There will be a short break from ethanol plants while I let off a little steam of my own.  It’s a gentle rant and don’t worry: I’ll be back to normal tomorrow.

I live in the great state of Wisconsin and our governor, Scott Walker, is making a run at the Republican nomination for President of the United States for 2016.

A few days ago, addressing a national high profile conservative gathering, he explained that he was perfectly prepared to deal with ISIS and other global terrorist threats because he’d stood up to 100,000 protesters in the state capital. Also, citing those same protest marches (there were many) and demonstrations, he explained that he was the right man to go nose to nose with Vladimir Putin. Putin would back down because Walker had proven to be resolute in the face of the protests across the state.

Please, let me show you the faces of some of those hardened terrorists Walker is referring to who exercised their rights to gather and protest the actions of their elected officials. And, yes: your friend, Wabi Sabi, was one of them.

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Wisconsin Terrorists: Even When We’re Angry, We’re Really Nice About It


Finally, a Terrorist Family Portrait:


My eldest son messaged me after hearing Walker’s ISIS/Wisconsin correlation and asked if being the son of Jihadi Patricia was going to land him on a no-fly list.

These pictures were taken in 2011 and 2012 at protest marches in Madison. While I had started out carrying a sign, I soon abandoned that in favor of documenting the events with my camera. Walker quickly walked back that assertion that teachers, librarians and other public sector protesters are the same as international terrorists, though not before hundreds of mocking posts sprang up on the internet.



Three images from the ethanol plant in Cambria

After so much narrative yesterday, I’ll stick with pictures today.




How DOES one answer a stranger who asks why you are taking so many pictures of his facility? I still can’t think of a good short answer to that question.

Or “Wabi Sabi and Johnny Law go Head to Head.”

Four images.

Five miles from the UWGP ethanol plant in Friesland is Cambria, a village of fewer than 800 souls, but look what they have! Another ethanol plant! This one is far larger than the ones in Stanley or in Friesland.


There are actually two big plants here (I believe they produce more than ethanol) and they are separated only by the width of a street. A public street! Giddy with excitement, Wabi Sabi forced her long-suffering driver to circle the plants and make three swings down the street to the dead end and back, pausing repeatedly so that she could jump out and shoot both sides. On the second pass, two men with clipboards and hardhats stared us down.


On the third, the plant Security and Environmental Safety officer stopped us to inquire just what exactly were we doing taking all those pictures, what with terrorism concerns and this being an ethanol plant and all?

However, as soon as the windows were lowered and he caught a glimpse of just whom he was dealing with, Mr. Security immediately changed his tune.

Wabi Sabi talks smack but can only strike fear into the hearts of people 14 years of age or younger. As soon as I began to babble something like “Oh this is so beautiful” and “I take a lot of industrial photographs,” I knew in my true heart that I sounded like Wabi Sabi: Confused Uber-Dork. I could sense that the security officer was suddenly thinking with great tenderness of the cooling cup of coffee he’d left on his desk and thinking that maybe if he nuked it and grabbed up some of those chocolate cookies in the lounge, the morning would not be a total waste after all. Smiles and nods all around.

“Any questions I can answer for you?”

“Nope.” Because, how do you tell someone that you really don’t care how many tons of corn are processed in their plant each day? That all you really care about is steam and cooling towers and ginormous vats? Far be it from me to hurt the poor man’s feelings.


I related this story to a friend of mine who said “Why didn’t you say ‘Why, yes I do'” and then quiz him about the number of security officers employed at the plant, whether they were armed and, if so, with what sorts of weapons and if there was possibly ever a time between shifts that the plant was unguarded?

There are reasons that some of my friends are never asked along on photo shoots.


I had considered calling this series “When Worlds Collide,” but both wind power and ethanol are clean energy sources so they’re on the same team. The best title came from my friend Jean who quipped “Rock, Vapor, Scissors.” Wish I’d thought of that first.

Friesland, Wisconsin. On a recent trip to Madison, the official Wabi Sabi staff car took a meandering path, questing after smokestacks and vapor clouds…and scored big time.


This is the United Wisconsin Grain Producers ethanol plant (UWGP) located smack in the middle of rolling prairie…and smack in the middle of a pretty huge wind farm as well.



Now…in my head I know that these are both good things, but in my heart/gut/lizard brain, it just LOOKS wrong. Or oppositional. Or menacing…


…as though a giant four-year-old set up a LEGOLAND scene and decided to include all the pieces whether they belonged together or not.




Upon leaving this site, more smoke and vapors were spotted off in the distance. “Oh,” said Wabi Sabi naively. “It won’t be another ethanol plant, but let’s go check it out anyway.” 

To be continued…

Variation on yesterday’s shot:


 I’ll set this into context tomorrow but I liked the narrative possibilities of the single picture.


Six images.

One final collection of shots from Bay Shipbuilding in Sturgeon Bay. Best viewed at full-sized.

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It is cold here. Numbingly cold. Hell-is-freezing-over quality cold. I believe that today in Green Bay we warmed to a toasty +1 degrees F…but that doesn’t factor in the brutal wind chill factor. I was–reluctantly–out and about and can tell you that every single penny spent on the heated seats in my car was a splendid investment. However, despite the ravages of the cold here in Green Bay, there is little snow on the ground and this means that my snowshoes are still hanging in the basement.

I expect that I am whining to the choir on this score. The Minnesota branch of La Famille Wabi Sabi is also under siege by the same bitter cold. My family in Atlanta will be looking at single digit temps tomorrow. Our New Hampshire tribe has endured not only great cold, but over 10 feet of snow so far this winter.

Which brings me to my friend, Karen, whom you’ve met in these posts before: the last time we were together, we were poking around in the abandoned saw mill. Yesterday, her home of Marquette, Michigan was awarded the dubious title of “Snowiest City in America,” having logged over 150 inches of snow so far this winter.