Friday, November 05, 2010

Did you know there's a Tupalo at the UW-Madison Arboretum and it's deep red and gorgeous?

Tupelo TreeThey were talking on the radio about the Tupelo tree next to the Visitor Center at the UW-Madison Arboretum, so we decided to run over and catch some of the color before it disappears. A sign notes this is a tupelo or black gum (Nyssa sylvatica). It was planted in 1956 and is at the northwestern edge of its range here in southern Wisconsin. It has a chilly autumnal beauty this time of year, but of course this is what I think of when I hear the word Tupelo.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Talk about scary, and I don't mean Halloween

Talk about Scary, and I Don't Mean Halloween
The pumpkins at this house on Monroe Street that I passed on the way to the grocery store tonight are still all lit up. But now it doesn't look like Halloween so much as a picture of election night, when a lot of scary stuff was around and about in the streets of America. Trick or treat!

Note: This was shot with the iPhone 4 with HDR mode turned on (it helped bring out some of the detail in the house, which otherwise would have been dark). Minimally processed, colors warmed a bit and cropped slightly. Compare with the version I shot a few days ago with my Nikon P7000. The iPhone is definitely noisier, but these are pretty extreme conditions for a cell phone camera. I can't complain.

It's so boring to have a good, decent U.S. Senator

Wisconsin likes to elect good, decent progressives to the U.S. Senate. But then we get restless. Goodness can get boring. Same with intelligence. At first it's an asset, but then it gets irritating -- what, does he think he's better than us? Same with liberalism. It's cute in an underdog, but after awhile it just means you're a big-government-tax-and-spend-anti-business-weirdo who wants to take away our freedoms. And, of course, we get more and more suspicious as time goes by. Isn't "public servant" an oxymoron? If someone really enjoys public service and standing up for our interests in Washington, isn't there something wrong with him? Maybe he's just been in Washington too long. That's why, after three terms, we like to kick them out and elect a yahoo conservative political hack just to stir things up. Who knows, it might do some good. Worth a try. Kick the bum out. Get somebody new.

It happened to Gaylord Nelson, the founder of Earth Day and an early opponent of the Vietnam War. He was a nationally known representative of all that was best in the progressive Wisconsin political tradition. He had served three terms in the Senate after serving as governor, and it looked as if he would remain there for many years. But Wisconsin voters decided three terms was enough and kicked him out in 1980 -- in favor of the forgettable Bob Kasten.

Now Russ Feingold. Yes, it's so boring to have a good Senator.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Beautiful day for a miracle

Beautiful Day for a Miracle
Can common sense and decency actually prevail? It won't happen on its own. Make it happen.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Vote as if your life depends on it. Because it does. And here' s why it's not over until it's over.

Vote As If Your Life Depends On It. Because It Does.
In case you're thinking there's no point because it's hopeless and the good guys (and gals) are gonna get hammered on election day, here are some alternative scenarios to help you get out of bed in the morning and go to the polls and send a message that democracy is not for sale.

First, there are Nate Silver's 5 Reasons Democrats Could Beat the Polls and Hold the House from his Five ThirtyEight New York Times polling blog, which has been predicting for weeks that Republicans are likely to win control of the House of Representatives. Silver considers some reasons -- not likely, but possible -- that this might not happen after all. They mostly involve systemic polling error and include:
1. The cellphone effect.
2. The ‘robopoll’ effect.
3. Some likely voter models, particularly Gallup’s, may “crowd out” Democratic voters.
4. Democrats probably have better turnout operations.
5. The consensus view of Democratic doom is not on such sound footing as it seems.
Silver's discussion of these points makes for interesting reading. Check it out here. Again he's not saying the Democrats won't lose seats. And he's not saying they're likely to hold the House. But he's saying it's possible they will. Turnout will play a big part in determining the outcome.

Then there's the question, which election are we comparing this to, anyhow? The media have been full of stories about comparisons to 1994, the first midterm election of the Clinton presidency, the one in which Newt Gingrich rode a wave of voter backlash to control of the House with the help of a group of entering freshmen even more rigidly right-wing than he was. But why 1994?

Some observers say 1934 is a much better comparison. The nation was in a Depression that started on a Republican administration's watch, FDR seemed overwhelmed and uncertain, and Republicans were clamoring for more of the same policies -- budget cuts, tax cuts for the rich, less regulation, etc. -- that had brought on the Depression in the first place. People were suffering, and they were angry. But who were they angry at? Not Roosevelt, it turned out. Although the Democrats had feared losing seats in Congress, they scored the biggest midterm election victory ever. Michael J. Wilson recalled this history recently in Huffington Post.
We can look back to history for guidance on the message and results for the 2010 election. But looking back only to 1994 is a striking misread of history, and leads back to 1929 thinking.
Again, it all depends on turnout.

Here in Wisconsin, there's only one way a rich manufacturer and political neophyte who has been drinking too much tea and thinks sunspots are melting the polar icecaps can defeat Russ Feingold, one of the great progressive voices in the U.S. Senate. That's if the people who know better stay home. There's a time and a place to be a couch potato, but this isn't it.

When I get mad as hell watching election returns and just can't take it any more, I'll look at this

Near Sundown, So Peaceful
This peaceful photo I took yesterday afternoon on County Hwy. PD between Paoli and Verona has a soothing effect on me. It should help me calm down a bit tomorrow as I watch the election returns. I love the way the softly rounded forms of the sheep glow in the light of the setting sun.

This pretty much says it all

Hope it's not too late. Remember what they did, and what they'll do again if they get the chance, and remember to vote tomorrow.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Encountering a Great Blue Heron on Halloween

Halloween Heron
What a perfect apparition for Halloween Day! Tiedeman's Pond, Middleton, Oct. 31, 2010.

We were out for a Halloween afternoon walk today, and I was surprised to see this Great Blue Heron. It's been almost two weeks since I uploaded a heron photo. I would have thought they would be gone by now, especially after the huge wind storm we had a few days ago, but they don't yet seem to have lost their attachment to the Madison area -- we saw several at Tiedeman's Pond this afternoon, just as the trick-or-treaters were coming out. Urban herons -- completely within the Madison and Middleton city limits.

Last refuge of scoundrels and litterers

Last refuge of Scoundrels and Litterers
This combination of freedom, patriotism and the gutter caught my eye when I was already in a bad mood, not just about the fall election, which seems to share a lot of the same themes, but also about the smarmy robocall I received from singer Pat Boone, who seemed to think we shared something politically (an unfortunate database glitch no doubt).

"Hi Peter, this is Pat Boone, Yes, I'm still singing, but now I'm calling about . . ." He went on to try to convince me how important it was to vote for the plastic airhead with tea Party credentials who's running against Russ Feingold -- a proud progressive who really understands what freedom means. No thanks, Pat.

Note: More information of Mr. Boone's strange beliefs at Forward Lookout.

Indian Summer afternoon at Olbrich Gardens

DSCN7258-October Rose-sm
Gorgeous Indian Summer afternoon at Olbrich Botanical Gardens. The last thing I associate with the day before Halloween is roses, and it's true that the last roses of autumn are slowly losing their battle with the season. But a few were still holding their own.

Thai PavilionColors, offset by the long dark shadows of October, were brilliant in the golden light of late afternoon -- especially the Thai Pavilion. Even its reflection in Starkweather Creek looked burnished and radiant. Maybe it was the last day we'll have like this, or maybe we'll have more. Either way, it was a joy.