Saturday, May 30, 2009

My First Video Post!

No kitties were harmed in the making of this filmed. Read more!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Fan Mail and Response

Needless to say, my mailbox overflows daily with letters from both fans and critics of my blog entries. While it is uncommon for me to address them publicly, I felt this one warranted a more open response, as this writer's concern may be felt by others of late.


Dear Ms. Dietrich,

Let me start by saying that I am a HUGE fan of your blog. I have read nearly through the entire thing by starting at the oldest post and reading backward to the most recent. I have read it all, from your exhilarating meeting with Chris Cornell (sorry about that "rabbit ears snafu) to the gut wrenching excerpts from your heretofore unpublished novel, Below Sea Level, which I look forward to reading just because it's your work even though I know the agony it will cause me. I feel like I know you so well though just at a distance, oh the painful distance.

The reason I am writing is the recent lack of activity on your blog. Surely you realize that your fan base has expectations of reading about your life everyday. I can only speak for myself when I say I understand that everyday is too much to ask but it has been nearly ten days since you've updated and I need more. Please provide the "cool beverage" your writing supplies for the terrible "thirst" I have for your life story. You must understand my need is driven by your incredible talent.

Your Sycophant,


P.S. I met you once two years ago at Mounds in Sun Prairie, I was behind you in line. I was the guy buying the poop bags do you remember me? We didn't actually talk but I think we shared a glance.


Dear Mr. D.W. and Readers,

I appreciate your devotion to my compositions and thank you for reading them so assiduously. Though I do not normally respond to personal missives (frankly, time does not permit me to address them on an individual basis) I felt that your feelings may be shared by others and therefore I have taken the liberty of printing your letter, along with my response. I hope this is acceptable to you.

I normally have three requisites for creating new prose: unrelenting quiet, significant stretches of solitude, and a certain degree of melancholy. I have recently had trouble attaining a workable level of each of these, much less all in concordance. Without these ingredients I am baking bread without yeast, cake without flour, brownies without chocolate.

My sweet peace and quiet has taken a beating recently as a result of a nearby neighbor erecting a large new play set and trampoline. Children from all over the neighborhood now flock to the site, and their squeals of delight are only barely concealed by the whirring of my air-conditioner. Needless to say, I find myself frequently praying for rain--a dubious response given my home's proclivity to flooding. Children aside, it is also the season of mowing, weed eating, and tree trimming. None of these has eased my aural suffering.

My solitude has not been seen in weeks, which surprises me more than anyone can imagine. As the weather improves I find myself more and more drawn to outings with my dear niece and her mother, primarily to visit my horses who, of course, deserve all the time I can afford them, as they are frequently neglected by me.

In addition to this, I have recently been reunited with a dear friend from my past with whom I hope to enjoy many a quiet afternoon, sometimes with horses, sometimes without. Other friends have been coming out of the woodwork since my sister convinced me to come out of hiding, as it were, and list myself publicly on that latest time waster, Facebook. Sadly, no agents yet among them.

As for the melancholy, it too has been a stranger of late, though I never see it disappear completely. (Should it do so I am convinced I should disappear right along with it, as it is so much a part of me.) I credit this to my recent acquaintance with a new gentleman friend. Though I have done my best to thwart his bold advances, he has made headway into my heart and thusly I have had more pleasant days than otherwise during the last several months. And as any seasoned writer knows, a miserable writer is a prolific one, while a happy writer is, well, an oxymoron.

The only thing in this writer's favor in terms of increased melancholy--and therefore increased literary output--is the fact that this new-found relationship rests almost entirely upon fate, as distance is a primary factor dictating its success or failure. As a traditional hermit-style writer, I no longer value travel, and this gentleman is many miles away, across the most insurmountable of obstacles known by some as Greater Chicago. Accordingly, we spend many pleasurable hours on the telephone each evening when normally I might be found staring morosely at my computer screen.

The gentleman in question has recently begun applying for positions at numerous teaching institutions, his art being culinary. Sadly, only a fraction of these posts would close the distance between us. Most would not only increase the distance, but also the time between us, as he is admirably ambitious and considering entry into graduate school. If this writer knows one thing, it is the vacuum of time, space, and finance that graduate school creates. It is no small miracle that I escaped intact some years ago, and I have seen it devour greater men than I. For a relationship to survive a grad school enrollment while both parties reside in the same city is no small feat, but to endure it at a distance is all but unheard of. Unfortunately, there is much more to a relationship than the number of free shared cellular minutes.

So lately I tread with a heavy heart, regardless of renewed friendships and my new gentleman friend. One is hard pressed at times like these to believe there is worth in leaving one's comfortable home, much less compose worthwhile new prose.

So let me now beg my readers' indulgence as I navigate this uncharted territory, and know that whatever happens shall certainly become fodder for any new material in the future.


Nancy Dietrich

P.S. Mr. D.W., I'm afraid I do not remember our "encounter" at Mounds. While it is true I was a frequent patron of this establishment at the time you mention, of late I have found it necessary to send an aide for such errands due to time constraints. Perhaps we shall be fortunate enough to meet at a future book signing.

Lesson of the day: Be careful what you ask for. Read more!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Sneeze with me, won't you?

All currently in bloom in my small yard. Pass the Allegra, please.

Help yourself.
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Sunday, May 17, 2009

Equine Ambassador Extraordinaire


As my dutiful neighbors mowed their manicured lawns today, I headed 17 miles SW to a big, black horse just waiting to get out for a good run. Summer is fast approaching, and the farmer next to the ranch is due to seed his cornfield--my racetrack--any day, and we weren't about to miss our chance.

As it turns out, he had seeded last Wednesday night--but let the ranch owners know that it was still safe to ride until the seedlings sprouted. So it was on.

Julian needed a good brushing, and I did it holding my breath, hoping to avoid another terrific allergy outbreak. Forgot a damp towel to catch the dust. I can't get away without that kind of tool anymore, and I won't forget again.

Saddling is easy when your horse is concentrating on what grass is left in the round pen--only muscle is needed to get that cinch tight after a winter of blanketing and too much grain. (My fault.) Took a few tries, but after getting it to the tightest notch possible for me, my arms went up like a prize fighter who just KO'd his opponent. I knew by the next day that lifting my arms that high would be nigh impossible, so I enjoyed it while I could.

We headed out through the long, dark row of white pines, me relaxing my back for any spooks due to birds and he tensing up as the herd grew further behind him. Once we reached the end of the drive, however, he had resigned himself to his fate of perhaps a thirty minute ride and settled in at a good pace.
The field was fast (a.k.a. dry) with good footing for some solid trot and canter work. He moved off my leg really well and I waited for him to leap into a run, but he didn't--he was right there with me. After a little work, we took advantage of the nearby neighborhood and did our own single-horse parade for the residents, also all obsessively manicuring their lawns. (Just one more good reason NOT to have a lawn.) We got a few startled looks and even a few carrots, while also leaving an unavoidable deposit near the Schroeders' mailbox. If anyone saw me drive back later and deposit that in the back of my Beetle in a large shovel, there will probably be men with white coats waiting for me next time around, but we at the Moodies' Rolling M Ranch like to put on tidy parades.
That is the second-most favorite thing about Julian: his adeptness as an equine ambassador. He turns heads wherever we go and reminds people of the beauty and power of the horse, as well as their gentle nature, which he shares with anyone that runs up with treats to offer or hands eager to pet him. As a child dreaming of horses I didn't even think there were horses anywhere near the "huge" city of Madison, and I like to make sure that the people near my ranch know that there are, and I'm willing to share.
Crossing back over the road from the neighborhood into the cornfield I was seized by an urge for my favorite reason for having a horse: a good healthy gallop. Julian was eager to oblige and lit out like we were riding the plains of Lonesome Dove after a wild herd of buffalo. Our rhythym was complete, with no need for me to hold anything but a loose collection of reins in my left hand, leaving my right hand free to circle in the air with my imaginary lasso. I vaguely remember cars passing by, but I couldn't bother to look over and miss my bison.
Luckily my "rope" fell on empty air, since I left my Bowie knife at home. Only thing harder than catching a bison is figuring out what the hell to do with it once you've caught him.
Once again, thank you, Julian, for helping me transcend our own reality. I don't know what you chase when we gallop, but I suspect you dream of it during the week as much as I do.

After the chase, chillin' with Mannie.

Not to forget Jack... I still haven't devoted much time to his training, as my health insurance is simply not that extensive, but I did brush and inspect him for his regular weekly nicks and cuts. As usual, he had a new one, this time right on his nose. He was kind enough to allow me to dress it with some Derma Gel, a great product that disinfects and helps the hair grow back in the same color it was--most important in a black horse, really. (Scars on horses grow back with white hair, generally speaking, so Derma Gel is my go-to product for Julian.)

As our fields fill with corn and our exploratory perimeters shrink for the summer, Jack will get more of the attention he so greatly deserves. And I'll keep trying to rope in more horse lovers, as the more hands I have out there, the more time I have for Jack, who only trusts a few two-legged folks so far.

Patience, Jack. We have not forgotten you.
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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Why I Love This Man

President Barack Obama fist bumps an unidentified graduate at the Arizona State University commencement ceremony at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Ariz., Thursday, May 14, 2009.(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Let me make one thing clear--I don't blindly worship political leaders no matter how dazzling the smile, and I'm not thrilled about Obama's lack of commitment to gay rights or his turnaround on torture evidence, but he has a wit I will always adore.

Obama shrugs off honorary degree snub at ASU

By DARLENE SUPERVILLE, Associated Press Writer Darlene Superville, Associated Press Writer – 2 hrs 57 mins ago

TEMPE, Ariz. – President Barack Obama says Arizona State University officials aren't the only ones who think he needs to accomplish more to earn an honorary degree.

Add his wife Michelle to that list.

"I come here not to dispute the suggestion that I haven't yet achieved enough in my life," Obama said in a commencement speech Wednesday. With a smile he added: "First of all, (first lady) Michelle (Obama) concurs with that assessment. She has a long list of things that I have not yet done waiting for me when I get home."

"But more than that I come to embrace the notion that I haven't done enough in my life. I heartily concur. I come to affirm that one's title, even a title like 'president of the United States,' says very little about how well one's life has been led."

Obama challenged the graduating class to find new sources of energy, improve failing schools and never to rely on past achievement. He congratulated them on earning a degree, and said the next steps mattered more than a piece of paper or a tassel.

"I want to say to you today, graduates, class of 2009, that despite having achieved a remarkable milestone in your life — despite the fact that you and your families are so rightfully proud — you, too, cannot rest on your laurels. ... Your own body of work is also yet to come," the president said, wearing a black gown with red embellishments and a blue hood.

Commencement speakers typically are awarded honorary degrees as a sign of respect and appreciation. Arizona State officials, however, did not award any such degrees this year.

"His body of work is yet to come. That's why we're not recognizing him with a degree at the beginning of his presidency," university spokeswoman Sharon Keeler said after the school's student newspaper first reported the decision. Numerous bloggers, in Arizona and elsewhere, regarded the university's stance as a snub of Obama.

To quell the controversy, the university instead renamed a scholarship for the nation's 44th president. At the beginning of his remarks, Obama thanked the school for the gesture.

He also met six recipients of the scholarship named for him and commissioned a group of Army and Air Force cadets.

While the dispute over Obama's honorary degree colored the buildup to the ceremony, a sweltering — and packed — Sun Devil Stadium seemed to care little. About 63,000 people crowded into the stadium to send 9,000 students into a marketplace that has lost 1.3 million jobs since February.

Obama was to fly to Albuquerque, N.M., after the speech. The president planned a town hall-style meeting there Thursday on proposed restrictions on credit card companies.

Obama plans commencement addresses Sunday at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., and the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., on May 22.

Protests were expected at Notre Dame, a Roman Catholic school, over Obama's support for abortion rights and embryonic stem cell research.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Someone's feeling a lot more at home

Action shots.

Dickens is camera shy and flees the scene when he hears the first beep!
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Columbus Vet Evacuates Animals To His Home

Columbus Vet Evacuates Animals To His Home
Blaze Broke Out At Columbus Chemical Industries Monday Night

POSTED: 9:19 pm CDT May 12, 2009

Dr. David Gerber said he evacuated seven dogs and five cats from his Columbus Countryside Veterinary Clinic and took them to his home.

Gerber was one of the first to see the fire Monday night. He was working in the dog park behind his clinic, which also runs behind the chemical plant.

He determined that all animals at the clinic had to be moved, and he said time was critical.

"I noticed some smoke that was coming from one corner, so I went over there and could see that smoke was coming from Columbus Chemical. I immediately called 911," Gerber said.

Gerber said he watched as the blaze grew out of control.

"We started hearing explosions as things got progressively worse and started to escalate. We realized we needed to evacuate the animals," Gerber said.

Most of the animals went to his home, but several were moved to the Wyllow Pet Hospital in Beaver Dam.

"We did have some animals that needed medical attention, so I called up Dr. Smith and asked if we could use her facility. She very graciously said, 'Bring them on up,'" Gerber said.

"We have talked in the past about what would happen if we needed to transport our patients or evacuate our premises. I didn't expect that we would have to implement the plan," said Dr. Vicky Smith, of the Wyllow Pet Hospital.

Gerber said an elderly pug was one of the pets that needed immediate care.

"The timing was crucial. We needed to do the surgery today," Gerber said.

Gerber said the situation might not have been ideal, but cooperation between the clinics made for as smooth of a transition as he could have hoped for in an emergency.

"(The dog) is doing fine. He's in recovery," said Gerber.

Gerber, like others in the area, was finally allowed back into the clinic Tuesday afternoon.

He said both he and the dogs staying in kennels in his garage are happy to be out of his garage and back into the clinic. He said it was getting a bit noisy in his garage.

Read more!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

So much for the feed store, and the vet clinic?

Photos by Daily Citizen staff

Looking at these pictures, things do not look good for either the feed store or the Columbus Vet Clinic. Left to right are the chemical plant, the feed store, and the clinic. The squad car is in the parking lot at the far edge of the feed store just before the vet clinic (not pictured).

Chemical plant and Julian's feed store next door

This sucks. Read more!

Holy Shit

All photos taken by Steve Apps at the WI State Journal

Command point on Ludington (Main) Street, a few blocks away

Look at the size of the burned-out dome lower left compared to the first photo to see how high these flames and smoke are.

Alarms continue to go off around me. Two ambulances have passed my house--one on the way to the Columbus hospital, one headed back to the fire.

Maybe you could cross your fingers, too?
Read more!

Chemical Plant Fire Forces Evacuations, Highway Closure Near Columbus

I live about 1.5 miles SW of this plant, which means the wind (which is solid today) is blowing the fumes away from my house. Good for me, not so good for others. The plant is directly next to the local feed store where I buy Julian's horse food and bedding for the pigs. I will be surprised if they don't sustain damage, possibly significant. I will have my fingers crossed for them, for all those who have been evacuated, and for the local firefighters, three of whom have been hospitalized thus far.

Chemical Plant Fire Forces Evacuations, Highway Closure Near Columbus Fire Continues To Burn Early Tuesday Morning

UPDATED: 6:39 am CDT May 12, 2009

COLUMBUS, Wis. -- A fire at a chemical plant near Columbus on Monday night forced some nearby residents to be evacuated and the closure of the north and southbound lanes of Highway 151 from Highway 16/60 in Columbia County, north to Highway 73 in Dodge County.

A series of explosions were reported along with the fire, which broke out shortly after 8 p.m. Monday.

The highway was shut down early Tuesday morning due to blowing smoke from the chemical plant fire, authorities said. Travelers on Tuesday morning are being advised to follow the posted detour signs.

The fire at Columbus Chemical Industries started just after 8 p.m. after a series of explosions and continued to burn early Tuesday.

Columbus Chemical Industries has five buildings on its site located on Temkin Road in the Town of Elba in Dodge County. The plant is roughly one mile north of the city of Columbus, near the intersection of Highway 73 North and Highway 151.

Roughly 150 first-responders from several area fire departments were called to help fight the fire. A total of 75 remained at the scene overnight, according to Columbus emergency officials.

At a media briefing just after 1 a.m. Tuesday morning, authorities confirmed three fire fighters were hospitalized with minor injuries. Nearly 150 people in 65 residences complied with voluntary evacuations. Authorities said all lived within a half-mile of the chemical plant.

Columbus schools and other businesses were expected to be open Tuesday morning, authorities said.

Bob Link, the mayor of the city of Columbus, said the mood of the community in the hours after the plant fire was preoccupied.

"It's very solemn. Many people in the community aren't sure of what's going on … I think a lot of people are just trying to sort over what they're going to do, when they'll get back in their homes," said Link.

An emergency shelter was set up at Columbus Senior Center. Link said the community is rallying around each other trying to come grips with the situation.

According to the company Web site, Columbus Chemical Industries manufactures high purity acids and salts, analytical and production solutions for the pharmaceutical, semi-conductor and electronics industries, among others.

"Quite obviously, it was a serious fire. What's most reassuring to me to see is the response from the fire department, (Emergency Operations Coordinator), Dodge and Columbia Counties, and Columbus here and feeling comfortable we have the best of the best on site to help us deal with this, Link said. "Obviously, we have employees and people who left their homes that are very unsure of the future, but right now I think everything's being done to make the community as safe as possible."

Columbus recently appointed a new emergency operations coordinator. Link said Gerald Sallman has been on the job less than two weeks and credits the fact Sallman was checking in with several of the agencies who responded to the fire.

"It's almost unreal, like we're having our first drill in how it came together and how well these departments are working tonight. We're somewhat relieved, believe it or not, regarding how it's working and going thus far," Link said.

Dodge County authorities also used an emergency notification system, or "Reverse 911 System" to call other residents in the Columbus and Beaver Dam areas and tell them to stay inside and keep their windows closed because of smoke from the fire.

Stay tuned to WISC-TV and Channel 3000 for continuing coverage.
Copyright 2009 by Channel 3000. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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Monday, May 11, 2009

A Dickensian Tail

Newest Dietrich family member, Dickens

Last Sunday I made a new resolution. SodaPop had been gone for a month, and I still missed her dearly.

"I think in a year or so I'm going to look for another dog," I told my boyfriend. "And for whatever reason, I've decided I'd like to go with eitehr a Chihuahua or a Chihuahua-cross." My BF's eyebrows raised, almost imperceptibly. Almost.

Ginger does not appreciate large breed dogs in general, so I knew I would have to go smaller. I'm actually partial to rescue Greyhounds, but knowing that Ginger would have the kind of hissy fit only pit bulls can have if someone larger than her appeared on her doorstep, I decided against it. I sure as hell don't need any more vet bills.

Throughout the conversation, my favorite picture of Ginger and SodaPop sat on the coffee table beside us.

Monday morning my BF drove 287 back to Indiana and I was alone with my resolution. Back at work, I sat and stared at the computer screen. Around mid-morning, the calls seemed to stop dead, and a dangerous boredom set in. A thought occurred to me. Since when do shelters even have any Chihuahuas available? It's all pit bulls and German Shepherds, neither of which mix well with an existing pit.

Only one way to find out. Off I went to the website for the Dane County Humane Society. One by one, I scrolled down through the unwanted canines. Not one looked less than 50 pounds, and my landlady is a real BITCH about dog size!

Yellow Lab
Pit Bull
Pit Bull
Black Lab
Shepherd Cross
Pit Bull
Rat Terrier...

Well, that one was small. I instantly pictured a bouncing, barking bundle of destruction unleashed in my home. Moving on...

Pit Bull
Rottweiler Cross
Pit Bull

I looked over at Ginger and shook my head at all her sadly imprisoned relatives. No question about it--two pit bulls would be more than I could handle.

Bullet dodged, I left the DCHS website and busied myself with actual work for some time. Then, another pernicious thought: What about Columbia County? Hell, I don't even live in Dane County any more--why would I look there? New google. Columbia County Humane Society.

Black Lab
Pit Bull
Pit Bull

There he was. A buff and white long-haired Chihuahua with super soft (you could tell) floppy ears. Neutered male, roughly 3 years of age, recently rescued from an Amish puppy mill. (The Amish run puppy mills?) Also in the picture could be seen two enormous blue eyes. Miss Cocoa's eyes, staring at me from that fish tank in 1993...

Conveniently posted at the top of the page was the adoption application link. The pages virtually printed themselves, but took a little while to fill out given the audacity of incoming callers who all demanded my full attention.

Most of these shelters have limited hours--this one was no different. It would open today at noon--my clock read 11:13. As the clock struck twelve, I hit the send button on my fax machine, and the wheels on this brakeless bus began to move. I had officially broken my resolution less than 24 hours after declaring it--at least by intent.

I dialed their number.

"HellomynameisNancyI'dliketoknowifBlueisstillavailable?" Took breath.

"Just a moment, Ma'am, is this your fax?"

"Yes--Is he available?"

"He is." She unsuccessfully stifled a giggle.

He isn't anymore. He is now sleeping in a mess of recklessly rearranged blankets inside of Ginger's monstrous kennel. Ginger, unperturbed, lies sleeping on the sofa with my legs propped, as usual, across her back.

Don't get me wrong. It's good to have resolutions. Otherwise, how would we ever know how badly we wanted something new in our lives? Eight days after my decision, and 357 days shy of fulfilling it, I felt the beating heart of a rejected and terrified bundle of fur (with super soft floppy ears) against my chest, and decided that this little Dickens was the best broken promise I had ever made.

Ginger, however, may need a little more convincing...

Read more!

Monday, May 4, 2009

If only...

Jockey Calvin Borel atop Mine That Bird crosses the finish line to win the 135th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. (AFP/Getty Images/Jamie Squire)

Something tells me that our man Calvin won't have any shortage of ride requests in the near future.

And if anyone was wondering how much you might have made had you succcessfully picked the Trifecta, chew on this. A friend of my brother-in-law bet $24 on the right trio, and took home a measly $50,000.

And what did YOU do this weekend?

And General Quarters? A respectable(?) tenth place.
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Friday, May 1, 2009

Derby Fever

Julie Sheets exercising General Quarters, currently at 20-1 odds for the Derby tomorrow.

Every year I resist, and every year I fail. I don't believe in racing two and three year-old horses, and I see one training picture and fall head over heels for their endless beauty. I go from PETA freak to "Just let them get through safely" in the blink of one big brown equine eye.

This year my favorite is predictable--the one whose story requires the most Kleenex: General Quarters. You can read more about him here.

General Quarters with exercise rider Julie Sheets.

My girlfriends Trish and Cecilia are on their way to the Louisville now, and I've already entrusted my bet with them. None of this $2 shit, either--I'm going all the way with $25! Since greys virtually never win, I did go the safe route and bet win-place-show, but hey, it's still a big bet for a full field of 20. General Quarters is 12th off the rail.

So 5 p.m. EST Saturday, May 2. Get your mint juleps ready!

Regal Ransom
For more pics of funny faces behind the scenes

Atomic Rain
Nowhere To Hide

Mr. Hot Stuff

Nothing funny about this beautiful face on West Side Bernie
Read more!

For those who suspect it is I who am unbalanced, let me state for the record that this cartoon was sent to me by my dad. His twisted blog can be found at Where's Jimbo. You have been warned.

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