Monday, December 31, 2018

Skyway Adventures

Happy New Year's Eve! Usually Travalon and I go to visit his friends in Waupun for the holiday, but the weather is too lousy, so we are holed up at home and I am blogging. We did have a good weekend. Friday we drove up to Minneapolis and walked for miles and miles through the skyway system, ending with dinner at Rock Bottom Brewery. We stayed at a hotel on the university campus, then Saturday we went to St. Paul and took a tour of the Minnesota State Capitol. We went to the Como Park Conservatory again - for me, since I am geeking out on plants so much lately. They have a whole section there of just ferns! It's like what you would have seen back in the days of the dinosaurs. Travalon could not escape the gift shop without a new stuffed animal - in this case, a gazelle he named Gabrielle. He also bought me a little squishy giraffe. We went to Surly Brewery for lunch and delicious beers, and we had a very cool bartender named Justin, so I decided to call the little squishy giraffe Justin the Giraffe. Then we explored the skyway system in St. Paul, which is not as extensive as the Minneapolis one, but worth checking out if only for the old Union Depot. We got home pretty late and worn out from two days of walking about six miles.

Yesterday Travalon was having phone troubles, so he went to the phone store and they fixed it while I sat at home watching the first half of that atrocious Packers game. How could they lose 31-0 at Lambeau to the LIONS??? They are one of the worst teams in the league! Well, apparently so are the Packers. But I still love them because I don't know, I am a masochist or something. The one thing I'd been hoping for, that my favorite player Davante Adams would break the record for most receptions in a season, didn't happen because he was injured. So was Jones, and Rodgers got a concussion early in the game and had to leave. Argh! We taped the second half and went to Sauk to watch eagles and hike, and OK Cap joined us. The three of us went to Wollersheim, and we bought her a drink for her birthday, then we all met Jilly Moose at Oliva for dinner. Jilly Moose had to leave, and then Cali came, so we all invaded Rich's house and chatted with him and Kathbert. He made us all delicious hot cocoa from scratch, and I blathered to Kathbert about the wonder of tree ferns. They're trees! But they're ferns! How cool is that? However, I don't think I want one in my house. They must not be very easy plants to keep alive, since they are not a common sight at plant stores... and believe me, I know all the common sights at all the local plant stores!

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Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Sumo-Sized Shot of Limoncello

I hope that my readers had a very Merry Christmas. Travalon and I started our holiday on Friday with dinner at Mariner's, then Saturday we went down to Chicago with Cecil Markovitch, the Single B-Boy, and Trinidad Cap. Our first stop was a place called Eataly, which is an Italian superstore. Row after row of olive oil, wine, cheeses, and everything you can imagine - even a little section of succulents for sale, which doesn't seem particularly Italian. They have restaurants there, and I had black squid ink pasta for lunch. Then we went to Old Town and parked by St. Michael's church. A sign on the door gave the hours, and it should have been open, but it wasn't. The B-Boy rang the doorbell at the exact moment that the church bells rang, which was hilarious, but nobody answered the door. We walked down to Wells Street and checked out all sorts of shops, like two chocolate shops (one was practically a Catholic gift shop in chocolate), a delicious-smelling spice shop, a shop like Little Luxuries on State Street, and a really cool aquarium store. Travalon and I walked on the boardwalk by Lincoln Park Zoo, then we all went to Mass at St. Michael's, which is gorgeous inside and has two of the best cantors I ever heard. We had dinner at an Italian restaurant on Wells Street, and afterwards Cecil ordered two shots of limoncello while the B-Boy had one. Cecil was sure the B-Boy's single shot was much larger than either of his two shots, since the stem on the glass was taller, so he said he wanted a "sumo-sized shot." He said that wasn't original, he saw a card with sumo wrestlers working at a fast-food joint, but sumo-sized fries is not nearly as funny as a sumo-sized shot of limoncello. My one disappointment is that we all forgot to swing downtown and check out the Christmas lights on the Magnificent Mile.

Sunday after Mass I had brunch with Travalon, Rich, and the Single B-Boy at Crema Cafe, then Travalon and I watched the first quarter of the Packers game, but they were struggling against a terrible team (the Jets), so we taped the rest of it and drove to Sauk while listening to the game. We saw lots of eagles, but the game went into overtime so we drove to Indian Lake while listening to the rest of it. The Packers did win, so I was in a better mood until it took us three stores to get all the supplies for the cassata, because different places were sold out of different things. Then I went to Rich's house and made the cassata, and Kathbert came over to blat.

Christmas Eve Travalon and I slept in, then we ran some errands, and then I sang at the "Midnight Mass" at five. Rich had a solo, and he did a great job. Afterwards Travalon and I drove around looking at lights, then we had dinner at Amber Indian restaurant, and then we exchanged gifts. I gave him the Ken Burns documentary on baseball, and he gave me a stuffed sheep, a cactus pillow, four little Easter Island heads, and two John Batiste CDs. We also got travel mugs from Ma and Pa Hat, plus my boss gave me a travel mug. That is probably a good thing, since I have a bad habit of bringing them to work and then forgetting them there, so I need spare ones. Then we watched "A Christmas Story."

Yesterday we went to Mass again in the morning, then we drove to Oconomowoc to visit Travalon's mother, and his oldest brother and his wife were there too. They are so much fun to talk to! Rich's house was a blast, as always. I made eggnog with help from Cecil, and Rich served lasagna. Travalon and I had to leave for my usual Tuesday night adoration hour at six, and then Cecil came at seven for his so we went back to Rich's house for cassata. When Cecil got back, we all did a white elephant gift exchange. I somehow ended up with an evil-looking nun puppet, and Rich's housemate got a glowing hatchet, so Travalon enjoyed playing with the nun holding the hatchet. Rich got a really cool costume sword that almost looks real, and Kathbert got a bunch of cool kitchen gadgets. Mr. N'Awlins got a beautiful box of knives, and the single B-Boy got a book about growing old gracefully. Travalon got all kinds of weird stuff, like cookie cutters and popsicle makers. Cecil got the best stuff: an icon and a clock. That was even more fun than our usual pastime of playing "Guess Who You Are." We always had white elephant gift exchanges at my old job, but I never thought of having one at Rich's house before - and why not? They are so much fun!

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Friday, December 21, 2018

Missing Sombrero-Wearing Chihuahua

It was a number of years ago, but when I was well into adulthood, that one year for Christmas there was a big present… for me! I unwrapped it to find a box that said: “Space Heater.” Wow, what a great present! Thoughtful and useful! My young relations were giggling and said, “No, open the box!” and inside was a stuffed Chihuahua approximately two and a half times the size of a real one, with a sombrero on its head. And it sang, “Feliz Navidad.” It wasn’t quite like opening a jewelry box to find a plastic toy, but it was pretty close to opening a box of high-quality chocolates to find black jellybeans – you think you are getting something wonderful that you really want, and instead you get something annoying that you have zero use for. (Apologies to my readers who actually like black jellybeans, and I promise that I won’t question your mental state… out loud.)

I did find a use for the Chihuahua: entertaining Hardingfele’s young daughter. Then the battery wore out, and I was unmotivated to replace it. However, I made a Cinco de Mayo video of something approximating a mariachi song, and the Chihuahua was perfect to star in it. Just yesterday a friend needed a Mexican prop for a class, and I thought of the Chihuahua, but although Travalon and I searched everywhere, we couldn’t find it. And this thing is not small – it is just about the size of a space heater. Maybe it is at Rich’s house, with Aloysius the demented praying mantis that sings five equally grating vaguely Christian children’s songs? Maybe I gave it away? Do any of my readers have any idea?

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Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Mystery Winter Boat

I think I am working in the right department. Here is someone’s sense of humor: under the bathroom sign that says, “Women,” someone put another sign that says, “Damen,” which is of course German for the same thing, and then under that someone put yet another sign that says, “Dames.” On the men’s side, under the sign that says, “Men” someone put one that says, “Herren,” and then under that someone put a photo of a heron. We also have a billboard with humorous memes on it, and the latest one that went up today says, “You can really only call the monster Frankenstein if it comes from the Frankenstein region of France. Otherwise, it is just a sparkling monster.” That made me laugh for five minutes straight. And yes, I do know the monster is not “Frankenstein” but “Frankenstein’s monster.” It’s still funny.

Monday when I went for a walk during my lunch break, I saw something strange: a boat on the lake! There is a thin layer of ice on the lake, so I’m not sure how or why this boat was out there, but it was moving very loudly and slowly on the far side of the lake. I texted Travalon and said it was in Warner Bay, could he get a closer look, but by the time he got there, he didn’t see anything. It appeared to be a white power boat with a yellow thing sticking off the front. The next day I emailed my contact in the Limnology Department, figuring it was one of theirs studying the lake, but she said it wasn’t theirs. Then it was back! I told her it was back, and she emailed back a few minutes later to say they had looked at it through powerful binoculars, and it was a white boat with a large yellow thing sticking off of it, so there you go. It hasn’t made an appearance today, so this mystery may never be solved.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Balalaika Concert

I hope my readers got to get outside to enjoy the beautiful weather this weekend. I started the weekend inside on Friday evening, attending a performance of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, or (as the person next to me noted) two-thirds of it. It was at the Lutheran church where I used to sing.

Saturday Travalon and I met Rich for coffee, then we rode the Holiday Trolley up and down State Street, and then we went to the Historical Society gift shop, where we found a really cool book on state capitols (as in the buildings). We went to a free concert put on by the local balalaika orchestra – yes, there is one in town, and the three basses reside in a meeting room in my department, when they are not being played in public. We drove out to Sauk, where we took a long hike and saw one mature eagle and two young ones, and then we met some people for dinner at Graft, a small plate restaurant. The food was so good! Handy Woman was there, and she had just gotten back from a work trip to London, so she and Travalon talked about what she had seen. He had given her lots of suggestions, having been there himself several times.

Sunday Travalon and I watched the first quarter of the Packers game, but when it didn’t look like they could beat the Bears, we taped the rest and went for a hike at Token Creek Conservancy. We listened on the radio as we drove back out to Sauk, where we used the new binoculars Travalon found at an antiques store to watch a faraway eagle soaring over the hills across from the dam. Then we went to a bowling alley overlooking the river for pizza. There were a surprising number of Bears fans there, and one loud, vulgar Patriots fan. (I don’t mean that she was vulgar for being a Patriots fan, although that isn’t far from my opinion of the situation, but that every other word out of her mouth was the F-bomb.) Of course the Packers lost, so I don’t know what to say about that. Jones got injured early, and they had lots of missed opportunities. I ended the evening by going to band practice, where we played Christmas songs, many of which have a shocking number of chord changes. The rest of the band is playing at the airport, but I can’t make it. I have adoration at the same time. Not that anyone frazzled after a long flight would want to hear me fumble for the right chords on their favorite Christmas song…

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Friday, December 14, 2018

God Jul Party

Yesterday after work my department had a “God Jul” (Christmas) party with typical Scandinavian treats and libations, specifically one called glögg. It is a sort of mulled wine, and I hadn’t had it since back in college, when I had a roommate with a Norwegian boyfriend who used to make it for Christmas. One of the professors brought cardamom bread, and there were all sorts of wonderful cheeses. I got into a conversation with a grad student that somehow turned to plants, and it turns out we are both plant nuts. I said, “I have a whole room for plants,” and she said, “I do too!” We even have been known to surreptitiously take a sprig of a plant to try to grow one for ourselves. What a relief to know I am not alone! Just then the party looked like it was going to get really fun, because two people with ukuleles positioned themselves in front of the video fireplace, but alas I looked up at the clock and realized I had to leave. Also, nobody had mentioned that this was a BYOU party – in fact, nobody had mentioned ukuleles at all, and I hadn’t thought to ask, since it was ostensibly a Scandinavian party, not a Hawaiian one. And it’s not like you can just bring a ukulele with you to every party you are invited to, or people might stop inviting you. Believe it or not, there are people who do not like the ukulele.

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Thursday, December 13, 2018

Another Linguistic Day

Yesterday was an eventful and fun day. Our department chair took us peon types to lunch at the building with the Mesozoic garden, and I was surprised that we walked over by cutting through another building. True, that is a shorter path, but I forget that not everyone wants to maximize their outside time. I am inside all day, so any chance I get for fresh air, I take. But of course many people do not feel the same way. After that I went to the December free Bach concert and sang in/listened to other people singing in German. Hockey Girl and I met for dinner at the French House, so then we spoke in French until I had to leave for choir practice, which was at Richard Bonomo’s house because the church was full of people celebrating the festivity of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and again we were singing in German. We are working on a Christmas piece once attributed to Bach but now generally considered not to be by him (our choir director thinks it is by his predecessor, Kunau, but I can’t find any actual musicologists who share this opinion), and our choir director hated the English translation and kept changing the words. It was so confusing that I agitated for just singing in the original German, and to my utter surprise, he agreed. So it was a very linguistic day for me once again.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Waking Up Hibernating Creatures

The other day I was taking a walk on the lakeshore path at lunchtime, and I saw a strange little animal scurry across the path in front of me. It was very round and very slow, and it took me a moment to realize it was an extremely fat and disoriented mouse. Maybe it was so fat because it was hibernating, and something foisted it from its burrow. It was so poky that I could have grabbed it. I didn’t, but there are plenty of raptors in the neighborhood (I have even seen a bald eagle!) so it probably didn’t last too long. Seeing it reminded me of a long-ago time when I was in college, and some girls and I were renting an old house with a garden. Two of them were digging in the garden early in the spring, and they came across a hibernating snake, so they brought it to me. I was delighted and took the snake from them, and it wrapped itself around my arm, probably enjoying the warmth of my skin. It was just a harmless little snake, and I love all creatures, so it didn’t strike me as strange that they had brought it inside to show me. What did puzzle me is that they seemed disappointed – hadn’t they hoped that I would be happy with their discovery? They took the snake back and put it out in the garden, seemingly dispirited, and it was only much later that it occurred to me that they thought I would be horrified if they brought a snake inside and held it out to me. I guess they didn’t know me very well! It takes more than a snake to scare me.

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Monday, December 10, 2018

Christmas Train and Concerts

I hope my readers had a good weekend. Travalon has been under the weather, but Friday we did go out to see the Christmas Train pass through Columbus, then we stopped at the reopened bowling alley in town for some Sprecher’s soda. As we were waiting for the train, we saw a light on the tracks, and at first everyone was confused, thinking a train was coming from the other direction. Then we realized it was a person with a light walking on the tracks, so we were hollering, “Get off the tracks! There’s a train coming!” It was a worker from Canadian Pacific, warning us all to get back from the tracks before the Christmas Train arrived, so then I felt foolish for warning him when he was there to warn me.

Saturday I met Hockey Girl for coffee, then I rode the Holiday Trolley on State Street while waiting for Tiffy to arrive. We had lunch at her favorite place, Himal Chuli, then we got some tea, and then we got on the trolley but it only went to a couple of stops before stopping at the top of State Street with the announcement that it was done for the day. We went into the Capitol building to see the State Christmas Tree… and we only got to look at it for two minutes before they were shooing us out, telling us the Capitol was closed for the day. In the evening we parked in the tiny First Congo parking lot well before anyone else got there, then we walked to the restaurant in the Institute for Discovery, checking out the Mesozoic Garden and the chimes first, and then we walked back to First Congo for a Baroque Christmas concert. The first couple of numbers were by Josquin Desprez, who is well before the Baroque era, but he is great. I love how he could write the most uplifting sacred motet, and then he could write a secular motet in which the first letter of each line spells out the French equivalent of “F—k you.” He seems like as much fun to know as Tolkein and CS Lewis, who went to a (very important: NON-COSTUME) party dressed as polar bears. I don’t know the story behind that one, but Tolkein was a real prankster.

Yesterday Travalon, Tiffy, and I had brunch at the Daisy Café, then Tiffy went Christmas shopping while Travalon and I watched the amazing, tremendous, HUGE Packers game. Okay, I know their season is over unless a bunch of mathematically improbable things happen, but it was just so much fun to watch them win decisively. Was McCarthy really holding them back? This game made me think possibly, since the offense was explosive without his nonsensical playcalling, and on the defense Breeland had a beautiful pick-six and a recovered fumble. Are the Pack back? I had to leave for the handbell Christmas concert with Tiffy and Rich before the answer was complete, but by then they were so far ahead of the Falcons that their defeat seemed completely improbable, and in fact they did win. The concert was as enjoyable as ever, especially a setting of “We Three Kings” with a Mideastern flair, a pretty tune I’d never heard before called “Chartres,” and a famous farandole by Bizet. And of course there were all the delicious Christmas treats afterwards! They had so many left over that I took a couple to my poor sick husband. He loves those peanut butter kiss cookies… and so do I!

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Friday, December 7, 2018

Famous Hat for [Unspecified Political Office]!

Sorry that I haven’t blogged in several days. Tuesday evening Travalon and I went to Liliana’s for their gingerbread dinner. Wednesday I had no time to blog because my car was in the shop for a factory recall repair to the passenger side airbag, and then I went to choir practice. Last night Travalon and I went to a meeting at the East Side Club to vote on whether some repairs should be done. The move passed, and I realize I am some kind of Robert’s Rules geek because I actually enjoyed the meeting. Too much time in shared governance at work? I would love to get into politics, but the only ones who would vote for me are children and animals, and of course they can’t vote. I just don’t have a natural constituency.

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Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Vespers for the Late Bishop

Last night I went with Rich to a vespers service for our late bishop. The bishop of Sioux Falls, who used to be our vicar general, was celebrating, and I wanted to see him again. Back when he was installed in Sioux Falls, a bunch of us went, and there was an absolutely beautiful vespers service. The one last night was okay, but nothing like as beautiful as that one. Everything was chanted, but the chanting seemed a little tentative. However, the bishop of Sioux Falls is still very funny and humble. I wish he could be our new bishop, but the Single B-Boy told me afterwards that he had submitted his resignation to the Pope already, and Mr. N’Awlins concurred that he really is that chronologically advanced. I always think of him as a vigorous middle-aged man, but some time has passed, it is true, and he was looking a little frailer. Still, I never would have guessed he was at the mandatory retirement age for a bishop. Our current vicar general is the acting administrator while we don’t have a bishop, and some people think he might be elevated to bishop, but other people say they never choose a bishop from among the clergy of the diocese in question. Stay tuned… I hear this process can take over six months.

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Monday, December 3, 2018

Travalon's Happy Birthday

I hope my readers had a good weekend. Friday evening Travalon and I were going to get together with the Rosary Ladies, but it didn’t work out, so we went to David’s Jamaican for their delicious buffet. We thought about hearing a band later, but we were tired and just went home.

Saturday was Travalon’s birthday, so he got to decide how the day went. First thing in the morning I gave him a present, a little stuffed dog that he named Clyde. Clyde is not any obvious breed; his coloring implies beagle, but his ears are more like some sort of terrier. Then we met Rich for coffee. Travalon had wanted to go to Milwaukee for the day, but the weather was iffy, so we stayed in town and went to Bohemian Rhapsody, the movie about the band Queen. It was really good! Then we went to Rich’s house for some spumoni cake. We went to Monroe Street for their reopening festival (since they have been under construction for many months), but alas, the trolley had only run until 2:00, while we were at the movie. We went to Infusion chocolate shop and Travalon got his free truffle, plus we each got several more truffles and some drinking chocolate. I asked Travalon where he wanted to go to dinner, and he said Natt Spil for their amazing pizza and cocktails, so that's what we did. We planned to check out the Nau-Ti-Gal party and then go to see a funk band at the Knuckle Down Saloon, but the party was so much fun that we stayed there, singing along with the guy singing and playing guitar. Then we went home and watched the movie MASH, which is much weirder than the TV show.

Yesterday was a far more disappointing day. We weren’t even hungry for brunch after church, so we just went home and eventually had some lunch while watching the start of the terrible Packers game. How could they lose to one of the worst teams in the league?? I met Rich and Kathbert at the annual University Christmas concert while Travalon went to the Union to watch the rest of the game, but somehow Kathbert and I didn’t find the concert as wonderful as usual this year, so it was no consolation for the game. Then we all went back to Rich’s house and blatted for a bit. Meanwhile, the Packers fired their coach, which I think is a good move. He may have had a winning record over the years and even helped the team win a Super Bowl, but lately he has been keeping a stranglehold on the team, doing his own play calling – which would be fine if his plays worked, but they don’t. People have been saying that the game has passed him by. I am not sure what is going on with the Packers, but getting rid of the entire coaching staff might be a good idea. Zooks the special teams coach allows way too much sloppiness, stupid mistakes and lots of penalties. I am not quite sure about the defensive coordinator yet, but we got him from the Browns, and they won two games while he was there. This year they have the same record as the Packers: 4-7-1.

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Friday, November 30, 2018

Foreign Language Day

Wednesday was a very foreign language-oriented day for me. Every morning before work I do my Irish lessons on DuoLingo, and I have also been doing a MOOC (massive online open course) put out by the City University of Dublin. I finished Irish 106 on Wednesday; because I am a masochist, I am now registered for Irish 107, to start next week. Midday I went to a Bach concert, where everything was sung in German, and in the evening I went to the French House for dinner. Of course you can only speak in French at the French House, which oddly is not called La Maison Française, at least not on the outside. I had no idea dinner at the French House was such a popular event, but there were tons of people there.

I forgot to mention that on Friday night I went to a Baroque concert. Travalon stayed home and watched basketball because he was sick, and also he doesn’t like Baroque music.

For any of my readers who pray, please remember my mother-in-law in your intentions. She has had a series of small strokes in the last few days. I know some of you are already praying, and Travalon and I really appreciate it.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2018

RIP Bishop Morlino

I completely forgot to mention that on Friday Travalon and I went out to the Shoe Box in Black Earth because way back in August we had gone to the Mallards playoff game, and someone handed him a gift certificate for Wolverine boots from there. Now the guy who owns the Mallards also owns the Shoe Box (and has partial ownership of several other Northwoods League teams), so I wasn’t surprised that he would give out gift certificates to his own store at the game. What did surprise me was that he was working at the store, on a holiday weekend, and he even waited on Travalon! This guy must be a millionaire, but here he was putting boots on Travalon’s feet. Usually I notice these things, but Travalon pointed out something later that I hadn’t noticed at the time – he was wearing his Mallards hat. No wonder he got such great service! Plus very nice free boots.

Another thing I forgot to mention was that our bishop died on Saturday. Was it unexpected? That is a hard question to answer; he had been suffering from heart problems for years, and the way I understand it, he went in on Wednesday to have a heart function test, and then during the test he had an actual heart attack and never regained consciousness. Some people I know are devastated, and some are gloating, but I have mixed feelings. He was an orthodox bishop in many ways, but he seemed way too enamored of one particular political party for my taste. Our salvation comes from Jesus Christ, not the Republican Party. Also, I tend to have more leftist views, and it might surprise some of my Catholic readers to learn where I got them: from the Franciscan ssisters who taught me in the early grades. They got me to see that I need to think of those who have less than I do, no mean feat when children in general are selfish and I was especially oblivious to the needs of others. But by the end of first grade, I used to get a glass of water to drink and then pour half of it back down the sink, not realizing that was wasteful, because I believed I should pass half on to someone further down the line. So it was because of Catholics that I care about the poor and the oppressed workers, and so it always seems odd to me that so many Catholics seem to consider those concerns too “liberal” for their taste.

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Monday, November 26, 2018

Thanksgiving 2018

I hope my readers had a good Thanksgiving. On Wednesday Travalon and I went to the new barbecue restaurant in our neighborhood, and we were overjoyed to find it was some of the people from the defunct butcher shop in our neighborhood. Now the butcher shop is not defunct because business was bad, but because they were forced out of their space by another business. Half the time when a business closes that is the reason, not because they are doing badly. It always seems so unfair to me.

On Thanksgiving Day we visited Travalon’s mother, then we went to Richard Bonomo’s house for the usual feast, and as usual we supplied the bird. (I bought it from the poultry club on campus.) Lots of people were there, and we played the “Guess Who I Am” game, but for some reason several people came up with names that stumped the victims. From now on I am instituting a rule: if you think of a name and your victim cannot figure out who they are supposed to be (because they have never heard of that person), they don’t lose the game – you do! A funny note: I had bought a hat at the Celtic Christmas fair last week, and Luxuli wore one that looked just like it!

Friday was an odd day. Travalon and I had off of work, so we had a relaxing morning. He had a bag of change he had collected all year just for Small Business Saturday, so I looked through it to find cool quarters that I don’t have yet. (I already collected all the state quarters and am now working on the national parks.) Then I grabbed my coin collection to see what duplicates I had… and found that two of my favorite coins, the Eisenhower dollar and the bicentennial half-dollar, were missing. Why had I taken them out of their usual place? Where could I have put them? I was very upset, but Travalon suggested we look for the coins at a coin store. Then he discovered he had a flat tire, which normally wouldn’t be a problem, but my car had just gotten a recall notice that the passenger side airbag could explode in an accident. He was able to reinflate his tire, so we went to the credit union and found out that the change (with some additions from me) came out to $94 exactly. Crazy! We took the receipt to the counter, and I told the guy he could make my day if he had any crazy coins, so he said, “Like this?” and plopped an Eisenhower dollar onto the counter. Wow, that got replaced quickly! Then we went to a coin store, and the woman found a bicentennial half-dollar in the change in the cash register. Just like that, my coin collection was replenished! Travalon and I drove out to Sauk to watch eagles and hike on the riverside trail, then we came home and had leftover turkey for dinner.

Travalon had been looking forward to Small Business Saturday for months, and he had plenty of cash to spend, but when we headed out the door, his tire was flat again. He couldn’t get into the tire place until the next day, so I drove my car and he sat in the backseat. We met Rich for coffee, then we went up and down State Street, to gift stores and book stores and plant stores. I rode the holiday trolley while waiting for him to finish up, and he ran into Tiffy, who was going to the game. We thought about going but decided to keep shopping on Willy Street, and good thing we didn’t bother – the Badgers lost the Paul Bunyan axe to the Gophers for the first time in years. In the evening we went to Rich’s house for yet more leftover turkey, and to blat with Kathbert.

Yesterday I had to take Travalon to the tire repair place, then we did some Small Business Sunday shopping. We had pizza for dinner because we were so sick of turkey, and then we watched that horrible Packer game. What has happened to our Pack?? And did they really have to lose to Minnesota the same weekend as the Badgers did? I can just feel the entire Gopher State gloating in our direction. Travalon and I have given up on both football teams this season. At least both basketball teams are doing well so far…

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Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Hat Scam

So I think I have figured out what happened when my computer screen was taken over. It is a very convoluted story, but it could serve as a warning to others. It all started when a friend sent me a link to a hat that looked a lot like Famous Hat for sale on an internet auction site. Now Famous Hat is pretty beat up at this point, so the idea of getting a replacement was tempting, and the price was right. In fact the shipping for something coming from China seemed really low, so that gave me pause, but I did order the hat. The seller sent me an email thanking me for my order and saying they would send me a gift to thank me. I didn’t think anything more about it until a small cat-shaped bookmark thing arrived, and the auction website said my order had been delivered. I contacted the website, which contacted the seller, who said oh their mistake, the hat was also on its way. They sent a link for me to track the hat, and like an idiot I clicked on it. It said I needed to download something, and finally I realized this could be a bad idea so I stopped the download, but then my default homepage had changed. All my bookmarks were gone! At first I was a little panicky, but it was easy to restore my default homepage, and then all my bookmarks (for websites I need to visit) returned. Eventually the hat arrived, and it doesn’t really resemble Famous Hat. Then Friday that screen took over my computer, saying that I had to call a toll-free number to fix the problem. I knew that was a scam, but I couldn’t close that window and had to end the program. All the malware is now cleaned off my computer, but it blows my mind that this person from China went through all this work to implant this thing on my computer in the hopes that I would call the toll-free number that said it was Microsoft Help and then pay whatever they said to fix the issue. Think of it: they had to post something to sell, then they had to send me a cheaper thing so I would contact them so they could send the link to track what I had actually ordered. These scammers are really playing the long game.

Famous Hat

Monday, November 19, 2018

Ethnic Day in Milwaukee

After that stupid dream about an evil screen on my computer taking over came true, on Saturday I woke up from a dream where I was getting frustrated because my phone wouldn’t charge. Then Travalon’s phone wouldn’t charge in the car that day! Was I doomed to have prosaic dreams that come true? However, I am happy to report that on Sunday morning I woke up from a dream where a comedian from the 60’s named Papa Dalo (he was from the Solomon Islands) was making a career comeback, and so far that hasn’t come true. He had a little daughter or granddaughter who was five and could really sing.

Friday Travalon and I went to an art event. A local artist whose work I have purchased in the past invited us to a dinner he had on the top floor of a swanky hotel, with lots of other people, most of whom seemed to have a lot of money. It was a dress-up event, and most of the women wore little black dresses, but you know me – I wore hot pink. There was a silent auction of this artist’s original works, and he told a story about each painting because he is also a motivational speaker. He was also selling lots of prints and accessories, so we bought a print of a band made up of the Fisher Price dog, a Lincoln log, a Monkey in a Barrel monkey, and a green Lego. That is the kind of whimsy this artist engages in, like one of his paintings was a hippo swimming in a bowl of Fruit Loops, and another was mountain goats climbing on an ice cream cone. Maybe he inherited it, because he told us a story of how his parents came to deliver some serious news to him and his brothers, but they were dressed as a bee and a beekeeper. It was such a fun night, and the people at our table included the owner of Travalon’s favorite store, Little Luxuries.

Saturday Travalon and I went to see his mother, then we drove to Milwaukee and met up with Tiffy. We had lunch at Conejito’s, Travalon’s favorite restaurant in town, and then we went to a Celtic Christmas art fair and bought stuff. We stopped at a Hawaiian store and bought more stuff, then Tiffy and I went to a concert of Sephardic music at an Episcopal church while Travalon hung out on Brady Street. We met for dinner at County Clare, an Irish pub, so it was quite an ethnic day: Mexican, then Irish, then Hawaiian, then Spanish Jewish, then Irish again.

Yesterday our neighbors had a “fry party,” which they said was a common thing when they lived in Texas. They deep fried some turkeys, and we could all bring things and they deep fried them, like onion rings, French fries, and cheese curds. Travalon and I brought clam strips; we also brought Oreos for a joke, but by then everyone was full so we didn’t bother frying them. There were also healthier things to eat, like lots of fruits and vegetables. It was so much fun! In the evening Travalon and I went to see John Cleese, of Monty Python fame. He gave a very funny but actually inspiring talk about how we should always be striving to better ourselves, and the disastrous examples of people who don’t think they have faults. It was an early evening, so that was a relief. It was our fifth night out in a row!

Famous Hat

Friday, November 16, 2018

Tower of Power

Sorry for not blogging on Wednesday. Travalon and I joined Cecil Markovitch, the Single B-Boy, and the Dairyman’s Daughter to see a musical group from Crete. They played all kinds of exotic stringed instruments, like a small thing that looked a little like my rebec, but the guy played it like it was a tiny cello. Just to add to the exotic flavor, the bow had jingle bells on it. However, one guy was playing a mandolin that looked just like mine – I never thought of mandolins as being from Crete! Maybe they were brought there by Italians? I got pictures of these instruments and will post them at some point.

Yesterday I didn’t blog because Travalon and I were very busy. Rich’s Brazilian housemate is back in Brazil now, but Groupon sent him just what he needs: an offer to buy a coupon for a Brazilian steakhouse up here in Madison. He forwarded it to us, so we bought two coupons and went to Samba, where there is a fabulous salad bar, the background music is all Brazilian, and the waiters keep coming by with meat on skewers for you to try. Instead of rolls, they have little bread things that taste a lot like Yorkshire pudding but are apparently gluten free. Whatever, I ate a ton of them. When the bill came, we both got out our coupons, but it turns out you can only use one per table, so we will just have to go again sometime. There are worse things. Then we went to see Tower of Power at the Overture Center. They are a funk band from the 70’s, and in fact one of their big hits is called, “You Got to Funkifize.” They have a big horn section, and my favorite was the baritone sax. It’s so low, and it would honk just before the rest of the horns came in, giving the songs not just a great bass line but a swingy syncopated feel. All their songs made me want to get up and dance, so we did to a few of them.

This morning I was having a dream that I had accidentally downloaded an app onto my phone, and it had taken over and wouldn’t let me get away from that screen, so I was so cranky that I actually woke up. It was ten minutes before we were getting up anyway. I thought it was just PMS making me so cranky that it actually woke me up, but then just a few minutes ago I was reading about the terrible Packer game that we missed due to the concert, where they snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, on a trustworthy site. However, something weird happened and my screen said someone was trying to breach my firewall and access my bank accounts (this message was not in what I would call fluent English), so I should call some toll-free number. I was skeptical and tried to close my browser window, but it wouldn’t let me close it. I had to go into the Task Manager and end the program. Wow, how weird! Did my dream predict that?

Famous Hat

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Day of the Dead Display

Today at lunch it was very cold, but I did go out for a walk. I stopped into a building on campus that is renowned for its excellent restrooms, both to warm up and to use the facilities. The doors on the stalls look like British phone booths, and there is recorded birdsong in the background. Even the lighting is much lovelier than in the usual institutional bathroom. Then just past the bathroom I saw something really cool: an entire exhibit dedicated to the Day of the Dead. There were all sorts of shadow box things created by different people to showcase how they remember the dead, some much more aesthetically pleasing than others, but all together they made a fascinating jumble of memorabilia. In the center was a very large altar like you might find in Mexico, and you could write the name of someone you wanted to commemorate on a silk rose petal and then place it on this altar. So now Mr. Why is remembered along with a bunch of other people on the University Day of the Dead altar.

Famous Hat

Monday, November 12, 2018

Grad Student Conference and Eagle Watching

I hope my readers had a good weekend. I had a really enjoyable one. It didn’t actually start on Thursday, but I felt like a real activist because I went to a protest up at the Capitol after our president fired his attorney general, and then I went to a labor union meeting. Then Travalon and I had dinner at the restaurant at the Discovery Center, the place with the Mesozoic Garden and the tiles on the floor that activate chimes next to the waterfalls.

I have been helping some graduate students with funding for their conference, so on Friday after work they invited me to the keynote talk, which was on linguistics. Right up my alley! They invited both Travalon and me to the dinner afterwards at the Great Dane, so I got to talk to the keynote speaker, and she was delightful. From the questions she was asking me, I think my biography kind of blew her mind. Like, who goes to graduate school for linguistics, gets kicked out because they’re taking pre-veterinary school classes instead, and then becomes a financial person? How does any of that make sense? Of course, my experiences on Thursday, and with shared governance at work, make me think I really want to get into politics, but that’s a lost cause. I’m too conservative for Democrats and too leftist for Republicans, and I’d never get elected for my good looks.

Saturday Travalon and I went to Sauk and watched some bald eagles, then we drove to Mineral Point and went shopping. We had pasties and figgy hobbin for lunch. Yum! Then we tried different beers at their local brewery. We came back to Madison and went to the Rathskeller at the Union for the closing reception of the graduate student conference, and we ended up talking to graduate students from other institutions about the issues with reunification in Germany and the rise in nationalist all over the world. Then I went to a concert at 7:30 (that had actually started at 7) of Medieval music loosely based on the Decameron. The music was just okay, but the stories were so fun. The Decameron is like Canterbury Tales, only older and Italian. Now I want to read it. One of the musicians is someone I used to play with in a Renaissance band years ago, and she remembered me.

Yesterday Travalon and I went back to Sauk to watch eagles again, and since the weather was a lot warmer, we also took a hike on the riverside trail. Then we came home and watched that wonderful Packers game. I guess McCarthy finally listened to me (and everyone else in the state), because he put Jones in the game, who ran for about a bazillion yards. Rodgers didn’t throw much to my favorite, Davante Adams, but he did hit him twice for touchdowns. Speaking of touchdowns – the defense kept the Dolphins from scoring any, holding them to just field goals so the final score was 31-12. I still feel like Special Teams are a mess, but they did have a great fourth down sneak: “We’re going to punt – psych!” Of course, in that they were just copying the Dolphins, who had done it earlier in the game. Still, it’s hard to argue with success, and not only did they convert, they got lots of yardage out of it. So a deeply satisfying game, and a great ending to a wonderful weekend.

If you get a chance, check out today’s Google Doodle for Veterans’ Day. It is perfect.

Famous Hat

Thursday, November 8, 2018

My Mysterious Balkan Ancestors

In the Karma Is a B---ch Department, there is this story: our current governor lost the race by 1.2% He would like a recount, but he can’t have one. Why? Because last year he signed a bill that there can only be a recount of an election if the margin is 1.1% or less in retaliation for a request for a recount during the presidential election. People, how many times do I have to remind you: just because you are in power today, you may not be tomorrow, and the legislation you enact to block your minority opponents will come back to bite you once you are in the minority. This goes for both sides of the political spectrum; neither one has a monopoly on stupidity when it comes to this behavior.

Here's something sort of interesting: another DNA service said I could upload my raw data for free, and they would give me ethnicity results. I did it, and they did not report my drop of Ashkenazi blood or my drop of Mongolian blood that the original DNA site claims I have, and most alarming, there was no trace of the West African I supposedly have. Weird! This site said I was almost half Irish, and a good chunk English (the first site did not differentiate between these two), and then 16% Balkan. I found that fascinating because the first site also said I had a healthy chunk of Balkan, but I don’t know where those ancestors are on my family tree. But I can claim this heritage with some of my favorite people, including Cecil Markovitch and of course Travalon. Hopefully we aren’t cousins…

Famous Hat

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Dinner with an Old Friend

It is officially cold today; when I took my noontime rosary walk, I had to use the Cuddly Rosary. Then I had forgotten that they set off the tornado sirens for five minutes every first Wednesday at noon, and five minutes feels like a very long time when you are outside and the sirens are blaring right in your ears. I just pretended I was in a war movie, and the sirens were warning me of approaching bombers.

Last night Travalon and I had dinner with an old friend of mine at Liliana’s. The dinner featured squash, so the first course was ginger and squash soup, the main course was scallops with squash, and the dessert was this amazing squash crumble with spiced whipped cream. I have known this friend since college, but we hadn’t seen each other in years. She is the one who first introduced me to Tiffy, and the two of them hang out a lot, but she seemed to lose interest in me once I became Catholic. Last night we just started talking like there had been no gap in our friendship, so maybe she is over the Catholic thing. She has led an interesting life, studying in Madrid and Kuala Lumpur and traveling to many other countries. In fact, she has an MBA with a focus on international trade. It almost makes me think I should get an MBA with a focus on finance, since that is what I work in anyway. Of course, that doesn’t entail studying in Malaysia, but it might result in an increase in salary. However, I enjoy working in an academic setting, so honestly I probably won’t bother.

Famous Hat

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Two Shows at the Knuckle Down Saloon

I forgot to mention that Light Bright asked me to say grace when I went to dinner at her house. I rattled off the typical Catholic dinner blessing, and when I got done, her little son said, “Someday I want to talk like that!” I would have been willing to teach him, but afterwards we forgot about it.

Friday Travalon and I went to hear V05, the local disco cover band, at the Knuckle Down Saloon. They played so many of my favorite songs, and we sang and danced along and didn’t get home until almost midnight. I slept pretty late the next day, then Travalon and I went to Johnson Public House for coffee, and then we took a walk to Tenney Park, which is basically recovered from the flooding this summer. We went for a hike on the trails at Holy Wisdom Monastery, around the pond and by the big pines Travalon loves. In the evening we met Rich for dinner at the Weary Traveler, because I had heard they have amazing Hungarian goulash and Travalon really wanted to try it. We all ended up getting it, and it was really good. Then Travalon and I went back to the Knuckle Down Saloon to hear a funk and blues band that featured the same saxophone player as V05. This explains why he told us about the show on Friday during his other band's break.

Sunday after Mass, Travalon and I went to the coffee shop in the Graduate Hotel, then Rich helped us get our boat out of the water. It was a drizzly day, and not that warm, plus we found out that it’s scary to be in the boat while it’s being towed out of the water. We all had some hot cocoa to warm up, then Travalon and I watched that horrible Packers game. It is true, as everyone says, that the referees are in love with the Patriots and let them get away with everything while giving the other team really harsh punishments for minor infractions. Still, there was a lot the Packers did to themselves. Their Special Teams make so many mistakes, they’re kind of a joke at this point. I don’t foresee this season going anywhere special – someone pointed out on Twitter that right now the Pack are only one game ahead of the Browns and the Bills. They sure didn’t seem to be the same team who almost handed the Rams their first loss of the season. That honor went to the Saints.

Famous Hat

Friday, November 2, 2018

Children and Their Books

I was well All-Saintsed this year, because I went to the vigil Mass at my own church on Wednesday evening and then the noon Mass at the campus church yesterday with Travalon. Then yesterday evening I went to Light Bright’s house to join her, her husband, and her little guy for dinner. The kid is so cute – he will be three later this month, and he is a natural comedian. After dinner, when Dad had to leave for his choir practice, Light Bright and I just laughed so hard at her son’s antics. He has goofy glasses that he likes to put on, and even funnier was when he put on a Batman mask and inserted a googly eye into one of the eye holes, so he looked like some sort of bionic cyborg thing. Maybe you had to be there, but when he took tongs for canning and used them to pick up my foot, I just about died laughing. After he went to bed and Light Bright and I were talking, I said kids sure seem like a lot of fun, but she said, “He’s always like that, so it loses its novelty.” However, at the time she was laughing too. I have to say the books he wanted me to read to him were pretty hilarious as well. One was called How Do Dinosaurs Clean Their Rooms? That title was enough to set me off laughing again. There was another one about a little pig named Olivia that was really cute and funny too, and one about a dancing giraffe. If you want a good laugh, just find a three-year-old with a well-stocked library!

Famous Hat

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Halloween Bach Lunch Concert

Today I went to another Bach lunch concert. Neither Kathbert nor Rich joined me, but Lute Player, Pete the Sailor Man, a bandmate of mine, and my OTHER choir director were all there. In the spirit of the holiday today, the opening piece was the “creepy” Toccata and Fugue in D Minor for organ that you always hear in horror movies – if you don’t know which one I mean, just google “BWV 565.” Then there was a cello suite in C Minor, and then we all sang a hymn that had harmony by Bach. The last thing was a cantata, and we sang on the closing chorale. At this concert I found out about another early music concert, but it’s the same evening I promised to go hear a disco cover band with Travalon. Why does everything have to happen at the same time? There are plenty of evenings with nothing going on, when I'd love to hear some music.

Famous Hat

Monday, October 29, 2018

Almost Defeated by the Corn Maze

I hope my readers had a good weekend. Travalon and I had a quieter Friday night than last week; we went to Chicken Run for their fish fry and then had a beer at Long Table, a new bar in Middleton with lots of beers. I had a cherry sour and Travalon had one that tasted just like a raspberry cordial.

Saturday I met with the Rosary Ladies for coffee, then I had to run to Lutheran Cathedral of the Midwest for the funeral of a bandmate’s husband. I also used to sing with her in that choir, and in fact that’s how I got recruited into the band – she saw me wearing a mandolin necklace at choir practice one night. My OTHER choir director and lots of other old-timers showed up, so it was like a reunion. Then Tiffy, Travalon, and I did the corn maze, but it was really muddy this year, plus they have gotten sneakier about where they put the secret punches, so it took us hours and seven miles of walking. Travalon eventually went to sit by the bonfire and eat popcorn, but Tiffy said we had to get eight because we always do. We finally found the eighth punch just as darkness was falling, but then she didn’t even want the prizes (a certificate and a pen) that we were entitled to for finding all those punches. “It’s the principle of the thing,” she said. After that we had a wonderful dinner at Rex’s Innkeeper.

Yesterday I was so sore that I couldn’t even go up to the choir loft at church. Travalon and I went to the Chocolaterian for brunch after Mass, then we hung out with Tiffy and Rich before watching the game. Argh – that game! I was dreading it, knowing the Rams are undefeated, and our poor Packers were facing them on the road, but the Packers’ defense was amazing. For most of the first half they were winning, and more than half the crowd there in LA looked to be Packer Backers. In the second half the Rams came back to life, but the Pack had a chance to win it… until one player made a colossal mistake and turned over the ball. If the Rams’ defense had held them off, I could have stood it better, but to have our own guy lose it for us? How painful. At least the Red Sox beat the Dodgers in the World Series. Travalon went to Milwaukee to see Fleetwood Mac, so I blatted with Rich and Kathbert. We all agreed that we need to do that more often.

Today was kind of a crazy day. Travalon’s kids came to the Limnology Building to play in a lab, so I took a short break to see him. Then some grad students told me there was a giant cockroach in our breakroom, so I tried to catch him with tape, but he broke free and ran under the fridge. We’ll see if I can successfully rid the breakroom of this scourge…

Famous Hat

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

All Bach Organ Concert

Last night, as if I hadn’t already had a wonderful day, I got to go to a fabulous concert. Travalon did not want to go, since it was a concert of Bach organ works, but I ran into Pete the Sailor Man, and he got half price tickets for both of us. Know who else was there? My OTHER choir director! The organist was the teacher of the house organist at the Overture Center, and he was incredible. It’s hard to go wrong with Bach, and he picked some really amazing pieces. One was the Concerto in D Minor originally by Vivaldi, and that got me to thinking about how I used to listen to L’Estro Armonico, a collection of Vivaldi concerti, obsessively when I was in my early 20’s. My two favorites were this D minor concerto and one in A minor for four violins which I once saw performed live, and it was so much fun to watch the melody jump from player to player. There is also one in A minor for one violin that is a sentimental favorite of mine because I learned to play it at a very young age. Really, they are all beautiful. If you are a fan of Vivaldi, you will love every concerto in this collection.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Wellness Symposium at Work

The other day when I got off the bus, there were some people from the bus company handing out free sunglasses and surveys about bus usage. This was good news for me, since I had lost my sunglasses and was using a spare pair from Travalon. I filled out the survey, but all I could tell them is that the system works perfectly for me. Really, at the hours I come and go, the bus leaves every five minutes, and it goes directly from the place on the north side where I park to just in front of my building. It’s like they planned the route with me in mind.

Yesterday when I got together with someone else to practice Irish, he told a great story: years ago, he and some buddies read the book Iberia by James Michener, and then they followed Michener’s travels through Spain. They ended up in Pamplona for the Running of the Bulls, where they went to the café that Michener said was his favorite – and there he was! So they got to talk to him, and this guy said it was like talking to a friendly neighbor, not a best-selling author. Michener is one of Travalon’s favorites, so he enjoyed this story when I told it to him.

Today I went to a health symposium at work. I saw several of my previous coworkers, but not Handy Woman, although she was there. First there was a keynote speaker talking about buy-in for health initiatives at work, then we had breakout sessions. I went to one on gratitude, then a drumming workshop that was really fun, then a short session on tasting chocolates from various places, and finally one on creating a planter. Now I have a pilea in a glass container. Of course, I have a pilea at home, but we were further back in line, so by the time we got to choose a plant, all the crotons and velvet plants were already taken. I also got a free water bottle for attending. Can you believe this counts as work time? Awesome.

Famous Hat

Monday, October 22, 2018

Homecoming Block Party

I hope my readers had a good weekend. Mine started Thursday night, when Travalon and I went to the Co-op for their Community Meal. We didn’t really notice the community, since everyone sat in their own little groups, but you could hardly beat the meal: pasta fagioli, salad, garlic bread, and a cookie for $5.

Friday I did something really fun and took a day off of work to tag along with Travalon while he went to work. He drives a van for the Boys and Girls Club, so I rode shotgun. When he had a break in the middle of the day, we went to the Lakeside Café for some coffee and then to the seafood place in the same mall as Crema Café for their fish boil, and we even got to use the $5 off two brunches coupon because it was before two. In the early morning Travalon takes teens to school, then in the afternoon he picks up these cute little kids from school and brings them to the club. Sometimes he gets to hang out at the club, but that day we had to take a teen to the other club building, and then we came back and had a taco with the kids. After that we drove some more little kids home, then we went downtown for the Homecoming Block Party. We watched the parade and went to the fish fry, where a band played popular music as polkas. You have not lived until you have heard Devo’s “Whip It” as a polka! We went out on the balcony to watch the fireworks being shot from a boat in the lake, and then we went to the Alumni Association’s silent disco. That was really fun – you got headphones, and they lit up red, blue, or green depending on what station you were listening to. So all these people appeared to be dancing to silence at the rooftop disco, but if you had headphones on yourself, you knew exactly what they were listening to by what color their headphones were. After that we went to Camp Tripalindee on the top of the Graduate Hotel because I had a coupon for a free beer, and we had a drink and watched part of the Brewers game. We watched the rest at home. They tied up the series and forced a seventh game.

Saturday Travalon and I debated about going to the Homecoming game, but the weather forecast was iffy so we had coffee at Mother Fool’s and watched the snow falling from the comfort of inside. The game wasn't very exciting anyway, since the Badgers beat up on Illinois. We picked up Rich and went to Cave of the Mounds for a tour, then we had dinner with him at El Pastor. We went home and watched the final Brewers game, which wasn’t even close – they lost 5-1. So no World Series this year for the Brew Crew, but maybe they can keep the momentum up next season.

Yesterday Travalon and I went to Plaka for brunch with Rich and another bass from our choir, then we took a windy boat ride back into the creek where the School Road pier is currently submerged. It was so windy that Travalon’s hat blew off; we weren’t too concerned at first, since baseball caps generally float, but we circled back and couldn’t find it anywhere. Had it sunk that quickly? Had it already blown downstream that fast? We gave up and docked… and then Travalon found the hat had fallen right behind him and was in the boat! What a lucky break! It was wet, but he just threw it in the washer and then the dryer, and now it’s as good as new. Then we went for a walk along the river in Sauk, where we saw four bald eagles. In the evening Rich had a very small birthday party for Kathbert, who does not like big parties. It was low-key; we just had some dinner and cake, and we blatted, as Kathbert calls it. That is her word for chatting.

Famous Hat

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Irish Language Weekend 2018

I hope my readers had a good weekend, despite the cold weather. Sorry that I didn’t blog yesterday, but Travalon and I were busy watching both games. The Brewers game seemed to be going well, and in fact they won 4-0. The Packers didn’t seem to have any defense going, and then the offense kind of stalled too, so we thought they were going to lose to the 49ers, who are not a good team this year, at Lambeau just to up the humiliation factor. However, they did that thing they always do where they come back from the dead, and it worked this time – they won by a field goal. Sometimes it doesn’t work…

This weekend I was very busy with the Irish weekend I have gone to in the past, but not for the last few years. All I can say is I’m not sure why not, because it was so much fun. We had class and then a social on Friday night, and classes all day Saturday. My class of six (Level 2) bonded so much that we all went to lunch together, and one girl even asked me to be her friend on social media. In the evening there was an Irish music concert as part of the weekend, but I went to a Baroque concert instead. Tiffy couldn’t come to town so I was planning to sit by myself, but a bandmate and her grandkids joined me. It was a wonderful concert that featured a lot of Boismortier, including a delightful choral piece. I had no idea he wrote choral works! I had always thought of him as primarily writing for the flute.

Sunday there was Irish class again, but my choir director begged me to sing, and then then my band had a gig after that, so I ended up skipping the class. After the gig, at Common Ground, Travalon and I went on a hike at Holy Wisdom monastery and discovered an incredible view, but it was so cold that we didn’t hike long. We went to the movies for the first time in a long time and saw A Star Is Born, which was really good. I have always liked Lady Gaga’s singing, and she is a great actress too. I will warn you, if you haven’t seen any of the previous iterations of this story, that it is very sad.

Famous Hat

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Day of Learning

I hope my readers had a good weekend. Sorry that I didn’t blog yesterday, but Travalon and I were watching 80’s videos. This is a fascinating thing to do; for example, did you remember that the video for “Night and Day” by Al B. Sure! features lots of shots of downtown Manhattan, including the twin towers of the late World Trade Center? And while a lot of the people in these videos had a weird look peculiar to 80’s pop stars, the video for “Waiting on a Star to Fall” by Boy Meets Girl looks like it could have been made last week, since their hair and clothing are totally normal. They even take a selfie, but with a big old Polaroid.

Friday I took the day off of work and went to a really fascinating group of lectures called the Day of Learning, sponsored by the Class of 68 so I was the youngest one there. The first talk was a panel discussion of the riots on campus back in 67-68, by people who were there. The second one was a talk by an alumnus of the Class of 68, a retired astronaut who had flown the Space Shuttle three times. The third one was a talk on ethics in journalism, and the fourth one was the most interesting of all. A professor in the School of Human Ecology talked about ancient remedies for depression that she is studying: gut flora, heat treatments (like saunas and sweat lodges) and psychedelic drugs. The crazy thing is that they work! In the evening I met Travalon at the Union for Beers and Bites, a fun time trying samples of beer with appetizers. We sat with a very cool couple, and my old nemesis hUBIE from a previous job was there, but he seemed quite friendly now that we don’t have to work together.

Saturday we met Rich and the Single B-Boy for coffee, then my band had a gig at the apple orchard as we do every year. This year it was very cold, so my fingers were freezing, and we were down a fiddler so I was also playing melody most of the time. Had I known, I could have brought the actual fiddle. Travalon went to the Badger game while I met Tiffy and Rich for dinner, then Tiffy and I went to a concert of Bach and Handel. I just love hearing that non-equal temperament! Tiffy had spent the day at Old World Wisconsin with the other Rosary Ladies, learning about old beer brewing techniques, and I had planned to go too until being reminded that we had the gig. Ah well, I got $25 of produce for playing.

Yesterday Travalon and I had a coupon for $5 off brunch at a seafood restaurant, so we went there just to discover they aren’t open on Sundays anymore. This was in the same mall with Crema Café, so we just went there, and the lemon raspberry pancakes were amazing. Since the weather was lousy, we sat inside and watched the Packer game, which was also lousy, at least in the first half. Also, their kicker who is usually so reliable missed all five of his kicks, so they lost to the Lions. We watched a little of the Brewers game at Bierock (the Cubs are out of the playoffs so I’m pulling for the Brew Crew), then Rich had a going away party for his Brazilian housemate, and a bunch of the choir people were there, so we were all keeping track of the game via the internet. Travalon was happy because he has never seen so many people who care about sports at Rich’s house. The Brewers did win, so they swept the series, and everyone was in a good mood despite the dismal Packers performance earlier that afternoon.

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Thursday, October 4, 2018

Why Are Creepy Places Creepy?

Here are a couple of things from this past weekend that I neglected to mention in my previous post:

On Saturday when we were in Milwaukee, we lost the satellite radio station (“Soul Town”), so I switched to the local hip hop station. Travalon noted with some surprise that the music, while still not his taste, was much better than the music our local “hip hop” station plays. I said that was because the Milwaukee station plays true hip hop, while our local station plays a lot of terrible pop music masquerading as hip hop, such as Post Malone. Maybe this is because in Milwaukee they figure there is a big enough fan base for true hip hop, while here in Madison the main market for their station is a bunch of wealthy white teens.

On Sunday Travalon stumbled across a documentary featuring Michael Palin of Monty Python fame traveling to North Korea. I was very curious, so I watched it with him. The people seemed very normal, just people going about their day, but the place seemed really creepy. The thing that weirded me out most of all was how in Pyongyang music started playing downtown at 5 am and played for several hours. You could hear it out Palin’s hotel window, and it was loud. I was trying to describe this last night to Rich and Luxuli before choir practice, and it was hard to say what exactly was so creepy. The music was aesthetically pleasing, a very Oriental-sounding tune that was instrumental but apparently had words about how great the Dear Leader is. I said the only other places that had creeped me out so much were the Temple Square in Salt Lake City, and the whole city of Seattle. So… I am going out on a limb here, but maybe what creeps me out so much is anything where someone other than God is being worshiped. In North Korea, it’s the memory of the Dear Leader. I am not sure what to say it is in Salt Lake City, but I will note that I had the opposite reaction to mosques in Istanbul, for what that’s worth. And in Seattle, it could be that they worship the individual. It seems like a place lacking in any concept of the transcendent.

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Monday, October 1, 2018

Milwaukee Zoo Trip

I hope my readers had a good weekend, despite the cold and the rain. Friday evening Richard Bonomo and I went to the outdoor theater to see As You Like It, which we had started to see back in June only to be rained out. There was no rain this time, but it was very cold. I couldn’t find my autumn jacket that morning (I have since located it), so I had to wear my winter one, yet even with that on it was chilly. The play was very entertaining.

Saturday Travalon and I met Rich downtown for coffee, then Rich and I went to a hymn sing led by my OTHER choir director, who is now retired but busier than ever. We ran into a bunch of other people there, like Kathbert and Pete the Sailor Man. The hymns all mentioned angels for the Feast of the Archangels, so that seemed like an appropriate way to celebrate the day. Travalon went to the Veterans’ Museum, then he and I met back up and drove to Milwaukee, where we went to the zoo. You have to pay to get into that zoo, but they have lots of exotic animals we don’t have at the free Madison zoo, like hippos and African red river hogs and these adorable things called springhaas that look like a cross between a rabbit and a kangaroo but are actually rodents. There is a baby red panda too, but when we went to the red panda exhibit, all the denizens were hiding. We went back again at the end, and one red panda peeked out at us but decided we weren’t worth coming out to see. Then we went to Cubanisma for dinner, and our plan had been to go to the China Lights show after that, but it began to rain so we just headed home.

Yesterday after Mass we went with a bunch of choir people to the Come Back In for brunch, then we went home and watched the Packer game with no guilt since it was so cold and wet out. The Packers shut out the Bills, but maybe that is because the Bills are so bad? However, they did beat the Vikings last week, so they aren’t completely hopeless. I remember reading something that said Buffalo would be the worst team in the league this year, and they sure played like they were trying to live up to that description. Even Cleveland is winning or almost winning this year, thanks to their hot new quarterback who was the top draft pick. After the game, the rain had let up so we went for a very wet hike at the Token Creek Conservation Area. I could have walked in place while watching the game, but it is so much more enjoyable to get my 10,000 steps per day outside whenever possible. Some people are inside people… and I am not one of them.

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Friday, September 28, 2018

My ZZ Plant

At work I have four plants: three Christmas cacti and a ZZ plant. Two of the Christmas cacti are from my previous job, and I have posted pictures of their blooms – one blooms white, and the other blooms magenta. The third one was given to me on my last day of work by another coworker who was being laid off, and it blooms hot pink. When my office faced north over the lake, I wasn’t sure if they were going to get enough light, so I bought the ZZ plant. It cost three times what I would have expected for a plant its size, but it has not been a disappointment. The ZZ plant is an arum that looks vaguely like a cycad, and its scientific name, Zamioculcas zamifolia, reflects this, because it looks a little like cycads in the genus Zamia. However, unlike a cycad, it is supposed to be nearly impossible to kill, and you often see its glossy pinnate leaves in office buildings because it can survive happily in low light. Perfect for the north-facing window, I thought… and then I got moved to an office that faces east, so I brought in the Christmas cacti, who are supposed to love eastern exposures. They actually don’t look so happy, and the magenta-blooming one looks really sick, droopy and purple, but the ZZ plant couldn’t be happier. Right now it is growing even more leaves. Maybe it will be so happy that it will bloom, although the ZZ flower is nothing too exciting for the average viewer. However, for a botany nerd like me, it would be the height of excitement.

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Thursday, September 27, 2018

Vegetable Dinner and Bach Lunch

Last night I went to a very interesting dinner. I will freely admit to eating a snack mid-afternoon, knowing the dinner would be small samples of mostly vegetables. This was at the Discovery Institute, which is a really cool place with a Mesozoic garden and tiles on the floor that activate chimes. The dinner was put on by a seed collective consisting of vegetable breeders, farmers, and chefs, and after the dinner they had a short Q&A. The dinner itself consisted of going from station to station collecting small samples of food; each station featured a different vegetable, and some had different strains of the same vegetable, like different colored carrots or beets. Two stations had samples of hard apple cider. Everything was delicious, but my favorites were probably the potato soup, the carrot gnocchi, and the cucumber sorbet. I met a bunch of Slow Food people there, and we sat at a table under a bunch of trees, so it felt like we were in a forest inside. The most surprising thing for me may have been the little pork cutlet (the only meat I saw the whole evening) covered in tomatoes that I actually liked. I generally hate raw tomatoes, but these actually tasted good.

That’s what I love about Madison – you can find such crazy foodie stuff here, and lots of early music. Today at lunch I met Kathbert at the Lutheran Cathedral of the Midwest for a free all-Bach concert, though it wasn’t entirely all Bach because we sang a hymn to the tune “Down Ampney,” and if you are as big a hymn nerd as I am, you will know that is by Ralph Vaughan Williams. We thought it was going to be an organ concert, and we knew the organist, but to our surprise there was a whole little orchestra and four singers, and they did two Bach cantatas. We were even more surprised to find that we, the audience, were expected to sing during the closing chorales. Boy, were there some fantastic singers there! Kathbert figured there were a lot of vocal majors present. Afterwards one young guy who looked like an undergrad said to another one, “Best lunch ever!” I can’t say for certain that it was, but it was certainly up there.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Contentious Condo Association Meeting

Last night we had a very contentious condo association meeting, which in itself is weird because in the past they have been very placid affairs. However, two factions had developed among our neighbors, and women from both factions would give Travalon and me treats and booze to try to win us over to their side. Seriously, our neighbors have never paid this much attention to us! I suppose one faction will think we are traitors for not voting for their candidate for the board, but it would have happened either way we voted. Things got really contentious because the bylaws had a weird rule that you could use all your votes for one candidate, which seems kind of nuts, so there was a vote to change that. People who do not even live in our association but are romantically involved with residents got up and made speeches, even though they were told this was inappropriate. It was getting really tense, but after the vote for the board, the losing candidate seemed to take it graciously. Hopefully this weird divide does not remain among the residents of our association. I honestly don’t even know what caused it.

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Monday, September 24, 2018

Wisconsin Maritime Museum

I hope my readers got a chance to enjoy this beautiful weekend at the beginning of autumn. Friday Travalon and I just hung out with some neighbors. We were going to go hear Hawaiian music at Mother Fool’s but never got around to it.

Saturday was National Museum Day, and we could get two free tickets from the Smithsonian for any participating museum. Travalon chose the Wisconsin Maritime Museum in Manitowoc, so we hit the road early and got to town just in time for lunch, which we had at a charming Japanese/Thai restaurant. The museum was very cool, with a whole submarine from World War II that we got to tour, and histories of all the shipwrecks that had happened in the area, as well as lots of model boats and ships, and a few real boats. There were hands-on activities for the kids that we tried too, being big kids. We really enjoyed the museum; one of my very favorite things was a dollar bill three sailors spent in Hawaii after signing their names on it, and when one sailor got back home to Wisconsin, his mother had the dollar bill for him. Isn't that mind-boggling? Some other sailor must have gotten it in change and brought it back to Wisconsin. After that we went to Point Beach State Park and walked along the beach, then we drove to Port Washington for dinner at a seafood restaurant on the lake. We walked most of the way out to a lighthouse we had walked out to when we were dating, but it was dark and late so we didn’t go all the way out. We got home around 11:30. What a great day!

Yesterday was beautiful too. Travalon and I went to Curd Fest to enjoy cheese curds and the music of the steel drum band I have mentioned on this blog before, Panchromatic Steel. Then we went on a boat ride out into the lake and back into Six Mile Creek, which was very weedy. The lake is so much calmer since it is no-wake right now while the water level is so high. Most of the other boats are sailboats and a few pontoon boats; the speedboats don’t bother going out when they can’t race around, so the lake is very quiet. After that we watched the Badger game, since we had taped it. I wouldn’t say that the Badgers won so much as the Hawkeyes’ special teams lost the game. We didn’t bother watching the Packer game we had taped because we saw part of it at Curd Fest and knew it turned out badly. I don’t have high hopes for the Pack this season: so far they have won by one point, tied, and lost by two touchdowns. Not a stellar record.

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Friday, September 21, 2018

Dinner at Forequarter

Last night Travalon and I went to Forequarter because I had been wanting to go for a long time. It is a funny place that does not have its name on the front, just the address prominently displayed, including the fraction ¼ in the street number. Normally Travalon does not like what he calls “foodie” restaurants, by which he means the ones that list a dish like this: “Trout” and then a string of words that most people have no idea what they mean. I have heard it said that you are foodie if you know the difference between arugula and radicchio (and I do), but even I do not know what some of these words mean. However, at Forequarter the ingredients were a little less mysterious, and the prices were a little lower, so I had high hopes that Travalon would not hate the place. Another thing he hates about foodie restaurants is that their portions tend to be the opposite of generous, though usually artfully presented, but our appetizer of two tacos was normal-sized. Travalon actually really liked what he had, whitefish and potatoes. I had really good gnocchi with chevre – okay, so that’s goat cheese, but I did know what that meant. My drink was their take on a mojito, but with basil instead of mint and orange instead of lime. It was interesting, but not bad. Travalon had an apple brandy drink he really liked. Anyway, success! He actually enjoyed a foodie restaurant.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Weird, Wet Day

Today is Jilly Moose’s birthday, so Happy Birthday! Yesterday a fun thing happened to me: as I was walking from work to Irish class downtown, the Wienermobile passed me. It played the “Oscar Mayer Wiener” song, then the guy inside it saw me and said over the loudspeaker, “Go Pack Go!” since I was wearing my Packer hat. Later I saw it parked downtown. It would be awesome to get to ride in it…

This morning started off weirdly for me. I forgot my lunch and would have to buy it, which seemed especially lame since Travalon had made a special trip to the co-op last night to get me some lunch for today. Then I stopped for gas on the way to the bus stop and somehow forgot my wallet in the car. Luckily I realized it just before getting on the bus, and there was time to go get it and still catch the bus. Whew! I was just settling in at work when the fire alarm went off, so we all had to go stand out in the rain for fifteen minutes until getting the all clear. Then I went back out into the rain to a meeting I had been invited to, though I wasn’t sure why, and going to it did not enlighten me any further. It seemed sort of irrelevant to me. At lunch I usually do a rosary walk, but it was still raining. Not wanting to hide in my office, I ran to the greenhouse where I had worked as an undergrad and checked out the plants. Some from my day are no longer there, but it is wonderful just to be around so many plants. Later in the afternoon I had another meeting… only I didn’t, it’s tomorrow, and I had it wrong on my calendar, so that was yet another trip out into the rain for nothing. Not a horrible day, just a weird one… so far.

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Monday, September 17, 2018

Jilly Moose's Birthday Winery Visit

I hope my readers enjoyed the hot weather this weekend, maybe our last taste of summer. Sorry that I have no update for you on the missing sculpture. Hopefully the officials are really looking into this and weren’t just blowing me off.

Friday evening I went down to the Union Terrace after work and listened to live salsa music while watching sailboats, until Travalon and a Slow Food person joined me for a Q&A with a writer from the Colbert show. He went to graduate school here and actually got into improv with a local troupe, so it was interesting to hear that Madison produces some comics of note. After all, we can boast Chris Farley.

Saturday Travalon had caught my cold, so we had a quiet day and then decided to head to Fort Atkinson, where Bahama Bob and Banana Wind were performing at a bar on an island. Sounds like a perfect venue for tropical music, right? They had posted on social media that the gig was called off because flooding had made the island inaccessible, but then Friday they had reposted the gig, so we assumed it was back on. We should have called first, because we got out there only to find that the road was indeed under water. Travalon figured we could salvage the trip by going to a new brewery in town… but it had already gone out of business. We did have a wonderful dinner at an Irish pub, then we were going to walk on the River Walk, but it too was under water because of the floods, so we headed back to town and checked out a Mexican Fest. We thought about going to the Willy Street Fair but were too tired and just headed home.

Sunday we didn’t feel well enough to come all the way downtown for Mass, so we went to the local church, where the parishioners are not very friendly. They won’t shake your hand during the sign of peace, and they don’t talk to you afterwards. (OK Cap says this has been her experience there as well.) We took the boat out for a short ride, and the heat on the water seemed to bake our colds right out of us. Then we went to the Willy Street Fair, but it didn’t seem as crazy as some years. Good food, though. Jilly Moose came over, and the three of us went on a hike by the Yahara River, then we met the other Rosary Ladies at Drumlin Ridge Winery for Jilly Moose’s birthday, which is actually on Tuesday. I got her a wine tasting with a commemorative wineglass, as well as a wine slushie for myself. Was that ever delicious! And it went straight to my head. Each of us bought a different snack plate, so we had cheese and hummus and chocolate-covered pretzels, and Luxuli got Jilly Moose a slice of cheesecake with wine sauce that we each got to sample. Afterwards Travalon and I watched the Packer game that we had taped, since it was too beautiful to sit inside and watch it live, and it just went on forever. They kept almost beating the Vikings, but the Vikings tied things up, they went into overtime… and then nobody scored, so after all that it was a tie. At least they didn’t lose…

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Friday, September 14, 2018

"Spare Time" Mystery

Sorry for my silence the last few days. I had a terrible cold and didn’t feel like blogging, besides having nothing to say. Yesterday I made an attempt to go back to work but left after half a day. As I was riding the bus, I saw a truck labeled “Smooth Moves Inc” make a right turn from the left-hand lane, cutting off a car. You can’t make this stuff up. You do see crazy things on the bus; a few weeks ago we saw a police car being towed, and it didn’t appear to be damaged, so my bus buddy and I speculated that it had parked illegally. Is that even possible?

Here my story takes a darker turn. The bus went around the square, and I looked up at the roof where “Spare Time” should have been… and there was nothing there! Even more strangely, it looked like someone had just taken it down, because I swear I saw someone's head and the top of the sculpture over the edge of the roof. I immediately emailed the city clerk to demand to know why they were removing my favorite piece of artwork. Someone got back to me right away and copied the city art commissioner, saying he hadn’t heard they were planning to do that. Then the commissioner chimed in, saying she didn’t know anything about it either. So the mystery deepens… Was it frat boys? Was it an unauthorized removal by the building owners? Is the sculpture just being cleaned? The commissioner said she would get back to both of us when she found out more, so stay tuned.

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Monday, September 10, 2018

Amazing Packers Game

I hope my readers had a good weekend. Travalon and I started ours off by going to the East Side Club for their fish fry (mm, catfish!), where there were a couple of guys playing blues and jazz. Then we went to the North Street Bistro to hear a band play Brazilian music. I really love that samba beat, and the music is so cheery that it sounds like sunshine.

Saturday Travalon went to the Badger game, while I hung out with Tiffy for her birthday. We went to the Farmers’ Market and saw all kinds of crazy stuff, like 10-pound puffball mushrooms and all different colors of cauliflower, and I treated her to lunch at Himal Chuli, one of her favorite restaurants. We hung out in the roof garden of her sister’s apartment building until Travalon and I had to go to my department picnic. It was a potluck, and I made mini hamburger cookies. They are total sugar bombs, but they are very cute – I will post a picture soon. Later in the evening Travalon and I got together with Tiffy and Rich at the bar at the Hilton hotel.

Yesterday was Tiffy’s actual birthday. I saw her briefly after Mass, but she had to run off to see another friend, and Travalon and I were going sailing with our neighbor. That was great! The only thing is that I put on a ton of sunscreen, and my face is still pretty red. Why must I have a complexion that does not fit with what I love to do? I should have been either one of those indoors people, or much darker. Travalon and I went to see his mother in Oconomowoc, then we stopped at a restaurant in Lake Mills for dinner. They advertised spaghetti pizza, saying it sounds weird but tastes delicious. I would say it sounds weird but tastes uninspiring. Then of course we watched that game. Can you believe that game??? What a way to start the season!! At first the Packers were doing so badly, and Tiffy texted that they were adding insult to injury by doing it on her birthday. At halftime the Bears were up 20-0, and everyone on Twitter was saying the Packers’ season was over in one quarter because Rodgers had been carted off the field with a knee injury. But he came back in the second half, still clearly limping, but proving why he is the highest-paid player in the NFL. He just started throwing touchdown passes until they came back from behind and won by one point. This may have been the most exciting Packers game I have ever seen in my life. I’m glad I stayed up to watch it to the bitter end!

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