There Goes the Neighborhood

We live down the street from a major hospital, and over the years we’ve watched that hospital tear down out neighborhood to pave it with parking lots.

Now that four and a half blocks have been taken down, they want to tear down another entire block.

This video illustrates the history with archived aerial photographs and satellite images.

North-South Corridor: The Road Proposal that Will Not Die

Over twenty years ago, there was a proposal to build a new highway connecting downtown La Crosse with Interstate 90 and the northern suburbs. City residents wanted nothing to do with the “North-South Corridor”, as it would degrade urban livability and encroach on a beloved and ecologically important marsh. So in a 1998 referendum, La Crosse rejected the road by a 2-1 margin.

I remember the DOT presenting traffic studies predicting horrible gridlock in twenty years unless we built a road. But here we are, twenty years later, and traffic armageddon has failed to materialize. Now the DOT has returned with a series of new proposals, insisting that we will suffer horrible gridlock twenty years from now if we don’t “increase the capacity” of our local roads.

There is no reason to believe the DOT’s ominous predictions are any more accurate today than they were twenty years ago, and for La Crosse to allow North-South Corridor 2.0 to be built would be a horrible mistake. Read on

The Limo – Bikepacking on a Tandem Recumbent

Our Double Vision bicycle has kept us happy and healthy since 2002.

bikepacking: backpacking by bicycle; traveling long distances by carrying overnight gear and camping along the way.

As long as RoZ and I have known each other, we’ve wanted to go bikepacking. Since we moved to La Crosse, Wisconsin in the mid-90’s, we’ve had easy access to a premier network of bike trails. Most are part of the “rails to trails” movement: reclaimed rail beds with gentle grades far from highways and traffic. With plenty of places to camp, our part of the world is made for bikepacking. Read on

Poison at Half-Price – A Fable about Cheap Gas

Imagine a time and place when everyone was healthy. The grass was green, the air was fresh, and attractive birds sang sweetly over clean streets.

Then one day someone started selling poison from a shop on the corner. People started using this poison because they thought it made their lives easier.

But the poison was highly addictive. Users quickly became dependent on the poison, and they sacrificed large portions of their incomes to this addiction.

Worst of all, widespread use of the poison caused the grass and the skies to turn brown, and the only birds to be seen over the dirty and trashy streets were nasty pigeons.

Then a new generation grew up watching their parents struggle with this addiction. They saw what the poison was doing to their world, so they developed ways to do without it.

As more of these young people came of age, the dealer on the corner had a harder time moving his product. So over the past few months the price kept coming down in order to boost business and clear inventory.

In effect, the poison dealer on the corner is now having a half-price sale. I don’t know how the rest of this story turns out.

The poison dealer hopes that his half-price promotion will create a new generation of addicts. Once they’re hooked, he can go back to charging full price. In fact, it won’t be too long before he charges double the normal price. The addicts might grumble, but by then they’ll have no choice but to pay up.

Meanwhile, the world would become darker, dirtier, and hotter.

On the other hand, we could recognize that these low prices are only temporary. We could remember the exorbitant prices from just a few years ago, and we could see how easily those prices can happen again.

This poison drains money from the pockets of its users. Using this poison adds stress and misery to our lives, and it degrades the quality of life for everyone – users and non-users alike.

Even if it’s half-price, it’s still poison!
Even if it’s free, it’s still poison.

If you don’t use the poison, this is no time to start. Addictions are easy to fall into, but much harder to break.

If you are a current user of the poison, this half-price sale has given you some extra money. So instead of spending it on more poison, why not invest that money into kicking the poison habit? Imagine never needing to buy any poison ever again.

The dealer on the corner is getting desperate, so we must be doing a lot of the right things. Let’s keep it up.

Why Bernie’s Idealism Beats Hillary’s Pragmatism

Bernie Sanders has made many bold proposals in this campaign, only to have them dismissed as “impossible” or “unrealistic”. His primary opponent will have us believe that Americans are no longer capable of doing Big Things.

If all of our presidents had thought this way, we would have never defeated the fascists, built the Interstate Highway system, or landed on the Moon. These big and visionary projects would have been incompatible with such “pragmatic” leadership.

In an American football game, the winning team is the one that is always trying to score a touchdown. That doesn’t mean they won’t accept first downs along the way, but they will devote every play to moving the ball down the field until it is in the end zone.

A team run by Bernie Sanders’ detractors would celebrate and go home after one first down, telling us that the goal line is too far away to even try to get there. That is not a winning strategy.

If we strive for idealistic goals, that doesn’t mean we won’t accept incremental steps that get us closer to those goals. It just means that those steps must be followed by more steps until our goals are achieved.

We only get what we want if we ask for it. So during the primary season, it is important to vote for what we want, rather than what we’re willing to settle for. That is why I am supporting Bernie Sanders for President, and I urge each of you to do the same.

Trump: The New Profanity

There’s a carnival clown on our TVs. His surname is the word you get when you merge tush and rump. Since those words are synonymous with each other, the merged word must also be a synonym of tush and rump.

I suggest we use this new word to replace another synonym – a word that some consider vulgar even though it appears in so much of our common lexicon. It would give us a way to say these things in “polite company.”

For instance:

Be careful in the winter or you might “slip and fall on your trump.”

When faced with an annoying and difficult task, you could call it, “a pain in the trump.”

One that is willing to vote for the carnival clown could be said to “have his head up his trump.”

A football coach could encourage a player to hustle by yelling, “Get the lead out of your trump.”

Before the big game, that coach could end his pre-game pep talk with, “Now go out there and kick some trump!”

Hopefully by now you’re thinking up more of these on your own, and laughing your trump off as you do so. Have a good weekend!

BONUS ADDENDUM: Some years ago, a sitting US Senator had his surname turned into a disgusting profanity. It would be easy to build a sentence containing both of these new words, but I’ll leave that up to you.

Competing with the Third World – An American Coder’s Lament

As many of my readers may know, I’ve been seeing a bit of down time in my professional life lately. And like any professional looking for his next project, I’ve made my trade’s LinkedIn discussions a daily stop on my journey.

But something disturbing has happened in the couple of years since I last had this habit. Everybody seems to be talking about how wonderful it is to bypass professional developers, or failing that, to hire developers from third-world countries for $7/hour or less.

Read on

Trump: Defining the Size of the Republican A$$hole Caucus

As America’s quadrennial campaign circus heats up, pundits are tearing their hair out wondering how Donald Trump could be leading in the Republican primary polls while being such an a$$hole. I have a theory that (in my humble opinion, at least) makes a lot of sense.   Read on

A New Bridge… At Least Ten Years Too Late

I went to a ribbon cutting today. A new bridge for bicyclists and pedestrians finally opened on the north side of La Crosse, connecting neighborhoods on one side of a railroad yard with workplaces on the other. But this was a celebration that was many years overdue.

HendricksonBridge

The new “Bud Hendrickson Bridge”, seen from its eastern approach, spans the BNSF rail yard to connect the north side of La Crosse to the the industrial park and a bike-friendly route to Onalaska.

Read on

Our Cat is a Basket Case

A few days ago, I found Gizmo taking a nap in a very odd position, and in a very odd place.