Thursday, December 13, 2007

Even with the warning signs, these traffic calming islands are wrong for this climate

At Least It's Marked Now, but It's Still Wrong for This Climate
More news about the traffic calming islands on Madison's Edgewood Avenue, which disappear from view and become invisible when it snows. They've finally put up warning markers -- but problems remain. Madison's Channel 3 reported yesterday on the nightmares for snowplow drivers created by the obstacles.
"First of all, when you see them, you don't see them, and you hit them and it jars the whole truck," Endres said.

He said that missing a traffic island can bounce a driver through the roof of his truck. He called that "teeth shattering."

But he added that even those traffic calming devices that are plainly marked pose a challenge.

At one roundabout Wednesday, Endres demonstrated how his plow could not go around it correctly -- it wouldn't fit. He had to stop and back up, clogging traffic. He ended up making an illegal left turn in front of the roundabout just to continue his route.
Check out Channel 3's video report here.

If you ask me, the traffic calming roundabouts are a triumph of good intentions over common sense, of manipulative traffic engineering ideology over the realities of climate. They just don't belong here.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Better off dead?

These eyes have followed me around town all week, peering out at me from newspaper displays all over town, including this one in yesterday's snowstorm. It's the cover of Isthmus featuring Vikki Kratz's provocative, eye-opening article about euthanasia at the Dane County Humane Society. I was among those who thought the Humane Society had pretty much become a no kill shelter a few years ago when the leadership was replaced by a group that wanted to reduce the number of animals killed. I also assumed the big new shelter the organization built would help reduce euthaniasia rates.

The reality is far more complex. Kratz begins with her own experience when she volunteered to foster cats for the organization.
But after leaving several phone messages and sending an email, I was told that the shelter was scaling back its foster-care program. If I wanted to help, I should come back in two months.

Frustrated, I turned to Dane County Friends of Ferals, a local rescue group. A couple days later, I had two Siamese kittens in my home. They had bright blue eyes, gorgeous markings — and colds. They sneezed long ropes of mucus over everything I owned. But after a week of antibiotics, the kittens recovered. Two weeks later, they were adopted.

I was surprised to learn the kittens had come from the Humane Society — the same shelter that had rejected my offer of help. And because the kittens were sick, they had been marked for euthanasia. In fact, by the time Alison Colby, then director of Friends of Ferals, got to the Humane Society to pick them up, three of their littermates had already been killed.

The Humane Society regularly kills animals with treatable medical conditions.
The story that emerges is one of conscientious, well-meaning people with different ideas of what's the right thing to do. The bottom line isn't pretty.
And in March, the Humane Society implemented a new set of animal-care guidelines, which included reducing the number of cages available for cats on its main adoption floor. As a result, the shelter's euthanasia rate for cats went up. This year, for the first time in five years, the shelter reported killing cats — 29 so far — for "space." Its euthanasia rate for cats reached 40% in October of this year, up from 29% in October 2006.
If, like me, you find this figure shocking and depressing, be sure to read Vikki Kratz's entire article. In addition, here are some places to go for more information: Ted O'Donnell's No Kill Madison blog, Dane County Friends of Ferals, and the Dane County Humane Society -- although, in view of their euthanasia rate, I sort of wonder about the Human Society's URL --

12.12.07 UPDATE: Vikki Kratz comments on the Human Society's (lack of a formal) response to her article here and provides a link to their letter to volunteers and supporters.

In Madison we were lucky that our precipitation mostly came as snow

The Good News
The bad news was that I had to shovel out the car once again. The good news in Madison yesterdayy was that it was cold enough so that, other than a bit of icy sleet in the morning, almost all our precipitation fell as snow -- another five inches or so. To our south, people weren't as lucky, as massive ice storms tied up the central part of the country, knocking out power to hundreds of thousands of homes, especially in Oklahoma.

Americans have always relied on their state National Guard units to help out in natural disasters like the ice storms sweeping across the Midwest, and I wondered what the Oklahoma National Guard was doing to help out with transportation, food, shelter and emergency electric power. I came across this short news item.
Members of the Oklahoma National Guard are heading to Oklahoma City to help with recovery efforts. Two members of the 1245th Transportation Company based in Madill are being called on to offer assistance.

Two members of the 1245th joined members of the 1120th Maintenance Unit in Ada. The group is expected to transport back-up electrical generators to Oklahoma City. The mission may seem different from those units that have orders to deploy to Afghanistan or Iraq, but staffers say they are trained to serve wherever called, home or abroad.

"We get called in to do things, you know, any kind of disaster, help, or anything that involves states," Sgt. Jason Herndon of the 1245th says. The group is expected to be in Oklahoma City for at least one day.

The majority of the 1245th is currently at Fort Bliss, preparing for deployment to Iraq.
Two members, when half a million people are without power? No comment.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Seeing Olbrich's Bolz Conservatory through the fog of winter lens condensation

Canary Photographed Through the Mist of Lens Condensation
A canary became a spot of foggy yellow in the tropical Bolz Conservatory at Madison's Olbrich Botanical Gardens when shot through the fog of lens condensation caused by bringing a cold camera into the warm, moist air. It seemed to work for this photo, but in general, if you're planning to take pictures both indoors and outdoors at Olbrich in the winter, take the indoor photos first. Otherwise, your camera will be hopelessly fogged for quite a while. Trying to wipe it off is not good for the delicate lens coating, and you'll just have to wait. And wait.

Winter Photography Note: This is the season that cold cameras become condensation magnets when brought into almost any indoor environment. If you need to use the camera soon after coming indoors, you can minimize the problem by putting the camera into a Ziploc bag before going in. The condensation will fog up the bag instead of the camera, and you can warm the camera while it's in the bag by any available means -- a warm hand is better than nothing, a warm air vent or hair dryer is even better.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Mad City's Mad Capitol

Mad City's Mad Capitol
This may seem to resemble the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison, but it's actually a "faerie capitol." For the second year in a row, faerie cottages by Tatiana Katara are on display at the Olbrich Holiday Express Holiday Flower and Model Train Show at Olbrich Botanical Gardens in Madison. Find out more about Tatiana and her work here.

In general, Tatiana's faerie cottages are a bit on the fey side for me, but this strangely over the top take on the State Capitol is a keeper. (If you click through to the large size of the photo on my Flickr stream, you can read the very appropriate message on the book in front of the capitol.)