Pictures Of Rainbow On Madison Isthmus

What a show Mother Nature provided tonight with a rainbow and brilliantly colored sky!  The rainbow was over Lake Monona and the orange sky made for a most impressive view to the west.
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Paul Eckhart, Grand Ole Opry Fan, Has Seen Every Weekend Show For 42 Years!!

This should allow my James to know things could always be more unique in our home.  (And just this weekend James asked me if I had music from both Charlie and Ira Louvin…..and I said “Of my God, you know their first names…..)

But seriously, this story really caught my attention.  And it is one of those stories that seems so ‘Americana’.  I could be blogging tonight about a whole host of issues from a new Islamic caliphate to a troubling Supreme Court decision.   But life is good and this story below is just too perfect not to promote.


Pictured are Paul Eckjart with the beautiful and talented Connie Smith and a member of Gaylord Entertainment.

Paul Eckhart hasn’t missed a weekend performance at the Grand Ole Opry in 42 years, but at age 83 he has decided to give up the night life.

Eckhart, whose dedication has won him a designated parking space backstage, a plaque on his customary stage-front pew and close friendships with numerous country artists, says he will “retire” this weekend.



“Everything has got to come to an end sooner or later anyway,” he said. “I thought this was a good time.”

The Opry is planning to honor him before and throughout the show on Saturday.

“We’re going to take time out in the show and kind of let the world know that we think the world of this man,” said Pete Fisher, the Opry’s vice president and general manager. “And just give him one big public thank you.”

Eckhart, a retired certified public accountant, began attending Opry shows in late June 1972 and has been coming back ever since. He now gets what Fisher calls a “loyalty discount” on ticket purchases.

However, he’s actually been a fan of the Opry since he was 6. Growing up in eastern Pennsylvania, Eckhart would pick it up on his family’s battery-powered radio with a big antenna rigged out back.

Years later he met his wife, Kitty, and the couple made a few trips to the Opry with group tours before deciding to move to Nashville.

“I was getting close to 40 … and I talked to her and said would you consider ever moving to Nashville?” recalled Eckhart, who’s now been married 61 years. “She said, ‘Well, let’s do it before we get too old.'”

Eckhart started going to the Opry on Fridays and switched to Saturdays about 15 years ago. He said he and his wife worked out an arrangement that allowed him to attend the Opry, and her to enjoy her pastime — bingo.

“We made a promise and we’ve kept that promise all these years, that I will go with her at least half a dozen times a year, but not on a Saturday night, and she will go with me to the Grand Ole Opry, but not on a Saturday night,” Eckhart said. “We’ve had a great marriage.”

Eckhart — who boasts of having at least 11,000 country music albums — said he likes the “old timers” best of all, like Charley Pride, Ricky Skaggs and Bill Anderson. He said his favorite female country singer is Connie Smith, and the late Faron Young is his favorite male performer.

However, Eckhart said he also has some young favorites, like Carrie Underwood, Josh Turner and Brad Paisley.

He said his all-time favorite show was the Opry’s 75th anniversary, which featured country superstars Reba McEntire, Dolly Parton, Vince Gill, Charley Pride and Garth Brooks.

Even though he’s retiring, as his vertigo now makes it difficult for him to walk, Eckhart said, “It doesn’t mean I won’t be going to the Opry again.”

It just won’t be every weekend.

But considering he’ll be 84 in October, he said 42 years of the Grand Ole Opry felt like a good stopping point.

“That’s exactly half of my life,” he said.

Decorah, Iowa Young Eagles Having Rough Summer

The famed Decorah eagles that have a cam which is watched by many are facing a tough summer.

This spring three eggs were laid, and it was a pleasure to see each hatch and the birds grow healthy and strong.  But several weeks ago the gants and biting flies that have proven to be a problem in so many places around the Midwest started attacking the young birds.  At about the time the birds were to fledge from the nest to the tree branches and then back for meals and nighttime resting did not take place.  Instead the young eagles just took flight and got the heck out of Dodge and never returned.

One of the eagles was so tired and unable to fly successfully it landed in a river area with a broken wing. It was rescued and had surgery this weekend.  The prognosis is good but it will be a slow mend.

The other two have been located but their story is not completed as they are still in need of learning to hunt and make it as adults.  The parent birds know of their location and that part of the story from the Decorah Eagles Facebook Page is well worth the read.

Bob Anderson writes the following.

“I was at the hatchery a little past 6AM this morning. David and Ann Lynch were down at the city compost site. The adult female eagle was perched in the maple tree. I lobbed a quail out on the cement and as usual the female did not respond. Every few minutes I would toss the quail high in the air hoping that the male would see the offering. After a few minutes I drove down to the compost site and met up with David along with several other eagle people who ventured out early to see eagles. Soon, the adult male eagle came flying in to the site carrying the quail. He landed next to the immature bird (EWOT) who snatched the quail and mantled.

David and I then set off to track down the young eagle with the transmitter. She spent last night in a corn field. This AM we found her laying down tucked up against a wire woven fence. She must have spent quite a bit of energy trying to get through or over the fence. I was able to grab her and quickly put a hood on her head. David then drove while I held the young eagle (EWT) and we made a direct line to the compost site.

Once we got there, we tossed three quail up on one small mulch pile very near the mulch pile with the other eaglet (EWOT). As soon as I released her on the pile she began to devour the quail. She ate all three in short order. I ran back to the hatchery and set out two small trout, hoping the adult male would snatch one and return to the compost site. All of us that were watching were rewarded when we saw the adult male eagle arrive with one trout and deliver it to the eaglet without a transmitter. The adult male then flew over to another mulch pile. Before the adult male arrived with the trout the eaglet without a transmitter flew over to the bird with the transmitter. They interacted a bit and then eagle EWOT flew back to his mulch pile.

I returned to the city compost site around 2:30 to check on the eaglets. Both of them were perched together on the tallest mulch pile. The adults have visited and the adult male brought food. It has clouded over and with luck the eagles will remain for more feedings from the adult.” 

Madison Rhythm and Booms On Lake Monona A Success

I am pleased to say I was most pleasantly surprised with the complete smoothness of the first Rhythm and Booms to be held on Lake Monona.  I can only claim to make that statement from my personal perspective.  For the concerns that many residents–including myself–who reside in the downtown area and isthmus had registered over the past year it is clear that what took place Saturday can be placed in the success column.

With nearly a dozen people at our home for a picnic and then viewing of the fireworks it proved to be a perfect evening.  With lake breezes that are almost always blowing regardless of the day it was most pleasing to have those assembled not be bothered with misquotes or bugs.  I am most certain all those around the lake had the same experience.   For all the rain we have had and the hatchings that have taken place the winds were something all were grateful for.

The sight of the barge was easily seen at B. B. Clarke Beach and the surrounding park area and as such not only was the sky show picture perfect, but also the blasting of the fireworks could be viewed as they went skyward from the barge.  Kids of all ages had plenty of reasons to smile.

The Friends of B. B. Clarke Beach thought it wise to make sure that the portion of street in front of the beach be closed to street traffic which proved to be a most wise decision.  With only bikes and foot traffic it reduced congestion and made for better movement and reduced other issues that need not be a part of a neighborhood when such an event takes place.  There are thoughts already being considered by local people to expand this idea to allow for folks who come from other places to have even a better time when they arrive on the isthmus for next year’s show.  Less car congestion on streets due to car traffic means more enjoyment for all.

I was most heartened with how people picked up after themselves and took garbage either to the trash bins or home with them in their coolers.  Parks Department reported that B.B. Clark Beach and the parks to the east were all clean and well treated in ways not found in all parks in the city following the show.  Let us chalk another reason to be proud of the liberal area we live in and the care we provide for the place we call home.

While I think there is still valid concerns about the impact fireworks have on the lake, and we will continue to need to have that debate, there is one thing we all know for sure.  The first fireworks display on barges was a success and a good time was had by all.

And for next year by this time I will have a better relationship with my camera and tripod for nighttime photos of the fireworks!!

Woodsburner By John Pipkin Tells Story Of Devastating Fire Set By Henry David Thoreau


No matter what else I read Woodsburner by John Pipkin will be one of the best books that I will have spent time with this year.  From the first paragraph to the last it was nothing but a pure delight that made me think, marvel at the writing and plotting, and smile many times along the way.

In short the novel revolves around a forest fire that Henry David Thoreau accidentally set in 1844.  If you are like me that alone is news,  but then John Pipkin takes the reader on nothing short of a brilliantly written journey that spans a day as we get to better know the inner moods and thinking of what we all will come to know as a thoughtful and insightful philosopher.

Before there is a Thoreau that we now know there was a young man who sought to find out what he wanted from life.  He knows he wishes more than making pencils in the family factory, and the events that unfold in the mind of Pipkin allow for the shape of Thoreau to take shape on the turning pages.

Every now and then I comment about plotting when reading a great book, but when it comes to Woodsburner the intricate weaving of charatcers with each other in ways they do not even realize is nothing short of masterful.

The richness of those that the fire connects with will make you wish the fire lasted a lot longer than it did as they are simply engaging and most entertaining.

We meet Oddmund Hus, a shy Norwegian farmhand who has fair skin and seems so apart from everyone else.  He is hopelessly dreaming of the wife who is married to the man he works for on a farm.  We meet Eliot Calvert who was in many ways my favorite character as he was a prosperous bookseller with a  dream of becoming a popular playwright.   Without giving too much away he thought the ending of his play should have a large fire that consumes the set to add emotional punch for the audience.  Then there is the opiate smoking Caleb Dowdy who preaches fire and brimstone and is simply too good not to savor in this remarkable book.

This is definitely a five-star event within the covers of this book!

Being Closeted In President Bush’s White House

One terrific read.

It was a slap in the face.” Steven Levine is remembering that day in 2006 when President George W. Bush took the stage in a small-town school gym in Indiana. It was October 28, right before the midterm elections, and Levine was a 22-year-old White House advance aide. He’d been camped out in Sellersburg all week, working to get the details just right for Bush’s campaign rally. The flags hung just so, the big presidential seal on the podium. Then Bush started talking, his standard stump speech about taxes and supporting the troops. But a new applause line took Levine by surprise. “Just this week in New Jersey,” the president said, “another activist court issued a ruling that raises doubt about the institution of marriage. We believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman, and should be defended. I will continue to appoint judges who strictly interpret the law and not legislate from the bench.” 

The crowd loved it. Levine was crushed.

He was gay and working for a Republican and convinced it was possible to be both at the same time.

In recent months, I’ve reported extensively on life in the closet of the Bush White House, and a number of his former aides are quoted on the record in this story for the first time about their experiences as gay Republicans in an administration that was perhaps the last of the era when institutionalized discrimination against gays and lesbians was still legal, if increasingly frowned upon. Their accounts offer a time-capsule view of a Republican Party—and a president—at war with itself over an issue on which public opinion and the law have now changed dramatically. At the time, it seemed to be great politics for Bush: Coming out against gay marriage, as Rove bragged in his 2010 book, Courage and Consequence: My Life as a Conservative in the Fight, “benefited my candidate” and “helped reelect him” in 2004. But since a Supreme Court decision last year, 19 states and the District of Columbia have legalized gay marriage, just the outcome that Bush and his team fought to prevent, and a clear majority of Americans—a record high of 55 percent this year—now tell pollsters they support this right.

CBS Reporter Clarissa Ward’s Use Of Hands Is Striking


I often take note of not only what is being reported by a television journalist but also other aspects of how a reporter communicates.  In the case of CBS’ Clarissa Ward that means watching the expressive use of her hands to emphasize a point.

There is no missing the point that Ward is a top-notch journalist with not only the ability to obtain the facts to a story but also has the needed background and perspective to provide her audience some analysis along the way.  She is the type of reporter that makes the profession proud.

But it is the use of her hands to underscore her points and lend heft to her reports that I find striking and unique among television reporters.  I suppose some might say simply standing and speaking to the camera is the ideal way to conduct oneself but Ward–so it seems to me–is so steeped in the story and so intent on imparting the news that her body language is also needed to complete the report.

And I think it is done very effectively.

CBS can be proud to have Clarissa Ward as a reporter inside Iraq as that nation becomes unglued, and I am better informed as a result.

Polio In Pakistan Due To Bizzare Taliban

Most of us agree that advanced science has proved to be most beneficial.   Which is why the news from Pakistan that polio is on the spread, and needlessly so, is so distressing.

Tens of thousands of children who have not been immunized against polio are leaving that region of Pakistan where the government is conducting a military offensive to rid it of Taliban militants.  The reason for the rise in polio in Pakistan is one of the most bizarre scenarios that anyone can imagine.

The Pakistani Taliban started a ban on immunizations for polio two years ago in response to U.S. drone strikes.  In June 2012, Taliban commander Hafiz Gul Bahadur released a statement that said vaccines “would be banned in North Waziristan until the drones strikes are stopped.”  He added that drone strikes “are worse than polio.”

One might argue from that news we needed at least one more drone strike to remove the one who made such a dreadful decision!

Due to this immunization ban Pakistan is one of only three countries where polio is still endemic.  In fact, more cases of the virus were reported there than in any other country.

One doctor in a news story estimated more than 100,00o children from the area where the military operation is now underway has not been vaccinated.