We will shop but not until we drop

After scrubbing down the keyboard with Fels Naptha, the Lovely Lisa posts her adventures in grocery shopping:

The realization hit me: If I get this thing, I will probably die.

Being almost 72 years old with asthma puts me in that very vulnerable category. I will not be able to weather it out at home. I will need one of the scarce beds and a ventilator. David and Max will not be able to visit me. 

Therefore I am grounded. Can’t even go to the early morning shopping hours set aside for folks like me. My last two trips were on March 13 — that Friday everyone went mad and overbought toilet paper — and March 19, when I still thought I’d be “safe.” That was the day David announced I was grounded.


[BLASKA: Man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.]

But grocery shopping is one of my favorite outlets

I would peruse the ads every Wednesday — which are much reduced now — make my list to include clipped coupons and planned menus. I was very pleased when my receipt showed that I had saved 40%. I shopped three stores, not every week, because I liked certain items from each. Grocery shopping was one of life’s pleasures. No more. Now David goes, list in hand — a very specific list.


I’ll admit I’ve become afraid, now worrying about what David might pick up and bring home. Wiping items — who last touched that can of beans, anyway? Not wanting son Max to ride the bus because that puts him added days away from seeing him again. 

I can’t imagine how difficult this has become for those who are still working away from home, especially if they have children. How do we ever really thank all those doctors and nurses and grocery people and truck drivers and police and firefighters, allowing themselves to become exposed to keep our lives running and safe? 

So in the face of all this we keep on living. I get dressed in the morning, sometimes in yesterday’s clothes, but more often a different outfit. Put on earrings and a bit of eye liner. Even though I’m not going anywhere. I still live with myself. I still live.

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Car thief jailed in deaths of two in Madison

Deferred prosecution

WKOW-TV 27 is reporting that 18-year old Khari Sanford was booked into the county jail Friday on the tentative charge of first-degree intentional homicide in the deaths of Madison physician Dr. Beth Potter and her husband Robin Carre. Their bodies were found in Madison’s UW Arboretum.

Sanford is acquainted with a family member of the victims, a source told 27 News.

Khari Sanford

Khari Sanford from his Facebook page

Last April at the age of 17, while he lived on Pike Drive in Madison, Sanford was charged with felony auto theft in Dane County. He was found responsible for the theft after a plea deal was agreed to before Judge Ellen Berz. The charge reduced to a misdemeanor and Sanford was admitted into a deferred prosecution program.

He played football at Madison West high school.Sanford most recently showed a Middleton address. 

What appears to be his Facebook site posts several anti-police threads, including “Police the police” and  “Top 5 videos of kids owning the police,” and “Ten minutes of cops being snowflakes.”

A response posted by a commenter this morning reads, “Police the police bruh you killed someone we need the police to arrest people like you.”

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Vote Wayne Strong for School Board


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Chores in a one-room country school, 1955-57 (part #2)

Previously,“One Small School Room in the Country 1955”

Most of the kids at Oak Lawn country school in rural Sun Prairie WI came out of small, working family farms. Agriculture was consolidating even in the 1950s. Even then, 80-acre farms provided a living, with maybe a part time job at Oscar Mayer or driving school bus. The average Wisconsin dairy herd numbered 211 cows in 2017 — up from 18 in 1955 (using two different sources).

We still had some old milk cans around the farm I grew up on, although (before my memory) father had torn the milking stanchions out of the little red barn that he bought from Carl Weisensel in 1947, adjacent to father’s home farm. I’m thinking there were 12 stanchions, total.

We had no real farm chores that young but brother Mike, a year younger, was already following Wayne the hired man (who lived with us) around the farm, silently absorbing, imprinting. Mike farmed for many years thereafter.

Back in the mid-1950s, the older classmates at Oak Lawn were assigned chores, one of which was to fill the bubbler from the hand-operated water pump outside. In winter, they left the bucket inside and pumped enough water to create an outdoor ice-skating rink.


Oak Lawn country school 1928. #1 John J. Blaska Jr., #2. (to the right) Jerome L. Blaska., #3 Juanita “Dolly” Blaska, #4. Burdette Blaska. Teacher in back. Bubbler in back of room (center right) looks very familiar to author in 1955-57 when he attended. Boys all wear overalls.

Little Egyptians

After a mid-winter thaw-and-freeze cycle, the snow cover hardened. The older boys drew their American Flyer sled through the culvert underneath the road to a promising vein on the other side, carved out blocks of the crusty white stuff, and ported it back to the school like ancient Egyptians. They constructed a fort incorporating the back wall of the boy’s outhouse. Somehow, they fashioned a roof. Entry was on hands and knees through an opening covered by a gunny sack.

The girls and us little boys (one of their duties was to look after us) constructed their own fort behind the girls’ outhouse. It was a poor affair. Wouldn’t have passed inspection in Bangladesh. The very first ice ball fired from the boys’ stronghold crashed the enterprise down our necks for a freezing shower. Thereupon, the big boys invited us little guys to tour their works. No girls allowed.

It was likely a ritual hallowed through the generations: the older student leveraged the newbie on the high end of the teeter-totter, then jumped off so that the initiate would crash down to the ground. Girls worked the swings to heights above the top bar. We played games that Grandpa must have played on the same white clover and bluegrass in the 1890s: pom pom pull away was one. (How did it go?) 

An older student threw a red dodge ball over the schoolhouse to the other side yelling, “Annie, Annie over.” The object was to catch the ball as it came over the roof, wherever that may be. We would have played hide and seek but there was no place to hide.

Sun Prairie 1950

Sun Prairie c. 1950 looking west from the now-demolished viaduct over Main St. / Hwy 19 across the porcelain factory and (farther left) Oconomowoc Canning Co..

A secret place

Well, there were two places. On the first day of second grade, I got to act as big brother to brother Mike, who was one year (less a day) younger. (Because his birthday came the day before mine he thought he should be older.) Still don’t know why I lost my nerve but we holed up (for that is the word) in the stinky outhouse. 

Mrs. Taylor rang her hand bell to begin class and yet we stayed hidden. Quiet. Then a voice trilled: “Where, oh where are the Blaska boys?”

“We’re in here,” the oldest piped up from behind the wooden door. “Come out, come out!” she commanded and we followed Mrs. Taylor into school, no questions asked, no explanations given.

David on Jerome's tractor

Father’s patient instruction (about 1950) in agriculture on the old John Deere never did take.

Alma Taylor taught 8 grades

Alma Dolan Taylor, I learned only a few years ago, was the mother of Marcella Chase, wife of Ted Chase of Chase Lumber. Mrs. Chase a few years later would be my den mother for Cub Scouts. Later, Mr. Chase was elected mayor and his son Ted Jr. still lives in their grand house on Bristol Street in Sun Prairie. 

(Sun Prairie’s first mayor was an honest-to-god hammer-and-anvil blacksmith, Tony Thomas. Father seemed to find any excuse to take a damaged implement for Mr. Thomas to heat up and then pound upon. Turns out my great-great grandfather, the immigrant, was likely a blacksmith as well as a small farmer.)

Mrs. Taylor, then well into her 70s, regaled her charges with stories from her own childhood in northeast Dane County: real-life Indians traveling along the creek to beg from the white interlopers. With colored chalk she drew highly detailed seasonal scenes — Thanksgiving with its pumpkins, turkeys, and Pilgrims, for instance. A traveling teacher came by maybe once a week to teach music. Us little kids banged wooden blocks together. We were not taught science.

Oak Lawn reinforced the work ethic that we were absorbing at home. Children did not have to speculate; they could see their parents at work.

Next: Grandpa’s seed corn

Posted in Tales from the front lines | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Madison car thieves adapt to coronavirus

Is it the new smartphone?

Madison’s teenaged car thieves may be missing school
but they’re 
watching current events!

A citizen reports from Madison’s North Gammon-Old Sauk Road:

We had our car rifled through on Monday night  (04-01-2020). Normally we park in the garage but had left the car out that night. Fortunately we didn’t have anything the thieves wanted except for some change and a bottle of hand sanitizer. It has been reported. Just wanted to remind everyone to make sure you lock your cars and doors. I spoke with a police officer who said you should not leave your garage door opener in car that is parked outside. 

Madison’s Westhaven Trails reports:

I have video of kids going through cars over the weekend on Tempe Drive. They were driving a black Kia Soul. Reported to police. … The kids were also wearing N95 masks. Cop thought that was laughable; good disguise.

How about some encouraging news?

America is about a week away from tests that can determine if you have or have survived COVID-19 thanks to antibodies. “Some experts estimate that more than half of infected individuals show mild or no symptons.” The Wall Street Journal explains: 

USDAWhen fighting a pathogen, the immune system produces proteins known as antibodies that bind to specific molecules known as antigens on the invader’s surface like a lock and key. … Because antibodies linger in the blood, they are especially useful for determining if someone has been infected with the coronavirus.

This will convey immunity — at least to this particular strain. Those whom tests prove to be immune would receive “certificates of immunity” allowing them to return to public life. The UK has ordered 3.5 million antibody testing kits it will ship to households. 

The new normal? — Only 10% of Madison-based employees of the WI Department of Revenue are working from the Rimrock Road headquarters building; 936 are working from home. One hundred percent of the labcoats at Blaska Policy Werkes, the indentured servants at the Stately Manor, and the unlettered field hands at the Experimental Work Farm and Penal Colony are also working from home.

Where are you working?

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Let’s have an election!

Tuesday, April 7 seems about right!

Hand sanitizer, disinfectant spray, plexiglass, gloves, and face shields.

UPDATED: A federal judge is allowing Wisconsin’s non-partisan and presidential primary election to proceed next Tuesday, April 7. In a blessed display of judicial restraint, the judge said he didn’t have the power to postpone the election (not the least of which, it’s not a federal case!). 

TODAY, Friday (04-3-2020) at 5 p.m. is your last chance to request an absentee ballot. Do it here.

The judge’s waiver of the required witness signature is being appealed. Also under appeal is maintaining electronically transmitted proof of identification. To be safe, provide both. Ballots will count if postmarked on April 7 and received by April 13. However, that later date is also under appealed.

Absentee ballots can be dropped off by noon Election Day April 7 at

  • Central Library dropbox – 201 W Mifflin Street, Madison
  • Pinney Library dropbox – 516 Cottage Grove Road, Madison
  • Sequoya Library dropbox – 4340 Tokay Boulevard, Madison

⇒ Wisconsin is the only state holding an election at this stage of the pandemic.

VoteGovernor Evers is saying, “If I could have changed the election on my own, I would have, but I can’t without violating state law. I’ve asked the legislature to do its part to ensure a fair and safe election.” Legislative Republican leaders give no indication they will meet to change the date. Nor should they.

Abe Lincoln held an election in the middle of America’s Civil War, getting ballots to the front lines.No election is perfect. Never mind the presidential primary. That election could be delayed. But county elective terms expire in all 72 counties, as do local school boards. (In Madison, be strong for Wayne Strong.) There’s a major state supreme court race. (Vote Dan Kelly.)

If not April 7, when?

Reduced turnout? Hardly!

The Wisconsin Elections Commission says 1,053,556 requests for absentee ballots had been received in Wisconsin as of Wednesday (04-01-2020); 387,833 have already been returned. Wisconsin has more than 3,300,000 active, registered voters. In the average Spring primary election year, only 14% of eligible voters (roughly 462,000) actually bother to vote.

Even if not all the million requested absentee ballots are not returned, it would be the largest turnout for a state primary in Wisconsin history.

Among the unsung heroes are our poll workers. Mayor Satya Conway Rhodes reports that the city expected to issue 6,000 to 8,000 absentee ballots but as of Wednesday had mailed 70,000. Poll workers, she says,”struggled to find enough ballot envelopes and enough mailing labels, and they’ve worked 90-110 hour work weeks to manage the volume of requests, losing sleep and straining their own immune systems in the process.”

Plenty of precautions

A normal City of Madison spring election puts 1,500 poll workers on the job. Two-thirds of those have called in self-quarantined. The number of polling places is down to 66 from an original 92. Check this interactive map of all polling place.  (Sun Prairie has reduced to one.)


Well, not quite

Madison’s most-excellent city clerk, Maribeth Witzel-Behl, told poll workers, “We well aware that this election is being conducted in difficult, frightening, and uncertain times. 

Public Health professionals are developing the means to reduce risk at the polls.

The City has obtained 500 plastic face shields for use on Election Day. Hand sanitizer will be available for voters. Instead of a set greeter station and registration table, two people at every polling place will be assigned to the “curbside team.” The curbside team will have access to plastic face shields. Prevent too many voters from entering the polling place at one time.

There will be only one poll book table at each polling place, regardless of how many wards are there. It will be equipped with a protective plexiglas shield. There will be one ballot table, with two workers at each location. It will also have a protective plexiglas shield.

Blaska’s Bottom LineGot to think voting — even in person — will be safer than grocery shopping.


How are you voting?

Posted in Coronavirus | 3 Comments