Wednesday, December 27, 2006

How was your Christmas?

When I'm asked, "How was your Christmas?" in the days following the holiday, my impulse is to reply with an honest answer. I was relieved when the RN taking my blood pressure sensed my hesitation and filled in the blank with, "Busy? Like everybody?"

"Yeah. Busy," I said in agreement.

The reality was much different than busy. Sure, there was busyness so I wasn't lying but there also was a weirdness to the Christmas season that was dark and unsettling. Nothing grave actually happened directly to the family, thankfully. Still...

A 20-year-old friend of my daughter dropped dead in her shower at the start of exam week. A blood clot hit her heart and she was dead before EMS could get her to a hospital. Another local teenager was killed in a car crash that seriously injured her three passengers and someone in the other car. A friend's wife died Christmas Eve morning. This morning, we learned of the car crash death of another acquaintance.

To go along with the list, we have to include our aging process and some new medical realities there and the same process working on those around us.

The cell wall of the family remains intact but there's someone out there with a micropipette probing and bruising that fragile membrane all the time.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Food and risks

Humans go to great lengths to protect their food supplies. Killing wolves to prevent the wolves from killing sheep seems crude and unnecessary in our current setting. In a primitive, subsistence culture where the sheep represent your means of survival, getting rid of the wolves is a logical conclusion.

Insects have a historical pattern of eating food away from people. Plant diseases are no less devastating than insect infestations. One of the most well documented examples of a plant disease changing human fortunes is the Irish potato famine beginning in 1845. Africa is a continuos story of drought, insects, plant disease, and social upheaval much of it orbiting around food production and distribution failures.

Crop failures in Central America and Mexico increase the movement of people from rural areas into cities and contributes to the pressure on our own borders for people to move here for a better life. In most simple terms, a sustainable and dependable supply of food is the foundation of all cultural enrichment.

In spite of news stories of bacterial contamination in the food chain for time to time, the food production and distribution system we enjoy in the United States and share with the world is a daily miracle. Never have so many lived so well and so confidently as what we're living with today. Threats from insects, diseases, bacteria, fungus, and to some extent the weather, are held at bay by technology.

Our abundance does comes at a cost. The application technology in food production is increasingly under fire for contributing to environmental degradation and creating public health hazards. As we address those issues, it's good to keep in mind there are reasons for the use of the materials and the farming practices we have today.

Nurturing a close-at-hand supply of food is a worthwhile pursuit. Commodity production is global. Wheat, rice, corn and soybeans grown here feed people all over the world. That takes energy and resources. By supporting locally grown food with our money and time, we help in a small way to reduce the costs and risks of associated with commercial agriculture.

Community supported agriculture (CSA) is one means for you to support, nurture and develop local sources of fresh food production. The Stoughton area has several. In a nut shell, CSA involves you in the process. To learn more and to find local CSAs, you can refer to The Madison Area Community Supported Agriculture Coalition

And may none of us ever have to worry what the wolves are doing tonight.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


Negative breathless prose regarding food production is neither very useful or instructive. That modern food production, processing and distribution is energy intensive is hardly a news flash. Unattributed claims, highly selective examples describing aspects of the process in support of an assumptive point of view are counter productive and provide nothing by way of solutions.

It'd be far more beneficial to use newsletter space to provide names, addresses and phone numbers of local food producers, the hours and locations of local produce outlets and producer markets, and tips for acquiring, preparing, processing, and storing those goods.

Thousands of people go to work each day hoping to make a difference. We need all the help we can muster. Having had the opportunity to work first hand with subsistence farming, the notion of returning to some "good old days" of food production pre 1940 is absurd.

Should we work to reduce the use of energy in the food chain? Absolutely.

Is buying locally produced food a good way to reduce energy use in the food chain? You bet.

Is buying a bottle of ketchup a sin? Not so much.

If you've ever had to depend entirely on the food you grow yourself, you know it's not an energy-free activity. It takes all of your time and likely all the time of your entire family and it goes on from the time you get up until the time you fall asleep. Then you get up the next day and the next day and the next day and keep working to produce enough to eat.

When someone decides to attack modern agriculture, I wish they'd find a way that wouldn't belittle those of us who have spent our entire lives trying to find solutions to the pressing needs of the world's population.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Commodity organics

Given the chance to use a product or a substance or a practice that'll reduce or eliminate the risks crop face from weather, insects, weeds and fertility conditions, most people will grab for the product. I've seen this phenomenon in suburban back yards where the gardener starts out with good intentions of never using an insecticide and then suddenly along comes some insect bent on eating its fill of the crop and ka-pow, out comes the insecticide.

I worked with subsistence agriculture in south and central America. Subsistence agriculture means you're scratching every day all day to nurse food out of the ground. Improving and assuring that the crops bear enough fruit to feed the family is constant work. The work is hard. In fact, we're talking about stoop labor; work where you're bent over all day sweating, or freezing depending, and you're dirty.

Somehow, in my head, I have organic production connected to subsistence agriculture. The connection sticks in my head in spite of what I've seen of organic agriculture in North America. I've seen what looks like highly productive agriculture.

Knowledgeable people, in whom I trust, tell me it's possible to ramp up organic farming to meet a mass market challenge. They add that they think such a ramp up is most likely in the arid, irrigated west of the United States (or other similar places).

The humid Midwest, south and east probably aren't well suited to produce organically grown food in a mass scale. There are simply too many challenges to the crops to consistently provide enough organic food to meet mass market demands.

People in the organic business aren't entirely sure they care about a mass market anyway. A recent article in the Chicago Tribune (registration required) quoted representatives talking about Wal-Mart marketing as a violation of the "spirit" of organic farming. A big retailer such as Wal-Mart will work to drive down prices paid to producers and has the weight to go anywhere in the world to find supplies.

A goal for many producers of organic food is to maintain small-scale production. So now if it's possible to mass produce food without the use of various fertilizers, insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, then shouldn't we go full bore in that direction?

I'm so confused. It just seems hard to have it both ways.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Sheer volume

Two things quickly come to mind when people visit with me about the many virtues of organic food production; can organic production supply the kind of sheer volume required in the world each day; and what is the carbon footprint of food transportation if you have to haul organic food long distances to get it to market?

I've been poking around for some data on the carbon footprint question and maybe I'll find some I can visit about. But when it comes to supplying the kind of food volume needed in the world every day, I'm thinking a wholesale shift to organic practices would create a wreck.

You can research and apply many best management practices to organic production to increase yields and produce quality. Fighting weeds in organic schemes, for example, uses such tools as crop rotation and tillage to reduce weed pressure. You may also go out and pull weeds by hand.

But when you're out there hoeing and pulling are you gardening or farming? On a small plot of land intensively lorded over, the hoe and hand weed process are fine. Scale up such production and you scale up your labor needs. I'm all for hiring people but I'd like to hire people at a living wage and not have my business depend on exploitation to gain a profit.

Somewhere I read that a rotation of commodity crops such as corn, beans, wheat, alfalfa, and so forth keeps the weeds and other pests common to each from gaining a foothold and thus pressure from weeds and pests is reduced.

Makes some sense. But I think you're going to get a yield drop compared to crops grown with what we're now calling conventional means. The application of fertilizer, insecticides, and herbicides are risk reduction tools as well as labor reduction tools. Imperfect as these tools are, their use reduces risks from the pests threatening crops.

Practices that reduce and eliminate the use of pesticides are great by me. But I'm not very interested in sending the whole world back to subsistence farming. Rejecting science and technology in food production is a risky notion.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Meat eaters

A response to this:

It’s been a long time since I’ve lopped the head off a chicken, been involved in slitting a pig’s throat or peeled the hide back on a steer carcass. Those things were done so the family could have food in storage and to keep hard earned cash at home to meet other needs.

When I was involved in killing an animal for food, I always wished someone else would do it. There was no moral objection; we took good care of our animals and there always was a sense of respect and reverence for the whole process.

Yet it wasn’t something I looked forward to. Yes, the eating later was necessary and also done after a prayer and a thought about the animals providing for our sustenance. Still, butchering was something I’d sooner not have to do.

When we found someone who’d come to the farm and do the butchering for us, we went that route. Later, we’d take the animals to a small plant outside of town and have the butchering done there coming back in a few days to pick up the wrapped and frozen meat.

That was the progression. There were people around better at raising hogs than us, too. And chickens. Pretty soon the hogs and chickens disappeared from the farm. We were good at dairy cows so we got more cows.

Neighbors who didn’t have cows would stop by and pick up milk, fresh raw milk right out of our cooler. This was a long time ago and I don’t know if our practice was legal or not. I grew up drinking raw milk. Thought little about it at the time.

Hassles came about. The taste of the milk would change with a change of feed or pasture and our neighbor customers would note and complain. Once the meat that came back from the butcher couldn’t have come from the animal we hauled over there. Then it happened again.

People were changing. In the increasing hubbub it was harder to stop by and pick up milk when you could get it at a store and be on your way home. Then there was a story about a bunch of people getting sick at a church picnic from drinking fresh, raw milk provided by a farmer from the congregation.

We started pasteurizing the milk we used at home. What a chore and it didn’t last long so we assumed the risk of raw milk and went on. But we weren’t going to sell any out of the tank any more even if asked.

As time passed, our acres of corn and soybeans increased. The old barn was maxed out for cow capacity. The family was getting older and us kids were getting to the stage when we might start adding kids of our own. For the farm to support dad and his two sons we’d need more cows. My calculations said we’d need 50 cows for each family. In other words we needed facilities for 150 cows instead of the 40 we had.

Dad had had enough. He was getting old and wanted out and didn’t have much interest in taking on the debt it’d require to build such facilities. He didn’t want us to become farmers because he figured there were better ways to make a living and all he had to do was point to the increasing commuter traffic going by the place morning and afternoon.

It’s funny now to see people squealing about regulations preventing them from selling raw milk. I marvel at a story about someone’s fight to slaughter cattle at home and market the meat. The outrage about USDA and state bureaucrats being involved in agriculture for the sole benefit of corporate masters amazes me.

My entire life I’ve encouraged people to buy food locally. All along I’ve cheered for producers willing to take the risk and do the work to direct market. I like it when people can have a say in how their food is produced. It’s thrilling to see local food systems growing and maturing all over the country.

But let’s not promote assumptions as facts. We are where we are today not as the result of some nasty conspiracy. We’re where we are today because as a social system, we’ve advanced away from subsistence agriculture.

Most of us would sooner someone else would lop the head off the chicken.

Sunday, June 25, 2006


It’s a rare human endeavor that meets success based on the sole ambitions of an individual. Most accomplishments are incremental building on earlier enterprise and achieved by the shared hands of many people laboring together.

Many people helped and contributed to the favorable outcome of the paper here and the resulting degree (MS-LSC). Some are about to be singled out in the following words. To all the people who pushed me along I owe a huge gratitude. When you stop to think about all those helping hands their numbers add up astonishingly.

Absolutely nothing would have happened without the ceaseless support of my spouse, Jan. There were some tense moments along the way, moments when I felt like I couldn’t keep doing this. Jan always found, not only the resolve, but a way to write a check to cover tuition one more semester.

A part of that resolve came from the sacrifice of our children Cory and Tara. There were some things that perhaps we didn’t cover as well for them as we could have because of the extra resources devoted to my education. Tara, also a university student, and I shared stories about our classes, professors, fellow students, quizzes, tests, papers, exams and our fears, our hopes. It was a lot easier for me to have such a shoulder to learn on.

Cory kept tabs on progress, listened. Of all the people in the family, Cory was the most stoic about my folly and provided the best perspectives. Bless his sense of humor and being able to bring me back to earth by arguing about such things as hockey games and getting me out of the house to see those games after a drive through the Wisconsin winterscape.

Thanks also to Arlin Brannstrom, Keith Hazelton, and Larry Meiller. Arlin never let me take the whole thing too seriously and he usually piped up at those moments when I figured everything was at its most serious point. Keith wrote a nice letter of reference that helped get me into grad school and then he stuck with my progress and showed up on the Terrace at the end. Larry is the best student advisor ever. Just do it the way Larry explains it and everything is going to turn out fine.

My brother Ralph thinks the whole thing is cool as does my sister Cathy and I figure my sister Vivian along with nephews Vincent and Craig feel the same. All of them asked and listened and it’s great to have such outlets. Grandma Lacy is especially proud and it’s wonderfully supportive and encouraging to have someone like that around.

Mention, I must, Mike Maroney who was always good for a free lunch when a free lunch was the biggest treat. Pam Ruegg decided to give the online education route a try and enabled me to watch.
I mention here the major players by name. But nearly everyone who has had any contact with me for the last several years needs a big "thanks" for putting up with it and for being interested and supportive.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Firing squads?

Channel surfing as I ate my supper tonight and passed by Fox News just in time to see some guy yelling about firing squads. So I paused. Somehow or another word got out that the United States is tracking financial transactions in its (our?) effort to find terrorists.

The guy doing the yelling was saying the people who released the information about the financial tracking should be put before a firing squad and shot.He repeated it a couple of times during my short pause in channel surfing.

Firing squads. Firing squads in the United States. A guy on a national news program yelling for firing squads. Firing squads in the United States being advocated by some guy on a national news broadcast.

Firing squads. You know, something to go with the concentration camps and the torture. Firing squads and some guy yelling for them on Fox News. I don't know who the hell that guy was but someone decided to give him a nation-wide broadcast venue so he could go on yelling about firing squads.

Friday, June 02, 2006


All of a sudden it's June. The last two weeks were nuts. Got done with the masters of science project and will have a fresh new dust collector for the wall one day soon. Have now moved to 60% with the new job reducing to 40% the obligation to the former job. In July it's 100% new job.


Kid number one is home from college but about to leave to take a summer job this weekend. Kid number two struggles with the final days of high school. Remember how that felt? Nice spring weather and you're still being herded inside a stuffy building to grind out essay tests on Romeo and Juliet? No wonder kids hate anything connected to *learning.*

One thing I've noticed is that the world stage hasn't seemed to improve itself much. I went through some news and blog sites this morning just to refresh my anger. I wish it was harder to do. Refresh my anger that is. There was some crap about "the angry left" on one of the sites. Well, I don't know how "left" I am really but I sure as hell am angry.

Waaaay past time to fire up the bilge pumps and clean up the slime infesting our political ship of state. Waaay past time.

Monday, May 15, 2006

No tommy

The good news over the weekend was the announcement by that sick old bird Tommy Thompson that he wasn't going to run for governor. It is good news. The other GOP candidate is suitably corrupt in his own right.

Wisconsin needs actual public servants for a while, not just more republicans fighting over the trough.

Friday, May 12, 2006


The only good thing that happened as a result of GWB getting the presidency is that it got Tommy Thompson the hell out of Wisconsin. His appointment to HHS pretty much confirmed his corruption bona fides and I bet he greased those skills even more during his association with the Washington criminal mob.

As the governor who single handedly crushed public education in this state, my disgust at the statement made to the press that, "If I run, I win," was rather harsh. Hence this blog post. Thompson happened to land in the governor's mansion at a time of sustained economic and social optimism. He managed that situation to his benefit rather well slicking through anti-education tax measures and legislation.

We've had deal with the results of his corruption ever since.

And, in grand old party tradition, Thompson took care of his own. Popular, yes. He ruled for 14 years. Smart, oh yeah. Too smart to stick with bushco past the first term. Now the sick old bird is talking another run at the governor's post. Not because he really wants to be governor. No. But because he wants to beat the current governor.

Run for office 'cause you're mean, nasty and sick. Good public policy bound to result from that, right? Thompson, you've hurt enough people. Stay the hell away

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Monday, May 01, 2006

Young tragedy

One decision, one small decision, was all it took to separate a young man from his earthly life. He wasn't allowed one more mistake. He pulled out in front of an oncoming pickup and that was it. His passenger went to the hospital, and he went to heaven.

Kids and cars. As a culture we just seem to assimilate this type of loss like we know some people pay and most of us won't. Yesterday at the funereal home that cost wasn't worth it. The young man killed in the wreck was 17. He was one of those characters who had overcome everything being thrown at him and was making it.

His mother and father died when he was about five. He came with his sisters and brothers to live with an aunt and her husband who took them in and offered as much love and support as any family could. He attached to the step uncle only to have that connection lost by untimely death.

Still, the young man went on. He was liked, participated in sports, took part in life every day. People smiled when he came into a room.

And now he's gone. Not to drugs or booze, which would have been easy enough, but to one simple 17 year-old decision. The shock, and grief, and loss of it showed on every face yesterday, young or old.

We have a teenager with his learner's permit. One day soon he'll be on his own out there making decisions. All those faces I was looking at yesterday swim past my eyes. One other image sticks even more in my head; his wrestling jersey pinned to a photo board never to be worn again.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Earth Day

Earth Day will come and go today with little fanfare. That's okay, I suppose. As much as I liked Gaylord Nelson and wish he was around now, Earth Day was Earth Day is Earth Day. Trying to celebrate Earth Day isn't easy with the thick pall of gloom hanging over decency.

Still, I'll take a second to comment on the direct and important connection of food to the earth. Get to know a farmer today. I don't care if it's a farmer you meet at a local farmer's market or if you go out of your way to locate the owner /operator of a mega-commercial farm.

Make that an Earth Day goal. My humble opinion is that we can't make this connection fast enough. It's a re-connection, really. A fair number of people seem to be seeking this hook-up based on the growing popularity of direct farmer markets and the development of community supported agriculture (CSA).


Growing and raising things for yourself is rewarding, too. But doing it yourself is time consuming. That's why farmers are so important to our culture and unheralded in their contributions to the welfare of the world. Unfortunately, you can see examples everyday on the news of what happens when there's no food.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Loons in charge

The MALadministration of the BushCo is going through the contortions of making Iran out as the latest most dire threat to the world. Whether or not Iran is such a threat I don't know for sure. Iran probably would like nuclear weapons and may well have a program under way to build such horrors.

But who knows? I seriously doubt the BushCo knows either. If they do it wouldn't matter because that's not the point. Based on the last five years of performance of how our country is being run, somebody has a plan to benefit from whatever hell results from the tensions between Iran and the U.S.

Over on the Iranian side of things, I seriously doubt they know what they're doing either. Our leaders are clueless beyond seeking a profit motive and the ruler in Iran is operating from a platform none of us understands. Talk about a train wreak on the rails.

If our country is so damned powerful and strong, I can't see why there'd be any haste to just open up on Iran. What the hell is the harm in talking?

Oh, I forgot for a second. Bush family trust funds are far more important and the trust funds of the overly rich and famous. That you and I may get caught in the maw of some national disaster is beside the point as long as those uber rich kids get to keep theirs. They'll have the wherewithal to make it through and come out stinking like the swine they are.

Bomb Iran, seal up the oil flow, prices soar, profits continue to zoom. Simple sick little plan really.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Odds & ends

This humble blog is my corner from which I observe the world passing by. My observations often overwhelm any means of coherent explanation for what I know and feel. Maybe too much time elapses between posts.

Yesterday I left the Easter service feeling pretty good about my faith. There was a contemporary hymn with a line about our people "dancing on injustice." Our pastor's sermon spoke about the angel appearing to the women at the tomb. The angel told them to "return to Galilee."

Go back to the beginning. Take care of the poor. Love thy neighbor. Kindness. It's all God's gift, and that's my faith, baby. A lot of what I see being passed off as Christianity today is unrecognizable to my view of faith.

We all get a shot at this life and if it's spent in anger and hate and lashing out then you ain't much of a Christian in my book. Christianity is big enough and inclusive enough to embrace a huge range of diversity. That is its central strength.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006


There was a time when I could visit with people I knew to be "conservative" about politics, the world, the economy, social trends, and expect a rational and sometimes even enlightening discussion. As time passed, I felt myself become more "conservative" in my views about what I thought governments should do and probably shouldn't do.

Those discussions remained rational because the people involved were sincere and genuinely interested in the best for everyone. If I had a good point, it'd get a hearing and once in a while even an agreement. I responded in kind always listening for underlying reasons for the point of view.

Several years ago, I noticed a shift. Those discussions started to get edgy. The back and forth respect for what each person was saying started to fade. The underlying reasons I was always looking for began to take on a harder, more concrete, more absolute tone. Opinions were being stated now as truisms and came out as challenges.

The venue for explaining ones views shrank. Circles of friends and acquaintances shifted awkwardly and a whole lot of conversations just plain ended. Business still goes on pretty much as usual but you can find yourself in a two hour car ride with someone afraid to broach any subject where there is a chance of a disagreement.

Recently, I took a tour of some so called conservative blogs. What I learned is that I must not be a Christian even though I always believed I was, and that I'm a traitor even though I always thought I could freely hold my own reasoned opinions.

Somewhere along the line, the notion that total allegiance to the Republican party line is what defines citizenship became the standard. It seems like anything outside of what you're told by the Republican machine makes you dangerous and the object of scorn, ridicule, threats and gets you ostracized.

There's no reasoning with it.

I feel sorry for a lot of things related to this but I keep thinking about my friends and acquaintances I used to visit with about the world. Many of them were pretty excited about the rise of the conservative movement in politics because they felt they were getting a voice. That's why the shift didn't freak me out like it did more liberal people.

Now I'm freaked out. I know some of my friends are looking at the current situation and not recognizing the values they hold dear. What remains to be seen is if they'll begin an earnest effort to change the situation or continue to put up with what's happening. If this group of well-reasoned, disciplined, and principled "conservatives" is happy with what they are getting then we're going down the road with 'em and there isn't much that can stop it.

Radicalism is an ugly thing and absolute power in the hands of radicals like we have running the country now isn't something I wish for my kids. There's too much at stake for all of us to have a small group of people taking everything for themselves.

Just stating my opinion is enough to get me in trouble. Sad.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

New job

Last week I accepted a new job. I'd been at the current job for just over four years and it was a good gig. The biggest drawback was that the job was temporary. As long as the funding held out, the job could hold out. But every spring it was always a nagging worry whether or not the job would last another season.

The new job is a permanent position - at least as permanent as anything is in this day and age. The money and benefits are the same for now but there is more upside potential down the road than the temporary job could present.

I'm fortunate. Sure, I've worked hard all my life and I've always kept retooling skills. But I have to nod toward my good fortunes, too, with some prayers of thanks and such. I'm never sure what separates one person's luck with another person's. Something. And maybe we can't ever find the differences.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Local bus?

There's a survey out locally regarding the possibility of extending Metro Transit service into our town and a couple of neighboring towns. I think this is a good idea and filled out the survey in that vein.

It'll never happen. Local politicians running in spring elections already are falling all over themselves to be champions and protectors of the battered and beleaguered taxpayer. Bus service like that never makes any money, one said. The service will require a subsidy forever, said another.

One of the city council candidates on the panel Q&A session at least had the gumption to say he'd like to see the results of the survey before making too many comments. even with that, it's all about the cost to the taxpayer.


I pay taxes. Paying taxes isn't really fun, I know. But what the hell. There are costs associated with living in this country and taxes are the way we pay our dues to the many rights and privileges we enjoy. Taxes are how we take care of each other. Taxes are how we share the costs to spread the benefits of this great country to as many people as possible.

Before we see any survey results, I have no idea what the potential demand is for bus service out here. And it is true, users probably can't or won't pay the whole freight of operating bus service and yes, I have to assume service is going to need a subsidy from us taxpayers.

I'll pay whatever itty-bitty incremental tax there might arise from the addition of bus service to our commuter communities. Most people are going to keep driving their cars and they're not going to stop until they literally go broke. In the meantime, they'll bitch about a tax supporting a service they won't use.

But getting a bus line out here prepares for the future. Getting a bus line out here is going to take at least a few cars off the road every morning and night. I could go on about how that might be good but people are going to see a tax, God no not that, and whine and vote accordingly for the politician who makes the most noise about standing up for the poor, battered, overworked taxpayer.

Too bad, really. It's sad to watch the spirit of this country die one little community at a time because we can't figure out the value of a shared investment in public infrastructure. Much better we use our "tax savings" to buy a new car.

Season ends

The hockey season ended with the guys playing in the state Championship Tournament. Win three games in a row and your team is the state champ.

Didn't happen.
Hockey Boy goes to the boards
In game one, our guys walked onto the ice in a daze and ran into a buzz saw from Superior. The other team didn't travel the length of the state to dawdle around and they caught our U16 team napping. Final score 9-1.

That loss sent our team to the left side of the bracket. In game two later that afternoon our Vikings were awake and came to play. The results was a 1-0 win over Janesville.

Sunday, for the consolation round championship, our guys made it as exciting as they could by falling behind 4-0 in period one to Kenosha. In period two, they started to take over. Early in period three, Hockey Boy stepped up and tossed the puck in the net to tie the game at four. Two more goals and the game ended with a 6-4 win.

It wasn't the big prize but it was a heck of a nice way to end what was a very good season.

Hats off to the coaches, too. Coaching 15 and 16 year old boys is a real challenge. Boys that age have a lot on their minds: girlfriends, cars, jobs, and a few of 'em still think about school.

So now it's on with other things. Hockey Boy is going to try tennis and we have to buy some pigs. Some things shouldn't stop.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Rapid transit

Holy smoly! That bus ride out of town tonight was categorically "rapid transit." The bus driver must have just returned from the Matt Kenseth School For Bus Driving.

He gave meaning to the term "Express Route." I walk out of my building such that I usually wait between three and six minutes to catch the bus. Today, the bus was coming up the street as I exited the door and I had to hike it out to get to the stop. Even then, I boarded a moving bus and the guy never really stopped for the stop sign right there.

Then he floored it. And he kept the pedal to the metal as they say. This is what they call a "limited stop" route where they make a series of stops through the middle of town then go directly to a park and ride lot. Once this guy hit the main artery out of town he was cruising.

It bothered me really. Just because he took a fresh look at his Jeff Gordon Tips For Bus Drivers (VHS & DVD) didn't mean he had to hit it like he did. We were at our stop six minutes early and as I walked away he was sitting there waiting because he was so far ahead he had to kill time to get back on schedule.
Most bus drivers are great. And let's face it, it's a damn tough job. The passengers are assholes, traffic is threatening at all times, and it's tedious. In spite of that, most drivers are really nice and operate their machines safely and professionally.

So once in a while...

Link of note

Imagine my surprise as I looked through one of my all time favorite blogs to find a link back to this humble blog of mine. I think it's a first since I don't spend a lot of time promoting myself and I jot things on my blog mostly for my own amusement.

Maybe the link to One Pissed Off Veteran is one of those little techno mistakes where you sign onto something like Bloglines to assemble a few favorites and you get an auto list on your site like the one to the left.

At any rate, I'm humbled and honored and for anyone passing through here, click on over to OPOVET and have a read. I don't agree with everything said over there, only most of it, and I love the courage expressed by Farnsworth. Keep it up. It gives me hope.

BTW, there's a link available to OPOVET over on the side there and I think I'll move it up a notch or two on the odd chance I get site visitors and I have a chance to treat them to one of my favorites.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Bus stop

So a series of odd communications and a couple of decisions later, my friend and I are finally on our way into town. Aforementioned activities have us running late to get the 7:30 bus. As we approach the bus stop we can see that it's already there and people are boarding.

Pulse quickening decisions are made. "I'll drop you off. You get on and I'll park the car and run across the street to get the bus as it comes around. Tell 'em I'm on the way," I direct. Fumbling about, stopping in traffic, the plan begins.

He's out, I race to the parking lot and jump out for the run across rush hour traffic to the other side of the street. Today it's snowing and my old felt pack boot drag down feet none-to-nimble anyway. But I make it.

Return trip end of day. We're both on without drama and sitting there visiting away the time. This is an express bus making a few stops in town before heading out. We ride. The bus stops. I get off, my friend on my heals.

But wait. This isn't right I think, looking around. Huh? The people in the bus are looking out the windows at us laughing. I don't know why the bus stopped there but it wasn't the regular stop. I look at the driver. "You want to get back on?" he asks.

We reboard. Two blocks later we at the right stop. "We're like some kind of stand up comic routine," my friend says. Indeed, everyone on the bus had a chuckle for the day.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Raw reunion

By its nature, a reunion causes people to look back. That's a large part of the reason people have reunions. It's a time to reflect on the past; go over the "good times."

Sometimes the past has some raw edges. Those good times aren't universal. There were bad times, too. There are times you'd like to forget. Events that you're not proud of or even events best left where they are in the past.

I've got more than one raw edge in the old memory bank. The person I was in the past did some mean, stupid things. No finger pointing here. My folks were great and my "upbringing" was filled with love. There were many good times, many good times.

But those raw edges are there, too. So when I got together with my brother and two sisters for a little family reunion recently, a few of those raw edges had to get hauled out. They always do.

My sisters and brother are older than me by a lot. The three of them share some memories that don't include me. It also gives them the benefit of having watched me come along from a very different perspective than I have. They can say things about those raw spots from a place I'd like to not think about.

Nothing mean in their retrospection, just that oddly outside observation and intrusion people have when they think back on an incident involving someone else. It just brings that raw edge up and exposes the nerves.

I always find myself responding abruptly trying to redirect. Who the hell wants to drag those things up now? Well, it's a reunion. And my activities back then did have an affect on people, especially those people who love me. One way or the other.

Still, I wonder if I'm keeping demons buried I should deal with or if in fact my life is pretty well adjusted and those memories are best in their faded and near-forgotten place? Mean and/or stupid things we're talking about. They didn't make any sense then and they're just as indefensible today.

There's also my enduring interest in what may happen tomorrow. Some people love to reminisce. Me, I'm looking forward to the next thing, always have. Maybe that makes for more raw edges in the past, I don't know.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Zamboni guy

It was my night to run the zamboni. I'd signed up for the shift a couple of weeks in advance, picking a choice time when hockey boy would be at practice and I'd be at the rink anyway.

As always, the hubbub of life ensued that day and I was running close to late as I wheeled my car up outside the machine room and dashed inside to get things ready to go out on the ice for the first sheet of the evening. I got on the ice on schedule and the grooming went well as I trimmed a little less and put down a little more water as is custom cleaning up after the high school boy's practice.

I get the machine off the ice, scrape off the slush, close the rink gate and open the outside door to drive out and dump the tank of collected snow. It's at the point I'm exiting the building and I think I should turn ever so slightly to the right to get a good angle on where I was going to dump the snow.


What the...? I stopped and stood up looking for what in the world had happened. And there, on my right just in front of me was my faithful old car. My sinking disbelieving heart, I'd run into my own car with the zamboni.
The car has a nasty gnaw on the rear passenger side door and the zamboni didn't even notice.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Not winter

I was rather enjoying our not winter. Back in January a farmer told me his winter wheat had started growing and he wasn't sure how that could be good.

Still, the mild temps made it easier on the heating bills, getting around, doing stuff.

So on Thursday we get a foot of snow which is now followed by the predictable cold. Sub zero stuff with wind. Waiting for a late bus was no fun this morning. Sub zero temps and wind can suck the life out of you. Flesh freezes in less than 10 minutes.

Breathing is scary. You can feel the cold being pulled into you with every breath chilling you from the inside out. The pain of heating bills comes later.


Monday, February 13, 2006

Playoff bound

The kids had two hockey games over the weekend. They had to win one out of the two to qualify for the state championship tournament in March. Winning both would produce a high seed.

So to make it exciting they lose game one. Nasty game played under nasty conditions. The teams didn't take to the ice until 9:30 p.m. on a Friday night. Right out of the gate you're starting with kids tired from a week of school and in this case the opposition came with a reputation for cheap shots and fighting.

To add to the drama, the head ref was incompetent. It's really interesting the role refs play in a hockey game. The really good ones know how to maintain control. Keeping everything safe and under control are far more important than making all the right calls. The worst of the refs can actually contribute to a bad situation and can even make matters worse.

Fortunately there were no injuries.

In game two, our guys pulled together and even looked impressive. We had the best refs we've had all season. The game stayed close and went back and forth until the third period when our kids pulled away, finishing off a rival and earning a spot in the state championship tournament.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Blind rage

So I take the bus to do some errands. It's crowded and I find a seat toward the front and get out of the way. People get on and off, on and off, on and off. At one stop this blind guy starts up the stairs tapping his way along with his stick.

The blind guy gets to the top of the stairs and turns into the aisle giving me a tap on the leg with his stick. Then a whack. Now it dawns on me I've plopped down in a handicap seat and I'm spazzing around trying to get to me feet. Whack, he hits me again.

"Hey. I'm trying to get out of the way," I say. Whack. By now I'm on my feet and pretty much out of the way. A lady gives me an evil look and takes the guys by the shoulders and directs him into the seat where I was once comfortably seated.

Everybody is staring at me like I'm an evil troll. The blind guy is sitting there and he's still waving that damn stick back and forth.

At the next stop I just get off.

Friday, January 27, 2006

A hockey game

There are good and bad points to sports and it's the good ones that keep me coming back. Last night was a good point. With a win, the hometown high school hockey team would earn a conference title. A loss, well that would put the title into serious question and require a lot of outside intervention.

The game ended with a 4-1 loss. Disappointment.

But our guys scored the opening goal and held onto that baby into the third period. The fourth and final point was scored against an open net with eight seconds left.

In the end, the other team's speed just kept our guys in constant defense. The coach decided to forego risk-taking on offense to keep the faster team in front of our players.

It almost worked. Of course the trouble with such a plan is if the other team breaks through, it's hard to do anything to get back ahead. That's not critiquing. An aggressive offense against a faster team can blow up fast.

But it was a hell of a game to watch. It was well played and pretty clean for what could have been a nasty game. All the kids worked hard and kept working all the way through.

So the hometown guys need a little help in the conference to get a piece of the title. It's okay. They've notched way more wins than losses this season and the level of play is exceptional for what's a very young team.


Monday, January 16, 2006

Logo again

Okay, so the logo thing is feeling a little compulsive. It's okay, I keep telling myself 'cause it's a hobby and a challenge. But I find myself thinking about it too much.

In illustrator I used Verdana & Georgia added drop shadows, transparency, and fiddled with front/back alignment. Transparencies caused me to do it over a couple of times until I had a gif that laid over the page as if it had no background.

The edges still concern me. The drop shadow is supposed to be dark. There's still a white outline around the letters. And while it isn't bad looking really, it's not what I want.

So no doubt my compulsion will have to continue until I get it figured out. If someone drops by and knows all about graphics and cares to leave a suggestion in the comments, It'll further my hobby.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Fear not

Think your kid might make it through high school and go on to something else? Something nice? Fruitful, successful, happy even? Maybe you'd like to see them graduate and go on to college? That'd be nice, right?

If you listen to GWB and his minions you can forget about any expectations you might have for your kids. Or, Lord forbid, you have some aspirations of your own. Take your dreams, hopes, wishes and flush 'em down the crapper.

If you're listening to GWB you know we're all toast. You know there's a terrorist with a nuclear-tipped RPG behind every tree and shrub aiming the bitch right through your front window. He's sneering and using the plasma screen TV to sight his weapon and when he squeezes that round off your whole suburb is going up in a mushroom cloud.

Bullshit. Bush is a piss-ant coached by fiends. Every time he opens his twitchy little yap it's to tell you there's a WMD hanging over your house and he's going to do everything he can to protect you. He'll bust every law that gets in the way of saving your mortal soul.

Did I mention while he's at it he's going to make sure the minions are transferring wealth out of your pocket sending it upward to further comfort the comfortable? A narrow band of the population has to get fat 'cause it's such a HUGE sacrifice and responsibility helping you hang onto your life and its associated consumer goods.

What a horrible joke. Since when were we afraid of standing up to threats? I grew up with the threat of nuclear bombs dropping out of the sky at any moment. The national response to that was an actual plan that we stuck with and adapted as the situation changed. At times it was messy and at times it was down right wrong and the situation was exploited more than once. Still, the whole approach got hammered out and pounded on and talked about by everyone.

Is it so much to ask for that now?

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Wish List

All those books at Christmas spoiled me!

Wish List

Logo III

I've decided the logo has a childish look that I don't like. It'll stand 'till I get the gumption and time to fool around with it.

Meanwhile, that whole Badger thing went very well yesterday!

Monday, January 02, 2006

Logo part II

So I continued fooling around, okay? Dropped the logo into the Blogger template and it shows up reasonably well. Maybe I'll go watch football for a while.

Go Badgers!


I'm not much of a graphic artist, but it is fun to try once in a while. With a little spare time over the holidays I fooled around in Illustraitor to see if I couold come up with a logo I'd enjoy.

Don't know if I'm all that pleased with it. I like the bright colors but I don't know if my letter design in the N and the A. They're blocky and I may try something a little softer. Verdana filled out the rest.

See a bigger logo over at the old *real* web site:


Or click the word "Logo" in the post title.