in Iowa, Peter went with Rich to Madison and bought a used car. Now Peter and Ashley are in the living room watching The Polar Express, Tom is up to something somewhere and I am getting ready to go to bed and read for a while. Sundance has been scratching to get into my room and then crying to get out. She will be back to her habit of sleeping with me until Tom goes to bed, when she will head back there. After he gets up in the morning, she will come lie down with me again.

Tomorrow I will have to go to the railroad myself to take care of some bookkeeping from the weekend and -- I hope -- unpack, price and display some items that should have arrived. At some point in the next ten day I have to rearrange all the stuff in the rear of the store to make room for Santa's bench and the tree, which have to be in place by the morning after Thanksgiving. Plus the usual meetings in Reedsburg, coffee with Barry and work at the library. At least there is no snow in the forecast -- yet.

Hope everyone had as nice a weekend as we did.

Saturday, November 14, 2009


The wedding went very well and was lovely. Tom and I wound up at the reception chatting with a woman originally from Iowa, back here now after working in theater in Houston and Dallas for quite a few years. She met Steve when he taught her sign language for the hearing impaired in Houston. (He works now interpreting at the United States Capitol.) We had a nice time, and Rick and Steve each managed to come sit and chat for a while.

Now to bed and sleep. Tomorrow we will stop off in Mt. Carrol, IL to visit John, Judi and Matthew. John invited us for Sunday dinner. We are not sure if that means a big meal, but we did make it clear that we will be there at noon. We should make it back to the Dells sometime tomorrow (Sunday) evening.

The news from Davenport

First of all,the city of Davenport has nothing to do with sofas. That term comes from a now-defunct furniture manufacturer in Boston, A. H. Davenport. It means different things in different parts of the country.

The city on the Mississippi River was named after a General George Davenport.

The weather was mostly overcast with occasional sprinkles on the way down. I did spy an eagle flying along the palisades just inside Illinois, however, and a small herd of deer in a field with the biggest rack of antlers I have ever seen on a live buck.

We are staying at the Radisson right downtown, a block or two from the river. The wedding wil be at a museum about a block away. Time to start getting cleaned up and ready to hit the sidewalk.

Updates as details warrant. The latest news from Facebook is that Steve is getting more excited by the minute. I just hope Rick can keep him calm until they get married!

Friday, November 13, 2009


Riverview Park, one of the stand-bys in the Dells for the past forty years, may be going under. Their business was down this year almost 20% from 2008, which was already down from 2007. Lots of smaller businesses disappear and are replaced in downtown Dells every year, but these are mostly little trinket souvenir shops that are pretty much the same as a half dozen other shops on the block. It is hard to tell that there is a new name and new management because they continue to sell the same tasteless t-shirts and tacky items as before.

Riverview, on the other hand, is a 35-acre amusement park with go carts, water slides and carnival rides. It is not huge but it covers a large stretch along one of the main roads into town. If it is boarded up next spring, it will mean that many people arriving at the Dells are going to be greeted by seeing something that is sad and depressing rather than noisy, bright and exciting.

The newspaper article today says that Riverview's board is waiting until next spring to decide if (and perhaps how much of the park) to open for the Memorial through Labor Day season. Word on the street, however, includes stories of bankruptcy already being filed. My understanding is that bankruptcy could involve not only the Park, but one of the boat tour companies and some of those shops in town.

There have been other ominous rumblings about the future of tourism here, including murmurs from the guy who has developed the largest project in recent years, Mount Olympus, which pretty much dominates a few miles of the main drag. He has raised questions about why the Dells is drawing so many fewer tourists than other, comparably-sized and -situated tourist towns around the country. Ironically, he suggests that it may be because the Dells fails to capitalize on its natural beauty -- something that happens these days because of developers like him, who build enormous theme parks that hide the natural beauty behind fake Roman walls and Trojan horses and want to line the river banks with high rise condos that block the view for everyone else. As a number of people have pointed out, if the only reason people come to the Dells is to go to an indoor water park, they can do that a hundred miles closer to where they live anyway. Why drive for hours to get to a clone of the Great Wolf Lodge that is in the suburb next door to where you live?

John and Tom, meanwhile, worked with the track crew this week and got an amazing amount done replacing ties at the Riverside & Great Northern. So what Tom has always called "the little railroad that could" continues to plug along. We close for the season on December 6. We will see what next spring brings.


I just wanted to let you know that I no longer consider myself a member of the Roman Catholic Church. And, thanks but no thanks -- I am not looking for another group to join.

I have asked three different Carmelite provincials to begin the process to have me removed from the Order and priesthood, but no one seems to want to take formal steps in that direction. That is their decision. From my perspective, I am gone. But there is no big public action or statement about it.

On the other hand, here at the personal level and with you I want to close the Catholic chapter of my life, something that has essentially just been a remnant hanging around my neck for the past five years. The time has come to move on.

As I say, do not think this means that I am looking for a new church to join. I firmly believe that I do not want to be identified as a member of any religious group, just as I do not wish to be identified as a member of any political party.

That's it for now.

And you thought your day was hectic?

Tomorrow morning Tom and I head to Davenport, Iowa for a wedding. I will be doing one of the readings.

Anyway, this morning at 4:15, Steve woke up in Iowa and realized they had left the wedding license in Maryland!

Fortunately they were able to get another copy without a problem.

We are all just encouraging him to keep breathing slowly for the next 36 hours.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Book news

Another book sold! (I am SO not getting rich off this!)

It is pretty obvious to me that my hopes to have the second mystery completed by the first of the year are not likely to be fulfilled. But I think it is going to be a better crafted work, if I ever get it done. I am paying much more attention to structure this time around.

Would it be giving too much away if I mentioned that there is a monkey in this one?

Or did I tell you that already?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Oh, no! [With update]

I have had one of those days. Mixed days, that is.

It started off with an early dental appointment. I was reasonably sure I would need a new filling, but it turned out no filling and a very easy cleaning. Not even the usual strict lecture about flossing more regularly. I actually laughed at the hygienist in Chicago once and told her, "I think it's cute that you keep telling me this when you know I won't change."

Then I picked up stuff for a very nice meal for Tom and John when they get home from track work this evening. (For Peter, too, when he gets off from the bank, but he will be late.) I am baking chocolate-peanut-butter brownies as I speak.

And then I was heading off to the library to pick up a set of audiolectures on ancient Egypt ... when I realized it is closed for Veterans Day! Worse, I intended to go pick them up last night but decided there was no rush. At any rate, I go to the library for my volunteering tomorrow anyway and can get them then.

So it has not been a total bust of a day at all. But it would have been nice to have new CDs. I am re-listening to Karen Armstrong's talks on the history of Jerusalem for the umpteenth time.
UPDATE: The meal turned out pretty well, the candied yams especially. But then it was basically brown sugar, butter and pecans on top of the yams -- sort of a pecan pie with a yam crust. The brownies were VERY chunky and chewy. Okay, but not at all cake-like, which would have satisfied Tom and John better.

After dinner, we showed John the shirts and ties we bought to wear to the wedding we are going to this weekend in Iowa. I told him if Judi (his wife) asked him what we did in the evenings while he was here, he could say, "Well, Michael and Tom showed me their clothes..."

Free Turtles!

Want to know what occupies the Wisconsin Dells Legislative Committee these days?
The committee, after turning down a beer and wine license request from Walgreens, went on to approve an ordinance regulating the sale of turtles. Federal law prohibits the sale of turtles under 4 inches, but the city wants its own prohibit so it can take quick action against stores selling them or giving them away. One store sold the turtle tanks and the small turtle was free.
I think the public needed to hear more about exactly what the turtle problem was. And why does it need to take quick action? Aren't turtles by nature sort of ... slow?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Banks of the Wisconsin (business and River)

Looks like a couple of banks with lots of branches around hear -- Amcore (headquarters in Rockford, Illinois) and Anchor ((headquarters in Madison) -- are on the verge of being seized by the government for being undercapitalized. They could both go under by the end of the year.

Meanwhile in happier news for the area --

At least two domed-shaped Indian mounds - estimated to be about 2,000 years old - have been added to a larger protected area of burial sites along the Wisconsin River.

The Natural Heritage Land Trust and Ho-Chunk Nation purchased about 3 acres adjacent to the Kingsley Bend Mound Group south of Wisconsin Dells from a private land owner for $22,800. The purchase was finalized last week.

The mound group includes about a dozen dome-shaped mounds and six linear mounds, in addition to bear, panther and bird-shaped burial sites.

The large domed-shaped mounds are "encircled by earthen birds that swoop toward the Wisconsin River and bear shaped mounds that prowl along the ridges," state archaeologist John Broihahn said in a news release.

The idea is to "try to put the whole cultural landscape back together," he said of the additional 3 acres. "You have this really beautifully crafted and sculptured natural landscape."

Officials said the newly purchased land also will buffer the main mound group from incompatible development, such as farm expansions or housing developments.

"Over the years we've lost about 80 percent of all of the Native American burial mound groups that existed in Wisconsin," Broihahn said.

Plans call for improving public access to the additional 3 acres and possibly extending hiking trails for appreciation of the mounds, according to the news release.

When I worked in Portage for hospice, I used to drive by the site of these mounds regularly. At that time, the mounds were invisible from the road and badly overgrown with trees. A couple of years ago, the Ho-Chunk Nation purchased the Kingsley Bend Mounds, which had been a small state rest area, and started to restore the site.

Because the mounds are not high or dramatic, it was easy for European settlers to overlook them. Even now, when you visit the site, you need to look carefully to pick out the shapes. Some of the mounds in the state are outlined with white chalk or stone to make them more obvious. I don't know it they will eventually do that here or not.

Marekting tips

"Virtual reality" means "NOT reality."

The term has been defined in philosophy as "that which is not real" but may display the salient qualities of the real. Colloquially, 'virtual' is used to mean almost, particularly when used in the adverbial form e.g., "That's virtually [almost] impossible". I.e., it is NOT impossible.

So next time you buy a product because it is virtually problem-free and promises to leave things virtually spotless and virtually wrinkle-free, just remember what this means.

It does have problems, it will leave spots and it will leave wrinkles.

And don't forget: politicians are marketing something.

Virtually all of them. ;-)

Sunday, November 8, 2009


Twenty years after the Berlin Wall came down, we must face the reality that we are building walls that divide this country.

I remember tearing up when I saw the news coverage of the Wall being destroyed. Whoever thought it would happen or that it would happen without great bloodshed? It seemed like a miracle.

I hope someday to shed tears of joy when we start tearing down our own walls. And I have to remember not to add to the building up of those walls, although it is so very tempting.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Veterans Day

This is a touching TV spot for Veterans Day sponsored by Boeing:

An Urban Institute report from 2003 states:
An estimated 1 million veterans in the United States are gay men or lesbians. Recent surveys suggest that 4 percent of U.S. adults are gay or lesbian and that 17 percent of gay men and 8 percent of lesbians have served in the military. This means that of the 27.5 million veterans counted in Census 2000, 683,000 (2 percent) are gay men and 350,000 (1 percent) are lesbians.
The Urban Institute was founded to provide "independent nonpartisan analysis of the problems facing America's cities and their residents."

At any rate, think about gay and lesbian veterans next week on Veterans Day, what they fought for, what they risked and how they are treated today by the country they served.

Boeing, incidentally, for the past four years has achieved 100% ratings in national surveys for providing an inclusive and non-discriminatory workplace.

By the way, could you pick out gay and lesbian veterans in the ad?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Un-grump! UPDATE

1) Somebody bought a book! This always makes my day.

2) Had coffee and a chat with Barry. This always makes my day better.

3) Tom and I will be heading over to the lunch at the Embers for the library volunteers. Then he will be off to the railroad and I will be off to the library itself to continue helping with the inventory. Volunteering always makes my day and someone else's day better.

Doesn't hurt that the sun is shining!

UPDATE: After a lovely lunch where we sat at the table with the library director and the guy representing the company that is working on the planned expansion of the library, it turned out that the inventory had gone so well that I did not need to go over this afternoon. Tom realized that he had a meeting to attend this evening, so he came home to take a nap while I went grocery shopping at Wally World.

Came home to hear about the tragedy at Fort Hood. Tom did his medic training there during the Vietnam War.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The World's Best Chicken Salad

I found this recipe in one of Tamar Myers' Penn Dutch Inn mysteries. It goes fast if you have folks who like the tang of the blue cheese. If you choose to omit the blue cheese, there will be nothing special about it, though.
* 2 cups cooked chicken
*1/2 cup celery, diced
* 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
* 1/2 cup mayonnaise
* 1/4 cup chunky blue cheese salad dressing
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
* ground black pepper to taste

1. In bowl, combine ingredients.
2. Toss well to mix.
3. Cover and chill at least 2 hours.
4. Serve as a sandwich or a filling for a cut tomato.

You can dress it up or down, I suppose, as you wish. I add a half cup or so of sliced seedless green grapes. The mix-- I know Ted would never eat this! -- of sweet grapes and sharp blue cheese, tender chicken bits and hard walnuts, makes for an interesting taste sensation. If you used store-bought chicken strips and cut them up, omit the salt.

You can use leftover turkey from Thanksgiving if you do turkey. In that case, add dried cranberries instead of green grapes to give it a seasonal flavor. Some people use raisins, but I don't care for that so much, but you could also throw in a chopped apple to give it a Waldorf note. And you could go with almonds instead of walnuts, or pecans for a Texas version.

Update on voting

The referendum to build additional schoolrooms passed fairly easily. As is often the case, the vote was closer in the rural areas than in the two towns -- Wisconsin Dells and Lake Delton. At any rate, this will not raise taxes. What it means is that a potential slight reduction (a savings of $15 on a $150,000 home) will not take place.

Actually, it's next Wednesday ...

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Did you vote?

Today I spent four and a half hours volunteering at the library during inventory week. I will be back there Thursday afternoon. Over the lunch break I went into Delton to vote. The only thing on the ballot had to do with efforts to add classrooms to one of the schools in our district. It is hotly debated because the educational facilities are way bad and money is way tight.

I don't know how the vote will turn out or how many people turned up to vote. Sometimes people think voting is not important unless there is a presidential election up for grabs. Seems to me the president has amazingly little impact on my life, whereas things like the quality of education in the local schools, maintenance of the roads, adequate funding for police and fire departments -- that stuff can touch my life on a daily basis.

So I voted.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Talking of money ...

I recently agreed to take a 15% cut in salary come January 1. This reflects the fiscal realities of a small non-profit. The bigger local picture can be seen in this post stolen from Tom's blog:
The economy is on the minds of our Delton Town Board right now, and rightly so.

The town faces a budget crunch, just like the rest of us.

The economy has hit the housing and construction industry hard in this area, as it has everywhere else, and our area has been hit by the "tourist recession" -- a drop in disposable dollars visitors to our area spend in the township. The town's bank accounts, just like yours and mine, are paying paltry interest these days.

As a result, the town expects a 36% drop in license and permit fees, a 66% drop in investment earnings, and a 28% drop in income from room taxes. Our town will, like everyone, have to make do with less.

The Town Board seems to be on top of the crunch, though, according to the morning paper. Salaries are going to be held static, the road improvements budget will be cut to the bone, and discretionary expenses will, in a word, not be spent.

Overall, if I read the numbers right, the town will be making do with about 11-12% less next year. I just hope the weather cooperates -- nothing blows a budget like a bad winter.
And I paid $2.759 per gallon for gas this morning ...