So, Friday.  It was a toss-up between a Fuck You Friday and a Friday Musical Spew, but then there was no client check in the mail,  so….


Which is appropriate, since Jesus Bunny day is 4/20.  Also, there is a fambly of bunnies living in our backyard/adjacent that are making Lucy-orange-flatulent remarkable agitated.



Maybe there will be a check in the mail tomorrow, maybe not.  Welcome to the world of being Independent Contractors.  Fortunately, I have a second job, which is Uniquely American I am told (and not desperate) so I have alcohol.

Furthermore,  Bob Mould.

I do not, however, have smoke because Wisconsin will never even be a Medical Marijuana state while Turdwaffle tries to make Wisconsin into Alabama.  Because it is just sad for a zombie over the half-century mark trying to score dime bags from college students who hail from the richer suburbs.


Title Lonkalicious:  John Langford has a fine new album, titled Here Be Monsters.  Buy it from your favorite vendors, just as soon as you can, and resist the streaming bullshit because that rips off the musicians and Langford is an artist. musician of the top caliber who deserves your ten bucks yes even you mikey.  But in the interim, feel free to download a live audience recording of his band at the Bell House in New York:



I don’t do it that often, but this here is how zombies do stripmalls:

aerial from north aerial from north

Fucking stupid Republicans.  If they secede, Aimee Mann and Ted Leo will probably never play Wisconsin again.



Fucking idiots.  After they’ve destroyed everything else in the State, trashed the economy, raped the land with environmentally nightmarish mines, thrown the poor off healthcare, destroyed the schools, and just generally made the place a Randian shithole, who do they think will care?


Yeah, Fuck You Friday happens on a Wednesday this week.  Hence the dearth of cussing.

But there’s an Aimee Mann/ Ted Leo video.  That’ll have to do, even if they didn’t film any of it in Milwaukee.




Posted: April 10, 2014 in Humanity is a virus, Shovels

I was in a room tonight with ±800 community organizers.  Fox News would have freaked the fuck out.



It was the 2014 MANDI (Milwaukee Area Neighborhood Development Initiative) Awards, sponsored by LISC (Local Initiative Support Corporation) ( seriously, the acronym-happiness cracks me up as Missus Zombie has worked for two of the largest engineering and manufacturing companies in the world, and these folks are simply out-acronymmed)

There were 5 awards, and sixteen finalists.  People in the room have accomplished game-changing community improvement projects, ranging from things like the first community-owned tavern in the State to a public park that redefines ‘urban park’ and reclaims an abandoned industrial area in the center of Milwaukee to restoring the Kinnickinnic River to a natural state from a horrible concrete drainage swale.

All told, the people in that room represented hundreds of millions of dollars in community-oriented projects that focused on real, practical solutions that demonstrate tangible results in the city, particularly in the struggling areas of the City.  The Mayor kicked things off by mentioning the new NML building which is not only preserving 1100 jobs downtown, but adding nearly 3000 new jobs in construction.  This isn’t Scott Walker bullshit jobs, Milwaukee and NML have nearly single-handedly added jobs at the rate that Walker’s promise to add 250,000 jobs in his first term should have (needless to say, Turdwaffle is not meeting his metric).  Also mentioned was a new program to address the terrible toll on our streets from the harsh winter, by putting new street repair workers on the job, and drawing from the pool of people who’ve struggled with employment because of prison records.  Makes me damn proud to have voted for that Barrett fella, who is a badass in his own right.

I talked with a couple of very nice women from Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service about the event, and we agreed that the “mainstream news” in the area is more interested in bad news, slamming the public schools, weather, and sports to actually report on good things that happen.  On the good people that are making them happen.  I also chatted with one of my former employees who is now a Community Organizer in her own right, and she lamented that there is nobody giving these projects the attention and accolades they deserve.

Except tonight.

Tonight, the people who make things better were recognized by the people who make things better.  As such, it was a boisterous outpouring of congratulations and recognition by the people who know best who is doing it the best.  It was GLORIOUS.

Shyeah, the project that I’ve been yammering on about over the last couple of years was a finalist for the project award (missed it by THAT MUCH — mainly because the winner was bigger and was a Silver LEED project) and my client on many projects, the non-profit (yes, a COMMUNITY ORGANIZER) was the award recipient for the Cornerstone Award for work over time.  Here’s the thing, though; it truly was a case where I felt honored to be a finalist, and very happy for my client who won the big accolades.  I congratulated the architect whose project won out over mine, and everybody in the hall was nothing but enthusiastic for everyone who was nominated.  Because none of us — not ONE — did these projects for personal recognition or just a paycheck.  We are Milwaukeeans, dammit, and we will not allow a fucking recession or goddam Republicans in the State Lege weaken or damage our city.  And we will drink beer while doing so.

The thing that was universal in all the attendees was a steadfast belief that Milwaukee is a great city, that it can be greater, and an irrepressible enthusiasm for working toward that goal.

I recognize that this optimism and enthusiasm may be an unusual experience at the Empire; but let’s not pretend that I am being Pollyanna Happy Zombie here.  Everyone recognizes that any of these projects takes unrivaled skills and talents and ridiculous amounts of effort, not to mention bushels of luck, to come to fruition.  But we all took the opportunity to recognize the times when all of that managed to actually work out.

I am currently working on a couple of projects in the same neighborhood, one of which is a rehab of an historic school building, possibly to assisted-living neighborhood-based housing, or another small project which might be used as test-bed for innovative tactics and sustainability that can provide a how-to for other owners of small buildings in the area.  And beyond that, I am working a strip mall building, trying to bring the level of design  for these things up a bit, not to mention the second phase of the crazy-ass angled building, the new phase has just turned into a seven story building.  And I am stretching my design legs, trying to make every one of those buildings better than everything around them, and more responsive toward their neighborhoods, more environmentally sustainable, more efficient and more successful.

4022.0 block model

2214 7 story design

Tomorrow, I am going to the Business Journal Real Estate Awards lunch, and our project is up for another award. Later this year, the same project will be up for a Mayor’s Design Award (and next year, that crazy angled building will be in there also, you bet) and I won’t lie; getting awards for projects I design feels good.  Damn good.  But the feeling of knowing that the projects I do have had an impact on the communities where they are built, an impact beyond being a blank space housing a new Subway or a new pod-based subdivision layout, that is something I feel right from my toes to my branes.

Hey, you know what?  I think I am a Community Organizer also!!


Yesh yesh yesh, Jonboy Langford has a new album out, and even mikey has noticed.  Yes, of course it is fine; Langford is consistently good, in his “ham-fisted guitar stylings”.

He also traveled to the other side of the world to work with the great Australian musician Roger Knox.

Pub-rock at it’s finest, with the best Welsh lyrics-shouter since Tom Jones.  Levitation indeed.


But he lives in Chicago, and NEVER COMES TO MILWAUKEE!!  Scared of zombies, I’ll bet.  Even if the Mekons did write a song called Big Zombie.


Langford is also an accomplished artist, and I have some of his work in my home; not the good stuff, though, cuz I can never afford it.  I have some stuff from the Mekons also (they create art as a collaborative.  Punks, yanno.  Rules are pffahhh!)

The thing about Langford is his utter lack of pretension.  He comes from a blue collar town and a blue collar background, worked in the first blushings of punk, and maintained his belief in worker’s rights through the 80s and 90s; and outlasted the major labels.  He is approachable and he likes a drink or two.  Or three or fourteen.  So you can see why I likes him.  He has an irrepressible sense of humor, that often takes up more time at a Mekons show than actual music.  And he’s willing to work with ANYBODY, once starting a band from public ads.  He helped create the Executioner’s Last Songs series, which raised money to stop the death penalty in Illinois.  He is, as they say, a Good One.


I have loved his music since seeing the Mekons in a 300 person club, and I’ve seen him in a dozen or so venues since.  I saw him do a performance-art piece about the music industry premiered here in Milwaukee, and in a small punk club.  He is tragically overlooked in the music biz; the proverbial “Critic’s Darling” who can’t make a living at what he is best at.  I know mikey is fully invested in the GMusic thing, but the fact is that artists can’t make a living from streaming services, and people like Langford are more than deserving of your 10 bucks.  If this balding Welsh reprobate can wring ten bucks out of a dyspeptic zombie, you really don’t have any excuse.

And if he, or the Mekons, happen to pop up in your locale, do not hesitate.

My only dilemma, now, is that if I manage to squoze a client or two, should I buy his portrait of Joe Strummer or the one of Joey Ramone?


Home from Chicago.  Tired now tired.



We did well.  End of the Road, but What a Ride; just like the Badgers.




Moar later, after time to rest, catch up on work, have a couple of well-deserved drinks and I get some of the pictures from our team’s media members.

view of our pit from floor above.

view of our pit from floor above.

Ramble on, commenters.


I know I should be with the putting up of the new posts and such as, but there’s so little to say, and so much time to say it.

…hold on.  strike that; reverse it.


Title Lonk.  The song in question has never been officially released.  Of course, I have a copy, so here it is.

I have a big project to work on for Tuesday, permit to obtain, and then on Wednesday we trip down to Chicago to see if we can rock a FIRST Regional with Whatnot.

There are some things aggravating me that I would like to rant further about, but time, yanno?  Time is a motherfucker.

Turdwaffle rams through an anti-democratic bill to restrict voting.  Apparently the thought is that fraudulent voting only happens on weekends.  If, of course, you consider voting by poors and blahs and brahs to be fraudulent.  Keep in mind that over the past decade or so, Milwaukee has seen five actual proven fraudulent votes.  WHOAH.

The planet WILL be seeing large-scale famines and water shortages coming up.  There have been many changes in the power balance of regions and cities in the past, for various reasons.  For example, did you know that up until the railroads came through to St. Louis, Milwaukee was actually a bigger city than Chicago?  Because our port was better and shorter from the St. Louis Seaway.  And it will be a significant advantage to be situated adjacent to one of the largest bodies of fresh water on the planet.  You may want to start submitting your applications now.

Although BP is trying to fuck up the Great Lakes as well as the Gulf, so maybe there’s no respite.

Back to Turdwaffle.  He claims a budget surplus, that he will return to taxpayers in Wisconsin in the realm of $75 each.  But then, he plans to borrow millions to build new, unnecessary and counter-productive highways while the deterioration of existing streets due to the crazy winter will be laid on the budgets of municipalities.  AND those taxpayers, it is estimated that the potholes are going to cost most families up to $1000 to repair the damage done to their vehicles.  Yay inconsequential tax rebate!  And let’s just mention that the corrupt process for bidding and constructing those highways will be lacking oversight and built to crappy standards, so they won’t even last three winters before being added to the local burdens for repair.

Turdwaffle-adjacent:  In recognition of the clown car of goat-molesters and slime people that are queuing up for the 2016 Goat Rodeo (h/t Tengrain), the Big Money Sociopaths and Greedheads are trying to set JEB! Bush as the next anointed Republican Presidential Asshole.  Yee-hah.  Yeah, yeah, complain all you want about the “lesser Evil” but are you really willing to inflict another Bush on the world?

In amazingly funny crap:  The Religious Yahoos are up in arms that the Noah movie is — get this –inaccurate.  In a movie about an impossible to construct boat, with a ludicrous amount of cargo, in a mythical and impossible global flooding.  Somehow, it does not conform to the implausible and vague details of a book written by people who based it on nothing more than verbal tradition, which has been translated multiple times into languages that have no relation to the original.  “Shyeah.  What’s a cubit?”

Of some personal interest is an article indicating that big-name starchitects tend to not give a shit about the local and employment implications of their work.  This is intriguing to me on several levels.  You see, my work is focused locally to an intense degree; and as such, I feel it needs to always express and support and improve the lives and living of the people who build it and live in it’s shadow.  Much of my work has been breaking standards for local and minority employment (and not the immigrant employment mentioned in the article – employees are all verified), although my only contribution toward that is working on projects and teams that are willing to make those efforts.


One of the problems with Starchitects like Hadid and Gehry and Calatrava, is that their work tends to go wildly over budget, which puts pressure on the bottom end of the contractor fields.  Someone budgets 40 million for a project and brings in a Name, and the budget suddenly balloons up to 80 million, and during construction inflates to 100 million.  Suddenly, the Construction Manager has to cut costs somewhere and since labor is about 2/3 of a building’s cost these days, where do you think it goes?  And this makes the whole project start to go pear-shaped, as critical assemblies are now being built by inexperienced, non-union personnel.  And then the building failures start….

It’s a stupid, shortsighted attitude on architect’s part, and as the article points out licensed professionals are expected to operate with a higher standard of consideration for the overall social impact of our work.  In the same way we consider life cycle costing of buildings and materials, and their sustainability, it’s not unreasonable for us to also consider the social cost of shitty employment trends.  We may not be able to make tremendous impacts to them, the pressures of financing and construction are immense and entrenched; but every pushback  can be valuable.



I am accustomed to being the voice of doom and bad news during construction.  The costs, and the codes, and the sheer effort to making a building project happen; I have long decided that I will not sugarcoat these issues.  They are all surmountable; but the will not evaporate.  And I always talk about the cost of cheap and inexperienced labor.  As one of my clients once said to me “Gramma once said to me:  you don’t save money by doing it twice.”  Union workers mean you don’t have to do it twice.

I may never be a worldwide architectural sensation, but I am doing what I can in my community and within the parameters of my influence, try to make my projects positive in all those aspects.  I have won awards for my projects (week after next, I have multiple projects nominated for MANDI awards, and the next night one for a Business Journal Award; Mayor’s Design Awards are next and as soon as that crazy angled 4-story addition is finished, we’ll go for more).  I am not going to ever win the Pritzker Prize, but My favorite recognition is always – ALWAYS- hearing from the people who live in and have their lives improved by the work I’ve done.

And for the most part, the roofs don’t leak on them.


Also and by the way, have you heard about these Badgers?  Going to the Final Four, and Frank the Tank is peaking like a mother fucker.  Not only, but another UW team, the Panthers, from the non-sports Milwaukee campus, made it to the Big Show this year also, against all expectations.  Rock on, Wisconsin dudes.

As said above, don’t figure on lots of updates from me, so consider this an Open post, and placeholder, or whatever you wanna call it.  I will be keeping tabs, however, so don’t feel like this is free reign to post squirrels and other offensive turds.  ENJOY!


[EDIT FOR THE HALIBUT]  cover song from one of my favorite bands, courtesy that Bastard of Big, who is Bald and no-one actually thinks is Bad.

I have to start out by saying that many people extended well wishes for our Regional performance.  I have to also say, I wonder if internet Good Lucks are not as effective as one might hope.

For those of you who never chase down links, a FIRST Robotics Regional is a four day event.  Wednesday night you can load in to your pit; but no work is done.  Thursday is Pit and Practice Day.  Friday is Opening Ceremonies and Qualification Matches.  And Saturday is the remainder of Qualification Matches, and the Elimination rounds, and then Awards.

On Thursday, we had an action plan that involved adding a few parts, doing some testing and getting onto the practice matches.  We adjusted that plan on the fly, as the modifications to the robot took more effort than we had anticipated.  Tactical error right there.  We worked up until the pits closed at 8PM, and had a detailed plan of attack for Friday morning to get us into the game.  At this point, we had a significant pneumatic leak that prevented us from starting the match with Bang! The Catapult in launching mode, we had untested autonomous code, and the Field Team had no practice with Whatnot.

Friday, we were the third match queued.  The field has on set of teams (three robots to an alliance, two alliances – red and blue.  That’s why you’ll sometimes see Whatnot in red livery and sometimes in blue), there is an on-deck queuing station, and a second queuing station.  So we had to get our robot to the 3rd position before the opening ceremonies at 9 AM, and couldn’t get anything done in the short period before, other than firing it up, getting the most recent code into its brain and putting in a fresh battery.

The first match was a debacle.  We had attached the bumpers with nylon bolts to save weight, and while our tests in the shop were fine, this game was unexpectedly violent and one of our bumpers was ripped off in the match so it had to be stopped.  We were allowed to reset, but couldn’t get the bumper back on and had to remove the robot from the field.

Back to the pit.  Replaced the bumper hardware.  And then it’s time to replace the battery and get back out to the field.  This time, a plexiglass side panel was shattered by an impact, and the wireless access point was disconnected by the impact, leaving our robot dead without communication.  Back to the pit.  Work on the pneumatics leak.

Fixed the panel, and re-wired the WAP.  By then, it’s time to get back in queue.  Adjusted the autonomous code.  But the robot is unable to communicate with the Field Management System.  I know what’s wrong (because we did this in the shop), we had wired the WAp with polarity reversed.  We could have swapped the connectors, but the refs wouldn’t let us.  I had them let us unplug the power, because the D-Link gets HOT when the wires are crossed and we didn’t want a fire; but for the third match in  a row, Whatnot was DOA.  Back to the pit – fix the wires and work on the pneumatics leak.

Our schedule for Friday was aggravating.  Roughly an hour between matches, but with 10 minutes of queuing, a five minute match, five minutes to clear the field and get back to the pit we had little time for work before we had to get a field battery installed and get back in queue.  By lunchtime, we were getting back on track, but we only had ten scheduled Qualification matches, and had wasted most of them. We still had a pneumatics leak.

Oh, yeah, and as Field Coach, it was my responsibility to put together the drive team and a Human Player.  we have a small team, and the member I had wanted to have as HP wound up on a trip to Spain this week.  So, when it came time to go out for the first match, I had to select from the people who were there; I wanted one of our pit crew, but hate to double up a crucial role like that so I was forced to go with HH.  Let me tell you about HH.  He is clumsy and entitled. He is good at schmoozing and taking credit (his LinkedIn profile lists him as Team Captain although he has never even come close to being that). He has raised a decent amount of money for the team, but he has screwed up every assembly job I have given him.  He drops things and has the attention span of a squirrel that has just consumed a four-pack of Red Bull.  Another tactical error.

For this game, the responsibility of the human player is to re-introduce a Game Piece (“tater) into the game after the current one has been scored.  This is called a cycle.  The inbounding HP needs to be watching the game, and when the current tater is scored, he needs to scurry to the back of the driver stations to get a new one as soon as the pedestal is lit; he cannot touch the tater until the pedestal is lit.

I talked with HH before the match, he assured me that he knew the rules, but then followed up by asking me what the high goal score is worth; obviously he had not read the rules.  In the first match, as soon as our robot was carried off the field, he though he was going back to the pit, we had to drag him back to say HE was still in the game.  In the second match, he ran back to the pedestal and put his hand on the ball before it was lit, then when two of us yelled at him claimed he hadn’t put his hand on it when we both saw him. And in the third match, when our robot was dead, he sat in the inbound position, folded arms, watching the game without paying attention to what he should be doing; necessitating every one of the alliance partners SCREAMING at him to get a new tater and inbound it.  When we got back to the pit, I told him with gritted teeth to give me his Field Team credential.  In three matches, he demonstrated in front of all 60 teams that we had a HP that could not be relied upon, trashing our team’s chances with other alliances.

By the end of the day Friday, we were ranked at 58th out of 60 teams.  While on Thursday night, I posted a long, detailed action plan to the team’s FB page, on Friday night I managed three words:  “my feet hurt”.

Saturday dawned bright and cold and NCAA-ey.  Have I mentioned that March Madness games were being played across the street from teh Robot Games?  Wacky.  We were scheduled for the SECOND match this time, so before we even got into the pit, we had the queuing team looking for us to line up.  We got the robot into line, swapped the battery, and then were told we couldn’t even join our team in the stands for today’s opening ceremonies, but had to sit in the queuing lines.  I did not see BB, who had been our HP for the remainder of Friday, so made an emergency decision to activate Ransom, our senior pit student, out of the stands via cell phone and have him join us. 

We still had radio communication problems, and after our bleak showing, volunteers stopped by our pit to help us diagnose our problems; it is possible that all the abuse our WAP took, it has gone all wonky inside. But today, we got some field time, and swapped out the catapult cradle arms for a different pair.  We still had a pneumatics leak, but it wasn’t as bad as it had been and we decided that we would keep the robot running in queue to keep the system charged. 

Next to last match, and the communications dropped out again.  Whatnot, dead on the field again.  We borrowed a WAP for our last match.  We still had never fired the catapult in action.  We decided that we would again keep the system charged during wait times, and load a tater on Bang The Catapult regardless.  we didn’t know where it would go, but dammit we were gonna launch it there. We lied to our alliance partners and told them we had it targeted. Otherwise, we were in the inbound position, designated to take the ball from the HP and deliver it to an alliance partner for an assist. (this year’s game maximizes point values for working in cooperation with alliance partners).

The bell rang, and autonomous started; Whatnot slid sideways, forward into the end zone; the yoke triggered down, and Bang the Catapulted fired, launching the tater completely over the goal.  Didn’t matter; the crowd went wild, our team members were on their feet screaming, and we could hear it on the opposite side of the field.  And then my drive crew went to work.  They had managed to practice ball intake and deliver, and my two guys were getting good at working together. One working the drive, and the other working the mechanisms.  Communications were flawless, and we did at least four inbounds and assists, maybe five.  I lost count.  In between inbounding, my driver worked to harass their shooters, then scampered back to the inbound station for the next cycle.  And at the end of the day, our alliance had scored 209 points, the third highest total in the Qualification rounds.

This was a very tough Regional.  We had many gremlins, at least one Ghost In The Machine, and our own stupidity all working against us, in what is widely recognized as one of the most highly competitive Regionals in the country.  But:

  • We finished with a superb match
  • we fired up our team by using Bang The Catapult in gameplay.
  • we spent the rest of Saturday refining our targeting, catapult configuration, and autonomous code to the point where we have a highly repeatable situation
  • the Field Team now has practice, experience, and camaraderie.
  • The team instituted 5-S procedures in the TigerShop and the pit.
  • Year over year improvement in our Chairman’s Award
  • we have a very small team, but the team members we have are very involved and invested
  • we made a huge step forward with our mentors
  • we made a huge step forward on Critical Path scheduling
  • Huge improvements in processes
  • New training and tests for our team members to bring them up to speed.
  • Unprecedented levels of design and craftsmanship on our robot.
  • Going to a second Regional.

So, for  the first time we planned, prioritized, and budgeted for a second regional [$4000 plus travel, meals and lodging] and given what we had handed to us this week, the value of going to multiple regionals is very apparent.  As rough as this one was, Whatnot is now performing the way we wanted.  In fact, I was pleasantly surprised, that in our practice on Friday and Saturday, we had several untested systems – transition rails, catapult cradle, retraction cylinders, and trigger — that had never been tested in a fully assembled position, and THEY ALL WORKED.  That’s not something that happens in engineering design.

In some ways, this was not one of our best Regional performances.  But in many other ways, this was ultimately quite successful.

Maybe internet Good Lucks are, at the end of the day, much more effective than anyone ever thought, because they apparently extend backward in time.  So, thank you, thank you all, because Karma is a weirdo.

And at the end of a long intense four days of work and crises and fun, I am heartened by two things.  The Chairman’s Award judges gave us feedback saying “Your team is growing by leaps and bounds!”  Tiger bounds, undoubtedly.  And then, after our last match of the day, members of the two teams on our alliance came by to tell us ” We don’t care what the standings say, your team is tragically and radically underrated”

So, as a reward for reading all of this, here are photos of the gig:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Feel free to give us Internet Good Wishes and strange Karma Points to us for the Chicago Regional.