Just like being there … but with music.

February 20, 2011

See what it was like to be here … but with a really nice soundtrack.  These two videos by Matt Winewski are great and guaranteed to make you feel good.

Vodpod videos no longer available. 

Vodpod videos no longer available.

We Are Wisconsin!

February 20, 2011

Day 7 of the protests.  Despite the (truly) wretched weather, crowds gathered inside the capitol building to continue the protests.  Check out wearewisconsin.org for updates on events and actions.

Some inspiring things:

Even though they aren’t affected by the collective bargaining attack that Scott Walker has proposed, the Firefighters have been out in force to support the unions that are under attack.  a Group from the Local 311 marched in a long line around the rotunda and then took up a prime spot on the East Balcony (see below).  Solidarity!

In other downtown news – people who can’t be here for the rally are chipping in.  They’ve been calling in orders to local business Ian’s Pizza and asking for stacks of boxes to be delivered to the capitol protests.  You can see another pile circulating in the crowd in this picture below.  The state street restaurant has actually stopped normal sales and is working solely on getting pizza ordered from afar out to the protesters!  After we went to the rally today we stopped off at Ian’s Francis Street branch to get some pizza of our own and support a great local company.

And finally local doctors have been doing their part.  From yesterday’s La Crosse Tribune:

Doctors from numerous hospitals set up a station near the Capitol to provide notes to explain public employees’ absences from work. Family physician Lou Sanner, 59, of Madison, said he had given out hundreds of notes. Many of the people he spoke with seemed to be suffering from stress, he said.

“What employers have a right to know is if the patient was assessed by a duly licensed physician about time off of work,” Sanner said. “Employers don’t have a right to know the nature of that conversation or the nature of that illness. So it’s as valid as every other work note that I’ve written for the last 30 years.”

This is what democracy looks like.

February 19, 2011

Here are photos from the anti Budget Repair Bill rallies Saturday at 10:30 and 4.  The crowds were incredible.  I have no way of guessing but the Madison Police Department announced that 60,000 people were outside the capitol with another 8,000 inside.

Best news updates:

New York Times: Walker Profile

New York Times: Saturday Update on the Protests

New York Times: Better Pictures than Mine

La Crosse Tribune: 70,000 people and Saturday Update


On Wisconsin!

February 18, 2011

Have you heard the news.  There is an uproar in the capitol of Wisconsin today (continuing since Tuesday) as growing numbers are showing up to remind Governor Walker that saying he has a mandate to do what ever he wants doesn’t mean he actually does.

Wisconsin Rebuplicans have manufactured a budget crisis in order to push their union busting agenda.  The much touted budget shortfall of $137 million was created by his choice to give $117 million in tax cuts to businesses.  In fact before his whirlwind first month in office the state was poised to have a budget surplus.  Now he’s trying to frame this as preventing grabby state employees from  padding their pensions at the expense of the private sector but he never even sat down with anyone to propose a compromise before ramming this bill through the legislative process.

With Republican majorities in both the Assembly and Senate this bill will probably pass eventually.  But for the moment the brilliant stalling tactics of Senate Democrats have given people a chance to make their displeasure felt in downtown Madison through the weekend.  I’ll be driving that way as soon as I get off work today to take part in tomorrow’s rally.

If you’re interested check out the coverage here:

New York Times – Op Ed Piece on Governor Walker

New York Times – The anti-bill Protesting

New York Times – Missing Senate Dems

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – Protests Continue, Rally’s Planned for Saturday

Wisconsin State Journal – State Troopers sent to Senator’s home

La Crosse Tribune – County Supervisor Opposes Walker’s Bill

By the way, seeing the Capitol building so full is extremely weird for me.  I worked there as a tour guide after graduating from college, leading groups of squirmy 4th graders and foreign tourists around the building and pointing out the stone work and paintings.  I never saw anything like this during my time there.

A Whole New Me

February 10, 2011

Come visit me at my new Design-related blog: Dwelling Places!

Making a Change

Lost Between the Letters has been my web-home for three and a half years now and I’ve posted about everything on my mind, from thesis research on sustainable construction systems to my latest sewing project or baking adventure to the sci fi movies I watched over the weekend. I don’t stick to any one subject matter – sometimes its all about sewing and other times I’ve posted about Harry Potter for two straight months (sorry, Laura).

I don’t really have an intended audience … in fact, I don’t really have much of an idea of who reads this other than a few far flung friends and family members.  But somehow I’ve managed to accumulate nearly 7500 page views (since switching to wordpress in July 2009).  And I know I really like having a forum to share my ideas with people – really just to write them down and get them out of my head.  So I’ve decided to try something a little more formal.

My New Address

So I’ll be putting more of my energy into composing regular posts on my new blog, Dwelling Places.  I’ll focus more on writing about my vocation – thoughts on green building and good design in general. I’ve been working on this for a few months now, gathering my resources and ideas and the new blog launched January 1st.  Feel free to stop by and check it out.

This isn’t goodbye – I’ll still be posting recipes, water colors, YA book reports and astronomical updates here at Lost.  In the meanwhile, wish me luck!

Happy Birthday, Jules Verne

February 8, 2011

I only noticed because Google is having one of their decorated logo days.  This one is really cool – check it out before midnight.  The little device on the right is for steering and the view through the steampunk-y portholes changes as you direct it with the joystick.  Happy Birthday, Jules.

The play’s the thing

February 6, 2011

(That’s me in the red jacket.  Isn’t the space beautiful?)

Well Bard-a-Thon La Crosse 2011 is now over.  I wish I could have participated more but as it was I made it to all the 8PM readings and a few more.  10 plays in 7 days.  Not bad.  And I enjoyed it tremendously.  One of the most fun things about reading Shakespeare (for me) is noting all the phrases that are part of our language now that have their roots in his works.  For example:

“band of brothers” comes from a speech by the king in Henry V, along with “Once more unto the breach, dear friends” and “Cry God for Harry, England and St. George.”

“Men have died and the worms have eaten them but not for love,” is one of Rosalinds lines to Orlando in As You Like It.

There are a whole bunch of familiar phrases in Macbeth:

I do all that may become a man, who does more is none.” I:vii Macbeth himself

“Be bloody, bold and resolute.” IV:i Apparition

“… screw your courage to the sticking place.” I:vii Lady Macbeth

“… stand not upon the order of your going.” III:iv Lady Macbeth

And of course,

“Double, double, toil and trouble,

Fire burn and cauldron bubble.” IV:i  the three Witches

But the play that really stood apart for quotability was Hamlet. We read it on the last evening of Bard-a-thon and after a few scenes I started keeping a tally off all the familiar quotations.  At a guess I’d say it must be the most quoted play in the cannon.  Here’s what I easily recognized:

“… to the manner born” I.iv Hamlet

“… stale, flat and unprofitable…” I:ii Hamlet

“… smile and smile and be a villain.” I:ii Hamlet

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreampt of in your philosophy.” I:v Hamlet

“Never a borrower nor a lender be.”  I:iii Polonius

“There’s something rotten in the state of Denmark.” I:iv Marcellus

“… brevity is the soul of wit…”  II:ii Polonius

“Tis true, tis pity, and pity tis true.” II:ii Polonius

“Words, words words.” II:ii Hamlet (again)

“… there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” II:ii Hamlet

“What a piece of work is man …” II:ii Hamlet

“Whats Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba that he should weep for her” II:ii Hamlet

“The plays the thing wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king.” II:ii Hamlet

“To be or not to be … slings and arrows of outrageous fortune … take arms against a sea of troubles … what dreams may come … the undiscover’d country … ” III:i Hamlet

“Woe is me.” III:i Ophelia

“… miching mallecho …”  III:ii Hamlet (again)

“The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” III:ii Gertrude

“Let the galled jade wince …” III:ii Hamlet

“… hoist with his own petar.” III:iv Hamlet

“How all occasions do inform against me, …” IV:iv Hamlet

“Alas, poor Yorick.” V:i Hamlet

“Sweets to the sweet.” V:i Gertrude

“… the quick and the dead.” V:i Laertes

“… dog will have his day.” V:i Hamlet

I wasn’t actually looking forward to reading Hamlet that much – the only tragedy I really enjoy is Richard III (or is that actually a history?) – but it turned out to be quite delightful.  Its funny!  All the antics with Polonius’s body in act four are hysterical.  The king sends people to go find Hamlet and see what he’s done with the corpse but they left him alone too long and he comes on stage practially wiping his hands and exclaims, “Safely stowed.”  Then multiple people have to search the castle for it.

Actually Polonius is funny throughout – dead and alive.  His commentary on the rehearsal performance he watches with Hamlet; “too long!” and all his foolish advice and self praise are really laughable.  Polonius never gets sarcasm and that, coupled with his obsequious respectful behavior with Hamlet, lead him into all sorts of ridiculous logical dead ends.  It really seems clear to me that Hamlet’s “madness” at least at that point is completely put on for the dual purposes of mis-direction and mockery.  Its well worth another read if you haven’t seen it in a while!



Bard-a-thon Returns!

January 25, 2011

Did you hear?  Bard-a-thon has returned to La Crosse.  The complete works of Shakespeare read out loud by who ever shows up around the clock for 8 straight days.  This year it will be at the Muse Theater on the north side of town (much to my chagrin as that is not walkable from my house).  It kicks off this saturday with

Noon Twelfth Night
4pm Midsummer Night’s Dream
8pm Comedy of Errors

and goes all week folks!  Make sure you stop by if you’re in the area.

Did you see it?

December 21, 2010

Luis Acosta /AFP/Getty Images

This amazing sight – a lunar eclipse was available last night to those who had the foresight to set an alarm for 3:30 eastern time … and the benefit of a cloudless sky.  Unfortunately for me I had the former but not the later so I took a mid-night walk around my neighborhood and marveled at how snow cover and a totally overcast sky made the city feel almost day-bright.  I listened to the sounds of many snow plows working through the night to clear streets and parking lots of monday’s three inches.  I also cleared the snow off my car (why not?) and then I went back to bed.

Still even the idea of a lunar eclipse on the night of the solstice is pretty cool.  I know this means the winter is just getting underway (although calling this the first day of winter when we’ve had feet of snow for weeks seems silly) but I’m glad to know that the days are going to start getting longer now (however slowly).  And based on last night’s experience I might take advantage of all the ambient light provided by a nearly full moon and a city full of street lights to go for a night time snow-shoe through Hixon this evening.

Anyway, if you missed the eclipse, like I did, we may be out of luck.  The next time this will happen on the solstice will be on Dec. 21, 2094.

Here’s a little more info on the eclipse at NASA’s website and at Earthsky.org, which is a pretty good resource for all things astronomical.


More than Green Building we need Green … Planning

December 15, 2010

My little jaunt to the east coast two months ago really underlined the transport related inefficiencies of my life for me.  My friends’ wedding was held in a beautiful old brownstone in Brooklyn.  Their quiet tree lined street was just half a block from 7th Ave, a bustling thoroughfare which offered just about everything the shopping heart could desire (and I know because I ran up and down it at least a dozen times over two days on wedding related errands).

Its not all bad; today for instance, I am working from my favorite down town coffee shop.  I plan to stop at the grocery store on my way home and then maybe drop by the library to see if any holds have come in.  None of that will require a car (yay) so I can leave it parked on the street from yesterday evening to to tomorrow morning.

But yesterday and tomorrow, as most days, require a 25 minute commute out to the farm where our office is located.  I can’t carpool because none of my (few) coworkers have the same schedule or come from remotely the same area.  There’s no bus (ha!).  Biking is possible but far from easy.  So every day I drive … alone.  And then there’s the weekend to consider.  More than two weekends a month I drive to either Madison or Minneapolis to visit family and friends … and when I stay in La Crosse, its often because someone from there is driving to visit me.  Its not a sustainable lifestyle.  I don’t enjoy it.  All of this is by way of saying … that I’m thinking about it – we all should be – and when I get the chance I’m going to need to make a change.

I am not saying that I think East Coast Metropolis is the only or even the best way to live green.  Its certainly much easier to curb one’s personal transportation needs there but I question their supply lines – where is the food coming from?  the other consumer goods?  where is the wast going to?  My own preference is a small midwestern city (*cough* Madison) but I don’t think there is actually an ideal location for green living in the US right now.  Which means that we all have some work to do.

So … I was already thinking about this subject when I happened on this (by no means recent) post on the NY Times’ blog Freakonomics.  In his post “Green Building: LEEDing us where?”, James McWilliams notes that all the green buildings in the country are doing very little to address the structural un-greeness of our built environment.

Concerned consumers are flush with noble intentions, but too often these intentions succumb to external realities.  A closer look at LEED—and green building in general—illustrates the nature of this conflict. Progressive cities across the U.S. offer tax incentives for builders to incorporate energy-efficient designs into their structures.  A quick review of my own environmentally conscientious enclave in Austin reveals rainwater collection tanks, native landscaping (“xeriscaping”), gravel driveways, solar panels, compost heaps, massive recycling bins, cork floors, self-composting toilets, compact fluorescent bulbs, and bamboo cabinets. These features are all vivid testimonies to an enduring environmental ethic.  Truth be told, my own home has a “five star” green rating from the Austin Energy Green Building Program.  I’m rather proud of it.

But a book as insightful as Owen’s forces me to wonder: do such efforts matter all that much?  After all, step beyond the privileged confines of our ever-greening abodes, and you’ll discover that most American cities are, by design, ecological train wrecks.  Don’t get me wrong, Austin is a wonderful place to live. But the fact remains: its overall blueprint runs counter to a truly sustainable lifestyle. Homes are large, if not steroidal, by the standards of densely packed urban centers like New York or San Francisco.  Cars are a necessity. Sidewalks are maddeningly intermittent. Bicycle lanes and bus routes are haphazard. Sprawling “house farms” and strip malls ring the city.  Air conditioners run full blast for seven months. Traffic snarls. We have no light rail or subway.

Of course, these are structural inefficiencies.  Generally they’re beyond individual control (although Austin voted down light rail twice!). Nevertheless, they place our personal environmental decisions—such as the choice to build a LEED-certified home—in a troubling context. Take the long view. From the moment of European settlement onward, American faith in Manifest Destiny has inspired aggressive development driven by land acquisition and individual choice. Sprawl started to become ingrained in the American character over two centuries ago and, as a result, middle America has inherited cities that value expansion over intensification.  To an extent, this vexed inheritance turns our cork floors and compost bins into empty expressions akin to the sun-starved solar panels adorning the Merritt Center.

“We have built our country as we have built it,” writes Owen, “and we’re obviously not going to tear it down and start over.” True enough.  What we can do, though, is expand the notion of what it means to be an environmentalist.  Tree huggers, organic farmers, and green builders will always play necessary roles in raising environmental awareness. But if Owen is right—if our only real hope is to live smaller, live closer, and drive less—future environmentalists will include inner city pioneers who make the urban core a more desirable place to live.  Police officers, school teachers, pastry shop owners, landscape architects, urban planners, coffee freaks and policy geeks—these people will be the real heroes of twenty-first century environmentalism.

Christmas painting

December 5, 2010

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

November 20, 2010

Its All Here … Waiting For Next Time.

Pretty obviously I intended to finish writing about this (and the last book) before yesterday but … that didn’t happen.  So now I don’t feel like focusing too much on the details of Half Blood Prince when Deathly Hallows is so present in my mind.  In that light here’s what I got out of it:

There’s a lot that happens in this book and, like all the others, it has a clear independent plot line but in light of the next book a lot of it starts to feel like setup.  Here’s just a few … of the top of my head but mostly in order:

  • Snape’s ambiguous behavior sets up his big reveal
  • Inheriting Kreature sets up living at Grimauld Place … and the locket Horcrux story
  • The Burrow visit sets up the wedding (and Shell Cottage)
  • Harry’s obsession with Draco (and Ron and Hermione’s constant dismissal of it) sets up the conflict of the three of them being on their own and on the road
  • All of Dumbledore’s collected Voldemort related memories set up the mystery of the next book
  • Hiding the Potions book sets up Ravenclaw’s diadem
  • Draco’s expelliarmus on Dumbledore sets up the Elder Wand Hallow

So that’s a lot of setup.  Not that there isn’t a goldmine of clues and foreshadowing in all the other five books too – its one of the things J.K. Rowling is most famous for.  But for me at least, with book seven staring me down from the shelf … and the next movie five days away … I’m seeing those nuggets everywhere.  The only thing to do, then, is to press on!

Click here for more Harry Potter material.

Fun with Watercolors

November 18, 2010

In lieu of fabric based craft project I’ve been playing around with my old watercolors lately.  Its relaxing and fits easily into the evening between making dinner, watching something or other and reading.  I picked up a book from the library which encouraged me to get out my masking fluid again and give that a try.  The below three pictures are examples (note: they’re copied from exercises in books, not original compositions).  The fourth one is all me … which is why its really not as interesting.

Hey there, Harry Potter Searchers

November 18, 2010

There are a lot of you passing through the site lately (I can’t imagine why) and you might want to check out some of my other Harry Potter related stuff.  Feel free to check out all my Potter related posts including:


That Hard, Blazing Look: Ginny Weasley

November 16, 2010

I love this girl.  The little sister to six big brothers who all think they know best, Ginny Weasley takes no crap from anyone.  She’ll catch the snitch under pressure, stand up for her friends, break the rules with impunity and hex you if you get in her way … or even ask too many annoying questions.  She’s great from day one but stands out even more in Book Six, where I’m tempted to draw little hearts around her name every time it comes up.

A Match for Harry

Maybe its just the power of propinquity but Harry and Ginny really “get” each other.  He thinks she’s really funny, laughs at her Phlegm imitations, appreciates her back up on the Quiddich pitch and generally understands how great she is.  She is one of the few people who’s actually able to see him as a person rather than a celebrity.  She doesn’t put up with his self pity for a moment (I love the scene in Order of the Phoenix when she chews him out for worrying that Voldemort was possessing him and not coming to her for help … as she’s the only person he knows who has some experience with that particular problem).  When Harry’s upset, Ginny sometimes knows before Ron and Hermione do and she’s usually ready to help out as when Read the rest of this entry »

“I think I’m feeling a bit rebellious:” Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

November 11, 2010

I love this book.  As Harry, Ron and Hermione progress into their teen years they start having a better and better understanding of the world around them.  I can’t really say they get more involved in defending themselves and fighting the dark arts (because they have already taken on Voldemort three times, saved the school, and two the lives of two innocents at this point) but they get their hands dirty with a little more self awareness now.  At this point it feels like they are less stumbling from one misadventure to another and more using what they’ve learned to accomplish their own goals.  Which is fun.

A window into the world of adults

In this book more than any other Harry and his friends start seeing the adults around them as human beings with strengths and weaknesses and hopes and fears.  This realization isn’t a lightning bolt – its been coming on for a while.  In the first book they assume every adult (except Snape) is powerful, worthy and good.  In book two they are still shocked to learn that Gilderoy Lockhart is planning to run out on his responsibility to help Ginny.  In the fourth they can see that Barty Crouch Sr is addled, that Karkarov is spineless and Hagrid has identity issues. Read the rest of this entry »

The Trademark Three Part Harry Potter Ending

November 7, 2010

I’ve just finished reading Order of the Phoenix and I’ll be posting about it soon (when I’ve gathered my thoughts a bit but I had to kick off by celebrating that J.K. Rowling classic, the three-part ending which comes standard in each book.

Part 1: The Action Set Piece

The dramatic climax in which Harry, Ron and Hermione (and occasionally someone else) rush headlong into danger with the best of intentions.  Through some twist of fate everybody else falls behind and Harry ends up taking on Voldemort (or a troupe of dementors) on his own.  Deep sighs of relief all around.  But its not over yet …

Part 2: The Hospital Wing Tell All

Rowling must be a fan of Agatha Christie (I’m not) because she just loves to use this ending style in which the smartest person in the room sits everybody down and re-explains the entire plot, adding in key pieces of information which re-frame everything in a way the reader could never have predicted.  The Hospital Wing Tell All usually involves Dumbledore sitting by Harry’s bedside (although sometimes the scene is moved to his office or someone else’s) and telling Harry (and us) all sorts of things that would have been useful to know a while ago.

Part 3: The Hogwarts Express Pick-me-up

Since the Tell all phase often contains some pretty bleak news (Harry is destined to battle Voldemort to the death, e.g.) we need a little pepping up before that chime-y cheerful music kicks in at the end of the audio book … and to keep us waiting eagerly for the next installment in several years time.  So we always get a little bit of humor and often a little bit of revenge on the school train.  This often involves hexing Draco Malfoy (which is effective but a bit unfair) or intimidating the Dursleys (who totally deserve it).

Here’s how the formula plays out in the first five books.  Spoiler Alert: if you don’t already know the endings to each HP book, you should stop reading.  But in that case why are you reading this in the first place? Read the rest of this entry »

Bats Aren’t Bugs!

November 5, 2010

My mom found a bat in the greenhouse last week!  Is my reaction eek! or yay!?  Well I wasn’t there and the picture is really *really* cute so I’m going with aw!.  But I was extremely disappointed in her for not using this scientific information in her otherwise informative post about bats:

Many thanks to mimosas on the front lawn for making this available to the world of the internet!

Don’t Forget to Vote!

November 2, 2010

Don't forget

Hey there, cats and kittens.  Don’t forget to get out there and do your civic duty today.  Its fun.  Its easy.  And it makes a difference.

Homemade Halloween

November 1, 2010

KJ was up to visit me this weekend and we celebrated Halloween in much the same way as last year … by making our own candy.  In this case we tried the recipe for Peanut Butter Cups provided on Have Cake, Will Travel and they couldn’t have been easier or more delicious.

I won’t bother to reprise the recipe (which basically calls for chocolate, peanut butter, salt and sugar) but we made it without the graham cracker crumbs but did add some flour to the peanut butter filling in our second batch to thicken it slightly. Since we were using very all natural peanut butter  it was a little soft.  We also learned that it was important to get the chocolate equally thick on top and bottom (and not too thick in either place) to prevent explosions on the first bite.

But basically they were AMAZING.  I didn’t think it was possible to make chocolate more delicious, but adding a pinch of salt … turned it into an unbeatable substance!

I should credit KJ for really ALL the work of making these.  I helped by making some of the real food we at at other points during the weekend, taking photos and being an enthusiastic tester.

Moral of the Story: Kids, do try this at home!