This is one of the handful bales of hay I discovered in a near-Downtown building this weekend.
This is one of the handful bales of hay I discovered in a near-Downtown building this weekend.

Hey! What's up with the hay?

If you read the blog I wrote yesterday, then you know that I prematurely committed myself to an indoor exercise routine. I had the yoga DVD, the yoga mat and the SIGG water bottle ready to go...and then Mother Nature intervened by producing sunny, 75-degree weather.

So instead of staying in and stretching, I went on a long walk.

I live in Walker's Point and one of my favorite routes is to head over to National Avenue and follow 2nd Street into Downtown.

It's always a fascinating walk. I never cease to be amazed at all the land, property and abandoned buildings in such close proximity to the heart of the city and the river that runs through it.

I look at those empty Downtown Mini Warehouses that have been for sale forever and dream about what I'd do with that amount of space in such an amazing location.

I look at all the empty storefronts and not only wonder what they were when this neighborhood was once flourishing, but also what they might be once the repaving of 2nd Street is complete in 2010.

I look at Just Art's Saloon and wonder if anyone ever goes there.

I look inside the freshly renovated Pritzlaff Building, 305 N. Plankinton Ave., and see the beautiful bounty of indie fashion inside Areka Ikeler's Fashion Ninja boutique and, as I move north down the sidewalk towards St. Paul, I look in another set of gigantic ground floor windows to see nothing but five huge bales of hay neatly rolled up and strategically placed within in otherwise empty space.

Anyone have any idea what this might be for? The workings of a future art installation? Or, impromptu urban stable?


Read more... seems to be working for this woman. seems to be working for this woman.

Finding my DIY yoga stride

Every year about this time, I begin to wonder how I'm going to keep myself from succumbing to a long, lazy winter of hibernation.

I'm not the world's most motivated exerciser, yet I have been known to complain when, from about late fall to late spring, I feel myself getting "soft" thanks to spending a few too many nights wrapped up in blankets on the couch after a hearty comfort food meal.

It's not that I'm inherently lazy; it's that I hate being cold. And, usually, if don't have most of my body covered in a protective layer of something fuzzy, I"m cold.

All summer long I ride my bike everywhere, go on walks, hike trails and go swimming. But as soon as it becomes scarf season, I become a shut-in and I feel crappy. Not even a good snowball fight excites me anymore.

I know; I need a better system.

The past couple of years I've tried yoga, which seemed to do wonders. I impressed myself with my season-long commitment to Yama Yoga in the Third Ward, but after a while, the weekly sessions can start to add up and not being able to find a parking spot in a snow storm was annoying.

Earlier this year I ventured over to the new Bikram Yoga studio, which I totally loved, but never quite figured out how to incorporate into my schedule. Since it's 105 degrees in there with 40 percent humidity, you sweat your ass off, which meant a quick session before heading into the office in the morning was completely out of the question. And after work, I am always way too hungry for dinner to be able to withstand 90-minutes of intense calorie burning. And any rigorous workout after 7 p.m. means I'm wide awake way later than I want to be on a work night. All those endorphins just won't let me sleep.

This season, I'm determined to save time, money and my sanity by attempting to do yoga at home. I've bought two DVDs (in case one really annoys me, as exercise DVDs have done to me in the past) and a yoga mat (if you don't want to drop $40 for the fancy ones, …

The Volcano Choir released "Unmap" on Sept. 22.
The Volcano Choir released "Unmap" on Sept. 22. (Photo: Cameron Wittig)

New stuff from Bon Iver and friends

It's always something of a mystery to me when my alarm clock ends up on a different station than the one I have consistently set it to for years and years. (Does this happen to anyone else?)

Anyway, this morning was one such instance, and it's always a bit of a shock when the new single from The Raveonettes rouses me from my sweet slumber rather than Bob Bach. But, intrigued, I listened for a while rather than slapping snooze.

My dial, it turned out, was on 88NINE Radio Milwaukee and morning host Jordan Lee was in the middle of his "New Music Wednesdays" set. Up next, he said, was something fresh from a collaboration between Bon Iver and Milwaukee's Collections of Colonies of Bees, known as Volcano Choir. The band's debut, "Unmap," was released yesterday on Jagjaguwar.

Simply put, the music was great (sorry, I did not catch the name of the track Jordan played), and although it's mildly annoying to immediately compare, my initial reaction was that Justin Vernon's voiced sounded not dissimilar to Coldplay's Chris Martin's when paired up with CoCoBees obscure sounds and complex layers. It sounded rich and full, almost cosmic -- it was a stark contrast to his very intimate, very raw debut, "For Emma, Forever Ago."

But apparently, this stuff was recorded well before his 2007 breakthrough and Jordan told us that Vernon has credited it as what gave him the gusto to get "For Emma" offthe ground.

Check it out here.

Bon Iver plays The Riverside Theater on Oct. 11.


This is a picture of Sevda Mammadova's husband on their farmland that I helped eventually thrive.
This is a picture of Sevda Mammadova's husband on their farmland that I helped eventually thrive.

What $25 can do

I got an e-mail today alerting me that I have money in my Kiva account. As I read on, I was pleased to discover that my $25 loan (a birthday gift from my mother-in-law) had been repaid in full by the 28-year-old farmer and mother of two in the Middle Eastern country of Azerbaijan, who I had loaned the money to last year.

If you're unfamiliar with Kiva loans, the idea is simply altruistic. Similar to any social networking site, entrepreneurs in need create profiles detailing their hopeful business. Kiva's Web site then connects you, the potential lender, with the working poor in developing countries to read about the work they're doing. They often explain what your funding will do for their economic independence.

Kiva lets you lend any amount of money -- my gift certificate was for $25 -- to a specific entrepreneur. You then received e-mail updates on their status: how many other lenders contributed, how much of their financial goal they've reached and, if they have, how their business is doing.

The entrepreneur I chose, Sevda Mammadova, needed a total of $750 to buy fruit seedlings and fertilizer for improving her farming business. By becoming a member of Kiva, she was able to reach her goal with the help of almost 30 lenders like me from across the world.

Updates also inform the lender of their loan's return as the entrepreneur's business takes off. Most Kiva members choose to then re-invest their money in other workers in need, but you don't have to. The email I received today allowed me three options: re-loan the money, donate it to Kiva or withdraw it completely.

In just four years, 560,407 Kiva members have raised $92,123,685 in loan money for 227,754 struggling entrepreneurs in 181 countries, now including here in the US. Kiva's repayment rate is over 98 percent.

It's a pretty cool system and a smart investment for anyone who wants to help change lives around the world.