Sunday, February 27, 2011


I continue to get e-mails [probably just marketing tricks] that I have "notifications" on Facebook. If by chance you are trying to communicate with me that way, you need to know that I no longer use Facebook. A friend was hacked and some very damaging lies were posted. It took him quite a while to correct things as best he could. So don't bother to try to get to me via Facebook or Twitter.

If you do not know my e-mail address, you can post a comment here and I will get the message. I screen comments, so nothing you say will be put up on this blog. I can then send you my e-mail address for more private communication.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Another snowy Saturday

What was forecast as a snow shower has turned into a lovely soft snowfall that has been going on since about 11:30. Here is a picture of the pile by the front of the house.

And of Tom working to clear the pad outside the garage. I don’t know if it is clear, but the pile beyond him is probably two and half feet deep.

Today we have only had about three inches so far. The good news is that it will warm up tomorrow. The bad news is it is supposed to rain and the whole mess will probably then turn to an icy glaze on everything. Click on the arrow below and see a few seconds of the falling snow on the deck. (The video may take a while to load.)

Next week in Libraria

March 2, 2011, besides being the 218th anniversary of Sam Houston's birth and the 175th anniversary of the signing of the Texas Declaration of Independence, is the 107th anniversary of the birth of Theodore Seuss Giesel, otherwise known as Dr. Seuss. Grade schools in the area have a week of Seussian activities to encourage students to read his works, and the library has its own approach. Charlotte, the children's librarian, dresses up as the Cat in the Hat for her usual story hour this week.

The two of us who work the Bookmobile got Thing 1 and Thing 2 t-shirts to wear when we go out to the schools this week, too. I gave Kathie her choice, and as a result, I am Thing 2. As far as that goes, here is an excerpt that may apply in some way:
The Cat: Ah, yes of course. Thing 2 would like to clarify that just because he wears the number 2 does not imply in any way that he's inferior to Thing 1.
Thing 2: And all of the above.
The Cat: He says you may feel free to call him Thing A if you like. He will also accept Super Thing, Thing King, Kid Dynamite, Chocolate Thun-da or Ben.
Thing 2: Ben.
[Thing 1 jabbers incoherently]
The Cat: Thing 1 says he's Thing 1 for a reason and some people should just get used to it. It's a Thing thing, you wouldn't understand.
Although the Things are cohorts of a sort for the Cat in the Hat, we will not be pulling any wild stunts. At least not on purpose. I must admit, though, that the above conversation does bear a resemblance to some of those Kathie and I have on the Bookmobile all the time.

And, of course, for other days I have the One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish tie that Peter gave me for Christmas.

One fish, Two fish, Red fish, Blue fish,
Black fish, Blue fish, Old fish, New fish.
This one has a little car.
This one has a little star.
Say! What a lot of fish there are.

Yes. Some are red, and some are blue.
Some are old and some are new.
Some are sad, and some are glad,
And some are very, very bad.
Why are they sad and glad and bad?
I do not know, go ask your dad.

Some are thin, and some are fat.
The fat one has a yellow hat.
From there to here,
From here to there,
Funny things are everywhere.
Here are some who like to run.
They run for fun in the hot, hot sun.
Oh me! Oh my! Oh me! oh my!
What a lot of funny things go by.

Some have two feet and some have four.
Some have six feet and some have more.
Where do they come from? I can't say.
But I bet they have come a long, long way.
We see them come, we see them go.
Some are fast. Some are slow.
Some are high. Some are low.
Not one of them is like another.
Don't ask us why, go ask your mother.


When I had my daily telephone chat with Mama last night, she commented that I had not been saying anything about what is going on in Wisconsin. The two main reasons for that are that I prefer not to get tangled up in heated political discussions (Tom would laugh at this with some justification!) and that politics is not the focus of this particular blog. (Note that I said focus. You must allow me some peripheral inconsistencies.)

On the other hand, one purpose of this blog is to keep family and friends updated about my life, and so here are a few comments for general consumption. If you want to know more, you know my e-mail address.

1) I am not a state employee, but I am a public employee (city) and a member of a union.

2) If the governor's bill -- as put forth and unamended -- were to pass, it would affect me. Although the media have not focused as much on non-union-related issues, there are other parts of the bill that present problems.

3) The city and my union had been in negotiations for some time on a new three-year contract. Both sides were determined to continue to do so in good faith and to act in a timely matter to have the contract in place before the governor's bill could create difficulties. As evidence that this is possible when people agree to talk to one another, they reached agreement on a contract this past week and that is in place for the next three years. Our mayor, a Republican who was defeated in his party's primary last year in his race to be their candidate for state assembly, acted in good faith and worked with the union (along with his council) to reach this accord. I am sure he knows that this willingness to do so means any hopes for a political career at the state level have ended for him. I appreciate his willingness to sacrifice his personal ambitions for what he saw as the good of the entire community he serves. This is what we expect of elected public officials.

4) No matter what news service you follow, you may well be getting only a partial view of what is happening here. I do hope you do not have the impression that it is chaos in the streets of the cities and towns, of for that matter, in the streets of Madison itself.

5) And that's about all I have to say in this venue about all that.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

HI = Aloha = Welcome

I love that the postal abbreviation for Hawaii is HI!

Monday, February 21, 2011

There's snow end ...

Saturday night, Tom grilled chick-a-bobs, a delightful taste treat. This is what the deck looked like at that time.

As you can see, there is snow on the ground, but the deck was clear

and Cassidy was out sniffing the planters for obscure feline reasons of her own.

Meanwhile, out front the sidewalk, front entrance and drive were nice and clear

The snow began to fall around 8:30 Sunday morning, and by 11:00 this was the way things were looking. The deck rail had about two inches of fresh snow by then.

As often happens, the predicted snowlocaust (or snowmageddon) did not materialize. We wound up with maybe four inches of snow before it warmed up and turned to sleet, beating the snow down and making the roads too icy for Tom to risk trying to get to the railroad.

So here it is, Monday morning and Tom has gone to the railroad. I am getting ready to head into work. Roads are messy but doable. We may get some more snow showers later in the week, but life in Wisconsin goes on.

Oh, and Happy Presidents Day!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Full of hope

Love recognizes no barriers.

It jumps hurdles,

leaps fences,

penetrates walls

to arrive at it destination

full of hope.

+Maya Angelou

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Credit where credit is due

From the Catholic News Agency:
- Amid unprecedented protests in the state of Wisconsin over Republican Gov. Scott Walker's proposal to sharply limit bargaining rights for union employees, the state’s Catholic bishops underscored the “moral obligation” of protecting workers' rights and called for lawmakers to carefully evaluate the difficult situation.

John Huebscher, executive director of the Wisconsin Catholic Conference, said the recent protests – which have drawn tens of thousands to the capitol building in Madison and have spanned over four days as of Friday – are unlike anything he has ever seen.

“I've been working in or around the capitol for 40 years and I can't remember anything quite like this,” he said in a Feb. 18 interview with CNA.

Huebscher explained that the controversy began over newly sworn-in Gov. Scott Walker's proposed budget which slashes funding for health care and pensions for union workers and changes collective bargaining – a move that “drastically reduces the things workers can bargain over.”

Gov. Walker faces a deficit of $137 million in the current state budget and the prospect of a $3.6 billion debt within the next two years.

Opposition to the bill reached a boiling point last week when Democratic legislators left the capitol, refusing to participate in a vote on the legislation.

“Under our constitution, you need 20 senators in order to conduct business and the Republicans only have 19 senators,” Huebscher explained. “So the Democrats, by not being around, have prevented action on the bill.”

Although Archbishop Jerome Listecki of Milwaukee and other bishops around the state have not spoken in direct opposition to the proposed budget, they've unequivocally reiterated the importance of protecting worker's rights in light of the Church's social doctrine.

Archbishop Listecki said in a Feb. 16 statement that even though “the Church is well aware that difficult economic times call for hard choices,” current situations “do not nullify the moral obligation each of us has to respect the legitimate rights of workers.”

The archbishop then quoted Pope Benedict XVI's encyclical “Caritas in Veritate,” in which the pontiff criticizes governments for limiting the freedom or negotiating capacity of unions. He also referenced the late Pope John Paul II's observation that unions remain a “constructive factor” of social order and solidarity.

“The bishops are very careful – it's a balanced statement,” Huebscher said. “Because you support workers or the right of unions to assert and affirm their interests, (it) doesn't follow that every claim made by workers is valid.”

Huesbscher also qualified that unions, “just like anybody else, have to consider the good and make sacrifices.” However, he added, it's “a mistake to cite hard times as a reason to dismiss or marginalize unions.”

“The bishops are merely reminding everybody of the teaching of the Church, over the last century or more, of the dignity of work and the appropriate place for unions without giving them carte blanche to have everything they want.”

The executive director noted that ultimately, Gov. Walker's proposed budget asks legislators to use critical and “prudential” judgment.

“Does the bill serve to marginalize unions? Does this serve to drastically reduce the ability of worker to articulate and protect their interests? Those are fair questions to engage.”

Amid speculation that similar budget cuts for union workers are foreseeable in other states legislatures, Huebscher said “it's no secret that proposals like this are showing up in other states,” citing Ohio as an immediate example.

“I think it's a very legitimate point to make that if it's done here it would be done or at least debated in other places.”

Opposition to the proposed budget has continued to swell in Wisconsin with local schools even canceling classes on Feb. 18 to participate in the demonstrations.

Huebscher observed that the bill has struck such a chord with Wisconsin citizens because of its potentially far reaching implications for public and private employees.

“If the state – as a matter of public policy – can say that workers are going to be very limited in what they can bargain for, that will seep into other segments of the economy,” he said.

“I think workers perceive that this is going to effect them – even workers that aren't unionized.”

Huebscher added that there are benefits employees in the state have today that they didn't have decades ago such as just wages, paid overtime, 40-hour work weeks and the inability to be fired without due process.

“There was a time when these things weren't available to people,” he said, adding that Wisconsin “is one of the first places in the country to have unemployment compensation and workers compensation.

“There's a sense among working people – that while they don't belong to a union today – things they have exist today because unions fought for them. And they're concerned about losing that.”

He said that Wisconsin has a long tradition of integrating and affirming workers and it “parallels with the development of Catholic social teaching and the rights of labor.”

Huebscher expressed gratitude that the protests have remained peaceful thus far, saying that bishops in the state have “urged people to remain civil, talk to each other, and keep the common good in mind.”

I assume the bishops, who insisted that letters be read in all parishes before recent elections to pressure the faithful to vote Republican, will also make sure that their statement on the rights of the unions will be read in all the parishes.

Holding your breath?

Storms in Wisconsin

Well, there is that little brouhaha going on down in Madison that you may have seen on the news, but this is what I mean:

From the National Weather Service --






We are in the area most likely to be all-snow, but as you see, this depends on the track of the storm. We are in that borderline situation. And how much snow might we get? Again, from the Weather Service --


I just love how they refer to "pretty good accumulations." Pretty good?

Because this weekend is the Mad City Train Show in Madison -- it's all happening there this weekend, isn't it? -- the little railroad's entire museum store has been moved down there for the show. They have to load it all back into the trailer and get it back up here on Sunday. Which means Tom has to somehow get over to the railroad and get enough of the driveway and parking area cleared for them to be able to drop the trailer off. He is threateing to take a sleeping bag with him and stay over there if it gets too bad. The cats and I are all sympathetic, of course. We intend to stay warm under the comforter and quilt here at home.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Where are the Wisconsin bishops now?

The U.S. bishops' pastoral letter, Economic Justice for All, reads:
"The Church fully supports the right of workers to form unions or other associations to secure their rights to fair wages and working conditions. This is a specific application of the more general right to associate…. Unions may also legitimately resort to strikes where this is the only available means to the justice owed to workers. No one may deny the right to organize without attacking human dignity itself. Therefore, we firmly oppose efforts, such as those now seen in this country, to break existing unions and prevent worker from organizing." (Economic Justice for All, 1993)
In opining to these documents and others such as Gaudium et Spes and Centessimus Annus, Catholic social teaching supports not only the right to organize but the exercise of that right.

In their book The Church and Social Justice, Fathers Jean Yves Calvez, S.J. and Jacques Perrn, S.J. write:
There is need only to draw out the implications of the reasoning of the popes on the necessity of unionism and on the correlative obligation to join a union. The most easily seen argument rests on the fact that, by means of collective bargaining, all those who are employed in an enterprise, even the non-unionists, benefit from the action which the union undertakes in defense of their rights. The individual work contract made by the worker is established with reference to the collective bargain, so he has some sort of tacit engagement and ought to admit to some obligation toward the union.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Raking the snow

A few weeks back, Tom bought a 20-foot snow rake so that he could pull some of the accumulated snow off the roof and prevent ice dams and such joys of a snowy Wisconsin winter. He had done some of this already, but today he and Peter did more. The temperature is supposed to go up to 40 (4.4 C), and it is about 32 (0 C) right now at mid-morning. These pictures show you some of the action with Tom raking, Peter standing by to shovel snow off the deck and also dodging some as it falls. No, none of it hit him.

Where am I, you may ask? Taking the pictures, obviously, from the comfort of the warm house.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Happy birthdays, Riley and Brooke!


Happy birthday to Riley on Sunday
and to Brooke on Monday!
And a Happy Valentine's Day to you both!

Freedom and equality for all: Still a dream

Monday, February 7, 2011

Into Great Silence

Debbie Kinder let me borrow the DVD for this movie over the weekend. It is a 2005 documentary film portraying the everyday lives of Carthusian monks of the Grande Chartreuse, high in the French Alps (Chartreuse Mountains). The idea for the film was proposed to the monks in 1984, but the Carthusians said they wanted time to think about it. The Carthusians finally contacted Philip Gröning, the director, 16 years later to say they were now willing to permit him to shoot the movie, if he was still interested. Gröning then came alone to live at the monastery, where no visitors were ordinarily allowed, for four and a half months starting in mid-March 2002. He filmed and recorded the sound on his own, using no artificial light. Additional shooting of the documentary took place in December and January; Gröning spent a total of six months filming in the monastery and took about two and a half years to edit the film before its release. The film has neither commentary nor sound effects added, consisting only of images and sounds of the rhythm of monastic life.

Although it is about Carthusians, not Discalced Carmelites, the common elements of the contemplative life made it familiar to me. You get a real sense of what life is like in such a monastery, although there is no narrative, no story line, no explanation, no background music. It just is. Which is what life in such places is about -- just being. There is only one extended monologue, a few minutes at most by an old monk who is blind. Very sweet and touching, he reminded me of Fr. Evarist at Marylake.

I recall a converstation at dinner once in Chicago when the friars were discussing the question we were always asked: What do you do? The answer we came up with had to do with the meaning of friar -- brother. What we do is brother. It is more about being something than doing something.

The documentary reminded me of that very powerfully.

'Nuff said

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Better late than never ...

Tom took this picture the other morning (February 2) but was unable to upload it immediately to the computer. This is what our sidewalk looked like early that morning.

It is snowing again this morning ( Sunday), but it is not supposed to amount to much.

We hope!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Cultural Saturday

Today we went to Madison for a museum tour of sorts. First we visited the Museum of Contemporary Art, which is not enormous but well worth the time. There was an interesting exhibit of self-portraits, as well as a video installation by the Iranian-born American Shrin Neshat. Projected onto two facing screens, it presented a haunting vision of the differences of women's lives and men's lives in her homeland. The other exhibit was of works by Shinique Smith. "Smith’s sculptures and installations," we are told, "are composed of found objects and second-hand clothing tied together in a variety of forms, including bales, totems, and reclining figures. Clothing and objects from friends and family also appear in her two-dimensional mixed-media works, imbuing them, like her sculptures, with personal meaning." I love the colors in this piece, The Favorite of the Gods.

Then we walked a few blocks to the State Historical Society Museum. We have been there before, but they were featuring a small exhibit of Native American bandolier bags. A bandolier bag was featured recently on Antiques Roadshow, so we decided to check these out.

Bandolier bags are large, heavily beaded pouches with a slit at the top. They have a beaded strap worn diagonally over the shoulder, thus resting the bag at hip level. The design is created using glass beads, a European trade good that replaced the traditional porcupine quills. The bags themselves are typically constructed from trade cloth, such as cotton, wool, velvet, or leather.

The Great Lakes Native American beaded bandolier bag was copied from those used by European soldiers to carry cartridges for their rifles. Early bags did not have a pocket, but were solely for decoration. Beaded bandolier bags were produced mainly from the latter half of the 19th century through the first half of the 20th century, but they continue to be made today.

It was not an extensive show, but it was interesting. I love museum shops, and the ones at each place were great.

After that we walked over to Maharani, our favorite (East) Indian restaurant for lunch. Then a trip to Half-Price Books, Pier 1, Gander Mountain and home.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Blatantly stolen post on the weather plus a few comments

Here is part of Tom's post:

I was catching up on the Chicago blizzard tonight and ran across this picture of Chicago’s Lake Shore Drive. Amazing. The Chicago Tribune’s blizzard blog says that LSD remains closed tonight, the freeways in and out of downtown Chicago have, in most cases, a single lane open at this point, and Amtrak service is in the early stages of being restored. Chicago is going to be down for days, from the looks of things.

Southeastern Wisconsin is apparently in similar shape tonight. The Wisconsin State Patrol was reporting 10-15 foot snow drifts on I-43 and I-94. I can’t even imagine what anyone would do with a 15-foot snow drift, although I have pictures of a bad storm the year I was born, with drifts up to the second floor of the farmhouse, so I guess its possible.

I spent the day dealing with the snow we got last night. I think we got about 7 inches last night, although it was hard to tell because of all the drifting. We got about 8 inches on Monday, so the total for the storm was around 15 inches, I guess. The drifts out by my mailbox are about four feet, which made for fun with the snow blower. The railroad was bad. I had trouble getting the Bobcat through a number of drifts while I was plowing, and I had to do a lot of work to find places to put some of the snow. But I got our driveway cleared by 10 am, and got the railroad done in time to get back for dinner, which Michael, who unexpectedly got the day off, cooked.

I went to a meeting tonight in town. The roads are drivable, if not in great shape.

Oddly, and as usually happens, the township roads are in better shape than the roads in town. In the townships, the plows can get up a head of steam and toss the snow off to the side at 40 mph. In town, the plows have to go a lot slower, and the snow has nowhere to go...
The news reports that three people died in Milwaukee County while trying to clear snow from the blizzard that immobilized the region. Nearly two feet of snow fell in Racine and Kenosha. Forecasters say peak wind gusts reached 64 mph in Kenosha and 54 mph in Milwaukee. (We are about 125 miles northwest of Milwaukee. Racine and Kenosha are south of Milwaukee on the way to Chicago.)

The blizzard also closed Mitchell International Airport and hundreds of businesses. About 100 Wisconsin National Guard members were called out to help rescue stranded motorists. Despite a declaration of an emergency and pleas for people to stay off the roads, there are always those who won't stay at home. Even the emergency crews were relying on snowmobiles. So regular travel was hopeless.

We tried to get some photos of our situation, but for some reason a computer glitch is preventing us from being able to upload pictures. Maybe later ...

Happy birthday, Rick!


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

There's got to be a morning after ...

(The title, for those of you who are not pop culture freaks, is from the Academy Award-winning song for the original Poseidon Adventure. Extra points if you know -- no Googling, now! -- who sang it.)

Well, we seem to have survived the Great Blizzard of 2011 (this one, anyway). The Dells got maybe 15 inches of total snow, spread out over 2+ days. The library is open today, but the bookmobile is not going out. So I have the day off to try to catch up on bookkeeping of another sort, balancing checkbooks and so on. South of here it was worse but the drifts are significant even here.

The bad news is that it may actually clear up enough for the groundhog to see its shadow, depending on when it pokes its head out. If early (as is the "official" viewing), no shadow and so a shorter winter. But if you have lazy groundhogs peering out this afternoon, that may signal the proverbial six more weeks of winter.

I realize it doesn't matter. But winter started early for us this year (December of last year, actually) with heavy snow and some days when the actual temps hit -20 (-29 C). So we are hoping that it will end early, too.

Easter, though, will be quite late this year -- April 24. That is not a promising sign! (The latest possible date -- by Western church tradition -- is April 25.)

Speaking of Western church tradition, today (February 2) is also the Feast of the Presentation of the Infant Jesus in the Temple, also known as the Feast of the Purification of the Virgin Mary. It commemorates the events reported in Luke 2:22-40. (The author of Luke's gospel, BTW, seems to have confused or combined two separate Old Testament traditions: the ritual purification of the mother after childbirth -- Leviticus 12 -- and the ritual redemption of the firstborn son -- Exodus 13. Thus we wind up with overlapping themes.) And for what it is worth, today is also known as Candlemas because Mass includes a procession and the blessing of candles to be used in services in the coming year. In a sense this is the end of the Christmas cycle of feasts.

PS -- Answer to pop culture quiz: The song is performed in the film by the character of Nonnie, played by Carol Lynley, but is actually sung by a vocal double, Renee Armand. It appears twice, during a warm-up rehearsal and then later during the New Year's Eve party early in the film. The lyrics relate to the themes of the film, as a band of passengers survive the capsizing of the ship SS Poseidon and have to escape the sinking wreck.