Friday, December 31, 2010

As 2010 fades away ...

I got a number of nice Christmas gifts this year, including among other things a couple of lovely ties that have already proved to be big hits at the library, books, DVDs, a wooden model car (that I have to assemble myself) and the always-popular cash!

Tom also gave me this t-shirt featuring my hero, Sheldon Cooper, and one of his classic punchlines.

I guess you had to be there to find it funny.

Monday, December 27, 2010

?

So if they are showing re-runs of The New Adventures of Old Christine, does that mean they are the Old New Adventures of Old Christine?

And all through the house ...

'Twas the day after Christmas
and all through the house,
the guests were all packing to leave
(-- ‘cept the mouse.)
The gifts were all tucked into boxes or bagged,
The hugs and the kisses goodbye had been snagged…

We had a nice Christmas visit from Helen, Jay, Rebecca, Lucy, Arman and John. (Peter, of course, was here already.) After Mexican food, turtle cake (which Tom insisted was pie), roast beef, mashed potatoes, figgy pudding (hard sauce or whipped cream?) and a fistful of pistachios and chocolate, the house emptied out. Peter, all celebrated out and with nowhere he had to go, slept peacefully on.

On his way out the door, Jay mentioned to Tom what he could do to fix the kitchen sink faucet. It has been more or less frozen in position for a long time, meaning that we cannot run water into the sink with the drainboard. According to Jay, apparently this would be easily resolved.

We spent some time doing basic cleaning up: vacuuming rugs, picking up scraps of wrapping paper and tissue flowers the cats had snagged from the tree and disemboweled, loading breakfast dishes into the dishwasher and tossing linens into the washing machine. I then headed to my comfortable bed and took a long morning nap. (I hadn’t slept all that well for two nights at the motel). And while I slept …

Tom decided to fix the faucet. He took it apart so well that eventually something cracked. So off he went to one of his favorite haunts – Home Depot – to pick up another fixture and the things he needed to install a shiny new faucet.

And he set to work while Peter in his room and I in my cap snored softly along in our sweet winter’s nap.

After much grunting and forceful exclaiming -- I don't think there was any seasonal mention of Dasher and Dancer in any of this -- and a few more trips to Home Depot, Tom was making progress when I finally woke up, stretched, pushed Cassidy off my legs and went out to investigate.

After a number of trips down to the basement to find tools and a number of digs through the pile of parts scattered on the dining room table and the occasional call for me to find the crescent wrenches he had stashed under his back, Tom was nearing the end of the exploit.

There were a few false starts, but he finally had everything lined up the way he wanted and descended to the basement to turn the water on. About this time, Peter wandered out, got himself a cup of coffee and dialed up his girlfriend. At exactly the moment he greeted her on the phone, water began pouring out of everything around the sink – except for the faucet.

I shouted to Tom, he turned the water off, Niagara slowed and we all went in search of towels, Peter saying a fast and unexplained goodbye to the phone.

After getting things mopped up, Tom found the problem, fixed it and we now have a lovely working faucet.

Along the way, the kitchen floor got the mopping it so badly needed. And Peter was able to provide a credible explanation to his girlfriend for his abrupt departure earlier.

The mouse – who seems to have taken up permanent residence in Peter’s room – meanwhile stayed warm and dry throughout the adventure.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all, nice dry pipes!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Ho, ho, olé !


We are in the final rush this Christmas Eve morning to get ready for people to start arriving. Since I may not get a chance to get back to the computer, I wanted to take a moment to wish you and all of yours a wonderful celebration, whatever, wherever and however you do it!

From all of us in Wisconsin -- where it is snowing again on Christmas Eve!
Michael, Tom, Peter, Cassidy, Sundance

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Great Huntress

Cassidy was determined to get one of the flowers off the tree, and she finally dragged one down and demolished it. I had to sprinkle water on her to prevent her from taking more down.

Why can't she chase mice that enthusiastically?

Christmas 2010


I hate having my picture taken. One reason is that I can never smile naturally. I either look grim or goofy. At any rate, I took this shot of myself in the mirror this morning before heading for work.

They say that the Grinch's problem was that his heart was two sizes too small. I look like my boxers might be!

Anyway, ho, ho, ho, everyone!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Angel

Peter decided that the tree looked incomplete without something on top, so he crafted a paper angel as the finishing touch.





As you may be able to tell, Tom keeps adding flowers in there, too.

O Tannenbaum, o árbol de Navidad

As I have mentioned, we are doing a Mexican-themed Christmas Eve this year. Today we brought the tree up from the basement and Tom got the lights all plugged in and turned on while the cats watched yet another change taking place in their environment. We (Tom and I) decorated it with a bunch of the tissue paper flowers that we had made. Helen helped us figure out how to make these when she was visiting a few months back, and we decided that would be our simple decorations. The cats are curious -- they love to play with pipe cleaners and the tissue paper -- but we figure they won't be able to do any significant damage.

Realizing that photos do not do justice to the wonder of this creation, I nonetheless offer some views herewith.

Here is the tree with just the lights ... and Cassidy walking beneath it.

Tom hard at work with his designer's eye ...


Close-ups of the flowers ...


Our pseudo-shipped packages with their Mexican stamps ...


And the whole thing ...
[Tom's painting of the Streewise vendor from Chicago peering out behind the tree looks strange. I think maybe it represents Santa's evil twin watching to find all those who have been naughty.]

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Friday, December 17, 2010

Boredom

I don't know who the dude is, but that cat could pass for Cassidy.

Cooped up by cold weather and a foot of snow on the ground, the cats have been going slightly berserk. They have been climbing on everything, jumping up onto places they normally avoid and investigating things they have always ignored.

This morning Sundance went over to their food dish and carefully pawed one piece of dry food out onto the floor and ate it. She then repeated the entire operation a dozen times. I can only assume this is the feline equivalent of standing in front of an open refrigerator staring into it, hoping something you have missed will suddenly materialize.

Never happens, though, does it?

The good news is that Peter made it safely home last night. He has been gone for the past week and a half, and maybe the cats will find some amusement tormenting him for a change.

In this season when we think of the children ...

Seth Walsh was a sweet, intelligent boy who loved his family and did well in school. He was also gay. And for this, he endured years of relentless bullying and verbal abuse at his Tehachapi, California, school.

Seth was in fifth grade when students started calling him "gay." As he got older, the verbal abuse and taunts were more frequent and severe. Seth's family and close friends report that by seventh grade other students constantly called him "queer" and "fag." He was afraid to use the restroom or be in the boy's locker room before gym class. One student reported that a teacher called Seth "fruity" in front of an entire class.

Seth's mother complains that her pleas for help to the school were often brushed aside. Seth's grades eventually dropped from A's and B's to failing as the harassment continued. Not surprisingly, he became depressed and withdrawn.

On September 19, 2010, Seth Walsh hanged himself from a plum tree in the family's backyard. He was on life support for nine days before he died on September 28. He was only 13 years old.

Monday, December 13, 2010

I will survive! As long as I've long johns to wear, I know I'll stay alive!

It is minus 4 (-20 C) at 6:30 this Monday morning, and we have survived the first blizzard of the year with relative ease. No power loss, although the DirecTV disc had to be cleaned a couple of times. No trees down, the roads got plowed and so on. It will be pretty cold all week, and Kathie and I will certainly be cold out on the Bookmobile. But we will run the heat and wear long johns. I can sport my new D&Y faux fur trapper hat that Rich and Peggy brought me back from Canada. With my red HRC scarf, it will complete my Snoopy look.

Tom did a heroic job of snowblowing the drive and sidewalk yesterday, and tomorrow he will head over to the railroad to clear up over there. He and Dick had planned to do it today, but Tom is expecting delivery of a couple of computer components and he has to be home to receive them.

At any rate -- paraphrasing Miss Gloria Gaynor -- we will survive.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Brazil: Order and Progress

Constantly choosing the lesser of two evils is still choosing evil.
Jerry Garcia

Possible titles


Yesterday at the library, I was expounding -- as is my mostly unwanted wont -- on some trivial thing, and Vivian said, "Michael, that can be the title of your next book: Odd, But True."

"No, "I said. "It should be Dodd, But True."

Which got me thinking about possible variations on the odd/Dodd theme ...

Dodds and Ends?
Doddities?
Dodd Man Out?
Dodd Or Even?

Don't worry. I don't think I will have time to write anything new for quite a while.

When I was in high school, people punned on my name by calling me Dud or even Milk Dud (for Mike Dodd since most people called me Mike back then). I'm sure I was thought odd, but I don't recall anyone making a nickname out of it.

My sophomore year at Michigan State, one of the guys in the dorm brought his younger brother to meet me. The brother had expressed an interest because everyone called me Michael (or Mike) Dodd. He said he had never heard anyone always called by both names -- with the exception of the Peanuts character Charlie Brown. What can I say?

As for the name Dodd, the famous biblical scholar, C.H. Dodd, was referenced in this limerick:
There was a professor called Dodd,
Whose name was exceedingly odd;
He spelled, if you please,
His name with three “D’s,”
When one was sufficient for God.

Weather update

It is 18 (-7.8 C)this morning (Sunday), and the snow is light but expected to continue until noon. The temperatures will drop all day, heading to -5 (-21.5 C) tonight, with wind chills of -25 (-31.6 C). Tomorrow we expect a high (yes, HIGH) of 12 (-11 C) and a low Monday night into Tuesday of -9 (-22.8 C).

Here is a short video clip of the deck yesterday afternoon when the snow was picking up.

video


Here are a couple of pictures of the deck this morning. Notice how much more snow is on the railing. And this is with high winds.




There is an amazing snowdrift on the front sidewalk, but my camera doesn't get a good picture of all that white. Must be a couple of feet high in places. We have had about 10 inches (25.4 cm) of new snow in this storm.






Saturday, December 11, 2010

Oh, the weather outside is about to get frightful ...

video

The brief video of snow falling on the deck is pre-blizzard, if you will. (Push the little arrow at the bottom left of the image to get the action.) It has snowed off and on all day, and the snow on the deck rail measures 4.5 inches (11.43 cm). Of course, the wind is gusting up to 24 miles (38.6 km) an hour. It is now 4:15 and this is the latest weather alert:
A BLIZZARD WARNING HAS BEEN ISSUED FOR ALL OF SOUTH CENTRAL AND SOUTHEAST WISCONSIN FOR TONIGHT THROUGH SUNDAY. A MIXTURE OF WINTRY PRECIPITATION WILL QUICKLY CHANGE OVER TO ALL SNOW EARLY THIS EVENING... BUT NOT UNTIL MIDNIGHT IN THE FAR SOUTHEAST. MODERATE TO HEAVY SNOWFALL IS EXPECTED WITH SOME AREAS NORTH OF A MILWAUKEE TO MADISON LINE LIKELY RECEIVING 12 TO 16 INCHES OF SNOW.

OUR BIGGEST CONCERN IS THE POWERFUL NORTH WIND THAT WILL ARRIVE BY MIDNIGHT NORTHWEST OF MADISON... AND TOWARD MORNING IN THE SOUTHEAST. SUSTAINED NORTH WINDS OF 30 MPH WITH GUSTS OF 40 TO 50 MPH WILL CAUSE CRIPPLING WIDESPREAD BLOWING AND DRIFTING SNOW. WHITEOUT CONDITIONS ARE LIKELY WITH MANY ROADS BECOMING IMPASSABLE. EAST TO WEST ORIENTED ROADS WILL BE MOST IMPACTED.

BITTERLY COLD AIR... WITH WIND CHILLS DOWN TO 15 TO 25 BELOW ZERO... WILL FOLLOW THE STORM SUNDAY NIGHT INTO MONDAY. THE BLOWING AND DRIFTING SNOW WILL CONTINUE SUNDAY NIGHT.

A STRONG LOW PRESSURE SYSTEM WILL MOVE FROM IOWA... ACROSS NORTHERN ILLINOIS TONIGHT... WHICH IS A FAVORED TRACK FOR HEAVY SNOW. AS THE LOW PASSES TO THE EAST... A VERY STRONG PRESSURE GRADIENT WILL GENERATE THE SUSTAINED WINDS.

THE COMBINATION OF HEAVY SNOW... STRONG WINDS... BLOWING AND DRIFTING SNOW... AND REDUCED VISIBILITIES... WILL MAKE FOR EXTREMELY DANGEROUS CONDITIONS FOR ANYONE TRAVELING LATER TONIGHT THROUGH SUNDAY... ESPECIALLY IN RURAL AREAS.
I know Sunny likes snow, but this is going to be a bit much. At any rate, Tom went out and stocked up on various supplies, including fuel for the generator. The odds are we will lose power, and we don't want to be without heat with sub-zero weather. We will huddle up with the cats and see what happens.

To make it a bit more bearable, he is making Cornish games hens for dinner and got a Black Forest cake for dessert.

It could be worse, I suppose.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
Attributed to Albert Einstein, among others

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Where there's a will ...

We met with the lawyer yesterday afternoon about the wills and so on. It went well and will cost us significantly less than originally anticipated.

My will, of course, is very simple because I own so very little. The plan is to handle most of my "bequests" through naming beneficiaries to various certificates of deposit through the bank itself. That way the money becomes available at the time of my death with a minimum of action needed on anyone's part. I will not be able to leave any pension or Social Security benefits to anyone, and I do not own real estate or even a car.

The lawyer is also drawing up a combined living-will/power-of-attorney-for-health-care-decisions for me, a power of attorney for financial matters and a document authorizing disposition of my remains. Again, I plan to have the disposition matters all arranged and pre-paid at a local funeral home, and all that will be required is that my representative notify them to put things into operation.

Once the papers are prepared, approved, signed and witnessed, I will see that everyone concerned gets a copy of what they need to know.

Yesterday morning I went for my massage, and that felt great. I have to admit that I came out of the meeting with the lawyer feeling light. I don't know how much to attribute to the lingering effects of the massage and how much to the fact that soon I will have the will and other things taken care of. As those of you who know me realize, it is not that I am likely to have much to leave behind. But it will be good to know it is arranged.

Meanwhile, in life as with hiking, travel light and leave only your footprints.

Monday, December 6, 2010

St. Nicholas

December 6, the Latin and eastern churches celebrate the memory of the martyr bishop, St. Nicholas. Although not much verifiable history is known about him, his reputation for charity, love for the needy, care for children and a December feastday made it natural that he be drawn into the ambit of Christmas celebrations long ago. He eventually was morphed into the "jolly old elf", Santa Clause and perhaps non-Catholic and non-Orthodox Christians don't realize the the figure is based on an ancient Christian. (No need to get all worried about Santa replacing the Baby Jesus, since the saints are all about pointing beyond themselves to the Christ. Still, even Martin Luther was worried that St. Nicholas was getting too much attention and wanted more emphasis on the Baby Jesus. But you can read all about that yourself.)

Anyway, since the Carmelite Province to which I belonged had come originally from Bavaria, we kept the tradition of special treats for the feast of Nicholas, something that still gets some attention in the heavily German-rooted state of Wisconsin. Some stores even had special sales -- mini-sales -- for St. Nicholas Day.

There is even a connection to the candy cane -- shaped like the bishop's crozier, or shepherd's staff. That is the reference in the following modern appeal for the saint's prayers:

St. Nicholas, patron of children, may this candy cane, shaped like your Bishop's staff, be a reminder of Advent joy. Help us prepare for the miracle of the coming of Jesus. Help us not to be blind to the gifts of getting ready. Help us be sincere in the greetings we send and receive, with love and prayer. Kind St. Nicholas, protect us from shoppers' fatigue, help us to be kind and generous of heart. Wherever candy canes are hung, may they bring the bright blessings of God. Let them be reminders of the joy of sharing and our call to be God's peaceful children as we wait for Jesus. St. Nicholas, pray for us! AMEN!

Partly cloudy, huh?



snow cats

According to the weather icon on the computer, today is supposed to be partly cloudy. It has been snowing lightly ever since I got up. The cats look out and want out -- until they go out. Then they definitely want back in. It is 10 degrees out there (-12.2 C), heading for a high (?) of 22 (-5.6 C) and a low tonight of 6 (-14.4 C). That is an improvement. Earlier forecasts had been for it to drop down to 2 (-16.7).

I am heading out into it to get a massage -- a gift from Rich and Peggy, who will be leaving Canada today to return to Wisconsin. Then off to the lawyer this afternoon. What better ways to spend a cold, snowy winter's day?

Random thoughts for December


“A crust eaten in peace is better than a banquet partaken in anxiety.”
Aesop

“Do you remember the things you were worrying about a year ago? How did they work out? Didn't you waste a lot of fruitless energy on account of most of them? Didn't most of them turn out all right after all?”
Dale Carnegie


"Some of the secret joys of living are not found by rushing from point A to point B, but by inventing some imaginary letters along the way."
Douglas Pagels


And finally, especially during this season of standing in lines and looking for parking places and on and on and on ...
Norman Vincent Peale used to tell a story about a missionary in Africa who received a beautiful seashell as a gift from a student. He had walked a long way -- to the coast of Africa to get the special shell for his teacher.
"You've traveled so far to bring me such a wonderful present," the missionary teacher told him.
""Oh, teacher," the boy replied, "long walk part of gift!"

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Crash's Law

On the bookmobile, Kathie and I entertain (?) ourselves by making up lyrics to songs or composing silly little ditties. The other day she came up with one -- I don't recall what it was, but most of our efforts are noteworthy mainly for being instantly forgettable -- that reminded me of Emily Dickinson because it was an instance of slant rhyme, i.e., not a perfect rhyme but one in which the consonants or vowels of the stressed word are identical. You might think of it as almost-but-not-quite a rhyme.

Anyway, this is one of her poems -- Emily's, not Kathie's --, thought provoking as most of them are, regardless of the rhyme or the slant.

Crumbling is not an instant's Act
A fundamental pause
Dilapidation's processes
Are organized Decays.

'Tis first a Cobweb on the Soul
A Cuticle of Dust
A Borer in the Axis
An Elemental Rust --

Ruin is formal -- Devil's work
Consecutive and slow --
Fail in an instant, no man did
Slipping -- is Crash's law.


Saturday, December 4, 2010

Chag Hanukkah Sameach

I apologize for being a bit late to wish a happy Hanukkah to my friends this year. I was aware of it beginning December 1, but somehow let the days slip past.

So I hope you are all enjoying lighting candles, spinning dreidels and noshing latkes!

For your enjoyment (?), here is a sort of Texas holiday song for you. (This is not a very good quality video, but it has its moments.)



And for those of you who are not familiar with the dreidel song, here are traditional lyrics:

I have a little dreidel
I made it out of clay
And when it's dry and ready
Then dreidel I shall play!

Oh - dreidel, dreidel, dreidel
I made it out of clay
And when it's dry and ready
Then dreidel I shall play!

It has a lovely body
With legs so short and thin
And when my dreidel's tired
It drops and then I win!

Oh - dreidel, dreidel, dreidel
I made it out of clay
And when it's dry and ready
Then dreidel I shall play!

My dreidel's always playful
It loves to dance and spin
A happy game of dreidel
Come play now, let's begin!

Oh - dreidel, dreidel, dreidel
I made it out of clay
And when it's dry and ready
Then dreidel I shall play!

Temple of Vesta

The Temple of Vesta was one of the earliest structures located in the Roman Forum although its present reincarnation is the result of subsequent rebuilding. Instead of a cult statue in the inner chamber, there was a hearth which held the sacred flame. The temple was the storehouse for the legal wills and documents of Roman Senators and cult objects such as the Palladium, a statue of Athena (Roman Minerva) believed to have been brought by Aeneas from Troy. According to Dionysius of Halicarnassus, the Romans believed that the Sacred fire of Vesta was closely tied to the fortunes of the city and viewed its extinction as a portent of disaster.

Snowy Saturday


The front sidewalk and yard

It started snowing about 9:00 last night and is still going at it at 9:00 this morning, but it is pretty light. I measured it just now at 4 inches (10.16 cm) on the deck railing out back. Tom got up early to clear our drive and sidewalk and then took off to plow and shovel snow at the little railroad. I don't know if the train will go out today or if anyone will ride the unheated cars when it is this chilly -- 23 at the moment (-5 C). But it should be very pretty along the tracks if they do. Santa is visiting with children in the shop, whether they ride or not, and it is certainly a picturesque day to go see that Jolly Old Elf.

Meanwhile Cassidy and Sundance (the pouty one below) have settled in for a long winter's nap on our Christmas quilt.


Cassidy: Snore, snore, snore!


Sundance: Hey, I'm trying to nap here! Get that flash out of my eyes!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Dum, dum, dum, dum, dum, dum -- (Think JAWS theme.)

Next Monday afternoon we meet with an attorney about estate planning. As I have said before, my estate is pretty much non-existent -- a couple of bank accounts, a few certificates of deposit, a roomful of stuff not worth a drive from Texas. Tom's will be more complex, of course. My main concerns have to do with a simple will and the power-of-attorney papers for health care and such.