Archives for category: confusion

The day in trains was a bit of a snoozer in terms of news.  We learned (again) that Governor Doyle will not go ahead with the trains until Gov-elect Walker signs onto the project (that’s why all the phone calls, emails, petitions and community education are so important right now).  Walker also said he wasn’t going to push the feds right now on getting the rail money appropriated for roads (probably because he knows he can’t get the appropriation changed). Is he simply trying to ride out the negative press behind the project’s cancellation?  Is our Gov-elect looking to negotiate, or be convinced of something? Is he hoping that once the new congress starts, something will happen that will allow him to get the appropriation changed? It’s a great mystery that I’m sure will be partially revealed down the road.

Wisconsin’s rail debate became national news, with a feature piece this evening on NPR.  I continue to question Gov-elect Walker’s rationale for cancelling the project, given that costs are still negotiable at this point AND there are many people willing to come to the table with him.  Further, as I said yesterday, Gov-elect Walker favors state support for the Hiawatha line from Milwaukee to Chicago.  What gives? I’ve suspected an anti-Madison bias (and this Journal Sentinel blog indicates that it’s clearly out there among conservatives–by the way, the Madison Metro area is nearly 500,000 and contains the best university in the state and the State Capitol. Madison is important and pretty.).  Others suspect Gov-elect Walker may feel a sense of obligation to road builders for all the money they gave to his campaign.  I certainly hope for all of our sakes that such suspicions are incorrect.

In positive news, the Save the Train Wisconsin Facebook Group is up to nearly 7,000 supporters!  And all those train supporters have been busy planning activities to get the word out as to why Wisconsin needs to be a player in the Midwest high-speed rail network.  As I mentioned yesterday, the Sierra Club’s Wisconsin Chapter has declared next Saturday, November 20th a Save the Train action day.  There are rallies and events scheduled to take place all over the state.  To learn more, visit their website.

Also, it positive news, the majority of the members of the Milwaukee Common Council came out in favor of the train.  And AND Virgin Everything owner Richard Branson is interested in investing in Florida’s high-speed rail project.  This is nice to just have in the back of your mind when someone makes an argument that private enterprise does see value in passenger trains. “If trains were valuable, businesses would invest in them”–here’s a very powerful businessman investing in a train.  I’ve already pointed out that Madison’s business community is very much in favor of the project.  After the election, Milwaukee’s business community sort of said “Meh. We like our train to Chicago, but don’t want to help you get yours.”  Although here’s a video of several Milwaukee business leaders showing strong support for public transportation. “It’s not a want. It’s a need,” says one executive:

You scratch my head; I’ll scratch yours!

New Links of Interest

Advocacy (Growing by leaps and bounds!)

Call Scott Walker’s Transition Office: 608-261-9200

AFL-CIO Rally (Monday, November 15th, Noon, Talgo site in Milwaukee)

UW-Eau Claire Petition Rally (Wednesday, November 17th, 8:30 a.m.- 5:30 p.m., Campus Mall)

WISPIRG Letter Campaign

Badger Football Game Flier Distribution (Saturday, November 13th, Meet at Topper’s near Camp Randall at 9:30 a.m. — More details an the linked Facebook group)

1,000 Friends of Wisconsin Petition Campaign

Wisconsin Environment Petition

Bring High-Speed Rail to Eau Claire Facebook Group

Ray LaHood Facebook Page (Let the US Transportation Secretary know Wisconsin is still committed to high-speed rail)

Keep High-Speed Rail in Wisconsin Facebook Page

Editorials

Plain Talk: Road builders get return on their Walker investment

Capital Times – Even Republicans are tell Walker he’s wrong about rail money

Letters to the Editor

‘Tainted’ funds must be rejected by Walker

Blogs

Riding the Rails, Looking for Work

News Analysis

The Roadmap to a High-Speed Recovery

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Today in trains:  More people speak up in favor of Wisconsin’s high-speed rail project and they get a bunch of smoke and mirrors in return.

That’s right, much of today’s news about the train revolved around the fact that people don’t understand the logic behind cancelling the project.  The media discovered the Save the Train Facebook Page (up by 4,000 like since yesterday!) and Illinois feels sad for us because we are being so stupid with our train hate.  As one person asks in this clip: “Why shouldn’t you be taking advantage of the funding that should go to your state?” Great question. Our neighbor to the south also made a play for our new train factory.  More jobs lost because of the terrible threat of putting Wisconsinites on the hook for anywhere from less than $0.20 all the way up to $2.00 a year!  Even first cousin Minnesota in confused by their dim-witted relative, but Minnesota’s going ahead with their train  project.

Also Madison’s Mayor Dave went on record last night to be clear that he was open to working with the Walker administration on alternative funding mechanisms for the train’s yearly maintenance costs.  This would have been a great opportunity for Governor-elect Walker to say something like “because of new information related to costs for this project I am now open to negotiating with stakeholders on a rail project that would not burden state tax payers in the future.”  He could have said that by now. He could say he was committed to jobs before rhetoric. He would have four years for the remaining anti-train people to get over it…by then most of them would be.   But he didn’t do that.  Instead, he sent this letter to the Doyle administration, to ask if it would be okay if he could be Governor two months early, and also to remind people that he doesn’t know anything about the policies he doesn’t like.  Getting the support of 52% of 50% of the voters makes one King of Wisconsin!

 

From the Daily Cardinal

 

What is often being forgotten in the debate about the train project is that it is not really about cost.  Scott Walker is in favor of spending the money we are slated to receive from the feds, just not on train.  He is in favor of state-supported trains, just not this one.  The state could develop a number of creative ways to deal with the estimated $7.5 million yearly cost of the train.  For instance, the state could receive support from Madison, as Madison has said it would be willing to do give more money to the project.  There could be train cards or memberships–or just ask for supporters to donate $3 extra on their annual tax returns for crying out loud! I want the train so badly, I would even pay *gasp* $20 or even more extra on my taxes.  So I would pay my “burden” and the “burden” on 9 other people.  We can get it done if there are honest brokers on either side of the negotiating table.  Every day that this debate goes on, I question more and more whether we have an honest partner in our Governor-elect.

The good news is that people continue to be vocal in support of the train.  Watertown’s republican mayor continues to show support for the train because he believes it’s in his city’s best interests.  We need more business people, more republicans, more people outside of Madison to make it clear that they support the train (because Madison is apparently no longer part of Wisconsin).

News Links of Interest

Advocacy

Sierra Club Wisconsin – November 20th – Save the Train Events (Sierra Club Wisconsin is declaring November 20th a day of action on the train — learn how to plan or attend an event in your area)

Survey – Should Walker his plan to stop the train project

Sierra Club Wisconsin – Intercity Rail Letter Campaign

Poll: Should Wisconsin go ahead with plan for high-speed rail

Editorials

Tomah Journal – Editorial: Wisconsin open for business … except for mass transit

Randy’s Ramblings: Who’ll stop the train?

Walker’s plan for high-speed rail a huge fail

Blogs

Jeremy Bloom – Off the Rails II: GOP misreading Ayn Rand in blocking railroads

Mike Shafer – Opponents spew myths about high-speed rail

Matt Logan – Scott Walker stuck in the 70s

Myths about Madison-Milwaukee rail service – station and train ridership

Emily’s Post: Wisconsin high-speed rail supporters fight back

Rejecting high-speed rail will isolate Wisconsin

This time out could be useful for high-speed rail

Letters to the Editor

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel


Today in train talk, the  Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce went on record (again) to voice support for Wisconsin’s high-speed rail project. (This is a business association with over 1,600 members in the Madison area.) In the same article, the Milwaukee Metropolitan Association of Commerce basically said to Madison’s business community, “screw you guys, we got ours”:

“Quite frankly, our focus was on ensuring that we had that (Hiawatha) connection to Chicago for lots of reasons. (The Madison line has) been more of a nice-to-have discussion than a need-to-have discussion in the business community in southeastern Wisconsin,” Sheehy said Wednesday. “In a sense, why beat a dead train?”

Here’s a fact that may make you hit your head against the wall:  Governor-elect Walker supports the already-existing train from Milwaukee to Chicago AND the use of stimulus money to upgrade it.  This begs the question–why do some people hate Madison? Seriously. Is it the university?  The State Capitol? Our tolerance of people (even Republicans!)? Our emphasis on urban planning? The fact that we’re generally ranked as one of the healthiest and best places to live in the country? Our high-tech businesses? Ella’s Deli?  Why is a train from Milwaukee to Chicago a good investment in our infrastructure, but a train from Madison to Chicago is a boondoggle?  This makes no sense.

 

Talgo

 

Also there was a press conference today where people who make trains in Wisconsin said they are worried that they will lose their jobs.  Also Governor-elect Walker again said he will end the train project while somehow also creating 250,000 jobs. Brain explosion!

New Links of Interest

Advocacy

Save the Train Wisconsin Facebook Page (This is different from the page I posted yesterday and has many more supporters)

Gov-elect Walker – Citizen Suggestions (Governor-elect Walker seeks our suggestions–maybe he’ll listen to our suggestions to save jobs and keep the train!)

Care 2 – Wisconsin High Speed Rail Petition (To Gov-elect Walker)

National Association of Railroad Passengers Petition

Save the Train – What you can do (Document prepared by ProRail with additional ideas and resources for advocacy)

Editorials

Jim Stingl – Walker holding firm on the wrong side of the tracks

Dan Bell – Governor-elect should do the math on rail line

La Crosse Tribune – Our View: Walker must trust rail project

William S. Lind – Conservatives should like rail

High-speed rail: A gravy train?

Blogs (Highlights from the past week)

Anti-spending climate shouldn’t mean cloudy skies for transit

In the public interest: Fast trains don’t belong to either party

Emily’s Post: Wisconsin Republicans focusing on everything but jobs

Governor-elect Scott Walker is being unrealistic about trains

Letters to the Editor

In economic terms, Wisconsin loses

Don’t waste once in a lifetime opportunity

Dems–Don’t let GOP abandon rail

High-speed rail is an economic engine

Press Releases

WISPIRG – Why Wisconsin needs passenger rail

Letter of Support

Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce – Letter in support of Wisconsin’s application for high-speed rail funds

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Sometimes I have this dream where 100 of my best friends  and I are invited to a mysterious palace full of strange puzzles and plush seating.  Some of my friends are ghost white. Some of my friends sleep with their head tucked into their bodies.  We line ourselves in rows.  Then there are fights or we find our place in the walls. Or our feet become liquid and we stand on glass.  When there’s music we burrow into chairs.  Then we become a commercial.

Yesterday, I resolved to finally throw myself into translating as part my much greater project of improving my German.  The poem selected (which I mentioned in my post yesterday) was a sonnet by Bertolt Brecht: “Entdeckung an einer jungen Frau” (or roughly “Discovery on a young woman”).  Here’s why this project is stupid and will surely be a disaster:

1. My German is so rusty, but it was once really good.  This means that my brain often gives me cues that it “knows” a word or a phrase, but it doesn’t really know why.  So many words seem familiar, but are often merely close to the correct word I want to use.  Idioms/turns-of-phrase are the worst because they aren’t easy to find in a dictionary and often can only be explained in context.

2. This poem is a sonnet (a Petrarchan sonnet), which means it has requirements regarding not only a rhyme scheme, but also the meter and pace of the poem.

3.  I have read some Brecht, but not a whole lot.  So I need to do a little research into his style of writing to make sure I’m making the appropriate decisions in terms of word choice.

4.  I can’t find an English version of this anywhere, so there’s nothing to check my work against.  For instance, even after translating closely, I’m still not sure I know what the last line means.

Today I completed the first step of the process, which is doing a word-by-word translation to see what I’m up against. It looks confusing but is very helpful.  I welcome any suggestions as I muddle through this experiment:

Title:  ENTDECKUNG AN EINER JUNGEN FRAU

Title: [Discovery/Detection/Spotting]  [on /at]  a young woman

1. Des Morgens nüchterner Abschied, eine Frau

The morning’s [sober/down-to-earth/rational/plain/unemotional/objective]  [farewell/parting/resignation (as in from an employer)/discharge/Goodbye/], a woman

2. Kühl zwischen Tür und Angel, kühl besehn

[cool/calm] [(between door and hinge) I recall learning that this has a figurative meaning  related to being in transition. ], [cool/calm] to look at/look at oneself

3. Da sah ich: eine Strähn in ihrem Haar war grau

[Here/then/so/there] saw I: a [strand/streak] in her hair was gray

4. Ich konnt mich nicht entschließen mehr zu gehn

I could me not [decide/ determine/ resolve] more to go

5. Stumm nahm ich ihre Brust, und als sie fragte

[Silently/dumbly/mutely] took I her breast, and as she  asked

6. Warum ich, Nachtgast, nach Verlauf der Nacht

Why I, Nightguest (will have to look up whether this has some meaning as an idiom), after the course of the night

7. Nicht gehen wolle, denn so war’s gedacht

Not leave want to, when [such war/so was] thought/expected

8. Sah ich sie unumwunden an und sagte

Saw I she frankly on and said

9. Ist’s nur noch eine Nacht, will ich noch bleiben

It is only still [one/a] nicht, want I still to stay

10. Doch nütze deine Zeit, das ist das Schlimme

[But/Afterall/Any way/All the same] [use/be useful] your time, that is the worst

11. Daß du so zwischen Tür und Angel stehst

That you so between door and hinge stand

12. Und laß uns die Gespräche rascher treiben

And let us the [conversation/discussions/dialogues]  [faster/rapider/swifter/hastier] [drive/rush/push/pursue/carry on/have/create/commit/to beat/make rise/to bring]

13. Denn wir vergaßen ganz, daß du vergehst

Then we forget [completely/wholly/entirely/really], that you [to pass/die/fade]

14. Und es verschlug Begierde mir die Stimme

And it [staggered/lost] (?) [Desire/longing/yearning/burning] me the [voice/register/vote]

Sometimes we just need a good pity party.  Join me:

Yesterday NPR’s Morning Edition ran a brief story on a Foreign Service Officer, Elizabeth Colton, who is suing the U.S. State Department over its mandatory retirement age of 65 for members of the Foreign Service (that’s our diplomatic corps).  As someone who is trying to get into the Foreign Service, it’s hard to avoid a strong reaction to such a story.  First, it sounds like Ms. Colton is an interesting person, has a huge range of talents and experiences and is, no doubt, using her experience to serve our country well.   It says something about a person when she is willing to give up what sounds like a successful career in order to start over in a career that is as much about service and sacrifice as it is about the perks of the diplomatic lifestyle.

Yet the article makes it sound like there is no one to take Ms. Colton’s place when she retires.  Here I am, NPR.  I am waiting in the wings.  If anyone reads this and happens to be aware of the craziness of the Foreign Service application process, I am in the limbo phase. This means I have passed the Oral Assessment, have a conditional offer of employment but am waiting on my security clearance and final suitability review to be put on a list of eligible hires.  I have a low score and would likely be on the bottom of any list of eligible hires until I can boost myself with language points.  This may mean I may never get hired off the list and my application will simply expire and I start the process over. As someone in this strange position, I can say, that there are hundreds of people currently on the registers who have all received clearances and are waiting to be hired. That is a whole crop of young talent waiting to be harvested.

Although I sympathize with Ms. Colton (shouldn’t people be able to work in jobs they love, so long as they do it well?),  it’s hard not be frustrated by the current job market for young professionals.  For many, these will simply be wasted years.  I feel fortunate to have the job I do have while I wait to see if I will become a Foreign Service Officer in the coming months.  Yet, it doesn’t seem like we are doing a good job of balancing easing young professionals into careers while easing out older professionals.  What is often not reported is that for young people (30 and under), unemployment numbers currently match those of our age group during the Great Depression.  We are the mini-depression within the recession and it is…uh…depressing.  Maybe the thought is that we are young enough to have parents willing to support us, but that certainly isn’t true for anyone I know. Although I’m all for Ms. Colton extending her “dream” life, it would be nice if there was a little more sensitivity to us bottom-feeders who are waiting for some semblance of the dream to start.

Today was such a fortunate, glorious day–perfect blue sky spotted here and there with little puff clouds. By far the best thing was the temperature (upper 70s) and low humidity. After days and days of heat advisories it was nice to have a perfect summer day with no obligations. My big treat was getting in a bike ride around one of the lakes.

It had been over a week, maybe two, since my last bike ride and it’s always striking how the vegetation changes so quickly. In Wisconsin we are currently at our most overgrown and overleafed and it something to be savored.  To be out and about with a crisp breeze this time of year is to be amazed at how loud everything is: the leaves, the bugs, the grass, the flowers, the branches, the lake water.

But the early crispness in the air also reminds me that autumn is only a few weeks away. There were surprising few people out, which triggered some feelings of loneliness.  I recalled all the last glinting days of childhood summers:  the excitement of starting a school year, the the anxiety of holding on to fleeting time.   I also recalled my first summer after college when I worked into September, well after all the school years had started. I was starting an opportunity in October, but missing my first school year after nearly two decades worth, made me feel as those the entire world was populated with school children who were starting something new and leaving me behind. Perhaps that loneliness was a first burden of adulthood, the anxiety of entering it in the first place and knowing that I would never leave.

Here’s where I begin to write a poem. My little bike-ride and the images conjured triggered strong feels with many possible meanings. If I were to write a poem, I would start by compiling images. I would think about the sounds I heard: the leaves like breaking waves, the creaking branches (one that sounded like a screen door). The blue of the lake–surprisingly it was the same color as a porta-potty parked next to it.  What kind of images–how do they set the tone?  I would let them write themselves and see if they could answer that for me.

This is also when I would think about the sounds this poem should make (do I want it to feel jagged, or smooth–to move quickly or stutter when read out loud? Should I mimic the sounds I hear or play against a reader’s expectations?). From there I would just take time to put down words (I would work with a dictionary to help keep myself surprised) and to see if those words lead anywhere.

But when it comes to nature, do I really need to write when everything’s been written already, the emotions already so well conveyed? As one of my bosses would say: something to noodle on.

Here’s a nature poem from the 13th or 14th century–my Norton anthology is not very sure. The notes (in parenthesis) are annotations courtesy my Norton anthology:

Fowls in the Frith (Birds in Woods)

Fowles in the frith,
The fisshes in the flood,
And I mon waxe wood: (must go mad)
Much sorwe (sorrow) I walke with
For best of boon and blood.

(According to the scholars at Norton, the final line could read “the best” or “beast” of bone, which means it could be religious or erotic or both!)

So the beast of burden here is our mortality, our limitations, the futile desires we walk with that the natural world, in its instinctual perfection, never encounters.  Humanity is once again betrayed by its complexity.  This was seriously written 700 years ago and this is essentially the question behind nearly every nature poem ever.  Although I wonder if anyone has ever taken on a porta-potty.


Paul Yarrow is a Brit whose avocation is putting himself behind news reporters during live news reports.   He has done this 100 times in the last year during broadcasts for the BBC, Al Jazeera, Sky News, among others. Although perhaps a nuisance to the reporters and camera crew, Yarrow sees himself as something of a folk hero, according to the Daily Mail:

There are too many beautiful people on television, he argues. The people who run television companies are happy to put blonde lovelies on air but seem curiously averse to filling the screen with balding fat men in wrinkled white sweaters.

And it has to change.

‘It’s a serious issue and I’m trying to make a statement: “Be who you are.” I’m just a common person in the street,’ says Yarrow.

‘People say we live in a fairer, more understanding society these days, but elderly and overweight people still get pushed aside. The camera crews try to move me out of the way but I’m a human being.’

Although, it’s not all about making the magic teevee world appear more like the aesthetic wasteland us proles confront everyday in the mirror:  Mr. Yarrow may be misleading people about his grammar school pedigree.  The horror!