Saturday, December 31, 2011

Thursday, December 29, 2011


Just a sign of the times:
Normally when I go to the library website to download an electronic book to my Nook, there are several hundred titles immediately available. (Our state-wide system allows access to a few hundred thousand titles, but most of these are checked out at any given moment.) Today when I went online to look at what I could get today, there were -- drum roll, please -- 31 books not checked out!

Everyone who got an e-reader had gone online and checked out everything they could get their hands (or wi-fi) on. This will even out over the next few weeks, but it was interesting.

I am the go-to guy for e-readers at the local library at the moment, and I have been fielding calls and holding mini-classes or one-on-one training sessions all week. I am even getting fairly comfortable with Kindle, even though I don't own one, because I have been showing so many people how to use theirs.

Going ,,, going ...

Although not a business person, I read the business pages from time to time. You may have seen that Sears [+Kmart] had a bad Christmas season and is in real trouble. One recent article listed it among ten brands that are likely to disappear within the next year or so, and the company already announced that over 100 stores would be closing.

Today we heard that the store in Baraboo, our nearest Sears outlet, is among those that will disappear, probably this spring. It is not a big mall anchor store, but it is a real store, not just a small outlet. Around 50 people are likely to lose their jobs as a direct result, but the impact will be greater. The store is one of the largest taxpayers in the village of West Baraboo, and if the building remains unoccupied, the reduced tax income will create other problems. So we hope that someone else will move in soon.

Monday, December 26, 2011

The rest of the story

This is the Feast of St. Stephen, honored as the first Christian believer to die for his faith. There are a bazillion Stephen/Steven/Steve's who have been an important part of my life, and I think of them all today.

Of course, this is the "feast of Stephen" mentioned in that mysterious Christmas carol, Good King Wenceslas, of which one usually hears only the first verse and wonders what on earth it has to do with anything. The feast of Stephen connects it to the Christmas cycle, and the entire story is one of charity and connects it to the spirit that we all wish would mark the season. Here again are the lyrics and "the rest of the story."
Good King Wenceslas looked out
On the feast of Stephen,
When the snow lay round about
Deep and crisp and even.
Brightly shone the moon that night,
Though the frost was cruel,
When a poor man came in sight
Gath'ring winter fuel

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

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

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

In his master's steps he trod
Where the snow lay dinted;
Heat was in the very sod
Which the Saint had printed.
Therefore, Christian folk, be sure
Wealth or rank possessing:
Ye who now will bless the poor
Shall yourselves find blessing.
As you can see from this photo, although there was a hint of the white stuff left this afternoon, it is not exactly deep and crisp or even:

But even without snow, there were blessings. One of our Christmas blessings this year was a new flamingo to decorate the fire number sign at the entrance to the drive. Several years ago, Peggy decorated one and we discovered it at the end of the sidewalk on Christmas morning. This year she sent Rich over in the dark of Christmas Eve to deliver it. And here it is ...

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Happy Hanukkah/Feast of Dedication

And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication, and it was winter.

And Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon's porch.

John 10:22-23

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Stilll looking for the perfect gift?

It's one of the times of year when we pack up clothes and such to donate to St. Vincent de Paul or Goodwill. Friday I took about a hundred children's books that the library had collected to be distributed to kids in our area to brighten their holidays. And I ran across these reports in the news:
Though a recent American Red Cross survey found that donors plan to cut back on gifts, not charity this holiday season, several major nonprofits have reported decreases in contributions.

From toys to cans of food; loose change to big checks, donations are on the decline this year. And the problem is that as donations decrease, the need for help increases.

Paul Grogan, president and chief executive office of The Boston Foundation, told the Boston Globe he isn't surprised this fact, or by disappointing numbers in donations, considering the current state of the economy.

“They also underscore the level of need we face this winter, at a time when aid coming to the region for critical winter needs is being cut sharply," he said.

The Marine Corps Toys For Tots Foundation in Connecticut's Kings County is just one local example of that national concern.

The group collected about 18,000 toys and $40,000 in donations last year, but reported that this year only 6,200 toys and $24,000 had been collected.

Food banks across the nation have also seen a drop in donations.

Martha Buccino, the vice president of Philabundance, a Pennsylvania-based food shelter, said that its food donations have not been keeping up with the rising demand, stating the organization was down approximately 32 percent from last year, and 40 percent from two years ago.

''That's something that is very sobering," she said.

Food concerns on the West Coast continue to grow as well, with the San Diego Food Bank donations dropping 54 tons, according to NBC .

"Our total food drive donations last year was 656,247 pounds of food so we have a long way to go to reach last year's total," Chris Carter, San Diego Food Bank spokesman, told NBC. "We are also concerned because we use the Holiday Food Drive to build our food supply for the winter months, but this year the food is going out as quickly as it is coming in."

And in regard to one of the most well-known ways to give, those famous red kettles have been tossed less coins then usual this year.

As one telling local example, The Nonprofit Times reports that the Salvation Army kettle donations are down 22 percent this year in Massachusetts alone.

Even the convenience of virtual donations aren't bringing in expected amounts very quickly. The Salvation Army's national internet campaign Online Red Kettle has reached just 20 percent of its $3 million goal as of today.
The places mentioned in this article are perhaps not near you and you may know no one there. But there are families nearby that are having a hard time, too. So if you have a chance and a nickel to spare, I encourage you to give to a local food pantry or to some other organization you know and trust to help deliver help to people where you live this year. If it matters to your finances, the donations may be tax deductible.

And, of course, if you have already given -- as I assume all of you have -- thank you!

Here's a little music from the Glee kids. The song was written originally to raise money during the drought-induced African famine of the early 1980s, and you will hear the references to that, but the clip itself shows that there is need here as well.

Saturday, December 17, 2011


We had a bit of snow last night, enough to cover the ground, more or less. It is 16 degrees this morning (about -9 C), but supposed to warm up to just above freezing. So what's on tap for the day?

Holiday housecleaning! (Yay?)

Next Friday a whole houseload of Scharbach-kin will arrive for the weekend:Helen and Jay from St. Paul; Lucy, Armand, Rebecca and David from Chicago; John and Chelsea from Oklahoma/Texas. Peter is due from Mississippi this weekend. So we are doing the prep for landing.

I have to get my room and bath cleaned up and ready, and I am going to bite the bullet and use the opportunity to get the dreaded closet in better shape. The bathroom needs some serious re-organization time, too, and the toilet and shower need cleaning and probably scalding. Shelves to dust, year-round tchotchkes to put away, seasonal tchotchkes to be put out, seasonal linens to be washed and readied. All that kind of stuff.

Why, then, you ask, and it is perfectly reasonable of you to do so, am I blogging rather than slogging away at this? But you already know the answer to that, don't you?

This heated bird bath, our gift from Helen and Jay, keeps the water warm enough to prevent ice from forming and provides water for birds during the winter. Tom got it set up about a week ago, and it has proved very popular. If you look very carefully at the rim on the right side (your right side) of the bowl, you can see a little bird, all fluffed out and enjoying the warmth. Thanks, Helen and Jay!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Happy St. Nicholas Day

Today, December 6, Catholics, Orthodox and some other Christians celebrate the memory of the fourth-century bishop Nicholas of Myra (now a part of Turkey). He had a reputation for secret gift-giving, such as putting coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him, and thus became the model for Santa Claus, whose modern name comes from the Dutch Sinterklaas, itself from a series of elisions and corruptions of "Saint Nikolaos". His reputation evolved among the faithful, as was common for early Christian saints. It is easy to see how his feast, so close to Christmas, associated him with that feast.

The Carmelite community I used to belong came to the United States over a hundred years ago from Germany, and among the traditions they brought along with them (as did the Germans who had already settled in Wisconsin) was the celebration of St. Nick's feast on December 6 with the giving of small treats. This year I am continuing the tradition by making candy for the staff at the library.


There was a dusting of snow on the ground this morning, but the weather report doesn't call for any significant precipitation this week. Yet winter is clearly on its way. The signs are everywhere.

My least favorite sign? The cats are using the litter boxes regularly and I have to scoop those out every morning.

Favorite sign? Migratory birds. The bird feeders are covered with birds this morning, and on our way to Portage Saturday evening we saw huge flocks of sandhill cranes flying over. At first we thought they were geese, and I had commented about how many there were -- wave after wave after wave. When we got closer, we could see that they were cranes, not geese. I saw more yesterday afternoon on my way back from Madison. It is a beautiful sight. The sandhills are not considered endangered, being instead the most numerous cranes in the world. But you don't have to be rare to be lovely.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

And now for something serious ...

On the first of December, World AIDS Day is celebrated. This day is an opportunity for people to unite in the fight against HIV/AIDS, to remember those who have died of the disease and to celebrate accomplishments, such as increased access to treatment and prevention services.

Today, despite advances in HIV treatment and in laws designed to protect those living with HIV; many people do not know the facts about how to protect themselves and others from HIV or about the stigma and discrimination that remain a reality for many people living with HIV. World AIDS Day is an important reminder to individuals and governments that HIV has not gone away – there is still a vital need to raise money, increase awareness, fight prejudice and improve education.

The theme for World AIDS Day 2011 is "Getting to Zero." After 30 years of the global fight against HIV/AIDS, this year the focus is on achieving 3 targets: Zero new HIV infections. Zero discrimination. Zero AIDS-related deaths.

It is estimated that 33.3 million people have HIV worldwide, with 1.2 million persons who are living with HIV in the United States, according to the Center of Disease Control (CDC) estimates. This number is expected to continue to increase over time, as advances in treatments prolong the lives of those who are infected and more people become infected with HIV each year. Despite increases in the total number of people in the U.S. living with HIV infection in recent years, the annual number of new HIV infections has remained relatively stable. However, new infections continue at far too high of a level, with approximately 50,000 Americans becoming infected with HIV each year. Worldwide, the rate of new infections, or incidence, has decreased. In 33 countries, the incidence has decreased more than 25 percent since 2001, including countries in the hardest hit areas of sub-Saharan Africa.

The CDC estimates that one in five people living with HIV in the U.S. are unaware of their infection. This highlights the importance of reaching all infected individuals with HIV testing and prevention services. HIV can be transmitted in three main ways: sexual transmission; transmission through blood; and mother-to-child transmission. These three routes of transmission work in tandem to affect segments of the population. The number of infections resulting from each route will vary greatly between countries and population groups. HIV counseling and testing are fundamental for HIV prevention, as is access to essential commodities such as condoms or sterile injecting equipment.

According to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, "Stigma remains the single most important barrier to public action. It is a main reason why too many people are afraid to see a doctor to determine whether they have the disease, or to seek treatment if so. It helps make AIDS the silent killer, because people fear the social disgrace of speaking about it, or taking easily available precautions. Stigma is a chief reason why the AIDS epidemic continues to devastate societies around the world."

Discrimination against those infected with HIV/AIDS includes both the fear of getting the disease and also negative assumptions about people who are infected. AIDS-related stigma has had a profound effect on the epidemic’s course. The World Health Organization cites fear of stigma and discrimination as the main reason why people are reluctant to be tested, to disclose their HIV status or to take antiretroviral drugs.

"We can fight stigma. Enlightened laws and policies are key. But it begins with openness, the courage to speak out. Schools should teach respect and understanding. Religious leaders should preach tolerance. The media should condemn prejudice and use its influence to advance social change, from securing legal protections to ensuring access to health care." Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations.

I know people who have been living with HIV for many years, and I know people who died because of AIDS. My hope is that no one who reads my blog is at high risk for contracting any sexually transmitted disease. It is my greater hope that everyone make sure that they and their loved ones are at zero risk. Do what you need to do, please.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Turkey Day Delights

While Tom worked putting together our feast,

Sundance rested on the bed

and Cassidy on her cushion in Tom's office.

After lending me a hand with getting the table set up

Peter watched a bit of the Packers-Lions game

before Tom called us to the table, loaded now with turkey, gravy, stuffing, green beans and mushrooms, salad and pie. Then he and Peter laughed at me for taking photos.

The food and company, of course, were great.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

From all of us -- Tom, Peter, Michael, Sundance and Cassidy -- to all of you, a happy Thanksgiving!

(I have no idea why, but I always -- and I do mean ALWAYS -- spell Thanksgiving wrong the first time. I type Thanskgiving. And I did it the first time when I was trying to type it correctly in this parenthetical remark.)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Deer and ...

A friend of Tom's has permission to hunt on Tom's property and deer season began this morning. Dan always brings a gift bag as a thank you, usually with some high-quality crackers, cheese, sausage, wine, mixed nuts -- that sort of thing.

This year he added something new: a flamingo coffee mug from Pier 1.

That plus the glittery bag it all came in is a sure sign that Dan has totally gets us and that he has a sense of humor.


Saturday, November 12, 2011


I realize you may have limited options for telephone service, but I would like to report on problems I have been having with CenturyLink. This is for an account that belonged (past tense intentional) to District 19, and which I paid regularly in my capacity as treasurer.

Back in July, the District decided to cancel the account and have someone else handle incoming calls for us. The reasons for that had nothing to do with the service we had received from CenturyLink, which had been fine.

Because of my travels to Texas in August, I was not informed of this decision until early September and then began the problems.

First, when I called to cancel the account on September 9, I discovered that I was not authorized to cancel it. It had been set up some years ago and the two names on the account were people long gone from here. After a couple of telephone calls and talking to a supervisor, Vince, I was told all I needed was a letter on our letterhead faxed to them authorizing the change. I explained that the nature of the organization precludes letterhead and that I had no way of obtaining a letter from either of the people whose names were on the account. Ever helpful, the gentleman on the phone told me to just get anyone to sign a letter authorizing the cancellation and to fax same to them. They would get back to me.

This I did. Heard nothing.

I called again, got hold of Vince's secretary/assistant/whatever, who assured me that her boss had not received the fax. This despite the fact that I had in my grubby little hand a receipt showing that the fax had been sent and received at the number I had been given without errors. Solution? Fax again. (All this is not free, BTW.)

So I fax again and add a note explaining the history of the situation and requesting an email confirmation that the fax had been received.

Again get a receipt from fax machine indicating that everything had gone through fine. Waited three days. No email.

I called again. This time I got through to Vince again, who said he had received the first fax after my call and sending of the second fax, and that now all was fine. No explanation for why a fax sent to a communications company had not been delivered for three days within the very same building. After all, the reason I faxed it was to speed things along.

At any rate, we cancelled the account and that was that.

The process had begun on September 9 and it was now September 15. Our billing date was the 16th of the month, and I was assured that everything was taken care of and there would be no more charges.

When I picked up the District mail two weeks later on October 3, there was a bill for the next month's phone service. I called and spoke to a nice man named John. He assured me that I could ignore the bill which must have just passed the cancellation in the mail. I had now been told by two different people that their records indicated that the account had been cancelled and that we were no longer being billed for services and owed no money on the account.

Today, November 12, I picked up the District mail. Its PO box is in an neighboring town, so I only pick it up occasionally when I am there and the Post Office lobby is open. There was a bill for the phone service for November and a reminder that I had never paid for October.

Sighing heavily, I gathered up all the paperwork on this, which I had fortunately kept clipped together, and called the 800 number yet again. And got the message that their office is only open Monday through Friday, 8 to 5 or some such thing.

I am not worried about this. For one thing, I have all the records, confirmation numbers, receipts, names and so on, to show that I/we have done our part. For another, the worst that can happen is they will cancel our service -- which is what I wanted all along -- and maybe put up a nasty note somewhere about our credit rating. But we have no corporate existence, no credit rating, no credit cards, no other accounts that have to be paid. Nada, nothing, zip. We are pretty much off the grid except for a PO box, which has been paid for faithfully and about which there are no questions.

But come Monday morning I will put in yet another phone call to try to straighten this out.

Ironically, the bill has this "IMPORTANT NEWS" in a sidebar:
"CenturyLink understands that your telecommunication service is your lifeline to your business.Thank you for trusting us to help you make connections that count with your customers..."
I should mention that everyone with whom I spoke at CenturyLink was polite and seemed genuinely interested in helping me.

I spy ... mustard!

Yesterday I went for my eye exam. The news was mainly good, but I did have to get some new specs. They should be here in about ten days. Tom and John had helped me pick out new frames, which are neither a fashion statement nor much of a change.

About midday the three of us headed to Madison. John wanted to visit a bookstore and Tom wanted to find out more about the Nook. He is pondering whether to get an e-book reader and, if so, whether to go Nook or Kindle. So we did all that. John got a vegetarian cookbook. Since we were already in Middleton (west side of Madison), we looked around for a place to go and wound up at the -- I am not making this up -- National Mustard Museum.

The National Mustard Museum boasts a large display of prepared mustards. It is often featured in lists of unusual museums in the United States.

The museum was conceived and founded by Barry Levenson, former Assistant Attorney General (yup, assistant attorney general) of Wisconsin. It centers on a mustard collection he began in 1986 while despondent over the failure of his favorite baseball team, the Boston Red Sox, to win the 1986 World Series. The initial dozen jars have grown to a collection of more than 5,300 mustards from more than 60 countries, along with hundreds of items of mustard memorabilia and exhibits depicting the use of mustard through history.

The museum opened its doors in Mount Horeb, Wisconsin on April 6, 1992. It moved across the street to a larger site in October 2000. In November 2009, the museum moved to Middleton and changed its name to the present one.

The museum's gift shop occupies about half of its floor space and offers free tasting of mustard samples from a refrigerated case containing scores of varieties; the museum also operates a mail-order mustard business.

Among the displays are sweet hot mustards, fruit mustards, hot pepper mustards, horseradish mustards, and spirit mustards. The collection includes a large variety of French and English mixes, but many other countries are also represented. I noticed that there are several shelves of Texas-made mustards, many flavored with jalapeƱos or chipotles.

John, figuring you can never have enough oddball mustards, did a little shopping. I was all for getting Christmas gifts here, but Tom dissuaded me. One item was an inflatable full-sized Thanksgiving turkey. I thought we might pick up one to put on the table this year for Peter, who is coming home for the holiday. Again, Tom disagreed.

Anyway, if you want to visit the museum's website and buy some mustard or mustard-related stuff, click here. I thought Ted might want one of the Poupon U t-shirts or coffee mugs.

Every day I call Mama and we talk about what we did that day.She thinks Tom and I are the "going-est people", but when I told her about the mustard museum, she said, "Boy, y'all have really run out of places to go."

Well, you know what they say: Relish today, ketchup tomorrow -- if you must(ard).

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Ah, yes! That time of year


It rained most of the afternoon, and when I came out of the library to head home, there were some big wet snowflakes mixed in. By the time I made it home, I had driven through areas of rain, areas of rain mixed with snow and a small area with just snow. The temp is slightly above freezing, but snow is still falling lightly. No accumulation.

But it is a sign of things to come!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


Some time ago I stopped using my Facebook account. The main reason was that a friend had been hacked and all sorts of things were sent out allegedly from his account, resulting in a lot of time, money and effort to clean up the mess this made.

So if you ask me to be your friend, I am happy to be that. But not on Facebook or Twitter or the like.

Thanks for understanding.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Ah, yes, the movement to save marriage ...

One does not want to see any marriage fail, and of course there is a well-funded and vocal religio-political movement afoot to "protect" marriage in America. Funny that the folks who want to protect marriage are often people who themselves have been divorced and re-married (perhaps several times) , and that they don't put much effort into the things that actually threaten marriage -- things like the divorce rate (highest among the most conservative religious groups and, interestingly, lowest in a place like Massachusetts with its legal marriage for same sex couples) or for the high profile diminishment of marriage by the sort of reality programming that television spews forth on a daily basis. Their only concern is to prevent people like, well like Tom and me, from getting married.

And then comes the news of Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries, whose 72-day-old marriage is apparently colapsing under the weight of -- well, the weight of actually being married and not playing a lucrative role on television for the big bucks. This is an excerpt from a recent article--pre-divorce announcement -- about the wedding itself.
The television event of the year is finally airing! Kim Kardashian’s wedding to professional baller Kris Humphries last August will be airing on E! as a special four-hour, two-night extravaganza entitled “Kim’s Fairytale Wedding: A Kardashian Event” on October 9th and 10th. Meanwhile, leading diamond retailer has released a cute and fun infographic detailing the costs of the reality TV darling’s wedding, pitting it against the costs of an average US wedding.

From the infographic, you can learn exactly just how over-the-top Miss Kardashian’s wedding was, from the cost of her wedding cake – a cool $10,000 big ones as compared to the $543 an average couple spends on theirs – to the total cost of the ceremony and reception: a whopping 20 million dollars, as opposed to the $26,000 or so that a normal couple would shell out for their own wedding.

Most interesting is the fact that second to the total costs of her wedding, the most expensive item on the list is her $2 million diamond engagement ring from Lorraine Schwarz featuring a 20.5 carat emerald cut loose diamond. Talk about excessive – most guys would just set aside 2 months’ worth of their wages for a ring, about $5,000.

I am waiting with bated breath for the National Organization for Marriage to respond.

Little bird, little bird

Last night one of the cats (I think it was Sundance, actually) brought in a little bird. Tom and I were sitting on the sofa reading and there was this unfamiliar sound.

"What was that?" I asked.

"I don't know," Tom answered, lowering his book. "Uh-oh! There's something on the carpet"

"What?" I asked, figuring one of the cats had decided to spit up.

It turned out to be this bird, lying on its side with both cats hovering over it.

I didn't see any blood. Tom touched it and it weakly stretched out a wing. He decided it was not dead but soon would be.

Since I am the critter-disposal person most of the time, I took a paper towel, wrapped it around the bird and took it out the front door to toss into the woods. When I did this, the paper towel unrolled from around it, the bird flapped its wings and flew off, apparently not too much the worse for its adventure.


I hope it made it through the night.

The cats went back to licking their fur.

Friday, October 28, 2011

750 Words

Back in 2003, I was introduced to The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. It is about living the life of a creative person and includes a number of exercises. At the time, I was member of a group in the Hyde Park neighborhood who were interested in writing. Some of us had been published, others had not; some were academics, some were teachers, some were housewives and so on. One of the guys had been in a group in California that had used this book as an organizational tool.

Our group chose not to use it, but I read it and found some interesting things. One was the suggestion to do some daily writing called "morning pages." Morning pages are three pages of writing done every day, typically encouraged to be in "long hand", typically done in the morning, that can be about anything and everything that comes into your head. It's about getting it all out of your head, and is not supposed to be edited or censored in any way. The idea is that if you can get in the habit of writing three pages a day, that it will help clear your mind and get the ideas flowing for the rest of the day.The exercise is not intended for people who plan to write necessarily, just people who want to get their creative juices flowing.

I recently ran across a website devoted to this exercise called 750 Words. The idea is that this is about the number of words in three pages of writing. You go to the website, sign up and every day they send you an early morning email reminding you to type your 750 words. If you do it on the website, it keeps track of your writing and lets you know whether you are keeping regular with the exercise. It also offers some statistical analysis of your writing -- whether you use an average amount of adjectives, for example -- and some ideas about what your writing reveals about your inner life. I am a bit skeptical about this latter, partly because it is obviously done by computer and is based on word counts. Since English is such a rich language, many words can mean widely different things in context and syntax, and so one cannot assume a person who uses the word "rough" is a Clint Eastwood type, or a golfing type or a sandpaper manufacturer. But if you are interested in this sort of thing, I do recommend the book and the site.

One thing I discovered was that by writing on the site, I was neglecting my writing here. I was happy to discover that I can write on the blog, cut-and-paste to the site, and it works. It does throw off their record of how fast I am writing/typing, but I had done it on-site long enough to know that it takes me on average about 15 minutes to type 750 words, at a rate of 55 words per minute.

According to my word processing software, thus far I have written 501 words up to the end of the last paragraph. So I am only two thirds of the way to my goal for today. But don't worry. I don't intend to force you (or even invite you) to read 750 words here every day. Most of my entries on that website are just stream-of-consciousness ramblings about the weather, work, the cats, and that sort of thing. In some ways, it is more a mental dumping process to clear the mind for morecreative work later, although the tools do allow you to use it for sorting through ideas.

Okay, that is 609.

This morning I am heading off to run some errands -- make a deposit in the joint account at the bank, mail in some bill payments and run over to Baraboo in a probably futile attempt to find a gift for our retiring Youth Services Librarian. Cornerstone Gallery used to have some very nice pins (brooches?) that featured postage stamp designs taken from book covers of classic children's books. If they still have them, I think one would be a perfect small gift for Charlotte. In the best of all possible worlds, not only would they still have them, they would have one for E.B. White's Charlotte's Web. I know it is one of Charlotte's favorites, and she even has a spider's costume that she wears sometimesat story hour when she is reading the book to the children.

750 words.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Another photo

Angie e-mailed me this photo that they found while helping sort out a bunch of stuff at Mama's house. It was taken by my friend, Fr. Steve Payne, in December 1983, I think. I am standing in front of what was then the Discalced Carmelite Friar's monastery in Brookline, Massachusetts. The property had originally been part of the Cabot estate, and the house had been purchased and given to the friars in 1942. I was stationed there from 1981 to 1985, fist as assistant to the novice master and then as master of postulants. The friars sold the property and moved to another location in Brighton, MA and the new owner eventually tore it down, even though it was on both the state of national registers of historic places. It was a beautiful place, with intricate molded plaster ceilings and about fifteen handcarved fireplace mantles and so on. They salvaged a lot of the artistic architectural features and sold them, but the amazing ceilings were impossible to save.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Happy 180th birthday, Daddy!

Sunday, October 16, 2011


Today was the last day of the annual Fall Art Tour in our area, and I felt recuperated enough to go with Tom on an excursion through the hills and dales of Sauk County to visit about a dozen artists in their studios. These ranged from a man who makes stained glass panels -- one of which we bought a few years back and installed next to Tom's reading spot in the library area of the house -- to a truly macabre woman who made strange pieces from cast beeswax and dead insects. Yes, actual dead insects. They looked like something you would find in the parlor at the Addams Family mansion.

It was a beautiful day to be out for the drive, cool but not cold, rather windy but dry. Besides seeing some intriguing art and furniture, we met a charming orange kitten who had shown up on the front porch of one of the studios this morning and whom the artists were trying to keep outside, hoping a warm-hearted visitor would take it home and adopt it. While Tom chatted with one of the artists inside for a while, I sat on the porch and held the cat, telling each new arrival that they were the 100th visitor and had won a new pet. Everyone laughed but no one took the kitten home. When we left, it was sitting on the bench in front of the studio, nibbling on a piece of fancy cheese one of the other visitors had snagged from the refreshment tables for it.

At the first place we stopped, besides the stained glass maker, there was a woman who does batik designs and also makes prints of her pieces. I bought a red dragon (for Wales, of course) and it now hangs next to my reading spot in my bedroom.

All in all, a good day. (With a few sniffles still, I admit, but not too bad.)

Kermit The Frog's "It Gets Better" Video

Remember Kermit's song, "It isn't Easy Being Green"?

Greetings! Kermit the Frog here, and today I'd like to tell you a little bit about the color green. Do you know what's green?

Well I am for one thing. You see, frogs are green, and I'm a frog. And that means I'm green, you see?

It's not that easy bein' green
Having to spend each day the color of the leaves
When I think it could be nicer being red or yellow or gold
Or something much more colorful like that

It's not easy bein' green
It seems you blend in with so many other ordinary things
And people tend to pass you over 'cause you're
Not standing out like flashy sparkles in the water
Or stars in the sky

But green's the color of Spring
And green can be cool and friendly-like
And green can be big like an ocean
Or important like a mountain
Or tall like a tree

When green is all there is to be
It could make you wonder why
But why wonder, why wonder?
I am green and it'll do fine
It's beautiful!
And I think it's what I want to be!

Now listen to this important message. Click on the arrow in the middle to start it.

Friday, October 14, 2011

A nook for hiding a Nook

A couple of weeks back, I purchased a Nook. This was partly due to wanting to become familiar with how to use this particular e-reader (the one marketed by Barnes and Noble) so that I can help library patrons use theirs and show them how to download e-books from the library. I did not expect to find it as enjoyable as I have for personal use. I got (naturally) the small and simple version, which is about the size of a thin, smallish paperback book, weighing in at under 8 ounces, yet holding up to 1000 books. It is designed to encourage you to purchase books from B&N, of course, but I can download things free from the library and have discovered that B&N also has over a million titles available free, all sorts of things from children's books to classics to nonfiction.

Turns out the size is perfect for reading in bed, too, and the cats don't seem as inclined to bump up against it the way they did regular books.

I did not get a custom-fit cover for mine, but since I am using it more and more, I decided it needs a cover/case to prevent it getting damaged. So I made my own.

This is a 7"x9" journal that I had filled up some years ago. The cover design is taken from the ninth-century illuminated Book of Kells. This is the classic example of Celtic illumination, and the colors even on this reproduction are rich and warm. The journal is only about half an inch thick, but that was enough for me to cut out space inside in which to place the Nook.

I had downloaded instructions a year or so back about how to turn a book into a box and it was fairly simple to do, although a bit time-consuming. Basically I cut out the pages with a box cutter, glued the edges together with white glue, clamped it between a couple of board down in the Tom's shop and left it to dry overnight. In the morning it took some cleaning up inside, but when I was done, it was a perfect fit.

Tom suggested I use some Velcro dots on the cover page and the box part so that it will stay shut when I am carrying it, which I plan to do.

I showed it to a friend who was visiting this evening and he laughed. It reminded him, he said, of when he was in high school and they would put Popular Mechanics covers over Playboy magazine so people wouldn't know what they were "reading". I pointed out that I am reading a history of Zen Buddhism on the Nook right now, so it is not naughty. But he still laughed.
FYI, I chose to get the Nook because the library had not been able to offer downloads to Kindle, the popular Amazon e-reader. That changed right about the time I bought the Nook. The fancier versions of both Nook and Kindle, though, besides costing more, are basically tablets-with-e-reader capacity. They are larger and heavier of necessity, and I already have a laptop that provides me with all they offer and more. As it turns out, I was able to synchronize my Nook with my laptop for free -- so I can read things I have downloaded to the Nook on the computer if I want. This gives me a better screen size for things like comics and illustrations that are too small on the little Nook screen.


Nothing too serious, but I coughed a lot all night and woke up stopped up and sounding a bit like Darth Vader. So I stayed home. No reason to spread the germs to the general public and all the kids at Neenah Creek School. I would be in bed, but the OTHER cats have taken possession of that. I will have to figure out how to curl up between and around them.

Tomorrow the library has its last book sale of the year, and Tom went over this morning to help them set up.

We were going to go to Tomah tomorrow for a birthday party for Rich's mom, Frieda. She is 100 years old. But I called to let them know we won't be putting her at risk by attending with me in this shape. Peggy understood, but she told me my lower decibel voice sounded sexy.

Yeah, that's how I feel. Sexy ...

Thursday, October 6, 2011

St. .Michael's Summer

We are having a lovely bit of Indian Summer - temperatures around 80 (28.6 C), sunny and clear. The leaves are beautiful, although color is spotty. Tom is clearing brush and has started tagging all the maples so that he can clear around them. Maple leaves are classic fall shape and colors, and we are lucky to have so many. The oaks, on the other hand, have a good leaf shape but turn a drab and lingering brown.

Kathie and I were wondering yesterday about the origin of the term Indian summer, and in researching that (without finding a satisfactory definitive answer) I discovered that this weather pattern is called St. Michael's Summer in some European locales. That is because the Feast of St. Michael the Archangel is September 29.

So now I can say we are having a bit of Me Summer.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Shana Tova
Happy New Year
2011 - 5772

We wish you and your family a year filled
with health, happiness and prosperity

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Michael Potter

Kristin recently went through a lot of old family photos with Mama and sent a bunch of them to each of us in the family. Included in my batch was a photo taken when I was a novice in 1974 at the ripe old age of 24. A friend who was majoring in photography at the local state university wanted to take my picture for a portrait class and posed me for this in the Episcopal church in Huntsville. It used to hang in Daddy's home office until he replaced it with a picture of him with his arm around Dolly Parton. (Sniff!)

Anyway, the ladies at the library all said that I look like Harry Potter in this picture. Well, I did once write a little story for Kristin in which I was a wizard ... though not a very competent one.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Big Book News!

Okay, not really. But it was fun ... for about ten minutes.

The activities director at Golden Living -- one of the places the bookmobile goes -- recently learned that I had written a book that the library owned. So she checked it out. A resident, overhearing the conversation, wanted a copy, too. So I got the one that the neighboring library in Baraboo owns. The resident liked it so much and talked it up, and I wound up getting the the third library copy for yet another patron.

As far as I know, these are the only public-library-owned copies of the book out there. And for one brief, shining moment, they were all three checked out!

Of course, ten minutes after the third one was checked out, the first one was returned. So when I say "brief, shining moment", I mean brief.

Still, a guy can glory in a moment, right?

On the other hand, one of the guys asked to read the Elijah book, too. (The library does not own a copy of that or the Gratian translation.) So I took him a copy but reminded him that it is not a mystery novel. So I am not sure how excited he will be by it -- but at least it is not long!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


Another tragic reminder that bullying against gay youth is a continuing problem comes with the suicide of a 14-year-old boy, Jamey Rodemeyer, who had asked for help repeatedly.

The Buffalo, New York, teen died on Sunday, his body found later outside his home after an apparent suicide, according to the Buffalo News. His death followed his blogging about the bullying at school that just wouldn't stop.

"I always say how bullied I am, but no one listens," he wrote on September 9. "What do I have to do so people will listen to me?"

Monday, September 19, 2011

Wooly potty?

Today many think the mere appearance of the woolly caterpillar is a prediction of a harsh winter. We forget if the orange rings mean a long or short winter. The legend dates back to the Native American Indians who taught colonists about the woolly bear caterpillar's ability to presage the winter weather. In the the article, “Woolly Bear Caterpillars: Weather Predictors?” in the 1999 Old Farmer's Almanac, the real tradition is that more and wider rusty orange segments on the woolly bear caterpillar predict a winter that will be less severe than usual. If the orange rings are thin or few, the winter will be harsh.

I am reminded of a story about the young man who became chief of his tribe after the death of his uncle. The uncle had been famous for his accurate predictions about the severity of upcoming winters, and the tribe had always followed his advice about how much preparation they needed to make in the months prior to the onset of the cold. As a result, they had prospered.

The nephew, because he had not expected to become chief, had not learned how to predict the winter in the traditional ways and instead had obtained an MBA from Harvard. He had expected to live out his days as an accountant at the tribal casino.

But that was not to be.

So when the first September rolled around, he did what any modern young man would do -- he contacted the local office of the National Weather Service. They explained that all indications were for an average winter ahead.

The young chief returned to his people with the good news, but because of his business training, he knew the importance of putting in a disclaimer. So he decided to hedge his bets a bit by saying that the coming winter, while not harsh, would be a bit worse than usual. As a result, the members of the tribe began to store up more firewood and to lay in more canned goods.

A few weeks later, tribal elders came to the chief to see if he had any more details. He told them he would consult the Great Spirit and get back to them.

This time when he called the Weather Service, they said that it was beginning to look like the winter might be a bit more severe than they had expected, but nothing to be too worried about.

Hedging his bets again, the chief told the elders that now the Great Spirit and all the signs of nature indicated that winter might be middling bad. So they went back with this message and all the people chopped more firewood, canned more vegetables and starting buying up heavier blankets at the local shops.

In late October, the elders returned, a bit concerned now because it was beginning to look like there would be a shortage of food and perhaps even of firewood. There were no blankets left to be had in the area. The chief wiped the sweat from his forehead when he heard this, and promised to see what he could learn.

This time when he called the Weather Service, he was agitated by their message: It looked like it might be a record cold winter.

"Look, guys," he said. "In early September you told me the winter would be nothing big. Then you said it was going to be middling. Now you are predicting record low temperatures and blizzards. What happened to change your earlier forecast?"

There was along pause on the other end of the line and then an embarrassed voice said, "Well, this is just between you and me, okay? Our equipment and computer models still all say it will be a mild winter. But for some reason the local tribes have been putting up food and firewood and buying up blankets like mad, and we figure they must know something we don't know!"
Why do I say this? The cats seem to have begun using their litter boxes weeks earlier than usual this year. They normally are happy to poop and scoop outside until later in the fall, but they have been doing their business inside for the past couple of weeks. I don't know if they have been consulting the weather service or if -- more likely -- they have just decided it is more convenient to use the indoor plumbing.

But you may want to lay in a supply of blankets.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Happy birthday, Tom!

What would Cassidy, Sundance and I do without you?

Not to mention the Riverside & Great Northern Preservation Society, Kilbourn Public Library, Stewards of the Dells, the Democratic Party ...

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Two-cat nights

They say the low tonight will be 32 degrees ( 0 C), and Tom dismantled the fountain on the deck to get ready for it. High today and tomorrow around 56 (53 C). Ah, mid-September in Wisconsin!

The bookmobile was at Lake Delton Elementary School this afternoon and there were kids running around the playground in flip-flops, shorts and sleeveless t-shirts.

It's all what you're used to, I guess.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Fish tacos

Sprecher's opened a place on the strip in Lake Delton this summer, and I have been wanting to try it. We waited until after the crush of the tourist season was over, though, to give it a shot.

Tom had a roast turkey sandwich -- figuring it was the least poisonous thing on the rather eclectic menu. (It is hard to get him to go somewhere new or try something unfamiliar. But he can be converted pretty easily is he has a good experience.)

I decided to give the fish tacos a try. They have never sounded particularly good to me, not being much of a fish fan to begin with. But I gave it a whirl along with sweet potato fries, which have lately become a favorite alternative side. And I have to say, I am a fan. They were pretty messy to eat, but that comes with the territory when you're talking tacos of any kind. Now that I have taken the plunge, I will experiment with them at other places. It would be good to find ones with grilled fish instead of fries; at least that's what my meddlesome doctor would tell me.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Path in Dodd Wood, Lake Country, England

Ironing Man


For 30 years in the monastery, getting dressed for work was easy: I threw on my habit, tied the leather cincture around my waist and I was set for most any occasion.

Now life is more complicated. Tom convinced me that wearing casual long sleeve business shirt with a tie was the way to go for work, and I have followed his advice -- adjusting it a bit by wearing cartoon and other novelty ties to keep things light. But long sleeve business casual shirts need to be ironed, again according to His Lawyerlyness. Which was fine back when he was happy to do my ironing, although he was a bit heavy on the starch. But since he retired and got involved in everything under the sun from quarter-scale steam trains to local political campaigns and saving-the-Dells, the ironing has fallen to my lot.

During the summer, I am not so into the casual-business-shirts-with-ties, although I do wear them from time to time. But it is Labor Day, the weather is changing (high of 65 [18.3C] today), and I spent part of the morning ironing enough of those long sleeve business casual shirts to keep me going for the next couple of weeks.

Reminds me of a joke I heard a few years ago:
The good news, ladies, is that there are men who will iron their own shirts.

Bet you already guessed the bad news.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Family ties (liens de famille)

We went into Madison today to do some shopping. Tom wanted to get some art supplies and I had several things I was looking for. Among things I picked up was this book on the history of Wales. Since we have been looking into family origins and all, I have become more interested in the Welsh connection.

Kristin meanwhile is looking across the English Channel and thinks she has now linked us to Pepin of Landen and Charlemagne. This is a source of some amusement to me, because I wish I could see my brother's face when he realizes he has French blood! Even without the Carolingian connection, the French part seems assured. Our Norman ancestors -- de Venables -- apparently came over to England with or shortly after the Conqueror in 1066, but I don't think this will make Ted happier. Dodds with their Welsh/Cheshire/Shropshire roots were already there holding lands, the name appearing in the Domesday Book.

Tom is unimpressed. He pointed out that his Jewish ancestry makes him a relative of Jesus. He figures nothing the Dodd-Morgan-Hedricks-Mitchum crowd or even the de Venables can come up with will top that.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Round, plump, bald?

Since Daddy died, Kristin and Kirstin have been burning up the internet researching the family tree. They seem to be having fun -- and the occasional difference of opinion -- and I am observing with interest. At the moment, Kristin and I are working on the origin of the surname, something I looked into a few decades back. Some of the possible orgins are boringly probable -- derivation from Roger (or Roderick) which became Dodger, became Dodge, became Dodd. Others are more entertaining. My favorite is this gem, found on a number of sites about the coat of arms:

This name is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and is one of the earliest surnames recorded. The name derives from a Germanic word used to describe something round and plump, used in Olde English pre 7th Century as a byname or nickname for such a person, and also found recorded as a personal name. The surname Dodd and Dod, and the patronymic forms Dods and Dodds, "son of Dod(d)", may mean "the hairless or close-cropped one", from the Olde English "dod", to make bare, but in the majority of cases the surname is from the medieval personal name.[This means the dude -- er, Dodd -- was bald.]

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

I'm a librarian

Fast facts about Wisconsin public libraries in 2010
  • Over the last five years, public library visits have increased by over 10% and circulation has increased 15%. The number of paid library staff decreased 0.6%. Public library staff per capita has decreased 2.6% over this period.
  • In comparison with other states, Wisconsin ranks 8th in per capita in circulation, but 22nd for total operating revenue and 21st for total operating expenditures per capita.
  • Six out of 10 state residents are registered library users. These library users made over 35 million visits to Wisconsin public libraries in 2010. Season attendance for Brewer home games in 2010 was 2.8 million.
  • The average number of user visits per week to Wisconsin public libraries is 676,000. Season attendance at Packer home games is about 566,000.
  • Over 65 million items were circulated by Wisconsin’s public libraries in 2010. Wisconsin ranks 8th in per capita circulation nationally.
  • On average, 1.25 million items are checked out of Wisconsin public libraries each week. More than one-third of these circulations are children’s materials.
  • Each year 9 million items are shared between libraries to fill requests for materials not available locally. Wisconsin ranks 1st nationally in per capita interlibrary loans. Resource sharing coordinated by public library systems and the DPI is a model for how to use public resources efficiently.
  • Wisconsin has 385 public libraries and 80 public library branches. Almost all of these libraries will serve any Wisconsin resident. All of Wisconsin’s public libraries have voluntarily chosen to participate in one of the states regional public library systems that provide efficiencies through sharing and consolidation of services.
  • The average per capita municipal and county property taxes paid by Wisconsin residents for public library operations in 2010 was $36.27. Wisconsin ranks 18th in per capita local and county tax support.
  • Nearly all of Wisconsin public libraries offer wireless Internet access to library users. Over 93% of Wisconsin public libraries provide access to licensed electronic books and downloadable audio and video files.
  • Every Wisconsin library and citizen has access to thousands of online newspapers, magazines and books through the DPI’s BadgerLink service.
  • Over 98% of Wisconsin public libraries help people access and use employment resources, including help with job searches, creating resumes and submitting employment applications
  • Programs provided by public libraries and directed toward children had attendance of over 1.6 million. Summer library program attendance for children and young adults was nearly 500,000.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

More Sunday Fun (?)

So after I finished the earlier post and went outside to see what Tom had decided, he was examinng the front door and deciding it needs to be touched up. (No question about that.) Then I pointed out that the whole entry way looks terrible -- dirty siding, dead bugs, spiderwebs, a coffee can filled with cigarette stubs on an unpainted bench alongside an assortment of clippers and garden spades. This led to some discussion of power washing and the next thing I know, I am taking the carpet shampooer down to the basement and looking for the wet-dry shop vac.

The wet-dry shop vac turns out not to be in the basement but in the garage. What is in the basement is a mess by the litter box. The cats have apparently found the new kitty litter wanting and have taken things into their own hands by thinking outside the box. And doing other things outside the box, too. So Tom begins working on the entry way and I begin cleaning up the cat's mess. I have to agree with them that the new litter is not up to standard. It is sandy in texture, does not clump adequately, does not absorb all the moisture of the cat by-products deposited there and seems to be no discernible help in the whole odor department. But of course that may be blamed more appropriately on all the by-product splashed around the box without benefit of the litter at all. For those of you who want to avoid this brand, it is sadly misnamed Cat's Pride Scoopable. It is guaranteed safe to flush, but you might just want to skip the middle person and teach your cats to use the toilet directly if this is your only other option.

Here is Tom totally not power-washing the entryway and siding but doing things the old fashioned way with sponge, hose and soap.

Now you may wonder why all the photos of work actually happening are pictures of Tom. To this I make the following points.
  1. I am holding the camera, and therefore it is natural that the pictures are of someone else.
  2. Do you really want to see pictures of me scooping up cat by-products?
  3. My work is keeping a record of Tom's virtues for all to see and appreciate.
Make sense?

The other librarians constantly point out to me that Tom spoils me, and I cannot deny this. But I am the one who scooped up the cat by-products, and surely that counts for something. And to show my appreciation, I promise to compliment Tom on the wonderful dinner he will no coubt prepare for me later this evening.

Eat your hearts out!

Sunday is Fun Day!

The librarians asked me yesterday what we planned to do on this, my day off. Assuming we would go somewhere exciting or do something exotic, I suppose.

We had planned to go to the Ho Chunk Nation Pow Wow nearby yesterday evening with John, Judy and Matthew, but that got cancelled at the last minute. So we decided to go eat in Reedsburg and do our grocery shopping on the way home. That would leave all of today free for fun and edutainment.

Sadly, a thorough search online and of the area print events listings showed nothing particularly attractive. It is a sunny, dry day and thus Tom was moved to have us shampoo the large rugs in the dining and living rooms. We moved furniture, he rolled them up and took them out to the pad outside the garage and got to work. I swept and mopped the floors, straightened up the kitchen a bit and scoured the cutting boards.

At first our carpet shampooer did not want to work, but Tom got it going and went at it. Here he is doing his due diligence:

While he was doing the first rug, he realized we were going to need more Bissel Fiber Cleansing Formula for Carpets and Upholstery For Use in All full Size Cleaning Machines and Containing Scotch Guard. (Whew!) I headed off to Home Depot to restock while he finished up.

To my surprise and dismay, Home Depot did not have this product, which I would have assumed was the standard for all etc. I looked first in the cleaning materials area, which I located after discovering that it was no longer located near the sign that said "Cleaning supplies". I then tried over by the carpet and rug area, where we had purchased said rugs some years back. (I thought we got them from Kohl's, but that was the rug in the library. Kohl's did not have rugs large enough for the dining and living rooms.) No luck there. Then I tried by the actual carpet shampooers and steamers. There were some cleaning products, but no Bissel Etc. Frustrated I did what no male likes to do -- I asked for help.

And they told me they did not carry it.

This meant I needed to go next door to Walmart -- a thing I hate to do on any occasion -- to see if they had it. Wetry to avoid Walmart if we can, but living out here in the back of beyond, in the Waterpark Capital of the World (registered trademark), sometimes Walmart is the only place you can get things. So I went in and discovered that I was to be spared the ignominy of giving them any of my hard-earned cash. They did not have it either. In fact, they had nothing except the spray on foaming spot cleaners.

I called Tom and explained the dilemma. He told me to get whatever I could get, as if we had any option, being unable to get whatever we could not get pretty much by definition. So I bought some Zep stuff and brought it home. Not that I have anything against Zep products, but seriously, is that the best name you could come up with? Zep? Makes me think of old cigarette lighters or one of the Marx brothers.

As I write this, Tom is out working on the second rug. And I am noticing how lovely the floors are without the rugs. Here you see the dining room opening into the kitchen. Of course, the table and chairs are not there, but you get the idea. (Those old coffee cans stacked in the corner contain bird seed.)

And here is a view of the mostly empty living room, looking through the door into my room where some of the furniture has been temporarily moved.

I think these photos make the house look tiny. But the kitchen/dining area/living area/library are all one big open space divided by bookcases and a buffet Tom built. The rooms all have over- sized windows looking out onto the back yard and woods. The ceiling in dining area/living area/library is a sort of cathedral thing, so it feels spacious, light and roomy.

Plus we have great art on the walls, most of it done by Tom. That painting you can barely see over the stove in the kitchen photo above is one Tom's father painted. We have several of his things, too.
This 4'X4' [1.22 m x 1.22 m] painting hangs on the wall in the living room. It represents the house Tom and Helen had in Hyde Park next to Helen's parents. When it hung in our apartment in Chicago, people waking down the sidewalk would stop and peer into our window to look at it. I apologize for the angle of the shot, but it was the only way I could avoid a glare spot.

More typical of Tom's work are the monochromatic portraits. They are of a variety of people, a graduate student at the University of Chicago, a homeless street vendor who sold Streetwise down on 57th Street and so on.

They are also rather large.

Well, Tom has finished the rugs and now they have to lie out there and dry for a few hours. We are trying to figure out what to do for the afternoon. But as you can see, it can be entertaining just walking around our place.