Saturday, June 25, 2011

Adventures in Madison

I was at the Institute for Research on Poverty Summer Research Workshop (which I co-organize) in Madison last week, which was the reason for the light blogging. As always, it was a lively and interesting time, with many old friends and some new ones as well.

Some notable bits from the conference:

I made my annual pilgrimage to Smokey's Club for a scandalously good (and likely scandalously unhealthy) meal of old-style relish (i.e. radishes and carrot sticks), cheese curds, salad, soup, 18 (!) ounce steak and hash browns. The dining experience itself is part of the attraction as Smokey's does not appear to have changed in any meaningful way since, say, 1963. Good fun.

The organizer / old people dinner was at Harvest. You can get steak there too (and I did, and it was really good, as was the chilled asparagus soup) but it is a very different dining experience. Harvest presents itself as upscale health food, with lots of organic bits, nods to localism, meat from cows that have been serenaded and massaged and all the rest of the things one associates with this genre of restaurant. I recommend it too.

At the other end of the gustatory scale, I learned about something called the "Super Donut" from a paper on school lunches (not yet on his web page) by Dave Ribar of UNC-Greensboro. The super donut occasioned much inquiry and mirth among the assembled academics. Further research upon my return led to this review and the surprising information that the Super Donut has ties to former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Franco Harris. Small world.

The Orpheum Theater on State Street in Madison, which I walked by each day on my way from the hotel to the conference, does not appear to be showing movies any more, but does have a restaurant in the lobby. My wife and I went to a movie there about six years ago, when I was thinking of taking a job at Madison. The theater is at least as gorgeous inside as the restored Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor, but in less good repair and worse financial shape. The Orpheum's wikipedia page has some additional history.

Finally, I learned from a paper by (very clever) sociologist Dalton Conley of NYU that a non-trivial fraction of monozygodic ("identical") twins go through life believing themselves to be dizigodic ("fraternal") twins. The paper is not yet on his web page (though there is a related working paper) but I was struck simply by this interesting sort of measurement error, which has, presumably, strong consequences in some cases for how children are treated growing up.

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