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The Little Melon that Could


Did you know that your garden variety watermelon is loaded with important antioxidants?

Not only is it an excellent source of vitamin C - but it is a very good source of vitamin A.  These powerful antioxidants travel through the body neutralizing free radicals.  (Take that Abbie Hoffman)

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Goodbye, Wauwatosa!

travel, college, Milwaukee

            Absence makes the heart grow fonder – probably one of the most clichéd phrases out there, but like most clichés, it is extremely true. This summer I’ve spent almost as much time out of state as I have at home, and even though I loved all of the exciting trips I took, they have also shed light on a scary truth: now that I’ve just moved to Washington D.C. (on Friday!) I’m really, really going to miss Milwaukee.

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Thursday Morning Music

Popular Culture

Nice guitar riffs and a cool 1973 intro...


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The Magic Curb

Strange But True, Life In Tosa

Just this past Monday some buddies and I were grilling and tipping a few brewskis and we got to talking about our experiences with the Magic Curb.

Huh?  Magic Curb?

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Presidential interference with the schools?

The start of the school year is always filled with anticipation and dread.

The good stuff: new notebooks and crayons, seeing friends you missed during the summer that, even you had to admit, had gone on a couple weeks too long. That first day of school outfit, carefully selected: you hoped it would establish you as eligible for greater popularity than you had last year.

One of the things I dreaded was the 600 yard run. Back in the day, one of the first things we did in physical education classes--after we'd hand-embroidered our names on our grotesque gym suits--was complete testing for The President's Council on Physical Fitness.

Just about every kid in the nation did it. It wasn't considered unusual for the President to ask kids and parents to do things for the president, the nation, and themselves. It was assumed we knew we were supposed to get smart. But President Kennedy stepped in to remind us that our job also was to get fit. Even back in the 1960s, Americans were less active than our European (and worse still, our Soviet) counterparts.

The test we took involved 50-yard dashes, shuttle runs, sit-ups, pull-ups, and push-ups. I did great on the sprint events and the sit-ups. But I always failed the pull-ups and push-ups. Most girls did.

When it came to the 600 yard run, though, I'd usually pass out. Or worse, throw up. Neither of those things was cool, but either was better than coming in last. Which I did, now and then.

Having the test in the first weeks of school seemed a poor idea. Except for the kids who always excelled, most of us weren't prepared. I now know that I did so badly partly because I had undiagnosed asthma. And I now suspect that the test was done early so that teachers could demonstrate great improvement by the end of the year. You can't blame them for that.

The Council underwent a number of name changes, but since its inception during the Eisenhower years, it's played a role in our national agendas. I still have a stack of President's fitness commendations my kids got at Underwood School not many years ago.

Maybe the best thing about being an older parent is having a sense of history, a longer perspective, and the willingness to think for yourself instead of letting your anxiety be pumped by the media. If you're one of the parents who's overwrought about the notion that the President of the United States would want to encourage kids to do well in school, you might want to do your own homework.

In his speech to school children next Tuesday, is President Obama going to try to manipulate students into developing pride in education ? You betcha. Will it make him look good if he succeeds? Who cares, as long as our children benefit?

The children in the Elmbrook school district are being "protected" from this speech. I hope ours get to hear it and talk about it with their parents, friends, and teachers.

The idea of sound minds in strong bodies has always been understood as desirable, and leaders have always called for us to do better.

It's called patriotism.

It's also a darn good idea.

Nice Move Dr Ertl Nice Move

Wauwatosa Schools will not be showing President Obama's political speech to school students live.  Dr Ertl - Thank you and I agree 1000%.

Teachers will watch it later and decide if they want to include it as part of their classroom activities.

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Journey to my next Smart Phone

smart phone, palm pre, google android, blackberry, crowdsource, wisdom of the crowd

I need to replace my Blackberry Curve (8810).  I'm going to do it in January.  So my journey to the my next smart phone begins with the post.

My two year AT&T contract ends in January so I'll have the opportunity to buy a new phone for a discounted price with yet another 2 year contract.  The real driving reason is that my current Blackberry has been dropped too many times.  The latex protective skin not only protects it from future damage, it also literally keeps the thing together.  The end result is that it reminds me of Arnold Schwaznegger in the original terminator when his face was half-off and exposing the machinery and circuitry that is underneath the surface.  Otherwise, my Blackberry has served me well over the last 20 months.

The Choices
I categorize my options like this (no particular order):
1. new model Blackberry
2. Palm Pre
3. iPhone
4. Other (e.g. Google Android, a high-end Nokia phone, or a Windows Mobile-based phone, or something else).

The Requirements
My requirements fall into three major categories:
1. Functionality
    - Must be able to access the Web at 3G speeds or greater
    - Must support all traditional Personal Information Management (PIM) functionality like:

  • Calendar
  • Addressbook
  • Tasks
  • Notes

    - Must support Multimedia:

  • 2.0mpx camera or better WITH a FLASH!
  • ability to play video files and videos from YouTube (or other online video streams)
  • MP3 player
  • Voice Recording

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The Big Kahuna

Gardening, Gas Pains

Did you know that the People's Republic of China is the world's largest producer of cabbage?

Yep.  36,335,000 tons of the stuff in 2008. 

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Silly season: the over-reaction epidemic

Bud Grose, politics, kids

Forget H1N1: worry about the over-reaction epidemic.

The town of Glenrock, Wyoming, is smaller than the town my grandfather lived in. But when I visited Canton, South Dakota, as a college student, everyone knew that they didn't know me.

"Who's this young lady, Otto?" the clerk asked. "She's my granddaughter," he said, his eyes twinkling. The woman looked a little nonplussed. "Didn't know Dort had kids that old," she said.

"Naw. Not Dort's. I done it twice, you know," he said, taking my arm and the groceries. Before dinner, everyone in town knew my grandfather had been married more than once, and the proof of the pudding was in his living room. The community alert system was activated, and a contingent of the more boldly curious among them knocked at the door. They wanted to take a peek.

I bring this up because as much as times may have changed, it's hard to believe that the Glenrock police officers who tasered 76-year-old Bud Grose didn't know him pretty well when he and a 9-year-old neighbor took his 1959 John Deer tractor on a little detour during the annual Deer Creek Days parade.

It's hard to believe that two young police officers would think they'd need to escalate to using shock weapons to subdue an old man and a little boy, both members of the community.

You'd think that when they couldn't get the pair to change course, they'd figure out the situation might lead to a little traffic confusion and head off to make the best of it. And then scold Bud over the pulled pork and coleslaw later. Maybe write a little ticket, come to that. Or talk to his kids to make sure something wasn't going on with Mr. Grose.

That's how things work when people know each other and have a little common sense.

It's not so hard to believe that Mr. Grose or the boy who was driving might have more than tapped the police SUV that got in their way. Okay: let's say they might have rammed it, as the police say they did. Though I can't imagine my grandfather doing that with his favorite tractor. Still, you never know what's going to happen when folks get their testosterone up.

That's not right either, though you can imagine how satisfying it might be in a frustrated Towanda! sort of way. In my book, damage to vehicles is not as bad as damage to human beings.

Does it seem like people have lost their ability to distinguish what's a little bad from what's a lot bad? What's worth being watchful about and what demands bringing out the tasers or crowds with burning torches?

I'm thinking about the "silly season" response to President Obama's speech to school children. One BrookfieldNow commenter said:

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Lost & Found

Most young children have one:  it is often a blanket, a little pillow or a stuffed animal.  There are a number of terms for these treasured friends: comfort object, transitional object, security object, security blanket and blankie are the most common, even when it isn’t a blanket. 

Charles M. Schulz’s Linus van Pelt in the popular Peanuts comic strip, Kevin Henkes’ Owen in a book of the same name, Marc Brown’s D.W. in the Arthur series and Paulette Bourgeois’ Franklin from Franklin’s Blanket are popular characters who love and carry security blankets.  Mo Willems wrote two charming picture books about the mayhem that ensues when a little girl loses her “knuffle bunny” in Knuffle Bunny, A Cautionary Tale and Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity.   

When a “security blanket” is lost, the family, often frantic, will spend a serious amount of time trying to find it.  Not so with everyday items such as coats, sweaters, hats, boots, shoes, toys and school supplies.  Every three to four months, a librarian from the Children’s Department has to remove items from the “Lost & Found” bin that have been left in the library for longer than four months.  The same happens in the Circulation Department.  If possible, library staff will attempt to identify and contact the owner of an item.  Since that isn't always possible, if you think you have lost something in the library, give us a call, we would be happy to help you try to find it.   

 More picture books about security objects: 

The Blanket That Had To Go by Nancy Evans Cooney
The Blanket by John Burningham
Caillou : Where is Teddy? by Joceline Sanschagrin
I Lost My Bear by Jules Feiffer
La La Rose by Satomi Ichikawa
Love, Your Bear, Pete by Dyan Sheldon
Night-night, Emily! by Claire Freedman
by Kathy Mallat
Olivia-- and the Missing Toy by Ian Falconer
Pippo Gets Lost by Helen Oxenbury
Plaidypus Lost
by Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel

Living la Vida Local

I love the whole “live local” movement that’s happening throughout the country and, in particular, in our little City of Wauwatosa. The Village BID, for example, has rolled out a Live Local program encouraging folks to eat, shop, work and play in the village in order to create jobs and promote community development. (To find out how to get a Live Local membership card with discount privileges, go to

Buying local is so easy to do, when you have great retail shops and restaurants within walking distance. Being a locavore – or eating locally grown foods – has been a bit more of a challenge. For one thing, in our house we love bananas and shellfish, not exactly products of the Midwest. Secondly, we’ve been missing our local farmers market, which didn’t survive numerous moves. 

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Say WHO? Said WHAT?

The email from a dog park friend starts like this:

One of Bob Oster's CEO friends wrote this. Bob respects him highly. . .

I have no idea who Bob Oster is. But with the title "My 6 month evaluation of the Obama presidency," I know what to expect. It's a scary negative performance review, with a long list of failures, disapointments, and worse.

I'll only share one:

21.         Failing to support the freedom-loving citizens in Honduras and Iran (and instead, giving comfort to their dictators) to say nothing of his ineffectiveness with North Korea and anti-Israeli pronouncements.

If anything makes me crazy, it's written information people circulate without attributing the writer. It took about 30 seconds to find the name of this "anonymous" author: Jimmy V. Adams.

Adams is a principal in L3 Communications. If you didn't know he was a retired 4-star general, you might think that's a public relations firm. Knowing that, you're not surprised to find out that it's a defense contractor, supplying command, control, surveillance, and reconnaissance. Not just any contractor: with 66,000 employees, it's the 6th largest defense contractor in the US, with revenues in the range of $15 billion last year.

As the company's annual report states, rather dryly, "The defense industry has been a steady performer through all economic climates." Like any publicly traded company, its goal is growth. I don't much like to think about what steady growth in the defense industry means, but there you go.

Anyway, I'd never heard of L3 Communications. Though I have heard of Lehman Brothers, the third L in the name, and some of the companies L3 has swallowed whole or in part:  Lockheed, Martin Marietta, Titan, and a chunk of Raytheon. Having a name that's not especially memorable helps when you get sued for letting your employees abuse prisoners at Abu Gharaib. Nobody makes the connection.

When you start peeling these onions, one layer leads to the next. I could go on and on and on. But this time I'll spare you.

The point is, check the source of your information. What somebody's smart friend thinks might be a little colored by his circumstances. You may agree with Jimmy V, but you should know who he is and why he might be saying what he's saying.

Reaping What We Sow

Gardening, Parenting

The President spoke to the children yesterday. 

Did you notice that the end of times didn't suddenly materialize.  I checked and saw no little school children walking about like miniature zombies.

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Melanie Oudin and How Tennis Saved My Life

Sports, Personal

Seems like the whole world has fallen in love with 17-year old tennis sensation Melanie Oudin. Me too. She’s so gosh-darn cute and has that refreshing “gee whiz” quality that is sorely lacking in most of today’s teenagers. Even my mom, who NEVER watches tennis, mentioned to me her admiration of Oudin. That’s my barometer of whether somebody’s hit the big time – if mom has heard of them.

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Great Lakes Water Institute (Pictures) PART DEUX & TOSA FEST!!!

     Just a quick reminder as we roll into another gorgeous weekend... St. Bernard Home and School will once again provide delicious buttery corn in the Village at Tosa Fest this weekend.  'Ears to tradition!

     We hope to see you on Friday night or anytime on Saturday! 

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Friday Morning Lou

Popular Culture

One of my all time favorite songs.

And all time favorite artists -  Mr. Velvet Underground himself...

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Schooling Amanda: who decides?

Kurowski/Voydatch, Cal Thomas, kids, schools, politics

I'm feeling a little sorry for Wauwatosa school superintendent Phil Ertl. In deciding to forbid real-time viewing of a presidential speech, he's opened the door further for groups of parents with special interests to approve or censor curricula. And that can be a real headache.

Imagine trying to get consensus about anything except, maybe, math. Not enough of us understand that well enough to have political opinions about which math facts are dangerous.

Who should determine what's the right educational content for kids? What's the proper political stance for school? Who decides?  Parents or the government?

It's a trick question, because parents are the government. We elect officials democratically, including school boards, and in order to have a well-functioning society, we agree to go along with the rule of the majority and the law.

Which raises the question whether the employee Ertl or the elected school board should have made that decision. But I digress.

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Check yourself before you wreck yourself

ego-surf, google alerts

Ever ego surf?  The term stems from an ego-centric viewpoint of searching for yourself online (literally).  In today's digital and virtual world the need to do it is above and beyond ego.  You definitely want to be aware of somebody publishing something about you online, especially if can be harmful to yourself, your family, your company, etc.  You also want to be aware of anything that you may have put out there that you didn't think everybody could see.

Go ahead.  Google yourself.  Anything surprising in the search results? 

Publishing on the internet transcends space and time.  Just about anyone, from any where, can write something about you at any time.  It is next to impossible to keep on top of it all.

Along comes Google Alerts

All you need is a gmail account.  You can setup automated searches that search for your name and it emails the links to you.  So, within a couple hours of my posting this blog entry, Google will find my name and send an email to me with a link to this posting. 

Beyond ego surfing, I find Alerts useful for searching for many things I am particularly interested in.  I setup alerts for:

  • every person in my family
  • the most common variants of mispelling my name
  • case studies on specific technology topics I am interested in
  • anything that mentions company names that I am interested in (particularly my own)

Today I read about the Whitewater Technology Park grant.  I just setup an alert with those exact words so that I can passively follow any other news about it.

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Late Night Blog Post

Go - Pack

Just returned from the Packer's season opener against the Bears.

Wasn't that game a nail-biter?  Holy cow - if this is what the Central Division is shaping-up to be it's going to  be a bruising season.

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Madcap Cooking and a Recipe

Terrific Cooking, Dangerous Kitchen Experiments

The ancestral apple trees on the farm are producing a bumper crop of fruit this year.  The result of which is that I've been putting-up apple products for the winter.  For starters there was a giant batch of pie filling.  There is apple butter too.

This past weekend I got to thinking - Tom, you need to put-up a bunch of applesauce.  There is nothing better than a pleasingly tart applesauce served with potato pancakes.  Or better yet - as a side to a pork tenderloin stuffed with that wonderful cherry and raisin stuffing.

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