Tuesday, June 30, 2009


So, for a long time now I have been wanting one of those neat grabber things, with a little squeezy handle and the ability to pick up anything without having to bend over. Even a threaded needle, as I have been catching up on my mending (PUN!). E-Z Grabber. I fully endorse this product, even though my insurance did not cover it.

Well, I finally got myself one. Look how cheerfully yellow it is too! What a happy color for grabbing. Usually I want something for a long time before finally breaking down and buying it, and since my body broke down first, and then I reached my breaking point (oh do all these whiny puns SLAY ME!) I bought one from the always-helpful Ye Olde Pharmacy. It didn't break the bank. I love that place (and puns). They sell things no one else seems to have (for instance, I also got a non-aluminum deodorant crystal thing. Honest people in my life can help me test it out.) I mean it.

Speaking of sensory issues, my PT gave me some interesting advice: use sensory pleasures, such as funny pictures, petting the cat (yes, Jinxxx is in my lap right now, "helping" me type), and pleasant smells to trick yourself help the brain release chemicals that will alleviate pain. So, after getting the grabber thing, I went to Penzey's and bought allspice and cloves- two of my favorite and most pungent spices.- The clerk there was so helpful. She was an older lady. She saw me open the door with my cane and was imediately at my side, found exactly what I wanted justlikethat, put it all in her pockets to carry it for me, and was just incredibly kind (another glowing endorsement, I know). The store was a bit quiet and I told her my rationale for extra spice use. She told me she knew all about pain- indicating to me what I had already noticed- the ravages of rheumatoid arthritis- and yet she was so kind, so helpful, so pleasant.

So I made an amazing hot beverage (recipe: hot water, allspice, cloves, pinch of brown sugar, tsp vanilla). It did seem to help. It certainly was tasty.

And I can't wait to use my grabber to clean up trash in Lincoln Park this summer, the original reason I wanted it in the first place. Look out, chip bags. Get out of town, blunt wrappers. I'm coming to get you.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Butterflies land en masse in Shorewood

Butterflies seem to have landed everywhere in Shorewood!
Andy Haas Schneider's butterfly on display at Tim Hart Dentistry, 1720 E. Lake Blvd. I loved the juxtaposition with the bikes.
According to Shorewood Now, there are thirty hand-decorated butterflies gracing Shorewood's shopping district, which I first noticed incidentally while on Oakland Avenue.
Detail of Schneider's butterfly design: the colors flow together so smoothly. Photos simply do not do it justice.

I haven't been able to explore them all, but the idea is just so colorful and fun. All of the artists are from Shorewood or are otherwise local or regional (the two farthest-away artists are from our neighbor state to the south). I love public art, I love butterflies, and I love Shorewood (it's a well-planned community; a walkable and compact first-ring suburb; and convenient to downtown and UWM, with good schools and plenty of rental availability (convenient for elderly residents)- something Glendale, with its distaste for anything to do with rental property, could well learn from - but that's another issue, and I can't afford to move to Shorewood anyway.
I can, however, afford to bike or park in one spot there and walk to everything I need to do: work out at the Community Fitness Center (what a concept!), read at the library, buy groceries, get a cup of coffee, window shop, mail a letter, go to the bank, and now look at some really cool butterflies to boot.

Kathleen Hoffman's butterfly at Gilded Edge Lakeshore, 4401 N. Oakland.

The art is on display until August 23rd, after which they will be auctioned off. Besides on and near Oakland Ave, they are also on display at the Police Department, the Library, the Village Hall, and the Fitness Center. Brochures are available too with all the addresses and thumbnail photos. I hope you enjoy them!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Weed bouquet

Today is the 11th anniversary of my marriage to Brain. He doesn't get me flowers, ever, using his half-Vulcan logic: "You have flowers," broadly indicating the yard. This year, though, all I have are weeds. And a fairly good excuse to not have gotten rid of them. (Though I had eradicated the evil garlic mustard previously, at least). I missed the peonies' bloom- pushing aside the taller-than-myself weeds revealed only shriveled brown. I had hoped to snip a bouquet for myself, at the very least.

Since many of my neighbors care meticulously about their own lawn appearances, particularly those directly next door in either direction, this is especially frustrating.

So today, Brain, ever the practical pragmatist, weeded the front flowerbeds for me. Ah, mature love. That, and the perfectly cooked steak he has been making for me.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

ESL love and hate- amor y odio

I just read yet another vitriolic post on the always-vitriolic blog, Ichabod, the Glory has Departed. The author lives in Arizona, but he regularly bashes many of the Milwaukee churches at which I have worshipped over the years, and their pastors, and their coffee. I don't know what happened to this man to make him so hateful, but his writings always make me think of how Hitler got rejected by a Jewish art school.

Here is the particular
post that has me in a rage right now, in which Ichabod bashes my beloved ESL (English as a Second Language) program for which I volunteer. I love this program; I have volunteered approximately weekly for over three years. It has changed my life in a deep and meaningful way. Milwaukee has always been a city of immigrants (just ask John Gurda.): German, Polish, Italian; now African, Hmong, East Indian, Russian, and especially Latino. This is huge. As a health care worker, I see the need to learn Spanish to better serve our clientele, and I see the equal need for Latinos in the US to speak fluent English. Milwaukee is, has always been, a melting pot: culturally, linguistically, religiously, politically. It wasn't always comfortable, but I think we have a greater appreciation of one another's cultures than ever before. And it's beautiful. (I also love ethnic food, which Milwaukee has in abundance.)

Since Ichabod likely will not approve my disapproving comment, I paraphrased it here.

Beth is a wonderful woman with a true heart for Christian service. She TEACHES ENGLISH to struggling immigrants. There are devotions offered (not compulsory) after class in English and Spanish by Pastors and seminarians, and the students are welcomed to Sunday services. The language lesson has no religious component, unless it comes up in the conversation practice between volunteer and student- any topic could come up, in fact: it is conversation (in addition to grammar, vocabulary, etc) like you would have with a friend. In fact, you [Ichabod] would do well to see such faith in action that the dedicated volunteers demonstrate- it is stressed at every class that we do this out of love for our brothers and sisters from around the world. This program has changed my life. It has changed many people's lives.

I encourage you, whoever may be reading this, to find a way to serve others that suits your own interests, that will help you grow, that will help Milwaukee be an even better place. Whether that means picking up garbage from a park, sharing helpful information, writing letters to our elected officials; whatever that means to you, do it.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Milwaukee mourns MJ

I for one am saddened by Michael Jackson's sudden death. This is the first time the question of "where were you when you heard that so-and-so died" will have to be "on the internet." A sign of the times, I guess.

Between 8 and 9 pm last night- usually prime fun time on a hot hot night- I was driving extensively through the 'hood last night,taking multiple sunset photos, windows down.
But I heard no rap, no boom cars- the only music I heard was Thriller and the like at respectable volume levels. And it was hot, but everyone was acting civilized. No one honked at me when I slowed down to get a photo. No one tailed me. A bicyclist smiled and waved, friendly, even though I almost nicked him making a U-turn. It was as though the community was in mourning.

Personally, I found the news shocking. This was a man who practically made it his life's work to attempt to live youthfully forever (oxygen tank, countless plastic surgeries, personal amusement park); I thought he would remain alive and perfectly preserved forever. I did grow up in the 80's and always appreciated his music (and the great roller-rink memories it will always bring back- which will live on for all time in his stead. (remember Wisconsin Skate University? "ALL SKATE- ALL SKATE!!") That, and clumsily trying to moonwalk, failing miserably every time. This is when music was "fun" to me (pre-grunge and Pearl Jam). MJ always was fun to listen to, to dance to. I particularly remember roller skating to Billy Jean and not understanding the lyrics, but I knew it was cool.

Much later I learned what a hard, abusive childhood he had had, so it is no wonder he had problems. But many brilliant artists were troubled.

RIP finally, Michael.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Keefe, Atkinson, and Milwaukee's Stonehenge

The word "Solstice" conjures up a lot of different things for different people. Astronomically, the summer solstice refers to the longest day of the year-- usually June 21st: simply the day when, in the Northern hemisphere, the day is as long as it will be all year. Some people find this to be a sad day- after all, the days will only get shorter from here on out until the winter solstice, the shortest day. Others make a spiritual celebration out of it. I certainly note its presence- I don't enjoy our Milwaukee summer heat, but I love the longer light at the end of (and even more so at the beginning of) each day.

Now, there is a place on Atkinson Avenue that I always feel is special. I think of it as Milwaukee's version of Stonehenge. Atkinson, just north of Keefe, heads in a northwesterly direction at this point- and on the summer solstice, the sun appears to set directly over the road. It is simply amazing. Maybe it is just me, but I just feel that there is something special about this phenomenon.

Here's a map below. The little "A" indicates where the photo was taken. (OK, so I was four days late. Life, and clouds, got in the way of taking it on the exact solstice. I had been planning to take this photo for two years, so four extra days- aside from not being as precise as I would have liked- mattered little.)

I hope you enjoy this post. I certainly enjoyed putting it together for you.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Oh, the Milwaukee heat!

The thermometer says 83 degrees F. My personal melting point is much lower than that. We eschew A/C as a general conservation and frugality measure, so my glass of cold sun tea and an ice pack is sufficing for now...that, and dreaming of otters joyfully sliding down icy slopes onto frozen rivers!Otter chillaxin' after a fun day of ice sliding.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Real life starts again

Kitties helped me blog while I recuperated.
I got released this morning to go back to work this week. I have mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, it's been great to sleep when I need to- staying up till dawn, if that's when I had energy and ability to stand up; napping during the afternoon, if that's what pain and meds necessitated; eating when I wanted and needed to; and most of all, spending time writing- and I've read and written a lot, even when nearly immobile! My days got all mixed up. Time flowed funny- or not at all!- how did I spend two weeks in bed? Did that really happen, or was it a dream?

Somehow though I had a lot of creative and emotional energy, (mostly positive, surprisingly) possibly due to having no way of releasing any physical pent-up energy at all. I had some surprising inspirations for new projects and feel compelled and moved to help people in a different way than I have really felt before.

Today I was up and about, which felt good too, even straightening up a few things around the house that have- ahem- gotten out of hand. The yard and garden is a different story, and a lost cause for 2009 I think. At least I had previously gotten rid of this year's
garlic mustard. Is it too late to plant a few tomatoes though? Weeds have completely taken over. Sorry, neighbors.

And, is it forgiveable if I really started to appreciate- and almost enjoy, really, having time be "mine" like that? I really do like my job, overall, but with the laptop in bed with me, and Facebook 24/7 (other nightowls were there for me too) I never got lonely. Not once.

So I want to thank anyone and everyone who helped me during my time of need, even those who will never read this. Especially Brain and also Riverwoods Urgent Care and my chiropractor.Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Monday, June 22, 2009

A parent's love

Jinxxx alerted me to the fact that another dove had babies on the windowsill (I do believe this is a different parent dove this time). It's an endless source of fascination for her. They are very prolific creatures, which is good, because cat entertainment is difficult to come by these days. They're so jaded.

I guess this post is a bit overdue, but the sight of this adult (gender unknown) bird going through such great physical exertion to feed its babies was an amazing sight to behold. It's hard work, feeding the fledgelings.
I just wanted to thank my own parents for helping me out while I've been laid up: my mom brought a homemade birthday meal with all the trimmings, my preferred cake (ok, I REALLY wanted the one from Little Anna's Mama has a Birthday, one of my favorite books as a child [I still have it!]) but she made my second-favorite, and it was amazing: the chocolate Bundt cake mentioned in my birthday post. I got some wonderful and useful gifts- a key holder for my wrist, for one (practical!) and also the Lustron DVD I so wanted (wahoo!!!). And my brother gave me a really cute Buffalo t-shirt that I promise to wear often, and not hoard for "special occasions" that, you know, never arrive.
I think I may make the Little Anna cake for her birthday, but don't tell her. I want it to be a surprise. Unless she wants something else: it's her birthday. Just like how I (usually) love my birthday, I want everyone to "have it their way" too. Mom, just let me know your cake preference. I promise not to wreck it.

Also, the next day, my dad brought over Kopps burgers for both Brain and me- and a decadent chocolate malt, which I didn't ask for- but he thought it would make me feel better. It worked! I sat up, ate, had a good conversation, and when I told him what I would buy with the gift card he gave me, he said, "Oh, I have one of those. I'll give it to you." Perfect!

So yes, this baby bird flew the nest long ago, but it's so good to know that when it comes down to it, my parents are there when I need them.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Guest post from James Brozek

Here's an open letter from James Brozek, one of our MRPA members. (I edited it for punctuation, clarity, and spelling.) It was sent to many public officials and others. He sent the photos, also.

Dear friends,

Last year the Milwaukee Riverkeeper organization stated they believe that removal of the Estabrook Dam would have the greatest positive impacts on water quality, sediment management, fish and aquatic life, terrestrial wildlife, and recreation. Here are my observations this spring of the Milwaukee River in front of my house.
As of June 6, 2009, the water level is four feet lower than its natural and historical level. I've seen a marked absence of Bluegills, Sunfish, Catfish, Bullheads, Northern, Bass, Western and Midland Painted Turtles, Common Snapping Turtle, Green Heron, Night Heron, Egrets, and Coots. But what I have seen is an abundance of hundreds of yards of mosquito-breeding puddles in front of my property. During the spring runoff, the river's currents scoured into the river gravel these wonderful, made-to-order incubators for the cute mosquito larvae wigglers. The abundance of algae covering this gravel is an exceptional food source for this Wisconsin State Insect. Can you say "West Nile Virus?" Ahhhh, did I mention the lovely aroma given off by the thin layers of ooze on the river gravel? No? Well, depending on the warmth of the day and the directness of the sun, this football field-sized area of river bottom rivals our hatched mosquitoes as the gift that keeps on giving. I've not seen anyone fishing. Where are the fishermen, now that the river is running free? Paddlers also have become an extremely rare site. I've seen a pair more drifting then paddling in the narrowed river channel. The Boys and Girls Clubs paddlers are nowhere to be found. Hikers? Nope, the river bottom is just too soggy and smelly. Long live the Lincoln Park Lagoon & Urban Wildlife Place.


River Bro
Now- River Otter here again- I missed Thursday night's MRPA meeting. It sounded like it was a good one.
I'm wondering, does anyone from the MRPA ever read my blog anymore? I no longer post much about the dam or the group. It just didn't seem like a useful tool for getting out any information, as was my initial hope and inspiration for starting it. I just got lots of nasty comments from anti-dam folks, and verbal comments like "Only our enemies read it, anyway." A few nice emails came in here and there though, and informational ones like this. So, I just post (almost) whatever I feel like now. The Internet is very accommodating that way.

If any MRPA members or sympathizers still read this (or enemies, or frenemies), leave a comment. At this point, I doubt that anything could hurt my feelings any worse than they were already today, so feel free to go at it.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Happy birthday to me!!

My mom made me a chocolate bundt cake with real cream cheese frosting. I can scarcely wait!!!!1!!1!!!
I love my birthday! I love everything about it. It is "my day." (Of course I know that statistically many many people share my birthday. Two of my Facebook friends alone share the exact same day-out of only 161 people. Lots of sex happens in September, leading to June babies. This is just a fact of life.) My love for my birthday has absolutely nothing to do with receiving gifts, having people buy me drinks, or anything like that. It is just the day that I feel special, that is just...mine. I don't care if I'm a year older. Age means nothing to me. I don't usually ask off work for it, or anything; I see more people there than most anywhere else, and so more people can say to me, "Happy birthday!" If they don't, I remind them. Because hey. It just is: All day, all twenty-four hours of it. You can see I am up at 0056 thinking about it, still just as excited as when I was a little kid, when I would try to wait up until 0403 to watch myself in the mirror as I turned one year older (a failure, every year).

It's similar to, yet somehow different than, the way I feel about New Year's Eve, my other favorite holiday. Most people use that night as an excuse to revel themselves into oblivion (starting a beautiful brand new year off with a whopping hangover- which baffles me); I have my own ritual of re-reading my diaries and just being retrospective. It really takes the first week of the new year, the peaceful long-awaited post-holiday rest, to do this (how much I loathe Christmas is a whole other topic, and one that really doesn't interest you, I'm sure.)

I do love the de-stressifying post-holiday time, either snug on a futon in a warm blanket, or sitting in a quiet coffee shop, warm beverage in hand, reflecting on past fond memories and could-have-beens.

But birthdays are different for me, in the sense that the day itself is just the magic. It has no purpose except to be mine, all mine. No past, no future, no sadness about getting old, (who cares, my body is already falling apart); no Norman Rockwell expectations like Christmas has, no hookup expectations like New Year's Eve, - just sweet, honest, pure pleasure. Happy birthday to me!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Nature's beauty

Here are two colorful nature shots sent to me that really brightened my dark days and I wanted to share them with you. I cropped them, but no other photoshop-type editing was done. Their beauty is pure and unadulterated.

My mom sent me this: "hens and chicks" flowering on her deck. They don't flower reliably, so this is kind of special.

She and her husband have green thumbs and a gorgeous outdoor space, with plenty of Western sun, but set up with so much lush vegetation that you really could believe it's a tropical paradise. I love it out there. I hope I can make it out there tomorrow for my and my brother's combined birthday celebration.

One of the women from my knitting group, Lori Kangas Ahrenhoerster, posted this photo of robin's eggs (above) on her Facebook page (giving me permission to repost). She took it with a cell phone camera- capturing that amazing glowing blue that only Salvador Dali was ever able to reproduce with paint, to my knowledge- the blue of the sky during a perfect clear dusk, the translucent blue that I could just get lost in. I hope your computer screen does it justice.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Water privatization

Cheryl Nenn is interim executive director of the Milwaukee Riverkeeper. She and I have had our differences, really just one disagreement- about the Estabrook Dam issue- but I deeply respect her, her education, opinions, and knowledge. Someone called her my "frenemy", but (even though I love neologisms) that is completely inaccurate: she and I are adults who are able to have rational conversations, usually via email, and can agree to disagree.

She wrote this article against the proposal of water privatization for the local daily paper, and I love the title: "Public asset belongs in public hands." Milwaukee has a long, proud Socialist history, and this will- I hope-continue to be yet another part of that history.

"Water is essential for life. Access to clean water is a human right. But in the hands of a for-profit company, water easily can be denied to those without the resources to pay for it.
In many communities that have privatized their water systems, jobs have been lost, salaries and benefits of workers have been cut, and monitoring and services have been reduced or delayed."

Please read the rest of her editorial for yourself. She concludes, "Finally, we... will lose control of it through privatization, and we forfeit our responsibility to hold a private corporation accountable (emphasis mine). Throughout the term of a 99-year lease, we will vote generations of elected officials in and out of office but will have no way to 'vote out' or hold a private water company accountable for its performance. [This does sound vaguely similar to how the DNR is run, though, doesn't it.] Other cities, such as Mequon and Felton, Calif., have incurred significant expense to take back water systems from private hands."

And, as Sura Faraj posted on Facebook, "200+ showed up (at Monday's hearing) to protest water privatization. We scared the security guards with our chanting. They threatened to put us in jail, because "This is a place of business." Alders temporarily held the matter. We want a resolution that says privatizing our water will be taken off the table permanently. Until then we will continue to organize. What can you do? Call your Alder 286.2221 and say so." Here's more on the subject.

What do you think? Post a comment-contact our elected officials- contact Cheryl and let her know what you thought of her editorial. Spread the word. Drink tap water. Keep the discussion going.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Clothing and Shoes

What's with these ubiquitous "Clothes and Shoes" boxes? I have been seeing them around for years.

Harper's ran a letter several years ago, the gist of which was:

Step 1: Collect clothes and shoes in a roadside box.

Step 2: ?????

Step 3: World domination.

I still think of this with amusement when I see the red boxes. Could any of the clothing (or shoes, for that matter) that I have thrifted once been inside one of them? It is entirely possible.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Actual lack of gunfire makes Milwaukee news

I would have gone to the Locust Street Festival yesterday, had I felt up to it. I usually try to go every year. It's free, it's great people-watching, great food, fun music, and just a nice place to wander around. I was glad I didn't go though, after I saw this from WISN news:
A 38-year-old man was shot Sunday (June 14th) in the middle of the Locust Street Festival in Milwaukee's Riverwest neighborhood... Investigators said he was shot in the left hand and right thigh. Police said the victim and the suspect knew each other. Police are still looking for the shooter, but said they know who it is.
(He) was released from Froedtert Hospital Monday morning.

"We believe this altercation stemmed over an earlier issue between the two men and it resulted today in a shoving match here,” Milwaukee Police Department Asst. Chief James Harpole said.
Police could not say whether the shooting was gang related, but witnesses felt that was at the root of today's violence. "When I saw the victim being led away in the stretcher, he flashed a gang sign," said a witness.

Refreshingly, though, investigators said the witnesses and the crowd were very cooperative, talking to police and alerting them to evidence at the scene.

So when I saw this article, (also from WISN) stating,
Several law enforcement agencies were called to State Fair Park Sunday night (the same day) to break up a large crowd...who was there for a scheduled rodeo and concert...when the band didn't show up, people got upset and started throwing beers on the stage. (Too bad Jake and Elwood Blues didn't show up to play "Rawhide" for three hours.) People also started demanding they get their money back.
State Fair police called for assistance for crowd control.
The spokeswoman said there were no guns or fights, just a large crowd.

I somehow felt a little relieved and even surprised. No gunfire!!! Sad, hey? What does this say about our city? As you may recall, I recently wrote that Brain and I didn't go to Riversplash this year because of threats of violence. I'm not super-fond of big crowds anyway, but throw in chaos and that just is not something I would call "fun."

Sunday, June 14, 2009


Photo by Brett Cole.
Today would have been the perfect day for getting out in the kayak, for going for a bicycle ride, for looking for otters to photograph, or even just a nice long walk. I am still not up for any of this yet, but I hope that you, gentle reader, were able to take advantage of the (finally) gorgeous weather and get the heck outside for some soul-soothing R&R. Maybe you even had an extra can of ice-cold PBR for me.

Meanwhile, I've been inside, resting my injured self, and basking in the computer screen's soft comforting glow instead of the bright light of the sun. You did apply sunscreen, right? With a sufficient SPF?

Now, one thing I have learned from this blogging experiment is that it is easy to get caught up in looking at one's own blog stats. Who's looking? How long did they stay? Where did they come from? And my favorite: what search engine queries led them here?

Here are some of my favorite search queries that led folks to The River Otter. Enjoy. Bonus points if any of them were yours.

*the benefit of an apple at morning

*river otter penis

*i love river otter
(me too. Warms the cockles of my heart.)

*getting rid of river otters under house (Why would you want to do that?)

*pictures of otters peeing

(sic) me live river otters for my students (This was, apparently, from a teacher?)

*uwm (How random!)

*dam but (but what?)

*river otter cupcakes (Yum! I hope the reference was to the decoration, not an ingredient.)

*why is important to save the river otter

*otters eating toads

*Do Otters use binkys?

And my favorite new one- *my grandfather was frederick bischoff chocolate

I'll add more as they show up on my stats. I'm not making fun of people- I am expressing delighted amusement. Yes, there is a big difference.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

A B A Semar

So, the other week I was trying to figure out to whom I could cry out for help: I have a pair of beloved shoes that desperately needed resoling. I thought the man that typically takes care of such things for me (A B A Semar, 5464 N Port Washington Rd Milwaukee, WI 53217; 414-332-0600) was out of business, since the building he worked out of got remodeled, redone, refurbished, and his sign was gone. The place looked empty. The staff at Stan's (whom I finally called out of desperation) said otherwise. "Go to the back of the building," said the voice on the phone, telling me the secret to the meaning of life (and shoe repair). "He is there." I felt furtive, like I was going to see Mr. Miyagi, or The Oracle.

Sure enough, Mr. Semar was sitting outside, by the back door, a spry little old elf.

When I got inside, I noted all manner of watch repair items- and since I had repaired my watchband myself with black electrical tape and mightily resisted The Brain's efforts to buy me a new one (his taste can be, well, dissimilar to mine)- I asked them to replace the band on my old one, which the did, whilst I waited. (I love my watch. I had bought it at a thrift store in Eagle River, WI. It is special to me.) Now that it has a new band, it is pretty much perfect again. I wear it all the time, except in the shower.

I do get attached to objects, and have a sentimental streak that borders on pathological, but it's not the worst thing, really. Having items repaired keeps the economy going, too- not just buying new things. I now have my shoes back too- they are refurbished like new- and since they are the kind that I can just slip into, they are just ideal with this back thing I have going on. What excellent timing. I am trying to stay optimistic. These little things make all the difference.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Don't judge me (or others, either)

Well, it's finally bike-to-work week in Milwaukee. I'm writing this flat on my back, wishing I could go to work, wishing I could ride my bike. Between my (severely arthritic) knee acting up, and tearing/pulling a muscle in my back so badly that I can't even put on a pair of shoes or take my Mel jacket off by myself, I just wanted to use this AFGO opportunity to remind people not to judge others. That's right. Have you seen me driving six blocks lately? On a nice, sunny, perfect-for-biking day? Why yes, I would rather be on my bike. So, please remind yourself not to judge others.
This public service announcement was brought to you by the letter V.**

**(Valium and Vicodin.)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Born under the sign of the otter

There is a separate Celtic astrology system, probably quite ancient and very different than the one we typically use in the US (which is, of note, totally random and only based in the vaguest possible way on anything to do with stars, moon, planets, and the earth's rotation around the sun. But I won't get into precession or any other actual astronomical phenomena here). My June birthday, according to the familiar US system, gives me the sign of Gemini- changing, effervescent, random: all true. But the Celtic system gives me the sign of the Otter. Even better!

I found out about this on MySpace way back in the days when people actually used MySpace. I had put some otter-related things on my page, and one day got a request from some guy in Indiana who called himself OtterBrett (he found me when searching for other otterlovers). He requested to be my MySpace friend and we exchanged otter-related info, and found out that we had some other things in common, including that he and I were both born under the Celtic sign of the Otter, loves camping and nature, and that he lives in the same Indiana town as my aunt and uncle- small, small world (yay, interwebs!). So when I abandoned my MySpace page and moved over to Facebook, I befriended OtterBrett there too--never having met him IRL-- on which we still keep in touch. Isn't this what so-called "social networking sites" are supposed to be about? Meeting new people and learning things you otherwise never would have had any idea about?

Here's a rundown of the deets on those born under the Sign of the Otter:

Date of Birth: June 10 - July 7

Celtic Birth Animal: OTTER

Gaelic Name: DOBHRAN (DAV-rhan)

Ruling Planet: Jupiter

Birthstone: Diamond

Key Words: Family, Joyful, Helpful, Intuitive, Playful, Creative.

Description: Otter people are enterprising, with a wide breadth of vision. Optimistic & Opti-mystic. Strong personal magnetism.

Gift, Quality or Ability: Protection, Shape-shifting, Journeying, Shamanic Powers.

Compatibility: Harmonious relations with Goose & Seal. Will also relate well to Salmon, Adder, Stag. Difficulties may be expected in relation to all other signs.

(Brain, who has just as much Celtic ancestry as I do, is a Swan under this system...obviously, it's just for fun! He is a Virgo...which actually does suit him fairly well, I think.)

For more information, including the other Celtic signs, click here.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Re-Threads on Humboldt

Re-Threads, a new store that opened up on Humboldt just north of Locust, is like having the coolest friend ever to trade clothes with. It is like thrift shopping without having to paw through stained, torn shirts and too much Faded Glory.
The store went up so fast and seemed so cool that I thought it had to be part of some regional or national chain. I asked the friendly, efficient clerk about that. Nope, it's locally owned and operated- something the clean and easy-to-navigate website corroborates.
Photo courtesy of the Re-Threads website.
The premise is simple: you bring in your clothing that is still worth rockin', but just doesn't fit your body/life/closet anymore, and trade it for cash or store credit. Brain and I walked in with items that I had previously loved and knew that someone else would someday love just as much, and walked out with some cash, a pair of pants that I want to say "fit me like a glove" (but no, they simply fit me like a wonderfully-fitting pair of pants) and a sweet Thneed. (I don't think this versatile garment has a real name, but it is very awesome and even has the original tag still attached.) Re-Threads is like being invited to one of those parties where people bring clothing that just ain't working out anymore and have a big trade, except the pool of people involved is just that much bigger. They could use more men's clothing though; I hope for Brain's sake that shakes out eventually, but I loved it. The concept is brilliant.

Monday, June 8, 2009

I don't mind the rain

Look what it brought. Lupines!

Alliums, a giant onion.

White bleeding hearts. Janine from Gracious Gardens gave me this plant- it's now huge.

Yellow irises, one of my favorites. I liberated their rhizomes from the nearby neglected cemetery- the grave of a 12-year-old girl was covered with them like a sack of potatoes; the rhizomes were so choked together that the flowers weren't coming anymore, only swords. Now they bloom again in the cemetery too.

Differences between sea otters and river otters

Sometimes well-meaning folks send me pictures of Sea Otters. OK, it was only once, but I just wanted to clear up any misconceptions. Below are sea otters. Yes, sea otters do "hold hands" in the water- they hang out that way, in groups called rafts. A raft of otters!funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures

Sea otters are a completely different species than Northern River Otters.

They live in the ocean (as opposed to rivers and other fresh water). They are simply not as cute. Although, if I were by the ocean, it would be pretty cool to see them, I am just not as enamored. De gustibus non est disputandem, I guess.

Sea otters are almost completely water-dwelling creatures. They rarely, if ever, venture onto land, where they are clumsy- in fact, they even sleep in the water. Their hind flippers simply don't allow for much agility out of water. Sea otters float on their backs, mostly, and are one of the few species besides Homo Sapiens that use tools- they place mussels on their bellies, and use rocks to crack the shells open. River otters don't do this; instead, they swim in a more typical fashion (belly down) and are just about as comfortable romping on land as they are in the water.

For more information on sea otters, here is a fact sheet from the Vancouver Aquarium.

Sunday, June 7, 2009


This pin cost me 50 cents at a rummage we stopped at on our vacation. I'll have to figure out a way not to get stabbed when I wear it. It'll look nice next to my Nader/LaDuke pin, right?
Was change a theme of the 1976 Jimmy Carter presidential campaign? I don't really remember. If so, some things never do change, right? It was one of Obama's themes last year, too.

I do remember the 1980 election, though. I was six years old and I really wanted Carter to win. The day after election day was like Christmas. I ran downstairs to get the Sentinel and cried when I saw Reagan's name. Who was this Reagan guy? He didn't seem nice. He wasn't going to invite me over to play on the White House lawn with Amy on what I imagined was a lavish Presidential swing set. I still like Carter. He is a good man: a humanitarian, a peacekeeper, a writer, a proponent of alternative energy. I deeply respect him. Below is a photo from 2009. These are wind machines near Fond du Lac now, in 2009, when finally we are realizing that Carter had the right idea after all.

Saturday, June 6, 2009


I bought this 1990 Geo Prizm Hatchback from a man with few teeth in 1996 and named it The Egg, because it's a white hatch. When it was time to get new plates, they sent me this one. See? It's EGG spelled sdrawkcab.
I loved this car. This is about the best picture I had of it. When the doors wore out, I got newer doors. They were blue. The Egg looked a little like a saddle shoe after that.
We gave it to Brain's son when he went to college in Minnesota. It finally bit the ghost up there, and he sold it to the demolition derby people for $5. Brain and I are a little sad that we didn't get to see the final destructive crunch. RIP, Geo; you served me well.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Do art NO WAR

"Neutijo" sent me this picture. It is part of her 53215 photo series- things she sees in her daily life. The graffito in the bottom right corner is what she called my attention to- "Do art NO WAR." I've been pondering this for a few days now.

Note its juxtaposition with what appears to be a gang identifier. That's irony for you: a different kind of war; a war at home, so to speak. It's a concept I've actually been pondering for years (hobbies as a means to self-confidence and self-worth rather than troublemaking and gang affiliation).

On a lighter note, Riversplash is this weekend, but after last year's mayhem Brain and I will not be attending. Going to a summer festival is not worth going through a security checkpoint.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

UWM and columbia

(whoops- realized I posted this backdated. Here it is as the correct date, 6/4.)
This article in the May 29, 2009 Journal-Sentinel discusses the possibility of UWM's expansion onto what will be in 2010 the former site of Columbia Hospital.

"Columbia St. Mary's Inc. has agreed to sell its buildings next to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee to a local developer, and university officials are eager to meet with him to discuss their interest in leasing space for student housing and other uses.

Milwaukee developer Doug Weas said Wednesday he's signed a contract to buy the buildings, which will become available for development in 2010 after the hospital complex closes. UWM Chancellor Carlos Santiago said university officials plan to meet soon with Weas to discuss their interest in using some of space for student housing, student health care, child care and other purposes."

"The university has long eyed the Columbia complex, which covers more than two blocks just across N. Maryland Ave. and E. Hartford Ave. from UWM's campus..."

..."A year ago, more than 20 members of the Mariners Neighborhood Association picketed outside the UWM Union, where the UW System Board of Regents was meeting. Among other things, the neighbors wanted UWM to promise not to use the Columbia site for student housing." This seems a little sad to me.

"Mariners President Michael Rosen said then that students flood the neighborhoods every weekend, attending parties, urinating on lawns and knocking over trash cans."

Personally, I lived in that neighborhood for three years- two years across the street from the Sandburg Halls, on Newport, and one year across the street from the Student Union, on Kenwood Blvd, and I didn't see that kind of behavior. Sure, there was some occasional street noise, but never anything like "students flooding the neighborhoods" and creating a huge level of mayhem. It's by and large a commuter campus. Did the article interview any neighbors who enjoy a proximity to the campus and its benefits- being able to walk to free concerts and art movies, auditing classes, attending lectures... Brain and I go to some of these things. Some of the neighbors do too.

What about this: what if the drinking age were 18? What if there were on-campus bars? Students will drink. Students will go to parties. What if there were safer, more contained places for them to do so? What if?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


I experimented a lot with my camera while we were on vacation this past weekend at Mauthe Lake. The branch seen below is on one of the trees in the photo above. I hope you enjoy these.

Summer recreation- swimming and baseball

The Aquatic Center in Lincoln Park is finished! This is what I saw last night when I was walking the dog, above. It was as if suddenly I was in Florida. Its grand opening is this Saturday, June 6, at 11am. For more information including hours and admission prices, click here.

Lincoln Park also offers an excellent chance of baseball every evening. The Henry Aaron Field is home to the UWM Panthers and also the MSOE baseball teams, and hosts high school baseball games also. Brain loves baseball. Not the best shot; it was hard to get an action shot with the dog in tow. This is just a warmup anyway.

With the game about to start, fans are showing up to cheer. The Henry Aaron Field is just such a cool place to watch a game. It's so intimate, even though it's a regulation-size field, because you can watch from up close.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

...and we lived forever after, in a cottage by the sea

On Sunday Brain and I walked around Long Lake so that I could look at all the lakeside houses that I was coveting- the ostentatious mansions, the cottages with bleeding hearts and low stone walls, the beat-up old ones with outhouses just a bit too close to the water's edge. This sweet doomed angel, next to a cottage for sale, is about to be torn down to clear the view for a planned new house. (We enjoy our vacations thoroughly.)

You can see the campground from this spot. When we are camping, I always find cottages to think I want, but I realized that if I actually had one, I wouldn't be there; I would be back in Milwaukee, worrying about the place. Plus, I enjoy the allure of the new. That's the thing about camping: you can put your tent anywhere and explore all the crazy little places you never knew existed.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Back from the headwaters

Two goose families on Mauthe Lake.
Brain and I returned late last night from four days of camping by the headwaters of the Milwaukee River, in the Kettle Moraine. It was refreshing. We were blessed with fantastic weather. I slept better than I have in weeks. My camera is full of pictures of birds (though none of otters), and my imagination is full of possibilities.