Archive for August, 2006


Thursday, August 31st, 2006

I never cease to be amazed  by the universal human propensity to believe that (only) other people speak with an accent.

Now, I happen to have what I refer to as a chameleon ear.¬† That means that I can’t help but to absorb and to speak with the type of language/dialect/accent in which I’m immersed at any given time.¬†¬†l’m convinced that this is a trait that some people have and some people don’t.¬† I find that those who are skilled in music tend much more in the chameleon-ear¬†direction than those who aren’t.¬†

In my case, my impressionability extends even to speech mannerisms and the kind of impression made on the listener.  I learned long ago, therefore, that I need to choose my surroundings carefully.  During my brief stint as a telemarketer, I always had better sales successes when sitting next to a successful seller.

I became aware of this trait in myself as a child, when I would leave the confines of Southern Indiana each year for a month-long stay with my grandparents in Bethesda, Maryland, just over the Washington D.C. city line. 

I distinctly remember being suddenly aware,¬†when calling¬†my mother from Maryland, of¬†her very southern-sounding drawl – and I knew that when I was at home, she had less of an “accent” than many fellow southern Hoosiers.¬† She would also comment on the Easternization of¬†my speaking during, and just after, my summer visits.

My ears almost fell off when, after just having arrived home from a year in Germany, some relatives at a dinner party in Kentucky asked if I wanted to “triiiiiiiiiiiiy some piiiiiiiiiiiiiie.”

All of this brings me to living now¬†in Wisconsin.¬† I vividly¬†remember that when I met Paul in D.C., I was struck by the strength of his marked and earnest Wisconsin/Minnesota accent.¬† I tried and tried, but couldn’t properly imitate it.¬† But I could hear¬†it from a mile away.¬†

And now that we live here, I must sound pretty much the same as he does.¬† When people here learn that I’m not a Milwaukee native, they express surprise.¬†

Last night – I love it -¬†while getting my hair cut by a new person at my favorite salon, the hair cutter asked, upon learning that I’m from Indiana, whether I “used to have an accent.”¬† I laughed.¬† Several different kinds of responses internally competed for expression, especially since, to my thinking, I currently have more of an accent than I did in Indiana.¬†¬†His question also presumed, in a way that I find charming, that to speak in the distinctly Wisconsin way is to speak accent free.¬†

I love that the Cheeseheads have no idea how much, to anyone outside the state, they sound unique.¬† In many conversations here, I’ve heard the assertion that Wisconsinites don’t have an accent.

And my mother, who lives here now, too, gets asked almost every day about just which part of the Deep South she is from. 

Oh, geez!¬†¬†Den dis¬†Wisconsin Dictionary mus’¬†jus’ be for hoots and hollers, next time dey’re by deir friends for a beer, hey?

Weddings are Fun for Everyone

Tuesday, August 29th, 2006

Emmas first boyfriend 8-5-06

Originally uploaded by Koog Family.


Awwww . . . Emma made friends with 17-month old Alex, recently, at Uncle Mark and Aunt Fran’s beautiful wedding.
That’s our girl, pointing! (She’s not shy).


Emma and Alex 8-5-06, originally uploaded by Koog Family.

The Journal Sentinel Reports on Wikipedia

Tuesday, August 29th, 2006

Kind of interesting.

Two Milwaukee-based Lake Michigan passenger/ferry boat services are in the middle of a trade war. . . on Wikipedia.

Somebody, stop the madness!

Web Wars Ensnarl Ferries

Since March, a Wikipedia article about the Milwaukee-based ferry has been altered repeatedly to emphasize the vessel’s cancellations, delays, mechanical problems and passengers’ seasickness – and to link to a Web site that compared the Lake Express unfavorably to the competing S.S. Badger.

Meanwhile, the Badger has the opposite issue: Wikipedia recently flagged a glowing article about the 53-year-old ferry for possible copyright violations, because some of its wording appeared identical to that of the Badger’s own Web site. That article has since been revised to eliminate the suspect passages.

Wikipedia lake ferry entry has lots of back-and-forth  

Wiki wackiness continued Monday, after the Journal Sentinel reported that a Wikipedia article on the Lake Express high-speed ferry had been changed to emphasize negative information.

In the hours after the Journal Sentinel article first appeared on the JSOnline Web site, the online encyclopedia’s Lake Express entry was changed another 21 times before a Wikipedia administrator erected electronic shields around articles on both the high-speed ferry and its older rival, the S.S. Badger.

One anonymous user even boosted the top speed of the Lake Express from 40 mph to 140 mph and shortened the length of its trips between Milwaukee and Muskegon, Mich., from 2 1/2 hours to half an hour. The same person undid those changes a minute later.

By late Monday afternoon, almost all negative information had been removed from the article and Wikipedia had blocked anonymous users from making any more changes to the entry. Regular users still have access.

What People Say on Vacation

Monday, August 28th, 2006

Overheard¬†in an onboard¬†”boutique” shop specializing in statuary, jewelry, purses, and perfumes on the Plaza Level of the Coral Princess:

Upper Middle-Aged Man 1: (Standing near a table set with jewelry,¬†in an observational tone): “So they’re kind of catering to just the women here.”

Upper Middle-Aged Man 2:¬†“Oh, I don’t know, Jack.¬† (Points to necklace and earring set) I can see you in one of those.”

Mom and Emma Day

Sunday, August 27th, 2006

Things have been so rushed lately.

We arrived home from our vacation after midnight on a Monday. On Tuesday, it was back to the office, and by Friday, I was giving two public presentations.

The day after the presentations, we took Emma to the portrait studio for her one-year photos, and the next day, we had a birthday party for 10 people, duly decorated in a barnyard animal theme, at our house.

The next week, I was under the gun on various client deadlines.

And on Friday last, I finally finished the most pressing of them.

So when Paul left town early Saturday morning for a Golf/Poker overnight trip with the guys, and since my mother left at the same time for a seminar in San Francisco, I had all the cue I needed for spending a fun, relaxing day with Emma.

Just Mommy and Emma.

After the requisite Emma’s breakfast, morning play and morning naptime, we headed out for our fun day.

We had lunch out together at the Cheesecake Factory. While waiting for my food to arrive, I fed her in her highchair.

Then, we went to Barnes and Noble, and picked up a few fun little board books. I think my new favorite is the one called Little Gorilla.

Poor Jim (the cat)

Originally uploaded by Koog Family.

After the bookstore sojourn, it was off to the Build-A-Bear store, where we procured a new outfit and shoes for Gloria, a bear her cousin Alex previously built (and named) for her. (That’s Gloria, on the left, in the picture).

I felt like a regular Grandparent with all the baby shopping. It was fun.

After we’d had our fill of the mall, we went to the park, where Emma crawled and crawled and crawled, stopping every few feet to hand me interesting objects that she found. She handed me an acorn, several sticks, leaves, blades of grass, and pieces of pieces of weeds that she tore off just for me (Awwww….).

She also enjoyed being pushed in a swing.

After our big day out, it was time for her dinner and after that, for a bath.

It was a lovely Mom and Emma Day.

Tales from the Spa – Part One

Sunday, August 27th, 2006

I mentioned our cruise ship experience at the Marjorie Glacier previously. 

But I haven’t elaborated on our on-board¬†Lotus Spa experiences.

Lotus Spa.¬† That’s the name that the Princess Cruise Line gives their fitness and spa treatment facilities.¬† And we tested them out on our trip.

We each had a massage, at the same time, but in different rooms, on one of the “at-sea” days.¬† Interestingly, Paul’s Swedish Massage was delivered by a Swedish man named Martin.

My Chakra Stone Massage was delivered by Regina from the Philipines.¬† And it was lovely.¬† Until the end.¬† I still haven’t fully recovered from the experience.¬† She informed me that I really had a lot of cellulite on my thighs for a woman my age, and then took advantage of my genuine horror to sell me an expensive “algae-detox synergy” bath powder.¬† I’m supposed to soak in it once per week to solve my problem (I haven’t yet).¬†

I was upset, afterwards, both because she said that out loud (I’m not saying it’s not true, buy hey, I get on the¬†treadmill three times a week), and, mostly, that I fell for her hard sale/shame tactic.¬† I made a perfect mark.¬† In one of the books I had time to enjoy on the cruise, a prominent modern cruise-line founder was quoted as describing cruise passengers as¬†captive consumers, and saying something along the lines of “a cruise passenger is a wet towel.¬† First you wring them in one direction, and then you wring them in the other.”¬† Well, Regina wrung me out pretty well.

The best part about the spa was that you didn’t have to have a specific “treatment” booked (so bye bye, Regina!) in order to take advantage of the facilities.¬† We purchased a “thermal pass” and so had unlimited use, for the week, of the Thermal Suite (you can get a view of it here).¬† The¬†Thermal Suite deserves a few words of commendation.¬† Apart from our Cabin (well, OK, I’ll play along with the cruise lingo, our “Stateroom” [view here]), it was one of our favorite retreats on the ship.¬†¬†To either side of the Thermal Suite entrance are two curved, ceramic beds of heated tile.¬† Reclining on those was incredibly relaxing.¬† But once you were ready for a change, there were several steam rooms,¬†each featuring steam in varying intensities and different decor/ambiance¬†to choose from.¬† When it was time to cool off from the steam, there were two showers to choose from.¬† I had read before our departure that these showers each¬†offered special tropical “rain storm” and “cold mist” features.¬†¬†¬†So of course, once I got to the showers, I was interested in trying out these features.

Unfortunately, this resulted in my giving a fellow traveler and Thermal Suite user the “best laugh [he’d] had in a long time.”¬†

It happened like this.

Paul, who is kind of chatty, and kept making friends in the casino and the thermal spa, had been talking it up with a beefy, confident, older guy from Pennsylvania who struck me as a hard-driving CEO/Executive type. 

After priming the CEO’s talking pump, Paul disappeared into a steam room.¬† Now I’m one who likes to enjoy my Thermal Suite in peace and quiet, but, to be polite, I¬†engaged in¬†residual chit-chat with the Executive and his wife.¬†¬†

The Executive decided to try the showers.¬† And from there, he had¬† a conversation with his wife about not being able to control the temperature of the water.¬† I asked if he could see how to activate the rain forest mist.¬† He couldn’t.

A curious soul, I then decided to try the other shower, and to see if I could figure out not only the temperature knob, but also the misting feature.

Since we were all good friends by this time, I announced, from the shower, the method I had discovered for controlling the temperature.  The CEO and his wife took this in stride.

And that was my last good move in the Thermal Spa that day. 

I then announced,¬†”Oh, I found the topical buttons right here!¬† Let’s see what these do.”¬†

I was shielded from the CEO’s sight, thank God, by the curved, green tile wall of the shower.¬† But what followed next was my blood-curdling scream – emitted in response to suddenly having ice cold “rain storm” water dumped in a mercilessly unending torrent upon my head and previously steam-warmed body.¬†

The horrible contortions of my body were unseen, but the scream, apparently, said it all.¬† And the green tile wall couldn’t shield me from what came next… the CEO’s long, loud, and mirthful guffaws.¬† That was really a funny thing for him.¬† I knew instantly that everyone at both his dinner table, that night, and in his board room, next week,¬†would be hearing about this one.

Just then, Paul emerged from the steam room, only to have his buddy, the CEO, give the play by play to him on what he had missed.  At the end of the recounting, the CEO laughed and laughed again. 

I tried to maintain my dignity, bruised though it was.  I continued to try out various features in the steam room.

But every few minutes, the CEO’s brain replayed for him the sequence of events (which he described to me as “let’s see what happens when I push this button…”, then the scream), and I’d hear the guffaws come, and last, again.¬†

So the Thermal Suite was lovely.¬†¬†But I guess it’s no surprise that for the rest of the week, Paul frequented it more than I did.

Support A Good Cause

Friday, August 25th, 2006

Milwaukee may be the hardest drinking city, but we can do our part to help those in other locales share (or not) in the booze-soaked joy, while supporting a good cause at the same time.

Two enterprising New Orleans bloggers (one of whom kindly provides internet hosting and general assistance for this blog) have set up a website allowing you to vote on whether or not these fine gentlemen should indulge in the ungentle consumption of alchohol in 2007.  (Note that, regardless of the final vote, the self-sacrificing fellows have reserved the right to indulge in the spirits on certain holidays).

Your votes, made with your tax-deductible paypal donation will support the New Orleans Mid-City Neighborhood Organization to build a new library in storm-ravaged New Orleans.

Read all about it, and consider voting, at

Friday Misery Has Company

Friday, August 25th, 2006

 I realized, as I was pulling into the parking structure at work this morning, that I had an unusually bad work attitude going on.

Maybe because it’s Friday.

Maybe because this has been one of those weeks in which each day, I have faced a couple of major deadlines, with unexpected emergencies arising in the midst to contribute to my sense of feeling frazzled about getting everything done on time. 

Maybe it’s because every night this week, I have taken home files that I really should have stayed up to work on, after Emma went to sleep.  But every night this week, I felt too tired to do that.

Maybe it’s because we are understaffed.  My boss will actually be making contacts with some prospective new hires today.  

Whatever the reason, by the time I had parked and made it to the elevator bank, I was deep in internal dialogue about this working life being the journey and not the destination.  I was reminding myself that, good health and luck, willing, I will someday be able to retire and take more time to do things on Mondays through Fridays other than follow this same routine.

Don‚Äôt get me wrong.¬† I know that I am very fortunate. ¬†For the kind of work I do, I really don‚Äôt think I could possibly find a better place, or atmosphere, in which¬†to do it. ¬†And there aren’t a lot of people who can say that.¬† But sometimes, thoughts of an existence beyond an office-centric one intrude, and this morning was one of those times.

It was then, at the elevator, that I encountered a co-worker.

“Hi.  How are you doing today?” he asked, as I was mid-internal-‘journey not destination’ sentence.

“Okay,” I said, perhaps not too convincingly.  “How about you?”

“Alright,” he said.  I noticed that he sounded as if he was straining as much to sound sincere as I was.

“Facing another busy one,” I said, clutching the file of documents I was carrying.

After a few more seconds had passed, and once the elevator was moving up, he volunteered that “The sad thing is that I’ve already billed two and a half hours today.  I’ve been working from home.”

Whoa.  I went into a brief discussion/justification along the lines of my mornings being filled with getting my daughter and myself up, ready, and to daycare, but that two and a half hours from home was indeed impressive.

He countered that he hadn’t meant to brag or compare, and that he was only seeking commiseration for the feeling that he has “no life.”

(This is not, by the way, the standard stuff of law firm partner elevator chit chat.) 

A few more seconds passed.  Just before the elevator door opened, we exchanged a sympathetic partial smile puncuated by work-week weary Friday eyes.  

“I commiserate.”  I said.

Just as I reached my desk, the phone rang.  It was my hard working, stiff-upper-lip husband, who called to say, very uncharacteristically, that he wished we didn’t have to work all the time.  He expounded upon how nice it would be if we could just all sit around more often and then take Emma for walks during the day.  

We briefly reassured one another with visions of a future retirement before returning, respectively, to our busy days. 

More Milwaukee “Honors”

Friday, August 25th, 2006

Well, I’ve got to hand to to Milwaukeeans.¬† They know how to do what they like, and lots of it.¬†

And in a study in the headlines today, Milwaukeeans are the hardest drinkers in the nation. 

Milwaukee, not Vegas, America’s drunkest city¬†

It will come as no surprise that the residents of a city known as “The Nation’s Watering Hole” like to have a beer or two.

But Milwaukee isn’t just your average brewing town. It’s the hardest-drinking city in America, according to’s ranking of America’s Drunkest Cities.

Honestly, before I clicked on the link, I was expecting to see a Minnesota town take top booze billing. (Everybody knows about those thirsty Scandinavians). 

But it’s us.¬†

So I guess the rest of you can think of us sitting up here all safe from natural disaster, but also keeping warm and laughing it up. 

I suppose there’s a good reason that our¬†baseball team is called the¬†Brewers.¬† We do have a formidable beer brewing history, after all.¬†¬†

. . . and I suppose all the beer goggles everyone must be wearing explains why, despite my observation that the Brewers team never seems to win a game, no one else really seems to mind. 

More Than Ice and Soup

Tuesday, August 22nd, 2006

One of the days on our recent Alaska cruise vacation was devoted to sailing slowly and peacefully around beautiful Glacier Bay National Park.

Our ship stopped for over an hour directly in front of (but a quarter mile away from) Marjorie Glacier, one of the larger and more active glaciers in the bay.


Glacier Watching in Glacier Bay
Originally uploaded by Koog Family.

It was there that we had the unique experience of observing a glacier calve into the sea. The naturalist in charge of the ship’s PA system had told all of us, gathered outside in our warm hats, gloves and jackets, to watch the birds. The birds have a good sense for where a glacier is weak. It is in their interest to have such a sense. A massive chunk of ice falling violently into the sea stirs up their beloved food.

So we watched. And watched. And then it came. A cracking, groaning sound. Followed by the amazing spectacle of part of the front wall of the glacier sliding, avalanche style, into the bay.

The calving was accompanied by a wonderfully large splash. Splash seems like too small a word to describe how the water reacted to the ice, which then caused a powerful and almost frightening wave to advance in our direction.

A view through the binoculars confirmed that the fallen ice was bobbing up and down in its new watery home with amazing speed and power. I understood why the fish beneath would be disturbed.

The glacier calved two more times before our ship pulled away.

Before seeing the spectacle, I warmed up on the chilly deck by taking advantage of the warm food buffet that had been set up outside.

Having just approached the line, I spotted a tempting looking Rock Fish Chowder, and I reached for the ladle to fill my cup. Apparently, however, we pampered passengers were not to work so hard as to serve ourselves any soup. Seeing my reach for the ladle, a woman with a gentle accent beat me to it, served me the soup, and (unnecessarily) apologized in a way that I’ll never forget:

“I’m sorry. My mind flies home in this weather. (pause) I have a daughter there and I think of her when I see the little girl.” (She indicated with a head nod and her glance that she had been watching a girl somewhere behind me).

“Where is home?”, I asked.


Wow. I had been missing my own daughter, during the three-day-old trip. And at home, I often regret the time that I spend at the office and away from her during the weekdays.

But I see her most every evening and weekend day.

And this mother, who must be earning more money at sea than she could at home, is away from her daughter every day and night for what I understand to be the standard contract term of nine months at a time.

I know that she loves her daughter as every mother loves her child.

My heart goes out to those who face the choice of leaving their children for extended periods in order to support them.

I got more than warm soup in that line. I got a new perspective on, and appreciation of, my own situation.