July 06, 2005
New Milwaukee Blog -- Play in the City
Posted by Christine Hurt

This morning I sat in on my very first web conference.  I was invited by the marketing firm behind VISIT Milwaukee.  Anyway, it was really a teleconference with live powerpoint slides on a website.  The topic of the web conference was a new blog called Play in the City, authored by Erin Leffelman.  The Milwaukee tourism people wanted to harness the power of blogs, which the PR guy called "consumer-generated journalism," to communicate someone's personal experiences with Milwaukee's outdoor recreation amenities.  (Did you know that Milwaukee is rated #1 in the country by Rand McNally in terms of green space?  Did you know that Milwaukee has 15,000 acres of recreational space?)  The overarching goal is to achieve a huge perception change in how non-Wisconsonians view Milwaukee.

I think the blog is great, and I wish that it had existed two years ago, when I thought we were moving to Laverne & Shirley-land.  I never would have guessed that Milwaukee was such a gorgeous place to live, with many more recreational opportunities than the Western frontier in which I lived.

The speaker acknowledged that one of the problems with using blogs for basically marketing purposes is that the blogosphere can sniff out corporate-sponsored blogs and attack them as fake.  So, this blog is to be not fake.

To this end, Miss Leffelman is not paid and can write whatever she wants.  She is supposed to participate in outdoor activities and blog about them, but she has freedom in choosing her activities and "honestly posting" about those.  The speaker stressed that there would be no content editing, except for offensive comments.  Another feature of the blog is open comments, which allow others familiar with Milwaukee outdoor activities to give their two cents.  Miss Leffelman gets free Internet, a laptop, and a digital camera.  I also got the sense that she gets her costs associated with participating in these activities comped.  As you might expect, Ms. Leffelman seems very personable, energetic, and enthusiastic about Milwaukee.  She graduated from UW-Milwaukee and is a convert to the city.

In the next few months, the speaker announced that they would be setting up other blogs with different focuses, like arts and culture.  If you need someone to give the family-friendly pitch, look no further, VISIT Milwaukee!

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Speaking of Economics Giving You a Set of Tools to Look Intelligently at the World: Milwaukee J-S Article on Lotteries Suggests Conspiracy When a Simple Economics Answer Exists
Posted by Christine Hurt

My husband pointed me to a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article today that "exposes" the truth that the state lottery has a much lower payout in low-income zip codes than in high-income zip codes.  Is this a conspiracy against the poor?  No, at least not a direct one.  Luckily, I've been brushing up on my gambling economics knowledge.  In my email to the reporter, I explain that the answer to this conundrum is revealed in a paper by Melissa S. Kearney, "The Economic Winners and Losers of Legalized Gambling."  As I explained to the reporter in my email:

In this paper, she has empirical data to show that the reason that payouts are different over zip codes is that lower-income lottery players buy different lottery products than middle-income and higher-income players. For example, lower-income lottery players buy more "instant tickets." (38% of respondents in the lower-income brackets vs. 27% in the middle income and 19% in the higher income). Instant tickets have a much lower payout than jackpot lotteries. Higher-income respondents were more likely to play jackpot lotteries (56% v. 39% in the lower-income group), which have a much higher payout rate. In addition, wealthier players tend to buy lottery tickets when the jackpot is higher, which increases the expected value of the dollar spent. So, instant win tickets are much more regressive than jackpot lotteries, and low-jackpot lotteries are more regressive than high-jackpot lotteries.

If states want to make lotteries less regressive, they could phase out instant win tickets. However, these tickets are the most lucrative. Some states even have $20 or $30 instant scratch-off tickets.

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July 04, 2005
Happy Fourth of July!
Posted by Christine Hurt

Whew!  What a holiday weekend.  In Houston, the 4th is pretty much just a day off that you try to spend somewhere air conditioned, like your living room or the movies.  In Wisconsin, it's a, well, it's a national holiday!  Seriously, I've never seen people take the 4th as seriously.  I heard Ann Coulter say once that "Democrats hate the flag."  Well, here's one blue state that can prove that one wrong.  The Whitefish Bay parade lines up on our street, and we had a little friendly competition with flags and bunting.  I had a five-foot Uncle Sam in my yard.  I think I won.  Add to the decorating the day-long cookout, complete with stuffing ourselves with Brats, polish sausages, potato salad (with bacon, yum), and brownies, and I'm pooped.

By the way, try explaining to a 3-year-old who Uncle Sam is without letting the cat out of the bag on Santa.  I finally said that Uncle Sam was a made-up character, like Scooby Doo.

UPDATE:  This 4th of July post from Prof. Bainbridge has me wondering if differences in celebrating the 4th of July are a Mason-Dixon line sort of thing.  I assumed it was a weather sort of thing.

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June 29, 2005
I Hope You Didn't Throw Your Golden Eagles Memorabilia Away
Posted by Christine Hurt

Marquette University has just announced that the athletic nickname is (drumroll) the Golden Eagles.

Boy, that was anticlimatic.

I'm sure that some percentage of those persons who believed that the 1994 Golden Eagles decision did not reflect the will of the people will continue to argue that the 2005 decision does not, either.  I would suggest that we just move on.  I'm disappointed that "Muskies" didn't catch on, but I'm willing to get behind our teams!  And of course, remember what's truly important at Marquette.  In the words of Father Wild:

Of course, we know that Marquette is first and foremost an academic institution committed to educating men and women to be a leaven for good in our society. We must not lose sight of this important mission rooted in our 450-year Jesuit tradition.

UPDATE:  Here's the final report.  Muskies got 14 write-in votes!  Thanks to Eric Goldman and the other 12 Marquette friends out there.  Sigh.

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June 22, 2005
More on Milwaukee
Posted by Christine Hurt

The Chicago Tribune has a different kind of article on Milwaukee (see WSJ article, noted below).  No PR firm could have bought an article as good as this one on the revitalization of Milwaukee -- and from someone in Chicago!  The money quote:  "you can feel the energy everywhere."  OK, not at my house right now, but I'm sure you can feel the energy most places.

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Life in Milwaukee in the WSJ
Posted by Christine Hurt

The WSJ today profiles Milwaukee as a reflection of how hard it is to do just a little bit better than your parents did. 

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June 15, 2005
Two Years in Wisconsin and Counting. . .
Posted by Christine Hurt

Yesterday marked the second anniversary of our family's arrival in Milwaukee, Wisconsin from Houston, Texas.  We moved in on a Saturday, and it was probably 69 degrees at 10:00 a.m.  The movers predicted that it would be a hot day at about the same time that I told them that if they saw a box marked "coats" could they point me toward it?  We have since noticed a lot of differences between Texas and the Midwest, and many of them focus on the weather.

1.  The term "it's freezing" to mean "Jiminy Christmas it's really, really cold" is rarely used here.  In Texas, one often said "it's freezing" either to note that the air conditioning was on too high or that the outside temperature had dropped enough to warrant a windbreaker.  In Wisconsin, I never hear people use this phrase.  Why?  Because the outside temperature is literally below the freezing point for water much of the time.

2.  In Wisconsin, the world is your icebox. 

("Icebox" is Texan for "refrigerator.")  The majority of the time, the outside temperature is cooler than the inside of your icebox.  So, if you don't have room in your refrigerator for your drinks for the party?  Put them outside on the porch.  Want to go the grocery store and then do some errands for a few hours (months)?  No problem.  Your freezer items will be just fine inside the car.  Oh, look, that fountain soda in the car cupholder from this morning -- it has more ice than when I left it.

3.  "Barbecue" means something entirely different here.  In Texas, "barbecue" means beef cooked either with a spicy rub or a spicy sauce.  The sauce is usually reddish-blackish.  In other parts of the South, "barbecue" means pork cooked with a pinkish-brownish sauce that is sweet.  In Wisconsin, "barbecue" means "cooked outside."  If someone invites you over for a barbecue, don't get your heart set on brisket.  You could get a plain white chicken leg that happened to be cooked outside.  Be prepared.

4.  I once heard that Texans used more electricity than the rest of the country because of beer.  I took that to mean that Texans drank more than the rest of the country.  Not so.  People in Wisconsin drink much more than people in Texas, on average.  Maybe it's the cold.  Maybe it's a Catholic v. Protestant thing.  Maybe it's because the Packers haven't won so much since we've been here.  All I know is that at Hallowe'en, I saw a Dad walking his kids around pulling a cooler.  However, this may be related to #5.

5.  People in the Midwest are friendlier quicker than in Texas.  I'm from West Texas, where people live quite far from one another and don't talk a lot during the day.  Here, people live right up next to each other and talk all day long.  The first week we were here, I did not have a commercial transaction where the person on the other end of the transaction did not begin a deep conversation with me.  I had to spend a day without any interaction just to rest up. 

6.  Texas is not breathtakingly beautiful.  I think I was educated to believe that Texas was the best.  At everything.  Even the Texas landscape was the most beautiful thing in the world.  Once we got far enough out of Texas where we could look back with an objective eye, I see this is not true.  Wisconsin is beautiful.  I grew up loving the Big Sky Country of the Plains and the Hill Country, but in a way that's like growing up liking your mother's cooking, which may or may not be objectively yummy. 

7.  People who don't live in Texas believe that Texas is in the South.  When we moved here, people kept saying, "You must be from the South."  I would respond, "No.  I'm from Texas."

8.  Back to the weather -- I now understand the concept of "tropical vacations" and retiring to Florida.  Never caught on to that before.  I also now know why on the calendar summer "begins" on June 21.  In Texas, our eight-month summer is half way over.  Here, it may or may not be over 70 degrees on a regular basis.

9.  I now notice the economics of living in an area with a large immigrant population.  Some things cost a lot more in Wisconsin than in Houston -- landscaping, nanny care, manicures, home construction and remodeling -- although generally the cost of living seems cheaper here.  Relatedly, Mexican food is hard to find, and our elementary school teaches French, not Spanish.  The municipal bus line has a billboard campaign featuring a license plate that reads "Y NOTRIDE."  I think it's supposed to say "Why Not Ride," but for two months I read it in Spanish.  I racked my brain trying to figure out what the verb root of "no-tree-de" was.

10.  People in Milwaukee complain about the property taxes a lot.  We don't.  Our property taxes are quite similar to the taxes we paid in Houston.  However, in Houston we did not have a good public school in our district or a library or a park or sidewalks.  In Whitefish Bay, these amenities look as if we live on a luxury cruise ship.  The system works for us because these are things we would choose to pay for anyway.  If we were not in the schools/parks/libraries/sidewalks phase of our life, then we might complain also. 

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June 07, 2005
Marquette Golden Eagles v. Marquette Hilltoppers
Posted by Christine Hurt

With over 31,000 voters participating, "Golden Eagles" and "Hilltoppers" have emerged as the final two choices in the ongoing Marquette nickname saga.  Now, the Marquette family must vote between these two choices.  Obviously, neither of them are better than "Muskies."  A colleague here explained to me that by giving so many choices in the first round, plus allowing two votes, the university was all but assured that the incumbent name would wind up in the top two choices.  And so it goes.

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May 23, 2005
MU Voice -- Online Voting Begins on Nickname
Posted by Christine Hurt

As promised, the Marquette Nickname Advisory Committee has released a list of 10 nickname candidates, and online voting begins tomorrow.  Details on the vote is at http://marquette.edu/nickname.

The 10 options are:  Blue and Gold; Explorers; Golden Avalanche; Golden Eagles; Golden Knights; Hilltoppers; Saints; Spirit; Voyagers; and Wolves.  Most of these options have some historical significance, and athletic teams at Marquette have been known as many of these over the years.  Voters also have the option of writing in an alternative nickname.  I received an email from a reader who proposed "Rangers," in honor of Marquette's extensive Tolkien collection. 

I, of course, will be writing in "Muskies."

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May 12, 2005
My Vote: the Marquette Muskies
Posted by Christine Hurt

I've been doing a lot of thinking, and even though the Marquette Gold has grown on me, I would like to suggest an alternative:  the Marquette Muskies.  It's alliterative, it's regional, and it is conducive to a mascot.


What is a Muskie you ask?  A muskie is a Wisconsin fish.  In fact, it's the state fish.  I have found three different spellings for muskellonge, muskelonge, and muskellunge, but we'd just say "muskie," the way everyone around here does.  Muskies are large trophy fish who get big enough to eat small mammals.  According to this site, "muskies are vicious predators and tough fighters on the line."  What a great mascot! 

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May 11, 2005
Announcing the Marquette Nickname Forum -- On Conglomerate
Posted by Christine Hurt

In reading the comments to my earlier Marquette nickname post below, I started pondering how Paul Noonan could gather support for his "Explorer" recommendation.  (I don't know what to do with Gordon's undemocratic suggestion, but we'll see!).  If you have a nickname that you would like to see win the election, then email me.  In two weeks, the university will announce a slate of nicknames.  For those suggestions that are not on the list, I will then post on this blog a slate of write-in suggestions, along with arguments from the proponents of those suggestions.  In keeping with Father Wild's reminder that all suggestions must be in keeping with the university's mission, I retain discretion not to include suggestions that are blatantly unacceptable.

I would also suggest that if a reader is passionate about a certain nickname that the reader buy an ad in the school newspaper.  I can't imagine that the cost of that would be prohibitive, and you would reach a large audience.

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Marquette Announces that "Gold" is a No-Go
Posted by Christine Hurt

Just as the Marquette Gold was growing on me, the Board of Trustees met this morning and agreed to reverse its decision to change the nickname from "Golden Eagles" to "Gold."  According to the press release, the stakeholders of Marquette will be able to vote on up to ten nicknames, plus a write-in option.  However, the "Warriors" will not be an option, and any write-in ballots for "Warriors" or any other nickname inconsistent with the school's Catholic, Jesuit mission will be discarded.  The top two nicknames will then be re-presented for a final vote.  Both votes will be binding.

In this rare and momentous situation of an administration reconsidering a decision because of student and alumni feedback, the chairman of the Board of Trustees, John Bergstrom, has this to say:

“We have spent the past week listening. We heard you. The decision to change the nickname to Marquette Gold generated a response that we did not expect from Marquette stakeholders. We regret that we disappointed them and we want to respond to those concerns. We’ve established a new process today so that your voices can be heard. It’s transparent, it’s inclusive and it’s easy.”

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May 05, 2005
More on the Marquette Gold
Posted by Christine Hurt

After reading the school newspaper, eavesdropping in the dorm cafeteria, and quizzing unsuspecting students and faculty in the halls, I am prepared to give more depth to the ongoing nickname saga here at Marquette.  Probably the most skeptical of the name are the students.  The school newspaper, which I assume is run by students, has such headlines as "Students Express Shock at Mascot Choice" and "Alumni Express Shame, Frustration at Nickname," complete with pictures of student's facial expressions that rival the Life magazine cover photo of the Kent State shootings.  A student editorial is entitled "Baffling Nickname Decision Embarrasses University as Laughingstock."

Not all students feel this passionate however; in fact, my research assistant expressed a wish to regain all time lost this week talking about both the nickname change and the disappearance of the runaway bride.

However, I would say that most faculty seem to be neutral of slightly positive of the change, relieved that the university dodged the "Warrior" bullet by whatever means necessary.  I admit that "Gold" has grown on me today, and now I think I actually prefer it to "Golden Eagles."

Of course, as colleagues mentioned in the hallway, headline writers have a great job ahead of them now:  "All that is Gold Does Not Glitter;" "Fool's Gold," "Gold Rush."  Some people's "golden" puns were not fit to print here.

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April 14, 2005
Raccoons in Wisconsin
Posted by Christine Hurt

While our domesticated animals are taking to rural areas, we city-dwellers are left to fight off undomesticated raccoons by ourselves.  Our neighbors warned us the other day that a dangerous wild raccoon was seen breaking and entering our garage.  Bending to social pressure, we called a company to investigate.  Yesterday, a varmint professional set a trap and quickly caught the suspect. 


Our racoon is a female, pregnant female actually, who is wanted in connection with several garbage thefts.  I am assured that Mama Raccoon (my daughter named her Rachel) will be released into the wild to have her babies.  I hope the cat-hunters don't get her.

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Cats in Wisconsin
Posted by Christine Hurt

Although other blawgers (Ann & Eric) in Wisconsin seem to be covering the cat-hunting controversy quite well, I thought I would add my two cents' worth, being from Texas.  I cannot describe the disdain with which my Dad was laughing at Wisconsin yesterday.  I can't believe that I moved from Texas to kinder, gentler Wisconsin only to live in the cat-hunting state.

Disclaimer:  I have a cat.  I am not a cat person, but we granted asylum to a stray cat four years ago when she came in through the dog door.  She stayed, we eventually bought cat food, and the rest is history.

The two arguments that I have heard in recent days for allowing Wisconsin residents to shoot "feral cats," i.e., stray cats that live outside the city limits, are these:

1. If we have too many wild cats, they will kill all the wild birds.  OK.  So, if we're going to become "circle of life police" for all species, endangered or not, then I guess we're going to have to hear from the worms.  Where is the worm lobby in all this?  Maybe there were too many wild birds killing all the wild worms.


2.  The feral cats run in packs, go to farms, and kill the chickens.  In Texas, we have these things called dogs.  If you buy a big enough dog, then the cats won't hang out on your farm and eat the chickens.  I have seen enough Foghorn Leghorn cartoons that I believe this well-worn theory has legs.

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