Safe Passage, Dr. Hawking

We interrupt today’s planned social issue entry to bring you this breaking story:

Stephen Hawking: Visionary physicist dies age 76

We still have his words, his thoughts preserved for future generations in his writings, videos, and the memories of those who personally knew him.

Dr. Hawking was 76. He contributed to the understanding of the mechanics of the universe, made science cool, and brought a sense of wonder about the workings of the world to the not-so-scientifically oriented.

Not only did he make physics accessible to the lay person (Amazon’s posting that A Brief History of Time had a huge spike in sales after the word came out early this morning in North America. As if selling ten million copies in various languages hadn’t been enough), but he showed that humor, passion, and academia are not incompatible. Stephen (I think he would have preferred that over Dr. Hawking) appeared on “Big Bang Theory,” “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” and many talk shows, including David Letterman.

He’s already missed.

Peaceful journey, Dr. Hawking.





This Much I Can Do

Antique poster–no ownership in any way claimed–found on internet.

We have primaries on March 20th for governor, congressional rep, and an assortment of state and local offices.

I am more excited about election day this year than I am about holidays in general. While I’m not active in the IL-14 Indivisible group,  I do follow them on Facebook along with a couple of other local Democratic groups. Several members have contacted Rep. Randy Hultgren’s office since yesterday’s school shooting to express concern about assault weapons and mental health.

The responses from the office have been less than helpful: no, we don’t know when or if he’ll be releasing a statement. Um, I don’t know; let me refer you to our DC office on that question. Have you tried Googling your question?

He’s also been silent about the harassment and abuse so-called allegations against Cadet Bone Spurs (copyright Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-IL). I don’t think he understands that silence indicates tacit approval.

I stopped calling his office a long time ago because of conversations like these. I have enough headaches on this end without him adding to the list. I would rather put my energy towards getting Lauren Underwood or Jim Walz elected.

We will be choosing a Democratic gubernatorial candidate as well. We are spoiled for choice in that slate. I will be at peace with any of them. I never liked Bruce Rauner. I like his opponent, Jeanne Ives, even less. If you have to use cartoonish stereotypes of minorities, feminists, and LGBTQ people in your cheaply produced ads to illustrate your points, please get off of my TV and my ballot. The ad is so offensive that I’m not going to try to find a link for it.

I took a couple of small actions today. I donated to Common Dreams, my favorite progressive news site these days. NPR is getting too corporate for my taste. I did a lot of re-tweeting today as well. I avoided telling some elected officials where to stash their thoughts and prayers.  I can’t think of what else to do at the moment. If I hit the lottery, I’ll see about setting up a local Pacifica network station. But not this week.

In the meantime in the nonpolitical world, Hubby continues to improve post-crud. I had to run Oakley to the vet on Tuesday. He’d started rubbing his eyes and looking for dark places again, plus there was a bit of discharge from one eye.  The eye vet had me take him to one of our regular vets to get his eye checked. It looked good to her. After a quick call between Doc A and Doc V, the  current game plan consists of keeping him on a half-tab of Pred twice a week and reevaluate around the end of the month; in the meantime, work on his weight. He chunked up from the Pred. It will come off with a bit of portion restructuring and some walking. We changed him to a prescription pain killer instead of aspirin–it had interacted with the Pred and caused the explosive tummy upset last week. The prescription worked a little too well and made Oakley kind of stoned. He slept it off and seems OK now.  We’ll try a half dose tomorrow night.

Life goes on for the next thirty three days. On March 20, I’m voting.

And because I like it so much, I’ll be doing it again on November 6.


Taking Refuge in Lake Wobegon





“Chocolate cake.”

Until last week, those had been two of my favorite words. Hearing them spoken by  The Wearer of Ferrets as he discussed the moment during a dinner with China’s President Xi when he gave the green light to bomb Syria put a considerable pall on them. I may never be able to eat either again. If there is a positive, the sound of his voice echoing around my mind is aversive enough to keep me away from both as efforts at weight loss continue.

While desserts have their charms, taking refuge in them too often is not a good idea at all. Just ask my jeans.

Where, then, does one turn to escape the rampant insanity ? I’ve tried to keep the TV off with mixed success. Two PBS shows I love run late morning, and then there’s the midday news that a couple of minutes of won’t hurt, then perhaps a couple more, and next thing I know it’s 1:00 and I have to ice down my middle fingers from overuse. Not a good idea.  Limiting time tuned to WCPT  (independent progressive talk) and NPR to short bursts in the car helps somewhat as well. Somewhat.

In times like these, we need refuge from current affairs to prevent a collective slide into madness. I find mine in visits to Garrison Keillor’s fictitious hometown of Lake Wobegon, Minnesota. Blessed be the tuneIn app that delivers the stream to the Sonos system that fills the house with his soothing baritone, gentle wit, and delicious sense of absurdity.

There are days when one needs to hear stories of hair raising escapes from fishing sheds as the ice breaks beneath one’s feet (especially when the shed in question is an RV). There are days when one needs the tale of a homecoming parade inadvertently but rudely interrupted by the queen’s father’s front loader that just excavated a septic tank. And there are days when one needs a slice of rhubarb pie and fresh coffee at the Chatterbox Cafe.

Based on the quick news summary just now on WFMT with the sabre rattling, I think I’ll take the pie, please. And if there’s any vanilla ice cream, a scoop of that on the side would be most appreciated.




Storm Report for 3/3/17

March came in with rain and falling temperatures. February pitched a hissy fit as she left.

Oakley had spent the afternoon at day care flirting with his girlfriend Jazz and singing with his friend Willy. After I’d picked him up and brought him home for dinner, I had a strong gut feeling that I should check the weather on TV. A good thing I did. All kinds of red and yellow blobs covered the screen.

I made my dinner, too, then settled in to watch the storm coverage. During the course of the evening, one of the twisters headed east along the I-80 corridor to Morris. That’s a 20 minute drive from my house.  The track of the twister ran about ten miles south of me, so despite the admonishments from the siren, we stayed on the sofa, watching, listening.

The lights didn’t even flicker. No sounds of breaking glass or crunching metal. Just steady rain.

We stayed with the storm coverage except for a break to watch a mystery on one of the PBS substation instead of the happenings in Washington, DC that night. A wise choice. The TV is new to us, and I likely would have done had things to it had I watched the events in DC.

Oakley and I stayed up as long as we could, trying to ride out the rain so we could make the final potty run in relative comfort, trying to see what was happening to the south and southwest of us. At bed time, we knew that the the town of Naplate (just outside of Ottawa) had received a kicking.

When we went to Starved Rock or Buffalo Rock State Parks, we would drive back through Naplate. They had, and please, Mystery, may they still have a main street divided by parkways. Each one hosted gardens, benches, and sculptures, including a Greco-Roman temple at the east end. Between those and the mid-19th century architecture of the homes, anyone passing through had a taste of life in the Civil War era.

Yes, I choked up a little. For the people of the town, and for the loss of that street. The cherry on the icing of good hikes at the parks was the drive through town.

However, the good outweighed the bad. There were two passages caused by a tree falling on a couple of men, sadly. The good news was that all the residents of the county nursing home survived, even though its structure was heavily damaged.

Cleanup started. The new normal will be implemented in due course, I don’t doubt that.

The questions that I have concern global warming, climate changes, and the biggest one: was this an omen? Was this an energetic cleaning and clearing?

We will just have to wait for the answers.




Creating a Retreat in a Few Easy Steps


I could live here.  (Image courtesy Old Design Shop)

Would you like to come in? We could sip iced tea and enjoy strawberry shortcake made with biscuits–baking powder, not drop ones–and topped with whipped cream while conversing about books, pets, gardening, and period films. If we disagree, then we would agree to do so and move on to a topic of true importance such as chocolate. Or perhaps have dinner at the pine trestle table served on plain white dishes. Something good and peasant-y, like coq au vin. Of course we would have a crusty loaf and a robust red to go with, or iced tea if you were inclined away from alcohol. Dessert? How does mousse au chocolate sound?

Today seems as good as any to move there. I grow weary of the political vitriol and stories of animal abuse on social media. The campus shooting du jour unfolds as I type this. (Google “UCLA shooting.” I don’t want to give it any more energy.) It is a good day to create a retreat.

“Retreat” usually carries religious/spiritual connotations, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be such. You can create a temporary haven from the outside world fairly easily:

  • Heed the advice of John Prine in his song “Spanish Pipedream”. OK, just turn it off. (yes, this is the John Denver version.)  At the very least, stop watching the news. For tune-age, find internet streams or stations that don’t blast news.
  • Limit time on social media and don’t read comment threads on news sites. Even the threads on NPR are getting trolled and their moderators don’t seem to be doing very much.The amount of ugly out there is overwhelming.
  • This might sound weird, but if you can get your dwelling in order–a little dusting, a bit of decluttering–it might make things a little more restful.
  • Take a few minutes in the morning to read something inspiring. You’ll be in a better frame of mind.

Now, would you like some lemon with your tea?



Choosing Peace

Some years ago, I did the lessons in A Course in Miracles. It’s a year long spiritual self-study course with daily exercises.  The lessons: 1. love and fear are the two basic emotions and 2. only love is real. The rest is an illusion, and it’s up to you to see the love and the peace beyond it.

One of the exercises was an affirmation that I’ve been using a lot these days: I can see peace instead of this. Chanting it to myself keeps me saner than I might be otherwise in the face of world and local events.

At noon, I just wanted to check the weather. I turned the TV on, and turned it off again as quickly when the music in the key of urgency alerted viewers to breaking news about the latest high school lock down. I think I’ll stick with  and the NPR and BBC websites for news instead of sitting through twenty to thirty minutes of disasters, acts of violence, and celebrity misbehavior.

Excuse me…we interrupt this entry to bring you Vivaldi’s Lute Concerto in D. Please chill for the next six minutes.

Now, let us return to our regularly scheduled blog entry. Thank you.

It’s been rainy today. Oakley’s snores fill the spaces between the rattle of raindrops on the windows. Oakley wants peace, too.  This past summer, he did his part by reaching out to Sonny the cat:11792155_1047020835315903_4900873125049669005_o.jpg

photo courtesy Lanette Yingling,  Mid-Day Play Pet Services

I’m doing mine by making choices to create inner peace with gentle music, meditation and prayer, and using the above-mentioned affirmation. And limiting social media time. I can’t do much personally about world conflict, and can’t do much about strife on FaceBook, but I can and will create tranquility in my home through the use of music, candles, and incense.

Maybe it won’t make much of an impact on the world at large, but we can provide refuge for ourselves and all who enter here.



“A Prairie Home Companion” Turns 40

Last week brought one disturbing news story after another. Last week brought a lot of changes, some welcome; others not so much. Changes in a family member’s health were not good. Pending changes at Oakley’s day care were quite maddening. More on the latter as it develops.

One thing that hasn’t changed, thankfully, is turning on my NPR outlet at five on Saturday evenings for “A Prairie Home Companion.” Since (self-dating alert) junior high, catching up on the “News from Lake Wobegon” and the live, real, hand- and heart-made music and comedy have provided the backdrop for dinner preparations most Saturday evenings.

After a week of involuntary and unpleasant changes, it was good to eat pasta and broccoli while listening to the Wailin’ Jennys and an ad for Bertha’s Kitty Boutique, still located in the Dales after all these years.

How long this refuge overproduced music of questionable quality and news reflecting the worst in humanity will continue I can’t say. Garrison Keillor, the once and future host, still rips out the weekly scripts in about two hours as well as his short stories, novels, and essays. He is not old by any reasonable standards in his early seventies, and hopefully he won’t retire any time soon. The show will continue in some form, I’m sure, thanks to the light side of modern technology.

Perhaps in another forty years, it will still provide a touchstone, an anchor to supply some stability in the waves of change that had slap a person around, providing grounding for the week ahead.