Book Report: Webster Park: 1892-1992 by Wilda H. Swift and Cynthia S. Easterling (2003)

This book wasn’t even on my to-read shelves; I went to the library and actually checked it out. Since we moved to Old Trees from our twenty-year-old incorporated-out-of-convenience suburban municipality to an older town, I grew interested in the history of the area and whatnot. It’s an interesting set of neighborhoods with homes that don’t all look the same, and so I borrowed a couple of books.

This particular one deals with a land development that’s now a neighborhood not far from here and details the first 100 years of its existence with an essay about its origin and early years, an essay about the governor and the Nobel Prize winner who lived here, some early maps, and an inventory of the homes and when they were built.

I enjoyed the book, which was a quick enough read and lots of pretty pictures. It’s given me some architectural insight (I know what a gambrel roof is) and some historical knowledge (I know how Big Bend got its name). These are the sorts of things that make people wonder how I learned the trivia I know, and these are the sorts of books I read to get that knowledge.

Books mentioned in this review:


Critical Mass To Celebrate Anniversary, Beat Helpless Drivers

Here’s a nice, friendly fluff piece on tonight’s Critical Mass bike ride in San Francisco: Critical Mass celebrating 15 years of free-form bicycle advocacy:

    Tonight’s Critical Mass in San Francisco marks the 15th anniversary of the rebellious rolling ride that locally has propelled the bicycle movement into the political mainstream and globally has been copied by hundreds of cities.

I guess that means the regularly-scheduled automobile driver story will be tomorrow, then.

And “free-form” activism means “violence,” kinda like “activism” does nowadays. Check.

Headline Presents Passive Voice That Frees Authorities from Responsibility

Notice the difference between the headline and the actual story: Last of roaming bulls found dead:

    The bull was initially spotted in the 3800 block of Gasconade Street in St. Louis. People who spotted the bull called 911 and dispatchers alerted animal rescue workers.

    The bull nearly ran onto busy Interstate 55, but crews were able to coax it away from the highway. The bull then took off and ran for about two miles south along railroad tracks. Crews pursued but the bull eventually stumbled down the steep embankment.

    Crews tried to free the bull which had its legs twisted and wedged between boulders but the animal quickly went into shock and died.

    “It’s very disappointing,” said Roger Vincent of the Missouri Emergency Response Service. “We were hoping to save him and send him on his happy way.”

Oh, you sent him to a better place all right. These Animal Welfare Experts chased this livestock down a hill to its death.

If they were not Animal Welfare Expert Crews and were just normal people, do you think they’d be charged with animal cruelty?

I’m not saying they should be; I’m just saying that they probably could, unfortunately for those of us who are not experts.

From Downtown, It’s All High Ridge

Aged woman pulled from High Ridge fire:

    An elderly woman who could be heard screaming Friday from inside her burning mobile home moments before firefighters arrived, has died.

    High Ridge Fire District Chief Mike Arnhart said a neighbor called 911 and said she could hear the woman, who was in her 80s, screaming from inside the structure in the Brookside Estates trailer park in Fenton. Firefighters arrived around 2:21 a.m. and found the woman near a side door, Arnhart said.

Word to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Brookside Estates is not in either High Ridge nor Fenton. The region between Valley Dell Road or perhaps even Sugar Creek Road to the west and the St. Louis County Line is Murphy, or as my mother got into her head sometime Murphy Flats, although the area is not very flat at all.

The town of High Ridge is several miles to the west, although the border was generally considered Little Brennan or Sugar Creek Roads. Fenton, on the other hand, is a town inside St. Louis County and not in Jefferson County. It is, however, just over the hills from Brookside Estates.

And how do I know these things? Because for a number of years, I lived in Siesta Manor Mobile Home Park across Delores Drive from where this woman died, and in those years, that little mobile home park was my whole world.

Lost/Stolen Computer Tapes Only An Issue If Thief Wanted To Steal Computer Tapes

In the worst calming commentary I’ve ever seen, some computer person comments that the theft of computer backup tapes is really only an issue when the person who steals the tapes knows how to get the information from the tapes.

Which means you’re okay if the thief mistakenly thought the backup tapes were DVD players or something else you can sell for easy cash to any fence in the city.

Okay, then.

The danger in stolen computer tapes only happens when the burglar knowingly steals computer tapes.

All clear.

And I feel better.

Coming Soon: Municipal Fines for Zoning Violations

Vick Indicted on Dogfighting Charges:

    Michael Vick and three co-defendants were indicted by a grand jury Tuesday on state charges related to a dogfighting ring operated on Vick’s Virginia property.

    The grand jury passed on indicting the Atlanta Falcons quarterback and two of co-defendants on eight counts of animal cruelty, which would have exposed them to as many as 40 years in prison if convicted.

    Vick, who already pleaded guilty in federal court to a dogfighting conspiracy charge and is awaiting sentencing on Dec. 10, was indicted for beating or killing or causing dogs to fight other dogs and engaging in or promoting dogfighting.

Double jeopardy? No, ha ha! It’s different jurisdictions! So he’s being prosecuted for the same action, with the same crime name, but it’s not unconstitutional!

Ah, the innovations in the legal systems since our founding fathers put quill to paper. Not for our betterment, but it does wonders for prosecutors’ conviction rates.

Zombie Accelerator

You know the phrase “wouldn’t be caught dead in”? Doesn’t that phrase really identify the garment in question as some sort of zombie accelerator? I mean, seriously, if you’re planning your life-after-death, I guess it’s worthwhile to think what sort of outfit will make you faster and all, but I have better ways to spend my time.

Like making long almost-puns that amuse no one but myself.

(This musing based upon this post.)

Surveillance Cameras Add To Security….Of Police

In Britain, the land of the night of 1000 eyes, 80% of crime goes unsolved. Apparently, the police over there don’t use them to dispatch actual officers to dangerous situations, either:

    A SCHOOLBOY has been caught on CCTV brandishing what appears to be an AK47 machine gun on a railway station platform.

    The youngster, aged about 15, and a friend got the gun out of a bag and then allegedly aimed the weapon at a terrified crane driver working on the opposite side of the tracks at Newton Station in Hyde, Greater Manchester.

    Driver David Wood rang his boss who filmed the incident on CCTV cameras and called police.

    But after officers failed to turn up promptly, the youngsters disappeared.

So what are the cameras there for, if not to help solve crimes or to allow the police to dispatch officers to trouble spots immediately?

It’s all about budgets and shiny things for government bureaucracies.

(Link seen on The Other Side of Kim.)

The Skrulls Attack!

Alien foe imperils KC conventions:

    When the mayor named a 73-year-old grandmother to the city’s park board — which considers issues like off-leash dog areas and outdoor party permits — the move might have gone largely unnoticed.

    But Frances B. Semler’s appointment could now cost the city millions of dollars because she is a member of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, a group that advocates vigilante patrolling of the Mexican border and reports illegal immigrants to authorities.

    Her membership has drawn sharp criticism from the National Council of La Raza, the nation’s largest Hispanic advocacy group, and the NAACP. Both groups are threatening to show their displeasure by canceling conventions scheduled to be held in Kansas City.

Well, that’s disappointing; instead of a real alien foe, we’ve got the normal victim groups threatening Armageddon over a secure borders advocate, both of which call her a racist no doubt with no self-consciousness that their very groups work to isolate and elevate particular races by name (Colored People and The Race).

I almost wish it were the Skrulls, because at least they shape shift instead of forcing everything else to change shape to accommodate them.

Good Book Hunting: September 22, 2007

Good Book Hunting: September 22, 2007
This week, we went exclusively to yard sales and the local elementary school PTO rummage sale. Here’s what we got:


Old Trees Garage Sale books
Click for full size

  • A box of 94 comic books, including a number of Marvel mutant titles and GI Joe issues from the middle 1980s. They were marked a dime each or fifteen for a buck; how could I choose? I didn’t; I took the whole box, including the duplicates. I blame it on the fact that I watched Mallrats last night.
  • Zobmondo!, a collection of those silly question things to share with your partner.
  • The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy, because I am on a sudden 19th century British lit kick.
  • Barnaby Rudge by Charles Dickens, because I am on a sudden 19th century British lit kick. Honestly, I’d rather have handsome hardbound editions of both of these books, but if I need to read them first in paperback, so be it.
  • Test Your Lateral Thinking IQ; a quiz book for a quarter. Maybe it will feed my ego, maybe it will teach me something, but at worst it will only have cost a quarter.
  • A Guide to the Star Wars Universe; sure, it’s not the Star Wars portal on Wikipedia, but it’s a book, so I’ll be able to geek out after the apocalypse.
  • Babylon 5: The Coming of Shadows; I have seen like five minutes of Babylon 5 in my life, and I’m buying a book tie-in? I blame it on book-acquisition-drunkeness.
  • Stealing From The Rich; apparently, a true story of some financial skullduggery in the oil industry. I’ll learn something, surely.
  • Fabricated Man, a textbook on the ethics in creating life/genetic engineering and whatnot.
  • The Most of George Burns, a collection of several of George Burns’s books. I’ve not read any of his work, oddly, but I found his television show to be riotously funny half a century after it appeared on television.
  • Manhunt, the story of the twelve day hunt for Abraham Lincoln’s killers. I think I read an article, excerpt, or review of this book in a history magazine this year.
  • Winston & Clementine, Winston Churchill’s letters to his wife. Given his life, these must be very interesting. Still, I should probably read some of his formal writing that I have lying around here first.

Additionally I picked up a VHS copy of Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame to satisfy my own morbid curiosity, DVD copies of Independence Day and Stargate (at $2 each, but for charity), and a CD collection of Sarah Vaughan. Heather got some CDs (at a quarter each, we probably should have bought them all and just tried the other stuff out) and some cassettes. The boy got, through our agency, a number of Choose Your Own Adventures.

Well, that should hold me for a couple weeks scattered across the next couple of decades.

Book Report: The Sum of All Fears by Tom Clancy (1991)

Wow, this book is 16 years old now and its subject matter is as relevant as it was then. The plot, as you know, deals with a set of terrorists who get their hands on a lost nuclear weapon and smuggle it into the United States. That’s the first half. And if you didn’t know the rest of it, stop reading now.

Then they blow it up at the Superbowl in Denver, and the United States president thinks it’s the Russians, so the thing escalates into the brink of a nuclear war. Meanwhile, Jack Ryan struggles with the bureaucracy in the CIA and at the top levels of the government. Those struggles, and the inside baseball that goes with it, comprise much of the weight of this book.

The book compares with some of the classical literature I’ve read this year (The Three Musketeers particularly and somewhat with Anna Karenina) in that its cut scenes deal with a war and with a large cast working within and without of the government using intrigue and whatnot. However, this book is frightening in its possibility. Brother, after September 11, 2001, I had trouble watching the movie True Lies because it dealt with nuclear weapons smuggled into the US, and it’s not entertainment if it plays to my deepest fears.

But the book moves along well, and Clancy is a master at torquing up the tension, although the ultimate climax really goes on too long with the heated exchanges between the US and Russian presidents. Also, the book refers quite a bit to A Clear and Present Danger, which I have yet to read, so many of these allusions were lost on me. But a good thriller if you’re into that, and if you want to have nightmares about it.

I italicised Denver above, because the movie version set the Superbowl and the detonation in Baltimore, which holds with my thesis that terrorists could take liberty with pretty much anything between the Rockies and the Appalachians and nobody would care; obviously, Hollywood thought Denver was bucolic and backward enough that audiences wouldn’t feel the tension and the shocking sense of loss that Baltimore, on the east coast, inspires. Also, apparently, the movie changed the terrorists to Nazis or something. Although there’s an element of freelance non-Middle Easterners in the plot, make no mistake, it’s Palestinians who blow up the Superbowl. But I’ve only seen Patriot Games and The Hunt for Red October as movies and I’m not in a hurry to rectify that “oversight.”

I do have more Clancy on my shelves, comprising many shelf inches, so I’ll get to them sooner or later, and I don’t dread the prospect.

Books mentioned in this review:


In Unrelated News

Now that New York, the state, is planning to issue driver’s licenses without proof of residency:

    They were celebrating outside the governor’s office Friday as Eliot Spitzer handed a landmark victory to a half-million illegal immigrants.

    The state will no longer require proof of citizenship for driver’s licenses.

    “We’re changing our policy with respect to getting more people out of shadows and into the system so people don’t hide they’re here,” Spitzer said.

Can New York be far off from requiring drivers’ licenses to vote?

Seriously, Spitzer is obviously in favor of the national ID card and passing off the costs the state should fund to the federal government.

Worse, states across the country tend to recognize other states’ documents, but as we’re seeing with this and with the gay marriage thing, states are starting to make infantile decisions that will eventually require national initiatives (like national ID cards) to cover things that states could handle. Some decisions by individual states are completely incompatible with federalist principles.

The good news, if there is any, is that Eliot Spitzer will, like Mike Bloomberg, never rise above a city or statewide office in that lunatic asylum on the Eastern seaboard.

Advice to Police Officers in St. George Found Lacking

St. George officers get polite reminder:

    Police Chief Scott Uhrig has given his eight officers a reminder about courtesy — and some words of warning — after one of his sergeants got fired for berating a motorist on tape.

    “They know to be polite and courteous,” the chief said, “and they’ve been advised, ‘Stay on your toes. We don’t know how many other Brett Darrows there are out there.'”

Not, “Don’t be bombastic, treat citizens of other municipalities passing through our tiny one-stop light, city hall is just another house in the subdivision municipality-of-convenience as though they’re the people you’re supposed to serve and protect.”

Just, “Don’t get caught when being bombastic and not treating citizens of other municipalities passing through our tiny one-stop light, city hall is just another house in the subdivision municipality-of-convenience as though they’re the people you’re supposed to serve and protect instead of the mainstay of our city budget and outlets for your own egos.”

Good work, Chief.

Good Book Hunting: September 15, 2007

This weekend, we hit a couple of garage sales around our municipality, and we had a better result. For starters, it was less annoying; even though our occasional neighbors in Old Trees have signs proclaiming support for drawing and quartering the head of the nation, they’re less frequent than the “we control the horizontal; we control the vertical” nature of the signs in Kirkwood. Also, I found more books, including:


Old Trees Garage Sale books
Click for full size

  • The Warden/Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope. Because it was an old edition, and I remember the name Trollope from something. Maybe I was thinking of Lionel Trilling, come to think of it. Oh, well, what will it hurt? I mean, other than these are the first two in a series of books set in Britain in the 19th century.
  • Finch’s Fortune and Wakefield’s Course, two novels in a series about life at the Jalna homestead, home of the Whiteoak family, which take place in Canada in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
  • Mazo de la Roche of Jalna, a book about the author of the preceding books. Apparently, I have the fruits of one of de la Roche’s two American fans.
  • How to Read a Poem, in case I have been doing it wrong. I suspect most academics would tell me I have.
  • London in Dickens’ Day, a book that should help ground the Dickens books I’ll be reading. As you remember, in my report for Oliver Twist, I lamented that all pre-20th century books’ historical details kind of blurred.
  • The Sociopath Next Door, so I can learn if I am tipping my pitches.
  • Spanish Step by Step, so when I go on a refresher kick, I’ll have one more textbook to read.
  • Rhineland: Winter in a Missouri River Town, a low print run, very local history sort of book just because I could.

Additionally, I bought three VHS tapes to watch on a tiny 25″ screen where the quality won’t suffer (yeah, verily, I said 25″ was tiny, because in the 21st century friends, it’s iPod screens or what we used to call “Big Screen” televisions). These include:

  • Mallrats, which I think is probably Smith’s second best work (after Chasing Amy); reviewing this will help firm up or reject that thesis.
  • Dirty Work, Norm MacDonald’s finest work excluding the Hardee’s star voiceover work.
  • Kentucky Fried Movie, which I have never seen even though it’s Zucker/Abrahams/Zucker film.

Also, I got two record albums of jazz and big band sort of music and two CDs of the University City (Missouri) Symphony Orchestra. I didn’t even know U City had a symphony orchestra.

Tomorrow is another Saturday, so no doubt I’ll be trolling for a couple more books.

Excellent News for Canadian Hockey Teams

Canadian Dollar Trades Equal to U.S. for First Time Since 1976:

    Canada’s dollar traded equal to the U.S. currency for the first time in three decades, capping a five-year run on the back of booming demand for the nation’s commodities.

    The Canadian dollar rose as high as $1.0008, before retreating to 99.87 U.S. cents at 4:16 p.m. in New York. It has soared 62 percent from a record low of 61.76 U.S. cents in 2002. The U.S. dollar fell as low as 99.93 Canadian cents today. The Canadian currency last closed above $1 on Nov. 25, 1976, when Pierre Trudeau was Canada’s prime minister.

Because as we all know, the Canadian teams sell tickets in Canadian dollars but overpay their stars with American dollars. If this trend continues, the Stanley Cup will return to Canada where it belongs instead of states like Florida and California.

All economic news is good news for somebody. Funny how half-empty the press is with economic stories where it’s half-full with stories about how criminals and other mal-intentioned people are really just like you and me.

So Which Animals Are More Equal Than Others?

Leonard Little, defensive end for the St. Louis Rams, kills a woman while admittedly driving under the influence (BAC .19) and is sentenced to 90 days in jail for involuntary homicide.

William Anderson, nobody in particular, kills a police officer while allegedly driving under the influence (BAC .154) and is sentenced to 7.5 years in prison for aggravated DUI.

Just so we plebes are clear, did Leonard Little get a lighter sentence because he was a football player, or did William Anderson get a heavier sentence because the victim was a police officer instead of a suburban mother?

Because these “nuances” of the law kind of look like special treatment for someone.

Will No One Rid Me Of These Turbulent Property Owners?

Disingenius!

But Conrad wasn’t able to acquire the properties targeted for development.

“The city put out the request without having control of any of the land,” [Conrad Properties President Craig] Saur said. “We couldn’t get key parcels under contract at a reasonable price. Sellers wanted higher prices than was economically feasible for us to develop the project.”

He didn’t want to use eminent domain to acquire the land, Saur said.

“We want to be in places we are wanted,” he said. “If the city could get control of the land, they would probably have a lot more developers interested in the project.”

Surely Saur doesn’t think the city can make a better cash offer for the land. What does he expect them to do, use the Scooby Doo method? No, he’s saying that he won’t call for eminent domain, it would just be nice if eminent domain just happened.