February 12, 2014

Celebrate Abraham Lincoln's birthday and read about his legal career

Today is Abraham Lincoln's birthday, our 16th and arguably greatest president. His legacy as president and leader during the Civil War has been covered in great detail over the past 150 years. Sometimes, his career as a lawyer before his ascension to the presidency is overlooked (though all aspects of Lincoln's life have been studied in detail!). One great way to get to know Lincoln beyond as president is to read about his experiences riding through the then-wilderness of the Midwest, serving as a lawyer for a variety of frontiersmen, farmers and small town residents.

One great book that the Law Library has in it's Lincoln Collection is "Lincoln's Own Stories", edited by Anthony Gross. Originally published in 1912, the book is a unique collection of stories that were told by Lincoln himself (and those who knew him) ranging from his childhood to his time as Commander-In-Chief. An entire chapter is dedicated to Lincoln's down-home musing and humorous remembrances of his time as a lawyer. That entire chapter is available online. You truly get a feel for Lincoln's sense of justice and humor by reading these stories. Here is a short excerpt that tells the story of Lincoln and his contempt for frivolous lawsuits:

It was a common thing for Lincoln to discourage unnecessary lawsuits, and consequently he was continually sacrificing opportunities to make money. One man who asked him to bring suit for two dollars and a half against a debtor who had not a cent with which to pay, would not be put off in his passion for revenge. His counsel therefore gravely demanded ten dollars as a retainer. Half of this he gave to the poor defendant, who thereupon confessed judgment and paid the $2.50. Thus the suit was ended, to the entire satisfaction of the angry creditor.

You can find more great books about Lincoln (and the Civil War) by perusing our Lincoln Collection,located in the Quarles and Brady Reading Room. Happy Birthday, Mr. Lincoln!

November 23, 2010

Creative 19th Century Detective Work

Odd Wisconsin, from the Wisconsin Historical Society, is one of my favorite web sites. As a history buff, I love the quirky little tidbits they dig up from the archives.

Last week it was a tale of some very creative detective work in an unsolved 19th century murder involving a rope, a barrel, and ... wait for it.. a badger.

October 19, 2010

Origin of "Boilerplate" Text

One of my favorite games is called Origins. It's a trivia game about the origins of customs, cliches, inventions, words and superstitions. Why do we say "break a leg" to wish someone good luck? Or why might we say someone is "mad as a hatter"?

Mental Floss had a post the other day on the origin of the term "boilerplate" as a unit of writing that can be reused over and over without change, often in contracts or computer code.

In dem der olden deys, steam boilers were built from very heavy tough steel sheets. Similar sheets of steel were also used for engraving copy that was intended for widespread reproduction in multiple issues of newspapers--things like ads and syndicated columns. Regular, here today, gone tomorrow copy was set in much softer, durable lead.

Since no source was given, I checked it against the Oxford English Dictionary to see if the etymology was legit and it seems likely. Here's what appears as an added entry for "boiler"

1860 W. FORDYCE Hist. Coal, &c. 112 Various descriptions of Iron, such as nail-rods, *boiler-plates, hoop and sheet iron. 1875 URE Dict. Arts I. 410 The average resistance of boiler plates is reckoned at 20 tons to the square inch. 1893 Congress. Rec. Aug. 465/1 The country weeklies have been sent tons of 'boiler plates' accompanied by..letters asking the editors to use the matter as news. 1905 D. G. PHILLIPS Plum Tree 190 He attended to the subsidizing of news agencies that supplied thousands of country papers with boiler-plate matter to fill their inside pages.

September 17, 2010

Find Wisconsin Voter and Poll Information

From Found in Wisconsin

The Elections Division of the WI Government Accountability Board provides information to look up voter registration and polling place location, look up polling place location for an address, and check provisional vote status by using the Voter Public Access link. The site also contains information on alternative sources for polling place information.

March 5, 2010

More Creative Uses for Old Books

A while back I did a post on some clever uses for old books. Since I've run into a few more, I thought I'd update the list.

  • Kathy Kelly, an Erie law librarian, has developed a business called BookBags in which she makes purses and laptop computer cases from the covers of outdated law books and other volumes. The bags will be on display in the Fayette County Law Library beginning next month.

  • This Into That artist, Jim Rosenau makes some really neat arts from vintage books, including book cases, book shelves, chairs, etc.

  • How to Make a Hollow Book (from wikiHow):A hollow book can be a nifty way to hide something, whether it's a spare key, a secret note, or even money. Most people wouldn't think to browse your library for private or personal things. It's also a great way to pass something to someone discreetly--an unsuspecting onlooker will just think you're sharing a very good read!

  • How to Turn a Book Into a Picture Frame (from wikiHow): Search the basement, the attic or the back of the bookshelves for an old book that has not been opened for years. Make sure that it isn't a valuable antique or first edition! Follow the steps to insert a favorite picture into the frame. Place the book on the end table to be enjoyed and shared by everyone.

  • Instructables also has a video tutorial on how to make this cool Recycled Book Lampshade.

How to Make and Do has some other fun ideas, including a literary clock, stacked book table legs, and personalized flap books.

Don't have the right books for these projects? Then stop by the Friends of the UW Madison Libraries used book sale on April 7-10, 2010. Held at the Memorial Library at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, this is the largest used book sale in Wisconsin and includes more than 15,000 books covering almost any subject.

November 11, 2009

Google Offers Free Wifi at Airports and Virgin American Flights During the Holidays

Traveling this holiday season? Then you may be very pleased to learn that Google is providing free WiFi at 47 participating airports and on every Virgin America flight. The service is already available and will run through January 15, 2010.

Milwaukee is one of the airports available. See the Google site for a list others.

No login or email is required, simply select the option for the complimentary WiFi and accept the terms of service. See the FAQ for more info.

Source: Social Media Law Student

October 19, 2009

Are restaurants in Wisconsin required to put cheese on apple pie?

I've seen this posted on a number of dumb laws websites and have always been a little skeptical. Connie Von Der Heide at the Wisconsin State Law Library took the time to check it out. Her answer appears in the Wisconsin State Journal.

"It certainly sounds plausible since after all this is the Dairy State, but the answer is no.

"The 1935 Laws of Wis., ch. 106 came close; it required serving a small amount of cheese and butter with meals in restaurants (effective from June 1935 to March 1937).

"And, by the way, that was the first Wisconsin law with a sunset provision, i.e. a legislated ending time. Interestingly, Vermont just passed a law in 1999 designating the apple as the state fruit and apple pie as the state pie. It also requires a good faith effort to serve either a glass of cold milk, a 1/2 ounce or larger slice of Cheddar cheese, or a large scoop of vanilla ice cream with a slice of apple pie. (Title 1 Vermont Statutes Annotated, secs. 512 & 513, eff. July 1, 1999)"

Although I've not tried cheese on apple pie, I do have a recipe for apple crisp with cheddar cheese. It might sound disgusting but it is really yummy. I'd always thought it was a Wisconsin thing, but apparently folks in Vermont like it also.

Source: The Wheeler Report
Image from

June 25, 2009

John Hodgman on Obama as America's First Nerd President

I found myself laughing out loud this morning watching John Hodgman's speech at the 2009 Radio and TV Correspondents' Dinner. Maybe it's a nerd thing.

Here's a description from the Mental Floss Blog:

Sitting on the dais with him was President Obama. Hodgman suggested that Obama is American's first nerd president in the modern era, after a succession of jock presidents. Obama seemed to agree. Watch the video below for a cultural moment that's sure to resonate for decades to come.
Discussed: the culture war between jocks and nerds; the three kinds of Hobbits; God as a distant, uncaring Dungeon Master; Obama's victory as a Revenge of the Nerds; asking the hard questions about the president's nerd credentials; a series a stunning Dune references; some nice Star Trek references.

March 18, 2009

Why Wisconsin is the Badger State

Do you know why Wisconsin is referred to as the Badger State? Mental Floss explains this and other "Curious, Bizarre & Storied State Symbols."

... The Badger State title originally refers not to Bucky, nor to the savage beast itself, but to lead miners in the 1820s and 30s. These miners moved from prospect to prospect in southwestern Wisconsin, traveling light and often, with little money for luxury. When winter came and conditions worsened, those miners too far from home to migrate would dig themselves sheltering caves in the hills -- like badgers. These temporary dwellings could be abandoned if a prospect proved fruitless, without much regret; and if the lead pickings were good, the lucky miner could fluff up his badger hole or upgrade to a more traditional Euro-American residence. For this practice Wisconsin miners were dubbed "badgers" -- a jibe that was soon appropriated as a proud, statewide nickname. Bucky didn't come along until 1949; the furry, quadruped badger, notoriously vicious when cornered, wasn't declared Wisconsin's state animal until 1957.

Being a history buff, I knew this already, but thought that some WisBlawg readers might not.

The above photo from the UWDCC's University of Wisconsin Collection is of Bill Sagal, the first human Bucky Badger mascot in 1949.

March 10, 2009

Print Your Resume Free Today at FedEx Office

Today, March 10, 2009, FedEx Office (formerly Kinkos) is hosting "Free Resume Printing Day." The company is offering to print up to 25 copies of each customer's resume for free.

This offer is good for 25 black-and-white resume copies per customer and is only valid for orders placed and picked up in-store. Customers may place orders by submitting their resume in printed format or as a digital file, and the copies will be printed single-sided on resume-quality paper.

Source: LexScripta

January 30, 2009

Get Real-Time WI Travel Info with New 511 Service

From a WI Department of Transportation press release:

Motorists can now get up-to-the-minute travel information by either dialing 511 or going to a new Web site offered by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. The Web site,, provides travelers with traffic and road information on Wisconsin's main highways, including the Interstate system.

The new Web site features a map that graphically displays winter road conditions, traffic speeds, travel times, incidents, traffic camera images, road closures due to maintenance or construction, and potential future road closures.

Here's a screen shot of what the map looks like. If you check any of the features on the right, you can view them as you mouse over the map. Note the traffic camera shown below.511.jpg
Source: The Wheeler Report

January 8, 2009

Where is My Bus? Find out in Real Time with Madison Metro's WebWatch

One of my biggest problems with riding the bus (when I used to ride it) is having to wait around for a late bus - irritating in good weather but downright miserable in below freezing temps. Yeah, I know that for various reasons delays are unavoidable, but for some reason I'm just not all that sympathetic after I've lost feeling in my extremities.

That's why I think that a new project from the Madison Metro is so cool. According to a press release as published in The Isthmus, Madison Metro is testing a new service called WebWatch which provides real time transit information on the Internet. That means bus riders can wait in inside somewhere warm until right before the next bus is due to arrive. Here's what it looks like:

Apparently the service is still in testing phase and its url will change when it's ready for final release. At that time, the site will be available as a link from and

From Madison Metro via The Isthmus:

You should be able to access the site from any computer with an Internet connection. This is not the website address that we will publicize after the testing phase. You may have different experiences depending on the Internet browser that you use; for example the Virtual Earth Map does not work with Firefox and the Google Maps interface seems to work faster with the Firefox browser.

Please note this disclaimer: This site is in testing mode. Please check the Metro Transit Website for information regarding detours and stop closures. This site may not show accurate information where route and stop deviations occur. During special events or severe weather, buses running severely late may be rescheduled or replaced with extra vehicles.

Source: Steenbock Memorial Library blog

November 11, 2008

Star Trek and the Value of Law Books

Kirk's lawyer, Samuel T. Cogley, defends the value of law books over computerized research. Glad to know that they'll still be around in the 23rd century.

Hat tip to Law Librarian Blog

September 30, 2008

Odd Wisconsin Exhibit Opens at WI Historical Museum Next Week

First it was a website, then a book, and now it's a full-blown exhibit. "Odd Wisconsin" opens at the Wisconsin Historical Museum on October 3rd.

From the website:

WARNING! Objects Are More Intriguing Than They First Appear!
How did a rock, a plastic pink flamingo, and a few strips of aluminum make history? Why did a family collect skunk oil in a jar? How did a Wisconsin Congressman come to possess a 7-foot-long bowie knife? From sťances and college pranks to assassinations and the fight for civil rights, Odd Wisconsin features scores of curious and authentic artifacts, documents, and images which may surprise, perplex, and astonish you. Odd Wisconsin... satisfy your curiosity.

Channel 3000 also reports that the exhibit will feature the poster announcing the auction of serial killer Ed Gein's items, Orson Welles' 156-page typed script for "Citizen Kane" and an original speech Abraham Lincoln gave in Milwaukee.

September 10, 2008

WI Dept of Children & Families Offers Search of Licensed Child Care Facilities

The Wisconsin Department of Children and Families' licensed child care search seems to be a hit, according to Gov. Doyle. Since its debut in July, it has logged over 200,000 visits.

The licensed child care search website contains information and regulatory history on nearly 6,000 child care centers licensed by the Department of Children and Families. Individuals can search for licensed child care by county, city, zip code or facility name. Once a child care center is located, individuals can review the center's licensing history for the past two years, including compliance history and enforcement actions.

Source: The Wheeler Report

September 2, 2008

Kiplinger's Fabulous Freebies 2008

Kiplinger's presents Fabulous Freebies 2008. This list includes web sites and services featuring all kinds of free goodies. Some are classics and others are newer.

Source: Lifehacker

July 21, 2008

Madison Magazine's Restaurant Week

July 27-August 1is Madison Magazine's Summer Restaurant Week. During these six days, Madison's finest restaurants will offer three special, fixed-price, three course menus for just $25 per person.

A list of participating restaurants is available at the Madison Magazine Web site. Thanks to my colleague, Cindy May for the tip.

Many of these restaurants have been recommended and reviewed by the UW Law School Faculty & Staff. See the interactive map compiled by the Law Library staff.

July 17, 2008

Historic Milwaukee Photos

The Milwaukee Public Library has recently made available a collection of historic Milwaukee photographs.

The library's collection consists of over 50,000 photographs of Milwaukee dating from the late 19th century to the present, although only a fraction of these are yet available online.

For more historic images, see the collections of the Wisconsin Historical Society and the Library of Congress.

Source: Now @ MPL

July 13, 2008

Wisconsin State Journal Names UW Law Library as One of the Best Quiet Hideaways in Madison

The Wisconsin State Journal has named the UW Law Library as one of the best "quiet" places in Madison.

Searching for solitude? Nothing beats the void-like hush of UW-Madison's Law Library. Open to the public, its five floors offer nooks, crannies and the kind of heavy silence that could make mimes squirm.

Now before you get the wrong idea thinking we librarians are a bunch of bun-wearing shushers, you should know that it's not the librarians shushing you - it's the law students!

Recently, one of my colleagues had the pleasure of going on the UW Madison campus tour with her daughter who was enrolling as a new student. As the tour progressed up Bascom Hill, the tour guide stopped to point out the Law Library - a.k.a. the "hush-hush" library.

Thanks to my colleague, Cheryl O'Connor for sharing this story with me.

June 27, 2008

RepairPal Offers Auto Repair Estimates and Reviews

The next time you need to take your car in for repair, check out RepairPal, a new site offering "independent and unbiased repair estimates and user ratings and reviews" of auto repair shops.

For example, I learned that an AC recharge for our minivan should cost between $223 and $269. Go to know so that I can make sure that I'm not getting ripped off.

The user reviews of repair shops also look promising, but since the site is new, there weren't many listed yet. Time will tell if this takes off.


June 12, 2008

Madison Chosen for Electronic Medical Record Demonstration Project

According to Wisconsin Technology News, Health and Human Services has named named Madison as one of 12 areas that will take part in five-year national Medicare demonstration project to evaluate whether electronic medical records really do improve the quality of health care. Read more from WTN.

March 31, 2008

Penny Postcards from Wisconsin

Take a trip back in time with Penny Postcards, featuring scenes from every state. There are some great ones for Wisconsin, including this one of City Hall in Milwaukee.

Thanks to Angela Henes for the tip.

March 28, 2008

Madison Screening of Anatomy of a Murder

This Saturday, Cinematheque is screening the legal classic, Anatomy of a Murder.

Saturday, March 29, 7:30 p.m.
Anatomy of a Murder
USA, 1959, 35mm, b/w, 161 min.
Directed by Otto Preminger
With James Stewart, Ben Gazzara, Eve Arden

The Cinematheque is located at 4070 Vilas Hall, 821 University Avenue, immediately South and East of the intersection of Park Street and University Avenue. All screenings are free and open to the public on a first-come, first-seated basis.

The Cinematheque is a coalition of UW-Madison academic departments and student film groups dedicated to showcasing films which would otherwise never reach Madison screens.

Thanks to my colleague, Lisa Pfaff for the tip.

March 21, 2008

Creative Uses for Old Books

If you're planning a little spring cleaning of your personal library, take a look at these clever uses for your old books:

  • Make A Lamp Out of Books (from DIY) Artist and designer Alex Cobb makes a wonderful table lamp out of a stack of books. Look for books that have colorful lettering on the spines. Use children's books for the kids' room. Or how about those old law books sitting out in the garage? They'd make the perfect lamp for a den or study.

  • How to Make a Hollow Book (from wikiHow):A hollow book can be a nifty way to hide something, whether it's a spare key, a secret note, or even money. Most people wouldn't think to browse your library for private or personal things. It's also a great way to pass something to someone discreetly--an unsuspecting onlooker will just think you're sharing a very good read!

  • How to Turn a Book Into a Picture Frame (from wikiHow): Search the basement, the attic or the back of the bookshelves for an old book that has not been opened for years. Make sure that it isn't a valuable antique or first edition! Follow the steps to insert a favorite picture into the frame. Place the book on the end table to be enjoyed and shared by everyone.

Don't have the right books for these projects? Then stop by the Friends of the UW Madison Libraries used book sale on March 26-29, 2008. Held at the Memorial Library at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, this is the largest used book sale in Wisconsin and includes more than 15,000 books covering almost any subject.
Update: 3/25/08
Laura Orr over at Oregon Legal Research offer some additional tips in her guide, How to Dispose of Used Law Books. My favorite is This Into That by artist, Jim Rosenau. His art includes book cases, book shelves, chairs, etc. - all made from vintage books.

March 4, 2008

Free Service for Recording (& Podcasting) Conference Calls

A while back I posted about a free telephone conferencing service called This free service supplies you with a dial in number and an access code with which all callers can connect.

While this service worked great, I recently had a need to record a conference call. Although does have recording capabilities, this feature is only available to premium subscribers.

Fortunately, I found another service called Basement Ventures which offered free recording of calls. Like, you get a dial in number and a code (which they call a bridge number). Give this to all parties and have them call in at an appointed time. The moderator is also given a special code which allows her to access the special features, like recording, muting callers, etc. See the FAQ for more.

You can also access these special features using the BV Web Manager tool. In addition to recording, the Web Manager allows you to selectively mute and unmute callers. Muted callers can use the "raise hand" icon to alert you that they have a question whereupon you can unmute them. That could come in handy for a presentation.

Within 90 minutes after the call is completed, you may access the recording (MP3 file) on the BV site. You have the option of listening to the call on site (and inviting others to do so) where it will remain for at least 30 days; or you can download it to your own computer for permanent storage.

BV is a wonderful tool with lots of great applications. I needed it for a committee conference call. One of the committee members was unable to call in at the scheduled time and I wanted to offer him a chance to listen in on the meeting. It would also be a great way to archive a call for posterity. And since BV generates a RSS feed, you can even use it to podcast your conference calls.

February 1, 2008

Ice Quake Shakes UW Madison Campus

So there I am on my lunch break reading a book, when I feel the ground tremble beneath me. At the time, I assumed that someone had dropped something heavy in the mail room next door, but later I learned the true cause: an ice quake emanating from Lake Mendota which geologists measured as 0.2 on the Richter scale.

Channel 3000 reported that the ice quake was too small to cause any damage, but experts said it was the strongest ice quake the area has seen in nearly a decade.

According to the Isthmus:

Such events are not without precedent. There's a lot of expansion and contraction happening out on the big ice sheets that cover Madison's lakes in winter. One of the most dramatic such occurrences happened a little before noon on Jan.15, 1948, when seismographs measured a tremor at 3.8 on the Richter scale.

January 30, 2008

Free Overnight Parking in Madison Ramps During Snow Emergencies

From a City of Madison News Release:

Beginning Monday, January 28, 2008, the Parking Utility will not charge for parking in cashiered sections of city garages between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m. on declared snow emergency days.

Parkers will need to pay for parking before 9 p.m. or after 7 a.m. on those days.

These new times will take affect immediately at the following facilities: Government East, Overture Center, State Street Campus, State Street Capitol and Capitol Square North. It is not available at other Parking Utility facilities.

By expanding these parking hours during snow emergencies, the City hopes that there will be fewer parked vehicles on public streets, which would help facilitate snow removal during heavy snowfalls.

December 20, 2007

Postcards from Someone You Don't Know

This is one of those odd-ball posts that I like to sometimes share. It has nothing to do with law or libraries, but I just thought it was so awesome.

Boing Boing reports on a unique item up for auction:

"Brian Sack offers to drive a person of your choice crazy with mysterious postcards from Poland while he is vacationing there. The postcards will be laced with odd personal details about this person, supplied by you, and signed with an indecipherable signature. So far, Sack reports, some 73,000 people have bid on this since yesterday."

To add to the sheer confusion and genuine discomfort, one missive will be on an original promotional postcard announcing the 1995 television premiere of Central Park West on CBS.

Another will be a postcard celebrating Atlanta's disastrous hosting of the 1996 summer Olympic games.

Your mark will be at a complete loss, desperate for answers, debating contacting people he or she hasn't talked to in years.

December 11, 2007

Skybus Offers $10 Flights from Mitchell

JS Online reports that earlier this month, Skybus began offering service from Mitchell International Airport to Columbus, Ohio. This no-frills airline offers 10 seats on each flight for only $10. And even if you miss one of the $10 flights, many of the remaining flights were priced under $100.

According to JS Online:

Tickets are sold only online at They cannot be bought at the airport or on the phone, and Skybus flights also do not show up on common Internet airfare search engines such as

The carrier does have a desk at Mitchell, but only to accept luggage - at $5 a bag for the first two, more thereafter....

The airline also does not sell connecting tickets. Passengers who want to go on to the other airports Skybus serves must get off in Columbus, claim their baggage and check in again. The airline does not recommend it.

So, the question is - how much hassle you be willing to endure for a $10 flight?
Update: Skybus Airlines will cease all operations effective Saturday, April 5, 2008.

December 3, 2007

Origins of the "Bubbler"

The Milwaukee Public Library traces the origin of the term "bubbler" back to the original 1888 Kohler trademark of that name.

To those readers outside of our great state: many Wisconsinites use the term "bubbler" in place of "drinking fountain".

Photo from Portland State University.

October 25, 2007

Faking Dr's Note, Jury Duty Summons to Get Out of Work

There is an AP News story making the rounds about a devious little hooky-enabling product called The Excused Absence Network.

For about $25, students and employees can buy excuse notes that appear to come from doctors or hospitals. Other options include a fake jury summons or an authentic-looking funeral service program complete with comforting poems and a list of pallbearers.

Interesting that when I tried to take a look at the web site, I got a "Service Unavailable" message. You can still see it via the WayBack Machine, however. According to an article in the NJ Star-Ledger, there are dozens of other Web sites which offer variations on the fake absence note, ranging in price from $3 to $25.

Predictably, someone was bound to get caught, as was a NJ woman who got busted for using a fake doctor's note obtained from The Excuse Network.
The AP reports that:

She was arrested this year after using one of the company's notes to support her claim she was too injured to appear in traffic court for a speeding ticket. She was caught after court officials called the chiropractor listed and he told them he never heard of the woman.

October 17, 2007

Book Festival Coverage from Wisconsin Eye

There is more video/audio footage from the Wisconsin Book Festival over at Wisconsin Eye. Here are some of the latest offerings:

  • 10.14.07: "Odd Wisconsin: Amusing, Perplexing, and Unlikely Stories from Wisconsin's Past"
  • 10.13.07 "Provoking Democracy: Why We Need the Arts"
  • 10.12.07: "Tranquility at any Price?" with Authors Matthew Rothschild and Chris Finan
  • 10.11.07: Best New Writing from Wisconsin People and Ideas: 2007 Contest Winners
  • 10.11.07: "Communication Revolution: Bob McChesney and John Nichols on the Future of Media"
  • 10.10.07: Opening Event: Environmental Authors Rick Bass and Terry Tempest Williams

October 1, 2007

Downtown Madison Post Office Opens Today

From the Daily Cardinal:

The new University Station U.S. Post Office, 441 Lake Street, opens today, replacing a temporary location at University Bookstore and a previous site at the old University Square, the post office announced Friday.

The Lake Street station [formerly a McDonald's] includes services exclusively tailored to students, including an Automated Postal Center to be installed this week and a possible passport service in the future.

Thanks to my colleague, Bill Ebbott, for the tip.

September 27, 2007

Debunking "The 5 Second Rule"

From UW Madison News:

If a piece of toast fell on the floor, would you pick it up and eat it? You probably would if you believe in the 5-second rule, which suggests that your spilled breakfast stays germ-free as long as you snatch it up in five seconds.

But while the 5-second rule remains a popular rule of thumb, there is no hard science to support it, says Glenn Chambliss, a bacteriologist at UW-Madison. In fact, if you dropped food in places harboring nasties like E. Coli bacteria, any contamination would happen instantaneously, the scientist says.

At our house we don't live by "The 5 second rule" for dropped food as much as we do by the "get it before the dog does" rule. And the dog usually wins.

Visit Milwaukee Plans to Immortalize "The Fonz" in Bronze

JS Online reports that "'The Fonz' soon might be part of our downtown [Milwaukee] landscape, immortalized in a life-size bronze sculpture that city tourism leaders hope would be a stopping point for visitors."

From the article:

The Fonz, of course, is Arthur "Fonzie" Fonzarelli, the character from the long-running TV show "Happy Days," set in a nostalgic version of Milwaukee, circa the late 1950s and early 1960s. Visit Milwaukee, a non-profit group that promotes the city as a tourism and convention destination, is leading an effort to raise $85,000 to commission the statue, which likely would be in the plaza south of E. Wisconsin Ave. and west of N. Water St., near the Chase Plaza office tower.

Aaay - I love it.

September 25, 2007

Winning Bids in the Last Few Seconds

Have you ever been bidding on something at Ebay and up until the last few seconds, you think you've got it - then someone swoops in at the very end and outbids you? Urgh! This is called sniping and Wikipedia defines it as watching a timed online auction (such as on eBay or Yahoo!), and placing a winning bid at the last possible moment (often seconds before the end of the auction), giving the other bidders no time to outbid the sniper.

Can they do that? Technically, yes, it doesn't break any auction rules, although the practice is frowned upon by some. According to USA Today, a Korean study proved sniping to be the most effective method of bidding.

Although last second bidders could wait online at the close of the auction ready to pounce, a more efficient strategy is to use a sniping software application. One of these, BidSniper, offers a free service whereby it will place your bid in the last ten seconds of the auction. You can also get the premium service which will bid in the last three seconds.

September 20, 2007

NBC to Offer Free, Limited-Time Downloads of Its Shows

Soon NBC will be allow viewers to download many of their most popular programs free to personal computers and other devices for one week immediately after their broadcasts. NBC announced a few weeks ago that it was pulling it's shows off of iTunes.

According to the New York Times:

The files, which would be downloaded overnight to home computers, would contain commercials that viewers would not be able to skip through. And the file would not be transferable to a disk or to another computer.

The files would degrade after the seven-day period and be unwatchable. "Kind of like 'Mission: Impossible,' only I don't think there would be any explosion and smoke," [Jeff Gaspin, the president of the NBC Universal Television Group] said.

Update 9/21: Looks like ABC is also offering downloads.

September 12, 2007

I Could Use a Little Ice Cream... Or a Lot

Having a bad day? You need a little ice cream. Have a really bad day? You need a lot. That's the premise behind the Dr. Whippy machine which debuted at the Ars Technica festival.

According to Boing Boing, "It's a self-serve frozen custard machine that doles out portion sizes based on the amount of misery it detects in a voice-stress analysis. The sadder you are, the more ice-cream you get."

September 11, 2007

Free Printer Cartridge Refills at Walgreens on Wednesday

Tomorrow (Wed, Sept 12), Walgreens is offering inkjet printer cartridge refills for free. Customers can bring one empty b&w or color cartridge to the Walgreens photo counter and get it filled for free. Pick up a coupon in the weekly ad.

To find a the nearest Walgreens that offers refill service, search the Walgreens store locator. Be sure to check the box that reads "Printer cartridge refills".

Source: Research Buzz

September 4, 2007

If You Were a Book...

If you were a book, what book would you be? Answer just six questions to find your exact literary match! My match is To Kill a Mockingbird.

Hat tip to my colleague, Mary Jo Koranda.

August 13, 2007

Wisconsin Historical Images RSS Feed

The Wisconsin History Society has a lot of interesting RSS feeds, including one highlighting old photographs from it's archives.

This photo came around last week. A group of young men is sitting in a darkened, smoky-looking theater. On the screen is a quote from Jay Gould: "I can hire one-half of the working class to kill the other half" That's just creepy.

July 23, 2007

How Would You Look as a Simpson?

Ever wondered how you'd look as a character on the Simpsons? Now you can find out at Upload a head shot, check a few preferences, and poof - you're Simpsonized. That's me on the right.

This is really cool. It actually analyzes your photo and creates a pretty good representation (I thought mine was anyway). The photo has to be a close-up of your face with a minimum resolution of 640 x 480 pixels.

Source: Wisconsin State Journal (7/22/07)

July 10, 2007

Nominate Legal Support Staff for Unsung Heroes Award

It's time to nominate your favorite legal support staffer for the 2nd Annual Unsung Heroes Award. The Wisconsin Law Journal sponsors the award to honor the "'Unsung Heroes' whose efforts are essential to helping law firms and courts run efficiently."

Nomination forms, which are due August 10, 2007, are available on the Wisconsin Law Journal web site. Categories include:

  • Secretary
  • Paralegal
  • Law Library Staff
  • Administrator
  • Human Resources
  • IT Specialists
  • Marketers
  • Court staff

July 9, 2007

Books Program on WisconsinEye

In addition to its coverage of the Wisconsin Legislature, WisconsinEye has also produced a series of programs about Wisconsin-themed books. Some are author interviews and others are appearances by authors at local bookstores. Archived audio and video is available.

Some of the featured books so far include the Cafť Wisconsin Cookbook; Living a Country Year: Wit and Wisdom from the Good Old Days; Aztalan: Mysteries of an Ancient Indian Town; From Door County to Lake Superior; Coming Home to China. Libraries@UW-Madison reports that they've also been filming at Memorial Library's Special Collections Department for a program on Making Maps, Mapping History which is set to air in a few weeks.

May 31, 2007

Bucky's Badger Den - Fun & Games for Badger Fans

Margaret Booth, our Documents Assistant, clued me into a fun site for Badger fans called Bucky's Badger Den. It's geared for kids, but I have to admit that some of the games looked pretty fun. Check out my paper doll Bucky. Can you tell I'm going on vacation in a few weeks?bucky.png

Update - turns out Margaret was the one who suggested the paper doll idea to the Athletics Dept. and was tickled when she heard about it on Channel 3 news the other day. Way to go, Margaret!

May 14, 2007

USPS Rates Go Up Today

2007forever200ns.jpg Don't forget that the new United States Postal Service rates go into effect today. The price of a first class stamp is now 41 cents. Looks like I'll have to go get a bunch of make up stamps.

From now on, I think I'll buy the new Forever Stamps which are good for mailing one-ounce First-Class Mail letters anytime in the future -- regardless of price changes.

April 30, 2007


My colleague, Nancy Paul, shared this item of interest:

This year the time and date three minutes and four seconds after 2 AM on the 6th of May will be 02:03:04:05/06/07. This will never again happen.

April 18, 2007

Time to Recycle that Old Computer?

This Saturday, April 21st, the City of Madison will be hosting the spring Computer and Electronics Recycling Roundup. The event takes place from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. at the City Transfer Station, 121 E. Olin Ave, between the Alliant Energy Center and Goodman Field . For details visit the City of Madison Streets and Recycling web page. [Source: What's New at the Madison Public Library]

According to the Wall Street Journal, many big-name computer manufacturers also offer their own recycling programs, some of which come right to your door. See the article for more information.

March 22, 2007

Track Amazon Prices with RSStalker

beSpacific has a great tip for saving money on Amazon: provides RSS feeds to track price changes of products. Generate a feed for a single product or for an entire wishlist. Add it to your favorite aggregator and you will be automatically notified when the price changes. Simply unsubscribe to the feed when you are done... doesn't advertise it, but they have a 30 day price drop policy. If you bought something from them and they lower the price within 30 days, just fill out a form and they'll refund you the difference. See the FAQ for details.

March 21, 2007

U.S. Post Office Moving to Vacant McDonald's on Lake St.

postal.jpg From the Daily Cardinal:

The U.S. Postal Service in Madison announced Monday it will be moving into the vacant building previously occupied by McDonald's at 441 N. Lake St.

According to Terri Bouffiou, spokesperson for Madison's postal service, the post office will start renovations on the building once a contractor is chosen. She said by next fall, students can expect to see a fully functional post office...

Currently, the post office is leasing temporary space from the University Bookstore to serve the campus community. Bouffiou said although the bookstore has provided a great interim location, a large, permanent residence is ideal.

Thanks to my UW Madison Libraries colleague, Steve Frye, for the tip.

UW Madison Libraries Used Book Sale Begins Today

The Friends of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Library semiannual used book sale starts today. The sale will be held for the March 21-24, at Memorial Library, 728 State St (room 116)

Today is the preview sale ($5 admission) which will be held from 5-9 p.m. The regular sale, open to the public at no charge, will be held from 10:30 a.m.-7 p.m. on Thursday, March 22, and Friday, March 23. From 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m. on Saturday, March 24, patrons can bring a bag and fill it for $3.


This spring's sale will offer special collections of books in literary criticism, history of science and philosophy, theater and drama, South Asian studies and the UW Press.

March 20, 2007

A Lawyer Walks into a Bar - Lawyer Documentary

A Lawyer Walks into a Bar is the name of a new lawyer documentary from Camel's Back Films. According to the web site, "the documentary explores the influence of law and its practitioners on American culture, while following six characters as they do whatever it takes to become lawyers themselves. WARNING: the film contains karaoke, murder, vampires, and America's one million attorneys."

Looks like the closest showing will be at the Chicago Intl Doc Film Festival. A trailer and clips are available on the web site, though.

March 9, 2007

Alando Tucker READ Poster from UW Madison Libraries

AlandoTuckerREAD.jpg From UW Libraries Head of Communication, Don Johnson: Alando Tucker, Wisconsin men's basketball senior forward and National Player of the Year finalist, is the focus of the newest READ poster created by the UW-Madison Libraries, which is in press.

The photo for the 18" x 24" poster, a promotion for the upcoming National Library Week April 15-21, was shot at College Library on Friday, Feb. 23. The UW Athletic Department has more information about the poster series. The project was paid for with private support. Contact for copies.

March 1, 2007

Lunar Eclipse this Saturday

From the UW Space Place:

Total Lunar Eclipse
Sat, 3-Mar-2007, 5:45 pm (3:00 hrs)

The full moon of 3 March will rise in Madison at 5:45 p.m., but it will not be your typical full moon. The rising moon will be totally eclipsed by Earth's shadow.

Unlike a solar eclipse, there is no safety hazard at all in looking at the moon, whether eclipsed or not. Equipment is not needed to appreciate the lunar eclipse, which is plainly visible to the eye.

Daylight Savings Time Starts Early this Year - March 11th

If you haven't heard yet, the Energy Policy Act of 2005 changed the start and end dates of Daylight Savings Time beginning in 2007. Clocks will be set ahead one hour on March 11, which is three weeks earlier than they traditionally change.

Online calendars and computer clocks that have not been updated with patches to automatically adjust may have to be manually reset.

Thanks to the UW Madison Faculty/Staff Tech News for the reminder.

February 14, 2007

Comparing Wisconsin's Current Budget to Its First

In contrast to Governor Doyle's recent budget proposal, Odd Wisconsin has a bit about Wisconsin's first budget.

So, let's see... $25 billion in 2007, for a single year's operation of state government, works out to be $63,493,150 per day; or about $12.37 per day per person (using the U.S. Census Bureau's population estimate of 5,536,201).

The year 1849's expenditures of $52,845.96 works out to $144.78 per day; or (using the 1850 Census figure of 305,391) about $0.00047 - about 1/20th of a cent -- per day per person.

Read the full article for more.

February 13, 2007

Introducing the Book - A Very Early Help Desk Interaction

A colleague sent me a link to this awesome YouTube video, Introducing the Book. Think early - really early - help desk. I laughed out loud.

January 29, 2007

LSAT, etc. Online Exam Prep Tool Free at Public Library

Know anyone that's taking the LSAT soon? How about the SAT, ACT or GRE? If so, direct them to LearningExpressLibrary, an interactive online learning platform of practice tests and tutorial course series. LearningExpressLibrary is available at no cost at the Madison Public Library, the Milwaukee Public Library or remotely to Milwaukee Public Library cardholders. For a list of the many exams available, see the LearningExpressLibrary web site.

From What's New at the Madison Public Library:

In Learning Express, users can create their own accounts, take any of the dozens of tests offered or read any of the electronic books relating to study skills, military service, Federal job requirements and much more. Want to know how you're doing? Learning Express will score your test. Not enough time to finish? You can stop at any point and pick up next time where you left off.

Madison Stuff Exchange

Developed by Dane County and the City of Madison to reduce the amount of waste going to the Dane County Landfill, Madison Stuff Exchange provides area residents and businesses with a convenient way to exchange, re-use, or sell items they no longer need or want.

To be eligible to post items, you must live or work in Dane County. Anyone, regardless of where you live, may respond to a post. You do not have to live in Dane County. Listings are posted for free.

Check out also Craigslist Madison or Milwaukee for local "stuff," jobs, events, etc.

January 19, 2007

Article: How to Go to M.I.T. for Free

From the Christian Science Monitor:
How to go to M.I.T. for free

By the end of this year, the contents of all 1,800 courses taught at one of the world's most prestigious universities will be available online to anyone in the world, anywhere in the world. Learners won't have to register for the classes, and everyone is accepted. The cost? It's all free of charge...

The MIT site (, along with companion sites that translate the material into other languages, now average about 1.4 million visits per month from learners "in every single country on the planet,"

Thanks to Mary Ray for the tip.

January 3, 2007

Free Software Giveaway of the Day

From Inter Alia: Free Software.....Every Day

I've been a big fan of Giveaway of the Day for about a month now. It's a site that offers fully licensed software to you every day -- a different title -- for free. Software developers are giving away free copies of their software for one day only -- it's a win-win situation, because we get to know about new software, and the software companies get great exposure. I have already downloaded 5 or 6 programs that I have started to regularly use. This is a great place to learn about new software.

December 28, 2006

WI Booster Seat Law to be Enforced Starting in January

From the Capital Times:

Starting January 1st, Wisconsin authorities will start enforcing a law that requires children who are at least 4 years old but younger than 8 to travel in a booster seat while in the car, unless they are 4 feet 9 inches or taller or weigh 80 pounds or more. Wisconsin law already required children under 4 years old to be in a safety seat.

If a child 4 or older, but not yet 8, is unrestrained or not properly restrained, drivers will face a $135.60 fine for a first offense and $184.50 for a second offense. For children younger than 4, the fine is $160.80 for a first offense.

December 19, 2006

Traveling This Season? Check the Road Conditions

CNN reports that a record number of Americans will be traveling this holiday season - about 65 million people between December 23 and January 2, more than the record 63.5 million who traveled last year, according to a survey by the Travel Industry Association and the AAA.

If you'll be taking to the Wisconsin roads, you may want to check out the Department of Transportation's Online Travel Center. You'll find several interactive maps including a winter road condition report which indicates whether highways are in good driving condition, slippery in stretches, snow or ice covered. The map is updated four times per day.

Traveling outside of the state? See the National Traffic and Road Closure Information which links to road conditions for every state.

Thanks to my colleague, Sue Center, for the tip.

November 27, 2006

Wisconsinites May Soon Be Dropped from No-Call List

Many Wisconsinites may soon be dropped off the Wisconsin No-call list which identifies residents who do not wish to receive telemarketing calls. Numbers remain on the list for two years.

If it's been a while since you added your name to the list, you can sing up again at the Wisconsin No Call List web site or call 1-866-9NO-CALL (1-866-966-2255).

For more information about this list, call the toll free hotline of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection at 1-800-422-7128.

November 22, 2006

Article: Dead Plagiarists Society

My colleague, Lisa Pfaff, passed on an interesting article this morning from Slate. In the article, Dead Plagiarists Society, author Paul Collins contemplates the use of Google Book Search as a tool to detect plagiarism in the literary tomes of yesteryear.

Given the popularity of plagiarism-seeking software services for academics, it may be only a matter of time before some enterprising scholar yokes Google Book Search and plagiarism-detection software together into a massive literary dragnet, scooping out hundreds of years' worth of plagiarists--giants and forgotten hacks alike--who have all escaped detection until now.
More to come later?

November 16, 2006

ISBN Changing from 10 to 13 Digits

Starting in January, a new international standard is expanding the current 10-digit ISBN to a 13-digit ISBN. See the press release from OCLC. [What is an ISBN?]

Airlines to Offer iPod In-Flight Entertainment Next Year

The New York Times reports that "airline passengers will soon be able to connect their iPods to in-flight entertainment systems and watch their favorite videos while traveling on any of six major carriers."

Air France, Continental Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Emirates, KLM and United Airlines will begin offering passengers iPod seat connections as early as next year.

19th Century Political Campaigns Make Today's Look Genteel

Think today's political campaigns are nasty? The Wisconsin State Journal's Odd Wisconsin column reminds us of the not-so-good-old-days when campaign rallies sometimes became bloody affairs.

These outdoor political events were more like protest rallies than TV speeches, as a candidate's backers came together in a park or plaza. They often preceded torch-lit marches through town, and if two opposing parties met on the street, the scene was less like a League of Women's Voters debate than a Packers- Bears game.

In the spring of 1847, two such groups clashed in Milwaukee. "I witnessed from the store door the free fight which took place," recalled A.W. Kellogg. "Both sides used their torch sticks for weapons, or any club they could find, and belabored each other till heads were broken and clothes stripped off.

Legal Support Staff "Unsung Heroes" Honored

Last Friday, the Wisconsin Law Journal celebrated the efforts of law firm and court support staff during its inaugural Unsung Heroes program. The newspaper celebrated the achievements of 41 honorees and presented awards to 10 individuals.

Profiles of the honorees appear in the current issue of WLJ and are also available on the WLJ site. A big congratulations to all those honored.

November 10, 2006

Badger RSS Feeds

Are you a Badger fan with a RSS reader? Check out the RSS Feeds. Follow you favorite team by choosing top headlines, or pick an individual sport.

Computer Recycling Roundup in Madison This Saturday

From What's New from the Madison Public Library:

The next computer recycling roundup is this Saturday, November 11, from 9 AM until 1 PM at the City Transfer Station, 121 E. Olin Ave, between the Alliant Energy Center and Goodman Field.

This event is limited to home electronics ONLY. No computers from businesses. For more information, please refer to the City's acceptable computer components and electronics list. For additional computer recycling options check the Dane County Public Works web site.

Note that Cascade Asset Management of Madison, which runs the Computer Recycling Round-up, completely erases or destroys the hard drives it receives. See earlier WisBlawg post on this problem.

November 2, 2006

On This Day in Wisconsin History

If you are a fan of the Wisconsin Historical Society's Odd Wisconsin web site, you may also be interested in On This Day in Wisconsin History from WHS. There is even a RSS feed. You can also submit an event of historical significance to the database.

October 23, 2006

Wisconsin's First Election

Today's Odd Wisconsin describes Wisconsin's first election in 1836.

I thought that this was interesting:

That first census taken in August 1836 was performed in order to identify voters. It found only 11,683 non-Indian residents within the bounds of today's Wisconsin: Brown County - 2,706 Crawford County - 850 Iowa County - 5,234 Milwaukee County - 2,893. So when it was born, Wisconsin contained only about as many people as Cedarburg, Fort Atkinson, Hudson, or Plover do today.

October 18, 2006

Taking Cell Phone Photo of QR Code Offers Instant Information

Photo from SlashPhone

There is a very interesting article in the International Herald Tribune about QR, or quick response codes. It begins with a young woman snapping a picture with her cell phone of QR code on a movie poster and instantly retrieving show times and a review of the film.

From the article:
QR, or quick response, codes are a similar to bar codes except they are square, look a bit like an ink blot and contain much more information. In Japan and South Korea, QR codes are used to link directly to a Web site, as in the case of the subway poster, saving the user the need to type an address on the tiny keypad of the phone. As marketers seek an edge on competitors, QR codes are appearing practically everywhere in Japan.

Source: Library Marketing

October 11, 2006

UW Madison Featured Images Collection

slis.jpg Featured Images is a new photo collection from the University of Wisconsin - Madison Archives. According to Archivist, David Null, each month the site will feature interesting historical campus photos about which little is known. Viewers are invited to contribute comments and identifications. A new subject or department will be featured each month.

This month, the site features the School of Library and Information Science since they are celebrating their 100th anniversary. There are some very neat images here including this one from 1912.

October 10, 2006

The "Ultimate Time Capsule," A Lunar Library

According to Boing Boing, a scientist at NASA believes that the moon may be an ideal place for a digital archive of earthly information. He calls it the "ultimate time capsule."

From Boing Boing:

The benefits of lunar storage are that there is no oxygen to erode the material, constant sub-freezing temperature and the Moon is currently free of all of the havoc wreaked by humankind...

How do you go about documenting an entire planetary civilization? What kind of info would make it into the archive?

September 29, 2006

Wisconsin Fall Color Report


My family's favorite season is fall. From apple picking to corn mazes to watching the leaves turn, we love to get outside and enjoy the season. So I was pleased to discover that the Wisconsin Tourism Department Web site has a very nice Fall Color Report.

It will tell you when colors are at their peak in each county. You can even sign up for updates by email. Click the "view" button in the Drives and Events columns to see information about special upcoming events, or particularly scenic drives.

Thanks to the Madison Public Library What's New blog for the tip.

September 22, 2006

Looking For a Few Good Books?

Looking for a few good books to curl up with now that the weather is getting cool? Here are a couple of tips on where you can get them for free or low cost.

1. Take a trip to your local public library. Enough said.

2. If you'd rather buy than borrow, check out the upcoming book sales from the Milwaukee Public Library and Madison area libraries. You never know what you'll find at these sales, but if you have time to browse, you'll probably find a treasure or two.

If you have kids, this can be a great place to pick up some awesome (and inexpensive) party favors - much better than the usual goodie bags of candy and cheap toys. Thanks to Parent Hacks for the tip.

3. If you have specific titles or authors that you want, try a book swapping Web site. These online marketplaces allow you to trade your books with others. No money is exchanged - only shipping costs apply. Some of them include;;;; and

Yesterday's Wall Street Journal had a good article on book swapping. (Normally, WSJ Online requires a subscription, but today content appears to be free). Thanks to TVC Alert for the tip.

September 13, 2006

Statewide Discussion Series, A More Perfect Union: To Establish Justice

Once again this year, the Wisconsin Humanities Council is sponsoring a statewide discussion series entitled, A More Perfect Union: To Establish Justice.

From the web site:

This year's A More Perfect Union theme, To Establish Justice, once again comes from the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution. The phrase reminds us of our early founders' commitment to a fair and accessible legal system, but also raises relevant questions about the roles both elected officials and common citizens must play in the quest to bring about the oft-mentioned but painfully elusive American ideal of "justice for all."

Discussion items include:

  • A Civil Action by Jonathan Harr
  • Bombingham by Anthony Grooms
  • For God And Country: Faith and Patriotism Under Fire by James Yee and Aimee Molloy
  • Sex Wars : A Novel of the Turbulent Post-Civil War Period by Marge Piercy
  • Red Hook Justice, a film by Meema Spadola

The Wisconsin Humanities Council offers a "pre-packaged" DISCUSSION KIT for libraries, book clubs, campus and school groups, UW-Extension programs, or any not-for-profit or ad-hoc group.

August 31, 2006

My Email Address Hits it Big; Has Plans to Retire

Today, my email address got some wonderful news. "Your Email Addres Has Won Award" said the message.

It was one of only "10 lucky winners in the Euro Millones Lottery International Email Address draw[ing]" Funny that the prize officials chose to notify her through the Law-Lib listserv then. I hope all those other email addresses don't feel jealous.

When I asked my email address what she plans to do with her winnings, she said that she planned to retire on a beach somewhere and drink Mai Tais. I'll miss her. I hope that she sends a postcard.

[I've seen some pretty dumb spam in my day, but this one made me laugh]

August 23, 2006

History Detectives Uncovers Origin of Old Harley Davidson Bearing the "Cross of Lorraine"

Earlier this week, PBS' History Detectives ran an episode on old 1914 Harley-Davidson motorcycle bearing the "Cross of Lorraine," a historic symbol of French nationalism.

According to Mary Koshollek, Director of Information and Records Services at Godfrey & Kahn, who told me about the broadcast, the owner thought it may have been involved in WWI, but it turned out to be one of the bikes that health officials used to travel around Wisconsin to teach about tuberculosis.

Apparently, the History Detectives conducted their investigation at the Wisconsin State Historical Society and the Harley-Davidson archives. Fascinating.

Looks like the episode will be shown again on:

  • Friday, August 25, 12:00 AM, WPT - Channel 28 (Madison)
  • Saturday, August 26, 3:00 PM, MPTV - Channel 10 (Milwaukee)

For other listings, including PBS digital channels, see the PBS guide. A transcript is also available.

August 15, 2006

Dell Announces Recall of Laptop Batteries Due To Fire Hazard

Dell has announced a recall of certain Dell-branded laptop batteries with cells manufactured by Sony. Dell will offer free replacements for these batteries. Under rare conditions, it is possible for these batteries to overheat, which could pose a risk of fire.

From April 2004 through July 2006, the recalled batteries were sold with or sold separately to be used with the following Dell notebook computers:

* Latitude D410, D500, D505, D510, D520, D600, D610, D620, D800, D810;
* Inspiron 6000, 8500, 8600, 9100, 9200, 9300, 500m, 510m, 600m, 6400, E1505, 700m, 710m, 9400, E1705;
* Dell Precision M20, M60, M70 and M90 mobile workstations; and
* XPS, XPS Gen2, XPS M170 and XPS M1710.

For more information, see the release from the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

August 9, 2006

Create Your Own Vinyl Record Label

Here's a fun one from LibrarianInBlack: The Vinyl Record Generator. Create a record with any text you choose for the artist, song title, and producer. You even get to choose between a 78 and a 45 - for those that still know the difference.

You could have some fun with this. I'm filing it away in my National Library Week ideas folder.

August 3, 2006

Technology Gender Gap Virtually Closed

A survey commissioned by the women's cable TV network, Oxygen, found the technology gender gap has virtually closed with the majority of women snapping up new technology and using it easily. Three of four women surveyed said that they would prefer a new plasma TV to a diamond necklace. Yeah, I'd agree with that.

Source: Reuters Oddly Enough

July 31, 2006

Make Your Own Comic Strips

From LibrarianInBlack:

The Comic Strip Generator lets you choose from hundreds of different comic templates and create little strips panel by panel.

July 28, 2006

Botany Garden in Bloom

I took a walk over to the UW-Madison Botany Garden this afternoon and captured this photo of the pond. I believe that the beautiful bloom is an American lotus. [thanks to MB for the correction]

The Botany Garden just just a short walk up the hill from the Law School.

Thanks to our Documents Assistant, Margaret Booth, for the tip.


July 26, 2006

The Onion Reports that Wikipedia Honors the 750th Anniversary of American Independence

From Today's Onion*:

Wikipedia, the online, reader-edited encyclopedia, honored the 750th anniversary of American independence on July 25 with a special featured section on its main page Tuesday.

*Don't you believe it. The Onion is fake - but darn funny.

Thanks to Bill Ebbott for the tip.


July 14, 2006

Trading a Paper Clip for a House

Kyle MacDonald has done it: traded a paper clip up to a house. Read more at Reuters Oddly Enough.

July 6, 2006

Off to St. Louis for the AALL Meeting

I'm off to St. Louis for the American Association of Law Libraries Annual meeting so posting on WisBlawg will probably be light next week. However, I may be posting about the meeting on AALL Gateway, the conference blog.

June 28, 2006

A Magical Moment at Lake Kegonsa

One of those magical pursuits of childhood, my kids have a fascination with catching fireflies. Last weekend, equipped with butterfly net and bug house, we journeyed to Lake Kegonsa State Park for what turned out to be a very soggy camping trip.

But just a twilight Saturday night, there was a break in the rain clouds so off went the great firefly hunters. With our daughter riding on his shoulders and our son gleefully striding alongside, my husband led the way down the trail. At the end was a large meadow filled with thousands of dancing fireflies. It was a truly magical moment which brought to mind one our of favorite books:

"When all was quiet, the firefly flew through the night flashing its light, looking and searching again. Then the very lonely firefly saw what it had been looking for...

A group of fireflies, flashing their lights. Now the firefly wasn't lonely anymore."
-- From The Very Lonely Firefly by Eric Carle

June 21, 2006

Things Found in a Jail Book Cart

Nichole, a Madison librarian who volunteers with the Jail Library Group has compiled a fascinating Flikr collection of "things I find abandoned in books or stuffed on the book cart at the [Dane County] jail where I volunteer"

This is a really insightful collection. There are snippets of letters, poems, drawings, etc. Worth a look.

As an aside, the Jail Library Group accepts donations of books and magazines at several dropoff locations in Madison.

Source: Boing Boing

June 8, 2006

Saying Yes to Everything

MADreads reviews a pretty funny sounding book called Yes Man about a man that literally said yes to everything for a year. Here's the review:
Yes, yes, a thousand times yes! By Sarah - Alicia Ashman on Nonfiction

Yes Man - Next time a telemarketer asks if you'd like to learn more about their fantastic offer, just say YES! When asked if you'd like to "say it with flowers," just say YES! When asked to go anywhere, anytime, with anyone, just say YES!

Can you imagine living this way? Author Danny Wallace did, for a whole year. And, luckily for us, he wrote a very funny, very strange, very British book (Yes Man) about his experiences, which varied from the euphoric to the disheartening (and back again). Perhaps my favorite example of his saying "YES!" involved his agreeing to help the Sultan Qaboos, who sent him an email requesting his bank account details and phone number. Although Wallace was willing, he was lucky enough to have a quick-thinking friend who responds to the Sultan's email with an email of his own:

"Dear Omar: I wish to flee the country and move to somewhere like Oman, where I could live with you in your Sultanate…If you help me move $1000 into a safe foreign bank account then for your troubles I am prepared to give you 25 %... send me your bank details.

P.S. This is not an e-mail scam." (p. 108.)

Just say YES to reading this book. If you do, I promise great things will happen.

P.S. This is not an internet scam.

June 6, 2006

Cows Invade Madison

A herd of 101 painted, costumed, and whimsically transformed cows have invaded the Capitol City. They are part of CowParade Wisconsin 2006 and they will be on display throughout Wisconsin all summer.

This week they're in Madison, mostly downtown and around campus. Check out the Cow Locator for the exact locations. Or if you can't make it to Madison, take a look at some Cow Parade images on Flickr here and here.

This cow is located near the Law School on the corner of University and Park. It's titled the "Mookal Leckrone" in honor of famed UW Badger Band director, Michael Leckrone, who apparently flew in on a cow to a band concert this year.

June 1, 2006

Child Booster Seat Law Takes Affect Today

Heads up Mom and Dad. Wisconsin's new Child Booster Seat Law takes affect today. See the fact sheet with diagram from the DOT.

Written warnings will be issued instead of citations for first violations during a grace period from June 1 until December 31, 2006. On January 1, 2007, law enforcement officers will begin issuing citations for violations.

Note also that there was a change to mandatory safety belt law. Under the new law, drivers may be cited for allowing passengers of any age to be unbelted in their vehicle (The new law removes a previous provision that did not make the driver responsible for unbelted passengers age 16 or older.)

May 25, 2006

This Weekend is Bratfest!

My family and I are gearing up for an annual Madison tradition - Bratfest!

Once again, this year's fest will be held on Willow Island at the Alliant Energy Center. You just can't beat $1 for Brat (meat or veggie) or Hot Dog.

May 8, 2006

Trading in Your Old Cell Phone for Cool Stuff

So you just got a cool new cell phone, but what do you do with the old one? Trade it in for something you want with these services:

- RIPMobile From their site:

You tell us what old (and not-so-old) mobile phones you have sitting in a drawer or on a shelf around the house. We calculate the value of those phones (some PDAs have value too), and tell you what they are worth (we pay you in RIPMobile points" - a "point" is worth a dollar). You then send those phones and their accessories in to us so we can inspect and test them. We can only pay you for working phones and PDAs, but we can recycle ALL mobile devices you send us, so don't throw any away just because they aren't valuable - they ALL have toxic materials in them.

Looks like they've got Circuit City & Starbucks gift cards or PayPal deposit.

- ReCellular From their site:

ReCellular Inc. is the largest recycler and reseller of used wireless phones and accessories in the wireless industry. Now you can Trade-in your old cell phone worry free! We walk you through the steps on how to trade in your old cell phone for Best Buy digital dollars. We also provide free shipping labels for your convenience.

I haven't tried either of these services, so I can't attest to quality. My old cell phone is a dinosaur and I doubt I'd get much if anything for it. But I may take advantage of the recycling services anyway.


Here's another one:

- Shelter Alliance: Recycle your cell phone and help local domestic violence and sexual assault shelters at the same time.

Thanks to Judge Daniel Anderson for the tip

May 4, 2006

Learn Like a Child

"Learn all the time without even thinking about it. We are born to learn, but somewhere along the way many of us pick up the idea that we must be taught in order to learn. We think that if someone doesn't stand up in front of us and talk to us with either a chalkboard or PowerPoint slides, we cannot learn. We must regain our sense of wonder and our desire to learn."

-- Roy Tennant, "Strategies for Keeping Current"

I think that we can all take a lesson from our children on this one. I'm constantly amazed at how quickly and easily my kids pick up on things.

Thanks to Jenkins Law Library Webblits for the link.

May 3, 2006

Wikocracy - Rewrite the Law Your Way

If you could change the text of the Patriot Act, how would you do so? Well, now is your chance. "Wikocracy is an experiment to see how the law would develop if anybody could change it."

Upload the text of any law (or go with one that someone else uploaded) and start making changes. One person's changes can be revised or reversed by the next. The following have been already been "wikocracy-ized"

- The Constitution of the United States of America
- Roe v. Wade
- The Digital Millennium Copyright Act

Source: Law Librarian Blog

April 26, 2006

Following the Torn-Up Credit Card Application

Think tearing up those unwanted credit card applications is good enough? One man documents his adventures with The Torn-Up Credit Card Application.

Find out what happened when he tore an application into small pieces, taped it back up, and mailed it in. Oh, and he changed the address and listed a cell phone number, too. Yikes.

His advice: Get a shredder. "Every credit card application you get is now like a villain from a suspense thriller. If you don't figure out how to completely destroy it, it may come back to terrorize you in the sequel."

Source: TechBlog

April 25, 2006

Comparing Feet

The other day, my husband and our toddler were comparing feet.

"I wearin' socks," she said.
"Yes, you are wearing socks," he responded.

Barefoot, he asked her, "Is Papa wearing socks?"
"No," she said, "Papa wearin'... toes."

April 24, 2006

Digital Cameras Have Digital Fingerprints

From EurekAlert (American Association for the Advancement of Science):

Child pornographers will soon have a harder time escaping prosecution thanks to a stunning new technology in development at Binghamton University, State University of New York, that can reliably link digital images to the camera with which they were taken, in much the same way that tell-tale scratches are used by forensic examiners to link bullets to the gun that fired them. . .

Every original digital picture is overlaid by a weak noise-like pattern of pixel-to-pixel non-uniformity.

Although these patterns are invisible to the human eye, the unique reference pattern or "fingerprint" of any camera can be electronically extracted by analyzing a number of images taken by a single camera.

That means that as long as examiners have either the camera that took the image or multiple images they know were taken by the same camera, an algorithm . . . to extract and define the camera's unique pattern of pixel-to-pixel non-uniformity can be used to provide important information about the origins and authenticity of a single image.

Source: Boing Boing

April 20, 2006

Star Trek Visions of Law and Justice

If you are a Trekkie like me, you might be interested in Star Trek Visions of Law and Justice. From the publisher's site:

Star Trek Visions of Law and Justice weds popular media with academic inquiry, by illustrating the connection between the future world of Star Trek and today's American and international legal systems. Editors Robert H. Chaires and Bradley Chilton collect fourteen articles exploring issues of the legal system, international law, corrections, justice, and equality. Scholars in law, political science, criminal justice, sociology, education, and public administration provide a truly interdisciplinary perspective on the Star Trek universe and how it relates to the real world of law and justice

Source: Law Librarian Blog

April 19, 2006

Who Owns the Moon?

Who owns the moon? Now that would have been a good Stump the Librarian question. From the Moritz Legal Information Blog:

The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) is a good place to start research on outer space law issues. Its International Space Law website has links to treaties, selected national laws, UN resolutions, and FAQ about space law(including who may own a celestial body such as the moon) .

EISIL's space law directory is another good place to begin research. It has links to primary documents and other space law websites.

Google Mars and Google Moon use the Google Earth technology to allow users to virtually visit outer space. Google Mars has more features, but both map where people and our spacecraft have visited.

April 18, 2006

Guide to Setting up Old PC as a Server

Give that old computer a new life. Don't Trash Your Old PC from is a step-by-step guide on how to use an old PC as a primary or backup server.

In this age of disposable everything, upgrading means "out with the old, in with the new." But it doesn't have to be that way. Many older machines may still be physically working well but just haven't kept up with the speed demands of the Internet and current software requirements. Small firms and solos can really benefit from reworking older machines to become storage or servers. Brian R. Harris, IT director for American Lawyer Media-Pennsylvania, walks you through the necessary steps.

April 13, 2006

The Wisconsin Idea Explained

The LRB has put together a nice, two-page guide on the Wisconsin Idea which explores its origins, importance, and future.

What is the Wisconsin Idea? From the the guide:

The most commonly offered definition of the Wisconsin Idea is that ‚Äúthe boundaries of the University are the boundaries of the state,‚ÄĚ which refers to the University of Wisconsin's service to Wisconsin state government and Wisconsin citizens.

April 12, 2006

Wisconsin Pronunciations is a neat little site for "learning to pronounce stuff in Wisconsin." From place names to politicians, this site will have you speaking like a native Wisconsinite.

April 11, 2006

John Muir's Dorm Room

From Odd Wisconsin:
On John Muir's dorm room at the University of Wisconsin - Madison campus in the early 1860s:

"I can vividly recall the tall clock which he made," wrote Grace Lindsley in 1935, "and which was connected with his bed in such a way that when the time came for which he had set it, the mechanism was released which tipped up the bed and threw the occupant on the floor, and at the same time struck a match and lighted a candle, or perhaps it was an alcohol lamp, at the foot of the bed. He entertained us by putting us on the bed, and setting the clock so that in a minute or two we were thrown off."

Boy, the best I remember seeing in my days at UWEC was a couch made from Leinenkugels' cases.

April 6, 2006

Pigs Beneath the Legislature

Today's Odd Wisconsin is a classic

The first legislature in 1838 met in a not-quite-finished Capitol building:

According to one lawmaker, "the basement story was all open, and [a] large drove of hogs had taken possession. The weather was cold, the halls were cold, our ink would freeze - so that when we could stand it no longer we passed a joint resolution to adjourn for twenty days, and I was appointed by the two houses to procure carpeting for both halls."

Although the Capitol was soon made habitable, the pigs remained for at least another decade and sometimes proved quite useful. Charles Harper, who knew Wisconsin's first governor and Supreme Court justice, claimed that once when a motion to adjourn was voted down, its sponsor "seized a long pole used in raising the windows and poked it down between the wide cracks in the rough board floor. [There] ensued a chorus of grunts and squeals and the sound of trampling feet made by the pigs, which had taken up their residence beneath the floor. Such clouds of dust began to rise between the cracks in the floor that lawmakers all started to squeeze and cough. This time the motion to adjourn was carried."

April 5, 2006

Counting the Time from 1-6

Posted to our faculty listserv:

Two minutes and three seconds after 1:00 this morning, the time and date was 01:02:03 04/05/06 That won't happen again for a thousand years.

Edible Books Festival

Yesterday, the University of Wisconsin Madison's School of Library and Information Studies took part in the 8th Annual International Edible Books Festival. This festival invites participants to poke fun at literature, art, and food in equal measure by creating book-shaped or book-themed edible art.

I regret that I couldn't attend, but my colleague, Sue Center, attended and took some wonderful photos.

The Emerald City in Chocolate

April 3, 2006

April Fools

"Papa, there's a black hole behind you" - my five-year-old's version of an April Fool's joke.

March 23, 2006

Cooper's Hawks on Bascom Hill

We've had a pair of Cooper's Hawks in the tree right outside the Grand Reading Room this week. Beautiful birds.

Elvis on Velvet - Finding It With RSS Enabled eBay

I wouldn't say that I'm addicted to eBay, but I do like to find a good bargain now and then. Finding just the right item can be a major time drain, though.

So, I was pleased to hear that eBay has enabled keyword-generated RSS for monitoring new search results.

Just do a search as usual, then look for the orange RSS button at the bottom of the page. Subscribe to the feed and you'll be alerted to new listings. Items for sale display with a picture (when available), buy-it-now price or current bid, ending date and links to bid or add it to your watch list.

Very cool, especially when you're searching for a specific item, like that gotta-have-it Elvis on velvet.

My Ultimate Collectible

Source: TVC Alert

March 20, 2006

Thin Ice

So how'd they get the sign out there?

Posted to Madison Snaps,

March 13, 2006

Study Finds Flaws in TV News Health Coverage

From the University of Wisconsin-Madison News - Viewer beware: Study finds flaws in TV news coverage of health

Local television newscasts, where most Americans get most of their news, are packed with medical stories and health information. But the first-ever national study of that coverage finds many problems with it, and sees room for improvement by both TV stations and the health experts whose work fills the news. . .

The average story was 33 seconds long, and most did not give specifics about the source of the information presented. Items about specific diseases tended not to contain recommendations for viewers, or information about how common the disease was - which could help put the news into perspective with other health issues.

But most disturbing, the study's authors say, were the egregious errors contained in a small minority of studies - errors that could have led to serious consequences.

March 8, 2006

Einstein Wrote What?

You decide what Einstein writes in the fun little web tool from

What text would you want to appear in the famous photo of Einstein writing the E=MC2 equation? I chose one of Einstein's quotes.

March 7, 2006

UW-Madison Issues Challenge to Hackers

From Dane 101:

The University of Wisconsin-Madison Division of Information Technology (DoIT) has hooked up a webserver to the internet and issued a general challenge for people to hack it in an attempt to prove that Mac OS X is a fairly secure operating system.

The challenge comes as a response to another contest reported on by ZDNet in which a Swedish Mac enthusiast held a similar contest albeit with some significant differences that ended after 30 minutes because someone was able to hack into the box.

At the time this post was written no one had yet been able to hack into the machine.

Update 3/9/06:
According to a Wisconsin Technology Network article, "Dave Schroeder, senior Apple system engineer for the UW-Madison Division of Information Technology, said that of over half a million web site hits and 4,000 login attempts during his public test yesterday, not a one was able to scratch his Mac's security."

March 2, 2006

UW Law Prof's Voice Sampled on Album

Cougar, a Madison-based instrumental post-rock band, had sampled UW Law Prof and blogger, Ann Althouse's voice on two songs from its debut album, Law, including the first track, "Atlatl."

From the Isthmus:

"Atlatl" is available for listening on Cougar's myspace profile, where it was uploaded in early February. The song is a moderately-paced guitar instrumental that features Althouse lecturing in a law school class on federal jurisdiction, originally recorded several years ago by Cougar guitarist Trent Johnson, one of her students.

Johnson, now a lawyer, supplied a recording of a class lecture by Althouse as collage material when the band was composing Law, says Aaron Sleator, Cougar's multi-instrumentalist. . .

Althouse was contacted by Johnson in September, 2004, for permission to use the sample, which was promptly given. Another track named "Your Excellency" also briefly samples the lecture.

March 1, 2006

Click to Donate Sites

My colleague, Jenny Zook, has written a short article on click to donate sites for the UW Law School Newsletter. These sites donate part of their advertising revenue to charity whenever you use their search engine or click on an advertisement from their home page.

February 20, 2006

Create a 360 Degree Image is a free, neat little tool that allows you to create a spinning 360 degree image. Take a series of still photos from all sides of an object and upload. The more you pictures you take, the better the effect. Picturecloud will mesh your photos together and create the 360 degree image for you.

The site recommends using it to sell products, but I think it could also be neat for a virtual tour of, say, a law library.


February 15, 2006

Things That Make You Go Eww

A pair of articles to brighten your day:

- From Reuters: Oddly Enough:
Grocery shopping? Take your rubber gloves!
"Shopping cart handles are the most bacteria-infested items among some commonly used objects while doorknobs on public bathrooms are not as bad as might be expected, according to a survey conducted in South Korea."

- From Boing Boing:
Fast-food toilet-water has less bacteria than their drinks-ice
"A seventh-grade student in New Tampa, FL, compared the water in fast food restaurants' toilets to the water used in their drinks-ice and concluded that the ice was higher in bacteria than the toilets. 12-year-old Jasmine Roberts won her school science fair for her research and hopes to win the county prize this week."

October 18, 2004

Ghosts of the White House

Here's a fun one just in time for Halloween - Ghosts of the White House - from the official White House Web site.

Watch videos featuring "stories of strange noises in the White House, sightings of President Abraham Lincoln's ghost and a Halloween prank by President Carter's daughter." Also features a transcript from a Halloween 2003 chat with White House Chief Usher, Gary Walters.

Source: Librarians Index to the Internet

Update: Thanks to Kimberly Edwards for letting me know that this link is broken. She suggested this site as an alternative.