Clouds over the Countryside

One thing I don’t like about living in a city is that in the ordinary course of a day you don’t see much of the sky. Buildings and trees block out most of what’s not directly overhead. In the country it’s a different story. I love seeing the sky here.

Clouds hung low over the countryside in this view from my sister’s house earlier today.

And sunset lit up a tall bank of clouds above the field behind my parents’ house this evening.

Although I’ve enjoyed seeing expansive clouds during the day, I’m hoping for a cloudless night before I leave. So far it has been too overcast to see stars, and I don’t get to see them at home. Sure, in Milwaukee we have Orion and the Big (and sometimes Little) Dipper. But city lights block out starlight. And the few stars that manage to shine through are nothing like what you can see in the country.

Where, on a good night, the sky looks like someone poured an entire canister of salt across black velvet. Just an astonishing number of stars, providing a glimpse into the infinite universe.

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Chew Mail Pouch Tobacco

I’m visiting family this week in southeastern Ohio. This is Appalachian coal and tobacco country, known physiographically as the Allegheny Plateau. I was so happy to see this familiar advertisement on the side of the road this morning that I asked my dad to pull over so I could take a picture. We don’t seem have Mail Pouch barns in Wisconsin, although Wikipedia tells me that some were painted there. According to that Wikipedia article on Mail Pouch Tobacco barns, all barns were painted between 1891 and 1992. As can be seen with this barn, most of the signs are deteriorating with age. I know their days are numbered. Some year I’ll come back for a visit and there will be no Mail Pouch barns nestled into the hillsides along winding country roads. That makes me sad.

A better look at the sign itself

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The sky is bigger than it needs to be

Partly sunny? Partly cloudy? Or . . . ?

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We all gotta start somewhere

Just came across this 1984 music video for a song by country singer Ronnie Milsap, “She Loves My Car.” Recognize the “girl” who’s our hero’s love interest?

Posted in Movies and film, Popular culture | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Milwaukee Bucks Arena, June 2017

The new Milwaukee Bucks arena and the training/sports-medicine facility just kitty-corner (Milwaukee-speak for “catercorner”) across the street are coming along. I took these photos late Friday afternoon, when all the construction workers had knocked off for the day/weekend. Usually each structure is surrounded by worker-bee cranes.

So here is the actual arena. That’s glass over on the left, just inside the curved outer wall.

You can see the lack of glass in this picture from about a month ago.

And then here’s a photo from a cloudy day earlier last week, where you can tell for sure that section is glass because of the reflection of the church spire at the bottom.

So, moving on, here is the skywalk running across Juneau between the parking ramp and the arena. I know that the building on the left is a parking ramp because if you drive down McKinley Avenue, the street that runs north on the other side, you can see the long, parallel-slanted concrete floors.

Remember this photo from our mid-March snowstorm? (From my post “Snowblowing the girders“)

Well, here’s what that building looks like today (well, last week 🙂 ). If you look closely, you’ll see that they’ve planted skinny little trees up next to the building. We’re already to the landscaping stage!


If you want to see a gorgeous rendering of what the completed Froedtert & Medical College of Wisconsin Sports Science Center (and the arena) will look like, you can find an image here on the NBA’s website: 

And finally, here’s a random older photo of the arena just because I like it. As I scrolled through my camera roll this afternoon, I happened upon this eerie picture from a foggy morning last February.

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Meeting at Ma Fischer’s (finally!)

Yesterday I met a group of old friends for lunch, something we’ve been doing about once a month for 25 years now!

Actually we started out as a writing group, meeting in the basement of the old Shorewood Library. When we reserved the room, the librarian listed us in the book as the “independent writers group,” and we decided we liked that moniker well enough to adopt it as our unofficial name.

We’ve been through a lot together: births, deaths, cancer, family traumas, you name it. Although we’ve continued writing, our interests have diverged considerably from our initial interest in the romance genre. At this point our main reason for getting together is probably more for the social ties that bind us than our need for feedback on our work—although we do get back to writing fundamentals on a regular basis.

Anyway, yesterday we met for lunch at Ma Fischer’s Restaurant, a Milwaukee landmark. I had NEVER been there before, not in the entire time I’ve lived in Milwaukee.

And that’s saying something.

Back in the 1980s when telephone poles along Farwell and Prospect Avenues around North were plastered with flyers for shows by local bands like the Violent Femmes, Da BoDeans (later just the BoDeans), and Oh! Those Spanic Boys (later just the Spanic Boys)—all of which played on Saturday Night Live, Letterman, and similar national stages—Ma Fischer’s was the place to go for breakfast after the bars closed.

It still is. Ma Fischer’s is open 24 hours a day and serves “Breakfast” and “Not Breakfast” anytime. How could I have missed out on it all these years? (But then I’ve never closed Wolski’s, either. Clearly I have some living to catch up on 🙂 )

Some pics . . .

“Welcome to Ma Fischer’s”

The tile floor at Ma Fischer’s, which is your basic, standard bathroom floor in every house in Milwaukee built before, say, World War II.

The iconic “sign”

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Got a problem? Start a business!

I love stories of creative ingenuity. Here’s an article from today’s Inc. about a man who started a line-waiting business five years ago: “If You’re Broke But Want to Start a Company and Make $100K+, You Need to Read This.”

Hokey title, but I got past that. Yes, one can apparently make a decent living just by standing around doing nothing. Good to know, right?

What I really liked about this article was the story it told. Robert Samuel started his business, “Same Old Line Dudes,” in response to a problem every single one of us was aware of—but only he had the vision and inspiration to solve. When the iPhone 5 was announced, he ran a Craigslist ad offering to stand in line at the Apple Store in New York City for someone who wanted to buy one. He got enough of a response that he hired friends to stand in line, too. And then he also started offering services to line-standers, like selling people crates to sit on while they waited.

Think of all the lines you’d rather not stand in. Would you be willing to pay someone to do it for you? Would you be willing to do it for pay yourself?

I’ve always admired Peter Lynch (former Magellan Fund manager at Fidelity) for his ability to see things that the rest of us didn’t. Strike that. What Peter Lynch did was understand what he saw that the rest of us merely had looked at without really seeing.

Case in point: when I was walking up Michigan Avenue in Chicago about 25 years ago and noticed a storefront for Au Bon Pain, I realized that the bakery I’d visited in Boston was a chain. “Great!” I thought. “I can get those almond croissants I liked anytime I come to Chicago.”

Then I saw Peter Lynch on “Wall Street Week” talking about how he picked companies to invest in just by paying attention to businesses he frequented in his daily life (like, famously, Toys ‘R’ Us when he was shopping for children’s products). One company he said he liked was Au Bon Pain.

Light bulb! Whereas I was happy this bakery was a chain because it meant convenient purchases of almond croissants, Lynch was happy it was a chain because it meant a publicly-traded company he could invest in.

Louis Pasteur is credited with saying, “Chance favors the prepared mind.” This is one of my favorite quotations. When you read widely and continually pay close attention and practice the art of connection-making, you’re more likely to recognize opportunity when it’s staring you right in the face.

If only I’d been sharp enough standing there on Michigan Avenue to understand the true significance of that bakery storefront . . . .

I could have invested in my croissant and eaten it, too!

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