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Last year's contest got pretty hairy.
Last year's contest got pretty hairy.

Let it grow: Uptowner hosts beard contest

It’s almost time for the fuzzy face off, folks!

The Uptowner, the "home of the beautiful people" located at 1032 E. Center St., will once again host the fourth annual Beard Competition on Saturday, April 16 at 4 p.m. Registration starts at 2 p.m. The event is free for spectators and participants.

There are "at least" six categories in the competition, according The Uptowner owner and contest co-organizer Steve Johnson, including Freestyle Facial Hair, Partial Beard, Whiskerinas (a category for the ladies), Best Moustache (styled or natural), Full Beard Natural (three inches and under) and Full Beard Natural (more than eight inches).

Winners will receive a cash prize and a certificate.

Rob Woelfl, the full-natural winner at the first contest, will return as the event’s emcee. Judges include myself and Jessica Kaminski, photographer and author of Milwaukee Beard Book. The Milwaukee Beard Book will be for sale at the event.

"Shaving is for pussies," says Johnson.

Fischberger's West in on the way.
Fischberger's West in on the way.

Fischberger's plans West Side expansion

Nine years ago, Sarah and River Ditzenberger opened a delightfully quirky and old-timey variety store called Fischberger’s at 2445 N. Holton St. in the Riverwest-Harambee neighborhood.

Now, the couple has partnered up with Kara Wendel and the two plan to open a second Fischberger’s on 55th and Vliet Streets.

"The speed with which this happened has taken us both by surprise. The space we found is perfect and will be ready for us to move in beginning in May. The challenge with this happening so quickly is funding," says Wendel.

Hence, the hopeful new owners started a Kickstarter campaign and will use the donations to build shelves, purchase inventory, make signs and more.

"We can not wait to share in this adventure and expansion with the community. We appreciate your help and support as we enter into this partnership to create another wonderful location of Fischberger's Variety," says Wendel.

Levi gets a piece of the pi.
Levi gets a piece of the pi.

An unexpected act of human kindness

It started out as a typical Monday: a disgruntled haze of snooze buttons and mismatched socks, so when I walked into my office a little before 9:30 a.m., I thought the high point of my morning would be a steamy cup of Valentine coffee.

I noticed it right away: an envelope in the middle of my desk, my only piece of mail from the weekend. It looked different from my usual work mail: my name and address were clearly hand scrawled. Milwaukee was misspelled. The zip code was in the wrong spot.

And there was no return address.

For a second, I hesitated to open it and I wondered if maybe it was a piece of hate mail. Years ago, I did receive an angry letter about my "disgusting and unholy" article subject matter. But this was not that.

Inside, I found a typed letter. This is what it said:

Ms. Snyder,

This is a small token of admiration for your son’s achievement of learning Pi to 100 places. I hope he continues with his math success. I don’t want any notoriety with this, I just wanted to reward a young man.

Best wishes,

An OnMilwaukee fan

The person is referring to the fact my son, just for fun, learned the first 103 digits of pi for Pi Day (March 14) and as a reward I bought him an apple pie from Bakers Square. I posted about this on social media, along with a video of Levi, who is 12, reciting the digits.

But, but, but – back to the envelope that was on my desk this morning. It did not only contain a letter of congratulations, but a money order, made out to my son, via me, for $314.15 – the first five digits of pi. The check is signed "An Admirer Of Pi."

I could not wait to tell Levi. I thought about going over to Golda Meir, where he attends sixth grade, to tell him the crazy, wonderful news, but I didn’t. Instead, I smiled all day, and cried twice, at the unbelievable kindness of a stranger.

When I was finally able to hand the envelope to Levi, he repeated the words "oh my God" about a dozen times. "I am in awe that someone would do this," he s…

Animated, awesome Ani.
Animated, awesome Ani.

DiFranco does it again

When perusing the online set lists from Ani DiFranco’s shows in the past few weeks, it was no surprise to find that every night was a different mix of tunes. The variation of her song list is a testament to who DiFranco is as a musician in general – always evolving, dynamic and willing to stroll outside her comfort zone.

Although known as the "Little Folksinger," her music has expanded beyond her acoustic solo roots to include punk, soul, jazz, hip hop, electronica and more. She has lived her personal life equally as boldly, serving in the ‘90s – whether she wanted to or not – as a lesbian role model / riot grrl, but gracefully moved on to marry and divorce a man and have two children, Petrah and Dante, with her current husband and sound engineer, Mike Napolitano.

DiFranco has a history of gigging in Milwaukee at a variety of venues, including The Pabst Theater, Pride Fest and The Eagles Ballroom, but tonight, took her maiden voyage at Turner Hall.

The venue never affects DiFranco’s performance – this is coming from a fan who saw her for the 16th time tonight and has seen her in at a cozy friends-and-family show at the Blue Nile in New Orleans as well as sold-out shows at large venues in Madison.

She did, however, make a joke about the uneven Turner Hall stage, pretending a couple of times to wobble and mentioned, jokingly, "I’m gonna lose some teeth tonight."

Technically, DiFranco is on tour promoting her latest album, "Allergic To Water," a mellow soundscape of rich lyrics and understated melodies mostly about her family life in New Orleans, where she moved to from her hometown of Buffalo in 2004 and has remained ever since.

(PHOTO: Kat Froehlich)

DiFranco has released more than 20 albums on her own label, Righteous Babe Records, ranging from the uber-acoustic self-titled first album to the expansive To The Teeth which features the legendary Prince.

Tonight’s show featured songs drawn from her entire career, with deep cuts like the spoken w…