Thursday, May 28, 2009

Movin' on up....

Finally got the blog overhaul done - but have moved sites completely.

Here's the new address:

Please update your links / bookmarks / favorites / feed reader / blogroll and what-have-you.

Thanks for continuing to read!

Sunday, May 03, 2009

C.R.A.P. Sunday - Time's a-wastin'

Catch-up Rants And Platitudes - #8 - Time waster edition

I have been very productive, in unmeasurable and insignificant ways.

Not much to report on the volunteering-side ... putting in my time, hopefully it has been beneficial, kinda hard to measure at this point. The good news - have a lead on a clinical opportunity - will have to see how that plays out.

Blew the rest of my time this past week on mostly really useless stuff. Take, for example, my goodreads page. This is a really cool site where you can build up your history of all the books you have read in the past, rate them, review them (if so moved), and develop a list of books to read in the future. It has a lot of options for "shelves" of books - you can create any categories to group your books that you choose. I selected to create lists of books that were read multiple times, or for reference, or so long ago that I cannot recall much about them. Others have lists based on what year they read the book, or based on the genre. Since most of my reads tend to fall into science fiction (ie, Dune), horror (ie, Stephen King), or fantasy (ie, The Wheel of Time series) - and many of those fully overlap (ie, King's The Dark Tower series) - I didn't bother separating by genre.

Wasted most of my time after entering my books by A) attempting to fill in "when" I read them (very loosely guessed), and then B) changing the image of the covers to more closely represent the image of the book I am most familiar with. Very cool that it has these features, but I would expect to be able to enter some of that info in "batches," instead of one by one.

Typed up a few reviews too - for the titles that jumped out at me as needed some commentary. I will try to go back and comment on some others later, and of course then every book I add in the future I will try to get a little blurb out on. You may have to be a registered user to read reviews - but check it out and see if ya like it.


Along those same lines is the movie review site, Rotten Tomatoes. Check out the links in the sidebar. I had only one review up so far, but was inspired to drop another one after seeing the movie below. Click inside the movie poster to go to my review. And then let me know what you thought of it - either here in the comments or on that site.


This swine flu is getting raging amounts of coverage now. I guess people needed a break from North Korea, Iran, and torture. I'm still betting that in retrospect it will be a bit of an overblown response. Just use common sense - with prompt treatment for those getting sick, chance of recovery is pretty high. And it just serves as a reminder for the usual transmission-prevention techniques - don't sneeze on people, and wash your hands frequently. Keep sick kids that can't manage these conventions away from their peers until they are healthy.


The first official defector from the Republican Party, Arlen Specter, drew quite a stir. If the Minnesota race is ever decided and Al Franken finally gets seated, that will push the Dems in the Senate to that critical 60th vote. Assuming he and the other Dems vote along party lines for any given item in question. Specter basically switched to help ensure his re-election, given that he would have better chances in the Democratic primary than Republican. I would have been happier to see this as a form of protest against "the party of NO" and the Republicans' other apparent roadblocks to passing worthwhile legislation. And instead of trying to change his party from within, he basically switched sides and then reminded everyone that he still may not vote with the majority. That's fine - I would expect ANY politician to vote based on the merits of bill and the input of their constituents - but Specter's move seems more personally-motivated than party-related.

Da Blog

The other wasted time today [after a visit with my nephews, sis & her in-laws, and folks - this wasn't the wasted part, although I did feel a little buzzed after my two mega-martinis (thanks, Dad!)] was playing with the sidebar here (on the right) and making "widgets" work for "goodreads" and "rotten tomatoes." For those not in the know, "widgets" are groupings of text that form the coding behind interactive components of the website. On the goodreads widget you can flip through some book covers from my list of recently-read books, and in the Rotten Tomatoes one you can search for a movie or celebrity.

These are basically test-runs... when I *finally* do the major template overhaul, I will include other related links and make this more functional and attractive.

And then I will promptly ignore the blogosphere for just long enough to make all these efforts obsolete.

Any suggestions on readability, formatting, content, or other items to be on the lookout for are welcomed!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

C.R.A.P. Sunday - Movie Madness

Catch-up Rants And Platitudes - #7 - Movie Madness edition

Rotten Tomatoes logoStill haven't quite finished up with the major overhaul of this blog, but I have finally set myself up another little corner of cyberspace to start building up a set of movie reviews. After a little searching, I finally settled on Rotten Tomatoes, which looks like it should be easy for anyone to surf through, even without registering as a member.

I'm a big movie fan, and I've found many "hidden gems" via suggestions from friends and acquaintances, some via blogs. I've been hedging on doing movie reviews at this site, because I wanted a more dedicated approach, with easy-to-follow ratings and quick links to more info. Found that at Rotten Tomatoes, although I am still just trying out the site - there seem to be a few bugs, but for now you can click here to get to my journal page. You can also check out other (literally random) movies I have rated, and lists of movies I plan to check out soon. So far I have only reviewed one recently watched movie, Burn After Reading - which I enjoyed but only rated at 6/10. Read the review to see why and let me know what you think. As I review more I'll drop notes here. If you are a member of Rotten Tomatoes, lemme know and we can link up.


As I promised earlier, here finally is part of that clip from the 2006 Mike Judge movie Idiocracy that I made reference to.

The intro is great - talking about the dumbing-down of society. The more I pay attention to the news, the more worried I am that it is coming true. The clip below runs less than 2 minutes (despite the title) - this truncated clip is unfortunately all I could find. At least it gives you the flavor of the concept. In the film it goes on a bit longer and really magnifies the impact of the situation.

I wouldn't rave about the movie - there are a lot of stupid parts - but it does have some interesting things to say about the direction of our society, and it is entertaining at that juvenile level.

Consider this next clip a bonus - it's very short, but has a special place in my heart for reasons I haven't quite figured out. Maybe it is better seen in context....


I have been giving myself a little break from keeping up with the news - other things going on. I'm sure I'll have a slew of C.R.A.P. to talk about later this week.


One of those things going on has been some volunteer work. I finally got off my ass and started working with a couple of groups now that the job hunt has slowed down to an unbearable crawl. Ugh. Anyway, as things develop there I'll write more.


In between some of these "April showers" we have finally gotten some stretches of sun in Chicagoland. Been LONG overdue. We're still getting 40-degree fluctuations in temperature each day, but it's much better than trudging through six inches of snow or wading through the humid air in August.

I'm out for now. Get out there and enjoy the weather while ya can!!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Read me, Meme me ...but I hate memes!

Blogging is a cool way to develop a personal soapbox - I think that's what drew me in to creating on my own blog. A lot of other people use blogs as creative outlets, and forums for posting pictures and family info for relatives and friends. For those who develop friendships in the blogosphere, blogs can become a way to learn more about each other. I guess that's why "memes" have become so popular. [For the uninitiated, here's what Wikipedia has to say about the origin of meme - for internet purposes, basically it's a replicated unit of information.]

Memes have exploded all over the 'net, in social networking sites (ie, Facebook's "25 things about me" and the countless other quizzes and lists) as well as on blogs and such. In theory they can be interesting, revealing, and stimulating of further discussion. However, they have suffered the usual curse of the internet, gone "viral" - meaning that they are passed along so frequently they are as bad as these programs designed to attack your computer. They have evolved into the next generation of the "chain letter" - and are very often as poorly thought-out and repetitious.

The meme below about reading habits is supposedly from the BBC. However, if you look carefully, you'll notice repeated elements (such as The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, #36, appearing separately from its collected volume, The Chronicles of Narnia, #33), as well as an apparently random order, and some authors represented by multiple works (Dickens, Austen) whereas others are totally lacking (L. Frank Baum - The Wizard of Oz, Stephen King, The Brothers Grimm - you get my point). Plus some items are collected works, and others are short children's novellas - should they have equal weight? Who determines which authors are "classics" / worthwhile? These lists are often thrown together from very dubious sources, sometimes passed off as coming from "authorities" (ie, the BBC), and very lazily thrown together without thought toward organization.

If you haven't figured it out by now, I'm a bit anal.

Regardless, sometimes the content of memes IS worthwhile, whether to share info or to generate discussion. I chose to complete the meme below for both reasons. Although my complaints above demonstrate that I find it a poor example, I won't bother "cleaning it up" because part of the purpose of these memes is to see how your "progress" compares to your friends. Plus that is more work than I was looking for. I like being lazy too. I will take a little initiative - see the part in brackets below. Also - I refuse to "tag" anyone ... if you wanna "play" feel free, and please comment below with your results (and a link to yours, if you are posting anywhere).

READING MEME (follow-up to this entry, which spawned from this one)

The BBC believes most people will have only read 6 of the 100 books here. How do your reading habits stack up?

Instructions: Copy the list, and put an 'x' after those you have read, count 'em up, compare tallies. [My contribution - books marked "X-s" = read for school, many (but not all!) I would have avoided otherwise. "X-t" = book on tape. Also - see the bottom for other recommendations.]

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen (X-s)
2 The Lord of the Rings (X-t) (not sure if I would have had the patience to READ it!)
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte ()
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling (X) (all 7!)
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee (X-s)

6 The Bible - () (not enough to include as "read" - either testament)
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Brontë ()
8 Nineteen Eighty-Four - George Orwell (X-s)
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman ()
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens () (read an excerpt only)

11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott ()
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy ()
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller ()
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare () (many works, but by no means all!)
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier ()

16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien (X-t)
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulk ()
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger (X)
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger ()
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot ()

21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell ()
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald (X-s)
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens ()
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy ()
25 The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams (X) (and all the sequels)

26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh ()
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky (X)
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck (X-s)
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll (X-s)
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame ()

31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy ()
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens () (I tried - ugh!)
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis ()
34 Emma - Jane Austen ()
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen ()

36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis ()
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini ()
38 Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres ()
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden ()
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne ()

41 Animal Farm - George Orwell (X-s)
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown ()
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez ()
44 A Prayer for Owen Meany - John Irving ()
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins ()

46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery ()
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy ()
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood ()
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding (X-s)
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan ()

51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel ()
52 Dune - Frank Herbert (X)
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons ()
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen ()
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth ()

56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon ()
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens (X-s)
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley (X-s)
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon ()
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez ()

61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck ()
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov ()
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt ()
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold ()
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas ()

66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac ()
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy ()
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding ()
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie ()
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville ()

71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens ()
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker (X)
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett ()
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson ()
75 Ulysses - James Joyce ()

76 The Inferno – Dante (X)
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome ()
78 Germinal - Emile Zola ()
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray ()
80 Possession - AS Byat ()

81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens ()
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell ()
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker ()
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro ()
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert (X-s)

86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry ()
87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White ()
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom ()
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (X)
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton ()

91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad (X-s)
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery ()
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks ()
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams ()
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole ()

96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute ()
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas ()
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare (X-s)
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl (X)
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo ()

[For readability, I took the liberty of grouping them by 5's.]

Here's my tally: 24 - not bad, if the "average is 6"!

That's actually pretty conservative, considering I probably read additional Jane Austen and Dickens works, as well as MANY more Shakespeare plays not listed above. Quite surprising to see what is left off this list. It would be better represented by AUTHOR, maybe with a tally for how many different authors you have read, and then a separate tally for total # of works. That would shrink the list of 100 above down by at least 14.

What authors should be included? How about the following (which I have read):
  1. L. Frank Baum - The Wizard of Oz (and 13 sequels, read 1 so far)
  2. Nathaniel Hawthorne - The Scarlet Letter
  3. Homer - The Odyssey
  4. Jack London - White Fang
  5. Mary Shelley - Frankenstein
  6. Edgar Allen Poe - The Raven (and many other works)
  7. Mark Twain - A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (and others)
  8. Arthur Miller - Death of a Salesman
  9. Stephen King - The Shining (among MANY others)
  10. Gregory Maguire - Wicked
  11. Robert Jordan - The Wheel of Time series (thru book 7 so far, I think)
  12. Thomas Harris - The Hannibal Lecter books (first 3 so far)
  13. Jim Butcher - The Dresden Files (just two so far, but newly-discovered)
  14. Esther Forbes - Johnny Tremain

Ok, I guess the last few are a bit weak. Especially if this really WAS a British-generated list originally [I'm guessing works about the American Revolution (#14) are not too popular!] Here are several other authors that should be on there (although I haven't read 'em all yet):
  • John Milton - Paradise Lost
  • Ayn Rand - Atlas Shrugged
  • Stephen Hawking - A Brief History of Time
  • Arthur C. Clarke - 2001
  • Robert A. Heinlein - Stranger in a Strange Land (I "grokked" via book on tape)
  • others in the SciFi genre, like Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov
  • what about ancient philosophers? Socrates, Aristotle, Plato
  • other famous authors - Graham Greene, Henry Miller, Harriet Beecher Stowe
  • And who can ignore all those classics by Dr. Seuss?!?

To each their own - so many more I could list.

At some point I will set up an account at Good Reads, which is supposed to be a good place for sharing book reviews and keeping track of your "to read" and "already read" lists. Any other recommendations out there?

How did you score on the reading meme?

Picture ripped from google images.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Jon Stewart is a GOD

I'm kicking back on the sofa, folding some laundry & watching TV, and trying to stifle my laughter as I keep distracting my wife from her work on the computer.

I can't help it. I'm starting to think that The Daily Show should be required viewing.

Jon Stewart had a particularly good segment tonight (April 7, 2009 - go check out the web page and view the first half of the show if you haven't seen it). He was making a good example of the hypocrisy of the conservatives (or should I say "ultra-conservatives"? maybe just the neocons?). He was showing clips from pundits and politicians expressing their "terror" at the "tyranny" of Obama's presidency, how it's an erosion of our rights and the Declaration of Independence.


And (of course) he points out the criminal actions that occurred during the Bush presidency, and the nose-dive the US took in the international arena under his leadership. Contrast that with the reception that Obama got at the G20 conference, and the shared vision we are now working toward with respect to nuclear (pronounced correctly!) disarmament and the components of Obama's campaign platform.

The most poignant comparison was how - during the last eight years - anyone criticizing Bush or his policies was "unamerican." But now, not only do we have the conservatives flinging around "socialist," "tyrant," and other epithets while they criticize his policies ... we also have idiotic hate-mongers like Rush Limbaugh voicing his hopes that Obama's policies fail - even at the cost of recovery from the economic crisis. Hypocrisy at its best.

I can't help but think of what the Dixie Chicks went through after their criticism of Bush and the Iraq war in 2003 (if you missed that or need a refresher, check out their wikipedia entry. What was "high treason" then is par for the course now?

Only because their guy didn't win in '08.

I know, I know, there was a war on then, and we all get little blinders on when there are polarizing issues. But be rational - at least try to see the other side's story without automatically demonizing it. America is all about protecting freedoms - you know, like free speech? The venom that Limbaugh and some of these pundits get paid to spew - that is protected as well. I'm just glad Stewart and his colleagues (like Stephen Colbert and Rachel Maddow) are around to assemble the clips and expose the bullshit for what it is - 'cause I sure don't have the patience for all that. But at least I have hope.

Addendum 4/8/09:
Now that it is available, here is the clip I am referring to. [If you are NOT a fan, please hold tight until at least the middle - it picks up a bit more there and gets to the point(s) I was commenting on.] The rest of the episode can be seen (either as full episode, or as clips) by going to The Daily Show and clicking on "full episodes" or "videos" and selecting the appropriate date.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
Baracknophobia - Obey
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Economic CrisisPolitical Humor

Pictures lifted from Wikipedia. Clip from The Daily Show website.

Monday, April 06, 2009

C.R.A.P. Sunday - Mega Monday edition

Catch-up Rants And Platitudes - #6 - procrastination

In honor of my favorite pastime, I'm dropping a late entry here. It's been a while since I did any serious blogging - although I've had the best of intentions, of course. Once I get some things together this site will get a mega-makeover, and I'll be posting a little more frequently, with shorter (theoretically, more focused) entries. Or so I say now.... In the meantime, here are a bunch of items I have been meaning to share for a while.

Let's start with some fun. Anticipating all that upcoming Easter candy? Don't think you should eat it all? *Here* is something fun to do with leftover candy (found the link to the youtube clip in this weekend's edition of the Red Eye). If you are partial to peeps, check out Peep Research or Peeps in a library.

Blago - They have finally brought charges against the former governor of Illinois. I'm glad things are moving along finally. Where was he, by the way, when this was announced? Disney World - that seems appropriate. His appointee Burris, who didn't have the foresight to decline the appointment, or the integrity to step down once his apparent complicity was exposed (see prior entries here and here), is still occupying the Senate. Governor Quinn has thankfully turned his attention to more pressing issues once it was obvious there would be no "easy way" - we'll let the 2010 election straighten it out. I just hope we can find a respectable candidate to get behind.

Blago sure does have the wrath of the Illinois congress chasing him though - they already passed a bill to prevent him from EVER holding public office again in Illinois (see in a previous post here), and now they are passing legislation to prohibit him from making any profit on book deals. I don't know how legal that is, to redirect a potential earning stream back into the state treasury. It's not like putting a lien on his salary for child support or to repay some defined criminal or civil damages. After the trial, that might be a different story.

A victory for gay rights - for any who haven't already heard, the Iowa Supreme Court struck down the law banning gay marriage. Here is an article from the Sun Times, which goes on to explain how it could be 2-4 years before there is even a chance of repealing it. In a previous post, I posed the question of how people can feel justified in depriving ANY subset of the population from rights under the law. I am not homosexual myself, but am sickened by the hypocrisy of the USA setting itself as an "example" for the world, and then denying rights (whether it be gay marriage, or fair treatment of prisoners or "enemy combatants") selectively. For now it's only Iowa, Connecticut, and Massachusetts that are "enlightened" enough to have welcomed gay marriage. California had it briefly, until "prop 8" banned it again. Of course, having "yes on 8" as the movement to BAN marriage could easily have confused voters - I wonder how a re-vote would turn out if it lacked that inverted terminology (i.e, say "yes" for "yes to gay marriage").

Drew Peterson - More from the white-trash role model couple, apparently Christina Raines has now moved OUT again, but they intend to remain friends. I'm not even gonna bother with them anymore - just looking forward to some charges finally being raised against this schmuck. Click on their labels (right column) if you wanna read about their Springer-escapades. By way of refresher, he's a suspect in the death of wife #3 and the disappearance of wife #4 (Stacy). Raines was on-again off-again wife #5-to-be.

Gun violence, health care, and the death penalty - all too long to write about here, stay tuned for some upcoming posts.

Movie and Book reviews - I decided against using this blog for cheering and jeering for mass entertainment. I would like to direct friends to reviews on a "movie review" site - any suggestions out there? Hopefully one that is searchable by author of reviews as well as movies.... (I haven't looked yet - and not sure how soon I'd start writing anyway)

Techno-poke - No, this is not a new Facebook application (not that I know of, at least). Apparently, some computer programmer from Finland (?) that lost part of a finger in a motorcycle accident fashioned a prosthesis for himself that includes a USB drive. That could give a whole new meaning to "giving your boss the finger." And it would be a lot harder to claim you left your presentation on your other prosthesis.... (pic lifted from the BBC news page)

Ok - lemme know if you're still reading and what you wanna see more of!
Hugs n kisses,

Monday, March 23, 2009

C.R.A.P. Sunday - Bonzo's Ladder, pt 2

Catch-up Rants And Platitudes - #5 - unreality

So for those who weren't sure (yes, my wif, you had it right) - the title relates to the movie Jacob's Ladder, a very interesting and disturbing movie from 1990 with Tim Robbins. Without giving any spoilers here, let me just say it is a glimpse into a man's mind who is torn between the reality of his current life, and the reality of his experiences in Vietnam. [That is a grossly inadequate summary, and the movie is not *about* Vietnam - it's definitely a good watch even if you are put off by war movies.] It also happens to include an early, not-yet-annoying appearance by Macaulay Culkin (uncredited).

I'm just borrowing the term to launch into this general feeling of unreality that has been building lately. It's not quite the same as navigating around in thick fog, where things are familiar but notably "off" in some fashion - but that gives you a taste of the sensation. Nor is it the same as the internal fog from being sick. I am just getting over a week of pretty nasty cold, likely courtesy of an overseas infant niece that I didn't even have the privilege to meet first-hand. That brain-fog of thinking through molasses, that's a whole different kind of unreality. But mix the two ... wow. Interesting times.

So - sorry for not having blogged much recently. Have been planning a bigger overhaul of this site, and lots of topics being drafted a bit... please stay tuned. In the meantime, lots of "achievables" I'm working on the real world, so we'll see how much energy I have left for the blogosphere. I *am* keeping up with postings on my blog list (on right side of page, near bottom) - if you are reading here and I haven't added you yet, please send me the link to your blog so I can add ya.

On to the rants....

Driving - it really isn't that hard. Why do people continue to ignore basic courtesies?!? And why does traffic always slow down in the same places on the expressway when there is no real traffic jam or other justifications for delays?
  • Use your turn signals for changing lanes (AND - imagine that - for turns!) When people know where you are going, we can stay out of your way better.
  • Use the left lane for passing, then get back into the other lanes until you need to pass again. Stop holding up traffic because you *might* need to pass another car 10 minutes further up.
  • Try to change lanes to move away from stopped cars on the right (or left) shoulder, or upcoming merges. Best to avoid the chances of two cars trying to occupy the same space at the same time.
  • Along those same lines, stop tailgating me!! I pretty much go as fast as I can safely do in traffic, but I believe in at least a car-length of space (when available) for emergency braking distance. Driving up my ass won't make my car go any faster, and just increases the possibility of us trying to be in the same place at the same time. And when that happens, I'll bet you are un- or under-insured.
  • If you are going to insist on putting on make-up, talking on the phone, eating, reading, playing with the radio, and wrangling kids or pets ALL AT THE SAME TIME, please at least be a competent driver and know where you are going first. So many near-misses, and vigilance on my part will only stave off an accident for so long....

Parenting - I don't claim to be an expert, nor do I feel uniquely qualified to offer actual advice. Quite the contrary, I readily admit that I am not yet a parent (although I hope to be in the next year or two, and will keep practicing attempts at conception when opportunities present). ;-) However, I have reflected extensively on my own upbringing (which was relatively successful - I stayed out of trouble and can function well in society), and have been an observer and sometimes-participant in my nephews' upbringing for the last 11 years. I understand it can be frustrating, and that some kids can be very strong-willed.

I was nearly floored, however, when I was an incidental bystander to the following exchange near a busy, local grocery store. Please tell me - what is possibly served by yelling "give me your motherfu**ing hand" at a 2.5 year old child while you and she are already walking through the middle of the high-traffic drive at the front of the parking lot?
  • Use some foresight, and maybe have your child's hand before you step into the street? Consider making that STANDARD, for safety's sake, that any mobile toddler is taught to hold an adult's hand before even thinking about traversing a parking lot?
  • Maybe temper the language? What are you teaching your kid? They are sponges, and will use use language like that when you least want it.
  • Of course, the type of person that would verbally abuse their child like that in public, because they were too distracted to have control of their child in advance, is unlikely to care about prevention - and will just react when bad language / misbehavior crops up - in most assuredly appropriate ways, I'm sure.

I just keep hearing about all these crimes against kids: how Chicago already has a record number of school-aged children murdered for this point in 2009; the several suicides of GRADE SCHOOL-aged kids; the abuse (sexual or physical) of these kids, some by their classmates (- further than the simple bullying most of us experienced in our pasts), or members of their family. It's just sad, and these experiences are just more likely to propagate a cycle of abuse.

Ok. Sleepytime.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

C.R.A.P. Sunday - Bonzo's Ladder

Catch-up Rants And Platitudes - #4 - surreal images

So I burned up a couple of days of my temporary bachelorhood by heading out to my folks' place, near Rockford, IL. As if that concept - willingly subjecting myself to them without the safety and shelter of my spouse - wasn't surreal enough, I went that extra mile and even brought laundry with. Hey, machines that don't gulp down your coins in order to operate - I'll take 'em!!

The drive out there takes you somewhat nearby a nuclear power facility, assumedly at Byron, IL. My eye is always caught by the quite distinctive cooling towers, all the more dramatically due to the inherently frightening nature of nuclear energy. Apparently Illinois is the state with the most nuclear facilities - and I don't think we're glowing, yet. I'm just fascinated with the steam you can usually see rising from the cooling towers.

On the drive over from Chicago this time, I noticed some particularly prominent contrails, which my wife and I incorrectly refer to as "chemtrails" - we're not conspiracy nuts, we got the name mixed up. Again, a fascinating visual phenomenon, very eye-catching at times.

The surreal aspect was seeing a quite distinctive pair of contrails heading downward from the sky, DIRECTLY AIMED AT the cooling towers. My cell phone was (as usual when traveling, since I never broke down to buy a car charger for this model) on "low battery" mode and refusing to take pictures, otherwise I would have documented this for the sheer amazement of it. Of course, given that I was driving alone, in a moving vehicle going 65 mph, if I HAD managed to snap a photo it would have looked like this:

But below is a mini recreation of what I saw ... now tell me that seeing this combo in real life wouldn't make you triple-take?

Granted, there was no plane at the business-end of the contrails, the cooling towers where still intact, and there was no mushroom cloud in site - but I still had trouble extracting my jaw from the dashboard.

Once I arrived, I gladly accepted the offer of a drink and promptly forgot to mention the sighting to my folks. Alcohol flows pretty freely when I visit with them - I probably drink more in one night with them than I would normally consume in a typical month on my own. This is not to say that I (or they) require the substance to interact humanely ... it has just become a ritual habit we have not "grown out of" yet. This is only the case when I am participating in an overnight, of course. Although I am guilty of having driven while "buzzed" in my youth, I would never intentionally drive while drunk.

It is quite frustrating, then, to hear all these news stories about celebrities convicted of DUIs. Celebretards aside, it is really frustrating to hear all the incidents of everyday people having accidents attributed to driving under the influence. The fiercely aggravating stories are about all these REPEAT OFFENDERS who have had multiple incidents of being caught driving under the influence. It's one thing to make a stupid mistake once. It's wholly idiotic to be in the position of many of these drivers who continue to drive after drinking - even despite tragic incidents in their past.

Some judges have stepped up the "punishments" for these people, and apparently many participate in an ignition lock system that requires a clean breathalyzer test before they can start their car. Sounds reasonable enough, although easily overcome - think of the scene in the movie 40 Year Old Virgin when the chick asks him to "breathe into this" before she starts her car.

Then there is this idiot, who rented a car to avoid his breath analyzer ignition lock, and then wrapped the rental car around a pole. GIVE ME A BREAK! Rental car companies are supposed to be so cautious - not renting to "kids" under 25 years old, supposedly doing background checks and denying people left and right for *seat belt violations*, let alone DUI. Somebody screwed up in a big way letting this guy have a car.

If nothing else, perhaps rental car companies should also provide vehicles prepared for this unfortunately numerous portion of the population, with breathalyzer ignition locks. Hell, if they are not going to bother with background checks, it should come standard. Or maybe you can get a free "upgrade" to model WITHOUT one if you have a clean driving record?

Ok, enough for now. Hey - a whole blog without mentioning Burris. Whoo-hoo! I need a drink....

Anyone get the title reference?
Pictures ripped off as follows: byron.jpg and contrail2.jpg borrowed from wikipedia pages. Others found on google image searches.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

C.R.A.P. Sunday - Bachelor edition

Catch-up Rants And Platitudes - #3

It was a SHOWER! I've even used it a second time now, how refreshing. And thanks to kapgar for his suggestion, not only did the mouthwash fix my breath without all that effort of brushing, but it also gave me quite a nice little buzz. Shall we begin?!?

  • Burris - I was hoping to be done ranting on the whole Blago / Burris thing. Now Burris has submitted an affidavit that appears to contradict his prior testimony. Briefly, he swore up and down (and under oath) before being sworn in that he was not approached for any sort of money in exchange for the Senate seat, and that he had no contact with Blago's camp. Now he is admitting to being asked to contribute to Blago's campaign fund prior to the appointment, and that he spoke with several members of Blago's camp. He is, of course, still claiming no wrongdoing, saying that no contribution was made, and that omissions were made in his testimony secondary to interruption by follow-up questions. The real story -- I'm guessing this is his last-ditch effort to avoid outright perjury as further evidence is revealed (i.e., recorded conversations between Burris and Blago's brother). Of course, the timing is after Blago's impeachment trial, so Burris's new version of events is too late to hurt him in that arena (not that it would have mattered, of course).

    Regardless, it's clearly shady that he was not forthcoming about these details -- and further proof of his questionable moral character. Kinda funny that he announces his "listening tour" of Illinois as this news breaks, reminiscent of his mentor Blago that went on a media tour as his impeachment trial began. So are we gonna see another circus of replacing our junior Senator before the 2010 election? Or just leave him there and laugh heartily if he even attempts to run at that time?!?

  • Drew Peterson - the drama never ceases. Now they appear together on the "Today" show. Not only are they living together again and looking forward to marrying as soon as possible (hopefully AFTER he manages to divorce his "missing" wife), but there was absolutely NO MENTION of her prior statement about the engagement being "a stunt." What happened to her fear for her safety and concern about his habit of becoming bored with his wives? What about the ex-boyfriend she had moved back in with during the week or two that she was separated from Drew?!?

    My prediction -- he needs to marry her before his trial, so she cannot be called on to testify against him. It's obvious she knows something -- she's been very well coached about not answering questions relating to Stacy. I would not be surprised if her "resumption" of their relationship was in exchange for either 1) some sizable bribe, or 2) to prevent some sort of retaliation. Even a "Jerry Springer Girl" like her would not flip-flop so completely without some external influence. This story is far from over ... unfortunately, the drama will likely continue to play out over the next several years. I'd rather jump to the punchline and deny them further rounds of their 15 minutes. Otherwise my head is gonna explode.

  • Just Shoot Me - Chicago is a pretty violent town. Robbery, mugging, rape, stabbings, shootings -- we have more than our fair share. People are frightened, I understand that. But please, please tell me how putting more guns on the street in "law abiding citizens'" hands is supposed to help that. They are trying to pass a concealed carry law, being pushed by a group of college students at DePaul University of all places. More guns will only increase the number of victims, whether we have "innocent bystanders" wounded by trigger-happy nervous people thinking they are being followed in dark parking garages, or by would-be defenders having their own guns used against them, or by angry citizens who reach for a handy weapon in a moment of rage. We need to get guns *OFF* the streets, not "levelize" the playing field by increasing fear that ANYONE might be carrying a gun. If this is really about helping women defend themselves, why not distribute mace as broadly as they hand out condoms? Non-lethal alternatives could be just as effective, and are more likely to be readily used by those uncomfortable with making the choice to fire a gun. Which would hopefully be ALL of us civilians.

Ok, back to the job hunt.

News photos lifted from Chicago Sun-Times. Showerhead and pink gun stolen from Google images. No, I don't think that qualifies for "concealed carry" - even if it took you several minutes before you spotted the gun.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Bachelorhood Journal, Day 4

Things were nice and quiet at first, a pleasant change of pace around the apartment. Then it got oddly noisy, and I realized that my cat was becoming more and more vocal. Traced back the source of her consternation, and realized that her magic food bowl was no longer magic - it was empty! Imagine that.... So I decided to take stock of other changes around here.

#1 - i feel kinda weird. i think i'm developing a sort of oily layer. i may have to break down today and investigate the curtained-off area of the bathroom to figure out what that is for.

#2 - my teeth are growing fur. maybe that bristly-thingy hanging over the bathroom sink could help reverse this process. will have to give it a try at least.

#3 - running out of spoons. and room in the sink. and clean table space. very odd.

#4 - strange odor around apartment. can't quite nail it down - could be coming from litterbox, sink, or table. perhaps the garbage. or maybe secondary to items #1 or #2. that cat still hangs around me, so can't be too offensive. right?

Meanwhile, I think I have finally had my fill of peanut butter. Will have to investigate other edibles around the house. It has been sorta nice to always find things where I leave them, but not enough of a trade-off having to deal with #3 above.

Ok, well back to pretending to be productive. Might have to make that list of projects soon. At least my back isn't getting any worse (for now).

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Bachelorhood, Revisted

Oh, I had such high hopes for the next several weeks. While the wife is away, the mouse was fully intending to play. I even made the sacrifice of NOT creating a list of the things I wanted to accomplish in my maelstrom of activity, hoping to fly from project to project as whim drew me. [After about 3 or 4 days I was likely to break down and spend a solid 2-3 days drawing up a list, revising it, prioritizing projects, and shuffling papers on my desk anyway.]

But no ... even before I could get out of the gate I have been derailed in a ridiculous way. Secondary to being hit by a car over 12 years ago, I have a mildly screwed-up back. As long as I am careful with lifting and watch my posture, don't sleep in funky positions, etc. - it's really not a problem. Until that frickin' exercise DVD. I won't go into details here - suffice to say that trying to combine a shoulder press with a deeper-than-I-had-tried-recently deep knee bend was a baaaaad idea.

Now I've thrown out my back before, from staying in an awkward position too long in the operating room, or even from sneezing too forcefully. Usually I walk funny for a day or two, but can get back to normal fairly rapidly and even function pretty well throughout - other than the funny walking. This time, ugh - the back pain has been so persistent that I had been really crooked in my posture. So much so, that a couple of days later a whole 'nother group of muscles went into spasm - I guess from overcompensation. And then I aggravated all that by helping my wife haul the laundry around. Thankfully she refused to let me carry her suitcases around too much.

Got her to the airport yesterday, came back and pretty much crashed out on the couch. Today also crashed out on the couch ... hopefully after a solid night's rest I'll be able to tackle some of the cleaning and sorting and extended sessions tackling e-mail and other posture-intensive activities. I did manage some pseudo-productivity - cleared some movies from our netflix queue that my wife was less than enthusiastic to view with me. For good reason. :-)

In the meantime, I'm back to all the trappings of bachelorhood (messy apartment, grooming activities considered "optional," diet unsupervised, tv on 25 hours / day) without the hoped-for benefits - like normal mobility and a modicum of energy. I'll give it another day or two - then I'll try for some better living through pharmacology. MMMmmmmmm, muscle relaxers. *Drooool*

Friday, February 06, 2009

I'm no financial wiz...

but I thought I had a rough understanding of the roots of the financial crisis. In simplest terms, I thought it was due to bad loans - basically, abuse of credit by people that couldn't make their payments, and high-risk loans for homebuyers that wouldn't otherwise be in a position to own, coupled with banks looking to make a profit of such loans. And yadda yadda yadda, greedy Wall Street and deregulation, etc.

As usual, the real story is much more complex and far-reaching. Here is a link to a recent article from BBC News about the World Social Forum in Brazil. It's a bit long and tedious, but interesting if you have the patience. Specifically, check out this section, which gives a little overview of one participant's analysis of the factors leading up to the crisis. My oversimplification / summary is
  1. Overproduction by industrialized countries, coupled with
  2. Inadequate development of new markets (i.e., insufficient purchasing power in the rest of the world), which led to
  3. Lower profits from manufacturing, which was overcome with
  4. Investment in the "financial sector" to maintain profits, which resulted in
  5. Decoupling of the "financial value" from the "actual value," which allowed
  6. Rapid fluctuations in the value of financial investments, which allowed for
  7. Formation of the "bubble," which has now burst.
Experts from all over the world have been meeting to discuss causes and fixes, and of course no one can agree. To some degree, the deregulated system in the U.S. became a model for deregulation globally (for more equal competition in the market), and that has enabled the collapse to spread globally as well.

The fix - duh - is gonna have to involve re-regulation, and on a global scale. We cannot continue with a total free-market model that has no intrinsic accountability and no bias against inequality. The dramatic differences between economies has allowed for sweatshop labor and outsourcing of jobs.

As we recover, we need work in protections for underdeveloped nations and act as "big brothers / mentors" for developing nations. As we claw our way back from the brink, we need to offer hands to our partners and would-be partners in the global economy, and elevate everyone in the process. Focusing on "green energy" is one way the U.S. hopes to fight the crisis, and the battle with global warming is a prime example of how everyone will benefit from working together. Helping countries like China develop renewable energy (instead of coal, etc.) will help their economy as well as reducing pollution, improving their health, and battling global warming.

We are living through a trying period right now, but the possibilities for what we may build from it are truly exciting.

Monday, February 02, 2009

A Jerry Springer World

Click here to go to a Sun-Times article, containing a transcript of an interview with Christina Raines, the now-ex-fiancee of Drew Peterson. She is living in a Jerry Springer world, and she is a Jerry Springer girl.


And she has already reproduced, ensuring that future generations will be subject to the same kind of idiocy.

When you have a chance, check out the movie Idiocracy, a futuristic farce by the creator of Office Space. The movie itself is mildly amusing, but the premise in the beginning describing how society gets dumbed-down is priceless.

If I can locate a clip I'll try to post it later.


C.R.A.P. Sunday - Groundhog edition

Catch-up Rants And Platitudes - #2 - a brief look at recent news items, etc.

[I realize this is officially posting on Monday - getting something in just before, at, or after the deadline is sorta a specialty of mine.] So had my interview on the East Coast this past week - travel went pretty smoothly, and the interview itself not too bad. Unfortunately, up against three other very well qualified candidates, and did not feel any strong "good vibes" with any of the faculty. Called in a favor with a former adviser who may have some influence on them for me, but not anticipating good news. Back to the drawing board....

  • Octuplets - Hmmm, interesting - so she had herself a litter. Oh, there she goes, she had herself a litter again. I know, not exactly a "litter" for the first group of SIX kids, since they do range in age and I think there is only one pair of twins. But it is quite surprising how slowly information is leaking out about this woman, who is only the second to give birth to octuplets in the U.S. From what I have pieced together, she is a single mother, living with her own mother (or had been until recently), obsessed with having kids (planned to have 12), underwent IVF (in-vitro fertilization) with donor sperm and then had the embryos frozen. Somehow - after already successfully birthing six children over recent years - she managed to convince doctors to implant her with all the remaining embryos. When she hooked up with the docs that cared for her through delivery, she had seven viable embryos detected. Doctors offered to therapeutically reduce the number to give her overall pregnancy a better chance of going to term and having healthier babies. She refused - which is fully within her rights. A surprise 8th baby is delivered among all the others at about 31 weeks (9 weeks early) - fortunately far enough along that they all have a good chance of survival.

    Of course - all will require quite a long hospitalization before they are fully out of the woods, which is quite expensive. This single mom will be caring for 14 young children - which is an impossible task without assistance. How she managed the resources to secure IVF and then implantation for each of her pregnancies (also very expensive) is beyond me. What doctor(s) in the world would dump all remaining frozen embryos into the uterus of a mother of SIX is borderline unethical. Presumably she did not want "leftover" frozen embryos to be destroyed (will address this more in an upcoming post about abortion rights), and perhaps only wanted to become pregnant one last time, but that is so irresponsible on the part of the physicians as well as herself to intentionally place herself into a super-high risk pregnancy - risky for her health, risky for the guardianship of her current kids, and risky for the babies she would be carrying. Once everyone is back from the hospital, can you imagine what her home life will be like?!? Nuts.

  • Gay & transgender rights - please see my previous post for a dedicated rant on this topic. In the wake of the California prop 8 fiasco, there has recently been a victory for gay rights in Washington state, giving domestic partners all remaining rights of spouses (without the title of "spouse" itself). And without a whole lot of ruckus. Of course conservatives are complaining that it is a doorway to eventual gay marriage legislation.... Maybe that is the way it will have to go, slowly progressive steps until "marriage" is the next logical and undeniable right to confer.

    Something that bothers me though is the recent lawsuit filed by two transgender people in Illinois, demanding that the state alter their birth certificates to reflect their current gender status. Because they had their surgeries overseas, the Illinois government is refusing based on a lack of physician documentation. That should be a moot point - they ARE able to get passports, driver's license, etc. granted with their "current" gender. Why should birth records be altered? How is it ever acceptable to alter that sort of documentation? They were born as "boys" - not some ambiguous genitalia issue that was later resolved. They had elective surgery to become women, and are legally considered women based on their active personal IDs. Why should an archival document be changed? When a name is changed due to marriage or some other court procedure, the original birth certificate does not need to change. Granted, there is at least a paper trail to connect person A with their records under previous name B - so maybe a form documenting the change would be something to serve whatever need spurned this lawsuit. But changing vital records because of events later in life - that just doesn't seem right.

  • On the topic of Illinois government (maybe my last comment on it for a while?), driving home after a Superbowl party tonight I was unexpectedly pleased at the removal of Blagojevich's name from the open-road toll plazas. Granted, it was probably $15,000 that could have been spent for something else, but that price pales in comparison to the $400,000-ish dollars the signs initially cost. And wow - the government managed to get something done in just a matter of days from the impeachment. I guess some people were pretty anxious to see that name wiped away.

  • Dining out in a city in Tuscany - Not that I have ever had the chance to hang in Italy, nor do I anticipate this in the near future, but caught a snippet that made me triple take. Apparently, the tourism board of the city (Lucca?) has banned ethnic food. Huh? Well, new ethnic food. Their existing restaurants can stay, but apparently they will not allow any new establishments whose menus focus on any sort of non-local food items. No kebabs (Greek food), Thai, etc. Not even Sicilian food. What?? Isn't that basically a part of Italy? They want to preserve the feel of the region, but apparently even local chefs are complaining because "fusion" cooking is all the rage now, and they feel this could limit their menu options. But what happened to consumer choice and freedom?!? If I go to Tuscany I should be able to choose to have "authentic" Tuscan food... but should also have the option for whatever variety is available. If / when I go to such a region, I would definitely be staying long enough to enjoy several meals - why not have the option for a good curry dish as a break? This is also discriminatory to immigrants, who often support themselves by cooking up the cuisine of their homeland. "FAIL" for attempting to curtail freedom of choice.

  • Finally, I cannot hold my tongue (or fingers, I guess) on the topic of the "Snuggie." People, this is just a comfy robe, or a flannel shirt, or whatever garment is handy, worn backwards. Do you really needs these direct marketers shoveling more crap down your throats?!? I'd like to load up a garbage scow with all the Sham-Wow's, Ped-eggs, clappers, touch lights, Chia-heads, choppers and juicers and try to get the pirates off Somalia to take THOSE off our hands. SHAM-UGHH!

Well, I guess that is enough for now. If you made it all the way to here, even I am impressed. Hope you enjoyed the Superbowl - it was pretty tight, a good show right to the very end. In case you've got it taped, TIVO'd, DVR'd, or just hoping to catch highlights I won't be the one to spoil it for ya. But man - cannot believe the number of penalties ... that has got to be a record. Here's to hoping for a cloudy day tomorrow - no shadows for the little rodent.

Photos mercilessly stolen from Google images.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Sociopaths abound

So they finally did it - our "cloud" in Illinois has been lifted by the removal of Blagojevich, when he was found guilty at the impeachment by a vote of 59-0. I still can't believe this guy... he insists on boycotting his trial there, claiming a "set-up" and unfair rules. Even his lawyers skip it. And then he finally shows up on the last day, makes a 45 minute-long plea / speech, and gets irrevocably shot-down. This, of course, after his media blitz trying to take his case to the "court of public appeal."

But that's not why we're all doing a double-take again. The man goes home after his trial, makes a statement to the press (I have faithfully served the people of Illinois, the truth will come out, I'm innocent, blah blah blah), refuses to answer any legitimate questions from the press (why did you not follow protocol to try to bring your witnesses to the trial, etc.), and is about to duck inside his house when he goes back into the crowd and starts grabbing kids to pose with him for photographs, shaking hands, etc - like he's on a friggin' campaign trail.

For some reason he actually still has supporters, and quite a crowd was out there saying they believe him, they love him, etc. I cannot wait until the evidence is presented in the criminal trial and he gets his just desserts. The way he is so adamantly denyin any wrongdoing - it's quite frightening. I'm pretty sure he qualifies as a sociopath. Just because "pay to play" has become some sort of standard in Illinois government, any rational person should recognize how unethical it is - and you can't claim innocence to "wrongdoing" simply because you are participating in the status quo. It would be nice if Illinois and Chicago take the cue from this scandal and reform how they do business - whether it takes cleaning house to accomplish this, or if the politicians themselves can take in some supplemental moral fiber.

It amusing to note that - in addition to removal from office - the Illinois Senate passed a motion barring Blago from ever holding any public office again in Illinois. I'm not sure how legal that is, but it's nice to know they are doing their best to prevent him from escaping this debacle too easily in the near future.

Of course, he is not the only sociopath in the news lately. Remember that sleaze Drew Peterson? He was implicated as a person of interest in the disappearance of his 4th wife (Stacy) in 2007. That was after the mysterious drowning death of his 3rd wife in 2004. (Sorry, dunno anything about #1 & 2, and not motivated to dig it up). This 55-year-old was recently in the news for becoming engaged (while still married to his "missing" wife) to a 24-year-old Christina Raines. She moved in with him, and my wife and I started contemplating the odds on her long-term survival. Then on a recent Nightline, apparently good ol' Drew gave an interview talking about how he became bored with his previous 4 marriages, and how he longed to again be married to "belong" to someone. He stated to the interviewer that Christina was very happy with him and things were going great.

The day after this interview airs, she calls her father to help her move out of Drew's house and calls off the engagement, calling him very "controlling" in their relationship and worried over his "loss of interest" in his previous relationships. Take a look again at the time frames, and their ages. Sheesh. She has two small children by the way, and he has 4 of his own. He called them nice and cozy in his two-story house, like a box of baseball cards. Excuse me?? Why would you ever describe the way a group of eight living people get along like a collection of inanimate items that you stack and file away....

And to wrap up this blog, lemme mention Rush Limbaugh. I refuse to corrupt my blog with an image of this, er, gentleman, who is now the unofficial face of the Republican party. When asked about Obama, he insists, "I hope he fails." He is attempting to instigate the whole Republican party to block Obama at every turn. He got that (attempt) with the 100% rejection by the House Republicans on the newest part of the stimulus bill, which still passed of course because of the Democratic majority. However, the Senate Republicans can still cause a filibuster of the legislation - and that would be despite all the concessions made in the legislation for the benefit of the Republican agenda.

The time for hate mongering and partisan politics is supposed to be over. The election is completed, the Democrats won, and now the nation should be coming together to try to dig its way out of our woes. Obama is reaching out above and beyond the usual to bring Republicans into the fold and to keep "politics" out of the work. People like Limbaugh want to just keep the anger flowing and obstruct progress. But hey - it sure helps to keep his audience listening. Screw what the country needs.

Ok. I'm gonna go do something more pleasant for a while.

Photos borrowed from the Chicago Sun-Times

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Inconsistency RULES!

Yeah, more hit-or-miss on the blogging lately. I've been "busy," but doing what exactly I'd be hard-pressed to come up with. I guess I could just blame it on my attention span, which has rapidly gotten oooh, shiny!

(sorry, dunno the source on this "poster," but really enjoyed it from a recent email.)

This blog has been pretty politically-heavy lately, but I meant for it to be a little more well-rounded and fun. Recently realized that I need to add pictures and lighten it up a bit. Have several things partly-blogged in "draft" form, will try to release them slowly to decrease the boredom level for my (two) readers. :-)

So today, here are the things I am NOT blogging on:
  • Blago - I won't waste my time waxing on about how sociopathic he is coming across, with his media blitz in this eleventh hour before his impeachment trial in the senate. His lead council resigns about the same time he starts whoring himself out to any media outlet that will broadcast him (apparently he'll be on "The View" Monday). He calls the trial a travesty of justice and complains how the rules are against him, yet it was himself and his own legal team that failed to file appropriate paperwork for witnesses, etc. And he blames the whole attack on him as some sort of conspiracy to raise taxes. Nope, not worth my time.

  • Obama - there's too much coverage already, in MINUTE DETAIL, about the beginning of his first "100 days," or "100 hours" as I've heard it described today. He's trying to bring Washington together and get some real stuff done. But it is story after story about the Malia and Sasha dolls, and their cafeteria food menus, and fashion, and pre-recorded performances at the inauguration, and people that still believe Obama is not our real president because of a "questionable birth certificate" or because of a stumble on the oath - GIVE IT A REST. Give the man the time and cooperation he's earned, and let's check back in a while and see where things stand.

  • The press in general - shows like "Access Hollywood" and "TMZ" that give forum to the paparazzi that stake out the funeral for Travolta's son and stuff like that. Now the mainstream media is turning more and more into that, with hounding of the pilot from the Hudson Bay crash, and endless coverage of "the Beast" (Obama's limo) and all other minutia inauguration-related. Ugh.

I know my blogging tends to be rant-related, but I'll also try to mention a good thing every now and then. Most interesting stories start with a bit of a struggle though ....

The other day my iPod shuffle (mp3 player) crapped out on me. It's a first generation, have had it since 2005 or 2006 when it cost about $100 for 500 MB of storage. It worked like a charm, with a terrific battery life, and no real problems despite the fact that I abused it regularly while working out, and made it do double duty as a jump drive for data on occasion. I would not exactly call myself a "Mac Whore," but I appreciate the elegance, creativity, and general ease-of-use of Apple products.

When it got nudged while in the USB slot and generated an "error, may have lost information" message, I experienced some mild panic and then went through the paces to try to check the drive. Wouldn't register at all in my iBook (except under "System Profiler") - so it didn't appear on the desktop nor in iTunes. My wife's PC recognized it as an Apple USB drive, but could not access any of the material. OK ... so whatever the hell I had on it from a data point of view was scrapped - not a big loss (I think!), since it was probably untouched from 1-2 years back.

Apple has a pretty good support site, with technical advice from Apple along with forums from users of every experience level. I cruised around there and found out that the behavior of my ancient iPod was very well documented (if you are really curious read more here), and might actually be fixable by reformatting ("restoring") the device. Unfortunately, even with special downloaded software to restore the device on my Mac, the drive still couldn't get recognized. On my wife's PC running Vista, that software (rated for Win2000 or XP) would not launch. I tried the set-up disc that came with the iPod as well as loading up iTunes on her PC, but neither could "fix" the drive.

After about 4 hours of banging my head against both our computers trying to get all this to work, I gave up and decided we may have to invest in a replacement. Of course, technology has moved on, and the "equivalent" product now is the 2nd generation iPod shuffle, the dinky little item in front at the right. At only $50 for 1 GB of storage, along with the smaller size and clip-on design, it would kick the ass of my older device. But that's $50 I could be spending on chocolate or toward other worthwhile things, like heat and rent. Besides the fact that my 2004 iBook G4 is still running OS 10.3.9 (whereas today's Mac is running 10.5.something), which may not be compatible with the newer product. (I've already fallen out of the loop for Firefox and other application updates.) :-(

So I dragged my wife with me as we trudged into downtown Chicago (the hour+ walk was our "exercise" for the day) to the Apple store on Michigan Avenue. I brought the iPod with, hoping that maybe one of the "geniuses" would be able to do something with it. And holy shit, not only did I manage to get squeezed in for a free consultation without an "appointment" - but they managed to reset the device. So far so good - we've got some fresh tunes on it, and we'll see if the fix holds out. So, in the words of a fellow blogger (and admitted "Mac Whore"), this was an "epic win" for Apple and the Apple Store concept. It's a great place to go and drool over new toys. Maybe I'll even consider an appointment next time... although that sort of prep would be "inconsistent" for me. Could I use "quotes" more in this article?

(Pictures of the iPods and Apple Store borrowed lifted from

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Their "death," and not a moment too soon

And I thought it was just a string of bad decisions.

No, there was actually a political philosophy behind the horror that has been the U.S. foreign policy for the past 8 years. Neoconservatism (practiced by neocons, for short) - as laid out in this article from the BBC news, is about:

  • a tendency to see the world in terms of good vs. evil (ie, the axis of evil)
  • a minimal emphasis on diplomacy, with a "disdain for multilateral organisations"
  • emphasis on U.S. unilateral action
  • readiness to use military force

What part of that is the outgoing administration proud of?

Just because we are, were, or think we might still be the strongest military force, that is not an excuse to exercise it without just cause, nor against stand-in targets (Iraq vs. Al-Qaeda). Unilaterally? In today's global economy, let alone since the creation of the United Nations, unilateral action should always be a last resort, right up there with military action itself. And what kind of example is the U.S. setting by trivializing diplomacy, a country itself based on democracy?

It served to amuse me how Obama was attacked during the campaign for being willing to re-open discussions "without preconditions." I was just so happy to hear about a politician willing to actually DISCUSS things and CONSIDER the international community before pulling the trigger of the military.

Obama has already inherited fronts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the powder keg that is the Israel-Palestine situation - I look forward to a fresh perspective about these conflicts starting in just about a week now. The real tests over the coming year or so will be Iran and North Korea - how Obama's administration handles the nuclear (note, not "nu-ku-lur") threat. And, of course, the ominous "terrorist test" he will face simply because he is a new commander-in-chief. I won't be holding my breath waiting for that to happen.

Regardless of the actual challenge, at last we have people that are willing to dig deeper into the playbook and utilize tools that have been helpful in the past, and reaffirm Americans' commitment to humanitarianism on a global scale. Down with the neocons!!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

More on government, Blago, & Burris

Here's a joke my father sent me recently:

Three contractors are bidding to fix a broken fence at the White House. One is from Chicago, another is from Tennessee, and the third is from Minnesota. All three go with a White House official to examine the fence.

The Minnesota contractor takes out a tape measure and does some measuring, then works some figures with a pencil. "Well," he says, "I figure the job will run about $900: $400 for materials, $400 for my crew and $100 profit for me."

The Tennessee contractor also does some measuring and figuring, then says, "I can do this job for $700: $300 for materials, $300 for my crew and $100 profit for me."

The Chicago contractor doesn't measure or figure, but leans over to the White House official and whispers, "$2,700."

The official, incredulous, says, "You didn't even measure like the other guys! How did you come up with such a high figure?"

The Chicago contractor whispers back, "$1000 for me, $1000 for you, and we hire the guy from Tennessee to fix the fence."

"Done!" replies the government official. And that, my friends, is how government contracting works!

Made me smile, given what's happening with Blago. By the way, if you hadn't already heard - he was impeached (first governor in Illinois, whoo-hoo!!) with of a vote of 114-1. What was he doing during the vote? Off jogging in the streets of Chicago.

A little tidbit that seems to have just come out recently about Burris's connection with the Senate appointment: allegedly he approached a colleague of Blago's as early as July or September and expressed interest in the Senate seat. Now does that mean there was anything shady between them that resulted in his December appointment after the news broke of Blago's investigation? Not necessarily. But knowing this and the drive Burris seems to have for personal accomplishments, I am even less inclined to believe he is completely innocent in this debacle.

The Illinois Supreme Court apparently ruled that they will not force Jesse White to sign the Burris appointment document, but their ruling indicated that it should not be necessary to gain his signature for the Senate to seat him. So now I guess it bounces back to the Senate Rules Committee. The last statement from Reid in the Senate indicated that if the Illinois courts approved him, they would seat him. I would anticipate, given the push by Obama to avoid further distractions from the economy, etc., that Burris will now have his dream fulfilled and become the "junior Senator from Illinois" - at least until the seat is next up for election in... I think 2010.

Hopefully by that time, the then-governor will already have a head-start on washing away the stink of corruption, and we might be able to drudge up some candidates that don't make you cringe.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

C.R.A.P. Sunday - New Year's edition

Catch-up Rants And Platitudes - #1
Like I indicated before, I'm just getting back into blogging. Here I'll make use of something I've seen from other bloggers - an outlet for mini-rants and messages that wouldn't otherwise be worth a post of their own. Things I've been stewing over for the past week or so and are still with me enough to need venting.

  • First off, would like to wish happy holidays and best wishes for the New Year to any and all (or should I say, "both") my readers. :-) A little cliche'd, but heartfelt all the same. We have a lot to look forward to this year as a nation as well as globally - dealing with the economic crisis, high hopes for our new president, working through this recent conflict in the Middle East as well as other fronts - not to mention our own personal goals. And a whole year ahead of us to make good on those goals or to screw-'em up. At least we can vow to fight off procrastination THIS time....

  • Blago - Ugh. Have long since given up hope of our Illinois governor resigning, but the taint left by his appointment of Burris as senator has been compounded by Burris's own words.

    Apparently, the process of seating a senator (at least, in this situation) requires signatures of both the governor and the secretary of state on a document which then goes to the senate, which then "seats" the representative in the appropriate caucus. The democratic caucus is refusing to seat any appointee by Blago for good reason - he is charged with corruption DIRECTLY RELATING TO his power of appointing a replacement for Obama. Our secretary of state, Jesse White, has refused to sign the document as well.

    But here is Burris in a statement to the press saying, (paraphrased:) "I have been legally appointed, I am senator - the rest is just paperwork." And on the day the appointment was made, I recall Burris saying something to the effect of "I have made it to the senate!" Shouldn't the "elevation" to that position more appropriately be recognized as an outlet for his constituents (ie, the residents of Illinois), rather than as a personal achievement?!? He insists the corruption charges are unrelated to his being appointed, and is fighting to be installed instead of letting the legal process resolve things. To the claim that "Illinois needs it's representation" - fine, install an "interim" senator until a permanent one is appointed by a taint-free governor or voted in by a special election. Clinging to the appointment has only stained Burris further, and his refusal to consider the wishes of his constituents as well as his future colleagues proves that he is not the kind of representative I would want in Washington.

    Even president-elect Obama (a fellow black politician) is calling for Burris to decline the appointment - so the argument of letting it happen for the sake of keeping an African American democrat in the position should hold no weight.

  • Reading - in my down-time I am getting a little better about turning the TV off (finally!) and trying to plow through some books. I guess I'll write a separate entry on this. Recently finished "Wicked," now (re-)reading the original "Wizard of Oz" to see what was based on the original work....

  • In early December had a job interview for what would have been an ideal position for July 2009, and a 1 in 3 chance of getting it. Was told we'd find out within the week. After nearly 3 ADDITIONAL weeks of untoward suspense, finally learned that the position went to a different candidate. Have another interview at the end of January, and in the meantime will keep searching - but in the meantime this uncertainty and state of limbo is driving me (and the wife!) NUTS!

  • Just to throw another wrench in the gears, my car decided to stop working during the holidays. Thankfully it was after the family meet-up, so no big plans had to be canceled - but it's always a pain in the ass. It is going on 12 years old, and hasn't given me too many problems overall, but I hate dealing with the service department. After hours on hold with roadside assistance and several more hours waiting on help to arrive when it wouldn't start (and a jump didn't help), the mechanics were set to abandon me because they couldn't tow my car down the parking ramp. I insisted on pushing the car to where they COULD tow it, which was much easier than they anticipated. Once at the dealer it turned out just to need spark plugs, but they tried to soak me for thousands of $$ saying the engine needs to be rebuilt, etc. And once the car was back with me it was sputtering and nearly stalling out - not something it had done before it died. Thankfully that improved over the weekend, and for now I can avoid a repeat trip to the service department demanding that they check their work.

  • Poor customer service - Dec 2008 was a bad month for it. Dealing with a new health insurance company, and calling in to complain about a product - these things are needlessly frustrating. Here's my 1/2 cent on one item: Rain-x windshield wipes - don't bother with them. Still waiting on a refund. My wife wrote about it here. Apparently owned by Shell, which I will now be boycotting out of spite.

  • Opinion polls and article comments - Watching the news on Jan 1st, saw them flash up between segments, "Have you already broken your New Year's resolutions? Text "yes" or "no" to ...." WTF?!? Not only was it less than 12 hours into the new year, but please, please, PLEASE tell me how / why that is "news"?! It is getting nauseating how all these "news" sources are reaching out to Joe Six-pack for input. Have you ever read the string of comments on a recent on-line news item? It quickly degenerates into name-calling and comments on spelling - not exactly an intellectual discussion. Even CNN (which I have stopped watching after the election), with Larry King and other "respectable" news anchors and commentators turning to blogs for comments from the peanut gallery - it makes me want to tune out completely. Professional commentators and analysts have earned the right (theoretically) for their opinions to be part of the "news" - for anything else I can surf the net or listen to a designated call-in show.
Ok - that's enough for now. This was much longer than intended. But maybe I'll stop flogging some of these topics (even if just in my head). Now off to hit the gym, to vent my frustrations in a healthier way. Happy New Year!! Good luck with any resolutions you've made.