Category Archives: Life Lessons

Things I Learned In the Aughts

I’ve decided to steal an idea from Gideon and write a quick list of things I learned in the last decade:

  • I learned to ignore people who say the decade/century/millenium has one more year to go because there was no year zero.
  • I learned that terrorism in the United States is a more real threat than I thought it was.
  • I learned that just because the people opposing the president are idiots doesn’t make them completely wrong about him.
  • I learned that occupying a country to change its form of government is a very long-term project.
  • I learned how to start and run a one-man corporation.
  • I learned that working from home makes me gain weight.
  • I learned that some take my blogging seriously and appreciate what I’m saying.
  • I learned how to take a pretty good photograph.
  • I learned that taking road trips with cell phones, a mapping GPS system, and wireless internet is a whole different experience from when I was a kid.
  • I learned that it pays to buy an insulated delivery bag so the pizza stays hot when you bring it home.
  • I learned that a DVR and multiple sources of downloadable video make television in to a completely different experience.
  • I learned to program with
  • The .NET Framework
  • Windows Forms
  • Windows Communication Foundation
  • PHP
  • CSS
  • JavaScript
  • AJAX
  • YUI
  • Procedural SQL
  • Movable Type
  • Drupal
  • TikiWiki
  • NUnit
  • I learned the incredible value of having medical and financial powers of attorney for my parents.
  • The Smoking Gun, Part II: When the Going Gets Weird, the Weird Get Put on Patrol, Version 1.1

    Nah. Updating doesn’t go quite far enough; I really should eat a little more crow. But just a little.

    Let’s try that again — and I’m going to leave the original up, for historical purposes. Bloggers — well, ones who care to do it right — don’t throw errors down the memory hole. Hence, Version 1.1.

    Let’s start off by reviewing the key paragraph in our last episode:

    On April 16 of 2008, Sheriff Bob Fletcher and Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner filed a hundred-page petition (here’s Part 1; here’s Part 2) with District Judge Joanne Smith, requesting that the judge revoke what they called Wilson’s “conceal and carry permit”, and documenting, in great detail, each and every one of the incidents above. In detail. The petition had been written and researched by David Rossman — then a deputy assigned to Sheriff Fletcher’s gun permit unit.

    Which, combined with all the other strangenesses, was more than strange enough.

    This morning it got stranger. The following was posted in the comments — go look for yourself.

    I represent Ms. Wilson. You are wrong on many of your facts.

    In addition, the incidents of 2004 and 2007, did not involve Michelle Rae Wilson. Those incidents involved another “Michelle Wilson”. Ms. Wilson has no son named Terrance. She was not the perpetrator in those situations. I guess you should print at retraction.

    All of this is wrong:

    “In 2004, two neighbors accused Wilson and another son of pouring sugar in their car’s gas tank; according to police records, one said that, “Michelle Wilson threatened to blow up her house and kill her. She taunted her to go outside.” She owed Wilson $60, and couldn’t pay. Vandalism is a crime; terroristic threats are a felony.

    “But Wilson was never prosecuted — SPPD Officer Kong just left a card at the house — and it all went away.

    “In 2007, Nakeshia Britton, a high school classmate of Wilson’s son Terrence, got another restraining order, claiming that Wilson, her son and others had followed Britton’s school bus home, after which Wilson and her son Terrence, “came up on the porch with broken beer bottles and a bat trying to hit me… and told Edna, my foster mom, to let me come out so they can kick my retarded ass.” She said that they tried to force their way in.”

    Michelle has a clean record. Her friends and neighbors love her. You wrote a very unfair and factually false piece as it pertains to her.


    Gary Wolf
    Attorney for Michelle Rae Wilson

    I’m always up for correcting any facts, of course, and I have good reason to credit Mr. Wolf’s claims of this morning that the 2004 and 2007 incidents were another Michelle Wilson.

    But, let’s be clear: they’re not my facts. The source for the story wasn’t my imagination — I’m just a fiction writer, by trade, and I couldn’t have made this stuff up; it’s far too weird for fiction.

    The 1996 incidents, which Mr. Wolf doesn’t dispute was his client, is from sections #6 and #7 in Sheriff Fletcher’s and County Attorney Susan Gaertner’s revocation petition, and their Exhibit K and and Exhibit L, both of which were submitted to the court in support of that petition.

    Somebody accused of hounding an ex for four years (and that’s what the accusation is in Exhibit K and L; I don’t know if the accusers were lying) being issued a carry permit in Ramsey County? Let’s not be silly. That wouldn’t happen unless the applicant was connected — say, by being the aunt of a Saint Paul cop.

    But let’s turn to the two incidents that Mr. Wolf does — and with good reason — dispute.

    The 2004 incident, which Mr. Wolf does say was some other Michelle Wilson (and he appears to be right) is also from Sheriff Fletcher’s revocation petition, in which he claims that Respondent — that’s Mr. Wolf’s client — was named as a criminal suspect, and which Sheriff Fletcher supports with his Exhibit J.

    The 2007 incident, which Mr. Wolf also says was some other Michelle Wilson, is, yet again, from Sheriff Fletcher’s revocation petition, in which Sheriff Fletcher claims that Respondent — that’s still Mr. Wolf’s client — was hit by a restraining order, and which he supports by his Exhibit I.

    Let’s assume — he does seem credible to me; you decide for yourself — that Mr. Wolf is right. Why — when trying to revoke (instead of to suspend, with a one-page petition citing the pending charges) a carry permit of a woman who was sitting in jail, accused of murder — did Sheriff Fletcher throw accusations about another Michelle (or Michele; and without the “Rae”) Wilson into the mix?

    The reason I credit what Mr. Wolf says is that it appears that “Michelle Rae Wilson” has lived at the Iglehart address since 1996, whereas the “Michelle (or Michele) Wilson” in the 2004 and 2007 incidents lived at a Dale Street or Magnolia Avenue address. It is highly improbable Michelle Rae Wilson maintained two or three separate residences simultaneously.

    Also, Mr. Wolf’s client apparently always uses her middle name in official matters. I suspect that the other Michelle (or Michele) Wilson doesn’t have a middle name. This is expressly identified as a fact on the West side of the river with a “NMN,” for “No Middle Name.” It aids in correct identification.

    I can easily imagine the conversation between client and attorney concerning the background: “That’s not me; it’s someone else with most of my name,” Michelle Rae Wilson probably said.

    I, and others with whom I researched this article, are humbled by the revelation from Mr. Wolf. We should have caught it in our fact-checking and it appears so obvious with 20-20 hindsight. No; we are chastened. Thank you, Mr. Wolf; no excuses; we will make sure that it doesn’t happen again.

    No excuses, but here’s the explanation: we all were overwhelmed with the outrageousness of the overkill of Sheriff Fletcher’s petition to revoke, when a petition to suspend would have sufficed.

    “Methinks she [don’t visualize Sheriff Fletcher in a dress; you’ll burn your retinas. JR] doth protest too much.” We, too, took the lengthy petition at face value and neglected to double-check the citations, simply because the Sheriff and the County claimed the asserted facts as true and adopted them. That’s our explanation, such as it is. Why didn’t County Attorney Susan Gaertner, Assistant County Attorney Karen A. Kugler, or the judge who signed off on Sheriff Fletcher’s petition didn’t check his homework?

    I guess you’ll have to ask them; I’ll not draw any conclusions.  Yet.

    And I’ll refrain from drawing any conclusion as to the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office malice, at least at this point, when simple, bumbling incompetence provides an entirely sufficient answer, and yet another argument that somebody should always be checking out Sheriff Fletcher’s allegations, and not believing them until they’ve been reliably confirmed.

    There are other good questions which still remain. Why wasn’t the 1996 restraining order enough reason for Sheriff Fletcher to deny Michelle Rae Wilson’s permit application in the first place? He’s certainly denied other applicants for less.

    Why, when she was sitting in jail, did he apparently throw every accusation he could find up against the wall and see what would stick? Wasn’t the murder charge enough?

    And why, after years in the Ramsey County Sheriffs Office gun unit, was David Rossman transferred to patrol after researching and writing that petition — apparently to the best of his demonstrably limited abilities?

    Apparently, one of the possibilities I raised in the last episode has not panned out: the transfer was apparently not a reward for the accuracy and thoroughness of the research he did in the revocation petition. What did happen with the bumbling Deputy Rossman — and why? Is it possible that, after deciding that Rossman was too incompetent to properly shuffle paper around, Fletcher put him in a squad car with a handgun and a shotgun to do things requiring far better and sharper immediate judgment than he’d already demonstrated was lacking in his leisurely, carefully-considered one during his time in the gun permit unit?

    I’d love to know the answers to these questions.

    And there’s more. Me, I think it would also have been news to many of us, back in 2008, after the murder, that the accused murderer was a Saint Paul PD dog cop’s aunt, using supposedly, the gun that that same cop had given her.

    Doesn’t that sound like news to you?

    Ah, if only there were some enterprise locally, that hired people to look into interesting questions about public figures and public officials, then reviewed and edited their reports, and printed them daily upon some inexpensive medium for public distribution.

    Instead, what we’ve got is the Pioneer Press and the Star Tribune.

    The Thunderwear Story

    Life does drift, and the discussion over at SJ that Mark links to led to a digression into tactical pens, tactical pants, tactical shirts, and tactical underwear.  (For those of you who have never tried to pronounce the phrase, “tactical pants,” please do try it; it’s almost impossible to say without giggling.)

    Which reminds me of a story.

    But I gotta back up for a moment.  Despite the impression that the opening of D’Shai has given some people, anybody who has met me will have quickly figured out that whatever I am, it’s not a runner.

    Being “vaguely pear-shaped” mixes poorly with marathons.

    That said, during the summer, I do tend to spend a fair amount of time in a t-shirt and running shorts, just for the comfort.  Which does lead to a problem in how to carry the handgun.  Running shorts, after all, generally have an elastic waistband rather than loops for a good belt, and my usual pocket holster carry doesn’t work well with those, even without worrying about the possibility of the shorts suddenly dropping to the ground with a loud thunk that might not go over real well.

    Which is how I found myself at the party carrying in Thunderwear.  (I was also wearing conventional underwear, not wanting to give a whole new meaning to the term “going commando,” honest.)  For those folks not willing to click on the link, please reconsider — but the short form is that the gun is carried, remarkably discreetly, just in front of the, err, crotchal area…

    There’s lots of things that are useful about Thunderwear, honest, although it’s not possible to holster the gun without doing violence to one of the basic safety rules:  never point the handgun at something that you’re not willing to destroy.  (Short further digression:  Thunderwear is a great reminder that it’s never, ever necessary to quickly holster the gun.) 

    Well, it was all going very well until a woman friend of mine plunked down on my lap.  We’re friendly sorts in my social circle.

    Understandably, she gave me a look. 

    “Well,” I said, “I am happy to see you, but . . . “

    “Yeah, I know:  you have a gun in your pocket.”

    She did have the courtesy to sound disappointed.

    Getting Your Pen Back

    As I get older, I feel the need to pass on some of the accumulated wisdom of my years, so with this post I’m starting the Windypundit Life Lessons Department.

    It’s too late to help poor Scott, but the secret to getting people to remember to give back a pen you’ve loaned them is to hand them the pen but keep the cap.  When they absentmindedly put the pen away, the need to find the cap usually nudges them into conscious thought, and then they remember it’s not their pen.

    Of course, that might not help you if they recognize your $300 Montblanc Meisterstück Le Grand and decide to steal it.