2010 Ramblings

Here you'll find all the writings I've had from previous blogs that just outlived their purpose, or that never really fulfilled a purpose at all. In the 3D world I have dozens of half-finished notebooks, journals and sketchbooks lying around. Welcome to the online equivalent.
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Last weekend saw the coming and going of the Iron County Fair in northern Wisconsin. I got roped in and hooked five years ago when I met my in laws for the first time. Now once a year I'm happily surrounded by sheep, pigs, steer, pie contests, carnies, tractors of all sizes, and some of the weirdest and funniest 4-H projects ever crafted.

I have to say that one of the best projects was the Household Poisons test that had 16 different bags of white powder for people to identify through sight and touch. Luckily, I never saw any kids taking sneaks of the powder through straws.

The way kids turn in projects is pretty funny. The night before, there's a rush for kids to turn in crafts for judging. There are mothers with kids, and sometimes just mothers, whose arms are filled with every child made item they could scrounge off the refrigerator. It doesn't matter if it's a shoe box covered with googly-eyes - they'll turn it in. This gives the 4-H building quite a bit of content, but also some very confusing qualities. Most of the time I walked around with a baffled look wondering, "What the heck IS that?"
Then, of course, there's the livestock. My first year at the fair my in laws decided to bid on a lamb. Now, I LOVE lamb, but that was the first time I'd ever actually seen the animal before eating it. At the time, I was sort of happy that their bidding efforts were in vain. The next year my father offered some of his own animal auction wisdom: "The trick is to have a grudge against the animal. Then you won't feel so bad eating it later." Sure enough. The next year, Glowbug, refused to eat some hay I was kind enough to give it. Several months later at Christmas, I ate him. The circle of life is a tasty thing. And if you're one of those people that worries about animals being treated and slaughtered humanely, a 4-H auction really is the best place to get your meat. The kids do an excellent job of caring for, and raising, their animals.

My job at the fair is to run the sign-ups for the Kiddie Tractor Pull. The vehicles are actually pedal-tractors hooked up to the Dragon Wagon - a wagon with a sliding weight on the back. As the kid pedals, the weight moves forward and it becomes harder and harder to push the pedals. As the age goes up, the tractor gets switched out for a larger one and more weight is added. It may sound like just fun and games, but let me tell you, there are some parents out there that get extremely competitive. One guy moseyed up with his burly 5 year-old in tow. He leaned over the registration table and said very seriously, "You know, he was the state champion in the 4 year-old division last year." Another parent wanted to know what the prize was - "At the Jackville County Fair they won pizza and T-shirts." Ooh. High class stuff. The kids have a blast though, and some get pretty into getting that tractor to go further than is humanly possible.
The last, and most interesting part, is always the pie contest & auction. I baked a Chocolate Pecan Bourbon one this year and got second place on a technicality (One woman baked two and the same person can't get 1st and 2nd. Technically, mine got 3rd.). After the judging the pies are brought out to the grandstand where they're paraded around and auctioned off to raise money for 4-H. This year the most expensive one went for $125. That was low compared to other years when two competing feed companies bid. Last year set the record bid for a pie at $600!

The fair ended with the antique tractor parade, and several shots of the butt ugly doll up for sale in the silent auction, and the confederate flag fuzzy dice at the carnie stand (No one bought them, and rightly so. Who puts confederate flags on dice? Why do those two things go together?)
This morning I had my last day of working with the middle schoolers before the new school year rolls around. Thursdays this summer I spent a few hours reading and writing with the summer school kids - who might be the best candidates for mistaken adhd. Today was especially interesting because tomorrow is the last day of summer school. Below is my attempt to show one 8th grader that writing can literally be about anything.

TBF: It's hotter in this room because of all the computers whirring to life, spelling activities flashing screen to screen.

Sorry. Not just hotter in this room. Alize has the perfect phrase for it: "Hotter than a jalapeno on a stick."

This prompts a brief discussion about food that shouldn't be: chocolate covered bacon topped with syrup, and pig's feet. Looks of disgust and horror hop from face to face.

Alize: It is very boring and dead in here. We been doing the same thing for the last 2 weeks.

TBF: Tyran feels the same way, although he deals differently - head slumped over on the computer keyboard. He's only doing what everyone wants to do the day after tomorrow.

Alize: Funny but I don't want to work. It's just UGH! No words can explain how I feel.

TBF: Random phrases break the stale air.
"I'm gonna sing!"
"He speaks that crazy language."

Alize: Wow, no comment.
Thursday, July 29, 2010
Yeah, she complained. But Alize did smile when she read it, and it was something you could tell she'd never seen done before. I'm glad I got her thinking.

Also, brought to you by Alayvia of the 6th grade reading class, an important news report on the recent Squirrelpig attacks. (This first appeared in the 6th graders' self-published paper, the Unnatural News, and has been reprinted with the express permission of Elizabeth and Alayvia.)

Squirrelpig Attacks
July 22, 2010
Madison, Wisconsin

Samuel K. Fisher was mauled yesterday afternoon while he was walking to the park. Samuel tells me that while he was walking he saw a bag of corn nuts on the ground that he was trying to pick it up. Squirrelpig jumped out of a tree and mauled Samuel. Unfortunately, there were very serious injuries to Sam's face and his arm was broken. After the mauling Squirrlepig fled into a forest that was near by. The police have sent out reinforcements that are looking for Squirrelpig as we speak.

Some people have spotted Squirrelpig by Capitol City bike path, East High school, Richman hills, Capitol square, and Milwaukee Street. This is the tenth mauling this week in Madison. We believe Squirrelpig has repopulating, he may have 11 kids or more, they've also been seen in all the areas listed before. If you have any information or seen Squirrelpig please contact us at 1-800-Squirrelpig, thank you.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010
For the last year I seem to have become obsessed with Indian food. So much so to the point where when I do a Google image search for 'recipe' that I invariably pick the Indian one without meaning too. I had to do something with the cauliflower I bought two nights ago. So in traditional homey blog fashion, below is a bit of the process.
Jalapeño, tomato, black mustard seed, turmeric, minced fresh ginger & veggie oil. The result of desperately trying to keep my fingers off the pepper and, in the end, succumbing to the fact that mincing a pepper is really hard with your fingers encased in plastic bags.
I'm big believer in lazyish cooking. Translating to actually cooking only one part of the meal, and improving the rest. So I tossed the cauliflower together with basmati rice (Made with the distinguished addition of a spice packet!) and sliced mango. I'd describe the taste as a pretty light Indian flavor. The jalapeno doesn't really add the bite I thought it would. But I'd suggest it if you're in the mood for something light and easy.

This recipe also receives bonus points for wreaking less havoc on the kitchen setting. Here's the link for fellow culinary adventurers:
Turmeric-Ginger Cauliflower
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
I'm so excited! Yesterday I got my first fire and brimstone response to my new bumper sticker!

It happened when I hopped over to the grocery store last night to grab some yogurt. Of course, it took a little longer because then I had to peruse the veggie aisle and convince myself that I needed cauliflower and sun dried tomatoes too. Plus, the self-checkout was in a grumpy mood (ARGH! DO NOT RECOGNIZE OBJECT! SUN DRIED WHAT!? CONFUSED! MUST. SELF. DESTRUCT!).

I skipped out to my car after the grocery store attendant managed to hog tie the self-checkout and force it to do my bidding. I found the small piece of paper jammed into the driver's side handle of the car. At first, I thought it was an advertisement for the new Chinese restaurant and started looking around for the stealthy ninja who had delivered it. But wait, "Hear ye Him!"? I'm going to "die for my sins"? I'm "condemned to burning in Hell"!? Dude! I got judged! I looked around and didn't see anyone staring at me. Woah! I got judged by some random Baptist ninja! Sweet!

Of course, for decorum I did give my car the once over for broken windows, smashed taillights, or key scratches. Nothing there. Even better.

I also have what I call a Mormon trading card from a very nice conversation I had in college with a nice young man on the metro bus. Perhaps I'll add my new pamphlet to my collection.
Thursday, July 22, 2010
Everyone has an inanimate object in life which has the sole purpose of making their lives living hells. In my case I have several: sewing needles, Lexmark printers, and door edges (Constantly attacking my funny bone, those door edges. Especially the ones in the bathroom that insist on injuring me in the middle of my impromptu iPod-inspired dance routines. Just wait you jerks. One day, when I figure out how, I'll take your hinges off. Then who's the victor, huh?). Today I have officially added blended soup to my list of voiceless enemies.

Those of you who don't cook might not know what a blended soup is. I'm sorry, you'll have to rely upon your wonderful skills of inferring to figure it out as you go along.

Anywho, the first blended soup I attempted was a regular old creamy tomato mix. I followed the recipe and everything was smelling the way it should have - tomatoey. The second to last step before the duh one of, "Serve into bowls" (Seriously, who needs that part in a recipe? How many cooks out there finish the process and then just stare at the bowl getting an aneurysm because they don't know what to do next? Possibly the people who still don't know what a blended soup is...), was, "Blend in a food processor or blender." Without thinking, I dumped the entire contents of the sauce pan into my blender, shoved on the top, plugged it in and pressed "Mix".

As those of you who ever took a physics class have ventured to guess, the sheer force of tomato goo against the lid caused a severely red spew of molten liquid to come bolting out the top - splattering the walls and a good portion of my left arm. What followed was what I imagine sounded like some kind of scratched CD in a boom box with the volume turned up:

"AHHHHH!!!!! God damn it! Fucking, freakin - thing with the - OWWWWWWW!!!! I fucking hate... you... recipe! AHHHHH!!!!"

Five minutes later, and with a cool rag on my arm, I made the even dumber decision to try this blending process again, but this time with WAY less soup in the pot.

So Physics majors, maybe you can tell us: What happens when you seal up something hot and steaming in an almost airtight container, and then proceed to add pressure? Yes? You in the back. Your answer?

"FUCK! I hate you! I hate you piece of frickin' shit stuff... ow, ow, ow, ow. Why. Did. I. Do. That. AGAIN!? Screw this! No more soup. Stupid soup! Stupid frickin shitmabob!"

The tomato soup, which was no more than tomato juice and heavy cream anyway, promptly got scraped from the various kitchen crannies, and the remainder dumped down the disposal - looking very much like the blood and guts of the battlefield.

Tonight's blended soup was spicy mango. I learned my lesson and let it cool for an hour. Alas, I substituted a Habanero pepper for another one. What I've ended up with is a soup you can eat as long as you alternate a spoonful with a few chugs of milk. I wish I could say that I have learned my lesson again and will keep my distance from the blender and hot liquids, but I know that just wouldn't be true.

And so, stay tuned for more adventures in blended soups, when The Blue Faerie returns horribly burned, but hopefully satiated.
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Below is a letter I have recently sent to popular pianist, Jim Brickman.

Dear Mr. Brickman,
I am writing in regards to multiple editing mistakes in your book of piano music, "By Heart". While listening to your instrumental pieces via mp3, I find them especially relaxing and beautiful, not to mention excellent for failed attempts at meditation. However, I was shocked and awed upon coming to the twelfth line of notes for your song, "Angel Eyes", when it suddenly derails in order to express your sexual exploits via C major. I found this piece of subliminal messaging not only in "Angel Eyes", but also scattered across the entirety of the book.

Now, I am aware of your high record sales, as well as your bound from New Age to the more pc category of Adult Contemporary. I have great respect for you as a music lover and as an attempting pianist(I can play chopsticks!). But please Mr. Brickman. Aren't your skillz and sexy photo shoots enough? Can't you leave some of yourself up to the imagination? We love you enough already without the lewd innuendo expressed through a lower C/low E chord. Just stretching our fingers to an octave chord is provocative enough, as my grandmother fainted just after seeing me play "Sudden Inspiration."

For the time being, I have mended the notes so as to save grandmothers everywhere as well as the tendons in my wrist. I hope that you and your publicist will consider a revised version of past musical compositions as per sexual guidelines from the FCC.

Thank you for your time.

The Blue Faerie

*For those of you who do not play the piano and are unaware of the sexual torture Jim is putting us players through, try hitting the Caps Lock and Enter keys at the same time with your left hand. Ergonomic keyboarders, go get carpel tunnel like the rest of us.
Saturday, June 26, 2010
I've loved to cook ever since I can remember. If this statement were true, I must have a memory that only goes back about eight years. The honest to God truth is that I like cooking now. I didn't used to. See, I'm one of those people that loves to makes productive messes. There's something invigorating about pulling a mouth-watering pecan bourbon pie out of the oven only to take a step back and see all the work that went into it. For me, the kitchen often looks like the aftermath of a war zone. One that touched off just after a debate between the liquid and dry ingredients over which one could create the biggest Rorschach splatter effect over the kitchen walls. The liquids proceed to launch their offensive via overflowing pots and blenders, while the spices and flours counterattack with a gut punch to my clothes and shrapnel grenades to the floor. This culinary battle is all in good fun when you're in charge of your own kitchen and can clean at your own leisure. When you're living at home you're at the mercy of parent schedules. So you could say that my first sublet was my true leap into food preparation.

Fast forward to two nights ago: I've just finished simmering and slurping up coconut sweet potato soup. I've chopped the cilantro, peeled the ginger root, mixed in curry paste, and cut through an onion. This last ingredient and it's preparation are important to remember, because it was about an hour later when scratching the outside of my nose (Yes, the outside.) when I noticed a familiar smell. Onion. Under my fingernails. And nothing, and I mean nothing gets onion smell out from under fingernails except good old plodding time. This is something I've learned after trying every acid-based product I could think of: nail polish remover, lemon juice, bleach. NOTHING works.

This might not be so bad if not for the odd urge to smell my fingers every so often. Yes. Ew. Gross. There are so many things wrong with that statement. Yadda, yadda, yadda. Critique if you must, but it's true. And those of you who occasionally cook with onions, you know you do it too. When waiting seems to be the only cure for oniony fingernails, there's this constant need to check and see if it's been long enough yet. And it's never long enough yet. Just like a watched pot never boils, sniffed fingers never... um... not reek. In addition, this habitual sniffing comes from a twisted sense of shock that fingernails can retain that odor for that long. Do you suppose this fascination can make sous chefs and prep cooks slowly go insane? Possibly.

The only device I've found to combat the leek battalions is the Garlic Zoom. Although I don't repel vampires as well, it has saved me multiple times from odoriferous fingers. Alas, there is no Onion Zoom. And so, for the moment, I am forced to continue my cooking escapades amongst sieges of chicken broth and flour. I guess in situations like that I've just got to grit my teeth and suffer through the battle wounds. Stinky as they may be.Justify Full---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Friday, June 25, 2010
I was researching this morning just how high a sycamore grows, when I came across a rather unusual piece of information. According to George Knowles of www.controverscial.com, willow trees have long been associated with evil and death. And evil deaths. ... And the Evil Dead? Despite the fact that Knowles' educational background and experience with the unknown is what universities would call stupid, I've still found myself eying up the local neighborhood willows.

Our society has a set plan in the event of tornadoes, earthquakes, fires and even nuclear bombs. Many of us prepare for the more unlikely happenings of bear, alligator and tiger attacks. I, myself, personally keep an ongoing list of local buildings that would be excellent safe houses in the event of a zombie attack (It isn't the grocery store. Why do people in horror situations always run to the grocery store? Unless it has 10 ft. thick cement walls, quadruple bolted iron doors and a manager with complete working knowledge of the location and security of all entrances and exits, the massive food supply isn't going to be worth jack! Also, no available flame throwers.).

But Willows? No plan whatsoever. I figure the underlings are easy enough to deal with, but there are several higher-ups in the arboreal army that might want to watch out for.

The Evil Willow
Origins: The resulting mutation from when Runescape nerds tried to infuse online gaming with real world gardening.
Powers: Roots that stun gamers into a trance so deep that they drop their weaponry, take a shower and sacrifice all personal Axe products to the Goodwill.
Preferred method of execution: A level 30 Runescape player with a lighter and a WoW replica battleaxe
How much should we worry?: 2 - On occasion you'll get that gamer who will jump into the sunlight without burning, but most go into epileptic shock upon encountering 3D objects.

Grandmother Willow
Origins: Disney writers who still think the Earth is flat
Powers: Disney
Preferred method of execution: Stupid white men who enjoy guns, songs with heavy base, and full-figured 14 year-olds in tight - yeah, let's just go with Disney writers.
How much should we worry?: 5 - although Grandma seemed to hit her stride back in '95, she remains the central brain of the current willow offensive to enslave humanity and possibly bring about WWIII .

Old Man Willow
Origins: J.R.R. Tolkien's combined memories of his paternal grandfather and a severe gas attack.
Powers: Hypnotism
Preferred method of execution: Tom Bombadil
How much should we worry?: 8 - Because are YOU going to go find Tom Bombadil? Cause I sure as hell won't. He's a dead ringer for a Runescape nerd and tracking those guys down goes against my religion.

The Whomping Willow
Origins: Snape's attempt to protect Hogwarts from Lupin's periods
Powers: It likes to hurt things.
Preferred method of execution: unknown
How much should we worry?: 9 - The Whomping Willow is the most evil tree currently known to mankind (even more evil than the Evil Willow). It carries a history of beating the living crap out of humans, small birds, and even cars. It's only a matter of time before our international flights become its next target. Our only hope of defeating said menace is to call on the almighty power of Bruce Campbell. We can only hope that his acquaintance with a girl who has experience with evil raping trees will hold over to defeating the most powerful leafy bastard of them all. (That, and he's Bruce Campbell. Wielder of chainsaws, and possibly the only even match for Chuck Norris.)

In the meantime, I'll be petitioning Mr. Obama to design an willow emergency plan of action for all our nation's public schools. Children will be required to quickly and quietly line up at the door while their instructors pass out the travel sized pocket hatchets. Children should then proceed in a timely manner to the lunchroom where they will get under the tables and put their hands over their heads (You jest, but did the U.S. ever get hit by a nuclear bomb during this safety measure? I think not.)

*By the way, Pocahontas, 90 to 130 feet.
Thursday, June 24, 2010
Roadkill, it seems, has become a steadily growing problem for rural drivers and wildlife. Cats smashed to the pavement. Opossums whacked by grill plates. Raccoons stuck to tail pipes. All are a grisly reminder of the increased violence on our roads.

This couldn't be better news for American necropsy scientists, who celebrated the boost in auto-related fuzzy deaths with several rounds of Budweiser and drunken karaoke contests at bars nationwide. "Necropsy (the examination and dissection of dead animals) has never been a huge field of study," says Will Mifflegen of the United States Geological Survey headquarters in downtown Los Angeles. "Our funding has been so low lately that we've had to resort to reviving our more basic training program: Is It Dead? Poking things with sticks."

Indeed, since the SARS epidemic petered out in 2009 demand for dead animals has decreased to unimaginably low proportions. However, with this new string of highway gore, necropsy has seen a new boost in numbers. Janice Robes, president of the University of Minnesota Necrophilia Club says, "Our membership has doubled in size since just last month! We can barely handle our four members!" The club has also seen an increase in demand for animal research. "People really want to know what's making our world's creatures hurl themselves at moving vehicles," says Robes.

Asked if there is anything the general public can do to support this unique area of study, USGS President Gary Mutilate advised that, "People should really watch out for most of the small animals and deer. Seriously, we've got, like, a TON in our labs already. If any of you could hit a condor or a baby seal or something that'd be great. It's so rare that we get those opportunities."

American bar owners are also excited at the news which has lead to triple the alcohol sales for the month of June.
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Okay, I admit it. I am a World Cup soccer fanatic. Well, fanatic might be going a bit far as I don't run through the streets with "GOAL!" written on my chest screaming "Goooooooooal!" at the top of my lungs. But I did play youth soccer for a good portion of my life up until I was fifteen. Although I've passed out of the age bracket for youth footballing, I have kept with me that undeniable urge to passively aggressively berate the players through the television screen.

Being without the basic luxuries of cable TV, I opt to skip down the street to the local gym where they always have a ready supply of ESPN 1 and 2. I got so wrapped up my Eggos this morning that I only realized the US v. Algeria game was on about ten minutes ahead of time. My skip turned into an absolute sprint out the door, down the street, across the street, under the bridge (avoid the territorial swallows dive-bombing your head), and then a skip in the front doors of the Y to veil my over exuberant panic mode, and a bolt up the stairs to catch the opening kick-off. I proceeded to spend both 45 minute halves, and the half time, jumping between machines, staring down television as if I was about to battle it for dominance of the elliptical. I ended up at home two hours later. Completely exhausted and able to feel my own legs.

And who was responsible for this gut-wrenching display of sweaty agony? Sure as heck not the Algerian defenders, midfielders or forwards. They preferred to stick with their defensive strategy of swarming.* What really kept the Algerians going as long as they did, and what made up 70% of their defensive strategy, was goalkeeper Raïs M'Bolhi Ouhab.

However you decide to pronounce his name (I'm going to call him Ray Man), the man was like a wall. A wall with a D&D agility rating of 18. Yes, he was a Ranger. Race? Um... Elven? Yes. An Algerian Elven Ranger Wall with 18 agility wielding the Gloves of Power with a +5 against spherical objects. There was never a more worthy opponent we could have hoped for.

As for the Algerian team, seriously, Ray Man is your new God. You are encouraged to take him and his mother out to dinner, act as personal stand-in water boys for him during practices, and form a legion of uniformed followers to spread his name along with the Holy Book of FIFA.

*I played a traveling team from Mexico that did that once. It seemed that unlike US youth soccer, which categorizes teams by age, this team was just 14 and under. I'm pretty sure our team of 14 & 15 year-olds played against 10 year-olds. I remember thinking this sounded more plausible after receiving a pass only to be surrounded by about four red-uniformed midgets all kicking furiously at my feet. This seemed much the same strategy employed by Algeria against the US.
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Twenty-one years the Simpson family has been with us. They've given us such useful phrases as, "Don't have a cow, man" and "D'oh!" for use in troublesome social situations. They've given us love and laughter, and not to mention an effective method of communicating the territorial nature that surrounds Butterfingers. But no contribution could be greater than that of the show's influence on the literary world.

Many of literature's great works have taken inspiration from Matt Groening and his team of writers - which I can only assume is comprised of the top graduates from Ivy League academies. And so, for your reading pleasure, I have compiled a brief list of Simpson episodes which have had the honor of being immortalized in fiction.

The Bonfire of the Manatees (Season 17, Episode 1) - The origin of Tom Wolfe's novel, The Bonfire of the Vanities. The Simpsons originally used this part in their lives to explore issues of individuality and the sometimes unconscious drive to find meaning in life. This is wonderfully demonstrated through Marge's interaction with a group of manatees. Wolfe has given the episode a darker twist in his novel, showing that, just like sea creatures, different sociocultural classes can also be misunderstood and occasionally hit by rubes on jet skis. This turns out to be a telling story, despite the novel's lack of manatee.

The Telltale Head (Season 1, Episode 8) - Edgar Allen Poe no doubt took his story of "The Telltale Heart" from this episode. Rumor had it that Poe actually possessed a time machine with which he traveled to the future, watched the Simpsons, declared, "Brilliant!", and returned to his own time period. Others have reported, and it is more likely so, that Poe was inspired by a deep opium-induced rain dance in which he received future broadcasts through a metal plate in his skull.

The Principal and the Pauper (Season 9, Episode 2) - This episode originally called for a guest appearance from Stevie Wonder and a young Joaquin Phoenix to play the roles of a prince and a lowly street urchin. However, the majority of the writing team thought this was a bit too far-fetched and changed the story to instead revolve around the real versus impostor Seymour Skinner. Upon hearing the change, Twain threw down his steno pad and declared that he would write his version and the other writers could, "bite me". Twain made good on his promise and wrote his first piece of historical fiction titled, The Prince and the Pauper. Upon the book's publication and rave reviews, he is said to have extended his arm to Matt Groening saying, "I believe you owe me a nibble, sir."

The Old Man and the "C" Student (Season 10, Episode 20) - Earnest Hemingway tried in vain to capture the passion of Bart's struggle towards good through the symbolism of a bull, several boy/father teams, and a toaster. This first attempt went horribly wrong when Cuban political leaders got a hold of the first draft and interpreted it as a threat to the country's sovereignty. Three attempted kidnappings and several long-winded messages from Fidel Castro later, Hemingway changed the story to a quaint tale of a man who just loved to fish and entitled it, "The Old Man and the Sea." The threats were soon replaced by gift baskets from Che Guevara and the newly-formed Guerrilla Cuban Sportfishing Association: We strike when they least expect it.

This entry brought to you by Opium Rain Dance Incense! Helping all of America's great authors time travel and explain away historical inconsistencies for centuries. Yes, Opium Rain Dance Incense! Inhale your literature problems away!
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
So I'm at the local zoo today when I happen by the tiger exhibit. No tiger in sight, but the species information is readily available on a sign to my left. Scanning it over, a highlighted box catches my eye. It reads:

Many of the animals that can fall prey to a tiger have more keenly developed senses of hearing and smell in order to survive a possible attack. Only about 1 in 20 tiger hunts are ever successful.

"One in twenty!" I thought. "How bad of a record is that?" Here we are going around putting the tiger on the top of the jungle pyramid of power when in actuality he's a stone cold loser. Yup. A win-lose record as bad as a mutinous French soccer team. I mean, think about it. In real estate business, a tiger can't close on a house for shit.

Now, it did occur to me that maybe I shouldn't jump to conclusions before actually meeting this terrible stripe-ed beast. I poked my head around the various sides of enclosure. And where did I find him? Sure enough. Sleeping on the job.

This is wonderful news for those humans who might suffer from a debilitating fear of tiger or other large cat-related violence. Doing a bit of snooping, I found that the likelihood of being attacked by a tiger is about the same as winning the lottery (i.e. 1 in 14 million). But even if you are one of the unlucky few, you can still count on your astute humanoid sensory system to really take advantage of that 1:20 ratio. Those of you who might be blind and deaf, well, all I can say is you're unfortunately easy prey. Stay away from jungles and beware of street lamps. I hear they like to hang out up there.

Crossing my arms and shaking my head in shame for the pathetic, mooching feline (He's living it up behind 3-inch glass walls for Christ's sake!) I headed to the gift shop wondering just what the probability of a human catching a tiger was. Higher than a tiger's score, I can tell you that!


MONDAY, JUNE 21, 2010

It's Here!

0 Days To Go

Summer is finally here! ... Officially! And so we celebrate with a climbing of the CD rack with Zeke! Sorry, just needed an excuse to post the photo in all it's cuteness. I actually celebrated this past weekend with a delayed trip to Devil's Lake and the Wisconsin Dells. The plan was actually to pack up the camping gear and head out Friday afternoon, but multiple reports of nasty weather delayed the trip by a night. The hubbie and I actually spent Friday night at the movies catching Toy Story 3. Good movie for ages 9 and up. It really seemed too scary for younger kids. There was a modern version of toy hell, a la an incinerator at a garbage dump, an evil bouncer baby, and a monkey. An evil monkey. And much worse than that one that lives in Chris's closet. Even worse that the one from "The Scary Monkey Show". It's face looks like it went rigamortis years ago. It sits in front of surveillance videos at the day care center all night. And it watches you. Creepy...

Anywho, monkeys aside, more creepiness was yet to come at the main drag of the Dells Saturday afternoon. My god, you've never seen so many fat wedgies, camel toes, droopy cleavage, ratty boxers, hickeys, cancerous sunburns, mullets, and tobacco-stained teeth in your life. The Dells is definitely a place where people leave their fashion inhibitions behind in the name of family entertainment. And apparently that means TONS of stores filled with crap as far as the eye can see. And confederate flags. Not quite sure on that one... not to mention a restaurant called, I kid you not, "Nigs". That's not outright bad, but it's still pretty questionable. We stayed long enough to realize that this is a great location for Fail Blog finds, and to realize that two blocks from the strip the metered parking vanishes and normal parking takes effect. Thank you Dells Public Library parking lot.

Camping wasn't so much camping. We pitched the tent, had dinner in the Dells (Bad idea! Highly overpriced for stuff that just tastes like food!), came back, slept, woke up, ate mini boxed cereal (A much better idea because there were Lucky Charms), took everything down, drove home. The next attempt will be at Blue Mounds State Park for two nights. By then we should have kerosene to fire up the table top grill.
(*P.S. What is it with campers who bring radios a blast them as loud as is humanly possible? And at nine at night? Rangers should not have to enforce quite hours at a tent camping site.)

Today is pretty laid back for the actual summer solstice. I did spend the first bit of sunshine catching the Chile v. Switzerland match. At what point to soccer players get whiny and lame? I'm going to guess it's the second they start getting paid. And later it'll be two hours of summer solstice belly dance practice. Hm, I wonder if I could get my teacher to ease up on the drills in light of the holiday... :) Happy Midsummer!

P.S.Again. I almost forgot, we also stopped at Delaney's Surplus where there are never ending supplies of wonderful junk. The back is home to the creations of local deceased sculptor, Dr. Evermore (apparently he died when his tractor flipped over and crushed him to death about a year and a half ago), and his fantastical metal creations - including the "Forevertron". My favorites though, are the birds made of musical instruments. Any art that requires viewer interaction is good art.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

As I Like It

7 Days To Go
This weekend marked what might be considered by some... okay me, as the true start of summer. It was opening night for American Player Theater's "As You Like It." They never cease to amaze with comedies, as the production team often places Shakespearean plays in alternate time periods. This year Rosalind and Orlando discovered their love for each other through the hardship of the 1920's. Now the language was ye olde English, but never before have I seen a WWF match or a Broadway number in a Shakespeare work. It's truly entertaining to watch the actors having fun with the play before it's been performed to its untimely end. For those who've never seen the play, Touchstone is the fool and comedic slap-in-the-face. In one scene, he and Rosalind find love poetry scattered throughout the forest - tacked to almost every tree. The author, Orlando, has taken to rhyming every last word with "Rosalind". Touchstone points out that any moron can rhyme words with Rosalind by make up his own 2-liners:
If a hart do lack a hind,
Let him seek out Rosalind.
If the cat will after kind,
So be sure will Rosalind.
Winter garments must be lined,
So must slender Rosalind.
They that reap must sheaf and bind;
Then to cart with Rosalind.

But as always, Shakespeare never goes exactly to planned on opening night. Upon his exit, Touchstone shouted:

If you like a big behind Come thou, seek thee Rosalind!

He also managed to slip in a fantastic Robin Williams impersonation over a small bit of monologue.
This play was considered by many to be one of Shakespeare's cop out plays - hence the title. There are bits in the play that scream cliché - such as Jacques, an extremely Debbie Downer of a part-time narrator who tries to give depth and meaning to the plot. Then there's the blatantly obvious plot device: a long lost brother shows up in the last five minutes to reveal that LUCKILY the nasty duke has up and become a born again Christian and everyone can come home and live happily ever after! Yeah, bits were hokey, but the APT cast and crew made it a night worth remembering in the best way possible.

The other event that means summer is almost upon us? True Blood premiered last night! It's violent and depraved and full of swearing, but it has plot and interesting character development. That's WAY more than can be said for the Twilight series, when every time a preteen pays to watch it, a literature department falls down dead.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Lakeside Summer

15 Days To Go
Every June the Memorial Union Terrace is taken over by saxophones, basses and drum sets for the annual Jazz Fest. I gotta say, I think I'm more of a traditional jazz fan. I was hoping to relax, but what came out sounded more like several cats being run over by cars. Free form jazz just isn't my thing. But I did manage to enjoy a really nice night by Lake Mendota. The water was smooth. The temperature was down to the mid seventies with a slight breeze. There were ample amounts of ducklings. And the algae-reek was contained to the bottom of the docked sailboats.

I even got a reminder of how Madison can seem so big, but actually manages to stay pretty small. My husband & I checked out the UWMBDA dance up in Great Hall. We saw friends we haven't seen in years! Alot of them were ballroom dance folks, but there were even some belly dance friends, coworkers from my job and my husband's old job.

We ended with Chocolate Shoppe and Memorial Union ice cream. Awesome start to the weekend.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The 2 Year-Old Madison

27 Days To Go
One of my coworkers, originally from the East Coast, made the astute observation this week that the majority of Midwestern conversations revolve around the weather. To outsiders it might sound boring, but wind direction, humidity, temperature, and the like change so often here that really - if you weren't to bring up the meteorological diversity - people might think you were a little slow. For example, (and to carry on the tradition) this weekend it went from a breezy 75 degrees on Saturday, to a warm, heavy, sticky, 90 degree blah on Sunday. This makes a huge difference in leisure activities.

The Dane County Farmer's Market was teeming with activity this weekend. The hubbie and I trudged out with our plastic hoarding sacks where we met his parent and my niece for a lap around the capitol. As I've already discussed the farmer's market in detail before, I will now give you the highlights according to Emma - 2 year-old:
1. Pretty flowers
2. M&M cookies
3. Magic doors (The revolving doors in the capitol and at the Madison Concourse Hotel.)
4. Lying on the floor (...In the middle of the capitol looking up at the painted dome ceiling. Emma thought it was great when we got up and the members of the teen tour group followed suit.)

That night I also hit up the Madison Roller Derby again - this time for their championship bout between the Quad Squad and the Unholy Rollers. I wasn't paying as much attention as I could have been. I was distracted not only by my library book, but also by the multiple amounts of what I deem, "No. Just no." photos.

Today was the 90 degree day spent mostly inside my sister-in-law's New Glarus pad eating farmer's market plunder. Really, it was everything that makes your heart stop, your bowels move, and your pee stink. Namely: cheese, brats and asparagus, followed up by ice cream and LOTS of orange soda. We attempted to walk off a tenth of the calories with a trip to the park - once again led by our 2 year-old, tutued tour guide.

P.S. If you're not experienced in Wisconsin cuisine, I leave you with this observation about my own body to give you an idea of the after effects: All my stomach can handle for a week is salad, thin soup, and other water-based foods.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Fighting the Local GM Plant

49 Days To Go
Summer brings with it a wonderful array of plant life - and sometimes more than we'd like. This Saturday was the first day of the American Players Theater annual garlic mustard weed out. The husband signed us up for this 5 hour adventure back in February when we got our tickets for "As You Like It" (Opening night in June! WoOt!).

Now if you've never seen garlic mustard before, here's what it looks like. I'll skim over the vast historical details, but suffice it to say, it was brought over in the late 1800's by European chefs who obviously were not also farmers. The things spread like crazy, as myself and the 49 other volunteers discovered when we began to find whole islands of the stuff. Luckily, there were three upshots that kept everyone motivated:

1. The garlic mustard had grown to a little over a foot, had white flowers on top, a very shallow root system, and NO defense mechanisms whatsoever (i.e. poison, barbs, bugs, a taste for human flesh, etc.). This meant that grabbing about 5 at once and slightly pulling was a wonderful possibility. These are nowhere near the kind of weeds my mom had me picking when I was eight - the ones that are unbearably short with thorns and roots that seems to defy all manner of weed killer.

2. 65 degrees and breezy with shade - Little sweat. No bugs. How often do you find those conditions near a swamp? Some people kept their sweaters on the whole time.

3. Picture a cartoon where goats are being unleashed on a massively out of control front lawn. They all ferociously munch on the grass in one effective line until, in a matter of seconds, they've reached the decisive end. This was the effect created by a whole line of volunteers - devotedly, and militaristicly ripping up garlic mustard as they went.

And so, I'm sitting in enjoying the rest of my weekend off from physical activity while occasionally wincing at back spasms. And when I go back for opening night in month.5, I'll be hiking up the hills pointing in different directions proudly declaring, "I did that part! And that part! I fell right there! Then I got more! Ooh! I found some they missed!" And people will think I'm insane.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

57 Days To Go
My beef jerky withdrawal can finally come to an end! After a long hibernation at the Madison Senior Center, Farmer's Market is back! The Dane County Farmer's Market is by far the best in Madison. Chalked full of scones, spicy cheese bread, flowers, herbs, seasonal vegetables, local art, and of course, jerky, it offers the best variety and atmosphere around.

While normally a rainy morning would put off everyone but the hardcore market-goers, today there were just as many crowds coming from the UW-Madison's Crazy Legs Classic. The race is put on to raise money for the UW athletic department every spring. The whole thing is 8K (4.97mi) and winds from the capital square, along the Mendota lake shore, through campus, around the UW hospital and finally ending at Camp Randall stadium. Thousands of runners and walkers participate every year - an opportunity for athletic director, Barry Alvarez, to let out his best evil laugh (Really though, we love you Barry. And we wish you were our coach again. The Badgers need it.). The high numbers means they have to start the race in waves. Watching the first wave blast away from the starting line had be staring like a dope for the two seconds they were in my vision before meekly going back to munching on my frosted pumpkin bar. Checking their site, the top finisher came in at 24 minutes 8 seconds. That's an average of a little under a 5 minute mile! I think I'll stick to bellydancing and the treadmill.

Speaking of bellydancing, outside performance season has kicked out. We had our first of the year at the All Campus Party this last week. In the next coming months it will be children's fairs and the Monroe Renaissance Festival. Keep your eyes out for us!

Also, Robovinsky dwarf hamsters are extremely cute, but they are a pain to get a grip on. This is a lesson taught to me by the newest members of the family, Zeke and Elroy. In addition, their poop is very small and hard to see, they can get very territorial, and you have to buy special dwarf-sized toys for them. But once again - cute. As taking a picture of them is out of the question (there's no setting on my camera that's fast enough), I have added this video so that Elroy may demonstrate his own version of Crazy Legs.
Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Spring Bug

70 Days To Go
Although spring has been around for a while in Madtown, the green is just now becoming more permanent. The cherry tree outside our apartment is our own personal calendar - as every year it blooms a wonderful plethora (Would you say I had a plethora of piñatas?) of white flowers. In anticipation of this, and in celebration of zombie Jesus, I jumped in the car and headed over to Centerville, MN for the Easter weekend.

Centerville was originally colonized by French settlers looking to get in on the fur trading business. I'm sure the town used to be the centre of something back in it's heyday. However, the only remnants of French pride now lie in the annual Fete du Lac festival (featuring a carp fishing contest), and on the headstones of the local graveyard. With not an incredible amount of attractions to offer, my old high school buddies and I made the obligatory trip to IKEA. As IKEA has become a cornerstone of life for so many college students, lonely bachelors and newlyweds, I won't go into much detail. I'll just say that for those who haven't been there for reasons of stubbornness or religious belief, the experience is worth at least one trip. I'm sure that IKEA has modeled their stores around Las Vegas casinos, because once you go in there are little to no windows. The only things helping you realize the passing of time are the increasingly noticeable grumbles from your stomach. The genius of IKEA designers becomes obvious when you finally get out of the maze of furniture only to realize that there are $1 frozen yogurts being sold just behind the checkout counters. If you go, know that all of this combines into a one day adventure. So eat and sleep well before attempting any IKEA trek.

If you're opting to spend the day in Centerville, well, you'll need to find your own ways to entertain yourself. Centerville Elementary claims one of the few open fields in the area, so my brother and I trudged up there with kites. There wasn't too much wind, but it was enough to get us to try. While we were setting up our kites a local guy came jogging up to warn us that he would be trying out his own flying mechanism in the form of a gas-powered remote-control airplane. His exact words were, "I'm no expert or anythin' so... um, watch yer heads." You gotta love small towns. The guy managed three good loops of the field. And it seemed he was getting the hang of it until the steering went wonky and he crashed his plane into a large stand of trees. Turns out a toy airplane crash sounds what I think is a scaled down version of a real airplane crash sans massive explosions. The man and his buddies sheepishly trudged over to look for the scaled down little black box. Meanwhile, my family had come out to watch the commotion, and soon joined in the futile attempts to launch the kites. Nothing worked, but we came close with my dad's sport kite, The Ignitor. I highly recommend it as it is fairly easy to get up when a breeze is available, and as the double string system could easily clothesline a large falcon.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Living Crafty

84 Days To Go
With the spring show for Bellydancing UW coming up on April 10th, I've been filling the time between dancing, work, cooking, and unconsciousness with random crafty projects. And there really is nothing like rainbow cupcakes to keep a person occupied. A box of white cake mix, some dye and cupcake tins/paper cups and you're set. And one of the best parts is mixing the colors. There's just something therapeutic about watching that tie dye color swirl occur in cake batter. It was especially entertaining to be doing this inside where it was warm. The gods seemed to be playing an early April Fool's joke that day because there was a fresh layer of snow on the ground in the morning. Methinks someone upstairs forgot to turn the heat on for the year.

Other random projects for the last few weeks have come up as a result of my work with kids. This papier-maché piggy bank stands in my apartment as a testament to why you should never let 6th graders make papier-maché piggy banks. The kids could just not get the idea that if you put flour-water mix on a balloon and then roll the balloon all over the table, that gives you a gooey mess of newspaper strips stuck to a large rubber globe. I finished my pig in around 1 hour over a span of two days. In under 45 minutes the kids managed to: pop several balloons, complain about the flour/water mix, and wash their hands several times while continuing to go back to the maché-ing. One girl even got gum stuck in her hair after she decided that behind her ear lobe was the best place to store it while blowing up a balloon. This was to be a week-long project, but strangely, all the balloons popped before I could get them to my office. How sad.

Ranting aside, the pig project was actually fun. The finished project is sitting in my apartment slowly gathering change. And there's nothing like hording money while updating your blog and eating the rainbowy-frosted-goodness fruits of your labor.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Frequently, Good Tunes Downtown

100 Days To Go
Last night I attended what I can only describe as my first "concert concert" - one of those over 21 kinds that a teenager might actually shimmy down a drain pipe with their fake ID for. The groups: Tally Hall, preceded by Skybox, and Jukebox the Ghost.

First Impressions
The Frequency is just off the capital square tucked back amongst a smattering of other small bars and restaurants. Definitely not the the location that screams at people to stop in. You go there with a purpose in mind. I got there at 9PM. Walking in I was greeted by a heavily tattooed woman who, if she wasn't the bouncer in name, would definitely have kicked out a few patrons for the fun of it. Venturing past the bar and toward the stage in the very back you realize that the minuscule shop front is by no means an illusion. At about 15 feet wide, the Frequency feels like a walk-in closet that just keeps going. The jaunt was possibly comparable to Lucy, Edmund, Susan & Peter's waltz through the wardrobe. The back room features a random collection of stuff, including an original Arkanoid game, a smashed and signed guitar framed on the wall, and the raidings of what looked to be a Goodwill toy bin in glass display cases. The stage room is completely black, and guarded by a skeleton with a Santa hat hanging from the rafters. In short, so interesting I just might have to go back.

The Music
The first group to enter was Skybox from Chicago. The best word to describe them: sweaty. They spread more DNA evidence over that stage than Law & Order could handle, but it was well spent. Their music was pretty good for a college band playing a mostly college crowd. Enough to get various ligaments bouncing to the base line. Next was the main act. No. Jukebox the Ghost didn't open for Tally Hall. They owned the show. They play what sounds like Bare Naked Ladies mixed with They Might Be Giants - a perfect combination of humor and serious talent. Other crowd members joked around yelling, "Freebird!" I seriously wanted to yell, "Flight of the Bumble Bee"! I'm still convinced that that keyboardist could have done it on the fly. Unfortunately, the guitarist was recovering from vocal chord surgery and couldn't sing. But his playing and his shirt kept the crowd plenty entertained ("I married the feudal lord's daughter and all I got was this lousy goat."). After a wonderfully hyped up set, enter the extremely disappointing Tally Hall. One of their key members was replaced for the night with what seemed a last-minute arrangement. The replacement was the best guy up there. They group had NO stage presence or ability to work the crowd. They played mellow tracks from their old album and too many from their unreleased new one. They skipped two songs on their set list, and then ended the whole thing with an acoustic version of the song "Cecilia". It was every definition of a cop-out. The plus side though? Tally Hall, while just terrible live, is amazing on CD. Plus, Jukebox the Ghost is now firmly established in my music collection.

The Crowd
What I'm guessing is a typical Midwestern crowd. There was "that guy" - the one that got drunk WAY too early in the evening and was screaming random things at the empty stage. There was the music head - the one that sits there bobbing their head to the beat of any song with a look of religious experience the entire time. There were an overabundance of cool geeks. The ones that play World of Warcraft AND have social skills. Then there was the conversation I overheard right after Jukebox ended. The whole thing was being yelled over the din & stereo system: "I heard them for the first time when I had hooked up with a random chick in Florida in the backseat of her car! The album was shoved in the seat cushions and she said some guy she didn't know left it there and I could have it! Sex brought me to Jukebox!"

I will definitely do this again sometime.
Read more "Frequently, Good Tunes Downtown..."

Friday, March 5, 2010

Healing & Growing

107 Days To Go
Nothing beats the cold like hunkering down in the warm computer room and recovering from your wisdom teeth removal. All four are out and gone forever. I actually called the surgeon an hour later to see if I could get them. Alas, OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) guidelines forbids the office to hang onto bloody stumps of removed bone for the cheap amusement of its clients. And so I must be content with my pain medication, milk shakes and swollen chipmunk cheek.

Meanwhile, I seem to have rediscovered my green thumb with a trip out to Jung's Garden Store this past weekend. Currently I'm waiting on snapdragons, thyme, and two other rows of some kind of flower. And lo and behold, they're actually growing! There must be some kind of magical force watching out for the little guys (The browning Ikea bamboo in the living room stand as a testament to my gardening skills).

With my spirits slightly roused by the sight of sprouts (and apparently alliteration), I've also decided to attempt an avocado seed. This was less of an interest in general botany on my part, and more of a what-to-do-with-this-huge-cool-seed kind of thing. On a side note, mashed up avocado is an excellent mushy food for after-tooth surgery.

Also had a brief jaunt up to the Pharmacy/Costume store on Monroe when I spotted this. Even though winter can get extremely long, I will definitely miss the ingenuity that goes along with cabin fever. Hats off to the local snow architects!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Peace is Door County in Winter

117 Days To Go
This past weekend the hubbie and I took a much needed mini vacation up to Door County, WI. To say this part of Wisconsin gets the winter blues is a bigger understatement than anything I can think up involving Texas and risk for heart attacks. Despite being the honeymoon capital of the state, the area shuts down come the cold months. Granted, this also means off season prices. Score!

We stayed at a bed & breakfast called, The Chanticleer. Now the thing about b&b's, as opposed to hotels, is that each one is wonderfully unique with their own unique quirks. They have to be, because as far as I know, there are no b&b chains to corner the market. The Chanticleer drew us in with several features listed on their website: private cabins with Jacuzzis, snowshoe rentals, sheep (I mean, come on. Sheep!) and the best part of all, a no kid policy. This last one was the big seller for me as I spend almost every waking moment around screaming, hormonal, 11-14 year-old mini me's. And it was everything I could have ever hoped for. We got there at around 5PM on Thursday night. By 7PM, the stars were out and all we could hear for miles was the wind. Every night we slept for 10 hours on a very comfortable king-sized bed next to a gas fireplace. We used the fully stocked kitchen to make tortilla soup. We made ample use of the jacuzzi. And we watched The Fairly Odd Parents until picking up a picnic style breakfast from the main lodge.

Other than lounging in our PJ's for hours at a time, we did get out enough to see the peninsula. The Chanticleer is just outside of Sturgeon Bay's downtown. And the most northern part of the peninsula, Washington Island, is only 46 mi. northeast. So Friday was our driving day trip. If you ever decide to do the same thing, know that when you see a blue sign directing you to an interesting gallery, attraction, etc., that you need to turn now. Whatever genius placed the markers didn't also take into account that slamming on the breaks to make a turn from a 60mph zone might not be the easiest thing in the world. Needless to say, we passed turns several times. There are two state parks of note up there. One is Peninsula State Park, which is outfitted with cross country ski & snowmobile trails, a sledding hill and an overlook tower. The other is Newport State Park which starts off with a beach and is followed by a good 15 minute hike to the first of two very secluded camp sites. I thought about trying it this summer, and then realized that it would take a very supped up wagon to wheel our giant blow-up mattress out there. Not to mention, there are no water spigots out there, so I'd have to carry that in as well (Something tells me I'm not quite ready for backpack camping.).

The next day was easier, as we mainly stuck around Sturgeon Bay. Recently I've gotten into amigurumi, hair falls, and various other yarn projects, so we stopped by a store called Spin. I have never known craft heaven until this day. The store is located in an old time bank, and the vault is filled with exotic knits. The walls were crawling with brands I had never heard of before, of every size, texture, color, length, you could possibly imagine. I had to cut myself off early - which became more difficult after the sales lady pointed out the back clearance area. Going back I found even two more full walls of sale yarn. I think my knees went weak. But I was good, and ended up coming away with several skeins of recycled sari silk yarn (Yesterday I made my hair falls out of them & they look amazing!). We also visited a wine shop where the owner recommended we check out Door Peninsula Winery just 3 mi. north.

Door Peninsula Winery is a bit of a tourist trap. We got there just as they were announcing a tour. At only $3 per person we thought, might as well. So we joined up with several other white couples who had come prepared with camcorders, cameras and fanny packs, and trudged down to the cellar. The winery is in an old school house, and while this makes an initial interesting story, the rest is mainly filler. It was painfully obvious that giving tours was not our guides top career choice. He plunked us down in front of a large-screen TV so an animated cherry could guide us through a 5 min. DVD on the wine-making process. The guide disappeared and then emerged from a hall at the end of the movie to show us the bottle machine, the wine fermenting vats, and the aging containers - all very impressive stainless steel. My husband and I proceeded to ask the annoying questions: Where do you get your bottles and corks from? Is there any way a batch of wine would ever go bad? This last one was mine. It was toned down from what I originally wanted to ask: Have you ever come in to find a drunken squirrel or rat in one of the vats? Would that ruin the entire batch? We ended the tour back in the gift shop (an excellent strategy on their part) where we were invited to a free wine tasting. The hubbie and I tried a few sips and found most pretty funky tasting (I suspect a squirrel or two) before heading back to town.

We ended our stay with an expensive dining experience at Sage restaurant & wine bar in downtown Sturgeon Bay. After a pretty good meal of duck and chocolate mouse w/ berries, we slept extremely well before trudging back to Madison. The vacation was the best I've had in months, even though I think Door County is waiting for summer too.

 Friday, February 5, 2010

Eat Your Heart Out

135 Days to Go
If there's one state where that phrase is the ultimate overstatement, it's Wisconsin. Mickey's Dairy Bar even more so. Chowing down on their meals once a day would definitely have anyone gasping for breath in the grossly obese category. But when taken in strides, the tiny restaurant across from Camp Randall Stadium is a godsend.

I joined a fellow dancer friend for a lunch meeting turned breakfast when I'd heard she had never had the Mickey's experience. And really, you can't truly call yourself a Madisonian without a visit there yourself. I dutifully listed off the cafe's unwritten rules for my colleague:

1. Cash only - perfect for any college student trying to scrape up change from under couch cushions.
2. Seat yourself with skill - during the busy weekend morning hours Mickey's gets absolutely packed, with a line extending out the door. The trick is to bring a tall person with you and keep an eye out for patrons just finishing their meal. Claim your spot when they start to get up. But this is the Midwest, so make sure the people who got their before you get their chance.
3. The waitresses will get to you when they get to you - The waitresses are extremely nice and speedy, but if you throw them off their game, you can bet you'll be waiting twice as long for your food. I once saw an older woman (and quite a snooty one at that) flag down a waitress during a breakfast rush to ask if she could "finally" place her order after 3 minutes of waiting. The crowd in the general vicinity quickly switched to ravenous wolf mode, as if waiting for her to be kicked out so the pack could move in on the soon-to-be-vacated seat. Another older couple that arrived after her and waited their turn got their food in under 15 minutes. Justice.

When it comes to ordering, there is no other place in town that serves as much, at such good taste, for less. I got my favorite combination of two eggs over easy with rye toast and a side of corned beef hash. Oh the hash is so good. And when they burn it just right... wow. It makes me want to drool like Homer Simpson. Now my friend, who mind you is just an inch or two shorter than me at around 4' 11", ordered the pancakes and a side of hash. I tried to warn her that the pancakes were quite large and that she might want to get one serving for a dollar less. Even the waitress used the phrase "size of dinner plates" to describe them. My bud was set, though. And after several minutes of light conversation, the waitress returned with hash and two buttermilk pancakes that could feed a whole third world country for a day. There was a group of construction workers sitting at the next table and I think that if they had had measuring tapes with them, they would have tried to figure out how these things were going to fit inside this tiny girl. Even though she only got through half the hash and two-thirds of a pancake, she was still very proud that three days of leftovers only cost $5.00.

With our tummies full and our multiple layers of winter clothing, we didn't walk so much as waddle out the door. Total cost $15.25. The fact that I'm so full I won't have to shop for dinner tonight? Well, priceless.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Season Opener

140 Days to Go - www.madrollindolls.com
Part of being stuck inside during the winter is finding some way to get your aggression out. Granted, sometimes all you need is a good schadenfreude to fill your need for violence. Last week was the season opener for the Mad Rollin' Dolls at the Alliant Energy Center. The crowd topped out at around 2,300 fans, blowing away last year's attendance by over 700 people. The league made the switch to a larger venue back in 2009 when the fire marshal declared their previous haunt, a local roller rink, to be quite the fire hazard. And while some of the small town ambiance is definitely gone, the gals never fail to please once they hit the track. Skaters shove, dodge, leap, and even sometimes pirouette in a valiant effort to pass their rivals and score points for their teams. I could go into lengthy detail about the rules, techniques and strategies, but those really aren't what draw would-be fans. Allow me to elaborate.

Going to a roller derby bout for the first time feels like what I expect is a good punch in the face - especially if you've never before experienced counter culture. Sharing my experience with my father-in-law is perhaps the best way of describing it. He attended back in '08 when the craziness was still confined to a 3,000 square foot building. I believe the first thing he saw upon entering was a pair of extremely hot pants on one of the male referees. After managing to find some really well placed track side seats, it was a wonderful two hours of shoulder-bashing, leaping, flying-through-the-air, twirling entertainment. There was even a very helpful gorilla mascot who was in charge of breaking up fights and escorting players to their respective penalty boxes. The crowd was slosh-full of Pabst and hollering out derby cheers for the Dairyland Dolls team: "Who loves double D's? We love double D's!!!" My husband and I were sure that the whole experience would give his father some sort of aneurysm. But his personal verdict?: "This was
better than the circus!"

So if you go, here's some helpful information:

Where to buy tickets: Order them on the Mad Rollin' Dolls website in advance. It will mean avoiding the line that wraps halfway around the center at bout time. Tickets are $12 online. If you have time to stop by a Madison location listed on their site, you can save $2 and get them for $10.

What to bring: $5.50 for parking. Money for posters/programs. A sharpie for players to sign your paraphernalia after the action.

When to get there:
About 15-20min before the bout start time should work.

What to avoid: The Alliant Center food. Expensive and disgusting.

Seating: If you're a bit nervous, you can easily find a seat in the stands. But if you really want the full experience, ferret out a spot track side.
For the braver ones: If you're good at physics, you'll realize that there are two corners where centrifugal force makes crashes more likely. These are deemed "suicide corners". If you sit in one of these two spots. Try to get a row or two of people sitting in front to absorb the inevitable flying skater, and whatever you do, DO NOT sit next to anyone with an full cup of alcohol. It will be all over you by the end of the bout.