Friday, November 20, 2009

There's nothing like a library on a rainy night, and if there's an art exhibit inside, so much the better

There's Nothing Like a Library on a Rainy Night
Doesn't a cold, dark, rainy night make you just want to curl up with a good book? Or stop at the library on the way home to see what they have? That's what drew me to the Sequoya Branch of the Madison Public Library last night.

In addition to books, I found some local art that brought back memories. Since 1977, the Dane County Cultural Affairs Commission has been producing an annual poster featuring art by a local or state artist. The posters have appeared in so many places around town over the years that to see one is often to be transported to a memory of when and where you first encountered it.

Now the Cultural Affairs Commission is showing a selection of posters from over the years at Sequoya through the end of the year. If you get a chance, drop in. It might be a trip down memory lane for you. And it's also a great chance to see selected work by local and regional artists in the form of posters -- each designed by Phil Hamilton, emeritus professor of art at the UW-Madison. For more information about the Dane County Cultural Affairs Commission check out their website.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Weather only an octopus could love

Octopus Weather
It rained most of the day today and was generally dark and yucky. Nice weather for octopi, that's about it.

Doesn't mean a person can't sit in the car and play with the camera. This was outside Octopus Car Wash on South Park Street, Two exposures, two different lenses: One shot wide open with the Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 to focus on the raindrops on the windshield and throw the background out of focus and produce the blurred highlights. The octopus was photographed with a tele-zoom at 120mm.

I combined the two images in the camera with Nikon's Image Overlay processing. You can select any two RAW images stored on the card and the camera will blend them and show you a preview. Individual gain controls for each image let you control how the images blend.

Of course, you can do all this in Photoshop with even more control. But if you don't have a computer with you or you're just sitting in the car waiting for the rain to stop, fiddling around with Image Overlay isn't a bad way to kill some time.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

They say they're building the world's tallest gingerbread man in the Hilldale atrium

They Say They're Building the World's Largest Gingerbread Man
And it towers 26 feet high right in front of Macy's. It's not just a decoration. It's in a good cause. The gingerbread man will be the centerpiece of the Gingerbread Casas for CASA event this Saturday afternoon, Nov. 21, to benefit CASA of Dane County. Madison-area companies are invited to participate in a gingerbread house or “casa” decorating competition. They were putting on the frosting tonight, buckets and buckets of it.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Commies are coming, the Commies are coming, or worse, Dane County politicians!

Somebody's Got Me in Their Gunsights, but I Doubt It's the Politicians
This alarmist flyer, covered with what look like bullet holes (apparently whoever has me in their gunsights is a terrible shot) is one of several in the same vein that arrived in our mailbox recently. And Sunday we got a robocall along the same lines. Somebody is determined to convince us that Dane County politicians are going to strip us of our property rights and trash the market value of our home -- unless people like us stop them. At first I wasn't sure what all the fuss was about. Had we become a Communist dictatorship overnight and I simply hadn't noticed? Didn't seem likely. The flyers referred me to for more information, but that simply provided more of the same rhetoric.

Since the flyers mentioned meetings of the Dane County Lakes & Watersheds Commission, I went to the Dane County website to find out more. This press release from the Office of Lakes & Watersheds seemed to be what I was looking for.
Melissa Malott, Chair of the Dane County Lakes and Watershed Commission, announced that the Commission will hold two meetings later this month for citizens to learn about and provide input to the revised draft plan for Dane County Shoreland and Riparian Management. The Plan, which attempts to create a flexible yet effective set of recommendations to better protect Dane County’s surface waters from near-shore impacts, has been extensively revised based on earlier public input.
You'll find more background on the plan and the proposed draft at the Commission's website, including a link to a pdf Myths and Facts sheet. Here's where and when the meetings are scheduled to be held this Tuesday and Wednesday:
Tues., Nov 17 – Verona Senior Center, , 108 Paoli St, Verona, 7:00 – 9:00 p.m.
Wed., Nov. 18 - Sun Prairie City Office Community Room, 300 East Main St, Sun Prairie, 7:00-9:00 p.m.
In the release, Malott urged area residents to take advantage of this opportunity to get the facts.
I encourage area residents to take advantage of this opportunity to learn the facts regarding the status and applicability of the Plan, its benefits and economic impact. It’s important that the input on the Plan we receive is not clouded by misinformation about its content and purpose.
Bingo! That's exactly what the mail and phone campaign seemed to be about -- "clouding the input by misinformation." In fact, disinformation might be a better term. The sponsors of the campaign seemed to be trying to pack the meeting with angry homeowners terrified of government interference with their property rights. In other words, teabagging the meetings. I'm surprised they didn't just mail out teabags and save the expense of printing the flyers.

Personally. I sort of like our Dane County lakes and rivers, and I like the idea of trying to to protect them from runoff and other development impacts. If I have to choose between the Lakes & Watershed Commission and the sponsors of the anti-shoreland zoning camapign (Madison Area Builders Association, REALTORS® Association of South Central Wisconsin, Smart Growth Madison, Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce and the Wisconsin Homeowners Alliance), the latter are going to have to come up with a lot more than scare tactics to convince me.
Day's End

Might be a bit early for the holiday lights, but it reminds us winter parking rules started Sunday

Holiday Fantasy in Lights with State Capitol in Background
They turned on the 21st annual Holiday Fantasy in Lights in Olin-Turville Park Saturday. The lights are all energy-saving LEDs this year. While I applaud the green intentions, I sort of miss the old incandescents. To my eye, the new bulbs look too cool and a bit unnatural in comparison. Our human visual perception did not evolve in the presence of light-emitting diodes. The spectral characteristics of incandescent lighting seem to better match the nighttime glow of a campfire that our species grew up with and finds satisfying. Still, I'm sure I'll get used to it eventually -- and the new lights do use a hell of a lot less energy.

Holiday Fantasy in LightsIt seems a bit early to put up the holiday lights, given how unseasonably warm it's been lately, not to mention that there's no snow on the ground yet. But it's a good wake-up call to remind us that winter parking rules went into effect yesterday. For those of us who have to do the alternate-side parking thing for the next four months (till March 15), this is the tricky part of the year. With no snow on the ground, it's easy to forget -- and wake up to a sizable parking ticket. They range from $20 and $30 to $60 -- depending on what zone you're in and whether there's a snow emergency.

So when you go to bed tonight, ask yourself if you know where your car is parked.