St. Louis Not Really Most Violent City, Says Mayor SLAY

Slay disputes St. Louis ranking as most dangerous city:

Mayor Francis Slay makes no bones about it: Morgan Quitno Press is dead wrong to call St. Louis the most dangerous city in the United States.

“It’s bogus,” Slay said of the group’s annual ranking released Monday. “To suggest that St. Louis is more dangerous than Miami, New Orleans, Los Angeles and Chicago — it just doesn’t make any sense. I will beat anyone who says that to my face within inches of his life, and then I will take his wallet to help fund some sports venue or another.” [Emphasis, actual words added]

Police Chief Joseph Makewar concurred.

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Defining "Denounce" Up

Apparently, it’s getting easier to denounce things. At least in headlines: Voters denounce handling of page scandal by Shimkus, Hastert. Denounced on soapboxes, in rousing speeches, in vehement letters to the editor, or in protests? Not quite.

When asked whether they approve of how Republican leaders in general — and Hastert in particular — handled the issue, two-thirds of the poll respondents said they disapproved.

When questioned specifically about Shimkus’ decision to privately tell Foley to stop e-mailing pages without taking further action, more than three-quarters of respondents said that wasn’t the correct response.

Denounced, expressed disappointment through canned answers to a survey, same difference (if you’re disapproving of Republicans).

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It’s Not Just A Good Idea… Well, Apparently, It Is, If You’re The Governor of Illinois

When do you not have to comply with the law? When you are the law:

Attorney General Lisa Madigan ordered Gov. Blagojevich’s administration Thursday to release copies of all subpoenas issued by federal investigators probing corruption under the governor.

But Blagojevich’s office late Thursday indicated it would not abide by Madigan’s order, setting up a possible constitutional showdown between two of the state’s top Democratic officeholders.

“We didn’t request an opinion on this topic, but we appreciate the attorney general office’s advisory input,” Blagojevich spokeswoman Abby Ottenhoff said.

Well, at least they were polite about continuing in their coverup of potential wrongdoing.

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Defense Mechanism

The New York Times offers a helpful hint on protecting yourself from vapid people who would call themselves your friends:

Jim Coffman, 40, a Democrat in Chicago, said he and his wife have not pursued a friendship with another couple whose three children are the same ages as theirs after seeing photographs of President Bush on the other couple’s refrigerator. He said they have discussed with other friends “being so amazed that we could have so much in common, and yet be so diametrically opposed” when it comes to politics.

We have used this mechanism to deter people who use politics as the determining factor for populating their high-school-like clique with other “cool” people so they can look down upon the nerds together. Except in the midlife cliques, the nerds are evil.

So when people come into my home and see the collection of fundraiser photographs, only to determine they don’t want to pursue a deeper friendship because I’m obviously evil or stupid by their reckoning, they’re doing me a favor.

(Link seen on Althouse.)

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The Milwukee Witch’s House

Early in the morning, the mists rising from Lake Michigan creep over its shorelines and extend their tendrils into the nearby yards and neighborhoods, giving a feeling as esoteric and eldritch as any New England setting from an H.P. Lovecraft story. If one takes a curving road along the lake shore in Fox Point, Wisconsin, one’s headlights trickle over the foliage until the most pagan of sites emerges from the gloom. Concrete totems lurk behind a chain link fence topped with barbed wire. As many generations of Milwaukee-area residents know, this seemingly calm, semi-secluded area is the Witch’s House. A guide, if present, will insist with as much vehemence as a raised whisper can allow that everyone roll up the windows and lock the car doors and will exhort the driver not to stop.

Some whisper that a woman lived in the home with her husband and young son. One day, the husband and son took the family boat out onto the Great Lake and capsized just offshore. Her family drowned within sight of the woman, and she was powerless to help them. The woman thought that the spirits of the water would come to take her to join her husband and son, so she began to make warding statues to keep the water spirits at bay. Another story claimed that she killed her husband and child herself and hid them among the statues.

The real story of the Milwaukee Witch’s House is more benign. Artist Mary Nohl, born in 1914 and a graduate of the Art Institute of Chicago, inherited the family land and cottage in the 1960s. She began to create an art environment, crafting sculptures in such media as concrete, tree branches, sand, and other items that washed ashore on her property. Given her influences and preferred subject matter of whimsical and mythic figures and the fact that she remained single fueled the spooky rumors that drove young spectre seekers to her neighborhood late at night. By all accounts, Ms. Nohl did not mind the underground attention she received, as she didn’t prosecute trespassers and once remarked, as a group of young people viewed her work from outside the fence, that they had good taste.

Although Mary Nohl died in 2001, the house remains an art environment to this day. Mary Nohl donated the land and millions of dollars to the Kohler Foundation, and the foundation would like to open the house as a museum so visitors can enjoy the works of Mary Nohl without the mystery and foreboding. However, other residents of the Fox Point neighborhood are taking steps to prevent the land from becoming a museum, undoubtedly tired of decades of nocturnal visitors of the teenaged sort.

For at least a short time, restless wayfarers can drive by the site at the witching hour with unwitting companions and continue to embellish the tale of the Witch’s House and to view the works in the traditional method, with all of with the mystery and foreboding young imaginations can ferment.

Other reading:
Kohler Foundation description of the Mary Nohl Site:

Wisconsin Trust for Historic Preservation, 10 Most Endangered Properties list including Nohl House

Wisconsin National Register of Historic Places Entry for Mary Nohl Art Environment:

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel columnist Jim Stingl column “Pilgrimage to ‘witch’s house’ was a rite of passage”:

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel news item “Artist’s legacy lingers: Some residents fight preservation of woman’s quirky lakefront home”:

Sound like a piece you would find on Damn Interesting? Well, yeah, it was one of my sample pieces. It was not accepted, and it wasn’t doing anything on my hard drive, so there you go.

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Cardinals Provide Hangover For World Series Win

Last night, while watching the postgame celebrations, the Fox commentator stuck a microphone in the face of Bill DeWitt, business frontmn for the St. Louis Cardinals. After he finished his planned platitudes, I quipped in a mocking voice, “And can we have $100 million dollars?”

Well, like so much humor, this was unfortunately on the money, so to speak:

The Cardinals owners, their developer partner and city officials capitalized on the World Series euphoria Friday as they unveiled a model of the Ballpark Village project they hope will change the face of downtown.

Fortunately, elected officials remain resolute, unaffected by trying to latch on to the ephemeral success of a professional sporting event by determining public policy to support a freakin’ pastime run by a for-profit entity:

“It is much bigger and better than what was originally talked about,” St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay said at a news conference Friday afternoon. The $387 million development would rely on more than $100 million in public funds to finance the project.

Oh, well, maybe not.

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The Midwestern Way

In a story in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal (sorry, no link) entitled “‘Honey, I’m Thinking of Having an Affair’: Therapists Advise Confessing Temptation”, we get a sidebar advising how to “Affair-Proofing A Marriage”:

To guard against damage from affairs, experts suggest couples:

  • Acknowledge the risk of an affair occurring
  • Discuss circumstances that might pose a risk
  • Agree to talk about temptations before acting
  • Disclose any affairs promptly
  • Agree not to counterattack if a spouse strays
  • Learn to ask, give and receive forgiveness

These sentiments and the bolding itself might embolden Manhattanites to stray and to talk about it with their therapists and therapist-talking, possibly cheating spouses. However, here in the Midwest, in circumstances where loving your spouse or remaining faithful out of moral obligation don’t hold enough power, the following single tip can help to affair proof the marriage without the mumbo-jumbo:

Remember, your spouse knows where your family keeps the guns, knives, hammers, baseball bats, and other Improvised Blunt Traumatizers (IBTs), and you have to sleep sometime.

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Book Report: Hundred Dollar Baby by Robert B. Parker (2006)

This is the new Spenser novel, released this week. I read it. Atypically for me, I read it over the course of two nights. Normally, it only takes one, but I completed The Night Crew, so I didn’t get a good run at it.

This book is another one featuring April Kyle, also of Ceremony and Taming a Seahorse. Like the Paul Giacomin cycle, these are trilogies of sorts. This time, April Kyle is back in Boston and is running a franchise brothel for Patricia Utley. When some men come along and want to take the business away from her, she turns to Spenser.

He has to investigate to find out who the men are and why they’re after April’s business. He finds that everyone’s lying to him, including April, and has to hang in there to find out the real story.

It’s a pretty good book, I guess, but after 20 years, it’s very familiar; the Sandford book was different in that I didn’t know what to expect. With this one, I knew pretty much how it would go and realized the storyline pretty early. Still, I shall always be loyal and serve Robert B. Parker as my master.

Books mentioned in this review:

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Book Report: The Night Crew by John Sandford (1997)

As you know, I have discovered that I like John Sandford’s novels; I’ve reviewed a couple of Kidd novels and a couple of the Lucas Davenport novels. Last week, I assembled a couple more book cases so I could spread out my to-read shelves (now comprising more thn three complete bookshelves), and this book emerged.

Within, a freelance news crew in LA works at night to find and film news. After one excursion in which they film an animal rights raid on a university lab and a jumper, someone starts shooting members of the crew. Someone seems obsessed with Anna, the leader of the group, and is killing the potential rivals in his sick pursuit of her.

Wow, you can sum books up pretty simply if you just tell the plot. Fortunately, this book has more to it; the main character has depth, the auxilliary characters have depth and individual agenda. I was interested in it and the book flowed nicely. It probably could even have done without the “eye of the mad criminal” inserts that Sandford threw in like eveyone does these days.

However, the climax was kinda tacked on and didn’t build any sort of excitement that made it worthwhile. A climactic shootout at a farmhouse. Ho hum. I actually put the book down in the middle of the drama and picked it up the next night. So the payoff could have been improved, but the denouement satisfied me.

So Sandford continues to prove worthy of the bucks I spend on his books. If I ever catch up with him, I might have to buy his books new, and that’s the best compliment I can give an author.

Books mentioned in this review:

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True Urban Legend

In Octobers when the St. Louis Cardinals go deep into the playoffs, not only does the sales of Cardinals apparel spike in the Midwest, but sales of white clothing and underwear also spike as hundreds of thousands of Midwesterners wash their new apparel without bleeding it first.

It’s on the Internet, and you can take it to the bank.

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A Phrase Whose Time Has Gone

Attention all marketers, copywriters, and advertising folk:

Please, from this day forward, stop using the following phrase, because you obviously lack the logical skills required to infer the implication:

Second to None

I heard this phrase on the radio again today, and its earnest presenter assured me that a local grocery store’s pharmacy offered customer service that is second to none.

Oh, really, I thought; so the customer service presented by the cut-rate employees of the discount chain are actually not as good as when the store offers no customer service at all? I mean, that’s what none is; it’s the lack of the very thing offered, and when you say you’re second to none, that doesn’t mean that you’re first; it means that you’re lower than nothing at all.

Oh, I know, you’re going to try to convince me otherwise because you see the inherent logic in the clichés and catchphrases that you parrot in the pursuit of creativity, but really. Trust me, I have a degree in philosophy. You’re just wrong, and you can just as easily parrot some cliché or catchphrase that annoys me slightly less.

Thank you, that is all.

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Book Report: The Two Minute Rule by Robert Crais (2006)

Well, it’s been a year and a half since I read a Robert Crais novel (The Forgotten Man). I’d even forgotten this book existed, since it was behind a wall of unread books on my to read shelves. Now that I have a couple extra book cases, I have spread these books out, and it appeared.

I wasn’t that pleased with Crais’s later offerings leading up to this book, but I was very happy with this book. It centers on a convicted bank robber getting out and integrating into society. However, on the day before he gets out, his estranged son, an LAPD officer, is gunned down. The official story doesn’t make sense, and the ex-con turns to the FBI agent who put him away, now retired, for help.

Together, they try to find out why four police officers allowed someone to come up to them in a secluded riverbed without suspicion. They determine that the officers were looking for sixteen million dollars in unrecovered bank heist loot. Once they found it, a fifth man eliminated his partners. Someone in the police force wants the ex-con to be re-con to protect himself and his retirement.

The pace moves along well, the characters are interesting, and I rather liked the book. I got it as a gift from my beautiful wife, and it’s probably worth the money if you want to click the link below.

And based on this book, maybe I’ll even read any new Elvis Cole novels.

Books mentioned in this review:


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Inventive Scam We Might Have Seen

SJ woman accused of house burglaries:

A 47-year-old unemployed San Jose woman allegedly has a broad definition of “open house.”

Police said today that they had arrested Susan Hjeltness on suspicion of stealing more than $200,000 worth of porcelain figurines, jewelry and other items after touring homes in the Silver Creek Valley Country Club area of San Jose during real-estate open houses and property showings.

Hjeltness, along with her 13-year-old son and an adult male companion, would pose as prospective buyers and tour homes, police said. They would steal items during the walkthrough or would unlock a door or window and return later, Detective Corey Green said.

When we were looking for our new house, we viewed one house a couple of minutes after the open house closed, and we found the back door unlocked. Was it another burglar in the same vein?

In either case, it was a realtor with a lack of attention to detail. Jeez.

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How Much Is Too Much?

Probably no such thing if it’s on the public dime. To chase a niche market, Milwaukee “District” officials want to expand the convention center again:

With Milwaukee’s convention business in a holding pattern, the chairman of the Wisconsin Center District said Wednesday that it’s time to revive the idea of expanding the Midwest Airlines Center.

Franklyn Gimbel said the region’s ability to attract what he called a “gangbuster” convention was diminished compared with recent years because of the lack of hotel rooms in the area and the size of the convention center.

The center was last expanded at the end of 1999, when the building’s exhibit hall was increased to 189,000 square feet. When the center first opened in 1998, its supporters said it would put Milwaukee in the big leagues.

It was built 8 years ago, when “district” officials said it would put Milwaukee in the big leagues. It wasexpanded 7 years ago when “district” officials were wrong. Now, those officials want to spend more public money to get it right this time.

Color me skeptical. However, on the plus side, “district” officials are unelected and ultimately unaccountable to the public, so they’re in no jeopardy of consequences for being so wrong, so often, so expensively, so they’ll be free to continue pursuing more no matter how much they get.

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The Song Sounds Familiar

A former World of Warcrafter laments on how the game ruins lives. He enumerates the fundamental flaws:

First off, let’s go back to the time it takes to accomplish anything in the game. To really be successful, you need to at least invest 12 hours a week, and that is bare minimum. From a leadership perspective, that 12 hours would be laughed at… . The “good guildie” who plays about 10 hours a day and seven days a week.


The game also provides people with a false sense of security, accomplishment, and purpose. Anyone can be a superhero here if they have the time to put in….

And people put everything on the line for these accomplishments with which they associate much value. I know of children and spouses being forced to play and grind for their parents, threats of divorce, rampant neglect, failing grades in school, and thousands of dollars spent on “outsourcing” foreign help. For what, you ask? Honor. The desire to be the best for at least one week…. The accomplishment and sacrifice itself are meaningless a few days later. Then it’s usually off to the races again.


Finally, when you’re a leader there is a call (or more appropriately a demand) for success. Usually those you represent want to keep progressing. They want to keep improving. They want more access to the best things. It is on you to provide it. In my experience, when you fail to progress fast enough, waves ripple throughout the guild and people become dissatisfied. It’s your fault, no matter what.

All in all, it sounds like good training for the business world.

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Drink a Beer, Own a Gun, Go to Jail?

New charges filed in father’s shooting of 6-year-old:

New criminal charges have been filed against the father of a 6-year-old eastern Missouri boy who was shot in the head inside his rural Cadet home a week ago, the Washington County prosecutor said Wednesday.

Prosecutor John Rupp said he charged Ricky Lee Rulo Jr., 29, late Tuesday with one count each of endangering the welfare of a child and possessing a firearm while intoxicated.

Wow, is that true? Apparently so:

571.030. 1. A person commits the crime of unlawful use of weapons if he or she knowingly:

(1) Carries concealed upon or about his or her person a knife, a firearm, a blackjack or any other weapon readily capable of lethal use; or

(2) Sets a spring gun; or

(3) Discharges or shoots a firearm into a dwelling house, a railroad train, boat, aircraft, or motor vehicle as defined in section 302.010, RSMo, or any building or structure used for the assembling of people; or

(4) Exhibits, in the presence of one or more persons, any weapon readily capable of lethal use in an angry or threatening manner; or

(5) Possesses or discharges a firearm or projectile weapon while intoxicated;

Perhaps somewhere else in the byzantine labyrinths (if they had labyrinths in Byzantium, I guess), it explains that possession means you’ve got it on your person, but we’re only taking it on faith that it’s elsewhere and that your prosecutor’s not going to try to expand the law by throwing you in the pokey if you’ve got your old man’s 45-70 on the wall and blow a .8 at your backyard barbecue.

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