Sunday, July 19, 2015

Random heavy thoughts

Not much to say, but thought that I would share some photos, and I suppose not much to say with them or about them.  As one of my readers pointed out, my photos aren't invidious.  What a great word--it means something that can cause ill-will or offense or both, like the Donald.  Really, that is what it says in the dictionary.  I think that was praise, but it was rather faint.  None-the-less, a sunrise, flowers, and bees.  I mean, who can be mad at bees?

And an anvil.  I obviously have weird hobbies, and I haven't shied away from hobbies that require a strong back.  I have two printing presses that probably weigh about as much as this anvil, but I have to say that this is a serious chunk of metal.  Made about 1910 by the Hay-Budden Company in Brooklyn, this was a great find in general and for my budding career as a blacksmith.  It weighs 125 pounds so you have to tighten your belt and lift with your legs when you move this thing.  It was rusty but it's solid, and it rings like a bell when struck.  And it was cheaper than chicken, which is another way to say that I got a great deal on this--it was less than $2 per pound, which is very good for an anvil of this vintage.  Plus, it is from one of the best American anvil companies.  Who knew people actually ranked anvil companies?  I am learning a lot about anvils--there is even a book about American anvils, but I am waiting for the movie to come out.  Now all I need is a forge...

Sunday, July 12, 2015

For Esmè and Bannanafish

I have not been all that productive this weekend, which is OK.  I puttered and I puttered some more.  I ate, I drank, and was mostly merry.  And I did read and it was even a real book.  I have fallen into the habit of reading mostly on Kindle on one device or another.  It is convenient, and mostly quite easy on my eyes.  But it does make me wince every time I walk by my library with its several thousand volumes, all real books.  I almost randomly chose a real book to read today, and it made me smile at its importance.

Most of us have read Catcher in the Rye, and that is good.  J.D. Salinger's book is one of those classics that make up what we think of as cultural literacy.  His 1953 collection of short stories, titled Nine Stories is also a classic.  I'm not going to give a book report, but I can promise that this book contains some of the best short stories (and certainly my favorite short stories) ever.  They are, and the word is totally inadequate, vivid.  I have read and reread this collection and it moves me.  "For Esme, with Love and Squalor," is without a doubt one of my favorite short stories ever.   It proves I am a sentimental sap, but it is also very well written, as is "A Perfect Day for Bannanafish."

It proves that reading a real book now and again is worth it.

The photos are random.  My first bonfire brightened my evening.  I was cleaning my hammers ( and I bet not many of your friends ever use or can use that phrase!)  and thought that they looked cool.  I am on the search for hammers for my blacksmithing career.  Ebay is a wonderful thing, but it doesn't seem like hammers are sold individually--they need two or three others so the hammer count is adding up.  But they are fun.  They, like cameras or fountain pens tell a story.  The pile here is mostly from the 1940s on and are all pretty good hammers.  They are all drop forged and one is hand forged.  Next time I am in front of a forge I will be all set.  All I need is a rounder and flaterer.  Really.

Friday, July 10, 2015

In process

It has been a weird week.  I was gone for two days for a conference, I had my evaluation, I was busy and I was reminded again that school starts in six weeks or so.  Ugh.  I survived, if the evidence is to be believed, and made it to Friday.  Yay.

The conference was for dual enrollment issues, essentially about having high school students taking college-level courses.  It is a great thing for students.  Exceptionally motivated/organized students can take enough college classes so that they actually graduate with an associates degree AND a high school diploma at the same time.  Talk about a big savings!  Two free years of college is not something to sneeze at, but many students "just" end up with 15-20 credits.  Still, that is a semester's worth, or around here, about $7,500 worth of free college education.  That's good, eh?

One of the things that was brought up at the conference was the maturity of the student.  I mentioned that being 19 was no magic bullet of maturity--many 16 year-olds were more mature than traditionally-aged (or older!) students.  Sometimes even 54 year-old men struggle with this.  While I defended the high school-aged students, I was also thinking of a great book that a friend suggested people read.  I know she thinks that I only read detective stories, but sometimes I do read "better" books that have complete sentences and everything.    "I'll Give You the Sun" is really a young adult novel, but if looked at from a distance and read from from my contextual old age, it is more than that.  It does provide a sometimes scary  peek into just how complicated it is to be a teenager--was it that complicated 40 years ago or was I just oblivious?  Issues of family, grief, sexuality, bullying, and more are all addressed in the novel.  So while reading you think, wow, high school students are complex and tough and sophisticated and they can easily handle college.  And it makes you think, wow, high school students are young and totally screwed up and should stay in middle school for about 12 more years.  That both points are true does not make anyone's job, whether a parent, a high school teacher, or a college teacher (or dean) easier.

My evaluation was, well, an evaluation.  I have things to work on.  Duh.  Apparently I have a few more things to work on that I thought I did or I had hoped, but that happens.  My most complex relationships right now is/are with the people I work with, and generally and obviously I suck at relationships as people probably and unfortunately know.  Plus, there is always that part of us all that thinks that we are pretty good/perfect, so when it is pointed out that you have "opportunities for improvement" it stings a little.  Not that much, though.  I am pretty self-reflective and analytical, perhaps to a fault, so I wasn't in totality that far off in my self assessment.  I have a contract for another year, so I am OK,  Until another day.  At will contracts are FUN!!!

It is really depressing to think that summer is more than 1/2 over.  Boo.  It is full summer here, with all the "down-state" people flooding the roads and lakes "up north."  That is the circle of life up here, but man, it is hard to deal with traffic jams when you don't have to for the other nine months.  I can tell people who ask "so you have summers off, what are you doing this summer?" what I do and frankly it is very busy and very certainly, not a vacation.

So what am I doing right now?  I am drinking champagne, or at least the Spanish version of it.  Why not celebrate?  It is Friday, and I have a contract, and I work with and for semi-grown-ups!  Why not celebrate?  I was/am so hungry for Thai food and since I am 30 miles from any place that even mentions curry, I decided to try and make my own.  So I went to the "ethnic" food section and tried to see what I could find.  And I found not much.  This is the ethnic food section that is pretty inclusive, as it does include all the "El Paso" and "Chung King" brands.  It is right next to the other ethnic foods, like canned chili and spaghetti sauce and the exotic spices, like black pepper.  Welcome to Northern Michigan, I guess.  I was able to cobble something together, though they did not have coconut milk or any real curry spices.  My meal was pretty good, and I am sitting here politely perspiring from the heat of the meal.  I would even make this again.  And if it is too hot/spicy?  I have more wine with bubbles.  I think that can solve many things, at least for tonight.

The flowers were, as usual, from my garden/yard.  The two news one are from seeds, which is always fun.  They are daisies of one type or another, but they are big and have lots of petals.  The "pretty" one or at least the colorful one is the flower that came from the bud photo that I posted the other day.  It was slow to bloom, and the other colorful one that is pictured is one of the same flowers that is just in progress.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

2nd of the 4th

These aryeae the rest of what I shot at the Roscommon parade.  It was a fun, cute, typical small town parade.  No marching bands, a few politicians (of the red spectrum of the red, white, and blue, of course) and lots of fire trucks.  Heaven help who ever started their vacation home on fire during the parade as every red truck in the county was in the parade. 

I am trying to thing how many times I have shot a Fourth of July parade.  Too many times, I think, as the images blur into a smear of flag colors.  I am jaded but I still pause when the color guard marches by, and smile at kids dressed in bunting waving flags.  I finished my assignment slightly sunburned and with a smile on my face.

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.