Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Remember John Updike

I never met John Updike, though it would have been a definite treat.  I haven't met a lot of famous authors or seen them in person.  But Updike, who died yesterday, gave a lot of himself in the many books, stories, and articles that he wrote.  As a book reviewer for the Wichita Eagle years ago, it was Updike's novels that gave me most pause; he was a big-time writer, and he was alive.   Who was I to be commenting on his newest book (at that time, it was Roger's Version)?  I felt like a fraud, but I loved his work, and I never tired of teaching his short story, "A & P," about a young man who makes what may be a fateful decision that readers enjoy seeing unfold.  His Rabbit series kept my attention through several novels.  He'll be remembered as someone who "who opened a big picture window on the American middle class in the second half of the 20th century," as noted by the New York Times article on his death.  R.I.P.  

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Remember that Six-Mile Bottom

My sister was stationed in England at the same time I was doing my stint in Germany, and when I visited her there we enjoyed noting the strange place names.  One nearby her Lakenheath station was Six Mile Bottom, which we thought was worth naming a place for.  That's a big bottom!  

The New York Times reports today on other place names there that seem to have escaped us, such at Titty Ho, Penistone, and Spanker Lane.  "No Snickering, That Road Sign Means Something Else" points out that although you may have claimed your home town (or the one you live in now) is the armpit of the world, at least no one could claim that you must have grown up in Butt Hole Road.  

Sunday, January 25, 2009

No Photos, Only Good Memories

Sometimes it's the photos of moments that we use to recall the memories associated with them, but what if there are no photos?  My memory of our Robbie Burns party last night includes only the scantest recall of photos being taken--no group photos, that's for sure.  But it was an excellent party, with old acquaintences not forgot, new ones learned better.  Thanks to the B's for their excellent hosting and food, the R's for their good company, the S's for their wit (and reading of "To a Haggis"), and to H and G for their willingness to put up with a group of us who know each other well and can't help sometimes falling into talk of work.  

Happy 250th Birthday, Robert Burns!  

Saturday, January 24, 2009

"Jesus Christ Superstar" at the Pavillion

We went to see "Jesus Christ Superstar" last night at the Washington Pavillion.  I was both intrigued and dreading to see Ted Neeley in the main role, having seen the movie several times when it came out in 1973 and the play in Louisville, KY, when I was stationed at Fort Knox.  Whether he played the main role in the play I saw I don't remember, but it was good enough that I bought a t-shirt.  I was quite the fan of the play, the movie, and the music, singing one of the songs in our high school's Christmas concert.  

This version was pretty good; Neeley did fine but is well beyond his prie and looks and sounds like it.  He's still got his voice, but it's got a lot of miles showing.  The youth and vigor of the cast made Neeley's stage presence look less like a meditative young Jesus than a tired older man.  Still, the music still works, and this performance showed off a lot of the new stage techniques in lighting and other effects that enhanced the play.  

As much as I hate to say it, though, Neeley should hand off the role to someone who can step up and remake that role.  

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Cool New Scraper Tool

I was going to make a note about the great pecan pie that made it home with us today, courtesy of a Kentucky native. but that pie was so last hour. Now I'm interested in a new (and inexpensive) tool that promises to make quick work of scraping jobs, like taking the glue or old carpet off a hardwood floor. Check it out! From This Old House.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Tiling Done, Fire Blazing

We got the stove back in tonight after finally laying the tile.  There's still work to be done on the stove situation, but the stove is in and no damage to the new tile.  

Thanks to Justin and Pat for helping move the stove out.  Thanks to Justin for helping move it back again this evening.  Thanks especially go to Donna (who helped pick out tile and grout colors), Joe, and Megan for coming and helping lay tile.  And of course, many thanks forever to the wife, who laid into the grout last night and had a vision of what it all could be.  

Clearly, Walter is thankful too.  

Soon the carpet will be tacked down, trim and mantel put up, and (hopefully) tin will be laid behind the stove.  

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Raising the Right Hand

Today's inauguration of Barack Obama as our President was an act of hope and promise that will play out, one way or another, over the next few years. The contrast between this President and the last couldn't be much stronger, and I'm glad to have come around to him, glad to have reached out, just as he did that summer day in Mitchell, SD, to shake his hand.

How this new administration will set about addressing the challenges they face is a mystery to me.

Giving people hope and inspiration and asking them to help--that's a good start.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Christina's World

While in New York this summer, we went by the Museum of Modern Art, and despite the crowds on a free day there, I was stunned and captivated by Andrew Wyeth's "Christina's World," a painting hanging at the far end of one room where people shuffled in the crowd toward the door. A small group had gathered around it, and I lingered there as well, drawn in by the image of this woman looking back at the house across a field. The small touches, not seen in an image the size available here, kept me scanning back and forth across the canvas, falling more and more into the story, into this world. Thank you, Wyeth, for this, and your other work. R.I.P.

Barack Obama's Inauguration Speech

Here's my version of Barack Obama's inauguration speech.
My fellow Americans, today is a robust day. You have shown the world that "hope" is not just another word for "firewood", and that "change" is not only something we can believe in again, but something we can actually burn.

Today we celebrate, but let there be no mistake – America faces blazing and roaring challenges like never before. Our economy is glowing. Americans can barely afford their mortgages, let alone have enough money left over for flames. Our healthcare system is fiery. If your trunk is sick and you don't have insurance, you might as well call a woodcutter. And America's image overseas is tarnished like a axe chainsaw. But roasting together we can right this ship, and set a course for woods.

Finally, I must thank my proud family, my brave campaign volunteers, but most of all, I want to thank Madisonians for making this historic occasion possible. Of course, I must also thank you, President Bush, for years of warming the American people. Without your burned efforts, none of this would have been possible.

You can write one, too! Generate here!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Did I Say Cold?

Yes, cold. Thermometer this morning reads -26. That's -32 in the metric system, if you'd like to know. Wind is at 1 mph, which is a good thing. Below is our forecast from, where the prospect of climbing to minus two degrees is a good one. But look at tomorrow! 47 degrees higher than it is right now! Whoop!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Caught in the Act

Old one-day winder cuckoo clocks aren't all that accurate, but ours is currently running close enough to the satellite alarm clock that I know when it's going to go off, so here I was able to capture the clock in action, complete with its little noisy bird, its beak active as it sticks its head out the door. Sorry. It's sideways. Deal with it.

Temps Going Down

Tonight it's going to be COLD! We've got -20 degrees coming tonight. Our gauge already reads -19 at about 9:30, and the lowest temps are usually just before sunrise, so we'll see where things lie in the morning. I suspect it will be COLD, like, very cold. And cold tomorrow.

Meanwhile, the pile of firewood in the back yard keeps shrinking, but the house stays warm enough.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Cuckoo for Cuckoo Clocks

The in-laws had the old clock in their basement, gathering dust, but they wanted it put back in circulation, so after an overhaul by our local clock expert, it's back singing its regular song, the little bird emerging regularly from the door to chirp the hour and half hour. Now if we can get it to sing in concert with the mantel clock, we'll be good to go. It's a dandy!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Working on Liberty

The wife, the mother-in-law, and I spent the day humping our buns cleaning the house on Liberty street yesterday to make room for the new renters. Out with the old. They left the place a pit, and our cleaning didn't undo everything they made a mess of, but it's a huge improvement. The wife says it it's cleaner now than when I lived there. Ouch!
Thanks especially to Karen, who comes and works so hard so long for not much more than lunch at El Vaquero and our deep appreciation. She's a woman who knows how to clean!
We have yet to clear all the cleaning supplies, but it's just about ready for our new renters to move in.
One of the sad things is how one of the two renters walked away from everything, disappeared. I doubt he's joined a monastery.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Blue Lash

I liked this poem from Milkweed Editions. I'm signed up for their "e-verse" mailing, for which I get a poem every week. Not a bad thing to have appear in your in-box.

Lutheran Sea

One wave follows another
beneath the heel of the wind;
the spray blows landward,
but lacking salt or iodine
it smells oddly Protestant,
carrying the faintest tang
of wet iron,
well water
sluiced in a bucket
from a cabin you visited once
when you were a boy,
water that numbed the tongue
as if it had dripped
from a seam of ice,
blue and glistening,
in a cave
where nymphs of winter
with red fingers
preened before mirrors of frost,
dead cold sober.

—James Armstrong

"Lutheran Sea" from Blue Lash (Milkweed Editions, 2006). Copyright © 2006 by James Armstrong

Monday, January 05, 2009

Doin' Deadwood

What with the great program that allows for discounts on the Deadwood-Mickelson Trail Marathon and Half Marathon, how can you go wrong in stepping up? Sure, it's not until June, and there's plenty of time to get ready, so why not? All you have to do is train your butt off. Mine could stand it, what with the holiday dining and what-all.

Running is something I can still do, better than pick the winners of the NFL playoff games. Yikes! I'm 0-4 there so far.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Me Versus the Mighty Quinns

Friend TQ searches out the cool interactive sites on the NYTimes, and since I came out last spring on top of the NCAA Basketball pool I got in on (picking Kansas to win saved my keester), he must be searching for redemption.

So, despite my not having watched a game (only some glimpses), I'm in the NFL pool, having made my picks as you see here. As you can see, I'm in last place, though it does appear I have a lot of company, at least until the end of the Colts/Chargers game, just now going into overtime.