Thursday, October 13, 2005

Vindication, well, not really, but a least a good bargain.

Went to court today to battle the $361 bicycle citation I received last month. I came prepared to explain the safety issues endured by bicyclists on a daily basis, to speak out against ill formed, biased laws, and to stand up against evil, so that one day good can hopefully prevail, and the eternal sun may shine down on glimmering cranks everywhere.
Hell, I even bought a belt.

Of course, as anyone who’s ever dealt with the legal system knows, these things make little difference. The system at this level is designed to process as many (and there are a lot), of citations as possible. During the initial hearing, the judge is just there to hear you plea guilty or not guilty, after which the guilty plea-ers go through the door on the left, and the “not guilty” plea-ers stand off to the right, ready to face off with the army of county attorneys waiting to process as many defendants as possible, in as timely a manner as possible that still yields profits to the city. Many un-informed, nervous, people try to talk (lie) their way out at the plea point, with out even realizing that the judge only wants to hear “guilty” or “not guilty”. It’s kind of sad that there really isn’t a proper resource to explain to everyone, in an understandable way, how the system works. The judge we had this morning was at least pretty fun though, and joked around with the people.

I stepped forward when my name was called, pled not guilty, and took a step to the right. A few moments later, one of the attorneys who had been going in and out with people all day, came out and called my name. She was pretty young, super nice, and even kind of cute; to bad she’s a lawyer. This is a stark contrast to the only other county attorney I’ve dealt with, Charles C Adams, the attorney for Sheboygan. He’s a total dick, but that’s a different story. Anyway, I followed the young attorney through the door to the left, where we briefly discussed the case in the hallway, not even taking time to go to one of the conference rooms. She completely agreed with me that the bicycle/car laws were messed up, but stated that she’s not a legislator, so she can’t really do anything about it. She then grabbed a binder, and started paging through it, saying she’d look for something she could give me that wouldn’t affect my clean driving record. (Yeah, this ticket, as it stood, would have given me a point on my driver’s license. In CA, you get your license revoked after 4 points in a year. This would have sucked for insurance.)

“How about a pedestrian traffic signal violation?” she asked, pointing her finger to one of the hundreds of violations listed in the binder. “$100, and it has no effect on your driving record”

I was sold, and agreed. Granted, I think I would have had a good chance to fight it all the way, especially since I doubt the officer would have showed up for court. Returning for another court date though, would have involved taking another morning off of work, and risking fucking up my insurance.

I walked back into the courtroom, accepted the new charge, and paid the clerk before leaving the building.

Alumni Band, Madison, friends, family, and beer

Tis the season for the annual University of Wisconsin Alumni Band reunion. This year it was held the first week of October during the Wisconsin/Indiana game. Generally I wouldn’t want to make a weekend trip across the country just for a football game, but I make an exception for alumni band. Equipoise and I have reputations to maintain, and fear that not returning for alumni band one year could sacrifice our front and center spots in the pregame show. Who knows what carnage could precipitate with out us, and who would show the young ones how to do it right? Additionally, JoJo was going to be coming to town, and it’s a rare , not to be missed occasion when all three siblings are in the same zip code.

Why is Wisconsin so cool? Because we got time machines, baby!

The weekend started with getting up at 4:30 am (after going to bed at 2:30am), in order to catch my 6:05am flight out of Sacramento, to catch a connection in Phoenix, to land in Milwaukee. I took a bus out of the airport, but due to poorly marked street signs, I got off to early – five miles to early, and had nice walk through the interesting areas of Milwaukee on my way to the Third Ward District. Eventually, I met up Sean and Mary, and we headed on our way to Madison, picking up Sner on the way.

Arriving in Madison, Mary dropped us off so the “boys could play,” while she went to hook up with a friend, and return later as designated driver. The bad news: Oakcrest Tavern is no longer Oakcrest Tavern, it changed owners, taking with it its scrumptious bar menu, and cute waitresses. The good news: Lucky’s tavern, (the bar formerly known as the Oakcrest), serves beer in the large, glass, sit on table, gravity taps. Good times followed. Jainie and Matt gave a surprise visit, along with Jill, and her new boy. We spent some time hanging at the Stadium Bar, which was later followed by each of us getting a mason jar of nostalgia, in the form of the Red Sheds always strong “Real Deal.” (That’s a Long island ice tea served in a mason jar.) We closed the night out by eating Ian’s Pizza, completely drunk, while sitting on the wall outside of Witte Hall.

Mary woke us up at 7:15am. I’ll take a gander that we were probably still drunk at this point. Regardless, we headed to the stadium for our early morning practice. The alumni band isn’t known for much beyond fat and lazy people trying to get back a piece of their youth, however, nothing better sums of this year’s practice than the phrase clusterfuck. Seriously, we reached a new low, that isn’t likely to be surpassed anytime soon.

We got a traditional pregame breakfast at Mickey’s Dairy Bar, and headed to the game. Overall the game was a fun time. Pregame and halftime was typical, the Badgers won in a one sided game, and fifth quarter was surprisingly short.

Equipoise originally made the trumpet sign back in his days in band. After spending time in his basement, it later adorned the outside of my house, which became known as the trumpet house. I still know some of the people living there, although the sign is definitely worse for wear after a couple of years

After the game, we headed back to the hotel room, and met up with JoJo and her boyfriend Paul. The room had eight pillows, and there were three siblings. Not a good combination if you don’t expect carnage to break out. Later, we walked across the street to have dinner with some of Equipoise’s band friends and Jill. The food at Piasson’s was mediocre as usual. I don’t understand why everyone always raved about their food. I don’t consider myself a great cook, but I do better Italian than they do.

Since JoJo and Paul had never seen Madison, we took a stroll down State Street in search of beer. I know, hard to find on State Street, especially on a game weekend. We got distracted, however, when an impromptu game of Lava Rock Rock Revolution broke out by capitol square. Good times. We ended the evening drinking sampler platters at the Great Dane Brewery, which I hadn’t even known had a back patio.

The next morning, we took a nice bike ride through, around, and out of town. Equipoise was gracious enough to bring along an extra bike, despite it being a pain to fit it in his little Civic Del Sol. We went through the Memorial Union Terrace, and planned on going to Picnic Point, but instead ended up at the airport. You would have sworn JoJo was leading the way, not Equipoise. We did find a really nice breakfast place out on Willy Street though. Although I had always heard good things about the Willy Street area, I had never actually been there while living in the city for 6 years. Neat place.
With that, it was time for us to head off, so I could catch my flight back to Sacramento.

Me, JoJo, and Paul in front of the statue on Bascom Hill. The old campus joke is that everyone should walk in front of Abe before graduation. If you're still a virgin, he'll stand up.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

The Infamous UW Madison Memorial Union

I usually beam whenever somebody asks me what Madison, WI is like. Although I haven't necessarily seen a large number of universities, I consider Madison one of the best campuses in the country. Even Arizona State, known as one of the most beautiful campuses with gorgeous winter weather, doesn't totally add up.

The most memorable feature of Madison, is of course the student Memorial Union. Built in the early 1900's on what turned out to probably be the best piece of real estate in the city, the union features an interior resembling a german tavern and an outside overlooking Lake Mendota. During warm summer nights live music plays on a small stage, and seating quickly fills up. Don't expect to find a seat on the weekend unless you get there early, preferable directly after class. During the peak season, it can even be hard to find a spot to sit on the stairs, piers, or shore. If you have access to a boat, you can dock of shore and listen to the music from there. Any verbal description doesn't quite portray the aura felt while sitting out on the terrace and enjoying a beer, so I made sure to snap a couple of pictures when I was back early this month.

Unlike many Universities where the trend is going towards having dry campuses, UW Madison actually serves beer at the student union. Being public property, anyone of any age can just walk onto the terrace with no carding. (Both union membership and and ID are necessary to purchase alcohol) During my last year there, the current chancelor, set on a mission to kill the school party atmosphere, put an end to the 48oz cups which were the premier option to get beer in. (14oz and 24oz are also options, but they weren't as economical) The large cups, which were known to get soggy anyway, were replaced with plastic pichers, which quickly fit in as sturdier cups, with handles, and a nice spout. Nice try.