Sunday, May 31, 2009

Moet packs cans

Moet champagne- real champagne from France, not the cheap imitation stuff poured at weddings- is some kind of expensive status beverage. I thoroughly enjoyed this juxtaposition. Corner of Atkinson and Teutonia, Milwaukee.

Saturday, May 30, 2009


People have asked me the meaning of DH: it stands for "Dear Husband." As in, love of my life, my dearest heart, my completion, my everything: The Man in the Houndstooth.

It's a blog convention, and kind of a silly one I guess. I thought it was started by knitters somehow (multitudes of knitters have blogs). Elizabeth Zimmerman called her husband "the Old Man" in her iconic book Knitters Almanac and that is maybe where I got that notion (pun- "notion" -for you crafters).

Since I am trying to remain basically anonymous on this blog, it seemed like a good idea- but maybe I should find a different name for him. Besides his own, I mean, or "Brain" (which he has earned, BTW), which often garners me the well-meaning comment, "You spelled your husband's name wrong." Not wrong, exactly, just skewed, and true.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Mission complete! Last of the Lustron photos.

Here are the rest of the fifteen extant (according to the Lustron Registry) Lustron houses in Milwaukee, in the order in which I photographed them. Shout out to the Wauwatosa branch of the Milwaukee Public Library for helping me out.
Lustron House at 403 N. 91st Street.

Lustron at 2971 N. 91st Street. Small porch area is enclosed.

Lustron at 3474 N. 93rd St. On the corner. Sided pale blue.

3014 N. 83rd. Screen porch added. Garage is as seen below. Appears to be covered with some sort of stucco and then painted a similar shade of blue.

The garage: the ghosts of the square tiles are visible.

3205 N. 82nd, on the corner.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Underwood Creek and Waukesha's water plan

I became concerned when I read of the plan to take water from the Great Lakes watershed and pipe it out to Waukesha, returning it to Underwood Creek, just inside the watershed again. I decided to view the area to which the water would be returned, by 124th and Bluemound Road. I don't know what I was expecting; deer frolicking through undisturbed woodlands, I guess. It really looks as below: more like the Lorax was going to pop out of a stump.
Looking north from this point- the direction of the creek's flow in this area- isn't much more attractive. Steep cement banks prohibit access. It might be more difficult to fathom the environmental impacts of such a proposal if the area actually looked like we as a society actually value our water and waterways. It is an invisible commodity.

Here is one last picture, taken looking west on Bluemound Road from about 116th St. You can see the topography of the area- the creek is in the valley below, and the edge of the watershed is approximately 124th street- the ridge visible near the top of the photo, with the winding road curving toward the top left.

I took all these photos on 04/04/09. A study on the environmental impact of the diversion-and-return plan is pending.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Cat-sitting for Gwennie

This is my friends' cat Gwennie. I'm feeding her while they are out of town. She sat in my lap whilst I perused a book from their shelves- they have a lot of interesting books, very conducive to cat-in-the-lap.

UWM's Freshwater Sciences- PRO!

Below is the body of an email I sent the Harbor Commissioners.

I am writing as a citizen concerned about our city, our region, and our waters. I feel that the proposed site for the UWM School of Freshwater Sciences on the Lake Michigan shore is perfect for several reasons: first, it makes logical sense to have it located there, directly on the water. Second, although it is offsite, it is close to the main campus- within easy walking distance. Third, it is a chance to show off our shoreline. Cities like NYC and Baltimore have beautiful, amazing structures on their shorelines, showcasing both the architecture and the water. An innovative and well-designed structure would build on the momentum started by the Calatrava. Make it a green building that uses passive solar for heating and light- or that could even generate extra power to add to the grid, like the Aktivhaus, and we will have something amazing for future generations.


The River Otter

You can email the Harbor Commissioners before tomorrow evening to support the School of Freshwater Sciences on lakefront site - here are the addresses. I got one response right away. There's a meeting tomorrow night, too: attend the Public Hearing on May 28th at 6 PM at City Hall in Room 301-B and share your opinion. I would attend if I were able.

Why is this different than the County Grounds issue? See above.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The 3/50 project

A woman I work with handed me this flyer the other day (who, I might add, moonlighted at a small store on Downer Avenue that closed last month) . Then I saw it on Facebook. My line of thinking started with, I don't spend $50 a month on "stuff." But of course I do. I try, not hard enough, to spend it at locally-owned establishments. The line "'d miss most if they were gone" crystallized this for me, as so many are closing.

Some of my favorite local bricks-and-mortar establishments are listed below the flyer.

Some of my faves, and reasons why:

Fischberger's Variety on Holton: the best place to buy gifts. The lady who owns it (one of the Brew City Bruisers) gave me a zipper once- not sold it to me- gave it to me. The fact that I remember it two years later shows how unusual this small act was.

Top Shelf Guitar Shop in Bay View. The guy that owns it not only checked out and tweaked my bass this year, not charging me because "I really didn't do anything"-- although I saw him tweak it! Then he ran out in the rain to bring me the patch cords I bought and then forgot on the counter. Truly excellent customer service every time.

Ruhama's Yarn and Needlepoint for getting my craft on.

Kellner's Greenhouse for decorative plants and herbs (especially since Weber's on Green Bay just north of Capitol closed last year).

Laacke and Joys, downtown location, "when nature calls you outdoors." It's a big store, and probably not on the verge of closing or anything, but it's a Milwaukee icon and always seems to have what I need. Or want.

What are your favorite local stores? Why do you like them?

Monday, May 25, 2009

Boys at war

The son of a very wonderful lady with whom I used to work was quite recently deployed to Afghanistan. I had hoped that whomever our new president was to be would have had all our troops home by now, but that was not to be, and he is there. She put out a request that anyone could write to him, and any of the other Marines there, if we wanted. The postage is 44 cents- same as a US stamp, which seems less steep somehow when the letter travels overseas like that. I sent him a letter. I had only met him perhaps three times, but she talks about him so much, you know, like any good mother. She said write about anything back here at home, the Brewers, weather, whatever.

I encourage anyone who likes at all to write to put a pen to paper and write to someone in the military serving overseas. Support our troops, even if you don't support the war.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

More lustron photos

As promised, here is another group of Lustron photos. These are from the north side of Milwaukee. I hope the Lustron preservationists do not get too upset. Some changes have been made to the exteriors.

Above, Lustron House at 3535 W. Marion. The Lustron Registry incorrectly lists it as 4276 N. 36th Street, which is the correct coordinates (approximately) but the wrong number. The house is now sided.

3825 W. Marion, above. Yellow. Incorrectly listed in the registry as blue-green.

Above- 4433 N. Sherman. Tan.

5520 W. Philip, above - listed in the Lustron registry as simply "55th & Phillip (sic) Place." It is well kept and neat.

5861 N. 74th Street, above. Please don't cry. It looks nice. The bones underneath are Lustron with a whole new skin. Even the decorative zig-zag accent has been changed to a simple rectangular support.

Many, many thanks to Mike for getting out in the city with me to get these shots!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Guest post! New Urbanism!!

Since I started my blog in March, I have gotten many more emails about it than comments on the blog itself. The emails are much more positive and enlightening than many of the comments, something that is a little disappointing; they're more personal and less interactive, but all very interesting. This is one that I received yesterday- I received permission from the author (Beth, of the ESL program for which I volunteer) to use it as a guest post.

"On your blog, I saw the word Lustron. I had never heard that word before and looked it up.

I am fascinated by architecture. Learning about a new type of home bought back a bunch of memories.

The most recent memory is the new pre-fab house that was launched this month or last:

Our neighborhood in Manhattan (for nine years) was like a village, with neighbors who had lived on our street for decades. When we moved to Saginaw, Michigan in 1992, I was depressed by the urban sprawl to the point of experiencing physical pain. I missed city life so much, and Saginaw’s shell of a city center would have pleased and refreshed me 20 years before. Saginaw was being destroyed because of neglect and pure ignorance. I tried to get involved in preservation activities, but the efforts of a few were no match for cluelessness, clannishness, and corruption.

I read The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs. She was so right in her critique of “modern” urban planning and how it had ruined inner cities. To see her predictions manifested in Saginaw was heartbreaking.

Just today I googled her name and came up with this:

In Milwaukee, it seems that there is a resurgence of interest in Jane Jacob’s common sense. As I drive around in parts that were once blighted and are now dotted with livable, attractive, urban HOMES (rather than PROJECTS), it certainly seems that the spirit of Jane Jacobs has been at work. If you design a “Jane walk” and post it on your blog, I’ll take the walk. It has been years since I thought of things like this.


Is anyone interested in taking the challenge? The "Jane Walk" is an interesting concept: regular citizens lead an urban walking tour, free of charge. Take a look at the link. Let me know what you think.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Port Washington Road infill

There is some construction going on on Port Washington Road south of Capitol and north of Keefe (in the part of 53212 that I always think is 53206). If you've been reading my blog, you know I am not fond of suburban sprawl. Also, this is an area I find myself in with some frequency, so I am doubly happy to see some infill in this particular neighborhood. Port Washington Road was obviously a main road out of town back in the day and many ornate buildings remain, repurposed, but most still in use.

Dissected and isolated both by the I-43 to the west that carved a valley through in the 50's, and the Capitol Drive valley to the north, it's been blighted for years, sad, with the kind of statistics that make suburbanites squirm.

So I called Catalyst Construction, the company behind the larger new building, to ask what is going on. It's going to be Hope Middle School, a new K-8 building for the network of Hope Christian Schools. They just tore down what appeared to be a vacant grocery-store-turned-church, presumably for some play space.

Also, someone is building a new house just south of Capitol. At least, a foundation was dug and constructed for one, but the idea seems to be on hiatus. A few doors down another house is in a sad state of gradual destruction. It is baffling.

Just south of Keefe, in the past maybe five or seven years, Milwaukee Women's Correctional Center and Hope High School (Heartlove Place) were also built. Here's a pic (from the MJ-S in a 2006 article) of how happy people are to be released from the former. The school kids appear happy to be released daily, also. Post Food and Liquor has now affixed new green awnings to the building, giving it a jaunty flair. Below is the same building from the above photo three years later- a shot I got this month.
Moving south, King Drive also has several liquor other stores, including one that a former neighbor claimed sells The Coldest Beer in the WORLD!! (though I know of no research that upholds this claim) and also Green Ring II, which used to be called King on Ring, although it's actually on the corner of King and Concordia.
I'll have part two on this neighborhood soon!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Sustainability and street cred

This is the house that DH and I bought together when we got married in 1998, at the corner of Palmer and Center streets in sort-of-but-not-quite Brewer's Hill and definitely-not-but-let's-pretend Riverwest. We were the only white people around for blocks and blocks. We paid $35,000 for it and the taxes were just over $250 per year. It was very economically sustainable and I was able to walk to work if I wasn't working the night shift, and if I had Comet (the Doberman/pit bull mix) with me I could walk wherever else I felt like, too. We had a huge yard that created a buffer between our house and the dogfighting and prostitutes next door. The house itself was huge and it had an oil furnace- heating was much cheaper then. I don't think we would be able to afford to heat a place that big now! It was 2434 square feet of wonderful house that I felt trapped in. We lived there for just over two years before moving to where we live now.

I just wanted to give a little background before I post a few other things about the real Milwaukee that I don't see elsewhere on the blogosphere.

Unfriendly concessions

I note that there is now a tall wrought-iron fence around the entire David F. Schulz Aquatic Center, with an imposing gate across what used to be my dog-walking path. The sight of this made me want to share an illicit cigarette-- passing it back and forth between the bars, plotting secret plots with a willing accomplice-- although I know that its real purpose is to keep people from drowning during off-hours. I do happily note two things: the design cleverly incorporates the existing Blatz Pavilion building, and also that there is a big Concessions sign, which means one important thing: ice cream is highly likely. Ice cream within an easy, enjoyable walk. Ideally, I will not have to pay an admission fee to get it.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The food was good, too.

Yesterday I had lunch at Mayura on Farwell with my brother. We love Indian buffets! They had a glorious Bollywood musical playing the whole time. This sign was posted on the inside of the ladies' bathroom door- so a person would only see it on the way out after all bathroom duties were already completed:
You know I love "almost English" but #5 was like, what universe are we in? And, where's MY time machine?

Monday, May 18, 2009

More Lustron photos

I promised more photos of the Milwaukee Lustron houses and here are a couple of them- two right next to each other on North 27th Street, just north of Hampton.

Lustron House at 4964 N. 27th StreetLustron House at 4956 N. 27th Street
This tan one has the matching garage.

One of the reasons I love these so much (besides their having been such a mystery to me for so long) is their whole space-age aesthetic, as well as their diminutive size.

I thought this would be a good time to put up a photo of the sculpture in front of the Atkinson Library, 1960 W. Atkinson Ave. I don't know anything about it. It would look good in front of a Lustron house though. That branch opened in 1961. The Lustron Company built its homes in the late 1940's, so they are not of the same time period, but somehow they have a similar anachronistic appeal for me.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Lustron houses

Blue Lustron House at 3802 W Capitol Drive, Milwaukee.

One of my longtime fascinations is Lustron houses. I didn't know until four years ago that they have a name; I used to call them Tile Houses. I happened to grow up near a rich cluster of Lustrons.- all blue-green, except for one which was tan. I would go out on my bike and try to find more, and had a route of sorts to go and visit them. This was of course pre-internet- now all of their addresses are on the online Lustron Registry. Apparently other people appreciate them too, since they also have their own Preservation Association. Lustron at 2746 N 82nd Street

In a 2005 article from Chicago's New City newspaper, Douglas Knerr (author of Suburban Steel: The Magnificent Failure of the Lustron Corporation) said that he first became interested in the Lustron houses when his cousin married a boy who had grown up in a Lustron house in Ohio, affording Knerr the opportunity to tour the inside. Knerr "instantly noticed that his cousin's new family had no use for nails or for a hammer. They hung all their photos and artwork directly to their home's walls using magnets. And maintenance? That was minimal. Nothing chipped or faded." But Knerr saw something larger: "These homes are an important part of our history. They reflect an effort by the government to help provide affordable houseing on a mass scale, something that we are still wrestling with today."

Last year, a DVD was released about the sad collapse of the visionary Lustron company (it was a conspiracy, for you believers). I recently was told by a reliable source that my mom reads all of my blog posts, and since my birthday is coming up soon perhaps she will come up with a great gift idea for me.Lustron at 2777 N. 82nd Street; as you can see, it has aluminum siding now.

I'm going to try to photograph all of the other Milwaukee Lustrons in the near future.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

River cleanup

We had our first annual MRPA/ Friends of Lincoln Park river cleanup today. Thank you thank you thank you!!! to all those who came and helped out. Seventeen (approximately) people showed up to pick up detritus from the park and the riverbank. Here's a picture Jay shot of me snuggling some of the garbage bags. I showered afterwards- don't worry.
I didn't find anything truly remarkable this time. Just the usual.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Lincoln Park river cleanup this Saturday

This Saturday, May 16, from 9:00 am-noon, we're having a river cleanup in Lincoln Park.
It's co-sponsored by the Milwaukee River Preservation Association and
Friends of Lincoln Park.

We'll meet across the street from Lincoln Park Golf Course parking lot at 0900 and will be cleaning up trash on the north side of the river between the bridge on Hampton and the bridge on Port Washington Road.

Solly's has offered to provide a discount on breakfast that day for volunteers- meet there (corner of Glendale Avenue and Port Washington Road) at 8am if you're interested in dining with us. Dress to work outside; bags and gloves will be provided.

Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Horicon- who'd have thought?

This is a cool video about the "New Urbanism," which is the old urbanism.

DH and I ended up in Horicon this past Saturday, visiting our nomad friend Nate (his next stop is Alaska). He gave us a walking tour of the town, his daily routine: library, gym, post office, park, Horicon Marsh, work, ice cream place. It was like the perfect walkable microcosm. The house he's currently living in is for sale- it's right across the street from the Rock River and a picturesque red brick church. I might just have to decide we're moving. (I feel compelled to add that its address is 121, which is 11x11. That is absolutely the icing on the cake. All my favorite addresses have been multiples of 11 or 101 or both- 1515, 2121, and- the best- 3333 S. 99th.)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

UWM again

In another fine post today, Capper discussed (in a long post, which I invite you to read for yourself) the whole UWM invasion onto the County Grounds, stating that "the so-called County Board Economic and Community Development Committee foolishly voted to recommend all but giving away the county grounds to a private developer." One reason that it just rubs me the wrong way- besides the idea of developing the County green space that was supposed to remain open in perpetuity- is that I worked for Columbia Hospital for so many years and (overall) loved it. It's closing- gradually, slowly dying; my former unit already closed last year. Some of the buildings are historic, and rather ornate. It would be the best possible thing for everyone concerned if UWM bought the Columbia property.
Look at this map- the Columbia property is situated perfectly within the L-shaped UWM campus. (Yes, I know it is supposed to say "Downer Woods"; it's not the worst error ever made on an online map.)

There it is- perfectly nestled, just waiting to be repurposed as university space.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Bullies, vindication, and forgiveness

I don't know why I let things like this still bother me, but I was bullied in school. This was back in the '70's and '80's, before there were things like "Awareness" and programs that dealt with bullying. Back then, nerdy kids just got bullied and that was that.
Now of course I am a successful adult with my own Facebook page and I get emails like this:
"Just started on Facebook am surprized who I am all finding , wonder if ya remember me .. :) .. Jaosn"
Of course I remember Jason. He made sure I would always remember him.
When I got that message yesterday, I looked him up on CCAP and he had the criminal record that I suspected he would: an indicator of a sad and unfocused life. I also note an inability to successfully spell his own five-letter name correctly every time. At some point I had found out that he also had his own problems- the woman that I had thought was his mom was really his grandmother, and so on. So it's hard to know what to really think. Thinking about it doesn't change anything. Does it?

Here's the Google street view of the building that used to house my grade school (on the northwest side of Milwaukee). God finally shut it down. The building now houses Jesus Cares Ministries for people with special needs and their families. It's a resource center and library, I guess.
Life is a complicated place.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Bike to Work Week

OMG bikes!!! Squeeee!
Milwaukee's Bike to Work Week, traditionally in early May, has been moved to June 6th-12th this year, in hopes of warmer weather and greater participation. Don't let that stop you though. Be an early adopter.

Here is a link to some downloadable Milwaukee bike maps.

A few common-sense tips for bicycling safety: stay alert; dress in layers appropriate for weather; wear a properly fitted helmet; obey traffic signals; install a front light and a flashing back light; and give parked cars a three-foot berth to avoid getting "doored." Likewise, if you are getting out of a car parked on a city street, check for bicyclists to avoid dooring them! Use the best lock you can and lock it to one of the city "U" racks. Watch out for children and drunken pedestrians who might step out right in front of you, apropos of nothing. Most of all, have fun, feel good about saving gas costs and emissions, and enjoy getting exercise and an intimate view of the city you just can't get from a car.

Here are a couple links to my favorite bike repair shops, to help you get your bike ready for The Season:
Cory The Bike Fixer on Murray just north of North Avenue, and Rainbow Jersey on Wilson Drive south of Hampton. I have always gotten excellent service at both places.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Root River Parkway

It is interesting how powerful rivers are, and how fickle- they can flood, change course, divide off an oxbow into a separate lake, and often quickly.

Fa Ross has told me about an area of the Root River Parkway in Racine- a wild, natural river area. He has hiked there often over many years and sent these photos of the natural damming provided by trees and debris floating downstream, aided at times by hardworking beavers. He believes that if the Estabrook dam is removed by the DNR, that the natural Milwaukee River state in the affected area would be unstable and unpredictable.
Photo by Fa Ross
He described a time when, during a period of spring flooding, he watched the river change course to the west, over a period of hours, as it found a new way around a pile of debris. He offers this for comparison between the two rivers:

To my knowledge there has never been a dam in this area of the Root River. I think this area is an excellent example of what Lincoln Park will look like in 10 years or so. Yes, this area is very beautiful in its own way, but you will notice the lack of large trees and the many standing dead trees, pools of stagnant water and piles of logs, sticks and garbage. In the last 30 or so years, many homes have been torn down along the Root River due to the massive flooding, compounded by the dams the trees and ice make with much help from the beavers.
Photo by Fa Ross
There is a 7 foot high by @ 15 foot long wall of sticks and logs that has formed sometime in the last two years and is forcing the river to cut a new channel.

The most graphic example of what I am talking about is approximately one mile north of this on County Line Road, but the last time I drove by it had a No Trespassing sign up. (Part of this area is a superfund cleanup site.) If you have Google earth you can see what I think is a giant beaver dam made of garbage, that used to be there, around 42* 50’ 23.97” N 87* 53’ 28.51”-
see below, the middle of the screenshot.
Satellite photo of 42* 50’ 23.97” N 87* 53’ 28.51” courtesy of Google Earth

If you are interested in seeing this for yourself, here are Fa's directions: Take I 94 south (aka West) to Seven Mile road in (1st exit in Racine county) head east @ 4miles. Just after the second set of rail road tracks you will cross a bridge over the Root River . On the East side of this bridge you will see a oversized gravel shoulder park there. You can walk on either side of the river to the south for @ 1 mile. The park is only 20 or 30 yards wide and is usually used as a bridal path.

Friday, May 8, 2009


This dove nests on my windowsill every year, returning to its nest without fail, despite the cats perching directly on the other side of the glass.
My neighbors across the street mentioned it to me too. I suppose birds can do some damage to a house (DH thinks so, anyway) but it is just so darn cute. Can't wait for the hatchlings. It's tradition.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Graffiti wars

I saw this today on 2nd street, just north of National Avenue. Nice rebuttal! Rather than paint over it with an almost-matching color, the building's owner chose to affix a permanent sign.It's all the more awesome when you see this (below) just across the street.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Garlic Mustard removal tutorial

Garlic Mustard sounds like it might be delicious. It was originally brought to this country in the 1860's for culinary and medicinal use. However, I have not appreciated its taste at all. It's not toxic, just disgusting.

"Garlic mustard is an invasive non-native biennial herb that spreads by seed. It is difficult to control once it has reached a site; it can cross-pollinate or self-pollinate, it has a high seed production rate, it out competes native vegetation and it can establish in a relatively stable forest understory. It can grow in dense shade or sunny sites. The fact that it is self-fertile means that one plant can occupy a site and produce a seed bank. Plant stands can produce more than 62,000 seeds per square meter to quickly out compete local flora, changing the structure of plant communities on the forest floor." (source: here.) In otter words, it will completely take over everything. It is like a cancer. It is like The Little Prince's Baobabs, the roots of which threatened to break apart his tiny planet. It replicates itself inexorably like the Orcs in The Lord of the Rings that destroyed everything in their path. So, what to do? Here is a tutorial for your enjoyment.

Go out when the soil is crumbly and semi-moist, but not wet. Look for these "rosettes" as shown below- this is the first year plant (remember, it's a biennial- the first and second-year plants look different). The first-year plant is much easier to remove, having a less-developed root system.

Pull the plant gently but firmly, from the base where the stem and root meet. Make sure you are getting the whole root. The taproot, like a dandelion or a thistle (or a pimple, for that matter), must be completely removed or it will sprout anew. The root is "allelopathic," meaning it produces chemicals that inhibit the growth of tree seedlings and other plants. Garlic mustard is a playground bully, all around.Mission accomplished!

Janine from Gracious Gardens tells me that the "seed bank"- the seemingly inexhaustible supply of invasive weed seeds- remains stealthily waiting in the soil for up to seven years.
The seeds are tiny - remember the Biblical parable about "faith as small as a mustard seed?" Well then. You need to be careful to disturb the infested soil as little as possible due to the tiny seeds. Double bag the plants and make sure the bags do not have any holes. (Remember the seeds are tiny!!! They can be carried in clothing, shoes or mud. Be sure to clean shoes, pockets, cuffs and equipment after removing and bagging the plants. Dispose of plants in the trash, or burn. You do not want to compost this plant.

Stay vigilant, and repeat as necessary.

For more details, including managment with pesticides, see here.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

"Fish or cut bait" editorial

I know there are certain people who visit this blog, hoping that "Estabrook Dam" is just a tiny bit bigger in the tag cloud in the sidebar, waiting stealthily to pounce with a comment. Not wanting to disappoint anyone, I'll throw out some bait today.
In a recent editorial, Fish or Cut Bait, the Milwaukee J-S had this to say (and you can click the link for the full editorial; it's not that long)

"But in a recent letter to the county, the DNR said the county cannot close the dam and allow the river to refill the impoundment area upstream unless all outstanding repair work is completed. The DNR is concerned about public safety. So are we.
The county's move skirts the real issue of whether to take on the more extensive repair job, estimated to cost $12 million, or to remove the dam for about $2 million. Environmental groups and others favor dam removal, while nearby residents and others who use the upstream portion of the Milwaukee River for recreation prefer a fix-up of the 1938 dam.
Removing the dam won't restore the river to its "natural" state; work done on the river channel in the 1930s made sure of that. But it would be a cheaper option at a time when the county already faces severe financial difficulties. County supervisors need to consider those finances when they consider the future of the dam - and they need to do that soon to comply with the DNR requirements."

Once again, the $12 million figure thrown out there. My arguments tend toward the philosophical and aesthetic. For awesome, cold hard facts, I turn to Vicky Ross, who wrote this rebuttal (it's long, but whatever. This is the infinite internet). Take it away, Vicky:

Dear Editorial Page Editors:
I was outraged by your editorial yesterday, “Fish or cut bait”!
I first must point out that your opening sentence contains an obvious error. The county board needs to either ‘repair or find funds to repair’? I gather from the context in the rest of the editorial that you intended to say: ‘remove or find funds to repair’.

Sloppy, very sloppy.
If your preference would truly normally be for full repair, as you state, what have you done to follow through on your inclination and fully explore the repair option?

-Did you happen to notice, or bother to report, that the county workgroup’s report was so rife with misleading information that the typically routine process of accepting the report and placing it on file passed by only the narrowest of margins on March 19th with 10 supervisors voting to accept the report and 9 voting no.?

-Did you think it to be at all odd that the Dam Removal scenario included no cost estimates for obvious related work that would stretch on for years: like cutting a channel to restore navigability, encapsulating contaminated sediments, replanting mudflats and modifying storm sewer outflows? [Details from the North Avenue dam removal process and problems experienced there shouldn’t be that hard to recall or locate.]

-Did you think it would be worth investigating how a repair estimate of $756,000 in 2006 could possibly balloon to the oft quoted $12 million in 2009?

I think not.

-Did your reporters find any of the county taxpayer comments made at the Public Hearing on March 24th interesting or compelling enough that they asked citizens follow up questions or for copies of their documents in order to learn more than their two minute time limit may have allowed?

-Did your reporters request and review any of the written comments that were submitted to the Parks, Energy and Environment Committee following the Public Hearing which provided a way for citizens to offer positions and supporting documents without being subject to a terribly limiting constraint?

-Did you give any thought to how Lincoln Park would be impacted by dam removal and advise your readers that they would no longer have water and islands as its focal point feature but instead would be greeted with unsightly mudflats riddled with invader species (weeds) and mosquito farms of stranded, stagnant water?

I think not.

-Did you consider that there might be a creative solution available given more time? Did you find it at all interesting that there are several entities actively exploring the prospect of a hydroelectric purpose for the dam?

-Did Lee Bergquist, Steve Schultze or anyone else on your staff research other Wisconsin DNR dam removal efforts and detect that their approach here is S.O.P. regardless of the specific dam, impoundment, parks, community, unique adverse impacts or the will of the people or institutions involved? [The DNR has a rich and well documented history of applying pressure on dam owners to remove them by exerting undue influence on the process – ensuring that repair cost estimates are trumped up exponentially and that removal estimates are grossly understated.]

-Did your research uncover the documents that reveal the DNR’s true agenda for the Milwaukee River and advise your readers that if the DNR is successful in having the Estabrook Dam removed that the upstream dams will quickly become their next targets: Kletzsch Park Falls, Thiensville Dam, likely even Cedarburg’s historic falls?

I think not.

-Did you question the motives that might lie behind a DNR letter delivered to the County Board of Supervisors the very morning of their April 23rd meeting as did Supervisor Rice? Didn’t you find that timing to be even a little suspicious?

-Did you question why the DNR would issue a letter saying they could issue a second Order for Dam Repair instead of just issuing another order?

-Did you find it at all compelling in the face of such opposition, that the county board of supervisors voted overwhelmingly in favor (16 to 3) of the $5,000 repair which will correct the problems cited in the DNR Order issued on September 26, 2008?

I think not.

Did you find value in the fact that the County is finally taking action to respond to the September, 2008 DNR order? Or even more significant, did you find it odd that the DNR would issue a threatening letter to the county because it was contemplating complying with the demands of an order they issued?

-Did your reporters happen to hear Supervisor Lipscomb explain that the resolution that was just passed was deliberately designed to begin the process of completing work that is necessary whether the dam is removed OR repaired and that more time is needed for study in order to responsibly decide the fate of the dam?

-Did you think it might be important to include in your editorial that the reason Supervisor Lipscomb is “rightfully” concerned about health risks associated with leaving the river low is because there are PCB hotspots in Lincoln Park that will be even more exposed to animals and people, especially children, over the summer months if the impoundment is not filled this season?

I think not.

I should tell you that I am apparently one of the few remaining daily subscribers to your paper. Needless to say I am sorely disappointed with your superficial coverage on this issue. You have failed to recognize it for the rich investigative story opportunity that it is.

With two editorials in as many weeks supporting the removal of dams (referring also to “Let the river run” - 4/22/09), it is clear to me that you have swallowed the bait whole. I congratulate you for your aplomb in falling for the DNR’s carefully crafted positions – hook, line and sinker.
Fortunately, you are not the only media outlet in this city, or this state for that matter. Perhaps I can find one who is willing to dig a little deeper and be just a touch more objective.

Yours very truly,
Vicky Ross

Monday, May 4, 2009

Letter from Gerry Broderick

This morning I wrote to the County Supervisors on the PEE Committee about the proposed UWM expansion onto the County Grounds, writing essentially the same thing as my previous post on the subject.

I always hear back from Mr Broderick, and this is the response I received from him within three hours:

"While I agree with your expressed sentiments, I've been around long enough to know that an effort to oppose this plan would be quixotic on my part and divert energy from obtainable environmental goals.Keep the faith, lately we win more than we lose."

Reality: usually disappointing.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Fond memories part V- bittersweet edition

Back in the mid '90's I spent a lot of time in Brewer's Hill. The neighborhood at that time was much different than it is now. East of Holton Street, between North Avenue and Reservoir, was very quiet without the new construction, condos, and speed bumps that now grace the neighborhood. Instead, there were vacant lots, industry, and neglect.

The steep hillside leading south and down toward the river from Reservoir was covered with trees, and an unbelievable number of cats lived within. In my wanderings about the urban blight, I would stop and watch them, giving them food and water, as did others. I saw a little old lady get interrogated by the cops there, the trunk of her car open, bags of cat food inside. Shortly after that, the trees were cut down and condos sprouted up. The cats moved on. This is what it looks like now.

I found Action Cat on that hill on my birthday, in 1997- a beautiful, small black kitten, surprisingly tame. I wanted to pick her up and take her home, but I wanted her to be free to choose to come with me. She walked back into the woods to larger black cat; they meowed at each other, and then she came back. I petted her when she jumped onto the stone wall, and then gently picked her up and put her in my car. She lay down on the passenger seat, purring. I looked at the street signs, thinking I could name her after one of them...Hubbard? Buffum?, thank you. As I drove away, I saw a huge (I mean huge) person on a motorized scooter topple over, into the street. I got out of my car and ran towards the person, not knowing how I alone could help...two muscular men came running out of one of the businesses- this was at that time a semi-industrial area- and the three of us helped the person, who seemed unharmed, back onto the scooter again, the front of which had a logo on it: a black cat with the name "Action Cat." (This was not the only time in my life when Two Men mysteriously appeared in a time of urgent need, then disappeared just as quickly.) Action was still purring on the passenger seat when I returned.

Action Cat found the rest beyond the river one year ago today. She was the cat by which all subsequent cats will be measured and found wanting.

Thanks to trap-neuter-return programs, there are now fewer feral cats; thanks to gentrification, there are now more condos. Change is inevitable.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

David Schulz Aquatic Center update

See updated post on the Aquatic Center here.

Work continues. Water slides are up; big piles of dirt are down.
Photo taken yesterday, looking east from Green Bay Avenue.

Otter: canary in the eco mine

I love this photo. It's by Eric Peterson.
From the EPA report "Population Monitoring and Contaminants Affecting the American Otter," 2002
Ecosystem Objective
"As a society we have a moral responsibility [emphasis mine] to sustain healthy populations of American otter in the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence basin.
American otter populations in the upper Great Lakes should be maintained, and restored as sustainable populations in all Great Lakes coastal zones, lower Lake Michigan, western Lake Ontario, and Lake Erie watersheds and shorelines...

American otters are a direct link to organic and heavy metal concentrations in the food chain...contaminants are a potential and existing problem for many otter populations throughout the Great Lakes. "

I dream of the day that otters have their resurgence like the bald eagles have- not an uncommon sight anymore, even, for instance, as close as Mequon. Last year, camping in Wisconsin, DH and I were just amazed, remembering that when we were kids, seeing a bald eagle would have been unimaginable. Next to impossible. That is to say, they have come back within our short lifetimes.

View the whole report here.

Friday, May 1, 2009

What's tappening?

I first started thinking about bottled water being just kind of weird when What's Tappening asked to be my MySpace friend (very politely).

One vivid image they put out there is to imagine a bottle of bottled water being one-quarter full of oil - since that is how much petroleum it takes to make the bottle, fill it, and transport it. I like my refillable Sigg bottle. It is my comfort object.

Some people where I work fought to get recycling bins put in the break room. I really didn't care about it, because I just don't use recyclables at work. But they're there now. I guess I just think it's better to reduce (or the "other R," refuse) on the front end.