Tuesday, November 29th, 2022

Sparky doesn’t sit in laps. He just doesn’t. Or he didn’t. Well, he used to. It’s complicated.

When he was a kitten, he sat in our laps occasionally. Not very often, but he did. Then he stopped. Not entirely sure why, but it may have something to do with his extreme sensitivity to sudden movement and unexpected noises, which will very often send him scrambling to his hidey hole the basement.

It’s been so long since the last time he sat in my lap that I couldn’t tell you how many years it’s been, but tonight he reached a milestone. Tonight he sat in my lap again. Not sure what made tonight so special. He didn’t do it with a lot of fanfare, he just jumped up on the sofa with me as he’s done lots of times, looked like he was going to curl up next to me but instead, he settled into my lap and allowed me to scritch his ears for about twenty minutes.

It’s lap time | 6:48 pm CST
Category: Sparky | Tags:
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Sunday, November 27th, 2022

Red beans and rice has been a holiday tradition in our house for the past twenty years. When we would buy a ham for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, the next day’s dinner was red beans and rice, from a recipe My Darling B found in the Misawa Community Cookbook — you’re not gonna find that at a used-book sale anywhere, sorry. I cut the bone out of the ham the night before, then B stews it in a big pot with red beans and lots of other goodies, adjusting the recipe to suit our needs — for instance, the recipe calls for two cloves of garlic. TWO CLOVES. If you don’t want to taste or smell the garlic, why do you even use it? A big pot of red beans and rice calls for at least two HEADS of garlic. This is an opinion neither I nor B will budge on.

Tim came over at four to join us for dinner and a game, but the dinner wasn’t ready until about five so we just hung out while B made the rice and put the finishing touches on the stew. She wasn’t happy with the way the rice turned out — it was sticky, but I like sticky and Tim didn’t complain — but the stew was wonderful and we all filled our bowls up with generous helpings.

There is still so much ham left that we’ll be eating it through the end of next week, and that’ll be the last time we have a ham until about a year from now when we might be far enough removed from a week of eating ham that we’re looking forward to it again.

red beans and rice | 7:50 am CST
Category: food & drink, O'Folks
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Sunday, November 20th, 2022

image of a cat with its leg lifted over its head looking surprised

Yes, there is a yoga pose that looks a lot like this. No, it’s not called “lick the cat’s butt.” But that’s what it SHOULD be called.

lick the cat’s butt | 7:58 am CST
Category: random idiocy, Scooter, yoga
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Sunday, November 13th, 2022

We have a cat who is ass-backwards.

Our youngest cat, Sparky, is not much like a typical cat. He is almost paralyzingly afraid of every noise we make, for just starters. He spends hours and hours of each and every day hiding in the basement. But he is like most of the cats we’ve had in that he likes to be scritched behind the ears, and he loves to have his chin rubbed and his nose booped. He’s a very affectionate tabby when he’s not cowering under the sofa.

Scooter, on the other hand, would love for you to love his butt. He’ll fake you out by approaching you face-first, like a normal cat, but as soon as you start to scritch his ears or pat his head, he turns around so you can pat him on the butt. If you do, he’ll be in heaven. He’ll arch his back, squinch his eyes shut, and purr like a maniac. He’ll do that for as long as you keep scritching and stroking and patting his butt. If you don’t love his butt, he’ll turn around to face you again and let you scritch his head like a normal cat for maybe five seconds before he’s compelled to turn 180 degrees to show you his butt again. He’s all about his butt and thinks you should be, too.

butt pat | 8:18 am CST
Category: random idiocy, Scooter
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Saturday, November 12th, 2022

I got on the elevator at work with a woman who took one look at me and asked, “Aren’t you B’s husband?” When I said yes, she said, “I thought so. I see you on her Facebook posts all the time.”

I wasn’t surprised that I ran into someone who knew me as B’s husband. That happens at the office all the time. I was surprised that she recognized me at all. I got on the elevator wearing a mask, which covered my face from my eyeballs to my chin.

When I told B this story, she said it wasn’t much of a mystery to her. In nearly all the photos she posts of me, I’m photobombing her dinner, crouched behind a plate of food or a glass of beer. Most people watching her FB posts only see me from the nose up.

image of the blog's author, peering over the edge of the table at a lineup of beers
peek-a-boo
peepers | 6:15 am CST
Category: coworkers, My Darling B, office work, random idiocy, story time
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Tuesday, November 1st, 2022

I had to get out of bed early this morning because My Darling B wasn’t making any noise AT ALL. I woke up from a dream, made a quick visit to the bathroom, climbed back into bed and, while I was waiting to return to Slumberland for what I was sure would be several more hours, I realized that B was making absolutely no sound. I couldn’t even hear her breathing.

This is not normal. Normal, on any given night in our house, is lots and lots of snoring. I’m as guilty of it as she is, and I know this because she has made a recording of me snoring so I could hear that I sound like a diesel dump truck downshifting on an off-ramp when I snore. She sounds more like a cartoon Dagwood: SNXXXX! SNXXXX!

So when she makes absolutely no sound at all, it can weird me out. Not always. There are lots of nights when I’m so oblivious of what’s going on around me that I can easily return to sleep after any one of my six dozen visits to the loo in the middle of the night, and thank goodness. Having Old Man Bladder would be a million times worse if I couldn’t.

But on a night like tonight after waking from a dream full of super-creepy twists and turns, my lizard brain sometimes kicks in. “She’s not breathing,” it says to me.

“Oh stop it,” I say right back. “Of course she’s breathing.”

“Can you hear her breathing? No, you can’t.”

“Of course I can’t, my tinnitus is ringing off the hook.”

“Your tinnitus isn’t that loud.”

“Shrieking banshees aren’t as loud as my tinnitus. Quit bothering me.”

“So you’re not worried at all that she’s not breathing.”

“No, I’m not worried, because she is breathing and she’s fine.”

“Yeah, I’m sure you’re right. She’s perfectly fine. It’s just that tonight she’s really, really quiet. Happens all the time”

“No. It never happens. She’s never this quiet.”

“Well aren’t you going to do something about it then?”

“And what am I going to do? Give her a poke? That’d go over well I’m sure.”

“You don’t have to do anything as rude as poking her. Just roll over, yawn, scratch yourself, make a little noise, same as you do every night.”

That’s what I did: I made a little noise, then laid perfectly still to see what her reaction would be. Only she didn’t react at all. She continued to lie there, still as a statue, and made no sound. So I rolled over, yawned, stretched, adjusted the bed covers, did a little cat/cow, farted. Finally she made a tiny snuffling noise.

“There! See? She’s breathing.”

“Pffft. Corpses make a noise just like that when they get gassy.”

“You went there. I can’t believe you went there. How are you even part of my psyche?”

“Your psyche is totally screwed up and you know it. Now give her a poke to see if she’s alive.”

Well, dear reader, I didn’t poke her. At that point I gave up on sleep, rolled out of bed and headed to the kitchen to make some coffee. As I grabbed my pants on the way out, B whimpered in her sleep and shifted the blankets to get more comfortable.

Sleep well, B.

wakey wakey | 4:34 am CST
Category: dreams, falling apart, Farts & Farting, Life & Death, My Darling B, random idiocy, sleeplessness
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Monday, September 5th, 2022

My Darling B woke me with a shriek this morning. Well, not exactly a shriek but a pretty scary and not very quiet shout. She usually makes quiet little whimpering noises when she’s having a bad dream, but this was not a whimper. This was a full-throated cry for help. Scared the shit out of me.

awakened | 8:08 am CST
Category: dreams, My Darling B
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Monday, January 3rd, 2022

The other night, I told my youngest son the story of how I fell from the second story of an open stairway. I’m not sure he entirely believed me.

When I was born, my parents lived in a small apartment which was really the upper floor of a big frame house that had been divided up into flats and rented out. The only way to get into the upstairs apartment was by way of a wooden staircase that ran up the outside of the house, ending in a small landing outside the doorway into the apartment.

One night, after my parents returned from a trip out of town, my father took me in one hand and a suitcase in another and climbed the stairs to the upper floor. At the top, he set the suitcase to one side and let go of me to dig his keys out of his pocket and unlock the door.

I had been sleeping in the back seat of the car and was still very sleepy. Half-dozing, I leaned back against the suitcase, which tipped under the handrail and fell off the landing. I wasn’t any taller than the suitcase, so I fell off the landing right after it.

As luck would have it, my mother was immediately under the landing and saw me fall. She tried to catch me and almost did, grabbing me by the ankle. If she hadn’t, I would have fallen on the cement walkway below, but the tug she exerted on my leg changed the direction of my fall just enough that I landed in the dirt under the stairway. Even so, my father said she was so sure I was dead that she wouldn’t touch me. He put me back in the car and they took me to the hospital.

My head struck a glancing blow to the edge of the cement walkway, which raised a knot, but I was otherwise unharmed. I spent one or two nights in the hospital, closely watched, then went home.

“That doesn’t seem possible,” was all that Tim could think to say when I told him the story. Maybe not. But here I am.

John Valuk is dead, he fell on his head | 4:15 pm CST
Category: Dad, Life & Death, Mom, story time | Tags:
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Wednesday, October 20th, 2021

Our oldest son, Sean, was such a dedicated bookworm when he was a lad. When Sean’s nose was in a book, he was not very easily distracted from it. It’s not a stretch to say that you could drop a grand piano from a great height to crash land on the pavement right in front of him and the odds were pretty even he might not notice.

Or, to be a little less hyperbolic: Once Sean asked me for a ride, then very nearly got left standing on the curb when he failed to notice me shouting and waving at him, even though I was close enough to hit with the proverbial dead cat. (Is it still a proverb? I just realized I haven’t heard anyone say that in ages.)

We were living on an air force base in northern Japan at the time. The O-mobile was a Mitsubishi minivan, which is not as small as the work “mini” implies. It had room to seat six grown adults in spacious comfort and a four wheel drive gearbox that we put to use to climb mountain roads with some regularity. It was a vehicle that was not easily missed when it drove by, is what I’m getting at.

As soon as I pulled into the parking lot I saw there was a parking space at the end of the row, right across from the entrance where Sean was standing by the curb waiting. Score! I pulled in, parked, and looked across the road expectantly at Sean. He did not look up from the book he was reading.

I’m an easily-distracted person. When a moving object crosses my peripheral vision, I look up to see what it is. I’m fully aware this makes me look like a walking nervous tick but I can’t help myself. Whatever makes me do that, though, Sean is full of the antidote for it. The arrival of a big, dark, growling vehicle virtually within arm’s reach did not register at all on his radar.

Which I was used to so, after chuckling to myself, I leaned out the window and said his name, just loudly enough to be heard over the sound of the engine but not so loudly that I might startle him. He was that close. But, apparently, not close enough. I repeated his name, a bit louder this time. Still no response, so I shouted his name, thumping the side of the van with the flat of my hand to give it a little added oomph.

Still oblivious. Wow.

Running out of noise-making options, I laid on the horn, which jolted him out of his reverie so suddenly he almost jumped out of his shoes. Seemed just a trifle annoyed at having been beeped at, too. I explained to him that I’d tried just about everything else but I seem to recall he wasn’t mollified and I had to just let it go.

book meet nose | 8:39 pm CST
Category: damn kids!, My Glorious Air Force Career, O'Folks, Seanster, story time | Tags: ,
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Saturday, July 24th, 2021

Our cat’s on Prozac. Never ever in my life did I think I would have to medicate a cat with something like Prozac, but the vet said it might stop him from peeing everywhere and it did, so now he gets 5 mg of crushed Prozac in his wet food every afternoon. Whoda thunk?

We tried dozens of other ways to try to get him to stop peeing outside the box: pheromones, repellents, attractants, piddle pads, obstacles placed in the spots where he peed. Nothing worked. He kept peeing in corners, on doors, and worst of all in the kitchen sink. I think that was the game-changer. The only way we could stop him from doing that was to leave a half-inch of water in the sink. And if it ever slipped our minds to stop the drain and fill the sink after using it, he would get in there and pee almost the minute after we walked away. It was like he had a special sense just for detecting when the sink was empty.

So B finally took him to the vet, explained what was wrong and asked them to check him to see if he had a medical problem that might have made him want to pee outside the box. She also explained that if he didn’t have any medical issues and they couldn’t suggest something to stop him, then we were going to surrender him because we were done with mopping up cat pee every day.

They suggested Prozac but cautioned that it might take as long as six weeks to get results. We’d been trying other methods for a lot longer than six weeks, so we were willing to give this a try. If I recall correctly, he peed in a corner just once the day after his vet appointment, and he hasn’t peed anywhere but in the cat box since. At least, not that we know of, but he didn’t hide his habit before so it doesn’t seem likely that he’s hiding it now.

He’s a different cat now, a lot calmer and not quite as needy. But most importantly we didn’t have to surrender him to a shelter where he almost certainly would have been put down, because who’s going to adopt a cat with a reputation for peeing? So he gets to stay and we get to not mop up his pee and everybody’s a lot less stressed now, cats included.

prozac cat | 9:17 am CST
Category: Scooter | Tags:
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Monday, April 19th, 2021

When I was just a wee lad and I did something I shouldn’t have done, my grandmother Cleo would scold me by saying something that sounded like, “Nix kommer rouse in the Dutchman’s house!” My mother and my uncle confirm that she said the same to them, and that the meaning was clearly, “don’t do that!” But where the phrase comes from, or exactly how it would be written, was a mystery to both of them.

Every once in a while I search the internet for this phrase. I looked again this morning, reminded of it by something I heard on the radio, and this is the first time I’ve found the whole phrase, quoted from a play titled “The persecuted Dutchman, or, The original John Schmidt : a farce in one act” (published in the mid to late 1800s) — Two of the characters in the play use the phrase, written as “nix cum a rouse in a Dutchman’s house,” which looks to me like the author was phonetically spelling out German or Dutch words he didn’t know how to spell.

A friend of a friend on Facebook said the first half of the phrase “would be likely “Nichts komme ‘raus” since “heraus” tends to be shortened. In English, “don’t come out”, but why you shouldn’t come out in a Dutchman’s house is up for grabs. I thought they were pretty relaxed about such things, and very liberal.”

I wondered ‘Why a Dutchman?’ as well. I’m not familiar enough with older stereotypes of the Dutch to hazard a guess, and my searches have turned up only contemporary stereotypes that don’t shed any light on the idiom.

The phrase “nix cum rous” appeared to be in such wide use from the mid 1800s to the early 1900s that it was used often to mean a great many different things, depending on context.

O. Henry knew the phrase “nix cum rous” and used it often: In a story titled, “Telemachus, Friend” (published in the volume “Heart of the West” in 1907) he wrote one character dragging another with this insult: “…do you think you could get it into that Hubbard squash you call your head that you are nix cum rous in this business?” The context here indicates the phrase means something like “persona non grata.”

And when he used it in a story titled “A Chaparral Prince” (published in the volume “Heart of the West” in 1907) he wrote one character dismissing another this way: “We will now pass you the time of day, as it is up to us to depart. Ausgespielt — nixcumrous, Dutchy.” Here, the context indicates the phrase means something like “see you later” or “so long.”

When he used it again in a story titled “A Poor Rule” (published in the volume “Options” in 1909) he wrote one character giving another this left-handed complement: “Now, you ain’t bad looking, of course but that’s nix-cum-rous.” Here, the context indicates the phrase means something along the lines of, “that’s neither here nor there.”

There’s a poem recorded in The Ringling Brothers Route Book, 1893, which uses the phrase “nix-cum-rouse” as if it was the name of a circus animal:

Cousin Jasper says ’at they
Has a circus every day,
In Baraboo.

Says they’ve got a nix-cum-rous
Larger than the Kirby House,
In Baraboo.

And a snake all wings and feet
Longer ’un Wisconsin street,
In Baraboo.

And a spotted Blastodon
Bigger ’un the Plankington,
In Baraboo.

There’s story in verse titled “Der Freischuetz” in “Dwight’s Journal of Music” dated June 20, 1857, with a line halfway through the story which notes: “I vish dat I had nix cum rous, / Und shtaid mineself in bed to house.” There are notes at the end of the story which include a translation (in Latin and English!) for “nix cum ‘rous — ne exeat — not come out. No go.”

There’s an entry in a soldier’s diary dated January 20, 1864: “Nix cum rous. I hobble around some, Found little Ben Cain in another tent, bad – so bad.” I’m not sure what he means; if he’s saying he stayed it, it doesn’t make a lot of sense because he says immediately after that he found Ben Cain in another tent, so me must have gone out.

why a Dutchman | 3:59 am CST
Category: daily drivel, Grandparents, O'Folks, random idiocy, story time | Tags:
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Tuesday, February 2nd, 2021

Scooter peed in the kitchen this morning. A lot. He sprayed the sides of the recycling bin and the bottles of vinegar, and he left a wide puddle of pee on the floor around the bin and bottles. I mopped up the pee, sprayed everything with formula twice. I cleaned all of the back one-third of the floor just to make sure I got it all.

Scooter pees | 6:25 am CST
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Sunday, December 6th, 2020

My Darling B was looking for a shaker filled with pepper flakes she got from the grocery last week. She asked me if I knew what happened to it, as if I had a clue where she shelved her herbs and spices. I don’t put that stuff away, not because I have this highfalutin idea that I shouldn’t have to, but because she bought it for what I can only assume was a specific recipe, and if I put it away it’ll be lost forever because I’ll forget where I put it and wherever it was that I put it won’t be remotely like the right place. So I don’t do that. If it’s not in my way I don’t touch it. If it’s in my way, I set it on the counter or on the table so she can put where she’ll be able to find it later.

Well, that’s the theory, anyway. Where she put this particular ingredient, the aforementioned chili flakes, was apparently a bit of information that didn’t get transferred to her long-term memory. She looked in the kitchen cupboards, she checked the drawers under the counter, she looked through all the flotsam and jetsam on the countertop and the table, and I don’t even know where else she looked. But she kept asking me where it could be, so I fired off a few suggestions. Each time I did, she said she already checked there.

“Did you look in the refrigerator?” I asked. She said she did but was going to look again.

Since I wasn’t being any great help and since there’s only room for one person in the kitchen at a time, I left to go do whatever it was I had been doing before she asked me where the chili flakes were. Each time I came back, though, she asked me again, and again I offered what I thought were useful suggestions but which turned out to be dead ends.

Finally I came back to the kitchen to get something, maybe a glass of water. I don’t know. Whatever it was, by the time I went back, the cupboard doors were wide open and at least a dozen bottles, jars and other containers stood in a loose gaggle on the countertop. B stood in the kitchen, hands on hips, brows furrowed deep in thought.

“Let’s go over where you’ve looked already,” I suggested. “You said you searched in the fridge, right?” And I opened the fridge, reached in and took a big jar of salsa off the top shelf and what do you suppose I found right behind it? Yes! That big container of chili flakes she had torn half the kitchen apart looking for! Dear reader, the astronauts on the space station must’ve heard me laughing.

plain sight | 8:11 pm CST
Category: food & drink, housekeeping, My Darling B, story time
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Thursday, October 8th, 2020

Just got off the phone with mom, who recalled this memory from when I was but a wee lad:

When it was time for mom to go down to the basement to do the laundry, she would say to me, “I have to wash some clothes. Do you want to come downstairs with me, or do you want to stay up here?” Sometimes I would go down with her, sometimes I would stay upstairs. She said I always stayed where she left me.

One time when she asked, I said I would stay upstairs, so she went downstairs by herself. Then she remembered she forgot something, so she turned around and headed back up the stairs almost immediately.

I was waiting for her at the top of the stairs. “Did you have to wash only one clothe?” I asked her.

clothe | 4:35 pm CST
Category: Mom, O'Folks, story time
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Saturday, September 5th, 2020

My mother once described a certain person’s defining characteristic this way: “He thinks he’s the cat’s ass.”

I’ve always been especially fond of this phrase as a way of describing a person who was a little too full of himself, even though I was never quite sure what vanity had to do with a cat’s butt. And then …

Then, we adopted Scooter, who thinks his butt is the best butt in the whole world. Not only does he think his butt is the best butt, but he is absolutely positive you would think so, too, if you would only take a long, close look at it, which you will have to do if you let him jump up into your lap. He will insist that you look at it. He will walk back and forth across your lap facing away from you so as to parade his butt again and again across your field of view.

And he will hip-check you, which is his way of asking you to pat his butt. Not pet, although he would like that, too, but he really likes it when you pat him on his butt. He does not like it nearly as much when you pet his head or any other part of him. Butt-patting is his jam. You would be his best friend forever if you would pat his butt for hours and hours.

I am not especially fond of cat’s butts. When it comes to cats, the kind I appreciate most is one who will sit in my lap, purring quietly while I scritch behind his ears. Scooter is not that cat at all, but I appreciate that he gave me a clearer understanding of the phrase, “he thinks he’s the cat’s ass.”

the cat’s ass | 8:16 am CST
Category: Mom, Scooter | Tags: ,
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Monday, June 29th, 2020

Mom called me last night while we were having dinner. “Call you back in about ten minutes,” I promised her, then for the next ten minutes tried and failed not to think about why she might be calling me.

Mom doesn’t call me. I call her. It’s one of those unspoken agreements. When she does call me, it’s usually because she’s got something important to tell me. And with everything as awful as it is, I was more than a little anxious about what it might be.

So I bolted my food, then called her. Turned out she just wanted to tell me her cabin fever is the worst it’s ever been, which was a huge relief. We commiserated for a while, sharing our stories about not going anywhere and not doing anything, with an added dash of oh my god what’s wrong with people thrown in for flavor. It was a nice call. Thank goodness.

a nice call | 5:38 am CST
Category: daily drivel, Mom, O'Folks
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Sunday, June 28th, 2020

Scooter the cat is back home after a three-day stay at the emergency veterinary hospital. We don’t get up to a lot of exciting things during our self-imposed lockdown, so this is what passes for exciting around here nowadays.

I had to take Scooter to our regular vet on Tuesday morning because he looked like he was having some trouble peeing. The vet thought he was suffering from an inflamed bladder, took samples of various fluids to be tested, and sent him home with painkillers. He seemed to be a little better that night.

He slept all day Wednesday, which wasn’t like him at all. I called the vet, but she wasn’t too worried. She figured it was a reaction to the trauma and the drugs.

I woke up early Thursday morning, round about five o’clock, made myself a cup of tea and was sitting down to drink it when Scooter barfed. I didn’t really want to leave my tea but I figured cleaning up cat yak would take only a minute or two. I am so stupidly short-sighted sometimes.

Scooter’s yak was a weak pink color, like it would be if it had some blood in it. Scooter himself was crouched in a corner of the room by himself, and when I went over to see if he was all right I noticed there was a spot of pinkish drool on the floor in front of him.

I could take him to his regular vet when the clinic opened at eight o’clock, three hours after he barfed, or I could load him into a cat carrier and whisk him away to the emergency animal hospital stat. If I waited until eight, I would spend the next three hours obsessing over what exactly was hemorrhaging inside him, which would probably give me heartburn and age me at least a couple years, so into the cat carrier he went.

The emergency vet said his bladder as big as a lemon and she wanted to stick a catheter in him right away so he could pee. He was having kidney problems, too, and she could see bladder stones on his x-rays. He had to stay overnight at least until they were sure his bladder was okay, he was peeing normally, and his kidneys recovered from the trauma.

Those bladder stones would have to come out, too, but his regular vet wouldn’t be available until sometime next week, so we gave the emergency vet the go-ahead to schedule him for surgery as soon as they could. They did that last night.

He was well enough to come home this morning at eight. He was a little frantic at first because apparently he hasn’t eaten in a while, which checks out: they would have stopped feeding him some hours before his middle-of-the-night surgery, and he was in recovery right up until I picked him up, so he might have gone as long as twelve hours without a meal. After slowly & carefully dishing out a few servings of soft food, though, he seems to be a lot more like his old self.

He has to wear a one of those big collars that makes him look like a cat stuck in the middle of an umbrella, which scares the hell out of Sparky; he won’t even come out of the basement if Scooter’s around.

what passes for excitement | 1:27 pm CST
Category: Scooter | Tags:
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Wednesday, June 24th, 2020

Sparky went to the vet yesterday. Did. Not. Like. It.

Or at least I thought he didn’t, because he howled all the way there. He was fine when I put him in the cat carrier, but as soon as I put the carrier in the car he started to howl like he’d been stuck, and he kept on howling all the way to the vet. It’s a twenty-minute drive. He howled even louder when I tried to calm him down by talking to him.

So when I got there, I figured I ought to warn them that Sparky was not in a good mood at all. He was a feral cat when we adopted him but he’s always been the sweetest little guy. Not the friendliest, kind of skittish, but very sweet. Still, I wasn’t going to be in there when they opened the door on the carrier, because of COVID-19. I had no idea how he’d react, so I mentioned to the vet tech who came to the car to fetch him that he was a little on edge.

I kept the phone in my hand the whole time he was in there, halfway expecting to get a phone call from a frantic vet begging for help to calm Sparky down. That call never came. Instead, the vet called me about ten minutes later, told me Sparky was healthy and was one of the sweetest cats they’d ever seen, a little nervous at first, but he quickly made friends and everybody was petting him. Well. That was quite a surprise.

When they brought Sparky back to the car, he began to howl again as soon as I put the car in gear, but he seemed to be doing it only to keep up appearances. He didn’t seem to be really into it.

who’s a good boy | 4:39 pm CST
Category: daily drivel, O'Folks | Tags: ,
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Sunday, April 26th, 2020

My mom, holding a dead rabbit, while my dad looks on.

I’ve asked her. She doesn’t know why.

dead rabbit | 1:46 pm CST
Category: Dad, Mom, O'Folks
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Monday, April 13th, 2020

We have two cats: the youngest, Sparky, is a standard tabby cat, and the oldest is a mutt, if that word applies to cats as well as dogs. The vet says he’s got a lot of Siamese in him, judging by his rat tail and the shape of his snout, and the rest is probably generic shorthair. More than anything else, however, is that he’s the sheddingest cat ever.

Scooter has very fine, white hair that he sheds constantly. If I brushed him every day, that wouldn’t be a problem, but I’m so chronically lazy that I can’t be bothered to brush a cat more than once a month or two, or more likely three. Okay, realistically I don’t brush him until his shedding problem gets so bad that I can’t touch him without releasing a cloud of cat hair dense enough to choke everyone unlucky enough to be in the room with us. That’s the condition he was in today.

I have a special cat-brushing mitten. It looks like an oven mitt, but the palm side of the mitt is a plastic cat brush. I only had to pass it over Scooter’s coat a half-dozen times before there was enough shedded cat hair on the mitt to stuff a pillow with. After peeling that off, I made another half-dozen passes over Scooter’s coat, peeled another wad of cat hair off the mitt, repeat and repeat.

Scooter just loves this. He struts back and forth when I brush him, purring ecstatically. He’d let me do it all day if my attention span would hold up that long, but it doesn’t. It barely holds up for fifteen minutes. By that time I could brush him without freeing a bale of hair from his coat, so I lost all interest in continuing to brush him. I had to keep some motivation in reserve to break out the vacuum cleaner and clean up all the loose cat hair rolling around on the floor, as well as stuck to my pants, shirt, hair, and face.

sheddingest cat ever | 6:05 pm CST
Category: Scooter | Tags:
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Saturday, February 29th, 2020

So long, Boo. I miss your crooked little tail already.

So long Boo | 2:45 pm CST
Category: Boo, Life & Death | Tags:
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Sunday, December 15th, 2019

Got back this afternoon from a weekend trip to The Windy City with My Darling B. We’ve been talking for years about visiting the Christmas market they have there every year, and this year we finally stopped talking and did it. B did all the hard work of planning the trip and booking the rooms; I did the easy part: driving. We drove down Friday morning, arriving around one o’clock to check in at our hotel, and left at about eleven o’clock this morning. Short trip, but we got a lot done.

First thing we did after checking in at the hotel was walk down to Daley Plaza where the Christmas market takes place. It was not exactly like the Christmas markets we remembered from Berlin, but it was pretty close. The vendors sold a lot of the same ornaments and other Christmas trinkets, they served the spiced wine known as gluhwein, and there were so many people jammed into the market it was almost impossible to move.

Wandered around at the market for an hour or so before walking a few blocks north to see the sights along the Magnificent Mile. The idea is we would walk from store to store, taking in the Christmas sights and maybe doing a little shopping. Spoiler: It’s all high-end shopping. Macy’s. Saks. Tiffany’s. Not the kind of places we would be stopping to pick up a stocking-stuffer. So we finished our walk up the Magnificent Mile a lot sooner than we thought we would.

We were supposed to join up with a guided tour of the Christmas lights but it wasn’t scheduled to depart until five-thirty so to avoid getting there very early we backtracked just a bit and ended up at an Irish pub called Pippin’s where we could grab a beer while we passed the time until we could meet the bus. It was one of those buses that’s made to look like a trolley and it went out to Wrigleyville where there was another Christmas market we wandered around in for about a half-hour, then looped back to stop at Lincoln Zoo where they had draped the trees and wrapped the bushes in lots and lots of colored lights, and they gave us special glasses that made us see elves and reindeer floating around the lights like some trippy holiday hallucination.

We didn’t get to bed until ten-thirty that night. I must have been beat because I slept until seven-thirty the next morning.

windy city | 6:59 pm CST
Category: My Darling B, travel | Tags: ,
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Friday, December 13th, 2019

Boo-BooBoo had a follow-up visit with the vet on Wednesday to see how she was recovering from last week’s surgery and to give her an injection of antibiotics. We stopped by after work to pick her up and as soon as the vet tech said the doctor wanted to talk with us I had the feeling it wouldn’t be entirely good news.

When the vet sewed up her mouth after pulling her teeth she noticed the bone was spongy, so she sent a sample of it to the lab. Tests showed that Boo has a kind of bone cancer that’s especially aggressive; without treatment, the prognosis is that she has weeks, maybe months to live, but options for treatment don’t give her much more time and won’t do much to improve her quality of life, so we’ve decided to do what we can to keep her as comfortable as we can until it’s no longer possible.

Right now, she appears to be fine. She has recovered well after surgery and she has a ravenous appetite, a very good sign. Her main interest is getting as much lap time as possible and when a lap isn’t available, she curls up under a blanket and naps, not at all unusual for a 16-year-old cat. We started feeding shredded tuna to her after they yanked most of her teeth out and now she gets it every day, making her one very happy cat.

to the bone | 7:29 am CST
Category: Boo | Tags:
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Sunday, December 8th, 2019

Boo’s face puffed out on her left so much that her eye was shut most of the time, so we took her to the vet who said she had an abscess caused by some rotten teeth. Poor Boo! The vet ended up keeping her overnight so they could yank five of her teeth the next morning.

We took her home in the evening after her surgery and put her in a room by herself because she was still a little loopy from the anesthetic. I went in to see her after dinner and she wouldn’t come to me, which I expected because she holds a grudge for a while after we take her to the vet. She usually finds a spot close enough to us that we can’t ignore her but she sits facing away from us. This time, though, she kept pacing back and forth, crying and rubbing against my knee each time she went past. I couldn’t get her to stop.

B came in a little later and Boo wouldn’t sit sit still for her, either. By then it was about half-past seven, late enough that we could give her something to eat, so I went to the kitchen and fixed up a bowl of food for her. Turned out, that’s what she was crying about. She gobbled it up in the blink of an eye and cried for more. I waited about fifteen minutes before fixing up another bowl of food for her, just to make sure she wasn’t going to barf up the first bowlful, but I didn’t have to worry about that. She wolfed her second helping and was crying for more about a half-hour later. I haven’t seen her eat like that in years.

Boo bump | 6:42 pm CST
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Saturday, December 7th, 2019

Boo let me know it was time to get up and feed her by jumping on my bladder, walking across my stomach and clawing at the box spring after jumping to the floor as noisily as a five-pound cat can. It was quarter to four in the morning. So I got up and fed her, as you do. Six hours of sleep it enough, right?

She was sleeping with us because she’s in recovery after we had to take her to the vet who drained an abscess in her face. Boo’s face, not the vet’s. The vet had to yank five of Boo’s teeth out, too, probably making the whole deal a fairly traumatic experience, so we let her into the bedroom to cuddle up with us while she’s recovering.

We stopped letting the cats sleep with us when they learned that I really hate it when they walk on my face. After they acquired that knowledge, they did it all the time. If you’ve never wanted to strangle a cat with your bare hands, you’ve never had one walk on your face while you’re sound asleep.

They walk on my face because I’m the one who feeds them (somehow that ended up as part of my job description; I need a better union rep) and they know that I’ll get up and feed them if only to stop them from walking on my face. Locking them out of the bedroom restored regular feeding hours. I also got more sleep, which didn’t suck.

After losing most of her molars and one of her fangs, Boo has officially crossed the line into the soft-food phase of her life, and she’s enjoying it. Tiki Cat three times a day! Scooter and Sparky are insane with jealousy.

solid six | 5:46 am CST
Category: Boo, sleeplessness | Tags:
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Monday, February 4th, 2019

Somebody wants to cuddle.

Scooter cuddles | 7:15 pm CST
Category: O'Folks | Tags:
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Monday, January 21st, 2019

When I Was But A Wee Lad: Tales From My Dimmest Memory

One of the cheap meals my mother would make to stretch the family budget as far as it would go was hash: she’d get a cheap cut of meat from the butcher, a bag of potatoes from the store, and I think maybe some onions or celery were in there, too. She boiled and quartered the potatoes, sliced up the meat into chunks and fed every bit of it into one of those meat grinders you only see in antique stores these days, the kind you clamp to the edge of a kitchen counter and turn with a big crank. Potato, potato skins, meat, fat, gristle, whatever — it all went in. I used to help her turn the crank on the meat grinder and, if I whined a lot and promised not to stick my fingers down the chute, she would let me drop a potato or chunk of meat in the hopper.

In later years, we didn’t eat hash much. I don’t recall eating it at all after we made our final move as a family to Waupaca county, and it was more or less lost in my memory for many years until one day when I was talking to Mom as she was preparing dinner. Our dinners were almost always a meat-and-potatoes affair; I think Mom usually made an effort to include veggies of some kind, too, but I hated veggies with a passion stereotypical of adolescents, so that didn’t make any kind of impression on me. But the meat and potatoes definitely did, and what she was making that day must have triggered a memory. “Why don’t you ever make hash for dinner any more?” I asked her, seemingly out of the blue.

She stopped what she was doing and gave me a look that said, ‘You gotta be kiddin’ me.’ For just a moment, I thought she was going to be very angry with me about something.

Finally, she asked, “You … you want hash?” Now it was apparent that she wasn’t angry or hurt, she was just puzzled.

“Uh, yeah?” I answered.

“Really?”

I think I even laughed at this point. “Yeah. I thought it was good.”

She was still looking at me with genuine befuddlement, but I didn’t know what to say beyond that. Obviously, she did not like hash: not eating it, not making it. I don’t remember how that particular conversation ended, but we never spoke of hash again, and she never made it again that I know of.

Weirdly, I saw this very scene played out in a Gregory Peck movie many years later. It was “The Man In The Grey Flannel Suit,” and the scene was between Peck, playing a GI in Europe, and Marisa Pavan, playing an Italian woman Peck’s GI met during the war. Peck’s GI goes back to the Italian woman’s apartment for some *ahem* companionship, and later the woman asks Peck if he could get her some Spam. Peck looks at Pavan with the same bewilderment I saw in my mother’s face that day. “You want Spam?” he asks, after a pause, and she cheerily answers Yes, Spam or C-rations, whatever. I almost fell out of my seat when I saw that.

Hash | 6:00 am CST
Category: food & drink, Mom, O'Folks, story time
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Wednesday, January 16th, 2019

When I was but a pimply-faced young man and my pocked complexion developed one of those white-headed zits that seems to pop up overnight, as soon as my Mother caught sight of it, her response was almost reflexive, and a little bit frightening: she would back me into a corner, frame the edges of her thumbnails around either side of the zit, and s q u e e z e with increasing pressure until the ooze popped forth.

Appearing satisfied that her work in this world was done, she would back off, dusting her hands. I would spend the next hour or so trying to unscrew my expression, a deeply-contorted grimace, or did I even have to say?

I’m not sure how my Mom would like knowing that bulging white zits remind me of her. It’s the legacy she made, though.

pimple-popper | 6:00 am CST
Category: Mom, O'Folks, story time
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Tuesday, January 15th, 2019

I took My Darling B out at dinner time last night and spent almost two hundred dollars!

The venue: Broadway Tire Sales.

The occasion: There was a screw in the left rear tire.

There was a nail in it, too, but I didn’t know that until the mechanic took the tire off the wheel to check it out. The screw was in the tread, but the nail was in the sidewall. They can patch the tread, but they can’t patch the sidewall, so what I thought was going to be a $18.00 patch job turned into an $89.99 tire replacement.

And it turned out I needed my oil changed, too. Well, it didn’t “turn out” that way. I’ve been putting off changing the oil for months, so I knew the oil needed changing. I just didn’t know the mechanic would know exactly how long I’ve been putting it off. Long time, “it turns out.” Well, he had it up on the rack anyway, so I said go for it.

Aaannnd the air filter had to be changed.

“Anything else?”

The mechanic shook his head. “Nope. That’s it.”

After parts and labor it came to something like $189.97.

Oh, and I spent $0.85 on a bag of Gardettos, which I shared with B.

paint the town | 6:15 am CST
Category: random idiocy, The O-Mobile, TMI Tuesday
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Monday, January 14th, 2019

Story time with Uncle Knuckles: The Goat That Ate Sean’s Hand

I don’t know why they puts goats in petting zoos, do you? Goats are really creepy-looking animals. They’re kind of skeletal, covered with boney bumps, they’ve got demon eyes, and they’re always jerking around as if their own personal invisible devil is jabbing them with a sharpened flaming stick. Yeh, let’s throw our children into a cage with hyperactive, scary-looking animals. Good idea.

But back when we were a young couple and we had a six-year-old boy who loved barnyard animals, we took a trip to the Berlin zoo, where they have a petting zoo filled with all kinds of cute little fluffy animal babies. Most of them were in small pens, but the large, open area in the middle was filled with chickens and ducks and goats and other seemingly harmless livestock. Sean wanted to pet them all.

At first, the animals had absolutely no interest in us. When we walked up to them to pet them, they walked away, not like they were afraid of us, but like they had something better to do. They were completely indifferent to being petted. Then one of us spotted a coin-operated feed dispenser and figured maybe we could catch the attention of a few animals if we had some yummy green pellets to feed them. We led Sean over to the machine, showed him how to cup his hands under the chute, dropped ten pfennig into the slot, and turned the handle.

And that’s when the goats attacked.

Cranking the handle on that machine was like ringing a dinner bell. When we turned around, every single goat in the petting zoo was rushing us like stoned teenagers trying to trample each other to get to the stage at a rock concert. I tried to keep Sean calm by casually encouraging him to offer the goats his handful of food pellets.

Big mistake. Bigger even than the idea of buying the pellets in the first place. Every one of those goats wanted to eat every pellet in Sean’s outstretched hand, and the goat that sucked Sean’s entire hand into his mouth was the winner. Sean freaked and tried to pull his hand out of there, but the goat wasn’t letting go until he was sure he got all the feed out of Sean’s hand. One of us tried to help Sean pull his hand free while the other swatted at the goat, as if that was going to discourage it. Meanwhile, every other goat was climbing over the one that was eating Sean’s hand.

When the goat was finally satisfied he got the kibble he could get out of Sean, he let go and went looking for another victim. Sean’s arm was just fine, no blood, no broken skin, but I was afraid it would take years of therapy and a keg of Zoloft to put this behind him. Parents worry that everything’s going to screw up their first kid. But it didn’t. He’s normal, or as close to normal as to make me look neurotic, which is not a very high bar to clear, now that I think about it. Sorry, Sean. I’ll come up with a better metric next time I tell this story.

when goats attack | 6:00 am CST
Category: Seanster, story time
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Sunday, January 6th, 2019

Is there one thing people do practically all the time, a small, insignificant thing that really shouldn’t bother you but, even so, makes you clench your teeth to keep yourself from screaming, “STOP DOING THAT! IT’S WRONG! WHERE’D YOU LEARN TO DO IT THAT WAY?”

For me, it’s when people say “reason why,” as in, “the reason why that’s important ….” I know “reason why” has a long history of use by the most respected writers in the English language, but it’s repetitive. If you said, “the reason that’s important …” you haven’t lost the meaning, and you’ve avoided being redundant. I’ve never been able to discover why so many writers believe the extra word is necessary.

And don’t even get me started on “the reason why is because ….” [HED ASPLODE]

Thank you so much for humoring me as I once again compulsively pick at a scab that I’ll probably never allow to heal.

And here’s what drives My Darling B up a rubber wall: license plates with more than one annual sticker, an annual sticker in the wrong place, or both. (Usually, it’s both.) It doesn’t bug her just because she works for the DMV. It is partly because she works for the DMV, but mostly it makes her want to hit people with a stupid stick because the State of Wisconsin mails the yearly license plate stickers along with a set of instructions that looks exactly like this:

It’s pretty hard to mess that up. You don’t even have to know how to read to follow directions as clear as that: month goes on the left, year goes on the right, and that’s it! There’s nothing in the middle, nothing up the sides, nothing across the top, yet every day we see license plates with stickers plastered all over them as we commute home from work, to much gnashing of the teeth belonging to the otherwise-nice lady in the passenger seat.

You now know her weak spot. Exploit it at your peril.

peeved | 8:20 am CST
Category: My Darling B, random idiocy, work, yet another rant | Tags:
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Monday, May 28th, 2018

When Tim was still just a bug, he and I played a game we called “Lazybones.”  I would sit on the floor cross-legged, Tim would sit in my lap, also cross-legged, and I would begin to sing the Hoagy Carmichael song “Lazybones” with my arms wrapped around him as I rocked forward and back.  Before I got to the end of the song, I would push down with my legs, rolling onto my back and sending Tim tumbling over my head, giggling like a madman.

That was it.  That was the whole game.  I use the term “game” very loosely here.  There was just one “rule” that was understood more than it was cut in stone: I always rolled backwards before the end of the song.  Sometimes I would roll over after just two or three words, sometimes after singing a dozen words or more.  Once, I rolled over after “lazy.”  I don’t remember ever singing the whole song without rolling over, but now that I think of it, I’m sorry I didn’t try that when I had the chance.

The longer we played “Lazybones,” the more often Tim would try to straighten his legs, pushing against me to get me to roll over.  Every once in a while I’d give in, but most of the time I wouldn’t.  It was my prerogative to pick the time we tumbled backward.

“Lazybones” was one of Tim’s favorite games. He asked to play a couple times a week for years.  I never said no, because I knew that, one day, he wouldn’t ask.  I don’t remember which day that was, because I don’t want to.

lazybones | 2:47 pm CST
Category: T-Dawg
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Tuesday, December 19th, 2017

I can’t walk into the kitchen without two cats following me. Three when Boo is hungry (not so much these days). The other two are always hungry, or at least they’re always interested. If I stop in front of the kitchen cupboard where we keep the kitty kibble (now that’s a lot of alliteration!), they swarm around my feet and I have to be careful not to trip over them or, if it’s early and I’m still having trouble focusing, just stepping on them. Which I’ve done. It pisses them off, but it hasn’t stopped them from swarming my feet.

That’s really all there is to our relationship: I’m the guy who feeds them. Or in Scooter’s case, I’m also the guy who pats his butt. He’s one of those cats.  Their only other interest in me is incidental, like if I happen to be around when they want to get into a room behind a closed door; then they think I’m there to open it for them.  They’re usually disappointed when they believe that.

feeder of cats | 6:30 am CST
Category: Boo, daily drivel | Tags:
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Tuesday, November 28th, 2017

Our after-dinner entertainment on Thanksgiving was the Michael Jackson music video Thriller. Fun Fact: Tim had not seen it before then. Amazing, I know. Now his life is complete. To think we came so close to being complete failures as parents.

thriller | 5:45 am CST
Category: music, T-Dawg | Tags:
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Friday, November 24th, 2017

The main dish of our Thanksgiving dinner this year was a lovely roast of lamb covered in pesto and cooked to perfection.

Tim’s mother offered to cut his Thanksgiving lamb into little pieces for him, but he managed just fine on his own in spite of a broken hand and the pain it obviously caused him.  He very gingerly placed his knife in the weakened grip of his forefinger and thumb, then slowly and methodically cut the meat into bite-sized cubes.  It helped that he had a sharp knife.

My Darling B served mashed potatoes and carrot sticks with the roast, so all Tim had to cut was the meat.  And he was very thankful.

He walked over from his apartment, possibly because he didn’t want to muck around with driving the car one-handed, but maybe just because he wanted to walk.  He lives just a few blocks away and walks the distance maybe once a month, just for the hell of it, even in winter.  More often in summer.  He came over at about three and we had a nice chat in the front room for a couple hours while he iced his hand.  B called us to dinner at about six, a little later than she’d planned.

After dinner, we retired to the living room for maybe half an hour to sit and digest, but all of us were quickly fading then.  It had been a long day and it started early.  I drove Tim back to his apartment with two sacks of frozen food his mother insisted he take with him so he wouldn’t have to worry about fixing dinner for himself one-handed.

Maggie, his hyper-shy cat, glared at me from the middle of his living room when he let me into his apartment with the bags of food.  I slowly set them down, hoping not to spook her and maybe ever get a long look, or even get close enough to pet her.  This was only the second time I’ve laid eyes on her; the first time all I saw was her face glaring out at me from under a dresser.  This time, she trotted away into the bedroom after just a beat or two.  “She’ll hide for at least an hour now,” Tim said, laughing.

I wished him a good night, headed back home and turned in early.  Read almost an entire chapter from the book at the top of my “to be read” pile (“Apollo 8” by Jeffrey Kluger) but my eyes were slamming shut before nine, so lights out. Slept the sleep of the dead.

Thanksgiving dinner | 7:08 am CST
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Thursday, November 23rd, 2017

The doorbell rang at three-thirty this morning. Coincidentally, I was lying half-awake in bed trying to motivate myself to get out of bed and clean up the cat yak that I was pretty sure I just heard Boo leave on the floor right next to me. Half of me wanted to leave it until morning; the other half didn’t want to step in it when I inevitably forgot it was there. The doorbell put a stop to this little internal argument.

B’s voice from the other side of the bed: “What the hell?” My thoughts exactly.

I tumbled out of bed and made my way to the bedroom door, somehow without stepping in any barf, where I could look out the the living room window and see Tim’s car in the driveway. Tim didn’t visit last night so there’s no reason he should have left his car there. After crossing the living room and peeking out the windows of the front door, I could see Tim standing on our front stoop. At three-thirty in the morning. He smiled and waved at me.

I opened the door. “Hi, Tim,” I said, as if there were nothing unusual at all about finding him at our door at three-thirty.  “What’s up?”

He said something like this: “Sorry to wake you, but I wanted to know if you thought I was overreacting before I went to the emergency room.” He went on to tell us he woke up about midnight after a dream that involved punching the wall. His right hand was throbbing in pain and he wasn’t able to move his pinkie or ring finger much; he could move the other fingers, but it hurt when he did that, so he tried not to move any of them at all, holding his hand at waist level, away from his side.

After a bit more discussion about what might possibly be wrong with his hand, I threw on some clothes and drove him to the emergency room. The closest one is on the northeast side of town, almost all the way to Sun Prairie. It’s part of a huge complex of very hospitally-looking buildings we had to drive through on winding roads to get to the ER. The route was pretty clearly signed, by the way, an observation borne out by the fact that we found it thought it was dark and we were half-awake and it was four in the morning. I hope I never have to go there again but, if I do, I’m somewhat comforted by the knowledge it’s easy to find.

A receptionist and a bored-looking security guard were alone at a desk in the lobby. There were no other people around. The receptionist perked up when we walked in, but the security guard kept on surfing the internet without looking up at us. Tim gave the receptionist his medical card and after checking him in, she invited us to wait in the lobby. Our butts barely touched the seats before a nurse called Tim’s name and lead us both back to an examination room. Points for prompt service.

After asking Tim what was wrong, probably to make sure his injuries weren’t life-threatening, the nurse asked him a lot of questions like date of birth, phone number and so on, while another nurse took his vitals. Then she asked him to tell her how he hurt his hand. Tim repeated his story about dreaming he punched a wall, obviously feeling a little silly about it. After she got everything into the computer she said the doctor would be with us shortly and left the room.

We were on our own for maybe five minutes until a doctor showed up, made Tim repeat his story again, and briefly examined his hand. He wanted to x-ray it to make a proper diagnosis and also wanted to get some ice on it and some pain killers into Tim. A couple minutes after he left, the nurse came back with an icepack and a couple capsules for Tim to wash down with some bottled water.  An odd thought struck me: that bottled water is going to be on the bill, and I’ll bet it’s going to cost something like three hundred dollars.

A tech came in after that with an x-ray cart. This is some pretty cool tech. They don’t use film any longer. Tim rested his hand on what looked like a computer tablet, except where the screen should have been, there was what looked like a blank grey slate. The tech aimed the x-ray emitter and stepped back, thumbing the fob to trip the emitter. Each time she did, Tim’s bony hand appeared on a screen on the x-ray cart. When she had all the pictures she needed, she bent over the cart to tap a couple of buttons, uploading the pictures to Tim’s record. From there, any radiologist in town could review them by logging into the network. Pretty awesome.

After ten or maybe fifteen minutes at the most, the doctor came back to let Tim know the fifth metacarpal, the bone in the hand under the pinkie, was fractured but not displaced, by which I guess he meant its jagged ends weren’t sticking out through his skin or something ghastly like that. He put a splint on it with some more pretty cool tech: a white slab of plasticky stuff he soaked in water, then formed around Tim’s hand and forearm and held in place with ace bandage until it set. It hardened after a few minutes, making a split that was molded in the shape of Tim’s hand. Cool! (Probable cost: Ten Thousand Dollars.)

I was texting B the whole time because I knew she was sitting up waiting for me to feed her updates. When I told her Tim had a fracture, she texted: “Is it the fifth metacarpal?”  After freaking out just a tiny bit, I texted back, “How the hell did you know that?” She answered: “5th metacarpal is consistent w/punching injury.  AKA ‘boxer’s fracture.’  Did I forget to tell you I went to med school? Or do I just google well?”  And she included a link to the medical web site she reads when she wants to scare herself.

Tim’s got to call the hospital on Friday to schedule an appointment to get a cast put on; after that, then it’ll take six to eight weeks to heal properly, after which they’ll probably want to examine it again, just to run his bill up a bit more. Meanwhile he’ll have to learn to do everything not only one-handed, but with his non-dominant hand, not so easy for a guy whose work is done mostly on a computer.

broken | 11:20 am CST
Category: O'Folks, sleeplessness, T-Dawg
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Monday, November 6th, 2017

Sometime last summer, My Daring B started making smoothies every morning. We took them to work with us. She drank hers almost right away; I think of smoothies as something you eat rather than drink, so I saved mine for lunch.

At some point during the summer, I started making the smoothies because B usually waited until after she’d had her shower, which didn’t give her much time. I figured I could make them while she was in the shower, a time when I usually twiddled my thumbs or picked my nose or something about as constructive.

Making a smoothie isn’t hard. At least, the way I make them isn’t. Two bananas, a cup and a half of chopped-up frozen fruit, about two cups of vanilla soy milk, then blend it all together in our Ninja smoothie-making blender for a minute or so. Takes five minutes, turns out a very tasty smoothie.

After we came home from our week-long vacation in August, I hit a little bump in the smoothie-making road. Come Monday morning, I forgot to make the smoothies. And Tuesday morning. It wasn’t a conscious decision, I just clean forgot about it. For two, maybe three weeks, I didn’t make smoothies. Now I admit that, somewhere in those two or three weeks, I recalled I used to make smoothies, and I thought, Huh, I should start making smoothies again.

But you know how hard it is to get back into the habit of doing something after you fall out of it? That’s how this was. Every evening I found myself thinking, I should make smoothies tomorrow morning, and then next morning I would be on the sofa twiddling my thumbs for five or ten minutes, vaguely troubled by a thought in the back of my mind that I was forgetting something, and next thing I knew we’d be on our way out the door and it’d hit me – Oh shit! I was gonna make smoothies! And that night I’d promise myself I’d make smoothies the next morning, and then next morning there’d be the thumb-twiddling and the oh shit moment, and so on.

Finally, one morning at work, B’s boss handed me a note with a smirk on her face, turned and walked away. The note said B wasn’t able to perform her duties as well as she had when I made smoothies in the morning, and that she would really appreciate it if I’d make smoothies again so she could have her best worker up to speed again. Something like that. I’ve been making the smoothies ever since.

smoothies | 6:30 am CST
Category: coworkers, daily drivel, My Darling B, office work, random idiocy
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Saturday, October 7th, 2017

[The management wishes to inform you that this drivel was originally posted on September 28, 2008. We beg your indulgence to repost it mostly so B can rub my face in it.]

We went to the Black Horse auction north of DeForest and planned to spend pretty much all day there. Haven’t done that for quite a while. Haven’t gone to the auction first thing in the morning in quite a while, either, but it pays to get there early so you can have a good look around at all the junk laid out on the tables. That way, you can get some idea where the most interesting action might be.

We go there for the drama, not to buy the junk. Somehow we usually end up buying junk, but the fun in going is watching the junk get sold. I watched two guys furiously bid against each other, upping the ante ten dollars at a time, until one of them ended up paying one thousand dollars for an old book. A single old book! As he looked it over, I heard the guy standing next to him ask: “Did you get what you wanted?” The buyer gave his head a quick shake, not to answer “no” but as if to clear out the craziness rattling around in there. “I sure hope so,” he answered.

The most amazing drama we saw all day, I have to say, was right in our laps. As we made our first rounds, My Darling B zeroed in on a sewing machine table at the far end of the back room, not because she needs a sewing machine but because, if she spots anything that appears to be related to sewing, she has to stick her nose in it, just as sure as her cat has to stick its nose in a door that’s left cracked open. And a good thing she did, too, because when she flipped open the folding top of the table she uncovered a Bernina, a brand of sewing machine that even dopey old me can recognize as a high-quality machine that’s sought after by anybody who likes to sew. It was an old machine, but old Berninas are like old Chryslers; they’re built to last and are even more sought-after as they get older.

So even though she didn’t need another sewing machine, there was really no question that we should buy it, if it went for a reasonable price, meaning ten bucks, maybe fifteen, tops. That presented us with a couple problems: B figured that a reasonable price for that particular Bernina might be somewhere in the neighborhood of two-hundred dollars. We were deeply conflicted between our usual inclinations to be tightwads and our recognition that this was a rare find. And, if we bought it, we would have to figure out a way to get it home. Not the sewing machine, that was the easy part. The sewing table it was mounted on, though, stood about waist-high and was three feet wide. I eyeballed it and declared that we would have no trouble getting it into the back seat of the car. Okay, I lied. I wanted her to have it, and I would have gone begging for a screwdriver and a pair of pliers off somebody so I could take it to pieces if need be. But I didn’t tell her that, I only told her not to worry about it.

The only other problem we had was that, at every auction, there are invariably people prowling around who buy up all the best furniture, appliances and various knick-knacks, stuff them into the huge panel van or trailer they’ve got parked in the middle of the road outside and take it all back to their shop or sell it on e-bay for a tidy profit, and they know their profit margin to the nickel. If you find yourself bidding against one of these guys, you’ve got to be prepared to bid high and take comfort in knowing that, if he’s still outbidding you, it’s worth a lot more than you thought it was.

After talking it over, we decided B could go as high as two-hundred, but even with a cap as high as that she spent the rest of the day with a nervous knot in her stomach, worried that one of the collectors would be there waiting when the auctioneer got to the Bernina. It was one hell of a long wait. An auctioneer didn’t get around to the back corner of the back room where the Bernina sat waiting until much later in the afternoon, but B watched him like a hawk all day to make sure she didn’t miss it. I ended up watching him pretty closely, too, because her nervous flitting back and forth got me wanting to see how this was going to play out.

You can never really tell how high the bidding’s going to go on any item. If it’s an antique, you can guess that somebody will probably recognize its value and it will sell for a mind-boggling amount of money, but every so often nobody will realize what it’s worth and somebody will walk off with it for a buck or two. And sometimes you’ll have your eye on a worthless piece of junk like your favorite Bobby Goldsboro album, and you’ll get used to the idea that you’re going to walk away with it for a buck as you wait all day for the auctioneer to get around to it, but when he finally does there are six other people in the crowd who remember it was their favorite Bobby Goldsboro album, too, and the bidding rockets insanely to a hundred fifty bucks, leaving you to trudge away empty-handed.

As the auctioneer sold one item after another, getting closer and closer to the Bernina, B pointed out the people in the audience she suspected of being dealers, or sewers who knew what the machine was worth, or just people who saw her coveting the machine and were there to ruin her day. The auctioneer sold off some picture frames, a king-size bed, and a repulsive coffee table before he came to the Bernina and by that time there was a very thin crowd of only a dozen or so die-hards eagerly waiting for him to get to the last item. They stood poised to bid. I expected no less than a fist fight to break out.

It didn’t help B’s nerves any that the auctioneer himself recognized the Bernina as a quality sewing machine and said its name loudly, over and over. “What am I bid?” he began, “Who’ll give me a hundred fifty?” Nobody flinched. Nobody ever takes the opening bid. Nobody ever takes the first two or three bids the auctioneer starts with. I don’t know why he even bothers starting so high, but I suppose there must have been a few times he’s hooked an over-eager newbie that way. He backed the opening bid down until he got to ten bucks, and B couldn’t stand it any longer. “I’ll take ten bucks!” she yelped.

“I’ve got ten dollars!” the auctioneer barked out. “Who’ll give me twenty?” No takers. “Who’ll give me fifteen?” Still no takers. “Twelve-fifty? Who’ll give me twelve-fifty?” Amazingly, still no takers. What in the name of seven flaming hells were these people waiting for? He prompted the crowd several more times for a bid of twelve-fifty before giving up and selling it to B for ten bucks. Ten bucks! When I checked later on e-bay there was an enamel pin that looked like a Bernina selling for fourteen ninety-five!

And, lucky me, I didn’t have to take the table apart. It just squeeked into the back seat of the car after we turned it upside-down.

a memory hole | 10:09 am CST
Category: entertainment, My Darling B, play, story time
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We used to let our cats sleep with us, but after we brought Scooter home from the Dane County Humane Society two Christmases ago, we had to lock them out because Scooter wanted to sleep on our heads.

I don’t like a cat sleeping on my pillow. Anywhere else but my pillow is okay, but for whatever neurotic reason is buried deep in my hind brain, I get squicked out by cats on my pillow. It might have something to do with waking up with a cat butt parked next to my face. Ew.

My Darling B doesn’t mind having a cat on her pillow, but Scooter isn’t satisfied by just curling up on top of her head and going to sleep. He also wants to shove his nose in her ear and purr loudly while kneading the back of her neck with his razor-sharp talons. This, for obvious reasons, does not fly with B.

So we locked him out, which meant that we also had to lock Boo out. I felt bad about that, because she never bothered us. Well, she never bothered me. She usually sleeps curled up next to B’s butt, and I’m okay with that, but B says she’s like a hot-water bottle, and B doesn’t need a hot-water bottle. I’d like that, but I like sleeping under five or six layers of quilts.

The downside of locking Scooter out is that he usually scratches at the door in the middle of the night, whining to be let in. B can sleep through that. I can’t, so I have to lie there, wide awake, until he gives up and goes away, and then I have to lie there a while longer until I fall asleep again, or until the alarm clock starts to bleep, whichever comes first.

So it was either let him in and get squicked out when I woke up and found his butt parked on my pillow, or lock him out and lose an hour or more of sleep a night. Waking up with a cat butt in my face was worse, I figured, so we kept locking him out.

My job required me to hit the road almost every week starting in July. I drive to the farthest reaches of Wisconsin, so far away that I sometimes have to stay there overnight before driving back. When I’m gone overnight, B lets the cats into the bedroom at night, to keep her company. Scooter still climbs up on her pillow at night to knead her neck and give her a wet willie with his cold nose, and Boo still curls up right next to her and turns up her thermostat until she’s red-hot, but B seems to think the comfort of having the cats in bed with her is worth it. Oddly, Sparky does not feel the need to crawl into bed to join the party.

Just to see what this was like myself, I left the bedroom door open last weekend. I figured I wouldn’t lose any more sleep than I would when Scooter came scratching at the door, and if he planted his butt in my face, I’d just scoop him up and chuck him out. He’s got white fur; he’s not hard to find in the dark. To my amazement, I slept through the night. Best night of sleep I can remember having in a long time. When I mentioned this to My Darling B, she said something like, “Sure, ’cause Scooter and Boo were all over me all night.” I said we could go back to closing the door if she wanted. She said it was up to me, so I left the door open again, and again I slept through the night. *bliss!*

And they’ve been sleeping with us ever since. Sparky still doesn’t climb into bed with us. I’m still not sure why. He’s probably just used to sleeping on the sofa, but I get the feeling that if he ever does decide to join us and discovers just how warm it is, especially in winter, that’ll be the last time he sleeps alone.

sleepy time | 9:57 am CST
Category: Boo, daily drivel, Scooter | Tags: ,
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Sunday, January 22nd, 2017

Isn't She Lovely?B and I went to the Women’s March yesterday. I didn’t know there was going to be a Women’s March in Madison so we almost missed it, but B pointed out that it was being organized on Facebook, which explains why I, the Twitter junkie, totally missed it.

By the time B got out of bed I’d seen more than a few posts on Facebook and Twitter from people I knew who were going to the march in Washington. B asked if I wanted to go and I said something like, I’d love to go, but it’s kind of a long drive. Drrr. I’m kinda slow sometimes. But after she pointed out the Facebook post from the Madison Women’s March and I saw that we had plenty of time to make it to the rally point at Library Mall, I was all in. After I finished my coffee. And had a shower. She was still drinking her coffee, too, so she was okay with that.

I figured we’d go down to Library Mall to hang out with a couple hundred protesters, maybe a thousand, listen to the crowd go rah-rah, march up State Street to the capitol where we’d listen to a speech, and then get brunch somewhere. That is generally what a protest march in Madison looks like. We have no shortage of protest marches, and I don’t mean to make light of the very important issues the marchers seek to address, but if I were a legislator, three hundred people chanting “This is what democracy looks like” would not make me reconsider any position I’d taken.

The Women’s March, as you may already know, was a lot more than 300 people. I started to get a clue as we made our way toward State Street from the municipal parking lot and saw a steady stream of people carrying signs and wearing the signature pink “pussy hats” as they made their way to the mall.
(Fun fact: My Darling B didn’t get the hats at first. We’d been standing in the crowd ten or twenty minutes when her eyes lit up and she said, “Oh! They look like they have cat’s ears!” She knew they were called “pussy hats” but thought the hats were supposed to look like actual women’s, well, you know. She thought everyone had just done a bad job of making the hats because they didn’t look anatomically correct, or even sorta close.)

By the time we’d made our way down to the 600 block, the street was filling up. We got to within about half a block of the mall before we came to a full stop. We couldn’t go any further. There were too many people in the street. And they kept coming. The crowd started on Bascom Hill, filled the Library Mall and was packed shoulder-to-shoulder through the 600 and 500 block of State Street. The chief of police of the UW Police Department estimated there were at least 75,000 people there, maybe as many as 100,000.

It took us a half-hour, maybe forty-five minutes to slowly make our way up the street to the capitol in that crowd. As we marched up State Street (shuffled, really; it was still kind of hard to move), we caught glimpses of other people in pussy hats or carrying signs walking toward the capitol on the side streets. The west corner of capitol square was jam-packed with people when we got there; we had to carefully pick our way through the crowd to get close enough to capitol hill to see what was going on. We didn’t stay for the speeches, but I did get close enough to snap a photo Miss Forward wearing a pussy hat.

I’m glad we went. This event was a big deal.

Women’s March | 12:06 pm CST
Category: current events, My Darling B | Tags: ,
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Tuesday, January 3rd, 2017

The other day I peed my pants like a little boy and survived to tell the tale.

It all started with breakfast at the Avenue Club, a venerable Madison supper club on East Washington Avenue. We went there to take advantage of their New Year’s unlimited pancake breakfast. They brought each of us two freshly-baked pancakes as big as a dinner plate, invited us to visit the table where they had set up dishes heaped with toppings such as pecans, almond slivers, chocolate chips and the like, and said if we wanted more, we could help ourselves to the mountain of hot cakes on the steam table they were continually refreshing.

As it turned out, “all you can eat” means the two giant pancakes they brought me in the beginning. This was a classic “eyes bigger than head” situation. I was really very proud of myself just for finishing those two.

I ordered a tall glass of orange juice with my breakfast, and after we stuffed ourselves full of pancakes, we lingered over coffee for a little while. That was my third coffee of the day, after our customary hot cuppa (or two) to wake up as soon as we got out of bed. My kidneys were doing their best to keep up, and I made a couple stops at the club and again as soon as we got home, so I sincerely thought output had caught up with input. I was so very wrong.

I was maybe four blocks from home when I began to replan my route. I’d thought of going as far as the library, which reminded me there were no public buildings open anywhere today. Maybe not such a good idea to get too far from home. By the time I was walking along Winnequah Road down by the shore of Squaw Bay, I was sure than shortening my route was a good idea.

I had the stop sign at Maywood Road in sight, two blocks away, so picked that as my turnaround point, hung a right at Kelly Place and squiggled through its twisty turns until I got to Panther Trail, which I followed up to Bridge Road, a total of maybe three blocks. By the time I got to Bridge Road there were enough alarm bells going off in my hind brain to make me nervous.

It’s a two-block walk up Bridge Road to Frost Woods Road, and one block along Frost Woods to Sylvan Lane. I was speed-walking all the way. By the time I was in the home stretch I was sure there was going to be an accident in plain sight of the whole neighborhood, but I managed to hang on until I unlocked the front door of our house and stepped inside.

I remember playing in the living room with our son Sean when he was maybe three or four years old. We were on the floor setting up a skirmish with a bunch of plastic dinosaurs or something like that when all at once he jumped up and began a fast march across the room as if he’d just received a coded message by radio wave from the mother ship. Halfway across the room he yanked his pants down and tried to manually stop himself from emptying his bladder on the way but failed, squirting a trail that pointed into the hallway and continued into the bathroom.

That was me as I ran across the living room. It’s kind of funny when it’s a four-year-old, not nearly as funny when it’s a fifty-six-year-old.

kegle | 6:29 am CST
Category: daily drivel, falling apart, random idiocy, Seanster, TMI Tuesday | Tags:
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Monday, December 26th, 2016

Oh my god this new cat sinks. Walking into his room is like being hit in the face with a fresh cow pat. The alchemy in his guts that turns water and kibble into mustard gas is something the military should probably check out.

For many years, we have relied on our cats to tell us what their names are, rather than just giving them whatever cool-sounding name popped into our heads. Bonkers got his name because he liked to butt his head against us when saying hello, and also because he was a little howling-at-the-moon crazy. (Literally.) Boo poked her face out from beyond the stuff she was hiding behind. She didn’t say “boo,” but she implied it. Scooter is a bit of a doofus, the kind of personality you’re talking to when you begin your retort, “Listen, Scooter …”

This new guy seems to be telling us he will be called Stinky. From day one, he has been sending up smoke signals, so to speak. My Darling B is not in agreement with me on this. Neither does she agree that his name might be Fart, Poop, Stench, Miasma, Musty, Toxic, or Peppy le Pew. And she herself suggested Peppy le Pew, but then immediately vetoed it.

She is also against Fragrant, Flower, or any sarcastic variation thereof.

So I don’t know what his “official” name eventually will end up being, but I’m very confident that, whatever name he eventually gets, his nickname will probably always be Stinky. At least, that’s what I’m going to call him.

stinky | 7:00 am CST
Category: Farts & Farting, O'Folks | Tags: ,
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Tuesday, December 22nd, 2015

We’ve had a mouse problem for a long time. When Bonkers The Cat was around and was still full of piss and vinegar, he did his part to keep the mouse population under control. Boo would play with the mice that Bonkers chased out of the corners, but I don’t think she ever went looking for mice and hasn’t lifted a finger (or toe, whatever) to catch any since the Bonkers left the scene more than a year ago.

So the mice have had free run of the place for months, and have staked their claim to every part of the house that they can colonize. Most recently, their efforts to take over the house have reached as far as the kitchen, where they are now into the many drawers under the kitchen counter, for reasons that are a little hard to explain. They were in the space under the sink before, because that’s where the kitchen trash can is and they could filch all sorts of goodies from it, but now they’re not satisfied with just grabbing the food and going.

It seems that now they’re wandering around in the drawers where My Darling B keeps the various implements of kitchen magic, and it causes her no small amount of distress when she reaches for a knife or a skewer and finds those disgusting little calling cards that mice leave behind wherever they go. She’s had to clean out two of the drawers at least twice in the past six months, and last night we took everything out of all the drawers so I could set out traps and start the chore of running every single one of the magical kitchen implements through the dishwasher to give them a two-hour-long power wash followed by twenty minutes of intense sterilizing heat.

Now I have to figure out how to mouse-proof as much of the kitchen as possible, as well as how to delete the mice. I’ve already got traps under the sink and I set out traps in the drawers overnight, but no luck so far. I think I can block off easy access to the space under the sink, but mice can be determined little buggers so I’ll have to keep setting traps for the foreseeable future.

As for long-term measures to rid our little red house of the infestation, I’ve proposed getting a more dedicated mouser to patrol the darkest corners. I swear I heard B say no to that proposal before, but when I brought it up last night she said that she thought I was opposed to getting another cat. I suppose I might have and don’t remember it, but if so, I don’t know why. If we’re going to have furry animals padding around the house, a kitten or two sounds better than allowing the mice to take over.

How Boo will react to the introduction of a kitten or two is more or less a foregone conclusion. She’s not whatever the cat equivalent of a people-person is. I think she tolerated Bonkers only because he was already established as the house cat when we adopted her as a kitten. When he eventuallyl grew so old and feeble that he couldn’t hold her back if she wanted to swat him off the top of the hill, she didn’t even bother pretending to tolerate him after that. Any other cat who wanders near our door gets hissed at, and she prowls back and forth growling with her puffed-up tail in the air for a half-hour afterwards. She’s not going to take it lightly if we introduce some young whipper-snapper to the house.

Luckily, I don’t care all that much about hurting Boo’s feelings because the way I see it, she’s falling down on the job. There are mice to be caught and the only cat on the premesis is totally unmotivated about catching them. More than a dereliction of duty, that seems like a betrayal of her species. And if Boo’s feelings get hurt, well, I’m not even her person. She comes to me when she wants to show somebody how she can claw the rug by the front door into a big jumbled ball, but when she wants to sit in a lap for hours, she goes to My Darling B, the woman who picked her out at the shelter and brought her to our home.

overrun | 7:00 am CST
Category: Bonkers, Boo, Our Humble O'Bode | Tags: ,
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Sunday, October 25th, 2015

The view from Ishnala Supper Club's dining roomWe had dinner last night at the Ishnala Supper Club near Wisconsin Dells. It’s a bit of a drive, just under an hour, but as things turned out, our visit there was worth every minute on the road.

We learned about Ishnala from “Old Fashioned: The Story of the Wisconsin Supper Club,” a documentary we watched at the film festival. If it sounds a little dry and boring, it really isn’t; it gave us the urge to visit every Wisconsin supper club in the film. We didn’t, but ever since then we have wanted to visit Ishnala, a relatively short drive from Madison.

I have to admit, I wanted to go there for the ambiance alone. The supper club is in a log-cabin themed building perched on the very edge of Mirror Lake. The bar is the most prominent room, jutting out over the lake and surrounded on three sides by picture windows that gave us an uninterrupted view of the fall foliage. The dining room is much the same: a long, open room with floor-to-ceiling picture windows on the side facing the lake. Our visit was maybe a week past the peak time for fall colors, and the evening was overcast so the colors were a bit muted, but it was still gorgeous.

I frankly didn’t expect much from the food, but was pleasantly surprised at how delicious it was. B and I each ordered a seven-ounce fillet mignon with sun-dried tomatoes in a wine reduction, one of the specials, and it was fantastic. I ate every bite and used my potato skins to sop up as much of the wine reduction as I could. The little bit of sun-dried tomato that was left over got buttered onto slices of melba toast and I shared it with My Darling B.

Tim treated us to his company on this trip and reported that the New York strip steak he ordered was every bit as wonderful as our fillets. We were there a little more than two hours, lingering afterwards over a slice of chocolate gateau and coffee before hitting the road back to Madison.

Our First Dinner at Ishnala | 9:36 am CST
Category: food & drink, My Darling B, O'Folks, play, restaurants, T-Dawg | Tags:
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Saturday, August 29th, 2015

I went to the laundry basket with dripping hands and started pawing through it.

“What are you looking for?” B asked.

“Hand towel,” I answered, pulling out what I thought was a hand towel.

“Don’t use that,” she admonished me. “That’s a rag. Just look at how dirty it is.” She held up a neatly folded hand towel. “We’ll put this one out, because we’re having guests tonight.”

I held out my hand for the towel.

“You can’t use it now,” she said with a verbal eye-roll. “I’ll put it out before the guests arrive, so it’s clean. You can use that dirty thing now.”

It’s like we speak two completely different languages sometimes.

hand towel | 10:45 am CST
Category: daily drivel, housekeeping, My Darling B, Our Humble O'Bode
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Sunday, June 14th, 2015

After our weekly visit to the farmer’s market on Madison’s west side, My Darling B and I crossed the street to the Hilldale Mall where B had to shop for a dress to wear to a wedding. B hates shopping with the blazing white intensity of a thousand exploding suns, but the wedding is just two weeks away, so, even though there was still some time left to procrastinate, she decided it was time to get it over with. As luck would have it, she fell in love with the very first dress she found, but it’s fire-engine red and apparently there’s some rule about wearing a dress to a wedding that would upstage the bride. She put it on hold and kept shopping, eventually ending up with what she called “the granny dress,” a cream-colored, knee-length dress with lots of sparklies. B loves sparklies.

While she was trying on dresses, I wandered down the street a few blocks to a garage sale on Midvale Avenue that I spotted as we drove past. There wasn’t much that interested me, and the only thing I eventually bought was a book published by the Associated Press to commemorate the 1969 moon landing. Titled “Footprints On The Moon,” it was a coffee table book chock full of familiar photographs of the space race, starting as usual with Sputnik and ending with lots of lofty prose about how Neil & Buzz walking on the moon had ushered the world into a new era, yada yada yada.

When I picked up the book I had no intention of putting it down again. I’ll buy almost any book or commemorative nick-knack that came out of the space race. I’d never seen this book before and as I opened the cover I thought, Oh nice, something new for my collection, but I didn’t think it was anything extraordinary at first. Then the book fell open to the middle where the folded newspaper pages were tucked away. My heart sped up. It was the first four pages torn out of the Wisconsin State Journal dated July 21, 1969. “ON THE MOON!” the headline on the front page blared in block capital letters over a full-color photo of Armstrong and Aldrin in a training scenario, using tongs to pick up rocks in their space suits. An inside page ran a snapshot of the video feed from the moon, unfocused and about as black-and-white as any photograph could be. If you didn’t know what you were looking at, you might not realize what was going on.

I tucked the pages back in the book and carried it reverently to the front of the garage where a quartet of old friends were bantering with some customers about one of the items for sale. When one of them turned to me and offered to help, I handed over the book, which he opened to the inside cover to read the price: two dollars. “Footprints on the moon,” he said conversationally, flipping through the first couple pages before it fell open to the middle where he found the newspaper pages. I was sure when he saw those that he would either take them out because they weren’t part of the book, or at least charge me for them separately. He barely looked at them before he snapped the book closed. I held my breath. “Two dollars, please,” he said. I dug two singles from my wallet and handed them over; he thanked me, and I walked away with a tiny piece of history.

Shopping for dresses took a lot out of B, so we headed straight home where she planned to spend time in her garden to decompress. It had been raining for the past two days so the ground was probably too wet for her to plant anything. Even so, she figured she could at least pull weeds, but when we got home she wasn’t up for that any more. “A new bar opened in town with fifty-zillion taps,” she informed me, and she wanted to go there to see what that was about.

The bar was Mr. Brews Taphouse, a Wisconsin chain of bars that specializes in craft beers and features loads of local brews as well as national craft beers. I don’t know how many taps there were; it was too way many for me to bother counting them. We settled in at a hightop table next to the beer menu chalked on the wall, where I studied the options long and hard. I spotted a specialty brew called Sixty-One from Dogfish Head that a friend had raved about; I wish I could say it was as good as the hype, but I couldn’t be bothered to finish it. B ordered a delicious barrel-aged porter called Barrel Aged Brrrbon with Vanilla from Widmer Brothers Brewing in Portland OR. She let me taste it, then she let me taste it again, and then I tasted it some more. Eventually she just said to hell with tasting and we called it sharing.

After the first draughts were out of the way, we ordered a flight of four beers: Dynamo Copper Lager from Metropolitan Brewing in Chicago; Bean Me Up Scotchy from St. Francis Brewing in St. Francis WI; Shake Chocolate Porter from Boulder Beer Company in Boulder CO; and Quinannan Falls Lager from Bell’s Brewery in Kalamazoo MI.

We’ve been to Chicago on our own, but we have to go back soon on a proper beer tour because there’s some really good brews coming out of there. If Dynamo’s any indication, I could probably spend all day in the taproom of Metropolitan Brewing, sampling their beers.

St. Francis is just north of Milwaukee and we’ve enjoyed their beer before. Bean Me Up Scotchy is a barrel-aged version of their scotch ale, known as Pride, and I would guess they’ve added vanilla beans to the recipe to boot. Very smooth, and yummy enough to make me want more.

I don’t remember drinking any brews from Boulder Beer before, so that’s something I’m working on correcting, starting with this excellent porter.

Bell’s has been one of my favorite breweries ever since I tried Two-Hearted Ale, a very hoppy beer. I’m not so much into hoppy beers any more, but fortunately Bell’s has produced plenty of other styles that are ever so tasty, and this lager, I’m happy to report, is no exception. Plus, it comes from Kalamazoo, which gives me an opportunity to say Kalamazoo. I love to say Kalamazoo. Who doesn’t love saying Kalamazoo? Boring people, that’s who.

I can’t remember whether or not we visited Widmer Brothers when we were in Portland. Looking photos of the place and where it is on the map, I’m pretty sure we didn’t. If we didn’t, we were stupid. It looks like a pretty great place to visit. Plus, the vanilla porter we sampled was scrumptuous. Getting some right from the source would’ve been a treat.

Our sufficiencies well and truly serensified, we retired back to Our Little Red House to pass the rest of a quiet afternoon reading and napping until supper time. And that is a satisfying way to pass a Saturday afternoon.

walking on the moon | 9:04 am CST
Category: beer, books, entertainment, food & drink, hobby, My Darling B, O'Folks, play, space geekery
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Saturday, April 11th, 2015

B&O at the moviesNow you see him, now you don’t.

shades | 11:07 am CST
Category: festivals, My Darling B, vacation, Wisc Film Fest | Tags:
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Friday, April 10th, 2015

My Darling B experienced a sustained moment of panic last night when she discovered that she couldn’t shut off her smart phone. B is a stickler for rules, so when the theater captain asks everyone to “shut off” their phones and I’m only silencing mine, B shuts hers all the way down – power off, cold as a stone, needs to boot up to make a noise or flash any lights.

But last night when she tried to shut her phone off, it wouldn’t respond. The screen remained blank, although a little blue flashing life-light kept blinking, so obviously it was powered up. I tried calling her and texting her, and even though I could hear it ringing through my phone, her phone gave no clue at all that I was trying to contact her. She sat through the movie with the phone in her hand, terrified that it would light up and start bleating in the middle of the show. It never did, so she got lucky. The guy sitting next to her, though, had a phone that made a noise so crazy loud that he just about jumped out of his skin trying to shut it down.

We did a hard reboot to it later by pulling the battery, waiting a minute or two for it to completely die, then reinserting the battery and powering up. Works like a charm now.

smartypants | 10:29 am CST
Category: festivals, My Darling B, vacation, Wisc Film Fest | Tags:
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Sunday, December 21st, 2014

Hello, boys and girls! Welcome! Welcome to Story Time with Unkle Knuckles. Gather round and I’ll tell you the story of how Silly Putty came to be banned from our Christmas stockings. Ready? Let’s begin.

This would’ve been so many years ago that Sean was still a toddler and Tim was no more than a notion. Back then, my Mom and Dad lived in the O-Folk Ancestral Manse, far, far away in The Frozen North. In the year which our story takes place, we made the long voyage there to spend Christmas day with them.

In Sean’s stocking, he found one of the classic toys: A plastic egg with a blob of Silly Putty inside. It was the first Silly Putty he’d ever played with, so we showed him all the nifty stuff he could do with it: Bounce it like a ball, break it like a piece of china, and copy a panel of Calvin & Hobbes off the funny pages. That last one was the corker: He was having such a good time that we left him to play and didn’t give the Silly Putty another thought.

Long after we had opened all our gifts and the morning had lapsed into the time of day when we were all blobbing out on a sofa or were slouched in an overstuffed chair, my Dad decided he had to get another cookie or a drink from the kitchen. When he tried to rise from his chair, he discovered that the chair wouldn’t let him go! He sank back into the chair, then tried to get up again. The chair seemed to be following him! He tried once more and finally bulled his way into an upright position.

Good thing the chair he’d been sitting in was one with a removable seat cushion, because the cushion was well and truly glued to his butt. The glue? Silly Putty, of course. As we all learned that day, if you sit on a blob of Silly Putty, your body heat makes it spread itself evenly across your whole butt, and if you’re wearing pants, it works itself so deeply into the fabric that it’s never going to come out. Same with the fabric of a chair cushion, if you happen to be sitting on one. The only way Dad could get away from that chair cushion was to take his pants off.

And that’s why Silly Putty was never seen again in the stockings of the littlest O-Folk.

silly | 5:56 pm CST
Category: Dad, O'Folks, Seanster, story time
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Sunday, November 30th, 2014

The tip of Boo’s tail was broken when she was a kitten, sometime before we got her. Sean was petting her last night and mentioned how much he liked the hook at the end of her tail because it reminded him of a scorpion’s stinger, and then added something typically Sean-like, like, “Too bad she’ll never be able to sting anybody with it.”

“Ah, but if evolution favors cats with stinging tails,” I pointed out, “then in a million years her direct descendants will be the killer scorpion-cats you would like her to be, and how cool is that?”

Sean thought it would be very cool for the cats, but not so much for humans.

“If there are any,” I put in, “which I doubt.”

Sean was more than a little shocked that I thought the human race would not survive a million years. He thought that humans would venture out into space and colonize other planets, driven by a biological imperative to spread our race far and wide to ensure survivability.

Holey moley. This is the same Sean who has spoken out repeatedly against the imperialist, colonial practices of European governments that have overrun the world in the name of securing more room to live. I could hardly believe my ears.

So I asked him, Assuming we could find a planet enough like ours that we could be reasonably assured of settling a meaningful population of humans, did he think we could colonize another planet without affecting the native life?

But more to the point, if we had the technology to build a space ship big enough and fast enough to transport a million people across the galaxy, that same technology would surely be awesome enough to ensure the viability of our own planet, the one we’ve evolved to live on, for a million years.

And yet, even though the technology we’ve got right now is telling us that we’ve got to clean up our act in order to leave a planet that the next generation will be able to live on, we’re not doing that.

Yeah. In our house, a crooked cat’s tail routinely ends up in discussions like this one. You should’ve heard the one about gender roles.

colonials | 2:58 pm CST
Category: Seanster
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