Visiting Sim – Part One

This past Saturday I went to a lecture/tour at the Milwaukee Public Library marking 90 years since Simba the lion came to live at the Milwaukee Public Museum, which then shared half of the building with the Central Library downtown. What an interesting afternoon it was!

There’s too much material for one post, so I’m splitting it up over a couple of days. Today just some random items.

First, a little background. Simba (called “Sim” by the Museum/Library staff) was an orphaned cub purchased in Africa by a group of Public Museum staff on a specimen-collecting “safari” in 1929. “Simba” is the Swahili word for “lion.”

By the way, one of the Public Museum taxidermists on that safari was famed wildlife artist Owen Gromme! As a non-native Milwaukeean, I hadn’t known that Gromme worked for the Milwaukee Public Museum for almost his entire career until his retirement in 1965.

Sim was brought back to Milwaukee, arriving on April 13, 1929, where he was briefly placed on public display at the Museum. He was supposed to be available to the public for four days, but apparently he was TOO available to them. People were allowed to get close enough to touch him, and they ended up pulling his tail and otherwise handling him so roughly that Museum staff pulled him off public view after only three days. (Note the front-page headlines; Milwaukeeans LOVE their animals!)

After that Sim lived his life out of the public eye, mostly in the taxidermy offices on the fourth floor of the Museum (which shared half the building with the Central Library) and on the building’s roof. His favorite toy was a wooden bowling ball. Museum staff used to throw it down the long 4th-floor hallway, nicknamed the “bowling alley,” and Sim would chase after it.

After the lecture/slideshow in the rare books room ended, the attendees split into three small groups for librarian-led tours of the old Public Museum spaces. When we went up to the fourth floor, Dan Lee, the librarian leading our tour, brought out a replica bowling ball that several librarians chipped in to buy several years ago and suggested that one of us on the tour throw it down the hall. Someone did . . . and it really did look and sound just like a bowling alley, with the granite baseboards acting like bumpers.  Here are some photos I took of that hallway up on the fourth floor, currently used for storage but originally home to the Museum’s taxidermy and geology departments as well as the super-cool, 19th-century-looking office of the director. Doesn’t that hallway look like a bowling alley with that thin-planked hardwood floor?

Those doors on the right led to the taxidermy and geology rooms. Simba roamed loose on this floor but spent most of his time hanging out in the taxidermy room with his human buddies.

The taxidermy room is now used to store old card-catalog files.

But there are remnants of the old taxidermy room. There’s a boarded-up opening in the ceiling where winches were once used to raise/lower larger specimens (like elephants) into the room or out to the roof. And there’s the stone slab inset in the floor, where specimens were gutted (easier to clean than the hardwood floors).

Simba loved his humans and his bowling ball.

Sadly, he broke a tooth on that bowling ball and it became infected. He was transferred to the Washington Park Zoo for dental care, where he ended up staying for the rest of his life. And where he got along very well with his human keepers, far better than with the other animals, in which he apparently had no interest at all.

When he died, Sim was returned to his former home on the Central Library’s fourth floor, where, in Room 405, he underwent the transformation that allowed him to become a permanent resident of the Milwaukee Public Museum.

And where, as our librarians noted, he also became the only animal ever to be publicly displayed both dead and alive (his first three days in town) in the Central Library building.

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Misinformation Reigns

Misinformation Reigns

Misinformation Reigns
— Read on

Another excellent post on the fire at Notre Dame.

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Memento Mori: Notre Dame

Memento Mori: Notre Dame
— Read on

Beautiful post reflecting on the fire this week.

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Snowy birch at night

Took this picture after yesterday’s snow finally ended, shortly before turning in. Any photos I take at night with my phone are usually greenish and hard to make out. This one looked really striking though, and practically black and white because of the way light reflected off the snowy branches. Ah, poor trees. Just when they were starting to bud, along cane this!

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Springtime in Milwaukee

I actually DID see some daffodils yesterday. But today looks like this.

At least it’s mid-April, so no one is stressed about getting it all shoveled before the polar winds sweep  down from northern Canada bringing -20 degree temperatures and turning the streets and sidewalks into hardened, rutted ice!

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CypherCon 4.0, the Milwaukee River dyed green, and three homes of the Milwaukee Bucks

Taught my morning class today and then walked over to the convention center (maybe 20 minutes away) to attend CypherCon, billed as “Wisconsin’s Hacker Conference” mostly centered on network security but also containing bigger-picture sessions on societal implications of data breaches.

A big term I heard across sessions was “weaponized.” Like, what happens to all the data gained by bad actors when a database is breached? How might that be weaponized against us individually? How might other governments find a way to turn that data into a weapon against us as a nation? Or, even in the absence of a database breach, what happens to us when all the data is that we willingly give to BIG DATA companies (you know which ones I mean) is joined with other data we don’t even think about being collected on us (every single one of our credit card purchases, all of our internet search histories, our medical data which is anonymized but can easily be reverse engineered to identify us using info from public domain databases), along with all the data we may not even recognize as such that is collected by voice-activated assistants in our homes and offices and soon (if not already) our vehicles—what happens if all that data is “weaponized” and used against us?

So yeah, a really interesting conference to attend even though I’m not a hacker or a network security professional. As a college professor developing background expertise to teach a social science course on “digital society,” I was able to find connections in almost every session I attended. Even when I didn’t totally understand the ins and outs of technical presentations, I still learned new things that should be helpful in some way I don’t see yet.

It was a beautiful morning, if windy, so I decided to walk over to the convention center instead of taking a cab or Uber. Thus, I was able to see our Milwaukee River dyed bright green in support of the Milwaukee Bucks’ entry into the playoffs.

Took this photo of the convention center’s atrium mobile/chandelier/sculpture hanging-from-the-ceiling thing just because I liked the swirling lines against the grid of windows and the blue on the building across the street.

As a bonus, because I hadn’t realized I got him in this photo, can you see the guard standing with crossed arms in the lower right-center area? He is a sculpture! At least he’d better be. because I noticed him again as I left, and he was still standing in the exact same pose, totally pokerfaced. (Well, I just did a search and found a photo of him posted on Reddit in r/mildlyinteresting by u/MLGCatMilker. Link here 🙂 )

The walk back to my office wasn’t nearly as cheerful as the walk over. The sun had vanished, the sky was gray, and boy was it windy! Plus, I walked a slightly different route that took me past the Bradley Center. Or what’s left of it.

I’ve lived in Milwaukee long enough to remember when the Bradley Center was brand new. I also took this panorama showing the new Fiserv Forum right north of the partially-demolished Bradley Center, which itself is right north of the old MECCA, where the Bucks used to play before the Bradley Center.

It was sort of cool when I looked at this photo back at my office and realized I’d unwittingly captured  all three of the Bucks’ homes side by side in the same picture.

Actually the old MECCA has found new life as the home of the UWM Panthers basketball team. I wonder how long Fiserv Forum will last before it’s considered too small, etc., to be acceptable? The useful life of a professional sports arena seems to get shorter and shorter.

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Atrium staircase, late afternoon

I am in the middle of grading midterms today. That involves lots of sitting, punctuated by the need to get up and stretch my legs more often than I usually think to remember. There is lots of late afternoon sunshine in the Grohmann Museum’s atrium right now as I’m walking the galleries and climbing the stairs. Today was the first time it broke 70 degrees in Milwaukee in 180 days, according to local television weather forecaster Drew Burgoyne. Bring it on!

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