This week’s ponderings: owls, a movie, whether we should keep working

This column originally appeared in the Feb. 4, 2016, issue of the Portage County Gazette. Owl update: the regal creatures have continued to appear annually in Wisconsin since the original publication. Photo below by Tim Krause. Photo of owl in field by Christina Streiff.

Being a column about recreation, this is also where we consider important questions of life. The word “recreate” is, after all, literally about reviving and remaking ourselves.

Here we ruminate on issues related to play and work, meaning and meaninglessness, our use of time, and whether a colonoscopy is more fun than hiking the Appalachian Trail.

We have both little questions and big questions.  The little ones:  Why do the snowy owls keep coming back, and is the movie “A Walk in the Woods” worth seeing?  We’ll get to those.

The big one, which only readers can answer for themselves, is this.

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Naked on the day it was burned

A few hours after Trump’s travel ban for Muslims started getting serious news attention (including nonstop CNN coverage), the naked guys were standing around the locker room at the YMCA, transfixed by what they saw on television.

It was the end of a Wisconsin Badgers basketball game, however, that enraptured them. Out in the fitness area, virtually everyone was ignoring several screens with live coverage of our constitution going down in flames, complete with stranded travelers and unjust detentions.

From what I could tell, life was simply moving forward for most exercisers. I didn’t see a single animated conversation, and certainly not one that appeared to focus on the travel ban.

Around that time, a friend of mine — a technology entrepeneur from one of our staunchest Pacific allies, in the U.S. to do business — said he was busy at an airport, spending a substantial amount of time “chatting up the CBP officer to make my case that I’m no criminal”  (CBP being Customs and Border Protection),

We’re all being faced with serious personal choices right now.  Ignore what’s going on around us?  Post a few outraged comments on social media? Join a march?  Boycott a business? Something more?

I’ve seen all sorts of things.  One friend told me yesterday, with a clear tinge of shame, that he’s just trying to keep his head down and do his job,  Several friends took part in the recent women’s marches.  One new acquaintance — a Facebook friend, really — is posting an endless series of anguished comments, multiple times daily.

Fixing this is going to need more, and it’s tough to know how to proceed.  Part of what I’ll do is write more, including on this blog, where I’d committed to focusing more on parks and the outdoors and less on the political side than I have in the past.

As we have seen, however, with the rebellion of National Park Service employees amid renewed political efforts to weaken science, sell off public lands, and silence dissent, there can be no avoiding politics.

I’ve posted nothing since mid-November for multiple reasons, all of which were stressful, but none more so than the thoroughly deflating and demoralizing election in which the worst elements of our national character changed the nature of our country.

It’s time to come back. I’ll still stick mostly to the outdoors, as I’ve got some projects in the works, including the continued production of my outdoors column.  But the ugly side of life in America cannot be ignored now.

Not everything in nature can be beautiful.  It often seems that little in politics is, but there are glimmers of hope here and there through the smoke of our principles being incinerated.

Many are resisting in ways large and small.  Doing so creatively and appropriately, forcefully and effectively, is the task we must all continue.

Darn right I had one. Wanna make something of it?


Stevens Point Still Life: Red bun, read paper, red state?

Cheap marketing ploys don’t do much for me.  The Angriest Whopper, however, is at least a little clever because it seems to tap into our collective psyche right now.

Quick background: I went to the polls early today expecting a Bernie Sanders win, but with my mood tempered by an equal expectation that dark money would deliver the open Wisconsin Supreme Court seat to one of the most singularly unqualified candidates in the United States right now.

A few hours at work didn’t exactly turn me into Mr. Twinkles.  We’re in the midst of faculty searches to replace our departing droves.  Other constant pains in the rear — such as our so-called governance structure at the university — make me question whether I should be bolting from here myself.

I read the piece linked above and decided I could use a bad burger for lunch while reading more about the Panama Papers, which already have resulted in the resignation of Icelandic premier Segret Monibankss Monisson, or whatever his name was.

The burger wasn’t that hot. Neither was it that hot.  And it doesn’t deserve much more review than that, although I still enjoyed it enough as both food for my belly and fodder for my blog, the point of which, at least for tonight, is this:

Yeah, Sanders won, but big deal.  I’m still expecting the Democratic machinery to hand the nomination to a candidate who’s looking more and more like she could finish a comfortably distant second in the popular vote.  Additionally, no matter what happens in the Republican convention, it won’t be any prettier than the end results of the last colored whopper, if you know what I mean.

sanders FBAnd despite early indicators of a happy ending for today’s Wisconsin Supreme Court race, later reports look more bleak.  Regardless, I’m not hopeful for anything much better in the short run.  I’m not seeing any serious discussion of the Sanders candidacy in mainstream media.  Like the Black Whopper, it’s all “but … but … but …” (see screen shot at right).

Little is being done about vote suppression.  And how ’bout that U.S. Senate and its ongoing vacation from responsibility?

My only consolation seems to be the chance to write bad puns and political exhortations directed at whoever has made it this far on this post. My anger is on auto-pilot, and I hope yours is too.

Keep speaking out and making things happening.  We have a long way to go.

Remember the state motto: “Forward”


Creative Commons photo (license here) courtesy of Dawn Ellner. Cropped from original available here.

Here’s an interesting article from Bloomberg Business, announcing that fossil fuels are just that — a relic of the past — and that renewables have brought us to the only future we can feel comfortable about.

Whether the publication is more conservative or more liberal is beside the key point here. It’s a business publication, and its core audience is concerned about business success.  That makes this brief analysis more than worthwhile.  It has an important message that we’ll all need to hammer into our so-called leaders, again and again and again.

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No shortage of sub-freezing outdoor activity


This past weekend was one of those in which I did nothing special, but it ended up being quite special in its own Central Wisconsin way.

It started with no particular plan. By the time it was all said and done, though, I had visited four regional outdoor recreation institutions, with each visit sandwiched around a bunch of indoor activities.

All in all, it was yet another reminder of what a great place we live in.

Izaak Walton Jamboree leaves us hungry for more 
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