October 29, 2010

Triviasaurus Rex, Part 2

Part 2!

After finishing the first half tied for second place (one point behind the leader!), we buckled down for the second half of trivia night. These rounds were worth 12 points each if you got all the questions right, and...we did. We did not get a question wrong the rest of the night.

Round 4:
TV: Before Boston Legal, James Spader was on what other television legal drama?
I didn't know this, but our team's brains overlapped each other all night. Apparently, the Practice.
American History: Who was 30,000 in the air over Kansas when Gerald Ford was sworn in as President?
I think Kelly gets the credit for first saying Richard Nixon, but as soon as she did the entire booth agreed.
Islands: What nation owns 'October Revolution Island'?
Russia. I thought I remembered the Bolshevik revolution happened in October. Russia was as good a guess as any.

Round 5:
Literature: What literary character lived in the 100 acre wood?
- We all said "Winnie the Pooh!", and then wondered where the children's literature/literature line is drawn.
Food: I don't remember the exact wording of this question, but it was something about a French phrase that has come to mean 'best quality' in addition to describing a dish.
- Initially, the booth was going with Monte Cristo. However, I don't think we were satisfied with the answer, and then Kelly suggested that 'cordon bleu' co!uld be similar to blue ribbon or something. We decided that was a much more palatable answer, and we were rewarded with 1 point.
Baseball: Hack Wilson set what single-season statistical record?
Please. A question about a Chicago Cub and his major league 191 RBIs in 1930? Really, trivia night?

Round 6:
In My Big Fat Greek Wedding, what household cleaning does the main character's father use for all-purpose healing?
- Windex. I said Lysol right off the bat, but the booth corrected me. Thanks, ladies.
Common Bonds: What do these words have in common: Easter, Christmas, Virgin, Phoenix, Solomon?

They are all islands! This was a really rough question, but we got it at the last minute. You don't want to mess with Triviasaurus Rex.
Books: What naturalist and bird-watcher wrote a book that recently sold for $8.8 million?
- John Audubon.

He was, quite frankly, the only ornithologist that I could come up with. Yay Audobon!


We came into the last question in first place by three points, so we wagered all 15. Basically, we had to get the question right no matter what, so why not get 15 points? Go big or go home.

Who won the 1988 Grammy for Best Album?
Michael Jackson
Whitney Houston
Dolly Parton, Linda Rondstadt, and Emmylou Harris.

...wow. We reasoned this one out, but I think it was still a bit of a guessing game. However, we guessed correctly with U2 and the Joshua Tree! Booyah 15 points and a $40 gift certificate!

October 28, 2010

Triviasaurus Rex, Part 1

This past week, my friends Amy Bestul and Kelly Thorngate asked me to be a part of their trivia team at the Brass Ring. The night finally rolled around, and we settled on the team name "Triviasaurus Rex" at the boot.

To cut right to the chase, we won. It was great.

I took some pictures of our answer sheet on my phone so I could remember the questions later - here is how the game was formatted:
The first half of the game was three rounds of three questions each - we had to assign point values of 1, 3, or 5 to our answers for a maximum value/round of 9.
The halftime round was a series of 4 questions worth 2 points each.
The second half of the night was three rounds of three questions, but this time with point values of 2, 4, or 6.
The final question was one where we could wager up to 15, but would lose the wager if our answer was incorrect.

Round 1:
Movie Plots: How much money did the Blues Brothers have to raise to save their orphanage?
- $5000. Credit to Amy for watching the movie earlier this week.
World Geography: (I got excited when I heard this category, but it wasn't that difficult). Amman is the capital of what Middle Eastern nation?
- Jordan
Sports: Gary Bettman is the commissioner of which major sports league?

We nailed that round, but they weren't that bad. I'd have been upset if we got any wrong.

Round 2:
Science!: What element is a main component in bone, limestone, and ___. (They gave a third thing, but...I forget what it was. Also, the sound system wasn't great).
- Calcium. We got this one right.
The Simpsons: Something about what real life boxer was the inspiration for blah blah blah
- Mike Tyson. Also got it.
Lyrics: The emcee rattled off a bunch of Mariah Carey lyrics from 2009 - something about windex? I don't remember. Also, we did not get this one correct.

Round 3:
Round three would turn out to be our worst round of the night. Coming right after the Mariah Carey question, I will admit that my confidence began to waver a little bit.
Space: What was the third nation to send a man into outer space (hint: they used a Soviet rocket)?
We guessed China, but I had a feeling it might be a random Eastern Bloc satellite (haha) nation. Yup, the correct answer was Czechoslovakia. Whoops. If not China, I would have guessed East Germany.
Classic Rock: What Scottish band sang the song "Love Hurts"?

We wrote down Asia, but that was just silly. The booth had no idea who this was...turns out it was Nazareth.
Alcohol: So far, we were 0-2 in R. 3, but this was a pretty easy question. In the drink Windex (I think), vodka, rum, and lime juice are combined with what blue liqueur?
- We said blue curacao, except we used the ç. I enjoyed the proper character usage.


Yes or no - were these people alive at the same time?
Mark Twain, Hermann Melville
Benjamin Franklin, Robert E. Lee
Karl Marx, Immanuel Kant
Vladimir Lenin, Winston Churchill


We went 4/4, closing out the first half on a good run.

Part 2 to be continued tomorrow!

October 22, 2010

Summer is over.

I was walking to work on Tuesday this week, when I got the news that summer is officially over:

That's the fountain on Library Mall, closed up for the winter. It's always a sad day for me to see it shut down; the sight is a brutal reminder of how depressing Wisconsin winter can be.

Ah, well. Bring on the broomball games!

October 2, 2010

Home Decor

Since I moved into my apartment about a month and a half ago, I've been slowly finding the right decorations for its walls. So far, I have put up:

the mirrors that Mike and Chelsea gave me when they moved to San Diego in 2007
my puzzle of places to see in Africa

...and that's it. However, I recently found and purchased some sweet posters of planets from the Star Wars Universe. I ordered three from Etsy after somehow happening across Justin Van Genderen's photostream on Flickr. Actually getting the package delivered to me was a hassle that I don't want to get into again (mainly because right now it is the middle of the night and I'm tired. Sneak Preview: I've spent the night getting a big project done [maybe], and will post pictures of it tomorrow), but here are the three new premiere pieces of art in my apartment.

Tatooine, the desert planet from A New Hope.


The Forest Moon of Endor

My not-so-barren wall.

Besides satisfying the Star Wars nerd in me, I like these posters mainly due to their simplistic design. I think I picked three that go together reasonably well as far as their colors (not that I had any choice...you have to have Tatooine, Hoth, and Endor, right? My only debate was perhaps trading Endor for Yavin IV. Oh well).

I wonder how much air fare to Mos Eisley would be?

September 23, 2010

Exciting Purchases

This past week, I made two exciting purchases for my new apartment.

Actually, that sentence is only half true. One purchase I made this week doesn't have much to do with the apartment, and one purchase was made about 3 weeks ago but did not get into my possession until this Tuesday, thanks to the USPS ignoring the forwarding address they so desperately need. Anyway.

I'd put up pictures of purchase no. 1, since they're Star Wars posters and look phenomenal, but my computer is busy installing purchase no. 2 - Adobe CS (Creative Suite) 5 - Design Premium. It's a package of software containing such heavyweights as Illustrator, Photoshop, Dreamweaver, and more. I'm super excited, to say the least...and I got it at a severe student discount through DOIT. This semester is basically composed of me slogging through an introductory statistics course, which is a breeze. I'm getting my money's worth, though. I'm going to every student training seminar I can. These things would cost my company probably $250 per session, but I'm taking at least 15 this semester - for free. Also, I just got a $1500 discount on this amazing software that will now consume my life, so it's all smiles here.

August 11, 2010

Beards Galore

According to this graphic detailing the trustworthiness of bears, I range from Threatening at best to Dangerous at worst. It's unsettling news, to be sure.

I have three defenses:

1. 'Neck Beard' is what results when I trim my normal beard, but am too lazy to get the real razor and actually shave.

2. 'Patchy Beard' is what happens when I am too lazy to even trim my facial hair; my face has basically decided to grow hair in only non-traditional areas plus a mustache.

3. My beards, however non-trustworthy, are preferable to my clean-shaven face?

July 21, 2010

Veggie MRIs

The next time you have 10 minutes to spend being mesmerized by something, go look at these images of vegetables. They were captured by using an MRI machine - quite frankly, they're gorgeous.

I think my favorites are the broccoli (I don't know why; the image seems whimsical to me), the corn (probably because I've been enjoying some delicious sweet corn lately), and the pineapple (because I can absolutely imagine Shawn Spencer taking an MRI of a pineapple).

July 12, 2010

Graphing Rivera

Even if you don't like baseball (and you should, it's a beautiful sport) you should go visit this graphic by the New York Times.

Mariano Rivera is a Hall-of-Fame pitcher for a reason, and this is a really clear look at why he is so good at getting hitters out. Besides the coolness of the baseball knowledge, this caught my eye because it is an interesting blend of interactive graphic and a video. It's a creative method of communicating a unique set of information.

If anybody invents a time machine and would like to take me back to teach 8 year old Jeff how to throw a cutter, that'd be great!

July 9, 2010

Classic Badger Games

The Big Ten Network has several shows on Hulu.com, and I recently used that partnership to watch one of the Big Ten's Greatest Basketball Games.

March 5th, 2003: Illinois @ Wisconsin

The game was hard-fought, with the winner taking the Big Ten Regular Season Championship. I'm not going to recap it here - either read it at ESPN or watch the game.

However, I will share some things I couldn't help thinking while the game was on:

1. Holy cow, look how young Alando Tucker looks. Nice 'fro.

2. Actually, Wilkinson looks like a preteen too. Wow.

3. Dave Mader...what an oaf. I think UW's Big Lumbering White Guys All-Star team can compete with anybody else's. Mader, freshman-sophomore year Stiemsma, J.P. Gavinski, Jason Chappell - that's a solid group.

4. That game took place over 7 years ago, and I found myself still getting excited when Devin would hit a three, or Bo got his technical foul. Good times.

June 25, 2010

Garlic Scapes

Last Saturday, I was pleased to drag Calli, Jody, and Zack to the farmer's market. We started with crepes at Bradbury's, walked around the square, stopped in at Fromagination, found ourselves viewing a naked bike ride, and then went to Pizza Brutta for lunch. I think we all found some things to enjoy during the day:
I picked up garlic scapes, green onions, and three tomatoes, along with three cheeses from Fromagination.
Calli gets to enjoy whatever comes out of those ingredients, plus the enjoyment of a beautiful morning. Jody and Zack both said hello to every puppy/dog in the downtown area in addition to tasting/buying some delicious cheeses from Fromagination.
tomato, scapes, and gouda

On Monday, I made scape pesto by blending together half of the garlic scapes, a couple of basil leaves, pine nuts, olive oil, and parmesan cheese. So far, I've only used the pesto as a spread on grilled cheese sandwiches...three times.

I don't care that I have to brush my teeth after eating one every time. It is absolutely worth it.

I have a theory (which is practically fact) that when the Israelites were eating manna in the desert, it was in the form of grilled cheese. As a Wisconsinite who most definitely does not keep kosher, manna ideally would be grilled cheese with bacon. Whatever.

June 24, 2010


My favorite thing about Madison is the Dane County Farmer's Market. So far this year, I've been lucky enough to go walk around the square and get some amazing produce on several different occasions.

Back around Mother's Day, I snagged some morels. I didn't do much to them besides saute them in butter. They were delicious.

"what are these? are they for me?"

After I rescued the mushrooms from Dinah, I took half of them home as a quasi-mother's day gift. The four of us had a very spring lunch of grilled trout, sauteed morels, and an asparagus flatbread.

June 11, 2010

Wall Map Update

I've been making progress on my giant wall map project lately. I had finished the sketching last spring, but then let the momentum die away. However, I have now finished painting the oceans on 7 of the 20 panels - it looks pretty decent. I'm beginning to worry that I'm never going to live in a place with a wall big enough to handle this thing, but that is a problem for later.

You can see that I've finished the Southern Ocean around Antarctica and almost all of the water surrounding South America.

Here you can see the eastern part of Antarctica and Australia just beginning to show up. New Zealand sure looks different than most maps' representations of it; I think that is due to a combination of the map projection I based this on and my own scaling issues. Whatever, it's art. If I ever have to find my way to New Zealand using only this wall map, there are a lot of things going wrong in the world.

I think that my favorite part of the map so far is either the Antarctic Peninsula or the Amazon River Delta in Brazil.

...well, I am also partial to the giant world-crushing cat in this picture.

June 1, 2010


The WI highway beer project has been put on a (temporary?) hiatus for an indeterminate amount of time. Since my last foray into the field, there has been an increase in Madison-based work for the Historical Society. We've also hired a bunch of new archaeologists, so I've been hanging out downtown for the last couple of weeks. I don't find a lot of empty beer cans on the sides of hallways down in the basement, so the project has been shelved. For now.

May 26, 2010

Wine Tour 2010

This monday is Memorial Day. Combined with a semi-mandatory furlough day on Friday, I have a four day weekend blessedly approaching.

During the first half of this extended weekend, I'll be taking a mini-vacation of Wisconsin wineries. The trip will be limited to southwest WI, because there's not really enough time to hit all of the vineyards in the state. However, I expect the six-stop tour to be perfectly enjoyable.

The vineyards are: Botham, Spurgeon, Weggy, Vernon, Burr Oak, and Wollersheim. Once we get back, I'm hoping to expand this map and include a bunch of photos/reviews of the delicious, delicious wine(s).

May 13, 2010

2010 Field Season Beer Project

No, I haven't decided to drink through the entire field season - although I did find some of New Glarus Brewery's Unplugged Old English Porter this week in West Bend. This project revolves around highway survey and the discarded beer cans/bottles we find along the side of the road.

Walking along the side of a highway in Washington County (or Burnett, or Douglas, or Fond du Lac, or Brown, or...) can be a mind-numbing way to spend a work week. My mind tends to wander a bit during these surveys, especially when there is a decided lack of artifacts being found.

One of the questions my brain decides to ponder on these surveys is why there are so many empty beer cans along the side of highways. I'd like to give Joe West Bend the benefit of the doubt and say that a piece of gravel kicked up from the shoulder and tore a hole in one of the can-filled plastic bags in the bed of his truck on his way to the local recycling center, but this is Wisconsin. Joe was drinking beer while driving, and then decided to throw the can out his window.

I'll be keeping a running tab of the brands/styles of beer that I find on the side of the road and listing them here. Open a cold one and enjoy (from the safety of your house).

May 5, 2010

wednesday graphic links

I think banning books is abhorrent and counterproductive - when I see the yearly list of "most banned books" or whatever, I immediately want to read them. To Kill A Mockingbird is an American - a world - classic. I would feel sick writing a letter asking to ban it.

If your worldview can't handle a children's book about two boy penguins raising a baby penguin, it is not the book that has the problem. Anyway, Good has produced yet another quality transparency showing the 10 most-challenged books of 2009. I don't actually like this graphic as much as I like most of their work; my main complaint is that the colors chosen to represent the different challenges don't readily correspond to the reason for the challenge. I don't know that I have a better way to do it. There are twelve listed reasons that people challenged books, ranging from offensive language to violence to suicide to age-unsuitability. Twelve categories are a lot to differentiate just using color.

Speaking of color, Randall Munroe (of nerdy webcomic XKCD) just concluded a color survey. Basically, takers of the survey would enter information about their computer monitor and their 23rd chromosome and then start to describe the colors of squares that would appear on their screen. The results are in, and some of his conclusions are pretty interesting. Not surprisingly, people get mighty tired of describing colors after twenty squares or so. The descent into madness seems to start to occur after the 3rd consecutive square of 'green.'

On a more somber note, legendary Detroit Tigers announcer Ernie Harwell passed away today. You can find more eloquent and personal stories about him from guys like Rob Neyer, Joe Posnanski, and Craig Calcaterra. I will merely link to a timely graphic from Wezen-ball. I saw this last week when Bob Uecker had his heart surgery, but it works today as well.

May 4, 2010

Coming soon

I saw a 'preview' for something intriguing today:

Alinea creator Grant Achatz is opening a new restaurant that will offer four menus a year, each with a different space/time theme. For example, the first year will be serving meals from 1912 Paris and 2035 Hong Kong. From everything I've read about Alinea, Achatz's food is brilliant. News like this makes me wish I was both a Chicagoan and rich enough to dine at Alinea/Next.

Well, eventually. Right?

May 3, 2010


I've been accepted into UW's GIS certificate program. That's right...back to school, where I will:

hopefully avoid Ogre
probably not go streaking
dance along with Otis Day and the Knights

I will be meeting with the GIS program director this week to determine specifics of my return to college, but...back in school!

April 30, 2010

Snapshots of meals past

A couple of weekends ago, I made two dishes from some of my favorite food sites - Smitten Kitchen and Simply Recipes. SK provided a recipe for shakshuka, a brunch-ish meal of eggs poached in a spicy tomato sauce. You crumble some feta cheese into the pan and serve it all with toasted pita bread. The end result is a surprisingly hearty and delicious meal.

Here are the eggs, freshly cracked into the sauce. I think I overcooked them a touch, but that didn't stop Calli and me from devouring the thing.

toasted pita bread w/ kosher salt


The shakshuka was a pretty solid meal that will probably get thrown into my lazy saturday brunch rotation.

Later that day, I tried a dessert recipe from SR. We ate strawberry shortcake sliders, without a trip to White Castle or a carjacking from NPH.

These were pretty tasty, but I don't think my biscuits rose as much as they should have. I can't figure out why that is...I'm going to go ahead and blame faulty baking powder.

Maybe I'm just not a baker.

April 29, 2010

April 25th, Cubs v. Brewers

Last Sunday, I went to Miller Park with Calli's family for a Cubs/Brewers game. The Cubs won 12-2 behind 4 home runs and a strong pitching performance by Randy Wells, so I had zero complaints about the day.

The seats were pretty nice, as well - we were in the 20th row behind home plate. If home was the center of a clock, I'd guess were at about 7 o'clock...so certainly no complaints there.

One upsetting aspect of the game was this bizarre human sacrifice they conducted before the game:

Fielder, before he consumes his prey.

Maybe I misinterpreted this, but I'm pretty
sure it was some sort of combination of Bull Durham baseball voodoo and Fielder's insatiable appetite (vegetarians can eat small humans? Is that right?).

Other things I saw:

Real baseball teams don't have cheerleaders. Then again, they don't let mustachioed giant-men go down slides after homeruns. Real baseball teams let plants grow on their ballpark's walls.

Shameless. I don't want to vote for the All-Star Game anyway.

Addendum: Real baseball teams don't beg for all-star votes on their field.


I hope Kendra politely declined.

All in all, it was a delightful game. I had a blast, and am glad I got to tag along. The Cubs have a 1-0 record when I'm in attendance in 2010; they should start requiring my presence.

What's that? Coincidence? Schmall shmample shmize, I say to you. Get out.

April 28, 2010

Drawing maps

A while ago, I mentioned Slate's hand-drawn map contest. Well, they've published some of the entrants. They range from computer setup instructions to a famous artist's party invitations to a clever way to avoid the Delaware Turnpike. Later on in the article, they write about the Hand Drawn Map Association. I had to visit it, and it's a really creatively inspiring/interesting selection of hand drawn maps. Maybe I'll bring along some pens, paints, and paper next time I have to go in the field.

I think my favorite hand-drawn map is the kid's map to Treasure Island, complete with Blue Angels in the background. I'm not sure 'background' is appropriate; it's clear that the Blue Angels are the focus of the piece.

As they should be.

April 27, 2010

Cranky Camera

I am back in Madison for the week, and will try to have some posts up tomorrow. What to expect? It's tough to say - my camera really is opposed to the idea of uploading photos at the moment. If I can impose my will on it, then you'll be seeing:

Shakshuka, adapted (stolen) from Smitten Kitchen.

Strawberry Shortcake Sliders (featuring the saddest biscuits in town), from Simply Recipes.

Images from the Cubs game on April 25th against Dave "Batting Practice" Bush and the Brewers.

A roast chicken?

Plans for a Wisconsin Wine Tour

Also, this week I'm supposed to be getting accepted/rejected into UW's GIS certificate program. Let's hope for a Friday post involving a screenshot of an acceptance email.

Happy Tuesday.

April 19, 2010

Field Season 2010

I'm in the northwoods of Wisconsin for the week, working on a site in Burnett County. Today, the crew arrived at the site in the afternoon, and within 5 minutes I had already found (and savagely murdered) my first tick of the year. My total count for the day was 3 ticks, 1 artifact.

I just cannot understand how a tick ever got made into a comic book hero and star of a television show. Ticks are gross:


They are "blood-feeding parasites," and they don't ask your permission before tapping the keg. Even so, if that was all they did...we'd probably forgive them. Minor nuisances, circle of life, so on and so on. This is similar to the idea that mosquitoes are no big deal - until you remember a little bug called malaria. Ticks wouldn't be so bad if they weren't the prime carrier of Lyme Disease.


You'll never catch me laughing at this guy again.

April 16, 2010

sustainable seafood

One thing that I have a hard time keeping track of is which fishes are currently okay to eat. I never know what species are threatened, or which fish should be eaten from farms but not from the wild, or whatever. I'm not a fishmongerer or a chef, so it's not a crippling ignorance, but I still know that I could know more. Good published a transparency a little bit ago that shows which fishes are acceptable to eat - for me, the visual really helps my brain process the information.

I do understand that dolphins are off-limits, whether they're farmed or wild. Yikes.

April 15, 2010

The Answer to the Ultimate Question...

42, besides being the key to life, was also Jackie Robinson's number. Today is Jackie Robinson Day for Major League Baseball, where every player wears the number 42. Normally, the only player to wear 42 is Mariano Rivera - and he will be the last to do so. MLB retired #42 in 1997, and Rivera is the last active player who was wearing 42 at that time.

Flip Flop Fly Ball put together a cool graphic in commemoration of today, showing the last player on each team to wear #42. Go check it out - and also Go Cubs!

April 14, 2010

A Poll of Utmost Importance

Last night, I put together Simply Recipes' Strawberry Shortcake Sliders. The biscuits didn't exactly rise as much as Elise's did, but no matter. They tasted great.

However, making this dessert sparked a debate. What is the best component of strawberry shortcake? Vote on the left.

..and here's a hint. It's the whipped cream.

April 12, 2010

Charleston maps, in 3D!

While I was in Charleston, Calli pointed out a series of cool maps to me. A park on the east side of the peninsula has a set of four sculptures representing the city of Charleston as it was in the 17th, 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries.

In the 17th century, the city takes up just the southernmost tip of the peninsula. Of course, it only had 20 out of those 100 years to grow.

The 18th century saw some growth north on the peninsula. I like the emerging pier on the Cooper River.

Charleston exploded in the 19th century, reaching the base of the peninsula. The docks on the Cooper River expanded as well.

Charleston in the 20th century saw two significant changes reflected in the map - the giant bridge over the Cooper River, and the elimination of several piers for the construction of Riverside Park.

I can't decide if the bridge is more impressive while you're driving over it after an overnight drive from Wisconsin, or looking at it cast in bronze or whatever.

April 11, 2010


cup·ca·ni·ac /ˈkʌpˌkeɪˌniˌæk/
- noun
1. a person who displays overly fervent desire or enthusiasm for cupcakes

I first found out that Calli is a cupcaniac while we were in Charleston, although I didn't create the word until we were in Savannah. Charleston has a tremendous cupcake shop on King Street that we visited one day after lunch. I had a chocolate chip cheesecake cupcake:

...while Calli devoured a chocolate cupcake with cream cheese frosting:

( I was a tad more patient at this particular restaurant).

Such is her love for cupcakes that she then debated getting another.

Ultimately, we left Charleston without a second helping of cupcakes (or manna, depending on your point of view/propensity to exaggerate). However, the vacation was not done yet. While we were on a ghost tour in Savannah, we happened across a cupcake emporium. This, of course, was the highlight of the day for one of us.

In the spirit of Easter, we had chocolate and vanilla cupcakes with buttercream frosting and a chocolate bunny garnish.

Calli Matzke: cupcaniac.

April 9, 2010

Excited anticipation

Why am I excited?

1. It's friday.

2. I get to hang out with JODY!??...

3. ...here. (arrow pointing down).

April 8, 2010

MtD Book Review: Sum

David Eagleman's book, Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives is an engrossing imagining of forty versions of what happens after we die. It clocks in at 109 pages, so you can easily read in one evening. Expect to keep it longer than one night (past its due date, like I did) because you'll keep skimming the various scenarios, thinking about what it would be like to:

live all the moments of your life over again, but with them rearranged and sorted by categories (sleep for decades, then shower for a while, etc. etc. etc)

walk through a heaven populated by all of the gods that have seen their followers disappear on earth. You know, play frisbee with Zeus and Thor.

get to heaven and be disappointed, what with all the heathens there too.

...and 37 more!

This book has the early lead for Jeff's favorite book of 2010, with Kitchen Knife Skills and Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything.

Get it here.

April 7, 2010

Favorite Thing Ever

I think I may have found the best website on the internet.

The Grilled Cheese Academy features 30 varieties of grilled cheese sandwiches, narrated by Jenna Fischer. They look delicious, although sometimes the descriptions are a little...cheesy. I'm sorry.

Which would I be most interested in trying?

#6 - The Flatiron.
#7 - The Heartland.
#10 - The Monroe.
#29 - The Cheshire.

I can't imagine not enjoying any of them, though. They're full of cheese! Some of them have bacon! What's not to love?

April 6, 2010

Giving up

I've just returned to Wisconsin from a Spring Break trip to Charleston, SC and Savannah, GA. Originally, I had planned to write a week's worth of posts prior to leaving for the southeast, but time ran short. Writing wasn't the only thing that I forgot, either. I remembered that I had completely missed a tux fitting deadline while walking through the Charleston Museum's exhibit on wedding dresses. Thankfully, that appears to have been more of a soft deadline, and I have remedied that mistake.

However, the missing blog posts are a different mess. I set a New Year's resolution to write something here each day. So far, I've been able to accomplish this (albeit with the considerable help of Blogger's feature that lets you post in the past. I've been using 14" of pine tar for this resolution, or HGH, or hair gel, or whatever. I cheat.).

Anyway, I'm giving up the strict one post/day resolution. The vacation set me back too far, and the feeling of having to catch up for those missing days is making me feel less likely to write new things. I can't quit while there are still rules to be written and muppet videos to be watched!

March 26, 2010

Thanks - you too!

You know when you're at a checkout line, or at the bank, or in any situation where somebody might say to you, "Have a nice day"? The reply "you too" is so automatic that it really doesn't require effort. Every so often, some renegade barista or coworker will say something like "Have a good vacation" or "Hope you feel better" and you reply, "you too!"...and immediately realize that your reply doesn't make sense. Whoops. You've just admitted to having at least a portion of your brain not actually devoted to the conversation.

Well, I hope the taco stand guy today has a great trip to South Carolina and Georgia, because I'm certainly going to!

Happy Spring Break, everybody.

March 25, 2010

Mapping the Bracket

I thought it would be interesting to get a glimpse of where the schools in this year's NCAA tournament are located, since I had no idea where I would find Siena, or Lehigh, or Morgan State, or...you get the picture.

(click to enlarge)

Texas leads all states with 7, followed by Pennsylvania with 5 and California with 4. 5 states had 3 schools in the dance, and 9 states put two schools into the tournament. I think I'd like to take a week and look at the last 10 years of tournaments, and maybe find out the percentage of eligible schools per state that have gone to the dance. For now, we'll have to settle for the 2010 rounds of 64 and 16.

(click to enlarge)

With 3/16 teams in the Sweet Sixteen, the leading conference is...the Big 10! I would have been more excited to hear that last week, before the Badgers sapped me of my interest in college basketball. Until next year.

March 24, 2010

Free burrito? Okay

Today, Chipotle gave every employee of the Historical Society a free meal as a token of appreciation to local businesses. If all I have to do to get a free burrito is dig around and find my ID badge, then I'm all in. Thanks, Chipotle!

It's good to be Jeff.

March 22, 2010

Storytellers across the world

Strange Maps found a beautiful map today that charts the basic story involved in four classic works of literature. For example, George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion has a long, storied history originating in the eastern Mediterranean. I'd definitely like to see a map with more stories charted out like this - another good way of mapping this concept could be a timeline/family tree kind of deal.

March 21, 2010

Conflicted feelings

I would write a legitimate post, but right now I'm just not in the mood. The Badger basketball team just got run out of Jacksonville by a Cornell team that couldn't miss their shots, and got way too many rebounds, and got the benefit of the refs, and had a dumb nickname, and...

Sorry. I run-on when I'm upset.

Anyway, my mind is all messed up right now. As a Cub fan, I have a very soft spot in my heart for ivy. However, Cornell is in the Ivy League. My brain! Now that the badgers lost, I'm going to wear my crankypants and yell snarky things at the television for the rest of the night.

March 18, 2010

This Week in Maps

Here are some interesting maps I saw this week:

Remember the map of american hamburger fiefdoms from a while back? Weather Sealed has a follow-up graphic with a couple landscapes enlarged for a better look at things. At some point, what was a map morphs into artwork composed of colored blogs...but I don't discriminate against abstract blob-based artwork.

Staying on Weather Sealed, I found a illuminating look at the different touch patterns of typing styles. It is hard for me to imagine anything else besides the typical touch typing profile - having keyboards since age 6 or whatever and being taught typing in elementary school tends to ingrain some things in one, I suppose. The post illustrates the most common styles of typing, and the movements most associated with them. It's cool.

Maps don't always have to display data geospatially - the U.S. Department of State is currently running an innovative project called Opinion Space. You answer five questions about foreign policy issues (they're not terribly difficult, don't worry. Also, you can't really be wrong.) and the combination of your opinions get mapped in comparison to >12,000 other responses. Left/right, hawk/dove, your answers are mapped in a sort of vacuum. This (in theory, at least) allows for a more honest discussion of issues, and it is fun to see where your data point falls.

Last week, I linked to a newish mapping group called Floatingsheep.org. Their latest map has been my favorite so far. The trio has mapped references to Christianity on Google Maps. On a global scale, they map references to Catholic, Protestant, Pentacostal, and Orthodox denominations. They then write about how that probably overstates Catholicism, as references to smaller protestant denominations are less numerous. However, in a U.S. map they list 10 different types of references. It's a colorful, revealing map.

Finally, if you were a video game character in 1982 New York City, this is what you'd be holding while you tried to find Times Square.

March 17, 2010

Pi Day 2010

This past sunday was Pi Day, a day dedicated to honoring the irrational number π. I first celebrated Pi Day sophomore year of high school in Mrs. Trost's math class. My friends and I didn't "do our homework"...so we loaded up on pi-related extra credit, including (as best as I can remember) making pie, singing a song about pi, memorizing pi to some dumb number of digits, etc. etc. etc. I wish we had known about this website devoted to pi day back then.

This year, I headed to the Hubbard Avenue Diner for Pi day. It's a Food Fight restaurant in Middleton, and generally a pretty decent-but-not-great place to eat. Our booth of five had three servings of the daily quiche, a frittata, and some eggs+other things breakfast plate. I enjoyed the quiche - it was packed with mushrooms, asparagus, and cheese (plus some other stuff that I just can't remember right now). As far as savory egg pies go, this was fantastic.

Sadly, the dessert pies were across-the-board disappointing. I think it was partly orderers' remorse and partly just sub-par pies (and in one case, cake). Julie had a sour cream/somekindofberry pie, and I thought that was probably the best of the booth. Tim got a german chocolate pie, and Ann ordered something with a funny texture. Maybe I should have been paying closer attention, but they were way on the other end of the booth. It was tough to see. Calli's dulce leche pie was okay, but I can see where it would get old after about two bites. It seemed like flan with a crust, cut into a pie shape. Now, that's not necessarily a bad thing, but we were there for Pi day. Not pie-shaped flan day.

Speaking of misleading dessert, my pie was actually cake. I ordered the Boston Cream pie, which is actually a round cake filled with a cream filling. I should have known this, but I got distracted by a debate regarding the optimum filling for doughnuts. I think we can all agree that when it comes to bavarian cream v. icing, bavarian cream wins in a landslide. Jelly-filled doughnuts are sent to the NIT.

Anyway, I should have known that boston cream pie wasn't the way to go on Pi day. There was a tempting strawberry rhubarb pie that I considered, and now I realize that I should have gone with that. However, Thomas B. Marlow's 3rd Rule doesn't allow for strawberry rhubarb pie consumption until mid-may. Pi Day falls into the gap between French Silk and Lemon Meringue seasons.

Pi day 2010 was marred by the lack of satisfaction in our pies. Maybe next year, we'll drive to a Norske Nook.

March 15, 2010

what. is. this.

I don't mean to barrage you with obsessive tales of ice cream, but I just read some repulsive news. Now, we can all agree that there is nothing wrong with Girl Scout Cookie-flavored ice cream, right? That seems like a pretty universal truth.


The problem here is not the ice cream, but the naming of the ice cream. For the last time - Samoa is an island nation in the Pacific Ocean. THE COOKIE IS CALLED A CARAMEL DELIGHT.

March 14, 2010

Ice Cream 1.0

Today was a very frustrating day until about 10 minutes ago.

I assembled my ice cream maker yesterday and began the process of making David Lebovitz's Vanilla Ice Cream. I stopped at Penzey's Spices on University last week and picked up some vanilla beans from Madagascar, which got steeped in milk and custardized last night. Today, after celebrating Pi Day with Calli, Ann, Tim, and Julie, Calli and I churned the ice cream mixture for ~40 minutes. Then I opened the canister.

Nothing had changed. At all.

At that point, I assumed I had done something wrong with the maker. However, what else was there to do besides keep churning? Luckily enough, the machine came with an electric motor. I plugged it in and started making dinner (I was able to have more immediate success with spinach/sausage stuffed pasta shells).

Anyway, after at least another hour of motorized churning, I opened the ice cream canister and it was still very much a liquid. The troubleshooting section of the manual suggested to take the canister and place it in the freezer, so I did. At this point, I was fairly upset. I don't like to fail more than anybody else does, and I was so excited to try homemade vanilla ice cream. I think that why I dawdled so long in unpacking/assembling/trying the ice cream maker is probably one of two reasons:
1. I do have a long, frustrating trend of procrastination.
2. I knew that there was a fair chance of having things not go smoothly. One thing that I still have to fight in cooking is the fear of failing, even when failure isn't the end of the world.

The lesson here is that when I took the ice cream canister out after dinner, the mixture had more or less frozen into recognizable ice cream, and it was fantastic. Fantastic. I know that vanilla can be seen as a bland flavor, sort of a blank slate...but this had such a pronounced flavor of vanilla, with all of its complexities, that it would have been criminal to drizzle hot fudge over the scoops.

March 12, 2010

weekly map links

Happy Friday!

That is a complete lie. I woke up today only able to draw about 75% of my normal breath, running a fever of 101. Now the Badgers are losing their first game of the Big 10 Tournament to Illinois, shooting about 25% in the process. Gross.

In the face of such a cranky-pants Friday, I'm just going to put up some map links from the week, and brainstorm about what to do the rest of the weekend. I'm betting that watching the remaining basketball games isn't going to be enjoyable at all for me.

I apparently missed the deadline to scan my hand-drawn maps and be part of a study at Slate. Darn. I'm sure the published results will be sweet.

I found a group of professors in Kentucky/England that call themselves Floating Sheep. If I understand their site correctly, they are using the user-generated, geocoded data on Google Maps to map and analyze the world through the combined eyes of internet users. It's a fascinating world of increasing data, and they consistently find innovative ways to show the world.

March 11, 2010


In the spirit of March, Dane101 is running a bracket of the best things about Madison. Six of the sixteen first round matchups have already been decided, but there's still plenty of time to go and vote. I'm predicting a Union Terrace v. State Street finals, although the two 1 seeds in the upper half of the tournament are monsters. The Terrace and the Dane County Farmer's Market might be my two favorite things about this town, and they are on course to meet in the semifinal.

Go vote! It's your...civic duty?

March 10, 2010


I loved Encyclopedia Brown when I was in elementary school, and I say with 100% certainty that I read every E.B. book that Northside's library had. Today, I happened upon Encylopedia Brown's entry in the madness that is Wikipedia. I have no idea how it happened.

Anyway, THAT took me to this adaptation of an Encylopedia Brown story. I thought it was pretty enjoyable for a wednesday morning, at least.

March 9, 2010


I'm having this cup of espresso while waiting to head over to Mike and Jenna's place for some Scrabble and Bananagrams.

It's a cold and rainy Tuesday night, and I don't have a ton of stuff to talk about, but I will post an update with results later on.

Victory! My second play of the game was zaps/shining for a bingo and something like 82 points. I made the lead hold up, as the board never really got opened up. Jenna went out first, but I only had 6 points on me leftover tiles. Whew.

We played a few rounds of Bananagrams, with everybody going out once (I think).

March 8, 2010

Road trip audio books

In two and a half weeks, I'll be going on a spring break trip to Charleston, SC and Savannah, GA. My plan on the drive is to either be passed out in the passenger seat or listening to audio books, but I'm having trouble thinking of books to check out for that purpose. The problem is this - I don't want to listen to books I've read before, ruling out the by-all-accounts-terrific Harry Potter audiobooks. However, I keep going down my list of books to read and think that if I want to read them, I want to actually read them and not listen to them.

Whatever am I to do?

March 7, 2010

Peanut Sauce Stir Fry

Tonight, I made a stir-fry with chicken, pea pods, red peppers, onions, and a moderately homemade peanut sauce. I attempted the walk the fine line between documenting the cooking process and setting off Calli's smoke detector (again).

Here's a close-up of my pretty quasi-mise:

...and the peanut sauce looking fairly unappetizing:

Basically, I combined curry powder, peanut butter, milk (not coconut milk, unfortunately. The grocery store I went to didn't have any!?!) and white vinegar.
I promise, when everything came together it was tasty.

Just LOOK at it!


March 6, 2010

The Joys of March

What is March good for? I just turned on the Cubs spring training game against the White Sox to see/hear these things:

Angel Guzman's MRI results came back with some bad news for his shoulder.

Andres Blanco turning his ankle on a pickoff from catcher to second, eventually leaving the game.

Marlon Byrd 3-hopping a throw from shallow right-center to home in an unsuccessful (surprise!) attempt to throw out a runner scoring from second on a single.


Next we'll hear that Trevon Hughes and Jon Leuer both exploded their knees while getting off the bus in Champaign. Stupid March.

March 5, 2010


I'm currently baking a pizza right now with a garlic/oil sauce, mushrooms and onions, and a grated cheese/bleu cheese blend. Oh, and I forgot to mention the BACON? Oh yeah, there's definitely bacon.

The dilemma I encountered while creating this delicious circle of goodness was resisting eating the cooked bacon before it got to where it was supposed to go - the pizza. How does one not do that?
I did a really nice job of getting the bacon perfectly cooked. How was I supposed to completely ignore earth's finest food when it was sitting on the cutting board, taunting me? I'm proud that most of the three strips made it to the dough.

This pizza was wonderful - maybe the best I've ever made. The bleu cheese, bacon, onions and mushrooms combine for a terrific and beautiful dinner. I'll post some pictures the next time I connect my camera to the computer, I promise.

March 4, 2010

The Right Foot

At 2:00ish CST today, the Cubs played their first spring training game of 2010. While I'm a little guarded in my expectations for the '10 club (their best chance for postseason success came in '07 and '08, and we all know how that played out. Sadly.), they started it off well. Derrek Lee hit a solo home run in the bottom of the first inning off Trevor Cahill, and I stopped paying attention pretty soon after that. Cubs.com tells me that they won, but I don't much care. Lee started the year off on a happy note. Good enough for this guy.

March 3, 2010

Wednesday's graphic links

It's Wednesday, and I'm just going to share some of the very cool graphics/articles/videos I've been reading over the last week.

Good produced a graphic charting the range of incomes of Americans, divided by religious belief. I think it's a neat image, but there are more things that I wonder when looking at the image.
It would be great to see a geographic component to the graph. Why are Hindus and Jews so much better off than followers of other beliefs in America? I sort of expected that Jehovah's Witnesses would have a different layout than they did. Where are the Scientologists??

Meanwhile, Slate has started a multi-piece series on the growing attention paid to road signs, and it's worth reading. Who among us hasn't gotten lost (through NO FAULT OF OUR OWN) and mentally (or verbally) cursed the blasted signs that led us astray?

Information Aesthetics city maps

I don't know that having these city maps will make you look like less of a tourist, but maybe it'll help. The concept reminds me of the wrapping paper that absolutely refuses to be crumpled up.

Good links to a study researching the origin of taco ingredients - apparently, the average taco travels over 64,000 miles before you devour it in 10 seconds. Tacos from taco bell travel much farther than that, seeing as they aren't made from earth-bound ingredients. (Note: I'm not trying to say they're delicious and therefore out of this world, but that they're not made of "food"). It's a cool image...and now I need to eat a taco.

Finally, Weather Sealed made a map of every McDonald's in America a while back, and now they've made a second version with the top 8 fast food burger joints in the States. I still haven't gone to Middleton's Sonic with Jody and told awful jokes in the minivan!

March 2, 2010

Come Along with Me

At Slate today, Jan Swafford explores the differences between playing Beethoven on today's pianos compared to the ones that Ludwig van used to write his music. It's a great read, if you feel like reading about why ancient pianos were way better (well, maybe not better. Different.) than modern pieces.

In the article, there are clips of pianists of both eras playing two of Beethoven's compositions - the second is his piano sonata No. 23, and the first is the Moonlight Sonata.

Isn't the Moonlight Sonata the one that turns you into an omnivorous mammal under the bright, shining light of the moon? I think so.

March 1, 2010

In like a lamb, Out like a lamb

It looks like the beginning of March is going to be quite pleasant, as far as weather goes. According to everything I ever learned in elementary school, that means the end of March should be absolutely terrible, right?

Wrong. I'll be enjoying temperatures even more like a baby sheep, since I'm taking a trip to Charleston, SC and Savannah, GA at the end of the month. I've outsmarted the Farmer's Almanac!

February 28, 2010

Introducing the 2010 Ivy Lovers

c - Geovany Soto
My thought on drafting Soto is that he's got to have a better year than he did last year. If he doesn't, then the Cubs' season probably isn't going to be much fun either.

1b - Lance Berkman

I drafted Berkman in the 8th round, with the 95th pick in the draft. I was waiting on a first baseman, and I'm content getting him around that point in the draft. If he's still afraid of a little lightning, then I'll play Chris Davis instead.

2b - Dan Uggla

Our league uses OBP instead of batting average, so that eases the pain of drafting Uggla. 6th round second baseman who hits a ton of home runs? Deal.

3b - Ryan Zimmerman

Yeah, he's a National. So what? He'll thrive moving to the high-pressure Ivy Lover's clubhouse.

ss - Hanley Ramirez

Second overall pick. The guy in front of me took Pujols and everything that comes with him - the annoyingness, the Cardinal-ness, the balky back...I'll enjoy Hanley, thankyouverymuch.

of - Grady Sizemore
of - Jay Bruce
of - J.D. Drew

I like outfielders who can do a little of everything. Sizemore and Bruce fit the bill, although Drew doesn't run much. At all, really.

util - Brad Hawpe
Brad Hawpe doesn't run much, or play defense at all. Only one of things matters for the Ivy Lovers!

bench - Martin Prado
bench - Chris Davis

Another reason Soto needs to have a good year is that the Ivy Lovers aren't carrying a backup catcher. Fantasy Soto never rests!

sp - Cliff Lee
sp - Adam Wainwright
sp - Jon Lester
sp - Clay Buchholz

Strong starting 4, although I won't shed any tears if Wainwright crashes and burns. I'm willing to throw the Ivy Lovers under a bus if it means the Cardinals have a bad season too.

rp - Francisco Cordero
rp - Michael Wuertz

Saves? I probably shouldn't have bothered drafting Cordero and gone with a different starter, but whatever. These things work out.

p - Aaron Harang
p - Joba Chamberlain

Harang is a vampire and always pitches well against the Cubs. Why is he on the Ivy Lovers? Beats me. I thought Chamberlain would beat out Hughes for the Yankee's 5th starter job, but who knows. He might end up starting this year. Crazy things happen to pitchers.

bench - Joel Pineiro
bench - Chris Young
bench - Barry Zito

The back end of this pitching staff sure looks a lot better than the Cubs, right? Carlos Silva is disappointment embodied, if disappointment was 40 lbs. overweight. ZING!

February 27, 2010

Changing Seasons

Snow - ignore it.

Frozen lakes - while I appreciate their firmness when playing broomball, they don't matter here.

Archaeology - not happening right now. Doesn't matter.

March Madness - yet to occur; irrelevant.

Fantasy Baseball Draft on Sunday, 8:00 P.M. CST - Spring has arrived.

That's right, the team 'Ivy Lover' is about to be assembled for the 2010 baseball season. As I sound the conch to gather my ballplayers, the residual sound waves ripple throughout the atmosphere working their magic on the Wisconsin climate. This causes spring. It's science.

February 26, 2010

Smuggling Norwegian Babies

Today Calli and I (mainly Calli) are dog-/house-sitting for her aunt and uncle, who are away in northern Wisconsin for the Birkebeiner cross-country ski race. Couple things about this situation:

1. Dinah and Augie the dog are not best friends. I think Augie would eat Dinah given the chance, and Dinah would prefer to be back in Mount Horeb if she had any say in the matter.

2. The Birkebeiner commemorates an incident from the Norwegian Civil War in the 1300's when some loyalists skied the heir to the Norwegian throne to safety. I did not know this...pretty crazy.

3. The American Birkebeiner ends in Hayward, WI. I spent the first five weeks with the Wisconsin Historical Society on an archaeological survey north of Hayward, and this has got to be the most exciting thing that happens up there (excluding the occasional world lumberjack championships). When your town is known for a giant muskie, how exciting can things be?
4. Skiing. It should be done from top of hills to the bottom of hills, with chairlifts and mugs of hot winter drinks. This cross-country stuff is ridiculous.

February 24, 2010

More Olympic stuff

Curling is experiencing its quadrennial popularity boost. Much like the last Olympics, I find myself befuddled when I watch the surprisingly attractive curlers playing a glorified drinking game on the ice. Thankfully, somebody in the world has combined a basic knowledge of the sport with the ability to make an informative graphic...giving us a visual primer for the mystery that is curling.

There. All cleared up, right? Right.

When does broomball become an Olympic sport? I would absolutely watch Olympic broomball.

Finally, Slate has been compiling and graphing a Sap-o-Meter to keep track of the overwhelming use of sappy drivel in NBC's Olympic Coverage. I've added the meter's widget to the blog so you can keep apprised of what your emotional state is supposed to be while you're watching the festivities.

February 23, 2010

flipper bubbles

It's a very slow tuesday, so...let's watch dolphins play with air bubbles!

I think it's pretty cool to watch them goofing off underwater, but let's keep in mind the old Onion article about humanity being doomed if they evolve opposable thumbs. Not too farfetched, the Onion.

February 22, 2010


Today, I made lasagna. It wouldn't be that remarkable - everybody loves lasagna, right? We also all hate mondays and Nermal. These are facts of life. However, this time was a bit special because I made my own ricotta cheese.

How was it?

Phenomenal, and easy. I forgot my camera, so you'll have to believe me...but the ricotta cheese was really, really good. I found the instructions on Serious Eats, and I suggest you use their recipe if you're interested. Seriously though, I made cheese by microwaving white vinegar and whole milk, stirring, and straining. That was it.

Calli and I both enjoy a good lasagna normally, and we could tell that the ricotta was of a better quality than you normally find in the store. I can't stress this enough - I know my food tastes better the more involved I am in its creation, and when creating a major part of your dinner is so ridiculously easy...you just have to give it a try.

...and if you're wondering, yes. After we got done inhaling our lasagna, we spent the rest of the night picking on Odie and napping.

P.S. I will have you know that it took all of my willpower not to write about how now I'm a true native of Monroe, or embed a video of the Beach Boys singing "Be True to Your School." You're WELCOME.

February 21, 2010

Broomball version 6.0 update

Okay, this is going to be quick - my body is beaten and bruised...and compared to my ego, it's in great shape.

My goals:

prove that bandanas can be worn as broomball attire:
toss-up. I say success, everybody else says failure.

hat trick
FAIL - 0 goals.

no broken bones
success, but failing on this one was unlikely.

deny Joe any goals
FAIL - he opened the second or third game with three straight on me. Yikes.

February 20, 2010

Broomball, version 6.0

In two hours, anywhere from 12-20 people will descend upon Brittingham Park with brooms and shovels in hand, ready for yet another week of punishing ourselves.

My goals:

prove that bandanas can be worn as broomball attire

hat trick

no broken bones

deny Joe any goals

I think all of these are attainable, and will provide an update tomorrow.

February 19, 2010

Glee's Treasures, continued

Yesterday, I wrote about the blanket that Aunt Glee had collected in the southwest. Today, I'm just going to post a few of the other pictures I took of her giant collection in the church basement.

The most exciting thing we saw was what Cedric described as a war coat. It was similar in texture to a really nice suede, and the decorative beading was ridiculously intricate. Very cool.

We also discovered some moonshine!...bottles. Not quite as exciting as the real thing, but alas...

There were several musical instruments on the tables, including a harmonica, a violin, and an organ.

...and to top it off, a collection of the complete works of one W. Shakespeare: