HELLO FROM EAU CLAIRE, WISCONSIN:

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

Sunday, August 31, 2008

In Search of the Fallopian Tube

This morning as I was making my way over to Festival Foods on the service road that runs past Menard's, I came upon my first sighting of three "city limits deer", one still in fawn's dappled coat. They were looking very confused as to what their next move should be as most of their options would lead to disaster.

Having my Samsung digital camera with me, I took a couple of photos of them while I was at the stop sign and tried to print one at the beginning of this blog, but without a camera that can really "zoom" in on a subject, neither of the photos was usable as you would have a hell of a time finding them in the photo -- worse than a "Where's Waldo" !

As I made my left turn to go under the overpass, the deer wheeled and started up the hill towards the three lane traffic of Highway 53 North. I wonder where they are now and if they are still alive.

Brother Bob and wife Dorothy were in for a late morning brunch of just out of the oven popovers, fresh fruit salad, caramel/chocolate specialty coffee and a choice of orange or tomato juice. I ate too much.

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My brother Bob and I, both having been teachers for years, got into telling "war" stories after brunch and I remembered -- out of the clear blue -- the story of the day I could no longer deal with a troublesome student that was in my over-the lunch- hour split section.

At lunch I sat with some of my male cohorts and got them to agree to help me keep the kid on the move for the final 20 minutes of the hour. by passing him on from one to another in a "snipe hunt" -- only this was not a snipe hunt -- I told the kid to go down to the art room and ask Mr. Owens for my fallopian tube -- venturing to guess that this kid would not know what a fallopian tube was.

Mr. Owens sent him on to the history teacher -- the history teacher sent him on to yet another teacher and the last teacher on the list was Marge Quaid, who taught 9th grade english in the room right next to mine. (She would not be let in on the ruse!)

So I straight-facedly sent the trouble maker out of my room, telling him to be back with my fallopian tube before the end of the hour or it would result in detention.

It got to be about nine minutes before the bell when I assigned my class to work a page of exercises in grammar. I posted myself near the small window in my door and waited for the messenger to arrive at Ms Quaid's door.

The situation got even better when I heard Marge announce to her class that she had a five minute film strip she wanted them to watch before the end of the hour.

Off went the lights in her room, and she took a seat in the very last of the row near the door. Perfect!

Three minutes went by before my unsuspecting patsy came waltzing past my door and entered the darkened room next door.

I slipped outside my own room and peered in her window to watch what happened next:

He went over to where Mrs Quaid was sitting, leaned over close to her ear and I could see him whispering something to her.

Her response was to sit bolt upright with stiffened shoulders. She then said something to him and pointed to the door. I moved to the front of my room.

The snipe-hunter re-entered my room, shrugged his shoulders and sat down in his chair. The bell rang. I dismissed the class.
My hunter came up to me from the back of the room and said:

"Gee, Mr. Heagle -- I really tried to find it for you, but nobody had it. Mrs. Quaid wouldn't even give me an excuse, She just told me to go to my room! anyway, Mr. Heagle -- what's a phillipian tube?"

It was all I could do to keep a straight face.

"Well, Bob, a Phillipian tube is a tube made out of a special glass that's only manufactured in the Philippines -- you'd best get going or you'll be late for your next class."

He left, Seconds later, Marge Quaid stuck her head in my door.:

"Heagle! You are crazy! What are you up to????"

My explanation left her laughing to tears.

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I would like to state categorically that I left teaching of my own volition. I was not fired. I could have been had this gotten out, I suppose.

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Saturday, August 30, 2008

2008 GREEN BAY PACKERS IN MINIATURE -- TOO COOL!

It had been so long ago that I put in my order for the pictured miniature Packer team that I had forgotten that I had even done so.

Imagine my surprise and joy when this beautiful set arrived this past week! McFarlane (the manufacturer) had even updated the QB position with Aaron Rodgers at the helm.

So far I have managed to resist the urge to cut open the packaging -- thereby reducing the collectability of the item -- and even encased in plastic, the display sure beats just a bobble head doll or a plastic Jesus on my dashboard!

GO PACK GO! (AND TAKE TED THOMPSON WITH YOU)

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Knee Rehab Beginning to Show Benefits

This morning Kim nad I loaded the bikes into "the tomato" and drove the six miles into town (gotta start somewhere), parked at the tennis courts on First Avenue and unloaded the bikes.

We then rode over to The Grand Avenue Cafe for a late brunch of quiche and eggs in hollandaise sauce. two strong cups of coffee later I was good to go and we covered over three miles, circling through the university campus and into the beautiful housing and streets of the Third Ward before turning back for the park and the ride back home in the red van.

By the time I got back here the knee was stiffening up some, but I am heartened by my progress over the last three weeks. I intend to keep up my therapy at home and ride bike through the colorful season of autumn.

Kim is in her first week of retirement and it is such a joy to know that we can plan what we want to do together each day at our leisure!

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Palin?? It Just Gets Creepier and Creepier!

Just when you think it is safe to go ahead and finish the shrine to the greatest QB to play the sport, Ted Thompson throws a monkey wrench into my display and I have to work diligently to come up with the correct head gear!

Go Brett! I hope you have a hell of a year! As good as last year!

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Some facts on Mr. McCain's VP choice:

Who is Sarah Palin? Here's some basic background:

She was elected Alaska's governor a little over a year and a half ago. Her previous office was mayor of Wasilla, a small town outside Anchorage. She has no foreign policy experience.

1. Palin is strongly anti-choice, opposing abortion even in the case of rape or incest.
2. She supported right-wing extremist Pat Buchanan for president in 2000.
3. Palin thinks creationism should be taught in public schools.
4. She's doesn't think humans are the cause of climate change.
5. She's solidly in line with John McCain's "Big Oil first" energy policy. She's pushed hard for more oil drilling and says renewables won't be ready for years. She also sued the Bush administration for listing polar bears as an endangered species—she was worried it would interfere with more oil drilling in Alaska.
6. How closely did John McCain vet this choice? He met Sarah Palin once at a meeting. They spoke a second time, last Sunday, when he called her about being vice-president. Then he offered her the position.

The Funeral and Burial of "I CAN'T"

It appears that I didn't get the church sign quite right when I added it to my blog the other day under "heckler smack down". Here is an actual photo of the Waupun church bulletin board that has been circulating via the internet this past week.

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Every time the city of Waupun is mentioned I cannot help but think about a law enforcement banquet at which I entertained. Waupun is the home of Wisconsin's state women's prison -- Taycheedah. At the luncheon two prison officials were ribbing each other and one popped this gem:

"You're so ugly you couldn't get laid at Taycheedah with a hand full of pardons." Now there's a heckler smackdown that I have stored away for use over the years but sadly have never had the opportunity to use.

I received a wonderful e mail from Connie Mulkson, a retired fellow teacher of my wife. I liked it so much I feel it needs to be shared:


Donna's fourth-grade classroom looked like many others I had seen in the past. Students sat in five rows of six desks. The teacher's desk was in the front and faced the students. The bulletin board featured student work. In most respects it appeared to be a typically traditional elementary classroom. Yet, something seemed different that day I entered it for the first time. There seemed to be an undercurrent of excitement.




Donna was a veteran small-town Michigan schoolteacher only two years away from retirement. In addition, she was a volunteer participant in a countywide development project I had organized and facilitated. The training focused on language arts ideas that would empower students to feel good about them and take charge of their lives. Donna's job was to attend training sessions and implement the concepts presented. My job was to make classroom visitations and encourage implementation.





I took an empty seat in the back and watched. All the students were working on a task, filling a sheet of notebook paper with thoughts and ideas. The ten-year-old student closest to me was filling her page with "I Can'ts."

"I can't kick the soccer ball pass second base."
"I can't do long division with more than three numbers."
"I can't get Debbie to like me."





Her page was half full and she showed no signs of letting up. She worked on with determination and persistence.

I walked down the row glancing at students' papers. Everyone was writing sentences, describing things they couldn't do.

"I can't do ten pushups."
"I can't hit over the left-field fence."
"I can't eat only one cookie."





By this time, the activity engaged my curiosity, so I decided to check with the teacher to see what was going on. As I approached her, I noticed that she too was busy writing. I felt it best not to interrupt.

"I can't get John's mother to come in for a teacher conference."
"I can't get my daughter to put gas in the car."
"I can't get Alan to use words instead of fists."





Thwarted in my efforts to determine why students and teacher were dwelling on the negative instead of the positive "I Can't" statements, I returned to my seat and continued my observations. Students wrote for ten minutes. Most filled their page. Some started another.

"Finish the one you're on and don't start a new one," were the instructions Donna used to signal the end of the activity. Students were then instructed to fold their papers in half and bring them to the front. When students reached the desk, they placed their "I Can't" statements into an empty shoe box.





When all of the student papers were collected, Donna added hers. She put the lid on the box, tucked it under her arm and headed out the door and down the hall. Students followed the teacher. I followed the students.

Halfway down the hall the procession stopped. Donna entered the custodian's room, rummaged around and came out with a shovel. Shovel in one hand, shoebox in the other, Donna marched the students out of the school to the farthest corner of the playground. There they began to dig.





They were going to bury their "I Cant's!" The digging took over ten minutes because most of the fourth graders wanted a turn. When the hole approached three-foot deep, the digging ended. The box of "I Cant's" was placed at the bottom of the hole and quickly covered with dirt.

Thirty-one 10- and 11- years -olds stood around the freshly dug gravesite. Each had at least one page full of "I Cant's" in the shoebox, three-feet under. So did their teacher.





At this point Donna announced, "Boys and girls, please join hands and bow your heads." The students complied. They quickly formed a circle around the grave, creating a bond with their hands. They lowered their heads and waited. Donna delivered the eulogy.

"Friends, we gather today to honor the memory of "I Can't." While he was with us on earth, he touched the lives of everyone, some more than others. His names, unfortunately, has been spoken in every public building - schools, city halls, and state capitols and yes, even The White House.





We have provided "I Can't" with a final resting place and headstone that contains his epitaph. He is survived by his brothers and sisters, "I can, 'I will' and "I'm going to Right Away.' They are not as well known as their famous relative and are certainly not as strong and powerful yet. Perhaps someday, with your help, they will make an even bigger mark on the world. May 'I Can't' rest in peace and may everyone present pick up their lives and move forward in his absence. Amen."





As I listened to the eulogy I realized that these students would never forget this day. The activity was symbolic, a metaphor for life. It was a right-brain experience that would stick in the unconscious and conscious mind forever.

Writing "I Cant's," burying them and hearing the eulogy. That was a major effort on the part of this teacher. And she wasn't done yet. At the conclusion of the eulogy she turned the students around, marched them back into the classroom and held a wake.





They celebrated the passing of "I Can't" with cookies, popcorn and fruit juices. Donna cut out a tombstone from butcher paper. She wrote the words "I Can't" at the top and put RIP in the middle the date was added at the bottom, "3/28/80."

The paper tombstone hung in Donna's classroom for the remainder of the year. On those rare occasions when a student forgot and said, "I Can't," Donna simply pointed to the RIP sign. The student then remembered that "I Can't" was dead and chose to rephrase the statement.





I wasn't one of Donna's students. She was one of mine. Yet that day I learned an enduring lesson from her.

Now, years later, whenever I hear the phrase, "I Can't," I see images of that fourth-grade funeral. Like the students, I remember that "I Can't" is dead.

Copyright ~ Phillip B. Childs
Executive Director, Internet Outreach Ministries, Atlanta, Georgia
All Rights Reserved

Submitted by: Harry Updegraff, Jr.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Thank You Mr. Harlan and All Weyauwega-Fremont Faculty!

When work is at a minimum I find I savor each opportunity to the fullest. So it was yesterday with my jaunt to Weyauwega, Wisconsin, to address the closing of teachers' inservice for the Weyauwega-Fremont school district. I had a ball!

Imagine my surprise when superintendent F. James Harlan walked into the cafeteria where I was busily setting up my sound system and I found that he somehow looked awfully familiar to me.

That's because I had last seen him some thirty years ago and knew him as Jim Harlan, a fellow faculty member at Delong Junior High School, Eau Claire!

In catching up, I found out that Jim had taught for a while longer after I left, then he left to becoming a securities/commodities agent in Milwaukee, a highly stressful job, he told me, where you have a telephone stuck to each ear, dealing with the big boys in New York City.

He was, in fact, an agent on September 11, 2001, and knew many of the people who lost their lives on that terrible day.

Mentally renewed and refreshed, he went back to school and got his administrator's degree and returned to education.

Excuse me while I brag -- I was at the top of my game yesterday, my timing was impeccable and the teachers were one of the best audiences I have ever worked with! It is such a joy to be doing your show and to see people doubled over in laughter and wiping tears from their eyes from laughing so hard!

Just the adrenaline alone carried me back down the highway until around Thorp when my fibromyalgia raised it's ugly head and by the time I reached Eau Claire to attend an art exhibit opening I had nothing left.

But what a great day! Many many thanks to Mr. Harlan and all the teachers for being such a gracious group. I am only hoping that I can land some more teachers' inservices for as Jim told me after the show, " they really identified with you because they could tell that you are one of them, having taught for eleven years".

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The trip to see Dr. Bob Hartman about the present condition of my knee replacement was valuable in that x-rays revealed that there is basically nothing wrong in the work that was done, very little scarring, and that I am more than likely overdoing it with the exercise regimen.

Dr. Hartman told me to back off my regimen somewhat and cut back on my visits to the therapist, but to continue to work the knee nonetheless.

The bad news is that I can expect to have some pain in the knee for the rest of my life. Hey! I was raised Catholic! I love pain. I will offer it up for the poor souls in purgatory.

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Senator Barack Obama gave the best acceptance speech I have ever heard last night! I couldn't believe it when the news talking heads said that the speech had gone on for over just an hour. It felt like five minutes. He is an in credible orator!

God bless him and keep him from harm during the following months!

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Latest

Men's Threat to Kill Obama is Downplayed
Wednesday 27 August 2008
»
by: Nicholas Riccardi, The Los Angeles Times

Federal authorities say the pair's rants while on a methamphetamine binge do not meet the legal standard for filing charges, despite their possession of rifles and sniper scopes.
Denver - Federal authorities today downplayed threats made by a pair of men arrested here over the weekend with rifles, sniper scopes and an alleged desire to kill Barack Obama.

Shawn Robert Adolf, 33, and Tharin Robert Gartrell, 28, were being held on parole violations while an associate, Nathan Johnson, was in jail on methamphetamine charges. U.S. Atty. Troy Eid said the men, during a meth binge, had expressed strongly racist views and spoken about killing the presumed Democratic presidential nominee.

The talk, Eid said, does not meet the legal standard for filing charges for threatening a presidential candidate.

"The law recognizes a difference between a true threat - that's one that can be carried out - and the reported racist rants of drug abusers," Eid said at a packed afternoon news conference.

There have been low-grade fears for months about possible threats to the life of Obama, who will become the first African American major-party presidential nominee when he accepts the nomination at a football stadium Thursday night. Obama received Secret Service protection early after he announced his campaign in 2007, a recognition of the risks he faces.

Eid acknowledged that many questions have not been answered, including why the men had high-powered weaponry, body armor, two-way radios, wigs and camouflage gear. It was also unclear why they decided to base themselves in a suburban Hyatt hotel where they believed - erroneously - Obama was staying.

"We are just going to continue to investigate this," Eid said.

In a jailhouse interview with KCNC-TV, Johnson said he did not know whether Adolf and Gartrell would have taken action.

"I don't want to say yes, but I don't want to say no," he said.
»
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COMMENTS
This is a moderated forum. It may take a little while for comments to go live.

If these two had made the
Wed, 08/27/2008 - 14:17 — Anonymous (not verified)
If these two had made the same threat against Bush-Cheney or McCain-???, two-thirds of the right-wingnuts in the country would be using it as proof the current Administration has been right in its Constitution-shredding actions, while the other third would be asking why the Unitary Executive doesn't immediately label them Enemy Combatants and pack them off to Guantanamo.
The run up to the
Wed, 08/27/2008 - 13:37 — Ignatz Farquad (not verified)
The run up to the assassination; naturally they will let these "misfits" and "malcontents" walk despite the sniper rifles, the wigs, the two-way radios, the body armor; these "drug addicts" have black ops military Blackwater written all over them. Maybe the Republican Criminal Organization is now less worried about losing their place at the trough, now that the swiftboating is taking hold, the media is obviously on board and the Democrats are showing their usual talent for self-destruction (perhaps Obama's advisors have been infiltrated with GOP double agents, you know the "oh, let's not get negative" crowd), so they called it off and threw the B-team under the bus; or maybe its a cover your ass diversion for the real plot, which one suspects will be perpetrated by someone with a three word Arab sounding name. U.S. Atty. Troy Eid - formerly a Republican lobbyist, of course, a Bush appointee. Since when are US attorney's so solicitous of methamphetamine addicts? Since when do Republicans care about legal standards and thresholds? You can bet if they found four guys with high powered rifles, sniper equipment, body armor, radios and wigs in a hotel "they thought" McCain was going to be in, these guys would be on the next plane to Cuba, never to heard from again, unless they were wearing Obama buttons. Wake up folks - Republicans will do anything - anything - to hold onto power. They are thugs in business suits, all liars, crooks, war criminals. Murder is hardly beneath them, when necessary. Ask Mel Carnahan. Paul Wellstone, and Dr. Bruce E. Ivins.

Scar Tissue Or Fibro? Or Am I Just a Pussy?

Many of you may have used the derogatory term 'dickhead' to refer to someone who may deservedly have earned such a title. Others of you may have earned the title for yourselves.

However, it should be noted that real 'dickheads' do exist in the wild, and may be spending some time this summer at a community swimming pool in your area.

Be alert and exercise necessary caution.
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Leaving in a short while for the Twin Cities for x-rays on the right knee which after two weeks of intensive therapy, which had been going quite well, suddenly became painful enough where the therapist has ordered x-rays to determine what is causing so much pain at this point, when in fact the knee should be getting stronger and exhibiting less pain.

There is a possibility that there has been a build up on scar tissue in the almost two years since the operation.

Then again, it just might be flare ups of my fibromyalgia which comes upon me at totally unexpected times and for no apparent reason. for those of you not familiar with the condition, it is much like having severe muscular flu symptoms as everything hurts.

I have had fibromyalgia since my early fifties and there seems to be no definitive cure for the malady. I am at the point where i am going to have to start looking at diet and I find that frightening as I am ceertain it will tell me that i am going to have to give up some of my favorites such as bread -- I love bread! And white sugar -- which is bad for everyone anyway.

Will cross that dreadful bridge when I get to it!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Thanks To Dr. Chad It Was Good To Be Out On The Water Again

This past thursday evening, I introduced my chiropractor (and friend) Chad Wolter to the Jack Harmon Chicken Dinner at the Durand Rod and gun Club between Downsville and Durand.

We actually arrived quite late (7:30PM) but found that this is probably smarter than arriving at 5PM and waiting to be seated for at least an hour.

In turn, last night Chad introduced me to a new method of fishing for small mouth bass on Dells Pond above the dam on the Chippewa River.

It was a very windy late afternoon, the kind that when I have fished them before, I have come home empty handed, but the wind didn't seem to affect the style we used: A rubber night crawler and large sinker.

Chad has fished Dells Pond extensively and knew where to go to find the fish, which always helps. We headed out at a rapid clip towards the dam and fished the shoreline near the pilings of the old railroad bridge near Pope and Talbot.

It took me a while to get the hang of fishing plastic worms -- I got the first strike of the afternoon but lost the fish after a brief fight of only seconds.

Chad landed a smaller bass a short time later, so we knew they were in there. When we we were almost under the old railroad trestle, I got a good solid strike and landed the bronze back pictured. I decided to return the fish to the river to fight another day.

Overall, fishing was slow, Chad did land a small northern off an island further up into the pond, but we decided to hang it up as it got close to 7PM and I wanted to see if the Packers were going to redeem themselves after the embarrassment in San Francisco last week.

Now Chad I and are talking about possibly doing an overnight fishing/camping jaunt on the Jump River to give me further practice in mastering the art of fishing plastic worms.

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The Green Bay Packers looked much better last night. Question of the day: Is this going to be one of those years where you never know which team is going to show up week to week?

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After suffering more knee pain than I should be this past week at therapy, I have been advised to make an appointment with my orthopedic surgeon this coming week for x-rays to find out if there is a build up of scar tissue. The appointment has been made.

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Kim and I took our bikes into the shop earlier in the week and will be picking them up today. It will be good to work the knee that way as well.

I forgot how allergic I am to poison ivy -- I have an outbreak happening currently -- Man-- I hate the stuff! All you can do is let it run its course.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Marcie and Joy -- Two Loves of My Life

I wanted to put this picture of my mother-in-law Joy (she's the younger in the picture) and her sister Marcie in my blog today just to say I LOVE YOU to both of them. Marcie passed away recently in Florida. She was a woman of infinite joy and a love and zest for life. She would send me (and everybody else she loved) cards with wonderfully inventive poems she had written.

Joy is the best mother-in-law a man could every hope to have and of late has suffered way too much for such a good person to endure, having lost her husband, Bob, to first, a very severe stroke and then the final blow, a badly broken hip. Right now, Joy herself is struggling with poor health, battling recently discovered lung cancer. So please say a little prayer for this gracious lady!

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Stayed pretty close to home yesterday -- didn't even feel much like doing the blog -- with nothing much worth saying. Still stinging from the way the Packers looked so shitty against the 49'ers and am wondering if it is worth trying to find a friend who gets ESPN for the opening night game against the Queens.

McCarthy obviously has a lot of work to do to get this team anywhere near where it was last year. I find it rather amusing that the organization ships out a three time MVP'er and all time great field general and at the same time raises the average game ticket by $50 a ticket.

Meanwhile, the Atlanta Falcons are selling season tickets for $250 a pop.

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The knee was still very sore yesterday and the only workout I could give it was riding the stationary bike twice for 10 minute periods. Woke this morning with the pain not nearly as severe and have one round of stationary bike under my belt already, so maybe I can add a bit of stretching second time around later today.

Took Hammy and Stella in to the vet for their first visit. They were very well behaved and much calmer about the whole experience than our last two cats were. Harley and Hannah hated the carrier and the trip in the car and shook with fear all the while they were at the vet.

we got the kittens their rabies shots and their nails trimmed. The vet suggested that we bring them back in in September for the major operations of spaying, neutering, and declawing.

There was some discussion about the positives and negatives of declawing and we decided ultimately that since we are having it done while they are so young, it is not too intrusive and will save on the couches and other furniture.

The vet did find that both cats -- Stella in particular -- are still suffering an upper respiratory infection and after examining and cleaning their ears, there is still signs of mite problems. ( We couldn't believe the gunk the vet extracted from deep within both sets of ears with a Q tip!)

So Kim and I are now playing doctor at home, twice a day, putting cream in their ears and a liquid antibiotic down their throats (no easy task), but we will get them healthy and up to speed in a week or so..

One thing's for certain -- get two kittens in the house together and you have endless entertainment. and you don't have to go out to the pet store and drop $50 for toys. Try cutting a spent toilet paper roll into thirds and toss them on the floor! Ot the old grocery bag trick! Or a super ball. Almost anything that will move along the floor;

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In an attempt to get outside myself and stomp these miserable blues, tomorrow afternoon I am jumping in my chiropractor, Chad Wolter's boat, for an afternoon/evening of small mouth bass fishing on Dells Pond. It will be a new experience for me as we will be using "rubber worms" -- so I will be in the learning mode. Maybe I can get some photos for the blog! Just to gete in the mood, I bought some catfish fillets and sweet corn for tonight's meal!

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Sunday, August 17, 2008

Favre Didn't Look That Old Or Out of Shape to Me!

Hammy does his impersonation of "Snoopy" whenever I am in the kitchen by climbing out on the divider above the kitchen/living room area to watch me work on preparing dinner.

As both he and Stella become more acclimated to the house, we are beginning to recognize their own personality traits that differ from Harley and Hannah's.

For one thing, we never had a problem with Harley or Hannah being interested in "people food", whereas whenever I cook anything and put it on the table there is an immediate attempt on climbing the chairs to get onto the table and get at the plates.
I have to keep a little spray bottle of water handy to put them in retreat -- that works very well! Two quick squirts and they are off the table and gone.

Same is true with the living plants that we have. They like to get right up into the plants and roll around and chew leaves. Out with the water bottle!

Monday we take them in to the vet for their first check up. We are somewhat concerned about Stella who has a constant sneeze and runny eye -- something the folks at the shelter were giving her antibiotics for even before we brought her home.
Hammy, on the other hand, is very healthy and tears about the house.

Stella does not appear to be sick as her activity is good but we are concerned about the sneezing and watery eye.

We bought a 5 by 8 foot piece of carpet to put the cat boxes on in the basement and keep a vacuum cleaner handy. I am finding this a much better set up than the newspapers we used to put down under the cat boxes for our other cats. Now I just clean the cat boxes, take them off the carpet, do a quick vacuum of the scattered litter and the area is brand spanking clean.

I have been diligent in doing this routine daily and that makes the chore much easier.

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I seem to have hit a wall with the knee exercises this past week. The knee became increasingly stiff and painful as the week progressed and I haven't been able to do my stretching exercises for two days.

I have, however, continued to work out on the stationary bike every day and have been icing the knee inside neoprene to try and ease the pain and swelling.

It has been somewhat depressing.

Not as depressing as watching Brett Favre move the Jets down for an easy touchdown march in his first time around as a Jet, then switching over to the Packer game and watching Rodgers dance around and throw off the back foot -- with little or no help from the offensive line.

Ted Thompson, boy genius.

Could be a long season. And all because of Thompson's hubris.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Numb Nuts Stays True To Form At Olympics

I haven't even turned on the coverage of the Olympics -- and this picture demonstrates why! What an absolute cretin! Now if Bill Clinton ad held the flag up in such a manner, the press would have massacred him!

All I can think back on is the time that my late friend Gerald FitzGerald and I were watching a Brewers/Texas Rangers game, televised live from Texas. This was back in the day when George Walker daddy Bush had put Numb Nuts in charge of the team -- president, no less -- the television camera zeroed in on the box containing Laura and George -- and there's Georgy-Porgy
knuckle deep picking his nose.

The camera quickly panned elsewhere so I never got a chance to see if he ate it or not. My money would be on "pickin' and chewin'.

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Hammy, Stella Adjusting To New Surroundings

I had forgotten the pure joy of having kittens in the house, if nothing more than as a great source of entertainment.

These two are full of boundless energy (n spurts) followed by long languorous naps on their favorite resting place, an old love seat in the basement that is covered with bagged clothes bound for Good Will and one fuzzy blanket which is like heaven to them!

Last night was a big step forward in their feeling at home. Hammy (the buff male), made his first unaccompanied trip to the loft where I was sprawled out watching television. He jumped up on the couch arm first, then slowly made his way to the blanket I had over myself at the time, and snuggled down between my hip and the back of the couch.

Then he grew bold and climbed up on my chest, just below my chin, and must have caught a whiff of what I had for supper on my breath as he began nuzzling my mouth and purring loudly. He then began to lick my face for a bit.

It was welcome as neither Harley nor Hannah would do that intimacy. My first cat, Rose, was a real lover, and during the winter when I grew my beard, she would groom it for my, lapping away until she was satisfied I was clean!

I am finding that there is nothing wrong with their appetites as their bowl is empty most of the time. That's my cat report for today! I will try not to bore you with too many stories -- will wait until they do something spectacular.

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The physical therapy on my right knee continues. The last two days it has been unusually sore but that could because of the weather changes. I am still very much motivated and have a great therapist in Rebecca at Northwoods Therapy Associates, which fortunately, is only about 4 miles away from the house.

I received a call from Junior at Sammy's Pizza yesterday, inquiring if I was considering putting the band back together again. I had, in fact, talked with several of the guys in the band when we played at the Cavalier's game, about getting back together and working bars occasionally (even club work has dried up!) so the call from Junior was the shove I needed and I got on the phone and called Denny Marion, who ordinarily wouldn't work a Friday night, but he will be on vacation both dates that I need him so he said yes -- which pleased me to no end as denny is one of the premiere players in the area. In addition to plaing lead guitar, he is an excellent pedal steel player, a dobro player, a five string banjo man, and he sings!

I also contacted Tim Keilholtz, my regular bas player and he signed on also. Then came the call to Dave "Barney" Barneson, my drummer, as I really needed him to say yes -- and luckily he did!

So the band is in place and we will be at Sammy's Pub (in the back room of Sammy's Pizza, London Road) on Friday, September 19, and Friday, October 24, from 8:30 PM - 11:30 PM. Good hours for a guy whose leg still isn't back to full strength! Hope to see you there!

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Monday, August 11, 2008

Hammy Causes Restless First Night -- Makes Surprise Appearance!



Here are some photos of our "babies" -- they were born on April 12 of this year.

We got off to a rather tumultuous start yesterday (Sunday). We picked the cats up at the Humane Society at noon and took them to the house. The first thing we did was take them, still in the carrier, down to the basement to introduce them to the cat boxes - we have three. They both immediately made a beeline for the boxes and began rolling around in the clean litter, jumping from box to box and then pawing wildly, throwing litter everywhichaway. We decided to just leave them downstairs to their own devices and see if eventually that "cat curiosity" would lead them upstairs.

Well, it didn't! They were perfectly happy to explore every nook and cranny of the basement, each room stacked with boxes of glassware, etc. Eventually, we decided to just leave them down there and went grocery shopping for supper supplies. While at the store, Kim ran into Mari Krenz an her husband, Keith. They also were buying supplies for an evening's cookout. Finally towards the end of our shopping we bumped into them again and they invited us out to their lovely home for tiger shrimp and NY strip steaks on the grill -- never one to pass up a free meal, I said yes.

We returned home, unpacked the groceries, sought out the kittens (still in the basement), played with them for a bit, then left the house for dinner. We returned around 9:30PM to find Stella standing on the steps to the loft. "Where's your brother Hammy?" I asked. Then I went upstairs to see if he was in the loft -- no cat. so then began a thorough search of the house. after a full hour of searching the far reaches of the place we began to get that panicky sick feeling in the pits of our stomaches that perhaps, somehow, when we had left the house "Hammy" had slipped past us and gotten outside.

I took a flashlight and did a complete search around the perimeter -- no cat. By now Kim and I were really feeling low. We looked around the house one more time for good measure and finally agreed that he wasn't in the house and that somehow he had escaped or we would have heard him scratching about.

With heavy hearts we went to bed and both slept fitfully. I got up around three AM and went outside with the flashlight to look under the front steps. No cat. Kim got up around four as the automatic outside light popped on and she hoped against hope -- but again -- no cat.

Kim was up and dressed with first light and by 7am, armed with her cell phone, she left the house to go talk to the neighbors about our missing little friend. I remained in bed, feeling really low, for about 10 minutes, when suddenly, out of God knows where, around the corner, at full speed, and into the bedroom, charges Hammy, who sees me and makes a quick run under the bed.

I quickly dial up Kim and shout: "He's here! He's here! He's in the bedroom under the bed! I just closed the door to keep him here! Come home!"

Then I get down and look under the bed and I can't see the cat! I look hard -- no cat! I begin to think I was hallucinating what I saw. I run to get the kitchen flashlight. I get down on my knees and shine it under the bed. Still no cat. Then I spot him under the tucked in blanket where it hangs down to the floor and THERE HE IS hiding mostly under the folds of the blanket.

Kim comes home and with the help of a feather toy finally lures him out from under the bed. Soon he is nestled up against her on the bed, purring his heart out.

So we are very grateful right now that we didn't lose one of the cats within 24 hours of adoption! We consider re-naming the elusive Hammy -- "Spooky" or "Spook" but he is still Hammy. They are both just the cutest things and we are already smitten beyond belief!

Now that we know that as long as we are careful when we leave the house not to leave the door open too long and to know where they both are, everything is more relaxed. Let them hide as much as they want. Eventually they will have to eat and poop -- and we will see them when they come upstairs to eat, for sure!

And we will shower them with gentle love so much that they will grow to trust us and want to be with us.

We are happy parents!

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Saturday, August 9, 2008

Sometimes It's Not The Venue, It's The People Being Entertained!



Just back from a really fine evening of making pizza and entertaining some really genuinely warm and real human beings at Dale and Kim Schmidt's 25th Wedding Anniversary party.

Dale planned my part of the celebration as a surprise and the look on Kim's face was priceless. My Kim came along to help me in the kitchen as we prepared eight pizzas, starting with a fresh tomato and basil pie, then a mushroom pizza, piled high with cooked down fresh mushrooms, then onto the standards -- pepperoni, sausage, and combinations.

When the last pizza was out of the oven, I joined the group in the garage and did about 35 minutes of comedy and music and to tell you the truth, I have worked as opening act for big names on national stages, but I had more fun today with this great group of people in this intimate setting than in any number of the so called "big time" experiences.
You can tell when it's been a good day by the smiles, the compliments, and just the glow you see on the folks faces.

Thanks, Dale and Kim! I would love the opportunity to do it again!

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Back To Durand Rod And Gun for Harmon Chicken With Tom Johnson in Tow


We ultimately decided that death to the eardrums by shotgun blasts from the clay pigeon murderers was a better choice than remaining inside the bar and drowning in the throes of senior citizens bellowings over highballs and gin rummy!

So we made our way through the massive throng to the comparative peace of 12 gauge shotguns blasting away, high above the Chippewa River. Again, even though we thought that we were arriving early, we ended up being ticket holders 254 and 255 and that's much too long to absorb the lengthening shadows of late afternoon and the bellowing of five gunners working over hapless orange clay saucers.

The chicken, however, was just as delicious as last trip, and well worth the wait! I can see that this is going to be standard fare the rest of early autumn every other thursday -- and I suggest you do the same and join in the fun and camaraderie of west central Wisconsin Americana!

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My good buddy "Blinky" Johnson, house painter and apartment renovator extraordinaire (not to mention renown author of "Rescuing Clare") boogied up from Madison this past thursday so I made reservations for yet another foray to the Durand Rod and Gun Club for the Jack Harmon chicken dinner -- always very well attended as can be attested by the jammed parking lot pictured here.

We went inside and purchased our tickets, fighting our way through the crowded ar and wondering how a group of people can continue to expand their vocal volume to the point that you have to order a beer in sign language.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Meet Hammy and Stella!

My good friend Tom Jonson arrived around noon today and after running some errands with me, he was kind enough to come with me to the Eau Claire Humane Society to take a couple of photos of our soon-to-be-family members, Hamilton (Hammy) and Stella. Hammy is the "orange" tabby and Stella is the grey sister of Hammy.
When we arrived they were putting on quite a show, chasing each other around the cage and in and out of the cardboard box that was part of their cage.

In no time at all I was laughing to tears just watching their antics. It was like watching kindergartners -- perpetual motion. I found myself wishing there was some way I could, by reaching out and touching them, absorb some of that energy!

I spoke briefly with the staff and established that we would be picking up our new "kids" on this coming Sunday at noon. Meanwhile, we are cleaning the basement of all the dust left behind of years of kitty litter being poured in the litter boxes for Hannah and Harley.

Because I am now a "senior" the $50 fee per cat was waived, and when we get them both altered, that fee will b e retruned to us as well -- an all around good deal for years of companionship.

I am so looking forward to the patter of little feet!

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Pure Water In The Swamp - Pure Pleasure and Entertainment

I hope that Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin cherishes the gift they have in Jerry and Carol Way!  Since Jerry has retired from teaching music, he has been very active, as has his lovely wife Carol, in working on projects for the Heyde Center.

Last night I had the honor and the privelege to attend Jerry's latest composition:  "Pure Water In the Swamp", a delightful look into the more recent history of Chippewa Falls through Jerry's music and lyrics, presented by the Swampers, a group of nine accomplished musicians and singers in front of a backdrop of some breathtaking slides that demonstrated just how beautiful Chippewa Falls is.

The production was indeed a learning experience!  I hadn't known that the earliest settlers of Chippewa had begaun settling on the south side of the Chippewa Rivr in the aera that is now know as Frenchtown.

The show kicked off with "Play A Song For You" which gave each of the Swampers an opportunity a chance to shine instrumentally with a short solo from each.  With mandolin, kazoo, hand percussion, several guitars, Irish whistle, alto recorder, autoharp, acoustic bass, and violin, the Swampers were a veritable orchestra.

They played very well in ensemble and I was particularly impressed with the solos by Rob Kuchta on violin, Jerry way on guitar, and Judy Brist who switched effortlessly between Irish whistle, guitar, and alto recorder, sometimes all in one tune!

Jerry's skill as a songwriter is most impressive considering that he takes all the historical facts and presents them in great verse and song.

I was particularly impressed with "Afternon At The Gallery" as Judy Ganser narrated a wonderfully colorful slide show of Chippewa Falls artist Hugh Mandelert's paintings.  She followed that up with "Through His Eyes" whch was equally enthralling.

Jerry's sense of humor shown brightly in the finale of the first act with "The Big Flush" which took us back to 2000 and the cleaning of the well pipes to protect Chippewa's famous pure water.

There was no lagging in the second act which featured "Come On In", which got a lagging audience back to their seats, and I especially enjoyed Jerry's salute to Butch Cardinal.

The tech crew of Laura Wilson, Nancy Wilson, Ross Wilson, and Joel Wiltrout deserve kudos as well as the show ran without a hitch all evening.

Unfortunately, the show runs only two nights, so if you would like to see it, tonight would be your last chance.  I recommend it highly.  It was an evening well spent!

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Yesterday I finally cajoled Kim into going over to the Eau Claire Humane Society to see if they had any kittens and we both fell in love with a brother- sister team.  One is a light "orange" tabby (male) and the other is a female gray with just a few touches of the "orange and white" under her chin and on her forehead.

So we are going to be parents again -- probably by Sunday.  We need to get the basement cleaned and dusted thoroughly before then.

Being enamored of the cartoon movie "Over The Hedge", we are thinking of naming them Hamilton (Hammy) and Stella after two of the characters from that movie.

I will post pictures as soon as they are officially family!

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May as well clear the air with my feelings on the Brett Favre fiasco.  So much has been said and written that it is very difficult to know what is even true in all the stories that have transpired.  I do know that I am totally disgusted with all parties involved --  from Ted (the ego) Thompson
to Brett (the ego) Favre.

One would think that working adults would know enough to keep their mouths shut in front of the press and go forward and get everything settled behind closed doors before it is presented to the public.

Questions abound.  Did Favre really want to retire when he made the announcement last March?  Has he really been "waffling" back and forth all these months or is that just Ted Thompson planted stories?  What was said that Favre cannot forget enough to  come back and play another year in Green Bay?

I think every fan in Wisconsin knows our best chance to get anywhere near the Super Bowl is to have both Favre and Rodgers on the sidelines, given Rodgers "glass legs" of last season.

I truly doubt that he is tough enough to play the entire season unhurt.  Then what are we left with?  Two rookie quarterbacks.

So now Fave is a NY Jet.  At 38, he is a year older than head coach Mangini.

I quickly went to the Packers schedule and was glad to see that the Packers won't be facing the Jets during regular season play.  I am glad that he has moved from the NFC to the AFC where he will have to face Tom Brady twice a year.

All in all, it could have been much worse.  I don't think my heart could have survived seeing Favre run out on Lambeau field on the first Monday night game wearing a white jersey with a purple number  --  it has been hard enough to see Darren Sharper and kicker Ryan Longwell in purple last year.

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Friday, August 1, 2008

Took A Sentimental Journey


Today I met my friend Gary Spaeth at the Eau Claire Municipal Airport to get a close up look at a B-17G Flying Fortress that landed earlier in the day and will be here through Monday.  

"Sentimental Journey", according to the history blurb: "was built in late 1944 by the Douglas Aircraft Company in Long Beach, California.  It was sent to the Philippines where it flew on reconnaisance missions.  It never saw combat (even though the bomb symbols on the side originally  represented such missions).
After the war, it was statoned in Florida where it was used for search and rescue missions in the atlantic and Gulf of Mexico.  Later it became a mother ship or remote control drones that the military flew ovr nuclear test sites.  In 1958, it was acquired by the Aero Union Corporation of Chico, California, which used it to drop flame retardant chemicals on forest fires in the West.

In 1978 it was donated to the Commemorative air Force.  After an exhaustive restoration, the plane is now "95 per cent" authentic.

Since the restoration, it has been in hundreds of air shows.  Those shows are tallied on the plane's nose in the form of little bombs stenciled on the metal just above the painting of 1940's pinup girl betty Grable.  There are also two movie cameras stenciled there, representing the two films the plane has appeared in: "1941" and "All The Fine Young Men".

The plane visits about 60 cities a year.

Finally Some Really Good News In The Press

Finally, this morning, I read the following article and it gave me such hope for the future of mankind. Now if we can just get the damn politicians to wrench the power from the oil companies and proceed, we have a real chance at survival by cleaning up our environment with really clean and inexpensive energy.





News
"Major Discovery" From MIT Primed to Unleash Solar Revolution

Thursday 31 July 2008

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by: Anne Trafton, MIT News

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MIT's Professor Daniel G. Nocera has discovered a way to do large-scale solar power generation. (Photo: Donna Coveney)
Scientists mimic essence of plants' energy storage system.

In a revolutionary leap that could transform solar power from a marginal, boutique alternative into a mainstream energy source, MIT researchers have overcome a major barrier to large-scale solar power: storing energy for use when the sun doesn't shine.

Until now, solar power has been a daytime-only energy source, because storing extra solar energy for later use is prohibitively expensive and grossly inefficient. With today's announcement, MIT researchers have hit upon a simple, inexpensive, highly efficient process for storing solar energy.

Requiring nothing but abundant, non-toxic natural materials, this discovery could unlock the most potent, carbon-free energy source of all: the sun. "This is the nirvana of what we've been talking about for years," said MIT's Daniel Nocera, the Henry Dreyfus Professor of Energy at MIT and senior author of a paper describing the work in the July 31 issue of Science. "Solar power has always been a limited, far-off solution. Now we can seriously think about solar power as unlimited and soon."

Inspired by the photosynthesis performed by plants, Nocera and Matthew Kanan, a postdoctoral fellow in Nocera's lab, have developed an unprecedented process that will allow the sun's energy to be used to split water into hydrogen and oxygen gases. Later, the oxygen and hydrogen may be recombined inside a fuel cell, creating carbon-free electricity to power your house or your electric car, day or night.

The key component in Nocera and Kanan's new process is a new catalyst that produces oxygen gas from water; another catalyst produces valuable hydrogen gas. The new catalyst consists of cobalt metal, phosphate and an electrode, placed in water. When electricity - whether from a photovoltaic cell, a wind turbine or any other source - runs through the electrode, the cobalt and phosphate form a thin film on the electrode, and oxygen gas is produced.

Combined with another catalyst, such as platinum, that can produce hydrogen gas from water, the system can duplicate the water splitting reaction that occurs during photosynthesis.

The new catalyst works at room temperature, in neutral pH water, and it's easy to set up, Nocera said. "That's why I know this is going to work. It's so easy to implement," he said.

"Giant Leap" for Clean Energy

Sunlight has the greatest potential of any power source to solve the world's energy problems, said Nocera. In one hour, enough sunlight strikes the Earth to provide the entire planet's energy needs for one year.

James Barber, a leader in the study of photosynthesis who was not involved in this research, called the discovery by Nocera and Kanan a "giant leap" toward generating clean, carbon-free energy on a massive scale.

"This is a major discovery with enormous implications for the future prosperity of humankind," said Barber, the Ernst Chain Professor of Biochemistry at Imperial College London. "The importance of their discovery cannot be overstated since it opens up the door for developing new technologies for energy production thus reducing our dependence for fossil fuels and addressing the global climate change problem."

"Just the Beginning"

Currently available electrolyzers, which split water with electricity and are often used industrially, are not suited for artificial photosynthesis because they are very expensive and require a highly basic (non-benign) environment that has little to do with the conditions under which photosynthesis operates.

More engineering work needs to be done to integrate the new scientific discovery into existing photovoltaic systems, but Nocera said he is confident that such systems will become a reality.

"This is just the beginning," said Nocera, principal investigator for the Solar Revolution Project funded by the Chesonis Family Foundation and co-Director of the Eni-MIT Solar Frontiers Center. "The scientific community is really going to run with this."

Nocera hopes that within 10 years, homeowners will be able to power their homes in daylight through photovoltaic cells, while using excess solar energy to produce hydrogen and oxygen to power their own household fuel cell. Electricity-by-wire from a central source could be a thing of the past.

The project is part of the MIT Energy Initiative, a program designed to help transform the global energy system to meet the needs of the future and to help build a bridge to that future by improving today's energy systems. MITEI Director Ernest Moniz, Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Physics and Engineering Systems, noted that "this discovery in the Nocera lab demonstrates that moving up the transformation of our energy supply system to one based on renewables will depend heavily on frontier basic science."

The success of the Nocera lab shows the impact of a mixture of funding sources - governments, philanthropy, and industry. This project was funded by the National Science Foundation and by the Chesonis Family Foundation, which gave MIT $10 million this spring to launch the Solar Revolution Project, with a goal to make the large scale deployment of solar energy within 10 years.