Friday, July 13, 2012
On our way home from Olbrich Botanical Gardens last night, we took a spin past Madison's most picturesque ruin, the Garver feed mill, painted by the late afternoon sun and fringed with unkempt wildflowers.
It looked doomed when Common Wealth Development's plan to rehab the facility as an arts incubator collapsed due to lack of sufficient funding. But Isthmus recently reported that the city of Madison and Olbrich Gardens have been working on plans to stabilize some or all of the deteriorating structure, perhaps to serve as storage for Olbrich Gardens pending the development of a long-range plan for further restoration and community use. I hope they succeed. It would be a shame if this resource were allowed to fall into further neglect leading to eventual demolition.
Thursday, July 12, 2012
We came across this pigeon along our ride to Riley's yesterday. The peregrine falcons have really decimated the pigeons that used to congregate in downtown Madison, looking for handouts, so it's a long time since I've seen a pigeon up close. Lovely birds, really. At first I thought this pigeon might be a refugee from the urban slaughter, but that didn't make a lot of sense -- out in the open, pigeons are easy prey for every raptor and owl in the neighborhood, which is why you rarely see them in open country.
This pigeon seemed young, very well groomed and quite tame. We wondered if it was a homing pigeon or an escaped pet. It seemed comfortable with people and let us come very close. We had the feeling that if we stayed a little longer it would have let us hold it (would have been interesting to read the band on its leg).
The encounter led me to read about homing pigeons and their amazing capabilities, including this cool story about a homing pigeon that outperformed a DSL connection in transferring 4 gigs of data over 50 miles in an hour several years ago:
In September 2009, a South African IT company, based in Durban, pitted an 11-month-old bird armed with a data packed 4GB memory stick against the ADSL service from the country's biggest internet service provider, Telkom. The pigeon named Winston took an hour and eight minutes to carry the data 80 km (50 mi). Including downloading, it took two hours, six minutes, and 57 seconds for the data to arrive, the same amount of time it took to transfer 4% of the data over the ADSL.
When we continued our ride, the pigeon was still sitting there. I hope it's OK and that the hawks didn't get it.
Wednesday, July 11, 2012
Southwest Bike Path lighting -- I think the city means well, but I'm with the owls and other opponents on this one.
The city wants to put lights on the Southwest Bike Path between Breeze Terrace and the Beltline to improve safety on the path at night. It's a controversial proposal. Many neighbors and night-time users of the path see this as misguided meddling that would fail to accomplish its objectives, reduce dark sky visibilityand bikers' night vision and would drive off the owls that live in the neighborhood. I'm with the neighbors, bikers and owls on this one.
This is one of the test fixtures on the path between Glenway and Sheldon. The sign directs people to this web site about the project.. Opponents have put up a Facebook page called Owlpath (Outdoors Without Light Pollution Adulterating The Heavens). It includes a video of Silent Eddie, a barred owl that lives in a backyard on Gregory Street. There's also an interview with Silent Eddie, representing the entire owl community. And there's an excellent summary of Myths vs Facts regarding lighting the bike path.
Opponents face a an uphill public education challenge that involves taking on a widespread reflexive feeling that more light means more safety. The last time I looked, Madison.com's poll on the issue (bottom right of this page) shows a majority of responders favoring lighting the path. It's hard to convince people that more isn't always better when it comes to lighting. A lot of people really are afraid of the dark, even if they don't put it that way. And the "lighting industrial complex" has taken advantage of this to overlight American cities since World War II.
Have muggings taken place on Madison bike paths at night? Yes. Have accidents happened? Yes. Ironically, they've all happened on lighted paths in other parts of the city. This stretch of the Southwest Bike Path is the safest in the city at night, and the most beautiful. I'd love to see it stay that way.
If you'd like to find out more or speak out on the issue, a neighborhood meeting is being scheduled for Thursday, July 19, 2012 from 7 to 8:30 pm in the Anderson Auditorium of the Predolin Humanities Building at Edgewood College.
Monday, July 09, 2012
I posted this photo on Flickr and in my blog post Ray Bradbury and the Dark Side of the American Dream as my response to the death of the writer who meant so much to me. A few days later I received a request to use the photo to illustrate this article on a website in Medellin, Columbia. I loved the idea of my photo tribute to Ray Bradbury traveling south of the border.
Filling the gaps in my virtually nonexistent Spanish with Google Translate, I was able to follow the article. It's a graceful tribute to Bradbury that begins with the story of how Ray Bradbury was "knighted" as a boy by the carnival magician, Mr. Electro, who touched him with his electric sword and commanded that he "live forever." Bradbury took the lesson to heart and decided the way to try to live forever was to become a writer. Writer Hernán Ortiz concludes that he succeeded.
Like many photographers I find that many of the images I post on Flickr end up being copied and posted elsewhere, often without bothering to ask for permission (or paying a licensing fee). This seems to be my all-time champion, reprinted 215 times at last count. And nobody has ever asked for permission (Hernán did ask, and graciously). Some give a photo credit; some don't.
All this copying was done for personal use. None of it was what could be considered commercial use. Thus, all of it falls under what should be considered fair use. Nevertheless, when the same thing happens to some photographers, they go ballistic. They're angry that someone has "stolen" their image. They threaten to sue, and sometimes they do -- despite the fact that nothing was actually taken from them. They still have their image. And paying a fee would never have been worth it to a person who copied it for personal use; they would just have selected another picture to express what they were feeling or thinking. (After all, for most people posting a picture on a personal blog isn't much different from clipping a picture out of a magazine and putting it up on the refrigerator or their cubicle wall. And nobody calls that "stealing.")
Me, I feel flattered when a blogger likes my image enough to copy it. It's part of the free flow of information across the Internet. It seems like magic that a photo of mine can travel halfway around the world and be recycled in a language I don't know and may never even have heard of. And if that probably doesn't make it "live forever," at least it extends the photo's reach and allows it to touch more people than it could on just my own websites.
Mandatory Note & Disclaimer Just to Be Perfectly Clear All of what I've said is limited to personal use and does not apply to commercial use. I've gone after people who have used my images commercially and even collected some money from them. (It's one reason I don't use a Creative Commons noncommercial license -- I've found that many commercial enterprises are all too quick to ignore the fine print and feel entitled to use any Creative Commons image.) I routinely deny permission to commercial enterprises that do not pay a fee. If you're going to make money selling someone else's work, you need to pay them. It's that simple. Period.
I sympathize with full-time photographers. It's harder than ever for them to make a living. Equipment is expensive, income is hard to come by. But the great technological threat to their livelihood comes not from the Internet making it possible for people to "steal" their images. It comes from the fact that photographers are competing with literally billions of people who can now take pictures with phones and inexpensive digital cameras. There are so many images floating around in the world that the value of individual images has declined exponentially, literally by a couple orders of magnitude. Stock photos that once sold for hundreds or even thousands of dollars now sell for under ten dollars apiece. Some photographers will continue to prosper. They will do it by adding value in unique ways and filling niches that can't easily be duplicated. They don't have much to worry about. Many of them have also adapted to the Internet and realize that if they have a unique vision and style, repetition on the web -- including the occasional unauthorized use -- is a powerful promotional tool.