Saturday, April 30, 2011

Sundance napping

Seriously, she likes to sleep next to it. I suppose it is there in case she wakes up and the house is being invaded.

Sunday, April 24, 2011


We're back. Today (Easter) the weather in Delton is a big improvement over last week. Instead of nearly five inches of snow, we have sunshine and temps in the low 50s.

I hope everyone had an enjoyable weekend, whatever you were celebrating.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

We'll be out of town for a few days, so ...

And lest we forget, April also brings us
  • National Humor Month
  • International Guitar Month
  • Keep America Beautiful Month
  • Lawn and Garden Month
  • Poetry Month
  • National Pecan Month
  • National Welding Month
  • Records and Information Management Month
  • Stress Awareness Month
  • Sexual Assault Awareness Month

1 April Fool's Day

1 International Fun at Work Day

1 International Tatting Day

1 National Walk to Work Day - first Friday of month

2 Children's Book Day

2 National Peanut Butter and Jelly Day

2 Reconciliation Day

3 Don't Go to Work Unless it's Fun Day - we know your decision

3 Tweed Day

4 Hug a Newsman Day

4 Walk Around Things Day

4 School Librarian Day

4 Tell a Lie Day

5 Go for Broke Day

6 Plan Your Epitaph Day

6 Sorry Charlie Day

7 Caramel Popcorn Day

7 No Housework Day

7 World Health Day

8 All is Ours Day

8 Draw a Picture of a Bird Day

9 Name Yourself Day

9 Winston Churchill Day

10 Golfer's Day

10 National Siblings Day

11 Eight Track Tape Day

11 Barbershop Quartet Day

11 National Submarine Day

12 Big Wind Day

12 Russian Cosmonaut Day

13 Blame Someone Else Day

13 Scrabble Day

14 Ex Spouse Day

14 International Moment of Laughter Day

14 Look up at the Sky Day

14 National Pecan Day

14 Reach as High as You Can Day

15 Rubber Eraser Day

15 Titanic Remembrance Day

16 National Eggs Benedict Day

16 National Librarian Day

16 National Stress Awareness Day

17 Blah, Blah, Blah Day

17 National Cheeseball Day

17 Pet Owners Independence Day

18 International Juggler's Day

18 Newspaper Columnists Day

18 Patriot's Day - third Monday of the month

19 National Garlic Day

20 Look Alike Day

20 Volunteer Recognition Day

21 Kindergarten Day

21 National High Five Day third Thursday

22 Girl Scout Leader Day

22 National Jelly Bean Day

23 Lover's Day

23 National Zucchini Bread Day

23 Take a Chance Day

23 World Laboratory Day

24 Pig in a Blanket Day

25 Dyngus Day always the Monday after Easter

25 East meets West Day

25 World Penguin Day

26 Executive Admin's Day (Secretary's Day)

26 Hug an Australian Day

26 National Pretzel Day

26 Richter Scale Day

27 Babe Ruth Day

27 National Prime Rib Day

27 Tell a Story Day

28 Great Poetry Reading Day

28 Kiss Your Mate Day

29 Greenery Day

29 National Shrimp Scampi Day

30 Hairstyle Appreciation Day

30 National Honesty Day

There's bound to be something in there to celebrate.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The worst is past ...

This morning it is 31 degrees (just below 0 C) and overcast. We have close to 5 inches (12.7 cm) of snow on the ground. Tom is out diligently running the snow thrower to clear the drive so I can get to work.

As you look at the pictures, realize that just a few days ago, I sat out on the deck having coffee, that the forsythia bush outside my window had started blooming, that Tom cooked dinner on that grill two nights ago and so on.

And yes, it is a few days before Easter, not before Christmas.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Our storm thus far ...

So far (Tuesday evening about 6:00) we have had a bit over 2.5 inches (6.35 cm) of snow/sleet/slush. We expect from 2 to 4 more inches (5.08 to 10.16 cm) tonight.

Oh, yeah. We are having a thunderstorm along with this.

No, seriously?


Sunday, April 17, 2011

Birds so far

Despite the weather yesterday (wintry mix of rain, sleet, hail, snow), spring has arrived on the wings of birds.

Sighted so far in our back yard or at the bird feeder:
Tufted titmice
Hairy woodpeckers
Downy woodpeckers
Red-bellied woodpeckers
Mourning doves
[Heard but not yet seen: Pileated woodpeckers]
Sighted elsewhere:
Great blue heron
Sandhill cranes
Red-tailed hawks
Red wing blackbirds

Friday, April 15, 2011

Apply as needed

This is a photo of an actual deck chair from the Titanic.

Phil Thomas, Steve Payne and I used to joke about some of the suggestions for policy changes and other related actions that came up at meetings in the monastery: "Rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic."

I am sure you can think of institutions -- governmental, religious and others -- that seem to spend a lot of time and energy rearranging deck chairs instead of dealing with the real problems.

As you see on the side of medical cream jars, "Apply as needed."


Tomorrow (Saturday) is the Dells Riverfest, sponsored by the Stewards of the Dells of the Wisconsin River, of which I am a (largely lazy) member. Tom, on the other hand, is quite active. This year he convinced me to volunteer to help, and I will be working at the registration table for people entering the triathlon or one of its segments (kayak, run, bike). I get to start at 6:15 a.m., because the kayak folks start at 7:30.

A couple of things to note about this.

1) If you go to the website (designed by Tom, naturally), you find this on a red banner across the top:
The river is rushing along, pushed by snowmelt and spring rains.

2) And the weather for the day? During the time of the Fest activities in the A of M, there is a 70% chance of precipitation -- rain/snow -- and windy. The temperature will be about 38 (3.3 C).

If only I were a duck ...

On a more spring-like note, I saw my first goldfinch of the season by the bird feeder this morning.

Liberty and Independence

Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, District of Columbia
{New Jersey, Illinois, Hawaii, Delaware}
[{California, Nevada, Colorado, Oregon, Wisconsin, Washington}]

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Not any, Scotty?

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker during the governor's testimony Thursday before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee was asked to explain how repealing collective bargaining rights for state workers is related to state debt or how requiring unions to recertify annually saves money -- one of the provisions in Walker's amended budget repair bill. When he evaded the question, the questioner tried one more time.

"How much money does it save Gov. Walker?" Kucinich demanded. "Just answer the question."

"It doesn't save any," Walker said.

"That's right. It obviously had no effect on the state budget," Kucinich replied.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Not those showers ...

This morning they were running tests on the sprinkler system in the library building. The system in the library -- both the new section and the old -- was fine. The system in the Community Center part of the building, however, burst pipes and poured down torrential waters upon things stored there -- including a lot of boxes of books donated for the library book sale in June. Most of the books are stored in large plastic tubs with covers. We had run out of those tubs, though, due to a huge donation of books given to us by the family of a recently deceased former assistant librarian. So those books were in cardboard boxes.

And guess where the leak was?

Not exactly bringing May flowers, I'm afraid. Quite a few boxes were a total loss and were tossed into trucks to be taken off to recycling. We will see what was saved.

The library's stuff is all insured, and the damaged books were covered by that. So it is not a total loss. But it did not make the library director's day get off to a good start!

Happy Meals

The Census Bureau said that it estimates 47.4 million Americans are living in poverty. That translates to one in six Americans. The government currently sets the poverty line at anything below $22,050 a year for a family of four. These 2011 numbers show that 7.1 million Americans 65 and older, 27 million people between the ages of 18 and 64 and 13.3 million children live in poverty.

Not surprisingly, studies show that about the same number regularly struggle with hunger.

As the Riverside & Great Northern Railroad begins its 2011 tourist season, I am reminded (and proud) that they work in conjunction with the Canadian Pacific Railroad to sponsor the Holiday Train in December to raise funds and pantry items for local food pantries across the United States and Canada. But I am also aware that Thanksgiving and December holidays, when we most often think of others, are many months away, and millions of American children will go hungry tonight.

I encourage you to join me in making a donation to your local food pantry this week. Their need is constant, their resources limited, their funding almost certainly is being cut. If you are not sure where to give, ask at your place of worship. They may know of a particular family who would appreciate a bag of groceries this week. That way you can also feel sure that your gift is going to help someone in real need in real time.

There is more than one way for a child to get a (healthier) Happy Meal!

Sunday, April 10, 2011


Today we headed south and west to Mt. Horeb, a town of about 7000 that was settled in the mid-19th century largely by Norwegians. It is famous for its trolls, a series of hand-carved wooden figures scattered throughout downtown and -- who knows? -- perhaps in the surrounding countryside. There are eighteen or so standing around, quiet and friendly for the most part. The one in the photo is a peddler, loaded down with his goods. He greets visitors in front of a lovely old home converted into a shop with lots of Norwegian and other Scandinavian gifts, clothing and so on. Some very nice things at reasonable prices.

It was a great day to wander through the town, mostly quiet and many things not yet open on a Sunday before the tourist season gets under way. While we were there it was sunny and close to 80 degrees (26.7 C). We were supposed to have thunder storms, but one wave had passed through around dawn and a second has yet to arrive now at four o'clock. So we had time to stroll around, visit a few shops, pick up a possible birthday gift for Peter and a book for Tom, and then head on over to the Madison area for Indian food.

On the way back home, we stopped in Prairie du Sac for a very short walk along the Wisconsin River, which is pretty high. The river view path was covered completely in some places, so we headed up to Tom's favorite Western store. After nearly buying a long black duster, he came to his senses and we headed back to the Dells. By that time the sky was growing dark. He has to go to Portage for something tonight and wanted to get home to watch a weather report. We may be getting thunder, hail, even a tornado (unlikely, but possible.)

Not a night I would want to go out. The cats and I will stay home, warm and dry.

I guess the trolls in Mt. Horeb must be used to it.


Although it might not be apparent from this photo of Tom's daughter Lucy in her roller-derby-queen persona of Beth Amphetamine, she is a real pet lover. She adores her pit bulls, of course, and she always brings a treat and a toy for Sundance and Cassidy when she visits. At Christmas, she brought them a bag of Feline Greenies, healthy dental treats to keep their teeth and gums healthy.

While the house was filled at Christmas, the cats were too distracted to respond fully, but since then they have become total Greenie addicts. As per directions, I give each cat a half dozen or so bits in the morning and again in the evening. Now they come whining to get me out of bed or they follow me around to make sure I don't head to work before doling out the treats. They have learned that Tom refuses to participate in this. As soon as I get home from work, they are after me for their eveing portion. And then they wander around all evening, staring hopefully at the shelf where the bag is stored, hoping that another handful is coming soon.

The cats have access to food all day long if they want it, but the treats float their feline boat, apparently. Even as I write, Cassidy is sitting on the floor beside me, trying to force me through mental telepathy to open that bag.
Pick up the bag, Michael! Pick up the bag! Shake the bag, Michael! Shake it! Now open the little tab ...
Crazy cat!


Last night, John, Judy and Matthew came over for pizza. They brought along their DVD of a great 2010 train movie, Unstoppable, about a runaway train rumbling through Pennsylvania and efforts to stop it. We are all train aficionados, but I think just about anyone -- not Mama, because of the language! -- would enjoy this one. The action in this action film begins early and just keeps up until the end. (As one reviewer inevitably noted, it is unstoppable.)

Inspired, as the film notes, by an actual event, the story veers far from historical reality but kept me focused for the full hour and forty minutes as events raced ahead. I don’t have a long attention span for movies, and so that is high praise from me. If you haven’t seen it, suspend your disbelief for a while and enjoy. Even if you know the ending (more or less) based on what actually happened, you will still get caught up in the movie.

[Spoiler alert!] The CSX 8888 incident, also known as the Crazy Eights incident, which inspired the movie, involved an unmanned runaway train led by CSX Transportation locomotive #8888, an EMD SD40-2, that was pulling a freight train consisting of 47 cars, some of them loaded with Molten Phenol, a highly explosive and largely toxic chemical. The train ran uncontrolled for two hours at speeds up to 51 miles per hour (82 km/h) through the U.S. state of Ohio. It was finally brought to a stop with the help of a railroad crew in a second locomotive which caught up with the runaway and coupled to the rear car. (This is taken from Wikipedia. If you want to read the whole thing to compare to the movie storyline, click on the link in red above.)

Friday, April 8, 2011

With your permission ...

Although I try to avoid political comments in general on this blog, the present dilemma which may lead to the shutdown of the federal government did make me think of something.

In the Middle Ages, the cardinals who gathered to elect the pope would sometimes deliberate for months and months. Eventually the custom arose of locking them all in one big hall together and encouraging them to come to a consensus. Their meals and wine were passed through a special door each day. If they failed to agree on a new pope within a reasonable period of time, the meals and allotments of wine got steadily smaller until they came to their senses.

Perhaps this should be done in Washington?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

"We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was "legal" and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was "illegal."

~Martin Luther King, Jr., "Letter from Birmingham Jail," Why We Can't Wait, 1963

Monday, April 4, 2011

I have fans!

Well, maybe not enough fans for a book signing. But apparently I do have some sort of fans. On some of the sites that I visit online, I post the occasional comment. Today I posted a remark about a nun I know from my days at Catholic University. She is a wonderful person, a well-known theologian and is now in a bit of "trouble" with a handful of American bishops. (The details of that story would probably not interest you.) When my comment posted, I noticed that I have 5 people who are registered as fans.

Can't imagine why. I tried to check up on them to see if they are people I know, but due to (entirely understandable) privacy restrictions, I could not find out enough to know. The names/nicknames/avatars don't ring any bells.

So I don't know if they are fans of my opinions or of my style or just pity fans.

Still, it's nice to know they're out there somewhere.

PS -- If any of you fans are reading this, hey!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

April Fool (but no joke)

Yesterday afternoon about 4:00, I went by the bank to make a deposit in our joint account. As I pulled into the drive to go to the drive-through, I noticed a sign taped to the front door. Two cars were parked in such a way as to block all the lanes to the drive-through. I figured they had had a power failure or the computers had crashed or something.

Turns out it was something a bit more exciting. This is from the morning's paper.
LAKE DELTON - Police are searching for a man they say robbed the Lake Delton National Bank on Friday with a gun.

According to a press release from the Lake Delton Police Department, the man - who entered the bank dressed as a woman with heavy makeup - displayed a handgun he brought with him in a black purse.

The man took the purse and gun along with an undisclosed amount of money with him as he fled the bank on foot, police said. He then headed north from the bank on South Birney Street in the village, according to the release. Police were alerted to the incident at 3:08 p.m.

Police said the man may have left the area in a 2000 model, dark blue or black Chevrolet Impala. The car was last seen headed west on Munroe Avenue.

Police described the suspect as a black man with a thin build, who is between 5-foot 8-inches to 5-foot 10-inches tall, and is possibly in his 20s. Lake Delton police reported the suspect had dressed as a woman during the robbery and wore a white, wide-brimmed floppy hat with a black band and a white scarf.

The man was also wore white make-up or face paint with red lipstick and large hoop earrings as well as white gloves, the release states.

The Lake Delton National Bank is located at 41 West Munroe Drive.

Following the robbery, there was a sign on the front doors of the bank warning customers that the financial institution was closed.

Local police did not cordon off the area surrounding the bank or its parking lot. However, two cars blocked the drive-through service of the bank to prevent any customer traffic.

I was able to make my deposit today at the drive-through, but the lobby was not open to the public. I heard the driver of a neighboring car going on and on, asking questions of an obviously uncomfortable teller. The driver was trying to joke about it, but the teller was not amused. After all, the guy had pulled a gun on them yesterday.

And that is no joke, no matter what day it is!