Thursday, August 28, 2008

Obama's speech

Right off the bat, let me just say that I'm not all that crazy about Barack Obama. I don't believe he is the progressive candidate that progressives think he is. Ever since it became clear that he would win the Democratic nomination, he's been moving to the center (read: right) so fast it's making liberal heads spin. He may be doing this because he's "politically savvy." It's hard to get a handle on what he really believes. If I had my druthers, Dennis Kucinich would be the Democratic nominee. Even had Kucinich gotten the nomination, it is my belief that Ralph Nader is the best candidate in this election, based solely on his stand on the issues as well as his past history in comparison with McCain, Obama or even Kucinich. But... the reality is, our next president will be either John McCain or Barack Obama. That said, well, you all know the outcome of that argument. I just wanted to clear the air before getting into the next bit.

So, Obama gives "THE MOST IMPORTANT SPEECH OF HIS LIFE", as all the talking heads have been calling it, tonight at the Democratic National Convention. I decided to watch it, despite the fact that, as I've said before and will undoubtedly say again, I'm not very excited about the prospect of an Obama presidency. I'm sure that his speech will be dissected and interpreted by "experts" and their ilk to the point where it won't even be recognizable to people who actually heard it. The rethuglicans will attack individual phrases or words in an attempt to tear him down. Truly, the only platform McCain has to run on is fear. Fear of a black man in the oval office. Fear of terrorists. Fear of increased taxes. Fear of a smart and educated man (elitist). I'm sure that, in one way or another, the rethuglicans will play on all those fears, maybe more, and they will do it very skillfully. Let's give credit where credit is due: it's the only thing that they're good at.

Enough of that. My response to Obama's speech was that he did a very good job of presenting himself as someone who is "outside of Washington." He took the bull by the horns and addressed some of those points that everyone expects the rethuglicans will attempt to use against him, and I think he did it very well. I disagreed with many, many things he said. I think he pandered too much to what he believes to be middle america. For instance, he brought up abortion and same-sex marriage without ever stating his views on those issues. I would have liked for him to have said flat out "I believe in a woman's right to choose" or "I believe in the right of one person to marry the person of their choice, regardless of gender" or something along those lines. While he had the guts to say the war in Iraq was wrong, he also said something about withdrawing troops from Iraq "responsibly" or something like that. What the hell does that mean? It sounded a little too much like Nixon's "peace with honor" bullshit during the '72 election. He never mentioned a plan for withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, where we are still at war, a fact which seems to have been forgotten. Further, he talked about protecting Israel without mentioning the horror that is being perpetrated against Palestinians by the Israeli government. He didn't even say the words Palestine or Palestinian. Shameful. He talked about Iran in a way that made me extremely uncomfortable, and Russia, and ... sigh. Nonetheless, I felt he was very adept at speaking about the failures of the Bush administration, and he did it without EVER smirking the way Bush does when he knows he has the attention of the whole country, and never apologized for being ... gasp! ... a liberal. He manages to address racial issues bluntly while acknowledging and legitimizing the concerns of those who feel threatened by racial issues, which is not an easy thing to accomplish. He didn't hold back in addressing the stranglehold corporations have on government policy, or the influence that insurance companies now have on what health care you are entitled to. There were definitely moments that were inspirational, but I keep coming back to the old adage that actions speak louder than words. Then I think not about what he's saying, but how he voted and I'm not so inspired anymore. In summary, he's mostly too middle-of-the-road for my tastes, but I think he has the ability to make people believe that he sincerely cares about them and their difficulties, whereas McCain is just, just, just.... he's crazy, rich, out of touch and wrong, wrong, wrong. I think Obama may actually be able to win this election and I suppose middle-of-the-road is marginally better than ultra-right and insane. (What's the saying? If you vote for someone you don't agree with, don't be surprised when you end up with someone you don't agree with? I used nicer language than the way I have heard it.) Anyway, I don't expect great things from an Obama presidency, but I expect absolutely horrible things from a McCain presidency and Obama was very clear about what some of those horrible things would be.

Now you know ... I'm not an Obama convert. Please don't hurt me. But, I must say this: I watched African-Americans in the audience who were in tears while listening to Obama speak and I thought about how it must feel to see, after all these years ... no, centuries ... an African-American candidate for president with a legitimate chance of winning while, at the same time, there were white people cheering and applauding next to them. Quite an amazing sight. I must admit that when I was younger I naïvely believed that I would live to see an African-American president, a Female president, a Jewish president, a Gay president, an Atheist president, etc, etc. Or, at least one of those: stars in my eyes and all that. Gradually, I came to the conclusion that if this were ever to occur in my lifetime, an African-American president would look like Clarence Thomas, Colin Powell or Condoleeza Rice; a female president would be someone like Phyllis Schlafly, Condoleeza Rice or Hillary Clinton (yes, even though she's a dimmocrat, I put Hillary Clinton in the same category as the other two; she votes like a rethuglican, what can I say?). You get the drift. The fact that there is an African-American candidate for president who is not just a black mouthpiece for the ultra-right (I'm sorry, but I must reiterate that, based on his record and his past statements, he's not the progressive candidate that progressives would like you to think he is, or that the right would like you to fear that he is) and seems to have a real chance of winning the election kind of blows my mind. I honestly didn't think that it would happen in my lifetime. That alone is reason to be inspired. If you were to ask me. And I know you didn't, but there it is.

A couple of years ago I hazarded the prediction that the next president of the United States would be either Jeb Bush, John McCain or Condoleeza Rice. Not because I wanted it to be so, but because I seem to become more cynical as I get older and they seemed to be the obvious choices for the rethuglicans while at the same time the dimmocrats have an uncanny ability for snatching defeat out of the jaws of victory. If it had been Rice on the rethuglican ticket, and if she were to win, imagine the bragging rights the rethuglicans would be claiming for electing both the first African-American president and the first woman president all in one go. Ugh. I still think it would have been a brilliant strategic move on their part, aside from her unfortunate (for her) association with the ever-increasingly-unpopular Bush regime. Boy, am I glad I was wrong about Bush and Rice. I hope I was wrong about McCain.

What he said...

I was listening to Wisconsin Public Radio today and aside from a little bit about the Olympics, all they talked about was the Democratic convention, which was no surprise. Oddly, they didn't say anything . "Hillary did what she had to do..." or "Mark Warner's speech was boring," and "all the speeches were boring..." "Hillary said this..." "what will Bill Clinton say tonight..." "did Hillary do enough..." "Joe Biden will probably liven things up...". They went on and on about how uninspiring all the speeches were. Not once did they even mention Dennis Kucinich, who I though made a great speech. Not once. Par for the course for the stupid media, I guess. They decide who we get to listen to. They decide for us that the convention was uninspiring without letting us hear the most inspiring speech so far. They decide for us who is a valid candidate and who is an also-ran. Uff da.

You've probably already seen this or posted it on your own blog, but if you were a person who got all your news from television, radio or the newspaper, (which clearly is not the case) you might not even be aware that Kucinich exists. He says it all in this speech, and I enjoyed watching him hop around. Too bad he's not the nominee, but I guess the media decided for us that he wasn't an option before the primaries even started.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Not quite robbing banks... (pt. 2)

I mentioned in the previous post that we stopped at the Dickeyville Grotto. What a strange place. It was all built over a 5 year span by Father Mathius Wernerus. The date on the grotto itself is 1929, but I don't know if that's when he started or when he finished. I can't even imagine the amount of labor that went in to building this thing. I took a bunch of pictures, but they don't really show the magnitude of the undertaking.

Here's the main structure. I couldn't get far enough away to get all of it in the photo. Everything is encrusted with colored stones, broken glass and who knows what else. Inside is a shrine that is pretty impressive, but it's all behind glass and hard to get any good pictures as a result. The theme of the Grotto is religion and patriotism. I wasn't aware that they were related, but what the heck.

Each one of the little niches has its own display depicting something or other.

Here's one of my favorites, although I'm not sure what bunnies and squirrels have to do with either religion or patriotism.

Nor do I understand how a kid wearing a dorky hat and oversized boots while smoking a pipe is relevant.

And what's the deal with the antlers?

Christopher Columbus just screams religion and patriotism, don't you think?

I've got lots more, but you probably don't need to see them all. To really experience the, umm, amazing bizarreness that is the Dickeyville Grotto, you have to see it in person. So, next time you're in the vicinity of Dickeyville, be sure to stop for a look. Don't worry, though, because...

There's no Norwegians in Dickeyville.
There's none in the valley, there's none on the hill.
There never was and there never will
be no Norwegians in Dickeyville.

(Lyrics from "There's No Norwegians In Dickeyville" by The Goose Island Ramblers, who happen to be one of my all-time favorite bands.)

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Not quite robbing banks...

It's been a busy few days, so I haven't had a chance to put any of these photos up until now, but Ms. Geranium decided against robbing banks on her birthday. Instead, we took a drive to southwestern Wisconsin to follow the Great River Road along the upper Mississippi River. The weather was a bit on the wet side. If you would like, you can enbiggen the photos by clicking on them. They look a little better that way.

As you head southwest out of Madison, the terrain looks a lot like this.

And this.

It starts to get hillier as you get closer to the Mississippi.

The road takes you through valleys and up on the tops of ridges.

A barn in the process of, well, something...

I had to get a picture of this road sign. There were an awful lot of (Something) Hollow Roads.

Right across the street was this cemetery.

This guy lived in three different centuries!

We took a ferry from Cassville, Wisconsin across the Mississippi to Iowa. Cassville is known as a good place for eagle spotting. We saw a couple of juvenile eagles, but I would have needed a longer lense to get any good pictures of them. Ms. Geranium may have some good shots, but her camera uses something called film, which doesn't provide the instant gratification of digital.
Here's the birthday girl and our two daughters on the ferry.
(Smile! Come on, it's your mother's birthday. Pretend you love each other.)

The mighty Mississippi. It's a pretty impressive body of water even this far north.

The Mississippi River valley from the Iowa side.

And another.

Heading back into Wisconsin, we made a stop in Dickeyville, WI, to take a look at the Dickeyville Grotto, but that's a whole nuther post. It ended up being a pretty long day, about 9 hours of driving, including stops here and there, but it was a nice trip. Someday I'd like to follow the Mississippi from it's source in Minnesota all the way to it's end.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

New dog in the (extended) family

My sister-in-law just called to wish her sister a happy birthday. Ms. Geranium wasn't home, (no, we haven't hit the banks yet), so I took the message. She was calling from Minneapolis, where her son is living. The news from our nephew and his new wife is... they have a new dog. What kind, I asked. I'm not kidding about this next bit. A shihtz-poo (shih tzu poodle mix). I just looked it up on the internets, and the dog breeders call it a shih-poo, but I swear my sister-in-law called it a shihtz-poo. I like it.

Happy Birthday!

Today is Ms. Geranium's birthday. Stop by at Luminiferiferiferous Ether to wish her a happy one. We'll be out robbing banks (hey, it was her idea) for most of the day, but it would be, like, totally awesome if she were swamped with birthday greetings when she gets home (with good behavior, probably in 3-5 years.)

Happy birthday, Suzy!
Love, Ed

Monday, August 18, 2008

Coming soon: Cooking With Enriched Geranium

I'm going to give this a try. A number of you bloggeristas have posted some of your cooking tips, and I've found them to be interesting and have used bits and pieces of your recipes in my own keittiö. I have a recipe in mind, but I'm going to have to swipe my daughter's digital camera and have all the ingredients on hand before I can post anything. Oh yeah, I'll also have to make it. I'm sure you'll all love it, though: healthy and überyümmy. Try not to be overwhelmed by the suspense. By the way, that's not really me in the picture. Seriously. I googled images of "Chef's outfit" and that's what came up. Really. NOT. Me.

Watch this and pass it on.

You're probably seeing this all over the internets, but everyone needs to see it, republicans in particular. Anyone who pays any attention at all won't be surprised, but it's still nothing short of appalling. What a f#@%ing a**hole.

Friday, August 15, 2008

A book review of sorts.

This book was written by a child of parents who immigrated to this country from the Middle East. It's about how growing up in this family in a small New England town shaped the beliefs that are the foundation of the author's life. He looks at various traditions that were important to him and his family. The book is not an instruction manual or self-help guide. He states in the beginning that he is often asked "...what forces shaped" him, and that there is an easy short answer to that question ("I had a lucky choice of parents"), but an in depth answer couldn't really be given in a few minutes, so he wrote this book.

There is a fair amount of the "we didn't have TV when I was a kid, we had to make our own fun with a stick and a handful of rocks" kind of thing (he didn't really say that, I made it up to illustrate a point), some rather obvious common sense, parts that I disagreed with and some interesting biographical details.

Some quotes:

From his mother: "Listen more than you speak, and think before you speak."

From his father: "Either we spread the wealth in a country where millions of humans go without, or we spread the misery."

A conversation between his father and a doctor who was drinking coffee in the father's restaurant:

DOCTOR: Why are the auto workers' wages so high?
FATHER: So they can afford to pay your bills! Why do you charge so much?
DOCTOR: Because we often treat poor people for free.
FATHER: In that case, since we give free coffee to poor people, your coffee [then 10 cents] today is $1.00.

The author is someone for whom I have a great deal of respect, so I wish I could say this was a great book and you should go out and get it. Alas, that is not the case. It's not a bad book and it's an easy read, but nothing earth-shattering.

Oh, yes. The title is The Seventeen Traditions and the author's name is Ralph Nader. Sorry, I guess that was kind of sneaky, but I didn't want to mention the author's name at the beginning. Mere mention of the "N" word (Nader) is enough to get some people riled up or decide what they think before they hear anything.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

My baby's back!

My first bass, a 1971 Fender Precision which I bought used in...., let's just say it was a few years ago (it wasn't old enough to be considered "collectable" when I bought it), is now back in playing condition after a long period of lying dormant and unplayable. A couple of years after I bought it, I removed the fretted neck and replaced it with a fretless neck. After a number of years of playing and several fingerboard dresses the fingerboard got so thin it started to split. (The problem with playing fretless is that the act of playing actually wears grooves into the fingerboard, necessitating the removal of material from the fingerboard to level it out, which is called "dressing" or "re-dressing." Eventually, you run out of fingerboard.) By that time, I had acquired a second bass to serve as a back-up instrument, but it became my only functioning bass when the Fender became unplayable. The Fender went into storage until the day when I would figure out what to do about it. A few years passed, I ended up making yet another fretless bass and eventually decided I didn't need three fretless basses, so why not put the original neck back on the Fender so I could have a fretted bass in addition to the two other fretless instruments? It took over a year to accomplish this, as it turned out that there were other problems that needed addressing to make the instrument playable again. The luthier to whom I had entrusted it for these repairs was very busy and I made the mistake of telling him it wasn't a rush job. Now it's done and I played it for the first time tonight. It's kind of beat up, but it feels good and it sounds great. It was nice getting reacquainted.

Here we are when we were first getting to know each other.
Photo: Elizabeth Miller

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Now Look For Now People

I've been muddling about changing the layout of this blog for some time. I found the white text on black background, among other things, to be kind of hard on the eyes, but since no one ever complained about it, I assumed it was just me. I was also leery of changing it after witnessing the chaos that ensued when Luminiferous Ether changed her blog. She lost a bunch of stuff and it took her days to get it to the point where she was happy with it again. Then Quakerdave mentioned in a comment that he couldn't even read it due to the unfortunate color scheme I had chosen back when I first started the thing. That was enough to convince me that the time had come, and here it is. I may play around with it some more, as I'm not totally happy with how it looks, but it's a start. I hope you all find it easier to view, and please let me know if anything about it bugs you.


P.S. A special thank you to QD. Without your comment I may not have gotten around to changing it for months.

By popular demand...

Okay, I may be exaggerating a wee bit. One person suggesting that I write about an event doesn't really qualify as popular, nor as a demand, but she has requested it several times, so does that count? I thought of writing about it in the meme I posted prior to this, but it seemed like to long of a story for a meme. Besides, I already had made reference to it in a previous meme and I promised to write about it some day.

Here's the story...

It was a dark and stormy...

Oops. Wrong one. Try again.

As has been mentioned a couple of times on this blog, I once worked for an electric guitar manufacturer. It's not a particularly well known company, but, at least at the time when I worked there, they also made guitars for other brands, one of which was Dean Guitars. While nowhere near as well known as Fender or Gibson, Dean is a pretty well known brand in the world of electric guitars. At one point in time, we were in the process of building a prototype guitar for Dean. I don't remember the exact details, but as I recall it was co-designed by Dean and former Pantera guitarist Dimebag Darrell and would be the first in the Dimebag series of Dean guitars. They were calling it The Razorback. While working on it, I enjoyed playing around with the concept of being named Dimebag Darrell. "Hi! I'm Dimebag Darrell. This is my little brother, Nickelbag Darrell, my sister Douchebag Darrell, my cousins Sleazebag and Scumbag Darrell and my grandfather Colostomybag Darrell." Etc., etc..

Since the manufacture of most electric guitars these days involves at least some automation, some programming needed to occur before the first cuts could begin, and as always seemed to be the case, there were some bugs that needed to be worked out causing the entire project to be, ummm, let's just say it was behind schedule before we even started building. As I understood it at the time, there was an impending photo shoot scheduled for Dimebag and the prototype Razorback and it was looking like we weren't going to have the guitar ready. Some long days followed, mostly for the owners of the company, as I was obligated to pick up my daughter after school and, most days, couldn't stay late. It gets to be the day before the scheduled photo shoot and the guitar is close to being finished, but not quite. I made arrangements to work late, but when I went home it still wasn't quite done. I got to work the next day to find the guitar was still in the shop. Not good. When I asked about it, my employers told me that, yes, it was done. They had finished it at around 9:45 the previous evening. "Then why is it still here?" I thought to myself.  Better not to ask, I thought. Hadn't I heard? Dimebag Darrell was shot and killed on stage the night before. Later we found out that he was shot at around 10:45 Eastern Time. The guitar was finished at around 9:45 Central Time. Think about it. As Dimebag's guitar was getting ready to be packed up, Dimebag was dying. (I might not be remembering the exact times accurately, but relative to each other, they are correct.) It felt pretty creepy, even though I had never met the guy.

So that's it. The story you've all been waiting for, whether or not you knew you were waiting for it. Here's a picture of the Dime Razorback, although it's not the prototype.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Tag, I'm it.

I've been tagged with the "Seven Things" meme. First, The Quaker Agitator got me, then, probably because I was slow in getting to it, Luminiferous Ether got me. I guess, technically, it ought to be Fourteen Things, but I'm just not that interesting. I had a difficult enough time coming up with seven things, and I'm not even going to claim that they are seven interesting things.

Here are the rules:

1. List these rules on your blog.
2. Share seven facts about yourself on your blog.
3. Tag seven people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blogs.

And away we go...

1. I once played softball with Jonathan Richman. You know, the singer/musician. It was back in the eighties sometime. A lot of the local “punk rockers” used to get together at the local elementary school playground on Sundays for some informal softball, beer drinking and fun. Richman and his band were playing in town and joined in the punk rock softball game. They were nice guys, not bad softball players either, but it’s a good thing they stuck with their night jobs (musician joke.) If you’re not familiar with Richman as a musician, you may remember him from the film There’s Something About Mary.

2. I don’t like the Beach Boys.

3. While a member of Appliances-SFB, some of the musicians and/or groups we opened for included: John Cale (he wasn’t particularly friendly), Bauhaus (kept to themselves, didn’t meet them), The Mekons (nice people), Sonic Youth (pretty rude and full of themselves, they seemed to believe that no good music could possibly happen outside of New York), Hüsker Dü (pretty nice guys), The Replacements (they were pretty drunk), Siouxsie and The Banshees (kept to themselves, didn’t meet them), Snakefinger (didn’t meet him, either), Soul Asylum (nice guys), Big Black (nice guys), The Butthole Surfers (didn’t meet them), The Violent Femmes (seemed pretty full of themselves), The Meat Puppets (nice guys) and more. We were scheduled to open for Joy Division, but Ian Curtis committed suicide the day before their tour was to begin.

4. I have a piece of marble that was once part of the Taj Mahal. When I was in elementary school, a friend of mine went to India. The Taj Mahal was under construction while he was there and he nabbed a piece of it and gave it to me when he got back.

5. I went to El Salvador in 1995. The war had been over for less than two years when I was there. It was an eye opening experience. I’ll never forget visiting the town of Cinquera. The town had been used for target practice by the air force and was still pretty devastated. Bullet holes everywhere, bombed buildings, traumatized people, a downed helicopter lying in the town square. When my group arrived, someone started ringing the bells in the town square to greet us. Upon closer examination, I discovered that the bells were unexploded bombs whose innards had been removed. Right on the cases it said “Made In The USA”. Our tax dollars at work.

6. During my career working in a record store (remember records?), I had the opportunity to meet such personalities as Natalie Merchant (she wasn’t very nice to us lowly store employees due to the fact that we failed to provide her with the proper brand of bottled water), Karla Bonoff (she was nice), Celine Dion (she was also nice) and Tony Bennett (he sang a few songs, signed a boatload of autographs, then his management whisked him away. His people kept the masses away from him - get your CD signed and move on, sort of thing - but he was courteous.)

7. I have been face-to-face with a wild wolf. I was 18 years old and on a backpacking trip on Isle Royale in Lake Superior. I was walking with a couple other people and we had gotten pretty far ahead of the rest of our group. Carrying a 40 lb. pack sort of discourages conversation, so we were pretty quiet. We went around a bend in the path and right in front of us was a wolf heading toward us on the path. At the time, the rangers said that something like one in 10,000 visitors sees a wolf and that most reports of wolf sightings are actually coyotes and foxes. I’ve seen coyotes and foxes, and that was no coyote, nor was it a fox. It was very big. Anyway, we almost walk right into this wolf. We stop, the wolf stops. We look at each other for what was probably less than 5 seconds, and the wolf just sort of melted away into the woods. On that same trip we saw lots of foxes. They weren’t very shy. Also a fair number of moose. One night a (Gaggle? Herd? Murder? School? Passel?) of them ran through our campsite. It sounded kind of like a stampede of elephants. In the morning there were moose tracks everywhere. Since then, I have discovered that meese can be downright nasty. We were lucky they didn’t stomp on our tents.

It's going to be difficult to find seven people to tag who haven't already done this, or who don't object to memes. So, if you're tagged and don't want to do it, don't feel like you have to.


Thursday, August 7, 2008


It's friggin' 63˚ outside and my neighbors have their air conditioner running! It's drowning out the frogs, crickets and other more pleasant night sounds of late summer. I didn't have to listen to air-conditioning the entire time we were on Rock Island, so it bugs me even more. Aaarrrghghgh!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


Well, we got back from our vacation a couple of days ago, but I haven't been able to muster up the energy to write anything until now. I know, "bummer" say you, dear reader.

So, as I mentioned in the last post before we left, I had to play a gig in the late afternoon before we could head up nort'. It was hot and sunny. As a bassist, that means my strings get all loose and floppy, which makes it difficult to play, particularly if I need to play anything fast; the strings just don't snap back as quickly when they're hot. Still, everything was going pretty well until the middle of the second-to-last song, when Pam's guitar amp abruptly stopped amping. We played the rest of that song and the entirety of the last song without guitar. It sounded just plain weird, if you ask me (but who asked me? I'm just a lowly bass player, after all.) Here we are in all our middle-aged rock 'n' roll glory. Not the best photo in the world, but at least you can see all four of us; it's a rare photo that includes the whole band.

After the gig, we headed north pretty quickly, thanks in large part to the efforts of Ms. Geranium. We managed to catch the second-to-last ferry to Rock Island on Sunday, carried all our stuff to our campsite and, Bob's-your-uncle, it was time to get down to the work of relaxing. And hard work it was, as you can see from the following photos.

Ms. Geranium (Terry Pratchett's Wyrd Sisters in her lap) and Molly hard at work.

Sparkly Seacow and Violet hard at work.
Is it just me, or does something happen when kids get to a certain age that causes them to forget how chairs work?

Rock Island was, of course, originally settled by Native Americans. More recently (1800s) it was settled by European-americans who built a fishing village on the island. It was the first european settlement on the Door peninsula. The village was deserted in the latter part of the 1800s when the villagers resettled on neighboring Washington Island. The entire island was purchased in 1910 by an Icelandic immigrant and Chicago resident named Chester Thordarson, who had made a fortune in the U.S. as an inventor. (Incidentally, Thordarson spent some of his childhood in Windsor, WI, which is only a few miles from where I live.) Thordarson used the island as a private summer resort until his death in 1945. In 1965 the State of Wisconsin purchased the island from Thordarson's heirs and it is now a state park. Wake up! (I think all that history stuff is interesting. Sorry)

Anyway, Thordarson must have eaten a few too many of these.

Why else would he have thought that building this was a good idea for keeping deer out of his garden?

It didn't work, and the deer on the island ate every single one of the 6,000 apple trees he planted. He planted 1,000 in one year and none of them survived until the next year. (Okay, he also built a 10-foot high barbed-wire fence, but the deer jumped over it.)

Speaking of his garden, Thordarson was an afficionado of Japanese gardens and planted many Japanese plants, but, after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, he bulldozed them all. I'll bet you didn't know we have Chester Thordarson to thank for the U.S. victory in the Pacific arena of WWII. If he hadn't bulldozed that garden, we'd all be speaking Japanese right now.

He also planted some native Icelandic plants. Here is a patch of the Icelandic thyme that is still plentiful on Rock Island.

Looking to the southwest, you see Washington Island about two miles away and it doesn't feel all that exposed to the elements.

But, look in any other direction and you realize that you are way out there in the middle of one of the Great Lakes (kind of like the ocean, but without the salt.) It makes you feel, well, small.

When you're on "The Rock", as many people refer to it, the weather can get kind of intense. We were pretty lucky last week, but we did have some stormy weather. One day, after an afternoon of overcast skies and high winds, at the end of the day the sky was clearing in the west and the sun managed to illuminate the island as it set, shining underneath the cloud cover. I love the way it looks when the landscape is lit up against a dark sky.

Returning home is an odd experience. From the primitive conditions on Rock Island, (pit toilets, hauling water from the only pump, no cell-phone reception, even the single telephone on the island wasn't working while we were there) you head across on the ferry and Washington Island sort of eases you back into civilization.
Washington Island is only accessible from the mainland by ferry or light plane, but there are roads, cars and, of course, tourists. But, thanks in part to that ferry across what they call "Death's Door", it's a slightly different class of tourists. Take the ferry from Washington Island to the mainland and, WHAM!, instant tourist hell. You know the type. Polo shirts and deck shoes. Loud. Big honkin' boats. Entirely too many Illinois license plates (up here in Wisconsin we have a name for people from Illinois with their big honkin' boats who think of Wisconsin as their playground, but it's not very nice, so I don't think I'll say any more.) The rest of the trip home is a little less of a shock after that.

There are cool and awesome places all around the country and the world, but I'm partial to the combination of the North Woods and Maritime feel you get at places like Rock Island. The light is different. The air smells different. The air feels different. I had a similar reaction when we took a trip to New Brunswick and the Bay of Fundy. It's about as good as it gets for me.