Monthly Archives: October 2006

Nice Sunset

You don’t need to go to big sky country. 🙂 This was shot at the corner of Z and X last evening. Actually I kind of like the time change, easier to be out at sunset.

Sunset shot October 30, 2006 from the corner of Z and X

Ask and Ye Shall Receive

wi-fi logoMore than once here, myself and other readers have mentioned municipal wi-fi as something that Wausau could do to make itself a cooler place, and those requests are starting to become a reality.

The Marathon County Public Library main branch downtown is now set up as a wi-fi hot spot. Of course since it is the library we are talking about, the service is free, or more precisely pre-paid. So cruise on down with your laptop and wi-fi card and go ahead and tap into the system.

But wait there is more!

If the only thing that was being added by this was the ability to go online at the library, it would be of somewhat limited usefulness, after all there are now many compunter terminals in the library where the public can access the internet at no charge. But there is an added bonus with the library wi-fi that makes it just a touch better.

If you look on the library homepage, you will see a link at the top of the page labled “Research Resources.” This leads a wealth of information databases that the library subscribes to or has access to. Some of these you can access from outside the library, but others you cannot. Using the library’s wi-fi system, you are considered “inside the library” from an internet standpoint. Which means you can use Ancestry.com right on your own computer, rather than printing out pages or hand writing the information, only to go home and type it on your computer. This is nice.

Perhaps those of you who have the capability can go and check out how things work down there. I am especially curious to see if the signal might be able to be used just outside the building. When spring rolls around again you might be able to watch the flowers growing in front while doing your genealogy research. That would be nice.

It would also be nice if this is the beginning of a larger more comprehensive “wiring” (very ironic that you have to wire for wireless!) of the downtown area, perhaps beginning with the restaurants and cafes that are becoming more numerous. Maybe even the city and county could ask that the projects that got some of those subsidies pitch in with a few public hot spots both inside and outside the buildings.

But thanks to the Library and the county that runs it, Wausau is a little bit cooler place now.

Thriller is Here Again!

New!

Just want to put in a quick update on “Thriller.” I should say, first of all, I might be a bit biased being that I am related to one of the dancers in the show, but you can take that for what it is worth.

The show was great this year, the pacing and timing were quite snappy. There were two absolutely show stealing dances. The first was by the youngest class of dancers who were dressed as ghosts and did their dance in the glow of a black light. The choreography was as cute as the costumes, and had several funny moments. Although the dancers in this number were around six years old they pulled it off beautifully.

Olivia Hagen as the Bride of FrankensteinAt the other end of the scale in many ways, the other show stopper in my estimation was the “Bride of Frankenstein” dance featuring Patrick Kaspar as Franky and Olivia Hagen as his “bride.” They started off dancing in a humorously monsterous way, but things soon got out of control. In the middle of the dance, Franky drops his poor bride — who immediately joins the Choir Invisible. Franky finishes the dance with the limp, lifeless body of his bride. Sounds a bit ghoulish, perhaps, but it was actually quite funny, and Olivia showed absolutely remarkable physical skill — just by playing dead! It was one of the few times that at the end of a dance I thought “How did she DO that??”

So kudos to the dancers and to the Wausau Dance Theater for another fun show!

Click for Larger ImageThe Wausau Dance Theater is once again presenting “Thriller: A Dance Spooktacular” at the Grand Theater, Saturday, October 28. Tickets are $12.50 for adults and $10.50 for students. Show times are 1:30 and 7:00 pm.

This is a show that really is for all ages. Each year we get a slight variation of some of the travels and travails of Count Dracula, and in between the bad puns are dance numbers that range from whimsical to sublime. It really is a very fun show. Seating is general admission, so even if you buy tickets at the door you can still get good seats.

If they open the balcony for seating, my daughter tells me that is the very best place to see the show from. It is true that the front section of the balcony at the Grand are actually quite good seats to see a show.

Before the early show, from 11:00 am to 1:30 pm, you can bring the kids down to Thrillville at the Grand Hall. There will be crafts, games, pumpkin decorating and other Halloween themed fun for the kids. There is no admission charge for Thrillville.

Hope to see you down there!Big Dance Number

The Globe Comes Knocking

There are so many issues that are somewhat theoretical to those of us here in Wausau. And some issues which only theoretical because the true impact has not been noticed yet. Here is a bit of an eye opener, or at least it was to me.

Veolia signA few years ago, I seem to remember there was a bit of a controversy when the city trash pickup contract was awarded to a national firm rather than a more local firm, that had previously held the contract. This all took place about two years ago and soon the green Onyx trucks appeared on city streets. At the time there was a bit of quibbling over giving the contract to a national company rather than a local one, but eventually the lowest bid won out.

Since that time, however, the green trucks have remained, but the signs on the side have changed. Instead of Onyx, they now read “Veolia.” There was nary a mention of this change in the Herald (at least according to the archive search system), but it is in fact a change of global importance. For Veolia is not just a national company, but it is an international company. Headquarted in France.

That is right, some of your tax dollars are going to build a villa in the south of France for some corporate CEO type. You can be proud that your tax dollars are helping in their small way to add some 11% to Veolia’s 25 billion Euro sales volume and their 623 million Euro profit in 2005 — up 59.1% from 2004! Hooray for Veolia!

Perhaps though Wausau is a mixed bag for Veolia because they used to own the misnamed US Filter, before selling it to Siemens (a German based corporation) back in 2004, according to archived articles in the Daily Herald.

Not only are your tax dollars going to build some corporate villas in the south of France, but they are also fueling the world water wars. Veolia is at the forefront of privitizing the world’s water supplies. Their 2005 annual report shows that Veolia increased their water business by about a billion Euros over 2004. Which a lot of people would not have a problem with, especially if that represented bottled water sales. Because we all love bottled water, right? Even if it is more expensive than gasoline in some cases. 🙂

But in addition to their bottled water business, Veolia (and other multinational corporations) also buy up privatized municipal water sytems. The basic operation is the same as trash collection. Lobby the heck out of government officials to convince them that private enterprise is “more efficient” and then scoop up a captive audience. And then eventually raise the rates. Remember, no matter what else they might say, a corporation’s only loyalty is to the bottom line.

Right now your trash dollars are going to France and soon your water may be funding their villas as well. Whatever you might think of the city or county doing these things at least pretty much 100% of the dollars stay here — and 100% of the decsion making stays here as well. People have complained for years about the “bureaucrats in Madison” or even worse, Washington making decisions for us. Now we have “corporatcrats” in France making decisions for us about our trash services. And who knows, maybe soon those same corporatcrats will be deciding who gets how much water, and how much it will cost.

But for now, be proud that your tax dollars are helping to fund the next resource war (after oil) — water.

The Great Big West

Eds Note:  Dino sent this dispatch from the lonesome west where he is one the raod with Scott Holt.

Hello home. I miss you all. I hear Inner Sleeve is close to being open.

Tonight I am in Laramie, Wy. A great college town. Actually a place where the kids can drink the Badgers under the table. I have never seen anything like it.

We were in Rock Springs, WY last night. And if you’re a weather watcher, you know that we drove through the first blizzard of the year this morning. A drive that should have taken three hours, took six. We counted 24 pile ups, one that had 112 vehicles involved. Being honest, I am a Wisconsin boy, and a truck owner and I would have not driven today.  But we had a gig, so it was off we go.

In Wyoming they have 20 foot tall wind and snowbreak fences for miles along the interstate. I thought we had weather, but we have nothing like this.

I miss you all.

Friday Dudley: October 26, 2006

The glass is going in around the building now, interesting color.

Also, I am posting the last Leaf-O-Meter Picture today.  Atlthough there are still a few oaks with leaves clinging to them, it is safe to say that the foliage is definitely “past peak.”

Friday Dudley 10/26/06

Subsidies

In politics right now, as most people are well aware, dishonesty is rampant. Not the garden variety little white lies about politicians’ personal lives, but a structural dishonesty. At the national level this has resulted in “conservative” politicians calling for “lower taxes and smaller government,” decrying government waste and all, but really what they are doing is pulling a switcharoo. Closing down social services and giving the money to the Pentagon. As if the Pentagon doesn’t get taxpayer money and would never, ever waste it. So let us be honest about subsidies.

Governments at all levels subsidize things and the things they subsidize influences our behavior. In general this is a fine concept. No matter what side of things you might be on, you probably like some government subsidy or another. Getting people to recycle is a noble goal, and subsidized here in Wisconsin. But every snowplow is also a subsidy, which might encourage people to drive more. Every bus is a subsidy that might encourage people to drive less. Leaf pickup is a subsidy that encourages people to remove their leaves rather than simply mulching them with a lawn mower.

So the question is not whether or not to subsidize (unless you want to shut all government down, which I don’t) but rather “What should we subsidize?” That is to say: “What should we encourage and help people to do with our tax dollars?”

Some folks make the argument that subsidizing big development projects such as the Dudley Building and the Palladian encourage further economic growth that benefits the city as a whole. This argument obviously carries a lot weight down at city hall. And it might with you as well. However, I tend to feel that these kinds of projects would have gone forward anyway and that city (or other governmental) money could have been used for things that would not otherwise happen or succeed and would benefit our citizens. And, yes, I have some examples.

The Farmers Market. Currently here in Wausau they set up in a dirt patch and have to bring their own tents and tables and such. How about if the city built some permanent stalls closer to downtown, like they have in Stevens Point (not to mention many larger cities)? Encouraging people to support local farms and eat better sounds like a good idea to me.

Downtown Grocery. It is still a bit too early to say if the Downtown Grocery is going to be economically successful or not, and I certainly wish them the best of luck. But it seems to me this is the perfect kind of business that we should subsidize. It gives Wausau a big city atmosphere and provides some of the same benefits as a thriving farmers market. Not to mention a downtown grocery store. Helping them thrive is in the city’s interest, perhaps better than the last supermarket subsidy.

Indoor Park. If you are a parent, how many times have you headed for a fast food place, not really for something to eat, but rather for a place for the kids to run around during bad weather? There are sort of places for kids to play downtown when the weather is rotten, but the little place in the mall and the library don’t really qualify. An indoor park could draw people downtown, especially during the Christmas shopping season.

Riverfront Bike Trail. The Bearskin Trail in Minocqua, starting downtown as it does up there is a wonderful thing and seems pretty well used. I know I drive up there occaisionally to bike on it. Now imagine a trail from downtown to downtown. Say Wausau to Merrill. Or even better from Stevens Point to Wausau to Merrill, following the river as closely as possible. Ride your bike for an hour or two and stop and have lunch at a café. Sounds nice to me.

Weather Radios. Huh? After Ladysmith was hit by a tornado, it was found that the sirens were not functioning properly and rather than try to install and maintain some kind of perfect siren system, the town bought automatic weather radios for everyone. We could make a weather radio part of the building code, like smoke detectors and provide coupons for households below a certain value. Or something like that. Could save a lot of lives.

Wi-fi. A citywide municipal wireless internet system could provide tremendous benefits. At first it would only subsidize a relatively small group, but as computers continue to get cheaper more and more people could get on the network. It might even be possible to have a special “Wausau connection” that would provide essentially a broadcast of local information that could help create a greater sense of common knowledge and community.

It still seems to me that if we provided these kinds of things as a city (and region) that Wausau would get even more of a reputation as a great place to visit and live. Just a totally rad city. Sweeeeeeet, as my son now says (constantly!) With a reputation like that people will come to visit and start their businesses. And hotels, office buildings and restaurants could take care of themselves.