News from Up North

After 180 years, beavers return ‘home’ to Milwaukee River in heart of downtown:

The beavers are back. For the first time in nearly two centuries, the buck-toothed rodents have been gnawing away at trees in the very heart of downtown Milwaukee. What better way to start the new year than by cheering the return of these ancient natives to their ancestral home?

I first noticed their presence on a boat trip down the Milwaukee River last summer. On the west bank, just south of St. Paul Ave., several small trees had fallen into the water, and a larger one was leaning precariously in the same direction. I went back on foot a few days later, and it was beavers, all right. They had been munching away on the white poplar and green ash that line the riverbank, and there were piles of wood chips among the plastic bags and empty bottles that littered the scruffy little grove. I had to look around to remind myself that I was just east of the Pritzlaff Building and directly across the river from some of the trendiest nightspots in the Third Ward.

This is, of course, very bad news for people who like mature trees along the Riverwalk in Milwaukee. Sadly enough, it’s often the same people who like mature trees downtown who like the cute furry beavers downtown, and you can probably only have one or the other.

Hah! Just kidding. After the trees are gone, you might well have neither as the beavers move on.

Escape room fire kills 5 teen girls celebrating birthday in Poland

Well, this is in the Journal-Sentinel, but the story takes place in Poland, which I have just confirmed on my globe is still north of here (all of Europe, it seems, is north of the United States). Still, I have not really been tempted to try this sort of entertainment venue, and I’m sure not likely to try one now. They’re on their way to the dustbin of faddish storefronts, along with self-serve yogurt joints, cupcake bakeries, and, before too long, vape shops.

Figi’s announces 276 workers will lose jobs by mid-March; 129 let go Friday

This is my aunt’s doing. Every year for a long time, she has sent us a cheese and sausage gift basket from Figis, but this year she sent us a granola bar package instead. Little did she know she was driving hundreds of people out of work in the middle of the cold, cruel Wisconsin winter. They’ll have to resort to trapping. Maybe next year, she can send us a small fur-bearing animal gift basket chock full of muskrats and urban beavers, but it won’t be the same.

Fixing the Headline for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Their headline: As trash fills the seas, Missouri lawmaker wants to block government crackdowns on plastic:

State Rep. Dan Shaul, R-Imperial, the Missouri bill sponsor and director of the Missouri Grocers Association, said he has no problem with business owners cutting back on wasteful materials, but he said he does not believe the government should mandate restrictions.

“What we’ve seen throughout the country is a continued attack on business being able to take care of consumers the way consumers want,” said Shaul, who added that any movement toward a more biodegradable future should be consumer-driven.

“It (the bill) will not impede a business from making a decision that’s in their best interest or meets their business model,” Shaul said. “We think it should be their decision.”

Shaul’s legislation, if signed into law, would mark an expansion of current Missouri law, which forbids localities from restricting single-use plastic bags through bans or taxes.

Not found in the article amid the pro-environmentalist anecdotes? Any mention of the developing nations that contribute most of this waste.

Here, let me fix the headline: Paper Takes Opportunity To Expound The Virtues of Meaningless Virtue Signalling, Expresses Enthusiasm For Onerous Government Regulations That Do Not Solve Anything.

On the one hand, I am for pushing regulation down to the lowest possible level, but on the other hand, the “laboratory” of democracy currently experiments with bad ideas by implementing them far and wide through the power of media and social media pressure before anyone can figure out if they work or not. And when they all fail together to solve the problem, the people who make the rules think the solution is more rules applied from the top down.

Coming Sooner to Missouri

Well, Missouri passed Proposition B which will raise Missouri’s minimum wage to $15 an hour (see also Won’t Someone Think Of The Soulless Automatons?), we can look forward to our retail establishments being early adopters of technology like this: Robot Janitors Are Coming to Mop Floors at a Walmart Near You:

Robots are coming to a Walmart Inc. near you, and not just as a gimmick.

The world’s largest retailer is rolling out 360 autonomous floor-scrubbing robots in some of its stores in the U.S. by the end of the January, it said in a joint statement with Brain Corp., which makes the machines. The autonomous janitors can clean floors on their own even when customers are around, according to the San Diego-based startup.

Who could have guessed it? I mean, aside from someone with any proper sense of economics? Which is in very, very short supply amongst people under, what, forty in this country?

Compare and Contrast, St. Louis Post-Dispatch-Style

Why housing choice is important for voucher holders:

Mobility Connection is a program that helps voucher holders move from low-opportunity areas to high-opportunity areas. Tara Kennard, a Mobility Connection Client, and Janie Oliphant, program director at Mobility Connection, talk about why some housing voucher recipients seek greater flexibility in choosing where they live.

Housing people in government-run centers is bad! Letting them choose through vouchers is good!

Editorial: Bad report card for federal school voucher program:

There’s long been a cherished belief among some education reformers that student performance can be lifted by giving private-school tuition vouchers to children stuck in low-performing public schools. That belief took a big hit last month, the latest in a series of big hits.

The U.S. Department of Education’s research division released a report saying that first-year participants in the District of Columbia’s Opportunity Scholarship Program did much worse in math than the kids who were denied a voucher and stayed in public school. Students from kindergarten through fifth grade also fared much worse in reading, and among older students, reading scores were close to those of their public school peers. The findings help debunk the notion that voucher-enabled students in private schools produce better outcomes than those attending public schools.

Educating people in government-run centers is good! Letting them choose through vouchers is bad!

Just kidding about the compare and contrast. Clearly, these are conceptually two different things, not alike at all. At all, you hear me?

New To The Style Guide

When gun violence erupts at a location that is generally considered safe and where normal people go and don’t expect gun violence, make sure to call it the Place Shooting to make it seem more like a terrorist act.

Examples:

I don’t want to diminish the murders that happened, but I get the sneaking suspicion that calling them The Place Shooting is part of an effort to maximize their impact and to turn local crime stories into a greater narrative to influence people to support “reasonable” gun control measures.

Against the Current Fashion

Downtown Lebanon Cleared After Tree Removal:

Commercial Street in Lebanon is looking more clear after city crews removed several trees lining the streets. It happened Sunday. The tree removal project is first in a series of steps to improve downtown. The Downtown Business District Advisory Board decided to remove the trees due to disease, sidewalk damage, blocking of light from street lights and damage to business awnings.

Now, I’m new to this area, and Lebanon really isn’t that much this area that I’m new to, but I wonder if the trees were added in the 1990s or early 2000s to improve downtown.

Whenever I see small trees in planted decoratively along downtown streets when the Powers The Be decide to improve a downtown or district, I wonder if those people know what trees look like in a couple of decades. I have to assume that they do, and that they don’t care. Because a couple of decades from now is someone else’s problem.

Pastor Exposes Modern Ignorance, Gets Rebuked By The Ignorant

A pastor at one of the local megachurches, which I assume is generally heavy on the Gospel, lays down a little law and gets lambasted for it:

A pastor of an Assemblies of God megachurch recently took aim at yoga, saying it has “demonic roots” and warning Christians to avoid the popular activity.

Pastor John Lindell told the attendees of James River Church in Ozark — which has a congregation of about 10,500, according to a 2016 report — that the positions in yoga were “created with demonic intent to open you up to demonic power because Hinduism is demonic.”

Members of Springfield’s yoga community are now speaking out.

A Christian yogi says his practice has brought him closer to God and wants others to know that it’s possible to do sun salutations while following Christ. One owner of a yoga studio said she’s worried that small local businesses are being hurt. An instructor, feeling on edge after a Florida yoga studio was shot up last week, can’t shake a fear that someone might take the church’s anti-yoga message too far.

I am pretty sure that there’s a whole commandment about not following other religions somewhere, and I didn’t see any footnotes in it about it being okay to follow other religions’ practices with your fingers crossed or not believing in the actual ontology behind the practices. It doesn’t matter if Asherah poles help with television reception. They’re still the practices of another religion, and a lot of bad things happen in the old testament when Israel does something similar.

To quote Mohatma Gandhi, “B*tch, you do realize this is my actual religion, right?”

Now, you know, gentle reader, I read a lot of books about Eastern religions and philosophy here at MfBJN (such as The Upanishads), so I’m not exactly a firebreathing fundamentalist Christian out to whip believers into a frenzy.

But practicing yoga while undereducated does put yoga practitioners in a bad spot. Either they have to acknowledge the ontology and origins of yoga and its conflict with Christian teachings, or they have to say that they’re just a fitness program with a veneer of Otherness for flavor. Or defend not knowing where this stuff comes from and what it might mean. This is the standard procedure, but defending it or acknowledging one’s cognative dissonance is not.

Because part of being Christian, unlike part of being Buddhist and many other non-monotheistic religions, means you can’t pick and choose spirituality from a variety of sources and traditions to blend together to make your own special salad. That’s my understanding of it, anyway.

This pastor is just trying to remind members of his congregation about it.

Now, about those essential oils….

Some Federal Laws Are More Equal Than Others

The Springfield News-Leader explains, briefly, the Federal stance on legal marijuana use prior to the election:

Yes. It’s still illegal under federal law. Federal officials currently serving in the Trump administration, such as Attorney General Jeff Sessions, have opposed marijuana reform in general.

Now that it’s passed, however, the Springfield News-Leader wants to make sure that those who violate Federal law obey Federal law:

Medical marijuana may have been legalized in Missouri, but those who opt to take advantage will be jeopardizing their Second Amendment right to buy and possess a gun.

Under federal law, Missouri residents won’t legally be able to have a license for medical marijuana and possess a firearm at the same time, even though voters overwhelmingly added Amendment 2 to the Missouri Constitution on Tuesday.

The article is actually a pretty good exploration of the intersection of the two and the current law enforcement climate and not just an exhortation to give up your guns.

But I certainly didn’t see a full article about how the state measure violated Federal law before the vote.

That Can’t Be It (Oh, Yes, It Can)

So last week’s Springfield Business Journal had an editorial column in the wake of the recent (as of last week) shooting at a synagogue:

It’s a bit of a stretch to include a noose, which is more associated with anti-black attacks than anti-Semitic attacks, although white people were lynched as well. And the A as a KKK hood, okay, sort of.

But what’s with the snake in the middle?

Oh.

I see.

Some simpleton with a steady hand equates wanting limited government with anti-Semitism straight up.

Because of course he/she/it does.

Won’t Someone Think Of The Soulless Automatons?

Two “unrelated stories” in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Editorial: Vote yes on Missouri Proposition B to raise the minimum wage, October 22, 2018:

The time has come for Missouri employers to get off the dime and start sharing their dollars. Minimum-wage workers are being forced to accept a pay scale that doesn’t come close to livable by today’s standards.

On Nov. 6, Missourians should vote yes on state ballot Proposition B, which would gradually raise the minimum wage by annual increments of 85 cents per hour, reaching $12 an hour in 2023. Don’t believe the opponents’ scare tactics about the damage Prop B might do to the job market. Putting extra money in people’s pockets is the fastest way to boost the economy. It also could increase state and local tax revenue by $214 million.

More robots to hit the aisles at Schnucks grocery stores in St. Louis area, October 30, 2018:

In at least 15 Schnuck Markets stores, the future is now.

Aisle-scanning retail inventory robots, known as Tally, will soon be wheeling around in a growing number of locations as the St. Louis area’s leading grocer expands its partnership with San Francisco firm Simbe Robotics.

The robot, which moves around on a Roomba-looking base, uses cameras and sensors to perform inventory checks and alert employees when an item needs restocking or if price tags don’t match advertisements.

The grocery chain piloted the Tally robot in July 2017 in three stores. Then, several months ago, Schnucks officials began operating the Tally robots in four stores — Ballwin, Des Peres, Webster Groves and Woods Mill in Chesterfield.

Tally will keep its job at those four stores.

“We saw that our out-of-stock positions improved greatly,” said Bob Hardester, Schnucks’ chief information officer.

Schnucks plans to roll Tally out at four more stores in the next month: Granite City, Twin Oaks, Cross Keys in Florissant and Sierra Vista in Spanish Lake.

These two stories are UNRELATED! Unless you have contextual awareness and an understanding of economics. Which is pretty rare these days, no doubt.

If I were a conspiracy nut, I would think that big tech was behind the drive to raise the minimum wage to sell more kiosks and robots.

Another Refuge, Fleeing the Poverty In Central and South America

From the story Authorities believe Romanian nationals tied to card skimmers found on Springfield ATMs:

[She] allegedly told officers she was a Romanian citizen who had entered the United States through the southern border.

Before coming to America, [she] was part of a Romanian gang that committed a string of burglaries in Wales, according to a Welsh news outlet.

Fleeing the poverty in South America because there is less to steal there.

I am constantly told that this does not happen.

Science Proves Modern Parenting Strategies Don’t Work

Science Confirms It: People Are Not Pets:

The field of social psychology is sometimes accused of doing no more than ratifying common sense, so it’s worth paying attention when its findings are genuinely surprising. Case in point: the discovery that when we are rewarded for doing something, we tend to lose interest in whatever we had to do to get the reward.

This outcome has been confirmed scores of times with all sorts of rewards and tasks, and across cultures, ages and genders. Yet many teachers, parents and bosses persist in using versions of what has been called “sugarcoated control.”

Psychologists often distinguish between intrinsic motivation (wanting to do something for its own sake) and extrinsic motivation (for example, doing something in order to snag a goody). The first is the best predictor of high-quality achievement, and it can actually be undermined by the second. Moreover, when you promise people a reward, they often perform more poorly as a result.

Weird, but that’s what all the literature and culture has told us is the way to raise our children. And look where that has gotten us as a society.

Maybe it’s the same people who have been in charge of official nutrition and dietary advice.

Separated at Birth?

Both Robert Francis O’Rourke, who for some reason has a Mexican nickname in “Beto,” and the guy who played Jay in Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy, and so on are both appearing in the Springfield area, and they both favor publicity shots of them holding the microphone in their right hands and gesturing expansively with their lefts.

“Separated at Birth”? I mean have you seen them both in the same place at the same time?

I have not. But, then again, I’ve never seen either in person in the first place and don’t expect to do so even if the opportunity conveniently presents itself such as it is.

What Brett Kavanaugh Does Not Want The FBI To Reveal!

Brett Kavanaugh invented Bro Country music.

That alone should disqualify him from any part of polite society.

Speaking of Bro Country, I’ve heard a new Knight Errant Bro Country song in heavy rotation as I mow my lawn. Chris Janson’s “Take A Drunk Girl Home”:

What a spectacularly bad idea given the uncertainty of memory even in its unimpaired state and the current climate.

You know, I’ve spent last week, erm, making light of these accusations from thirty-five years ago not just because I’m callous, but because I’m afraid.

Because memory is a funny thing.

Have you ever had this conversation?

“Remember that time when ….?”
“No, that was a different time. That time…..”
“Are you sure? Didn’t we….”
“No, we…. The time you’re thinking about we….”

I have those conversations all the time with my beautiful wife about things that have that took place less than twenty years ago. Some of them took place less than a month ago. So I’m not certain of my memory or anyone else’s.

In my younger days, when I was courting, such as it was, I was pretty careful in my interactions with women. How careful? Neurotic. I didn’t take liberties. As a matter of fact, I didn’t date that often.

Even so, what if a woman I interacted with conflated memories or interpreted (or re-interpreted) events later?

I remember a night in my friend’s apartment in Wisconsin. A friend, a girl who took a sort of pride (or did she?) in her sexual exploits had come along with me to Milwaukee to visit (Was it the time we went to attend my nephew’s baptism? Or did I bring her another time?). A few of us gathered and had a few drinks, and after my friend went to bed, the girl and I were to sleep on the floor, and we spent some time talking. I wondered if something would happen between us, but it didn’t, and we went to sleep.

But what if she remembered differently now? What if she blended some memories of other nights after another party and thought that I did something that now seems untoward? If she came forward with some half-memories and an allegation, she could ruin my life easily even though I remember the night clearly because, face it, I didn’t find myself in that situation very often in my youth.

Or what about the one girlfriend that I broke up with uncleanly and reconciled with briefly a year later? What if she no longer wants our intimate encounters during those times? All she would have to do is say, “Brian assaulted me,” and the damage would be done.

It really makes this Edna St. Vincent Millay sonnet less melancholy and more sinister:

What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,
I have forgotten, and what arms have lain
Under my head till morning; but the rain
Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh
Upon the glass and listen for reply,
And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain
For unremembered lads that not again
Will turn to me at midnight with a cry.
Thus in winter stands the lonely tree,
Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one,
Yet knows its boughs more silent than before:
I cannot say what loves have come and gone,
I only know that summer sang in me
A little while, that in me sings no more.

I mean, I can feel a little tremor of fear that what is happening to Brett Kavanaugh could happen to me except I’m not a high-ranking Republican of any sort.

I saw a meme on Facebook the other day from an Internet friend, a woman, who said that many women have been sexually assaulted, and if you joke about Brett Kavanaugh’s situation, your woman / woman friends will lose faith in you.

If you follow the above advice of Chris Janson to the letter, you can be as chivalrous as you can, but what happened and your word and reputation matter less than what the drunk girl remembers. That is crazy and dangerous.

So pardon my my gallows humor about it. Or don’t.

Another Of Brett Kavanaugh’s Dastardly Deeds Surfaces

In 1981, Brett Kavanaugh threw a Jart negligently, recklessly, or maliciously near children, showing no care no concern that this FATAL SKY BOMB might fall outside the ring on the lawn and might MANGLE, DECAPITATE, DISMEMBER, IMPALE, FORCIBLY PENETRATE, or merely CONK innocent, unsuspecting sweet children (unless they grew up to be Republicans or men, in which case they deserve the catastrophe that they did not get from that lawn dart).

Brett Kavanaugh wants to overturn Roe v. Wade SO HE CAN HAVE MORE TARGETS for his (alcohol-fueled?) mirth with these ancient weapons of war.

(Keep it tuned for MfBJN where you can get all the latest scoops on Brett Kavanaugh like this one which, if you’re reading this blog in 2027, you’ll think, “What’s that all about?” Trust me, I’ve combed through these archives recently, and some of the stuff from 2006 takes a while to remember what that particular controversy was.)

I Have An Alibi

Man stole housemate’s comic books to buy ‘food, cigarettes and marijuana,’ police say:

The Springfield man collects Magic the Gathering cards, Pokemon cards, vintage video games, figurines and more.

And some of those items — including three comic books signed by Stan Lee — carry special meaning for Pappas.

* * * *

When some of his items started disappearing early this year, Pappas said he confronted his housemates.

Some of his housemates said their video games were also going missing, Pappas said, and another couple who lived at the home claimed they didn’t know anything about it.

Narrator voice: They did know something about it.

Fortunately, this won’t happen to me, as I have children, who are already filching my role-playing games and comic books and destroying them, ruining their resale value. So burglars and housemates of questionable character (of which, we only have cats) will do better elsewhere.

So I’ve Read That Metal Is Family

I read in Metal Hammer magazine that metal is family, but I found that hard to believe. When I was growing up, the kids who listened to metal in our trailer park certainly didn’t treat the awkward, small younger version of me like family at all. So I’ve been skeptical of the claim even as I’ve outgrown being small.

However, stories like this make me reconsider: After a fan’s death at Milwaukee show, metal band Ghost coming back to finish concert in his honor:

Theatrical metal band Ghost’s sold-out show at the Riverside Theater in Milwaukee on May 31 came to an abrupt and tragic end when fan Jeff Fortune collapsed at the venue and died that evening.

* * * *

The band also will be selling an exclusive shirt at that show, with an illustration of band frontman Cardinal Copia and Fortune wearing Michael Myers costumes from “Halloween,” with all proceeds being donated to Fortune’s family.

Ghost recently came to my attention because the local radio station has been playing their new song “Rats”, and I liked the sound of it:

I recently considered picking up their latest album Prequelle, but I opted for Apex from Unleash the Archers instead.

But you can bet that Prequelle will find its way to my mailbox soon.