Friday, August 31, 2012

(Thursday night and) Friday so far ...

Michelangelo arrived safely last night around 6:30 -- exactly when he had predicted. Tom grilled chick-a-bobs and made a Greek salad. We caught up over a nice meal until the power decided to go out. We called it in, finished dinner, and Michelangelo and I drank some recently-brewed decaf while Tom lit a number of the oil lamps we keep ready for just this contingency. The power company said we should have power back by ten, and we took off for Culver's for some frozen custard and the comfort of electric lights and working plumbing. By the time we got back, the lights were on and all was well.

This morning Tom did one of his I-Am-The-Host power breakfasts -- scrambled eggs, bacon, buttered toast and jams, including some delicious grape jam that Peggy had given us.(Thanks, Peg!) After lounging about for a bit, we went to the library so that Michelangelo could enjoy Tom's art installation and I could pick up four books that I had requested on interlibrary loan. We also paid a visit to the little railroad and took the noon train to Western Springs and back. It has been a while since I rode the train and I had forgotten just how pretty the scenery is along the mile-and-a-half route. They couldn't run the steam, of course, due to the drought. But we had a good time. Back to the house for lunch and rest and made reservations for a fish fry tonight in town.

Michael A (that is how I am going to refer to him henceforth, because it is just easier) asked if my book was available on Kindle, and I assured him that it was, belatedly gifting him with autographed copies of the mystery and the Elijah book. [It is particularly embarrassing that I had neglected to give him a copy of Elijah and the Ravens of Carith because he is one of the people I mentioned in the dedication. Doh!] This made me check online to see if I had sold any of the books on Kindle -- they just became available there this past month -- and was surprised/pleased to see that I had sold three (3) Kindle copies of the mystery. Keep your eyes on that New York Times Bestseller List! Those royalties will buy me maybe three gallons of gas.

Tomorrow is cow chips and parades. Ah, life in the fast lane in rural Wisconsin!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Another step

New Zealand National Anthem

English verse: "God Defend New Zealand"
God of Nations at Thy feet,
In the bonds of love we meet,
Hear our voices, we entreat,
God defend our free land.
Guard Pacific's triple star
From the shafts of strife and war,
Make her praises heard afar,
God defend New Zealand.
Māori verse: "Aotearoa"
E Ihowā Atua,
O ngā iwi mātou rā
Āta whakarangona;
Me aroha noa
Kia hua ko te pai;
Kia tau tō atawhai;
Manaakitia mai
Translation of Māori version
O Lord, God,
of all people
Listen to us,
Cherish us
May good flourish,
May your blessings flow.

Don't you know ...?

I had a friend in Chicago who said this all the time. Turns out it's the title of a song by Fall Out Boy. (A band from Illinois and that's all I know.)

I used to quote it at (in)appropriate times on the Bookmobile and my colleague thought it hilarious. It came to mind this morning while I was agitating myself over how a couple of other drivers were behaving. At first I was thinking, "Oh, sure, don't I know who you think you are?'

And then I realized, it was Michael who was all Don't-you-know-who-I-think-I-am?

Insight is a pain.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Monopoly on truth

I was with a group of friends today and we were discussing a variety of topics -- none, incidentally, political or religious. One remark that we all agreed with was that we do not have the monopoly on God or the monopoly on truth. As one woman said, "I sure don't have all the answers."

To which I responded, "I don't even have all the questions."

On an unrelated topic, another friend was telling me about a change in administration at the housing development/golf resort where he lives. Two or three months back, Corporate sent in one of their big guys who arrived making much noise, firing people right and left and declaring that he knew what to do about the problems because he had been taking care of things like this (like what?) for a long time. Now he has been replaced by someone a little lower key.

"Seems that those who think they have the solutions to all the problems often wind up being one of the major problems."


Monday, August 27, 2012

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Summer slips toward September

A few odds and ends ...

We went to Madison yesterday to do some shopping. At three different places (a Barnes & Noble and two different Michael's arts and crafts supply locations) we practically shut down registers when coupons (Michael's) did not want to work. Managers came over, agreed that the coupon was good and then they had to enter every single item -- all gajillion numbers -- one by one. The 45% discount was great for quality acrylics that Tom uses, but it took forevvvvvver.

Then at B&N, I had a clerk on her first day, and she could not figure out how to deal with used books that had been marked down to one dollar. Now this was not her problem,  IMHO, because the computer-register doesn't do the work for her. Again, it was something that had to be done manually each time. Add to that a coupon for another item ... well, she was terribly embarrassed and apologetic, but I just told her to be happy it happened with a nice person like me who was in no hurry, who had fought with computers before and was not going to get agitated about it. I just hope she didn't take her lunch break and never come back!
 (That happened once at the law firm where I worked. They hired a woman to do the job that I later held, and when she left for lunch the first day, she just kept going without saying a word.) 
At any rate, Tom got his paints and a couple of canvases at a great price, I got some supplies for a wreath I am making [experimenting with making?] and we got the books.

And we got to eat Indian food! Tom also picked up a Madison guidebook with a great restaurant list, and I intend to check it out carefully. We need more ethnic variety in our diet.

Michaelangelo is due on Thursday for a long Labor Day weekend visit. Among other things, this will involve attending the annual Wisconsin Cow Chip Throw and Festival, a kind of tradition for us. There was some discouraging news about this year's toss in the paper this past week:
The news has been lousy with stories of the hot, arid summer of 2012 devastating lawns, water budgets and food production, but no one has reported the drought’s impact on one crop of particular importance to Sauk Prairie — cow chips, also known as cow pies, dung or poo.
“Due to the weather, the cows weren’t producing,” said Ellen Paulson, chairperson for the Wisconsin State Cow Chip Throw committee. “When it’s hot, according to what I’m told, the cows don’t eat as much. And what was produced, they just dried up too quick.”
In a normal year, the cow chip throw’s volunteers get together in late July in a field on Highway O outside Sauk City. There they collect the chips for the annual throw held every year for the last 38 years on the Saturday before Labor Day.
This year the cow chip committee canceled the chips harvest.
“We canceled it because there were no chips to be had,” said Marietta Reuter, who’s helped organize the cow chip festival for more than two decades. “To send 18 people to find 12 chips would’ve been a big waste of time.”
Reuter added, “This has been the biggest struggle in the 22 years I’ve been doing this.”
The cow chip throw committee is rather discerning when it comes to its dung selection. As area farmers changed their cattle from grass-to-grain diets, the committee would find a new field with grazing beef cattle for their annual harvest.
“They eat a high-fiber diet of grass out in the pasture,” Reuter said. “We need that grass in there to give it the fiber, to give it a thicker chip.”
When the drought hit, the field’s grass yellowed and withered, and the cow’s diets were supplemented, said Slotty. Due to the heat, the cows stuck to the shade, ensuring whatever chips were produced were concentrated in one spot and trampled.
The extreme heat got whatever was leftover. “The chip’s life cycle progressed very quickly in a 100-degree heat,” Reuter said.
The committee is confident it has enough chips for this year’s throw, scheduled for Aug. 31 for the corporate event and Sept. 1 for the public.
“We generally pick more every year than what we need,” Paulson said. “There’s always a stash from the year before just in case something like this happens.”
The joke here is that the motto of the event is Chips Happen. Apparently not in a drought!

On the book sales front, Tom continues to kid me about becoming rich. That won't happen. I'm not sure my book sales would even let me become poverty-stricken. Is there something lower than that? At any rate,  I am happy to report that again this month enough books have sold to cover the shortfall for my health insurance. And someone bought a copy of the mystery in the Nook format! That makes a grand total of two e-books! (See what I mean about being below poverty-stricken?)

Which reminds me for some reason of a friend from Chicago, a remarkable Native American artist who had been an actor in his youth. Robin died a year or so back and is sorely missed. He had quite a way with words. One of his expressions was about "feeling lower than whale ____" Which I guess is about as low as a thing can be.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Phone feud follow-up

Tom spent about an hour and a quarter on the phone with three separate customer service people this morning trying to get our phone situation straightened out. I think it is mostly (not totally) back in line.I admire his lawyerly ability to remain polite under these trying circumstances. It is a gift and a skill to be able to separate the problem from the poor person who is trying to resolve said problem for you. I thought he did a commendable job.

At the library this morning, where I was doing some tutoring, I heard that a local Lutheran church had their phone service disconnected because of this snafu. They too had been switched to online billing without proper notification.Someone told the pastor that it might work to the church's advantage, though. If people tried to call and discovered the phone had been disconnected, they might figure they had better start contributing a little more so that bills could be covered.

I think the cell phone companies are likely to be the ones who profit from this mess.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Baraboo Tractor Parade AUG 2010/Badger Steam and Gas 2012

Do you remember the old Oscar Meyer commercial where one of the kids sighs in raptures and says, "A big parade is so inspiring!"?

The above inspiring footage is from the tractor parade at the Badger Steam and Gas Show two years ago. Please watch the entire 3+ minutes. Tom, John and I went to the show yesterday. It was all just as exciting as that. The parade took an hour and a quarter. We all came home exhausted from the excitement. Actually, there were some very interesting antique and steam-driven tractors. Tom and John, both former farmboys, kept up enough chatter about things to keep me from dozing off.

Norm Sandley and Reuben Thundercloud, at what is now the little railroad where Tom volunteers and where I used to work, built one steam car in 1972. The owners had that on display, and I had never seen it. (Tom took this photo of John with the steam wagon back in 2009 when they first tracked it down.)

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Frontier Telephone {Update} + {Another update}

The never-ending foolishness with communications companies is ... well, never-ending. This week we got a threat from Frontier Communications to disconnect our phone service because we were past due on payments. This threw me for a loop, because I am the one who pays the bills. And I keep careful records. Our checkbook has carbons and I make a note on every paid bill (date paid, check number, amount, my initials) and file the bill. So I went through my records and indeed I could find no checks or bills to indicate that we had paid. It was a mystery, but thinking perhaps the bill had been lost during my time in Texas or in the confusion when I was taking care of bills for a friend, I went online and paid by credit card. (I might mention that the disconnect notice gave us three days to mail the payment in -- to another state, of course, because nothing is local, not even your local phone service). Like you could count on a check getting there and being posted in three days!

At any rate, I paid -- with the added service charge for using their automated credit card payment line, because after all, it is another chance to gouge you. Bill you and then charge you for paying your bill!

Then today Tom got an email reminder that our online payment for an account (the number is not the same as the number on our bill) is due in four days. Nothing there about how much we owe. After trying to figure it out, it looks like they moved us to online billing without our agreeing to it or authorizing it. Tom had told me he got an online bill from them, but at the time we were getting paper bills, so I told him to just ignore it. The bill had been paid. So since then, when he has received online bills, he just deletes them. But they stopped sending us paper bills after two months. So we have not been paying bills because (1) they were sending only online bills (2) to the person who does not pay the bills, although the account is in his name. I had asked Tom about online payment long ago, but he doesn't like it precisely because of the potential for mess ups of this sort.

So when he tried to call to figure out what is going on, they have only automated customer service on the weekend and he will have to call again on Monday. He went online to try to look at the account, and after figuring out how to get into it, discovered that the online service provides him with no useful information about anything.

Grrrrr! So, folks, if Frontier comes to your town (they took over our old Verizon account), think hard about it and read all the fine print. I imagine we are going to be out a few hundred dollars, plus the damage to credit ratings all due to poor COMMUNICATIONS again from the communications company.

It's enough to make me want to dump the landline, but cell phone carriers have their own problems. Anyone interested in going back to using pen and ink?

UPDATE:  (Later the same day) I was talking to someone who lives on Christmas Mountain up the road from us, and they just had the same problem with Frontier. Her husband called to see what was going on, and he was told he had signed up for online billing. He assured them that he had not. There's clearly a glitch somewhere!

UPDATE II:  I just read my email, which included a message from yet another neighbor who had the same hassle with Frontier. I am assuming their customer service people are tearing their hair out trying to calm down  a lot of angry customers

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Lowering the Bar

Looking through the titles available at the library for my Nook, I ran across this one, written by University of Wisconsin law professor Marc Galantin. To quote the blurb at, 
"What do you call 600 lawyers at the bottom of the sea? Marc Galanter calls it an opportunity to investigate the meanings of a rich and time-honored genre of American humor: lawyer jokes. Lowering the Bar analyzes hundreds of jokes from Mark Twain classics to contemporary anecdotes about Dan Quayle, Johnnie Cochran, and Kenneth Starr. Drawing on representations of law and lawyers in the mass media, political discourse, and public opinion surveys, Galanter finds that the increasing reliance on law has coexisted uneasily with anxiety about the “legalization” of society. Informative and always entertaining, his book explores the tensions between Americans’ deep-seated belief in the law and their ambivalence about lawyers."
It uses jokes to examine a serious topic and I think I learned something from perusing it. (Peruse is a fancy schmancy word for skim, by the way. One suspects lawyers use it all the time to imply that they studied a document when they really just glanced through it.) I already knew that the American take on law (rooted in the English take on same) is not the same as the Italian, French or even German take on law. But this book helped me appreciate that fact, and it reminded me never to take for granted universal agreement on fundamental things. At any rate, I don't know if you want to learn about the law in this way, but it is full of lawyer jokes for most any occasion or for no occasion at all. I kept running to Tom's office and interrupting him to tell him another one. As a retired lawyer, he smiled politely and went back to his computer game. I could almost hear his thoughts: "What did I get myself into?"

Oh, the answer to the 600 lawyers at the bottom of the sea question? "It's a start."

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Don Williams - Good Ole Boys Like Me

Something a friend posted on Facebook made me think of this 1980 song. At the time I was a young priest in Dallas, and the anomalies of being who I was and where I was came ringing through this song. I especially liked the line about "Those Williams boys they still mean a lot to me -- Hank and Tennessee." His voice and this video are pretty clear, but here are the lyrics in case you miss something.

When I was a kid Uncle Remus he put me to bed
With a picture of Stonewall Jackson above my head
Then daddy came in to kiss his little man
With gin on his breath and a Bible in his hand
He talked about honor and things I should know
Then he staggered a little as he went out the door

I can still hear the soft southern winds in the live oak trees
And those Williams boys they still mean a lot to me Hank and Tennessee
I guess we're all gonna be what we're gonna be
So what do you do with good ole boys like me

Nothing makes a sound in the night like the wind does
But you ain't afraid if you're washed in the blood like I was
The smell of Cape Jasmine through the window screen
John R and the wolfman kept me company
By the light of the radio by my bed with Thomas Wolfe whispering in my head

I can still hear the soft southern winds in the live oak trees
And those Williams boys they still mean a lot to me Hank and Tennessee
I guess we're all gonna be what we're gonna be
So what do you do with good ole boys like me

When I was in school I ran with a kid down the street
And I watched him burn himself up on Bourbon and speed
But I was smarter than most and I could choose
Learned to talk like the man on the six o'clock news
When I was eighteen Lord I hit the road
but it really dodn't matter how far I go

I can still hear the soft southern winds in the live oak trees
And those Williams boys they still mean a lot to me Hank and Tennessee
I guess we're all gonna be what we're gonna be
So what do you do with good ole boys like me

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Summer Saturday plans

Not sure that any or all of these things will happen, but ...

First, this morning we are off to the Summer Art Classic on the courthouse square in Baraboo. Looks like they got a beautiful day for it. Our area has some fine artists, and this could be a good show. I think it is more arts than crafts. Odds are that we won't buy anything, though. There is, however, an interesting toy store on the square, too, and we need to pick up a birthday present.

Second, depending on the schedule, we will attend some of the dancing exhibitions at the Ho Chunk Powwow. We have not been able to track down a copy of the schedule online or elsewhere, so this part is up in the air. Our friend Ralph is part of the color guard, and it would be nice if we see him do his part. He is very proud of being a veteran, of course.

Third, there is the birthday party for our five-year-old neighbor, Quentin, for whom the aforementioned birthday gift.  Tom has been to almost all of Quentin's birthday parties and I have been to a couple. The others I missed due to work. This is, I think, just a drop by, say Happy Birthday, eat some cake and watch him open the gift. He is a great kid, getting ready for kindergarten in a few weeks.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Sic transit gloria mundi

(That means, "Thus does the glory of the world pass away", not as one of my university roommates asserted, "Gloria threw up on the subway Monday.")
Tonight Tom and I had dinner in Reedsburg, partly in order to visit the new Shopko Hometown store that has opened there.

Shopko is an Aushwaubenon (think Green Bay)-based discount store, normally found in strip malls or occasionally in free-standing locations. Their market seems to be smaller cities, but you do see them elsewhere. Shopko Hometown specifically targets cities with populations of  3,000 to 8,000 and carries allegedly about 70% of the items carried in the larger Shopko locales.

Our Reedsburg Shopko Hometown replaced a Pamida, another discount retailer targeting these smaller communities. Pamida was recently bought out by Shopko, and hence the transition. Pamida had originated in Iowa. We often went in there, but to be honest, you could get better quality merchandise for less at Kohl's. We hardly ever bought anything.

And before Reedsburg had Pamida, the building housed Prange Way.

Prange Way was another of ditto, this one originating in Sheboygan. It disappeared in the 1990s when the chain was bought out by Younkers.

At any rate, Tom always called Pamida "Prange Way" because that is what it used to be. I assume he will continue to talk about Prange Way, only now he will mean Shopko Hometown.

I don't know that the change from Prange Way to Pamida meant, but as far as I could tell tonight -- and they just had their grand opening -- Shopko Hometown is no improvement over Pamida. The store is poorly stocked, something that will probably get better as they finish moving in. But why have a Grand Opening if your shelves are still largely empty.

When we go out for dinner, Tom usually wants to go on a field trip afterwards. That means going shopping somewhere most of the time, and there are not a lot of options here in our area. I don't think Shopko Hometown has added anything new.

A great leap forward ...

Okay, not a great leap, just a baby step, as we used to call them in "Simon Says" and such games.

I just noticed that about a week ago, someone purchased a copy of Elijah and the Ravens of Carith in electronic form -- Nook, to be specific.My first e-book sale!

As my hero Sheldon Cooper might say, "Bazinga!"

No, I guess "Bazinga!" is what he says after he plays one of his classic pranks. And this is no prank, it's a real sale. (Of course, Sheldon's pranks are not real pranks, either, at least not to anyone else. But that's another post.) But this feels like it calls for a Bazinga!

And it is an encouragement to keep moving along with the writing. Yesterday I got some good plotting done on the novel. Only a bit of writing, but I made some serious headway with outlines, motives and that sort of thing.

Today I will do some work on that, then head to the library for another session tutoring computer. Tom's at the R&GN Railroad today, and that means my day to cook. I need to make a quick run for some supplies, too.

We had a steady rain for much of the day yesterday, and today is cool and blue-skied. Looks like our temps will be in the low 70s the next few days. Tomorrow we plan to go to the Summer Art Classic on the square in Baraboo. Sunday Tom has to be in a parade in the middle of the day, but I don't.

And that's it for this morning before I head off to shower and shave. Have a great one, wherever you are!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

And another one for the Welsh!

Tom is a big Horatio Hornblower fan, and on the rare rainy day like today, he watches one of the DVDs from the BBC series. The role of Hornblower is played by the Welsh actor, Ioan Gruffud.

To hear how that name is pronounced, click on this link. ( listen)

Tom wondered about the name, and I told him it was probably Welsh. He ta-ta'd me, saying that the actor is too goodlooking to be Welsh. (The point being that I am Welsh, of course.) So I looked it up and found out that he is Welsh indeed. I also pointed out that his name is just the Welsh version of "John Griffith", which is not so unusual. 

Gruffud has played in a number of other things, including the role of Tony Blair in the movie W. about George W. Bush. He has been asked why he has not anglicized his name to make it easier for people to pronounce, the assumption being that it must have stood in his way professionally not to sound like a regular English chap. I love his response: "We all learned to pronounce Schwarznegger."

Seriously? That's a sport?

As you know, I am not a sports purist.  I am not a sports fan. I don't even watch figure skating and gymnastics or diving, pretending that it is the competition that I find interesting. For that matter, I don't watch them anyway. To me, these are essentially performances rather than sports, and adding the element of comparison actually ruins the beauty as far as I am concerned.

So I avoid the Olympics for the most part. Tom, however, watches bits and pieces and occasionally because he is amused, calls me to look at something. I won't go into what he finds entertaining because some of those things might be your very favorite events. Gazillions of people all over the planet sit mesmerized by what they see on their screens, and I am not one to claim that they are wrong to be so fascinated. It just isn't me.

One thing that does puzzle me about many of the bits and pieces I see when passing through the living room, though, is a question I think Sheldon Cooper might ponder. Are all of these really sports? I realize that the Olympic Committees of various sorts decide whether to admit or reject new events and that some things last an Olympiad or two and then quietly disappear, due to lack of commercial value I suspect more than because they are any less athletic than others that draw an audience and hence an advertising dollar.

I suppose it would seem less ambiguous if all events were such that the athlete won on objective grounds: he got to the finish line first, she threw her javelin furthest, the team made more goals. It is the areas where judges come into play that things seem to veer off into something else.Was that a 7.9 or an 8.0 performance? Is she a perfect 10 or only a 9.9? Sure he flew higher than anyone else, but was his ankle lined up with his cheekbone properly?

I looked it up -- being a librarian, after all -- and see that the things that puzzle me, and presumably Dr. Cooper, in the Olympics do fall under the definition. They require physical skill and prowess and are "of a competitive nature." I question on the deeper level, however, if everything that we turn into a competition is actually competitive in its very nature. The American pseudo-reality programs that make dancing and singing into a contest, for example. Are dancing and singing in their nature competitive? One can argue that there have been such competitions since ancient times, some even comparable to the Olympics. But here I show the dangers of being a librarian and looking up too much background.

Suffice it to say I think some things should just be fun -- fun to do, fun to watch, a source of delight for all, not a source of delight for a select few and a disappointment to the vast majority. I suppose that's unAmerican in some way, but it is the way I feel.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

What do you do?

I read a book the other day -- okay, it was a very short book -- about retirement. One of the things it mentioned was that when you tell someone you are retired, they will most likely ask, "What do you do?" The response the author recommended: "Plenty."

I thought of that today because I went to the library to meet a Mexican  woman who had asked for help learning to use the computer. I met her son when I worked on the bookmobile, and she often comes into the library. I  always said hello to Pedro and she began to talk to me. At that time I was able to help her find someone to tutor her in English. So when she wanted to learn something about the computer, she came to the library looking for my help. I was already retired, but the librarians got in touch with me and we set up today's appointment. Turns out she knows nothing -- not even how to turn on the computer they have at home. So this will involve a little time

But when we were getting set up, she asked how I was enjoying my vacation. I explained that I was not on vacation but had retired. She looked puzzled. "You don't work? Then what do you do?"

I looked at her and said, "Well, I do this. I help people who need someone to show them how to use the computer. And I write. And ..." I suppose I could have said, "I read books about being retired."

Anyway, there I was in the very midst of doing something with and for her and she couldn't figure out what I was doing in my retirement. In the future, I'll just say, "Plenty", and move on. As it turns out, we have already set up another session for Friday. I will probably wind up meeting with her at least twice a week for a while. After Labor Day I will also be returning to the library as a volunteer. I already talked to the director and got that set up. So my time is filling up very nicely, thank you. But at least is it my time.

It does remind me though of the volunteer at the library who asked, when she heard that I planned to retire, what I was going to do. I told her I had four books that I wanted to finish. To me this sounded pretty respectable, and it has the added value of being one of the main goals I have set for my retirement. The volunteer was clearly not impressed. It was not until I overheard her talking to someone else that I realized she thought I meant I had four books I wanted to finish reading.


Back in June of 2004, Tom and I joined Michelangelo and some other friends at a Rufus Wainwright concert at Ravinia north of Chicago. I am not a huge Rufus fan, I admit, but we had a great time, sitting outside the Pavilion and enjoying our picnic. The night was memorable for a few reasons. One is that for the first time I heard Rufus sing Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah. I AM abig Leonard Cohen fan, of his songs if not of his voice. And Rufus did a beautiful job, the music hauntingly floating out over the crowd and shushing the usual murmur of conversation.

Another memorable reason was the great dish Tom made for our picnic: a sort of avocado, grilled steak, onion etc. salad. I loved it, and it has been a long time since he made it. Happily, he made it for dinner this evening, and it is as good as I remember.

I can't share the salad, but feel free to click here to listen to Rufus's "Hallelujah". This version was recorded at a concert just a few weeks after the one we attended. If you like the song, you will also want to go on Youtube and find K.D. Lang's version performed at the Vancouver Winter Olympics. Moving and awesome!

PS -- Tom reminded me after dinner while putting away leftovers that the steak salad has to be taken out of the fridge and allowed to come to room temperature before it is eaten.  I told him he way overestimated my capacity for patience. 

For some reason, it made me think of all those dental hygienists who sincerely seem to believe that the reason people don't floss is that no has shown them how to do it properly. Nope, it ain't that, trust me.

Eating this dish is sort of the complete opposite of flossing though. It is easy, pleasant and not too messy. And you can do it at the table without grossing people out.

Battle of the Trumpet Vine

This morning I noticed a hummingbird hovering around the trumpet vine that covers one corner of the deck. It is a popular spot for them, and one reason we put it out there was to attract hummingbirds. What was a little unusual was that this one did not just dart in, poke, sip and leave. It appeared to be visiting every single trumpet on the vine. The visit dragged on and on, to Cassidy's benefit because I was absentmindedly rubbing her back as she perched on the sill of the dining room window through which I was observing the action.

Then another hummingbird flew into the picture, swooped down and perched up in a neighboring tree for a minute. After which, it came down and tried to pick at trumpets on the opposite side from the other bird, but Bird 1 was having none of this. There ensued a certain amount of Bird 1 and Bird 2 flying at one another and taking turns perching on a tree. Eventually they chased one another off completely.

They are tiny but territorial, that's for sure.

Monday, August 6, 2012


I just read that the average retired person watches 43 hours of television a week. That's more than a full time job. At the library, we used to have people who checked out twenty, thirty, forty DVDs each week. We couldn't figure out how you would find the time to watch them.

But I can understand how it happens ...

Sadness and senseless in Wisconsin

 The Khanda, ਖੰਡਾ, is one of  three and most important symbols of Sikhism. Khanda is commonly called the Sikh coat of arms, or "Khalsa Crest". The Khanda consists of three items in one, each with a symbolic meaning. A double-edged sword called a Khanda in the centre, a Chakkar which is circular and two single-edged swords( kirpans), are crossed at the bottom and sit on either side of the Khanda and Chakkar. However, the name Khanda is derived from the central symbol, a special type of double-edged sword which confirms the Sikhs' belief in One God. The central double edged sword signifies truth, strength, freedom and justice. The circle or chakkar represents the eternal. This is a symbol of all-embracing divine manifestation including everything and wanting nothing, without beginning or end, neither first or last, timeless, and absolute. The two swords of Miri and Piri represent political and spiritual sovereignty.

As you no doubt have heard on the news, violence came to a worshiping community of Sikhs near Milwaukee yesterday, leaving a number of people dead, others wounded and hundreds in shock. The "alleged" gunman died in an exchange of fire with police, and it will take some time to sort through what led to this tragedy. Since the terrible events of 9/11, Sikhs have often been victims of violence by people mistaking them for Muslims. Though, like Muslims, Jews and Christians, they believe in One God, their religious roots lie elsewhere.

May the One God, and all those who identify as believers in One God, hasten the end of senseless violence born of ignorance and hatred.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Retirement update

Well, let me see.

As I already told you -- ever notice how retired people repeat themselves? -- most days I go for a walk for a half hour or so to one end of Berry Road or the other. One way takes me by Jerry and his cows and barn cats, and that takes about a half hour. The other takes me past the Fosters and the pond and takes about forty-five minutes. The trip down to Jerry's is about half shade, half sun. The trip the other way is mostly shade, with huge trees overhanging the road on both sides. About half the time, Tom goes with me, which makes the walk better all the way around.

I am indeed writing every day. I decided to begin working on one of the short story collections, the one about the little townlet of Penultimate, Wisconsin. I have finished a couple of stories I had already begun, written one completely new one and am rambling along through a couple of others. I may have to wind up calling these tales rather than short stories, because they do ramble on and do not have the tightness one associates with a true short story. One thing is that most days I have set aside two hours in the morning to write, and when I get going on a story, I may keep writing the full two hours on that story. And that tends to introduce tangents. Subplots don't really belong in a short story, but one I am writing about a puzzle at a library has already sprung one subplot. I just hope I can keep it under control. When I get around to rewriting and editing, I may be able to turn it into a red herring, which would seem to justify its existence. Or I may decide to split it off into another story. At any rate, right now I am doing what "they" tell you to do -- just keep writing and worry about cleaning it up later. As The Gambler says, there'll be time enough for counting when the dealing's done.

I cook dinner on Tuesdays and Fridays because those are days Tom devotes to the railroad. I like to cook and manage okay, but I am not as good at it as Tom. One problem is that I like to try new recipes, and most of them don't wind up being all that great. In case you were wondering, the star-ratings you find on most recipe sites online are totally unreliable. Another problem is that I try to find recipes that fit with our allegedly low glycemic lifestyle. Again, Tom's efforts in this dietary arena far surpass my own. He compliments my meals, but I notice he tends to ignore the side veggies. Peter is following his own eating plan these days, so I don't have to cook for him. I should just follow his example and put out black beans, tuna and low-fat chocolate milk for Tom and me. It works for Peter, although when he opens the tuna up, it does set the cats to running.

The library has art classes on Tuesday afternoons during the summer, and I intend to attend those during the month of August. They are doing something with pastel acrylics (?). I have no idea what I am in for, but it will be good to do something nonverbal.  This will make a pretty full Tuesday, because I usually have coffee with a friend in the morning and I have that cooking thing late afternoon. The art class is from 1:00 to 3:00. And somewhere in there I need to get in some writing. Probably not two hours ...

When will I find time to watch The Big Bang Theory?

One final note. -- again as I already told you --I discovered that for August, the first month I get Social Security and the first month that I pay for my own health coverage in full, by adding in my royalties, I will have a loss of $0.92 for the month -- assuming I buy absolutely nothing else! Looks like I will have lots of time for walking and writing. Fortunately the library supplies all the stuff I will need for art class.

PS -- The overalls are still on the line and the ploy is still working. A bit of rain every day so far.

Friday, August 3, 2012


1) Hacker alert: Two of my friends have had their email accounts hacked today. I got messages allegedly from them, containing links to ... er, questionable sites. This happens periodically. So often in fact that Hotmail has a place to click on your email page to report that your friend has been hacked. It's a good idea not to open those links, by the way.

2) We are still in severe drought here, but we have had a bit of rain the last few days: 0.15 inches, 0.25 inches, etc. I attribute this to the fact that I washed a pair of denim overalls and hung them out to dry on the clothesline. While we have not had any gully washers, as long as those overalls are hanging out there, we get enough rain each day to keep them from getting dry enough for me to bring back in. I don't wear them much, so it's not a problem for me. And anything to keep Wisconsin Dells from turning into a dust bowl.

3) Retirement goes merrily along. I am writing every day, taking a morning walk or getting some sort of exercise every day, doing some of the cooking, goofing off, watching my budget. For the rest of this year, due to my reduced Social Security benefits (I had made over the annual limit when I retired at the end of June), my health insurance premium is going to be about twelve dollars more each month than I will be getting in from SS. Fortunately I have been earning book royalties each month, not a lot but enough to cover the difference with the insurance. On the other hand, all that means is that I break more or less even -- without spending a penny on anything else. Come January it will get better, but not a lot. Thanks again to the Carmelites and thirty years of living with a vow of poverty, I'll get by.

4) I gather there is some sort of sporting event going on in London? Hope you sports fans are enjoying it. I just hide in my room with the cats and watch Jeeves and Wooster DVDs. I mean, Bertie is English and he plays golf a lot. So  it's sort of the same thing, right?