Archives for : Observations

The Limburger Experience

To know whether you like something, you have to try it twice. I tried Limburger twice, and I still wouldn’t pick it in a lineup.

My wife tried it twice and fell in love.

Early in the aging process (right), Limburger actually resembles a chalky, bland feta. It only reaches the height of its pungency after five months (far left) (Jacob Bielanski/2012)

The story of limburger, though, is much more Wisconsin than meets the eye. Originally from Limburg, Belgium (not Germany), cheese makers all over Europe produce their own variation of the infamous fromage. But in the U.S., there’s only one place: the Chalet Cheese Co-op in Monroe, Wisconsin.

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Madison’s Workaday Performer: Epilogue

Lyle conducts an interview in his office--a dusty, century-old Carrillon tower. (Jacob Bielanski/2011)

Lyle is quick to brush off his jobs, as if they are simply a means to an end. He does not worry about the lights being shut off in the climatology office if he leaves, in spite of the fact that he is its only paid employee. He does not worry about being succeeded in the Carillon. He knows that one day, “Whad’ya Know” will end production.

But will he “retire”?

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Pay the Badger already!

(Author’s note: there is nothing in the NFL world to talk about.  It’s all training camp fluff pieces about how the “defensive line looks great” and “so-and-so has heart” and “we feel like we’re ready to go to a higher level.”  In other words, banal bullsh*t.  So, I thought I’d talk about college football, and give everyone a different reason to yell at me.)

(Editor’s note: Go Badgers. 😉 )

If it were taxpayer dollars sewing those ridiculous outfits, HEADS WOULD ROLL. (Photo: KDSwenson/Flickr, 2011)

As long as I can remember (about two weeks back or so, on a good day) I have always been fascinated with the game of football.  Not specific teams or players, but the mechanics, the nuts and bolts. But 45-0 finishes between powerhouses and Pop Warner league teams are one of the reasons I can’t get into college football.

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Madison’s Workaday Performer pt. 4: Playing for God

Lyle grew up on a farm in Abbotsford, Wisconsin. The son of Norwegian and German parents, he was confirmed into the Peace Evangelical & Reformed Church in 1958. It was the church which provided a meager sustenance for many of his years in Madison.[Myers] says that, of the two organists, he thinks Lyle is the better one.

On November 13, he is performing at First Church of Christ, Scientist, deep in Madison’s west side. He is warming up as people file in. Twenty-one followers will arrive on time.

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Madison’s Workaday Performer, pt. 1: French Linguistics & Frozen Lakes


Lyle Anderson (left) pictured here with the late Jim Packard (right). Photo: Jacob Bielanski, Feb 5, 2011.

In February of 2011, I interviewed Michael Feldman for what I thought would be a great insight into a Madison icon. To get closer to the iconic host of Public Radio International’s “Whad’ya Know?”, I interviewed one of his longest-standing co-workers, Lyle Anderson. And it goes from there.

Stacked with browning books and oddly arranged papers, the State Climatology office remains mostly dark during the day, the workers illuminated only by personal lamps. From a computer at least 10 years old, the volunteer director, a former UW professor in Climatology, prints PowerPoint slide after PowerPoint slide. The slides use circles and bullet points to outline what the office could, should, would be. A quick glance shows the office is not any of these things.

The office has no supplies budget. When the printer runs out of paper, it is quietly, dutifully refilled by the office’s only paid employee, a white-haired man named Lyle Anderson.

This is only one of Lyle’s five offices.

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Somewhere from Nowhere, pt. 1: Mindoro’s Bell Coulee Rock Shelter

Where's the entry in the journalism ethics guidebook on "posting pictures of yourself about to trespass?" Feb 3, 2009

Not every place on the National Register of Historic Places gets a fancy bronze plaque. And really, some of them should not.

Following a path to GPS coordinate [REDACTED], I’m now standing on a place earmarked by the National Register of Historic Places, staring across a shining, snow crusted valley. The process of getting here has been half the enjoyment.  As I take a moment to ponder my stance on this rocky escarpment. There is no one here, no signs denoting its importance, and no clear direction to this place. I scramble down quickly because, in addition to taking in a beautiful view, I’m also trespassing.

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A Photographic Eulogy to the Anti-Walker Movement

It was all pretty interesting. Sometimes fun. Sometimes serious. Sometimes, a complete spectacle. In Madison, particularly, it was always a little theatrical. A portly man going on a hunger strike. Decrepit, carbon-spewing automobiles, re-purposed to carry the banner of “Recall Walker.” A weekly outdoor play, showing an angry “badger” going after a “weasel,” (note: the “badger” in the play makes an appearance in a picture of the June 5 recall rally. My daughter was a little terrified of getting any closer). On the evening of the election, a tandem bike rode by our outdoor table, adorned with “Barrett/Mitchell” signs.

Both riders were dressed as Spider-Man. For some reason.

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In defense of: State Senator Glenn Grothman

“We’re out here protesting Obama’s health care mandate,” said Jolene. She was clearing a table at a rapidly dispersing protest outside the Federal Courthouse in Madison.

Curiously stacked among the bumper stickers and anti-abortion material was a flyer from Wisconsin’s favorite extreme conservative, Sen. Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend).

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For the Wisconsin Recall election, BIAB Endorses…

Do blogs run political endorsements? And at 8:30 a.m. on election day, does it matter?

This blog’s team (including legal council Caillou, a goldfish) has long held an editorial policy to not stand behind any candidate. But really, from the perspective of a blog dealing with the culture of Wisconsin, a stance must be taken.

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Westby, Wis.: A Living Stereotype of Norwegians

A picture of the cold

Their parks are radiant in the soul-crushing depths of winter

Westby has a scant amount of bars. This may seem like a strange assessment, but a place like Melrose—at a population just over 500—has 3 bars in the village (probably a handful more in a 5-mile radius). Burr Oak is unincorporated and still manages to support two drinking establishments. Westby, with a population of over 2,000 has two, maybe. The one on main street was simply labeled “Food and Drink”, with only a cartoon martini glass to indicate the potential for alcohol within.

What Westby lacks in bars, however, it makes up for in Lutheran churches.

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