HELLO FROM EAU CLAIRE, WISCONSIN:

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

Monday, December 16, 2013

HE'LL ALWAYS BE "JOHNNY PAYCASH" TO ME


Last night I was out to dinner with our "Dinner Group" which meets once a month on a Sunday night just so that we keep in touch with some of our friends.

We went to Fanny Hill to the area which faces the river. Rich Schroeder was doing a "single" accompanying himself with guitar. Somehow, country artist Johnny Paycheck came up in our conversation, brought on, I think, by a song that Rich was doing. That brought back a a rush of memories to me, having performed as opening act for Paycheck twice; once at the Turtle Lake Casino, and a long time before that, at a resort way over in eastern Wisconsin. It's been so long ago now that I cannot remember the name of it for the life of me.

When I arrived, out back I could see Paycheck's big Silver Eagle bus, so I knew he had arrived. I found the owner, introduced myself, and he set up the parameters for my show; do a half an hour, no more, no less.

As show time approached, I was back stage giving the guitar a final tuning, when the owner walked up briskly with a panicky look on his face.
"How long can you go?" he asked. "What do you mean 'how long can you go'", I replied? "I mean, how long can you go. How much material do you have?"

So I told him I could probably do well over an hour if needed. He told me that was good because he couldn't find Johnny Paycheck! I knew Paycheck was on the premises; I had seen him crossing the restaurant earlier on his way to the men's room.

The owner then told me that I should do my half hour, then look over to the side of the stage. He pointed to where he would be standing. Then he said, ""If I go like this: (circular motion with his hand) it means keep going. If I go like this: (cutting across throat with index finger) it means you can quit. ... we'd better get started . . ."

So I went out and introduced myself to the audience and launched into my show. After half an hour, I glanced over to where he was supposed to be, and he wasn't there. so I continued on for another ten minutes and then glanced over again. This time he was there, frantically giving me the circular motion.

So I did another ten minutes, checked the side of the stage again and got the circular motion yet again! Now I was closing in on 60 minutes, doing one bit while thinking and wondering what I will do next, and I feel one of those cold, stress sweats break out and run down my back.

So I do another ten minutes, glance over and I get the "Cut" sign. So I do one more short bit, thank the audience and exit. I reach the owner. "What the hell's going on??"

"We couldn't find Johnny Paycheck", he says.
"Well, I know he was here. I saw him! Where was he?"
"He was on his bus."
"On his bus?? So, what was the problem?"
"Well, he wouldn't get off the bus until I paid him first . . . in cash!"

I just shook my head in wonder and walked away. From then on I always referred to Johnny Paycheck as "Johnny Paycash."

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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

MY GRUELING PAYPAL, EBAY EXPERIENCE

This week I had my first bad experience with ordering a product through eBay. I ordered a "refurbished" N600 Netgear Router from dailysteals EBAYCOM at a considerably cheaper price than a new one. When it arrived, I called my friend Tom Wieseler who has a lot of computer tech savvy, to help me set it up; mainly because as a "refurbished" item, it did not include a set up CD, which made it's comprehension beyond mine.

Tom graciously gave up his week day evening and met me at the office. within a half hour, he had it set up and I was receiving the internet not only to my iMac, but to my Mac Notebook Pro and to my el cheapo Google tablet. However the internet signal would stay operative for one to two minutes and then freeze and not allow us to go further.

Thinking that perhaps he may have configured something wrong, Ttom went through the entire set up procedure again, making some minor adjustments, and again, the signal became operative to my laptop and tablet, but only for that minute or two before freezing up again!

At this point, we called Tom's son, Gabe, to see if he could come over to help us trouble shoot, which he graciously did. The two of them went through all the protocols together. By now I was mumbling aloud that I was certain that it was the router itself that was causing the problem, for some unknown reason. But the Wieseler boys continued to work at it, got it running a third time, and BAM! It froze yet again.

Now I was "fit to be tied" and thoroughly certain that it was a faulty router. After messing with it a while longer, they agreed with me and theorized that the folks at dailysteals had probably only tested it for about 30 seconds to see if it was functioning and then packed it as ready to ship.

I immediately contacted dailysteals through eBay's mail system and the next morning received permission to return the router. I was told to follow the instructions set up by eBay's returns department, so I clicked on that URL, and found out that because I had purchased it through PayPal's "Bill Me Later" system, I was considered a "guest" and could not use the standard easy course of returning the router for a refund. I, instead was told to go to my PayPal site and open a dispute with dailysteals that would then be settled by PayPal.

This I did, then e mailed dailysteals, asking for an RMA number (return authorization), which they supplied me with the following day, along with instructions to await a pre-paid address label from them. When I had purchased the router, the small print stipulated that if the item was to be returned, I would have to pay for the shipping myself. This being the case, why, then, would they be sending me a pre-paid label? I again wrote to them and asked if I had to wait for that label and couldn't I just mail it out yet that day.

It was then that by return mail they said I could do that, but if I did, I would have to pay for the shipping. I wrote back that I would, then, await the label, which arrived the next day. I affixed it to the re-packaged router, and took it to the postal substation at Festival Foods.

When I arrived there, they were busy with customers paying for their packages to be shipped, so knowing that my package was already paid for, complete with a tracking number they had provided, I simply deposited the package in the bin and left.

The next four or five days, I kept going to the PayPal resolution center to find my "dispute" but it was never there. Finally I called and spoke with a PayPal representative with a very heavy and difficult to understand accent, more than likely in India. I explained that I could not find the dispute listed. the representative asked me for the tracking number. I explained that I had not copied it down as it was already on the package and I didn't think I would need it. Did I, he asked, have a copy of the shipping label still in my "sent" or "junk" mailboxes. I told him that I did not because I dump my "junk" e mails and "sent" e mails regularly after about three days.

In that case, the agent said, he didn't think there was anything that PayPal could do about opening a dispute. Most disheartening.

So I e mailed dailysteals and explained that I needed the tracking number from the pre-paid label they had sent me. The next work day, I received an answer which totally ignored my request for a tracking number but said that the funds ($34.99) were being held by PayPal and that I needed to close the case.

Again I went to the resolution center, thinking that since PayPal is putting a hold on the money, the case will appear on the site. Wrong again.

I again contacted PayPal, spoke with another equally difficult to understand rep - explained the entire situation AGAIN; she asked me if I had kept a receipt from the postal substation. I told her that I did not as I had just dropped it off. Sensing the frustration in my voice, she assured me that she would do everything she could over the weekend to obtain the tracking number from the seller.

Then yesterday I got another e mail from yet a different person named Caprice, at dailysteals, telling me that she was in charge of settling this case and that she had, indeed, received the package.

So once again, I contacted PayPal and read that e mail to yet another operator. This time I had finally reached a woman (Faye) who knew what she was doing. Faye told me to stay on the line, that she was going to contact the seller by phone, and that we would settle the matter in a conference call. Once we got Caprice on the phone, it was all settled in less than five minutes, and I was assured that my account would be accredited with the $34.99.

So I would like to impart the knowledge that I gained from this grueling experience to anyone of you that buys items through eBay and/or PayPal.

1.) Don't buy the item through "Bill Me Later" unless you are absolutely certain that this is something that you have to get now because you really need it or it is on sale at such a bargain price and you are so short of cash that you will need the delay time to get the money together. To have to return something as a "guest" makes your transaction twice as difficult.

2.) Even if the seller sends you a pre-paid return label, always, ALWAYS get two things from the postal station when you ship it: the exact tracking number and a receipt.

3.) Do not dump any of the correspondence that may occur between you and the seller and be certain that if you do get a pre-paid mailing label, print out duplicate copies and store the one you don't use in a file folder in a safe place.

You are never too old to learn. And obviously you can teach an old dog new tricks!

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Saturday, October 26, 2013

THE FIGHT TO SAVE SOCIAL SECURITY, MEDICAID AND MEDICARE

It is coming down to the wire. Since avoiding the government shutdown, a "super committee" has been formed to deal with the budget. Named the Murray-Ryan Budget Conference Committee, after Senate Budget Chair, Patty Murray, Democrat, Washington State, and Wisconsin's Congressional Representative, Paul Ryan, The group was formed as part of the deal to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling. Murray and Ryan kicked off talks over breakfast this past Thursday morning.

Here’s what you need to know about the group, which the country will have a close eye on during the next couple of months:
1. It has 29 members. The bipartisan, bicameral group includes the entire Senate Budget Committee, as well as four House Republicans and three House Democrats. Here’s the full list:

House Republicans:
Ryan
Rep. Tom Cole (Okla.)
Rep. Tom Price (Ga.)
Rep. Diane Black (Tenn.)
House Democrats:
Rep. James Clyburn (S.C.)
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.)
Rep. Nita Lowey (N.Y.)
Senate Republicans:
Sen. Jeff Sessions (Ala.)
Sen. Charles Grassley (Iowa)
Sen. Mike Enzi (Wyo.)
Sen. Mike Crapo (Idaho)
Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.)
Sen. Rob Portman (Ohio)
Sen. Pat Toomey (Pa.)
Sen. Ron Johnson (Wis.)
Sen. Kelly Ayotte (N.H.)
Sen. Roger Wicker (Miss.)
From Senate Democratic Caucus:
Murray
Sen. Ron Wyden (Ore.)
Sen. Bill Nelson (Fla.)
Sen. Debbie Stabenow (Mich.)
Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.)
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.)
Sen. Mark Warner (Va.)
Sen. Jeff Merkley (Ore.)
Sen. Chris Coons (Del.)
Sen. Tammy Baldwin (Wis.)
Sen. Tim Kaine (Va.)
Sen. Angus King (Maine)
2. Nine of the Republicans voted against Wednesday's deficit reduction deal compromise, including Ryan. Of that deal the co-chairs of the bipartisan special joint committee said in a statement that "after months of hard work and intense deliberations, we have come to the conclusion today that it will not be possible to make any bipartisan agreement available to the public before the committee's deadline."

Not everybody on the committee supported Wednesday’s compromise. Ryan’s vote was the most interesting. He bucked his leadership allies to vote “no.” There are a couple of plausible reasons for his decision.
One is the weight he carries among House conservatives. They are very loyal to Ryan, and by standing with them on the vote, Ryan didn’t sacrifice any of his credibility. Instead, headed into the talks, he telegraphed a sort of I’ve-got-your-back message. Second, he’s the lead negotiator in this group. Stepping into talks fresh off voting for a bill that was tough for many Republicans to swallow, they weren't exactly coming from a position of strength.
The other eight Republicans who voted against the bill were Price, Black, Sessions, Grassley, Enzi, Crapo, Toomey, and Johnson.
This group is worth keeping in mind because they are the most conservative members of the panel. To take the pulse of how conservatives feel about emerging deals or sticking points, listen to what these lawmakers are saying.
3. Policy-wise, there is a lot of daylight between Murray and Ryan right now. Murray summed it up this way Thursday morning: “Chairman Ryan knows I’m not going to vote for his budget. I know that he’s not going to vote for mine. We’re going to find the two common — the common ground between our two budgets that we both can vote on. And that’s our goal.”
4. Get used to hearing “sequester,” “entitlements” and “revenues” a lot. A big part of the talks will be deciding what to do about the across-the-board spending cuts known as the sequester. Democrats don’t like them and Republicans like Ryan say there is a better way to cut spending. So how to replace them? Well, that’s where we are going to see disagreements. Look for Republicans to call for replacement cuts in entitlements spending. Democrats might be able to accept such cuts, but under that scenario would probably push for new tax revenue to offset them. Republicans won’t like this idea. This much we know: With a new round of sequester cuts set to kick in early next year, the clock is ticking.
5. It’s a “supercommittee” reunion of sorts. Murray, Van Hollen, Portman and Clyburn were all part of the 2011 deficit-reduction “supercommittee” that failed to reach an agreement. Will things turn out differently? Murray thinks so.
“The supercommittee goals were much broader, much larger. We have a challenge that’s been handed us to have a reconciliation between the Senate budget and the House budget, and those issues are all on the table. We’ll be talking about all of them. And our job is to make sure that we have put forward a spending cap and a budget path for this Congress in the next year or two or further if we can,” she said Thursday.

To my way of thinking, here are very few members of this committee who have any concern about poor and middle class Americans. However, the one strong voice on our behalf is Senator Bernie Sanders.

Today, Senator Sanders put out a plea for all of us to make our voices heard by this "super committee". In an e mail Sanders states:

They’re at it again.

Billionaires like the Koch Brothers, Pete Peterson, Stanley Druckenmiller and others are leading the charge to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

If they succeed, millions of senior citizens, working families, disabled veterans and children will suffer. We must not allow that to happen.

Today, the middle class is disappearing, real unemployment is extremely high, poverty is increasing and working families throughout the country are struggling to keep their heads above water economically. Meanwhile, the gap between the very rich and everyone else is growing wider and wider and the wealthiest people and the largest corporations are doing phenomenally well.

WE MUST NOT BALANCE THE BUDGET ON THE BACKS OF WORKING FAMILIES, THE ELDERLY, THE CHILDREN, THE SICK AND THE POOR.

As Vermont’s senator, I have the honor of serving on the Budget Conference Committee which will be negotiating a new federal budget over the next few months -- and where I am fearful that a deal could be struck to slash Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

As the founder of the Defending Social Security Caucus, please stand with me and our coalition partners in demanding; “No grand bargain in exchange for cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.”

Let’s be clear. Despite right-wing rhetoric:

Social Security is not going broke. According to the Social Security Administration, Social Security has a surplus today of $2.8 trillion and can pay out every benefit owed to every eligible person for the next 20 years.

Social Security has not contributed to the deficit. Social Security is funded independently by FICA taxes which are paid by workers and their employers.

The so-called chained-CPI, which recalculates how COLA’s are formulated, is not a “modest tweak.”
If the chained CPI went into effect today, a senior aged 65 would receive $658 a year less in Social Security benefits when he/she is 75, and $1,100 a year less at age 85. Further, the average disabled veteran would lose tens of thousands of dollars in benefits over his/her lifetime.

Please stand with me today and demand that Congress and the President oppose any grand bargain which cuts Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits.

When one out of four U.S. corporations pay nothing in federal income taxes; when Bush’s tax breaks for the rich remain in place for many wealthy Americans; when the U.S. spends almost as much as the rest of the world combined on defense, there are much fairer and economically sound ways to address the budget than cutting programs desperately needed by the most vulnerable people in our country.

Please stand with me and our coalition partners in protecting the future of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits.

Let’s go forward together. Thanks for your continued support.

Sincerely,
Senator Bernie Sanders


It is truly imperative for each of us to contact each and every representative and senator listed above. You can do this by going to this link:

http://www.americawantsnocuts.com/ssw/

Don't wait! There is only a short time to make our position known!

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Thursday, October 24, 2013

THE REAL 'SKINNY' FROM A PROFESSIONAL IN THE HEALTH CARE BUSINESS



People that are frustrated trying to use the federal web site should know that they can also use the various state web sites as well as insurance brokers.

And something I wasn’t aware of, even if they qualify for and will get the federal subsidy, they can use the state web sites or insurance brokers. (I thought they had to use the fed site in that case…..)

I just spoke w/ a broker/friend who is able to enroll people……….and the advantage to using a broker is that they can help/advise/provide information about different policy options, whereas the “facilitators” (those that get certified for health care reform) cannot give any advice, they can only help people enroll.

You may have heard, or will hear (new talking point by Fox News and the Republicans) that “300,000 people in Florida are losing their health insurance due to Obamacare”. This is flat wrong!!! What is happening is that many employers that don’t want to spend the money to provide quality health insurance to their employees, enroll employees in what are called “limited medical reimbursement plans” (also called mini-meds). Similar to Aflac plans, they just pay a limited amount for each procedure an enrollee has. Legally they are not major medical insurance and don’t comply with insurance standards.

Example---they might pay $60 for a Dr. office visit…….which leaves the balance of the cost to be paid by the enrollee. Not too bad for a simple office visit, but for anything more complicated requiring lab work, pathology, hospital stay, surgery and the like, the amount paid by the employer is very minimal and the enrollee is left with huge bills.

These type of plans DO NOT QUALIFY as options you can buy to satisfy the health insurance requirement under health care reform, so if a person has one, they will still have to buy a qualified plan. That is why people and companies are cancelling them. Most of the people on these plans also have pre-existing conditions and can’t get coverage anywhere else which is why they enroll in them. Under health care reform, since there are no longer pre-existing condition limitations, these people will be able to get real insurance.

So they aren’t losing insurance due to Obamacare, they are dropping employers "limited medical reimbursement plans" because they can now get better plans under Obamacare.

Kirk Roebuck
Summa Health System


Just an aside regarding the ACA and health care reform……………….the problem with trying to educate people on it, especially the loons that watch FOX and follow the Republican talking points, is that they believe the lies and don’t want to listen to the rational answers, especially when the answer isn’t simply a 2 or 3 word sound bite.

Add to that that most people don’t even understand their own health insurance and want to be “hand held” whenever they have claims or need to use it. That has always been a big issue…..people need to understand their policies and actively participate in their health insurance……they need to be “smart consumers” of health care. That is a big change from the old days when most, if not all plans were basically a $100 deductible with the plan then paying 80% of the costs incurred.

That pretty much all started going away in the 1980s with the introduction of HMOs, PPOs and the many “hybrid” plans that grew out of the managed care boom.

So any time I hear someone whine and cry about either health care reform or their own insurance I immediately question them about their knowledge of it before I discuss it with them.

Kirk Roebuck
Summa Health System

CONSUMERS SHOULD CONSIDER USING LCENSED INSURANCE AGENTS AND BROKERS FOR HEALTH COVERAGE UNDER THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT

As millions of consumers consider purchasing health insurance through the insurance marketplaces set up as part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) - and as some face problems accessing the program because of failures of the government's website, they should be aware of an option they may not know they have: Consulting their local professional, independent insurance agent or broker for help in enrolling.

Consumers may already know that there are "navigators" paid by the government who are available to assist them in enrolling in policies under Obamacare. But they may not be aware that under the law, navigators cannot offer advice or recommend one policy over another.

Professional insurance agents, on the other hand, are free to offer a much higher level of assistance. Consumers don't pay for this service. In addition, in most cases, navigators are not required to be licensed or to comply with state-mandated continuing education requirements; they are also not required to maintain professional liability insurance coverage. Agents and brokers must be licensed and must comply with all of these requirements, along with all state laws and regulations.

Many independent insurance agents and brokers have already been trained and certified to assist consumers to enroll in health plans offered as part of the Affordable Care Act. They can also make consumers aware of insurance choices not available through the exchanges.

"Choosing a health insurance plan is a serious matter," said PIA National President John G. Lee. "it is a complex process that cannot be compared to purchasing a book from a website. Insurance is not a commodity. the implications of making a poor choice due to the lack of adequate knowledge include paying too much or getting inadequate coverage for yourself or your family. When it comes to health insurance, making an ill-informed decision can end up costing you your life's savings - or your life."

"Professional agents and brokers have the training and expertise needed to advise consumers about their insurance choices," Lee said. "We have always been licensed, regulated, and required to carry professional liability insurance coverage. We recommend that people shopping for health insurance - or any kind of insurance - make the smart choice and not leave anything to chance. Consult a local ACA Certified Professional Insurance Agent."

I will publish more tips and help as it is fed to me through Mr. Roebuck.


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WISCONSIN'S TEA PARTY GOVERNOR HAS GOT TO GO!! INSURANCE COVERAGE ALONE IS REASON ENOUGH.

“Wisconsin health insurance exchange premiums for single coverage will be on average 79% to 99% higher than premiums in Minnesota, before tax credits are applied,” according to a new report.

If you’re wondering why there is such a disparity in healthcare insurance costs between similar states like Wisconsin and Minnesota, it’s because Tea Party Governor Scott Walker rejected enhanced federal Medicaid dollars and Wisconsin Republicans decided not to implement more robust rate reviews. Translation: Republicans rejected money to expand Medicaid and Republicans choose not to oversee rate regulation (if this doesn’t ring a bell, when Republicans discuss it, they call their refusal to check corporation’s “freedom” and “free markets”).

These decisions may cost Wisconsinites $1,800 or more a year over what their Minnesota counterparts pay for health insurance. Wisconsinites will pay between 79% and 99% higher premiums before tax credits are applied, and the middle class will be hit the hardest. Some cities will pay as much as 136% higher premiums.



Citizen Action of Wisconsin released a new report documenting the vast differences between Minnesota and Wisconsin in the cost for health insurance on the individual insurance marketplace created by the Affordable Care Act.

• Wisconsin health insurance exchange premiums for single coverage will be on average 79% to 99% higher than premiums in Minnesota, before tax credits are applied. That is a difference of over $1,800 a year.
•The health insurance cost differential will be even worse for some major Wisconsin cities. Rates in La Crosse are 136% higher than the Minnesota average, rates in Eau Claire are 116% higher, and rates in Milwaukee are 112% higher.


• The cost gap with Minnesota has the biggest impact on middle class Wisconsinites because Affordable Care Act tax credits mitigate the impact on lower income people who buy insurance on the exchange.
Additionally, when Walker announced his Republican plan to reject Medicaid expansion under ObamaCare, he was warned that this would cost Wisconsin state taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. Walker, with his eye on 2016, was at war with President Obama and what better way to prove his conservative bona fides than by rejecting as much of ObamaCare as he could.

It’s not as if Walker can run on his job creation numbers or making a great climate for business. Wisconsin is failing in both departments under Walker. He’s got to be able to run as the guy who fought Obama and won — a feat he has not actually managed to do, regardless of how many times he and his BFF Paul Ryan blame Mitt Romney for the 2012 election loss. Reality plays a small part in Republican politics these days that Walker won’t be hurt by inventing his own world so long as he is the comic book hero who said No to the Illegitimate President.

Comic book narratives aside, the Walker administration is still confused about how this fiscal stuff works (sure Walker didn’t graduate from college, but that is no excuse — plenty of Americans can add and subtract without going to college). Walker’s secretary of health services, Kitty Rhoades, claims to believe that they didn’t walk away from money - the state will have more money by petulantly keeping the working poor off of Medicaid expansions at the fed’s expense.

This belief earned her a Mostly False from PolitiFact. It turns out, the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau says Walker’s decision is going to cost state taxpayers $119 million and could exceed $459 million through 2021.

Scott Walker justifies this by claiming to believe the federal government won’t come through with the money because of the debt (along this failed logic, why wait for anything to be proven – if you feel it, it must be – leadership by hysterical emotion of the mentally impaired has worked out so well in the past). To be fair, perhaps Walker knew of his party’s plans to tank the economy with a shutdown and threat to refuse to pay our bills. If so, conspiracy charges are warranted, immediately following the mandatory Republican math class.

The Walker administration champions their plan to instead drive the money to health insurance companies and health care providers. More transferring of the wealth to corporations, or “job creation” in Republican speak.

Minnesota also took ObamaCare up on the money provided to review rates – aka, oversight, but Wisconsin hasn’t. They’re cool with whatever the insurance companies want to charge citizens. Regulation is the death of corporate freedom, after all, and when corporations aren’t free to rob citizens, they allegedly won’t create so many crappy jobs that don’t pay a living wage.

Appeasement of the corporate beast is a must in Republican circles and so Wisconsinites are getting it again. No doubt Republicans will blame Obama for this, too, since they are loath to take responsibility for their own behavior, ideology and policies.

Thanks to Scott Walker, Wisconsin Will Pay Up To 99% Higher Insurance Costs was written by Sarah Jones for PoliticusUSA.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

LATEST BILL IN STATE LEGISLATURE DESIGNED TO USURP POWERS OF LOCAL TOWNS, VILLAGES

PHOTO: State Senator Kathleen Vinehout and yours truly at "Save the Hills" meeting, Menomonie, WI, Saturday, October 19


State Senator Vinehout spoke to alert us to a bill that appears to roll back the ability of locals to control what happens within their boundaries, especially with regard to sand mining.

This legislation is aimed at taking away local ability to protect health and safety in communities; including locals’ ability to put limits on water quality, water quantity, air quality, use of explosives and road use contracts.

The Walker Administration has been very reluctant to provide adequate resources for the enforcement of existing laws to protect health and safety. Local rules are the last line of defense for people.

This bill is related to sand mines. However, in Senator Vinehout's preliminary discussion with Legislative Council attorneys, the bill is not specific to just non-metallic mining (sand and gravel extraction). For example, if a community sets rules in a way other than zoning (such as police powers) they may lose this authority.

The bill, which is currently in draft form but is expected to move very quickly through the legislative process, was just released late yesterday. Vinehout learned that there will likely be a joint hearing of the Senate and Assembly committees related to mining on Thursday October 24, 2013 at 9 AM in Madison. If it is at all possible, we should make plans to attend this hearing. The bill could potentially be voted out of committee at this hearing. THIS LEGISLATION COULD BECOME LAW IN JUST A FEW WEEKS.

The bill comes on the heels of other legislation that takes away powers from local people to control what happens in their neighborhoods. This is part of a larger pattern in Governor Walker’s administration. The bill appears to be written by mining interests – many of which are owned by out-of-state companies.

Everyone who cares about having a voice in what happens in their neighborhood needs to pay attention to this bill. It certainly appears to take away local ability to protect communities and gives sand mines the ability to run roughshod over local people.

It prevents all local authorities from passing protections for their own air and water quality and water quantity....

It prevents all local authorities from monitoring their own air and water quality and water quantity.

It further erodes local governments' ability to regulate frac sand mining, only giving them a say when it comes time to clean up the mess and even then, holding them to the lowest possible standard.

It prevents local governments' ability to control blasting in their communities.

It effectively prevents local governments from collecting funds from those - like frac sand companies - that destroy local roads.

The bill is circulating for co-sponsorship through Monday.

Kathleen strongly opposes the legislation and wonders why politicians in Madison should seek to control our local communities. They don’t live there.

I don’t know why any legislator from western Wisconsin would turn control over our land to politicians in Madison. We all need to contact our representatives on the mining committees and ask them the same question.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

MY PET PEEVES AND OTHER OBSERVATIONS

I thought about posting this on Facebook but then decided that everyone would think I am a picky person, which I don't think I am, until it comes to language use.

My long time pet peeve is when people refer to a cap as a hat. In these two photographs, the top photo shows Robert One Man Johnson playing guitar and wearing a HAT.

In the lower photo, both my brother John and I are wearing CAPS. Anybody see the difference between the two? Well, of course, anybody with half a brain can see that a hat has a brim and a cap has a bill. Yet even big time writers will refer to players wearing "baseball hats". Baseball players would look pretty silly wearing ten gallon baseball hats, don't you think?

Yeh, I know it's a small thing, but it bugs the hell out of me because it is not correct nomenclature!

The other very strange misuse of the english language is something that I have begun noticing more recently and that is when a person is telling another person a story and wants to tell that person exactly what a friend of his said. Instead of saying: "So my friend says ..." it appears to be acceptable to say: "So my friend goes ...

What the heck?? People GO places, they SAY things, plain and simple. I think it sounds really ignorant for anybody to say something like this: "So I told him to stay off my lawn" and he goes "Well, excuse me, but there is a puddle on your sidewalk!"

I hear stand up comics use "he goes" on Comedy Central all the time. This morning I read the HuffPost online stories about the movie "Captain Phillips". In the article titled "Captain Phillips On What He Thought of 'Captain Phillips' (go to the following link to read it) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/14/captain-richard-phillips_n_4098947.html

Scroll down to: What did Tom Hanks say to you when you guys met?
Phillips uses "goes" instead of "says" TWICE!

There. I said it. Now I feel better.

Just a couple of days ago I wrote an editorial after reading that the Wisconsin State Senate is about to pass a law which will give the legislature the power to decide where and how much sand mining should be allowed in the State of Wisconsin. Here is my opinion:


The two faces of Wisconsin’s Legislative Tea Party membership continues to come into sharper focus. This week, a reliable source in the Wisconsin legislature informed Ms. Edie Ehlert of the Crawford Stewardship Project that presently a bill is being crafted in said legislature which would give frac sand mining regulation to the state, taking away local regulatory power from towns and counties.

The bill would be a “uniform” nonmetallic mining legislation that would not be as stringent or specific as the regulations that organizations such as the Crawford Stewardship Project and others are putting into place in so many of our communities in an attempt to put a stop to the disfiguring and polluting of the beautiful state of Wisconsin that we know and love.

It would be useful if the state legislature would be setting minimum standards to which local community organizations could add more thorough and stringent standards if they wanted. However, it is quite obvious that this is not the intention of the legislation.

Instead, the current Republican controlled legislature which continually trumpets the rights of the individual over the controlling state and federal governments, clearly intends to usurp the powers that they so vehemently say belongs to the people.

It makes a person suddenly come to the realization that the only time the Tea Party Republicans currently in power in Madison shout “don’t tread on me!” is if they disagree with whatever legislation is put forth on the floor.

If it is legislation that will further fill their pockets with the monies of lobbyists and big money industries such as RGGS Land and Minerals out of Houston, Texas, as well as the Florida based Cline Group, which has secured an option for all mineral rights in the Penokee range, and it is what our Tea Party Governor Walker wants, well, then it’s good enough for them as well.

Where did you put that rubber stamp?

However, I sense that the wind is beginning to blow in a different direction now.

The legislature can only urinate on our collective leg and tell us that its rain for only a short time before we, the people, come to our senses.

There. I said it.

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Monday, October 14, 2013

FUND RAISER FOR WILDLIFE REHABILITATION AND RELEASE PROGRAM RAISES $2300!

This is a photograph of Patty Stangel, The St. Frances of Asissi of the Chippewa Valley, holding one of her many children. Patty, who has had several successful careers in her lifetime, is now doing the work that I think she was put on this earth to do: Minister to God's wild creatures who are in need of rehabilitation.

Patty first became interested in working with the sick and injured as a volunteer for the refuge that was originally between Eau Claire and Fall Creek, just off Highway 12 East. When the owners had health problems of their own and could no longer continue, Patty decided that she would take on the mantel of responsibility.

Her first step was to sell her Hamilton Avenue, Eau Claire, house and property. At the same time, she co-ordinated the purchase of a rustic house way out in the country, between Colfax and Menomonie. It is the perfect location for her work as not only does it have a walk out basement where she can store supplies and possibly the cages of some of her smaller charges, but there is also a large machine shed for more cages that will house her bigger animals in need.

In addition to owls, she has cared for rabbits, raccoons, squirrels, various hawks, and quite recently the most exotic patient, an emaciated baby lynx - also known as a bob cat. When the cat was first turned in, it was close to death by starvation as it had obviously been separated from its mother.

Immediately, Patty began working slowly and methodically to bring it back to health, feeding it milk with an eye dropper, and as it grew stronger, bits of cut up raw meat.

When the cat was somewhat stronger, Patty loaded it up in a cage and drove it in to see the veterinarian for shots and a physical examination. The veterinarian, of course, was very surprised to have this wild creature brought in for shots. He told Patty that in all his years of being a veterinarian, this was his first bob cat. Patty told him that it was her first, also.

She returned home, cat in tow, with instructions from the vet to give the animal deworming tablets every day By then the cat was growing stronger and bigger from Patty's good care. This made the "wild" in the animal become more prevalent and Patty found that giving it the daily deworming pill was starting to be a real challenge. she would don her heavy duty glove - the one she wears when dealing with the talons of hawks and other raptors - and when the cat would make that typical cat "hissing" sound, she would quickly pop the pill in its mouth and get it down the throat.

One day the cat proved that there was nothing wrong with its fangs. It bit right through the heavy duty glove and into Patty's arm! Patty was able to release the animal recently and I believe she said it was released in a large wooded area near Augusta. She told me that yes, it was her first bob cat and she hoped it would be her last!

Late this past summer I asked Patty what I could do to help her with the mounting accrued bills. together we decided to hold a silent auction/free music party to raise much needed funding.

While Patty began rounding up items for the silent auction, I began rounding up musicians that I know to get them to volunteer their time for a good cause. The response was truly overwhelming. Here are some of the musicians that gave of themselves on that beautiful sunday afternoon at the Maple Lounge, following the 22-9 Packer victory over the Detroit Lions: Catya Von Karolyi, Mike Schlenker, Jerry Way, David Barneson, Tom Wieseler, Tim Keilholtz, Mike Richson, Ed Trienen, David Engedal, Duffy Duyfhuizen, John Utphall, and Billy Krause.

If I missed anybody, please let me know! Almost to a man, all the musicians told me that they had a ball and asked if and when we would be having another fund raiser for Patty.

Patty told me that she had hoped to raise a thousand dollars with the event. The final tally? Two thousand three hundred dollars!!

And there is going to be another one! I will be the planner again and I think it will be sometime in March, after Super Bowl and other distractions are not in the way. I have already thought of musicians that I missed getting an invite to last time. Also, through Facebook postings, I already have had two wonderful people offer items for the silent auction.

Somebody cue "In the Arms of an Angel" by Sarah McLaughlin!

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A CHILDHOOD RECOLLECTION OF ANDY PAFKO



An accurate reproduction of the Eau Claire Bears jersey and cap (by Ebbets Field Flannels of Seattle, WA.) and a replica of Pafko's Milwaukee Braves jersey that I had constructed this summer


Andrew (Andy) Pafko was born February 25, 1921, in Boyceville, Wisconsin. The third oldest of six children, Andy claimed he got his good grip on the baseball bat from having milked 16 dairy cows a day.

Andy first played baseball for the Connorsville, Wisconsin team of the amateur Dunn County League. At age 19, he decided to try out for the Eau Claire Bears of the Great Northern League. Manager Ivy Griffin signed him only to let him go later the same day upon realizing he had too many players on the roster.

Later that same summer, Andy was re-signed to an emergency contract because of an injury to an outfielder and he finished out the season with the Bears.

Pafko went on to play for the Madison, Wisconsin team, then signed with the Green Bay Blue Sox, and was eventually signed by Bill Veeck of the Milwaukee Brewers, who sent him to the Macon, GA, team.

Fully expecting to begin playing for the Milwaukee team, Pafko was shocked to read in the November newpapers that he had been bought by the Chicago Cubs. Pafko was deferred from military service because of high blood pressure and went on to a long and illustrious career with the Chicago Cubs, playing on their last World Series winning team in 1945.

He then went on to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers and in 1954 was traded to the Milwaukee Braves, a team which had just moved from Boston. The highlight of his Milwaukee career was in 1957 when he played for the World Series Champion Milwaukee Braves, alongside Henry Aaron, who replaced him at his position in 1959.

Andy Pafko was one of my childhood heros even though he played for Connorsville! You see, my dad taught me the love of two things: fishing and baseball. Because our farm was just south of Menomonie, off Highway 25, my brothers and I were all Menomonie Eagles fans. On sunday afternoons, our dad would take us to see the Menomonie Eagles play at Wakanda Park. Of course, all the boys had a favorite players. Mine was "Budge" O'Connell, of the local television, radio sales and service in Menomonie. Budge was the catcher and one of the better hitters for the Eagles.

I will always remember the sunday that my dad took us to an Eagles vs Connorsville game at Connorsville. It had rained heavily the night before, and the Connorsville outfield was nothing more than soupy mud. There he was: Andy Pafko - playing center field for Connorsville.

In the fifth inning, with a man on at first, up to the plate steps "Budge". On the second pitch he hits a towering fly ball to right center. Pafko begins churning through the mud, his eyes skyward, trying to reach the fly ball. As he approaches the ball, he is aware that he will not be able to catch it on the fly, so he extends his glove hand downward to get the ball on it's first hop. But the ball doesn't hop - it plops! It hits that soupy mud and sinks almost out of sight. Andy reaches to where the ball should have been, and grabs air. He then over runs the ball, realizes what has happened, tries to put on the brakes, and like an uncoordinated ice skater, slips "ass over tea kettle" landing butt first in the mud.

In the meantime, before the ball is retrieved and hurled towards the infield, the runner that was on first has scored and "Budge" O'Connell goes on to third with a standing triple.

You know, I cannot remember who won that game - but I shall never forget the scene just described!

I wanted to publish this in honor of "Handy Andy" Pafko, a great ball player and human being. He died tuesday, October 8, in a Michigan nursing home. He was 92 years old.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

COME ONE, COME ALL TO A GREAT FUND RAISER, SUNDAY, OCTOBER 6, 2013

I volunteered to organize a fund raiser for Patty Stangel's "Wildlife Rehabilitation and Release Program" which she operates on her scenic property outside Colfax, Wisconsin. Patty is truly the female version of Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals. She first became interested in this endeavor while working for the former organization near Fall Creek, Wisconsin, which was forced to close when the operator was diagnosed with cancer.

When it closed, Patty decided that she wanted to take up the mantel of leadership, and after finding her new country property, she gathered up all the animals still in need of care, and set about building cages and providing food for each and every wild bird and animal that was brought in from around the Chippewa Valley.

I met with Patty just yesterday and was shocked to find that she spends nearly $4000 just on live mice to feed the raptors in her keeping. She currently has just about brought a hawk back to total health and will be releasing it into the wild very soon.

Besides many owls, squirrels, raccoons, and rabbits, she also just nursed back to life a bobcat! The cat had been brought to her totally emaciated and its coat was mangy and matted. She released it back into the wild just a bit ago. She told me that it was the most dangerous animal she had ever worked with.

So last July I decided I would do what I could to organize the many talented musicians we are blessed with here in the Chippewa valley and after checking the Packers schedule, settled on Sunday, October 6, as the Pack will be coming off their bye week and facing the Detroit Lions in what has become nearly a "must win" game.

Here's the skinny:

Anybody and everybody is invited to join in the fun. It will be held at the Maple Lounge, 2507 South Hastings Way, Eau Claire, starting with the Packer/Lions game at noon. There will be a silent auction all afternoon with many great items to be won through donations and at the conclusion of the football game, Larry Heagle, acting as EmCee for the day, will take the stage, do a few comedy routines to warm the crowd, and then the music jam will follow.

More and more musicians have signed on for this great cause. They include: Billy Krause, Jerry Way, John Utphall, Tim Kielholtz, Dave "Barney" Barneson, Mike Richson, Mike Schlenker, Ed Trienen (harmonicas and great vocals, all the way from the Twin Cities), and many others, including any musicians that happen to show up that day. All are welcome to participate.

It is scheduled to conclude at 7 PM but something tells me that it may well run past that early hour!

I hope that if you read this blog, you will set aside Sunday, October 6, and join us for a heck of a lot of fun

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

ANOTHER CHAPTER CLOSES - SEE YA LATER "BIG TAMATER"

Another chapter of my performing life closed yesterday.

It had been so long since I used the 1982 Chevrolet van (aka: The Big Tamater) as my "work" vehicle, carrying a full complement of speakers, monitors, mic stands, and light standards, that as Spring arrived and moved into early Summer, I decided to test the market and try to sell it.

So I took an entire morning and cleaned out the interior thoroughly, posted a "particulars" sheet on the side window that read:

1982 Chevrolet C10 Panel Van
Six cylinder "flathead" engine
80,750 original miles
Towing package
Canvas cab partition
Fully carpeted cargo bay
No power steering
No power brakes
Selling price: $1200.00

I parked it out on the edge of our property along Hobbs Road and figured it would be weeks before I had someone interested in buying it, if at all.

Two days passed and I got a telephone call from a prospective buyer. We took it for a test drive and he bought it. End of story. He said he would be back with the wife later to pick it up and when I went out to check the next morning, it was gone.

Even though I really hadn't used it since the band broke up, I had a twinge of regret in the pit of my stomach knowing how final a move this was - the days of "the band" are officially over.

Turns out that two vehicles in my past yielded some pretty good songs. Proud to say that the song I wrote about the Chevy van was played nationally on NPR's "Car Talk".

See ya' later I'm gone in the Big Tamater
Headin' east on Highway 94
See ya later I'm gone in the Big Tamater
She's gonna roll til I reach my own front door

Got a little straight six that's gonna run forever
Gonna drive her til I play in your home town
Got a little straight six that's gonna run forever
And when I open the hood I can even see the ground

I don't need no break down air conditioning
Side vent windows help me keep my cool
Buildin' my upper body just by steering
And power brakes are just the Devil's tool


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

NEED A VACATION AWAY FROM VACATIONING!! IT'S REALLY HARD WORK

Everything had gone so well that I should have suspected that the last day of our baseball trip would disintegrate into complete chaos. Oh, it started off well enough; friday night when we got back to the Knickerbocker Itold Doug I would come up to his suite and make us a nice breakfast in an attempt to use up any an all of the left over groceries,

We have a nice meal of eggs, bacon, bagels, orange juice and coffee. We both had packed the night before so in no time we were checked out of the hotel and in a cab to the down town Milwaukee (Intermodal) Amtrak station. The train was much busier than the one we had taken coming out of Chicago.

We rolled into Chicago's Union Station just as the rain began to quicken. We asked if the subway was within walking distance and an employee assured us that it was only three blocks down and a block over so we set out on foot.

After walking in the rain for about half an hour we had had enough and hailed a cab which deposited us at the main Blue Line subway station and we had a long, crowded ride into the city and O'Hare airport.

We trundled our way towards where we would be checking through security and found the United Airlines board listing flights. That's when our day took a left turn. The scheduled 11:28 AM flight to Eau Claire had been cancelled. The next scheduled flight was 9:24 PM.

So we wandered about the terminal for a bit, then decided to check into the Hilton Hotel, just across the street from our terminal. The Hilton was sold out but the clerk said he would get us a booking at the Comfort Inn, which he did.

Unfortunately, he neglected to tell us one important thing. There are five Comfort Inns within nine miles of the airport and we didn't know which one. In fact we had to get rejected from several buses before we finally found out that there are five.

By now, it was too late to even think about getting a place to rest so we did the next best thing and went in to the bar at the Hilton. We had some appetizers and I put down two vodka gimlets. When my waiter asked if there was a specific kind of vodka I should have said bar rail but I just said no, whatever's handy.

Turns out Skyy was what I got and at $13 a drink. I forgot that I was in a Hilton.

Being somewhat inebriated is not a good way to go through TSA security but that's what I did and somehow I came through with everything I took off.

Now began the wasiting game of two and a half hours to see if our flight would be cancelled again. I watched the board and in cities all around Eau Claire flights were biting the dust - Duluth went down - Green Bay followed as did the Twin Cities.

Somehow though, our flight held and we were on the little two jet engined puddle jumper at 9:30 and got into Eau Claire at 10:40PMonly to find that they had lost one piece of luggage -- mine!

Since then I have been trying to catch up with my rest but things are not going well. Sunday I drove Kim and the rest of "The Getaway Girls" up to the Twin Cities for their vacation flight to The Big Easy.

Now it's just me and the cats. I went in search of the perfect frozen pizza the other day. I know, I know - there is no such thing. But pizza is like sex - even when it's bad, it's pretty good.

So I found one I finally can eat without gagging. It's not as good as freshly made or Sammy's- but I am going to stock up on some nine inchers yet today.

The name? BrewPub Lotzza Motzzarella and they are pretty darn good. But that's just me.

Here's a photo:


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Friday, April 19, 2013

FINAL DAY OF VACATION TURNS NIGHTMARISH BUT FINALLY HOME!

Well, it took us all day and half the night, but I finally got to bed with my wife at 1:30 this morning. I got up at 6AM on thursday, finished my packing and then went up and made breakfast for Doug to use up as much of the groceries as we could.

We were all checked out by 7:30 and on the Amtrak about an hour later. We tried to find the Blue Line subway outside of Union Station in Chicago, but after walking for about three city blocks in the rain, Doug gave up and hailed a cab. We got in line to check in with United Airlines and found huge lines - everything was clogged with people - we moved down to terminal one but found the same mess there.

Then we found out that the late morning flight to Eau Claire had been cancelled so we loitered around a while and Doug decided he wanted to check into a hotel near the airport to lounge around until the next flight to Eau Claire at 9:24 PM - He called the Hilton across the street - they were all booked up but the guy at the Hilton desk offered to book us at the Comfort Inn, which he did. He gave Doug a confirmation number, but neglected to tell him that there are five Comfort Inns in the area -- we stood outside waiting for a shuttle bus - Comfort Suites came by - I tried to get on -- was told it was the wrong bus - then we missed seeing another one -- and finally I was getting upet and started yelling at the next driver from a Comfort Inn - he asked at which one we were staying and that was the first that we foound out there are FIVE!!!

Then Doug called the guy back at the Hilton and tried to get the right bus - was told that the one we wanted was nine miles away, but because of flooding it took the bus an hour to get there!!!!

So Doug cancelled the room, we milled around for a while and then went across the street to the Hilton's lounge and a chance to recharge Doug's iPHone - wthout asking how much they were, I had two vodka gimlets and we both had an appetizer -- when the bill came, it was $73!!! The drinks were $13 dollars a piece. I paid the bill.

With the Eau Claire 9:24 PM flight still holding, we went thru security and then began the nail biting until they called our flight at 8:58PM - we got into Eau Claire at 10:45PM and of course, they lost MY luggage! (I just got it back about an hour ago).

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 17 - WEATHER TURNS CHILLY AND RAINY - BREWERS SQUEAK PAST GIANTS 4-3 IN NINE

BLAKE LALLI IS MET AT HOME PLATE BY JUBILANT TEAM MATES AFTER HIS WALK OFF PINCH HIT SAC FLY

Rarely used, Blake Lalli quickly showed he was totally prepared.
On the first pitch, the pinch-hitter lifted a long single in the bottom of the ninth inning Wednesday night that sent the Milwaukee Brewers over the San Francisco Giants 4-3.
"He was in looking at videos, he was looking at what the pitchers throw and he knew what he wanted to do with the first pitch," Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke said. "Lalli is a very smart guy. He knew what he wanted to do in that situation."


I had gone up to Doug's suite in the morning and made him a breakfast of eggs and bacon with orange juice. Doug spent the afternoon at the Potawatomie Casino, but that didn't interest me at all, so I slept in to be ready for the evening's festivities.

I also got most of my packing done as we will be leaving the hotel at 7 AM after I go up and cook up what is left of the groceries Doug has in his suite.

Time for me to hit the hay as I have a 6 AM start tomorrow. We will be taking Amtrak from downtown Milwaukee at 8 AM to the Chicago O'Hare airport, get checked in and take an early afternoon flight back to Eau Claire to finish the baseball trip!

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BREWERS WIN FIRST GAME AFTER HUGE THIRD INNING TOPPED WITH BETANCOURT GRAND SLAM - Also coverage of April 16


The first two photos are of the main entrance to the Hotel Knickerbocker,Milwaukee, and the very ornate elevator doors. After quite a bit of rain last night, the day dawned with a beautiful sunrise over Lake Michigan.

Knowing that Doug would be sleeping in until at least 10 AM, Anson and I got up around 6:30 in the morning and headed over to the Einstein Bagel joint on Ogden for a bagel and a shmear.

Doug had called from his room the night before to tell us that he had left his iPhone at Mader's, but when we got in Anson's car we found it on the floor of the car.

When we got back to the hotel I went up to Doug's 6th floor suite and slipped a note under his door with the news.

Eventually Doug called and we went up to his room where I made breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon,toast, orange juice and coffee with the few utensils supplied by the hotel. It was somewhat of a challenge but worked out okay.

After our brunch, we jumped in the car and went over to the lakefront to the Milwaukee Museum of Art which features the architectural sculpture of a Spanish architectural artist, Calatrava. It is of a abstract bird figure the wings of which fold and then open about every ten minutes - as shown in the picture above.

The other architectural photos are of two very old edifices just down the street from our hotel. And no, I am not referring to the photo of Doug and I standing in front of the Milwaukee Museum!

Several pictures from tuesday night's 9-8 Brewer victory. As you can see, these are the best seats of the tour as we are in the third row and very close to home plate.

The seating at Miller Park is much too confined with absolutely no elbow room. Even though the roof was closed, it was a pretty chilly time of it - seemed to get colder in the building as it got later; probably because so many "fans" left early - something we couldn't understand because it was a good game. Made it kind of embarrassing to be a Wisconsin boy and a Brewer fan. Also we had a "mouth" a few rows back who was vocally unpleasant with the Giant players while they were in the on deck circle.

The game was a slow one - started at 7:10 and didn't finish until well after 10:30PM. One more game tomorrow night before we head back to Chicago to catch our plane back to Eau Claire.

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Monday, April 15, 2013

MONDAY, APRIL 15 - OUR TRAVEL DAY AND MY 72ND BIRTHDAY



Today was our travel day from Chicago to Milwaukee by Amtrak. Doug and I left the Hotel Lincoln at 11:30 AM by taxi, laden with our suitcases and back packs. We checked into Union Station and waited about 50 minutes for our train (335) The Hiawatha to announce boarding.

There was plenty of room to relax on the car we chose and we made the trip to downtown Milwaukee by 2:34PM. On the way, the train made a stop at Sturdevant, Wisconsin, and Doug spotted one of the Giants TV announcers making his way into the station entry way! Seems he is originally a Wisconsin boy from nearby.

My brother Anson met us at the station when we arrived down town and we quickly got signed into our hotel, The Knickerbocker. The top left photo is of the wonderful old style architecture of the entry way to room 414 where Anson and I are staying tonight. The picture to the right is of Anson and Doug - caught totally by surprise. Let's hope they don't see this one!

The next photos are of the kitchenette, the walk in closet, the bath room, our sleeping quarters, a shot of the boys at County Clare, a quaint little Irish pub and lodging house just around the corner from the Knickerbocker on our way to dinner at Mader's.

I had a shot of Jamieson's and it knocked me on my ass!

Dinner at Mader's was incredibly delicious! Anson and I both had the pork schneitzel with red cabbage and spaetzle. Doug opted for the pork shank which was equally delicious.


Just as we were finishing dinner, we met a wonderful table of Giants fans who were also finishing their meal. As we had, they had been to games in Chicago and will be at the game tomorrow night at Miller Park. They are all natives of the Bay Area and proud followers of their team.

I hope we get a chance to visit with them again tomorrow!

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Sunday, April 14, 2013

SUNDAY'S WEATHER MUCH MORE CONDUSIVE TO ENJOYABLE BASEBALL



Having a devil of a time getting the photos from today to load onto the blog site. They seem to all be up now but in no order whatsoever so see if you can figure them out. One of them is a view out my tenth story window looking toward Lake Michigan that I took early this morning while the cold 40 temperatures were still upon us.

The photo just to the left of that is of Doug standing just outside what was the front door of his apartment building on Belden when he was a wee lad. We did some walking and reminiscing around his old haunts before taking the bus to the ball game at 1:20PM.

The photo above that has Doug standing in front of a bronze statue of the Bard on Avon inscribed: "What a piece of work is man" etc.
Doug told me that as an eight year old he would climb up and sit in Shakespeare's lap. Try as I might, I couldn't get him to do that for this photo!

By the time we got to the ball park, (two pictures to left and above), the sun had come out and we had just sat down in our seats when the announcer called "PLAY BALL!" Again the seats were exquisite and the game was a real barn burner with the Cubs leading most of the way, but Pence hit a single home run with a 3-2 count in the top of the ninth to tie the game and the Giants stopped the Cubs with one run in their half of the inning to put the game into extra innings.

The Giants put up three runs in the top of the tenth and Doug's favorite reliever, Romo, came in and shut them down with just one man on base to end the game.

The weather turned out to be beautiful all afternoon with temps in the low 60's and no wind - we both got some sun and are looking quite ruddy this evening.

Time for bed - tomorrow is travel day to Milwaukee by Amtrak and also my 72nd birthday!

Carry on!


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Saturday, April 13, 2013

ADVENTURES OF DOUG AND LARRY - DAY TWO - GIANTS WIN IN THE COLD

Last night, tired as we were from the trek into town from the airport, we decided to have our evening meal at the hotel restaurant. It is one of those places with extremely high ceilings and normal conversation becomes a din as dineers try to outdo each other to be heard at their respective tables.

The food was a little too "haute cuisine -ish" for my taste as the chef is an expert in using local meats and vegetables and is heavily into pickling. So we had pickled beets with nuts and pickled cabbage leaves as a lead in and my main course was a pork scallopine with a sauce I didn't really understand.

We parted for our rooms and the plan was to get up early enough to find some breakfast before proceeding to Wrigley. However, Doug, a notorious night owl, overslept somewhat and we didn't get started until 10 AM. We decided that we would just pick up ball park food.

Doug checked game start time, thinking it was 1:05PM, but it was indeed a noon start so we got bundled up for the forty degree, cloudy and windy forecast and took a cab to Addison.

We found our way to great seats in the third row just behind the Giants dug out on the first base side, then went back to the concession area for a slice of Chicago style deep dish pizza, two Chicago hot dogs, and two Old Styles to wash it all down with.

There were a surprising number of fans in San Francisco gear,including two young ladies who sat directly in front of us. Not much happened in the early innings; no home runs or multiple runners but finally the Giants put two runs on the board and added a third in the 7th.

The Cubs managed a home run with a runner on base in their half of the inning but the Gaints hung on to win 3-2 in nine innings. The last Cubs batter, on his final strike, fell to the ground in agony and it took some time to get him to his feet.

We decided to take the CTA bus back to the hotel as that is a much cheaper ride than the cabs. I did find it interesting that Chicago's taxi cab fleet is now made up of Priuses.

We are scheduled to leave the hotel for Italian food at 7 PM so I have a little time to rest now!

We are back from dinner at Topo Gigio's Italian Restuaurant, in despite its name, the food was very very good! Doug had the veal scallopine with capers which was sliced wonderfully thin and exquisitely seasoned.

I chose the Italian sausage ragu over porcini mushrooms and home made pasta. The Italian sausage was very much like mine, I found, and the serving was immense. I ended up bringing at least two thirds of it back to my room.

I just finished taking a very long soak in my bath tub - fell asleep twice --and now I am going to snooze until Kim calls around 10PM. This vacationing is hard work!

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Friday, April 12, 2013

FIRST DAY OF BASEBALL TRIP HAS ITS TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS

For a while today ist looked like we wouldn't be making the trip to Chicago. With the plane scheduled to depart precisely at 3PM, I got a call from Doug saying he was still in the process of rounding up the house sitter and Walter the Dachshund sitter as well.

Kim and I arrived at the house at 2:05PM and still no Doug - then I got another telephone call from him saying that they were at Mega
foods picking up groceries for said house sitter. At 2:20, Doug pulled into the driveway and by 2:25PM we were on our way to the Eau Claire airport.

As we were unloading our luggage we heard the loud speaker blare that this was last call for the 3 PM flight to Chicago. We hustled in, last in line, and got through the removal of shoes and the magic wand that my artificial knee drove crazy and were the last to get to our seats. As my habit, I was way overdressed to stay warm, thinking about being outdoors at the ball games this weekend so it was a very uncomfortable ride all the way to O'Hare.

In addition, the air line attendant decided that my "carry on" luggage was too big to carry on and so they took it away from me and stowed it with the rest of the luggage in the belly of the plane. At the time that they did this, they handed me a sticker with a number on it but didn't tell me that I was to attach it to the handle of my bag. so instead I put it in my pocket so that I could identify my bag upon arrival.

There were about nine of us waiting for luggage and I kept trying to compare the numbers on the sticker I had in my pocket with those on the bags as the crew deposited them at our feet. Finally one of the crew saw what I was doing and told me that I was supposed to have put that sticker on my luggage.

Now I broke out in a cold sweat because all my clothes for the weekend were in that bag! Everyone collected their luggage and left me standing alone on the jetway. Suddenly the guy from the crew brought up one more bag and asked if this was mine. I said I wouldn't know without opening it. I opened it and luckily it was my stuff!

This put doug way behind in collecting his luggage at the carousel so we began the long trek through O'Hare, which stretches, it seems. aimlessly for miles. At one point we missed the turn to get to the carousel and ended walking and extra two blocks. Dragging all my stuff, and overdressed, I was about to drop in my tracks by the time we got to the carousel.

There was no luggage coming out so finally doug asked an attendant whast was up and she took him to where they had stored his bags because they didn't think he was going to show.

Our next trek was to find the way to ground transport to catch an El train that would take us as close to our hotel as possible. More walking. And lots of it.

We finally found the correct train and rode for 40 minutes to the stop closest to the Lincoln Hotel where we were staying - still some 13 blocks away.

We hailed a cab the driver of which did not know where the hotel was! He blabbered in a foreign language to someone on the radio all the way to the hotel with Doug's directions.

We checked into our rooms and collapsed until dinner at 8PM.

I hope we have better luck tomorrow!

_____________________________________________________________

OFF ON THE "GREAT BASEBALL ODYSSEY"

Today is the day that my good friend and huge San Francisco Giants fan, Doug and I, leave for Chicago to see the Giants battle the Cubs for two games, saturday, April 13. and sunday April 14.

Unfortunately, when the trip was booked, it was with the enthusiastic hopes that Spring would have truly arrived and temperatures would be in the 60's. But if you live anywhere near Chicago you know that is not the case. Instead, temperatures have been hovering around freezing and we have been getting intermittent snow.

So Wrigley field could be a real challenge! I have spent two days organizing and reorganizing my packing to prepare for saturday's 40 degree temperatures and sunday's high of sixty degrees. Plenty of long underwear, warm socks, and stocking caps. Unfortunately I don't own one of those "bank holdup" ski masks, and this time of year, nobody has them in stock!

Okay, so I bring a long scarf and do Lawrence of Arabia!

We are staying in a great old hotel - the name of which escapes me just now but I intend to cover the entire trip with blogs and pictures so I will let you know.

Monday will be our day off and my (gulp) 72nd birthday, which we will celebrate by taking a train up to Milwaukee and the Knickerbocker Hotel (there, I remembered that one!) and my younger brother Anson is coming down from Algoma to join us for birthday dinner at a good German restaurant.

Anson will be staying overnight and going with us to Miller Park for the first of two games between the Giants and the Brewers in a domed and much more comfortable atmosphere.

So I'll catch up with you later! LET'S GO GIANTS! (I gotta cheer for SF -- Doug paid for the whole trip as a birthday gift!)

______________________________________________________

Thursday, March 14, 2013

THE MYTHS OF GUN OWNERSHIP

In following up to my recent post of the National Rifle Association's new president-elect having a son serving a 10 year sentence for use of a fire arm in a case of road rage, I found the article "Ten Pro-Gun Myths" quite revealing.

Today I wrote to both Senator Tammy Baldwin and "the dumbest senator ever elected from Wisconsin", Ron Johnson. To Ms. Baldwin I expressed disbelief that according to a recent news article, she is changing her attitude towards guns, leaving the anti-gun camp for the pro-gun believers, proving once again, I think, that to politicians, it's not what they truly believe but what will get them elected next time around that is most important. As Bob Dylan once said: "You don't need a weatherman to tell which way the wind blows."

To both the senators I expressed that I am a gun owner and that I believe if you cannot get your deer with a single shot, you have no business being in the woods!

I know I sure as hell wouldn't want to be in a hunting party with Ron Johnson!!!!



10 Pro-Gun Myths, Shot Down
Fact-checking some of the gun lobby's favorite arguments shows they're full of holes.
—By Dave Gilson | Thu Jan. 31, 2013 4:01 AM PST
1184

By cutting off federal funding for research and stymieing data collection and sharing, the National Rifle Association has tried to do to the study of gun violence what climate deniers have done to the science of global warming. No wonder: When it comes to hard numbers, some of the gun lobby's favorite arguments are full of holes.

Myth #1: They're coming for your guns.
Fact-check: No one knows the exact number of guns in America, but it's clear there's no practical way to round them all up (never mind that no one in Washington is proposing this). Yet if you fantasize about rifle-toting citizens facing down the government, you'll rest easy knowing that America's roughly 80 million gun owners already have the feds and cops outgunned by a factor of around 79 to 1.


Sources: Congressional Research Service (PDF), Small Arms Survey

Myth #2: Guns don't kill people—people kill people.
Fact-check: People with more guns tend to kill more people—with guns. The states with the highest gun ownership rates have a gun murder rate 114% higher than those with the lowest gun ownership rates. Also, gun death rates tend to be higher in states with higher rates of gun ownership. Gun death rates are generally lower in states with restrictions such as assault-weapons bans or safe-storage requirements.


Sources: Pediatrics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Myth #3: An armed society is a polite society.
Fact-check: Drivers who carry guns are 44% more likely than unarmed drivers to make obscene gestures at other motorists, and 77% more likely to follow them aggressively.
• Among Texans convicted of serious crimes, those with concealed-handgun licenses were sentenced for threatening someone with a firearm 4.8 times more than those without.
• In states with Stand Your Ground and other laws making it easier to shoot in self-defense, those policies have been linked to a 7 to 10% increase in homicides.


EXCLUSIVE: Unmasking the NRA's Inner Circle
Meet the NRA's Board of Directors
The NRA Myth of Arming the Good Guys
Flashback: How Republicans and the NRA Kneecapped the ATF
Does the NRA Really Have 4 Million Members?
To Recruit Cops, the NRA Dangles Freebies Paid for by Gun Companies
How the NRA and Its Allies Helped Spread a Radical Gun Law Nationwide
See our full special report on gun laws and the rise of mass shootings in America.
Myth #4: More good guys with guns can stop rampaging bad guys.
Fact-check: Mass shootings stopped by armed civilians in the past 30 years: 0
• Chances that a shooting at an ER involves guns taken from guards: 1 in 5

Myth #5: Keeping a gun at home makes you safer.
Fact-check: Owning a gun has been linked to higher risks of homicide, suicide, and accidental death by gun.
• For every time a gun is used in self-defense in the home, there are 7 assaults or murders, 11 suicide attempts, and 4 accidents involving guns in or around a home.
• 43% of homes with guns and kids have at least one unlocked firearm.
• In one experiment, one third of 8-to-12-year-old boys who found a handgun pulled the trigger.

Myth #6: Carrying a gun for self-defense makes you safer.
Fact-check: In 2011, nearly 10 times more people were shot and killed in arguments than by civilians trying to stop a crime.
• In one survey, nearly 1% of Americans reported using guns to defend themselves or their property. However, a closer look at their claims found that more than 50% involved using guns in an aggressive manner, such as escalating an argument.
• A Philadelphia study found that the odds of an assault victim being shot were 4.5 times greater if he carried a gun. His odds of being killed were 4.2 times greater.

Myth #7: Guns make women safer.
Fact-check: In 2010, nearly 6 times more women were shot by husbands, boyfriends, and ex-partners than murdered by male strangers.
• A woman's chances of being killed by her abuser increase more than 7 times if he has access to a gun.
• One study found that women in states with higher gun ownership rates were 4.9 times more likely to be murdered by a gun than women in states with lower gun ownership rates.

Myth #8: "Vicious, violent video games" deserve more blame than guns.
Fact-check: So said NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre after Newtown. So what's up with Japan?

United States Japan
Per capita spending
on video games $44 $55
Civilian firearms
per 100 people 88 0.6
Gun homicides
in 2008 11,030 11
Sources: PricewaterhouseCoopers, Small Arms Survey (PDF), UN Office on Drugs and Crime

Myth #9: More and more Americans are becoming gun owners.
Fact-check: More guns are being sold, but they're owned by a shrinking portion of the population.
• About 50% of Americans said they had a gun in their homes in 1973. Today, about 45% say they do. Overall, 35% of Americans personally own a gun.
• Around 80% of gun owners are men. On average they own 7.9 guns each.

Myth #10: We don't need more gun laws—we just need to enforce the ones we have.
Fact-check: Weak laws and loopholes backed by the gun lobby make it easier to get guns illegally.
• Around 40% of all legal gun sales involve private sellers and don't require background checks. 40% of prison inmates who used guns in their crimes got them this way.
• An investigation found 62% of online gun sellers were willing to sell to buyers who said they couldn't pass a background check.
• 20% of licensed California gun dealers agreed to sell handguns to researchers posing as illegal "straw" buyers.
• The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives has not had a permanent director for 6 years, due to an NRA-backed requirement that the Senate approve nominees.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

CAN'T MAKE THIS STUFF UP!!!

My e mail buddy from Ohio, Mr. Kirk Roebuck, sent me a URL for a story that I doubt very much you will be getting wind of on good old FOX News. It seems that the son of newly elected National Rifle Association President, David Keene, is currently serving time for a 2002 road rage incident in which the young man put a bullet through the back window of someone who pissed him off. fortunately for him, the bullet didn't hit the driver but lodged in the back of the driver's seat.

According to the story posted:

If all goes as expected in Pittsburgh today, American Conservative Union President David Keene will be elected president of the National Rifle Association at the organization's board of directors meeting.

One person who presumably will not be attending the event is Keene's son, David Michael Keene, who according to news reports and trial documents was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison for a 2002 road-rage incident in which he fired a handgun from his moving vehicle at another car on the George Washington Memorial Parkway in Virginia.

For more on this, let's go to that pro-gun bastion of conservative reporting, WorldNetDaily. In a December 2010 article which focused primarily on a rumored $400,000 embezzlement scandal facing the American Conservative Union, WorldNetDaily reported that:

In addition to his role at ACU, David Keene also serves as 1st vice president of the National Rifle Association and, as such, is in line to become the powerful gun lobby's next president.

That role caused the NRA some anguish when Keene's son, David Michael Keene, was arrested for a road rage incident in which he allegedly fired a gun at another motorist on the George Washington Memorial Parkway. The round fired shattered the rear window of the victim's car, lodging into the driver's seat, coming within inches of hitting him, according to police reports.

The writer of the above report, Josh Sugarmann finished with this nugget of wisdom, suitable for bumper sticker glory:


Remember, guns don't attempt to kill people, the sons of NRA presidents do.


This story can only be somewhat rivaled by what happened back in 2011 and was reported in the Washington Post as follows:


Posted at 7:25 PM ET, 02/25/2011
MADD president charged with DUI -- oh, the irony!
By Alexandra Petri
That's what I call DUIrony.

A former Mothers Against Drunk Driving chapter president was recently arrested on charges of drunk driving.

Oops.

For years, I thought MADD's slogan was "Friends don't let friends drive drunk," which always confused me, because that seems to negate the concept of the designated driver.

I'm glad no one was hurt when former MADD chapter president Debra Oberlin was busted with an alleged BAC of .234.

But let's take a moment. That is some beautiful vintage irony right there. I've pointed out bad irony before. But this could be in the textbook. I hope when people Google "irony" in coming years, this is the first result. It deserves to be.

Reminds me of the story that's been making the rounds on your e mail for years:

When you occasionally have a really bad day,
and you just need to take it out on someone,
don't take it out on someone you know,
take it out on someone you don't know,
but you know deserves it.

I was sitting at my desk when I remembered
a phone call I'd forgotten to make.

I found the number and dialed it.

A man answered, saying
'Hello.'

I politely said,
'This is Chris.
Could I please speak with Robyn Carter?'

Suddenly a manic voice yelled out in my ear
'Get the right f***ing number!'
And the phone was slammed down on me.

I couldn't believe that anyone could be so rude.

When I tracked down Robyn's correct number
to call her,
I found that I had accidentally transposed
the last two digits.

After hanging up with her,
I decided to call the 'wrong' number again.

When the same guy answered the phone, I yelled
'You're an asshole!'
And hung up.

I wrote his number down
with the word 'asshole' next to it,
And put it in my desk drawer.

Every couple of weeks,
when I was paying bills or had a really bad day,
I'd call him up and yell,
'You're an asshole!'

It always cheered me up.

When Caller ID was introduced,
I thought my therapeutic 'asshole'
calling would have to stop.

So, I called his number and said,
'Hi, this is John Smith from the telephone company.
I'm calling to see if you're familiar with our
Caller ID Program?'

He yelled
'NO!'
And slammed down the phone.

I quickly called him back and said,
'That's because you're an asshole!'
And hung up.

One day I was at the store,
getting ready to pull into a parking spot.

Some guy in a black BMW
cut me off and pulled into the spot
I had patiently waited for.

I hit the horn and yelled
that I'd been waiting for that spot,
but the idiot ignored me.

I noticed a 'For Sale' sign in his back window,
so I wrote down his number.

A couple of days later,
right after calling the first asshole
(I had his number on speed dial)
I thought that I'd better call the BMW asshole, too.

I said,
'Is this the man with the black BMW for sale?'

He said,
'Yes, it is.'

I then asked,
'Can you tell me where I can see it?'

He said,
'Yes, I live at 34 Oaktree Blvd. , in Fairfax
It's a yellow ranch style house
And the car's parked right out in front.'

I asked,
'What's your name?'

He said,
'My name is Don Hansen.'

I asked,
'When's a good time to catch you, Don?'

He said,
'I'm home every evening after five.'

I said,
'Listen, Don, can I tell you something?'

He said,
'Yes?'

I said,
'Don, you're an asshole!'

Then I hung up,
and added his number to my speed dial, too.

Now, when I had a problem,
I had two assholes to call.

Then I came up with an idea...

I called asshole #1.

He said,
'Hello'

I said,
'You're an asshole!'
(But I didn't hang up.)

He asked,
'Are you still there?'

I said,
'Yeah!'

He screamed,
'Stop calling me'

I said,
'Make me.'

He asked,
'Who are you?'

I said,
'My name is Don Hansen.'

He said,
'Yeah? Where do you live?'

I said,
'Asshole, I live at 34 Oaktree Blvd., in Fairfax ,
a yellow ranch style home and
I have a black Beamer parked in front.'

He said,
'I'm coming over right now, Don.
And you had better start saying your prayers.'

I said,
'Yeah, like I'm really scared, asshole,'
and hung up.

Then I called Asshole #2.

He said,
'Hello?'

I said,
'Hello, asshole,'

He yelled,
'If I ever find out who you are...'

I said,
'You'll what?'

He exclaimed,
'I'll kick your ass'

I answered,
'Well, asshole, here's your chance.
I'm coming over right now.'

Then I hung up and immediately called the police,
saying that I was on my way over to 34 Oaktree Blvd, in Fairfax, to kill my gay lover.

Then I called Channel 7 News
about the gang war going down in Oaktree Blvd in Fairfax .
I quickly got into my car and headed over to Fairfax ..

I got there just in time to watch two assholes
beating the crap out of each other
in front of six cop cars, an overhead news helicopter
and surrounded by a news crew.

NOW I feel much better.

Anger management really does work.