Friday, May 30, 2008

Madison photographers: Please take your filthy habit outside with all the other scum

Photographers: Please Stay Outside with All the Other Scum
This little sign caught my eye on the back door of Macy's at Hilldale Mall in Madison. Wow. Talk about second-class status. It can't get worse than being lumped in with smokers and solicitors.

Don't recall seeing a sign like this on a store before. A museum? Sure. But a retail establishment? Come on. What are they protecting? Their intellectual property rights to their inventory? More likely, I suppose it's somebody in the legal department saying we need a sign like this to limit our liability in case someone violates someone's privacy with one of those unobtrusive little cell phone cameras. One more example of the continuing intrusion of offensive and intrusive legalisms into our everyday lives. Do they really have to put up signs? And if so, do they really have to compare photographers to smokers? I felt violated. So I took a photo. Come and get me, Macy's!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

If Hillary was dreaming of an assassination the night I saw her in Madison, she sure didn't show it

Hillary Clinton Speaking in Madison on the Eve of the Wisconsin Primary
Instead, Hillary Clinton spoke emotionally about her passionate commitment to health care reform, economic and social justice and ending the Iraq war.

We were among the several thousand people who showed up on a cold winter night at the Monona Terrace Convention Center to see her. She was already an underdog by then, and the polls were predicting she would lose the Wisconsin primary the next day. But for the moment, as this dreadful winter continued its onslaught outside, supporters warmed themselves at her fire and dreamed the dream. It's all been downhill since then.

I can't think of a politician, let alone presidential candidate, who has been assaulted by as much hate-filled venom, paranoid projection and crazy innuendo as this dedicated public servant has experienced in the months since then. Many of us tend to underestimate just what she has gone through because it's just too unpleasant to think about, and most of us don't want to wallow in it.

For example, I had totally forgotten about this low point in the history of television news, this shameful Brian Ross report on ABC about the release of the Clinton White House records back in March. It was an opportunity to revisit the Starr Report, and Ross made the most of it. Here's the lead.
Hillary Clinton spent the night in the White House on the day her husband had oral sex with Monica Lewinsky, and may have actually been in the White House when it happened, according to records of her schedule released today by the National Archives.
I'm just surprised that he didn't hint she was having lesbian sex at the same time. Or to remind us that some people think she also had a heterosexual affair with White House counsel Vince Foster and had him murdered to cover it up.

It used to be the far right and their willing dupes in the media who served up this kind of stuff. Now, formerly sensible Democrats are pontificating angrily that her few ill-chosen words about Bobby Kennedy's assassination showed her to be a murderer at heart. If this wasn't a coded message, if Hillary Clinton wasn't secretly hoping for Obama to be assassinated, if that wasn't the sordid heart of her strategy of hanging on till the bitter end, then why did she say it?

How weird is this? Here we are, in the sixth year of a cruel and pointless war that looks as if it will go on forever. We were lied into the war by men, the war was started by men, bungled by men -- and now the guys can't agree on how to stop it. So who is accused of harboring dreams of violence? A woman who wants to end it. And she, of all people, is the person accused of hoping to benefit from somebody else's violent death? Go figure.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The terrorist tom turkeys of Owen Park

The Terrorist Tom Turkeys of Owen Conservation Park
I had photographed some wild turkeys earlier on the prairie of Owen Conservation Park on Madison's West Side, but when these guys approached the road out of the park as I was leaving, I reached for my camera again. I did not leave the car, however. I had read about what they were capable of -- homeowners, children and mail carriers in the neighborhood have all been terrorized by tom turkeys during the mating season. I wasn't going to take any chances.
Mara Wilhite, manager of the Hilldale Station Post Office, said wild turkeys have been pestering postal delivery workers in Parkwood Hills, a neighborhood on Madison 's West Side near Owen Conservation Park and home to a number of the large birds.

Between five and 10 large male turkeys, or toms -- apparently a little giddy with the onset of turkey breeding season -- have been bullying postal workers as they make their rounds, pecking at them and even trying to rough them up with the sharp spurs on their legs. One of the birds launched itself through the open door of a mail truck and scratched the driver.

Eric Lobner, regional wildlife program supervisor for the state Department of Natural Resources, is on the case, investigating the turkey gang.

[...]

Why the turkeys have targeted postal workers this spring remains a mystery. Lobner said the behavior is clearly tied to the breeding season, which just started and runs through about mid-May. He said color plays an important role in turkey breeding and added that the male 's head during mating season changes from gaudy blue to white to red.

Perhaps, Lobner speculated, turkeys are attracted to the red, white and blue postal trucks.
More at the link, including a tale about a turkey that police had to taser a couple years ago when it occupied a house and refused to leave.

As for me, I was just glad that my car wasn't flaunting patriotic red, white and blue, but just an ordinary, nondescript beige paint job. I emerged unscathed.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Gas prices in Madison rise above $4.00 per gallon over the Memorial Day weekend

Gas Prices in Madison Top $4.00 Per Gallon For the First Time
It would take more than the pretty landscaping at this University Avenue Shell station to disguise the impact of rising gas prices, which -- although incredibly cheap by European standards -- have now reached a new high by modern American standards.

In constant, inflation adjusted dollars (green line), U.S. gas prices have trended downward for a long time, with occasional blips such as the 1981 peak, when prices reached $2.96 per gallon in 2006 dollars (click on chart to enlarge).

Looking at a year-by-year chart of gas prices in current dollars vs. constant dollars since 1920 is a real eye-opener. It shows that, in real terms, gas prices in the U.S. were at an all-time low in the latter years of the Clinton administration. You can argue whether that's a good thing or a bad thing. It certainly had a lot to do with the SUV and light truck boom of recent years. But one thing is undeniable -- gas prices in real dollars started climbing under the Bush administration and haven't stopped. Peak oil? Asian demand? Speculation and price manpulation? Policy decisions made by an administration filled with oil men at the highest levels? Take your pick, and feel free to pick more than one.

If most observers are right, this is just the very beginning. The days of cheap energy seem to be over, which means that American lifestyles will be very different in the future from what they are today.

Veggie alternatives at Brat Fest weekend

World's Largest Brat Fest and Its Associated Bicycle Parking Lot
We bicycled out to the World's largest Brat Fest Sunday. The bicycle parking area seemed to be filled with a lot of bikes until you actually counted them and compared the number with the thousands of people congregating on Willow Island and the acres of cars parked in the Alliant Energy Center parking lot.

Vegetarian alternatives have become more mainstream at Brat Fest since the event moved to Willow island from the Sentry Foods parking lot at Hilldale a few years back. Boca soy brats were served at their own tent in recent years. This year the Boca brat went mainstream and was part of the menu at the main tent. Update: The veggie brats were also instrumental in breaking the 2004 record and setting a new record of 191,712 for the 4-day event, since veggie brats weren't served at the 2004 event that set the old record of 189,432 brats.)

World's Largest Veggie BratfestPeople who wanted to avoid the meat eating crowd altogether could go to the World's Largest Veggie Bratfest, which was held at Madison's Whole Foods on University Avenue Saturday, sponsored by the Alliance for Animals. No animals were harmed in the making of these brats, and they were free. Educational materials about the horrors of modern industrial pig farming were also available.