Madison, WI

We were in Madison, Wisconsin, for most of the weekend. Grace was presenting an abstract at the MARC 2005 conference held there this year, fulfilling the research-during-residency requirements for her program. While she was at the conference, I spent my time wandering around the capitol and sitting at coffee shops using their WiFi. (A while ago, Grace said that we’d be going to all sorts of professional conferences in, like, Hawaii, San Diego or New Orleans. Well, Milwaukee isn’t Maui. But Madison ain’t bad.) (We flew into Milwaukee because tickets were much cheaper, and because we were visiting one of Grace’s med school friends in a Milwaukee suburb before the return flight.)

The city sits on an isthmus between two lakes, as the lake-city-lake tagline used by the Visitors Bureau points out. It’s the seat of state government as well as home to tens of thousands of students at the University of Wisconsin there. For a small city, it’s pretty lively, with State Street being the main commercial street, running between the capitol building and the edge of the university campus. It’s filled with a good mix ethnic restaurants, shops, bars and cafes. We actually had Himalyan-regional food (Nepalese? Indian?) for dinner the first night there, which I don’t think we could have gotten in Cleveland. State Street and the surrounding area were also crowded late into the night with a lot of foot traffic, presumably because of its proximity to student residences and because driving right there is difficult.

(I’m not sure why Case Western doesn’t have a similar district near its campus. There’s a small triangle of shops and fast food joints at Mayfield and Euclid, but it’s not more interesting than, say, a mall food court. Coventry in Cleveland Heights is probably the closest thing to State Street, but it’s not walking distance from Case, nor is it nearly as lively. Yes, the student populations are probably different in size, but shouldn’t there at least be something?)

Here are some photos, mostly of the capitol building:

I think a polarizer would have helped for the daylight shots, whatwith all the non-metallic reflections off the stone, grass, etc. Certainly, I needed a tripod for the night shots. I did improvised beanbag shots using my hand resting on a concrete barrier on the convention center for a few. One or two of the shots close to the capitol building were actually handheld, ISO1600 wide open on the kit lens. They turned out better than expected.

The conference itself was a the Monona Terrace convention center, sitting on the western edge of one of those lakes. Nice lake views: the water almost looks like a rippling fabric. It was apparently thought of by Frank Lloyd Wright way back in the 1930s, but was built in the late 1990s. The center presumably looks much better if viewed from a boat in the lake or perhaps down one of the bike paths on the shore, but we didn’t go down that way. From close up, it’s all curved concrete walls and huge arched windows: the building is itself a sculpture. (Cleveland is contemplating a new convention center to either supplement or replace the 1920s-style brick on Lakeside Avenue. The problem is that convention centers are a money-losing proposition.)

I crashed the lunch at the conference. They had a fairly amusing presentation during the meal by a veterinary anesthesiologist who described sedating or anesthetizing all sorts of different animals, from goldfish (“an unusual intubation” which consisted of passing oxygenated water through the mouth and out the gills) through pet (kidney transplants for cats?) through rhinos (give the reversal agent and run out of the cage) all the way up to right whales (a foot-long needle was needed to go through the skin and underlying blubber). I’m still not sure why one would do surgery on a goldfish, though. I did have a ticket for the dinner, which wasn’t as well attended as the lunch. The food was, at best, OK: the Himalyan restaurant was much better than the cheesy chicken or the salmon.

Update: Oh, I was forgetful when packing for the airport, and had my tiny little, harmless Leatherman Micra taken away by TSA. We didn’t have checked in baggage since it was only a weekend. They did give me the option of mailing it back to myself for $8, but that costs almost as much as a new one. Of course, the next day, I would have liked a Leatherman in Madison when I was trying to open a bag of Cold-Eeze.

Update 2: This is where the Leatherman probably will wind up. Possibly, I should just buy a 100-lot of miscellaneous items.

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