Sunday, August 31, 2008

Saturday Bike Ride

Middleton Community Church. (United Church of Christ.) The sign at the middle-left of the picture says "A caring church for thinking people". Love the well-deserved, religious-right smack-down.

Here they come!
They're getting closer.

Old Wisconsin (the silo)/New Wisconsin (Epic Systems)

Here they come again!
They're getting closer.
Here they are!

On my first official day of my retirement, I took JoAnna and Eddie on a three-hour bike ride. It took us fifteen minutes to get to the Trek bicycle store on Madison’s far-west side, where we bought new pedals and a pair of clip-on-style shoes for Eddie.

At first, though, he wasn’t going to accompany us.

“I hate my bike for long distances,” he announced glumly, stretched out on the living room couch is a position of protest.

“Oh, that’s great to hear,” I returned sarcastically, “especially after we spent $500 on a bike for you.”

“I’LL STILL RIDE THE FUCKING BIKE TO SCHOOL!!”, he screamed, an outburst way out of proportion to the situation. (But, hey, I used to be a teenager myself, although I never would have used the F-word with the Rev present. How times have changed since 1967.)

“OK, let’s go,” I said to JoAnna, and then turned to leave the room without so much as a goodbye to Eddie.

JoAnna’s front tire seemed a little soft, so I located the tire pump in the garage. In my effort to detach the hose from the valve, I somehow broke off the little knob at the end of the value. (Our bikes have the Presta – “skinnier” – valves.) So now we had another reason to visit Trek. (Fortunately, JoAnna’s tire didn’t deflate.)

In the meantime, Eddie emerged from the house wearing his biking gear.

“Are you joining us?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he replied, conciliatorily, but without feeling the need to offer an explanation.

In addition to the aforementioned items, we each selected a pair of biking gloves, which, as I learned back in my 1977-1985 biking heyday, eliminate the tingling sensation that usually develops in the hands during long rides. (No, it’s not just to look cool!)

Thanks to a retirement gift card and Eddie’s 20% student discount, which was applied to our entire purchase, the total bill was $170. Eddie’s new pedals and shoes would have cost more than this at their full retail prices.

Once we left the Trek store, we soon found ourselves biking along a series of undulating country roads between Madison and Verona.

“We might run into a few hills along the way,” I warned JoAnna and Eddie before we left the house, as I had mapped out our route yesterday.

Fortunately, we were able to cruise down the steepest hills we encountered. We never needed to use our lowest gears for the inclines along our route. That didn’t stop Eddie from uttering an occasional complaint or JoAnna’s face from turning a bright red.

“I used to hate to have first period gym class,” JoAnna later explained. “My face would always look like this at the end of basketball practice, too.”

After reaching the crest of our most challenging hill, which required no more than a moderate effort to ascend, we were rewarded with a nearly 360° panorama of rural Dane County. I should have taken a picture, but I didn’t want to stop and fish my camera out of my fanny pack.

Once we reached Verona, we looked for a restaurant to eat lunch. (And since it was 3:00 at the time, it turned out to be our supper, too.) Although Verona is one of the fastest-growing communities in Dane County, if not the entire state, it remains severely short on “sit-down” restaurant choices, i.e., where a waitperson takes your order. We had to settle for Culver’s. (Our other option was McDonald’s.)

Once we finished lunch, we still had another hour of biking. While I continued to pedal at a relatively fast clip, JoAnna and Eddie preferred a more leisurely pace. Once I advanced too far ahead of them, I slowed down or stopped to allow them to catch up. They both expressed amazement at the “old man’s” seemingly tireless effort over our entire three-hour ride.

From a biking perspective, it took me less than three months for it to feel like 1985 again.

Belaboring the Obvious

Anybody home?

Headline from the August 31st Buffalo News.

Speakers at Republican convention expected to target Obama

Saturday, August 30, 2008

A Few Pics from This Week's Bike Rides

The View from Highwood Circle

Twenty-two years ago, when JoAnna and I moved to Middleton, this view (looking south from top a bluff about 1/4 mile north of Airport Road) would have been pastoral. The U.S. 12 Middleton bypass was not yet on the drawing board yet. In fact, the 4-lane portion of the Beltline ended at Mineral Point Road back then.

Crossing the wooden bridge in the Pheasant Branch Nature Preserve (looking north, above, and south, below). Photos could be used as dictionary illustrations of "dappled".

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Changing Nature of Reference: A Personal Vignette

Old School

While cleaning up after yesterday’s supper – Three Cheese and Spinach Stuffed Shells, a new family favorite from Retiring Guy’s Kitchen – I noticed how discolored a portion of one of the stove’s drip pans had become. In the past, I had tried a variety of methods to remove the yellowing, with limited success.

More than ten years ago, this dilemma would have provided the perfect set-up for a library reference question. In fact, the Middleton Public Library’s reference collection contained a number of related, and regularly consulted, titles.

Such as….

How to Clean Everything: An Encyclopedia of What to Use and How to Use It, by Alma Chestnut Moore.

And, slightly hedging its bets, How to Clean Practically Anything from Consumer Reports Books.

Today’s information seeker is much more likely to sit down at a computer and Google. Just as I did.

clean drip pan

Which brought this result at the top of the list.

Cleaning Burner Drip Pans. Here is an excellent way to clean electric burner pans. Mix water and cream of tartar to a paste. Spread on burner pans and let ... - 45k - Cached - Similar pages - Note this

Seems an expensive route to take, I considered.

I knew we had some of this “additive” on hand, as cream of tartar is an ingredient in our favorite banana bread recipe (Marian Daniel's Blender Banana-Nut Bread, Samples from S.A.M.P.L., Staff Association of the Middleton Public Library, 1983), but wasn’t in the mood to make my own cleaning product.

I clicked on the link to see if any alternative methods were offered.

There were, but not by Denise, from Connellsville, Pennsylvania, the cream of tartar enthusiast. In a “guest post”, Nikko described in some detail the four methods that she had tested: baking soda & vinegar, Soft Scrub with Bleach, Oxi Clean, and Easy-Off Glass Cooktop Cleaner. For her, the winner, “by effectiveness and efficiency”, was Oxi Clean.

We have some of that, I realized, remembering a cottage-cheese-sized container of orange paste in longterm storage under the kitchen sink.

Since we’d last opened the container, the contents had hardened and shrunk, but a wet scrubbing sponge, and substantial amounts of elbow grease, brought its miracle properties back to life. As a result, the drip pan looks practically new. Thanks, Nikko.

I don’t know how many more of these retirement rewards I can handle.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Rest of the Name Game

Let's Make it Easy for Parents to Choose

This post includes (1) rankings of the top boys' and girls' name by their number of appearances on the annual top 20 and (2) rankings of the top boys' and girls' names by total points. (1=20, 2=19, etc.)

A few observations:
Four boys' names appear on the top 20 all 100 years: James, William, John, and Joseph.

No girl's name was able to accomplish a similar feat. The closest competitor is not Mary, but Elizabeth, which had a 82-year run (1990-1940, 1954, 1960-1999). Mary fell off the top 20 in 1976.

65 boys' names reached the top 20 vs. 119 girls' names. (I suppose I could make a fashion analogy here.)

Top Boys’ Name (by appearance on annual top 20 lists; minimum of 20 years)
Name (range of years; total years)
1. James (1900-1999; 100)
2. John (1900-1999; 100)
3. William (1900-1999; 100)
4. Joseph (1900-1999; 100)
5. Robert (1900-1993; 94)
6. Thomas (1900-1975; 76)
7. David (1928-1999; 72)
8. Charles (1900-1969; 70)
9. Paul (1900-1968; 69)
10. Richard (1911-1977; 67)
11. Michael (1939-1999; 61)
12. George (1900-1950; 51)
13. Edward (1900-1948; 49)
14. Daniel (1952-1999; 48)
15. Donald (1915-1960; 46)
16. Frank (1900-1940; 41)
17. Kenneth (1924-1964; 41)
18. Christopher (1965-1999; 35)
19. Harold (1900, 1902-1935; 35)
20. Walter (1900-1931; 32)
21. Raymond (1909-1938; 30)
22. Matthew (1971-1999; 29)
23. Brian (1960-1987; 28)
24. Henry (1900-1927; 28)
25. Steven (1949-1976; 28)
26. Ronald (1932-1958; 27)
27. Arthur (1900-1911, 1912-1926; 26)
28. Mark (1951-1975; 25)
29. Joshua (1976-1999; 24)
30. Ryan (1976-1999; 24)
31. Albert (1900-1923; 24)
32. Kevin (1957-1979; 23)
33. Andrew (1979-1999; 21)
34. Gary (1940-1959; 20)
35. Justin (1980-1999; 20)
36. Harry (1900-1919; 20)

Top Boys’ Name (by total points)
1. James (1669)
2. John (1637)
3. Robert (1533)
4. William (1387)
5. Michael (1099)
6. Joseph (1068)
7. David (1063)
8. Charles (867)
9. Thomas (806)
10. Richard (803)
11. George (651)
12. Christopher (596)
13. Edward (479)
14. Matthew (461)
15. Donald (414)
16. Frank (398)
17. Daniel (391)
18. Joshua (359)
19. Paul (336)
20. Mark (276)
21. Jason (252)
22. Walter (239)
23. Ronald (235)
24. Andrew (219)
25. Kenneth (216)
26. Brian (213)
27. Henry (209)
28. Steven (201)
29. Harold (187)
30. Ryan (176)
31. Brandon (162)
32. Nicholas (161)
33. Jeffrey (156)
34. Larry (148)
35. Gary (145)
36. Kevin (141)
37. Jacob (127)
38. Justin (126)
39. Raymond (125)
40. Tyler (114)
41. Harry (109)
42. Timothy (106)
43. Albert (104)
44. Scott (100)
45. Arthur (97)
46. Willie (96)
47. Jack (72)
48. Eric (69)
49. Austin (58)
50. Zachary (52)

Top Girls’ Name (by appearance on annual top 20 lists; minimum of 20 years)
Name (range of years; total years)
1. Elizabeth (1900-1940, 1954, 1960-1999; 82)
2. Mary (1900-1975; 76)
3. Margaret (1900-1951, 1953; 53)
4. Dorothy (1902-1944; 43)
5. Patricia (1927-1969; 43)
6. Helen (1900-1940; 41)
7. Barbara (1926-1964: 39)
8. Ruth (1900-1937; 38)
9. Frances (1903-1937; 35)
10. Jennifer (1965-1998; 34)
11. Nancy (1931-1962; 32)
12. Karen (1941-1971; 31)
13. Betty (1919-1948; 30)
14. Anna (1900-1929; 30)
15. Mildred (1900-1929; 30)
16. Sandra (1938-1967; 30)
17. Donna (1938-1939, 1941-1967; 30)
18. Alice (1900-1928, 1930; 30)
19. Susan (1943-1971; 29)
20. Linda (1939-1966; 28)
21. Stephanie (1969-1996; 28)
22. Marie (1900-1927; 28)
23. Shirley (1924-1950; 27)
24. Jessica (1974-1999; 26)
25. Sarah (1974-1999; 26)
26. Carol (1933-1958; 26)
27. Virginia (1912-1937; 26)
28. Melissa (1967-1991; 25)
29. Florence (1900-1924; 25)
30. Sharon (1940-1964; 25)
31. Lisa (1958-1981; 24)
32. Amanda (1975-1998; 24)
33. Kimberly (1962-1983, 1985-1986; 24)
34. Nicole (1972-1995; 24)
35. Evelyn (1907-1930; 24)
36. Lillian (1900-1919, 1921-1923; 24)
37. Rose (1900-1921; 22)
38. Heather (1970-1991; 22)
39. Michelle (1965-1984; 20)

Top Girls’ Name (by total points)
1. Mary (1422)
2. Elizabeth (753)
3. Margaret (721)
4. Helen (671)
5. Dorothy (646)
6. Patricia (643)
7. Barbara (572)
8. Ruth (537)
9. Jennifer (495)
10. Linda (469)
11. Jessica (452)
12. Betty (436)
13. Susan (417)
14. Sarah (375)
15. Anna (370)
16. Mildred (361)
17. Karen (361)
18. Carol (360)
19. Lisa (350)
20. Amanda (346)
21. Nancy (343)
22. Melissa (320)
23. Ashley (317)
24. Sandra (312)
25. Kimberly (298)
26. Stephanie (292)
27. Frances (277)
28. Michelle (277)
29. Marie (271)
30. Shirley (264)
31. Virginia (260)
32. Amy (256)
33. Donna (255)
34. Nicole (253)
35. Heather (241)
36. Alice (240)
37. Angela (234)
38. Deborah (232)
39. Florence (213)
40. Samantha (201)
41. Joan (193)
42. Doris (191)
43. Sharon (186)
44. Emily (179)
45. Cynthia (175)
46. Evelyn (169)
47. Brittany (167)
48. Debra (153)
49. Megan (152)
50. Lillian (152)

Monday, August 25, 2008

What I'm Listening To

Until Labor Day!

It's 1967 again on the Great Big Radio.

And they're not just playing the top AM hits of the day. "The War is Over" by the Jefferson Airplane (currently playing) never cracked Billboard's Hot 100. The show even includes an occasional classic commercial. (Dippity Do, for example.)

1967 day by day.

Family note. At this point 41 years ago, I was at the same point as Eddie is now: on the verge of starting my senior year in high school.

Maybe Retiring Guy will compile his Top 100 favorites songs of 1967 as I did for 1963 (

Saturday, August 23, 2008

No Visuals Please

Just heard this Iggy Pop song for the first time ever, thanks to Little Steven's Underground Garage on Sirius Radio. "Home" is from Iggy's 1990 "Brick by Brick" release. What? Have I been in a coma for the past 18 years.

Iggy Pop, like Keith Richard, has that haunted, shouldn't-he-be-dead look about him. I actually prefer just listening to the song.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

What's Your Name? Part 1


The 2007 list from SSA

If you were a girl born in the first half of the 20th century, there was a good chance you were named Mary. Your best friends might have been Helen, Dorothy, Mildred, Betty, Barbara, and Linda.

If you were a boy born in the second half of the 20th century, there was a good chance you were named Michael. Your best friends might have been David, James, Christopher, Matthew, and Joshua.

According to the "Popular Baby Names" webpages of the Social Security Administration, these names are among the most popular of the 20th century.

Here are lists of the Top Ten boys' and girls' names by decade, based on my limited review of the top 20 names for each year. (Retiring Guy has only so much time for this kind of thing.) Names shown in bold type indicate a new entry.

1. John
2. William
3. James
4. George
5. Charles
6. Robert
7. Joseph
8. Frank
9. Edward
10. Henry

1. Mary
2. Helen
3. Margaret
4. Anna
5. Ruth
6. Elizabeth
7. Marie
8. Florence
9. Ethel
9. Alice

1. John
2. William
3. James
4. Robert
5. Joseph
6. George
7. Charles
8. Edward
9. Frank
10. Thomas

1. Mary
2. Helen
3. Dorothy
4. Margaret
5. Ruth
6. Mildred
7. Elizabeth
8. Anna
9. Frances
10. Marie

1. Robert
2. John
3. William
4. James
5. Charles
6. George
7. Joseph
8. Richard
9. Edward
10. Donald

1. Mary
2. Dorothy
3. Helen
4. Margaret
5. Betty
6. Ruth
7. Virginia
8. Doris
9. Mildred
10. Frances

1. Robert
2. James
3. John
4. William
5. Richard
6. Charles
7. Donald
8. George
9. Thomas
10. Joseph

1. Mary
2. Betty
2. Barbara
4. Patricia
5. Dorothy
6. Shirley
7. Joan
8. Margaret
9. Helen
10. Nancy

1. James
2. Robert
3. John
4. William
5. Richard
6. David
7. Charles
8. Thomas
9. Ronald
10. Michael

1. Mary
2. Barbara
3. Linda
4. Patricia
5. Carol
6. Sandra
7. Nancy
8. Judith
9. Sharon
10. Betty

1. James
2. Michael
3. Robert
4. David
5. John
6. William
7. Richard
8. Thomas
9. Charles
10. Steven

1. Mary
2. Linda
3. Susan
4. Patricia
5. Deborah
6. Barbara
6. Karen
8. Carol
9. Debra
10. Donna

1. Michael
2. David
3. James
4. John
5. Robert
6. Mark
7. William
8. Richard
9. Thomas
10. Jeffrey

1. Lisa
2. Mary
3. Susan
4. Karen
5. Patricia
6. Kimberly
7. Donna
8. Linda
9. Cynthia
10. Michelle

1. Michael
2. Christopher
3. James
3. David
5. Jason
6. John
7. Robert
8. Brian
9. William
10. Matthew

1. Jennifer
2. Amy
3. Melissa
4. Michelle
5. Angela
6. Kimberly
7. Lisa
8. Heather
9. Nicole
10. Jessica

1. Michael
2. Christopher
3. Matthew
4. Joshua
5. David
6. James
7. Daniel
8. Robert
9. John
10. Joseph

1. Jessica
2. Jennifer
3. Amanda
4. Sarah
5. Stephanie
6. Nicole
6. Ashley
8. Elizabeth (previous Top Ten appearance, 1910-1919)
9. Melissa
10. Heather

1. Michael
2. Matthew
3. Christopher
4. Joshua
5. Jacob
6. Andrew
7. Nicholas
8. Daniel
9. Brandon
10. Tyler

1. Ashley
2. Jessica
3. Emily
4. Sarah
5. Samantha
6. Elizabeth
7. Amanda
8. Taylor
9. Brittany
10. Megan

Part 2, coming soon, will include a list of the top names of the 20th century by total points and by number of appearances on the annual Top 20 lists.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Overshadowed by Igor

(Picture credit: Wisconsin State Journal)

Last night, the Mayor Kurt Sonnentag read a proclamation in my honor at the beginning of the Middleton City Council meeting. The council chamber was filled to capacity and a news team from one of the Madison TV stations had even shown up. But as I well knew beforehand, this standing-room-only turnout and media attention wasn’t on my behalf as retiring Library Director. There was one agenda item in particular that sparked an intense interest in last night’s meeting.

Appeal the Decision of Chief Keil to Euthanize Canine (Gary Lohrke)

Believe it or not, I actually had a series of encounters with Igor myself, though never face-to-face, thank God.

More than once while walking to and from the library this summer, I heard a dog bark so loudly it sounded as though it was broadcast through Jumbotron speakers.

That must be one huge dog, I figured. I hope he doesn’t decide to take after me.

Nervously, I noticed that the screen door of the old house where this roaring took place probably wouldn't have held back a Chihuahua. Turns out this is where Igor lived. Fortunately, there was never any crashing through doors or windows.

But back to yesterday evening’s ceremony.

Once the Mayor finished reading the proclamation, there was a hearty round of applause. I made a few brief remarks, being sure to thank the council members – current and past – for their support throughout my Middleton career. Then, with tongue in cheek, I thanked everyone in the audience for attending, quickly acknowledging that I realized that they weren’t here on my account, a remark met with a burst of appreciative laughter.

JoAnna and I decided not to stay for the rest of the meeting. As it turned out, the Council heard more than one hour of public testimony on Igor. (Speakers are limited to 3 minutes apiece, and I know from experience that most speakers say what’s on their mind in less than a minute.) I had figured the majority sentiment would be to plead for the dog’s life – if not to have it returned to its owner. Not so, JoAnna informed me as we walked to the car. Before the meeting had been called to order, she talked with the owner of the dog who was attacked by Igor last year. Many audience members sported buttons with a picture of Lily, the 13-pound dog mauled by Igor, and supported the euthanization proposal, though some suggested that an effort to find another owner should first be taken.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Blue Heron Route

Definitely time to buy a new camera

Our Tuesday morning walking route takes us along the eastern edge of Stricker’s Pond. Without fail, JoAnna spots “her” blue heron, usually perched on a log that sticks out above the surface of the water. Inevitably, the bird takes flight, always looking more wobbly than majestic to me.

On this week’s Tuesday walk, we didn’t see “her” blue heron. (I don’t know enough about this breed’s behavior to conclude that it could very will be the same bird week after week. A little research project for “later on”.) Of course, with the sunrise not occurring until 6:00, fifteen minutes after we returned home, the best explanation is that there wasn’t enough light to see much of anything, especially at a distance of more than 100 feet.

Yesterday morning, I took a meandering, one-hour bike ride along a series of mostly residential streets in Middleton and Madison. The home stretch included a pass by Stricker’s Pond, where I spotted JoAnna’s heron in his usual pose – just waiting to have his picture taken. And so I did, conveniently having packed my camera in a fanny pack. My aging Sony Cyber-shot (soon to be replaced), with a meager 3.2 megapixels, has a limited zoom feature. If it wasn’t for the bird’s white neck, it would be nearly impossible to pick out. (In a full-screen view.)

When I returned home, I downloaded the photos and sent the best one to JoAnna via an email to her DWD account.

“He says he misses you,” I added.

The main reason for yesterday’s earlier than usual bike ride? Rain in the afternoon forecast. And I promised Eddie we’d go shopping for school clothes. Not that he needs all that much. He’s still our son of simple tastes.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Weekend Cuisine

JoAnna’s 10 o’clock Saturday morning hair appointment was inadvertently dropped from the schedule due to her hairdresser’s change of location. I went along with her, figuring I’d do some research at the Madison Public Library. In order to proceed with an idea for a blog post that I’ve developed (pictures already taken), I need to check the Madison city directories from the late 1940s and early 1950s to verify the time frame when houses in three west-side neighborhoods were constructed.

As soon as I retrieved a volume from the shelves, my cell phone rang.

Having accustomed myself to Middleton’s “no cell phone” rule, I immediately made a beeline for the exit. I even disconnected the call so I wouldn’t make any noise on my way out. (How weird is that? some would ask.) I figured it was Andy wondering where we were, and I’d call him back as soon as I was outside.

My phone rang again as soon as I stepped into the vestibule. I was surprised to see JoAnna’s name on the digital display. She explained the mix-up.

“Do you want to go to Farmer’s Market?” she then asked.

“Might as well since we’re here,” I replied.

We made a leisurely circuit around the Capitol Square, selecting items for two salads that JoAnna planned to make for us later on. The first one (pictures 1 and 2) includes beets, three varieties, and feta cheese (and walnuts and a cut-up orange we already had at home.) The orange, of course, takes this salad out of the “locavore” category.

We also bought tomatoes for a gazpacho-like salad (lower center of pictures 1 and 2), to go with the cucumber, green pepper, and oil and vinegar we had on hand. Along with the Spicy Cheese and Herb Bread from New Glarus’s Sweet Street Bakery, these two salads made a perfect mid-afternoon lunch after a 90-minute bike ride.

As soon as we drove home from our Farmer’s Market visit, we headed back toward the Capitol Square on our bikes, stopping for a brief layover at the Memorial Union Terrace. Conditions were perfect for enjoying the view of Lake Mendota while drinking a few beers, but our afternoon was more fitness-oriented. We quenched our thirsts with lemonade.

And on Sunday morning, Retiring Guy returned the favor with the following menu:

Skillet scramble: eggs, pepper jack cheese, ham, green pepper
The cheese and herb bread toasted
Fruit salad, Cranberry & orange juice

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The Dark Knight Visits Mayflower Drive

In her latest letter, received in yesterday's mail, my 87-year-old mother reminiscenced about the Nelson family's move from Great Falls, Montana, to Warren, Pennsylvania, 51 years ago to the day -- and our first bat encounter in the Warren parsonage.

What a coincidence!

Last Friday, Eddie mentioned to JoAnna and me that he found a bat on the garage floor during the day.

“What did you do with it?” I asked.

I could immediately sense JoAnna tensing up.

“Nothing,” he replied.

“Nothing,” I echoed. “Do you mean it’s still there?”

“I nudged it with a broom and it moved a little bit,” he explained. “So I left the garage door open so it could fly out.”

But we had no clear-cut evidence that this had actually happened.

From this point of the weekend, I cautiously opened the door to the garage and made a visual inspection before entering. JoAnna, on the other hand, decided to give the garage as wide a berth as possible.

On Saturday, as I went to get myself a can of Coke from the garage refrigerator, I discovered a dead bat on the floor. I took a broom and swept it into the area beneath a row of cedars along the driveway. Or at least I thought I had done this. Later in the day, JoAnna saw the same little critter in the middle of the driveway. It didn’t make her day.

Two days later, on a darkly overcast afternoon, I opened the door to the garage and immediately saw something flitting about. It looked much larger than a moth. I took quick step backwards and slammed the door shut. Then I cautiously reopened the door and reluctantly reached in with my right hand to hit the garage door opener.

“Looks like we have a bat in the garage,” I announced to Eddie.

I shared this news with JoAnna when she called while driving home from work.

“Let’s just hope it doesn’t find its way into the house,” I said, not too reassuringly, I suspect.

Around 8:30, while JoAnna and I were on the bedroom side of the house, we heard a cry for help from Eddie in the family room.

“There’s a bat in the house,” JoAnna announced once I emerged from the bathroom. (And no, I hadn’t been hiding there.)

Never having previously dealt with this situation, Eddie continued to call out for assistance. Though I would have preferred to barricade myself in the bathroom, I grabbed a bath towel and walked to the other side of the house to join Eddie. JoAnna, in the meantime, had securely closed the bedroom door.

I found Eddie in a crouching position (though some might have mistaken it for cowering) and clutching a comforter (which was not placed over his head). All I had to do was look at his eyes to find the location of the bat. It had found a temporary perch at the opposite end of the room, above the computer desk. After ten seconds or so, it resumed its erratic, panicked, creepily silent flight path. Even though this wasn’t my first such encounter, although thankfully there’d been a 30-year gap, I still felt as though I was one of those dispensable characters in a cheesy horror movie. It’s amazing how these basically benign, beneficial animals mess with humans’ heads. After a brief foray into the kitchen, the bat returned into the hallway, where I was able to flag it down with a flapping bath towel. I then scooped it up, folded it into the towel, and then tossed the bundle into the back yard.

Once the great white hunter had collected his prey, I returned to the bedroom. Surprisingly, I found the bedroom door open. Boxer, our cat, slaughterer of mice, was keeping JoAnna company.

“Did you get the bat?” she asked.

I told her I had.

“You’re not just telling me that?” she said nervously.

I assured her that the bat had been captured, and if not released, tossed out of the house.

“Do you know that for sure?”

I explained that the place where the bat had fallen was now clear. But I wasn’t going to paw through the towel to give her the ultimate assurance.

We slept with the bedroom door closed, which resulted in slightly stuffy sleeping conditions. This morning, JoAnna hesitated once she opened the door.

“Do you want me to check the house?” I offered.

“Please,” she responded.

I found nothing to report.

And hopefully that's the way it will remain.

In the meantime, though, I think I might look for one of those electrical bat repellants that Mom mentions in her letter. (It makes a noise that bats don't like so they stay away. It really works.)

Eddie, Grandma Nelson, Andy (Thanksgiving 2007)

Monday, August 4, 2008

Another Championship Season

Andy is the reclining guy.

There’s no surprise as to what’s been on my mind lately.

Early Sunday morning I found myself waking up while mentally rehearsing what I was going to say when it was my turn to speak at my “farewell” reception at the library later that day. It felt as though the dream I was having just continued on its own, even though I was fully awake.

Once I got out of bed, these meditations continued to crowd out other thoughts. I even found it difficult to concentrate while reading the newspaper.

“Do you want to bike to Andy’s baseball game?” I asked JoAnna shortly before she left the house to attend 9 o’clock mass.

“Sure,” she replied, though not too convincingly.

I asked her again as soon as she returned home a little more than an hour later.

She stopped in the kitchen doorway, pausing on her way to the bedroom to change her clothes, and gave me a puzzled look, as if the question had stumped her.

“I’m not sure if I really I want to bike today,” she said.

I must have responded with an obvious look of disappointment for she quickly backtracked.

“But I’ll to if you want to.”

“I really do,” I confirmed. “I feel the need to burn off some nervous energy,” I added.

And to stop thinking about my little speech (for which I feel I already have a perfectly adequate mental outline).

The final game of the 2008 CYO season featured a match-up between Ashton’s (Andy’s team) and Waunakee at Martinsville, which, according to tradition, it seems, always hosts the championship game.

With the wind at our backs, JoAnna and I biked to Martinsville, a 10-mile trek, at a quick-and-easy pace. The game was already in the 4th inning by the time we arrived, with Ashton down by a run, 3-2. (Later, Andy would be quick to inform us that the three runs he gave up in the top of the 4th were unearned.) Andy retired all three batters he faced in the top of the 5th, one on a strikeout and the other two on weakly hit ground balls. Ashton tied the game in the bottom of the 5th on Joey Haack’s towering home run to straightaway center, a short 290 feet from home plate. In the bottom of the 5th, Drew Meinholz cracked a bases-loaded double over the rightfielder’s outstretched glove to give Ashton a 2-run lead. Andy remained in complete control, not allowing a batter to reach base in the 6th and 7th innings. By the 7th inning, though, he looked to be quickly running out of gas but managed to finesse his way to a victory, like a crafty, veteran ballplayer.

After the game, I overheard one of the Ashton’s coaches say to Andy, “I hear that’s three of the last four championships you’ve won.”

Andy ended his CYO career in high style. Once he turns 21, he’s no longer eligible to play in this league.