5.31.2009

The Lane

Guest Post: Sundeep M on Google Wave

At first glance Google Wave may seem like some sort of bizarre techno-beast cobbled together from various bits of familiar Internet services. Invariably, you'll find aspects of Twitter, Facebook, Wikipedia, Google Docs, blogging, e-mail and instant messaging. This makes it hard to describe what Wave actually is, but what Google is trying to accomplish is something quite directed.

Wave's objective is bold: Combine popular Internet communication methods (like e-mail and instant messaging) with the Internet's many collaborative tools (like blogging and word processing) and wrap it all in Google's signature simplicity. Google Docs users have already seen some of these features in action, including real-time collaboration and instant messaging on documents and spreadsheets. Users, however, won't be familiar with other real-time features like translation (yeah that's right, someone writes to you in Chinese and you see it in English) or context checking (The "bean soup" example: I would like been soup. Corrected to, I would like bean soup.).

Under the hood geeks will find a lot of neat technologies being utilized including HTML5 (the anti-Microsoft crowd can commence their snickering http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_standards). The Wave protocol is entirely federated, meaning individuals can create their own "Wave" servers to speak to others. In this way, Google is not solely responsible for maintaining dedicated Wave servers, no different than how e-mail operates today.

Where Wave could go is entirely dependent on what developers are able to create. The service is open-source and Google expects developers will make short work of creating fresh solutions through Wave.

If you haven't already, check out the developer's preview at wave.google.com. If you want to skip to the demo, it starts around 7:30.

The show to see

Sigur Ros will be performing for the Dalai Lama, per Pitchfork.

Here's a video, as consolation that you can't be there:

5.30.2009

The Kalevala













Translated from the Finnish and weighing in at over 650 pages, The Kalevala, Finland's national epic, has proven an interesting project for me in recent months.  I'm nearly finished.

What is The Kalevala all about?  Here's an excellent summary.

After picking up a used copy of the book in Madison my freshman year, I finally started reading it on occasion this past semester to clear my mind before bed.  The epic poem of fifty cantos features figures that are mixtures of heroes and gods.  I think it's safe to call the work the Illiad and Odyssey of the Finnish people.  With some Beowulf and Norse mythology woven in.

Preserved for millennia by way of oral poetic traditions, some of the subject matter is intriguing for how primitive it is - bear hunting and personal combat, for example, turn up.  It's mythological, explaining the origins of things like the earth (a scaup's eggs), steel, etc.  Many parallels to aspects of Greek and Roman mythology show through.

Overall, it's repetitive at points and drawn out in good "try-once-try-twice-try-thrice-succeed" bard style, but the overall mood is fascinating - a sorceress hag, giant pike, shape-shifting, lots of "singing" (magic), talking inanimate objects like swords, a gruesome proto-Frankenstein resurrection, a Hephaestus-like character plowing a field of vipers in a stone suit to earn his bride (among other Herculean tasks), the sampo - a mysterious and powerful object, and hunting a demon elk on skis.  Christianity is grafted oddly onto a much earlier Stone Age tradition.  One canto advising a new bride could almost apply today, but the treatment of women throughout is far less enlightened.  Everyone is driving around in sledges and magic boats, characters have serfs and saunas, war consists of burning cabins, and German is an adjective synonymous with luxury.

With respect to form, the Keith Bosley translation takes the poem out of its rather strict trochaic tetrameter verse (which inspired Longfellow's Hiawatha), but it's very rich and readable.  Things are generally described several times consecutively with appositives, giving them a layered, multi-faceted character.  Figures are always accompanied by their descriptions - "wanton Lemminkainan" "steady old Vainamoinen" "Kullervo, blue-stockinged gaffer's son."  The language is simply beautiful at points, mystical at others, and jarringly brutal at still others.

I'd recommend The Kalevala as a long-term, background read for the right person.  It's really something for engaging one's imagination, for attempting to empathize with some more primal perspectives on life from far earlier in the past millennium - a comparative work in many regards.  And it's often simply a fun, strange legend to wander through.

Blastoff

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Photo shoot in the bull market's wake.

Staggering

Religious zealotry is slowly seeping into America's armed forces and (surprise!) Obama is doing little to stop it:
In fact, the generals whom Mikey thought would face a reckoning under a Democratic administration remain in place or in line for promotion. Not only did Obama keep on Robert Gates as defense secretary; he retained the secretary of the Army, Pete Geren—another star of the Christian Embassy video, who also, in commencement remarks at West Point last year, characterized America’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as struggles for religious freedom against the “darkness and oppression” of radical Islam—and also appointed as his national security adviser the retired Marine general James Jones, a regular on the prayer breakfast circuit. Nobody believes the new president shares Bush’s religious sentiments, but clearly he is willing to shave constitutional protections in exchange for evangelical peace. The new president appears to have adopted a hands-off approach not just to religion in the military but to the very relationship between church and state.


The Pete Geren example is weakened somewhat, but the weight of the rest of the article (it's a long read, but very worth it) bears down and makes that paragraph almost crushingly disheartening. I can't recommend strongly enough that you go read the whole thing.

Guns and Butter

Mickey's Right

Obama isn't "reinventing capitalism."

5.29.2009

Wikipedia: Scientologists Locked Out

Thoughts? 

I believe blocking a group from editing pages will backfire.  I think the move puts Wikipedia admins in an odd position akin to an entity that decides to ban a book.  

Cyber Command - A Welcome Development, but Let's Be Wary

I've followed the emergence of cyber warfare here at LIB for several years now, noting various reports of cyber attacks as they unfolded.

In that vein, I'm very pleased to see President Obama taking serious, well-publicized steps to beef up US cyber warfare capabilities.

Still, as another unelected czar is appointed and the prospect of weaving domestic surveillance gray areas arises, it's important to approach the effort cautiously.  As one source in the NYT piece linked above notes:

“It’s the domestic spying problem writ large,” one senior intelligence official said recently. “These attacks start in other countries, but they know no borders. So how do you fight them if you can’t act both inside and outside the United States?”

With the NSA and the military teaming up with the potential for operating "domestically" as part of a cyber operation, we enter a new era where foreign hack attacks on sensitive computers can finally be warded off - but the risk of abuse in domestic circles rises.

The article also refers to the somewhat philosophical or ethical debate about whether the U.S. should use cyber warfare capabilities offensively - as a sort of first strike.  The U.S. should include any cyber warfare attack abilities as options in its quiver.  If it chooses to utilize those technologies, though, it must do so with the understanding that once they're employed, the U.S. should expect a response in kind from other national governments (it's been unclear in the past few years whether Russian or Chinese government officials authorized any of the major hacks on critical U.S. targets), having lost any sort of "moral high ground" to argue against their use in warfare.

Loisaida

Shine, Schumpeter

Well said. 

You've got to prove that you're no liar

Best of luck to our legally-minded friends this summer!

5.28.2009

An Elephant's Eye

















Ted Olson Surprises in Prop 8 Showdown

I was surprised, nay, shocked to see former Bush Solicitor General Ted Olson standing in prominent support of gay marriage and the downfall of Proposition 8 alongside David Boies.

Here's more on Olson's involvement in the effort to defeat Proposition 8 in the federal courts (some sources cited at the link even suspect duplicitous motives):

Olson added that the case "is not about liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican," and said of his own and Boies' involvement, "We're here in part to symbolize that."

But Olson also argued that the suit reflects traditional Republican values. "The constitution protects individuals' basic rights that cannot be taken away by a vote," he was quoted as saying.

"If the people of California had voted to ban interracial marriage, it would have been the responsibility of the courts to say that they cannot do that under the constitution. 

Guest Post: Ashok Kumar on the Situation in Sri Lanka

Recently, I contacted UW-Madison alum Ashok Kumar regarding the "defeat" of the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka. Mr. Kumar condensed and reworked a few of my questions, but I think his responses are worth considering to get a better idea of the Sri Lankan political situation from someone on the ground in-country.

Even if you disagree with Mr. Kumar's particular take on the situation, I hope you find it useful as a springboard to additional consideration of a long-standing conflict often underreported in the Western media.

***
What are the fundamental grievances of the Tamil people in Sri Lanka?

We have to recognize that ethnic identification in Sri Lanka has historically preceded people’s identification as “Sri Lankan”. The major divisions are amongst the Singhalese (the Buddhist, Sinhala-speaking majority), Muslims (Tamil speaking Muslims), Tamils (Tamil-speaking Hindhu and Christians), Veddha (indigenous community), Burghers (English-speaking descendants of colonialist rulers of the past), etc. These groups are close-knit and strongly tied to historic class formations, exploited and further institutionalized under British colonialism.

The primary struggle of the Tamil people is about access to state power. With the lack of any real power and as a minority community have effectively placed Tamils in second-class status. Originally, the Tamil grievances stemmed from a language, education, and job discrimination. The Tamil liberation struggle continues today as a fight for basic human and civil rights. The LTTE is simply and ultra-militant element of the larger struggle, which has existed in one form or another since the 1920’s.

When you arrived in Sri Lanka, what was the general status of the long running conflict between the island's Sinahalese majority and the Tamil minority? What did you expect as far as how the feud might impact your stay? How have you witnessed the Tamil or Singhalese communities impacted?

I arrived in mid-October of last year. The ceasefire had officially ended in January of 2008, and when I arrived the government was nearly three months into its heavy “shock and awe”-style bombardment campaign of Tamil controlled areas. I didn’t expect it to interfere in my research, which focused on the labor struggles Singhalese and Tamil working class communities.

However, it is difficult to remain focused on research when you come to the realization that the Sri Lankan government is pursuing a campaign nothing short of ethnic cleansing on its Tamil minority community. Since the primary target of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), or “tamil tigers, suicide attacks have been in Colombo, there was a general fear of the potential fallout from the renewed fighting in the north. Only weeks after I arrived there was an air raid by the “air tigers”, the air-wing of the LTTE, near the place I was staying. There were a few more incidents of plane suicide attacks on major infrastructure and government buildings but beyond that there was little to no impact on Colombo throughout my time here. The impact on Tamil communities in the city was far greater. 

Having lived in the Tamil district in Colombo I can attest to the severe repression members have undergone on a daily basis by government military officials. Suspected Tamils, journalists, and those critical of the government are abducted by the infamous “white-vans” and tortured. In mid-January, a week after the military entered the de-facto Tamil capital of Kilinochi, an article by Lasantha Wickrematunga, one of Sri Lanka’s most renowned journalists, was published posthumously in which he foresees his own murder at the hands of the government. I witnessed how these events had a dramatic effect for the communities on the ground as well as the way the international community began to look at Sri Lanka. I think it was around this time that international leaders began to take notice. 

Since the death of LTTE leader Villupillai Prabhakaran a few days ago Colombo has erupted with an almost continues cracking of fireworks, music from every corner of the city, and drunken people dancing in the streets. It’s pretty well known that much of the celebrations are government orchestrated and funded as a show to the international community and media.

Recently, reports announced that the Tamil Tigers, a Tamil resistance group, were defeated. That's a strong statement. Do you believe that this episode marks actual, permanent defeat?

First off, I think it’s important to distinguish between the LTTE and the Tamil peoples’ struggle for self-determination. Do I think that the LTTE is defeated? Without a doubt, and I believe Sri Lanka is the better for it. However I think some form of resistance will continue. The LTTE was defeated due to, not only the complacency, but active support for the Sri Lankan government’s campaign by the international community, namely US, Britain, India, etc. Since this same world community now realizes that the tigers have been wiped out (by a completely racist and genocidal government) they may push the Sri Lankan government to recognize some ostensible form of Tamil autonomy. 

Another response by the Tamils may be a non-violent struggle accompanied by a very low-intensity guerrilla movement. It may also be the case that the Tamils may use their minimal electoral power to win over nominal concessions for autonomy from the Sri Lankan government. I believe the third option would be the least fruitful of the three for the Tamils, and the one the Sri Lankan government is praying for. 

I also believe that the Tamil community and those in the Tamil diaspora will not easily forget the estimated 25,000 Tamil civilians that have been massacred by Sri Lankan armed forces in the last month. The Sri Lankan president and his thugs may also be brought to justice at the Hague but I doubt it. Then again, Prabhakaran might still be alive, and President Mahinda Rajapakse might be a closet Tamil nationalist, so who can really tell what’s going to happen?

Chicago Shots






























Sandburg, today, seems slightly out of touch:

HOG Butcher for the World,
Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
Player with Railroads and the Nation's Freight Handler;
Stormy, husky, brawling,
City of the Big Shoulders:



LA Senate Passes Smoking Ban Extension

The legislation, similar to legislation pending in the Louisiana House, would ban smoking in bars and casinos in Louisiana.

I'm curious to see how Governor Bobby Jindal will handle this issue.  His decision on whether to veto the legislation (presuming passage in the House and a conference committee resolution) will tell me a good deal about him.

If he decides to sign the legislation, I would really like to see him try to explain his action to Ms. Mae at The Club some evening down in New Orleans.

Live From New York...

...it's summer in the city.

I landed last night at JFK after an uneventful flight from Chicago.  My cab driver drove with all windows down in the cool air, and it made sense when I discovered he was from "Siberia" - somewhere in the Amur region near the Chinese border.  We talked about the sizes of the world's greatest bodies of freshwater (statistics he memorized for a Soviet exam back in the day) like Lake Superior, Lake Victoria, and Lake Baikal.

We drove in past the quiet towers of the World's Fair, through the ash heaps, and ultimately parallel to Manhattan.  The Empire State and Chrysler buildings radiated out into the night.

We eventually arrived here in the Alphabet City neighborhood of the East Village, where I lugged my luggage up several flights of stairs.  The place seems nice, although the street noise and the rumble from Houston comes right in through the gaps around the air conditioning unit.  It shouldn't be too difficult to fix.  Or perhaps I shouldn't fix it.  You hear some interesting things out there along with the honking horns and grinding trucks.

People here, the ostensible birthplace of the "Nuyorican" movement, seem excited about the Sotomayor appointment.  There's a vague sense of pride in the air about having a native New York daughter - who has adopted the Nuyorican mantle - named to the high court.

This morning, I ended up in a wholly different neighborhood on the return leg of my run down to the Brooklyn Bridge.  Chinatown.  I had to smile at a giant handmade shrimp cutout perched on one store awning, inviting passersby in for fresh seafood and "fishs."  The delivery trucks, too, were decked out in Mandarin characters.  Dumpsters warned of "Poison Bait" with red skull stickers.

The rest of the day calls for unpacking, settling in, obtaining supplies, and getting my bearings.  The city beckons, though, and I can't wait to go out and meet up with it. 

5.27.2009

The emptiness of GOP rhetoric, and a real chance to say something of weight

Shockingly, Politico is running another piece lamenting the current direction of the GOP:
But since November, the GOP has doubled down on the same unbending style of conservative sloganeering. The results speak for themselves — Republican Party identification stands at a measly 22 percent, and the party is losing ground among virtually every major demographic group and region of the country. Noted conservative jurist Richard Posner has gone so far as to claim that “conservative intellectuals” no longer have a political party.

Meanwhile, the New York Times takes a look at Judge Sotomayor's rulings:
In cases involving criminal defendants, employment discrimination and free speech, her rulings are more liberal than not.

But they reveal no larger vision, seldom appeal to history and consistently avoid quotable language. Judge Sotomayor’s decisions are, instead, almost always technical, incremental and exhaustive, considering all of the relevant precedents and supporting even completely uncontroversial propositions with elaborate footnotes.

This gives the GOP an opening, I think: to use the Sotomayor confirmation hearings to question her broader vision, and in so doing, to compare her apparent lack of vision to the GOP's overarching vision of jurisprudence.

One thing the GOP has been consistent on -- indeed, it's one of a very, very few things -- is its judicial outlook. And that means that it's one of a very few areas in which the GOP can argue basic principles and not look either opportunistic or hypocritical. Arguing for lower spending after the Bush years, for example, is a moderately ridiculous proposal -- despite the principled cases laid out by Paul Ryan and a few others, the pigs-at-trough spending under GW makes getting back to basics a hard road for the Republicans. Arguing judicial philosophy after the Bush administration is largely the opposite, given the appointments of strongly intellectual justices to the Supreme Court. Arguing that the court is not the place to make policy is a good angle.

Arguing first principles has another benefit -- that of taking away the "bonus points" Sotomayor gets for being a minority and a woman. The only thing that really counts should be her intellect and her vision, and in order to make a case, the GOP will need to argue these points firmly, but without the hysterical shouting about socialism that has sadly characterized the party in exile lately.

It probably is a losing fight going in; but that means that for the GOP, this gets to be a kind of instructional theater, showing voters that basic Republican arguments are tight, intellectually grounded, and not hypocritical. I just hope the GOP doesn't screw it up.

5.26.2009

Badger in Japan

An old acquaintance
goin' to Japan this summer
Two Handed Chopsticks.

Safe travels, Tom! I'm looking forward to reading about it.

Legal Developments

Stop over at Althouse to get the latest.


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Chicago

The Happiest Cows Come From Wisconsin

Paris: model city

click for bigger (they are wallpaper sized, if one should happen to catch your fancy)

Sacre Coeur from the Pompidou Center

River tour boats at night

the Lourve's glass pyramid

at the Museé d'Orsay

late morning lines at the Eiffel Tower

The Champs-Élysées (pronounced something like shaun-zey-lee-zay) from the top of the Arc de Triomphe

Arc de Triomphe from the Eiffel Tower

I was playing around with some old travel photos in a tilt-shift generator I found. This was with software, should be obvious in some spots, but there are lenses that do it for real. It's a neat effect.

The Musee d'Orsay one turned out the best and there's something particularly unreal about the water in the boat one I like.

LIB Through a Haze















We ultimately met up at the Madison Farmer's Market and made our way to The Old Fashioned.  We had many things to talk about and even more things to laugh about.

Clearly, the friendly lady at the next table who took our picture, though, had had a few too many of the 150 Wisconsin beers on tap.  And not enough cheese curds.

I'm traveling - visiting my brother in Chicago at the moment - so the much delayed full re-cap will appear when it does.  

5.25.2009

Sabre rattling in the South Caucasus

My oh my. As money flows into Georgia, Russia appears to be gearing up for another go at its neighbor to the south, and starts throwing around the accusations. Meanwhile, peace talks falter.

Meanwhile, others are taking a look at how the whole thing really began.

Do you have the Tbilisi Blues yet?

Update: And a Georgian MP claims Russia had a hand in a recent mutiny.

Making an enemy

Longtime readers may remember my penchant for picking fights -- there was the summer of Susan Lampert Smith, there was former alder Brenda Konkel, and the iconic Jill Klosterman. It's nice to have an enemy; frankly, I've always wished Facebook would add an "enemies" section, so I could keep track of them, too, a la Dick Nixon. And it's been a while since I've had a good enemy.

Moreover, it seems that in order to get a kajillion hits a day, I need to pick fights.

So today I declare a new Blog Enemy Number One: McCain. No, not that McCain. Not even that one (actually, that one's pretty great). The other one.

He needs to go.

You see, McCain is the kind of third-rate schlock merchant who wants to run the Republican Party off a cliff. He marches in the vanguard of the Rush army, an anti-intellectual Palin-pusher who thinks conservatives are better because Ann Coulter is a "babe" (yeah, we'll link the "babes," but don't talk about sex!). It's hard to say it better than this:
And this, once again, is the central contradiction of the movement conservative pundit, men who regularly mock nerdy philosophizers when they are, in fact, nerdy philosophizers. Robert Stacey McCain isn’t, actually, some character from a Bruce Springsteen video. He’s a writer and thinker, a guy who pals around at Washington magazine parties and think tank frou-fras. He is most assuredly not one of the Ordinary Americans he is here glamorizing. This was the glaring idiocy of the Sarah Palin boosters within the conservative intelligentsia from last year, people decrying liberal elitists when in every material way, they themselves resembled those liberal elitists far more than they resembled what they believed Palin represented. It takes a special lack of self-knowledge to write an insidery, navel-gazing post about how much you hate navel-gazing insiders, but then, it takes a special lack of self-knowledge to regularly decry intellectualism underneath a quote from Arthur Koestler.


This is the modern Republican of the Palin faction: a snide, fake Joe who has run out of ideas, flailing madly, proud in the belief that the GOP can survive on yelling "socialism" and "abortion" and taking shots at anyone who has a decent idea for the party. A man who values smash-mouth radio entertainment bullshittery over forging any real new direction for a party adrift at sea and lacking any kind of cogency or immediacy to a generation raised on Jon Stewart, who thinks the kids need to sit down and shut up while their dithering elders dig the party deeper into the hole. The old saying warns about cutting off one's nose to spite one's face -- I wonder how Robert's is faring these days.

Meanwhile, he's the kind of moron who thinks he's hot shit because he gets a dump of hits by cashing in on a Carrie Prejean picture Google bomb. Really? You gauge your influence based on the knuckle-draggers in darkened rooms who want a peek at a model's breasts? Way to go, pal.

Paging Ann Althouse

Perhaps Althouse should move to Azerbaijan:
According to a witness, yesterday Azeri Public TV held a press-conference for AySel & Arash, Azerbaijan's Eurovision 2009 entrants who came third in the contest. In the very beginning of the conference, the Deputy Director of Azeri Public TV got furious at a 14-year-old boy for wearing shorts and ordered him to be removed out of the building. Deputy Director reportedly said: "What a shame! How one can come here in shorts? Take him out of here!" Thus the boy was taken out of the building crying.


I'll take the opposite tack on arguing shorts: they are a shrine of freedom, a symbolic breaking free of the stuffiness of the lingering Soviet culture of the Caucasus, an embracing of the body in a prudish society. Why does Ann want to crush freedom? Why does she support making young fans of goofy Eurovision contestants cry? Rally 'round the shorts!

Sometimes all you need is a parade

Really, what's better than a small-town Memorial Day parade? Here's the view from Neenah/ Menasha:



Anticipation.



Veterans.



Spires.



Bands.



Flags.



Flowers.

Scotch Meadows

Not far from Edinburgh, from four years ago (already!).

Here was the view out of the hotel room. The path from which the first photo was taken was along the right side of the field. It might have been taken looking in the opposite direction from what's in the second photo. Here's where it is. There were rabbits everywhere.

Gartmore House was the place. We investigated at the front desk as to why it was only a house. The woman there vigorously insisted that there were, in fact, no manors in Scotland.

Whaddya get...

...when you mix zombie horror, sports, high school, superheroics, long-lost relatives, and a general sense of insanity into one movie?

You get Battlefield Baseball. Frankly, I like the non-subtitled trailer just as well:



If you're in Madison, run down to Four Star Video right now and rent it. If you have Netflix, look here. But trust me, you don't want to miss this.

5.24.2009

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Door county sunset over green bay

Report Coming Soon

The LIB meet up went very well!

5.22.2009

Programming Note

The gears are turning, the machine is in motion - all four members of LIB are set to converge in person (for the first time in a long time) somewhere in Wisconsin...tomorrow!

Stay tuned.

Whoa, I'm in the soup now!

I actually kind of like this music video:



I think it might just be just the right combination of rock, grunginess, and dark humor, not to mention the random B-52's-esque voice in the background redundantly narrating and that the characters seem to be conscious of being characters, calling each other by their non-names, that make this one.

The dark humor stems from normal people telling this illogical story made for a fundamentalist audience. How fundamentalist you ask? Why, here's one about evolution.

5.21.2009

Quick hits for a sunny day

++Two big national security speeches today. Which was better?

++Do states need a Bill of Federalism? There could be worse rallying calls for the GOP...

++FTC regulation for bloggers?

++"This concern, by the way, has even heightened since we wrote this piece." What'chu talkin' 'bout, Willis?

++Film and respect in Azerbaijan.

++This is all that's left:

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@ the cheese factory

5.20.2009

Summer



Alas, I haven't camped out in that fort in many a year!

A Pilgrimage to Sessler's Meeme House















Yesterday, we ventured out into the countryside toward Lake Michigan late in the day.
















Sure enough, there were a few cars parked out front of the big white, pillared veranda dating back to 1847.  And the Hamm's sign was still swinging across the driveway.





















We stepped inside the tavern - and back into the past.




















Josh checked out the unparalleled old time jukebox - I picked out "Bluebird Polka" by the local Jerry Schneider Orchestra and Johnny Cash's "I Walk the Line."   Two songs for a quarter.
















Val, the proprietor since 1955, served a few repeat customers - who recommended the chili and the fish fry - as we waited for our order.

















In the side room, Josh went back behind the pool table to investigate the "Mr. Do!" arcade game while I browsed the annual deer hunting records and photos.





















When our order came, I was pleased as always to find a real, honest to goodness hard roll bun for my burger.  There was a bit of butter mixed in with the ketchup, pickle, and mustard, too. Absolutely delicious.





















Val served up a can of Hamm's before taking her seat down at our end of the bar. We talked about all sorts of things, including how a few of our old classmates - who are either her relatives or patrons - are doing these days.
















I also got a surprise as I wrapped up my meal.  Some of you may remember the review I wrote on Yelp recommending the tavern - and the comment I got from one of Val's relatives.  Well, when I told Val I had recommended her place on the internet, she knew who I was - and brought out the framed version!  Her family gave it to her last summer for her 89th birthday.  She turns 90 this August.  We wish her all the best.

Opposing the Beer Tax

Count me in.

5.19.2009

Pruning the Pear Tree

When I turned nine, I asked my Grandma for a pear tree for my birthday.

It probably seemed an odd request, but I had plenty of GI Joes, Legos, Nerf weaponry and forts in surrounding treelines by that point, so a pear tree seemed like something novel. And, very simply, I liked pears.

We picked out a tiny sapling at Honeymoon Acres in the spring of 1993, and I remember leaving a particularly riveting episode of Doctor Quinn, Medicine Woman that Saturday night to plant it out in the backyard with my dad. It would be several years before the tree would bear fruit.

Today, the tree stands white with blossoms, towering about 25 feet over our shed. Each time I come home in the spring, I get out the pruning shears and sculpt the tree, looking to correct excess sucker shoots and ward off potential conflicts between the branches. It's always a very calming exercise. It has become a bonsai of sorts for me, something that is now very much the product of my accumulated decisions. And it bears a heavy crop of fruit at the end of each summer. Too heavy, according to my sister, who is often left to wade through the bees to pick up the fallen fruit in September.

I was out pruning the tree earlier, stepping into the cloud to make some surgical snips and leave other scenarios for future decisions. Law school fell away. So many things sprang to mind as a few bees lolled overhead and several petals fell.

How could 16 years have passed? Where did simplicity like this disappear along the way? What will happen to this tree if we ever move away? What becomes of a boy who asked for a pear tree on his 9th birthday?

There are no answers, of course.

Still, it's good to ponder these sorts of things on occasion, to step out of the stream and into the shade for a bit of repose, to assess the health and history of our branching out as we continue to climb.

5.18.2009

Ready for summer?


Watch out for those recreational skaters!

Smoking Ban Signed Into Law

If I had known this was going down in Milwaukee while I was there earlier today, I would have gone to observe and comment.

Here's Governor Jim Doyle, as a he signed Wisconsin's statewide working place smoking ban into law:

"I think most people what they want more than anything is that it is standard across the state," Doyle said.

Uniformity is not the overriding concern when a lack of uniformity would result in the state depriving fewer individuals of the ability to engage in an otherwise lawful activity.

Then there are these folks:

More than 100 supporters packed the restaurant for the signing and at one point chanted "smoke free, smoke free, smoke free."

I'm so relieved that Jim Doyle and his crew of 100 know what's best for me.  And for everyone.

As one observer aptly noted:

"Free societies allow people to make decisions that others don't like.  That includes allowing smokers to choose bars and restaurants which cater to their preferences, just as nonsmokers should have places that cater to theirs.  It was once an American tradition."

The "Happy Gilmore" Swing really works!!!

Here is video proof that one of Adam Sandler's best movies could actually help your golf game.



I've always been a fan of Paddy. He's a great player, and also someone who doesn't take himself too seriously. Let's face it, anyone who golfs has tried this swing and it's nice to know that one of the best in the world has too. Here's a bonus video of Harrington trying out the Happy Gilmore at a European Tour event:

A Cold May


Mother robin with flowers blanketed against the frost.

Bust-y



Doty Park, Neenah, WI

Hey, that's what I said

A few days back, I took Newt Gingrich to task over his use of the Uighurs as political whipping boy. Now, over at the Daily Dish, Patrick Appel links a series of posts tracking just how wrong Gingrich really was.

An excerpt:
I was thinking about this while I was waiting for Obama's Notre Dame speech to start: about the way the story had metamorphosed from one incident into Gingrich's "known for picking up television sets" (apparently not just once, but often enough to acquire a reputation), and Jonah Goldberg's "going ballistic". Suddenly the phone rang; I ran to get it, and realized: if some official with an axe to grind had been in my house, s/he could easily have told the LA Times that I fled the room as soon as the President got up to speak. It would have been true. But it would have been awfully misleading.

So I decided to find out what actually happened. I wrote to the Uighurs' lawyer, Sabin Willett. I have corresponded with him occasionally in the past, he has always been completely trustworthy, and I was hoping that he would be able to tell me the story behind this episode. But guess what? He has no idea what those officials are talking about.


Edit: a detail fixed -- it was Appel, not Sullivan, who directed me to hilzoy.

5.17.2009

Multimedia message

Jason v graduates from uwm.

5.16.2009

Hooray!

Today was the day.

It was a long ceremony. It's kind of like the Inauguration. We're really only all there for one thing but they add padding.

Bud Selig was the keynote speaker. I paid attention to him--I like baseball--and "Biddy". Nothing in particular to write home about.

There were other speeches: a regent, the class president, and a fundraising person. The regent went before the master's students and the two latter went between the masters and bachelors. The class president's oration wasn't too good. Neither in content nor delivery did he put on something worthy of the event. He was a business student.

There was an actual tassel flipping person on the way to the stage. Hand the slip of paper with your name to the logistics person who maintained an orderly queue of slips, as long as the number of people between the top of the ramp and Bud, about 4-5, and then passed the oldest one to the reader. Then there were five handshakes sandwiched between two photos.

Engineering in orange and business in blue. In this photo I would be somewhere on the left side lost at the horizon of the mortarboard sea.

Pretty impressive overall especially given the scale--they do five of these with no practices and minimal instructions.

I see from facebook that my colleges at UW-Parkside had the governor today. Most of the people from my H.S. that go to college either go to Parkside or Whitewater. Perhaps he mentioned something about the recent news of the closing of the Chrysler factory in Kenosha.

This was the first college graduation I've been to. The implications of the event didn't really hit me until I was walking down the street to the arena with other people in gowns and tassels. It's bittersweet.

It won't be my last graduation. I'll be back probably at the Kohl Center in another two years with an orange hood, if you catch my drift.