Mosaic District & World Cup

Walked past the Mosaic District today on the way to the farmers’ market. There was evidently some sort of sporting event on the big screen that drew the attention of a large number of people.

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Forest Visit with Wildflowers

Silphium compositum – Kidneyleaf Rosinweed

Pycnanthemum tenuifolium

These are some of the wild flowers from around the farm. I suspect I know what some of them are, but I am not sure and would request “hive memory” help.

Went down to the farms yesterday. Walked the Freeman place with DoF Adam Smith. We thinned to a very wide 50 BA and made 1/4 acre clearings in each acre to plant with longleaf pine. The openings and mosaic pattern are a variation of the Stoddard-Neel technique I read about. It uses the principles of an open, uneven-aged forest. In the real technique use natural regeneration. I cannot, since I do not yet have a longleaf seed source. The total is about 80 acres. Adam will supervise a burning in September to clear some of the underbrush and burn up the slash. I have asked the kids (Mariza Matel, Alex Matel, Espen Matel) to help plant few thousand longleaf in December. I will have a professional crew finish the job before Christmas in 2019.

 

Gaillardia

I also stopped by the Reedy Creek Hunt Club and talked to Mike Raney about our Tree Farm landowner dinner on July 24, which will be held a the club. They make great pulled pork. Anybody from around Brunswick County who wants to come, please contact me. It will be a good event. I will talk about the tree farm, as above, and take people on a short walk to see it. Jen Gagnon, from Virginia Tech will talk about tree farming and Adam Downing & Mike Santucci, from Virginia DoF will talk about succession planning for forest ownership.

Cyperus echinatus

Went to the other units too. Diamond Grove is growing well. I think I will thin that in 2020. I was going to do next year, but I think another year will do better. I will see. Those trees were planted in 2003. We applied biosolids in 2008, which gave them a boost. We also did pre-commercial thinning in 2008, so that are not too tight.

Liatris

I walked around Brodnax to look at the longleaf and loblolly plantations from 2016. The loblolly are very robust and are coming over the tops of the competing vegetation. Longleaf, not so much. I may have to replant some longleaf. I figure I will just do some of the easier areas and accept that it will be a mixed longleaf-loblolly forest, since natural regeneration of loblolly is strong. When they do a thinning way in the future, maybe 2032, they can take out more of the loblolly. I will think about that later if I am still thinking about such things later. The burned area still disturbs me a little. I believe it is okay, but I will need to wait to next spring to easy my troubled mind about that. We will burn the next patch of that I hope in February.

Asclepias tuberosa

 

 

Sabatia angularis

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Gentrification is Good at National Wharf

I didn’t recognize the place. We lived in around here when we were studying Norwegian. It was not very nice. There were a few restaurants, but the area was seedy – vaguely troubling during the day and dangerous after dark.

Now it is great. They call it District Wharf or Southwest Waterfront. I have to come down here with Chrissy. There are lots of nice restaurants with outdoor seating, places to drink beer in pleasant surroundings.

The pictures are from District Wharf. Notice the nice pub and new buildings. There is also a bike path. Notice the newly planted trees. They are American elm and should be great in a decade an magnificent in a two. The last picture shows a planter. The planters feature longleaf pines, just coming out of the grass stage. Of course, they are just decorative. In its natural environment, a longleaf pine that size will have roots reaching 10-12 feet.

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Monumental Democracy

Thought I would visit some of the monuments and think about our democracy on a beautiful, low humidity Washington day.

I have mixed feelings about monuments to flawed humans. We revere and remember great individual because of one or a few great ideas or deeds. The man himself is less important but it is too easy to slip into hagiography when in these temple-like monuments. Still and all, the mark makes a memory, so I seek them out.

Starting with Jefferson. Thomas Jefferson did not want a monument. He wanted to be remembered for his work and mentioned only three things, but they were good ones – “Author of the Declaration of Independence [and] of the Statute of Virginia for religious freedom & Father of the University of Virginia.” Jefferson is my favorite founding father. He was interested in everything and appreciated nature. I would have been great to talk to Jefferson, although I understand that he was a little shy.

John F. Kennedy’s Remarked at a Dinner Honoring Nobel Prize Winners of the Western Hemisphere. “I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.”

Next I visited FDR. Like Jefferson, FDR did not want a memorial, at least not a big one. He wanted a monument no bigger than his desk and that is what he had for a long time. There is a 3x7x4 block of marble near the National Archives. That is appropriate, but subsequent generations wanted something more.

I have probably read more books about FDR than about anybody else and I made the pilgrimage to his house in Hyde Park. I appreciate his complex leadership style and his political genius and I really like his love of nature. He was a great conservationist and often described his profession as grower of trees. His establishment of the CCC was a great move. On the personal level, the CCC probably saved my father from delinquency and so made me possible, so say what you want about FDR, I have to like a guy so committed to conservation.

Next around the Tidal Basin is Martin Luther King. This is a new memorial. Jefferson was one of the founders of freedom; FDR protected it; Martin Luther King reminded the country that it freedom was for all Americans. His non-violent method used moral suasion, appealing to the better angels of American natures and so created a lasting legacy. I am not very fond of the statute, however. It is too stern & has that mid-century monumental feel. It was made in China and kind of looks like it was made in China.

Of course, I have not forgotten Washington and Lincoln, but I tend to ride past their monuments very often on my way to other places in Washington. I have to make a special side trip to see Jefferson, Roosevelt and King.

One more thing about monuments. We should be careful as lovers of democracy in creating monuments to individuals, both in stone and in our minds. IMO, we should construct no monuments to anybody until they have been dead for at least twenty-five years and certainly not to any living politician.

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Mosaic District on a Nice July Day

When we moved here, the “Mosaic District” was a big parking lot from a defunct drive in movie theater. There were a few businesses, including a tailor shop in a shack. It sits at about the same place today, but now it is part of a trendy new neighborhood.

The weather was unusually nice for this time of year – sunny with low humidity & high about 80. We thought it nice to walk over to Mosaic. Lots of other people had the same idea.

It is amazing how fast a “town” can spring up. Seems like it has been like this for ages.

My first two picture are the usual drinking pictures, but no beer this time. I had Fanta and Chrissy just had diet Coke along with BBQ chicken & Masala at Choolaah Indian BBQ, the only place they had open tables outside. Next is the open area. I suppose that is a kind of Mosaic square. They replaced the real glass with AstroTurf a while back. I suppose it is better given all the traffic. Last is a group of Asian break dancers. Is that cultural appropriation?

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Day in the Life July 6, 2018

Went to pick up my Brazilian visa in anticipation of my upcoming São Paulo adventure. Looking forward to it.

The weather was good enough (a little humid, but only a light and intermittent rain) to ride the bike to Washington. It is more rewarding than taking the Metro. I really enjoy riding the bike, but I like it better if I have a destination. Just riding frem and back lacks something.

I am very happy with my “new” bike. All the moving parts are new, but the frame, handlebars and seat are the old and beat up originals. With all the scratches and lost paint, I am hoping that it is less attractive to bike thieves.

Washington has lots of nice bike trails The one on 15th Street (in the picture) is not wonderfully beautiful, but it is convenient. I can take it up to AEI or Brookings, and the Brazilian Consulate in right there in 15th. The danger is that it is a two-way trail along one side of the street. Drivers are sometimes not looking for you coming the other way. It is also dangerous coming onto Massachusetts and New Hampshire Avenues going south, since 15th becomes a one-way street going north and you cannot see the traffic light. The solution is to only cross when the walk light is with you. Next picture shows my half-new bike.

Last three pictures are from the botanical gardens. It is not really on the way, but I make it so. I am trying to get familiar with some of the wildflowers that we are encouraging on the farms. They have interesting names like rattlesnake master in the first picture and star tickseed in the second. I forgot to get the name of the one in the third picture.

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Maybe Mariza Matel is worried about not treating Boomer right. We are indeed treating him like a dog, but you can see that he is doing okay. That is a big dog.

Mariza Matel – your mother is getting very much attached to Boomer. He knows how get what he wants.

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The Nature of Impermanence

Burning Doubt

I will never beat the feeling of dread when I see my scorched trees after a fire. They are not burned, but the heat plumes rose more than thirty feet. Science and experience tell me that things will be okay and that the fire is a necessary and useful part of southern pine ecology, but I can know all that and still not feel it. I am happy to report that – again and as expected – my fears were overblown. The trees on the most recently burned patch are greening out with new needles, as you can see in my first picture. The burned are in the distance. I have closer pictures but I liked the panorama. The longleaf that we burned last year are looking great, as you can see in the next picture. A forest is more than just the trees, but the trees are the first thing you see and the one that sets your mood when looking to the forest.

My management strategy for all our tree farms is atypical for Brunswick County and I am not exactly sure how it will work out. Let me rephrase – I have an idea what I want and a bit vaguer idea of how to get there, but I have lots of doubts about conditions on the ground and what will happen when I make changes.

Don’t Copy Nature; Do Try to Understand Natural Principles

A diverse ecosystem that respects and uses natural principles but does not merely mimic nature, that is what I want on my land and what I hope to learn from my land. When talking to people generally, I often use words like “restore.” People like the idea of restoration. I do too, but I know restoration is not an option. We have too many changes in Virginia, too many invasive plants and too much human interaction ever to restore what was once here. Beyond that, there would be no way to know what you should restore. Even with precise (and impossible to obtain) information about what was here and how everything was connected, in what year was everything exactly the way it should be?

The answer is never. Nature is never finished. Virginia of 1608 is different from but not better than the Virginia of 2018 or how it was during the last ice age or when dinosaurs roamed Our beloved longleaf pine ecosystem began its development on coastal plain exposed by much lower sea levels during the last ice age and “invaded” this land as its home range disappeared under the rising seas.

All we can do is move forward using the principles in an iterative way, trying something, learning something and then trying again with the profound understanding that this too is passing, and knowing that much you get from being in nature is being in nature.

You Can Never Walk Twice in the Same Forest

When I fell in love with nature, it was the feeling of the eternal that attracted me. In nature, I saw permanence, belonging and balance. Sure, we foolish humans often upset the balance. I blamed ignorance and greed. It was an easy morality tale. But I expected that if we left it alone long enough, nature would come back “as it should.” I thought my opinions were science-based, but they were not. Today what I love about nature is the impermanence. Each moment is unique to be appreciated for what it is. A small alteration may grow into a great change that everybody sees or maybe you won’t perceive it at all, but (paraphrasing Heraclitus) you cannot walk twice into the same forest. That is what I love now.

… And Know the Place for the First Time

It is a shame that the term “know your place” carries with it so many pejorative connotations, but I am going to use it here in a positive, maybe even a transcendent way. Looking back over my life, I think that I have spent it trying to know my place in human society and in the greater nature. Before I get anybody excited about the meaning of life, let me say that I have not found it and I know that I never will. This is not a despondent thought. No, it is a glorious one to know that you cannot know, and feel your own impermanence. It means you can enjoy all the steps on the journey. I have brief glimpses, epiphanies sometimes when I am in the flow, almost always when I am engaged with natural systems. It is a mystical feeling that I can report but not properly describe, when I feel part of all that was, all that is now and all that will become. I know others have had similar. The moments do not last long, but the memory sustains.

I don’t know what I would do if I was deprived of contact with nature. I don’t think I am strong in that way. I think I would crumple at being removed. My place is as an interacting part. Pull it out and there is nothing more.

What’s Happening Down on the Brunswick Farms

Lots of interesting developments at the farms. The thinning looks good. I walked all over the place and came up with hundreds of things I want to do. Now I have to narrow it down to a couple I can accomplish. You see the thinned pines in picture # 3. I took that picture through the wildflowers in front of them. Speaking of restoration, you know that lots of those beautiful flowers are not native. This is not a picture you could have taken in 1607, or more correctly painted. But the changing landscape conforms to natural principles. Queens Ann’s Lace, a beautiful flower in the carrot family, had been in North America for more than 300 years. It has earned its place.

Next is (right above) one of the pollinator habitat plots. I want to thank NRCS for helping with this. We got a grant to help defray the costs of seeds. I have more, but I include only one, since they are just starting. We got them in late because the seeds were hard to get. You can see the sunflowers coming up if you look closely. They will provide quick cover and the perennial warm season grasses and forbs will come in after. Sunflowers are “native” to North America, but this variety is not from around Virginia. Again, what does native or restoration really mean anyway?

Above are some bald cypress I “discovered”. I knew that my friend Eric Goodman had planted them in 2012, but I never could find them and thought they died out. The recent harvest next to them revealed them and is now giving them the sun they need. They are in a wet rill (pictured below) and should do well with the more sun. They are doing okay now. I found a couple dozen.

Below shows both sides of the fire line. We are burning 1/3 of this track each year, creating patches of early succession landscape.

Below shows our 2012 plantings from the area under the power lines. Some people hate power lines and they detract from use of land, but on the plus side they provide long narrow acreage of early succession habitat.

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Jury Duty

Why anybody avoids jury duty is beyond me. We finished out case today & it was a great and uplifting experience. It might have been worse with a more difficult case or a less happy outcome, but I think most of the good would have remained.

What was good?
I was inspired by my fellow citizens and by the strength of our diversity. Five of the twelve members on our jury were naturalized American citizens and for all but one of us it was the first time on a real trial. A jury like this is probably more common in Fairfax County where we have a lot of foreign born citizens and I high ratio of registered voters to accused criminals, so our chances of being called are relatively small.

You could say Fairfax is multicultural, but I think it is a step better. It is the evolving American culture that merges new ideas and new outlooks and then embraces the most appropriate. My fellow jurors from different continents and countries showed their love of democracy in its manifestation in a jury trial. I think we had a productive time and a good one. Our opinions were diverse, but we came together. Made one out of many. How would you phrase that in Latin? Maybe e pluribus unum

W/o going into too many details, our case involved an assault. In the jury selection process, the lawyer for the defense asked if anybody had been a victim of violence or had a loved one who had. When I mentioned the thugs that attacked Alex, I thought I would be excluded. But they let me stay.

The testimony was interesting but inconclusive. The Commonwealth and the defense had very different theories of the situation. I do not think that any of the witnesses were lying. Rather that their memories were reconstructed to explain a confusing sequence of events. Some things they held in common and we generally accepted that. Some things were not plausible, and others would have been physically impossible. We all used our best judgement.

I am not sure when I decided that the defendant was not guilty, and I am not sure precisely why. I tried to be objective, but it is hard not to bring in personal feelings. I think maybe the defense lawyer made a good choice of keeping me on the jury after I explained about Alex. I could compare the extent of the purported injuries.

We decided on not guilty. We were not sure what happened in the event, but we were sure that we could not be sure, which meant that we had reasonable doubt. I think we made the right decision from the point of view of justice done.

Serving on a jury is a good experience for the jurors. You get a better idea of how justice is done, and you get to participate.

It is very hard to convict someone because of the presumption of innocent and the reasonable doubt requirement. I just did not think that the Commonwealth proved its case. The defense did not need to prove theirs, but they put on a good rebuttal. I thought that the defense would have won even with the lower standard of preponderance of the evidence, so I have no trouble whatever voting for not guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

It was a good couple days. I enjoyed it and learned a few things. Weather was good, so I could ride my bike to the courthouse. Riding the bike makes almost any destination better. I discovered a previously unknown to me bike trail, the Jerry Connolly trail, that starts on Picket Road and goes to Old Lee Highway. You can ride on designated bike paths, sometimes on sidewalks, all along Old Lee Highway, so it is a pretty safe ride. It is around 13 miles round trip. The only drawback is that the courthouse is on a long high hill and it is tiring climbing it. The route is not great topographically. My house is relatively higher ground. I descend into in the valley around the Accotink Creek. The trail follows the creek. Then you must climb again. You go faster than you need down the hills and then pay for it at the end.
Why people avoid jury duty is beyond me. We finished out case today & it was a great and uplifting experience. It might have been worse with a more difficult case or a less happy outcome, but I think most of the good would have remained.

What was good?
I was inspired by my fellow citizens and by the strength of our diversity. Five of the twelve members on our jury were naturalized American citizens and for all but one of us it was the first time on a real trial. A jury like this is probably more common in Fairfax County where we have a lot of foreign born citizens and I high ratio of registered voters to accused criminals, so our chances of being called are relatively small.

You could say Fairfax is multicultural, but I think it is a step better. It is the evolving American culture that merges new ideas and new outlooks and then embraces the most appropriate. My fellow jurors from different continents and countries showed their love of democracy in its manifestation in a jury trial. I think we had a productive time and a good one. Our opinions were diverse, but we came together.

W/o going into too many details, our case involved an assault. In the jury selection process, the lawyer for the defense asked if anybody had been a victim of violence or had a loved one who had. When I mentioned the thugs that attacked Alex, I thought I would be excluded. But they let me stay.

The testimony was interesting but inconclusive. The Commonwealth and the defense had very different theories of the situation. I do not think that any of the witnesses were lying. Rather that their memories were reconstructed to explain a confusing sequence of events. Some things they held in common and we generally accepted that. Some things were not plausible, and others would have been physically impossible. We all used our best judgement.

I am not sure when I decided that the defendant was not guilty, and I am not sure precisely why. I tried to be objective, but it is hard not to bring in personal feelings. I think maybe the defense lawyer made a good choice of keeping me on the jury after I explained about Alex. I could compare the extent of the purported injuries.

We decided on not guilty. We were not sure what happened in the event, but we were sure that we could not be sure, which meant that we had reasonable doubt. I think we made the right decision from the point of view of justice done.

Serving on a jury is a good experience for the jurors. You get a better idea of how justice is done, and you get to participate.

It is very hard to convict someone because of the presumption of innocent and the reasonable doubt requirement. I just did not think that the Commonwealth proved its case. The defense did not need to prove theirs, but they put on a good rebuttal. I thought that the defense would have won even with the lower standard of preponderance of the evidence, so I have no trouble whatever voting for not guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

It was a good couple days. I enjoyed it and learned a few things. Weather was good, so I could ride my bike to the courthouse. Riding the bike makes almost any destination better. I discovered a previously unknown to me bike trail, the Jerry Connolly trail, that starts on Picket Road and goes to Old Lee Highway. You can ride on designated bike paths, sometimes on sidewalks, all along Old Lee Highway, so it is a pretty safe ride. It is around 13 miles round trip. The only drawback is that the courthouse is on a long high hill and it is tiring climbing it. The route is not great topographically. My house is relatively higher ground. I descend into in the valley around the Accotink Creek. The trail follows the creek. Then you must climb again. You go faster than you need down the hills and then pay for it at the end.

My first picture is the courthouse. Next is the square in front followed by a corner in Fairfax. Last is part of the Jerry Connolly trail. I prefer asphalt when I am on the bike, but the dirt and gravel is a better trail for running.

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Brookings: Improving water infrastructure and promoting a more inclusive economy

Rode down to Brookings for a program on the water workforce, see below. Getting my bike fixed and some of the parts replaced saves at least ten minutes of ride-time, as the energy formerly turned into friction heat and sideways wobbling gets converted to forward motion. It took me a little less than an hour and ten minutes to get all the way from my house to Brookings.

Program was worth the trip and was especially appropriate given my recent visit to the Milwaukee sewage plant.

Key points are that the labor force in the water industry, including sewage, drinking water and related functions like plumbers, is relatively old, 50+% are eligible to retire and it is hard to replace them with suitable workers.

One problem is the general labor shortage. With unemployment so low, it is just hard to find people. Making it worse, the work is semi-skilled, so people cannot just do it right out of the box. There is also a security aspect. Water is a sensitive industry. Workers must pass drug tests and it is sometimes hard for ex-cons to get a clearance, more on that below. It is also getting hard just to find guys who will show up on time every day.

The water industry jobs pay above average wages. The woman at the Milwaukee sewage plant told me that starting wages are $30-35 an hour. However, they still have trouble getting qualified help. It is often a dirty job, sometimes out in the elements in stinky places, and many people prefer to work in comfortable offices and complain about their low pay.

We heard from Louisiana Congressman Garret Graves. He said that we spend way too much money reacting to disasters and way too little anticipating and mitigating them. Hurricane Katrina, for example, was largely a man-made disaster. Nature provided the wind and water, but Louisiana and New Orleans were not properly prepared and that made it a disaster.

He talked about the need to build infrastructure – human and physical, grey and green – but not just dump money in an inefficient system. In Louisiana, for example, they were able to get jobs done for half or a third of the supposed cost by making contracts more open and specifications better.

Some of the best infrastructure is green. Coastal forests and mangroves are some of the best defense against storms and they filter the water between events.

Next came a panel including Kishia Powell, Commissioner, Department of Watershed Management – City of Atlanta, GA, Andrew Kricun, Executive Director and Chief Engineer – Camden County Municipal Utilities Authority (NJ) & Katie Spiker, Senior Federal Policy Analyst – National Skills Coalition.

Andrew Kricun talked about the paradox that unemployment in Camden is more than 10%, but he cannot get enough people to do the jobs in his water facilities. They are addressing that by outreach and training. They understand that much of the training will not directly benefit the water works, since people will find jobs elsewhere, but he talked of the triple bottom line – economy, environment and social good.

Kisa Powell agreed and went on that in Atlanta they were trying to hold onto some of their older workers longer and going to non-traditional places to find new ones. For example, they have a program with the local prisons to train convicts while still in the joint for jobs they may take when they get out. This is another instance of a social benefit.Ex-cons can have trouble finding work and can too easily slip back into the ways that got them in jail in the first place. A steady and demanding job can help keep them on the straight and narrow.

They all emphasized that it is better to anticipate and avoid than to react to crisis. Emergency repairs can cost 3-5 times as much as fixing it in time.

They also touted the benefits of preparation and green infrastructure. Rain gardens, for example, can avoid overflows at the sewage plants. The water still finds its way back into the rivers, but slowly and usefully.

Everybody talked about the problem of just finding out what is going on. There are lots of good ideas, but they need more connectors. I have thought about this a lot myself. Connectors are very important, but they get no respect. Everybody thinks they are just talking to people and traveling and too many think that either communication happens by itself or that there can be some kind of centralized system that does it all.

Notes on earlier water program.

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Wisconsin and Land Grant Universities

One of the best pieces of legislation ever enacted was the Morrill Act of 1862 that created the land grant colleges. As with most successful developments, this was both a continuation and a break with tradition. Universities had been elite institutions for the study of things not very practical. Then there were trade schools that were nothing but practical. The mission of the land grant schools was to study and promulgate useful arts and sciences, like agriculture and engineering. This merged the thinkers with the doers.

It is said of intellectuals that they are not happy with something that works in practice until they understand it in theory. This is usually meant as a put down, but I would consider it a compliment. Understanding the theory of something helps you make improvements. An outcome may be the result of good or bad luck. Only if you understand something of what is supposed to happen can you tease out the causes. On the other hand, theories that never have manifestations in the real world are a type of mental auto-eroticism. We need a cross fertilization and land grant colleges did that.

Much of America’s prosperity today is the result of this wise legislation. and of the enthusiasm that recipients took of the opportunity

I thought of this as I walked around the University of Wisconsin. I noticed the faculty of soil science. Imagine all the good that came from these generations of scientists studying what others dismissed as dirt. I also passed a plaque to Fredrick Jackson Turner. He was a Wisconsin guy too. His contribution to history was the frontier thesis. It is out of style these days and there are flaws, but his was a bold step in understanding our national character.

It was great being a student at UW. You could find somebody who studied almost anything. They even had a class in Hittite. I thought of taking it, but then thought harder.

My first picture shows the Frederick Jackson Turner plaque. Next is the faculty of soil science. The third picture shows the high water on the lakes, higher than I recall ever seeing it. Second last is the old history building. I was so excited to go there that I even claimed to like that hideous building. Last is the Wisconsin State Capitol, modeled on the U.S. Capitol but shorter. No state Capitol is allowed to be taller than the U.S. Capitol.

Note the picture on the banner near the history building. Pink flamingos. That has some history that is not well known, but I recall personally. Student government at UW had fallen into ruin and leftist control in the late 1970s. One of the parties that ran in the elections was actually called “Smash the State.” Enter “Pail & Shovel”. They were some clowns, literally, who ran on the platform that “Student government is a bad joke. We will make it a good one.” Among their promises was to put thousands of flamingos on Bascom Hill. They won the elections and kept their promise. One day when I came to class, I saw the hill pink with those plastic birds. Some said it was a waste of money, but considering the general track record, not so much.

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