Filed under: notes

Some Random Things

MY OWN ANGLE ON THE ALLEGED McCAIN SCANDAL

I’ve got a short item up at Radar‘s “Fresh Intelligence” documenting mysterious online posts made well in advance of the New York Times article that first hit the Web last night:

Anonymous Web Poster Had Goods on McCain, Times.

It all may be much ado about nothing, these allegations of improprieties on McCain’s part, but I do have to wonder how someone cottoned onto the more prurient aspect of the story well in advance of the biggest paper in the nation. Inside information, perhaps?

If you like any piece posted at RadarOnline.com, please click “Recommend it” at the bottom of the post.

THANK YOU, AGAIN

I am so grateful to everyone who has responded to this post, both with donations and in the comments. I just don’t think I can say that enough. You are helping more than you know.

THIS HAS BOTHERED ME FOR A WHILE

This is an appropriate question to ask on a crime blog, I think.

A few years ago I was singing at a large, wealthy Catholic church in Buckhead. It was a paying gig for me and a tenor friend of mine, and a good one. The music director, though, was kind of demented. Just plain, old-fashioned crazy. One example — he seemed to completely improvise his pre-service music on the organ. And we’re not talking about brilliant improvisation, either. Just noodling. No one noticed.

Anyway, one Saturday (Saturday evening mass) something very strange happened. While we were in service, someone took dumps in the stairwell leading from the ground floor up to the balcony, where the organ and choir were located. The phantom crapper dropped loads on two landings, if I recall correctly.

To any psychologists, profilers, or psychiatrists out there: what could possibly be the psychology behind that? I only encountered such strange behavior one other time in my life, when I worked at a large department store in Knoxville. Shortly after a police crackdown on guys trysting in a bathroom on the second floor of that store, somebody took a dump in a stall in a mens’ changing room.

What the heck is going through the mind of a phantom crapper? I can figure out a lot of things, but that one mystifies and bothers me to this very day.

MY VISIT TO THE ER

I had to go to the ER yesterday, but not for myself. Read this post at my personal weblog to see why. And remember to do the Pirate Dance.

OTHER STUFF

I’m behind in posting a couple of entries I’d planned for this blog, but I’m still welcoming suggestions for current, unsolved serial cases to cover in a post. Leave links and info in the comments below — and thank you to those of you who have already done this on a previous post.

Tuesday Morning Note, 2/19/08

I only have a moment, but I wanted to plug this Radar story I submitted last night:

Randy Jackson Using American Idol to Push His Failed Artists?

The title tells you a lot. Click and read to find out some details. If you like the piece, be sure to click “recommend it” at the bottom of the post. Other Radar contributors might appreciate it if you do that for anything you read there.

And VoteFortheWorst.com would really appreciate some credit from other journalists out there who take their cues from what that site turns up. There’s some real buzz in the mainstream media lately about the possibility that Idol is basically rigged by placing bona fide professional singers in the “top 24,” and VFTW is the site that’s been ahead of the curve in covering that angle all along.

I am planning on a post for this blog sometime today or tomorrow about the alarming number of unsolved serial murder cases currently in the news. I’m keeping track of most of them, but I welcome suggestions in the comments below for current unsolved serial sprees to cover in the next blog entry. In a similar vein, you may want to check out this blog by former Crime Library scribe David Lohr: Serial Killer News Briefs.

The Temporary Return of the Dreaded PayPal Button

My wife and I decided some time ago to remove me from her insurance because under her current plan, my coverage was an extra few hundred dollars a month that we could use for other things. I do earn money now as a freelance writer and circumstances are improving, but I am paid monthly, and haven’t gotten to the point where I can pay for my own health insurance and still cover other bills and important outstanding debts (income tax being just one example). It’s worth it to note that a ton of freelance writers, many of them much more successful than me financially — that’s gotta be most of them, at the moment — are in the same boat.

I wouldn’t be addressing any of this, but a health issue has come up in the last two weeks or so that I can’t just dismiss or ignore.

Hypertension seems to practically run in my family, and everyone — my mother, father, and 90+ year old grandmother — lives with it just fine. I’ve had high blood pressure off and on since my teens, and it hasn’t mattered whether I was in shape or not — even at an optimal weight of 170 with a 31-inch waistline in 1996, I had above-normal blood pressure.

The new wrinkle, though, seems to be exclusive to me (in the family context) — chest pains and circulation problems. My father, as far as I know, had few if any hypertension-related symptoms of note before he had a stroke 7 years ago. So at least there’s the chance that my body is being nice by giving me some warnings he didn’t get.

The circulation problems — numbness and tingling — could be a lot of things, including relapsing-remitting MS (my MS has proven somewhat benign since I was diagnosed 5 years ago). The chest pains are what bother me psychologically, as well as physically. Even if it’s just a temporary, passing thing, I need to get it checked out.

So I’ve installed the PayPal donation button again on the right side of the page for anyone inclined to send something towards helping me with what will hopefully be a minor medical bill, maybe two. Once I’m paid at the end of February, I may be able to cover any outstanding part of the medical myself. March should be better than February earnings-wise, so I hope to remove the donation button again at that time. I hate putting it up as it is, and I really don’t like talking about medical issues. My own wife doesn’t even know I’ve had chest pains, and she’ll probably kick my butt when she reads this. She does know I’ve had some thumping headaches, but I’ve always had headaches, so that wouldn’t be a worry. (NOTE: She’s the worrier in the family, which may explain why I’ve not said anything to her yet about the chest pains — didn’t want her to fret. Hell, I didn’t want to fret.)

The amount you donate doesn’t matter — every little bit is appreciated, and you better believe it helps.

I won’t reference this again, save to note when I take it down. I will post a semi-permanent note under the blog’s header above, with a link-back to this entry.

Additionally, I’m not slowing the pace of my writing or blogging here at the moment, and hopefully won’t have to.

Thank you as always for reading and participating in the comment threads. Most of you will never know how grateful I truly am for this.

UPDATE, 2/29/08

I’ve got a Dr’s appointment made for early next week (first week of March) specifically to look into this problem, hopefully see about getting a prescription for anti-hypertensive medication, at the very least. Thank you again to everyone who has made a donation, so far.

UPDATED Notes for 2/11/08 & 2/12/08

BOBBY CUTTS LIVE

Have you been watching the hideousness that is the Bobby Cutts show? The ex-cop is on trial for the murder of his girlfriend Jessie Davis, a case detailed in part in this blog in these entries:

Mysteriously Missing: Jessie Davis.”
Bobby Cutts Jr., AKA DALAW150.”

I watched large chunks of Cutts’s sobfest as it aired on MSNBC, and couldn’t quit thinking about how the guy was never going to win any Oscars for the nauseating show he was putting on for the court and the cameras.

He’ll never sell his ludicrous story of how Jessie died, either — that it was an accident. No sensible jury could possibly buy such a farce.

That’s the hallmark of psychopaths the world over — they don’t really know, when the stress is on, that the mask has cracked. Certain that their charm and earnest manner will carry the day, they just keep trying. Or in Cutts’s case, crying.

THE OBLIGATORY RADAR PLUG

Hey, I like the subjects they let me cover there. My “Fresh Intelligence” post for today:

Randy Quaid Banned from Theater by Actors Union.”

To be honest, I liked Randy Quaid. He was a character actor’s character actor, a guy who could play comedy, drama, you name it, with equal ease. Then I did a little research for the post you’ll read at the other end of that link above.

Basically, at the end of the 80’s Quaid married a smokin’ hot young limo driver named Evi, and it looks like his life has only gotten stranger (downhill might not be too accurate) ever since. Evi Quaid is Randy’s manager. She’s also an auteur, a photographer and model (link almost NSFW) and just maybe a scary-ass psycho in her own right. Whatever the deal is, she isn’t doing her husband any favors at the moment. And no, he doesn’t sound like he’s screwed on all that tight, either.

Click “recommend it” on my post if you like it, but as always, poke around Radar‘s site for a while and recommend anything you like. There’s some pretty entertaining stuff to be found there.

GROW UP, Y’ALL

A note for folks still leaving comments referencing this True Crime Weblog post: those of you who are over 18 — and I think it’s most of you — really need to have your license to be called a grown-up revoked. I’d go in and just delete the whole shebang, but I don’t have the time right now. Anyone bored enough to follow the comment link will see what I’m talking about right away.

I know the obsessives snarking uselessly at one another in that thread don’t even read this blog otherwise (at least most of them don’t), but for the few of you who do, let me introduce you to the very thing you embody: “John Gabriel’s Greater Internet F***wad Theory.” Please, if you do nothing else, follow that link, see yourself, and go get a life. For added emphasis, let me point you to another excellent illustration of the essential nature of Internet Debates.

For the record, I get all new comments in my GMail every half-hour, so yes, I get the gist of most of it. And yes, it’s damned irritating, in this case.

PLUGGITY

It’s not crime-related, but I may have solved a wee literary mystery. I’ve posted about it in my personal blog, Random Lunatic News (StevenHuff.net). I’ve been working on it for a while, and now some Wikipedians are weighing in.

PLUGGITY-PLUG PLUG, RADAR AGAIN ON 2/12/08

This somehow seems more appropriate to plug than a Radar post about Randy Quaid’s Equity woes:

The Mysterious Case of ’90 Day Jane.'”

It’s my post for “Fresh Intelligence” about a rather dark, new Internet phenomenon, 90 Day Jane. Jane says she’s going to commit suicide in just a little less than 3 months, and she’s documenting the effort in her blog.

The funny thing is, I spent a good deal of the night last night writing this entry at Random Lunatic News: “The Strange Tale of 90 Day Jane.” In that entry I said that Jane might become a new thing on the Internet, a phenomenon, but I wasn’t sure, yet. Then this morning I got an e-mail from one of my editors at Radar asking me if I’d like to dig into — what else? — the same allegedly suicidal Jane. Guess I read that one right, after all.

Where the blog entry for Radar is short and to the point, my personal blog post is detailed and delves a little into autobiography, for I couldn’t examine a blog purporting to document a suicide’s descent into death without remembering my late brother.

Is 90 Day Jane real? Follow the links for yourself and see what you think. I just don’t know, right now. I do know that hoax or not, I find the whole thing pretty damned disturbing.

NOTE: I’ve hemmed and hawed about this in the past, and I think I’d really appreciate anyone following Radar links from this blog leaving comments there instead of here. It only takes a moment to register to comment on the site, and Radar really asks for the bare minimum information necessary to let you have a posting account. Comments are always welcome here, but they make more sense when they’re attached to whatever post I’ve had published there.

Thursday Notes: American Idol, Drew Peterson, and Corpses

I’ve got a true crime-related post up at RadarOnline.com:

Win a Date with Drew Peterson.

You just can’t make some things up. Drew Peterson, ex-cop and prime suspect in the disappearance of his wife, 24-year-old Stacey Peterson, is easily one of the most macabre clowns to be found in a crime story since his fellow Chicagoland resident John Gacy. And Peterson doesn’t even need the makeup. After the stunt you’ll read about in my Radar piece, Peterson also needs to get a new attorney, because the one he’s got now seems to have a bit of a tin ear for the public perception of this case.

My most recent American Idol post for Radar is here: “American Idol Slips into a Coma.” Click “Recommend It” if you like either post. You have to register to comment on a Radar article, but it only takes a second to do so, and then you can riff on any entry you read there. I suggest really browsing the site, because there’s plenty of good stuff there. For example, a fellow CrimeLibrary.com alum, Seamus McGraw, has a fascinating and creepy featured article that’s certainly worth a read and a recommendation:

Confessions of a Body Snatcher.

I have to admit, I’m enjoying the fact that the magazine is letting me do some blog entries about something other than crime. I’ve been watching Idol since it premiered and have more opinions on the whole phenomenon than I’ll ever really get out there. And yes, it isn’t the heaviest writing I’ll ever do.

Updates and in-depth entries here have been slow in coming because I’m getting plenty to do elsewhere, which is a very good thing. But I’m also learning how manage my time a little better than I have in the past, so the pace of posting in this blog should pick up as Winter moves into Spring.

There are still the Capote Awards, too. I’m up for a couple, but I’d be fine with it if folks voted for my blog here, and not for me, personally. My perspective on these things has changed a great deal in the past 3 years or so — I imagine little polls like the ones Corey Mitchell created for these awards would have been 100 times more important to me in January, 2006. I feel less and less like a lone blogger toiling away lately and more like a writer, and that’s a good thing — because I’m making a living at it, slowly but surely. There are some other good things afoot, but you’ll know more about those when I know more. Just keep checking this space.

I have at least two true crime stories ideal for this blog that I’m watching, but if you have any suggestions, send me an e-mail. Before you do, please be sure to search this weblog and make sure I haven’t already covered the story.

UPDATE

Oh, yeah. Another Idol post for Radar:

American Idol Contestant Questions Show’s Credibility.”

Imagine that.

Quick Notes, 1/17/08

In case any regular readers have wondered about the slow pace of posting here and the abbreviated nature of recent entries, please remember that I’m doing other writing (for pay, go figure) here.

Most recently, my writing for Radar Online has not been crime-related at all:

Pranksters Invade American Idol Return.”

American Idol, TX: Will the Pain Ever End?

Mind you, I consider myself a fan of American Idol. For some musing from me on why the posts you’ll read above are not particularly positive, read this entry in my personal weblog.

On the crime front, just check out this entry about the arrest of the alleged killer of Tori Vienneau and her baby son, Dean Springstube:

BREAKING NEWS: Dennis Potts Arrested in San Diego.”

I’ve never been as close to a story as I have to the story of the murders of Tori and Dean. Links from the preceding entry may illustrate why. There’ll be much more to come about that case as the accused progresses through California’s justice system.

NOTE ADDED 1/20/08

Corey Mitchell’s In Cold Blog (I’m a former contributor) has a post up for what Corey’s calling the Capote awards. I’ve been nominated for two. Please go check out the post and vote for me and/or this blog if you like. I personally made other choices with my votes, but I’m usually the poorest judge of this kind of thing.

NOTES, 1/14/08

Yes, the pace of posting is slow, lately. I do have a new, crime-related post up at RadarOnline.com:

Pulp Fiction Co-writer Arrested on DUI, Manslaughter Charges.”

The title tells a lot, but check out the post and recommend it, if you like.

The following True Crime Weblog post has active commentary:

Who is Gary Michael Hilton?” — about the alleged serial killer recently arrested here in North Georgia.

— Check it out if you are interested in the case. I’ve also made a couple of new posts at my personal, infrequently-updated weblog, Random Lunatic News.

Gary Michael Hilton & Michael Scot Louis

Not so fast, AJC. Orlando Sentinel criminal justice reporter Willoughby Mariano has an interesting post up at the paper’s Orlando Homicide Report weblog. It refutes the Atlanta paper’s reporting on attempts to link Gary Michael Hilton with the mutiltation murder of 27-year-old Michael Scot Louis, whose dismembered remains were found in early December in the Tomoka River in Florida. Police in Ormond Beach see “no reason to link Gary Michael Hilton to the Ormond Beach case.”

Also related to Hilton and his possible string of murders throughout the south: “Gary M. Hilton(,) Serial Killer??

The link takes you to a forum at Websleuths.com set aside just to discuss this case and Gary Hilton. If you’re already a member of that forum (I posted in the past as “misterallgood,” and just recently decided to post as “SteveHuff”), you should join in, and if you’re not, look into joining the discussion. Websleuths is one of the more troll-free true crime message boards around.

NOTE, 1/16/08

I’ve got another post up at RadarOnline.com. While this one isn’t crime-related, it did involve a wee bit of websleuthing:

Pranksters Invade American Idol Return.

The Bhutto Assassination

While a political assassination is murder writ large onto the world stage, it seems the wrong sort of murder to cover in this weblog. I’ve always tried to steer this blog clear of things political (with some notable exceptions) and I intend to keep it that way.

I do have a post up on Radars “Fresh Intelligence” about the horrific assassination of former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto today in Rawalpindi, PK:

After Bhutto: Pakistani Blogs Chime In.

If you wish you can click “recommend it” at the bottom of any “Fresh Intelligence” post to let others know you liked what you read. There’s plenty of good stuff there to read, most of it not by me. And thank God for the editors of “FI,” who make me look better than I deserve.

If you have friends or loved ones in Pakistan, or friends from that country, send good thoughts or prayers their way. Their country is embroiled in a kind of turmoil modern Americans can’t possibly understand. And since Pakistan is a nuclear power, we must all pay close attention to anything going on in that country.

TrueCrimeMagazine.com

First and foremost: please DO NOT confuse TrueCrimeMagazine.com with CrimeMagazine.com. The latter site is run by J. Patrick O’Connor, and has been online for some 9 years or so. It is an excellent encyclopedia-style site and well worth a look.

No, TrueCrimeMagazine.com is essentially CrimeBlog.US by another name. It still smells as… er … it’s the same content, is what I’m saying. Read this entry, and it should explain the basics.

I should point out here, though, that I did not port the CrimeBlog.US comments over to TrueCrimeMagazine.com — in part, bandwidth considerations made me elect not to do it. Additionally, I integrated Disqus with the new site. It should work better than it did here, but consider yourself warned if you weren’t a Disqus fan. [EDIT, 12/23/07: I relented and moved the comments, too, excepting some of the open threads that were deleted. All new comments on any new posts to TrueCrimeMagazine.com will be Disqus, as will new comments on an old post that previously had none. Posts carrying comments from the CrimeBlog.US incarnation of the site will still be the WordPress system. If that confuses you, just leave a comment or whatever there and don’t worry about it.]

NOTE, 12/24/07

I made this note in the comments below, but it’s worth repeating here, for clarity’s sake.

I own the following sites. I do own others, but only these addresses are active:

I’m a contributor to this site:

RadarOnline.com.

Four sites, that’s it, and only the first 3 are mine. Radar is the paying gig, and there are plenty of other writers contributing to that site, too.

So if you more than 4 sites bookmarked with my name attached, you can safely delete all but the ones listed above.

I close by wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

/end note: back on hiatus.

TECH NOTE: Comments — BUMPED, REVISED, 12/17/07

NOTE, 12/17/07:

This has been bumped to the top of the blog’s index page because I discovered a reason to revert to the Haloscan system.

First, I know I risk sounding argumentative to some when I say that I had no problem with the functionality of Disqus comments. As a user I immediately grasped how they worked, found them easy to follow, and I loved several key features: threading replies to various comments; pagination; making a profile by which you could follow your own path commenting on this or any blog using the same system. As a user of the comments, I didn’t have a single problem, and here’s the argumentative part — I still don’t understand the commentators (a vocal minority) who seemed to lose their minds over the change. I kinda understood the complaints about points, but frankly not the intensity of the complaints.

As a blogger, as the person responsible for keeping this blog up-to-date and making it usable, I discovered today some key problems that did bother me — mainly, I went through three different templates, following the Disqus directions precisely on how to integrate the comments with the template, and Disqus didn’t show up, once. Why it integrated once with no problem and then wouldn’t integrate again, I don’t know — but Haloscan not only integrated fine, it re-attached all the previous Haloscan comments to their respective entries. I don’t like picking through code. I like things that have push-button functionality. When it comes to integrating a third-party commenting system with your blog, Haloscan appears to still have Disqus beat.

That said, I’m still using Disqus on my personal weblog, StevenHuff.net. Disqus integrates more readily with the WordPress publishing system than it does with Blogger — I was able to keep all my existing comments at Random Lunatic News, but all new comments on new posts there will be Disqus comments.

For a blog that seems to attract as active a community of commentators as this one does, I truly like the idea of making the comments resemble something like a message board or forum discussion. That means avatars, if people like them. It means threaded discussions. It makes visual sense to me, personally. “Flat” comments — one message stacked on top of another, the oldest at the top — are a little confusing to me when it comes to tracking responses between various posters. Confusing, and when you have threads 2155 comments long, incredibly hard to pick through — that’s why paginated comments are awesome.

Those of you who campaigned (in some cases, I feel, childishly) for the Disqus system to go may be pleased, but be advised — the moment it’s out of Beta, I’m checking it out again with this blog in mind.

I can only think of a few suggestions for Disqus at the moment, though I may add more:

— Allow the blogger to turn off the point system for their blog, if possible. In WordPress I once tried a point system for comments, and discovered that some people use them for their own nasty little purposes. A point system can be abused, and I guess I’ve got some readers or lurkers who aren’t above abusing it. Bloggers using Disqus should be allowed the option to have no points system at all. I understand why Disqus has it, after reviewing other sites, but it just won’t mesh well with some blog audiences. Didn’t with the folks who read this one, that’s for sure.

— Simplify the timestamp. Let it go ahead and just stamp the post time.

— I’d go all the way with the profiles. Allow more customization for that. It’s a clever idea that makes a ton of sense, and so far you all have done it better than Typekey. Let people really personalize those profiles.

— Make the photo upload and editing system for avatars easier. At the moment it isn’t as intuitive as some other Disqus features.

— I could be wrong, but commentators would love, love, love you if you found a way to put in a little WYSIWYG type control panel for posts, with format control buttons (b, i, blockquote, etc). I am certain that a lot of blog readers and commentators would really like the chance to format their posts with the click of a button. There are WordPress plugins for that, but as far as I know you can’t do it in Blogger, and if there’s anything Blogger weblogs need, it’s user-friendly comments. Disqus might get a leg up over Haloscan’s reliability if this were a feature.

Sorry if that’s all been asked & answered.

For the reader’s reference, here is the Disqus True Crime Weblog link:

http://truecrimeweblog.disqus.com/

Since it is formatted like a type of message board, you may wish to continue discussing certain cases there. If you don’t want your discussion to be fragmented, and prefer it to stay attached to the blog entry that sparked it, you may want to return to whatever thread you left.

I’ve already said this in a note on another entry, but my little “hiatus” will actually begin tomorrow.

Those of you who were patient with the change in comments, even liked it — thank you. If you really liked it, you can use it at my personal weblog, should you ever read it (I get 10% the readership there that I do here). And it may be back here, once some of the administrator functions are improved.

*****

When I was a kid, a truism around my house was that if it was the weekend, then my mother was rearranging furniture. My mom’s restlessness or boredom came out that way — moving stuff around. It never bothered me, because on some level, I understood.

If you’ve followed any of my blogs for any length of time, you know exactly what I’m talking about. I’ve had a bad habit in the past of playing with my blogs when I felt restless, or simply felt a need for some sort of change. I’ve also done it at many turns to make the blogs more reader-friendly. Blogging I did prior to using my real name was often anything but reader-friendly; I was the king of the super-ugly, almost unreadable template there for a while. Then I learned the joys of minimalism in blogging, and never looked back.

I did make a pact with myself when I settled on this domain and this blog — that I’d stop farting around so much with blog features, and establish a site that looked and acted the same way each time you visited. I’ve been doing pretty well on that score.

I’ve discovered a commenting system that integrates with Blogger (though it is a standalone URL, this is indeed a BlogSpot blog) that active commentators may find strongly appealing. However, before I decide to integrate the system with this blog, I need to point out a few things and get some input:

  • Comments you’ve made under the blogger/haloscan system currently in use would still exist; however, they’d no longer be linked to blog posts here. I’d have to provide you with direct links to the old comments. I’d be glad to do that for the most popular entries (Madeleine McCann discussions, the Michigan “thrill-kill” murder, etc.).
  • This system would be much, much more akin to a forum, or message board, even though it integrates into the blog. If you’ve ever left comments on a blog like DailyKos, you are familiar with threaded blog comments — they can make for a much more readable experience than the current system I use.
  • Input from readers: would you be amenable to a commenting system that resembles a forum, and allows for paged comments as well as threads marking out responses to other commentary?
  • The new comments would load faster, from what I’ve seen — an additional advantage, as it appears that haloscan sometimes slows the blog as a whole.

That’s all I can think of, but it should be enough to generate some discussion. Your feedback below is greatly appreciated.