Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Best Thing You Will See Online May 31, 2015

Making squeaky Wisconsin cheese curds. Bonus for Wisconsin accent!

Top 11 Wisconsin Food Culture Traits


I spent a big chunk of last week visiting family in Wisconsin. I grew up in rural Racine and Marinette Counties (southern and northern Wisconsin) and had the opportunity to visit both areas. One of the things that is so striking about coming back is the distinct food culture. Here are 11 reasons why Wisconsin is a distinct food region in the United States.
Wisconsin is where the first organic beer was produced in the U.S.
  1. Sausages. When I was a child, we would make sausages a few times a year. We used a recipe for
    My Polish grandparents. 
    Polish sausage developed by my Polish grandmother. I came from a big family and we would all take turns cranking the meat grinder and stuffing the casings. Many families have sausage or lunchmeat recipes. My father made something called ziltz out of a pig’s head and he also made scrapple out of brains and grain. Today, it is common to see a variety of sausages as entrees at top restaurants in Milwaukee. Plus, you have not lived until you’ve eaten a brat at a cookout or tailgate party in Milwaukee.
  2. Tailgating. Speaking of tailgating parties…. Wisconsin is a state of two seasons: cold and warm. During the cold season, people tend to stay inside because it is very very cold in the winter in Wisconsin. However, during the summer, people come out and stay out. People cook and eat outside whenever they get an opportunity. A Wisconsin backyard cookout is usually a culinary delight. However, Wisconsinites take tailgating to another level. People bring grills and coolers full of food so that the sporting event is secondary to the party in the parking lot before the event.
    Me and my sister enjoying some home made sausage
    made by our brother.
  3. Kringle. I grew up eating kringle as one of the main desserts or snacks we had in the house. Kringles are available at most Wisconsin grocery stores in the bakery section. They are a large Danish oval buttery pastry that is filled with fruits or nuts and then frosted. For some time, they were geographically distinct in Wisconsin and found largely in the Racine area. In recent decades, the kringle range expanded to Milwaukee and other markets throughout the state. Some companies specialize in shipping them to Wisconsinites like me who live in other areas who long for a taste of home.
  4. Stollen. Another sweet that is somewhat unique to Wisconsin is stolen. Most are familiar with the buttery German sweet bread that is filled with nuts and preserved fruits. The stollen in Wisconsin is different from those that I have seen in other areas. It might be the butter or the style of preparation (some add flavored brandies to give them a punch). In my family, my sister’s husband makes large batches and gives them out as gifts at Christmas. Like sausage recipes, many families have stollen recipes that are handed down through time.
  5. Venison. Wisconsin is a relatively rural state. In the southern half of the state, pasture lands for
    My father and brother with a deer at our cabin in the 1970's.
    dairy cows are interspersed with corn and soybean fields. Intermixed with these areas are woodlots, forests, and extensive glacial wetlands. The northern half of the state is forested and sparsely populated.  These two landscapes create a perfect habitat for Wisconsin’s deer population which is about four times the size that it was in 1960. Indeed, the population is so large that the state encourages hunting of deer to manage the population. Today, there are hunting seasons for rifle, bow, and black powder. About 200,000 deer are taken by hunters each year. As a result of this, there is a great deal of venison that must be processed in specialized butcher shops that each has its own way of cutting up the animal. Due to the dryness of the meat and the gamey flavor of wild venison, much of the meat is made into sausage (with each butcher shop having its own specialty) or blended with other ground meats to produce hamburger meat. Some is also turned into deer jerky. Again, each butcher shop handles the deer in their own way and there is tremendous variety across the state.
  6. Cheese Curds. Everyone in Wisconsin knows what a cheese curd is and that it should squeak. Small mom and pop cheese factories dot the state—especially in the area between Milwaukee and Green Bay—that turn out some of the most delicious cheese in the world. If you visit one of these factories, you can often buy a bag of warm cheese curds fresh from the cheese kettle. They are soft and warm bundles of fatty deliciousness that squeak when you bite into them. They are so popular that they are now available at most grocery stores throughout the state.
  7. Spanferkel. Like many Wisconsin families, ours had a cabin in the woods of northern Wisconsin
    My father butchering a hog back in the day.
    where we spent considerable amounts of time. Many summers, my father would throw a spanferkel party and invite family and neighbors. In Wisconsin, a spanferkel is an event where a whole animal, usually a pig, is roasted over an open barbecue. My father, always a tinkering engineer, made his rotisserie contraption out of an old electric ice cream maker.  Some years he roasted lamb and some years pig. These pig or lamb roasts are common throughout the Midwest.
  8. Tavern Culture. Wisconsin has more bars per capita than any other state. Taverns are usually at the center of most small towns (note the plural of the first noun) and there are tavern districts in larger cities. Wisconsin taverns are different from bars in other parts of the world and it is hard to define why. I think part of the reason is that Wisconsin may be the U.S.’s most European state. It retains a distinctly eastern European and German character and it has a relationship with alcohol that is different from other states. People socialize much more in taverns than in other states in which I have lived or visited. Whole families go to taverns to eat or watch a game. But Wisconsin taverns are not like the eastern pubs or southern sports bars. They are distinctly Wisconsin places don’tcha know. Wisconsin is also big with the whole super club scene, but the Wisconsin tavern is a purely Wisconsin invention.
  9. Beer and Brandy. Wisconsin is known for beer, but it is surprisingly only 12th in per capital beer
    My brother in law at our family hunting cabin.
    consumption. What most Wisconsinites know, but few outside of the state know, is that Wisconsin drinks more brandy than any other state. They drink it straight as a shot or mixed in the form of brandy and soda (coke or seven up) or brandy old fashioned with cherries and an orange slice. With all the taverns, it might be a surprise that Wisconsinites are moderate drinkers when compared nationally. However, more people drink in the state than most other states. This makes Wisconsin one of the most alcohol consuming states in the country. Many people make their own beer and wine and new breweries and distilleries have emerged in recent decades.
  10. Organic and Local. With all the farms in Wisconsin, it is not a surprise that Wisconsin was one of the early adapters of organic and local food. Indeed, noted urban agriculturalist, Will Allen, developed the internationally respected organization, Growing Power, in Wisconsin.  Today, Wisconsin ranks second in the nation by the number of farms producing organic food. Today, it is easy to find organic products, including organic beer, throughout Wisconsin.
  11. Friday Fish Fry. Many areas of Wisconsin are very Catholic. As a result, many churches and taverns offer Friday fish fries. Typically, the fish is beer battered. Often the fish is locally caught perch. Many Wisconsinites flock to their local taverns or church halls for beer (yes they serve beer in many churches) and beer battered fish each Friday. In our house, we frequently had fish on Friday with fish we caught in the lakes or rivers of northern Wisconsin.
    My parents with their catch.

My father heading out to fish.

Friday, May 29, 2015

The Best Thing You Will See Online May 29, 2015

The U.S.'s largest green roof.

The Greening of Ford

I am on a working vacation (sorry for those of you getting all those out of office emails returns) and last weekend I had the opportunity to visit the venerable Rouge manufacturing plant where Ford builds the F-150 trucks. The Rouge plant is one of the oldest car manufacturing sites in the world. It was one of the places where Henry Ford expanded his operations to mass produce cars in the 20th century. At one time in the 1930's over 100,000 people worked on the site. Today, it is a high-tech facility that is vastly different from the one that Ford built--it also employs significantly less people. It currently employs about 6000 people.

The plant was completely rebuilt in the last several years under the watch of Bill Ford who has embraced many elements of sustainability into the plant campus including green lighting, green roofs, native vegetation, and bee hives. While some may argue that the F-150 is not the greenest vehicle in the world, the green infrastructure of the manufacturing facility is impressive. Ford has also gone in big on electric and electric hybrid vehicles in recent years. I've written about my Ford Fusion Electric Hybrid which I have to fill with gas about once every month or two.

Some photos of the facility are below.

This is the main manufacturing site for the F-150. Note the green roof and walls
and the light boxes that allow sunlight into the plant. Photo by Bob Brinkmann.


This photo is adjacent to the Rouge F-150 plant. Note the solar panels in the
foreground. Also, dozens of fruit trees were planted to support the bee hives
on the grounds. These trees are the ones in the lower center of the photo in the rows.
Photo by Bob Brinkmann.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Worst Thing You Will See Online May 28, 2015

Austin floods.

Texas State Climatologist Links Climate Change and Texas Sized Flooding

Flooding in Houston this month. Click for photo credit.
The flooding in Texas has garnered a significant amount of news lately. Hidden in the midst of the reporting is this story from KXAN in Austin that noted that state climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon is stating openly that the flooding is consistent with the type of weather patterns that would be associated with climate change in the region. The report also highlighted that in the wake of the flooding several politicians "forgot" their pre-flood "no" vote to support planning for the kinds of extreme weather events that occurred in Texas.

I don't know if this recent flooding is a result of climate change or not. I am sure that many scientific studies will be conducted to evaluate the particular meteorological and climatological issues associated with the event. However, it is noteworthy that the person in charge of the state's climate science notes that the flooding is consistent with what one could expect based on climate change models for the region.

I have written in the past that climate change denial is a political liability. Most voters now understand the realities of climate change and understand the science. When politicians fail to recognize this reality and fail to act, it becomes a form of political malpractice in the minds of citizens. I hope that the tragic flooding is a lesson that climate change planning should be within the forefront of environmental policy planning in Texas and throughout the country. One doesn't have to put causality on the reasons for climate change to do sound planning. One wonders if the human dimensions of the flooding would have been different if better environmental planning were in place.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

A Planet of Boat People--A New Poem by Stan Brunn


Note: with the global international coverage of “boat people” hoping for new and safe homes in the U.S., southern Europe and also southeast Asia, this poem is about these people, their homelands and asiprations.

Click for photo credit.

A Planet of Boat People

Daily photos show packed boatloads fleeing Libya and Tunisia

And also Haiti, Cuba, Thailand and Malaysia

Searching for new homes, livelihoods and security

Where they can live with some hope and tranquility.

Fleeing persecution and oppressive regimes

Seeking havens of safety are their highest dreams.

Boat people have been around for centuries

Not just associated with recent histories.

What if the millions of “boat people” had stayed home?

Think how differently civilizations would have grown.

People left coastlines and interior mainlands

To settle nearby and distant coasts and islands.

Puzzling why some Europeans and Americans oppose boat people today

Even though their ancestors came by boat in a bygone day.

They don’t want to grant them homes or citizenship

But instead return them to hardships and dictatorship.

The Western hemisphere has strong “boat people” traditions

Of those fleeing persecution and harsh living conditions.

Many Africans were forced to leave behind families and nations

To work everywhere on distant colonial plantations.

Not all who crossed seas and oceans waters deep and wide

Reached new homes safely with dignity and pride.

Many Europeans were met by peaceful Native Americans

Who were critical in making new homes and developing multicultural nations.

Boat people’s history also significant in what is today Australia

But also North, Central and coastal South America.

And those settling South, East and Southeast Asia coastal places

Have strong cultural and genetic origins in east African spaces.

We need to universally support those seeking freedom and liberty

And counter those exhorting exclusion, racism and bigotry.

Contemporary maps of international diasporas and migrations

Show “boat” and “plane people” of many belief systems and nations.

And those countries and cities that welcome these new diversities

Are experiencing healthy new human geographies.
                                                                                                                             
24 May 2015
Stan Brunn

Click for photo credit.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Best Thing You Will See Online May 25, 2015

Sustainability at Arlington National Cemetery.

Sustainability at Arlington National Cemetery

Click for photo credit.
This Memorial Day, I thought I would focus on one of the most important sites in the American consciousness: Arlington National Cemetery.

The site is one of the nation's most iconic places. Once home to Robert E. Lee, it became a national cemetery during the Civil War. Many well-known American figures are buried there including John F. Kennedy, Philip Sheridan, and Leland Holland.

Like many cemeteries and public parks, there is an intentionality to the grounds and landscaping. In recent years, the cemetery has focused on environmental sustainability as a major theme of operations. Check out the cemetery's Website that focuses on sustainability here.

The organization has three main themes that focus on the sustainability of the grounds:

  1. Wise use of water and fertilizer. The cemetery focuses on planting native plants that will utilize limited amounts of water and fertilizer.
  2. Habitat for wildlife. Planting ornamental plants that are good habitat for native insects and birds provides broader opportunities to support the regional ecosystem of northern Virginia and the Washington D.C. area.
  3. Plant diversity. When there are a variety of plants in complex grounds and parks such as a cemeteries, it makes sense to focus on plant diversity so that the grounds can survive any pest or condition that would harm a single species. Plus, plant diversity creates a more interesting landscape than a monoculture setting.
The efforts of Arlington National Cemetery demonstrate that sustainability management is reaching into many areas of our society, including places that we might not expect.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Best Thing You Will See Online May 24, 2015

New York State of Mind Cover.


New York Quiz Answers Revealed!


The new World Trade Center Building. Photo
by Bob Brinkmann.
On Wednesday, I posted a New York quiz to commemorate the board meeting of the National Cave and Karst Research Institute that was held in New York City for the first time in its history. Check out the quiz here. The answers are below.

1. Manhattan Schist.

2. Second.

3. Hawaii, the Big Island.

4. Fourth.

5. End moraine.

6. This is a trick question. It wasn't officially a hurricane. It was officially classified as a post tropical storm. However, it packed winds of a Category 2 hurricane.

7. Lisa Minnelli.

8. 468.

9. de Blasio; Cuomo; Gillibrand and Schumer.

10. Hofstra University.

11. Brooklyn Heights.

12. 30 degrees.

13. Theodore Roosevelt.

14. Lincoln Center.

15. Olmsted.

16. Hudson and East Rivers.

17. The Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, and Staten Island. The only one attached to the continent is The Bronx.

18. LGBT rights movement. Stonewall is a gay bar that is still open. The police raided the bar which led to the riot.

19. Robert Moses.

20. The Cotton Club.

21. Staten Island. 400 feet.

22. 11th; roughly the same population as Virginia.

23. They occurred when poor immigrants rioted against the Union draft rules in Manhattan during the Civil War.

24. Dutch.

25. U.S. Grant.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Best Thing You Will See Online May 23, 2015

Sinkhole vs. corvettes.


Even Tiger Woods Could Make this Putt Into a Missouri Sinkhole

Missouri is home to hundreds of caves such as Meramec
Caverns in this photo. These caves are quite safe.
However, on occasion, sinkholes form when cave roofs
collapse. The sinkhole on the golf course in Branson likely
formed from a cave roof collapse.
Click for photo credit.
Many media outlets are reporting on a giant sinkhole that opened up near a golf course near Branson, Missouri. The hole is really a series of sinkholes that coalesced to form a giant. According to the report in USA Today, it is 80 feet wide and 35 feet deep.

The first big cave I ever went into was in Missouri. The state is heavily impacted by karstification and caves are common in many places. Sometimes, cave roofs collapse to create dramatic sinkholes. This seems to be what happened to form this monster.

Karst landscapes undergo tremendous changes over relatively short geologic time and are among the most active landscapes in the world.

Friday, May 22, 2015

The Worst Thing You Will See Online May 22, 2015

Santa Barbara Oil Spill

California Oil Spill Makes Case for Renewables

Santa Barbara beach. Click for photo credit.
The latest oil spill in Santa Barbara makes the case the we need to move as rapidly as possible into renewable energy. The spill happened when a leak occurred in an onshore pipeline that moved oil into a refinery. The spill was relatively small compared to many others around the country (Deepwater Horizon anyone?), but it was devastating. I remember quite vividly when an oil spill occurred off the coast of St. Petersburg, Florida. Many animals were killed or injured back in the 1990's. When these spills happen, no matter the size, the problems can last for years. I remember going to the beach years after the spill and sticking my feet in oily balls of sand.

There's that old saying, no one has ever heard of a solar energy spill.

While we all know that oil is going to be in our energy portfolio for years to come, I think we can all do more to try to reduce energy consumption whenever possible. Let's all take this latest event as a message.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Best Thing You Will See Online May 21, 2015

Buffalo in Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park


Today I continue my series highlighting interesting open access Flickr photos of all 59 U.S. National Parks. In this post we go to Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota. 

I'll run through all 59 National Parks in alphabetical order. If you have any photos that you would like to share from any national park that I could post, please send them along. Following the photos, you'll find links to previous On the Brink posts of the National Parks. Check them out to see the beauty of the U.S. National Parks as captured by visitors.



Click for photo credit.
Click for photo credit.
Click for photo credit.


Click for photo credit.


Click for photo credit.

Lassen Volcanic National Park
Mammoth Cave National Park
Mesa Verde National Park
Mount Rainier National Park
North Cascades National Park
Olympic National Park

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Best Thing You Will See Online May 20, 2015

New York City Breakers.

New York City National Cave and Karst Research Institute Quiz

Photo by Bob Brinkmann
I created this quiz for the annual board meeting of the National Cave and Karst Research Institute. We normally meet in Carlsbad, New Mexico in the spring, but this time we did something different and met in New York City.

I used this quiz as an ice breaker for the meeting and we had fun with it. See how you do! New York has some great history and geology. This quiz will test your knowledge. One or two of the questions are trick questions so be careful!

1.  Much of Manhattan is underlain by the Manhattan Formation-a Middle Ordovician aged rock. What kind of rock is in the Manhattan Formation?

2.  New York is often called “The Big Apple”.  Of all the U.S. states, how does New York state rank in apple production?

3.   Long Island is one of the largest islands in the United States, but it is not the largest (it is #11). What is the largest island in the U.S.?

4. New York’s One World Trade Center is the tallest building in the United States, but it is not the tallest in the world. What rank is it?

This is a statue of the "master builder" of
New York located in Babylon.
Photo by Bob Brinkmann.
5. Long Island formed about 10,000 years ago and consists largely of one dominant landform. Name this landform type.

6. Hurricane Sandy devastated much of the New York area. What category hurricane was Sandy when it hit?

7. The song New York, New York is often associated with Frank Sinatra. However it was written for this performer. Name the performer. (Hint: When the New York Yankees win at home they play the Sinatra version of the song at the end of the game. When they lose, they play a version recorded by this performer).

8. How many subway stations are there in New York City? A) 268 B) 468 C) 668 D) 868

9. Who is the mayor of New York? Who is the governor? Who are the 2 senators representing New York State?

10. The film The Godfather is one of the iconic films that represent New York City and Long Island. The director of the film, Francis Ford Coppola, was heavily influenced by his experiences as an undergraduate at this famous New York university. Name the school.

Many homes were damaged by Sandy in the New York
area. Photo by Bob Brinkmann.
11. The largest battle of the Revolutionary War was fought in New York City. Name the neighborhood where this battle took place.

12. In Manhattan, the avenues trend north-south and the streets trend east-west. However, the avenues do not trend true north. What is the angular deviation from true north of the avenues?

13. Only one U.S. President was born in New York City. Name him.

14. The play (and movie) West Side Story took place in the Upper West Side of New York. What was once a gangland is now one of the fancier places of the city. The transformation of the neighborhood started when this major “center” complex was built in the 1960’s. Name the center.

15. Who designed Central Park?
This is me and Mario near this well known Center.
Photo by Bob Brinkmann.

16. Name the two water bodies that border Manhattan to the east and west.

17. Name the five boroughs that make up New York City. How many of them are attached to the continent?

18. The Stonewall Riot occurred in 1969 and is often considered the start of this civil rights movement. Name it. What does Stonewall refer to and what started the riot?

19. This important New Yorker is often called the “Master Builder” of New York City. He is responsible for designing many of the bridges and roadways in and around the city. Name him.

20. This famous nightclub operated on 142nd and Lenox (now Malcolm X Boulevard) from 1923 to 1935. It was home to famous performers like Cab Calloway and Duke Ellington. Name the club.

21. Where is the highest natural point in New York City? What (approximately) is the elevation?

The Dakota building on the day of the Climate March
 Photo by Bob Brinkmann.
22. New York City has a population of 8.4 million people. This is roughly the same population as Austria. If New York City were a state, what would be its rank by population?

23. The Draft Riots were an important historical event in New York City. Why did the riots occur?

24. The oldest building in New York City was built in 1652 in Brooklyn. What was the ethnicity of the builder?

25. Grant’s Tomb is located near Columbia University. Who is buried in it?

Other On the Brink quizzes are listed below:


John Muir Quiz
John Muir Quiz Part 2
Aldo Leopold Quiz
Rachel Carson Quiz
Bill McKibben Quiz
Teddy Roosevelt Quiz
Marjory Stoneman Douglas Quiz
Zora Neale Hurston Quiz


New York City is really made up of many neighborhoods and small towns.
Photo by Mario Gomez.