Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloween today, Part Deux

We woke to snow this morning. Not a lot, just a heavy sort of dusting. It is not the first snow of the year, but it is the first to stick around for a while on the ground. At least we are not dealing with enough snow to disrupt trick-or-treating. I can remember years up here where the poor things had to wear coats and boots covering up their beloved costumes. Princess-in-a-parka is not the same, although with the popularity of Disney's Frozen, it might work this year.

I made the fudge this morning for the neighbors and it is cooling in the refrigerator now. When I went to get the stuff together, I discovered that I did not have any peppermint extract, naturally. I had all sorts of other extracts, but the kids specifically told me they like the mint. So I made the adult fudge -- dark chocolate with walnuts -- and set it to cool while I made a quick trip to get the minty fresh stuff. After lunch, I will cut the fudge into pieces, put some into a container and take it next door.

Halloween today

We live on a country road, houses are few and far apart and there are no street lights. It is not surprising that in our first eight years here, not a single trick-or-treater came to our door, although we were prepared with mini-Snickers. A-list candy, in our opinion!

Last year, one of our neighbors brought her son -- now old enough to understand that there is free candy for the taking -- to the door. We expect him to be here this year, perhaps with his younger sister.

We probably won't have other visitors. The next-door-neighbors have kids the right age, but they don't do the Halloween thing. Those are the ones for whom I make fudge. And there is one other family with a child the right age, and although we know them, she has never come. I suspect she goes into town for better pickings and less walking.

Yesterday I took some mini-Snickers with me to tutoring so that my student could give them to her kids. She grew up in a Mexican village, and the Day of the Dead [Día de los Muertos] is what she knew.
That is not, by the way, the same as Halloween, although in our syncretistic world, the two are jumbled together. 
On the other hand, both her boys were born and go to school here in the States and they know what Halloween means. She hopes to get off work early today to take them trick-or-treating in town before it gets too dark.

Halloween then

My mother and I were talking about what Halloween was like when I was a kid. In Huntsville, the schools had a big Halloween Carnival that served as the major fund-raiser for most of the school organizations for the year, and that largely took the place of the whole trick-or-treating thing for us. I think I recall going to one or two houses to be paraded around in our costumes, but the major thing was the classroom Halloween party and the carnival that night. You got to wear your costume there, too.

The carnival began with a chicken-and-spaghetti dinner served in the high school cafeteria. Why this was supposed to be a treat, I am not sure. It was something easy and relatively inexpensive to make in bulk, serve quickly to a lot of kids anxious to get dinner out of the way and on to the booths and games, and it gave the parents -- read, mother, this being those days -- an excuse not to cook dinner at home in a rush while the kids were squirming to get on the road. When I was in elementary school and junior high, it was exciting even to eat in the high school cafeteria.

There were the usual booths: a game where you pretended to fish while a parent behind a sheet stuck a bag onto the clothespin on your fishing line, a fortune teller (who assured me I would be a scientist), games where you could win toys worth a nickel or a dime, a booth that sold -- wonder of wonders! -- used comic books for a nickel, a talent show, popcorn balls, candy and on and on and on. It was a lot of fun, as I recall, and I only missed trick-or-treating when I would see it on television or read about it in a book. For me, Halloween was chicken-and-spaghetti and used Superman comic books. And I liked it that way, too.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Steve Allen

Stephen Valentine Patrick William "Steve" Allen (December 26, 1921 – October 30, 2000) was an American television personality, musician, composer, actor, comedian, and writer. Though he got his start in radio, Allen is best known for his television career. He first gained national attention as a guest host on Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts. He graduated to become the first host of The Tonight Show, where he was instrumental in innovating the concept of the television talk show. Thereafter, he hosted numerous game and variety shows, including The Steve Allen Show, I've Got a Secret, and The New Steve Allen Show, and was a regular panel member on CBS' What's My Line? My family faithfully watched The Steve Allen Show when I was growing up, and sometimes watched his other programs.

Allen was a credible pianist and a prolific composer, having penned over 14,000 songs, one of which was recorded by Perry Como and Margaret Whiting, others by Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, Les Brown, and Gloria Lynne. Allen won a Grammy award in 1963 for best jazz composition, with his song The Gravy Waltz. Allen wrote more than 50 books, has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and a Hollywood theater named in his honor.

Memorable lines:
  • Queens has some really Catholic neighborhoods. I mean exceptionally Catholic. Even the praying mantises don't just pray. They say novenas.
  • Asthma doesn't seem to bother me any more unless I'm around cigars or dogs. The thing that would bother me most would be a dog smoking a cigar.
  • I used to be a heavy gambler. But now I just make mental bets. That's how I lost my mind.
  • One of the nice things about problems is that a good many of them do not exist except in our imaginations.
And my personal favorite: If there is a God, the phrase that must disgust him is holy war.

Steve Allen died on this date in 2000 following an automobile accident. His death was apparently not directly caused by injuries suffered in the accident, which he had not even bothered to report to his family, but by a massive heart attack that the doctors thought had been triggered later by the shock to his system, already weakened by age and pre-existing coronary artery disease.

Brief report

The news about my niece and her baby continues to improve with each day. It does look like she will be hospitalized for some time, but things look much better. She will be stuck in bed for weeks or months, though, so please keep her in mind. 

The whole family thanks you for your concern.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Happy National Cat Day!

Cassidy assumes every day is Cat Day.

Today is National Cat Day! Celebrated every year on Oct. 29, National Cat Day was created to celebrate, honor and show our furry feline friends how much they mean to us.

According to the official National Cat Day website, NCD was created to give cats their well-deserved moment in the sun. The founder and creator of this day, Colleen Paige is one of the most popular Pet and Family Lifestyle Expert & Animal Welfare Advocate's in the world. While Paige has created awareness for all types of animals over the years, the number one basis of National Cat Day is to raise awareness of the number of cats that need to be rescued, sheltered and adopted each year.

So how can you make a difference? Well that is easy! First and foremost you can adopt a cat from your local shelter or cat rescue. Not only will you be saving a life, you will be gaining a new friend! If you can't adopt, you can still make a world of difference in helping out the pet community in several other ways.

You can donate blankets, food and toys to animal welfare organizations or volunteer at your local shelter and offer to play with some cats available for adoption, clean cages and litter boxes or anything else they may need help with. Believe it or not, just by lending a helping a hand for an hour or two can make a big difference.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


My lovely niece, who is almost six months pregnant, was admitted to the hospital yesterday. So far she and her unborn child seem okay, but she may have to remain hospitalized long term. I commend her and the whole family to your thoughts, hearts and prayers at this time.


Monday, October 27, 2014

Fudge and things

Yesterday afternoon, our neighbor and his kids came over. One of the girls had not seen the house before, so we gave the grand tour. At the end of it, I asked if they had enjoyed the candy I had shared with them. My nephew's wife had given me a large box of homemade turtles -- luscious, smooth, creamy! -- to bring back to Tom. When I got here, the neighbor and his son were finishing up their work in the basement, and I gave them a few turtles to take home. The twelve-year-old boy asserted that his dad had eaten almost all of them, but the others claimed that he had misspoken.

At any rate, I promised I would make them some fudge soon. They do not do the Halloween thing, but last year I made them fudge for several holidays and the twelve-year-old let me know that he liked it. That time he blamed his mother, claiming she said I made the best fudge ever.

When I told them I had just bought the stuff to make fudge, he told me that my mint fudge was very good and that no one likes nuts. His father pointed out that the adults like fudge with nuts but the kids are not fans. So I guess I get to make two batches ...

Fortunately my fudge recipe is totally easy and pretty good, although it cannot compare with Angie's turtles!

Sunday, October 26, 2014


Today Tom and I went to the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art to view three new exhibits. They were all good, but I was particularly interested in the photographs by Alec Soth. Though mostly portraits, they included a set of photos of a bunch of old Texas movie theaters that had been abandoned or were now being used for something else. Among them was this one from Tyler, near where my mother lives. I often went to movies with cousins in Tyler when I was growing up, although I have no specific memory of this place. Nonetheless, I was amazed to see a picture of something in Tyler, having driven through Tyler several times in the past two weeks.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Cat alarm

As predicted, the cats -- well, Sundance -- did not allow me to sleep very late this morning.

I went to bed around nine last night and listened to an audiobook of Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea for a while. When I realized that I had dozed through several bits, I turned it off and had a good night's sleep.

About seven this morning, Sundance came into the room. She meowed for a while, then got up on the bed and walked over me. She poked her face in mine. She meowed some more. She walked some more. I petted her and tried to go back to sleep. She jumped off the bed and I thought I was safe.

A minute later she was back, poking me and meowing, putting her nose up to mine.

I surrendered.

Maybe tonight?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Back safely

I got back home to the Dells about two this afternoon. When I got here, Tom was down in the basement with our neighbor and his son who were finishing up the work on the trim. I am happy to report that they finished around four and now the basement (and stairs) are done.

And I am done in! After driving over 3200 miles in the past 9 days -- with only three non-driving days out of the bunch -- I am exhausted. I intend to turn in early and imitate the cats by totally relaxing and sleeping late.

Of course, they won't let me sleep late because they will come rouse me to give them their morning Greenies ...


After posting the sign about rattlesnakes, I thought I should mention that I grew up in East Texas where dangerous snakes were common. I seem to recall that in our yard -- admittedly, we lived on a six-acre lot -- we killed at one time or another coral snakes, rattlesnakes and copperheads. An elderly neighbor was bitten by a copperhead while working in the flower bed in his front yard. My father happened by just after it happened and got him to the hospital right away, and he survived fine.

That poster makes it look liked there are many kinds of poisonous snakes in Texas, but that is only because there are a number of species of rattlesnakes. If you count the rattlesnakes as one group, Texas has four groups of venomous snakes. The one poisonous snake we did not kill in the yard is the cottonmouth water moccasin. We used to keep an eye out for them when we were water-skiing, though, because we did see them around.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Watch out!

On the way back to Whitehouse from Borger on Sunday -- it being a very long trip --  my mother and I stopped several times to break up the trip, get fuel, eat or get coffee, and for related activities. I snapped the photo below at a rest area in the Panhandle. It may not be obvious, but if you look carefully, you will see that the sign is in front of the entrance to the restrooms. That white door behind it is the entrance to the men's room.

Click on photo to enlarge

The sign was a bit discouraging, but needs must, and I am happy to report we encountered no rattlesnakes inside or outside the facilities.

Early this morning I left Whitehouse and am spending another night in Sikeston, MO. I have to say that while Sikeston may have its problems, the place I am staying is rather nice. Not fancy at all, but it used to be an assisted living facility. So I have a nice size living room as well as a nice bedroom with king-sized bed and large bathroom. It is near the highway, but my room faces the back and is very quiet. I was  so pleased with it on my way south that I decided to give stay again on the way back home.

I expect to be back in the Dells sometime tomorrow afternoon.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

The family

The grownups and the baby:
Garret Griswold holding Patton, Kristin Griswold (my niece), Cynthia Dodd (sister-in-law, peeking over my shoulder), me, Roxie Dodd (mother), Ted Dodd (brother), Kirstin Dodd (niece), Brandon Schubert (Kirstin's boyfriend), Justin Dodd (nephew), Angie Dodd (Justin's wife)
The kids:
Kodee Griswold (Garret's daughter), Brinkley Broccolo (Kristin's daughter), Riley and Piper Dodd (Justin's daughters) and Jackson Kirk (Kirstin's son)
The picture was taken in Borger, Texas today -- October 18 2014 -- on Kirstin's 25th birthday.
Hidden in the picture is Winston Schubert, Kirstin and Brandon's unborn son, due in February.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Borger II

We made it safely to Borger, after a looooonnnnnngggggg drive! Actually it took about as long as expected and except for having to go through downtown Dallas at 9:00 in the morning, things were fine. Once you are into the Panhandle, however, you begin to realize that in this part of Texas there are just miles and miles of ... miles.

We had a pleasant visit with my brother -- who I think is doing great and looking quite chipper -- and most of his family. His son and his family will join us tomorrow.

Tonight we ate at a local barbeque place, but I had chicken fried steak. It was wonderful!

My mother was exhausted from the long drive, though. She had not really made any trips of any length for at least four years, and sitting for so long made her a little unsteady on her feet. After dinner, she wanted to return to the motel. We went for a short walk before coming inside and getting her settled. At that point the only problem was that the toothpaste in her traveling case was almost solid because it had been in the bag for so many years. Fortunately we were able to solve that problem. I hope she sleeps well tonight so that she can enjoy the day tomorrow.

And of course on Sunday, it is another eight-hour ride back to her house.


Today my mother and I head to Borger, Texas to visit my brother and his family over the weekend.

Ted is Director of Public Works for the City of Borger, which is centrally located in the Texas Panhandle, 45 miles northeast of Amarillo. It has been more than a year since my mother and I have seen him, and it has been a difficult year for him. A little over a year ago, Ted was assaulted at work by a disgruntled employee and badly beaten. For the first twenty-four hours, we were not sure he would survive. Although he has been back at work for some time, it looks like he will never be fully recovered from the trauma. 

We will also see his wife and all three of their adult children, assorted spouses and partners and grandchildren. I will be meeting one niece's husband, his daughter from a previous marriage and their new baby boy. I will also meet the other niece's boyfriend, who will be coming with her and her son from the Dallas area. And I will see my nephew, his wife and their two girls who live near Amarillo. It will be quite the family reunion. We will be eating out for most meals, and I pity the waitstaff! We will be a party of 10 adults and 6 children -- the kids ranging in age from a few months to five years.

It is also quite a trip, Texas being as big as it is. Much you have heard about Texas is exaggeration, but the place itself is huge. It is about an eight-hour drive between my mother's home in Whitehouse and Ted's in Borger, almost 490 miles. We will get there late this afternoon and visit tonight and tomorrow. Sunday we will head back to Whitehouse, another eight hours on the road.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


Today is the feast of St. Teresa of Avila, founder of the Discalced Carmelites and the first woman honored as Doctor of the Church. Next year will be the 500th anniversary of her birth. I wish all the friars, nuns, brothers, sisters and laity with special devotion to her a happy feast day.

A few quotes:

“All the way to heaven is heaven.”  

“The important thing is not to think much, but to love much.” 

“It is love alone that gives worth to all things.”  

“Thank God for the things that I do not own.” 

"God save us from gloomy saints!"

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Scary Sikeston -- or should I say Yikeston?

Today is the first day of my trip to Texas. I plan to spend the night in Sikeston, MO. It is close to the halfway point between St. Louis and Memphis and lies along the New Madrid Fault line. Here’s hoping there is no earthquake while I am there. 

I was in Reno for a Carmelite conference more than a decade ago and was wakened in the night by my bed shaking and the light fixtures swinging. It turned out to be an earthquake, although there was no significant damage except to the slumber of many of us at the conference center. The next day when we mentioned it to Fr. Jude, however, he had no idea what we were talking about. He had slept through the whole thing. I guess that’s what they mean about the sleep of the just.

Rather than worry about an earthquake, perhaps I should worry about being a crime victim. Sikeston is considered “the most dangerous city in Missouri,” with a crime rate of 82 crimes per thousand residents. The odds of being a victim are said to be one in twelve. I guess I will check into the motel and lock myself in my room for the night. Maybe I can order a pizza and have the delivery person slide it under the door.

Sikeston's other claim to fame may be that on May 17, 1946, William Jefferson Blythe, Jr., father of former U.S. President Bill Clinton, died outside Sikeston on U.S. Route 60 after being thrown from his car and drowning in a drainage ditch. This occurred three months before Bill Clinton's birth.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Lucinda and the dogs

October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month, which I did not know until today. But this afternoon Lucy, the younger of Tom's two daughters, came by with a friend. Among many other things she does, Lucy helps place rescue dogs -- in particular pit bulls. That, as you can imagine, can be a challenge.

It brings her to the Dells area sometimes to deliver animals to people in Wisconsin or who come down from  a similar group in Minnesota. She and Andrew delivered 10 dogs today, I think she said, though maybe not all pit bulls. It sounded to me like they were mainly pit bull-lab mixes, large but generally easier to manage.

The exchange location is about a mile away, and they came by for coffee afterward and visited for about an hour. 

Lucy works as a union organizer, but her avocations reflect her athletic interests. She ran track at the state level in high school and was a Golden Gloves boxer. Today she is an award-winning member of the Windy City Rollers, where she goes by the name of Beth Amphetamine. She has also performed as an acrobat in a small Chicago circus and ... well, she keeps busy. I need a rest just thinking about it all.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Colors of the season

The cold nights are taking their toll on the plants. Many leaves have already fallen and some of the trees are more brown or bare at this point. Here are a few photos from around the house. The first one is of a Burning Bush, of which we have several, followed by a couple of photos of a maple out front.

And the ground ...

We have lots of oaks around, but I especially like the maples because they have the best reds and orange colors to make for variety in the landscape. As he clears out old growth, Tom is marking the small maples to keep so that we will wind up with more of them in proportion to the other trees.

This next photo is of a bright red color that bodes ill, though. The snow earlier in the week motivated Tom to get the snow blower out and ready for service. It is better to do it now than when it is nine degrees outside with four inches of snow already on the ground. It is now parked in the garage next to my Equinox, where it serves as a daily reminder that winter is on its way.

Fair on the Square

We woke to chilly temperatures this morning, hovering around and a bit below freezing. But it was a sunny day and things warmed up a bit as the day went along, making it a pleasant but cool October day. I doubt we made it to 60 degrees (15.6 C) all day.

We thought about going to Madison today, but opted instead to go to the little Fair on the Square in Baraboo. There are arts and crafts booths, a farmers market, music, children's activities, fair foods and so on. "Fair foods" are, of course, not fair because they are attractive and certainly not because they are healthy. Things fried and put on a stick tend to prevail. Most of it is offered by local school or church youth groups and such as fund raisers. We thought about getting gyros, but it was a bit chilly to try to eat lunch, balancing messy food on the lap while sitting in the shade on a rock wall. We decided to return to the Dells and get gyros at a place we like and where we could eat more comfortably.

The courthouse square is the scene for a lot of these sorts of things in Baraboo, as I imagine is the case in county seats across the land. There is a Spring Fair as well as a Fall Fair. Most Thursdays during the summer there are free Concerts on the Square, something we used to attend regularly when I was working in Baraboo. The Sauk County Art Association hosts a Summer Art Classic that showcases some of the very fine artists in our area, including a number of our friends and acquaintances. 
I think Tom could do well at the Art Association show if he would offer some of his things for sale, but he lacks the interest. Even when people ask to buy one of his pieces, he just gives it to them. And he is reluctant to take commissions because he paints pretty much as and when the spirit moves him.
 It seems to me that when we first came here, these things were called Faire on the Square -- which Tom insisted on pronouncing, "Fairy on the Squarey." You know how we Americans think that calling something Ye Olde or putting an -e on the end of a word that doesn't ordinarily have one makes it sound quaint and interesting: Ye Olde Booke Shoppe, for example. Perhaps I am wrong about the Baraboo fairs, however, because I can find no photographic or other graphic proof of this failing online.

We also ran into friends who were there with a grandson and chatted with them for a while. Before we left, Tom bought a Plum Valley Bakery cherry pie from an Amish lad at the farmers market. Dinner tonight is probably going to just be soup and salad, but the pie will make it special.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Oops! Hold the presses!

Turns out there is a bit of news after all. 

Today this blog passed 100,000 page views. Thanks for dropping by!

Nothing much

Tom had a medical procedure early this morning. I am happy to report that all went well, but what with one thing and another -- prep, travel, check in and procedure, recuperation -- that pretty much used up the day.

Hope your own day was wonderful and your weekend turns out glorious.

Thursday, October 9, 2014


Today is National Moldy Cheese Day!

"Foul deeds will rise,
Though all the earth o'erwhelm them, to men's eyes.

- Hamlet (1.2.256), Hamlet, alone on the platform.

More language fun

My first translation project for publication was one that I did with my friend, Steve Payne. We translated an article on St. Teresa's family background for inclusion in the first volume of Carmelite Studies, published by the Institute of Carmelite Studies, of which we were the two youngest fellows at the time.

My Spanish was a bit better than Steve's and I did a preliminary translation. Then we polished it up together. In that process, I discovered things that I had written and that seemed perfectly clear to me, that were susceptible to other understandings. Steve was particularly good -- or bad, depending on one's point of view -- at noticing these potential misapprehensions. This knack stood him in good stead when he later became editor of the award-winning quarterly, Spiritual Life.

I will not say that I have learned to avoid all such ambiguities, but I did pick up the habit of noticing them more frequently. Advertisements seem rife with the problem. Because the woman I tutor sometimes is confused by these things, I am even more conscious of them.

A television ad for Humana's Medicare plan highlights the [alleged] small premium you have to pay for the plan. The ad then goes on the tell us that in some areas there is "no plan premium."

We immediately understand -- perhaps without believing it -- that this means I could sign up for the plan and pay no premium. The likelihood of that aside, we assume the phrase "no plan premium" means there is no premium for the plan. On the other hand, the English construction could be heard as "there is a premium for no plan." While this absurdity would seem entirely possible in the world of American health insurance, the written version -- no plan premium -- means what we understand it to mean. If you hear, however, "no plan premium," you might think it meant "no-plan premium." The hyphen [or lack of hyphen] is important to designate which noun -- plan, premium -- is modified by the negative.

I notice that this clarifying use of the hyphen is frequently omitted or misused in signs, headlines and so on today. 

If you are a fan of The Big Bang Theory, you may know Sheldon Cooper has a web show, Fun with Flags. It dawns on me that this post is about as entertaining as that.

The tide

Long ago, England was ruled by a king named Canute. Like many leaders and men of power, Canute was surrounded by people who were always praising him. Every time he walked into a room, the flattery began.

"You are the greatest man that ever lived," one would say.

"O king, there can never be another as mighty as you," another would insist.

"Your highness, there is nothing you cannot do," someone would smile.

"Great Canute, you are the monarch of all," another would sing. "Nothing in this world dares to disobey you."

The king was a man of sense, and he grew tired of hearing such foolish speeches. One day he was walking by the seashore, and his officers and courtiers were with him, praising him as usual. Canute decided to teach them a lesson.

"So you say I am the greatest man in the world?" he asked them.

"O king," they cried, "there never has been anyone as mighty as you, and there never be anyone so great, ever again!"

"And you say all things obey me?" Canute asked.

"Absolutely!" they said. "The world bows before you, and gives you honor."

"I see," the king answered. "In that case, bring me my chair, and we will go down to the water."

"At once, your majesty!" They scrambled to carry his royal chair over the sands.

"Bring it closer to the sea," Canute called. "Put it right here, right at the water's edge." He sat down and surveyed the ocean before him. "I notice the tide is coming in. Do you think it will stop if I give the command?"

His officers were puzzled, but they did not dare say no. "Give the order, O great king, and it will obey," one of then assured him.

"Very well. Sea," cried Canute, "I command you to come no further! Waves, stop your rolling!. Surf, stop your pounding! Do not dare touch my feet!"

He waited a moment, quietly, and a tiny wave rushed up the sand and lapped at his feet.

"How dare you!" Canute shouted. "Ocean, turn back now! I have ordered you to retreat before me, and now you must obey! Go back!"

And in answer another wave swept forward and curled around the king's feet. The tide came in, just as it always did. The water rose higher and higher. It came up around the king's chair, and wet not only his feet, but also his robe. His officers stood before him, alarmed, and wondering whether he was not mad.

"Well, my friends," Canute said, "it seems I do not have quite so much power as you would have me believe. Perhaps you have learned something today."

I suggest that politicians and lobbyists in many lands might want to draw a lesson from this legend. 

Vote/register/photo ID -- Be prepared!

One of the things I do in my retirement is work at the polls as an election judge. That's a fancy title for the men and women sitting behind the tables, checking your name off lists and handing you your ballot.

I assume that my readers (at least those in the States) take voting as seriously as I do. On behalf of all those men and women out there who will be staffing the polls in November, I want to take the time to remind you that many states now have photo ID laws in effect. There is a lot of confusion about it because in some places such laws have been ruled unconstitutional, in some places they have been ruled constitutional, in some places the courts have changed their minds one or two times.

Save yourself and everyone else a lot of trouble and do a few things before November 4.
  1. First off, if you are eligible to vote, make sure you are registered to vote in the jurisdiction where you currently reside. In some places you can register the day of the election, but that slows things down for other voters and will make your own experience less pleasant. So make sure you are registered and, if you are not, register BEFORE election day. In some places, you may not be able to vote if you are not registered before the day of the election.
  2. Make sure to find out if your state requires photo ID, and if so, make sure that you have an acceptable form of such ID to take with you to the poll. You will have to show the ID to vote. Please make sure the ID is up to date. If you have an expired driver's license, for example, you might discover that this will not be accepted. Many states have online sites detailing what will be accepted.
  3. Because checking the photo ID will take poll workers a few moments for each person, your wait in line on election day may be longer, especially if you live in a large population center. Be prepared for this. Remember that the poll workers are there for long hours -- in my case, we will be there for about 14 hours. It will be better for everyone if we all have patience.
  4. If you want to avoid long lines, vote early if that is permitted where you vote. Where it is permitted, early voting is usually a fast and easy process.
  5. One last thing -- if you vote absentee, be sure to check to see if you need to provide more ID in order to vote. This is another area where the new laws have caused some confusion. People who routinely vote absentee because they are confined to home may discover that they have to make special arrangements. If this is the case with a member of your family or a friend, help them find out what they need to do.
If the lines are long, please, please, please do not get discouraged and go home without voting. No matter how you intend to vote, there are people who would be happy to know you decided not to bother.

It's your country, your state, your city, your town, your life. Choose wisely.

The poll workers are not the ones who made these new regulations. Our task has become a bit more difficult because of them. If you are unhappy about any of this, the people to inform are the legislators who made the laws. And one way to let them know what you think is to consider that when you cast your vote. I hope once this has become routine, things will go smoothly. But the first time around, there will be some bumps. Let's not be too surprised.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Perspectives: What do you see in this picture? Faces or chalice?

Tragically Thomas Eric Duncan, the first Ebola patient diagnosed in the United States, died today more than a week after he was hospitalized in Dallas. The government ordered five airports screen passengers from West Africa for fever, underscoring concerns about U.S. treatment and preparedness for the virus.

The White House said on Wednesday that extra screening for fever will be carried out for arriving aircraft passengers from West Africa, where the virus has killed nearly 4,000 people in three countries. The screening will start at New York's John F. Kennedy airport from the weekend, and later at Newark Liberty, Washington Dulles, Chicago O'Hare and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta.

While it is reasonable to be concerned, it strikes me that sometimes we get a bit hysterical over things like this. Compare that one death to these facts:

  • Every year in the U.S., an average of more than 100,000 people are shot, according to The Brady Campaign To Prevent Gun Violence.
  • Every day in the U.S., an average of 289 people are shot. Eighty-six of them die: 30 are murdered, 53 kill themselves, two die accidentally, and one is shot in a police intervention, the Brady Campaign reports.
  • Between 2000 and 2010, a total of 335,609 people died from guns -- more than the population of St. Louis, Mo. (318,069), Pittsburgh (307,484), Cincinnati, Ohio (296,223), Newark, N.J. (277,540), and Orlando, Fla. (243,195) (sources:  CDFU.S. CensusCDC)
  • One person is killed by a firearm every 17 minutes, 87 people are killed during an average day, and 609 are killed every week. (source: CDC)
So far the Ebola virus that has us up in arms has killed 4,000 people in three countries. In the last month and a half, that same number of Americans have died from guns: innocent people, children, the elderly, rich and poor, black and white and brown. Republicans and Democrats, gay and straight, Christians and Jews and atheists.

Yet we calmly live surrounded by guns, even insisting that they have a place in schools, bars and churches.

I am not talking about gun control here, although those are sobering statistics up there. I am talking about how we agitate ourselves about extremely unlikely scenarios while peacefully tolerating other dangerous realities as a part of life.

I am driving to Texas next week. I will spend about six days on the road over the next couple of weeks. Even though I will be going near or through Dallas, I am far more likely to die in an automobile accident than I am to contract Ebola. I'd rather put my thoughts and energy into avoiding the more likely problem than lose sleep over the improbable one.

Not Frühjahrsmüdigkeit!

 These days I am feeling like I have fall fever. Something like spring fever, which itself is, according to Wikipedia
a translation of the German term "Frühjahrsmüdigkeit" (lit. "Spring tiredness"), Spring Fever is the name for a temporary mood typically characterized by a state of low energy and weariness experienced by many people in springtime. It is not in the category of a diagnosed illness, but rather a phenomenon thought to be initiated by a change in the season.
Somewhere I read that what people have at this time of year might be called fall fatigue.

At any rate, my own case is exacerbated today because I was up late last night. I like listening to audio books before falling asleep. For a while I have dozed off to PG. Wodehouse's Jeeves and Wooster stories. But this week I have been listening (again) to Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. When I went to bed last night, I thought I was near the end and so I just kept listening. As it turned out, there was much more than I had anticipated. (I had gauged how much was left by noticing how many pages of text were left, since the version I have can switch back and forth between printed text and audio.) As a result, by the time Darcy and Elizabeth, Jane and Bingley, Lydia and Wickham, Lady Catherine and assorted other folk had completed their appointed rounds, it was well past one in the a.m. 

I was surprised but had nothing on the agenda for this morning and thought I would just sleep late.

Nonetheless I was too awake at seven to lie abed any longer. So I got up, tended the cats, and got about my business. Here it is early afternoon and I am sluggish ... but not inclined to nap. I did twenty minutes on the stationary bike, which energized me a bit, and had a cup of half caff.

With luck, that will keep me alert long enough to prepare dinner tonight.

And to find another audio book to put me to sleep.

When people ask me what I do now that I am retired ...

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

I'm possible

It always seems impossible until it is done.
~ Nelson Mandela

Things are only impossible until they're not.
~ Jean-Luc Picard, character in STAR TREK: The Next Generation

People say nothing is impossible, but I do nothing every day.
~ A. A. Milne (Winnie-The-Pooh)

Start by doing what's necessary;
then do what's possible;
and suddenly you are doing the impossible. 
~ St. Francis of Assisi

Monday, October 6, 2014

Every writer's fear


Just to note that for some reason, some of the images are not showing up on the blog today. Not sure why since it includes even my personal photos. Maybe it will resolve itself? Blogger is such a bummer sometimes!

Joys of English: Homonym, homophone, homograph

I don't imagine we all remember the terminology, but all of us who are native speakers of English are familiar with the way English words that sound the same can mean different things, or words that are spelled the same may be pronounced differently and so on. We may get confused at times, though, and this confusion is the basis for a certain amount of humor.

When I am tutoring, I am very conscious of all these dynamics. I always begin a session by asking the students if she has any questions. Almost always her questions have to do with confusion over words that sound the same to her but mean different things. It is complicated by the fact that many words sound the same to her that do not sound the same to me.

Friday when I got to her apartment, a young woman was there who works with my student's four-year-old son. The woman was going through a list of questions for parents about the boy's level of development. At one point, she asked if he had trouble choosing. My student look perplexed and asked, "You mean when he is eating a cookie or something?"

Then it was the other lady's turn to look perplexed.

"Not chews," I said, moving my mouth around and grinding my teeth, "choose -- picking something. Selecting what he wants. Escoger."

That she understood and answered that he did not  have a problem choosing. 

The woman with the questionnaire said, "Of course! I never would have thought of those two words sounding alike."

Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Life-Saving Station

For some reason, this story came to mind today. I recall the late Fr. Denis Read read it to a meeting of the Carmelites many years ago at The Common Retreat House in Peterborough, NH. Fr. Denis died several years ago, and I share this story in his memory.

On a dangerous sea coast where shipwrecks often occur, there was once a crude little life-saving station. The building was just a hut, and there was only one boat, but the few devoted members kept a constant watch over the sea, and with no thought for themselves, went out day and night tirelessly searching for the lost. 

Some of those who were saved and various others in the surrounding area wanted to become associated with the station and gave of their time and money and effort for the support of its work. New boats were bought and new crews trained. The little life-saving station grew. 

Some of the members of the life-saving station were unhappy that the building was so crude and poorly equipped. They felt that a more comfortable place should be provided as the first refuge of those saved from the sea. They replaced the emergency cots with beds and put better furniture in the enlarged building. 

Now the life-saving station became a popular gathering place for its members, and they decorated it beautifully because they used it as a sort of club. Fewer members were now interested in going to sea on life-saving missions, so they hired lifeboat crews to do this work. The life-saving motif still prevailed in the club’s decorations, and there was a liturgical life-boat in the room where the club’s initiations were held. 

About this time a large ship wrecked off the coast, and the hired crews brought in boat loads of cold, wet and half-drowned people. They were dirty and sick. The beautiful new club was in chaos. So the property committee immediately had a shower house build outside the club where victims of shipwrecks could be cleaned up before coming inside.

At the next meeting, there was a split among the club membership. Most of the members wanted to stop the club’s life-saving activities as being unpleasant and a hindrance to the normal social life of the club. Some members insisted upon life-saving as their primary purpose and pointed out that they were still called a life-saving station. But they were finally voted down and told that if they wanted to save lives of all the various kinds of people who were shipwrecked in those waters, they could begin their own life-saving station. So they did.

As the years went by, the new station experienced the same changes that had occurred in the old. It evolved into a club, and yet another life-saving station was founded. History continued to repeat itself, and if you visit that sea coast today, you will find a number of exclusive clubs along that shore. 

Shipwrecks are frequent in those waters, but most of the people drown.