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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014

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There's tons to give thanks for here in Milwaukee.
There's tons to give thanks for here in Milwaukee. (Photo: shutterstock.com)

Milwaukee thankful

I love Thanksgiving. I love the food, the family, the time off from work and the football. But I also love that it's a time of year to give thanks.

We all complain – some of us, an awful lot. But sitting down and thinking about what I'm really thankful for – in Milwaukee, alone – was pretty easy. In fact, I came up with my personal thankful list in under five minutes. Given more time, it would be much longer.

Try it yourself. Take five minutes and write down what you're thankful for in Milwaukee (skipping the obvious friends, family and good health). Is your list longer than mine?

  • The Brewers bargains of Ryan Braun and Yovani Gallardo
  • Mike McCarthy's willingness to grow a Movember mustache and Aaron Rodgers' willingness to grow a 'stache any time at all
  • Ample fresh, clean Milwaukee water
  • Cream City brick
  • Cream City Pale Ale
  • Lake Michigan views
  • The Hoan Bridge
  • A dedicated Milwaukee Police Department, despite the newspaper's attempt to bring it down
  • A great mayor in Tom Barrett
  • Bryant's Cocktail Lounge
  • Milwaukee's (mostly) friendly Twitter community
  • Summerfest
  • The privately-funded Milwaukee Art Museum
  • State Fair
  • Real Chili
  • Four distinct Milwaukee seasons
  • Milwaukee Public Market
  • For me, fun side projects like guest hosting Real Milwaukee, Kramp and Adler and a regular spot on Dave and Carole
  • The 400,000 monthly readers of OnMilwaukee.com
The 2013 Range Rover on the obstacle course at Land Rover of Waukesha.
The 2013 Range Rover on the obstacle course at Land Rover of Waukesha.

A more ultimate driving machine?

With apologies to BMW, I think there's a more ultimate driving machine being made in Europe right now. Many of us will never be able to afford it, and even if we could, what would we do with it?

This "more ultimate driving machine" is the 2013 Range Rover, and it's no soccer mom SUV – unless you're playing soccer atop a mountain.

It's an insane example of British engineering (by way of its new owner, India's Tata Motors), and it's unlike anything I've ever been in.

Of course, it should be unlike anything I've ever been in, as the demo I previewed last week will sell for more than $100,000.

Fields Land Rover of Waukesha invited me to their dealership to get a preview of the new Range Rover, the first U.S. model in 15 years. It's the first one in Wisconsin, and actually, one of the first ones in the country.

Sales rep Jason Green took me on two test drives in this incredibly bespoke and gigantic SUV, which, with aluminum throughout, weighs less than a Mini Clubman. The first spin through the dealer's obstacle course reflected terrain that you might see in, oh, I don't know, Afghanistan.

The Range Rover navigated impossible angles easily, at times with only one wheel perched on the ground. No scrapes or thuds. This is a vehicle designed for serious around-the-world duty. While it looks the part of a truck you'd want to take to the grocery stores, it's probably more suited toward ambassadors and sheiks and seriously wealthy outdoorsmen who can appreciate an SUV with the capabilities of a HUMMER and the refinement of, well, a Range Rover.

For the on-road portion of our demo, Green floored it, and the 510 supercharged horses threw me back into my seat. This is an absurdly powerful vehicle, that somehow manages 20 miles per gallon the highway. It's hard to comprehend how this SUV can do it all.

Says Green, "When you take one of the most capable vehicles in the world, increase fuel economy, add over five inches of rear passenger room and make it weigh less than a …

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The general scene of the wreckage after the explosion on November 3, 1935. (Originally published in Milwaukee Journal.)
The general scene of the wreckage after the explosion on November 3, 1935. (Originally published in Milwaukee Journal.)

The Mad Bomber of Milwaukee

One of my favorite parts of OnMilwaukee.com is "This Day in Milwaukee History." We built this homepage widget a decade ago and have continued adding to it ever since.

Occasionally, it teaches me something. Today's entry is:

Nov. 9, 1935 – Before the city can respond to his ransom demands, Idzi Rutkowski, the "Mad Bomber of Milwaukee," dies when his dynamite cache explodes.

I have heard of this Mad Bomber before, and in fact, I think I saw a documentary that briefly touched upon his story. But I wanted to learn more.

That's when I found this fascinating story in the Milwaukee Polonia Project. You should definitely give it a read.

Some of the nuggets include:

"On October 2, 1935 he took the first step in this plan when he stole 150 sticks of dynamite, blasting caps and fuses from the Estabrook park CCC camp. He had tried to get a job there earlier in the year, but had been rejected because of his bad teeth."

In other words, his crime spree began because he had bad teeth. We're talking about 1935 here, when I'm guessing most people had "bad teeth." Makes me wonder how bad his teeth were.

And check out this account:

"The next bombings occurred less than twenty-four hours later when two banks were targeted. At 6:10 p.m. on October 27th, another bomb went off against the rear wall of the Citizens branch of the First Wisconsin National Bank located at 3602 W. Villard Ave. It weakened the building's foundation and sprayed glass over the surrounding homes. Using his stolen car that was made up to look like a police vehicle, Idzi then sped away to the site of his next target. Less than 30 minutes later, another bomb exploded, this time at the East Side branch of the First Wisconsin National Bank at the corner of N. Farwell and E. North Avenue. The dynamite had been placed on the ground at the rear of the building, so much of the force of the explosion went outward, wrecking near-by parked cars."

That East Side bank is my bank, the one by our old office. The…

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Don't tell me Diane Sawyer wasn't wasted last night.
Don't tell me Diane Sawyer wasn't wasted last night.

Election reflections

I love election nights. From a social media perspective, they're more fun than tweeting Packers games or the Brewers on opening day.

On a serious note, elections remind us why America works. And in Wisconsin, it's further proof that our citizens make up our own mind. Just a few months ago, this state kept Tea Party darling Scott Walker in office. Last night it elected an openly gay liberal to the Senate and helped send Barack Obama back to the White House. Way to keep America guessing, Wisconsin!

On a lighter note, Tuesday was a wonderful opportunity to lampoon the breathless anchors, the frenzied pundits and poke fun at a few out-of-left-field surprises that even Nate Silver could not predict.

Here's what I saw last night:

Was Diane Sawyer drunk? – I could not believe my ears when people started texting me to turn on ABC News. The veteran anchor either seemed very drunk or appeared to be having a stroke. I couldn't understand why producers didn't yank her off the air. I don't believe the "exhaustion" excuse, either. If she's not fired or checked into rehab by the end of the day today, I will be shocked.

Karl Rove meltdown – I expect ridiculousness from FOX News, so I had to tune in to see how they spun things after the election was called. What I didn't expect to see was Rove trying to cast doubt on his own network's analysis. That the other anchors indulged him and marched down to harass its own poll analysts further eroded what little news credibility this right-wing mouthpiece has left.

John King knows his counties – I saw some tweet from a guy who wanted CNN's John King on this trivia team for the "American Counties" category. I was impressed with King's detailed knowledge of dozens of pivotal counties around America, and it didn't appear superficial, either. He rattled on, unscripted, for hours, about Cuyahoga, Miami-Dade and more with a Wikipedia-like knowledge of the facts. Bravo.

Groping on NBC – At one poi…

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