Thursday, September 25, 2008

Thursday Guilt Trip

I neglected to set the alarm last night, so JoAnna and I slept in until 6:00 this morning. No time for the both of us to take a walk, in other words. As a result, a bike ride became essential.

The sprawl that is Madison galloping toward Verona is in the far distance.

Picture taken where S. Gammon Road dead-ends into Elver Park.

Ever Have One of Those Days?

I need to be more disciplined when it comes to meetings and other outside-of-the-home responsibilities on my schedule.

Yesterday is an instructive case in point.

I worked on my course syllabus until nearly 10 a.m. Then I pushed myself away from the computer.

I’m not giving myself very much time to get ready, I thought.

Indeed! The meeting I was attending started at 11:00, and the seven people involved (representatives from the Wisconsin Library Association and Wisconsin Educational Media & Technology Association) were gathering in the Capitol rotunda at 10:45.

As soon as I reached the bathroom, I absently ran a hand across my face.

Shoot, I forgot to shave.

I usually take care of this morning ritual before JoAnna and Eddie leave the house.

I rushed through a shower and then grabbed a shirt and pair of pants from the closet – something to go with a blue blazer. With a temperature in the low 70s and the humidity in the same range, I decided to forego a tie.

The first two shirts I selected both had an embarrassing case of ring around the collar.

Am I losing it here? I wondered. (I’m the Laundry Guy at our house.)

I needed to factor in a 10-minute walk to the high-school parking lot as part of my preparations.

I should have given Eddie a ride to school this morning, I groused.

A block from the house, I realized I didn’t have my wallet. I jogged back, working up a little bit of a sweat in the process.

At least I slathered on the deodorant this morning, I told myself.

The Matrix’s digital clock read 10:29 as I backed out of the parking space.

It’s going to take me longer than ten minutes to get to the Capitol, I moaned.

I decided to gamble and attempt to park as close to my destination as possible – without pressing my luck. I fed the meter three quarters, which gave me all of 36 minutes, knowing it wouldn’t be enough.

I’ll probably return and find a ticket on the window, I thought in resignation.

I walked the two blocks to the Capitol at a quick pace and entered the rotunda, at 10:47, sporting a face glistening with sweat. I quickly caught my breath, although it took a few more minutes for the moisture to dissipate. Fortunately, I wasn’t the last of the group to arrive. (Close, though.) Once we had all gathered, we reviewed who would say what in our review of the library legislative agenda put forward by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Libby Burmaster. I got the nod to set the stage – provide the background and purpose of our visit.

Which went very well.

We met with Maria Bundy, Governor Doyle’s Education Policy Analyst, who was very attentive and showed a sincere interest in our issues.

When I mentioned my connection to the Middleton Public Library, Maria noted that her mother-in-law used to work there.

“What’s her name?” I asked, an answer I should have been able to figure out for myself.

“Susan Bundy,” she replied.

For some reason, I had been unable to make this possible connection before the meeting. Obviously, I missed, or completely forgot about, the news of her son’s marriage.

Susan retired from Middleton in 2006 after 20 years of employment.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Monday Meander

Also known as the Vosen Postponement.

I had planned to bike west on Schneider Road as far as Vosen Road, go north to County K and then east to highway 12, where I'd take the bike path back into Middleton. Road construction forced me to take a left-hand turn onto the roller-coaster-like Capital View Road.

Is it just me, or does the outline of my route east of the Beltline look like some pooch -- a flaky pal of Astro -- from The Jetsons?

Last Friday's Ride

Between the 8- and 9-mile marks (northeast and east of Graber Pond), I encountered two signs advertising the sale of home lots.

The first one, shown below, represents a very small development. Three lots. No takers so far, it appears.

The second development, Misty Valley, contains approximately 100 lots for sale. I counted one finished house (model?) and two others under construction. In addition, two foundations were being dug. Considering the current state of the housing market, I suspect this development won't fill up nearly as quickly as Northlake.

Be the first to plant a tree!

The plat map

You've heard of the Bridge to Nowhere....
Meet the Bike Path to Nowhere.

Just being tongue-in-cheek! Actually, I'm very pleased to see that a shared-use path is considered an integral part of this neighborhood. Penni Klein will make the connections.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Today's bike ride

"No Square" refers to the need to avoid the Capitol Square on a Farmer's Market morning.

Perfect late-summer/early fall biking conditions: clear sky, slight breeze, temperature in the 60s. Lots of people had the same idea, including a group of a dozen or so septuagenrians and octogenarians. Great to see! JoAnna and I will still be out there 20 years (and more) from now. (JoAnna would want me to point out that she'll be a sexagenarian in 20 years.)

Friday, September 19, 2008

Cookie Time

Scott’s Bakery in Middleton sells a Spanish peanut cookie that has become a favorite of JoAnna’s and mine. It’s not always available, unfortunately. In fact, it’s the only one of their more than dozen varieties that seems to get this “special occasion” treatment. The thing is, though, we can’t figure out what the special occasions are. The one time I asked, a clerk told me, “We only make that cookie at Christmastime.”

I knew this was a wrong answer – but I didn’t argue with her.

Now that I’ve vowed to avoid store-bought sweets, I needed to locate my own version of the Spanish peanut cookie. Once again, I searched the Internet and found a variety of options. I chose a recipe based on the following criteria:

1. Easy, straightforward instructions

2. Logical combination of ingredients (i.e., nothing requiring 2 sticks of butter, a la the disastrous Ina Garten jalapeno cornbread recipe)

At first I was going to eliminate the frosting but had a change of heart, probably because the batter seemed overly dry and crumbly. At first, I thought I might have back-to-back flops on my hands, but the results proved very satisfying, even though it’s not an exact copy – not even close, actually – of the Scott’s Bakery variety. The cookie has a crunchy/chewy texture, similar to a granola bar, that goes great with a glass of milk or just on its own as a snack to ward off hunger pains.

Here’s the recipe for Spanish Peanut Cookies

Cookie ingredients

1½ cups flour

1½ t. baking powder

1 t. baking soda

1 c. brown sugar, firmly packed

1 c. unsalted butter, softened

1 egg

1 c. rolled oats

1 c. flaked coconut

1 c. salted peanuts

½ c. Corn Flakes, finely crushed

Icing ingredients

2 T. unsalted butter

1 c. confectioner’s sugar

1 T. hot water (2-3 is what you’ll probably need)

1 t. fresh lemon juice


1. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda; set aside.

2. Cream butter and sugar. Add egg and beat well.

3. Add all dry ingredients, blending after each addition.

4. Drop by rounded teaspoons on ungreased cookie sheet.

5. Bake at 350° for 12-15 minutes.

Icing: Melt butter. Mix in confection sugar, hot water, and fresh lemon juice. Beat until smooth and drizzle over cooled cookies. (Add additional hot water if mixture is too dry.)

“You should add chocolate chips the next time,” JoAnna suggested.

And I will!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Tumbledown Revisited

Today I decided to retrace the route I last took on July 3, the day I took a tumble on a patch of gravel and banged up my right knee and elbow. Smooth sailing today!


And you just might see George Bush in drag.

Once again The Daily Show hit the Palin nail on the head.

And for those of you who don't think the word choice is a coinkydink, please open your wallets and click here.

Here's my nomination for the best assessment of the GOP VP choice. And from a most unlikely source. (Starting at 0:56)

Unfortunately, it's a gimmick that still seems to have potential.

We deserve better.

Monday, September 15, 2008

A Good Day for a Bike Ride After All

As much as I wanted to take a bike ride yesterday, it took a considerable amount of time to get myself motivated. I seemed to be looking for excuses to stay home.

It’s too windy.

The local forecast on the Weather Channel noted gusts of up to 25 miles per hour. And when I looked out the window, all the trees were energetically waving at one another.

It’s not a very pleasant day.

In fact, it remained overcast and cool all weekend – always looking as though more rain was imminent.

JoAnna might need a ride before I get back.

I drove her to work on Friday morning, as the group of women going to Bayfield shared the cost of renting a van – one with enough cargo space to accommodate five sets of golf clubs. (Which were never used.)

I finally got underway at 1:20 – not in the most serious and confident of bike-riding moods.

“I’m going to give it a try,” I said to Eddie, who declined an invitation to join me, just before leaving the house. “The way it looks, I might not be gone that long.”

But as soon as I accelerated onto Mayflower Drive, the wind and temperature and steel-gray sky became non-factors. It just felt great to be on my bike again, particularly after a two-week stretch of nothing more than pedaling around Middleton.

My destination was Reindahl Park on the far-east side of Madison, where the UW-Milwaukee lacrosse team had two games on its schedule. I figured I’d be able to watch a brief portion of the second game, which started at 3:00.

Most of my route followed Madison extensive network of bike paths. And where one wasn’t available, I managed to stay on quiet residential streets for the most part. When I arrived at the park, I didn’t find a team wearing Milwaukee’s black-and-gold colors. Nor did I spot the Saturn in the parking lot. When I called Andy, he didn’t answer his phone. As a result, I found myself in a should-I-go-or-should-I-stay dilemma.

Maybe their second game was canceled when the other team decided not to show up, I considered.

I retrieved a Dane County bike map from my fanny pack and studied an alternative route to the Capitol. When I looked up again, I saw someone walking in my direction and wave to me.

Is he hailing me? I wondered, not recognizing who it was until he continued about five more paces.

“Tony!” I called out.

It was Jack Peterson’s dad, so I figured I must be in the right place. (Jack is one of Andy’s roommates and a member of the lacrosse team.) And that game 2 was still on.

“You look lost,” he teased, having seen me intently focused on the map. “Did you bike all the way here?” he asked in disbelief.

I assumed it was a rhetorical question.

As I had guessed while flipping through various scenarios, Andy and his teammates went to one of the restaurant in the vicinity of nearby East Towne Mall for a late lunch. Or, more likely, a second lunch. He answered his phone the second time I called and reported that he was on his way back to the park. I figure-eighted the parking lot awaiting his arrival.

We talked for all of three minutes. Then I needed to head back to Middleton. The start time of Andy’s second game had been pushed back to 3:30.

“I just talked to Mom 15 minutes ago, and they were just north of Wausau. That means I’ll probably have just enough time to bike home, take a shower, and drive to the Cherokee County Club.

Our previously agreed-upon pick-up location.

I thought the wind -- from the north-northwest, though it did seem to swirl a lot -- would be more of a distraction during the return to Middleton. Curiously, it wasn’t. I didn’t feel anything hold back my progress. All in all, a very satisfying 2½ hours of biking.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Dude, Where's My Car?!

Eddie and I have made a mutually beneficial arrangement regarding his use of the Matrix. Even if I need to use the car during the day, he’ll still be able to drive it to school. I’ll just need to be sure to add an extra ten minutes to my schedule – the time it takes me to walk to the high school parking lot.

Yesterday I almost regretted this agreement. A light rain was falling when I left the house, but an umbrella kept me dry. As I approached the car, I noticed that Eddie had parked it in an area reserved for people using the indoor swimming pool






How could Eddie not see these signs? I wondered.

One was posted every twenty feet.

I waited until after school let out to return the car to the lot. In this way, I was able to park closer to the building.

While getting supper ready, I glanced out the window facing the driveway and saw Eddie walking toward the house. I moved to the hallway to meet him.

“Why did you walk home?” I asked in surprise. “Where’s the car?”

He looked shellshocked – which made me think What the hell happened here?

“I have bad news,” he announced, his voice tight with emotion.

At this point, I did not know how to react. I imagined the car unable to start – or worse.

A flat tire? An accident – the car towed to Jim’s Amoco or Ball Body Shop?

“The car was towed,” he added, meekly awaiting a wrathful response.

“No, it wasn’t,” I returned, trying my best to hold back a smile. “I used it for awhile today and parked it in a different area when I was done. Any why did you park it in a restricted area anyway?”

He practically crumpled in relief.

“Oh, Dad, you don’t know how happy I am to hear that.”

Then he told me his side of the story. He was running a bit late getting ready for school. (Which I already knew, since I had to knock on his bedroom door to rouse him out of bed.) He parked the car in the first open space he found, even though the sign told him to go elsewhere. He returned to the lot during his lunch hour to move the car – an immediately assumed it had been towed. He spent the next five hours in a state of suspended anxiety.

I guess I'll need to be clearer as to when I need my car.

Ponds Walk

Nearly three months of high water kept them off limits.

After the deluge we received during the first half of June, JoAnna and I were unable to take one of our favorite walking routes, the paths that encircle Tiedeman and Stricker Ponds, until this month.
Construction of a boardwalk along the Gammon Road curve, finished in April 2005, allows a full and safe circuit around Tiedeman Pond (shown above and below, although the boardwalk is not visible. It's in the far middle distance.) And as you can see from the above picture, Penni Klein, City of Middleton Public Lands Manager, had her crew put down a fresh cover of shredded mulch on the trail. If you're familiar with Penni's vision to make the City of Middleton a recreational wonderland, tell her how grateful you are. (

At this point in our walk, JoAnna and I are less than 10 minutes from where we live. We've known for years that Middleton is the best place to live.

Mr. Turtle (OK, I really don't know what sex it is) is enjoying the sun, too.

Where there's a pond, there are geese. It's a given.

Peace and solitude in the middle of it all.

The wooded portion of the path along Stricker Pond.

Blue heron alert. Such a solitary creature.

At this point, we offered a soft encouragement to fly, but the heron was content to pose for another few minutes.

Up...up and away. Not very "up", actually. Just a few feet above the water surface.

Looking west along Middleton Street in Middleton. (One of these days, I'm going to check the city directory to learn if any Middletons live on Middleton Street in Middleton.)

Monday, September 8, 2008

The Thundering Herd Approaches the 32nd annual Verona Cross Country Invitational.

It's Eddie first year out for the sport and his first race.

Here's out there somewhere.

339 runners participated in the JV boys race, which started at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, September 6. The entire field (boys and girls varsity, boys and girls JV) included about 1,000 entrants from 25 schools. Merrill wins the award for traveling the farthest distance.

Weather conditions were close to ideal: temperature in the low 60s, low humidity, a light breeze.

A group of 5 runners appears to be setting the pace. The Madison West boys' JV team finished in 1st place, followed by Madison LaFollette. Middleton placed 4th.

Shortly after this point, the runners start to ascend a hill and the path narrows.

Look just to the right of the head of the guy in the yellow shirt, and you'll find Eddie wearing a white headband and a "Middleton Red" uniform. (More burgundy than red.) You might have to put your nose to the screen.

The path wends its way behind the trees in the distance.

A Wisconsin State Journal news summary of the varsity highlights is found here.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Labor Day at Milwaukee's Marcus Amphitheater

All smiles after a rousing 20-minute speech by Barack Obama

A view of the venue (and the Milwaukee skyline) at 3:00.
The event didn't start until 5:30, but we wanted to get good seats.
(We succeeded: Second row, just to the left of the stage.)

A beautiful day on which to end the summer.

A section is already filled by 3:00

This group watched the proceedings from the stage.

Another view of the early arrivals.

Filled to capacity just as things get underway.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett

Governor Jim Doyle

Senator Herb Kohl

Senator Russ Feingold

Representative Gwen Moore


Obama, eloquent as always, gave a relatively low-key speech in light of the concerns over Hurricane Gustav and a possible replay of Katrina. He gave an historical summation of the labor movement and its continued importance to workers today. He talked about the independent spirit of the American people, but also how we come together in times of need. After offering encouragement to contribute to the Red Cross to help those displaced by the storm, he described those who face their own “quiet storms” – the loss of a job or a house – and the need for government to respond at such times.

When Obama finished his 20-minute address, he acknowledged the cheers of the audience for a few minutes and then headed straight in our direction. Surrounded by a squad of Secret Service agents, he worked the crowd building at the front of the stage, shaking every hand, including JoAnna’s and mine, that was offered to him.

“He looks you straight in the eye,” JoAnna observed as we walked back to the car. “That’s what I like about him.”

It’s a piercing, confident gaze, which revealed to me a man very much at ease with himself. I sensed a huge reservoir of inner calm behind his eyes.

Obama is truly a remarkable person.

JoAnna with Frances Huntley Cooper