Saturday, August 02, 2008

"Most of Our Customers Come on Feet"

Most of Our Customers Come on Feet
In an age of malls and superstores, this is not a claim most Madison groceries can make -- at least not if you ignore the literal wording of the sign (most humans are lucky enough to "come on feet" everywhere) and focus on the intended meaning, "come on foot." Of course, if gas prices keep going up, that might change.

Years ago we lived near here and the Norris Court Grocery was our neighborhood grocery store. But it didn't have this wonderful mural back then, nor the cool red stylized bicycle sculpture bike racks. You can see it at the corner of Patterson and East Johnson. You don't even have to come by foot, although locals would probably prefer it if you did.

No petunias were harmed in the reconstruction of East Gorham Street

No Petunias Were Harmed in the Construction of This Project
At least not at this corner. Things unavoidably get trampled at construction sites. Especially small, vulnerable things growing underfoot, where they can easily be overlooked by the operators of heavy equipment. But not at the corner of Patterson and East Gorham in Madison, where East Gorham has been torn up for reconstruction and temporarily turned into a dirt path. Right on the corner, totally exposed in the midst of all this seeming chaos, and with nothing protecting them from the work except people taking pains to be careful, this brave patch of petunias is not only surviving but thriving.

I found out about the petunias from a note to the LFH email account with the subject line "lonely petunias." My mailbox gets so much spam, that I wasn't sure whether to open it. But I decided to go ahead -- I didn't recognize the name, but it didn't look like a spammer. I'm glad I did. It turned out to be from the Madison blogger who calls herself The Laundress and posts at Dirty Laundry. She had some very nice things to say about my photography (I'm blushing) and a request. I'll let her speak for herself:

No Petunias Were Harmed in the Construction of This ProjectThere are brave, forlorn pink petunias on the corner of N. Paterson and E. Gorham. Surrounded with a body-off remodel of said intersection. The petunias are planted annually by an up-the-street gardener (MIKE!) and the construction workers have been exquisitely
carefully about not trampling them. Tiny flower bed surrounded by telephone pole, massive heavy earth movers, huge heaps of gravel, lots of concrete. Please take a photo??? If I could, I would.

Not much I can add to that except take some pictures. So here they are. (To view large, click through to Flickr and click on All Sizes.)

Friday, August 01, 2008

What happens when a country decides to put a couple of oil men in charge

These visuals just seemed to go together. The increase in gas prices during the Bush years is so perfectly mirrored by the rising profits of Exxon Mobil -- Best. Profits. Ever.

Whatever they planned in those secret Cheney energy task force meetings early in 2001, it seems to have worked. According to The New York Times:
Exxon Mobil reported the best quarterly profit ever for a corporation on Thursday, beating its own record, but investors sold off shares as oil and natural gas prices resumed their recent decline.

Record earnings for Exxon, the world’s largest publicly traded oil company, have become routine as the surge of oil prices in recent years has filled its coffers. The company’s income for the second quarter rose 14 percent, to $11.68 billion, compared to the same period a year ago. That beat the previous record of $11.66 billion set by Exxon in the last three months of 2007.
Well, at least somebody has benefited from the policies of the worst administration ever. Although it seems that even this silver lining has a cloud.
Exxon’s profits were nearly $90,000 a minute over the quarter, but it was less than Wall Street had expected. Exxon’s shares fell 4.6 percent, to close at $80.43. (The company calculates that it pays $274,000 a minute in taxes and spends $884,000 a minute to run the business.)

The disappointment from investors is bound to put added pressure on Exxon Mobil’s chairman and chief executive, Rex Tillerson, to search for new fields in politically precarious areas of Africa and the Middle East.
Poor Exxon Mobil. They're about to run out of oil! They need help in getting rid of those pesky environmental agreements that limit drilling in certain areas.
Kenneth Cohen, an Exxon vice president, said oil companies needed the profits to search for more oil and gas. He also challenged Congress to open up waters in the Gulf of Mexico and off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts to drilling, as well as other federal lands where drilling is prohibited.

“Our Congress needs to give us access to those areas that are currently off limits to the industry,” he said.
What about using some of those profits to invest in alternative, non-carbon energy sources? Nah. Exxon Mobil would rather invest its profits in buying back shares to prop up its stock prices. These guys are shameless. Like their colleagues in the White House.

Hitchhikers by the side of the road

These hitchhikers were trying to flag down a ride on Madison's near west side, but the cars just drove right on by. You don't see many standing there with their thumbs out anymore. Must be hippies.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Smile! Obama's Campaign for Change is opening its Madison office on Monroe Street this Sunday

Smile! Obama's Campaign for Change Coming to Monroe Street
The Madison office is opening Sunday, August 3, next to the Monroe Street branch of the Madison Public Library. Governor Jim Doyle, Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, Dane County Exec Kathleen Falk and Mayor Dave Cieslewicz will be on hand.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Little Red Dress

Flash of Red
Meant to post this earlier. I shot the photo from the car on July 12. Seems to be a woman in a red dress walking her bike along Baldwin Street. Or is it? Hard to tell, since this was only a couple blocks from where the Madison Hash House Harriers imbibed heartily after their 15th Annual Red Dress-O-Rama -- and the madcap harriers have never let manhood interfere with the fun of wearing a little red dress.

Monday, July 28, 2008

It's not cool to give your Google-killer search app a name nobody knows how to pronounce. It's Cuil.

And Cuil isn't cool -- at least not today, on its much-hyped launch date. Here's a quick test: Go to Google and type in "Google." Then go to Cuil and type in "Cuil." Which one seems to know what it's doing -- or even to know what it is? (And on Google, today you also get a nice drawing of Peter Rabbit, celebrating Beatrix Potter's birthday.)

There's been a lot of hype about the new company started by ex-Googlers . The story in today's New York Times is typical.
In her two years at Google, Anna Patterson helped design and build some of the pillars of the company’s search engine, including its large index of Web pages and some of the formulas it uses for ranking search results.
Skip to next paragraph

The makers of the Cuil search engine say it should provide better results and show them in a more attractive manner.

Now, along with her husband, Tom Costello, and a few other Google alumni, she is trying to upstage her former employer.

On Monday, their company, Cuil, is unveiling a search engine that they promise will be more comprehensive than Google’s and that they hope will give its users more relevant results.
Or maybe not. At least today, on the launch date, Cuil seems dreadfully slow and erratic in its search results. Maybe they are just having server problems. When I do an ego search of my own name, it says there are 476 results, but it shows a blank screen. I'll get over it, and I hope they get the bugs worked out. It would be nice to have a good backup alternative to Google, although I seldom seem to need one. But I'll never get over that silly name. Cuil just isn't cool.

Photographing a juvenile Great Blue Heron along John Nolen Drive Sunday afternoon

Young Great Blue Heron Checking Out the Sights in the Big City
We were riding our bikes on the path along the John Nolen Drive causeway across Lake Monona when we came across this beauty. At first I thought it was a Sandhill Crane, but it seems to really be an immature Great Blue Heron.

Training WingsIf you're just learning to walk in the water with your long, spindly legs, wings are more than a means of transportation -- they're a way to regain your balance when you stumble. I saw the heron trip, start to fall and then, with one flap of its gigantic wings, regain its balance. Sort of like training wings.

Pondering the Meaning of FlowersAs I came closer, the heron was obscured by some landscaping along the side of the road. I lost track of it and wondered if it had flown off and I had missed it, but then I suddenly saw it through a break in the foliage. It seemed to be studying the greenery and pondering the meaning of flowers. Then I realized it was studying me through the break in the leaves. Wonder what it thought? Its direct, piercing look was unforgettable.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

A Night at the Opera

A Night At the Opera
Opera in the Park: Thousands of people converged Saturday night at Rosa Road and Mineral Point Road for the 7th annual Opera in the Park. The stage glowed in the gathering darkness as John Demain conducted the Madison Opera Chorus, the Madison Symphony Orchestra and four guest soloists. More photos at this Flickr set.