Category Archives: Miscellaneous & Odd-ball

Update from 511 Wisconsin to Help You Plan Your Next Trip!

511 Wisconsin is a website with up-to-date information about Wisconsin traffic, travel, road conditions, etc.

According to the website, “We’re updating the 511 Wisconsin website with additional features that will help My 511WI users personalize travel planning needs. These enhancements mean that all My 511WI users will need to re-enroll when the new site goes live on Wednesday, July 12. When you visit www.511wi.gov that morning, you’ll notice a new look with a responsive, mobile-friendly design that’s engineered to maximize the ‘know before you go’ experience.”

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!

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.

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.

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

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 CakeSpy.com

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.

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.