Saturday, October 02, 2010

Turtles all the way down

Turtles All the Way Down
When I saw this turtle balanced on top of another at Tiedeman's Pond in Middleton, I was reminded of an old, old story.
A well-known scientist (some say it was Bertrand Russell) once gave a public lecture on astronomy. He described how the earth orbits around the sun and how the sun, in turn, orbits around the center of a vast collection of stars called our galaxy. At the end of the lecture, a little old lady at the back of the room got up and said: "What you have told us is rubbish. The world is really a flat plate supported on the back of a giant tortoise." The scientist gave a superior smile before replying, "What is the tortoise standing on?" "You're very clever, young man, very clever", said the old lady. "But it's turtles all the way down!"
Who knows, maybe she's right.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

First sitting president to visit Madison in 60 years talks about working on the car the Republicans drove into the ditch -- and why they shouldn't get the keys back

Barack Obama Visits Madison
It was the first visit to Madison by a sitting president in 60 years. T was more enthusiastic about trying to see him than I was, because I figured we would have to stand around forever and still probably wouldn't get in. But I knew if we didn't try, I'd regret it. We left by bike about 2:30, at which time the buzz on Twitter was that the line for the event already backed all the way across campus along Linden Drive to Henry Mall. We headed over there to scope out the situation, which proved hopeless -- there already seemed to be more people in line than Library Mall would hold. We decided to bike along the lake to the Wisconsin Union, figuring there might be a video feed and an enthusiastic crowd there as well. First we stopped by Bascom Hill, where another overflow crowd was gathering in front of Music hall and stretching up the Hill (they would eventually get audio, but no video). Then we walked around a bit before ending up at the Union Terrace.

Barack Obama Visits Madison
It was a choppy day on Lake Mendota. The Dane County Sheriff's navy was patrolling the marine perimeter. The skies above and the streets of Madison might belong to the Feds, but it was good to know that the Dane County Sheriff's Department had the lakefront buttoned down.

Barack Obama Visits Madison
People couldn't bring signs inside Library Mall, although signs were distributed inside. Protesters were supposed to content themselves with a peaceful Assembly Area in the 600 block of State Street, but as Bill Lueders writes in Isthmus, nobody used it. Instead, they assembled at Park and University, where everyone in line would have to walk past them. It seemed to work out. On Langdon Street, yoga lessons were being promoted. Heck, why not?

Barack Obama Visits Madison
We headed back to the Union Terrace, where they had an excellent sound system and a live video feed. We heard from Russ Feingold, Tom Barrett and then the President took the stage. The moment was captured by UW law professor and blogger Ann Althouse, juggling an ice cream cone and a point-and shoot, with the President's image on the monitor framed in her LCD. (Who knows? This may be the only time Ann Althouse and Barack Obama have ever appeared in the same picture.)

Barack Obama Visits Madison
President Obama did not deliver a policy speech. it was an unabashed campaign stump speech, and he was was very good at it -- a charismatic, energetic speaker who got a loud response from the Library Mall audience of some 17,000. Even his tiny image on the monitor drew applause and cheers from the Union Terrace audience. I especially enjoyed his story about working on the car the Republicans had driven into the ditch (and why they shouldn't get the keys back) -- see video below.

The New York Times weighs in with this report. Their photograph shows why the rally was staged in the relatively intimate confines of Library Mall rather than, say, Camp Randall stadium, even though that meant thousands would not be able to get in. From the point of view of photo ops, there's no way the President could reach out to a crowd like this in a stadium.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Please bear with me -- soon they'll leave these increasingly autumnal latitudes and I'll stop

Please Bear with Me -- Soon They'll Be Gone and I'll Stop
With the big bird photos.

Meanwhile, I can't help myself. It seems to me that this fall I've seen more Great Blue Herons than I ever have in my entire life up to now. (Of course, I might be seeing the same two or three happy herons over and over again, but if it's just an illusion, it's a powerful one.) I spotted this one yesterday, wading out into the sunset on a fishing expedition at Tiedeman's Pond in Middleton. Lately this seems to be almost the only thing I'm photographing, which is ironic, because I really don't have the equipment for it (you should really have at least a 400mm lens, perhaps with an extender). I do what I can.