Friday, January 01, 2010

2009 in About One Minute

Here's my 2009: A year in Pictures set scrolling by in just over a minute. Most are personal moments or things that just caught my eye, day-to-day, though there was the green interlude in the spring when I just pointed my camera at T's tulip bed every day until they bloomed. Occasionally national events made an appearance, snapped off the teevee -- like Pete Seeger singing at the Inaugural Concert. Once a public figure stepped into range of my camera, when my Washington-Minneapolis flight also carried Senator Al Franken. But mostly it was pretty mundane stuff. If you'd like to click through to see any of the individual pictures just follow this link to the set.

I didn't think I'd join another picture-a-day group after this one was finished. I'm not sure it's all that great for photography. Often you find yourself just shooting a picture to shoot a pictures. But now that I have a set representing the whole year, it is sort of interesting to page through them all. So I don't know. I might do it again, though if I do, I think I'll join a group that accepts videos as well as photos. But I think I'll take a few days off before making up my mind.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Wishing you a happy and peaceful new year!

Wishing You a Happy and a Peaceful New Year
With the emphasis on peace.

Sun sets on a troubled decade most of us would do over (and better) if we could

Sun Sets on a Troubled Decade We'd Do Over (and Better) If We Could
Paul Krugman:
Maybe we knew, at some unconscious, instinctive level, that it would be an era best forgotten. Whatever the reason, we got through the first decade of the new millennium without ever agreeing on what to call it. The aughts? The naughties? Whatever. (Yes, I know that strictly speaking the millennium didn’t begin until 2001. Do we really care?)

But from an economic point of view, I’d suggest that we call the decade past the Big Zero. It was a decade in which nothing good happened, and none of the optimistic things we were supposed to believe turned out to be true.
Krugman goes on to chronicle how bad the decade was economically for the average American: basically zero job creation; zero economic gains for the typical family; zero gains for homeowners, even if they bought early; and zero gains for the stock market, even without taking inflation into account.

And he doesn't even mention other traumas that never seemed to end: The disputed 2000 election; the destruction of the twin towers of the World Trade Center; the Iraq war; and now (again) the Afghanistan war; right on up to the would-be Northwest pants bomber.

It can only get better, right?

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

I pointed my big, fat superwide lens at the federal courthouse and nobody hassled me!

I Pointed My Big Superwide Lens at the Federal Courthouse Yesterday
Although the Sigma 10-20mm zoom on my Nikon D90 is a pretty impressive piece of glass, nobody came out and hassled me. Amazing! In the past I've been hassled.
"What are you doing?" asks the security guard. He looks like he could be a retired cop -- trim but a bit heavyset, with thinning gray hair and glasses. He looks very suspicious, and he's not smiling.

"I'm taking a picture," I reply. "I really like this building. It's fun to photograph."

"Taking a picture? Then why are you so close? You can't even get the whole building in the picture from here. People usually shoot from back there on the sidewalk.

"Why do you have to be so close?" he asks again, fixing me with a skeptical look. "This is a federal building, and we have to be careful."

"I have a wide angle lens, so I have to get close" I say. "Here. Take a look through the viewfinder. It's really cool."

"No, I can't see through that with my glasses. Do you have any ID?"
Other Madison photographers have also been hassled, even getting into extended correspondence with officialdom about it. But yesterday afternoon, nothing. Nada. There were guards right inside the door, but they never came out. Maybe it was too cold. Or it was the spirit of the holidays. More likely, the bright neon entrance of the Kenton Peters Kastenmeier Federal Courthouse -- which celebrated its 25th anniversary this year -- is such an obvious tourist photo subject they usually don't bother.

But stay away from the alley out back, or the parking lot.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

She's lovely -- and she's coming back soon

Coming Back in February
In case you missed Jay Rath's Isthmus story about the reappearance of Lady Liberty on Lake Mendota during the Christmas rush, you can check it out at the link.
"The face that launched a thousand postcards" is now owned by the Hoofers outing clubs, part of the Wisconsin Union Directorate. A volunteer committee is at work, planning for its appearance Feb. 7 through 15, during Hoofers' Winter Carnival.

"We're hoping for an easier time this year," says Paul Davidsaver, Hoofers council president. "There was a lot of restoration that needed to be done last year. We ended up getting it in pieces in the UW's Stock Pavilion."
The picture Isthmus used as an illustration was the photo I took last year, during the statue's first appearance on Lake Mendota of the new millenium.
I first saw the bicyclist as a tiny speck in the middle of Lake Mendota's frozen wasteland. Gradually he came closer. He looked as if he had ridden his mountain bike all the way across the lake. When he got to the Statue of Liberty, he got off his bike and stared -- like a weary traveler discovering that the mirage on the horizon is actually real, or at least something physically resembling reality. Only in Madison.
It's great to know that the condition of Madison's Statue of Liberty has been stabilized and that it will continue to reappear in the winter.

Monday, December 28, 2009

"The system works" -- I guess that means the Transportation Security Administration doesn't

Who doesn't wonder when they take a plane whether all that TSA folderol actually accomplishes anything other than to build the world's largest collection of confiscated pocket geegaws with sharp edges? I like to think that TSA is more than the do-nothing federal job creation caricature critics make it out to be, but like a lot of folks, I wonder now and then. The sorry saga of the would-be Christmas Day skybomber on that Detroit flight certainly gives critics of TSA lots of ammunition.

But the real confidence-shaker was the way Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano limped on a single leg from one Sunday morning talk show to another with her other foot planted firmly in her mouth, two full days after the event. It was amazing she could talk at all with her mouth so full. She told CNN the incident demonstrates "the system works." She said the same thing on This Week when I was was watching. I couldn't believe she said what I thought she said and had to turn to the internet to confirm it.

If you take what she said literally, she seems to be advocating an extreme privatization approach to homeland security in the air -- that is, making it the responsibility of individual brave, quick-thinking and resourceful passengers. I doubt that's what she meant. But since it's impossible to figure out what she really did mean, can't President Obama at least reassign her to some distant Homeland Security outpost where she would have no operational responsibility whatsoever and wouldn't have to talk to the press? Someplace like Antarctica?

And while he's at it, he might show some real concern and urgency about ending the track record of hapless security bungling that seems to be taking place on his Administration's watch lately. They shouldn't have gate crashers at the White House, and they shouldn't be letting a person they were warned about board a U.S. plane with pentaerythritol trinitrate taped to his leg.

Update: Now she says the system didn't work after all. Which is it? We haven't seen such an example of complacent cluelessness in public for some time. "Heckuva job, Brownie."

Looking back at the snows of December and the University Avenue Holiday Lights

Looking Back at December's Snows and the University Avenue Lights
Hope you had a great holiday and, if you live in the Madison area, had a chance to drive by the University Avenue Holiday Lights a few times. Here's one last look back, seen through the snow accumulation of this December. The winter will be that much darker when the lights are turned off in the new year.