Sunday, June 27, 2021

Party Onward

It was supposed to rain.

They’ve been predicting rain here in Our Little Town for much of the week – the kind of drenching, stormy rain that would have put rather a pall over Lauren’s graduation party, the kind that made us glad we’d cleaned out the garage and the house so we could keep a roof over everything even if we weren’t sure how well it would all fit. We set up the main food and seating in the garage, with desserts and other seating in the house, and we hoped for the best.

But the rain held off, the party went forward, and a good time was had by all. Is that a good omen for the future? We’ll call it a good omen for the future. Why not. Omens are where you find them, I suppose.

It’s a nice tradition around here that high school graduations get followed by open house parties – sometimes at home, sometimes at a park pavilion or thereabouts – where the family of the graduate sets out food and drinks, puts up a board with photos of the graduate over the course of their life, and invites people over to hang out and congratulate the recent graduate. Last year these were mostly drive-by events, but now that a critical mass of people are vaccinated we can start having these parties again, which is really nice. Three cheers for vaccinations, and three more cheers for graduation parties, I say.

I went through all of my various photos, printed up a brick of them, and then Lauren chose the ones she wanted and mounted them onto some tri-fold boards that we hung up in the garage. She did a nice job of it. We also had a banner across the back of the garage that I just might leave up for a while because it’s nice.

Once everything is set up (and let me tell you just how much work got elided over in that short phrase) then you wait until the appointed time and have people wander in and out as they see fit. There’s a whole season of these things – we haven’t seen much of Lauren since she officially graduated high school, as she is always off at one or another of them – and that’s a lovely thing.

Lauren made two requests for her party. First, a bouncy house, and second, a taco bar with supplies from one of the local Mexican restaurants. The bouncy house people bailed on us by text at 6:30am – not unreasonable, given the forecast at the time, though sad nonetheless – but the Mexican place came through. They were excellent tacos.

We had a whole pile of people come over, roughly divided into Parent Friends and Graduate Friends, with a small smattering of Sibling Friends. Fortunately all the various Friends are Friends with each other or at least happy to become such, so it went well.

We even managed to set up a Zoom call for people who weren’t able to come by in person, and a number of people logged in from as far away as northern Wisconsin, Philadelphia, New Jersey, England, and Belgium! It was good to see these people who live so far away and have them share this event with us.

There was food, there was conversation, there was more food, and when the food wasn’t enough there was cake, which is a species of food but one that deserves its own entry. At one point an entire grad party of one of Lauren’s friends came by, since their open house period had ended and ours was still running. We were overrun with teenagers and it was glorious.

There weren’t many leftovers.

It is a grand thing to share achievements with family and friends, to gather together in one place or through a Zoom call and celebrate a happy occasion.

Congratulations, Lauren. I’m proud of you.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

News and Updates

1. We celebrated Father’s Day today because this was the day we had time to do so. There was take-out BBQ and some lovely cards and gifts, and then we sat at the table and played cards and hung out together and really, while I am happy to get cards and gifts the thing I most want is to spend time with my family not doing much beyond just hanging out and talking, and so it was a most lovely holiday that way.

2. I am now currently fobless, after several years of carrying around three different gizmos on my keychain in order to get into random computer programs on various campuses. You try to log in to one of them and get a message that you need the Extra Special Secret Code, which the fob would magically provide you five times out of seven, and then you could do your work. Of course the campuses never really standardized this, so I never really knew which program would require me to use a fob and which wouldn’t – the same program on different campuses would often give me different results. But now those have all been replaced by an app that I am required to download onto MY OWN PERSONAL PHONE THAT THEY ARE NOT PAYING FOR AT ALL, which frankly I find presumptuous. So if I ever lose MY OWN PERSONAL PHONE THAT THEY ARE NOT PAYING FOR AT ALL then I suppose I won’t be able to do my job and at that point they can start paying for a new phone or paying me not to do my job, whichever. Not that I am annoyed by this in any way that might conceivably lead to disciplinary action by humorless powers that be, of course.

3. The living room is now put back together, and it does in fact look nice. The mudroom is also put back together, since once the living room project got started it was clear that certain things would need to change in the mudroom, particularly the coat hanging area, which needed to be cut in half to accommodate the Giant Heavy Wardrobe that we use to hold board games and other random items – a piece of furniture that no longer had a place in the New Improved Living Room. The other half of the coat hanging area went out to the garage, which needed to be completely emptied (this is, for reference, a 2.5 car, extra-long garage that has not been seriously edited of stuff since 2018). Half of the stuff went directly to the landfill, a quarter went to Goodwill, and the rest we put back – some on the coat hanging area which now resides along the back wall of the garage. The dining room is also put back together now, as the stain on the hardwood floor that we put down in 2007 or so did not match the stain in the living room and now that neither room is carpeted there’s no real border between them so everything had to come out and the floor had to be restained, and while everything was out it was only natural that the dining room walls would also have to be repainted. I keep thinking that this all started with carpet, though admittedly things do look good now.

4. And it’s all done before Lauren’s graduation party, which will happen on Saturday if the rain holds off, though with the newly clean garage we can move some of it in there if it’s just a shower or two.

5. Meanwhile my summer class is bounding along and somehow I have become The Tech Guy, as noted earlier. Every time I think I have a handle on the Tech for this hybrid (face to face, but with a remote-access capability) class it turns out that I don’t and I need another hour of fiddling and swearing to get it right and all I can do is hope that I am not recording that part because the recordings automatically get published to the class website if you know where to look, complete with transcripts of sorts – the kinds of transcripts that get turned into memes because they’re done by AI bots programmed by people for whom English is probably not even a third language so mostly they’re just guessing and someday I will gather some friends and a large volume of adult beverages and stage a dramatic reading of some of them, just for the experience of it.

6. When we came back from Philadelphia last month I stowed two jars of the hoagie spread that the TSA had confiscated from me in April – the joy of driving is that you can dispense with the security theater and head straight for pickled hot pepper spread nirvana – and now that I have actually sampled it I can say that it was worth every bit of exertion. It is vinegary and spicy and tasty and the perfect thing to spread on a hoagie and I will definitely have to buy more of it and smuggle it back to Wisconsin along the nation’s battered interstate system next time I am out that way.

7. So apparently Critical Race Theory is the new right-wing Fearz-All tool for motivating their base into a violent frenzy against facts and reality, and having had this discussion with a few members of this base this month I can testify that not a single one of them actually knew what Critical Race Theory actually was but they were all prepared to tell me it was Evil and Un-American, in stark contrast with the recent Fascist insurrection designed to overthrow the legitimately elected government of the United States, which was apparently okay as long as the libs were the ones getting hurt. New liver, same eagles.

8. Now that I am finally catching my breath after the spring semester I am going to have to take care of some long-overdue maintenance and schedule a doctor appointment, which will likely not happen until September, and a dentist appointment, which (given the recent experience of Kim and Oliver) isn’t much of a possibility until October. I’m not even sure I want to guess how long an eye appointment will take. But you know, we have the best healthcare system in the world! Many people say so! Some of whom are completely sober! I shouldn’t complain, as at least I can see these professionals at some point which puts me one up over a great many people and gets me right back to the rich sarcasm of the middle of this paragraph. Sunrise, sunset.

9. I haven’t had much time to work on genealogy of late, though now that I have my own official Ancestry account I have discovered that Ancestry will do that for you. Every time I log in there are more “hints” that I can click on and see if they’re talking about my ancestor or someone who just shared the same name, or kind of the same name, or perhaps just a few of the same vowels. It varies. But I have found some Valuable Information that way, so credit where due.

10. Kim’s brother Randall came to stay with us for the weekend while the rest of the family went elsewhere, and he seemed to have a good time with us. He was happy to hang out and relax, and that’s pretty much our speed as well.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Going Live

I taught my first summer class today.

It’s a fun class, one that I’ve taught many times. There’s three of us who teach the course – an interdisciplinary class on the atomic bomb – and the first day of class starts out with the usual rules and introductions before moving on to one of us introducing our subject. This year it’s the physicist. Some years I get to go first. The philosopher usually has to wait.

Last year we taught the class on Zoom, which was a feat of social engineering in many ways.

This year? We went live.

Today was the first time I set foot in an actual classroom with actual students since March 11, 2020. I had a class on March 13 that year but those students were hundreds of miles away. I’ve taught that class remotely since 2012 so by the time the pandemic hit I was well versed in that particular pedagogy. It’s not a bad way to teach – it has its drawbacks and its advantages – but there’s nothing like being in the room with your students.

My alarm went off at pre-pandemic time, another first. I put on my Teacher Uniform – khakis, button-down shirt, dark socks, black sneakers that look like actual shoes from a distance – which is a far cry from the Zoom Formal that I’ve been wearing for the last fifteen months. And I drove down to Home Campus.

It wasn’t all happy reunions and roses – back when we submitted this class in February we weren’t sure how the world would look so we agreed to teach it as a hybrid course – part in person, part remote – which as the most tech-savvy instructor in this bunch (and, for the record, I realize just how absurd that statement is but here we are anyway) I can tell you that hybrid is much harder than just doing it remotely. I spent an hour with the IT guy last week and then went in yesterday to make sure I could get it to work on my own, and then this morning nothing I’d done worked at all so I spent a frantic 45 minutes getting the tech to do what I wanted.

But class time rolled around and we were off.

I’ve missed being in a classroom with students. Remote teaching doesn’t have the same energy, and you miss a lot of the things that the students give you when you’re staring at them on a screen.

In accordance with Home Campus policy, vaccinated students don’t have to wear masks on campus while unvaccinated students do – and no, asking for their vaccination status does not violate HIPPA so don’t even start with that. Most of our students are in fact vaccinated, which speaks highly of their intelligence, though even some of those were more comfortable wearing their masks.

A good percentage of the students were my advisees and an equal percentage were the philosopher’s advisees, so we knew many of these students coming in – though some of them I’d never seen in person after a year of remote advising. They’re the ones who didn’t know I wear glasses, since I don’t do that when I’m reading or looking at a computer screen.


The class went well. They asked questions and seemed to enjoy the material. We got through everything we’d planned to get through. The hybrid part actually worked, much to my astonishment, as did the video that the physicist showed. And we get to do it again on Thursday.

It’s been a long time coming, and it’s good to be back.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Looking Over the Family Tree

I come from a very long line of very short people.

This doesn’t really come as any surprise, since I remember spending a great many family occasions staring at the tops of people’s heads and I am not someone who was ever in line for any basketball scholarships. I am, in fact, maybe a finger’s width taller than the national average for American men these days – a fact I attribute entirely to my dad, who brought much-needed height into the family when he married in. My brother is maybe an inch taller than I am. After that things tail off rapidly.

I had two great-aunts who weren’t ten feet tall combined, even in their prime. Even in heels.

I’m slowly getting back into my genealogy project after a rough semester of frantic grading. It’s fun for me, all the detailed archival work. I finally bit the bullet earlier this month and bought my own Ancestry account and transferred the entire handwritten family tree that I created in 2018 – all 403 names of it – into my account. I know there are errors in this – I sent out the handwritten tree and got some feedback along those lines – so my next step is to go through all of the information I have and enter it in, making corrections as I go.

I love this sort of project. Kim says it makes her skin itch to think about it, and that’s why she spent last week redoing the living room floor while I was researching – between us we’re an entire person, and that’s what marriage is all about really. I was available for tall and/or heavy work, plus removing nail strips. Kim answers my questions about her side of the family. It all works out.

The first information I put in came from a box of physical documents that I inherited from my grandparents, and it was nice to get them attached to the right people on the tree. Now I’m going through the “Family Research” folder on my computer, document by document, adding the information as I stumble across it.

The third document down in that folder was a manifest from the ship that brought my great grandmother over from Sicily at the turn of the 20th century. That’s how I saved it, anyway. But now that I have the entire tree mostly mapped out (at least from her generation forward), I recognized a few other names who were on that ship.

Her sister and her niece sailed with her, for example, as did several people with my great-grandfather’s surname and at least one other with her own surname. They all came from two tiny little villages in northern Sicily, just west of Messina – villages that may well have been left abandoned by the time WWI rolled around if the rate of emigration held steady, though I know they still exist today so perhaps people moved in. They all moved to a half-mile-square section of South Philadelphia where pretty much everyone was related to them.

The manifest lists all sorts of random information about these people – why the US immigration officers cared about these things is an interesting question. How old each arriving person was. Single or married. Occupation. Literacy. Did they pay for their own ticket? If they had less than $50 cash with them, how much exactly did they have? Where were they going? (Many were heading toward family members who were already here - I recognized a few names and addresses in Philadelphia.) Where did they live before? And at the end there is a broad physical description – height, complexion (“black,” “natural,” and “pale” being the most common entries for all of these Sicilians), eye color and hair color (both overwhelmingly “chestnut”), identifying features, and height.

My great grandmother was 5’3” and she was on the upper end of this group. I extracted information for all of the people who came from those two villages on that ship, and the tallest were two men, one 24 and the other 36, who were 5’5”. The shortest – a 20-year-old man – was 4’6”.

We forget these days how good we have it when it comes to food.

Sicily at the start of the 20th century was a poor and hungry place, where calories could be hard to find. Most of human history is like that. We live in an age of unimaginable plenty compared with the world of our ancestors and our height reflects this nutritional bonanza.

Although even so, we’re still not planning on starting any basketball teams in my family any time soon.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

An Island Off the Living Room

Everything that used to be in the living room is now in the dining room.

Except the carpet.

That’s over at the city dump, along with the carpet pad and enough nail strips to stop an invading army because whoever put that carpet in did not intend for it to come out before the heat death of the universe.

This fits with my general theory that this house was built by dedicated amateurs who didn’t know how to cut corners and figured that if they overbuilt the place nothing bad would happen to them ever again. For all I know they were right about that.

The living room carpet was one of the last bastions of original carpeting left from when we moved into the house back in 1996. It was one of those sturdy berber carpets that are designed to last forever or until a Rubbermaid bin full of young chickens knocks over the heat lamp that was resting on the wire mesh cover and burns a fist-sized hole through it before we notice.

Whichever comes first.

So for any number of reasons, it had to go. I accepted this, even if household projects are not my thing. They are Kim’s thing, though, so on Saturday (with the graduation ceremony safely over) we moved the vast assortment of things in the living room – seriously, Lauren is at great pains to point out how our “American Clutter” décor clashes with her newly acquired Euro-minimalism sense of style, sometimes on a nightly basis – into the dining room, and then ripped out the carpet, padding, and nail strips.

It turns out that I am actually not bad at removing nail strips, even if every tendon in my legs let me know how old I actually am for several days afterward. I am this many ibuprofens old now. Happy birthday to me.

We took all the debris to the dump Monday, after which Kim sanded down the hardwood floor underneath and then she and Oliver coated it with stain and finish. It looks nice, really. Right now the quarter round is sitting in there waiting to be put on, and sometime this weekend we’ll have things back to rights. That’s the story, and we’re sticking to it.

The problem, of course, is that my office is in the front of the house, by the front door, and the only way to get from there to the rest of the house is through the living room – not really an option when the living room floor is coated in wet stain. For most of the week the only way to get from my office to the kitchen was by going outside and around to the back door. It was kind of like living in my own little island. I felt like Gilligan.

Or, I suppose, the Professor.

If you understand that joke, you are this many ibuprofens old too. Happy birthday to us. There will be cake.

But now the floor is walkable again so I’m not out here on an extended three-hour tour of my own office, and we’ve had good luck eating outside in the back all week. It’s been hot but dry.

The plan is to get everything put back together this weekend sometime, and we may actually do that. We’ll see. There are other plans afoot that may take time away from that, though – the garage needs to be cleaned out so it looks nice for Lauren’s upcoming graduation party, for one thing, and my summer class starts on Tuesday and that needs to get finalized as well. So we’ll do our best.

In the meantime, if you need me I will be building a radio out of three coconuts and a bamboo bicycle.

Monday, June 7, 2021

The Return of Kermit

Kermit is back.

Back when Oliver was born neither Kim nor I had an appropriate vehicle for a new parent. Mine was a two-door K-Car. Kim’s was not only two-door but stick shift as well. There is a reason why new parents do not have two-door cars in the age of child safety seats and that reason is that maneuvering a child in a safety seat into the back of such a car is a surefire way to turn your spine into a pretzel.

So after a month or two of that we decided that this needed to change. We did some looking around and eventually bought a 2000 Saturn LW wagon, brand new off the dealer’s lot – the first new car I ever owned, which isn’t saying much, since it was only the second car I ever owned, but it felt significant at the time. It was midnight green and had four doors – five if you counted the hatch in the back – and it was big enough to carry an entire soap show back when we were still running the craft fair circuit in the summers because academics don’t get paid in the summer and we still need to eat. We named it Kermit because it was green and things like that make sense when you’re a new parent and living on 35 minutes of sleep a night.

It was a grand vehicle, really. We took it all over the country and around Wisconsin, and it never let us down.

But cars age out and at some point we realized that the entire Saturn subdivision of GM had gone out of business, making replacement parts somewhat difficult to come by. Also, our children now had friends and Kermit was simply not big enough to haul them all at once – a discovery I made while rattling around the back cargo area at highway speed one night.

So we sold it to a friend of ours and bought the minivan, which continues to serve us well and can store immense amounts of both people and things. Seriously – you have no idea how much you can fit into a minivan until you try it. It’s probably not a coincidence that the van is TARDIS blue.

Lauren, it has to be said, was crushed when we sold the wagon. She loved that car and wanted it for herself. But she was four years away from getting her driver’s license at that point and we needed the money to put toward the van, so there you have it.

This summer we have all four of us home again, and with the country slowly opening up we all will have to leave the house to get to our various jobs – something that simply wasn’t true last year. We began to think that perhaps a third vehicle would be a good idea, something inexpensive and serviceable that we could use around town even if we weren’t going to take it on road trips.

And that’s when we found out that our friend was looking to sell Kermit.

“How much does she want for it?” I asked her sister, who is our main connection to this particular friend.

“I’ll ask.”

She eventually decided that if we paid for the transfer fees and such she would just give it to us. How can you turn down an offer like that?

It turns out there are a lot of transfer fees in Wisconsin, but it was still cheaper than buying a car elsewhere even when you factored in the work that the mechanic said needed to be done to it. Fortunately we were headed out of town to visit my mom around that time, so we just left Kermit with the mechanic and picked it up when we got home.

So now Kermit is back. Titled, tagged, insured, and street legal. The same seat covers that Kim made when the kids were little and liked to scuff up the seats in front of them. Two owners, one of them twice. Maybe 30k miles added in the seven years our friend had it, so it’s edging up toward 200k, but mechanically reliable and mostly comfortable once you adjust to the climb down into the driver’s seat. You forget how tall minivans are and how old you have gotten since the last time you tried to drive a station wagon.

It is a very manual car these days, though. The lock fobs don't work anymore, the hatch has to be opened with a key, and the turn signals don't click off until you do that yourself, but we like to think of this as Old School rather than antiquated. It sounds better that way.

Lauren is thrilled with Kermit's return, and she will probably be the one who drives it most.

To that end she is tricking it out to her specifications. It helps to have Car Buddies – the kinds of high school guys who love working on cars. My dad was one of those, but somehow I did not inherit that gene. Lauren has such friends.

They’ve already put new speakers into it. And plastic grass in place of the floor mats. And run a garland of ivy (complete with battery-powered LED lights) around the back cargo area.

The next step, apparently, is to paint flames along the sides of this two-decade-old Saturn station wagon and take it out to the strip to go cruising, which they still do here in Our Little Town. And I have to say there is part of me that is really, really looking forward to seeing that happen.

Welcome back, Kermit.

Saturday, June 5, 2021

A Good Night for a Graduation

It was a clear sunny day here for our last Local Businessman High School event yesterday – seven years of concerts, conferences, plays, and the occasional sporting event coming to an end with a graduation ceremony under a hot June sun. I’m not really sure I’m going to know how to react in September when I have nothing to do for the local public school district – we’ve had kids enrolled for nearly two decades now – but I suppose I will find out.

And there is no better way to close out your time with a school district than watching your child graduate.

The Squad came over in the late afternoon, after graduation practice was over. They brought their caps and gowns, as well as the various colored cords that they’d earned. Lauren had two cords – one for French Honor Society and one for having served on the Link Crew welcoming in new students to LBHS – and all of the rest of the Squad had at least that many (Isabella had six, which was the most in the class). It wasn’t until I got to the ceremony and looked at the program and saw that most students didn’t have any cords that it hit me just how talented this group is. I mean, I knew that. But sometimes the fact just hits harder than others.

Kim ironed the ones that needed it, and eventually we headed over to LBHS for pictures.

I like that they ask me to take pictures, and the joy of digital photography is that you can take hundreds of them in the fond hopes that at least some of them will turn out well. There were pictures by the front door in all of the possible permutations, as well as more pictures over by a (much shadier) wall, an abortive try at a few by the big rock that some previous visitors had decorated with inartistically rendered dicks, and a much happier group of photos taken over by the LBHS sign. We even took some photos that showed off the various caps that they had decorated.

You’re allowed to decorate your graduation cap these days, which is a nice thing I think. They do reserve the right to preapprove your artwork, of course, but most people just want to have a bit of fun so it worked out well. Lauren had a particular design that she wanted, based on an album cover, and Oliver said he’d do the actual painting. It turned out well.

And then it was dinner time.

They schedule these things for the early evening because it’s still light out but the temperatures are going down a bit, and that works out great except that the students have to be there early to get ready and the rest of us have to get there early to get seats so dinner tends to be rather sooner than usual. And that’s okay! Culvers will sell us burgers pretty much any time we ask them to do so, and that’s just one of the lovely benefits of living near one.

Now that people are getting vaccinated and the pandemic is receding a bit here in Wisconsin you can actually eat in a restaurant again, which is nice. It does take a bit of getting used to after a year of curbside pickup and takeout, but I’m going to enjoy it while I can. Kim, Grandma, and Grandpa joined us there.

It was fun hearing the people in the restaurant congratulate the Squad as they ate (some people driving by LBHS while we were taking pictures did so as well). Us old people remember this moment from our own lives – the excitement of it, the looking forward to the next stage that happened however long ago, the being glad that high school was over even if we were lucky enough to have managed to have a good time while we were there – and it’s nice to share that with the next generation. People can be good, when they want to be.

Eventually we headed over to the football field where they hold these things. I’m glad that they could actually have this ceremony this year. Rituals matter, no matter how odd they feel at the time.

They did make some changes to the ceremony from when Oliver and Fran graduated back in 2018, though, mostly to account for the lingering effects of the pandemic. Rather than putting all of the audience on one side of the football field and having the graduates face the middle, with a stage facing back to the sideline, they oriented the graduates lengthwise along the field, put the stage at about the goal line, and divided everyone up by alphabet so that half were on the Home side of the field and half on the Visitor’s side. It spread things out nicely, and you didn’t have to squeeze into a seat like we did last time. Lauren ended up on the Visitor’s side, right up by the front, so that’s where I sat.

Not long after we got there the band started playing. They put them off in a corner and just let them play as people filtered in. I don’t know what they’re going to do next year for a drumline, as most of Lauren’s compatriots were wearing graduation gowns, but I suppose that’s just one of the things that high school band teachers are used to working around. Eventually they stopped and the graduates disappeared to get in line for their entrance, and then the band struck up Pomp and Circumstance because that’s what you play in this situation, and the graduating class of 2021 marched in.

There were a lot of them. The band vamped on that tune for quite some time.

Say one thing about the LBHS administration, say that they understand what people are looking for in these ceremonies. They want a bit of ceremony. They want to see their kids and their kids' friends Do The Thing. And then they want to leave. LBHS is very good at keeping events concise, and I for one applaud them.

There was a short welcome speech by Aly, one of the Squad. It was a lovely speech and when she took out her camera to take pictures of the assembled crew we all applauded.

There was a choral number (you didn’t know Bridge Over Troubled Water was a gospel tune, did you, but now you do) and a handful of short student speeches. The principal got up and congratulated everyone.

And then they called each and every student up by name to receive their diploma, which I think is a wonderful thing. Those kids have worked very hard to get to this point and they’ve done so through the worst pandemic of the last century, and they deserve to be recognized individually. They move along at speed, but they all get to hear their name called and walk across the stage. They get a snazzy little diploma case and a handshake, and then they walk off the stage, get their picture taken, go to little table where someone will hand them their actual diploma, and then go back to their seats.

A few congratulatory words later, and then it’s over and the celebrating begins.

They don’t bother trying to orchestrate any recessional at these things – I can’t imagine that ending well, to be honest – so once the ceremony ends you’re free to mill around, catch up to your graduates and their friends, and generally have a good time.

Eventually we all gathered for a bit at one end of the stands for a couple of family photos.

Congratulations, Lauren! I’m proud of you.

Oh, the places you will go.

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

News and Updates

1. I’m slowly getting back to some degree of whatever passes for normal these days. My semester is done and the summer session hasn’t quite started. I’m between rushes in advising. I’m back from my trip east. I have managed to find the energy to read a book without suddenly snapping to and realizing I’ve been staring vacantly into space for … [checks time] … longer than I’d imagined. I spent the Memorial Day weekend doing as little as humanly possible and it helped, though we did have a nice picnic out at one of the local state parks on the actual day itself. Who knows? I may yet survive the year.

2. We had a lovely visit from my niece and nephew once we got back from Philadelphia. We threw them into the van when we left and hauled them out here and they spent a week doing the Small Midwestern Town thing, which is a very different experience from the New York City thing. Kids still cruise the strip in this town, and we have three Taco Bells for your dining pleasure. Lauren took them to Madison one day. Sara was still in school during this whole trip, but the joy of remote education is you can log in from anywhere. Josh is on summer break, so he got to sleep in.

3. We took them up to Devil’s Lake one afternoon and they had a good time climbing around on the boulders that surround the lake. They don’t look that big when you’re sitting at the north end of the lake where the picnic tables are, but when you get right up on them you realize that they range from shed size to house size. On the way home we went a little out of the way so we could take the ferry across the Wisconsin River, because why not. We also visited My Old Museum for their Civil War Days and watched them fire off the cannon toward the highway. We also introduced them to jalepeño poppers, which a) we are prepared to testify in court were a Civil War food and b) apparently have not made it to New York City yet.

4. In a sign of creeping normality, we got to go to Lauren’s last band concert down at Local Businessman High School. They haven’t been able to have a real concert all year, but with vaccination rates rising and the pandemic slowing down, at least in this part of the world, we were allowed to attend and we were not going to turn down such an opportunity. There were three groups of performers and you were only allowed to attend the concert for whatever group your kid was in – and you were asked to leave right after in order to maximize social distancing – but it was a very nice performance and we were glad to be able to take it in.

5. We’re gearing up for Lauren’s graduation now – the official ceremony will be on Friday – and all the little things that got canceled last year are coming back. There was the Grad Walk, where the seniors get into their caps and gowns and go back to their old elementary schools to wow the little kids and visit their old teachers. And the drum line did its traditional sally through the halls of LBHS to celebrate the end of the year. There may or may not have been other happenings that shall go unreported. More news as the day draws nigh.

6. Today in fact was Lauren’s last actual day of school. We’ve had kids in this school district for a long time, and they’ve done well. I hope that the district can keep it up in the face of the short-sighted budget slashing that seems to be the lot of education whenever the GOP is in charge of writing the money. I’m just glad Oliver and Lauren made it through.

7. The cats have finally accepted that we are home and won’t be leaving them alone for the foreseeable future – they got rather accustomed to having us around since the pandemic hit and being on their own was a bit of a shock to them. The rabbits didn’t care. I’m not sure the chickens even noticed.

8. We have two of those cardboard scratching pads for the cats – one upstairs in the hallway and one downstairs in the mudroom – and Midgie has decided that they make fine beds. She is asleep on one or the other of them pretty much all the time now. We have a house full of comfortable furniture and soft places and she chooses to sleep on cardboard. Strange beast.

9. I spent an evening shoveling paper off my desk earlier this week, and now I can proudly say that I did indeed have a desk under there. I still have a long way to go before this office is in any kind of civilized state (or, more importantly, in a sufficiently cleaned state that the inevitable avalanche of paper that will form over the next semester will not overwhelm the place) but it is nice to see progress.

10. Home Campus has now lifted mask requirements for all students and staff who are vaccinated, though unvaccinated people still need to wear them. I am not sure what I will be doing, to be honest. On the one hand it will be nice to go out without a mask again. On the other hand there are a lot of delusional people out there who think they don’t need to be vaccinated or wear masks and many of them are just assholes about it, so we’ll see how it goes.