Journalist Mistakes Inflation for Interest

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel carries a regrettable story about a little old lady who lost her “life savings” of about $20,000 because she left it in the form of a check in a safe deposit box for 22 years (regrettable both because her life savings was only $20,000 and because she lost it). Tucked inside, we have a stunning display of simplistic Web research and basic misunderstanding of economics:

Willie Floyd said she hadn’t thought about the interest she was losing by not having it in a standard savings account. The interest she would have earned could vary, but a calculator provided online by the Federal Reserve Bank indicates that if she had bought something for $19,700.22 in 1985, it would cost her $38,480.79 to buy the same goods or services, based on the Consumer Price Index.

Bravo, Marie Rohde, your economics teacher must be proud!

You don’t have an economics teacher? The deuce you say!

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The Best Christmas Gift Ever!

I have been tagged by a meme! I don’t know if I have ever been done so before. Thanks to St. Wendeler of Another Rovian Conspiracy, I’ve answered the following:

  1. Wrapping or gift bags?
    Gift wrapping. I was a bagger for a couple years in college, so it’s hard for me to respect the “effort” required to put something in a bag.

  2. Real or artificial tree?
    I’d prefer real, but the wife is highly allergic, so we have a very realistic artificial tree. So realistic that it drops needles.

  3. When do you put up the tree?
    This year, we put the tree up the weekend after Thanksgiving, we put lights on it about two weeks after, and we put ornaments on it about a week and a half later. We wanted to acclimate our child to its presence slowly.

  4. When do you take the tree down?
    Sometime immediately after the first of the year.

  5. Do you like eggnog?
    I did as a child, but I can’t stand it now. Maybe I got really drunk from it at age seven, blacked out, and developed the aversion then.

  6. Favorite gift received as a child?
    Commodore 128 received in 8th grade, followed by Atari 2600 I received in 6th grade.

  7. Do you have a nativity scene?
    Yes, but we don’t put it out because we have cats who would drop it from wherever we would put it onto the aforementioned child.

  8. Worst Christmas gift you ever received?
    Come on, I don’t think there is such a thing as a bad Christmas gift. However, in 2005, I got the Bad Cat desk calendar from my mother in law, and it was so inappropriately not funny that my coworker and I started most weekday mornings groaning over the captioned photographs of cats. The humor relied a lot on drug and sexual innuendo. I thought it was so bad that I was a little disappointed that I didn’t get a 2007 version.

  9. Mail or e-mail Christmas cards?
    Mail. E-mail, contrary to what the SEC would have you believe, does not provide permanent artifacts.

  10. Favorite Christmas movie?
    As you know, gentle reader, it is Lethal Weapon; I posted my top five list in 2003.

  11. When do you start shopping for Christmas?
    Whenever I first see something that I think someone I know would like for Christmas. But mostly in October/November.

  12. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas?
    My mother’s pumpkin pie. My mother can cook only one or two things well. This is one of them, and it always pushes my gluttony button.

  13. Clear lights or colored on the tree?
    Colored lights this year; I think we used white last year. Whichever I find first, I guess.

  14. Favorite Christmas song?
    I like Mannheim Steamroller’s “Deck the Halls” and “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”. Another winter favorite is Dean Martin’s “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”.

I have not, however, tagged anyone else. Sometimes, you can take the Scrooge to the meme, but you cannot make him by a goose for Cratchit.

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If You Build It, and They Don’t Come, Then What?

David Nicklaus, my favorite St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist, had a two part series this week about the problems that the Renaissance Hotel in downtown St. Louis faces as its presence and that of the relatively new, absolutely expensive convention center hasn’t led to its financial success (Part I, Renaissance hotel troubles reflects woes facing local convention business and Part II, More space isn’t the solution for Renaissance).

I don’t understand the current municipal government drive to turn empty space into empty buildings (or used space, through the magic of eminent domain and sweetheart deals and tax incentives for private “tick on a tax payer” businesses). Aren’t there enough examples of these sorts of failed projects or empty shopping centers to perhaps make our great white fathers (of whatever color) abandon the principals of private property and free market a little less gleefully?

Nah, I doubt it.

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Legislation Cannot Resolve Anecdotal Accidents

The slide into a nanny state can actually be a slippery slope when they want to legislate sled safety:

“The challenge that we face is that it’s not the norm – nor is it likely to ever be the norm – for kids to wear helmets while sledding,” said Bridget Clementi, injury and prevention manager at Children’s Hospital and Health System.

Ah, but the government and child safety advocates how to make a norm, don’t they.

This story has everything that goes into policy decisions in contemporary America:

  • An anecdote.
      It was close to midnight at Lowell Park, which has one of the best sledding hills in the county, and Ziebell, who had just turned 20, jumped on a snow tube with a friend. The friend fell off while they were zooming down the hill, but Ziebell continued and slammed into a tree trunk, splitting open her skull and crushing her left arm.
  • A spurious statistic that falls apart given any thought.

    Area trauma centers are reporting the usual snowboarding wrist fractures, sledding concussions and ankle injuries, but Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin already has admitted three children since Nov. 1 for sledding injuries. That’s more in-patient sledding accident victims than in the five-month season last year.

    Keep in mind, it’s been a very snowy two month period and don’t consider that swimming pool drownings are down a touch in the same period.

And, of course, the impulse to legislate away any possibility of accident, regardless of cost or impact.

Sure, the article doesn’t advocate legislation directly, but these things always start this way, don’t they?

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Only Unsympathetic Because It’s Never Happened to Me Because I’m Not HOT!

Ex-mayoral aide claims lawyer harassed her:

A former Milwaukee mayoral aide whose sex-harassment case forced then-Mayor John Norquist out of politics has filed a sex-related complaint against the lawyer who represented her in the Norquist case.

At some point, you have to wonder if this continues to happen to her because she’s a repeated victim or because she’s just so irresistible and unable to say, “No, thank you, I gave at the office.”

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Stay Away from the Fishy Granola

One of these is not like the others, I hope:

The fishy granola

You know as well as I do that some athletic cat owner is going to find himself or herself bonking miles away from civilization and will have to decide whether to eat a pouch of this instead of the granola or power bar he or she thought he or she grabbed from the cabinet this morning. He or she will.

All of them will.

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Glenn Reynolds, The Instapundit, Endorses Waterboarding

Finally, Andrew Sullivan has a reason to blare. Glenn Reynolds has publicly acknowledged his support for waterboarding in this post:

SINUS PROBLEMS? Wash them away! Can it really be that simple?

What’s he talking about? Nasal interrogation:

Nasal irrigation is a personal hygiene practice which involves flooding the nasal cavity with warm saline solution. The goal of nasal irrigation is to clear out excess mucus and particulates and moisturize the nasal cavity.

That sounds like waterboarding to me.

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Book Report: Mind Prey by John Sandford (1995)

As I move the books and the MfBJN home office, I’ve shuffled through my to-read shelves and have found a couple of books that I would have surely read by now if I’d known they were present. This book is one of them. The Lucas Davenport novels are pretty good genre reads.

This book, from the middle 1990s, details Davenport’s search for a madman who has kidnapped a shrink and her two daughters and keeps them hidden in a root cellar in the country. Davenport marshals his team (sorry, Deputy Chiefs his team) to find the perp and to hopefully rescue as many as possible.

Davenport novels have a good sense of the upper Midwest, but like in Mortal Prey, someone in the know will find a jarring inaccuracy. In that book, it was little things about St. Louis; in this book, it’s when discussing GenCon (whose t-shirt the bad guy was seen wearing). Davenport explains it off-handedly that it’s a gaming convention in Lake Geneva. Although the name comes from Lake Geneva, the convention was held in Milwaukee at the time. Take my word for it. Before I was living in St. Louis to prepare my John Sandford fact-checking abilities, I lived in Milwaukee and attended GenCon to hone my John Sandford fact-checking abilities.

Regardless of those occasional devil chords of obvious problems (which probably include things about which I don’t know, so I don’t hear the krang!), the books remain readable and enjoyable, and I’ll get around to the one remaining Sandford on my shelves (Dead Watch) one of these days.

Books mentioned in this review:

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Book Report: Then We Came To The End by Joshua Ferris (2007)

I read about this book in an Entertainment Weekly at the dentist’s office, and since I used to work for an interactive marketing agency, I had to have it. So I ordered a brand new book for over $1. Which explains why I’ll avoid Entertainment Weekly in the future; it tempts me to order expensive books that I might enjoy.

I did enjoy this book. It details the story of a Chicago ad agency (real ad agency, not interactive) that’s slumping immediately after 2000. Told in the first person plural (we this, we that), it nevertheless breaks individual characters out to identify what role they play in the process.

It’s enjoyable and comedic, but not quite completely on the money in describing the day to day that I would expect from a failing company. I mean, the book describes some office nuttiness and the dread of lay offs that trickle out over the course of days or weeks while people continue their underemployed shenanigans. Brothers and sisters, in most cases, layoff will happen pretty chop-chop when things are as bad as they’re portrayed in this book. Also, the characters are just a shade too whacky. The narrative voice takes a while to get used to, and I’m not sold on the ultimate sentences that wind it up–I don’t know what those are supposed to mean.

But it’s a good enough book, and a literary read at that. Who would have known?

Books mentioned in this review:

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Glenn Reynolds, the Instapundit, Seeks to Disenfranchise the Visually Impaired

How else can we take this column?

I’ve used this column in the past as a means of issuing impassioned pleas to product designers. Now it’s time for another, at least as heartfelt as the ones in the past: Please, keep things quiet. Or at least give me the option of doing so.

I’ve noticed that over the past few years, more and more of my appliances want to tell me things, whether I want to hear them or not, something they accomplish via a variety of beeps and buzzes.

He then tells manufacturers to knock it off. For his own comfort, he would deprive the visually impaired of the ability to know when their dishes are done, when their laundry is done, or when their power to their televisions has gone out. Or he would give pranksters the ability to deprive the visually impaired of those same abilities.

Friends, I know the world we’re living in and its march to a cacophonous new world where silence must be broken to better serve the minority amongst us who cannot see or cannot see well. At a nearby intersection, the crosswalk now blares “Wait!” or “Walk sign is now on to cross” along with an incessant beeping to draw the infrequent visually impaired person to the push-to-cross button. It never stops, and it insists upon making its noise all the time for the benefit of the few.

Much like the occasional news story about visually impaired people who are endangered by the silence of hybrid vehicles. When they get their way, all hybrids will be outfitted with internal combustion engine sound simulators so that the minority is not endangered. Meanwhile, other minorities will continue to agitate for sound abatement expenditures to counter internal combustion engine sounds and the eventual loud safety mechanisms.

Me, I am preparing for the beeping, blaring future by buying ear-plug stock and turning up the music in my headphones so I can deaden my ear nerve endings.

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The Miser Chronicles

As one of our biggest home improvement projects in our previous house, sadly enough, we put drawer liners in our kitchen drawers. Surely that added $1000 to the selling price of the home and recouped more than 100% of our investment for the improvement in the sale price–if the purchaser opened the drawers and didn’t rip out the marble-looking liner as part of a complete remodel.

Because I prefer to err on the side of too much, I bought a little more than a roll and a half more of the contact paper than I needed. I injected the complete roll and the partial roll into the second-hand contact paper market through the underground economy, meaning I sold them for a buck or something at a garage sale. However, I found some scrap in my basement that represented some cuttings from the partial roll.

Throw them out? What kind of miser would I be then? I mean, sure, I don’t have a a drawer or two of suitable dimensions to use this contact paper as nature intended it, but I could find some use for it.

And I did:

Christmas gifts wrapped in drawer liner

Now that’s Christmas wrapping paper you can reuse.

I didn’t remove the adhesive backing, so the gifts’ recipient can line two small drawers or wrap gifts herself. Given that she’s a miser, too, I wouldn’t put it past her. However, since it’s my inheritance she’s protecting, go, Mom!

You trained me well.

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Mitchell Report: Perspective

Remember the cocaine scandal of the 1980s and all of the players implicated in it?

Keith Hernandez and some other guys.

There’s your long range impact of the report, fellows. People who need to run hysterical daily columns about events in the sports world today shriek that this will impact players forever and predict fire and brimstone for those implicated, but in twenty years, it won’t be a footnote, even. Just something mentioned parenthetically in some sports biographies and may be included in the index.

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When Is It Okay For A Policeman To Lie?

According to the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission, it’s okay when the police officer lies to Federal investigators in an immigration matter:

The Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission voted Wednesday to overturn the firing of Police Officer Alexander Ayala, even though he lied to a federal agent as his brother was being investigated for adopting a false identity.

Ayala’s firing came after an internal investigation alleged that he had lied to immigration officials when asked May 30 about his brother’s citizenship status. He told a federal agent that his brother, Oscar Ayala-Cornejo, was a Mexican citizen living in Mexico, and that he had not spoken to him for a long time, according to testimony provided by witnesses before the commission Wednesday.

“At that moment in time, I was being a son and brother,” Ayala told commissioners Wednesday night as he pleaded for his job. “I was an immigrant, and it’s hard being an immigrant here.”

The rule of law takes another hit, or at least the perception does. When you have an accumulation of stories wherein suspects surreptitiously recording their own interrogations catch police detectives perjuring themselves, wherein police patrolmen are caught threatening to make up things to take citizens to jail by dashboard cameras in the citizens’ cars, and wherein police officers are allowed to keep their jobs after lying in an investigation and in supporting lawbreaking by family members, you’re facing an increasing suspicion on the part of the citizens that maybe the law enforcement officials aren’t exactly looking out for the citizens and that, instead of being held to higher standards, are held to lower standards.

Maybe law enforcement professionalism isn’t taking a hit. Perhaps the legislators’ eagerness to add ever-increasing numbers of police to the streets hasn’t actually lowered the standards for recruits or the training thereof. But the perception of rule of law, or lack thereof, will have a certain impact on citizenship, and not a good one.

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