Sunday, June 10, 2018

When A Cow Leaves The EU, It Can't Return

A Bulgarian red cow strayed from its pasture near the hamlet of Kopilovtsi and visited the sovereign territory of non-EU member Serbia. Decorated with an EU ear tag, evidently a requirement in the bureaucratic wonderland that is the European Union, the bovine's ownership was determined and farmer Ivan Haralampiev was notified of the whereabouts of his missing bovine, known to him as Penka.

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A red cow, but probably not Penka.

Ivan naturally happily led his cow home but was stopped at the Bulgarian border and denied admission due to the lack of necessary EU documentation. Regulations require that she be "put down", toddler talk for killed. There's no telling what kind of bovine disease she may have contracted in her wanderings. Somehow animal fanciers discovered this situation and have raised an internet ruckus. We won't know until Monday, June 11 if the Bulgarian servants of the EU will relent and allow Penka to return to her pasture or order her destruction. Of course, none of these bureaucrats will personally plunge a knife in her or send a rifle shot through her brain.

Postscript: Eu honchos in Bulgaria have relented under international pressure and reluctantly allowed Penka to return home.

Friday, June 1, 2018

A Green Urban Desert

This is the area of Minneapolis, MN once known as "Bohemian Flats".  On the west bank of the Mississippi, this spot was one of the first residential districts of the city, the home of workers employed by the mills further upstream at St. Anthony Falls.
Over the years, the area in the foreground went from being residential to industrial, many tons of coal was stored there to supply local power production and salt was piled for spreading on the roads in the winter. Somewhat acclaimed poet John Berryman jumped off the bridge on this very spot on January 7, 1972, landing on the concrete of the docks to fatal effect.

 The same view in 1902, when thousands of immigrants lived along the river.
A view from the upriver side of the bridge. These areas were used to store the detritus of the 35W bridge collapse in 2007 while attorneys argued over who would make the payments to the survivors of the 13 dead and the 145 people injured in the event. The property's value as a recovered natural riverbank setting was less than that of a storage area for junk structural steel.
NTSB investigators recreated the layout of the I-35W bridge's center span in an effort to pinpoint the cause of the bridge's destruction.
The powers that be were never happy with the "Bohemian Flats" and as years went by its susceptibility to flooding, antiquated housing and disputed ownership, followed by its increasing commercial irrelevance and unattractive appearance, led it to be acquired as part of the Minneapolis park system.

Oddly, instead of a vibrant "ecosystem" that included many varieties of humans, the flats area is now merely a public lawn. The color "green" is  associated, falsely, with nature. There are "green " political parties devoted to environmental causes. "Green" is a frequently used adjective by those pontificating on environmental issues. Yet, the color, in itself, really has no relationship to the totality of nature, being only the hue of chlorophyll.   The lawns that have been installed are as unnatural as linoleum or carpeting. No bank of the Mississippi anywhere ever looked like this before it was put to use. Never easily accessible from the rest of the city, even now few people are tempted to spend any time in this green, urban desert.

The sterile, vacant aspect of the urban section of the upper Mississippi contrasts sharply with that of some other rivers in the world, which remain vital parts of the cities that adjoin them.
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For instance, the Mekong River in Southeast Asia is itself literally the home for thousands.

As time has gone by, public entities have acquired much of the upper Mississippi's banks and turned them into supposedly recreational property. When the last piece has been taken, what occurs next? Will the authorities and the taxpayers demand that areas perhaps a quarter mile from the river be included in its preservation? What is the end point of this process?


Saturday, May 26, 2018

Tomi Lahren Shower

Regrettably, we must address an incident involving a television pseudo-personality, in this case Fox News blonde opinion babe Tomi Lahren.

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Fox News, being the bete noire of journalism in blue state America, anything that reflects poorly on anyone connected with the organization is likely to receive extensive coverage from its competitors. This affair is no exception, although it certainly doesn't seem to show the flaxen pundit in an unfavorable light. Accounts invariably mention her by name, as here and here.

Oddly, however, no mention has been made to date of the identity of the thrower of the drink. The "official" news media, which supposedly prides itself on ferreting out the facts, disclosing secrets, naming names, has failed to discover and publicize the valiant heroine of this brunch brouhaha. Wouldn't the people that elected Al Franken and voted for Mrs. Bill Clinton by a margin of 44,765 (roughly the population of Moorhead, a Minnesota suburb of Fargo, North Dakota) like to know the name, and better yet, the employer of the mystery lady? Wouldn't Minnesota progressives want to march right down to wherever this courageous female spends her days and spend some hard earned cash to encourage further behavior of this sort? It really couldn't be that difficult for a modern American newspaper or television station to come up with this info.

Additionally, the individual that flung the drink committed an assault and in this case that assault is an obvious example of a hate crime. Shouldn't law enforcement, as well as the media, be looking for this person? It's guaranteed that throwing a drink on a plain-clothes cop in similar circumstances will result in charges and whipping as well. Why should it be any different for a television personality? Speaking of which, imagine if the recipient of the thrown drink had been Oprah Winfrey or US Senator from Minnesota, Amy Klobuchar. Somebody would be wearing an orange jump suit.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Robert Indiana Has Died

His fame was based on the design of a Christmas card for MOMA in 1965, basically a bold Diodone type with a skewed "O".

 Robert Indiana's LOVE (1965) is one of many holiday cards commissioned by The Junior Council of the Museum. The image subsequently became well-known in various other contexts. © 2015 Morgan Art Foundation Ltd./Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

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Robert Indiana's most famous work, it's been  reproduced on T-shirts, prints and other media, including a US postage stamp. There are hundreds of versions of the sculpture across the world.

 A building address number in a midwestern city. Maybe it's a kind of copy of Indiana's sculpture. Or perhaps he copied this one.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Making Sure Windows Look Right

These people are the volunteer members of the St. Paul Heritage Preservation Commission:

Barbara Bezat (Vice Chair)
Richard Dana
Robert Ferguson (Secretary)
Steven George
Michael Justin (Chair)
Teresa Kimker
William Lightner
Stuart MacDonald
Joseph H. Peroutka
Casie L. Radford
Steve Trimble
David Wagner

Unelected, they are responsible for approving or rejecting maintenance, repairs or modifications to residential properties in historic districts of St. Paul, Minnesota.

 Michael Justin
Michael Justin, Chair of the St. Paul Historic Preservation Commission

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Barbara Bezat, Vice Chair of the St. Paul Historic Preservation Commission

 Robert Ferguson's Profile Photo
Robert Ferguson, Secretary of the St. Paul Historic Preservation Commission

This article
from the local paper details the efforts that a homeowner in an historic area of St. Paul has gone through in order to replace the decayed windows on their home.

This small, seemingly insignificant incident is a dramatic example of the total madness of minor-league elites in positions of power that aren't occupied with finding food and shelter. Since their own existence is secure, their leisure hours are spent attempting to maintain their own world view, regardless of the rights of others. In doing this, of course, they're simply following the guidelines of the National Park Service.

The whole concept of "historic preservation" has zero validity. In the case of the Minnesota capital, most of the buildings deemed historically significant were built in the latter half of the nineteenth century. They were built when St. Paul already existed as a bustling river port and railroad center on the upper Mississippi. There were buildings in St. Paul.

Existing residents could have easily looked at the plans for buildings that were to be constructed during the Grover Cleveland administration and rejected these imposing brick and stone structures because they didn't fit in with the local architecture, the log cabins and tar paper shacks that made up much of the city. They could have required that those cabins and shacks be maintained in such a manner that no one would know that 1920 had arrived. Fortunately, there were no federal programs to encourage historic preservation, no local commissions to compromise land owners' property rights, and no crazy people that wanted to keep residential real estate embedded in amber.

So, when does history begin? Not so long ago, geologically speaking, Wabasha Street in downtown St. Paul was covered in ice about a mile thick. It's probably not practical or even possible to return to those golden years. Later, both sides of the river were dotted with the homes of native Americans. Although present-day Americans would have a difficult time replicating those homes, their supposed simplicity disqualifies them for historic preservation. An Eco-Lab teepee also wouldn't be large enough to house the employees of the small soap empire.

The above linked article points out the most salient fact in this unfortunate circumstance: Realtor John Loban: "I’m of the opinion if something can be reversible — like driveways — and it’s not a major structural change, let the homeowner have their way. The average person is looking at your house, not your driveway.” All of this is meant to placate "the average person", a total stranger that's walking or driving (in perhaps a new Tesla) past the house for which the occupant is paying the mortgage and taxes.

The 2018 Edition of the North Star Grand Prix Bicycle Festival Has Been Cancelled

Brendon Hale Race Director North Star Grand Prix

 Statement about the decision to cancel the 2018 North Star Grand Prix

 It is with deep regret that we are announcing the cancellation of the 2018 North Star Grand Prix. This event, part of USA Cycling’s prestigious Pro Road Tour, has brought elite and emerging cyclists from around the world to Minnesota. More than 250 of the best cyclists in North America, and thousands of fans, were expected to attend this year’s event. The five-day, six stage North Star Grand Prix was scheduled for June 13 – 17, 2018 in St. Paul, Cannon Falls, Minneapolis, North Mankato and Stillwater.

 Recent changes beyond our control forced our team to make this difficult decision. A key factor was solidifying course venues including a recent change of location for our St. Paul Criterium and the late notification of a complex road construction schedule in a part of Minneapolis that would have made it impossible to hold the Uptown Criterium, the most popular stage of the event.

Relocating the event at this late date was cost and resource prohibitive. The combination of timing, resource and fiscal factors make it impossible for our organization to produce the quality of event which our partners, fans and athletes expect. Our team of volunteers are using this as an opportunity to gather, re-evaluate, build and strengthen the North Star Grand Prix to come back bigger and better than ever in 2019. We would like to express our appreciation to all of our host communities, event partners, racers, volunteers and fans for their ongoing support.

 Sincerely, Minnesota Bicycle Festivals, Inc. North Star Grand Prix


The problems of the North Star Grand Prix are of two kinds, both common to road cycling events. First, there are the usual challenges; sponsorships, municipal relations, enlisting volunteers, attracting competitors, dealing with USA Cycling and so on. Then there are other, sometimes unique issues; road construction, local opposition, dates, etc. This race was plagued with dilemmas of both varieties.

The reality is that road cycling, as a sporting event, has big problems. In the case of the Twin Cities, they are due to the nature of the sport and of the location.

First of all, cycling itself, in the US, is something of an athletic anomaly. Pro cycling teams don't have an allegiance to any particular locality. For instance, the Rally Cycling Team, one of the most successful in the country, is based in Minneapolis but sponsored by Rally Health, a company that's headquartered in San Francisco with offices across the country. Cycling teams are made up of athletes from all over the world and their names are known to only the most dedicated of fans. In Italy and Belgium pro cyclists are nationally famous. Not so in the US.

Unlike other professional sports, who have "seasons" that constitute a narrative, a story than can be followed over time, a road cycling race is, for most, less a sporting event than a spectacle. The majority of spectators don't know the standings of the competitors in the national series and, in fact, can't identify the competitors during the races. The sport, for all its drama, is opaque to the ordinary viewer. A spectacle cannot become a sport unless the fans are able to access pertinent information; why one rider won and another lost. Sports now are also a fountain of statistics. There aren't many in cycling.

There are remedies to these problems. Professional sports teams heavily promote their stars. The Minnesota Twins, as a team, is something of an abstraction. But local favorite Joe Maurer is a star, the current symbol of the team and used as such.

 In the case of the North Star Bicycle Festival, promotion of the appearance of cycling stars should be a year-long effort. Local girl Kelly Catlin is two-time world track cycling champion, super-tough road competitor, Rally team member and University of Minnesota student. Very few even know she exists. Rally rider Emma White is a genuine star in the US women's peloton but anonymous outside the sport. These healthy, attractive, articulate women should be part of an on-going public relations exercise. They should be on television when they're not racing. They should make appearances at businesses and openings. They should throw out the first pitch at Twins games and meet and greet people at sporting goods stores.

Part of the North Star Bicycle Festival promotion effort should also be to expand its internet presence by tracking the performances of riders that are expected to compete in their races and show why attention should be given to them. Not to focus too much on the Rally team, although it seems like a good idea, team rider Rob Britton is currently fourth in the standings in the US Pro Road Tour with 157 points, two behind the third place man.

Some of the other issues that are affecting the North Star Bicycle Festival are related to the Twin City area itself. Always regarded as a "small market" location in regard to professional sports, in fact the Minneapolis-St.Paul metropolitan area is the 14th largest economic center in the country. It's not small at all. It has teams in five major league sports, the athletic programs of a Big Ten university, many hockey  teams at all levels, horse racing, and more. Road cycling, unlike any of these other endeavors, charges nothing for tickets. But it generally doesn't supply seating, either. Local businesses might be expected to increase sales during an event, particularly bars and restaurants, but that remains to be proven. And, once again, the lack of a "home team" and minimal public knowledge of the riders, makes the event more of a spectacle than a sport.

Some of the more successful races in the country seem to be staged in towns that are much smaller than the Twin Cities. The races in Tulsa, OK are a major local event. Fayetteville, AR, Silver City, NM and Rochester, NY probably have issues common to every bike race but have become local fixtures. Maybe the Twin Cities is just not the right location for a road race. Perhaps Rochester, St. Cloud or Duluth would receive a more enthusiastic reception from locals with less access to big league sports 

We certainly hope that the North Star Bicycle Festival returns in 2019 in the great form it once displayed. The people behind it are working very hard to make it so.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Bears In The News

A bear was killed near Jim's Landing on Alaska's Kenai Peninsula last Thursday according to this account.

Another bear was killed near Grand Junction, CO a few days earlier in somewhat different circumstances.

Those doggone bears.

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