July 09, 2009
Wisconsin Diploma Privilege Ruling Comments--Wiesmueller v. Kosobucki
Today, the Seventh Circuit issued an opinion in Wiesmueller v. Kosobucki, written by Judge Posner. This lawsuit is a class-action challenge to Wisconsin's diploma privilege, which allows graduates of UW Madison and Marquette to become lawyers in Wisconsin without taking a bar exam. Licensed lawyers in some other jurisdictions who have sufficient practice experience can also obtain a Wisconsin law license without taking a Wisconsin bar exam, but everyone else has to take the bar exam to get a Wisconsin license. For example, California does not have reciprocity with Wisconsin, so when I moved to Wisconsin, I would have had to take the Wisconsin bar exam to obtain a Wisconsin license despite my California license and eight years of practice experience.
Many states used to have a diploma privilege, but over the years all of the other states have adopted a bar exam requirement, leaving Wisconsin as the only state still with a diploma privilege.
As I have written before, I am not a fan of the diploma privilege. Its effect was to encourage/pressure Marquette students to stay in Wisconsin rather than exploring other labor markets which required a bar exam that required months of painful and joyless studying without a salary to prepare for. This distortion in out-migration meant that Marquette's reputation was heavily regional because the geographic footprint of its alumni was comparatively limited.
As a professor, the diploma privilege was stressful. Posner writes that Marquette and UW Madison might have "less incentive to spend time drilling them on Wisconsin law than the faculty of most law schools in other states would have” because there is no pressure to prepare students for the bar exam. In fact, the opposite was true. My Marquette colleagues and I were acutely aware of our responsibilities to Wisconsin citizens. We knew that our students could hit the streets the day after graduation and set up a shingle without any bar exam "filter" or even the doctrinal review that most students get from their bar exam preparation course. Knowing that I was the "last stop" in evaluating my students’ mastery of legal doctrines, I felt significant pressure to ensure my students had really mastered the law—perhaps more pressure than I feel today knowing that my current students will have to survive one more major examination of their doctrinal knowledge before they get unleashed onto the public.
In this ruling, the Seventh Circuit revives the legal challenge to the Wisconsin diploma privilege and remanded the case to the district court for more fact-finding. Much of the opinion implicitly espouses a skepticism that UW Madison and Marquette do anything special to teach students Wisconsin law.
I understand this skepticism, but I think it’s unwarranted. From my perspective, Marquette emphasized Wisconsin law plenty. To reinforce this message, Dean Kearney's ridiculously oppressive Faculty Activity Report form always asked us to identify how we incorporated Wisconsin law into our courses. Given that this report was tied to our compensation, I certainly got the message. I included Wisconsin-specific legal doctrines in all of my courses—even my Cyberlaw course, which is not so easy given the borderless nature of the subject material!
To be clear, I didn't emphasize Wisconsin law to the exclusion of national legal principles. After all, some of my students were leaving Wisconsin, and I needed to prepare those students as well. As a result, it's not clear to me if Marquette emphasizes Wisconsin law more than other schools emphasize their local state’s laws. My guess is Marquette's balance between state and national law is fairly similar to many other schools' balance. But we definitely taught Wisconsin law!
Others have already provided some analysis of the opinion. Some worth checking out include:
* Dean Kearney. Among other things, Joe says "I expect that on remand (and any subsequent appeal) the diploma privilege will pass constitutional muster."
* my former colleague Christine Hurt
* State Bar of Wisconsin report
Today's opinion was exciting for another (and wholly unexpected) reason. The opinion provides a lengthy shout-out to a 2006 post from this blog about the Wisconsin diploma privilege. It is always satisfying to be cited by a judge, and it does not happen every day for me. My works have been cited in less than a half-dozen judicial opinions, and I believe this is the first time I've been cited in a federal appellate opinion. And being cited by Judge Posner, one of the most esteemed jurists of our time, is especially gratifying.
Ironically, the blog post in question is hardly one of my most brilliant contributions to the dialogue. It's a simple 3 paragraph post (partially recapping and responding to a video from a local Wisconsin station) that probably took me less than 30 minutes to research and write, compared to some of my thoroughly researched multi-thousand word entries that take over a dozen hours to write. I've experienced this before in the sense that my most heavily trafficked blog post of all time (and thus, one of my most widely read works ever) was a single paragraph blog post I pounded out in less than 60 minutes making a snarky point about a New York state law banning domain name sales to terrorists. It's a fine post for what it is, but I never expected that it would get the attention it got.
These are vivid reminders that we as bloggers need to stand behind every post we make. We never know who is going to read a post (however lightweight it is) and cite it in a federal appellate opinion.
September 02, 2008
Marquette Law Faculty Blog
Congratulations to my former colleagues at Marquette for the launch of the Marquette University Law School Faculty Blog, which looks like it is off to a promising start.
July 16, 2007
Wisconsin Legislature Goes After University of Wisconsin Law School Funding
A Wisconsin legislator who believes Wisconsin has too many lawyers is trying to eliminate the state subsidy to the University of Wisconsin Law School. The motion was added to the Assembly budget, but it's likely to get washed out in negotiations with the Senate or get vetoed by the governor. Interestingly, there isn't even agreement on the amount of the state subsidy. The legislator believes it's $7M/year; the dean says it's only $2M/year (or only 10% of the operating budget).
April 17, 2007
WI to Authorize Free Beer Samples at Grocers
From the AP: Wisconsin is poised to remove the handcuffs on free beer samples, allowing grocers and liquor stores to hand out free 6 oz samples of their own. I really think this quote from a Wisconsin legislator says it all: "It's a good bill. It's a Wisconsin bill. It's a beer bill."
September 12, 2006
Betting Against the Packers Pays Off Big
From an AP story: The Green Bay Packers haven't been shut out in 233 games. Brett Favre hasn't been shut out in his 16 year career. So it seems like a safe bet that the (sometimes hapless) Chicago Bears aren't going to shut out the Packers on opening day. Randy Gonigam, owner of the Gonigam's World Furniture Mall in Plano, IL and a big Bears fan, takes that bet. He promises his customers that their purchases (up to $10,000 each) will be free if the Bears shut out the Packers on opening day. 206 customers, $300,000 of sales and one shutout later, Gonigam describes himself as a little "shell-shocked." But, to his credit, Gonigam made a smart move--he has bought prize reimbursement insurance that covers this event--so a truly happy day for *everyone* in Plano, IL. As for Wisconsin, well, I presume that Monday was a day of mourning.
July 27, 2006
Wisconsin's Diploma Privilege Draws More Questions
[July 2009 Update: In response to the Seventh Circuit opinion, I've blogged more about the diploma privilege and Wiesmueller v. Kosobucki]
Wisconsin is the only state that still allows graduates of in-state law schools to become lawyers without taking a bar exam (called the diploma privilege). This creates some interesting dynamics--UW and Marquette graduates have some extra incentives to stay in WI because it means they can avoid a bar exam, and out-of-state graduates/lawyers have to jump through some extra hoops just to get to the same place as in-state graduates.
This dichotomy creates controversy constantly, but it may boll over as the new state bar president has targeted the diploma privilege as part of his agenda. You can see a video on this issue here, focusing on the sad story of Arnie Moncada (name corrected per comment below), who went to Thomas Cooley Law School in Michigan, failed the Wisconsin bar 4 times, and now can't be a lawyer in WI forever...while if he had just graduated from Marquette or UW, he'd be a lawyer now.
Personally, I always thought the diploma privilege did Marquette graduates a disservice--it encouraged students to focus on Wisconsin job opportunities in preference of other great options elsewhere. On the other hand, the diploma privilege helps UW and Marquette in the US News rankings every year (it's hard to beat 100% "passage").
(Thanks to Garet Galster for sending this link).
July 05, 2006
Initial Observations about California Living
I've created a new category for this blog, "California Living." This is the analogue to my "Life in Wisconsin" category, which I haven't officially retired but isn't likely to see a lot of posts.
To kick off the new category, some observations about my first two weeks as a repatriated Caliifornian:
* California is more "all-American" than Wisconsin. Let me provide 2 data points in support:
- We expected that Wisconsin would epitomize the stereotype of friendly people who welcome new neighbors with tuna casseroles or baked goods. Instead, when we relocated to Wisconsin, most of our neighbors ignored us. This isn't a criticism, but it surprised us a little. In contrast, in our new home in Mountain View, we've had 3 different neighbors ply us with baked treats, and at least a half-dozen neighbors have dropped by our home unannounced just to welcome us to the neighborhood.
- On Independence Day, we went to my sister/brother-in-law's neighborhood in Palo Alto. There, the neighborhood organized a "parade" of sorts. The parade's theme was "Fun with Food," so everyone in the neighborhood came out with various costumes festooned with food items (like the person wearing a box of Cheerios on her head). A fire truck (with lights flashing) led the parade and was followed by a marching band made up of neighborhood volunteers, which was followed by a volunteer flag team. Then, there were homemade floats, kids on bikes/skateboards/scooters, pets in costumes and people just marching. There were people on stilts, people walking while juggling, kids being pulled in wagons, and lots of red, white and blue. Very few people actually watched the parade from the sidewalks; just about everyone (including us) marched along. The parade then ended in the local park, where the BBQs were smoking and serving up a lunch of burgers, chips and watermelon. Then, it was time for the games--sack race, three-legged race, water balloon toss, etc. What could be more all-American than this? But, in the heart of the Silicon Valley!
(Speaking of which, my son ate like an all-American yesterday. He plowed through popcorn, potato chips, 2 big slices of watermelon (with juice dribbling down his chin onto his shirt), and 2 juicy plums (ditto). Then, he complained of a tummyache. You would think he would have known better because he’s read the Very Hungry Caterpillar many times!)
* On the subject of neighborhoods, I think of Silicon Valley as filled with lots of people in transition who are constantly moving in and out. So imagine my surprise when I learned that at least 3 of my immediate neighbors are the original owners of their homes (42 years!), another neighbor inherited the home from his parents, and we bought the home from the estate of a person who was an original owner. And the neighbors across the street have been there 25 years. So instead of being a revolving-door community, we've moved into a community that is way more stable than I could have ever imagined (and with even less turnover than our neighborhood in Wisconsin).
* In California, the newspaper headline reads: Technologists figure out how to bypass China's Internet firewall. In Wisconsin, the typical Internet-related headline was: more predators found online! (there were at least a half-dozen front-page articles on that topic in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel during my 4 years there).
* Google/Earthlink are building the infrastructure to offer free wireless service throughout Mountain View. In practice, this means that every 4th or 5th street light has a little box with 2 antennae on it. Unfortunately, the network isn't live yet, but I can't wait to get some free wireless Internet access! (yes, I am aware of the privacy concerns, but hey--AT&T is providing our DSL service. Need I say more?)
* Our local park has beautiful trees--Palm trees, Oak trees and (my favorite) Redwoods. The amazing thing is--all of these trees are right next to each other. It's like having 3 ecosystems, ranging from desert to chaparral to rain forest, within the span of 50 feet.
* In the past two weeks, we've eaten at a vegan Chinese restaurant (Garden Fresh, about 2 miles from our house), an all-vegetarian Indian restaurant (Udupi Palace, which is absolutely terrific), and an Ethiopian restaurant (Zeni in San Jose). Interestingly, the latter 2 restaurants cater to strong ethnic communities; my wife and I were conspicuous minorities when we went.
* Not a single Calfornian has yet commented on my standard attire of Tevas with white socks.
May 25, 2006
Whole Foods vs. the Outpost
I maintain a page on being a vegetarian in Milwaukee. On that page, I discuss a local natural foods grocery chain, the Outpost, and the eagerly-anticipated arrival of Whole Foods. I wrote: "When Whole Foods gets here, I don’t know how the Outpost is going to successfully compete" because the Outpost is very expensive and Whole Foods has such a strong brand.
In response, I got an email from Lisa Malmarowski, Director of Brand and Store Development of the Outpost Natural Foods Cooperative. With her permission, I'm quoting her response:
"I really wanted to communicate with you personally about your question regarding how Outpost will compete with the national chain Whole Foods moving into our market.
It's no secret that Whole Foods has been looking for a site in the Milwaukee area for more than 10 years. During that time, we haven't been content to rest on our cooperative, community owned laurels. We've been actively improving our operations, opening new locations and striving to lower prices without compromising quality.
Outpost currently employes more than 350 people, we're a UFCW union workplace too (unlike Whole Foods), we expect to net more than 22 million in sales from our three locations, magazine operations and catering division this year and we're co-owned by nearly 13,000 area residents. We're not going anywhere! We're in a stable position, ready to compete - not just with the nationals, but also with places like Pick N' Save, Sendik's and other strong regional players.
We are also connected with other food cooperatives across the nation via the National Cooperative Grocers Association. Co-ops nationally are second only to Whole Foods in their buying power and are still viable, vibrant businesses. For example, the Riverwest Co-op is one of many new co-ops that have opened across the country.
We plan to compete by offering a unique shopping experience, a fast in an out trip and excellent customer service. The Milwaukee grocery market has become increasingly competitive in the last 5 years with new grocery stores opening (Sendik's expansion), the Public Market, Pick N' Save's new locations and others. Yet we have still grown.
In other markets with strong cooperative groceries where Whole Foods has opened, these stores have survived and thrived, sometimes seeing an initial nominal drop in sales, but then a sales increase. Whole Foods positions themselves to compete w/ big stores, especially those that feature gourmet, fresh selections. They also do a great job of increasing awareness for natural foods and savvy retailers can draft off this awareness.
Hopefully you've stuck with me through my marketing discussion. What you said struck a cord in me and reminded me of that famous quote by Mark Twain, "The rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated.” We'll do okay, and even Beans & Barley will do okay, because the main part of their business is the service restaurant. Sure, folks will check out the new places, but I imagine that many Milwaukeeans will want to continue to patronize the places that make and keep Milwaukee unique - that's a position that Whole Foods can't own since they're a national chain."
I think it would be great if Whole Foods has a tentpole effect of stimulating demand for natural foods across-the-board. At the same time, while Milwaukee isn't California, there's a lot more options for the natural foods consumer than we imagined there would be. Not only are there venerable institutions like the Outpost and Beans & Barley, but as Lisa says, there has been an expansion in the market, such as the new Riverwest Co-Op, the new Public Market (which is terrific, BTW) and the expansion of Sendik's. The market has gotten noticeably richer in the past 4 years, even without the arrival of Whole Foods. In any case, Milwaukee is lucky to have the Outpost, and I hope it continues to thrive.
Thanks for your detailed and thoughtful response, Lisa. And good luck to you and the Outpost!
April 16, 2006
Marquette Drops From 100 to 101 in US News Ranking
There are many reasons why being a Dean must be frustrating. Among other reasons, the Dean is the guardian of the school's brand, but Deans have little control over brand perceptions in the short run. Instead, brand perceptions are largely shaped by exogenous influences such as third party rankings.
So an annual "rite of Spring" among law schools is to conduct post-mortems following each new US News & World Reports ranking. Each April, Deans around the country spend a lot of time answering for their latest rankings. The resulting news stories follow a predictable plot:
* law school drops in the rankings
* angry alumni and students demand to know why
* the Dean explains that the rankings are important but methodologically flawed
You could almost recycle the same story at every law school that isn't blessed by the USNWR gods.
The stories are flowing in at Marquette, where the school dropped from last year's three-way tie for 100 (at the very bottom of the second tier) to the third tier. This drop looks precipitous, but in fact the USNWR's data jockey says the school should have been ranked at 101. So, according to the USNWR methodology, the school dropped a single place from 100 to 101. This doesn't stop the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel from saying the school is "rattled" by the "tumble" in the rankings. See the Marquette Tribune's similar story.
(Note that because there was a three-way tie for 100 in last year's rankings, there were 102 schools ranked in the top 100. So, arguably, Marquette rose from 102 to 101 this year. Whatever.).
I won't recount the many, many reasons why the USNWR rankings are flawed. I will, however, offer an interpretive guide to the USNWR rankings that should be obvious but apparently isn't. Just like consumer surveys and political polls describe their margin of error (i.e., this poll is accurate within X% +/-), one should read each year's installation of the rankings as having a margin of error as well. (We could debate the size of that margin; personally, I think it's very large). So if a school changes from 100 to 101, does that reflect any real change? In my book, no. It is entirely consistent with the metric's margin of error.
Because of the metric's imprecision, USNWR rankings have some natural volatility from year to year. This means schools like Marquette will float up and down without any real intrinsic change. Because these changes are inevitable and not tied to reality, I can confidently make the following predictions:
1) Marquette Law will be back in the second tier in next year's rankings (or, at the latest, in 2008)
2) In the 5 years after that, Marquette Law will be back in the third tier at least once
3) Neither of those developments will accurately reflect any real changes at the school
Anyone planning to rely on this year's USNWR rankings should be advised accordingly.
March 25, 2006
Marshmallow Madness, April 9 at 4 pm
The 3rd Annual Peep Show
Sunday, April 9th at 4pm
Lulu cafe and bar
2261 S. Howell Ave.
A fun and fluffy exhibition of artworks made from or inspired by marshmallow Peeps.
NO ENTRY FEE, NO JURY
This event is free and open to the public. All are encouraged to participate, artists and artistically challenged alike. Participants are to bring their original works of art to Lulu's on the evening of the event. Artists will be responsible for the removal of their creations by the end of the event. Artists may choose to price their work for sale during the event and no commission will be taken.
Peep photography, Peep paintings, Peep dioramas, Peep jewelry, Peep costumes and Peep treats are all to be expected. Lulu's bar will be serving special Peep-tinis for the event.
"Peeps" are a registered trademark of the Just Born Company.
[Eric's note: I'm hoping to make it this year! See my blog post on last year's show and the cult of Peeps]
February 25, 2006
News item: Thieves Make Off With $26,000 of Beer.
Location? Brewtown, of course! (more precisely, the greater Milwaukee metro area).
The AP story helpfully gives the lowdown on the stolen items:
- 384 24-packs of Miller Genuine Draft cans
- 560 18-packs of MGD 12-ounce bottles
- 980 18-packs of MGD 12-ounce cans
- 40 24-packs of Miller Light 16-ounce plastic bottles
Based on this inventory (beer in a plastic bottle?), I have a hard time imagining that the thieves were motivated to steal for their own personal consumption.
UPDATE: Michael's funny comment below got me thinking about beer in plastic bottles. Being an ever-curious researcher, I looked into the phenomenon. The American Plastics Council has a helpful page on the topic where they offer the following insights:
When a sample of 457 beer drinkers were questioned about the plastic bottle concept, but did not actually see, feel or touch a bottle, the results revealed the perceived perceptions which must be overcome. However, when a separate sample of beer drinkers were provided the opportunity to see, feel and touch a plastic beer bottle, then taste-test the beer, the results were dramatically different.
Overall attitudes towards plastic beer bottles were overwhelmingly favorable, with consumers rating a 16 oz. plastic beer bottle as an 8.0 on a 10-point scale. Additionally, the plastic container was perceived to have the look of glass and the shatter-resistant safety convenience of cans. Beer drinkers also praised the plastic beer bottle for:
* its re-sealable top;
* light weight;
* beer's better taste (versus cans);
* its comfortable grip;
* its recyclability;
* shatter resistancy;
* its appearance - it "looks like glass" and;
* its non-slip surface"
It's true. Although I've heard of beer in plastic bottles, I've never actually seen one in real life, let alone sampled it. So I felt like the American Plastics Council was speaking directly to me by pointing out the risk of ill-informed perceptions.
However, the argument loses me when it tries to compare beer in plastic bottles v. beer in cans. Let me be blunt--NEITHER ARE A GOOD IDEA, so establishing that one is better than the other doesn't really sway me.
In my research, I also came across this great (but technical) page that discusses the physics and chemistry of oxygen permeation in beer bottles. The following conclusion stopped me cold:
"Public opinion on using plastic for beer bottles has been investigated, and consumer studies show that acceptance is, not surprisingly, highest in the 18 to 25 age group and lowest in the 50+ age group. The generation that has grown up with soft drinks packed in PET doesn't think twice about beer in a plastic bottle, and so it is likely that it will not be long before beer packed in PET will become commonplace in supermarkets, pubs and clubs throughout the world."
Ugh. I think this paragraph tells me that I don't like beer in plastic bottles because I'm old.
January 29, 2006
Top 10 Gems of Milwaukee
Summerfest is an impressive event. The organizers consistently get very big-name bands as well as hot up-and-coming bands to book Milwaukee on their tours. Many of these bands can be seen for the price of admission to the Summerfest grounds, and due to various promotions, that cost can be ridiculously cheap. When my wife and I went in 2002, we saw Jewel for $10 plus bus fare.
Despite that, we haven't been back to Summerfest, and I can't imagine why we'd go again. The "free" concerts are lousy events--if the band is a big name, the performance area will be packed with people (many of them smoking heavily) and will have lousy acoustics. Besides the music, the main attractions are greasy foods, alcohol and flirting. Those might have been big attractions for me when I was a lot younger, but they aren't so compelling now that I'm a middle-aged dad of 2.
2. Milwaukee Art Museum
This is a really cool building. Designed by famous Spanish architect Calatrava, the building looks like an alabaster ship setting sail into Lake Michigan. The lake views from inside the building are pretty neat too. The building never fails to impress out-of-town visitors, and it definitely deserves a place on the list.
3. Ethnic Festivals
Every weekend during summer, some ethnic group has a festival purportedly celebrating their heritage. Collectively, these festivals rightly give Milwaukee the title of "City of Festivals."
After our Summerfest experience, we haven't been to any of these. From my limited observations, Wisconsin "festivals" all have the same following ingredients:
* a series of bands playing in poor-acoustic facilities. Less-prominent festivals attract lower-quality bands; most festival bands are extremely low-profile.
* lots of greasy and non-vegetarian food
* lots of alcohol (and, as a result, lots of intoxicated people)
I'm a little surprised that the Wisconsin State Fair didn't come out above the ethnic festivals. I've never been, but the county fair has the same basic attributes (bad bands, bad food, lots of alcohol) but is also known for some traditions, including creampuffs and people-watching.
4. Milwaukee's Lakefront
This is a bit of a puzzler. Lake Michigan is very pretty to look at from palisades high above the lake. However, at lake level, the lake smells awful (mostly due to the raw sewage that regularly is dumped into the lake)! Putting aside the smell, beach-going isn't very much fun either--the water is freezing and usually unsafe to enter due to bacteria, a cold breeze often blows off the lake (which is nice during the hottest days) and the beaches are narrow and more dirt than sand. There is a nice stretch of lakefront near downtown that was designed by the designer of NY's Central Park--it represents a great example of early civic planning. My guess it that the voters were thinking of this area. Otherwise, I think the lake deserves to be on the list; the lakefront, not so much.
[UPDATE: Sonya sent me this article which provides a much better explanation of the complex dynamics that, collectively, make Lake Michigan disgusting]
I'm not a biker, but lots of Milwaukeeans are--and Harley is the bike of choice. A couple of years ago, Milwaukee celebrated Harley's 100th year anniversary, and it was incredible--a couple of hundred thousand bikers descended on the town. There were almost no cars on the road; virtually every moving vehicle was a Harley bike (some new, some vintage). I felt like I was in a surreal sci-fi movie like Road Warrior. In any case, Harley definitely deserves to be on the list.
6. Milwaukee County Zoo
I've never been to the zoo, so I can't opine on the choice. My wife has been, however, and she considers it unremarkable. A weak choice for top 10 gems.
7. Frozen Custard
Frozen custard is like ice cream but much, much richer. Think full-fat ice cream and then imagine squeezing more fat into the same space. If I were still in my teens and could eat 6,000 calories a day without gaining weight, frozen custard would rock my world.
8. Allen-Bradley Clock Tower
There are a lot of four-sided clocks around town, but there's none bigger in town--or the world--than this one. Big Ben is a mere toy compared to this behemoth (although Big Ben gets the nod for largest chiming four-sided clock in the world--whatever). I'm not sure I'd go out of my way to see it (it looks like a large clock), but I drive by the clock every time I go to the airport. And as I drive by, I think to myself: "Hello, largest four-sided clock in the world."
9. University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
It's hard not to be a little jealous that UWM made the list over/instead of Marquette. Congratulations, UWM!
10. Friday Night Fish Fries
Another gem I haven't tried (for obvious reasons), but no question that Friday night fish fries are a big deal in town. Restaurants that don't serve fish fries on Friday definitely see less traffic that day than those that do.
The Packers and Miller Brewery are big brands not on the list. The Milwaukee City Hall (prominently featured in the opening Laverne & Shirley credits) is a neat building. Beer and sausages definitely rival frozen custard and fish fries as Milwaukee staples. Something acknowledging Milwaukee's deep German Catholic roots would have been appropriate.
I mentioned before some of my overlooked favorites, including Schlitz Audubon, Beans & Barley and honeycrisp apples (which we buy by the bushel in season). I should also add that Lisa has gone crazy for Amy's Candy Kitchen in Cedarburg, which makes some of the most amazing, tasty and expensive apples covered in caramel and other confections.
January 12, 2006
"Gems of Milwaukee"
In connection with Milwaukee's imminent 160th birthday, some civic leaders ran a poll to determine the "Gems of Milwaukee." The standard seems a little amorphous--what makes something a "gem"? The website doesn't clarify the standard, but it does provide a list of the top 50 finalists as voted on by 7,000 Internet users.
Most of the results are very appropriate--the list includes famous companies like Harley and Miller; famous buildings like Milwaukee Art Museum and the Allen-Bradley Clock (the largest four-sided clock in the world--much bigger than Big Ben); festivals like Summerfest (although I don't know about Bastille Day); and quintessentially Wisconsin foods like frozen custard, brats and fish fries.
Interestingly, the list doesn't separately reference beer. I guess we don't consider ourselves Brewtown any more? And the inclusion of "Mexican Restaurants Along 5th Street" made me laugh out. If you want either authentic or good Mexican food, Milwaukee is probably not your first choice.
The list includes the Bucks and the Brewers "major" league sports teams, although I'm not sure anyone in town really considers them a "gem." However, the Packers are conspicuously absent. I know the Packers are located in Green Bay, not Milwaukee, but most Milwaukeeans think of them as our home team, and the city shuts down during games.
Interestingly, some of my favorite aspects of Milwaukee--such as the Schlitz Audubon park, Beans 'n' Barley and honeycrisp apples--didn't make the list. So, at least for me, Milwaukee has some "hidden gems."
Finally, nothing weather-related made the list of "gems." I wonder why...
December 26, 2005
When we flew to California last Monday, the thermometer read 1 degree. I guess one is better than none, but it was cold. [How cold was it, Eric?] It was so cold that our plane froze. As in, the airline couldn't start the plane because the engine was frozen.
This seemed odd, because surely frozen airplanes can be anticipated and avoided. After all, as cold as 1 degree is, it gets colder--much colder--in Milwaukee and other cold-weather airports, and it's not like the cold temperatures were unexpected. Maybe the airline was feeding us a line, but if the plane truly was frozen, I think someone screwed up. Don't they have engine heaters for airplanes?
To Delta's credit, virtually without hesitation they immediately made arrangements to put passengers with connections on other flights. However, these types of scrambles almost always set in motion a series of events that inevitably result in unhappy travelers.
In our case, we switched to a United flight but, unsurprisingly, our bags didn't make it. And after waiting 2 hours in the San Francisco airport for our bags to arrive on the next flight, we were disheartened to find only 3 of 5 made it. However, to United's credit, they did deliver both of the missing bags within 30 hours, and they did (grudgingly) loan us a carseat to allow us to drive home safely.
However, I'm still stuck on how an airplane freezes. Of the many things that can go wrong during Winter travel, this never occurred to me as one of the major risks.
December 05, 2005
It's the Most Unpleasant Time of the Year
Traveling between the Midwest and New England during December means two unavoidable truths:
1) Weather delays
2) Non-stop piped-in Christmas tunes playing throughout every corner of the airports
It makes for a very unpleasant combination!
September 30, 2005
Funeral Parlors and Hooters Restaurants Don't Mix
The Wisconsin legislature continues to work hard to address the key social issues of the day. Earlier this year the legislature banned Internet hunting and flirted with legalizing cat hunting. Now, Phil Montgomery, a Wisconsin state legislator, wants to ban funeral parlors from locating in any building that has more than one other occupant. According to the AP story, Montgomery believes "To put it in a strip mall next to a Hooters or an auto parts store doesn't serve the industry or consumers well." If you want to investigate this further, I'm pretty sure that there are several law review articles on SSRN validating that standalone funeral parlors significantly advance social welfare.
UPDATE: I was a little late to this "party." In the face of some opposition from some sectors of the funeral parlor industry, Montgomery has withdrawn the bill...for now...
September 10, 2005
The "Southwest" Viewed Through Wisconsin's Eyes
We went to the grocery store today, and the store was having an outdoor "Taste of Southwest" event to celebrate food from the Southwest. The grills were smoking and the music was blaring. So, what constitutes a taste of the Southwest by the standards of Southeastern Wisconsin? Exotic foods like cornbread with black bean soup...corn chips with guacamole...and...cheddar brats? The music? A synthesizer instrumental version of the "Yellow Rose of Texas."
September 08, 2005
Snow Season is Coming...
When the roads get salted down to reduce snow/ice, where does all the salt go? Surprise!--it drains into our fresh water system. Surely people have realized this before...haven't they?
July 23, 2005
New(ish) Vegetarian Restaurant in Milwaukee--Riverwest Co-Op Grocery and Cafe
In Fall 2004, the Riverwest Co-op Grocery & Café (733 E. Clarke St., Milwaukee, WI 53212, (414) 264-7933) quietly launched an all-vegetarian café next to its grocery store (which is located in the Riverwest district, an eclectic and somewhat dilapidated part of East Milwaukee). This is an exciting addition to the vegetarian community in town, and early reports suggest that the café is popular.
The menu isn’t huge and the hours are spotty (you should call ahead to check hours), but we enjoyed our meals on our first visit. Virtually every menu item can be made vegan, and prices are extremely reasonable (the most expensive item on the menu is $6.00). We especially liked the vegan pancakes—they were decently fluffy, and it was impossible to tell that they were vegan.
There are only 3 ramshackle tables at the restaurant, so you will probably want (need?) to take your meal to-go. While you’re waiting for your meal, you can check out the tiny selection of groceries at the co-op; you’ll have better selection at the Outpost or Beans & Barley, but the co-op’s offerings still are a welcome contribution to the community.
If you're interested in more about the Milwaukee vegetarian scene, I've completely updated my list of vegetarian/vegetarian-friendly restaurants in Milwaukee.
June 24, 2005
Wisconsin Legislature Passes Anti-Internet Hunting Law
The Wisconsin Senate has passed AB 179, the anti-Internet hunting law that had previously passed the Assembly. The law is going to Gov. Doyle, who has said he plans to sign it (although he thinks cat hunting is a bad idea). I have nothing good to say about this law, and I have an editorial in the works that takes aim (sorry for the pun) at those who think that this law is either important or a good idea. I've posted on this topic previously--start here and work backwards.
June 23, 2005
Chicago Tribune Lauds Milwaukee
Milwaukeeans have a love/hate relationship with Chicago. Milwaukeeans tend to have an inferiority complex but also disparage Chicago's traffic/drivers/expense/general bad attitude.
However, this love/hate relationship is not reciprocated by Chicagoans. Instead, the most dominant attitude by Chicagoans towards Milwaukee is complete indifference. I'm constantly amazed at how many Chicago residents have no idea where Milwaukee is or why they might stop there. I'm pretty sure a non-trivial percentage of Chicagoans confuse Milwaukee with Minneapolis, so they think it's hundreds of miles away. In fact, downtown to downtown is about 90 miles, and it's an easy 100 minute train ride or a quick 90-105 minute drive. I do the drive (or take the train) at least once a month either to downtown Chicago or to the nearest Trader Joe's in a northern Chicago suburb--it takes a half-day to do the roundtrip, but it's not a big deal.
Thus, given the indifference, it's a noteworthy development when Chicago's major daily comes out singing Milwaukee's praises.
This is not to say that Milwaukee is the most compelling destination that Chicagoans could imagine. But my sister and brother-in-law, and their two nieces, came from California to spend a week with us in Milwaukee and had a good time. I was petrified about this because the Midwest generally doesn't have a whole lot of "California-grade" tourist attractions.
Nevertheless, we found plenty to occupy a couple days. We spent one morning driving the lakefront, seeing the Beer Baron mansions on Lake Drive, stopping at the hip and college-y Alterra coffeehouse on Lincoln Memorial Drive (in the old pumphouse building), checking out the Art Museum and touring Marquette (including the fascinating Joan of Arc chapel). We had a great vegetarian lunch at Beans & Barley, went to Cosi for a S'mores dessert and then toured the Sprecher brewery. That night, we went to a movie in a state-of-the-art movie house for a couple of bucks less than the California movie houses. Another day, we took them on a walk in the Schlitz Audubon park. The frogs and turtles were mostly hiding, but the wildflowers were everywhere!
We didn't even get to do everything on our list--we were going to take the family to Cedarburg (my wife, in particular, likes the massively-overpriced caramel apples) and the Pabst House and a ballgame at Miller Park. They will just have to come back for more fun!
FWIW, the Miller brewery tour is better than the Sprecher tour. As the Tribune article points out, the video is hilarious, and I liked touring the beer caves. The tasting at the end...well, it's Miller products, and tasting it fresh from the brewery doesn't really improve the experience in any noticeable way. However, they allow you to send as many free postcards as you want to your friends, so bring your address book. And the tour is free! The major plus for the Sprecher tour? All the free soda (of seven varieties) you can drink. (Only problem: both my wife and I thought all of the varieties, other than the root beer, weren't that good).
So my hope is that the Chicago Tribune article starts to lift some of the mystery about Milwaukee. Perhaps that will lead to less indifference and more interaction between us.
June 11, 2005
More About Football Season Tickets
A Milwaukee couple married for 57 years decides to legally separate. The only thing they can't agree upon? Who gets the season tickets to Wisconsin Badgers football. (Answer: the judge set up a process to split the tickets). See my post on a prior fracas about football season tickets in Wisconsin.
May 19, 2005
Every Milwaukeean has their favorite time to escape the crummy weather. For some, it’s January and February when the weather is the coldest and the days are the darkest. For others, it’s March, when other places are experiencing Spring and we’re still suffering through very cold and cloudy days. For a few, it’s summer, when it’s too hot and humid for those Milwaukeeans who have ice in their veins.
For me, it’s May and early June, when the weather has nominally gotten warmer but it is still crummy. The last 2 weeks have consistently been in the 40s and low 50s with rain/dark clouds. That alone wouldn’t bother me, but after having crummy weather since mid-October, I’m really tired of it.
Fortunately for me, I’m escaping Milwaukee and its crummy weather for the next three weeks. I’m traveling to the Bay Area, Seattle, Las Vegas, Death Valley and Los Angeles for a mix of business (presentations/conferences) and pleasure (camping and hiking). Even when I’m not at conferences, I’ll be grading exams and working on papers—but at least I will be able to do those outdoors in the sun in shorts and sandals!
Because I don’t expect to have continuous Internet connectivity during my travels, blogging should be spotty for the next three weeks. I’ll be back in Milwaukee June 13, when blogging should return to normal.
May 11, 2005
Blogs With a Marquette Law Connection
There has been a recent proliferation of blogs with a connection to Marquette University Law School (I've noticed a spike in blog activity around final exam time--blogging is the quintessential way to procrastinate!). Here are the ones I know about:
Conglomerate (Prof. Christine Hurt is a co-blogger)
Rex Holmes’ Blog (Rex is a 3L and the “blogmaster” behind my blogs—thanks, Rex!)
Fsck Law (Matt Goeden is a 3L)
Law on Caffeine (not sure who is running this blog)
Then there are my two blogs:
If I missed any, please let me know so I can update.
UPDATE: I forgot to mention the MULS Federalists blog.
May 10, 2005
Milwaukee police conducted an unreasonable search and seizure by forcing a suspect to drink laxatives as a way of “revealing” a bag of heroin he swallowed.
April 26, 2005
Don't Look in the Freezer
April 25, 2005
Death by Poison or Hanging?
Wisconsin woman is convicted of felony theft. Judge gives her a choice: 90 days in jail or donate her Packers season tickets to charity for a year. Given the Packer obsession in Wisconsin, I honestly can’t predict which one she would prefer. The judge could, of course, make the decision easier for her by threatening to schedule the jailtime during football season…
UPDATE: In a mildly surprising development, the woman has forked over the Packer tickets. Meanwhile, something has really been bothering me about this case. How did the judge learn about the Packers tickets in the first place? They had nothing to do with the crime.
April 21, 2005
Marshmallow Peep Art
A Marquette Law student, Gia Pionek, runs the “Peep Show,” an annual exhibition of art made out of Marshmallow Peeps. A different student gave me one of her entries, an homage to Mondrian with yellow and pink rectangles (made out of the fluorescent bunnies--it's the one on the right).
Unfortunately, I missed the exhibition this year but, if Gia will let me, I plan to exhibit some artwork next year.
Meanwhile, in my quest to learn more about Peeps, I came across the official Peeps website. This site has it all: pictures of various seasonal Peeps offerings (including some I don’t normally see, like Peeps snowmen and Peeps cocoa cats), a fan club (I’m now a member), a virtual tour, a store (although, surprisingly, no way to order Peeps “food” except through the fan club), and news about new products. As is often the case with cultural icons like Peeps, the proliferation of products under the Peeps brand is surprisingly vast. Can you sense another Slinky-like obsession coming on?
(FWIW, I don't actually eat Peeps--I think they are gross--but my wife does. My interest is far more academic than culinary).
UPDATE: The NY Times weighs in with a mixed review of Peeps.
April 13, 2005
Gov. Doyle Threatens Veto of Cat-Hunting Proposal
Gov. Doyle has threatened to veto any proposal to legalize cat-hunting in Wisconsin, saying that the proposal “hold[s] us up as a state that everybody is kind of laughing at right now.” Some of us are still “laughing” at Wisconsin for wasting its time trying to ban Internet hunting as well, especially in light of Sen. Kedzie’s statement that the issue is “a distraction from the main tasks we have at hand.” Presumably, those main tasks include banning a type of hunting that a single website in Texas has proposed to offer. Perhaps some of us will stop laughing when the Wisconsin legislature demonstrates that it is serious about improving social welfare instead of spending an inordinate amount of time debating about how to regulate/deregulate hunting.
April 12, 2005
Cat-Hunting in Wisconsin
I’ve already blogged about Wisconsin’s efforts to ban Internet hunting because it’s not “real” hunting. Now Wisconsin is considering allowing hunters to hunt kitties. Is bagging Fluffy more consistent with hunting norms than Internet hunting?
March 25, 2005
Live-Shot.com and the Wisconsin Legislative Response
A few weeks ago I blogged about Live-shot.com, a Texas-based website that is planning to allow a person to operate a real 30.06 gun on a platform to “hunt” animals. According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, the operator of Live-shot.com claims that "hunting on the Web is for people with disabilities who can't get out in the woods or for those who aren't able to participate in hunts, such as soldiers serving overseas."
A Wisconsin legislator, Rep. Scott Gunderson, also heard about Live-shot.com. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel quotes him as saying: “When you talk to regular hunters, they say this is just wrong…It's about being out in the woods, being one-on-one in nature with the animals.”
Rep. Gunderson has introduced a bill (AB 179) that says "No person may shoot or shoot at a farm−raised deer [or captive wild animal] while hunting unless the person is in physical possession of the weapon." The Wisconsin Assembly Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on this bill next Wednesday. Note that this flurry of activity has been initiated by a single website, not in Wisconsin, that has yet to conduct its first web “hunt.”
Unquestionably, hunting is a Big Deal here in Wisconsin. During deer-hunting season, little towns in deer-hunting areas swell from wide spots in the road to 10,000 person boomtowns. On the Interstate freeways running through town, it’s almost impossible during deer season to drive without seeing a deer carcass strapped to a vehicle. So it’s not surprising that local politicians are desperate to grandstand for the hunting voters.
However, the Wisconsin legislature spent a lot of time over the last 2 years debating the definition of “marriage,” and now it will spend time debating the definition of “hunting.” From my perspective, the Wisconsin legislature seems to have too much discretionary time. Perhaps they might choose to allocate that time trying to define things like “balanced budget” or “no new tax increases.” I’m going to go out on a limb and venture that even Wisconsin hunters would be more impressed by that.
UPDATE: Channel 3000's report with photos, video and poll
March 15, 2005
Olympics of Cheese
Milwaukee hosts the “Olympics of Cheese.” The article includes a procedure for cheese tasting: “Chew the cheese, allow it to cover the tongue for a few seconds, spit it out - and then smell the aroma.”
March 03, 2005
More on AnnualCreditReport.com
(Thanks to Politech for the reference).
March 01, 2005
Free Credit Reports
Today is the first day Midwesterners can get their free credit reports from https://www.annualcreditreport.com/. Generally, I think this is a terrific idea. Credit reports have a significant impact on us and it’s always fascinating to see what they remember. Credit reports never forget anything. Plus, I like getting the reports for free rather than paying the credit reporting agencies.
While the user experience generally worked OK, there were some irregularities:
· To get all three different credit reports, I had to fill in the exact same form three times.
· The site was a little buggy. For example, my first time through, it said that Trans Union was unavailable, but my second time through, it was available. After accessing a credit report, the “closing” screen was confusing.
· I thought it was ironic that the credit reporting agencies tried to get me to create an account with them, asking me for email addresses and other information that seems perfect to append to a credit report. As if they don’t have enough information already!
· All three agencies tried to upsell me on various credit-related services (Equifax, unsurprisingly, was the most aggressive). This is a great example something the industry fought hard (the obligation to provide free credit reports) will probably end up creating a new stream of profits for them.
· Perhaps my biggest beef is that both Trans Union and Experian asked me follow up questions to confirm my identity—but then let me guess multiple times to give the correct answer, rather than locking me out or at least asking a different question. I like the convenience of being able to access the reports from my desktop, but there is something a little unsettling about how much information an identity thief could get very quickly with persistence and some basic info (address, DOB and SSN).