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Full disclosure

In a previous post I may have implied a distaste for Kindle- the e-reader product from amazon. When my wife asked me about getting a Kindle months ago I said  "I'll never get one- I like holding a book and turning pages". Well, the Sprague kids (who seem to enjoy proving me wrong) got together this Christmas and bought their old man (against my protests) a Kindle. I love it. 

 Not the first time I was wrong about whether I would like something. 

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A gift for the governor

Why, anybody can have a brain. That's a very mediocre commodity. Every pusillanimous creature that crawls on the Earth or slinks through slimy seas has a brain. Back where I come from, we have universities, seats of great learning, where men go to become great thinkers. And when they come out, they think deep thoughts and with no more brains than you have! But they have one thing you haven't got - a diploma. Therefore, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Universitatus Committeatum E Pluribus Unum, I hereby confer upon you the honorary degree of Th. D...that's Doctor of Thinkology. -- The Wizard of Oz

If I were a great and terrible wizard, or even a humbug with power and a following, I'd award new governor Scott Walker an honorary college degree. (Since we're in Oz now, we can play fast and loose with the University of Wisconsin Committee on Honorary Degrees rule that excludes elected officals.)

After all, it's for a greater good: helping Walker find his way to the home that Wisconsin might be for all of us.

Walker lacks a college degree. I don't think that's a reflection on his intelligence. After all, he's been Milwaukee County Executive for seven years and before that served in the state assembly for five terms. He ran an excellent and successful campaign. Even this Barrett supporter has to admit that Walker was far better able to articulate a compelling message.

But Walker's lack of a degree creates problems.

  • It puts him in an uncomfortable position to advocate for education, something any governor must do, and ours especially. One of Wisconsin's lingering business problems is having a somewhat less educated workforce than other states.
  • It makes him an uncomfortable model for even his own children.I suppose he's a good model for the Horatio Alger approach (hard work allows worthy youth to overcome odds), but most of us would want our kids to combine an excellent education with that same hard work. It just increases the odds.
  • Finally, I think it's at the base of his uncomfortable, ambivalent, even adversarial, relationship with the state's great but faltering public university system.

If you don't have something others value, like a degree, it's easy to say that thing really doesn't have much value. Remember the parable of the sour grapes?

I have a vested interest in this issue. My kids go to the University of Wisconsin in Madison and Milwaukee. I work for the University (though not in a union, tenured, or high-paid position). But I'd worry about maintaining higher education as one of the key parts of the prosperity puzzle anyway. The best world has great public universities AND great private ones, feeding and interacting with business, government, and all the other parts of the success puzzle.

Having a degree doesn't make people smarter. Sometimes, it does what the Wizard does, putting a mess of pudding in one's head. But doing the work of learning makes people smarter. And there are all kinds of "schools" for that, including the one Walker has attended. Still, a good liberal arts education exposes you to methods that can help you think better, ideas that give you a broader context. And it makes you fit more easily into the crowd of leaders.

Since Walker now leads all of Oz and not just the Emerald City, it would be nice to lift what very well may be an obstacle to his confidence and clear headedness. Just take the issue off the plate. After all, Oz didn't give the Tin Man, the Lion, or the Scarecrow anything that they didn't already have.

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Mayfair Mall - What We SHOULDN'T Do

Mayfair, Neighborhood, Community, Tosa Business

Sunday afternoon, while many of us were watching the Packer game, an incident occurred at Mayfair Mall. Depending on the reports you've heard or read, it's been called a "melee" and even "mayhem." Based on the little I know, it does sound somewhat scary. Apparently, a gun was fired in the parking lot, there was some chaos and confusion inside the mall and Mayfair ended up closing 20 minutes early. Here is the most recent report that I could find on the incident.

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Cash in -- vote for our new pool!

Your community needs you – and your family and friends, too.  Help the Friends of Hoyt Park & Pool (FOHPP) win $50,000 for the new TOSA Pool at Hoyt Park.

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Random Musings and Idle Chit Chat

Critters, Governor Walker

Last Sunday after I heard about the ruckus at the Mayfair Mall I thought maybe I should blog about it.

My pal Karen did instead.  The upside of this is now I can comment all I want over there on her blog.  After she did all the heavy lifting.  Thank you Karen.

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Welcome to the Blue Bungalow!

sustainability, vermicomposting, urban homesteading, transition movement, farmers market

Greetings, friends, and welcome to the Blue Bungalow Farm. This blog is an extension of my original weblog, which has been in existence since the winter of 2009. Around that time I grew interested in raising awareness about sustainability, particularly where I live in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. So I launched a blog called "Sustainable Tosa." That blog was instrumental in the organization of the Tosa Farmers Market: through my writing I was able to connect with other folks interested in creating a sustainable farmers market for our city. After much meeting and planning, we kicked-off the market with a preview of the 2010 season on September 26, 2009. Later, in June of 2010, we launched the highly anticipated weekly market in the heart of Wauwatosa's Village. The first season had a very successful run, with over 40 weekly vendors and thousands of patrons. We're now gearing up for an even bigger 2011 season. 

Around the same time I started the Sustainable Tosa blog, I started another blog, called the Blue Bungalow Microfarm. The blog is named for my home: a fairly typical Milwaukee bungalow built in 1918. Since about 2007 I have been slowly working toward turning my drafty old house with its "postage stamp" yard into a sustainable "microfarm." The purpose of the Blue Bungalow blog was and is to serve as a place to document my experiences "transitioning" into sustainable living. At the Blue Bungalow blog, I continue to write about composting, vermicomposting, edible landscaping, indoor gardening, home energy efficiency, urban homesteading, and much more. Now, as I prepare to begin Master Gardener training and hope to further educate others about composting and sustainability, I am launching an extension of my blog here at WauwatosaNow, where I hope to share my humble discoveries with a wider audience.

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A Public Service Announcement

Gas Pains

I was speaking with someone over at The Mothership the other day and wasn't at all surprised to learn that WauwatosaNOW continues to be the most popular of all of the community websites.

I was also told that the collection of bloggers here happens to garner more readers than any of the other NOW sites as well.

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Curious George learns about business in Thailand

International business, Governor Walker, Thailand

Son George, a Wauwatosa West graduate and junior in business school at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is spending this semester in Thailand.

Quite an adventure for a kid who’s never had much chance to travel.

Helping make this possible was a small scholarship for studying expanding markets in Asia. I hope that kind of help survives the new “more austerity for little people” approach to getting through our state's serious budget problems.

And not just because the children of people with modest incomes need a little extra financial help. That kind of knowledge and experience is what the rest of the world expects of business people.

Our Facebook chat conversation this morning went like this (please excuse Facebook casualness):

Mom: I hear you’re humbled by the European students’ knowledge of geography.

George: i’m humbled in general by my lack of cultural knowledge but hey
im learning.
Mom: You taking advantage of those perks (in the “dorm”: sauna, pool, aerobics classes)? AND learning geography?
George: europeans know a lot though. yes and yes. school is fascinating as well great professors.
we are actually going to work with business to facilitate international trade with thailand. i’m excited for that.

Talk about getting down to business fast.
George mentions his wonderful professors in Thailand:

George: see, they are international and experienced. one is an indian who works in LA and consults for international trade. one is a swiss guy who worked hospitality and sold a series of 5 star hotels and retired then started teaching. one is a hilarious and demanding thai guy with great examples and anecdotes. i dunno. its pretty cool.

Pretty cool indeed. George’s learning curve so far has been off-the-charts fast. Of course, it’s facilitated by contact with people who have very different ideas and world views, different knowledge sets and values. Different experiences.

There’s a lesson in there somewhere. Can Wisconsin "open for business" guided entirely by a new insular “in crowd” (as opposed to the old one)? This isn’t just a problem for Governor Walker, this problem of narrowing the circle of advisors and ideas: it’s a problem for President Obama, as it was for President Bush.

George McLaughlin will be a valuable asset for whatever business hires him – or better yet, whatever business he creates. But will Wisconsin be the place he’ll want to do business? Can we keep him “down on the farm” after he’s seen a wider world?

That will depend greatly on how well we educate our people here, how creative and innovative we are, not just on how fast we reduce worker's wages.

There Is Your Dagger!

Go - Pack

The Packers beat Philly at the last moment with a stunning end zone interception by Tramon Williams.

You're probably thinking that this had everything to do with superior play calling, a reemerging  running game and a brilliant defense.

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Recycling the Christmas Tree

garden journal, composting, recycling

By now most Tosans' Christmas trees are curbside as we await this week's garbage pick-up, when, on our scheduled garbage day, the trees will be hauled away and turned into mulch. In the past I have pruned off the branches of my Christmas trees and saved them for mulching and composting. This year I was busy, so I decided simply to send our dried up balsam fir to the city. My husband dragged the tree out to the curb last weekend. 

I soon began to regret this decision – especially after I came across this list of monthly gardening tips at the Hawks Nursery website. Hawks reminded me not to give up those precious evergreen boughs, as they are very useful in the garden. Thankfully, I found a bit of time to drag the tree to my blueberry patch, where, wearing heavy duty gloves, I cut it to shreds with garden pruners. I then spread the needles around the shrubs, where they will serve as mulch and, hopefully, acidify the soil a bit -- blueberries love acidic soil, and pine is a mild acidifier.
When I got most of the needles off the tree, I replaced what was left of the tree on the curb. (Note: I learned the hard way not to save the trunk and branches as firewood: pine sap tends to explode when heated, which can be dangerous and destructive).
I admit it feels a bit weird to hack apart a Christmas tree. The skeleton that now remains on my curbside is undoubtedly going to make some passersby wonder what the heck we Zydeks do in our house during the Christmas season. On the other hand, recycling my tree is such a beautiful way to continue celebrating Christmas long after December 25 -- that evergreen tree symbolizing eternal life will now also symbolize resurrection as breaks down in the soil, giving new life to other plants.
It's not too late to recycle your tree! Pull it off the curb, clip off the boughs and place them on your garden beds as mulch. Or, save the clippings in a bag and let them age, spreading them as needed during warmer weather or adding them to your compost bin.

Guess the Critter

Guess the critter

One of the nice things about all of the fresh snow we're getting is that there are plenty of opportunities to find fresh critter tracks.

This critter can travel using a variety of gaits - walk, trot, lope or gallop.  It usually travels in a direct register gait. 

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Dreams Really Can Come True

Disney World, Dance, Poms

In about a month my poms team, Wauwatosa Esprit Pom and Dance, and I are going to the happiest place on earth to dance down Main Street USA. Needless to say I’m really excited.

Some people may think it’s slightly ridiculous that I have already started thinking about what I’m going to pack. But I just can’t help myself.

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It's Coming...

Friday Morning Music

Popular Culture

What better way to start your weekend than with this really nice acoustic piece by Patty Griffin...


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May poles and stripper poles

Mad Dog Saloon, Mayor Didier,

One of the great pleasures of growing older is tormenting people with your fond recollections of the past.

I, for example, can remember a time when the word "pole" brought to mind tether balls and the month of May.

The May pole was a quaint custom to welcome spring. Pretty ribbons were attached to the top of a pole, and young girls in sprightly frocks each held a free end. Music would start and we'd dance around the pole, half circling one way, the other half the other, weaving the ribbon around the pole.


They tried to make the boys do it too, but they rebelled and usually managed to muck up the dance by running wild, tangling things up hopelessly.

That reminds me of a political metaphor but I'll leave it to your imagination.

We danced the May pole on the first of May. That day, we also made little paper cones with pipe cleaner handles, filled them with flowers or candy, and left them on our neighbor's doors. It was a sign of goodwill and shared pleasure in the end of winter.

My sister and I made sure we left May baskets at Mrs. Tebo's door. She was one of those charming old ladies who kept you supplied with gum and cookies and did not yell at you for stepping on her grass.

Nowadays (signal for here it comes: the world going to hell in a handbasket!! statement), young girls are more likely to be familiar with stripper poles. Mylie Cyrus announced her move to adulthood by gyrating on one. Oprah and lady magazines like Redbook endorse them for their audiences of earnest, efficient women eager to burn calories and gain the attention of their husbands. There's even a movement to make pole dancing an Olympic sport.

And now Wauwatosa may be getting its own stripper poles at a place to be called Mad Dog Saloon. Dominic LaLicata wants to take over the Applebee's family restaurant on 68th and State, installing a large stage and poles.

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Save These Dates!

With the recent snows, it may be a good time to remind ourselves that spring will eventually come and Tosans will once again emerge from hibernation to take part in the many activities that make this such a great place to live. 

Here are a few dates you will definitely want to mark on your calendar:

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Joe Bartolotta @ St. Bernard's Annual Spaghetti Dinner Feb.5

~Join Us!  Bring family and friends.  All are welcome~

The Annual Spaghetti Dinner Catered by Joe Bartolotta & sponsored by the Athletic Association

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Scams Still Exist


Scam artists remain persistent and are getting inventive in their approach. One constant remains however; unknowing victims are cooperating with those doing the scamming by responding to their suspicious solicitations.

Scam artists are becoming more popular and the reason is simple. Technology is making it very easy to get information to large groups of people, or in this case potential victims. Whether using e-mail, conventional mail, or the telephone, mass communication is easier than ever.

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Sunday, January 30: Wauwatosa Catholic School! Sneak Peek!

Wauwatosa Catholic School, a partnership between St. Pius X Parish and St. Bernard Parish, the "Sneak Peek" to kick off Catholic Schools' Week is on Sunday, January 30th from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. (following the 10 a.m. Mass). 

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Bartolotta...+ Annual Spaghetti Dinner = FUN!

~Join Us!  Bring family and friends.  All are welcome~

The Annual Spaghetti Dinner Catered by Joe Bartolotta & sponsored by the Athletic Association

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