Thursday, January 06, 2011

One last look at holiday lights for Epiphany

One Last Look at Holiday Lights for Epiphany
Today is Epiphany, which comes at the end of the Twelve Days of Christmas.
Today – January 6 – is celebrated by "Western" Christians as EPIPHANY – the day of the revelation of Jesus, born in Bethlehem, to the “Gentiles” symbolized by the Biblical Magi/Wise men.
Some people take their lights down right after Christmas, or New Year's at the latest. Others keep them up through Epiphany. A few hardy souls keep them illuminated longer, to provide some cheer in the midst of winter's darkness.

These lights are on Commonwealth Ave. in Madison. I always enjoy driving by and hope they stay up awhile. I love their wacky retro iconography -- an angel, a penguin, a snowman and a Santa. Just what we need as companions to get us through a Wisconsin winter.

Tea Party civics lesson: House of Representatives serves up a Constitutional Happy Meal

Nothing better illustrates Tea Party/Republican hypocrisy about constitutional literalism than their reading an expurgated Constitution in the House this morning. Wouldn't want to read the whole Constitution, including the nasty bits, which might frighten the kiddies.
Instead of reading the Constitution in its entirety, House members will read an "amended version" that only includes the sections and amendments that were not changed at a later date. The decision in part will allow members to avoid reading less pleasant sections, like the clause in Article 1, Section 2, which counted black slaves as three-fifths of a person.

The reading of the Constitution on the House floor has never been done before, and it's only happening today thanks to the tea party. Throughout the campaign last year, "returning to the Constitution" (in a vague and largely undefined way) was sacred to the tea party, and supporters of reading the document aloud today seem to hope that hearing the words in the House chamber will cause members to adhere to the document more closely.
Reading the Constitution in its entirety would suggest that it has a history, that it is an imperfect, living document that must -- and does -- change with the times. No wonder they would rather give us a fast food version, a Constitutional Happy Meal.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Orion floating in the trees on a January night

Orion Floating in the Trees
I took my camera and tripod on a frostbite session in Wingra Park last night, shooting these time exposures (40-50 sec.) of the Orion constellation. The one on the right includes Lake Wingra, but the one above is a bit crisper, and the colors slightly more accurate. Betelgeuse looks like a red giant, and M42, the Orion Nebula, shows a bit of pink. Also, I think I might have accidentally caught a micrometeorite streaking by. Hope so. (See on-screen notes by clicking through the above photo to Flickr.)

Orion Over Lake WingraOne reason I'm so fond of this constellation is that it reminds me of when I first looked at the Orion Nebula through a 3" reflector -- a Christmas present -- on a very cold winter night when I was a kid. Very small and faint, but pure wispy magic in the deep dark vastness of space. When we're very young, we naturally think we're at the center of the universe. As we get a bit older, we look up at the night sky and realize we're not. That's part of what the magic of the moment was about.

Governor Scott Walker's convenient, selective blindness when it comes to unemployment

Gov. Walker's Convenient, Selective Blindness
"My top three priorities are jobs, jobs, and jobs."

I was struck by how much I heard about jobs and how little about the jobless in Scott Walker's inaugural address Monday. I thought I must have missed something -- after all, how can anyone take over as governor in the middle of a major recession and not talk about the people who lost their jobs? -- but Jessica Vanegeren at the Capital Times noticed the same thing.
... he made no mention of "unemployment" or the "unemployed." Walker did refer obliquely to citizens "who are hurting," but his rhetoric focused more directly on how state government can warm the state's purportedly chilly business climate.
So, yes, he did say that "our citizens are hurting." But the general tone of his speech seemed to suggest that they were hurting as much from the burden of excessive taxation and government regulation as anything.

What about being jobless or laid-off? I did a keyword search of the text of his speech. Here are the results:
Number of times jobs mentioned: 17
Number of times jobless mentioned: 0
Number of times joblessness mentioned: 0
Number of times unemployed mentioned: 0
Number of times unemployment mentioned: 0
Number of times layoffs mentioned: 0
Number of times laid-off mentioned: 0
It's almost as if Scott Walker can't see the unemployed. Which is not surprising on the part of someone who so casually threw away 4,000 good jobs when he turned down the federal high speed rail grant. Even assuming he actually believed his own political rhetoric about the train (which seems doubtful, because he once supported the concept), it was strange how little he agonized in public about those jobs he sent to other states. But it makes sense if he just can't see the anguish of families whose breadwinners are without work.

It's hard to feel someone's pain (or help them) if you can't even see their suffering or talk about it. How convenient

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Wisconsin Capitol dome removed. Walker says state taxpayers can't afford the upkeep and maintenance.

Capitol Dome Removed. Walker Says We Can't Afford Maintenance
Remember the fog we had New Year's Eve, when the Capitol dome seemed to disappear into the mist? Well, it turns out that was no illusion. Scott Walker had the dome removed Friday night. It's all explained in a news release from the Governor-Elect's office. Although it was embargoed until after his inauguration Monday, I obtained an advance copy over the weekend and am sharing it as a public service.

Capitol Dome No Longer a Burden to Wisconsin Taxpayers

From the Office of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, 1/03/11

Gov. Scott Walker responds to inquiries about why the Wisconsin State Capitol Dome was replaced Friday night by a flat roof.

"Sure, it's a pretty little dome. But in these difficult times it is a luxury the taxpayers of the great State of Wisconsin can no longer afford," says Gov. Scott Walker. "True, the Dome was already paid for. But the annual upkeep and maintenance costs were a burden Wisconsin taxpayers no longer could afford. A flat roof will be much more affordable and sustainable in the long run."

The Governor added that, after saving taxpayers millions by stopping the high speed rail boondoggle he could not, in all good conscience, take the oath of office in a building topped by an architectural boondoggle.

The Governor lauded the Doyle Administration's cooperation in allowing the dome to be disassembled prior to his inauguration today by an all-volunteer crew of small business people, tax reformers and lobbyists. No state funds were expended in the removal of the dome and its replacement.

"While undoubtedly the Capitol dome provided a nice view for the elite who live in Madison, it's simply a fact that it did not provide much value to other Wisconsin residents. You can't see it from the rest of the state. I used to look out my window in Wauwatosa, and I never saw it," says Walker. "Why should taxpayers who never see it be forced to pay for its upkeep?"

Walked added that the jobs of state workers who used to provide dome maintenance would be eliminated, and the workers would either be reassigned or asked to reapply for jobs with his new private-public hybrid entity, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC).

"Wisconsin is open for business," says Gov. Walker. "What better way to underscore this than to reorient the Capitol. For decades it has been a cost center, beautiful to look at, but a drag on the state's economy. We plan to turn it into a profit center. Naming rights alone should enable us to cut taxes by millions, and this is just the beginning. A new day has dawned for Wisconsin taxpayers."

Thanks a million (not) for letting me sleep through the Rose Bowl parade, Apple

Thanks (Not) for Letting Me Sleep Through the Rose Bowl Parade, Apple
I love the alarm on my iPhone 4 and rely on it totally. It's easy to set, I love the little clickety-click of the time dial as it spins, and the "Old Phone" alarm sound calls on a lifetime of Pavlovian training to wake me every time.

Except on the morning of New Year's Day. We had been up late and I told T when we went to bed that I was planning to sleep late. But so as not to sleep too late, I set the alarm. But it didn't wake me and T let me sleep. I woke up after noon. No real harm done, I'm not that big on parades, anyhow. I figured I had been so tired I must have turned off the alarm and gone right back to sleep.

Until it happened again this morning. Once, it's my mistake. Twice, I go to the net to find out what the hell is going on. That's when I found out about Apple's iPhone alarm bug. It could have been worse -- I could have missed a plane or been late to work. Supposedly, it will be fixed by Monday, and meanwhile, a workaround is to set the alarm as a recurring alarm. I tried it and it seems to work.

Questions remain: Is 2011 too big a number to program into your software, Apple? Did you think the world would end the night of Dec. 31st and it wouldn't matter. The speed of Apple's response also creates the cynical suspicion that they knew this was a "known issue" and decided not warn people, perhaps for fear of the PR impact.

I'm disappointed, Apple.

Holiday lights in abstract, slow shutter speed drive-by mode

Holiday Lights in Abstract, Slow Shutter Speed Drive-by Mode
The University Avenue Holiday Lights won't be on much longer. They're worth a last drive-by before they go dark.