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.