HELLO FROM EAU CLAIRE, WISCONSIN:

HELLO FROM EAU CLAIRE, WISCONSIN - city of big bottoms and small minds.

Friday, August 31, 2007

The Blogger's Back -- A Day Late, Dollar Short

There doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to it -- I am in extreme fibromyalgia muscle pain again this morning. Actually it started yesterday when I probably tried to do too much in one day. In addition to running errands (where does the day go?), because Kimmy was out on the town for dinner with "The Getaway Girls", I gave my old drummer friend Bill Rude a call and made us a pepperoni and mushroom pizza here at the office. By the time I finished cleaning up I was starting to hurt pretty bad.

Then this morning I wanted to try to sleep late as I have to drive down to Alma to tape a radio show for Mac Cherry at the Big River Theatre, but I had to get up because it hurt too much to lie in bed. you know there is something wrong when it hurts just to be!

I am doing a bit better right now thanks to pain pills and two cups of strong coffee.

Earlier in the week I was slated to go up to Minocqua, Wisconsin, to do a teachers inservice but they cancelled on me last minute. Rob Way had contacted Liz after receiving an e mail touting my past experience with teacher groups and he spoke very highly of me with Liz.

The cancellation was in no way Rob's fault. He ran it past the superintendent of schools and the super axed it. I would imagine it was the same old story -- lack of funds. Man! That was a gig I needed! I am not used to being out of work for such long periods of time. Why do I want to blame this on George Bush and his cronies? What's that line from the song "Ain't We Got Fun"? "The rich get rich and the poor get poorer." No shit, eh?

How do you like the new tee shirt? I found it on the net and despite having no real money, it's time to run up the debt on plastic! Hell, I'm just following the good example being set by our friends in Washington D.C.. I have never "maxed" out a credit card in my life. Let's hear it for new life experiences.

I have continued on the crusade to reclaim office space from clutter. This is embarrassing, but a couple of days ago I found my little Samsung digital camera that I thought I had lost months ago. It was mixed in with a pile of CD's and other effluvia that had gathered to the right of my desk, prior to my Goodwill book case purchase.

So now I have two.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Cleaning and Organizing -- The Never Ending Battle

About two weeks ago I spent three days trying to take back my space at the office, throwing unneeded, unused goods out, dusting and scrubbing, slowly capturing more and more territory. By the time I was nearly comfortable with where I was with cleanliness I had decided that from now on I would just maintain by putting things away each time I used them, I discovered an ominous gathering of materials in the back entry way, spreading like a melting ice berg towards the kitchen.

This, coupled with the pile of "stuff" that had gathered next to my desk, put me back to work trying to get things really organized over here.

The first thing I did was go in search of a small two shelf bookcase that would fit snugly under the windows to my right and between the desk and the file cabinet. I knew I had to work with a limited budget as work has been scarce lately, so I went down to the little funiture store on Madison Street. I got there just before 10AM and there was no sign of life, nor was there a sign indicating when and if they would be opening.

Next I remembered that Leath furniture is going out of business up on the hill so rather than drive up there blindly, I got the number and used my cell phone. Leath, in fact, had what I needed for 50 % off! How much is that? A mere $225.00. Yipes! More than just a little rich for my blood. I am thinking used, around $30.

On my wy back to the house, I figure I am going right by Goodwill, so what the hell. I had looked there several weeks ago and they had nothing. This time when I walked in and there it was! the lovely two shelver you see pictured. It was just what I needed and complete with sliding glass doors, I paid $10!

I love that when it happens.

Now I have been back in the cleaning mode again for the past two days and have taken back even more ground. Cleaning out the two drawers of my desk took me an afternoon. How does that happen?

I am exhausted by the day's activities. Tomorrow?

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

A Day of Anniversaries

Today marks a few special occasions for me. August 28, 2007 is the third anniversary of my serious motorcycle accident, the results of which I am still recovering, two operations later.

The first operaton took place without my choice of doctors as it is rather hard to choose a doctor when you are unconscious. In addition to a severe concussion that took me nearly six months to shake, I broke my right leg right below the knee. I found out much later that this break is second only to breaking your back.

Even though my orthopedic surgeon marveled at his work each time I went in for a progress report, the leg healed crooked. My soon to be replaced surgeon then recommended a leg brace designed, supposedly, to straighten the leg.

It didn't.

The second time around, I was a bit more cognizant so I asked around and found an orthopedic surgeon up in Burnsville, Minnesota, who operated on the leg and replaced the entire knee last September, at the same time removing a titanium rod of which my previous doctor was so proud.

My next check up is scheduled for November. By this coming September I am supposed to be all better. I don't think I am going to make that deadline.

But I am really not complaining. Today I am celebrating the fact that this could be the third anniversary of my demise.

Kim and I are both up early this morning as we switch gears to go back into regular work mode. Her first teacher meetings are this morning so we rolled out of bed at 5:30A.M. It's really not that big of a deal to me as I am usually already awake at that point, and I love the early mornings.

I was going to write especially in early autumn, but then realized that even when when the temperatures dip well below freezing, I like getting up early and trudging through the snow over here to the office because it means I get to build a warming fire in the great little stove I have here, then brew some coffee.

I don't think there are two better commingling smells than the samell of dripping coffee and the smokey twinge of oak, unless of course, I am cooking chopped onions in bacon fat.

So congratulations to both of us! Kim for putting on the harness once again, and me for surviving to be able to continue to do that which I love, touching people through my music and comedy.

I have a lot to look forward to this fall. My older son Jonathan will be here playing lead guitar in my band for Chippewa Falls' Oktoberfest on September 14 and then again with just me on sunday, September 16, when we will be working with acoustic guitars; A visit from my brother John in October, attendance at two Packer games, a quick trip out to New York City to help my friend Blinky move back to Wisconsin, and starting to record my third CD.

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Looks like it is going to be a good day. Alberto the water torturer Gonzalez finally resigned, joining the love child of Goebbels, Karl Rove, in abandoning the sinking ship of state. it is a nightmare to me that we still have a year and two months before elections.

Glad those two are gone. Now let's impeach that arrogant poor excuse for vice president. I want my America back!

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Monday, August 27, 2007

Teachers, Like The Late, Great Rodney Dangerfield, Just "Can't Get No Respect"


Nearly every morning I scan the headlines of the New York Times. This morning's headline caught my eye: Schools Fight For Teachers Because of High Turnover. As a former teacher of 11 years, and the husband of a "lifer", in my mind, without reading further, I felt I knew what I was about to read.

Turns out, I was incorrect, but I will advance my own theories before I am finished.

The photo displayed is of Rebecca Rheinheimer at Oak Hill Elementary in High Point, North Carolina. Her district's recruiters have been advertising nationwide in an attempt to fill their ranks. Excerpts from the NY Times story:

GREENSBORO, N.C. — The retirement of thousands of baby boomer teachers coupled with the departure of younger teachers frustrated by the stress of working in low-performing schools is fueling a crisis in teacher turnover that is costing school districts substantial amounts of money as they scramble to fill their ranks for the fall term.

Superintendents and recruiters across the nation say the challenge of putting a qualified teacher in every classroom is heightened in subjects like math and science and is a particular struggle in high-poverty schools, where the turnover is highest. Thousands of classes in such schools have opened with substitute teachers in recent years.

Here in Guilford County, N.C., turnover had become so severe in some high-poverty schools that principals were hiring new teachers for nearly every class, every term. To staff its neediest schools before classes start on Aug. 28, recruiters have been advertising nationwide, organizing teacher fairs and offering one of the nation’s largest recruitment bonuses, $10,000 to instructors who sign up to teach Algebra I.

“We had schools where we didn’t have a single certified math teacher,” said Terry Grier, the schools superintendent. “We needed an incentive, because we couldn’t convince teachers to go to these schools without one.”

Guilford County, which has 116 schools, is far from the only district to take this route as school systems compete to fill their ranks. Kate Walsh, president of the National Council on Teacher Quality, a nonprofit policy group that seeks to encourage better teaching, said hundreds of districts were offering recruitment incentives this summer.

Officials in New York, which has the nation’s largest school system, said they had recruited about 5,000 new teachers by mid-August, attracting those certified in math, science and special education with a housing incentive that can include $5,000 for a down payment.

New York also offers subsidies through its teaching fellows program, which recruits midcareer professionals from fields like health care, law and finance. The money helps defer the cost of study for a master’s degree. The city expects to hire at least 1,300 additional teachers before school begins on Sept. 4, said Vicki Bernstein, director of teacher recruitment.

Los Angeles has offered teachers signing with low-performing schools a $5,000 bonus. The district, the second-largest in the country, had hired only about 500 of the 2,500 teachers it needed by Aug. 15 but hoped to begin classes fully staffed, said Deborah Ignagni, chief of teacher recruitment.

In Kansas, Alexa Posny, the state’s education commissioner, said the schools had been working to fill “the largest number of vacancies” the state had ever faced. This is partly because of baby boomer retirements and partly because districts in Texas and elsewhere were offering recruitment bonuses and housing allowances, luring Kansas teachers away.

“This is an acute problem that is becoming a crisis,” Ms. Posny said.

In June, the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, a nonprofit group that seeks to increase the retention of quality teachers, estimated from a survey of several districts that teacher turnover was costing the nation’s districts some $7 billion annually for recruiting, hiring and training.

Demographers agree that education is one of the fields hardest hit by the departure of hundreds of thousands of baby boomers from the work force, particularly because a slowdown in hiring in the 1980s and 1990s raised the average age of the teaching profession. Still, they debate how serious the attrition will turn out to be.

In New York, the wave of such retirements crested in the early years of this decade as teachers left well before they hit their 60s, without a disruptive teacher shortage, Ms. Bernstein said.

In other parts of the country, the retirement bulge is still approaching, because pension policies vary among states, said Michael Podgursky, an economist at the University of Missouri. California is projecting that it will need 100,000 new teachers over the next decade from the retirement of the baby boomers alone.

Some educators say it is the confluence of such retirements with the departure of disillusioned young teachers that is creating the challenge. In addition, higher salaries in the business world and more opportunities for women are drawing away from the field recruits who might in another era have proved to be talented teachers with strong academic backgrounds.

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Here's my two cents worth. I bailed because as far back as 1976 when I gave my notice, I was aware of the fact that as a teacher, you are hung out to dry by your administrators, receive no support from parents, and absolutely no respect from your community, including the board of education.

Let me give you examples. Did you know that principals made it clear that you cannot fail a student? Hell, no. that would screw up everything from class size to your board of education's image in the community. An "F" was a No-No. "D's" became honorary "F's".

Another example of no respect or at least no comprehension of a teacher's role was class size. I taught 8th graders and it was the norm to have anywhere from twenty seven to thirty one students per class. With all those hormones in gear it took me, with a whip and a chair, the first 10 minutes just to get them settled. My fourth hour class had lunch midway through their session, so that class would fall further and further behind as you would have to multiply the above 10 minutes by two.

The first inklings I had that I was on a sinking ship was the call to a parent during a unit on speech. We were well into the third week. The student was supposed to deliver a short speech once a week. He had delivered none. When I told the mother on the telephone this fact, her reply was: "Does he have to take speech?"

Thanks, mom, for your support. Maybe she knew I couldn't give him an "F"?

I was once on the teachers salary negotiating team in meetings with the board. There's a reality check. I still remember a board member who was an attorney saying: "Teaching is women's work. If you want a man's wage, get a man's job."

It always galled me that we had no money to hire teachers to whittle class size down to manageable, but we had plenty to hire more administrators and give those we already had big raises every year. I have a vivid pictue in my mind of our assistant principal standing amidst the cooks at noon, ladling out food, joking with students.

I am certain that he, if confronted, would say he was getting to know the student populace, but all I could think of was: with the wages he's making, shouldn't he be in his office doing SOMETHING??

Ask any teacher and they will tell you how often they are disrespected by people who tell them that they have a cushy job because they only have to work nine months a year, get huge Christmas vacations, and are overpaid.

My answer to that was "You are right! Why is it that you aren't a teacher?"

Probably for the same reason that you are pissed about summer vacations -- you have to deal with your own progeny 24/7. Just because your sex appartus works doesn't mean you should use it to fill the world with more of your ilk!

* * * * * * * * *

1.) Take a 10-30 minute walk every day. And while you walk, smile. It is the
ultimate antidepressant.

2.) Sit in silence for at least 10 minutes each day. Buy a lock if you have to.

3.) Buy a Tivo (DVR), tape your late night shows and get more sleep.

4.) When you wake up in the morning complete the following statement, “My
purpose is to___________ today."

5.) Live with the 3 E's -- Energy, Enthusiasm, and Empathy.

6.) Watch more MOVIES, play more games and read more books than you
did last year.

7.) Always pray and make time to exercise, practice meditation, yoga, Tai
Chi, qigong, etc.

8.) Spend more time with people over the age of 70 and under the age of six.

9.) Dream more while you are awake. (Stay healthy Brett Favre, we are going to the Big One)

10.) Eat more foods that grow on trees and plants and eat less food that is
manufactured in plants.

11.) Drink green tea and plenty of water. Eat blueberries, wild Alaskan
salmon, broccoli, almonds & walnuts.

12.) Try to make at least three people smile each day.

13.) Clear your clutter from your house, your car, your desk and let new and
flowing energy into your life.

14.) Don't waste your precious energy on gossip, energy vampires, issues of
the past, negative thoughts or things you cannot control.
Instead, invest your energy in the positive present moment.

15.) Realize that life is a school and you are here to learn. Problems are
simply part of the curriculum that appear and fade away
like algebra class ......but the lessons you learn will last a lifetime.

16.) Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a college kid
with a maxed out charge card.

17.) Smile and laugh more. It will keep the energy vampires away.

18.) Life isn't fair, but it's still good.

19.) Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.

20.) Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does.

21.) You don't have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.

22.) Make peace with your past so it won't screw up the present.

23.) Don't compare your life to others'. You have no idea what their journey
is all about.

24.) Ladies - Go on and burn those "special" scented candles, use the 600
thread count sheets, the good china and wear your fancy lingerie now.
Stop waiting for a special occasion. Everyday is special.

25.) No one is in charge of your happiness except you.

26.) Frame every so-called disaster with these words: "In five years, will
this matter?"

27.) Forgive everyone for everything.

28.) What other people think of you is none of your business.

29.) Time heals almost everything. Give time, time!

30.) However good or bad a situation is, it will change.

31.) Your job won't take care of you when you are sick. Your friends will.
Stay in touch with them.

32.) Get rid of anything that isn't useful, beautiful or joyful.

33.) Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.

34.) The best is yet to come.

35.) No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.

36.) Do the right thing!

37.) Call your family often.

38.) Each night before you go to bed complete the following statements:
"I am thankful for __________."
Today I accomplished _________.

39.) Remember that you are too blessed to be stressed.

40.) Enjoy the ride. Remember that this is not Disney World and you
certainly don't want a fast pass. You only have one ride through life so
make the most of it and enjoy the ride
You are not coming back to do it again

41]. Take that trip you always wanted to go on.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Family Reminiscences - Make Me Forget My Age

We met my oldest brother, Bob, and his wonderful wife, Dorothy, for brunch at Perkins in Menomonie this morning. Perkins always gets me to thinking about my dad as he loved going to Perkins for their pancakes.

This got me to thinking of the last years of his life. I know I've talked about this before, but those were especially poignant times for me and for dad. He really loved my buttemilk pancakes. the secret, by the way, to a really fluffy buttermilk pancake is to separate the eggs and whip the whites until stiff and then fold the whites into the batter with a spatula. They will literally spring when you pour the batter onto a hot cast iron griddle.

I would get up very early, make the trip to the farmstead via the back way, and have the pancake batter prepared before mom would awaken dad.

Towards the end, he had a rather unsteady hand and I relished helping him eat his breakfast by carefully cutting up pieces of the cakes and syrup and feeding him a bit at a time. It made me feel so good that he was at the point where he could accept where he was in his life and would actually let me feed him without getting angry.

Those were very special mornings.

I also liked going over to the farm to take him to doctor's appointments in his wheel chair because I made it fun, popping wheelies with him in the chair in the clinic parking lot, then double timing across the lot in through the handicapped entrance and down the long halls.

It was also a time of pride for me because everybody knew Jack and many people knew me as his son and as a performer, so we both got a lot of "props" from friends and acquaintances as we made our way down the hall.

Bob and I were reminising this morning about the time Bob, on his way back to River Falls University, had car trouble out on Highway 29 west.

He walked back (east) to the nearest farm, run by the Cave family, folks we knew as we had pastured cattle there in the past, and called Jack to inform him that he needed help. When dad asked him where he had broken down, Bob told him "this side of Cave's".

Of course, to Robert, that meant west of Cave's but to my dad it meant east of Cave's so dad went slowly along 29 all the way to Cave's, then turned around and went back, wondering how in hell he could have missed Bob's broken down vehicle.

When he got close to reaching Menomonie, dad turned around, by now really peeved, and headed west on 29 again. this time he went past Cave's and eventually found Bob, who was equally aggravated, wondering what the hell was taking his dad so long to get to him.

Dad never let Bob forget that one.

Sometimes, when I get to thinking about my mom and dad, I forget that I am in my sixties, especially when I am reminiscing with a brother.

We had a great time sharing pancakes at Perkins!

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Saturday, August 25, 2007

Just Some Random Observations

I pull into the supermarket parking lot and park next to a terminally rusted out 1980's Chevrolet Caprice. I mean, I don't know what is holding this automobile together -- chewing gum and Elmer's Glue? Then I see it; the Bush/Cheney 2004 bumper sticker and I try to comprehend how anybody who is driving a car this decrepit can support the likes of these two. the driver obviously is not in an upper income bracket.

Chalk it off to Fox News and Rush Limbaugh. And pure ignorance, I guess. Suckered again.

At the check out I detect a very heavy eastern European accent and checking her name plate find an equally sounding name. I engage in conversation and find out she is from Russia, married to a guy from Eau Claire, has been in this country since 1990. In hushed tones I ask her if, like me, she gets the feeling that every day the United States seems more and more like the Soviet Union. She tells me that when she first moved here she was ecstastically happy to be coming to a land of freedom but now she is wondering what is becoming of this country.

Suspicions confirmed.

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Driving home I spot a thrift sale sign. I continue to drive about a fourth mile and I see the large elaborate sign for Mount Calvary Catholic Cemetery.

It takes a lot of self control not to make a U-turn, dislodge the thrift sale sign and then repost it at the entrance to the cemetery.

This strikes me today as being unusually funny. The incongruity of a thrift sale sign at a cemetery. I know: "I don't get it."

Exactly.

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Kim and I went to Jay Moore's new digs tonight for a little housewarming party. The pizzas turned out magnificently. The company and conversation were great.

After pizza, we sat outside and visited until the night temperatures forced those of us in tee shirt and shorts indoors. I love this time of year when the night temperatures drop enough that I can start a fire in the office stove to keep the chill out overnight.

Oh -- meant to say -- Jay Moore's shorts were the fashion statement of the evening.

Are you familiar with the limmerick about the young man from Mauston who drove a little red Austin?

Friday, August 24, 2007

Nearing The End of Another "Collecting" Binge - Anybody Got a Joe Willie?

Last night as I was choosing my "night shirt" (read: NFL Large Jersey), I took to counting them as the collection is at the point of taking up half the closet. It was a jaw-dropper! Thirty six!

Then I get a call from my pal Shirley at the Fall Creek Post Office that I need to come in and sign for a package from Shanghai, China. Do you think I could recall my ordering something from Shanghai, China? The only thought that crossed my mind is that my musical cohort "One Man" Robert Johnson must have sent me a care package. He and the lovely Marge are the only people I know that live in Shanghai as they are teaching over there.

I walk into the post office and Shirley says" "Larry, you got lots of mail today! You have two packages and a bundle of mail! Have you been ordering football jerseys again?"

I look at the return address on the package from Shanghai. It's from JIA SHAN, GONGHE XIN ROAD, ROOM 2-2101. Oh -- now I remember. It's that Brett Favre "away" (white) jersey that I got through eBay two weeks ago.

Now, since I have been really delving into the world of NFL jersey collecting and have some that are game quality and some that are "learn by doing", I don't have really high expectations for this one. As soon as I get back in the car, I open the package and WOW! This jersey (pictured) is the best quality made jersey I have in my collection.

So if you are at all interested in what I have learned about collecting, let me explain what makes this a good jersey. If you are bored by this, time to surf elsewhere.

First, check the V-neck - sewn, stretch polyester with the official NFL Equipment shield prominently displayed. You will also notice that the yoke of the jersey is very shiny. The correct description for that material is "dazzle". Next time you watch an NFL game in High Def see if you don't find that the players are wearing the exact same material.

On this jersey are sewn in "stretch" panels, another give-away that this one is authentic. NFL players want their jerseys to fit them tightly so that when an oppenent grabs and holds, referees can see that they have a handful of stretchy jersey.

More indications of authenticity are the sewn on twill numerals, the blue "jock tag" on the bottom hem which indicates size, the fact that the back of the jersey is cut longer than the front so that the jersey will stay tucked in, and the extra of elasticized cuffs on the sleeves.

The capper on this jersey that puts it a cut above all the others I own is the woven-in sleeve stripes. All my other would-be game jerseys have sleeves with silk screened stripes.

School's out.

So now, with the two I got in today (the other is a heavy knit version of a home (black) 1991 Falcons Brett Favre jersey) I now have 38 jerseys and I swear I only have one to go - I have to find either a home or away Joe Willie Namath (#12) Jets jersey. then I am done -- moving one!

After scanning eBay for months, I still haven't found the one I want. I am not about to pay the three hundred dollars that Mitchell and Ness wants for authentic reproductions.


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Thursday, August 23, 2007

DYING IS EASY -- COMEDY IS HARD

I took most of the day and cleaned out one of three of my freakin' file cabinets. It's like that near-death experience thing where they tell you your whole life flashes before you, but in this case, slower.

I discovered a "comedy file" that contained over 500 blonde jokes, another 200 "stupid man" jokes, and a host of attempts at actually sitting down and writing monologues. They were all pretty awful and are now shredded.

I did keep something that Kim Wilson and I wrote together about a hundred years ago called The Wisconsin Wedding Song.

The Wisconsin Wedding Song (by Kim Wilson and Larry Heagle)


All I have is yours, All you have is mine
So our love's defined by property law

You get half the house, I get half the car
We're better off by far, with the property law

You can keep Michelle, Ryan comes with me
And half the cat is mine, by property law

I pay half the bills, you get half my debts
And two television sets, it's the property law

All you have is mine, all I have is yours
That's how love's defined by the property law

I'll take half the joy, you get half the pain
And it's driving us insane -- THE PROPERTY LAW!

Oh, no! I just found more "comedy" material that I should hve thrown away:

Their gonna put me in X rated movies
They gonna make a big stud outa me
They'll make a scene about a man whose sad and horny
And all I gotta do is act naturally.

Bet you I'm gonna be a big star
Might film it bareback, you can never tell
The movies gonna make me a big star
cuz you'll see my part so well!

I hope you come and see me in the movies
then I know that you will plainly see
the biggest tool that ever hit the big time
And why my wife can't get enough of me.

To the shredder!

I just bought a self help book entitled "Looking Out For Number One". My wife says I can read it right after she finishes reading it.

To the shredder!

Soaked by my water bill, shocked by my electric bill. Just got my telephone bill and I'm speechless!

To the shredder!

My oldest brother is a farmer. He just bought one of those "standard" model John Deeres. It doesn't have a steering wheel or a seat - I guess it's for the farmer whose lost his ass and doesn't know which way to turn.

do you know why farmers don't wear tennis shoes?
seed companies don't give away tennis shoes.

Please, God! to the shredder!

Do you suffer from occasional minor nagging pains?
Oh -- you're sitting right next to him!

Today's mathematics problem:

If it costs a farmer $5.00 to grow a bushel of wheat and he can only sell it for $3.00 a bushel, how many bushels will it take before the farmer sells his land for condominiums?

Hear about the discount guru? He was a used karma dealer.

What's green and analyzes all the hidden meaning in your dreams?
Sigmond frog

Old stewardesses never die -- they just keep preparing for departure.

My first wife told me she was a bi-sexual.
I said: "Geez, honey, I gotta have it more than twice a year!"
She said: "No, you idiot! I'm a lesbian!"
I said: "Oh! why didn't you say so? How's everything in Beirut?

13 postal workers arested in Cleveland for alledgedly selling cocaine on the job. That gives a whole new meaning to the phrase: "long lines at the post office."

Sometimes when I'm depressed, I dress up in my finest suit and go to the Cadillac dealership, engage a salesman and take him for a test drive on the freeway at about 120 mph.

Then when we get back to the dealership, I tell him I am interested in the car, but not this one .. this one's used.

Sign in the window of a "Preppy" bar:

NO GUCCIS, NO IZODS, NO SERVICE

Former UN Secretary Kurt waldheim suffered from the same disease that our current Pope has: "Walheimer's Disease". That's when you get so old that you can't remember that you used to be a Nazi.

I came home early the other night and caught my wife in bed with another man.
"What are you doing?!" I screamed.
"See, I told you he was stupid." she said to her friend.

TO THE SHREDDER!

I gotta shut this down anyways. The Denson/Sims enclave are coming over for Larry's Pizza tonight and I must go in search of fresh basil. so if you find some missing from your garden -- yup. It was me!

There will be pictures at Eleven!


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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Yes, It's Another Guitar - Why? Because A Guitar Player Can Never Have Too Many

I think I ran a pictue of my newest guitar acquisition some time ago, in its case, where you could not really see it very well -- so here it is naked.

I picked it up used through my musician friend, Clay Riness, of Dave's Guitar in LaCrosse. It has a virgin creamy white adirondack spruce top and butterscotch hued Honduran mahogany back and sides. As part of a trade, I got a Baggs I-beam acoustic pick up installed and I can run it through a small but tasty Crate acoustic amplifier.

I am pretty excited about having it on hand here in time for my son Jonathan's homecoming on Friday, September 14, when he will be joining the band and me on lead guitar from 4:30 - 7PM along with my back up guys who are all terrific players: Dave "Barney" Barneson, Baron of Eleva, on percussion, Tim "Too Tall" Keilholtz on five string bass and amazing range vocals. Wait 'til you hear him do the bass notes on the chorus of "Wood Tick"! That boy can get down there!

There are two Nashville quality pedal steel players I know about -- Gary Spaeth (curse you Jerry Lemke for stealing!) --and Denny Marion, who I am tickled to say actually likes me enough to work with me! I AM NOT WORTHY!

But I somehow got him talked into working that gig as the other lead man across from Jonathan playing just about everything else including dobro (I LOVE DOBRO), 5 sting banjo, and all them strings on that there pedal steel.

I will be doing my best to be a part of the tight rhythm team by listening to Barney and Tim and driving the beat on acoustic guitar.

Then Jon and I will be leaving the electric guitars at home on Sunday. (He'll be puttng the Gretsch Tennessean through its paces Friday.)

I am to do two sets Sunday afternoon and I will put Jon on the Epiphone with that small amp. So if you check us out on Sunday you will get the "unplugged" version of my tunes.

I have a call in to Troy Espe at the Leader-Telegram about possibly doing a "human interest" father/son musical reunion. It is really nice to have Troy in the entertainment position. What's-Her-Face thought she was covering for the New York Tmes.

Oops! I may have just screwed up any newspaper coverage. God, I love being old! Sayin' what ya' think cuz ya' jist don't give a shit.


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Tiresome Man Jokes (Besides George, Dick and Alberto)

In re-reading yesterday's blog, I am so impressed with the intelligence of our soldiers. They said the truth so eloquently. They are obviously very bright young men. I would guess they are wondering how the hell they got into this mess.

I wish I could say I am very proud of all the young men who are currently volunteering for the draft, but I am not.

This war is the worst example of global interference in our entire history and by volunteering you are saying that you agree with the current administration's view of the world. Truly patriotic American youth would certainly not enlist in such an army.

I watch the blitz of military ads on television (particularly during NFL pre-season games): "There's strong -- and there's ARMY strong." I am afraid to even consider what they mean by that.

As in the Viet Nam war (I know -- not supposed to compare the two), the bulk of the soldiers are those who have entered the service as a way of escaping poverty, and no, I can't quote you statistics to prove it, but if it isn't the poor who are volunteering then it is, as tragically, the misinformed that are filling the ranks.

Every young man who is considering joining the military should go online and read The Progressive Daily Beacon (thanks Tom, for the tip) and pay particular attention to the article that tells how our coporatocracy is making millions in Iraq as private contractors while soldiers are making meager pay to possibly be, at best, ambushed and maimed, and then tell me how fast they'd pump some $3.00 a gallon in their used cars to rush out and sign up.

gotta stop -- all it gets me is pissed!

________________________________________________________________

Still raining! Yesterday I overheard a local contractor breaking down cubits into feet for the yard man.

On my way over here this morning, I checked to see if my transplanted chives plants had indeed learned to how swim. Fortunately they are close enough to the office building that they have survived. In point of fact, they are looking fat and healthy for such young 'uns.

This brought back happy memories of Ma's breakfast specialty. I make 'em all the time. To get my mind onto more pleasant avenues, here's the recipe:

Eggs Ala Alice

Ingredients:

6 large eggs
3 strips meaty bacon
1/3 cup chopped fresh chives
salt, black pepper
dash of hot sauce (optional)
pat of butter

Prep: While tending the frying bacon, crack six eggs in a mixing bowl, whip with a fork until foamy, add optional dash of hot sauce, salt, pepper, whip all together. Chop the chives into 1/8th inch dice, add them to egg mixture. Set aside

Fry the bacon slowly, turning it often.
NOTE: It is very important in producing crispy bacon to keep your heat down (under half) and flipping it end for end very often. Cooking bacon is not the kind of cooking that you can leave the stove unattended. It's a full time job if you want it done right.

Set the bacon aside, draining on a paper towel.

When bacon is drained and cooled enough to pick it up, crush it with your hands into the egg mixture. (If you have prepared the bacon correctly, crushing it up is very easy and preferable to chopping it with a knife as the dice is then uneven and has a more attractive appearance.

Drain the bacon fat from the pan, wash and scrub out the pan. Return it to the stove at the same temp as used for bacon. Add the butter, when it is just melted, add the egg mixture and continually scrape egg mixture with a spatula from outside edges to center until eggs are set to your favorite consistency. (I like mine pretty wet, but cooked through). Salt and pepper to taste.

serves two generously with toast

Whew! I've calmed down a bit.

Stumbled upon some "Men" jokes while cleaning files this morning. Just to show how secure I am:

There's a difference between men and government bonds. Government bonds mature.

The difference between a man and a catfish?
One's a bottom feeding scum sucker -- the other is a fish.

"I can do better!" What God said after creating Adam.

The other day I asked my wife if she'd like a "quickie". she said: "As opposed to what?"

Men like to marry virgins because they can't stand criticism.

Went to the fair to the "Believe It or Not" show. They had a man with a penis and a brain!

What do you have when you have two balls in one hand?
A man's undivided attention.

Men are like snowstorms --you never know how much you're gonna get or how long they're gonna last.

I am a man. I am like a laxative. I can irritate the shit out of you!

What do you call the most intelligent man in Wisconsin?
A tourist

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

George Has a Reservation in the After Life

If there is the justice of a "heaven" and a "hell" then certainly George Bush is destined to burn in hell forever for his crimes against humanity.

Through his actions, not only has he murdered countless innocent Iraqis, but he is responsible for each and every death of our own military in this senseless slaughter of humankind.

To prove my point, I offer the following excerpts from a news story in that Communist rag, The New York Times, written by seven members of the returning 82nd Airborne division:


Viewed from Iraq at the tail end of a 15-month deployment, the political debate in Washington is indeed surreal. Counterinsurgency is, by definition, a competition between insurgents and counterinsurgents for the control and support of a population. To believe that Americans, with an occupying force that long ago outlived its reluctant welcome, can win over a recalcitrant local population and win this counterinsurgency is far-fetched. As responsible infantrymen and noncommissioned officers with the 82nd Airborne Division soon heading back home, we are skeptical of recent press coverage portraying the conflict as increasingly manageable and feel it has neglected the mounting civil, political and social unrest we see every day. (Obviously, these are our personal views and should not be seen as official within our chain of command.)

The claim that we are increasingly in control of the battlefields in Iraq is an assessment arrived at through a flawed, American-centered framework. Yes, we are militarily superior, but our successes are offset by failures elsewhere. What soldiers call the "battle space" remains the same, with changes only at the margins. It is crowded with actors who do not fit neatly into boxes: Sunni extremists, Al Qaeda terrorists, Shiite militiamen, criminals and armed tribes. This situation is made more complex by the questionable loyalties and Janus-faced role of the Iraqi police and Iraqi Army, which have been trained and armed at United States taxpayers' expense.

A few nights ago, for example, we witnessed the death of one American soldier and the critical wounding of two others when a lethal armor-piercing explosive was detonated between an Iraqi Army checkpoint and a police one. Local Iraqis readily testified to American investigators that Iraqi police and Army officers escorted the triggermen and helped plant the bomb. These civilians highlighted their own predicament: had they informed the Americans of the bomb before the incident, the Iraqi Army, the police or the local Shiite militia would have killed their families.

As many grunts will tell you, this is a near-routine event. Reports that a majority of Iraqi Army commanders are now reliable partners can be considered only misleading rhetoric. The truth is that battalion commanders, even if well meaning, have little to no influence over the thousands of obstinate men under them, in an incoherent chain of command, who are really loyal only to their militias.

Similarly, Sunnis, who have been underrepresented in the new Iraqi armed forces, now find themselves forming militias, sometimes with our tacit support. Sunnis recognize that the best guarantee they may have against Shiite militias and the Shiite-dominated government is to form their own armed bands. We arm them to aid in our fight against Al Qaeda.

However, while creating proxies is essential in winning a counterinsurgency, it requires that the proxies are loyal to the center that we claim to support. Armed Sunni tribes have indeed become effective surrogates, but the enduring question is where their loyalties would lie in our absence. The Iraqi government finds itself working at cross purposes with us on this issue because it is justifiably fearful that Sunni militias will turn on it should the Americans leave.

In short, we operate in a bewildering context of determined enemies and questionable allies, one where the balance of forces on the ground remains entirely unclear. (In the course of writing this article, this fact became all too clear: one of us, Staff Sergeant Murphy, an Army Ranger and reconnaissance team leader, was shot in the head during a "time-sensitive target acquisition mission" on Aug. 12; he is expected to survive and is being flown to a military hospital in the United States.) While we have the will and the resources to fight in this context, we are effectively hamstrung because realities on the ground require measures we will always refuse - namely, the widespread use of lethal and brutal force.

Given the situation, it is important not to assess security from an American-centered perspective. The ability of, say, American observers to safely walk down the streets of formerly violent towns is not a resounding indicator of security. What matters is the experience of the local citizenry and the future of our counterinsurgency. When we take this view, we see that a vast majority of Iraqis feel increasingly insecure and view us as an occupation force that has failed to produce normalcy after four years and is increasingly unlikely to do so as we continue to arm each warring side.

Coupling our military strategy to an insistence that the Iraqis meet political benchmarks for reconciliation is also unhelpful. The morass in the government has fueled impatience and confusion while providing no semblance of security to average Iraqis. Leaders are far from arriving at a lasting political settlement. This should not be surprising, since a lasting political solution will not be possible while the military situation remains in constant flux.

The Iraqi government is run by the main coalition partners of the Shiite-dominated United Iraqi Alliance, with Kurds as minority members. The Shiite clerical establishment formed the alliance to make sure its people did not succumb to the same mistake as in 1920: rebelling against the occupying Western force (then the British) and losing what they believed was their inherent right to rule Iraq as the majority. The qualified and reluctant welcome we received from the Shiites since the invasion has to be seen in that historical context. They saw in us something useful for the moment.

Now that moment is passing, as the Shiites have achieved what they believe is rightfully theirs. Their next task is to figure out how best to consolidate the gains, because reconciliation without consolidation risks losing it all. Washington's insistence that the Iraqis correct the three gravest mistakes we made - de-Baathification, the dismantling of the Iraqi Army and the creation of a loose federalist system of government - places us at cross purposes with the government we have committed to support.

Political reconciliation in Iraq will occur, but not at our insistence or in ways that meet our benchmarks. It will happen on Iraqi terms when the reality on the battlefield is congruent with that in the political sphere. There will be no magnanimous solutions that please every party the way we expect, and there will be winners and losers. The choice we have left is to decide which side we will take. Trying to please every party in the conflict - as we do now - will only ensure we are hated by all in the long run.

At the same time, the most important front in the counterinsurgency, improving basic social and economic conditions, is the one on which we have failed most miserably. Two million Iraqis are in refugee camps in bordering countries. Close to two million more are internally displaced and now fill many urban slums. Cities lack regular electricity, telephone services and sanitation. "Lucky" Iraqis live in gated communities barricaded with concrete blast walls that provide them with a sense of communal claustrophobia rather than any sense of security we would consider normal.

In a lawless environment where men with guns rule the streets, engaging in the banalities of life has become a death-defying act. Four years into our occupation, we have failed on every promise, while we have substituted Baath Party tyranny with a tyranny of Islamist, militia and criminal violence. When the primary preoccupation of average Iraqis is when and how they are likely to be killed, we can hardly feel smug as we hand out care packages. As an Iraqi man told us a few days ago with deep resignation, "We need security, not free food."

In the end, we need to recognize that our presence may have released Iraqis from the grip of a tyrant, but that it has also robbed them of their self-respect. They will soon realize that the best way to regain dignity is to call us what we are - an army of occupation - and force our withdrawal.

Until that happens, it would be prudent for us to increasingly let Iraqis take center stage in all matters, to come up with a nuanced policy in which we assist them from the margins but let them resolve their differences as they see fit. This suggestion is not meant to be defeatist, but rather to highlight our pursuit of incompatible policies to absurd ends without recognizing the incongruities.

We need not talk about our morale. As committed soldiers, we will see this mission through.

_______________________________________________________________

And now George and his henchman, Herr Cheney, are prepping us for a war with Iran. If you don't believe that it is going to happen, stay tuned from now until election time.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Nuthin' Lasts Forever

I received a fascinating e mail from my friend Suzi Kittson of Wausau, Wisconsin, this morning. She suffers with chronic fatigue syndrome as I do, and yesterday it was particularly virulent for her also.

This leads me to believe that barometric pressure changes exert a lot of influence in the overall well being of those of us that are under the scourge of this disease.

I wish I could say that this makes me feel better, but I don't think the fact that I am somewhat better today has anything whatsoever to do with it.


___________________________________________________________

Damn! Where has the summer gone? Kim is already spending at least some of her day working on the coming school year and I am pyschologically tying to prepare myself for living week days alone again.

I am glad that I have the recording project set up (vaguely) to help with this time of transition.

___________________________________________________________

Last thursday, August 16th, would have been the annual Lamb and Leinie's Extavanganza out back of TJ's tavern, Downsille, Wisconsin. It was always the best damn party of summer!

John Widmar, proprietor and chef at TJ's would spit roast huge shanks of lamb next to the rented "big top" tent he brought in just for the occasion.

I was fortunate enough to provide the music for, oh, I don't know how many years with the best musicians from the valley. You never knew who would be on stage from year to year. One summer, Jon Heagle came home from Brooklyn to play lead.

The stage was jammed to overflowing every year and we really put down some stuff!

The highlight, of course, was when John Widmar, now done roasting lamb and well on his way to being roasted himself, would come up on stage and do his rendition of "Big John" , which always brought the house - eer - tent -- down.

But as the song by Delbert McClinton goes: "Nuthin' lasts forever, have a good time, try to string a few together, cuz nuthin' lasts forever."

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Chronic Fatique By Any Other Name is Still a Bitch

Somewhere in my mid-fifties, I began suffering with what the medical community calls "chronic fatigue syndrome". It also has about a dozen other names which I cannot recall this morning. recall is one of aspects of the disease that I find most maddening.

For some years, it seemed that this malady was "on me" every day. I would set out to grocery shop with a specific main meat course in mind, body aching from head to foot, only to find, upon arriving at the supermarket that they were out of the specific cut of meat I wanted.

then I would find myself wandering aimlessly about the store, unable to make a replacement decision. Sometimes I would actually just leave the store for home, tears streaming down my face, frightened by the phenomena I was experiencing.

That's as far as I want to get into this insidious condition today, but there is one more thing. I find that when there is a sudden weather change, it returns in full force and not just with the big changes that come with the four seasons.

Take yesterday (Saturday) for instance. I was unable to even leave the house yesterday as every joint, every muscle group, was in agonizing pain. Kim had gone to the Cities to visit her folks. It was a good time for her to be gone.

When she came home last night, she aked if there was any way I could pinpoint why this is happening to me at this particular juncture.

Until I came over to the office to work on this blog, I didn't realize just how cold and damp it had gotten yesterday. I suspect the sudden weather change is the culprit.

Fortunately, I have an MD who is sympathetic to my pain and supplies me with two different kinds of pain medication, making it a bit more tolerable.

wrapped in two blankets, I watched the Packers pound the Seahawks in pre-season. It helped my psyche to see how this young team is pulling together so rapidly.

Looks like we may even have a kick-off punt-returner in Wil Blackmon who ran one back some 80 yards last night.

Oh, I know. It's just pre-season, but I see good things! Bubba is catching the ball again. Cullen Jenkins is an animal!!! Our linebackers can match up with the best in the league. Aaron Rodgers is playing with a confidence i had not seen before.

I just want this to be a great year for Brett. He has done so much for the state's psyche over the years. He's enough to make me forget just how much my body hurts.

GO, PACK, GO!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Property Beautification at the Office

We have "Old Glory" waving high (20 feet) at the house with a kit I bought at Menard's for $37.00.

This week I decided I was going to put two flags up in the rock flower beds on either side of the office driveway so back to Menard's I went, seeking two more flag pole kits. Holy Guacamole! Kits are now $80 a piece!

That being way too rich for my blood, Kim and I were on our way back to the car when it hit me: "Hey! Menard's has galvanized 1-1/4 10 ft pipe! I bet with a little Yankee ingenuity I could make my own!"

So we went back and in and I came home with two 10 foot "flag" poles, "C" clamps to hold the pulleys, some backyard laundry cord, some electrical tape (just in case) and two small bags of sack crete to pour footings.

I got the Packer flag up yesterday and this morning I installed the Irish flag -- two more beautiful flags in the whole
world there are not!


_____________________________________________________________________

Last night I was reminising about the old days when I was the kingpin of comedy at O'leary's Pub at the then Howard Johnson motel on Clairemont Avenue.

For years I had done a routine based around that oldie but goodie "Please Mr. Custer" which then transitioned into an adapted piece from Jonathan Winters. The upshot is, the piece was not "politically correct" and as the years went on and things began to heat up between the Ojibwa and the whites dealing with spearfishing, I dropped the routine from my show.

The bar manager at the time, Pete Simonson, was always kind of a smart ass in my estimation, and would look to screw my show up anytime he could.

At the time, the physical layout of O'Leary's was different than it is now. From the stage you could not see who was on the other side of the bar as you were blocked by shelves contaning the liquor inventory,

So one night, smart ass Pete starts yelling at me from his position at the bar: "Do Mr. Custer!" I tell him no, that I don't do that piece anymore, but he harrasses me throughout the set calling "Do Mr. Custer!" again and again. Finally, as I near the end of my set I agree to do it just to get him to shut the hell up.

I finish the routine and walk over to the bar. Simonson is beside himself with glee. He tells me that there are a couple of guys on the other side of the bar that want to meet me.

As I reach the other side of the bar, it becomes clear that I have been had. There sit two Ojibwa in their mid 30's, motioning for me to join them.

As I approach them I say: "I suppose you guys aren't too happy that that last routine I just did. I want you to know" -- but they cut me off before I get further into explanations or apologies. I can hear Asshole Simonson chortling in the corner.

One says: "Oh, we didn't mind. It's pretty funny. Sit down."

I sit.

"We just think we should warn you that there are some young native Americans at the University who will cut your balls off if they hear you doing that."

"Point taken", I reply and get up to go to the bath room so that I can make a surreptitious exit out the back to my car as this had been my final set.

"Where are you going?"

"I thought I would go to the bath room."

"No, you're not. We want to buy you a drink. What are you drinking?"

Wanting to escape quickly, I say: "a shot of schnapps."

The schnapps is delivered and I quaff it down, stand to leave.

"Where are you going? You're not leaving."

"I'm not?"

"No. we are buying you another drink."

"Okay --"

I begin to understand that it is "get the little rascist white boy drunk night".

After shooting down five, they give up. Or they are broke.

"You can go now. Hope you have a good night."

I restrain myself from saying: "So ya bastards thought ya could git a little Irishman droonk, da ya? T'aint the Irish that can't hold their fire water, ya know."

Instead I just say thanks and head for home.

And Simonson? -- you can kiss my ass!

ATTITUDE, ATTITUDE, ATTITUDE -- DUDE

This arrived in my e mail this morning from my good friend Donna Wagner:

John is the kind of guy you love to hate. He is
always in a good mood and
always has something positive to say. When someone
would ask him how he was
doing, he would reply, "If I were any better, I
would be twins!"

He was a natural motivator.

If an employee was having a bad day, John was there
telling the employee how
to look on the positive side of the situation.

Seeing this style really made me curious, so one day
I went up and asked
him, "I don't get it!

You can't be a positive person all of the time. How
do you do it?"

He replied, "Each morning I wake up and say to
myself, you have two choices
today. You can choose to be in a good mood or ...
you can choose to be in a
bad mood

I choose to be in a good mood."

Each time something bad happens, I can choose to be
a victim or...I can
choose to learn from it. I choose to learn from it.

Every time someone comes to me complaining, I can
choose to accept their
complaining or... I can point out the positive side
of life. I choose the
positive side of life.

"Yeah, right, it's not that easy," I protested.

"Yes, it is," he said. "Life is all about choices.
When you cut away all the
junk, every situation is a choice. You choose how
you react to situations.
You choose how people affect your mood.

You choose to be in a good mood or bad mood. The
bottom line: It's your
choice how you live your life."

I reflected on what he said. Soon hereafter, I left
the Tower Industry to
start my own business. We lost touch, but I often
thought about him when I
made a choice about life instead of reacting to it.

Several years later, I heard that he was involved in
a serious accident,
falling some 60 feet from a communications tower .

After 18 hours of surgery and weeks of intensive
care, he was released from
the hospital with rods placed in his back.

I saw him about six months after the accident.

When I asked him how he was, he replied, "If I were
any better, I'd be
twins...Wanna see my scars?"

I declined to see his wounds, but I did ask him what
had gone through his
mind as the accident took place.

"The first thing that went through my mind was the
well-being of my
soon-to-be born daughter," he replied. "Then, as I
lay on the ground, I
remembered that I had two choices: I could choose to
live or...I could
choose to die. I chose to live."

"Weren't you scared? Did you lose consciousness?" I
asked

He continued, "..the paramedics were great.

They kept telling me I was going to be fine. But
when they wheeled me into
the ER and I saw the expressions on the faces of the
doctors and nurses, I
got really scared. In their eyes, I read 'he's a
dead man'. I knew I needed
to take action."

"What did you do?" I asked.
"Well, there was a big burly nurse shouting
questions at me," said John.
"She asked if I was allergic to anything 'Yes, I
replied.' The doctors and
nurses stopped working as they waited for my reply.
I took a deep breath and
yelled, 'Gravity'."

Over their laughter, I told them, "I am choosing to
live. Operate on me as
if I am alive, not dead."

He lived, thanks to the skill of his doctors, but
also because of his
amazing attitude... I learned from him that every
day we have the choice to
live fully.

Attitude, after all, is everything.

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow
will worry about itself.
Each day has enough trouble of its own." Matthew
6:34.

After all today is the tomorrow you worried about
yesterday.

TODAY: TWO GUEST BLOGS FROM DOUG THOMPSON

Bush on the Constitution: ‘It’s just a goddamned piece of paper’
By By DOUG THOMPSON

Last month, Republican Congressional leaders filed into the Oval Office to meet with President George W. Bush and talk about renewing the controversial USA Patriot Act.

Several provisions of the act, passed in the shell shocked period immediately following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, caused enough anger that liberal groups like the American Civil Liberties Union had joined forces with prominent conservatives like Phyllis Schlafly and Bob Barr to oppose renewal.

GOP leaders told Bush that his hardcore push to renew the more onerous provisions of the act could further alienate conservatives still mad at the President from his botched attempt to nominate White House Counsel Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court.

“I don’t give a goddamn,” Bush retorted. “I’m the President and the Commander-in-Chief. Do it my way.”

“Mr. President,” one aide in the meeting said. “There is a valid case that the provisions in this law undermine the Constitution.”

“Stop throwing the Constitution in my face,” Bush screamed back. “It’s just a goddamned piece of paper!”

I’ve talked to three people present for the meeting that day and they all confirm that the President of the United States called the Constitution “a goddamned piece of paper.”

And, to the Bush Administration, the Constitution of the United States is little more than toilet paper stained from all the shit that this group of power-mad despots have dumped on the freedoms that “goddamned piece of paper” used to guarantee.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, while still White House counsel, wrote that the “Constitution is an outdated document.”

Put aside, for a moment, political affiliation or personal beliefs. It doesn’t matter if you are a Democrat, Republican or Independent. It doesn’t matter if you support the invasion or Iraq or not. Despite our differences, the Constitution has stood for two centuries as the defining document of our government, the final source to determine “in the end ” if something is legal or right.

Every federal official - including the President - who takes an oath of office swears to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia says he cringes when someone calls the Constitution a “living document.”

“Oh, how I hate the phrase we have “a ‘living document,” Scalia says. “We now have a Constitution that means whatever we want it to mean. The Constitution is not a living organism, for Pete’s sake.”

As a judge, Scalia says, “I don’t have to prove that the Constitution is perfect; I just have to prove that it’s better than anything else.”

President Bush has proposed seven amendments to the Constitution over the last five years, including a controversial amendment to define marriage as a “union between a man and woman.” Members of Congress have proposed some 11,000 amendments over the last decade, ranging from repeal of the right to bear arms to a Constitutional ban on abortion.

Scalia says the danger of tinkering with the Constitution comes from a loss of rights.

“We can take away rights just as we can grant new ones,” Scalia warns. “Don’t think that it’s a one-way street.”

And don’t buy the White House hype that the USA Patriot Act is a necessary tool to fight terrorism. It is a dangerous law that infringes on the rights of every American citizen and, as one brave aide told President Bush, something that undermines the Constitution of the United States.

But why should Bush care? After all, the Constitution is just “a goddamned piece of paper.”
© Copyright 2006 by Capitol Hill Blue

Home of the Watched, Land of The Spied Upon

Home of the watched, land of the spied upon
By DOUG THOMPSON
Jun 23, 2006, 06:50

I live in the mountains - deep in the mountains - of Southwestern Virginia, far away from what most call civilization.
You've heard of the proverbial town with one stop light? Our county has only one stop light, one permanent one since a construction project on U.S. 221 added four temporary stoplights to two bridges that the Virginia Department of Transportation is resurfacing and cut down to one-lane.

Yet even in my little backwoods hick county, I'm under video surveillance many times a day.

It may start when I drive through that maze of stoplights at the two bridges 500 yards apart. Video cameras tape every car that passes through that construction project, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. These are videocams, not stoplight enforcement cameras.

If I stop at any one of my little town's three convenience mart/gas stations, I am photographed while filling my car with gas or while buying a cup of coffee. At least one convenience mart in town has a direct link to a Virginia State Police computer that inserts an image of my face into a facial recognition program to see if I'm wanted anywhere or might be a suspected terrorist. When I stop at the drive-through automatic teller machine (ATM) at the bank, another camera snaps my picture as I withdraw money from my checking account.

The monitoring doesn't end with cameras. When I slid my credit card into the reader on the gas pump at the Exxon station this morning a high-speed dataline sent my name and account number to Exxon's computers in Texas where they checked by balance before approving the purchase and then forwarded information on the purchase by another high-speed line to a bank of computers at 3701 Fairfax Drive in Arlington, home of the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency's Terrorism Information Awareness Network (TIA).

The TIA computer matches my gas purchase against my last use of a credit card to see where I might have last purchased gas, an airline or train ticket or a motel stay. This provides Uncle Sam with my pattern of travel and that pattern is matched against any pattern which someone thinks might be suspicious or worthy of a second look. The information is also matched my other financial activity: bank account deposits and withdrawals or charge account activity. Then they match the records with National Security Agency monitoring of phone calls and email usage. If anything looks suspicious to them, a file is opened and I become a "person of interest." Friends in a position to know tell me I became a person of interest to these folks some years ago.

As Lisa Hoffman outlines in her excellent series on video surveillance published today on our web site, we are nation constantly being watched by those we do business with, by police, by government and by our bosses.

Uncle Sam knows what books you read, either through public library records or your purchases at the local borders. He knows how often you stop at Starbucks to get a latte or if you shack up at the local no-tell motel once a week with your mistress. He knows where you drive, when you drive there and how much gas you bought to make the trip. Odds are, he knows more about what you than your boss, your minister, your spouse or your significant other.

The question is whether or not anyone, in a so-called free society, needs to know all this information about anyone else. Government monitoring of its citizens has increased at an alarming rate since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and those who raise the question of whether or not it is excessive face the threat of being branded "soft on terrorism" or even anti-patriotic.

Yet vast reams of information are gathered daily on Americans whose only "crime" is using a credit card, passing through a video-monitored bank or making a phone call. And nobody is quite sure what happens to all this information since so much of it is kept secret by a Presidential administration that hides just about everything under the cloak of "national security" and thinks it has a God-given right to govern as it wishes without oversight or question.

Yes, Big Brother is watching…and listening…and monitoring…and compiling…and studying…and God knows what else.

So much for the land of the free.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

We've Watched With Awe This Man's Incredible Career and Heart

Sometimes I feel a little foolish about it. I am sixty six years old and I have a hero who isn't even half my age.

All of us that bleed the green and gold (or as I like to call it, more accurately color-wise: the spinach and the mustard) feel the same way about this man. We just plain love him unconditionally.

Oh, he's not perfect. In his younger days as a Packer he was one hell raiser. Remember "The Three Amigos"? Brett, his center and good pal "Bag of Donuts", and the man who ultimately lost his job because of his poor judgement around underage girls, Mark Chmura, would burn like a meteor across the north woods of Wisconsin during deer hunting season.

Tales abound of their taking over a Hayward tavern, Brett playing bartender, Chmura playing customer. Brett supposedly would pour himself a stiff shot, quaff it down in one fell swoop and then fire the empty shot glass at Mark, who would one-hand it at the far end of the bar.

His battle with vicodin is well documented. No. He is far from perfect.

He survived an auto accident durng his college days that would have killed most. He has lost relatives to accidents, and his dad, Irv, to a heart attack. His beautiful wife, Diana, has battled breast cancer

I don't think any of us from Wisconsin will ever forget the miraculous game he and the team played at Oakland the following night of his dad's death.

Through it all, we see a man of talent, strength, and character.

That is why I am just ssssssso excited about seeing him play twice this coming season. I owe a debt of gratitude to my friend Tom Johnson of New York City (via Superior, Wisconsin) who first talked me into going to one home game annually sarting in October of 2000.

We watched The Packers lose a close one to the Bears.

The following season, the country was still in shock from 9/11 when we attended a Monday night game against the Washington Redskins.

We continued to attend a game annually until the Packer/Giants game of October 3, 2004. Then "things" started getting in the way.

But we're back, baby! and because I am almost certain that this is Brett's final season, I am going over to the MECCA of football, The Frozen Tundra, the monument of monuments to the tradition of the National Football League, LAMBEAU FIELD, not once, but twice.

Kim and I toured the facility this past month. Shortly after that I ordered tickets for the Green Bay/Washington game of October 14. I am already excited about it!

As it is impossible to get a hotel in Green Bay on game day, I do a lot of scouting on the internet with nearby communities. Kim and I will be staying at a Ramada Inn in Oconto Falls, about 30 miles from the stadium.

I will be returning to Green Bay on November 18 with the guy that started it all, Mr. Tom Johnson, and I am bringing with me an infidel, Jay Moore, Carolina born and bred, who is, understandably, a Panther fan.

I consider it a sacred duty to take someone I like and has never even consider going to Lambeau, because, as Coach Madden once said: "Everybody should go to a game at Lambeau field at least once in their life." Oh well, Moore will have to do.

This trip we will be terrorizing the Fox Cities the night before. Yep. Terrorizing. For that old fart Jay Moore and me, that means having two beers with our pizza at Sammy's in Appleton and going back to the room to pass terminal gas.

Do you know how excited I am to be taking someone to a game that has never been there before??? I hope that sunday, November 18, dawns gray and snowy.

Jay Moore pay attention. Remember this word: LAYERING. Here's required dress for Lambeau after November 1st: 1. regular fruit of the loom cotton underwear 2. long underwear top, long underwear bottoms 3. cotton turtle neck in complimentary color to 4. authentic game jersey. green with white numerals for Packer fans; white with black-edged powder blue numerals for the Panther fan 5. blue jeans (we'd look pretty silly without pants!) 6. Choice of hoody sweat shirt in team colors, or team "letter" jacket 7. cap, or stocking cap w/ team colors 8. two pair socks. first pair snug, second pair comfortably loose
9. work boots, snow boots, or tennies if yer tough 10. Two piece rain suit (just in case)

This is proper attire for a "fan" as far as I am concerned. If you paint your face, I will handcuff you to the bar at The Stadium View!

Woooooooo-eeeeeeee! I am pumped!!!


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Kim Visits Her Favorite Teacher

Yesterday I accompanied the lovely Ms. Kim to a nursing home in Hudson, Wisconsin, to visit Betty, Kim most favorite teacher ever from her high school years.

Kim has kept in touch with her over the years and recently was informed that Betty's Alzheimers has gotten much more severe.
So I threw my guitar in the back of Kim's car and we drove over to Hudson to visit her.

We visited with her for some 40 minutes and I sang some of the old songs. It was a difficult trip for Kim, although you would never know it. Kim was really enamored of Betty when she was her student and it is very very difficult to see someone you care so much about in such an altered state.

We both came away with a feeling of how short life is, how valuable each day is, and that life can change so very quickly, dealing with us harshly.

Nonetheless, it was a valuable trip for us both.

Tonight, if you are so inclined, say a little prayer for Betty.


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Say After Me: Computers Are Our Friends.

There are some days that I just have to keep repeating it over and over again: "Computers are our friends. Computers are our friends. Computers are our friends."

These are on days like the one I had yesterday when my computer's e mail went berserk and began dowloading as new, messages that I had read and trashed from June 15th on. And of course my newest e mail of August 15 was the last to be downloaded and appear on the screen.

Because I live way out in the country, I am on dial up, so every task takes forever anyway, so this is particularly perturbing. And instead of just letting it do its thing and continue to trickle in all these messages that I have already read, I insist on sitting here watching the process unfold, as if my presence will somehow make it speed up.

Finally, after watching it download, and erasing some 50 messages at a time, it finally dawns on me that I could be over at the house watching baseball in high def, so I leave it to do its thing and come back when the ball game is over, only to find that it is now up to mid-July in its downloads.

Needless to say, it was pretty late by the time I got the two current messages that I hadn't actually seen before, but I shut down the machine secure in the knowledge that at least I had gone through it, had gotten rid of all the messages from hell, and tomorrow would dawn new and fresh.

This morning, I opened my e mail and the nightmare started all over again!!!! All the e mails I had carefully destroyed last night have resurrected themselves and are marching back onto my screen starting from June 15th!!!

So I call West Wisconsin Tech and they first tell me that there isn't anything they can do about it, I have to let it run its course AGAIN, but then, when its done, "it shouldn't happen again."

This is not the answer I want to hear. "Shouldn't" is hedging your bets, pal!

So I talk with him for a while, give him my pass word and he tells me to shut down e mail and not to try going back on it until I get a call from him as he is going to attempt to remove all these messages up to August 1st.

So that's where things are at this moment.

I don't understand computers. they have a will of their own and if they want to screw with your head they do -- by re-sending e mail over and over again, for one thing.

Yes, computers are our friends. And black holes of time consumption.

AARRRRGGHHH!!

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Waiting For The Shoe To Drop Whole Nine Yards

What a week it already has been! One of those weeks where as they say you "wait for the other shoe to drop." I guess I understand that folk saying, but I always wonder how an expression like that got started. Did someone at some time, literally, wait for a shoe to drop? - must have.

I have always had an interest in overused phrases like: "the whole nine yards". I finally looked that one up somewhere. Thought it might have something to do with football. It's a World War II American machinegunner's expression. The chain link belt of 30 caliber ammuntion for the Bowning air cooled machine gun was nine and a half yards long.

So "I gave 'em the whole nine yards" would refer to the number of rounds sent down range in a cone of fire. However, as a former A Company, 128th Infantry armorer, I can tell you this. There ain't no way you would give any target the whole nine yards as the barrel would overheat long before you got to the last of the munition.

Now somebody write and tell me the story of how "the shoe drops" expression got started. I can't know everything.

Here's a frightening scenario, however. It's my first night in prison. Bubba, my new friend and room mate, has expressed a fondness for me and tells me that "You might as well enjoy it because I'm gonna do it anyway."

The guard yells lights out. I climb in my bunk. I can hear Bubba undressing. There goes one shoe.


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The moon must be full. I am much too restless. I have days where no matter what I am doing, I feel like I should be doing something else.

I am uncomfortable in my body and under my skin.

Pleased to announce that my son Jonathan will be flying in to work Chippewa's Oktoberfest with me this year. I am doing comedy Friday afternoon, September 14, from 2-4 pm and then Jonathan and the rest of my band will join me and we will romp from 4 until 7.

I am scheduled to do a single on Sunday, September 16, as well, but since Jon will be here, he will again be sitting in with me for a couple of "unplugged" sets on acoustic guitars.

It will be good to see the man! He's had his share of shoes dropping out in New York City as well. Somebody creamed his faithful little compact, in a hit and run in the middle of the night. No witnesses and he carried just a minimum of insurance. I spoke with him last night and they wanted $3000 to fix it -- which is more than it's worth. So Jon's back to being a true
New Yorker -- walking.

He also told me an interesting story about reporters that cover rock bands and the fans who come out to hear Les Sans Colottes, a Faux-French Rock Band that Jon debuted with last summer in Minneapolis for Bastille Days.

Many are "guitar snobs." Jon has two main axes: A Fender Stratocaster and a Parker Fly. The Parker Fly is a beautiful sounding guitar, carbon based, with a very accessible neck, but Jon "can't get no respect" when he plays the Parker in public.

I guess the fact that Keith Richards once referred to it as looking like a fucking assault rifle was enough for the reviewers. When Jon's Stratocaster is in the shop, he gets negative comments from would-be rockers in the audience, and the press always disses the guitar as a negative aspect of the band.

My friend Wil Denson has a great saying: "People don't know what they like -- they like what they know."

In this case, if you aren't playing the guitar that Eric Clapton and so many others play, well, it just isn't a good guitar.

And so it goes, eh?

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UPDATE ON SURVIVORS OF DRIVEWAY DISASTER

Complete Home Maintnance made short order of the big oak yesterday. Pleased to announce that both Rob and assistant survived. I helped with branch removal and sweeping up with the janitor broom. I think I may have hurt someting.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Disaster Strikes 4896 Driveway - Search For Survivors Continues

We had a rainstorm last night. Nothing very severe. It didn't even knock the DirectTV signal off while I was watching the Denver/San Francisco preseason game in high def.

High Def makes you watch programming that you ordinarily would not consider. Picture quality is that good. Unless of course someone farts within 12 miles of your receiver. Then your picture disintegrates into a thousand shards of pixels.

But there was no break up of the picture last night. Maybe the storm increased in velocity after I went to sleep, because I got up around 6:30AM to find what appeared to be a brush pile wontonly discraded by a disguntled neighbor.

Oh, yes, I have disgruntled neighbors. If you lived near me, you, too, would be disgruntled what with all the late night, rowdy musician, rope smokin', pill poppin', power chord blastin', devil worshippin' gatherings of folk and bluegrassers.

As I got closer to the brush pile, it became obvious that this was a trick of that old mother herself -- nature! She had done her worst and laid a rotting oak (or is it an elm) dead across our main escape route. And me without a chain saw!

Being a good American, my first thought was law suit against the old lady next door for not maintaining her dead trees, but then I realized that we bought that property years ago and it was our own damn tree lying across the driveway.

So now I am down to two choices. Never leave home by vehicle, ever again, or call my pal Rob at "Complete Home Maintenance" and let him deal with the aftermath of Mother Nature's dastardly dead.

Since I have a scheduled luncheon engagement with Jay Moore, I am forced to make the call. Help is on its way. But at what cost?

This has already been a dreadful week what with the well water going to hell, the septic system backing up, and the office holding tank waterlogging.

But like the survivors of Katrina we go forward - frightened to death of Karl Rove's retiring, but feeling just a little better knowing that at least we are not members of Karl's immediate family.


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Monday, August 13, 2007

Collecting History a Satisfying Endeavor

I have an inordinate interest in the machinery of World War II. Either that or I am deeply into my second or third childhood. As I sit at my computer here at work, on my right are shelves of die cast collectible WW II propeller-driven aircraft, my favorite being a B-17G Flying Fortress, which must weight at least 4 pounds in 1/48 inch scale.

On glass shelving to my left is my collection of 1/32 inch scale WWII tracked vehicles, most of which are from an outstanding purveyor of die cast: "Forces of Valor", manufactured, of course, in China. The vehicle you see pictured is one that has finally gone into production -- one that I have watched and waited for on the Net, the M5A Stuart "Scout Tank". I can tell you what its armament is, what its top speed is, in which theatre of war it saw the most action, blah, blah, blah. I rationalize it in that it is a good thing for an old man to have hobbies. I could be into ski masks, revolvers, and Kwik Trips.

Jay Moore, upon visiting my little home-away-from-home exclaimed: "My God! You're a war-like little bastard, ain't ya?

Take it from me, I am much more fascinated by the machinery of war than war itself.

What's really weird is that last night I was watching Clint Eastwood's "Kelly's Heros" and naming all the vehicles, both German and American. I was impressed because somewhere they had rounded up three working German Tiger tanks, or at least working facsimiles thereof.

Now I am tryng to figure out how I can put my collections to use in the public schools. It would be fun to go in to a history class that was covering WWII. I could give a really good demonstration/information talk on both tracked vehicles and propeller-driven aircraft.


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Saturday, August 11, 2007

Class of '77, North High Reunion


Thanks to Kurt Weber, former student of mine, and constant friend ever since, tonight I was invited to the North High Class of '77 Reunion.

I joined the group a little after 8PM and left around 10 PM before my car could turn into the pumpkin.

I am very pleased to say that this class of students turned out pretty damn well in spite of the fact that some of them were under my tutelege for their 8th grade English and some continued as ninth graders working for me to put out the student newspaper.

It is humbling that many of them recalled me in a good light and I left feeling that maybe I had contributed a bit to society while attempting to teach them to be able to write and speak in complete thoughts.

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Secrets To a Long, Happy Life

On a recent trip to visit my sons Jon and David in New York City, upon climbing the stars from the "L" train in Brooklyn, I came upon this wonderful old lady sitting in her door step, so I walked up and asked: "I can't help but noticing how happy you look. What is your secret to a long, happy life?"

"I smoke ten stogies a day," she said. "Before I go to bed, I smoke a nice big joint. All my life I've eaten only junk food and I put away at least a fifth of Jack Daniels every week. On weekends I pop pills, and never do any exercise at all."
Absolutely, absolutely amazing, I thought, and asked, "Do you mind if I ask how old you are?"

"Twenty-four," she replied.

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It started out harmlessly enough. Any real Packer fan has to have an authentic Brett Favre jersey. So I went several places locally to price them and an ambulance had to be called -- the sticker shock sent me into fibrillation!

Lessee --Besides other stores jerseys who couldn't even come close, I tried Scheels and even went so far as to stop in at the Packer Pro Shop at the shrine itself on a recent trip to Green Bay.

Favre jerseys, game quality by Reebok (including the tag with the shiny medallion on it -- ooouuuuuuu) are priced at over $200 a piece.

Well,I love you, Brett, but not enough to sell a family member to don a jersey with your number on it. So, of course, I went looking for a bargain on eBay on the internet and therein lies the story.

Not really knowing what I was doing, I was about to learn, over a span of about seven months, the ins and outs of buying quality jerseys.

The first jerseys I ordered were Favre jerseys that are manufactured in South Korea. the price was too good to believe, That should have given it away. I ordered, sight unseen, both a white (away) and a green (home) Favre jersey. the shipping cost me three times what the jersey sold for and upon receiving them, I learned my first lesson: find a reputable dealer in the States.

Then (and this is really embarrassing), I went crazy and began to really collect once I found sources that I could count on at reasonable prices, keeping my bids low and using a service called "eSnipe".

I just took inventory today. Would you believe my closet holds:
#84 - Sterling Sharpe - Green Bay Packers - green (home colors), numerals in white
#84 - Shannon Sharpe - Denver Broncos - home colors, blue with orange trim, numerals in white.
#47 - John Lynch - Denver Broncos - alternate orange - white numerals outlined in blue
#47 - John Lynch - Denver Broncos - Pro Bowl Jersey, Hawaii, 2007
# 8 - Archie Manning - New Orleans Saints - white, black numeral, outlined in old gold
#10 - Eli Manning - New York Giants - home color - blue with white numerals
#18 - Peyton manning - Indianapolis Colts, Blue jersey w/ Superbowl emblem embroidered
#13 - Dan Marino - Miami Dolphins, Aqua jersey w/white numerals, Dolphin symbol embroidered
#4 - Brett Favre - Atlanta Falcons - Red alternate jersey
#4 - Brett Favre - Atlanta Falcons - Black w/ red white on sleeves, new edition
#4 - Brett Favre - Black 1991 Falcons jersey
#4 - Brett Favre - Southern Mississippi State jersey, Black with gold trim
#4 - Brett Favre - Green Bay Packers - white (away) jersey
#4 - Brett Favre - Green Bay Packers - green (home) jersey
#7 - Don Majkowski - Green Bay Pckers - green (home) jersey
#12 - T J Rubley - Green Bay Packers - white (away) jersey
#40 - Pat Tillman - Arizona Cardinals dark red (home) jersey
#25 - Dorsey Levens - Green Bay Packers (green) home jersey
(2) #15 - Bart Starr jerseys - Green Bay Packers (green) home jerseys
#66 - Ray Nitschke - Green Bay Packers - white (away) jersey
(2) #34 - Walter Payton jerseys - Chicago Bears - white and navy (home and away)
#11 - Phil Simms - New York Giants - blue (home) jersey
#16 - Joe Montana - San Francisco 49'ers - red (home) jersey
# 35 - Christian Okoye - Kansas City Chiefs - Red/Gold - (home) jersey
#17 - Dave Kreig - Seattle Seahawks - white (away) jersey
#44 - John Riggins - Washington Redskins - burgundy (home) jersey
#17 - Bily Kilmer - Washington Redskins - burgundy (home) jersey
#72 - Dexter Manley - Washington Redskings - white (away) jersey
#82 - Mike Quick - Philadelphia Eagles - black/dark green, new color scheme, (home) jersey
#12 - Ken stabler - Oakland Raiders - black w/silver numerals, (home) jersey
#75 - Howie Long - Oakland Raiders - silver w/black numerals (away) jersey
#50 - A.J. Hawk - Green Bay Packers - green (home) jersey
#21 - Tikki Barber - New York Giants - white w/ red trim - (away) jersey
#92 - Reggie White - Green Bay Packers - white with 75th Anniversary Packer patch
#32 - Jim Brown - Cleveland Browns - white w/brown numerals, (away)
#34 - Don Chandler - Green Bay Packers - White w/green numerals (away) place kicker, Superbowls !, !!


I am proud to say that you will find absolutely no purple (Vikng) jerseys in my collection! I collected The Shannon Sharpe and Sterling Sharpe jerseys because they are brothers in the league. I collected all three of the Mannings: Archie (father). Peyton (older grother) and Eli (younger brother) as it is pretty unusual to have an entire family represented in the league at one time.

I collected the John Lynch jerseys out of respect for a hell of a ball player who first made his mark at Notre Dame before joining the Buccaneers and then the Denver Broncos.

My Favre collection contains jerseys from all stages of his life save high school.

I am particularly fond of the two Bart Starr jerseys as well as the Ray Nitschke and the Dorsey Levens. The Levens jersey is a "Starter", an authentic jersey of his time.

The New York Giants are well represented by quarterback Phil Simms and recently reitired running back Tikki Barber. I also found it necessary to have a Dave Kreig /Seattle Seahawks jersey as Dave is a Wisconsin boy from the Wausau area who made it big in the big leagues!

I have always had an attraction to the past Redskins teams which explains my Kilmer, Manley, and Riggins jerseys.

It has been great fun, quite an eduation, and I am running out of closet space!