Saturday, July 4, 2015

1st of the 4th...

More to come but a start of the red, white, and blue...

Tuesday, June 30, 2015


If you have followed this blog at all over the past eight (8!!!) years, you can probably count on one hand the number of photos that might be considered abstract.  There have been a lot that haven't had any meaning or that didn't or don't make much sense, but photographically, I am pretty concrete.  Probably too concrete, if you ask some people. 

None-the-less, I saw this today.  I was waiting to meet some colleagues for dinner, and this my view through my rainy window.  It actually is caution or "crime scene" yellow tape that surrounded recently sodded lawn.  Really.  I just thought it was kind of cool. 

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Arts and crafts, part two...


Today's project was a workbench--a recent auction find, it was filthy and if you touched it, it left stains.  I washed and I scrubbed and then scrubbed some more.  The water at first ran black, then after  four times with Murphy's oil soap and a stiff brush, I felt I made some progress.  One more time and the rinse water was clear.  Yay!

This will never be a piece of fine furniture, but it is pretty useful.  I love old work benches and while this is cleaner, I don't think that I ruined its character.  There are paint stains and gouges, and blood stains.  OK, no blood, but it has been used.  There are initials and a date faintly scratched on the back.  RB, Nov. 1947.  RB worked hard and the table shows that.  Maybe it will even inspire me.

Flowers are from a survey of my yard.  The tiny, tiny purple ones are on a ground shrub.  When I say tiny, each blossom is less than a 3/16  inch across.  The unopened one is a mystery--just a lot of potential.  As always, click on the photo to make them larger

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Arts and Crafts...

I really did spend most of the day on arts and crafts.  No, not on those bracelets or lanyards that we made at the summer school programs, but sort of like real things.  I mentioned that I bought a cast iron sewing machine base, one for a "The Free" sewing machine company from Rockford, IL.  This one was a little rusty but not too bad, so I steel-wooled the whole thing, clear coated it, and made it ready for a table top.  The wood top took a lot of work--it was a shelf in a 1930s era house, but I wanted to use it because it is 21 inches wide--one board!!  You have to work to find lumber that wide.  I am not set on the top, so I won't fasten it down too tight, but it will work for now and I think it looks OK.

Other tasks included replanting my herb garden (I forgot to unplug the drains in the planters so they were mud puddles) and then cleaning up my fire pit.  It has been there, but it was full of wood.  What's the idea with that?  So I emptied it, put gravel around it so I won't start the lawn on fire, and got it ready for a fire.  Tomorrow, I hope.  Maybe even with there is an idea!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Where we are from...

Two things came into my house this weekend that reminded of where I am from, and who I am today.  The first was not all that significant, though it is pretty fun.  So I was (am!) vain enough to search for my name on Ebay.  Not every day, but once in a while.  Usually the search just comes up with some outdated textbook or book I wrote years ago.  They usually sell for a penny.  Geez, that explains why the royalty checks never amount to much!

But I got lucky with this 1930s postcard that pictures the Cafe Tetzloff in Linderberg, Germany, somewhere in Bavaria.  I don't think we (we as a family) are from there, but it does my heart proud to learn that there is a Tetzloff Cafe, and that in the 1930s, it was the oldest pastry and coffee shop in town.  I know that I look like a German burgher and probably a pastry chef,  but I think that I earned that look--it's my heritage!

The other gift in my life is a book, The Navahos and the New Deal, by Donald Parman.  I was in Washburn at a bookstore and found this.  First about the bookstore.  It is certainly one of the best used bookstores in the world, and while I have not been everywhere, I have been enough places and bookstores to be a pretty good judge--it is a top 20 bookstore for sure.   It is the descendent of Avol's Books in Madison, and it is so fun and good in part because this gem is in such an unexpected place.  It has a better Native American section than most university libraries, and I bet I have purchased 100+ books there over the years to support my research.

The book is by my advisor for my doctorate so I know the author quite well.  That it was a path-breaking book when it was published in 1976 and academically inspirational to me and many  others makes it more important.  This copy is pristine, in the dust jacket and in almost unread condition.  I have a copy, but mine is read and re-read and boasts copious hand-written notes throughout.  That is what you do with your advisor's books--you read them thoroughly and often.  The book itself is rare, though not that valuable, and I have looked for 25 years to find a nice copy.

I think that the book is more significant because of the relationship that it symbolizes.  If I can claim to be a historian, it is mostly because of Parman's influence, his teaching, his patience, and what he shared with me and countless others.  The relationship between student and advisor at that level is very complex, and ours was no different.  It was political, it was personal, it was warm, it was meaningful, it was challenging, and probably as many other adjectives as I could ever list.  I am pretty damn proud to be a "Parmanite" and to have him sign off on my dissertation.

When in grad school and later, you hear countless stories of capricious, uncaring, impatient, and mean (in all senses of that word) advisors and I never could add to those stories.  There were a few times that I didn't particularly like him (too much time working together with, well, academic egos involved) but there was never a single moment that I didn't respect and appreciate him as an advisor, a scholar, and a mentor.  Never.  I am where I am  and I am who I am in very large part because of his help, his care, and mentor-ship through a very important time and part of my life.  And like those who give so much to your life, he is one of those people who you never can thank enough or give enough credit to--certainly not enough to mark how important they are in and to your life, even years after school.

I lost that contact with Parman years ago--did I mention that part about academic egos?  His academic context didn't contain community colleges, and it was difficult to explain and justify my involvement and affection for them.  He saw them as a last academic resort, though that was tinged, I hope, with his belief that I could succeed in a more research-oriented environment.  Perhaps.  It is all silly now that I look back.  It all is another regret as I reflect on my academic role in life.

Whatever.  I found a book that reminded me of a remarkable man who was and is important to me.  And, it is a pretty good book.  Still.   I am on chapter five.  Again.

Monday, June 22, 2015

I'm home...

I made it home, though nature conspired to make the trip as miserable as possible.  It drizzled, it sprinkled, it rained, it poured, it hailed, and for all I could see at times, it perhaps even snowed.  Ugh.  My lights and wipers were on for the entire 500 miles, and it did little to lighten my mood.  I was chased from Port Wing by the weather and other stuff, and a day in the rain just made things darker.

I have to say the radio didn't help.  In the UP you get a limited menu of stations--country, really really country, religious stations, and sometimes an NPR affiliate.  The country stations remind you that you lost your dog/truck/love/etc,  the religious stations remind you that you are lacking and will be judged, as if I needed reminding, and the public radio stations?  Have you listened lately?  Syria, Charleston, politics, Iraq, shootings, man hunts, and on and on and on… It is little wonder that my mood is dark.

But I did get to hang out on Lake Superior.  These were from Sunday night at what is referred to as the "Mouth of the Brule River," where the river meets the lake.  It is a popular place to hang out and play, as pictured, but it also is so serene that you want to stay there forever.  I am not sure how to take a portrait of a lake so vast, but these are a start.  The sunsets are on the way back to Iron River and my luxurious motel.  Same night, different lens.  No photoshop, but different perspectives and exposures.  These also fill my yearly requirement to take old barn photos.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Port Wing

I am "Up North" and let me tell you, it is hopping around here.  About 50 miles to the west, Grandma's Marathon has populated the region with skinny people with bright slinky running gear.  Trust me when I say that there is some contrast with the local flannel and jean crowd.  There is a considerable difference in socio-economic levels as well and this shows up in a variety of ways.  The number of fancy SUVs now greater than the number of pick-ups, for example.  And I heard some one asking what wines the local pub had…considering the wine list (that was in chalk on the wall) listed the wine only by colors, white, red, and pink, I bet that they were disappointed.

I was in the local to celebrate the other reason why Port Wing was hopping.  It is the the weekend of the (locally famous Testicle Festival.  Who would want to miss that?  It (should I say them?) becomes a menu item as well as reasons for drinking and to sell t-shirts.  You know, t-shirts with catchy sayings like "have a ball at the Testicle Fest!" or "The Testicle Festival:  Home of the Sac Lunch."  I kid you not.    I wanted to ask if all this was to "Honor (e`) de Balzac" but I perhaps this was the wrong crowd for the reference.

Otherwise, the weekend is filled with work.  I spent most of my time grubbing about trying to clear a spot for a deck, the pieces of which will be delivered on Monday.  Today was very wet and rainy so that slowed me down.  That means tomorrow will be busy, but the first day of summer promises to be, well, summery, so that will help.

Sunday, June 14, 2015


So I have a new flower all over my yard, a very small (2/3 the size of a dime) bright yellow bloom.  I doubt that it is a rare orchid of anything but it was worth dodging a rain shower to collect a few for a photo.  I'm hardly an ikebana master, but these are OK considering the time and effort involved.

It did rain a lot in the last 24 hours.  While it was nice to be sung to sleep with a nice gentle thunderstorm, and to nap during afternoon showers, all I could think about is that I will really have to mow several times this week.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

I got nothing...

Though I was on the road most of the day, I took not a single photo.  It was a reasonably nice day, but nothing grabbed my attention.  I started out in Gaylord at an outdoor antique "fair" and it was perfect early summer day--slightly cool, nice breeze, and lots of sunshine.

I did find a few treasures.  I liked a sewing machine stand even though it was a brand I never heard of.  95% of the ones you see are Singer ( do you know I have a 45 minute lecture on the sewing machine for when I teach history?) but this one had "The Free" in cast iron script.  I will make a nice table with minimal work.  I also found a great little blue vase and, of course, a camera. 

Since I was already pretty far north, I headed to Mackinaw City.  I was hoping for fresh fish, but I did stop in town.  It was very disappointing.  Picture Wisconsin Dells on a crowded day with the Midwestern-type of people and countless high-end stores that sold t-shirts.  And fudge.  Did I mention that there were t-shirt shops?  I was just in Traverse City, and while they have t-shirt shops, there are also some very nice (read expensive) stores.  In Mackinaw City, the expensive things were the three for $33.00 t-shirts and the deals that sold fudge in five pound lots.

So I headed to Cheboygen which is a cute little town  on the "sunrise" side of the state.  There were some cute shops and an art show.  The art show reminded me of some that I exhibited at--let's just say that most booths pushed the definition of art.  I did find pot holders, which I did need, but I resisted the most popular item there, the towel that hangs on your oven. I counted nine booths that sold them.   Maybe next time...

And I did find a fish store.  A fish monger's store?  I'm not exactly sure what to call it.  I bought fresh walleye for tonight and for tomorrow, a whole lake trout to bake.  It is all about those omega threes, you know...

So the menu at "chez Jason's" is a walleye fillet with lemon, roasted Russion (who knew?) fingerling potatos, and roasted (fresh) green beans with sea salt and garlic.  It is all being washed down with a nice Pinot Grigio.    Tomorrow's fish will be baked with shallots, onions and ginger,  butter, and a touch of white wine.  I have new baby baby red potatoes from the farm market--locally grown and about the size of big marbles.  I will mix those with peas and cook them in cream and salt and pepper.  I am telling you, I am working on my professional menu debut, though the peas and potatoes is a comfort food from growing up.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

I'm just saying...

As always, I advocate for the best camera you can afford and the perfect tool/camera for the task at hand.  I have a few good cameras but as usual, the best camera ever is the one that you have with you.

I just got home, and found swallow-tail butterflies (no doubt that someone will correct me if I mis-identified this creature) all over my lilac.  My trusty i-phone 6+ did just fine for a spur of the moment shot.

I am in Traverse City for a liberal arts meeting for the next two days.  You that saying "liberal arts deans" is the same as saying "PARTY!!!" right?  No one ever believes me when I say that and I just don't get why.  I suspect that my minister friends aren't believed when they say the same thing about annual conference.  Whatever.  We will have fun in own liberal arts way...

Monday, June 8, 2015

Foggy morning

I took this on my way to work this morning at Marl Lake the small lake I drive by most mornings.  I edited it on a computer without Photoshop (gasp) and it shows, but I still like the photo

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Rain, rain, rain

Aside from thinking about whether to use the Oxford comma in my blog title, I have done little today.  For sure the weather kept me indoors--it rained steadily and hard for most of the day.  I took a cold shower in the dark as the power was out for several hours, but other wise I mostly sat and read.

That was a good use of my day, and actually, it has apparently been a good use of much of my evenings.  With apparently either more time or less ambition, I have read a lot of late--if my Kindle library is accurate, I have read 12 books since the 18th of May.  Admittedly they are far from the Russian novelists but they combine for a respectable page count if not for deep meaningful literature. 

This weekend, I have read the first three books of "The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant," by Stephan Donaldson.  They are science fiction of the Tolkien ilk, though written with a bit better vocabulary.  You know, there is a quest against an (almost) insumountable foe, but with the strength of your companions, the (almost) unwilling (totally) imperfect hero perseveres.  But these quests against Lord Foul take 1500 pages to complete.  Yes, I know, not the Russian novelists, but enjoyable.  I am really re-reading these as I first read them more than 30 years ago.

In this series Tom fights The Despiser/Lord Foul/etc  as the evil one covets a ring.  I know, it sounds silly, but one key underlying foundation is that this battle also affects the land.  Essentially all power, good and bad, comes from the land.  Good power is so evident when the earth is healthy that it almost startles those who are unaware of its power.  The impact of unhealthy land is also almost visceral. 

If nothing else, this continuing series of flowers does show the impact of a healthy, green, fertile land.  Though the hard rain was hard on the delicate flowers, it also decorated them with diamonds of rain drops.  I like these shots, and they renewed me this cold dreary rainy day.  Even if they did take me from a book for a bit.