Monday, December 29, 2008

Another Merry Christmas--Automotive Style

Son Casey has spent his life without the benefit of an automobile of his own, except for a brief unfortunate stint with a red Oldsmobile that crapped out 60 miles down the road. He got his wish though this weekend as he took the wheel of a 1989 Toyota Corolla. It's no tire-squealer, no bone-shaker, and he won't be tempted to taunt that Carerra driver at the stop light. But it will get him from home to work to school, maybe not in style, but under his own power.

We looked at some other vehicles that were tempting, a 1991 Ford Probe and a 1988 Honda Civic (a real beater). There were others on the list, including a 1991 VW Golf GT that slipped out of our grasp, sold on our way there. But those will be forgotten as Son2 eases into ownership of the little Corolla and plots to find something down the road to better suit his style.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Merry Christmas Celebrations

The wife and I were driving out to her folks' place yesterday for lunch and some celebration of Christmas, listening to holiday songs on the radio, when someone came on with a story about how the true gifts are the ones you give, not the ones you get. Sappy and sentimental, "The Widow Jensen and the Rifle" told about Matt and how his wish for a rifle at Christmas was crushed by his parent's poverty, only to realize they HAD saved enough for it, until his father had seen poor little Jakey Jensen out hunting for scraps of wood to burn, his feet wrapped in burlap. Pa took the rifle money and spent it on the Jensen's, and he and son Matt hauled their gifts (food, shoes, and a pile of wood that Matt had split) over to their cold house to find them wrapped in blankets. Leaving them happy and well-fed, Matt realized that Pa had helped him give the best gift of all.

Now that's a story about giving. Another one is the dandy gift pictured, a shadow box to hold my Twin Cities Marathon medals, done by the wife's younger sister and her husband. It's one gift among many from people, books and clothes and a new wireless mouse. Best, as always, is the time together sharing and playing and enjoying the company of others. Another great gift is the one from my mom, who donated a gift on my behalf through Heifer International.

Merry Christmas! Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Happy Smiling Sisters

You might think these two young girls are sisters, noting the similarity in their cheery smiles, and you'd be right!

Saturday, December 20, 2008


Some people just like to make a splash; they wear glittery clothes, flashing shoes, spiky hair, tattoos, neon ties. Some do it by talking too loud, going too far, slapping too hard on the back. Some do it by making the grand gesture. Others are a little more tricky. They do it by arriving at a dinner with a home-made concoction that stands (snowy) head and shoulders above all the other condiments. Here's to those splashers!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Google Puts Life Photos Online

Google's putting its clout to work in providing more cool photos for folks to look at, cataloging all the photos from Life magazine from the 1860's to the 1970's. They're available for personal, non-commercial use, like this Roger and Me reference. Check it out here. You can search for images directly by using the terms "source:life" as part of the search term.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Brother Joe and "Abraham Lincoln's Big Gay Dance Party"

Big brother Joe, now Joe Kady to distinguish him from others in the Screen Actors Guild, sends notice that he's in a San Francisco play titled "Abraham Lincoln's Big Gay Dance Party."  Oh my.  Reviews are in the San Francisco Chronicle and the SF Examiner. It's showing at the SF Playhouse from Dec. 13 to Jan. 17.  If you're in town, check it out.  It sounds like a wild event!  

Poor Abe's got even more to make him spin in his crypt.  

Friday, December 12, 2008

Finishing Hard

My high school cross-country coach admonished us to "finish hard." It was his idea that coming in to the end of something often resulted in people coasting to the goal, rather than putting forward their best efforts. I use that admonition with my own students today, encouraging them to put their best efforts into their last work, the point at which they should be showing what skills they've developed over the course of the semester. Here's a photo of me, finishing fifth in the Three Rivers Conference cross-country meet in 1973. Finishing hard, or trying to.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

My Electronic Tabernacle

I have a friend who doubts some of my statements (she might doubt the part of this one that reads "I have a friend," but, just for the sake of argument, let's let that pass). When she indicated that she had not received a recent email from God, I wondered what the problem might be, since I did get that one. She doubts me, but since I can't show her the actual email (reading His emails are a little like seeing Him Face to Face), I just mentioned I keep those emails in my e-tabernacle. Naturally, she doubted the existence of that, too. But that I can show you here. I hate to have to confess that there are unread messages there. If He'd just stop forwarding those Ole and Lena jokes!

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Backyard Economic Security

The old dead tree that stands in your back yard, the one that died five years ago? It's fuel for my Hearthstone wood stove, a way to keep the cold at bay, a way to keep the cold from getting its grips on our bank account.

Friday, December 05, 2008

My Other Life. Life #2. This One's Still Primary

DSU's intrepid librarians led us on a virtual tour of a virtual world today, exploring together in Second Life, the online "world" that offers a number of possibilities for educators looking to link with students who can't all physically be together. It was interesting and informative. Here I am watching a slide show as some virtual females show us some presentation tools. I'm the guy with my Second Life-issued black clothing. I might have to buy hair. Then again, it might be a way to get used to having none. Some were able to use audio chat, but I had trouble with the basics, like sitting down. I was better at flying.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Affordable College

Recently our Argus Leader reported that college students in South Dakota owe more after graduating than graduates in any other state, owing, on average, over 24, 000 bucks.  I may be remembering that wrong.  However, worse news comes from the New York Times that "College May Become Unaffordable for Most in US."  Some states are looking at tuition raises, the article says, of over 10 or even 20% for the year.  That's not good news, not when education is the foundation upon which a solid country rests, and poorer families, for whom education can mean a ticket to a better life, are hit the hardest; tuition counts for a larger share of their income.  

Monday, December 01, 2008

A Tree Glows in Bookland

The south half of the living room has been painted, the bookshelves painted, the books restored to their shelves, and now the tree is in its spot and all's (almost) right with the world.  
TQ and LB stayed over on their journey home from Pittsburg via Omaha Saturday night, and she thought that watching the fire in the wood stove was better than watching tv.  Yay!  

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Mother Returns Home, Gets Blatzed

My how things have changed. SIL sends this image that suggests how beneficial the calming, soothing, appetizing, stimulating, and intoxicating a few swigs of Blatz Beer could be for a new mother. Who looks happier, baby or mama? Good for mama to keep a little Blatz on tap for that nursing infant.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Sisters Grace and Anna

Welcome New-B!

The J and C B family grew by 33% yesterday with the arrival of Grace Elizabeth, birthday November 24 from now on, same birthday as Zachary Taylor (12th president), the NRA, William F. Buckley, Jr., "Guys and Dolls," Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and Scott Joplin.  
She's in good hands.  Congratulations!  

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Louis CK on Conan O'Brien

I don't know if I'd ever seen grumpy Mr. Louis CK, but TQ sends me a link to his appearance on Conan and he's upset about how "everything's amazing, but nobody's happy," especially as it concerns technology. He's interested in seeing mules with pans banging on their sides as a guy comes around to pound the dents out of your pots and buy your rags. Things might be better. It's funny; check it out. I hope the technology works (unlike the Synthy thing--did it play for you?).

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Victorian House Entry--The Synthy Version

Microsoft is always coming up with something. Sometimes it's good. This latest project of theirs to get my attention reminded me of Mr. Picasso, with the layered fragments of images from different combining to give a vision of a whole. Think Cubism! It's Photosynth, described on the website as follows:

Photosynth is a potent mixture of two independent breakthroughs: the ability to reconstruct the scene or object from a bunch of flat photographs, and the technology to bring that experience to virtually anyone over the Internet.

Using techniques from the field of computer vision, Photosynth examines images for similarities to each other and uses that information to estimate the shape of the subject and the vantage point each photo was taken from. With this information, we recreate the space and use it as a canvas to display and navigate through the photos. Photosynth was inspired by the breakthrough research on Photo Tourism from the University of Washington and Microsoft Research. This work pioneered the use of photogrammetry to power a cinematic and immersive experience

Providing that experience requires viewing a LOT of data though—much more than you generally get at any one time by surfing someone’s photo album on the web. That’s where our Seadragon™ technology comes in: delivering just the pixels you need, exactly when you need them. It allows you to browse through dozens of 5, 10, or 100(!) megapixel photos effortlessly, without fiddling with a bunch of thumbnails and waiting around for everything to load.

Check it out. I enjoyed trying to make a little vision of our entry way, piled with books so we could paint shelves and the living room. Cool!

Let the Leaves, and the Votes, Lie Where They May

I took these photos the day after the election. On the one hand, the skimpy leaf fall of the tree to the right in our yard, gray and pale, and to the left, the luxury of abundance, still with the vibrant pigments of fall, blanket the ground with the surety of their success.

Here Comes "Star Trek" The Prequel

The New York Times reports that J.J. Abrams is revealing a little information about the new Star Trek movie coming out next spring. We'll get to see young Kirk, young Spock, young Scotty and Uhura. See the cool trailer here. Isn't that what we bloggers do, help build the buzz?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Hats Off to White Rock

Some folks go for the long run, but some are just downright speed demons!  Those kids at White Rock Coffee must enjoy the caffeinated beverages they sell, because they don't mess around when they get an order.  Monday I clicked for coffee, and Wednesday there was a box from them rubber-banded to my mailbox.  

Inside, two good pound coffee bags and a hand-written note from a real person.  It all makes me want to indulge the notion that all down the line, folks are thinking of me and my yearning for an excellent cuppa joe, the folks at WRC quick-like roasting me some beans, bagging them up, hustling it to the postman, urging him on.  The postman sees my name on the box and realizes my need as well, hustles down the highway hoping nothing--not snow or ice or dint of freezing rain--delays him from bringing my beans, finally arriving at my street where he realizes the box won't fit in the mail box, and, on the verge of panic, he finds a rubber band on the floor of his rig and sighs in relief as he binds the coffee to the front of my box, face out, imagining my joy and relief as I come home after a long day and discover how well everyone's been looking out for me and my need for good coffee.  Thanks, guys!  It was a good pot this morning!  

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Thwarting the Ignorant Beasts

Animals with brains of a squirrel can be pretty darned tricky. I brought out the bird feeder to lure the pretty birds to our east window, and it worked until the squirrels discovered the tasty seeds, which they could enjoy by leaping onto the bracket, then hanging upside down with their faces in the bird food. I began by banging the window to scare them away, but that only worked briefly. Those sunflower seeds were just too tasty. So I got out the shepherd's hook and hung the bird feeder on it, but it was still too close and the squirrels could leap from the bracket to the feeder. I took the bracket down and moved the hook yet further away, and that's where things stand. It should be higher.

The wife is keeping score. So far I think it's squirrels--1, human being--1. Birds are paying attention, enough so that after two days the feeder needs replenishing. Whew!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Ready to Serve

I've made a lot of jokes about being in the Armed Services when I was a young man, but I joined ready to serve my country however the Army saw fit. I took the oath on October 19, 1974, when I was still a senior in high school, then graduated and went active duty on July 2, 1975, which made me just outside the Vietnam Veterans era. They sent me to Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri for basic training, then to Fort Knox, Kentucky, for advanced individual training (AIT) in track vehicle mechanics. Then I found myself in Friedberg, (West) Germany, where I went to work for the 122 Maintenance Battalion of the 3rd Armored Division. There I stayed until July 1, 1977, when I walked off the base in Friedberg and went on with the next part of my life.

The service was good to me, though. I wouldn't be where I am without the GI Bill that helped put me through much of my schooling.

Thanks to those who serve or served, no matter how bad they looked in their military issue.

Chocolate Rewards

The wife spent a chunk yesterday babysitting and got the boxed reward you see here, in addition to the pleasure of a young person's company.  Inside are a pair of double chocolate cookies (untouched as of this writing) and some homemade marshmallows, something I've never tasted.  The young person's parents stopped at the Queen City Bakery in Sioux Falls and brought us what we expect to be quite a delight.  

While she was doing that, I was at DSU all day learning how to be a better grantwriter.  It was a good workshop, conducted by Lynn Miner of Miner and Associates.  I suspect the cookies there were NOT as good as you get at Queen City Bakery.  

Monday, November 10, 2008

A Legend Since Sometime this Morning

Okay, so the latest news is that an order from White Rock Coffee in St. Paul is on its way here, free shipping from the roaster to the drinker, at least in SD.  WRC comes on the recommendation of Dr. D, coffee sipper and enjoyer deluxe.  

It's at least a small celebration of the election, a little something to help yours truly through the first bite of winter, and an appeasement of the taste buds (I hope) after a super fine cup of coffee down in Ames, Iowa, at the Stomping Grounds near the university.  The trip was fine, though rain marred the drive down, cold marred the time there, and slippery spots marred the drive back.  So what made up for it all?  A good conference, good dining (and coffee!), and excellent company.  

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Little Red in the Spotlight

We had a visitor last night seeking some filling for that plastic pumpkin.  She's looking good in her costume, but probably not yet ready for wolves.  No matter.  She's got good folks looking out for her.  

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf's Voice?

Virginia Woolf wrote some of the most beautiful, poetic prose in the English language.  Think of the opening of her novel Mrs. Dalloway
What a lark! What a plunge! For so it had always seemed to her, when, with a little squeak of the hinges, which she could hear now, she had burst open the French windows and plunged at Bourton into the open air. How fresh, how calm, stiller than this of course, the air was in the early morning; like the flap of a wave; the kiss of a wave; chill and sharp and yet (for a girl of eighteen as she then was) solemn, feeling as she did, standing there at the open window, that something awful was about to happen; looking at the flowers, at the trees with the smoke winding off them and the rooks rising, falling; standing and looking until Peter Walsh said, “Musing among the vegetables?”—was that it?—“I prefer men to cauliflowers”—was that it?
 It's probably just as well that we didn't have to listen to her read it aloud in the stuffy, stilted voice revealed in the story, "Recordings Capture Writer's Voices Off the Page," but check out Vladimir Nabokov and the others.  You can hear her and other authors reading their material aloud or just extemporising in some rare audio recordings just released by the BBC.   From NPR, on All Things Considered, October 23.  

Thursday, October 23, 2008

What Can I Say? "I Forgot?"

My sister, bless her heart, noticed that I was in the news, so she sent me this video she apparently caught on the national news.  In the interest of full disclosure, I'm sharing it with you here.   

Multimedia Presidency

The wife sends this link to a graphic that gives a comic look at what a Palin presidency might look like:  Explore the site with your mouse, and return daily to see what new items have been added.  No closet for the new wardrobe yet.  

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A Special Guest Dipped in Cherry Chocolate?

Yours truly was a special guest on a podcast hosted by DSU students Dan, Darren, and Jim.  We talked about Native American imagery and computer gaming, among other things.  Hear it at  It's the Cherry Chocolate Podcast.  

Searchme? Search Me!

TQ sends word of a new browser on the market.  His take:  "Visual!"  "Intuitive!" 
"It narrows results by web page, blogs!" 

Pretty groovy, I must admit.  I like the flippy-flippy page arrangement and the magnifying glass, allowing reading without having to actually open the page in a tab or window.  Check it out:  

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Walter's Shadowy Doppelganger

Walter might seem sweet, gentle, and attentive, ready to snuggle or lie in the sun, but as this photo reveals, he's got an evil shadow, a stone-hearted double that looks over his shoulder, offering, I suspect, some evil coaching: "Jump on the couch! Go ahead! Who will know? And if they do, who cares?"

Freshly Pulled From the Tree--The Last Apples

With the blustery weather coming on, snow in the forecast, wind and rain bouncing the apples in their trees, I figured it was time to call it good for the season and pull the apples down, done or not. So now there's a bag of green apples in my basement, apples that are fresh and nearly ripe, as ripe as they're going to be. Now there's nothing left in the trees but a few leaves. What will become of these green beauties? Suggestions? Recipes?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Sick at Home and Feeling Responsible

Taking my cold to work today didn't seem like the best option, so I'm sticking close to home and monitoring things from afar.  But I was sidetracked by an ad by Liberty Mutual for their Responsibility Project, a site where the goal is to encourage and facilitate discussion of responsibility.  They've got a number of quality films to watch there, funny and touching and engaging.  Visitors can also read and share comments on what it means to be a responsible ______. (You choose the position).  Check it out.  I've embedded one of the films below.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Electoral Pie in Yuma-El Centro

Ten million dollars each in Philadelphia, six million in Denver, two or six million in Tampa.  Sure, you've got to report spending like that.  But check it out, on the New York Times website identifying spending on ads by the rivals for the presidency, there are some odd stats.  What is that little dot down at the edge of the California-Arizona border?  It's campaign spending on a small scale.  What do you get for 21 bucks when you're trying to win the White House?  Three pieces of pie and coffee?  Maybe Obama and Joe sit down with some swing voter that has folks in the Yuma-El Centro region in the palm of her hand.  Campaign picks up the tab, a little something for the waitress, and you tick off the receipts in your Excel spreadsheet.  See those red dots in McCain's California campaign?  All told they might tally up to over $5,000 that the GOP has spent luring the minds and hearts of California's citizenry.  Looks like the Dems spent even less there.  Just a little quirk that caught my eye.  

Friday, October 17, 2008

Father of the Bride in Columbus, GA

My older brother Joe is cast as the father in the funny play "Father of the Bride," to be performed in Columbus, Georgia, and opened last night.  His own daughter got married this summer, so he's got that to work with.  Spencer Tracy played the lead role in the original movie version from 1950, and Steve Martin played it in the 1998 film version of the story.  It's playing at the Springer Opera House through November 1.  

That's Joe in the middle.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Joe the Plumber's Wisecrack

I was just reading a piece that followed up on all the "Joe the Plumber" refrences at the debate last night, an article that appears here on the NY Times.  He's feeling like Britney Spears, he says, "having a headache."  People all over take opportunities of being in the spotlight and seek to make money selling shirts or whatever they can do with some brief notoriety (think of Sarah Silverman and her Great Schlep video and website), so I wondered if Joe was doing so.  Who's got  It's not Mr. Wurzelbacher, but an outfit down in San Antonio.  You'll have to find the “Vote Joe the Plumber ’08" T-shirts someplace else.  

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Virtual Campaigning

Game players have often noticed the ads that whip by as they drive their cars or walk down the streets in virtual cities.  Note the image at left that shows the presidential candidate Barack Obama vying for those virtual voters.  It's from Electronic Arts, the game Burnout Paradise.  Thanks to the Juneau Register for the image.  

Monday, October 13, 2008

Friday, October 10, 2008

Not Pretty, But Getting It Done

Aches and pains notwithstanding, it's always a good feeling to have the cathedral on Summit behind you and only a little downhill with the cheering crowds lining the last quarter mile.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Through Wind, and Rain, and Dint of Miles

Yesterday I stepped up once again at the Twin Cities Marathon and completed the 26.2 mile course for the 14th time, finishing with only 1702 people ahead of me. Before you scoff, note that they counted 7966 finishers. So there. The race was a far cry from last year's hot and humid meltdown, when people wilted halfway into the race and stumbled to the finish. This year the story was rain and breeze, which I've decided I'll take over the heat and humidity any day. A person can get only so wet, and skin's waterproof, right? So we splashed through puddles until about three hours in, when it started to clear a little. Finish time: 3:46:14. Chip time: 3:43:40. My last 10K wasn't what I wanted (a little over an hour), but my legs were burning by then and it just wasn't happening. At least I managed to steer clear of the pumpkin lady that plagued me last year, hogging up all the cheers and leaving little for the rest of us in her vicinity.

Anyway, see the shirt that says "finisher"? You don't get those for showing up.

I had a good cheering section once again this year as the wife, April, Chester, and Casey appeared at intervals to offer encouragement.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Dutch Elm Disease and a Hole in the Sky

Madison Arbor Care arrived on campus Thursday morning and amputated the top half of a diseased elm tree, even grinding down the stump and sweeping the sawdust off the street before they left, leaving only a small hole in the ground, a big hole in the sky, and a system of roots underground that now have nothing to do.

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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

When Pumpkins Drink

Sister-in-law sends this lovely warning of the perils of over-indulgence. Teach a guy how to carve a jack-o-lantern and you never know what you're going to get.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Pumpkin-Headed Sunday Afternoon

The wife and I are feeling a little punchy this afternoon after busyness the last few days.  The garden produce says, "Stick with it kids, by sticking together."  Smart pumpkin.  

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Michael Moore's New Film

Michael Moore's giving his newest film away, allowing fans to download "Slacker Uprising" for free.  Check it out here:  

Wayward Hayward Turkeys

Brother Joe lives in Hayward, CA, on the east of San Francisco Bay, an urban area that harbors some very un-urban activities, like this flock of turkeys that appeared in his back yard and tried out the deck.  He sent the pictures maybe to show that wildlife still seeks him out.  Don't they look comfy?  

We Like Root Beer

Coming back from the Cities last week, I picked up a six-pack of root beer at an apple stand, all six different.  We tried these two for supper last night, a Boylan's natural type and The Original Bulldog.  The wife liked the latter for the lable and the flavor, a fairly traditional sweet variety.  Mine was less sweet, richer, and very tasty.  Four more to go! 

There's a root beer reviewer publishing here:

Monday, September 22, 2008

Apple-Picking Time in Madison

I don't know when cotton-picking time in Texas occurs, but here it's about time to latch on to apples and do what you do with this beautiful fruit.  One of my favorites is apple crisp, which we enjoyed yesterday as we celebrated the new Moose house out on Lake Madison.  Walter's not a lot of help in the peeling part of the process, but as always, he's got an eye out for anything amiss.  

Old House Photos

Sue Larsen in town has sent me a pair of photos of our house.  Judging from the size of the trees and other details, I'm guessing they are from the 70's.  The big bush on the corner of the porch is gone, and the tree at the end of the sidewalk is much larger, but the back porch appears to already have been built.  Cool!  Thanks, Sue.