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, 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 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" 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. 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!