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Appreciating our county supervisors

The recent brouhaha over salary increases to Ozaukee County supervisors brought some interesting issues to light.  The proposed increases of 13.3% for supervisors and 51% for the Board Chairperson fell six votes short of the 2/3 majority required by state statute.  Some of the debate comments were enlightening.  Supervisor Dave Barrow from Cedarburg argued that the raise was necessary to attract qualified supervisory candidates in the future.  That’s 180 degrees from my perspective as an elected official for some eleven years.  Good people are attracted to public service usually to give something back to their community, not for the compensation.  In fact, I believe it works the other way – a large compensation package attracts the mediocre and often incompetent who see the salary as a way to improve their life style.  One need look no further than many full time elected officials in this State to confirm this observation.  So when Supervisor Barrow states “People don’t appreciate what they don’t pay for”, I reply, “People are happy they don’t get all the government they are already paying for.”

Supervisor Bob Walerstein raised the question, “Are we martyrs?” apparently referring to supervisors’ current compensation as inadequate.  Is he correct?  We can examine this question by comparing compensation levels of local equivalent elected officials, namely aldermen.  Having been a Mequon alderman and a county supervisor I feel competent to say that the aldermanic position had a larger workload and a bigger responsibility to my constituents than did my supervisor position.   Here’s a comparison of current compensation levels of these elected positions on an annual basis.:

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Parks are not the cause of high taxes-2

Often when there’s a debate over holding the line on taxes, County Park operations are brought up, as if Park expenditures are the fault for our high tax burden. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Last year, for every $100 that a Milwaukee resident paid in total property taxes, only $1.62 went to fund the 15,000-acre park system.

For 2008, the County Executive proposes cutting taxes devoted to Parks by 5.86%, compared to this year. The County Board’s Finance Committee alternative would impose a $24.2 million levy which amounts to a $2.1 million increase over this year’s budget. That increase would equate to an additional $4.41 on the annual property tax bill for a family living in a $130,000 house.

Neither funding alternative reaches the $26.9 million levy that was devoted to Parks in 1983. You read that right: the County is funding Parks at a level that’s less than what existed 25 years ago!

From 1983 to 2007, the County’s overall tax levy grew by 112%, outpacing inflation. Yet, during that same time, the County cut the Parks portion of that levy by 18.3%.

Our Parks aren’t the cause of high property taxes. Don’t let anyone tell you different.

Give the Gift of Beer

Some of you will laugh at me for this, but I encourage you to read the entire post first.  Beer as a holiday gift, or as part of a gift, can be a huge hit for beer lovers and non-beer lovers alike.  It's all about how you package it.

Here are some ideas:

A New Take on an Old Classic
Put a new twist on the age-old fruit basket by adding beer to the equation.  Many specialty beers are garnished with citrus and other types of fruits.  Load a basket with a few oranges and a couple bottles of Blue Moon and Leinie's Sunset Wheat.  Add some lemons, limes and a few bottles of Hofbrau Weiss, Corona or Modelo.

A Gift that Sizzles
For the culinary-inclined, check out a beer cookbook like The Beer Cook Book by Susan Nowak or The Beer Makes it Better Cook Book by Maria Russell.  Add a few beers and ingredients to the package and it makes a perfect gift.  Or get really creative and include a nice dish, utensils or other cooking-related gifts as part of a cooking with beer basket.

Glass with Class
From flutes and goblets to snifters and mugs, different types of beers require different types of glasses.  For a true beer enthusiast or for those who like to entertain, include a set or two of glassware and the beers best served in each.  Package pint glasses with Anchor Steam Porter and Bells Kalamazoo Stout, pilsner glasses with Pilsner Urquell, and wheat beer glasses with Leinie's Sunset Wheat.

A Winning Pair
To satisfy a sweet-toothed beer lover, look no further than the local specialty grocer.  Just as champagne pairs with strawberries, dark rich beers pair well with dark rich chocolates.  Create a gift box filled with imported dark chocolates and a few bottles of Breckenridge Vanilla Porter or Negra Modelo.

The Beer that Keeps on Giving

Create a customized beer of the month club.  Place the first of the beers under the tree along with details on the club and the remaining beers that will arrive at the lucky recipient's doorstep.  Get creative and choose a theme.  Focus on varieties of a specific type of beer (follow a wheat trend by giving 12 different wheat beers like Leinie's Sunset Wheat and Capital Island Wheat), choose a craft brewer and give 12 different beers made by that brewer (Lakefront Brewing Co., Bells Brewing, or Great Lakes Brewing Co.), or look for the most interesting beer names and give 12 varieties of uniquely named beer.

There are so many ways to have fun with beer as a gift.  Some may even appreciate a simple six-pack with a bow set under the tree.  But, if you're looking for a way to personalize a gift this year, beer is the way to go!

With a Little Help From Our Friends - Park Statuary Preservation Efforts by Citizen Groups

 

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Take the Tour

Maybe you’ve got friends or family in from out of town.  Or maybe you've just got an afternoon to kill.  Whatever the reason – and you don’t really need one – checking out some of our local brewery tours is great, inexpensive fun.

Not only do you get to see where and exactly how some of your favorite hometown beer is born, you’ll undoubtedly come away with some trivia to enlighten your friends or boss with.

Here are two popular options:

LAKEFRONT BREWERY, 1872 N. Commerce St.
Web site: www.lakefrontbrewery.com
They’re not joking when they call this tour “infamous.”  Most Friday and Saturday tours sell out fast and even faster when there’s a Brewer’s game or Summerfest is on, so come early and be prepared to wait in line.  That said, there’s a reason this tour sells out.  First, it’s a great value. For $5 you get a souvenir Lakefront glass and four beer vouchers to use as you go through the tour.  Secondly, the tour guides are hilarious and keep the mood light and fun.  While the beers available for sampling during the tour change by season, you can usually count on Riverwest Stein, Eastside Dark and Cattail Ale being on tap.
Details:  Tours are $5 and are held at 3 p.m. Monday – Thursday; additional tours are offered on Fridays at 5:30, 6, 6:30, 7 and 7:30 p.m.  These additional Friday tours are $10 but they come with a $5 coupon for the brewery’s restaurant, Lakefront Palm Garden.  Saturday tours ($5) are at 1, 1:30, 2, 2:30 and 3 p.m.  A special tour detailing the brewery’s efforts to be an environmentally friendly operation are guided by president Russ Klisch and begin at 3:30 p.m. on Fridays.  No reservations taken.
December tours extended:  As an early holiday gift, Lakefront is adding more tours the their regular schedule at the end of the month.  Dec. 24 – 27 and 31 at 1, 2, and 3 p.m.  And on Dec. 28, tours will run every half hour from 1 – 7:30 p.m.

MILLER BREWING COMPANY, 4251 W. State St.
Web site: www.millerbrewing.com
First off, this one is FREE.  It lasts about an hour and includes an informative video and up-close look at the brew house and the company’s brewing process, packaging center and historical caves.  The tour concludes with some frosty beer sampling in the Miller Inn or if weather permits, in the beer garden.  Some of the beers up for sampling will include Miller Lite, Miller Genuine Draft and High Life.
Details:  Tours generally run from 10:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday.  That said, the tour schedule is updated daily so before you head down, call 931-BEER for exact times.   For groups of 15 or more call 414-931-3552 for reservations (not available on Saturdays).

So, what's my next topic on tap?  Yours.

Since September, I’ve offered my opinion, tips and ideas of all things beer on this blog.  Now, it’s time to hear from you.

Got a beer topic you’d like me to tackle?  A mystery of the malt, barely and hops that you need unraveled?  Send me an email about it to wowbeerguy@gmail.com.

I can’t say I’ll address every inquiry but if it’s something I think others will find value in learning about, I’ll give it a go and post what I know/learn here.
 

How Much Should Inventors Disclose About Their Invention?

 
The Northshore Inventors and Entrepreneurs Club which meets the fourth Tuesday of every month at the Frank L. Weyenburg Mequon Thiensville Library at 5:30 p.m. (Our club will meet next on January 22nd.) This month’s discussion topic will be "Getting a New Invention to Market". For more information, visit our Inventor's Club Homepage at www.milwaukeepatents.com

How Much Should Inventors Disclose About Their Invention?

One recurring question that often comes up at Inventors’ Club Meetings is “how much can I disclose about my invention?”Inventors come to the club hoping to get marketing leads and manufacturing assistance.  They don’t intend to accidentally forfeit legal options or dedicate their right to make and use their invention to the public domain.The topic of this column is to explain what the rules are for telling others about your invention, without forfeiting patent rights.     The Effect of a Public Disclosure of Your InventionThe general rule is that “publicly disclosing” your invention before you file a patent application to protect it can limit your patent rights.   A public disclosure means telling anyone how to make and use your invention, other than someone who is a co-inventor or obligated to keep your invention secret.  This includes co-workers, spouses and anyone else who promises to keep it under their hat.A public disclosure of an invention can have implications for your right to file a patent, both in the U.S. and abroad.  In the U.S., a clock starts ticking after a public disclosure.  You must file a patent application within one year of making the disclosure or your invention will be dedicated to the public domain, meaning that you no longer have the right to obtain patent protection.  Countries outside the U.S. do not have a one year grace period; you lose your right to file a patent outside the U.S. immediately upon making a public disclosure, unless you already have a pending U.S. application.In a nutshell, you want to avoid making public disclosures before filing for patent protection whenever possible.  There are two ways to do this, as discussed below.  One ways is operate under a Nondisclosure Agreement (NDA).  The other way is to make sure your disclosure is “non-enabling.”     Using a Nondisclosure AgreementOne way you can avoid making a public disclosure of your invention is by having the person to whom you are disclosing the invention sign a “Nondisclosure Agreement.”  This is an Agreement that imposes an obligation of secrecy upon the person you tell about your invention. I have a free “open source” Nondisclosure Form posted on my website at http://www.milwaukeepatents.com/learnpatents.html in Microsoft Word format you can edit.  I’ve also included some instructions as to how you can complete it (as well as a disclaimer that I am not forming an attorney-client relationship with you by providing this document!).There a few major drawbacks to the Nondisclosure Agreement approach. One limitation is that these Agreements may be impractical and expensive to enforce if someone breaches them.  These Agreements are a far more ambiguous form of protection than a filed patent application.Another drawback is that investors and companies that you may want to approach may decline to sign them.   (Other times the companies will simply have you sign their own form.)Finally, you need to be aware that Nondisclosure Agreements do not protect you from all forms of public disclosure.  Specifically, if you make an “offer for sale,” the one-year clock to file an application starts ticking regardless of whether a Nondisclosure Agreement is in place.  The term “offer for sale” is construed very broadly; even telling people your product will be on the market in the future, without pricing or other specifics may constitute an offer for sale.                  Safely Making “Non-enabling” Disclosures Sometimes you may want or need to communicate about your unprotected invention, but it is not practical to get a Nondisclosure Agreement (e.g., having everyone at I&E Club Meeting sign one).  In this is the case, you need to make sure that your disclosure is not “enabling.”  An enabling disclosure is one which gives someone enough information to make and use your invention.  Generally, you can tell people your field of invention (e.g., “consumer electronics” or “software”).  You can also discuss the problem you are working on solving (e.g., “saving energy” or “bio-terrorism” or “a new consumer product”).  You can also provide your target market (e.g., “business users” or “teens”). This information gives people enough information to get a sense of your goals, but is not generally not enough information to constitute a public disclosure and affect your patent rights.Does this sound complicated?  It is not really, but it does require you to plan and think before you speak about your invention.Here is an example I give at my I&E clubs to explain about enabling and non-enabling disclosures: A non-enabling disclosure (good!):  I am working on an electronic device that promotes weight loss.”An enabling disclosure (which is the kind you don’t want to make):  I am working on a refrigerator door handle that produces an electric shock.”If in doubt, ask our I&E club facilitators or an attorney to help you describe your invention in non-enabling terms.When You Want to Publicly Disclose…One of the great advantages of filing a patent application is that the patent pending status gives you more freedom to talk about your invention and to market it.  In fact, many aspects of the patent process are intended precisely to give you that freedom! Remember:  Don’t rely on this blog as legal advice for your situation.  

How Much Should Inventors Disclose?

 
The Northshore Inventors and Entrepreneurs Club which meets the fourth Tuesday of every month at the Frank L. Weyenburg Mequon Thiensville Library at 5:30 p.m. (Our club will meet next on January 22nd.) This month’s discussion topic will be "Getting a New Invention to Market". For more information, visit our Inventor's Club Homepage at www.milwaukeepatents.com
 How Much Should Inventors Disclose About Their Invention?

One recurring question that often comes up at Inventors’ Club Meetings is “how much can I disclose about my invention?”

Inventors come to the club hoping to get marketing leads and manufacturing assistance.  They don’t intend to accidentally forfeit legal options or dedicate their right to make and use their invention to the public domain.

The topic of this column is to explain what the rules are for telling others about your invention, without forfeiting patent rights.

The Effect of a Public Disclosure of Your Invention

The general rule is that “publicly disclosing” your invention before you file a patent application to protect it can limit your patent rights.   A public disclosure means telling anyone how to make and use your invention, other than someone who is a co-inventor or obligated to keep your invention secret.  This includes co-workers, spouses and anyone else who promises to keep it under their hat.

A public disclosure of an invention can have implications for your right to file a patent, both in the U.S. and abroad.  In the U.S., a clock starts ticking after a public disclosure.  You must file a patent application within one year of making the disclosure or your invention will be dedicated to the public domain, meaning that you no longer have the right to obtain patent protection.  Countries outside the U.S. do not have a one year grace period; you lose your right to file a patent outside the U.S. immediately upon making a public disclosure, unless you already have a pending U.S. application.

In a nutshell, you want to avoid making public disclosures before filing for patent protection whenever possible.  There are two ways to do this, as discussed below.  One ways is operate under a Nondisclosure Agreement (NDA).  The other way is to make sure your disclosure is “non-enabling.”

Using a Nondisclosure Agreement

One way you can avoid making a public disclosure of your invention is by having the person to whom you are disclosing the invention sign a “Nondisclosure Agreement.”  This is an Agreement that imposes an obligation of secrecy upon the person you tell about your invention. I have a free “open source” Nondisclosure Form posted on my website at http://www.milwaukeepatents.com/learnpatents.html in Microsoft Word format you can edit.  I’ve also included some instructions as to how you can complete it (as well as a disclaimer that I am not forming an attorney-client relationship with you by providing this document!).
There a few major drawbacks to the Nondisclosure Agreement approach. One limitation is that these Agreements may be impractical and expensive to enforce if someone breaches them.  These Agreements are a far more ambiguous form of protection than a filed patent application.

Another drawback is that investors and companies that you may want to approach may decline to sign them.   (Other times the companies will simply have you sign their own form.)

Finally, you need to be aware that Nondisclosure Agreements do not protect you from all forms of public disclosure.  Specifically, if you make an “offer for sale,” the one-year clock to file an application starts ticking regardless of whether a Nondisclosure Agreement is in place.  The term “offer for sale” is construed very broadly; even telling people your product will be on the market in the future, without pricing or other specifics may constitute an offer for sale.

            Safely Making “Non-enabling” Disclosures

Sometimes you may want or need to communicate about your unprotected invention, but it is not practical to get a Nondisclosure Agreement (e.g., having everyone at I&E Club Meeting sign one). 

In this is the case, you need to make sure that your disclosure is not “enabling.”  An enabling disclosure is one which gives someone enough information to make and use your invention. 

Generally, you can tell people your field of invention (e.g., “consumer electronics” or “software”).  You can also discuss the problem you are working on solving (e.g., “saving energy” or “bio-terrorism” or “a new consumer product”).  You can also provide your target market (e.g., “business users” or “teens”). This information gives people enough information to get a sense of your goals, but is not generally not enough information to constitute a public disclosure and affect your patent rights.

Does this sound complicated?  It is not really, but it does require you to plan and think before you speak about your invention.

Here is an example I give at my I&E clubs to explain about enabling and non-enabling disclosures:

A non-enabling disclosure (good!):  I am working on an electronic device that promotes weight loss.”

An enabling disclosure (which is the kind you don’t want to make):  I am working on a refrigerator door handle that produces an electric shock.”

If in doubt, ask our I&E club facilitators or an attorney to help you describe your invention in non-enabling terms.

 When You Want to Publicly Disclose…

One of the great advantages of filing a patent application is that the patent pending status gives you more freedom to talk about your invention and to market it.  In fact, many aspects of the patent process are intended precisely to give you that freedom!

Remember:  I'm blogging here, not acting as your attorney; don’t rely on this blog as legal advice for your situation.

 

New park patrol program will enhance security for park patrons

The Milwaukee County Executive’s 2008 Recommended Budget proposed the creation of a Park Patrol.  On Monday, November 5, the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors supported the creation of a Park Patrol when they passed the 2008 Adopted Budget. 

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Reducing the Size of the County Board

The “Reduce the Size of the County Board” syndrome is back again after a short hiatus.  This time it is apparently driven by a constituent of Cedarburg Supervisor Kathie Geracie who is allegedly threatening a referendum campaign to reduce the Board from 31 to 7.   What a disaster that plan would be for the residents of Ozaukee County. 

Instead of 31 community minded part-time supervisors, we’d end up with 7 full-timers.  Some may think that will improve efficiency but one need only to observe that a dictatorship is probaby the most efficient form of government.  Believe me in a democracy there is safety in numbers.  Democracy is basically a messy process, but one that works when it involves a willingness of the people to participate in their own government to a maximum extent. 

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NATIONAL SECURITY, INTELLIGENCE and TORTURE

The whole issue of our national security and how to insure it, seems to be up for debate on a daily basis. We depend on our intelligence community to constantly be ahead of the curve in learning and interpreting the signs before a threat becomes a reality. They use every high tech approach available – from spy satellites to electronic interceptions, but nothing beats the spy on the ground or the information gleaned from a captured terrorist.

How we get information from a captured terrorist is a debate that is roiling the country. Is torture appropriate if it means saving innocent lives? Just what qualifies as the definition of torture anyway?

I went to my "World Book Dictionary" and extracted the definition of torture as: "the act of inflicting very severe pain." We can all cite examples that include beatings with implements, extracting finger nails, branding with hot irons and hanging backward from the shoulders. These kinds of treatments leave permanent marks and disabilities for a lifetime.

How about water boarding, a very effective technique for extracting information? Does water boarding meet the definition of torture? No, water boarding does not inflict very severe pain leaving permanent scars and disabilities. Rather, it is a psychological experience wherein a person’s mind believes he is drowning under a wave of water being poured on his face. In contrast to the technique used during the Spanish Inquisition when the head was held under water, the current method incurs little danger of drowning. Other psychological techniques used to extract information include continuous loud music, disrupting sleep, humiliating treatment and solitary confinement. The latter are long term psychological treatments, whereas water boarding apparently produces almost instantaneous results. None of the many psychological treatments leave any permanent physical damage.

As the debate regarding water boarding rages in the US Congress we now learn that the same members of Congress who approved and encouraged this technique after 9/11 are now opposed. This confuses me because they offer no logical explanation except they now apparently believe that it will help win elections. What a sorry rationale!

I can see carrying the torture debate into new areas. All of us have our own definition. In the psychological field I might consider being exposed to Senator Hillary Clinton’s cackle or Roseann singing our National Anthem, for hours at a time, a form of torture, although no severe physical pain is involved. On the other hand, the use of a Taser by our law enforcement agencies certainly meets the dictionary definition of torture, since it inflicts severe physical pain to the recipient. If you’ve seen the tape of the driver dropped by a patrolman with screams of anguish or the student’s strident cry: "Don’t Tase me Bro," you know that real pain was inflicted. To see for yourself just click on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6bVa6jn4rpE and/or http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,312466,00.html.

One might wonder why Senator Harry Reid isn’t carrying on about the use of Tasers compared to his rants against water boarding. A Taser is used because it creates instantaneous results and is supposedly non-lethal but it does inflict severe pain. Actually 150 deaths have been reported in the 2001-2005 period of persons who were Tasered. Water boarding is used because it brings almost instantaneous results, does not inflict severe pain and no deaths have been reported from its usage. How is it that we can embrace Tasering (severe pain and often lethal) and yet oppose water boarding (no pain and not lethal)? Very puzzling!

I have some other ideas for extracting information from captured terrorists. I’ve always considered that a prostate exam or a colonoscopy is a form of torture. Why hasn’t the CIA thought about inflicting two prostate exams or a colonoscopy every day on the hard cases? In less than a week, they’d get all the information they ever wanted – and without a single complaint from Congress.

In summary, why can’t we all agree that physical torture per its dictionary definition is out-of-bounds, but psychological techniques, including water boarding, used within specific bounds and national security necessities, are acceptable.

CODA:

While I’m on the subject of intelligence and national security, the lack of logic emanating from the halls of Congress frustrates me. We’ve all read and heard for several years now, how bad the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) was when it stated that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction – and thereby resulted in a faulty decision to invade Iraq. Now that same clientele who pounded that NIE have embraced the latest NIE that Iran has halted their nuclear weapons program – although they are still going all-out with their nuclear enrichment project which produces the main elements to create A-bombs. I can only conclude that the NIE’s are used as a convenient crutch to support one’s political position to gain votes and win elections. What a shame when American citizens can’t count on their elected representatives in Congress to subvert their politics to put the security of their country first!

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