Saturday, November 27, 2010


I know it's un-American to ride my bike to work but as long as I'm already committing treason by not consuming fossil fuels, I decided to be safe about it and get one of those extremely bright lights, the kind that's more akin to a car headlight than what you'd expect on a bike. I operate the light on the flashing setting to save the battery, and it flashes in a syncopated pattern -- blink blink blink BLINK, blink blink blink BLINK.  The strong strobe-light sensation makes the temptation very strong to immediately develop epilepsy right then and there. Fortunately the strength of the light means I'd be very visible to cars as I lay on the ground seizing.

Is it too late to make pumpkin pie?
I have my rear light back on my bike again after its several-week stint in a jack-o-lantern in lieu of a candle. This year I have left the pumpkin on the porch for far too long, as I seem to do every year. Once again it's gotten to the point where I'm going to need a shovel to scrape the gelatinous, only vaguely pumpkin-shaped, and highly repulsive mass off the stoop. I keep hoping the squirrels will take care of the pumpkin by nibbling on it (although at this point they might need a straw due to the pumpkin's consistency). But even the squirrels are avoiding the pumpkin, probably on difficult-to-refute food safety grounds. Or perhaps the thick layer of accumulated mildew is too thick for their teeth to penetrate.

I was using my bike light because those little votive candles are laughably poorly designed if the goal is illuminating a jack-o-lantern. However, if the goal is burning your hand as you drop it into the pumpkin's cavity, then they are well-designed indeed. Perhaps Martha Stewart could develop her own line of votive hand-burners, using wax produced by bees paid a living wage and given health insurance and profit-sharing, and sell them at K-Mart.

But let's cast aside talk of subversive activities like biking while not wearing a flag pin and talk about a more patriotic topic: the election. Wisconsin's new Governor-elect has vowed to return a federal grant to build high-speed rail connecting Wisconsin's two biggest cities, saying it would be a money pit. I think he's overlooking the true economic boondoggle to the state: Wisconsin's emphasis on the letter W. There's so much wrong with this letter, it's hard to know where to begin.

First, starting our state with the letter W puts Wisconsin second to last in any alphabetical list, which means that when you buy something online and have to chose your state from a drop-down list, Wisconsinites waste valuable time scrolling down to the bottom. I know it doesn't seem like much, but let's say that it takes each Wisconsin resident 2.5 seconds longer to find the state at the end of the list than had the state's name been at the beginning, and let's say that happens 10 times a year for each of Wisconsin's 5.5 million residents. You better believe I set up a spreadsheet -- this is an important economic issue for Wisconsin, and if I'm not going to stick my neck out and do a little work to promote a cause then I can't expect my elected officials to do it for me -- and I found out that statewide, Wisconsin residents spend 1,591 days scrolling down. That's more than four years we could have back across the state if we got rid of the W. I personally would spend my extra 25 seconds a year working in a steel foundry, seeking to reinvigorate Wisconsin's declining manufacturing base and thereby stimulating the economy.

There's also entirely too many Ws in Wisconsin place names, in locations like Weyauwega, Pewaukee, Waupun, Wauwautosa, and Wauweewywwwkingw. Okay, I might have made up that last place name. Also I might have made up "Wauwautosa," because seriously, that's not a real name, is it? My point is that W is an inefficient letter. It takes four strokes to write, and takes up too much room. W is complicated and pointy. It's vaguely European, and that is definitely not good. Don't the Germans use a lot of Ws?

Our new Governor should usher in a new era and with it the reliance on a new letter. I suggest we go with I, which is sleek and spare, and is more of a forward-looking letter, evoking ipads and iphones. I predict an immediate positive economic impact coming from this change, particularly in Miliaukee and Iisconsin Dells.

I'm not saying the change from W to I will be easy for this state. I myself will be impacted, as I will need to change Baby W's name to Baby I. We'll have to re-monogram all his diapers. But it's the right thing to do to help our state recover economically. If our new governor is to lead this state, he needs to make sure that we have strong communities, a well-educated population, and a solid public infrastructure. Also, he needs to do something about this pumpkin on the front of my porch. It's disgusting.

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