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 Fran├žaise, 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.

Famous Hat


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.

Famous Hat

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…

Famous Hat


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