Always ethereal, always eclectic, I write as the mood strikes, when there intrigue reveals itself. Usually that means something controversial or adventure of some sort.

I've tried really hard to be unprovocative, but have as yet been unsuccessful.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Pretty Animamals

My father and I had the opportunity to visit the Henry Vilas Zoo, one of the few remaining free zoos in America.

I've never heard lions roaring before. These lions roared a lot, sounding like a barking dog more than something from The Lion King.

We visited some of our close relatives.

My sleeping father.
It was rather eerie how much this sleeping chimp reminded me of my father...

They definitely had some sort of communion, as they both stared at each other, disheartened at the glass separating them.

The capbara, at four feet the largest rodent in the world. Imagine these rats under your floorboards!

It's exciting that the zoo has some marine life, like harbor seals. Sadly, the penguins and river otters were hiding, so we'll have to visit the zoo another day to see them. But there were some freshwater fish.

I actually didn't know there was such a thing as a freshwater stingray.

Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree...

and black swans sleeping.

The other marine animal at the zoo. (Or, if you're Sarah Palin, the other white meat.) Along with the elephant, the most dangerous zoo animal.

The Henry Vilas Herpetarium

A lesson in diffraction. Beware the actual location of the alligator.

Or else lose a foot.

One of only two poisonous lizards in the world, the Gila Monster.

Aldabra Tortoises aren't Galapagos, but they look to be the same size. I remember getting to kiss one in South Dakota.

My dad remembers dogs in the UP coming back, covered in these quills.

At one point, this beautiful animal was believed to be related to the pig, but we now know it is closely related to the rhinoceros and the horse.

Aaaaah- kangaroos! (Let the reader understand.)
It is well known that camels are no fun to ride. I'd sooner ride a horse than the one-humped camel, or dromedary. But the Bactrian Camel of Mongolia- that looks to be a lot more pleasant.
Our final stop was to visit a Brahman and Pot Belly. I was disappointed that the Pot Belly didn't want to talk much, even after I uttered the standard swinian mating call, chant de coeur, which usually never fails to please.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Set Free

Today, my cellphone stopped working. And I immediately praised God, maker of Heaven and Earth.

For two years, I have endured them. Hours spent on hold for customer service- hours on one call. Constant dropped calls, with occasional reimbursement. A gamble on if I would have reception in major American cities. And today, freedom. So many times, I had asked to be released from my contract. I simply wanted a cellphone that worked. I wanted to be able to call people, to receive calls, and be able to stay on calls. I wanted to be able to hear people when they talked. And so many times I was told that I had to simply endure bad service, because of the American two-year contract system. But yesterday, yesterday was the last day of my contract. Today, today I woke up, and the phone didn't work anymore. I am now free of the shackle of Sprint.

Monday, 27 October 2008

How to Navigate This Blog

Blogger tells me that most people pay no attention to the sidebars on blogs. We can't have that! My sidebar is too utterly sweet! So here's what I've got goin on.

Firstly, remember this blog only makes full sense in Explorer, not Mozilla Firefox.

I usually have about ten posts on the front page. To look at a full post, type on the title or the link below the post. Below the post you can make comments, and also see what the predominant themes of the post are in the labels- since I recognize my diverse audience may understandably not enjoy every subject I post on. Clicking on a label will bring you all the articles I've written around that subject.

There are two sidebars on the right, a blue one above the green one. At the top of the blue one is information about me, in My Profile, followed by a new feature, Followers. You like this blog? Want to keep up to date on it more easily? Click on Follow This Blog. Currently I have two Followers, one I know, and one I don't.

Another way to follow a blog, one I really like, is through Bloglines. You get an alert every time one of your blogs posts, so you don't have to visit the blog every day. You can choose to follow posts and/or comments to this blog.

Are you in a different country, and have trouble reading English? I've got 12 other language options, including Arabic! (Of course, if you don't read English, then the previous sentence won't make much sense.)

The Blog Archive gives a list of all posts in the last three years, by date, and the present month, by title.

Below this are two pictures, changed regularly. The top one is my most recent Amazon review, with a link to that review. The bottom one is the book I'm presently reading, which should be reviewed soon.

Then we have a list of the ten most recent thoughts- comments- on my blog, regardless of post. This is followed by the last five postings on my other blog, Say it with me. President Obama. Again, recognizing that not all my readers share my peculiar political inclinations, I set up my devotionals to Obama up in a separate blog. But I still want you to read it :-)

Then there is the Green Sidebar, which most people don't see unless they're reading a long post. You can see what blogs are linking to this in the first link. Then there are a number of links that I enjoy.

I've divided the blogs I follow into five categories. The first one, and growing, is the Domestic Blogging, arranged in order of most recent post by blogs of friends of mine, who might be you, or someone you know. The titles and possibly pictures of the most recent posts are listed there too. Below that is the shrinking category of International Blogs from friends of mine.

Then I have Blogs of Change- those blogs devoted to changing the world. Most of them are not personal friends, but I think they are key advocates for making all things new. Following are three science-devoted blogs. And lastly, Blogs from Sheol, for those bloggers who have now departed. Currently, only the martyr, Tom Fox, is listed here.

Way down at the bottom, where few have dared venture before, I have other (non-blog) links of note. A link to all my Amazon reviews. Geocities pages on how the commune I grew up in is an anthropological type, the Apostle Junia in the Bible, and Nina, the first great female evangelist in the Church. The last link isn't mine, but to Counterbalance, run by Adrian, which looks at the emerging dynamic between religion and science. Heartedly recommended.

Ever wonder who visits these blogs? Sure, I've got a list of the numbers, but far more interesting is where the people are. That's the map at the bottom of the sidebar, which expands when you click on it. Click on Map With Smaller Clusters, and you get more precise locations. Of interest, shortly after a couple Chinese readers showed up, the Chinese government blocked my blog. Sorry, my loyal Antarctica readers- you still aren't listed.

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Voyage of the Merrimac Ferry

We see the mysterious sign right next to our house every day, stating that the Merrimac Ferry is down the road, with lights to indicate when the ferry is closed. But the lights never flash. Today we investigated (inbetween loads at the local laundromat) the Merrimac Ferry, the last remaining ferry in the Wisconsin State freeway system, and the only free ferry left in the state.

The trip is a bit longer than one would think. From the sign saying the ferry is up ahead, you head down 12, take a right on 18, go through Waunakee, head down 113, take a left on 113, go through Dane, continue through Lodi, drive through rising hills on the way to the Dells, and finally come to Lake Wisconsin, a vast expanse stretching out to your right, and then narrowing for the ferry crossing. It's a journey through the Wisconsin countryside.

Dane is a village of some 800, in a town of the same name of some 950, which is a bit odd, considering the county is of the same name, implying that this is somehow the county seat, or was. Its a beautiful little village, with an old-fashioned bank.

Until you view it from a different angle, and see its gone through some changes, trading business in money for business in looks.

Dane also has a lake, filled with petulant Canadian Geese.

Further down the road is Lodi, where my cousin Lodi Haunted Houselives. Its a town with the feel of old money, and Victorian homes.

Old Lodi has a very classic 1800s downtown look. The police station below is the small building to the left of the city hall.

All day the winds have been gusting, with some reaching up to 50 mph. When we arrived at the Merrimac crossing, the willows were filled with the breeze.

If you come from Seattle, you're expecting something different when you hear about a ferry. Two decks for people, two for cars, taking some 200 cars at a time, with at the very least a twenty-five minute crossing. This is a smaller affair, taking only fifteen cars across at a time, with seven minutes to cross. As soon as I drove up on it, I could feel the car rocking in the waves. The water sprayed over the boat, drenching our car, and tasting oddly...fresh.

The ferry was originally powered by hand, and still uses two ropes on either side, pulling itself with a gasoline engine and surging without a pause right up to the gangplank on each side.

There's not much to see on the other side of the crossing. An ice cream store, which is more exciting when it's not 50 degrees out. So we immediately turned around, and barely caught the ferry heading back. And got to see some of the great beauty of Autumn in Wisconsin, arriving home to see the falling of the first small flakes of the Long Winter to come.

Friday, 24 October 2008

Prayer for Shibam

Near the beginning of this blog, I reported on my trip to Shibam Hadremowt, the Manhatten of the Desert, with 1,000-year-old skyscrapers made of mud. Sadly, I have just learned that Cyclone TC-03B has substantially decreased in strength after hovering over Suqutra, but has devastated Hadremowt. Shibam is completely surrounded by water, and most of the ancient buildings are in danger of collapse. At least 200 are now dead, farmlands are flooded, and most villages in the giant valley are isolated. Over 700 homes have been destroyed and 22,000 people displaced. Yemen has declared the region a disaster area. The island of Suqutra is also hard hit, with homes and infrastructure destroyed. See silent video of the devastation here.

This is the poorest Arab nation in the world, and most of those living in Hadremowt are living day to day, wondering where the food will come from to feed their family tomorrow, and this on a good day. Disaster like this is excruciating for the poorest of the poor. Please consider if you are called to donate money for relief. Please also be praying for healing for those hurt, for food for the hungry, repair of homes and homes for the homeless, and comfort for the grieving. Please pray that rescue crews will be able to reach those in danger in time, that repairs will happen speedily, and that God will turn this into blessing, with rains reaching a parched Earth.

Monday, 20 October 2008

Kirk the Mechanic

You may have heard of Joe the Plumber. Meet Kirk the Mechanic. Like Joe, he's not actually a mechanic, but rather by profession an Arborist. Unlike Joe, his name is actually Kirk, and he's licensed in his real profession.

I have no idea who Kirk is voting for, though I'm sure he, like Joe, he also will be more assisted by Obama's tax plan than McCain's. I do know that Kirk has been the hand of God for us. Our car's alternator was no longer working, for the past few weeks. On Sunday Mike Drehfal had generously driven us to church and back when the car wasn't working, and given us a new alternator. (It turns out the car junk yard was wrong- there is only one alternator needed for this car.) My dad had run into Kirk at Damascus Road, and we drove out to Kirk's place tonight, and in a couple hours, Kirk was able to replace the alternator. He's had some 25 years experience in fixing cars, and was able to get down underneath the car and find the bolts connecting the alternator to the car. (Saturn makes it ridiculously difficult to replace the alternator.)

Driving back, it was a wondrous feeling, to not worry about the car stalling, having to quickly pull over to the side of the freeway, or wondering where we could plug a trickle charger in. We no longer had to be concerned about finding the money for another AAA tow. We could turn on the heater fan, the radio, and the lights. It was like driving a 21st century car!

So here's a shout out of thanks to Kirk the Mechanic, doing great work, and changing lives. That's change we can believe in- sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we cannot see.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

The Change of Season

Outside the front door.The air is the harbinger of change. Leaves lose their chlorophyll, and the air gets colder. And colder. And colder.

Two weeks ago, we lost our propane. Happily, just a few days before we'd arranged with Landmark to deliver propane. Our 30-gallon tank on our RV doesn't detach, and the RV can't move at this point, so I had to do a lot of research to find a company that would come out and deliver propane to an RV tank. We just had to wait for a contract to arrive in the mail, and send it in, which I did on Friday. Unhappily, we found out today that Landmark's policy is that they won't deliver to an RV, as the tank is too small, though all of this was agreed to earlier. They suggested that the solution might be for them to deliver a 100 lb. tank and attach it to our tank for $65, and fill that tank up for around $250. This brings up the possibility that we might bypass Landmark, buy a $75 attachment, and just get regular butagas propane tanks from the corner store every couple weeks. These are the options to pursue, once we have available funds (and we hear on a price from Landmark on their proposal.) Unfortunately, we were relying on the word of Landmark over the last two weeks, and so didn't pursue other options, but waited for the contract to process. Nothing has therefore been started with another company, if such exists, to deliver propane.

And it's been an unfortunate couple weeks. Some nights are in the 60s, and they are quite tolerable. The nights in the 40s, with one overheating electric space heater, are a different matter. As are the mornings, with a very cold shower. So this is my shout out of thanks to Aimee, for the donation of her 1.5 liter hot-water heater. It has been indispensable, as I fill it up every morning six times, pouring water into the half-bathtub for an hour to prepare for my bath.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

A Tale of Tow Churches

I must really love church.

About two weeks ago, my car of 48,000 miles stopped working. The battery light mysteriously went on, and a mechanic told me I needed a new battery. But the car was working fine, so we continued to drive it- until my dad took it for a trip and wound up stranded on the freeway, having to be pushed off by a highway patrol officer. The worst of it was that his cellphone had also just died, and so he had no way to reach me. I was getting worried after a couple hours, and finally got a call from him at the cellphone store, to tell me he'd had to lay out $100 for a new battery, and was now on his way back.

That battery lasted only a couple days, before it failed again. It turned out the problem was with the alternator, and we have therefore been trickle charging it every night since then, for about an hour's running time, in the day only. (We thankfully already had a trickle charger from the numerous RV breakdowns.) Run the car at night, with headlights, or in the rain, with windshield wipers, and you'll grind to a halt in about 15 minutes. We've already had to get it towed once, paying $15 for extra mileage after the free AAA miles.

I've found a country car junk yard with over 1,000 cars very close by, where a 90-day warranty alternator is available for only $50, and the manager of our complex can remove and replace the alternator for only $25 an hour. But he is very busy these days, and the alternator has to be removed before I can get a new one as there are a couple different models of alternator for this car and the junk yard needs to know which type before they replace it. This means the manager has to have free time to remove it, wait while I have to walk half an hour to the junk yard and get the part and walk back, and then replace it. And, of course, we need to find the money for all this. So at the moment, we continue to trickle charge every night. Which has worked for an hour's drive time. Until today.

I took my dad over to Damascus Road Church and dropped him off while I headed over to Mad City Church. It's hard to choose between the two. Both have real moves of God on them. The pastor that started Mad City has moved on to Damascus Road, and so they are very similar in style. Damascus Road has Matt & Siv Spransy and Joe Steinkie, the son of those who worked with my parents in Oconomowoc and Milwaukee in the beginnings of the Jesus Movement and Jesus People Milwaukee. Mad City has more small groups (which I find more meaningful than large worship service) and Dan Spransy, who was with me in HMS along with his parents. (I'm constantly running into people and at the church and asking if they know the Steinkie's and Spransy's, and then, having to correct and say, no, I'm speaking of Joe and Dan's parents. I feel old.) So for the moment, I'm liking Mad City a bit more, and my dad Damascus Road.

About five minutes drive out, the ABS indicator went off, indicating the battery was low. I thought this was perhaps a glitch, since it had been trickle-charged all night. I dropped my dad off and then went to Mad City.

Now, everyone has said that Damascus Road was set up just down the road from Mad City. I took them at their word. That was a mistake. Another mistake is that the address given for Mad City online is the address for their office, not where they meet. You have to really search to find the meeting address on their website. I had forgotten this, and foolishly wrote down the office address, which was just down the street from the meeting place of Damascus Road.

As soon as I realized I had the wrong address, I continued to drive up and down Washington Avenue, figuring it was just down the street and I would come to it. I called Dan for directions, but unbeknownst to me he was already prepping for leading worship at the time. I drove down till I could see the Capitol Building, realized I'd gone too far, and went the other direction. As I drove down to where I was sure the Mad City meeting place was, the odometer and speedometer suddenly failed. Not a good sign. Shortly thereafter, the car ran out of juice completely. I coasted to a stop in the middle of an intersection, and as cars honked at me for breaking down, I pushed the car over to a local sub sandwich shop, with the help of a Samaritan who stopped as well.

It was disappointing. It means that I'll have to pay for another tow, and for some reason the trickle charger didn't work. But, I was close to the church, and can just walk over to it as soon as I found its location. I found a phonebook, called Mad City's answering machine for directions, and spoke with a gas station attendant (who didn't know much about the area), and started walking- for I had the right direction, and was on one of the streets mentioned on Mad City's answering machine.

I walked down Stoughton Road. And walked. And walked. I tried to reach my brother to get GPS help, but he wasn't available. Occasionally I would yell out at a car to confirm I was still headed for the 12-18 interchange, and sometimes, they would answer me. At some point I realized that, indeed, Mad City was not just down the road from Damascus Road Church. And eventually, without warning, Stoughton Road went up a hill, and turned into a freeway. At that point, I can't turn around on foot without losing a lot of time, so I was stuck on a freeway, with no escape, for a large fence with small holes and barbed wire at the top bars all escape, and there are no exits for another mile.

Near despair of ever reaching the church, after a mile I saw to the right what looked suspiciously like the school Mad City meets at! I tried to hop the fence there, but the fence holes were too small for my feet. So like a mythical Cortes, I threw the books I was carrying over the fence, committing myself to the enterprise, and searched for a way across. I found one, where there were parallel bars across the fence, just down the road. The only hitch was it was under high-power lines, with obscured signs warning of electrocution and death. Carefully I climbed up and over, losing my hands-free in the process, and suffering only minimal puncture wounds as I traversed the fence. I retrieved my books, and walked over to the building, to discover that it was actually a clever mimic, and was St. Denis' Church.

However, a helpful brother at St. Denis drove me the last mile over to Mad City, where I arrived just in time to hear Tom say that there had never before been such a radical move of God in Madison, and wrap up his last three minutes of the sermon, after an hour and a half of service- a service I had planned on arriving too a few minutes early. Sure, there were grass stains on my pants, stigmata on my hands, and little fluids left in my body, but I had made it.

Now all I had to do was tear down with Dan, and wait for Matt & Siv to come over so we could go to lunch, and drive back and call AAA to come and tow the car back to Waunakee. That's how dedicated I am to this whole corporate worship thing. I must be very holy. If you doubt it, only look upon the hands.

Saturday, 4 October 2008

It's a Gay Old Polka!

Every time we drive into Waunakee, we pass an old Texaco gas station.

Note small gnome on top of the roof.
Today was the second biggest festival of the year in Waunakee- Wauktoberfest. A local brewery annually sponsors it, a very Wisconsin gathering to celebrate beer.

We made sure to get there at 12 for the most important event of the day- the time-honored Blessing of the Beer. The pastor began with some quotes from Martin Luther.

Of course, there was a beer-tasting, for only $25.

My favorite part was the petting zoo. It's there year-round, but is actually only just goats, adults and kids. They come up and eagerly lick your hands. And then try to take a nip out of your hands and eat your hands-free.

There were a number of contests, though they couldn't find enough people to join the hotdog eating contest. (I thought about it, but having to eat 30 hotdogs in five minutes sounded profoundly unappetizing.) I was really excited to hearMoroccan Sheep heads for Eid al Kabir about the sheepshead contest, thinking it would be something like what occurs in Morocco, but sadly learn it was not an eating contest, but merely some sort of card game. The beerstein-carrying contest required contestants to carry six pitchers without spilling anything. But the pitchers were water, which kind of defeats the purpose.
Another contest involved dachshund races. During the beerstein carrying contest one of the dachshunds found something greatly more appetizing than thirty hotdogs- the remnants of a chicken, attached to an official Wauktoberfest hat.

When I imagined Wauktoberfest, I thought immediately of my most prominent experience with polka- The Gay Old Polka from Groundhog Day. While there wasn't quite the central communal gathering, there was certainly a lot of polka. Scarily enough, my dad turns to me and says that he knows the words to all the songs they were playing. Evidently the polka songs have words.
Hot dogs were only $1.50, but they looked at me with a strange mix of horror when I asked where the mayonnaise was for the hot dogs. That's just not done here in Wisconsin.

Grilling hot dogs appears to be hard work. Even before any hot dogs have been put on the grill.

You've heard of the Children of the Corn? Meet the Child of the Pumpkins.

Friday, 3 October 2008

The Country Out Thar

I took the dog out for a walk up the hill today, and, as promised, brought back some pictures of the countryside around here. Peas.  Sammy loves sniffing the peas.Crick to the Green Sewer ReclamationCrick to the Wetlands Corn near Harvest TimeCorn from a Signs Alien PerspectiveTwo Roads Diverge up the hill.Mending Wall(See hovertext.)
Near the top of the hill, hidden in the high grass and covering trees, is the remnant of what was once a mighty wall, now in dire need of mending. For without a wall, how would I know what I am walling in, or walling out?

Don's Mobil Manor, from the hill.