Showing posts from February, 2017

Maps And The People Who Love Them

I have been in mapping and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) for 32 years. For the past 20 of those years, I have been involved in a statewide organization known as the Wisconsin Land Information Association (WLIA). In layman's terms this is a statewide group of people who are employed in some sector of the geospatial industry. These are map geeks.  These are computer geeks.  These are my people.  As part of this organization's mission, they host an annual conference every year at a different location around the state of Wisconsin. This year was at Chula Vista Resort in the Wisconsin Dells. These conferences are the usual fare of educational workshops, user presentations, special interest groups, networking and social activities. The past year I have been part of the Board of Directors for WLIA which is charged with a number of duties including putting together this conference. While I have been a member of the group for 20 years, I've learn

February Bugs

You have to admit if you're a Midwesterner, this has been a bizarre couple of weeks in February. It actually is toward the tail end of a strange winter. When I got a pair of Cross Country skis for Christmas this year, I actually said, you can officially put your snow blowers away, as I'm sure it will not snow again, now that I have new skis. Well, it has literally only snowed an inch or two since New Years. I was only joking about the snow, but I am actually okay with it. Throw on top of that the last couple of weeks where the temps have been between the high thirties all the way up to sixty eight forecast for tomorrow, and well, it gets stranger by the day. Knowing this, I've compiled a list celebrating this weather. The top 10 things I like about sixty degrees in February. When the wind blows it doesn't hurt your face. Those below zero days when there is a twenty mile per hour wind are killers.  There are no wicked patches of ice to make me flail about whe

Shifting Sands Of Parenthood

I've been thinking about kids a lot lately. No, not having more kids, those days are certainly behind us, but more about the "kid years." As Ben approaches the end of his senior year of high school, the prospect of an empty nest is staring Donna and I in the face. Within the next seven months, we will have two empty bedrooms (a sad thing), no one to wake up for school every morning (a weird thing) and two cars that we can reclaim as our own (a good thing). But I'm not sure I'm 100% ready for it yet. If you had talked to me 15 years ago, when they were 6 and 3, I would have laughed in your face if you told me I'd be saying that today. There were weeks where the prospect of having even ONE child IN high school seemed an eternity away. Those days where it seemed all I did was work, go to the park with the kids, eat dinner, read bedtime stories, fall into bed and then repeat it in the morning. And while I was plenty engaged at the moment, especially since,

The Party Of The First Part

One of the little known facts about me is my love for old Marx Brothers movies. This goes back to the early '70's when on Friday Night at 10:30 they would sometimes show their movies as part of the Friday Night Late, Late Movie. (Another good show was Horror Incorporated   which showed spine tingling horror films on Friday.) On those nights I was too young to go out on Friday, these were the extent of my entertainment. This is back in the day when we had 4 channels (count 'em!) and one of those was a static filled PBS channel. I remember always hoping they would do a Marx Brothers film or even a Laurel and Hardy or Three Stooges. My brother Tom was the one who introduced me to Harpo, Chico, Groucho and Zeppo and I can remember both of us howling at their antics.  Then for years they kind of fell off my radar. This was until the early early 90's when occasionally they would show one of their films at the renovated historic Paradise Theater in West Allis, Wiscon

Mind Games

In my ongoing edits for my next book, I am increasingly called upon to recall events that happened forty years ago, or more in some cases. Looking back on my childhood, I forgot to carry a notepad around and write down every major event or milestone as they happened. Because of this, I am left to recall all everything by memory alone. It worked this way with the writing of Dirty Shirt as well. It was during that process that I discovered that sometimes we remember things wildly different than how they happened.  For instance, I point to the story where, after tipping our canoe, we were left to try and find a campsite near our entry point. I originally had written that we camped on an undesignated campsite on a nearby island after paddling out of the stream system we were in. When I passed the story to my brothers to fact check, they both reminded me that we indeed did not camp at the island. They both agreed that we had tried to camp on the island but it was already occupied on its

Rattle And Hum

My next book is centered around the house I grew up in in the 70's in St. Paul, Minnesota. Of course the bulk of the story is built on what life was like growing up with five siblings in a single parent home. As I've written the stories and presented them at writing workshop, people have assured me that the stories are applicable to anyone who's grown up with multiple siblings, a single parent family or both. There are enough humorous stories mixed in with moments of near-tragedy to keep the reader interested - at least I feel there are. My classmates reaffirm these hunches. Tonight we had dinner with some friends who we've come to know who are pretty cool. We were introduced by another friend and have sort of latched onto them, in part because of their story, but mostly because they are fun to be around. I mention this in relation to my book because, as I was telling Donna, the energy of their household reminded me of my own home growing up. They have eight chi

A Super Bowl Of Sorts

Today we celebrate the biggest day in professional football, the Super Bowl. Many will gather with friends or family to watch the two most deserving teams square off in a quest for the Lombardi Trophy. There will be food, drink and lots of really, really costly commercials - some of which will make us laugh, others that will make us go Hmmm...and maybe one or two that will shock us. And while it is a nice diversion from all that is going on in our country, it pales in comparison to what we experienced as a family yesterday. Those of you on Facebook know that my son Ben swam his final meet as a senior at Waukesha South High School yesterday. It was the Junior Varsity Conference meet which is a playoff amongst all the teams in the Classic 8 conference. Going into the meet, his goal was to simply "break 30," or in layman's terms, to better his time in the 50 Freestyle and come in at less than 30 seconds. Ben joined the swim team last year as a junior and to his credit

Beer And A Sandwich

My Tuesday night evolved in the strangest way into an odd, albeit rewarding evening. Last week after my weekly coffee with the the boys at Cafe De Arts , I got a text message from my friend Claude who asked if I wanted to get together next Tuesday. I mentioned it to Donna, and she said it was probably because she was hosting 10 women at our house to assemble sandwiches for the Guest House of Milwaukee . Claude knew I would probably want to get out of the house, so felt it would be a good chance to get together for a beer. So we set a time and a place ( Bernies Taproom a local bar) and I mentioned he should invite the other guys from coffee and some others from CollectiveMKE , our church. Then he said, "Maybe we could even make sandwiches while we're there. Now, to be honest, I thought this was a little crazy at first. I am one of those people that worries entirely too much what people think. (Though as I get older, I seem to be caring less.) So, to propose a bunch of gu