Category: Wisconsin Page 1 of 2

The Big Move: Epilogue

While Dawn and I were preparing for our move and in the process of moving, I recorded my observations in my private notes and in text updates to our loved ones. Though I did not post them to this site contemporaneously, I had intended to collect, edit, and post them here; here is one in the series.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020, 9:04 pm

We are loving the apartment, honestly, which is super lucky given we found it 100% online. Even while sheltering in place, we’re in a great location. If we turn left from the front door we see a lake; turn right and there’s the Capitol building. And the gig is going well, even if I’m totally remote. I’m kind of getting used to that. Last week, my first full week, I had fourteen video meetings in five days. This week, fewer meetings, but lots more email: drafting plans, providing social media help, compiling links, and so on.

So far, so good.

The Big Move: We made it!

While Dawn and I were preparing for our move and in the process of moving, I recorded my observations in my private notes and in text updates to our loved ones. Though I did not post them to this site contemporaneously, I had intended to collect, edit, and post them here; here is one in the series.

Sunday, April 19, 2020, 6:25 pm

After almost a day here, I think the new apartment is pretty good! It’s bigger than our old place and has great amenities, including a washer and dryer in the unit, a dishwasher, two bathrooms, a balcony, and a heated indoor parking spot. It also has good light most of the day and lots of stores and restaurants nearby (even more than when I lived here 20+ years ago).

Unfortunately, as one might predict would happen in a college town while living relatively near campus, some of our drunken neighbors made insane amounts of noise last night until 4 am. [Ed. note: luckily, this has not been a constant thing, and the noise has been more tolerable than we expected based on night 1.]

Today we picked up brunch and dinner from a coffee shop a few blocks away. It was a neat feeling to walk past the Capitol to get there.

Still exhausted from the drive, but we’re going to slowly get situated. The cats are getting acclimated. They’re glad we didn’t get in the van today! The movers will get here with our stuff between the 22nd and the 24th, and my first day “at” my job is April 22nd.

Monday, April 20, 2020, 6:11 pm

Did a big and successful outing today for:

  • an epic amount of supplies;
  • a cable modem and cable box, critical for working from home;
  • and my work laptop, monitor, mouse, and keyboard. (Kudos to the folks at DoIT for getting my stuff set up quickly!)

My initial impression of the people of Madison in relation to COVID-19 is that many of them will likely get very sick at some point. Masks are few and far between and social distancing is rare. We want to be at home as much as possible at this point, so it’s good we like the apartment.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020, 1:24 pm

The movers left an hour ago, and I had my first meeting with my boss today. Aside from the intense amounts of unpacking and reorganizing we have to do, I can now say this: We have successfully moved.

The Big Move: York to Madison

While Dawn and I were preparing for our move and in the process of moving, I recorded my observations in my private notes and in text updates to our loved ones. Though I did not post them to this site contemporaneously, I had intended to collect, edit, and post them here; here is one in the series.

Saturday, April 18, 2020, 11:26 am

We are now in Iowa—just one state away from our new life!

Saturday, April 18, 2020, 11:11 pm

We are in our new place! Got here a little before 8 pm. Our rental minivan is in our new underground parking spot.

We knew that our stuff was highly unlikely to get here before we did. So that we would have something to sleep on the first few nights, Dawn, brilliantly, ordered an air mattress to be delivered here before we got here. So, right now, Marley is on the air mattress with us and Boris is hiding under a blanket at the end of the bed. We are exhausted but happy.

April 18 driving stats:

  • 9:26 am to 7:40 pm (10 hours, 14 minutes)
  • 449 mi
  • 7:20 driving; 2:56 breaks

Daily new cases as of 3-20-2020

Changes

For the first two months of 2020, I was burning the candle at both ends, and then cutting the candle in half and burning both of those ends. I use this very specific, vivid, and slightly awkward yet humorous metaphor to describe my time engaging in an intense and focused job search while also working full time—and trying to find time to help plan a move for me, Dawn, the cats, and our stuff from San Francisco to Wisconsin.

And that effort paid off. On March 3rd, I got the call I wanted: a job offer from my alma mater, the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Starting April 22nd, I will be a Strategic Communications Specialist within UW-Madison’s office of University Communications. Dawn and I had been planning to move to Madison in April whether or not I got a job, but this makes it far more possible—especially now.

Because, of course, the context today, March 20th, is worlds away from the context of March 3rd and pretty much each of the individual days since. We’ve seen huge increases in COVID-19 infections and deaths worldwide, voluntary self-quarantines, the physical closing of non-essential businesses, most of the rest of us working from home (including my future co-workers at the UW), orders to shelter in place at the city and state levels, hospitals running out of supplies and having to make terrible no-win decisions. We live in a new world that is changing by the minute, and we have only vague ideas about our future course—aside from the almost certain fact that millions of people will die from COVID-19.

I don’t even know how to describe witnessing a pandemic unfold in real time. It makes you rethink everything you’ve valued and failed to value. It certainly reinforces my opinions of capitalism and plutocracy. I can’t help but think about, and worry about, our family and our friends, their health, the health of all their loved ones, and the tragic and profound losses we’re seeing worldwide in every facet of life.

My and Dawn’s continued health seems good as we take it slow and easy. I’m grateful (and lucky) that my soon-to-be new job is with a state university and not a more precarious organization. They made the offer, they need me and my skills as much as ever, and the hiring process continues to move forward.

There will be all kinds of unpredictable side effects of this crisis. One somewhat random one: right now, I’m not at all inclined toward comparison shopping. If a mover or an apartment rental company is willing to engage with us now, and the price point is reasonable, I want to give them our business and not waste anyone’s time. They need to make a living and we need to get there. So far they seem to very much want our business and that’s a relief. The possibility of not getting to move when we planned has been one of my immediate worries since this thing started.

I was hired to work to promote the Strategic Partnerships unit (which does federal, state, tribal, community, and business relations). Right now, it sounds like my team is doing crisis communications more than anything else, which I’d be happy to help with. I love jumping in and doing what’s most needed. No matter what, I am excited to work for my alma mater in a role that fits my strengths and in which I’ll be able to actively build meaningful connections between UW-Madison and the larger community.

For her part, Dawn will be leaving the VA and opening up a brand-new private psychotherapy and training practice, and will be available for tele-mental health referrals later on this spring.

In this last year, Dawn and I have been thinking and talking a lot about our lives and the direction we’re going. Losing my mom last February drove home the point that we want to prioritize family more than we have. We have also faced the fact that—even on one federal salary and one non-profit salary—we will simply never be able to have a better place to live in the Bay Area than our one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco, under current conditions.

These are the main reasons we’re picking up these roots and moving them to Madison. (Back home to Madison, in my case—after 20 years.) We’d been incredibly excited about a new adventure and a different pace of life. We still are. Now we just have to wait a little longer for some of the things that we were excited about, and that’s okay.

So many of the things that were planned in the old world are going to suffer drastically. One of my good friends just lost his mom this week. The fact that he won’t get to gather with friends and relatives young and old, the way I and my family did last February, seems to me like it would compound the sense of loss. The associated expressions of love and connection and sense of closure (to the extent that it is attainable) will have to be deferred and/or happen some other way. One of Dawn’s former trainees was going to have a wedding this spring. It’s not going to happen the way they planned.

I’m grateful for many things in my life. Now I’m grateful for a whole new set of things I never realized I took for granted. Having a wedding with 80 guests. Having a celebration of life for my mom. Not being sick.

More to come.

In loving memory: Debbra M. Ream, 1954-2019

In memory: Debbra M. Ream, 1954-2019
Below is the obituary I wrote for my mom. It will be published in some form in Hartford, Wisconsin; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; and Monroe, Michigan, the three places she lived in her 64 years. I have not publicly shared any account of her struggle with memory loss until now, in order to respect her privacy. It was a complicated thing to be at least partially responsible for. My brother Jared and I had talked in recent months about how to share the news of her dementia with relatives and friends (some of whom had figured it out for themselves, and undoubtedly more than I had realized). That question is now largely moot.

I miss her more than I can describe. Anyone who had spent significant time with her in the last few years will understand what I mean when I say I had begun to miss her several years ago. She was still so much of herself to the end—luckily her personality hadn’t changed much, if at all—but her lost independence, which meant so much to her, broke my heart. She was also the one who did so much to hold our extended family together: making phone calls, keeping her address book current, staying active on social media and texting, and sending cards and letters at every birthday and many holidays. Sadly, her ability to keep up with that gradually faded, even before her memory issues were really evident to those of us closest to her. I have so much more to say about the wonderful, amazing ways in which I am who I am because of my mom. She was an extraordinary person who had an effect on everyone she met, she was an amazing storyteller and writer, and her capacity for love and trust given what I understand of some of her early experiences was nothing short of miraculous. I love and miss her with all my heart.

Please join friends and family at Suminski / Weiss Funeral Home, 1901 N. Farwell Avenue, Milwaukee, WI 53202 on Saturday, February 16, 2019. Visitation will begin at 12:00 noon and her Celebration of Life will begin at 2:00 pm.

Debbra M. Ream, May 28, 1954 – February 6, 2019

After several years of illness resulting from vascular dementia, diabetes, and other ailments, Debbra M. Ream, age 64, of Hartford, WI found peace on February 6, 2019. Deb, born Debbra Marguerite Williamson in Monroe, MI on May 28, 1954, was an artist, a published poet, a lover of animals, a fan of travel and history, a beloved wife, mother, sister, aunt, grandmother, niece, cousin, and friend, and a delight to all who met her.

She passed away while holding hands with her beloved husband of more than 30 years, Richard Dale Ream. She and Richard were inseparable in the last few years after he retired and became her full-time caregiver in 2016. They shared many adventures in life, including trips to Vancouver, California, Brazil, and the Bahamas, many visits to the Bristol Renaissance Festival, and others too numerous to count.

In addition to Richard, she is survived by her two deeply treasured sons, of whom she was indescribably proud: Jason Lee Gohlke (and daughter-in-law Dawn Lawhon) of San Francisco, and Jared Martin Gohlke (and fiancée Stacy Austen) of Kannapolis, NC.

She is survived by more relatives and friends than one could count: granddaughters Nora Ruth Gohlke, Emily James Gohlke, and Susan Louise Gohlke, stepson Keith Ream, stepdaughters Carrie Bristoll-Groll (Tony Groll) and Danielle Bristoll McNeil (Patrick McNeil), aunts Josephine Bushroe, Marjorie Calkins, and Violet Barton, sisters Sally (Richard) Venia, Lori Theisen, and Violet Williamson Bellair (husband Ed Bellair), brother Floyd T. Williamson Jr., sisters-in-law Sandy (husband Rod) Wallner, Barbara Ream, and Alice Ream, brothers-in-law Ken Ream and Ed Ream, nieces and nephews including Maris (husband Eric) Miller, Elise Venia (husband Scott Varty), Noelle (husband Ryan) Fragner, Todd Knabusch, Lance Theisen, Olivia Dawn Williamson, Christopher Williamson, Jacob Houston, Michelle Ream, Janell Ream, Janette Ream, Jillian Schroeder, Wayne Ream, Heather Ream, Michael Ream, stepgranddaughters Stephanie, Brenna, Kiera, stepgrandsons Jesse, Zach, Harlan, Tristan, cousins too numerous to name, and many friends from every stage in her life.

She was preceded in death by her sister Sharon, her beloved mother Marguerite, father Floyd, and beloved grandparents Edna and Garold Bosenbark, who were a great influence and comfort to her while growing up, and many other friends and relatives.

Growing up in Monroe, Michigan, Debbie was a tomboy and a free spirit. When she was eight, she lost her younger sister Sharon to childhood diabetes, which affected her greatly. Deb moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1972 to attend Patricia Stevens Career College, which she was fond of describing as a “glorified charm school.” During her first days in Milwaukee, she overcame the death of her grandfather, who had frequently taken her fishing and been a strong influence in her life. She also beat uterine cancer. She was married to Jeffrey L. Gohlke from 1974 to 1984, and having her two sons during that time was the pride of her life. Deb’s mother Marguerite was a confidante and friend as well as a talented artist, and her untimely passing in 1984 affected Deb for the rest of her life. Deb married Richard in 1988, after which they moved to Hartford, Wisconsin. She took great pride in her home and impressed many with her eclectic, fun, and unique interior decoration style. She enjoyed painting and turned her LP tank into a Yellow Submarine. She also wrote poetry throughout her life and published poems such as “The Old Man with the Hop,” a poem she wrote for her son Jared.

Deb was a frequent reader of novels and a particular fan of Stephen King. She was an activist and a donor for a number of causes, including the environment and the protection of animals. She loved music of all kinds, especially pop music from the sixties to the present, and world music. She was a lover of animals, especially elephants and owls. She had many beloved pets throughout her life, including several cats that were her devoted companions, including Max, Macintosh, Rio I and II, and Frisco. She loved to tell stories over coffee and cigarettes, she enjoyed meeting new people and making friends wherever she went, and she brought joy, laughter, and love to so many.

In lieu of flowers, please make a donation in her memory to one of the following organizations:

Family and friends will gather at the Suminski / Weiss Funeral Home, 1901 N. Farwell Avenue, Milwaukee, WI 53202 on Saturday, February 16, 2019 from 12:00 Noon until the time of the Memorial Service at 2:00 PM. More info: https://www.lifestorynet.com/obituaries/debbra-ream.125891

How an art major in Madison ended up happy in the Bay Area

About a year and a half ago, I received a survey request from the UW-Madison Art Department and found myself writing a lot about things from 15 years prior. I pasted my response as a draft in this here blog intending to expand on it at some point; since I appear to be on a “draft post finishing” kick these days, that point is now. Here’s a significantly extended version of what I told them about my long-distant experience matriculating there.

I enjoyed being an art major at UW-Madison (from roughly 1995 to 1998), though I certainly did not intend to follow that path when I enrolled at UW in 1993. (How I decided to add the art major is in itself another story, and an important one for me.) Had I been an aspiring art major in high school, it seems unlikely that I’d have gone to UW-Madison — I’d probably have aimed for MIAD (Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design) or somewhere else, maybe more ambitious. While making art was something I enjoyed a lot, it seemed neither to be my greatest strength nor my greatest passion. I did always enjoy computers, and my first work with Photoshop and QuarkXPress was in the art classroom at my high school, so it’s not a huge surprise that I ended up doing graphic design.

Of course, those formative experiences and the subsequent ones way up in the sixth and seventh floors of the gray concrete neo-brutalist “Humanities Building” are ancient history by now. I would guess (and hope) the Department of Art is better off today.

Overall, the quality of instruction varied greatly and the facilities were often sub-par, though our access to technology was pretty good. We had limited classroom space, and it wasn’t contiguous, but given that, the sense of community on the upper floors of Humanities was about as good as it could have been. If I’d tried harder, or sooner, connections I made with my classmates definitely could have become deeper friendships. But at the time I had my co-workers, my former dorm mates, and my drinking buddies, three groups that had a small amount of overlap.

I did feel that I learned a little bit about making art, at least, even though the level of instruction was mixed. Some instructors provided little to no individualized guidance, even in smaller classes, and generally I didn’t sense an overall commitment to improving students’ ability to navigate the larger world. For a self-directed student like me, opportunities were there. (I suppose I could have gone to office hours more frequently, but I spent a huge percentage of my time just working on projects.) There are a few faculty members I’m willing to list by name because I liked them. Stan Shellabarger was helpful in instilling a questioning attitude that informs me to this day, and Daniel Smajo-Ramirez was helpful in bridging the art/technology gap. Phil Hamilton, who taught graphic design, was always incredibly encouraging and warm. He left most of the detailed questions of execution to John Rieben. We used to call them “Santa and Satan,” perhaps unfairly to John, but his relatively harsh demeanor was a shock to our coddled adolescent brains. I took Professor Hamilton’s independent study “portfolio class” and was grateful for his emphasis on the need to have a portfolio, but I was shocked at how many of my classmates ended the semester without having completed one.

It turns out, of course, that that portfolio class during my final semester of college was the link to the rest of my future. My future former co-worker John Ziperski (also coincidentally a fellow Hartford High alumnus) came to that class looking for interns. I saw a terrific opportunity, even though the (now defunct) firm, HBG New Media, was then housed at the charming former cheese factory in distant Paoli (distant at least for those of us who relied on a bike and public transit, which I did at the time).

I convinced my mom it was not merely necessary but also safe for me to take possession of the 1983 Plymouth Reliant that had been sitting, undriven, in her yard for at least a year, so that I could take the internship at HBG. In 1998, HBG (which has its own interesting and cautionary tale) had a large plot on the periphery of the frontier of the great Internet expansion of the late 1990s — meaning we were among the first companies designing and building websites for mid-sized companies with occasionally recognizable brands (Tiger Toys, McGraw-Hill, lots of others). I learned a ton there from John, and Ryan McElroy, and Jessica Edil, and Eric Smith, and others.

And then, in 1999, I started getting annoyed by at least one new bad co-worker and feeling a little wanderlust. I got on the personals on a now-defunct website called swoon.com, met a girl, and — well, head on back to the earliest archives of this site, which start not too long after that.

Three years later, I got in my (new) car (long since sold), moved to the Bay Area, and here I am now. Yay!

You’ve gone and done it this time, Wisconsin Republicans.

Wisconsin Solidarity
Wow, Wisconsin Republicans, very slick. Your crap plan to kill collective bargaining (and a whole lot of other things about Wisconsin government) basically had the votes. But instead of waiting out the Dems who fled the state, you had to go and create a committee that met in violation of state open meeting laws.

Wisconsin state politics has long featured some degree of blatant corruption and/or powermongering (Tommy Thompson, Chuck Chvala, Gary George, etc.), but Governor Scott Walker isn’t anywhere near as savvy as any of those guys were.

Convening the hastily formed committee was clearly an illegal act. What fools they are to choose not to play by the rules and completely give up the moral high ground, especially when everybody knows they had the votes to eventually win anyway. It was an overreach from the start.

From http://www.doj.state.wi.us/dls/OMPR/2010OMCG-PRO/2010_OML_Compliance_Guide.pdf (a guide to open meeting compliance from the WI attorney general in 2010) —

page 10:

The two most basic requirements of the open meetings law are that a governmental body:
(1) give advance public notice of each of its meetings, and
(2) conduct all of its business in open session, unless an exemption to the open session requirement applies.

and page 13:

The provision in Wis. Stat. § 19.84(3) requires that every public notice of a meeting be given at least twenty-four hours in advance of the meeting, unless “for good cause” such notice is “impossible or impractical.” If “good cause” exists, the notice should be given as soon as possible and must be given at least two hours in advance of the meeting. Wis. Stat. § 19.84(3).

No Wisconsin court decisions or Attorney General opinions discuss what constitutes “good cause” to provide less than twenty-four-hour notice of a meeting. This provision, like all other provisions of the open meetings law, must be construed in favor of providing the public with the fullest and most complete information about governmental affairs as is compatible with the conduct of governmental business.

Seriously, think about this for a second. What good cause could there possibly have been to create a committee and have it meet almost immediately? There is none. The Dems have been out of town for days, so the fact was that they just wanted to ram it through — that definitely doesn’t pass the “good cause” smell test (and if you argue that there was a good cause, think carefully about what your biases might be).

Maybe Michael Moore’s speech the other day spooked them.

Frankly, I’m amazed that this is happening in my home state. You know things are bad when even Wisconsinites finally decide enough is enough. To be honest, my (wacky and perhaps unrealistic) dream is that the next big progressive movement arises (again) in Wisconsin.

Someone else’s Packers adventure in Madison, circa 1997

I’ve had this page open in a tab for a couple of weeks now and want to get rid of it, so I’m blogging it for posterity (and because it’s amusing, at least to me).

In 1997, the Packers played a preseason game at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wisconsin. (I lived there at the time, but this story has nothing to do with me.) Turns out one guy went to the stadium just to see if he could sneak in, after having heard of people sneaking into the Super Bowl.

Well, he made it, and the rest of the story is pretty funny. Check out Scott Schiller’s Packers Adventure.

The Brewers are in the playoffs!

Nothing profound to say about it, but my hometown baseball team, the Milwaukee Brewers, are in the playoffs for the first time since I was seven years old! They’ve been so close before, but they finally did it! Awesome.

Aaaaaay!

Fonzie to get bronze statue in Milwaukee.

There’s really a lot more I could blog about, but I haven’t really made the time. Soon.

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