Karen Terrier

This is Karen.

Image credits: Generic Karen from Film Daily. Target Karen and Walmart Karen from the Daily Mail. Central Park Karen from NY Daily News. Pacific Heights Karen from sfist.com.

Karen Key: “Target Karen” destroyed a mask display while filming it. She doesn’t like to wear a mask and thinks you shouldn’t wear one, either. “Walmart Karen” blocked a parking lot and screamed profanities and racist insults at those (including police) who asked her to move her car. She was in Hawaii and yelling at Hawaiians. “Central Park Karen” called police to tell them an African American man was threatening her life – because he asked her to leash her dog in a bird sanctuary. “Pacific Heights Karen” called police because a man wrote “Black Lives Matter” in sidewalk chalk on his retaining wall. She insisted she knew the owner, who would not approve. Clearly the actual property owner’s skin tone was too dark for him to live there. Luckily, the responding officer knew him and knew it was his own house.

This is a bull terrier. It was bred to harass bulls.

This is a rat terrier. It was bred to harass rats.

This is a fox terrier. It was bred to harass foxes.

Dog images from AKC.com

As a child I learned about a breed called a Cairn terrier, but I heard it as “Karen terrier”. Why not? We could use it to let the above Karens know that their attitude is not wanted.

Why not?

image from meme-generator.com

Tales of Our Only President

The New York Times has revealed that Our Only President did not pay Federal Income Tax for 10 of the past 15 years. In the two most recent years in which he paid taxes, he paid $750. In 2018 he claimed an income of $435 million in a financial disclosure, while claiming a loss of $47 million on his tax return. There are two logical and not incompatible explanations for this: 1) He is a liar and a cheat; 2) our tax code is structured to favor the wealthy. He calls the story “fake news”. Unfortunately, many in his base will probably love him even more for this. Many consider taxes to be evil and think anyone who dodges taxes is smart and a hero. Income tax evasion ultimately brought down Al Capone. May we be so lucky this time.

P.S. He is also reported (in a new book by a supporter and convicted felon) to have tried to sell his campaign on the idea of Ivanka as his running mate in 2016.

When is a precedent not a precedent?
(A letter to Senator Ron Johnson. He declined to respond. This is a slightly abridged version, cut to fit a newspaper’s 200-word limit. They chose not to run it.)

Dear Sen Johnson:
Please explain why it is not the height of hypocrisy for you to have said, in May of 2016, “Let the American people have a voice in the composition of the Supreme Court…Instead of a lame duck president and Senate nominating and confirming, a new president and Senate — elected by the people only a few months from now — should make that important decision. I can’t think of a fairer or more democratic process”; and then in September of 2020 to say, “President Trump has indicated he’s going to nominate someone. Leader McConnell has indicated he’ll give that nominee a vote, and I’m very supportive of that.” Further, in 2016 you said, “In the politicized atmosphere of an election year, you probably shouldn’t even nominate someone. It’s not fair to the nominee, it’s not fair to the court.”

I agree with you that the situations are not exactly parallel. In 2016 we were 6 months away from a presidential election. Now we are 6 weeks away from a presidential election. Can you explain this as anything but a bald-faced grab for power? Say it ain’t so Joe. Show a shred of decency.

You may want to skip the italicized section if that made sense to you. If you’re not from around here, Senator Ron Johnson is from the same neck of the woods as Wisconsin’s worst Senator, Joe McCarthy. On June 9, 1954, Joseph Welch, General Counsel for the US Army, was being interrogated by Sen McCarthy. In exasperation, he finally asked McCarthy, “At long last, have you no sense of decency?”

In 1919 the Chicago White Sox allegedly threw the World Series in exchange for bribes from gamblers, in an affair known as “The Black Sox Scandal.”. While they were acquitted, several players were banned from baseball for life. Star player Shoeless Joe Jackson was indicted and Charley Owens, writing in the Chicago Daily News, ran a story headlined “Say it ain’t so, Joe”, asking him to deny the accusation. The line was misattributed to a child, making for this scene in the film “Eight Men Out”:

I’m not sure how much of this Senator Johnson understood. By urging him to show a shred of human decency, I wanted him to put himself above Senator Joe McCarthy. By calling him “Joe” I wanted to draw the parallels between him and Joe McCarthy, to be sure he understood the gravity of the situation. By adding “Say it ain’t so” I was asking him to disavow his statement. References to both the Black Sox Scandal and the McCarthy hearings (especially in the same sentence) may have made it a little dense. Also, Ron Johnson seems to be a little dense. Sorry, I don’t usually explain myself this much. And you’re not Ron Johnson.

Day of Atonement

While my wife and daughter fast, pray, and sing in the Temple of Zoom, I atone by cleaning our adopted highway. Gut Yontiv.

Mark Hirsch, of Platteville, WI, photographed an old Burr Oak every day for a year and chronicled it in the book “That Tree“. The tree blew down in a storm this summer. While I haven’t taken this photo every day, this is the same view from our adopted highway (County F by Brigham Park), that has appeared in this space multiple times, but never this photo from today. While it rained in town, and clouds stayed above me all morning, the valley to the west basked in sunshine.

Finally, happy birthday to my Big Brother who, as a young whippersnapper of my current age, sailed the Rolex China Sea Race, in the boat pictured. (Ask to see his dragon tattoo.)

I hate being a grownup!

Those who have followed my life since January, 2020 know that I’ve been dealing with some serious shit regarding my health, Worker’s Compensation, and Human Resources (a term that makes me feel like ore). For the rest of you, here’s a quick summation.

I was injured at work. My compensation claim was denied with the declaration of a Pre-existing Condition that I never knew I had, nor had any doctor I’ve seen in my life (and that’s a while). My HR department canceled my health insurance. When I fought back, they reinstated it with an “oops”. Then they canceled my dental insurance. Another “oops”.

The company that administers our FMLA plan told me (on Feb 5) that I had to be back at work by Feb 4 or risk termination. This, despite the fact that my continuing post-op restriction essentially defines my work. Try “no stress or strain to the abdominal or core muscles” while doing direct patient care in a hospital. To extend my leave requires a signed statement from the surgeon. Will he do it? Does he have time? Does he agree with the nurse who revised the restriction from “no lifting >20 pounds” to “no core stress or strain”? Stay tuned.

A big part of me wants to say “Fine. Fire me. It still hurts too much to go back to work.” The grownup part says that my Social Security benefit will be significantly higher if I stay there for 3 more years. That same grownup says that if I quit, give up my health insurance and go on Medicare, I won’t be able to provide insurance to my child until they turn 26, which was my plan; especially if they go to grad school in the fall and leave their job and that insurance. The grownup says: “You’ve stuck it out 20 years. You can live through 3 ½ more.”

See why I hate being a grownup?

Interval training with the Stray Cats

It has been exactly one month that I’ve been off work. To rebuild the endurance to get back to work, I stayed out of the house for half the day yesterday, running errands. It was exhausting. It is time for the next step – interval training.

The Stray Cats were my training partners for the day. With tempos ranging from ~60 bpm to over 100, and a couple of breaks for them to get a drink and between encores, they were a great inspiration and well-paced. I matched their tempo most of the time (hence the intervals). I managed to get my hands in the drops today for the first time – I haven’t been able to bend that far and have been on the bar tops exclusively until today. No fancy Smart Trainer for me; just the one I bought used about 30 years ago to rehab from a prior injury. (Yeah, I have to take it apart and fix it when it gets hot and falls apart – that may be why the original owner sold it – but that gets me another break.)

Health insurance rant

Ten years ago, I had a company paid health insurance plan. It was through an HMO. Everything was covered. Their job was to help me stay healthy. Then everything changed.

Health insurance costs began to rise precipitously. Wisconsin Act 10 banned union activity at my place of employment, so I lost my contract and my union’s protection. The Affordable Care Act set minimum standards, so employers raced to the bottom, choosing to meet the bare minimum.

The result? My health insurance now costs $231/month, I have a co-pay for each doctor visit, I pay 10% co-insurance for everything other than a routine doctor visit (lab tests, x-rays, surgery…). My maximum out of pocket expense is now $13,700/year (not counting premiums). My actual maximum is therefore $16,472, compared with zero dollars ten years ago – in practical terms, a massive pay cut.

Death Ride

Monitor Pass (snow should be gone for the ride), photo from California Alps Cycling

Registration is now open for the Death Ride on Saturday, July 11, 2020. Enjoy beautiful Alpine County, California, climb your choice of 1-5 mountain passes, and ride up to 129 miles (~200 km). For anyone planning to travel out there, a couple of handy options I recommend for sleeping – Turtle Rock Park for those of the camping persuasion, and Sorenson’s Resort for those of the sleeping indoors persuasion. Both are right on the route. Now that my reservations are in, I can tell the rest of you. This will be my return to the scene of the crime after 28 years. We’ll see if my legs and lungs still have it. Registration is also open for the Horribly Hilly Hundreds, the midwest’s answer to the Death Ride. HHH starts at Blue Mound State Park. Camping is available there or at nearby Brigham County Park. Both are great. I have no recommendation for sleeping indoors. HHH entry is by lottery, so get your application in by February 16. The ride is on Saturday, June 20. No, I’m not going to do both.

 A view from the top of Blue Mound.
View from Blue Mound, photo from WI DNR

Winter

If you live in a cold climate, remember your friendly neighborhood botanical garden. My first introduction to summer in the winter was the Mitchell Park Domes in Milwaukee. Today I visited Olbrich Botanical Gardens in Madison, where there is a special orchid display this month. I kicked myself for forgetting my camera with macro lens, so you’ll have to settle for iPhone photos. Check it out:

Adopt-a-Highway

The half-fast cycling club has officially adopted a highway. This means we are responsible for keeping the roadside clean. Our stretch of road includes one of our favorite climbs and one of our favorite views.

If you guessed County Highway F at Brigham Park, you are a weiner! Officially, it is from the intersection with Cave of the Mounds Road to the end of the park (just out of sight in the background) at Danhouser Road.

Now we’re looking for volunteers. The first cleanup is planned for Sunday, June 30. If you’re interested, let us know via the contact page on this site or by any other means if you know how to reach us in other ways. If you can’t make that day but want to be on the list for the future, tell us that as well.

After we clean, we can sit on the bench (from which these photos were taken) and enjoy the view and a cold beverage.

The day after the Horribly Hilly, I had the good fortune to meet Phil Van Valkenberg, who might be considered the father of bike touring in Wisconsin. When I first discovered, at the age of 21, that I could ride my bike out of town, it was to Phil that I turned for maps and advice. He just didn’t know it until now. I dedicated the ride to him. He was in Milwaukee for the Fat Tire Tour of Milwaukee. We met at a chamber music concert; nothing to do with bikes (except that it was in a really beautiful valley for a ride).

This section of highway is no longer an orphan!

Same half-fast guy, two 200K rides, 27 years apart. Wet both times.

Dear Curtis:

Spring may have arrived today [Monday, May 13]. Two weeks ago I cleaned snow off the windshield. Today it was pollen. [Is that what I get for not driving for two weeks?] Nothing says “new life” more irrefutably than pollen. The sun is shining. It is 65 degrees (18 Celsius).

Our annual Mother’s Day walk through the lilac gardens at the arboretum was a bit anti-climactic. While the lilacs are behind schedule, the redbuds are in bloom, as are irises, tulips, and grape hyacinths. Apples are beginning to bloom.

It is Stevie Wonder’s 69th birthday. My sister introduced me to him when I was ten (Stevie had just turned 13 when the single, recorded when he was 12, was released), with this song:

In honor of Stevie’s birthday I saw the Aretha Franklin movie “Amazing Grace” today. Almost enough to give a non-theist religion. It is also the birthday of Professor Craig Werner. Who’da thought a guy who wrote his dissertation on James Joyce would end up as a professor of Afro-American studies and write numerous books on African American music, including the seminal “A Change is Gonna Come“?

While Stevie started as a prodigy, he really came of age with “Songs in the Key of Life”, an album which showed his breadth and depth as a songwriter and a musician. No single song can encompass that, but one of my favorites is “Sir Duke”:

Time flies and it is now Thursday. Last night’s ride began the warmup for the Horribly Hilly Hundreds, the midwest’s answer to The Death Ride – but on a midwestern scale – instead of five passes, you climb “40 significant rises” in the words of the organizers.

Our warmup included the (in)famous Mounds Park Road. The third of four climbs for the evening, it starts with a 5½ mile lead-in through a slowly rising valley. It’s mostly flat, but you don’t stop pedaling the whole time. With a tailwind, it might be a way to warm up your legs. With a headwind, you might wonder if you’ll have jellylegs before you even start climbing. For those of you in Alpine County, CA, it’s sort of like climbing up through Woodford’s before you even get to the climbs to Carson or Luther Pass.

You finally turn off the county highway and get teased by a brief downhill, then a few gently rolling hills and you wonder what all the fuss is about. Someone was nice enough to spray grade markers on the road. You approach the first and see “6%”. Not bad, just your average mountain road and a whole lot shorter. Then you see the ramp ahead and the “13%” painted on the road. You ride through various 12 and 13% markings and see a spot where it “levels out”. A rest, you think. A mere “9%” is painted on the road. Now you know why people talk about this road. The respites are the single-digit sections, and “single digit” means “9%”.

Still, it’s fun…and then you remember that the Horribly Hilly climbs it once at 6.5 miles, and again at 120 miles. No sweat; today is only a 30 mile ride, and there is only the final and beautiful climb to Brigham County Park after this. You never actually reach the top on this ride – when you get near the top, you turn left onto Ryan Road. If you were thinking about sitting up, catching your breath, and taking a drink of water – think again (or do it fast). Before you know it, you are screaming down a 40 mph curving and shaded road. You better pay attention.

It was also the first post-ride potluck of the season. Like everything else, the rhubarb is behind schedule. Luckily I froze some last year so I was still able to make a rhubarb pie – 4 cups of frozen fruit from last year, and a cup of fresh was all I could muster from this year.

By the way, the rest of you can read this. Curtis was a friend in LA; the last person with whom I kept up a snail mail correspondence. Were he still alive, I’d have written something like this as a letter to him. Since he’s not around to read my letters, that falls to the rest of you.

I can’t get away without acknowledging that this is posting on Syttende Mai (17th of May), Norwegian Constitution Day.