Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Help the South

What passed through the neighborhood here is a mini-disaster compared to what has happened and is happening in the deep middle south. New Orleans, much of Mississippi and Alabama all hammered by Hurricane Katrina now struggle to get through another day.

I can't begin to visualize the scale of this wreak. Our tornado savaged an area about 12 miles long and two miles wide. Inside that zone are places completely leveled and places left untouched. In contrast, Katrina ravaged an area hundreds of miles square. With the flooding, the hurricane's ugly menace remains for weeks, months and maybe years.

Give generously. The Red Cross and the Salvation Army are my recommendations. I've had the honor of seeing both in operation in different contexts including our local tornado relief. Outstanding work and dedicated people.

When it comes to helping people in crisis, both agencies are top shelf. And top shelf help is what is needed in the south right now.

Thursday, August 25, 2005


The warnings were up by mid-afternoon and it was one of those days you could tell someone was going to get it. As I left work there were tornados to the west and north of us but nothing close. By the time we made it home more places were getting the take cover warning.

We went about our routines only keeping a watch on the sky and radar. I was messing around outside and watching the clouds when Jan came out on the deck to tell me there was a tornado sighted in Oregon and it was headed east. When I turned my head west and looked, the whole field near us seemed like it was lifting and the sky above was starting to turn.

I joined Cory, Jan and the dogs in the basement. At first there was little to notice but in a few seconds the roar began and the house started to rattle and shake. The power went out. We sat there until it got quiet and then I went back out on the deck to see what had happened.

To my immediate east the nasty beast was right there ripping, shredding and tearing. It was huge and then it calved into two before merging back into one in a few seconds.. Things were still flying around and the sky was savage so I headed back into the basement.

After a few more minutes of quiet, we went back out. Neighbors were also coming out to calls of, "are you alright? You okay?" Everyone was taking stock. There was a roof gone from a house behind us and there was other roof damage to see. Trees and limbs were down, windows blown out. Everyone was safe.

Our house was intact. Maybe some single damage. The yard and the trees were covered in shredded insulation from when the roof blew off the house behind us. But again, we were okay.

Now came the sirens, a sound we'd hear most of the night. Then came the med-flight helicopters which kept up until dark. At first light in the morning, the news helicopters poured in like a bunch of angry hornets. Helicopters gradually gave way to airplanes.

On the ground, heavy equipment and emergency service vehicles took to the streets. Many streets were closed off. Volunteer efforts began right away. Several days later we now have the steady sounds of construction and the "yeep, yeep, yeep" of machinery moving debris.

A few photos here...>

Sunday, August 14, 2005

No news is cow news

When I pick up the Sunday paper and see a large color photo of a dairy farm covering the upper left corner above the fold, I think, "oh, now what?" That's what I saw when I pulled the paper out of the mailbox this morning.

On further inspection, the article was about the day in the life of a large animal veterinarian. The article had nothing. On the online version in the Wisconsin State Journal, the article was also featured prominently and cued up under the "news" section.

News? It was a human interest feature. What the heck was it doing pasted into the hot news part of the paper and what was it doing under the news section of the online version? There's nothing wrong with human interest stories and in fact the piece was pleasant and complementary to its source.

After reading a couple of paragraphs I moved on to the "news" I was looking for in the paper. Call me nuts, but I first look for news, then comics, then business, then sports. If I'm looking for human interest I expect to find it in the section of the paper (typically) given over to warm and fuzzy.

Later, I returned to the front page article and read it because I was worried I was missing some news buried down in the story. Nope. Still nothing. There are a few other really soft articles on the front page, too.

Talk about your slow news days.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

$58,000 project

It's hard to think that a youth project with a $58,000 payoff is amateur. Fifty thousand is a professional level sum. Yet, 16-year-old Kellon Whitley Sturtevant, Wis., took home $58,000 from the Governor's Blue Ribbon Sale at the Wisconsin State Fair, Aug. 10.

The winning bid for Kellon's state champion steer came from Metcalf's Sentry, a grocery store with outlets in Madison and in the Milwaukee area. Kenosha Beef International and Smithfield Packerland were there to drive the bidding with Metcalf.

That kind of money can influence behavior. State fair auction scandals have hit several states. When the steaks get high, the steak often gets questionable. A $58,000 payoff at a livestock auction buys a kid a bachelors degree at a good university.

Sums like $58,000 cause people to try things perhaps they wouldn't. Sometimes these efforts get outside the boundaries of right and wrong, good and bad. Big money puts big temptations on the table.

As long as we're aware of the temptations, aware of what is right and wrong, know the difference between good and bad, these kinds of high profile youth livestock projects are great. Tending animals is demanding and risky.

Congratulations, Kellon. I wouldn't know you if I ran into you at a sale barn. I'm just hoping that if I do, that you're the kind of person I can look up to and trust doing business with.

Milwaukee Journal article

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Cow Gas

The Los Angeles Times carried an article today about air pollution in the San Joaquin Valley. The gist of the piece was that cows, dairy cows, are causing pollution on par with cars.

san joaquin valley

Dairy has grown in the valley. According to the article there are 2.5 million cows there and the numbers are increasing. All these cows are creating organic gasses that mix with the atmosphere into a polluted cocktail.

Okay. The local air quality district is attributed with saying, "...dairy farms are the biggest single source of smog-forming gases." There is citizen outrage and the dairy business community is predictably reactive. Of note is reference to "fart science."

I think a second of humor is warranted.

It's always too bad when one thing gets singled out as the sole cause of the problem in the San Joaquin Valley. You bet there are a lot of dairy cows there and I have to believe those cows do produce some gasses. But the San Joaquin has a rapidly expanding human population that also altered the environment by building houses, businesses, malls, roads and yes, driving more cars, eating more food and well, having gas too.

If everybody could take some personal responsibility for their activities, it'd be more defensible to talk about solving the greater problem when addressing specific spots. That's pretty idealistic. I guess it's easier to get mad and start ripping the other guy.

And there's a practical side to things as well. How do you get a cow to stop or reduce its gas emissions? Is there a converter available? An accusation of this sort causes dairy producers to conclude someone is out to get them and the weapon is the environment.

Then you get an equally predictable reaction that dairy producers are a bunch of greedy eco-wreckers because they take exception to the charges.

What we need are some bridge builders willing to start working on both ends of the situation. I do hope, in this case and thousands of others, bridge builders will step forward and start doing some of the hard work and making some of the sacrifices it'll take to clean up the environment and keep food moving into our cities and towns.