Category Archives: Madison, Wisconsin

Renting Sight Unseen

The first time I rented an apartment sight unseen, I went on the recommendation of my newly found roommates. I was in Idaho and moving to Wisconsin for school in a month and grateful to snatch up anything offered to me. When I finally did see it, I was not impressed.

In fact, I texted my sister: “Oh my gosh, what have I done?! This place sucks!”

Except in one of those worst-case scenarios that seem to only happen in movies, I accidentally didn’t text my sister. I texted my new roommates.

And, uh, needless to say, that was not a great way to start that relationship. It went downhill from there.

With COVID restricting in person visits, I once again found myself signing a lease for an apartment sight unseen. I had pictures, but not nearly enough. Still, I signed the lease and waited two months to see if my gamble would pay off.

Yesterday I picked up my keys. I got lost on the way to the apartment complex, got lost trying to find the leasing office, and got confused trying to find my actual unit. I was hot, I was running late, and I was extensively cranky. It did not bode well for my new place. I could hear the ‘I told you so’ with every step I took.

But guess what? I like the place! It is big and comfortable with a nice wide balcony and large rooms. And has an in-unit washer and dryer! Honestly, I’d probably be satisfied with a dump if it meant in-unit laundry.

The Diner

A kind friend drove to Madison yesterday to help me with some graphic design work for my company’s website. To thank her, I told her to pick a nice place for brunch this morning. She invited my sister to join us and chose a diner I’d never heard of.

I quickly realized as we pulled in, however, that I’d driven past the place countless times on my way to school. The diner probably looked new in the 1970s, but hasn’t been updated since. A saggy drop ceiling, chipped tile floors, dirty mirrors, and a low counter completes the look.

Prominent signs everywhere say: NO CHECKS ACCEPTED.

We shuffled in and looked around awkwardly. Apparently it was seat yourself because no one told us otherwise. A couple sat at one side of the counter and an older, larger man in neon green with a wild beard sat at the other end. The couple had just received their bill. They were not pleased.

“$14! For an omelette!” the woman said angrily.

The waiter—scrawny, at least 60, and prominently wearing a t-shirt for another restaurant—responded: “You got three omelettes.”

She shook her head and they stormed out.

“You eat like a king and you got to pay for it,” said the waiter to no one in particular.

Or perhaps it was to the gentleman at the counter because he responded, “Did they at least leave a tip?”

“Nope,” said the waiter sorrowfully, then repeated, “If you eat like a king…”

They both shook their heads.

“Eggs and steak going up I hear,” said the man at the counter.

“They already did!” said the waiter.

More head shaking.

Now, we’d been sitting there for about five minutes without any recognition but the waiter finally nodded at us and said he’d be right over. He eventually did walk over and pulled out his pad,

“What can I get you ladies?”

Hesitantly, I suggested we might like to see a menu. He looked surprised.

“That will cost extra,” said the man at the counter.

We finally got our menus. I was surprised by how cheap everything was after the earlier couple’s grumbling: pancake for $4, steak and eggs for $8, bacon and eggs and fries for $9. You could also get french toast and omelettes, but otherwise that was basically the extent of the menu.

My sister ordered a pancake with strawberries. The guy at the counter informed us that is also what he ordered. I ordered the steak and eggs. The waiter looked surprised by this choice and had me repeat it three times.

The waiter also dropped off three forks, three knives, and two spoons. (Intentional or not? We couldn’t decide.)

Then they went back to ignoring us.

“So,” said the man at the counter to the waiter. “I hear you had a heart attack.”

“Yep,” said the waiter. “Three days ago.”

The man at the counter shook his hand, “Man, and to think your ex-wife said you didn’t have a heart.”

The waiter nodded, “I showed her.”

He shuffled into the back. (Possibly to cook our meal? Not much evidence of anyone else working.)

The man at the counter asked if the owner of the diner was feeling the pinch from the lock-down. The waiter shuffled back out and shrugged.

“It don’t seem like it today, but you never know about tomorrow. He doesn’t work Mondays anyway.” (For the record it is Tuesday so I’m not sure if that was a reference to the boss’s absence or his lack of panic yesterday.)

We got our food and it was as good as you would expect from such a place, which is to say, actually really good.

Another couple walked in. The man carried what looked like jumper cables connected to a battery. He wanted to charge it.

The waiter looked solemn and informed him the last time someone tried to charge something like that, they flipped a breaker and had to bring the electrical company in to fix it, but he was welcome to try. So the guy plugged it in and we all waited with baited breath to see if anything would happen. (It didn’t.)

The guy then ordered a meal to go, which he promptly sat and ate in the diner. However, some small dispute arose—I didn’t catch what—and the waiter began to indignantly repeat, “I don’t make the rules. I don’t make the rules. I don’t make the rules.”

At this point, we’d wrapped up our meal so I pulled out my card and tried to hand it them.

“He only takes cash,” the waiter said, exasperated, “I don’t make the rules!”

I glanced around to see if I missed a sign about this being a cash-only establishment but saw nothing except the warning against checks.

I don’t carry cash so I told him I would need to run to an ATM. He looked resigned. I told my guest and sister I’d be right back and drove to the nearest ATM.

Problematically, my debit card has recently refused to run as a debit so after trying and failing to pull out cash, I drove all the way back to my apartment. And couldn’t find my wallet. So then I had to find my emergency cash stash. And then I drove back and found all 5 parking spots full. So I spent more time trying to locate a parking spot two blocks over. (Because despite the strangely hick feel of the place, the diner is located in the middle of a major city.)

Exasperated, slightly embarrassed, extremely self-conscious I hurry in to pay. The waiter looked at me in surprise.

“Are you guys done already?”

An Exciting Victory

As those of you who live in Wisconsin probably noticed, yesterday the Wisconsin Supreme Court issued a decision declaring the most recent stay-at-home order from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services unconstitutional. From a practical level, this returns the choice of whether or not to open to businesses and communities. From a more esoteric perspective, the ruling preserves due process and the rule of law in Wisconsin by requiring agencies to operate only within the explicit bounds of their legislative authority. 

But on a much more personal level, the case represents the culmination of nearly ten years of effort from the legal foundation where I work.

Almost ten years of lobbying, educating, and brief writing. Almost ten years of cases representing farmers and nurses and others regulated businesses.

All because agencies frequently use more power than the legislature specifically gave them and no one holds them accountable for it. But yesterday, the Wisconsin Supreme Court finally drew a line in the sand. Agencies can only use the authority explicitly granted to them by the Wisconsin Legislature. The Court explained: 

¶51 “To place this contention in context, the reader should note that there is history underlying how courts have interpreted administrative agency powers. Formerly, court decisions permitted Wisconsin administrative agency powers to be implied. See Wis. Citizens Concerned for Cranes & Doves v. DNR, 2004 WI 40, ¶14, 270 Wis. 2d 318, 677 N.W.2d 612. In theory, “any reasonable doubt pertaining to an agency’s implied powers” was resolved “against the agency.” Wis. Builders Ass’n v. DOT, 2005 WI App 160, ¶9, 285 Wis. 2d 472, 702 N.W.2d 433. However, the Legislature concluded that this theory did not match reality. Therefore, under 2011 Wis. Act 21, the Legislature significantly altered our administrative law jurisprudence by imposing an “explicit authority requirement” on our interpretations of agency powers. Kirsten Koschnick, Comment, Making “Explicit Authority” Explicit Deciphering Wis. Act 21’s Prescriptions for Agency Rulemaking Authority, 2019 Wis. L. Rev. 993, 997.

(As an aside, Kirsten is a former intern at the foundation where I work and a friend of mine. She deserves all the congratulations for getting cited!) 

¶52 “The explicit authority requirement is codified at Wis. Stat. § 227.10(2m), which provides: “No agency may implement or enforce any standard, requirement, or threshold, . . . unless that standard, requirement, or threshold is explicitly required or explicitly permitted by statute or by a rule that has been promulgated in accordance with this subchapter[.]” Furthermore, Wis. Stat. § 227.11(2)(a)1.—3., as summarized by a recent comment in the Wisconsin Law Review, “prevent[s] agencies from circumventing this new ‘explicit authority’ requirement by simply utilizing broad statutes describing the agency’s general duties or legislative purpose as a blank check for regulatory authority.” Koschnick, Making “Explicit Authority” Explicit, at 996. The explicit authority requirement is, in effect, a legislatively imposed canon of construction that requires us to narrowly construe imprecise delegations of power to administrative agencies…”

While there are plenty of battles left to fight, this is a victory and one well worth celebrating. 

It was worth wondering if I would fail my final because I had no time to study because I was at the office trying to get the brief finished with my boss. It was worth running the three blocks in high heels because none of us attorneys can get anything done on time without our support staff. (Who are all working from home and not around to help with the jammed printer!) It was worth locking myself out of the building and standing in the cold until the other intern came out to get me, forgot he also didn’t have a key, and so stranded both of us out in the cold. Actually…it was all worth it for the comical, pained expression when I handed over the blood-stained appendix to our brief because my boss stabbed himself with a stapler and we didn’t have time to print out another one before everything closed…

Ugh, just kidding. What an awful day that was. I knew there was a reason I didn’t blog about it. But guess what? It was worth it because incrementally, we preserve the rule of law by drawing clear lines for when an unelected, unchecked bureaucrat can regulate you and when it can’t. And that’s a reason to get out of bed in the morning. And run in high heels, get stabbed with a stapler, and freeze in the cold. 

Epic Tour

One of the guys in my Bible study took us on a tour of Epic today. If you don’t know Epic, it is a medical software company here in Madison and has super cool offices. Each building is a different theme. And not just theme in that the pictures match or something. I mean buildings that look like castles or barns or chocolate factories. 

There is a Harry Potter themed building. An Alice in Wonderland building. A Wizard of Oz building. A fairy tale building. A farm building. And so much more! 

My friend calls it Disney world without the fun. 

It is truly incredible. There are even slides in some of the buildings! 

Image result for epic madison wi

Image result for epic madison wi

Image result for epic madison wi

Image result for epic madison wi

Personalities On The Bus

You would not think it, but 8:30 pm is a pretty sketchy time to take the bus. It smells like pot and body odor. Tonight, though, it proved pretty entertaining. A certain individual had clearly taken allllllllllll the drugs and was uttering nuggets of, er, wisdom. Here were a few of his utterances. (No transition between them in person!)  

  • “Forget Madison! Let’s go to Canada and live in my mansion!”
  • “No one says anything because no one thinks anything, but I talk anyway because it is about the experience you bring.”
  • “Math is funny. All phone numbers are composed of the same numbers.”
  • “Where we are going you need to be smarter than the dog behind the fence. You need to get around the fence. But the dog can’t. Madison is the fence. And it is just like Madison, Tennessee.”
  • “I believe that everyone believes in anything. But I also believe in everything.”
  • “Beware of fruit drinks. Believe me, man. You are talking to a global warrior.”

Mega Church

Bethany and I visited a megachurch today and it had…A PARKING GARAGE. 

No joke.

It was a huge building with three separate auditoriums in the main church (and three campuses.) 

But despite its size, the church was super friendly and several people (on staff and off) said hello. It wasn’t a great Sunday to visit since they were vision casting but I definitely think we will be back. And with services offered at 9 different times…it sure is easy to go! 

Korean Food in Madison

My sister and I have officially found our go-to place for Korean food in Madison: New Seoul Restaurant.

It is tiny and authentic only in a way a place run by two people can be. (Total supposition but from what we can tell the owner waits tables while his wife cooks in the back!) The menu looked like something I would find in Korea and the food was delicious.

And the kimchi? Probably some of the best I have ever had.

We liked it so much we had a long discussion about the merits of moving closer. (Pros: delicious Korean food. Con: there goes our budget.)

Children’s Sermon

Pastor: *during children’s sermon* “And how do we get to heaven?”

Children: “We DIEEEEEEEE’!”

Pastor: …

Congregation: …

Me: “Well, they are not wrong.”

Bethany: *smacks me*

Grading Papers

I dislike grading papers because most aren’t very good but I feel bad every time I give someone less than an A. Mostly because I cannot imagine anyone would be satisfied with less than an A. It is like I am dealing the ultimate humiliation….a B. Or, gasp, a C

But some of the papers need serious work. Like, the-5-page-paper-consists-of-4-paragraphs kind of work.

And some of these sentences…just…well…see for yourself. 

  • “Being true to his evasive nature, Socrates’ loose construction of metaphors lays the groundwork for this definition of justice without any hard evidence.”
  • “The squirrel eats when it’s hungry, drinks when it’s thirsty, and procreates, well, whenever. It very much does not write essays or study geometry, as far as we know at least.”
  • “As the group became dissatisfied with these definitions, Socrates conjured his own. He meandered around the question, elaborately constructing the ideal City.”
  • “Say a man was preparing to steal a pig from his neighbor. A rational man will see that this will take a food source away from his pig, as well as make him a criminal.”
  • “To conclude: the term “soul’s eye” has two parts, the soul and the eye.” 
  • [And my personal favorite] “Despite what it might seem like, Plato’s Republic is not an early version of The Hunger Games.”

Forget Plato, though. The next discussion group we’re going to have a long talk about the proper use of semi colons. (Hint: when in doubt, don’t.) 

0 to 80

One of the perks of the apartment Bethany and I live in is that we don’t pay for heat. But we have discovered why. (At least in part.) If they actually made us pay for heat, they would also have to fix the heat settings. 

As it is, our apartment has two settings: icebox or sauna.

To get any heat to come out, you literally have to crank the dial past 80. And then it does its very best to comply. But turn it even a few notches to the left and the heat will turn off completely. 

A delicate balancing act emerges. Our new goal is to discover the secret of keeping it going just long enough to make the apartment comfortable, but not so long as to actually boil us alive.