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Tuesday, August 31, 2010


On the other hand, you have different fingers.
~ Steven Wright

Elizabeth: (to Chris who was wearing sunglasses) Are you trying to be one of those hip moms?

Chris: Yes.

Elizabeth: You have to do the peace sign.

(Chris makes a sign with her hand)

Maddie: No, that's, "I love you" in sign language.

Elizabeth: Or the sign for the Texas Longhorns.

Monday, August 30, 2010


Education isn't part of my agenda, it is my agenda.
~ Kenny Guinn

When you have educational conversations with kids you have to let them kind of go where they want to in the dialogue sometimes. Like when we were discussion California's Proposition 8 and Maddie changed the topic to Emeril Lagasse's cooking with no transition at all.

Sunday, August 29, 2010


They say it is better to be poor and happy than rich and miserable, but how about a compromise like moderately rich and just moody?
~ Princess Diana

This is how Maddie looked early on in the morning of her first day of high school. Katie, with whom I work, saw this photo and said, "That's how I looked from the time I was 12 until I was 17." Great. Thanks for that, Katie.


A happy life must be to a great extent a quiet life,
for it is only in an atmosphere of quiet that true joy dare live.
~ Bertrand Russell


Elizabeth: Why doesn't Grandpa talk very much?

Chris: Have you met Grandma?

Saturday, August 28, 2010


~ Hugh Macleod

The word is: FREAK.

Maddie and I say that word reminds us of Elizabeth. Elizabeth and Chris say the word reminds us of Maddie.

Maddie: What?! Why me?
Elizabeth: Because you can lick your elbow.
Maddie: That's not "freak" that's SKILLS.


A story should have a beginning, a middle, and an end...
but not necessarily in that order.
~ Jean-Luc Godard

A few days ago, I found myself in a diner eavesdropping (as I am prone to do). Here is the story I heard an old man telling his other old man friends:

So, he was hanging out with me and I figured he must be getting hungry, so I asked him if he was hungry and he said, "No, I'm not hungry, Grandpa." Then - it wasn't more than ten minutes later he said, "Grandpa, I'm STARVING!" So, I took him down to McDonald's to get him a sandwich and told him he could get whatever he wanted. He just ordered a plain hamburger. I told the guy at the counter to throw an extra hamburger in there because I figured he'd be hungry for more than that. Well, he wolfed that burger down in about three bites. I said, "Are you still hungry?" and handed him the other burger. He said, "Yeah, I guess I was pretty hungry. Thanks, Grandpa," and ate that one, too.

Well, he hung in there pretty well with me in the shop and around there. He finally fell asleep in the truck around 2:30.

As I was listening, I thought, what a cute story about this guy and his little grandson.

One of the other old guys said, "So, how old is he now?" And the first guy said, "13."

Then, I didn't think the story was quite as cute as when I was picturing a 5 year old kid.

Friday, August 27, 2010


You know that children are growing up when they start
asking questions that have answers.
~ John J. Plomp

Elizabeth started school last week. The other day she shared a story of an exchange between a friend of hers and a teacher at the middle school. This teacher happens to also be a softball umpire. Elizabeth's FAVORITE softball umpire. For those of you who never played catcher, you may not realize how important the umpire is to the catcher's experience during the game. A good ump is hard to find.

Elizabeth's friend: How tall are you?
Teacher: 5' 16"
Elizabeth's friend: What does that mean?
Teacher: Go ask a math teacher to help you figure it out. How short are you?

I think I get why he's her favorite.


A sure cure for seasickness is to sit under a tree.
Spike Milligan

Chris: Let's make like a tree and get out of here!

Maddie: No, Mom. It's "Let's make like a tree and head out!"

Thursday, August 26, 2010


While saying this one has to keep in mind the fact that there is a continuous tug-of-war going on between truth and untruth and hence one can easily understand how difficult this task is.
~ Atharva Veda

We went to Tug Fest a few days ago. This is an annual tug-of-war event between a town on the Iowa side of the Mississippi and a town on the Illinois side.

From the Tug Fest web site:
Prohibited items include animals,coolers, alcohol, glass containers, bicycles, skateboards, roller skates, motorized transportation vehicles(except for handicap use), knives (no matter how long), firearms, walking sticks (except for handicap use), pepper spray/mace, stun guns, scissors, box cutters, throwing stars, nun chucks, backpacks, duffle bags & briefcases.

I don't think I've ever gone to something that had to explicitly prohibit throwing stars and "nun chucks." After having gone, I am glad they prohibited those items. I'm not sure that someone could have thrown a throwing star across the Mississippi and hit one of the Illinois fans, but you never know.

On a loosely related note, I believe the proper spelling is "nunchucks" or "nunchakus," but maybe a "nun chuck" is something related to a habit or to the unstoppable teaming up of a cloistered woman and Chuck Norris.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Some of the best ideas I ever had came to me while I was milking a cow.
~ Grant Wood

This summer we visited friends in Ohio. Some of our friends kidded us about Iowa with a "who would want to live there?" tone. I know Iowa isn't the most cosmopolitan place on earth, but have you seen any of the "Housewives of..." shows? I would not want to have to interact or even see those people.

Anyway, while we were at a cookout in Columbus, hearing how great life there is -- or at least how much better it is there than Iowa, a few things were said which to me are worth documenting:

"Oh that? That's just a police helicopter. They fly over all the time here."

"I can't believe the people next door moved out and left that giant box of porn on the curb! And that creepo guy who stopped by to dig through the box! Gross!"

"I'm about sick of our garage being broken into. At least the time before this we moved most of the valuable stuff into the house."

"Yeah, we probably find a used condom on our sidewalk at least once a week. There are a bunch of prostitutes who work up the street from here."

"No - that's not a gunshot. That's just fireworks. Trust me, we KNOW what gunshots sound like."

It was a great visit. And then it was good to come home.


There is nothing so terrible as activity without insight.
~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Elizabeth has a strange talent for taking bits of information and using them to make a point or to project an almost psychic nature or to collect disparate ideas.

A recent example occurred when we went to the outlet mall in Williamsburg near the Amana Colonies. Elizabeth and I left Maddie and Chris in a shop so that we could drop some things off at the car. On the way back to meet them, Elizabeth said, "What store were they in? Was it 'Amana Republic?'"

I told her it was Banana Republic, not Amana. And then I tried to picture what a catalogue from "Amana Republic" might look like.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are.
~ Anthelme Brillat-Savarin
While I was taking pictures at the fair this year, I got a photo of this guy. I think he thought I was taking pictures of the vendors or the rides or the stuff around him. When he walked by he said, "It'll look the same next year and the year after that and the year after that."

How does he know whether I'll even go to the fair again? What if I was from New Guinea and this was my only chance to experience it. Truth be told, I don't know that I put off a New Guinea-vibe.


For me, the cinema is not a slice of life, but a piece of cake.
~ Alfred Hitchcock

Elizabeth went to Hy-Vee to order her birthday cake. She and Chris went the day before her birthday party. Elizabeth told the woman there she wanted fondant on her cake. The woman apologized and said that they needed at least a few days notice to do a fondant cake.

Then the woman asked Elizabeth if she had ever used fondant. Elizabeth told her she had made some herself and played with it to try to see how it would be used.

The woman looked at Chris and said, "I can do it, but it will be between $40-$50." Chris said that Elizabeth didn't need a fondant cake for her 11th birthday sleepover party. The woman told Elizabeth she'd make sure she made a really nice, very smoothly frosted cake for her.

The next day when Chris went to pick up the cake, there were fondant stripes along the side. The morals of the story are:
1. Know what you're talking about when you go to make a purchase.
2. Be kind.
3. Show people that you appreciate the talents needed for their work.
4. Be a reasonably cute and clean 11 year old when you do steps 1-3.

On a loosely-related note, the girls have taken to calling one another "ugly cake." Maddie started it and said that to her it's the opposite of "cutie pie."

Monday, August 23, 2010


Health food makes me sick.
~ Calvin Trillin

Chris: (reading a sign at the Iowa State Fair) Salad on a stick? What's that?! It sounds stupid.


Never be the first to arrive at a party or the last to go home, and never, ever be both.
~David Brown

We were driving on one of our trips and took turns asking questions. One of the questions was, "What one experience would you like to make sure Maddie has in college?"

Chris: Study Abroad.

Michelle: Being a CA / RA.

Elizabeth: Going to a party.

Chris: Why?

Elizabeth: Because it's college and everyone needs to go to a party.

I'm not sure if the response made Chris worried for Maddie or more worried for Elizabeth than she already was.

PS. In looking for the right quote for this photo, I found one listed like this:

"I belong to no organized party. I am a Democrat." The quote was attributed to Will Smith. I believe that is incorrect.

Sunday, August 22, 2010


The young always have the same problem - how to rebel and conform at the same time. They have now solved this by defying their parents and copying one another.
~ Quentin Crisp

Elizabeth: Were there people who wore their cheerleader uniforms all day?

Maddie: Yes. They looked ridiculous!

Chris: Did you get a slushie in your face?


I can trust my friends. These people force me to examine myself,
encourage me to grow.
~ Cher

Did you ever notice that the words "encourage" and "entourage" are almost the same?

Saturday, August 21, 2010


Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read.
~ Groucho Marx

Ripley was NOT excited for school to start. He knows that new backpacks and school supplies mean his playmates are gone all day.


Some birds avoid the water. Ducks seek it.
~ African Proverb

Elizabeth: While you were gone we decided I might get to raise a duck or chicken from egg to death.

Now there's a kid in tune with the cycle of life.

Friday, August 20, 2010


(photo by Chris Fowler)

What I have to say is far more important than how long my eyelashes are.
~ Sir Walter Scott

Elizabeth: So, there's this one teacher who wears these fake eyelashes and Anna said if they fall on your desk you get a 100% on your test. And I said, "Do you think it counts if you reach up and rip it off and throw it on your desk?" And Anna goes, "Oh, Elizabeth, you're hilarious."


Half the lies they tell about me aren't true.
~ Yogi Berra

Elizabeth: (as we are driving in Coralville, Iowa): OH MY GOSH -- There's the Cash Cab!

Maddie: Really? Wait -- WHY would you SAY that?!

Poor Maddie often finds herself surrounded by liars and sarcasticals.

(I don't think sarcastical is a word, but it should be and its plural should be sarcasticals.)

Thursday, August 19, 2010


(photos by Chris Fowler)

Growing up is a process, not an event.
~ Paul B. Jamison


The picture above is Maddie on her first day of kindergarten. Elizabeth was about 2.
Today Maddie starts high school and Elizabeth starts middle school.

I bet this makes their mom cry.

Oh, and here's Elizabeth wearing that same shirt four years later. At a birthday party, not on her first day of school.

This picture is here to cheer up Elizabeth and Maddie's mom.
It might make her sad though to think that both of her babies are growing up.
Or it might make her sad to think that she made them both wear that shirt.


Every step of life shows much caution is required.
~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

You see the dog in that picture? You see how he's freaked out by Cubbie Bear? He's pretty sure that Cubbie Bear isn't an animal, but he honestly doesn't know WTH Cubbie Bear is.

I think we should take this as a case in point that we should follow the example of animals. Animals see something like Cubbie Bear and are wary. If you see someone walking your neighborhood wearing a costume of a giant, cartoonish, fuzzy animal wearing some sort of uniform, I think you should be wary, too.

Thank you nature for your excellent lessons.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


The gods love to punish whatever is greater than the rest.
~ Herodotus

This was one of the displays I saw at the county fair this year. I can't help but wonder what the motivation was. Regardless, I hope this kid took it home and put it on display in his / her house. Then, whenever the parent(s) get upset, the kid can point to the display and guilt the adult into leaving him or her alone.

And also, if you're the adult in that house, how do you feel about your kid making this display and then others speculating about why your kid did that?

Finally, I like that this isn't just about "Proper Child Punishment." It's about "Proper Child Punishment - EXTRA."

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


A man has to work so hard so that something of his personality stays alive.
A tomcat has it so easy, he has only to spray and his presence
is there for years on rainy days.
~ Albert Einstein

Why do you think that people like to splash in puddles? It starts when toddlers jump into puddles and continues to things like the behavior in the photo above. Do you think it's man's attempt to fight against nature? To conquer something bigger than oneself?

I don't. I think it's that it makes you go, "WHEE!"


The monotony and solitude of a quiet life stimulates a creative mind.
~ Albert Einstein

A few years ago Chris, Elizabeth and I were driving down the street. We drove past one of the video rental places with a poster of the latest Harry Potter movie in the window, Elizabeth said very quietly, "I want that Harry Potter poster."

She then asked in a louder voice, "Mom, can I say, 'I want that Harry Potter poster?'" Chris said she could.

She said loudly, "I want that Harry Potter poster."

She wasn't really asking us to get it for her or for us to stop so she could see if it was for sale. However, it seemed important to her that the words hit the air in order to be real. And to hit the air loudly to become maybe even more real.

For the record, she never did get that Harry Potter poster.

Monday, August 16, 2010


Fish recognize a bad leader.
~ Conan O'Brien

So, the day of the flooding, I was out walking around and I saw this. There were actually several of these fish in someone's garden. I don't know if they were there to keep away birds or what, but they were suspended by string and blew in the wind.

Actually, that doesn't make sense. They must have been there to attract birds since some birds hunt fish. And then maybe the person shot the birds.

Or maybe the person just really likes fish.

Maybe it was an octopus' garden.

Anyway, it was interesting to see on a flood day.


American youth attributes much more importance to arriving
at driver's license age than at voting age.
~ Marshall McLuhan

Chris: We used to drive to Cedar Rapids to go to movies or out to eat.
Maddie: Didn't you get tired of the drive?
Chris: Yeah...
Michelle: In high school? I bet you didn't get tired of driving around with your friends.
Chris: You're right. I didn't.
Maddie: Thank you for lying.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


I find that the three major administrative problems on a campus are sex for the students, athletics for the alumni and parking for the faculty.
~ Clark Kerr

I think that when the flood waters recede, it's kind of like opening a gift from that person in your family who always gives you an ugly sweater that you'll never wear or fruitcake or a coupon for a free haircut from them (and they aren't good at giving haircuts). It's a surprise, but you know it's not going to be one you enjoy at all.


I'm an old fashioned guy... I want to be an old man with a beer belly sitting on a porch looking at a lake or something.
~ Johnny Depp

A week ago, we met an older man who runs a geode-hunting site. The place was pretty isolated and there were old cars and bundles of barbed wire, and other miscellaneous things about the grounds. Elizabeth and I met the man and he gave us directions on how to get to the geode beds.

When we got in the van, Maddie said the guy looked scary. Chris said he looked like an axe murderer. Elizabeth scolded them both and said he looked like someone's grandpa. Chris responded, "But you know, grandpas can be axe murderers."

Later that day we dropped Elizabeth off at her grandma and grandpa's house to spend a few days.

Saturday, August 14, 2010


Time is a sort of river of passing events, and strong is its current; no sooner is a thing brought to sight than it is swept by and another takes its place, and this too will be swept away.
~ Marcus Aurelius

So, I've been seeing some of the aerial flood footage. If I didn't live in Ames, I'd think that Ames was totally destroyed. Elizabeth was at her grandparents and was very worried that all the grocery stores were washed away. Chris reassured her that all the stores except for a couple on Duff Avenue were open.

I think this represents problems in general. If you look at problems as a giant mass of issues, they seem so webbed together that you can't possibly address them. But if you break problems down into manageable pieces, you can get through a lot of them.

I am going to start with the problem of not enough people complimenting me. I think I can make some real progress on that one and then move on to bigger ones. Like people not giving me lots of money.


In this business until you're known as a monster, you're not a star.
~ Bette Davis

Maddie is not the most graceful person on the face on the earth. As a 14 year old, she isn't supposed to be. She's not as ungraceful as 14 year old boys, though. I think all 14 year old boys resemble Shrek.

But I digress... The other day Maddie lumbered through the kitchen looking for something to eat. I called her "Sasquatch." Chris said, "Remember how you used to call her Sasquatch all the time?" (Maddie's clumsy years have been going on for a while now).

I had forgotten that, but when Chris mentioned it, I remembered.

Elizabeth said, "I thought you called her A.S.S. - quatch."

I assured Elizabeth and everyone else that I had never called Maddie "Assquatch."

Friday, August 13, 2010


No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.
~ Buddha
I thought about putting that "two roads diverged" quote here. But I don't like that quote very much. First, I think it's overused. Second, I know if I came to two paths in the woods, I'd take the one MORE traveled by because I'd be afraid I'd get poison ivy on that other path.


Our environment, the world in which we live and work, is a mirror of our attitudes and expectations.
~ Earl Nightingale


Obviously, I love photography (regardless of whether or not I have any skill at it). As much as I didn't particularly want Ames, Iowa to flood yesterday, I knew - once I realized I couldn't get to Iowa State from our side of town because roads were closed - I had to go out and take some pictures.

Chris kept calling me a "gawker" for wanting to see the flood.

I assured her I was not a "gawker," but rather a(n) historian who was documenting the event.

In retrospect, maybe there isn't much difference.


Never have children. Only grandchildren.
~ Gore Vidal

Elizabeth: You don't hear Grandma cuss very much, but when she does it's hardly ever a bad one.

Maddie: Yeah. Except when she calls the dogs "shitheads."

Thursday, August 12, 2010


"Someone did not tell them there could be sewage in their river of fun."
~ Sara Kellogg

"SWEET, dudes!"
"This is so awesome."

"Innertubers, get out of the water! Intertubers, get OUT of the water!"

"Uh, what seems to be the problem, officer?"
"Boys, that is yucky. Quit it."

"What's so yucky about it?"
"I dunno."


Easy reading is damn hard writing.
~ Nathaniel Hawthorne

The other day we saw a plane emitting streams of black behind it. The pilot flew in a circle and a circle appeared in the sky. Then the black smoke stopped. Then it came on again, and he made a line.

At that point I realized how difficult it must be to learn to be a skywriter. Everyone can see your poor penmanship (planemanship?) and spelling errors.

PS. The above photo is Elizabeth's birthday party schedule. Just for the record, "tramp" is short for trampoline. They did not go out and jump on an actual tramp.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Don't minimize the importance of luck in determining life's course.
~ Alex Trebek


There are people who say there's no such thing as luck. They're wrong. And to prove them wrong, I go out and slash their tires. "There you go! There's your luck! BAD luck!!"

And when the police show up, I think, "This is my lucky day! I get to ride in a police car!"

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Every closed eye is not sleeping, and every open eye is not seeing.
~ Bill Cosby

Maddie: WHOA! There's a deer out there that's all white!

Chris: Are you sure it wasn't a polar bear?

Elizabeth: Uh, Mom, polar bear fur is clear, not white. It just looks white because it reflects the snow!

Monday, August 9, 2010


Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop.
~ Ansel Adams


My blog is 1 year old today. I believe this will be the 432nd post.

This is not one of the 12 significant photos I took during the year.


Action expresses priorities.
~ Mohandas Gandhi

As Elizabeth was getting ready to go to her grandparents' house for a visit, I asked her if she had the charger for her camera. She said she did not, but she ran to get it.

About 45 minutes later, as we were driving out of town, Chris asked Elizabeth if she had her toothbrush. Elizabeth said she did not. We turned around and went home to get it.

I'm sure this says something about my priorities, but what this is may forever be a mystery.