Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sunday summary

I talked to Mama and Daddy this morning as I do every Sunday before church. Later Tom and I headed to Madison to hit a bookstore (naturally) and a thrift store. I found a tie for Valentine's Day (from Land's End, so not too tacky) and one with clocks for whatever. I would like to have found something of a Groundhog Day nature to wear to work on Tuesday, but no such luck. I am making some fudge, however, to take to the library and have printed out a groundhog design to decorate the box.

On the way back from Madison, we stopped at a surplus place called Delaney's, south of Baraboo. It is a hoot. You can find all sorts of parts of machinery and tools, five-pound bags of gummi bears and cans of ravioli, Christmas wrap and pink hard hats. An interesting place, to say the least.

Then a quick stop of Kohl's to pick up a down-alternative comforter for my bed to replace my useless Sunbeam electric blanket.

And home to grade a paper for one of my distance-learning students and to grab some leftover lasagna before heading to a meeting. Looking forward to a Poirot mystery movie tonight, part of the Christmas gift I got from Mama and Daddy. Tomorrow, back to the library and only about a 50% chance of snow during the day.

Have a good night, everyone!

Friday, January 29, 2010


1) Recently we got Sundance a scratching box. Cassidy is good about sharpening her claws and shedding the old ones by shredding the deck, but Sundance needed some encouragement. This thing [not the "As Seen On TV" version] has catnip in it, and the other day she managed to overturn it while rubbing her head all over it. (It's for claws, Silly Cat, not heads!) This dumped a quantity of catnip onto the floor near the dining table and she now rolls over where it was and runs around like a Tasmanian devil, occasionally slamming into furniture or Cassidy. I assume the odor and effect will eventually disappear.

2) Cathy and Laura at the library were talking about beginning a diet program next Monday. I told them how well Cynthia has been doing with her treadmill exercises. Cathy smiled and asked, "But Michael, if I walk on my treadmill, where am I supposed to hang my clothes?"

3) It got down to 10 below (-23.3 C) last night and is still only minus 8 (-22.2 C) at 8:40. I knew it was REALLY cold when I cleaned out the kitty litter boxes, which were way full of kitty poop, etc. The cats use the boxes, but even in the snow and rain they go outside if they can. Only a frigid night would have made them do all of their business indoors. On the bright side: hurrah for litter boxes and the cats that use them!
UPDATE: I am getting ready to go to work at 11:00 and it is still not quite up to zero (-17.7 C). I will work at the main library for a few hours, but the bookmobile goes out to a grade school for a couple of hours this afternoon. I don't know if they will even let the kids come out to get books, to be honest. Wisconsin kids wear warmer clothes and lots of them, but even so -- this is facial-frostbite weather. We'll see. I may wind up just sitting in the heated van reading a book all afternoon.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Bible quiz!

Today Catholics and some other churches celebrate the conversion of St. Paul on the road to Damascus. It is one of the most famous episodes in the Acts of the Apostles, and here is a little Bible quiz for today.

1) Was Saul/Paul knocked off his horse on the road to Damascus?

Despite all the paintings, scripture does not say whether Paul was riding a horse or not. Acts 9:3-4 just says he was traveling to Damascus and fell to the ground. Artists, like Parmiagino, usually had him struck from a horse for a variety of reasons. It added drama and implied action to the work , for example, whereas a painting of a man lying in the middle of the road might look too static.

2) Did Paul see Jesus on this occasion?

In Acts 9:3 Paul is said to see a light from heaven and hears a voice that identifies itself as Jesus. In Paul’s account in Acts 22:7-8, we find the same thing. Again, artists often portrayed a figure of Jesus visible within the bright light from above for dramatic purposes.

3) Did Paul’s companions see anything?

Trick question! Acts 9:7 says “though they heard the voice they could see no one.” Acts 22:9 says they “saw the light but did not hear his voice as he spoke to me.”

4) Did his companions hear anything?

Again, Acts 9:7 says they heard the voice; Acts 22:9 says they did not.
Anyway, happy feast of St. Paul! In the Carmelites, this used to be a special feast for the brothers who were not priests, so a happy feast to them in particular.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Wet weekend update

The library open house was fun yesterday, despite the weather. It was cold, sometimes a bit windy, and misting the whole time. We had about 2/3 the turnout we did last year. I was out in the bookmobile with the side door open for about three hours, but the heat was running inside and I stayed relatively warm (except for my feet) and mostly dry. Met some nice people and heard some great compliments about the library. Always happy to get that positive feedback.

One of the events at the open house was a local authors showcase. It featured three women from the area. I didn't get to attend it, but afterward I saw a friend who had brought his family to the library because his adolescent son wants to be a writer. He was too shy to talk to any of the ladies, but I volunteered to chat with him sometime if he is interested. His mother says he writes every day, and I guess that's the way to do it. I had met him before, but he is very shy (English is his second or third language) and I don't know if he will follow up. If I don't hear from him, I will make the offer again next time I see his dad. I don't want to pester him, though.

This morning (Sunday) was 35 (1.6 C) and showery. We went over to check out the arts and crafts booths at the Flake Out Festival, but it was a disappointment. This year it was inside a series of large tents, and it was wet and rather dark in there. Some folks had put lanterns on their tables to try to brighten things up, but that just made it more obvious that it was dark. There seemed to be only about half as many (?) exhibitors, and none of our favorites were there. If I tell you that the only conversation I had was with a woman who makes homemade soap on her farm using goat's milk, you will realize why nothing really caught my attention. Not sure what the full story is about the festival this year, but the weather and a change of venue seem to have combined to make it less successful than in the past. Maybe next year ...

Friday, January 22, 2010

What up with that?

Cynthia is setting a good example with her weight loss right now, and I want to encourage her to stick with it. We all know how challenging it can be!

I was just noticing as I surfed the channels [not a big calorie-burning exercise, BTW] that I kept running into two types of commercials: 30-minute-infomercials for weight-loss programs of various sorts; and ads for all-you-can-eat, super-size deals at eateries.

A friend told me about a weight control group he used to attend. They met once a week, weighed in and if you had gained any, you paid a few dollars into the kitty. Then they talked about various strategies for losing weight. It was not a specific program like Weight Watchers, but a general support group. Anyway, they all starved themselves for a couple of days before the weigh-ins to avoid having to pay up, and then to celebrate, every week they went out to a pizza buffet after the meeting. They did not eat any pizza, but they hit the salad bar and piled on creamy dressings, chunks of pepperoni or ham and tons of cheese. Then the next week, back to starving before the weigh-in.

Reminds me of something I read about bookstores. The two perennial bestselling types of non-fiction [?] books are cookbooks and weight-loss books.

PS: I am not preaching to you. I am reminding myself!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Flaking out?

The Wisconsin Dells Visitor and Convention Center people sponsor a number of events designed to draw people to the downtown during the off-season. The mid-winter event, the Flakeout Festival, has been one of my favorites, although it is usually quite cold. It features a snow sculpture contest, carriage or sleigh rides (depending on weather?), ice sculptures, games, food and a pretty good arts and crafts show.

This year, or so I have heard, the WDVCC decided to drop the event for financial reasons, but some local business people picked it up and moved its venue. No longer downtown -- and therefore no longer serving its oringinal purpose -- it will be at in the parking lot at an outlet mall near the interstate. There will certainly be more parking avaialble and it will be convenient for out-of-towners who wish to join the fun.

On the other hand, looks like the weather will not cooperate this year. Saturday is supposed to be rainy, and that is the day the work on the snow sculptures takes place. Not sounding good! On Sunday we may have a mix of rain and snow, too. We will see what happens.

The library has its open house this Saturday. The Flakeout Festival used to be just a couple of blocks from the library, and I think we counted on getting some traffic from that. This year, what with no festival downtown and rainy weather to boot, it may be a smaller event.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Travels TO [not OF] St. Paul

Friday evening after I got off work, we drove up to St. Paul to visit with Helen. [Jay was attending a conference in New Mexico.] We had a great time.

Saturday morning while Helen took Dinah for a walk, Tom and I went to the Mall of America -- not the National Mall in DC but the mega-mall in Minneapolis. We walked around for an hour and a half, I suppose. The Mall is amazing, and I particularly recommend it to people with children. There are lots of interesting toy shops and an amusement park right in the middle of everything. We did notice that, although it boasts something like 400 stores, like most malls, it looks like a third of them are shoe stores.

Then we had a nice Indian meal -- one of the things I miss from Chicago is Indian food -- and then visited the Minnesota History Center where Helen volunteers. We viewed three exhibits, and I have to say that they were great. Not just the contents but the design of the exhibits and the friendly staff who encouraged you to touch things in Open House, a recreation of a house that is only a few blocks from where Helen and Jay live. The exhibit showed how the residents of the house changed over a period of about a century, beginning with German immigrants and moving through Italian families and on to Hmong families. There was also an exhibit about 150 important contributions Minnesota gave to the country and the world and a moving one on Minnesota's Greatest Generation, dedicated to people born between about 1910 and 1930.

Back home to a good dinner and viewing a DVD of The Pirates of Penzance.

Sunday morning we went to a dog park and let Dinah exercise us for about an hour. Then off to an Asian grocery store, followed by Chinese food and a visit to a used book store.

Tom decided to drive home by way of the Great River Road along the Mississippi. Although the trees are bare and the ground mostly snow-covered, it was quite scenic. Near Wabasha where the water broke through the ice where the river narrowed, we saw eagles perched in the trees. In the space of less than a minute, I saw more wild eagles than I had seen in my life up to that point. Totally cool! Although eagles have recently been appearing in our area because of changing fish populations in the rivers, I still get excited when I see one. But, hey! I still make a big deal out of seeing wild turkeys, which are all over our back yard at times.

And so home and a hearty thanks to Helen.

Since I have off today (Monday), I have been getting the checkbooks updated and another paper graded from my distance learning students. My plans for the rest of the day: relaxing and watching a new episode of The Big Bang Theory.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Another week, a three-day weekend!

Things are still going well at the library, and I think I have the hang of the dot-command system for the computer. Of course, in September, by which time this system will be automatic and a simple reflex, we are getting a new computer system and I [and everyone else] will have to learn that one!

On the plus sides -- there are more than one -- the new system will be mouse-driven and we won't have to remember a bunch of commands. The bookmobile computer will also be hooked into the main system, which means I will be able to do everything on the bookmobile that we can do at the main office AND I will not have to start each day downloading reports into the bookmobile laptop and end each day uploading reports from the laptop. It will be a nuisance learning a new system, but the advantages will be great once it is in place.

The same thing happened at the railroad when I worked there. I started as a volunteer in April 2007 and in July 2007 we got new software and so on. The new system was a vast improvement over what we had been doing and cut actual keying by at least 50%. But Roberta and I grumbled for a few weeks getting used to it.

On yet another bright side, we take off this evening to visit Helen and Jay in St. Paul. I have never been to Minnesota ["The Sunshine State"], and I am loking forward to it. Looks like the weather may be decent for mid-January, too -- no snow and 40 degrees 4.4 C) on Saturday. Add that to a three-day weekend and you have a happy camper.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Although I try to avoid politics ...

This is for Helen, who recently was hired as a census worker:

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


1) I had a strange dream last night. Kristin visited and had Jackson with her. She looked very tired, and Jackson was talking away and crawling around eating everything he could find on the floor -- for some reasons, cookies and pickles.

2) Sold a few more books.

3) Had a run-in with an older gentleman last night, who may have had one too many beers. He chewed me out for parking the bookmobile in its assigned spot in front of the library. He was agitated that it was going to be on the wrong side of the street for snowplowing. I explained that after the library closed, we moved the bus under the entrance canopy to leave the street clear. (In our new expansion, we will have a covered off-street parking spot all the time.) We don't park it there during business hours because it blocks the pull-through. He was not convinced and assured me he was going to report me/us to the police. I sure hope they remembered to move it when they closed last night!

4) Had a postcard from Portugal from Cris and Idris. Those two sure get around!

5) Occasionally someone I don't know tries to post a comment on the blog. In most cases, these are fairly innocuous and I let them go through. If they are of a purely personal or negative nature, however, I do not let them show up here. For that matter, I don't post comments even from friends and relatives if I think the language or topic is not appropriate for a blog intended for my family, especially out of respect for my parents. If I have an email address, for the poster, however, I will respond if it seems called for. On the other hand, if you don't like what I and others say here (?) or don't approve of what I or others believe, it might be better for you to use your time reading something you will enjoy or that might inspire you. Thanks!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Sixty-three and counting

Most of the readers of this blog are family and already know this, but for those of you who don't, today -- January 10, 2010 -- is my parents' sixty-third wedding anniversary.

Congratulations from Michael, Tom, Peter, Sundance and Cassidy!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

End of the first week and fan mail

I finished up my first week at the library, and I am still enjoying it very much. There is a lot to learn, but the library director has put together an excellent procedures manual. The others are helpful and patient when I ask for help, and I am getting the hang of how it all fits together. I am looking forward to a restful Sunday, though!

On a side note, I got a lovely note about my books today -- this time from someone I have never met. She wrote, "Your books were wonderful and fresh -- looking forward to more!"

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Book[mobile] News

My first days at the library have been full, a bit exhausting but very good. The time goes pretty fast -- even on my LONG Tuesdays, the one day that the bookmobile has an evening stop. I worked from 8:30 AM to a little after 7:00 PM. That will be true most weeks. But I am enjoying it. There is a lot of variety. We visit a few retirement homes, a couple of elementary schools and a Native American Headstart program, and a few apartment complexes.

Tomorrow will be a bit of a challenge. We go to an assisted living center and to a separate nursing home. The challenge, though, is that we expect snow tonight and pretty much all day tomorrow. I think we will start off with a couple of inches on the ground and have five to six inches on the ground by the time I get home at 6:00 PM. Should be a tiring day.

On the other hand, I have Friday off, work a short day on Saturday and then am off again Sunday. Next week I have some long weekdays, but then I will have a three-day weekend. (I would appreciate it if the weather would be nice, of course.)

Another nice surprise today was that the librarian had ordered two copies on my mystery and they just arrived. And at the elementary school stop today, I met another local author -- a woman who is about to publish her seventh chidren's book.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

My library

Monday, January 4, I begin my new job at the local library. The city of Wisconsin Dells used to be named Kilbourn, and some institutions -- including the library -- reflect that in their name.

Last spring, the Kilbourn Public Library received the highest rating possible - five stars - in Library Journal’s Index of Public Library Service. Library Journal is one of the oldest and most respected journals in the library field. Out of 7,115 public libraries, only 84 in the entire nation earned 5 stars. Only three libraries in Wisconsin were awarded any stars at all, and we were the only one to receive all 5 possible stars.

The ranking system, similar to Michelin and Mobil guides used for restaurant and hotels, measured four key factors:
  • number of people visiting the library,
  • number of items circulated,
  • Internet computer use and
  • attendance at library programs.
Out of all 256 starred libraries in the United States, the Kilbourn Public Library ranked third in the nation for Internet terminal uses per capita. Of course, one reason for this great showing on internet usage is that, although the library serves Wisconsin Dells and the village of Lake Delton (combined population of under 6,000), we are in a major tourist area and the internet and other library facilities are used by tons of tourists and especially by the foreign students imported to work here during the Memorial-Day-through-Labor-Day season.

Anyway, it is a small town library but a great one. I am looking forward to being part of it.

This paragraph was posted on the library's website this weekend:

Welcome Michael

We are pleased to announce that Michael Dodd has joined the staff here at the Kilbourn Public Library. Michael will be spending part of his time on the bookmobile and will also be here at the circulation desk. Michael may be a familiar face to many of you as he has been volunteering here at the library for the last couple of years. Michael begins January 4. Join us in welcoming him to the library.