Thursday, April 30, 2009

Photo by Allan Haas

Allen Haas took this photo of the river today. (Click on it twice to enlarge it- it really is quite evocative.) And to think, I was cursing the rain and fog today, instead of seeing beauty.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Friends of the Monarch Trail

In a post on his Cognitive Dissidence blog, Chris Liebenthal describes a recent public hearing about the possibility of the UWM engineering school expansion project sucking up even more of the Milwaukee County Grounds. (Completely illogical. A campus feeds off the proximity and energy of people working, studying, and learning together; off-site experiences are for internships. Selling off and building up more of the County Grounds is foolish and short-sighted.)

Also, if I ever have a kid, nine-year-old Izzy- who wore her butterfly wings and spoke at the hearing- is the kind I would want to have. She shares the opinion of Friends of the Monarch Trail, who is urging the county to create a conservancy to maintain control of the land before any deal goes through with UWM. Sounds like a good idea to me.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Fond memories part IV

Every fall DH and I go up to northern Wisconsin and camp alongside one of the little lakes in the Nicolet National Forest. It's a very special place for us. Because we go up after the high season- usually September or October- it's very private, quiet.

One time I was down at the water in the early morning and there were several Northern River Otters swimming together, cavorting and making schnurfing noises. I called to DH to come down, to bring the camera. I was so excited, and of course I scared them away. The next year I watched and waited, carefully, quietly, and didn't see any of these amazing and elusive creatures. I cried on the last day of our vacation with this deep and brutal disappointment.
The picture is of the lake: dawn, cool and crisp. The otters are hiding.

Monday, April 27, 2009

We were bored

So far, I've pretty much only talked about the good things about Milwaukee. I haven't mentioned any of the bizarre violence, the infant abandonments and deaths; that doesn't mean that I don't think about that stuff. I see it more closely than you probably realize.

One news tidbit that really caught me was the recent beating of a can collector by some teenage thugs in the central part of our city. It really bothers me for several reasons. The man, 76-year-old J.T. Downs, was just trying to make an honest living, and performing an essential service, especially since we've abandoned recycling in that part of the city. Mr. Downs was minding his own business two weeks ago, quietly picking up other people's party supplies when he was attacked by five youths who cited "boredom and peer pressure" as legitimate reasons to beat up an elderly man.

I think the larger reason this bothered me so badly was that the kid said they did it because they were bored. Did you do stuff like that when you were 13 years old, or 18 for that matter, and bored? I didn't. I read books. I had all kinds of nerdy hobbies. I spent a lot of time with my grandmother, in fact, who was much older than Mr. Downs at that time.

Suspect Leroy Bentley III also stated that he didn't want his peers to think he was "soft" - then cried when he heard that the man had lost his eye as a result of the beating, which made me feel a bit sympathetic at first- but he probably just realized that it would add to his own punishment.

One eye doesn't seem like that big of a deal- after all, Mr. Downs does still have the other one- but think about it: that means he has no peripheral vision on that side. He may miss half the cans, or spend twice the time to collect the same amount. His work will be that much more difficult.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Sterling Spring Water Company

A few years ago I was at an estate sale where there were many fondleable, weird items from the middle part of the last century. One thing that caught my attention was an old bottle labeled
"Bottled at the Source
1053 N. 115th Street Wauwatosa
Sterling Spring Water Company"

I had never heard of this, and wrote the label information in my notebook (what the hell am I going to do with an old bottle, cool as it may be? I have enough crap [although, if anyone is sufficiently intrigued, this site has one for sale for $10. As of this writing, it's item #S-417]). Do any of you have any further information on it?

The company does not seem to still be in existence, but here is a map of that address.

There is at least one spring still in use in Milwaukee, the Bay View Iron Well, which I used to drink from copiously. It always seemed ancient and pure and mysterious, even though everyone knows about it. If anyone knows about this Sterling Spring Water Company, though, please post a comment about it.

Here is a photo of that area now, where 115th street crosses over Underwood Creek, courtesy of Google Street View. It is interesting to note that the watershed divides just west of there, at approximately 124th street. Is there still a spring there? Is it safe to drink from?

Saturday, April 25, 2009

MADtv Webster's Dictionary video

I found this video from MADtv hilarious and hope you will too. Reminds me of the time Dewey Peters called me a butterface at the bus stop in 1988! Except that he had to circumlocute (poor guy), because that word is a neologism. Good times!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Yesterday's County Board meeting

At yesterday's Milwaukee County Board meeting, the vote on the Estabrook Dam was, like Gaul, divided into three parts: Dam Repair (the $5000 to repair the stop logs, as ordered by the DNR in autumn 2008), Debris Removal, and whether the idea of the many-headed Hydro Power should be studied. Results:
Repairs passed- split 16-3. Debris removal passed unanimously. Hydro** passed unanimously.
I'll patiently stop for you to either yell an early cautious "Wahoo," or start cussing.

Now, here's something that I hope you will be excited about too: the new Friends of Lincoln Park group. DH and I joined already. It's a subset of the Park People, who have a long history of being a Lorax-like voice for the Milwaukee County Parks. Many of the parks have had longstanding active Friends groups, but not Lincoln Park, my neighborhood park, which would particularly be devastated by the dam's removal. The lagoons would no longer exist. In fact it is possible that canoe rentals might even be started up again, which would be wonderful.

In fact, our real message is not “Save the Estabrook Dam” (a hunk of graffiti-covered concrete) but instead, “Save the Lincoln Park Lagoons." What would Lincoln Park would be without the impoundment of water? See for yourself. (PDF alert)

**Murray Sim of Titus Energy Management Services will be conducting the preliminary hydro study.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Gallery Night

What makes a city a vibrant, exciting place? Art, architecture, real diversity, street musicians, people out enjoying these things, and the visionaries who dream of and create them.
I had the opportunity to wander Gallery Night this past Friday unaccompanied. DH was performing at one of the galleries, which meant I was free to take my own sweet time (ah, freedom) and stop anywhere I chose.

This was not at all lonely- the streets and galleries swarmed with people.

My first stop was O Salon where Binky Tunny had her art on display. Above, at left, she describes her creative process to interested parties. The real party started after I left, as usually happens.

After that, I visited at the Grohmann Museum on the MSOE campus, having never been there before. Often traditional styles of art are kind of spiritual in nature- angels, Biblical elements, etc. One thing that struck me about the Grohmann is that every single piece of art on display celebrates man's achievements (including paintings of the building of the Tower of Babel and Noah's Ark)-- most strikingly the ceiling painting in the wonderfully airy round atrium.

"Fun," as they say, "was had by all."

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

I feel meta tonight

Feeling a need to decompress tonight after the late shift, I stopped at a favorite thrift shop conveniently located on the way home, and perused the bookshelves for awhile. Paperbacks are $0.89 there. I left with four: Roget's 21st Century Thesaurus (I collect and frequently use thesauri); The Language of Argument, which promises to give me the edge in pursuasive rhetoric; The HTML Sourcebook; and an almost-new copy of The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, of which we have frequently read portions and discussed in the ESL class.

These are some of the things that excite me: using a precise word; tweaking my blog layout; helping people learn English; editing, re-editing, and coming back around a bit later to edit again.

And one more: knitting/crocheting, which brings me to my real "meta" point here. A while back my mom and I were showing each other some of our favorite crafting blogs. There are some amazing ones, carefully crafted in themselves, with seemingly no other thought than to share with others- tutorials and such, free patterns carefully written out; not as if to show off- but instead to really, honestly give. It really is kind of amazing, labors of love brought forth to share with the wider world. We were like, what leads people to spend time doing that? Now I get it. Now I understand.

Earth Day

Funny how Earth Day is April 22nd- didn't it always used to be on the 21st? As in, typical Equinoxes and Solstices? As in the 1993 song "What Are We Gonna Do" by Dramarama?
It's April 21st and everybody knows today is Earth Day,
Merry Christmas, Happy Birthday
To whoever's being born
And now I'm trying hard to think of something meaningful and worthy,
Kind of earthy to make everybody ask themselves just
What are we doing here?
And what are we doing to 'her'?
You know I end up randomly singing a lot of songs (sorry, neighbors), and this is one of 'em, any time of year. I never realized how full of existential angst the lyrics are until I cut and pasted them just now.

On a more hopeful note, what I actually meant to write for today was a quote from my mom this past Saturday, after her condo complex did a noxious weed cleanup of their pond. Now, the complex she lives in is mostly older people, most with mobility problems or health issues. "See how beautiful the area of our pond looks. We had a beautiful day and good turnout for our cleanup!!! People who I thought were going to come didn't while others who I did not expect to help did. One couple who live by the pond but are unable to help physically, put out coffee and doughnuts and offered their bathroom for us to use." She later added, "Forgot to mention that one of the men helping yesterday was 2 years post lung transplant. Did not expect to see him come down to help." She sent a photo of the cleaned-up area- so different than the invasive weed-choked area that it was last year. Awesome!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A plague of CricKets

CricKet store on Capitol Drive.

CricKet descended on Milwaukee, apropos of nothing, in November of 2008 with 46 stores. The green (H&R Block green, which preys on a similar clientele) signs seemed to sprout simultaneously all over certain parts of town, generally the parts with Get it Now stores and check cashing places, with corner stores that sell nothing but soda, booze, candy, and Andy Capp Hot Fries. It's sad. "Launching service in southern Wisconsin is our first step toward building a significant Cricket footprint in the upper Midwest, which will ultimately include coverage stretching from Milwaukee to Chicago, a market that is scheduled to launch in the first half of next year," said Doug Hutcheson, president and chief executive officer of Leap Wireless International Inc., CricKet's parent company, at the time of CricKet's descent into our fair city. CricKet service has been previously launched in several other cities, particularly Kentucky and Texas. CricKet plans range from $30 to $60 per month and include terrible service, unlimited anytime minutes, unlimited U.S. long distance, unlimited text and picture messaging, unlimited text to Mexico (is this "Mexting?"), unlimited Mobile Web, unlimited directory assistance (do you need this if you have unlimited Mobile Web? Do you need it at all?), and nationwide roaming minutes with no signed contracts or credit checks. Not to mention lousy reception and an incredible hassle to connect with anyone still backwards enough to be using a land line. Now, if you know me or my husband IRL, you know that we work with clients in CricKet's prey demographic- people that may have few options, people at risk for getting their phone and lights turned off, people that leave a voice mail in the morning and two hours later the message I get on callback states specifically that "The CricKet subscriber you are trying to reach" didn't pay the phone bill this month. They don't need unlimited anytime minutes or mobile web; they need to be able to reach the clinic when the baby is sick. They need reliable service they can depend on and afford.

Please enjoy my obsessive CricKet photography.
CricKet on Center Street in Riverwest.

CricKet on King Drive.

CricKet on South 27th Street, in the same shopping plaza that houses the Value Village.

CricKet in Racine. At the moment I took this shot, Charlotte said, "We have Cricket in Racine too." So that's how I remembered it. This one's in Kenosha.
CricKet also had a booth at 7 Mile Fair this weekend. I contemplated sneaking a photo, but the risk seemed to outweigh the benefit.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

More super-cute otter shots!

These are some Creative Commons otter shots. Have I mentioned that I love otters? I do!

Who's cute? You are!

Original image by; Some rights reserved.

Sleeping in heaps!

Original image by jaygooby; Some rights reserved.

One thing that is especially wonderful about otters is their friendly, social nature.

Original image by shinythings; Some rights reserved.


Saturday, April 18, 2009

River cleanup adventures

My general philosophy is that the best things in life just happen. So today, when the garden project that I showed up for (tools in hand) simply was not happening, I found myself signing up instead for a river cleanup (which was actually the original plan, but that's a whole other story) and getting into a canoe to paddle away with a man I had never met before. He not only turned out to not be a rapist/strangler, but was a pleasant and interesting companion who didn't mind stopping several times for photos, and from the same city (in a different hemisphere, no less) than a good friend of mine whom I meet weekly for - German alert!- kaffeeklatch. Between the two of us, we collected several bags worth of garbage. There were countless citizen volunteers out from KMGB, UEC, COA, and the Riverkeeper, enjoying the sunshine and just making the river, streets, and park a heck of a lot nicer looking.

Here's an "after" picture taken just south of the curve in North Avenue. The "before" picture would have been strewn with our detritus of human living. I am sure you can imagine it.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Superfund Sight

I took this picture of the Omega Hills North landfill earlier this year, just outside the northwest corner of Milwaukee County. Gross! This was an EPA Superfund site at one time, now deleted from the National Priorities List- not because the hazard is gone, but "because it is being addressed under authorities other than Superfund." Oh, and there is a fence around it (which doesn't prevent the critters from getting in, or the trash from being blown out on windy days). Here is another view of what I used to (I swear) think was "rolling hills." However, there is a brighter side. In this though-provoking article from the Washington Post, Brigid Schulte tells us,
"Along with the stock market and the foreclosure rate, a less-heralded barometer has signaled the arrival of hard times: the landfill.
In a wasteful society that typically puts 254 million tons of unwanted stuff at the curb to be thrown away each year, landfill managers said they knew something was amiss in the economy when they saw trash levels start steadily dropping last year. Some are reporting declines of up to 30 percent.

'The trash man is the first one to know about a recession because we see it first,' said Richard Weber, manager of the Loudoun County, Va., landfill.

The most lasting change to the waste stream — manufacturers cutting down on packaging — was under way before the recession, and will stick because it saves companies money, said Chaz Miller, director of state programs for the National Solid Wastes Management Association.

Wal-Mart has promised to cut packaging by 5 percent. Amazon, McDonald's, Heinz and Coca-Cola all have redesigned products and packaging to reduce waste. Cadbury has come out with chocolate eco-eggs to reduce the amount of plastic used in packaging every year by more than 200 tons."
(Emphasis mine- 200 tons, just from chocolate eggs?)

In short, we are learning that a good way to save money is by simply not buying more consumer items, which has the added benefit of reducing our consumptive waste generation. What else can we do, though? Repurposing items- for instance, if you have items (like blankets or towels) that are too tattered to give to a thrift shop, could an animal shelter use them? Can you use some old promotional tote bags for grocery shopping instead of buying the new "green" ones that are fashionable? (Believe me, thrift stores generally have a bountiful supply. I acquired mine in such a manner. They are easy to make, too, if you have some extra fabric lying around. Our grandmothers in the first American Depression had a mantra: "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without." But then, many people have lost these necessary skills.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Got little German in you? Oh yes you do.

Last year I did a river cleanup with some coworkers, one of whom brought her toddler along. We were walking together when his sippy cup fell to the ground. I picked it up for her, and said, "You better clean it off. It got some schmutz on it." The word, even as I said it, startled me. Where had that word come from? I had no idea how I even knew it, much less said it.
Fast forward to a month ago. My dad got some German books and started studying the language to prepare for an upcoming trip. So, I did what any helpful offspring would do and picked up "Getting along in German" from the thrift store (an auspicious find, as Germans are known for thrift). There it is: schmutz, dirt; schmutzig, dirty. In between the fact that English itself is derived in large part from Anglo-Saxon, which is a Germanic language; the German-flavored history of Milwaukee where I grew up (with our Teutonic place names and surnames); and, in my specific case, having been steeped in staunch Lutheranism, somehow many of the words look and sound comfortably familiar. (Schnecks, anyone? Or delicious butterkuchen? Sitten zie down and have some.) So achtung! You too may find yourself sprechen more Deutch than you realize.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Wild and wooly 1940's Milwaukee- a tidbit

Ed Montgomery, MD, former Chief of Staff of Columbia St. Mary’s, grew up in the neighborhood near what was then called Columbia Hospital. Dr. Montgomery’s childhood home was moved to make way for the hospital’s expansion. In a recent issue of the CSM newsletter celebrating the 100-year anniversary of Columbia, Dr. Montgomery had this to say about the neighborhood in his childhood:
“In 1939, our prototypical Milwaukee frame duplex (at 3337 N. Frederick) was flanked by a similar home to the South, an empty lot to the North, and across the street our neighbor - a ewe.

"The ewe lived in a 10-foot square shed under an elm tree at the south end of a 240 sq. ft. corral. We kids used to feed her grass and clover through the fence, and occasionally were bold enough to climb into the pen to pet and chase her.” (Photo shows 1951 addition to the hospital)
The area around the hospital was a mix of homes and farmland. At the top left area, you can see that across Maryland Avenue from the hospital are not yet UWM's multi-story Sandburg Halls that sway in the wind today, but what appears to be a larger Downer Woods. This all was not such a long time ago, yet so much has changed since then.

WUWM Morning Edition interview with Jon Apple

Photo is from the WUWM Flickr set- I could not find a photo credit. It depicts Jon Apple fishing at the Kletzsch Park Falls.
When two of my co-workers mentioned to me separately that they heard about the dam on NPR, I just assumed (incorrectly) that it was negative spin. Here is the link to the online article by Susan Bence.
From the article/radio show:
"I spot someone fishing a stone’s throw downstream, hip-deep in the river. Jon Apple is fully equipped with waders and a waterproof jacket, topped off with a camouflage cap. He’s also caught up in the sheer pleasure of the moment... Apple grew up watching this river change with every season...
'We pick it up and flip it in back of us and then cast it out and then the fly drifts along through the water,' Apple says. With an elegant flick of the wrist, his long graphite rod sends the line sailing downstream. If and when the fish bites, Apple says he might have a 20 minute tussle on his hands. He seems to be taking in everything around him. As Apple makes his way back to shore, he reels in his line and glances down at the fly attached to the end, bouncing along in the shallow water.'Did you ever see anything better than that? Look at that, dancing in the water like that,' Apple says. Apple admits there’s a bit of nostalgia mixed in with his love of the river. He grew up nearby, in Shorewood. 'And I can remember going over to Lincoln Park when we used to be able to rent rowboats there and fish for little sunfish, or whatever they were, I don’t know, it’s been a few years I guess,' Apple says. It’s those childhood memories that drive his feelings about the future of the water in Lincoln Park. Apple says he understands if the Estabrook Dam is removed and the Milwaukee River runs free, it might be cleaner. But he’s concerned about how that move will affect Lincoln Park. Without the dam, water won’t pool and the park’s waterways might dry up. 'You would think as a hardcore fisherman I would be for removing the dam. I’m very much against removing the dam, and this is going to choke me up a little. That dam serves Lincoln Park and Lincoln Park is part of our county park system and it will absolutely gut Lincoln Park and the people that have Lincoln Park will not have that type of water available to them,' Apple says."

I have met Mr. Apple. He is a kindly, thoughtful man, just the sort of person one would expect to hear on NPR.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

All comments disappeared

I deleted my whole blog last night, as I was just fed up with the whole thing, but this morning I felt a bit differently- and was surprisingly able to resurrect it. Unfortunately, all comments are lost in the blogosphere. I can't say that I am 100% sad about that. My apologies to anyone who feels otherwise. I may be able to find those 1's and 0's; but if not, well, that's life among the thin-skinned and impetuous.
Addendum 2058- blog magic performed. Order has been restored.

Monday, April 13, 2009

I heart otters

Photo by Crow_warrior 44 from Flickr.
The Northern River Otter, Lontra Canadensis, or Lutra Canadensis
Please enjoy some fun facts about Northern River Otters, culled from a variety of mostly-online sources.
Otters are natural swimmers, having webbed feet. Valve-like skin flaps cover their ears and nostrils, allowing them to dive to depths of up to thirty-five feet. River otters can hold their breath for up to 8 minutes.
River otters spend two-thirds of the time on land and can run at a speed of 29 km/hour.
River otters eat fish, including catfish, bullheads, suckers, carp, and sunfish. Amphibians that river otters eat include frogs or toads; they also eat crustaceans, including crayfish or mussels. Sea otters are one of the few tool-using mammals, using rocks to open clam shells whilst they float on their backs, but river otters do not do this.
Otters are related to weasels, ferrets, mink and badgers, of the family Mustelidae. River Otters can discharge a strong, disagreeable scent from a pair of anal glands when threatened or disturbed. Baby otters recognize their own mother’s specific musky odor.
Their average size is 18 pounds and 40 inches long. Males are approximately 17 percent larger than females, a phenomenon known as sexual dimorphism. As in many species, males have a penis bone, called a baculum. In contaminated areas, otters may have smaller bacula.
River otters’ lustrous, plush brown fur is waterproof, protecting them from extreme environmental conditions. This fur is still coveted by humans; sadly, 20,000 - 30,000 river otters are commercially harvested annually.
One delightful characteristic of river otters is their social habit. They enjoy playing and swimming together in streams, rivers, lakes, but can be shy and elusive, making it sometimes difficult for humans to see them. Play includes games, such as tag and catch, and leisurely swims. River otters enjoy sliding along riverbanks and on snow or ice. River otters are one of the few animals that play as adults.
River otters enjoy the fruits of other species' labors: they use abandoned or active structures created by other animals, such as beavers, as den-sites.
For an article about river otter re-introduction, click here.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Upcoming events

Putting these down the drain means drinking them later.
April 18th, 2009, is Medicine Collection Day- residents of Milwaukee County can bring unused meds to the Miller Park lot by the Sausage Haus. Never put unused meds down any toilet, sink, or drain- water treatment plants are not designed to remove pharmaceuticals from wastewater. Don't worry that the racing sausages are going to get high on your unused Oxycontin: all medicine collected will be destroyed by law enforcement or a federally licensed incinerator. You can bring prescription or over-the-counter medication, ointments, sprays, inhalers, creams, vials and pet medications. For more information (including neighboring counties' dropoff sites), see the MMSD web site. You and your loved ones don't want to be swimming in or drinking other people's Ortho Tri-Cyclen or Abilify, or eating fish that did either.

Earth Day cleanups- Saturday, April 18th, in Kletzsch Park (meet at 0830)- rain or shine- dress appropriately; also, the Milwaukee Riverkeeper's river cleanups are occurring at multiple sites the same day- see their website for more information.

Save the date for the first annual MRPA Lincoln Park cleanup, Saturday, May 16th- meet at Solly's at 0800. Further details forthcoming.

Kletzsch Park Weedouts- invasive species removals every Saturday in May from 0900 to noon. Wear suitable clothing for moving in the brush. Meet at the Pavilion at 6560 Milwaukee River Parkway. Help keep our Wisconsin treasure, the Trillium, from being overtaken by evil garlic mustard. Trilliums in Kettle Moraine, photo taken May 2007.

Feliz Pascua!

Saturday, April 11, 2009


The Northern Chocolate company has been a mainstay of the Brewer's Hill neighborhood for some twenty-odd years now. It's a crazy little store- you have to ring a bell to get in, and come prepared for an experience like no other. The chocolate is amazing, though, and worth a little trip. Otter-shaped chocolate is offered in both milk and dark varieties. As you can see, there is a definite otter theme, which only adds to its appeal.
It is The River Otter's tradition to make a stop before Christmas, before Easter, and possibly one or two other "must have delicious dark Northern Chocolate otters ASAP!!" stops annually. On a cravability scale of 1-10, I would place it at about an 8 or a 9.

For a more in-depth article about the place, see this article.

Friday, April 10, 2009


Charlotte at Cheeky Pink Girl suggested that I post a bit about my own Christian faith, and what better day to do it than Good Friday, the day for reflection, pensiveness, and contemplation?

I believe that an all-wise Creator brought the Earth into existence. Since I wasn't there, I can't say for sure whether this occurred in six days, or a few million years, but it is unequivocally clear to me that intelligent design and not random chance was at work. This is the basis for everything else that I believe and do (of course, being an imperfect individual, I still manage to really screw up sometimes). The Earth is ours to guard and protect, as well as the animals, plants, and people who call it home. A lot of Christians take the opposite belief- that the Earth is ours to do whatever the heck we want with it. Likewise, I see a lot of people in the environmental movement who are not Christians, so sometimes I feel a bit trapped in that in-between space. The word "conservative" has come to be a polarizing word, an emotionally laden word; however, it also means "conserving," as in not wasting, as in judiciously using our non-renewable resources, as in protecting our rainforests and other precious places.

What do you think? How have your religious beliefs (or worldview, or whatever you choose to call it) affected your beliefs about conservation?

Thursday, April 9, 2009

All kitties like to nap

My own cats sleep in the exact same position as the King of Beasts himself. Photo taken this past Saturday at the Milwaukee County Zoo.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Regarding confluences

The word confluence, from the Latin words for "flow together," is defined by the American Heritage Dictionary as "the flowing together of two or more streams." (It's a big dictionary. I won it a couple of years ago in a spelling bee, and feel obligated to use it sometimes.)
Here's a pic I took of DH in 2007 in Wyalusing State Park, overlooking the confluence of the Wisconsin and Mississippi Rivers. It kind of looks like I Photoshopped him in, which I wish I had so I could take him out for illustrative purposes, but alas. As you can see, there is a wetland there, a common occurance at confluences. It is a grand vista. You can also see the new Wal-Mart from the campground, lit up like the sun all freaking night, which is especially sad since it mars the stargazing (pun!); seriously, though, there is an observatory there, and an active astronomy club . (But that is a different topic entirely.) Instead, I wanted to point out some history of the confluence of the Milwaukee River and Lincoln Creek, in what is at this point in time Lincoln Park. There used to be an S-curve in the River and a similar marshy situation, though on a smaller scale. Back in the 1930's, the CCC undertook the project of straightening the river's curvacious natural path, scooping and shaping the marsh into islands. I tried to get a good shot to illustrate the way the soil has been scooped out. This is the southwest part of the area, looking northwest, near Green Bay Road in Lincoln Park.
The map at right, from
MIT libraries, shows Milwaukee in 1906. The circled area indicates what is now Lincoln Park. You can see the lack of development in that area; the map indicates it is marshy.

To reiterate what I said at the public hearing on the 24th of March, if a person wants to go live on a natural river, untouched by human hands, one could do so- perhaps in a remote part of Alaska or Canada, in a tent. One could peacefully fish there, view otters, and eat berries, unfettered by technology or society. I will not try to talk you out of doing so.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Open letter from Glendale Alderman Richard W. Wiese

This is part of a letter that Glendale's 4th District Alderman Richard Wiese wrote to County Supervisor Theodore Lipscomb. Alderman Wiese is graciously allowing me to quote from it.
"I am a life long resident of Milwaukee’s North Shore. In my early years, I fondly remember renting a row boat and rowing around the Lincoln Park lagoon and Milwaukee River with my Grandfather and Father, plus fishing in the river along numerous points in Lincoln Park, catching many large fish.
You will also note a photo that I have included with this letter that was taken by an ancestor of mine(F. Bischoff) in 1893. He took photos throughout Milwaukee County, particularly in the emerging parks. One of the photos he took clearly shows Estabrook Park and the Milwaukee River, and is identified as Estabrook Park in his own hand note at the top of the page, which based on the date precedes the establishment of the Milwaukee County Park system, and is therefore potentially a City of Milwaukee park, with the Board of Park Commissioners established in 1889. This photo shows 5 men in a row boat and several fishermen clearly in the background. Further in the background is the railroad trestle, the supports of which still stand, and was the line going into what is now the Glendale Technology Park.
A close inspection of the photo shows the top edge of the natural dam beneath the trestle, which created the wide still water lake (now referred to as the impoundment) that the people in the photo are clearly enjoying. As this photo was taken before any governmental intervention in the river, this was clearly the natural flow of the river. Oddly enough, it seems that fish were making it into this section of the river without any assistance from special interest groups. Taking a walk along the river today, accessed by the stairs that are to the south of Picnic Area 5, you can still see the original banks of the river along the western side of the river, which are a substantial distance from the current river pathway.

The natural condition of the river in 1893 resulted in an area of natural beauty and wide quiet waters. From other photos in this collection, I believe that the boat in the photo is a rental item, which indicates that this section of the river was an active recreational area. Many of the people speaking at last night's meeting [March 24th] continued to emphasize the need to “return the river to its natural condition”. I believe that this photo shows that the levels of the river today when the dam is closed closely match those of the original river. It does not appear that the river was the narrow fast moving channel that many of the presenters alluded to...
The waters above the Estabrook Dam have provided beauty and recreational opportunities for generations of Milwaukee County residents. If the dam were to be removed, it would be a tragic loss to the citizens of Milwaukee County, the City of Milwaukee, and the citizens of Glendale."

Richard W. Wiese
4th District Alderman
City of Glendale

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Even more Milwaukee art!

Photo courtesy of Dimitre Photography
This article from today's Journal-Sentinel touched me in a very surprising way. Peter Bardy was a reclusive man who created art from found objects. "One day last June, Bardy put a gun to his head and shot himself. He was 64. There was no note.
The medical examiner's description of his modest west side Milwaukee home was telling and far from the typical.
'The residence was decorated with steel sculptures, tables and other items the deceased made out of . . .  items he found at the dump,' the report read. 'Other more abstract art items, made by the deceased, were found in the basement...'

"When Alex Barde, Peter's older brother and an artist, got to town, he wondered if someone in the art world should look at what his brother had done before everything was pulled apart and the house sold. He went to the Haggerty Museum of Art at Marquette, a few blocks from his childhood home on Clybourn St.
'He was very teary and emotional,' said Lynne Shumow, a curator at the museum...

Bardy's 'obsessive minimalist' style was unlike anything Shumow had seen."

"Sitting in her brother's living room, having just found her brother dead, Helen Bardy was asked by a woman from the funeral home what her brother's occupation was.
She fumbled a little, just as her brother always had.
'I started out by saying he was a sales person . . .  that he painted homes,' she said.
The woman stopped her. Here's what we'll do, the woman said. We'll list him as an artist.
'It just came out, and it was so beautiful,' Helen Bardy said. 'So that's exactly what's on his death certificate: artist.'

Some of Bardy's work is on display in 'Current Tendencies,' a survey of contemporary Wisconsin art, through June 14 at the Haggerty Museum on the Marquette University campus.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

El Parque Zoologico

I went to the Milwaukee County Zoo today with my brother and his wife. It was free day, which means it was packed with people. We did get to see a few animals as well. It was pretty much nap time. Two North American River Otters were chillaxing for our viewing pleasure.

There was some serious snuggling between these two and what looked like grooming, then scruff-biting; we thought we were going to witness some adult otter behavior there for a while. (And you know what that means: cute baby otters!!) At least, I am assuming that they were a breeding pair.Kind of weird to think that these creatures once lived right here before people urbanized the whole area. We go to see them held hostage, in the same place they used to frolic.

Public art, part III

This particular graffito always makes me smile. It's on the south side of the river on a defunct train trestle, just below the Estabrook Dam. Got the pic in January of 2008.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Free Zoo day tomorrow!

The Milwaukee County Zoo has free admission tomorrow! See you there. I'll be by the otters.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Public Art, part II

On the Urban Milwaukee blog, Dave Reid discussed a new art object proposed for downtown Milwaukee.
Public art, to me, is something that "makes" a city. Cosmopolitan cities like NYC and Chicago are full of street musicians, performance artists, and permanent icons like the Cloud Gate (below) in Chicago's Millennium Park.

The Milwaukee art in question is a proposal for a series of "flip signs" by a Brooklyn artist, Janet Zweig, that would animate depictions of encounters between Milwaukeeans.
I was embarrassed, as a Milwaukeean, reading Alderman Willie Wade’s comment, “I am just not feeling it. But then I wouldn’t pay 50 cents for the Mona Lisa” (which has been part of the art canon for hundreds of years). Why is public art such a bone of contention in Milwaukee? The Blue Shirt fiasco, the Bronze Fonz controversy…to me, art is something that pulls you out of yourself, into a different mental place, or something that you can get lost in- and find yourself thinking about long after you are done actually looking at the piece. Something that changes your viewpoint, even a little bit, whether it fits your definition of “beautiful” or whether you actually think you like the thing.
Update- the project was approved at the 4/14/09 Common Council meeting. *cool!*

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Cleaner waters bring more otters!

I found this article from the Boston Globe not only cute but very encouraging!

From the article:
"The day before New Year's Eve, Maury Eldridge was kayaking on the Charles River in Needham near the Dover line when he spotted a pair of slender brown animals sitting on a chunk of ice.

As he paddled closer, the pair of North American river otters dived into the water. A few moments later, they reappeared through a hole in the ice and stared right at Eldridge, who quickly grabbed his camera...

Eldridge was not the only one excited by the sighting. The Charles River Watershed Association hailed the documented presence of otters so close to Boston as a mark of important progress. "It is a sign of the health of the river," said Rebecca Scibek Wickham, outreach coordinator for the local environmental group. "From our perspective, this shows that the river is becoming cleaner, and it is able to support more wildlife."