25 dishes that define Madison, and my takes on same

Wisconsin State Journal listicle:  25 Dishes That Define Madison

Pretty good list!  I have some comments.

Graze Burger:  It’s a very good burger, but if you go to Graze and either the patty melt or the green chili burger is on the menu, definitely order those, which are truly special.  Madison is not a patty melt town — I get mine at Mickie’s Dairy Bar, and they’re good, but you have to like grease, lots and lots of grease.  Grazes gets the bread shatteringly crispy without making it greasy, a neat trick.

Ian’s mac and cheese pizza:  As a former Ian’s Customer Of the Month (January 2010) it pains me to admit this, but Glass Nickel’s plagiaristic “mac daddy” pizza is better than Ian’s.

Lao Laan-Xang squash curry:  The very dish that 2-year-old CJ dumped on the ground, where it was mistaken for vomit!

Mickie’s dairy bar scrambler:  I never order this, it’s too big, but this is the dish that CJ always admired the football players for eating when he was 3.

The Old Fashioned’s cheese curds:  They are pretty good.  But nowhere near the top fried curds in Madison.  I have opinions.  The best curds in Madison are from the Curd Girl cart.  They are little miracles.  Light, in a way you do not think a deep-fried and battered sphere of cheese could be.  But they are.  Second best curds are at Graze.  Third best are at Steenbock’s on Orchard, where they’re served with grainy mustard and fried sage.  Purists will be annoyed by this, but look, I love mac and cheese pizza, I’m not going to have a problem with sage in my curds.

Parthenon’s gyro sandwich:  No.  Disgusting.  There isn’t a great gyro in Madison.  Plaka Taverna is fine.  Med Cafe is fine but it’s schwarma.

Plaza’s plazaburger:  Just OK.  Like Paisan’s, Plaza is strictly for people who went to college here and want nostalgia food.

Stella’s hot and spicy cheese bread:  It’s not that spicy and every time you get a bite with no cheese you realize the bread is just not that good.  I’d love to see Madison Sourdough or Batch rip off the idea and make a good version.

No matter what new problem it sets for parents

The nursery school, therefore, appears as a counter influence against the almost hidden processes by which society through the parents undertakes the premature exploitation of children’s interests in behalf of its own conventionalized and not very natural program of life.  It thus happens that one of the first considerations in a nursery school program is that after satisfying the expectations of the family with regard to the physical care of children it should keep its further thinking in firm alignment with biological rather than social understandings with regard to the present and future welfare of the child, and this no matter what new problem it sets for parents, and no matter what amount of diversity of opinion may arise between them and the school.

(Frederick W. Ellis, introduction to Harriet M. Johnson’s Children in the Nursery School, 1928.)

Why are the 2018 Orioles so bad, so very, very, very bad?

The Orioles held on to win one tonight, 5-3 over the A’s, getting out of a bases-loaded one-out jam in the top of the 8th, so maybe for once I’m emotionally able to take a look at this loss of a season.

Baltimore was not supposed to be great this year.  But they weren’t supposed to be terrible, either.  The Orioles thought they had an outside chance at a wild card in Machado’s walk year and signed free-agent pitchers Alex Cobb and Andrew Cashner. Before the season, Fangraphs projected them to win 75 games or so and battle with the Rays for fourth place in the AL East.

They’re now 42-104 and en route to the worst record in the team history.

How was everyone so wrong?

Here’s my take.  Nobody was wrong.  The projections were the right projections to make.  Sometimes you get unlucky and everything goes to shit at the same time.

First: the Orioles are not as bad as that record; they’ve been unlucky.  Their Pythagorean record is 50-96.  That’s not good.  But it’s not historically bad.

Second:  let’s look at the players who contributed at least 2 WAR to the 2017 Orioles.

  • Jonathan Schoop
  • Manny Machado
  • Adam Jones
  • Trey Mancini
  • Wellington Castillo
  • Tim Beckham (in just 50 games!)
  • Dylan Bundy
  • Mychal Givens
  • Kevin Gausman

Let’s throw in Cobb and Cashner too, since they delivered that much WAR to their 2017 teams.  This is a pretty long list of players from whom the Orioles were counting on some production (except Castillo, who was cut loose.)

Of these, Cobb, Schoop, Beckham, Bundy, and Givens each had the worst season of their career.  So did Mancini, though his career’s only two years long.  Cashner was back to his 2016 level of bad after a good 2017.  Gausman and Machado played about as well as you might expect.  (Machado’s hitting improved a lot, but the move to shortstop made him less defensively valuable.)  Jones hit as usual but baseball-reference rates his defense as having degraded enough to essentially eliminate his value.  And Chris Davis, of course, who was just sort of OK in 2017 but delivered a lot of value in 2015 and 2016, is turning in one of the worst seasons in major league history; his average currently sits at .174.  Or Chris Tillman, a very good pitcher as recently as 2016, who stunk in 2017 and unfathomably stunk even more this year until finally being taken out back and released.  (I saw what may end up being his last major league win.)

So you’re basically taking this entire list of players, who together might have been expected to constitute the core of an respectably mediocre ballclub, and saying that not one of them will play better than you expect, and more than half of them will play worse than you could have reasonably imagined.

I think the Orioles just got snakebit.

But what happens now?  The Orioles haven’t been bad for very long, so they don’t have recent high draft picks.  Machado, Schoop, and Gausman are gone, along with half the bullpen.  Jones might go.  I think in 2019 we are just going to watch Jonathan Villar and Cedric Mullins cavort in front of almost nobody.

I’ll watch that.  And I’ll enjoy it, because I always do.  The losses don’t mean much to me.  Every win makes me proud.

 

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Sinking Ships — The Cinema Clock

This post is to remind myself of this great 1980 release from a band that apparently nobody knows anything about.  I like the way it starts out like a Joy Division rip and then gets much bigger and more interesting (not more interesting than Joy Division, more interesting than a Joy Division rip.)

 

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Hmoob

I’ve lived in Madison, a city with a really big Hmong community, for more than a decade, and I only just now learned something kinda basic about the most common transliteration system for the Hmong language.

Hmong, like Chinese, is tonal.  When you write Chinese in pinyin, you draw a tone mark over each syllable to indicate tone; like mā (‘mother’) or mǎ (‘horse.’)

In Hmong, the tone is indicated by an extra character placed at the end of the syllable.  The character looks like a Roman consonant, but it’s not — it’s a tone mark.  So “Hmoob,” which is the Hmong word for the Hmong language isn’t pronounced to rhyme with “tube” — the syllable ends with a nasalized vowel, and the character “b” is just there to tell you to pronounce the word in a high tone.  “Hmoov” (“flour”) differs from “Hmoob” only in tone.

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Eighth Grade

Saw this with CJ.  Good movie.  If you’re wondering, can you see this with your adolescent, definitely yes.  If you’re wondering, will my adolescent have a deep conversation with me afterwards about the challenges of growing up, well, that’s not really CJ’s style but good luck with it!

My favorite thing about Eighth Grade is the way it captures the adolescent challenge seeing other human beings as actual people, like oneself, with their own interior lives.  Other people, for Kayla, are still mostly instruments, things to do something with, or things from which to get a response.  Or maybe she’s just at the moment of learning that other people are not just that?  Very good the way she records Olivia’s name in her phone as “Olivia High School” — other people are roles, they fit in slots — the crush, the shadow, the rival.  Olivia, older, engages with Kayla’s real self in a way that Kayla isn’t yet ready to reciprocate.

But why did she have to say at the end that high school was going to be cool, except math?  Come on, teen movie, be better.

 

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Before the Golden Age, and memories of memories

When I was a kid, one of my favorite books was Before the Golden Age, a thousand-page anthology Isaac Asimov edited of his favorite stories from the pulp era of science fiction, the early 1930s, when Asimov was a teenager.  I was reading those stories at about the same age Asimov was when he read them.  Asimov put this anthology together in 1974, and remarks in his afterwords on his surprise at how well he remembered these stories.  I, reading them in my own adulthood, am surprised by the same thing.  The armored fighting suits with all the different-colored rays!  1930s science fiction was really into “rays.”

On the other hand, reading these stories again now, and thinking about whether I’d want to lend this book to CJ, I’m stopped short by, well, how super-racist a lot of these stories are?  I hadn’t remembered this at all.  Like, you write a story (“Awlo of Ulm”) about a guy who makes himself smaller than an atom and discovers an entirely new subnuclear universe, and the wildest thing you can imagine finding there is… that the black-skinned subnuclear people are cannibalistic savages, and the yellow-skinned, slant-eyed ones are hyperrational, technically advanced, and cruel, and the white-skinned ones are sort of feudal and hapless but really standup guys when you get to know them?

Anyway, then I read the story, and then I read Asimov’s 1974 afterwords, when he writes about how he was stopped short, reading the stories again then, by how super-racist a lot of the stories were, and that he hadn’t remembered that at all.

So not only did I forget the stories had a lot of racism, I also forgot about Asimov forgetting about the stories having a lot of racism!

1930s SF was really worried about (but also, I think, kind of attracted to) the idea that humans, by relying on machines for aid, would become less and less physically capable, transforming first into big-headed weaklings and finally into animate brains, maybe with tiny eyes or beaks or tentacles attached.  This image comes up in at least three of the stories I’ve read so far (but is most vividly portrayed in “The Man Who Evolved.”)

Of course, you can ask:  was this actually a dominant concern of 1930s SF, or was it a dominant concern of nerdy teen Isaac Asimov?  What I know about the pulps is what I know from this anthology, so my memory of it is my memory of his memory of it.

When I was a kid, by the way, I sent Isaac Asimov a fan letter.  I was really into his collections of popular science essays, which I read again and again.  I told him “I’ll bet I’m your only seven-year-old fan.”  He sent back a postcard that said “I’ll bet you are not my only seven-year-old fan.”  Damn, Asimov, you burned me good.

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Unitarians, legislative districting, and fairness

I gave a talk about gerrymandering at the Prairie Unitarian Universalist society.  As usual, I showed how you can pretty easily district a state with a 60-40 partisan split to give the popular majority party 60% of the seats, 40% of the seats, or 100% of the seats.  After I do that, I ask the audience which map they consider the most fair and which they consider the least fair.  Usually, people rate the proportional representation map the fairest, and the map where the popular minority controls the legislature the least fair.

But not this time!  The Unitarians, almost to a one, thought the districting where the popular majority controlled all the seats was the least fair.  I take from this that the Unitarian ethos rates “the minority rules over the majority” as a lesser evil than “the minority is given no voice at all.”

 

 

 

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Wisconsin municipal vexillology update

Madison is changing its flag!  The old one

has a Zuni sun symbol in the middle of it, which people correctly feel is a sort of random and annoying and unrelated-to-Madison vic of somebody else’s religious symbol.  On the other hand, on pure design grounds it’s kind of a great flag!  Simple, but you see the lakes, the isthmus, the Capitol.  The new flag elegantly keeps all that while skimming off the cultural appropriation:

 

Meanwhile, in Milwaukee, pressure is mounting to adopt the People’s Flag. Milwaukee’s existing flag is an ungepotchkit mess, routinely ranked among the nation’s worst city banners.  I mean:

I think my favorite part of this mess is that there are two miniflags inside this flag, and the one that’s not the U.S. flag nobody even remembers what it is!

Anyway, this is the proposed new flag, currently the subject of hot civic dissent:

I think this is great.  Daring color choices, you get your lake, you get your big flat lake, you get your optimistic sense of sunrise.  Make the right choice, Cream City!

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Look how much I saved you on this goddamn vacuum cleaner

I wrote this on Facebook about a year and a half ago.


Thought of it today when I saw this tweet from Donald Trump Jr.

 

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