Tuesday, Aug. 11th, 2015

Last Call on the Wagner's Shortcut

Today! Tuesday, August 11 is the very last day you can cruise through the weird little shortcut running behind Wagner's Lanes in Eau Claire, connecting Brackett Avenue to Fairfax Street. On Wednesday, the often pothole ridden path (which is really a parking lot) will be blocked to prep the area for Wagner's forthcoming expansion (they're adding a large sports dome for volleyball and such).

Yep, we stand upon the precipice of the end of an era. From tomorrow on, your sneaky trips to places like Taco Bell, Starbucks, and Caribou Coffee will most likely involve a southbound trip down Hastings Way. Good luck, dear friends. Drive safe. 

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Monday, Aug. 10th, 2015

The Most Popular Book Set in Wisconsin

There's a certain joy in reading fiction set in a place you know like the hairs on your hand (that's a phrase, right?). The protagonist might pass through a town you recognize. If the place is fictionalized, you might know exactly where the writer was when they got the idea. A character might walk onto the page that seems like one of a hundred people you know. Well, because we needed to know, Mic.com compiled this map of the most popular book set in each state.

Mic.com came to these figures by selecting the highest rated books on Goodreads with over 50,000 ratings each. They also excluded books that were entries in a series.

The House on the Rock appears in the first few chapters of Gaiman's epic American Gods.
The House on the Rock appears in the first few chapters of Gaiman's epic American Gods.
See a bigger version.

American Gods, Neil Gaiman's epic take on fantasy, Americana, and folklore, is the most popular book set in either Minnesota or Wisconsin. Gaiman has lived near Menomonie, Wisconsin since 1992, and the book shows a deep appreciation and understanding of the upper midwest. American Gods is truly the most epic work of fiction set in America's Dairyland.

Another notable discovery from the map is that Stephen King dominates five states. The Stand, a cross-country post-apocalyptic journey, is the most popular book in Arkansas, Colorado, Arizona, and Idaho.

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Wednesday, Aug. 5th, 2015

GO NUTS: Best of the Chippewa Valley Reader Poll 2015!

Our big, giant, massive Best of the Chippewa Valley Reader Poll is now up and firing on all cylinders. It covers everything from local restaurants to local media to news issues to arts-n-entertainment and everything in between including fried chicken.

Again this year! This year's poll is available to you via our handy mobile site. Just load'er up on your smartypants digital devices and get clickin'.

And please, oh please remember! You get to add your own responses that can, in turn, be voted on by everyone else. Also, just like years gone by, you don't need to complete the poll start to finish – you can just skip around, voting all willy-nilly in whatever order you want over the next few weeks. Voting ends on August 26.

Quick! Go vote Now!

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Tuesday, Aug. 4th, 2015

Eau Claire May Dump Odd-Even Parking

Sick of having to remember which side of the street to park on during the six months of the year when alternate side parking is in force in the city of Eau Claire? You may be in luck: The City Council is considering changing the rules to require alternate side parking – a.k.a. “What’s tomorrow’s date again?” parking – only during city-declared snow emergencies rather than between Nov. 1 and May 1. The council discussed the change at its July 27 meeting, and several council members, city staffers, and residents spoke favorably about ditching odd-even parking. And according to the Leader-Telegram, if the ordinance is changed, residents would be notified of snow emergencies via news releases and social media, and alternate side parking could be instituted around the clock for up to 72 hours. The council is expected to consider revising the ordinance in November.

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Monday, Aug. 3rd, 2015

How Wisconsin "Lost" the Upper Peninsula

The story behind this one is bizarre by our standard, mundane by 19th century standard.
The story behind this one is bizarre by our standards, yet mundane by 19th century standards.

It's (kind of) common knowledge in Wisconsin that what is now Michigan's upper peninsula was once part of America's dairyland, and was somehow ceded to our eastern neighbors. But just like most common knowledge, this isn't quite as true as it seems. It's actually the result of a war which had nothing to do with Wisconsin. And not the "aggressive diplomacy" sort of war. A sheriff was stabbed, so we're going to count it as a war.

The inaccurate
The inaccurate "Mitchell Map" started a border dispute, an interstate "war," and decided the fate of the UP.

In the 18th century, cartography wasn't an exact science and statelines weren't something you could look up on Google maps. In 1787, the U.S. government enacted the Northwest Ordinance, declaring the border between the state of Ohio and Michigan Territory as "an east west line drawn through the southerly bend or extreme of Lake Michigan." Congress used the Mitchell Map to define this line, and as you can tell from looking at the map above, Mitchell was a bit off in his calculations. A straight line drawn with the US government's description would have cut off almost all of Ohio's access to Lake Eerie, which would have cost Ohio a lot of trade revenue. To avoid this, Ohio changed the description of the border itself so that it ran from Lake Michigan to Maumee Bay.

So far so good, until Michigan applied for statehood in 1833 and drew the border between itself and Ohio using an accurate map and the original description of the border. This created a tract of land called the "Toledo Strip," 5 to 8 miles wide. To try and make Michigan give the land back, Ohio governor Robert Lucas pulled some favors in congress to deny Michigan's statehood. Enraged, Michigan governor Stevens Masons enacted the "Pains and Penalties" act making it an imprisonable offense to support Ohio in the Toledo Strip, and enforced it sending 1,000 Michigan militia to the strip. In response, Lucas sent 600 Ohio militia.

No Man's Land. I think I can hear Ennio Morricone in the background.
No Man's Land. I think I can hear Ennio Morricone music in the background.

Okay so the Toledo "War" wasn't that exciting; it was mostly bloodless skirmishes, arrests, lawsuits, and saber rattling. There was one bizarre case where Michigan sheriff Joseph Wood tried to arrest Major Benjamin Stickney for voting in an Ohio election while living in the strip. Benjamin and his sons, One Stickney and Two Stickney (you can't make this up), resisted and stabbed the sheriff. He survived his wounds, and it was enough to prompt both sides to withdrawn from the No Man's Land. The political scuffle went on until 1836 when a deal was reached. Michigan would gain statehood and give up the Toledo Strip, but gain the upper peninsula from the Northwest Territory. Ohio considered it a victory.

That is until people learned about the mountains stuffed full of copper and iron ore in the upper peninsula. More wealth came out of the UP than out of California during the gold rush, and supplied 90% of America's iron and copper. Sounds like Michigan got the better end of the deal.

In the summer of 1837, as the Toledo War was ending and Michigan was gaining its statehood, the Wisconsin territory was officially formed. Wisconsin was, at one point, part of Michigan territory but broke off before it ever had its own name on the upper peninsula. Thus, we never had it. But, if Ohio had just kept to itself and accepted the loss of the Toledo Strip, Michigan would have likely left the upper peninsula for Wisconsin.

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Thursday, Jul. 30th, 2015

You Can Own a Lion in Wisconsin but You Shouldn't

(Not a pet.)
(Not a pet.)

In one of the less controversial cat-related stories sweeping the country, there seems to be a lion of some kind prowling the streets of Milwaukee. Police were initially skeptical that a big cat was wandering the streets, but 14 phone calls, two police sightings, and one grainy cell phone video later, they're taking the possibility more seriously. On July 27 around 7pm, police at 30th St. and Fairmount Ave. responded to an eyewitness sighting of the animal. First sighted on July 20, the possible-lion is instilling feelings of caution, shock, and skepticism throughout the city.

Above: Kind of clear as day cell phone video screen cap.
Above: Kind of clear as day cell phone video screen cap.

The mane questions are: what kind of animal is it, and how did it get into the streets? Jill Carnegie, a 43 year veteran of exotic animal rescue, believes that because it is too small to be an African lion, it is likely a mountain lion. As for how it got out and about, experts are divided. Some suggests that while cougars are more common further north in the state, it's possible that one has moved out of its habitat and into the city. However, other experts have suggested that it is more likely an animal that someone had been keeping as a pet.

As a pet, you say?

As it turns out, Wisconsin is one of only five states in the Union that doesn't prohibit the importation of exotic, big cats. While local ordinances usually prohibit owning them within city limits, there is no mandatory registration system for owning them. It's just suggested that you let the police know you're keeping a fabulous white tiger in your rec room.

Because no internet-famous 21st, century animal is complete without one, the notorious cat has opened a Twitter account to proudly share his whereabouts with the people of Milwaukee. Watch this space for updates on the Mysterious Milwaukee Cat.


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Wednesday, Jul. 29th, 2015

Bumblebees Are Awesome: Local Short Film Showcases the Buzz

Bumblebees are important, and they're in danger. Pesticides and habitat destruction are threatening the survival of the native bumblebee, and if they die out we will suffer massive consequences in food production and wildlife. But some people are working to make sure that the workers can keep on buzzing.

"Native Pollinators: The Bumblebee" is a short film created by Joe Maurer to draw attention to the plight of the bumblebee in the Midwest. The film also appears in "Prairie Enthusiasm! Protecting Our Natural Heritage", a feature length documentary also directed by Maurer.

"Our native Bumble bees are super cool, under-appreciated little flying rockstars," says Maurer. "We need more awareness of our native pollinators. They are really interesting to learn about! The buzz about (non-native) honeybees is great but we need to be more critical about the use of pesticides in agriculture relative to native bees. Unfortunately in places in China, they've noticed the absence of native pollinators and it's already too late. They've nearly wiped them all out. We also need more garden cities. Eau Claire could be like that. A city of pollinators."

"Native Pollinators" was created by Maurer, with ecology help from Mark Leach and Reena Bowman (UW-Stout), local artists Lori Chilefone and Jyl Kelly, and music by Deirdre Jenkins, Lucas Stangl, and Eric "Pedals" Thompson.

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Tuesday, Jul. 28th, 2015

The Most Widely Available Beer in Wisconsin

Let there be lite.
Let there be lite.

Wisconsin may consume more beer than the rest of the country, but that hardly makes us alone in our love of the stuff. Every region has its tastes; from the big three macrobrews, to the blue ribbon, to beers so obscure that no one's even heard of them yet. When visiting an unfamiliar bar or restaurant, crawling through the beer menu can be a head-scratching experience. This map, put together by Pricenomics, measures 6,000 bars and restaurants and over 20,000 different beers, showing which beer you're most likely to find on menus in any given state.

Today in Wisconsin's unsurprising beer news ... <a href=
Today in Wisconsin's unsurprising beer news ... get a closer look.

If you like Miller Lite, you're in luck: you've got a 62% chance of finding on a menu in Wisconsin. There are a few more interesting Sconnie stats to come out of this, though. It looks like those numbers are coming from everywhere but Milwuakee, because 69% of bars and restaurants in Milwaukee carry New Glaurus Spotted Cow, 43% carry PBR, and 69% don't carry Miller, Bud, or Coors Lite. Madison (unsurprisingly) has the distinction of being tied with St. Louis for having the most PBR available. Maybe we should consider a little more variety in our refreshments. I say we should have national "try a new beer day." 

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Friday, Jul. 24th, 2015

5 Things in Which Wisconsin Is Number 1 (Other than Cheese and Cranberries)

Number one, baby.
Number one, baby.

1. Milk Goats

Wisconsin may be No. 2 in milk cows, but our Dairy State nickname holds true when it comes to milk goats. With 46,000 of them, we’ve got 13 percent of the U.S. total, according to a 2014 report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Goat milk – much of which is made into excellent cheese – is higher in protein and calcium and lower in sugar than moo juice.

2. Dry Whey (Human Food)

What exactly is whey, other than part of Little Miss Muffet’s preferred snack? Well, it’s the liquid byproduct remaining after milk curdles. When it’s dried, whey becomes a protein-rich powder than can be used in everything from baby formula to baked goods. Wisconsin produces more than 300 million pounds of dry whey annually.

3. Mink Pelts

Draping oneself in the fur of these weasel-like critters hasn’t been the pinnacle of fashion since Jacqueline Kennedy’s heyday. Still, Wisconsin raises more than 1.2 million mink who are destined to be transformed into pelts. That’s about one-third of the nationwide total.

You can't beet Wisconsin, baby.
You can't beet Wisconsin.

4. Beets

Lovers of this ruddy root – borscht eaters, unite! – have Wisconsin to thank for growing nearly half (well, 47 percent) of the processed beets in the U.S., These may seem like an old-fashioned vegetable, but in Wisconsin, the beet truly does go on! (Sorry, couldn’t resist the pun.)

5. Cattle Genetics Exports

Where do little calves come from? Far from a cow and a bull frolicking in a field, the process usually boils down to technicians with very long gloves wielding frozen straws of – well, “bovine genetic material” is as delicately as we can put it. Wisconsin exports $91 million of the stuff annually, more than half of the U.S. total.

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