Thursday, March 31, 2016

Not a political comment

In general, I try to avoid political comments on this blog, although regular readers know that I fail at times. Nonetheless, this is not a political comment as such.

The Wisconsin primary is next Tuesday and we are being inundated by television ads. Today I noticed that when an ad for Bernie Sanders comes on, 

for a split second I am not sure if it is a political ad or an ad for the matchmaking company eHarmony, featuring its founder, Neil Clark Warren.

Know what I mean, Vern?

As I said at the beginning, this is not a political comment. For all I know, Bernie may be the next president. And maybe Neil Clark Warren will say it is a match made in heaven.

Only time will tell.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Serenity now

Despite that image, it has been a rather serene day here on Brookside Drive in the Mad City. Tom left this morning for the little railroad and the cats and I have had the apartment to ourselves. Sunny weather, coolish but warming, made for a pleasant time, with the cats spending much of the day lounging in the sun on their window perches. I did a quick workout on the treadmill; shopped for a couple of items I needed for dinner; vacuumed, swept and mopped; got the car a long-overdue wash; went for a walk around the neighborhood; and sat out on the balcony for a while, in between spooning food onto plates for cats. I have felt quite relaxed, something I attribute in part to the workout with the weight machines yesterday. There is a little soreness, barely noticeable, but I always find that I feel calm after using the weights. I understand it is good for my blood pressure, and that must be part of it.

Last night I took an audiobook back to the library, and as I was going in, I met a woman who lives in our apartment complex and whom I often greet at the apartment fitness center. We always speak but, because one or the other is on a machine, have never exchanged names. She, her husband and their son were on the way out, and I stopped to finally introduce myself to her and to meet them. Then I spent a quarter hour with two of the librarians, trying to sort out why I am not receiving email notifications when books I have ordered arrive at the library. We were not sure we had the issue resolved when I left, and only time will tell.

It is mid-afternoon and Tom is not yet home. He was going to help some other volunteers clear debris from around the track and cut up a large tree that had fallen on the track during a recent wind storm. They hope to open for (weekend) business next Saturday. That is very early in the season, but the winter was relatively mild and the track should be passable. The steam engines were certified safe last Friday, and the equipment is ready. Spring break will be over, however, and there will not be a lot of tourists in the Dells yet. But the Riverside & Great Northern will be ready for anyone who wants a ride.

When Tom gets back, I will make pork taco salads for dinner. I usually make them with chicken, but we had roast chicken Sunday night and chicken stir fry last night. So we are going with pig meat for a change.

That's the report for today. Now I think I will go back out on the balcony and keep Cassidy company watching the traffic go by and the kids down at Bright Horizons daycare and preschool toddling around outside under the watchful eyes of the staff.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Today's Madison bumper sticker

Seen on a car in the parking lot at Woodman's:

I'll believe corporations are people when Texas executes one.

Manic Monday?

It's just another manic Monday.
I wish it was Sunday,
'Cause that's my fun day ,
My I-don't-have-to-run day.
It's just another manic Monday.

~ The Bangles Different Light 1986

Okay, not really a manic Monday, although it has been busy.

  1. Did a load of laundry, folded and put it away
  2. Went grocery shopping
  3. Worked out a writing schedule for Wacky in WhoVille for April
  4. Wrote what I hope was a consoling email to a friend in Africa who is under a lot of pressure
  5. Went to the new gym and worked out on the weight machines
  6. Took out the garbage
  7. Paid rent and telephone/internet/television bill
  8. Called vet to make sure Sundance's prescription had come in
 And that was all before lunch! 

It is a beautiful day, mostly sunny and going up to around 50 (10 C), which means I will probably go for a walk later. Tom says he will get Dancer's meds. He is cooking tonight -- chicken stir fry to use up some leftover roast chicken from last night. Tomorrow he will go to the railroad to help clear the tracks, and I will cook dinner, most likely a pork taco salad. Part of the shopping this morning was laying in supplies for our meals the next few days.

I just had lunch and plan to take a short siesta. Then I will try to get in the walk and also a bit of tinkering with Wacky

My mother asked yesterday how the new book is selling. I told her that it has probably sold all the copies it will sell already, which is not too many. I no longer actively market the books, just put them out there and let friends and family know if they are interested. To my surprise, the last day or so, someone(s) bought copies of the older books. 

It's all a mystery.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Asante sana UPDATE

A word of thanks -- okay, two words in Kiswahili -- for your prayers and thoughts in response to my Good Friday request. I am happy to report that things have improved. We are all grateful for those who took a moment to think of people in pain and to wish them well.

It looks like they had a good Easter after all. 

UPDATE: Although things have improved, we are still very much in need of your support. Thanks!


This is a repeat of a post from Easters past. I hope you will think the point is worth repeating, whatever your personal beliefs:

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance.  John 20:1

Some people like their Easter services at sunrise, and the bright morning is a favorite image of the Easter story. I like the fact that John's version of this story reminds us that it was still dark when the Magdalene went to the tomb, but the stone had already been removed.

Life is full of moments when it appears dark to us, but the stone has already been moved.  Something important has already happened, but we are not yet aware.

Never assume the stone is still there or will always be there. Life will not be contained. 

Life finds a way. And often life has already found it.

Easter Message: Live!

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Thoughts on a Saturday morning

A donkey carrying a pile of holy books
is still a donkey.
-- Zen proverb

I'm so embarrassed. 
I just found out that the Pringles can holder on my treadmill 
is for a water bottle.
-- Sign I saw on the way to the athletic club

The one who tells the stories
rules the world.
-- Hopi saying

That millions of people share the same forms of mental pathology
does not make these people sane.
-- Erich Fromm

Education's purpose is to replace an empty mind with an open one.
-- Malcolm Forbes

The teaching is never over.
-- Anonymous

Friday, March 25, 2016

Good Friday prayer request

Please remember in your prayers, whatever form that might take for you, a dear family member who is suffering greatly at this time. She has been under a lot of stress for some time and it is taking a serious physical toll. Pray for her husband, her children and the whole extended family, too. 

I have asked the friars and nuns to keep then in their prayers during these holy days. It is a consolation to know that people are wishing her well all around the world.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Speaking of not speaking about politics ...

The Wisconsin presidential primary is Tuesday, April 5. So now it is our turn to be inundated by robo- and other calls as well as 24/7 television ads.

Thank goodness for caller ID. And since so many of these calls masquerade, we simply ignore telephone numbers we do not recognize. If it is a real person, they will leave a message if it is important. And between Netflix and YouTube, I can always ignore broadcast and cable television. Tom will stay glued to the television in his room, as fascinated by political races as he is by NASCAR.

Because inquiring minds want to know

Bass is a name shared by many different species of fish. The term encompasses both freshwater and marine species, all belonging to the large order Perciformes, or perch-like fishes, and the word bass comes from Middle English bars, meaning "perch". Pictured above is a striped bass, AKA Atlantic striped bass, striper, linesider, pimpfish, rock, or rockfish Not a perch.

Perch technically refers to fish of the genus Perca, freshwater gamefish belonging to the family Percidae. Pictured below are yellow perches. Not a bass. Nor bass-like. Or perhaps they are, if bass are perch-like.

If it is any consolation to any of the fish involved, although I cannot imagine that it would be, apparently many fish are referred to as perch as a common name. although they are not perch.

I guess this popped into my mind because of the end of Lent.For what it is worth, there is as much ambiguity about exactly when Lent ends (or even begins) as there is about perch, perch-like and non-perch fish. For more than you ever wanted or needed to know about this, consult the Wikipedia article, bearing in mind what President Lincoln said:

This calls to mind something Tom says his kids tell him: "You don't know much and what you do know, you don't know very well."

My version is: "I don't know much, and what I do know, isn't true." 

I would say that this qualifies me for candidacy to high office, but that sounds like political commentary, which I strive to avoid.

Or, as I often say here, do I? 

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Monday, March 21, 2016

Ad usum

The community to which I belonged, the Discalced Carmelite Friars, was one in which the members professed solemn vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. The vow of poverty meant, among other things, that an individual friar did not own anything. Everything belonged to the community as a whole. There were a number of old customs that reinforced this idea. For example, in days of yore, I would not have said that I am using my laptop. I would say that I am using our laptop.*

In reality, of course, there were things that were not shared in every day use among the whole community, things that were reserved for one friar, though they did not technically belong to him. Often in old books in the library, I would run across books with a phrase penciled -- always penciled, never in ink -- inside the front cover: Ad usum [followed by a name].

Ad usum means, as you can probably guess even if you have no Latin, for the use of. Books such as this were usually ones that the friar had needed for a class or perhaps one that he had been given for some other reason, like a breviary. His name was in it to let others know that it was reserved for him. Not because it belonged to him, however, but because the community agreed that it was for his use for a particular purpose and time. When that purpose was done, the book went into the library or the name was erased and another written in its place and it went on to other folks.

Over time, such customs fell largely out of use, although the canonical [church law] meaning of the vows remained the same.

I thought of this today because of something I was reading in another context. The writer mentioned in passing that the things he had were his only to use for a while, that they were not things he owned. 

The earth, for example, and all its resources clearly fall into this category, although an observer from another planet might not think that Terrans believe it to judge from the way we act. With regard to land, the idea is even enshrined in Old Testament texts about the Land of the Promise. When the land was divided up among the tribes, clans and families, it was the use of the land that was granted to individuals, not the land itself.

This land, as the song says, is our land.

As is so much else, though we forget it. 

*Rumer Godden, in her wonderful novel about a Benedictine abbey, In This House of Brede, tells of an old lay sister, a stickler in the matter of my/our, who announced at a community gathering that she had broken "our false teeth."

0 for 3 -- but still a winner

I have tried three times now to make contact with the writers group at the local senior center. Twice I went there at the advertised time and no one showed up. Last week one of the staff people called the guy in charge (?) to let him know I wanted to meet him, and we made an appointment for 9:30 this morning at the usual time and place for the meeting. I waited until 9:45 and gave up. I did leave a message that I had been there, but I think that idea has bit the dust. Time to move on.

On the other hand, as long as I was in Sun Prairie I decided to go by the Prairie Athletic Club and activate my Silver Sneakers membership. It is a ginormous place and I look forward to being able to use it. The staff was friendly, the facilities clean and extensive and it is only a ten-minute drive from the apartment. The apartment complex has a small fitness center, but it is basically cardio and free weights. I plan to continue to do my treadmill and elliptical work here, but PAC has the kind of strength training machines I like and a sauna!

So not a wasted morning as it turned out.


Yesterday I got an email from NOOK Press telling me that within the next ten days they would deposit a small sum in my bank account for royalties earned. That's nice.

But I closed out my account with them two or three years ago when it became apparent that my NOOK sales (the Barnes & Noble e-reader) were virtually nonexistent. I would sell more in a week on Kindle than I would in several years on NOOK, although in neither case are we talking big numbers. So to simplify things, I just shut it down. You can order my books in print from Barnes & Noble, including the most recent one. But the e-book versions are Kindle only. 

Print versions of the book sold by BN are paid to me through the publisher. E-books for some reason were paid directly. Similarly I receive print royalties and e-book royalties separately from different branches of Amazon.

I think what happened is that NOOK has owed me this money ever since I closed the account and is finally getting around to paying me. They had a policy that you only got royalties when the amount owed reached a certain level. Kindle used to operate this way, too, but they changed some time ago. I imagine NOOK followed suit and they are only now catching up to the pittance they owe me.

Anyway, it was interesting to see Except for His Wings on the BN website. And even an additional pittance in the bank is nice.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Saturday in Mad City

Today was overcast and cool, but we decided to go downtown to State Street anyway. For lunch we had gyros at a favorite place, then visited the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art; the Wisconsin Veterans Museum, which featured a heart-breaking and tear-inducing exhibit titled "WAR: RAW", art works created as a form of expressive therapy by veterans suffering from PTSD and other traumas; and the Wisconsin Historical Museum. 

We decided that was enough museum for one afternoon and thought we might  head home. But first we walked back along State Street for a half dozen blocks looking for a place where Tom had eaten ice cream or frozen custard or frozen yogurt (he can't remember)  four or five years ago. We finally saw a storefront with the sign "Yogurt Forever" -- but the store was empty. Apparently it was only "Yogurt For a While."

We headed back toward the Capitol and wound up at the Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream Company, an award-winning purveyor of Madison-produced dairy delights. They are the Gold Medal Winner for Best in Madison 2016. Tom had the Door County Cherry ice cream and I had Peach Melba Greek-style frozen yogurt. It was a chilly day but still a nice rest stop after all the walking we had done.

Lest we forget where we were, however, on the way home we ran into a few snowflakes ...

Friday, March 18, 2016

A bright spot in a mostly dreary day

Yesterday we had a beautiful sunny day for Peg and Rich's visit, which let her see the apartment at its best. Today, on the other hand, was mostly overcast and all around dreary. I didn't get much of anything done, didn't have any energy to bother. It was not pleasant for walking but I went out after dinner to some nearby big box stores and walked up and down the aisles to get my steps in.

The bright spot in the day was a phone call this afternoon to let me know that the guy who runs the writers group plans to be there Monday morning. I will go over and see what's what.

And that's the way it is.

Spring starts this weekend and we expect some snow showers tonight. Typical.

Like I said, all around dreary.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Although I generally avoid political commentary ...

While walking down the street one day a US senator is tragically hit by a truck and dies. 

His soul arrives in heaven and is met by St. Peter at the entrance. 

"Welcome to heaven," says St. Peter. "Before you settle in, it seems there is a problem. We seldom see a high official around these parts, you see, so we're not sure what to do with you." 

"No problem, just let me in," says the man. 

"Well, I'd like to, but I have orders from higher up. What we'll do is have you spend one day in hell and one in heaven. Then you can choose where to spend eternity." 

"Really, I've made up my mind. I want to be in heaven," says the senator. 

"I'm sorry, but we have our rules." 

And with that, St. Peter escorts him to the elevator and he goes down, down, down to hell. The doors open and he finds himself in the middle of a green golf course. In the distance is a clubhouse and standing in front of it are all his friends and other politicians who had worked with him. 

Everyone is very happy and in evening dress. They run to greet him, shake his hand, and reminisce about the good times they had while getting rich at the expense of the people. They play a friendly game of golf and then dine on lobster, caviar and champagne. 

Also present is the devil, who really is a very friendly guy who has a good time dancing and telling jokes. They are having such a good time that before he realizes it, it is time to go. Everyone gives him a hearty farewell and waves while the elevator rises... 

The elevator goes up, up, up and the door reopens on heaven where St. Peter
is waiting for him. 

"Now it's time to visit heaven." 

So, 24 hours pass with the senator joining a group of contented souls moving from cloud to cloud, playing the harp and singing. They have a good time and, before he realizes it, the 24 hours have gone by and St. Peter returns. 

"Well, then, you've spent a day in hell and another in heaven. Now choose your eternity." 

The senator reflects for a minute, then he answers: "Well, I would never have said it before, I mean heaven has been delightful, but I think I would be better off in hell." 

So St. Peter escorts him to the elevator and he goes down, down, down to hell. 

Now the doors of the elevator open and he's in the middle of a barren land covered with waste and garbage. 

He sees all his friends, dressed in rags, picking up the trash and putting it in black bags as more trash falls from above. 

The devil comes over to him and puts his arm around his shoulder. 

"I don't understand," stammers the senator. "Yesterday I was here and there was a golf course and clubhouse, and we ate lobster and caviar, drank champagne, and danced and had a great time. Now there's just a wasteland full of garbage and my friends look miserable. What happened?" 

The devil looks at him, smiles and says,"Yesterday we were campaigning...... Today you voted."

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

March lions and lambs

I don't recall whether March began ferociously or calmly, but the middle of the month is definitely lionish. We had rain and thunderstorms last night, not too ferocious in either instance, although a lot of rain all told. Today has brought boisterous high winds. We are under a warning with predictions of gusts up to 60 miles per hour (96.6 km/hour) or so. The winds are rattling at our top-floor corner apartment's windows. There are two small retention ponds off to the side of the complex, one of which was almost empty yesterday but is now full after the rain last night. It is fascinating to watch the wind gusting across the waters. Even the ducks have fled. The power-generating windmills on the horizon are busy doing their work.

At least it is sunny!

Tomorrow for St. Patrick's Day the forecast is for light rain with temperatures near freezing. They had been saying we might have snow, but at the moment, the white stuff is off the table.


When we moved to Madison, we made some changes in our banking. Tom had always used Associated Bank, which is a chain and he just kept doing what he had always done. I had used a local Dells bank for my personal accounts and Certificates of Deposit -- with which I have been very happy, BTW --  and we had our joint account in the same local bank.

We closed the joint account and moved it to Associated Bank. No problem. 

I opened a personal checking account with Associated as well. I am keeping the Dells account open for a while because it simplifies some CD transfers. But in a year, that will be done and I will close the account down. Meanwhile, I am transferring most of my activities to the Associated account because it is two miles away instead of fifty.

This post has to do with direct deposits: royalties from book sales and my Social Security.

There are three royalty-paying accounts, and it was a simple matter to change those online from the old account to the new one. Instanter. The handful of pennies I receive now flow into my moth-filled coffer at Associated Bank.

I went to my Social Security account online -- as suggested by my local SS office -- and made the change there. It took no time to do it. I was told, however, that the change would not become effective for two to three months, and so my check continues to be deposited in the Dells account.

This doesn't matter much to me. Both accounts are alive and active.

But why does it take Social Security two to three months to do something that Amazon and its ilk accomplish in two to three seconds?

I'm sure there is a reason. And I suspect the reason is that their policies for changes of this nature have not caught up with the way banks operate today.

Last summer we had another issue with Social Security -- no need to go into details -- and ran into a similar problem. The people were all very nice and accommodating and we expected no problems. Then we found out there were problems. 

The problem: The SSA policy book had not been updated to take into account changes in the laws. Everyone agreed that the laws had changed but, and it was a big BUT, they could not do anything about it because the policy was to continue to use the Pony Express. (Not really, but you get my drift.) After several months, a rejection and a heavily documented legal appeal, everything was resolved to our satisfaction.

Oddly, they chose not to act on our appeal but chose to deny the appeal (this was in accord with the policy) and then to take up again the initial request as if it had never been rejected in the first place. And lo and behold! It was accepted. (Doing it this way delayed the final decision by another month.) Because, you know, the laws had changed and obviously they were going to conform to the changed legal situation.

That is probably somewhere in the policy book. I suppose if anyone ever looks at the case, they will see that the "original" request had been handled in accord with the law and so no one had messed up at any time.

On a side note, I imagine there are people who would be so angry about this that they would denounce the Social Security Administration and the entire Obama administration and vote for He Who Shall Never Be Named to make a point. Not me. I am grateful that Social Security is there, even if its ways are sometimes a mystery. It has meant that life for my parents and my grandparents was better than would have been the case without it. And it means my life is a bit more secure now.

And all the people, even when they were not doing what I wanted them to do, treated me with respect and kindness. Which is no small thing in today's world.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Monday, March 14, 2016


When I post here or comment on other blogs, I sometimes make what seem like wise and wonderful observations, offer brilliant insights and give spot-on advice or suggestions.

Why is my own life often such a muddle?

One of my university roommates said, after we had known one another for some thirty years, "Michael's problem has always been that he knows what other people should do with their lives, but he has no idea what to do with his own."

I was shocked and also convinced it was true. That was almost fifteen years ago, and I think I am a wee bit better. The operative word being wee

The challenge, of course, is not in knowing what to do but in doing it.

Writer's block

I am not suffering from writer's block at the moment, no more than usual. Since people have said kind things about the book, even though I am not in the running for the great American novelist, I am not feeling rejected.This morning I plan to go to the Colonial Club again and see if anyone shows up for the "Joy of Writing" group. If not, I will write a paragraph or two for Wacky and then check out some of the other things they have at the club, including an exercise room and a wood shop -- the exercise room for me and the shop for Tom. And I need to go by the library to return one of his books.

Tomorrow Tom will go to the little railroad to help get things ready for their planned opening in April. Although I have found things to keep me busy here, Tom has been looking forward to getting back to familiar territory in the Dells now that the weather is improving. My intention is to take advantage of his absence to do some serious apartment-cleaning. The cats will stare at me and the robot as we do our best. Then they will wander around, depositing a fresh layer of cat hair on everything.

And the beat goes on ...


Sunday, March 13, 2016

Random acts of randomness

Oh, many a shaft at random sent
Finds mark the archer little meant!
And many a word at random spoken
May soothe, or wound, a heart that's broken!

— Sir Walter Scott, Lord of the Isles

1. Life is often uncomfortable. The way to deal with that when it happens is to be uncomfortable.
2. Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in your heart. Winnie the Pooh 
3. In ancient Greek theater, actors wore masks that not only helped identify the role they were playing but that also helped project their voices so that they could be heard. The masks we wear sometimes conceal who we are, but at other times they make it possible for people to hear what we are saying.
4. Have you ever read a document that contains a page with text saying "This page is left intentionally blank?" But it isn't, is it?
5. This is my life and it's ending one minute at a time. Oops! There went another one.
6. The art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook. — William James
7. As I was writing this, the telephone rang and the name that showed on caller ID looked like the last name of Tom's ex. He picked up the phone and said brightly, "Hi, babe!" The caller responded with a shocked, "What?" It wasn't Helen, but a fellow library volunteer who wanted to let me know that I did not need to substitute for her tomorrow. Not sure what she thought was going on or what this will do to my library rep.

United States ex rel. Gerald Mayo v. Satan and His Staff

For your Sunday consideration:

United States ex rel. Gerald Mayo v. Satan and His Staff, 54 F.R.D. 282 (W.D.Pa. 1971),[1] was a court case in which a man filed a lawsuit against Satan and his servants in United States District Court. It was dismissed on procedural grounds.

The complaint

Gerald Mayo filed a claim before the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania in which Mayo alleged that "Satan has on numerous occasions caused plaintiff misery and unwarranted threats, against the will of plaintiff, that Satan has placed deliberate obstacles in his path and has caused plaintiff's downfall" and had therefore "deprived him of his constitutional rights". This is prohibited under several sections of the United States Code. Mayo filed in forma pauperis - that is, he asserted that he would not be able to afford the costs associated with his lawsuit and that they therefore should be waived.

The decision

In his decision, U.S. District Court Judge Gerald J. Weber first noted that the jurisdictional situation was unclear. While no previous cases had been brought by or against Satan and so no official precedent existed, there was an "unofficial account of a trial in New Hampshire where this defendant filed an action of mortgage foreclosure as plaintiff", a reference to the short story "The Devil and Daniel Webster". Judge Weber suggested that the defendant (who had claimed in that story to be an American), should he appear, might have been therefore estopped from arguing a lack of personal jurisdiction. In this context, the Court noted that Satan was a foreign prince, but did not have occasion to address whether, if sued as a defendant, he would be able to claim sovereign immunity from suit.
Judge Weber also noted that the case was certainly appropriate for class action status, and that Mayo had met three of the four required elements for a class action (commonality, numerosity and typicality), but it was not then clear that Mayo could properly represent the interests of the entire (immense) class (the adequacy element).

Ultimately, though, the Court refused the request to proceed in forma pauperis because the plaintiff had not included instructions for how the U.S. Marshal could serve process on Satan.

Source: Wikipedia 

See also Failure Magazine