Friday, September 21

Fade out

I've moved to a different blog, Letters In Bottles. Provided that works out fine, I probably won't be around here much. It was a fun.

In case you're wondering, I made 205 posts over 18 months and got 5,260 visits.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, September 12

Is it really mysterious?

The headline on CNN's business page is The Mystery Behind Surging Oil... what's pushing oil to $80?.

Some short-term factors are plain to see. There's the big drop in crude inventories and a reported shutdown of nearly 200,000 barrels from Alaska's North Slope - a fourth of the region's total output - and a gathering storm in the Atlantic.

Yet at the same time, crude inventories, while declining recently, remain above average for this time of year...

Add to this the end of summer driving season and the rise of oil prices to eight times what they were in the late 1990s remains something of a mystery.

Perhaps the answer is in the other big headline of the day: No relief in sight for battered dollar.

The dollar is down across the board. The Euro is at a record high. If you're traveling, prices are brutal.

We import oil from other countries, so if the dollar is weak, then oil should cost more, duh. All imported products should be more expensive.

A weak dollar comes from two places: the Fed 'injecting' money into the economy, which reduces the value of a dollar, and our trade deficit with other countries, especially China, who now have lots of dollars so they value payments in dollars less and less against their own currencies.

Friday, September 7

Some more thoughts on the debate

Remember that diner in which Fox News had a correspondent talking to average New Hampshirians that they cut to from time to time? Turns out that restaurant does breakfast and lunch and closes in the afternoon, apparently.

It's not that I thought that it was random people in the midst of a meal, there was a strange lack of food and it was 9-10:30 pm their time, but I never recalled them letting the viewers know that it was staged. Of course I figured there was some kind of casual screening--so many people showed up and they only let in enough people or only republicans. I think they tried to play it as normal as possible considering they could have had a few people in a room with a tv or the front row of the debate and do the same exact thing.

They did ask some good questions, thought. That one to Romney made him look like a deer in headlights.

The other thing that's been going around in my head is when Huckabee said that the Republicans should stick with their war plans even if it costs them elections. In comparison to Ron Paul, who as a republican is drawing Democrats and independent voters, that might be one of the strangest things I've heard lately. If some of the Republicans want to keep up their whatever in the face of public opposition and jettison those who disagree with them, then they're going to go the way of the Whig party within the next few election cycles.

I've only recently been able to start asking myself this: what exactly is there to win in Iraq?

Thursday, September 6

Republican Debate, Activate!

There was another Republican debate this evening, this time on Fox News. I'd say they put on a better debate than CNN (excluding the first question about Fred Thompson which invited a Republican "situation where people are stroking each other's ego without producing anything of value" (I didn't want to write out the certain two word phrase), by most of the candidates). First of all, there were three rotating moderators so no moderator seemed to be an active participant like Wolf Blitzer often did. Furthermore, they spread out the talking time more evenly amongst the candidates than it's been distributed so far in a debate. Fox also had a good format of podiums with a few 'average people in a restaurant' breaks to break it up. The CNN debates started with podiums and then went the candidates sitting in chairs, which seemed strange with a large group.

Back to the average people in the restaurant, they had some pretty good comments. One man called out Romney on saying that his sons are helping the country by getting him elected in place of joining the military. Towards the end, a college student directly pointed out how Rudy doesn't exactly jive with the whole 'family values' thing. Overall Romney was the one taking the most flak.

This debate was much more lively than past ones. The crescendo had to be the confrontation between Huckabee and Paul over the whole war thing. I walked back in from the other room and Ron Paul was talking about withdrawing completely right in the short term. Then the other candidates went through the various degrees everywhere from 'phasing out soon' to 'long term presence'.

Finally it got to Huckabee who was next to Ron and they starting going back and forth. (the Hippie Perspective posted on it) It must be dorky to say, but I realized that I had that exciting feeling in my stomach when Ron Paul started actively defending his stance on Iraq. Or maybe it was just the first time in these many months that we've actually had something similar to what happens at an actual debate happen amongst the presidential candidates. Or maybe someone was just saying what needs to be said.

Iraq is probably issue on which I agree with Ron Paul the least. I don't think we should drop everything and run. Huckabee, using the same words as I've used before, said that 'we broke Iraq and now we've bought it'. After screwing up that country and region even more than it was before, I can't see us just packing up. At the least, we should learn from our misadventures for the future and not interfere in future events. Paul made the point that Israel has enough weapons to take care of Iran themselves without us. That's the one thing we owe the world--not to go around messing up their stuff. Thinking about it, international welfare makes about as much sense as domestic and corporate welfare.

Here's how I think the candidates did:

Like I said, Romney seemed to be getting criticized the most. Tonight he just seemed flat, like that old, mostly empty 2L bottle chilling in the back of the fridge--not much of a pop or spark to him in his answers.

Guiliani's appears to have gotten off his streak of mentioning 9/11 and terrorism in every answer. As a lady in their focus group said afterward, paraphrasing, 'he talks about what he did in New York City. I want to hear what else he's got' then she did the disappointed frown/head tilt thing right into the camera.

The reporter asked their focus group who did the best and they said McCain. I agree, despite having a collapsing campaign, he seems to be on the rebound. He tied himself to Iraq and the immigration debate which turned out to be quite a faux pas for him. News from Iraq has been sounding good lately and he's put enough distance between immigration and himself.

McCain had the pop this evening. Things started off on a good note for him as the others mentioned him. Rudy said he'd support him if he weren't running and Huckabee complimented him. He was able to score big on taking the principled stand on being against all torture from his own experience. Thinking about it, he didn't necessarily have the best solutions but he had good paths in that he could take the 'wise elder' decision making strategy.

Nothing remarkable stood about about Hunter, Duncan, or Tancredo. Going from nine to eight candidates doesn't seem like it'd make a big difference, but the stage seemed much smaller and more manageable.

Huckabee's done well lately. He was lingering around in the bottom with the just mentioned three, doing well in the Iowa straw poll seems to have given him credibility. Naturally I'm still supporting Ron Paul, but Huckabee is a palatable alternative, not in an ideological sense, but as far as how the candidates come across. (Unfortunately he's got a bit of that religious aura, which is a big turn off for me in selecting politicians.) I first saw him on Tucker on MSNBC talking about healthcare in response to Sicko in addition to tonight and in general I agree with what he says. He does a good job at appearing to be a level, common-sense person, though delivery shouldn't be how one votes. After all, what politicians say is mostly fluff. Send in the Pander Bear!

Ron Paul seemed particularly motivated this evening. Unfortunately, being as straight up front as he is about withdrawing, I can't imagine he'll chase away a few average republicans.

On the bright side, I hear increasing talk of this 'Constitution' thing and the 'federalism' stuff. Off the top of my head, this evening Rudy said it's the only pledge the president should make. I like to think that since Ron Paul's main spiel is constitutionalism, the other candidates are starting to mention more of it to not let him get more of a conservative stance than them. I can only hope they look into what they're starting to talk about and try to actually stick to the spirit of the document.

Talking about constitutionalism, one of the things that bothered me the most in the debate was some of the candidates were talking about a national ban on gay marriage and then some kind of amendment about it. That is completely wrong. The federal government doesn't issue marriage licenses, therefore it has no say in them. It's as easy as that. Try to change your state and if that doesn't work and it means that much to you, you're free to move to a different state. Though I'm most definitely not for abortion, I can't force my opinion on others and I would like to see Roe overturned--it's a state's decision and I can live with that. So many things the federal government has taken up were never meant to be handled on the national level.

Tuesday, September 4

Water Cooler Break

As Carl Sandberg says:

"The school year comes
on little cat feet."

Thursday, August 23

Working at the Fair, year 2

After a few days of catching up on sleep, I think I'm finally ready to record the experience for the ages. First of all, I wrote about last year last year so I don't need to rewrite those parts.

In general, people are still dumb and ugly. Or I should say not all people, but the fair-going type. People still walk into the path of on-coming vehicles after seeing said vehicles. Children still look just like their parents. I still got sunburned.

On the bright side, this year I wasn't alone. My friend, Dave, and I were co-garbagemen. It works much better with two people than with just a single person. Being engineers, we developed a system. I was the primary driver and we'd pull up to the middle of a few barrels. We'd jump off and I'd reach for and start opening a new bag. Dave and I would walk around and check the cans. If one was found to be getting full, he'd pull the tape off and depending on how open the new bag was, one of us would grab it and pull it out and stick in the new bag. I'd carry the full bag back to the trailer and he'd tape the new one down. In full gear, we could change a can in about 20 seconds, I'd say. We could change the midway in 38 minutes including the two trips to the compactor.

For the most part, all of the food vendors were back. There were more changes in location than in the line up. I recognized most of them from last year and I think they recognized me. It was quite unnecessarily awkward that for the most part, people ignored Dave and spoke to me. I felt bad about it. Perhaps they thought he was my assistant instead of colleague?

Last year it only rained a little bit at night. This year, the fair which ran from a Wednesday to a Sunday, only had two decent days on Thursday and Friday. The other days it rained, and quite hard at times. Friday, especially in the p.m., and all day Saturday are typically the best times for the fair.

For us it was a wash. The rain kept people away, which reduced the amount of garbage, but as it turned out, by the clean-up day on Monday, Sunday alone had put a few gallons of water in each bag. (A gallon of water weighs 8.4 lbs.) We had to hide our enthusiasm since all of the other fair workers and the fair wanted lots of people to come, each admission is $7.

In addition to the rain and a second person, the fair had acquired more cans. In fact, we had more than 1.5 times as many cans this year to allocate than last year, 150 from 90. It would sound funny to say, but garbage cans seem to be the status symbol amongst carnies. They always ask for more. People wave us down and ask for them. I've developed a short list of possible things to say to requests: 'we'll look into it', 'we'll investigate', 'I'll see what we can do', 'I'll pass it on to so-and-so', etc. I suppose that's just normal office or organization hierarchy talk.

In general, there was a garbage can between each thing: a food vendor or building. One of the barbeque stands, which was on a corner kept on demanding a third can. We had already put one on the exact corner, and on the main road at the end of their slot, and they wanted one for their private seating area. The interiors of buildings, exhibits, and stands aren't in our jurisdiction, even when they're outdoors. Behind them was the music stage area and we were transporting a few empty cans to that. We turned their corner and the lady was thanking us for bringing another can and we kept on going. Awkward!

During the fair, we were the manifestation of the fair higher-ups to the vendors, as we were hired by the fair board to perform a service that is one of the most important fair services to the food vendors. They pay money to have each of those slots and a fair with trash everywhere is very different and probably a lot less hungry than a clean fair. When a food vendor or the petting zoo guy is unnecessarily disrespectful, one's first instinct is to be saucy back, but as representatives of the fair, the customer is always right. Besides there are much more subtle ways of retribution.

A few people asked us for directions and food recommendations and prices. I'm surprised more people don't ask for food recommendations. But then again, does anyone go to a fair expecting to eat good food at low prices? We see what people throw away and it's surprising. The nice barbeque stand (the other one), always smelled good and one of the things on their menu was "giant turkey leg". We saw a few giant turkey legs in the trash with only a bite or two taken. There were tons of corndogs with only a few nibbles on the ends and funnel cakes mostly intact. I don't get why people wait in line and fork over lots of money for something fried just to take a few bites and throw it away. Dave's hypothesis is that people are drawn to the flashiest stand without considering much else.

I had one possible idea which would be to go around and compile a fair guide which would list items, prices, and reviews and then sell them to the fair goers. The vendors would really scream. However, the market works better and more efficiently with more information.

High schoolers are the most annoying people. The funny thing is that when you're a freshman, the seniors look like big kids, but now as a college junior, even the college freshmen look like little kids. Most people at least move slowly out of a vehicles path, but high schoolers quite readily offer their feet to be run over. They also stand in big groups in the middle of the roads well past the time that most other people have left. They're the only ones at whom I would honk.

The other thing about high schoolers is that I drove past a few guys I recognized from my high school class. They were more of the kind of people that just show up when the bell rings and just go home when it rings again. Anyway, at least twice I saw guys from my class pushing strollers. That's unfortunate. Dave observed that wherever a person is when he starts having kids is, for the most part, wherever he'll be in life.

Out of the non-public at the fair, there are the fair board people who actually run it, the food people, the ride operators, the commercial exhibitors, the arts & craps people, and the farmers. I've never dealt with the commercial exhibitors nor the a&c people since they're in their own buildings more than picking up what they pitch. As far as the other people go, the food vendors seem to be normal. Surprisingly as I found, the wikipedia lists carnies as anyone who operates a booth, ride, game, or food stand at a carnival. The ride operators are undoubtedly carnies, their vehicles said they're from Wisconsin, but I wasn't really expecting the food people to be carnies, too. Though they participate in the mobile lifestyle, they actually have to be presentable since people are buying food from them.

Talking about carnies, I discovered some proof that carnies do exist (in case there were any doubt):

A piece of cardboard fell out on in the back of the gator and I found it. Who knows what they're planning! Could be a carnival ... or an insurrection. We got a kick out of the strange item names, 'fun makers' and 'critter puffs', and the misspellings like 'sords' and 'for wheels'.

As you can imagine, to preserve our sanity, we, two college guys, came up with some running jokes, most of which is repeatable here, though you might not get it.

The biggest one had to be the voice and character of the bee in this video:

It's pretty applicable to anything. Start with the "Oh no!" and work from there. (There are a lot of "Oh no!" situations in garbage.) In that voice say what's bad, then something positive about it, and then declare your conclusion, "which is your choice". There were a few hours there, where we may have ended up getting stuck talking like that.

On the first day we noticed one of the vendors was a "God Mobile" vehicle (the picture is from their website):

We took "God Mobile" like the cell phone company "T-Mobile", the difference being that God Mobile offers stuff like unlimited roaming in Europe and North America, you never get disconnected, and stuff along those lines. You can make up your own jokes about it.

They offer a "two question test" as to whether a person is going to heaven. Being the omniscient garbage people we are (we eventually know everything) we got our hands on a copy of the test. I'm not going to type it here because it's online. Needless to say, no one short of a Ned Flanders is getting in.

The other big joke, for which Dave wants credit, is as follows: we were driving through what we called "Carnytown", the ride area, and upon passing the Fun Slide, I asked him what happens when someone gets to the bottom and asks the operator for a refund since he didn't have fun. Dave corrected me. He said the operator would say that it's actually a "Fun Slide" (pronounced FOON slide) from Eastern Hungaria, which the Eastern Hungarians used to escape to the West after the Soviets arrived. They also stayed in Fun (pronounced FOON) Houses which operated kind of like the Underground Railroad.

Like I said, those probably aren't as funny as when we randomly came up with them, but they got us through the fair. That and people watching.

The fair wasn't as much of a shock this year since I was fresh out of France last year. Dave, and I to an extent, were happy to see the Dane County sign as we rolled back to town. As I told Dave, I didn't think the people at the fair are an accurate representation of that area; they weren't an accurate sample. Also a typical county fair is pretty much the exact opposite of downtown Madison in every way possible. In the end, the world needs all types of people (even those who don't know how to correctly use an apostrophe).

Monday, August 13

One for the road

This is my last post before I leave, I promise.

I saw this video yesterday and, well, I guess he shows his true colors. To say the least, I am very, very disappointed. Where was this in 2004?

On Wisconsin Healthcare

I wrote this without really intending to post it here. I was starting to get disturbed by the blind belief in the recent state health care proposal.

I find this Wisconsin medical insurance law disgusting. There are a few major problems with it that people seem to not even be able to understand. Wisconsin is not going to magically turn into the land of milk and honey no matter how high they raise the taxes to pay for it.

For starters, 45 million people sounds like a lot, yet it is only 15% of the people in this country of 300 million. Why are we cutting down the 85% of people who are able to get coverage for themselves to match the unsuccessful 15%?

First of all, since Wisconsin will be paying for your medical bills, the state now has a vested interest seeing that you stay as healthy as possible. People seem to swallow silly cigarette taxes and bans, but that is just the start of us losing our freedom. They will tax and ban everything that's bad: fried foods, candy, soda, alcohol...driving a car, not exercising. We will lose our liberty and freedom of choice. You may say that we're safer though. Why don't they just wrap each of us up in bubble wrap and be done with it?

Secondly, they budget for only so much. They, just like every other country with socialized medicine, especially Canada and Britain, will draw up a list of how many of each procedure they can afford to perform. X number of heart surgeries, Y number of cancer treatments this year. If it's October and they just performed the last budgeted organ transplant and you need one, guess what happens.

Thirdly, anything that is perceived as free is wasted. Since it doesn't cost anything to the people, as far as they perceive, people will start going to the ER every time they get a boo-boo or something hurts or their baby sneezes. That's already been going on with low co-pays and whatnot. It will get worse as healthcare turns into the newest example of the proverbial "Tragedy of the Commons" as everyone races to try to get his fair share of healthcare out of the pot.

Remember back to grade school. I remember people who made trips to the nurse all the time 'because their tummy hurts' and all sorts of stuff. I only went once to the nurse in 13 years of public school, K-12, when I broke my finger in gym class. If they charged kids even a dollar or two for each visit, then the chronic complainers would stop blocking up the nurses office for the people who actually need it.

Furthermore, if there is a shortage of doctors right now with only 85% of the country having access to them, then when 100% of the people are covered, then they'll get 18% (100/85) more busy! Not to mention that the State will soon start regulating the salaries of doctors in order to keeps its costs down, which will encourage people to be doctors in other states if at all. Fixing the problem through government will only make the problem worse, causing the need for more government and so on it snowballs.

Now, I don't complain about something unless I offer solutions. The state of Wisconsin should definitely not provide any kind of health anything. The state (and federal government) should eliminate as much regulation as possible on the medical industry. The shortage of doctors is because the American Medical Assoc. has a monopoly. They are not a doctors' union, rather they control how many open spots per year there are in medical schools and how many can then practice. Their incentive is to keep that number as small as possible to create a shortage to raise doctors' salaries (supply and demand).

On a side note, people are trying to get around the artificially small opening via fields like chiropractics. One of the coaches at my high school was one, and I'm sure he and many of them would make fine enough doctors, but they can't and didn't ever have the opportunity to go to medical school for doctors, which a free market would have allowed them--chiropractor school is under different, freer regulations.

Moreover, Wisconsin needs to allow people the option to practice whatever profession they want without a license--make requiring a license optional. Now, upon first consideration, you may find it disgusting to think that whoever wants to, can set up shop and claim to be a doctor. Well, they should be. First of all, if it's important to you ask to see the doctor's credentials. A license should mean that whoever, a barber or a doctor, has at least enough skill to be recognized by the state as competent, but if you want to save money and take a chance on an unlicensed doctor (or barber, or teacher, or real estate agent, or lawyer), you're free to.

As an example, perhaps then a nurse with a few years of experience who knows enough about what to do with people who walk in sick, can then open up a small clinic for sick people, or for physicals, then medical capacity increases and the price decreases.

I am an engineering student. Would you believe there are few if any government regulations concerning engineering and the country operates just fine? (For all the things we design, build, and make in this country, so few things go wrong that it's big news when they do.) We have several professional organizations that have boards, mainly old and retired engineers, that draw up books of our own standards and regulations completely free of the government. If something does break, then we are legally held to those standards in court.

No matter how much kool-aid you drink, the government and the bureaucracy cannot do a better job than the market. The government does not create anything (except for long lines, space shuttles, and atomic bombs [and we all know how that worked out]); it only moves around wealth at an alarmingly inefficient rate.

I'm sure all of you have been to a sporting event, whether professional, collegiate, or high school. Have you ever seen a referee who thinks he is a player? Those games always go the worst. In real life, we, the people, along with businesses are the players. The government is instituted to be the referee. Our problems of today have all be created in the last 70 years when the government decided that it is not just the referee, it should be actively involved in shaping how things turn out.

As John Stossel says, at the least Wisconsin is going to show the rest of the country why control is a bad idea. Too bad we have to take one for the team, I guess. (Heh, that's altruism for 'ya.)

If they say Wisconsin has a brain drain now, wait until this gets implemented. People will run screaming for the nearest state line. Of course, there are some idealistic people who will move in, along with everyone else in the country with a chronic or costly ailment seeking treatment. People will start washing up on Michigan's west coast in old rusted cars and on other assorted pool accessories. (Okay, maybe not that last sentence.) I, along with other productive people and businesses, will be promptly taking our leave from this state. I'll be gone as soon I graduate.

If they implement this and the state goes to hell in a handbasket, they will never repeal it. Old laws never die.

It makes more sense to me that Wisconsin should provide auto insurance before it even starts to deal with health insurance. It's against the law in the state to drive without auto insurance! They should at least give people a decent solution since they created the problem in the first place. (Note: I'm not suggesting they should provide any kind of insurance.)

Au revoir

I shan't be posting for the next few days. I'll be too busy and at home, working at the county fair again this year. (Hint: Kenosha is the big city in my county.)

I wrote about it last year. This time I've got a friend to do it with me, but there's one thing to which I'm not looking forward: the smell of all that fried stuff. Or the fair-goers. There are two things to which I'm not looking forward: all the fried stuff, and the country people, and the trash...

But this time, I've got some Ron Paul bumper stickers. And I won't be fresh out of Europe, so it shouldn't be so much of a shock. I'd take a camera, but I'm not planning on it--it could easily be swiped, so there may be photos. Otherwise, I'll be seeing you in a week.

The Hottest Toy this Xmas:

The Ben Bernenke Action Figure. I want one! (From here) Click for a bigger image.

Friday, August 10

Political Potpourri

It has started.

The campaign of Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards accused former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) of taking “every opportunity to exploit the memory of 9/11 for political gain.”

The statement from Edwards’s campaign manager David Bonior, a former congressman from Michigan, came in response to Giuliani’s statement that he “was at ground zero as often, if not more, than most of the workers."

“Evidently, Rudy Giuliani has taken a break from reality,” Bonior said. “It is outrageous for Giuliani to suggest, in any way, shape or form, that he did more at ground zero or spent more time there than the brave first responders who worked tirelessly around the clock for many months during the rescue and recovery operation.”

The Giuliani campaign reacted with an equally strong statement.

“For John Edwards to lecture Rudy Giuliani about September 11th is laughable at best," said Katie Levinson, Communications Director for the Rudy Giuliani Presidential Committee. “This is, after all, the same guy who thinks the War on Terror is simply a ‘bumper sticker.’”

Isn't that a classic case of the kettle calling the pot black? The swiftboats are swooping in and have just landed. Not a minute too late, I should add.

Republican presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani said Friday that he misspoke when he said he spent as much time, if not more, at ground zero exposed to the same health risks as workers combing the site after the Sept. 11 attacks.

The former New York mayor struck a nerve with firefighters and police officers when he said Thursday in Cincinnati that he was at ground zero "as often, if not more, than most of the workers."

"I have a real problem with that statement," said Battalion Chief John McDonnell, head of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association in New York. "I think he's really grasping and trying to justify his previous attempts to portray himself as the hero of 9/11."

Does Rudy have anything other than 9/11 on which to run a campaign? Not really.

- - -

Tomorrow is the big Ames Straw Poll for the presidential candidates. Historically whoever wins it goes on to do well. It doesn't have any official consequences, but a few of the candidates that take the bottom spots are expected to pull out of the race and lighten the field.

The big candidates, McCain, Guiliani, and Fred Thompson aren't actively out in Iowa, only Mitt is. I'm sure the Iowans will remember that when the time comes. If you go on his website, his campaign, to which he gave $9 million, will buy you transportation and a $35 ticket to vote in it. In contrast common folk people are buying Iowans tickets to vote for Ron Paul.

I hope Ron Paul at least places in the middle; he might get as high as 2nd, behind Mitt. I guess what people don't understand is that he's trying to help you, not himself like most other politicians nowadays. A Ron Paul government would want to neither run your life nor your money. He's got a 20 year congressional record backing him up. He's hasn't flip-flopped and he's never voted to raise taxes. The lobbyists don't even bother trying to sway him. Since he's against the war he's the black sheep of the GOP, but does anyone think that a pro-war candidate can actually win the election?

Who will drop out? It's definitely make or break for Tommy Thompson. I hear he's spent all of his time there campaigning from county to county. Overall, he's making a surprisingly little splash. I think this might be the last hurrah of Hunter and Tancredo. Huckabee's been doing well, but still not good. Brownback is somewhere in between them. Nothing out of the McCain camp lately...

- - -

Congratulations! Your money is worth less today!

Since some people at some banks made some bad loans the Fed had to throw money at them today so they don't start to tank. Today it "infused" just an emergency $38 billion into the markets today, after $24 billion yesterday. According to the Fed there's already approximately $783.5 billion floating around out there. That's a total of 7.9% over the last two days. Expect inflation as this extra money works its way through the market.

Riders "leaking" from MSN

From the WiSJ:

Despite dramatic improvements over the past three years — including a $65 million renovation and an expansion in the number of nonstop flights — more Madison area travelers are bypassing the Dane County airport to do their flying from Milwaukee or Chicago.

Here is the problem. The percentage of passengers who bypass the local airport to fly out of other cities is called "leakage." After the service improvements at the Dane County airport, the Madison area "leakage' should have declined. Instead, it increased.

Data from Mead & Hunt of Madison show that from late 2002 to late 2003, just over 63 percent of Madison area travelers chose to fly from the Dane County airport. Most of the rest used Chicago or Milwaukee airports.

From mid-2005 to mid-2006, after many of the airport improvements had been made, the percentage of passengers flying from the Dane County airport declined to just over 59 percent.

The percentages of local passengers flying from Chicago and Milwaukee were up.

Last year I flew in and out of Madison, both times the other terminal was O'Hare to connect to go elsewhere. The Dane County airport is very pleasant and hassle-free, especially considering that there isn't much of a line in Madison to go through the same security as in Chicago.

A flaw in Madison's airport has to be this, which I experienced first hand: it's a bit isolated. I flew back on a Sunday and stopped by the info desk to ask where the bus stop was. I was quite surprised to find that the bus doesn't go to the airport on weekends. (The taxis must have a good lobby.) On weekdays between 6:30 am and 10:55 pm, it stops twice an hour in the morning and afternoon rush, and hourly during the day. I then had to pay $14 to split a cab instead of using my $600+ buss pass (see "segregated funds") to ride for free.

The lack of bus connectivity probably doesn't affect most Madisonians. They either park or ask a friend or family to stop by and pick them up. However, I imagine with a major university here, a lot of potential fliers are foreigners, especially foreign students, and students headed abroad. Coach bus tickets from Memorial Union to O'Hare run about $20 and are probably round trip.

Looking up the flight from MSN to ORD on the airfare websites shows that that a ticket is roughly just under $300, one way. I think flying to Madison or taking the bus would be a wash. After paying hundreds to fly international and spend hours on planes, I'd probably take the bus and save some money. By bus it's about 2.5 hours on 135 miles of I-90, but I had to wait that long in O'Hare for the 25 minute flight to Madison anyway.

In the end, Madison has too small of a market and is just too close to one of the biggest airports in the world to directly compete with it. However, Madison seems to be a better option for flights that go to cities a few states states away in the South or on the East Coast.