Category Archives: General Writings

Uncategorized rants, essays and information

Things Are Moving Around

Apparently a few of you have noticed the new project in town.  Although a little more limited in scope than what the Wausaublog was, it has a much bigger purpose.

One of my goals in writing the Wausaublog was always to promote our town in hopes of making us tourists in our own town.  I don’t know about you, but when I travel somewhere I make a point of going to the little main street shops, the out of the way scenic spot and the mom and pop diner.  You don’t drive halfway across the state to shop at Wally-World after all.

But we forget to do that in our own home towns, and it is just as interesting here, if not more so, given that we have the time to really explore such places, returning again and again.

Not only is exploring locally more fun, it is better for our economy.  Shop at a big box and a big chunk of change goes out of town to executive salaries and such.  Shop locally and it all stays here — and keeps moving around here.  So, it is totally win-win.

So buy local and check out our new site: Buy Local Central Wisconsin.

Rhythm and Bows

I am a bit late with this post, but forgive me, I am new at this sort of thing. 🙂

I had the wonderful opportunity to go to the Stevens Point Jazz Fest over Labor Day weekend and was pretty much blown away. But I will save that part for last, even though it was not last in chronological order.

There were a few groups of local stars, even if they were playing with people from out of town, with our own John Greiner sitting in with several bands. All very, very good playing jazz standards. A wonderful way to pass a beautiful almost fall afternoon.

The final set of the festival was performed by Madisalsa which put on an incredible high energy show that featured a multi-player rhythm section and an amazing horn section. It is no wonder they were named Madison’s “Favorite Dance Band” for three years running. People certainly did get up and dance. The show was amazing. But it was not the best of the weekend.

The guy who rocked the house down to the ground plays the violin. I am not making this up.

Randy Sabien came prepared for musical battle as it were. Including him there were three violins fronting his “Fiddlehead” band and behind him were not one, but two drum kits. And on one of those drum kits was Randy’s secret weapon: The Funky Drummer.

Clyde Stubblefield who once laid down tracks with James Brown, and may be the most sampled musician ever, can still lay down an awesome beat, even though he is eligible for Social Security. Every punk band in the state wishes they had someone who could hit the drumhead as hard and as accurately as Mr. Stubblefield. And on this night he had a shadow!

The effect was quite overwhelming. If you want to get some idea of what it sounded like, head on over to Randy’s MySpace page and check out the tracks, he played all four that night. Of course you have to scale it up about 1000 percent and play it outdoors on a perfect night for the full effect.

A couple of notes about the songs. “Clyde O Scope” is a tribute to Mr. Stubblefield, the world as seen through Clyde’s eyes, according to Randy. And the “Cliffs of Dover” was originally written as a guitar hero piece, but personally, I like Randy’s version a million times better, it is less egotistical and more of a happy party than the original.

If you get any chance to see Randy Sabien live, by all means get out there and see the amazing show.

Time to Eat Your Car?

So, by now you have certainly noticed the price of gasoline continuing to climb. And you may have even noticed that a few things are a bit more expensive in the grocery store. Well you are not the only one to have noticed that things are about to get out of hand.

In a nutshell, what the World Bank (and others) are noticing is that the price of oil has a wee little something to do with the price of food, in on way that is obvious to most people and one that might not be so obvious.

The obvious reason (that might not at first be so obvious) is that nothing you eat is grown or made here. See any banana trees outside your windows? Your tomato plants all nice and healthy after the snow squalls yesterday? Turns out that the average morsel of food on your plate has traveled some 1500 miles to get there. And that is the overall average for the whole country, so I am going to guess that us northerners may have it a bit worse. So, transportation costs alone will add a bit, perhaps quite a bit to your food bill. But that is not the biggest impact that transporation will have on your food budget.

Your car also is very hungry and has to be fed.

In searching for renewable energy sources we hit upon the idea of using ethanol in the place of gasoline. Which sounds fantastic. Ethanol comes from plants and plants are solar energy, right? Also, ethanol was sold to us as a boon for the farmers of America. “Fill-er-up” and save the family farm. Or something like that. Turns out that almost none of that is exactly true.

It is true that ethanol is usually made from corn and that in a sense corn is a renewable resource. Unfortunately, the way most corn is grown, it uses up tons of non-renewable resources. Those conflakes of yours are soaked in oil — not corn oil, the crude kind.

Turns out that the high price of oil is squeezing the price of food on two fronts.

First, modern agriculture requires literally tons and tons of oil. From making fertilizers to running water pumps to trucking the stuff all over the globe, agriculture consumes huge quantities of fossil fuels. The higher the price of oil, the higher the price of food. But wait there’s more!

Now as more corn is diverted from the food chain into the ethanol plants, the price of food goes higher still! Land that could have been used to say, grow broccoli (OK, more likely wheat) is given over to corn — corn which no one will ever eat. Did you just hear the price of eggs going up again? Less corn on the market means more expensive chicken feed. More expensive eggs that cost more to ship than ever. Thank goodness ethanol is such a good deal and is saving the family farm!

Sorry, wrong on both counts.

Ethanol is not a good deal by most calculations. In fact it is a terrible deal.

The most optimistic number I have seen says that for each barrel of oil needed to make and transport ethanol we get about 1.3 barrels of energy (to compare apples to apples). For crude oil currently each barrel invested in finding, extracting and transporting yields something like 20 to 200 barrels of energy. So, ethanol has a long way to go, or oil has a long way to fall.

And ethanol does not really save any family farms. As you may have already figured, ethanol favors the kind of huge, monocropped factory farm that degrades the land and generates huge profits (and subsidies) for companies like Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland.

The only way out of the coming food crisis is to use less fossil fuels, both in agriculture and transporation. But fortunately there is a way to start doing that. Which we will talk about next time.

Wausaublog Podcast

Yes, I know that I said a week ago that I would be starting up again, and then nothing happened. It was a long week and there will be other long weeks as I continue my efforts not to find out firsthand what homelessness feels like.

I had the tremendous privledge of meeting Wendell Minor when he was here this weekend, and attended two of the events that he spoke at. Wendell Minor, for those who may not have been paying attention, is one of the two artists who create children’s books whose work is being exhibited at the Woodson art Museum.

You can read a little more about the exhibit and the background of Mr. Minor in tomorrow’s Buyers’ Guide.

While interviewing Mr. Minor, I was thinking to myself that he was saying some really wonderful things, things that went way beyond anything I could use in the paper. So, with his kind permission, I am posting the entire interview here on the Wausaublog.

Well, actually this is the first half of the interview, we talked for about a half hour, so I split it into two parts and added a bit of introductory material. I hope that you enjoy this and will tune in for the second installment, coming in the next day or two.

Although I do so in the audio, I will also apologize for the audio quality of the interview itself. It was recorded in the library on a simple voice recorder on the longest play (lowest quality) setting. Speakers might be a better choice than headphones on this one.

I hope that this approach will prove useful and doable and that there will be many more voices to be heard on the Wausaublog.

And speaking of new voices, just a quick comment about the music on the audio. I found it on archive.org under the netlabels. It was listed as having a Common Commons license, with attribution, so here it is.

It is by a group called emorej and you can find much more of their work, and even buy some if you feel so inclined, here.

Without further ado, here is the podcast itself. Let me know what you think.

[odeo=http://odeo.com/audio/17702853/view]

Sledding, sledding, sledding

Even though it has been ages since I have posted here regularly, people seem to find the blog on Google. And the number one search term for the last week or so has been “sledding.” Wonderful! But where the heck are all you people?

I have been sledding a few times with the kids over the past 10 days or so, and while we are out on the hill, basically there is no one else out there. Is there some kind of virtual sledding experience I have missed somewhere? Go on out and hit the slopes.

Since it is not immediately obvious where this information is on the County Parks and Rec website, here are the “official” sledding hills at the Wausau area parks:

SLEDDING HILLS

Sledding areas are open as soon as snow cover permits. Two hills have lights for night use. All hill close at 11pm (when parks close). There is no charge to use these hills.

  • Pleasant View Park; 1221 Sumner Street (lights on hill)
  • Riverside Park; 100 Sherman Street
  • Schofield Park; 606 E. Randolph Street
  • 3M Park; 405 Park Blvd (lights on hill)

You may have noticed that I did not include the Sylvan Hill Tubing facility.  First of all, it has its own page on the Parks site, so you can find it more easily, but secondly I am not a big fan of fun that you have to pay for and then stand (or sit) in line.  Nothing wrong with that kind of thing, just not my cup of tea.

My personal favorite sledding hill is Pleasant View Park, where we spent some time night sledding a while ago (one of the lights is misaligned so there is a huge dark patch as you go down — add to the fun!) and had a blast. I have been told by a long time resident that this hill used to a ski hill with a tow rope and everything. It is nice to dream about that tow rope as you trudge up the hill.

But here is the deal people. I need every single one of you to go sledding between now and Saturday. I need all of you, your kids and your neighbor kids to head up to Pleasant View Park and sled for hours and hours and hours. Especially you grown ups. Especially you Wisconsin sized grown ups.

Oh, you say you don’t have a sled?  Worry not!  Just truck on up to Fleet Farm.  The have a huge pile of the plastic “bathtub” sleds.  Nine bucks, holds two kids, goes pretty well on almost any kind of snow.  Can’t beat it.  If you have a big family and a few extra bucks, they have a plastic “luge” that looks like it will hold four people and a dog.  Eighteen bucks.  Cheap at twice the price.  Where else can you have that much fun for a sawbuck?

Now you say, “But Bill, what do you need me for?”  Because it is true, I need you and I need you badly.   You see, this last snowfall, the beautiful light powder that it was, is not the greatest for sledding. Piles up in front of the sled and slows it down. So, I need all of you to pack the snow down between now and Sunday. So that on Sunday afternoon, the kids and I can whiz down the hill with the greatest of ease.

I am counting on you Wausau, I know you can do it!

Unidentified Dudley Object

So, L and I were driving back from the Wisconsin Englishes presentation at UWMC when she turns to me and says, “Do you see that?”

I did indeed. And I took pictures of what we saw. They are NOT photoshopped, if anything, the colors look even richer to the eye than they do to the camera.

Makes for an interesting skyline, that is all I have to say.

Click on any or all of the thumbs for the larger image, but you get the idea.

UDO 7 UDO 6UDO 5UDO 4

UDO 3UDO 2UDO 1

Blogs, Censorship and Conflict

This little post is inspired by the comment by Mr. Mentzer and also by the little brouhaha over at Citizen Wausau.

First let me say that there is no animosity, or really, feelings of any kind about the start up of Citizen Wausau. I have said many, many times that there is always room for more voices about anything and everything and another take on Wausau is a good thing. So, rock on guys and have fun with it.

I will go even a step further and say that everyone should have a blog or something like it. Writing is a tremendously valuable skill and one that is simply not exercised enough by most people. For years I have seen all the wonderful things that the library puts out encouraging reading (Readers are Leaders and so on) and have always thought, “Reading is great, but you need to be able to DO stuff too.” And one thing everyone should DO is write.

Back when Ken Burns’s first big war pic came out (about the oxymoronic Civil War — how can any war be civil?) I, like many people were amazed at the poetic beauty of the letters and diary entries that he found — written by ordinary people. Even allowing for the fact that over time only the best of such things survived and the he had the liberty to edit the heck out of them, the use of the language by ordinary people was quite striking. They obviously spent a lot of time both reading and writing. We don’t — but we should.

I am reminded of one of my favorite snarks, although I forget now who said it. At the time of the quote the various TV networks had various promos to encourage reading. I believe CBS had a thing after many programs telling people how they could “read more about it.” Which lead to this acid response: “Having a TV network combatting illiteracy is like a chocolate eclair manufacturer fighting obesity.” But I digress.

So, everyone should have a blog. Expressing yourself in writing often organizes your thoughts and gives you a very nice mental work out. I am not talking about spreading information here, though that might be useful — just expressing your thoughts on “paper.” It is a good thing for everyone.

Beyond that, more discussion of our town is good and more information is good. Citizen Wausau is a good thing. And so will whatever the next blog about Wausau be. I have always said, and certainly stand by the idea — “the more the merrier.”

I will say, however, that I sit here with a bit of bemusement at the brouhaha over at Citizen Wausau. Perhaps it was not intended, but there were some comments in the CP when the Wausaublog was going black (not permanently, apparently) that this new blog would be more wide open than this blog had been. I was perplexed by the comment at the time, hoping that perhaps it was a misquote or something.

Over the year or so that the Wausaublog limped along, there was exactly one post that I sort of declined to run. The author said it was satire, but it just sounded like an attack to me. I sat on it a long time and finally said, “Sorry, I am not going ‘print’ that.” The person apparently got their feelings hurt and never contributed again. Which is OK. There was one other time when I was sent a contribution and I asked the author whether they really wanted it out there in the form in which they sent it to me. I pointed out that maybe they might not get nice comments on it, and the author said not to run it.

And speaking of comments, I had one instance where I felt forced to cut off comments on an article. Some group from Texas found the blog because of a post that mentioned a band that used the Confederate battle flag as their symbol — and these guys from Texas wanted to post dissertation length comments on how the aforementioned oxymoronic Civil War had nothing to do with slavery. I just wasn’t in the mood for a flame war over a 4 month old post, so I closed the comments for a while. It was the only time I deleted comments.

I did also get into a bit of hot water when I tried to moderate a comment thread that had gotten a bit out of hand. One of the contributors felt that in doing so, I was taking sides and eventually declined to participate as a contributor any longer. Which is also fine.

But all that being said, I do feel for the guys over at CW. No matter what you are doing on a public blog that represents something (even if it only yourself) such as your city, your business or whatever, it is probably impossible, especially on the internet, to have completely free speech. If you did, your blog would be covered in spam comments leading to porn sites.

And, as I have said before, editors have value. Not posting something because it is not good enough or is way off topic or vile or whatever, is fair game for the owner of a blog. That is what an editor is for. The Herald (for example) is under no obligation to publish anything and everything that comes over the transom, and the same is true of CW and the Wausaublog.

So, here is where I can tie things together. If you want every word you write to be “published,” get your own blog. You can get a free one here on WordPress.com in about five minutes. I encourage you to do that. Writing is good for you. Everyone should do it.

The last thing I wil say is that to be a blogger of any kind on the net requires a bit of both thickness of skin and skull. Anyone in the world can post anonymous comments on your thoughts and opinions. Registration doesn’t stop that, only makes people more creative. So, you can’t take yourself too seriously and for the most part you can’t take the comments from others all that seriously, either. Unless it involves a spellchecker. I know from first hand experience that a copy editor is even more important than an editor.