Category Archives: Downtown

Fun things in October 2015

We are three weeks into the month and I have been keeping pretty busy.

On October 2nd I paid off my student loans. I am coining it Indebrendence Day. I even wrote a haiku for the occasion:

My student loans are
paid; Today shall be known as
Indebrendence day

That night I met my dad, his cousins and some of their friends downtown Madison because they were in town for a football game. I made it to a few new (to me) bars (Genna’s, HopCat) and a few old ones (Brocach, Paul’s Club, Irish Pub). It was a great evening out. A little side story – I went downtown unprepared for the cold. I was shivering as I was walking up State Street to the square. It was almost 9 at night but Ragstock was open so I ducked in and bought a baja (aka drug rug). I have always wanted one, I am not sure why, and this was the perfect reason.

The first Saturday of the month saw me visiting my Aunt & Grandma and going to ScanFest which included good food and an Abba tribute band! In the row in front of us was a kid that was really into the music and it was fun to see someone connecting with something so much. (I also have been there several times before – see this post)

This month I also gave blood at the Red Cross. While I was there I saw public radio personality Norman Gilliland also donating. It was a neat brush with a local celebrity. After that I met my brother for lunch at the always delicious Oakcrest Tavern and then we went to the Mustard Museum in Middleton.

One weekend my girlfriend visited and we had a night out. We ate dinner at Qdoba on the way downtown. The traffic was terrible and I am not a traffic person at all. But the prize was the Madison Symphony Orchestra. I have never been there and it was pretty neat. There were three pieces played. I liked the last one the best because of the percussion. The second piece  featured a soloist on violin. The instrument was Stradivarius and it was older than the piece he was playing. Apparently they name these and his was the Marsick Stradivarius.

We finished the night with poutine from Mad City Frites. I had heard of the place several times in the media and I wanted to try it and I finally did. The poutine was pretty good although I don’t think I have ever had poutine before so I have nothing to compare it too. It hit the spot on a cold, windy October evening. I will have to get back there as a lot of the other options on the menu looked pretty good.

Now I am enjoying the unseasonably warm weather. I am still wearing shorts on my bike ride into work. And the Packers are undefeated. Life is good right now. I hope your October is going well.


A Satisfying Summer Saturday

Yesterday had most of the ingredients for a top notch Saturday including family, friends and gorgeous weather.

It was an early start to the day with the alarm going off at a little after 7. I headed to Horicon to my dad’s. We loaded up my kayak in the back of his truck and he dropped me off at Greenhead boat landing for the Horicon Marsh paddle put on by the Friends of Horicon Marsh. It was sunny with a nice breeze. There were over a hundred boats doing the 6.5 mile trek with stops along the way to learn about birds from DNR employees. I took my time and finished in 2.5 hours. I saw a bald eagle pointed out to me. There is one nesting and has 3 little ones.

After I got back my brother, father and I headed to a family friends 50th anniversary party in West Bend. It was neat to see all of the lives this couple have touched over the years including our family’s. And the food was good as well – I especially enjoyed the Swiss steak.

After driving back to Horicon I headed back to Middleton for Shake the Lake fireworks on Lake Monona. I took the bus downtown (with my bike on the front of the bus), grabbed a quick bite to eat at Paul’s Pelmeni and met with some friends to watch the fireworks. It was almost a 40 minute show. I think it was aptly named as at some points the ground was indeed shaking. There were hundreds of red and green lights on the lake from the boats watching the show.

Afterwards I biked home in the beautiful evening weather. I hadn’t bike from downtown since last fall. It is about 7 miles or so and is really peaceful late at night (as long as you have a headlight to see where you are going).

Overall it was the kind of Saturday that you look forward to beforehand and treasure afterwards. Summer days with weather like that make the winter more bearable and the family and friends just enhance the enjoyment.

After a long hunt I finally found something on my list that I had been looking for:

My new Made In the USA can opener

My new Made In USA can opener

A made in USA can opener. It is an EZ-DUZ-IT can opener made by John J Steuby Co from St ouis. As you can see from the packaging they really play this up. I was delighted by the price – it was $11.95 – only one dollar more than the made in China one next to it. I did a “heft test” in the store between the two in the store.Plus I was able to purchase it a small local business on State Street in Madison. (Tellus Mater)

The can opener has a website but they must spend lots of time making can openers but not a lot on web design.

This thing feels serious in my hand and I am looking forward to using it to open chili, soup and other canned movies. I don’t plan on buying another can opener for years.

Film Review – Jack Strong (2014)

I had the chance to watch the 2014 Polish film Jack Strong thanks to the Polish Heritage Club of Madison and WUD Film and the UW. I really enjoyed the film. The movie is in Polish, Russian and English.

The film is based on the true story of Ryszard Kukliński (code name Jack Strong) who passed intelligence from Warsaw Pact forces to the CIA during the Cold War. It had some famous figures in it – some of who I even recognized (Jaruzelski’s glasses gave him away). It also referenced some famous events such as the uprisings in Prague in 1968, Gdansk in 1970 and the Solidarity movement. The martial law that was put in place in Poland was also in the plot.

I liked the acting – Kukliński was well portrayed. The character Ivanov, whose job it was to catch spies, was almost cat like and I would definitely not want him as an enemy. Leonid Brezhnev made an appearance in a somewhat humorous scene Marshal Kulikov (Brezhnev was on the red phone but there were so many other colored phones on his desk – how did he keep them straight?) I also liked all of the Polish names – Ryszard, Hania, Iza, Waldemar, Bogdan, Florian etc.

The filmmaker plays some tricks on the audience throughout the film so keep an eye out for that. Also the car chase in the streets of Warsaw was definitely not high budget but it was realistic!

Overall I liked the film. It had me invested in the characters, kept a high level of suspense and let me see a little of what Poland was like behind the curtain including the empty shops and family dynamics (Plus cigarettes and lots of vodka). If you get a chance to check it out I definitely would do so.

Carillon Tower

I did not attend the University of Wisconsin at Madison but I still have some favorite places on campus. One of them is the Carillon Tower. I don’t know exactly why I am drawn to it but I am. It is a sensory delight for the ears and eyes. Climbing up it gives some great views and listening to it is pleasing to the ears.

Carillon Tower
The ivy gives it a distinguished look.

Carillon Bells 1
Bells bells bells . . .

Carillon Tower 2
and more bells.

Carillon Tower clip
Click above for a short clip – enjoy!

Have you ever heard the tower play or gone up it? What did you think?

For information from the University about the Carillon tower click here.

For a good Cap Times article read this.

To learn more about carillon towers see this Wikipedia page.

An Afternoon with the Wisconsin State Senate

This past Wednesday I was off of work early and headed downtown to get a copy of my birth certificate. I had two hours to burn so I headed for the State Capitol. After wandering around and listening a bit to the Solidarity Singers I asked the man at the desk if anybody was in session today. He said that the Senate would be convening at 2 PM. I ventured out of the building to get some Pelmeni for lunch and then made it back in time to settle into the gallery of the Senate chamber to watch the proceedings. I took some notes and below are some of my impressions of the event.

-The session started at 2pm. I got there 10 minutes early. I was the only person in the gallery at that time. The people in the chamber (legislators, aides, security and administrative people) were talking and catching up a bit.
– The room is very ornate and has a certain gravity or weight to it. Kind of like when you walk into a church or something. It is hard to explain. I can’t imagine how much it would cost to rebuild the Capitol today. Continue reading

Badger Hockey Game vs Michigan 11 January 2014

Recently I had the opportunity to attend a Badger Hockey game at the Kohl Center. I had a great time and the Badgers pulled off a win in an exciting game. You can read a recap of the game here.

My friend and I had very good seats (but they came at $40 apiece). My only complaint is that when the action was in the one corner we had a hard time seeing the action. We also missed out on much of the fight in the last minute. But these are small things.

Opening puck drop Wisconsin vs Michigan 11/Jan/2013

Opening puck drop Wisconsin vs Michigan 11/Jan/2014

From the conversations around me I think we were in the season ticket holder section. Everybody seemed to know everybody else. And the guy sitting a few rows down from us lead a chant after every Badger’s score. If you have been to a game maybe you will recognize him.

This man lead a chant after every Badger's goal

This man lead a chant after every Badger’s goal

We went out and about downtown Madison both before and after the game. We stopped into Brocach on the square, Capital Tap Haus, Hawk’s, the Red Shed, Wando’s and Diego’s. I was mostly drinking Miller High Life (I had an obligatory Harp at Brocach and of course a Capital beer at the Capital Tap Haus). All of the bottles of High Life I had were expired save one. You can see the expiration date printed right on the bottle in yellow ink. The most egregious example was a bottle of beer that expired on September 30th 2013. If you work at a bar please be sure to rotate stock.

We used a cab company to get to and from downtown. On the way back the cab driver was doing 55 in a 35 down University Avenue. That was an experience! He was discussing how the company works (He leases the cab for a fixed price per hour and also pays gas. Any money he makes is his. It is quite interesting). There seemed to be a shortage of cabs on state street at around 1:30-2:00 am when we were there. We waited 25 minutes for ours to show up.

Overall I had a good time. The game was fun and getting out of the house was nice. Catching up with an old friend was a plus as well.

Have you ever been to a Badger Hockey game?


I recently had the chance to visit the Madison Public Library for the first time since it reopened the central branch. I was really impressed. I got there just before opening on a cold October morning and there was a line waiting outside. It seemed to me that quite a few of the people were homeless and were looking to get inside the warm building. Continue reading

Farmer’s Market – 14 September 2013

I went to the farmer’s market last Saturday and I wanted to share two observations I made. The first was about windows and shades.


I am fairly certain that this is an office building (at least the upper parts; the lower is the Veteran’s Museum). I was looking up and noticed that some shades were down and some were up. I think this is an opportunity to make a cool design. Maybe every other window or a zig-zag could be made. I don’t think there is enough to make a lot of letters and words.

Matching the shades would be a solid idea in my opinion. Maybe every Friday the company could send out an email that the shades should either be up or down. Down is especially good during the summer to keep the AC costs low. For some reason the shades being so randomly different stood out to me. I am sure most people didn’t notice. It was interesting to think about though.


The shades also don’t match here but I can give this a pass because it is residential. For me random shades is fine on houses and apartments but doesn’t look as good on commercial buildings.

The second thing I wanted to share was this cool backpack:


His lady companion was putting something in and asking if it was evenly loaded so I wonder how the weight transfers onto the shoulders. It seemed to be getting quite a few comments for the short time I was near this guy.

If you haven’t ever been to the farmer’s market I encourage you to go to it at least once.