Monday, June 28, 2010

Featured Photo

A photo of mine made the Daily Dozen at National Geographic's website. The Daily Dozen are pictures selected by NGM's photo editor, Susan Welchman, from images uploaded by NGM readers. You have to scroll through a few of the other images to find mine. Divers on the beach. It's hard to miss.

Friday, June 25, 2010

36 Seconds of Lightning

video
On Monday a tornado touched down just east of Oak Creek, causing up to $20 million in damage. The worst of the storm passed right over us, but by then the rotation in the clouds had died down. I went to the basement for the height of it, but I stayed on our deck as long as possible. Craziness. The noise in the background is the TV.

Hate for Hastings

I noticed it. All this contempt for this so-called freelance journalist, Michael Hastings, with the word 'freelance' uttered in such a way as to connote he is one of those not-so-good journalists who has to take assignments as they come to him and that's why he is writing for Rolling Stone, a magazine that doesn't do journalism anymore. On the contrary, the Hastings piece is the type of journalism that is now, for the most part, extinct at the larger media outlets. It is so extinct that the publication of a great story makes for a story itself, at least for all the mainstream outlets.
All this to say, there's a great piece over at Vanity Fair about the hate for Hastings. This is the second semi-political post in as many days and another interesting article. Here the link: Why the Hacks Hate Michael Hastings.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

No Theme Here

A recent Wisconsin sunset from our deck. Last night we had a lightning show and later a tornado. Video of the lightning will be put up here soon.

The Navy's Blue Angels visit Milwaukee.

A C-17 swoops over us.

I like the twirly things behind the props in this picture. I think this is a support plane that transfers equipment for the Blue Angels.

Some air show fans.

Now this is an air show fan. You can tell by the shirt. Not only does it celebrate American innovation in flight, but American innovation in killing. We were there for the former, but you get the feeling after walking around for a while, reading some more shirts and eavesdropping on conversations that there are quite a few people there to celebrate the latter. That is a weird sensation.

This tractor off our deck was used for about a week after we moved to Oak Creek in July 2007. It has since sat next to a wall, eventually the left tire drained of air and it has either been overrun with weeds or encased in snow for three years. Our second week here, I took an egg from the fridge and threw it at the right tire. It was a hot day and the egg ran down the tire, cooking as it went. You can see the streak to this day.

The tractor through our wrought iron fence.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

What I'm Reading - Sunday NY Times

A couple good reads from last week's Sunday NY Times. First, The Ahab Parallax, by Randy Kennedy, compares our quest for oil, and the resulting oil spill in the Gulf, through the increasingly prescient Moby Dick to the hunt for whales many years ago. Money quote:
One of the great underlying themes of "Moby Dick," Mr. Delbanco observed, "is that people ashore don't want to know about the ugly things that go on at sea.

"We want our comforts but we don't want to know too much about where they come from or what makes them possible." He added: "The oil spill in the gulf is a horror, but how many Americans are ready to pay more for oil or for making the public investment required to develop alternative energy? I suspect it's a question that Melville would be asking us now."

And second, the Thomas Friedman column, "This Time Is Different," which is also about the impacts of the oil spill and the guilty party, us. This is worth a read.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A Slice of Life in Farmington, New Mexico

My mom was in Milwaukee over the weekend. We had a great time, dined on fantastic food and had a Miller Time yesterday during the Miller Brewery Tour. Anyway, my mom is a great person, always bringing me little treats and gifts when she comes out to visit. She brought us a new game, called Bananagrams. It's a blast. She also brought out a few coasters for my collection. She brought Kate a small, Caribbean blue vase. This is debatable, but I think the best thing she brought out was a clipping from the newspaper in Farmington, New Mexico. The following passages are copied verbatim from The Daily Times, with the headlines first, and I must preface this hilarity with a longstanding opinion held by myself and many close to me, that the Olive Garden sucks. It isn't genuine Italian food. It isn't good. If a friend takes you to the Olive Garden on your birthday, or, for that matter, on any other day, that friend is no longer a friend. Olive Garden is the place for break-ups, not get togethers. The anomaly, which most people obviously don't grasp, is that they can make better Italian food at home with a box of pasta and a jar of Newman's Own Sockarooni Pasta Sauce and some freshly grated parmesan. But perhaps I am the naive one here for thinking pasta is something everyone can cook. I digress, to the breaking news:
The Wait Is Over
Olive Garden opening greeted by hundreds of hungry patrons

After years of anticipation, the wait is finally over and Olive Garden is open in Farmington.

The Italian restaurant opened on Memorial Day to hundreds of diners eager to enjoy the first dishes that Olive Garden General Manager, E------ L-------, and his staff could send out.

...

We want to make sure that the Olive Garden is a great place for families to come and get a genuine Italian dining experience.

Lining up at the front doors two hours before they opened at 4 p.m.....

....arrived in Farmington at 9:30 a.m. to see if they could get lunch, but were forced to drive around town for hours before joining the line...

Simultaneously, one of the funniest and most depressing few paragraphs I have read in a long time. The article in its entirety must not be missed. Follow this link.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

This Just In: People Make Mistakes

As my time in Milwaukee comes to an end, I am seriously considering rejoining Facebook—after a 19-month hiatus—in hopes that it will help me stay in touch with friends in Milwaukee. After spending a significant amount of time off the Facebook grid, it should be easy to evaluate whether or not I feel more connected to friends or if communication with them has been eased and made more accessible. If Facebook proves once and again to be inconsequential to maintaining close friendships, and instead becomes a waste of time (no matter how many minutes are burned up by it), then I will quit it again.

But just as I am about to sign back on, I read this article at NYTimes.com called “Company on the Verge of a Social Breakthrough,” by Michiko Kakutani. The article is about Facebook and a new book about it, which was written by David Kirkpatrick, titled The Facebook Effect. Kirkpatrick was granted unprecedented access to the Facebook team for months and was presented with arguments in favor of the social-networking tool’s presence in our lives. He writes in his book, “Some claim, for example, that because of Facebook, young people today have a harder time cheating on their boyfriends or girlfriends. They also say that more transparency should make for a more tolerant society in which people eventually accept that everybody sometimes does bad or embarrassing things.”

I take issue with both of those claims. Firstly, I doubt the first statement is true. If it is, provide me with the numbers showing the decline of relationships having come to an end because of cheating. Facebook’s transparency does not contribute to moral fortitude, it perhaps makes having an affair or cheating on someone harder to hide, but when it comes down to that moment when you commit yourself to an affair, Facebook isn’t going to be in your decision making process. If you are going to cheat, you are going to cheat. Facebook, cell phones, text messages, Twitter and the blogs aren’t going to stop you. Additionally, people are increasingly voyeuristic (the other meaning) when it comes to their Facebook addiction. They love, in a sickly way, to see people stumble, to see flaws. And there are also those people who are more tempted to cheat on their boyfriend or girlfriend because of the social shockwaves it will send through Facebook. These people most certainly suffer from narcissism, they crave admiration and are willing to get it even if means self-abasement.

Secondly, let’s focus on the next statement about the transparency of Facebook leading to “a more tolerant society in which people accept that everybody sometimes does bad or embarrassing things.” Which is to say, what? That before Facebook people didn’t believe or accept the idea that everyone screws up every once in a while. Please. The fact that humans aren’t perfect isn’t exactly breaking news. Maybe folks over at Facebook and its most ardent supporters love to believe this, but to attribute the discovery of human infallibility, and its acceptance as a universal trait, to a social-networking site is absurd.

Furthermore, this statement assumes we benefit from knowing every bad or embarrassing thing our friends and acquaintances do. I am not convinced this is healthy. Concerning our lives, mistakes and errors in judgment included, privacy is important. While sharing with a close friend or relative about a bad thing you have done is very important, sharing about that bad thing you have done on Facebook via a status update hinting at a mistake, or a post, video or picture about it is not comparable or healthy. While the former approach is an attempt to heal, the latter is more of an exercise in narcissism once again and a cry for help from someone who doesn’t know how to share the old fashioned way. We are left to assume that friends of the person who takes the latter approach will meet the other person halfway and make a connection with them, but I don’t believe that is happening on Facebook, at least not in most cases. Why? Because Facebook—ironically called a social-networking site—is outrageously impersonal. It is too easy to walk away from someone crying out for help on Facebook. It is not too easy to walk away when they call you on the phone sobbing or show up on your front door completely broken. The latter scenario is both harder for the person seeking help and for the person who help is sought from.

Lastly, I wouldn’t be that surprised if the transparency on Facebook, which, people say, helps people accept that everybody does bad things, doesn’t lead to more tolerance, but leads to lowering the standards of human behavior and morality. I know, this makes me sound old, like some fuddy-duddy who just doesn’t get it. Well, is it so hard to imagine a world in which every one of our mistakes is known by our friends and relatives because of Facebook’s transparency? No, it isn’t and in this world would we become comfortably numb to errors in judgment from one-night stands to trying cocaine? Yes, it is possible. ‘Everyone screws up’ and tolerance are great things to practice, but it is dangerous to let them become your mantra because although we all screw up, we all need help too. While Facebook may help with bringing the former truth out of the shadows, the latter truth, the one that speaks directly to our love, compassion and our need to edify each other, isn’t exalted by the saturation of our world by Facebook and all of its friends.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

WolframAlpha

Have you ever been to WolframAlpha.com? Well, I just went there today for the first time after my dad wrote me to tell me about something cool on the internet that he knew about before me. This did not make me feel hip.
WolframAlpha is similar to Google, but let's say I want to find out the population of Denver. If I type that in at Google and hit enter it lists links to websites, which, Google finds, will give me the answer I am looking for. However, if I type 'population of Denver' into WolframAlpha, and press enter, I am provided with an immediate answer on WolframAlpha's site. In addition to that answer, you get a lot more additional information. For example, in addition to the population of City of Denver (598,707 - 2008 estimate), the site tells me Denver ranks 25th in population in the U.S. I am also presented with a graph showing population history, the metropolitan area population (2.552 million) and the population of nearby cities (Aurora - 319,057).

Type in a date. I chose February 3, 1983, my birthday. The results: time difference from today, 27 years 4 months 5 days, or 1426 weeks 5 days, or 9987 days, or 27.34 years. No observances for February 3, 1983. Events on February 3, 1983, Birth of Dimitry Patzold and Michal Slesingr (both athletes I am not familiar with). The daylight information for that date in 1983 is given. Sunrise was at 7:33am CST and Sunset was at 5:55pm CST and the duration of daylight was 10 hours 22 minutes as recorded in Newton, Kansas. There was a waning gibbous moon that day.

I punched in another date, June 25, 1951. An event listed for that day, "CBS becomes the first to broadcast television in color." I typed in Oak Creek, WI, the quaint, boring little suburb of Milwaukee I live in. Of course, I get population, but also current weather, cost of living index, median home price, unemployment rate (8.2%, ouch), total sales tax, rate of violent crime and property crime, elevation and nearby cities.

Milwaukee: 604,477 people - ranked 24th. Take that, Denver.
Unemployment rate: 12.3% - Take that, Milwaukee.
Notable people born in Milwaukee: William Rehnquist, Spencer Tracy, Bud Selig and Gene Wilder.

You get the point. WolframAlpha is great. Hopefully, like all cool things on the internet, it isn't bought by Google or some other huge corporation. Maybe it is already owned by a mega corporation. I don't know.

Go there. Check it out. Another way the internet will gobble up your time.

Friday, June 04, 2010

The Man

John Wooden, the Wizard of Westwood, dies at 99.

BP Boycott Ineffective

Let me preface, I don't regularly visit any BP stations in Oak Creek or the Milwaukee area. I am not a regular BP customer who is now boycotting the company. I am a one-in-fifty-fill-ups-at-BP customer.

That said...

I did a little more research about a BP boycott and I found a lot of articles like this one, which essentially say, a BP boycott would be ineffective and it would only hurt the station's owners and not affect BP all that much. Which is to say, a boycott would be detrimental to BP's bottom line, but you are going to have collateral damage. That damage in this case would be station owners and employees. It makes me feel bad about wanting to boycott BP and I start feeling like I am contributing to a station shutting down possibly and people losing their jobs. But do I have an obligation to give a gas station, which is in contract with BP, any of my business? The name of BP and their logo will always be associated with the spill in the gulf and I am not going to pull into a station which is in contract with them, even one time out of fifty.

Boycott BP

Before I set out on my 2,500 mile road trip to Colorado, I vowed to not stop at any BP gas station. The way this company has handled the oil leak (lies, distortions and no success in stopping it) is embarrassing. They do not deserve to be awarded with our money or bottomless gas tanks. My thought, feed your addiction somewhere else.

I didn't know of an official boycott of BP, but I was thinking while driving over a thousand miles in one day, there has to be many more people out there doing the same thing. I just did a quick google search and found boycottbp.org

Visit it. Take a look around. It would be great if we didn't have to stop at gas stations at all, but when your low fuel light is on, think twice about what station you pull into.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Bachelor Party Backpacking Pics

Seven of us hiked up the Greyrock trail on Wednesday, May 26, 2010. We spent the night under the stars/clouds. The weather held after a rainy morning. It was a beautiful start to a long weekend of celebration leading up to Erik and Brianne's wedding. Above: Chris, Erik and Ryan during a water break on the way up.

The man of the hour/day/week, Erik Haagenson with beard, before he would, quote, "GQ it up a bit" before the wedding.

A lookout on the way up.

After we arrived at the campsite, we needed to find firewood. We set off to gather some up by any means possible. Hands, feet, medium-sized boulders, leverage and Kyle's hatchet. This hatchet probably wasn't the hatchet Gary Paulsen had in mind, nor were we the handlers of the hatchet that Paulsen likely imagined. We are large, fit, barrel-chested men, not scrawny, stranded boys. This hatchet could only last so long. Fittingly, Erik was the man using the hatchet when it broke, but it could have been any of us. Above: Matt uses the pathetic head of the hatchet to unsuccessfully split some firewood. Stem of broken hatchet seen in foreground. Broken. Useless. And, I think, plastic. That could have been the problem.

I probably got the best shot of all the group of Fort Collins, pictured above, just beyond the lowly, sunlit foothill. I did have the most powerful camera and the biggest lens. The guys were impressed when I turned my camera off and the lens automatically retracted into the body of the camera. It was a very powerful moment.

Erik and co-best man, Chris, pose near the eastern summit.

I don't mean to toot my own horn here, but I do. Above: Chris and Erik stare contemplatively at the horizon, making for a damn fine picture. When I look at this, I see their adventurous spirit, I feel our bond and I think of their history of climbing, camping and mountaineering together and the reverence they have for God's majestic creation. There isn't much else to capture.

Erik and I, trying to gameface.

Our campsite, just at the top of this pond, was picture perfect, flat, with pre-formed fire pit and accessible water. Chris can be seen climbing down from the rock outcropping in the lower-right corner of the shot.

Nearing sunset, taken from the eastern summit. This is my desktop background right now and it is destined to be blown up and on a wall soon.

Collecting firewood. Chris and Erik with a prized catch, a piece of wood which probably burnt up in five minutes later that evening.

The aforementioned hatchet buried in wood after throwing many a small to medium-sized boulder at it. No one will free this hatchet.

Facing west from the summit of Greyrock.

Wes facing westward.

Ryan and Chris with his significantly weaker camera.

Ryan, taking in the view, and Erik, thinking about being a runaway groom.

Ryan, still taking in the view, and Erik, with a reversal of mood, deciding to now go through with it and seeing the beauty in it all.

Chris proudly exhibiting his fascination with man, especially hairy-chested, New Belgium Ranger IPA-drinking man.

The morning after. I was first to wake. I felt very old and thus sat by the burned out campfire thinking about the other times I have felt much older than this group of friends while they slept on.

Sarge. He joined us for the trip. He's awesome, massive and a great hiker.

Our last stop before heading down to Fort Collins was our traditional cliff-jumping spot. Only three people jumped. Above: Erik jumps and begins his rotation for the gainer that he successfully and safely completed before plunging into the snowmelt.

Matt takes a leap into the frigid Poudre River, ending the festivities in the mountains.