31 January 2009

A Modest Proposal for a Modest Amount of Our Bailout Money

I haven't seen any suggestions about "shovel-ready" projects suitable for bailout money in Montana, so I thought I would suggest a few. Wouldn't it lovely to be able to get on a train here in Billings to visit my children and grandchildren in Seattle and in Albuquerque too for that matter. A decent medium to high speed rail line to from say Williston—which I think is on the Empire Builder line—down through Glendive and Miles City through Billings, Bozeman and on up to join the hi-line somewhere suitable, maybe just 3 days a week, would be a useful infrastructure kind of stimulus that would have some potential to be a useful addition to our transportation needs now and in the future. That is the train between Santa Fe and Albuquerque above or to the right.

Of course, both goods and people could be moved this way. If we are to believe our media it might do something to keep our planet from the extremes of climate change. It would take some of the pressure off the roads and the airports, cut down on the use of oil, and most important, give useful government jobs to those who absolutely must have them, as well as perhaps even satisfy, for awhile, the lust to spend money that our elected representatives cannot control in any other way. It doesn't seem likely to me that any other hinterland project will be even remotely as useful.

As we get closer to a Third World Economy I'd be willing to bet that soon there will be a great many people from China, India and maybe even Indonesia wanting to visit our fair country: another reason to pick up the pace a little on our transportation network.

While we are at it, how about another line from Billings south through Sheridan, Casper and on to Denver and heck, while they are at it, they could just as well go all the way through to Albuquerque. We could call it the National Defense Act For Highway Conservation.

Now that I think about it for awhile, why aren't our Senators and Representatives lobbying for us in this matter. What is the point of electing Max for all these years if he can't bring home the bacon a little more often than he has thus far. Shouldn't we get something useful out this gigantic boondoggle. One problem might be that the idea is so sensible other states with more population than we have might be able to heist more of the money: I mean, wouldn't it make sense for Seattle to Portland, and Los Angeles to San Francisco, and Chicago to Minneapolis, etc, etc, etc. To the left is a train that ran, at odd times and always between meals of course, on our kitchen table this past Christmas season. Always on time too.

By the way, if I haven't mentioned this before, for much of the civilized world's rail travel, and some not so civil regions, The Man in Seat 61 is a very useful source of information. Mark Smith is his name and he seems to know a great deal about rail travel in most of the world including even the USA. Check him out. His is not a government sponsored website, though he used to work for British Rail.

30 January 2009

Why Is Our President Hanging Crepe?

All of us have heard quite a few discouraging words from our president in recent days. In spite of being elected on a wave of optimism, he seems bent on damping down our economic expectations. Why?

I first heard the term "hanging crepe" during my residency training in pediatrics back in the 60s. That was when all of us were trying to figure out how to best communicate with patients' relatives. The term was said to come from an old-fashioned way of letting the community know that a death had occurred in a home by putting black crepe over the door of the house, and by analogy, when dealing with medical problems, "hanging crepe" meant giving excessively pessimistic prognoses to your patients' relatives. This was a kind of protective strategy, I suppose, in that if the physician were correct, then he would be thought wise; and if he were wrong, then his actions would be thought brilliant, perhaps even heroic. Later this way of dealing with cases in which it was difficult to predict the outcome was subjected to searching ethical discussion, and other ways of handling these difficult cases were suggested.

I thought we had a problem with confidence which was supposed to be remedied by the injection of obscenely large amounts of money into failing businesses and the pockets of Friends of Obama (FOO). So then, why is President Obama trying to discourage us? Is this a lack of confidence in these methods of recovery? Is he trying to avoid the blame if they don't work? And of course, allow him to be elevated to "President-for-Life" if they do? Enquiring minds want to know.

28 January 2009

Squirrel Appreciation Day +4

This is the latest weapon in the continuing battles between bird-feeding Me v. fat-and-sassy Squirrels. The red plastic top is supposed to not allow the little beggars to come in from the top. My advisers tell me that I need something on the bottom of the pole as well. I will let you know how things go.

27 January 2009

Today Was My Father's Birthday Eighty-Nine Years Ago

He was born in 1920 and couldn't wait to leave the farm in rural Wisconsin as soon as possible. This included pumping gas on the outskirts of Chicago for his father-in-law in the late 30s. The stimulus packages in those days didn't seem to take effect until spending on the War really picked up, though Mr Keynes assured everyone that massive government spending was the thing to do. Who knows, maybe it will work this time, especially if our politicians get it passed as quickly as possible. Then, if the economy is resuscitated, our politicians will take credit. If it goes further into the crapper I'm sure there will be some reasonable explanation as to why it didn't work.

That is me on the left and my brother Gerald on the right, with Dad on the south side of Chicago, before he was drafted around 1943. I think we lived on a dead end street about 145th St if I my memory doesn't completely fail me. Would that be in Harvey, IL?

I didn't know that my father could hit a baseball, so when he came home from the War, completely bald by this time, which I thought meant that he was very old, though only in his late 20s, I was a little worried when he told me he was going to play for Hustisford in the Sunday afternoon Rock River League. He claimed to be able to see the stitches on the ball soon after the pitcher released it. I could barely see the ball, a fuzzy white thing, but I believed him because he always hit to the right side, and often, if he was playing against a catcher who didn't know his habit of swinging very late, he would pick up a base for catcher interference. The shortstops in the Rock River League always cheated toward 2nd base when he came up, though I don't think anyone actually played on the other side of the bag. He could certainly hit better than I could. I was lucky enough to play on the same team he did as a 15 year old, which is when he started in the mid-30s I found out later. Only he managed 7 hits in a double header that day, according to my mother, one of his early fans.

He did whatever he needed to do to earn a living including being a butcher and running a meat market, until he finally figured out his true vocation which was a small-time local politician. In those days I don't think to call someone a "politician" was an insult. He discovered this calling around age 40. When he asked me if I knew what I was doing when we moved to Billings, when I was about 40, I reminded him of his own work history: he smiled and we passed on. Oh yes, did I mention that he and my mother ran a tavern for a few years between Hustisford and Horicon. That's him with Carol behind the bar. He didn't smile a lot in those days as I recall.

His cigarette and cigar habit finally caught up with him in his mid-60s when he died, exquisitely slowly as I remember it, from a metastatic lung cancer. No one could reasonably control his bone pain. I remember him asking me if I could speed up the process of dying. When I said I could not, he gave me one of those "What good are you then" looks and turned away slowly and painfully.

26 January 2009

From Irony to Reality in Less than A Lifetime

When our kids were all supposed to be reading Orwell's 1984 and Animal Farm, who could have guessed that in addition to those classics they really needed to be reading Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, in order to perhaps understand a little of what seems to be happening in the USA right now. I was reminded of this by an article by Stephen Moore in the Wall Street Jounal online.

I would be elated if my children and especially my grandchildren would recognize what the question "Who and Where is John Galt?" means.

My teachers all grew up in the 20s or before, so they apparently didn't know about them though Orwell was published in the late 40s. Those were the good old days. I didn't read Orwell until sometime in the 70s and Rand only very recently.

We seem to be living in interesting times. Isn't that supposed to be a Chinese curse? Even though Wikipedia can't find the Chinese source, the translation into English has found wide usage among those who consult quotation sources. According to Mr Google, bloggers, essayists and journalists all like to use it, and that is only on the first page of references.

25 January 2009

3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time: Discoveries on the Way to Something Else

For some reason we didn't celebrate the Conversion of Saint Paul (or more accurately Saul of Tarsus) this morning. This picture by Caravaggio alone is enough to make the trip to Rome worthwhile. It is called the Conversion on the Way to Damascus and is found in the Cerasi Chapel of the church of Santa Maria del Popolo.

The note on this painting by whoever wrote the Wikipedia entry is very helpful and to my eyes, very truthful too: "On this canvas, Saul is an epileptic and fractured figure, flattened by the divine flash, flinging his arms upward in a funnel. There are three figures in the painting. The commanding muscular horse dominates the canvas, yet it is oblivious to the divine light that defeated his rider's gravity. The aged groom is human, but gazes earthward, also ignorant of the moment of where God intervenes in human traffic. Only Saul, whose gravity and world has been overturned lies supine on the ground, but facing heaven, arms supplicating rescue. The groom can see his shuffling feet, and the horse can plod its hooves, measuring its steps; but both are blind to the miracle and way. They inhabit the unilluminated gloom of the upper canvas." Don't those art historians and critics just give you shivers up and down your spine. Let us hope we may be so lucky as to be in the "illuminated parts of the lower canvas."

But skipping over this momentous occasion in the Acts of the Apostles meant we heard a sample of the Seinfeld of the Hebrew Scriptures for the Old Testament reading: The story of God and Jonah and Nineveh, chief city of Assyria—that "great city" that took three days to walk around, or maybe cover all the neighborhoods—has to be one of the best comic stories in the Bible. I am fairly sure Jason Alexander as George Costanza has played a Jonah-like character in several episodes.

The reading at Mass today left out the best part where Jonah gets very upset with God when his preaching is successful and the Ninevites actually repent of their sinful ways. Part of the reason I like this story so much is that it has some contemporary resonance in that Nineveh is just across the river from present day Mosul, Iraq. There may have been a few modern day Jonahs walking around this area.

And then there is the line from Saint Paul's first Letter to the Corinthians: "I tell you, brothers and sister, the time is running out . . . for the world in its present form is passing away." Apocalyptic shivers run up your leg during that reading.

And finally we get to the Gospel reading where Jesus says, according to the Gospel of Mark, "This is the time of fulfillment. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel." More shivers. This is more than a full plate for me.

The Gospel reading goes on to the calling of Andrew and Simon, and then James and his brother John. All of these guys were fishermen and may have lived in or near Bethsaida—some say they were from nearby Capernaum—on the shores of the Sea of Galilee or Lake Kinneret as the present-day Israelis call it.

Apparently over the years the shoreline of the sea or lake has shifted—this whole area is relatively unstable because of underlying tectonic forces—and thus the present day mound of Bethsaida is at least a kilometer away from the present shore of the Sea of Galilee.

They say this area is connected to the Great Rift Valley of Africa. I think plate tectonics is awesome. It must have been an awesome God who thought that one up. And unfortunately the whole area is on the foothills of the Golan Heights, thus raising the possibility that it will one day be given back to Syria, which claimed it for a long time.


I had a very small part in helping to dig up Bethsaida a few years ago. As I remember it we spent most of our 3 weeks there digging up a Bronze age gate. That is Carol sifting dirt to the left. And to the right is the area of the gate with a commemorative stele in the middle. This was hard work, but fun. That is a very ancient red plastic water container on the right side of the picture.

23 January 2009

More graphs to enlighten or confuse us


From the DarwinCatholic blog

This graph is said to represent various US presidents' popularity polls, supposedly gathered when they entered office and then at odd times during their tenure. I don't know how they separate the persuasiveness of the media of the time from anything else, but maybe that is what is being measured anyway. Hmm, I see a problem here but am too dull to figure out the answer.

It looks like all of these guys started fairly high and wound up fairly low, although the Bushes seem to have had a fling at stardom before crashing and burning, and Clinton (this is why I am skeptical of the information going in to this graph) actually started in the middle and went up, never down. Hmm, I don't remember things that way. Maybe we finally got used to fraud and chicanery at the top.

I don't remember Truman being so loathed either, but then I was only a gawky 12 year old. On the other hand I did read Time and Newsweek, which in those days were relatively conservative, though we didn't know that until they took a hard turn to the left some time in the 80s I think. And what was the reason for the quick and really drastic changes of H.W. Bush? He did a good thing in the 1st Gulf War, but then what happened.

Will we be able to use the same graph for Obama? If you start at 90% + and go up, that sort of makes the other guys look really bad or distorts the whole graph.

22 January 2009

The Prodigal Double Dial Has Returned

This double-dial clock tells the time on the upper dial and the date/day on the lower of the two dials. This one was made some time around the middle of the 19th century. My dad, County Clerk of Dodge County for some 20 odd years was rummaging around in the attic of the courthouse in Juneau, Wisconsin some years back and found this covered with dust and debris of course.

It has kept pretty good time for us but it recently had a spell of arrhythmias so we took it in to be looked at by our timepiece-fixing friend Walt Kirschman who runs The Clock Works over on Moore Lane. He has pronounced it fit and given his guarantee. Wish my physician were that helpful.

I took this picture before we put the weights and the little pendulum back inside. We were told to let everything warm up before we expected it to function perfectly. Just as we were getting ready to take him home another of our more senior clocks decided to put up a fuss. So now we have another empty space for a couple of weeks I suppose.

20 January 2009

What He Said

Apart from changing Election Day to Inauguration Day in the title, I would say Amen to this prayer, and I suspect most of us commoners would. We will need all the help we can get and to acknowledge where that help will come from.

19 January 2009

Last Chance Harvey

We saw this a couple of days ago. Probably because anything that Emma Thompson is in has to be good. I could identify with Harvey of the title (Dustin Hoffman): he gets fired for gradually getting old with the performance issues that aging brings on; but there was something not totally convincing about Ms Thompson. She has had her teeth fixed and her hair was a little brassy, and she had a certain, well, middled-aged spread, as you might expect a 50 yr old to have, but I'm not sure those were really a problem. Maybe it was this last change, especially playing opposite an almost pixieish Dustin Hoffman who made her look larger than she really is.

And whereas I always felt like I could have, in my younger days of course, actually steeled myself to call her for a date, the character she played in Last Chance Harvey I'm not sure I would want to call. Which may just mean that she was playing her part perfectly, but still, she is just not a convincing lower middle class Britisher. This movie was not Sense and Sensibility or Remains of the Day, but it was better than a lot of the crap we put up with from Hollywood these days.

Oh no, I just discovered on Wikipedia that Emma Thompson is a GreenPeace activist. Oh well, another superb actress forgiven for being silly. I'll just mute her response at her next Oscar acceptance speech.

18 January 2009

Snow Melting

When the snow melts in my garden it reveals my back yard. So, instead of having a garden as nice as my neighbor's I have an ugly, messy back yard. The birds and squirrels are not helping either. How does one discourage grackles and squirrels while encouraging most other birds? I think the first sentence in this paragraph may be useful in a poem.

I think if I move the bird feeders away from the trees then the squirrels will have difficulty getting at the birdseed. Perhaps they will go to one of my neighbor's feeding stations. Since I don't have a leaf-blower this seems fair enough to me.

17 January 2009

Miracle on the Hudson: Blame Seeking Missile

I am sure others will be asking these questions, in no special order:

What about those Canadian geese? Why were they in the path of the airplane in the first place? Is an accident investigation crew from Toronto on its way?

Can we blame People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals for this? Who is their spokesperson? Tom Cruise? Is it a federal crime to negligently attempt to kill how many ever souls were on the plane?

How about the hunters that should have shot these creatures before they came to rest in New York City? What part do they have in this blame? Can we be sued for wrongful life if someone actually missed an easy shot, one that any reasonable person would have been able to accomplish?

Why didn't the plane sink? Or is that part of the miracle? Surely the plane didn't come to rest on the bottom of the Hudson River, did it? It must be deeper than that, isn't it? What can we do to insure that this outcome will happen again? Give the captain of the plane a medal? Add some regulations on crew training? Send further directives to the TSA regarding the danger of Tootsie-Rolls?

Is survival in this scenario a legitimate cause of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder? Do we have counselors on hand? In addition to the captain, will all of the passengers be elgible to be on Oprah? How about in the audience then? Are there lawyers that specialize in these matters? Will they come forward?

Just a few stray thoughts.

16 January 2009

On The Way to Red Lodge Montana


Sorry, dear friends for the lateness of this entry. We did take an adventurous trip to Red Lodge last Tuesday. But other things have naturally distracted me. A limited report on Cowboy Coffin and Pine Box Co. is found here on BillingsFreePress.Com.

But there was more to the trip. As you can see above we are on Highway 212 with the ski-hill way in the background. You can just barely make out that big S curve on M.

Here we are a little closer. The road to Red Lodge was notable for being clear of snow and ice with a fair number of Angus cattle being fed—at least I think that's what those black cows out in the fields are called. Hardee's must be selling quite a few of those really good hamburgers.












As you can see there is some snow on the streets of Red Lodge, especially the side streets. Main Street looked pretty much as we remembered from a few years ago when our kids were in the skiing teen age mode and still at home. Hmm, that was quite a few years ago.

There is a nice Carnegie Library next to the train station. See above. The train station is now being used as an art gallery. I think the Library is still being used as a library, though I didn't go inside. The outskirts of town show some new buildings and a few places on Main Street have been gentrified for the tourists too. Looks like the Roman Theatre is still in business though I didn't look very closely because I was hungry.


We stopped at Foster and Logan's Pub & Grill on Main Street where the menu looked good, including a surprising number of small micro-brewers' offerings.


Red Lodge has its own brewery.


Which we didn't get a chance to visit but promise to do so next time we are in the neighborhood. The buffalo burgers at F and L's were very good. I would recommend them to my readers. And try the beer too.


It looks like there are several good places to eat in Red Lodge. One of the places we need to try soon is the Pollard Hotel.

After lunch we kept on going up Highway 212 toward Cooke City to look for the Cowboy Coffin and Pine Box Co. The Google map was useless as it suggested we should head out on Highway 78 toward Roscoe. Good thing we called Rand Herzberg, former ranger in these parts and now practicing some fine carpentry in his workshop about 3 miles south of Red Lodge. Here is an example of some of his nice joining to the right on one of his rectangular coffins. The "classic" shape is wider toward the shoulders, and takes longer to make with more skill involved, and so naturally costs more but they are all still quite reasonable.

Neat little boxes for cremated remains are also available. Please see Rand's very helpful website.

On the way home we stopped in Joliet to check out Charles Ringer's Studio and Gallery. It's the one with the very tall and scary Creature on the right hand side of Front Street as you are heading back to Billings. Smaller versions of this 18 ft creature are available according to the above website.

Mr Ringer was tied up but was apologetic on missing us so we will go back at some later time as both the workshop and the gallery looked like they had some interesting ideas brought to life in metal sculpture.

15 January 2009

Czar vs. Commissar

I still think "commissar" makes more sense than "czar" in referring to various government grandees in charge of various parts of our economy. See an earlier blog for more on this. Professor Mankiw of Harvard is the guy that first suggested this more accurate use of terms, pointing out that "czar" was a term in use before the Revolution, whereas "commissar" came into use after the Bolsheviks came into power. Perhaps the major question will be whether we should have Four Year Plans, as in Germany, or Five Year Plans as in the rest of the socialist world. I wonder why Lenin and Stalin thought you had to use force. By the way, I hear the hardware store down the street is having a special on rope.

14 January 2009

More on Father Richard John Neuhaus


I was not surprised when I opened up the latest issue of First Things and saw an article by Father Richard John Neuhaus as well as his usual contributions in The Public Square part of that magazine, where in addition to sage comments on sundry topics ranging from Studs Terkel to Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, he gives us a splendid essay on a Lutheran favorite, Law and Gospel. I still remember the early morning hours of a 1962 day when I was drifting off to sleep, listening to the radio, and suddenly being waked by a familiar trumpet sound from a man that I knew had died a few months earlier. It took me more than a few sleepy seconds to remember that my friend Dick Ruedebusch had made some recordings with the Woody Herman Band.

So I was kind of expecting some posthumous last minute bits of wisdom and advice from Father Neuhaus. And he didn't disappoint. He is even kind enough to warn us about the seriousness of his illness. [So serious that it had carried him off in the space of a couple of weeks, some days before the magazine could be published.] He mentions his earlier "little book, As I Lay Dying (titled after William Faulkner after John Donne) in which I said much of what I had to say about the package deal that is mortality."

Here is the website for real obituaries on the life of Richard John Neuhaus. Wow, what a man. My little note from a few days ago is very small potatoes.

I have now read Neuhaus's As I Lay Dying. It seems a lot more helpful than Faulkner's book of the same title. In addition to a quick recitation of what he remembers about his close encounter with death and dying, and some necessary philosophy and other real things, he also, in his no-nonsense honest way, also looks at other books and poems that have something to say about these matters, and then compares and contrasts them to his own experiences; and finally, without embarrassment, he talks about his "near-death" experience; actually he calls it a "near-life" experience.

This last part is why I am fairly sure that I've never read this before even though I know it has been in my library since it was published in 2002. Of course he was very ill with the original intestinal cancer around 1995, with rupture of the large bowel and then another surgery to remove the spleen accidentally injured during the first hurried emergency operation. The outcome was not at all clear for several weeks. Finally he was promoted out of intensive care, soon after which he suddenly one night became aware of two "presences," who made it clear that he had a choice. And they clearly spoke: they said that "Everything is ready now." Not a command or an invitation, but definitely up to him. He thought that if he said Yes he would go on to die.

He goes on to a prolonged meditation on the meaning of this whole thing, the "presences," his illness, his recovery, and eventually his response to all this and Donne's Devotions upon Emergent Occasions: "So I too have been to a good university, and what I have learned, what I have learned most importantly, is that, in living and in dying, everything is ready now."

All of us are really going to miss this guy.

11 January 2009

The Uncommon Reader

I just finished this novella, which Wikipedia tells us is longer than a novelette and shorter than a novel, about a certain queen who becomes obsessed with reading in her later years. It is actually sympathetic with the queen's job, while making fun of those that surround her.

It is a nicely done little story, really a kind of parable, by Alan Bennett, one of England's leading dramatists—Beyond The Fringe, The Madness of King George III, The History Boys—in a different genre, I would guess, from what he has done most of his life, in which he gets to give many of those who have surrounded him all his life either a gentle tap on the head, indicating "well done, even if nobody was paying attention" or sometimes the same tap but now meaning "you silly bugger, you thought we weren't paying attention."

It's quick and fun to read, especially the short sentences, which have the same attention-getting effect on the reader as they do on the stage. And it does have a few serious points to make about reading and royalty. And this edition has those sturdy paper foldovers so that you can easily mark your place, even if they were not necessary in this particular little book.

08 January 2009

Father Neuhaus R.I.P.

I read on some blog earlier this morning that Father Richard John Neuhaus had died. [How does Wikipedia do that? Only a few hours after his death it is already in their entry!] I knew that he was gravely ill, having read about it some days ago on another blog, so I was not surprised.

Now that I come to think on it, I was surprised by his long survival after what sounded like the relatively smooth draft of the early stages of his final illness, which he published in 2002 in As I Lay Dying.

Of course, he wrote it after he somehow, against all odds, survived. But if you have what you think of as some medical sophistication you know that he is not long for this world. But then he goes on for 6 or 7 years, editing and writing brilliantly for First Things, one of the best monthly magazines available, and writing the excellent Catholic Matters published in 2006, and probably doing all sorts of other things that I am unaware of. So you are glad your prognosis wasn't very accurate.

He was one of my mentors, unknown to Father Neuhaus, of course. I suspect that he was a mentor to many. Having a mentor die always starts trains of thought that go in all kinds of directions. The first thought was to re-read his book, or perhaps several of them.

And then, oddly enough, I thought of a pilgrimage to Compostela. I'm not sure why. Possibly because of the allusion to Faulkner's novel, possibly because the thought of taking a trip before one dies seems natural.

Requiescat in Pace.

[Update: Apparently the original illness and brush with death took place in 1995. Seven years later he published the book, and then seven years after that he quickly developed multiple metastases, from the original cancer or not is not clear to me.]

07 January 2009

More on the Epiphany


Check this site out. Major amount of useful info on Epiphany and lots of other stuff. Thanks very much to A Catholic Notebook.

Video Book Report: Eckhart Tolle

I found this on a helpful website, Creative Minority Report. I must find out how the author gets those little yellow ribbons with the neat quotes on the top corners of his website. The one today is by Steven Wright "Black holes are where God divided by zero."

06 January 2009

The Twelve Days of Christmas

I hope my atheistic, agnostic and evangelical friends won't object too much as I stretch out the celebration of the Incarnation. Now that I think about it there are not that many in any of those categories. A website written by a Catholic Bibliophagist: The Twelve Days of Christmas is a natural to dip into at this time of the year, or at any time for that matter. And from there to other places on the Web. The bibliophagist mentions a number of children's books for adult and young readers.

St Columba is a famous Celtic saint, highlighting "the importance of the Celtic church in bringing a revival of Christianity to Western Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire." I'm not sure the Celts are up to doing another revival, though it is sorely needed.

Good Cheese Here

I made some contact via email recently with a first cousin, once removed, offspring of 2nd generation cheesemakers in Ohio, who had spread out from my home town Hustisford, Wisconsin in the 1930s. I can still see in my mind's eye the original cheesemaker of the Radloff family, his name was Max P.E. and that is what we called him, as he drove around a 25 year old model A Ford in that faraway village I grew up in the 1940s. I think it had a rumble seat which was used for hauling stuff around. You could always hear it coming a long way off.

Anyway, the good folks at Grafton Village Cheese Company, near Brattleboro Vermont, run by cousin Adam, son of cousin Phil, son of Delbert, very graciously and generously sent me a half-wheel of a mixed cheese they call Grafton Duet, a layer of Vermont Cheddar coupled with some Minnesota Blue. Both were fairly mild and crumbly, even when brought to room temperature. as you can see in the picture above. Both are definitely edible by themselves but they go well together too. We sprinkled some on the salad and ate some more with relatively plain crackers, all washed down with some of the Willamette Valley of Oregon's marvelous King Estate Pinot Gris. Cheese always go better with wine, and vice versa of course. Give them a try.

05 January 2009

Twelfth Day of Christmas


12. On the twelveth (the dictionary says this is an archaic spelling and recommends the ordinal of 12 with an "f"as in the title above) day of Christmas, my true love gave to me a turtledove:

Well, maybe they were on to something when they wrote the original version. How beautiful you are, my darling! Oh, how beautiful! Your eyes are doves (Song of Songs 1:15).

By Tom Neven

And from Something Sublime:

Twelve drummers represent the twelve points of doctrine or articles in the Apostle's Creed. The word "creed" comes from the Latin "credo" meaning "I believe". It's one of the oldest creeds in Christianity. It was said to have been composed by the 12 apostles while under the influence of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. In any case, the creed is believed to be an accurate record of what the apostles believed and is what Christians today profess. The twelve points of the creed are:

  1. belief in God the Father, Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth
  2. and Jesus Christ, His son and our Lord
  3. who was born of the Virgin Mary
  4. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried
  5. He rose on the third day, ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father
  6. He will come again to judge the living and dead
  7. belief in the Holy Spirit
  8. belief in the holy catholic (meaning "whole or universal") church
  9. the communion of saints
  10. the forgiveness of sins
  11. theresurrection of the dead
  12. life everlasting

This is what we believe and profess as Christians but, the good news is that there is one simple way to eternal life and that is belief in Christ!


04 January 2009

Solemnity of the Epiphany Celebration

The picture to the right is borrowed from the Carolina Cannonball. From David Gerard ca. ~1500 A.D. Not sure how he gets such big pictures. Anyway, it shows the Magi worshipping the infant Jesus, of course in the uniform of the day. I guess Jesus doesn't rate clothing yet, maybe that is the way we know he is a neonate.

Gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. In olden days the last was worth more than the gold or the frankincense. Interestingly, all of these may have some usefulness in medicine of today according to the entries in Wikipedia.

Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your light has come,
the glory of the Lord shines upon you. Isaiah 60


. . . the Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. Ephesians 3

They were overjoyed at seeing the star,
and on entering the house
they saw the child with Mary his mother.
They prostrated themselves and did him homage.
Then they opened their treasures
and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Matthew 2


Here are the Three Kings of Orient and a camel, just barely visible behind the kneeling guy; they were all lugged in in the opening procession at the Epiphany celebration at St Patrick's Co-Cathedral.

Snippets of the readings for today are seen above.
I wonder if our Muslim friends will regard the Old Testament reading as prophetic. That is the beautiful main altar behind the figurines. I'm not sure what the objects are on the steps. ?Gold, frankincense and myrrh?



Eleventh Day of Christmas


11. On the eleventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me a washcloth:

This cloth has God’s Word embroidered on it. Husbands, love your wives, just a Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word (Ephesians 5:25-26).

By Tom Neven

And from Something Sublime:

The eleven pipers represent the 11 faithful apostles of the New Testament. Matthew, chapter 10lists them as follows: Simon (called Peter); his brother Andrew; James, son of Zebedee; and his brother John; Philip; Bartholomew; Thomas; Matthew, the tax collector; James, son of Alphaeus; Thaddeus; and Simon, the Zealot. The twelfth apostle was Judas Iscariot who betrayed Christ.

The word apostle means messenger. These messengers were sent forth, by Jesus, to heal the sick and proclaim His kingdom, in other words; spread the word that Christ is the Messiah. Jesus gave them specific instructions before sending them on their journey. One of the things He told them was this: "Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven" Mt. 10:32-33. Also, verse 40; "He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives the one who sent me." The disciples were responsible to spread the Word but each of us, in our own hearts, are responsible for whether we accept it or not!

03 January 2009

Tenth Day of Christmas


10. On the tenth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me a spice jar:

That way, we can season our words with grace, encouragement, and love. Do not let any unwholesome take come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen (Ephesians 4:29).

By Tom Neven

And from Something Sublime:

Ten lords a-leaping represent God's 10 commandments as found in the Bible in Exodus 20:1-17. The 10 commandments are God's law given to Moses on Mt. Sinai. God spoke directly to Moses and etched His commandments in stone. Of course, the people were terrified but God ordered Moses to tell them: "You have seen for yourselves that I have spoken to you from Heaven..." God's commandments are His laws for us to live by. We have seen for ourselves what God has spoken through the Bible. The first four laws of the 10 commandments describe our duty to God. The last six laws describe our duty to ourselves and others. Remember these?...

  1. You shall have no other Gods before Me.
  2. You shall make no idols in any form.
  3. You shall not misuse the name of God.
  4. Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.
  5. Honor your mother and father.
  6. You shall not murder.
  7. You shall not commit adultery.
  8. You shall not steal.
  9. You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor (fellow man).
  10. You shall not covet your neighbor's house, spouse or anything belonging to him.

More of Novak Is A Good Thing

Have you ever noticed that as some people age they have a tendency to say less and their thoughts sometimes tend to be "wonderfully concentrated?"
I think it was Dr. Samuel Johnson who first suggested that "the prospect of being hanged in the morning wonderfully concentrates the mind." If true then that may help to explain some of Michael Novak's recent essays. I read a short one this morning in First Things online about Truth and Freedom. I recommend it to everyone. From Wikipedia comes the picture to the right. It shows an older Dr Johnson concentrating on his newspaper and maybe also demonstrates his weak eyes. One would have thought he would be holding the paper at a distance.

02 January 2009

Wondering Around Billings @ ChristmasTime 2008

Yogi Berra, sometime catcher for the New York Yankees, and designated person-to-be-made-fun-of because of what he says, is supposed to have said: "You can observe a lot by watching." So I took his advice and looked around.

Here are some Nativity scenes: the one to the right is a detailed one from Mount Olive Lutheran Church, with some kids, appropriately enough, looking it over. This one has a sign on one of the buildings to the left and out of the picture, sort of looking like it might be a hotel, reading "No Vacancy." The one below left is a live Nativity scene at First Presbyterian Church, unfortunately without animals this year. I suppose the extreme cold temperatures had something to do with the staging.

You can see Mary and Joseph sitting in the center, a manger between them, shepherds in the background being amazed at what they saw, and Wise Men from the East, bringing their gifts and worshipping the baby Jesus, though I don't know if he had been named just yet. Seems to me Gabriel gave him a name at the Annunciation. Maybe it was just a suggestion.

Speaking of announcements, and we were, this is what Bellissimo, premier bell ringers of Billings, used to announce their glad tidings to the community. See right.

And this is what Sandy Rabas, one of Billings' best organists, used to help the singers from West High School announce their Good News. See below left.

And this is what Mother Nature used to remind some of her forgetful creatures that it is not nice to mess with her, not even to suggest that we weaklings could alter her world.







This is a view from our dining room window a few days before Christmas. I had forgotten how painful it is to breathe in below zero temperatures, something we used to do nearly every winter morning in Wisconsin back in the '40s and '50s, delivering the Milwaukee Sentinel to the few regular people who wanted a morning newspaper. In those days young boys actually delivered the papers by riding bikes around the village, carefully putting the paper inside the screen door in the warmer weather and walking around during the snowy colder days and carefully putting the paper inside the storm door. When and why did we get older guys driving cars around and tossing the papers wherever? I wonder if I have confessed that I lied to get the job of paperboy. I was only 10 or so and they were supposed to be 12.

Some places were busy, and others were not. As you can see this Barnes and Noble bookstore was crowded in the days before Christmas. I guess Santa probably had some difficulty lugging all those books around on Christmas Eve for delivery to good boys and girls. When we were young the job was little easier as Santa delivered some of his gifts on 24 December and others on Russian Christmas 12 nights later. Some of us had both German and Russian grandparents.

The picture to the right was taken at mid-day just outside of the entrance to Sears in West Park Plaza. Kind of spooky I thought. But then I think the free marketeers call that "creative destruction."

There was plenty of evidence of optimism in the Billings economy, with CVS and Walgreen pharmacies going up here and there—I wonder if they are going to compete on prescription prices? And Cabela's and a new Animal Hospital, more additions to the Billings Clinic—are they going to give the Mayo Clinic a run for their money? And an addition to Albertson's on Rehberg and Grand. See below. And more. "You can observe a lot by just watching."

I love to stand around and watch guys building stuff, especially with large machines. But it gets cold doing that, so I head for home fairly quickly. On some fairly rough and sometimes slippery roads, made worse by my Traction Control System which is great at keeping one from doing something stupid while you are moving but when you need to keep the wheels turning it needs to be turned off.


Ah yes, now this is what I call domestic tranquillity. The albino tiger cub is lying down with the Crayola markers. Have those guys at Crayola got it figured out or what? These markers only work on certain kinds of paper. Brilliant.














I love those lacy decorations. I wonder if they have a name. Another thing I like are the lights that resemble little red peppers. I think we found those in New Mexico some years ago. Sometimes they work and sometimes they don't. Sort of like me and maybe others too.

Couldn't resist a self-photograph of me and grandson Diego, both of us looking a little surprised at the flash after one of those delayed exposures. He is almost 3 years now. At one time his mother was worried that he wasn't talking enough. That is not a problem these days. He is pretty good at both Spanish and English, though he sometimes says things like "I have two years" which sounds like a literal Spanish to English translation to my not-so-sensitive ears.


There were a lot of us doing our best to eat everything on our plates. I wonder why our mothers insisted on that. I vaguely remember some words or phrases about unfortunate children in Europe too.













We may not have great sunsets here in Montana, but we have excellent sunrises, which are better in the winter because they come at a reasonable time of day. I love the various pinks and oranges and purples of course.

Downtown Billings in the SummerTime

Downtown Billings in the SummerTime
At The BrewPub on Broadway

Downtown Phoenix

Downtown Phoenix
Downtown Phoenix in the Winter Time

Good Cheese Here

Good Cheese Here
Vermont Cheddar & Minnesota Blue

TAKE TIME FOR PARADISE

TAKE TIME FOR PARADISE
Dehler Park, Billings MT, July 2008 This is what Bart Giamatti recommends for good mental health.

Me and Joan

Me and Joan
Early elderly and middle middle age: We May Know Something You Don't

Mrs America

Mrs America
Fortunately these girls had a good-looking mother

Rimrocks @ Billings MT

Rimrocks @ Billings MT
“In beholding old stones we may feel our anxieties about our achievements–and lack of them–slacken . . . Vast landscapes [and seascapes] can have an anxiety–reducing effect similar to ruins, for they are the representatives of infinite space, as ruins are the representatives of infinite time, against which our weak, short-lived bodies seem no less inconsequential than those of moths or spiders.”—Alain de Botton in Status Anxiety

Easter Sunday at St Patrick's Co-Cathedral

Easter Sunday at St Patrick's Co-Cathedral
12 April 2009

Pleasant Hillside at Hustisford, AKA The Grassy Knoll for you conspiracy buffs

Pleasant Hillside at Hustisford, AKA The Grassy Knoll for you conspiracy buffs
A Lot of Muellers Are Buried Here