Photography Hobby: Late Winter at Stricker’s Pond, Madison, Wisconsin (March 15, 2022)

March 19, 2022

Now that March is halfway finished, I went out recently to try out a new lens. I haven’t done any photography during the winter months. I drove over to Stricker’s Pond in Madison, Wisconsin, less than two miles from my apartment.

Stricker’s pond is starting to thaw March 2022 copyright jjmummert 2022

Thawing Stricker’s Pond copyright jjmummert 2022

A young visitor came along to look at the thawing pond copyright jjmummert 2022

In addition to a thawing pond, I took a few shots of grocery store flowers I had on the dining room table.

Wilted Petal copyright jjmummert 2022

Grocery store flower copyright jjmummert 2022
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Reacting to Images from Ukraine

March 16, 2022

A person reacts during an anti-war protest, after Russia launched a massive military operation against Ukraine, in Moscow, Russia February 24, 2022. REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina

Realization sets in. One sits and cries in the cold.

WHY? What have we done to deserve this?

What will happen to us?

People walk down the boulevard ‘Strasse des 17. Juni’ ahead of a rally against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in Berlin, Germany, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

People gather to rally in support of Ukraine. Berlin…Amsterdam…Chicago…millions from around the world stand together to march, shout, hold signs, wave flags, sing, and pray. The media is everywhere. It must be. The truth must be told.

AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS – FEBRUARY 27: Thousands of people show solidarity with Ukraine at Dam Square on February 27, 2022 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Russia launched a large-scale invasion of Ukraine earlier this week that has killed scores and prompted widespread condemnation from European leaders. (Photo by Cris Toala Olivares/Getty Images)
In this aerial view, demonstrators gather during a protest against the Russian invasion of Ukraine in front of Saints Volodymyr and Olha Ukrainian Church in Chicago, Illinois, on February 27, 2022. – Dressed in the blue and yellow of Ukraine’s flag hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets worldwide Sunday denouncing Russia’s invasion of its neighbor. From Berlin to Baghdad, from Washington to Saint Petersburg, demonstrators chanted “shame” against Russian President Vladimir Putin while others waved banners with slogans like “Putin murderer” or “stop the monster.” (Photo by CHENEY ORR / AFP) (Photo by CHENEY ORR/AFP via Getty Images)
KYIV, UKRAINE – FEBRUARY 26: Local residents are boarding an evacuation train driving to the west of Ukraine on February 26, 2022 in Kyiv, Ukraine. Explosions and gunfire were reported around Kyiv on the second night of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has killed scores and prompted widespread condemnation from US and European leaders. (Photo by Pierre Crom/Getty Images)

So many desperate people. We have seen this before, many times over in different lands during the last hundred years. Truth is, this familiar story has been witnessed for thousands and thousands of years. Over and over and over.

What do we say to our children?

Please be safe. I love you so much but I am so scared.

photo by USA Today

Just the beginning of what was to come.
photo from Financial Times

Transportation is uncertain, so they walk. In most cases, it’s a long walk. It’s cold. The children are confused. With each step, a sigh that this will end soon. This isn’t right. This makes no sense. Is the world going to let this continue?

photo by NPR

I don’t see apartment buildings in Wisconsin that look like this. It seems impossible, doesn’t it? Well, it isn’t.

Some people in Russia are trying to tell the truth and demand an end to the war. They keep at it, and I wonder how many protesters their jails can accommodate.

Police officers detain a demonstrator during a protest against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in Moscow on February 24, 2022. – Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Thursday, killing dozens and triggering warnings from Western leaders of unprecedented sanctions. Russian air strikes hit military installations across the country and ground forces moved in from the north, south and east, forcing many Ukrainians flee their homes to the sounds of bombing. (Photo by Alexander NEMENOV / AFP) (Photo by ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP via Getty Images)

Another generation will grow up on the wings of fear, anger, bombs, blood and death.

photo from The Herald

President Zelensky photo from The Current.pk

When I think of President Zelensky, I think of him as a young boy…as a teenager…as an actor and comedian. How interesting that it is he, this inexperienced politician, leads his country in such a way that the heads of world leaders spin and the hearts of his fellow Ukrainians beat with pride and a fervor to save their democracy. I am in awe of that man, as are billions of others.

MANILA, PHILIPPINES – FEBRUARY 28: People take part in a protest condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 28, 2022 in Quezon city, Metro Manila, Philippines. Protests have erupted around the world in support of Ukraine after Russian forces invaded the country earlier this week. (Photo by Ezra Acayan/Getty Images)

It is 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday evening, March 16, 2022. The war continues, and according to the news I hear, the goal of world leaders is to assist Ukraine as much as possible with military weapons, humanitarian assistance, and combat intelligence so that World War III can be avoided and nuclear weapons will not be used. Ok…but meanwhile?

I start each day with coffee and an update on the war. My eyes moisten with tears when I listen to Ukrainians tell their stories. Before going to sleep each evening, I listen to an end-of-day update and commentary. More moist eyes.

And then I go to sleep. I am warm. It is quiet. My elderly dog finds me and stretches himself along my right side.

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Wisconsin Time – The Supervisor We All Want

Friday, March 4, 2022

The other day, my cousin, Bob, and I went to Festival Foods, a Wisconsin based supermarket. It’s Bob’s go-to grocery store located near downtown Madison.

I picked up a few items and went to the checkout line. A nice lady scanned through my stuff, but paused when she picked up a bag holding two Russet potatoes. She seemed stumped.

The young man doing the bagging noticed her hesitancy and called the supervisor over. It was then I realized what was happening. The lady was a new employee and she was having a little difficulty with the computer checkout system.

The supervisor came over and provided assistance and an explanation, but not just in an ordinary way. These are days when businesses are desperate for new employees, so when you have a promising new employee, you treat her like family, right?

I could not resist getting out my phone and telling the ladies that I was going to take a picture.

Kudos to Pat, the supervisor we all want.

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WISCONSIN TIME: A Valentine Surprise

Thursday, February 17, 2022

I was expecting Valentine’s Day to come and go as easily as it has for so many decades. Sure, there are memories of a 10-year-old me bringing a decorated box to school to receive valentine cards from others, plus a stash of cards to insert into the boxes of each and every person in my class, including the teacher.

Other than that, Valentine’s Day, Schmalentine’s Day. I was never a fan. Even as a youngster, I knew that special tokens of friendship or love should be surprises, not scheduled events.

Well, I certainly had my Valentine’s Day surprise this year.

I took a friend to the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics in Madison for some lab work. A lady in the waiting area told my friend which hallway was the right one, and as I seated myself she said, “I should know. I’ve been here lots of times over the past nine months.”

“Oh, really?” I responded.

She nodded. “Yeah. I had a double lung transplant nine months ago, so I come here a lot.”

My eyes got the size of saucers and my mouth fell open, but because of COVID mask wearing, she could not see how truly dumbfounded I looked.

“Oh my goodness!” I gushed. “A double lung transplant??? Nine months ago??? I am SO happy for you! That is amazing!”

She kept shaking her head yes, and I could tell there was a big smile behind her mask.

And THEN…a woman across the waiting room from us said that she, too, had had a double lung transplant. Hers was done two months ago.

“Really??” I practically screamed. “You, too? Awe…that is so fantastic. I am so happy for both of you ladies!” By this time I was on my feet looking from one to the other…wanting to hug each, but held back by COVID restrictions.

COVID restrictions or no COVID restrictions, they walked toward each other and hugged.

Grabbing my phone I asked, “Can I take a picture of you two ladies? I’ll send you a copy. With your permission, I’d like to share it on my blog. Both said, “Sure,” stood next to each other, and I snapped a photo.

On Valentine’s Day in 2022, I met Michelle S. and Sandy D., both recipients of double lung transplants. And I was in awe.

I was in awe mostly because despite a worldwide pandemic in 2020/2021, these two ladies received the superior medical expertise, and the follow-up care needed to give them new chapters in their life stories.

Kudos to the entire medical team at UW Hospital, and kudos to the family members and friends who have taken care of these lovely ladies during their recoveries. Also, a deep bow of gratitude to the families who approved the organ donations.

Both ladies received the picture I took of them. I sent it via email. That same day, one wrote to me and asked for the email address of the other. She wants to “keep in touch.”

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I Am Absolutely Perfect, of course, and You Are, too!

I am not sure when it started, but I remember being surprised and delighted at first. I think I was at a restaurant ordering lunch, and I chose what seemed to be a basic cheeseburger with coleslaw on the side instead of fries.

“Perfect!” the young server proclaimed with a beaming smile.

Perfect? I asked myself as I smiled back. My choice was “perfect?” It’s just a cheeseburger, right? Or…maybe the burger part comes from a grass-fed Angus cow that was never given a drop of growth hormone or antibiotic. Maybe the cheddar comes from some high-end cheese maker in Wisconsin or Vermont. Maybe this burger is a local favorite and tourists are just unaware of how perfect it is. Ooooh! What if the bun is made of sourdough? Yum!

That was the beginning. From then on, it seemed that almost every time I ordered food at a restaurant, inquired about an air filter at a hardware store, chose new all-season tires, selected a local craft beer, or thanked someone for being helpful, three words kept surfacing: “perfect!” “absolutely!” and “of course!

For example: “I think I’ll have a glass of Riesling, please.”

Response: “Absolutely!”

Absolutely? With an exclamation mark? What happened to “okay” or “sure” or “alright?”

Or this: “Thanks for adding lemon to my water.”

Response: “Of course!”

Of course? Why not say “Sure” or “No problem?”

Here’s what I think happened. Restaurants and the retail industry in general decided that customers needed to feel more welcomed and “special.” If done right, that would lead to more five-star online ratings, generous tips, and repeat customers. Complimentary capitalism at its best.

Staff were trained to enhance their customer service vocabulary, and for a while, consumers like me smiled, felt kind of special, and likely tipped a bit more.

Then it took off. From McDonald’s drive-thru windows to five-star dining establishments…from department stores to specialty craft shops to big box stores…our requests and inquiries were routinely met with responses like “Perfect!” “Absolutely!” and/or “Of course!” They still are and it’s getting stale.

After a recent doctor’s appointment, I had to schedule a follow-up visit.

“So, are we seeing you again soon?” I was asked.

“I need to schedule an appointment for early February.”

“Of course! What day of the week is best for you?”

“I’m retired, so my schedule is quite open.”

“Perfect! Do you prefer early morning or a bit later…in the afternoon sometime?”

“Probably any time after 9 a.m. would work. I like time for morning coffee.”

“Absolutely! How about 9:30 on Thursday, February 3rd?”

“Sure. That works.”

“Perfect!”

Yeah…that’s me. Absolutely perfect in my choices of food, wine, beer, air filters, tires, and now dates for doctor appointments.

It’s probably just me being a Boomer, but after a few years of hearing words like “perfect,” “absolutely,” and “of course” used with exclamation marks everywhere, I just grit my teeth now, probably much like my parents and grandparents did when they had to listen to everything being “groovy” and “far out.”

Let’s move on, especially from the overuse of “perfect” and “absolutely.” When used so often with so little genuine meaning or sincerity, they now feel cliché and trite.

“Okay.”

“Sure”

“Yes”

“Alright”

“You’re welcome”

The simplicity of these words feels good. They make me feel special enough.

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Photography Hobby – Olbrich Botanical Gardens, Madison, Wisconsin

September 12, 2021

In late July I visited Olbrich Botanical Gardens with some family members. These photos were taken with my Samsung S20 Ultra.

Olbrich Botanical Gardens is a must see for anyone visiting the Madison, Wisconsin area.

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Wisconsin Time – First 36 Days in Middleton

Sunday, September 5, 2021

This is what August first looked like:

Boxes Arrive

Thirty-five days later I can say that all boxes have been unpacked, broken down, and placed in recycling bins. I became very familiar with the apartment elevator which took me from the first floor down to the underground parking area which is where the trash/recycling room is located. Fortunately, there are carts which residents use to transport trash, recycling, groceries, and large packages.

Now it’s just a matter of getting a few pieces of furniture and organizing all the stuff I took out of the boxes. Just taking my time with all of that.

Visitors!!

Just prior to August first and shortly thereafter, I had great fun with three sets of visitors.

Stepdaughter and granddaughter enjoying some kayaking time on Lake Wingra, late July 2021

Son-in-law, granddaughter, and stepdaughter at Olbrich Botanical Gardens, Madison, Wisconsin, late July 2021
Son and youngest grandchild greeting the beautiful cottonwood tree on the campus of my apartment complex, August 2021
Son and youngest granddaughter enjoying some weaving experience at the Children’s Museum in Madison, Wisconsin, August 2021

Gal Pal Patti from Missouri and cousin Bob from Madison, dinner in Middleton, August 2021
Me with cousin Bob. We have reconnected after decades. It’s nice to live in the same area. We are the last of the core family group we grew up with.

First Impressions of Apartment Living

** I am not the oldest person living in this apartment community. There are plenty of seniors, some with walkers and canes. Thus, it’s a nice mix of seniors, a few young families, plus middle-aged and young working professionals. Very few college students.

** I am probably the friendliest person around. I say “Hi” to everyone I pass, especially other dog owners. The dog owners respond. Others, not so much. Too bad for them.

** It’s quieter than I expected. I hear no voices as I walk down hallways, no TV’s either. Good soundproofing. We all hear dogs who will bark for one reason or another, but then, we are the only building of three where dogs are allowed. I do hear thumps, however. From above. There is a child who lives up there, one who frequently bounces, jumps, runs, and tumbles all over the place. A future Olympic gymnast? It isn’t disruptive. I’m just aware of it and very glad I don’t have to be the one to tell that child it’s time to go to bed. That said, I hear no voices from above. No scolding, no laughter. Just a active kid being a kid and parents who seem to understand. Glad I’m on the first floor. That way I don’t have to be concerned about someone below hearing me thump around.

** There isn’t much diversity in this area. In the apartment complex itself, I have seen a few families of Indian/Pakistani origin. I am on a first name basis with Tiffany, a young black woman, and her son, Odin, plus May or Mae, the pug Tiffany adopted from an animal rescue. There is also a black family with a new baby. They are my parking area neighbors down in the garage. They are friendly and speak with an accent. I’m not sure if they are originally from Haiti or Nigeria or….

And then…

This is Molly. She lives next door and her owner, Branden, is very nice. Molly will be staying with Cinnamon and me for a few nights later in September while Branden and his girlfriend go away for a couple days.

And this is Matt. He helped out and took care of Cinnamon a few times when the weather was very hot and I had visitors. Plus he and his uncle delivered a nice dining table I bought from people relocating to the state of Washington. He played rugby for Indiana University.

Cinnamon giving me that “Don’t You Dare Go And Leave Me” look.

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Wisconsin Time – 19 Days into Extended Stay at Hotel

Monday, July 19, 2021 late afternoon

Restless

Overall, the stay at the hotel has been nice, but I am restless to move on and begin making my new nest. That said, Cinnamon and I do have many comforts of home here and then some.

Living room area

Office area

Kitchen area – there is also a full size fridge and mini table
Not a usual comfort of home…but a nice bonus to have on hand

A Big Thanks to that GPS Lady

With the help of technology, Cinnamon and I have driven around and located a few things…

…like my cousin, Bob

A grocery store that’s a bit expensive…

and an art fair featuring Wisconsin artists and crafts people. I visited early and the crowds were just starting to arrive.

Mystery Neighbor

Directly across the hall from me is another suite. The day C and I arrived, there was a sign that read: HITTING THE SNOOZE BUTTON. Back in the day, it used to be called “DO NOT DISTURB.” So every time C and I went in and out of our suite, I tried to be quiet and not let my door close loudly.

What interested me was that the snooze button sign was always there, day and night. Plus, I never heard anyone enter or leave that suite. I never heard a sound from it…no voices, no muffled tv sound, no snap of a kitchen cabinet, nothing. Of course, it became my first week mystery. Who is in there, and why don’t they ever leave the room?

Then one day I saw this:

and within hours the trash was removed and the snooze sign was gone. A day later I heard cheerful human voices entering and leaving the suite across the hall.

12 Nights to Go

I’m counting the nights now. In 13 days, moving chaos will begin again. I have reserved a U-Haul in Mt. Horeb where my stuff is stored and hired a couple of gig movers. At 4:30 p.m. on August 1, they will pick up the truck, load it, drive it back to Middleton, and unload it. I’ll be trailing behind to unlock the storage unit and make sure it is totally emptied before I secure it for the owner. The guys will drive the truck back to Mt. Horeb and leave it off for me. I’m hoping to be asleep by midnight, regardless of whether or not I find sheets for the bed.

Fingers crossed that 1) the U-Haul truck will be ready as reserved, 2) the gig guys show up, and 3) we get to Mt. Horeb and back without incident.

PLAN B:

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Wisconsin Time – Moving On Up Day: June 30, 2021

Friday July 2, 2021

Looking back over the past several weeks, it’s hard to believe I actually purged, packed, and cleaned all that I did. But I did, and yes, I’m tired. I’m catching up with naps.

Since my apartment won’t be available until August 1, I’ve temporarily set up camp in an extended stay hotel where I’ll be foraging among bags, plastic containers, and suitcases for this and that. This month will also give me time to learn about the Middleton/Madison area, become familiar with streets I’ll be using, and spending time with Cousin Bob.

It took the two guys a couple hours to load the truck, but when they first walked into the duplex, they were delighted to see everything packed so well.

Truck arrival

The two men assigned to my move were Nik and Will, young men working as movers during a very hot summer. They were a delight.

Nik – the lead mover, driver, master of multiple copies of multiple forms, lover of up beat music, and wearer of black nail polish on his left hand. I forgot to ask if he is a musician.
Will – college wrestling athlete, majoring in philosophy another interesting area I forgot. Shared a lot about his life when we had down time requiring a wait. Has a girlfriend. Sorry about the closed eye photo, Will.

These two fellas worked tirelessly and efficiently. My few items of furniture were carefully wrapped, and items were placed in the truck in a very organized and logical manner. Everything made it to the storage place without incident.

Like me, they were impressed with the lush, rolling landscape of the south central Wisconsin area.

Sixteen-year-old Cinnamon…always ready for a car ride. Little did he know….

“Ussie” Photos

I learned the other day from pal Patti that when cell phone photos are taken of oneself with another, such photos are referred to as “ussies” instead of “selfies.” Right. What do I know? Unfortunately, due to various constraints, I wasn’t able to get ussies of all my pals before relocating to Wisconsin. Will make an effort to get more when I go back down to Columbia MO for a visit this fall before I’m locked in with a Wisconsin winter.

Warning: These are unedited photos where cell phone technology captures all the marvels of aging, creping skin which others and I fret over. We suffer from looking one age, but feeling twenty, maybe thirty years younger. And I know we are not alone.

I asked the waiter to take a family photo during a recent brunch outing. The camera angle makes all the young people look a lot larger than they really are. Honest!! I’ve apologized. From left: son-in-law Paul, granddaughter Laura, Paul’s mother and my gal pal, Kathy, me, granddaughter Kaylin, son, Adam, and stepdaughter, Caryn.

Kaylin and I sported sun hats during a recent walk.
With Gal Pal and dear friend, Bonnie M.
Susan stopped by just before the moving truck arrived. She brought two yummy cookies from Uprise Bakery for me to much on during the trip.

Took this photo when I stopped by Susan’s to bring a houseplant she agreed to inherit. She went with me to Middleton WI in early May to apartment hunt.
Patti and I have been friends since the early 80s. Oh, the stories we could tell!! She plans to come for a visit in early August and help me unpack/organize what I have left to do. Of course, we’ll mostly do tourist stuff.

Gal pal, Gail, who was an important role model for me during the years I managed my Mom’s care.
A bit of a fuzzy “ussie” photo with gal pal Lynette, fellow gardener, funniest gal of my gal pal group, and reassuring confident who also managed the care of elderly parents and lived to tell about it.
Neighbor Debbi who, with her husband, is becoming a serious gardener. I was happy to have them adopt a lot of perennials I had planted. Very thoughtful neighbors who are always ready and willing to help.

Missing are photos of other important Columbia MO pals: Neveda, Betsy, Mary Kaye, Bonnie H, Pam, new neighbor, Marcia. I’ll attempt to get “ussies” with them when I visit and then add them below.

My son, Adam, made sure that granddaughter Kaylin and I had a few overnight visits before I left Columbia. We had a lot of fun drawing on the driveway with chalk. Unfortunately, the frequent heavy rains washed everything away so quickly. But not the above inscription. I wrote our names and then Kaylin ordered the tracing of hands. It’s a photo with lots of special Kaylin memories.

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ADRIFT in an Economic Sea

by Gail Hauswirth, guest commentator

Saturday, June 12, 2021

I have a penchant for structure. I like knowing “if this, then that.” In my mind, predictability is the bedrock of morality and a functioning society. Equal justice means we all adhere to the same laws, and when we transgress, we face the same punishments.

Some laws are codified and some are inherent in the functioning of our society. Some of our laws are simply cause and effect, which then become axioms. If I eat too much, I will become fat. Or, we eat healthy foods first because dessert will spoil our appetite.

Most of us are taught such laws and rules of conduct as we grow up. This helps us navigate life with minimal embarrassment or conflict. Even most of our sciences are based on proven or accepted laws. Our progress has depended upon accepting what our previous generations had proven true and building upon those foundations. I find all of this comforting and rational.

Even the dismal science of economics is replete with laws: supply and demand, time value of money, marginal utility, to name a few. All rely on a predictable relationship by which we make sense of our economic system. And because money drives so much behavior, economic rules bleed into behavioral norms as well, so it’s not just the money which is at stake.

I understand traditional finance rules, and have based my own investing and saving on these rules. I relied on predictable outcomes for my financial decisions. While the free market has long been nipped and tucked by government intervention, I believed that the central architecture of our capitalistic system was both structured and highly predictable.

I am now at an age when my earning years are at an end, and I just rely on the savings accumulated over a lifetime of working and savings. But now, suddenly I am told that being a “saver” is of no value. Negative interest rates say, “Sucker. You should be a gambler…that is where the rate of return is.”

I remember the days when it was lamented that our savings rate was too low, and we were told that we should look at market fundamentals before investing ANYTHING in the stock market. Now, however, we are told we don’t need to understand the fundamentals. The analyst has a “pick” that is a sure winner. Book value, price/earnings ratios, and income statements all suddenly seem superfluous. Have we lost our way in the greed of the moment, or have our system’s axioms been a cruel hoax from the beginning?

I do not have answers to these questions. I do not know if rationality will return to the market, or if our economic system will ever be rational again. Perhaps this Monte Carlo will endure, and we will continue seeing prices soar based on emotions and the belief that this auction is never over.

How does this ever unwind? If it doesn’t, everything ever taught about the economy’s rules must be rewritten. But if by some chance, the old, rational rules reassert themselves, a terrible price will be exacted. Human suffering will be immense.

It must then be asked why we ever thought we could escape the inevitable, inexorable, invisible hand of the market.

Gail Hauswirth

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