Friday, Apr. 24th, 2015

WATCH: Irie Sol does F. Scott Fitzgerald

Irie Sol's next album is about Bernice, the eponymous character from Eau Claire found in F. Scott Fitzgerald's "Bernice Bobs Her Hair." So to write the album they steeped themselves in Fitzgerald and 1920s jazz and history of St. Paul and Eau Claire, drawing on a Volume One feature article by Andy Hanson and Caleb Gerdes.

The "Gatsby and the Jazz Age" lecture/performance shown here happened on April 7 (2015) – presented by UW-Eau Claire's Joel Pace and Irie Sol, it was hosted by Garrison Keillor's Common Good Books, The Friends of the St. Paul Public Library, and Fitzgerald in St. Paul. The video is by Patrick Pelham, who was with the band while recording their new album at April Base studios.

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Thursday, Apr. 23rd, 2015

So proud! UW students make world's largest Rice Krispie treat

Project Freshman 15,000 started out with one clear mission: to make the world’s largest rice krispie treat. Their goal was for the enormous edible to weigh in at 15,000 pounds; a clever reference to the notorious “Freshman 15.” Led by sophomore Joe Tarnowski, students melted butter and marshmallow over boiling water in six groups and then baked blocks of rice krispies in five baking teams. The massive treat didn’t quite meet the goal but it did weigh in at 11,327 lb. which handily beats the previous Guinness World Record holder by a tasty 1,013 pounds.

Someone get me a machete, a poncho, and a glass of milk. I'm going in. Image: WSJ
Someone get me a machete, a poncho, and a glass of milk. I'm going in. Image: WSJ

All of this deliciousness wasn’t done purely for an undergraduate sugar rush. Blocks of the treat were sold to support the United Way of Dane County and Camp Kasem, a foundation that supports children with parents diagnosed with cancer. 

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Wednesday, Apr. 22nd, 2015

Wisconsin's favorite word to use when dating online

In a recent effort to better understand what makes us tick when we’re online, Mashable and Match.com teamed up to create the map below, showing what words people from each state use most in their online dating profiles. The map looks for high frequency words in each state that are also relatively infrequent in other states.

Wisconsin and Minnesota share “cabin” as our most frequently used word. Because what's more attractive than a trip up to the ol' cabin? Wisconsin should double date with Michigan so we can add a bonfire to the romantical magic.

I’m curious as to how Mississippians are “lookin,” exactly; what happens on a “porch” in Tennessee; and just what Texas’s “oil” has to do with dating. Also, what's up with Missouri's lovers loving the zoo? 

Grab a closer look at Mashable

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Tuesday, Apr. 21st, 2015

True Facts: Wisconsin was a giant tectonic radio antenna for the U.S. Navy

One of the stations built in the upper Midwest for the Navy's Project ELF – downsized version of an insanely larger project the Navy considered in 1968.
One of the stations built in the upper Midwest (Clam Lake, Wisconsin) for the Navy's Project ELF –
a downsized version of an insanely larger project the Navy considered in 1968.

In the 1960s, America’s Dairyland almost became one big, giant antenna for talking to the Navy's nuclear submarines. It was called Project Sanguine, and while the scientific reasoning was sound, it was just a wee bit impractical.

See, as the Cold War was heating up, the US Navy was looking for better ways communicate with deep sea nuclear and spy submarines. Aa you can probably guess,  the radio waves that were used for communication at the time do not travel effectively through water. But in 1958, physicist Nicholas Christofilos came up with a solution. One antenna station, built from a network of 6,000 miles of cable, could generate low-frequency ELF waves to communicate with submarines anywhere on the planet. These cables would need to be buried six feet into solid bedrock to produce the signal, and after much consideration, Wisconsin was selected as the best candidate for the super-ultra-mega antenna. It would have covered 41% of the state.

In 1973, the Secretary of the Navy scrapped the project because it was just too extremely expensive. President Reagan would resurrect the project – dubbed Project ELF – in 1989 and antenna stations were built in northern Wisconsin and Michigan’s upper peninsula to attempt a smaller scale version of the idea. Despite being smaller than the proposed full-on, state-wide network of cables, it was still able to communicate with submarines in the Arctic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea, and theoretically anywhere else in the world. The program, despite its success, was shut down in 2004.

At the time, the US Navy proclaimed that there would be no safety or health risks to people living above the cable network. But I, for one, am I glad that submarine whispers aren’t passing beneath my feet.  

Joseph Stromberg at Vox has done a great job making the science behind this bit of arcane history more user-friendly. You can read more about this unbelievable story here.

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Saturday, Apr. 18th, 2015

Wisconsin's 'Most Bizarre Building' Totally Rocks

There’s nothing quite like driving along, minding your own business, and finding a house built upside-down along the side of the road. A little weirdness goes a long way in making some character and America has plenty of character. Supercompressor compiled a fantastic list of the most “bizarre” building in each state. Some of these are absolutely unbelievable and range from “what were they thinking” to “how is that legal” to “I want to live in that.” You might be familiar with what they’ve decided is Wisconsin’s most bizarre building – and I have to agree with them.

Opened in 1959, The House on The Rock is truly bizarre. It was designed by Alex Jordan Jr. who took inspiration from Wisconsin’s own Frank Lloyd Wright; one of America’s most unique and prolific architects. A surrealist Disney World of eccentricity and eclectica, the building draws more tourists and visitors than any other location in Wisconsin. The House on the Rock’s twisting, subterranean corridors lead from one oddity to the next, taking visitors from the world’s largest indoor carousel, past a fully automated symphony orchestra, to the infinity room: an engineering marvel that vaults out over 200 feet above the surrounding forest.

Other American architectural oddities featured include a tower in Florida that looks like the Eye of Sauron, abandoned Indiana prison that spun in the ground, a majestic Colorado castle, and my personal favorite: a massive, Tibetan-inspired palace complex in West Virginia.

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Friday, Apr. 17th, 2015

Councilman Duax Remembered as ‘Iconic’ City Leader

Eau Claire lost one of its most recognizable, enthusiastic, and thoughtful civic leaders when City Councilman David Duax died Friday morning.

Duax, 71, wore many hats in the community over the years, most recently as a City Council member since 2005. Duax was known both for his deep knowledge of Eau Claire and its history and for his commitment to improving the city.

City Council President Kerry Kincaid lauded him for his “unprecedented” service, both on the City Council, the County Board (which he once chaired), and on numerous state and local committees and commissions. “Council Member Duax was a dedicated public servant, with a passion for his hometown,” Kincaid said. “His legacy will have a lasting impact on our community.”

Other council colleagues honored Duax in social media posts Friday. “Dave had a true appreciation of being a public servant – of trying to solve problems to make our community and our society a better place,” Councilman Andrew Werthmann wrote on Facebook. “He saw government as a force for good – and that’s why he served.”

As Duax told Volume One in a 2009 candidate interview, “We need to think boldly, and out of the box. We should not just talk about ideas, but realize the ‘urgency of the present.’ ” With his statesmanlike manner and penchant for public pronouncements and insightful inquiries during council meetings, Duax embodied such boldness, as well as civility and respect for government institutions and processes.

Fellow Councilman Eric Larsen wrote Friday that Duax was “an iconic public servant and leader.” Earlier in the week, when Duax was moved to hospice care at Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire, Larsen noted Duax’s long experience both on the City Council and County Board. “It is very sad to see his service come to an end,” Larsen wrote. “He was a strong leader to the end and I know he would have gladly served another 30 years if he could.”

Duax served on the Eau Claire County Board from 1974 to 1983, and between 1987 and 1994 held a variety of posts in the administration of Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson. Later, he was director of development and director of communications at Sacred Heart Hospital.

On Tuesday, State Rep. Dana Wachs, D-Eau Claire, who served on the City Council with Duax and said he’d known him most of his life, spoke on the floor of the state Assembly about Duax’s legacy. “David has always worked across party lines,” Wachs said. “He’s been a standup guy, a great friend, and a champion for the city of Eau Claire.”

Although he was hospitalized following a brain bleed in January, Duax was re-elected without opposition to another three-year term on the City Council April 7. During his decade on the council, Duax advocated for downtown redevelopment, promoted the Chippewa Valley Regional Airport, and authored a citywide smoking ban, among many other things.

 

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Tuesday, Apr. 14th, 2015

5 Wisconsin Tax Day facts you didn’t know

1. WE’RE INDEPENDENT …

April 15 is the deadline for paying the taxman, and that got us thinking about where our tax dollars are going – or not going. One interesting assessment: Wisconsin is among the least-dependent states on the federal government. According to rankings compiled by WalletHub, a personal finance website, Wisconsin ranks 18th (with No. 1 – New Jersey – being least-dependent on federal dough). This is in part because of the low number of federal employees in Wisconsin and the relatively small share of our state budget that comes from Washington, D.C.

2. … UP TO A POINT

Of course, that doesn’t mean we don’t get any money from the federal government. In fact, according to the same study, Wisconsin got $1.79 in federal spending for every buck it sent to D.C. That’s a pretty good return on investment (though it means other states are subsidizing spending here).

3. PRESTO DINERO

One of Wisconsin’s biggest recipients of federal funds is right here in Eau Claire: National Presto Industries may be known for kitchen appliances, but it’s a major defense contractor, too. Between the 2010 and 2014 fiscal years, Presto got more than $593 million in federal defense contracts, according to the official USAspending.gov website. Presto and its defense subsidiaries manufacture 40mm ammunition, fuses, cartridge cases, and “less lethal” products like tear gas canisters.

4. BIG BURDEN

Wisconsin is ranked as one of the most costly states tax-wise, thanks to its relatively high property tax and state income tax burdens. In fact, a WalletHub survey ranked Wisconsin third worst (or, if you prefer, 49th best!) out of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. A study by the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance was a little better, putting Wisconsin at 15th highest in per-capita taxes in 2012.

5. HOME SWEET HOME

Surprisingly, average property taxes in Dunn County are higher than those in Eau Claire County ($2,952 vs. $2,677, according to a 2012 study by the Tax Policy Center, a national think-tank). Both are far behind Dane County, where average property taxes at $4,279.

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Monday, Apr. 13th, 2015

Mason Trust Pledges $100k to Confluence Performing Arts Center

A Chippewa Falls-based charity has pledged $100,000 toward the proposed Confluence Project’s performing arts center. The BA Mason Trust, the philanthropic arm of Mason Companies, announced the gift Monday, April 13.

“This investment demonstrates the family business’ commitment to the people and the vitality of the Chippewa Valley. We hope it will encourage others to help out in any way they can,” said Tim Scobie, a member of the fifth generation of the Mason family involved in the family business, which was founded in 1904 in Chippewa Falls.

“In this increasingly competitive environment, recruiting and retaining the very best employees is of paramount concern to family businesses like ours.”

“In this increasingly competitive environment, recruiting and retaining the very best employees is of paramount concern to family businesses like ours,” Scobie added. “Our region needs amenities that encourage people to consider the area, to move here, to raise their families here, and to contribute to the region’s social and economic health. The performing arts center will help accomplish this.”

The BA Mason Trust donation came in response to a fundraising initiative dubbed “Businesses for Growth.” To date, more than $7.3 million has been pledged toward the performing arts center by businesses, individuals, and families. The philanthropic goal is to raise $13.5 million of the center’s estimated $40 million cost. The city and county of Eau Claire also have committed funds, and $15 million for the arts center was included in Gov. Scott Walker’s version of the state budget, which awaits legislative approval. The $40 million arts center is slated to open in the fall of 2018.

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4 Strange Wisconsin dairy laws (that may or may not be true)

Wisconsin is serious about its dairy. Serious enough to wage a war against margarine (aka "the demon spread") and have the most stringent product quality assurance program for cheese and butter outside of Europe. Wisconsin has had more than a few laws passed to ensure its place as America's Dairyland, so let's take a look at three real ones plus a popular one that's really a myth.

Yellow does not belong to pineapples, bananas, or lemons.
It's true – yellow does not belong to pineapples, bananas, or lemons.

1. Margarine was banned in Wisconsin until 1967. (True!) This was part of a whole kerfuffle known now as the Wisconsin Oleo Wars, which we’ve written about before here. Margarine is still banned in public institutions like schools, prisons, and hospitals (unless doctor ordered). And don’t you dare try to lie about your margarine and pass it off as the real, Wisconsin thing. That’s actually still a very finable (and imprisonable) offense.

2. Wisconsin cheese must be “highly pleasing”. (True-ish) At first I couldn’t believe this one. How on earth do you enforce this? Is there a number I can call if a block of Sconnie yellow I just ate was only somewhat pleasing? Turns out this isn’t so much a law as it is a part of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection agency’s rating standards for Premium AA cheese, which you can read more about here.

I knew I shouldn't have worn my ring.
"I knew I shouldn't have worn my ring."

3. It is Illegal to Make Limburger cheese without a Master's Lisensce. (True-ish) I keep seeing this one around the Internet, but it’s not even half true. It’s like a quarter true. You can make any kind of cheese you want in Wisconsin, but the prestigious “Master’s Mark” of quality is only given to those who have graduated from the hardcore and very selective Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker’s Program. Enrollees can choose up to 2 of 36 cheese varieties to specialize in, Limburger included.

Cheese on apple pie. Not legally enforceable.
Cheese on apple pie: Not legally enforceable.

4. Apple Pie Must be Served with Cheese. (False) I get asked a lot by non-Sconnies if I put cheese on apple pie. Of course I don’t. That’s what apple and cheese tarts are for. But some people seem to think there may be an actual law enforcing restaurants to provide cheese with the sale of an apple pie. Connie Von Der Heide of the Wisconsin State Law Library says that the 1935 Laws of Wis., ch. 106 came close – it required serving a small amount of cheese and butter with meals in restaurants (effective from June 1935 to March 1937). Also, the Wisconsin State Journal found that a Vermont law came close to doing this, but nothing like this has ever been enforced in Wisconsin.

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Sunday, Apr. 12th, 2015

Sunday Event Picks (April 12)

Today's your last chance for some sweet, sweet cuddle action out at the Govin's farm. Details below.
Today's your last chance for some sweet, sweet cuddle time out at the Govin's farm. 
Details below.

From early in the morning and into the night – a lot of fine quality events occurring on Sunday. Wanna know what they are? Of course you do. Our picks are below. Check out the rest of Sunday here.

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