Sunday, March 27, 2011

Library ironies

So (seriously) this guy comes into the library the other day to use the public access computers so he could go online and do a bunch of stuff, including download some e-books to his Nook.

And he says to the librarian who was helping him (not me), "I guess there won't be a need for libraries much longer, since we can do all this online, huh?"

She smiled and didn't point out that he had needed to come into a library to use the free public access computer to go online.

Happy birthday

Today is the birthday (1868) of Patty Smith Hill, author and education specialist, Smith Hill, a prominent kindergarten educator, wrote the lyrics to the most frequently sung song in the world: "Happy Birthday To You."

So, what do we sing?
Happy birthday to you!
Happy birthday to you!
Happy birthday dear Patty Smith Hill who wrote Happy Birthday to You!
Happy birthday to you!
PS -- Happy upcoming birthday to Justin Tyler Jackson Dodd ...

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Yeah, it's Spring Break, but ...

It's Spring Break season here in the Midwest, which is good news for the Dells economy. Lots of folks are taking advantage of the indoor water parks and all that stuff, even though the weather outside is still far from balmy.

But some people don't seem to catch on.

This evening, Tom and I headed up to Home Depot so Tom could get a new grill to replace the one that disintegrated when he went to clean it up this afternoon so he could make chick-a-bobs for dinner. As we drove by the Walmart parking lot, a small crowd of teenage boys swarmed out. They were all wearing t-shirts and shorts.

The actual outside temperature at the time? 27% (-2.78 C).

Okay, guys, it IS Spring Break, but you're not in Florida.


I have been reading Taoist philosophy lately. There are things about it I find quite attractive, probably because what I read is particularly from the contemplative tradition. The Discalced Carmelites are a contemplative Christian tradition and many similarities resonate with my three decades with the Carmelites.

Today I ran across this quote from Mencius (at left), with an additional comment by an unidentified thinker. This is Mencius:
The difference between human and animals is slight; common people obliterate it,superior people maintain it. Those who maintain it become sages; those who obliterate it become beasts.
And the comment:
When they obliterate it, they turn into beasts right away, not in another life after death.
There is certainly some arrogance in speaking of "superior" and "common" people, but if you can get past that, the point is well-taken. When I begin to act less than human, I will suffer the consequences here and now. In the Taoist cultural context, this means it does not happen when I am reincarnated as a snail. In the Christian context, it means I don't wait until hell.


Be Here Now. Not NoWhere.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Signs of the times

Seen on a billboard for a local bank:

We got through the Great Depression,
World War II
and disco.
We'll get through this.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Life at the library

The Kilbourn Public Library has been undergoing an expansion project since last August. The above image shows you the building more or less prior to the expansion. This was built in the early 1990s, and the size of the collection, the number of patrons and the size of staff have doubled since that time. The image below shows the new section, outlined in black. This is for an expanded children's section, a new young adult section, an adult reading area, program and work areas and several small rooms for use by tutors and others who need study space and privacy. The very end of the new section includes a garage and work area for the bookmobile. (No more shoveling the snow off in the morning or moving the bookmobile every night during the winter to accommodate snow-parking regulations and expected snowstorms. And I won't have to start it up ten minutes before leaving on winter mornings to get the inside temperature above freezing.)

The former children's section in the old part of the building is being converted for an increase in public access computers. Many of our local residents either have no computers at home or have only dial-up access. Our computers have become a major part of the job search for people, many of whom discover that some places now require them to fill out applications online. There will also be other improvements to the staff work areas, a new genealogy workroom and more.

This is the way the new thing looks. The architects and contractors have done an outstanding job of blending the expansion into the existing building so that it looks like it was all constructed at one time.

The far left side of the building, beyond the tower and the entrance-way you see there, is not part of the library. It is the Community Center and serves a variety of groups, including Meals on Wheels and provides meeting rooms for lectures and a number of Senior Center-type activities.

We moved everything into the new part of the building a few weeks ago, and now we are crammed in there while the old part of the building is renovated. We hope to be fully operational in the entire facility in May. The new part looks great inside and we expect the old part to blend in beautifully. We are fortunate that funding was all worked out, using stimulus money and other resources, before the economic crunch got so bad. The problem now is that we will be unable to hire extra staff, so the full potential cannot be realized until the economy improves. We all hope that day comes soon for everyone's sake.

It will be interesting to see the effect of cuts to the state budget which will hit public libraries across the board. Despite our good situation, I understand that for a while we will not be hiring new staff, will have to put a moratorium on purchasing new materials for the collection and may face other losses due to reduced funding for the South Central Library System, of which we are a part.

We have already been approached by some small, outlying communities who want to know if they can be added to the Bookmobile's circuit. As smaller schools are closed down, and school library budgets are likely to be cut dramatically, people are looking for alternatives for their children. I would not be surprised, actually, to see some of the smaller libraries in our area fold completely, placing more demand on Kilbourn and perhaps creating a need for more Bookmobile services.

The Bookmobile is my primary responsibility and I would love to be able to take it out every day to some of these places. But our own financial realities may render that impossible. On the other hand, if neighboring communities want us badly enough, they may be willing to contribute a bit more to cover things like fuel costs to make it possible for us to come once or twice a month. It won't be the same as having a library there all the time, but for those who read, it will be much better than having nothing at all. The Bookmobile carries about 1,000 items, including books for adults, young adults and children, audio books, DVDs and magazine. This is a circulating collection, so every time a person visits, there are new things to check out. In the summer we take the Summer Reading Program activities to kids who cannot come into the main library easily, and last year we added special craft kits for the children to take home and make.

Of course, our visits to nursing homes and residences for the elderly combine bringing library materials with visiting folks who may not get out much on their own. It did not take me long to realize that the bookmobile provides an important, if informal, social service to our seniors.

I hope the idea of taking these things to more places will at least get some consideration. If we are all to share in the sacrifice, we can also try to all share in the admittedly limited resources we have.

Tom and Michael

Kristin asked for a photo of Tom and me together. The only ones I have are several years old, taken by Father Tim Dodd (no relation) at the railroad on the Fourth of July back in 2008. Here are some of those. Tom offered to photo-shop them, but these are the real things.

That was the same day Father Tim took the photo of me that I cropped and use on this blog page. Here is the whole thing.

There are a bunch of "old fashioned photo" places in the Dells, and we have thought about getting a photo taken there -- perhaps in cowboy gear, perhaps as a Union and a Confederate soldier. I would like to have a picture taken with Sundance and Cassidy, and we may try to get Peter to do that. There is no way we could get them to co-operate enough to take them to a photographer! Although it would make a nice family Christmas card. I can just see them in their little elf coastumes!

That is totally NOT our cat!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Nicholas Kelo, Jr: October 1, 1997 - February 23, 2011

(Rittman, Ohio) Nicholas Kelo Jr., 13, used a gun to commit suicide on Feb. 23 in his home.

His mother Jaqueline Kelo said her son was bullied for many years. “We would talk and he would say [of the bullies] that they were not worth his time,” she said in the Beacon Journal.

It is not known whether Nick considered himself to be gay. However, when he switched extra curricular activities—from football to band—rumors that we was gay circulated through his school. “After that, it [the bullying] spiraled out of control,” mother Jaqueline Kelo said.

Another Rittman mother, whose son has also been subject to bullying, recounted a story about a bus ride home from a football game where Nick was allegedly spit on by an older student. Nick refused to share details and told the other mother he would handle it on his own. Nick’s parents had no knowledge of this attack until after their son’s death.

Jacqueline told the Beacon Journal she wasn’t surprised her son kept the bullying a secret. “He was the man of the house,” she said and described her son as his mother’s protector. Nick scored a 152 on an IQ Test, was second-degree black belt qualified and a creative inventor.

Saturday, March 12, 2011


On the day that the bill passed the Wisconsin Assembly effectively ending 50 years of collective bargaining in Wisconsin and eviscerating the ability of public unions to raise money through dues, a new front opened in the battle for the future of Wisconsin families.

Bagpipes blaring, hundreds of firefighters -- whose union had been exempted from the worst of Walker's legislation -- walked across the street from the Wisconsin Capitol building, stood outside the Marshall and Ilsley Bank (M&I Bank) and played a few tunes -- loudly. Later, a group of firefighter and consumers stopped back in at the bank to make a few transactions. One by one they closed their accounts and withdrew their life savings, totaling approximately $190,000. After the last customer left, the bank quickly closed its doors, just in case the spontaneous "Move Your Money" moment caught fire.

The sedate, old fashioned M&I Bank on the Capitol Square has gained some notoriety in recent weeks. Oddly, a tunnel in the M&I parking garage links to the capitol basement. Dubbed the "rat hole to the Walker palace", the tunnel was used by Governor Scott Walker to ferry lobbyists into the capitol building to hear his budget address during a time when the capitol was in a virtual lock down in defiance of a court order and after Sheriffs has quit the building refusing to be a "palace guard."

Now the bank is getting caught up in the controversy again. Word is beginning to spread that M&I is one of Walker's biggest backers. Top executives at M&I Bank have long been boosters of Walker. Chief Executive Dennis Kuester and his wife gave $20,000 to Walker in recent years. When you package individual and PAC contributions by employers, M&I is number one -- at $57,000 dollars. The firm apparently uses a conduit to bundle much of its money to Walker. Flyers, webpages, and Facebook sites have popped up encouraging WI consumers to boycott Walker campaign contributors and "Pull the Plug on M&I Bank." Other banks whose employees have donated large sums to Walker, such as Associated Bank and North Shore Bank may also be seeing their customers soon. The data shows that Walker's major contributors include a diversity of national and state-based firms including Koch Brother Industries, AT&T, Walmart, John Deere Tractor, Johnsonville Brats, Miller/Coors, Kwik Trip, Sargento Cheese, and SC Johnson & Sons (producers of Windex, Glade, Pledge etc).

Gentle reminder

Well, the motto of the State of Wisconsin is Forward!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Local man in the news ...

This is the state senator from our district. This ad made the national news. If you try to call the number -- and feel free to try -- you learn that his voice mailbox is full. The Republicans have been doing this all through the "debate" -- refusing to listen to phone calls (unless from supposed out-of-state billionaires, as you may have seen on the news) and refusing to read e-mails. All in the name of representing their constituents. Well, except that they won't let their constituents talk to them.

I just keep calling and e-mailing. Of course, I am used to being treated as a second-class citizen and victimized by political lies. Many of my co-workers are shocked to discover that this sort of thing can happen. "Get used to it," is all I can advise.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Sunday, March 6, 2011


Would you trust this guy to do your taxes?
[That's a photo of Tom taken when he was editor of the newspaper at Ripon College where he was an undergraduate.]
This morning he did my taxes for me, federal and state, as he has done every year since I moved back into the income-tax-paying sphere. It is always a bit more nuisance than one would think for someone like me who is not in anything remotely approaching the higher income brackets. This year was a little better, my library job, one last check from the railroad, one last check from the Carmelite Institute, royalties from the sale of some books and interest on certificates of deposit. Next year it should be even simpler -- the library, interest and a few royalties (with luck.)

Anyway, thanks muchisimo, Tom! I know there were other things you would rather have done with those couple of hours.

Oh, yeah! I am even getting refunds.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Bible study

An engineering professor is treating her husband, a loan officer, to dinner for finally giving in to her pleas to shave off the scraggly beard he grew on vacation. His favorite restaurant is a casual place where they both feel comfortable in slacks and cotton/polyester-blend golf shirts. But, as always, she wears the gold and pearl pendant he gave her the day her divorce decree was final. They're laughing over their menus because they know he always ends up diving into a giant plate of ribs but she won't be talked into anything more fattening than shrimp.

Quiz: How many biblical prohibitions are they violating?

1) Well, wives are supposed to be 'submissive' to their husbands (I Peter 3:1).
2) And all women are forbidden to teach men (I Timothy 2:12),
3) wear gold or pearls (I Timothy 2:9)
4) or dress in clothing that 'pertains to a man' (Deuteronomy 22:5).
5) Shellfish and pork are definitely out (Leviticus 11:7, 10)
6) as are usury [business loans for interest] (Deuteronomy 23:19),
7) shaving (Leviticus 19:27)
8) and clothes of more than one fabric (Leviticus 19:19).
9) And since the Bible rarely recognizes divorce, they're likely committing adultery, which carries the rather harsh penalty of death by stoning (Deuteronomy 22:22).

So why are they having such a good time?

Probably because they wouldn't think of worrying about rules that seem absurd, anachronistic or - at best - unrealistic.

Yet this same modern-day couple could easily be among the millions of Americans who never hesitate to lean on the Bible to justify their own anti-gay attitudes.