28 September 2009

From the Playbill Rimrock Opera's Barber of Seville

"We need magic, and bliss, and power, myth, and celebration and religion in our lives, and music is a good way to encapsulate a lot of it."—Jerry Garcia

"Theatre is a lunatic asylum, and the opera is a refuge for incurables."—Gioacchino Rossini

"No opera plot can be sensible, for people do not sing when they are feeling sensible."—W.H Auden

"Without music, life would be a mistake."—Nietzsche

You're in trouble if:

"you're a baritone in an Italian opera and you expect to get the girl."

"you're a soprano in a romantic opera and expect to live."

23 September 2009

Is Our Max A Bully?

Can the story here be true? Max Baucus a bully? Must have been one of his assistants?

Sunspots: Why Do They Excite Some People?


I mean, of course, those smudges on the surface of the sun. See, for example, this excellent blog.

21 September 2009

Lots of Funny Stuff Out There

I found this picture on a blog called On the Other Foot And of course, some very funny captions.

These are some of the funniest:

"The main suspects in yesterday's drive-by baptisms."

"Look out! It's the brothers from Our Lady of the Broken Kneecaps."

"What's that, a sissy? You callin' St. Francis a sissy?"

"(not pictured: The Devil pissing his pants)"

"Alright. Let's baptize the shit out of this kid."

"We're not saying you have to give the church 10 percent of your income. We're just saying that something bad might happen if you don't."

And my personal favorite: "Felonious Monks"

18 September 2009

A Hamburger Today

From time to time I post something about a good meal and especially a good hamburger. I thought it would be helpful to my readers to point out a website that does that sort of thing really seriously and well.

It seems to be a conglomeration of dining blogsites including Serious Eats and Adam Kuban's A Hamburger Today —that is where the picture above comes from, and Slice, which I think is a pizza website. I find the AHT site very helpful. The latest entry is an illustrated compendium of various hamburger and cheeseburger styles. Nicely done too.

13 September 2009

Fun In Our Capitol September 12th


Marxism The Opiate of the Asses! Perfecto! I borrowed this image from a much larger collection at this website. Just in case you missed the reporting of this surprising event in the mainstream media.

11 September 2009

Montana Baseball and Back Roads II: September 2009

Before I left home I glanced in the road atlas and saw a thin red line marked 200 coming out of Missoula and heading toward Great Falls, going over Rogers Pass, and through Lincoln on its way. Great road and Lincoln is a pleasant little town geared to hunters, fishermen and snowmobilers.

Their restaurant, the Lambkins I think they called it, had some good soup and really excellent cherry-rhubarb pie. Near here they have a habit of hitting grizzlies out for a stroll on the highways so I kept a lookout for them. None seen today. The view to the right was a traffic jam on this road.

On Thursday evening I stopped in at Centene Park, home of the Great Falls Voyagers, rookie league farm team of the Chicago White Sox. I had thought the 'Voyagers' part of the name referred to those intrepid river travelers of the early 19th century, but I was wrong.

A close look at their logo and their mascot to the left revealed an outer space idea, or maybe some form of insect.

This is an old-fashioned park with some simple protection over the central part of the grandstand and mostly unreserved seats without backs. The dugouts are fairly open. You have to walk up stairs to get to the viewing part of the field. The space under the stands is where most of the concessions are.

I am willing to bet that the good burghers of Great Falls will be asked to build a new stadium for the team in the next few years for oh maybe $15M. Let us hope they choose a different architect than the one Billings chose.

If they act quickly maybe they can get some of that 'stimulus' money they are handing out in Washington DC. The Mustangs lost 6-3. Good batters are hard to find.

Talking about highways and we were reminds me of the need to celebrate Highway 89, starting just east of Great Falls and heading south through some great scenery, fairly narrow canyons to start and then eventually opening out into the grain and cow country south of White Sulfur Springs.

I met some nice-looking sports cars including a few Ferraris I think on the road and a few polite motor cyclists too. Is it me or are Harley riders getting older?

I noticed a few bedraggled rusty small signs off to the right with a sometime raised path and finally some left over railroad tracks gave the game away. I wonder who built this small line and why? Chances are it wasn't a railroad 'to nowhere' as they say now, when it was built, though it looks like that now. I noted a few really nice spreads south of White Sulfur Springs and then there were some mines further north in the Belts which probably explain this little line between Great Falls and Livingston. I wonder if the railroad made any money off this line.

Another point to make is that the lodge-pole pines in this part of the country look fairly sick in that many of them have a very pleasant to the eye rusty fall color but I'm fairly sure that is a sign of some sort of beetle infestation. Is this an aging phenomenon or just part of the way things are? Is global warming responsible? Curious readers want to know.

I got hungry about lunch time and by this time I was racing along the 90 toward Billings so I pulled in at the usual place in Big Timber, the Grand Hotel. This is a nice rehab job. There is a stuffed longhorn from some trail ride in the not too distant past I would guess.

The bedrooms look nice, but I don't know if anyone stays here overnight. They have an excellent kitchen and attentive bartenders and waitresses. I especially like what they call a "gourmet cheese sandwich," a combination of Pepper Jack and bacon with some guacamole and a few other probably secret ingredients. Good clam chowder too.

Not surprisingly I ran into some other discerning Billings folks here at the Grand Hotel.

10 September 2009

Baseball and Back Roads I: September 2009

I guess one shouldn't call Interstate 90 a back road but to tell the truth, there is not much difference between the two lane 'blue highways' and the Interstate, at least here in Montana, though the two lane highways are often better paved. The heavy trucks are probably the reason the interstates wear out so quickly, another reason we need more and faster rail lines. The picture to the left was made a few months ago.

'Blue highways' are in quotes because in the olden days when gas stations would give out highway maps for free the national highways were in red and the state highways in blue. In those days there used to be a difference in that the state highways were more often purpose-built to go from one real place to another, say from Billings to Miles City, and the route usually went through real places, like Huntley Project, and thus on the map they tended to be a little squiggly. The national highways were often boondoggles from on high, an early form of 'stimulus' before we thought we needed 'stimuli,' often going much straighter from say Montana to Denver.

I started from Billings about mid-morning, just in time to tune in to Rush Limbaugh for an hour or so to get my head straight and receive my marching orders, then it gets time for CDs even around Bozeman and Butte. I like driving on the 90 here in Montana and Washington too for that matter though I usually switch over the Highway 2 around Spokane because I like nice two lane highways. I've forgotten what it looks like in South Dakota but I vaguely remember that their speed limit is too low. After some splendid Cantus choral singing, sorry ladies I like these guys, then I switched to some Berlitz German lessons in preparation for next year in München and Oberammergau. I mentioned München because of the unlaut u which is the way our surname was probably spelled before we hit this side of the Atlantic. But why didn't they spell it 'ui' instead of 'ue'? That is what that umlaut u sounds like to my ear.

Did you see that bird's nest on a pole in deep right center in the above picture? Here is a better picture. It looked empty on Wednesday night, but the regulars here told me that during the season one could often see the ospreys flying over the field holding a fish.

Since Billings's summer heroes had done so badly at home I thought it would be worth a couple of days to Missoula and Great Falls to follow OUR MUSTANGS and maybe do a little cheering for them. Oh sorry, after the game at Ogren Park Allegiance Field on Wednesday night I had almost been persuaded that one always yells the name of your home town baseball team and especially the individual players in apocalyptic tones and to never turn your microphone off once you have a captive audience. So I must apologize to the guy who does the announcing at Dehler Park. He is not nearly as bad as the one at Ogren Park.

Where do these clowns, with all due respect, that do the public address announcing for the Pioneer League get the idea that they need to be talking or playing some music or other sound effects every second of the game, between innings, between batters, even between pitches. I guess we fans are tolerant of lots of things besides bad play.

This is a nice park, been open for three or four years: somewhat like Billings' Dehler Park in that the field is sunken and well taken care of. It is in the middle of a partly developed park in a partly developed part of Missoula, which is growing more quickly than Billings these days. Now that I think about it, the sunken aspect is even better than Billings because they have about 13 or 14 rows of seats and the pitch is at least several inches better or steeper than ours. By that I mean that you don't have to look around the lady in the seat in front of you, or ask her to remove her hat, because you can see over her and her hat and the horse she rode in on. Kind of reminded me of the old fashioned theatres that pitch up steeply and you look down, even from the balcony, surprisingly close to the stage. The distances down the foul lines are a little chintzy, 309 ft down the left field line and less than that down the right field line. So they built them up with signs from eager advertisers. Late afternoon sun could bother the right fielder and maybe the right side of the infield though they didn't seem to have trouble this night.

The crowd was said to be around 2400 but that looked like something of an exaggeration. I would have thought that a team that was on their way to the play-offs—they start in Missoula on Saturday with Great Falls their first opponent in a best of 3 game series,—and this was, after all Fan Appreciation Night, that they would have had a few more fans present. Then Thursday morning I saw the paper and remembered where and when I and it was. President Obama had given his final commands to get everyone on board in his address to the Congress—I wonder, did they invite him or does he get to say I'm #1 whenever he feels like it?—so I wasn't surprised that a lot of the yuppies would be glued to their TV sets that night. And some of them do come to a civilized game now and then. But not when their Leader is giving orders. That's right, some of the ballplayers were handing out pictures to the fans entering the gate.

My favorite hotel in Missoula is the Best Western Grant Creek Inn, just off the 90. They take animals and have the best breakfast in town, maybe in the state. And they have a good swimming pool and exercise room too. And it is near to a couple of good restaurants. Last time we were impressed by the new Montana Club, out near the Interstate on Reserve St. This time I thought I would try The Stone of Accord, 'where the Gaelic meets the garlic' according to their menu. See the stone in their entranceway to the right.

The soup was something called Colcannon and was excellent gruelly Irish stuff with potatoes and meat and cabbage etc. Irish spring rolls caught my eye on the appetizer menu, cabbbage and meat and something else too, not sure. Too many for one and very spicy. Of course I started sweating but I liked the contents if not the slightly thick and tough pastry around them. I think this place could be a winner.

The game was surprisingly low scoring. I guess the Osprey had bombed the Mustangs so badly for three nights in a row that either they were tired from swinging the bats or they felt sorry for Billings. They must have some pretty good pitchers as they presented a check from some car dealership for about $3200, which was the total for all the strikeouts of opposing players in Missoula at $10 a pop, and that didn't count the ten or fourteen that struck out on this night. The average number of strikeouts must have been close to ten per game. The Mustangs came up with a run in the top of the eighth on a Tyler Stovall single, and another in the ninth on doubles by Josh Garton and Yen-Wen Kuo; and then our pitchers held their big boppers in the bottom of the ninth to win 3-2. Didn't happen very often this year.

I note in passing that a Mr Bobby Stone, of the Missoula Osprey, rookie league farm team of the Arizona Diamondbacks, I mean BOBBIEEE STONNNNNE, hit his 16th home run of the season. I was a little surprised to find that our Sean Connor actually had hit 6 of them, must have been mainly on the road. A few others on our team had 2 or 3 but nothing to write home about. Did Cincinnati send all of their just-signed sluggers to some other team?

08 September 2009

Is the Big Ten Conference Dying?

Last Thursday, September 3rd, an interesting article appeared in the Wall Street Journal by Darren Everson. He claimed that the country's oldest and biggest football conference was suffering in recent years from population shifts out of the Rust Belt. The South and West were beating up on the boys from the upper Mid West and East because there were more of them. Of course, he didn't mention how these same teams fare on the basketball court.

Then, this morning, while thinking about the really exciting game I'd seen on TV last night between Miami and Florida State and taking my morning coffee I came across the usual excellent letters to the editor of the Wall Street Journal in response to this article.

I had to agree that these two Florida teams looked very good, maybe even getting close to AAA teams for the NFL. Various letters suggested other reasons for the apparent decline of the Big Ten football programs as the coaches like to call their teams: one suggested that it was primarily the bad weather in the Mid West which led to an exodus of good players to the warm weather of the South and West, and another suggested that the higher academic standards of the Big Ten schools led to the same result. Supporting data for all these arguments were noticeably absent.

It was pretty hard to tell much from the games that were played this weekend as many of the games featured teams that didn't come close to matching each other in any department of the game, e.g. Michigan State played Montana State! Wow, I hope that MSU got paid a lot for that one. The highlight video of two! blocked kicks in a row for Iowa to beat Northern Iowa was pretty good.

The picture was taken at Camp Randall—I think they still call it by that name—a few years ago, but it always looks the same on game day. This was part of a wild weekend in Wisconsin with my brothers. Saturday in Madison and Sunday in Green Bay. Whew!

07 September 2009

Can This Be True?

This comes from Bill Wilson who sends me an email regularly called the Daily Grind, I think they are connected with Americans for Limited Government, which often has useful information about the current political situation:

"Moreover, . Yet, as American's for Limited Government Chairman Howard Rich points out a recent column, there is a shocking disconnect between public sector pay and private sector pay in the United States. As he says:

'According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' recently published study for 2007, in California, which is still trying to climb out of its oppressive $26 billion deficit, average annual income for state employees was $56,777 versus $49,935 for the private sector, a 14 percent gap. In Illinois, a similar story emerges: $53,925 for state workers, and $48,006 for the private sector, an 11 percent split. New Jersey: $57,845 average state salary, $53,590 for private sector workers, at an 8 percent difference… Nationally, the story is even worse. Federal workers made on average $64,871 in 2007, with private sector workers making a meager $44,362, so public sector wages in the federal system are 46 percent higher.'

Something is amiss when those in government (individuals who produce nothing more than rules, regulation, red tape, and higher taxes) are "rewarded" more than those in private enterprise who truly produce the wealth of the nation. It is a sign of the times—and the leadership.

So on this Labor Day, take a minute to remember what makes America unique—and, yes, exceptional. It is the hard worker, not the bureaucrat. It is the taxpayer, not the tax collector. And it is the people, not the government."

When did this happen? When I was young it was the other way around. The bargain was lower pay for the government worker in exchange for not getting laid off. Can we now lay off government workers that we can't afford? Does anyone read C. Northcote Parkinson these days?

05 September 2009

The Boys of Summer Say Good-bye


Like watching the tearfilled ending of Puccini's masterpiece, Madame Butterfly, you keep hoping that the Billings Mustangs will do something different and maybe the ending will be different, but you know in your heart, at least for the summer of 2009, that is not how life works out.

The Mustangs lost 3-0 to the Helena Brewers. I listened to the crowd in different places tonight. Only a few were unhappy. Most people knew what the outcome was likely to be. They were accepting, almost serene. But they also knew what had happened last night. Amazingly, two walk-off home runs, something not seen this year at Dehler Park, had enabled the Mustangs to win a Pioneer League double-header.

So hope is not entirely beaten out of us. And therefore, almost everyone stayed to the end. They all gave our Italian pitcher a warm send off back to his home to play in World Cup games for Italy. He did well. Our batters have failed us all year but we are forgiving fans. We will be back next year.

The team actually has six more games to play before the season ends. 4 in Missoula and 2 in Great Falls. I might just take in a couple of those.

03 September 2009

Bring Out Your Dead!

Of course, here is the answer to rising costs and it avoids rationing as well, a "two-fer." I don't know why our Washington bosses haven't used this argument. Or maybe they have and us commoners don't much like it. I suspect that this will be the new tack our dear Leader will suggest this coming week. Thank you Monty Python.

01 September 2009

Screwdriver terminology

Magazine Cover in Search of a Caption


I couldn't resist copying this cover when I saw it. Every time I come across it in iPhoto I say to myself "Think of a Caption" but then I get distracted. The couple do remind me of some of my left-leaning friends, but I'm not sure why.

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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