Anyone who has lived here for a while (or a couple of whiles, as my son once said) knows that spring is not here, even though it might feel like it, until the last spring snowstorm.

We may have just had that. I was warned yesterday that snow was coming overnight. I checked the forecast before bed and it said 1-4 inches between 4 and 10 AM. I was ready to shovel when I got up.

I wasn’t ready to have to force the door open to get there. I measured 10.5 inches on the porch post. It was still snowing and it was melting.

After shoveling I went for a walk. The 1-4 inches came over the tops of my 15 inch snow boots. That is not an ocean in the photo below. That is a lake that I have paddled, skated, and skied across. Visibility is a bit limited.

The crabapple trees hang onto their fruits tenaciously. They’ll fall when the new crop comes in.

I tried to sculpt the snow. It was going to be a child on the beach making a sand castle. The snow was too warm, too wet, too coarse-grained. I suppose I could have built a large box, filled and compacted it, removed it from its mold, let it harden a while, and then carved it. Since my back porch thermometer says 40º (4.5 C), I’m not sure how successful that would have been.

The ducks seem to like the open water

This may have been that spring snow. The current forecast is for 55º (13 C) by the end of the week. Not that I ever believe forecasts that far out and when they were that far off about today 12 hours ago. In other news, the aurora borealis (northern lights) was/were visible in this neck of the woods last night. The last time I remember seeing them myself was about 50 years ago. Photo below from Baraboo, WI.

Phot by David Deano from the Wisconsin State Journal

Bike theft

Spring has sprung and the university police just reminded me of the dangers of bike theft. Here are their tips:

  • Lock it up: secure the bicycle frame and wheels to a sturdy, fixed object like a bike rack or a metal post. Or store it in a dedicated, secure bicycle locker.
  • Get a good lock: we recommend a quality ‘U-style’ lock. Chain and cable locks are easily cut in seconds by someone with the right tool.
  • Invest in the lock — not the bike: we suggest spending your money on your lock, and not on the bike. There’s a thriving illegal market in stolen high-end bicycles and parts — so don’t tempt thieves with your $4,000 racing bike. A $50 garage-sale bike secured with a $100 lock is a good recipe for retention.
  • Register your ride: while it’s no longer required to register your bike in Madison [ed. note: It’s no longer possible], it’s still a good idea and can help with recovery if it’s ever stolen.  [ed. note follows] There are national bike registries. My bikes are registered at two and here are the links to register yours:
  • https://project529.com/garage/
  • https://bikeindex.org

Both services request a description of your bike(s), serial number, and photos. Project 529 specifically asks for a photo of the serial number. Bike Index asks for distinguishing characteristics. You can register as many bikes as you have, and it takes only a few minutes.

I would add a couple of tips/modifications to the police guidance. Their advice re: a $50 bike vs a $4000 bike specifically refers to leaving a bike unattended on campus. If you have a $4000 bike, my advice is: keep it locked inside of your house when you’re not on it. If you transport it with a motor vehicle, transport it inside the vehicle. If possible, conceal it. Make sure the vehicle is locked. If you have to transport it on the outside, lock it to the rack, which should be locked to the vehicle, and keep it in sight. It’s harder to steal a bike from the roof than from the bumper.

Locks slow thieves down. They are not foolproof. Another way to slow them down is to loosen the rear wheel quick release. If someone tries to ride away, the wheel may jam itself into the bottom bracket shell or against the seat tube and make it unrideable, if you have horizontal dropouts. Or it just may slow the thief down, maybe annoy them enough to steal a different bike. (If you do that, just be sure to tighten it again before you ride off.) There are times you will want to leave a bike for a few minutes and don’t have several pounds of lock with you. There are light and transportable locks that will slow someone down. If I were in a cafe, I’d sit by a window near the door if I were using this sort of lock. The police here use “Bait Bikes”, which are left out and monitored to catch thieves. They also make available (or did, in the past) stickers that say “This may be a Bait Bike”. With that on enough bikes, it makes it harder to know which ones really are bait bikes. See if there is a similar program in your area.

Airtags can be concealed on a bike. (There are a number of products designed for this.) They won’t prevent theft but may make the bike easier to track.

I’ve been riding for 65 years and have had one bike stolen. It was in an office but unlocked. The office was staffed all day. That person went to the bathroom and (weeks later) told me she heard someone come down the stairs and wheel the bike out while she was in there. I got that info too late to do anything about it, but I know who had access to the office at that time. Live and learn.

Bikes stop a thief.
Good advice.

A novel idea

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

US Constitution, Amendment One

In the Court’s view, Buckley and Bellotti decisively rejected the possibility of distinguishing corporations from natural persons

Justice John Paul Stevens

The Court has thus rejected the argument that political speech of corporations or other associations should be treated differently under the First Amendment simply because such associations are not “natural persons.”  Id., at 776; see id., at 780, n. 16. Cf. id., at 828 (Rehnquist, J., dissenting).

Justice Anthony Kennedy

n the 2014 case Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the US Supreme Court ruled that the contraceptive mandate promulgated under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act violated privately held, for-profit corporations’ right to religious freedom. 

Reem Gerais, Arizona State University

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

US Constitution, Amendment Two

We now understand, thanks to the United States Supreme Court, that corporations are persons, with the same rights as “natural persons”; at least in regard to First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and religion.

If corporations have the rights of persons, and persons have the right to keep and bear arms, it stands to reason that corporations have the right to form and arm private militias. This would bring a whole new meaning to the term “trade war”. This is your prompt. Go write a novel. Keep in mind that Sinclair Lewis taught us, in 1935, that “It Can’t Happen Here”. Or did he teach us the opposite?

I gave ChatGPT a shot at this with the following prompt: “The US Supreme Court has ruled that corporations are persons and entitled to the same freedoms of speech and religion as “natural persons”. By extension, the second amendment rights to form militias and to keep and bears arms must therefore apply to corporations. Please write a story about a future trade war between corporate militias.

In the year 2045, the United States of America had transformed into a corporate dystopia. Large multinational corporations had taken over the country, and their power had grown to such an extent that they were now considered “persons” by law. With this legal status, corporations had gained the right to bear arms and form militias, and they had wasted no time in using these new powers to their advantage.

The first sign of trouble came when a small biotech company, BioGen, filed a lawsuit against a rival firm, TerraPharma, claiming that TerraPharma had stolen their intellectual property. TerraPharma denied the accusation and responded by forming a corporate militia to protect their facilities and personnel. BioGen, not to be outdone, also formed their own militia, and the stage was set for a corporate trade war.

Within days, other corporations began to take sides, either joining BioGen or TerraPharma, based on their business interests. The corporate militias, armed to the teeth with the latest weapons and technology, began to engage in skirmishes and raids against each other. The streets of major cities were filled with armed personnel, and the public was caught in the middle.

As the conflict escalated, the government struggled to maintain control. The Supreme Court, which had granted corporations the same rights as natural persons, now found itself powerless to intervene. The military, too, was hesitant to act, as many of its top brass had been lured away by lucrative offers from the corporations.

The trade war raged on for months, with no end in sight. The corporations, accustomed to operating in a cutthroat business environment, had no qualms about using extreme measures to gain an edge over their rivals. Reports of sabotage, espionage, and even assassination attempts began to surface.

Finally, a coalition of concerned citizens and smaller businesses formed a grassroots movement to end the conflict. They organized protests, rallies, and boycotts against the warring corporations, and demanded that the government take action to restore order. The movement quickly gained momentum, and soon, even some of the corporations began to [There was an error generating a response]

ChatGPT (take one)

In the year 2050, the landscape of global trade had drastically changed. Corporations had become more powerful than ever before, and the lines between government and business had blurred. The Supreme Court ruling that corporations were entitled to the same freedoms as “natural persons” had set the stage for a new era of corporate power.

As the world’s top corporations vied for dominance, they began forming their own private militias, heavily armed and ready to defend their interests at any cost. The Second Amendment, once intended for individual citizens, was now being applied to corporate entities, allowing them to keep and bear arms in their pursuit of profit.

At first, the corporate militias were used mainly for protection against local threats, such as theft and vandalism. But as the competition between corporations became more intense, the militias began to take a more aggressive role. Soon, corporate wars were being waged across the globe, with armed conflicts erupting in boardrooms and factories alike.

The first major conflict broke out between two of the world’s largest tech giants. The corporations had been locked in a bitter trade dispute, each accusing the other of stealing intellectual property. When negotiations failed, the two companies turned to their private militias.

The conflict quickly escalated, with each side recruiting mercenaries and purchasing advanced weaponry. The fighting spread to other countries, drawing in allies and enemies alike. It wasn’t long before the conflict had become a full-blown trade war, with corporations choosing sides and aligning themselves with one another.

As the war raged on, the toll on human life and the environment became increasingly devastating. Corporate armies flattened entire cities, leaving millions of people homeless and destitute. The world watched in horror as corporations fought for profit at the expense of human life and the environment.

Finally, after years of conflict, the international community stepped in to mediate. The corporations were forced to lay down their arms and negotiate a peace settlement. The resulting treaty established new rules for corporate behavior, limiting the power and influence of corporations and putting an end to the corporate militias.

The trade war had come at a great cost, but it had also forced the world to confront the dangers of unchecked corporate power. In the aftermath of the conflict, there was a renewed commitment to creating a more equitable and sustainable global economy, one that put people and the planet before profits.

ChatGPT (take two)

I’d say ChatGPT was a bit short on character development but had the right idea. I think this topic has room for development. Richard Morgan, in the novel “Market Forces”, posits a near future in which business executives take their jobs seriously. An executive’s job is to execute and they execute their competitors on the highway with souped-up cars. (If I remember right, the protagonist drives a BMW.)

I’m sure I could do better than the bot, but I’m not a novelist, so I offer this free of charge. On second thought, if you write a novel from this prompt, I want an acknowledgement.


Once upon a time, the US had an agrarian economy. You had a lot of children. You had to – that’s what kept the farm going. There were the occasional “confirmed bachelors” and “spinsters”, often code for gay or Lesbian, who didn’t have children.

We became urbanized and having children was an ingrained habit. Then we discovered birth control and mostly Roman Catholics had a lot of children. Coming from a family with six kids I was often asked if I were Catholic. I wasn’t. Maybe my parents didn’t have very good knowledge of birth control. Maybe they had poor impulse control. Maybe it was a way to get the chores done.

Time came that having children became a choice, meaning something to argue about. People who chose not have children were called “selfish”. People who chose to have children were called “breeders” or “narcissists”.

Some had children because it was still what was expected of them. Some had children as a way to remain closeted. Some had children because that’s what they wanted to do with their lives. Some chose not to have children in order to do something else with their lives. Some chose not to due to unresolved childhood trauma/poor role models. Some just never got around to it and then realized…something. (They didn’t really want kids? They thought it was too late?)

I was around 20 and visiting my older sister. She yelled at her kids in my presence, then looked at me and said, “I sounded just like dad”. That was not a proud moment for her.

I was already ambivalent about having kids. I liked kids. I liked being around them. Maybe I would be a favorite uncle, or the trusted adult you could go to when you couldn’t talk to your parents.

That day became a pivotal moment. One of Ursula K. LeGuin’s characters said, “They say here ‘all roads lead to Mishnory.’ To be sure, if you turn your back on Mishnory and walk away from it, you are still on the Mishnory road. To oppose vulgarity is inevitably to be vulgar. You must go somewhere else; you must have another goal; then you walk a different road.” Ursula K. LeGuin  (1929-2018) The Left Hand of Darkness.

I realized that I did not want to be my dad. I also didn’t want to be the anti-dad. I was stuck on the Mishnory Road. I would not be a parent unless I could walk a different road.

It took twenty years. I was now with a partner with whom I wanted to have children, and I was me. I could continue to be me as a parent. My own upbringing wasn’t gone, but it no longer controlled me. I was on a different road.

I am not here to tell you to have children. I am not here to tell you not to have children. If that ship has sailed, I’m not here to tell you that you made the wrong decision. I am here to tell you that, if you already have children, you have a tremendous responsibility. I hope you already know that.

The best I can determine, the job of a parent is to support their children to grow into decent human beings. The job of a mother is not different from the job of a father. One does not have to be the breadwinner. One does not have to be the nurturer. Those are not traits that you were imbued with by the sex organs with which you were born. And they are not mutually exclusive. And is that somehow harder to understand for straight people?

If you want a Mini-me, you are a narcissist and you shouldn’t be a parent. If you have unfulfilled childhood fantasies and you want to live them out through a child, you shouldn’t be a parent. If either of those is true and you’re already a parent, you’ve got a lot of work to do. If you want children in order to feel fulfilled, get a life. Then maybe have children.

Image from TVTropes. Verne Troyer and Mike Myers.

If you ask me (you didn’t but you’re still reading so we’ll pretend you do), a parent’s primary job (after meeting the basics of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs) is to support children in answering the question “what do you want to be when you grow up?” and implied in that is, “what do you want to be now?” Growing up comes soon enough.

What does that look like? If your children have interests they want to explore, you find a way for them to do that. You accept that not all paths will lead to a career or a lifelong interest. You accept that your children are individual people. If you have more than one child, they are not the same and they don’t have the same needs. Your job (like a teacher’s job) is facilitator. One child may know what they want. You help them find it. Another may have no idea. You help them with a variety of experiences to explore. A third may have an idea, try it out, find it wasn’t for them, and try another.

All of these have limits. You aren’t made of money (unless you are). But, once you have chosen the path of raising children, they are the priority. Supporting their growth wins over your new toys or fancy vacations. Not every interest requires cash (or only cash). Some programs have sliding fee scales or scholarships. Sometimes your time is needed more than your money. Some of my biggest fun came as a barn dad and as the recording engineer for concerts. Coaches, drivers, mentors, and other support people are needed. Grants are available. Creative problem-solving comes in handy. One of my kids graduated from high school with more than two years of college credit. That didn’t ultimately mean two fewer years of college, but did mean the ability to focus on a field of interest and have some graduation requirements met on arrival. The other chose a major as an undergrad that cut in half the time (and money) needed for a graduate degree.

One of my kids did a partial summer program in Italy. I was hoping it would be grad school in Italy so I could save money to go visit, with an Italian-speaking guide in the family. Oh, well. Instead, I got this custom poster. They saw this poster in Italy, translated it, and made a copy in English. I think I have the only one in existence.

I didn’t join my friends on Wednesday Night Bike Rides until my younger child was five. That wasn’t a problem. I didn’t want to be away. After I started those rides, I was reading a bedtime story on Thursday night and that child said, “Daddy, we miss you when you’re gone on Wednesday nights. But you’re in such a good mood on Thursdays, it’s good for the whole family that you ride.” I didn’t ride my bike coast-to-coast until the kids were grown. That wasn’t a problem. I had other priorities. From that child, I received this t-shirt:

If it’s too hard to see, there are two pairs of cowboy boots in the image – big ones and little ones.

My advice? If you aren’t ready, don’t have kids. Go out and live a little. If you’re ready, the things you give up won’t be sacrifices, they’ll be investments, and the dividends will be paid every day.

As Joan Baez sang in Diamonds and Rust, “speaking strictly for me” the gifts of parenthood are more than I ever asked for.

Oh yeah..it is also not your child’s job to have grandchildren for you. Don’t ask. If they want to have children, and you have nurtured a relationship with them, they’ll tell you. And if they don’t tell you, but they have children, it will become obvious at some point anyway.

I’m not sure what made me feel the need to pontificate today. Sorry…am I? I feel like John Lennon, singing “When you talk about destruction, don’t you know that you can count me out (in)”. Just a bit ambivalent about hitting the button to post this.

Welcome to spring, which arrived at 4:24 PM CDT (2124 UTC, aka GMT) yesterday; unless you’re where it is fall that just arrived.