Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Great Lakes Views Top Ten List

With only three days to go until the beginning of New Year, lists abound. Everyone seems to be joining David Letterman by composing Top Ten lists, and this year its even worse because not only are the lists for the past year, they are being composed for the entire first decade of the Third Millennium. Although I am not usually a slave to fashion and do not usually feel the need to follow trends, I have been thinking about what would be Great Lakes Views Top 10 for this year.

Should I pick which posting were most important? If I did, Number One would probably be about Asian Carp, which I wrote about at least three times. Running a close second would be posting about the $475M set aside by the EPA for Great Lakes Restoration projects and third might about The Great Lakes Compact.

Should I pick which posting I enjoyed writing most? I would be very hard pressed to do that but up at the top would be the week I was guest writer on Great Lakes Town Hall or my meeting with Loreen Niewenhuis, the 1,00 Mile Lake Trekker. But I also loved writing about my trip to Point Pelee on the Canadian Side of Lake Erie and my excursion to a few spots on Lake Huron. Boy, now that I think about it, I had fun writing all my posts – if I didn’t I wouldn’t have written them, so there is no top ten here.

Maybe I should include a category of which postings got the most hits. I use a meter from Site Meter which gives me some basic statistics about visits (individual hits) and page views. It also tells me if my readers got there via a search engine and if so what they asked for in their search. Using those statistics, it surprised me to learn that one of my most accessed pages was found by asking “Is Water Alive?” Another popular search was “Great Lakes Shipwrecks” and yet another was “Niagara Escarpment”. Anything with Kenosha in the search, like fishing, the harbor, or the Chrysler plant, got a fair number of hits, too. I realize that many of these brought readers who wanted something other than my blog, but still, they got to me, and so they count in my statistics.

My absolute peak day for readers was the day I posted about Governor Doyle closing the all University of Wisconsin campuses early this month because of the blizzard in Central Wisconsin, even though several of the other campuses could have easily operated. That posting was picked up by a Wisconsin newspaper service and that’s why it got so many hits. That made this month, December 2009, my top month for page views, followed closely by February 2009.

Site Meter tells me the location of my readers, too, and it is fun to see where they are located. Most are as close as Milwaukee and Chicago; the furthest have been from New Zealand, Norway, Hong Kong, and the Philippines. A few were from places I had never heard of and had to look up in the atlas.

The more I think about this Top Ten List thing, the more I think I won’t bother to make one. What I really need is a Top 109 List. That’s how many posts I made this year and for me each one was a winner, each one deserving of special mention. But then again, I am not exactly an objective judge, am I?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

A Few More Pictures

Not much to say today, but here's a few more pictures of winter in my neighborhood. Hope everyone is safe and warm.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Oh, The Weather Outside is Frightful

Actually, the weather is not all that frightful, but it is windy. Gusts are about 25-30 mph and expected to pick up even more later tonight. But with the temperature about 35 degrees F, we have rain, not snow. It’s a lot worse in other places.

I snapped a few pictures of the lakefront this afternoon, but photos don’t tell you what it feels like or sounds like to be out there. It feels – well, wet. And windy. And, it sounds – well, loud. I have to ask myself how it is I could not get up to see the sunrise earlier this week at the winter solstice, but I could stand in the rain and take these pictures today. The answer probably has more to do with the time of day than the weather. I readily admit, I am not a morning person.

For those of you who celebrate Christmas, have a happy and safe holiday. For those of us who don’t, have a dry and snuggly stay-at-home day.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Fifteen Minutes of Fame

What do Asian Carp and the Salahis have in common? Well for one thing, they are both gate crashers. In truth, only carp DNA has crossed the barrier erected to keep the fish from invading the Great Lakes, but the carp and the crashing couple had their 15 minutes of fame this month and for a few days both were headline news.

Then there was Copenhagen – another 15 minutes of headlines. Did anything real come of all the talk over there? Maybe, maybe not, but like the Asian carp, climate change is more than a media event. It’s an ongoing problem. It’s not going to be solved with one, or even a series of meetings and neither is the problem of invasive species. It’s easier to deal with the immediacy of the White House party invaders – security will be beefed up and a few people may be fired, or put on administrative leave, but then the problem will be solved. However, we will probably still be arguing about carp and carbon emissions long after the Salahi’s are just another playing card in Trivial Pursuit. (Do people still play that game?)

There is no headline news about the Great Lakes today- unless you want to count the $13M the EPA allocated for fighting those carp late last week. There are no beautiful sunsets to write about either, and even if I had gotten up to the sunrise on this day of the Winter Solstice, I wouldn’t have seen anything. Thick clouds masked the annual event, and so I don’t feel bad that I was still in bed at 7:20 AM. It’s gray, cloudy, and very dull around here, not a great time to be writing about the Great Lakes. However, I have confidence that will change, maybe even tomorrow.

So, what about that Tiger Woods, anyhow?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Happy Anniversary to Me

December has always been a month with significant dates for me. Besides holidays, there are birthdays, including my own, and other life cycle events. This year I add a new milestone to my December calendar. Today marks the first anniversary of Great Lakes Views.

When I began this blog a year ago, I set out to educate myself about the Great Lakes, and I did. Besides learning facts of this region, including geology, ecology, and biology, I learned about all the organizations, institutions, and associations that care deeply about it. I also met some great people, on-line and in person, who share their expertise and passion. However, mostly what I learned, which is so often the case when you start to really study a topic, is that there is so much more to learn. So for now, I plan to continue writing and studying about the Great Lakes.

Some of my readers have been with me from the beginning, when I put my literal toe into the blogging waters with It’s Day One. Others are new readers and may want to check out my explanation of why I write this blog. It was from my second posting and is called Great Lakes Gal. And if you don’t want to see where I was a year ago, that’s okay, too. I tabulated this morning that I recorded 162 pages (not including photos) and over 50,000 words. That’s a lot to go back and read, but if you want to – fine by me.

By the way, today marks another anniversary. 218 years ago, The Bill of Rights, the first Ten Amendments to the US Constitution, went into effect. Among those rights are Freedom of Speech and Freedom of the Press. Our forefathers could not have imagined the Internet and the challenges it would present to those freedoms, but they knew in a free country you should be able to express yourself without censure and suppression. You may or may not like what I write here but I am grateful for the freedom to write it.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

This and That Again

Temperatures were back up to normal range for mid-December again yesterday. The sun was shining and this flock of geese decided that they didn’t need to fly further south yet, so they held a convention on the harbor yesterday afternoon. I watched them for a while. The reason I think it was a convention is that at first they were all gathered in one spot, as if for the opening address, then they swam around before breaking up into smaller groups. Eventually some of the geese flew off. I wonder if they told their boss that they stayed for the whole meeting.

A few days ago, I wanted to take a good picture of our dog Burlee. I wanted to use it to make some tee shirts for some little girls I know who love our dog. They don’t have a dog of their own at home, but they think of Burlee as their dog so I wanted to give them something with his picture on it. Where does one go to take picture if you live where I live? You go to the water, of course.

Burlee was nice enough to sit still for a few minutes instead of exhibiting his perpetual sniffing behavior. Quite majestic looking for a pug, don’t you think?

Last, about this weather thing. I commented the other day how the snowfall here was so different here than it was in Madison WI. Well, my friend in Buffalo reminded me that that’s what happens there, too. In North Buffalo, where she lives and where I grew up, this past blizzard left two inches of snow, as compared to the two feet south of the city. Someone else reminded me of phenomenon of microclimates in other areas, too.

Perhaps my mention of politics and weather can be taken a step further. I could say that like politics, all weather is local. We all try to look at the bigger picture but when it comes right down to it, it’s what happens in our neighborhood that counts most.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Snow Covers Wisconsin- Mostly

“Are you socked in?” That was the question I had from friends and family this week following the snowstorm that hit the Midwest.

“No, we weren’t,” I answered. Here along the lakefront we did not have more than an inch of snow. Winds, yes. Bitter cold, yes. But not much snow.

Why? The answer is the same reason that we are cooler by the lake in the summer. That great big body of water out my window has a major impact on weather. Right now water temperatures are in the high 30’s or lower 40’s, and the heat emanating from the water warms the air. Okay, not too much as it has been in the single digits all day but just a mile or two west of here, its even colder and they had much more snow. For those of you who don’t know Wisconsin geography, Madison is about 75 miles west of Lake Michigan. That’s why they were hit with 18 inches of snow and we got one inch.

Even if you don’t know the geography of our state, you would think our governor would. Yesterday Gov. Doyle closed all state offices, including all branches of the state university, because of the weather. So UWM in Milwaukee and UWP in Kenosha/Racine were closed even though we didn’t have a blizzard. Hmm. Things like this make for political fodder. Elections are won and lost by such decisions. Remember Chicago in the winter of 1978-79? Michael Bilandic lost his position as mayor because of how he handled (actually didn’t handle) the snow and cold that winter. Snow in the Midwest equals politics. But it doesn’t matter for Jim Doyle. He’s not running for governor again anyway.

Back to water temperatures. When I went out about 10 AM – in the car, not walking – the harbor looked like a giant cup of hot tea. It was steaming. I didn’t get a picture a) because I didn’t have my camera with me and b) because even if I did, it was 3 degrees outside. But if I see it again, I’ll try to get a picture. It’s pretty cool.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Wisconsin Scientists on Climate Change

With the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP15) meetings in Copenhagen this week, and "climate-gate," global warming and climate change are in the news all over the world and Wisconsin is no exception. Yesterday a group of 113 Wisconsin scientists delivered a letter to Wisconsin Senators Feingold and Kohl and Wisconsin’s Congressional Delegation urging them to support federal policies to combat climate change. The opening section of letter states “The science now convinces us that calls for immediate action are warranted to avoid the consequences of global warming on Wisconsin’s economy and environment, including the Great Lakes.” The four-page letter goes on to explain ways that global warming will have social, economic, and ecological impact on Wisconsin.

The full text and a list of signatures can be seen on the website of the Environmental Law & Policy Center.

Both our senators have expressed concern about the so-called “cap and trade” bill, the Waxman-Markey Climate Change Bill. Several of our representatives are strongly against it. They are concerned about how it will affect industry and jobs here.

I can understand Senator Feingold’s concerns that the United States cannot reduce carbon emissions without the support of other countries, but other countries can’t do it without the support of the United States. The concern about jobs is valid but a study called Job Opportunities for the Green Economy: A State-by-State Picture of Occupations That will Gain from Green Investments, which says that over 100,000 jobs would be added to Wisconsin payrolls in what are considered green jobs.

Because I usually agree with Senator Feingold, I wanted to understand his position better and so I spent a few hours this morning reading the pros and cons of this bill. I wish I could say I understood it better; it really is a complicated issue.

But I also read the text of the letter by the Wisconsin scientists and when it comes down to a position statement, I have to go with the scientists. Although my two senators still have my vote, so do these informed scientists of my state. Read the letter, do some research of your own, and then decide for yourself. Then, let your representatives in Washington know where you stand.

By the way, here in Wisconsin burning coal is not the only emission that increases carbon dioxide in our air. Those cows add a lot, too. As a lover of cheese, milk, and ice cream, I am not sure where I would vote if it comes down to reducing carbon emissions from dairy cows.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Great Lakes Cyberspace

When I started this blog about a year ago, I knew I wasn’t the only person interested in the Great Lakes, but I had no idea of the vast network and numbers of people who care about it, too. Over the course of this year, I have learned about the politics, ecology, and culture of this wide area. I have learned about the issues, organizations, and people who care about preserving and protecting it.

This morning I learned that one of the best blogs about the Great Lakes would be ending. In today’s posting on Great Lakes Blogger, Dave Dempsey tells us he will be shutting down his blog, probably permanently. This saddens me because I will miss Dave’s posts. He has kept me informed about the issues facing the Great Lakes. He has steered me in the direction of Great Lakes art and culture. Without it, I am not sure I would have read Jerry Dennis’s wonderful book The Living Great Lakes and it is because of a posting of Dave’s that I have a book about (and by) Women of the Great Lakes on my holiday wish list.

Writing a blog is a weird thing. Unless someone posts a comment to what you write, you don’t really know who is reading your work. Is your post just going out in the vast cyberspace never to be seen again? Or is someone looking forward to your every word and just not saying so? Who knows? Yes, I have a meter on my site and yes, I check the statistics, but I am not sure how meaningful they are. When it tells me someone has been on my site for 5 minutes and read 5 pages, have they really read it, just looked at the pictures or did their finger accidentally hit the arrow key to scroll through five pages and then got called away to the telephone for five minutes?

Maybe Dave feels the same. I am not sure why he will not be writing his blog anymore (he doesn’t say) but I hope we will still be reading him on Great Lakes Town Hall. That is another wonderful site that I check frequently. Dave is one of the founders of that group and now one of its moderators. His posts are always worth reading – whether on his own site, the Town Hall forum or in the books he has written. Thanks, Dave for a good run.

By the way, any and all comments are appreciated on this site. It lets me know you are out there. If you want to comment just click on “Comment” at the end of the post. If you want to send me an email through this site, click on my profile, and under my picture (which my husband took last winter at the Florida Keys) you will see a link to send an email.

Thanks. I look forward to hearing from you.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

A Fine Kettle of Fish

I don't mean to harp (carp?) on Asian carp, but everyone else is so why not? You can read about it everywhere. Check out Great Lakes Blogger for example. Dave Dempsey is always right on top of Great Lakes issues and has a lot to say on this one.

But I did want to tell you about a statistic I just heard on the radio. You may know that officials are dumping a poison into the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal to kill the carp while the US Army Corps of Engineers fixes the electric barrier put up to prevent the carp from getting into the Great Lakes. So far the poison, which is theoretically not toxic to humans, has killed only fish other than carp. But it is estimated that up to 200,000 pounds of fish could be killed by the poison. The fish will be removed from the canal and sent to landfills.

What a fine kettle of fish this is. Can you imagine the aroma wafting from the landfill that gets the haul? And why do I think this is just another futile effort to stop the carp from entering the Great Lakes, at the expense of other fish and perhaps people, too. And poisoning any water at any time with any type of lethal agent seems like a bad idea for any reason.

I also wish the Army Corp of Engineers had a better reputation for solving problems instead of creating them. But alas, my wish list for the Great Lakes just continues to get longer.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

At 100 and Approaching 32

What does that cryptic title mean? It means that this is my 100th posting for 2009. In a little less than three weeks, I will have been writing this blog for a year.

Approaching 32 means that it is almost winter and lake temperatures are approaching 32 degrees F. Although water temperatures in the Southern Lake Michigan region today average in the mid-40’s, and we still have a long way to go before ice forms, there are reminders that winter is coming. Here in Kenosha we are part of two media markets and get both Chicago and Milwaukee TV and radio stations. Last night in both markets, with all the important news that could have been reported, winter parking restrictions were the lead stories. Prepare for winter, that’s the media message.

Another reminder is that at 4 o’clock in the afternoon it is starting to get dark. The picture above was taken at sunset today, which is 4:19 PM. The one to the right was taken at 4:29 PM.

Sunrise today was at 7:01 AM and I was actually up, but not out, before it got light. Perhaps some morning before December 21 I will manage to get out to take a picture of the sun coming up over the lake, but that will also depend on cloud cover, wind speed and air temperature. Perhaps seeing the sunrise will be my personal challenge for the month of December. Perhaps. If so, that would be a first.