An Australian boy in winter

Fletcher is my first grandson. He “belongs” to Keller and Stacey and they live in Albury, Australia.  Aubury is a couple of hours, give or take, north of Melbourne.

It is winter Down Under. I miss Fletcher and, sadly, I have only seen him once when he traveled back to the US in the summer of 2012. For now, I have to content myself with photos. Here is a beautiful one of the curly-headed little boy taken by Stacey.


Some things are more important than others.


On Boyo

R. Keller Kopf, Institute for Land, Water & Society, Charles Sturt University, New South Wales Australia

R. Keller Kopf, Institute for Land, Water & Society, Charles Sturt University, New South Wales, Australia

“From 18-23 August 2013, the 11th INTECOL Congress, Ecology: Into the next 100 years will be held in London as part of the centenary celebrations of the British Ecological Society.The theme of the Congress is advancing ecology and making it count, and will present world class ecological science that will truly move the science forward,” or so says the posting for an important conference on ecology. It is a big deal to present a scientific paper at such a conference.

Our buttons are busting because Boyo (aka R. Keller Kopf, PhD) will be presenting a paper at the conference on Tuesday, August 20, 2013 at 10:30 AM.  Boyo is the lead author on the paper. But, he had a lot help from other Australian scientists. C. Max Finlayson, Sally Hladyz, Paul Humphries and Neil Sims are his coauthors.

This is what the program says about the paper and his presentation:

Global Biodiversity State Indicators and Baselines: a Freshwater Perspective
Governments world-wide have accepted targets to reduce the rate of biodiversity loss but there is debate concerning what indicators and baselines should be used to assess global-scale changes in the state of biodiversity. Previous assessments have been dominated by terrestrial vertebrate and marine habitat indicators yet, based on species per unit of habitat-area, endemism and the threat of loss, we contend that the freshwater biome should receive equitable, if not heightened, consideration. We question whether the current array of biodiversity state indicators and contemporary baselines (eg. 1970) provides an accurate or representative appraisal of the state of global freshwater ecosystems. We suggest that global assessments and Ramsar wetlands of international importance need to consider both historic (pre-industrial) baselines and contemporary novel ecosystem baselines in evaluating biodiversity change. To facilitate rigorous assessment of freshwater biodiversity against 2020 Aichi global targets, we conclude by posing five challenges to researchers and policy makers.

Some things are more important than others.


WaMar, the ‘nees people, and Petra’s bike

Photo credit:  Walmart Shekou Shenzhen China via dcmaster's photostream per Creative Commons license.

Photo credit: Walmart Shekou Shenzhen China via dcmaster’s photostream per Creative Commons license. This is where Petra shops in China.

Petra and I went to WaMar (Walmart) yesterday.  It was just the two of us, and she took my hand as we crossed the parking lot.

Petra had never been to an a WaMar in ‘merica.   But, she had been to the WaMar in Shekou many times.  Petra liked the ‘merica WaMar because the aisles weren’t crowded.  She told me that in China the aisles are crowded with ‘nees people not ‘merica people.  I asked her whether she liked the ‘nees people, and she looked at me like I was a moron.  (Grampas are like that.)   She shrugged as if to say, why wouldn’t I like ‘ness people.*   I don’t think she is developing an implicit bias, but I may be wrong.

Anyway, we bought Petra her first real bike.  The bike was surely manufactured by the ‘nees people.  Petra and the bike are pictured below.

Somethings are more important than others.


*Petra understands enough Mandrin that she translates for her daddy when they ride in a cab.  Although he is from Canada and speaks English fluently, Czech is her daddy’s first language.  I asked Petra what language she preferred.  She thought she probably liked English best.

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The magic doll house

photo (1)Joan, my wife, never had children.  Being the oldest of seven kids, she figured that she had done her time as a  “mother.”  Thus, when Petra, our first grandchild was born, I never imagined that Joan would fall head over heels in love with grand kids, and especially Petra.

We have this old doll house.  It is approaching 40 years of age.  It was built for the girls by a friend in Lexington.  By now, it is rough around the edges.  Anyway, Petra has come to love the doll house, and Joan and Petra play with the doll house about every week.  For most of the year, Petra lives in China.  So, Joan and Petra are forced to use Skype for their adventures with the doll house.

After taking the ferry to Hong Kong, flying to Japan, then to Minneapolis and finally to  Lincoln (about 30 hours), Petra and her family will be here tonight.  Joan and Petra will most certainly, and almost immediately, begin playing with the doll house while seated closely next to each other.  Watching an old woman and a four-year old child animate the figures and move the furniture in and around the house will warm my otherwise cold heart.

There is magic in that doll  house.  Some things are more important than others.


Aimee, Lisa, Judge Cambridge and the Party Barge

I have this picture in mind.  It is of my middle daughter, Lisa, and her friend Aimee Bataillon in the kitchen in our former home in Omaha.  Aimee is one of Judge Joe Bataillon’s daughters. While Joe and I may not agree on everything, we agree that Aimee is smart, funny and very nice. She is much like her beautiful mother and wise father.

Anyway, the girls were students together at Marian High School (an all girls school).  They were working on something related to a mock trial.  I remember how young and a little silly they were.  I recall Aimee being more serious than Lisa, but that was par for the course. I don’t remember much more.

Aimee is all grown up now.  She is a highly respected trial lawyer, and former chair of our Federal Practice Committee.  I should hasten to add that Aimee got that appointment on merit.  She remains the same smart, funny and very nice person I knew as a girl.  On top of her busy practice, she has carved out time to be a wife and mother.

Aimee Bataillon

Aimee Bataillon

Lisa (the kid who once went to Mexico and returned complaining that “they sure speak a lot of Spanish down there”) has turned out well too.  While travelling the world and earning a Master’s degree, she has become a gifted and experienced teacher, a wife and mother to two of my grandchildren.

Connected to these two girls (and Joe and me) was Judge Bill Cambridge.  Bill is now dead–the last photo I have of him shows him riding an elephant in Thailand. Too funny.Judge William Cambridge

Bill came to our court after serving as a distinguished trial judge out in central Nebraska.  I appeared before Bill when he was a state judge. When it came to money (and many other things), Bill was very careful.  I once waited several hours to take an uncontested mortgage foreclosure decree while Bill recalculated an amortization schedule, by hand, that had been run by a computer.  Bill didn’t find any errors, but he sure as hell was not going to take my guy’s testimony and the computer for granted.

Anyway, Bill had this big 1970 something Chevy Impala. (See facsimile below.)  It was sort of red or maroon or burnt orange.  It had a huge engine in it, and Bill drove it very fast to and from the various courthouses in central Nebraska.  In fact, Bill admitted to me that he buried the speedometer more than once.  Sometime after Bill took the federal bench, and when nearly 175,000 miles had passed over the odometer, Bill decided to sell the car.  He knew that I was looking for a vehicle so Lisa could drive back and forth to school.  We agreed on a price and completed the deal.

Much to her chagrin, Lisa drove that old Chevy to and from school and while she was in college.  It was so big that eight Marian girls could nearly fit into the front seat.  It was a monster.  Once Lisa ran it into a city bus, and the only thing that was dented was the damn bus.

Fast forward to Joe’s investiture as a federal judge when, after the ceremony, Joe would formally join Bill, and the rest of us.  It was only at this happy occasion that I learned that Lisa and Aimee and the girls from Marian called Bill’s old car “the party barge.”  Bill was amused.  Joe and I less so.  Aimee and Lisa never told me why the old Chevy ended up with that sobriquet, and I have always been too afraid to ask.

It is a wonder how our lives intertwine.  Some things are more important than others.


Photo credit:  Carlust

Photo credit: Carlust and Big Chris.  The photo is a pretty good depiction of the party barge.  We ultimately gave the barge to a shelter for men, and, so far as I know, it has not been used for any recent bank robberies.


It was this time last year when my wife, Joan, began to lose weight.  I tossed it off to being exhausted as we prepared to see all three of the kids (and their kids) for the first time in a long time all together at our home.  The wry New Mexico oldest and her wonderful husband (plus their canine terribilis),  the group from China (with P and M from a recent post), and Fletcher (from a recent post) and his parents from Australia.

In August, the day after everyone left, Joan went to our family doc.  He took one look at her, and sent her to the gastroenterologist. A hurry-up colonoscopy followed by further probes at the hospital that same day revealed cancer. A rush to the medical oncologist followed by a visit to the radiation oncologist mapped out an aggressive treatment regimen. Then months and months of chemotherapy and radiation therapy followed. The chemo and radiation therapy were administered together.  The chemo was awful but the radiation, literally frying the lower abdomen and the nether regions, was far worse.* But, it worked. The cancer is gone, at least for now.

Below is a photo of flowers Joan picked yesterday in her garden.  She loves to garden, and she is very good at it.  With her strength returning, and although remaining very thin, Joan spends hours on her knees in the dirt.

Some things are more important than others.


*Being a good Catholic, Joan never complained, not even once.  This was just another “gift” from God.  It took all I could to restrain myself from saying, “If cancer, chemo and radiation are gifts from the almighty, he is one sick son of a bitch.”  But, then again, I accept all gods, even ones from Rome, at arm’s length, sorta like the way I approach everything else.

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The gracious, dear and strawberry tea

"Milan" is a from the Slavic element mil meaning "gracious, dear."   Milan's dad is a Czech via Canada.  Milan's dad and our daughter met in Kuwait.

M’s name is derived from the Slavic element “mil” meaning “gracious, dear.” His dad is a Czech via Canada. M.’s dad and our daughter met in Kuwait.

Our daughter (the bartender in an earlier post) and her husband live and teach school in Shekou (a part of Shenzhen), China, right across the bay from Hong Kong.  They have two children, P. and M.  If we are lucky, we see P. and her brother M. once a year, so video and photos of the children plus Skype have become staples in our lives.

In the photo, the squirmy little boy on the Article III lap is M.  I tried to take his cap, but he was having none of it.

As for P., she recently appeared in the school’s charity fund-raiser for less fortunate Chinese children.  It was called: “Strawberry tea.”   The video of P. and her mates appears below.

P., who is quite tall but only three, is the very serious western child kneeling next to the Chinese child (who throws a fit).  The three-year old kids were supposed to kneel, and the older children stand.

Some things are more important than others.


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