Sunday, September 24, 2006

Sunday evening on the riverwalk

Dubuque enjoyed perfect autumn weather on Sunday -- and it made for a great afternoon for a stroll on the city's riverwalk. And, after watching the Chicago Bears pull out a come-from-behind road victory over the Minnesota Vikings, Madame X and I went strolling.

We found that the Mississippi Queen was making one of its occasional stops in Dubuque. It's an impressive vessel. Just imagine what the city was like in the 19th century, when these boats plied the river and jammed Dubuque's shoreline.

Meanwhile, it appears that renovation work on the historic Dubuque Star Brewery building is progressing. At least most of those torn-up plastic sheets covering the windows are gone! The structure will be a jewel at the north end of the Port of Dubuque campus.

Tourists, such as those on the Mississippi Queen, pay good money to come to Dubuque and enjoy the beauty along the riverwalk. We get to enjoy it for free! Let's hope that there are several more pleasant days remaining this year for leisurely walks along the Mighty Mississippi!

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Dunking for dollars

Popularity has its price. Or something like that.

On a sunny (fortunately) afternoon last week, I found myself on the hot (or wet) seat. The occasion was the culminating event for the Telegraph Herald/Woodward Communications pledge drive for the annual United Way campaign.

Employees put up money to "elect" five of their peers to go into the dunk tank. You Know Who was one of the five. Later, at the event, folks paid a dollar to United Way for three throws to try to dunk us.

I was much relieved, before taking my seat, to learn that the water in the 500-gallon dunk tank was warm. Still, sitting up on that chair watching all the futility among the throwers, I got a bit chilly by the end of my half-hour shift.

Those who had particularly bad aim and an inability to deal with failure (for example, Promotion Director Connie Gibbs, as shown in the middle photo) took their three feeble throws and then ran up and struck the target with their hands.

The other dunkees were Patricia Tobin, Steve Fisher, Mike Fortman and Dave Kettering (who took these photos). Eventually, all five of us warmed up and dried out -- and raised a few hundred dollars more for United Way.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Mad Dog Driver in Mad Town?

I snapped this image Sunday afternoon in Madison, Wis.
Enter a "comment" and suggest your own own caption.

Kathy, for example, submitted: "Looks like a dog-gone good day for a Sunday drive!"

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Update on attack on editor

The Ottumwa Courier, of which I was once editor (1982-86), has published an update on the case of the Iowa editor who was attacked a couple of weeks ago. The Courier's article is posted below, with the permission of Publisher Tom Hawley. (I am posting the photo provided by Iowa Newspaper Association.)

Ottumwa Courier staff writer

CENTERVILLE -- A second suspect will be charged in an alleged assault on an area newspaper editor on Sept. 1, an attack which may have been prompted by an article the editor wrote back in April.

"We've got an additional charge on an additional person, same charge as on Wade Adams ... assault with intent to inflict serious injury," said Centerville Police Chief Dan Howington. He declined to name the second suspect, who has not yet been taken into custody. The original suspect in the case, Adams, 27, was arrested immediately after the incident, and is currently free on bail.

In the meantime, said Howington, the investigation continues. Daily Iowegian Managing Editor Dan Ehl said the night he was beaten, he had brought two writers from England to a local bar and grill. The pair were interviewing subjects for a book, and things were going fine, Ehl said Monday. He said he didn't know the manager of another bar, Adams, was in the area.

"I did not even recognize him until he started screaming [at me] ...," Ehl claimed. Ehl said he knew of one previous contact with the man. Ehl had gone to a regular meeting of the Centerville City Council. At that meeting, the police approached the council, requesting the City not renew the liquor license for The Hot Spot, a bar managed by Adams. Ehl said he wrote about the council meeting and the licensing dispute in an article, not an opinion piece, that went on the front page as city council coverage typically does.

Adams allegedly called Ehl the next day, shouting and otherwise expressing anger that the article would be harmful to his business. "That was in April. I guess he's been angry ever since," Ehl said.

When Adams began shouting at him outside of the bar and grill recently, Ehl claims he told Adams he simply reported what was discussed at the council meeting. He said the alleged attack, in front of several witnesses, came as a complete surprise. Ehl said he is "not much of a fighter." He added Adams is a big guy, and strong enough that even if Ehl hadn't been knocked down by what he called a "sucker punch," he couldn't have defended himself against the man.

Adams could not be reached for comment either at the phone number listed for his residence or at the Hot Spot Lounge on Monday.

"It was a shock," said Ehl. "While I lay there, I remember feeling a sharp pain [in my leg] while they were kicking me." He said he does remember being kicked in the head and body, but that he "must have passed out" at one point, and was told later by a witness Adams and an accomplice continued "stomping" on him. "I don't even know who called the police, but I'm glad somebody did," Ehl said. "I know afterwards, the bartender was standing out there."

Ehl found out his leg had been broken when he was taken to Mercy Medical Center in Centerville, where he was also treated for facial injuries. Ehl said he is pressing charges. "I hope he gets sent a message so he stops doing this," Ehl said. "It'd be nice to think I'd be the last one he'd rough up."

Ehl said he believes criminal charges could be raised from an aggravated misdemeanor to a felony. But that would be up to the prosecutor, and Appanoose County Attorney Robert Boswell told the Courier he never comments to the press about ongoing cases. He said the present case is in that time between "arrest-complaint" and "trial information" where he cannot discuss it. He explained after an arrest and complaint are filed by police, the county attorney has 45 days to present "trial information" on what he will charge -- or not charge -- a suspect with.

In an assault case, Boswell said, a county attorney may need to wait on evidence like "medical testimony" to decide what charges he will pursue. He did say that charges can be adjusted up or down by trial information time.

A delay in reporting

Though the incident happened early the morning of Sept. 1, the Daily Iowegian had not printed the article until Sept. 6.

Ehl said he's heard some criticism for the delay, and he understands the questions.

But Ehl said as an objective news source, he and the Iowegian had something of an ethical question facing them; how to report fairly on something he was so involved in. He said management at the newspaper hesitated, perhaps a bit too long, before running an article.

"[We] waited for the statement from the police; [The paper] didn't want to do anything unfair," he said.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

I'm No. 10!

I voted this morning in the Dubuque Community School District's board election and referendum on the renewal of the Physical Plant and Equipment Levy.

I usually vote before heading to the office. That way, if my plans change (remember, the 2001 school board vote was on 9/11), or if I get hit by a bus later in the day, at least my vote will have been cast.

Anyway, when I voted today, the polls had been open 68 minutes, and I was only voter No. 10 at my site. I know that local school board elections often suffer low turnout, but this is pretty grim.

Let's hope that the pace picks up during the day and evening. The polls close at 8 p.m.

Results available tonight on

Monday, September 11, 2006

Current quotation?

The Iowa Newspaper Association weekly newsletter always concludes with a quotation. Though this week's quote came from a 19th century politician and writer, it seems to fit today, considering the tone and tenor of life these days.

It is much easier to be critical than to be correct.
-- Benjamin Disraeli

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Voices from the Warehouse District

Madame X and I enjoyed Saturday night's opening reception for the Voices from the Warehouse District exhibition -- so much so that we stayed hours later than we had anticipated.

Interesting art, good food and drink, and interesting conversation with a wide range of friends and acquaintances.

The paintings, sculptures, photographs and multi-media display are displayed in the huge old warehouse at 10th and Jackson streets. Until a few years ago , it was the home of Eagle Window and Door. Exhibit organizers did nothing to make it look like a gallery; it looks as if the Eagle Window had just swept out and shut off the lights.

The exhibition continues through Oct. 22.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Police: Iowa editor attacked over article

Apologies for the nasty photo, but I believe it is important to show what happened to one of my colleagues -- Dan Ehl, editor of the Daily Iowegian in Centerville, Iowa -- because of something he wrote.

What bothers me as much as the beating Ehl suffered is the fact that local police only got around to releasing details of the early-Friday incident until Tuesday afternoon. Iowa law has, for decades, required law-enforcement authorities to make timely release of the basic facts and circumstances of incidents.

Here is what Iowegian reported on its web site today:

On Friday, at approximately 1:22 a.m., the Centerville Police Department received a call of a fight outside Gordies Bar & Grill in the 100 block of North 13th Street.

When officers arrived, it was determined the incident was between two males outside a bar. Police said the investigation revealed the incident concerned an article written by Dan Ehl of the Daily Iowegian, who was a victim in the incident.

Arrested in connection with the incident was Wade Eugene Adams, 27, of Centerville. Adams (he is at right in the photo linked -- BC) was charged with Assault with Intent to Inflict Serious Injury, an aggravated misdemeanor, and Simple Assault, a simple misdemeanor.

Adams was held in the Appanoose County Jail before being released on bond.

Ehl was taken to Mercy Medical Center-Centerville, where he was treated for a broken leg and facial injuries.

The article dealt with a Centerville City Council meeting in which the police were asking the City Council not to renew a bar's liquor license. The bar is called The Hot Spot and is managed by Adams.

(Top photo distributed by Iowa Newspaper Association.)

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Didn't you get the memo?

My Tuesday got off to a rotten start when I was informed that my column (in the print edition of the TH) reported the wrong date for our upcoming fall Vacationland section.

Seems that the publication date was changed from Sept. 9 (the date I reported) to Sept. 16.

Notification of the date change was communicated in an internal memo in late June and distributed to seemingly everyone in our building -- everyone, that is, but the executive editor. I'm usually on the routing list for these "change orders," but for some reason not this one. Over the subsequent two months, however, I thought I might have caught wind of the date change. But no such luck.

It's my fault for going with the schedule I originally received and not double-checking with our folks producing the section, just to make sure there were no changes like these.

The rest of the day, things can only improve. Right?

Monday, September 04, 2006

Book reports

It's a rainy afternoon on Labor Day, the holiday bridging the unofficial transition from summer to fall. It seems a good to move books from the nightstand to the bookshelf.

As long as I can remember, I've preferred reading non-fiction -- especially biographies and particularly those of sports figures. After devoting most of my free time the past four years to writing sports non-fiction -- including a full biography of National Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher Red Faber -- it has been great to take some time away from writing to do some reading. None is a new release -- just "new" to me.

Here are most of the books on my "completed" list.

Joe DiMaggio: The Hero's Life, by Richard Ben Cramer. Though "hero" is part of the title, this is no hero-worship biography. On the contrary, Cramer reveals the obsessive, greedy side of a man known as (and required to be introduced as such at his public appearances) The Greatest Living Ballplayer. On the field, DiMaggio was a superstar. Off the field, according to Cramer's intricately researched book, DiMaggio was anything but. Here is one reviewer's assessment of the book.

How You Played the Game: The Life of Grantland Rice, by William Harper. (1999). I started this biography during the spring, set it aside for another choice, and finished it this summer. As a former sportswriter interested in sports Golden Age of the 1920s, I was curious about the era's leading sportswriter, who seemed to have a front-row seat for all of the major events of his day. The book struck me as a little long, but a good investment in time nonetheless.

This Side of Cooperstown: An Oral History of Major League Baseball in the 1950s, by Larry Moffi. (1996). I might not have spent much time with this one, except I had plenty of free time (camping vacation in Colorado). Most of the retired players who consented to interviews with Moffi were far from household names. Still, the reader gains insight into the life of a major leaguer before he became a major leaguer. The oral history style -- all "in their own words" -- helps the book move along.

The Wild Blue: The Men and Boys Who Flew the B-24s over Germany,
by Stephen E. Ambrose.
I put aside the sports books temporarily for this one. The compelling account is mostly told through the experiences of a young pilot who later became a U.S. senator and presidential candidate George McGovern. The book, released in 2001, was among a half-dozen Ambrose projects that were the subject of ethical questions. including accusations of plaigiarism. Ambrose died of lung cancer in October 2002, and the furor subsided. In any case, the book helps a reader appreciate the youth, the sacrifice and the dangers of McGovern and other B-24 pilots.

Thus ends my summer reading book report.

Final exam

My "season" of racing concluded today with the Mississippi Valley Running Association's biggest event of the year, the Benefit Classic.

For me, the Labor Day race is my "final exam" to assess my training during the spring and summer. I might enter another race or two this fall -- the Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving is a family tradition -- but they won't be as important to me as the Labor Day race.

I was pleased with my result in the 5-kilometer (3.1-mile) event, exceeding my goals for time and place. Despite being a year older, I was able to cut more than 40 seconds from last year's time. Apparently, my decision last year to sacrifice sleep and run early on weekday mornings is paying off.

No deep message here, except perhaps a reminder about the importance of setting goals.

Today's result will make it easier to roll out of the sack Tuesday when the alarm clock shows 5:30. Wednesday morning might be another story.