Off The Board

Tomorrow I attend my last meeting as a regular member of the Board of Trustees of the Ohioana Library Association.  I’ve been a member of the Board for more than 20 years.

During that time Ohioana has morphed from an obscure archival organization crammed into ridiculously inadequate space into a vibrant, active member of the central Ohio and state arts community.  We’ve navigated the rocky waters of budgeting, mounted a first-ever capital campaign, partnered with WOSU TV and radio to develop some very cool programming, introduced and changed a website, and rolled out great new events like the Ohioana Book Festival.  It’s been very satisfying to see this wonderful piece of Ohio culture and history grow and evolve as it has, and to play a small part in that process.

I thought having long-time Board members was a good thing that showed commitment, but my perception was jarred a bit during a Board retreat some months ago.  (And after all, isn’t the purpose of a retreat to challenge perceptions?)  Our facilitator, who was terrific, noted that many Boards have term limits to make sure that new ideas and viewpoints are always represented.  That concept made sense to me, and I told Board leadership that it was time for me to step aside — and now that time has come.

I was recruited to the Ohioana Board by a female partner at our firm who was one of a long line of Vorys lawyers who had served.  I’m glad she reached out to me, because otherwise I probably never would have heard of Ohioana, or had a chance to get to know the great people who have worked so hard at Ohioana, my fellow Board members from across the Buckeye State, and the volunteers, authors, and artists who have helped to make Ohioana events such memorable ones.  Being a Board member on a charitable organization requires dedication and hard work, but it is rewarding.  I’m glad I did it.

Our firm will continue to be represented on the Ohioana Board by a new, energetic lawyer whom I’ll call Young Buck.  He’ll be a great addition.

A Small Price To Pay

Today I got a notice from WordPress.com, the website that hosts the Webner House blog, provides the software that allows the easy creation of postings, and keeps an archive of our blog running back to the first posting in February 2009.  The notice said it was time to pay for another year of our family’s little contribution to the internet.

The price?  $20 for 10 GB of space.

What a bargain!

I don’t pretend that the Webner House blog means much in the grand scheme of things.  It’s not setting public opinion or providing essential insight into modern culture.  But it is fun.  I long ago told Richard, who set it up and presented it as a Christmas present in 2008, that the Webner House blog was the best present I’ve ever received.  It allows me to vent and satisfy my nagging writing Jones, it makes me feel like I haven’t totally lost touch with the modern world, and it provides a forum to give an occasional shout-out to people and things that make my life better.  And I like it when I hear from EJ, or am challenged by Winship, Doug, or Marcel.  If you can’t defend your opinions, maybe you shouldn’t have them in the first plact.

As I’ve mentioned before, blogging is great because it allows Joe Everyman to have his say.  It is the First Amendment and Speakers’ Corner writ large, where technology means that anyone with a computer can conceivably reach anyone else with a computer and voice their views.  Their position may be rejected or approved, be treated as enlightened or idiotic, but at least it is made public and, potentially, heard.  And that is a great thing.

All of that for only $20?  Rarely, if ever, will you find more value for the buck.

A “Good News For Penny” Update

Many of you have asked about how Penny is doing.  We appreciate your concern about our long0time pet and occasional Webner House contributor.

IMG_3408I’m happy to report that today we received the results of Penny’s biopsy.  The tests indicate that she doesn’t have cancer, for which we are grateful.  Instead, according to the vets, she has some kind of acute case of gastrointestinal disease/chronic  inflammatory bowel disease.  It sounds disgusting, and it is, but it can be controlled with steroids, which lessen the swelling that cause the incontinence.  Kish has the happy chore of getting Penny to consume steroid pills that she really doesn’t like — but it’s a price we’re happy to pay.

Of course, there’s always a downside.  In this case, it’s that the steroids make Penny incredibly thirsty . . . which in turn causes her to drink copious amounts of water . . . which in turn causes her to periodically have accidents around the house.  Oh well!  They say that into each life a little rain — or other fluids — must fall.

Wrestling With A Life-Or-Death Decision

We’ve been dealing a big health scare with Penny.  It’s frightening because we don’t know the exact status of her condition or what is causing it, and it’s uncomfortable because it has caused us to start talking about very difficult end-of-life decisionmaking.

Penny is having gastrointestinal problems.  We’ve had to buy her special food, and at times she can’t keep it down.  If you know Labs, you know that is a warning sign; normally Penny would gladly eat her own weight in just about anything.  Last week, things took a turn for the worse.  Penny was losing it from both ends without regard for what she was doing, leaving our carpets terribly stained and the house smelling like a latrine.  She also was disoriented, apparently uncomfortable sitting, and moving and wandering aimlessly.

-1Thursday Kish took her to MedVet, a local emergency room for pets.  They concluded that she had a severely inflamed stomach and intestinal lining and was dehydrated.  They kept her for two days, gave her intravenous fluids, prescribed steroids for the inflammation, and did a scan and biopsy to try to determine the cause of the problem.  The fluids helped her disorientation, and the diarrhea stopped.

We brought Penny back home on Saturday, with her belly and bands on her forepaws shaved, and have held our breath hoping that she is okay.  So far, she hasn’t had any accidents — thank God! — her appetite seems to have returned, and this morning she had a solid bowel movement, which was a cause for minor celebration in the Webner household.  That’s the way it is if you are a pet owner.

We still don’t know why Penny had this problem in the first place, though, and we’re waiting on the biopsy results to see if it was caused by disease, environmental factors, or something else.  In the meantime, Kish and I have talked about the possible scenarios.  If Penny has a disease that leaves her unable to control her bowels, what alternatives do we have?  She’s a house dog, not an outdoor dog, and her prior bout with this problem was intolerable.  How comfortable is she?  If she does have a disease, what are her prospects?

The discussion includes difficult, almost mathematical calculations.  Penny turns eight next month, and Labs typically live to 11 or 12.  If she has a problem that could be addressed by surgery, what would it mean for her likely life span, and what would her post-surgery quality of life be like?  If it could be treated by medication, would it have side effects?  And lurking behind all of the scenarios are uncomfortable considerations of cost.  Penny is a member of the family, but if the news is bad how much should we be willing to pay — on top of what we will have to pay already — to give her another few months or a year?

This kind of decision-making is profoundly difficult and depressing.  I don’t want to be the Grim Reaper, making life-or-death judgments about a pet.  We’re keeping our fingers crossed, hoping that the tests indicate that this was a one-time thing, and dreading what we might have to decide if we get bad news instead.

Let Slip The Inner Asshole

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In my family, cards were serious business. You played to win, and if you blundered you could expect to be called on it — in spades.

Taunting was not only accepted, but viewed as a crucial part of the play-to-win process. A well-played hand that produced an unexpected loss for your opponents had to be accompanied by a well-played barb, and if you were on the losing end you were expected to respond in kind. It was all part of the game, and if you didn’t like the insult process you just shouldn’t play.

This is all well and good when card playing is confined to the family unit. It’s a bit uncomfortable when you sit down to play an innocent game of euchre with friends and realize that your inner asshole sees the deck of cards and concludes that it’s time for him to make an appearance.

Worms Of The Earth, And Garage

Richard has an interesting story in the Chicago Tribune about vermiculture:  that is, worm composting.  I’m all in favor of composting and reducing our waste footprint, and using the lowly worm to accomplish that important goal seems like a good idea to me.

As always, I learned something from reading Richard’s story.  For example:

Worms eat about a third of their body weight a day, and great compost packed with nutrients comes out the other end.

Charles Darwin was a big fan of worms, and wrote that he doubted “there are many other animals which have played so important a part in the history of the world.”

Worms are temperamental, and one lazy worm can turn an entire worm colony into a bunch of malingerers.

Worms apparently will eat just about anything, including burlap and scrap paper.

Remember the useful aspects of our worm friends, and be sure to sweep them off the driveway after the next big rainstorm rather than pulverizing them into the asphalt!

Richard’s Fine 9/11 Piece

Richard has moved over to the Metro desk at the Chicago Tribune, and yesterday he had a fine piece in the paper about an art exhibit that includes pencil drawings of every Illinois soldier killed in action since 9/11.  The exhibit, called “Portrait of a Soldier,” includes more than 300 drawings of members of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines.

It’s a touching piece about a gentle way of remembering what has happened in the aftermath of 9/11, and the sacrifices that our men and women in uniform, and their families and friends, have made since that terrible day.  Interesting, isn’t it, how art can be such a powerful way of expressing things, and how something simple like a pencil sketch of a soldier can nevertheless have profound meaning?

Thanks for the Rafting Roommate for sending this along to me.