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February 2008 Odd Wisconsin

Americans Idle

Last night 30 million of us watched Randy, Paula, and Simon debate the merits of this year crop of budding superstars. To share any experience on such a scale was, of course, inconceivable until recent times. Like everything else in our world, American Idol has a historical context. Until the mid-19th century, every community created and shared information locally. When...
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Posted in on February 28, 2008

Polar Plunges

This past weekend more than 1,000 Wisconsin residents leaped into the icy waters of Green Bay, Oshkosh, and Wausau to raise funds for the Special Olympics. This is a measure of how far Wisconsin has evolved, not just in creative philanthropic work but also in material comfort. Until recently, to fall into a lake or stream in mid-winter almost certainly...
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Posted in Bizarre Events on February 24, 2008

Big Bad Wolf?

Friday's Wisconsin State Journal contained a photo of a wolf in Kate Cassidy's Iowa County yard. Like the cougar sighting near Milton two weeks ago, this led us to look into the history of wolves in Wisconsin. We discovered that when white settlers dispersed across the state in the 1830s, wolves were everywhere. Robert Ream (1809-1885), one of the first...
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Posted in Animals on February 16, 2008

More Winter Tales

This is the worst winter that many of us can remember. Around the Society's headquarters in Madison, more than six feet of snow have fallen since Thanksgiving -- with another inch or two overnight and several more expected in a few days (as usual). But according to William A. Titus, writing in 1936, "The winter of 1881 is remembered by...
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Posted in on February 14, 2008

Valentine Potpourri

The Wisconsin presidential primary was well underway on Valentine's Day in 1960, just as it is today. Comparatively unknown in rural America at the time, Massachusetts senator John F. Kennedy visited Whitewater, Elkhorn, and Lake Geneva on Valentines Day 1960, greeting individual voters with the line, "Hello there, I'm Jack Kennedy. I'm a candidate in the Democratic primary for president,...
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Posted in on February 13, 2008

Million Mile Chevy

Last Friday, Feb. 8th, Frank Oresnik of tiny Catawba, Wis. (up north in Price County) put the millionth mile on his 1991 Chevy Silverado pickup. Oresnik delivers seafood all around the upper Great Lakes, from Minneapolis to Chicago to Michigan, and he bought the truck used back in 1996. It had 46,000 miles on it then, and this weekend, after...
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Posted in Curiosities on February 10, 2008

Supersize Me

Super Bowl. Super Tuesday. In recent years everything from fast food to fast computers has been promiscuously tagged as "super." Constant repetition has muffled the word's power and obscured its original meaning, which was subtly connected to the naming of Lake Superior. "Super" derives from the Latin concept "on top of," or "above," and goes back through many centuries to...
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Posted in Curiosities on February 2, 2008

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