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Tosan in Ghana

This semester my sister Maddie (whom many of you may know) is studying abroad in Ghana, a country in western Africa.

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Comfort and joy

Christmas, tree lighting, trunk lights

Maybe it’s because I’ve had the bug that’s been going around, but I’m having trouble getting into the spirit of the season. Or maybe I’m just not “getting” contemporary aesthetics in holiday decorating.

What’s with the trunk lights?

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Random Musings and Idle Chit Chat

Conceal Carry, Gas Pains, Girlfriend, Go - Pack, Koch Brothers, Labrador Retrievers, Local Government, Mayor Didier, Odds and Ends, Pistols, Sister, Wauwatosa Politics

Mayor Jill Didier is resigning to take a position with Milwaukee County.  As I reflect upon this news I'm feeling a bit wistful.  Kind of like someone has deprived the blog of the perfect foil.  I'm sure that some of you may find this strange but I already miss the mayor.  And she hasn't even left yet.  Cripes.

Any of you regular readers know that the mayor and I had a rocky start to our relationship.  Yup, she launched her candidacy just about the same time I launched Gas Pains.  Sure, I know the mayor claims she is always way too busy to read my blog although I suspect she sneaks a surreptitious peek from time-to-time.  I am the first to admit that she has been a real sport over the last three or so years as I've given her a tweak or two on matters over at The Palace.  Here's an inside tidbit.  Whenever I've had the opportunity to visit in person Madam Mayor might sometimes (but not always) poke me in the eye too.  She can dish it as well as take it.  To her credit she's been generous of her time in talking about things that interest or concern me.  One time she told me that she allowed me more face time than some of the other subjects in the kingdom. 

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Holiday Decorating With Items From Your Garden

Happy Holidays,

This is the time of year that people are decorating their homes inside and out.  I like to take items from my garden for use in decorations.  I particularly like the effect for wreaths and garlands.

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Friday Morning Music

Friday Morning Music, Garage Band Music, Jon Allen, Lucky I Guess

Turn-up the volume for a toe-tapping, rockabilly tune from Jon Allen...

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Do You Know Where You Are?

I know that my last blog post is about the same exact thing as this one. I’m not going crazy. But since then, my sister has posted again on her blog, and I think the most recent post is really, really cool. So if you saw my post before and liked her blog, you’ll love this. If you saw my post before and didn’t like her blog, you need to read the latest post. And if you have no idea what I am talking about, follow the link below. Basically whichever way you look at it you need to read her latest post. 

It’s so shocking and sad to think that some people cannot identify the country in which they live on a map, simply because they have never had access to one. Or, that kids might not do their best on a life-altering standardized test because they don’t have any real experience with typed-up papers and worksheets. It makes me so grateful for the education and resources that we have right here in Wauwatosa. Wait, did I just say I am grateful for tests? Maybe I am going crazy.

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Howling At The Moon

Astronomy, Deer Camp, Hunting, Life Is Good, Reader Contributions

Took the last part of the week off and headed north to do some late season deer hunting.  New Guy, Brau and Timothy Leary are here at camp.  The blonde dog too.  There's a crock pot of venison stroganoff bubbling on the counter top, a fire in the wood burner, everyone has showered  and the cocktail hour joking has commenced.  One last stab at another deer tomorrow morning. It's the last hurrah before surgery. 

We've a pack of coyotes yipping and howling around here lately.  Found some of their scat only a football throw from the house.  It's gotten Sister all spooked.  When the sun sets her switch gets flipped to hyper-vigilant mode.

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Hardwood floors or carpet?

hardwood floors, carpet, carpet recycling, indoor allergies, home improvement

Within hours of learning that we were going to host our very first family Christmas party in 14 years of marriage, I made plans to do something I've wanted to do as long as we've lived in our blue bungalow: rip out the dingy carpets in our living and dining rooms and expose the hardwood floors underneath.

I had a few reasons for this:
  • Aesthetics: Our house was built with oak floors. Wall-to-wall carpets weren't in style in 1918. I wanted those original floors, obscured under matted carpeting, padding, and an ungodly layer of dust, to be restored to their original beauty. 
  • Health: I have pretty serious indoor allergies. I'm allergic to dust mites and certain molds. Carpets are a dust mite paradise.
  • Sustainability: Carpets degrade much faster than wood, needing replacement every 15 years or so. And they require frequent vacuuming. I'd much rather sweep than run an electric vacuum. 
Despite lusting after hardwood floors for over five years, a couple drawbacks prevented me from making this move:
  • CostOne online source says it could cost $3.75 - $5 a square foot to refinish hardwood flooring. According to that estimate, our 435 square foot area would cost up to $2,175 to refinish. This is not exactly an amount we'd planned to spend on something largely cosmetic – not at this time, anyway.
  • Disruption: Packing furniture into other rooms, ripping out and disposing of carpets, and staying out of a good portion of living space until the floors were sanded, stained, and polyurethaned wasn't something our busy family of five (plus big dog) wanted to do. 
  • Soundproofing: We wondered: would every foot placed on a creaking floorboard ring through the whole house?
  • Insulation: We worried that stripping out carpets would remove some needed insulation from our floors. Does carpet really retain heat better than hardwood floors? A little. "Carpeting will provide a modicum of insulation to a first floor over an unheated basement or crawl space," said an article in Chicago's Daily Herald.) 
Nevermind all those things. We're talking about hardwood floors here. Hardwood oak is natural, alive. The wood grain is complex and stunning. A refinished hardwood floor is a work of art. And hardwood floors are permanent: well cared for wood lasts a lifetime. No need to replace every 15 years due to changing styles and eroding quality.
I wanted to expose that wood. So I grabbed a razor blade, a hammer, and a couple of flathead screwdrivers and I ripped out the carpets myself. It took me about three days to cut and remove carpet and padding and then pluck out staples and nails. 
What we "unearthed," or uncarpeted as it were, was a LOT of stained, damaged wood. It was actually much worse looking than we anticipated:
We didn't plan on dropping a couple grand on this floor right before Christmas. So at first we tried take the DIY approach. My husband did some reading and learned that hydrogen peroxide is a safe, mild way to lighten deeply ingrained stains from wood, stains left by pets, harsh carpet-cleaning chemicals, and overflowing plant pots. 
The hydrogen peroxide did work – a little. Slowly. But after a couple days of dabbing the spots over and over with questionable results, and after finding that a few attractive area rugs weren't enough to cover the ugliness, we decided to seek estimates from professionals.
We chose an Oconomowoc company called Norwegian Wood Floors. Their bid was the lowest (approximately $2.50 per square foot) and they were recommended to us by a few trusted neighbors. We are very happy with the results:
From an environmental standpoint I really didn't have time in this hasty move to research the safety of the stain and polyurethane used on the floor, the fumes of which I'm still inhaling days after application. Yuck. And I feel awful about throwing away all that carpeting. I hoped that by placing the carpet strips curbside, some creative person would nab them in the middle of the night. This worked for us when we had to get rid of our old upstairs windows: we stacked them on curb and they were gone within hours. 
No such luck on the carpeting. So my husband packed the carpet strips into our van and drove them to the dump. Had I taken the time to do more research, I might have been able to find another use for the old carpets, like insulating a space in my house or building cat scratching posts. I don't have cats, though, and these dusty carpets aren't exactly something I'd want to keep around. 
At the time we disposed of the carpets I was unaware of the Carpet America Recovery Effort (CARE). According to CARE's website, a place called Lippert Tile Company, Inc. in Menomonee Falls recycles reclaimed, post consumer carpets. 
Facilities Manager Mike Scardino confirmed that Lippert recycles post consumer carpets for a fee: $1 per yard. Once they've collected a trailer-load of carpets they drive them to a recycling center in Indiana, where the waste is used to make new carpeting, concrete filler, and plastics.  
"It does not get wasted," Scardino said. "Nothing goes into the landfill."
Scardino noted that carpets are refused if they're full of debris like tack strips, or are so wet they would ferment in the trailer as they await their journey to Indiana. However, he said, rarely do they turn anyone away.
Why did Lippert Tile take on this recycling project, which they've been operating at a loss for the last three years? Scardino said the company's owner, Les Lippert, felt it was the right thing to do. Lippert is located near a "huge garbage dump" in Menomonee Falls. As Lippert watched the hills get bigger and bigger, he felt it was time to divert some of that waste. 
His carpet recycling service is just now starting to take off.
I wish I would have taken the time to research this when we had our own carpets to dispose of, but I didn't. As my mom used to say, "coulda, shoulda, woulda." I can't go back. All I can do is make sure I recycle any other carpets I rip out of my home (as of now our entire upstairs is still carpeted).
In the meantime, my husband and I are very excited about our beautiful new floors. We can't stop looking at them, admiring the way the light hits the wood grain at different times of the day. The planks of wood serve as reminders of the beauty of nature during these winter months.
Are you trying to decide what to do with carpet-covered wood floors? You might find the following resources helpful:

Pain In The Ass

Artificial Joints, Femoroacetabular Impingment, Health Care, Hip Replacement Surgery, Hospital Food, Pain In The Ass

Earlier in October of this year I spoke plainly about my gradually deteriorating medical condition as it related to my hip.

I showed-up for my total hip replacement procedure on Monday - early AM. They had me on my feet by Tuesday.  Walking and doing stairs on Wednesday.  And today  - after I demonstrated my proficiency in being left to myself  to navigate simple matters of transferring, toileting, bathing, dressing, grooming and feeding - I was sprung loose late morning.

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All I want for Christmas

Christmas, Solstice, Equality, Retro POP handset, Wonder

Yesterday I finally shopped for Christmas trees but came home empty handed. The ones that took my breath away were too expensive, and the ones left on Stein’s lot had twisted or too-fat trunks. You can do most things by yourself, but wrestling a tree into a holder is a two-person job. So maybe there won’t be a tree this year. I haven’t decided.

But as you will point out, I’d better decide soon.

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Dick's 6th Blood Drive On Saturday, December 31, 2011

Blood Drive

What:  A Blood Drive  DICK'S 6TH BLOOD DRIVE

Where:  St. Pius X Campus @ 2520 Wauwatosa Avenue in Wauwatosa (enter via 75th and Wright)

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Dancing In the World of the Disabled

Disabilities, Hip Replacement Surgery, Life is Good, Odds and Ends, Physical Therapy, Rehabilitation Therapy

Doc, my right leg keeps wanting to swing out to the right.  Every time I pull it back to straight - whoops - out it goes.  What gives?

Your right leg was shorter than your left (surgeon holds holds his fingers apart about a quarter inch - give or take) so when I installed your device I took the opportunity to lengthen your leg.  Both of your legs match in length now.  Your muscles don't know that yet but they'll eventually stretch and remember where they belong.

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Penzeys Spices owner takes over parents' former spice shop in Wauwatosa

William Penzey Jr. has taken over the small spice shop his father and mother opened in Wauwatosa and is looking to rename it eventually and incorporate a tribute to his parents inside.

William Penzey Sr., a sort-of philosopher-spice merchant who with his wife, Ruth, started a business in 1957 that blossomed into a Milwaukee institution, died in September 2010 at age 78.
By then, his legacy had been firmly established, with son William Jr. at the head of the growing Penzeys Spices chain and daughter Patty Erd and her husband, Tom, running a separate firm, The Spice House, with five locations in Milwaukee and greater Chicago.
Now, William Jr. has purchased the business in Wauwatosa that his parents opened in 1988 as a way to ease into retirement.
“I’d like to create a space that really is dedicated to them,” William Jr. said of his plans for the interior of the 1,600-square-foot store.
But it will be a retail outlet too and carry the Penzeys name. The Glenview Ave. location had been called The Spice House, the business name William Sr. and Ruth used for years, but Penzey said he probably will fold some local geography into the new title and call the shop Penzeys Kavanaugh Hill.
Penzeys Spices, also based in Wauwatosa, includes 65 stores in 28 states, and employs just over 500 people, William Jr. said. A year and a half ago, the company had about 50 locations and 400 employees, he said.

Who Moved My Catholic Cheese?

Community, Christmas, Religion

I’ve been Catholic for about 51 years, although, I sometimes refer to myself as “half-Catholic” because my mom was the only Catholic parent in our house. Regardless, I’ve had many years and many weekly, and sometimes daily, masses to have the prayers of the Catholic liturgy burned into my brain.

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It takes a village, not just an edict

Governor Scott Walker, Executive Order #54, Penn State, Child Abuse

Dear Governor Walker,

Thanks for your concern about the responsibilities we University employees have for children in our state. Caring about them and for them is a sacred trust, whether we do it as parent, coach, teacher, neighbor, citizen, or governor.

The Northwestern Reporter says your executive order (#54), requiring all University employees to act almost as mandated reporters, "was prompted by the ongoing turmoil at Penn State, and not from any Wisconsin-based issues. UW employees might not have known how to react when they suspect child abuse, and the new rule helps spell it out."

The part about people not knowing how to react is exactly right. When we fail to do the right thing in such situations, it's usually because we are taken by surprise, in a kind of shock of disbelief, discomfort, and lack of knowledge or training. Educating and showing us how prepares us: as you often say, it gives us tools.

But issuing a Christmastime edict with threat of punishment for failure to comply is a teensy bit heavy handed. And it's only part of a tool--the handle of the hammer, maybe. Sure, you can beat someone about the head with it. But you can't really drive the nail home with it. There's a lot of PR bang in this order, but not much to make kids whole again or change the way so many predators prey on them. After all, few University employees ever encounter children in their jobs.

Speaking for myself and not as a University spokesperson, we folks in the University trenches aren't the bad guys here--or at least, most of us aren't. We don't need to be threatened to get on board with stopping abuse. It's the right thing to do. It seems like a conversation with the University requesting such a policy would have done the trick.

In the Walker Family holiday message (, your wife calls on us to move forward together. I bet she knows it's much easier to make that happen with cooperation than with commands. By making allies, not adversaries, of your kids. It works that way in the bigger world outside the home, too.

May the New Year bring us all into cooperative conversation. If we walk side by side while we talk, we'll find we don't have to yell at each other so much.

And may we all see ourselves as heroes in the fight against abuse, whether we work for the University or not.

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Christmas Mass Schedule~All are Welcome to Celebrate @ St. Bernard

Mass; Christmas; St. Bernard Parish; Wauwatosa Masses; Christmas Eve; Children's Service

Christmas Mass Schedule.

Come and worship. Praise the Lord who comes to us in Jesus. Saturday, Christmas Eve, children and their families will gather for prelude music at 3:45 pm. before the 4:00 pm Mass begins. Then, welcome to the later Mass at 10:00 pm, preceded with music from 9:30 pm. On Christmas Day, there is one Mass at 9:00 am. Invite your family and friends to join you on these days.

Friday Morning Music

Annie Lennox, Eurythmics, Friday Morning Music, Hot Women, Love Is A Stranger

A few years ago when the staff here at the blog decided to introduce a live musical recording on pretty regular basis this video was included.

This is the first time a video has repeated here.

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Simple gifts

Christmas, Gratitude, Underwood Parkway, Cranky Al's, Stone Creek

Yesterday the Christmas spirit finally came home to roost.

It started early in the day. I'd stopped for coffee and a guilt-inducing but delicious cinnamon roll at Cranky Al's. At the next table a man and woman engaged in animated discussion about Tosa, what a wonderful place it was, how many opportunities are here.

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Blogging About The Blog

Blog Housekeeping, Colt Model 1911, Dangerous Groundhogs, Deer Hunting, Deer Management, Firearms, Gas Pains Hall of Fame, Gas Pains Kraut, GI .45, John Browning, Sauerkraut, Scott Walker Deer Management, Scott Walker Hunting, Tosa Rules Brookfield Drools, Union Bargaining in Wauwatosa, Union Goon, Union Negotiations, Union Thug, Wagering

Another year of blogging is over the keyboard and it is useful to look back and ask - Was it all worth it?

I think that on balance it was.  To be honest there were some days I thought to myself  - What the heck are you doing this for, Tom?  This should be fun and not drudgery.  You have a family and a day job.  Plus you have other interests you know.  In the final analysis I'd like to think that the old blog is a healthy outlet for releasing some of my excess impulsivity and hyperactive tendencies and apparently there is a following.  Here is what The Mothership has to say:  Gas Pains is 7th overall out of more than 200 NOW blogs that have received page views in 2011.

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2012~Good Transitions

All Committee Night

ALL COMMITTEE NIGHT: A 2012 New Transition

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