Witness a machine turn coffee into pointless ramblings...
28 October, 2006
Myths & Misconceptions
(To Part 1, Part 2.)
One woman in "The Trouble With My Vagina" who refuses to have any pubic hair explained this attitude by saying "it's just more hygienic for it to be groomed". But is it? What ill-health effects are to be had by keeping your pubic hair? None, apparently. The following is in the 1994 edition of The American Medical Association Family Medical Guide
:Many women regularly remove hair from certain areas, and most men shave their faces daily. Hair is usually removed if it is considered unsightly. Whether hair is unsightly or not is a matter of personal preference. Removal of unwanted hair is unlikely to improve hygiene or health.
Indeed, waxing can be harmful. Marian Segal wrote in the 1996 FDA Consumer
that “waxing—and tweezing as well—can leave the skin sore and open to infection”. The hair on women's heads is (generally) longer and denser than pubic hair, yet it is not considered unhygienic. Is there something in our psyches that equates genitalia and its surrounds with uncleanliness that is at play here?
Later in the program, Scarlet editor Sarah Hadley says:Because we are sexually open, there will always be side effects to anything positive that happens and because we're so sexually open, women are watching a lot of pornography now. We're looking at women's vaginas and saying, 'Oh! That's a nice vagina, that looks incredibly symmetrical and neat and mine doesn't look like that. And so, as soon as a woman has an insecurity, there's an entire multi-million dollar industry ready to cash in on that insecurity. It's happening now.
A doctor interviewed in the program had this to say:Part of me just thinks that it's a problem that women are creating for women, ah, simply because I don't know a man who's ever been put-off by the site of somebody's vulval area. By the time they get that far, they're grateful to have gotten as far as they've got.
One woman causing problems for fellow women by cashing in on their insecurities is Marilyn Jaeger
, the proprietor of a skincare studio in San Francisco. She's appeared on the radio show-cum-podcast, Sex With Emily
a couple times hawking her services and promoting the total removal of pubic hair. These two dyed-in-the-wool fanatics of hairless crotches sound like an infomercial together.Emily: So Marilyn, what can a Brazilian wax do for me?
Jaeger: Well Emily, after having a Brazilian, you'll instantly attract men and get laid every night!
If you think I'm just being funny, then read these actual quotes from the Hairless Duo:Emily: "Tonight we're talking to Marilyn Jaeger, who is one of my personal heroes, because Marilyn put Brazilian bikini waxing on the map. She's the first one who did that little stripper strip mound of hair to me several years ago and she changed my life."
Jaeger: "I brought Brazilian bikini waxing to the Bay Area – nobody knew what it was. I've been doing it for 13 years…I have fans all over the world. I walk into a restaurant and five guys are bowing on the floor because I take care of their wives."
Emily: "Married people probably need Brazilians more than straight
[sic] because married people don't have sex and they wanna start having sex."
Jaeger: "When I'm doing their eyebrows and they're telling me these stories
[about lack of sex in their marriages], inside I'm all , 'Girlfriend, drop your drawers – I will take care of you and your husband will not leave you alone."
Jaeger: "I have clients who are the biggest prudes in the world and they're so shy and embarrassed. And then they get their Brazilian and they strut out of my salon like they are the hottest thing on this planet."
And these quotes are just from the first few minutes of the first time Jaeger was on the show. Listen
Like a snake oil peddler, Jaeger assures listeners that their sex lives will be enhanced or even risen from the ashes like the Phoenix after she removes most or all of their pubes. The implication here is that pubic hair is sole to blame instead of seeing that a couple's sex life is influenced by a myriad of factors. This puffery (at best) or lying (at worst) wouldn't be so bad on its own, but she never misses a beat in trying to make folks who prefer to retain their pubic hair feel inadequate and downright ugly. Her refrain is "You've gotta mow the lawn to sell the house". First of all, having your pubes yanked out is not mowing; it's ripping up the sod. Secondly, why is this all about selling the house? Jaeger constantly warns (threatens?) listeners that, if they have pubic hair, potential sexual partners will flee in terror. And so it seems that for her, if your self-image is just fine with hair between your legs, then there is something wrong with you, you're not part of the "in" crowd, and so you'd best ditch that positive self-image.
In " The Brazilian Wax: New Hairlessness Norm for Women?", Magdala Peixoto Labre takes a look at the Brazilian Wax, which is generally understood to be a treatment whereby all hair between a woman's legs is removed excepting a small patch on the Mons Veneris
- the "landing strip". As Labre notes, the fad of the Brazilian is thought to have started, not in Brazil, but in New York by the J. Sisters – seven Brazilian sisters whose names all begin with the letter "J". They supposedly learned the technique from their aunt's beauty salon in Brazil and brought it to America. Labre shows how the procedure has been promoted by magazines aimed at women as well as by the TV show Sex and the City. But the most interesting section is when she tries to inform readers about what the media left out of its frenzy of promotion. In promoting the Brazilian wax trend, the media failed to question whether the procedure was, in fact, espoused by a majority of Brazilian women. Although I was born and raised in Rio de Janeiro and visit the country regularly (at least once a year), I had never heard of the Brazilian wax procedure until it became popular in the United States a few years ago. Growing up in Brazil, my friends and I did go to beauty salons for a regular bikini wax, not a Brazilian wax. In searching the Web sites of Brazilian beauty salons, I have found that some do offer a more extensive bikini wax (referred to as “virilha cavada”, or deeper bikini line)—for women who wear smaller bikinis. However, few bikinis are small enough to require the complete removal of hair.
According to Pello Menos Depilation Institute, which has 13 clinics in Rio de Janeiro, the complete removal of pubic and anal hair is referred to in Brazil by its scientific name, “tricotomia” (response to e-mail request for information, August 22, 2001). It is a procedure that is usually performed on pregnant women right before they give birth. According to Pello Menos Institute, because the Brazilian wax procedure requires specialized training, it is not offered by many Brazilian salons. However, the institute noted that its clinics do offer this service, which is now becoming popular among Brazilian women.
It seems that The Brazilian Wax was not a fad in the country for which it is named but was instead an American creation that was exported later. She also touches on what I mentioned previously about pornography being a model. Labre notes:…the disappearance of pubic hair among Playboy models. Although there is anecdotal evidence that this has occurred, this phenomenon has not been the topic of research. In our society, Playboy models often are the first images of female beauty to which boys are exposed. The consumption of these images may contribute to adolescent boys’ conception of what a female body should look like and generate dissatisfaction with women’s bodies. For example, a study of male college students found that those exposed to pictures of Playboy and Penthouse centerfolds subsequently described their girlfriends as less sexually appealing (Signorielli 1993).
Perhaps this explains my own personal preference for women having their pubes. I hit puberty in the first half of the 1980s back when Playboy models, although neatly trimmed, still had hair between their legs. I guess I really just don't know. I would also hazard to guess that my attitude towards women's body hair generally was shaped, at least in part, when I was in high school. A friend's parents were hippies right out of the 1960s. In the 70s, they took the notion of "getting back to the land" to heart and moved to a very small farm here in Wisconsin. Unsurprisingly, my friend's mom didn't shave her underarms or legs. I don't recall my initial reaction but I suppose it was just one of curiosity as she was different. As time went on, it became a non-issue as I simply recognized her as a woman who refused to conform to society's norm of female beauty. I think that, because of this experience, I tend to view women who refuse to depilate one area of their body or another as being non-conformists or rebels in their own little way. And this quality of not simply following the herd is one I respect greatly.Sources:
"The Brazilian Wax: New Hairless Norm for Women?" – Magdala Peixoto Labre
"Caucasian Female Body Hair and American Culture" - Christine Hope
"The Hairless Ideal – Women and Their Body Hair" – Susan A. Basow
"Women and Body Hair – Social Perceptions and Attitudes" – Susan A. Basow and Amie C. Braman"The Hairless Norm: The Removal of Body Hair in Women"
– Marika Tiggemann and Sarah J. Kenyon
"Attitudes Toward Women's Body Hair: Relationship with Disgust Sensitivity" – Marika Tiggemann and Christine Lewis
"Body hair removal: the 'mundane' production of normative femininity" – Merran Toerien, Sue Wilkinson, Precilla Y.L. Choi"Who decided women should shave their legs and underarms?"
– The Straight DopeSex With Emily
- podcastThe Madison Public Library
(Libraries rock!!) Pictures found at:ShaveWorldVintage Paper AdseBayHippie Goddess
For some interesting discussion on this topic, I recommend the following blog entries:"Buffing the Teen Beaver"
- I Blame the Patriarchy"To Shave or Not to Shave"
- an eighth"Taking 'parental consent' to a whole new level"
Whither the Pubes?
(To Part 1.)
Answering this is actually quite difficult as social scientists don't seem to have actually attempted to find one for this specific question. However, they have examined the removal of women's body hair generally but have only done a handful of studies (that I could find, anyway). It's like science knows more about the lives of ants than it does about why women labor to remove all of their body hair. Reading the studies and other articles, it seems like pubic hair removal is, pardon the pun, an outgrowth of the "normal" practice of women removing their leg & underarm hair; this wasn't really something that came out of the blue, but is, rather, an extension of pre-existing norms.
The Christopher Columbus of this area of study is one Christine Hope. Her name appeared constantly in discussions about women and their depilation practices. While there were those before her who noted a "hairless ideal" for women and that the lack of body hair was considered feminine, she seems to be the first person to go out and try to find out why this was. The result was "Caucasian Female Body Hair and American Culture" which appeared in the Spring 1982 issue of the Journal of American Culture
. I wasn't able to find a free copy of the article and wasn't going to pay $29 for one. However, it is quoted liberally in other pieces and I found that I was already familiar with her thesis. Uncle Cecil from The Straight Dope used Hope's research to answer "Who decided women should shave their legs and underarms?"
. I should note that Hope did not survey women about why they removed their hair. Instead she looked at the ads in issues of Harper's Bazaar
, the Sears catalogue, and the like from the years 1915-1945 to suss out the normal conception of beauty as it related to women and their body hair during these years.According to Hope, the underarm campaign began in May, 1915, in Harper's Bazaar, a magazine aimed at the upper crust. The first ad "featured a waist-up photograph of a young woman who appears to be dressed in a slip with a toga-like outfit covering one shoulder. Her arms are arched over her head revealing perfectly clear armpits. The first part of the ad read `Summer Dress and Modern Dancing combine to make necessary the removal of objectionable hair.'"
(The first razor for women – Gillette's Milady Decollete.)
("A necessity for the well groomed woman")
Next came the assault on the legs:The anti-leg hair campaign was more fitful. The volume of leg ads never reached the proportions of the underarm campaign. Women were apparently more ambivalent about calling attention to the lower half of their anatomy, perhaps out of fear that doing so would give the male of the species ideas in a way that naked underarms did not.
Besides, there wasn't much practical need for shaved legs. After rising in the 1920s hemlines dropped in the 30s and many women were content to leave their leg hair alone.
Still, some advertisers as well as an increasing number of fashion and beauty writers harped on the idea that female leg hair was a curse.
Though Hope doesn't say so, what may have put the issue over the top was the famous WWII pinup of Betty Grable displaying her awesome gams. Showing off one's legs became a patriotic act. That plus shorter skirts and sheer stockings, which looked dorky with leg hair beneath, made the anti-hair pitch an easy sell.
It seems that, before 1915, women generally didn't find their normal body hair to be a problem and nor, apparently, did men. Then along came clothes with very short or no sleeves and suddenly underarm hair became "superfluous", "ugly", "unwanted", and "unfashionable". These ads were aimed at white women and they often touted the benefits of shaving using the phrase "smooth and white". An advertisement by Dunsworth Laboratories, who presumably made some kind of depilatory, read: "Freedom from Unwanted Hair Opens the Gates to Social Enjoyments that are Forever Closed to Those so Afflicted". Afflicted with what? Being human?
As Hope noted, it was really in the post-World War II timeframe that the "hairless norm" took hold. While most women traipsed towards it with a razor in hand, there were others who were seemingly so desperate to be "normal" that they headed to the back alley for "X-ray epilation". This meant that they exposed themselves to harmful doses of radiation all in the name of hair removal. (Their desperation was later termed "North American Hiroshima maiden syndrome".) And some women paid the ultimate price for their pursuit – death.
In addition to linking hair removal to advertising campaigns and fashion trends, the literature on the topic also tends to speculate that patriarchal imperatives and biases are involved. In the preface to her study "Women and Their Body Hair", Susan Basow notes:As middle-class women moved out of their "separate sphere" of domestic life both physically and behaviorally, the removal of body hair may have served to maintain a certain distinction between the genders. It also may have served to de-emphasize women's adult status, since increased body hair and the development of underarm hair are secondary sex characteristics that develop after puberty. Since hair has long had sexual association for men and for women, its removal also may have conveyed two closely associated sexual messages – that a woman's mature sexuality is controlled at the same time as her "tamed" sensuality is on display.
In the context of her article, Basow is implying that the above are not side effects of, but rather motivations for a trend. Personally, I find that this interpretation of hair removal as a method of social control puts an awfully large amount of intention behind a marketing ploy that goes beyond making money. While I agree that the ideas of what was "feminine" changed at this time, I still cannot attribute this to a malicious patriarchal subterfuge executed via the Gillette Safety Razor Company.
Besides Susan Basow's study, "Women and Their Body Hair" (1991), we have "The hairless norm: the removal of body hair in women" (1998) by researchers Marika Tiggemann and Sarah J. Kenyon. Whereas Basow looked at the habits of professional women, Tiggemann and Kenyon examined the hair removal habits of Australian high school girls and university women. Basow found that about 80% of her sample removed leg and/or underarm hair. T&K found:
Of the university women: 91.5% removed leg hair & 93% removed underarm hair
Of the high school girls: 92% removed leg hair & 91.2% removed underarm hair
Basow's respondents generally reported that they began shaving for "normative" reasons (i.e. – it was just something that women did when they hit puberty) as opposed to reasons related to femininity or attractiveness. Seven years later across the Pacific, T&K, however, found something different:In contrast to Basow's (1991) finding for starting reasons, both groups also rated the feminine/attractiveness reasons as more important. This was much less pronounced for the university students, whose third to highest rated reason was the normative item "It was the thing to do" (highest rating in Basow's study). However, it was extremely clear that for the high school girls their starting reasons were primarily the feminine/attractive ones.
And why do women continue to shave? From Basow:Most women continue to shave for reasons relating to femininity and sexual attractiveness. Few respondents say that they remove leg and/or underarm hair for functional reasons; i.e., that body hair is unclean or uncomfortable. Few also say body hair is gross, ugly, or disgusting; or that they shave to avoid looking like an animal or even like a man. Furthermore, few say they shave to appeal to men. Although self-reports may not be entirely accurate, the results do suggest that white women shave primarily because it is socially normative and because shaving is tied to feeling attractive and feminine.
T&K:As can be seen in Table II, which displays the means for each of the reasons for hair removal, both the university and high school groups rated the feminine/attractiveness reasons as most important in why they continue to remove body hair. For the university group, the two most highly rated reasons were "It makes me feel attractive" and "I like the soft silky feeling". For the high school girls, the two most highly rated reasons were "Body hair is ugly" and "Men prefer women without body hair". This is consistent with Basow's (1991) findings, although in general the mean ratings are much higher.
In addition to the data above, each study engaged the topic with much more nuance than I give here. For instance, Basow emphasizes the differences in attitudes among women of different sexual orientations and identification with feminism while T&K discuss "the ways people process and analyze information in autobiographical memory". I do recommend that you go and read the studies themselves as they're quite interesting. I would also like to note that the samples of these studies consisted primarily of whites. This being the case, I would like to take a moment to quote Basow on the answers given by her black respondents.These general findings need to be qualified by possible ethnic group and class differences. Since 91% of the sample is white, this pattern of behaviors and reasons apply primarily to white professional women. Since only 12 black women were respondents, statistical analysis of their responses are problematical. However, their results are suggestive of a very different social norm regarding body hair. Although there were no significant differences found between black and white respondents with respect to age, degree of body hair, growth rate, frequency of shaving, sexual orientation, degree of feminist identification, or removal of underarm hair (25%), more blacks than whites do not remove leg hair (50% compared to 21%). Those black women who do shave rated most of the reasons low, especially the social normative ones.
Basow and Tiggemann reappear in studies designed to gauge how body hair affects the perception of women.
Basow set out to see how body hair affects the perception of women by others. She had a couple hundred college students watch two 2-minute video clips featuring the same actress in each. A 22 year-old white model would emerge from a swimming pool in a two-piece swimming suit and dry herself off. In one clip, the woman had hair under her arms and on her legs while in the other she was shaved. Some of the results are rather disturbing. When shown with body hair, respondents found the woman to be:
1) less intelligent
2) less sociable
3) less happy
4) less positive
These results matched other studies and supported the author's thesis that people generally have negative attitudes towards body hair on women. One result, however, bucked the trend. In a previous study, women with hair were seen as "stronger" but, this time around it was the hairless who were perceived as "less strong active, and aggressive". Also of note here is that respondents who held feminist attitudes were more accepting of women with body hair than those who didn't. While this jived with her previous study, she notes that most women with feminist attitudes still shaved.
Tiggemann teamed up with Christine Lewis in 2004 for "Attitudes Toward Women's Body Hair: Relationship With Disgust Sensitivity". In addition to revisiting the reasons women give for shaving, they also examined how women perceive other women's reasons for removing hair. T&L found that women say that they shave themselves so that they look attractive and/or feminine. However, they perceive that other women shave because that is what's expected of them. (That old normative reason again.)Thus, women interpret others’ behaviors, as due to normative pressures, in a way they do not do so for their own… It appears that women can recognize the normative pressures on them in general to shave, but are unwilling to accept this as the rationale for their own specific behavior… Perhaps the normative values of individualistic cultures render it difficult for women to acknowledge their own vulnerability to social pressures, although they can recognize such vulnerability in others.
Perhaps it was only a matter of time before attitudes towards underarm and leg hair were applied to the pubes to complete a mindset which is dead set against body hair on women. The area between women's legs became increasingly more visible and so it joined the ranks of the underarm and leg in hairlessness. But this "hairless norm" for women is a social construction. Men do not have the same social pressures. We men can walk down the street in shorts and a sleeveless shirt without social opprobrium despite having hairy legs and armpits. However, women are generally not able to do such. Plus, until fairly recently, women outside of North America felt little pressure to remove their body hair.
The problem here is that these studies didn't study pubic hair removal and merely mentioned it via tangents. Unlike the armpits and legs, the women's pubic areas don't get a lot of exposure out in public, except for situations such as the beach. In this sense, the fashion of removing the pubes bucks the trend that Hope noted, which was that hair removal seemed to be commensurate with more revealing clothing. Perhaps this can be explained by the proliferation of pornography. Starting from the beginning of the trend of women removing body hair, the marketers and the media have been complicit. Porn went mainstream and it started to demand that female actresses remove their pubic hair for more revealing shots. After this, non-porn stars felt the need to go barer and barer down there. In "The Trouble With My Vagina", a surgeon who performs labiaplasty notes that many of his patients come to him saying that they want the "Playboy look" or "I wanna look like Playboy". And so for many women, pornography provides a model to be emulated for literally thousands of dollars.
Thusly, I think it's fair to think of pube removal in the terms outlined above for other body hair.(To Part 3.)
The "Trouble" With Vaginas
I recently watched a documentary from the UK called "The Trouble With My Vagina" which mainly concerned itself with some of the various practices that women engage in to "enhance" the beauty of their naughty bits. Admittedly, the program had its fair share of sensationalism, but it also had some good food for thought.
It covered four broad areas:
2) Removal of pubic hair
3) Genital piercing
Discussion of each area began with either a neutral or positive portrayal and then proceeded to give one or more examples of women having had a bad experience. E.g.
- the show starts by noting that women today are more aware of their bodies than previous generations and that women's sexuality is no longer hidden away as it once was. We are then shown several clips of women talking about how much they enjoy masturbation. Then in classic Fox style, things take a turn towards the "When Dildos Attack" side of things. One woman described how a vibrator shorted out during one session of self-pleasure while another related how a lime got wedged in her vagina. And so the show went; a brief look at a practice followed by horror stories.
The bit on genital piercing left me ambivalent. For me, some genital piercings look good while others just scare me. I either find them intriguing or find myself envisioning a nightmare scenario involving me accidentally ripping a ring out of a woman's clitoral hood. I tend to view piercing as the ritual adornment of the ”modern primitive” but my gut instinct tells me that depilation and labiaplasty are activities of the consumer who has succumbed to a marketing campaign.
The removal of pubic hair and labiaplasty were presented in the show as being connected. The relationship between them is given by Sarah Hedley, the editor of Scarlet
magazine, which looks to be like Maxim but for women and in the UK. She says:The whole aesthetics of the vagina have run their course. Now, in the 70s, the vagina wasn't under the magnifying glass because the afro was in fashion. Now, what has happened in recent years is that hair modification has become the latest craze. So you've got all these different, like weird and bizarre styles, but what they do is expose the labia, the vaginal lips underneath. Now that they're exposed, they are being looked at and torn apart and we are now all of the sudden very conscious about how they look.
Once the hair was gone, the labia were next on the chopping block, both figuratively and literally. Footage of a woman having her pubes ripped out just made my skin crawl because it looked extremely painful. And why the hell were women with perfectly fine vulvas going under the knife for a few grand? It made no sense.
So, if the rise of labiaplasty is due to the vulva being exposed because all of the pubic hair was gone, then why did the hair go away?(To Part 2.)
25 October, 2006
Build a Robotic Dalek Pumpkin
22 October, 2006
The Dulcinea and I attended our Hotwriters group meeting on Thursday night. I felt badly because I didn't have anything to present to the group while others had some really great stuff to share. I've been busy on weekends, as I've described above, and my mind has just been everywhere except in a frame to write erotica. Changing jobs, researching passenger rail service to Madison, and trying to bring a sense of order to my life has had me preoccupied. Plus The Dulcinea and I have been working on our relationship. Hopefully now that I've started my new job, I've written about passenger rail, and The Dulcinea and I are on firm terra incognita
, I'll be able to hash out a naughty story. In addition to hearing a couple tales, we got to play with a Violet wand
. It was my first experience with one and was quite, um, stimulating. The demonstration began with Gray, A., and Mistress R performing a scene in which A was tortured with the VW. Afterwards, the rest of could got to take it for a spin. It was a rather odd sensation of have a series of electric shocks run down my arms and around my body. It wasn't totally unpleasant but I suspect that I may have liked a slightly lesser voltage a bit more.
The scene they acted out didn't give me a jolt of inspiration but I found that something else that night did. The Dulcinea and I walked into the room where there the seats were set out. I was just looking around to see who was there and to find an empty seat when my eyes caught sight of E. She was in the process of turning around and straightening out her skirt. E. is very beautiful and she was clad in argyle socks and I just love argyle. It was only a brief 2 second glimpse of the mundane but I ended up writing about the moment. Granted, it was only 3 or 4 sentences, but I found myself more passionate about writing these lines than I did writing about the scenario that Gray, A., and Mistress R acted out. When I became cognizant of this, I realized that I feel like I've placed a bit of pressure on myself to write something kinky as opposed to whatever it is that feels natural. This is definitely something I need to work on.
Aside from being able to play with a new toy, hear a couple good ditties, and enjoy a scene, it was an enjoyable social experience. Very slowly but surely I am getting to know these folks. The Dulcinea is a bit ahead of me in this regard, which makes me feel a bit jealous. I think that I'm the only one of us without a LiveJournal and so she is able to interact with folks outside of meetings in that forum. Plus she's had coffee with a couple of the folks and, generally, been able to get to know them much more than I have. It's not that I don't want to be social with them, it's just that I am blessed with more friends than I can possibly see on a regular basis and often find my interests lead me by the nose to wherever it is that they might want to go. Hopefully I'll be able to see these folks more often in the near future. Everyone is really friendly and they all seem to be very interesting people in their own rights outside of our common interest in the varieties of things prurient. I felt immediately comfortable when meeting everyone which is a rare occurrence.I went out last Wednesday with a couple now-former co-workers, Charles and Princess. The beer at the Ale Asylum was tasty as we chatted away. Since becoming a state employee and taking a different position, I haven't seen much of Princess. We enjoyed some good conversation about our personal lives including how she now has a new boyfriend and about how my relationship with The Dulcinea has risen from the ashes like the Phoenix. But before this, she mentioned that she wanted to go to a Fetish Night at The Cardinal. This naturally led to some discussion about the Hotwriters group and the play parties. I didn't go into great detail lest I become a spokesperson for Sodom and Gomorrah, but I think I piqued her interest. Immediately after I uttered "BDSM", she bumped into a table.
At the meeting on Thursday, something happened which I cannot recall but it led to Mistress R asking for people who practice an alternative religion to raise their hands. Among the arms raised was that of I. She volunteered that she was a pagan (or was that Wiccan?). I was, quite frankly, highly unsurprised. I knew that at least some of the folks had to be pagans. Having hung around enough of them, I think I've developed a sixth sense about this. I've got a tattoo of the Green Man
on my right arm and, when I show it off at various social venues, pagans/Wiccans seem to crawl out of the woodwork. I suspect that there are more pagans around than one would suspect. Either that or I tend to end up in situations where they tend to congregate. Sitting there as I. invited everyone to a Samhain
shindig next weekend really took me back about 10 years when I developed an interest in paganism or, perhaps more properly, neo-paganism. It was a period in which I read about the Celts, neo-paganism today, folklore, etc. I never became a pagan but I met several and became enamored of the symbolism of the Green Man.The Dulcinea went out to N. and B.'s place last weekend to sample some homebrews. Later into the night the host & hostess were topped by Mistress R and another woman. Last week The Dulcinea expressed her desire to see me topped by Mistress R. It didn't take long for me to warm to the idea. The idea excites me in itself but I also really like Mistress R. I think I took to her immediately because she reminds me of the parents of a friend of mine and I have great love and respect for these people. She brings them to mind in many ways: her house, her demeanor, her voice, et al. And so my concern has absolutely nothing to do with her. Instead I would want to endeavor to make the scene a Gesamtkunstwerk. I'd like to have everything just right. The mood, the lights, and the music.
I am sure that there is a perfectly good, legitimate reason why techno/electronica is the official music of the kink scene but the vast majority of that stuff drives me crazy. If you happen to like the stuff, that's copasetic with me; I just don't happen to find it appealing. No, I want to enjoy the gleeful abandon of being manhandled to a proggy orgy of instrumentation in 9/8 time with lots of Mellotron. Admittedly, the only song that I've been able to come up with is "The Creator Has a Mastertape" by Porcupine Tree, but this'll give me something to contemplate.
I want to end my rambling here with one last thing. After having received a love bite from B. at the party last weekend, The Dulcinea remarked to me later in the week about her and other women that we've met at Hotwriters and at the parties. Many of them have bodies that aren't to be found littered on the pages of Playboy or on the runways of Paris. Yet they have tremendous airs of confidence and great comfort with their bodies. And I think that this has really been inspirational to The Dulcinea in dealing with her self-image. Truth be known, it's been beneficial to me as well.
This is something that the article on kink that appeared in Isthmus back in August neglected. All of the women in the article's photos were thin and I think this did a disservice to the kink scene as it certainly doesn't jive with my experiences. The author tended to portray her subject as a sideshow featuring the young and conventionally beautiful with a high level of novelty value as opposed to something people engage with at differing levels simultaneously and that has meaning beyond being a social engagement at a bar.
OK, I've written enough for tonight.
The Dulcinea and I went to see PROG
last Monday at the High Noon Saloon. And now, because of her emotional reaction to their performance of "And You and I" by Yes, I find myself listening to it quite a bit lately. I even heard her singing a line from it this morning as she was bringing some dishes into the kitchen. That girl and her Yes, I tells ya.
I didn't go camping this weekend. The Polack was waiting to hear on a job at the Wisconsin Club on Friday afternoon and the fate of our trip hung in the balance. Well, he never got back to me so the trip got 86'd. While I was disappointed, I did try to make the most of my weekend, a 3-day one at that. I spent most of it with The Dulcinea basking in her refulgence and feeding our carnal forge. I spent precious little time here at home but I did finish writing my piece on Madison & passenger rail. Unfortunately, my bedroom still stands a mess. But you know how it is – needs must when the devil drives.
On the plus side, it's been a fun month. A couple weekends ago, my mom paid a visit. We did quite a bit together but I neglected to bring my camera for any of it. We went to the Eplegaarden
, an apple orchard a bit south of town. It was a beautiful day and nice to catch what was probably the last of the good weather before autumn turned cold and rainy. Just as I turned to hit the trail into the orchard with my bag in hand, I found Mel standing before me. She, Dogger, and Miss Regan were there with a group of kids from Regan's daycare. They'd arrived a couple hours earlier and were preparing for the checking out the pumpkins before heading out. Regan ran up to me so I picked her up and she started telling me about all the apples she had seen. It's hard to believe that she's almost 3. Mel had a stroke when she was less than a year old so there were some days of despair for both her and Regan. Facing the prospect that Regan would grow up without a mommy was incredibly sad. Now, however, she's a bouncy, happy girl with a mom and a dad.
My mother and I also went to see The Illusionist
. I liked it quite a bit, though the ending was a just a touch hackneyed. I was and still am ambivalent about Edward Norton's performance. On one hand, he was too restrained and I wish he had more presence to really grab me. On the other, his rather minimalist acting suited his character as someone hiding a secret. We also made a trip to the Arboretum
and walked the fields and trails. It had been years since I'd been so it was nice to return and walk off some of my post-prandial lethargy. Another destination of ours was Mount Horeb to catch their Harvest Festival. Again, it was a gorgeous, sunny day and finding a parking spot proved a lot easier than I had thought. Walking down Main Street, my mom said that she'd love to have a funnel cake. Not two seconds later I spied the cart advertising just that. But first there was lunch at the Blue Sky Café. I know it's probably a tourist destination but the food is tasty there, they have a great chocolate malt, and, much to my mom's delight, they serve phosphates. It was cherry for her that day. After taking her first sip, she told me how she used to hang out with her friends at soda shops when she was a kid. Downing phosphates, she'd descend into a sugar-fueled schoolgirl frenzy of giggling and laughing. Her story reminded me of an ice cream parlor that my family went to when I was a very young kid growing up in Chicago. I think it was called The Buffalo and it was on Irving Park a couple storefronts west of Pulaski. (Or was it still Crawford back then?) Malts, shakes, sodas, phosphates…mmm…
After lunch, we stepped outside and got ourselves a funnel cake. Being the dork that I am, I informed my mom that funnel cakes are probably the only food at Renaissance Faires that are actually of the period. (Turkeys had not yet made their way across the Atlantic to Europe.) Back in the day, they were called "cryspes". If you're interested, here is a recipe
from the 15th century. With our hands all sticky and greasy, we then headed to the Mustard Museum
. I grabbed a couple jars of mustard but was disappointed to find that they no longer carried Toad Sweat
, a dessert hot sauce. The Dulcinea had bought some of the lemon vanilla variety and I loved it. Wandering back into the street, we found that Chef Sabi of The Casbah restaurant here in Madison was taping an episode of his TV show Cooking the Casbah
. With him were a trio of men standing to one side waiting their turns. One of them looked familiar and it turned out he was Kirby Nelson, the brewmaster from Capital. The other guys were Tom Porter from Lake Louie Brewing and the brewmaster from the Grumpy Troll Brwepub in Mount Horeb, whose name I forget. But it was a good German name! A PA then took the wrapping off of a plate of cheese and sausage and the trio proceeded to discuss their fall seasonals and how they go along with the comestibles which just sat there begging to be eaten. That's Wisconsin for ya. I was very pleased when they gave out free samples. Not only of cheese and sausage, but of their beers as well. After the taping, my mom and I took a long walk down the Military Ridge State Trail which runs through Mount Horeb. It was just too nice of a day to pass it up and my mom just loves walking.
The next weekend I jumped in my car with Charles and we headed to Paddock Lake for HendalCon '06 at the home of my friend Terry. James followed us in his car as he was on-call that weekend. We were the first ones there, although it didn't take too long for folks from Chicago to start appearing. Ted and Don drove up together and brought a fair amount of beer with them. Along with the case I had brought, we had enough.
All good Wisconsin beer: Point, Leinenkugel's, New Glarus, Sprecher, Lake Louie, and Furthermore. In fact, that weekend was my first encounter with the beers of Furthermore, specifically, their Knot Stock
, a pale ale with black pepper. I am really keen on drinking it at a meal that doesn't consist of pretzels. The pepper flavor is there in the background from the start but, for me at least, it builds as I drink more of it. The result is a nice tingle on my tongue.
While Terry and a couple of the other guys there are really into miniatures, we didn't play any. When I say that Terry is into miniatures, I mean that he's got around 10 tabletops in his basement expressly for playing them. He drove to Minneapolis to get one of them as it's a special top with a removable bit that allows folks to use real mud to build terrain. And by "real mud" I mean the 4 buckets of the stuff from the Mississippi River that were piled up next to his washer. I'd also hoped for a game of Call of Cthulhu but the CoC players there have been playing a lot lately and were in need of a break. They've been play testing an adventure written by some guy with a PhD in New York that is modeled after Moby Dick
. I've seen a copy of it and it is about 5 inches thick – just a monster. Outside smoking, Ted told me that his character has now become this Colonel Kurtz figure and is returning to an island to set up his own personal empire. My other disappointment was that my brother, Andrew, and Glenn were unable to make it as I was really looking forward to seeing them again. Despite this, we had a blast. We began with a game of Circvs Maximvs, a chariot racing game, and it was all downhill from there.
Terry is a huge Jethro Tull fan and, when we arrived, he had Tull playing. He must have a large carousel because he had all four CDs of one of their box sets queued and then added another of their albums. This scenario did not cease until we went to bed at 3:30 or 4 on Sunday morning. 14 hours of Tull! What else did we play? Nuclear War, Settlers of Catan, The Great Space Race, Slapshot, and 1 or 2 others. James, Charles, and I were familiar with The Great Space Race so it was fun to introduce everyone else to it and they loved it as well. The black hole came out in the second round and really made a mess of things. Slapshot was a highlight of the night for multiple reasons. It is an old hockey game, probably from the late 1970s and it showed in some of the cards.
It's unlikely that a company could get away with gay stereotyping like this today. This aside, it's a remarkably simple and fun game. Matches are played like War where each player flips a card over and the highest card wins. The semi-finals of the playoffs between Ted and Paul had us rolling with laughter. Those two almost fell out of their seats with Paul nearly hyperventilating. On Sunday morning, Ted ventured out and brought back breakfast. We picked up the basement and settled into a game of Puerto Rico. It was close but I pulled off the victory – my first ever – and completely flummoxed Charles with my strategy. A great way to end a great weekend. After breakfast, I went into the basement and found Don and Charles chatting away. Although I had only walked into the middle of the conversation, I was drafter by Charles to drive us to the Con of the North
in February. Don attends and, from the bits I overheard, there's some good Call of Cthulhu action to be had. So it looks like I've got some mid-winter plans.
21 October, 2006
Madrail Part 4 - Passenger Rail to Return?
(To Part 1.
Passenger rail in general declined after World War II due to many factors including the rise of commercial aviation and the car along with the new interstate highways. In 1970, Congress created the National Railroad Passenger Corporation with the Rail Passenger Service Act. Amtrak
started services on 1 May 1971. It's Empire Builder
was chosen to serve Wisconsin. The original Empire Builder
was run by the Great Northern railroad company starting in 1929. Amtrak modified the route so that it passed through Milwaukee. Unfortunately, Madison is not served by the Empire Builder
. I presume that Amtrak wasn't able to get right of way on the tracks into Madison and was able to get them for the route is currently has. This makes Columbus, about 28 miles northwest of Madison, our nearest stop.
In 1996, the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative
was born. The idea is to establish a high-speed rail network connecting the states of the Midwest with its hub in Chicago. Travel times between destinations would be reduced, cars would be taken off the roads, and Amtrak subsidies would be reduced. Unlike the current state of affairs, Madison would be included as a passenger rail destination. From Madison, the route goes east to Milwaukee and northwest to La Crosse. In addition there is the Transport 2020
plan which is a look ahead to Madison/Dane County's transportation issues. It too favors intercity passenger rail for Madison.
In 2001, Wisconsin's Department of Transportation, Amtrak, and the Federal Railroad Administration consulted with the Canadian Pacific Railway and Wisconsin & Southern Railroad and formulated a proposal for the return of passenger rail to Madison. From the plan's Executive Summary:The provision of passenger rail service has been recommended in planning studies conducted by regional, state, and local groups and agencies. Madison's numerous government, business, and university destinations make it one of the most rapidly growing cities in the state, and a logical rail destination in the region.
Take a look at the route.
It would originate at the Amtrak station in downtown Milwaukee and stop at Brookfield, Oconomowoc, & Watertown before arriving in Madison. The route would use existing track used mostly by freight trains with the stretch between Milwaukee and Watertown being owned by Canadian Pacific and the rest by Wisconsin & Southern. The historic train stations in Brookfield and Oconomowoc would return to their original use while Watertown and Madison would need stations built. Three sites for a passenger depot have been proposed for Madison:
1) Dane County Airport
2) Pennsylvania Avenue near the current Wisconsin & Southern rail yards.
3) One West Wilson Street Office Building next to Monona Terrace. (My former place of employment and home to the state's Department of Health and Family Services.)
Were the plan to go forward, a lot of work would need to be done. New locomotives and passenger cars would be purchased; the tracks would need upgrading; areas near the tracks need landscaping (e.g.
- diverting gulches); pedestrian crossing or two would be built above the tracks; and so on. The study estimated the cost of the project at $316 million and of course the cost has gone up in the past 5 years.
At the time the study was drafted, total annual ridership was forecasted to be 872,000 riders in 2010. This included everyone riding a train between Milwaukee and Madison, including those taking a train between Minneapolis/St. Paul and Chicago. It was also estimated that 67% of the total ridership would be diverted from automobiles. There would be six daily round-trips to start which would become ten when the line would be connected to St. Paul. A trip would probably take a little more than an hour with speeds ranging from 20-110 mph.
So where are we? As this article
in The Business Journal of Milwaukee states, we are back to 1850 – no cash.A bill pending in the U.S. Senate would provide up to 80 percent of the cost of establishing high-speed rail. Under an ideal timeline, the bill would pass in late 2006 and work on the corridor would begin in 2007 and finish in 2012.
Throughout the Midwest, the federal government is pointing to states to pay for the cost of rail service, while the states are pointing to the federal government for help.
I've hitherto been unable to find information on just who exactly would be riding between Madison and Milwaukee. Milwaukee is certainly a regional attraction with its ethnic & music festivals, museums, and professional sports teams. Would folks in Milwaukee take the train to take in a Badger game in Madison? Certainly the idea of living in Milwaukee or its burbs and working in Madison or vice versa is given a boost by this plan. Taking the train to Summerfest instead of driving is certainly a tantalizing proposition.
A problem I run into prognosticating is that I can see the situation as it stands now but am unable to say what changes would be wrought if Madison got passenger rail service. People against the idea now might warm up to it once the service is running. Some folks might be more inclined to travel to either city if they didn't have to deal with parking and navigating unfamiliar streets in a car. Another element that I haven't been able to find information about is the economic impact. How would businesses benefit? Would there be savings on maintaining I94 between Madison and Milwaukee?
Even if the money was handed down from the Federal government, rail service would still be 5+ years off as preparing the rails, building or renovating stations, etc. would take time. With a war on, such a large expenditure seems highly unlikely in these times. We here in Madison are a decade or more out from passenger rail service, in my opinion. But I think my fellow Madisonians ought to consider passenger rail as we contemplate light and/or commuter rail for our community. This is because there is now an effort to strengthen ties between Madison and Milwaukee. Here are links to a trio of articles which can give you an idea of what our political and business leaders are looking to do:" A (modern) Tale of Two Cities: Milwaukee and Madison inch together"
– Wisconsin Technology Network"Madison and Milwaukee: So close, yet so far"
- Milwaukee Journal Sentinel"Extending a hand"
- Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
They are looking to make southern Wisconsin a regional economic unit and that's going to affect everyone.Sources/Links:Railroads of Southern & Southwestern Wisconsin: Development to Decline
by Daniel J. LanzThe Milwaukee Railroader
(Second Quarter 1996)
Wisconsin Department of Transportation: Milwaukee to Madison High Speed RailWikipedia
Madrail Part 3 - Passenger Rail in Madison
(To Part 2.
Above is a map of the Milwaukee & Mississippi Railroad from 1857. I know it's not a great scan but you can get a sense of the state of rail in the southern part of Wisconsin at the time. If it were a better image, you could see that the lakes around Madison don't have the names they have today. Instead they are labeled First Lake, Second Lake, etc.
The late 1850s were a time of great rail expansion. Of note here is the Watertown & Madison railroad which sought to connect the two cities. (Watertown is about 40 miles east of Madison.) This line never came to fruition with only a 12 mile stretch to neighboring Sun Prairie ever having been built. Through fits and starts, the Madison & Portage line was eventually built. In 1852, Bryon Kilbourn (former president of the Milwaukee & Waukesha) charted the La Crosse & Milwaukee. L&M prepared a route from Madison to Portage City in the 1850s but, despite having leveled the ground, track was never laid. A second attempt in 1861 by the Sugar River Valley Railroad also failed. The Madison & Portage was eventually chartered in 1870 and the line was completed on the route graded by the L&M.
The Milwaukee & Mississippi became the Milwaukee & Prairie du Chien in the 1860s and was acquired by the Milwaukee & St. Paul in 1867. The M&StP bought a line to Chicago in December of 1872 and became the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul or, more commonly, the Milwaukee Road.
(Photo by Bill Middleton.)
The above picture was taken in June 1951 by Bill Middleton from the south shore of Lake Monona. It's the Milwaukee Road's train 118, the Varsity
. It has been a long time since a passenger train was spotted here in Madison but, as you can see, it used to be a daily occurrence. The photo and those to follow are from the Second Quarter 1996 issue of The Milwaukee Railroader which is the publication of the Milwaukee Road Historical Association. And since I found this wonderful resource, the following will concentrate on the Milwaukee Road.
There is a country ton of history between the creation of the Milwaukee Road in 1872 and the present that is impossible for me to summarize here. For further reading, I highly recommend Railroads of Southern & Southwestern Wisconsin: Development to Decline
by Daniel J. Lanz. The information from the aforementioned issue of The Milwaukee Railroader focuses on Madison in the 1950s and what I want to do here is show some photos and point out some highlights. Let's start with a map.
To begin, you can see the Chicago & Northwestern passenger depot on Blair Street near where what is now John Nolen Drive ends. (I believe it was still Lake Shore Drive at this time.) Here is an aerial view of that intersection from 1957.
(Photo by Robert T. McCoy, collection of Nate Molldrem.)
The C&NW depot is at the far right with its huge curved canopy covering the platform. While the Milwaukee Road's operations were southwest of here on the other side of the Capitol, they did have an "East Madison" depot on Wilson Street at Franklin. (Wilson is the street running from the crazy intersection up and to the left.) Honestly, I am not sure which building it is.
Also notice on the map the section by Williamson and Ingersoll where it is noted that both Milwaukee Road and C&NW operated in the streets. Here's a photo of just that.
(Photo by John Gruber.)
The train is heading east up the isthmus on Wilson Street and that's the intersection at Baldwin in the background. Going back to the map, you'll see that the Milwaukee Road's operations were centered west of the Capitol on West Washington. You can see the main passenger depot marked. It was declared a city landmark in 1975, a few years after Milwaukee Road passenger service ended. Just across the red line is a structure that looks like a quarter of a circle – that's the roundhouse. Here's a photo of the area looking south showing the railyard as it was in 1972.
(Photo by Robert T. McCoy, collection of Nate Molldrem.)
West Wash is marked as is Park Street. Ogg Hall is at the bottom. The passenger terminal isn't marked but the roundhouse is. Just go left across the tracks from it and that's the depot. This is another view but from the opposite side, above Lake Monona. It dates from 1957.
(Credits same as above.)
The roundhouse has the white façade and is on the left side of the tracks that fun up & down the middle of the picture. The depot is on the right side directly across the tracks. Notice how Proudfit Street, the white lines in the lower left portion of the photo, end at West Washington. It looks like a DMZ across the street.
Here are a couple shots of the depot.
(Photos by William D. Middleton.)
1923: Madison Division of Milwaukee Road formed, including Prairie du Chien and Mineral Point divisions.
1928: 24 Nov. – Eleven Milwaukee Road football specials from Minneapolis, Chicago, and Milwaukee carrying 3,655 passengers converge on Madison for Wisconsin-Minnesota football game.
1935: 29 May - Hiawatha
enters Chicago-Minneapolis service. Rockford-Madison gas-electric run replaced by steam-train whose equipment was also used to establish new Madison-Portage train connecting with Hiawatha
1940: Dec. – Madison Division wins 1940 Fire Prevention trophy.
1945: 24 March – J.A. MacDonald, superintendent of the Madison Division, dies at age 74 after serving in various capacities on the Milwaukee Road and its predecessors since 1891.
1949: 31 Dec. – Madison Division receives the Fire Prevention top rank for the 5th time.
1951: Jan. – Trains 3, 20, and 118 discontinued west of Madison.
1952: Sept. – Madison-Portage night round-trip local passenger train discontinued.
1953: 17 Jan. – Madison-Portage Hiawatha
connecting trains 700-701 discontinued.
1957: 18 Feb. – The last Madison-Milwaukee passenger trains are discontinued.1960: 5 Jan. – The Sioux
makes its last trip west of Madison to and from Canton, South Dakota.
1965: Sept. – Chicago & Northwestern Chicago-Madison locals 507 and 508/510 are discontinued, leaving the Milwaukee Road as the only passenger carrier in Madison.
1968: 22 July – the Varsity
, trains 117 and 118, reduced to Friday/Saturday/Sunday-only operation.1971: 30 April – The Sioux and the Varsity makes their final trips prior to next day's startup of Amtrak.
Although Milwaukee Road/Amtrak ran football specials from Milwaukee to Madison until 1976, passenger rail service to Madison ended for all intents and purposes on 30 April 1971.
(To Part 4.
Madrail Part 2 - Early History of Rail in Wisconsin
(To Part 1.
The history of passenger rail dates back to 27 September 1825 when Englishman George Stephenson drove a steam locomotive called Locomotion
hauling cars of coal, flour, and passengers 9 miles in two hours. This was the initial run of the Stockton and Darlington Railway. Two years later, the first railroad company was incorporated here in the United States – the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Company. The B&O made its first run in 1830. The line's ability to haul goods to the East Coast faster than via the Erie Canal made it a success.
In 1836 Wisconsin officially became a territory with the town of Belmont as its capital. Milwaukee, being a port city on Lake Michigan, was its capital of commerce. That same year, the seeds of rail in Wisconsin were laid. Here's the description of events by Daniel Lanz, author of Railroads of Southern & Southwestern Wisconsin
:B.H. Edgerton, a member of the legislative council of the Territory of Michigan, outlined a program of internal improvements for the region west of Lake Michigan. Among other improvements he suggested that a survey be made for a railroad from Milwaukee to the Mississippi. On September 17, 1836, a number of citizens met in Milwaukee to exchange views and adopt measures concerning this proposed railroad. It was decided to petition the territorial legislature to pass an act incorporating a company for the purpose of constructing a railroad from Milwaukee to the Mississippi by way of Mineral Point, or as close to Mineral Point as practical.
On 7 December 1836 the DuBuque & Belmont Railroad was charted to connect the territorial capital of Belmont to an as yet unnamed town on the Mississippi River. About two weeks later, however, Madison was made the capital of Wisconsin so the plans of the DB&B were scrapped.
Reading about the history of Madison rail, it seems like Madison kind of lucked out. Had it not been named the capital, it probably would have been a low priority on the list of towns to get rail service. To the east was Milwaukee. It was the territory's major port and a center of commerce. West of Madison was an area rich in lead and zinc. Towns such as Mineral Point needed to get ore shipped out and this is why the first proposed railroad for Wisconsin included a terminus there. Prairie du Chien was located on the Mississippi River and was an import center of the fur trade. Plus Fort Crawford, a bulwark against Native American intrusion, was there. Curiously enough, Galena, now in Illinois, was the largest trading center of the area in the 1830s.
Before the building of the rails, people and goods still had move between towns & cities. During the 1830s, the settled part of Wisconsin was a rough triangle of land. Draw a line from Green Bay to Prairie du Chien. One side is to the east – Lake Michigan; another is to the south – the Illinois border; and that line is the third. That was Wisconsin at the time. Towns built on had immediate transportation advantages. For example, Prairie du Chien was situated near the confluence of the Wisconsin
and Mississippi Rivers, which greatly abetted the fur trade. (The Mississippi went south to the Gulf of Mexico while the Wisconsin stretched east towards the central axis of the state and north.) Town dwellers without a river suitable for travel nearby, such as Madison, had stagecoaches. Lanz lists several stagecoach routes in his book: Milwaukee to Galena via Monroe, Beloit to Mineral Point via Albany, Verona to Belleville, Chicago to Prairie du Chien via Mineral Point, and Madison to Monroe via Belleville. A lead trail from Milwaukee to Galena through towns including Mineral Point was an artery of travel in the late 1820s. There was also a military road that was completed in 1835 that ran from Green Bay to Prairie du Chien and included a stretch from Madison to Dodgeville which is now Highway 18 and the Military Ridge State Trail. However, knowing how lousy the roads event today get during the winter, one can imagine traversing snow drifts, ruts, and holes in a wagon or stagecoach much have been hell. So you can bet that people were very keen on having a train run through their town.
While townsfolk lobbied to have their burg a destination, entrepreneurs made plans, some of them grandiose. Asa Whitney, for example, wanted to build a rail route that stretched from Lake Michigan to the Pacific Ocean. At nearly 2,400 miles, it was projected to take 15 years. Not only were there insurmountable natural barriers but the price tag on this venture was huge. With dreams remaining just that, the first railroad in Wisconsin was quite a bit more practical.
On 11 February 1847, the Milwaukee & Waukesha Railroad Company was incorporated. The corporation's charter was to build a line from Milwaukee to Madison and then on to point on the Mississippi River to be determined later by the company. Wisconsin was admitted to the Union in 1848 as M&W's president, Byron Kilbourn, got things going. The stuff I've read about Kilbourn give me the impression that he was a pretty ineffectual CEO. This, combined with a lack of bling, meant that there were still no railroads being constructed in 1850. But changes were afoot. The following year, the company's named was changed to Milwaukee & Mississippi Railroad Company and John Caitlin replaced Kilbourn as president. That year, the route from Milwaukee to Waukesha, about 18 miles, was completed giving Wisconsin its first regular train service. In 1852, Caitlin (from Madison) appointed Edward H. Brodhead and chief engineer and superintendent and he was able to really get things moving. The line was extended to the southwest to Eagle and then Milton. Track was then laid to the northwest where the line finally reached Stoughton in 1853. The Milwaukee & Mississippi finally reached Madison on 23 May 1854 where it was greeted by Governor William A Barstow and a crowd of some 2,000 people.
(To Part 3.
Madrail Part 1 - Passenger Rail
I had a neat conversation yesterday, which was my first day at my new job. I showed up and was told by the receptionist, Phyllis, to have a seat while my new manager was being found. When the phone stopped ringing, Phyllis came out from behind the counter and started chatting with me. She asked if I lived in town and I told her that I did and that I lived on the far east side, just off of Milwaukee Street. Phyllis was somewhere in her 60s and she began talking about how the McDonalds on Milwaukee near Highway 51 used to be the site of her grandparents' home. They owned 20-30 acres extending back to what is now a regional office of American Family Insurance. There were 3 or 4 homes, the Hiestand School
, and that was about it. Today there are homes everywhere, fast food joints, and a couple strip malls but the school still stands as Toad Hill Children's House. We concluded that Madison has undergone many changes over the years.
Indeed it has. Even in the 16 years that I've lived here, the population of Madison has increased by well over 30,000 people. Condos, apartment complexes, and new homes have sprung up everywhere; American Family Insurance has grown considerably; the UW attracts, perhaps now more than ever, more students from diverse locations; Madison is a leader in the biomedical field; we have a still fairly new and shiny Overture Center for the Arts and the Monona Terrace Convention Center; the Chazen Museum of Art is going to expand with a new wing of 62,000 square feet in a few years; everything is growing. As the population of the city and the metro area grows, businesses become more regional, national, and international, and as Madison becomes an even greater regional attraction, the need for moving people around for work and for play has increased.
Our mayor, Dave Cieslewicz, is tackling the issue by promoting light rail
for the city while the county generally pushes for a commuter/light rail combination. Commuter rails involved bigger, heavier trains that move people from an urban center to outlying areas while light rail, as the name implies, uses smaller, lighter trains to move people within an urban area. As the debate raged on, it got me thinking about trains. However, instead of contemplating the future of rail in Madison, I began to look to the past, namely, intercity passenger rail.
That's me along with my mom and brother on an Amtrak. (I'm the cute blonde.) We're on an Empire Builder
en route from Chicago to Glacier National Park in Montana. Making that trek today would be slightly more difficult as Madison is not served by Amtrak. Instead, the nearest station is in Columbus, about 28 miles northeast from here. Of course, this wasn't always the case. Madison used to be served by multiple railways carrying passengers around the region. And just as there is talk about light or commuter rail being introduced here, so too is there talk of bringing Amtrak service to Madison.To Part 2
18 October, 2006
Richard Dawkins on Colbert Report
17 October, 2006
My fate has become much clearer today. I had lunch with a client's manager today. They were looking for a contractor and the guy wanted to have lunch to meet me and see if I would fit in their environment. We ate out at Quivey's Grove which was neat because I've never had a meal there. I think I've been to one of their beer festivals but I've never gone there to just take a meal. The food was tasty and the guy was really nice and had a good sense of humor. He is Polish so I've got some conversation material for next time. There will be a next time because after only 2 hours, they decided to have me.
The conversation was interesting in that the manager talked about forthcoming projects which included new smart phones, a new SAN, and new teleconferencing equipment. There's a remote chance that I'll be sent to Edinburgh, Scotland to help install the teleconferencing stuff. That would be a hoot! I go over to their office on Thursday for the grand tour and then start work on Monday as I've got Friday off in anticipation of a weekend camping trip.
I feel relieved that this is now in the can. It was difficult enough to leave my placement of 2 years but to be consigned to limbo made it much worse. As a bonus, the shop will be small - 200 or so users and maybe 4 IT folks. It looks to be a good chance to acquire some new skills and be introduced to some unfamiliar technology. It's just so nice to see some stability in my employment situation. The uncertainty tends to nag at the back of my mind and cause unease which makes it more difficult for me to concentrate on other things.
The only downside I can see, at the moment, is that the joint is located on the far west side so I'll be cloistered by malls, chain restaurants, and subdivisions.
16 October, 2006
I took the afternoon off. Sitting around waiting and not doing squat reached its terminal point of pointlessness so I took off for lunch and came home. An e-mail to my boss, who has been AWOL all morning, and I am alone for a while. My time at the office wasn't totally wasted, however. I did get to talk with Otto. I am to take his spot at a client's site so he gave me the lay of the land and told me what to expect. He also made point of telling me about this weekend's Ring Game
with a heavy dose of strategy for the evil ones. He is going to be playing a Nazghul this time 'round. In addition, Bulimia was in the office so I got a chance to catch up on things with him. And Pete was there. He's a good egg who loves music as I do so we always have something fun to talk about. As I was returning to my seat with a fresh cuppa joe, I heard a voice call my name. Turning around, I was greeted with the sight of Miss Heidi, someone I hadn't seen in 3+ years. She and I were co-workers and, last I'd heard, she was living in San Diego. Asking her about this, she explained that she moved back and was pursuing an MBA. I was really happy for her as she had been let go from our former employer by a manager of dubious repute. It was heartening to see that she'd landed on her feet.
Considering I was feeling rather sad at having left DHFS, this morning turned out pretty well.
A New Day
It feels very odd knowing that I'm not going downtown this morning. While my employer has remained the same, my job has changed. I miss my friends at DHFS already. Heck, I missed them Friday afternoon when I walked out the door for the last time. I report to my contracting company's office this morning at eight o'clock and don't really know what is going to happen. My boss called on Friday afternoon asking what I was going to be doing today and I was flummoxed. Wasn't that what he was for? He hadn't communicated with me for about 3 weeks about what I'd be doing when I returned to the home office and then he calls on my terminal day at the client's and asks me about my Monday plans...?! Hopefully I'll be able to see Otto as we've communicated via email alone for a few months. I'm not sure if he'll be at Sub Zero or not today. Being a contractor definitely has its ups and downs.
The Dulcinea and I had a long conversation over the phone last night and we managed to clear the air and more. Like being a contractor, our relationship has had its peaks and valleys. We were in one of the latter a few months ago. Something happened to me and I retreated into myself. During this time, I was a big jerk and I very much neglected The Dulcinea and our relationship generally. This dark period ended a month and a half ago or thereabouts and things have been going very well between us. After two years, our relationship feels new again. That sense of getting to know a new person in my life has returned as has that giddy feeling of anticipation when we make plans to get together. Our sex life has improved greatly as well. Not only has there been greater frequency, but lovemaking has also been more intense. I think that I emerged from my shell a better boyfriend in many ways.
Along with these elements are other attendant feelings of new relationships. There is also that sense of tenuousness, of uncertainty that goes along with dating someone for the first time. This along with pent up sexual energy from not having had sex in a few days and having not had much sleep the night before led me into a bad space yesterday evening. Ergo the 2+ hour phone call The Dulcinea and I had last night. Personally I'm proud of myself for not following through on my initial reaction of flight, of avoiding the issue, and instead got things talked over and the air cleared. I've known couples who, upon a problem arising in their relationship, immediately sit down and talk things over. But I've never really been a half of one of those couples. However, things on this front seem to be changing and I think we're making some great progress in this area. Unlearning behavior is an incredibly difficult thing to do.
I am so glad and so relieved that last night is over. That feeling of being a wounded animal that's been cornered is gone; my hands aren't shaking and my heart no longer thumps in my chest at a 100MPH; and those feelings of déjà vu from my last long-term relationship have dissipated. The plan now is to gear up for my first day back at the home office and try to make the best of my new job situation. After that, I get to see The Dulcinea as we're going to the High Noon Saloon
tonight to see PROG
I need to come up with a way to punish her for Saturday night. I mean, she had 3 drinks and yet she chose to drive home. This kind of behavior just cannot be tolerated. Truth be known, she's been very naughty lately and wanting, er, deserving punishment.
15 October, 2006
Sunsets on Empire
It's very odd how personal problems in the life of one of my favorite musicians, Fish
, neatly coincide with personal troubles of my own. I got to "know" Fish when he was still the singer in Marillion
. He left the band shortly after my family left Chicago and moved 300 miles away to rural Wisconsin; some major problems in his marriage occurred at the same time I exited the longest relationship of my life; his divorce happened at the same time I broke up with another girlfriend; and now he has broken up with his latest girlfriend. So I'm listening to one of my favorite Fish songs, one that has been like a friend to me over the past 10+ years - "Sunsets on Empire".And then it was over and we took our applause.
We passed the peace pipe and thought no more
About the scenes that were missing, about the lines we had crossed.
And we smiled at each other and knew that the moment was lost.
I let you snuff out the candles, I let you blow out the flame,
And I knew that this time it would never be the same.
The smiles you had wavered, tears welled in your eyes
And I looked and I knew that this magic it was only a sign
For Sunsets on Empire it was only a dream.
I knew that it was broken when I heard you scream
I know you can't believe it. It meant nothing at all.
And we looked at each other and we smiled and the moment was gone.
Sunsets on Empire is this really the end
Sunsets on Empire left with a friend
Could have been a lover, could have been a wife
But when it comes right down to it all I want is a life,
Just a life.
You said it never mattered. You said it's just a thrill.
You couldn't beat it. Another bitter pill.
It never was a habit. A one off just for sure.
You never really thought it out but I hoped that one time
That you'd come back for more.
Sunsets on Empire that's where I am
Sunsets on Empire that's all we have.
To face a new beginning when you're so close to the end
And you looked at me gently and smiled,
Would you still be my friend?
You started to smile
Is this really the end?
Is this really the end?
Sunsets on Empire
The sun sets on Empire
13 October, 2006
Two Great Tastes
I completely spaced on this for the past several days.Capital Brewery
got onto the front page
of one of our newspapers, the Wisconsin State Journal. The piece talks about their Island Wheat which has surpassed the Wisconsin Amber as the brewery's best seller. Not only has it given Capital more capital but it has also bolstered the economy of Washington Island where the wheat in the beer is grown.A chef's quest to secure local wheat for her bread has now grown to supply Middleton's Capital Brewery for its popular Island Wheat variety of beer. The wheat for the beer, sold only in Wisconsin, is grown only on Washington Island, a 35-square-mile, 14,000-acre island that is reveling in this revival of its agricultural roots.
"With Island Wheat, we've hit a home run, but it's for all the right reasons," brewmaster Kirby Nelson said.
"Getting to know the grain as opposed to ordering it from a malting company or a broker, getting to shake its hands as it's coming out of the ground in this very unique area, I really do think makes for a much more unique product with a wonderful story behind it," he said.
Also check out this article
from the WSJ about New Glarus'
Spotted Cow."Spotted Cow has been an enormous hit, and we are now the target of every brewery in Wisconsin," said New Glarus Brewing brewmaster Dan Carey. "Beer is a geographical thing, and it should be tied to the environment."
The inspiration for the beer came after a visit to Old World Wisconsin in Eagle where Carey saw a replica of a German homestead that included a crockpot of beer. Many of those who work at the brewery also are dairy farmers, he said. Like Island Wheat, Spotted Cow is only sold in Wisconsin. The success of the flaked barley brew can be credited to its name but also its taste, Carey said.
Hop Fires and You
Some of you may recall that earlier this month the collective nightmare of American beer lovers came true when 4% of the US hop crop burned
in a warehouse out west. While seeing that picture of the precious hops in flames is enough to make one cry, it was not immediately clear what impact this would have for our favorite brews. A little light got shed on the situation for folks in southern Wisconsin by Rob Larson, brewmaster at Tyranena
:Many of you may have heard of the huge hop fire out in Washington state. A warehouse of raw hops owned by S.S. Steiner exploded and burned taking 4 percent of the U.S. harvest with it... which I assumed would not have much of an impact upon us. We do not buy hops from Steiner and they were of varieties that we do not use. Heard people wondering why 4 percent of the whole crop would be in one location... I didn't think anything of it. As it turns out... I would suspect that a whole lot more than 4 percent is in one location. One warehouse of hops burned... however... it was in very close vicinity to what looks like (from pictures I have received) a whole bunch of other hop warehouses... some of them owned by the company where we get our hops... and luckily the fire did not spread between warehouses... or we would be in big trouble. They all must use the same equipment for hop pelletizing... so the raw hops are stored nearby. Well... I attempted to order some Amarillo hops (which gives the Bitter Woman its characteristic flavor and aroma) and was told that all operations have ceased... apparently the stench of burning hops has stopped all processing... and they are waiting for the air to clear before proceeding. Luckily they were able to beg, borrow or steal some from other customers to get us through to their regular production.
'Reaching point of absurdity'
a neat little article raking on folks like me - people who enjoy LOST and who obsess over the show's mythology and mysteries. They're in such a frantic rush to freeze their DVRs to detect some squiggly little etchings on a hatch wall, or so busy formulating equations with Hurley's bad-luck lottery numbers, that they're failing to savor things like the subtle nuances actor Michael Emerson brings to his role of creepy Henry Gale, or to appreciate the psychological peaks and valleys poor Locke (Terry Quinn) has traversed.
While I realize that there definitely are lots of fans that obsess too much, whine too much about not having everything handed to them on a platter, etc. But I will admit that the mystery of the island and The Others is more alluring for me than learning about Locke's travails. Granted, finding out how Locke ended up in a wheelchair is something that I look forward to, but finding out how and why he was healed by the island (persumably) is more interesting. Perhaps if the island had less enigmas, I could focus more on the characters. But with a mystery behind every tree, it's difficult not to get sucked into postulating about the island.
The Independent Film Channel has an article
up at their webpage which notes that the new film Shortbus
features unsimulated sex. It goes on to briefly look at other films which captured real sex on celluloid. Here's their list:Pink Flamingos
, 1972In the Realm of the Senses
, 1979Devil in the Flesh
, 2000The Brown Bunny
, 2004Nine Songs
Honorable Mention:Germany in Autumn
People who enjoy wine should take note that there will be a wine tasting at Steve's Liquor
tomorrow. The event takes place between noon and 3 and features some wines from Rutz Cellars
. You'll be able to sample their Pinot Noir French Cuvee, Russian River Chardonnay, Chapoutier Cotes du Rhone, and a new Spanish wine, Arbanta Rioja, which is certified organic.
Steve's is also sponsoring an "intimate scotch seeminar" on Thursday, 26 October.Martin C. Duffy, Master of Scotch Knowledge for Johnnie Walker & The Classic Malts. Years of training in Scotland has prepared Mr. Duffy for preaching the gospel according to John Barleycorn all over the US. Martin was a guest speaker at the 2001, 2004 & 2005 Malt Advocate Whisk(e)y fests in Chicago, Whisky Live 2005 in New York and at the Whiskies of the World Expo 2004 in San Francisco.
Martin will be appearing at Biaggi’s Italian Restaurant for an intimate scotch seminar.
601 Junction Road
Madison, WI 53717
When: Thursday, Oct 26th
Time: 6:30 to 8:00 pm
Cost is $10 Per Person
Limited to 40 Reservations
Please call 833-5995 or 233- 6193 for additional information and to reserve your spot.
Ted Kooser @ WI Book Festival
Below you see a column from American Life in Poetry
. Every week a new poem is chosen to promote American poetry. The project is led by Ted Kooser, a former U.S. Poet Laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner. Mr. Kooser will be here in Madison as part of the Wisconsin Book Festival
.Ted Kooser and Jane Hamilton
Friday, October 20 8:00 - 9:00 PM
Orpheum Theatre: Main
An evening with Ted Kooser and Jane Hamilton, two nationally acclaimed writers who exemplify the quiet wisdom and graceful precision of Midwestern literature. Kooser, the former U.S. Poet Laureate and winner of the Pulitzer Prize, will read from his poetry, which is loved by thousands of readers for its clarity, precision and accessibility. He has been featured on National Public Radio numerous times, and his weekly newspaper column, "American Life in Poetry," appears in many newspapers around the nation, including The Capital Times in Madison. Hamilton, a best-selling author from Rochester, Wisconsin, whose work has been featured by Oprah's Book Club, will read from her critically-lauded new novel, When Madeline Was Young, a moving, powerful tale of a family moving through the routine frustration of domestic life, as well as the epic and inexplicable struggles of personal tragedy and global strife.
American Life in Poetry 31
In My Mother’s House
stood at attention
even the air knew
when to hold its breath
the polished floors
defying heel marks
the plastic slipcovers
crinkled in discomfort
in my mother’s house
the window shades
against the glare
of the world
crawled like roaches
back into the cracks
even the humans sat—
around the formica
and with silver knives
sliced and swallowed
Reprinted from “Poet Lore,” Vol 99, No. 1/2 by permission of the author. Copyright © 2005 by Gloria g. Murray, whose latest book of poetry is “Five A.M. Anxiety.” This weekly column is supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress, and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. This column does not accept unsolicited poetry.
A Night at The Stead
After the lecture
about the history of Paramount Records last Friday, I zipped over to The Dulcinea's place to fetch her. When I walked in the door, she was readying herself for our night out. She takes our visits to The Stead very seriously as as evidenced by the make-up she applies for those occasions but she rarely wears it otherwise. It was a full moon as we jumped into my car and made our way to a "play party" at The Stead. It was, I guess, our second time, though this one was to be more free-form than the last. Whereas our previous venture centered around a group of us watching a couple shibari DVDs, last week was billed as just getting together and having fun however you may please.
We arrived at 9 or thereabouts only to find GD in media res
of dominating a young woman. There were a few new faces there - Q, N, and B. I'd brought some Polish beer that I'd got in Chicago as well as a stray Sprecher that had been sitting in the back of our refrigerator. N noticed the Sprecher and took to it like a junkie to the needle. N is slender fellow probably in his mid-20s. We began chatting a bit and discovered that he's a homebrewer. This proved an icebreaker as it immediately gave us something to talk about. After a while, I returned to The Dulcinea and he to his partner, B. It had been a pretty busy week and, with beer in hand, I relayed to The D some of things that had happened in the past few days. One of them was to help out a woman here at work, A, who had been a man only a few months ago. While I never really knew A when she was a man, I'd been to lunch with him once and chatted a couple times. He was in his early 20s and had a very youthful, active demeanor. Having changed gender, the new A was quite a study in contrast. She was very calm and mellow. His slightly reckless youthful vigor and been transmogrified into an air of calm maturity. B overheard our conversation and joined in. Just as N and I found common ground with beer, The D and B got along very well from the get-go.
As the four of us got acquainted, GD was plying his trade. He had the woman bent over a table propping herself up a bit on her forearms. With her top having slipped down, her breasts hung free. She was very beautiful with her pale skin and long dark hair. Her chest shuddered as he pulled her arms back in position for tying. She had an extraordinary look on her face - half pain, half pleasure. Curiously enough, I found that she looked familiar to me. Perhaps she had been a barista at a coffeehouse I used to frequent or a clerk at a store where I occasionally shopped.
The four of us took to the living room with our drinks. The D and I chatted with N and B while J and another gentleman whose name I cannot recall talked amongst themselves. N and B had recently become parents so that became a topic of conversation as well as their identification as being poly. Meanwhile, R and Q, a woman whom I hadn't met previously, took to the play room. Going to the bathroom means traversing it and trying to stay out of the way of the folks having fun. On my first run to the head, GD was continuing his domination of the unnamed woman while R was shaving Q's legs. I felt a bit like Bill Harford in the orgy scene in Eyes Wide Shut
. Granted, it was a different scenario but, being a big Kubrick fan, my mind tries to connect my experiences with his films.
On my second trip to the loo, GD had the woman pressed up against a column with her arms tied to a bar above her. R had apparently finished shaving and was lovingly applying lotion to Q's legs. I asked if I could take a seat and was given permission. It was nice because Q was very friendly and open. She had just finished getting her degree and was in the process of regaining a social life. Coming to the play party and having her legs shaved and massaged was the first step. Another reason for me to like Q was that she liked my argyle socks. I've had a thing for argyle since high school and she said that they're making a comeback. I guess fashion truly is cyclical.
Back in the living room, I found that Ikenie fujin (Wife to be Sacrificed)
was playing. It was a nice letterboxed version. This poor woman suffered scene after scene of abuse. The one that sticks out in my mind now is the one where this seedy-looking guy pours candlewax on her naughty bits. Yikes! During this time, GD and his playmate finished and then joined us. GD looked a bit disheveled while the woman looked exhausted. I'm not surprised.
Then it was our turn. I grabbed The Dulcinea's hand and led her to a bed which was in the corner of the play room. She had been a bad girl earlier in the week and her behavior required punishment...
12 October, 2006
If you're like me, you love a good cuppa joe. Kenyan AA, Ethiopian...mmm... And you may also be like me in having virtually no idea of how that luscious black elixir ends up in your cup. To learn more, check out the two screenings of Black Gold
next week at the Orpheum
. The theatre's site doesn't have any info on the screenings just yet but Just Coffee's
does:On Monday October, 16th and Tuesday October, 17th Just Coffee, SERRV International, and Mad-Ftaa will be hosting Tadesse Meskela in Madison. Tadesse is the head of of the OROMIA co-op in Ethiopia and is the main character in the new award-winning documentary "Black Gold", a movie about the coffee crisis and the promise of fair trade.
Tadesse will be speaking at two showings of the movie at the Orpheum Theatre on the dates above. Please stay tuned for more info on show times and events where you can hook up with Tadesse.
Tales From the Kink
If you are into kink or erotica or kinky erotica, then check out the new podcast Tales From the Kink
. The inaugural show is a reading of "Unstayed" by none other than my girlfriend, The Dulcinea.
11 October, 2006
Madisonians know that Hilldale Theaters is going away and will be replaced by the first Sundance Cinemas. Mr. Redford and Company have finally devoted a webpage to their enterprise - SundanceCinemas.net
. There's not a whole lot up there, at the moment, but it does reveal the name of the joint here in Madtown will be Sundance 608. There's also a couple pictures from the plans there as well. It is to be a complex wtih drinking and dining amenities. Perhaps my favorite part of the design is the "secret stair" to the bar...
10 October, 2006
Some Movie News
David Lynch has decided to distribute his latest film by himself
.He's secured the U.S. and Canadian distribution rights to his own movie, which had its North American premiere at the New York Film Festival on Sunday. Early word has been that it is quite possibly Lynch's most bizarre feature yet (his shorts surely can't be included in that consideration). The three-hour long film was shot on video - specifically, on a Sony PD150 camera - reportedly because he became infatuated with the medium after using it for his 2002 "Rabbits" shorts and has since renounced film.Inland Empire
sounds like it's gonna be great, if this review
is anything to go by. N.B. - it contains SPOILERS. If you don't want to know anything about the plot then perhaps this tidbit will satiate your curiosity for the moment:INLAND EMPIRE is both continuous with this thematic element of Lynch's work, and discontinuous with his usual visual approach. In the first ten minutes, you won't believe how terrible the DV looks. COPS-level, people. But then Lynch fave Grace Zabriskie (Laura Palmer's mom) shows up with a Polish accent troweled on as thick as her makeup, and down the rabbit-hole we go.
About a week ago, Terry Gilliam showed up outside the studio where The Daily Show is taped to promote his newest film, Tideland
. He had a placard that read: "STUDIO-LESS FILMMAKER - FAMILY TO SUPPORT - WILL DIRECT FOR FOOD". He hung out on the sidewalk for about an hour and chatted with folks. You can check out some pictures here
. Apparently no major distributor would touch the film and so a small outfit is handling it. I wouldn't be surprised if it never made it to Madison. However, it will be playing at the Music Box Theatre
in Chicago starting on the 20th of this month.