Hey, Aussies … stop making fun of us. We’re tougher than you think.

Just one of these has caused panic on the East Coast, but they're common in Australia.

Just one of these has caused panic on the East Coast, but they’re common in Australia. (Screen capture from Fairfax Media video)

Australia is home to more deadly creatures than any other continent, and the typical Aussie response is to pooh-pooh their dangers. But that doesn’t mean folks in Oz should hit us below the belt when something comes along that we’re not used to.

This amusing report pokes fun at New Jersey’s response to the unusual appearance of a single bluebottle, also know as the Portuguese man of war.  Complete with ominous music, the accompanying video makes light of a situation that’s rare in Jersey but in Australia occurs frequently and with far greater numbers of bluebottles.

Granted: the Jersey folks overreacted.  But not all North Americans are wimps.  Wisconsinites have dealt with strange creatures that would send shivers down the spines of even the toughest Australians.

“It has more things that will kill you than anywhere else.” Bill Bryson on Australia

Yes, Oz is well known for the extraordinary presence of venomous bugs, snakes and even mammals, not to mention other dangerous creatures like great white sharks and the cassowary.  Bill Bryson’s book In a Sunburned Country  devotes a great deal of discussion to this charming aspect of the Land Down Under.

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A little more Friday good news from foreign lands

A thing of the past in Central Park. (New York Times photo)

A thing of the past in Central Park. (New York Times photo)

What a great end to the week it’s been for folks who see beyond their own personal leanings or pocketbooks.  The Supreme Court’s landmark decisions on health care and gay rights were absolutely the right things to do; for many people, they were also quite unexpected, and I count myself in that group.

Maybe it’s just being a resident of a state that has gone bass-ackwards in the last five years.  In education, natural resources and parks, health care, and social services, it seems we’ve done all the wrong things.

I’ve lowered my expectations to the point that seeing a public institution genuinely act in the public interest is a jaw-dropping experience. Mine hit the floor so hard and often this week that I’m fortunate to have teeth left.

Lost in the really big news this week is a smaller story out of New York City, a place as urbane and symbolically far removed from Wis-Gone-Sin as you can get and still stay on the same continent. Central Park has been closed to cars, starting this evening.

The New York Times quoted Mayor Bill de Blasio’s written statement on the closure.  “Like all public space, our parks have a lot of demands put on them,” the mayor said. “But traffic shouldn’t be one of them. Our city needs places where kids can run around safely, where people can jog or go for a walk after a long day of work and not have cars racing by five feet away.”

If you love parks and the outdors, this is great news. If you care about the health of people and cities, this is great news.

Yes, Virginia (and Wisconsin) ... people can be really happy when we do the right things.

Yes, Virginia (and Wisconsin) … people can be really happy when we do the right things. (New York Times photo)

Ultimately, the vast majority of people probably fit into at least one of those two groups, although some people in them may forget about those values when short-term or profit-oriented factors come into play.

That’s why it’s so delightful to see this change made for the good of all.  Like social stability and good health care, our parks and public spaces, even if not all of us use them, bring untold value to our shared communities.

Let’s hope more of our so-called leaders in Wisconsin start getting the message.

Good news is a reminder to all of us that we can help these things happen. Speak up. Keep up the pressure.

Maybe we can make our state part of the nation again.


Another sure-fire way to save Wisconsin’s budget

Just pay the taxman, you deadbeat. Who do you think you are -- Popeye? (YouTube link)

Just pay the taxman, you deadbeat. Who do you think you are — Popeye? (YouTube link)

Dear Wisconsin Legislators:

I have been reading about your proposed $25 tax on the purchase of new bicycles in the state, but I have an even better idea: tax people for disagreeing with you.

Sure, a bike tax is a brilliant way to help kill everything from people to nature to clean air by encouraging the dirty, unhealthy and economically critical habit of driving uninsured deathtraps along our deteriorating highways and bridges.  It’s also a cleverly subtle attack on the profitability of the family business of our last Democratic gubernatorial candidate.

But there’s so much more you can do to reach your social and economic goals.

Seriously.  Until you can finish discouraging the populace from thinking, why not make everyone pay for disagreeing with you?  Something along the lines of $2 per reasonable idea ought to be plenty as a start.  Let’s call it the Rational Thought Tax.

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Ain’t it funny how time slips away?

A week that started with floods in Texas and ended with a near-drowning of higher education in Wisconsin needs a good blues version of a classic song.

Click this link to see the New York Times slide show  on B.B. King's funeral, including the above photo.

Click this link to see the New York Times slide show on B.B. King’s funeral, including the above photo.

One of my favorites is “Funny How Time Slips Away” by B.B. King and Bobby “Blue” Bland.  It’s particularly relevant because King, as the New York Times put it, came home for the last time Friday.  The Times story and its accompanying slide show are worth spending a few minutes on.

I love King’s version of the song (written by Willie Nelson) because it has a sweetness not present in the original recording. That feeling is brought on primarily by the interpretation and interplay of King and Bland. Incidentally, the first recording, by Jimmie Walker, and Nelson’s early version are good listens themselves, and the Nelson version on YouTube is also fun just because of the picture of a young Willie on its album cover.

The words on all these versions are primarily about the ebb and flow of love in our lives, but the meanings of lyrics always have a way of transcending literal topics. All three versions end with the reminder that in time, we all have to pay.

That seems appropriate for those of us in Wisconsin. But no more so than for anyone else, and regardless of where we are, we strive to make the best of what time we have left.

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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