Sunday, January 31, 2010

Visit Unseen Madison web site. I need competition!

A friend and neighbor, Gordon Heingartner, created the Unseen Madison web site with Jeff Durbin. It's a great place to learn a little about the natural world that you pass by every day. Sometimes they have short interviews with local naturalists, historians, professors, or local activists like Dave Thompson. These are fun, bite-sized podcasts or written pieces that give you insight into why Madison looks the way it does.

But they've also been running quizzes, and they haven't been getting many entries. As a matter of fact, I've won the last two just because there weren't enough people responding! I put it on my RSS feed so I would know when they had new updates.

This is a great web site, and the answers are not too hard to find, if you do just a little research. Even if you don't want to enter the quizzes, drop by to find out about Unseen Madison.

And I'd like to see someone else win some of the cool stuff they are giving away.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Hours and hours with Norton tech support

This post will probably be of little interest to most people, but I'm venting a bit.

Back in late December, my Norton anti-virus and firewall went through an automatic update. Ever since then, I have not been able to sync my phone with my computer. This means that the only up to date calendar I have is on my computer, and that's a bitch to access on the run.

So today, with some time to kill on a dreary day, and another computer in my life, so I can still work and play while the tech guys mess around, I started an on line support session with Norton about 2:30 PM. It is now almost 5:30 PM, and I am being transferred once again up the line to a manager.

Each person I've "spoken" to has taken damned near forever to answer each question I've asked, and I've frequently resorted to typing in "are you there?" My guess is that they are asking someone else for support or consulting a manual between typing information to me.

The one thing that has worked is to actually uninstall Norton. Then my phone synced perfectly. But as soon as they reinstalled Norton, my phone won't sync again. I can't possibly be the only person with this problem. As a matter of fact, there is a Symantec help page listing the fix, but I can't find all the files needed to follow the steps listed. But apparently, neither can the people at Symantec.

Needless to say, this is not looking good for Norton.

Update: 6:00 pm - the supervisor was just flying through fixing things on my computer. He had remote access and was clicking and typing in commands. Oh, I'm sure this is going to work.

Nope, still not syncing.

I think he wen to check with HIS supervisor. Let's see what happens now. Still not syncing. Trying more things. Still not syncing.

We are now moving into four hours with tech support. At least the responses are getting faster.

So, we tried getting rid of SpyBot. Let's see if that works.

It's now 8:00 pm, and we finally got it fixed! We had to update the driver for Windows Mobile, and who knows what else. I was on line with the supervisor for almost three hours, had dinner, and drank a beer, but it's finally fixed!

Norton has been redeemed, and they extended my subscription for 90 for my trouble.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Another kerfuffle about bike lanes and sidewalks

The efforts to rebuild Old Middleton Road as a "complete street" have raised a few feathers, as proposals to truly improve roads for non-motorized users often do. Rarely do we get this much noise when a road goes from 2-lanes to 4-lanes. Those are often called "improvements," but my question is always, "Improvement for whom?"

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Nobody walks there

Image courtesy of the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center/Dan Burden

Once again tonight, I heard someone testify that sidewalks weren't needed in a certain location because, "Nobody walks there." In this case, the location was a light industrial area on the edge of town, so it's quite possible that the pedestrian traffic is quite light, but areas where nobody walks are very rare.

More often, drivers simply don't see the pedestrians. If you look closely, there is often a "desire line" in the grass or dirt next to the road. These "goat paths" are called desire lines, because they indicate a desire to walk and a need for sidewalks.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Eagles return

"Take a good look at that eagle, because you may never see one again."

That is what my father told me whenever we would see a bald eagle as we canoed through the Boundary Waters or Quetico when I was very young. At that time, DDT was still being used in the US, and eagles were so rare in the lower 48 states, that my father warned us that they might be gone forever.

I have never forgotten his words, and still marvel at how common eagles are today. I have seen them perched on a light over University Ave, flying over Lot 60 on the UW campus, and frequently on the Wisconsin River. They have been removed from the Endangered Species list, and Wisconsin exports eggs to other states to help them boost their populations.

Seeing a bald eagles is still is thrill, with their seven foot wing spans, white heads and tails, and motionless, seemingly effortless soaring flight. But we are no longer telling out kids that they may never be able to see our national symbol in the wild, and to me, that is quite a thrill in itself.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Need a bike rack in front of your business?

Madison Traffic Engineering Department is seeking requests for where bike racks are needed in business and entertainment districts. They have a brochure that outlines how much space is needed and how the racks will be installed, but I can't figure out how to uploaded it.

If you or a business near you want a rack, or want more information on the program, email or call the Traffic Engineering Dept at 608-266-4761 or Use "bike parking" in the subject line.

Although the number of racks and funds for the program are limited right now, I am hoping that a wave of requests will spur the city to invest more in this program. Often, bicyclists just accept whatever crappy parking conditions are available at their destination. Those of us on city committees hear about the constant need for easy, close, and cheap car parking to support businesses. Bicycle parking is very cheap, takes up almost no space, and encourages environmentally friendly transportation and land use.

But we have to speak up if we want better options. Car drivers complain to business owners about lack of parking all the time. Maybe we should be whining as well. Or at least get your favorite local business or business district to ask the city for some racks.