Saturday, May 31, 2008

Saturday Morning Pictures

I went for coffee Saturday morning, as I usually do, and because the weather was so perfect, I took a little walk around the Batavia Riverwalk and took some pictures.

This is one of a few windmills that you can find on the Riverwalk. Batavia, in the 1800s, had around a dozen companies that made windmills. Three of the major ones were Appleton, US Wind Engine and Pump Co, and Challenge. The one you see above is the OK model from Challenge, which was found widely in the western US pumping water for farmers in the early days. According to the Batavia Historical Society: "In 1890 Batavia was recognized as the leading windmill manufacturing city in the world". If only that were so now, with our looming energy crisis!

The Fox River - the source of Batavia's early economic success, along with the railroad. I don't know what kind of fish he catches (if any) or if they're edible. It was such a gorgeous morning I suppose he didn't care.

Another shot of the Fox River looking north.
The Riverwalk
One of a few bird "condos" on the Riverwalk. They seemed filled to the brim.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

New Camera Again

I went out for coffee this morning and took a few pictures of the town I live in.

Friday, May 23, 2008

SS United States

In Her Glory Days


I recorded a PBS show on the SS United States. It was very good. The SS United States was the largest ocean liner built here in the US and was a spectacular ship. It was built in 1952. It was 990 feet long and 101.5 feet across. It weighed in at 53,290 tons. (It was larger in all dimensions than the famed Titanic.) The ship could do over 40 knots, with 240,000 combined horsepower. She was the fastest ocean liner of her day and still holds the record for the fastest westbound Atlantic crossing.

I've seen this ship. It's sitting at a dock in Philadelphia. It's in a sad state. But even in her bad condition, you could see that she's a beautiful ship.

As the PBS show mentioned, Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis is in the Smithsonian and Eli Whitney's cotton gin is preserved, but this magnificent ship rusts away. There is hope: Norwegian Cruise Lines purchased it in 2002 and has stated plans to refurbish it and return it to service, perhaps by 2010. It's an enormous and expensive project, and with the recent fuel increases and economic problems, who knows if it will really happen? I hope it does.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

MidWeek Vacation Day - Downtown Chicago

I spent most of yesterday downtown. It was a perfect day - the sky was crystal clear and the temperature was in the 60s. I had a wonderful time wandering around and taking pictures.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Free Market Doesn’t Always Get it Right

Here we are with gas at $4.00 per gallon. The American car companies are suffering because most of their products have pretty poor mileage. We are currently overstocked in trucks, SUVs and high horsepower cars. Many economists, oil industry experts, anyone with common sense knew that gas prices would go up eventually. So, why did the auto industry, especially the American auto industry, get caught with an inappropriate product mix?

Proponents of the free market often claim that you can’t legislate what the market should make. They claim that centralized planning doesn’t work and never will. The market produces what people want to buy all by itself – like magic. I agree with this, but not as strongly as I used to.

The problem is the lag time. Free market capitalism is reactive. It doesn’t think ahead. In fact, it can’t. There is little profit to be made by developing a high mileage vehicle when you are making gobs of money by selling monster SUVs and high horsepower sedans. Business will not invest the money in developing something that no one wants now, or in the very short-term future. American business has a problem with looking beyond the next quarter, certainly they will not attempt to guess that the public will want a high mileage vehicle 2 – 3 years from now. It’s too big a gamble given the development costs – even though anyone with common sense “knew” that gas would be increasing at some point in the future.

Perhaps the collective common sense of the people, through the legislative process, can be used to guide the free market when it can’t manage to make a commitment itself.

Monday, May 19, 2008

New Camera

I bought a new digital camera. I’ve hardly scratched the surface of its capabilities. I’ve only snapped a couple of pictures so far. I used to have a really nice 35mm camera and I knew how to work it. I have boxes of slides and prints from those days. I gave that up years ago, as I did music and so many other things that were fun.

I took a short drive out to the new LaFox train station and found this old, abandoned freight station right next to it. It will probably be torn down shortly, so I snapped a picture of it before it was lost. The train line now goes out to LaFox and Elburn. I was not surprised to see all the new subdivisions on the ride out to the new station. If a new train station is built in a town, it seems that guarantees new housing will follow.

I was playing with one of the photo image programs that came with my computer. It's amazing what it can do. All I had to do was choose one menu option and I created the image below. I think it was called "oil painting". Amazing.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

I Read a Good Book Yesterday

I read a book yesterday called Now Coming to a Town Near You by Gina Olszowski. The subtitle tells you what it is about: Voices of Urban Sprawl. The writer is from my town, so some of her insights are particularly relevant to me.

We moved to Batavia, from Crystal Lake, in 1992. Part of the reason was to be closer to my wife's work, but also we felt that Crystal Lake was starting to get too crowded. Crystal Lake and the neighboring community of Lake in the Hills were building developments of 500, 700, 1000 homes. All those extra people and all that extra traffic just made it less enjoyable to live there.

When we moved to Batavia, I think all we had on Randall Road (Route 37 in her book) at the time was the Jewel, the Ace, and Target. Now that I look back, we had everything we needed in those 3 stores. But, now the road is packed with places to shop and eat: Home Depot, Menards, Lowes, Fridays, Chilis, Bennigan, Applebees, Borders, and the whole Geneva Commons complex of really high-end foo-foo stores. Having a variety of places to shop does have its benefits. But, there is no character to Randall Road. It’s exactly the same as Route 59 in Naperville / Aurora and thousands of other strips in cities across the country. The sameness and ugliness of it all is depressing. There are no sidewalks – there is no easy way to walk on Randall Road. It is designed for wheeled vehicles only.

What can be done? Nothing can be done for Randall Road now. It’s all built up and there’s no going back. There isn’t much undeveloped land north of Main Street anymore, so all we can do is try and stop even more strip malls south of Main Street.

She does point out something important regarding what can be done. Pay attention to local politics. I spend much more time reading about, thinking about, the presidential race than I do local politics. Which has more of a direct impact on my quality of life? Local politics! I have never attended a city council meeting, a county board meeting, or most importantly (as it impacts my already outrageous property taxes) – a school board meeting. I assume these meetings are open to the public, but I honestly don’t even know. That is going to change.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Property Taxes & Government Spending

Our property tax bill arrived recently. It went up again - 5.42%. I have to let our county politicians know that it can't continue like this. At some point the property taxes become too much to pay.

At about the same time there was an article in our local paper about Kane County's childhood obesity study - projected to cost $500,000. The article said it would be funded by a grant and some taxpayer money, but that is not really the point. Why is my county government doing anything at all regarding childhood obesity? I could save them a bunch of money because the answer is obvious: eat less junk and get outside and do something instead of sitting in front of the TV or computer for hours. I work at our local library and I am amazed how many kids, on a gorgeous day, come to the library to sit in front of a computer for hours at a time to watch videos. Don't kids shoot hoops anymore? Play softball?

Monday, May 5, 2008

Return to Geekdom

My work at Yoopersoft has largely been in the area of marketing and writing some web copy. Now, however, I'm trying to help out in the programming area.

I didn't realize how much I'd fallen behind in technology. The last time I did a website for someone, I had hand coded the html. Now I am using a tool called Visual Web Developer. Some things seem simpler, but a lot of what used to be simple seems much harder.

I used to be up until the wee hours of the night trying to figure out a SQL statement that will do what I want. Or, I used to stay up all hours trying to get some silly program to do what I wanted it to. I finally got more serious this last weekend and now I've switched back over to geek mode. I was up way too late trying to figure out how to read a database record and populate a label or a text box with the value from a specific column. It seemed like it should be so simple, but it took lines of code to do it. I still think there has to be a simpler way of course, but for now it's working. Thanks in no small way to my partner's help, by the way.

I haven't picked up a new pocket protector yet, but it's just a matter of time.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Stay Away from Our Water!

The US states and Canadian provinces surrounding the Great Lakes are in the process of passing the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact. This compact, when passed by all of the surrounding entities, will prevent the removal of any water from the five Great Lakes.

Why is this important? Because of the large shift in population from the Great Lakes region to the southern and southwestern states.

From the Toledo Blade: "As recently as October, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson told the Las Vegas Sun editorial board that the Great Lakes states were "awash in water" that could someday help the southwestern states."

I bet the governor of Georgia has had similar thoughts as Atlanta's water resources have dried up.

Again from the Toledo Blade: "It may sound cruel, but no one promised those who fled to the Sun Belt unrestricted access to the resources of the rest of the country to maintain their tenuous existence."

If you want to live in an area with abundant water resources, move back. Bring your companies and JOBS back up north and share in the bounty that the Great Lakes region offers. Forget about trucking it, barging it, piping it south to water your golf courses, lawns, and flower gardens. It's not going to happen.

Beautiful Fall Day

It's a beautiful fall day here in Illinois. Seen on the Fox River Trail