Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Shimmy Shimmy Ya

Obama's presidency may not be as memorable as the moment that was last night. The celebrations in Madison were boisterous and spontaneous. Strangers hugged strangers, grown men wept, and everyone had an additional degree of earnestness when congratulating the African Americans among us.

Starting at 8AM, and during the day I volunteered to "get out the vote" (I kept it nonpartisan, not wearing any campaign buttons or t-shirts). I canvassed the University's dorms (making this the first time I've ever seen the inside of those rooms).

At night we watched the results come in at the Majestic, where I made many new friends. Among them a fellow Canadian, who clapped along with me as McCain spoke (there were some boos from the crowd), and an African fellow who summed up the feeling of the evening: "Shimmy shimmy ya, shimmy yam, shimmy yay!"

Afterwards we walked through the excited State Street crowd to Amy's, and then joined a spontaneous march from the Capitol to Lincoln when we heard the roar from inside the bar.

At 2AM, on the walk home my new Canadian friend (and almost neighbour, it turns out), discussed the Obama policies that we don't like, and the McCain ones that we do like (nuclear energy, for one). It was a full day.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


Diego's prediction: expect a blowout tomorrow.

The polls don't take into account Obama's organizational edge. Kerry might blame Bin Laden's tape for costing him the 2004 election, but Bush's get-out-the-vote effort probably also had something to do with it.

Monday, November 03, 2008

The Day Before

It's gorgeous out today. Madison is enjoying t-shirt weather, and a light breeze is causing yellow and red leaves to rain down onto the sidewalks; people seem to be upbeat. We just had a fun halloween weekend, it's unseasonably warm, and there's real political excitement. Tomorrow looks good to most Madison residents. In a poll a few weeks back Obama led McCain by 45 points in Madison's county.

It feels like such a great day that I went off my diet and bought myself an ice-cream at the Union for the first time in 2 months.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

"Keep hope alive, and we'll see you on the other side of Tuesday."

Just came back from a Wilco concert / Obama rally, at Memorial Union. It was pretty amazing. Only half the band was there: Jeff Tweedy, John Stirratt, and Pat Sansone. They did acoustic renditions of some of my favourite Wilco songs.

Beforehand I had been joking around that the one thing they shouldn't do is play "Christ for President" from the Mermaid Avenue album. Critics already think Obama has a Christ complex. Anyway, they did play that song for some reason. The rest of the set was amazing though.

The theatre was packed. There were Obama buttons everywhere. I had decided to dress up, so I was wearing my awesome Ice Cream shoes that look like some sort of Sesame Street thing, or like clown shoes. I was looking pretty hip.

There were lots of students, of course, but also some adults and some children. Some people came from other parts of the state (I heard someone say they were from Kenosha, which is about 2 hours away).

Things started out with an Obama campaign guy talking about how people should vote early, and then volunteer to get the vote out over then next 3 days. Then Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold came out and shouted a few of Obama's catchphrases. This wasn't an event designed to win over new voters, these were Obama fans.

And then came Wilco. Jeff Tweedy had an acoustic guitar, Stirratt was on bass, and Sansone sat at a keyboard. They started with a Sky Blue Sky song that I didn't recognize ("What Light"), and then played their not very good Woody Guthrie song "Christ for President." Then they did "Passenger Side" from their first record. Then they got to the good stuff.

They did a beautiful version of "Jesus, etc." and followed with the A Ghost Is Born highlight "The Late Greats." If you look over their catalogue, Wilco has a lot of depressing songs. Tweedy joked about Obama's message of hope and the "hope gap" with Wilco's songs. Then they launched into the greatest of all Wilco Songs: "California Stars." The first time I saw the (whole) band live was at one of the Royal Vic shows (recorded for their live album), but they didn't play this song. So I was especially glad to hear it played today.

The theatre was dark, and people were seated, but during this middle part of the show a little kid kept getting away from his mother and sitting down in the aisle a few rows in front of me. I think he might have been bored.

"California Stars" was the highlight, but the rest of their set was also excellent. They covered Dylan's "I Shall Be Released," then played their excellent new song "Wilco The Song" (first played two days ago on the Colbert Report). From their banter, I guess it has something to do with "Joe the plumber." It's the better than anything on their last album.

Due to some mixup with the guitars, there was a long awkward wait before they played their last song. While Tweedy was talking with his guitar tech someone shouted out a request, (or question, I couldn't quite make it out), and someone else yelled "that's what she said." The crowd had a good laugh, and then someone asked Tweedy if the band was staying in Madison for Freakfest (Freakfest is Madison's official city sponsered, neutered version of the traditional UW halloween party). Obviously they had no idea what the fan was talking about... "Freakfest" was only introduced two, maybe three years ago. The band closed with "I'm the Man Who Loves You."

After Wilco left the stage, Madison's Congresswoman, Tammy Baldwin, spoke for a minute or two directing people to march to the capitol where they would vote early. As we left a small army of Obama campaign volunteers tried to get people to volunteer for campaign activities.

Since I can't vote, I didn't march with Baldwin. However, last week, I did volunteer to be a poll watcher on election day. It's not a partisan thing; I won't be selling independent voters on Obama, or anything like that. I think it will just entail handing people registration forms, and telling them what they need to have with them in order to get a ballot (proof of residence, ID, etc.). It should be interesting.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

You should read this
Go read Dahlia Lithwick's piece on Clarence Thomas, Sarah Palin, and diversity. She writes about the disgusting liberal obsession with (or fetish for) what she calls Benetton diversity (I like to call it Captain Planet diversity) and how conservatives have adopted some of the same thinking. I don't even want to get started on the UW's diversity plan and their attempts to import diversity by accepting more out of state students...
We will use our ability to recruit out of state to further enhance the racial/ethnic diversity of the campus.

I could go on about how offensive and racist that is for hours. I'll save it for later.

Also, Montreal had 2 Benetton stores within walking distance of my apartment. I miss that.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

"That just makes me want to puke all over your head, sir!"

Thinking about this puts me in a fiery rage: some jackass principal decided that the turbulent home-lives of some poorer students might be putting them at an unfair disadvantage, and that the solution should be to remove the advantage of parental involvement that other students have.

"...we don't know what the family life is like. We had a student, a girl who at 12 went home from school, took her siblings home and her mom was passed out on the floor.

"Her job was to make sure the younger ones didn't wake mom up. She had to feed them, she had to get them to bed, and the next day she's in detention because she didn't do her homework? That's where we are coming from with an inner-city school.

"We've got kids with a certain home life and we are making it worse by sending work home ... We have to accept the responsibility that we are perpetuating and extending the gap between the have and the have-nots."

Why stop there? Those kids with good parents still have an unfair advantage. I say, the school should start giving them beatings. Life is cruel and it's high time our school started teaching that to our kids. Give the teachers a bottle of tequila and have them go off on their kids. Break a few ribs, have fun! Physcially harming the children from good families is the only way to ensure that life treats everyone equally.

Nevermind that students learn more at home than at school:
...the growing consensus among researchers, on both the left and right, that the home environment, especially in the earliest years of a child's life, is crucial to future achievement. Cognitive ability is not an inherited trait. It can be taught—although increasingly researchers have found that it's taught not in schools (as most people assume) but in the home and during summer months, through middle-class parenting practices and attitudes. Schools can then build on this base, but they can't do it alone.

The Slate article that this quote is from is about an educator who actually has good ideas to back up his good intentions. His last name is Canada. Maybe we could import him and give him a job in Barrie.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Students return to campus

This is from the farmer's market 2 weeks ago.

This is from the most recent farmer's market.
More construction photos

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Secchi Disc

Some of my frisbee teammates
From Secchi Disc 2008

Friday, August 22, 2008

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Don't live here

I used to live at this apartment building, later inhabited by Madison's youngest murderer, and only a half block from the scene of a still unsolved murder. When I lived there, I rarely spoke to my neighbours, though I did meet most of them on move out day. They were student-looking types for the most part and certainly didn't look like crackheads. Apparently things have gone downhill since then:

Take 431 West Main St.

The address is the apartment building where accused murderer Peterson lived. It's a three-story structure that has three separate street addresses, 427, 431 and 437 West Main Street. Police responded to 282 calls in the past year in connection to the three addresses. While close to half of the calls were for parking violations, the reports indicate chaotic or criminal activities are ongoing, including loud parties, drug activity and theft.

In the search warrant issued for Peterson's arrest, a Madison police officer states that the tenants of a second-floor apartment are known cocaine-base users. In an interview shortly after Peterson was arrested, another building tenant said most of the apartment's tenants are middle-age and suspected they either use or deal crack cocaine.

Calls from 427 West Main included a frantic call from a mom who believed her son may have attempted suicide by overdosing on drugs; a woman threatening to kill a male caller because he didn't buy her cigarettes; and a request for police to check on a homeless man who is outside the building and appears to be cold, drunk or both.
Some photos from July

After a farmer's market.

Frisbee sometimes lasts until sundown

Interesting decorations on a car over the Maxwell Street Days weekend.

Construction was paused for a few days due to the "Maxwell Street Days" summer sidewalk sale on State Street.

Construction resumed.

Monday, August 11, 2008

ATT: Worst service ever

How is it possible that when you call the 1-800 number listed on your internet bill, you get a service center for a different area of the country? My bill says to call 877-722-3755 for "AT&T Internet Services." But if you call that number and work your way through an idiotic voice menu you end up at a service center for the southeastern USA. Then they transfer you to 888-274-9056, which connects you to a service center that is only able to transfer your account to a new address, not to disconnect you entirely. Seems pretty dishonest to me; I specifically said I needed to disconnect my account, why the hell are they connecting me to some annoyingly faux-cheerful high-pressure sales guy?

These jerks have been nothing but trouble. It took 9 months and more than 30 phone calls to get an equipment rebate, and almost every call involved being transferred more than once. How can it be so difficult to set up a competent service center?

ATT: worst customer-service ever.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Nobody looks good in this.

This is about 2 blocks from campus/my apartment.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

McCain and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Week

McCain's had worse weeks, but I liked the sound of that title.

Here's McCain losing a few female voters (btw is it just me or does "women voters" sound wrong?) and unintentionally providing us all with a good laugh. The look on his face at the 51 seconds mark is priceless;

And just today the White House accidentally gave Obama a big assist on Iraq, just as he's visiting that country.

Update (07/27/08): This doesn't change the fact that McCain punted when confronted with a difficult "women's issue," but it turns out that the problem his own adviser was referring to is not widespread at all. Carly Fiorina, former HP CEO, current McCain economics adviser, brought up the potentially dangerous issue of birth control when she publicly complained that health insurance companies are covering Viagra, but not birth control. If true, that's a pretty clear cut case of a societal double standard. But it turns out that Fiorina's concerns have largely been addressed in recent years. (The rest of the interview is true though; McCain did vote against making coverage of contraceptives mandatory - though of course, as with all bills before the Senate, there were probably a whole slew of provisions in there.)
p.s. Thinking about this makes me want to listen to Loretta Lynn's great, pro-birth control song "The Pill."
p.p.s. The Chinese guy at my local beer+ store loves classic American music; Dylan, Elvis, Beach Boys, teenybopper songs from the 50s and 60s... his taste is impeccable. One time he was listening to some Conway Twitty. I said to him, "Conway Twitty, eh? I'm a fan too." And then he starts laughing, telling me that I'm too young to be listening to that kind of music.

Friday, July 18, 2008

"It was better than hurting myself"

That quote's pretty much the worst thing I've ever heard. It's the explanation Adam Peterson gave his mother for having committed murder.

A while back I posted about 3 then-unsolved Madison murders in-and-around the student part of town. One of those murders has now been solved, and the murderer turns out to have been a baby-faced college student. It's a sad story.

But first, to recap: a year ago Kelly Nolan disappeared after a night out on State Street (Madison's main bar area running from campus to the capitol). Her body was found 2 weeks later in a field a few miles south of Madison. This is still unsolved, and very few details have been released by the police.

In January, Joel Marino, a young-ish Madison resident was stabbed to death in his home at lunchtime. He lived slightly south of what I would call the area of predominantly student-focused housing. He also lived about a block from Brittingham Park, which is a frequent hangout for the homeless, and drug dealers (and others; frisbee and soccer games take place there most summer days). An eyewitness saw someone running from Marino's home, and another eyewitness saw the same person dump a backpack in a garbage bin. After a month or so, a sketch of the suspect was released. The person in the sketch was wearing a UW stocking cap, and didn't look particularly homeless; indeed it turns out to have been a college drop-out.

In April, Brittany Zimmerman, a UW student was murdered in her home at around 1PM. She lived about 3-4 blocks north-northeast of Brittingham Park, in a neighbourhood that is mostly inhabited by students, but also has an assisted living facility, and more recently a bunch of new condo's for young professionals. This is also still unsolved. In the days following the murder police "rounded up" a lot of homeless/jobless people known to frequent or live in that neighbourhood. I think that all arrests were made, technically, because of outstanding warrants for other crimes.

(There was also a shooting death on State Street, in May of last year, literally right in front of my apartment building, but that case was "solved" right away, and wasn't really murder. It did however involve Madison's street people and/or homeless, which I'll come back to later.)

The Marino murder is now solved, and a 22 year old kid, Adam Peterson, has been arrested. The kid's story is pretty sad. By all published accounts he was a nice if somewhat quiet kid, and his family comes across as being fairly decent, honest people in the few interviews they've done. Court transcripts of recorded jailhouse phone conversations include this exchange:
"If I did (tell you), you'd like turn me in," Peterson said to his mom. Her response: "Oh probably."

He joined his twin brother at UW Madison after a year at UW Lacrosse, but he dropped out half way through his first semester. Then the news reports get a bit fuzzy. At some point in time he apparently got into some serious drug problems including cocaine use. But it's not clear if that was before or after the murder. Now it seems that Peterson will file an insanity plea. From interviews with his father, it seems that he was being treated for depression but, again, I'm not sure if any of that took place before the murder.

A lot of people were expecting that the Marino and Zimmerman murders would turn out to be connected since both stabbings occurred in the early afternoon, in the victim's home. Public speculation focused on the homeless, probably due to the growing number of homeless in those (residential) neighbourhoods, and the increasingly aggressive behaviour of panhandlers on State Street, and door-to-door soliciting in that neighbourhood. (Only something like 10% of the homeless are panhandlers, but they're also the only homeless most people are aware of.) At around the same time (on the same day) as the Zimmerman murder, a homeless man (and convicted sex offender) was arrested for home invasion a block north of the crime scene, adding to the speculation. And of course, Madison's professional activists were up in arms about the negative attention the homeless were getting.

My own feelings are somewhat mixed. Obviously, I'm relieved that Peterson's been caught. But he seems to have been out of town when the other murders took place, so those cases are still very much open. Also; if the murderer had turned out to be a homeless person I think the city's response would have been much more complicated. Students are easier to deal with: I think we'll see some increased emphasis on taking care of students' mental health, probably just by increasing awareness on campus of the resources available (freely, and readily). That won't be enough to calm people's nerves though, because the other two murders were closer to campus, and are still unsolved.

I should also add that there have been a few, still-unsolved murders in other parts of the city, including the horrific shooting of Marcus Hamilton in his home, while (his?) four children were also home. Update: A couple of days after I wrote this, news came out that the case had been (mostly) solved. It also appears to be drug related.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

More construction photos

From two weeks ago.




Due to some sort of screw-up they had to redo the concrete.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Innocent of what?

"Just the place for a Snark!" the Bellman cried,
As he landed his crew with care;
Supporting each man on the top of the tide
By a finger entwined in his hair.

"Just the place for a Snark! I have said it twice:
That alone should encourage the crew.
Just the place for a Snark! I have said it thrice:
What i tell you three times is true."

-from The Hunting of the Snark, by Lewis Carroll

Saturday, June 28, 2008


A cloudy evening at the Union (06/26/08).

A sunny evening at the Arboretum (06/27/08).

The farmer's market from above (06/28/08).

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Un vrai Alpha-60


Monday, June 23, 2008

More photos

Saturday, June 07, 2008

More Hillary

Slate has a short piece by Bruce Reed that addresses the important issue of the media's anti-Hillary slant, and the societal sexism that it is a reflection of.

Everyone should read it.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Photos from a bike ride

I biked through Madison's Arboretum last week, and took some photos.