New outdoor relationship requires a few ground rules

Clark Street Bridge over the Wisconsin River in Stevens Point

Clark Street Bridge over the Wisconsin River in Stevens Point

I recently got a new smartphone, and I felt the need to write about the unusual demands it places on a person.  The result was my Nov. 5 column for the Portage County Gazette.

Click on the photo above for a link to the Gazette’s new web site and a chance to read the entire column.  My next one comes out Nov. 12; look for the print version or for the online version by Friday.  At least for the time being, some of the paper’s content is available free on the site.

Went camping. Wrote about it.

One of my goals this year was to camp more with my family. A way to make that happen is to write about it, so I have committed to a weekly column with the Portage County Gazette. Here’s most of my first column in its original state (but different photos).  The paper is redesigning its website, so direct links aren’t available yet; I’ll frequently post these a couple of days after they appear in the Gazette.  Feel free to share or send feedback either here or at the Gazette site. — Steve 

Former DEC bridge from bluff in park

The old County Y stone bridge just above the Dells of the Eau Claire, taken from a rock outrcropping over the river a day or two after heavy rains in 2008 (personal photo, as are others in this post; click for larger view)

We camped in Dells of the Eau Claire county park recently, and it was hot. There were some college guys blaring a country station late one night, and the next night our neighbors’ child got cranky and kept folks up. Did I mention that it was hot?  Sticky, stinky hot.  I got stung on the head by a hornet. While everyone else went to the river, I sat around the campsite waiting for some friends to show up, and they never did.  We got some kind of tree sap or resin all over our expensive tent.  It was hot.

It was glorious.

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Stevens Pointless: A message from your so-called leaders

blah blah blah

This might be the most-circulated of all Gary Larson cartoons on the internet (search Google Images for “larson blah blah” — it’s astounding). But maybe that’s because this so aptly summarizes so many situations, including Monday’s common council meeting.

Participating in the July 20 Stevens Point Common Council meeting as a citizen was like trying to swim from the downstream side of Hoover Dam to the upstream side. Even if you’re strong enough to go against the current down at the base, you’re not going to get past the dam shaft.

I’ve watched many Point council meetings on video, but I’d never attended one until Monday.  What I saw convinced me that, at least for now, many of our so-called local leaders are great at pinching pennies but don’t recognize good sense.

They still couldn’t figure out how to help the residents of Edgewater Manor.  They also rubber-stamped an opportunistic shafting of more than 200 homeowners in the former FEMA flood plain, who are being required to pay for seawall improvement near downtown Stevens Point.

The council’s peformance could be described in many ways. I may have a lot more to say about this, and perhaps other council issues, in the future. For now, I’ll just say that the council and the city of Stevens Point only seem to hear what they want to hear.

This was particularly true on the flood-control assessment issue. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a decision-making body get such a clear and unanimous mandate from its constituents, yet seem to care less about what any citizen said.  The homeowners stuck with the bill made their hardship clear; other citizens strongly affirmed their willingness to share the cost as a city and thought the rest of the city would be willing, too. The consensus was as solid as a concrete seawall. Continue reading

An infuriating day, but potatoes will save Wisconsin

What's the matter with these people? Don't they know any better? (Click photo for original site -- BTCGM International Union)

They should just eat potatoes, right?  Right?  (Click photo for original site — BTCGM International Union)

A day that started off wonderfully, in a class with some remarkable sixth graders, ended with news of yet another pay cut in disguise for Wisconsin state employees.  In honor of our civic-minded state legislators, I therefore offer my newest post category — “Preposterous Ideas” — and simultaneously introduce the term “general strike” to my blog, which has heretofore not hosted that particular term.

But this isn’t about a general strike, which isn’t at all preposterous.  No, it’s about potatoes, which are indeed.

Let me back up a little bit, because I want to put in a few good words for the sixth-grade classes of Tiffany Reindl and Kim Boden at Jefferson Elementary School in Stevens Point.  Ms. Reindl teaches my son’s class, and I had the honor of spending Monday and Wednesday mornings visiting with both groups to talk about journalism (see bottom of this previous post).

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Where is the Yellowstone Trail? Start on Idea Street.

A short stretch of the original Yellowstone Trail, shot during spring break 2015

During a presentation I recently gave about the Yellowstone Trail to the UW-Stevens Point LIFE group (Learning is Forever), which I admit rambled too slowly toward its goal, one of the bolder students pointed out that I had yet to inform the group where the Yellowstone Trail actually is.

I’ll just do the spoiler here: to see exactly where the trail goes — sort of — look at the wonderful links on the Yellowstone Trail Association website.  Visitors to the YTA site will need to click on the state links on the left-hand side of the page see available state-by-state maps and written descriptions of existing or obscured trail locations.

But back to my rambling:  the comment from the LIFE participant was, as one would expect the words of mostly retired, highly intelligent and no-nonsense folks to be, a bullseye.  Being too enamored with the things I was talking about, I was having too much fun on the journey of my talk.  At least some of the audience eventually wanted to get to the destination.

A road is simply an idea … a way we think we can use to get where we want to go.

My answer probably didn’t help some listeners, because it has two critical foundations: (1) where the trail still is kind of depends, but (2) it really doesn’t matter.  Or at least it doesn’t matter to me.  I hope a good number of my students will feel the same way.

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