Wednesday, Mar. 26th, 2014

Top 5 autocomplete search results when you type "Is Eau Claire …" into Google

The Mighty Google is great at revealing our collective fears, values, and curiosities. So in an absolutely legitimate and totally scientifically sound experiment, we typed "Is Eau Claire …" into the Google Search Bar of Truth and behold! This is what we saw before us:

1. “Is Eau Claire a good place to live?”

Well, we may be a bit biased – after all, we do live here – but we would have to say yes. So would a lot of studies and surveys: In recent years, Eau Claire has made various lists of best places for raising kids, retiring, and starting a business or career. The fact this is the No. 1 search term suggests we’re in for a Web search-driven influx of those seeking the good life.

2. “Is Eau Claire a party school?”

UW-Eau Claire certainly has that reputation – a well-deserved reputation, as anyone who has participated in (or simply observed) the bar-to-house party migratory pattern of partying Blugolds can attest. However, surveys in recent years have shown a decline in binge drinking, so it’s clear not all UWEC students conform to the stereotype.

3. “Is Eau Claire schools closed?”

During the winter, whether they “is” closed or not depends on the weather. Apparently, however, they “was” closed the day a lot of Internet users learned subject-verb agreement.

4. “Is Eau Claire a dry campus?”

Yes and no. It’s located next to the Chippewa River and is bisected by Little Niagara Creek, so it’s not all dry. However, the elevation of the campus brings it out of the flood plain, so you don’t need to bring hip waders if you enroll. Oh, but you mean “dry” as in the boozey booze? In that case, see No. 2 above.

5. “Is Eau Claire safe?”

For the most part, yes. In fact, the Eau Claire Police Department proudly notes that crime rates in the city are as low as they been in three decades. And the Eau Claire metro area typically ranks near the bottom when crime statistics are compiled nationwide.

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Tuesday, Mar. 25th, 2014

Eau Claire’s 5 most romantic street names

Venus, the Goddess of Love, surveys her Avenue located in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.
Venus, the Goddess of Love, surveys her Avenue.

Buckle up, buttercups – it's time for a wild ride down some of the area's most romantically named streets, avenues, and roads. Because nothing says "romance" like a drive down a residential street with a lusty name.

1. Venus Avenue

The heavenly Goddess of Love reigns on this North Side street, making it a hard-to-beat address for romance. Bonus: Venus Avenue is in a neighborhood nicknamed “The Planets,” so a romance that begins here is sure to be out of this world. Amiright?

2. Twilight Lane

If nighttime is the right time, then you’ve come to the right place if you lose your heart on this short but sultry street just west of the city. Hot tip: Keep an eye out for hunky, brooding vampires.

3. Hotchkiss Avenue

You may not be familiar with this out-of-the-way street near Lake Altoona, but hunting it down will be doubly rewarding. First, the avenue’s name begins with “hot” ... need we say more? Yep. Second, it ends with “kiss,” which is appealing for obvious reasons. The “C” and “H” are there to add a little sugar. (Get it?)

4. Bittersweet Road

What would romance be worth without the fear of betrayal? Would a first love be remembered so fondly if it hadn’t been lost? Puppy love is saccharine; mature love tastes of dark chocolate. This is the lesson of Bittersweet Road.

5. Paris Place

Given Eau Claire’s French name, it’s fitting that a little bit of the City of Love has found its way here. Looking for un petit amour? You may find it on a romantic, winding ride through the west side.

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Sunday, Mar. 23rd, 2014

Sunday Event Picks (March 23)

Chick magnets! Check out the 9th Annual Lambing Time at Govin's Farm today, Details below.
Chick magnets! Check out the 9th Annual Lambing Time at Govin's Farm today, 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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Saturday, Mar. 22nd, 2014
Friday, Mar. 21st, 2014

5 most popular dog and cat names in Eau Claire

We tapped into the City of Eau Claire's pet license statistics for 2013 to determine your neighbor's favorite dog and cat names. To learn more, visit and search for “pet licenses.”

1. Bella/Lilly

Eau Claire dog owners haven’t strayed far from the national standard – or Twilight mania – in picking pooch names. Bella is Eau Claire’s No. 1 dog moniker, a distinction it also had among female dog names in a nationwide survey by, a site that connects dog owners and pet-sitters. Meanwhile, Lily was top dog (“top cat” just doesn’t sound right) for feline names.

2. Buddy/Misty

Who can resist a dog named Buddy? Apparently, many Eau Claire dog owners can’t: They made this best-friend name the second-most popular in town. Nationally, according to, Buddy is No. 3 for male dogs. On the flip side, city cat owners are getting Misty over their feline companions. (Actually, it’s probably all the dander in the air.)

3. Molly/Smokey

We’re not sure what explains the popularity of the name Molly. Perhaps it’s the enduring popularity of ’80s icon Molly Ringwald? In any case, it’s the No. 3 canine name in Eau Claire and No. 4 nationwide. As for the third-ranked cat name, it serves as a reminder that only you can prevent forest fires.

4. Sophie/Mittens

Sophie is trendy no matter how you look at it: Sophie is the No. 9 female dog name nationwide, while the more formal-sounding “Sophia” was the No. 1 name last year for babies – baby humans, that is. As for the fourth-place cat name: It’s so cute! Yes, it is! Who’s cute? Little Mittens-Wittens, that’s who!

5. Bailey/Snickers

Perhaps it’s our collective love of Irish cream, but the androgynous Bailey cracked the top five. Unlike any of the other top names in Eau Claire, it’s popular for male and female dogs: No. 10 for females and No. 15 for males nationwide, according to As for cats, Snickers brings us to the sweet conclusion of the list.

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Thursday, Mar. 20th, 2014

Plenty of Local Election Action on April 1

Despite all the yard signs you’ve probably been seeing, the Confluence Project isn’t the only thing at stake in the April 1 election. Depending on where you live, the spring ballot will including people running for a variety of local, nonpartisan offices. In the city of Eau Claire, incumbent City Council President Kerry Kincaid faces a challenge from first-term Councilwoman Monica Lewis. (None of 11 regular City Council seats are up for a vote this year.) Only two candidates – Charles Vue and incumbent Trish Cummins – are running for the two available seats on the Eau Claire school board. Meanwhile in Menomonie, incumbent Mayor Randy Knaack is being challenged by Councilman Andrew Mercil. There are also city council race in Menomonie and Altoona, while there are no contested seats on the Chippewa Falls City Council. In addition, voters will choose among candidates for county board seats in Eau Claire, Dunn, and Chippewa counties. Don’t know who’s on the ballot in your community or where to go to vote on Tuesday, April 1? Finding out is easy: Either call your city, village, or town clerk’s office, or visit On that website, operated by the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, you can check your voter registration status, view sample ballots, and find out where your polling place is. Your journey to becoming an educated voter is only a few clicks away!

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Wednesday, Mar. 19th, 2014

Stout students make music video for They Might Be Giants

Students shown with the characters they created for a music video for They Might Be Giants. From left are Amanda Nordman, Samantha Belhumer, Matt Patten, Ava Broscoff and Taylor Hewitt.
Students shown with the characters they created for a music video for They Might Be Giants. From left are Amanda Nordman, Samantha Belhumer, Matt Patten, Ava Broscoff and Taylor Hewitt. Image: Ursula Murray Husted

Going into their animation class last fall, University of Wisconsin-Stout entertainment design majors knew they would be assigned the obvious — an animation project or two.

Then they learned from Assistant Professor Ursula Murray Husted exactly what their main assignment would be: In groups, they would be creating animated music videos for a nationally recognized alternative band, They Might Be Giants.

The idea to use the class to collaborate with a band came from Husted. “I’m always looking for ways to get my students more involved in their projects and thought that making music videos for a real band would be a fun challenge,” she said.

Husted contacted a couple of bands, and They Might Be Giants liked the idea. They Might Be Giants has won two Grammy Awards and sold more than four million records since forming in 1982.

The band had a new album, “Nanobots,” and not only agreed to let UW-Stout students create a music video but proposed a contest: The best animated video from four teams in the class would be named the official music video for that song.

Each team was assigned a different song from “Nanobots.”

Suddenly, students realized that their assignment had the potential to go far beyond the classroom. “The band offering to make one of our music videos official was really exciting, but it also left a lot of pressure for us to do a good job,” said student Samantha Belhumer, of Rochester, Minn. ...

Keep reading to watch the video!


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Tuesday, Mar. 18th, 2014

Eau Claire native launches Kickstarter for inspiring documentary

Wichita-based DIY filmmaker Richard
Wichita-based DIY filmmaker Richard "R.G." Miller is the subject of a documentary made
by Eau Claire native Justin Johnson and his partner Erik Beck.

The Indie Machines are a filmmaking duo comprised of former Eau Clairean Justin Johnson and California native Erik Beck. The pair co-created the online DIY filmmaking network Indy Mogul, as well as over 300 short films to date. Since their formation they have received a number of awards including a Webby for their "low-budget special effects show," Backyard FX.

"He delivers high-caliber performances, packed with genuine emotion, and he's the only one in the room. He's a confident artist and simply a wise person who has experienced a lot of ups and downs. Every time we go back and talk to him it feels like a great re-centering of our creative souls." – filmmaker Justin Johnson on his latest subject, R.G. MillerOver the past two years, the duo has been working on their first feature-length film, an inspiring documentary titled Double Digits. Up until now, The Indie Machines have covered all of the production costs themselves, and as the film nears completion they decided to put together the first trailer to compliment a new Kickstarter campaign in hopes of raising enough dough to properly complete their "dream project."

The film tells the inspiring story of an ambitious Wichita, Kansas-based DIY filmmaker named Richard "R.G." Miller. With a beat up Handicam and his action figure collection taking on the role of the supporting cast, Miller creates highly imaginative movies from his studio apartment. The name Double Digits comes from R.G.'s personal definition of creative success: if one of his movies gets over 9 views online, he's happy.

The Indie Machines discovered Miller when he submitted one of his first videos to the Indy Mogul YouTube channel back in 2008.

"It was this amazing sci-fi movie called The Garden of the Heathens (he's got the best titles), and he was playing every part, sometimes having conversations with himself in split screen," Johnson said. "It kind of blew our minds, and we even had a special screening for it on our Manhattan rooftop."

Over time, the filmmakers grew to admire R.G.'s sincerity and desire to challenge himself.

"He delivers high-caliber performances, packed with genuine emotion, and he's the only one in the room. He's a confident artist and simply a wise person who has experienced a lot of ups and downs. Every time we go back and talk to him it feels like a great re-centering of our creative souls."

The documentary covers R.G.'s entire 35-year history in filmmaking, from his black and white videos in 1979 all the way up to his most recent endeavor, The Mask Man. One of the main reasons that The Indie Machines launched the Kickstarter campaign is to fund the documentary's third act, for which the duo rented out a theater in Kansas for a screening of The Mask Man ...

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Monday, Mar. 17th, 2014

Adventures in Toyland

Tou Yia Xiong
Tou Yia Xiong

Who doesn’t love toys? Well, one UW-Stout grad not only likes toys, he also makes them.

Tou Yia Xiong, a 2011 graduate of Stout’s School of Art and Design, exhibited at the 11th annual American International Toy Fair and was featured on The View with his latest creation: Tree Top Adventure. It’s kind of like that wooden bead run thing you find at the dentist’s office for the wee little ones to play with, only a lot cooler. It’s about two feet tall with lots of fun moving bits and pieces for kids to play with. It also has four different stations for multiplayer action.

After working at a video game developer in Seattle, Xiong moved to Minneapolis to work at the Manhattan Toy Company. He has created other toys too, like the Motorworks Fuel-N-Shine Station and the Learning Play Microscope which won the Best in Play award from Working Mother magazine.

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Sunday, Mar. 16th, 2014
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With two victories under their belt in the April 1 election, supporters of the Confluence Project are now preparing to take their message of community support for the ambitious endeavor to policymakers in Madison.

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