Monday, June 21, 2021

Baseball Fan Post 001

It has been a full generation since I sat down to watch a T-ball game.  If you are not familiar with this entre into the world of baseball it involves 5 year olds with jerseys that hang down to their knees and with the sponsors emblazoned across the shoulders extending down towards the elbows.  The kids hit off a T.  Then they run, or maybe they don't, while the fielders try to figure out what to do with a ball somewhere in their general vicinity.

It's fun, and even after a half century of baseball fandom I still get to see things I've never seen before.  One kid lunged after the ball.  He grabbed it then ran back to where his hat had fallen off, put it back on and then launched a throw somewhere towards first base!

A few pictures taken in early morning sunshine at the dawn of a new era.

Coaches getting their teams warmed up and generally paying attention.  That by the way is the T.  It took quite a pounding by players who swung with more enthusiasm than direction.

Some are watching the action intently.  Others are watching butterflies.

I'm now taking my photos from this side of the chain link fence.  I certainly spent enough time a generation ago on the other side.  Here an enthusiastic coach has his players running the bases after the game and getting high fives at home plate.



Sunday, June 20, 2021

Father's Day 2021

When I was in Med School I recall a lecturer discussing genetics.  He mentioned in passing that.."It is a wise man who knows his father."  This was in the context of a discussion on actual versus presumed paternity, and in retrospect was a rather callous thing to say.

But it has a deeper truth to it.  When do we become wise enough to really know our fathers?  Or our children?

Here's my dad and I a couple of years before he passed.  His dementia was getting on a bit but it was not the pure evil that you'd think.  Things that had been eating at him for years were no longer concerns to him.  He thought a lot about his own childhood on the farm and that made him happy.  He got to spend time with his grandchildren and that made him happy as well.

My brother is a rather easy going fellow.  Oddly, when he interacted with our father the discussions were serious ones.  I'm frankly way more intense.  And dad and I had marvelous times in those later years just goofing around.  Here I've got my laptop and am showing him the latest grand kid pix.  Or maybe silly videos.  I imagine my visits made his day.  And maybe my dad also felt better after unburdening himself in discussions with my brother.  I'm sure there is significance in the fact that we both felt more natural interacting with him in the manner least like our own selves.  Each in our own way we got to know him better.  I doubt my dad remembered any of it the next day.


But he's gone now and anyway this is about Father's Day 2021.  

It's becoming an outmoded holiday in some respects.  Outmoded in that having a father around is becoming less common.  The last stats I've seen have about 23% of children living in mom only households.  In some subsections of our population it is much higher.  67% of black children are born into single parent families.  That is a statistic, not a judgement.  But its implications for the Black community and the nation as a whole are profound.  We should not shy away from pondering its causes and effects.

Father's Day is also a silly holiday from the perspective of many dads.  Being Dad is a job where you just do what you have to do and don't make a fuss over it.  

I think an understanding of who your dad is comes slowly.  Or tragically for some who have an absent father, never at all.  You need to live a certain number of years, see a certain amount of the good things in the world and of the bad to put things into perspective.  I think this is why when we become grandfathers we are almost all easy going.  That B on the report card, those muddy footprints on the kitchen floor, and all the other small to medium aggravations of day to day are seen in a different context.  They don't matter much.  "Hey, let's raid the fridge for snacks!"

I imagine my sons will check in today as is their custom.  The one in the process of moving cross country on a crazy implausible life adventure gets a pass this year.  They are doing well, all of them.  They are quite capable of speaking for themselves so I shan't speak for them.  But I hope they begin to understand.  

Dads are not perfect.  Never have been, never will be.  We do what we have to do.  Sometimes it is a thankless job but in its better moments it is simply a job where the thanks are long delayed.  I expect they are all bright enough to not be misled by the illusion of permanence. I'm getting older as they will themselves in their own turn.  I won't be around forever, that's not how things are nor how they should be.  It's been great raising them, even the difficult moments.  I hope we have no unresolved issues, if there are any I think we have time to set things right just as I did with my own dad.  

Perhaps it is actually the wise man who knows his children.  I claim no great wisdom but I can say that the small to medium aggravations of raising them no longer matter at all. 

"Hey, lets raid the fridge for beers!"


Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Strange Fish Challenge - Final Day

After the great success of Day Six of the Strange Fishing Challenge it was time to regroup.  I'd caught 10 different species (albeit some repeats from early days) in my slightly altered Stop Watch day.  As that put me at 19 I could actually just include the sturgeon I'd caught a couple of weeks ago and call it good.  But that would lack a certain...panache.  I want to go out on an over the top note.  Or at least have fun catching that last species.  Several scenarios were under consideration to get me to the magic number.  And if this sounds like a political hack counting Electoral Votes, well the comparison is not unfounded.  You need a couple more EV's to win the Presidency it does not matter if they come from North Dakota or California.  You need one more species to make 20 and a 50 pound sturgeon and a half ounce minnow are both winners.  So...

1. The Sturgeon Scenario.  I could go back to the dam at Menomonie and fish until I get one.  That would be fun, but sturgeon are sneaks and teases.  You see them jumping all over the place but to get one to bite is another matter.  And as spring warms up the water quality of that river drops fast.  So maybe, but only if I go there soon.

2. Yellow River top to bottom.   I've been meaning to get up to a place called Miller Dam near Gilman Wisconsin.  It sounds as if crappies - a common species I need - are often caught there.  I could then fish the Yellow River back home and replace one of my geocaches along the way.  

3. Down to the Mississippi.  With the theory that anything connecting to the Mississippi might have all sorts of weird fish in it, there is some appeal to driving over to Mondovi and fishing the Buffalo River all the way down.  Google Earth shows at least a dozen spots where it or its feeding creeks could be fished.  As with any new territory there would be more tackle lost and it would be another day long expedition.  I can find almost nothing online about fishing this river.  I consider that a plus.

4. Keep it Simple.  If I just catch a minnow off my dock I'm "done and dusted" as my UK friends would say.  Minnows have proven themselves wily and worthy opponents, but I'd have patience and pilsner on my side.

So....which will it be.....?

I couldn't stop wondering what was in the Buffalo River, so off I went.   But first I stopped in Mondovi Wisconsin, where a small creek that feeds into the river had been dammed up to make Mirror Lake.  I'd read that the lake had been drained, dredged and stocked in the past year or so and that raised some interesting possibilities.

In the spillway below the dam I got this guy right away.  It's a sizable Black Bullhead, and is also Species #20. 

  Then I moved up to the fishing pier on the lake.  And check this out:


It's a Rainbow Trout!  It is obviously a stocked fish and I'm not sure how well they'll do long term in this spot long term but this guy was hungry on a Monday Morning.  Number 21.  And for good measure the same site yielded this:


A very pretty Green Sunfish.  Number 22.

And the Buffalo River proper?  Fished a half dozen spots with nary a nibble.  

And that's a wrap.  As it turns out it is possible to catch 20+ species of fish in seven days of effort.  It helps a lot to do your fishing in the spring, and to add a road trip or two.   

I probably caught a few more than 22.  Some of the small minnow like critters are very hard to sort out.  And of course if you unfairly add the ones that I got within inches of the shore I'd guess I was close to 25.  But no picture means no ID and no count.

I might venture out a few more times in the week ahead.  I have some night crawlers left after all...

Perhaps a retrospective of the Seven Day Strange Fish Challenge will be forthcoming.  I certainly learned a lot in the process.



Monday, June 14, 2021

Vindolanda - Things I missed digging up.

I was supposed to be excavating at Vindolanda last month.  Here's some of the things that saw the light of day in my absence.  Not news of course to my archaeology pals.

Tiles and bricks with animal footprints are always fun.  These were made on site and if you close your eyes and use your  imagination a bit you can still hear the sound of the wandering mutt getting yelled at for strolling across the drying area.

Some things were not made on site but were modified there.  A nice pottery shard from Gaul...with scratched on graffitti.  "Nobilis" wanted to make sure nobody else used his pot for, er, whatever this was actually used for.

Some technologies don't change much.  Pretty beads have been in use for longer than history has been recorded.  And are the same today.

Another design that really can't be improved upon.  A 3rd century AD pickaxe.  They really should have posed a modern one next to it.


Here's the little metal bit that is at the bottom of a sword scabbard.  The leather of course is long gone.


Two views of a metal artifact found last week.  Before and after preliminary cleaning.



Because of course the awesome power of Imperial Rome brings to mind a decorative brooch shaped like a chicken.  (Note that metal objects shown have first been revealed by the Vindolanda Trust....I follow the rules even from afar).

All manner of ancient things turn up on site.  With of course, variable levels of preservation.  A photo taken after preliminary cleaning would be a bit more appealing.



Friday, June 11, 2021

Tree Shaped Tombstones - Over the Top in Eagle Wisconsin

A charming side benefit to road trips for other purposes - strange fishing, brewery caves, etc - is that you can take a route, planned or unplanned, through various small communities on the off chance that their cemeteries will have interesting Tree Shaped Tombstones.  In the tiny hamlet of Eagle Wisconsin I found an odd pairing.

It's pretty common to have two cemeteries across the road from each other.  One is generally Catholic the other either Protestant or non denominational.  When these were laid out in the mid 19th century the whole business with Luther and the Reformation was centuries in the past but there was enough residual animus that nobody wanted to take the chance of ending up in the wrong place.  And as a result, The Wrong Place.

In Eagle the Oak Ridge cemetery had a single Tree, but what an ornate one!


Really just an astonishing degree of intricate carving.  Impressive but a bit fussy for my tastes.


I figured this was a one off, something custom ordered for somebody who really liked busy floral designs.  But across the road staring down this upstart burial place the Catholic cemetery had its own similar example.  Alas, the lighting was not quite as good.


Not as many flowers this time but all manner of gnarled, twisted, storm broken branches.  And oak leaves and acorns.


So why did the families Voght and Marcely decide to each get such elaborate tombstones, facing each other across Highway 67 and the Catholic-Protestant divide?


Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Tree Shaped Tombstones - How'd I Miss That?

On a recent road trip I found myself in Lowell Wisconsin. Of course I swung through the little cemetery.  Some of the monuments looked familiar, and when I checked it turns out I'd posted a few Tree Shaped Tombstones from this location years ago.  I have no recollection of why I was there previously.  But as it happens I missed one.  Here's a fine example of the "Log Cabin" style.


Hopefully that cracked foundation does not bode ill for its continued survival.  This style of "Tree-related" tombstone is far from common.