30 November 2008

The First Sunday in Advent 2008: When You Feel Rich

I don't think our grandmothers ever entertained the thought of throwing away the crusts on a loaf of bread. I feel a little guilty because I don't know what to do with them. They don't toast very well. I sometimes make a sandwich out of them if I have forgotten to buy some more and am too lazy to go to the grocery.

This is the First Sunday of Advent. Pay attention.
"Be watchful. Be alert. You do not know when the time will come."

29 November 2008

Notes on Mumbai

“It’s a metastatic cancer that needs surgery and chemo, but the world still thinks some meditation and deep breathing will make it go away.” —A physician in Kolkata in regard to the terrorism taking place in Mumbai and around the world.

When will President-elect Obama do something about this outrage? Sorry, I couldn't resist.

I'm not sure who these people are but they seem to know what they are talking about.

28 November 2008

There Is Something About Billings

This is from our front yard in early November. I like the colors. Most of the leaves have been blown away somewhere by mid- November. Still not very cold but windy at times. No snow since our 3 day storm in October.

On the way to lunch a couple of days ago I was musing on this and that when I came across this little museum. Perhaps it is a franchise with headquarters in Billings. I don't know.

Stella's makes some good food and is one of the few places in town where you can get some decent corned beef hash with eggs over easy done right. It is located kitty-corner from the Post Office downtown, one of those imposing office buildings that you see left over from a generation or two ago. See below. They have the usual banks of little metal boxes where you can pick up your mail if it isn't delivered I guess but there is a lot of room around the edges and on the 2nd and third floors that are supposedly occupied by lawyer's offices that I never heard of, and then there is something called the Postal Inspector General offices. I wonder what they do. You probably have to have a secret handshake to get into this part of the building. Below is the view that greets you on exiting Stella's.

I have long had a fantasy that our government will one day have an open house for all their offices in town, just to show us ordinary folks what wonderful things they are doing for us. Actually I first thought of this when I worked for Uncle Sam in Washington DC. Wouldn't it be great if our public servants would all publish a paragraph on what exactly they do in a typical week.

Now that I think on that, maybe that is not a good idea. Have you ever tried to figure out what office to call by looking in the phone book? I thought so. Perhaps our masters could form another branch just so that us commoners could find out the number of a place we need to call. Not want to call, of course, but sometimes we need to.

27 November 2008

Why Does A Turkey Cross The Road?

These birds were seen a few days ago on Rimrock Road, calmly walking across the road, even when a few disgruntled motorists honked at them. Those behind the fence seemed agitated as they apparently couldn't figure out how to get free.

Mind you, this was only a few days before Thanksgiving 2008. Brazen behavior. There were a dozen or so that I saw in this group. The majority were already across the road around 420 Rimrock.

They must be wild as they didn't seem to have that nice fat breasty look that I see at CostCo or wherever dead turkeys congregate. They seemed fairly tame wild birds as they let me walk up fairly close to them. I thought they would fly away but no they just kept their eyes on me and then went back to their pecking.

Look What I Found

On the way out of Albertson's on Rehberg the other day I was startled by a display of Animal Crackers in those original little rickety boxes with string handles that they used when I was a kid. I didn't know they still sold them.

When my father owned a meat market in the late 40s we all worked there of course and lived above the shop in Hustisford WI. Although we all worked there we all didn't get paid much there so my brother Gerald and I thought it was fair to grab a box of these Animal Crackers on our way out the front door. I think the price was either 10 or maybe 15 cents, so $1.49 or ten times the prices in the 40s seems about right. I think my father worried about the number of shop-lifters he had for customers.

I never told him who were the guilty parties though he did tell me in a low voice on his death bed that all the advice he had given me was probably baloney, though I think he used a stronger word. Did I forget to say that I am thankful for my parents and really that whole generation that preceded us.

26 November 2008

Word of the Day for 25 November


From our friends at Shrine of the Holy Whapping

This is St Catherine of Alexandria, a little earlier than St Catherine of Siena, and a little less documented as well. That is an instrument of torture behind her which she is said to have broken when placed on it. So she was beheaded instead.

25 November 2008

What About Oprah?

Surely someone has given some thought to appointing Oprah to The Cabinet. Maybe as Secretary of State [oops, sorry Hillary, I didn't see you there] or better yet Secretary General without portfolio. She could, for example, probably just pay the ransom for a pirated oil tanker from her walking around money. It would save a lot of time and bother.

She is part East Asian and part Native American according to her DNA analysis. I have no idea why this was done. This picture comes from the 80s according to our friends at Wikipedia, which is where I got the information on her DNA. Hmm, maybe there is something extra in the eyes. My guess is that Oprah is one of those rare birds that actually become better looking with age and, of course, the increasing skill of their costumers and hairdressers, and other servants. Is it true that "black don't crack?"

The Straight Dope (click on eyes above) offers the possibility that some peculiar pre-historic eco-disaster on the Asian continent led to reproductive advantage to those who had that epicanthic fold. Hmm. Or maybe it was just an accident. They do happen.

Speaking of accidents: Why wouldn't Hillary be a brilliant choice as Secretary of State? She probably has more cojones than most of the other candidates. It looks like if you want to succeed in that office you really need to work on it, unlike the US Senate, where you can run for President in your spare time. Even working full time and very skillfully the chances are pretty good she would fail at some major undertaking, for which the president could blame her for if it was necessary. It looks like one of those impossible jobs, like POTUS, that one can succeed in only if you have a tame and adoring main-stream media. OK, it looks like we are solid on that point. So President-elect-for-life Obama, now that we are all famous egalitarians, wouldn't have to worry so much about his chief political opponent in 2012. I think I will become a consultant.

24 November 2008


The Gospel reading for this Christ the King Sunday, the last Sunday of the liturgical year, from St Matthew 25 always reminds me of my freshman course in General Chemistry, among other things of course.

My favorite professor in college was Arthur A Sunier, who had been a professor of chemistry for many years, and more than a little hard of hearing, always had a "sheep from goat separator" test about half-way through the semester, just in time in case one wanted to drop the course. Very thoughtful.

From the Biblical reading one gets the idea that in the real world we really don't have that option.

A detail from the Ghent altarpiece by Jan van Eyck to the right. From our friends at Wikipedia.

23 November 2008

Trip To Bountiful

Saturday was part of the weekend before the weekend after Thanksgiving. So I thought it would be wise to make a trip to CostCo, not only for necessities like wine and crab legs, but also to wander about just to make sure there wasn't anything else I needed, like one of those big flat screen high definition TVs. I love the way they display them. No wonder even a 3 month old baby almost instinctively turns toward the TV set. Something to lust for or to save for, though we seem to have lost the latter habit.

A lot of other people had this same idea. I had to park on the far side of the Shopko lot. I noticed a lot of people were driving around looking for spaces. The licence plates were from far-away counties in Montana (where the heck is #56 anyway?), and from Wyoming, N Dakota, even one from Ohio! I guess these people had not got the memo that we are in a recession which will soon be deepening.

I enjoy checking out other shopper's baskets just to make sure that I haven't missed anything vital and to get some ideas for the next time I come shopping, because it is hard to see everything that is available, especially when you are standing in line to get a free sample of some really good food. The picture to the right is my idea of part of a well-rounded diet. That is 6#!! of pretzels my friends, all low fat and cholesterol free, wow. This reminds me of the little house in which we lived in Harvey Illinois before my father was drafted during WWII. Behind us, in the alley, was a garage made over into a 3 room little cozy shack in which I first learned about the problems of alcohol excess. The nice people who lived there used to have a very large can of potato chips or pretzels on one side of their chair and an empty one for bottles and cigarette stubs on the other side. I remember their son was anxious to leave high school to join the Navy I think. He had to talk his parents into signing for him because he was less than 18 years. I doubt that he returned. I am somewhat skeptical about this memory as we moved back to Hustisford WI sometime in 1944, so that I am only 4 years old. Hmm.

22 November 2008

Football in Billings

I arrived a little late, sometime in the 2nd quarter, because I watched the first half of the Griz-Cat game on TV. The Montana/Montana State game was 14-3 at the half and the Cats looked like they might do better in the 2nd half. That proved to be a poor prophecy as the final score was something like 35-3.

It was 14-0 Custer County Cowboys when I arrived at Wendy's Field early Saturday afternoon. Neither team seemed to have much of an offense after that. Defense ruled after a couple of early scores by the Cowboys, which I missed. Each team grudgingly gave up another touchdown in the 2nd half. Not sure what happened to Central's usually high scoring offense, though it looked like Miles City had studied their films of Central as they seemed to have figured out the running game, which was mainly Grosulak and the passing game wasn't much better.

They had beaten Miles City earlier in the year 14-8 I think so maybe we should have guessed that this was going to be a defensive game too. The kids on both sides played hard. The boys from Miles City were a little bigger and played with more skill.

The Feast of Saint Cecelia

She is the patron saint of musicians and church music. She was thought to be a noble lady of Rome that was martyred in a failed beheading. Why this would recommend her to musicians I don't know. Her legend says that she praised God, singing to Him as she lay dying for some three days after the botched beheading. Maybe they were running low on patrons when musicians started clamoring for a saint of their own.

In her honor we sang portions of a contemplative Rosary, the Luminous Mysteries by Robert Hurd last night, the feast of the Presentation of Mary, at Saint Patrick's Co-Cathedral with Bishop Michael Warfel leading us in prayer.

If this keeps up we may outlast the guitars yet. Nice cello and oboe work as well as piano and organ. I had a good place to listen to the blended voices: in the baritone section. One nice thing about singing something over and over is that eventually you get the right notes and the right blend. I was surprised. The church was full. I saw a few non-Catholics joining in as well. By the way, our bishop sounds pretty good too. Keep a sharp watch for the CD.

21 November 2008

I Never Metaphor I Didn't Like

Check this guy out. I guess I was a little shaky taking the picture above—the subtitle reads "On Metaphor And Mortality." He is probably my favorite out-of-town undertaker. This is one of two books of essays/memoirs—the other is called appropriately enough The Undertaking-Life Studies from the Dismal Trade. I think he has a couple others out too, some poems and something else. See Amazon. They are available in paperback. Now that I have read over his webpage I realize he is even more famous than I thought. I'm sorry I missed the program on PBS.

20 November 2008

Somtimes I Get A Useful Catalog In The Mail

You could miss this place if you were not paying attention. It is just off I5 in Central Point, OR. That is just north of Medford. We stop here on the way to Ashland for the plays, to pick up some really good cheese.

Of course, when you have grown up in Wisconsin you live with this addiction forever. Once a cheesehead always a cheesehead. Their biggest sellers are some fantastic blue cheeses, one they call Oregonzola, sort of self-explanatory, another called Crater Lake Blue. They look good even in the pictures to the left.

The catalog advertised a 5# wheel for $129 which seemed like a pretty good deal to me. I would probably give some away to our neighbors as 5# is a lot to keep from drying out. That or have a big party.

They have other cheeses too, and sell local wines and other things too. That reminds me, there is a really nice winery right on the edge of Medford OR called Roxy Ann Winery which sells good local cheeses to go with their wine tasting, including these from the Rogue Creamery.

18 November 2008

17 November 2008

Change Happens Quickly Even In Billings

The picture to the right was taken while wandering around Billings on Veteran's Day, November 11, 2008.

Perhaps you will recall that a month or two ago the prices were up around $4/gallon. They say this has something to do with supply and demand.

And then on November 16 it was below $2/gallon. See the picture to the left. Where will it stop? Isn't economics fun?

16 November 2008

More Fun & Games @ beyond the pale

If you move around the room, Beatrice's eyes follow you. Go here for the real stuff.

15 November 2008

Self-portrait at Fifty

I'm not so sure if this applies to all of us at fifty years, but I am sure it applies to me approaching seventy years.

None of this can be denied:
crabby, flabby, full of pride;
hypertensive, pensive, snide;
slowing, growing terrified.
A.M. Juster in December 2008 First Things

Well, maybe not all of it, but close enough for government work, as we used to say in the good old days, and maybe will do once again according to what I hear from our political betters.

As you can see in the picture at the right I am getting longer in the tooth and I squint a lot despite the best efforts of my opticians.

14 November 2008

Speaking of Reminders . . . II

A couple of days ago I mentioned an article in the Wall Street Journal. By the way, if you only have time to read one paper a day this is the one you should read.

Anyway, the article goes on: "What if we want to remember more about each passing day?" Well, you could keep a journal, a tangible record of why something was meaningful, kind of like the precursor to many blogs including this one; and maybe taking photographs, organizing and labelling them, will reinforce memories too. Hmm, why does that sound familiar?

"But remember that forgetting can very useful, says Dr. McGaugh: 'If you used to go out with Bob and now you're married to Bill, you want to be able to say, 'I love you, Bill.'' " (I know it isn't very clear, but those marks after Bill are two single apostrophes, one for I love . . . and then another for If you used . . . and finally a double apostrophe for the whole paragraph lifted from the original article. Isn't this fun. Maybe some grammarian will help me out.)

Do you ever wonder where the original of this statue resides? What is an 'original' of a statue? Check it out here.

13 November 2008

Chicago Style Vote Counting Moves to Minnesota

This is very strange. For obvious reasons I have not been paying much attention to election results in Minnesota. It is populated by a lot of nice, normal people who can take care of themselves. Even when they vote for the Progressive Farmer Labor Coalition or whatever they call the Democratic Party in Minnesota. But things may have changed.

I was amazed to discover that Al Franken was on the ticket. What happened to Minnesotans' good sense? What happened to their niceness? Isn't it true that anyone moving to Minneapolis has to take a test in basic common sense and niceness in order to be let in? Al Franken is a first class schmuck in the original Yiddish sense, which I thought everybody knew was, not to put too fine a point on the matter, a prick, though come to think of it that is really insulting to all the pricks of the world.

How could the good people of Minnesota even as a joke think about sending this guy to represent them in Washington DC?

These are people with ancestors who built this beautiful cathedral in Saint Paul around the beginning of the last century: they would not have allowed this foul-mouthed anti-Semite and anti-Christian to even beg in the streets of their fair city.

12 November 2008

Speaking of Reminders . . .

Early Tuesday morning I was drinking coffee and reading the Wall Street Journal after finishing quickly the way too Easy Sudoku puzzle in the Billings Gazette.

Melinda Beck wrote an article entitled You Must Remember This: Forgetting Has Its Benefits. Naturally when somebody else confirms one of our long held but not quite proven ideas we take notice. She goes further than I do when I reassure friends and relatives that there are a lot of things that we don't want to remember anyway. She suggests that the more competing memories we forget the less the brain has to work to recall a specific one. Hmm. "Forgetting frees up brainpower for other tasks."

I still am amazed at the very specific and seemingly almost meaningless memories from very long ago that get called to my conscious attention at odd times, often when I detect a certain smell. Maybe the fact that it had never been called up before accounts for its clarity. For example: maybe recalling is like reconstructing a puzzle very quickly and then breaking it down. Some of the pieces get lost or put in the wrong place the more you do this. Hmm.

11 November 2008

Just a reminder

I found this picture on another blog, Atlas Shrugs, of Joseph Ambrose, an 86 year old veteran of WWI. It was taken in 1982 at the dedication of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. He is holding the flag that had covered the coffin of his son, killed in action during the Korean War.

I bumped into a young man in a dress uniform the other day. From his face my eyes went to his left upper chest. He had a number of medals there but the one that stood out was the Purple Heart. If you go to the Wikipedia entry scroll down to the bottom to the part that mentions the left-over Purple Hearts from the cancelled invasion of Japan. They are still being issued.

10 November 2008

'Nuff Said

P.S. As long as I am being political I should mention that I heard that extraordinary measures were being taken to insure the President-elect's safety. Given that Senator Claghorn was elevated on the coat tails of The One that seems like a very wise and prudent thing to do.

09 November 2008

Beethoven's Ninth on the Eighth

On Saturday night Beethoven's Ninth Symphony was performed at the Alberta Bair Theatre by the combined forces of the Billings Symphony, under the direction of Anne Harrigan, and the Billings Chorale, under the direction of Steven Hart, with four splendid soloists as well. Magnificent does not do it justice. Mr Beethoven shredded the arguments of the relativists: Every seat was filled and there were some standing and all cheered for a surprising number of minutes at the end.

I'm not sure if they used Mahler's alterations or not but the texture of the inner parts with all the bells and whistles was crystal clear where I sat. The bassoons and horns in particular were notable especially the 4th horn solo stuff. Usually you remember the 4th movement but I was bowled over by the 3rd last night.

The choir was in full open throat position. The thrumming of the basses on the Joy part increased the buzz deep in our cerebral hemispheres, and probably deeper than that and more midline. Freude! Freude! Ecstasy! Ecstasy!

06 November 2008

All Ahead Alliteration

From The Sound of Settled Science on smalldeadanimals.com, we time-and-place-warp back to Michael Crichton, of Jurassic Park fame, when he and friends apparently walloped some unsuspecting global warming alarmists with this little essay. Whenever I see Crichton's name mentioned, and it was because he died recently, I become alert. He borrowed my name and subspecialty profession without asking for one of his characters in one of his books. I forget which one. Now that I think about it and seeing as how he has cashed in his chips early, I guess it's OK. Requiescat in pace.

05 November 2008

Days of Whine and Envy Almost Over

This was the Gazette headline this morning. I can't remember the last time they used a type size this large.

My guess is the headline writer thought that saving it for The Second Coming was going to be too wasteful.

"Let's hope he is the man we hope he is."

One question: Is Obama Time (OT) to be started now, November 5th or the day of His inauguration? When can we start blaming Him for all of the problems of the human condition?

Is it possible that Rachel Maddow will be hazed back to her cage to await the next wave of Republican impalas? Are there any left?

Do we finally have a one party country? Will the next generation of NBC talking heads have to go to Alaska in order to practice their hunting techniques on the easy prey? Inquiring minds want to know.

04 November 2008

We Are All Fascists Now

Whatever we do, I suspect that times will be tough in the coming years. Being of a certain age and historically minded I think about 1964 and Lyndon Johnson, and then 1972 and Richard Nixon, and then 1976 and Jimmy Carter (we should have known better, how could someone calling himself "Jimmy" do well as President); and then 2000 and George W. Bush. Apart from the last, these guys had a good deal of support from many of us. And yet look what happened, disaster always waits in the wings in Washington.

I must re-read Huxley's Brave New World. A feminine form of totalitarianism. How lovely.

I always thought Huxley's title came from Shakespeare's Miranda in The Tempest, but Wikipedia set me straight when it points out a poem from Rudyard Kipling in 1919 with the following lines:

"And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his
sins. . ."

03 November 2008

A Cartoon from my Favorite Harvard Economist

Yes, Virginia, there is a Harvard economist that makes sense and writes well and occasionally humorously. Check him out here.

02 November 2008

31st Synday in O.T/All Souls Day Sloganeering Just Before Election Day

"Let's hope he is the man we hope he is."

I'm sorry, I forgot where I saw or heard this.

01 November 2008

All Saints Day in Billings MT

We survived All Hallows Eve by hunkering down in our basement, ignoring the few rings of the doorbell that we heard, watching Gone Baby Gone, a very thoughtful look at Right and Wrong despite the limited and foul language of most of the players, delivered in the loveliest of Boston accents; and drinking some very nice Chardonnay from southeastern Washington (the state that is; there is no room for grapes in DC, it is filled with former "community organizers.") If the characters in the movie are really representative of Boston then it is easier to see how the city and state become one party places.

That is our chokecherry just outside the front porch to the left with the aspens a little less bare just behind and the junipers behind them, pretending to be ever green.

Nature's cleaner-uppers (Arbortech) of early Fall snowstorms have come and gone. Now our backyard catalpa will start over again the slow process of building its limbs and leaves after it rests up over the winter. Watch this space.

That is our resident fat reddish-brown squirrel here at 3033 Ramada Drive to the right. He or she has been driven up the tree by the relentless pursuit of Maggie the Squirrel Chaser. See below.

We only see the one squirrel and we think it is the same one, so how do they reproduce? Go to other neighborhoods? Visiting stud service? Or what?

Sorry about the positioning of these two pictures. Maggie the Dog below really was paying attention to the fat reddish-brown squirrel trying to hide at the top of our apple tree right.

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


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
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