Fearful Symmetries

Witness a machine turn coffee into pointless ramblings...

31 October, 2011

Rumors Abound Regarding DWD Departures

The rumor mill continues to grind out the bread and life of destiny.

It was not even a week ago when I received news that WI Department of Workforce Development Secretary Scott Baumbach resigned after a paltry four months on the job. Today I heard a rumor that he took one for the team and resigned because he is being investigated for tax fraud.

Just last Friday it was reported that Allison Rozek, the administrator of the Administrative Services Division, departed. The rumor says she was escorted out of her office in handcuffs.

The first rumor is at least plausible but I haven't been able to find a news article indicating that Rozek had manacles slapped on her. You'd think that this would be newsworthy and that some reporter somewhere would have stumbled upon this if it had happened.

No word on whether these two events are related, however.
|| Palmer, 5:55 PM || link || (0) comments |

A-Crusading We Will Go

Historian Peter Frankopan has a book due soon called The First Crusade: the Call from the East. It's being promoted as a revolutionary book as you can read at this article at The Australian. The publisher, Harvard University Press, contends that Frankopan is "countering nearly a millennium of scholarship" with his new book.

The old story supposedly goes like this: Pope Urban II decided it was high time to free Jerusalem from those dastardly Muslims 450+ years after they took it. And so in 1095 he put on his rhetorical hat and gave a speech at the Council of Clermont which urged his most beloved brethren of Western Christendom to venture east and take up his cause.

Frankopan's supposed revelation is that the First Crusade was actually more about helping out the Byzantine Alexios Komnenos who was having a hard time of things.

For Dr Frankopan, the First Crusade was therefore not a religious war, but instead a "very specific, targeted military expedition against the cities of Nicaea and Antioch", two former Byzantine possessions that the crusader army swore an oath to hand over to Alexios. Jerusalem was just a carrot.

While I'm not scholar, I am confused as to what is actually new about this idea. I've been listening to a wonderful lecture called "Era of the Crusades" by Professor Kenneth W. Harl and I'd bet a dollar to a doughnut that this notion of the First Crusade being rooted in the realpolitik of the time instead of solely being a religious endeavor wouldn't be new to him. In short, Harl says that Emperor Basil II's heirs were a bunch of fuck-ups, including Emperor Romanos IV Diogenes who got his ass stomped at the Battle of Manzikert in 1071 by the Seljuk Turks. Not only that, they took him prisoner. After this, the Turks took Anatolia and Byzantium was in a bit of a pickle.

Alexios I Komnenos became emperor in 1081 and started to get the empire's shit together. However, he couldn't do everything. Ergo he appealed to Urban II for help. As Prof. Harl said, "He asked for mercenaries and he got a crusade."

And so I am not sure exactly what is new and novel about Frankopan's thesis.
|| Palmer, 3:26 PM || link || (0) comments |

We Never Learned These Stories in History Class

Ghost stories go way back as evidenced by Debbie Felton's Haunted Greece and Rome: Ghost Stories from Classical Antiquity.

“I think these Roman stories are great, and most people don’t realize that ghost and werewolf stories like these were being told 2,000 years ago,” says Felton. “There are many reasons why people enjoy them and enjoy being scared by them. There’s certainly a cathartic effect to hearing a ghost story and being scared out of your wits without ever being in any real danger. But, more essentially, ghost stories ultimately reflect religious beliefs concerning the importance of a proper burial and the survival of the spirit after death. The dead have a need to rest in peace, while the living have a need to believe in an afterlife; who really wants to think about eternal non-existence? And the humor in a lot of ghost stories is a good way to deal with the disturbing reality of death.

“For example, the Roman author Pliny the Younger tells a wonderful little ghost story about a haunted house in Athens,” she says. “It’s a prototypical haunted house story: the horrific ghost of an old man scares everyone away, the house is deserted and falling into disrepair. Finally a brave man comes along who dares to spend the night in the house. He is not afraid of the ghost, and instead realizes the phantom wants to communicate. He follows the ghost to a spot where it disappears; he digs up the spot, finds bones, buries them with the proper rituals, and the ghost never appears again.”
|| Palmer, 1:05 PM || link || (0) comments |

Aural Terror

Slate has an article today about horror radio drama, specifically Tales From Beyond the Pale.

Just released as a five-CD set containing all 10 episodes, Tales from Beyond the Pale looks backward into nostalgia while offering glimpses of futuristic ambition. Some of the episodes are content to ape old-fashioned radio dramas, only with better production values and more cussing, offering fun twists and turns on a narrative level, but staying literal-minded in terms of sound design: Doors open and close, footsteps are created by a recording engineer with a shoe on each hand, and actors describe sea monsters that viewers can’t see for themselves. They’re a lot of fun and offer a kick of straight nostalgia, especially in the case of “This Oracle Moon” by Jeff Buhler (writer of The Midnight Meat Train) and featuring Ron Perlman (Hellboy) and Doug Jones (the faun from Pan’s Labyrinth). Its cannibal cavemen on the moon, insane androids, and grizzled spaceship captains are ripped right out of an old-school EC Comic.

Going retro has its charms, but a handful of these episodes push the state of the art to the next level. In Sarah Langan’s “Is This Seat Taken?” the old-fashioned declamatory style of line-readings is abandoned for a creepily intimate dialogue between two repressed psychopaths who meet cute on the Long Island Railroad. Him: “My parents thought I was too shy for college and that made it hard so I dropped out and the only job I could get was stringing telephone lines? Along the West Side Highway? I rode the train, like, ten times a week dressed as a construction worker, smelling terrible. It’s like something snapped and I started writing about shooting up all these people. You know, like the fancy people, with lucky lives? And friends? And inch-deep souls? I picked the 5:38 to Mineola and I even got the gun and bullets. And the morning I planned to do it I showered, shaved, brushed my hair and I slit my wrists. My parents found me.” The actors wisely underplay their lines and it sounds so natural that the unfolding drama sucks you in the way eavesdropping on the subway does.

I've never heard of this outfit but it sounds like good stuff. The author, Grady Hendrix, makes a good point.

But with podcasts and audiobooks surging in popularity as more people don earbuds and spend more time in their cars, the radio drama should be primed for a comeback. Except it’s not happening. The image of the traditional radio drama is one held over from the ’30s: attenuated organ music, tinny sound effects, and actors speaking in a kind of non-naturalistic sportscaster’s voice (“It’s a bear! Look out! He’s coming right at you and—what’s that?—he has a gun!”). They’re as comfortably old-fashioned as your grandfather’s cardigans, but they shouldn’t be.

Radio drama does have a reputation as being something purely retro – I've noted this here in Madisonpreviously. A lot of the time the idea is to reproduce an experience from the 1940s by dressing in period clothes or replicating Orson Welles' War of the Worlds broadcast. All is not lost, though. This article on radio drama in Madison shows some signs of artists looking to move beyond pure nostalgia. Still, it's time to move beyond the notions of what radio drama was like 70+ years ago. Even the Friends of Old-Time Radio Convention had its last go-round.

Anyway, here are some of my favorite horror audio dramas. All of these scared the bejeezus out of me.

One of the first audio dramas I ever heard was The Mummy by Monterrey Soundworks. It's an adaptation of Bram Stoker's The Jewel of Seven Stars. "All at once the gates of Sleep were thrown wide open…" I love the Victorian English ("gums, spices, and bitumen"!) and how the story starts in media res with Abel Trelawney unconscious, his body being attacked in the middle of the night with someone or something trying to get that bangle off of his wrist. The voice acting is great. I can just picture Sergeant Daw's sideburns when he speaks.

For more chills and spills in a Victorian/Edwardian way, check out Atlanta Radio Theatre Company's The Shadow Over Innsmouth or any of their H.P. Lovecraft adaptations. Everything has a pall over it. People losing their sanity, cultists running amok, and words like "hideous" and "eldritch" get used a lot.

Set in Antarctica in the near future, Simon Bovey's Cold Blood will make you freeze your ears off in the middle of summer. It's not horror per se but you will feel cold listening to it and there are some good scares such as when a couple characters are chasing the villain through a deserted research base and when someone gets stuck out in a blizzard and nearly freezes to death.

There are a few incredibly spooky Doctor Who audio dramas from Big Finish. For example, Chimes of Midnight is chilling in a very Sapphire and Steel kind of way while Night Terrors' name tells you all. I recommend all the Big Finish adventures but I'm going with Embrace the Darkness today. You've The Doctor and Charley wandering the corridors of an isolated scientific base in total darkness with creepy noises off in the distance, creatures that have lost their eyes, and an approaching ship that will spell doom. A classic.
|| Palmer, 12:47 PM || link || (0) comments |

Hey Madison Public Schools, Teach Our Kids

My stepson has popped me up in chat twice today. At first I thought he was at home but, no, he was at school. He was in homeroom where he has access to a computer. The second time he even invited me to a chat room.

So, kids get out early every Monday, excepting weeks that otherwise have days where there is no school, he had two days off last week because teachers were supposed to be at a convention that was cancelled, and now he and his friends have time to sit around in chat rooms during school hours. If it were lunch time or recess, that's one thing. But if a kid's ass is in a seat in a classroom, he shouldn't be in a chat room.

MPS IT can start rectifying this situation by blocking ports 5222 and 443.
|| Palmer, 11:41 AM || link || (0) comments |

28 October, 2011

The Morality of Double Dipping

Shawn Rajanayagam of The Badger Herald has me confused. Earlier this week he penned an editorial in support of a bill which would "ban the practice of double-dipping, whereby state employees can retire and later return to their jobs".

First he says:

While double dipping may not be as financially burdensome as it appears on the surface, to claim that it isn’t unethical is patently ridiculous. Workers should not be able to “retire” for just one month and then regain their employment with the added perks of retirement benefits. Professor Burden’s suggestion that it’s not all that bad is morally abhorrent.

So to say that the practice is ethically sound is "patently ridiculous" and to say it's "not all that bad" is "morally abhorrent". Then later on he opines:

Technically, what these employees have done is legal, but it is certainly not ethical, and they should not be prosecuted. After all, they were only doing what the budget cuts had, to some degree, forced them into — but it is still a morally ambiguous practice, to say the least.

The notion that double dipping isn't all that bad is morally abhorrent yet the practice itself goes from being "not ethical" to being "morally ambiguous, to say the least". Let's go over that again. Defending the practice is abhorrent yet the practice itself is merely morally ambiguous. How odd. To say the least.

So what exactly is the ethical problem with state employees retiring and then returning as LTEs?

This is an important fact to note; the fiscal argument against double dipping is based on the fact that these people are embezzling taxpayer dollars for their own benefit.

Here's an important fact to note, Shawn: what "embezzle" means.

Here's how Miriam-Webster defines embezzle: "to appropriate (as property entrusted to one's care) fraudulently to one's own use".

Dictionary.com: "to appropriate fraudulently to one's own use, as money or property entrusted to one's care."

Oxford dictionary: "steal or misappropriate (money placed in one’s trust or belonging to the organization for which one works)"

Do you see a pattern here, Mr. Rajanayagam? Embezzlement involves fraud and theft whereas retiring and returning to state service as an LTE with no benefits involves two parties in which one exchanges his/her labor for pay. Where is the fraud here?

I know a gentleman who recently retired from state service and returned as a part-time LTE. He gets a pension because he and the state entered into a contract decades ago which said, in part, if he worked for a certain amount of time, he'd get a pension. This guy put in 30+ years and he is reaping the reward of that service. When he retired, that first contract ended. Bang! Zoom! Gone. Now that he has returned, he is working under a new contract which says the state will pay him X dollars an hour to work, no benefits. He is not getting an "added perk" of a pension; he earned that pension by working at the state longer than you've been alive. Where is the fraud here?

So when you write "these people are embezzling taxpayer dollars", you are accusing them of fraud and theft. If you have proof of fraudulently activity, then do come forward with the evidence. Otherwise writing what you wrote amounts to libel. What kind of jejune moral world do you live in where working for pay is ethically suspect?
|| Palmer, 2:34 PM || link || (0) comments |

Dem Bones

I heard an interview with art historian Paul Koudounaris about his new book The Empire of Death: A Cultural History of Ossuaries and Charnel Houses. Very interesting stuff. Here are a couple samples from the book.

He focuses on the Western cultural traditions but apparently there are some Eastern examples as well. Most of places he visited were created post-Renaissance but the Christian practice dates back to the 6th century or so and he includes some photos of Medieval sites and a modern example or two as well.

The use of bone as "decorative veneration" seems so foreign, so morbid to us today. Yet, as Koudounaris explains, these places were meant to be beautiful works of art. Many of these places were hidden away in churches so the intended audience was composed of priests, monastic officials, &c. and not a bunch of aberrant goofballs out on the fringe. This was serious, mainstream Christian stuff that had a role in salvation.
|| Palmer, 9:33 AM || link || (0) comments |

26 October, 2011

The Mill and the Cross

It's been a good year for me and my love of difficult, contemplative cinema. First there was The Tree of Life and over the weekend I saw The Mill and the Cross by Polish director Lech Majewski. Art historian and critic Michael Francis Gibson had originally asked Majewski to shoot a documentary about Pieter Bruegel's 1564 work The Procession to Calvary but the director did one better by creating a narrative film that explores Brugel's motivations and takes the viewer inside the painting thanks to some imaginative green screen work.

The Mill and the Cross stars Rutger Hauer as Bruegel, the 16th century Flemish painter. As the film opens the painter is wandering an unreal rural landscape with Nicholas Jonghelinck, his patron as played by Michael York. Bruegel discusses his plans for a new painting and the camera pulls back allowing us to see them wandering the landscape of The Procession to Calvary. (For a look at the painting, see here.)

"My painting will tell many stories," the artist tells us. "It should be large enough to hold everything." At the center is a crucifixion but it is off in the distance and thusly small from the viewer's perspective. Furthermore, the man is ignored by most of the people in the painting who simply go about their lives. He will place a mill high atop a small promontory because it will be the miller, he who grinds "out the bread of life and destiny," that shall look down upon the scene instead of God gazing down from the clouds. On the left we see a town encircled by wall – the Wheel of Life. Also on that side is a tree – the Tree of Life. The sky overhead is bright and sunny. On the right we have a gloomy sky and beneath it is a circle of people – the Wheel of Death. A Catherine wheel stands in for the Tree of Death. And there is a Christ figure in the center of the painting bearing his cross and ignored.

There is very little dialogue here. Bruegel outlines his painting, Jonghelinck laments the cruelty of their Spanish overlords, and Charlotte Rampling as Mary ponders the fate of her son. We are left to cull meaning from watching the people that populate Brugel's work live their lives. Two men fell a tree in the woods. A woman with a basket on her head wanders the countryside only to be groped by a lecherous man enjoying the music of a roving musician. In another scene, a young couple finishes breakfast and then loads a calf into a large basket on a sled which they drag out onto the plain. The man is then rounded up by Spanish soldiers clad in crimson and is handed his fate atop that Catherine wheel set on the tree that those men felled. An old couple awaken and, after breaking his fast, the man kicks at a younger man sleeping on the floor who stirs and gets up. He, in turn, walks up a seemingly interminable flight of stairs and sets the mill in motion. In several scenes, the old miller looks at the gears of his machine with pride like God admiring his own handiwork on Earth.

Majewski deftly blurs the line between Bruegel's world and the world of his painting. When he wanders the painting sketching out his ideas, it's easy to say the latter. But when our painter wakes up one morning, he goes into the bedroom where most of his children are sleeping to grab his papers. Outside the window is the mill but it is the depiction of it from his painting. After this, that mill seems to be just off in the distance from every window and doorway. What is Flanders and what is Bruegel's imagination?

The film seemed to me to be ambivalent thematically or, at least, I had trouble making the images conform to any single idea. On the one hand, there is the cruelty. In addition to the man who has his flesh picked at by ravens atop the Catherine wheel, we also witness a woman being buried alive for heresy. And there's the Christ figure hounded by the Spaniards who carries his cross into the center of the painting. On the other hand, there is tenderness such as when a child suckles at its mother's breast. Plus the film is not hesitant when it comes to mirth. When Bruegel leaves that room with his papers, 3 or 4 children erupt from a mass of blankets and pillows on the bed and begin playing. Musicians perform and people dance. There are many stories here. And, high above, the miller alternately watches the gears of his mill churn like the Wheel of Fortune and gazes down on the scene.

The ending of the The Mill and the Cross only served to reinforce the ambivalence in my mind. We watch as throngs of people on a hillside dance to music in a circle. It is an ostensibly joyous occasion until you realize that this is the Wheel of Death that Bruegel noted would appear in his painting.

Bruegel's painting may have been devotional in however an unconventional way for his time, but Majewski seems to use religion as a lens to focus more earthly concerns. At one point, the miller stops the scene below him. People and horses come to a stop in mid-motion. But it was Brugel who gave him the signal to do so. And take that last scene. The Wheel of Death is comprised of joyful people dancing. What does that say about us?

|| Palmer, 1:51 PM || link || (0) comments |

25 October, 2011

Beer Notes, 25 October 2011

Well, it looks like Carl Nolen's bid to take over Capital Brewery will not come to pass. But the real news in the article comes from the brewery's president, Scott Wiener:

Wiener wrote that the brewery has formed a board of advisers to help set long-term strategy, which could include expansion.

Lakefront has released Local Acre Wet Hop.

Local Acre lager is brewed with 100% Wisconsin ingredients. "This is the limited-edition, single batch, wet hop addition." Not sure if this is available in Madison or not. Anyone seen it on store shelves?

Before I move on I want to say "WTF, Lakefront?". I can find no mention of the brew on their webpage, only their Facebook page. Why do you guys insist on having people go to multiple sites to find out about your brews? The idea behind the Internet is to make the search for information easier, not more difficult.

Beer Street Journal has some news about Leinenkugel including this:

Leines is getting into barrel aging beer with some aged Big Eddy Russian Imperial Stout due in a couple years. Next year sees the release of a couple new brews - a Wee Heavy Scotch Ale and an IPA. I had the Big Eddy IIPA back in 2007 and thought it was a tasty West Coast version of the style.

I wonder what's up with Leine's. The Big Eddy series debuted 4+ years ago yet they seem to avoid actually releasing the stuff with any regularity. It's like they keep dipping their toes in the craft beer waters but never dive in.

A hearty thanks to Jeff Glazer at Madison Beer Review for choosing the right person - my lady, The Dulcinea - to win a free pair of tickets to the Octoberfest extravaganza up in Kohler over this past weekend.

It was a good time. I ate too much and she drank too much. (And if I weren't driving, I would have too.) Founder's Nemesis black barley wine was incredibly tasty and incredibly potent. The Great Dane's pilsner was skunky. It tasted like I'd imagine a piece of cardboard that's been hanging in my shower for a couple years would. The two reps should have had some on the drive up before foisting it on us. The D laughed at me for telling the Big Bay rep that I really like Wavehopper. "You're such a beer geek," she taunted.

I sampled their Long Weekend IPA, which, coincidentally, isn't featured on their website. It was good stuff and distinctly non-West Coasty. Little to no citrus hoppiness and instead you get the more herby/grassy flavor. While a good beer, it would have been better if it hadn't been 35 degrees outside.

While I'm on the subject of Big Bay, the guy said that their porter is due next month but will be on draught only. While he didn't have a comprehensive list, he did say that it would make its way here to Madison and that the Coliseum Bar will probably get first dibs as they've been asking for it. This I did not expect. Do they sell a lot of Boatilla and Wavehopper there or do they just have a hard-on for porters?

Another beer that was good but would have tasted better about three months ago was Potosi's Wee Stein Wit. Nice balance of spice and orange. With this brew, their "shandy", and Czech pilsener, Potosi had a mighty impressive year, IMHO. Some of the best summer brews in the state. Plus I'm told their Tangerine IPA is excellent as well.

Lastly, Valkyrie Brewing Co. is looking to distribute in Madison but no date has been lined up. Brewmaster Randy Lee says he's been getting a lot of requests for Viking's Hot Chocolate to return so it seems likely he'll be brewing it again. Probably no Morketid (Viking's dunkel), though.

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|| Palmer, 12:34 PM || link || (0) comments |

First 3D Hindi Film, RA.One, Coming to Madison

RA.One looks like a blast and it's screening here in Madison tomorrow, Thursday, and Saturday. It is a big budget CGI blockbuster with a guy in a superhero suit, chase scenes on trains, lots of cars flying around, and a whole lot of broken glass. The Movie Mahal website is promoting it as the first Hindi film in 3D. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem that it'll have English subtitles as the site has stated as much in the past for other films.

The 3D presentation is on Thursday and Saturday only.

|| Palmer, 9:59 AM || link || (0) comments |

Eating in Chicago Eclair to Chile Relleno

While in Chicago over the weekend, The Dulcinea and I dined at a couple fine establishments.

The first was Sensational Bites, a dessert café. The D got a slice of carrot cake while I went with an eclair the size of my head.

I had a sliver of the cake and it was mmm-mmm good. Very moist and flavorful. With all the shredded carrot visible, The D said it was like there was a whole carrot in just this piece.

My eclair was great as well. Great in taste and in size. It was the equivalent of a burrito from La Bamba - the size of my head. The custard filling was among the best I've had with specks of vanilla bean in it. Much to my delight, it wasn't overly sweet. The custard was rich and creamy but not cloyingly sugary. For its part, the frosting was made from dark chocolate so it retained a goodly amount of bitterness along with that earthy chocolate flavor instead of simply being a brown-colored layer of sugar.

The other noteworthy eatery was Tuxpan Mexican Grill. It's owned and run by Jaime and Mary Cianca. It's basically a whole in the wall kind of place and the food was great. Things started out with chips and three varieties of salsa plus a pitcher of water full of lime slices. My mom order a taco plate which was a tamale and a taco, The D had enchiladas suizas, and I got chile rellenos. My dish came with two chilies - one stuffed with cheese and the other beef. All orders had beans, rice, and salad.

Mary was our server and it turned out she and her family used to live a couple doors down from my mother. And so a conversation ensued. Everything is made from scratch. Jaime does most of the cooking but Mary does a couple dishes including the chile rellenos. The tamales are are a hit with their family and I can attest that they are tasty. There were no complaints at our table and we left with full bellies. Plus the prices were very reasonable.

If you're ever in the Jefferson Park neighborhood, check Tuxpan out.
|| Palmer, 6:05 AM || link || (0) comments |

24 October, 2011

WI Book Festival 2011: The Katyn Order by Douglas Jacobson

I had a busy weekend and was able to attend only one event at the Wisconsin Book Festival - Douglas Jacobson and his latest novel The Katyn Order. Here's the synopsis from his website:

The German War Machine is in retreat as the Russians advance. In Warsaw, Resistance fighters rise up against their Nazi occupiers, but the Germans retaliate, ruthlessly leveling the city. American Adam Nowak has been dropped into Poland by British intelligence as an assassin and Resistance fighter. During the Warsaw Rising he meets Natalia, a covert operative who has lost everything—just as he has. Amid the Allied power struggle left by Germany’s defeat, Adam and Natalia join in a desperate hunt for the 1940 Soviet order authorizing the murders of 20,000 Polish army officers and civilians. If they can find the Katyn Order before the Russians do, they just might change the fate of Poland.

Mr. Jacobson has some Polish blood from his mother and, although he's an engineer by trade, he likes to study overlooked episodes of World War II. He explained that his recent studies led him to the point where he had two major events that he wanted to write about. First was the Warsaw Uprising of 1944 and the other was the Katyń Massacre. He managed to delve into both in his latest book. The Polish Heritage Club of WI-Madison was a sponsor of the event on Saturday and there were more than a few people from Poland in attendance. Jacobson said that when he gives his presentation on The Katyn Order most audience members are unfamiliar with the Katyń Massacre. I think that most of us there on Saturday were familiar with it, one person too familiar, perhaps.

In a nutshell, the Katyń Massacre was carried out in the spring of 1940 by the Soviet Union's NKVD or People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs. Some 20,000 Poles were slaughtered, most of them military officers but also members of the intelligentsia, i.e. – lawyers, doctors, and the like. Recall that the USSR invaded and captured eastern Poland in 1939. 200,000+ soldiers were captured and eventually freed with many conscripted to fight the Nazis. However, the officers remained detained and in 1940 Stalin signed the orders to have them killed. The victims were shot in the head and their bodies dumped into mass graves.

In 1943 as the Germans advanced through the USSR, they stumbled upon the graves in the Katyń forest and they attempted to use their discovery as a propaganda tool against the Soviets who denied everything. It wasn't until 1989 that the Soviets admitted what had been done and their government's role in it.

Mr. Jacobson gave a summary of the history and noted that, in general, Polish contributions during World War II tend to be ignored. Polish soldiers fought in every theater of the war. They fought in Poland but also in the deserts of Africa and in the skies with the RAF, for example. He read a couple passages from the book and it sounds like a very good read. Things got even better after his presentation. In the audience on Saturday was Dr. Waclaw Szybalski. A native of Poland, he immigrated to the United States in 1950. I attended a birthday celebration for him this past summer and learned about the many contributions he has made to the field of genetics. The list at the link above sounds impressive but when someone explained what all the meant to me in layman's terms at the party, it was even more so.

So, while I knew about Dr. Szybalski's contributions to science, I didn't know until Saturday that he was a Polish military officer and escaped being murdered in the Katyń Forest in 1940. He explained how the Soviet Army occupied his hometown of Lwów but that they were very disorganized and he basically slipped through the cracks after discarding his uniform. He also noted that he heard about the massacre a few weeks after it had happened and that the American and English governments knew all about it during the war but they didn't press the issue with the Soviets as they were allies and didn't want to upset Stalin. This attitude carried on after the war was over. It was fascinating to hear some of the history mentioned in Jacobson's book told by someone who witnessed it first-hand.

An audience member also from Poland noted that, prior to the Solidarity Movement, just mentioning the word "Katyń" would get one arrested and imprisoned.

As you can imagine, it was a very interesting Q&A session. Cheers to Mr. Jacobson who was generous enough to allow the focus to be moved from his book to the larger history behind it and to someone who was alive and there when it happened. I think he was as grateful to hear other people's stories as was the rest of the audience.
|| Palmer, 2:18 PM || link || (0) comments |

21 October, 2011

The Peril of Not Living in a Major City

Roland Emmerich's first non-CGI disaster fest in over a decade, Anonymous, was to have opened today at Sundance.

Yet the Elizabethan potboiler is not playing according to their Showtimes pages. Why is that? Sony Pictures has changed the release schedule at the last minute.

Instead, in an unusual change so close to a planned launch, the studio will open the picture, about a British earl who some claim was the true author of William Shakespeare's plays, in only 250 theaters next weekend. Sony had originally planned to launch the movie in thousands of theaters.

Tracking surveys indicated that audiences were not that interested in seeing the film and it was likely headed for a very soft opening of less than $5 million. Sony is now hoping to generate buzz and positive reviews to boost audience excitement by opening the movie only in major cities Oct. 28. The studio then plans to expand its run to more locations throughout November.

Think about that. Only a few million - just not good enough. Uff da! While Anonymous' story and Emmerich's films generally don't interest me all that much, I read at IMDB that the movie is "The first major full-length motion picture to be shot with the Arri ALEXA high-definition digital-video camera." Now, that interests me. I'd go see it on this basis alone. Hopefully it'll end up here next month.
|| Palmer, 10:05 AM || link || (0) comments |

20 October, 2011

Scalia Issues Originalist Verdict on Pizza

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was in Chicago earlier this week and he issued a characteristically originalist ruling on pizza:

“I do indeed like so-called ‘deep dish pizza.’ It’s very tasty,” the high court’s most outspoken conservative said after a moment’s hesitation. “But it should not be called ‘pizza.’ It should be called ‘a tomato pie.’ Real pizza is Neapolitan. [from Naples, Italy] It is thin. It is chewy and crispy, OK?”

More "real pizza" is coming to Madison. Naples 15 will soon be opening at the graveyard of restaurants, Butler Plaza.

Salvatore Di Scala, who plans to open Naples 15 at 15 N. Butler St. in December, called from the island of Ischia near Naples, Italy, where he said he is importing flour for his pizza dough.

Di Scala reports that his wife is pregnant, due around the time the restaurant is expected to open.

The restaurant will replace Las Cazuelas Mexican restaurant in Butler Plaza. It was the original location of Cafe Porta Alba, where Di Scala did some consulting work.

Di Scala intends to serve authentic Neapolitan pizza and eventually get certification from the Associazione Vera Pizza Napoletana, an international nonprofit organization founded in the mid-1990s by a group of Neapolitan pizza makers, who instituted strict pizza-making requirements.

Born in Naples, Di Scala was raised 20 miles away on the island of Ischia. He considers Madison his "second home."
|| Palmer, 10:07 AM || link || (0) comments |

19 October, 2011

Is Walker Getting Ready to Drop the Hammer?

Rumor has it that Capitol Police have had their shifts changed to hours, including 12-hour stints, resembling those from earlier this year when there were some protests going on there.

Is he going to announce the end of PTO for state employees?
|| Palmer, 7:54 PM || link || (4) comments |

Dispatch from the Food Carts

Back when it was hot outside I ate lunch with the Eating in Madison A to Z gang. We dined on the comestibles from Thai-riffic. Head over there for an account of our dining adventure.

|| Palmer, 4:17 PM || link || (0) comments |

About Those iPads...

Earlier this month it was announced that the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., the public/private hybrid agency that replaced the Department of Commerce, purchased 73 iPads for a total of about $60,000, which includes activation fees and monthly data plans. Not sure if that includes anything else like Bluetooth keyboards or not.

A couple days ago Ryan Waal editorialized against the move over at The Daily Cardinal saying, essentially, that surely the state could have gotten a better deal on some laptops. He rightly points out that one of Governor Walker's mantra's is "We're broke."

Waal is angry that the taxpayer footed the bill for the devices but he misses a crucial point. The issue really isn't how much we paid upfront for those iPads, but rather what the Total Cost of Ownership or TCO is going to be on them. In other words, how much is the taxpayer going to pay for those devices over their lifespans? For example, you can buy an inkjet printer dirt cheap but that doesn't represent the TCO because you're going to be buying ink for years at $30+ a pop. The TCO of that printer is going to be the purchase price, the cost of ink refills as well as paper, and any money you spend maintaining it. Do you have to call HP and pay to get some tech support for the device? Well, that's part of the TCO too.

As far as these iPads go, I will admit up front that I have never touched one and have never spoken to anyone who deals with them in the enterprise. That caveat aside, taxpayers should be weary. I presume that money will be spent to deploy the iPads. Money would have also been expended to deploy laptops but is going to a new device and new OS going to increase those costs? Do all the users now have to have iTunes in order to get their device going? Will the WEDC infrastructure inherited from DOC have to be modified? Will new applications have to be written to work with Safari? (Is Safari on an iPad a mobile version?) Will new apps have to be purchased so that WEDC users can read and manipulate PDFs and MS Office files? Are they going to have to pay new license fees to Microsoft? What happens if a user loses the device? Does the iPad have some native system for WEDC IT to wipe it remotely or will a third party app have to be purchased to ensure that all those secret documents about luring mom and pop stores from Rockford to Beloit aren't compromised? To the best of my knowledge, iPads cannot join domains so how are they going to be managed? Do new IT people have to be hired? Or will the current staff be trained? Will iPads affect any long-term IT plans for the agency?

Tom Thieding, WEDC's spokesman, is quoted in the above article as saying, "There was a need for a technology upgrade…The old Department of Commerce - it was just lumbering along." OK, fine, but that doesn't mean that iPads are the solution. They may be or they may not be. What I get out of Thieding's comments is that the iPads were the cheapest solution in upfront costs but not necessarily the best solution in terms of either total cost or of fitting into the current IT environment.

IT staffs should keep an eye on this. According to one vendor, while various WI state agencies have bought the occasional iPad for executive staff, no agency has done a rollout like this one.

So the issue for the people of the great broke state of Wisconsin isn't whether WEDC could have gotten 73 laptops for less than $60,000, it's whether the TCO of 73 iPads is less than that of 73 laptops, tablets, or some combination thereof and, because, quite frankly, this whole thing just doesn't sound right, whether or not WEDC employees will be able to do their jobs effectively with the iPads.
|| Palmer, 11:54 AM || link || (0) comments |

18 October, 2011

Nothing Like a Refreshing Arctic Ale

Having recently read The Terror, a fictional account of Sir John Franklin's doomed 1845 expedition to discover the Northwest Passage, I was interested to find out about the existence of this stuff:

Allsopp's Arctic Ale was brewed in 1852 for Captain Sir Edward Belcher and his crew who were to set out in search of Franklin's expedition. Belcher was not successful but, to his credit, one of his ships survived along with his crew. This bottle is infamous because of the Ebay incident where the original owner misspelled Allsopp as "Allsop" and sold the bottle for only a few hundred dollars. The winner of that auction turned around and reposted it there with correct spelling and more info. He/she got much better bids.

I guess this stuff was 10%+ ABV and was a barley wine. In Belcher's book, The Last of the Arctic Voyages, he says on page 21: "...Allsopp. That name will live for ages in the recollection of all Polars."

Belcher equipped at least one of his ships with brewing equipment and on page 339, he describes the results as being "much esteemed". Fuck, if I were north of the Arctic Circle with pack ice closing in, any beer would be highly esteemed by me. Still, they don't do adventures like that anymore. When did you ever hear about a space shuttle crew bringing a homebrew kit with them?

Some gentlemen are making a movie wherein the cycle up nort to the Arctic and recreate the brew. Seems like an awful lot of trouble to go through just to brew a beer which leads me to believe its more of a publicity stunt than anything. If the pretty awful Brew Masters show is anything to go by, I can just imagine what this movie will be like. Camera must be moving at all times and use lots of canted angles because otherwise producers will assume viewers will just get bored. No shot can last more than 1 second - ibid. It'll have a cheesy metal soundtrack - ibid. It must have danger for repeats on Fox so they'll pull a Robert Flaherty and hire handlers to plant polar bears near the set. It'll be like Scott of the Antarctic!

|| Palmer, 4:21 PM || link || (0) comments |

Cast from John Carpenter's THE THING Watching Footage from the New Prequel

|| Palmer, 10:25 AM || link || (0) comments |

Madison Metro's Windfalls

Madison Metro received some good news: it is receiving a bit over $5 million in federal grant money.

Madison Metro spokesperson Mick Rusch said the grant would allow Metro to continue running at its current rate despite the economy while also allowing for improvements to the transit system.

“Before this grant, we saw a decrease in funding,” Rusch said. “This grant allows us to continue replacing our buses at our current rate of about ten a year, or 100 over ten years.”

The grant also includes funds to purchase new wireless fare boxes, which Rusch said would allow Metro to better track passengers and fare usage. Data will be automatically downloaded to Metro’s computer systems, allowing the company to easily keep track of passenger traffic.

Alder Scott Resnick, District 8, said the money would also allow the city to update several unsafe or decrepit bus shelters.

As I said, this is surely good news and I'd like to make a recommendation for the next time Metro gets a windfall. I have bitched in the past about how useless bus stop signs are here in Madison. They tell you where a stop is and what routes serve it but absolutely nothing about the routes themselves. What's the frequency of the routes? Where do they go? What hours do they run? None of this handy information is available on the signs. So allow me to suggest upgrading to something like this:

These are the new signs for Seattle Metro riders. Notice how they actually give the information riders need. In addition to the routes that serve the stop, you are told where the routes go and when you can expect them to be at the stop. Handy.
|| Palmer, 10:11 AM || link || (4) comments |

TV shows you saw as a kid...

...that took on new meanings when you watched them as an adult.

Exhibit A: The Gong Show

|| Palmer, 10:00 AM || link || (0) comments |

17 October, 2011

Autumn Means...

...pan de muerto!

I picked up a loaf at Pan Y Pan over the weekend. Mighty tasty.

|| Palmer, 4:24 PM || link || (0) comments |

The Revolution's Soundtrack Will Be Polka

At least in Cleveland.

|| Palmer, 3:44 PM || link || (0) comments |

Randy Hopper Busted for DUI

I guess Randy Hopper is still hurting after that recall election. He was arrested yesterday for suspicion of drunk driving.

Police said that they've cited a former state senator for drunken driving.

Fond du Lac County Sheriff's Department Chief Deputy Mark Strand said his agency got a cell phone call from a driver who reported Randy Hopper was all over the road on U.S. Highway 151 late Sunday afternoon.

Strand said Hopper pulled into a grocery store parking lot, where a deputy arrested him. He was released early Monday. Strand declined to release Hopper's blood alcohol levels.
|| Palmer, 3:26 PM || link || (0) comments |

Lock and Load

Here in Madison, we're wondering whether people will be able to bring their concealed weapons to various digs around town once the new law goes into effect. Can I pack heat in the Capitol? Will I be able to take my sawed off blunderbuss into the Co-op? After talking with a couple stateys and a Capitol Police officer over the past few months about this issue, I am convinced that the Republicans who drew up this legislation are a bunch of fucking nimrods who don't have enough sense to pour piss out of a boot if the directions were written on the heel. None of them could tell me who would be able to carry in various buildings. Plus there are all the exceptions. You can't CC on bus, but you can carry on the UW campus, just not inside facilities. But that excludes faculty.

The legislation was apparently not a model of clarity.

One thing I learned a couple weeks ago is that it's not just people in Madison who don't want to go shopping with Bill Hickok or wait for hours at the DMV with Ike Clanton. I stopped at a gas station a little east of Fond du Lac and lo and behold there was a sign on the door saying no handguns allowed in the store. When you walk inside, there's a little ledge with newspapers and such. Well, there was a handbill for a venison processing plant so we're talking about an area where people own and use guns. This was rural Wisconsin, after all. It makes me think that, when the Dems regain control of Wisconsin state government, it might not be that hard to repeal the CC law, pressure from the NRA not withstanding.

I now read that the Willy Street Co-op is going to ban guns in their stores. While a taste for organic food and the proclivity to carry a pistol are not mutually exclusive, I highly doubt this policy will be problematic. Still, I really want to see one of the hippies there confront a shopper packing heat, especially a shopper that drives an SUV and uses the Jenifer Street driveway for in- and egress.

|| Palmer, 3:23 PM || link || (0) comments |

R.I.P. Motion Picture Film Cameras

Sad news. ARRI, Panavision and Aaton have all stopped manufacturing motion picture film cameras.

While the debate has raged over whether or not film is dead, ARRI, Panavision and Aaton have quietly ceased production of film cameras within the last year to focus exclusively on design and manufacture of digital cameras. That's right: someone, somewhere in the world is now holding the last film camera ever to roll off the line.

"The demand for film cameras on a global basis has all but disappeared," says ARRI VP of Cameras, Bill Russell, who notes that the company has only built film cameras on demand since 2009. "There are still some markets--not in the U.S.--where film cameras are still sold, but those numbers are far fewer than they used to be. If you talk to the people in camera rentals, the amount of film camera utilization in the overall schedule is probably between 30 to 40 percent."

How good are digital motion picture cameras these days? Can they match the resolution of film? Color reproduction? Do they really look as good as a nice 70mm print?

|| Palmer, 2:54 PM || link || (0) comments |

Eating in Madison with JM & Nichole

Read what happened when The Dulcinea and I joined JM & Nichole at Stalzy's Deli. I recall JM inhaling a triple decker and being happier than a pig in shit at the root beer selection. And there was something about pyramids or pharaohs or ancient Egypt which was funny. Maybe Nichole or The D remembers what it was.

|| Palmer, 10:53 AM || link || (2) comments |

13 October, 2011

Detective Dee Makes It to Madison

Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame starts here in Madison tomorrow. Kudos to Sundance for bringing it to town. I saw it 2+ weeks ago and my review is here. I thought it was a blast. Highly recommended.

|| Palmer, 3:35 PM || link || (0) comments |

The Daily Page 86s Blog Post About Madison Bars & Racism

I have noticed that Jack Craver's blog post entitled "Nothing new: Madison bars don't like blacks" has been removed. Luckily Google Cache has it.

Editors will let David Blaska fill his Daily Page-sponsored blog with lies, defamation, &c. but letting another blogging relate his personal experience is just too much. Sad.
|| Palmer, 12:28 PM || link || (6) comments |

Corner Store Closing?

I drove by The Corner Store on Willy Street the other day and saw a big sign in the window saying the building was for sale or for lease. Is The Corner Store R.I.P. or are the building owners just looking move on? Anyone heard?
|| Palmer, 12:18 PM || link || (0) comments |

12 October, 2011

Marine Corp Vets Have Words For Sean Hannity

|| Palmer, 3:12 PM || link || (0) comments |

Weekend at Wyalusing

Nothing says camping like a face full of smores.

Last month I packed my gear and went to Wyalusing State Park with my friend Dogger and Miss Regan. I'd never been there before so it was great fun seeing everything for the first time.

We did a lot of hiking. The first trail we hit was the Sugar Maple. It was a really nice hike with ravines everywhere.

(This is an ex-tree!)

The trail led us to Pictured Rock Cave. You can't see it from the trail, however. Instead you walk down a winding path…

…and then all at once it comes into view.

Here it is from another angle.

The layers of sandstone were gorgeous. Unfortunately The Dulcinea's new camera had a hard time with the subtle maize yellow of the rock when I took photos close-up and I had no idea how to adjust the white balance. Still, you can still see the gradation.

However, I discovered that it does have a panorama feature which stitches three photos together and it worked nicely. Click on the photo for a larger version.

There was water dripping down from above us and vines dangling - it was just beautiful. Very peaceful. Regan enjoyed the sand and spent a lot of time digging. She didn't want to leave but leave we did. Next stop was Point Lookout on the north side of the park. The view was amazing. You face north, towards the Wisconsin River and looking west you can see where it dumps into the Mighty Mississip.

Not only was the view spectacular, but we were also looking down at the route taken by Marquette and Joliet. They canoed this way back in the summer of 1673. An eagle was gliding out in front of us but too far out for my small camera to get a good shot. I could have stood there and watched for hours.

Next stop was Treasure Cave. Getting there involved going down the bluff quite a ways on an often narrow and always highly perilous trail. But our almost preternatural skills at walking down steps made the trek uneventful. To get into the cave, you have to walk up a flight of those steps like they have in submarines that are basically just ladders. Here's Regan doing a little spelunking in an opening off of the main chamber.

And behind some rocks at the entrance is a narrow crawl space that isn't visible unless you wander behind them.

Despite being mildly claustrophobic, I crawled in followed by Regan. We didn't get too far because my mind kept postulating that it would collapse on us if we went any farther or we'd get to the end only to discover a Silurian outpost and then we'd really be in trouble.

After making the long haul back up the side of the bluff, we returned to camp. I think we had planned to go back out and do some more exploring after refreshing ourselves but those silos of Flaming Damsel just went down a little too smoothly. Ergo resumption of hiking would have to wait until the next day.

This was the first time camping for me in a long time prior to this and it was so nice to be cooking flesh over an open flame and having the time to just sit and stare at the fire. I did a lot of hunting for wood and didn't notice until the morning that my clothes had a lot of burdocks in them. It was also rather cute to hear the fear in Regan's voice when our lantern was no longer visible from the campsite.

The next day we went back to the north side of the park. I believe this is Council Point.

Hitting the Sand Cave Trail we came upon Sand Cave.

Again, very pretty sandstone layers. There were other kids there Regan's age so it was next to impossible to get her moving down the trail once again. There are a brace Sand Caves and the above is the bigger of the two. Unfortunately the second is guarded by a fence and inaccessible to people.

Our last hiking venture was on the Sentinel Ridge Trail which follows the Mississippi River from above. There is a series of Indian effigy mounds along the path.

There is also a Passenger Pigeon Monument with a plaque that reads something like "Here's to the Passenger Pigeon, victim of man's avarice and stupidity." Quite fitting.

Off in the distance we could see a barge hauling freight south on the river. Sentinel Ridge is covered in oak trees and, when we were tired of acorns hitting us in the head, we went down to the boat landing. And there it was, Old Man River.

I'd never seen the Mississippi River up close before, only driven over it at several points. Well, perhaps I saw it in the Twin Cities but that would have been when I was a kid and have no memory of it. But I finally got to see the storied river. Mark Twain wrote about it as did William Faulkner. Floods have inspired songs from "When the Levee Breaks" to "Tear-Stained Eye". There wasn't much out on the river except for a couple fishing boats out in the distance. Very serene.

There are railroad tracks near the shore and Regan was excited because we had two trains pass by at once.

The Mississippi River and trains – two of the greatest metaphors in the American lexicon all in one spot.

We were there before the leaves started turning in earnest and I can only imagine just how beautiful Wyalusing must be in the autumn. Perhaps I'll find out next year.
|| Palmer, 2:11 PM || link || (0) comments |

Paying for Civilized Society

Towns and cities across America are in a financial bind these days and Madison is no exception. But while we argue about funding for our city's performing arts center, other municipalities are going a step farther.

Take Highland Park, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit. It's behind on its electric bill so DTE Energy repossessed most of their street lights.

Most of the city's street lights have been repossessed because officials failed to pay a multimillion-dollar utility bill, giving rise to concerns about safety and crime in darkened neighborhoods.

DTE Energy crews have removed about 1,400 light poles from Highland Park as part of a settlement that allowed the city to avoid paying $4 million in unpaid bills going back several years. DTE, which says the work will be completed by Oct. 31, has replaced 200 lights with newer models on street corners, but most neighborhoods remain in the dark.

Unsurprisingly, some have used the darkness as cover for theft.

"After they took the street light from in front of my business, someone climbed onto my roof and stole an air conditioning unit," said Bobby Hargrove, owner of Hargrove Machinery Sales on Oakland Avenue, who also claims a police officer asked him for money to beef up his protection.

Even worse is the news that the Topeka City Council is tossing around the idea of decriminalizing domestic violence to save money.

Last month, the Shawnee County District Attorney’s office, facing a 10% budget cut, announced that the county would no longer be prosecuting misdemeanors, including domestic violence cases, at the county level. Finding those cases suddenly dumped on the city and lacking resources of their own, the Topeka City Council is now considering repealing the part of the city code that bans domestic battery. The thinking here is that the county won’t let domestic violence go unpunished in Topeka and so will be forced to step in and start prosecuting it again if the city won’t. Basically, it’s a big game of chicken–where the “chicken” is, I suppose, the chump who won’t allow domestic abusers to walk free?

|| Palmer, 10:49 AM || link || (0) comments |

"Collateral Damage" = People

Here's a video from a group called No More Victims "that connects American communities with war-injured children and their families. Community participants band together to learn how the child was injured, assess the child’s current situation, and work to meet the most pressing needs of the child and family."

This Iraqi girl is 6 years-old and was shot in the head by a member of the U.S. forces in her homeland. (Not sure if that means a soldier or a Blackwater contractor.) She was brought over here for medical treatment. It's amazing that she is all smiles and so winsome. I had to stop watching when she says that, if she could meet the person who shot her, she'd simply ask "Why?"

|| Palmer, 9:56 AM || link || (0) comments |

11 October, 2011

Im Dumpling Haus

The Dulcinea and I had brunch at Dumpling Haus on Sunday along with a couple friends who were eating their way across two counties. (They broke their fasts at a pancake breakfast somewhere in Jefferson County.) Here's what the table looked like when we were finished.

Three of the four of us ordered a noodle dish along with dumplings or buns and passed everything around so that we could all get a taste. The first dish that made its way to our table was The D's Sesame Noodle Kick.

The noodles were done perfectly. It had enough hotness for The D to label it hot while I found it to be on the mild side. I think she liked it because sesame is her weakness at Asian restaurants. Nothing fancy here, just a basic bowl of noodles but tasty nonetheless. Here are the shrimp dumplings.

Again, very tasty. The shrimp were nice and firm and, while not caught that morning, they didn't taste like they had been in cryogenic suspension. The diaphanous dough wasn't all glutinous so it had a nice smooth texture. I can't recall what kind of sauce was ladled over the top but it was surely soy sauce gussied up a bit. I must have grabbed a couple that had escaped the flood.

Here are the Barbecue Bao. Someone also got an order of the Haus Bao Zi.

Alas, the buns were hit-or-miss here. The dough itself was fine – light and fluffy – but the filling's the thing wherein lies the tastiness of the bao zi. In the case of the barbecue variety, there was a paucity of it and what was there just tasted generic. Not badly or off, just more of an adumbration of BBQ as opposed to something well-seasoned; too sweet and lacking flavors to complement the meat. The Haus Bao fared much better with its savory pork mini-patty tucked neatly inside.

I think that these are the Haus Jiao Zi.

Same kind of pork filling as in the Haus Bao but I don't care. I love the mixture of pork, minced vegetables, garlic, soy, sesame, and ginger and can eat that stuff until the second coming of Christ.

My last photo is of the Black Bean & Pork Noodle.

It was slightly disappointing because the black bean wasn't seasoned very much. Basically you had a nice bed of noodles with a big glob of gelatinous black bean that had some bits of pork in it. I found this very odd considering everything else was seasoned, whether it was to my liking or not. The julienned cucumber made a nice contrast to the rest of the dish, though.

The last dish I recall was an order of the Haus Lo Mein with chicken. Nothing grand about it; a simple combination of noodles and chicken tossed in a light, basic, soy sauce. Some pukka comfort food. I hope Samara Kalk Derby doesn't try it because, if memory serves, the chicken was (gasp!) dark meat and not her precious "choice" white meat.

There is still a lot on the menu that we left untouched and I would certainly return. However, I felt that the noodle dishes were a bit overpriced considering the portion size. But I suppose one must pay for freshly rolled noodles.
|| Palmer, 3:56 PM || link || (2) comments |

Don't Call Us, We'll Call You

So much for Obama's pledge for a more transparent federal government.

The Department of Homeland Security won't even make the phone numbers of their PR people public.

Some federal agencies post the office phone numbers of public affairs staff on their websites.

Not the Department of Homeland Security, which believes their release poses "a clearly unwarranted invasion" of employee privacy.

That was the department's response when it denied a Federal Times Freedom of Information Act request for the office phone numbers of its official spokesman. Personal privacy exemptions to FOIA are more commonly used to block disclosure of personnel or medical files.

DHS' response typifies what many see as the Obama administration's unfulfilled promise to shed more light on government operations through FOIA, the key federal open records law.

The day after President Obama took office in January 2009, he directed agencies to "adopt a presumption in favor of disclosure" when responding to Freedom of Information Act requests.

In the case of DHS, a Federal Times reporter sought the phone numbers of individual public affairs staffers after having difficulty reaching them through a central email address for media inquiries. The agency eventually released a 58-page directory of public affairs staff, but redacted every phone number under the privacy exemption.
|| Palmer, 12:09 PM || link || (0) comments |

Beer News: Ale Asylum, Capital, and House of Brews

Ale Asylum will soon be moving into this:

As Mike Ivey of The Capital Times reported, AA is going to building a shiny new brewery over by the airport.

The makers of Hopalicious and other styles of full-flavored ales and lagers are seeking city approval for a 46,000-square-foot building at 2102 Pankratz St., just west of the airport off International Lane. Plans include a 36,000-square-foot warehouse along with a restaurant and rooftop patio.

The brewery currently has about 20 employees but expects to grow to 40 or 50 employees over the next two years. Plans include 208 surface parking spaces. Solar hot water panels would be incorporated on the roof.

"The makers of Hopalicious and other styles of full-flavored ales and lagers" - sounds like a press release.

I heard about this 2 or 3 weeks ago from an AA employee but wasn't sure when it was to be announced. Good on AA. It's nice to see them A) stay in Madison and B) stay on the north side.

So is it going to be a real full-service restaurant? When I first read that there are going to be 208 parking spaces I thought that they are really going out of their way to accommodate drunk drivers. It makes sense, however, if they're going to expand the food side of things. I guess. How many restaurants have that many spaces? At least the new site is a hop, skip, and a jump away from Packers Avenue and buses.

Joe - what's the skinny?

In other local beer business news, Capital has hired a new general manager, Tom Stitgen.

Jeff Glazer over at Madison Beer Review poured on the snark. First he notes that Carl Nolen, Capital's former President, is still figuring his plans (for buying out the brewery?) and then Capital hires an accountant.

Look, I don't run Capital. They didn't ask my opinion, but like most of you, I have an asshole, so I'm going to use it: Capital's problem isn't an accounting one. The problem at Capital Brewery is not that they aren't selling enough t-shirts and are losing money on the Gift ("Geschenk", thank you very much) Haus.

I found his post confusing because I didn't get the idea that Stitgen was replacing Nolen from the piece. Nolen was president while Stitgen is GM. Maybe Capital eliminated the president position and consolidated various duties in the GM position, I don't know.

So what does Glazer think Capital's problem is? Based on some of his previous posts, one of his biggest gripes about Wisconsin craft brewers is that they don't collaborate. Well, Kirby has collaborated with Rob LoBreglio of The Great Dane. That's how we got Supper Club and a barley wine the name of which I don't know. This being the case, I'd guess that Glazer's problem is that Capital is not moving into other states aggressively enough. The article says, "Capital says it has come up with a plan to create three separate profit centers: brewing; the Bier Garten, it's seasonal outdoor entertainment venue; and the Gift Haus, which sells beer, clothing and accessories." This sounds like internal restructuring and doesn't preclude trying to distribute in California.

Lastly I see that House of Brews is slowly finding its way to taps here in Madison. A list is here. In addition to his rye Kölsch, page now has Cellar Dark ale and Full House which is a pale ale, I do believe.

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|| Palmer, 11:03 AM || link || (2) comments |

Still Life: Katze With Paperwork On Dish

The Dulcinea's katze has moved on from curling up in the fruit bowl to curling up on the serving plate and using the bowl as a pillow.

|| Palmer, 10:02 AM || link || (0) comments |