Promoting quiet recreation in Wisconsin.
Opposing the coming attempts to sell off Wisconsin's natural heritage.
Fighting denial about climate change. When are we hitting the streets?

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Banning Road Bikes on Roads in Iowa

Via Joel Patenaude: A "safety" group wants to ban bikes from Iowa's rural roads.

You can see how this went down: More people are enjoying the sport of biking, which leads to more frustrated drivers of gasoline powered entitlement machines. They can't merely say "we don't like to have to slow down for bicycles", so they raise it as a safety concern and throw in a bogus conflict with agricultural interests for good measure.

Here is a way to deal with safety concerns: Put governors on all cars that keep them at 65 mph. Better yet, connect the governors to an electronic system that keeps them at 55 on rural roads, and automatically slows them to 45 when they approach farm machinery, bikes, or road construction.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

"Hands Off Driving"

Third Eye used this phrase in the comments section of a Wired article on technology that enables the blind to drive. I like the phrase "Hands Off Driving, but the technology that enables the blind to drive will also mean no one ever has to-it will be the cars that do the driving.

Climate science arguments.

I hope people who don't believe in what the climate scientists are saying will be laughing at us 20 years down the road. Until then, here are all your climate science rebuttals in one place:

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Do we really want to Drive anymore? (continued)

Matthew Yglesias on Cell Phones and Driving.. Matt mentions the strange disregard for the dangers of automobiles.

Soon, two facts are soon going to dawn on our consciousness:

Driving is usually so boring that we would rather be doing something else.
Cars are soon going to drive themselves more safely and efficiently than we can drive them.

With self driving cars, we will be able to eat, text, watch a movie and even try out that new Belgian ale while watching the scenery go by. And no, you shouldn't be doing that now.

So, how will people get their need for speed? On the racetrack. Just as amateur golfers have fueled the growth of golf courses in this country, you will see more race tracks developed for folks who like to drive fast. And those folks won't be sharing the race track with families in minivans heading to WalMart.

Friday, July 17, 2009

What I need to know and what I want to know

What I need to know: How am I responsible for the problems in the world? What must I do to solve them?

What I want to know: How are other people to blame for the problems in the world? How can I demonize them to justify myself?

Walter Cronkite, RIP

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall..

A few thoughts on global warming and northern Wisconsin's drought.

Dylan's song seems totally appropriate. The hard rain in northern Wisconsin is no rain at all. Everyone laughs when they read a forecast that predicts "a chance" of rain.

Some are still talking about drought cycles, but more and more I suspect we are whistling past the graveyard. Scientists are using the words "historic" and "unprecedented".

I hope I am wrong, and I am of course no expert, but I think Northern Wisconsin is i the first stages of a calamity caused by a climate shift. Our lakes will never be the same. There is little that can be done. This calamity won't happen over centuries, but decades. We will watch it happen.

Cap and Trade and Palin

Conor Clarke puts it simply;

The point of cap and trade is to solve a problem of social cost: As an energy consumer, I am imposing a cost on society (pollution) that I do not take into account when I make the original decision to consume.
This happens all the time. My decision to drive creates traffic that imposes a cost on society. A company's decision to fish in the ocean imposes a cost on the world's common stock of fisheries. A banker's decision to take on a huge amount of risk creates danger for the economy as a whole. The problem is that none of these private actors adequately bears the cost of their decisions. So, the usual solution is to increase the price of these decisions -- with congestion charges, or private property rights, or taxes -- so that private consumers take into account social costs.

Paying for costs seems to me to be an essential part of capitalism, no?

By the way, why are we looking for hidden reasons for Sarah Palin quitting, as she says, the "Title" of Governor? She quits, and gets a cover story in Time and space to write an ignorant op-ed for the Washington Post. Do we need any other reason?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Augmented reality

In today's New York Times (registration required), I read an interesting article on how information technology devices can seamlessly add to our ordinary experience. Think of the first down lines that are magically added to televised football games, or an app that shows locations of restaurants on your car.

But augmented reality can be more than an information source. It could create worlds of magical creatures or transform any environment into a virtual video game. I just thought of one: You know how people create avatars for discussion boards and environments like Second Life? What if you could create a pair of glasses that allowed you to see people as their avatars? The world would be populate by all kinds of magical creatures.

The money quote:

“The real world is way too boring for many people,” Mr. S├ínchez-Crespo said with a laugh. “By making the real world a playground for the virtual world, we can make the real world much more interesting.”

A few disconnected thoughts:

-The real world as we experience it is always augmented by our brains.
-Quiet solitude in the natural world is boring at first, and our impulse is to augment it with trappings like fireworks, competition, internet access, and thoughts and plans.
-Many people will want the experience of disconnecting from augmentation. That is the function of natural places.

Friday, July 10, 2009

My waterfront property is still there...

I double checked once again, and my lake property is still there, Richard Moore's screed notwithstanding. The DNR won't let me grow lawn down to the water's edge like I was a baron on an English country manor, because that would screw up the environment. The DNR won't let me built a party platform for a dock, because it would ultimately destroy the character of the lake I live on. The DNR will set some limits on how I build or remodel, because its job is to protect an incredible resource.

One can agree or disagree about particulars, but it is goofy to say we have a property right that prevents restrictions on what we do on northern lakes. In our Madison house, I can't put cars on blocks and leave them on my front lawn. I have to put in sidewalks if the village requires it.

IF we were enforcing absolute property rights, I would ban all human sounds coming in from outside my property. I didn't ask for them. I own a perfectly fine set of sound wave patterns created by the wind through the trees, woodpeckers, loons, and a perpetually offended red squirrel. No car noises, no dogs barking, no leaf blowers or chains saws. Keep your sound waves to yourself.

But it isn't this myopic version of libertarianism that bothers me-its the fact that the Lakeland Times editorial page has for years abandoned its role as an educator for people moving up to the Northwoods.

Lets say its not up to the DNR to regulate aesthetics-doesn't that mean newspapers have an even greater role in protecting the character of northwoods lakes? Shouldn't the Lakeland Times be spending at least as much time encouraging voluntary restraint in building near the water? Or Showing people how it is in their interest to do so in a way that preserves ?

Deep Thought

Red Squirrels have quite a sense of entitlement.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Who knew?

The ancient Kickapoo River bluffs are greatly improved by a thumping stereo system, firecrackers, and loud whoops (offered in sort of a backwards drunken stagger). The bluffs reverberate the sound for about a half a mile up and down the river, so (democratically) everyone gets a chance to hear.

When we canoed the river, we just floated along the cool bluffs in silence, so amazed by their ancient presence that we often bumped into the walls because we didn't want to hear our paddles. But we were newcomers, and we didn't have the proper examples offered by two groups on the river.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Fireworks are for the 4th, and the 4th is done

Lets hope quiet season has begun.

But if you need any other reason, how about injuries, fires, screwing up lakes, and disrespecting your neighbors?

Cars too quiet and too loud.

Apparently there is a move afoot to make the Prius noisier, out of a concern for pedestrians and bikers. As a Prius owner, I am not opposed to some increase in the sound of a Prius in the interest of general safety. But why just focus on quiet vehicles as a danger to pedestrians and bikers? Loud exhaust systems must make regular exhaust systems at least as hard for pedestrians and bikers to hear as a Prius is. When laws against loud pipes are actually enforced, I will gladly tie the proverbial bell on my car.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

All fireworks pretty much suck, actually

When I started to read this Slate article, I thought Troy Patterson was a kindred spirit.

Even if you manage to avoid actually looking at their meaningless nonsense—which is essentially the same nonsense, show after show, year after year—their noise will disturb what should have been a pleasant lack of consciousness. Do we not have an unalienable right to be left alone?

But then, I learn Troy is only bothered when people are disturbed by professional fireworks.

Let me be clear: I have no truck with firecrackers or bottle rockets or Roman candles or anything else that one might set off in one's cousins' backyard. Those are pretty fun, especially if you happen to be in any of the magnificent 50 states where that particular type is banned by law at that particular moment. Doing dangerous stuff in your cousin's backyard is an important element of American folk culture. Those firecrackers are handsomely humble.

Troy wants to show himself to be a true man of the people, I guess. But I would rather be bothered once a year by boring professional fireworks than every weekend by people who see rural areas as their own private noise dump.