Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Night of the Radishes in Oaxaca

This grasshopper made from radishes was part of the huge display called The Night of the Radishes, celebrated every Dec. 23 for more than 100 years.

Local people craft all kinds of sculptures from radishes, flowers, and corn husks and leaves.

There were thousands of people around the town square, packed five and six deep, to see these sculptures, which numbered maybe 200.

This video of just under 2 minutes shows some of the scenes of that night, a parade, and some sights around town. (I´m using a Flip video camera that´s about the size of a cellphone and editing the clips on iMovie on my Mac.)

This king was fashioned from carved radishes.

Scenes from Oaxaca

The rich ornamentation of the ceiling of Santo Domingo church does take your breath away. It triggers all kinds of mixed thoughts and feelings, given that you pass dozens of beggars on the way to the church.

Local crafts include mythological creatures fancifully painted. The Bulls jersey is probably from China.

Oaxaca is famous for its embroidered dresses and other textile arts. This was in a Christmas market.

Workers take a lunch break while repaving a street with cobblestones.

These mannequins show that Mexicans have a taste for tight pants.

Christmas in Oaxaca and Monte Albán

As we were walking through the streets of Oaxaca, we happened on a religious procession honoring the Virgin Mary. The Virgin is perhaps more important than Jesus to Mexicans, especially those who mix Catholicism with native beliefs.

In the state of Oaxaca (the capital has the same name), there are 15 different native languages spoken. The dominant local one is Zapotec, with some 500,000 speakers. Mexico´s first and only indigenous president, Benito Juarez, was a Zapotec from Oaxaca.

In a cafe on the town square we met up with Olga Rosario Avendaño and Victor Ruiz, a couple who have a news website, Olor a Mi Tierra (The Scent of My Homeland), that specializes in covering human rights, the environment and local culture of the state of Oaxaca.

Victor and Olga have both taken courses with me through the Digital Journalism Center. Their biggest audience is in Mexico City and the U.S., where residents of Oaxaca go to find work.

These angels were part of the procession mentioned above.

In the south of Mexico, native languages and culture are more important. The people here have less-European features.

Monte Albán is one of the most important pre-Columbian archeological sites in Mexico. The city was founded in 500 B.C. as a ceremonial center and was important for the next 1,300 years.

The scale of it is impressive, but it´s not as big as Teotihuacan, which is near Mexico City.

The people who built this site had a form of writing, a mix of hieroglyphics and ideographs. The stories they tell are of conquest of other local peoples. History as usual is all about war, one people taking away other people´s stuff.

This is a ball court. Players would use the angled walls, originally smooth, to steer the ball toward the goal. The ball game evidently had an astronomical significance.

At some sites, evidence suggests that the losers of a ball game were ritually sacrificed. There is no evidence of such a practice at Monte Albán.

Trained more than 200 journalists from 17 countries

This is the entire team of the Digital Journalism Center: Norma Cerda is the administrator, with more than 20 years of experience at the University of Guadalajara. Alfonso Fonseca, right, is a 25-year-old computer whiz who built our website and manages the technical part of our center.

Since coming down here in July 2008, my job has been to start and run a center that trains Latin American journalists in how to use new tools to publish on the web.

The idea was to offer courses online that lasted several weeks each with a hands-on training in Guadalajara at the end.

That meant creating the courses from scratch, in Spanish, putting them on a distance learning platform and then teaching them.

So far, I´ve created and taught six courses online, each of them lasting five to six weeks: how to run a digital newsroom, public service reporting, digital skills 101, environmental reporting, new business models for digital news, and how to write for the web.

The project is partnership of the International Center for Journalists in Washington and the Universidad de Guadalajara, Mexico´s second-largest.

Journalists from Mexico, Costa Rica and Colombia edit audio during a course on digital tools for public service reporting.

Response has been great

We publicize the courses through various online channels, including our own website and my blog.

We get about three times as many applications for spaces as we can handle. Preference goes to people with leadership responsibility (we want to train the trainers), people who have already done something on their own and those with a compelling story.

So far, we´ve had more than 200 journalists through the courses from 17 countries, including Cuba. Probably a third are from Mexico, with the next largest groups from Colombia and Argentina.

Guest lectures and seminars too

In addition to these online courses, I´ve run shorter seminars of one to three days for easily another 200 journalists here in Mexico. Add to that a fair number of lectures and presentations in Puerto Rico, Spain, San Francisco, Monterrey, Mexico City, Puebla, etc. and I´ve been very busy.

These journalists in Chiapas, in the south of Mexico, run their own eight-week digital journalism training seminar each year. They do a lot with very little. The guy at bottom center, Isaín Mandujano, is a freelance journalist who makes it all happen. I did the last session, on how to start and run your own news site.

Demand exceeds supply

The big media outlets in Latin America have digital media offerings that are equal to the best regional newspapers in the U.S., but not at the level of the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post.

Still, there are not a lot of journalists who have the basic training in producing online journalism. The demand is great, so anyone with skills is considered an expert.

Here´s an article about one of the courses we offered here.

Here´s a 2-minute video synthesis of a "conferencia magistral", or lecture, on the future of digital journalism that I gave at a university conference in Puebla, Mexico.

ABC newspaper in Spain heard about our program and did an interview.

Mexicans don´t trust politicians, police or judges

American newspapers are starting to pick up on the Mexican war (and it is a war) on drug traffickers.

A typical American response would be stronger enforcement, task forces, aggressive prosecution and so on. That is not likely to happen here. (See how it works in Mexico.)

Mexicans believe that their police and judges are corrupt, along with their politicians. Who would you tell about crime and corruption when the highest authorities in your town or state are considered corrupt?

Scary poll results

I share with you a poll from one of the most respected Mexican newspaper groups, Reforma. It´s pretty simple: On a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 being not corrupt and 10 being very corrupt, how would you rate various professions and institutions in Mexico?

One was judges. 71% of those questioned in the poll rated judges as 7 or higher on the corruption scale. And they´re probably right.

Naive me, I would score the U.S. judges at less than 1 on the corruption scale. Would I be right, in your opinion?

Politicans are considered most corrupt, followed by the police

The percentage of people who gave a score of 7-10 on the corruption scale to various professions:
Politicians -- 87% of those polled gave a score of 7-10, up from 81% eight years ago
Police -- 80%
Union leaders -- 79%
Judges -- 71%
Lawyers -- 69%
Bureaucrats -- 65%
Business executives -- 59%
Priests -- 40%, up from 28% seven years ago
Journalists -- 39%, up from 33% eight years ago
Doctors -- 35%

The army, interestingly enough, is one of the country´s most trusted institutions, which is why it is leading the government´s ant-crime effort.

How do you root out crime

Even if you assume that people are wrong in their judgment about who is corrupt, the fact that people don´t trust their institutions makes it difficult to establish rule of law.

People don´t feel confident giving information to authorities about criminal activity.

Corruption is not described or defined for the purposes of the poll, which was of 820 Mexican adults, by telephone at their homes, Nov. 7 and 8. The poll supposedly has a margin of error of 3.4% and a confidence factor of 95 percent. Because Reforma keeps news behind a pay wall, I can´t link to the original article.

Money and arms from the north

Mexico has become the No. 1 source of illegal drugs shipped to the U.S. Rolling Stone did an interesting piece that captures how broadly and deeply the money from this trade has corrupted every level of Mexican society.

As many as a third of Mexico´s states are considered narco states, where everyone from the governor on down is involved in protecting and benefiting from the drug trafficking.

The Wall Street Journal did an in-depth piece on Mexican trafficking of marijuana and cocaine in February.

The trade generates an estimated $20 billion in revenues, which makes illegal drugs Mexico´s third largest export after oil and automotive products, according to the Wall Street Journal. (If you prefer, here´s the WSJ Spanish version.) That figure represents about 2% of the country´s gross domestic product.

Monday, December 21, 2009

84 bicyclists run down and killed in Guadalajara in one year

I worry less about swine flu and armed drug dealers than I do about careless motorists.

Cindy and I don´t ride our bikes here in Guadalajara, nor would we be likely to try it anywhere in Mexico. It just doesn´t seem safe to us.

Today I got confirmation. I read in the paper (Mural) that in 2008, 84 bicyclists were killed in traffic accidents in the city of Guadalajara. Eighty-four! In one year! In one city!

In the first nine months this year, 272 pedestrians have been run down and killed by motorists in Guadalajara, but the authorities didn´t break out how many of those were bicyclists. That´s in one city, in nine months.

Drivers on cellphones, so look out

When Cindy and I walk in our neighborhood, we have to be really careful crossing the street. Drivers don´t seem to pay any attention to pedestrians. They ignore red lights, stop signs, everything.

There are lovely trees and bushes along the streets, but you can´t see the traffic, nor can the drivers see you. Even on the sidewalk, you have to dodge cars pulling in and out of illegal parking spaces.

It´s not just legendary Mexican macho. Male and female drivers seem to be on their cellphones all the time.

Driving on the shoulder

Two-lane highways have an imaginary third lane in the middle for use by the bold and impatient.

It´s just as dangerous outside the cities. There´s an unwritten rule that on a two-lane highway, there is an imaginary third lane down the middle for passing. So it is customary for all drivers to stay to the right with two wheels on the shoulder.

Note that our driver has two wheels on the shoulder.

I wouldn´t want to be a bicyclist on any of those two-lane roads.

There is talk of building bike lanes and bike paths in Guadalajara, but I have my doubts. Motorists would ignore the dividing lines, for sure, and if the bikeways were on sidewalks, people would park in them. That´s what they do with the sidewalks.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Women rodeo riders in Mexico, like the Blue Angels on horseback

Cindy and I went to see a Mexican rodeo back in October. It was a big championship with teams competing from various clubs and towns around the country.

Mexican rodeo is called charrería, and it includes the usual roping of calves and broncos, and something called the "death pass", in which a bareback rider jumps to another horse without saddle or reins. Sometimes they fall off.

Women riders are the coolest

The most impressive event, though, was something called escaramuza, literally "skirmish" in Spanish, in which women in long skirts, riding sidesaddle, perform precision maneuvers.

It´s easier to show a short video of two and a half minutes rather than to try any more description.

Drinks and snacks are different

Vendors walk through the stands selling bottles of tequila as well as cans of beer. The crowd seemed pretty well behaved, but we were there in the afternoon. Tickets for a later competition also included a show by the famous singer Jenny Rivera.

The crowd might have been in a different mood by then.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

How a Gringo teaches writing to Spanish-speaking journalists

This is a neat trick. You kind of fake it. You get them to teach themselves.

I´m teaching an online course right now, How to Write for the Web, actually "Cómo escribir para la Web", totally in Spanish, for about 40 Latin American journalists from a dozen countries. It´s part of our offering at the Centro de Periodismo Digital.

Using a book helps

The point of this course is to show journalists how the habits of web readers affect the way they should write. (For one thing, web readers are lazy, selfish and ruthless, in the words of one researcher.)

Dumping text from a newspaper onto the web is surefire strategy for having a site that isn´t visited much. (Michael Agger wrote a witty piece about this for Slate.)

This is the only course I´ve taught from a book (it´s available free online in PDF form): "Cómo escribir para la Web", by Guillermo Franco, who was editor of Colombia´s prestigious El Tiempo website for many years.

Chapter by chapter, Franco takes the reader through behavioral studies of web usability and habits of web users that have implications for writers. Each chapter has a couple of recommendations to writers about how to make their work more web-friendly and more accessible to search engines.

The writing principles are the same

The cover of Franco´s book shows an inverted pyramid, which has been a guiding model for newspaper writing for a century. Specifically it means put the most important information at the top of the story.

So in the writing exercises in this course, we get back to the basics.

I ask the journalists to present an article they´ve written and then rewrite it for the web. Each participant puts the original (or part of it) in the discussion forum along with the edited version.

Here´s the trick: I´m not the only one giving them feedback. Each participant has to comment on the work of two others, so they´re editing each other, teaching each other.

Franco, whom I´ve gotten to know in the past year, also gave me some exercises to use. Participants are given an article to rewrite and then can compare their work to the rewrite that Franco himself did.

What isn´t easy for a non-native speaker

Most of the time I can recognize the difference between good and bad writing in Spanish. Bad writing is vague, windy, repetitive, sloppy, loose and imprecise, among other things. These kinds of observations I can make with no problem.

What´s not easy for me in Spanish is rewrite completely a piece of bad writing. There are too many chances for me to unknowingly use a phrase or construction that a native speaker would never use.

There are a couple of experienced editors in the class who do excellent rewrite of the other course participants´ work. Their contributions are invaluable.

The tricks of the trade are the same

Reading the comments in the forums of the course, I realize that Latin American editors use many of the same tactics with reporters that you learn in an American newsroom.

When a reporter hands in a rambling account of some news event, the editor will tell the reporter, put away the notes, sit down and tell me what this story is about.

Or the editor will say to the reporter, tell me what the headline is for this story. It helps the reporter focus on what´s important.

If a reporter covering a complex story falls into the trap of using technical language, editors will say, Explain it to the readers as if you were explaining it to your grandmother (tu abuelita).

It´s too much fun

For someone who loves good writing, it´s a pleasure to jump into these forums where writers are passionately debating their craft. I´m learning a lot about the shades of meaning and connotations of Spanish words that I could never pick up using a dictionary alone.

It´s also comforting to see that I´m not the only one who doesn´t understand certain expressions. Some of the regionalisms are incomprehensible even to other Spanish speakers.

What a blast. Or as we might say in Méxio, que padre.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Silver mines built Zacatecas; la Quemada´s people are a mystery

The cathedral was built in the mid-1700s in a baroque style called Churrigueresque.

We had a three-day weekend so we drove about 200 miles northeast to see colonial Zacatecas.

The holiday was the Day of the Raza, a kind of anti-Columbus Day. It recognizes the significance of the day Columbus first set foot on this continent but celebrates the indigenous people (la Raza, the race) he subjugated.

Zacatecas is recognized as a Unesco World Heritage site for its historic buildings. We walked and gawked a lot. It´s one of the prettiest towns we´ve seen.

When the Spaniards learned of the rich silver deposits in the hills surrounding Zacatecas, they established a city here in 1546. Over several centuries, they worked the local people to death to extract the wealth that built the Spanish empire.

Along with Potosí in Bolivia, Zacatecas was one of the most important silver mines for colonial Spain. It is still one of the world´s most important silver mining centers. You can see the signs of wealth everywhere.

A 19th century bullring has been remodeled into a five-star hotel.

People always ask about what the food is like. We had some Zacatecas specialties -- so-called miners´ tacos (kind of like a typical lunch bucket) filled with egg, bits of beef and beans, and a plate of marinated "wedding" pork, beans, rice and soup. Simple, good and cheap.

These college kids came up from Guadalajara and bought their hats here. We ran into lots of tourists from Guadalajara and a busload of Italian college students and professors from Turin. We didn´t see many Americans.

A cable car runs between the two hills that overlook the town. In one of the hills you can get a tour of the main mine, which closed in 1966 after being worked for 400 years.

The mine offers a very cleaned-up tourist experience, complete with nightclub and gift shop, quite different from what we saw in Potosí in Bolivia, where the poor bastards were still working the veins, pushing carloads of ore by hand, working 16-hour shifts.

The aqueduct was built 250 years ago and runs through the center of town.

Zacatecas gets its name from a Nahautl word for a local grass plant. The region is semi-arid with lots of cactus and succulent plants. The drive through the countryside was lovely.

About 35 miles south of Zacatecas is the fortress town that the Spaniards called La Quemada. The people who built this mountainside ceremonial center were long gone before the Spanish arrived.

Archeologists are not sure who the people were, but the center must have been important, given the extent and scale of the constructions. It took us an hour to hike up through all the ceremonial buildings to the top of the site.

The pyramid is notable in that its corners rather than its sides are oriented toward the four cardinal points. In the 19th century a German archeologist mapped a system of hundreds of kilometers of ancient roads that linked this site to other towns.

The 16-foot columns of the building shown above supported a roof of wood, clay and plant material. Archeologists say it was one of the largest roofed structures in the Americas (100 by 130 feet). The roof collapsed when the building was burned, sometime after 900 A.D. (La Quemada means burned town.)

Catching up with an old friend

Cindy and I spent a weekend in San Francisco at the Online News Association conference the first week in October. I looked up a literature professor I had at the College of Wooster, Paul Christianson, who is retired and lives there now.

He was something of an iconoclast, which allowed him to ignore conventional wisdom about a lot of things. That´s how he managed to dig up a great deal of new information about the book-making industry in Chaucer´s time and describe who his readers were. Excellent teacher. Gave me lots of encouragement at that time.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Corruption outrages Mexicans, but they feel powerless

A young man I work with has daily fits of outrage when he reads my copy of the leading daily newspaper here in Guadalajara.

The front page always has a story of corruption or inefficiency whose audacity leaves Poncho frustrated. What´s worse is that these revelations don´t seem to bother any of the public officials or move them to action. There are no crusaders against corruption.

Asphalt for 20 times the going rate

Yesterday Poncho was in a tizzy because of an article about how the city of Guadalajara is paying 20 times the going rate for asphalt used to patch potholes. The contract was awarded to Perma-Patch, a U.S. company, without bidding.

The head of public services said it was the acquisitions department that was responsible. No one from the acquisitions department was quoted. This kind of buck-passing is typical. No one is responsible or held accountable.

So far this year, the city has paid more than $600,000 for the asphalt on this no-bid contract and has exceeded its budget in this category.

Poncho is putting his hopes on a reformist mayor to change things.

Making off with the money from the PTA

Yesterday El Universal newspaper published a story about how voluntary parent contributions to improve schools are regularly diverted to the personal use of principals and others in charge.

These contributions include revenues from fund-raising activities like school lunch counters and amount to an estimated $1.3 billion (17 billion pesos) annually, according to the National Association of Parents. It was this organization that denounced several cases of fraud. (The figure of $1.3 billion works out to $52 for each child in Mexican schools.)

According to the parents´ group, no one pays any attention to how this money is spent. School officials browbeat parents for contributions and then divert it to personal uses such as sending their kids to the U.S.

$2 billion in oil products stolen in the past year

The state-run oil company, Pemex, is well known for its inefficiency and lax management. In the past year an estimated $2 billion of its oil and gas was stolen. That´s billion with a B. Organized crime milks its oil and gas lines and sells the products in Mexico and the U.S.

A reasonable person might ask how Pemex knows that the thefts totaled $2 billion. Given its management practices, losses could have been greater.

Bonuses paid despite falling production

The 114,000 workers at Pemex are known in the oil industry to be among the least efficient in the world. (see Economist article)

They just started receiving a 21% monthly bonus on top of their salary. The bonus is supposed to be based on "encouraging and increasing productivity". They´re getting it even though production has been falling for years.

Suggesting foreign investment is political suicide

Pemex spends virtually all it takes in rather than investing in new wells, production and refineries. Because of a lack of refining capacity, Pemex has to import 40 percent of its gasoline.

Where would new investment come from? Either from wiser managment of its oil revenues, which would mean cutting lots of cushy jobs and sweet contracts, or from letting foreign companies invest and thus control part of the reserves. Both options are politically unacceptable.

The sad part of this is that it affects public services. More than a third of Mexico´s federal budget comes from oil revenues.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Spanish speakers love nicknames

Nicknames in English as well as Spanish often have their origin in how a baby brother or sister pronounces the name of an older sibling.

Anyone here who has the name Jesús is likely to be called Chuy (pronounced chewy).

Eduardo is often Lalo, and the comic strip that we know as Hi and Lois is known here as Lalo y Lola.

Francisco is Pancho or Paco. Guillermo becomes Memo. Alfonso is often Poncho with a long O sound.

Women named Guadalupe, after the Virgin of Guadalupe, are often called Lupita or Lupe, as in "Little Latin Lupe Lu," a song made famous by Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels.

The noted writer Gabriel García Márquez is commonly called Gabo. Gabriela is Gabi.

Graciela is Chelita. Socorro (help, as in our Lady of Perpetual Help) is often nicknamed Coco. Maria Teresa becomes Maite and Maria Fernanda is MaFe.

In all my time in Latin America, I have never met anyone nicknamed Chico, which would be considered derogatory. It means boy or kid and would have been used by English speakers. There were 10 players nicknamed Chico who played in the major leagues, but notably none since 1982, maybe reflecting the changing status and attitudes of Latin players.

The best of them was Alfonso "Chico" Carrasquel, an All-Star shortstop from Venezuela who played for the Indians, White Sox, Orioles and Athletics. He´s my brother Mike´s all-time favorite player.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Cindy's Excellent Vacation - Part III, Baltimore & Boston

I spent the last two weeks of my USA vacation with Christine - first in Baltimore to ostensibly help her get ready for moving, then in Cambridge, MA, where she now resides. Christine was already well prepared for the move so I spent the first week visiting friends and getting my annual medical exams taken care of. What I did not do was take pictures. I enjoyed many visits with former neighbors, co-workers, and "co-bellringers."

The move went perfectly barring one unfortunate incident. Christine had 11 helpers to load the truck which took less than an hour. Pretty amazing. We dodged thunderstorms and New York City on the drive, spent the night in a crummy motel outside Boston, and had half the truck unloaded the next morning before her 2 helpers at that end showed up. Her new landlord was a tremendous help. The unfortunate incident involved a box of kitchen supplies traveling on its side and a leaky bottle of fish sauce. That stuff is really, really rank. It soaked into the seat of an upholstered rocker that she was planning to reupholster anyway but luckily missed the couch and mattress.

Christine lives a block from Porter Square in Cambridge. There's a T station, grocery, hardware store, Pier 1, bookstore, Radio Shack, post office, restaurants and fast food, delis, used furniture, watch repair, shoe stores, etc, etc, all within a few steps. She sold her car before the move, knowing it would be more hassle than help in the Boston area. (She is starting a post-doctoral fellowship in math at MIT.)

In between bouts of house cleaning, unpacking, and shopping (thankfully we found almost everything right in Porter Square) Christine took time to explore Boston and Cambridge with me. Our first outing was to Boston Common and a walk down Commonwealth Avenue where we saw this perfect line of beautiful row houses.

Another day we walked to Harvard Square along Brattle Street, also known as "Tory Row" - large elegant homes with gorgeous landscaping. Christine is standing in the gardens of the home of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

We took time to do part of the Freedom Trail, stopping at colonial churches, markets, and government buildings in historic Boston. This is the Old State House, dating from 1713.

Plus a stroll along the wharf and thru the North End (which could just as easily be called Little Italy) where my brother-in-law Charlie, doing some consulting in Boston at the time, treated us to a fabulous Italian dinner.

And not to forget why Christine moved here, we stopped by MIT a couple of times. This is probably the most interesting building on campus - Frank Gehry's Stata Center - built in 2004.

As Christine gets settled in Cambridge I'm back to my usual pursuits in Mexico - reading, aerobics, x-stitching, photo project, a little cooking and cleaning (as little as possible) and some traveling. Plus - PIANO. I was inspired by my mom's piano playing when I visited Georgia. I want to be able to sit down, get out some sheet music and play "Hymn of Promise" without stumbling. So we bought an electric piano - for my birthday - and I am practicing. I have about 3 years of lessons behind me and I figure on another 10 years to get reasonably good. Good thing I'm starting now.

Love to all,

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Cindy's Excellent Vacation - Part II, GA & WI

And the adventure continued with week long visits to Lawrenceville, GA (near Atlanta), Madison, WI, Baltimore and Boston. I planned to be with Christine in August when she moved from Baltimore to Boston so I filled in the 2 intervening weeks with, first, a visit to my mom in Georgia and then a trip to Madison to check out Patrick's and Emily's new digs.

Lawrenceville, GA

While in Georgia I started filling my shopping list - some small housewares but mostly books and movies. I ended up taking 26 books back to Mexico with me. Also 12 video cassettes, 2 DVDs, 2 CDs and about a dozen craft magazines. A quite respectable haul, I thought.

My niece Carly (Betsy's oldest) and her 2 kids, Brooklyn and Brendan, were also visiting.

Carly's plans included a visit to the Cabbage Patch Babyland General Hospital. This is the "delivery" patch. Mom and I tagged along and I gave thanks that I didn't have any little girls to buy for.

My sister Judy and her family also live in Lawrenceville and we got together several times for meals. This is Christian, holding his nephew Noah.

The final and crowning activity was a group pilgrimage to Helen, GA to go tubing. Mom and I took it easy in the shade and got pictures of the finish while Cary's crew and most of Judy's enjoyed the river. Judy's oldest son Dan is in the foreground with Carly and Brooklyn right behind him.

Madison, WI

Next stop - Wisconsin. We ran into these cows when Patrick, Emily, and I visited New Glarus, a town settled by Swiss immigrants in the mid 1800s. Wisconsin means cheese and . . .

. . . beer, right? New Glarus also had a brand new brewery to explore.

They kept me well entertained, starting with a trip downtown to an outdoor jazz performance. The summer jazz series was conducted right next to the Capitol building, which, later in the week, was also the site for . . .

. . . the largest farmers' market I've ever been to. There was a solid wall of booths surrounding all 4 sides of the State Capitol.

The week long visit included several long walks to admire the fine houses and gardens in Patrick's neighborhood plus a bike trip to Olbrich Botanical Gardens. Emily and Patrick are posing in front of the Thai Pavilion in the gardens.

Another day Emily took us around the Univiversity of Wisconsin campus. These picnic tables are right outside the student union. There is also a beach just out of sight to the right. Seemed more like California than Wisconsin. Lucky students - until winter hits.