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07 August 2011

Quick Thoughts

Enjoying a staple of the Wisconsin State Fair:
Cream Puffs!
There is something that everyone should make time for: Going to your County and/or State Fair. My wife and I made the trek to West Allis more times than not during our married life. Usually on the years we can't we go to the Dane County Fair. Every time we take in the talents and genius of young people from all over the state in the Arts and Crafts exhibits.
A resident Turkey Vulture from the Schlitz Audoubon Center
spreads her wings to take in the summer sunshine.
We also like to wander the vendors to see what is "new" and "exciting". Sometimes we'll buy it (like some spiffy brushes that clean out our dryer vent), but usually not (Multi-use scarves, anyone?). There are also safety exhibits and birds of prey, a nature preserve with a self-guided trail, and tons of entertainers from street dancers and musicians, to big name acts on the stages.

A team of the Budwiser Clydesdales usually makes an appearance. It's fun just to watch them hitch up.
Lest I forget, there are also some of the cutest farm animals in the state, exhibited by 4-H youth.
There is also every conceivable food you can think of (and some I hadn't ever dreamed of) skewered on a stick. For instance, two years ago I was introduced to chocolate-covered bacon on a stick. It wasn't half bad, but way too rich for one person. My wife and I shared one. We didn't go for the deep-fried Snickers bar on a stick. The new one this year was deep-fried butter (it was battered to hold it together). We decided to pass on that one, too. We never pass up the cream puffs, the grilled cheese sandwiches, milk (of course it's Wisconsin!) and the baked potatoes.
Grapevine at Weggy Vineyard.
The State Fair is a place where just about the whole state comes to you. Most times, you have go yourself to see stuff that special in your home state. Today, my wife and I took in a wine tour at a small winery near Muscoda. We learned some basic vineculture that I'll be using for my own grapes and a lot about this delightful winery. We had so much fun there, we decided to visit two other (relatively close) wineries and taste a few (OK, over two dozen) of the local vin. We brought home eight bottles of different types. We were happy campers!
One should experience Life. You can only do so much staring at the TV or computer screen. It's hard to savor the iridesence of a vulture's feathers, the taste of a cranberry apple wine, the soft fur of a rabbit, the rumble of 16 one-ton horses in harness, or get the smell of a cow barn from pictures that flicker before you. Go out and see/smell/hear/touch/taste it!
Portrait of me is by Mary A. Hoffman. Other photographs are Copyright 2011 by W. Clinton Hotaling

04 August 2011


Liquid Golden Sunshine - Honey!
Some of you may have noticed that I've been using a walking stick of some kind since spring. Most of the folks who know me know of my arthritis and assume the cane/walking stick is for my knees. If it were so simple.

A pinched nerve in my lower back creates phantom pain in my left leg usually far greater than the grinding pain in my knees. Fortunately, using a walking stick or cane in my left hand will take the pressure off the nerve so that I can walk long distances or stand for long periods of time on concrete--that wonderful stuff so many retail floors are made of.

Get me on turf or wooden floors, my back is much happier. I also have to remember to sit correctly: that is, straight and upright in a chair or car seat. Failure to do so results in pain, that fine teacher.

I do have to remind folks that just because I use a cane, doesn't mean I can't lift things, walk or even jog. The stick is there to let me have less pain. I don't need it for balance or to take weight off of one leg or another. In fact, I fence fine without the cane (although it can be useful as a rigid parrying device....). It helps me keep from wondering how long until my next break at work so I can get off my feet. It is most importantly a crutch to help me through my day at work.

Some crutches are better than others. Mine is just a stick I have to manage and keep track of. An annoyance (for me) at worst. It's just more annoying for me if I don't have it.  Some escape to their phones or rumor swapping. Some people resort to chemical help in the form of a pill or liquid that "makes the day go smoother". Those last are a menace to themselves and others. Fortunately, a very rare few of my co-workers are that stupid.

One crutch I rely more heavily on is coffee. Must. Have. Coffee. I don't care too much about quality unless it's truly awful. I do prefer light roasts. To me french roast tastes burnt. A little cream/creamer/whitener makes it go down smoother, but I don't otherwise sweeten my coffee. I inherited my father's ability to consume caffeine with few side effects. Like Papa, I can literally have a cup of coffee and go straight to sleep. Not having coffee results in caffeine withdrawal-manifested as a killer headache that lasts a couple days if I don't get some caffeine in me.
Morning Fog over the DeForest Bike Trail
Some crutches are truly useful. A monopod or tripod is that often overlooked piece of equipment in an amateur photographer's kit. Steadiness is one of the easiest ways to acheive sharp photographs. If you can't use a tripod (like in the conservatory), a monopod may do the trick. Anything to hold the camera still while it takes the picture. The photo on the left was taken with my phone, but I held it steady against my bike to get the shot. I used my bicycle as a crutch. The photograph of honey bottles was made at the Madison Farmers' Market. I could have only got there to see the picture and take the shot because I had my walking stick.

I'm also reminded of the adage: Good photographs are 5% the camera and 95% the photographer. Know the limits and capabilities of your equipment, and work with them to produce your magic.

All photographs copyright 2011 W. Clinton Hotaling