Saturday, February 13, 2010

Now I have to relearn all that Winter Olympics stuff I forgot and tossed out four years ago


A few years ago, we didn't have raccoon-proof trash cans, so I had to take out the trash in the morning before I set out on my commute. Since I'm not a morning person, I got into the habit of making a different little lame drawing each week to focus my mind on remembering to take out the trash. I would put it on the bathroom sink where I couldn't miss it when I shaved in the morning. This is the one I did when the last Winter Olympics ended. I ended up using it in one of my first blog posts.
The flame has gone out, the crowds have gone home. Just when you finally figure out what a twizzle is, it's time to clean out the attic of your mind, pack up all those newly acquired factoids and set them out at the curb. In four years you'll get new ones.
So now we have to find a way to recover those factoids, or get new ones. (What is a twizzle, anyhow? I have no idea. Good thing I put in that link four years ago.)

Although I have no other connection with winter sports, I like the Winter Olympics, because it's great to watch other people have fun in the snow while you're feeling overwhelmed by the winter darkness and icy cold.

But the media coverage brings out the best and worst in network television. The worst starts with the crude commercialism, the endless lame interviews and other inane network filler, the almost unbearable hype-to-reality ratio, and it just goes downhill from there. The best includes incredible moments of grace that linger in memory long after the last anthem has been played. Human beings really can shed gravity and fly.

I look forward to the next two weeks with a mix of dread and anticipation.

Friday, February 12, 2010

The iconic Lombardino's chef gazes fondly at a snowy pine tree on a winter night

Fine Dining in a Northern Climate
What can I say? It's a Madison landmark. And a damn nice restaurant.

Some assembly may be required

Some Assembly May Be Required Christmas in February: Lady Liberty has been unwrapped, but as the packages always say, "some assembly may be required." This is what she'll look like when she's assembled.
In 1979 the statue made its first appearance on Lake Mendota, in fulfillment of a campaign promise by student government candidates Jim Mallon and Leon Varjian, heads of the Pail and Shovel Party, who had promised to bring the Statue of Liberty to Madison. The original was torched by an unknown arsonist. Pail and Shovel made another, but it was exhibited only one more season before going into storage. It was erected one more time in 1996, and then until last year, it was just a nostalgic memory.
Last year -- on the 30th anniversary of its first appearance -- it was reassembled for the first time in more than a decade by the University of Wisconsin Hoofers. Now it's returning to Lake Mendota for the second year in a row, in connection with the Hoofers Winter Carnival. Will its appearance on the lake become an annual event. That depends. The required assembly takes a lot of volunteers.
[Hoofer’s Vice President of Programs Mindy] Cummings said Hoofers hopes to make the statue a yearly tradition, though the logistical hassles of assembling it are substantial. [...] She added the key to getting the statue assembled is having enough volunteers, and if future years do not see enough people willing to help, there will probably not be a future for the statue.
Hope they find the resources. Winter wuldn't be the same without Lady Liberty on the lake.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

El Nino spares Madison the fury of Snowpocalypse 2010, driving the storm south and east

Shorelines
Once again we dodged a bullet. Tuesday's light snow as seen from Wingra Park. On the far side of Lake Wingra are the trees of the UW Arboretum. Tuesday's snowfall of 4.8" broke a century-old record, but that was a mere statistical fluke, as El Nino focused the fury of Snowpocalypse 2010 south and east of us.
In El Nino years the trade winds weaken over the tropics while the westerly winds and the storm tracks move south. Westerly winds in the western Pacific strengthen the flow of warm water that built up in the western Pacific when the trades were strong, back towards the Americas. This warm water combined with the southerly storm track leads to wet stormy winter weather from California to Texas to the Carolinas.
Other factors, most likely including global warming, contributed to the ferocity of the storm in the mid-Atlantic and New England. Interesting discussion here, with lots of striking weather maps and other links.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

The geese have had it. Rahm Emmanuel and the "flock of f***ing Canadian geese"

Keeping people focused on priorities is a big part of the White House Chief of Staff's job. Rahm Emmanuel is known for doing it with colorful, expletive-laced metaphors. Here's how he characterized the White House's focus on healthcare and Afghanistan at the expense of such minor distractions as closing Guantanamo, no matter what the president promised on the campaign trail.
We’ve got these two Boeing 747s circling that we are trying to bring down to the tarmac and we can’t risk a flock of f***ing Canadian geese causing them to crash."
This is from the recent Financial Times story, "America: A fearsome foursome," about Obama's inner circle of advisers by Henry Luce.

Are Obama's tough but isolated advisers leading him astray from the more progressive policies he campaigned for? Or are they simply following orders and serving as lightning rods protecting Obama from the wrath of his political base?

Either way, if the White House -- especially the "fearsome foursome" -- continues in its current direction, the flock of f***ing Canadian geese is likely to rise up and bite them. The geese have had it.